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two without daring to renew the conversation at
the point where they had stopped: whether
interrupted by bodily or mental discomfort on the
part of his companion he was not quite sure.
While he hesitated how to begin again on the
subject, Mr. Wilkins pulled the bottle of brandy
to himself and filled his glass again, tossing off
the spirit as if it had been water. Then he tried
to look Mr. Corbet full in the face, with a stare
as pertinacious as he could make it, but very
different from the keen observant gaze which was
trying to read him through.

"What were we talking about?" said Ralph,
at length, with the most natural air in the world,
just as if he had really been forgetful of some
half-discussed subject of interest.

"Of what you'd a dd deal better hold your
tongue about," growled out Mr. Wilkins, in a
surly thick voice.

"Sir!" said Ralph, starting to his feet with
real passion at being so addressed by "Wilkins
the attorney."

"Yes," continued the latter, "I'll manage my
own affairs, and allow of no meddling and no
questioning. I said so once before, and I was not
minded, and bad came of it; and now I say it
again. And if you're to come here and put
impertinent questions, and stare at me as you've
been doing this half-hour past, why, the sooner
you leave this house the better!"

Ralph half turned to take him at his word, and
go at once; but then he "gave Ellinor another
chance," as he worded it in his thoughts; but it
was in no spirit of conciliation that he said:

"You've taken too much of that stuff, sir. You
don't know what you're saying. If you did, I
should leave your house at once, never to return."

"You think so, do you?" said Mr. Wilkins,
trying to stand up, and look dignified and sober.
"I say, sir, that if you ever venture again to talk
and look as you have done to-night, why, sir, I
will ring the bell and have you shown the door
by my servants. So now you're warned, my fine
fellow!" He sat down, laughing a foolish tipsy
laugh of triumph. In another minute his arm
was held firmly but gently by Ralph.

"Listen, Mr. Wilkins!" he said, in a low
hoarse voice. " You shall never have to say to
me twice what you have said to-night.
Henceforward we are as strangers to each other. As
to Ellinor"—his tones softened a little, and he
sighed in spite of himself—" I do not think we
should have been happy. I believe our engagement
was formed when we were too young to
know our own minds, but I would have done my
duty and kept to my word; but you, sir, have
yourself severed the connexion between us by
your insolence to-night. I, to be turned out of
your house by your servants!—I, a Corbet of
Westley, who would not submit to such threats
from a peer of the realm, let him be ever so
drunk!" He was out of the room, almost out of
the house, before he had spoken the last words.

Mr. Wilkins sat still, first fiercely angry, then
astonished, and lastly dismayed into sobriety.
"Corbet, Corbet! Ralph!" he called in vain;
then he got up and went to the door, opened it,
looked into the fully-lighted hall; all was so
quiet there that he could hear the quiet voices of
the women in the drawing-room talking together.
He thought for a moment, went to the hat-stand,
and missed Ralph's low-crowned straw hat.

Then he sat down once more in the dining-room,
and endeavoured to make out exactly what
had passed; but he could not believe that Mr.
Corbet had come to any enduring or final resolution
to break off his engagement, and he had
almost reasoned himself back into his former state
of indignation at impertinence and injury, when
Ellinor came in, pale, hurried, and anxious.

"Papa! what does this mean?" said she,
putting an open note into his hand. He took up
his glasses, but his hand shook so that he could
hardly read. The note was from the parsonage,
to Ellinor; only three lines sent by Mr. Ness's
servant, who had come to fetch Mr. Corbet's
things. He had written three lines with some
consideration for Ellinor, even when he was in
his first flush of anger against her father, and it
must be confessed of relief at his own freedom,
thus brought about by the act of another, and not
of his own working out, which partly saved his
conscience. The note ran thus:

"DEAR ELLINOR,—Words have passed
between your father and me which have obliged
me to leave his house, I fear, never to return to
it. I will write more fully to-morrow. But do
not grieve too much, for I am not, and never
have been, good enough for you. God bless you,
my dearest Nelly, though I call you so for the
last time.—R. C."

"Papa, what is it?" Ellinor cried, clasping
her hands together, as her father sat silent,
vacantly gazing into the fire, after finishing the note.

"I don't know!" said he, looking up at her
piteously; "it's the world, I think. Everything
goes wrong with me and mine: it went wrong
before THAT nightso it can't be that, can it,
Ellinor?"

"Oh, papa!" said she, kneeling down by him,
her face hidden on his breast.

He put one arm languidly round her. " I
used to read of Orestes and the Furies at Eton
when I was a boy, and I thought it was all a
heathen fiction. Poor little motherless girl!"
said he, laying his other hand on her head, with
the caressing gesture he had been accustomed to
use when she had been a little child. "Did you
love him so very dearly, Nelly?" he whispered,
his cheek against hers; "for somehow of late
he has not seemed to me to be good enough for
thee. He has got an inkling that something has
gone wrong; and he was very inquisitiveI may
say, he questioned me in a relentless kind of way."

"Oh, papa, it was my doing, I am afraid. I
said something long ago about possible disgrace."

He pushed her away; he stood up, and looked
at her with the eyes dilated, half in fear, half in

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