Chapter 18943005

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Chapter NumberXXI
Chapter TitleA WICKED DEED.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article18943005
Full Date1885-01-10
Page Number14
Corrections0
Word Count4161
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)
Trove TitleArley
article text

{From KoRlltb, ftmtrlcflD, mid other Periodical**)

CHAPTER XXI.

A WICKED DEED,

" Dearie, it breaks my heart to go and leave ye like this I If it wasn't that my old man and me have never been parted for the thirty years we've lived together, and it turns me cold and sick to think of it at thiB late day, I'd never leave ye in this knavish country But take heart, mies ; it isn't BO bad now that ye can talk with the doctor, and he'll do everything he can for ye, and get ye everything ye need, I've taken care of that, and I believe he's half human if he has got Spanish blood in him. And, now dearie, I must say good-bye to ya, John is wilkin' below for me, and he's that sorry for ye that he couldn't eleep, but talked half the night about ya. He told me to give ye this-its twenty-five pounds-and he hopes it'll do ye until ye can hear from the good aunt, and the doctor's bill, is paid up to now. Don't fret, dearie, for the lord will hold you in the hollow of His hand."

Thus spoke honest Jane Collina as she took leave of Arley late Tuesday evening, for she was to leave Madrid for Valencia early in the morning.

As ehe finished she crowded a roll of Spanish gold pieces into the sick girl's feverish hand,

Poor Arley clung to her as if she could not let her .go, while the tears rained over her wan face.

" lou have been such a kind friend to me,"Bhe said between her Bobs. " I Bhall never forget it ; I can never repay it-the kindness, I mean. The money of course, you ehall have back. But stay," she added with sudden thought; "I have some diamonds; I wore them the day that I first met you. Ona of them is worth much more than the amount which you have given me, and you shall have it for security, and then if anything happens that I do-not live to go home"- this with a little shiver-"you will lose nothing.'

"Tut, Tut, miss ; don't talk like that, Ye're young, and ye'll be all right in a little while, and I ehall yet see ye back, hale and hearty, in 'merrie England.' But as for the diamonds, misa"-and the good woman's face flushed a deep crimaon-"Jane Collins isn't that close that she'd wish to take the trinkets that were given to ye by someone who loved ye and who ye loved,maybe. But hush, dearie!" she added, in a whisper ; " keep 'em close, keep 'em close, or some- body will be stealia' 'em, as they did the other things."

" But-but, if anything happens to me, somebody else will get them anyway, I'm afraid, and it would be too cruel for you to loose all your hard-earned money,' Arley replied.

She did love her diamonds for their giver's sake, but shs did not feel right to receive BO much kindness from these kind-hearted strangers without renumer ating them in some way ; and she knew that if Bhe should die there in .that foreign land, everything that she had would be quickly appropriated by the cunning spaniards, and Jane Colline would never get , anything for her goodness,

"Nothing ain't goin'to happen to ye, dearie; I tell ye ye're goin' to get well, and I couldn't take thB di'monde. When ye come back.well and hearty and have plenty once more, then ye can pay me if ye want to, but if ye can't-well, it's only gone into the Lord's treasury, and he'll take care of it," and the good woman's look of trust was something wonder-

ful to behold,

"I shall love you all my life,', Arley said chok- ingly.

Jane CollinB'face flushed with pleasure, though teatB rolled down her roddy cheeks,

"Love is better than gold," she remarked, senten tiouflly ¡"anybody can earn money but barrin' my good man, tia a long day since any one told Jane Collins that she were loved. I don't often get like this," she added, swallowing a sob, "but if ye don't mind, miss, I would just like to kies ye once on the cheek and then say good-by,"

Arley put up her arms, and, drawing the woman's face down to her, kissed her heartily,

At that moment, when she was so wretched and desolate, the homely, honest face of Jane Collins seemed the most beautiful and trustworthy counten-

ance in the world to her.

But when at length the last word was said and she had gone with reluctant feet from the place, poor Arley felt as if Bhe had not a friend left in the world.

She wQB worse that night, of coarse, after all this excitement, and the physician was much disturbed about her, while for more than a week afterward there was a doubt ia his mind whether she would ever be any better.

She was delirious most of the time, babbling of home, grandpapa, auntie Lady, Elaine, and Hazel- mere, in the most confused manner imaginable.

But at length she began «lowly to mind ; the fever abated a little day until she had none, and then there was a long struggle with weakness and

' languor.

As soon as sho began to realise that she was really better, however-when the doctor told her that if ehe would only have courage and patience she would be all right again in time-she took heart and resolved tbat Bhe would get well with all possible speed.

One night, some three weeks after this, the little i physician trotted down the stairs after leaving her

room, a satisfied smile on his dark face.

He had been called from the city early in the mornine to a patient at some distance, and so had been unable to visit her until evening ¡but he had been much pleased to find her greatly improved and »dually sitting up with a pretty white wrapper on, und the suspicion of coming color in her cheeks

He laughingly told her that ehe would be regarding him as an intruder in a few days if she progressed at that rate, for bis visits would be needlesB,

As he came out upon the street he almost ran against a man who appeared to be lounging about

the door,

"What do you want?'hedemanded, curtly, and eying him suspiciously.

"There is an English lady sick within?" the Btranger said, questioningly.

"Yes," was the brief response of the physician who saw that hiß interlocutor was a foreigner and evidently ltuglisb also, although he spoke the lan- guage of Spain very correctly.

.' Is-is sbe better ?"

" Yes," ogain briefly. " Will shetrget well?"

" She is very nearlyüwell now, but Btill weak, of

course."'

The stranger turned his head quickly, but not be-1 fore the keen eyes of the doctor had CBught the look of disappointment which flashed from his eyes.

"The lady is a stronger, perhaps-would it be proper for one of her own countrymen to offer sym- pathy and-assistance ?"

This was asked with a sort of nervous hesitancy,

" Sympathy ia well-assistance in a time of need is better ; but thanks, senor-she has a friend who con do for her all that she needs at present," and with a stiff little bow the suspicious doctor passed him and went bis way.

Philip Paxton-for it was he-glared after him, a flash of hatred in his eyes.

He had heard of Arley's illness almost immediately and had been in the habit of prowling about her lodging and interviewing the servants regarding her condition, They bad given him very unfavourable accounts, enjoying, as their class always do, some- thing exciting to talk about, and he bad been led to

believe that ßhe would not recover.

It was a shock to him now, therefore, to be told that she was getting well, horrible as it seems, be had actually hoped that she would die, so that he could carry out a cunning scheme which of late had been developed in his brain,

With Arley out of the way, he could go back and win the Lady Elaine-st least, this was the thought that had poeeeBeed him ever since reading of Will Hamilton's death.

Philip Paxton of to-day did not much resemble, morally, the industrious, rising young barrister whom we first saw in his office, reading that hearty letter from his friend at Hazelmere.

Until then he had been an honourable, upright man, determined to make his mark in the world, and bidding fair to do so, by his own talents and exer- tions. But a great temptation had been placed in his way ; the thought that he could, perhaps, win both fortune and position more easily than to dig and¡delve for them for years,; had suddenly taken possession of bim, and he bad weakly yielded to it, and betrayed the confidence of his friend.

This was the first step in the wrong direction, and it was easier to take the second ; thus, when disap- pointment and business reverses met him instead of success, it seemod as if all the antogonism of his na- ture had been aroused, and from that time he bad appeared to become reckless of his manhood or honor, speeding at a headlong rate along a downward path.

AB we have said, he left his lodgings the same day that Arley went away, and had also gone into humbler quarters ; while, a few days later, he might have been seen in a gambling den, watching, with wild eyes and haggard face, the turn of the wheel which would either make him a begger or fill his purse with gold.

He won ; and with a hoarse cry of joy be swept the pile of glittering coins toward him, and then, in spite of (he enticing invitation of the banker to " try his luck again," cramming them into his picket, he staggered from the place as if intoxicated with his good fortune (?)

The next dBy found bim in another den of the same kind-be was too cunning to try twice in the same place-and again he won.

" That will do," he muttered ; it's enough to give me quite a start, and I'll stop while I am safe," and buttoning his coat close over his hoard, he stalked from the place, wholly unmindful of the dark looks of the disappointed banker.

He bad told Arley, on that morning when she had paid their boord out of her own earnings, that he had

no money.

Whence, then, came the gold that be had staked at the gaming-table, nnd tbnt had enabled bim to win more?

********

As soon as Arley was able to get out, she went once more to the art etore where she had sold her pictures, to ascertain if she could still continue to supply sketches there.

The proprietor wns shocked at the change in her, and she did, indeed, look more like some frail, beau- tiful spirit than an earthly being; but he told her that he would take all the work that she could do.

She was not really able yet to apply herself cloeely to anything ; but her doctor's and landlady's bills had made sr.d inroads upon her twenty-five pounds-Jane Collins' loan-and it would take some time to earn sufficient to pay her passage home ; therefore sho felt obliged to make the most of what strength she

had.

She wrote a letter one dny to Miss McAllister, tell- ing her something of her troubles and illness, and asking her to send money for her expenses to Eng- land; but upon reading it over she instantly tore it up, while her face was one sheet of scarlet,

" I cannot write it ; the degradation is greater than I can bear," she cried, in a proud hard tone. "1 will earn my own passage money, and then I will go back and tell her all aboutit; with my arms about ber neck nnd my face hidden on her shoulder, I could whisper it into her ear, but to write it, and spell out every word, I cannot," and a shiver of repulsion shook

her from bead to foot.

Epery doy she grew stronger-every day she was able to draw a little more, though the doctor, com- ing in occasionally to see how she progressed, and looking over ber shoulder at her dainty work, muttertd, with a scowl of disapprobation, that he I should have her again on his hands if* she did not

take care.

Arley raised her lovely dark eyes to his face, and he saw the terrified expression in them,

" Will it make me ill again P Please don't tell me so, for I »lusi work-I must go home."

He know that she had been robbed-she had con- fided so much to him-and that ehe would have to earn money bBfore ehe could return to her friends, and he had favored her all he could in his chargée. He wished now, as he saw the desperate homesick- ness in her eyes, that he had taken nothing from her and so he had not the heart to tell her that ehe muBt not work-indeed, he began to think that if deprived of employment she might be in even more serious danger of another illness.

" Well, well, be moderate, then, eenora. Be care- ful and not apply yourself too closely," he said ; and

BO her work went on.

Arley wondered were Philip could be all this time. She wondered if he knew what she had been suffering during the last six weeks. If he had known and been there in the same city with her, he was certainly very unfeeling and cruel not to come to her and at least offer her a word^ot sympathy in her bitter extremity.

A month passed, the passage-money was almost earned, and Arley had decided to sail on a certain steamer which would leave for England within the coming fortnight, when, one morning, a servant brought an official-looking document to her door.

With a look of wonder upon her face, which was growing wondrously lovely every day now-sickness and sorrowbad given it a sort of refined beauty such "aB it had never possessed before-she took the strange-looking missive and broke the Beale.

She saw at a glance that it was written in French, therefore whoever had eent it knew that she was i not familiar with Spanish.

She began to read it, though tbe| formalties and legal terms puzzled her, but she kept ion, until at

last a low cry of horror burst from her. Her eyes dilated with pain, her cheeks faded to the hue of death, and she trembled so that the paper rattled in

her hands,

A blur seemed \p obscure her sight, so that the words ran together until she could not read them. She passed her hand across her eyes to dispel it, and read again those stiff, formal i-entences which had

agitated her ao deeply.

Then, as she comprehended their full meaning, a vivid crimBon mounted to her brow, her nostrils dilated, her lipa curled, with mingled acorn and bitter-

ness

Philip Foxton had applied to the court of Madrid for a divorce from his wife, Arietta Paxton, and the paper atated two reasons for this-an illegal marriage and subséquent desertion, and she was notified to appear on a certain day to defend her case.

Had it come to this, that with all her other troubles she must be a divorced wife P

What was the man, who had won her with such fair fond words-who had vowed fidelity, and sworn to love, honor, and care for her until death ehould part them-made of, that he could contemplate this fearful thing P

" How could I have been so mistaken in him ?" she muttered bitterly. "How could any one so utterly false and craven ever have posessed the power

to so deceive and allure me ?"

The idea of this divorce seemed like the lnsi¡bitter drop in her cup, though ehe khew Bhe had long been learning to feel a certain contempt for her husband1 He had forfeited her respect in many ways, but, for all that, she would have tried to be a faithful wife to him had he allowed hartó be such. She would have remained with him, caren for his comfort, and helped bim in every way that was possible, if he would, in return, have given heran honourable support; but she could not-she would net live under accumulating

debt.

But why should he claim that their marriage was illegal P"

This charge surprised her.

How could their marriage be illegal when it has been performed in the presence of so many wit- nesses, and with all the necessary forms and cere-

monies P

Then, like a flash, it carne to her that she bad been married under a name to which she had no right. She was-not Arietta Wentworth, nor Arietta any- thing else. The name that she was known by was not hers ; it was only retained for convenience, since she muBt be called something.

This then was probably the reason why he had not come near her while she was so sick ; he had been Bcharning to do this wicked thing,

"Doubtless,"ehe thought, bitterly, "he had wished ehe might die and save him all this trouble; but since she did not, he was going to take this way to shirk al! responsibility of his relations toward ber/

Baffled in his designs to secure a fortune by wedding her, he was ready to seize upon the first pretext to rid hitOBelE of her, and then, perhaps, he would try to win some other unsuspecting girl who had plenty of money, so that he could live a life of ease.

Arley caBt that hateful document from her with a gesture of loathing.

" I have half a mind never to appear against bim,' she said ; " it might be a blessed freedom to me as well ; to have these galling ties severed, even though a divorce to me means nothing. I promised 'until death should part US'-and I meant it, Shall I sit quietly down and allow him to bave his way-allow the world to believe I deserted bim, and make no ef- fort to vindicate myself?"

She mused a long time over there questions ; but finally, with firmly compressed lipB and uplifted head,

she added :

"No ; I will go and hear what he has to say for himself. I will face him, and let bim know that I consider our marriage legal, if he does not. I will tell my story. I will tell how it happened that I de- serted bim. I will not tamely submit to this indig-

nity."

Then ehe remembered that Bhe would appear at a great disadvantage, and that she would need some one to act for her in this trying situation ; for, of course, she could give no evidence, since she could not speak tbe language ; neither could she understand any charges that might be preferred against her. She muet have an interpreter,

" I will go and see my kind doctor, and tell him all my trouble," she said, teeling that she could tru3t him. " We can converse in Frenoh, and I know he will do all that he can to help me."

She dressed heraelf at once to go out, and went to

seek him.

To her dismay she was told that he was very ill and could see no one-he had overworked himself since the sickly season carne on, and was now pay- ing the penalty.

See then bethought herself of the proprietor of of the art store, He also could speak French fluently, and she believed he was honest, and would deal truly by her.

To the art store she repaired ; but it seemed as if the " fates" were all against her, for ehe was informed that he had gone to Paris on business, and would be

absent for several weeks.

"He bad left orders that madam's sketches were to be accapted and paid for when she brought them,"' the clerk told her, in his broken French, " and he would like her to do what she could."

Arley was in despair at this intelligence, and did not know where ta turn next for help. The consul ehe knew had not yet returned, and she had not a friend in all that babel to whom she could turn.

But she knew that it was absolutely necaesary that she ehould have counsel of some kind, and she asked the clerk if he could direct her to some good lawyer who could speak French or English.

He did not know of any one who was familiar wlih the latter language, but told her of one who could speak French, and as a last resort she was compelled to go to him.

Once she thought of seeking Philip, and begging him to desist from this horrible proceeding-she felt that Bhe had neither strength nor courage to endure

the ordeal.

Then all her pride arose to arms,

"I will not go near him," she cried, a vivid scarlet staining her forehead, her dark eyes flashing fire ; " I will henceforth consider him my, bitter enemy, and I will battle for my good name with all my might, and as if I never entertained any but feelings of hatred towards him. Bat ob, Philip !' and a quivering sob burst from ber lips, " if you had only been different-if you had only been the noble man I believed you, when I gave myself to you, how happy I could have been with you even in poverty

and trial."

"But this is folly and weakness," she added, dash-1 ing away the unbidden tears and struggling for self control; " the dream of my life is over ; One who is wiser than I has seen fit to send this upon me, and I

must meet it as bravely as I can ; but ob t if Aunt ' Angoline, or good Sir Anthony, or anybody, was only here to help me I"

She strove to put these longings away from her, for they unnerved h'er, and went at once to seek the

lawyer to whom ehe had been directed,

Io her great relief, she found him in his cilice,and

at liberty.

But Señor Proquelin did not impress Arley favor-

ably.

I He WBB tall and straight as an Indian ; his thin,

lank bair, black as the shadeB of Erebus, hardly covered his ilt-sbapen bead, which was tall and nar- row like himself ; a projecting forehead, wrinkled and tawny, with heavy brows, overhung a pair of small, piercing black eyes, which had a cunning gleam in them that actually made Arley shiver with apprehension, He had high cheekbones, a thin nose, and a wide mouth, within which there waa a set of yellow, decaying, disgusting teeth-and altogether he was exceedingly repulsive.

Arley had more than half a mind to turn and fly from his presence, give up the battle and go home as fast as steam and sail could take her, for she was filled with distrust of the man the moment ahe be- held him.

But he came forward, upon her entrance, and ad- dressed her courteously in Spanish.

She shook her head, and replied intrench that she she did not understand ; whereupon he addressed her in that language, politely drew forward a chair,

and asked her to be sea'ed,

She complied, and then entered at once upon the object of her call. She told him her story as briefly as possible, but all the while she was relating it, with drooping eyes and flushed cheeks, the wily lawyer was Btudying the fair face with a rude inquisitive Btare, mingled with intense admiration."

" Yes, he would undertake the case for her," he blandly told her when she concluded, and, be added, be thought the case of the Benora a strong one.

" But pardon," he added, with a low obeisance and an unpleasant smirk, " if the señora is not fond of the senor still, why cot let him go ?-why not allow him to get a divorce if he wishes, and be free from so disagreeable n husband ?"

Arley flushed crimson at the question, and with uplifted head and fleshing eyes, replied:

" Because be has accused me falsely ; my good name is at stake-my character must be vindicated. he shall not take it before the public end blacken it, without an attempt on my part to thwart his base purpose."