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15. CHAPTER XV. (continued)
He looked at the leases again and the letter attached. There was no doubt that he had lost his houses by an accident which might easily have been circumvented if he had known the true conditions of his holding. The time for performance had now lapsed in strict law; but might not the intention be considered by the landholder when she became aware of the circumstances, and his moral right to retain the holdings for the term of his life be conceded?
His heart sank within him when he perceived that despite all the legal reciprocities and safeguards prepared and written, the upshot of the matter amounted to this, that it depended upon the mere caprice--good or ill--of the woman he had met the day before in such an unfortunate way, whether he was to possess his houses for life or no.
While he was sitting and thinking a step came to the door, and Melbury appeared, looking very sorry for his position. Winterborne welcomed him by a word and a look, and went on with his examination of the parchments. His visitor sat down.
"Giles," he said, "this is very awkward, and I am sorry for it. What are you going to do?"
Giles informed him of the real state of affairs, and how barely he had missed availing himself of his chance of renewal.
"What a misfortune! Why was this neglected? Well, the best thing you can do is to write and tell her all about it, and throw yourself upon her generosity."
"I would rather not," murmured Giles.
"But you must," said Melbury.
In short, he argued so cogently that Giles allowed himself to be persuaded, and the letter to Mrs. Charmond was written and sent to Hintock House, whence, as he knew, it would at once be forwarded to her.
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