صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

to you, who have suffered injuries at my hands, so deep and lasting? If in your humility you have forgotten claims so strong, it the more becomes the offender to remember them, and to show to the world how entirely you are trusted and honoured. To you then, dearest, 'whose love has never failed me, to you who have suffered reproach and endured deep insult at the hands of the worst enemy that ever woman had, I have bequeathed both riches and power, knowing that in your hands they will not be abused."

"I am very grieved -" began Helen.

“Nay, hear me to the end, and mark well my words. My will is in my lawyer's hands, and by its provisions you become possessed (with the exception of the small proportion that is entailed with the Abbey) of the whole property I leave behind me at my death. This shocks you; I see it, and am not surprised, but I will hear of no refusal, and listen to no thanks.

Το whom do I owe so deep a debt of gratitude and affection? For you, my Helen, have never deceived me;" and there was unspeakable tenderness in the feeble voice that testified to the constancy of her true woman's love.

But. Helen could not be silent. “Philip,” she exclaimed, “pardon me, if I seem to disregard your wishes, but indeed this must not be; nor can I allow you to do this unjust thing. It is not by me that your wife and children shall be wronged; and Oh! believe that I never coveted your wealth, nor tried to supplant them in your affections.”

"Indeed, I know it, dear Helen, for have not the proofs of your unselfish devotion been without number? Nor is it the least among them that you accept this


last charge, and this most grave responsibility. The fortune you will inherit is but left to you conditionally, to pass from your hands under the circumstances I have explained: but under these only. I am rich, Helen. I have money enough and to spare, while they (for aught I know) may be destitute of the comforts which habit has made necessary to them. She may be crushed by shame and poverty, may be sick even, or in prison, and yet I say to you that such retribution (if she be guilty) is not equal to her deserts; and that I would let her die, ay, let her rot, and her children with her, if she have brought this shame upon her head, and this humiliation on my name."

"Hush, Philip,” cried the dismayed woman. “Hush, for I will not listen to such words; you are carrying your angry feelings with you to the grave, and heaping misery on the head of her who, if she have wronged you, will pine to hear that with


latest breath you pronounced her pardon."

"It will be pardon for my offences that will be needed, if, as I earnestly hope, your efforts be rewarded with success. But enough you cannot change my resolution, and do but waste your words possessions become yours to-morrow, Helen, with the understanding that should her fame be cleared, and her son, my boy, be permitted yet to hold up his head without shame, save for him who insulted the mother that bore him, then it will be for my noble-hearted Helen to restore to them the blessing of wealth, and with it the respect and consideration of society. And for you, dear one," he added, feelingly and most sadly, “what can I say, and what can I offer that you will

[ocr errors]

all my


accept? At least may I not hope that you will retain enough from my abundance to keep you safe, and (when time has effaced my image) happy in your independence of the world that has so buffeted you? You are mine, Helen, still; mine only, and for ever; and he looked inquiringly, and almost beseechingly, in her face.

Helen was deeply touched, feeling that for her his heart clung to earth and to earthly affections, and that human jealousy for her future, when his mouldering form would be wasting in the tomb, had dictated his last words. His gold was as nothing; ay, worse than nothing to her, for in it she saw the wages of iniquity; but the belief that he had loved her to the end was a legacy of great price; and the poor weak woman, weak with all her fancied strength, pledged her faith to him anew, while she gloried in this last proof of his affection.

After another pause, during which the nearly exhausted man lay with upturned eyes, breathing painfully, he spoke again: "Helen, are you near me? There is such life in your presence, that I almost feel as though to die were impossible with your breath upon my cheek, and your hand so near my heart.”

And full of life indeed did that woman seem, as, her nerves braced by the necessity for action, she stood there, firm and vigorous, by the crushed man's dying bed; but with the healthy tone thus given to a mind but half-subdued by sorrow, came a full sense of the vast importance of her woman's mission, and, all unworthy as she deemed herself to speak of holy things, she did not shrink from the office that had devolved

upon her.

[ocr errors]

Philip," she whispered, "your words shame me to the quick, for what am I, that you should turn to me for consolation in your need? Let me send for one from whose lips holy words of peace and pardon will not sound as a mockery to the Almighty; let me send for a pious man to kneel in


Mr. Annesley surely you will not refuse to see him, for he is good and kind, and never speaks harshly even to me. Philip! if you love me, grant my re


“No, Helen, this must not be. Without God I have lived, and I will not insult Him with abject cries for mercy now, nor listen to the Church's prayers for the dying, while my mind is full of earthly thoughts. No, dearest, I have no time to spare for lengthened services and for priestly mummeries: but do you pray for me; and may

the faith which God has given to you avail to remove the mountain of guilt that is weighing down my spirit."

Many a day had elapsed since Helen had dared to kneel before her Maker and utter a supplication to our “Father who is in heaven.” Those sacred words refused to come at her bidding then, but in their stead the lowly and earnest exclamation, “Lord have mercy upon me a sinner,” rose from her full heart, and she smote her breast as the cry of the repentant publican broke from her quivering lips.

“For me, Helen,” urged Philip, as the earnest voice seemed rising to Heaven; "pray now for me, for surely I have need of pardon.”

Yes, the depth and sincerity of her repentance had struck a chord upon the heart that God in his mercy had not utterly hardened, and it was with deep awe Recommended to Mercy. I.


that he added, from the depths of his troubled heart, “I have heard of generous promises made to fallen sinners, and surely there will be joy in heaven when you repent.”

Then Helen fell upon her knees, and in a low and solemn voice, each word of which sank deeply into the lieart of the dying man, she prayed, “Our Lord's Prayer." Philip had not listened to it since he was a child at his mother's knee, and when the words “Deliver us from Evil” had been repeated mechanically, or as applicable only to the troubles and dangers of this world. He had no earthly evils to dread now; temptation could no longer assail him, and mortal enemies he had none to fear; but in the world of spirits to which he was hastening, what need might there not be for help when the cry for it would be unavailing, and when the prayer for Deliverance from Evil would be no longer heard in the kingdom that endureth for ever!

Through the gathering twilight, Helen's voice arose upon the hushed air; and when the last word was spoken, exceeding was her joy to hear from the white lips of him for whom she had so fervently supplicated, the dying entreaty (which, though uttered by one who had been a chief of sinners, was answered at the eleventh hour) of “Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom."

Again there was silence; and when Philip Thornleigh spoke again his voice was changed, and his words were scarcely intelligible.

"I hear strange noises in my ears," he muttered, "and my eyes are dim. Shall I see her again, think you? She will not look with anger on me now,

for I

« السابقةمتابعة »