Chapter 64034780

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Chapter NumberXII
Chapter TitleHER FACE RESIGNED TO BLISS OR BALE.
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article64034780
Full Date1883-08-04
Page Number0
Corrections0
Word Count2126
IllustratedY
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleIllustrated Sydney News (NSW : 1853 - 1872)
Trove TitlePhantom Fortune
article text

"He was au old *aD> something under middle height, but looking as if he had once been taller, for his shoulders were much bent, and his head was

v . sunken on his chest."

"PHANTOM FORTUNE,

By MISS BRADDON,

Author of "Lady Audlei/s Secret," «Dead Men's Shoe*,'' « Weavers, and Weft," " Just as I Am,'> ¿c., ¿c.

CHAPTER XII.

"HER FACE RESIGNED TO BLISS OR BALE."

Lady Mary and the Fräulein had been sitting in the draw- ing-room all this time waiting for Lady Maulevrier to come in to tea. They heard her come in from the gardeu ; and then the footman told them that she was in- the library with a stranger. Not even the muffled sound of voices penetrated the heavy velvet curtain and the thick oak door. It was only by the loud ringing of the bell and the sound of foot-steps in the hall that Lady Mary knew of the guest's departure. She went to the door between the two rooms, and was surprised to find it bolted.

" Grandmamma, won't you come to tea.?" she asked timidly, knocking on the oaken panel, but there was no reply.

She knocked again, and louder. Still no reply. i "Perhaps her ladyship is going to take tea in nev own room," she said, afraid to be officious.

Attendance upon her grandmother at afternoon tea had

been one of Leshia's particular duties ; but Mary felt that j

she was an unwelcome substitute for Lesbia. She wanted j to get a little nearer her grandmother's heart if she could ; i but she knew that her attentions were endured rather than liked. -

She went into the hall, where the footman on duty was staring at the light snowflakes danciug, past the window, perhaps wishing he were a snowflake himself, and enjoying himself in that white whirligig."

"Is her ladyship having tea in the morning room ?" asked Mary.

The footman gave a little start, as if awakened out of a

kind of trance. The sheer vacuity of his mind might natu- j

rally slide into mesmeric sleep.

He told Lady Mary that her ladyship had not left the library, and Mary went in timidly, wondering why her grandmother had not joined them in the drawing-room when the stranger was gone.

The sky was dark Outside, the wide windows, white hills and valleys shrouded in the shades of night. The library

was only lighted by the red glow of the logs on the hearth, ¡ and in that ruddy light the spacious room looked empty. Mary was turning to go away, thinking the footman had been mistaken, when her eye suddenly lighted upon a dark figure lying on the ground. And thea she heard an awful stertorous breathing, and knew that her grandmother was lying there, stricken and helpless.

Mary shrieked aloud, with a cry that pierced curtains and doora, and brought Fraulein and half a dozen servants to her help. One of the men brought a lamp, and among them they lifted the smitten figure. Ob, God ! how ghastly the face looked in the lamplight-the features drawn to one

side, the skin livid.

" Her ladyship has had a stroke," said the butler.

' " Is she dying?" faltered Mary, white as ashes. "Oh, Grandmamma, dear Grandmamma, don't look at us like

that!"

One of the servants rushed off to the stables to send for the doctor. Of course, being au indoor man, he no more , thought of .going out himself into the snowyx night on such an errand than Noah thought of going out of the ark to make his discoveries of dry land in person.

They carried the Countess to her bed and laid her there, like a figure carved ont of stone. She was not unconscious. Her eyes were open, and she. moaned every now and then as if in bodily and mental pain. Once she tried to speak, but had: no power to shape a syllable aright, and ended with» a shuddering sigh. Once she lifted her left arm and waved it in the air, as if waving some one off in fear or ; anger. The right arm, indeed, the whole of the right side was lifeless, motionless as a stone. It was a piteous sight to see the beautiful features drawn and distorted, the Tips so accustomed to command mouthing the broken syllables ol , an unknown tongue. Lady Mary sat beside the bed with

clasped hands, praying dumbly, with her eyes fixed on her grandmother's altered face.

Mr. Horton came, as soon as his stout mountain pony could bring him. He did not seem surprised at her lady-

ship's condition, and accepted the situation with profes

' sional calmness.

"A marked case of hemiplegia," he, said, when he hac observed the symptoms.

" Will she die ?" asked Mary.

"Ob, dear, no. She will want great care for a Iitth while, but we shall bring her round easily. Asplendid con stitution, a noble frame, but I think she has overworked hei brain a little, reading Huxley and Darwin, and the Germai physiologists upon whom Huxley and Darwin have lmil themselves. Metaphysics, too. A wonderful woman. Verj few brains could hold what hers has had poured into it ii the last thirty years. The conducting nerves between th« brain and the spinal marrow have been overworked : toi much activity, too constant a strain. Even the rails an<

sleepers on the railroad wear out, don't you know, if there's

excessive traffic.

Mr. Horton had known Mary from.her childhood, had given her Gregory's powder, and seen her safely through measles and other infantile ailments, so he was quite at home with her, and at Fellside generally. Lady Mau- levrier had given him a good deal of her confidence during those thirty years in which he had practised as his father's partner and successor at Grasmere. He used to tell people that lie owed a good deal of his education to her ladyship, who. condescended to talk to him of the new books she

read, and generally gave him a volume to put in his pocket

when he was leaving her.

" Don't be downhearted, Lady Mar}r," he said, "I shall come in two or three times a day and see how things are going on, and if I see the slightest difficulty in the case I'll telegraph instanter for Jenner."

Mary and the Fräulein sat up with the invalid all that night. Lady Maulevrier's maid was also in attendance, and one of the men-servants slept in his clothes on a couch in the corridor, ready for any emergency. But the night passed peacèfally, the patient slept a good deal, and next day there waa evident improvement.

The stroke which had prostrated the body, which reduced the. vigorous, active frame to an awful statue-like stillness -a quietude as of death itself-had not overclouded the intellect. Lady Maulevrier lay on her bed in the spacious luxurious room, with wide Tudor windows commanding half the circle of the hills,- and was still the ruling spirit of the house, albeit powerless to move the slender hand, the lightest wave of which had been as potent to command ia

lier little world as royal sign-manual or sceptre in the great

world outside.

Now there remained only one thing unimpaired by that awful shock which had laid the stately frame low, and that was the will and sovereign force of the woman's nature. Voice was altered, speech was confused and difficult ; but

the strength of will, the supreme power of mind, seemed

undiminished.

When Lady Maulevrier was asked if Leshia should be

telegraphed for, she replied no, not unless she was in danger

of sudden death.

'.I should like to see her before I go," she said, labouring"

to pronounce the words.

'.Dear grandmother," said Mary, tenderly, "Mr. Horton

says there is no danger. "

"27«; Illustrated Sydney News" is the only publication in New South Wales in ivhich this tale can appear.

"Then do not send for her, do not even tell her what has happened, not yet."

" But she will miss your letters."

"True. You must write twice a week at my dictation : You must tell her that I have hurt my hand, that I am well but cannot use a pen. I would not spoil her pleasure

for the world."

" Dear grandmamma, how unselfish you are ! And Maulevrier, shall he be sent for? He is not so far away," said Mary, hoping her grandmother would say

yes.

What a relief, what an unspeakable solace Maulevrier's presence would be in that dreary house, smitten to a sudden and awful stillness, as if by the Angel of Death.

<'No, I do not want Maulevrier?" answered her ladyship, impatiently.

" May 1 sit here and read to you, grandmamma?" Mary asked, timidly. "Mr. Horton said you were to be kept very quiet, and that we were not to let you talk, or talk much to you, but that we might read to you if you like."

" I do not wish to be read to. I have my thoughts for -company," said Lady Maulevrier.

Mary felt that this implied a wish to be alone. She bent over the invalid's pillow and kissed the pale cheek, feeling as if she were taking a liberty in venturing so much. She would hardly have done it had Lesbia been at home ; but she'had a feeling that in Leshia's absence Lady Maulevrier must want somebody's love-even hers. Aod then she crept away, leaving Halcott, the maid, in attendance, Bitting

at her work at the window furthest from the bed.

"Alone with my Ihoughts," mused Lady Maulevrier, looking out at the panorama of wintry hills, white, ghost- like against an iron sky. "Pleasant thoughts, truly ! , Walled in by the hills-walled in and hemmed round for _ ever. This place has always felt like a grave : and now" I

know that it is my grave."

Miss Kirsch, and Lady Mary, and the maid Halcott, a sedate personage of forty summers, had all been instructed by the doctor that Lady Maulevrier was to be kept pro- foundly quiet. She must not talk much ; since speech was likely to be a painful effort with her for some little jime ; she must not be talked to much by anyone, least of all mu3t she be spoken to upon any agitating topic. Life must be made as smooth and easy for her as for a new born infant. No rough breath from the outer world must come near her. She was to see no one but her maid and her grand-daughter; Mr. Horton, a plain family man, taking it for granted that the grand-daughter was dear to her heart, and likely to exercise a soothing influence. Thus it happened "that although Lady Maulevrier asked repeatedly that James Steadman should be brought to her she was not allowed to see him. She whose will had been paramount in that house, whose word had been law, was now treated as a little child, while the will was still as strong, the mind as

keen as ever.

" She would talk to him of business," said Mr. Horton, when he was told of her ladyship's desire to see Stèadman, "and that cannot be allowed, not for some little time at least."

" She is very angry with us for refusing to obey her," said Lady Mary.

" Naturally, but it is for her own welfare that she is dis- obeyed. She can have nothing to say to Steadman which will not keep till she is better. This establishment goes by

clockwork."

Mary wished it was a little less like clockwork. Since Lady Maulevrier had been lying upstairs-the voice which had once ruled over the house muffled almost to dumb- ness-the monotony of life at Fellside had seemed all the more oppressive. The servants crept about with stealthier tread. Mary dared not touch either piano or billiard balls, and was naturally seized with a longing to touch both. The house had a darkened look, as if the shadow of doom over- hung it.

During this regimen of perfect quiet Lady Maulevrier was not allowed to see the newspapers ; and Mary was warned that in reading to her grandmother she was to avoid all exciting topics. Thus it happened that the account of a terrible collision between the Scotch express and a luggage train a little way beyond Preston, an accident in which seven people were killed and about thirty seriously hurt, was not made known to her ladyship ; and yet that fact would have been of intense interest and significance to

her.