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He knew everything; he was in India as chaplain to the garrison at
• Humph! Well, I can decide upon nothing yet, I must go home and think the matter over.'
But will Mrs. Morton know of the confession I have made? Will she be told that I am a worthless woman?' asked poor Helen, timidly.
The Archdeacon looked even graver than before, and she, whose observations nothing escaped, saw the darkening cloud and hastened to avert the danger.
Oh! sir,' she exclaimed, while her hands were clasped in entreaty, 'you do not know what your wife has been to me! It was the constant sight of her goodness and purity that first fully awakened me to a sense of my own guilt. The tongues of preachers had failed to rouse me; and the knowledge that the world would condemn me had vanished from my thoughts; but her charity did not and could not fail; and it was the light of hope that I might one day be more worthy of her friendship, that has led me to-day through the deep valley of humiliation. It is in your power to shut out that light from the future of my life, but it will remain a bright star in my memory for ever.'
'I am glad to think she was so useful,' said the Archdeacon, the wings of whose imagination were too heavy to rise on the light winds that were sufficient for the support of Helen's less ponderous pinions.
* And if you could but guess,' continued the grateful woman (who, now that the floodgates were opened, found it a welcome relief to pour forth her confidences in a torrent), “if you could but imagine how lonely I have felt! How I have longed for some one to feel for me! Do not think me very wicked for having sometimes thought of him-of Philip-of my early love; and when I saw those darling little children, thoughts of a
blessed home, and of a happiness which never could be mine, came over me, and almost broke my heart.”
But you never spoke of those things to Mrs. Morton ?'
Never! How could you think it possible ? How could you imagine concealment in one so true in all her dealings? How could you deem me capable of such an act ? No, it is not from me that your pure wife shall learn what some men are, and what they make of women. But when you reveal to her how fallen is the creature she has honoured with her friendship, bid her remember that never has her hand been sullied by my touch, or the home of her children contaminated by my presence!' + The Archdeacon was now deeply moved. He contrasted the happiness of his own home with the desolation of that humbled fellow-being; and feeling how deep and how sincere was her contrition, he laid his
band upon her head, and pronounced her absolution.
• Poor girl, poor woman,' were his solemn words ; “it is not for man to be more hard than the Almighty, who has said in his mercy that He would not “ break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax." In his name, therefore, I say unto you, that “ your sins are forgiven, and that you may go in peace.”
And Helen was not driven from the refuge to which, like a wounded bird blown o'er the deep, she had flown in search of rest. During three more (and they were not unhappy) years, she remained a teacher; for the kindly support of the Archdeacon and his wife never failed her. That the latter knew her secret she was made well aware of by many a gentle pressure of the hand, and by many a sympathizing word thrown in in season.
The past, however, of the penitent woman's life was as a sealed book between her