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This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 171 pages of information about Vain Fortune.

’But is he coming down to dinner?  I thought you said he had gone to his study; sometimes he dines there.’

’I can tell you nothing about Mr. Price.  I don’t know whether he’ll dine up-stairs or down.’

At that moment a knock was heard at the door, and the servant announced that dinner was ready.  ’Mr. Price has sent down word, ma’am, that he is very busy writing; he hopes you’ll excuse him, and he’ll be glad if you will send him his dinner up on a tray.’

‘Very well; I shall be down directly.’

The slight interruption had sufficed to calm Julia’s irritation, and she stood waiting for Emily.  But seeing that she showed no signs of moving, she said, ‘Aren’t you coming down to dinner, Emily?’ It was a sense of strict duty that impelled the question, for her heart sank at the prospect of spending the evening alone with the girl.  But seeing the tears on Emily’s cheeks, she sat down beside her, and said, ’Dearest Emily, if you would only confide in me!’

‘There’s nothing to confide....’

’You mustn’t give way like this; you really mustn’t.  Come down and have some dinner.’

‘It is no use; I couldn’t eat anything.’

’He may come into the drawing-room in the course of the evening, and will be so disappointed and grieved to hear that you have not been down.’

’No; he will spend the whole evening in his room; we shall not see him again.’

‘But if I go and ask him to come; if I tell him——­’

’No; do not speak to him about me; he’d only say that I was interfering with his work.’

’That is unjust, Emily; he has never reproached you with interfering with his work.  Shall I go and tell him that you won’t come down because you think he is angry with you?’

Ten minutes passed, and no answer could be obtained from Emily—­only passionate and illusive refusals, denials, prayer to be left alone; and these mingled with irritating suggestions that Julia had better go at once, that Hubert might be waiting for her.  But Julia bore patiently with her and did not leave her until Hubert sent to know why his dinner was delayed.

Emily had begun to undress; and, tearing off her things, she hardly took more than five minutes to get into bed.

‘Shall I light a candle?’ Julia asked before leaving.

‘No, thank you.’

‘Shall I send you up some soup?’

‘No; I could not touch it.’

‘You are not going to remain in the dark?  Let me light a night-light?’

‘No, thank you; I like the dark.’

XVIII

Hubert and Mrs. Bentley stood by the chimney-piece in the drawing-room, waiting for the doctor; they had left him with Emily, and stood facing each other absorbed in thought, when the door opened, and the doctor entered.  Hubert said—­

‘What do you think, Doctor?  Is she seriously ill?’

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