“And how is he?”
“He looked dreadful, but he had gotten up to-day, and he was sitting by the window when I came in. He was hardly a shadow of himself.”
Helen was trembling. “You have not been to see him?” asked the woman.
“No,” said Helen, faintly, “I—” and then she stopped.
“Why not?” Elizabeth inquired anxiously.
“He did not ask for me, did he?” asked the girl, scarcely able to utter the words.
“No,” said the woman, “but you know, everybody told me you were engaged to a rich man—”
And Helen started forwrard with a cry. “Elizabeth!” she gasped, “you—you didn’t—–!”
“Yes,” said the other, “I told him.” And then seeing the girl’s look of terror, she stopped short. Helen stared at her for fully half a minute without uttering a word; and then the woman went on, slowly, “It was very dreadful, Miss Helen; he went almost crazy, and I was so frightened that I didn’t know what I should do. Please tell me what is the matter.”
Helen was still gazing dumbly at the woman, seeming not to have heard the last question. “I—I can’t tell you,” she said, when it was repeated again; “you ought not to have told him, Elizabeth.”
“Miss Helen,” cried the woman, anxiously, “you must do something! For I am sure that I know what is the matter; he loves you, and you must know it, too. And it will certainly kill him; weak as he was, he rushed out of the house, and I could not find him anywhere. Miss Helen, you must go and see him!”
The girl sat with the same look of helpless fright upon her face, and with her hands clenched tightly between her knees; the other went on talking hurriedly, but Helen scarcely heard anything after that; her mind was too full of its own thoughts. It was several minutes more before she even noticed that the woman was still insisting that she must go to see Artheur. “Please leave me now!” she cried wildly; “please leave me! I cannot explain anything,—I want to be alone!” And when the door was shut she became once more dumb and motionless, staring blankly ahead of her, a helpless victim of her own wretched thoughts.
“That is the end of it,” she groaned to herself; “oh, that is the end of it!”
Winkt dir nicht hold die hehre Burg?
Thou would’st be happy,
Or endlessly wretched.
Helen was quite powerless to do anything whatever after that last piece of misfortune; it seemed as if she could have remained just where she was for hours, shuddering at the sight of what was happening, yet utterly helpless before it. The world was taking a very serious aspect indeed to the bright and laughing girl, who had thought of it as the home of birds and flowers; yet she knew not what to make of the change, or how she was to blame for it, and she could only sit still and tremble. She was in the same position and the same state of mind when her aunt entered the room some minutes later.