Alban started. "What has Miss Jethro to do with it?" he asked.
"Nothing at all," Emily answered. "She spoke to me of her own private affairs. A long story--and you wouldn't be interested in it. Let me finish what I had to say. Mrs. Rook was naturally reminded of the murder, when she heard that my name was Brown; and she must certainly have been struck--as I was--by the coincidence of my father's death taking place at the same time when his unfortunate namesake was killed. Doesn't this sufficiently account for her agitation when she looked at the locket? We first took her by surprise: and then we suspected her of Heaven knows what, because the poor creature didn't happen to have her wits about her, and to remember at the right moment what a very common name 'James Brown' is. Don't you see it as I do?"
"I see that you have arrived at a remarkable change of opinion, since we spoke of the subject in the garden at school."
"In my place, you would have changed your opinion too. I shall write to Mrs. Rook by tomorrow's post."
Alban heard her with dismay. "Pray be guided by my advice!" he said earnestly. "Pray don't write that letter!"
It was too late to recall the words which he had rashly allowed to escape him. How could he reply?
To own that he had not only read what Emily had read, but had carefully copied the whole narrative and considered it at his leisure, appeared to be simply impossible after what he had now heard. Her peace of mind depended absolutely on his discretion. In this serious emergency, silence was a mercy, and silence was a lie. If he remained silent, might the mercy be trusted to atone for the lie? He was too fond of Emily to decide that question fairly, on its own merits. In other words, he shrank from the terrible responsibility of telling her the truth.
"Isn't the imprudence of writing to such a person as Mrs. Rook plain enough to speak for itself?" he suggested cautiously.