|Chapter Number||XXXV (CONTINUED)|
|Newspaper Title||The Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser (NSW : 1843 - 1893)|
|Trove Title||The Conspiracy|
(From English, American, and other Periodicals.)
CHAPTER XXXV. -- (Continued)
Had she looked behind her on leaving the verandah, she might have seen a figure start forth from the shadow of the cottage near where she had been sitting, and follow her, though at some distance, until she climbed the ledge, when it halted at the foot, and sat down upon a boulder, as if to await her return. It was the figure of a man, wearing a dark cloak and slouched hat
As that sharp cry of of terror rang echoing over the waters, followed by the heavy splash, he had started to his feet with a bound, and in less than a minute after that light, graceful form had parted the waves, a strong arm came to the rescue.
It was the work of only a few moments to bear the unconscious girl to the beach, where he laid her upon the large cloak which he had cast aside as he sprang into the sea, and wrapped it closely about
Leaving her there, the man then sped with the fleetness of a deer a few rods below, to where a boat
Springing into it, he brought it with a few vigorous strokes to the spot where he had left Sibyl.
Stepping out into the water, he drew it well up upon the shore, where the washing of the waves could not carry it out to sea, then lifting the still unconscious girl in his arms, he laid her gently m the bottom, making a pillow for her head out of a
Then he bent over her a moment, placing his hand upon her heart, and apparently being satisfied that she was still living, having only fainted from fright, he again pushed the boat into the water, sprang in himself, and rowed rapidly away.
It was not an easy thing to row that craft, light though it was, in the face of the rising storm, but bending all his energies to the task, the boat flew over the waters like a bird, and at the end of twenty minutes he reached a sheltered and comparatively quiet bay on the opposite shore, and paddled to the side of a large and graceful yacht lying at anchor
A long, peculiar whistle instantly brought a sailor to the vessel's side.
"Golly, mars'r; dat you? This chile thought you'd never get back dis night."
"Yes, Jake, it's I; lend a hand here, and be quick about it too," returned a voice from the boat.
Jake hastened to obey, and in two minutes more the ropes were lowered from the davits attached to the boat, and it was gently raised to the deck and swung into its place.
In a few quick words the man in the boat explained what he had brought with him, and together they lifted the unconscious girl, and carried her into
the cabin below.
As the light from the cabin lamps fell upon their faces it revealed one as black as the shades of Erebus; the other was that of the Duc d' Aubigne!
Having laid their burden upon a couch, the duke rang a bell, and presently a smart-looking colored woman made her appearance.
She exclaimed, on seeing the beautiful stranger but comprehending at a glance her situation, she went to work with a hearty will to restore her to
It was not an easy task, and for awhile they all doubted if she would ever breathe again; but the woman man proved herself most skilful, and at last the still chest began to heave slightly. Twenty minutes more of vigorous work and Sibyl's dark eyes unclosed,
and she looked around her in mute inquiry.
"Keep still, honey -- you'se had a powerful duckin' but you'll come out all right now, I reckon," said her attendant, cheerfully.
The duke and Jake had withdrawn as soon as she had shown signs of recovering, the one to exchange his wet clothing, the other to his duties.
Sibyl seemed to remember at once what had happened to her, for with a shudder she closed her eyes
The colored woman -- Dolly, the duke had called her -- then summoned another woman, who happened to be the cook, and together they bore the weak girl into an elegant state-room -- the duke's own quarters -- where they removed her wet clothing, wrapped her in hot blankets, and fed her with stimulants until her color returned, and all danger of her relapsing into unconsciousness again was past.
But a more serious result now threatened her.
Violent shiverings seized her, followed by burning fever, and though Dolly worked faithfully all the night through, the bright morning found her raving
The anxiety and disappointment she had suffered during the past few weeks, the loss of sleep, and constant care during Judith's sickness; the horror and excitement of looking upon death for the first time; the sad days that followed with no one to lean upon or comfort her, together with the accident and a severe cold she had contracted from lying in wet garments so long, proved altogether too much for the delicately reared girl, and a long, serious illness
When the morning broke so beautiful and cloudless, and while that anxious, awe-stricken crowd upon the opposite shore were seeking the body of the missing one, the graceful yacht, with its white wings outspread to catch the breeze, went sailing out of Cordiga Bay, south-west, toward St. George's Channel, and no one in all the world, save the Duc d'Aubigne, and his trusted minions, knew that Sibyl
Prescott was not dead.
The duke had taken the yacht's boat the night before and rowed over to the Barmouth shore for the purpose of seeking an interview with Sibyl, and pleading his cause once more; for he supposed she would return to Dumfries, as soon as possible, now
that Judith was dead.
He had been much surprised that none of Sir
Athelstone's family had come to her at such a trying time, but he attributed it all to Ada's instrumentality, and hoped much in consequence for his own suit.
Mooring his boat where he usually left it, he followed a path that would bring him to the rear of the house, and he walked so quietly around to the verandah, over the soft turf, that Sibyl sitting so absorbed in thought, had not heard him approach.
He hesitated for a few minutes about breaking in upon her reverie, and those few minutes sealed her fate; for during the time she arose from her seat amd wended her way to the beach. Some sudden and unaccountuble impulse inspired him to follow her at a distance, rather than force his presence upon her while she seemed so sad and absorbed in thought.
Had she but glanced over her shoulder even she could not have failed to see him: but she was too
intent upon her own sorrowful musings to heed aught else.
When she climbed the ledge, and he seated himself on that boulder, he had intended to accost her when she should come down, and accompany her back to the cottage.
But that wild cry startled him into sudden action, and quick as a flash the thought had come to him, that this accident would help to serve his purpose better than anything else could have done; and it was while swimming from under the ledge to a safe place on the shore with his lovely burden on his arm, that he had resolved to take her quietly away to the yacht, and let the world for a time, at least, believe her dead. When, out of her gratitude and his kindness, he had won her to be his wife, then he
would restore her to her friends.
What could be better, he reasoned, for either his own cause or Ada Therwin's, than that Raymond Prescott should think she had been drowned?
And when once Sibyl should know that he was married, and beyond her reach, she would not fail to let him comfort and care for her.
Yes, it was all to be clear and easy sailing as he reckoned it, but he had not calculated upon battling with a will that was stronger than his own, nor with certain facts, which having come to her knowledge through Judith, would make her shrink with horror and loathing from him.
Onward the white-winged, stately yacht -- Queen Mab he called it -- sailed for three weeks, and then came to anchor off London in the river Thames, just at sunset, one gorgeous night in August.
Sibyl by this time had regained her reason, and, under the faithful care of Dolly, was beginning to recover, though very slowly.
For two weeks she had raved in wildest delirium, calling for Ray to come and save her -- she would be his wife, she had a right to be now; crying out to Ada not to come near her, for she was afraid of her false friendship, but begging and pleading with her to tell her that precious secret of her life.
To say that the Duc d'Aubigne did not suffer during this critical time would be false, and not doing him justice.
He was deeply, terribly anxious, and passed many a sleepless night, haunted by the awful fear that Sibyl would die on his hands; and what account then could he give of himself?
The night when her fever seemed to have reached its crisis he did not leave the saloon at all, but sat all night long with his arms lying on the table, and his head bowed down upon them.
Every time the nurse passed from that silent stateroom through the saloon on some errand to the cook's department, for ice or other needful articles, he would lift his white face and whisper :
"Dolly, how is she now ?"
"Bad, mars'r," was once the curt reply.
"Very bad, mars'r -- weak pulse -- failing," came a latter report, and with husky tones he cried :
"Do your best, Dolly. If you save her, you shall have a hundred pounds as soon as we reach Lon- don."
"Bress yer heart, mars'r, I'd love to save the sweet thing fur her own sake, but only the good Lord can
save her now."
And the good Lord did save her.
About midnight she awoke from her death-like slumber to new life and consciousness, but weak as a baby.
"Where am I ?" she asked, in a faint whisper looking up into the anxious face of Dolly, who, for the Iast hour, had counted every breath and every beat of the weak pulse.
"Hush, honey !" she answered, her black face shining with joy, both for the life she had saved and for the promised hundred pounds; "you mustn't talk now, and I'll tell you all about it by and by. You must take some of this and go to sleep again."
She fed her a few spoonfuls of essence of beef, and then, too feeble for further effort, she dropped once more into healthful slumber.
It waa almost the very last of July when she had
fallen from the ledge at Barmouth, and it was the middle of October before she was able to be moved from the yacht's lodgings on shore.
Long before she was able to talk much, she became aware that she was on board a vessel of some kind, for she felt the motion and could hear the dashing of the waves against its sides, and catch the orders as they were given to the men above.
She had asked Dolly again and again how she came to be there, but she only shook her head saying:
"Don't know nothing about it, honey; mars'r;ll tell you all about it, I reckon, by 'n by."
Sibyl had no idea who "mas'r" might be until about five weeks after her rescue, when one day the Due d'Aubigne presented himself before her.
Then she understood something of her situation at once -- she knew that she was on board of his yacht, and remembering all that Judith had told her it regarding him, a sickening feeling of horror took possession
But she nerved herself to ask how she happened to be there, and he had his story well prepared and ready for her.
"I had been out fishing in my boat," he said, ''and seeing a storm coming on, I set out to return to the yacht. It grew dark very rapidly, and, as I passed by the ledge of rocks in the vicinity of your cottage I saw something floating on the water. I pulled to- wards it, and found, as I supposed, the body of some one drowned. I succeeded in pulling it into the boat and then made all speed towards the yacht, as the storm was rapidly increasing, and that seemed the best thing for me to do. You can imagine my surprise and horror, Miss Stillman, when, on bringing you into this cabin, I discovered the person I had taken out of the water to be you."
"But why not have taken me to land instead of bringing me here?" she asked.
"For several reasons, and good ones too, as I shall explain. It was dark -- I could not see your features
to tell who you were, nor where you belonged ; if I had taken you to land, I should have had a Iong distance to carry you, for you know there is no house very near the beach, and that would have been impossible without assistance, even on a quiet night, much more so in a storm. I knew that if there was
any life left in you; something must be done immediately for your recovery ; and knowing I could have immediate help, and give you every comfort here, I rowed directly for the vessel."
This reasoning all sounded very plausible to Sibyl, but she sighed heavily and felt bitterly depressed
She felt that she would almost rather have been left to sink to the bottom of the ocean, than to have been thus indebted to him, and compelled to live day
by day in such close proximity to him, and dependent upon his bounty.
"But why did you not take me back to the cottage the next morning?"
She instinctively felt sb if there wbb something strange and wrong about her situation, notwithstand- ing his smooth reasoning.
"There are several good reasons also why I could not do that," he answered, though a slight sinister smile curved the corners of his mouth, but it was hidden beneath his moustache.
"Before morning you were very ill -- too ill to be removed to any place; the storm increased to a perfect gale, and became so violent that our anchors dragged, and we were obliged to put out to sea; and when at last daylight came we were a long distance from Barmouth. It was important for me to be in London on the 21st of August, and after thinking the matter over in all its bearings, I concluded that the very best I could do would be to take you along with me, knowing you would have the best of care and every comfort, and as soon as you were able send you
home from there."
This too sounded very fair and reasonable, but still there was a feeling of dire uneasiness at her
What would the people of Barmouth think had become of her?
Of course she saw at once that no one could know anything of her rescue, and the general opinion would be that she had been drowned.
What would Sir Athelstone Prescott and his family think when they should hear of it all, as undoubtedly they had heard before this?
"They will all think I am dead," she cried, in deep distress, and again that sinister smile appeared about the duke's mouth.
"Only for a little while, if indeed, they do not know already, for I wrote them immediately after I arrived in London," he said, never wincing under the lie.
She looked at him in surprise, and then glanced around her state-room,
He understood her, and said :
"Yes, we anchored in the Thames, and have been here for nearly two weeks; but you were so feeble we dare not remove you ashore, and I go back and forth every day."
"You say you wrote to -- to Sir Athelstone Prescott?" she asked, her mind returning to that more important subject: have you heard nothing in reply?"
I am sorry to say that I have not; but do not be troubled, they may be away for a week or two, you know; and even if they should come to you, it would not do for you to leave the yacht just yet," he replied, soothingly.
She sighed again; it could not be helped, she must remain there at least until she got a little stronger; and she tried to make up her mind to bear it all patiently, hoping that every day would bring her some word from the dear ones at Dumfries, or better still that she should wake up some morning and find the kind face of Lady Prescott bending over her.
But it was six weeks from that time before she was able to be moved, although she took eagerly every strengthening thing that was brought her to eat, hoping thus to hasten her recovery.
At last she appeared so unhappy and despondent that the duke had a light and comfortable litter arranged, and lying upon this, she was conveyed from the yacht to some elegant apartments, which he had taken for her in a quiet and aristocratic portion of the city.
At her entreaty he had, or said he had, written again twice to Sir Athelstone, but neither letter brought any reply, and the poor girl felt most forlorn and desolate.
It was several weeks after she went ashore before she was able to write herself, but at last she managed by doing a little at a time, to tell something of her trials and adventures, and this she gave to Dolly to have posted to Lady Prescott.
Of course the weary weeks were [?] and she heard nothing in return, and at last [?] the Duke to keep her quiet, for she was mourning and pining, and he feared she would fade away and die before his eyes after all, told her that he had just learned through a friend that Sir Athelstone and family were travelling
with some friends, and would be gone several months.
They believe I am dead," she cried, in despair, and for the moment she almost wished that death would put an end to her missery, for the idea of being
thus dependent upon the bounty of the Duc d'Aubigne was intolerable to her. For a long time she could not decide upon anything; she could not work for herself, for she was as yet unable even to dress without assistance, and she had not a friend to whom she could turn, and
saw no one week in and week out, save Dolly, the
duke, and the doctor.
She wrote several times to Sir Athelstone's lawyer at Dumfries for the doctor's address, but as every letter had to be given to Dolly to be posted they, of course, never reached their destination, and thus the Duc d'Aubigne had his victim completely at his
Once she thought she would confide something of her misery to the physician who attended her, but
there was nothing promising in either bis face or
manner, and she instinctively shrank from him in the same way that she did from the duke.
"TELL THE SIMPLE TRUTH."
All winter long Sibyl remained about the same.
Her general health seemed to be improving, but she gained no strength, and would faint away upon the least extra exertion or excitement. Every luxury that the market afforded was provided to tempt her appetite; costly wines, jellies, and fruits were always at hand, and she availed herself, freely of them, more anxious than even the duke himself could be for her recovery, that she might go away from him forever and never look upon his repulsive
face again. .
He was very kind and attentive, however, providing her with books, music, and pictures of every description; sending her the most beautiful flowers every day, and making her rooms most luxurious with his costly gifts.
He often came himself to see her, and though she alway, when it was possible, refused to receive him, still he did not lose his temper, but waited with
[?] the patience imaginable for her mood to change. her presence, he was always courteous and even
deferential; he had never renewed his suit, nor even hinted at a word of love to her, but rather treated her as some high-born lady receiving him in her
own home, than as his victim whom he was determined to conquer.
Thus the winter came and went -- the boisterous, dangerous days of March were weathered safely, and Sibyl really began to gain a little as the warmer and more sunny days of April came on. This so encouraged her that she took heart at once, and began to throw off the lassitude and despondency which had hitherto oppressed her so.
She moved about her room more freely every day opening the windows to breathe in the fresh, invigorating air, hoping thus by exercising what little strength she had to gain more.
One morning the duke drove to the door in on elegant carriage, and said he had come to take her
for a drive.
She had been longing to get out. She had felt
that if she could ride, or even walk, out a little way
every day, she would gain much more rapidly. She wished -- oh! how she did wish -- she could get out into the country, where she could see the green grass, the budding trees, and bear the songs of the early birds!
But the idea of going with him destroyed all her anticipated pleaaure, and was so distasteful that she was upon the point of refusing his invitation, when he cut her short by saying, with an injured
"Miss Stillman, you must go out or you will never get well. If you feel any delicacy, as I fear you do from your manner, about my accompanying you, I will send Dolly with you, and the coachman shall drive you wherever you choose to go."
Her face brightened unconsciously at this arrangement. She longed to go, but there would be more pain than pleasure in the drive if he went with her.
"If you please, I will go with Dolly," she said, though her face flushed, as if she felt she was betraying ingratitude for his kindness.
He colored also, but, with a grave bow of assent, he bade Dolly get ready to accompany her, and then conducted her to the carriage, arranged the shawls and cushions comfortably for her, watched her drive
away, and then went back to her rooms boiling with rage, aud vowing within himself that mattors should come to a crisis immediately.
He sat awhile in deep thought, and then, some- what calmed, got up and went away.
Every day for two weeks he came or sent some one to take her out, always ordering Dolly to go
He was gentle, kind, and thoughtful for her every comfort, and never once, after that first refusal, asked to be allowed to accompany her; and had not Sibyl known of the wickedness of his early life, she must have been won eventually to regard him at least with feelings of warm friendship.
One lovely morning, on returning from her usual drive, she found him awaiting her in her parlors, and did not conceal the surprise she felt at such an
She seemed like a beautiful vision to him as she entered the room, bringing in with her a breath of the fragrant spring air.
Her complexion was still extremely delicate from her long confinement within doors, but there was the loveliest sea-shell pink upon her cheeks; her eyes were bright with the enjoyment of her drive, and a smile of pleasure lay upon her lips.
Never had the Duc d'Aubigne felt such a desire to win her, and call her his own as now, and he resolved that that hour should decide his future and
He sprang to his feet and went forward to assist her to remove her wraps, but involuntarily she
shrank from him, waited upon herself, and was
about to carry them away, when he peremptorily ordered Dolly to take them, and wheeled a chair to
the fire and made her sit down.
He had ordered a most tempting lunch to be in readiness for her return, and now rolled the table to her side, served her bountifully with his own hands, and then helping himself, sat down opposite her, inwardly raving to see that the beautiful color was all gone from her cheeks, and the glad light from her eyes.
She could not eat, but sat toying listlessly with the delicacies which he had placed in her lap, and he hastily finished his own lunch in silence.
Setting his plate back upon the table, he moved his chair nearer her, and where he could look directly in her face.
"Sibyl," he began, and she started, for he had never called her that since that day on the mountain, when he had first spoken of love to her. I have been waiting for you to get well with all the patience that I could command before speaking to you again upon a subject which lies very near my heart,"
She put out her hand to stop him, a look of pain
on her pale face, for she well knew what he meant.
"No," he said, resolutely, in answer to the mute appeal, "I must speak now, I cannot wait longer. I am, as you know, considerably older than you, and I have seen much of the world -- all of it, in fact, I may say, that there is to be seen of it. I have met many women in all grades of society and in every country, but I have never met one before whom I
could love as I love you, for I do love you, Sibyl, with all my heart, with all the deepest, truest part of
Her dark eyes began to glow with a fierce,
indignant fire as he said this.
She remembered that poor woman in her grave at Barmouth -- his victim -- for whom he had doubtless professed just such sentiments as these, and whom he won but to ruin.
"Yes, it is thus that I love you, Sibyl," he continued, " and I have lived during all these past months upon the one hope, that you would at length be convinced of my devotion, and listen favourably to my suit. I have watched over you during your feeble state of health, when at times it almost seemed as if you were on the brink of the grave, with an anxiety which sometimes has nearly driven me wild. But now you are rapidly improving, you are getting well; and, Sibyl, you will soon be as gloriously beautiful as ever, and I want you to go with me soon to France, where I will give you every joy that earth can know. Say, my darling, shall it
be as I wish?"
The Duc d'Aubigne, usually so calm and cool, was greatly excited, and evidently really in earnest; but the fair girl sat before him with drooping eyes, clasped hands, and not a vestige of colorin her face;
but otherwise as self-possessed as in the days when
she had been the petted child of Lady Prescott.
She remained silent for several moments after he ceased speaking, then she suddenly lifted her great dark eyes and fixed them steadily upon his.
"No, my lord duke, it can never be as you wish." He flushed hotly, and gave her a startled look. "Did she suspect that he had ever meant to wrong her?" he wondered.
At all events he knew that she meant what she said, for the words were so calmly yet decisively
But his purpose was fixed -- he was bound to win her, if not by fair means then by foul.
"Oh, Sibyl! do not say that; have I not given you time enough yet to learn to love me? I will give you even more, only do not speak thus, for I cannot bear it," he pleaded.
"I desire no 'time' -- I cannot love you -- I do not wish to love you," she answered, in low, even tones.
"Aha ! then you still cling to that old passion!" he exclaimed, thrown off his guard for a moment by the cutting words.
Her face burned a painful crimson for a moment, but it quickly subsided, and a look of misery came
into her eyes.
She made him no reply, however, but sat in haughty silence looking into the fire that burned upon the hearth.
"Pardon !" he said, seeing that he had made a mistake; " but I am so thoroughly in earnest in this matter that for the instant I forgot myself. You do not wish to love me, Sibyl -- why not?" and he bent eagerly toward her, awaiting her answer.
She met his eye calmly, as she replied
"Because -- I must be candid with you; it is better
that you should know the exact state of my feelings toward you once for all -- every feeling within me [?] ls from you; because I know that you are not
[?] good man."
Those are pleasant words for a man to listen to, "[?]ly !" he cried, his face white with passion.
"I cannot help it. You have, as it were, driven me into a corner, and I must make you understand in some way why I cannot regard you with the feelings you wish, and truth is best at all times."
"But I want to make you my honored wife. I
[?swear] I will make you my wife, Sibyl!" he cried, [?] to desperation by her plainness.
Sibyl lifted her head proudly, and met his eye with
a look of scorn.
"You 'swear that you will make me your wife!' My
lord, why do you need to swear it?" she asked, with a quiet emphasis that told.
His eyes drooped guiltily before her at this home thrust, and be felt that she knew him for just what
"You are in my power -- you cannot help yourself -- you shall be my wife!" he whispered, hoarse with
Her lips curled slightly.
"Oh, no, I shall not -- you are mistaken, my lord,''
was the unruffled reply.
"Have you no gratitude -- have you no feeling of thankfulness toward me for saving your life, and caring for you all these months?" he demanded,
She lifted her eyebrows at this, and glanced at him with a slight shrug of her shapely shoulders; then after thinking a moment, she replied :
"I suppose since God has decreed that I should live, I ought to be grateful for the instrumentality employed to save me; but as for the care and provision which has contributed to my returning
"Well?" he demanded, impatiently, as she
"I fear if I go on I shall say something else that it will not be pleasant to hear."
"Say it then," he said, fiercely.
"I have no feeling of thankfulness for it, because all the care you have bestowed upon me, has been given from purely selfish motives; and though I acknowledge deep gratitude to God that he did not allow me to meet such a violent death, but sent even you to save me, yet I do not find any in my heart for you. Shall I tell you why -- do you still wish me to go on?" she asked, calmly.
He nodded, too amazed at her boldness in telling him all this in the face of the fact that she was in his power, to speak a word.
"Very well; since I have become stronger, I have
reviewed all the transactions and events of the past eight months, and your explanation regarding the circumstances of my being on board your yacht, is not nearly so satisfactory as it appeared at first when I was lying there so weak and sick. I perceive
that unless you rescued me when I first fell from the ledge, I must certainly have been drowned.
"I could not have floated immediately out to sea, for the water under the cliff is sheltered and calm, even in a storm, and I must have sunk. I reason that you were near -- that you even heard me when I fell, and came immediately to my rescue. Then, instead of at once summoning help and taking me to my home, you took me in your boat to your yacht -- in other words, you abducted me, in order that I might be in your power and at your mercy and you hoped thus to force me to listen favourably
to your suit."
"What right have you to reason thus -- what right
have you to doubt my word?" he cried, more and
more amazed at her.
"I don't know," she answered, thoughtfully. "I only know that I do doubt you -- that what I have
told you seems the only reasonable explanation of my being onboard your vessel. I know too much [?] that you are untrue [?]
your dealings, my lord, and I have no faith in you." "Do you realize what you are saying, Sibyl?" he demanded, grown suddenly calm with wonder, but his face was white as a piece of cloth.
"Yes; I have thought it all out over and over again during the last week or two. Sometimes I have felt strangely when such thoughts came to me, knowing that I was, as you say, dependent upon your bounty, and partaking of it day by day. But no one could regret more than I do that dependence, and I have striven to make the most of it, that I might the sooner become relieved of so heavy on obligation. Had not my friends been absent from their home, and my letters had reached them, I should have liquidated all such claims long ago."
She happened to glance up at him at this moment, and the peculiar smile on his lips, together with the sinister gleam in his eye, made her heart stand
"Ah, I understand all that at lost. Strange that with all my other reasoning I should not have thought of this also," she exclaimed, with flashing eyes; then she continued, intense scorn ringing in
her clear tones; "I am then indebted to you, and to you alone, for the disappointment of all my hopes during the past eight weary months -- you have intercepted my letters -- I might have known."
He saw that she read him like an open book, and he grew reckless.
He laughed a low, mocking laugh, though he flushed to the roots of his yellow hair.
"You have done all this, and yet you dare come to me with protestations of love!" she cried, facing him with majestic scorn and indignation.
"Yes, pretty one, I have dared even all that, and shall dare still further, as you have yet to see; you have read me a pretty instance of human depravity out of my own life; now pray tell me where you found the key to it all, and what you know about my past life, for really I am anxious to know what other unpardonable sins I have been guilty of," he returned, mockingly.
"I do not need to tell you more than that I know something of the history of the woman who for a time called herself my mother -- I mean Judith
"Called herself your mother! What do you mean? Was she not ?" he asked, in pretended
"I thank Heaven she was not, for more reasons than one, and which, doubtless, you can surmise without my telling you of them," Sibyl answered, two bright spots burning on her cheeks, and her eyes
sternly on him.
"Did she relate her own history to yon, or did you learn it through some one else?"
"She related it to me, my lord, and showed me the likeness of her betrayer."
"And you believed her, I suppose ?" he said, with
"Yes, I believed her."
"Did she tell you also that you were not her
"Yes; and my own heart told me so from the very beginning, only her proofs were so strong I could
not gainsay them."
"Whose child are you? did she tell you that?" he asked, with sudden eagerness.
"That is not the question under discussion, I believe," Sibyl answered, quietly, after a moment's thought; "but she told me enough to make me recoil from your presence, The face she showed me
was your very own, only evidently taken many years ago; and I afterwards found some letters among her things written by yourself. Now you know why I cannot listen to you with any degree of patience. I never believed you true -- I always felt uneasy and depressed when in your society; but during our stay at Barmouth, when you appeared
so kind and considerate, I began to fear I had misjudged you, and I tried to atone for it by treating you courteously. You can imagine, however, the
revulsion of feeling that came over me when Mrs.
Hoffman, on her dying bed, gave me the particulars of her early life, and the wrongs she had suffered at your hands. I do not wonder, knowing all this, that you thought you had need to swear that you would 'make me your wife,'" she concluded, her clear
sweet tones ringing with biting scorn.
"I think we have had quite enough of this," the duke said, rising in dire wrath. "I have made you an honorable proposition, and I will give you one week longer to consider it. At the end of that time I will come for your answer; and," he added, bending down before her, his eyes blazing fiercely, "I warn you to let it be a favorable one, or -- "
He did not finish his sentence, for Sibyl had risen also, and proudly confronting him, stopped him
with an imperative gesture.
"Spare yourself any needless threats, my lord, for I fear neither you nor them. Moreover, I do not desire any time to think over the proposition you have this day made me. I have given you my answer
once and again, it is irrevocable ; and as I cannot longer tolerate the idea of eating the bread of your providing, I will go away from the place to-day. As
I soon as I can communicate with my friends, I can promise that you will be amply remunerated for any expense you have incurred on my behalf."
"Not quite so fast, my gentle lady, if you please,"
said the duke, with a sneer. "I cannot think of parting with you just yet, and pray where would you go?"
"I will find some place anywhere away from here,"
but a thrill of pain smote her heart, as she realized how utterly friendless she was in that great, strange city.
"You do not know a soul in London, and who do you suppose would take you in?" he asked, in the
same tone as before.
She did not deign him any reply, but stood haughtily before him.
"No one," he said, answering his own question, and with an almost fiendish look, he bent close to her and added in low, concentrated tones: "Do you not perceive that if you go away from here other than as my wife, your reputation is ruined forever."
"No sir ! and you are a coward to stand there and taunt me with such a vile insinuation!" Sibyl answered, meeting his evil look unshrinkingly, though her face, even to her lips, was like Parian marble.
His countenance fell, and he flushed hotly.
He had not thought that she could do battle so
"How would you account, if you should go from here, for the eight months spent under my protection?" he sneered again.
Ah! how the delicate face flushed now at his baseness, but her eye never wavered as she replied:
"Tell the simple truth."
"And who do you suppose would believe it?"
"We will not continue this conversation longer, if you please," she said, coldly, and without heeding his question. "But allow me to say that I have no words to express the contempt and loathing I feel for you, and I defy you to injure my reputation by a breath -- you cannot do it ! For some unaccountable purpose I have been allowed to fall into your power, but I do not fear you -- you would not dare to take my life -- you cannot compel me to be your wife -- and, if you persist in this persecution, there are laws and penalties made for just such crimes as yours. [?] can prove nothing. Of course I
know that [?] you call upon your minions to prove my statements, for doubtles they are so entangled with you that they would not dare testify against you. But I am not powerless, even then. I have my own word -- a woman's word -- and I also know where there are letters, in your own handwriting, which would brand you as the villian which this day has proved you to be. Now you can go, sir."
She was standing like an indignant and insulted queen before him, and as she uttered those last words she raised one slender hand and pointed
toward the door.
"I believe these apartments are paid for from the contents of my purse," he muttered, almost beside himself with passion, and yet feeling a good deal like a whipped cur beneath her righteous indignation, while he at the same time realized that if she indeed had, as she claimed, letters in her possession which he had once written to Judith Hoffman, she was not quite so powerless as he had thought her to be.
The color flashed over her face again at that lost taunt, but she never removed her flashing eyes from
That was all -- her look and the one word of command -- but it was enough, and he was cowed in
spite of himself.
Taking up his hat, he moved toward the door, but recovering himself somewhat before reaching it, he turned to her again and said, with a mocking
"I trust you will be in a more amiable frame of
mind when next we meet. I shall come to hear your decision by the end of a week -- you know my address, I believe, if you wish to see me before then."
He might have been talking to a marble statue for any sign that she gave, and he went on:
"I regret to be obliged to use any such precautions against a lady, but I find that a lock and key will
have to serve my purpose for the next few days -- in other words, you are to be my prisoner until I hear
favorably from you regarding the subject we have discussed to-day."
Still she did not move from the position where he had left her, nor make any answer, and he then
She come at once at his call.
"Dolly," he said, giving her a meaning look, " Miss Sibyl is not to be allowed to leave these rooms under any circumstances until I come again. Do you
"Yes, mars'r," she answered, in a half frightened way, and with a deprecatory glance toward the statue-like figure by the fire.
"Very well, and mind that you do not let anything happen to thwart me, or --"
"Yes, yes, mars'r," she interrupted, shrinking away from the dark look he bent upon her, with uplifted hands, and as if in mortal terror at the
Without another word the baffled Duc d'Aubigne turned and left the room, while Sibyl, with a heavy sigh as the door closed after him, sank weak and
exhausted into her chair.
(To be continued.)
Scene-Hotel breakfast-table. Persona-English visitor and indigenous servant girl. Visitor : " What sort of a day is this to bo, Mary Î" Mary, looking very weatior-wlso : " Well, I'm thinkln' Hil po goin' to po rainy, rainy all tay, wi' Bhoora potweeu I" ¿^Synonym, for Mr. Speaker.-Mr. Silencer