|Newspaper Title||Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954)|
|Trove Title||The Wealth of the West|
" Why did you not tell me at the first that he was dead ? Did he doubt me, or had you the impertinence—"
" Nothing of the sort, ma'am."
" Then, why did you not tell me? Why was I kept in the dark like the others ? Why was I not taken to him ?"
" Well, ma'am, if you will only give me time, the thing is easy enough to understand. There is all the difference
between saying a thing when you believe it's true, and saying the same thing when you know it isn't. As it was, when people asked you any questions, your
tears, were genuine—your words were
genuine, and nobody that heard you could doubt you. If you had known that the Warden had swung down the
river, and then crawled over to my place in the dark, you would have given yourself away at the first question and answer. Yes, yes, I know all about what you are going to say—though you would have rather bitten your tongue out first ; but what good would that
have been when the damage was done ?"
It was the same Phyllis of old, but changed ; older, and looking twenty
years beyond her age—careworn, thinner, sadder, and those eyes were not the same eyes that had danced with the fun of joke and repartee with Margaret in the old days. We see the same evidences in the street every day, but they have to be labelled and known before we under- stand. There is not much need to dwell on the picture.
She was talking to Cornwall and pacing about the room impatiently. She had some kind of loose wrapper around her, and looked as if she had been ill— as, indeed, she had ; but it was the ill- ness that has its seat in the mind, and
not in the body. Her eyes were cast
down, and she kept on restlessly pulling the wrapper about and about her.
" There would have been no damage
done, Mr. Cornwall. I have proved his friend in greater straits than this, and— and—I thought he would have remem- bered. I think my prudence would probably have been as great as yours or his own. I—I think I have shown that
I loved him better than myself——"
" It's no use getting distressed, ma'am. If it was a mistake, it was meant for the
" Meant for the best !—but you could calculate on a woman's tears to help you —on my distress to make your scheme the surer—you wretched, callous menial."
" Thank you." She took a few more turns up and down, and then—
" I beg your pardon; I should not
have said that. I am angry and indig- nant at such treatment. I have not
" I don't know that we calculated on
anything you might feel, ma'am. The thing was done on the spur of the moment, and we had to take all the pre- cautions we could think of. That was all."
" ' We, we, we,' " she said with an
angry stamp. " Who made you and Mr. Yeend one and the same person?"
" I have come to ask you if you will
come to him now," said Cornwall, diplo-
" Did he ask you, or was that another of the decisions that ' we ' came to?"
" He asked himself, ma'am. He seemed
to wish for it strongly."
" I don't want you to interpret for him, Mr. Cornwall. All I asked was if he wished it."
" He did, ma'am." " Very well. That is sufficient. Let
us go at once."
" You will understand that no one
must know anything——"
" Mr. Cornwall, don't treat me like a child. I am not a child. I am perfectly well aware that no one must know. Do you think," she said in a tone that she meant only to be proud, but which con-
tained she knew not how much sadness, " that I have not spent enough time here not to understand?"
They set out.
It was dark. There was no moon. Thick clouds covered every star from sight. But with the instinct for safety, Cornwall and Phyllis continually made wide detours. They both paused at Cornwall's door, and Phyllis drew on a long breath and put a strong constraint on
herself for the meeting.
Within, was the man who, to her, was the type of male aggression. Her life
was, to her, no longer entirely her own.
In old times, she had gone whither she would ; now one had arisen who led her often whither she would not. But life,
apart from him, was motiveless and im- possible. We call it fate when we see consequences approaching which will affect us, but which we cannot avert. This man was her fate. He dominated her. When he was not present, and she
proposed anything to herself, she would say to herself, How would he look, what would he say, how would he act if he
knew ? Then she would see the gaze in his eyes—their sneer, their contempt, their command. She would see the curl of his lips. She would hear the sound of his voice. She would mark his step, his bearing, the play of his fingers as he would stroke his moustache and gaze at
her. These things were the expression
of the something within and shining through him that made up his superiority
and mesmerism over her. She was not much given to analysing things. She had never probably even analysed her sensations even to this extent. But the sensations were there all the same, and
it was a confused jumble of them that
made her draw her breath, and pause at the door of Cornwall's house. The
goodness, what there was of it, was hers ;
the evil was his, yet she felt as if she were about to appear before a judge.
She put her hand on Cornwall's arm when he would have opened the door, and then stood with her head bent, and closed, her eyes, and covered them with
her fingers. Cornwall drew back, pretty much as if he had surprised a saint at
prayer, though as a matter of fact, it
was not much of a saint, nor much of a prayer. He had a vague sense that here was a degree of tragedy, so far as the woman was concerned, that was quite
outside his knowledge as a practical miner. He waited till the woman who
looked like a saint, but who was not, had finished what looked like a prayer, but
which was only nervousness, and then
they went in.
(To be Continued.)