|Chapter Title||THE TRAGEDI OF A WOMAN'S VANITY.|
|Newspaper Title||Adelaide Observer (SA : 1843 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Third Volume|
THE THIRD VOLUME.
BY FER3US HUME,
Antborof "The Jtfystery of a, Hanaom Oab," : "The Lone Inn," "The Chinese Jar," &o.
THE TBAGEDI OF A WOMAN'S VANETr.
Meantime Hilliston, unaware of that fatal ' meeting with Mono Bantry,' vrhioh threatened ; to demoralise bis plane, was devoting himself
to hie unfortunate wife. She was very ill, and. noo expected to recover, so feeling that be ' would soon lose her, the lawyer stayed con
stantly by her side, and strove, though uu •ncoessfally, to ameliorate her ornei sufferings. It was all the more orodit to him that he did eo, as he had married her mainly for her v money, and was still in love with Mrs. Bezel.
No doubt, remorse had something to do with ; bis present attitude.
The landlord of the Oounaught Hotel had Insisted upon Mrs. Hilliston being removed when the iirst symptoms of disease showed themselves. He declared that were it known that he had a smallpox patient in hia house, be would be ruined for tho season, so Hilliston, recognising the truth of thie assertion, took steps to isolate his wife, as was necessary from the nature of her illness. Assisted by the doctor, who attended to all details rela tive to the municipal authorities, he hired a email house on the outskirts of Eastbourne, and tbither tho wreok of what had onoe been a beautiful woman waa removed one evening. Nurses were hired from London, Hilliaton sent word to his partner that he would not return to bosinesB (or some weeke ; and then began the slow martyrdom of the eiok-room.
It was a fortnight since Mrs. Hilliston had been seized with the disease, and now it had • taken so favourable a turn that the dootor held out great hopes that she would reoover.
But the beauty of which ehe had been eo j proud was gone, and with it went the hopes j that she oould still retain hbr husband by her ! aide. Mrs. Hilliston knew, well enough that j it was only her persistence which bad made Hilliston marry her, and now that she had loit her good looks—the one bold ehe had on bis lukewarm affeotion—she foresaw only too clearly that he would neglect her iu the future. Moreover, tho woman's vanity was eo powerful that she oould not accept calmly the possibility of surviving a soarred and maimed object; to faoe looks of pity and of
horror. She felt that she would rather die, ! and, in fact, resolved to do eo. Meanwhile, she tossed and turned, and moaned and wept on her sick bed; crying out against the stern Fate which had dealt her euoh hard measure. Yet in her secret soul she admitted that the punishment was just.
Hilliaton was eoarcely leas unhappy than
his wife. While her illness was serious he . bad thought of nothing but how to save her, bnfhow that a ohanoe of recovery offered a respite from his arduous attendance by the sick bod, he bad time to turn his thoughts
towards the Horriston tragedy. He wondered ; that he had not heard from Paynton relative j to the interview with Claude, and fearful lest j some untoward event bad occnrred to upset his plans he wrote to Hose Cottage asking
for-information. To-day he had reoeived I a reply, and on reading it saw his worst I fears realized.
" I know you now," wrote Captain Larcher I briefly., "I have seen Claude; I have seen , Mona. Henceforth 1 look ou you as an j enemy, and I intend to take immediate . tteps to clear my name at your expense."
There was no signature, but Hilliaton was too well acquainted with his friend's writing to have any doubt as to tho genuineness of the letter. The blow had fallen. Mona had be trayed him; and he eat there helpless with
the letter in his band, a epeotaole of bafflsd j
scheming, of unmasked villainy.
"To clear his name at my expense,"mat- j
tared Hilliston to himself. "What does he mean by that ? lie oaonot have discovered— but -no, that is impossible. When they find
out who picked up that dagger at thB ball they 1 may learn the truth, but not till then. I defy < them all. Laroher will remaiu Paynton tiU theendof his life. Mona! Ah, I shall punish
bar when I return to town for her oruel i treachery." _ j
While he was thus thinking a nurse entered ! . the room to intimate that Mrs. Hilliston would ] like to see hftn. Tbe lawyer obeyed the summons at onoe, placed Larcher's letter in bis pooket, smoothed hia brow, and entered tbe sickroom. Signing to the nurse to go away, Mrs. Hilliston waited till she was alone
with her husband. <
"Francis,"she said in a low voice, stretch- J
tog out her hand, "I wish to speak to you— ' on thai eubjeot."
"I think it would be wise if you refrained from doing so, "replied Hilliston, knowing to
' what. she alluded. " We understand one ;
another on that point; yon nan do no good by ' bringing it up again. Why should you t" :
" For Claude's sake," said Mrs. Hilliston,; '*' feverishly, "you owe him soma reparation."
- "Iowe bira none, Louisa. I. have dated ; like a father to hi m, and be has turned on me.
I helped Laroher to hide himself when it was
-.*?- dangerous for him to become known, and he | " tells me that I am hie enemy.*"'
fi'-- " Have youhsard from him ? "
"Ireoaived aourb note of three lines inti- :
mating,that he was about to assert hie inno- ] - oenoe, and clear his name at my expense."
" "Frsncis," cried Mrs. Hilliston, in a tone j - if terror, " you are lost. . If all is kbown——"
*' All will not be known, "replied Hilliston,:
patting ber .hand, "only two people know the j truth—you aud i. We nan keep our own
' 193". . ? ' *j
? yourself suddenly., XYe wr0peri«&y-iaf&" :X. 1 r " Bnt the garnet Snarl pin I" questioned' 1w.'-MBiW lereriiililfc-- c.'-a- 'W«V3 j "X-emseoure on'th&t paint; Lardherkiiew | that1 wee in the eejideu-antbal highl and -; mayhave thoughttilropped it, He will < hot
dare.toaoouse me of the prime. Ifta-did," : ocmtinued Hillistoa, hi* browgrowingblabk, • " I ooald tarn the tables on Jum ia * iaaaai» ?: he -little eipeots.Tbere i» moreevidence ?
against him than against me." - - v-j
" But if they leant thatlwaawitbyouon that night V - •- -r'-'
."They still never learn. No one aaw yoo there.' IE they -did. what does hmatter'? ! Louisa Sinolair is dead. Yoo need have "no -fear ofbeingraoognised. 1*11 answer for that.'.':: : " It does not matter to me if. I am known or not," aaid Mra. HilliEtoo, gloomily." I.hare dene-with life,"
" My dear,' the doator says yon will recover.".
" X shall not reoover," said the aidk woman with emphasis. "Oh, do nfit dooeive yoosalf,; Francis. I shall nevw riae from -this sisk bed ? to be an objeot of horror and pity to yon." \
" My dear——"
" You never loved me. Yoo only married me out of pity. At Horriston you refused to make me your wife, and it was only when I returned from Asnerioaa rioh woman that you did so. Pity," she said, with a scornful laugh, " no, not pity, but necessity. You would have been ruined but for my money."
"I admit it, Lohisa, and .1 am deeply grate ful to you for the way in which yon have helped ino. I can never repay you for saving my name and oredib." .
V You can, Franois.' Get me my dressing
".Louisa, you cannot "
"I insist upon being obeyed," she said, im periously, " get me my dressing case."
With great roluotanoe he brought it from a distant table, and plaoed it on a chair by the bedside. In obedienoe to her directions be opened it, and took therefrom a sealed enve lope.
"In there," she said, as he held it in his hand, " is an account of all I saw on that fatal night. You must send that letter to Captain Laroher when I am dead."
" Louisa, do you wish to ruin me ?"
"I wish to save you, Franois. Donotde oeive yourself into a belief that the investiga tion is at an end. Claude may cease to meddle with the matter, for he is in love with Jenny, and will probably marry her; for by this time, eooording to you, he knows who she is. But I am afraid of Spencer Tait. He will hunt you down; he will urge Laroher to find out the truth. If it comes to that, send them my aooounb'of the matter."
" It will ruin me," he said again.
"It will save you," she repeated. " Do not be foolish, Francis. You oau road it before sending it away."
" But you?"
" I shall bo dead. 1 feel sure I shall not live. Promise me tbas if the worst oomes you will send that letter."
"I promise," he said, sorely against his will, " but it will not be sent; you will live."
" I don't think so, Franois. I know better than the dootor. Now kiss me, my husband, and leave me to myself."
He did so in silence, and took up the dressing-oase, whereupon she etopped him. "Let it be,"she said, quietly, "some of your letters are in it, and X wish to read tbein. Kiss me again.
Again he hissed her, and reluctantly left the room. So qniet and self-contained was she that he had no inkling of her intention. Had he guessed her fatal reBolve, little as was tho love he bore lier, ho would surelv have striven to turn her from ber purpose. Bub he gnossed nothing, and left ber alone, with the devil tempting ber.
"Good-bye, my husband," she murmnrod, as the door closed, and then burst into tears. He had gone, she would never see him again, and she moaned over ber lost beauty, wbioh failed to retain him by her side. He was coldly polite j he was affectionate out of pity, but ho had no love for her, and she hungered for the want of it. Her lifo passed before ber, epieode after episode, till it stopped short at the spectacle of a aloaed door, and herself lying alone and deserted in that siok room.
She wept and prayed, and then with a firm hand took out of her dressing-oase a small phial filled with a dark brown liquid, l'wioe she put it to her lips, and twice she hesitated; the third time she accomplished her purpose. The thought of her lost beauty, of ber hus band's neglect, of her childless home, and wretched future, all these nerved ber, and she drank off the oontents, then quickly replaced the bottle in the dressing-case.
When the nurse came in to see her patient Mrs. Hilliston was lying baok with a quiet smile on her pale lips. She had found peaoe at last.