I find I can talk to you as I can to no one
else; I shall conceal nothing from you. I had my share
in spreading the rumour. You must not condemn me without remembering
how matters stood at the time. As I told you yesterday, I came
home to find my mother involved in a whole series of foolish
undertakings. Disasters of various kinds followed; all possible
ill-luck seemed to crowd upon us; our house was on the verge
of ruin. I was half reckless and half in despair. Lona, I believe
it was principally to deaden thought that I got into that entanglement
which ended in Johan's going away. You can easily imagine that
there were all sorts of rumours in the air after you two had
left. It was said that this was not his first misdemeanour. Some
said Dorf had received a large sum of money from him to hold
his tongue and keep out of the way; others declared she had got
the money. At the same time it got abroad that our house had
difficulty in meeting its engagements. What more natural than
that the scandal-mongers should put these two rumours together?
Then, as Madam Dorf remained here in unmistakable poverty, people
began to say that he had taken the money with him to America;
and rumour made the sum larger and larger every day. I clutched
at the rumour as a drowning man clutches at straw. I did not
contradict it. Our creditors were beginning to press us; I had
to quiet them--to prevent them from doubting the solidity of
the firm. I let it be thought that a momentary misfortune had
befallen us, but that if people only refrained from pressing
us--if they would only give us time--every one should be paid
in full. And every one was paid in full. Yes, Lona; that
rumour saved our house and made me the man I am. A lie ... yes
... but whom did it hurt, then? Johan intended never to return.
[Pause.] Look into any man you please, and you will find
at least one dark spot that must be kept out of sight.
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