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me to do so to protect myself from you. If you fail to
abide by the conditions I shall prescribe, then you will
compel me to resort to any means that may shelter me
from your demands. But I do not think you will
endeavour to force on me conjugal rights which you
obtained over me by a fraud."

All that she desired was to end quickly the torture of
this interview, from which her courage had not per-
mitted her to shrink. She had to defend herself because
she would not be defended by others, and she only
sought to strike swiftly and unerringly so as to spare
herself and him all needless or lingering throes. Her
speech was brief, for it seemed to her that no human
language held expression deep and vast enough to
measure the wrong done to her, could she seek to give
it utterance.

She would not have made a sound had any murderer
stabbed her body ; she would not now show the death-
wound of her soul and honour to this man who had
stabbed both to the quick. Other women would have
made their moan aloud, and cursed him. The daughter
of the Szalras choked down her heart in silence, and
spoke as a judge speaks to one condemned by man
and God.



WANDA. 469

" I wish no words between us," she said, with renewed
calmness. " You know your sin ; all your life has been
a lie. I will keep me and mine back from vengeance ;
but do not mistake God may pardon you, I never !
What I desired to say to you is that henceforth you shall
wholly abandon the name you stole ; you shall assign the
land of Romaris to the people ; you shall be known only
as you have been known here of late, as the Count von
Idrac. The title was mine to give, I gave it you ; no
wrong is done save to my fathers, who were brave men."

He remained silent ; all excuse he might have offered
seemed as if from him to her it would be but added out-
rage. He was her betrayer, and she had the power to
avenge betrayal ; naught that she could say or do could
seem unjust or undeserved beside the enormity of her
irreparable wrongs.

" The children ? " he muttered faintly, in an unuttered
supplication.

" They are mine," she said, always with the same un-
changing calm that was cold as the frozen earth without.
"You will not, I believe, seek to enforce your title to
dispute them with me?"

He gave a gesture of denial

He, the wrong-doer, could not realise the gulf which his
betrayal had opened betwixt himself and her. On him
all the ties of their past passion were sweet, precious,
unchanged in their dominion. He could not realise that
to her all these memories were abhorred, poisoned,
stamped with ineffable shame ; he could not believe that
she, who had loved the dust that his feet had brushed,
could now regard him as one leprous and accursed. He
was slow to understand that his sin had driven him out
of her life for evermore.

Commonly it is the woman on whom the remembrance
of love has an enthralling power when love itself is traitor ;
commonly it is the man on whom the past has little



470 WISDOM, WIT, AND PATHOS OF QUID A.

influence, and to whom its appeal is vainly made ; but
here the position was reversed. He would have pleaded
by it ; she refused to acknowledge it, and remained as
adamant before it. His nerve was too broken, his con-
science was too heavily weighted, for him to attempt to
rebel against her decisions or sway her judgment. If she
had bidden him go out and slay himself he would gladly
have obeyed.

" Once you said," he murmured timidly, " that repent-
ance washes out all crimes. Will you count my remorse
as nothing?"

" You would have known no remorse had your secret
never been discovered ! "

He shrank as from a blow.

" That is not true," he said wearily. " But how can I
hope you will believe me ?"

She answered nothing.

" Once you told me that there was no sin you would
not pardon me ! " he muttered.

She replied :

" We pardon sin ; we do not pardon baseness."

She paused and put her hand to her heart ; then she
spoke again in that cold, forced, measured voice, which
seemed on his ear as hard and pitiless as the strokes of
an iron hammer, beating life out beneath it.

" You will leave Hohenszalras ; you will go where
you will ; you have the revenues of Idrac. Any other
financial arrangements that you may wish to make I
will direct my lawyers to carry out. If the revenues of
Idrac be insufficient to maintain you "

"Do not insult me so," he murmured, with a suffo-
cated sound in his voice, as though some hand were
clutching at his throat.

"Insult j/0/" she echoed with a terrible scorn.

She resumed with the same inflexible calmness.

"You must live as becomes the rank due to my hus-



WANDA. 471

band. The world need suspect nothing. There is no
obligation to make it your confidante. If any one were
wronged by the usurpation of the name you took it would
be otherwise, but as it is you will lose nothing in the
eyes of men ; Society will not flatter you the less. The
world will only believe that we are tired of one another,
like so many. The blame will be placed on me. You
are a brilliant comedian, and can please and humour it.
I am known to be a cold, grave, eccentric woman, a
recluse, of whom it will deem it natural that you are
weary. Since you allow that I have the right to separate
from you to deal with you as with a criminal you will
not seek to recall your existence to me. You will meet
my abstinence by the only amends you can make to me.
Let me forget as far as I am able let me forget that
ever you have lived ! "

He staggered slightly, as if under some sword-stroke
from an unseen hand. A great faintness came upon him.
He had been prepared for rage, for reproach, for bitter
tears, for passionate vengeance ; but this chill, passion-
less, disdainful severance from him for all eternity he had
never dreamed of ; it crept like the cold of frost into his
very marrow ; he was speechless and mute with shame.
If she had dragged him through all the tribunals of the
world she would have hurt him and humiliated him far
less. Better all the hooting gibes of the whole earth
than this one voice, so cold, so inflexible, so full of utter
scorn !

Despite her bodily weakness she rose to her full height,
and for the first time looked at him.

"You have heard me," she said ; "now go !"

But instead, blindly, not knowing what he did, he fell
at her feet.

" But you loved me," he cried, " you loved me so
well ! "

The tears were coursing down his cheeks.



472 WISDOM, WIT, AND PATHOS OF QUID A.

She drew the sables of her robe from his touch.

'' Do not recall that" she said, with a bitter smile.
" Women of my race have killed men before now for
less outrage than yours has been to me."

" Kill me ! " he cried to her. " I will kiss your hand."

She was mute.

He clung to her gown with an almost convulsive
supplication.

" Believe, at least, that 7 loved you /" he cried, beside
himself in his misery and impotence. "Believe that, at
the least ! "

She turned from him.

" Sir, I have been your dupe for ten long years ; I can
be so no more ! "

Under that intolerable insult he rose slowly, and his
eyes grew blind, and his limbs trembled, but he walked
from her, and sought not again either her pity or her
pardon.

On the threshold he looked back once. She stood
erect, one hand resting upon the carved work of her high
oak chair ; cold, stately, motionless, the furred velvets
falling to her feet like a queen's robes.

He looked, then passed the threshold and closed the
door behind him.



THE END.



PKINT3D BY BALLANTYNE, HANSON AND CO.
EDINBURGH AND LONDON



MARIE ANTOINETTES LAST GRACE.



.



WHAT IS MORE TERRIBLE THAN REVOLUTION?

"As clouds of adversity gathered around, Marie Antoinette displayed a Patience and
CoUrage in Unparalleled Sufferings such as few Saints and Martyrs have equalled. . . .
The Pure Ore of her nature was but hidden under the cross of worldliness, and the
scorching fire of suffering revealed one of the tenderest hearts, and one of the Bravest
Natures that history records.

(Which will haunt all who have studied that tremendous drama,
"THE FRENCH REVOLUTION.")

" When one reflects that a century which considered itself enlightened, of the most
refined civilization, ends with public acts of such barbarity, one begins to doubt of
Human Nature itself, and fear that the brute which is always in Human nature, has the

IN THIS LIFE'S FITFUL DREAM

THE DRYING UP OF A SINGLE TEAR HAS MORE HONEST FAME THAN SHEDDING SEAS OF GORE ! !
What Is Ten Thousand Times more Horrible than Revolution OF War?

OUTRAGED NATURE!



" O World ! O men ! what are we, and our best designs, that we must work by
crime to punish crime, and slay, as if death had but this one gate ? " BYRON.

" What is Ten Thousand Times more Terrible than Revolution or War ? Outraged
Nature! She kills and kills, and is never tired of killing, till she has taught man the
terrible lesson he is so slow to learn that Nature is only conquered by obeying her. . .
Man has his courtesies in Revolution and War; he spares the woman and child. But
Nature is fierce when she is offended ; she spares neither woman nor child. She has no
pity, for some awful but most good reason. She is not allowed to have any pity.
Si'ently she strikes the sleeping child with as little remorse as she would strike the
strong man with musket or the pickaxe in his hand. Oh ! would to God that some man
had the pictorial eloquence to put before the mothers of England the mass of preventable
suffering, the mass of preventable agony of mind which exists in England year after
year." KINGSLEY.

JEOPARDY OF LIFE, THE GREAT DANGER OF DELAY.

You can change the trickling stream, but not the Raging Torrent.
How important it is to have at hand some simple, effective, and palatable remedy,
such as END'S " FRUIT SALT," to check disease at the onset! ! ! For this is the
*ime. With very little trouble you can change the course of the trickling mountain
stream, but not the rolling river. It will defy all your efforts. I cannot sufficiently
impress this important information upon all householders, ship captains, or Europeans
generally, who are visiting or residing in hot or foreign climates. Whenever a change is
contemplated likely to disturb the condition of health, let END'S "FRUIT SALT"
be your companion, for under any circumstances its use is beneficial, and never can do
harm. When you feel out of sorts, restless, sleepless, yet unable to say why, frequently
without warning you are seized with lassitude, disinclination for bodily or mental
exertion, loss of appetite, sickness,, pain in the forehead, dull aching of back and limbs,
coldness of the surface, and often shivering, &c., then your whole body is out of order,
the spirit of danger has been kindled, but you do not know where it may end ; it is a
real necessity to have a simple remedy at hand. The common idea is : "I will wait and
see, perhaps I shall be better to-morrow," whereas had a supply of END'S " FRUIT
SALT " been at hand, and use made of it at the onset, all calamitous results might have
been avoided.

"I used my 'FRUIT SALT' in my last severe attack of fever, and I have
every reason to say I believe it saved my life." J. C. ENO.

The effect of END'S " FRUIT SALT" on a disordered or FEVERISH condition
of the system is MARVELLOUS.

Small Pox, Scarlet Fever, Pyaemia, Erysipelas. Measles. Gangrene,
and almost every mentionable disease. "I nave been a nurse for upwards of
ten years, and in that time have nursed cases of scarlet fever, pyaemia, erysipelas,
measles, gangrene, cancer, and almost every mentionable disease. During the whole
time I have not been ill myself for a single day, and this I attribute in a great measure to
the use of ENO'S 'FRUIT SALT,' which has kept my blood in a pure state. I
recommend it to all my patients during convalescence. Its vatue as a means of health
cannot be over-estimated. April 21, 1894." A PROFESSIONAL NURSE.

CAUTION. See the CAPSULE is marked " END'S FRUIT SALT." Without it you
have been imposed on by a worthless imitation. Prepared only at

ENO'S "FRUIT SALT" WORKS, LONDON, S.E., by J. C. ENO'S Patent.



[March 1898,




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Online Library1839-1908 OuidaWisdom, wit, and pathos : selected from the works of Ouida → online text (page 33 of 39)