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Unformatted text preview: ood. Listen, I do in verity believe that this husband of yours is innocent - but the affair marches badly. If I am to save him, I must know all there is to know - even if it
should seem to make the case against him blacker than before.' 'How well you understand,' said Ursula.
'So you will tell me the whole story, will you not? From the beginning.' 'You're not going to send me
away, I hope,' said Caroline, settling herself comfortably in an arm-chair. 'What I want to know,' she
continued, 'is why this child was masquerading as a parlourmaid?' 'Masquerading?' I queried.
'That's what I said. Why did you do it, child? For a wager?' 'For a living,' said Ursula drily.
And encouraged, she began the story which I reproduce here in my own words.
Ursula Bourne, it seemed, was one of a family of seven impoverished Irish gentlefolk. On the death of her
father, most of the girls were cast out into the world to earn their own living. Ursula's eldest sister was
married to Captain Folliott. It was she whom I had seen that Sunday, and the cause of her
embarrassment was clear enough now. Detemined to earn her living and not attracted to the idea of being
a nursery governess - the one profession open to an untrained girl, Ursula preferred the job of
parlourmaid. She scorned to label herself a 'lady parlourmaid.' She would be the real thing, her reference
being supplied by her sister. At Fernly, despite an aloofness which, as has been seen, caused some
comment, she was a success at her job - quick, competent, and thorough.
'I enjoyed the work,' she explained. 'And I had plenty of time to myself.' And then came her meeting with
Ralph Paton, and the love affair which culminated in a secret marriage. Ralph had persuaded her into
that, somewhat against her will. He had declared that his stepfather would not hear of his marrying a
penniless girl. Better to be married secretly, and break the news to him at some later and more
And so the deed was done, and Ursula Bourne became Ursula Paton. Ralph had declared that he meant
to pay off his debts, find a job, and then, when he was in a position to support her, and independent of
his adopted father, they would break the news to him.
But to people like Ralph Paton, turning over a new leaf is easier in theory than in practice. He hoped that
his stepfather, whilst still in ignorance of the marriage, might be persuaded to pay his debts and put him
on his feet again.
But the revelation of the amount of Ralph's liabilities merely enraged Roger Ackroyd, and he refused to
do anything at all. Some months passed, and then Ralph was bidden once more to Fernly. Roger
Ackroyd did not beat about the bush. It was the desire of his heart that Ralph should marry Flora, and he
put the matter plainly before the young man.
And here it was that the innate weakness of Ralph Paton showed itself. As always, he grasped at the
easy, the immediate solution. As far as I could make out, neither Flora nor Ralph made any pretence of
love. It was, on both sides, a busine...
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