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      Blinding red the sunset!
         In that hopeful breast
      Stay'd the foeman's arrow.
         Sotwas won.  The rest-
      How Despair, in strait most narrow,
         Smote the Victor's crest-

      Matters not.  Our women
         Drove him to his den.
      Twas his last invasion;
         We've had peace since then.
      This is why, on State occasion,
         They precede our men.

         THE DEAD SECRET.

CHAPTER THE SECOND. THE HIDING OF THE
SECRET.

The instant Sarah Leeson had turned the
key of her bedroom door, she took the sheet
of note-paper from its place of concealment
in her bosom- shuddering, when she drew it
out, as if the mere contact of it hurt her-
placed it open on her little dressing-table, and
fixed her eyes eagerly on the lines which the
note contained. At first they swam and
mingled together before her. She pressed
her hands over her eyes for a few minutes,
and then looked at the writing again.

The characters were clear now- vividly
clear, and, as she fancied, unnaturally large
and near to view. There was the address:
"To my Husband; " there the first blotted
line beneath, in her dead mistress's
handwriting; there the lines that followed,
traced by her own pen, with the signatures at
the end- Mrs. Treverton's first, and then her
own. The whole amounted to but very few
sentences, written on one perishable fragment
of paper, which the flame of a candle would
have consumed in a moment. Yet there she
sat, reading, reading, reading, over and over
again; never touching the note, except
when it was absolutely necessary to turn
over the first page; never moving, never
speaking, never raising her eyes from the
paper. As a condemned prisoner might read
his death-warrant, so did Sarah Leeson now
read the few lines which she and her mistress
had written together not half-an-hour since.

The secret of the paralysing effect of that
writing on her mind lay, not only in itself
but in the circumstances which had attended
the act of its production. The oath which
had been proposed by Mrs. Treverton under
no more serious influence than the last
caprice of disordered faculties, stimulated by
confused remembrances of stage words and
stage situations, had been accepted by Sarah
Leeson as the most sacred and inviolable
engagement to which she could bind herself.
The threat of enforcing obedience to her last
commands from beyond the grave, which
the mistress had uttered in mocking
experiment on the superstitious fears of the
credulous maid, now hung darkly over the
weak mind of Sarah, as a judgment which
might descend on her, visibly and inexorably,

at any moment of her future life. When
she roused herself at last, and pushed away
the paper, and rose to her feet, she stood
quite still for an instant, before she ventured
to look behind her. When she did look, it was
with an effort and a start, with a searching
distrust of the empty dimness in the remoter
corners of the room.

Her old habit of talking to herself began
to resume its influence, as she now walked
rapidly backwards and forwards, sometimes
along the room and sometimes across it. She
repeated incessantly such broken phrases as
these: " How can I give him the letter?—
Such a good master; so kind to us all.—
Why did she die, and leave it all to me?— I
can't bear it alone; it's too much for me."
While reiterating these sentences, she
vacantly occupied herself in putting things
about the room in order, which were set in
perfect order already. All her looks, all her
actions, betrayed the vain struggle of a weak
mind to sustain itself under the weight of a
heavy responsibility. She arranged and
re-arranged the cheap china ornaments on her
chimney-piece a dozen times over- put her
pin-cushion first on the looking-glass, then
on the table in front of it- changed the
position of the little porcelain dish and tray on
her wash-hand-stand, now to one side of the
basin and now to the other. Throughout all
these trifling actions, the natural grace,
delicacy, and prim neat-handedness of the
woman still waited mechanically on the most
useless and aimless of her occupations of the
moment. She knocked nothing down, she put
nothing awry, her footsteps at their fastest
made no sound- the very skirts of her dress
were kept as properly and prudishly
composed as if it was broad daylight and the
eyes of all her neighbours were looking at
her.

From time to time the sense of the words
she was murmuring confusedly to herself
changed. Sometimes they disjointediy
expressed bolder and more self-reliant thoughts.
Once they seemed to urge her again to the
dressing-table and the open letter on it,
against her own will. She read aloud the
address: " To my Husband," and caught
the letter up sharply, and spoke in firmer
tones. " Why give it to him at all? Why not
let the secret die with her and die with me,
as it ought? Why should he know it? He
shall not know it! " Saying those last
words, she desperately held the letter within
an inch of the flame of the candle. At the
same moment the white curtain over the
window before her stirred a little, as the
freshening air found its way through the
old-fashioned, ill-fitting sashes. Her eye
caught sight of it, as it waved gently
backwards and forwards. She clasped the letter
suddenly to her breast with both hands, and
shrank back against the wall of the room,
her eyes still fastened on the curtain, with
the same blank look of horror which they