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he, at least, did not despise me. Since that day I have seen him much more frequently; and indeed, Eddy, I have grown to like him, I mean, to love him very much;" and a tear fell on the kind hand that had taken hers, and was pressing it fondly.
“My poor little cousin," he said gently, “with my whole heart I feel for you; but believe me that the more you love this man, the more urgent is the necessity for your parting from him for ever. yourself that he entertains no thought of marriage, and
"Nay, dear Edward," said Helen imperatively, "you don't know what you are talking about."
“Not know what I am talking about! not know that marriage is the only fitting reparation for the injury done to a woman's reputation, —- the only proper end of —
"Improper beginnings,” said Helen, laughing. “My dear Eddy, you are everything that is wise, virtuous, and discreet, and I am going to shock you beyond measure; but the real fact is, that I consider the ceremony of marriage as one of the most absurd inventions ever inflicted on human beings by mortal men.”
"My dear Helen!" began Edward; but his astonishment was too great for words or argument.
“Yes, I do think it an absurdity,” continued she eagerly. “In the first place, I deny the right of man to make impossible laws, and then declare that God will punish with everlasting burning the man who breaks one jot or tittle of them.”
“But what are the impossible laws contained in the marriage service of the Church?” broke in Edward,
humouring what he mentally termed the folly of her fancy.
"All, or at least almost all, that they contain," answered Helen. “In the first place, do we not swear to love always and to the end, when to do so is too often clearly and simply out of our power? Is human love the growth of human will? Certainly not; and as certainly is it only as words of course that we vow to 'honour and to obey the man, who may turn out a dishonourable wretch, or a monster of tyranny and oppression.”
“But, Nellie, you have passed over in silence the solemn words which bind together those whom God will not have put asunder. Surely you do not consider that oath as impossible to keep surely you do not deem that yow ridiculous?"
“Ridiculous! No, indeed; but be assured that the every-day and commonplace breaking of one portion of the oath renders the keeping of the rest infinitely less likely than it otherwise would be. 'In for a penny, in for a pound,' is a vulgar proverb, but not the less true for that.”
“Nellie, where did you learn all this worldly wisdom?” asked Edward, sadly.
“By looking about me and keeping my eyes open, I suppose," was the careless answer. “But you need not look so horrified, for you would be a little surprised if you knew the awful vow I would administer to 'persons about to marry. I would leave out all the nonsense; but such an anathema as I would call down on the heads of those who were false and untrue, and who did not keep themselves wholly unto the husband or wife who trusted them such an anathema, I say,
should be pronounced as would make the walls of God's house ring again!"
"You are a strange girl," said Edward, after a pause, “and have imbibed some curious notions."
"Have I? They seem simple enough to me, for I would have the dictates of honour and our duty to God go hand-in-hand to save us from temptation; while the code established by society has decided differently, proving that under the influence of that detestable and venal jurisdiction, men and women learn to forget that a promise is a sacred thing, whether it be whispered softly and registered on the inmost heart, or spoken aloud before a priest, and recorded in the pages of the vestry-book."
"Helen, your words alarm me. I know not how far the judgment I once thought so clear may have been perverted, or the purity that was so stainless been contaminated by the breath of evil principles; but this I know, that if you listen longer to the man who, for the attainment of his own selfish ends, is endeavouring thus to confuse your notions of right and wrong, you are lost for ever!"
“You narrow-minded and most prejudiced of all good, anxious cousins!" was Helen's laughing reply to this outburst; "what can I have said to call forth such a formidable prophecy, or to inspire such a dismal foreboding of evil to come?"
"Not much, perhaps, after all, dear Helen," he replied, with an effort at cheerfulness; "and may God grant that the shadow which is casting all around me into gloom be not that of the one event which on earth I most dread! But now, dearest Nellie, that the time has come for us to part, have you no word of comfort
- no promise that will send me forth on my distant journey with a lighter heart? We have been friends from childhood; surely you will not quite neglect my counsels, or deem them entirely unworthy of a place in your memory, when seas will roll between us, and when my warning voice will be no longer heard?"
But Helen would promise nothing that might entail upon her a separation from the man she loved; and so the last farewells were embittered by apparent coldness, though deep sorrow was lying at the bottom of each faithful heart, and though both were inwardly longing to change the cold “Good-bye" and the conventional “hand-shake” for the warm embrace and dear “God bless you!”, that would be as a soothing balm to them in after-years.
But Edward's services for his cousin were not yet at an end; for, after a fruitless attempt to see and remonstrate with the man whose influence over her appeared to him so baneful, he spent the greater part of the night in the concoction of a letter, from the perusal of which he was absurdly hopeful that good results would ensue. And absurd indeed that letter was, and showing in its blind confidence an ignorance of the force of human passion, which called up a smile on the lips of the man to whom the appeal was made. But nevertheless the letter was a good letter, — frank, outspoken, and gentlemanlike in its tone, and appealing forcibly to many a good and honourable feeling.
When Philip Thornleigh read it, the writer was already far away, having departed the week before for India; leaving the girl he loved without a champion (for an appeal to her absorbed and business-loving
father would have been utterly futile), and with no rampart to guard her stronger than the innate purity of her own heart.
The young surgeon was as little justified in his remark that Philip Thornleigh had laid a deliberate plan to draw Helen into his power, as the latter was right in her assertion that the idea of marrying her had never for a moment occurred to him. Struck with sudden admiration for her rich gift of beauty, he was not slow in discovering qualities, both of heart and mind, which kept up the interest excited by her loveliness; and, the opportunities of improving his acquaintance with her being frequent, can it be wondered at that he availed himself of them to the utmost? Nor was he one likely to fail in exciting reciprocal feelings in the breast of any woman whose love he sought to win. Though not eminently handsome, he had in his person an air of great distinction, and there was in his
a sort of indolent insouciance that was not without its charm; but there were some strong lines in his character, and also some curious contrasting qualities: for, though usually self-reliant, he was the very slave of his prejudices, and though remarkable for kindness of heart and even tenderness of feeling, he was too ready to suspect those he loved, rarely forgiving any act of theirs of which he had been led to believe them capable, and of which in his heart he disapproved. He was not a great talker (few agreeable people are), but he had the power of throwing a meaning into words, and even into looks, which few possessed; and there was a pleasant spell in the very tones of his voice, which it was difficult to resist. Beyond and above all this, it must be added that he