|Newspaper Title||The West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||The Mystery of Karina Donimirska|
TTTE STaR Y-TEL LEB
THE MYSTERY OF KARINA
Mme. de Montrieu's salons looked very beautiful when decorated and thrown open for a reception. There were the cwo grand salons and a small one, the music room and conservatoire, all illuminated with innnmerable wax candles and per- fumed by countless flowers, and Madame herself looked charming in her Paris gown of pale green velvet, embroidered with dainty moss roses. But Madame was not happy. It was that last uncom- fortable half hour when the rooms are yet empty, bat the hostess must be there ready to make welcome the unfortunate
first comer-the hour when tbe sadden
" regrets " from the most important guests are liable to arrive, and above all it is the hour when you are just weary enough to imagine all the mishaps whieh could mar this, your pet reception of the season. But Madame's unhappiness at present was not purely imaginary-the usnal sudden regret had arrived.
" Now, who is it ?" she exclaimed, with irritation, as she opened the envelope. " If it's the English Bmbassy I shall be furious !"
It was not from the Embassy, but Madame was nevertheless very much annoyed.
" It from that little Russian pianist that is always the way with profession- als-you never can count on them 1"
" What is the matter with her ?" asked
Mme. de Fayette, who stood before one of the mirrors readjusting for the sixth
time the diamond crescent in her hair.
" Oh sick, of course ! They are always ' indisposed ' at the last moment."
" But is the sister also ill ! Did sho arrive yesterday as expected ?" persisted Lucille.
" Yes, the sister is coining," Madame replied more placidly as he read the note. " Her name is Karins, I must not forget it. But what do 1 want with one of them ? The novelity was in having twins-twin prodigies 1 I can always find plenty of singers. Who knows whether this Karina even sings well, and besides there is no telling how she will appear and act-she may be ridiculous 1" Bnt Madame's expostulations were inter- rupted by the sound of carriage wheels
ontside and voices in the halls.
The reception had commenced. Ma- dame was smiling and gracious. The rooms were soon brilliant and glittering with gorgeous costumes and many jewels. Mme. de Montrieu was a hostess of ad-
mirable tact and quick perceptions. She cou)d take in at a glance the amount of conversional ability at the command of every gronp in a room. She knew how to rout or disperse the young men who hap- pened to be wasting their entertaining talents on each other. It was a stupid per- son indeed who ever left Mme. de Mon- trieu's salon with a consciousness of having appeared to disadvantage. She always drew out the best qualities of each person -a greater gift this than many accom- plishments. '
It was an hour since the first guest had arrived. The English Embassy had come in full force ; the most distinguished personages^ were already there-even Coiinf d Omar, who was expected late, had arrived, smiling and decorated with Russian orders.
As Madame was passing her cousin at one end of the room she murmured hastily:
" Will you believe it, that singer has not come yet ! She is evideutly planning to arrive late and make a sensation. I
know something will happen to mortify me-things are going too smoothly so far."
" Perhaps that is she now," replied her cousin, and Madame went forward to meet the new arrival.
Mile. Donimirska entered the roora like a queen, and looked like one. There was in her bearing no trace of the timidity and lack of social experience
which was observable in the sister. But in form and feature their resemblance
was quite marked.
" I see Mme. de Montrieu is not certain
whether it is I or my sister/' she observed with an amused smile. But a society woman never reveals mnch surprise.
"No. I think I should have known you apart, although the likeness is very striking. But, you see, I find it difficult to greet you as one whom I meet for the first time. It seems as if I know you well," and madame verified her words by clasping Karina's hand cordially.
"Then, madame, I have reason to be very thankfni for the resemblance I bear to Katherine." Karina bowed as grace- fully as she spoke.
Mme. de Montrieu's welcome was genuine; indeed any hostess might be prond of Karina Donimirska as she appeared that afternoon. Her costume was superb. It was of white satin, not cream white, but a snowy, dazzling white, and this was richly embroidered with gold. But the great effect and beauty of the costume was its trimming of Russian sable, a broad band of which outlined the train and also the low-cut bodice. The dark fur against her splendid white shoulders formed a striking contrast. Her hair was dark like Katherine's, but was dressed more elaborately, being drawn high and^held in place by a gold dagger. Her eyes were also dark, bnt somewhat concealed by dainty gold eye-glasses, which did not wobble or lean to one side, bnt stood erect and firm on her well
shaped nose. She wore no jewel, except- ing one single pearl ring of immense size.
Snch was the creature towards whem
Mme. de Montrieu had so recently har- boured ungenerous sentiments. No wonder she was surprised and almost dis- concerted at the first sight. But her manner was now graciousness itself.
" And your sister, is she very ill ? I so regret her absence.
" Yes, Madame. I must confess that only a severe indisposition could have induced Katherine to forego the privilege so kindly extended to us. I would not have left her, but she insisted on my coming."
" I am very glad of this," replied Madame, honestly ; " it would have been too bad to lose both of you."
After a few further polite inquiries about Mile. Katherine, the hostess sum- moned the nearest standing cavalier and presented him. ,.
^ This hap^ened^taJîe» Count d'Qmar, who had' been observing the new beauty
ever aînée her entrance.
" But I believe we need no introduction -is it net the charming pianiste whom I had the honour of hearing last week ?"
He felt somewhat relieved when
informed of his mistake, for in point of fact the "charming pianiste" had not attracted him, whereas this gorgeous creatnre commanded unqualified admira- tion, and it was gratifying to learn that he need not undo any first impressions in order to now pay his devoted attentions.
And devoted he certainly was from the first moment to the last of their inter coarse. Whether Mile. Donimirska was pleased with his intentions or not it was difficult to judge ; but certain it is that she permitted them, even to the chagrin of other admirers who were ap- parently more desirable and suitable thau the Count. Some may have wondered, but none understood why the square-faced, small-eyed, more than middle aged and dissipated Count was favoured by such a beautiful and brilliant woman as Karina Donimirska.
When she sang all hearts were capti- vated. Some voices make you think of things grand and noble, like cathedrals and historic castles, others call up visions of the dainty and exquisite, like jewels and flowers, but this "voice made you think pre-eminently and always of a bird. The quality was light and sweet and high, and her art was so perfect that every note came with bewilding ease.
" Patti might will envy you," exclaimed the Count with more fervor than under- standing.
As an artist, Mile Donimirska could certainly take the highest rank-«eales, arpeggi, stacatti and trills were all render ed with equal facility.
" Where did yon study? Who was your master ?" inquired Mrae. de Montrieu
"My father, Madame, taught us everything.'*
" He must be a wonderf al musician."
"He was, Madame, bnt we have no father now." There was a ring of bit- terness as weir aa grief in her tones, but Madame only heard the words.
" Poor child," she replied, " yon have known a great loss. It ia a pity that snell gifted girls should ever experience any- thing but gladness. But now, dear, yon
must come to the refreshment roora. Count, I trust you will look ont for our songstress."
Count d'Omar fulfilled well his part by bringing Karina the choicest dainties, but she showed little disposition to eat, and finally proposed taking their wine in the conservatoire, as the refreshment room was rather crowded. ThU suggestion was received with delight by her escort, who immediately foresaw the possibility of their being alone-a prospect most enticing. But the flower we grasp with eagerness may conceal the serpent that
kills. It was woe for the Count when he
entered that perfumed and softly lighted
Karina seated herself in a fautenil, which her escort carefully arranged away from any draught and not too near the noisy refreshment room. He placed a footstool at her feet and a soft silk cushion at her elbow. She received his solicitions attention with a gracious smile of acknowledgment, but her manner was like one who is conscious of regal power. They talked of the flowers aronnd t'iem
and then of music. She hummed snatches
from arias, and the varying expressions of her beautiful face lent to the melodies more meaning than any words. She found subtle ways of flattering him-she praised the jewelled orders he wore and wished to know their significance. He said they were only some trinkets the Government had seen fit to bestow on hiin in a kindly endeavour to improve his personal appearance. But she wonld not bo parried by this pleasantry. She pro- fessed a doeper interest and turned her dark brilliant eyes full upon him as she asked earnest questions about his deeds of bravery.
The Count was fairly intoxicated, not with wine, but his spirit was not fine and keen enough to detect the underlying agitation that made her eyes so brilliant. He appropriated it as personal admiration.
" You do not drink yonr wine," he pre- sently observed. ,
** No, I never do ; it hurts my voice." She bestowed more thought on this answer than it would seem to justify. Her foot was tapping the floor uervously. Whether from thought, influence or coin- cidence, the Connt replied just as she had expected.
" Then let me empty the glass that has been clasped by your fair fingers."
Before he had finished speaking she suddenly arose.
" Hark ! I think Mme. de Montrieu is asking for me."
She stepped hastily to the door as if to investigate her supposition. While brushing past the rustling palm leaves Karina Donimirska, dexterously and unnoticed, broke the mock-pearl of her ring against the edge of her wine-glass. A few drops of deadly poison flowed into the wine. She was back to her seat in almost less time than it takes to tell this/
"I was mistaken"-her voice was husky and she had to simulate a cough to conceal her agitation-" I wish to tell Madame that I cannot sing again. I must return soon to my sister."
" What-must I be afflicted already with the thought of parting ? But you will at least grant me the favour I recently asked, n'est ce pas ? You seem to ignore it as did yonr sister last week when I asked her for a waltz. Instead of heeding my request she gave me the
dance of death.
v Karina shuddered at these words, but she quickly counterfeited a laugh and replied archly:
"I suppose yon expected something like Atditti's II Bacio !"
" That wonld have been my first thought and wish had my request been addressed to you." This was spoken
with a tone and manner which he had doubtless often used effectively. He fol- lowed it up by lifting her hands to his lips. Had the Connt at that moment seen her face he would have chilled at the sight, for snch an expression of horror and aversion could only resnlt from some deep hidden cause. With such determin- ation she handed him the glass.
"Viola, Monsienr! I don't give you the dance of death, but in truth I have heard wine called the drink of death."
"Ma foi, what a giddy old fellow Death must be if he drinks this wine and dances to that tune!" with which the Count drained the glass.
At this moment the musicians in the adjoining hall commenced'playing. T
"Ah, they are dancing. Conte, lee us
have one waltz! Now, here, where we are/' The Count arose and extended his hands, but El arina stepped away ner- vously.
" No, no, I caunot ; it is already late, aud I must return to my sister. Au
Bat he quickly placed himself before
the door and retained her hand.
" A matter of two or three minutes will
Hot affect your sister. Come, I say, just
one little waltz. Yon hare not danced with me at ali."
He was as iutenso in his pleadings as she in her resistance. Finally when she started to go iu spite of all, he astonished her with the announcement :
" Then 1 will go also if you do not waltz with me. i will follow you home. I will follow you to the end of tiie earth." Count d'Omar was certaiuly not in his right mind when saying this, but of his
earnestness there could be no doubt.
Karina hesitated bat a moment, then with desperate earnestuess she laid her hand on his shoulder aud they waltzed
a veritable dance of death.
No words can describe the horror of that moment to Sarina. She chilled at
the touch of liis bauds, and thoughts like demons crowded her reeling brain. They waltzed oat into the, large and brilliant music room. Oh! the lights,the diamonds, the music, the animation--eonld she ever forget that scene or participate in such again ?
Bat there was co time to answer ques-
tions. She had undertaken a task which was unfinished. Before the Count was aware of her intentions she glided from his arms, murmuring faintly the one
" Adieu !" To God ! How fall of mean iug ! She walked swiftly aud unnoticed oat of the hall and across the corridors to the cloak-room.,. Here she donned Ker long,'loose mantle, and then walked to the large eutrauce portal. Before going out she .purposely dropped, the .fatal riajr
where it would soon be found. Kerina
believed her escape to be so well plauned that she did not fear to thus expose her- self in order to prevent the possible sus- picion of an iiinocent person. To the servant's enquiry if he should order her carriage, sho simply answered M No !" and pass'àed' out'. "In the" meantime the Count d'Omar, finding himself forsaken, looked abont for some means of consola- tion. His head felt peculiar, so he decided to steady himself with another glass of champagne. lu going to the refreshment room he experienced a dizziness and burn- ing sensation which he had never known before. He could hardly see or walk. There were still a number of guests eating and drinking. They noticed the Couut's unsteady walk but only smiled. He picked up the noarest glass, bat scarcely toaehed it te his lips when he threw up his arms with a sudden hoarse cry. The glass was thrown almost across ti io room.
"I am dying! It is death!" ho cried, and his voice rose higher. " Poison ! murder ! murder ! I am murdered !" and with one great groan Count d'Omar fell beside the banquet table dead.
It would be difficult to describe the scene of confusion that followed. In its midst''lhere came to the door a servant
holding high 'ha broken ring. It was at »nee recognised as belonging to Mile.
Donimirska. On ? examination it was found to be a most carefully prepared poison ring. The police were immediately informed, and it waa little over one hour after the Count's death that the detective started iu search of the perpetrator of the
(To be continued on Saturday.)