I can honestly say that I have been true to you, and to myself. You will be very sorry for this. Indeed, you will be very sorry for it, Martin.'
'I AM sorry,' returned Martin, shaking his head. 'I think I never knew what it was to be sorry in my heart, until now.'
'At least,' said Tom, 'if I had always been what you charge me with being now, and had never had a place in your regard, but had always been despised by you, and had always deserved it, you should tell me in what you have found me to be treacherous; and on what grounds you proceed. I do not intreat you, therefore, to give me that satisfaction as a favour, Martin, but I ask it of you as a right.'
'My own eyes are my witnesses,' returned Martin. 'Am I to believe them?'
'No,' said Tom, calmly. 'Not if they accuse me.'
'Your own words. Your own manner,' pursued Martin. 'Am I to believe THEM?'
'No,' replied Tom, calmly. 'Not if they accuse me. But they never have accused me. Whoever has perverted them to such a purpose, has wronged me almost as cruelly'--his calmness rather failed him here-- 'as you have done.'
'I came here,' said Martin; 'and I appeal to your good sister to hear me--'
'Not to her,' interrupted Tom. 'Pray, do not appeal to her. She will never believe you.'
He drew her arm through his own, as he said it.
'I believe it, Tom!'
'No, no,' cried Tom, 'of course not. I said so. Why, tut, tut, tut. What a silly little thing you are!'
'I never meant,' said Martin, hastily, 'to appeal to you against your brother. Do not think me so unmanly and unkind. I merely appealed to you to hear my declaration, that I came here for no purpose of reproach--I have not one reproach to vent--but in deep regret. You could not know in what bitterness of regret, unless you knew how often I have thought of Tom; how long in almost hopeless circumstances, I have looked forward to the better estimation of his friendship; and how steadfastly I have believed and trusted in him.'
'Tut, tut,' said Tom, stopping her as she was about to speak. 'He is mistaken. He is deceived. Why should you mind? He is sure to be set right at last.'
'Heaven bless the day that sets me right!' cried Martin, 'if it could ever come!'
'Amen!' said Tom. 'And it will!'
Martin paused, and then said in a still milder voice:
'You have chosen for yourself, Tom, and will be relieved by our parting. It is not an angry one. There is no anger on my side--'
'There is none on mine,' said Tom.
'--It is merely what you have brought about, and worked to bring about. I say again, you have chosen for yourself. You have made the choice that might have been expected in most people situated as you are, but which I did not expect in you. For that, perhaps, I should blame my own judgment more than you. There is wealth and favour worth having, on one side; and there is the worthless friendship of an abandoned, struggling fellow, on the other. You were free to make your election, and you made it; and the choice was not difficult. But those who have not the courage to resist such temptations, should have the courage to avow what they have yielded to them; and I DO blame you for this, Tom: that you received me with a show of warmth, encouraged me to be frank and plain-spoken, tempted me to confide in you, and professed that you were able to be mine; when you had sold yourself to others. I do not believe,' said Martin, with emotion--'hear me say it from my heart--I CANNOT believe, Tom, now that I am standing face to face with you, that it would have been in your nature to do me any serious harm, even though I had not discovered, by chance, in whose employment you were. But I should have encumbered you; I should have led you into more double-dealing; I should have hazarded your retaining the favour for which you have paid so high a price, bartering away your former self; and it is best for both of us that I have found out what you so much desired to keep secret.'
'Be just,' said Tom; who, had not removed his mild gaze from Martin's face since the commencement of this last address; 'be just even in your injustice, Martin.