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BELLA-DEMONIA.

[Bv Seuna Dolaro.J BOOK 111. CHAPTER I, IV A POLITICAL ORSKKVATOKY. The political oiisid which opened the yen' 1576 with tlio '-Amirasay Note" closed it with the Conference at Constantinople of January, 1877. By the middle of th»t month the (J'limn-v, of Europe had realised the fact that the Coutererice hud been met by an-joc-tinn of its vii-r.'Hisala on the part of tho Sublime Porte, lu<\ at the end of Ma.-ch tho Six Powers torwunled to the Sultan their ultimatum iu the form of a Protocol. Turkey, however, pursued her time honored policy of masterly inactivity, and on April 24 Europe wivj startled by the news that Russia had declared war against the Sultan in defence of the Christian populations of the Balkan Peninsula, had crossed the Pruth into Rourrmni.i, which had promptly declared itself on the side of the Muscovite, and had entered Asia Minor at Batoum, Kars, and Bayazid. The only explanation vouchsafed to Europe was contained in the Circular Note of Prince Gortschakoff, and the Powers, after entering their formal 'protest, assumed a position of armed neutrality. The campaign opened, as is familiar to the student of modern history, with a series of Russian successes both in Europe and Asia. General Gourko crossed the Danube without opposition in June, and invested Tirnova on July 7, preparatory to crossing the Balkans at Yeni Saghra five clays later with a flying column. It was not till then that Russia siwthe mistake she had made in overlooking Plevna, and turned in that direction to find itoccupied and fortified by thegreatestgeueral of the Ottoman forces, Osman Pasha. On the 20th and on the 31st of July two desperate assaults of this position resulted in the total defeat of the Russian arms, and Gourko was driven back beyond the Balkans, whilst in Asia Mouhktar Pasha gained his first decisive viatory at Kars. Thus, in August, 1877, when our story reopens, the Muscovite advance had received a temporary, but serious check. Todleben had been called to the investment of Plevna, and the nations looked at one another with apprehensive glances as they a*kedthemselves and one another "What next?" Meanwhile, the principal post of observation established by Russia in the Balkans wasat the village of Devekiui, on the road from Eski Saghra to Adrianople, where, snugly established in the Villa Kristov Hisar, Prince Schouloff and Barones3 Altdorff anxiously watched the successive turns which events were taking. A few weeks before this they had been joined by Mra Bradley Dashton, who since wc parted from her in London had suffered a series of reverses in the prosecution of her plans. ladeed, important events and changes had tiken place in the lives of most of the actots in the drama with which v/e are concerned, all resulting directly and indirectly from the tragedy enacted at Arlingford House on the night that saw the successful issue of the plot concocted against Captain Aubyn Goddard. For weeks Lady Arlingford had lain unconscious between life and death. In her delirium she had raved much about that fatal evening, but her utterances had been ascribed to the state of her brain; and when ahe recovered from the blow and emerged iuto the light of reason, Goddard was to all iatents and purposes lost to the world. As Boon as she could be moved, Alice Arlingford had been taken to her mother's house in Berkeley square, and here Kitty Middleton had been her only confidante. To her she bad told tho whole dismal story as soon as ahe was sufficiently herself to do so, and both agreed that to publish the facts now, in the absence of Goddard, would be to iay themselves open to the charge of having invented the story to clear the manwhom Arlingford had—though vainly—tried to brand as his wife's lover. So they had waited on in the hope that Goddard might be heard of again, and that he might be summoned home to assist in his own exculpation from the charges brought against him by the Earl of Arlingford, Mrs Dashton, and Major Homer Carteret. One step, however, had been taken which the events of the evening and the episode of the necklace had rendered inevitable ; this was the divorce of the Earl and C< nntess of Arlingford, which went by def-u.s in the absence of his lordship and uponjthe admissions of Mrs Dashton. Soon after the disappearance of Goddard, Arlingford found that tho glances bestowed upon him in club rooms, never of the warmest, had now become arctic in their frigidity. He found that men ; refused to hear tha name of Aubyn Goddard spoken by hn lips, and that hia efforts to dsepen the cloud which rested over the exQueen's Messenger were practically abortive. ■ Under these circumstances his lordship had ' betaken himself to the more congenial atmosphere of Nice and Monte Carlo, whither Mrs Dashton had shortly after fol- i lowed him, and, after passing si* months of varied fortune at the tables, found himself in the, to him, familiar predicamentof beiDg "cleaned out." It v/as then that the sum- ' raona of Prince Schouloff had seemed to Mrs ' Dashton laden with the pleasant perfume of i hope, and obeying it, armed with passes through the Russian lines, she had joined the Prince and Bella-Demonia in their political observatory, anxious to serve the Chief of Police for the furtherance of her own plans, which seemed to have encountered a serious and abiding check. The divorce of the Countess of Arlingford and the marriage of Kitty Middleton to Dick Saville had taken place almost simultaneously, and thus a powerful ally had joined the campaign for ttut rehabilitation of , Aubyn Goddard. Of Goddard himself the news had been at first scanty, then depressing, and finally . overwhelming. What might have been the effect on European history had he started on that fatal night with his despatches it is j not for us to conjecture. He had reached Charing Cross five minutes too late, and had , laid his despatches with his resignation on , his chief's table at eight o'clock on the fol- ■ lowing morning and they had left London with another messenger by the ten o'clock mail. Later in the day he had had a long interview with General Saville, from which tho sturdy old warrior had emerged with something very like a tear in the one eye that active service had left him, ] and had emphatically remarked to a club , crony: " Damn the boy ! I love and admire him more than ever. He won't tell me anything about it, but I'll swear "—which he did with unction—" that a more honorable fellow : never lived. Some day we shall get to the bottom of this miserable affair; meanwhile, i we can only wait and hope for tho best." General Saville took upon himself to lay ; Goddard's resignations, with a statement of the circumstances, before the committees of hia various clubs, and those illustrious : bodies had decided to hold hi* membership in abeyance, pending an inquiry and On the following day Goddard had started for America, bound for a ranch owned by : General Saville in Dakota Territory. A few months later, one of the periodical revolu- : tions having eventuated in Central America, Goddard's soldier instinct overcame him, and he had placed himself at the head of a regiment of Jllibuxteros, on the side of the ; existing Government. In one of the decisive ; engagements he had performed deeds of : unheard-of valor, and had been reported •dead—killed by a stray a&ofc at the moment : of victory—and so he liad goue aut of this i history, and his record was to ali fotonts and purpose* closed. Things were in this condition when our atoi-v reopens at the Villa Kristov Hifar in ; Bulgaria, in the mouth of August, 1877. Prince Schouloff sat in his study, which looked out upon the verandah of the villa, going over a bundle of despatches and ever ' and anon conwlting a map that lay before i him. At his elbow stood his private ' secretary, Dmitri Keratieff, awaiting the ; attention of his chief. . " Well," said the prince, looking up from his map, " what have you to re|»ort ? " i " Mrs Dashton tried to open the mnzl-bag ' early this morning; ahe said she had 1 enclosed a letter by mistake. I opened it < for her ; there -was no letter ot hers m the 1 baff. Madame von Altdorff aent a despatch by her courier-secretary before daylight, I i

" Ah ! Know you its contents ?" " No, Excellency. I am more useful alive than dead, and I never question the incoming or outgoing of Rodia Pouschkoff." The secretary laughed as he spoke, and Schouloff nodded his head gravely but approvingly. " Did you see him start ? " " Yes, Exclleney. Ho took the- direction of Eski Sayhra." " Me has not returned ? " " Not yet." " Anything else? " " Mrs Dashton bade me present her romplimeuts and aay that ehe desired to «pcak with your Excellency as soon as you should be at leisure." " Where is she now ? " "On the terrace." "Ask her to honor me with a visit, here and now." The secretary retired. " Ah, Emily Dashton," soliloquised the prince, "you are unable to control your curiosity ; you are madly eager to know why I sent for you. Take care! You are an excellent servant, but you can never direct. Examine my mail-bag ! how rococo ! The method has neither novelty nor ingenuity to recommend it, and still, undaunted, you play your little, your very little, tricks." And Prince Schouloff, leaning back in his chair, laughed aloud, as Mrs Dashton appeared at the French window leading out upon tha terrace. " Aloneand amused ? " said she, looking at him from the window. " Happy man ! " " Sensible people," replied Schouloff, "never depend upon anyone for anything, not even for their amusement." " As usual, your sentiment is flawless. But are you sure you are as independent as you think ?" " It has been the study of my life to be so." "And, like most students, you have absorbed yourself so much in the study of others that you have left no time to study yourself. You leave that for fools like me." " Do you find me interesting?" " Er—inn—ye-es. But not so original as I expected." " Well," said Schouloff, in the altered tone of a man desirous of changing the subject, " I will try to do better. So much for your amusement. Now for your business. I understand you wished to speak to me ?" "Yes," answered Mrs Dashton, her manner also altering. "I am not satisfied with the way things have turned out. You offered to help me, and I carried out my part of the bargain. I knew that when Lady Arlingford saw her pearls on my neck she would do something foolish that would detain Goddard. She did more ; but I am no nearer the realisation of rny hopes. I am getting tired of scheming, and want rest." " Why reproach me with—pardon me!your own folly ? I wished Captain Goddard detained, and was willing to pay for it. You undertook to effect the delay, and received the payment for so doing—an enormous sum ; is it not so ? It is with Lord Arlingford you are not satisfied, not with me. Come, be frank; what did he promise you ? You do not answer. Well, he promised that if you would help him, he would drive Lady Arlingford to claim a divorce, and would then marry you. The first he has done; the second he has not." " How do you know this ?" " I did not know ; but you betray your own secrets. But your ambition is a wrong one. As a woman you are charming, as a wife you would be stupid." " Do you suppose," broke out the woman impetuously, " that because I have led a rough life I have no feeling? You have guessed half the situation, so hear it all. I am fond of Jack Arlingford. I know he's a bad lot; perhaps that's why I like him ; I'm not such a very good lot myself '.—and good people make rne angry. He carc3 for me, 1 believe, and if everything had not gone so contrary, I think he would have kept his promise; but after the divorce everything went so wrong that I was obliged to leave London. I joined him in Nice, and now he is broke there, and cannot move a step till he gets money." Prince Schouloff smiled. "Shall I prove to you," he said, " that he will not keep his word—even so far as he can—to you ?" "How? Do you mean that he does not really care for me ! If I thought that " " Lord Arlingford is at this moment trying to marry a rich American, a cousin of the Mr Briggs whom we met at his house. He cares for nothinij save gambling, and his t affection for you will be regulated the amount you subscribe to the fund. Now, let me know the amount necessary to—your happiness, and try to find out for ms accu rate details as to the death of Captain Goddard. ; I am much interested in him." " In Goddard ? Where did you lose sight ! of him ? Let me see; where did you lose sight of him ? I think I remember. After the scandal he started for Dakota, for a j ranch belonging to General Saville. There ' tho soldier got the bitter of him, and he ' joined that Central American revolution, and was reported dead. Is that right ? " ' " Perfectly ; you are accuracy and clear- i ness to perfection, as far as your information ; goes ; but I should like the detail?. Now, I : nave a charming villa at Mentone, of which I should like to make a wedding-present to - the bride who can give me accurate details ' of Captain Goddard's death. The certificate of the marriage is not necessary to secure the ' gift." ! " Which means, translated " " What you please ! Mrs Dashton, you ' are a clever woman, especially so where the finesse of a woman's nature is concerned ; witness, for instance, your instinct in Lady Arlingford's case, where you judged exactly I the moment to strike. I should value your opinion just now. Erghem ! I see a great change in Bella-Demonia. She takes no interest in anything. I have sought in vain . the reason ; can you help me!" j "You once said 'Bella-Demonia never ' allows anyone to know what she wishes to ' remain unknown.' That is my answer now, ' I am a woman of fairly strong nerve ; but J ask Bella-Demonia a question about herself ? ' —excuse me! See," continued she, rising, and moving to the window, " there she is on the terrace. She looks gentle enough ; < but when Ehe chooses to freeze yon. her cold 1 stare of wonder at your audacity would < daunt a braver woman than I. But be sure 1 that if Ica?ihelpyou I will. She is coming ' this way. Shall I go ? " " Not yet. See if her manner helps you." •• And the prince walked to the window to meet the object of his recent conversation. J " Who, to see her soft sweet face," ' thought he, " would believe that she could be so hard to conquer? Yet for close upon a year I have fluttered like a moth in vain 1 around the flame of her fascination—l, j Alexis Schouloff!" ' Two quickly successive reports, the boom of a distant gun, reverberated dully on the < air, as the Baroness Altdorff stepped into > the room, giving her hand to Prince Schouloff < as she did so. f ' Those were the cannon of Eski Saghra, ' prince, It is true, then, that the Flying Legion has arrived in the neighborhood ?" 1 "Such are my instructions, baropess," i returned the prince, gravely, looking at his ! " What a picture you made _ there, •< baroness," put in Mrs Dashton at this point i —a living embodimtnt of tranquil power in i repose. Dreaming pleasant things, I judge J by your expression. You are a true subject for an artist." " You evidently have not remarked, Mrs ( i Dashton," interrupted Bella-Demonia, icily, i " that I do not like flattery. From a woman 1 it meaps either nothing or a great deal too j 1 much. Prince, I shall have, I think, great i \ news for you before the 'afternoon is over. J ( Mrs Dashton, you have not yet visited me ; - in my own apartments ; you must come and j 1 Bee me there. The prince ia good enough to " £ let have an entire wing to myself, where no ' £ one ever comes save at my request." . i " I shall look forward to coming and see- I ing you phez vous. I have so much yet to . say to you and ask you." _ , 1 " You will find me a bad gossip " i " But I will do all that, and I am positively 1 dyiog for a good long talk. This place, with i all respect to Prince Schouloff, is so far from s civilisation. Upon my word, it's as hard to got here as—as—as it was for poor Goddard £ to get himself killed." She said the last words after a hesitation, ] ae if she had bees searching vainly for a t simile. As she concluded, Bella-Demonia turned deathly white, but controlled herself i with a violent effort which did not escape i the n&rrsw observation of Schouloff. c " What a singular comparison to make '. " said sheat last. ,1

1 " Perhaps it was," said Mrs I)a=Vhi, reflectively. "I don't know what hi.-Mght him to my mind at that moment, Strut-o;e break, his—a man who was apparently juat reaching the zenith of his career, or, if m, quite that, with every promise for the future, to ruin himself so completely .'—it is inconceivable. But why should I wander ■ «n so, about a stranger to yon ?—but then, j YOU Hl'O. T ! .r,t:\V lllill SO W '.M.'' " Vi'U !■..•;!.•»■' V ■' r..::jn i>:i'r-'-'r.-ri<m : .--. i i"i>>'.')'ly ; t'h'in i ah.! udiied •' ii'luit ivus rhi. name?" i " Anhyn Goddard. I'll tell you all about i it some day, when I come to see you in your I own rooms." " That will be very soon," said Prince Schouloff to himself. Then he added aloud to Belb.-Domonia : " Yr u are interested, baroness ? " " Naturally ! A man who ruins himself at the very moment that his prospects seemed moat bright must have had the usual cause —a woman. Hence the story must be at least amusing." "Then you believe," said the prince, " that when a man is ruined, a woman is always the cause. Oh, lie ! " "Not at all, in the way you put it. A man may be ruined by many causes; but wheu he brings about his own ruin it is pretty safe to assume that there is a woman." "Well," said Schouloff, "I will argue that point later." "It must be nearly time our hold travellers arrived. I must watch from the terrace for them, in case there be any young man in the party whom I can make my own. Who are these visitors, prince ?" " They shall announce themselves to you, Mra Dashton." " Well, no doubt, it's some pleasant surprise you have in store for me. I won't be inquisitive. I hope I don't shock you, baroness ? " " Ishockeu!" returned Bella-Demonia, in an accent of ironical surprise, " I—the byword of Europe! My right to censure or extol was stolen from me years ago." And / don't believe I ever hail that right. Well, aw revoir. I must go and get ready." And Mrs Dashton disappeared from the room with a laugh. "Who are these visitors, prince?" said Bella-Demonia, when ahe had gone. " You have told me nothing." " Because there was nothing to tell, till this morning. A Mr Saville and his wifecharming people ; they will interest you. They want to see me—and you—and, arriving at the frontier two days since, applied to me for passes through the lines. They arrived at Eski Saghra last night, ami aro coming on this morning. The proximity of the Flying Legion has made mo nervous about them." Bella-Demonia dismissed the subject with a little shrug. " Tell me," said she, "why did you ask that woman, Mrs Dashton, hero ?" " Because I thought she would annuo you." " Because you wanted her to find out something for you, from me—from me!" " If you know, why ask ?" " To give you a chance of being honest with me. You know I hate lies and the cowardice that begets them. Ask me what you want to know. Have I ever been wanting in courage to speak ':" " You are irritable, baroness; yet I have been patient, and not—not ungenerous ':" " Forgive me, if, in the weariness I feel, I forget how much I owe you. When I first sought you I was seeking distraction; you offered mo politics, absorbing as heart or brain could desire. I had nothing to live for till you brought me within range of your vast world of schemes. By degrees the fascination of your power gained on me. To aeo great nations tremble or rejoice, to see life or death meted out, was the breath of life to me. For years of feverish oblivion I have to thank yju, and I do. But I am still a woman, and my very being is weary. See the traces ! " As she spoke she turned to the minor over tho mantel-3helf, and leaned upon it. "If only my revenge had not been torn from me, I would have served in eternity. If heaven had but been just to mo ! " "My hope," said the Russian gently, " has been to bring you more than oblivion. Must that hope always be vain ? Will you never forget the cares, the sombre side of life, and remember but the glowing sunshine ivhich is yours by right of love." He had risen and approached her as he spoke. She drew away, as she said : " I thought our compact was clear. Must [ remind you ! When I accepted your service, I knew tliat I risked my life in a service of danger; that life I sold you—if iced should come, my death ; but I did not sell you myself." "No, that you only give. Oh, it is only 1 Bella-Demonia ' who is dead to love ; to Ind mercy, the mother of love, one must ippeal to charity. 'Carita'—it is a sweet lame, and I would call you by it." " The name w;is my mother's ; it is sacred ;o me. But come ! do not let us speak in •iddles. You know some part of my secret, ,'ou would know more. I tell you frankly •ou will learn nothing through that woman. You have the better chance. Question me ! [ n.ny reserve what I like, but I will not ic." For an instant the two Btood silently ooking at each other, and then the prince ipoke. "Did you care for this man Goddard?" laid he. " With my whole soul ! " " Why did you never speak of him ?'* " That which lies near the heart is far rom the lips." " Do you know what has become of him?" " He ia dead, if that woman spoke true. Well, so much the better for you and for four work. You will find me the better lestroyer now that the one touch of womanmod is laid at rest forever. Direct, and I vill execute. Let me think only of wrongs md the blight they bring. I told you I vould give you news. I have news for yon—>rave news." "Tell me, what is it?" " The Russian arms have received a serious sheck. For the last month your best-laid dans of campaign have been frustrated by he unerring precision of the movements of his Flying Legion of which we hear so nuch and see so little ; is it not so ? " " Perfectly. The latest despatches of Jkobeleff are to that effect," " Well, the chief of the Flying Legion, Seyaz Mnrad Bey, will be in my power tolight. What is his capture worth ?" ; " Murad here ! It cannot be possible !'" The prince rose to his feet and commenced , lacing up and down the room. The j Jaroness Altdorff smiled as she leaned back ■ n her chair. " Is that a reflection ? " said she. " You ■ ire not complimentary to my powers of ascination, to say nothing of my Bkill as a • liplomatist—some say ' decoy.'" j " You are in earnest!" exclaimed Sohou- , off, coming to a full stop before her. "Perfectly, I came to the conclusion ' ;hat he must be taken out of your way. But i ! or him, we should be in possession of the i 3hipka Pass. He is advancing upon Plevna, i )nce let him join Osman, and we shall see > vhat the Grand Duke, Todleben, and jkobeleff can do—such a three against such : i two ! I shall remove him, this terror, ieyaz Mnrad—Murad Bey." "Not easy " " No, not easy, but—well, never mind i ny plan of action ; the result is all that you leed know. Admit that I chose our location iere with forethought, three months before lostilities commenced. After much delicate i vork, I have caused the report to reach the i yhief that in consequence of your weakness -of your weakness ! "—and she laughed a ittle—" I was in possession of important I trategic secrets, that I had expressed great ; idmiration of hisbravery and was impression- i ible— impressionable!— in short, that he i night learn all I knew with a little trouble. ' Che Flying Legion encamped last night near < ?ski Saghra. They are short of provisions, 1 md knowledge of our movements isimperaive. Well, by my arrangement he has laid j k trap for me into which he will fall him- i elf." « Prince Schouloff's eyes glowed with < admiration. ' " By St. Nicholas! ingenious as only i 3ella-Demonia could be! Perhaps this is i he only one line that could have spared him. ) Vhat marvellous tact ! what instinct! Ah ! ] f you are not for me, what a pity you were i lot born a man! You are sure he will 1 ome ?" } " I 'nwo.it only a letter by my courier-seare- 1 ary, Rodia, to confirm what I say." » I

" Tell me, how were you inspired to such a glorious plan ?" "I wanted to earn your supreme gratitude, and, so, my freer]om. I had hoped—till she • spelled my dream But never mind; bince ha is lost to me, no danger can appal me. I thought for a brief hour that I might know the joys denied me and given to others; but no! liki- the taWtd Jew. so must my r ,j|.,,',;.,-.,.. !,« f.'.n'ver. No rv-:i;-e. ! u-. .Sim (;•-).'e'ed ii"!" ;«.<:::'>v'i!ii i;cr i'.a ids as she f'OLiame sik-tit, and the interview was interrupted by the tutrauce of a servant bearing two cards, "Ah, baroness," said Scimuioff, as he read the names of Mr and Mrs Richard Saville, " our expected guests are here. They will amuse you. Mr Savillo belongs to a very good family, and finished his eccentric career by marrying an eccentric young lady —a Miss Middleton. They call them ' The Shocks ' ; and we are indeed fortunate that they arrive £0 opportunely to enliven us." Then turning to the servant, he said : " Inform Mr and Mrs Saville that Prince Schouloff and the Baroness Alidorff will wait upon them immediately in the hall." ( To be continued.)

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Bibliographic details

BELLA-DEMONIA., Issue 7988, 17 August 1889, Supplement

Word Count
4,523

BELLA-DEMONIA. Issue 7988, 17 August 1889, Supplement

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