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RALPH CORBET found it a very difficult thing
to keep down his curiosity during the next few
days. It was a miserable thing to have Ellinor's
unspoken secret severing them like a
phantom. But he had given her his word that
he would make no further inquiries from her.
Indeed, he thought he could well enough make
out the outline of past events; still, there was
too much left to conjecture for his mind not to
be always busy on the subject. He felt inclined
to probe Mr. Wilkins, in their after-dinner
conversation, in which his host was frank and lax
enough on many subjects. But once touch on
the name of Dunster, and Mr. Wilkins sank into
a kind of suspicious depression of spirits;
talking little, and with evident caution; and
from time to time shooting furtive glances at his
interlocutor's face. Ellinor was resolutely
impervious to any attempts of his to bring his
conversations with her back to the subject which
more and more engrossed Ralph Corbet's mind.
She had done her duty, as she understood it; and
had received assurances which she was only too
glad to believe fondly with all the tender faith of
her heart. Whatever came to pass, Ralph's love
would still be hers; nor was he unwarned of
what might come to pass in some dread future
day. So she shut her eyes to what might be in
store for her (and, after all, the chances were
immeasurably in her favour); and she bent herself
with her whole strength into enjoying the
present. Day by day, Mr. Corbet's spirits flagged.
He was, however, so generally uniform in the
tenor of his talknever very merry, and always
avoiding any subject that might call out deep
feeling either on his own, or any one else's part,
that few people were aware of his changes of
mood. Ellinor felt them, though she would not
acknowledge them; it was bringing her too much
face to face with the great terror of her life.

One morning he announced the fact of his
brother's approaching marriage; the wedding
was hastened on account of some impending
event in the duke's family; and the home letter
he had received that day, was to bid his presence
at Stokely Castle, and also to desire him to be at
home by a certain time, not very distant, in order
to look over the requisite legal papers, and to
give his assent to some of them. He gave
many reasons why this unlooked-for departure
of his was absolutely necessary; but no one
doubted it. He need not have alleged such
reiterated excuses. The truth was, he was
restrained and uncomfortable at Ford Bank ever
since Ellinor's confidence. He could not rightly
calculate on the most desirable course for his
own interests, while his love for her was
constantly being renewed by her sweet presence.
Away from her, he could judge more wisely. Nor
did he allege any false reasons for his departure;
but the sense of relief to himself was so great
at his recal home, that he was afraid of having
it perceived by others; and so took the very
way which, if others had been as penetrating
as himself, would have betrayed him.

Mr. Wilkins, too, had begun to feel the restraint
of Ralph's grave watchful presence. Ellinor was
not strong enough to be married; nor was the
promised money forthcoming if she had been.
And to have a fellow dawdling about the house
all day, sauntering into the flower-garden, peering
about everywhere, and having a kind of right
to put all manner of unexpected questions, was
anything but agreeable. It was only Ellinor that
clung to his presence; clung as though some
shadow of what might happen before they met
again had fallen on her spirit. As soon as he
had left the house she flew up to a spare
bedroom window, to watch for the last glimpse of
the fly which was taking him into the town. And
then she kissed the part of the pane on which
his figure, waving an arm out of the carriage
window, had last appeared; and went down
slowly to gather together all the things he had
last touchedthe pen he had mended, the flower
he had played with, and to lock them up in the
little quaint cabinet that had held her treasures
since she was a tiny child.

Miss Monro was, perhaps, very wise in
proposing the translation of a difficult part of Dante
for a distraction to Ellinor. The girl went meekly,
if reluctantly, to the task set her by her good
governess, and by-and-by her mind became braced
by the exertion.

Ralph's people were not very slow in discovering
that something had not gone on quite smoothly
with him at Ford Bank. They knew his ways