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so venial. There was no one to warn the self-comforting woman of the peril attending her delusion, nor to remind her of the fearful awaking which would be hers when, among colder and more rigid moralists, she would be roughly roused from her blissful torpor; and thus she continued in the dangerous indulgence of compounding for her sins by comparing them with transgressions which it was as much out of her
power as it was against her nature to commit, and in the perilous consolation of the idea that she was far less wicked than many whom the world magnified as good.
Once Helen confided the results of her cogitations to Thornleigh, and was surprised to find that he took a lenient view of the misdemeanors on which she commented so severely. He even, to her dismay, went so far as to excuse them, bringing forward many an extenuating circumstance, and suggesting that, after all, it would be perhaps better to let go the scales whose "balance could not be adjusted,” and remember with charitable hearts the distich, that
“What's done we partly may compute,
"But, Philip," continued the inexorable woman, “I cannot understand your being able to find so many excellent reasons, and excuses for your
friends. However, in one case I defy you. Look at Mrs. Stonehurst
“I often do,” said Philip, with a lazy puff of smoke issuing from his lips.
“Well, what can you say for her? If her husband were unkind, or in any way neglectful of her, I would
not blame her; but he is so good-natured, and trusts her so entirely. Really, Philip, I do believe he thinks her the best wife in the world! How frightfully treacherous she must be!”
Thornleigh answered with a laugh, for the wife in question not being his wife, the idea of Helen's "virtuous indignation" amused him; and moreover, good-natured as he was, he found something especially ludicrous in the idea of his friend's delusions.
“Poor fellow! Poor old Stony,” he said, when his pleasant laugh had subsided, “I only hope he won't be enlightened. He's always so jolly —” But when, after a few minutes'
Helen expressed to Philip her opinion of mercenary marriages in general, and of one in particular which at that moment was occupying public attention, she was agreeably surprised to find that his ideas (for, like most men, he had a yearning to be loved for himself alone) coincided with her own. Together they inveighed against the perjured ones who vowed a love they could not feel, and who, to make the " nauseous draught of life go down," consoled themselves with the pearls and the diamonds that lay at the bottom of the cup; and when their vituperations were at an end, and the force of language could no further go, Helen, turning a look of love and pride on the handsome figure by her side, whispered
“There is one thing that comforts me, Philip, and that is, that I at least have not sold myself. Oh! the lies,” she added, "that I have seen looked out of young girls' eyes, and that, too, on men who should not have touched my ungloved hand in common courtesy!”
“Why, you foolish woman,” said Philip, smiling at the energy with which she poured forth her reminiscences, “don't you know there is such a thing as being more nice than wise?”
“Notions of honour cannot be too nice can they, Philip?" she asked; but he made no reply, for it was not for him to talk to her of honour.
Helen sighed. – "Perhaps," she continued, "I am wrong to talk of such things, for had I been tempted, I too might have fallen. But still I think I could not have purchased money or high position by the sacrifice of my self-esteem and my sense of honour. Tell me that I am an honourable woman tell me that you think so, Philip;" and she looked at him with pleading eyes.
Thornleigh stroked her dark hair fondly. "Honourable to me, dear love. But the world, my Helen
"Ah! the world,” she cried impatiently. “Your world your god: mine is truth and honour.'
“Raise an altar to the unknown deities," said Philip, with a languid smile. “But, seriously, I think you are rather too hard upon poor Mrs. Stonehurst.” He was lying idly on a couch, smoking and sangareeing away the broiling midday hours. “She is a deuced pretty woman, and old Stony is a bore. Now Nelly, you must allow that."
Helen would not deny the fact, but nevertheless she was not to be laughed out of her opinion that, as long as a husband performs his part of the social compact, his wife, if she break hers, is utterly without excuse, and should be held up to general reprobation. "And as to a man's being a bore," she mentally added,
"why, every one is tiresome occasionally. Even Philip is not always so agreeable as he was before we!? -++ married was the word her thoughts uttered; and surely few wives, whose vows had been spoken in Holy Church, could have felt more certain than did Helen that her lot in life was fixed beyond the possibility of change.
Among those with whom Mrs. Vaughan sometimes came in contact, and that principally by the bedside of the sick, must be mentioned the garrison chaplain (Mr. Fanshawe by name), whose office naturally led him to where sin and sorrow did most abound. He was a very average man that military parson of the million mediocrities of the earth; but he was a kind man at heart, and being generally denominated "a good fellow” by the youngsters in the regiment, it may be inferred that his sermons were short, and his advice not often forced upon them. The Chaplain's manner to Helen was civil in the extreme, and whatever surprise he might have felt when, on the first occasion of his meeting with her, she knelt in prayer beside the dying, was carefully concealed. Perhaps, aided by the solemnity of the scenes they witnessed together, and strengthened by the power of his sacred office, a more earnest man might have succeeded in arousing her to a sense of her delinquencies; but the conversion of such a sinner was not in Mr. Fanshawe's line, nor was he rash enough to risk his popularity with the Colonel (for Thornleigh commanded the regiment then) by a vain effort at interference with his pleasures. So Helen was left to her sins, and the Chaplain retained the good word of the thoughtless boys, which he prized far more highly than it deserved,
and was made happy by the occasional notice of Thornleigh, who pronounced him to be a gentlemanly fellow, who never took liberties, or degraded his cloth and himself by acts of licentiousness.
Meanwhile Helen, though armed by the "strong breast-plate of a heart untainted," was not altogether invulnerable; and there came a time when an arrow struck her in the joints of her armour, piercing her keenly.
About six months previous to the time when a change of prospects at home rendered it inexpedient for Colonel Thornleigh to remain any longer in India, the event occurred which, while it revealed to Helen the full view of her position, was not without its influence on her future life.
Instances of homicidal mania caused by excessive drinking are, unfortunately, of no unfrequent occurrence amongst soldiers, one cause of them possibly being, that the men often retain in the bewilderment of intoxication a confused sense of the injuries real or imaginary, which when sober they had forgiven and almost forgotten. Of the truth of this remark a soldier belonging to Colonel Thornleigh's regiment afforded a fearful example; for after a recent punishment, and when maddened by arrack and heat, he one evening, without any apparent provocation, shot a serjeant belonging to the same corps, and wounded him mortally. On hearing of the occurrence, and being aware that the tragedy was deepened by the fact that the wounded man had a wife and family dependent on his exertions, Helen hastened to the scene, though dreading the melancholy sight of the bereaved woman's despair and of the poor orphans' tears: and sad, indeed, was the