It was about the same time that she had reached Hellingford on the previous night, that she arrived at the Great Western station on this evening—past eight o’clock. On the way she had remembered and arranged many things: one important question she had omitted to ask Mr. Johnson; but that was easily remedied. She had not enquired where she could find Judge Corbet; if she had, Mr. Johnson could probably have given her his professional address. As it was, she asked for a Post-Office Directory at the hotel, and looked out for his private dwelling—128 Hyde Park Gardens.
She rang for a waiter.
“Can I send a messenger to Hyde Park Gardens?” she said, hurrying on to her business, tired and worn out as she was. “It is only to ask if Judge Corbet is at home this evening. If he is, I must go and see him.”
The waiter was a little surprised, and would gladly have had her name to authorise the enquiry but she could not bear to send it: it would be bad enough that first meeting, without the feeling that he, too, had had time to recall all the past days. Better to go in upon him unprepared, and plunge into the subject.
The waiter returned with the answer while she yet was pacing up and down the room restlessly, nerving herself for the interview.
“The messenger has been to Hyde Park Gardens, ma’am. The Judge and Lady Corbet are gone out to dinner.”
Lady Corbet! Of course Ellinor knew that he was married. Had she not been present at the wedding in East Chester Cathedral? But, somehow, these recent events had so carried her back to old times, that the intimate association of the names, “the Judge and Lady Corbet,” seemed to awaken her out of some dream.
“Oh, very well,” she said, just as if these thoughts were not passing rapidly through her mind. “Let me be called at seven to-morrow morning, and let me have a cab at the door to Hyde Park Gardens at eight.”
And so she went to bed; but scarcely to sleep. All night long she had the scenes of those old times, the happy, happy days of her youth, the one terrible night that cut all happiness short, present before her. She could almost have fancied that she heard the long-silent sounds of her father’s step, her father’s way of breathing, the rustle of his newspaper as he hastily turned it over, coming through the lapse of years; the silence of the night. She knew that she had the little writing-case of her girlhood with her, in her box. The treasures of the dead that it contained, the morsel of dainty sewing, the little sister’s golden curl, the half-finished letter to Mr. Corbet, were all there. She took them out, and looked at each separately; looked at them long—long and wistfully. “Will it be of any use to me?” she questioned of herself, as she was about to put her father’s letter back into its receptacle. She read the last words over again, once more:
“From my death-bed I adjure you to stand her friend; I will beg pardon on my knees for anything.”