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to the ground, and her breath came short and
I know it I am sure of it,' said her greatly interested auditor. "But I must own I am greatly shocked to learn all this. Pray tell me, was Mr. Fanshawe cognizant of the events of your early life? Is he aware of this—this deception, the revelation of which has so completely taken me by surprise; for, truly, I never could have surmised that you were other than you seemed.'
His cold questioning chilled Helen as does the shock of the sprinkled water when it brings back a painful life to the fainting sufferer; but as was customary with her, sorrow found vent in bitter and self-accusing words.
Of course you could not,' she said ; ‘for how could you have imagined that I was so vile a creature? Women are such wondrous cheats; and of course, like all of us, I was born an actress.
*Hush,' said the good man, do not talk so wildly-you blaspheme against your sex. You were intended for better things than for the life you tell me of.'
• And who intended me?' asked she, now fully roused, ' was it my father, to whom I was a plaything as a child, and an incumbrance as I grew to womanhood? Was it my mother, who never instilled into my mind one good or religious principle ? Oh! you do not know how neglected I was. There were rigorous and watchful parents among our friends, who averred that I was spoilt-and so I was—but not as they counted spoiling. I had my punishments for ill-doing; and in what do you think they consisted? A Psalm, a Bible chapter, or a Collect, to be learnt by heart. And for rewards, why, a gaudy sash or an envied necklace were bestowed upon me; and the gifts became indissolubly connected in my childish mind with all that was right and praiseworthy. Steady and judicious control I never knew. No good habits were fostered, and the foundation for self-government was
never laid. Can you wonder that I grew up as in my childish days I was allowed to live? and that idle, self-engrossed, and headstrong, I was ready to sink under every temptation that was set before me?'
Poor child, murmured the Archdeacon, in a voice of compassion.
Aye, poor indeed; for even my faint aspirations after good were checked, and my few virtuous resolutions nipped in their early bud! I had a tender conscience when I was a little girl; and well do I remember that once, remorseful for an unconfessed offence, I lay down upon my bed with a heavy heart. In the night-time terrible ideas assailed me. I had heard of sudden deaths; and on the day before, the awful words, “ Died by the visitation of God” (as if we ever died by anything else !) had been repeated for the first time within my hearing. I asked myself, “What if I too should die suddenly ? What, if a wicked child should on that night be also visited, and be before the sun arose, a corpse!',
'I lay in my small bed, trembling and affrighted. My sin had found me out, and “Oh!" I cried from the depths of my little penitent heart, “ if I do but live till morning, I will tell it all, and never- never be wicked any more.”
And when the morning came, I went to my mother's room (she always lay there, pale and suffering on her sofa, being weak and nervous, but ever gentle to us children), and there I poured forth all my childish sorrow, my guilt, my repentance, and my fear of the punishments of God. Yes, kneeling by her side, and crying very bitterly, I made my confession humbly, and with an entreaty to my parent that she would help, advise, and comfort me. And when my tale was told, truly, I was as the one who, asking for bread, was in its stead presented with a stone; for my mother, seeming very wearied (so wearied, indeed, that before she could reply she was forced to ask for some revivifying drops), made her languid commentary thus :
6“ My dear Nellie, what is all this fuss about? You are a very good little girl, and are a better nurse to me than any of the others. Bathe my forehead now, and don't cry and talk any more, it makes my head ache.”
"It was the first and last time that I ever mentioned the subject of my conscience to any one. No, I was not intended to be good; at any rate not by those whose intentions might have availed to make me so.'
The Archdeacon was silent; for he was making mental comments on this sad little episode of her early life. But Helen, again mistaking the cause of his taciturnity, broke in impatiently:
· Pray, speak to me; pray, say at once if you intend to give me up entirely. I can bear misfortune, I can support a sudden shock, but suspense kills me.'
'I must first know to what extent Mr. Fanshawe was acquainted with this history.'