A Misdemeanour

OCTOBER 9th.--While the gentlemen are ranging the woods and Lady Lowborough is busy writing her letters, I will return to my chronicle for the purpose of recording sayings and doings, the last of the kind I hope I shall ever have cause to describe.

It was on the night of the 4th, a little after tea, that Annabella had been singing and playing, with Arthur as usual at her side: she had ended her song, but still she sat at the instrument; and he stood leaning on the back of her chair, conversing in scarcely audible tones, with his face in very close proximity with hers. I looked at Lord Lowborough. He was at the other end of the room, talking with Messrs Hargrave and Grimsby; but I saw him dart, towards his lady and his host, a quick, impatient glance, expressive of intense disquietude, at which Grimsby smiled. Determined to interrupt the tête-a-tête, I rose, and selecting a piece of music from the music stand, stepped up to the piano, intending to ask the lady to play it; but I stood transfixed and speechless in seeing her seated there, listening with what seemed an exultant smile on her flushed face, to his soft murmurings, with her hand quietly surrendered to his clasp. The blood rushed first to my heart and then to my head--for there was more than this; almost at the moment of my approach, he cast a hurried glance over his shoulder towards the other occupants of the room, and then ardently pressed the unresisting hand to his lips. On raising his eyes he beheld me and dropped them again, confounded and dismayed. She saw me too, and confronted me with a look of hard defiance I laid the music on the piano, and retired. I felt ill; but I did not leave the room: happily, it was getting late and could not be long before the company dispersed. I went to the fire and leant my head against the chimney-piece. in a minute or two, someone asked me if I felt unwell. I did not answer--indeed, at the time I knew not what was said--but I mechanically looked up, and saw Mr Hargrave standing beside me on the rug.

`Shall I get you a glass of wine?' said he.

`No, thank you,' I replied; and turning from him, I looked round. Lady Lowborough was beside her husband, bending over him as he sat, with her hand on his shoulder, softly talking and smiling in his face; and Arthur was at the table turning over a book of engravings. I seated myself in the nearest chair; and Mr Hargrave, finding his services were not desired, judiciously with drew. Shortly after, the company broke up, and as the guests were retiring to their rooms, Arthur approached me, smiling with the utmost assurance.

`Are you very angry, Helen?' murmured he.

`This is no jest, Arthur,' said I, seriously, but as calmly as I could--`unless you think it a jest to lose my affection forever.'

`What! so bitter?' he exclaimed, laughingly clasping my hand between both his; but I snatched it away, in indignation--almost in disgust, for he was obviously affected with wine.

`Then I must go down on my knees,' said he; and kneeling before me with clasped hands uplifted in mock humiliation, he continued imploringly--`Forgive me, Helen!--dear Helen, forgive me, and I'll never do it again!' and burying his face in his handkerchief, he affected to sob aloud.

Leaving him thus employed, I took my candle, and slipping quietly from the room, hastened upstairs as fast as I could. But he soon discovered that I had left him, and rushing up after me, caught me in his arms, just as I had entered the chamber, and was about to shut the door in his face.

`No, no, by Heaven, you shan't escape me so!' he cried. Then, alarmed at my agitation, he begged me not to put myself in such a passion, telling me I was white in the face, and should kill myself if I did so.

`Let me go then,' I murmured; and immediately he released me--and it was well he did, for I was really in a passion. I sunk into the easy-hair and endeavoured to compose myself, for I wanted to speak to him calmly. He stood beside me, but did not venture to touch me or to speak, for a few seconds; then approaching a little nearer, he dropped on one knee--not in mock humility, but to bring himself nearer my level, and leaning his hand on the arm of the chair, he began in a low voice--

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