Margaret could not proceed very far in the story of her life, without making some reference to Hugh Sutherland. But she carefully avoided mentioning his name. Perhaps no one less calm, and free from the operation of excitement, could have been so successful in suppressing it.
"Ah!" said Euphra, one day, "your history is a little like mine there; a tutor comes into them both. Did you not fall dreadfully in love with him?"
"I loved him very much."
"Where is he now?"
"In London, I believe."
"Do you never see him?"
"Have you never seen him since he left your home -- with the curious name?"
"Yes; but not spoken to him."
Margaret was silent. Euphra knew her well enough now not to repeat the question.
"I should have been in love with him, I know."
Margaret only smiled.
Another day, Euphra said:
"What a good boy that Harry is! And so clever too. Ah! Margaret, I have behaved like the devil to that boy. I wanted to have him all to myself, and so kept him a child. Need I confess all my ugliest sins?"
"Not to me, certainly, dear Miss Cameron. Tell God to look into your heart, and take them all out of it."
"I will. I do. -- I even enticed Mr. Sutherland away from him to me, when he was the only real friend he had, that I might have them both."
"But you have done your best to make up for it since."
"I have tried a little. I cannot say I have done my best. I have been so peevish and irritable."
"You could not quite help that."
"How kind you are to excuse me so! It makes me so much stronger to try again."
"My father used to say that God was always finding every excuse for us that could be found; every true one, you know; not one false one."
"That does comfort one."
After a pause, Euphra resumed:
"Mr. Sutherland did me some good, Margaret."
"I do not wonder at that."
"He made me think less about Count Halkar; and that was something, for he haunted me. I did not know then how very wicked he was. I did love him once. Oh, how I hate him now!"
And she started up and paced the room like a tigress in its cage.
Margaret did not judge this the occasion to read her a lecture on the duty of forgiveness. She had enough to do to keep from hating the man herself, I suspect. But she tried to turn her thoughts into another channel.
"Mr. Sutherland loved you very much, Miss Cameron."
"He loved me once," said poor Euphra, with a sigh.
"I saw he did. That was why I began to love you too."
Margaret had at last unwittingly opened the door of her secret. She had told the other reason for loving Euphra. But, naturally enough, Euphra could not understand what she meant. Perhaps some of my readers, understanding Margaret's words perfectly, and their reference too, may be so far from understanding Margaret herself, as to turn upon me and say:
"Impossible! You cannot have understood her or any other woman."
"What do you mean, Margaret?"
Margaret both blushed and laughed outright.
"I must confess it," said she, at once; "it cannot hurt him now: my tutor and yours are the same."
"And you never spoke all the time you were both at Arnstead?"
"Not once. He never knew I was in the house."
"How strange! And you saw he loved me?"
"And you were not jealous?"
"I did not say that. But I soon found that the only way to escape from my jealousy, if the feeling I had was jealousy, was to love you too. I did."
"You beautiful creature! But you could not have loved him much."
"I loved him enough to love you for his sake. But why did he stop loving you? I fear I shall not be able to love him so much now."
"He could not help it, Margaret. I deserved it."
Euphra hid her face in her hands.
"He could not have really loved you, then?"
"Which is better to believe, Margaret," said Euphra, uncovering her face, which two tears were lingering down, and looking up at her -- "that he never loved me, or that he stopped loving me?"
"For his sake, the first."
"And for my sake, the second?"
"So it does. He must have found plenty of faults in me. But I was not so bad as he thought me when he stopped loving me."
Margaret's answer was one of her loving smiles, in which her eyes had more share than her lips.
It would have been unendurable to Euphra, a little while before, to find that she had a rival in a servant. Now she scarcely regarded that aspect of her position. But she looked doubtfully at Margaret, and then said:
"How is it that you take it so quietly? -- for your love must have been very different from mine. Indeed, I am not sure that I loved him at all; and after I had made up my mind to it quite, it did not hurt me so very much. But you must have loved him dreadfully."
"Perhaps I did. But I had no anxiety about it."
"But that you could not leave to a father such as yours even to settle."
"No. But I could to God. I could trust God with what I could not speak to my father about. He is my father's father, you know; and so, more to him and me than we could be to each other. The more we love God, the more we love each other; for we find he makes the very love which sometimes we foolishly fear to do injustice to, by loving him most. I love my father ten times more because he loves God, and because God has secrets with him."
"I wish God were a father to me as he is to you, Margaret."
"But he is your father, whether you wish it or not. He cannot be more your father than he is. You may be more his child than you are, but not more than he meant you to be, nor more than he made you for. You are infinitely more his child than you have grown to yet. He made you altogether his child, but you have not given in to it yet."
"Oh! yes; I know what you mean. I feel it is true."
"The Prodigal Son was his father's child. He knew it, and gave in to it. He did not say: 'I wish my father loved me enough to treat me like a child again.' He did not say that, but -- I will arise and go to my father."
Euphra made no answer, but wept, Margaret said no more.
Euphra was the first to resume.
"Mr. Sutherland was very kind, Margaret. He promised -- and I know he will keep his promise--to do all he could to help me. I hope he is finding out where that wicked count is."
"Write to him, and ask him to come and see you. He does not know where you are."
"But I don't know where he is."
"Do you?" rejoined Euphra with some surprise.
"But he does not know where I am. I will give you his address, if you like."
Euphra pondered a little. She would have liked very much to see him, for she was anxious to know of his success. The love she had felt for him was a very small obstacle to their meeting now; for her thoughts had been occupied with affairs, before the interest of which the poor love she had then been capable of, had melted away and vanished -- vanished, that is, in all that was restrictive and engrossing in its character. But now that she knew the relation that had existed between Margaret and him, she shrunk from doing anything that might seem to Margaret to give Euphra an opportunity of regaining his preference. Not that she had herself the smallest hope, even had she had the smallest desire of doing so; but she would not even suggest the idea of being Margaret's rival. At length she answered:
"No, thank you, Margaret. As soon as he has anything to report, he will write to Arnstead, and Mrs. Horton will forward me the letter. No -- it is quite unnecessary."
Euphra's health was improving a little, though still she was far from strong.