« AnteriorContinuar »
dismiss the wicked thoughts that assailed me; but they came back again and again, and with greater force than before.
"I had not a fault to find with my husband-he was kindness itself. Yet I sought to get rid of him by poison. It was long before I could make up my mind to the dreadful act; but I was ever brooding upon it.
"At last I obtained the poison, minute doses of which would kill without exciting suspicion. But not till my husband was attacked by some slight illness did I administer the first dose.
"He grew worse. But it seemed only a natural increase of the malady, and the symptoms excited no suspicion whatever in his medical attendant, the progress of the poison being so slow and insidious. Moreover, I was constantly with my victim, and acted as his nurse."
The good chaplain covered his face with his hands, and a short pause ensued, which was broken by Teresa.
"And now comes the astounding part of my narration," she said. "1 can scarcely credit my own hardness of heart. As I saw this kind and excellent man, who loved me so dearly, gradually wasting away-literally dying by inches-I felt no compunction-none! I counted the days he could live.”
Here there was another pause, and the guilty woman had to summon up resolution before she could proceed.
"To free myself from my marriage fetters was only part of my scheme," she said. "My greedy spirit would not be content without my husband's property, and this I felt certain I could secure. He doted upon me. I had obtained his entire confidence. I knew his inmost thoughts. He had quarrelled with his son. I aggravated the dispute, and took care to prevent a reconciliation, which could have been easily effected had I so desired it.
"My ascendancy over my infirm husband was now so great that he acted upon all my suggestions; and by hints cunningly thrown out, I easily induced him to make a will in my favour, persuading him I would carry out his wishes in regard to his son and daughter."
"Did no suspicion cross him?" inquired the chaplain. "Not till the last night of his life," she replied.
If he suspected me, he never taxed me with my guilt."
But I think it did then.
At this moment a sudden change came over her, and she gazed strangely into the vacancy.
"What troubles you ?" inquired the chaplain.
"I thought I saw my husband standing there!" she replied, with a shudder.
"Tis fancy. Proceed with your confession. You have more to tell?” "I have," she replied, with a fearful look. "The dark tragedy was over. Intoxicated by the power and wealth I had acquired, I contrived to stifle reniorse. I kept Mildred constantly with me. Her presence seemed to shield me, and I sought to make some amends by befriending Chetwynd.
"But vengeance was pursuing me, though with slow feet. My punishment was accomplished in an unforeseen manner. Hitherto my heart had never known love, and I thought myself proof against the tender passion. But it was not so. I met Lord Courland at the house of Lady Thicknesse in London, and he at once won my affections and offered me his hand.
"Loving him, and thinking to bind him to me, I promised him half the large property I fancied at my disposal. All was arranged, and my destined husband had come down here to see his future abode, when almost at the last moment I discovered that if I married again the whole of the property would go to Mildred.
"This discovery roused all the evil passions in my heart, and I determined to remove her in the same manner I had removed her father.
"Provided with the means of executing my fell purpose, I did not delay it. You were present, reverend sir, when I dropped poison, unperceived, into her wine, and you may remember how soon it took effect?'
"I remember she was suddenly seized with illness after drinking a glass of champagne," he replied, with a look of horror; "but I little thought the wine had been drugged-nor did any one."
"She recovered," pursued the guilty woman; "and all might have been well if I could have resisted the dreadful temptation to which I was subjected. But I yielded.
Again I contrived to give her poison, and another seizure followed Doctor Spencer was sent for. The symptoms could not be mistaken; the terrible crime was discovered, and quickly traced to me. The poison being found in my possession, my guilt was established."
"It may comfort you to learn that Mildred will recover, observed Mr. Massey. "The medicines given her by Doctor Spencer have produced a wonderful effect. At first I had little hope. But now I have every confidence that her life will be spared."
"'Tis well,” she replied. "But my doom is sealed. Doctor Spencer took away the phial containing the poison; but I had enough left for myself." "And you have done this desperate deed?" he asked.
"I could not live," she replied. "I should go mad. But that Mildred will live is the greatest possible consolation to me. If I could see her, and obtain her forgiveness, I think I could die in peace. But I have not strength to go to her."
"She is here," said the chaplain.
The dying woman raised her eyes, and beheld Mildred standing before her, wrapped in a loose robe, and supported by Emmeline and Rose Hartley. Behind them was Chetwynd, who closed the door after him as he came in. Mildred's countenance was exceedingly pale; but her eyes were bright, and her looks seemed almost angelic to the despairing Teresa, who crept humbly towards her.
"I do not deserve pardon," said the penitent woman. "Yet for the sake of Him who died for us, and washed out our sins with His blood, I implore you to forgive me!"
"I do forgive you," rejoined Mildred. "I have come hither for that purpose. May Heaven have mercy upon you!"
66 Since your repentance is sincere, daughter," said the chaplain, "may your sins be blotted out, and the guilt of your many offences be remitted." "Amen!" exclaimed Chetwynd.
"Then farewell!" said Teresa, in a faint voice. "Farewell, Emmeline ! farewell, Chetwynd! Think not of me with abhorrence; but, if you can, with pity!"
Without a word more, she sank backwards, and expired.
Chetwynd caught her before she fell, and placed her on a couch.
All those who had witnessed her death had departed, except Mr. Massey, who was still in the room when Lord Courland entered.
On beholding the body, he uttered a frenzied cry, and and rushed towards
"I would have given five years of my own life to exchange a few words with her ere she breathed her last!" he exclaimed, in a voice of bitterest anguish and self-reproach.
"You loved her, then, deeply, my lord ?" said Chetwynd.
"She was the only woman I ever loved,” replied Lord Courland. well, Teresa!"
Bending down and kissing her brow, he quitted the room with Chetwynd.
An amusing bye-play of incidents in the lives of those with whom Chetwynd became acquainted during his days of adversity, and of the upper domestics in the houses of wealthy country people, runs through the story like an under-current, and adds considerably to the dramatic action of the whole, if not actually necessary to the development of a story which may fairly be placed as among the most striking and amusing of any penned by the popular author, when he has condescended to leave the arena of that which is historical incident to illustrate those events which are sometimes attendant upon the domestic career.
LITTLE lips for kissing made,
To my eager questioning:
"Thou shall know our answer soon,
Little lips, that never yet
To your love have traitors been,
May will vanish from the scene;
Little lips, now June is here,
Ye would only sport with me;
W. J. STEWART.
BY J. T. W. BACOT.
Author of "Mary Burroughes," &c.
SOME uneasy feeling made Florence write to Captain Draper after he conversation with Edward Chalmers. Two or three little circumstances recurred to her mind, and she felt there was a mystery somewhere. She was like a child with a dissected map, she could not put the pieces together, and yet there must be a connection if she could only find it out. Why had that young man Gregory been engaged in following Captain Draper? And why had the Doctor at Silverbeach been so curious about her mother? She made up her mind that she owed a letter to her old friend; so she sent him a long description of school life at Eichelskamp, and in the postscript a full account of the conversation she had held with Mr. Chalmers. To her great surprise she got an answer in person.
"So curious, Miss Huntingdon !" said Mrs. Schlagenweit, "Captain Draper, the very gentleman we were talking about the other day, is in the parlour, and wishes to see you. Pray ask him, while he remains at Eichelskamp, to make this house his home, and beg of him to join us at dinner."
Florence hurried off, and shook hands delightedly with her old friend.
"How are you, and how are your papa? and what made you travel down here this cold weather?" she asked, all in one breath. My dear Florence," replied the Captain, "everybody is well, and the reason I am here is that I could not trust the post."
Not trust the post to bring an answer to my stupid letter?" "Not the post nor the postman, my dear Florence. I don't like trusting these four walls even! The fact of the matter is, that this is a terrible business about Mr. Chalmers and his grandfather, and Horace Draper, and all the rest of them.”
"You did not marry Alice Chalmers, did you, Captain Draper? Are you the right Horace Draper after all ?"
"That is the horrible part of the business, Florence,-I am Horace Draper!"'
But then, please, Captain Draper, why did you tell Mr. Fortescue that your name was Huntingdon ?"
"Well, my dear child, taken suddenly aback, as one may say, it was natural to give the name."
"Then you did know Mr. Fortescue formerly?"
dear Florence, I never saw him before in all my life." And here poor Captain Draper became so confused that he could only gaze helplessly at Florence, while Florence sat staring at him wondering if he had gone mad.
"I don't understand it," she said.
"That was my case exactly, Florence, when Dr. Sharperdown at Greylings-called me Horace Draper, just exactly in the same manner!"
"Did you tell him too that your name was Huntingdon ?" asked the astonished girl.
'No, certainly not. Why should I? I only asked him why he called me Horace Draper."
"And did this Doctor know about Alice Chalmers ?"
"Yes, I suppose so, my dear; but he thinks Alice Chalmers. was married, but she was not."
"But if you can prove she died unmarried that is all that is necessary," said Florence."
"She might have been married, for anything I know, my dear; but all I insist upon is that she did not marry Horace Draper. Look here, Florence, if they found out that she did, it would simply be the ruin of your poor-poor old friend!" And Captain Draper took Florence's hand, and looked as if he was going to cry. "But it was a marriage, then ?" persisted Florence.
"No, I think not."
"Did she believe she was married? Did you tell her so?" “I never saw her in all my life, Florence; so how could I tell her anything?"
"I think you ought to take me into your confidence, Captain Draper. I don't understand what you want me to do?"
"That is exactly my case, Florence; but I suppose I ought to tell you more. I have begun and I may as well go on. Listen, Florence. When I was young I had a brother, and he was as like me as one cherry is like another. Well, my dear, his name was, let us say, George."
"Wasn't his name George, then?" asked the puzzled girl.
'Yes, of course. Let me see," mused the Captain; this must be the way of it,-George Draper goes to New Zealand and says he is Horace Draper! How would that do?"
"It was very wrong," said Florence.