An Encounter and Its ConsequencesTHAT day was rainy like its predecessor; but towards evening it began to clear up a little, and the next morning was fair and promising. I was out on the hill with the reapers. A light wind swept over the corn; and all nature laughed in the sunshine. The lark was rejoicing among the silvery floating clouds. The late rain had so sweetly freshened and cleared the air, and washed the sky, and left such glittering gems on branch and blade, that not even the farmers could have the heart to blame it. But no ray of sunshine could reach my heart, no breeze could freshen it; nothing could fill the void my faith, and hope, and joy in Helen Gram had left, or drive away the keen regrets, and bitter dregs of lingering love that still oppressed it.
While I stood, with folded arms, abstractedly gazing on the undulating swell of the corn not yet disturbed by the reapers, something gently pulled my skirts, and a small voice, no longer welcome to my ears, aroused me with the startling words:--
`Mr Markham, mamma wants you.'
`Wants me, Arthur?'
`Yes. Why do you look so queer?' said he, half laughing, half frightened at the unexpected aspect of my face in suddenly turning towards him--`and why have you kept so long away?--Come!--Won't you come?'
`I'm busy just now,' I replied, scarce knowing what to answer.
He looked up in childish bewilderment; but before I could speak again, the lady herself was at my side.
`Gilbert, I must speak with you!' said she, in a tone of sub pressed vehemence.
I looked at her pale cheek and glittering eye, but answered nothing.
`Only for a moment,' pleaded she. `Just step aside into this other field,'--she glanced at the reapers, some of whom were directing looks of impertinent curiosity towards her--`I won't keep you a minute.'
I accompanied her through the gap.
`Arthur, darling, run and gather those bluebells,' said she, pointing to some that were gleaming, at some distance, under the hedge along which we walked. The child hesitated, as if unwilling to quit my side `Go love!' repeated she, more urgently, and in a tone, which, though not unkind, demanded prompt obedience, and obtained it.
`Well, Mrs Graham?' said I, calmly and coldly; for, though I saw she was miserable, and pitied her, I felt glad to have it in my power to torment her.
She fixed her eyes upon me with a look that pierced me to the heart;--and yet it made me smile.
`I don't ask the reason of this change, Gilbert,' said she, with bitter calmness.--`I know it too well; but though I could see myself suspected and condemned by everyone else, and bear it with calmness, I cannot endure it from you--Why did you not come to hear my explanation on the day I appointed to give it?'
`Because I happened, in the interim, to learn all you would have told me,--and a trifle more, I imagine.'
`Impossible, for I would have told you all!' cried she, passionately--`But I won't now, for I see you are not worthy of it!'
And her pale lips quivered with agitation.
`Why not, may I ask?'
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