Chapter 82508174

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Chapter NumberI
Chapter Title
Chapter Urlhttp://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article82508174
Full Date1899-11-01
Page Number4
Corrections0
Word Count1925
IllustratedN
Last Corrected0000-00-00
Newspaper TitleThe Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950)
Trove TitleAn Astounding Marriage
article text

AN ASTOUNDING' MAMIAGE.

? BY A. COEALIE STANTON, Author of 'A Jealous' Woman's Plot,' ^ 'The Other Woman,' 'His Enemy's Hand.'

CHAPTER I.

'.'On the 19th inst., at St. Peter's, - Eaton Place, by the Very Reverend the Lord Bishop oi' Gloucester, as sisted by the Yicar, Captain the ' Hon. John Howard-Duff, of the 1st Life Guards, to Lady Aline Inger soll, only daughter of the Earl and Countess of Lisburn.'

Douglas Audain read the paragraph aloud in a tone of supreme disgust, threw the paper down, lit a fresh ciga reue,' and, leaning against the wonder fully carved chiiuneypiece, contemplated the two men who formed his audience. 'There you are, Philip; there goes the latest deserter,' he said' addressing the master of the house. 'There are only four of us left now — yourself, our friend' Ff olliott here'— nodding towards a long-limbed, fair-haired, athleticlook ing youth — ?''Williamson, and myself. Four 'Misanthropes,' and we numbered a score three years' ago.' The three men laughed loud and long. There was something genuinely humor ous in the contemplation of themselves —the solo remnants of a society of twenty well-known men who had pledged themselves to celibacy three years ago—

'Firmly believing that the state of mar lige hampers a man in the achievement of his highest ambitions, and renders impossible the perfect development, of ihis best and noblest self.' So- ran. one of the somewhat high-flown paragraphs of the Articles of Association. .v ' Thirty-six months had elapsed, and now sixteen of the members had volun tarily foregone their highest ambitions ?'? — had deliberately entered into that state -which, three years ago, they firmly believed would dwarf and stunt their he& and noblest self. 'Oh, what a falling-off was there!' misquoted the master of the house when the others had laughed until they could laugh no more. 'The last time I met Jack Howard Duff, hie told me he was beginning to fully realise that woman was the natural complement of man's highest nature,' young Ffolliott submitted, with preter natural solemnity. 'I never saw a chap bo changed.' 'What ig your opinion, Philip?' asked Audain, who had a hatchet face, keen grey eyes, and a .quietly humorous ex pression. ???''? Philip Menzies, ihe master of : the mansion in Hamilton Place, in the li brary of which the men were smoking their after-dinner cigar, rose, and before he answered pulled the heavy, embroi dered curtains closer, and kicked the fire into a blaze. It was a dark March night. There was only one electric reading lamp burning in a far corner of the great billiard-room, and in the flick ering-light thrown out by the fire, as he stood towering high above Douglas Au dain, he was a remarkable and interest ing figure. ? Of a great height, accentuated by an almost fragile slimness, but of a build that suggested muscles of iron, his face bore the stamp of a high, almost aus tere, intellectuality. He had sharp features, dark hair, and eyes of a curi ous metallio blue, in which lurked to night a demon of reckless mischief. He had the mouth of a cynic, the brow of a poet, the jaw of a soldier, the hands of an artist, and his life had been as many-sided. He had painted a picture

that set ' the' London and Paris :- Xorld astir; he had commanded a regiment in a South American Republio ; he had made a fortune in the goldtields, and given it to a famine-stricken Russian province; he had published a volume of exquisite verse and a standard work on the Referendum. Lately he had in herited an enormous fortune from an uncle, and -had settled down in London, not as a leader of society — for that he would ' never be ; he was too erratic — but, when he allowed it, as the most

coveted guest and member or eacn ana every set that formed the great London world. Ho was the despair of match-making mammas ; for it was rumored that, he was a woman-hater — a confirmed mis anthrope. He founded a society of men who had like ideas, and forthwith be came even more mysteriously interest ing to his admirers. Of his own coterie of friends the world knew very little ; only those men and women were admit ted to that inner circle who were fore most in- some particular line — in litera ture, art, or science, or beauty, or mt. For the rest, which was the most re markable thing of all, no one had any thing against him. ,His name had never been associated by ,as much as a hint with anything disgraceful or un savory. ' So much for the-man atf 33. Douglas -Audain, who was his most in timate, almost inseparable, friend, was remarkable for nothing but his wealth and his imperturbable good temper. On that particular night he seemed absent and distrait ; and it was Guy Ffolliott who took up his question, as the master of the house did not reply at once. 'Yes. Philin: old man.' he said, in his i

boyish voice, 'what is your opinion on the subject of woman being the, natural complement of man's highest nature?' . Philip smiled, and it. so changed his severe face that one would have sworn he was: a mere merry schoolboy. Many People said that his was absolutely the most mirthful smilo they had ever seen. 'I fancy you have heard, my opinion pretty often,' he said. 'I am afraid I don't take man's highest nature much into account. ? The disadvantages' of marriage to me are purely temporal. It is the banality that appals. me — the sameness, the inevitable petty friction. I picture to myself a woman who doesn't care for smokej who doesn't care for tra vel, or for silence j who -would go into hysterics over my favorite, picture.' He pointed to a large canvas framed in black, among whose sombre shadows the flames from the blazing fire threw great patches of lurid light. It was the work of an obscure but powerful Belgian artist, and represented, with marvellous technical skill, a skeleton lying in an open grave, and by its side a ghoul-like figure, neither spirit nor flesh, with tortured face.

terribly suggestive, one knew not of what. ' Perhaps of a soul, entangled, even after death, in the .wrappings of its earthly nature. 'I, can imagine a woman being infinitely charming, and yet possessing, all those defects,' he ad ded lightly. ,'?!.?,'_ 'Your aunt has chosen yet another bride for you— she told me so. yester- day,' Audain, said, suddenly waking from his reverie. 'Poor aunt!' Philip shrugged his shoulders. 'She asked me last week^ in tones of the greatest, solemnity, whe ther there was any valid. reason for my constant refusal to marry.' 'What did you say V 'I deceived her. I told her that I was bound by a terrible oath, and she took it to mean that I should lose my fortune. I don't think, she will ever bother me again.' 'I wonder if you will ever fall in love, Philip,' young Ffolliott said meditative ly. 'After all, it is possible. And love is independent of smoke and travel and silence and pictures! There's no thing to try a man's theories like fall ing in love in good earnest.' ' if Philip falls under the glamor of the infatuation you dignify by the name of love,' Audain said rather bitterly, 'he will no doubt make a bigger fool of himself than most men. He's just made of the right stuff.' This man was by far the most in ear nest on this vexed question of love and marriage, despite his quiet exterior. In fact, it was something of a mania with him, to the extent of founding a home where young working women could live at an absurdly low rate as long as | they pledged themselves to remain°sin- 1 .gle. Philip^ next remark was dictated by i the spirit of mischief that possessed him that night. It startled the two men to attention. 'Til lay you my Cellini gold vase'- - a priceless curio much coveted by Audain — 'to your partrait of Philip IV., by Velasquez, that I will prevent such a thing as my being weak enough ever to fall in love by marrying the first woman whose name I hear mentioned from this

time iorwara. /'???'? 'Philip!' came simultaneously from both men. The rash wagerer's eyes glistened. 'You don't believe me?' 'What do you meau'?' .Audain asked excitedly. ? 'Merely that, if you accept my terms, I mil, with or without her consent, many the first 'woman, whose name ;s spoken in my presence — always provid ed she is not already the wife or widow of another man. Thus I shall be effec tually prevented from falling in love, my dear Douglas, .and I need never see the lady after the ceremony.' ? 'How could you do it, —from! Audain. 'You dare not !'-^-frqm Ffolliott. 'I dare not?' . He turned almost fiercely to the boy. He seemed a man transformed. Some reckless spirit had entered into him, urging him to carry out this wild plan merely for the sake of its madness. The poet, the dreamer, the idealist, had completely disappear ed ; the iron-willed man was there, the man who knew neither hesitation nor fear, the dare-devil colonel of Brazilian horse, the man who had consorted with

cowboys in ? certain moods, and \ found them good fellows. Perhaps he mistrusted his own strength of purpose ; perhaps ,a chance gleam in some dusky Eastern eyes, a chance smile on a pair of proud, mocking lips, in ono of the many countries he had idled through, had revealed to him how a man's heart might betray him if he met with such beauty allied to the subtle something which makes him chose a wo man from out (the whole world. ! He repeated his question in a voice which gained in firmness and mockery. 'Will you accept my wager, Doug las?' 'It cannot under- any circumstances be a legal marriage if the lady does not give her consent,' his friend demurred. ' 'She's not likely ever to .find that out!' Philip answered, 'with a laugh. 'And for me it will be enough. I shall bo just . as tightly bound by these light chains of my own forging.' , ' Audain had made up his mind. ? He would encourage this scheme ; in it he saAV his friend's salvation. He had a feeling that' was almost idolatry for' Philip 'Menzies, and he was ever haunted by the dread that his, friend would some day, sooner or Inter, fall a victim to a ?beautiful face or an original mind ; noth ing else in woman, he knew, would ever attract 'the man's strange nature. As a matter of fact, there was a' little method in his madness. A very close friend of his, whose magnificent promise had been nipped in the bud by a marriage that was nothing short of a tragedy, had but lately died, and the impression was still fresh. He. shuddered at a like fate for the man whom he loved more dearly than a brother, the man who had some thing of that other's nature, the same curious mixture of poetry and reckless daring. 'I agree to your -terms!' he said briskly. - (To be continued.)