By Edward J. Goodman, Author of ‘Too Curious.’
VOL 111,-CHAPTER XIV. FAREWELL AND WELCOME. Who can have failed to anticipate what must have followed that tragedy of which Gore House had been the scene, and which the end of the trial of Oliver Crayke left as dark a mystery as ever ? Who could not guess what the strongest impulse of Jane Wynd would be so soon ns the first agony of her grief had subsided ? She was not allowed to return to her old home. Helen brought her back, with her devoted Sarah, to Eden Villa, and there she remained. And all her relatives felt with sadness that she was destined never to leave their house again. For her longcontinued ill-health and the shock of her husband’s death had brought her almost to the brink of the grave, and it was evident that Jane Wynd’a days on earth were numbered. Dr Elliot attended her regularly. He did his best for the fast-fading woman, and he rendered other services besides., At her urgent request he undertook the management of her affairs, and naturally her first act was to make such provision for her uncle and his family as to obviate the necessity of any further exertions on Helen’s part, Mr Copple’s claim was discharged without delay, and the gratitude of the poet, as well as of Mrs Musgrave and Tessie, was, of course, unbounded, Helen, thanks to Jane’s generosity, being now free, could not but cherish a fond hope that the happiness so long denied her might soon be within hei reach. Yet Mark Elliot, though ho came to see her cousin day after day, spoke no word on the subject so dear to her heart. Kind and considerate as he was in his manner, he made no allusion to the tender past, no offer to renew it. Was it possible, she thought, that his love had I gone from her for ever ? “Lennie dear,” said Jane one day, “when are you and Mark going to be married ?” “ Oh, Lennie!” cried Helen, blushing, “ how can I tell ? Perhaps never.” “ Has he not spoken to you since—since —I have been here ?” asked Jane, “No, dear,” Helen replied. “It was my own proposal to end our engagement, and I suppose he felt too much hurt to ask me to revive it.” Jane said no more just then, but she had made up her mind to take action in the matter. So when next Dr Elliot called to see her, and was alone with her, she broached the subject to him. “ Mark,” she said, “ why are you so cold to Helen ? Surely you must know that she loves you.” “ Does she ?” exclaimed Mark, with a touch of bitterness in his tone. “Why, of course she does,” replied Jane. “ How can you question it ?” “Ah 1” said Mark; “ I have my doubts. I am afraid I have offended Helen too deeply to be forgiven.” “ But,” pleaded Jane, "surely your feelings are not changed towards her ? surely you love her still ?” “ God knows I do!” exclaimed Mark. “ I love her as dearly as ever 1 did in my life.”
That was enough for Jane. She watched her opportunity, and taking advantage of the position of Mark and Helen, as they happened to be standing on either side of her bed, she suddenly took their hands and quietly joined them across her breast without a word. The meaning of the action was unmistakable, its effect irresistible. Mark grasped Helen’s hand in his, and she did not withdraw it. Then they looked into each other’s eyes, and the next moment they were heart to heart—lovers once more. Lovers once more. Yet not quite with the old, old love. There was a something, a kind of distance, between them, of which both were conscious, and which neither could define, as though some bond of union once severed could never be wholly repaired. The “ little rift within the lute ” had not widened, but it had not closed. The marriage of Mark and Helen had been fixed to take place at a dale not long after the scene last described ; but again it was deferred. And it was postponed this time for reasons that were for Helen, at least, a cause of bitter sorrow. Her beloved friend and cousin was perceptibly wasting away, and each day growing weaker and weaker. At last there came a time, a still, warm Evening, when the setting sun cast its glowiUj ~-xdiance upon the wan, thin face of the dyl*g woman, now gently breathing her last, with her dearest friends beside her, Mark vnd Helen on either hand. “Is not tile light too much for you, darling ? v asked Helen, rising to draw together thj window curtains. “No, Leslie dearest,” replied Jane feebly ; “ I like to see the sun, for the last time. I don’t wuh to die in the dark or the dusk. And oh ! 1 »eem to see such lovely visions in those slanting rays. I can see you both there, far away in the distance, sitting side by side. There they are, Mark with his arm round Helen’s waist, and she with her head on his shoulder. They are married now—married at last, after waiting so long—and they are so happy—so happy 1” Her eyes were fixed upon the window, and she seemed unconscious of what was passing around her as her mind wandered from realities to fancies. Helen’stears fell upon the wasted hand, which she held in hers, and lifted now and again to her lips. “ Does it make you happy to think this, Jennie dear !” she asked. “ What ?’’ cried the dying woman, as though awaking from a dream. "Happy? Oh yes. I am so happy—just as I was in those old days, when we used to play about among the bricks and ladders. Do you remember that ? And how 1 used to climb up to get at the pigeons, and you were afraid that I should fall and hurt myself, and cried ‘ Jennie, tike care ’ ? Ah! you were always so careful of me, Lennie—always—always,” " As I am now, darling, am I not ?” said Helen, pressing her hand. " Yes, now—now to the last. And do yon remember how we agreed to be always Lennie and Jennie to each other, and no one was to call you Lennie but me ? Who thought of that first ? Our names, I mean, I forget.” " 1 think it was you, dear,” said Helen. "Yes, it was my idea—all mine,” murmured Jane; "and 1 have a new idea now —a wish—will you grant it ? Both of you ?” " Anything you ask, darling, of course,” replied Helen, and Mark, too, whispered assent. " Well, then,” said Jane, turning from one to the other, " I want Mark always to call you Lennie—not Helen—but Lennie, for my sake, and to remind you of me. Will you do that, Mark "I will—always,”replied Mark earnestly. " That’s right—that’s right!” said Jane ; " and now I know you will always love one another in memory of that day when I brought you together again. You will promise me that ?” “I promise you with all my heart, dear,” cried Helen. “ And I, too/* said Mark. Then there was a pause, and Jane lay reflecting. “And promise me one thing more,” she said, “ Never speak unkindly of him. Remember be was my husband, and I loved him. Ah 1 and I think of him now with love. Poor Abel, to die so—murdered, crnelly murdered, and no one punished for it. But I forgive that man. Justice will be done to him yet. Ho will be sorry for his wickedness, I hope. Bat oh, it was cruel to kill my poor Abel !” " We will never speak unkindly of your husband,” said Mark, "Never speak of ■ him at all. If he did wrong, he has suffered for it, and so will he, no doubt, who did him wrong.” The snn had gone down, the dusk was gathering fast, and still the dying woman lay, hardly breathing, with her friends watching in silence by her side. Presently she seemed to be endeavoring to speak again, mattering words which Helen and Mark coaid not at first catch, so faint were her accents. They bent their heads down, till their faces almost touched over the face' of toe dying, and then they heard her whisper: : " Fathers will—air theirs now.!’ These were Jane Wyndls last words; her lass thought was of the good that would pome lo her dearest friends by jier death,
and bo she passed sway—happy in \ thought. They were all sorry for the poor woman, who had suffered a) long, and whose last days had been a tine of lingering pain and gradual exhaustion; but, naturally, it was Helen only who felt any acute grief at her loss. For by the death of Jane Wynd, following that *f her husband, the Musgrave family were placed in something like a position of prosperity. Under the provisions of Stephen Musgrave’s will his entire property now devolved upon his brother’s children, and it was found to be large enough to secure to every one of them, not a fortune, but a substantial income. Helen, Tessie, Ralph, and Tom all became possessed of sums which, well invested, formed handsome dowries for the girls, and gave their brothers a valuable start in life. So these dutiful sons and daughters agreed to make a liberal provision among them for the support of their parents; but with a special proviso on the part of Ralph and Tom, tacitly consented to by Helen, though earnestly protested against by Tessie, that no more money should be spent on ‘ Epics,’
There was little chance of that compact being broken. Mr Musgrave, as his affectionate wife was forced to admit, had “never been the man he was ” since he had that stroke of partial paralysis, and it was a source of sorrow both to her and Tessie that his moments of “inspiration" were becoming rarer than ever. But he managed now and then to turn out a few feeble verses, which the enthusiastic Tessie pronounced “ exquisite,” and the poet had to rest content with family fame. Mark and Helen sat one afternoon lovingly together, as they were now accustomed to do, talking, for the most part, in a very matter-of-fact way, of their future, discussing Mark’s plan of buying a new and better practice, and the many arrangements with regard to house-hunting and house-keeping necessary for their approaching settlement in life.
“ And to think,” cried Helen, “ that it is all to be so soon, and after such a long delay! It seems like a dream—l can hardly believe in its reality.” “I can,” said Mark. “There is no doubt about it this time—nothing that can possibly keep us apart.” “No, nothing,” answered Helen, She looked in his face, then cast her eyes down and gave a little sigh. Mark felt a touch of vexation. A certain feeling of discomfort always sprang up at such chance allusions to the fact that they were about to be completely united. It reminded him, as it seemed to remind her, that they were not completely united in spirit after all, and he did not like to be reminded of it. Once more for the hundredth time, he was on the point of speaking out, and once more, as when he thought of telling Mrs Fleming of his engagement, his courage failed him. The embarrassment felt on both sides was dispelled by a knock at the door and the entrance of the servant Fanny. “A lady has called asking to see you, miss,” said the girl, handing Helen a visit-ing-card. “ A lady !” echoed Helen. “ Who can it be?”
Ferhaps one of her old employers, she thought. With some of these she was still on very friendly terms, though none were to her what one had been one whom she would probably never see again, and of whom she had always thought with affectionate regret. “ La Baronne De Marne !” she said, reading the card. “A Frenchwoman, I suppose. I wonder what she can want. Well, Fanny, ask her to come up. You won’t mind my seeing her, Mark ?” she asked, when the girl had left the room. “ Not at all,” replied Mark, “ I daresay it is someone who wants me to do some more governessing,” said Helen, laughing. "It is really curious how much in demand I was as soon as I was able to • retire from business.’ Not long ago I was trying in vain to get new engagements, and lately I have had half a dozen applications for my valuable services. Such is life !” " But you would not like to go back to the old work, would you ?” asked Mark, “ It could never have been very pleasant.” “ Never,” said Helen; " never but in one instance.”
Strange that she should have happened to make this allusion to her old connection with Mrs Fleming; for at that very moment the door was opened, and who should enter the room but Mrs Fleming herself! Yes, Mrs Fleming herself, followed by Una. Both Mark and Helen sprang to their feet simultaneously, in unbounded astonishment.
“ Mrs Fie ,” cried Helen, and checked herself, remembering the strange name on the card. But there was no time for hesitation or awkwardness, as in a moment both visitors embraced her warmly and shook hands with Mark.
“ I am so glad to see you here, and both together,” cried the elderly lady. “ And I, dear miss Musgrave,” said Una. " I am so pleased to see your dear, beautiful face again. And we have such strange things to tell you.” These little preliminaries went far to relieve both Mark and Helen from the natural embarrassment they felt at this sudden meeting with their old friends, and they were curious to hear how Mrs Fleming had been converted into the Baroness De Marne.
" Well,” said the last named lady, with a pretty blush, “ I suppose you guess from my card what has happened to me. Yes,” she continued, with a little sigh, " I am married.’’
" I am indeed glad to hear that,” observed Helen ; " and who is year—the baron ?”
“ Oh, such a nice man !” Una broke in. " Do let me tell them about him, mamma. We met him some months ago at Aix-les-Biins, and ho was so kind and attentive to us. Then he fell ia love with mamma, and she ”
“ Stop, Una,” interrupted her mother, thiuking she might go too far. "He was indeed very kind to us, and little by little I got to like him very much—at any rate, well enough to consent to his proposal. And now we are married, and I love him dearly, for no one could have a better husband.”
"Butyou haven’t said what he is like, mamma,” cried Una. "You must know, Miss Musgrave, that papa—my new papa—is tall and very handsome; dark, with beautiful eyes like a stag’s. He is not quite forty years old, and is very well off, with a lovely old chateau and estate in the south of France, where you must come and see us—both of you, one of these days—musn’t they, mamma ?”
" Oh, of course!” said the baroness. “ When you are married, and I suppose you will be married soon ?”
" Yes,” replied Helen, with a side glance at Mark. “There is nothing to keep us apart now, is there, dear ?” “No, nothing,” said Mark, with a little confusion.
The baroness eyed them keenly. With her woman’s delicate instinct she was quick to detect that there was something amiss, “And you are now both completely happy ?” she asked. “ Oh, yes,” Helen answered ; " as happy as we can bo !”
“ And there is entire sympathy and confidence between you in all things, on all subjects l ” asked the baroness. Her question was put with such obvious meaning, that neither Mark nor Helen could mistake its purport. It was Mark on whom her eyes last fell, and it was he who answered her.
“ Oh, yes—l—think so,” he said. But the fair questioner was merciless. “ Not quite iu everything, eh ?” she said. “ There is a little something still that causes misunderstanding something not yet explained—l am sure there is.” Dr Elliot felt very awkward, but Helen faced the position with more courage. " Yes, Mrs Fie 1 begpardon, baroness,” she exclaimed; “ there is something that troubles both of us, and it is as much my fault as Mark’s that it is so ! lam sure you know what it is—l am sure I know what you are going to say.” “ Dear Miss Musgrave,’’cried the baroness, " it is just that which has brought mo here ! I have come all the way from France on purpose to clear up a matter which I thought might have caused you both some trouble, and I find it is so. You have been told something about me and Dr Elliot—something that would be a sort of reproach to both of us. Is not that the fact ?”
“ It is,” replied Helen. "Well,” continued the baroness, her
beautiful cheeks flushing with honest indignation, “it is not true —it is a shameful, a spiteful falsehood.” “Oh !” exclaimed Helen, “ I knew it must be so as soon as you entered this room.”
“It is,” the baroness went on; “but it was only a few days ago that I heard of it. You remember that lady’s-maid whom we turned away—Louise. Well, the other day she wrote to me in Paris, saying that she was ill and almost starving, and begged me to come and see her, as she had something to tell me—something for which she was very sorry, and which she was afraid had caused great mischief. Sol went with Una —and oh ! to such a horrid place, in a dirty back street in the Temple, and up to a room on the fifth floor, and there was that dreadful girl lying very ill on a wretched bed. I need not tell you all she said; but she confessed that out of spite for our having sent her away, she had told a person who disliked Dr Elliot that—that ” The baroness here seemed reluctant to go on, and glanced at the same time at Una, who, interpreting her hesitation, and burning to have a share in the story, exclaimed : “Oh, mamma, you needn’t be ashamed to tell it—what does it matter ? Well, that base Louise told Dr Wynd, the man who was killed, or killed himself, some time ago, that she saw mamma one day in Dr Elliot’s arms, and that ho was kissing her.” “Rut surely you never believed that, Miss Musgrave ?” asked the baroness. Had she never believed it ? Helen could not honestly declare that such was the case, and she candidly confessed as much. “Yes,” she said, “I did think it possible. I need not say why. But there, I have been very foolish in this matter. I hkd been flattering myself all my life that there was not an atom of jealousy in my disposition, and yet I have been behaving just as the most absurdly jealous person might have done. I did hear this story, and—let me tell the plain truth—l was actually afraid to ask Mark whether it was true.”
Then Dr Elliot himself came to the rescue. He would not be behind Helen in candor.
“ And I,” he said, “ while knowing, indeed hearing, this slander—never mind how—was too proud to deny it, and expected my darling girl here to ask me to declare that it was false.”
“ And have you both been in this state of misunderstanding till now?” inquired the baroness.
“Yes,” confessed Helen; “actually. We have been a couple of silly creatures, haven’t we?”
And then they all began to laugh. “ I declare !” cried Una; “it is just like what one reads about in novels, especially those novels that mamma likes best. A misunderstanding going on for ever so long, and making two people wretched, all for the want of a little explanation,” “Ah, well!" said Helen; “I suppose none of us are wiser than heroes and heroines, and neither Mark nor I have any claim to such titles.”
“Yet,” observed Una, “your story is quite a romance, and mamma comes like the good fairy in the tales to make you both quite happy—for you are quite happy now, aren't you ?” Helen answered with a glance at Mark more eloquent than words. And then she said ;
" Oh, dear, dear Mrs Fleming—there, I really can't help calling you so—you have indeed made me happy! For thanks to you my darling is all mine now, and I love him as I should never have loved him but for this."
Afterwards the conversation took a less sentimental turn, and there was much talk about the coming marriage of Mark and Helen, of the baroness’s life abroad, and Una’s progress in learning and morals. " She is such a dear girl !” cried her mother. " She is more like my friend than my daughternow. Indeed, it wasall through her that I accepted Alphonse, and she and he get on together so nicely.” “Yes,” said Una, “he makes a capital papa. He lets me do just what I like,” "Ah !” exclaimed the baroness, "a little too much in one way." "In what way ?” asked Helen curiously, "Why,” replied Una, “he quite approves of my studying for the ” " Hush, my dear!” said the baroness. ( To be continued,)
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Evening Star, Evening Star, Issue 8024, 28 September 1889, Supplement
Evening Star Evening Star, Issue 8024, 28 September 1889, Supplement
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