On the Monday afternoon he said to Ellinor, “Mr. Ness interrupted us yesterday in a very interesting conversation. Do you remember, love?”
Ellinor reddened and kept her head still more intently bent over a sketch she was making.
“Yes; I recollect.”
“I have been thinking about it. I still think she ought to tell her lover that such disgrace hung over him—I mean, over the family with whom he was going to connect himself. Of course, the only effect would be to make him stand by her still more for her frankness.”
“Oh! but, Ralph, it might perhaps be something she ought not to tell, whatever came of her silence.”
“Of course there might be all sorts of cases. Unless I knew more I could not pretend to judge.”
This was said rather more coolly. It had the desired effect. Ellinor laid down her brush, and covered her face with her hand. After a pause, she turned towards him and said:
“I will tell you this; and more you must not ask me. I know you are as safe as can be. I am the girl, you are the lover, and possible shame hangs over my father, if something—oh, so dreadful” (here she blanched), “but not so very much his fault, is ever found out.”
Though this was nothing more than he expected, though Ralph thought that he was aware what the dreadful something might be, yet, when it was acknowledged in words, his heart contracted, and for a moment he forgot the intent, wistful, beautiful face, creeping close to his to read his expression aright. But after that his presence of mind came in aid. He took her in his arms and kissed her; murmuring fond words of sympathy, and promises of faith, nay, even of greater love than before, since greater need she might have of that love. But somehow he was glad when the dressing-bell rang, and in the solitude of his own room he could reflect on what he had heard; for the intelligence had been a great shock to him, although he had fancied that his morning’s inquiries had prepared him for it.
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