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and the dinner and the evening hours passed away, and there was still constraint upon the two who had so lately been lovers, but whom the breath of the world had come between that breath which was so soon to drive them wide as the poles asunder!
“The child imposes on the man.” — DRYDEN.
" Alas! for the rarity
PHILIP THORNLEIGH's repose on the night that followed that cheerless evening was broken by meditations which were anything but pleasant.
He was called upon to choose, at least he thought he was, between Helen and the world between his love and the prejudices of society; and a host of difficulties and annoyances rose up before him. For Helen he foresaw a perfect hurricane of descending stones; and he confessed himself powerless to shelter her from the threatened lapidation. If he were only master of the position and the property, if he were only the affluent owner of the means by which men's mouths are shut, he fancied he might do much; but for that power he must wait, and in the meantime, putting the best face he could on this "extremely awkward business" (for he had already begun to call the affair by one of its right names) he would wait, with what countenance he could, the chapter of accidents. Oh! that chapter of accidents, from the advent of which men often expect so much; were we to choose a motto for the heading of it, what more fitting one could be found than the expressive words of après nous le déluge? for truly the
mind of a man must be in a reckless and most unseemly state of confusion when, thrusting aside reflection, he decides that sufficient to the day is the evil thereof.
When the morning came, after a night which to Helen also had been one of sorrowing reflection, things began to look a little brighter; and though joy was not actually a guest at their breakfast table, the heaviness which had endured through the darkened hours no longer sat brooding at their board. Scarcely however was their morning meal ended, when a tap at the door, unmistakeably produced by housemaid's fingers, was answered by a peremptory “come in" from the master.
“Well, Martha," said Helen, kindly — for she was by nature courteous and felt, perhaps intuitively, the expediency of conciliating those around her; "well, Martha, is there anything you want? you should have waited till I was alone.”
“Please, ma'am please, sir," stammered Martha, looking helplessly from one to the other; for she had overrated her courage, which oozed rapidly from her moist finger-ends, when she found herself in the awful presence of “the Colonel.”
“Come, speak out, or leave the room," said the latter, growing impatient.
“Please, Colonel, I wish to leave
"Leave and be d-d!" ejaculated the Colonel, with military promptness.
“Hush, dear,” whispered Helen, somewhat shocked at this outbreak; “let me speak to her, and find out why she wants to go."
“You had better not; the girl is impertinent; tell her to leave the room.” This advice was given in a
low tone, for the speaker, having a vague suspicion of what was coming, was desirous, as far as lay in his power, of sparing the feelings of his companion.
But Helen was pertinacious that morning, or possibly obtuse, and would not, or could not, take the hint that was given her.
“Martha," she began, “I am sorry for this; you seemed to be going on so well, and
character was everything we could wish."
*My friends is all respectable," suggested Martha, whose energies seemed for the moment equal to no greater task than that of taking the measure of her clean white apron, from side to side, and back again.
Helen began to feel alarmed. She had her reasons for holding in horror the ominous word that had just fallen from the lips of the discontented housemaid, and so her tongue was tied; but the silence of her mistress only encouraged the recreant chamber-maiden to let loose the violence of her own untamed member, and havoc was the cry.
“I've nothing but my character,” sobbed she, for the apron was now transferred to her deluged eyes. “If I lose my character I'll never get another place -and mother says which I have now, along of being here. I allers kep myself to myself, and never had no follerers, which wasn't allowed in places where I lived servant before. Mother says as this is no place for a decent girl to live in, and so I hopes you'll suit yerselves, and let me go home to-day."
It was some time before the torrent of words poured forth by the apprehensive Martha could be checked; but when that desirable result was obtained,
and silence was at last restored, Helen felt that, like the
thunderstorms which are said to “spoil good weather, and make bad worse,' the recent domestic hurricane had been anything but productive of good results.
“Oh, Philip,” she exclaimed, when they were left to their unpromising tête-à-tête; “Oh, Philip, I am so
To this humble overture she obtained no response; for, ensconced behind his newspaper, the angry man to whom it was addressed seemed to have forgotten, with an oblivion as total as her own,
that he was the most to blame, and that she had the best right to commiseration and apology. One more ineffectual effort at conversation, made in the earnest hope of clearing the storm-laden atmosphere, and then (as was her wont in moments of transitory worry and perturbation) Helen threw on her hat and cloak, and leaving Thornleigh to his newspaper and his disgust, betook herself to rapid out-of-door exercise.
She did not shed a tear; for, besides that she was not constitutionally a weeper, the truth that women often pay dear for the dangerous luxury of tears, was one that had been long known to her. Very unanswerable are they,
"those seas melted pearl which some call tears," and so deeming them, the slighted woman dashed hers back into their briny bed, and strove to master her emotion.
For the first time she had been humbled before the man who had caused her shame; the man who now (and this also for the first time) seemed indifferent to her annoyances. And something told Helen that this was but the beginning of sorrows, as the first warning drops that presage the coming tempest. But where, she asked herself — where, when the whirlwind should come, could she hope to find a refuge from the blast?