|Newspaper Title||The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950)|
|Trove Title||An Astounding Marriage|
. AN- MT0TJBDI56 MARRIAGE.
BY A. CORALIE STANTON,
Author of 'A Jealous Woman's Plot.'} 'The Other Woman,' 'His Enemy's Hand.'
. CHAPTER LX: .
A week later Irma Gaunt was ushered into Mary's boudoir. As soon as the servant had left the 'room, she seized her friend's hands in hers, her eyes glisten '' ing as if with tear s behind her glasses. 'Oh, Mary I' she said. 'I know. Why didn't you tell me? How terrible! Oh,
Mary, I am1 so sorry!' ? Mary almost pushed her friend from her. . : 'How do you know ?' she cried almost ?hysterically. 'I suppose everyone will' know soon, and everyone will be- sorry for me. How do you know?' 'Mr. Menzies came to me yesterday,' Irma answered- earnestly. 'He asked me whether you were really going ??to marry Lord Giltore. I told him you were, and he looked very perplexed. Mary, are you sure you were quite just to Mm?' ? | 'Are you taking a brief on his behalf!' the girl cried scornfully. 'A pretty per son to defend, Irma— a man who boasts to women of his achievements! 'He did not boast,' Irma retorted in
dignantly. 'He is a different mail, to %the one I met at your ball. He. knew that I am your friend — alinostyour Bis ter. I am not often wrong, Mary, and I believe that he sincerely repents— that he would give anything to undo that mo 1 ment'a madness.' ? ? 'If you value my friendship, Irma, don't- ever mention his name to me! I despise him! He is nothing to me-— nothing !' Mary ex claimed, with such vehemence, that Irma at once doubted her sincerity. Irma was not so blind as Douglas. , She knew what a sensitive woman's pride was ; that many protestations may conceal a sore ly wounded heart. 'I think you are wrong;,' she repeated quietly. 'I believe I would forgive John
a like fault, if I thought he repented it.' 'Repented it?' cried Mlary. 'Has Mr. Menzies told you the whole truth? Do you know that he lied to me? That he listened to my story, and attempted to defend the man?' 'I suppose he ought to have revealed Wmself?' Irma said thoughtfully. 'But even then, he might Mve been thinking only of you. Would it not have hum bled you far mor«; to learn from his own 'lips that the man you respected had been guilty of such an act, than to have married him1 m ignorance, and found him everything you desired? Would not a Efe apent in making you happy have
atoned as well as ' a moment's confes sion?' .- ' .'You assume too much, Irma,' Mary said coldly, with flashing eyes. 'Mr. Merizies was not at all the sort of man to make me happy. Remember that I am going to marry Lord Giltore.' '^Mary, do you love Lord Giltoro?' Irma asked earnestly. And her friend's eyes fell before her searching gaze. ? 'No!' she admitted. 'I have the greatest respect for him.' 'Then you have no business to marry him ! You will make his life a perfect misery!- Forgive me speaking plainly, dear. I am so very fond of you.' 'I know, Irma,' Mary said affection-s
ately. 'But don't talk about this wretched subject any more. Is is no usefflno use at all.' She broke down a little. Her -voice faltered, and there were tears in her eyes. 'I was so happy,' she whispered. .. 'Oh, child !' Irma said, her voice ring-, ing with earnestness, 'if you really cared for him, don't marry this other. Send for him back — forgive 'him! I would believe blindly in his truth, his deep sense of the wrong he 'did you,, his deter ination to atone. Even difficult things are easy when you love, Alary. Try lo do this.' But Mary shook her head, although the tears were streaming down her face. 'I can't— I can't!'' she moaned. 'The awakening was too bitter. I shall never forget. I am to marry Lord Giltore in
a month. He is going to take me abroad.' . ? . r ? Irma saw that it was useless to argue or to plead, so she accompanied her friend on a shopping Expedition, 'and discussed laces and' silks, turning her back resolutely Upon the knotty pro blems that assail the htiirian heart and sometimes break it: ^ ; . ? ? , . ; ? When she arrived' at Bond-street, she found John Howitt awaiting her. - 'John,' she said, 'by way-aTgreeting;. 'Vhen a woman deliberately throws away her life's Happiness for the sake of her pride, what is to become of her?' ,'i '.-: A smile crossed the barrister's clever
j.tw--c. jLie wus awuswjmea to tnese sua den analytical probings into humani nature. But he saw Irma's face was very grave. 'I am afraid,' he said slowly, 'that she will have to reap what she has sown —in a bitter land of loneliness. And in that high altitude she will find her* pride a chilly comfort!' 'Poor woman!' Irma said, with a sigh. Then, more cheerfully: 'John, 1 shall bs able to marry you next Christ mas.' ' 'That's good news!' he said, his thin, dark face breaking into a smile that gave it an indescribable charm. 'Shall you be sorry to say good-bye to the tea shon?' '
_ 'Yea— and no \' she answered. 'Pro- viding people with salmon mayonnaise in the morning and tea and cakes in the afternoon may not be a very elevat ing occupation ; but at least it gives one a sense of real independence.' She looked at him half-doubtfully. 'Don't imagine for a moment, dear,' he said, with a real- comprehension) of her that brought a sudden moisture to her eyes, 'that I want you to lose that
independence. it's one ot the best things in life; only I believe that it can be pursued just as well a deux!'' 'It has one drawback now,' she whis pered. 'It is very lonely sometimes.' ' When Mary returned from that shop ping expedition-with her friend, one of the footmen told her that Mr. Menzies was waiting for her in the drawingroom. 'Mr. Menzies?' she repeated, furious at the leaping of her heart. 'Where is Mr. Audain?' It appeared that Douglas was out, and that Mr. Menzies had particularlv asked to see Miss Audain. 'I will go to him at once,' she said. She hardly knew how her feet carried her to the drawingroom. There was a dull booming in her ears3 as of many, waters rushing over rocks. She passed
her 'hand over her forehead in a dazed way before she opened the door. Philin looked older, graver, as he rose to his feet. . A wave of blood surged beneath his skin as. he' saw her enter the room, this fair woman he had lost. She looked like some spirit not of this earth, in her white dress,. with her white face, and a great sheaf of white roses in her hand. But in her eyes was the hard, mocking light he alone of all men had conjured into their soft, depths. 'What do you want?' she said. I 'A' few moments of your time,' he an swered. 'And, if you will believe me, to serve you.' ' She did, not ask him to sit down. She
invited him with a gesture to proceed. .'I have heard that, you are going to marry Lord Giltore,' he said. She' bowed her head. 'Does that interest you?' His hands clenched and uriclenchedv How a man may pay for ani act of folly! She had. entered into the very fibre of his soul, this girl ! and she stood there with calmly .mooking eyes, listening as she would to a stranger asking for a charity subscription. He did not know that his voice was magnetising her into, the old sweet unconsciousness of all else. ? 'Inasmuch as I have something to tell ^ou concerning it. it does,' he said.
' 'You are going to tell me that Lord Giltore is1, unworthy of me!' she said scornfully. 'Nothing of the sort,' was the -quiet answer, and somehow she- felt reproved. 'Lord Giltore is in every way worthy of you, if you chose to overlook his age. He' is a brave soldier and a good man.' Her eyes softened a little, but., har dened again as he went on: 'I must speak of that act of mine; my regret for which it seems' that nothing I can say to you will convince you of. Do you remember signing you name in a book?' - ' ? She nodded, crimson with indigna tion. 'That was the register of the church of which the clergyman was the vicar. He brought it with him. Later on, in accordance with the usual custom, he sent in the certificate- of that marriage with anmfi othprft t.n t.liA rfttriftfvnrnfftTi'ft
ralj representing the marriage — a lie, as you know — as having been, solemnised in the church. He died suddenly a woek later, so he cannot rectify that ir regular proceeding. I did not find this out until, yesterday, or I should . have told you.' 'You mean that- — that ? ' she gasped. - - „ . 'I regret to say that, unless you take steps to prove the illegality of that cere mony, it will be considered legal.' 'Then, in marrying Lord Giltore, I shall be committing bigamy?' . He ~ bowed his head. 'ButI signed; that;box-k with' a name that was not '-mine. I thought I was
lviary juennox xnen, sne saaa, witn a swift flash of her eyes into his.. ? 'I am afraid that is no obstacle to a legal ceremony^ under the circumstances, as you and everyone else firmly believed that you were Mary Lennox.' . -f'What am I to do P she asked wildly. 'You did this; horrible thing! 'Can't you think of some way out?' 'There is only: one way,' he said gravely. 'I have come here to pro pose it. You must prosecute me for fors mg you, against your will to take parjt in the' ceremony! Then everything will be explained, the clergyman's fraud as well, and the marriage will.be for mally' pronounced null and void. This is the only reparation I can make. Of course there will be no defence. You will not suffer in the least All the blame will rightly fall on me!' 'But you? I heard that you may be' punished,' she stammered, 'with im prisonment?' '
'Among all my numerous shortcom ings, Miss Audain,' he answered, 'I don't think that I ever gave you cause to think I wanted to shirk any just punishment that might be inflicted on me.' ' 'But you in prison!' she said faintly. 'Oh, no, no ! That would be horrible ! ' His eyes yearned over her as she sank into 'a chair. After all, she had a thought for him. She would be sorry to see his name associated with disgrace. 'The scandal!' she moaned. 'Think of the scandal ! It would be on the lips of all my friends. They would all pity me.. ? Some of them would laugh., Oh,
I cannot — I cannot do that! ? 'It is the only way,' he urged, 'by which you can assure your peace of mind. It might be found out once you were married, and that would be awk ward, for you. They would say that you should have taken this step at once, you are a brave woman, iliss Audain. It will all be forgotten a1 week after the case is heard. Don't make unpleasant ness for yourself in -the future by hesi tating now.' 'But you? Don't you think of your self?' -she asked, wondering. 'I have lost all right to do that in this matter,' he said. 'I shall go away afterwards. I don't hide from you^that I am ashamed of myself, when the world
knows, to face the men who had thought me«an honorable man.' 'He is true! He is 'worthy!' her heart cried; but she .steeled herself against the voice. v 'I will go now,' he said, 'and leave you to think it over. When you have made up your mind, don't make any sign to me. Simply instruct your solicitors
to commence tne prosecution. ?;; it is Det ter you should not comunicate with me. It might point to something like an un derstanding between us, and that you must avoid. Good-bye, Miss Audain. I can only say what I said before — I dare not ask for your forgiveness!' He was gone. She staggered to the door, an infinity of longing in her eyes. She threw her arms put to the empty air that had surrounded him. The front door banged just then. It was too' late! 'Philip,' she cried dully, 'come back — come back !' Then she fell in a little forlorn heap on the carpet, and kind ob livion came to the rescue of her weary heart. (To be Continued.)