صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

nay, it must

con

the women shed healing tears to the memory of the loved and lost.

“One word,” said Gertrude, as, after a time, she removed her handkerchief from her eyes.

“One word before we part. The time may come come, when I shall be enabled to justify myself in the world's opinion. But that time may be yet far distant, and I must wait God's time in patience.”

“But is there nothing in my power to effect? Is there no aid that I, by means of the riches that are yours, can render you?"

“Nothing. I am bound by my fears, and by a promise.”

“A promise rashly given, perchance, and unlawfully exacted; such a promise may not be binding."

“That is a question which only my own science can decide," said Lady Thornleigh. “In the meantime

"In the meantime,” exclaimed her companion, with some of her characteristic impatience, "give me, I entreat, some word, some name, connected, however remotely, with this cruel mystery, and leave the rest to me.

"I cannot - I dare not," said Gertrude, turning even paler than before.

"Take courage,” urged Helen, one name is all I ask for. Stay, do not speak, but write it here," and she placed her own small memorandum book in Gertrude's hand.

For a moment the latter hesitated, and then taking the pencil, traced, with trembling fingers, two words upon the page. Helen did not read them then, but, closing the book, laid it on the table beside her.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

you to be

"It is well,” she said, “and I thank you for the effort you

have made. Lady Thornleigh, we may never meet again; but should the time arrive when, with your boy and girl beside you, you are leading a life of happiness at dear old Thornleigh Abbey, promise me that, for the sake of one who will be poor

and lonely then, you will think with mercy on the fallen; and will believe that to those who have loved much, much may, perhaps, be forgiven." “I promise,” said Gertrude; "and in return I ask

my friend." "A friend at heart, and for life, believe me. But there are circumstances under which even those who are bound by the closest ties of friendship, would do wisely to bid each other a lasting 'farewell,' and ours is a case where (of all others) such a course would be most advisable."

Do not say so," said Gertrude, mournfully. "I cannot forget your generous kindness.”

“But you would remember other things which it is not in the nature of our sex to forget. Besides, you are of the world, Lady Thornleigh; and it becomes Philip's widow, and the mother of Philip's children, to stand as high as may be above the world's sneers, and the world's hard word. No, in this life we shall see each other no more. I depart to work for Philip and his children, while you remain to wait and hope."

She looked so grandly beautiful as she spoke, that Gertrude shrank abashed into her humbler self. What was she, that Philip should have deserted that peerless creature to make one so every way inferior to her his bride? What, indeed, but that men

“However they do praise themselves,
Have fancies far more giddy and infirm,
More longing, wavering, sooner lost and won,
Than women's are."

Lady Thornleigh found it impossible to change the purpose of the high-hearted woman, who would only accept from her, her hand at parting, and the fervent “God bless you,” that came warm from the heart of Philip's widow.

“May God be with you, and with your children," said Helen, as her hand (on which was a mourning ring for Thornleigh) rested for a moment in that of his long parted-from wife. "May we meet again in a world where there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage, and where tears will be wiped from all faces. Wait and hope, Lady Thornleigh, and think kindly of me if you can.”

And so they parted. Alice loved her sister again, when she found that Gertrude did justice to the penitent woman, whose wrongs had been so much greater than her own. She did not attempt to analyse the causes which had wrought the change in her sister's feelings and opinions; it was enough for her that Lady Thornleigh was no longer harsh and stern; and there was consolation in the knowledge that Helen was in possession of a password which might open the secret closet where the skeleton of her sister's life was hidden.

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER XIX.

“Gorgeous flowrets in the sunlight shining,

Blossoms flaunting in the eye of day,
Tremulous leaves with soft and silver lining,

Buds that open only to decay.
Brilliant hopes all woven in gorgeous tissues,

Flaunting gaily in the golden light,
Large desires with most uncertain issues,
Tender wishes blossoming at night."

LOXGFELLOW.

one

The journey from Auray to Paris was a tedious one, and during the hours that it lasted, Helen had ample time to think over her plans and projects for the future. She had two great purposes in view, of them being to obey Philip's last commands, and the other to benefit a class among her sex which, of all others, she pitied and mourned over.

It had required but little reflection to convince her, that it was not by hiding herself in retirement, and by keeping aloof from the thronged haunt of her fellow-sinners, that either of the objects for which she desired to live, could he effected.

By mixing in society, such society at least as she could command, there was some shadow of probability that the mystery of Lady Thornleigh's life might, through her means, be elucidated. With this hope, therefore, and in furtherance of the other object which she had so greatly at heart, she determined to fix her residence in London. Once there, manifold were the duties that she was resolved to impose on herself

Her work should be done everywhere in the abodes of gaiety and dissipation, and, if necessary, even in the low haunts of the criminal and the abandoned. Like the wretched mendicants who, in continental cities, are seen to crawl forth in the early morning light, to search in dirt-heaps for such refuse scraps as as may serve them in their need; even so did Helen determine to be a digger for the hidden good, small though her gain might be, and sought for among the cast-out dregs of low humanity.

She had a mystery to solve, one, too, in which she little doubted that the interests of those she had sworn to serve were involved, it might be in a web of crime.

Lady Thornleigh's manifest alarm precluded all recourse to professional “detectives," and it was therefore on her own unaided efforts that she could alone rely. Philip had not left the duty which' he had neglected, to be performed by either unwilling or unable hands; and the sequel of this story will show, that the humble instrument he had chosen was not unworthy of his trust.

Helen's first act was to hire a house in one of the best and most fashionable streets, and to furnish it with care and taste. The “family mansion,” where a gorgeous achievement blazed forth in heraldic splendour, was never more entered by her who was now its owner;

nor did she take possession of any of the “family belongings” of the Thornleighs. Plate, jewels, library, furniture all were hers: yet all remained as Philip left them, and, undesecrated by her touch, were guarded as sacred deposits for his widow and his children.

« السابقةمتابعة »