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BELLA-DEMONIA.

[By Ssmka Dolako.] BOOK IY. CHAPTER 11. TUI-; VENfiEANCE OK THREE V. OMEN. As she stood looking at it, the servant ■entered, bearing a card on a salver. She took it up with an air of lazy indifference which •quickly changed to one of strong emotion. “ Lady Arlingford ! ” she exclaimed ; then turning Jto the servant, she added : “You ■did not say that I was in ? ” “No, ma’am,” answered the domestic. “ I said that I would see.”

“Say, not at home.” Then, as the servant was leaving the room, she added ; “ Stay ! ”

She stood, twirling the bit of pasteboard in her fingers. “ What can she want of me—that woman —here in my house ? ” Then, apparently making up her mind, she hastily concealed the playing-card in the bosom of her dress, and said “Show her in.”

Lady Arlingford entered the room, and the two women bowed without speaking. “ You are surprised to see me,” said Lady Arlingford, recovering herself the first. “ I •owe you, perhaps, an apology fer intruding upon you, but I felt that I must come. I—l have a favor to ask.” The concluding words were spoken with an obvious effort, and Mrs Dashton, with an inclination of her head, signified that she was listening. “ You have heard that there is to be a meeting to-night for the exoneration of Captain Goddard ? ” said her ladyship. “ Yes.” “ You will be there ? ” “ Yes.” “I—l—you have heard that I desire to re-marry Lord Arlingford ? ” “ I have heard it.” “Mrs Dashton, it is better to speak plainly. I know that Lord Arlingford’s position in the matter will depend greatly on what you will say, I know what your feelings under tho circumstances must be. I hope—l believe—that he will make every possible reparation. I have come to beg that yon will hold your hand so far as you can.”

“ What do you wish me to do ? ” “ Am I right in supposing that your evidence can ruin his lordship ?—I mean in the matter of the card ? ”

For all answer Mrs Bradley Dashton slowly drew the king of clubs from its resting place and laid it on the tabic. As Lady Arlingford’s eyes fell upon it she exclaimed:

“Itis as I feared. I have come to beg that you will not confront him with that card. It will be my care that Captain Goddard shall produce the card which he actually held—the ono on which I wrote. Will you not be merciful?—will you not shield my husband so far as not to add this horrible evidence to mine ? ”

“ Lady Arlingford,,” returned Mrs Dashton, “ yon have been frank with me ; I will be equally so with you. An hour ago I would have guarded this card with my life ; but within this hour things have altered.” “ But suroiy ” “ No ! let me think.” Her reflections were interrupted by the reentrance of the servant.

“ The Baroness Altdorff is below,” said he to his mistresss in a low tone. “ Ask her to come here,” said Mrs Dashton ; then, turning to the suppliant woman before her, she said :

“A lady is below, who calls by appointment, On what she will say my decision must in a great measure depend. If you will step into this next room, I will tell you what that decision is when she lias left me.”

“ You say that she can influence you; will you not let me try to influence her? A woman should be merciful to one of her sex.”

“Perhaps. At present I cannot tell. Step in here, however, and in ton miir ri S you shall know.” There was no time for .parley, and the Countess of Arlingford stepped into the adjoining boudoir. Mrs Bradley Dashton stood looking at the card that lay upon the table.

“Ah,” said she, as if apostrophising the pasteboard, “ I wonder into whose hands you will eventually fall ? Those two men and that woman who have just left this room would give a good deal for you, and BellaDemonia wants you more than either of them. Ah, Baroness, ’you want my assistance in unmasking Lord Arlingford ! You little know how much I can serve you, and how willingly I will do so.”

The next moment Bella-Demonia was announced.

“ You are punctual, baroness,” said Mrs Dashton, coming forward. “ That is good, for it seems we have much to do. You will believe, I am sure, that I appreciate the confidence you have reposed in me, and I will justify it.” “You have already justified it by guarding the secret of Captain Goddard’s identity with the Turkish general who reached the Villa Kristov Hisar just before you left us.”

“But I never knew it until after Lord Arlingford had left me in Paris and returned to London.”

“ It was ’as well, we thought, that you should get some suspicion of what kind of man this Arlingford really is, before you knew so important a secret. You know, we women, when we love " “ Yes, yes ; I know all that you would say. Your letter of yesterday tells me I can help you further.” “Yes ; and I trust we may count upon yon '. ” “ I know what you want, and—yes, you may count upon me, I will meet you tonight at Mr Briggs’s in Hereford street at nine o’clock, and, believe me, Goddard will have no more valuable ally there than Emily Dashton”

“I supposed,” saidßella-Demonia, “ that I should have had a hard fight to gain yoar aid. I will not ask why you are so unexpectedly won over, but I want you to know that my gratitude shall bo no empty form of words. I will endeavor to prove to you how I value your sacrifice. May I speak frankly ? ”

Mrs Dashton had seated herself in the low arm-chair and bowed her head silently. The other woman continued:

“ Captain Goddard’s vindication must be in a great measure due to you and what you will say. I know that the words which will give joy to ua’will bring grief and pain to you. Mrs Dashton, I can’t be a humbug, and it is not for me to preach to you. The part which you have played in the drama which is to end to-night will cost you many a pang. You are a woman, alone in your struggle with life. I should like you to feel that you can always count on one woman who will sympathise with, will assist, and, if necessary, protect you, and that that woman is she whom you have known as BellaDemonia.”

Mrs Dashton had not raised her eyes. “ Don’t give me too much credit for speaking the truth to-night.” “ I can see that you are much upset. Let me beg you to take a little rest now. I will send my carriage for you at nine o’clock.” “ Thank yon. I will be ready.” “Isuppose I am right in thinking that you still possess the card that Lord Arlingford gave you to conceal—to destroy ? ” Mrs Dashton pointed to the table. “ There it is ! ” she said. “Ah’ you will give it to me?” said Bella-Demonia, eagerly. Mrs Dashton smiled.

“In that room a woman awaits your departure to renew a request she has made to me. She also desires this card, that she may destroy it." “A woman ?—Who? ”

“The Countess of Arlingford,” “No? lam most anxious to meet Lady Arlingford in thia way informally,” said she eagerly. “ You would oblige me very much by asking her to come in here, and by presenting us to each other.” “I should like to do as you wish, but 1 am afraid to trust myself in such a meeting.” “If you will do as I ask and make some excuse to leave us together for a short time, I promise you that you shall be spared the embarrassment of ever meeting her again.” “ You are mysterious as usual, baroness. I know if you promise that you can perform, and I will do as you wish. Is there anything in particular that you wish me to say ?” “ No; only, as soon as you can, make some excuse and leave us.”

“ Certainly. And by what name do you wish me to present you ? ” “By my own.” “ The Baroness Altdorff?” “ No ; tlio Princess Galitzin.” “ What ! ” “ That is my real name, which you and Prince Schouloff alone have hoard.”

There was no time to express her surprise, as Mrs Dashton opened the* door of the boudoir and the Conctcss of Arlingford entered the room, “Lady Arlingford,” said Mrs Dashton, “let me present you to a friend. The Princess Galitzin—Lady Arlingford.” The two women bowed to each other.

“ 1 must ha going immediately,” said Bella-Demonia. “ I think my carriage must be back.”

“If you will excuse me, I will go and see,” said Mrs Dashtou.” “I have some orders to give.” And she kit them together. “I think, Lady Arlingford,” began the Princess Galitzin, “ that we have a mutual friend in Gaptain Goddard. I may tell you that I shall be present at the meeting which is to take place to-night. It will be painful to you, but at least it will have the advantage of proving the innocence of our friend,” “ You know him ? Oh, lam so glad ! ” replied Lady Arlingford. “ I think he is the embodiment of all that is honest and true in man. I had, alas ! the misfortune of doing him the greatest wrong that was ever done ”

“ I am sure you exaggerate your shave,” put in the princess, gently. “ Of course I was innocent of the intention, but the result is the same. It seems so hard that after bearing my burden for so long I should have broken down at that moment, as you know. Just as I was about to tell how I had given him the card, I became insensible. I shall never forget the horror of that moment. I could have exonerated Aubyn with a word, and that word I could not speak. I tried—l fought, it seemed to me for hours till the blank of insensibility came over me. Oh, it was cruel ! ”

“ Are you not afraid of overtaxing your strength, Lady Arlingford ? Would it not be wiser to avoid such an explanation as must take place to-night ? Your friends might represent you, and save you much pain.” “ No, I must be present, for a reason so strong that nothing can overcome it It is not alone to vindicate my old friend that I go. Igo to intercede for one who will find no defenders —one who is so alone that his need has won my sympathy—my husband!” “ You can plead for him ? But he is no longer your husband ; you are divorced.” “ Hu is my child’s father ; what divorce of law can alter that ? You will think that I am very weak, but I have my own opinions. There is nothing of the Bohemian in my disposition,” “ Bohemian ! May I ask what you call ‘ Bohemian ? ’ You do not answer. Let me define it for you. It is something distinct from ‘alady.’ A lady is one who is well born, tenderly nurtured, carefully educated; always placed—that is, presumably placed—beyond the knowledge of evil, she is sheltered from contact with the sufferings and sorrows of her less fortunate sisters. The woman who enjoys these advantages is called a lady—a title which signifies not the individual, but the manner of her training, A Bohemian, as you intend it, means one who is outside the pale of respectability, an object of suspicion, ono whom yon only consent to meet when she can be of service to you. Yeti have known many ‘ladies,’ the names of whose lovers are better known than the inner life of the reigning Bohemian. You would be surprised to know that Bohemians look down cm certain sections of ‘ society ’ in amazement and pity.” “You have evidently made your experiences in unfortunate examples,” replied Lady Arlingford. “Do you not believe that there are ladies who are good women ?”

“God forbid that I should nob! There is a sweet old-world title that brings to my mind all that is noble and good in womanhood—a title that lives in my heart, shrouded in reverence—a title that fits the beings who have rendered the name of mother sacred. That title is ‘ gentlewoman.’ That title I believe in, and it is found in Bohemia as ".'ell as in society.” “These are strange expressions for the Princess Galitzin, who can know but little of these people except by force of imagination.” “ You are mistaken. My flag bears the

red and white of Bohemia, and has seen good service, believe me. Perhaps you will understand mo better if I tell you that / umcallul Bdla-Jhmonm.''

“ Bella-Demonia ! ” Lady Arlingford had risen to her feet.

“ You appear shocked,” said the Princess Galitzin.

“I am a littled startled, 1 confess. I was uot prepared to meet so—so—public—a character.”

“ And you would not have cared to meet me, if you had kuown who I was. Would you ? ” “I will admit—as Ido not share your opinions—that I should have refused to meet the bearer of the name ‘ Bella Demonia ’; a meeting would not be pleasant for cither of us. Still, I feel bound to say that you are quite different from what I should have expected.” “Thank you for your generous admission ; you are good enough to imply that there is nothing in my appearance or manner to deprive me of the inestimable boou of at least looking presentable. You are a good woman and capable of noble impulses, but charity for your fellow-women seems to be no part of your creed. Is it ignorance or intolerance that makes you condemn without even one expression of regret a woman of whom you know nothing ?” “Nothing? I have heard ” “ Heard ? I said know,”

“ Pardon me for reminding you that you have only yourself to blame for the impression formed of you. If a woman has no husband, and yet ” “If respectability is based upon the possession of a husband, then I am worthy of your highest esteem. Lady Arlingford, I am about to tell you a story which may—l hope will—interest you.” Her ladyship bent her head, and the princess continued:

“ My mother died when I was very young. I lived with my father at our chateau in the province of Ladoga, alone save for the companionship of a young girl, Ihe daughter of a serf mother. She was my companion and friend rather than my attendant, and we were romantic and impressionable, both of us. One day we had wandered far from the chateau, among the woods. We were about to return homo, when a crashing in the bushes announced the presence of some largo animal. An instant later one of our mountain Tbears bounded into the clearing. We clung to each other almost senseless with terror, when suddenly we heard the report of a rifle close to us, and the beast fell dead, A moment after a man sprang through the bushes, congratulating us on our escape, and apologising for his sudden apparition and the alarm he had caused us. He escorted us home, and was welcomed by rny father, the more warmly when it transpired that lie was of good family. He was an Englishman, on a hunting tour, he said. He was staying close by, and became a constant visitor at the house. The sequel is— banale. I fancied myself in love. My brother, to whom the stranger was personally antipathetic, had contracted a secret marriage with my late companion, and they had gone to Petersburg, where my brother was commissioned in our Regiment of the Transfiguration.t f Left alone, wo were not long in following my brother’s example; we were married secretly, on account of my father, whose pride of race was worthy of a Galitzin, and in the winter the family moved to Petersburg. There my brother’s suspicions were aroused, and, determined to drive this Englishman from Petersburg, he sought an opportunity of quarrelling with him. One night there was a terrible scandal at the Club. My brother accused my husband of cheating, and a meeting was arranged. Late that night he caused my brother’s arrest. Ob, in iny unhappy country it is not difficult to rob a man of liberty and even life on the merest suspicion ! I will spare you my tears and distractions, and give you the facts briefly. I learnt that my brother had been denounced by my husband. He was doomed. I never saw him again ; he died. When it is inconvenient to substantiate a charge against a political prisoner in Russia, lie bus a convenient way of dying. From that moment I had but one thought, but one paasion—revenge! My husband was expelled

the country, and on the frontier his carriage was wrecked by bandits, and himself—as I thought—assassinated. I sought oblivion of my wrougsand plunged into thesea of politics. I became Prince SchoulotFs most able lieutenant. In a word, I became ‘BcllaDemonia.’ My desperation made mo famous ; but, though employed by the government, my sympathies were always with the oppressed, and many a life have I saved when it has been to all intents and purposes doomed. But why continue ? Even such feverish excitement as mine becomes wearisome, and just when I was most weary I met Captain Goddard. For the first time I felt glad that I had been spared the commission of a crime, that my hands were innocent of my husband’s blood.” As she finished speaking, Lady Arliugford rose.

“ You have forced me to listen to a discourse,” said she coldly, “that cannot possibly concern me, and can only be painful to yourself.” “You will change your opinion,” answered the Princess Galitzin. “I told you this story to illustrate the point of our discussion. I tell you it is well for you that all people do not gauge a woman’s virtue by the possession of a husband ; for you have never had one, and are unfortunate enough to be the mother of a child not born in wedlock.”

“I! How dare you ?” “ How dare I'l Why, the man who murdered my brother and with him his wife and unborn child, the man whom I hounded hungry for his life, is alive! Because the man you think to be your husband in mine."

“My God !it is not true ! —it cannot be true !”

“I toll you that the man who robbed me of name and dignity, of my very birthright of gentlewoman, who made of me a character for such women as you to sneer at, is alive. He was John Vyvian Fane ; he is Viscount Arlingford.” “ Ah, you arc only saying this because I offended you. I did not mean to be so cruel. See, I kneel to you to ask you for the truth. Will you swear to me that what you have said is true or uutrue !*’ “It is true, so help me God ! And I will prove it.” When Mrs Dashton entered the room, Lady Arlingford lay senseless at the feet of the princess. CHAPTER 111. WEAVINO THE WEB, When, half an hour later, the Princess Galitzin entered her rooms at her hotel, she found Prince Schouloff seated, patiently awaiting her arrival. “I came to tell you,” said he, rising to meet her as she entered, “that there are new complications, of which you are ignorant, and which it would be well for you to know.” “ Well ?”

“ Lord Arlingford’s position with regard to his wife is considerably altered since yesterday.” “ I think not.” Schooled looked at her critically for a moment, and then resumed : “ I learn that her ladyship is willing to forget and forgive everything, and proposes to be remarried to him.”

“ You are wrong in your facts, prince,” answered she, with a hardly perceptible smile. “ Lady Arlingford is not willing to forget or to forgive, and she has no intention of remarrying him, for she has never been divorced.”

For a brief moment it flashed across the prince that the woman’s mind was wandering ; but, if so, her placid smile belied the fact. He contended himself with answering simply—- “ I (Jo not understand you; you speak in riddles,”

“Of which you would like to have the solution.”

“ Where is that solution to be obtained ?” queried the prince, patiently. “ Why, of Lady Arlingford, of course.” “ 1 should like to see her,” said SchoulnfT, reflectively. “Do you think she can receive mo at this time ?”

“ I am sure she will be charmed, prince.” “ And where is she now '.'—can you tell me ?” “ Here.” “Here! Where?'’

“ In thia room—before you.” “ In heaven’s name, what do you mean ?” “ I am she.” The words were said simply as the princess dropped into a chair. For a minute not a word was said. Then the prince sprang to his feetand exclaimed—- “ I see it all ! Von married this man in Russia, did you not?” “ Yes.” “It was thus that he had access to your apartment and stole —my letters? ’ “ Exactly.” “ Docs anyone else know of this ? Of course uot.”

“ Yes. I have seen the woman he pretended to marry this afternoon, and I told her. It was time.” “ How did she take it ?” “As you might suppose.” “ Well, what are you going to do about it ?”

“ It is the last weapon I hold in reserve to compel Arlingford to confess his share in the plot that ruined Goddard. Until that confession is obtained, I hold my rights over his head. Once Goddard is free, the annulment of our marriage is an easy task ; the time that has elapsed, the circumstances—everything will assist; and you would require no assistance.” The prince had been standing staring into the fireplace. Now he turned, and, looking her full in the eyes, ho said, calmly—

“ And then ?” She blushed violently, aud answered not a word.

“Nevermind,” continued the prince. “I have shown you that I have your happiness, rather than mine, at heart; I will prove it yet further to you. We shall meet at Mr Briggs’s at half-past nine. In spite of the snares we have tangled around the feet of Arlingford, he may yet brazen ids way out, at least temporarily. I will come prepared with the last and most coercive resource, which we have in the Russian police.” “ You will dare ?—here in England ?”

“ \on forget that John Vyvian Fane was a duly-enrolled member of the Third Section ?”

“ Forget it!” “Well, though no formal extradition treaty exists, the arm of His Majesty the Tzar is long enough to reach his servants, wherever they may be. Leave it to me.” “ Willingly, Till to-night, then ?” ‘ An revoir.” (To he continued,)

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/ESD18890914.2.31.9

Bibliographic details

BELLA-DEMONIA., Issue 8012, 14 September 1889, Supplement

Word Count
3,774

BELLA-DEMONIA. Issue 8012, 14 September 1889, Supplement

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