give up the hopes that I had founded on our interview, when I asked for it. The letters will, I venture to think, plead my cause more convincingly than I was able to plead for myself. I wish to forget what passed between us, to the last word. To the last word," she repeated, emphatically--with a look which sufficiently informed me that I had not been betrayed to her father yet. "Will you indulge me?" she asked, and offered her portfolio for the second time.
A more impudent bargain could not well have been proposed to me.
I was to read, and to be favorably impressed by, Mr. Philip Dunboyne's letters; and Miss Helena was to say nothing of that unlucky slip of the tongue, relating to her mother, which she had discovered to be a serious act of self-betrayal--thanks to my confusion at the time. If I had not thought of Eunice, and of the desolate and loveless life to which the poor girl was so patiently resigned, I should have refused to read Miss Gracedieu's love-letters.
But, as things were, I was influenced by the hope (innocently encouraged by Eunice herself) that Philip Dunboyne might not be so wholly unworthy of the sweet girl whom he had injured, as, I had hitherto been disposed to believe. To act on this view with the purpose of promoting a reconciliation, was impossible unless I had the means of forming a correct estimate of the man's character. It seemed to me that I had found the means. A fair chance of putting his sincerity to a trustworthy test, was surely offered by the letters (the confidential letters) which I had been requested to read. To feel this as strongly as I felt it, brought me at once to a decision. I consented to take the portfolio--on my own conditions.
"Understand, Miss Helena," I said, "that I make no promises. I reserve my own opinion, and my own right of action."
"I am not afraid of your opinions or your actions," she answered, confidently, "if you will only read the letters. In the meantime, let me relieve my sister, there, of my presence. I hope you will soon recover, Eunice, in the country air."
If the object of the wretch was to exasperate her victim, she had completely failed. Eunice remained as still as a statue. To all appearance, she had not even heard what had been said to her. Helena looked at me, and touched