Page images

"About Sir Henry Clayton, I mean," Emily answered to the gesture without looking at her.

"I thought so," Helen said, in a quiet tone.

"And you?"

"Refused him, of course," Miss Hope replied, now looking round, and showing Helen a very pale, tired little face. "I always refuse everybody, you know!" and there was a slight degree of bitterness in her tone. "I don't know how people can be so foolish as to give me the opportunity!"

Helen was too generous to say anything just then, though many a female friend would now have enjoyed the opportunity of proving how very sensible her warning had been, and how it was no wonder men "who are always more or less conceited," should mistake Miss Hope's manner, frank and thoughtless as a very child's, for decided encouragement. For Emily really was not a flirt; she talked to men just as unconcernedly as if they were women, and never caring for any one in any more tender light, she generally forgot that the unhappy victims might spider-hearted." Then, when she discovered her mistake, Miss Hope became very angry, provoked with herself for being so thoughtless, and indignant with the victim for the time being for his blindness and conceit.

not be so 66

"I am very sorry indeed," she now went on, "for poor Sir Henry looked so-so- -I really never thought he could look mortified."

"I dare say it won't do him any harm for once," Helen said, with a little shade of malice. But Miss Hope would not take this consolation.

"Oh, but Helen, dear! he really looked unhappy, and you know I like him very much-but I think he might have seen! He would be furious if it were known, and of course I wouldn't have told it to any one but you, because I tell you everything, Nelly"—and the little puss put her arms round Helen, and looked up at her in such a manner that nobody could have scolded her after that, if she had just committed a felony

"and I know you never tell anybody."

"Of course not," Helen said, kissing her. Helen, who would scarcely have repeated to herself that she had refused an offer-Helen, who understood honour as men understand it.

"And now, don't you think and sleep it away, had better go you Emmy? you look so timid! Oh, by-the-by," she added, as Emily turned to leave the room, "how did you get on with Mr. Sutton? Did

you like him?”

"Yes," said Miss Hope, rather stiffly. "He seems a very nice person. Good-by! And Helen remained alone.

Meantime Philip was deciding within himself that he must now lose no time in offering Helen Stamford his hand and-heart. The doubts he had had as to the amount of her fortune had this night been put at rest; for one of his partners, a stranger in that part of the country, had asked him that evening "if that was Mrs. Stamford ?" looking towards her. "And is that the heiress ?" continued his fair questioner, glancing towards Helen, who stood beside her.

"Is she an heiress ?" Philip had asked, laughingly.

"One of the greatest heiresses in the south country, I am told," was the reply; "everybody talks about her. You are quite a stranger here to-night, I suppose ?"

"I came with Mrs. Stamford's party," Mr. Sutton answered, dryly, for he did not wish Helen to be further discussed by his inquisitive partner.


Yes," he now soliloquised, "my stay here has now been long enough, and I must be decisive in my measures. Emily suits me perfectly, and I feel convinced I shall never care for any one more than I do for her. Affection founded upon thorough esteem is, after all, the surest and most lasting a man can hope for, and this I truly feel for Emily; hers is such a grand, genuine nature, so unlike the ordinary young-lady characters one generally meets. She will be more than merely my wifeshe will be my friend. And then Emily, I am sure, does more than merely like me; she- -Pshaw! what a fool I am! Here I am, calling. Miss Stamford Emily,' though why that little flirt, Miss Hope, should get into my head just now, I can't precisely tell. There's not the slightest similarity between them-luckily !"

[ocr errors]


"LIST of casualties in the trenches, from the 4th to the 7th, inclusive," said Mr. Stamford, as they dawdled over a late breakfast, talking over the ball of the night before. The post had just come in, and Mr. Stamford held the Times in his hand. "Shall I read it out? It's a longish list to-day." And, clearing his throat, and settling his spectacles on his nose, Mr. Stamford read aloud a dozen names of the killed and wounded in that day's list from Sebastopol. "Ensign Moore, wounded severely in the leg; Brevet Major Smith, right hand shot off; Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Hm !" said Mr. Stamford, clearing his throat determinedly, and glancing over the top of the paper.

"Go on, papa," Helen said, with a tremor in her voice.

"I've lost my place," said Mr. Stamford, with a total disregard to truth. "Brevet Major Smith' I read that; 'Brevet Lieut.-Colonel Marlowe, wounded severely in the arm, since amputated; Captain Brown, slightly;' and so on Mr. Stamford went, down to the end of one of those lists then so common. Helen, meanwhile, had turned deadly pale, and, holding her hands tightly pressed together, had risen, and, standing behind her father's chair, looked over his shoulder as he read. Emily Hope glanced anxiously at her, but dared not say a word; Mrs. Stamford fidgeted, and pulled her bracelets about; Jack whistled a tune. Philip Sutton, alone unobservant, looked over some business letters forwarded from town, listening with one ear to the names read aloud.

"Nobody I know," he broke the silence by saying. "Two or three of the names are familiar to me, but that's all. Here is the song I wrote to London for, Miss Stamford; I think you will like it." And he raised his eyes to look at her, but Helen had slipped quietly out of the


"She has just gone," Mrs. Stamford explained. "I am afraid Helen is a little fagged after her dissipation."

"Will you try it over for me, Miss Hope?" Philip asked. “I want to know if it is the right edition.”

Helen meantime hurried to her own room, and, having first secured the door of that her fortalice, drew the long deep breath which she had so tightly held before she quitted the breakfast-room, and which felt like a weight of lead upon her chest. She did not then proceed to go into

hysterics, or pace distractedly up and down the room like a tragedy queen, but she knelt down at once by the side of her bed, and fervently clasping her cold hands together, bent her pale, tearless face over them, and remained for a few minutes in an attitude far more expressive of sorrow than the wildest demonstration could have been. She could not pray just yet, but she felt that kneeling down promptly thus was her greatest safeguard-the only one thing that it occurred to her to do. Where could she find such comfort as even in the outer court, on the doorstep of prayer?

The news she had dreaded from day to day of a weary year and more, had now given her as great a shock as if she had never expected it. He was wounded, far away from her; severely, she knew-dangerously, she feared. It might have been worse?-nay, how knew she that? for even now he might be- "Oh God, spare him! spare my darling!" the poor heart called out in its sorrow. "Give him back to me-Father, do not let him die!" And Helen prayed earnestly-prayed with faith as a little child-prayed now as since her childhood she had ever donetook her sorrow up upon her, and laid it down at God's feet-humbly praying.

What months of anxiety those twelve had been, none but such constant, impassioned hearts as hers could know. Helen's was one of those natures that love not very readily or diffusely, though kindly and sympathising to all. She did not for a word or a glance undo the gates of her heart; many had knocked long and loud for admittance there in vain. But if once the "open sesame" was found, wide flew the portals to admit the welcome guest, and from out those chambers none who entered went forth again. When Helen loved, she loved mightily, tenaciously, even in ordinary affection, as she had shown by the love she bore her mother's sister, with whom great part of her childhood had been spent, and from whom Helen derived her much-talked-of fortune. So that when, two years before the time of which we write, she gave her first love-a woman's greatest treasure and possession-to George St. John Marlowe, it was for ever and for aye.

Captain Marlowe was Sir Stephen Marlowe's nephew and heir, very well connected, and an excellent parti accordingly, and Mrs. Stamford was charmed to give her consent to Helen's engagement to him. Nothing could be more desirable. Sir Stephen was related to some of the best families in England; Captain Marlowe was a delightful person, exactly suited to Helen, and Mr. Stamford was quite satisfied. general rose-colour spread over the whole arrangement.


And Helen was happy-ah, so happy! thinking of but one thing, knowing but one thing-that she was George Marlowe's affianced wife, that she had passed her word to him and he to her, and that nothing but death could now separate them.

Meantime the war broke forth, but Marlowe's regiment was not ordered out, and so all might have gone on smoothly had many another man than George Marlowe been concerned. But to him inaction was gall and wormwood; a power stronger than even love drew him onward; a voice, as the voice of a trumpet, sounded ever in his ear, "To battle, to battle! up, up and doing!" And the voice to George Marlowe was the voice of duty. He, a soldier, remain sluggishly in

England, when England's men were fighting, dying for their mother's service? "Helen, Helen! must it be so ?" he said; "I leave it to you to decide." And Helen, feeling the call, too, in her hero-heart, though that heart was full to bursting, said, looking the while into his ardent eyes, "It shall not be so. Go, George; I tell you to go!"

The next day they parted, and Helen knew George Marlowe loved her none the less.

Marlowe went up to London, and announced his intention of exchanging into a Crimean regiment to his uncle, or if this occasioned delay, of going out as a volunteer. Sir Stephen was furious, told his nephew he was mad, and that he utterly refused his consent to such a


Marlowe stood firm. And then Sir Stephen declared that if his only nephew and nearest heir persisted in this Quixotic resolution, he, Sir Stephen Marlowe, should take the liberty of entirely disinheriting one who could be so ungrateful and rebellious; and, moreover, should intimate his intention to Mr. Stamford at once. Poor George turned very pale, but still stood firm.

Sir Stephen wrote to Mr. Stamford, altered his will, and thereby very considerably changed Captain Marlowe's position in the world and in the eyes of any prudent parents. He must, of course, still inherit the baronetcy, but that was rather a misfortune than otherwise, and, beyond his commission, Marlowe had very little else. Mrs. Stamford urged Helen to write and dissuade him from his wild resolution; but her daughter answered, with a grave smile, that her eloquence was already enlisted on the other side.

To cut a long story short, George Marlowe went to the Crimea disinherited, and, before leaving, received a note from Mr. Stamford, stating that his obstinate and rebellious conduct had put an end to any engagement which might have subsisted between Miss Stamford and himself. By the same post George received a letter from Helen, telling him that he knew her word was pledged to him for ever, that nothing but death could compel her to retract it, and that for ever she held him to his promise. And with a lightened heart George set forth on his venture of life or death.

You think Helen was a very undutiful daughter, oh my reader? Far be it from me to advocate any infringement of the fifth commandment; but listen to what she argued, and remember that, as I have said, Helen understood Honour. With all reverence-for she loved her father and mother, and it grieved her to the heart to pain them—the girl thus represented it: "When George was rich and prosperous you gave your consent joyfully to my being his wife. Mother, you yourself put my hand in his, and called him And then I promised-I gave him my word, and I have never yet broken my word—that I would be his wife were he rich or poor, in health or in sickness, loving him alone.. And now what has he done that I should retract it? I told him to go. I would have fought, if I had been a man, as he is going to fight now. And because Sir Stephen Marlowe chooses to take back what he has hitherto called George's, am I to take back what I gave him? Mother, do you think I could ever look into my heart again if I did this, blackened, disfigured thing that it would be? I tell you I can't give George up in

your son.

this way; but I will do nothing underhand. I will write to him, and he will write to me, but you shall always know when letters come or go. You'll trust me, won't you?"

Mrs. Stamford, who was really a kind-hearted woman, would not have opposed the engagement herself determinedly. "But I must agree with your father, my dear child," she said to Helen; "and you know when he once says a thing what use there is in my gainsaying it." And so matters went on, Helen corresponding regularly with George Marlowe, but never once concealing when she wrote to or heard from him, her quiet communications on the subject being received with profound silence. But beyond their first formal declaration that they considered the engagement at an end, and this tacit disapproval, Mr. and Mrs. Stamford dared not take more violent measures, for they knew Helen's determination of character too well, and her mother hoped, in her secret heart, that time and absence might weaken Marlowe's hold over her. (This was the principal reason why Mrs. Stamford had now encouraged Philip's attentions to her daughter, hoping that he might in some degree distract her thoughts, and therefore her looks of satisfaction whenever Helen seemed to derive pleasure from them.) Had they refused their consent at first, when Captain Marlowe proposed for her, Helen was too dutiful not to have yielded at once, though it might have prevented her ever marrying at all. But after the willing consent obtained, the promise given, to make her break it for such a cause? Never!

George Marlowe was worthy of this girl's devotion; for if ever the heart of a chivalrous knight of eld beat in a nineteenth-century man, it was in the bosom of this loyal gentleman. For a man of his years (he was a little under thirty), Marlowe was somewhat stern and grave in manner on first acquaintance, but when you knew him this impression wore off, and then you felt how kindly in truth his nature was, how unselfish and generous, and, though high-tempered with men, how manly and tender in his respect of women. This man deserved, indeed, the priceless gift of a fair and pure woman's love and constancy.

Ah! how weary the days of that long, anxious winter had been to Helen, when day by day came news of the sufferings they underwent― those heroes of Alma, Balaklava, and Inkerman, glorious trine of victory! Sufferings from hunger and from cold, from sickness and disease, inglorious sufferings heroically borne. Ah, how on those bitter winter nights, when the snow lay bound by frost-fetters on the ground, Helen would look out and think of the tents on which the moonlight was shining in that battle-land-moonlight cold and pitiless as the white earth!Hating to look at the bright fire which crackled on the hearth as she turned, heavy-hearted, from the window-hating the luxuries around her while she thought of their privations. Many that winter felt as she did -many as they read will recal what they felt then and thought. For surely the memory of that time and of the endurance of those brave men lives for ever amongst us.

And now, now he was wounded-George was wounded, Helen thought-George might die! She was not by to nurse him, she could not be where her heart was, and she had no one to talk to about him-no one to sympathise with her and care for him!

Many hearts, when those bloody news came in, felt as she now did

« PreviousContinue »