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upon my actions; and following my steps when I foolishly imagined I was alone? God forgive me for my stupidity and blindness, but I had been really weak enough to fancy that you were above such tricks as these.'
Her words, and the laugh that accompanied them, were so taunting and bitter, that for a passing moment Edward's anger was almost equal to her own; but his old love, and the soft pity he felt for her, acted like oil upon the waters, and stilled the waves of anger in his breast.
* Helen, you wrong me,' he said ; and the time will, I trust, come, when your judgment will be more impartial and more just. But enough of my conduct and motives, which are as nothing when compared with the peril in which you are placed. Would that I could spare you the pain of listening to what my duty tells. me I must make known to you; but, alas! it is impossible, for the whole town is talking of your meetings with Thornleigh ;
the merest gossips prate over the pleasant news; every chattering shop girl has her stone ready to throw at you; and in the mess-room
“The mess-room! oh, Edward, surely you would not allow-'
'Helen, you know nothing of these things; and you have yet to learn that one half of the world takes delight in slandering, and the other in believing, to the uttermost the vile things they hear. What can I do to stem a torrent so mighty and so overwhelming? Your own prudence should have guarded the sluice-gates, which, alas ! are wide open now, and so have saved you from this heavy blow. In such a place too; a place where so many idle men are, like Thornleigh, going about in search of prey !
And you, when you made the notable discovery which has brought you here to preach to me to-day, what were you doing, and what led you to lonely places, and to lanes where lovers meet at dusk ? Fie, cousin Edward! you whom I thought so “steady” and respectable, to be wandering about
Nay, I was there to watch‘And not to prey-unworthy joke,' interrupted Helen, laughing awkwardly to hide her confusion.
Believe me that a jest was far from my thoughts, which God knows are sad enough just now. I leave with the detachment tomorrow, dear cousin, and who can say how long we may be separated ? It is with deep sorrow that I bid you farewell, for you have no protector, and are in the power of a man whom I believe to be totally unscrupulous and devoid of principle. Helen, my own dear cousin, my first friend! may I ask you one question before I go hence, never, perhaps, to look upon your sweet face again.'
How foolish you are, Edward! Of course you can ask me a question; nay, more, I promise to answer it.'
The words were lightly spoken, but their bantering tone was assumed to hide the heaviness which her cousin's earnest appeal had laid upon her heart.
Then tell me, Helen,' he continued, and again he feared to meet her eyes, tell me if Thornleigh has ever spoken to you of marriage.'
“Never,' was the unhesitating reply; ‘nor do I think him a likely man to marry; such an idea never seems to occur to him.'
Then in the name of Heaven how is all this to end?' exclaimed Burrowes, starting up impetuously. · 'How is what to end?' asked the girl, as simply and quietly as though she had no important or individual interest in the reply.
• Why, this intimacy; this—this-love making. These secret assignations, which are making your name a by-word, and casting a blight upon your beauty and your fair fame.'
* And pray who has given you a right to watch over my actions ?' cried Helen. “I
am not alone in the world, I have a father to protect and a mother to advise me; and and—I am fully capable of taking care of myself.
No, Helen, far from capable. Why, how fast your heart beats now. I see that golden gift of his, that hangs upon your neck, vibrating to its swift action; and your eyes flash far too proudly. No, Nellie, the spirit within is under no control; and you are at once too impetuous and too tender to be trusted to your own guardianship alone.'
My heart beats, but it is with anger; and as for pride, why that should be my safeguard, you foolish boy!
It should be, but I fear it will prove but a stumbling-block in your path. Do you imagine, dear cousin, that I am blind and deaf to what is passing around me? Why, I marked the very glance which gave to Thornleigh his first hope to win you. Do you recollect the day, Helen? Or have you forgotten the studied slight and cruel sneer