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The Wanderer (Volume 2 of 5) by Burney Fanny

VOLUME II

CHAPTER XX

Ellis hastened to the house; but her weeping eyes, and disordered state of mind, unfitted her for an immediate encounter with Elinor, and she went straight to her own chamber; where, in severe meditation upon her position, her duties, and her calls for exertion, she 'communed with her own heart.' Although unable, while involved in uncertainties, to arrange any regular plan of general conduct, conscience, that unerring guide, where consulted with sincerity, pointed out to her, that, after what had passed, the first step demanded by honour, was to quit the house, the spot, and the connexions, in which she was liable to keep alive any intercourse with Harleigh. What strikes me to be right, she internally cried, I must do; I may then have some chance for peace, ... however little for happiness!

Her troubled spirits thus appeased, she descended to inform Elinor of the result of her commission. She had received, indeed, no direct message; but Harleigh meant to desire a conference, and that desire would quiet, she hoped, and occupy the ideas of Elinor, so as to divert her from any minute investigation into the circumstances by which it had been preceded.

The door of the dressing room was locked, and she tapped at it for admission in vain; she concluded that Elinor was in her bed-chamber, to which there was no separate entrance, and tapped louder, that she might be heard; but without any better success. She remained, most uneasily, in the landing-place, till the approaching footstep of Harleigh forced her away.

Upon re-entering her own chamber, and taking up her needle-work, she found a letter in its folds.

The direction was merely To Ellis. This assured her that it was from Elinor, and she broke the seal, and read the following lines.

'All that now remains for the ill-starred Elinor, is to fly the whole odious human race. What can it offer to me but disgust and aversion? Despoiled of the only scheme in which I ever gloried, that of sacrificing in death, to the man whom I adore, the existence I vainly wished to devote to him in life;--despoiled of this--By whom despoiled?--by you! Ellis,--by you!--Yet--Oh incomprehensible!--You, refuse Albert Harleigh!--Never, never could I have believed in so senseless an apathy, but for the changed countenance which shewed the belief in it of Harleigh.

'If your rejection, Ellis, is that you may marry Lord Melbury, which alone makes its truth probable--you have done what is natural and pardonable, though heartless and mercenary; and you will offer me an opportunity to see how Harleigh--Albert Harleigh, will conduct himself when--like me!--he lives without hope.

'If, on the contrary, you have uttered that rejection, from the weak folly of dreading to witness a sudden and a noble end, to a fragile being, sighing for extinction,--on your own head fall your perjury and its consequences!

'I go hence immediately. No matter whither.


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