صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

own little girl;' and then there was a gradual sinking of words into fading whispers, a low soft laugh, and he lay as if in sleep.

*How happy! thought Helen, as she watched his placid rest! *How happy could he die thus, with visions of his lost loved ones near him, and with the gentle touch of his child's fingers on his cheek !' Gladly would she have prolonged for him this precious slumber, but the sense of a yet unfulfilled duty urging her to rouse him once again, she passed her hand over his forehead tenderly.

"Pardon-forgiveness-tell her that I forgave her, and that I loved the children.' These were the faltering sounds that, feebly uttered, told her that his soul still lingered.

One word more,' she whispered; "all you have inquired of me I will faithfully perform, but

*No more, my Helen, you have promised, and my mind is at rest.'

But for my satisfaction, dearest Philip, and above all for theirs, you have yet one

more duty to perform. Think you that with the unsupported testimony of my own assertions I can venture into the presence of those whose prejudices against me must be indeed insurmountable; or that I can claim a right to judge of actions committed by a lawful wife ? No—such daring were indeed beyond my power; but were the wishes you have expressed, and the commands you have laid upon me, to appear as written evidence, and attested by your signature, then indeed they might be induced to accept of reparation, even at hands which they must deem so vile as mine.'

You are right, Helen, and quick-witted as you ever were; but hasten with what you have to do, for life is ebbing fast. Place your hand upon my heart, and she, obeying him, knew that there was indeed no time to lose. From the moment that the medical attendant had pronounced the dread decree that rendered his further visits useless, the sufferer had shown a marked dislike to the


approach of any person but the woman whom he called his best friend,' and in whose presence alone he wished to die. And so it chanced that when, in furtherance of her object, she searched for writing materials, and found one important item wanting, she felt for a moment uncertain how to act. Rather, however, than agitate the dying man by taking active measures to remedy the deficiency, she had recourse to the blank leaf of a large volume which stood on the table, and on it (little dreaming of the consequences which might ensue from her incautious act) she wrote the words which might eventually consign her to comparative poverty.

“And now, dear Philip,” said the persevering woman (whose energy in the cause of justice seemed untiring), “now I greatly fear that unless you are able to sign this paper, the precaution we have taken will be unavailing. Will you not endeavour to do so? Let me raise your arm; one effort, and it may be done.

She lowered the coverlid, and lifted up the powerless limb, so lately full of muscular vigour; but alas! it fell heavily and by its own weight upon the bed : and he, sighing wearily, and murmuring those saddest of all words, "Too late, felt, for the first time within his memory, large tears filling his eyes and rolling slowly down his cheeks.

Helen's heart well-nigh broke at the sight; but it was no moment for the indulgence of tender emotions : there was work for others to be done, and the time for weeping would come when she had naught else to do.

*Not too late, dear Philip,' she said, encouragingly, 'for one witness to the authenticity of this paper will be sufficient for our purpose; and your old servant Turner is, I am sure, close at hand, anxiously waiting, in the hope that he may be permitted to see you once again.'

It needed but the opening of the door to prove how well founded was her conjecture, for there in truth stood the faithful serving


man—the constant attendant on his master, and who, despite of age for he had numbered more than three-score years—had kept unwearied watch during the anxious hours of the night and day.

• Turner,' said Helen to him on his entrance, you are required to witness that this expression of Sir Philip's wishes has been written by me at his desire and from his dictation. Is this not so, dear Philip?' she asked, and on his signifying his assent, she proceeded to read aloud, from the volume that she held, and on which she had hastily inscribed the few words, the importance of which appeared to her so vital. The ceremony was soon over, and then Philip, turning his eyes towards the old man, said, kindly :

*Come near me, Turner. This will be nearly your last service for your master, my old friend; but you have been faithful to us through three generations; and in your declining years you will be cared for when I

« السابقةمتابعة »