Chapter 82504750

See chapter in newspaper

Chapter NumberVII.-(continued.)
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article82504750
Full Date1899-11-10
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count2762
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950)
Trove TitleAn Astounding Marriage
article text

AN -ASTOUNDING MARRIAGE.

BY A. CORALIE STANTON,. ; Author of 'A Jealous Woman's Plot:',- 'The Other Woman,' 'His Enemy's . Hand.' ' \

??;? CHAPTER VII.— (Continued:)

He led her through' the gardens to an ' enclosure railed off with a picturesque, creeper-covered fence. Here the fin est trees of the gardens shadowed an emerald lawn. A great dome-like glass building faced them, the front of which Jra3 open, and filled in with yellow silk 1 «un-blinds. He drew a key from his pocket, and opened a small door. Mary gave a little gasp of delight. She

found herself in a large, lofty, nonde ?cript apartment, one side of which was of wonderful carved wood, the other three, of glass, entirely covered wrtlh: featherly sinilax creeper. It con tained a huge desk, an easel, some scuhTtor's implements, rare hangings, innumerable books. On the * mosaic floor were tiger and lion skins ; the cor ners were banked with gigantic palms, through which some marble statuary gleamed ; in the centre was a fountain playing in, a marble shell banked with posea There were flowers everywhere, and near the open frontage some'deep eushioned chairs and small Moorish tables. Philip drew up the silk blinds, and re ' Tealed the cool green of the enclosure ' they had passed through. No other part of the grounds was visible. The glass slides up here,' he ex plained to her! 'In the winter it is dosed up, of course ; and with some thick curtains hung across, and a fire, I am as warm' here as anywhere else. How do you like my den?' Mary was charmed with the beauty and originality of the room. He showed her some of its wonders — how it. was lighted at night above the roof, which was of stained-glass, and many other ingenious and artistic devices. 'I was particularly anxious to show you my favorite room,' he said, instal ling her in a chair, 'because I am going away.' She repeated his words incredulous ly. Then, as their meaning dawned on her, he caught a look that came from her very soul, an instantaneous revela tion of her inmost heart. He bit his lips savagely to stem the torrent of words that rose unbidden. 'For a long time, I am afraid,' he raid, with superb affectation of conren tional regret. 'I want to ask you to come here as often, as you like.' 'I shall be so lonely!' The words came haltingly,* in a whisper, as 'if dragged from her by some sportive, oruel imp, to make complete the avowal of her eyes, to tear the man's heart to pieces.

He was down on his; knees beside her. He had taken her in his arms, and felt against his heart the first deop love-sigh that transformed the girl into a woman: 'You will miss me?' he murmured rapturously, his lips on her closed eyes.1 'I will not go. I will not leave you: My soul, I love you!' Tell me to stay — tell me, dear heart!' ?' ' 'Yes, stay,' she whispered — 'stay; always !' Philip forgot. He had her in1 'his arms. Her lips had told him once; her eyes a thousand times, that she loved him. What wonder if he forgot! . ?' A .word from her recalled to him that he was a traitor to his friend. 'I am not worthy of- you,' she said. 'You are so infinitely greater/ cleverer, than I, ? ' ? ,. .; 'Hush, child!' he said, laying a hand on her- lips. 'No man is worthy' of your love. I least of all.' 'But you are — you are!')she insisted tenderly. ? ' ? '? 'I will Strive to be,' he whispered.,' A sense of finality overwhelmed, him. He had burned his boats. He had won this woman's pure heart. What right had he to give her pain, to humble her in the dust? Duty, expediency, desire —everything pointed him onwards, not backwards. Douglas must. listen, to reason. Douglas loved his sister dearr ]y. His vote would be cast on the side_ of her happiness. Mary was in paradise. For this man was cast in no common mould. THis loye was a rare, delicate fabric, ,into which were woven threads of spiritual ity and poetry. Every word was- in cense, every glance an act of worship. He had not frittered his heart- away in follies. When he brought it to her, it was with the delicious promise of communion of thought and interest, of souls. in unison, journeying together in a beautiful country above the world of men. ' ' ? \' As she listened to the magic- voice, telling of noble work to be done 'toge- ther, of \the world of thought and aspir ation open to humble seekers after truth, Mary reached, it ? may - be ' $&- sumed, the highest pinnacle of human contentment. '? ' ' ? .''- ? 'When will you marry me} and come away with me to all my favorite haunts?' he asked. ?'?''? '.-?? k'. Suddenly she sat up, white/ and with out warning, with one .of his hands tightly held in hers, told him the story of the never-to-be-forgotten ceremony in which, unknown to her,, they ; had both taken part. ? .' ,' \ 'I could not rest until I had told youj' she said, with a little smile. 'It is' such a relief to tell someone. At first it lay on my heart like a lump- of lead; but since I have known you' — with an adorable glance — 'it has weighed tight ,as thistle^ down.' - ' ;, 'I begin to think, as Irma does, that it was a madman's freak,' she' went- on, ndth rising color. 'But at first, if I had met the man, and known he was respon sible, I could have killed him !' - Philip's heart sank within him. What' should he do? She Icfved him — believed in him so utterly. He would have con fessed to her on the spot, if he. thought it was his duty, for he was the bravest of men, and it takes a brave man to con fess. But was it his duty? She loved him, and he felt that he could look into her very soul and feel sure that she would never love again — that her heart was his for ever. Must he, then, tell her that he was the man she had said she could kill? That; he has planned and carried out the hideous ceremony for the gratification of a whim — a passing. madness? No; a thousand times no! It would be too. cruel. He was another man now. He loved her truly — honorably, for ever. . He felt that even the knowledge would not kill her love. She would turn from! him, of course. She would probably never look on his face again. But she. would be unhappy for,the rest of her life.- Had he a right to break her heart— to give her dust and ashes instead of the .bright flowers that she held in her hand? No, no, no I He did not realise that he was salving his conscience with sophistries. He was blinded by his love to the fact that there' are but two things — right and wrong, and that he was choosing the wrong. But. he was sincere. ' i f 'Perhaps he was a madman,' he. said., slowly, his face white with the- struggle,, the veins throbbing like hammers in his. temples. Then he put in a -plea for his guilty conscience. 'Perhaps lie sincere ly repents, my Mary!' , ? : - 'Repents ?'she echoed scornfully, fired1 by the remembrance of the agony of mind she had suffered. 'What sertof a man would do such a thing? Not the sort of man who would repent ! Oh, the^ coward!' she cried fiercely. 'I can't help feeling that he has robbed ine of something — the words that ,1 spok'e. They ought only, to have,been spoken for you' — with the old tender smile again. ' - 'Oh, child, child-!' he groaned, 'I am not worthy to touch your little shoes !' . ?t But Mary was her old lighthearted self again. .? -She wasifar too happy -to' be' serious for loiig. With a 'bewitching gesture- of mock-solemnity; she bent her Hps to his ear. ?? - - ?? ? .

? 'I will sometimes let you button them!' she whispered, with a grave nod. ? The loud bang of ah overturned table, from which small articles in bronze, gold, -silver, and ivory went rolling into every, corner of the room, made them both start to their feet.1 - ? Douglas Audain ? stood before them,- -his face. Avhite as his shirt-front',^ his grey ^ eyes' blazing with a light of righteous fury that that' might have shone in the .eyes of a prophet of old. ? \ .' 'You shall not' dupe her with your.1 lies, your equivocations, Philip- Men'-' zies!' he said, in a voice, that neither of them recognised. ' 'I have heard what you said, and I tell you here, before her, that you are a base liar, a coward, «i blackguard ! Thank God, I am here ,to protect her!' - ?'Douglas,' , Mary 'faltered, 'what do you mean? Oh, Philip, don't!' For Philip had taken a step forward, with murder in his eyes. At the sound' of her voice he dropped his clenched fists with a deep, shudder ing breath. It had come.1; 'Look at him, Mary!' cried Douglas, who seemed to have forgotten every thing in his wrath. ,' 'The man who has won your heart by his lies, who dared to. speak to you of the man who duped 3'ou into the farce of a marriage! It was, he himself, girl! Do you under stand now what is the matter?' ,Maiy was utterly dazed. .'What do you know about it?' she asked slowly. ' 'I don't understand. How do you know?' ? . 'Because— heaven help me ! — I ? en couraged him! I was there, Mary, only you did' not see me.' '.'..- -She reeled against the wall,' staring at him. with' dilated eyes. ?-His voice grew monotonous as he went on, as if he were intoning a chant : ?' 'There were i our of us — four friends. !We we're all pledged to' celibacy. Philip was always being worried ? by ? liis rela tions and friends to many — we all des pised marriage in those days1!' — with a bitter laugh. 'He niado a wager with me. The terms' were that he would ?marry the first woman whose name he heard 'mentioned, and never see her again after the ceremony. This was to prevent hia ever falling -in, love and marrying, in the ordinary acceptance of the word! Yours was* the first name spoken in his presence after I had ac cepted the, wager. We made our plans carefully. -We chose ,Ffolliott's house in' Eaton-place. , He gave all the ser ? vant's' a holiday. ? Philip had the clergy: man in his power. He knew something discreditable about the poor man. He is dead now. ? You know. the rest.- It .was not I who held you and bound your eyes. ' It was not Philip,' either. . It was Williamson. ? I only looked on!' -with biting self-contempt. 'A nice role, wasn't it?' He looked as if he did not know what he was saying1. 'When you had gone, Ffolliott told his 'butler that'he was-expeoting visitors he didn't want to see. '? The1 man'was to shut up ?the house, retire into the basement for 'a' day or two, and, if anyone came, he was to say the house belonged to Mr. John Smith, who was in America, That's all, .1 think, except, that we told you a lie in thft letter. , We said that the mar riage was legal. Of course it was not. without your consent. Otherwise,

syeiything was in order. ' Philip got a special licence.' Mary's face had aged ten years. Her brows were' contracted, as if in physical gain. ' . .'Oh!' she cried inarticulately. 'I would much rather have died!' 'Is it true?' she demanded of Philip. 'Need you ask? ' Look at him! Does he look like an innocent man?' her brother answered.' Philip did not speak. -The look of agony in the woman's clear eyes made speech seem trivial — even the sincerest' repentance' inadequate. She would neyer believe', that for every pang she suffered, a. hundred pjercod his heart — the heart that he believed, until he met her, to be cased in a triple armor of cynicism and indifierenco. 'When we discovered that you were my sister,'. Audain went -on, laboriously just even now to his friend, 'Philip of fered to go away, even to confess to you, if I should deein it right. v But my only thought was to spare you, Mary' — with wistful appeal. ' 'I mad.e him promise) to holp me to keep the knowledge from you for ever. I knew he loved you, Mary ; and I liked him so well that I wished with .all my heart it had been otherwise between you — that you had met under happier conditions. But he has played me false. He dared to speak to you of love^-ie who was not worthy to speak to you at all. , And now I heard him with my own ears con doning the offence that he himself com mitted.' ' ? '? -.' , 'Only to spare her, Douglas.' /The, words were dragged from Philip, not to : exculpate himself, but to soften the horror in Mary's eyes. ? They blazed into his suddenly, those truthful eyes. With a sweeping ges ture she silenced her brother. 'To spare me?' she repeated in - a hard, niockin^laugh that cut into Philip like a knife,, because he could guess the cruel !pain that lay beneath — pain he had inflicted. . 'To dupe -me, you mean! To fool me ^.o the end! I was to be a'puppet to be danced about at

your pleasure. When it pleased you to play the cynic, I was - sacrificed to your whim. When it pleased you to imagine that you had a heart,' I was again to. be sacrificed to your selfish ness ! .1 was to 'be left in ignorance, lest I should recoil from association with a man -whom I knew to be capable of a cowardly action! You thought you could play as you willed on a girl's heartstrings. When they were bro ken, you would have left them to rust! A great achievement, truly, to win a woman's heart from hate to love by act ing a lie! Oh, the! shame of it— -the shame of it! I wish I were dead! If there '? is any part of you accessible to the call -of.- humanity, go away — and never let me see you again!' ? She'. sank back into a chair,' trem bling, with the 'effort to keep back- her sobs. . She was smarting with wounded pride, humbled -in her holiest feelings. She felt as if the best, the most sacred part 'of her nature had been trampled by. rude feetj desecrated by curious, callous eyes. But, greater than all, her illusions lay scattered in' the dust. This colossus of all, the virtues she had set up apart from all other men, this man she had re vered, to whom she had opened the in nermost chamber- of her heart — after all., .his feet-were of woful clay. .. , (To., be .Continued.) A copper masque; believed to be unique, is an interesting object found in the wrappings of a mummy in Peru re cently! It was shaped from a single nug get of- copper by hammering- on a mould, and the features are well formed and dis tinctive. ?? . Two American ladies have been inter viewing the Kaiser and. lecturing him on the- emancipation of women. The Kai ser' responded by saying, that he had agreed with his wife — Women's sole busi ness is with the four- K's— Kinder, Kirche, Kuche, arid Kleider — children, Church, kitchen, and clothes. The la dies left with the opinion that women at least would get no change out of the fifth K.. the Kaiser. ? ' '