Part 3 out of 4
"Was her condition so critical as that?"
"Certainly, or my husband would not have consented to leave me. Mrs. Heath
was suddenly stricken with paralysis."
Again Mrs. Farnum started, and bent a long, searching look upon her
companion--a look that made Virgie feel very uncomfortable and wonder what
"Is--is she still living?" the woman asked, still regarding Virgie
"Yes--at least, she was the last I heard; but her condition was still
considered so critical that she could not bear the least excitement."
"Then it is some time since you have heard from her?" remarked Mrs.
Virgie bridled a trifle at being so closely questioned. She thought her
guest was trespassing beyond the bounds of good breeding. But, after a
moment, feeling as if she must share her burden with some one, she said,
in an unsteady voice:
"No, I have not, and--I am afraid that my husband's letters have
miscarried, and the suspense has been very trying."
"Ahem! Mrs. Heath, there is something very strange--very inexplicable
about what you have told me," Mrs. Farnum said, in a grave tone.
Virgie looked up, astonished both at the words and tone.
"I do not understand you," she returned.
"You know, of course, that we are English people," began her companion.
"Yes. Miss Sadie mentioned the fact to me during the first of our
"Did she ever tell you that we know people in England by the name of
"No. Do you?" Virgie cried, eagerly, her face lighting as she thought
perhaps she might learn something regarding her long silent husband.
"Yes, and they are a very fine family. They belong in Hampshire, and I may
as well tell you that they are a very proud and aristocratic family,
laying great stress upon their unimpeachable honor and untarnished name."
Virgie flushed a painful crimson at this, which her companion noticed
with a thrill of exultation, and then resumed:
"The oldest daughter, who married a peer of the realm, has been my most
intimate friend for many years. Sir William, also----"
"Sir William!" Virgie interrupted, catching her breath, face growing
"Yes, that's the name of the son and heir. I was about to remark that he
is a baronet and that it is a singular coincidence that he should also
have been here in America while his mother was stricken with paralysis. It
is strange, too, that his first name should be the same as your husband's;
"Oh, Mrs. Farnum," cried Virgie, leaning forward and seizing the woman's
hands in a transport of joy, as she believed she was about to hear some
definite news regarding her loved one, "Sir William Heath is my
husband--can you tell me anything about him? I have not heard a word from
him for more than a month, and I am nearly distracted from anxiety and
Mrs. Farnum drew back in well-feigned astonishment.
"Child! are you mad? Sir William Heath your husband? It is simply
Virgie straightened herself, and yet it seemed as if somebody had suddenly
struck her a cruel blow upon her naked heart.
Mrs. Farnum had just told her that for years she had been the most
intimate friend of Lady Linton and yet to all appearances she had been
literally astounded to learn that Sir William was married.
Could it be possible that her husband had never acknowledged her as his
wife to his family?
The thought almost paralyzed her for a moment; then she put it indignantly
away from her.
No, he had written letter after letter to his mother and sister--at least
he had spoken of so doing, though she had never read them--telling of
their marriage, and speaking of their return to Heathdale. Of course his
friends must have been apprised of all that had occurred during his
absence; still it was very strange that the "most intimate acquaintance of
Lady Linton" had not been made acquainted with the fact.
All at once, however, she brightened. Mrs. Farnum had been traveling in
America also, for how long she did not know, and perhaps that accounted
for it. If she did not correspond with Lady Linton she had no means of
knowing of the baronet's marriage.
She even smiled to think how foolish she had been to allow such thoughts
to have even for a moment a place in her mind, as she looked up and said:
"No, indeed, Mrs. Farnum, I am not mad, and it is not impossible that I am
Sir William Heath's wife. We were married last September, and after the
death of my father, who was very ill at the time, we traveled for several
months and then came to New York, intending to sail for England the last
of May, but were forbidden to do so by my physician, as I have already
"Still I say it is impossible. The Sir William Heath whom I mean is the
master of a large estate called Heathdale in Hampshire County, England,"
reiterated Mrs. Farnum, decisively.
"And my husband is the master of Heathdale, in Hampshire County, England,"
Virgie said, a trifle proudly.
She resented the woman's incredulity, while she could not forget what she
had said about the "unimpeachable honor and untarnished name" of the
family. It had stung her keenly, though she did not suspect that it had
been an intentional slur upon the shadow resting on her own.
Mrs. Farnum's only reply was a look of increased astonishment, mingled
with something of horror.
A crimson flush dyed Virgie's face.
"May I ask, Mrs. Farnum, how long you have been in America?" she said.
"We sailed from Liverpool the sixth of May."
Virgie's heart sank a trifle.
"And had you seen your friend, Lady Linton, within a few months previous
to that time?"
"Lady Linton came to London only three weeks before, to make me a farewell
visit. She was with me ten days."
The young wife grew pale.
"And did she not mention the fact of her brother's marriage?" she inquired
in a faint voice.
"No such event in connection with him has ever been announced," returned
the woman, ruthlessly. "His friends know nothing of it. Sir William Heath
is believed by his friends to be a single man. More than this----"
Virgie stopped her with a gesture, but she was as white as new fallen snow
as she arose, and going to her writing-desk, brought a letter, which she
laid upon Mrs. Farnum's lap.
"There is his last letter to me," she said, but her lips were almost rigid
as she spoke. "It will prove my statements."
Mrs. Farnum took it, and examined the envelope. It was directed to "Mrs.
William Heath,----Hotel, New York City, U.S.A." It was post-marked at
Heathdale. The handwriting was familiar, and she knew well enough that
Sir William Heath had penned it.
"Mrs. William Heath!" she said, reading the name aloud. "He does not
address you as Lady Heath, which is your proper title if you are his
"Oh!" cried Virgie, with a shiver of pain, for those last words, implying
a doubt of her position, hurt her like a knife. "Neither of us cared to be
conspicuous while we were traveling, so my husband dropped his title," she
"Ahem! that was a very strange proceeding. But does--does he say anything
about coming for you, in this letter?" inquired her companion, who was
burning with curiosity to know what it contained.
"You may read it if you like, Mrs. Farnum. I see that you are still in
doubt about my being what I represent myself," Virgie returned, with some
Mrs. Farnum flushed at this.
"You must excuse me, my dear," she said, with hypocritical blandness,
"but--but--it is simply unaccountable to me, knowing what I do about the
family and their future plans for Sir William. I'm afraid----"
She did not finish what she was going to say, but coolly drew the letter
from the envelope, unfolded, and began to read it, never once stopping to
consider how she was outraging the delicacy and affection of the young
wife by this act, notwithstanding that she had received permission to do
so--She could not doubt, as she read, that the young baronet's heart had
all been given to this fair, beautiful woman, for though written in his
own dignified way, the letter was full of devotion and loyalty to her. And
yet not once in all those eight pages had he called her by the sacred name
of "wife." There were all manner of pet names and expressions of
endearment, but not a single time was written that word which would have
proved so much.
The arch plotter as she read, was quick to observe this omission, and she
gloated over it; it would materially help to further her designs in the
future she thought, if this letter was a sample of all others which he had
written her. She would have given a great deal to be able to have that
pretty writing-desk at her command for an hour or two.
Her face took on a sterner and graver look than she had ever yet worn as
she read on, and when at length she finished the epistle, she appeared the
horrified prude to perfection.
The Lawful Wife.
"Have you a picture of your--of Sir William, madam?" Mrs. Farnum inquired,
as she folded the letter and returned it to the envelope.
Virgie arose without a word, and taking a velvet album from the table,
opened it to certain picture and laid it before her companion.
Mrs. Farnum uttered a cry of despair as her glance fell upon the handsome,
"Yes, that is a picture of Sir William Heath, of Heathdale; there can be
no mistake," she confessed, with a perfectly rigid face. "But, Mrs.--oh,
madam--I am simply stunned!"
"What do you mean?" Virgie demanded, standing straight and tall before
her, and meeting her eyes with a blazing look which warned Mrs. Farnum to
be careful how she dealt with that spirit.
"Pray, be calm, my child," she returned, with a pitiful accent. "Sit down
beside me here, and I will explain why I am so disturbed. Good heavens! we
have always supposed that Sir William was a man of unblemished honor."
"Madam, be careful how you speak of my husband!" Virgie interrupted,
haughtily, yet with a note of agony in her voice. "Sir William is an
honorable man, and I will not allow you to say one word against him in my
"Poor child! poor child! I fear you have been terribly deceived. How can
I ever tell you!" murmured Mrs. Farnum, in a shuddering voice, and with
every appearance of distress.
"You shall tell me instantly. I will not stand here and listen to such
paralyzing insinuations. If you have any thing to tell me, say it at
once, and do not keep me in this maddening suspense!" Virgie commanded
grasping the woman by the wrist, and transfixing her with her blazing
If Sir William Heath could have seen her at that moment he would have been
very proud of her, for she had never been so beautiful, although a
terrible agony was stamped upon her white, imperious face.
"I can only repeat what I have already said. It is impossible. You will
never be mistress of Heathdale!" reiterated Mrs. Farnum, in an inflexible
voice, as she disengaged her wrist from Virgie's grasp, which had left the
imprint of every finger upon it.
"Go on!" commanded the young wife, authoritatively "You have simply made a
statement. You must confirm it."
"Because," proceeded the relentless woman, "in the first place, if you are
his wife, he would long before this have acknowledged you as such to his
"He has done so, I tell you. He wrote immediately after our marriage,
"Did you see him post his letter?" inquired Mrs. Farnum, quietly, but in
a tone that keenly stung the sensitive girl before her.
"No," she replied, a hot flush mounting to her brow; "but I know he did.
He is to honorable to dissemble."
"Did you ever see any reply to his communication in which his friends
recognized the fact of your marriage?"
"No. I--I never questioned him," Virgie answered, with white lips. "My
father was very ill, dying, at that time, and I scarcely thought of
"But of course you have your marriage certificate. That would prove
everything," observed Mrs. Farnum, insinuatingly, although she well knew
that she had not.
"My husband has it."
"Ah!" and a pitiful smile wreathed the woman's lips as she uttered this
interpection with significant emphasis.
"Madam, can you not see that you are driving me mad?" cried Virgie, in an
agonized voice. "You have heard something; you are concealing something
from me. For mercy's sake, make an end of this suspense!"
"Answer me one question more. Were there witnesses at your marriage?"
"Four! Who were they?"
Mrs. Farnum asked this question in a somewhat disappointed tone, for if
the young wife could bring four witnesses to prove her marriage, Lady
Linton might well tremble for the success of her plots, though Nevada was
a long distance from England, and there might be some difficulty in
"My father"--a sob checked Virgie's utterance as she mentioned him, and
realized how forlorn her condition would be if the horrible suspicions
which were being sown in her mind should prove true--"the clergyman who
performed the ceremony, a woman who lived near us, and our own servant."
"Then, since you have no tangible proof in your own hands that you are Sir
William Heath's lawful wife, I advise you to communicate with those
witnesses without delay, since their testimony alone will serve to
establish your rights and--those of your child," Mrs. Farnum said, with a
solemnity that struck a fearful chill to Virgie's heart.
It was a startled, anguished cry, and all the mother-love and anxiety was
instantly aroused for her little one.
Was it possible that anything was threatening the honor and future
happiness of her child, who, next to its father, was at once her pride and
"Oh!" she cried, pressing her hands to her throbbing temples, "why will
you talk so in riddles? If you have anything to tell me, in pity speak out
before I lose my reason!"
"Wait one moment, and I will bring you a letter which I have recently
received, and when I have read it to you, you will understand why I have
been so skeptical regarding what you have told me, and why I have
questioned you so closely."
With these words, Mrs. Farnum arose and left the room, while Virgie,
almost stunned by the fearful suspicions which had been so artfully thrust
upon her, and feeling almost as if a knife had been driven through her
heart, sank nerveless and trembling into a chair to await her return.
The relentless woman was not gone long. The ice was thoroughly broken at
last, and she meant to make quick work of her task now. Lady Linton had
written to her that her brother was becoming very impatient at being
detained so long from his wife; he was nearly ill from anxiety because he
did not hear from her, and she feared he would soon brave everything and
go to her; so whatever was done to separate them eventually, must be
She soon returned, holding in her hand a letter, and a lurid light burned
in her eyes as she glanced at the stricken wife saw how well her blows had
"This letter," she began, seating herself, and drawing some closely
written pages from their perfumed envelope, "is from Lady Linton, my
intimate friend, and Sir William Heath's sister, and you will perceive, as
I read, that my authority for what I have told you is indisputable.
Perhaps, however, you would prefer to read it yourself," she concluded,
holding it out to her.
But Virgie made a gesture of dissent. She felt that she had not strength
even to hold those thin sheets of paper in her trembling hands.
"Very well; then, I will read it to you; but, my young friend, you must be
prepared for some startling news."
Virgie opened her lips as if to speak, but the words died on them, and
Mrs. Farnum began:
"My Dear Myra:--You will be glad to learn that mamma is really
better--not, of course, as far on the road to convalescence as we could
desire, but comfortable enough to have had the wedding take place as
appointed It would have been too bad if it had to be postponed; so
unlucky, you know. We thought once that we should have to put it off
indefinitely; but, as mamma could not bear the thought, and Sir Herbert
consenting, provided there should be no excitement, we decided not to
disarrange the long-talked-of plans. Will and Margie both behaved
beautifully, and declared they would cheerfully defer everything if mamma
was likely to suffer from it; but it was very evident that their happiness
was greatly augmented when told that it would not be necessary. The
wedding occurred on the 28th, in the Heath chapel. It was, of course, very
quiet and unassuming, though the bride was lovely in her robe of white
satin, exquisitely decorated with Chantilly lace, and wreath of heath,
which it has always been the custom for the brides of the house to wear.
William looked as noble as ever, and our good old rector made the service
very impressive not forgetting to mention in his prayer, most touchingly,
her who lay ill at home and could not grace with her presence the glad
occasion. There was a very quiet breakfast afterward at Mrs. Stanhope's,
after which Will and Margie came over for mamma's congratulations and
"They are not going on a journey just now. They will visit London for a
few days, and then return here and remain at home for the present. Will
seems almost like a boy in his happiness, while Margie is sweeter and
prettier than ever. Of course we are all delighted, for we have always
been so pleased at the prospect of the match, though I was afraid for a
little while that something might happen. I feared there had been some
nonsense when William was in America for I came across the photograph of
the loveliest face I ever saw, one day, while looking over and arranging
his wardrobe after his return. But the old saying proves true--'All's well
that ends well,' and I trust there is a brilliant future for the master of
There was more pertaining to family matters, which Mrs. Farnum thought
best to omit after stealing a look at Virgie.
Her face was frightful to behold, and for a moment the woman was
positively alarmed at the result of her work.
She sat like a statue, scarce seeming to breathe; there was not the
slightest color in her face or lips, and the expression of agony about her
mouth reveiled something of the fearful suffering she was enduring, while
there was a look in her eyes which her companion never forgot.
She did not move for several minutes after Mrs. Farnum ceased reading; it
was as if she had suddenly been turned to stone, and was oblivious of
Mrs. Farnum was awed by her appearance, and hardly dared to speak to her,
lest, in breaking the spell, the girl should drop dead at her feet.
But all at once Virgie started; some thought seemed to have come to
her--something that made her doubt that the dreadful tidings to which she
had listened were true.
The letter had spoken of "Will" and "William," to be sure, and she had
every reason to suppose that it had referred to the man whom she had
believed to be her husband--still there might be a mistake. She grasped at
the straw with the eagerness of a drowning man.
"Of whom is Lady Linton speaking in her letter, as having been--married?"
she demanded, in a hollow voice, and fixing her burning eyes upon her
"Why, of William Heath, of course," returned Mrs. Farnum, greatly relieved
to hear her speak once more, "and I have known him all my life. I used to
visit at Heathdale a great deal before Lady Linton's marriage, and he was
always a favorite of mine. He was a bright, manly fellow, and his friends
have planned great things for him. I--I can hardly credit what you have
told me to-day. I did not dream he could do anything so wrong; but
doubtless he will settle down now, and I shall expect to see him a member
of Parliament; he has everything in his favor."
"Who is--Margie?" Virgie asked, in the same tone as before, though she had
shivered at the last words of Mrs. Farnum; they were bitterly cruel.
"Why, Margaret Stanhope--one of the loveliest girls in Hampshire County.
She and Will have been engaged for years. You remember that Lady Linton
spoke of their always having been 'pleased with the prospect of the
"Oh!" gasped Virgie, clasping her hands over her aching heart, and for a
moment everything seemed to fade from her vision, and a great darkness to
Mrs. Farnum thought she was going to faint; but the weakness passed, and
then she arose in all the majesty of her terrible agony and righteous
"Madam," she began, standing straight and proud before the astonished
woman, "If what you have told me is true; if Sir William Heath has been
engaged to Margaret Stanhope for years; if he has pretended to marry her
since his return to England, then the greatest wrong that ever was
perpetrated has been done, and he has made a dupe of her and--broken my
heart. As sure as there is a just God, I am Sir William Heath's lawful
wife, and He will vindicate me. My child is his daughter, and the heiress
of Heathdale, and Margaret Stanhope has been shamefully betrayed. I shall
never allow such a crime to prevail. I shall sail for Liverpool on the
very next steamer, to expose this villainy and to assert my legal rights
and my daughter's claim to her position as a Heath of Heathdale. She, at
least, shall not suffer dishonor, if the lives of two women have been
ruined by the villainy of one man. Did he suppose, because England is
three thousand miles from America, that he could perpetrate this wrong
with impunity? I tell you it shall never be! I will face him in the home
of his unimpeachable ancestors, and see if he dares to repudiate his
"My Child Is the Heiress of Heathdale!"
Mrs. Farnum looked frightened at Virgie's startling threat, and she
realized at once that she had underrated the character of the woman with
whom she had to deal.
She saw that she was capable of great decision and prompt action; that
beneath her gracious sweetness, and gentle, winning manner, there lay a
reserve force and strength upon which she had not reckoned, and which
would have to be overcome--if overcome at all--by strategy and deception.
It would never do for the young wife to set out for England, at least if
there was any power to prevent it, for it would destroy all their
carefully laid plans, and their hopes for the future.
It had never occurred to Mrs, Farnum that she would contemplate such a
She knew that she was a stranger and absolutely friendless in the city;
there would be no one on whom she could rely to fight her battles. She had
imagined her to be weak and yielding, and that she would sink helplessly
beneath the terrible blows that she had dealt her, that all life and
spirit would be crushed out of her, and she would be only too willing to
fly from every one whom she knew, and hide herself and her child, with
their supposed shame, in some remote corner of the earth, and that would
be the last of them.
Then when Sir William should search for her, as of course she knew he
would do, and fail to find her, he could easily be made to believe that
she had been untrue, and fled from him; a divorce could be readily
obtained to set him free, and thus Sadie, if she played her cards aright,
might yet become the mistress of Heathdale.
But the injured wife's project of going to face her recreant husband, and
demanding to be acknowledged as the lawful mistress of Heathdale, must be
defeated at any cost, and the wily woman immediately set about
accomplishing her object.
"Ah, my poor child!" she began, assuming a sympathetic tone, "one cannot
blame you for just indignation at having been so deeply wronged. I never
would have believed Sir William capable of such dishonor. But surely you
will never think of subjecting yourself to an ordeal so terrible as that
you have just proposed."
"Why should I not? Why should I shrink from anything that will right this
wrong? Nothing can hurt me more than I have been hurt to-day," Virgie
answered, spiritedly, yet with inconceivable bitterness.
"But think of Sir William's family. They are exceedingly sensitive and
proud spirited, and they would never tolerate your claim for an instant;
no shadow of dishonor has ever touched them in any way, and they would not
endure the scandal."
"Think of Sir William's family! Why should I consider them? Madam, it is
myself of whom I have to think--myself and my innocent little one; and do
you suppose I will tolerate the indignity which has been offered me? Is
not my good name and that of my child as much at stake, and of as much
value as the name of Heath?" Virgie cried, her proud spirit blazing forth
in righteous indignation.
"But Sir William is a peer of the realm."
Mrs. Farnum actually cringed beneath the scorn that rang out in the young
wife's tone as she repeated these words:
"And are peers of the realm exempt from all dishonor when they violate
every law, both human and divine?" she continued, with stinging sarcasm.
"Does the code of your nobility provide that young and innocent girls, who
are basely betrayed, shall sit tamely down and meekly bear their injuries,
so that your peers of the realm can go unscathed? If so, thank heaven that
your laws do not prevail in this country. You are yourself a mother--you
are proud of your beautiful daughter; but think you if she stood in my
place you would advise her to consider the feelings of Sir William's
family, to ignore her rights, and shut her eyes to her own injuries, lest
she cast a shadow of dishonor upon their proud escutcheon? And do you
think that I am less of a woman than she--that I am devoid of fine
sensibilities, of pride and self-respect?"
Mrs. Farnum had winced as under a lash during all this spirited speech.
Its scorn and sarcasm stung her keenly, and made her very angry. She
longed to revenge herself upon the proud girl who had presumed to rank
herself along with her daughter, by proclaiming the secret regarding her
life, which she had so cunningly learned in San Francisco.
But she feared to arouse her further. She realized that she must seek to
conciliate her, and try to persuade her not to take the mad journey to
England which she seemed so bent upon.
"Oh, no, my poor child," she began, soothingly; "you do not realize what
you are saying. Of course, I know it is all very wrong to deceive a girl
in any such way, be she high or low, rich or poor. But just consider how
you are situated. You say that your hus--that Sir William has your
marriage certificate, and you have nothing to prove your statements with,
even if you should present yourself at Heathdale. How do you suppose you
would be received there if you should burst in upon them claiming to be
Sir William's wife and the mistress of Heathdale if you could not
substantiate your statements? My dear, it would be the blindest folly."
"But I have his letters!" cried Virgie, eagerly.
"True, you have his letters, and no doubt his handwriting would be
instantly recognized by his family, But they could not prove your
position, especially if they are all written after the style of the one
which you allowed me to read this afternoon, for in all those pages not
once does he speak of you as his wife. You must have something more
tangible and conclusive than those," Mrs. Farnum asserted, confidently.
All the light died out of Virgie's face as she began to see that there
were terrible difficulties in the way of proving that she was a lawfully
"I have my ring," she said, weakly, and holding up the white, delicate
hand on which the heavy circlet gleamed, guarded by a brilliant diamond,
but which trembled like a reed shaken by the wind.
"Is it marked with the date of your marriage?" inquired Mrs. Farnum, an
anxious gleam in her eye as it rested upon that symbol of wifehood.
"N-o; it was thoughtlessly neglected at the time, because there were so
many other things to be attended to, and--and I could not bear to have it
taken off to rectify the oversight, after it was once put upon my hand,"
Virgie confessed, growing white again even to her lips.
"That was unwise, not to say foolish of you," said Mrs. Farnum,
deprecatingly, but with a throb of exultation.
"But," added Virgie, after thinking a moment, "he brought me here as his
wife. The proprietor of this hotel will tell you so. Dr. Knox, my
physician, will tell you so also, as I was introduced to him by my husband
as Mrs. Heath; and there are other people in the house who know it."
Mrs. Farnum smiled pitifully.
"My dear," she said, gravely, "how many of these people do you think would
be willing to swear that you are Sir William Heath's wife, if you should
ask them to do so? How many would put their names to a paper certifying
their honest conviction that you are, if told the title and position he
occupies in his own country and your history in this?"
Virgie started at these words, and would have asked the woman what she
knew of her history, but she went on as if she had not remarked her
"If Sir William had brought you here as Lady Heath, registered himself
in his own proper character, and taken you into society thus, there would
have been no room for doubt. But instead, what has he done? It is very
strange that your own suspicions have not been aroused by his actions. He
has registered everywhere as plain 'William Heath and lady.' Instead of
going to the public table, as most of the guests are in the habit of
doing, he has paid extra rates to have your meals served in your own
rooms, and kept you secluded from almost every one. What construction do
you suppose would be put upon these facts, if they were submitted to
people generally, if----"
"But, Mrs. Farnum, all this was done out of regard for my feelings. I told
you that we did not wish to be conspicuous while traveling, so my husband
dropped his title. I could not go into society here, and I did not like
to go to the public table where I should be--obliged to meet so many
strangers," Virgie interrupted, a hot flush rising to her brow, while
there was a weary, hunted look, in her eyes as the cunning woman continued
to weave her tangled web about her.
"Of course, I can understand all that," replied Mrs. Farnum,
indulgently, "but how would it appear as evidence if brought up in
connection with your efforts to prove yourself a lawful wife?"
Virgie's heart sank.
Turned which way she would, everything, as argued and distorted by her
companion, appeared against her, and for a moment it seemed as if her
spirit was crushed within her.
But at that instant a little cry from the adjoining room fell upon her
ears, and immediately all her natural pride and energy returned to her
She straightened herself and lifted her head proudly a look of firm
resolve settling upon her face and gleaming in her eyes.
"There are proofs," she said, in a low, firm tone, "even though I have not
my marriage certificate and though some people may doubt the truth of what
I assert, and--I will yet have them. My father, who would have been my
strongest helper, is dead, but there are three other witnesses living who
can swear that I am a lawful wife. There must be records also, and, madam,
I will move heaven and earth to establish my rightful position in life."
Mrs. Farnum trembled before this indomitable resolution.
"And would you be willing to occupy it, even if you could establish it?"
she asked, with a covert sneer, "would you force yourself into a position
which, appearances go to prove, was never intended to be given to you?
Would you force yourself upon a man who had subjected you to the indignity
of repudiating you as a wife and put another in your place?"
Virgie's head reeled beneath the force of these cruel questions, and she
swayed dizzily, as if about to fall, for a moment.
Then again with a mighty effort she recovered herself.
"No," she cried, her beautiful lips curling with, scorn, every pulse in
her body throbbing with contempt "the chosen mistress of Heathdale may
keep her position after I have proven my right to it, if she prizes it
enough to pay the price of her own dishonor; but my child is also the
lawful child of Sir William Heath--she is the heiress to all his
possessions and she shall yet occupy the place in the world that
rightfully belongs to her, no matter who else may stand in her path. It
may take time to accomplish all this, but, mark me, Mrs. Farnum, and tell
your 'proud, unimpeachable family' at Heathdale so, if you choose, it
shall be accomplished."
"Then of course you will not be able to sail immediately for England as
you at first proposed to do," returned Mrs. Farnum, her heart leaping with
joy as Virgie's words told her that she had changed her mind regarding her
"No, I can see, now I come to consider the matter, that it would be folly
for me to attempt to gain my rights without being armed with positive
proof of what I assert. It exists, however, though it will necessitate
much trouble and expense to secure it. Three months hence, however, I
shall hope to have it in my hands, then, let your 'peer of the realm' and
his 'honored family' take warning, for a righteous judgment will surely
overtake them for the wrong which I suffer to-day. Now go--leave me if you
please; you may have meant well in telling me what you have, but, oh! you
have ruined my life and all my hopes," Virgie concluded, with a moan and
gesture full of despair.
Her strength was failing her; the bitterness of death was upon her and she
longed to be alone, for she could not endure that any one should witness
her cruel humiliation.
Her last words had galled Mrs. Farnum almost beyond endurance; no doubt
because she realized that there was so much truth in them, while her
threat regarding a righteous judgment overtaking the family at Heathdale
caused her heart to sink with a sudden dread of disgraceful punishment for
herself if ever her complicity in this foul plot should be discovered.
She arose, cold and stern.
"I ruin your life, indeed!" she answered, haughtily. "I think you have
no one to thank for that but yourself, for having lent a too willing ear
to the flattering tongue of a strange young man."
She swept from the room with a firm step and uplifted head, while Virgie
sank prostrate upon the floor, feeling as if her heart had been ruthlessly
trampled upon and all the life and hope crushed out of it.
The Last Drop in a Bitter Cup.
"The girl has more spirit than I gave her credit for," Mrs. Farnum
muttered to herself, as she entered her own rooms after leaving Virgie.
"If she persists in her purpose of securing proofs and going to Heathdale
to claim her position, of course it will upset everything. However, she
will not be able to do that at present; she must first take a long
journey, and meantime Miriam will, no doubt, think of some way to prevent
a denouement. Doubtless the girl will write once more and charge Sir
William with his perfidy--she is not one to bear tamely such a wrong; but
Miriam will be on the watch, and if the little upstart gets no reply, her
pride will probably assert itself, and we shall have no more trouble with
her, for a while at least. Meantime Sir William may be prevailed upon to
get a divorce, and then the way will be clear once more for Sadie.
"How fortunate," she added, going on with her soliloquy, "that Will Heath
and Margie were married just at this time!--she swallowed that story
whole. Well, I must confess it was calculated to stagger any one, though I
was almost afraid she had heard something before about the facts; but it
seems she had not."
* * * * *
The truth regarding the news that Mrs. Farnum had received from Lady
Linton, and which the latter had so cunningly utilized to further her
scheme to separate her brother and his wife, was this:
Sir William Heath had a cousin who bore the same name as himself, though
without the title, of course.
He was three years older than the young baronet, and had been named for
his uncle, with the hope that he would be received as the heir in case no
son was born to the elder Sir William. But this was not to be.
From childhood the boy had been attached to his little, neighbor and
playmate, Margaret Stanhope, and they had been engaged for years, as Mrs.
Farnum told Virgie.
But being the son of a younger son, he had had to struggle somewhat for
his education and position in life, and it was only a few months previous
to Sir William's return from America that he had succeeded in securing a
situation as private secretary to a nobleman, and thus felt that at last
he had a right to marry the sweet girl whom he had so long and so fondly
loved, and make a home for himself.
The marriage had been set for the 28th of June, but Lady Heath's sudden
and alarming illness, it was feared, would necessitate a postponement. But
when she began to improve, and the question being submitted to her, she,
having a great fondness for both her nephew and his betrothed, had
insisted that the marriage should proceed. It accordingly took place in
the chapel at Heathdale, Sir William himself giving away the bride, as her
father was not living. So it will readily be seen that there was a
semblance of truth in nearly all that Lady Linton had written to Mrs.
She had not been quite sure that she would succeed in this part of her
scheme, for it might be that Sir William had mentioned the fact of his
having a cousin by the same name; so she had written her letter in a way
to do no harm in case it did not help her plan. If Virgie did not know,
however, she would readily take it for granted that it was her husband who
had been married on the 28th, while the fact that a long engagement had
existed would seem to prove that he had wilfully deceived her from the
first, and tend to make her believe that her own marriage had been simply
Knowing that the certificate was in Sir William's possession, that Mr.
Abbot was dead, and surmising, from their signatures, that two of the
witnesses at least were very ignorant, she hoped, even if Virgie should
have sufficient spirit to assert herself that it would be very difficult
for her to collect proofs of a legal marriage. She knew that she could
bring plenty of evidence to prove the fact that they had lived and
traveled together for several months under the name of Mr. and Mrs. Heath,
but she did not believe that that would count for very much; it would not
be the first time that such a thing had occurred--young men would sow wild
oats occasionally, and though it might wound her pride terribly to have
any scandal arise regarding the matter, yet she could bear that with a far
better grace than to have an ignorant plebeian from the wilds of America
become the mistress of Heathdale.
Her aim was to estrange and keep the couple separated long enough to
secure a divorce and compromise Sir William with Sadie Farnum, and then
she would be ready to snap her fingers at all danger for the future.
Mrs. Farnum wrote immediately to Lady Linton, giving her a full account of
her interview with her despised sister-in-law, while Virgie, as soon as
she could recover sufficient strength and composure to make the effort,
also wrote a long letter to Sir William.
She told him everything, just as if she had not written to him before--how
his letters had suddenly ceased, and how she had waited and hoped to hear
from him until she had grown weary and heart-sick from his long silence.
She told of her meeting with the Farnums, and of the wretched story she
had just learned from the elder lady. She begged him for but one word of
contradiction, and she would believe in him and wait patiently for his own
time for coming to her. But if the terrible tale was true--if he had
deceived her from the first, and had cheated her and her father into
believing that he was making her really his wife, when it had been only a
farce, to tell her plainly, and she would never trouble him again.
When the letter was finished she went out and posted it herself, to insure
its going by the first steamer, and then she tried to school herself to
wait patiently for a reply.
But in a day or two she became conscious of a change in the inmates of the
house toward her. Ladies whom she knew met and passed her with a cold nod,
and a bold stare, which brought a scarlet flush to her cheeks. Some,
indeed, did not deign to recognize her at all. The servants were less
attentive, almost rude, the clerk and proprietor distant and reserved.
Too well she understood what it all meant, and there was but one way to
account for the sudden change in the atmosphere which surrounded her.
Mrs. Farnum, the only one in the house who could possibly know anything
regarding her history, must have given some hint of her apparently
But there was no redress, for she would not humiliate herself enough to
ask an explanation; so she could only submit in silence, and bear it with
what fortitude she could summon to her aid, while she was waiting to hear
from her husband.
But she endured agonies during the time, and the days dragged, oh, so
She remained closely in her own rooms, seeing no one save the servants and
her own nurse, and devoting herself to the care of her little one.
At last the day that she had set for a letter to come arrived, and she
grew feverish, almost hysterical while waiting for the mail to be
She heard the clerk going his rounds; he stopped at Mrs. Farnum's door to
leave something, and then came on toward her door. Her heart stood still
as he approached. He passed by--there was nothing for her, and her heart
was almost broken.
She sent the nurse down to the office to ask if there was not some
mistake--if Mrs. Heath's mail had not been overlooked.
"No, there are no letters for Mrs. Heath," the man answered, with a
peculiar emphasis on the name, and an insolent laugh, that made the woman
When she related the circumstance to Virgie, she threw up her arms, with a
gesture of despair, and cried out:
"Oh! what shall I do?"
She appeared stunned, crushed, and the kind-hearted creature who served
her, and who, of course, had known that something was wrong, was extremely
anxious about her.
She begged that she might be allowed to send for Dr. Knox; but Virgie
refused, with a shudder. She could not bear the thought of the good
physician learning the story of her desertion and shame, for such, she
began to feel, must be the true construction to be put upon Sir William's
long absence and silence.
A little later there came a tap upon her door. She sent the nurse to
answer it, and heard some one say:
"Mrs. Farnum's compliments, and she would like Mrs. Heath to read these,
and then return them to her."
The nurse shut the door, and then came to Virgie, with a letter and paper
in her hand.
For an instant she thought it might be a letter for her, and she seized it
with an eager cry.
But no; it was addressed to Mrs. Farnum, though it bore the Heathdale
postmark, and was in the handwriting of Lady Linton.
Virgie grew deathly white, and clutched at her throat, for it seemed as if
she were suffocating.
Then she mastered her emotion, and crept away to her chamber to read the
letter, for she felt that it contained some fatal news, and she wished no
one to witness her suffering as she read it.
With it convulsively clasped in her hands, she fell upon her knees and
"Oh, Heaven, spare me deeper sorrow! oh, do not confirm my shame!"
It was some time before she could compose herself enough to read that
fatal missive, but at length she unfolded it and began to peruse it.
* * * * *
"Dear Myra," the letter began, "you may be surprised by the contents of
this, but I cannot bring myself to address that person by the name which
she claims, and so feel compelled to ask you to oblige me by giving her a
message, or, perhaps what would be better, allow her to read this letter
for herself. My brother is away from home just now, and, as my custom is
in his absence, I open all letters of a private nature, and act as I judge
best regarding them. The wildest epistle imaginable came to him yesterday
and I was thankful that he was away, for he is so very happy that it must
have shocked him exceedingly and I shall need to communicate its contents
very delicately to him.
"That girl of whom you wrote me in your last actually claims to be his
lawful wife--believes it, I suppose, poor child--and cannot understand how
utterly impossible it would be for any one belonging to an old and
honorable family like ours to ally himself with one so low in the social
scale. I am shocked that my brother should have been guilty of anything so
out of character as she represents while he was abroad. I am sincerely
sorry for the wrong which it appears he has done her, if what she says is
true, and shall insist that he provide comfortably for her for the
future; but, of course, the idea that she has a right to come here as
mistress is preposterous, and I trust that you will make it appear so to
her. Advise her to renounce at once all claim to the name, and settle
quietly in some place where she is not known, and perhaps she may be able
to bring up her child in a respectable way, so that its prospects will not
be hampered in the future by its mother's mistake.
"Will and Margie returned while I was writing to you, and both look so
well and happy that it does my heart good to see them. Of course I had to
stop for awhile, but now I will try and finish my letter. I have had a
serious talk with my brother, and he appears to feel very much troubled
over his American escapade, confessed that he had done wrong, and gave me
this hundred pound note, which I inclose for the benefit of the girl; and
I sincerely trust she will do nothing more to disturb a happy household,
and one which will be very much annoyed by any useless scandal."
There followed a little more pertaining in an indifferent way to the above
household, but Virgie had read enough, and the letter fell from her
nerveless fingers, while she sat staring vacantly before her, her brain
almost turned by the heartless words she had just read, her heart broken
with its weight of woe, while a feeling of utter wretchedness and
desolation made her long for death to steep her senses in oblivion.
She forgot all about the paper which had been given her with the letter,
while the hundred-pound note, which had been inclosed with it, had
fluttered out unheeded as she drew it from the envelope, and now lay upon
the floor at her feet.
Later she examined the paper, and found a notice of the marriage of
William Heath and Margaret Stanhope. Whether Lady Linton had been the
cause of it to further her schemes, or whether some strange fatality had
occasioned the mistake, it would be difficult to say, but the paragraph
"Married:--On the 28th instant, in the Heath Chapel, Sir William Heath, of
Heathdale, to Miss Margaret Stanhope, only daughter of the late Sidney
Thus was added the last drop to the cup of bitterness which Virgie had to
There had been a strange mixture of truth and falsehood in the letter
which Lady Linton wrote to Mrs. Farnum.
Her brother was away for a day or two on a matter of business when
Virgie's imploring epistle arrived--a circumstance for which his sister
was most thankful, for it was no trifling matter for her to be always on
the alert to intercept the letters that passed, through the bag at
Heathdale. But she had succeeded in accomplishing this by having had an
extra key made for the lock and always accompanying the carriage when it
went for the mail.
This drive she called her "constitutional," and as the carriage was a
closed one, she could readily unlock the bag and abstract the letters she
wanted without being seen, and consequently was never suspected of having
anything to do with the interrupted correspondence of Sir William and
She had also been interrupted while writing to Mrs. Farnum by the return
of her brother and the entrance of her cousin's new wife. Afterward she
had had a talk with Sir William, in which he confessed to feeling greatly
"troubled" regarding Virgie and her long, unaccountable silence. He said
he felt that he had "done wrong" to have left her so long, for, as it had
proved, his mother was gradually though slowly improving, and he might
have gone and returned without affecting her health; he should see Sir
Herbert Randal when he came again, and make arrangements to sail
immediately for America. But Lady Linton cunningly provided against this
calamity by privately informing the physician that her mother was worrying
over this threatened departure, and he succeeded in prevailing upon the
baronet to wait a week or two longer.
Sir William had, indeed, given his sister a hundred-pound note, but it was
for the benefit of a poor girl who had been crippled by a railway
accident; and thus all these circumstances being artfully woven into her
letter had something of truth in them, and helped to serve the scheming
"I Will Prove It."
It was very fortunate for Virgie that she had a little one at this time,
else she would have deemed life scarcely worth the living, so stunned and
crushed was she by the terrible blow that had fallen upon her.
For two long hours, after reading that letter from Lady Linton, and the
paper containing that paragraph of William Heath's marriage, she lay as if
paralyzed upon her bed. One would hardly believe that she lived at all,
but for that look of unutterable woe in her eyes and the expression of
agony about her mouth.
But she was aroused at last to a sense of her duties and responsibilities
as a mother, by the crying of little Virgie in the outer room; and yet
that cry was like another dagger plunged into her heart, for it reminded
her that, if the dreadful things which she had been told were true, her
whole future was dishonored--that she was a betrayed and deserted woman
and her child nameless.
"Oh, Heaven! it cannot be!" she cried, lifting her arms with a gesture of
despair and locking her fingers in a convulsive clasp above her head,
while her mind went back over the past and reviewed every event that had
occurred since the beginning of her acquaintance with Sir William Heath.
She had believed in him so thoroughly, he had seemed so noble and true,
so entirely above all deception and double dealing. He had appeared to
love her so devotedly, had been so proud of her as the future mistress of
his beautiful home, and so supremely happy in the anticipation of the
coming of their little one. He had hoped for a son and heir, and yet he
had expressed no disappointment upon learning that their child was a
daughter; he had welcomed the little stranger most tenderly in his letter
and fondly named her, to please himself, for her mother.
He had seemed so impatient and regretful at the thought of leaving her so
long alone, and had promised to come to her the moment that he could
safely leave his mother.
All this made it very difficult for Virgie to believe in his apparent
perfidy and treachery, and yet the evidence against him seemed so
overwhelming that she was convinced in spite of herself.
She did not dream of a plot against her, for she could not conceive of any
motive for one; but his letters had suddenly ceased and she could not
believe accident had caused it, when she had written again and again
telling him of it and pleading for but a word from him.
Then she had heard that story of the engagement to Margaret Stanhope, then
the account of the marriage at Heathdale, by Lady Linton, who appeared
entirely ignorant of her existence even; and taking all this into
consideration, together with the notice which had appeared in the paper
sent to Mrs. Farnum she felt obliged to accept the fact of Sir William's
intentional treachery and desertion.
Yet in the face of everything she clung to the conviction that she was a
lawful wife--that her child was the heiress of Heathdale; but the
difficulty was to prove it.
"Prove it? I will prove it," she cried, and at once all that was
resolute in Virginia Heath's character began to struggle to assert itself,
and she went forth from her chamber, at that cry from little Virgie, with
an unflinching purpose written upon her heart.
The nurse cried out in alarm as she saw her white face and sunken eyes.
"You are ill, madam," she exclaimed. "Go back to bed--the baby will do
well enough with me."
"No, I am not ill," Virgie answered, as she took her little one, but she
spoke in a strained, unnatural tone, adding, "I would like you to go to
Mrs. Farnum's door and say that I desire a 'few moments' interview with
The woman went to do her bidding, but muttered with a troubled look:
"These English people seem to bring nothing but sorrow and mischief to the
poor thing, in spite of their sweet ways and honeyed speeches; I wish
they'd clear out--and whatever her husband can mean to leave her here
alone so long and not a line to tell her why is more'n I can make out."
Mrs. Farnum obeyed Virgie's request with some misgivings; but she saw at
once upon entering the room that the young wife believed the very worst,
and she was half frightened at the result of her work.
Virgie arose as she entered, her baby clasped close in her arms, and
handed her the letter which she had sent her to read.
"Here is your letter, Mrs. Farnum," she said, with a cold dignity that
awed her visitor, "and you will find the note inclosed with it. Please be
particular to have it returned to the one who sent it."
"But, my dear, will you not need it yourself?" interrupted the woman with
Virgie's lips curled.
"It was an unpardonable insult to offer it to me," she said, with spirit.
"I cannot understand how they dared to send it to me in any such way;
indeed, I cannot understand a good many things that have come to me
through you. If Sir William Heath has wilfully done me this irreparable
injury he might at least have been man enough to strike the blow himself,
rather than employ women to be his emissaries."
Mrs. Farnum winced.
"Ah! but you forget--"
"I forget nothing; do you suppose that I could?" cried Virgie, sharply,
"but I might at least have been spared this last indignity--to offer me a
paltry hundred pounds when he has a fortune in his hands belonging to me."
"A fortune! I did not suppose--I did not know that you had any money,"
stammered Mrs. Farnum, looking blank.
"My father left me a good many thousands of dollars when he died; it was
all settled upon me at the time of my marriage, but Sir William Heath took
charge of it and has it now. He deposited five thousand dollars in a bank
here for my use, while he should be away, and the most of that remains;
but there is much more that rightly belongs to me," Virgie explained.
"Then this hundred pounds surely is your due," Mrs. Farnum said, as she
drew it from the envelope and held it out to the young wife.
Virgie drew back haughtily.
"Do you suppose that I would accept as charity a paltry sum like
that?--for Lady Linton sent it as such, and as a sort of remuneration for
what I suffer. It is an outrage which I cannot brook, and I am amazed at
the audacity that prompted it."
So was Mrs. Farnum amazed, and she saw at once that Lady Linton had
unwittingly committed a great blunder. She had never dreamed that Virgie
had had money at the time of her marriage, and she imagined that Lady
Linton was also ignorant that her brother had taken back to England a
fortune belonging to the girl whom they were thus seeking to wrong.
Matters were getting complicated, and she almost wished that she had never
allowed herself to become involved in them.
"You should have kept your marriage certificate," she faltered, "every
wife should do that--then you could have proved your claim."
"I shall prove it yet," Virgie declared, in a clear, decisive voice. "Do
you imagine I am going to sit tamely down and allow a stigma to rest upon
this innocent child if there is any power on earth to prevent it? In spite
of all that you have told me, or all that your friends have written, I
know that I am Sir William Heath's lawful wife. If he committed a rash
and impulsive act, and one which he regrets now, while he was in America
and while he was bound by other ties in England he must suffer the
consequences. I cannot understand how he has dared to perpetrate such a
farce, were he a thousand times engaged to Miss Stanhope; how he has dared
to so wrong and compromise one of his own countrywomen, for, just so sure
as we both live, it will all be exposed sooner or later. All this I will
do for the sake of my child; then----"
"Then?" repeated Mrs. Farnum, leaning eagerly toward the resolute girl.
"Then I will repudiate him. I will never look upon his face again. I
will give him his freedom--will divorce myself from him; and then, if the
woman who now believes herself to be his wife wishes it, or will accept
it, he can make the tie between them legal."
"You will obtain a divorce?" said her companion, with an exultant thrill.
This was something she had never thought of before She and Lady Linton had
both hoped to estrange this fond couple, then make Sir William believe in
his wife's infidelity, and work upon his feelings and pride until he
should be willing to seek a divorce; but they had never imagined that
Virgie would be the one to suggest such a measure. Such a preceding on her
part would wonderfully facilitate matters, and Mrs. Farnum, who a few
minutes previous began to be disheartened, was greatly encouraged.
"Exactly," Virgie replied. "Do you imagine that I desire to hold Sir
William Heath unwillingly bound to me? Do you think that I would ever have
consented to become his wife if I had known that any one had a prior claim
upon him? But, are you sure that he was engaged to Miss Stanhope before he
came to America?" the young wife asked, as doubt again arose in her mind.
"Yes; Will and Margie have been betrothed for years--ten, at least, I
should say. Did you not read it for yourself in Lady Linton's letter?"
Mrs. Farnum returned; but there was a vivid flush on her cheek as she
told the wretched lie, even while she was literally speaking the truth.
A convulsion of pain passed over Virgie's face.
"True; but it is all so strange," she said, wearily. "And I suppose--she
"I believe her life would be ruined if anything should happen to part
them," said the woman, ruthlessly.
Any icy shiver ran over Virgie from head to foot, and a low moan escaped
No one cared for her ruined life; it was nothing that she was parted
forever from the man she adored.
"I will not part them," she said, in a hollow tone; "but--"
"Well?" inquired Mrs. Farnum, with a painful thrill, as she paused on the
word, with a threatening intonation.
"A day of reckoning will surely come for him," Virgie answered, firmly;
"for, if this child lives, she will one day make her appearance at
Heathdale and claim her heritage. There may be other children, but she
will have the first right there. Tell your Lady Linton this--tell her that
'that girl,' of whom she wrote so slightingly and heartlessly, will live
to educate her child for her position as the mistress of her 'proud
ancestral home;' tell her to warn her brother that the day of retribution
will not fail to overtake him."
Virgie was regally beautiful as she stood there before her enemy and
pronounced this stern prophecy. There was not an atom of color in her
face, but her figure was drawn proudly erect, a sort of majesty in every
graceful curve, while there was a resolute, inflexible purpose in every
line of her beautiful features, and her eyes burned with a steady,
relentless fire which told that, if she lived, she would accomplish her
vow, let the cost be what it would.
Mrs. Farnum, woman of the world though she was, felt cowed and abashed
before her, and when, without waiting for a reply, the wronged wife turned
from her and walked, with a firm, unfaltering step, into her chamber,
shutting the door after her, she slunk away to her own room, feeling like
the guilty thing she was, and trembling for the future if it should ever
be discovered what part she had played in the plot to ruin Virginia
She was dismayed by the young mother's last words. At first she felt
triumphant when she had spoken of her intention of obtaining a divorce,
for such a measure would simplify matters greatly; it would relieve Lady
Linton from the disagreeable task of trying to persuade her brother to
adopt such a course, and thus he would be free, without any effort of his
own, to wed whom he chose, and she had reckoned upon Sadie being the
But she had not taken into consideration the fact that Virgie's child
would have a claim upon Heathdale; no divorce would affect her right
there, if the legality of Sir William's marriage to Virgie could be
proved, and thus endless trouble, to say nothing of the scandal the story
would create, might ensue.
Still, there were a hundred "ifs" and possibilities in the way. Virgie
might not be able to get satisfactory proofs; the child might not live;
she might not live herself to accomplish her object; and she finally
resolved to try to be satisfied with the success of her plot thus far, and
not trouble herself about future developments. But that pale, beautiful
face, with that resolute yet heart-broken look upon it, haunted her for
years afterward. She was deeply thankful that Sadie was not there to see
it, and she was resolved that they should not meet again.
That evening Virgie was waited upon by the proprietor of the house, who,
with much stammering and many apologies, informed her that he was obliged
to request her to vacate the rooms that she was occupying.
She understood instantly, but her proud spirit rebelled against this last
indignity, and she arose and stood before him in all the majesty of her
"Sir! Mr. Eldridge! you will please explain this very extraordinary
request," she said, meeting his eyes with a steady glance.
Mr. Eldridge hemmed, looked embarrassed, and remarked with all the
blandness he could assume:
"Really, Mrs. ----, madam, I regret to pain you, and it might be as well
to avoid explanations."
"No, sir; that is impossible; my husband left me here with the
understanding that I should remain here until he came for me, and there
must therefore be some very urgent reason for such a strange proceeding on
"Yes, madam," said the man, driven to the wall. "--I--I have been informed
that--that you are not Mrs. Heath at all; that the gentleman who brought
you here was not what he represented himself to be."
"What authority have you for making such a statement Virgie demanded,
"This," answered the hotel keeper, producing the paper containing the
notice of the marriage at Heathdale which Mrs. Farnum had slyly laid upon
his desk, with the marked paragraph uppermost. She was very careful,
however, not to appear in the matter to commit herself.
She had determined to get Virgie away before Sadie's return from Coney
Island, while she feared, too, the coming of Sir William to investigate
the cause of his wife's long silence.
One glance was sufficient to tell Virgie what paper it was, and she
flushed to her brow.
"I see," she said, scornfully, "those who have professed to be my friends
are leagued against me."
"But--pardon me--have you no doubts yourself regarding your position?"
questioned the landlord, feeling a deep pity for the beautiful woman, in
spite of his anxiety regarding the reputation of his house.
"None," but the word came hoarsely from the now hueless lips.
"But you have had no letters for a long time; the gentleman has for years
been engaged to an English lady; this paper gives a notice of his recent
marriage to her, and everything goes to prove that you have been grossly
deceived. It is very unfortunate, but I have received notice from several
of my guests that they will leave to-morrow morning unless I insist upon
this change, and thus it becomes my painful duty to request these rooms to
This was a bitter blow to add to all the rest, but Virgie, conscious of
her own purity, bore it with Spartan-like heroism.
She cast one look of scorn upon the man before her, then said, with a
calmness that was born of despair:
"Sir, I still assert, in the face of all that you have just said, that I
am the wife of Mr.--yes, of Sir William Heath, of Heathdale, Hampshire
County, England and some day it will be in my power to prove to you the
truth of my words; but I have no wish to occasion you either trouble or
loss, so I will go away; to-morrow morning."
The landlord looked greatly relieved at this assurance and yet he was
impressed both by her manner and her words.
He assured her of his sympathy, and kindly offered to assist her in
obtaining other rooms and establishing herself in them.
Virgie quietly declined this offer, however, and, thanking her for her
speedy compliance with his request Mr. Eldridge took his leave, though, to
his credit be it said, with considerable shamefacedness and embarrassment.
The next morning Virgie sent to Dr. Knox for his bill, paid it, dismissed
her nurse, notwithstanding her urgent plea to be retained even at reduced
wages, and then she quietly disappeared from the place, leaving no trace
behind her to point to her destination or future plans, and, after the
gossip consequent upon such a choice bit of scandal had died away, she
was, for the time at least, forgotten.
Sir William Heath Returns To America.
"I cannot understand it, Miriam. It is the strangest thing in the world,
and I shall sail for America on the very next steamer."
It was Sir William Heath who spoke thus, and there was no mistaking the
decision in his voice.
He was sitting at the breakfast-table in the large, sunny dining-room at
Heathdale, while the open and empty mail-bag lay upon the table beside
There were several letters scattered around his plate, but these were
unheeded, while the anxious, perplexed look on the baronet's fine face
told that he was deeply troubled about something.
Lady Linton sat opposite him, and she had been furtively watching him
during his examination of the bag. There were two very bright spots upon
her cheeks, which might have been caused by her morning drive to the
post-office; or they might have been produced by a guilty conscience and
anxiety regarding her brother's announcement.
"Then there is no letter for you this morning?" she remarked, trying to
"No; and I am nearly wild with anxiety. I must go to Virgie at once,"
Sir William responded, moodily.
"I do not know how mamma will bear the thought of your going," Lady Linton
said, looking grave.
"It cannot harm her. Sir Herbert says she is doing very well, and I might
have gone last week but for the severe cold which she took. I must go,
Miriam. My wife is more to me than all the world, and this unaccountable
silence and suspense is unbearable. I am afraid something dreadful has
happened to her, for, just think, I have not heard one word from her since
she wrote me after the birth of our little one."
"Why don't you cable, then? I am going in town this morning, and I will
send a message for you, if you wish," craftily suggested his sister, who
felt very uncomfortable at the thought of his starting off so suddenly:
for he might meet his wife just at the very moment when success was about
to crown her plans.
She had heard from Mrs. Farnum only once since her coup d'etat, when she
had given an account of that last interview with the heart-broken wife.
The letter had been posted that same day, for the woman had not hoped that
Virgie would leave the house so quickly, even though she knew she was
going to be asked to do so; and as she knew her friend would be anxious to
learn the result of her last measure, and as a steamer was to sail the
next morning, she had written immediately.
"I suppose you might cable and get a reply before a steamer sails,"
murmured Sir William, thoughtfully. "It does not seem as if I could wait
even the time it would take for me to get to her."
"I suppose you are very anxious. It is natural that you should be,"
responded Lady Linton, as she broke an egg into her cup and busied herself
seasoning it, although she did not even taste it after it was prepared.
Excitement and anxiety had destroyed her appetite.
Two or three times every week, of late, there had been just such a scene
as this when the mail came in after the arrival of a steamer.
No letters came from Virgie. At least, he received none; for they were
all cunningly abstracted before the bag came into the house, and Sir
William did not dream that any one possessed a key to it save himself, and
so, of course was unsuspicious of any plot.
It was simply unaccountable to him, and he was, as he said, almost wild
from anxiety on account of his dear ones.
He could not touch his food this morning, his disappointment was so great,
and he nervously unfolded his paper and began to look for an announcement
of the sailing of some steamer.
"The Cephalonia will sail on Saturday," he remarked, at length. "This is
Wednesday. I shall leave on Friday for Liverpool. You can break the news
to my mother, and I am sure you will do very well without me until my
return. She must strive to be reasonable, for I cannot live like this
"Very well; I will do my best to keep her cheerful while you are gone,"
returned Lady Linton, trying to appear at ease, although she was quaking
in mortal fear lest all her plotting should come to naught.
She sometimes regretted having written that last letter and sent that
hundred pounds to Virgie. She began to fear that she might have
overreached herself by so doing, for, if her brother and his wife should
meet, Virgie would of course tell her husband everything, and he would at
once understand that his sister had been guilty of all the
mischief--intercepted letters, and all. She knew that he would never
forgive her; she would be ignominiously banished from Heathdale, and be
obliged to hide herself at Linton Grange, where she would lead a life of
poverty and seclusion; so it is not strange that she trembled at the
thought of Sir William sailing for America.
"Shall you return at once?" she asked, as they arose from the table.
"Just as soon as I can possibly arrange to do so; and, Miriam, I want no
pains spared to make the home-coming of my wife an agreeable one."
"You shall be obeyed," Lady Linton replied, with downcast eyes and a
heavily throbbing heart; "but of course you will let me know when to
"Certainly; and the suite of rooms over the library are to be put in order
"Very well; I will speak to the housekeeper about it."
"You will mention, too, for whom they are being prepared," Sir William
said, glancing sharply at his sister. "It must be known at once that I
have a wife and child. I have made a great mistake in allowing you to
persuade me to keep silence upon the subject so long."
"But it was for mamma's sake, you know; while she was so ill it was better
not to have it talked about," apologized Lady Linton; but she mentally
resolved that she should be in no hurry to tell the secret, even if he had
ordered her to do so, at least until she was sure her brother would find
Something might prevent his bringing Virgie home, and in that case a
scandal would be avoided if she kept silence. She would wait, at least,
until he notified her of the date of his return.
"It was a mistake, I tell you," Sir William repeated, with a clouded
brow. "It has been a mark of disloyalty to my wife which I will tolerate
no longer. So please do as I request."
Lady Linton bowed.
"Shall I cable for you?" she asked, after a moment of silence. "I shall be
in London most of the day, and perhaps I may be able to get a reply to
bring you on my return."
"No, thanks; I, too, shall go in town to-day, to engage my passage, and I
will attend to the matter myself," Sir William replied, and the heart of
the schemer sank within her.
She had intended to cable to Mrs. Farnum, and, if Virgie was still at the
hotel, authorize her to use any strategy to get her away before her
brother should arrive, and then send her a dispatch to suit the emergency.
But, if he cabled himself, and received an answer from his wife, she had
the very worst to fear for herself.
They went up to London on the same train, and Lady Linton suffered agonies
during that ride, and all day long, while she was shopping, her suspense
was terrible to her.
But when she entered the station, late in the afternoon, to return to
Heathdale, she was both startled and relieved to find her brother already
there, and pacing back and forth outside the waiting-room in great
"Have you news, William?" she faltered, her heart beating almost to
"Yes," he answered, in a strained unnatural tone. "Here, read this!" and
he thrust a cablegram into her trembling hands.
She had hardly strength to unfold the paper, but her pulses bounded with
exultation as she read:
New York, Aug. 10, 18--.
"To Sir William Heath, London:
"Lady Heath left the ------- House on the 2d instant. Do not know her
Mr. Eldridge, as we know, was the proprietor of the hotel where Virgie
had been boarding during her husband's absence, and we can imagine
something of his consternation when he received Sir William's cable
dispatch inquiring for his wife, and realized, all too late, the enormity
of the insult he had offered to that lady.
Lady Linton, however, had hard work to conceal her joy over the contents
of the message.
Virgie had been gone for more than a week, leaving no clew to her
whereabouts, which was evidence enough that she believed the very worst of
her husband, imagined herself a dishonored and deserted woman, and had
doubtless buried herself in some remote corner where no one would be
likely to discover her.
Lady Linton's plot had worked thus far beyond her most sanguine
expectations and she accepted her success as an omen of good for the
But she hid all this under a mask of well-assumed surprise.
"What can it mean? Why should she leave the hotel where you left her?" she
inquired of her brother.
"Oh, I do not know. There is something wrong--very mysterious--about it.
Oh, why is there not a steamer ready to sail this instant? I believe I
shall go mad with this delay!" cried the baronet, in an agony of fear and
But he had to wait until Saturday in spite of his suffering though he had
not even gone from Heathdale two hours when Lady Linton received a letter
bearing the United States postmark.
Of course it was from Mrs. Farnum, who gave a detailed account of all that
had transpired regarding Virgie's sudden departure, and assuring her that
no one in the hotel suspected her agency in the matter, or had any idea
that she knew anything regarding the girl previous to her coming there.
They did not even know that she was from England; she confided that fact
to Virgie alone, simply to further her schemes regarding her.
Lady Linton uttered a sigh of relief over this letter. Her brother would
not find his wife in New York, and his journey would be all in vain, she
told herself, and yet she would not feel at ease until she had him safely
at home again.
Sir William thought the voyage across the Atlantic would never end, and
yet it was a very quick and prosperous passage. When the steamer touched
her pier in New York he was the first of all the eager passengers to
spring ashore, and rushing for a carriage, without even stopping to attend
to his baggage, he gave orders to be driven directly to the hotel where he
had left Virgie.
Mr. Eldridge quaked visibly and grew deadly pale when Sir William suddenly
presented himself in his office and demanded of him the reason of his wife
leaving his house.
The polite hotel-keeper's blandness all failed him for once, and, with
much stammering and confusion, with many apologies and excuses, he
confessed that there had arisen a rumor--how he could not say--to the
effect that the lady was not Mrs. Heath at all, that her supposed husband
was an English nobleman who had deceived her; that his patrons had
insisted upon her leaving, or they would; and thus, after a hint from him
as to how matters stood, she had quietly gone away.
Sir William was furious at this, and the landlord was actually frightened
at the tempest his story had aroused.
"And you allowed such a malicious slander to drive a delicate and
unprotected woman and her child homeless into the street?" cried the
baronet, with sublime scorn.
"Ah, sir, I was helpless. The honor of my house must be sustained, and
there was so much evidence to make the story appear true," said the man
"Evidence! What do you mean?" demanded the angry husband.
"You had registered as 'Mr. Heath and lady.' I learned that you were an
"Yes, but what of that? I simply wished to escape being conspicuous, and I
had a right to register as I chose."
"Then there was a story that you had taken another wife in England,
shortly after leaving America."
"And were you idiot enough to believe such a contemptible slander, when
I brought her here and established her as my honored wife? Did I ever
treat her with anything but reverence and respect?" thundered Sir William,
growing more and more indignant.
"No, sir," confessed the unhappy proprietor, as he drew a paper from his
desk; "but when you read a notice that I have here you may not wonder so
much at the credulity of people; besides, there were no letters coming
from you to the lady."
"No letters!" cried the baronet, in a startled tone.
"No, sir, although madam wrote to you with every steamer, and seemed sad
and depressed to get nothing in return."
The baronet was astounded.
It all looked as if there was some treachery at work to ruin their
happiness; but Sir William racked his brain in vain to solve the riddle.
He had received no letters from his wife; she had had none from him; and,
with that dreadful scandal and rumor to crush her, to say nothing of
having been driven from the shelter with which he had provided her, what
must she not have suffered?
"Will you read this notice, sir?" Mr. Eldridge asked, pushing the paper
nearer to the baronet, and desiring to intrench himself behind as many
bulwarks as possible.
Sir William bent forward and read it, and he did not wonder then, that
Virgie had felt herself the most wronged of women.
He knew that it had been intended as the announcement of his cousin's
marriage with Margaret Stanhope, but a grave mistake had been made in
prefixing the young man's name with a title, thus making it appear that it
was the baronet who had been married.
Virgie did not know that he had a relative by the same name, so, of
course, taking everything else into consideration, she must have believed
that he had been false to all honor, to his manhood, and to her.
He groaned aloud.
"Oh, what must she have thought of me!" he cried, in despair. Then,
turning to the proprietor of the hotel, he asked, "Where did you get this
It was the Hampshire County Journal, and he wondered how it could have
got to New York to accomplish so much mischief.
"I cannot say, sir. I found it in my office here among other papers,
and--and you must confess that such a notice as that was sufficient to
stagger me when I read it."
"Yes," Sir William admitted, white to his lips, "and yet it was heartless
to send her away. It was my cousin--a gentleman bearing the same name--who
was married; but some one made a mistake and added my title. Did she
see that notice?"
"She appeared to know about it, sir."
"It seems as if an enemy had done this to ruin our happiness; but who?"
groaned the miserable husband.
Sir William Finds A Trace Of Virgie.
Sir William asked, a little later, when he had succeeded in somewhat
recovering his composure:
"And have you no idea whither my wife went after leaving here?"
"No," Mr. Eldridge said. "I offered to find some nice, quiet place for
her, but she simply thanked me and declined my offer. She then ordered a
carriage and drove away, without giving any definite directions regarding
her destination--at least, in my hearing."
The proprietor was careful not to state that he had been so relieved by
the departure of his then questionable guest that he had taken no pains to
ascertain her plans, being only too glad to be quit of her upon any terms,
and to thus preserve the honor of his house and retain the patronage of
its other occupants.
Sir William then repaired to the office of Dr. Knox, the physician in
whose care he had left his wife, hoping to glean something from him. But
that gentleman knew nothing whatever of what had occurred, and appeared
greatly surprised by what the young husband told him.
He simply stated what we already knew--that Mrs. Heath had sent him a note
saying that she was about leaving the city and wished to settle her bill,
and requested him to call for the amount. He had done so, and she had paid
him in full.
He said that his time was limited, and he had only remained a few moments.
He thought she was looking rather pale and worn; but she said she was
well, and, being calm and self-possessed, he did not imagine that she was
in any trouble.
It was evident that from this source Sir William could gain nothing to aid
him in his search for his wife.
He then tried to discover the nurse who had been with her, but she was not
to be found at her usual address, and no one could tell him anything about
He went to the bank where he had deposited money for Virgie's use, but
disappointment awaited him here also. He was told that she had sent word
one morning that on a certain day she would need the whole amount due her.
She had called according to her appointment, receiving her money, and that
was all that was known there regarding her movements.
Sir William was in despair. Failure met him on every hand, and he feared
the worst for his loved ones.
He remained in New York for more than a month, searching the city from end
to end, employing detectives advertising in the papers, and using every
means he could think of to gain some clew to Virgie's hiding-place; but
all to no purpose; and he finally came to the conclusion that she must
have left the metropolis. But whither had she gone? He knew that she had
not a friend on this side of the Rocky Mountains; it was all a strange
country to her.
Would she be likely to remain East and hide herself and her supposed shame
in some obscure place, or would she wander back to the Pacific coast,
where everything would be more familiar and home-like to her?
These questions agitated his mind continually, and for a while he knew not
which way to turn, while he was growing both weary and heart-sick with his
Finally he decided that he would go again to her old home among the
mountains of Nevada. He might possibly learn something of her there.
He reached the place just a year from the day of his departure with
Virgie, and a feeling of utter desolation, almost of despair, took
possession of him as he wandered here and there over the familiar ground
visiting the grave of Mr. Abbot, and peering in at the cottage where he
had first met his love, but where only strange faces now met his gaze.
Everything looked the same as when he left, but evidently no one knew
anything about his wife; he learned that from the eager inquiries, which
met him on every side, for the beautiful girl whom he had taken away with
He answered and evaded them as well as he could, without betraying that he
was in any trouble, but he was deeply disappointed to find that Chi Lu had
left the place.
He was told that he had left very suddenly, but came back after a time,
when he disposed of his cabin that Sir William had given him, and then
The baronet sought out Margery Follet, and was impressed the moment that
he saw her that she had something on her mind.
She eyed him with suspicion, seemed averse to holding any conversation
with him, and never once inquired regarding his wife.
This alone made the young baronet hope that she knew something of Virgie,
for, having been at her wedding, and afterward assisted her in many ways
during Mr. Abbott's last illness, it would have been but natural for her
to wish to know something about her.
By adroitly questioning her he became convinced of the truth of his
suspicion, and finally he charged her outright with having recently seen
The woman stammered, blushed, and finally assumed a defiant attitude, and
Sir William was sure.
He then told her something of his trouble, enjoining her to secrecy, and
finally she confessed that one day Chi Lu had come to her and persuaded
her to go with him before the county magistrate to sign a paper stating
that she had been a witness to the marriage of Miss Abbot with Mr. Heath.
Chi Lu had given her a handsome sum for her trouble and to keep silent
about the matter afterward.
This confession gave Sir William great hope. It told him that Virgie had
been in that vicinity; that she was gathering what proofs she could toward
establishing the legality of her marriage, with a view to claiming her
rights as a lawful wife.
He was very much elated over the discovery, and at once repaired to the
county town, to seek out the magistrate and learn what he could from him.
That gentleman confirmed what he had already learned. He said that several
weeks previous a young woman had come there to obtain a copy of the record
of a certain marriage, and that afterward a Chinaman and an elderly woman
had signed a paper in his presence, testifying to having been witnesses of
Sir William reasoned that, since Virgie was seeking all these proofs, she
would doubtless apply to the clergyman who had married them; so to
Virginia City he straightway hastened, to seek the Rev. Dr. Thornton.
He found him readily enough. The clergyman appeared to be in feeble
health, and received him with coldness and evident displeasure.
"I suppose you are somewhat at a loss how to account for my visit, Dr.
Thornton," he remarked, in his genial way, and ignoring the frigidness of
his host's greeting; "but I have come to make some important inquiries of
The reverend gentleman simply bowed, and then waited for his guest to
"You will be surprised that I have lost my wife and am searching for her,"
the baronet continued, thinking it best to come to the point at once.
"Which one?" demanded the divine, with an accent of scorn in his usually
"For which wife are you searching?"
"I have but one wife--the lady to whom you married me only a little more
than a year ago!" Sir William replied in a voice of thunder, his handsome
face flaming with righteous anger, though his heart bounded with new hope
at the question.
"I beg your pardon, sir," the clergyman replied, seeing at once that there
was some mystery, and there must have been some fearful mistake to cause
the separation of these two young people in whom he had been so deeply
"You will understand my untimely sarcasm, perhaps," he went on, "when I
tell you that I have been led to believe that you had done that beautiful
woman the greatest possible wrong."
He then proceeded to explain all that he knew of the matter.
Mrs. Heath, he said, had come to him, about a month previous, to secure a
written statement from him to the effect that he had performed the
marriage ceremony in a legal and authorized manner between herself and Sir
William Heath, of Heathdale, Hampshire County, England She was looking
very sad and ill, and she confided to him that she had been deserted by
her husband in New York; he having been called to his home by a cablegram,
ostensibly because of his mother's illness, but that she had learned of
his marriage with another lady in England, and she feared that his union
with her might have been a farce. She had, however, learned to the
contrary, and she was determined to gather all the proofs possible, for
the purpose of securing the future rights and position of her child.
Sir William Heath listened in painful silence to this recital, and then in
turn related all that he knew regarding the terrible misunderstanding and
the mystery attending it.
"It looks to me very much as if there was a conspiracy in the matter, and
a desire on the part of some one to separate you and your wife," Dr.
Thornton remarked thoughtfully, when the young husband concluded.
"A conspiracy!" repeated Sir William.
"Yes; the fact that all letters, on both sides, have been intercepted,
seems to point to such a suspicion. Have you any enemies who, from
interested motives, would try to create trouble between you and your
"Not that I am aware of," the young man replied, but looking deeply
perplexed. "My family, to be sure, were not very well pleased with the
idea of my marrying an American; but I can think of no one person who
could have accomplished anything like what has occurred. It seems to me
that in order to intercept our letters there would need to be conspirators
on both sides of the Atlantic who were interested in the project."
"Not necessarily. Any one determined to separate you might have robbed
the mail of all letters at either end of the route. It is certainly very
mysterious, and, mark my words, you will some day learn that an enemy has
been at work. But, Sir William," the clergyman continued smiling genially,
"you have relieved my mind and established my faith in you by this
explanation. I confess I had set you down as a miserable scamp, and I have
suffered a good deal on that beautiful young woman's account."
"I cannot blame you for thinking the very worst of me," returned Sir
William, with emotion; "but I have loved--I do love my wife with a love
that can never die."
"I do not doubt it now. Of course I gave her the paper she desired, and
also a copy of the certificate which I presented you on your marriage day,
and told her to command me at any time and I should be at her service to
testify to the legality of her claims upon you."
"Thank you, sir. I am truly grateful to you for your kindness to my poor
darling," said the baronet, tears springing to his eyes. "But can you give
me any idea regarding her plans or movements?"
"No, I cannot, I am sorry to say," returned Doctor Thornton. "I asked her
what course she intended to pursue, and she said, in the saddest voice I
ever heard, 'I do not exactly know yet; I simply desire to establish the
rightful claim of my daughter as the heiress of Heathdale.'"
"That looks as if she meant to go immediately to England!" cried Sir
William, starting excitedly to his feet. "If she should do that, all would
be well--everything will be explained, and we shall be happy once more."
"I cannot say that such was her plan," returned the clergyman,
thoughtfully. "She looked scarcely able to endure such a journey. Still,
it may be that such was her intention."
"Oh, if I only knew! Just think, sir, I have never even seen my child!"
cried Sir William, greatly agitated.
"It is certainly very sad. It is greatly to be regretted that you were
recalled to England as you were," said Doctor Thornton.
"Indeed it is. Why did I ever leave her? It was wrong! I fear I was
negligent of my duty toward her in so doing. I do not know what to do now.
If she has gone to England, we have passed each other, and I would desire
to retrace my steps thither at once. If she is still here on this
continent, I should be in despair to go home, and only find it out on the
other side of the ocean."
Doctor Thornton pitied the young husband sincerely.
"You are in a very trying position, I must acknowledge, and I do not like
to advise you either to go or stay. You might wait here a while, and
notify your friends to cable you in case Lady Heath should go direct to
England; then it would be comparatively easy to join her there."
Sir William determined to act upon these suggestions. He would cable
Heathdale to be notified if Virgie should make her appearance there;
meantime he would do his utmost to find her here.
He thanked the clergyman for his kindness, and bade him farewell, feeling
much relieved regarding his wife, yet still very sad at heart at the
mystery surrounding her.
He determined to search for Chi Lu, believing that he alone, who had
always been so devoted to her, could tell him something definite as to her
movements. He had an idea that he might be even now in her service.
Nothing but Death Shall Break the Tie.
Sir William went directly back to New York, fired with something of hope
by Doctor Thornton's suggestions He determined to search the passenger
lists of the different steamer lines, hoping to find Virgie's name among
He half believed that, armed with the strong proofs she had secured to
substantiate the legality of her marriage, she would go directly to
England to assert her position there as his wife.
He realized that underneath her habitual quiet and sweetness there lay a
dignity and strength of character that would stop at nothing legitimate to
remove the stigma she believed was resting on her fair name.
But while he gave her ample credit for resolution and energy, he did not
make allowance for the sensitive pride which had been crushed to the earth
by the cruel blow which had been dealt her. He did not stop to consider