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Foul Play

Part 7 out of 10

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There was a thrilling murmur on board; and, after a pause of surprise,
the question was answered by a loud cheer and waving of hats.

The reply was perfectly understood; almost immediately a boat was lowered
by some novel machinery and pulled toward the steamer. There were two men
in it, the skipper and the negro. The skipper came up the side of the
_Springbok._ He was loosely dressed in some light drab-colored stuff and
a huge straw hat; a man with a long Puritanical head, a nose inclined to
be aquiline, a face bronzed by weather and heat, thin, resolute lips, and
a square chin. But for a certain breadth between his keen gray eyes,
which revealed more intellect than Cromwell's Ironsides were encumbered
with, he might have passed for one of that hard-praying, hard-hitting
fraternity.

He came on deck, just touched his hat, as if to brush away a fly, and,
removing an enormous cigar from his mouth, said, "Wal, and so this is the
_Springbok._ Spry little boat she is; how many knots can ye get out of
her now? Not that I am curious."

"About twelve knots."

"And when the steam's off the bile, how many can you sail? Not that it is
my business."

"Eight or nine. What _is_ your business?"

"Hum! You have been over _some_ water looking for that gal. Where do ye
hail from last?"

"The Society Islands. Did you board me to hear me my catechism?"

"No, I am not one of your prying sort. Where are ye bound for now?"

"I am bound for Easter Island."

"Have you heard anything of the gal?"

"No."

"And when do ye expec' to go back to England as wise as ye came?"

"Never while the ship can swim," cried Moreland angrily, to hide his
despondency from this stranger. "And now it is my turn, I think. What
schooner is this? by whom commanded, and whither bound?"

"The _Julia Dodd;_ Joshua Fullalove; bound for Juan Fernandez with the
raw material of civilization--look at the varmint skippin'--and a
printing-press; an' that's the instrument of civilization, I rather
think."

"Well, sir; and why in Heaven's name did you change your course?"

"Wal, I reckon I changed it--to tell you a lie."

"To tell us a lie?"

"Ay; the darnedest etarnal lie that ever came out of a man's mouth. Fust,
there's an unknown island somewheres about. That's a kinder flourish
beforehand. On that island there's an English gal wrecked."

Exclamations burst forth on every side at this.

"And she is so tarnation 'cute, she is flying ducks all over creation
with a writing tied to their legs, telling the tale, and setting down the
longitude. There, if that isn't a buster, I hope I may never live to tell
another."

"God bless you, sir," cried the general. "Where is the island?"

"What island?"

"The island where my child is wrecked."

"What, are you the gal's father?" said Joshua, with a sudden touch of
feeling.

"I am, sir. Pray withhold nothing from me you know."

"Why, cunule," said the Yankee, soothingly; "don't I tell you it's a
buster? However, the lie is none o' mine, it's that old cuss Skinflint
set it afloat; he is always pisoning these peaceful waters."

Rolleston asked eagerly who Skinflint was, and where he could be found.

"Wal, he is a sorter sea Jack-of-all-trades, etarnally cruising about to
buy gratis--those he buys of call it stealing. Got a rotten old cutter,
manned by his wife and fam'ly. They get coal out of me for fur, and sell
the coal at double my price; they kill seals and dress the skins aboard;
kill fish and salt 'em aboard. Ye know when that fam'ly is at sea by the
smell that pervades the briny deep an' heralds their approach. Yesterday
the air smelt awful. So I said to Vespasian here, 'I think that sea-skunk
is out, for there's something a-pisoning the cerulean waves an'
succumambient air.' We hadn't sailed not fifty miles more before we run
agin him. Their clothes were drying all about the rigging. Hails me, the
varmint does. Vesp and I, we work the printing-press together, an' so
order him to looward, not to taint our Otaheitans, that stink of ile at
home, but I had 'em biled before I'd buy 'em, an' now they're vilets.
'Wal now, Skinflint,' says I; 'I reckon you're come to bring me that
harpoon o' mine you stole last time you was at my island?' 'I never saw
your harpoon,' says he; 'I want to know have you come across the
_Springbok?'_ 'Mebbe I have,' says I; 'why do you ask?' 'Got news for
her,' says he; 'and can't find her nowheres.' So then we set to and
fenced a bit; and this old varmint, to put me off the truth, told me the
buster. A month ago or more he was boarded--by a duck. And this yar duck
had a writing tied to his leg, and this yar writing said an English gal
was wrecked on an island, and put down the very longitude. 'Show me that
duck,' says I, ironical. 'D'ye take us for fools?' says he; 'we ate the
duck for supper.' 'That was like ye,' says I; 'if an angel brought your
pardon down from heights celestial, you'd roast him, and sell his
feathers for swan's-down; mebbe ye ate the writing? I know y' are a
hungry lot.' 'The writing is in my cabin,' says he. 'Show it me,' says I,
'an' mebbe I'll believe ye.' No, the cuss would only show it to the
_Springbok;_ 'there's a reward,' says he. 'What's the price of a soul
aboard your cutter?' I asked him. 'Have you parted with yours, as you
want to buy one?' says he. 'Not one as would carry me right slick away to
everlasting blazes,' says I. So then we said good-morning, and he bore
away for Valparaiso. Presently I saw your smoke, and that you would never
overhaul old Stinkamalee on that track; so I came about. Now I tell _you_
that old cuss knows where the gal is, and mebbe got her tied hand and fut
in his cabin. An' I'm kinder sot on English gals; they put me in mind of
butter and honey. Why, my schooner is named after one. So now, cunule,
clap on steam for Valparaiso, and you'll soon overhaul the old stink-pot.
You may know him by the brown patch in his jib-sail, the ontidy varmint.
Pull out your purse and bind him to drop lying about ducks and geese, and
tell you the truth; he knows where your gal is, I swan. Wal, ye needn't
smother me." For by this time he was the center of a throng, all pushing
and driving to catch his words.

Captain Moreland begged him to step down into his cabin, and there the
general thanked him with great warmth and agitation for his humanity. "We
will follow your advice at once," he said. "Is there anything I can offer
you, without offense?"

"Wal," drawled the Yankee, "I guess not. Business an' sentiment won't mix
nohow. Business took me to the island, sentiment brought me here. I'll
take a shake-hand all round. And if y' have got live fowls to spare, I'll
be obliged to you for a couple. Ye see I'm colonizing that darned island;
an' sowing in with grain, an' Otaheitans, an' niggers, an' Irishmen, an'
all the cream o' creation; an' I'd be glad of a couple o' Dorkins to crow
the lazy varmint up."

This very moderate request was heartily complied with, and the
acclamation and cheers of the crew followed this strange character to his
schooner, at which his eye glistened and twinkled with quiet
satisfaction, but he made it a point of honor not to move a muscle.

Before he could get under way, the _Springbok_ took a circuit, and,
passing within a hundred yards of him, fired a gun to leeward by way of
compliment, set a cloud of canvas, and tore through the water at her
highest speed. Outside the port of Valparaiso she fell in with Skinflint,
and found him not quite so black as he was painted. The old fellow showed
some parental feeling, produced the bag at once to General Rolleston, and
assured him a wearied duck had come on board, and his wife had detached
the writing.

They took in coal; and then ran westward once more, every heart beating
high with confident hope.

CHAPTER XLVIII.

HELEN'S act was strange, and demands a word of explanation. If she had
thought the steamboat was a strange vessel, she would have lighted the
bonfire; if she had known her father was on board, she would have lighted
it with joy. But Hazel, whose every word now was gospel, had said it was
Arthur Wardlaw in that boat, searching for her.

Still, so strong is the impulse in all civilized beings to get back to
civilization, that she went up that hill as honestly intending to light
the bonfire as Hazel intended it to be lighted. But, as she went, her
courage cooled, and her feet began to go slowly, as her mind ran swiftly
forward to consequence upon consequence. To light that bonfire was to
bring Arthur Wardlaw down upon herself and Hazel living alone and on
intimate terms. Arthur would come and claim her to his face. Could she
disallow his claim? Gratitude would now be on his side as well as good
faith. What a shock to Arthur! What torture for Hazel! torture that he
foresaw, or why the face of anguish, that dragged even now at her
heart-strings? And then it could end only in one way; she and Hazel would
leave the island in Arthur's ship. What a voyage for all three! She stood
transfixed by shame; her whole body blushed at what she saw coming. Then
once more Hazel's face rose before her; poor crippled Hazel! her hero and
her patient. She sat down and sighed, and could no more light the fire
than she could have put it out if another had lighted it.

She was a girl that could show you at times she had a father as well as a
mother. But that evening she was all woman.

They met no more that night.

In the morning his face was haggard, and showed a mental struggle; but
hers placid and quietly beaming, for the very reason that she had made a
great sacrifice. She was one of that sort.

And this difference between them was a foretaste.

His tender conscience pricked him sore. To see her sit beaming there,
when, if he had done his own duty with his own hands she would be on her
way to England! Yet his remorse was dumb; for, if he gave it vent, then
he must seem ungrateful to her for _her_ sacrifice.

She saw his deep and silent compunction, approved it secretly; said
nothing, but smiled, and beamed, and soothed. He could not resist this;
and wild thrills of joy and hope passed through him, visions of unbroken
bliss far from the world.

But this sweet delirium was followed by misgivings of another kind. And
here _she_ was at fault. What could they be?

It was the voice of conscience telling him that he was really wining her
love, once inaccessible; and, if so, was bound to tell her his whole
story, and let her judge between him and the world, before she made any
more sacrifices for him. But it is hard to stop great happiness; harder
to stop it and ruin it. Every night, as he lay alone, he said, "To-morrow
I will tell her all, and make her the judge." But in the morning her
bright face crushed his purpose by the fear of clouding it. His limbs got
strong and his heart got weak. And they used to take walks, and her head
came near his shoulder. And the path of duty began to be set thicker than
ever with thorns; and the path of love with primroses. One day she made
him sit to her for his portrait; and, under cover of artistic enthusiasm,
told him his beard was godlike, and nothing in the world could equal it
for beauty. She never saw but one at all like it, poor Mr. Seaton's; but
even that was very inferior to his. And then she dismissed the sitter.
"Poor thing," said she, "you are pale and tired." And she began to use
ornaments; took her bracelets out of her bag, and picked pearls out of
her walls, and made a coronet, under which her eyes flashed at night with
superlative beauty--conscious beauty brightened by the sense of being
admired and looked at by the eye she desired to please.

She revered him. He had improved her character, and she knew it, and
often told him so.

"Call me Hazelia," she said; "make me liker you still."

One day, he came suddenly through the jungle, and found her reading her
prayer-book.

He took it from her, not meaning to be rude, neither, but inquisitive.

It was open at the marriage-service, and her cheeks were dyed scarlet.

His heart panted. He was a clergyman; he could read that service over
them both.

Would it be a marriage?

Not in England; but in some countries it would. Why not in this? This was
not England.

He looked up. Her head was averted; she was downright distressed.

He was sorry to have made her blush; so he took her hand and kissed it
tenderly, so tenderly that his heart seemed to go into his lips. She
thrilled under it, and her white brow sank upon his shoulder.

The sky was a vault of purple with a flaming topaz in the center; the
sea, a heavenly blue; the warm air breathed heavenly odors; flaming
macaws wheeled overhead; humming-birds, more gorgeous than any flower,
buzzed round their heads, and amazed the eye with delight, then cooled it
with the deep green of the jungle into which they dived.

It was a Paradise with the sun smiling down on it, and the ocean smiling
up, and the air impregnated with love. Here they were both content now to
spend the rest of their days--

"The world forgetting; by the world forgot."

CHAPTER XLIX.

THE _Springbok_ arrived in due course at longitude 103 deg. 31 min., but
saw no island. This was dispiriting; but still Captain Moreland did not
despair.

He asked General Rolleston to examine the writing casefully, and tell him
was that Miss Rolleston's handwriting.

The general shook his head sorrowfully. "No," said he; "it is nothing
like my child's hand."

"Why, all the better," said Captain Moreland; "the lady has got somebody
about her who knows a thing or two. The man that could catch wild ducks
and turn 'em into postmen could hit on the longitude somehow; and he
doesn't pretend to be exact in the latitude."

Upon this he ran northward four hundred miles; which took him three days;
for they stopped at night.

No island.

He then ran south five hundred miles; stopping at night.

No island.

Then he took the vessel zigzag.

Just before sunset, one lovely day, the man at the mast-head sang out:

"On deck there!"

"Hullo!"

"Something in sight; on our weather-bow."

"What is it?"

"Looks like a mast. No. Don't know what it is."

"Point."

The sailor pointed with his finger.

Captain Moreland ordered the ship's course to be altered accordingly. By
this time General Rolleston was on deck. The ship ran two miles on the
new course; and all this time the topman's glass was leveled, and the
crew climbed about the rigging all eyes and ears.

At last the clear hail came down.

"I can make it out now, sir."

"What is it?

"It is a palm-tree."

The captain jumped on a gun, and waved his hat grandly, and instantly the
vessel rang with a lusty cheer; and, for once, sailors gabbled like
washerwomen.

They ran till they saw the island in the moonlight, and the giant palm,
black, and sculptured out of the violet sky; then they set the lead
going, and it warned them not to come too close. They anchored off the
west coast.

A daybreak they moved slowly on, still sounding as they went; and,
rounding the West Point, General Rolleston saw written on the guanoed
rocks in large letters

AN ENGLISH LADY WRECKED HERE.
HASTE TO HER RESCUE.

He and Moreland shook hands; and how their eyes glistened!

Presently there was a stranger inscription still upon the rocks--a rough
outline of the island on an enormous scale, showing the coast-line, the
reefs, the shallow water, and the deep water.

"Ease her! Stop her!"

The captain studied this original chart with his glass, and crept slowly
on for the west passage.

But, warned by the soundings marked on the rock, he did not attempt to go
through the passage, but came to an anchor, and lowered his boat.

The sailors were all on the _qui vive_ to land, but the captain, to their
infinite surprise, told them only three persons would land that
morning--himself, his son, and General Rolleston.

The fact is, this honest captain had got a misgiving, founded on a
general view of human nature. He expected to find the girl with two or
three sailors, one of them united to her by some nautical ceremony, duly
witnessed, but such as a _military_ officer of distinction could hardly
be expected to approve. He got into the boat in a curious state of
delight, dashed with uncomfortable suspense; and they rowed gently for
the west passage.

As for General Rolleston, now it was he needed all his fortitude. Suppose
the lady was not Helen! After all, the chances were against her being
there. Suppose she was dead and buried in that island! Suppose that fatal
disease, with which she had sailed, had been accelerated by hardships,
and Providence permitted him only to receive her last sigh. All these
misgivings crowded on him the moment he drew so near the object which had
looked all brightness so long as it was unattainable. He sat pale and
brave in the boat; but his doubts and fears were greater than his hope.

They rounded Telegraph Point, and in a moment Paradise Bay burst on them,
and Hazel's boat within a hundred yards of them. It was half-tide. They
beached the boat and General Rolleston landed. Captain Moreland grasped
his hand, and said, "Call us if it is all right."

General Rolleston returned the pressure of that honest hand, and marched
up the beach just as if he was going into action.

He came to the boat. It had an awning over the stern, and was clearly
used as a sleeping-place. A series of wooden pipes standing on uprights
led from this up to the cliff. The pipes were in fact mere sections of
the sago-tree with the soft pith driven out. As this was manifestly a
tube of communication, General Rolleston followed it until he came to a
sort of veranda with a cave opening on it; he entered the cave, and was
dazzled by its most unexpected beauty. He seemed to be in a gigantic
nautilus. Roof and sides, and the very chimney, were one blaze of
mother-of-pearl. But, after the first start, brighter to him was an old
shawl he saw on a nail; for that showed it was a woman's abode. He tore
down the old shawl and carried it to the light. He recognized it as
Helen's. Her rugs were in a corner; he rushed in, and felt them all over
with trembling hands. They were still warm, though she had left her bed
some time. He came out wild with joy, and shouted to Moreland, "She is
alive! She is alive! She is alive!" Then fell on his knees and thanked
God.

A cry came down to him from above. He looked up as he knelt, and there
was a female figure dressed in white, stretching out its hands as if it
would fly down to him. Its eyes gleamed; he knew them all that way off.
He stretched out his hands as eloquently, and then he got up to meet her;
but the stout soldier's limbs were stiffer than of old; and he got up so
slowly, that, ere he could take a step, there came flying to him, with
little screams and inarticulate cries, no living skeleton, nor
consumptive young lady, but a grand creature, tanned here and there, rosy
as the morn, and full of lusty vigor; a body all health, strength, and
beauty, a soul all love. She flung herself all over him, in a moment,
with cries of love unspeakable; and then it was, "Oh, my darling, my
darling! Oh, my own, own! Ha, ha, ha, ha! Oh, oh, oh, oh! Is it you? is
it? can it? Papa! Papa!" then little convulsive hands patting him, and
feeling his beard and shoulders; then a sudden hail of violent kisses on
his head, his eyes, his arms, his hands, his knees. Then a stout soldier,
broken down by this, and sobbing for joy. "Oh, my child! My flesh and
blood! Oh, oh, oh!" Then all manhood melted away except paternity; and a
father turned mother, and clinging, kissing and rocking to and fro with
his child, and both crying for joy as if their hearts would burst.

A sight for angels to look down at and rejoice.

But what mortal pen could paint it?

CHAPTER L.

THEY gave a long time to pure joy before either of them cared to put
questions or compare notes. But at last he asked her, "Who was on the
island besides her?"

"Oh," said she, "only my guardian angel. Poor Mr. Welch died the first
week we were here."

He parted the hair on her brow, and kissed it tenderly. "And who is your
guardian angel?"

"Why, you are now, my own papa; and well you have proved it. To think of
your being the one to come, at your age!"

"Well, never mind me. Who has taken such care of my child?--this the sick
girl they frightened me about!"

"Indeed, papa, I was a dying girl. My very hand was wasted. Look at it
now; brown as a berry, but so plump; you owe that to him. And, papa, I
can walk twenty miles without fatigue. And so strong; I could take you up
in my arms and carry, I know. But I am content to eat you." (A shower of
kisses.) "I hope you will like him."

"My own Helen. Ah! I am a happy old man this day. What is his name?"

"Mr. Hazel. He is a clergyman. Oh, papa, I hope you _will_ like him, for
he has saved my life more than once. And then he has been so generous, so
delicate, so patient; for I used him very ill at first; and you will find
my character as much improved as my health; and all owing to Mr. Hazel.
He is a clergyman; and, oh, so good, so humble, so clever, so
self-denying! Ah! how can I ever repay him?"

"Well, I shall be glad to see this paragon, and shake him by the hand.
You may imagine what I feel to any one that is kind to my darling. An old
gentleman? about my age?"

"Oh, no, papa"

"Hum!"

"If he had been old I should not be here; for he has had to fight for me
against cruel men with knives; and work like a horse. He built me a hut,
and made me this cave, and almost killed himself in my service. Poor Mr.
Hazel!"

"How old is he?"

"Dearest papa, I never asked him that; but I think he is four or five
years older than me, and a hundred years better than I shall ever be, I
am afraid. What is the matter, darling?"

"Nothing, child, nothing."

"Don't tell me. Can't I read your dear face?"

"Come, let me read yours. Look me in the face, now; full."

He took her by the shoulders, firmly, but not the least roughly, and
looked straight into her hazel eyes. She blushed at this ordeal--blushed
scarlet; but her eyes, pure as Heaven, faced his fairly, though with a
puzzled look.

He concluded this paternal inspection by kissing her on the brow. "I was
an old fool," he muttered.

"What do you say, dear papa?"

"Nothing, nothing. Kiss me again. Well, love, you had better find this
guardian angel of yours, that I may take him by the hand and give him a
father's blessing, and make him some little return by carrying him home
to England along with my darling."

"I'll call him, papa. Where can he be gone, I wonder?"

She ran out to the terrace, and called:

"Mr. Hazel! Mr. Hazel! I don't see him; but he can't be far off. Mr.
Hazel!"

Then she came back and made her father sit down; and she sat at his knee
beaming with delight.

"Ah, papa," said he, "it was you who loved me best in England. It was you
that came to look for me."

"No," said he, "there are others there that love you as well in their
way. Poor Wardlaw! on his sickbed for you, cut down like a flower the
moment he heard you were lost in the _Proserpine._ Ah, and I have broken
faith."

"That is a story," said Helen; "you couldn't."

"For a moment, I mean; I promised the dear old man--he furnished the
ship, the men, and the money to find you. He says you are as much his
daughter as mine."

"Well, but what did you promise him?" said Helen, blushing and
interrupting hastily, for she could not bear the turn matters were
taking.

"Oh, only to give you the second kiss from Arthur. Come, better late than
never." She knelt before him and put out her forehead instead of her
lips. "There," said the general, "that kiss is from Arthur Wardlaw, your
intended. Why, who the deuce is this?"

A young man was standing wonder-struck at the entrance, and had heard the
general's last words; they went through him like a knife. General
Rolleston stared at him.

Helen uttered an ejaculation of pleasure, and said, "This is my dear
father, and he wants to thank you--"

"I don't understand this," said the general. "I thought you told me there
was nobody on the island but you and your guardian angel. Did you count
this poor fellow for nobody? Why, he did you a good turn once."

"Oh, papa!" said Helen, reproachfully.

"Why, this is my guardian angel. This is Mr. Hazel."

The general looked from one to another in amazement, then he said to
Helen,

"This your Mr. Hazel?"

"Yes, papa."

"Why, you don't mean to tell me you don't know this man?"

"Know him, papa! why, of course I know Mr. Hazel; know him and revere
him, beyond all the world, except you."

The general lost patience. "Are you out of your senses?" said he; "this
man here is no Hazel. Why, this is James Seaton--our gardener--a
ticket-of-leave man."

CHAPTER LI.

AT this fearful insult Helen drew back from her father with a cry of
dismay, and then moved toward Hazel with her hands extended, as if to
guard him from another blow, and at the same time deprecate his
resentment. But then she saw his dejected attitude; and she stood
confounded, looking from one to the other.

"I knew him in a moment by his beard," said the general coolly.

"Ah!" cried Helen, and stood transfixed. She glared at Hazel and his
beard with dilating eyes, and began to tremble.

Then she crept back to her father and held him tight; but still looked
over her shoulder at Hazel with dilating eyes and paling cheek.

As for Hazel, his deportment all this time went far toward convicting
him; he leaned against the side of the cave and hung his head in silence,
and his face was ashy pale. When General Rolleston saw his deep distress,
and the sudden terror and repugnance the revelation seemed to create in
his daughter's mind, he felt sorry he had gone so far, and said: "Well,
well; it is not for me to judge you harshly; for you have laid me under a
deep obligation. And, after all, I can see good reasons why you should
conceal your name from other people. But you ought to have told my
daughter the truth."

Helen interrupted him; or, rather, she seemed unconscious he was
speaking. She had never for an instant taken her eye off the culprit. And
now she spoke to him.

"Who, and what are you, sir?"

"My name is Robert Penfold."

"Penfold! Seaton!" cried Helen. "Alias upon alias!" And she turned to her
father in despair. Then to Hazel again. "Are you what papa says?"

"I am."

"Oh, papa! papa!" cried Helen, "then there is no truth nor honesty in all
the world!" And she turned her back on Robert Penfold, and cried and
sobbed upon her father's breast.

Oh, the amazement and anguish of that hour! The pure affection and
reverence that would have blessed a worthy man, wasted on a convict! Her
heart's best treasures flung on a dunghill! This is a woman's greatest
loss on earth. And Helen sank, and sobbed under it.

General Rolleston, whose own heart was fortified, took a shallow view of
the situation; and, moreover, Helen's face was hidden on his bosom; and
what he saw was Hazel's manly and intelligent countenance pale and
dragged with agony and shame.

"Come, come," he said, gently, "don't cry about it; it is not your fault.
And don't be too hard on the man. You told me he had saved your life."

"Would he had not!" said the sobbing girl.

"There, Seaton," said the general, "Now you see the consequences of
deceit; it wipes out the deepest obligations." He resumed, in a different
tone, "But not with me. This is a woman; but I am a man, and know how a
bad man could have abused the situation in which I found you two."

"Not worse than he has done," cried Helen.

"What do you tell me, girl!" said General Rolleston, beginning to tremble
in his turn.

"What could he do worse than steal my esteem and veneration, and drag my
heart's feelings in the dirt? Oh, where--where--can I ever look for a
guide, instructor, and faithful friend, after this? He seemed all truth;
and he is all a lie. The world is all a lie. Would I could leave it this
moment!"

"This is all romantic nonsense," said General Rolleston, beginning to be
angry. "You are a little fool, and in your ignorance and innocence have
no idea how well this young fellow has behaved on the whole. I tell you
that, in spite of this one fault, I should like to shake him by the hand.
I will, too; and then admonish him afterward."

"You shall not. You shall not," cried Helen, seizing him almost violently
by the arm. "You take him by the hand! A monster! How dare you steal into
my esteem? How dare you be a miracle of goodness, self-denial, learning,
and every virtue that a lady might worship and thank God for, when all
the time you are a vile, convicted--"

"I'll thank you not to say that word," said Hazel, firmly.

"I'll call you what you are, if I choose," said Helen, defiantly. But for
all that she did not do it. She said piteously, "What offense had I ever
given you? What crime had I ever committed, that you must make me the
victim of this diabolical deceit? Oh, sir, what powers of mind you have
wasted to achieve this victory over a poor unoffending girl! What was
your motive? What good could come of it to you? He won't speak to me. He
is not even penitent. Sullen and obstinate! He shall be taken to England,
and well punished for it. Papa, it is your duty."

"Helen," said the general, "you ladies are rather too fond of hitting a
man when he is down. And you speak daggers, as the saying is; and then
wish you had bitten your tongue off sooner. You are my child, but you are
also a British subject; and, if you charge me on my duty to take this man
to England and have him imprisoned, I must. But, before you go that
length, you had better hear the whole story."

"Sir," said Robert Penfold, quietly, "I will go back to prison this
minute, if she wishes it."

"How dare you interrupt papa," said Helen, haughtily, but with a great
sob.

"Come, come," said the general, "be quiet, both of you, and let me say my
say." (To Robert.) "You had better turn your head away, for I am a
straightforward man, and I'm going to show her you are not a villain, but
a madman. This Robert Penfold wrote me a letter, imploring me to find him
some honest employment, however menial. That looked well, and I made him
my gardener. He was a capital gardener; but one fine day he caught sight
of you. _You_ are a very lovely girl, though you don't seem to know it;
and _he_ is a madman; and he fell in love with you." Helen uttered an
ejaculation of great surprise. The general resumed: "He can only have
seen you at a distance, or you would recognize him; but (really it is
laughable) he saw you somehow, though you did not see him, and-- Well,
his insanity hurt himself, and did not hurt you. You remember how he
suspected burglars, and watched night after night under your window. That
was out of love for you. His insanity took the form of fidelity and
humble devotion. He got a wound for his pains, poor fellow! and you made
Arthur Wardlaw get him a clerk's place."

"Arthur Wardlaw!" cried Seaton. "Was it to him I owed it?" and he groaned
aloud.

Said Helen: "He hates poor Arthur, his benefactor." Then to Penfold: "If
you are that James Seaton, you received a letter from me."

"I did," said Penfold; and, putting his hand in his bosom, he drew out a
letter and showed it her.

"Let me see it," said Helen.

"Oh, no! don't take this from me, too," said he, piteously.

General Rolleston continued. "The day you sailed he disappeared; and I am
afraid not without some wild idea of being in the same ship with you.
This was very reprehensible. Do you hear, young man? But what is the
consequence? You get shipwrecked together, and the young madman takes
such care of you that I find you well and hearty, and calling him your
guardian angel. And--another thing to his credit--he has set his wits to
work to restore you to the world. These ducks, one of which brings me
here? Of course it was he who contrived that, not you. Young man, you
must learn to look things in the face; this young lady is not of your
sphere, to begin; and, in the next place, she is engaged to Mr. Arthur
Wardlaw; and I am come out in his steamboat to take her to him. And as
for you, Helen, take my advice; think what most convicts are, compared to
this one. Shut your eyes entirely to his folly as I shall; and let you
and I think only of his good deeds, and so make him all the return we
can. You and I will go on board the steamboat directly; and, when we are
there, we can tell Moreland there is somebody else on the island." He
then turned to Penfold, and said: "My daughter and I will keep in the
after-part of the vessel, and anybody that likes can leave the ship at
Valparaiso. Helen, I know it is wrong; but what can I do?--I am so happy.
You are alive and well; how can I punish or afflict a human creature
to-day? and, above all, how can I crush this unhappy young man, without
whom I should never have seen you again in this world? My daughter! my
dear lost child!"

And he held her at arm's length and gazed at her, and then drew her to
his bosom; and for him Robert Penfold ceased to exist, except as a man
that had saved his daughter.

"Papa," said Helen, after a long pause, "just make him tell why he could
not trust to me. Why, he passed himself off to me for a clergyman."

"I am a clergyman," said Robert Penfold.

"Oh! " said Helen, shocked to find him so hardened, as she thought. She
lifted her hands to heaven, and the tears streamed from her eyes. "Well,
sir," said she, faintly, "I see I cannot reach your conscience. One
question more and then I have done with you forever. Why in all these
months that we have been alone, and that you have shown me the nature, I
don't say of an honest man, but of an angel--yes, papa, of an angel--why
could you not show me one humble virtue, sincerity? It belongs to a man.
Why could you not say, 'I have committed one crime in my life, but
repented forever; judge by this confession, and by what you have seen of
me, whether I shall ever commit another. Take me as I am, and esteem me
as a penitent and more worthy man; but I will not deceive you and pass
for a paragon.' Why could you not say as much as this to me? If you loved
me, why deceive me so cruelly?"

These words, uttered no longer harshly, but in a mournful, faint,
despairing voice, produced an effect the speaker little expected. Robert
Penfold made two attempts to speak, but though he opened his mouth, and
his lips quivered, he could get no word out. He began to choke with
emotion; and, though he shed no tears, the convulsion that goes with
weeping in weaker natures overpowered him in a way that was almost
terrible.

"Confound it!" said General Rolleston, "this is monstrous of you, Helen;
it is barbarous. You are not like your poor mother."

She was pale and trembling, and the tears flowing; but she showed her
native obstinacy. She said hoarsely: "Papa, you are blind. He _must_
answer me. He knows he must!"

"I must," said Robert Penfold, gasping still. Then he manned himself by a
mighty effort, and repeated with dignity, "I will."

There was a pause while the young man still struggled for composure and
self-command.

"Was I not often on the point of telling you my sad story? Then is it
fair to say that I should never have told it you? But, oh, Miss
Rolleston, you don't know what agony it may be to an unfortunate man to
tell the truth. There are accusations so terrible, so _defiling,_ that,
when a man has proved them false, they still stick to him and soil him.
Such an accusation I labor under, and a judge and a jury have branded me.
If they had called me a murderer, I would have told you; but _that_ is
such a dirty crime. I feared the prejudices of the world. I dreaded to
see your face alter to me. Yes, I trembled, and hesitated, and asked
myself whether a man is bound to repeat a foul slander against himself,
even when thirteen shallow men have said it, and made the lie law."

"There," said General Rolleston, "I thought how it would be, Helen; you
have tormented him into defending himself, tooth and nail; so now we
shall have the old story; he is innocent; I never knew a convict that
wasn't, if he found a fool to listen to him. I decline to hear another
word. You needn't excuse yourself for changing your name; I excuse it,
and that is enough. But the boat is waiting, and we can't stay to hear
you justify a felony."

"I AM NOT A FELON. I AM A MARTYR."

CHAPTER LII.

ROBERT PENFOLD drew himself up to his full height and uttered these
strange words with a sad majesty that was very imposing. But General
Rolleston, steeled by experience of convicts, their plausibility and
their histrionic powers, was staggered only for a moment. He deigned no
reply; but told Helen that Captain Moreland was waiting for her, and she
had better go on board at once.

She stood like a statue.

"No, papa, I'll not turn my back on him till I know whether he is a felon
or a martyr."

"My poor child, has he caught you at once with a clever phrase? A judge
and a jury have settled that."

"They settled it as you would settle it, by refusing to hear me."

"Have I refused to hear you?" said Helen. "What do I care for steamboats
and captains? If I stay here to all eternity, I'll know from your own
lips and your own face whether you are a felon or a martyr. It is no
phrase, papa. He is a felon or a martyr; and I am a most unfortunate
girl, or else a base, disloyal one."

"Fiddle-dee," said General Rolleston, angrily. Then, looking at his
watch: "I give you five minutes to humbug us in--if you can."

Robert Penfold sighed patiently. But from that moment he ignored General
Rolleston and looked to Helen only. And she fixed her eyes upon his face
with a tenacity and an intensity of observation that surpassed anything
he had ever seen in his life. It dazzled him; but it did not dismay him.

"Miss Rolleston," said he, "my history can be told in the time my
prejudiced judge allows me. I am a clergyman, and a private tutor at
Oxford. One of my pupils was--Arthur Wardlaw. I took an interest in him
because my father, Michael Penfold, was in Wardlaw's employ. This Arthur
Wardlaw had a talent for mimicry; he mimicked one of the college officers
publicly and offensively, and was about to be expelled, and that would
have ruined his immediate prospects; for his father is just, but stern. I
fought hard for him, and, being myself popular with the authorities, I
got him off. He was grateful, or seemed to be, and we became greater
friends than ever. We confided in each other. He told me he was in debt
in Oxford, and much alarmed lest it should reach his father's ears, and
lose him the promised partnership. I told him I was desirous to buy a
small living near Oxford which was then vacant; but I had only saved 400
pounds, and the price was 1,000 pounds; I had no means of raising the
balance. Then he said, 'Borrow 2,000 pounds of my father; give me
fourteen hundred of it, and take your own time to repay the 600 pounds. I
shall be my father's partner in a month or two,' said he; 'you can pay us
back by instalments.' I thought this very kind of him. I did not want the
living for myself, but to give my dear father certain comforts and
country air every week; he needed it; he was born in the country. Well, I
came to London about this business; and a stranger called on me, and said
he came from Mr. Arthur Wardlaw, who was not well enough to come himself.
He produced a note of hand for 2,000 pounds, signed John Wardlaw, and
made me indorse it, and told me where to get it cashed; he would come
next day for Arthur Wardlaw's share of the money. Well, I suspected no
ill; would you? I went and got the note discounted, and locked the money
up. It was not my money; the greater part was Arthur Wardlaw's. That same
evening a policeman called, and asked several questions, which of course
I answered. He then got me out of the house on some pretense, and
arrested me as a forger."

"Oh!" cried Helen.

"I forgot the clergyman; I was a gentleman, and a man, insulted, and I
knocked the officer down directly. But his myrmidons overpowered me. I
was tried at the Central Criminal Court on two charges. First, the Crown
(as they call the attorney that draws the indictment) charged me with
forging the note of hand; and then with not forging it, but passing it,
well knowing that somebody else had forged it. Well, Undercliff, the
expert, swore positively that the forged note was not written by me; and
the Crown, as they call it, was defeated on that charge; but being proved
a liar in a court of justice did not abash my accuser; the second charge
was pressed with equal confidence. The note, you are to understand, was
forged--that admits of no doubt; and I passed it; the question was
whether I passed it _knowing it to be forged._ How was that to be
determined? And here it was that my own familiar friend, in whom I
trusted, destroyed me. Of course, as soon as I was put in prison, I wrote
and sent to Arthur Wardlaw. Would you believe it? he would not come to
me. He would not even write. Then, as the time drew near, I feared he was
a traitor. I treated him like one. I told my solicitor to drag him into
court as my witness, and make him tell the truth. The clerk went down
accordingly, and found he kept his door always locked; but the clerk
outwitted him, and served him with the subpoena in his bedroom, before he
could crawl under the bed. But he baffled us at last; he never appeared
in the witness-box; and when my counsel asked the court to imprison him,
his father swore he could not come; he was dying, and all out of sympathy
with me. Fine sympathy! that closed the lips, and concealed the truth;
one syllable of which would have saved his friend and benefactor from a
calamity worse than death. Is the truth poison, that to tell it makes a
sick man die? Is the truth hell, that a dying man refuses to speak it?
How can a man die better than speaking the truth? How can he die worse
than withholding it? I believe his sickness and his death were lies like
himself. For want of one word from Arthur Wardlaw to explain that I had
every reason to expect a note of hand from him, the jury condemned me.
They were twelve honest but shallow men--invited to go inside another
man's bosom, and guess what was there. They guessed that I knew and
understood a thing which to this hour I neither know nor understand, by
God!"

He paused a moment, then resumed:

"I believe they founded their conjecture on my knocking down the officer.
There was a reason for you! Why, forgers and their confederates are
reptiles, and have no fight in them. Experience proves this. But these
twelve men did not go by experience; they guessed, like babies, and,
after much hesitation, condemned me; but recommended me to mercy. Mercy!
What mercy did I deserve? Either I was innocent, or hanging was too good
for me. No; in their hearts they doubted my guilt; and their doubt took
that timid form instead of acquitting me. I was amazed at the verdict,
and asked leave to tell the judge why Arthur Wardlaw had defied the
court, and absented himself as my witness. Had the judge listened for one
minute, he would have seen I was innocent. But no. I was in England where
the mouth of the accused is stopped, if he is fool enough to employ
counsel. The judge stopped my mouth, as your father just now tried to
stop it; and they branded me as a felon.

"Up to that moment my life was honorable and worthy. Since that moment I
have never wronged a human creature. Men pass from virtue to vice, from
vice to crime; this is the ladder a soul goes down. But you are invited
to believe that I jumped from innocence into a filthy felony, and then
jumped back again none the worse, and was a gardener that fought for his
employer, and a lover that controlled his passion. It is a lie--a lie
that ought not to take in a child. But prejudice degrades a man below the
level of a child. I'll say no more; my patience is exhausted by wrongs
and insults. I am as honest a man as ever breathed; and the place where
we stand is mine, for I made it. Leave it and me this moment. Go to
England, and leave me where the animals, more reasonable than you, have
the sense to see my real character. I'll not sail in the same ship with
any man, nor any woman either, who can look me in the face and take me
for a felon."

He swelled and towered with the just wrath of an honest man driven to
bay; and his eye shot black lightning. He was sublime.

Helen cowered; but her spirited old father turned red, and said,
haughtily: "We take you at your word, and leave you, you insolent
vagabond! Follow me this instant, Helen!"

And he marched out of the cavern in a fury.

But, instead of following him, Helen stood stock-still, and cowered, and
cowered till she seemed sinking forward to the ground, and she got hold
of Robert Penfold's hand, and kissed it, and moaned over it.

"Martyr! Martyr!" she whispered, and still kissed his hand, like a slave
offering her master pity, and asking pardon.

"Martyr! Martyr! Every word is true--true as my love."

In this attitude, and with these words on her lips, they were surprised
by General Rolleston, who came back, astonished at his daughter not
following him. Judge of his amazement now.

"What does this mean?" he cried, turning pale with anger.

"It means that he has spoken the truth, and that I shall imitate him. He
is my martyr, and my love. When others cast shame on you, then it is time
for me to show my heart. James Seaton, I love you for your madness and
your devotion to her whom you had only seen at a distance. Ah! that was
love! John Hazel, I love you for all that has passed between us. What can
any other man be to me?--or woman to you? But, most of all, I love you,
Robert Penfold--my hero and my martyr. When I am told to your face that
you are a felon, then to your face I say you are my idol, my hero, and my
martyr. Love! the word is too tame, too common. I worship you, I adore
you! How beautiful you are when you are angry! How noble you are now you
forgive me! for you do forgive me, Robert; you must, you shall. No; you
will not send your Helen away from you for her one fault so soon
repented! Show me you forgive me; show me you love me still, almost as
much as I love you. He is crying. Oh, my darling, my darling, my
darling!" And she was round his neck in a moment, with tears and tender
kisses, the first she had ever given him.

Ask yourself whether they were returned.

A groan, or rather, we might say, a snort of fury, interrupted the most
blissful moment either of these young creatures had ever known. It came
from General Rolleston, now white with wrath and horror.

"You villain!" he cried.

Helen threw herself upon him, and put her hand before his mouth.

"Not a word more, or I shall forget I am your daughter. No one is to
blame but I. I love him. I made him love me. He has been trying hard not
to love me so much. But I am a woman; and could not deny myself the glory
and the joy of being loved better than woman was ever loved before. And
so I am; I am. Kill me, if you like; insult me, if you will. But not a
word against him, or I give him my hand, and we live and die together on
this island. Oh, papa! he has often saved that life you value so; and I
have saved his. He is all the world to me. Have pity on your child. Have
pity on him who carries my heart in his bosom!"

She flung herself on her knees, and strained him tight, and implored him,
with head thrown back, and little clutching hands, and eloquent eyes.

Ah! it is hard to resist the voice and look and clinging of a man's own
flesh and blood. Children are so strong--upon their knees. Their dear
faces, bright copies of our own, are just the height of our hearts then.

The old man was staggered, was almost melted. "Give me a moment to
think," said he, in a broken voice. "This blow takes my breath away."

Helen rose, and laid her head upon her father's shoulder, and still
pleaded for her love by her soft touch and her tears that now flowed
freely.

He turned to Penfold with all the dignity of age and station. "Mr.
Penfold," said he, with grave politeness, "after what my daughter has
said, I must treat you as a man of honor, or I must insult her. Well,
then, I expect you to show me you are what she thinks you, and are not
what a court of justice has proclaimed you. Sir, this young lady is
engaged with her own free will to a gentleman who is universally
esteemed, and has never been accused _to his face_ of any unworthy act.
Relying on her plighted word, the Wardlaws have fitted out a steamer and
searched the Pacific, and found her. Can you, as a man of honor, advise
her to stay here and compromise her own honor in every way? Ought she to
break faith with her betrothed on account of vague accusations made
behind his back?"

"It was only in self-defense I accused Mr. Arthur Wardlaw," said Robert
Penfold.

General Rolleston resumed:

"You said just now there are accusations which soil a man. If you were in
my place, would you let your daughter marry a man of honor, who had
unfortunately been found guilty of a felony?"

Robert groaned and hesitated, but he said, "No."

"Then what is to be done? She must either keep her plighted word, or else
break it. For whom? For a gentleman she esteems and loves, but cannot
marry. A leper may be a saint; but I would rather bury my child than
marry her to a leper. A convict may be a saint; but I'll kill her with my
own hand sooner than she shall marry a convict. And in your heart and
conscience you cannot blame me. Were you a father, you would do the same.
What then remains for her and me but to keep faith? and what can you do
better than leave her, and carry away her everlasting esteem and her
father's gratitude? It is no use being good by halves, or bad by halves.
You must either be a selfish villain, and urge her to abandon all shame,
and live here on this island with you forever, or you must be a brave and
honest man, and bow to a parting that is inevitable. Consider, sir; your
eloquence and her pity have betrayed this young lady into a confession
that separates you. Her enforced residence here with you has been
innocent. It would be innocent no longer, now she has been so mad as to
own she loves you. And I tell you frankly, if, after that confession, you
insist on going on board the steamer with her, I must take you; humanity
requires it; but, if I do, I shall hand you over to the law as a convict
escaped before his time. Perhaps I ought to do so as it is; but that is
not certain; I don't know to what country this island belongs. I may have
no right to capture you in strange dominions; but an English ship is
England--and if you set foot on the _Springbok_ you are lost. Now, then,
you are a man of honor; you love my child truly, and not selfishly--you
have behaved nobly until to-day; go one step farther on the right road;
call worldly honor and the God whose vows you have taken, sir, to your
aid, and do your duty."

"Oh, man, man!" cried Robert Penfold, "you ask more of me than flesh and
blood can bear. What shall I say? What shall I do?"

Helen replied, calmly: "Take my hand, and let us die together, since we
cannot live together with honor."

General Rolleston groaned. "For this, then, I have traversed one ocean,
and searched another, and found my child. I am nothing to her--nothing.
Oh, who would be a father!"

He sat down oppressed with shame and grief, and bowed his stately head in
manly but pathetic silence.

"Oh, papa, papa!" cried Helen, "forgive your ungrateful child!" And she
kneeled and sobbed, with her forehead on his knees.

Then Robert Penfold, in the midst of his own agony, found room in that
great suffering heart of his for pity. He knelt down himself, and prayed
for help in this bitter trial. He rose haggard with the struggle, but
languid and resigned, like one whose death-warrant has been read.

"Sir," said he, "there is but one way. You must take her home; and I
shall stay here."

"Leave you all alone on this island!" said Helen. "Never! If you stay
here, I shall stay to comfort you."

"I decline that offer. I am beyond the reach of comfort."

"Think what you do, Robert," said Helen, with unnatural calmness. "If you
have no pity on yourself, have pity on us. Would you rob me of the very
life you have taken such pains to save? My poor father will carry nothing
to England but my dead body. Long before we reach that country I loved so
well, and now hate it for its stupidity and cruelty to you, my soul will
have flown back to this island to watch over you, Robert. You bid me to
abandon you to solitude and despair. Neither of you two love me half as
much as I love you both."

General Rolleston sighed deeply. "If I thought that--" said he. Then, in
a faint voice, "My own courage fails me now. I look into my heart, and I
see that my child's life is dearer to me than all the world. She was
dying, they say. Suppose I send Moreland to the Continent for a
clergyman, and marry you. Then you can live on this island forever. Only
you must let me live here, too; for I could never show my face again in
England after acting so dishonorably. It will be a miserable end of a
life passed in honor; but I suppose it will not be for long. Shame can
kill as quickly as disappointed love."

"Robert, Robert!" cried Helen, in agony.

The martyr saw that he was master of the situation, and must be either
base or very noble--there was no middle way. He leaned his head on his
hands, and thought with all his might.

"Hush!" said Helen. "He is wiser than we are. Let him speak."

"If I thought you would pine and die upon the voyage, no power should
part us. But you are not such a coward. If my life depended on yours,
would you not live?"

"You know I would."

"When I was wrecked on White Water Island, you played the man. Not one
woman in a thousand could have launched a boat, and sailed it with a
boat-hook for a mast, and--"

Helen interrupted him. "It was nothing; I loved you. I love you better
now."

"I believe it, and therefore I ask you to rise above your sex once more,
and play the man for me. This time it is not my life you are to rescue,
but that which is more precious still--my good name."

"Ah! that would be worth living for!" cried Helen.

"You will find it very hard to do; but not harder for a woman than to
launch a boat, and sail her without a mast. See my father, Michael
Penfold. See Undercliff, the expert. See the solicitor, the counsel. Sift
the whole story; and, above all, find out why Arthur Wardlaw dared not
enter the witness-box. Be obstinate as a man; be supple as a woman; and
don't talk of dying when there is a friend to be rescued from dishonor by
living and working."

"Die! while I can rescue you from death or dishonor! I will not be so
base. Ah, Robert, Robert, how well you know me!"

"Yes, I do know you, Helen. I believe that great soul of yours will keep
your body strong to do this brave work for him you love, and who loves
you. And as for me, I am man enough to live for years upon this island,
if you will only promise me two things."

"I promise, then."

"Never to die, and never to marry Arthur Wardlaw, until you have reversed
that lying sentence which has blasted me. Lay your hand on your father's
head, and promise me that."

Helen laid her hand upon her father's head, and said: "I pledge my honor
not to die, if life is possible, and never to marry any man, until I have
reversed that lying sentence which has blasted the angel I love."

"And I pledge myself to help her," said General Rolleston, warmly, "for
now I _know_ you are a man of honor. I have too often been deceived by
eloquence to listen much to that. But now you have proved by your actions
what you are. You pass a forged check, knowing it to be forged! I'd stake
my salvation it's a lie. There's my hand. God comfort you! God reward
you, my noble fellow!"

"I hope He will, sir," sobbed Robert Penfold. "You are her father; and
you take my hand; perhaps that will be sweet to think of by and by; but
no joy can enter my heart now; it is broken. Take her away at once, sir.
Flesh is weak. My powers of endurance are exhausted."

General Rolleston acted promptly on this advice. He rolled up her rugs,
and the things she had made, and Robert had the courage to take them down
to the boat. Then he came back, and the general took her bag to the boat.

All this time the girl herself sat wringing her hands in anguish, and not
a tear. It was beyond that now.

As he passed Robert, the general said: "Take leave of her alone. I will
come for her in five minutes. You see how sure I feel you are a man of
honor."

When Robert went in, she rose and tottered to him, and fell on his neck.
She saw it was the death-bed of their love, and she kissed his eyes, and
clung to him. They moaned over each other, and clung to each other in
mute despair.

The general came back, and he and Robert took Helen, shivering and
fainting, to the boat. As the boat put off, she awoke from her stupor,
and put out her hands to Robert with one piercing cry.

They were parted.

CHAPTER LIII.

IN that curious compound, the human heart, a respectable motive is
sometimes connected with a criminal act. And it was so with Joseph Wylie.
He had formed an attachment to Nancy Rouse, and her price was two
thousand pounds.

This Nancy Rouse was a character. She was General Rolleston's servant for
many years; her place was the kitchen. But she was a woman of such
restless activity, and so wanting in the proper pride of a servant, that
she would help a house-maid, or a lady's maid, or do anything almost,
except be idle. To use her own words, she was one as couldn't abide to
sit mum-chance. That fatal foe to domestic industry, the _London
Journal,_ fluttered in vain down her area, for she could not read. She
supported a sick mother out of her wages, aided by a few presents of
money and clothes from Helen Rolleston, who had a great regard for Nancy,
and knew what a hard fight she had to keep a sick woman out of her twenty
pounds a year.

In love, Nancy was unfortunate; her buxom looks and sterling virtues were
balanced by a provoking sagacity, and an irritating habit of speaking her
mind. She humbled her lovers' vanity, one after another, and they fled.
Her heart smarted more than once.

Nancy was ambitious; and her first rise in life took place as follows:
When the Rollestons went to Australia, she had a good cry at parting with
Helen; but there was no help for it. She could not leave her mother.
However, she told Helen she could not stomach any other service, and,
since she must be parted, was resolved to better herself. This phrase is
sometimes drolly applied by servants, because they throw Independence
into the scale. In Nancy's case it meant setting up as a washerwoman.
Helen opened her hazel eyes with astonishment at this, the first round in
the ladder of Nancy's ambition; however, she gave her ten pounds, and
thirty introductions, twenty-five of which missed fire, and with the odd
five Nancy set up her tub in the suburbs, and by her industry, geniality
and frugality, got on tolerably well. In due course she rented a small
house backed by a small green, and advertised for a gentleman lodger. She
soon got one; and soon got rid of him. However, she was never long
without one.

Nancy met Joseph Wylie in company. And, as sailors are brisk wooers, he
soon became her acknowledged suitor, and made some inroad into her heart,
though she kept on the defensive, warned by past experience.

Wylie's love-making had a droll feature about it; it was most of it
carried on in the presence of three washerwomen, because Nancy had no
time to spare from her work, and Wylie had no time to lose in his wooing,
being on shore for a limited period. And this absence of superfluous
delicacy on his part gave him an unfair advantage over the
tallow-chandler's foreman, his only rival at present. Many a sly thrust,
and many a hearty laugh, from his female auditors, greeted his amorous
eloquence. But, for all that, they sided with him, and Nancy felt her
importance, and brightened along with her mates at the sailor's approach,
which was generally announced by a cheerful hail. He was good company, to
use Nancy's own phrase, and she accepted him as a sweetheart on
probation. But, when Mr. Wylie urged her to marry him, she demurred, and
gave a string of reasons, all of which the sailor and his allies, the
subordinate washerwomen, combated in full conclave.

Then she spoke out: "My lad, the washtub is a saddle as won't carry
double. I've seen poverty enough in my mother's house; it shan't come in
at my door to drive love out o' window. Two comes together with just
enough for two; next year instead of two they are three, and one of the
three can't work and wants a servant extra, and by and by there is half a
dozen, and the money coming in at the spigot and going out at the
bung-hole."

One day, in the middle of his wooing, she laid down her iron, and said:
"You come along with me. And I wonder how much work will be done while my
back is turned, for you three gabbling and wondering what ever I'm a
going to do with this here sailor."

She took Wylie a few yards down the street, and showed him a large house
with most of the windows broken. "There," said she, "there's a sight for
a seafaring man. That's in Chancery."

"Well, it's better to be there than in H--," said Wylie, meaning to be
sharper.

"Wait till you've tried 'em both," said Nancy.

Then she took him to the back of the house, and showed him a large garden
attached to it.

"Now, Joseph," said she, "I've showed you a lodging-house and a
drying-ground; and I'm a cook and a clear-starcher, and I'm wild to keep
lodgers and do for 'em, washing and all. Then, if their foul linen goes
out, they follows it. The same if they has their meat from the cook-shop.
Four hundred pounds a year lies there a waiting for me. I've been at them
often to let me them premises. But they says no, we have got no horder
from the court to let. Which the court would rather see 'em go to rack
an' ruin for nothing, than let 'em to an honest woman as would pay the
rent punctual, and make her penny out of 'em, and nobody none the worse.
And to sell them, the price is two thousand pounds, and if I had it I'd
give it this minit. But where are the likes of you and me to get two
thousand pounds? But the lawyer he says, 'Miss Rouse, from _you_ one
thousand down, and the rest on mortgige at forty-five pounds the year,'
which it is dirt cheap, I say. So now, my man, when that house is mine,
I'm yours. I'm putting by for it o' my side. If you means all you say,
why not save a bit o' yours? Once I get that house and garden, you
needn't go to sea no more; nor you shan't. If I am to be bothered with a
man, let me know where to put my finger on him at all hours, and not lie
shivering and shaking at every window as creaks, and him out at sea. And
if you are too proud to drive the linen in a light cart, why, I could pay
a man." In short, she told him plainly she would not marry till she was
above the world; and the road to above the world was through that great
battered house and seedy garden in Chancery.

Now it may appear a strange coincidence that Nancy's price to Wylie was
two thousand pounds, and Wylie's to Wardlaw was two thousand pounds. But
the fact is it was a forced coincidence. Wylie, bargaining with Wardlaw,
stood out for two thousand pounds, because that was the price of the
house and garden and Nancy.

Now, when Wylie returned to England safe after his crime and his perils,
he comforted himself with the reflection that Nancy would have her house
and garden, and he should have Nancy.

But young Wardlaw lay on his sick bed; his father was about to return to
the office, and the gold disguised as copper was ordered up to the
cellars in Fenchurch Street. There, in all probability, the contents
would be examined ere long, the fraud exposed, and other unpleasant
consequences might follow over and above the loss of the promised 2,000
pounds.

Wylie felt very disconsolate, and went down to Nancy Rouse depressed in
spirits. To his surprise she received him with more affection than ever,
and, reading his face in a moment, told him not to fret.

"It will be so in your way of life," said this homely comforter; "your
sort comes home empty-handed one day, and money in both pockets the next.
I'm glad to see you home at all, for I've been in care about you. You're
very welcome, Joe. If you are come home honest and sober, why, that is
the next best thing to coming home rich."

Wylie hung his head and pondered these words; and well he might, for he
had not come home either so sober or so honest as he went out, but quite
as poor.

However, his elastic spirits soon revived in Nancy's sunshine, and he
became more in love with her than ever.

But when, presuming upon her affection, he urged her to marry him and
trust to Providence, she laughed in his face.

"Trust to himprovidence, you mean," said she; "no, no, Joseph. If you are
unlucky, I must be lucky, before you and me can come together."

Then Wylie resolved to have his 2,000 pounds at all risks. He had one
great advantage over a landsman who has committed a crime. He could
always go to sea and find employment, first in one ship, and then in
another. Terra firma was not one of the necessaries of life to him.

He came to Wardlaw's office to feel his way, and talked guardedly to
Michael Penfold about the loss of the _Proserpine._ His apparent object
was to give information; his real object was to gather it. He learned
that old Wardlaw was very much occupied with fitting out a steamer; that
the forty chests of copper had actually come up from the _Shannon_ and
were under their feet at that moment, and that young Wardlaw was
desperately ill and never came to the office. Michael had not at that
time learned the true cause of young Wardlaw's illness. Yet Wylie
detected that young Wardlaw's continued absence from the office gave
Michael singular uneasiness. The old man fidgeted, and washed the air
with his hands, and with simple cunning urged Wylie to go and see him
about the _Proserpine,_ and get him to the office, if it was only for an
hour or two. "Tell him we are all at sixes and sevens, Mr. Wylie; all at
sixes and sevens."

"Well," said Wylie, affecting a desire to oblige, "give me a line to him;
for I've been twice, and could never get in."

Michael wrote an earnest line to say that Wardlaw senior had been
hitherto much occupied in fitting out the _Springbok,_ but that he was
going into the books next week. What was to be done?

The note was received; but Arthur declined to see the bearer. Then Wylie
told the servant it was Joseph Wylie, on a matter of life and death.
"Tell him I must stand on the staircase and hallo it out, if he won't
hear it any other way."

This threat obtained his admission to Arthur Wardlaw. The sailor found
him on a sofa, in a darkened room, pale and worn to a shadow.

"Mr. Wardlaw," said Wylie, firmly, you mustn't think I don't feel for
you; but, sir, we are gone too far to stop, you and me. There is two
sides to this business; it is 150,000 pounds for you, and 2,000 pounds
for me, or it is--"

"What do I care for money now?" groaned Wardlaw. "Let it all go to the
Devil, who tempted me to destroy her I loved better than money, better
than all the world."

"Well, but hear me out," said Wylie. "I say it is 150,000 pounds to you
and 2,000 pounds to me, or else it is twenty years' penal servitude to
both on us."

"Penal servitude!" And the words roused the merchant from his lethargy
like a shower-bath.

"You know that well enough," said Wylie. "Why, 'twas a hanging matter a
few years ago. Come, come, there are no two ways; you must be a man, or
we are undone."

Fear prevailed in that timorous breast, which even love of money had
failed to rouse. Wardlaw sat up, staring wildly, and asked Wylie what he
was to do.

"First, let me ring for a bottle of that old brandy of yours."

The brandy was got. Wylie induced him to drink a wine-glassful neat, and
then to sit at the table and examine the sailors' declaration and the
logs. "I'm no great scholard," said he. "I warn't a going to lay these
before the underwriters till you had overhauled them. There, take another
drop now--'twill do you good--while I draw up this thundering blind."

Thus encouraged and urged, the broken-hearted schemer languidly compared
the seamen's declaration with the logs; and, even in his feeble state of
mind and body, made an awkward discovery at once.

"Why, they don't correspond!" said he.

"What don't correspond?"

"Your men's statement and the ship's log. The men speak of one heavy gale
after another, in January, and the pumps going; but the log says, 'A puff
of wind from the N.E.' And, here again, the entry exposes your
exaggeration. One branch of our evidence contradicts the other; this
comes of trying to prove too much. You must say the log was lost, went
down with the ship."

"How can I?" cried Wylie. "I have told too many I had got it safe at
home."

"Why did you say that? What madness!"

"Why were you away from your office at such a time? How can I know
everything and do everything? I counted on you for the head-work ashore.
Can't ye think of any way to square the log to that part of our tale?
might paste in a leaf or two, eh?"

"That would be discovered at once. You have committed an irremediable
error. What broad strokes this Hudson makes. He must have written with
the stump of a quill."

Wylie received this last observation with a look of contempt for the mind
that could put so trivial a question in so great an emergency.

"Are you quite sure poor Hudson is dead?" asked Wardlaw, in a low voice.

"Dead! Don't I tell you I saw him die!" said Wylie, trembling all of a
sudden.

He took a glass of brandy, and sent it flying down his throat.

"Leave the paper with me," said Arthur, languidly, "and tell Penfold I'll
crawl to the office to-morrow. You can meet me there; I shall see nobody
else."

Wylie called next day at the office, and was received by Penfold, who had
now learned the cause of Arthur's grief, and ushered the visitor in to
him with looks of benevolent concern. Arthur was seated like a lunatic,
pale and motionless; on the table before him was a roast fowl and a
salad, which he had forgotten to eat. His mind appeared to alternate
between love and fraud; for, as soon as he saw Wylie, he gave himself a
sort of shake and handed Wylie the log and the papers.

"Examine them; they agree better with each other now.

Wylie examined the log, and started with surprise and superstitious
terror. "Why, Hiram's ghost has been here at work!" said he. "It is his
very handwriting."

"Hush!" said Wardlaw; "not so loud. Will it do?"

"The writing will do first-rate; but any one can see this log has never
been to sea."

Inspired by the other's ingenuity, he then, after a moment's reflection,
emptied the salt-cellar into a plate, and poured a little water over it.
He wetted the leaves of the log with this salt water, and dog's-eared the
whole book.

Wardlaw sighed. "See what expedients we are driven to," said he. He then
took a little soot from the chimney, and mixed it with salad oil. He
applied some of this mixture to the parchment cover, rubbed it off, and
by such manipulation gave it a certain mellow look, as if it had been
used by working hands.

Wylie was armed with these materials, and furnished with money to keep
his sailors to their tale, in case of their being examined.

Arthur begged, in his present affliction, to be excused from going
personally into the matter of the _Proserpine;_ and said that Penfold had
the ship's log, and the declaration of the survivors, which the insurers
could inspect, previously to their being deposited at Lloyd's.

The whole thing wore an excellent face, and nobody found a peg to hang
suspicion on so far.

After this preliminary, and the deposit of the papers, nothing was
hurried; the merchant, absorbed in his grief, seemed to be forgetting to
ask for his money. Wylie remonstrated; but Arthur convinced him they were
still on too ticklish ground to show any hurry without exciting
suspicion.

And so passed two weary months, during which Wylie fell out of Nancy
Rouse's good graces, for idling about doing nothing.

"Be you a waiting for the plum to fall into your mouth, young man?" said
she.

The demand was made on the underwriters, and Arthur contrived that it
should come from his father. The firm was of excellent repute and had
paid hundreds of insurances, without a loss to the underwriters. The
_Proserpine_ had foundered at sea; several lives had been lost, and of
the survivors one had since died, owing to the hardships he had endured.
All this betokened a genuine calamity. Nevertheless, one ray of suspicion
rested on the case at first. The captain of the _Proserpine_ had lost a
great many ships; and, on the first announcement, one or two were
resolved to sift the matter on that ground alone. But when five
eye-witnesses, suppressing all mention of the word "drink," declared that
Captain Hudson had refused to leave the vessel, and described his going
down with the ship, from an obstinate and too exalted sense of duty,
every chink was closed; and, to cut the matter short, the insurance money
was paid to the last shilling, and Benson, one of the small underwriters,
ruined. Nancy Rouse, who worked for Mrs. Benson, lost eighteen shillings
and sixpence, and was dreadfully put out about it.

Wylie heard her lamentations, and grinned; for now his 2,000 pounds was
as good as in his pocket, he thought. Great was his consternation when
Arthur told him that every shilling of the money was forestalled, and
that the entire profit of the transaction was yet to come; viz., by the
sale of the gold dust.

"Then sell it," said Wylie.

"I dare not. The affair must cool down before I can appear as a seller of
gold; and even then I must dribble it out with great caution. Thank
Heaven, it is no longer in those cellars."

"Where is it, then?"

"That is my secret. You will get your two thousand all in good time; and,
if it makes you one-tenth part as wretched as it has made me, you will
thank me for all these delays."

At last Wylie lost all patience, and began to show his teeth; and then
Arthur Wardlaw paid him his two thousand pounds in forty crisp notes.

He crammed. them into a side pocket, and went down triumphant to Nancy
Rouse. Through her parlor window he saw the benign countenance of Michael
Penfold. He then remembered that Penfold had told him some time before
that he was going to lodge with her as soon as the present lodger should
go.

This, however, rather interrupted Wylie's design of walking in and
chucking the two thousand pounds into Nancy's lap. On the contrary, he
shoved them deeper down in his pocket, and resolved to see the old
gentleman to bed, and then produce his pelf, and fix the wedding-day with
Nancy.

He came in and found her crying, and Penfold making weak efforts to
console her. The tea-things were on the table, and Nancy 's cup half
emptied.

Wylie came in, and said, "Why, what is the matter now?"

He said this mighty cheerfully, as one who carried the panacea for all
ills in his pocket, and a medicine peculiarly suited to Nancy Rouse's
constitution. But he had not quite fathomed her yet.

As soon as ever she saw him she wiped her eyes, and asked him, grimly,
what he wanted there. Wylie stared at the reception; but replied stoutly,
that it was pretty well known by this time what he wanted in that
quarter.

"Well, then," said Nancy, "Want will be your master. Why did you never
tell me Miss Helen was in that ship? my sweet, dear mistress as was, that
I feel for like a mother. You left her to drown, and saved your own great
useless carcass, and drowned she is, poor dear. Get out o' my sight, do."

"It wasn't my fault, Nancy," said Wylie, earnestly. "I didn't know who
she was, and I advised her to come with us; but she would go with that
parson chap."

"What parson chap? What a liar you be! She is Wardlaw's sweetheart, and
don't care for no parsons. If you didn't know you was to blame, why
didn't you tell me a word of your own accord? You kep' dark. Do you call
yourself a man, to leave my poor young lady to shift for herself?"

"She had as good a chance to live as I had," said Wylie, sullenly.

"No, she hadn't; you took care o' yourself. Well, since you are so fond
of yourself, keep yourself _to_ yourself, and don't come here no more.
After this, I hate the sight on ye. You are like the black dog in my
eyes, and always will be. Poor, dear Miss Helen! Ah, I cried when she
left--my mind misgave me; but little I thought she would perish in the
salt seas, and all for want of a man in the ship. If you had gone out
again after in the steamboat--Mr. Penfold have told me all about it--I'd
believe you weren't so much to blame. But no; lolloping and looking about
all day for months. There's my door, Joe Wylie; I can't cry comfortable
before you as had a hand in drowning of her. You and me is parted
forever. I'll die as I am, or I'll marry a _man;_ which you ain't one,
nor nothing like one. Is he waiting for you to hold the door open, Mr.
Penfold? or don't I speak plain enough? Them as I gave the sack to afore
you didn't want so much telling."

"Well, I'm going," said Wylie, sullenly. Then, with considerable feeling,
"This is hard lines."

But Nancy was inexorable, and turned him out, with the 2,000 pounds in
his pocket.

He took the notes out of his pocket, and flung them furiously down in the
dirt.

Then he did what everybody does under similar circumstances, he picked
them up again, and pocketed them, along with the other dirt they had
gathered.

Next day he went down to the docks and looked out for a ship; he soon got
one, and signed as second mate. She was to sail in a fortnight.

But, before a week was out, the banknotes had told so upon him that he
was no longer game to go to sea. But the captain he had signed with was a
Tartar, and not to be trifled with. He consulted a knowing friend, and
that friend advised him to disguise himself till the ship had sailed.
Accordingly he rigged himself out with a long coat, and a beard, and
spectacles, and hid his sea-slouch as well as he could, and changed his
lodgings. Finding he succeeded so well, he thought he might as well have
the pleasure of looking at Nancy Rouse, if he could not talk to her. So
he actually had the hardihood to take the parlor next door; and by this
means he heard her move about in her room, and caught a sight of her at
work on her little green; and he was shrewd enough to observe she did not
sing and whistle as she used to do. The dog chuckled at that. His
bank-notes worried him night and day. He was afraid to put them in a
bank; afraid to take them about with him into his haunts; afraid to leave
them at home; and out of this his perplexity arose some incidents worth
relating in their proper order.

Arthur Wardlaw returned to business; but he was a changed man. All zest
in the thing was gone. His fraud set him above the world; and that was
now enough for him, in whom ambition was dead, and, indeed, nothing left
alive in him but deep regrets.

He drew in the horns of speculation, and went on in the old safe routine;
and to the restless activity that had jeopardized the firm succeeded a
strange torpidity. He wore black for Helen, and sorrowed without hope. He
felt he had offended Heaven, and had met his punishment in Helen's death.
Wardlaw senior retired to Elmtrees, and seldom saw his son. When they did
meet, the old man sometimes whispered hope, but the whisper was faint and
unheeded.

One day Wardlaw senior came up express, to communicate to Arthur a letter
from General Rolleston, written at Valparaiso. In this letter, General
Rolleston deplored his unsuccessful search; but said he was going
westward, upon the report of a Dutch whaler, who had seen an island
reflected in the sky, while sailing between Juan Fernandez and Norfolk
Isle.

Arthur only shook his head with a ghastly smile. "She is in heaven," said
he, "and I shall never see her again, not here or hereafter."

Wardlaw senior was shocked at this speech; but he made no reply. He
pitied his son too much to criticise the expressions into which his
bitter grief betrayed him. He was old, and had seen the triumphs of time
over all things human, sorrow included. These, however, as yet, had done
nothing for Arthur Wardlaw. At the end of six months, his grief was as
somber and as deadly as the first week.

But one day, as this pale figure in deep mourning sat at his table, going
listlessly and mechanically through the business of scraping money
together for others to enjoy, whose hearts, unlike his, might not be in
the grave, his father burst in upon him, with a telegram in his hand, and
waved it over his head in triumph.

"She is found! she is found!" he roared. "Read that!" and thrust the
telegram into his hands.

Those hands trembled, and the languid voice rose into shrieks of
astonishment and delight, as Arthur read the words, "We have got her,
alive and well. Shall be at Charing Cross Hotel, 8 P. M."

CHAPTER LIV.

WHILE the boat was going to the _Springbok,_ General Rolleston whispered
to Captain Moreland; and what he said may be almost guessed from what
occurred on board the steamer soon afterward. Helen was carried trembling
into the cabin, and the order was given to heave the anchor and get under
way. A groan of disappointment ran through the ship; Captain Moreland
expressed the general's regret to the men, and divided two hundred pounds
upon the capstan; and the groan ended in a cheer.

As for Helen's condition, that was at first mistaken for ill health. She
buried herself for two whole days in her cabin; and from that place faint
moans were heard now and then. The sailors called her the sick lady.

Heaven knows what she went through in that forty-eight hours.

She came upon deck at last in a strange state of mind and body; restless,
strung up, absorbed. The rare vigor she had acquired on the island came
out now with a vengeance. She walked the deck with briskness, and a
pertinacity that awakened admiration in the crew at first, but by and by
superstitious awe. For, while the untiring feet went briskly to and fro
over leagues and leagues of plank every day, the great hazel eyes were
turned inward, and the mind, absorbed with one idea, skimmed the men and
things about her listlessly.

She had a mission to fulfill, and her whole nature was stringing itself
up to do the work.

She walked so many miles a day, partly from excitement, partly with a
deliberate resolve to cherish her health and strength; "I may want them
both," said she, "to clear Robert Penfold." Thought and high purpose
shone through her so, that after a while nobody dared trouble her much
with commonplaces. To her father, she was always sweet and filial, but
sadly cold compared with what she had always been hitherto. He was taking
her body to England, but her heart stayed behind upon that island. He saw
this, and said it.

"Forgive me," said she, coldly; and that was all her reply.

Sometimes she had violent passions of weeping; and then he would endeavor
to console her; but in vain. They ran their course, and were succeeded by
the bodily activity and concentration of purpose they had interrupted for
a little while.

At last, after a rapid voyage, they drew near the English coast; and then
General Rolleston, who had hitherto spared her feelings, and been most
indulgent and considerate, felt it was high time to come to an
understanding with her as to the course they should both pursue.

"Now, Helen," said he, "about the Wardlaws!"

Helen gave a slight shudder. But she said, after a slight hesitation,
"Let me know your wishes."

"Oh, mine are not to be too ungrateful to the father, and not to deceive
the son."

"I will not be ungrateful to the father, nor deceive the son," said
Helen, firmly.

The general kissed her on the brow, and called her his brave girl. "But,"
said he, "on the other hand, it must not be published that you have been
for eight months on an island alone with a convict. Anything sooner than
that. You know the malice of your own sex; if one woman gets hold of
that, you will be an outcast from society."

Helen blushed and trembled. "Nobody need be told that but Arthur; and I
am sure he loves me well enough not to injure me with the world."

"But he would be justified in declining your hand, after such a
revelation."

"Quite. And I hope he will decline it when he knows I love another,
however hopelessly."

"You are going to tell Arthur Wardlaw all that?"

"I am."

"Then all I can say is, you are not like other women."

"I have been brought up by a man."

"If I was Arthur Wardlaw, it would be the last word you should ever speak
to me."

"If you were Arthur Wardlaw, I should be on that dear island now."

"Well, suppose his love should be greater than his spirit, and--"

"If he does not go back when he hears of my hopeless love, I don't see
how I can. I shall marry him; and try with all my soul to love him. I'll
open every door in London to Robert Penfold; except one; my husband's.
And that door, while I live, he shall never enter. Oh, my heart; my
heart!" She burst out sobbing desperately. And her father laid her head
upon his bosom, and sighed deeply, and asked himself how all this would
end.

Before they landed, her fortitude seemed to return; and of her own accord
she begged her father to telegraph to the Wardlaws.

"Would you not like a day to compose yourself, and prepare for this
trying interview?" said he.

"I should. But it is mere weakness. And I must cure myself of my
weakness, or I shall never clear Robert Penfold. And then, papa, I think
of you. If old Mr. Wardlaw heard you had been a day in town, you might
suffer in his good opinion. We shall be in London at seven. Ask them at
eight. That will be one hour's respite. God help me, and strengthen poor
Arthur to bear the blow I bring him!"

Long before eight o'clock that day, Arthur Wardlaw had passed from a
state of somber misery and remorse to one of joy, exultation and unmixed
happiness. He no longer regretted his crime, nor the loss of the
_Proserpine._ Helen was alive and well, and attributed not her danger,
but only her preservation, to the Wardlaws.

Wardlaw senior kept his carriage in town, and precisely at eight o'clock
they drove up to the door of the hotel.

They followed the servant with bounding hearts, and rushed into the room
where the general and Helen stood ready to receive them. Old Wardlaw went
to the general with both hands out, and so the general met him, and
between these two it was almost an embrace. Arthur ran to Helen with
cries of joy and admiration, and kissed her hands again and again, and
shed such genuine tears of joy over them that she trembled all over and
was obliged to sit down. He kneeled at her feet, and still imprisoned one
hand, and mumbled it, while she turned her head away and held her other
hand before her face to hide its real expression, which was a mixture of
pity and repugnance. But, as her face was hidden, and her eloquent body
quivered, and her hand was not withdrawn, it seemed a sweet picture of
feminine affection to those who had not the key.

At last she was relieved from a most embarrassing situation by old
Wardlaw; he cried out on this monopoly, and Helen instantly darted out of
her chair, and went to him, and put up her cheek to him, which he kissed;
and then she thanked him warmly for his courage in not despairing of her
life, and his goodness in sending out a ship for her.

Now, the fact is, she could not feel grateful; but she knew she ought to
be grateful, and she was ashamed to show no feeling at all in return for
so much; so she was eloquent, and the old gentleman was naturally very
much pleased at first; but he caught an expression of pain on Arthur's
face, and then he stopped her. "My dear," said he, "you ought to thank
Arthur, not me; it is his love for you which was the cause of my zeal. If
you owe me anything, pay it to him, for he deserves it best. He nearly
died for you, my sweet girl. No, no, you mustn't hang your head for that,
neither. What a fool I am to revive old sorrows! Here we are, the
happiest four in England." Then he whispered to her, "Be kind to poor
Arthur, that is all I ask. His very life depends on you."

Helen obeyed this order, and went slowly back to Arthur; she sat, cold as
ice, on the sofa beside him, and he made love to her. She scarcely heard
what he said; she was asking herself how she could end this intolerable
interview, and escape her father's looks, who knew the real state of her
heart.

At last she rose, and went and whispered to him: "My courage has failed
me. Have pity on me, and get me away. It is the old man; he kills me."

General Rolleston took the hint, and acted with more tact than one would
have given him credit for. He got up and rang the bell for tea. Then he
said to Helen, "You don't drink tea now, and I see you are excited more
than is good for you. You had better go to bed."

"Yes, papa," said Helen.

She took her candle, and, as she passed young Wardlaw, she told him, in a
low voice, she would be glad to speak to him alone to-morrow.

"At what hour?" said he eagerly.

"When you like. At one."

And so she retired, leaving him in ecstasies. This was the first
downright assignation she had ever made with him.

They met at one o'clock; he radiant as the sun, and a rose in his
button-hole; she sad and somber, and with her very skin twitching at the
thought of the explanation she had to go through.

He began with amorous commonplaces; she stopped him, gravely.

"Arthur," said she, "you and I are alone now, and I have a confession to
make. Unfortunately, I must cause you pain--terrible pain. Oh, my heart
flinches at the wound I am going to give you; but it is my fate either to
wound you or to deceive you."

During this preamble, Arthur sat amazed rather than alarmed. He did not
interrupt her, though she paused, and would gladly have been interrupted,
since an interruption is an assistance in perplexities.

"Arthur, we suffered great hardships on the boat, and you would have lost
me but for one person. He saved my life again and again; I saved his upon
the island. My constancy was subject to trials--oh such trials! So great
an example of every manly virtue forever before my eyes! My gratitude and
my pity eternally pleading! England and you seemed gone forever. Make
excuses for me if you can. Arthur--I--I have formed an attachment."

In making this strange avowal she hung her head and blushed, and the
tears ran down her cheeks. But we suspect they ran for _him,_ and not for
Arthur.

Arthur turned deadly sick at this tremendous blow, dealt with so soft a
hand. At last he gasped out, "If you marry him, you will bury me."

"No, Arthur," said Helen, gently; "I could not marry him, even if you
were to permit me. When you know more, you will see that, of us three
unhappy ones, you are the least unhappy. But, since this is so, am I
wrong to tell you the truth, and leave you to decide whether our
engagement ought to continue? Of course, what I have owned to you
releases you."

"Releases me! but it does not unbind my heart from yours," cried Arthur,
in despair.

Then his hysterical nature came out, and he was so near fainting away
that Helen sprinkled water on his temples, and applied eau-de-cologne to
his nostrils, and murmured, "Poor, poor Arthur! Oh, was I born only to
afflict those I esteem?"

He saw her with the tears of pity in her eyes, and he caught her hand,
and said, "You were always the soul of honor; keep faith with me, and I
will cure you of that unhappy attachment."

"What! Do you hold me to my engagement after what I have told you?"

"Cruel Helen! you know I have not the power to hold you."

"I am not cruel; and you have the power. But oh, think! For your own
sake, not mine."

"I have thought; and this attachment to a man you cannot marry is a mere
misfortune--yours as well as mine. Give me your esteem until your love
comes back, and let our engagement continue."

"It was for you to decide," said Helen, coldly, "and you have decided.
There is one condition I must ask you to submit to."

"I submit to it."

"What, before you hear it?"

"Helen, you don't know what a year of misery I have endured, ever since
the report came of your death. My happiness is cruelly dashed now, but
still it is great happiness by comparison. Make your conditions. You are
my queen, as well as my love and my life."

Helen hesitated. It shocked her delicacy to lower the man she had
consented to marry.

"Oh, Helen," said Arthur, "anything but secrets between you and me. Go on
as you have begun, and let me know the worst at once."

"Can you be very generous, Arthur?--generous to him who has caused you so
much pain?"

"I'll try," said Arthur, with a groan.

"I would not marry him, unless you gave me up. For I am your betrothed,
and you are true to me. I _could_ not marry him, even if I were not
pledged to you; but it so happens, I can do him one great service without
injustice to you; and this service I have vowed to do before I marry. I
shall keep that vow, as I keep faith with you. He has been driven from
society by a foul slander; that slander I am to sift and confute. It will
be long and difficult; but I shall do it; and you could help me if you
chose. But that I will not be so cruel as to ask."

Arthur bit his lip with jealous rage; but he was naturally cunning, and
his cunning showed him there was at present but one road to Helen's
heart. He quelled his torture as well as he could, and resolved to take
that road. He reflected a moment, and then he said:

"If you succeed in that, will you marry me next day?"

"I will, upon my honor."

"Then I will help you."

"Arthur, think what you say. Women have loved as unselfishly as this; but
no man, that ever I heard of."

"No man ever did love a woman as I love you. Yes, I would rather help
you, though with a sore heart, than hold aloof from you. What have we to
do together?"

"Did I not tell you?--to clear his character of a foul stigma, and
restore him to England, and to the world which he is so fitted to adorn."

"Yes, yes," said Arthur; "but who is it? Why do I ask, though? He must be
a stranger to me."

"No stranger at all," said Helen; "but one who is almost as unjust to you
as the world has been to him;" then, fixing her eyes full on him, she
said, "Arthur, it is your old friend and tutor, Robert Penfold."

CHAPTER LV.

ARTHUR WARDLAW was thunderstruck; and for some time sat stupidly staring
at her. And to this blank gaze succeeded a look of abject terror, which
seemed to her strange and beyond the occasion. But this was not all; for,
after glaring at her with scared eyes and ashy cheeks a moment or two, he
got up and literally staggered out of the room without a word.

He had been taken by surprise, and, for once, all his arts had failed
him.

Helen, whose eyes had never left his face, and had followed his retiring

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