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النشر الإلكتروني

152

CHAPTER VII.

• Heaven's Sovereign saves all beings but Himself
That hideous sight-a naked human heart.'

YOUNG's Night THOUGHTS.

• Le parjure est une verta
Lorsque le serment fait un crime.'-VOLTAIRE.

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It was with very conflicting feelings that Gertrude listened to Alice's account of her interview with the stranger. Her first sensation was one of joy that she had been remembered; and of deep gratitude for the forgiving message that had been vouchsafed to her. But after a while less holy thoughts rose in her breast, filling it with a jealous bitterness against the woman who had lain on Philip's heart, and shared his secrets. True, she had deceived him; not indeed with the deception of which he had accused her, but still after a manner that had brought a cloud upon her name and upon his honour; and therefore she had no right to visit with her anger either the husband who had turned to another for consolation, or the woman who had helped him to forget his suspected wife. In this fashion might Lady Thornleigh have reasoned with herself, and thus have kept down the evil thoughts that were surging within her; but this she cared not to do, and merely said, in a calm, cold tone to her sister:

Alice, I will see this lady; this Helen Langton, or Vaughan, or by whatever name she may be called.'

Alice was pained by her tone ; nor was she quite willing that her sister should meet the stranger who, despite herself, had interested her so deeply; but judging from her own heart, she could not forbear saying:

“Would you see her? Later, perhaps you might, for his eyes were closed by her hands, and that is a sacred bond.'

• But one that after all, perhaps, does not exist, Alice. We have no proof that this person is even what she says she is ; and her story may likewise be possibly an invention.

'Hush, Gertrude,' interrupted her sister; 'would you lose your belief in this new-born comfort? you were not used to be so suspicious and distrustful. Have you no faith in my discernment? Believe me, the heart is rarely deceived; and I would stake my existence on this woman's truth.'

Forgive me,' said Gertrude, humbled and regretful. I am very weak and foolish, Alice, but you do not know how heavy is the weight of sorrow laid upon me, Could you but guess what I suffer, you would wonder that I have not long since sunk under the Lurthen'

"Poor Gertrude! Believe me that I would gladly share it with you ; gladly take the load off your heart, and bear it on my own. You are not strong enough in nerves and spirits to see the stranger yet; but I will go to her, and learn more. Then, if you still desire it, you may have an interview with one who

seems to feel for us so sincerely; and may the sight of her give you comfort, instead of the pain which I fear would be the consequence of the meeting.'

On the following day Alice was listening with breathless interest to the details of Philip's dying testament and latest wishes. The reader knows already what that testament contained, and what those latest wishes were ; and to Alice they did indeed seem most incongruous and extraordinàry: nevertheless, as she rose to leave the room where the lengthened dialogue had been carried on, she held out her hand to Helen.

• We shall meet again,' she said; ‘for whatever may be the course of conduct decided on by my sister, when she learns this strange history, we at least shall, I trust, be friends. I regret that you have not with you the volume, in which was written a document 80 important; but you have shown me letters, and have told me enough to prove that you have deserved better at our hands

than to be answered coldly and by letter. Pray say that you will not leave this place without informing me of your intention; pray promise me that we shall meet again.'

*It were better not,' said Helen, sadly; ‘Believe me it were better not, but you have yet to learn how women such as I are spoken of, and how just and heavy is the condemnation with which they are visited; and should the world know of our meeting here, even you, blameless as you are, would not escape calumny.'

* But this is not the world,' said Alice; 'in this quiet place, if anywhere, our sayings and our doings may pass unheeded.'

“True,' responded Helen; "and as I have entrusted the secret of my hurried journey to no living soul, I may perhaps venture, for another day, to remain in your neighbourhood; and, without injury to you, may see you once again.'

This being settled, and an early hour on the following morning having been fixed on

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