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that was peculiarly distasteful to the acute
lawyer, who foresaw how such base conduct
would taint all whose names were ever
mentioned, even by chance, in connexion with it.
He used to lie miserably tossing on his sleepless
bed, turning over all these things in the night
season. He was tormented by all these thoughts;
he would bitterly regret the past events that
connected him with Ellinor, from the day when
he first came to read with Mr. Ness, up to the
present time. But when he came down in the
morning, and saw the faded Ellinor flash into
momentary beauty at his entrance into the
dining-room, and when she blushingly drew near
with the one single flower freshly gathered,
which it had been her custom to place in his
button-hole when he came down to breakfast, he
felt as if his better self was stronger than
temptation, and as if he must be an honest man and
honourable lover, even against his wish.

As the day wore on the temptation gathered
strength. Mr. Wilkins came down, and while
he was on the scene Ellinor seemed always
engrossed by her father, who apparently cared
little enough for all her attentions. Then there
was a complaining of the food, which did not
suit the sickly palate of a man who had drunk
hard the night before; and possibly these
complaints were extended to the servants, and their
incompleteness or incapacity was brought thus
prominently before the eyes of Ralph, who
would have preferred to eat a dry crust in
silence, or to have gone without breakfast
altogether, if he could have had intellectual
conversation of some high order, to having the greatest
dainties with the knowledge of the care required
in their preparation thus coarsely discussed
before him. By the time such breakfasts were
finished, Ellinor looked thirty, and her spirits
were gone for the day. It had become difficult
for him to contract his mind to her small
domestic interests, and she had little else to talk
to him about, now that he responded but curtly
to all her questions about himself, and was weary
of professing a love which he was ceasing to feel,
in all the passionate nothings which usually
make up so much of lovers' talk. The books
she had been reading were old classics, whose
place in literature no longer admitted of keen
discussion; the poor whom she cared for were
all very well in their way; and, if they could
have been brought in to illustrate a theory,
hearing about them might have been of some
use; but, as it was, simply tiresome to hear day
after day of Betty Palmer's rheumatism and
Mrs. Day's baby's fits. There was no talking
politics with her, because she was so ignorant
that she always agreed with what he said.

He even grew to find luncheon and Miss
Monro not unpleasant varieties to his
monotonous tête-à-têtes. Then came the walk,
generally to the town to fetch Mr. Wilkins from his
office; and once or twice it was pretty evident
how he had been employing his hours. One day
in particular his walk was so unsteady and his
speech so thick, that Ralph could only wonder
how it was that Ellinor did not perceive the
cause; but she was too openly anxious about the
headache of which her father complained to have
been at all aware of the previous self-indulgence
which must have brought it on. This very
afternoon, as ill-luck would have it, the Duke of
Hinton and a gentleman whom Ralph had met in
town at Lord Bolton's, rode by, and recognised
him; saw Ralph supporting a tipsy man with
such quiet friendly interest as must show all
passers-by that they were previous friends. Mr.
Corbet chafed and fumed inwardly all the way
home after this unfortunate occurrence; he was
in a thoroughly evil temper before they reached
Ford Bank, but he had too much self-command
to let this be very apparent. He turned into
the shrubbery-paths, leaving Ellinor to take her
father into the quietness of his own room, there
to lie down and shake off his headache.

Ralph walked along, ruminating in gloomy
mood as to what was to be done; how he could
best extricate himself from the miserable
relation in which he had placed himself by giving
way to impulse. Almost before he was aware, a
little hand stole within his folded arms, and
Ellinor's sweet sad eyes looked into his.

"I have put papa down for an hour's rest
before dinner," said she. "His head seems to
ache terribly."

Ralph was silent and unsympathising, trying to
nerve himself up to be disagreeable, but finding
it difficult in face of such sweet trust.

"Do you remember our conversation last
autumn, Ellinor?" he began, at length.

Her head sunk. They were near a garden-seat,
and she quietly sat down, without speaking.

"About some disgrace which you then fancied
hung over you?" No answer. "Does it still
hang over you?"

"Yes!" she whispered, with a heavy sigh.

"And your father knows of this, of course?"

"Yes!" again, in the same tone; and then

"I think it is doing him harm," at length
Ralph went on, decidedly.

"I am afraid it is," she said, in a low tone.

"I wish you would tell me what it is," he said,
a little impatiently. "I might be able to help
you about it."

"No! you could not," replied Ellinor. I
was sorry to my very heart to tell you what I
did; I did not want help; all that is past. But
I wanted to know if you thought that a person
situated as I was, was justified in marrying any
one ignorant of what might happen; what I do
hope and trust never will."

"But if I don't know what you are alluding
to in this mysterious way you must seedon't
you see, love, I am in the position of the ignorant
man, whom I think you said you could not feel
it right to marry. Why don't you tell me straight
out what it is?" He could not help his irritation
betraying itself in his tones and manner of
speaking. She bent a little forward, and looked