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STRICKEN.

My parents were not the only per- it. The superiority of my personal sons who wondered why I married appearance was a theme of conRichard Webber:itafterwards trans- versation, and, naturally enough, a pired that his relatives were sur source of pride to my parents. I prised at my courage. They could say this to my sorrow. Had I been tell me all then: they could say that a plain gaunt creature I might have he had ever leaned towards a dis- married an honest, loving, hardsolute life; that his associates were working fellow, instead of a scamp. of ill repute; and that industry and A true saying is that which avers perseverance found no place in the matrimony to be a great lottery. articles of his creed. This, and a I found it so ; for embarking youth, great deal more, they were able to beauty, and future happiness in the acquaint me with after I had found speculation, I drew a blank. out for myself the character and Although he had been staying in habits of the man I had wedded. that little out-of-the-way Hampshire

Nearly fifteen years have passed village but a few weeks, and none since the day he led me to the altar, knew whence he came or what but I can remember as though might be his business there, he had 'twere but yesterday the evening I insinuated himself into my affecconsented to be his bride. It was tions, and was running a neck-andat the close of an agricultural festi neck race with his rivals for my val : there had been an exhibition hand ere I became conscious of the of stock and farmers' produce, and fact. He told me his name was after the prizes had been distributed Richard Webber; that he was of there were athletic competitions. good family; and that he lived upon

From mere joke I promised the an income not derived by hard band of village lads who then sought work. These things were undoubtmy smiles that he who won the ma- edly true, but all else he said was jority of the foot-races and jumping- false, and therefore need not be matches should be my choice. I set down here, since 'tis with facts was a giddy girl, just at the end of - alone I have to deal. I dare say my teens, and far more vain and it was the result of my training and affected than even most young per- of the flatteries he had persistently sons at that age. I was proud of poured into my ear, that I was deaf the curls that clustered round my to the warnings of friends, and head, and I knew the havoc my was content to receive his proteseyes made among the lads gathered tations without making an effort to around me.

ascertain any particulars of his past Though you may not think so, life. Looking back through so many judging from my present appear- dreary years, I fancy that then, had ance, I was a beauty then, and the I had the wish, I should have lacked envy of all the girls in the village. the determination to ask him more My eyes were bright, not lustreless of his connections and former hisas now; and my hair was a glossy tory than he was willing to tell me; brown, not an iron gray as you see from the first he exercised a strange VOL. XI.

3.4.

fascination over me. With his well- him.' My wilfulness led to a quarmade clothes, his white delicate rel with my parents, and without a hands, from both of which sparkled word of farewell to friend or assoa diamond, his insinuating manners, ciate, we quitted the village for and commanding handsome face, London directly the ceremony was he was a suitor possessing qualities at an end. that far outshone those of my other For the first two months of our lovers.

wedded life no husband could be But what woman can tell the ex- more attentive than was mine: I act reason why she loves a man? did not expect that the gushing I never yet met with one of my fervour of the honeymoon was alown sex who could honestly say ways to exist. I was not so blind that such an action, such an expres to the world around me as that; sion of the face, or such a sentence but I certainly did not anticipate won her heart. The sources of true that there would be such a rapid love lie too deep in a woman's cooling of my husband's affection breast to be easily discovered. I as there appeared to be when we am certain that fifteen years ago I had been married a quarter of a loved Richard Webber with all the year. But although I fancied he sincerity I was capable of; I am was not in manner towards me as certain that if he were here now, he once had been, there was no despite what has passed, I should diminution of love on my side. I love him still, but for the life of knew I was sometimes vexed with me I cannot say why.

him because his evenings were This much I know, that when nearly always spent from home; the challenge I had given to my and few will admit but there was suitors was taken up, and I saw some cause for complaint when it Richard, now running swiftly as a is stated that I had no friend in hare, then clearing fences and hur- London besides him; and that in dles as though he had been doing the small house we occupied at the nothing else from his youth, then East-end of the metropolis the work eclipsing all his competitors in the to be done was comparatively lithigh and long jump, and finally tle. We kept no servant, because winning four out of the six prizes Richard said he didn't want anyoffered, I was as proud of him as if body "prying into his affairs; so it he had been some favoured knight may be imagined my solitude durof the mediæval age battling suc- ing those long winter evenings was cessfully for his ladye love in the not calculated to improve the spigay tournament. When he after- rits of such a petted creature as I wards came to remind me of my had ever been. We had no visitors, promise, and stated that naught but and Richard told me all his relathe hope of winning me would have tions were in the colonies. By and induced him to enter the lists, the by I found my husband had a citadel of my heart was conquered. partiality for strong drinks, and Despite the protests of my friends, soon I thought I detected a suband that I knew scarcely anything dued oath escape his lips when I about the man, I became his wife. ventured to utter a protest against I know my conduct was rash-I his late hours. But what troubled was aware of it then; but I loved me more than aught else was that him, and this was sufficient excuse. I could not succeed in obtaining It overcame every objection, it any knowledge of where he went, destroyed every obstacle ; all was or in what manner his income was summed up in the words, 'I love obtained.

Though we were not extravagant the advent of one whom I hoped. we lived well, and my husband would prove a fresh bond of love never appeared short of money. If 'twixt my husband and myself. I my vexation at his constant ab- was trusting that possibly the event sences from home was more pro- might make Richard communinounced than usual, he would cative, and induce him to spend conciliate me with some tempting more time with me at home, when article of attire. For a time this an accident occurred which made answered very well, but I soon got me realise to the full the rash step tired of such childish treatment, and I had taken in wedding a man of resolved if he would not satisfy me whose antecedents I knew nothing. that I would obtain for myself the The fresh air of spring was bedesired information. Though my ing tempered by the more fervent husband's conduct was so mysteri- breezes of summer, and the echo of ous I never entertained any doubt the merry voices of children from of his honesty: I loved him too the square fronting our dwelling much for that, and felt he exer- was borne through the open wincised the same fascination over me dows of the little parlour in which as in the days of our courtship. I Richard and I were at tea. He was simply devoured with curiosity: had been at home all the day, and nothing more.

saving the few hours spent in his In one corner of our little back own room—we called it his, for no parlour was an old-fashioned bu one else ever went there--my husreau, stoutly made, and protected band had sat by my side reading by a lock that defied all tampering one of the latest works of fiction. I knew this by my fruitless trials I was intensely happy, for I thereat. This room was never used thought that perhaps the unusual by me, as it looked upon the blank circumstance of his staying with wall of a neighbouring house: I me was the inauguration of a new preferred to sit in the front room, and brighter era of our wedded before which there was a little plat life. It was not until the sober of grass that reminded me of the hues of night had gathered, and green fields I had left; and it was the voices of the youngsters in the some relief in my solitary hours to square had become hushed, that he watch the passers-by, and the frolics spoke of going out. I had been of the children in the square be- congratulating myself that for once yond. However, the back room we should spend the evening toseemed to be the favourite of my gether; and when he rose for his husband; and after breakfast, prior hat I certainly experienced considto going out for the day, he would erable disappointment: my annoyfrequently sit a couple of hours ance being all the greater from the before his bureau, apparently ab- remembrance of the pleasant mansorbed with written memoranda. ner in which the earlier portion of He would never take me into his the day had been passed. counsels : if I approached the bu- ‘Richard," I said, “you cannot reau when he was there, he sternly intend to leave me at this hour. bade me leave him. I used all the The day has been so happy, that I little arts that had previously been had hoped you would have stayed so effective with the lads of my vil at home all the evening.' lage honie, but they were lost upon He gazed at me with a curious Richard Webber.

earnest look upon his face, but did We had been married nearly a not answer, until I had added, “It year, and I was eagerly anticipating is cruel to go out now.'

"Don't be a fool,' he replied me to follow and ascertain what pettishly; 'I have business out of business or appointment he had to doors : an appointment, and I must fulfil. The thought no sooner took keep it.'

possession of my mind than I was 'Richard, what can be the nature out of the parlour, and about to of your appointment at this time ascend the stairs for my bonnet and of the night? You have a secret shawl. hidden from me, and from your Something, I know not what now, manner I dread the worst. Is mis- but I fancy it was the sudden blaze fortune about to fall upon us? If of light from the lamp of some vehiso, I can bear it: and mayhap cle driven rapidly down the street, shall be able to help you in your which flashing through the fan-light adversity to a degree you cannot of the street - door shed a bright now realise. Anything is better glare along the passage, made me than this suspense. In Heaven's pause, and caused me to turn. Whilst name let me know the reason why in the act, I saw that the key of the you absent yourself from me so door of the back-parlour-his little frequently, and at such strange room-was in the lock. Richard hours.' I don't know whether these seemed to have grown more suswere the exact words I used, but if picious of late—perhaps in consenot, they were somewhat similar. I quence of my repeated desire to spoke from my heart, and pleaded know how he spent the time when with all the fervour and strength of he was not with me—and had got woman's love. For a moment he into the habit of securing this door seemed touched, then brushing my whenever he went out. In less hand from his sleeve he strode to time than it takes me to write the wards the door, and muttered, fact, I had lighted a candle and was 'Lucy, let's have no more of this. in the forbidden room, gazing anxWhat is good for you to know, I iously at the contents of the mys. tell you. Don't be inquisitive, or terious bureau. you'll regret it. Good-bye. Don't It contained neither gold, silver, sit up for me, as I'm sure to be nor jewels: it was not the receptacle very late.'

of any treasure whatever. I turned As he uttered the final words he out every pigeon-hole, and did not reached the street-door : before I even find a love-letter. But what had time to reply, he had closed it I did find was as follows: a few after him. Hastening to the win- racing calendars, one or two tables dow, I saw him walking briskly up of weights for horse-races, a few the street, and watched him until betting-books stuffed with memorhe was hidden in the gloom of night; anda, two or three loaded dice, but whilst I gazed at his retreating and more than a dozen packs of form he never turned his head to playing-cards of apparently foreign look back upon the home he had make. quitted, and upon which I had lav- What did these articles mean? ished all the care and pride of wife- I leapt to the conclusion that my hood.

husband was a gambler. This was I can recall even now the sense of what took him from me at night, desolation and the mortified pride and the reason he always had so I then experienced. Not content much money was that card-playing with repulsing the affection I prof- with him was a profession. We fered so lavishly, he treated me as were maintained by trickery and though I had no claim upon his con- fraud. fidence. A spirit of pique prompted It is impossible for me to say how

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