For instance, there was that unreasonable and unaccountable codicil to her grandfather’s will, of which no one had been able to discern either the sense or the meaning, and which stated that, should his beloved grand-daughter, Helen Romer, be still unmarried within two months of the date of his death, the whole of the previous bequests and legacies were to be revoked and cancelled, and, with the exception of five thousand pounds which she would retain, the whole bulk of his fortune was to devolve upon the Crown, for the special use of the pensioners of Greenwich and Chelsea Hospitals.
Why such an extraordinary clause had been added to the old man’s will it was difficult to say. Possibly he feared that his grand-daughter might be tempted to remain unmarried, in order that she might the more freely squander her newly-acquired fortune in selfish pleasures; possibly he desired to ensure her future by the speedy shelter and support of a husband’s name and authority, or perhaps he only hoped at his heart that she would be unable to fulfil his condition; and, whilst his memory would be left free from blame towards his daughter’s orphaned child, his money might go away from her by her own fault, and enrich the institutions of his country at the expense of the grand-daughter, whom he had always disliked.
Be that as it may, it was sufficient to place Helen in a very awkward and uncomfortable position. She had not only to claim Maurice’s promised troth to her, but she had also to urge on him an almost immediate marriage; the task was a thankless and most unpleasant one.
Besides that, there was the existence of a certain little French vicomte which caused Mrs. Romer not a little anxiety. Now, if ever, was the time when she had reason to dread his re-appearance with those fatal letters with which he had once threatened to spoil her life should she ever attempt to marry again.
But her grandfather had died and had left her his money, and her engagement and approaching marriage to another man was no secret, yet still Monsieur Le Vicomte D’Arblet made no sign, and gave forth no token of his promised vengeance.
Helen dared not flatter herself that he was dead, but she did hope, and hoped rightly, that he was not in England, and had not heard of the change in her fortunes. She had been afraid to make any inquiries concerning him; such a step might only excite suspicion, and defeat her own object of remaining hidden from him. If only she could be safely married before he heard of her again—all, she thought, might yet be well with her. Of what use, then, would be his vengeance? for she did not think it likely he could be so cruel as to wreak an idle and profitless revenge upon her after she herself and her fortune were beyond his power.
Perhaps, had she known that her enemy had been on a distant journey to Constantinople, from which he was now returning, and that every hour she lived brought him nearer and nearer to her, she would have been less easy in her mind concerning him. As it was, she consoled herself by thinking in how short a time her marriage would put her out of his power, and hoped, for the rest, that things would all turn out right for her. Nevertheless, strive how she would, she could not quite put away the dread of it out of her mind—it was an anxiety.