ered with confusion.
鈥淚s it even so?鈥?cried Sir Richard; 鈥渁nd is he to succeed in all?鈥?
鈥淵ou mistake,鈥?I said; for I had a horror of confessing an attachment which, after all, I did not feel, and so of making our engagement more binding. But I blushed deeply as I spoke, and my uncle looked incredulous, and said,鈥?
鈥淵et it would make you very unhappy if he married another.鈥?
鈥淥h no!鈥?I cried, 鈥渉e has my free leave. I should wish him joy with all my heart.鈥?
The idea鈥攖he hope that he was playing me false, and might release me 鏉窞娲楁荡妗戞嬁灏忓鏈嶅姟 from my trammels, darted through my mind with a quick thrill of delight. Sir Richard
saw that I was in earnest, and his countenance cleared.
鈥淲hat a strange thing is maiden coyness,鈥?he observed; 鈥測ou blushed so prettily, Ellen, that I could have sworn you had given your heart 鏉窞spa鎸夋懇甯?to Vernon. But I see I was mistaken; I am glad of it, for he would not suit you.鈥?
No more was said, but I felt conscience-stricken and miserable. I had deceived my uncle, and yet I had not. I had declared that I did not love him to whom I had pledged my hand; and the whole was a mystery and an entanglement that degraded me in my own eyes. I longed to make a full confession; yet then all would be over鈥攚e should both be inextricably bound. As it was, some caprice might cause Vernon to transfer his affection to another, and I could give him entire freedom, without 鏉窞涓嶆瑙勭殑娲楄剼鐨勫湴鏂?any human being knowing how foolishly I had acted.
We had no guests at dinner; Sir Richard was to leave us early the next morning. After dinner I speedily retired to the drawing-room, leaving father and son together; they remained two hours. I was on the point of 鏉窞妗戞嬁鎸夋懇 withdrawing to my own room, to avoid a meeting which alarmed me, I knew not why, when they entered. It seemed as if, in the interval of my absence, they had received sudden intelligence of a dear friend鈥檚 death; and yet not quite so, for though Vernon 鏉窞娌瑰帇鎬庝箞鍏抽棬浜?looked absorbed in thought, his gloom was strangely interspersed with glances of swelling triumph; his smiles were no longer sneers鈥攜et they did not betray a sunshine of the heart, but rather joy on a bad victory. He looked on me askance, with a kind of greedy satisfaction, and at his father with scorn. I trembled, and turned 鏉窞涓夐€氬缃?to my uncle; but sadness and confusion marked his features鈥攈e was stamped as with disgrace, and quailed beneath my eye; though presently he rallied, drew a chair near, and was kinder than ever. He told me that he was going up to town on the morrow, and that Vernon 鏉窞鎸夋懇妗戞嬁璁哄潧 was to accompany him; he asked me if there was anything he could do for me, and testified his affection by a thousand little attentions. Vernon said nothing, and took leave of me so coldly, that I thought his manner implied that he expected to see me 鏉窞瓒崇枟 in the morning. Thinking it right to indulge him, I rose early; but he did not come down till long after Sir Richard, who thanked me for my kindness in disturbing myself on his account. They went away immediately after breakfast, and Vernon鈥檚 formal adieu again struck me with wonder. Was it possible that he was in