Chapter 160104953

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Chapter NumberXVIII
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article160104953
Full Date1884-12-27
Page Number10
Corrections37
Word Count2351
IllustratedN
Last Corrected2018-03-20
Newspaper TitleAdelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)
Trove TitleSowing the Wind
article text

CHAPTER XVIII.

It was late in the autumn when Helen returned to Onslow Court. The Colonel had been obliged to leave England for a warmer climate, whither he went in company with Mr. Disney. It was their intention to visit again that part of France which had been the scene of such villainy. It was from thence that Mr. Disney wrote to his mother.

"The facts which Mrs. Newbury and the Colonel have so persistently held to against the tide of falsehood have been so amply verified that it is of no use your holding out any longer, mother," he said. "I feel so ashamed of myself to have been so duped by that wretch who somehow passed for a gentleman, while he was the confidant and paid emissary of this wealthy villain, and who actually hired himself as a valet to the Colonel for no other purpose but to be a spy upon Miss Margrave on behalf of the man who employed him.

"The Colonel has ferreted out a priest who knew the whole affair, who indeed came to the rescue in time to frustrate the vile plot, and has made this wretch Govin (whom I recognised at once) confess to it all. The story he hatched up to me, mistaking me for Arnold, was intended to induce her friends to abandon the search by representing her— or, rather, misrepresenting her—so shame- fully. You see the description of me would agree with a likeness of Arnold a year or two ago, which likeness he must have stolen from Miss Margrave. We threatened him with the law, but that would serve no end now, but I felt very much inclined to give him as good a flogging as I believe the Colonel administered to his master. That Marquis

has now become a miserable recluse in his own castle, bestowing most of his wealth on

his Church."

The low nervous fever from which Helen was slowly recovering had precluded all agi- tating topics of conversation; therefore, the names of Arnold Wanford or of Mrs. Disney, whose advent had happened after Helen's departure, had been carefully avoided.

"I am thankful," said Mrs. Newbury to the dowager, "that the knowledge of this dis- cussion about Helen, and all this sifting which has been necessary to convince you, should have been spared her. She has heard nothing of it all, but only fled when she recognised your son. Strange to say, she did not know him for some time under the disguises of name, profession, and I suppose added years."

Mrs. Disney, feeling ashamed of her in- justice, endeavoured to call upon and renew her acquaintance with Helen. This was not, however, accomplished easily or quickly, for

as Helen became convalescent she avoided

seeing any one. Only the dear old Earl was comforted again by her return.

"Yes, my dear," he said, stroking her hand as she sat in her old place by his arm- chair, "I am indeed glad to have you back. You cannot tell how much I have missed you."

To any callers, or to invitations, Helen always excused herself, on the ground that she felt too weak for any society whatever. In quiet country drives with Mrs. Newbury, or in attendance at church, was all she saw

of the outer world.

The Rector had called several times, osten- sibly to see the Earl; but Mrs. Newbury was convinced that these visits were vain attempts

to see Helen.

"Who could have supposed," Mrs. New- bury said in a letter to her brother, "that this broken chain should be so difficult to link again?"

Yet so it proved, and so matters remained all through that dreary winter.

The accounts of the Colonel's health were more cheering; he had much revived, and intended returning home at the beginning of the returning summer.

As the time approached many were the plans and arrangements devised and made for his greater comfort or his amusement at

the Court.

The Earl himself became quite fidgety in anticipation of his nephew's return; for these two, his brother's children, were all the ties of blood which remained to him.

But when the Colonel did come home all

the hopes which had been raised by those glowing accounts of his fitful change for the better when on the Continent were dashed to the ground by one glance at his poor haggard face and attenuated form, marking the certain progress of the fatal disease.

How tenderly those two women helped to nurse him! How thoughtfully forestalled every possible requirement. He had not yet, however, taken entirely to his room, but was carried daily into another which had a plea- sant aspect, where he lay upon an easy

couch.

"Will you stay with poor Edgar a few hours this afternoon, Helen, dear, in my place?" asked Mrs. Newbury. "I have some Indian letters which must be finished at

once."

"Certainly; I am only too glad to be of

use."

Accordingly Helen devoted herself to the Colonel for the rest of the day, until his

own faithful servant should take him in charge.

He liked her reading to him—talking to him, but he could not bear one or the other for long together; but to-day he appeared better, and asked her to sit down to the harp in the anteroom. Helen willingly complied, staring a plaintive air in a low sweet tone. He lay watching her, and as she ended beckoned her near to him. As she approached he caught her hand, holding it in his, and looking up in her face he said, "Helen! dear Helen!—I shall not long be able to speak to you at all—perhaps my time

is shorter than even I can realize. But know- ing it is short, I may talk to you with more freedom than I should otherwise do. Had I the prospect of a long life before me I could not hope for happiness without you, but should learn to be content if by resigning you I could ensure yours.

He paused, and looked wistfully into her face, then added, "Your allegiance to one has been the barrier to any other love. Pardon me; it is my intense interest in you, and a desire to further your happiness which emboldens me. Have you then changed? Has the seeing him again dispelled the fascina-

tion?"

While he had continued speaking, Helen had sunk into a low seat at his side, her

elbow on his couch, her face averted, and resting on her hand.

"Oh no, no," she groaned, "it is not so at all—I am but reaping as I have sown. My one false step forfeited for me the good opinion of all good people. But for dear Mrs. Newbury I should never have regained my place in society at all."

"Oh, Helen! Helen! had your heart been free, and life granted me, and it had been possible for you to have taken me for what I am worth, your return home would have been under another aspect—I could have saved you from all this trouble."

"Ah, yes! but the simple impossibility of forgetting has been the very means of my own punishment."

At this moment a violent fit of coughing seized him, while blood poured from his mouth. Hurriedly Helen rang the bell, quickly bringing assistance, and in a little time the doctor arrived.

"Ah!" said the latter, shaking his head sadly, "I had feared this crisis."

For days he lay prostrate entirely, his sister never leaving him, even when a trained nurse was in attendance; but when he re- vived a little she consented to rest for a short time, when Helen took her place. During this watch Mr. Wanford entered. Helen was about to retire when the Colonel gently de- tained her, begging her to stay, so she quietly sat down again, and presently joined in the sacred service which the poor dying man had desired. When that was ended a silence for some time ensued, which was broken by the Colonel as he opened his eyes resting them on

Helen.

He spoke feebly and with many pauses, and as if unconscious of any presence but hers.

"Yes, yes," he cried, "I see it all now. It was best that it should have been so, and yet I have thought it hard that such happiness should have been denied me. I have loved you long—long. I would have been content if I could only have called you wife, and would have waited to win your love by slow degrees. I have wished you less true—less steadfast, for my sake, and it has passed—my life has passed, and I can see that a higher love, a more lasting happiness, remains in-

stead."

Helen had been sitting at his side when he began to speak, and listened, not knowing what he was about to say. As he continued, she buried her face in her hands, unable to move or disturb what appeared almost a soliloquy.

Arnold Wanford stood on the other side,

also listening as if spellbound. The Colonel ceased speaking, and appeared to be sinking into a doze. Then Helen quietly stole from

the room to see him no more in life.

When the sad funeral was over Onslow Court was partially shut up. The physician insisting on entire change of scene for Mrs. Newbury, she and the Earl went to the Isle of Wight. Helen helped as much as possible to hasten her friend's departure, she herself remaining behind for a few days to complete in her stead some household arrangements.

It was late in the afternoon preceding that projected for her own journey to the Isle of Wight to join her friends. Helen was return- ing across the park from a last visit from Mrs. Wilson. Emerging from the shade of an avenue and ascending a rising ground she paused to admire an unusualy brilliant

sunset.

Tired with her walk she sat herself upon a small mound to rest, a sense of loneliness depressing her, when a step aroused her, and a voice struck a chord in her heart, vibrating through her frame. She rose, and en- deavoured with difficulty to conceal her trembling, yet with cold mein and blanched

face.

"Miss Margrave—Helen," said Arnold

Wanford, "I have determined at last to brave your avoidance and know the worst, to learn if you will not, cannot possibly for- give me. Believe me; believe me, Helen, that the memory of you—even though I supposed you dead to me, has never been re- placed — no other woman has ever for one instant held your place in

my heart. Even when I thought myself bound to meet you with coldness my heart strove to refute the accusations which my reason was forced to receive; but it was torture, agony, to act so; but my grief and remorse for such misconception—will they avail nothing with you?" he pleaded, looking beseechingly at her.

"Yet when I answered your appeal through the papers: when l wrote to you that long letter explaining my purpose—my deter- mination to retain my own self-respect and earn my own bread honestly and honourably, wild scheme as it was—it yet should have moved to you my integrity of purpose.

What I said then I have carried out; at least there is no one action of the past which may not be brought to the light of day. You might, knowing me as you did, have believed that

letter and trusted me for the rest."

"I received no letter, Helen, but an envelope directed to me in your handwriting, contain- ing only a blank sheet; this, I supposed, was sent as a taunt, a mockery for the distress

and grief I was suffering for your loss. I felt

that you must indeed be changed; that your heart had become hard and cold.

Helen remembered the Marquis's confes- sion in regard to the letter, and saw at once the duplicity and treachery which had been practised.

A cry, most pathetic in its distress, broke from her, more convincing than any assevera- tions could have been of her innocence.

"Oh, Arnold! Arnold! Did you—could you believe this?"

"Helen!—Helen, my love!—my own!" was the quick response.

Surely the remainder need not be told, for the history she had to relate to him we know

so well.

She had "sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind," but it had swept past, and had left a calm.

Helen took her departure the next day to join her friends, but this time her journey was neither lonely nor unpleasant.