صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

ing in dismay. The interior of the house pleased her better, and the old lady, in her helplessness and decrepitude, became an object of interest to her at once.

A married niece, whose husband possessed a considerable property on the outskirts of Miss Lennard's large estate, was often a visitor at Darrow House. She, too, was a great lady in her way. Her very dress. rich and rustling-bespoke her wealth and might; and in her manner there was a grand and impressive condescension. This lady, when called upon to pronounce on the fitness of Mrs. Langton for the office to which she had been appointed, and on her claims to the honour of admittance to the society of Darrow House,' at once gave her opinion in that person's' favour. And so Helen entered on her new duties with no dissentient voice raised against her, for they had no jealous feelings (that family so self-engrossed and concentrated) of the claims or merits of their fellow men or women. They lived

in the centre of their own property, and among their own so-called dependents ;' and rarely coming in contact with those of more enlarged minds and extended experience, they had no opportunity of drawing contrasts between themselves and their (possibly) more gifted fellow-creatures. Not one of the lights that science and social sense have thrown upon the world ever gleamed through the darkness of their prejudices; and the first sod had yet to be turned above the soil which was hardened by the prejudices of generations. Helen could not be said to have companions, for the intellects of the old lady (never remarkable for brightness) were rendered still more misty by age and infirmity; and her nephew, too engrossed by his books (which he read mechanically, and from bodily indolence) to attend to what was passing round him, was only seen by the Companion' at the silent hour of dinner.

And so, among that unsuggestive eastern

tribe the bitter winter months rolled on. The showers of April were of snow and sleet, and even with the miscalled 'merrie month of May' warmth came not. Still summer, with its roses and its sunshine, beamed at last; but ere that summer ended, the scene changed again for Helen.

She had not been discontented during those tedious months, though her life had been one of confinement, and of rather monotonous and uninteresting work, for the old lady had seemed to value her attentions, and she hoped that the feeling towards her, entertained by the other members of the family was rather favourable than otherwise. And thus she went on her way, if not rejoicing, at least cheerfully and hopefully.

But through all that season the woman, although she knew it not, was walking on ground beneath which a mine was dug. The train was laid by the hand of what inen call Fate, but the match that was to blow into the air the frail fabric of Hope built upon

that hollowed-out foundation, was applied at last by a mortal female's hand.

She was a great lady, that rich one in the rustling silks, but not too great to be above the listening to evil tongues; and the report of Mrs. Langton's beauty having spread abroad, the truth of the poet's axiom that, • Women, like princes, have few real friends," became again painfully exemplified. In some way (it boots not how) Miss Lennard's niece learned that Helen had been a castaway. There was no esclandre, no recrimination, and no questioning. The Lennards (one and all) were simply surprised that such an event could have occurred in a family so exalted; and the humbled companion was therefore merely told that she was to goto go as any other female domestic' might have been ordered to depart, who had been found unworthy to inhabit a house so highly placed, and breathe an air so pure from vile alloy.

There was little to regret in the home that

she was forced to leave, and but that she was forced to leave it, Helen Langton might have rejoiced in the prospect of a more congenial mode of existence. Even as it was, and though feeling that the tongues of men were again busy with her name, she did not despond for the future ; nor was there heaviness at her heart as the cold grey walls of that wind-rocked mansion faded from her view.

« السابقةمتابعة »