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him last night, and am to learn his decision to-day. You shall know it almost as soon as I."
"Thanks," said Marion, breathing a little more freely. "It would be horrible to me to have a three-thousandyear-old secret hung like a millstone about my neck, if I could never hope to solve it."
"Then you will wear the necklace?" asked Vance, smiling down upon her, for he had risen to take leave.
"Certainly. Shall you be at Mrs. Lane's to-night?"
"May I hope to meet you there?" "We are going, and I shall wear the necklace of scarabæi, with many thanks to the giver."
"It is not a gift; it is a commission. You sent for it by me, as you send to Paris through your modiste for a new dress. It is a debt."
"Indeed!" exclaimed Marion, a little superbly. She had walked beside Vance the length of the drawing-room, and now stood near the door, out of ear-shot from the sofa.
"Yes," replied Vance, pausing in his leave-taking, and slowly adding,
"The price is already fixed. Do you wish to know it?"
"Perhaps I should know it before accepting the necklace. It may be beyond my means," said Marion, struggling for an indifferent look and tone.
"I think not-I hope not. I cannot tell you now what that price is, but you will wear the necklace to-night?" "Yes," murmured Marion, and felt glad to see him go.
"What a splendid man, Marion dear! And he knows such a quantity! One really feels quite ashamed of ignorance beside him," prattled little Juliette; and her cousin, with a lingering, unfathomable smile upon. her lips, made some vague reply, and hid the true answer in her heart.
That evening, at nine o'clock, came an imperative ring at the Harleigh door, and a message earnestly requesting Miss Harleigh to see Mr. Vance for one moment on important business.
In ten minutes she came down to
him, superb in gold-colored silk and black lace, but without ornaments.
"Your business is very urgent, then, Mr. Vance," said she, a little haughtily.
"Thank God!" murmured Vance, staring at her regal neck and shoulders.
"For what? That you have some important business at last?" asked Marion Harleigh, one of the women who instinctively resent, even upon the man they love, the attempt to reconcile them to lure and jess. It was upon one of the profoundest truths of feminine nature that the mythologists founded their fable of Atalanta, of the sleeping princess-yes, of the Sphynx berself. He who approaches such a woman's heart with intent to win, must wholly subdue it, or she will turn upon him and slay him with her eyes for daring to make the attempt.
But Vance was too engrossed to note the antagonism so flattering to his vanity which had replaced Miss Harleigh's ordinary suavity.
"You have not put on the necklace!" exclaimed he at last.
"I was interrupted before my toilet was complete," said Marion.
"I can never be sufficiently thankful. I went from here to call upon the savant whom I mentioned this morning. He had gone out-as I afterward discovered, had gone to find me. I remained down-town, and finally dined at Delmonico's with a friend. On my way home I called once more upon the savant, whose first words were—
"Have you parted with that necklace?'
"I said that I had presented it to the lady for whom it was procured. "She will not wear it?' exclaimed
"She has promised to do so tonight,' said I.
"Great Heaven! You have killed her, man!' thundered he, and then went on to show me the translation of the hieroglyph taken from the breast of the mummy. It was
"See me, the beloved of a king. I scorned him for a lesser love, and thus I lie.'
"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 return at night.
"In some way that infernal (beg pardon, but I could not help it) necklace was the cause of that unhappy woman's death. Probably it is poisoned, and I -I brought it to you, and urged you to wear it-for my sake!"
His emotion was as unfeigned as it was evident; and Marion Harleigh forgot even her antagonism-forgot the danger she had escaped, and drooped her happy eyes, lest her lover should read them too easily.
But a lover reads his lady's eyes even through the lids, and, five minutes later, Millard Vance had presented Miss Harleigh with a girdle in place of the rejected necklace-a girdle formed of his own right arm; and she, her pride forgotten, submitted to its tender compulsion, nestled close to his heart, and even yielded her lips to his kiss, as meekly as the simplest country maiden could have done.
What wonder that Marion forgot then, or afterward, to repeat to any one the half-revealed secret of the necklace hidden in the depths of her wellstocked jewel-box?
The winter passed, and the spring, and Mr. Harleigh took his daughter, the niece who was to him almost another daughter, and the good-natured elderly cousin who matronized them, to the little cottage by the sea where they spent always a portion of the year.
Vance went also, finding quarters in a farmhouse close at hand, and spending all his time with the two girls. Marion, now that she had time to think and to command herself, was the most capricious and shyest of fiancées; and poor Vance never knew from day to day if he should be permitted to quietly lay his homage at her feet, or if he must watch to see it spurned, ridiculed, or rejected. Seldom, indeed, could he obtain a téte-à-tête, and not unfrequently Marion declined altogether to see him, pleading, to-day a severe headache, tomorrow a dressmaker, the next day an
In all his sufferings, at first poignant, but, alas! as time went on more endurable, from these various caprices and desertions, Vance found comfort always awaiting his acceptance in the pitying eyes and tremulous smile of Juliette Randolph, who, single-hearted darling that she was, could never understand how her cousin found pleasure in tormenting thus the man she loved-and such a man!
"Perhaps she does not love me, Juliette," suggested Vance, in disconsolate reply to this wonder, naïvely expressed on one occasion.
"Not love you, Millard! Why, of course she does! How could she-" began the child, and there stopped, blushing like the dawn.
Vance, a master in heart-lore as in books, finished the sentence, read the blushing face, and his own grew suddenly pale. Then his gloomy eyes wandered across the sea to the horizon-line, and rested there so long, that Juliette, who had as yet guessed neither his secret nor her own, gayly asked of what he was dreaming.
"I was thinking what a pity I came home last winter," said Vance simply.
"Oh, don't talk like that! Marion will be well to-morrow, and perhaps gay and bright. And on those days, you know, you do not wish that you had not come home," said Marion's cousin, with a smile as tender as it was arch.
Vance glanced at her, then away, and, leading her back to the house, excused himself from entering, and spent half the night pacing up and down the beach with the wild sea breaking whitely at his feet.
"I must have an explanation with Marion; and, unless she will consent to an early marriage, I shall leave this for some time. I will travel again, or—”
But if the night brings counsel, it also puts to sleep and benumbs the counsel that came before; and when, next
morning, Vance found his lady-love genial, beautiful, and even affectionate, he said nothing of the explanation or the journey, and the day went on as many a day had gone before.
And other days, and weeks, and months, while still the little party lingered at the shore, held by the warm, dry autumn days, as sweet as summer, and even richer in their gorgeous beauty.
And still the explanation had not come; and still Vance lingered; and still Juliette, the simple, loving child, all innocently sought to soothe the wounds inflicted by her haughty cousin, and all unconsciously gathered poison to herself from the wound she sought to heal.
At last there came a day when Marion, suddenly arraigning her own heart for judgment, found it guilty of hy pocrisy, ingratitude, cruelty, and all uncharitableness toward the one creature upon earth for whose sake life was worth the living. She stood aghast at the record placed by memory before eyes too long and too wilfully blinded, and then took a resolve in strict accordance with her fault. As the sin had been a sin of pride, so the reparation was born of a profound and sweet humility, child of pride wedded to love.
"I will go to him this moment," whispered Marion, "and, telling him how dearly, how wholly I love him, I will beg forgiveness for my fault, and, if he wishes still to take me all to himself, I will—”
So, on the moment she went. It was the night of the full moon, the harvestmoon, and all earth and ocean lay glowing and quivering in a bath of golden. splendor. From the woods and fields came rich autumnal odors, and from over the sea, sighing breaths of a dying tropic breeze,-night-birds and insects on the one hand, the long waste of dreaming waves sliding up the sands, and breaking in music, upon the other. Marion stopped, to raise her face to heaven.
"Thank God for life, for this beauti
ful world, and for love," murmured she, and then went smiling on.
Her light feet made no noise upon the sand; the moon and the wind threw her long shadow and the rustling of her draperies behind her; and so she came all unconsciously along the beach to the spot where Vance and Juliette sat in the deep recess of a hollowed cliff.
Hearing her lover's voice, Marion paused. She could not speak indifferently to him just then, nor could she say what was in her heart to other ears than his. She hesitated, wondering how to act, but soon wondered no more, for Vance spoke again in answer to words which Marion did not hear.
"You do comfort me, darling; who else?" asked he passionately, and Marion, turned to stone as she stood, knew, as if she had seen it, the embrace and kiss that accompanied the words.
Then Juliette murmured sobbingly, "Oh, Millard, you must not-you ought not! It is Marion whom you love, and she loves you. away from both of you—and die."
Let me go
"No, you shall stay with me, and live," cried Vance, ardently. "She does not love me now, if she ever did. Has not she been trying to prove how little she cares for me ever since we came here? And I-oh, darling, it is a simple, trusting, loving heart like yours that a man should give his own for. Marion is a splendid woman-a woman of grand intellect, passions, and possibilities; but you, Juliette, you are the dove whose nest is in my heart. Come to me, doveling-come to your home forever! Trust me; you have the right, and Marion will never suffer."
Then, in the pause that followed, she turned, and went her way, careless if she were seen and heard, or not. Turning her back upon the man that had wooed her to her doom, she saw her shadow stretching black and ominous along her path, and set her feet within it at every step. The dreaming sea, no longer whispering of love and hope, moaned wearily among its grasses; the sighing wind brought an odor of decay from the woods and fields, of chill
unrest from the distant sea. The sands, that had seemed the golden dust of Pactolus, were of a sudden filled with flints and shards. All nature showed a change, and yet nowhere was change like that in the heart Marion Harleigh carried home from the little journey she had made to find her love.
The next morning Vance was awakened in the early dawn by the farmer's wife, who, standing at his bedside, laid a letter in his hand.
"It was brought by the Squire's man. He said you was to have it last night, but it was so late when he got here that we was all a-bed, and so he called again first thing this morning and made me come right up with it."
"Yes, thank you. That will do, Mrs. Brown," said Vance, who, holding the unopened letter, had turned of a sudden numb and chill, with a horrible, indefinite foreboding.
So soon as he was alone, he tore open the envelope with fingers almost too impatient and too tremulous to reach their object.
It contained the slip of parchment Marion had begged of him soon after their engagement, and a sheet of paper exhaling the violet perfume Marion loved, and with Marion's monogram at the top. It brought him this message: "Your friend did not interpret the hieroglyph aright. This is my reading: "Behold me, who fancied myself the beloved of a king among men. He scorned me for a lesser love, and thus I lie.'"
In ten minutes Vance, with death at his heart, was on his way to her who thus summoned him. The early morning was fresh and sweet and delicate in its beauty as a young girl's first dream of love, but Vance knew it no more than Cain, who fled from the wrath of God and the eyes of man with a brand upon his brow.
Arrived at the cottage, and finding only the servants astir, he ordered Marion's maid to go and ask if she could see him in half an hour.
The woman went, and, when her shrill shriek rang through the house, one list
ener at least was neither startled or doubtful of its meaning.
Striding up the stair, and past the frightened servant who ran to call her master, he entered the chamber alone, and stood beside the bed where lay his mistress, royal in death. She had dressed herself in the bridal robes, given her only a few days previously by her doting father, and magnificent in silk and lace and embroidery of oriental pearls. The bridal veil, fastened to her glorious coronal of hair, swept down at either side, but no flowers encircled it, or lay upon the quiet bosom, or were clasped in the icy fingers. No flower, no jewel, no ornament of any description entered into that strange bridal toilet, save such as formed part of the dress itself, and a necklace of golden scarabæi about the throat.
With a groan, such as the rack might at last wring from the strongest heart, Vance bent to examine this necklace, which had, as the merest glance showed, undergone some strange transformation.
Strange, indeed! The beetles, no longer mere toys and images, appeared to have suddenly assumed life, and the power attributed to them by the men who worshipped them as gods. Standing erect upon the myriad legs hitherto folded unobserved beneath their bodies, with open wings, and upraised antennæ, with their diamond eyes flashing and glittering in the first ray of the rising sun, the creatures appeared so fearful and so unearthly that Vance drew back a pace in terror from the sight. Recovering his manhood almost instantly, however, he snatched at the necklace with the shrinking hate of human nature in presence of the fiend, and would have torn it from its resting-place, although too late, for its work was done. But with a strange, new thrill of horror, he found the effort in vain. Each of these thread-like legs ended in a minute claw, and each of these claws, fastened deep in the flesh beneath, held to its prey, still warm beneath its deadly grasp.
The household, alarmed and wondering, were by this time flocking into the
room; but Vance, turning upon them a pallid face, and strained, blood-shotten eyes, begged to be left yet a moment alone with the corpse of his promised wife. Only the father remained; and Vance, leading him to the bed, pointed at what lay there, saying, in, a hard, cold voice,
"She dressed herself in these robes as a girl would naturally like to do, and she put this necklace about her neck. It was poisoned, as I told her when I gave it her, and warned her not to use it. She forgot my warning, and placed it about her throat, meaning, perhaps, to wear it as my gift when we should stand before the altar. I warned her, but she did not heed, and-there she lies." Peter Harleigh, shrewd and crafty man of the world, looked long and earnestly into the face of his son-in-law, then into the face of the corpse, hardly sterner, hardly whiter, than that of the man; and at last he said,
"There is a mystery, but I do not care to fathom it, lest I hate the man my daughter loved. The story you tell will answer. Go, now, and leave me with my dead."
"I will take this; it is my right," said Vance, plucking away the necklace. Beneath it lay a livil band encircling the throat, and composed, as a close examination showed, of innumerable points or dots; but, even as they looked, this fade 1 slowly from the surface, and, an hour later, the skin had become smooth and white as it had ever been.
No one saw Vance after this, until he stood with her father and cousin beside Marion Harleigh's open grave. When the services were ended, and the mourners, save themselves, dispersed, he turned to these two, and simply said,
Juliette, uttering a faint moan, turned away; then, tottering, fell in a swoon like death.
Her uncle, pointing to her prostrate body, sternly met the eyes of the miserable man who stood staring gloomily before him, and said,
"Not her too, surely! Is not one enough?"
"If Juliette will marry me, you may set the day for yourself," said Vance, desperately.
"One year from to-morrow, if Juliette still wishes. Let my girl lie one year, one little year, in her grave first, and then her claims shall give way to those of the living," replied the old man bitterly; and Vance
"One year from to-morrow I will come back. Then, if Juliette will marry me, she shall."
The year came round, and, with it, Vance. Juliette, who loved, and could not comprehend him, was ready to accept the sacrifice he offered instead of a heart, and they were married.
She is happy in her nursery and in her household, and she worships and deceives in a thousand little ways the husband she fears as much as she loves.
And he? Of his inner life we do not speak; of the outer let this fact suffice: where no eye but his own ever sees it, he hides a little Indian casket containing the Egyptian necklace. The scarabæi, no longer excited by contact with warm human flesh, lie in the quiescent state we first saw them, but the venom remains, the power remains; and Vance, looking at them, fancies often that they are but the outward symbols of the avenging memories that gnaw and sting his heart forever.