Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

a

lets, and pâté de foie gras,” said he, taking wise I prefer my own society, and that of up a slip of paper on the breakfast tray, my books. In them, I daily make acand then added with a laugh, “Not that I quaintances far pleasanter than any I find often eat anything myself at this hour, about here.” but their existence is thus notified to me.” Not a word about his wife. I could not

I said I had breakfasted three hours keep silence. “And Mrs. Ridgway. Does since; and then I asked for Mrs. Ridgway. not she find it lonely without any society ?” She was well, he replied, and reverted at “I do not understand any one but a fool once to the subject which was evidently feeling lonely," he said, in rather a freezing uppermost in his mind. He had purchased tone. “Mrs. Ridgway is a person of cultia ceiling, by Giulio Romano, out of a vation. She has her books and her music. palace at Genoa, and it had lately arrived The visits of a set of gossiping women at Hapsbury. It had received some damage could not-ought not-to be any pleasure in the transit. Whether to have it re- to her. Silence is better for her than to touched and varnished before it was put listen to evil speaking, lying, and slanderup, or wait to see the effect when it was ing, which is what the ladies of England up, and how much restoration would be indulge in during their morning visits.” needed, were points on which he wished After this it was clear to me that the for professional advice. My careful studies gossip of the county was in some measure for years in our National Gallery, and the the cause (but in what way I could not attention I had bestowed upon such sub- then perceive) of the existing state of jects, rendered me competent to give an things at Hapsbury. Mr. Ridgway had opinion; and I followed Mr. Ridgway into gained all he had wanted ; the county had the crimson saloon, where the canvas re- flocked to his house ; how could its idle presenting the Fall of Phaeton was stretched tongues affect him now? upon the floor. The result of the exami. "Does Mrs. Ridgway take any

interest nation and discussion that ensued was all in your poorer neighbours ?” I asked, prethat I need here repeat. In my judgment, sently, anxious to elicit something from my the less the picture was touched the better, host on this head. and the very small amount of reparation “I have been obliged to interdict all that requisite, I believed I could do myself, as sentimental visiting of cottages which has well as, and without the risk of, its being lately come into fashion among fine ladies,” subjected to another journey to London. was his reply. “ The poor here are an Mr. Ridgway was delighted; it was just ignorant, obstinate race. I have washed what he wished, and I, of course, very my hands of them some time ago. Any gladly acceded to his invitation to remain pettifogging lawyer, or low radical parson, at Hapsbury until the work was who will talk to them of their rights, can pleted. A dog-cart was sent over to L. for twist them round his finger. As Butler my things, and in the course of a couple of says: hours I found myself, to my astonishment, I

And what they're confidently told,

By no sense else can be control'd. regularly installed in the house, to effect an entry into which, that morning, had They were advised to resist me, and I hope seemed to me a matter of some difficulty. they value the advice now," he added, with Still, I did not see its mistress. Mr. Ridg- a smile. I said no more. way remained with me, and conversed The day closed in, and the dressingbrilliantly, but he never alluded to his wife, gong for dinner sounded. I hurried down and when at last I asked point blank to the Spanish drawing-room, that famed if I might be allowed to pay my respects apartment hung with Cordova leather, and to Mrs. Ridgway, he only replied, “Oh, adorned with some of the masterpieces of you will see her by-and-bye.” In the Velasquez and Murillo, and there, as I had course of conversation I ventured to say hoped, I found Assunta, and alone. But oh, that I heard he led a very secluded life, how changed ! Nothing remained of the rarely admitting visitors.

Assunta whom I remembered but the eyes, “Are you surprised that I do not choose and they were larger, more intense, than to be bored by all the idiots of a neigh-ever. Those burning orbs in their deep bourhood like this, where there is not a blue hollows, the shrunken cheek, the man who cares for anything but riding bloodless lips, all gave me the impression of after a wretched little animal, with a pack some inward fire consuming the frail lamp of hounds ?" was his rejoinder. “I am that held it. Her fingers seemed almost glad to see any man of cultivation, other transparent, as I took the hand she ex

com

tended and pressed it respectfully to my gradually into the conversation, but it was lips. She was magnificently dressed in a in vain; she sat there like a figure carved velvet robe, trimmed with fur, after the in stone, that by some mechanism is made fashion of that day, against which the to utter a monosyllable from time to time, yellow white of her face and hands came and that is all. Nothing that was said out in yet more ghastly contrast. She awoke a smile, or any sign of interest on evidently knew of my being in the house, her face; and as soon as the dessert was for she manifested no surprise at seeing me; set upon the table, she rose slowly and left she was very calm, very silent; but a faint the room. We sat late over our wine, for smile flickered on her face as I took her my host showed no inclination to return hand, and then it died out to reappear no to the drawing-room, and I, who was immore. As to myself, I could not speak. patient to return to Assunta, could not of Though I had looked forward to this meet course suggest a move.

We found her siting so long, though I knew I should find ting by the fire. I can see her now, the her sadly changed, the sight of her affected ruddy light upon her velvet dress, a fan of me so painfully that I dared not trust my peacock's feathers in her hand, and the own voice. It was she who broke the silence. golden gloom of the Spanish leather back

“I am glad to see you again. I never ground and richly carved frames. She expected to do so. It seems a long, long did not turn her head, she did not move. time since we met-much longer than it There was something very terrible in this really is.”

apathy. When the clock struck half-past "I have so often wished to hear from ten she got up and took a small Roman you," I at last found voice to say.

lamp from the table. Then she held out “Ah, I never write to any one now !” her hand and turned towards the door. “Not even to Lena?”

Mr. Ridgway gracefully sauntered up, and “Not even to Lena."

held it open for his wife. “And why not? Why cut yourself off "Good-night, Assunta." from all communication with friends who “Good-night." love you so truly ?”

There was no kiss, no touch of any kind. She paused a moment or two, delibera- She looked neither to the right nor to the ting, as it seemed to me, whether she should left, but passed out, and the door closed give the real reason. Then she said quietly: behind her. “ Because I have nothing to tell.”

As soon as we were alone I observed a There was a chilling silence.

change in Mr. Ridgway. He was silent * And Mrs. Fleming and the children- for certainly two or three minutes, passing do you never hear from them ?”

his white hand to and fro across his chin, as "They write when they want anything, he stared into the fire. Suddenly he looked and Mr. Ridgway sends it.”

up into my face, and with an expression She said this impassively, without a upon his own so complicated that I found it tonch of bitterness, or even of regret. It impossible to read it, he said : was as though the springs of feeling were “You have not seen Mrs. Ridgway for all frozen ; and I saw that it would take long some time. How do you think her lookto thaw them. Mr. Ridgway entered, his ing ?” well-turned legs displayed in small-clothes “Very ill. Sadly changed, if you ask and silk stockings, which were then still me, Mr. Ridgway.' worn by a few men; fragrant, and polished “Did she say anything to you before as ivory and ebony from head to foot. I dinner ?-before I came into the room ?” fancied that he gave a quick, penetrating I returned his gaze steadily. “Very glance at Assunta ; but he came forward little.” without any embarrassment of manner, and “Yon observe that she is generally from that moment to the hour of our retiring taciturn. But at times this is not the to rest, he kept up a constant fire of anec- case. You are right, she is ill, Mr. Luttrell, dote and quotation, happily needing but and her malady is one which I fear is inlittle assistance from me. He never ad curable. You are an old friend of hers, and dressed his wife, except to ask what she you are now my guest for the next week at would take (those were the good old days least. It is possible that in the course of of carving at table), and unless I spoke to that time Mrs. Ridgway may speak to you her she remained absolutely silent. I in a manner which renders it advisable that appealed to her for an opinion whenever it you should be prepared to receive what she was possible, in the hope of drawing her says by a knowledge of her condition. Her mind has lost its balance, and at moments “I fear, from your report,” I said, dryly, she may be said to be absolutely insane.' “that nothing can do Mrs. Ridgway any

I was speechless with horror and indig- good. On what subject, may I ask, do nation. I did not believe what he said, you consider that she is a monomaniac ?” though it at once flashed through my mind “ Chiefly on the subject of myself; but how plausible the tale might be made to everything relating to the past, to the time look. I felt, however, the absolute neces- when she lived at the Grange, is sure to exsity of mastering my emotion and conceal- cite her. As your acquaintance with Mrs. ing my real sentiments, if I wished to be Ridgway belongs to that date, Mr. Luttrell, of service to my unhappy friend; and, I hope you will be cautious, in any interfortunately, I had sufficient self-command course you may have with her, not to refer to let my face betray nothing. After a to that time. "I may rely on you ?" moment's pause, he continued :

“Mr. Ridgway, you may rely on my “She has happily never needed restraint doing nothing to injure my poor friend, in She is free to do what she likes, subject to whose sad case I feel the deepest interest." certain restrictions, especially in the matter He talked for some time longer on the of receiving visitors alone. Her hallucina- same topic, and in the same strain. There tions have been such, and her speech so was no affectation of deep feeling; it was wild at times, that some precaution of this the dispassionate tone of a philosopher, kind was necessary. But the servants have who does his best, under existing circumno idea of the truth. It is looked upon as stances, and has made up his mind to every my eccentricity.”

eventuality. And then we parted for the “ What medical advice have you had ?” night. To me, I need hardly say, it was a I asked.

sleepless one. So wretched an evening as Doctor L. came from London ex- that I had never passed. I lay awake, repressly, when my suspicions were first volving in my mind how I might arrive at aroused. He said the case was not an un- the truth in this affair, and, if it were poscommon one of monomania. He held out sible, help this dear, unhappy lady. And very little hope of recovery, but said that in the morning I wrote and posted with her state might continue like this for my own hand) the following note: years." Here was chapter and verse.

I was a

Hapsbury, Lincolnshire, March 5th.

Dear L.,-Do me a great favour. Ask little staggered, but I knew a brother of Doctor L.'s , and I resolved to test, at all your brother whether he came down to the

above address, eighteen months ago, to give events, the truth of his alleged visit. I said presently: “ Did Doctor L. think a life it be no breach of professional etiquette)

an opinion on Mrs. Ridgway's , and of such absolute seclusion good for a person what did he consider her ailment to be at in this sad condition ?”

that time? You will confer a lasting “She must, above all, be subjected to obligation on me if you can send me an. no excitement. I have occasionally a friend or two to stay with me, when she is gene

swers to these questions by return of post.

Yours, ever most faithfully, rally much as you saw her to-night. The

GEOFFREY LUTTRELL. last large party I had was about a year ago. I found it did her more harm than

On the 16th of December, good. She talked very wildly to one of the

A NEW SERIAL STORY will be commenced in ladies, who happened to name that wretched

ALL THE YEAR ROUND, sot, young Walbrooke. After that, I deter

To be continued from week to week until completed, mined to have no more parties.”

entitled THE “ Have you ever communicated with her WICKED WOODS OF TOBEREEVIL. -her friends ?"

BY THE AUTHOR OF “HESTER'S HISTORY.“ She has no family, as you know. Mrs. Walbrooke has been abroad for the last

On MONDAY, the 4th of DECEMBER, three years. I wrote to that poor creature Mrs. Fleming, to say that Assunta was in a highly nervous state, and unable to see

EXTRA DOUBLE NUMBER FOR her, and that, I thought, was sufficient.

CHRISTMAS, 1871, A woman like Mrs. Fleming would do her infinitely more harm than good."

SLAVES OF THE LAMP.

WILL BE PUBLISHED THE

ENTITLED

The Right of Translating Articles from ALL THE YEAR ROUND is reserved by the Authors.

Published at the Office. 26, Wellington St Strand.

Princed by C. WHITING, Beaufort House, Duke St. Lincoln's Inn Fields

[graphic]

VOL. VII.

[ocr errors]

suppose ?"

"I am.'

[ocr errors]

open; that was a point in her favour Madge did not mean to say that, I had no right to thought; from a sheer sense of decency say it. Will Mr. Vane be long away?" Philip Vane would be compelled to put "I cannot say," said the lady, in an some curb upon his rage.

altered tone,

nor can I continue to hold a Who would he imagine was his visitor? conversation with one who is a perfect The name which Madge had given to the stranger to me! Perhaps," she continued, servant was hers by right, but she had rising, perhaps you will leave your card, never used it, and so long and so completely that Mr. Vane may have it on his return ?” had they been estranged that her husband “I have no card, said Madge, firmly, would probably not think of her in con- “but I gave my name to the servant, who nexion with it. Upon that utter oblivion showed me into this room.” of her, or, if that were wanting, upon his “ The man made a worse blunder than fear of creating a disturbance in his friend's when he told you that Mr. Vane was stayhouse, Madge relied for her interview with ing here," said the lady, with curling lip, her husband. The seeking of that inter- " for he announced you as Mrs. Vane.” view was voluntary on her part, had not “He delivered his message correctly in been decided upon until after full conside- that instance, at least,” said Madge, " for ration and discussion, and must be gone that was the name I gave

him." through with now, even when she heard “You are a connexion of Mr. Vane's, I his step approaching the door.

" Not his footstep after all, but, by its lightness and its fleetness, a woman's. Next “May I ask what connexion ?” moment the door opened and a woman “I am Philip Vane's wife.” entered the room. A woman of middle

Madge had steadied her voice for this height, but fall and rounded figure, set off announcement, and spoke very quietly, with flowing draperies and clouds of deli- without the smallest trace of theatrical cate lace. Queenly in her walk and move intonation, without the slightest gesture, ments, and of a flashing and disdainful each word clipping clearly and distinctly beauty, with large liquid dark eyes, clear out of her lips. cat aquiline profile, mouth andoubtedly The words thus quietly pronounced were small, but yet with full and sensuous lips, not, however, without their effect; the and a mass of lustrous black hair twisted lady who heard them seemed to reel, and into a coronet on her head. She swept leaned against the mantelpiece, before into the room arranging the train of her which she had been standing. For an indress with one hand, and with the other stant she looked across at Madge dreamily, motioning to Madge, who had risen, to and with dazed eyes, repeating the words resume her chair.

she had heard in a thick, low tone, Pray be seated,” said the lady, with a wife did you say; Philip Vane's wife ?" pleasant smile, and in a rich full voice; “I am Philip Vane's wife,” repeated you asked to see Mr. Vane, I believe ?” Madge, in the same clear, merciless tone.

"I-I did,” said Madge, nervous with “You, I conclude, are Mrs. Bendixen, the surprise, and with her intuition of the lady to whom, as the newspapers anidentity of the person addressing her. nounced, my husband is about to be marThere was a singular contrast between ried. I am sorry,

” continued Madge, these women. Madge pale as death, neatly, changing her tone, “ to be compelled to inalmost primly, dressed, nervous and ill at terfere with your intended arrangements, ease; the other with a glowing complexion, but you will see that the step which you richly and tastefully attired, and perfectly contemplated is impossible. I am Mrs. self-composed.

Philip Vane, and however poor my opinion “I am sorry," she said, “ that you should may be of that position, I intend to claim have been misled by the stupid blunder of and hold it for my own. a servant. You were told that Mr. Vane As she spoke she drew herself up, stamped was stopping in this house, but the fact is her foot, and threw out her hand with a that he left here yesterday morning, having gesture which was familiar to her, and at been summoned away by a telegram on which Philip Vane had so often sneered. business of importance."

There was defiance in that action, defiance “Is this true ?” said Madge, half in- in her kindling eyes, defiance in her ringing voluntarily.

voice. Mrs. Bendixen, now thoroughly The lady started and looked amazed, but roused, leaned forward, looking eagerly at said nothing

her visitor, but she had miscalculated the "I beg your pardon," said Madge, “I nature of the woman with whom she had

His

66

« AnteriorContinua »