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“What can I do for you?” asked Mary; "shall I take you home? My brother's carriage is waiting for me, and we can go together.”
“Take me home?” said Helen, in undisguised amazement. “Do you know who and what I am?”
“I know you are unhappy; I know that you have been striving to do good. I am sure you wish to be good yourself," added Mary, kindly.
“It is too late," said Helen, mournfully. “Many a day too late:” and she repeated the words with touching emphasis.
“Oh, do not say so; it is never too late to give up what is wrong! I am very bold to talk thus to you, but
“You bold! you speak like an angel from heaven; and oh, may I cease to live when I forget your words and looks this day. You have put new thoughts into my heart; and the time may come, when I can prove to you that I am not utterly hardened. But do not speak of me. Forget that you have met me here, for the judgments of the world are merciless, and ill-nature can draw poison from the sweetest flower. never meet again; but if, in after years, one thought of her whom fate has set so far apart, should cross your sinless memory, think of her as of one who had known sorrow and suffered wrong, and from the light of your happy home, look with pity on the gloomy picture of the castaway."
“Indeed, I feel for you,” said Mary, whose tears could with difficulty be repressed. "But do not speak so hopelessly. You are young, and God has put good thoughts into your heart. Do not resist them, but fly
at once from temptation, and you will find peace at last.”
"I cannot; he has been very good to me; and he is all I have.”
Mary was silenced, 'for she thought of her own Duncan, and found no words to strengthen her arguments in favour of the course she counselled; and so they parted, not to meet again for years, not to meet
a fresh sorrow had been measured out to each; purifying the heart of the one, and rendering the other a still more meet inheritor of her Father's kingdom.
But while the wheels of old Time's chariot had for Helen sped with such noiseless swiftness, they had gone over rough and stony roads with those she had left behind her. Stationed many hundred miles apart, it had so happened that, during their joint sojourn in India, Helen and her cousin Edward had never met, though sundry letters had passed between them, by means of which the former had been made aware of the various events that had occurred in her family.
Her brother Robert lay in an unhonoured and a forgotten grave; for he had died the death of the dissipated, and left few to mourn his end. From one of the many haunts of vice, frequented by reckless and desperate youths, the body of a man, white and miserably attenuated, was one day brought on the shoulders of hired attendants to a West End London hospital. A few short hours more, and the wretched burthen having ceased to be a living thing, a verdict of "natural death from epilepsy” was returned by the jury, who had been
summoned to “sit” upon that ruined remnant of mortality.
They may have been right (those men who knew so little), but the old Doctor (far though he was from that dismal inquest-room) knew the cause of his boy's death better, and sorrowed for it heavily. Then other changes came, changes which led to a distaste for the old house that had been his father's, and for the home which death had made desolate; and so, before the grass had time to flourish on the grave of the long complaining wife (the listening to whose daily complaints had grown to be almost a necessary habit of his existence), the Doctor decided on breaking up his establishment, giving up “business," and with his only remaining son falling back upon the doubtful pleasures of "private life.”
In a new home, far removed from that which he had so long called his, and in the enforced idleness of his present position, it was difficult to drive away the thoughts (not unmixed with their due portion of selfaccusation) that crowded upon him: and many a rousing memory of the daughter he had so lightly valued, forced itself upon his notice; for alone with his selfupbraidings he had, in the weakness of his advancing years, no courage to cope with the foes his accusing conscience brought in array against him.
Then came illness, the first his iron frame had known, and the neighbours, ready as neighbours ever are to anticipate the worst, pronounced that the old man was “breaking." And so in truth he was, but the breaking crushed the bitterness from his heart, and ere his summons came, he wrote a letter full of tenderness to Helen; a letter in which pardon for her fault was
mingled with self-reproach for the neglect which had been its cause.
The letter was sent to Edward Burrowes to forward to his cousin, but when the missive reached the distant station where Helen had so longed for one remembering word from those she had forsaken, the erring daughter was no longer there. She had sailed with Philip Thornleigh to England; and many a month had passed away, and the old man was in his grave, when his daughter at last read the words which told she was forgiven.
It was a dreary day in January, and land and sea were obscured by heavy storms of sleet and snow, which fell in unbroken violence from the leaden-coloured sky. On the waves of the wind-tossed Solent, a large ship, with troops on board, and with many a reef in her tempest-worn sails, was to be seen battling her way towards Spithead. On that ship weather-beaten mariners on the shore fixed their eyes curiously, spying at her through glasses all bespotted with the driving snow, and pronouncing various opinions on the name and nature of the new arrival. It was a cold welcome home, and a cheerless prospect for those who, during many a year (while baking under Indian suns), had been longing for and "babbling of green fields" at home; but to those who hoped to see their sunshine on the faces of glad relations and expecting friends, it mattered little that the cold wind blew, and that England's coldest shoulder was turned towards her returning children.