Immagini della pagina
PDF
ePub
[ocr errors]

him last night, and am to learn his him, superb in gold-colored silk and decision to-day. You shall know it black lace, but without ornaments. almost as soon as I."

“ Your business is very urgent, then, " Thanks," said Marion, breathing & Mr. Vance,” said she, a little haughtily. little more freely. “It would be hor- “ Thank God !” murmured Vance, rible to me to have a three-thousand staring at her regal neck and shoulders. year-old secret hung like a millstone “For what? That you have some about my neck, if I could never hope to important business at last ? ” asked solve it."

Marion Harleigh, one of the women “ Then you will wear the necklace ? ” who instinctively resent, even upon the asked Vance, smiling down upon her, man they love, the attempt to reconfor he had risen to take leave.

cile them to lure and jess. It was upon “ Certainly. Shall you be at Mrs. one of the profoundest truths of femiLane's to-night?"

nine nature that the mythologists found“ May I hope to meet you there?” ed their fable of Atalanta, of the sleep

“We are going, and I shall wear the ing princess—yes, of the Sphynx herself. necklace of scarabæi, with many thanks He who approaches such a woman's to the giver.”

heart with intent to win, must wholly " It is not a gift; it is a commission. subdue it, or she will turn upon him You sent for it by me, as you send to and slay him with her eyes for daring Paris through your modiste for a new to make the attempt. dress. It is a debt."

But Vance was too engrossed to note “ Indeed !” exclaimed Marion, a lit- the antagonism so flattering to his vantle superbly. She had walked beside ity which had replaced Miss Harleigh's Vance the length of the drawing-room, ordinary suavity. - and now stood near the door, out of “You have not put on the necklace!” ear-shot from the sofa.

exclaimed he at last. “ Yes," replied Vance, pausing in his “I was interrupted before my toilet leave-taking, and slowly adding, was complete," said Marion.

“ The price is already fixed. Do you “I can never be sufficiently thank, wish to know it?"

ful. I went from here to call upon the “Perhaps I should know it before savant whom I mentioned this morning. accepting the necklace. It may be be- He had gone out—as I afterward disyond my means," said Marion, strug- covered, had gone to find me. gling for an indifferent look and tone. mained down-town, and finally dined

“I think not-I hope not. I cannot at Delmonico's with a friend. On my tell you now what that price is,—but way home I called once more upon the you will wear the necklace to-night ?” savant, whose first words were

“ Yes,” murmured Marion, and felt Have you parted with that neckglad to see him go.

lace?' “What a splendid man, Marion dear! “I said that I had presented it to And he knows such a quantity! One the lady for whom it was procured. really feels quite ashamed of ignorance "She will not wear it?' exclaimed beside him," prattled little Juliette ; he. and her cousin, with a lingering, un- ". She has promised to do so tofathomable smile upon her lips, made night,' said I. some vague reply, and hid the true 6. Great Heaven! You have killed answer in her heart.

her, man!' thundered he, and then That evening, at nine o'clock, came went on to show me the translation of an imperative ring at the Harleigh the hieroglyph taken from the breast of door, and a message earnestly request- the mummy. It wasing Miss Harleigh to see Mr. Vance for See me, the beloved of a king. I one moment on important business. scorned him for a lesser love, and thus

In ten minutes she came down to I lie.?

[ocr errors]

I re

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

“Upon the clasp of the necklace were imperative engagement in town, com: engraved the words,

pelling her to leave with her father in “The gods who give life, also take the morning, not to return until his it.'

return at night. “In some way that infernal (beg par- In all his sufferings, at first poignant, don, but I could not help it) necklace but, alas! as time went on more endurawas the cause of that unhappy woman's ble, from these various caprices and death. Probably it is poisoned, and I desertions, Vance found comfort always -I brought it to you, and urged you awaiting his acceptance in the pitying to wear it-for my sake!”

eyes and tremulous smile of Juliette His emotion was as unfeigned as it Randolph, who, single-hearted darling was evident; and Marion Harleigh for that she was, could never understand got even her antagonism-forgot the how her cousin found pleasure in tordanger she had escaped, and drooped menting thus the man she loved and her happy eyes, lest her lover should such a man! read them too easily.

"Perhaps she does not love me, JuBut a lover reads his lady's eyes even liette," suggested Vance, in disconsolate through the lids, and, five minutes later, reply to this wonder, naïvely expressed Millard Vance had presented Miss Har- on one occasion. leigh with a girdle in place of the re- “Not love you, Millard ! Why, of jected necklace—a girdle formed of his course she does ! How could she-> own right arm; and she, her pride for- began the child, and there stopped, gotten, submitted to its tender compul- blushing like the dawn. sion, nestled close to his heart, and even Vance, a master in heart-lore as in yielded her lips to his kiss, as meekly books, finished the sentence, read the as the simplest country maiden could blushing face, and his own grew sudhave done.

denly pale. Then his gloomy eyes wanWhat wonder that Marion forgot dered across the sea to the horizon-line, then, or afterward, to repeat to any and rested there so long, that Juliette, one the half-revealed secret of the neck- who had as yet guessed neither his lace hidden in the depths of her well- secret nor her own, gayly asked of what stocked jewel-box ?

he was dreaming. The winter passed, and the spring, “I was thinking what a pity I came and Mr. Harleigh took his daughter, the home last winter," said Vance simply. niece who was to him almost another “Oh, don't talk like that! Marion daughter, and the good-natured elderly will be well to-morrow, and perhaps cousin who matronized them, to the gay and bright. And on those days, little cottage by the sea where they you know, you do not wish that you spent always a portion of the year. had not come home," said Marion's

Vance went also, finding quarters in cousin, with a smile as tender as it was a farmhouse close at hand, and spend- arch. ing all bis time with the two girls. Vance glanced at her, then away, and, Marion, now that she had time to think leading her back to the house, excused and to command herself, was the most himself from entering, and spent half capricious and shyest of fiancées ; and the night pacing up and down the poor Vance never knew from day to beach with the wild sea breaking day if he should be permitted to quietly whitely at his feet. lay his homage at her feet, or if he “I must have an explanation with must watch to see it spurned, ridiculed, Marion; and, unless she will consent to or rejected. Seldom, indeed, could he an early marriage, I shall leave this for obtain a téte-à-tête, and not unfrequently some time. I will travel again, or " Marion declined altogether to see him, But if the night brings counsel, it also pleading, to-day a severe headache, to- puts to sleep and benumbs the counsel morrow a dressmaker, the next day an that came before; and when, next morning, Vance found his lady-love ful world, and for love," murmured she, genial, beautiful, and even affectionate, and then went smiling on. he said nothing of the explanation or Her light feet made no noise upon the the journey, and the day went on as sand; the moon and the wind threw many a day had gone before.

her long shadow and the rustling of her And other days, and weeks, and draperies behind her; and so she came months, while still the little party lin- all unconsciously along the beach to the gered at the shore, held by the warm, spot where Vance and Juliette sat in dry autumn days, as sweet as summer, the deep recess of a hollowed cliff. and even richer in their gorgeous Hearing her lover's voice, Marion beauty.

paused. She could not speak indifferAnd still the explanation had not, ently to him just then, nor could she come; and still Vance lingered; and say what was in her heart to other cars still Juliette, the simple, loving child, than his. She hesitated, wondering all innocently sought to soothe the how to act, but soon wondered no more, wounds inflicted by her haughty cousin, for Vance spoke again in answer to and all unconsciously gathered poison words which Marion did not hear. to herself from the wound she sought “ You do comfort me, darling; who to heal.

else ?” asked he passionately, and MaAt last there came a day when Ma- rion, turned to stone as she stood, knew, rion, suddenly arraigning her own heart as if she had seen it, the embrace and for judgment, found it guilty of hy- kiss that accompanied the words. pocrisy, ingratitude, cruelty, and all Then Juliette murmured sobbingly, uncharitableness toward the one crea- “Oh, Millard, you must not-you ture upon earth for whose sake life was ought not !

It is Marion whom you worth the living. She stood aghast at love, and she loves you. Let me go the record placed by memory before away from both of you—and die.” eyes too long and too wilfully blinded, “No, you shall stay with me, and and then took a resolve in strict accord- live," cried Vance, ardently. “She does ance with her fault. As the sin had not love me now, if she ever did. Has been a sin of pride, so the reparation not she been trying to prove how little was born of a profound and sweet she cares for me ever since we came humility,-child of pride wedded to here? And I-oh, darling, it is a simple, love.

trusting, loving heart like yours that a "I will go to him this moment,” man should give his own for. Marion whispered Marion, “and, telling him is a splendid woman-a woman of how dearly, how wholly I love him, I grand intellect, passions, and possibiliwill beg forgiveness for my fault, and, ties; but you, Juliette, you are the if he wishes still to take me all to him- dove whose nest is in my heart. Come self, I will

to me, doveling—come to your home So, on the moment she went. It was forever! Trust me; you have the right, the night of the full moon, the harvest- and Marion will never suffer." moon, and all earth and ocean lay glow- Then, in the pause that followed, she ing and quivering in a bath of golden turned, and went her way, careless if splendor. From the woods and fields she were seen and heard, or not. Turncame rich autumnal odors, and from ing her back upon the man that had over the sea, sighing breaths of a dying wooed her to her doom, she saw her tropic breeze,-night-birds and insects shadow stretching black and ominous on the one hand, the long waste of along her path, and set her feet within dreaming waves sliding up the sands, it at every step. The dreaming sea, no and breaking in music, upon the other. longer whispering of love and hope,

Marion stopped, to raise her face to moaned wearily among its grasses ; the heaven.

sighing wind brought an odor of decay “Thank God for life, for this beauti- from the woods and fields, of chill

[ocr errors]

unrest from the distant sea. The sands, ener at least was neither startled or that had seemed the golden dust of doubtful of its meaning. Pactolus, were of a sudden filled with Striding up the stair, and past the flints and shards. All nature showed a frightened servant who ran to call her change, and yet nowhere was change master, he entered the chamber alone, like that in the heart Marioń Harleigh and stood beside the bed where lay his carried home from the little journey she mistress, royal in death. She had dressbad made to find her love.

ed herself in the bridal robes, given The next morning Vance was awak- her only a few days previously by her ened in the early dawn by the farmer's doting father, and magnificent in silk wife, who, standing at his bedside, laid and lace and embroidery .of oriental a letter in his hand.

pearls. The bridal veil, fastened to her “It was brought by the Squire's man. glorious coronal of hair, swept down at He said you was to have it last night, either side, but no flowers encircled it, but'it was so late when he got here that or lay upon the quiet bosom, or were we was all a-bed, and so he called again clasped in the icy fingers. No flower, first thing this morning and made me no jewel, no ornament of any descripcome right up with it.”

tion entered into that strange bridal “ Yes, thank you. That will do, Mrs. toilet, save such as formed part of the Brown,” said Vance, who, holding the dress itself, and a necklace of golden unopened letter, had turned of a sudden scarabæi about the throat. mumb and chill, with a horrible, indefi- With a groan, such as the rack might nite foreboding.

at last wring from the strongest heart, So' soon as he was alone, he tore open Vance bent to examine this necklace, the envelope with fingers almost too which had, as the merest glance showed, impatient and too tremulous to reach undergone some strange transformation. their object.

Strange, indeed ! The beetles, no It contained the slip of parchment longer mere toys and images, appeared Marion had begged of him soon after to have suddenly assumed life, and the their engagement, and a sheet of paper power attributed to them by the men exhaling the violet perfume Marion who worshipped them as gods. Standloved, and with Marion's monogram at ing erect upon the myriad legs hitherto the top. It brought him this message: folded unobserved beneath their bodies,

“ Your friend did not interpret the with open wings, and upraised antennæ, hieroglyph aright. This is my reading: with their diamond eyes flashing and

“. Behold me, who fancied myself the glittering in the first ray of the rising beloved of a king among men. He sun, the creatures appeared so fearful scorned me for a lesser love, and thus I and so unearthly that Vance drew back lie.'”

a pace in terror from the sight. ReIn ten minutes Vance, with death at covering his manhood almost instantly, his heart, was on his way to her who however, he snatched at the necklace thus summoned him. The early morn- with the shrinking bate of human nature ing was fresh and sweet and delicate in in presence of the fiend, and would its beauty as a young girl's first dream have torn it from its resting-place, alof love, but Vance knew it no more though too late, for its work was done. than Cain, who fled from the wrath of But with a strange, new thrill of horror, God and the eyes of man with a brand he found the effort in vain. Each of upon his brow.

these thread-like legs ended in a minute Arrived at the cottage, and finding claw, and each of these claws, fastened only the servants astir, he ordered deep in the flesh beneath, held to its Marion's inaid to go and ask if she prey, still warm beneath its deadly could see him in half an hour.

grasp. The woman went, and, when her shrill The household, alarmed and wondershriek rang through the house, one list- ing, were by this time flocking into the

1

[ocr errors]

room; but Vance, turning upon them a

“Good-by.

You will not see me pallid face, and strained, blood-shotten again." eyes, begged to be left yet a moment Juliette, uttering a faint moan, turned alone with the corpse of his promised away; then, tottering, fell in a swoon wife. Only the father remained ; and like death. Vance, leading him to the bed, pointed Her uncle, pointing to her prostrate at what lay there, saying, in, a hard, body, sternly met the eyes of the miscold voice,

erable man who stood staring gloomily “She dressed herself in these robes before him, and said, as a girl would naturally like to do, and “Not her too, surely! Is not one she put this necklace about her neck. enough ?” It was poisoned, as I told her when I “ If Juliette will marry me, you may gave it her, and warned her not to use set the day for yourself,” said Vance, it. She forgot my warning, and placed desperately it about her throat, meaning, perhaps, “One year from to-morrow, if Juliette to wear it as my gift when we should still wishes. Let my girl lie one year, stand before the altar. I warned her, but one little year, in her grave first, and she did not heed, and-there she lies." then her claims shall give way to those

Peter Harleigh, shrewd and crafty of the living," replied the old man bitman of the world, looked long and ear- terly; and Vancenestly into the face of his son-in-law, "One year from tomorrow I will then into the face of the corpse, hardly come back. Then, if Juliette will marry sterner, hardly whiter, than that of the

me, she shall." man; and at last he said,

The year came round, and, with it, “ There is a mystery, but I do not Vance. Juliette, who loved, and could care to fathom it, lest I hate the man not comprehend him, was ready to acmy daughter loved. The story you tell cept the sacrifice he offered instead of a will answer. Go, now, and leave me heart, and they were married. with my dead.”

She is happy in her nursery and in "I will take this; it is my right,” her household, and she worships and said Vance, plucking away the neck- deceives in a thousand little ways the lace. Beneath it lay a livi l band en- husband she fears as much as she loves. circling the throat, and composed, as a And he? Of his inner life we do not close examination showed, of innumera- speak; of the outer let this fact suffice: ble points or dots; but, even as they where no eye but his own ever sees it, looked, this fade 1 slowly from the sur- he hides a little Indian casket containface, and, an hour later, the skin had ing the Egyptian necklace. The scarabecome smooth and white as it had bæi, no longer excited by contact with ever been.

warm human flesh, lie in the quiescent No one saw Vance after this, until he state we first saw them, but the venom stood with her father and cousin beside remains, the power remains; and Vance, Marion Harleigh's open grave. When looking at them, fancies often that they the services were ended, and the mourn- are but the outward symbols of the ers, save themselves, dispersed, he turned avenging memories that gnaw and sting to these two, and simply said,

his heart forever.

« IndietroContinua »