« السابقةمتابعة »
of solemn black, and, ensconcing himself in his business chair, proceeded at once to the task of making up for the time he had wasted. The presence of his daughter and the nature of her questions irritated him sorely, and he answered her with undisguised impatience:
"Don't you see I'm busy? There, go to bed; your brother is alive and well; what do you want more? I have no time for chattering now.
Off with you!" And Helen, as she closed the door, heard the scratching of the pen as it scrawled along the paper, but not the heavy sigh which would have made her forgive the seeming harshness of his words.
It was a few weeks after the Doctor's visit to London that Helen, having found a refuge from the heat of the midday sun, had established herself with her books and work under the pleasant shade of the spreading tree. She was very handsome, - tall, fully formed, and of a clear rich paleness. Her hair was dark, abundant, and glossy; and her eyes, not large, but long, with somewhat drooping lids, were full of the tenderness which Love's touch might ignite into dangerous passion. But what need to describe each feature in detail, when it is sufficient to say that of all the exquisite gifts of beauty which Nature can lavish on her children, scarce one was wanting to make up the sum of loveliness that had fallen to the share of Helen Langton?
The girl leant back against the tree, and her threaded needle hung idly from her fingers; for very enervating was the perfume of the roses as, carried on the balmy air, it entwined itself round many a deep
seated emotion in that warm young heart, stealing from it its first virgin purity.
In after years, when bitterer breathings had brought sadder thoughts to Helen, and when the "airy tongues that syllable men's names" had been busy with the one she dared no longer call her own, her faithful fancy brought back to her the memory of that summer garden, with the odour of its roses and the
kisses that the zephyr's breath had left upon her cheek. She was not alone, for stretched upon the
at her feet lay a young man, whose sole occupation was that of gazing at her fair face admiringly. Edward Burrowes (for it was he) was no longer the shy awkward youth, shrinking from woman's notice, and crushed by the ridicule of an underbred boy. He was dressed in the uniform of the corps to which he had been appointed (a battalion of which was then stationed at Warminster), and the dark dress became him well. Though still plain in feature and somewhat gaunt and bony of frame, his long course of mental exertion and honourable endeavour had not failed to leave their impress on his countenance and character; nor had his military drill and exercises been less successful in giving firmness and decision to his carriage, and vigour and activity to his limbs. Reader, can you feel any interest in this poor and obscure young man? Can you care to follow the humble soldier-surgeon through the complicated perils which are at once the trials and the rewards of the lot he has chosen? If you cannot, and if, according to the fashion of the world, you can overlook, in your admiration for more brilliant heroes, the obscure but hardworking men by whom success is earned, then indeed have we wasted too much time in
describing this humble hero, and we must pass on to other themes. The silence between the two cousins lasted till Edward, thinking he read the girl's thoughts aright, responded to them thus: Helen, I have something pleasant to tell you;
I have just heard that Thornleigh is to remain here with the Depôt.” She answered him with a smile, pleasant but
“Of course he is; I heard your news last night.”
“Ah, well! I might have guessed as much from your bright face to-day. Nellie, how fond you are of that man!"
She remained silent, but looked flushed and angry. “Helen dear,” he continued, “tell me that it is not
for I cannot endure to think that you are wasting the treasure of your affection upon a man whom I know to be --" and he stopped hesitatingly.
“To be what? Pray go on; only remember," she added, with all a woman's inconsistency of purpose, "that I shall neither listen nor reply to anything you may think proper to say against Captain Thornleigh.'
“I was not going to say anything against him," said poor Edward, humbly; "at least nothing that you would consider as against him.”
“No; you would only have said that he is wild, profligate, and heartless, and that I am a fool to trust him."
“I do not deny your accusation; but remember that it is by you the words have been spoken, while I, but no, I am only too thankful to be spared the pain of uttering disagreeable truths.”
The last words were scarcely audible; and then,
not daring to look into her grieved or angry eyes he, bent his own upon the ground, and with wandering nervous fingers plucked the grass that grew there.
“Eddy,” said Helen, after a pause (during which a glance at his sad face had a little softened her feelings towards her Mentor) “Eddy, forgive me. I did not mean to vex you.
But tell me,
oh, do tell me! what you meant when you said that I that I loved Captain Thornleigh;" and the crimson tide rushed to her cheek and brow.
Edward's thoughts meanwhile had wandered from the subject, in which she evidently took so deep an interest; and thus the exordium to his reply was singularly ill-timed and unacceptable.
"Helen," he began in stammering accents, "you do not know how dear you are to me."
“Oh, don't talk of that,” interrupted the girl, impatiently; "don't talk nonsense.”
“Well, I won't," said the poor obedient fellow; for she was his queen, and he, loving her without hope of * reward, was as the most lowly of humble servants at her feet. "I will say nothing of myself; but you should know, indeed you should, that every one is talking of
The truth was out now; and the woman's wrath blazed forth. “Every one!" she cried; "and who ---- if I
if I may be permitted to ask -- is every one?' Who has presumed to talk of Captain Thornleigh's attentions and of my feelings?” She was very angry
so angry that it may be doubted whether some long-rankling feeling were not at work within her, aiding by its stingings the in
dignation called up by Edward's words. Her cousin noticed the signs of the gathering tempest, and stood prepared, with what courage he could assume, to bear its brunt.
“Nellie," he said gently, "your father's profession is also mine, and therefore you cannot accuse me of an intention to disparage either the calling, or those who exercise it. But, young as you may in every respect deem me,
I have not now to learn in what light men like Thornleigh view the pretty daughters of a country surgeon. A fair field for sport you are, dear Nellie,
sport to them, but a fearful death indeed to you.”
"Death!" exclaimed the girl, with a laugh. "Look at me; do I seem likely to die, either of love or of a broken heart?”
“I do not speak of that God forbid I should! But there is such a thing as a blasted name, and such a tragedy as a murdered reputation. There are women who look on at such catastrophes with a strange and morbid pleasure, forgetting that in the cold element of what is called 'society' there is many a sinking being who would, perchance, gladly catch at a straw to save herself from ruin, but who looks in vain for a kindly hand extended for her rescue.'
"And instead, they push her back into the current,” said Helen, with increasing anger. “But you have not yet told me by whom and of what I am accused; you have not divulged the names of those whose hands, far from rescuing, are already filled with stones to cast at me.”
Edward's answer was given frankly and at once;