“There’s something going on,” thought Helen. “She’s a deep one, with all her quiet piety; but she shall never stand between me and my aims. I have read one will—I shall not sleep until I read the other.” Then, turning to May, she spoke aloud. “It will suit me better to be down stairs; I am so very nervous, that I am a poor nurse;” and glad to be released from a scene too uncongenial to her nature and feelings, she hastily withdrew.
THE SECRET SIN.
“This is shocking news, Walter!” said Mrs. Jerrold to her son, when he imparted to her the news of Mr. Stillinghast’s illness. “Do you know—has he—did he send—”
“I don’t know, indeed,” said the young man, abstractly.
“I mean, has he altered his will?” said the lady, speaking out.
“I do not know; Helen tells me that a lawyer has been with him, and a priest.”
“A priest!” shrieked the lady. “Order the carriage instantly, Walter; I must see Helen.”
“I have not seen her since the morning,” said the young man, after having delivered the order, and returned to the sofa. “She looks harassed and ill, poor girl.”
“I am sorry we have been so precipitate in this affair, Walter,” said Mrs. Jerrold, fuming. “After all, this eccentric old person may change his mind, and it will be so awkward to break off the match, for you cannot afford to marry a poor woman.”
“I do not apprehend any thing of the kind, mother. Helen’s beauty and accomplishments are dower enough,” he replied, calmly.
“Walter, I will never consent to this marriage if Helen is portionless,” exclaimed the lady.
“My dear mother, you sometimes forget, do you not, that I have reached the mature age of thirty-one? Really, where my happiness is concerned, I shall submit to no control,” he said, calmly.
“Happiness!” repeated the lady, scornfully.
“The carriage is at the door, madam,” said a servant, at the door.
“Very well. Tell Rachael to bring down my bonnet and wrappings.”
Soon accoutred for her drive, Mrs. Jerrold took her son’s arm, and went down to her carriage. He handed her in, and stepped in after her.
“Why do you go, Walter?” she asked, looking annoyed.
“I wish to inquire after Mr. Stillinghast’s health,” he said, quietly.
A few minutes’ drive brought them to Mr. Stillinghast’s door. Helen heard the carriage stop, and her toilette, as usual, being very becomingly and carefully made—for Helen never forgot her self-homage—she met them at the door. Her countenance had assumed a sad and mournful expression, and in answer to their inquiries, she spoke in an agitated and subdued tone.
“It is horrible. I did not hear a word of it until to-day. I was dreadfully shocked,” said Mrs. Jerrold, kissing her cheek.
“How is Mr. Stillinghast now, dear Helen?” asked Walter Jerrold, folding her hand closer in his own.