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The Legacy of Cain

41. The Whispering Voice
I looked at Eunice. She had risen, startled by her first suspicion of the person who was
approaching us through the shrubbery; but she kept her place near me, only changing her
position so as to avoid confronting Helena. Her quickened breathing was all that told me
of the effort she was making to preserve her self-control.
Entirely free from unbecoming signs of hurry and agitation, Helena opened her business
with me by means of an apology.
"Pray excuse me for disturbing you. I am obliged to leave the house on one of my
tiresome domestic errands. If you will kindly permit it, I wish to express, before I go, my
very sincere regret for what I was rude enough to say, when I last had the honor of seeing
you. May I hope to be forgiven? How-do-you-do, Eunice? Have you enjoyed your
holiday in the country?"
Eunice neither moved nor answered. Having some doubt of what might happen if the two
girls remained together, I proposed to Helena to leave the garden and to let me hear what
she had to say, in the house.
"Quite needless," she replied; "I shall not detain you for more than a minute. Please look
at this."
She offered to me the portfolio that she had been carrying, and pointed to a morsel of
paper attached to it, which contained this inscription:
"Philip's Letters To Me. Private. Helena Gracedieu."
"I have a favor to ask," she said, "and a proof of confidence in you to offer. Will you be
so good as to look over what you find in my portfolio? I am unwilling to 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 it 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
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-