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full into his face, as though to pierce to the very
heart's truth of him. Then she said, as quietly
as she ever had spoken in her life,

"You wish to break off our engagement?"

He reddened and grew indignant in a moment.
"What nonsense! Just because I ask a question
and make a remark! I think your illness
must have made you fanciful, Ellinor. Surely
nothing I said deserves such an interpretation.
On the contrary, have I not shown the sincerity
and depth of my affection to you by clinging to
you throughthrough everything?"

He was going to say "through the wearying
opposition of my family," but he stopped short,
for he knew that the very fact of his mother's
opposition had only made him the more determined
to have his own way in the first instance;
and even now he did not intend to let out what
he had concealed up to this time, that his friends
all regretted his imprudent engagement.

Ellinor sat silently gazing out upon the
meadows, but seeing nothing. Then she put her
hand into his. "I quite trust you, Ralph. I
was wrong to doubt. I am afraid I have grown
fanciful and silly."

He was rather put to it for the right words,
for she had precisely divined the dim thought
that had overshadowed his mind when she had
looked so intently at him. But he caressed her,
and reassured her with fond words, as incoherent
as lovers' words generally are.

By-and-by they sauntered homewards. When
they reached the house, Ellinor left him, and flew
up to see how her father was. When Ralph went
into his own room he was vexed with himself, both
for what he had said and what he had not said.
His mental look-out was not satisfactory.

Neither he nor Mr. Wilkins were in good
humour with the world in general at dinner-time,
and it needs little in such cases to condense and
turn the lowering tempers into one particular
direction. As long as Ellinor and Miss Monro
stayed in the dining-room, a sort of moody peace
had been kept up, the ladies talking incessantly
to each other about the trivial nothings of their
daily life, with an instinctive consciousness that
if they did not chatter on, something would be
said by one of the gentlemen which would be
distasteful to the other.

As soon as Ralph had shut the door behind
them, Mr. Wilkins went to the sideboard, and
took out a bottle which had not previously made
its appearance.

"Have a little cognac?" he asked, with an
assumption of carelessness, as he poured out a
wine-glassful. "It's a capital thing for the
headache; and this nasty lowering weather has given
me a racking headache all day."

"I am sorry for it," said Ralph, "for I had
wanted particularly to speak to you about
businessabout my marriage, in fact."

"Well! speak away, I'm as clear-headed as
any man, if that's what you mean?"

Ralph bowed, a little contemptuously.

"What I wanted to say was, that I am anxious
to have all things arranged for my marriage in
August. Ellinor is so much better now; in fact, so
strong, that I think we may reckon upon her standing
the change to a London life pretty well."

Mr. Wilkins stared at him rather blankly;
but did not immediately speak.

"Of course I may have the deeds drawn up in
which, as by previous arrangement, you advance
a certain portion of Ellinor's fortune for the
purposes therein to be assigned; as we settled last
year when I hoped to have been married in

A thought flitted through Mr. Wilkins's
confused brain that he should find it impossible to
produce the thousands required without having
recourse to the money-lenders, who were already
making difficulties, and charging him usurious
interest for the advances they had lately made;
and he unwisely tried to obtain a diminution in
the sum he had originally proposed to give
Ellinor. "Unwisely," because he might have read
Ralph's character better than to suppose he
would easily consent to any diminution without
good and sufficient reason being given; or without
some promise of compensating advantages in
the future for the present sacrifice asked from
him. But, perhaps, Mr. Wilkins, dulled as he
was by wine, thought he could allege a good and
sufficient reason, for he said:

"You must not be hard upon me, Ralph.
That promise was made beforebefore I exactly
knew the state of my affairs!"

"Before Dunster's disappearance, in fact,"
said Mr. Corbet, fixing his steady penetrating
eyes on Mr. Wilkins's countenance.

"Yesexactlybefore Dunster's—"
mumbled out Mr. Wilkins, red and confused, and not
finishing his sentence.

"By the way," said Ralph (for with careful
carelessness of manner he thought he could
extract something of the real nature of the impending
disgrace from his companion in the state in
which he then was; and if he only knew more
about this danger he could guard against it;
guard others: perhaps himself), "By the way,
have you ever heard anything of Dunster since
he went off toAmerica, isn't it thought?"

He was startled beyond his power of
self-control by the instantaneous change in Mr.
Wilkins which his question produced. Both
started up; Mr. Wilkins white, shaking, and
trying to say something, but unable to form a
sensible sentence.

"Good God! sir, what is the matter?" said
Ralph, alarmed at these signs of physical

Mr. Wilkins sat down, and repelled his nearer
approach without speaking.

"It is nothing, only this headache which
shoots through me at times. Don't look at me,
sir, in that way. It is very unpleasant to find
another man's eyes perpetually fixed upon you."

"I beg your pardon," said Ralph, coldly; his
short-lived sympathy thus repulsed, giving way
to his curiosity. But he waited for a minute or