Run to Earth, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Chapter 25

A Dangerous Alliance.

In the afternoon of the day following that on which Sir Reginald paid a visit to Victor Carrington, the latter gentleman presented himself at the door of Hilton House. The frost had again set in, and this time with more than usual severity. There had been a heavy fall of snow, and the park-like grounds surrounding Madame Durski’s abode had an almost fairy-like appearance, the tracery of the leafless trees defined by the snow that had lodged on every branch, the undulating lawn one bed of pure white.

He knocked at the door and waited. The woman at the lodge had told him that it was very unlikely he would be able to see Madame Durski at this hour of the day, but he had walked on to the house notwithstanding.

It was already nearly four o’clock in the afternoon; but at that hour Paulina had rarely left her own apartments.

Victor Carrington knew this quite as well as the woman at the lodge, but he had business to do with another person as well as Paulina Durski. That other person was the widow’s humble companion.

The door was opened by Carlo Toas, Paulina’s confidential courier and butler. This man looked very suspiciously at the visitor.

“My mistress receives no one at this hour,” he said.

“I am aware that she does not usually see visitors so early,” replied Carrington; “but as I come on particular business, and as I come a long way to see her, she will perhaps make an exception in my favour.”

He produced his card-case as he spoke, and handed the man a card, on which he had written the following words in pencil:

Pray see me, dear madame. I come on really important business, which will bear no delay. If you cannot see me till your dinner-hour, I will wait.

The Spaniard ushered Victor into one of the reception-rooms, which looked cold and chill in the winter daylight. Except the grand piano, there was no trace of feminine occupation in the room. It looked like an apartment kept only for the reception of visitors — an apartment which lacked all the warmth and comfort of home.

Victor waited for some time, and began to think his message had not been taken to the mistress of the house, when the door was opened, and Miss Brewer appeared.

She looked at the visitor with an inquisitive glance as she entered the room, and approached him softly, with her light, greenish-grey eyes fixed upon his face.

“Madame Durski has been suffering from nervous headache all day,” she said, “and has not yet risen. Her dinner-hour is half-past six. If your business is really of importance, and if you care to wait, she will be happy to see you then.”

“My business is of real importance; and I shall be very glad to wait,” answered Victor. “Since Madame Durski is, unhappily, unable to receive me for some time, I shall gladly avail myself of the opportunity, in order to enjoy a little conversation with you, Miss Brewer,” he said, courteously, “always supposing that you are not otherwise engaged.”

“I have no other engagement whatever,” answered the lady, in a cold, measured voice.

“I wish to speak to you upon very serious business,” continued Victor, “and I believe that I can venture to address you with perfect candour. The business to which I allude concerns the interests of Madame Durski, and I have every reason to suppose that you are thoroughly devoted to her interests.”

“For whom else should I care?” returned Miss Brewer, with a bitter laugh. “Madame Durski is the only friend I can count in this world. I have known her from her childhood — and if I can believe anything good of my species, which is not very easy for me to do, I can believe that she cares for me — a little — as she might care for some piece of furniture which she had been accustomed to see about her from her infancy, and which she would miss if it were removed.”

“You wrong your friend,” said Victor. “She has every reason to be sincerely attached to you, and I have little doubt that she is so.”

“What right have you to have little doubt or much doubt about it?” exclaimed Miss Brewer, contemptuously; “and why do you try to palm off upon me the idle nonsense which senseless people consider it incumbent on them to utter? You do not know Paulina Durski — I do. She is a woman who never in her life cared for more than two things.”

“And these two things are —”

“The excitement of the gaming-table, and the love of your worthless friend, Sir Reginald Eversleigh.”

“Does she really love my friend?”

“She does. She loves him as few men deserve to be loved — and least of all that man. She loves him, although she knows that her affection is unreturned, unappreciated. For his sake she would sacrifice her own happiness, her own prosperity. Women are foolish creatures, Mr. Carrington, and you men do wisely when you despise them.”

“I will not enter into the question of my friend’s merits,” said Victor; “but I know that Madame Durski has won the love of a man who is worthy of any woman’s affection — a man who is rich, and can elevate her from her present — doubtful — position.”

The Frenchman uttered these last words with a great appearance of restraint and hesitation.

“Say, miserable position,” exclaimed Miss Brewer; “for Paulina Durski’s position is the most degraded that a woman — whose life has been comparatively sinless — ever occupied.”

“And every day its degradation will become more profound,” said Victor. “Unless Madame Durski follows my advice, she cannot long remain in England. In her native city she has little to hope for. In Paris, her name has acquired an evil odour. What, then, lies before her?”

“Ruin!” exclaimed Miss Brewer, abruptly; “starvation it may be. I know that our race is nearly run, Mr. Carrington. You need not trouble yourself to remind me of our misery.”

“If I do remind you of it, I only do so in the hope that I may be able to serve you,” answered Victor. “I have tasted all the bitterness of poverty, Miss Brewer. Forgive me, if I ask whether you, too, have been acquainted with its sting?”

“Have I felt its sting?” cried the poor faded creature. “Who has felt the tooth of the serpent, Poverty, more cruelly than I? It has pierced my very heart. From my childhood I have known nothing but poverty. Shall I tell you my story, Mr. Carrington? I am not apt to speak of myself, or of my youth; but you have evoked the demon, Memory, and I feel a kind of relief in speaking of that long-departed time.”

“I am deeply interested in all you say, Miss Brewer. Stranger though I am, believe me that my interest is sincere.”

As Victor Carrington said this, Charlotte Brewer looked at him with a sharp, penetrating glance. She was not a woman to be fooled by shallow hypocrisies. The light of the winter’s day was fading; but even in the fading light Victor saw the look of sharp suspicion in her pinched face.

“Why should you be interested in me?” she asked, abruptly.

“Because I believe you may be useful to me,” answered Victor, boldly. “I do not want to deceive you, Miss Brewer. Great triumphs have been achieved by the union of two powerful minds.”

I know you to possess a powerful mind; I know you to be a woman above ordinary prejudices; and I want you to help me, as I am ready to help you. But you were about to tell me the story of your youth.

“It shall be told briefly,” said Miss Brewer, speaking in a rapid, energetic manner that was the very reverse of the measured tones she was wont to use. “I am the daughter of a disgraced man, who was a gentleman once; but I have forgotten that time, as he forgot it long before he died.

“My father passed the last ten years of his life in a prison. He died in that prison, and within those dingy smoke-blackened walls my childhood was spent — a joyless childhood, without a hope, without a dream, haunted perpetually by the dark phantom, Poverty. I emerged from that prison to enter a new one, in the shape of a West-end boarding~school, where I became the drudge and scape-goat of rich citizens’ daughters, heiresses presumptive to the scrapings of tallow-chandlers and coal-merchants, linen-drapers and cheesemongers. For six years I endured my fate patiently, uncomplainingly. Not one creature amongst that large household loved me, or cared for me, or thought whether I was happy or miserable.

“I worked like a slave. I rose early, and went to bed late, giving my youth, my health, my beauty — you will smile, perhaps, Mr. Carrington, but in those days I was accounted a handsome woman — in exchange for what? My daily bread, and the education which was to enable me to earn a livelihood hereafter. Some distant relations undertook to clothe me; and I was dressed in those days about as shabbily as I have been dressed ever since. In all my life, I never knew the innocent pleasure which every woman feels in the possession of handsome clothes.

“At eighteen, I left the boarding-school to go on the Continent, where I was to fill a situation which had been procured for me. That situation was in the household of Paulina Durski’s father. Paulina was ten years of age, and I was appointed as her governess and companion. From that day to this, I have never left her. As much as I am capable of loving any one, I love her. But my mind has been embittered by the miseries of my girlhood, and I do not pretend to be capable of much womanly feeling.”

“I thank you for your candour,” said Victor. “It is of importance for me to understand your position, for, by so doing, I shall be the better able to assist you. I may believe, then, that there is only one person in the world for whom you care, and that person is Paulina Durski?”

“You may believe that.”

“And I may also believe that you, who have drained to the dregs the bitter cup of poverty, would do much, and risk much, in order to be rich?”

“You may.”

“Then, Miss Brewer, let me speak to you openly, as one sincerely interested in you, and desirous of serving you and your charming but infatuated friend. May I hope that we shall be uninterrupted for some time longer, for I am anxious to explain myself at once, and fully, now that the opportunity has arisen?”

“No one is likely to enter this room, unless summoned by me,” said Miss Brewer. “You may speak freely, and at any length you please, Mr. Carrington; but I warn you, you are speaking to a person who has no faith in any profession of disinterested regard.”

As she spoke, Miss Brewer leaned back in her chair, folded her hands before her, and assumed an utterly impassible expression of countenance. No less promising recipient of a confidential scheme could have been seen: but Victor Carrington was not in the least discouraged. He replied, in a cheerful, deferential, and yet business-like tone:

“I am quite aware of that, Miss Brewer; and for my part, I should not feel the respect I do feel for you if I believed you so deficient in sense and experience as to take any other view. I don’t offer myself to you in the absurd disguise of a preux chevalier, anxious to espouse the unprofitable cause of two unprotected women in an equivocal position, and in circumstances rapidly tending to desperation.”

Here Victor Carrington glanced at his companion; he wanted to see if the shot had told. But Miss Brewer cared no more for the almost open insult, than she had cared for the implied interest conveyed in the exordium of his discourse. She sat silent and motionless. He continued:

“I have an object to gain, which I am resolved to achieve. Two ways to the attainment of this object are open to me; the one injurious, in fact destructive, to you and Madame Durski, the other eminently beneficial. I am interested in you. I particularly like Madame Durski, though I am not one of the legion of her professed admirers.”

Miss Brewer shook her head sadly. That legion was much reduced in its numbers of late.

“Therefore,” continued Carrington, without seeming to observe the gesture, “I prefer to adopt the latter course, and further your interests in securing my own. I suppose you can at least understand and credit such very plain motives, so very plainly expressed, Miss Brewer?”

“Yes,” she said, “that may be true; it does not seem unlikely; we shall see.”

“You certainly shall. My explanation will not, I hope, be unduly tedious, but it is indispensable that it should be full. You know, Miss Brewer, that Sir Reginald Eversleigh and I are intimate friends?”

Miss Brewer smiled — a pale, prolonged, unpleasant smile, and then replied, speaking very deliberately:

“I know nothing of the kind, Mr. Carrington. I know you are much together, and have an air of familiar acquaintance, which is the true interpretation of friendship, I take it, between men of the world — of your world in particular.”

The hard and determined expression of her manner would have discouraged and deterred most men. It did not discourage or deter Victor Carrington.

“Put what interpretation you please upon my words,” he said, “but recognize the facts. There is a strict alliance, if you prefer that phrase, between me and Sir Reginald Eversleigh, and his present intimacy, with his seeming devotion to Madame Durski, prevents him from carrying out the terms of that alliance to my satisfaction. I am therefore resolved to break off that intimacy. Do you comprehend me so far?”

“Yes, I comprehend you so far,” answered Miss Brewer, “perfectly.”

“Considering Madame Durski’s feelings for Sir Reginald — feelings of which, I assure you, I consider him, even according to my own unpretending standard, entirely unworthy — this intimacy cannot be broken off without pain to her, but it might be destroyed without any profit, nay, with ruinous loss. Now, I cannot spare her the pain; that is necessary, indispensable, both for her good, and — which I don’t pretend not to regard more urgently — my own. But I can make the pain eminently profitable to her, with your assistance — in fact, so profitable as to secure the peace and prosperity of her whole future life.”

He paused, and Miss Brewer looked steadily at him, but she did not speak.

“Reginald Eversleigh owes me money, Miss Brewer, and I cannot afford to allow him to remain in my debt. I don’t mean that he has borrowed money from me, for I never had any to lend, and, having any, should never have lent it.” He saw how the tone he was taking suited the woman’s perverted mind, and pursued it. “But I have done him certain services for which he undertook to pay me money, and I want money. He has none, and the only means by which he can procure it is a rich marriage. Such a marriage is within his reach; one of the richest heiresses in London would have him for the asking — she is an ironmonger’s daughter, and pines to be My Lady — but he hesitates, and loses his time in visits to Madame Durski, which are only doing them both harm. Doing her harm, because they are deceiving her, encouraging a delusion; and doing him harm, because they are wasting his time, and incurring the risk of his being ‘blown upon’ to the ironmonger. Vulgar people of the kind, you know, my dear Miss Brewer, give ugly names, and attach undue importance to intimacies of this kind, and — and — in short, it is on the cards that Madame Durski may spoil Sir Reginald’s game. Well, as that game is also mine, you will find no difficulty in understanding that I do not intend Madame Durski shall spoil it.”

“Yes, I understand that,” said Miss Brewer, as plainly as before; “but I don’t understand how Paulina is to be served in the affair, and I don’t understand what my part is to be in it.”

“I am coming to that,” he said. “You cannot be unaware of the impression which Madame Durski has made upon Sir Reginald’s cousin, Douglas Dale.”

“I know he did admire her,” said Miss Brewer, “but he has not been here since his brother’s death. He is a rich man now.”

“Yes, he is — but that will make no change in him in certain respects. Douglas Dale is a fool, and will always remain so. Madame Durski has completely captivated him, and I am perfectly certain he would marry her to-morrow, if she could be brought to consent.”

“A striking proof that Mr. Douglas Dale deserves the character you have given him, you would say, Mr. Carrington?”

“Madam, I am at the mercy of your perspicuity,” said Victor, with a mock bow; “however, a truce to badinage — Douglas Dale is a rich man, and very much in love with Madame Durski; but he is the last man in the world to interfere with his cousin, by trying to win her affections, if he believes her attached to Sir Reginald. He is a fool in some things, as I have said before, and he is much more likely, if he thinks it a case of mutual desperation, to contribute a thousand a year or so to set the couple up in a modest competence, like a princely proprietor in a play, than to advance his own claims. Now, this modest competence business would not suit Sir Reginald, or Madame Durski, or me, but the other arrangement would be a capital thing for us all.”

“H— m, you see she really loves your friend, Sir Reginald,” said Miss Brewer.

“Tush,” ejaculated Victor Carrington, contemptuously; “of course I know she does, but what does it matter? She would be the most wretched of women if Reginald married her, and he won’t — after all, that’s the great point, he won’t. Now Dale will, and will give her unlimited control of his money — a very nice position, not so elevated as to ensure an undesirable raking-up of her antecedents, and the means of proving her gratitude to you, by providing for you comfortably for life.”

“That is all possible,” replied Miss Brewer, as calmly as before; “but what am I to do towards bringing about so desirable a state of affairs.”

“You have to use the influence which your position auprès de Madame Durski gives you. You can keep her situation constantly before her, you can perpetually harp upon its exigencies — they are pressing, are they not? Yes — then make them more pressing. Expose her to the constant worry and annoyance of poverty, make no effort to hide the inconvenience of ruin. She is a bad manager, of course — all women of her sort are bad managers. Don’t help her — make the very worst of everything. Then, you can take every opportunity of pointing out Reginald’s neglect, all his defalcations, the cruelty of his conduct to her, the evidence of his never intending to marry her, the selfishness which makes him indifferent to her troubles, and unwilling to help her. Work on pride, on pique, on jealousy, on the love of comfort and luxury, and the horror of poverty and privation, which are always powerful in the minds of women like Madame Durski. Don’t talk much to her at first about Douglas Dale, especially until he has come to town and has resumed his visiting here; but take care that her difficulties press heavily upon her, and that she is kept in mind that help or hope from Reginald there is none. I have no doubt whatever that Dale will propose to her, if he does not see her infatuation for Reginald.”

“But suppose Mr. Dale does not come here at all?” asked Miss Brewer; “he has broken through the habit now, and he may have thought it over, and determined to keep away.”

“Suppose a moth flies away from a candle, Miss Brewer,” returned Carrington, “and makes a refreshing excursion out of window into the cool evening air! May we not calculate with tolerable certainty on his return, and his incremation? The last thing in all this matter I should think of doubting would be the readiness of Douglas Dale to tumble head-foremost into any net we please to spread for him.”

A short pause ensued — interrupted by Miss Brewer, who said, “I suppose this must all be done quickly — on account of that wealthy Philistine, the ironmonger?”

“On account of my happening to want money very badly, Miss Brewer, and Madame Durski finding herself in the same position. The more quickly the better for all parties. And now, I have spoken very plainly to you so far, let me speak still more plainly. It is manifestly for your advantage that Madame Durski should be rich and respectable, rather than that she should be poor and — under a cloud. It is no less manifestly, though not so largely, for your advantage, that I should get my money from Reginald Eversleigh, because, when I do, get it, I will hand you five hundred pounds by way of bonus.”

“If there were any means by which you could be legally bound to the fulfilment of that promise, Mr. Carrington,” said Miss Brewer, “I should request you to put it in writing. But I am quite aware that no such means exist. I accept it, therefore, with moderate confidence, and will adopt the course you have sketched, not because I look for the punctual payment of the money, but because Paulina’s good fortune, if secured, will secure mine. But I must add,” and here Miss Brewer sat upright in her chair, and a faint colour came into her sallow cheek, “I should not have anything to do with your plots and plans, if I did not believe, and see, that this one is for Paulina’s real good.”

Victor Carrington smiled, as he thought, “Here is a rare sample of human nature. Here is this woman, quite pleased with herself, and positively looking almost dignified, because she has succeeded in persuading herself that she is actuated by a good motive.”

The conversation between Miss Brewer and Victor Carrington lasted for some time longer, and then he was left alone, while Miss Brewer went to attend the levée of Madame Durski. As he paced the room, Carrington smiled again, and muttered, “If Dale were only here, and she could be persuaded to borrow money of him, all would be right. So far, all is going well, and I have taken the right course. My motto is the motto of Danton —‘De l’audace, de l’audace, et toujours de l’audace.’”

Victor Carrington dined with Madame Durski and her companion. The meal was served with elegance, but the stamp of poverty was too plainly impressed upon all things at Hilton House. The dinner served with such ceremony was but a scanty banquet — the wines were poor — and Victor perceived that, in place of the old silver which he had seen on a previous occasion, Madame Durski’s table was furnished with the most worthless plated ware.

Paulina herself looked pale and haggard. She had the weary air of a woman who finds life a burden almost too heavy for endurance.

“I have consented to see you this evening, Mr. Carrington, in accordance with your very pressing message,” she said, when she found herself alone in the drawing-room with Victor Carrington after dinner, Miss Brewer having discreetly retired; “but I cannot imagine what business you can have with me.”

“Do not question my motives too closely, Madame Durski,” said Victor; “there are some secrets lying deep at the root of every man’s existence. Believe me, when I assure you that I take a real interest in your welfare, and that I came here to-night in the hope of serving you. Will you permit me to speak as a friend?”

“I have so few friends that I should be the last to reject any honest offer of friendship,” answered Paulina, with a sigh. “And you are the friend of Reginald Eversleigh. That fact alone gives you some claim to my regard.”

The widow had admitted Victor Carrington to a more intimate acquaintance than the rest of her visitors; and it was fully understood between them that he knew of the attachment between herself and Sir Reginald.

“Sir Reginald Eversleigh is my friend,” replied Victor; “but do not think me treacherous, Madame Durski, when I tell you he is not worthy of your regard. Were he here at this moment, I would say the same. He is utterly selfish — it is of his own interest alone that he thinks; and were the chance of a wealthy marriage to offer itself, I firmly believe that he would seize it — ay! even if by doing so he knew that he was to break your heart. I think you know that I am speaking the truth, Madame Durski?”

“I do,” answered Paulina, in a dull, half despairing tone. “Heaven help me! I know that it is the truth. I have long known as much. We women are capable of supreme folly. My folly is my regard for your friend Reginald Eversleigh.”

“Let your pride work the cure of that wasted devotion, madame,” said Victor, earnestly. “Do not submit any longer to be the dupe, the tool, of this man. Do you know how dearly your self-sacrifice has cost you? I am sure you do not. You do not know that this house is beginning to be talked about as a place to be shunned. You have observed, perhaps, that you have had few visitors of late. Day by day your visitors will grow fewer. This house is marked. It is talked of at the clubs; and Reginald Eversleigh will no longer be able to live upon the spoils won from his dupes and victims. The game is up, Madame Durski; and now that you can no longer be useful to Reginald Eversleigh, you will see how much his love is worth.”

“I believe he loves me,” murmured Paulina, “after his own fashion.”

“Yes, madame, after his own fashion, which is, at the best, a strange one. May I ask how you spent your Christmas?”

“I was very lonely; this house seemed horribly cold and desolate. No one came near me. There were no congratulations; no Christmas gifts. Ah! Mr. Carrington, it is a sad thing to be quite alone in the world.”

“And Reginald Eversleigh — the man whom you love — he who should have been at your side, was at Hallgrove Rectory, among a circle of visitors, flirting with the most notorious of coquettes — Miss Graham, an old friend of his boyish days.”

Victor looked at Paulina’s face, and saw the random shot had gone home. She grew even paler than she had been before, and there was a nervous working of the lips that betrayed her agitation.

“Were there ladies amongst the guests at Hallgrove?” he asked.

“Yes, Madame Durski, there were ladies. Did you not know that it was to be so?”

“No,” replied Paulina. “Sir Reginald told me it was to be a bachelors’ party.”

Victor saw that this petty deception on the part of her lover stung Paulina keenly.

She had been deeply wounded by Reginald’s cold and selfish policy; but until this moment she had never felt the pangs of jealousy.

“So he was flirting with one of your fashionable English coquettes, while I was lonely and friendless in a strange country,” she exclaimed. And then, after a brief pause, she added, passionately, “You are right, Mr. Carrington; your friend is unworthy of one thought from me, and I will think of him no more.”

“You will do wisely, and you will receive the proof of what I say ere long from the lips of Reginald Eversleigh himself. Tell me the truth dear madame, are not your pecuniary difficulties becoming daily more pressing?”

“They have become so pressing,” answered Paulina, “that, unless Reginald lends me money almost immediately, I shall be compelled to fly from this country in secret, like a felon, leaving all my poor possessions behind me. Already I have parted with my plate, as you no doubt have perceived. My only hope is in Reginald.”

“A broken reed on which to rely, madame. Sir Reginald Eversleigh will not lend you money. Since this house has become a place of evil odour, to be avoided by men who have money to lose, you are no longer of any use to Sir Reginald. He will not lend you money. On the contrary he will urge your immediate flight from England; and when you have gone —”

“What then?”

“There will be an obstacle removed from his pathway; and when the chance of a rich marriage arises, he will be free to grasp it.”

“Oh, what utter baseness!” murmured Paulina; “what unspeakable infamy!”

“A selfish man can be very base, very infamous,” replied Victor. “But do not let us speak further of this subject, dear Madame Durski. I have spoken with cruel truth; but my work has been that of the surgeon, who uses his knife freely in order to cut away the morbid spot which is poisoning the very life-blood of the sufferer. I have shown you the disease, the fatal passion, the wasted devotion, to which you are sacrificing your life; my next duty is to show you where your cure lies.”

“You may be a very clever surgeon,” replied Paulina, scornfully; “but in this case your skill is unavailing. For me there is no remedy.”

“Nay, madame, that is the despairing cry of a romantic girl, and is unworthy the lips of an accomplished woman of the world. You complained just now of your loneliness. You said that it was very sad to be without a friend. How if I can show you that you possess one attached and devoted friend, who would be as willing to sacrifice himself for your interests as you have been willing to devote yourself to Reginald Eversleigh?”

“Who is that friend?”

“Douglas Dale.”

“Douglas Dale!” exclaimed Paulina. “Yes, I know, that Mr. Dale admires me, and that he is a good and honourable man; but can I take advantage of his admiration? Can I trade upon his love? I— who have no heart to give, no affection to offer in return for the honest devotion of a good man? Do not ask me to stoop to such baseness — such degradation.”

“I ask nothing from you but common sense,” answered Victor impatiently. “Instead of wasting your love upon Reginald Eversleigh, who is not worthy a moment’s consideration from you, give at least your esteem and respect to the honourable and unselfish man who truly loves you. Instead of flying from England, a ruined woman, branded with the name of cheat and swindler, remain as the affianced wife of Douglas Dale — remain to prove to Reginald Eversleigh that there are those in the world who know how to value the woman he has despised.”

“Yes, he has despised me,” murmured Paulina, speaking to herself rather than to her companion; “he has despised me. He left me alone in this dreary house; in the Christmas festival time, when friends and lovers draw nearer together all the world over, united by the sweet influences of the season; he left me to sit alone by this desolate hearth, while he made merry with his friends — while he sunned himself in the smiles of happier women. What truth can he claim from me — he who has been falsehood itself?”

She remained silent for some minutes after this, with her eyes fixed on the fire, her thoughts far away. Victor did not arouse her from that reverie. He knew that the work he had to do was progressing rapidly.

He felt that he was moulding this proud and passionate woman to his will, as the sculptor moulds the clay which is to take the form of his statue.

At last she spoke.

“I thank you for your good advice, Mr. Carrington,” she said, calmly; “and I will avail myself of your worldly wisdom. What would you have me do?”

“I would have you tell Douglas Dale, when he returns to town and comes to see you, the position in which you find yourself with regard to money matters, and ask the loan of a few hundreds. The truth and depth of his love for you will be proved by his response to this appeal.”

“How came you to suspect his love for me?” asked Paulina. “It has never yet shaped itself in words. A woman’s own instinct generally tells her when she is truly loved; but how came you, a bystander, a mere looker~on, to discover Douglas Dale’s secret?”

“Simply because I am a man of the world, and somewhat of an observer, and I will pledge my reputation as both upon the issue of your interview with Douglas Dale.”

“So be it,” said Paulina; “I will appeal to him. It is a new degradation; but what has my whole life been except a series of humiliations? And now, Mr. Carrington, this interview has been very painful to me. Pardon me, if I ask you to leave me to myself.”

Victor complied immediately, and took leave of Madame Durski with many apologies for his intrusion. Before leaving the house he encountered Miss Brewer, who came out of a small sitting-room as he entered the hall.

“You are going away, Mr. Carrington?” she asked.

“Yes,” he answered; “but I shall call again in a day or two. Meantime, let me hear from you, if Dale presents himself here. I have had some talk with your friend, and am surprised at the ease with which the work we have to do may be done. She despises Reginald now; she won’t love him long. Good night, Miss Brewer.”

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:50