`Do let me have quietness at least!' continued he, `if you deny me every other comfort,' and sinking back into his former position, with an impatient expiration between a sigh and a groan, he languidly closed his eyes as if to sleep.
What the book was, that lay open on the table before me, I cannot tell, for I never looked at it. With an elbow on each side of it, and my hands clasped before my eyes, I delivered myself up to silent weeping. But Arthur was not asleep: at the first slight sob, he raised his head and looked round, impatiently exclaiming--
`What are you crying for, Helen? What the deuce is the matter now?'
`I'm crying for you, Arthur,' I replied, speedily drying my tears; and starting up, I threw myself on my knees before him, and, clasping his nerveless hand between my own, continued: `Don't you know that you are a part of myself? And do you think you can injure and degrade yourself, and I not feel it?'
`Degrade myself, Helen?'
Yes, degrade! What have you been doing all this time?'
`You'd better not ask,' said he, with a faint smile.
`And you had better not tell--but you cannot deny that you have degraded yourself miserably. You have shamefully wronged yourself, body and soul--and me too; and I can't endure it quietly--and I won't!'
`Well, don't squeeze my hand so frantically and don't agitate me so, for Heaven's sake! Oh, Hattersley! you were right; this woman will be the death of me, with her keen feelings and her interesting force of character--There, there, do spare me a little.'
`Arthur, you must repent!' cried I, in a frenzy of desperation, throwing my arms around him and burying my face in his bosom. You shall say you are sorry for what you have done!'
`Well, well, I am.'
`You are not! you'll do it again.'
`I shall never live to do it again, if you treat me so savagely,' replied he, pushing me from him. `You've nearly squeezed the breath out of my body.' He pressed his hand to his heart, and looked really agitated and ill.
`Now get me a glass of wine,' said he, `to remedy what you've done, you she-tiger! I'm almost ready to faint.'
I flew to get the required remedy It seemed to revive him considerably.
`What a shame it is,' said I, as I took the empty glass from his hand, `for a strong young man like you to reduce yourself to such a state!'
`If you knew all, my girl, you'd say rather, "What a wonder it is you can bear it so well as you do!" I've lived more in these four months, Helen, than you have in the whole course of your existence, or will to the end of your days, if they numbered a hundred years;--so I must expect to pay for it in some shape.'
`You will have to pay a higher price than you anticipate, if you don't take care--there will be the total loss of your own health, and of my affection too--if that is of any value to you.'
`What, you're at that game of threatening me with the loss of your affection again, are you? I think it couldn't have been very genuine stuff to begin with, if it's so easily demolished. If you don't mind, my
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