« السابقةمتابعة »
• As the Almighty may look with pity on me, when my last hour of trial comes, so will I-as far as in me lies—be true to you,' said Helen, solemnly.
He hung upon her words eagerly, and when her vow was spoken, he, still resting on her arm, addressed her in smothered tones.
· Helen, you know all the history of my past life, and I have not now to tell you of the cruel mystery that veils the conduct of my wife; nay, start not, dearest, you will not be jealous of the love of a dying man?' and, gazing at her wistfully, the same faint smile, sweet and almost unearthly, flickered across his face. 'I may go on, may I not? I may trust that my best friend will have patience with me?'
Helen was very human; and having believed and hoped that his last thoughts of earthly things would have been for her, it was hard to find that another and a more absorbing interest was paramount in his breast; she gave, however, no sign of her
disappointment, but in a steady voice, bade him command her in everything.
Helen,' he continued, 'I have seen my wife, seen her here, and but a moment since. She was close to me, standing at my pillow, and with trembling lips, as though whispering words of menace in my ears.'
A dream, dear Philip; believe me that it was a mere delusion, for your commands have been strictly obeyed, and all entrance to the room denied. It is the opiate you have taken that has conjured up these unreal visitors; strive to forget them, love,-to forget them, and to rest.'
• There is no rest for me, no rest even in the grave of the weary, for her sad face will haunt me there.
* Her face! Oh, Philip.'
. It should be yours, Nellie, you would say; but no, you can grant me your forgiveness ere I go; while she,—Oh, Helen, we parted in anger, and now the longing for reconciliation comes too late. Speak again to .
me; tell me that other men would have acted as I acted; would have believed as I believed.'
Indeed they would. It must have been hard to decide otherwise. But Helen spoke hesitatingly; for with all her wish to comfort him, having no clue to guide her to the opinion that would best effect her object, she was as one groping in the dark.
Then I may trust that I was not wholly unjust, and that my conduct—but alas! there is poor consolation in the thought that my proceedings were justified by guilt of hers ; and something tells me now that I was perhaps too hasty, and that I may have utterly wronged her by my suspicions. Often of late such an idea has crossed my mind; but presuming on the morrow that might never be mine, I banished the thought as troublesome and oppressive. Since I have lain here, many a word and look of hers that during the period of those terrible discoveries seemed to bring conviction to my mind, have forced themselves upon me, and taught me once more to doubt. Helen, I may have been in error, I may in the angry sensitiveness for what men call their honour, have been wanting in the faith that would have saved us all; and therefore, at this my eleventh hour, have received a warning that I dare not neglect. Nellie, I am fast hastening where doubts and suspicions will harass me no more; but to the faithful love of her I leave behind me, I delegate the duty that I have so culpably neglected. Helen, your task must be to investigate into the truth or falsehood of all and everything connected with Lady Thornleigh's former life. God grant that you may prove her innocent; but if so, heavy indeed must be my guilt.
The bed shook with the intensity of his emotion, and she, fearing that the final crisis was approaching, bent over him in speechless agitation; but her alarm was premature, for Death was not yet ready for his prey, and
after the lapse of a few minutes, Philip spoke again.
Forgive me if I pain you. Remember that she was my wife, and that I loved her dearly once. If I have wronged her foully, cruelly wronged her, my spirit will not rest till tardy justice be done to the woman whose existence I have embittered, and to the children whose opening years I have darkened with shame. Her young sister too-poor pretty Alice-methinks I see her now, and hear her beseeching voice, vainly imploring me to believe, and to have mercy on my wife. But I was deaf to their prayers; I was worse than deaf, I was inhuman; and turning those helpless women from my doors, I loaded them with scorn, heaping insult on the mother of my children, and on the wife to whose protestations and oaths of innocence I refused all credit. Truly there were no bounds to my virtuous indignation, and verily I have had my reward.'
There was a pause, which the sympathizing