Chapter 77378476

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Chapter NumberII
Chapter TitleTHE VICTIM
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article77378476
Full Date1893-11-08
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count1610
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950)
Trove TitleA Terrible Wrong
article text

OUR NOVELIST.

A TERRIBLE WRONG: '-''''''? + ? —

By Mrs. Harriet Lewis.

. Author of' TkeJ^(^ky Lord S&iicwood's Crime' fc.

CHAPTERII. THE VICTIM.

IiAcuuxam Lodge is a beautiful toy villa in tlie suburb of London known as St. Jolm's-Avood. It is built of brick, two stories in height, with big bow windows of plate glass, and with a bright little conservatory, and is set in a formal little garden, which is enclosed on its four sides by a high brick -wall surmounted bv a formid

able cJievaux-de-frise of broken : bottles. ] At the time of -which we write, , some twenty years ago, Laburnam ' Lodge had been occupied for a period of ten months by a young married ( couple, known to the house agent and . to inquisitive neighbours as Mr. and Mrs. Keith. 'Mr. Keith,' was Lord Oswald Keith Lennox. His wife knew him only as Oswald Keith, and believed him to be the son of a wealthy country gentleman. Not the remotest sus picion of his actual rank and expecta tions, or of his real name, had ever penetrated her mind. The drawingroom of the Lodge was luxuriously furnished, as, indeed, ?was the entire dwelling. Every room was filled with costly elegancies. The furniture had come from- the hands of noted artists. The porcelain was of exquisit Serves ; bronzes, pic tures, statuary, all were masterpieces. ' Mi\ Keith' had expended a fortune in adorning this little nest for the bird lie had had such difficulty in snaring, and which he now intended turning loose in the wintry blast. Upon the day upon which our story opens the drawing ro@m of Laburnam Lodge was occupied by Mrs. Keith. She was a mere girl of eighteen, slender and supple, and graceful as a fawn. Her hair was of a pale gold hue, and coiled low at the back of her head. Her eyes were of gray, ' deep and dark wells of liquid light, yet full of dense purple shadows. Her forehead was broad and low, her mouth of vivid scarlet, tender and sweet, yet with a resolute curve that betokened character. A lovely, innocent face, like an exquisite poem, with perfect Greek features instinct with brightness, and spirit, and in telligence, yet possessing an odd ex pression of wistfulness and yearning, as if, with all her happiness, she yet lacked' something to complete her joys and contentment. Although it was now early after noon, she was richly attired in a long black silk dress, with white lace at her throat and wists, and she wore ornaments of considerable value. In truth, although the February afternoon was dull and dark, with a slow falling mist, Mrs. Keith was ex .pecting her husband, and had pre pared to receive him. . He was in the habit of making frequent absences from Laburnani Lodge, ostensibly to visit his relatives in the country— in- deed, he had never settled himself regularly in the pretty villa at St.' John's-wood as his established home — and he had been absent a week. The young wife had expected him ' during every hour of the past three days ; she was sure that he would come to-day. ''''_ \ She had stood at the window during the past hour, watchful and patient. Now she turned away to the piano, and touched the keys softly, singing a quaint, old ballad in a clear soprano voice. While she was thus engaged the cab containing Lord Oswald Lennox and his familiar drove up to the garden gate of the lodge, and the two young men admitted themselves into the garden, Lord Oswald having : a latchkey in his possession. The entered the dwelling without encountering a servant , and ascended ?.the stairs. ' Wait here a moment,' whispered Lord Oswald, hoarsely. . . . ? M have something to do first.' ; .Melcombe nodded assent. j The young lord turned aside into his wife's dressing room. He search ed for her keys in her chest of drawers, and found them. Then he opened her dressing case, a massive square box of ebony bound with brass. It was filled with trinkets he had given her. He touched a spring at the top, a mirror sprang out, reveal iug a learther pocket at the back. Here Mrs. Keith kept her marriage certificate, and here her husband found it. He transferred it to his own person, his hands trembling as he did so, and returned to his companion. He was deathly pale, and a curious agitation thrilled every nerve. But he had fairly embarked upon his crime, and ? had no thought of turning back. He was tired of his young wife ; he could never bear poverty, he did not know how to work. His one idea now was to retrieve himself in his father't estimation, and to obtain the wealth he so desired. ' Come !' he said, briefly. ? The two young men entered the drawing room together. I Their approach was quite silent, but the girl heard them. She turned her head, uttered a cry of delight, and flew to her husband, clasping him in a glad embrace. He stood like a wooden image under her caress. But Melcombe's eyes ? glittered with jealousy, and his vam pire face flushed and paled, and his fingers worked nervously. He had often visited Laburnam Lodge in company with Lord Oswald, but he had never learned to look upon Queenie Keith's face unmoved. He had coveted her with all his soul. He loved her to madness, and his counsels to ' his friend had been actuated by treachery as much as by greed. ' Oh, Oswald !' breathed the young Avife. ' I Avas sure you would como to-day. Hoav I have longed for you ? ' She paused abruptly, as Lord Oswald gently put her from him. Noticing Melcombe for the first time, Mrs. Keith greeted him with a sweet courtesy that distinguished her man ner. ' I can't stay long, Queenie,' said her husband, awkwardly. I came out on business, you see.'

'Business?' she echoed) -in sur-, prise';' ? .' ? ? - ?; ? And I'd better come to the point at once,' continued Lord Oswald vwishjn«* ? himself out of the ? scrape, unable to j ™etJ™ZMe?yet not faltering in | 'JS- wicked and desperate purpose. ' I brought Melcombe to confirm my words.' . / , ? ' To confirm your words I' repeated the young Avife, wonderhigly. 'As if I could ever doubt your word, Os wald,' she added, tenderly. ? 'You'd better sit down, Queenie,' said Lord Oswald, hoarsely. ' It's a piece of bad news. It's about our marriage.' ' You have told your father ?' asked the young Avife eagerly. ' You have complied with my prayers, Oswald, and told him all ? And he refuses to foririve us. ; Is that it ?

We need not despair. I will go to lim and plead to him upon my knees. L will ask him to forgive us. We lave not committed an unpardonable -in in' mai'ryinff secretly, Oswald. gureiy — y ° . ??? : ; Lord Oswald made a gesture of lespair. 'Tell her, Melcombe,' he said, liuskily. 'I cannot.' ' The girl looked from one to the ather with big, innocent eyes, in which lurked no apprehension of her [loom. : . 'My dear Mrs. Keith,'- 'said Mel: ; combe, softly, his voice silvery and ? sweet, ' Oswald wishes to tell you ?, something far more . terrible than 1 your Avorst imaginings. He cannot { confess his marriage to his father, ' because there is no marriage to con fess.' ; The girl's lips curled in incredu lous scorn. ' How can you say that to me ?' she questioned, wonderingly. ' Why, you witnessed our marriage, , Mr. Melcombe. It was in a church. We were married by an old clergyman. I have the marriage certificate in my possession. Not married ?. Are you mad?' ' . . . . , : Lord Oswald turned aside with a groan. . '?'?'- ? 'The marriage certificate is so much waste paper, nothing' more,' said Malcombe, gently. 'Marriage was illegal. Do you know the church in which the ceremony was perform ed?'. ,-. ; V ?; ' -::-\K: ' No, but it is named, of course, in the certificate.' : ;,.. ; Lord Oswald clutched at the papei* hidden in his bosom. ' Do you know the name of the clergyman f' pursued Melcombe, with an air of tenderest sympathy. ?' No, but 1 can easily discover it. It is written ? -' ' Stay,' said Melcombe, as she moved towards the door. ' It makes no difference about church or clergy man. The marriage was not legal, however honest the ceremony. Why, Mrs. Keith, you do not know the real name of the man you call your hus band. He has deceived you from the first. His name is not Keith. The history he gave you of himself is false from beginning to end. You are not his wife ? ' 'Not-his— wife!' The girl: put her hand to her forehead in a dazed fashion, 'It is true,' said Lord Oswaljl, with a sort of sullen, impatience. ' You are not my wife, Queenie. You never were. I have coxne hereto-day t» put an end to our relations. I.have taken your marriage certificate from your dressing case and destroyed it. Let thing£i be as they were' before ,1 knew you. I will provide for you handsomely- — * ' f To be continued.)