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It was a recollection of the responsibility that rested on her, that proved the best stimulant to her sinking spirit. There was nothing cowardly in that woman's nature, and you could read þow brave it was in the eyes that looked at you ņot boldly but openly and confidingly. Since the time that she had been driven by her great distress to return to Philip's protection, she had half succeeded in convincing herself that starvation may be an excuse for sin; but she was alone now, and remorse, sprang again from the void that Death had made, and looked her steadily in the face. Then she reflected on what remained for her to do, in order that her sin might be put away from her; and searching into her heart, she found the answer there., “Go and sin no more,” were the words she read; and her own repentant conscience whispered her that she must begin her work at once, nor linger another hour in inaction, and in the cowardly indulgence of useless, grief.
Her first impulse was to visit the room where he lay, once more to look, upon his face, and to repeat over his senseless clay the promises she had made to him.
Her hand did not tremble as she laid it on the door-handle, for it was not in her character to feel
any of that nameless dread so often experienced by the living when in the presence,
of the dead who were once so dear to them: but who has not felt a shock when the eye first rests on the cold sheet beneath whose thin texture the hard, straight limbs lie clearly defined, and as though carved in marble? Who has not shuddered at the sight of the face which is his, and yet can never beam again with joy at our approach, or at
the dear words we say to him? Ah! sorrow, is a selfish rather than a sacred thing? For whom do we mourn as we bend over the dead? Is it for our departed brother or sister, who has seen the last day of danger and distress? or is it for ourselves, who are left behind to feel our loss and to suffer on?
Vho can venture to decide on a motive, or search into the hidden springs of feeling? There is but One can draw aside the veil from that unholy of unholies, the naked human heart; and it is possible that even in the deep wail of that bereaved woman there was a jarring note that spoke of
selfish sorrow: still she mourned for his earthly loss, as well as for her own; for he had been taken away in his strength, with, that work undone which must now. be finished by another; and not for him could be used those conventional words of consolation, namely, that he had found in Death — a "happy release” from suffering, .
There was a hired watcher in the room; but so dark was the chamber of death, that Helen did not at first perceive that she was not alone. Alone, indeed was she! Hardly did she recognise her right to be there; for well she knew that there are some who are so afraid of behaving themselves unseemly, that even the stern teacher Death brings no right knowledge home to them. And yet, who had a better right ihan she, to watch beside the dust about to mingle with its fellow-dust, for had she not been as a faithful wife to
- and had not he loved and trusted her above all women? Kneeling by his side she pressed her cheek for the last time against the cold, still heart, and then, rising with the words of a prayer upon her lips, she saw (with eyes now accustomed to the gloom)
him for years
that a woman was looking coldly and curiously upon her.
well knew who the sorrowing lady
Sir Philip's mistress (the nurse would have used a coarser 'word), and as he was dead now (and there was no dowagerhood for the pale and humbleseeming mourner), respectful observance was not her due.
There was another purpose (besides that of bidding a last farewell to the dead) that had brought Helen into the room where the remains of Philip lay; and that purpose was no other than to obtain possession of the precious volume in which were written the words that with his dying fingers he had signed. She had forgotten it in her grief; and sought it anxiously, but to her surprise she found it not; and turning to the hired watcher, interrogated her thus:
any one been here? I'mean, any one besides those who were obliged to enter?”
"I can't say who's obleeged to come in, or who isn't," answered the woman, sulkily; "I takes my orders from them as has a right to give them.”
“Too well did Helen recognise in that voice and demeanour the covert insult levelled at her own position; ' but nothing heeding it, she busied herself with opening a shutter, in order by the light of day the better to prosecute her search for the missing volume. In a moment the nurse's hand was laid roughly on her own.
"You mustn't do that, she said, as she reclosed the shutter, "you mustn't do that daylight never comes where corpses is; now you go away, for there's them will be coming soon, as won't abide you near the body. You'd far better go away."
It was no season and no place for anger,
and though Helen was most unwilling to abandon her search, she so dreaded an altercation in that solemn
presence, that without noticing the woman's remarks, she left the room as silently as she had entered it. It was indeed a time of mortification as well as of sorrow, for her own maid, grown offensively familiar, addressed her as one far lower than an equal, and she was made to feel in every way that conviction could be brought home to her, that her business in that place was over.
Towards mid-day she received a message from Mrs. Wraxham, purporting that that lady required her immediate departure from the house. It never occurred to Helen to resist the order. She had almost forgotten Philip's revelations concerning his will; or if she did recollect them, it was with a vague idea that all he had said would eventually appear to have been a mistake and a delusion. But she could not so easily forget the written words to which it had' cost him so much of pain and effort to affix his signature; and feeling the importance of having those words in her possession, she strove, but strove in vain, to obtain the volume which contained them. Once she made an attempt to enter again the bed-room" where in their coffin now) the remains of poor Philip rested; but the doors were closed against her. Then, and in the dead of night, she left the house where she had known so much of happiness, so much of trusting friendship; for though it had not been her home, many an hour had she spent in it; and all that it contained were as familiar objects to her sight.
She was not a houseless wanderer now, for her own small home (the one provided by Philip's care) was
still available for a time, and to that abode she at once returned.
The days between the death and the funeral passed mournfully and slowly on. Between the large house and the small there was kept up (by means of Helen's servants) a frequent communication, and well the exile knew the hour when hireling hands would close the coffin, and drive the nails above that precious, but senseless form. On the day of the funeral a figure, closely veiled and clad in mourning, was remarked among
the few who stood by Philip's grave." There were no deep mourners there save her, and the only sobs that spoke of sorrow, and the few tears that feli,
tributes from the woman who had no right to lament for him.
Poor Philip! Far away and in another land were the wife and the children he had disowned; and of the many friends who, in life, he had believed in, none had cared to depress their spirits by the gloomy spectacle of a funeral. Helen was his chief mourner, though no black coach, drawn by high-plumed horses, had borne her to her place beside his grave.
The day after Philip Thornleigh's interment Mrs. Vaughan sat alone in a small but beautifully-furnished room, the boudoir of a tiny house in' a western suburb. Her thoughts had wandered into the wilds of fancy, among
the trees and flowers that were green and bright for happier hearts than hers, and far into the dark future, where no fresh blossoms grew. A ring at the bell aroused her from her reverie, and with a sensation of relief (for she was weary of her musings) she waited for that which was to follow.
Her suspense, was not of long duration, for ere a