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PAID IN HIS OWN COIN., Issue 7952, 6 July 1889, Supplement
PAID IN HIS OWN COIN.
By Edward J. Goodman, Author of' Too Curious.'
VOL. 111.-CHAPTER 111. MABEL AND HKLKN.
Day after day Helen, in anxious and painful expectation, awaited her lover's return. He did not write to her, and she naturally attributed his silence to the absorbing demand made on his time and attention by the critical case he was dealing with. And for the reason she gave to her cousin-that she did not wish to distress him at such a moment—Helen abstained from writiug to him. Meanwhile her position at home was somewhat embarrassing. Her relative; could not fail to perceive that sho had suddenly discontinued her morning lessons, and naturally made some inquiry as to the cause. "Are you not going to Mrs Flemings today?' asked Mrs" Musgrave, finding that some time after breakfast on the morning following Helen's last visit to the widow's house she still remained at home. "No, mother," replied Helen. "Indeed ! how is that?" Tessie too looked up, curiously surprised at the announcement. " I have had to give np tho engagement," said Helen. "Mrs Fleming has gone abroad with her daughter on account of the state of her health."
" That is rather sudden, isn't it?" asked Mrs Musgrave. " Yes," answered Helen; "it was sudden, but so was Mrs Fleming's illness." This was all that was said on the subject just then, and it was with an aching heart that, in the solitude of her own room, Helen reflected upon her position. Here was she with this burthen of doubt upon her mind, and with no one—literally no one—to whom she could confide her sorrows. Never beforo had she felt so deeply the want of sympathy and appreciation which she experienced from her mother and Bister. That she should be working for them and for her father, sacrificing to them her own happiness, without thanks or acknowledgment, was a consideration to which she rarely, if ever, gave a thought. But now that she was in trouble, at a time when a word of kindness and encouragement from one near and dear to her would have been precious beyond estimate, the sense of her utter loneliness wounded- her to the soul.
So it was with an eager yearning for the comfort of loving sympathy that she approached her father one afternoon, as Bhe found him sitting alone, brooding moodily by the fireplace in his armchair, the book he had been reading, or trying to read, lying neglected on his knee. Mrs Musgrave and Tessie had gone out on one of their many expeditions in the desperate hope of picking up some cheering news the 'Epic,' and Mr Mu9grave was awaiting their return.
" Father dear," said Helen, sitting down on a footstool beside him. "you seem dul'." "And welll may be," sightd the pcet. " There is nothing but disappointment for me now. All my bright hopes seem to have vanished, and I shall go down to my grave unnoticed and forgotten " " Do not think that, father," said Helen. "You must not despond. Remember how many other authors have been unappreciated at first. Your time may come yet." "Yes," replied the poet; "after I am dead. My genius will be recognised then, no no doubt, and I hope my children may reap the reward of my labors; but for me, alas! there will be nothing save sorrow and disappointment. So it was with Chatterton, so it was with Keats, and many another, and so it will be with me."
"But, father," said Helen, "we all have onr troubles. I have my sorrows, too, but I dare not give way to them; and I .should not feel them so acutely even as I do if I had but a little comfort from those I love."
Mr Musgrave looked up, and Helen fancied that she recognised in hia glance a sign of that sympathetic feeling of which Bhe was so much in need. But sho was mistaken.
" Ah," eaid her father. "I suppose you are regretting the loss of your pupil, Misa Fleming. Yes; it was very unfortunate, as her mother paid you very well, didn't she?"
What could Helen say after that ? Even her father could think of nothing but her merely pecuniary loss, a loss which bore more heavily on his own interests than on hers.
" No," she replied sadly; "it was not only that which I meant. I am, indeed, sorry to lose my favorite pupil, for I had become greatly attached t> her. But there, father, 1 will not trouble you with my sorrows, for I know you have quite enough of your own to worry you." " Yes, my dear," said Mr Musgrave ; "I am greatly worried. The world has been very hard to me—very." And the disappointed poet sat shaking his head and sighing, thinking of his own troubles only, and never giving a thought to the possibility that his devoted daughter, who labored for his maintenance, and who bore her hard lot without complaint or reproach, had her sufferings also. Helen rose from the stool on which she had been sitting at her father's feet. She felt it useless to appeal to him for sympathy, and, besides, how could she speak to him on so delicate a subject as her trouble with Mark? Perhaps, she thought, it were better to say nothing about it. So she took a chair on the opposite side of the fireplace, and proceeded to talk on what to her father was the ever-welcome though distressing topic of his ill-fated book. " Have you heard from Mr Copple lately?" she asked. "No," replied Mr Mnsgrave ; "not since he last wrote to me asking me for money—for money!" he repeated with scornful emphasis, as though the mere word were an insult. " Fortunately Crayke—he has been a good friend—went to him and persuaded him to wait a little longer, and give my poor book a further chance. In the meanwhile, perhaps, we may hear better news. Your mother and sister are even now making inquiries to see if there is any hope." As he spoke these, words, there was a sound of footstepa on the gravel path outside, and Mrs Musgrave and Tessie were seen approaching the house. At a glance, Helen could perceive that they had not brought that better news which Mr Musgrave so anxiously expected. Tessie, in fact, entered the room with a flush of anger in her face. It was evident that something very disagreeable indeed had occurred during that morning walk. "Well, my dear ?" cried Mr Musgrave in nervous expectation. " Oh, father," cried his daughter, "we have heard such dreadful things! Mother and I have been to shop after shop, and we have not seen the ' Epic' in the window of one of them. Then when we went in to ask about ft, they actually dared to tell us that the book didn't sell, and that it was no use showing it. Some of them said that they had got a lot of copies, and there they were, stowed away in a corner, all covered with duat." This was cruel news indeed, and the unfortunate poet heard it in mute dismay. "But that ia not all," continued his daughter. "We went into another shop in the Strand, and a nasty, sneaking hypocrite of a fellow, a young man with a smug face and greasy black har, taked what we wanted. He rubbed his hands and came up to us, saying: * What can I do for you, ladies?' Then mother asked him if he had got' The Epio of Life,' and he said—the deceitful fellow !—' Oh yes, madam, a beautiful book; can I sell you a copy ?' 'No,' said mother; 'we only wanted to know how it was going off.' Then, as soon as he heard that we did not want to buy the book, the wretch's manner quite changed. He pulled a long face, and said insolently : * Oh, we haven't sold a copy for weeks 1 They say it is shocking rubbish, and if the publisher does not soon take them off our hands, we shall send the things back.' Oh, I could have slapped hia face ! But I restrained myself, and only said : «Thank you. The author of that rubbish, aa you pall it, is my father." The fellow seemed a little sorry after that " "And well he might be," broke in Mrs Musgrave ; " for poor Tesaie was in tears.'.' "Yes," said Tessie, "I could not help crying; but I gave the creature a good dig before we left, for I told him that, of course, he could not be expected to know
anything about poetry, as he was only a shopman." " This is sad—very sad !" exclaimed the poet. " I think, my dear, you had better not make any more inquiries." These and other signs of his failure wounded the poor man deeply, and, indeed, began at last to tell upon his health. As the days passed by, and no improvement in his prospects manifested itself, he became more and more depressed, and all the efforts of his wife and daughters failed to rouse him. He could not eat, he could not sleep; he looked wan and haggard, and lost flesh daily. Oliver Orayke duly noted these signs of failing health. Mr Musgrave's increasing depression and impaired condition had an interest for him which he expressed only in his secret thoughts. "Ah!" he reflected, as he sat gazing at tho shrunken form of the distressed poet while the latter eat brooding in his armchair, as was now his wont, "he is evidently ripening for an illness. A few cays more of this, and he will be laid on a Bick bed. Good ! Now might come my opportunity. There are few in this house capable of giving him close attendance, and I might be of service to him. It is a chance a fair chance—but I must wait and watch."
In conversation with tho poet, Mr Crayke was sympathetic, but not hopeful. " Uoa't you think," askod Mr Musgrave, " that Mr Copple could bi prevailed upon to resume tho advertisements?" " I am afraid not," replied Mr Crayke.
"The book, of course, cannot have a fair chance if it is hidden away as it seems to be now." " No chance whatever." "That is very cruel, Mr C.avke." "Very." It was altogether a melancholy household, and Tom the irreverent declared that they were all suffering from what he called the ' Epidemic of Life,' a piece of levity for which Helen rebuked him.
As for her, she needed all her courage and fortitude to bear up under her load of troubles. She could see that her father was fretting himself into an illness, and yet she could do nothing to alleviate those mental sufferings which wore undermining his bodily health. Then there was the constant fear of that shadow of debt which hung over them, while it was difficult enough to meet present demands for immediate necessaries, and would have been more bo but for Mr Crayke's liberal and punctual payments.
It need hardly be said that her trouble on account of Mark Elliot weighed more heavily on hsr heart than all her other anxieties. She thought over this matter deeply, constantly, but oould derive no comfort from her reflections. Ii vain did she try to persuade herself that although Mrs Fleming had become inspired with an attachment to Mark, ho did not know it, or, at least, did not fully understand it. He must have been aware of it; and how cruelly he had acted in giving no hint of it to herself! Then she struggled to believe that he had given that poor woman no encouragement, and that the story told by the lady'smaid was not and could not be true. Could not be true ? Might it not ? Had not Mark warned her again and again of the dangers, the temptations, to which she was exposing Mm by so long deferring their marriage ? Had he not suggested ideas, as she thought at the time, only for the purpose of testing her faith in him ? She remembered all this now, and saw it in a new light. No, she could not in her heart and conscience believe it impossible that Mark had acted as he was said to have donr.
Then if this story of Mark's want of faith were true, was it altogether his fault? Was sho not also to blame for keeping him tied to her for so many years ? Would not she bo doing wrong to keep him pledged to her in future? These thoughts troubled her sorely, and sho resolved to open her heart on the subject to her dearest friend. Abel Wynd was now frequently absent from home, so that is was not long before Helen had an opportunity of talking with her cousin alone.
"Jane," she said, "I have been thinking very deeply over what you have told me —what you have heard—alout Maik. I hope it is not true, but I cannot say I am sure of it; do not ask mo why. But if it should bo true, I think 1 ought no longer to keep Mark bound to me." " What! break off yuur engagement with him !" exclaimed Mrs Wynd. " Yeß, : ' replied Helen. " Men, I fear, even the best of them, are not like us. We cannot expect of them that long-sustainod, unswerving fidelity of which some women are capable, and we must make allowance for their weakness in the face of temptation. Mark is a dear, good fellow, but after all ho is only a man, and 1 ought not to have put him in such a position as I have done." "But oh, Lennie !" cried Jane, "if you were to release him, as you propose, you might lose him altogether." "I cannot help that," replied Helen ; "I must not think of myself " "You never do, dear," answered Jane.
"And," Helen continued, "it would be cruel, unjust, to tio him to me and expect him to be absolutely true to me for who can say how many yeara." " But you will ask him first whether he has acted towards Mrs Fleming as we have heard—will you not, Lennie ?" " I do not know what I shall ask him, Jennie. I think I shall merely tell him that I have heard something about himself and her, and then hear what he has to say. I shall soon be able to tell whether I have been mistaken or not."
"But had you not better ask him whether that story is true or not ?"
" What! Ask him whether ho has been Oh! Jennie, you know I am not wanting in candor and plain speaking, but I cannot do that. Can I go to the man whom I have loved for years, with my whole heart —the man whom I have trusted as—as I would trußt you, darling—the man whom I believed the very soul of honor, incapable of deception and infidelity—and say to him: Mark, my love, my promised husband, is it true that while you have been pouring into my ears, day after day, your vows that you loved me, and me only, you have been taking another woman in your arms and embracing—and—kissing her?" Helen had risen during this speech, displaying a warmth of emotion such as her cousin had never teen her exhibit before Her cheeks were burning, her eyes sparkling with excitement, and she clenched her hands in agony at the thought suggested by her last words.
"I know," said Jane, "it is a painful position. I understand your feelings. But oh ! my dear, I hope, I do hope that you and Mark will not be parted."
" I hope so too, Jennie, 1 " replied Helen, in a calmer tone. " Bat it must depend upon his answer. From what he says I shall judge. If Mrs Fleming has deceived herself, and Mark can tell me that he has never really been untrue in his faith to me, then indeed we shall be united more closely than ever. I will offer to suspend our engagement ; indeed, I shall press him to agree to this, hoping that time and good fortune may bring us together onco more. But if not, if I find that Mark's heart has strayed from me, I will leave him entirely free, and we shall part—perhaps for ever." " Oh, Lennie !" cried Jane, " I hope it will not come to that." "I hops not," replied Helen; "but we shall see." Helen had done well not to trouble Mark Elliot by writing to him about this painful business. She had rightly surmised that his "case" must be a source of great anxiety to him. As it was, his mission to Leicestershire had resulted in a grievous disappointment. The squire died in spite of all the care and skill bestowed upon him, and Dr Elliot incurred some blame for the fatal result. The complaint was one with which he waß perfectly familiar, and hence it was that Dr Filmer had so strongly recommended him. He had dealt with more than one oase of the same sort before, and always by a certain course of treatment which had invariably proved successful. But this treatment did not meet with the approval of the great Sir Thomas Guy, and he impressed upon Dr Elliot the necessity of adopting a different order of remedies. Acting under the directions of the eminent physician, Mark watched his patient nicht and day, and for a time faithfully carried out his instructions. But the patient grew no better, and, indeed, at last his condition beoirno so alarming that, in the absence of his superior, Dr Elliot resolved to venture a bold stroke, and deal with the sick man by
his own accustomed method. Unfortunately it was too late then, and the squire died. Sir Thomas Guy had been hastily summoned again, but only arrived to find the patient breathing his last. Dv Elliot had to admit that ho had departed from the great physician's instructions, and the blame of the fatal result was cast upon his shoulders. Sir Thomas was not openly angry, and said little about the matter to the relatives of the deceased ; but he administered to his unfortunate colleague some cold and cutting remarks, which wounded him deeply, and proved to him that he had lost for ever the favor of the great doctor upon whose good opinion he had based such sanguine expectations. Therefore it was with a heavy heart that Mark Elliot travelled back to London after nearly a fortnight's absence, spent in unremitting attendance at the sick man's bedside. He bad taken little rest, and was thus as wearied in body as in mind. But amidst all his trouble he had one sweet source of comfort to look forward to, and he yearned to fly to his beloved Helen and seek the consolation which he know she would offer him. What a blessing, he thought, was his to have such a friend, such a comforter in his sorrows and disappointments, and how delightful it was to think that, at last, that dear friend would soon be his own beloved wife!
So, arriving late in the evening, he hastened to his surgery. He only entered it to deposit his light baggage; and, without waiting to refresh himself, though ho had tasted no food since mid-day, he flew at once to hi 3 Helen, eager to take her to his heart and unbosom himself of all his woes. How she would welcome him ! Never before, since that day when he asked her to be his wife, had they been so long separated. He expected to be gently scolded for his silence, but he knew that he would easily make his peace, and that the delight of seeing him once again safe and well would overmaster in Helen's heart every other feeling. Thus, as he passed the gate of Eden Villa and walked with quick step up the garden path, all his sadness was dissipated by the joyful sense that he was about to meet his beloved, to receive her loving embrace, and hear her sweet voice in sympathy and solace. Fanny opened the door to him, surprised but pleased to see him. "Is Miss Musgrave at home?" he asked. " Yes sir," was the reply ; " she is in the back parlor at her studies." That was well; yet the thought paaed through his mind, why had she not come out to meet him ? She must have heard his step and his voice. No matter; in a moment they would bo together, face to face, heart to heart, more closely, more lovingly, than ever before.
Then he entered the back room. Helen, of course, would at once fly to him, eager to give him welcome. But, no; she was seated at the table with her books and papers before her, and rose to meet him slowly and even with hesitation. He advanced towards her to take her in his arms ; but as he approached she seemed to shrink from him ; slightly, it is true, but with an air of repulsion that could not be mistaken.
"Good Heavens, Helen !" he exclaimed ; " what is the matter 1 Why do you receive me in this way ?"' "You must know best, Mark," replied Helen quietly. "I know nothing," cried Mark ; "nothing that could justify this strange reception of me whon I come back to you almost exhausted by fatigue and hunger, and with a bitter sense of failure and disappointment." The last words touched Helen in spite of her feelings of injury, and she could not but inquire what he meant. "How disappointed, Mark?" she asked with an anxious glance.
" I am afraid it would interest you little to hear," he answered somewhat angrily, " since you meet me in this way. But if you desire to know it, I may tell you that my mission has utterly failed, that the patient has died under my treatment, and that I am blamed for his death."
" Oh, Mark, I am Borry, I am indeed, to hear that!" cried Helen.
"Perhaps so," said Mark bitterly: "but before wo say another word on that subject, tell me why it is that you treat mo iu this cold manner? What have I done to deserve it ?"
"Mark," replied Helen calmly, "I will tell you at once and plainly what it is. In the first place Mis Fleming has heard of our engagement." DrElliotßtarted,alittleconsicnce-smitten. He could see, of course, that trouble had arisen out of this revelation, though he was at a loss to guess the nature of it. "In what way? From whom? Yourself?" bo ask el.
"No," Helen replied, "not from myself —although you had left me to make such an embarrassing explanation—me, whom you had introduced as governess into the house of a woman who loved you. The explanation, Mark, did not come from roe ; it came from a servant, coarsely and cruelly told, after that poor woman had confessed to me, not knowing of our engagement, that you had won her heart." Dr Elliot now saw the state of the case in a moment. He perceived that he had put everyone concerned in a false position— Helen, Mrs Fleming, and himself. A man under these circumstances is not penitent, but angry, especially when he is hungry and tired. He reproaches not himself but his accuser.
" Well," he oried, " who ia most to blame for that—l or you ?I, who hinted—ay. more than hinted—again and again, that ycu were running c. risk in holding me off as you have done ? or you, who would not take my hints ? I, who hoped that, in your friendly intimacy with Mrs Fleming, you would explain to her the relation between us ? or you, who, with a false delicacy which I cannot understand, kept silence ? Helen, I did know that Mrs Fleming felt some attachment towards me, but if she told you that she felt thus, and heard of our engagement from others, it is not I who am to blame." "Are you not, Mark?" retorted Helen. "Oh, how can you say that? But wo will not indulge in recriminations. That poor woman has been misled, cruelly deceived and misled, and has left the country wounded and heartbroken."
" Helen," exclaimed Mark, "I say again it was no fault of mine. I regret it, bub I have nothing to reproach myself with." " Nothing, Mark ?" asked Helen, gazing earnestly into his face, and with a meaning that he could not mistake. " Have you told me all—have you concealed from me nothing of what has passed between you and Mrs Fleming?'' Mark could not meet this Question with a denial. It was true that he had admired, more than admired, the beautiful widow ; he was well aware that his thoughts had more than once strayed from Helen to her ; but then he was conscious of much virtue and self-restraint, and his sense of injured innocence made him more angry even than his sense of error,
" No," he cried in a tone of great excitement, " I have not told you all. And again I say the fault was yours. Much has passed between Mrs Fleming and myself which I concealed from you. I do not know what you may have learned, I do not care to ask ; but I do say that a woman who could treat her lover as you have done, keeping him waiting her will and pleasure for years upon years, holding before him a promise of happiness never to be fulfilled, binding herself down by obligations that can never be dischargod, obligations to people unworthy of her Quixotic devotion—l aay such a woman has only herself to blame for the consequences, whatever those consquences may have been." "Perhaps you are right, Mark," said Helen sadly ; " I have thought of that, too. I have not been just to you, I know. I ought not to have kept you bound to me so long, I have done wrong, I admit it." Her tone softened him at once, and he pressed forward earnestly to make his peace. But she raised her hand, and motioned him back.
"No, Mark," she said; "no, we cannot, must not, be in future to each other what we have been in the past. I will keep you tied to me no longer; I release you from your promise to me; our engagement must henceforth be at an end."
" But I do not wish to be released," cried Mark. " I will continue to wait for you—for years, for ever! Helen, you cannot Eurely think that I loved Mrs Fleming ?" " I do not know what to think, Mark," said Helen, " and I will not vex you with questions. It is enough that I find we were
both mistaken in many ways, and that such mistakes must not occur again." The firmness of her tone saddened him, but irritated him still more. "Is it your wish, then, that weshouldpart? Is that your final word ?" "As lovers, yes ; [but not, I hope, as friends." "As friends!" he echoed bitterly, rejecting the hand she held out to him. Then with a hasty step he left the room, shutting the door behind him, and quitted the house. Helen fell into her chair, and burst into tears. "It is true, then !" she cried ; " it must be true. And oh ! Mark, how 1 trusted you !" ( To Lp. continued.)
PAID IN HIS OWN COIN., Issue 7952, 6 July 1889, Supplement
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