« PreviousContinue »
“My dearie, no, no mistake to come woman who loved her best in the to Catherine. Oh, my lamb. Oh! my world. lady, no, no, it's all safe here. “But he must never know, Catherine. Catherine is all alone-there's no Oh, if I had only known you lived one else. Come to the fire—you won't here I should have missed this happy mind the kitchen, Miss Helen, hour you've given me, for I shouldn't and here's tea, for you're cold and have come! Now, I must go, and shivering."
must go back to London." "Are you sure you're alone, Cather- "I am coming with you, Miss Helen. ine? I couldn't come in if you weren't. No, I will come. I couldn't let you go I only got your address to-day, and I alone." thought you were in your own home. So the two women left the house. Whose house is it? I wanted to rest Mrs. Smith turned back after they had quietly for a little, and I've brought a gone a hundred yards or so and went handbag so that I might stay with to the stables. There she gave my you."
groom the house key, charging him to And Catherine told her whose house wait till she came back, and an hour it was.
“But you've come to see me, and a half later her dear Helen was Miss Helen, nobody but me. I know back in her "home" in London, lying that. And when you've had your tea dry-eyed in her bed waiting for the and are warm, we will talk it all over dawn. and settle what you are going to do. I came home the next day. Life Now don't cry, my dearie, it's only stu- went on in its usual channels, and pid old Catherine fussing about you Christmas was approaching. It was and you're cold. Catherine is going to unusually cold and wet, rain and snow take your shoes off and warm those alternating, till the river was in flood poor chilled feet. You must have and the country almost too deep to ride come by train," and the poor woman over. The river runs past the back of talked on to hide her horror and dis- my house, at the bottom of a steep hill, tress, and to give herself time to on which, sloping to the sun, is my think and plan for her dear little girl kitchen-garden. There is a rough road as she ever called her in her heart. She that was formerly a tow-path between was the Catherine from whom Helen my garden wall and the river, and had parted years ago in my mother's there is a door in the wall leading on house.
to it by four or five downward steps. "No, now, Miss Helen, you must The poorer part of the town lies a littrust me. I'll never tell any one. We tle way up-stream; and, down-stream, must get you warm and strong before the road leads to some brickfields and the seven o'clock train and then we the railway embankment. will go together. No one will come in Late in December I was dining at the till then; the stablemen have their tea barracks one night, and was to dress in their own room and don't come in there, to save myself the trouble of gotill supper-time, and then you and I ing home and turning out again. will be gone. Now, rest in that chair," Clarke had taken on my things, and and Catherine turned down the gas Mrs. Smith was alone in the house. and made the warm kitchen dim in the There was a knock at the door, and in firelight to hide those tears that wrung a moment she knew what had hapher very soul to see.
pened, and in another moment her dear And the poor tired girl rested for an Helen was in her arms again. She hour in my house, tended by the was very pale and very calm.
“Yes, Catherine, I knew this time whose house it was. I have to see him. Some one must protect me now, and I know nobody but him and you."
"Oh my dearie, come in and let us think what's best,” and, supporting her, Mrs. Smith led this poor child into the kitchen again, and darkened it and fussed round her, searching and craying for some guidance in this hopeless trouble.
They had been there less than an hour when Helen started up as a man's footsteps passed the window on the gravel-walk and the dog rose growling and moved towards the front hall.
"Oh! Catherine, some one is coming. You mustn't let him in. What shall I do?"
Silent and absolutely calm, Mrs. Smith took her to the back stairs and pointed to the door of a room at the top. It was her own bedroom.
"Go in there."
Swiftly she went herself to the front door and opened it. Through the wet fog she saw the figure of a man she recognized. He asked if I was at home.
"No, sir, he is not. He is dining out and will not be home till late. Would you please to leave any message?" she asked, as the man hesitated and had no card to hand her.
He was silent a moment, and then, with an oath, said-yes, he had a message. "There is some one in this house I want to see. I don't believe he is dining out,” and he strode into the hall. Mrs. Smith could see he had been drinking, and was livid with passion as well, but she kept very still.
"You must be making some mistake, sir. There is no one here. My master is dining at the barracks, and his servant has taken his things there. You will find him there if you like to call; it is not far. Or would you like to come in and write a note?''
He hesitated. Yes, he would come
in; and tre passed into my sitting-room and looked round. Mrs. Smith had taken in a lamp from the ball, and then she opened the door that led into my dining-room; that, too, was dark and empty.
He cursed again as he took up a piece of paper from my writing-table and then threw it down. He got up and swung round to the door and out into the hall. There he listened a moment, and then Mrs. Smith's face paled, but she stood quite still. He cursed again, and asked the way to the barracks--no, to the railway station,-in that damned fog who could find his way?
"The station, sir? Oh, well, that's not far at all, but the road is full of turns; and if you would like to go a straighter way. I can let you out by the garden-gate. If you had a train to catch, it might be better.' Would you come this way?" And she moved to the door leading to the garden. He followed her, and she passed rapidly on, down the slope of the garden, to the river door.
“This way, sir; you come to the railway a little way down. You can see the lights now.
If you follow the road it brings you to the station." This was true, but it was to Tatfield Station, our junction, and three miles away.
She was holding the door open for him to pass on to the steps. He moved through it, looked down the stream, and, misliking the blackness of the road, he turned to repass into the garden, saying he would rather go by the way he came. In an instant the heavy door swung round with tremendous force, struck him on the outstretched hand and full on the face. He crashed down the steps, with an oath for every step, and as he collected himself and gained his feet, to find the door firm and blank, Mrs. Smith was coursing up the patlr swifter than one
can tell it and back into the house. he could be useful-there are times, "Miss Helen, come at once.
you know, when he really is a prop! catch the train, and we must get to “When we got to the house the servLondon and then think what to do. ant said Helen had come home about This is no place for you to-night, Miss nine o'clock and gone straight to her Helen."
room, saying she was tired and would Swiftly she dressed for the journey. not come down. She had been out In two minutes she was with Helen in since afternoon. He did not know the road, and then went back to warn where she had dined. She had left no my men in the stable that she should message about me, and I was rather be away till late; would they tell me if hesitating what to do, and Robert I came in before she returned.
said, as she had gone to her room two When I got home at midnight Mrs. hours before, she was probably sound Smith was there, and hot soup was asleep by then, and there must be some ready for me by my fire, ar the house mistake about the note. That seemed was as ordered and comfortable as she reasonable, and just as we were leavalways made it.
ing, a cab drove up to the door and
there was a fuss and bother about getIt was a Friday night that I dined ting something out of it. A policeat the barracks: on Sunday morning I man who had come in it was pulling had a letter from Lady Colesden: and tugging, and presently there
emerged the figure of Helen's husband. "I think I ought to write and let you "It was here that I began to be most know what is happening to Helen, sincerely thankful that I had had the since you and I are perhaps the pear- foresight to bring Robert with me. We est approach to real relations she has could see some of the trouble at once. in the world. You know I have The man had been drinking; he was scarcely seen her for years.
drenched (you know what a night it poor cousin died and that idiot of a was); he was covered with mud, and father of hers let Helen make that de- his face was dreadfully bruised on one plorable marriage-of course he didn't side and his right hand damaged. know what he was doing, but any one Robert is capital when things get tanbut an idiot would have known: I gled, and he took charge of the situanever had any patience with the man- tion at once. He found the policeman Helen has been more and more difficult was a railway man—they had discovto find, and for several years now she ered the wretch in a first-class carhas kept away from us quite point- riage of the train at Paddington, and edly.
She is a perfect dear and it he was just able to say he had come broke niy heart to think why it was. from Tatfield but could give no
"Well, last night, imagine my aston- count of his injuries; but he gave his ishment when I got home from dining address. out. There was a very untidy note "Robert and I both had misgivings scribbled in pencil, and Hicks said a while the policeman was speaking that street messenger brought it about ten the man was really ill as well as bato'clock. It wasn't signed, but asked tered, and though I wouldn't have me to go at once to Eaton Place to touched him with the tongs otherwise, Helen's house, as some one should be that somehow did compel me to see with her.
what I could do for him when we had “I didn't quite like it, so I thought got him on to a sofa in the library. I would take Robert with me in case Robert simply enveloped that police.
isn't ill, and you needn't be anxious about her at present. She is nursing the man as if he had been a model of all the virtues all the time.
"I will tell you if there is any change. I have written folios, and must stop and try to get the dear thing to rest a little. And you are not to come now, Helen says. She would rather see you later on. Also, I would rather not share her with anybody at present, so you see I am not loth to pass you on her order.
I don't seem to have any time to attend even to Robert and the children at present.
“But who in creation was it that sent me that note telling me to come here? ? ?"
man in the necessity for letting nothing get into the papers, and talked about the chairman of the railway whom he meant to see about it all in the morning; then he sent the footman for a doctor, while I prevented any one going upstairs to Helen till we knew what was wrong.
"Well, my dear friend, it was a positive relief to me when the doctor came and said the man was very seriously ill. I felt so dreadfully afraid he was going to say I was wasting my sympathies and energies on the animal's disgusting habitual state.
"Then we had him carried up to his room, and I sent for Helen's maid to tell Helen I was downstairs. There I sat wondering whether she had a servant in the house who was any sort of comfort to her, and grudging you old Mrs. Smith, who used to be with her, as I daresay you know, when she was a child, till Alice died and that sepseless father of Helen's broke up the household and sent her back to Lark's Lacey and I took her as housemaid.
"Helen came down at last, but, of course, she had heard them moving in his room and had been in there to see. So she knew before I saw her, and it was evidently a fearful shock. I have never seen any one look so worn and broken, and she was so dear and nice to me.
"I came over to her this morning after I had been home for breakfast and a change of raiment, and here I am. Helen has been with him nearly all day. The doctor says he must have been in a bad state of health for a long time, and the chill he has had will be very hard to recover from. The shock of the injuries is severe, and that is what prevents him being clear enough to tell how he came by them and what he was doing at Tatfield-if by chance he wanted to enlighten us: perhaps he doesn't.
“Helen is well; that is to say, she
Mrs. Smith did not come for orders next morning, and, as there was some household thing I had to tell her about, I sent for her. Then I told her I had bad news from Lady Colesden of Helen's husband, and that I had heard for the first time that she had been Helen's maid long ago.
“Yes, sir, and I was very fond of the young lady, sir-very fond. And I am very sorry, sir, if she is in any trouble. I would be pleased if you would tell me if you hear again. And what would you like done with the woodcock, sir? Shall I cook them tonight, or keep them till next week?"
Mrs. Smith had changed the subject.
Three days later came another letter from Lady Colesden.
"It is nearly all over-the doctors say to-night must end it. Helen is very brave. She has been with him all day, and he is quite himself now and able to talk. They have been alone together, and she seems thankful and relieved, but inexpressibly sad.
I suppose if I see much more of her I shall begin to be sorry he is going to die.”
Summer came and went, and autumn
was fading into early sunsets and pay for her devotion and strength of frosty mornings, and I was wonder- purpose and loving care. ing whether I really took any interest
"You're not sending me away,
Miss in the General Election that was shak- Helen?" (She never would call Helen ing the country, or not. Looking back, by her first married name, or any verI know that I took none. But one day, sion of it, if she could help it.) “Oh, having waded through the mass of don't send me away! I only came to election news in the paper, I came on a you, sir, because I knew you were Miss paragraph in the personal column say- Helen's friend. And if I may stay, ing that Helen had gone to Alderholt. don't, please, Miss Helen, ever talk
In ten minutes I had forgotten the about all that. You see, sir, I am just meeting that evening at which I was your servant, and hers, and if you to speak in support of our ardent Jingo were to make any difference with me I candidate, and was on my way to couldn't be still her servant. All I shire.
want is to stay and work for her. I've I found Helen, and told her I could had trouble myself in my time. I wait no longer.
knew, sir, that when a person's trouble When we had settled one or two in- is at its worst, there is something comteresting matters, she told me the ing to help. It was like that with whole story of Mrs. Smith's—Cather
It was nothing I did-nothing. ine's—action of those fatal days. At And please, Miss Helen, never speak of the end her husband had recounted it it again-oh, never, never!" all to her—his awful purpose in fol- And the strong woman broke down, lowing her to my house, after he knew and we were fain to let her have her he had driven her by his cruelty to go; way. the servant-woman's treatment of the So she stayed till she died; and I problem that faced her. He begged know that if Helen had a devoted Helen's forgiveness, and she gave it. husband-and I hope she had-she had She had told him all that she did on an old servant-woman who loved her that unhappy day, and how the loyal
And while that old servant woman had shielded her from danger lived, the story she would never bear and from every breath of ill as far as to have told was heard by none. lay in her resolute soul to do it.
Now it is written only that those And then-what could we do, we three children of her beloved mistress two together, to recompense such de -she nursed them all through childvoted service?
hood; and I can think of no one else Just before we were married we to whom their mother would have enmade her come and see us, and told trusted them--may know how much her we knew all she had done—that we they owe to Mrs. Smith. owed her more than we could ever re
C. H. B. Blackwood's Magazine.