« السابقةمتابعة »
are men to deal such blows, and women to sink under their infliction. Then she arose, but stunned almost and stupified, and staggering to her feet pursued her way painfully and alone.
Her first resting-place was far removed from the scene of her short-lived happiness ; for it was to a small seaport town in a northern county that she betook herself, with her crushed fortunes and ruined hopes, for shelter and for privacy. Very humble was the abode she fixed upon (a small lodging over a littlefrequented shop); but in it she found the quiet and the obscurity that she sought for. But Helen, strong-nerved and vigorous both in mind and body, felt (and that before many weeks had passed over her head), that her spirit and her courage were becoming exhausted in that self-imposed seclusion.
She could not bear it. It was not that she regretted the already half-forgotten enjoyments of days gone by, nor that she pined for the presence of one on whom to lavish the passionate love of which Thornleigh had shown himself so wearied; it was simply that she needed employment, society, companionship, the invigorating avocations in short, which, to a young and healthy temperament, are as the very oxygen of existence. But these things were beyond her reach, and therefore even as a fire dies out for want of a draught to call forth and stimulate its vitality, so did she droop and fade in the stagnant atmosphere that she was breathing.
One long summer passed away for her in that dreamy, droning existence; and in afteryears how often and how wonderingly did she recall the months that she had so spent and wasted! It was, in truth, a dreary time; the hot sun staring into the close, unhome-like room, brought no cheerfulness along with it, but only seemed to mock her with the memory of brighter days; and then the dirty, faded carpet, the unsightly chimney-ornaments, the washed-out, scanty curtains! How each and all of these took their tiny part in
the phantasmagoria to which in her after-life she looked back?
She had a little attic bedroom in which, when the long day was over, she would seek for rest and sleep; but often in vain, for baked by the July sun which glowed upon the roof, the atmosphere of that heated chamber was almost too oppressive for endurance. The bed on which she threw herself was as hard as though stuffed with marble from the shop below; for her landlord was a stonemason (a sculptor he called himself), and many a doleful record of passed-away mortality might be read by the townspeople through the windows of the basement story; while the monotonous click of the chisel (like the note of the death-watch) resounded in the neighbourhood of the shop, and throughout the house.
But though Helen's lodging was small and comfortless, and her fare far from generous, she never for a moment regretted her refusal to accept from Philip an increase to the small
income that she could call her own, and which was derived from the legacy left her by her father. It was a bare two thousand pounds (that portion from the savings of a life of toil), and when the tax-gatherer had had his share, and the duty had been paid on it, the income produced was but a modicum indeed!
One day, in the early autumn, it chanced that as the solitary woman was taking her accustomed walk upon the sands, she saw a face that she fancied was not altogether unknown to her; it belonged to a man whose dress bespoke him to be a clergyman. He was approaching towards middle age, and on his arm leant a lady of large dimensions, illdressed and angular. Once, and again she met them, and the last time (the gentleman looking fixedly at the remarkably handsome woman whom he had recognized at a glance) her doubts were solved, and she knew him to be her old acquaintance Mr. Fanshawe, the military chaplain of the ---- Station. The change in his appearance was, no doubt, caused by his smoothly shorn face (for in India he had worn a beard), and by the increased sedateness and decorvus bearing of his dress and walk. He passed, but made no sign; and it being evident to Helen that he had not mentioned his recognition to the lady who accompanied him, she decided, and very justly, that the said lady was no other than his wife.
The next day, and not greatly to her surprise, the recluse received a visit from the gentleman who had known her under circumstances so different. Was it curiosity that had led him to seek her, or was it admiration of her beauty? These were questions which his hostess might have found it hard to answer, there being something in her manner which defied the one, while it effectually repelled the expression of the latter.
The visit was a long one, and many indifferent subjects were discussed during its continuance. Helen was, as may be supposed, silent as to the past, but she was very candid in her admissions as to the almost insufferable