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BELLA-DEMONIA.

[By Seuna Dolako.] BOOK 111. CHAPTER 111. THE SNAKE. The boudoir-study ol the Baroness Altdorlf was a large room opening upon the t irraco. When she entered it, accompanied by Prince Schoulotf, it was illuminated by a couple of lamps, that served to intensify tht gloom beyond tho radius of their light.^ "This omnipotent general is here, she said, turning to the prince as sho closed the door. " I will admit him by this window. Once here, you will have the house surrounded by Kapiodovitch's men, aud when 1 hive learnt all I can of his plans I will give a signal. I have my revolver here : I will fire once." As she spoke she threw open the shutters that guarded the windows, and the light of the risiug moon poured into the room ; then she came close to the prince, and said, looklag him deeply in the eyes— t " What will you give me for this man s capture?'' " Whatever you choose to ask. Y> hat shall it be?" " The life of one man, taken or ijiven when and how I shall decide ?" " Don't wonder; don't be surprised: only promise—promise me by all that you hold holy." "It shall be as you wish." "Good! Now go!" Prince Schoulotf left the room, and she listened to his footsteps growing fainter down the corridor. " At last," said she, as she loosened the fastenings of the window—" at last I shall be avenged ! He lives ! How has he escaped all these years ? But what does it matter ? Ah! how I could have vindicated you, Aubyn Goddard, had you too lived! but I can show the world that your honor was stolen from you by a felon ; and I will .'" She sank into a low chair before the fire, which blazed despite the season, her back turned to the window, her face hidden in her hand?. A slight noise as the window is pushed open from the outside, aud a man steps into the room. He is dressed in the simple but striking costume of a Turkish staff-officer. His black military frock is buttoned to tho chin, relieved only by the star of tho Medjidieh which blazes on the left breast, and thrown into shadow by the folds of his voluminous military cloak. One arm, which is evidently wounded, rests in the breast ot his coat, and his feet are cased in high boots which bear the traces of hard and rough riding. The woman lowers her hand 3 and turns slowly with a little smile upon her face. As their eyes meet she starts violently and springs to her feet. A cry breaks from her: " Aubyn Goddard ! You ! Living ! Here, and called Beyaz Murad ! What does it mean?" On his part he is no whit 1e33 astounded. He advances towards her : "Theßarone3s AltdorfF! Is it real ? My God \ at last I see yon again ! Is this a dream ?" Quick as thought she has flown to the door and double-locked it, then to tho window, which she hastily bars once mora. At last she turns and comes to him. " Would to God we never might waLen !" she whispers, in a frightened moan. As for him, the object of his coming, all, is forgotten in the ecstasy of, seeing her again. " If you only knew," he says, " how often I have prayed that I might live to see you once more ! Through all the wild excitement of fighting, thai hope has been my talisman, I have thought how foolish I was to obey you and not try to find you again in Vienna, till it was too late ! When I made up my mind to tell you that I could no longer keep my promise, that I must try to win you back—that, wild and impetuous as was the dream, its strength swept my reason from me—ah ! I felt that I must return and read once more in your sweet fa"e a promise that " " For pity's sake " " I sought you too late : you had gone, and left no trace behind. It was a moment of bitter despair, for I thought you would have smiled pardon upon me, and I felt I should not have had to beg in vain. Was I wrong ?" " Oh, forgive me, Aubyn ! Why did I not know ? Let me speak now." " Not yet! Let me tell you first, before I touch your lips, that I am ruined, disgraced —that I have been robbed cf name, fame, honor—no! hardly that. But you will believe that no fault of mine has exiled me." "You will break my heart!" " You have heard how, and why, I left England ?" "Yes—but just now." " Do you believe me guilty of the crime of wbioh I was accused ?" " I know that you were not, and all the world would have known tho same, if you had demanded an explanation." "And that I could neither demand nor give." " Oh, you were wrong ! You must have been mad not to see how base a suspicion you allowed to take root. Why did you keep silent ?" She had come close to him and laid her hand upon his arm—the wounded one. He became deashly white, and staggered at her t9uch. " What is it '!" she exclaimed. " You are ill." " No, no ;it is nothing. Give me some water. Ah ! Nothing serious—only a bit painfui. I was wounded a few days ago, and as I was ridiDg here my horse stumbled ; I had only" one hand, and he threw me. I —I think the wound has opened again. Don't be aalrmed : it's all right. It does not pain me now." He paused and caught his breath. " It's stupid of me to get knocked over so easily," he continued, "but I've been ill some time, and I suppose that's why I got faint, You were asking me something?" "Are you better ?" she asked, anxiously. ««Yes—yes. Listen ! You asked me why I did not explain how I got that card. I could not. It meant the loss of honor for a woman or for me. The whole think was a plot, but I could not have proved any conspiracy. This woman was cruelly wronged ; I had known her from a child ; she was helpless ind alone—can you wonder that I chose even disgrace to save her ?" " But she was wrong to let you do so. How could she keep silent and let you ruin yourself 1 It was cruel!" " Don't blame her ; she was not to blame, and it can do no good now. I only tell you this because I could not bear that a thought of suspicion Bhould be between us. I had a card on which she had written a mesaage—innocent enough in itself, but which those who sought to entrap us both could have made to appear guilty. This is the secret of my crime. Do you believe me ?" "As I believe in God!" " My darling!" They were in each other's arms, the world forgotten in the glory of the moment that they knew each other's love. "And you will tell me that there is nothing to prevent you resting here upoD my heart forever. The war can't last much longer, and I shall be free. Then will you help me to forget the weary time before I knew you ? Ah I" The cry was wrung from him by his agony. "Ah ! you are badly hurt! you are hiding it from me 1" Bhe said. «'lt is true," he gasped: " the wound is deep, and I am more hurt than I thought. It's only the loss of blood, however. Don't come near. It will frighten you." At that moment a slight noise upon the terrace outside struck her ear, and recalled her to the present. It waa the light clank of a rifle as it touched the gravel, "My God!" she exclaimed, "there is danger here. You must try to keep strong —to get away. Heaven forgive me \ you are betrayed ! Can't you walk ? Try. Come here into my room: it is your only chance of safety." Her words and tone recalled him to his flenses. " Why are you here ?' he said ; " and where is the woman I came to see?— Bella I don't understand." " Don't try to understand. I will tell you when you are safe. Come with me,"

" What do you mean ? I can't A footstep in the corridor. Quick as thought tho woman seized his wounded arm, and with the pain he fell senseless to the j ground. Then she fired her revolver—twice. A knock on tho door ! She drew his pistol from his holster and laid it on the floor, drawing his cloak over his face a3she did so. With a crash the door fell open, and Prince Schoulotf entered the room. # " For God's sake get help !" she exclaimed. «• When he found he was betrayed he would have killed me. I shot him. He was going to escarje. I tried to keep him : he was desperate-then I fired. He hj dead / " I was wrong to let you risk such an interview," said "the prince, looking at the prostrate form. " I will see myself that no one enters till he is taken away." He was moving to the door. Then he turned and came back. " Perhaps he is only wounded." he said, laying his hand upon tho senseless man's heart. He was just going once more, when he saw the revolver on the floor. He picked it up and pointed it at the still form. "Better make quite sure !" he said. He was about to fire, when Bella-Demonia flung herself upon tho body. " No ! no !" she cried, " I have lied to you ! I have betrayed you both !" The cloak fell from Goddard's features. The prince looked at him. " Captain Goddard !" he exclaimed. "Yes, yes! It is Captain Goddard. Listen ! For this man's capture you promised me the life of one man given or taken how and when I should decide. / claim hi*!'' CHAPTER IV. FACE TO FACE. For the next few days the inhabitants of the Villa Kristov Hisar lived in a state of suppressed excitement. Prince Schouloff's first care was to seud Mrs Dashton off to Nice, armed with all that was needful to take Lord Arlingford back to London, but ignorant of what had token place at the villa. Of the amazement of Dick Saville and his wife it is unnecessary to speak. Kitty and the Baroness Altdorff relieved each other in the care of Goddard, who woke from his swoon in a high delirium. The prince said but little, biding his time and waiting for Bella-Demonia to speak. At last,' one day when Goddard was fairly convalescent, she sent for him to her boudoir. She was sitting before the fire when he entered, and, looking up, gave him her hand, which he respectfully LrigSGCl "Be seated, prince," she said. "The time ha 3 come when some explanation is due to you. I wish to give it to you now." " You are not overtaxing your strength, baroness ':" " No. I am as eiger to question as I am willing to answer." "lam all attention." " Had you any suspicion that Beyaz Mv,rad Bey aud Aubyn Goddard were one and the same man ?" "Notthe faintest." " You believe him to be dead ?" "Implicitly." " What has been the result of his detention here ?*' " The result has been the beginning of the end. The Flying Legion, suddenly deprived of its leader, has lost its position as an independent army corps. Radetzky and Gourko have at last defeated Suleiman, and the Russiau standard floats in tho Shipka, Pass. Suleiman is trying to regain his position, but in Viir, Meanwhile, SkobelefT refuses to take warning from July, or advice from Todlebcn, and is preparing to attack Plevna once more, now that Osman's reinforcements have been stopped." "It has been a great work," said the baroness, drearily. " For which a great price has been paid, baroness." "A great price?" "T!e life of Captain Goddard given and taken when and how you decided," said Schouloff. " Ah ! it was fortunate for Lord Arlingford, his betrayer, that it was so! Had it not been for Goddard'u it would have been hi? -" , - , r " You have plunged me in a whirl of wonder, baroness. The afternoon that Mr and Mrs Saville arrived you expressed your ignorance of Viscount Arlingford. Five minutes later the sound of his name caused you the first strong emotion I have ever known you to betray. It is with John Vy vian Fane that you are concerned—John Vyvian Fane, now Viscount Arlingford. You have cause to hate him. Tell me about it: I can help you, and I will." " You ?'' "Even so. Lord Arlingford was at one time in the the employ of the secret police in Petersburg " "I know !"' "He was expelled for making it the instrument of a private vengeance " "I know!" "He implicated an innocent man in the socialist schemes of one Dorski " " I know !" " You know! you know !" exclaimed Schouloff, " How do you know ?" " You ask me how I know. You ask me why I have sworn an oath of vengeance against this Lord Arlingford, once John Vyvian Fane. Ask me rather the question you have spent time and money in vain to have answered : ask me rather who I am." " My God ! what do you mean ? " I am the Princess Carita Qalitzin.'" " Holy St. Katerine !" Prince Schouloff rose and went successively to the doors leading into the corridor, and into Bella-Demonia's apartments, to m:k; sure against eavesdroppers. Then he returned to her side, and, bending till his eyes were plunged in hers, he took her wrist in his soft irresistible grasp and said in a low distinct voice—- " And I am Alexis Dorski,'" « * * * *■ For some minutes a dead silence reigned In the room. The Princess Galitzm, to call her by her real name, had sprung to her feet, pressing her hands to her throbbing temples, as sho looked down at the man who, after entrusting her with the master-secret of his life, had resumed his seat calmly. " The mystery of the cipher-dial is at last explained," said Schouloff at length. " And his son—Dmitri Dmitrievitch Keratieff—doeß he know ?' " No one knows, save the Princess Galitzm and Schouloff, the Chief of Police." " Why have you told me ?" " You have a letter of mine." "True: here it is." And, rapidly unfastening the bosom of her dress, she took therefrom a tightly-folded paper, which, opening, she laid before him. "Tha'-fc your handwriting?" she said. "No; it was the handwriting of Alexis Dorski the Terrorist. It was missing from among the secret papers of Keratieff. It was to obtain it that, primarily, I obtained his position. I have s night it ever sirce. It was to obtain it that I made his son my confidential secretary. Had I known In whose hands it lay, I should have rested easy." " It is at your service. Now !" "Now?" " Tell me; Vyvian Fane was reported assassinated on the Polish frontier." "True; but it was his valet who was murdered and mutilated beyond recognition. His connection with the Third Section gave him means of learning the conspiracy against him. He boarded an English cruiser which lay off the Eortress of Schlusselburg. Arrived in England, tho unexpected reversion of the title and estate of Arlingford served more completely to conceal him ; the name of Vyvian Fane was dropped. I alone of the Department have kept track of his lonWiip, and I have surrounded him with such a net • work that when the time comes to strike, he cannot escape me !" " Cannot escape you ?" " Yes, me. Over the senseless form of your brother's wife I swore to avenge my friend Ladialas Gdlitzin. It was / who_ apprised you of her condition that fatal night. Since then I have made Arlingford my tool in many a plot, only the more surely to shatter him when I turn down my thumbs and cry, like the Romans in the arena, 'HabetP" 11 When shall you strike ?" " As soon as the war is over and Captain Goddard can return with us to London. I have sent Mrs Dashton to take him thither snpp'ied with the necessary funds to bring hj m within ourgrasp. Isummoned her here to obtain information of Captain Goddard's

death. I confess to you that I would have given ten years of my life to get it; for then I dreamed that perhap3 you—well, we;l, that is over now. I will show you that I am grateful to 'Bella-Demonia.' I will show you that though I cannot be your lover I can still be your friend and ally, and my power is as much yours as it would he were you mine. No, not a word ! I do not wear my heart upon my sleeve, but, princes?, I love you more than I shall ever tell you. Now ! it is over. There! we will change the subject." The princess had risen as he spoke. When b.3 became silent she moved to his side, and, sinking on her knee beside him, she took his hand in hers. A strong shudder passed across his frame, as the woman bent and pressed her lips to his hand, and a hot tear fell upon it. Then, as she raised her head and looked at him, he bent his reverently, and for the first and last time kissed tho marble-cold brow that was upturned to him. ( To be continued,)

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https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890831.2.33.11

Bibliographic details

BELLA-DEMONIA., Evening Star, Issue 8000, 31 August 1889, Supplement

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2,912

BELLA-DEMONIA. Evening Star, Issue 8000, 31 August 1889, Supplement

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