The day’s entertainment came to an end at last, to Ellen’s inexpressible relief; and her father drove her home in the yellow gig at rather an alarming pace, and with some tendency towards heeling over into a ditch. They got over the brief journey safely, however, and Mr. Carley was still in high good humour. He went off to see to the putting up of his horse himself, telling his daughter to wait till he came back, he had something particular to say to her before she went to bed.
“WHAT MUST BE SHALL BE.”
Ellen Carley waited in the little parlour, dimly lighted by one candle. The fire had very nearly gone out, and she had some difficulty in brightening it a little. She waited very patiently, wondering what her father could have to say to her, and not anticipating much pleasure from the interview. He was going to talk about Stephen Whitelaw and his hateful money perhaps. But let him say what he would, she was prepared to hold her own firmly, determined to provoke him by no open opposition, unless matters came to an extremity, and then to let him see at once and for ever that her resolution was fixed, and that it was useless to persecute her.
“If I have to go out of this house to-night, I will not flinch,” she said to herself.
She had some time to wait. It had been past midnight when they came home, and it was a quarter to one when William Carley came into the parlour. He was in a unusually communicative mood to-night, and had been superintending the grooming of his horse, and talking to the underling who had waited up to receive him.
He was a little unsteady in his gait as he came into the parlour, and Ellen knew that he had drunk a good deal at Wyncomb. It was no new thing for her to see him in this condition unhappily, and the shrinking shuddering sensation with which he inspired her to-night was painfully familiar.
“It’s very late, father,” she said gently, as the bailiff flung himself heavily into an arm-chair by the fire-place. “If you don’t want me for anything particular, I should be glad to go to bed.”
“Would you, my lass?” he asked grimly. “But, you see, I do want you for something particular, something uncommon particular; so there’s no call for you to be in a hurry. Sit down yonder,” he added, pointing to the chair opposite his own. “I’ve got something to say to you, something serious.”
“Father,” said the girl, looking him full in the face, pale to the lips, but very firm, “I don’t think you’re in a state to talk seriously of anything.”
“O, you don’t, don’t you, Miss Impudence? You think I’m drunk, perhaps. You’ll find that, drunk or sober, I’ve only one mind about you, and that I mean to be obeyed. Sit down, I tell you. I’m not in the humour to stand any nonsense to-night. Sit down.”
Ellen obeyed this mandate, uttered with a fierceness unusual even in Mr. Carley, who was never a soft-spoken man. She seated herself quietly on the opposite side of the hearth, while her father took down his pipe from the chimney-piece, and slowly filled it, with hands that trembled a little over the accustomed task.