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he who lost me reputation, friends, and fortune?'
* But, dearest Gertrude,' said Alice, whose tearful eyes bore witness of her sympathy,
it seems to me so wonderful, so utterly incomprehensible that you should have married Philip with this secret in your heart.'
'He was dead—but do not interrupt me or confuse the order of events. As I before assured you, I never saw Henry Considine again; his friend (Peters, as he was called) presented himself on my arrival at R- , and informed me that necessary business had compelled my husband to undertake a voyage to Cuba. He was, he said, his accredited agent, and by him would the child be cared for. Alice, you have seen that child-born into the world in horror and grief too great for tears, and tampered with—as I have since learned by those to whom his death would have been a gain, the wretched son of a mother most unfortunate and accursed became the thing you saw.
A shudder shook Alice's frame as she remembered the afflicted being whose sight had twice so shocked her, but it was a case in which words could afford no comfort, so only winding her arm closer round her sister, she signed to her to proceed.
When I returned home my mother was again a widow; she received me with a coldness that sent a heavy chill into the heart that was longing for some word of kindness some token of affection that could give me courage to live and suffer; Alice-to both of us our mother was ever hard, and towards me she never attempted to conceal dislike. She made no objection to my living a life of retirement and seclusion, and as she was still handsome and young-looking for her age, the world said that she purposely kept her grown-up daughters out of sight. For a time I was well pleased to remain in seclusion, for I had an object of interest in my little sister, that saved me from the danger of dwelling on my own lamentable history.'
You were, indeed, a loving friend to me. in my childhood,' said Alice tenderly, and well have you deserved all the affection and gratitude I have bestowed upon you.' Lady Thornleigh continued, not noticing the interruption.
During the years that followed I heard occasionally from Peters, informing me that the boy lived, but was alas ! that dreadful thing - a hopeless idiot! A few months before Sir Philip returned from India news came that my husband was dead; had died of fever in the Havanah, and had been buried there among his own people. I cannot say that I was unhappy, but it was a shock when the fact was told me; for now the responsibility of the unhappy child's well-being would rest, as I thought, upon me alone. I wrote to the address given me by Peters, but could learn no news of him. Again I sought for information, but in vain; so despairing of success, I waited for what might follow.'
• Poor Gertrude ! what uncertainty and what misery,' exclaimed Alice.
* Uncertainty and misery, yes. But not the kind of misery you perhaps imagine. I had no love for that child. This may seem strange to you, who have seen what mother's love can be; and who have read in books, and received as truth that the heart of a parent must yearn over her own offspring. But how could I love the child when I loathed the father; hated him as a woman can detest the man who has insulted, wronged, and deserted her?' .And you said no word to Philip of all this ?' asked Alice, sorrowfully.
‘Nothing,' responded Lady Thornleigh, ' for I loved him. Nothing—for I feared my mother, and dared not break my vow. Alice, place yourself in my position if you can. By all the arts that man can use Philip had taught me to love him. That his devotion to me was but a momentary passion, I learnt to my sorrow soon enough; but when I
to Mercy.” married him, I believed he did not feign; and for him, God knows, my heart beat as it had never done for man before. Is there nothing to be said for me? And was there no fault on his side? Why, he married me with his love for another woman brimming up within him, while I-but what need to dwell on that? I felt how dishonourable was my deception; and once I resolved, by revealing to him the truth, to dash the cup of happiness from my lips. But he would not listen to me. “Gertrude,” he said, " I love you as you are. Tell me nothing of the past. Let us both bury our dead follies in oblivion.” I was silenced; glad, perhaps, to find my escape in the following out of his own wishes; and thus, with my secret undivulged, I became Philip Thornleigh's wife.'
*How terrible!' cried Alice. And what a haunting memory must have followed you · by night and by day through all those years !'
• Yes, my punishment began soon enough,' responded Lady Thornleigh. “Shortly after