« السابقةمتابعة »
garments that made her seem so unlike the Helen of former days, she poured forth all her history. And when her tale was told, she learnt from the man, against whose breast she leaned, that he, too, had known sorrow, and looking into his worn face, she saw its traces there.
Very rude had been the winds that had blown over that blighted flower; and hard enough, God knows had been the hearts of those who, seeing it deserted and forsaken, had passed it by unheeded. But Philip had found again the frail and fragile thing; and taking it to his bosom, gave it warmth and shelter.
Helen never lived with Thornleigh at the old Abbey, nor did the dread faces ever frown upon her from the oaken panels, but she was with him always, if not in bodily presence, in the heart and in the spirit. And he told her all his grief, and the burthen of shame that had been laid upon him, and she (and in his heart he blessed her
for it) would not believe in Gertrude's guilt, nor would allow that his case was a hopeless one.
Does this unselfish love seem an impossible thing to those who watch jealously over the affections of those in whom their own is garnered up (as it seems to them) for ever? Do they say that this woman could not have defended the wife, had she truly loved the husband; could not have pleaded for the children, had her heart been devoted to the father?
If there be women who argue thus, the answer is, that they have never loved as Helen loved. The days of wild and allengrossing passion were over, and with them, that portion of love which is selfishness, had passed away for ever. She saw him often listless, care-worn, and discontented. She felt herself insufficient to supply all the cravings of the heart that pined for the children he had lost, and for the quiet, respectable home-happiness, which, as life wears on, is so precious to men who have
this world's goods to enjoy, and to leave behind them.
Oh, poor, imprudent women ! ye who think all of the joys of the moment, and nothing of the middle, and of the old age when the passions of most men grow weak, and when you, who have been only a pastime and a source of momentary enjoyment, become, at the best, but a poor substitute for the legitimate interests which alone men really value, how melancholy is your lot! How often must you have to dwell with bitter sorrow for the changed and moody brow, and, perhaps, for the angry and disrespectful word. How often must you say to yourselves, "Would that I had not sinned. Would that I were not despised !
Such trials as these, however, did not fall to Helen's lot; for Philip was never irritable, and rarely allowed her to witness his attacks of despondency. But who can deceive a woman, especially a true-hearted one, who knows herself wanting, and who is prepared, at all points, for any of the emergencies of life? And Helen was prepared, and ready, at any moment, to be up and doing with a heart for every fate. Her great trial rose in the person of Mrs. Wraxham, Philip's cousin; for that baneful woman seemed to be ever at hand to work mischief and to do ill. To induce Philip to sue for a divorce from his banished wife had, in the early days of the separation, been her constant endeavour, and once she had nearly succeeded in her object. The occasion alluded to was that of her presenting her cousin with a letter, which, she averred, she had opened by mistake. It was addressed to Lady Thornleigh, and contained these few lines :
I cannot discover the exact date of the death, for, as you are well aware, we had parted company some time before I told you of the report. I remained with him as long as I could venture to associate with one whose character was blackening day by day; if I can learn anything further on a sub
ject of such vital importance to your son's interests, you shall be the first to be informed of my discoveries.'
This letter was shown to Thornleigh about a month after Gertrude's flight. It had neither date nor signature, but was written in the hand he knew so well, and had such fatal reasons for remembering! He asked no questions of his cousin as to the manner in which the letter fell into her hands, but read it with deep attention, and then pondered deeply on its contents. No light was (through those written words) thrown on the mystery which veiled Lady Thornleigh's conduct; but, on the contrary, the darkness had become deeper and more impenetrable than ever. Philip shrank from rushing into it—sbrank, as do those who, when constrained to move within a room where thick darkness reigns, recoil in affright from imaginary obstacles, holding out protecting hands to save themselves from blows and pain. But Mrs. Wraxham, persevering, restless, and am