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anxiety. My dear madam, you must allow me to proceed” (for Helen seemed preparing to interrupt him). “My friend Thornleigh is placed in circumstances of great difficulty and perplexity, and being anxious to spare you the pain of hearing of those circumstances from common rumour, he has requested me to call upon you. I wish that I could find words wherewith to break this matter gently to you, but well
perhaps it would be better to tell you at once, that Colonel Thornleigh is going to be married.”
There are some situations in life, in which pride
even such pride as that poor woman had a right to feel — is a supporter of giant strength. It came to her aid at that miserable moment, and sent back the tears upon her aching heart.
“I think it would have been better, more siderate perhaps, had Philip himself informed me of his resolution;" and she spoke with a calmness that would have been called dignity in a more virtuous
“You will forgive him, I am sure you will, for he shrank from the sight of your tears.” “He need not have been driven to so poor a
Tell him, Mr. Herbert, that I shed none. Tell him that I am content, and am ready to depart.”
The clergyman was taken by surprise. He had come prepared for a painful scene, - for reproaches and, perhaps, hysterics, and he found, instead, a lovely, dignified woman, accepting her fate nobly, and enduring her punishment without a murmur.
“I will be the bearer of any message with which you care to entrust me,” he continued, after a pause; “but I have not yet executed all
Philip wished me to say that he is so sorry distressed, and þade me tell you that nothing but necessity --"
“Necessity!” repeated Helen, bitterly.
“Yes, necessity; for he has but yielded to his uncle's wish the uncle who has been a father to him. He repents deeply now of the great wrong he has done you, and wishes earnestly to repair that wrong, as far as the doing so lies in his power.”
"He can make no reparation to me, for I have refused his hand. But tell him this from the woman he has forsaken tell him that I shall forgive him sooner than he will forgive himself, but that I will never see him again never again never!” she repeated in pitiful accents most mournful to listen to.
Seeing she was rapidly talking herself to tears, Mr. Herbert hastened his endeavour to check the coming crisis.
“You must not send me away,” he said, “without some word of comfort for Philip. Do you suppose that you are the only sufferer? Ah! could you but have seen him, as he looked this morning, his heart filled for, believe me, it was with compassion and tenderness for the dear friend of many years, you would have pitied him.”
“Was he so unhappy? My poor Philip!”
“Indeed he was! and if you knew how anxious he is to ensure your welfare and independence, you would accept the means
But this was too much; for interrupting him hastily, she erected her beautiful head, and looked almost defiantly at the young rector.
“And does he suppose," she said, "that I will take
his money for my shame, and receive payment for the love I have wasted on him? Tell him that I gave him
my heart's passion freely, but that it was a thing beyond price, at least beyond such price as he can give. I have been dependent upon his bounty,” she added in a tone of bitter scorn; "that was my payment while I loved him; but the account between us is settled now;
friend that he has my receipt in full.”
“God help you, poor soul!” was Herbert's reply to this outbreak of wounded feeling. “Nay, do not send me away" (for she was waving him impatiently from the room), “I cannot leave you in this reckless mood."
“Oh! go, go,” cried she, stamping her small foot impatiently. "You see nothing. Cannot you feel that I long to be alone alone with my broken heart?” and flinging herself on the couch, she buried her head in the cushions, and sobbed with hysterical violence.
Herbert was a young man, and stern moralist; but, exemplary divine as he was, he could not look with unpitying eyes on that woman's great grief.
"Oh," thought he, "that those abundant drops were the sighs of repentance as well as of regret! Then, like the sinful Mary's tears, they would indeed be an offering worthy Heaven. But alas! I fear that for a nature so passionate and impulsive, there is much of trial and tribulation yet in store, ere, like the Magdalene of old, she will weep and be forgiven!"
And Helen continued to moan pitifully, while her hand, and it was a very beautiful one, hung listlessly by her side. There was something so touching in her attitude, as she lay there crushed, and abandoned to
that Herbert, who remembered his own
young sisters and some of their childish griefs, took that small white hand in his, and pressed it as soothingly as if they two had been the children of one mother. Helen looked up, with a wintry smile upon her tearstained face.
“You are very good," she said humbly, "and I have been too impatient. You will say to Colonel Thornleigh that I am ready to follow his wishes in everything. You will say how I wish and pray that he may be happy.' She was shedding softer tears now, for truly the chain that bound her to him was made of no common links. She had asked no questions concerning his destined bride; nor was there need for her to ask them; for well she knew, by her woman's art of divination, that Thornleigh's future wife was no other than Gertrude Mainwaring, the fair daughter of that insolent and worldly mother.
“And I may come and see you again, may I not?” asked the Rector, who still held her hand in his; for indeed she seemed too sad and desolate to be left alone.
“Yes, but do not leave me yet; it is so dreadful to have no companions but my own thoughts. I dread to be alone — alone in this dismal room;" and she looked round her with a shudder.
“You will not be alone. There is no such thing as solitude. We have each and all of us a companion in our conscience each and all of us a guardian in our God.”
“Yes, but my conscience is my enemy; and I cannot dare not pray. I am not bold enough to mock at the Almighty."
“Hush! there is no mockery in prayer, no mockery in the resolution to go and sin no more."
"But I do not give up my sin, the very memory of which is dear to me. Is there merit in abstaining from offence when temptation exists no longer? And when I declare to you that if Philip were to return to me to-morrow I should forgive him, and Well, do you call this repentance?"
Somewhat shocked at the cynical tone of her confession, the Rector almost dropped the hand he held; an action which was at once noticed by the sensitive woman, who was thus silently rebuked.
“How wicked you must think me!” she exclaimed; “but I cannot help it, for God help me feels cold and hard as marble."
“If that prayer comes from the heart, it will be heard above,” said Herbert, as he rose to depart. “But you are wearied now, and I will bid you farewell; tomorrow I will call again, and may
God comfort you and give you better thoughts!”
He left her: and as the door closed upon his retreating foot-steps, Helen felt that the curtain had fallen upon
the first act of her life's drama. Many causes combined had induced Colonel Thornleigh to decide on the expediency of yielding to his uncle's wishes, and taking to himself a wife. Of these causes, constant companionship with a very attractive girl was doubtless not among the least important; but there was another passion at work, which, like the little leaven, “leavened the whole lump," and that passion was jealousy. When he found himself alone, after the only bitter words that ever passed between him and Helen had been uttered, he was induced