|Chapter Title||ONLY A DBEAM.|
|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Sexton's Secret|
ONLY A DBEAM, |
Already the .. Sister" had assnmedherpoBt by the bedBide. The doctor had made a hasty adieu, and Lisa had also disappeared for a brief while for the pnrpose of obtaining
" A face, with character in it, decidedly," mused the master of the house, as he watohed the "Sister" deftly arranging the pillows. " Not a bit like the ordinary type of women of that Order. That disguising bandage over the forehead, though-how I hate
it! Well, it's their pleasure, I suppose: and certainly the affair is no buBinesB of mine."
" Then you are not a stranger after all I How glad I am."
" Sister Hilda" was already bending over, waiting for any further words that Vera might utter.
" How nice that you should think so," fell quietly, " W ow, sleep again."
"No. no; it does me good even to look at von. I have Been you before-your picture, I mean-in-yes, of course-in an old dresB ing-case of my husband's, which he said he had quite forgotten. A couBin, he said it was-poor also, but beautiful, most lovely."
"You are over-exerting yourself," broke in the "Sister" thoughtfully, with if possible the very least change of tone.
The next moment ahe had turned aBide hastily for the purpose of ringing the bell. Help was needed. The etiong hale man had gazed upon her a moment, as if in agony; then staggering to a chair standing at some distance from him, as if he would fain escape the Bight of all, he faintly whispered. "Feodore" from between his white ana trembling lips.
"This gentleman Is ill," she observed, coolly and collectedly, to the servant who quickly answered the summons. 'Give restoratives. Overwrought nerves, I pre sume. There! He is better already. Now," she added, after the lapse of a few minutes, when consciousness had come again to the horror-strloken Cyril Cyrilovitoh, " Your master has recovered a little. Take him away." came composedly. "Give him rest. Perfeot repoBe is the beBt restorative
It was evident that upon the present occasion, and perhaps henceforth also. Sister Hilda meant to be queen of the situation, at any rate that she would brook no inter ference from any one as to the internal arrangements of that luxurious sick room.
The hours sped on. It was now not long before the dawn, and still the two women occupied the room alone. The one performed her part skilfully, and also unremittingly; the other lay as before, rarely remaining still
for more than a few minutes at a time.
The mistress of the mansion had fallen at last into a quiet eleep, and now awoke.
She started an instant, and seemed be wildered at first upon seeing a stranger watching by her side.
" My husband ; where is he!" came with the old show of excitement. " Let him oome at onoe. Tell him." Sister Hilda obeyed instantly. Already she had signalled as required,
"And yon promised yon would not leave me again," fell tenderly, but also reproaoh fully, "and now I wake and find you
The pale and also haggard-looking man who had just entered, and to whom the words were addressed, advanced slowly-almost irresolutely. He shrank away, as it wonld seem, into himself. His wonted pride seemed tamed at last, and only in the oourse of those few hours the man's dark hair had changed to' white.
fiven the "Sister" herself started as he ad vanced further Into the room, then turned her face away again.
"My patient Beems somewhat better," she said lightly, " and was most anxious to see you. I will return in the course of a little while."
" I want yon both," and already the speaker had extended her arm as if to imply that neither of those two listeners should now leave her bedside. " Stay where yon are. I have been dreaming. My dream made me unhappy, Do not be angry with me, Cyril."
''Angry 1" he answered in a low earneBt voice.
"Yes: angry, Cyril. 1 see it all a^ai-i," she broke forth now, excitedly ; placing her band a moment before her eyes. "The
picture is always there, Cyril-just as I saw
He laid hla band upon the speaker's arm; tremblingly, but soothingly, "Yon are dreamingeven now," he Bald. " Keep quiet. Is not that better ?
" No. Cyril," and the speaker's breath came hurriedly. I will tell my dream. Yoa will be patient, won't yon? It is an idle dream, I know-of oonrse. Bnt first. That lady standing there-now nursing me whilst Usa sleeps-who is she? Tell me."
.. Your dream, Vera? Your dream!" he returned, in a suppressed voioe, m if dreading the moment when he should be compelled to lose Ml power over himself.
" Yes, Cyril, if yon wish it so," fell simply, faintly, and wholly unsuapeotingly. " I dreamt, then, that yon two-this lady and younelf, I mean-were man and wife. I .aw yon plaoe the marriage ring upon her finger, and then the picture faded away, and I awoke to find that it was all an idle phan tasy."
The citizen was already kneeling by her side.
" Bnt I must hear from yonr own lips, my Cyril, that it is nothing of the kind. I'm ill, you know," oame exoitedly, "and this cruel fever, it would almost seem, has orept over my heart. It throbs madly, Cyril; and nothing else but your own words oan ever serve to chase away the terrible vision. Be kind-and good-and speak, dear Cyril!" And then another voioe had broken upon the stillness; a voioe that told of bitterness, and also deadly wrong, and hate.
" Your dream ia true. And may God help us both-two miserable broken-hearted women." Already the woman who had suffered all those long years, and also been proclaimed as dead to atl the world, had bent her head; burying her pale worn face with both hands. " I meant to have tended you in true woman's fashion to the end," she said, " but I was helpless in the matter. The moment of retri bution bad only too surely some whether I willed it or not."
"Yon have spoken falsely, woman!" It was the voice of Cyril Cyrllovitoh himself whioh now broke forth. " It is a mere idle tale got up alone to suit your own purpose. The law Bhall punish you for this. Where is your proof?" again fell furiously.
He did not note the strange expression that had all at once shot across the f aoe of her who lay there. He did not know that she had only heard the words-'"Your dream is true."
The "Sister" hesitated Where was her proof icaeed ?
" A wretohed imposition," he broke forth again, apparently half-wild with rage. "The declaration only of a madwoman. Where is your proof I ask again ?"
Some one had stolen softly into the room, though unperceived at first, the door having Deen left half open, and now stood boldly facing him.
A single hurried, also terrified, glanoe directed towards the bed had served to rouse the faithful Lisa well nigh to desperation.
" Yon are satisfied now, perhaps," she ex claimed, in a low voioe passionately. "She who was too good ever to call yon hueband will never have the power of doing so again."
The hour had come at last when the once peasant girl might give utterance to her seoret without even the thought of injury to the woman who never again in this life could know even the name of harm. The hour had come at laBt when her father's last bid ding might be carried out as he would himself have desired, and Lisa must not hesi tate in delaying longer.
"The proofs whioh you demand, Cyril Cyrilovitch," came later on, " I, Lisa-the daughter of the sexton of Graminsky-place without delay, at the disposal of Feoaora, your first and only wife in the sight of Kuseian law. I know your story by heart the representative of ao many noble anoestors -and have repeated it to myself how often in the dead of night whilst watohing by the side of her who was always good to every one. I heard the tale from your own lips" the listener started now - "uttered one afternoon late, amidst the frost and snow, beneath the shadow of the pines. I heard the history you whispered, from beginning to end, and learned the crnel temptation which you placed iu cowardly fashion at an ill-paid poor man's feet. I bated you for so doing from that very moment. You told the man whom you thus cruelly tempted that in the long past you had ^ssauaded a beautiful girl, but pen niless, to marry yon ; that then you had grown weary of ber, and also possessed not sufficient courage to present your obscure bride to the world aa your wife. No, no as yon saH -you oould not quite brave such an ordeal, You then-as you yourself re lated the tale, and reoollect that I am pre
Sared to swear to this fact in any Court of
w, although only a poor peasant woman
-you then, I say, sought to free your self from the Rirl of whom you had grown weary. At first she refused, bat finally, overpowered by your persuasions, consented to leave you. Once more she returned to her simple peasant friends, living many hundred versts away from the scene of your own surroundings. The world, aa you declared, had never heard of this marriage; but still you knew that the secret mteht possibly o>ie day leak out. It would be wiser, then, to have some reliable proof to offer, if required, guaranteening the fact that she-your prey, for your bride was nothing elee-was safely dead and butied. You adopted a miserable plan by employing which the eyes o( *he world might be blinded. The monument, and yet more inscription, within the burial ground of Graminsky witnessed to that whioh was not true, and by rightB should serve to haunt yoa like a nightmare to the end of your days.
". In memory of Feodore!' I, too, have seen these words," fell bitterly from the lips of the once happy girl, olaa now in the sombre habits of her order. " Brave Lisa 1 Noble Lisa 1"
They chanted the solemn Requiem that night within the once bride's home
"Havemeroy on the dead !" fell softly " and also on the liviag !"
The oadenoe rose and fell; led by the crieBts.