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moment, life seemed to have for her neither an object or a wish. She had not undressed ere she slept, and haggard and worn was the face she saw reflected in the large mirror, as she stood before it. For the first time in her life a feeling of utter despondency stole over her, and creeping back to her pillow, she turned her face again to the wall, and groaned aloud.
It was a recollection of the responsibility that rested on her, that proved the best stimulant to her sinking spirit. There was nothing cowardly in that woman's nature, and you could read how brave it was in the eyes that looked at you—not boldly-but openly and confidingly. Since the time that she had been driven by her great distress to return to Philip's protection, she had half succeeded in convincing berself that starvation may be an excuse for sin; but she was alone now, and remorse sprang again from the void that Death had made, and looked her steadily in the face. Then she reflected
on what remained for her to do, in order that her sin might be put away from her; and searching into her heart, she found the answer there. “Go and sin no more,' were the words she read; and her own repentant conscience whispered her that she must begin her work at once, nor linger another hour in inaction, and in the cowardly indulgence of useless grief.
Her first impulse was to visit the room where he lay, once more to look upon his face, and to repeat over his senseless clay the promises she had made to him.
Her hand did not tremble as she laid it on the door handle, for it was not in her character to feel any of that nameless dread so often experienced by the living when in the presence of the dead who were once so dear to them: but who has not felt a shock when the eye first rests on the cold sheet beneath whose thin texture the hard, straight limbs lie clearly defined, and as though carved in marble? Who has not shuddered at the sight of the face, which is his, and yet can never beam again with joy at our approach, or at the dear words we say to him? Ah! sorrow is a selfish rather than a sacred thing? For whom do we mourn as we bend over the dead? Is it for our departed brother or sister, who has seen the last day of danger and distress? or is it for ourselves, who are left behind to feel our loss and to suffer on?
Who can venture to decide on a motive, or search into the hidden springs of feeling ? there is but one can draw aside the veil from that Unholy of Unholies, the naked human heart; and it is possible, that even in the deep wail of that bereaved woman there was a jarring note that spoke of some selfish sorrow: still she mourned for his earthly loss, as well as for her own; for he had been taken away in his strength, with that work undone which must now be finished by another; and not for him could be used those conventional words of consolation, namely,
that he had found in Death-a.happy release' from suffering.
There was a hired watcher in the room; but so dark was the chamber of death, that Helen did not at first perceive that she was not alone. Alone, indeed was she! Hardly did she recognize her right to be there ; for well she knew that there are some who are so afraid of behaving themselves unseemly, that even the stern teacher Death brings no right knowledge home to them. · And yet, who bad a better right than she, to watch beside the dust about to mingle with its fellow-dust, for had she not been as a faithful wife to him for years and had not he loved and trusted her above all women? Kneeling by his side she pressed her cheek for the last time against the cold, still heart, and then, rising with the words of a prayer upon her lips, she saw (with eyes now accustomed to the gloom) that a woman was looking coldly and curiously upon her. That woman well knew who the sorrowing lady was. She was Sir Philip's mistress (the nurse would have used a coarser word), and as he was dead now (and there was no dowagerhood for the pale and humble-seeming mourner), respectful observance was not her due.
There was another purpose (besides that of bidding a last farewell to the dead) that had brought Helen into the room where the remains of Philip lay; and that purpose was no other than to obtain possession of the precious volume in which were written the words that with his dying fingers he had signed; she had forgotten it in her grief; and sought it anxiously, but to her surprise she found it not; and turning to the hired watcher, interrogated her thus:
Has any one been here? I mean, any one besides those who were obliged to enter?'
I can't say who's obleeged to come in, or who isn't, answered the woman, sulkily; I takes my orders from them as has a right to give them."
Too well did Helen recognize in that voice