« AnteriorContinua »
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.
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
to deal, for she said, half querulously, half “ I-I almost fear I do," said Mrs. fiercely:
Bendixen, still bending forward in her "How dare you speak to me in this chair, and gazing at the pale, grave face way! How dare you come into my pre- and neat figure before her. sence! I know what the world is, and “ It matters little to me whether you do what sort of lives men lead, and I dare say or do not,” said Madge, with a slight curl you have been accustomed to call yourself of her lip, “ the fact remains, and can be Mrs. Vane, and imagine you have a kind proved at any moment. Now listen to me! of right to do so; but of course there must When you tried to persuade yourself that be an end of that now. What do you look my assertion was a lie, and that I was at me for in that way? Do you mean to what you said you pretended to think say that you don't understand me?” that I had come here for money. What do
“I mean to say,” said Madge, who had you think, now, is the motive of my visit ?” lapsed into stone again, and sat with her I-cannot tell,” stammered Mrs. Bensteady, cold, pitiless gaze on the other wo dixen, “ unless it is revenge. You seem a man's face, “I mean to say you are talking dreadfully determined woman.” in riddles, and that if you want me to com- “Do I?” said Madge, as the faint prehend you, you must speak more plainly." glimmer of a contemptuous smile passed
“ Then I tell you," said Mrs. Bendixen, across her face. “I do not think that I am in a loud and shrill tone, which she mode- dreadfully determined; I am perfectly sure rated, when she recollected the proximity that I have no desire for revenge. Revenge of the hall, where the servants were still on whom? On you ? You have been pasengaged" then I tell you that I dare say sive in this matter ; your part has been Fou may have called yourself Mrs. Vane, merely that of the dupe ! On Philip Vane? because you were Mr.-Mr. Vane's mis- One cannot be revenged on the dead, and tress; that he gave you money, and perhaps Philip Vane is as dead to me as if I had kept a house for you, and-and was fond seen him in his shroud." of you! I know such things go on, but,” I
Oh, don't talk in that dreadful manner,”' she added, the colour rising in her cheeks, cried Mrs. Bendixen, with a moan, then and her eyes flashing, “there must be an covering her face with her hands, she end to all that! You have doubtless come added, “Oh, what do you want? why did here to ask for money ?
you come here ?" have it. I will take care of that, but you “ To save you from a worse fate even must not see Mr. Vane again, nor talk of than that which has befallen me. Not yourself as his wife. You must not repeat that I care for you one straw; you are that wicked lie!"
nothing to me, as he is nothing to me, She paused and leaned forward eagerly and, so far as I am concerned, you might to see the effect which her words had both of you have gone on your way uncreated. There was anxiety in her eyes, in checked and unwarned, but I do not choose the manner with which from time to time to see this crime committed where I have she moistened her lips, in the irrepressible the power of stopping it, and if it be fluttering motion of the hands which lay stopped, Philip Vane will have his vanity in her lap before her. By her words she to thank, and nothing else. That vanity had tried to impress on her visitor her own is overweening;
it led him to make public conviction of the truth of her statement; his conquest. He announced in the newsbut her look and her involuntary action papers that he was engaged to be married had the opposite effect.
and thus I heard of it." What I have said," said Madge, still "I don't see what there was to induce holding her with her eyes, “is no lie, but Mr. Vane to put it in the newspapers !” God's truth! The lies which have been moaned Mrs. Bendixen. told you in this matter have come from "Don't you ?” said Madge. “I do.
” him, not from me! I am Philip Vane’s Your name, your position, and your atlawful wife! Of that fact I can give you tractions are well known in the world to proofs—but there is no need of that,” she wbich Philip Vane now belongs, and the said, changing her tone, “ I see you know fact of having secured them would tell unit now, as you listen to me. Look at me! doubtedly in his favour. He meant to If you really have such a knowledge of the marry you as he had previously married me, world as you profess, you will recognise at for the sake of living upon you. But his once that I am not of the stuff of which last marriage would have proved infinitely mistresses are made-I am Philip Vane's more successful than his first. You were wife! Do you believe me?”
something to win; your beauty is self
If so, you
wealth and position generally from me; do not, I implore you, dissipate acknowledged. When he married me, I that dream! You speak of yourself as one was a poor actress in a country theatre, to whom the pleasures of life are at an end, with sufficient good looks to win his eye, but in your time you have enjoyed that and a sufficient salary to keep him in greatest joy of all. Why then grudge it to tolerable comfort. They must have been me?” poor enough, my appearance and my earn- “You are talking at random," said ings, for when he had once possessed bim- Madge, coldly, "and I am unable to follow self of both they had not enough attraction you. What influence can I have over to induce him to acknowledge me as his your future beyond pointing out to you wife, and so soon as he saw his way to the impossibility of the course you propose effectually ridding himself, he deserted to yourself to pursue ?
What would you me: the ladder had served its purpose, he wish me to do ?” could afford to kick it down."
“To go away, anywhere, in any country,
. “I am sure you judge Mr. Vane most to hide yourself, and never to come near me unjustly,” said Mrs. Bendixen, raising her again. The good luck which has attended face from her hands. “He is the most me throughout my lifetime has prevented generous of men. His affection for me is your seeing Mr. Vane to-day. The dreadquite disinterested, and it is too, too cruel ful secret which you have just uttered is to speak of him in this way."
known to us alone. It must never go When
you have known him as long as further, nay, more than that, he must never I have known him, I will ask you for your know that I am aware of its existence, verdict on his character," said Madge, never be reminded of it himself. I will quietly; "not that I expect that even then buy it of you at what price you like. You you would
you have only to name the sum and it is yours.” would not have the cause.
Supposing I were to do as you ask, “You allow that," cried Mrs. Bendixen; how would your position be improved ? "that shows that he was not entirely to You, with the gratified desires, and the unblame.”
checked wishes of which you have boasted, “ It shows simply that you from your have purchased Philip Vane's love, or what plenty can give him all he longs for, wealth, is equivalent to it, and now wish to parease, luxury, the position in the eyes both chase my silence ! Suppose I agree, how of men and women to which he has aspired; is your position improved ? The world will while I from my poverty could only fend believe you to be Philip Vane's wife, but off hunger and cold, could only bar the you will know yourself door against the wolf, could only find the “Do you think I care what the world platform whence he should spring into com- thinks of me or what I think of myself ?” petence, leaving me behind him. He de- cried Mrs. Bendixen. “I tell you I love serted me because I could do so little, he this man, and that I will not have him will hold to you since you can do so much." taken from me. Have you no understand
“ And he shall hold to me,” cried Mrs. ing, have you no compassion ?” Bendixen, springing to her feet; "your last * I have no patience to listen to ravings words have thoroughly determined me. which would be wearisome from a love-sick See here, woman. I believe all you say. girl, but which are contemptible in a woman. There is something in your voice, in your I did not seek to be Philip Vane's judge, manner, which prevents my disbelieving but fate seems to have appointed me to be
, it, much as I wish to do so. But I tell his executioner. I have given you due you I love Philip Vane, love him with a warning, and I absolve myself if you choose fervour which you, with your pale puny to sharo his fate. Now let me pass. I will passion, cannot for an instant imagine. leave this place.” He has become essential to my life, and I And she rose and dropped her veil, and have never yet known what it was to have drew her mantle round her. one aspiration checked, one wish thwarted. “Stay !” said Mrs. Bendixen. 6 You I have been married before, you know that. must not leave in this manner. You have The man who took me from a boarding- said that you care no longer for Philip school to be his wife gave me all that I then Vane; that you regard him as dead to you; thought the world contained, power, riches, and yet you will not leave him to me! admiration. But it was not un after his Ah, spare him, I implore you ! I have death, it was not until I met Mr. Vane, that looked forward so eagerly to the time I knew the happiness of loving and being when I should be his wife. I have loved. Ah, do not take that happiness reckoned so upon giving to him a love
which no one hitherto has been able to dreams, I suppose, of some sunny paradise, evoke, that if he is torn from me I shall go where you and he could live and love for mad. Oh, see me at your feet and spare ever. He would weary of you in a month, me!”
and when he found that you had been As she uttered these words she dropped warned in time of the impending danger, from her chair on to her knees, and lifted and had neglected to inform him of it, he her hands in supplication. The large tears would kill you
!" welled into her upturned eyes, and her “He might,” said Mrs. Bendixen, "he hair, which had become unfastened, hung might kill me then; at least I should have about her pale face.
known his love." "It is a pretty picture," said Madge, “ And with that charming sentiment we dreamily, looking down on the woman at will close the discussion,” said Madge, her feet, “and devotion such as this is cer- slightly shrugging her shoulders. “ Hear tainly thrown away on its object. Come, my last words, for we shall never meet madam !” she cried, rouse yourself, and again. The man for whom you are sacrilet us put an end to this scene. You ask ficing yourself is treacherous and base, me to let your marriage with my husband mean and cowardly. He has not even the take place without opposition; even if I one redeeming virtue of independence, but would, I am powerless to do so. The so soon as he gets the opportunity, will secret is not mine alone, but is in the keep- live on you as he lived on me, and as he ing of those who have a greater regard for abandoned me he will, should it so suit his my position than I have myself, and who purpose, abandon you. I was young and are determined that it shall not be thus inexperienced when I became his victim, wantonly outraged.”
you are a matured woman of the world, "You are implacable, then ?" said Mrs. and have, besides, my example before you, Bendixen, rising and throwing back her and I warn you to profit by it. If you fall hair.
it will be with your eyes open, and in de“I am merely indifferent,” said Madge, fiance of the hands spread forth to hold coldly. As indifferent to your fate as to you back. But you will fall, for you are his. I came here to warn him of the conse- a woman and infatuated !" quences of the act which he contemplated, She turned the handle of the door as she and I found you in his place. In those uttered these last words, and let herself consequences you are equally interested, out. Mrs. Bendixen made a faint effort and my warning has been given to you. to detain her, but Madge drew her clinging My duty is done. Let me pass !” dress more closely round her, and, with
“One moment yet,” cried Mrs. Bendixen. the faintest inclination of her head, passed “Will the fact that you have given this by. The hall was empty now, as, she could warning to me content you ? Will you see through the open door, was the diningswear that
will seek no further oppor- room. On the croquet-lawn a few players tunity of letting him know your intentions were idly knocking about the balls, and towards him ?"
under the verandah, immediately outside the “ I see your meaning now," said Madge, hall-door, some gentlemen were seated in looking straight at her with cold unspar- lounging-chairs, smoking and drinking. ing eyes.
“Your passion for this man has One or two of them raised their hats as so demented you, that you will hurry on she passed by, and each of them honoured this marriage, which will be no marriage, her with a hearty stare. and accept yourself the position which you Madge passed steadily on, outwardly imputed to me at the commencement of calm and grave, inwardly perturbed and our interview. Is not that so ?”
excited. “I do not deny it,” said Mrs. Bendixen, “It is over,” she said to herself. "I excitedly. "I have set my mind upon it, have discharged my duty, satisfied the and I will carry it through. I should promptings of my conscience, and obeyed glory in
the bidding of Mr. Drage. What has been Yon are mad!” interrupted Madge gained by so doing is another matter; little "Do you not see that if you were married enough, I should imagine.
That woman, to Philip Vane, and that marriage were ignorant, unschooled, and impulsive, is proved illegal, he would be a convicted madly in love, and will allow nothing to felon? Or even suppose he evaded the come between her and her object. Strange law, his position would be lost, his power that I should have seen her, and that he and prestige, all that makes life pleasant called away suddenly, she said he was, to him, gone for ever! You have romantic I called away by telegram on important