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gaze with which they were accompanied, but now,
caused them could have looked into
my heart, and seen how it was wrung, she would have pitied me!
"I wandered about in my gay gala-dress, pale and nervous, but beautiful is at least men told me so. Once I should have been indignant at such fulsome compliments, and shocked at the fixed and insolent
deserted by my y own sex, I was fain to seek companionship with the other, for I was not bold enough to face those pitiless women alone." At last Thornleigh came, and I flew tỏ him I felt I did ... like a wounded bird. All day he was by my side, and at night, when together we left that scene where I had so sorely suffered at that night I, grown 'reckless and despairing, laid my head upon his breast, and promised to be his! The morning came, and brought with it no better or safer reasoning; for in the future I saw nothing ou but an unbearable existence of humiliation and wretchedness. I was guiltless of aught more blameable than girlish folly, and I was already condemned as a woman abandoned to her e
evil passions and lost to all sense of shảme." What wonder then that, destitute of a protector, and being but a poor and timid girl, my heart sank within me, and that I utterly rejected the idea of sojourning among those who contemned and slighted me? What wonder that, abandoned to the leadings of my own wild will, I should have resolved to seek a happier lot elsewhere? What were home and parents to me,
or, rather, what was I to them? The thought of parting from my father hardly cost
a pang; and if I suffered a tinge of regret at deserting my poor ailing mother, the feeling was but
momentary, and all insufficient to turn me from my purpose.
"Trifling, indeed, had been the part they had played in the short opening portion of my Life's Drama, and now I was preparing to act out the play in other scenes and before a different audience." Even now, when I look back upon my flight, I cannot feel that I was heartless or undutiful in keeping my promise, as I did steadily and unswervingly, to Thornleigh; but here I must assure you, that it was not the force of overpowering passion for him which led me from what is called the path of duty,' but rather the thorns strewn by women in that path, and which made it so hard to tread. I do not attempt to justify either myself, or any of the many fallen creatures who err as I did: but of this I am persuaded, that many a woman sins for want of encouragement to be good, and that, if you could look back into the early history of many
of us, you would see that, in more ways than I can reckon, women are women's worst enemies; that they have powerful auxiliaries in our own vanity and folly, and in the strength of our own passions, is a truth which I cannot venture to deny."
Recommended to Mercy. 1.
Five years had now passed away had changed nothing in the lot of Helen Langton, or, rather, of Helen Vaughan, for she had adopted the surname of a distant relative. At three-and-twenty she was still happy, still unrepentant, and, if possible, handsomer than ever. This description of a woman's state when she has defied the laws of God and man may, we fear, be deemed detrimental to the cause of morality, but it is nevertheless true (in some degree) to nature. It has been said, by one who knew that nature well, that Le remords est né de l'abandon, et non pas de la faute; and it may be that had Helen's lover relaxed in his devoted attentions (showing her thereby that his passion was diminished, and that he had grown weary of her society), we should not now have to record the fact that her gay spirits had not flagged, and that her bright loveliness was not shorn of a single beam.
Those five years had been passed far away from England; and under the burning sun of India, and in the almost solitude of a bungalow, the erring woman had nearly ceased to think of a country where the deed that she had done would (and that justly) ex
clude her from the society of the respected and the virtuous.
Helen's character and disposition rendered her fully equal to the emergency in which she was placed the emergency, namely, of being a man's almost sole companion through many a month, which but for her society would have been tedious in the extreme. She was a very pleasant creature, variable in her words, with all a woman's pretty art of strewing flowers on the path that time treads then só noiselessly, and with only such fitful gleams of her strong love for Philip, as made him prize the gift the more from his great fear that one day the rich blessing might be withdrawn from him. Her beauty, maintained by unfailing health and nerves that never flagged, was a source of great pride to Thornleigh, who secretly delighted in the envying admiration bestowed upon her; while Helen, gifted with a more than due proportion of female tact and discrimination, was not slow to learn that, so long as the cravings of a man's vanity are satisfied, there is no danger of his throwing away the straw that tickles him, or of his becoming wearied of the amusement of his rattle.
But nature had designed Helen for something better than a mere plaything, nor did she contend against a destiny which suited well her vigorous character and her taste for active pursuits. Many a good deed, performed simply and unostentatiously, might have been recorded of her during those swiftlypassing years; and had the gentle and beautiful Mrs. Vaughan been a great and honourable lady, instead of the thing” she was, her name for charity might have sounded high in the land; and so, with no craving for
the praise of men, but perhaps with some vague purpose of doing penance for the life she led, Helen continued to do good by stealth — visiting the sick wives and children of the soldiers, and administering to the wants of the peevish and complaining. She reaped but small reward for the exertion, which in that enervating climate was not without its merit; for few of those whom she thus visited were inclined to show her much either of gratitude or respect, though many were the sorrows lightened by the sight of her kind face, and liberal the donations bestowed from her well-filled purse.
But in spite of, and perhaps unobservant of, the small' slight which should have made her mindful of the degradation of her position, Helen persisted in the belief (benighted woman that she was!) that her sin, after all, was not so very
heinous. She had learnt to draw comparisons between herself and those by whom she was tacitly bidden to stand aside, for they were holier than she; and the result was not unfrequently in her own favour. True as steel to the man to whom she had sworn to be faithful unto death, not for worlds, and (what is still more to her credit) not for any gratification of vanity or pique, would she have played upon the passions of another, nor in thought or deed have betrayed the man who trusted her. But Helen was a keen observer, and many a slight deviation from the right path and not a few soft sins, destined to remain unwhipped of justice, were known to her when the world suspected them not; and she, strong in her own truth, had no mercy on the lawful wives, for whose errors she saw no excuse, and by the side of whose transgressions her own appeared to her