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to say," said Alice, impatiently; for she recollected Gertrude, and the uneasiness her lengthened absence would occasion.
"Have patience with me," said the poor woman, "you will loathe me soon enough. You will fly from me as from a pestilence, when you know me for what I am for the wretch, who lived with Sir Philip Thornleigh -- lived with him for years, and was his consolation when he was left alone."
.: "You?" gasped the listener, and the wrongs of her sister seemed magnified a thousand fold as she gazed wildly at the woman who had supplanted her.
"Yes + even me and said I not rightly that you would look upon me with loathing? And yet, what was there left for me to do?.", continued she in a softer tone... "He was unhappy, and feared that he had been wronged. All were gone, even his poor
little children; and I why, I had been almost his wife for
years before he ever knew your sister. I do not speak of my wrongs of the vows of endless constancy he swore to me; or of mine to him; which I swear, before Heaven, were truly kept! But I do say that he should be forgiven by her who drove him to the sin.”
"You must not speak so of my poor sister,” faltered Alice; "indeed you must not.”
“Pardon me, but it is of Lady Thornleigh that I must speak. Since yesterday at noon, I have been endeavouring to find an opportunity of conversing with you alone; for I would fain spare your sister the pain, and, what she would doubtless consider the degradation, of a personal interview with one who has fallen so low as I have.”
et me be the
Alice signed to her to proceed.
“I have said that I was with your brother-in-law when he lay dying — but oh!
but oh! may I never again witness so'sad a spectacle! Poor Philip!” (and for a moment she covered her face with her hands, as though to shut out a painful vision) "poor Philip, he saw strange visions as he stood on the threshold of the world to come; and in one of those visitors he thought he recognised his wife."
Alice wept, and, with the tears dropping on her clasped hands, said imploringly:
And then? Oh, tell me something of his last moments that will console his widow. Let bearer of a message to her from her dead husband."
"Be patient, and you shall know all. Philip's death-bed was not altogether uncheered by hope = hope for his children here, and for the pardon of his own sins hereafter. A blessed feeling, amounting almost to a conviction of his wife's truth, stole over his senses at the last ; and he bade me say to her, that though erring he forgave her; and her name, mingled with those of his children, were the last sounds he uttered ere he breathed his last.”
“God be thanked!” was Alice's solemn thanksgiving, and then, a feeling indescribable to herself, induced her to take the hand of that messenger of glad tidings, and press it against her own warm heart. Helen's swelled with fervent gratitude, for that moment was a compensation for many a past suffering.
"God bless you!" she ejaculated, as soon as the gasp in her throat permitted her to speak. “God bless you! for you, a pure, good woman, have not scorned the touch of the poor sinner's hand. And ah! believe
me when I say that did the world contain more of charity such as yours, there would be in it fewer such as I am. But now, if I may venture to advice, I would suggest your return to Lady Thornleigh, and that you should at once inform her of all that I have said to you. This done, you must prepare her to hear more; for a most important portion of my mission has yet to be fulfilled. I shall remain in the town, and you will, I trust, let me know the effect of your communication; and will inform me when and where we can meet again.”
But little more passed between them ere they parted; Helen, to enter with a relieved heart her spacious room on the first story of the “Lion d'Or;" and Alice, to impart to her widowed sister the intelligence of her singular interview with the friend who had smoothed Philip Thornleigh's pillow at the last, and had listened to his parting words.
1. CHAPTER XVIII.
Heaven's Sovereign saves all beings but Himself
YOUNG'S NIGHT THOUGHTS.
“Le parjure est une vertu
:: Ir was with very conflicting feelings that Gertrude listened to Alice's account of her interview with the stranger. Her first sensation was one of joy that she had been remembered, and of deep gratitude for the forgiving message that had been vouchsafed to her. But after a while less holy thoughts rose in her breast, filling it with a jealous bitterness against the woman who had lain on Philip's heart, and shared his secrets. True, she had deceived him; not indeed with the deception of which he had accused her, but still after a manner that had brought a cloud upon her name and upon his honour; and therefore she had no right to visit with her anger either the husband who had turned to another for consolation, or the woman who had helped him to forget his suspected wife. In this fashion might Lady Thornleigh have reasoned with herself, and thus have kept down the evil thoughts that were surging within her; but this she cared not to do, and merely said, in a calm, cold tone to her sister:
Alice, I will see this lady; this Helen Langton, or Vaughan, or by whatever name she may be called."
Alice was pained by her tone; nor was she quite
willing that her sister should meet the stranger who, despite herself, had interested her so deeply; but judging from her own heart, she could not forbear saying:
“Would you see her? Later, perhaps, you might, for his eyes were closed by her hands, and that is a sacred bond."
"But one that after all, perhaps, does not exist, Alice. We have no proof that this person is even what she says she is; and her story may likewise be possibly an invention."
“Hush, Gertrude," interrupted her sister; "would you
belief in this new-born comfort? You were not used to be so suspicious and distrustful. Have you no faith in my discernment? Believe me, the heart is rarely deceived; and I would stake my existence on this woman's truth."
"Forgive me," said Gertrude, humbled and regretful. "I am very weak and foolish, Alice, but you do not know how heavy is the weight of sorrow laid upon
Could you but guess what I suffer, you would wonder that I have not long since sunk under the burthen.”
“Poor Gertrude! Believe me that I would gladly share it with you; gladly take the load off your heart, and bear it on my own. You are not strong enough in nerves and spirits to see the stranger yet; but I will go to her, and learn more. Then, if you still desire it, you may have an interview with one who seems to feel for us so sincerely; and may the sight of her give you comfort, instead of the pain which I fear would be the consequence of the meeting."
On the following day, Alice was listening with