“I meet a few of my particular friends at Mrs. Grandon’s to-night,” he added, in conclusion. “Can I hope to see you there, taking your presence as a token that I may speak and tell you in words what I have so poorly written?”
“She surely will be there, as it is the last, perhaps, she’ll ever see of some of us poor wretches,” Mark said, his hand trembling a little as he sealed the note, which he would not trust to the post.
He would deliver it himself, avoiding the possibility of a mistake, he said, and half an hour later he rang the bell at No. ——, asking “If Miss Lennox was at home.”
She was; and handing the girl the note, Mark ran down the steps, while the servant carried the missive to the library, where upon the table lay other letters received that morning by the penny post, and as yet unopened; for Katy was very busy, and Helen was dressing to go out with Juno Cameron, who had graciously asked her to drive with her that morning and look at a picture she had set her heart on having.
Juno had not yet appeared; but Mark was scarcely out of sight when she came in with the familiarity of a sister and entered the library to wait. Carelessly turning over the books upon the table, she stumbled over Mark’s letter, which, through some defect in the envelope, had become unsealed, and lay with its edge lifted so that to peer at its contents was a very easy matter had she been so disposed. But Juno, though indignant and jealous—for she knew the handwriting—could not at first bring herself even to touch what was intended for her rival. But as she gazed the longing grew, until at last she took it in her hand, turning it to the light, and tracing distinctly the words “My dear Helen,” while a storm of pain and passion swept over her, mingled with a feeling of shame that she had let herself down so far.
“It does not matter now,” the tempter whispered. “You may as well read it and know the worst. Nobody will suspect it,” and so, led on step by step, she was about to take the folded letter from the envelope, intending fully to replace it after it was read, when a rapid step warned her some one was coming, and hastily thrusting the letter in her pocket, she dropped her veil to cover her confusion, and then confronted Helen Lennox, ready for the drive, and all unconscious of the wrong which could not then be righted.
Juno was unusually kind and familiar that morning, delicately complimenting Helen’s taste with regard to pictures, and trying in various ways to forget the letter which lay upon her conscience like a leaden weight, driving all other thoughts from her mind, and leaving only the torturing one, “How can I return it without detection?” Juno did not mean to keep the letter, and all that morning she was devising measures for making restitution, even thinking once to confess the whole, but shrinking from that as more than she could do. As they were driving home they met Mark Ray; but Helen, who chanced