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In that ship were Colonel Thornleigh and the beautiful woman who, during the long voyage, had been seen so rarely by any of the other passengers on board the vessel. It was not the Colonel's regiment that was coming home in the good ship "Theseus;" nor were there among the few lady passengers any with whom he was personally acquainted; but still Helen adhered strictly to the privacy of her own cabin, only leaving it at those hours when she and Philip could pace the deck together, and leaning over the high bulwarks, could watch the reflected stars and bright phosphoric lights, safe from observation and remark.
As the voyage drew towards a close, those walks and watchings had grown less frequent; for Philip had become absorbed in the thoughts of England, with its never-forgotten sports and pleasures, and among the many who looked out anxiously for land (questioning all, from captain to helmsman, who might be supposed capable of yielding information), few were more eager than Colonel Thornleigh. And yet there was no one in the little misty island that he cared especially to see, for he had few relations, and no heart's friend half so dear as the one he bore about with him. Still, it was England, and it was home, and therefore the first sight of land afforded him unmixed delight, while, retiring into his cabin, he' gave himself up to glad anticipations, and began to write letters vigorously. With Helen the case was widely different. She had been very happy during the voyage, and was by no means desirous to leave the creaking, rolling, tumbling old ship, which contained within its wooden walls well nigh her all of human affection. Hers was not a desponding nature, or she might have felt gloomy
enough as she noted Philip's rapid fingers running glibly over the page, while he smiled at some thought or anticipation in which she had no share; and many a woman less gifted with hopefulness would have been chilled and sorely depressed by the little heed he paid to her presence, and the small part he appeared to have assigned her in the new scenes that were opening before them.
And so the patient woman looked on as he wrote his despatches and forgot her; while still the winds roared loudly, and still, through the blinding sleet and snow, the ponderous ship rolled onwards to her anchorage. The moorings were reached at last; and, like some tethered monster straining at the chain that holds it, the battered vessel lay prisoned on the heaving waters. Then boats, manned by dripping watermen, clad in storm-defying vestments, found themselves, as if by a miracle, alongside the ship; and into one of those adventurous little barques, Philip, leading the chilled and half-benumbed Helen by the hand, was almost the first to take passage for the land.
What a landing it was! And on what a sloppy, slippery, unseemly shore! Up the dripping stairs, forcing their way among thronging porters, and amphibious bipeds reeking with the fumes of stale tobacco and wet pilot-cloth, the voyagers (with the recollections of the "gorgeous East" fresh upon them) made their way as best they might to such comforts as a Portsmouth inn could give them. And now they were fairly in Old England again. Expectation was over, and certainty had taken its place, as gazing from the wide windows of their hôtel in bustling High Street, they reviewed the dripping passers-by, tried to count their
umbrellas, and looking in one another's faces, said they were glad to be at home again!
And next came the important question of where, in the happy home country which they were so proud to call theirs, they should pitch their tent; or in other words, where they could find a small house, at a rent of about one hundred per annum, in which it would suit them in all respects to take up their abode. Philip was no longer in the army, so their choice was unshackled by military duty; but how far it might be made reconcileable, alike with the Colonel's pleasures, and with a due regard to Helen's comfort, remained to be seen. London was not to be thought of; for Philip must have his hunting, and have it too in his own county, where it was to be enjoyed at a cheaper rate than elsewhere. There were strong objections to Mrs. Vaughan's being in the neighbourhood of Philip’s sports, as the county was a highly respectable one, and would be justly indignant if treated with insult; and an insult it would certainly be considered, were that fair but wicked face to be forced upon its notice. All these things did Philip revolve in his mind, and revolved them so long, and with Helen's assistance so comfortably to himself, that the plan at last decided upon, was as fully calculated to add to his enjoyment, as it was almost certain materially to lessen hers.
Within fifteen miles of the family mansion that would one day be Philip's, was a pretty little cottage which was his already. It had formerly belonged to, and been the residence of an aged female relation, who (single both in mind and body) had spent her life in the rigid observance of her moral and religious duties, and who (dying in the odour of sanctity, and
the ill-breath of her grand-nephew's misconduct not having tainted her nostrils), left the cottage, where she had passed a life of chastity and decorum, to the nephew of whose antecedents and probable future she knew so little.
It was a pretty domicile, with bees, and brook, and coppice, and many another rural adjunct; and in it (the fairest of Rosamonds, though there was no labyrinth by which her whereabouts could be concealed from virtuous view) Philip Thornleigh installed his mistress. It is not on record that the shade of the small spinster (whose neat, and somewhat old world-looking person had been wont to occupy those rooms, and tend her flowers in those trim parterres) ever appeared to upbraid her recreant nephew with the desecration of her well-loved cottage; but certain it is, that the cottage itself was
a prison-home to her hapless successor. Cautioned by Philip, and warned by her own dread of insulting looks and words, Helen rarely strayed beyond the precincts of the tiny shrubberies, which by courtesy were called "the grounds;" and so, waiting for and always thinking of Philip, she passed the time away.
Meanwhile Thornleigh's amusements had begun in earnest, for both houses, hearts, and weather were alike open to afford him such sport and entertainment as are attainable during an English winter in the country. Thornleigh Abbey was a fine old place, nestled in the snuggest of hollows, and sheltered by the finest of “ancestral trees.” It was approachable from various points by many a carriage-road and pleasant bridlepath; but when the heir to all this fine estate returned to visit it from what the old folks called the "airmy,” he dismissed his carriage at the lodge, designing to
walk along a well-remembered footpath to the house. The season was winter, and the giant oaks were leafless, yet never had he been more impressed with admiration for the fine old place than on that cold but clear December morning
Since the day when he had last looked upon it, many a glowing scene of beauty had met his eyes wondrous trees, bending beneath their clustering fruits, and with gorgeous birds nestling in their foliage --vast plains, and mountains towering to the sky and hunting-grounds where fierce and noble animals fell victims to his spear all this and more had been his, to admire and to enjoy; but now, with feet brushing the withered fern, with no trees around more stately than the branching oak, and only harmless living things to note his coming, Philip with a full heart acknowledged, that the home which in his childhood he had loved was not less dear to him in his manhood.
Sir Edgar Thornleigh, Philip's great-uncle, and the present possessor of the Abbey, was what is called “one of the old school;" by which we may infer that in the days when he was young,
schools were neither numerous or so various as they are in these our times, when we have so many different standards of what is “the right thing.” He had been sixty-two years in Parliament, by which also it may be gathered that during a few of those years he had been both too young and too old to know much about his business. He was very proud of his ancestors, of whom he póssessed a plenteous store, both on canvas and in the family vault; and was equally tenacious of his rights, whether those rights regarded his seat in the loyal county of ---, or whether they appertained to that