“Helen!” he exclaimed. “What is the matter?” The girl clutched his arm so tightly that he winced, powerful man that he was. “Take me home,” she gasped. “Oh, quick, please take me home!”
“Peace! Sit you
And let me wring your heart; for so I shall,
If it be made of penetrable stuff.”
Helen ran up to her room when she reached home, and shut herself in, and after that she had nothing to do but suffer. All of her excitement was gone from her then, and with it every spark of her strength; the fiends that had been pursuing her rose up and seized hold of her, and lashed her until she writhed and cried aloud in agony. She was helpless to resist them, knowing not which way to turn or what to do,—completely cowed and terrified. But there was no more sinking into the dull despair that had mastered her before; the face of Arthur, as she had seen it in that one glimpse, had been burned into her memory with fire, and she could not shut it from her sight; when the fact that he had come from the tavern, and what that must mean rose before her, it was almost more than she could bear, cry out as she might that she could not help it, that she never could have helped it, that she had nothing to do with it. Moreover, if there was any possibility of the girl’s driving out that specter, there was always another to take its place. It was not until she was alone in her room, until all her resolution was gone, and all of her delusions, that she realized the actual truth about what she had done that afternoon; it was like a nightmare to her then. She seemed always to feel the man’s arms clasping her, and whenever she thought of his kisses her forehead burned her like fire, so that she flung herself down by the bedside, and buried it in the pillows.
It was thus that her aunt found her when she came in to call Helen to dinner; and this time the latter’s emotions were so real and so keen that there was no prevailing over them, or persuading her to anything. “I don’t want to eat!” she cried again and again in answer to her aunt’s alarmed insistence. “No, I am not coming down! I want to be alone! Alone, Aunt Polly—please leave me alone!”
“But, Helen,” protested Mrs. Roberts, “won’t you please tell me what is the matter? What in the world can have happened to you?”
“I can’t tell you,” the girl cried hysterically. “I want you to go and leave me alone!” And she shut the door and locked it, and then began pacing wildly up and down the room, heedless of the fact that her aunt was still standing out in the hallway; the girl was too deeply shaken just then to have any thought about appearances.