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The Autooym Library. 

Paper^ is. 6d. ; c/otk, 2s. 

X. THE UPPER BERTH. By F. Marion 
Crawford. Third Edition. 

a. MAD SIR UCHTRED OP THE HILLS. 

By S. R. Crockbtt. Second Edition. 

3. BY REEF AND PALM. By Louis Bbckb. 

Preface by the Earl of Pbmbrokb. Second 
Edition. 

4. THE PLAYACTRESS. By S. R. Crockett. 

5. A BACHELOR MAID. By Mrs. Burton 

Harrison. 

6. MISERRIMA. By G. W. T. Omond. 

7. THE TWO STRANGERS. By Mrs. Oli. 

PHANT. 



THE PSEUDONTH LIBRARY. 

Paper 1/6 i oloth 2/-. 

I. MADEMOISELLE IXE. 

8. STORY OF ELEANOR LAMBERT, 

3. MYSTERY OF THE CAMPAGNA, 

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6. HOTEL EfANGLETERRB. 

7. A RUSSIAN PRIEST. 

8. SOME EMOTIONS AND A MORAL. 

9. EUROPEAN RELATIONS. 

10. yOHN SHERMAN. 

11. THROUGH THE RED-LITTEN tVINDOJVS. 
la. GREEN TEA. 

13. heap y laden. 

14. makAr's dream. 

is. nejv england cactus. 

16. the herb of love. 

17. the general's daughter. 

la SAGHALIEN CONVICT. 

\^ GENTLEMAN UPCOTTS DAUGHTER. 

aa A SPLENDID COUSIN 

ai. COLETTE. 

93. OTTILIE. 

93. A STUDY IN TEMPTATIONS. 

94. THE CRUISE OF THE " fFILD DUCK." 
as. SQUIRE HELLMAN. 

36. A FATHER OF SIX. 

97. THE T1V0 COUNTESSES. 

98. THE SINNER*S COMEDY. 

99. CAVALLERIA RUSTIC ANA. 

30. THE PASSING OF A MOOD. 

31. GOL^S WILL. 

39. DREAM LIFE AND REAL LIFE. 

33. THE HOME OF THE DRAGON. 

34. A BUNDLE OF LIFE, 

35. MIMI'S MARRIAGE. 

36. THE ROUSING OF MRS. POTTER. 

37. A STUDY IN COLOUR. 

38. THE HON. STANBURY, AND OTHERS. 
39 THE SHEN*S PIGTAIL. 

40. YOUNG SAM AND SABINA, 

41. THE SILVER CHRIST. 

49. A HUSBAND OF NO IMPORTANCE. 

43. LESSEE'S DAUGHTER. 

44. HELEN. 

45. CLIFF DAYS. 

46. OLD BROfVNS COTTAGES. 

47. UNDER THE CHILTERNS. 

48. EVER Y DA Y*S NEJVS, 




ANOTHER WICKED 
WOMAN 




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Another 
Wicked Woman 



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G. A. GRANr^FORBES 



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LONDON 

T. FISHER \3"^^\» 

1S95 



THE NBW YOEK 

PCBLIC lIBailY 

S16465K 

ASTOB. LBSaX AND 

TILDEN FOUNDATIONS 

B 1945 L 



Copyright by T. FISHER UNWIN 

/or Great Britain 

atid the United States of America, 



mM.«):*isi 



JNOTHER fflCKED WOMJN. 




in the corner of a bed, in a 
room devoid of either beauty 
or refinement. 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

The furniture of the room 
consists of a bed with coarse 
covering, and mosquito nets 
tied with common red braid, 
two washstands, two chairs, and 
a toilet table made out of a 
box, covered with tawdry cheap 
muslin. The blind inside the 
window is broken down at one 
side^ thus admitting a brilliant 
stream of moonlight into the 
room, where it struggles for 
the mastery with the flickering, 
uncertain light of a single 
candle. 

The time is two in the 
morning, and the stillness is 
broken by dim sounds of coarse 
revelry, coming in gusts from 
below stairs, as the door to the 



8 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

bar-room is opened and shut, 
to allow the exit of the merry 
makers one by one. 

The girl stirs slightly as the 
echo of a stumbling, uncertain 
step, mingling with another, 
less faltering and clumsy, 
ascends the uncarpeted stairs, 
and eventually comes to a 
standstill at the bedroom door. 
The door is thrust open, and 
a man staggering in, falls into 
the nearest chair, stooping for- 
ward in helpless intoxication^ 
whilst making futile efforts to 
unlace heavy shooting boots. 

The girl has grasped the 
iron bed post, and slipped one 
foot from beneath her, thus 
showing the delicate outline ot 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

her dainty foot and leg above 
the knee, her other foot being 
still doubled under her. 

As she watches, the horror 
in her face turns to contempt, 
and the wild, hot blood mounts 
to her head, turning crimson 
the face and neck. Passionate 
rebellion changes in one moment 
to fury, where before endurance 
had held in check, the still, 
ungovernable temper. 

" How do you dare come up 
to me in this state ? ' she 
flashes. '' You promised you 
would not drink to-night. You 
know how I fear you in the 
state you are now in. How 
filthy I think such behaviour, 
how, time after time, I have 



lO 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMaN. 

forgiven you, have tried to 
excuse you, screened you from 
the scorn and contempt of 
others, kept your failing from 
the knowledge of my people ; 
remained with you under all 
circumstances, and stuck to you 
through thick and thin. You 
have dragged me round this 
hateful country, staying at ill- 
kept, dirty hotels, where you 
take no care of me, or my 
reputation, or your own. God 
knows where it will end ! *' 

*^ Oh ! hold your tongue ; 
what the hell do I care ? Don't 
talk so much rot, and go to 
sleep." 

After a pause, as making a 
struggle to lift his foot he 



II 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

nearly knocks the table down, 
he says savagely — 

"Here, undo this confounded 
lace ; it's all knotted up/* 

The girl hesitates; then, 
going on her knees before her 
husband, she endeavours to 
unbutton water-stifFened gaiters, 
and unlace the boots as desired ; 
but blinded with tears, and 
shaking with uncontrollablerage, 
her fingers are less deft than 
usual, and the heavy boot falling 
to the ground causes the man 
to grind his teeth with ill- 
temper and tipsy irritability. 

He is an immensely powerful 
man, tall and athletic. His 
good looks, though marred by 
the vacant idiocy of intoxication. 



12 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN 

are startlingly noticeable, and 
his long brown hands clench 
as the inability on the part of 
his wife to perform her duty 
of valet is borne to his mind. 

"Curse you, leave it alone," 
he mutters, as again her clasp 
loosens and his heel strikes the 
floor with a thud ; but the girl 
sets her teeth, and putting 
forth her utmost strength, she 
lifts the foot and leg across 
her knees. The knots are 
perverse, and a tipsy man not 
an easy person to undress. A 
moment more and then — 

"Damn you for a perfect 
fool," and the clenched hand 
falls with tremendous weight 
on the shoulder turned half 



13 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

towards him as she stoops in 
her efforts. The little white- 
robed figure gives a lurch 
forward, the corner of the 
washstand comes in sharp con- 
tact with her brow, then with 
a gasp she falls violently and 
remains quite still — a little 
huddled -up heap of white 
drapery. 

The man, partly sobered by 
his half-mad act, struggles out 
of his clothes somehow, and 
throws himself on the bed, 
where his stertorous breathing 
soon proclaims him forgetful 
and asleep. The candle burns 
lower and lower, flares up, 
gutters, and dies out. The 
moonbeams soften in their 



M 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

white gleam all the sordidness 
of the scene. The harsh breath- 
ing of the sleeper grows calmer 
and more quiet. The girl still 
remains where she has fallen. 
Dead? No. Insensible? No, 
but utterly crushed, despairing. 
Her head has ceased to throb 
and burn. Her heart almost 
ceased to beat when the re- 
action of apathy has set in 
upon her mood of intense, 
wakeful sufFering. 

She has taken — takes — no 
heed of passing time. The 
sunbeams kiss the moonlight 
till it blushes a soft rose and 
blends with the morning light. 
The flies softly buzz, the 
fowls start a harsh cackling and 



15 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

crowing, there is the clash of 
milk-pails, the crack of the 
coach whip, orders called, 
answers shouted. 

She is thinking that if the 
furniture in the room were 
hers how much it could be 
improved by a coat of Aspinal's 
enamel paint ; would not pink 
or blue look cooler and fresher, 
and suit the climate better? 
The girl raises herself into a 
half-sitting posture against the 
wall, her head feels giddy. She 
waits, listening to the world 
beginning again for others. 
Her head aches, oh, how it 
aches ! She puts her hand to 
her brow, touching tenderly 
the deep gash from which the 



i6 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

blood is Still slowly oozing, 
slowly drying, and in a little 
while she raises herself to her 
feet. She stands resting her 
head against the wall, allowing 
her arms, so strangely heavy, 
to hang listlessly by her sides. 
She knows it is early, and that 
there is no need for hurry. 
She would be glad if she 
thought about it ; as it is she 
does not think about anything 
particularly. 

Her eyes wander wearily 
round the unattractive room ; 
they rest in cold scrutiny on 
the bed whereon lies her 
husband — her lord and master, 
the man she has linked her 
life with for better or for worse. 



n 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

He is lying with his arms 
above his head, his feet crossed. 
The position recalls a picture 
of the Crucifixion. The wife 
smiles, and thinks, " What a 
mockery ! " She thinks that 
the Mother of sorrows suffered 
far, far more than the Saviour 
cruelly tortured to death to 
save a world. It is so easy to 
die, even if it takes a whole 
day — one can only die once. 

She notices a button on the 
floor, torn from his riding 
breeches. She stoops, picks 
it up, and crossing to the 
dressing-table, takes needle and 
thread, and calmly begins sewing 
it on again from whence it has 
been wrenched. A small piece 



J8 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

of the cloth has been pulled 
away, and she cuts the button 
free, carefully and strongly 
restoring it to its original place. 
Action has commenced. She 
looks at herself in the glass. 
Her face is covered with blood. 
She pours some water into the 
basin and washes her face and 
her brown hair free from the 
defiling stain. Then she dresses, 
and finally, while doing her hair, 
cuts a piece more on the fore- 
head, which she curls over the 
wound, and succeeds in almost, 
if not completely, hiding the 
disfiguring mark. Then she 
washes the blood-stains from 
the floor, whereon her head had 
rested so many hours, with 



19 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

a half-petulant action, as if 
the effort to cleanse were the 
whole trouble. Opening the 
window carefully, she dashes 
the water far on to the green 
turf, growing right up to the 
wall beneath her window, thus 
effacing the last traces of the 
past struggle. Then she sits 
down to wait. There is no 
hurry. There is heaps of time 
for everything. There will 
always be heaps of time. How 
much can be done in a night. 
How much can be done in an 
hour. How idle the people 
are in finding the days too 
short in which to perform 
ordinary duties. How much 
time they must waste. 



20 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

The man stirs, turns, opens 
his eyes, coughs, and sighs. 

** What*s the time, eh ? " 

*' I don t know." 

How cold and unfriendly 
her voice sounds. She does 
not mean to be unfriendly; 
she does not mean to be cold. 

"What are you sulking 
for ? " 

" I am not sulking.'* 

" Ump — uncommonly like 
it. Come here.*' 

There is no resentment in 
her face, none in her voice, as 
she answers him. Crossing the 
room she sits on the edge of 
the bed. He throws a care- 
less arm round her, and half 
draws her to him. 



21 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMaN. 

" Was I screwed last night ? 
Never mind, old girl/* without 
waiting for an answer. " What 
time did I come up to bed ? " 
" About two, I think." 
" Did I come alone ? " 
"No. Some one brought 
you up ? *' 

** By Jove, I don't remember 
anything about it. How did I 
get to bed ? I must have been 
pretty bad, eh ? " 

She smiles in a quiet way, 
and he peers into her face 
curiously. Memory is half 
awakening in him, and he does 
not understand her mood. 
"What did I say?'' 
" I don't remember." 
" Well, tell us all about it. 



22 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAM. 

I suppose I was a bit of a brute 
Poor little woman.'* A pause. 

**Why don't you look at 
me ? " 

" I did not know I had not 
looked at you." And she 
turns her face directly towards 
him, with the same rather ex- 
pressionless smile. 

His eyes are rather shame- 
faced, and he laughs uneasily. 

"Oh, well, I'm all right 
now. Open the blind and see 
if you can get me a cup of tea." 

She goes to the window 
mechanically and draws up the 
blind, letting in a stream of 
sunshine, and turning says, 
"Will you have anything to 
eat ? " 



23 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

'' No, thanks. My God ! 
come here. What have you 
done to your head ? " 

"You hit me." 

" You lie/' he shouts. 

*' You hit me and I fell, 
knocking my head against 
the washstand," she repeats 
steadily. 

His heart is beating wildly, 
and while holding her arm with 
one hand, he smooths back 
with shaking fingers the soft 
curls so cleverly arranged to 
conceal the nasty cut. 

" My God, I never hU you," 
he says stupidly, discovering 
the wound with its livid 
surroundings and discoloured 
flesh. 



24 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

" Yes, but it is all right 
now,*' she answers. 

** How you must hate me ; 
how you must loathe me. Oh, 
I couldn't have hit you, dear." 
He turns over heavily on the 
bed, and burying his face in the 
pillow, sobs in shame and 
bitterness. 

His wife does not crv. She 
never has felt less like tears in 
her life, and there is never a 
melodramatic break up to her 
calm. 

As the days succeed each 
other in their uneventful flight 
the episode might be forgotten, 
from any seeming effects it has 
occasioned in either her manner 
or behaviour generally, but her 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

heart has changed utterly. 
Before that cruel blow she for- 
gave much, because she loved 
much ; now she will never for- 
give agsdn, she will only endure ; 
but she will endure quietly, and 
no one loving her will ever 
know of the fire she has passed 
through, mentally and phy- 
sically. 

A week later she starts on a 
journey that will take her some 
distance away from her present 
surroundings, and ^at the end 
of which she will meet her 
mother. 

Weeks pass, months, and 
then she agrees to rejoin her 
husband, who in the interval 
has taken and furnished a 



26 



ANOTHER WICRED WOMAN. 

pretty house in a charming 
position, nothing remaining for 
her to do but take possession 
and be envied by all her 
friends and acquaintances, first, 
because she should possess such 
a fascinating, good - looking 
husband ; secondly, that she 
should live in such a delightful 
home. They have a jolly 
carriage and a thoroughbred 
mare — which he gave her and 
which she paid for — but that is 
mere detail, and they go driving 
nearly every day to see people 
and be seen. 

One day they go rather 
further, along an uneven and 
heavy road, where, meeting a 
cart heavily laden with stones. 



27 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

and drawn by several horses, 
they endeavour to pass between 
it and the fence. They are not 
taking particular heed how they 
go, or where they drive, they 
are making merry in a thought- 
less mood ; but when their cart 
is thoroughly jambed, when 
there is no drawback, no 
escape, they discover that the 
teamster cannot stop his horses 
or pull up, and thus they are 
obliged to sit quietly for the 
smash that must inevitably 
come. 

She could have got on top ot 
the stones in the cart, for the 
accident takes some seconds to 
happen, but she only thinks 
that it could be done, never of 



28 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

doing it ; then the wheel is 
twisted ofF, there is a sense of 
falling, of violent concussion 
with the ground, and a blank 
of sensation. 

The man jumps up dusty, 
but otherwise uninjured ; the 
woman lies quite still. With 
wild words of blame to the 
carter, and wilder words of 
love to the unconscious girl, he 
lifts her up in his arms, which 
suddenly lose their power on 
his seeing her smashed and 
disfigured face. They carry 
her to a cottage near at hand, 
and restore her to conscious- 
ness. Her jaw is dislocated, 
her ankle wrenched, but she 
does not appear desperately 



29 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

hurt, and she is plucky. They 
get her home later in the day, 
and after some hours' rest and 
proper treatment the accident is 
laughed over and discussed by 
sympathetic callers, who inquire 
after the injured one, and glean 
the particulars to gossip of 
from house to house. 

How like to spiders we all 
are — spinning nets, catching 
flies and repairing the broken 
meshes, catching more flies, 
living, working, dying, suffer- 
ing from hunger and cold, and 
the weariness and monotony of 
the predestined task ! 

" Can you let me have fifteen 
pounds this month ? " 

" Fifteen pounds ! What for.? " 



30 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

**To pay the house bills. 
You have not given me ten 
pounds in the last ten months 
towards legitimate expenses, and 
I must have a little help this 
month or else incur debt." 

" Where am I to get fifteen 
pounds ? You always go on in 
that absurd way about my not 
giving you any money. Where 
is the money then ? " 

" God knows I never have a 
penny. Do let us give up this 
house. What is the use of 
incurring debts we can't meet. 
The rate of expenditure is far 
above our income, and it is 
such a hopeless grind. If you 
would give up cards and club 
life, one might make both ends 
meet, or if " 

31 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

" Oh, will you shut up ? 
How can I write this letter if 
you always jabber, jabber, 
iabber, like that. Why will you 
always choose such unfortunate 
times to introduce finances ? '* 

*' What time can I choose } 
You always greet me in the 
same spirit whether it be morn- 
ing, noon, or night." 

" Well, in God's name, why 
worry me about household 
details? Why can't you let 
things rip ? Why ain't you 
more a woman of the world 
and keep more cash in hand, 
instead of giving way to that 
insane mania of shelling out all 
your coin to the first tradesman 
who asks for it." 



32 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

" I suppose it must be the 
result of my bringing up. I 
was always taught to pay my 
debts, and incur no obligation 
I could not honourably dis- 
charge." 

" Well, go to the people who 
brought you up, and get your 
present debts discharged with 
the same promptitude that has 
hitherto existed, only don't 
worry me, or I tell you plainly 
you won't get much of my 
society." 

Silence for a little space, 
then — " I wish you'd go away. 
Get some sewing, or a book, or 
something ; you disturb me 
sitting there like a mute at a 
funeral." 



33 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

She goes, closing the door 
behind her, and walking slowly 
down the long hall, stopping 
frequently to glance at the 
lovely gems of china, silver, 
and glass in dainty cabinets 
that line the walls. She leans 
her head against the big cool, 
silver gong, touching lovingly 
the heavy brocade draperies 
that soften the sunshine's 
brilliancy to a thousand mimic 
rainbows, falling across the 
painted ceiling from the low 
rays of the setting sun. 

Through the beautiful draw- 
ing-room she walks with slow 
steps on to the. verandah, 
where the artistically carved 
jalousies allow the glint of 



34 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

river and flower to obtrude in 
mere suggestion on the senses 
of the gazer. While the quiet 
lap of the river, as it kisses the 
brown mud banks that confine 
its waters to the shimmering 
ribbon of light, dimpling in the 
soft breeze, and laughing in a 
million tiny ripples, gives the 
touch of evening repose that 
suggests the day's finish. 

The girl throws herself into 
a silk-lined hammock, and the 
waiting look in her face has 
deepened in the last few months 
to a certainty of expectation. 
A crash must come ; no longer 
can she retain the illusion that 
any act of hers can stay it. 

At first she had painted little 



35 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

views and bits of colour with 
feverish exultation in the pride 
of being able to work to earn 
money, but owing to the in- 
creasing demand on her time 
made by her husband, and the 
awful rapidity with which the 
bills grew and accumulated, she 
has found the struggle unequal, 
and has finally given up the 
effort as hopeless. 

She has filled the house with 
guests of his liking, has striven 
to make home attractive in all 
ways, yet night after night, 
when others of the household 
have retired to rest, has she 
seen him start for the Club, 
and heard him return some 
hours later, more or less in- 



36 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

toxicated. Night after night 
has the fever of gambling pur- 
sued him. Night after night 
has he been jilted by the fickle 
jade Fortune. Day after day 
have her gentle persuasions 
fallen on ears deafer and ever 
deafer to the pleading that 
would urge a swift abandon- 
ment of the perilous excite- 
ment, and now the last effort 
has failed, a final defeat been 
scored, and the woman awaits 
the inevitable. 

As she dreams with her hands 
clasped behind her head, all her 
life diu-ing the past four years 
passes before her mind's eye, 
like a vivid panorama. How 
the early doubt of her husband's 



37 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

Stability arose ; how the doubt 
became a certainty, and she had 
watched, first the demon of 
play awake in his brain, then 
the reckless hazard blindly en- 
couraged. How well she re- 
members the false step taken, 
closely followed by intemper- 
ance, bad temper, personal 
cruelty, want of thought, 
developing as time went on 
to absolute callousness and 
indifference. Subsequently that 
stage was followed by a mental 
sort of collapse, when right 
and wrong became hopelessly 
blended, when honour and evil 
became chaos, all the chivalry 
in his nature died, and the 
veneer of his affection was ex- 



38 



Another wicked woman. 

changed for brutality of word 
and act. 

She hears him come out of 
his study, hears the swing of 
the garden gate, and sighs. 

She wonders sadly why he 
married her. She had loved 
him, or rather loved the idol 
of him she had set up in her 
girl's heart and worshipped for 
years before her marriage. 
Loved with blind devotion 
for months, even after the 
rude awakening ought to have 
frozen her love and respect. 
Her faith had been destroyed, 
and the galling chain of duty 
had taken the place of willing 
obedience. 

She hears the shrill whistle 



39 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

of the train, the faint grating 
noise of the wheels -as they 
get into motion. A boat-load 
of pleasure-seekers pass the 
lawn at the foot of the garden, 
and the low voice of a young 
girl singing is wafted towards 
her. What are the words of 
the song ? She strains her ears 
to catch the refrain — 



C( 



Ah ! Love sweet love, 

Gone with the summer hours, 
Ah ! Faith lost faith. 

Dead with the summer flowers." 



And she shivers. 

How late her husband is. 
How often late now. 

She will dress for dinner, and 
then go down to the water's 



40 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

edge and watch the stars come 
out. 

Eight o'clock ! The butler 
wishes to know if she will dine 
alone. Yes, she will dine alone. 
She frequently does so. 

Nine, ten ! How restless 
she feels. She will write some 
letters ; that will pass the time. 
How came she not to have 
thought of that earlier in the 
evening, such a terrific long 
evening it has been. She 
goes to the study. On the 
writing table she sees a letter 
addressed to her in her hus- 
band*s handwriting. She feels 
suddenly deadly sick and afraid. 
What can he have to write to 
her about .^ It is soon read, 



41 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMaN. 

but she cannot grasp clearly the 
meaning. It runs thus : — 

" When you get this I shall 
have left you for ever. Do 
not imagine this is the silly 
heroics indulged in by boys in 
their teens. Our marriage was 
a failure, a mistake of a mistake, 
and I loathe being tied down 
to the semi-respectability of 
the Benedict of le bon ton. 
I am tired to death of you. 
That I have treated you badly 
does not make it any more 
endurable for me to see you 
fading, day by day, from a 
brilliant, stylish woman into 
a nonentity. If you had been 
more a woman of the world. 



42 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

less a child of nature, r^iore 
selfish, more fond of show and, 
possibly, an intriguante^ you 
might have kept my affection 
— or won it. However, that's 
all passed and highly impro- 
bable. I am leaving you very 
badly off I fear, but you have 
never had any help from me, 
and I have led you into a good 
deal of extravagance. I dare 
say your own money will be 
sufficient for your own wants. 
I have done with you. Good- 
bye. Look upon it that you 
are utterly free. I consider 
myself so. There have been 
times when I have actually 
cheated myself into the belief 
that I loved you, but not very 



43 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

lately, and I love my freedom 
best." 

So it has come — the end. 
Where shall she go? What 
shall she do.^ She will await 
the morning and go then to see 
some people living near, who 
have seemed kind and friendlv, 
and are unlike the majority of 
her acquaintances, in so far that 
they are original in their way of 
thinking, of living. 

They take broader views of 
life generally, are more unbiased 
by public opinion, are inde- 
pendent and clever. They 
may help her to decide what, 
she will do with her life. They 
will not be unkindly critical. 



44 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

and they will try and under- 
stand helpfully without re- 
quiring too minute explana- 
tion. They will imagine half, 
and understand the rest, and 
their sympathy will be un- 
spoken and genuine. They 
are both nice, and she feels 
secure of their support and 
esteem. 




45 




HEIR pity 
does not seek 
expression in 
many words. 
Their sym- 
pathy with her sorrow and 
loneliness is deep but silent. 
They do not ask many ques- 
tions, except on business 
grounds. 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

She refuses to return home 
to her people, as she has ample 
means for a small establishment, 
and prefers independence ; so 
it is decided between them that 
she is to rent a cottage ; her 
house is to be sold, outstanding 
debts paid, and the balance of 
the money credited to the 
absent man. 

One of her friends, who con- 
stitutes himself her *' mentor," 
undertakes the final settling of 
her affairs, during which time 
it is decided between these 
three that she, with her friend, 
shall go abroad, while all is 
made comfortable in the new 
domicile. 

They live just far enough 



47 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

from her old home to break 
the back of painful associa- 
tions, and in the new life of 
art and work that she has 
mapped out for herself there 
will be no time for repining. 

During her short absence 
abroad, her mentor surpasses 
himself, and the tiny nest on 
the outskirts of the wood 
assumes a garb that is well 
calculated to banish sad memo- 
ries, awaken pleasant thoughts, 
and act as a magic charm to 
ambition ; a spur to effort and 
creative force. 

Nothing is forgotten that 
could lend to the whole an 
additional charm. The delicate 
colouring of walls and ceilings 



48 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

blend in artistic harmony. 
Quaint oak over-mantles give 
a sober touch to the colouring. 
The comfort, the enjoyable ease 
of the chairs, appeals to the 
luxurious sensibilities inherent 
in every woman. There are 
surprises of light and shade 
and inviting cosy corners. 
Truly, not even a shadow of 
asceticism is suggested, from 
the Eastern canopied bed, in 
blue and gold, with its flounces 
of dainty silks, the mirrors and 
soft luxurious carpets, to the 
atelier with its polished floor, 
top-light, easel, and lay figure. 

The man's vast pity and 
generosity are unlimited, also 
his ample appreciation of the 

49 n 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

situation ; his feeling of being 
able to buy with her money 
everything but happiness, re- 
stored love and faith. 

He feels that the attainment 
is so far below the attempt. 
He is sorry, when all is in 
readiness to receive her, that 
there is no more to be done. 
He wonders if she will be 
happy, or even content. He 
thinks of his own little girl- wife, 
and contrasts her life of security, 
ease, and love, with that of this 
woman she has befriended. 

He is not habitually a 
dreamer, but his practical side 
is in abeyance, whilst he dreams 
a few phantasies of future possi- 
bilities. 



?o 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

He is there to welcome home 
his friend on her return, and 
both he and his wife encourage 
her to work, show her how all 
has been arranged for her com- 
fort, and much planned for her 
talent to realise hidden power. 
They tell her of their ambition 
for her success, her possible 
fame ; how sure they are of 
her talent and ultimate success ; 
how sincerely they believe in 
her; and then they leave her 
to dream for herself, build 
castles in the air, and enjoy her 
surroundings, for the first time 
since her marriage, sans souci. 

She sits calmly before the 
fire, basking in the warmth of 
the ruddy glow, lazily watching 



51 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

the maid draw the curtains. 
The dancing flames, as they curl 
round the just-added log on the 
hearth, suggest a tender feeling 
of security and home, of rest, 
and a possible future. Her 
pain of silent grief is forgotten, 
put behind her for a while ; 
only a dim remembered dream 
of hurtful associations ; and she 
walks to a mirror, gazing long 
at the reflected image of herself. 
She looks into those steadfast, 
calm eyes, and thinks of all the 
many times they have- looked 
back at her heart, true and 
loyal — understanding. As she 
looks, the sweet lips lose their 
melancholy, and the face lights 
with a half-dawning smile. 



52 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

"We have much to live 
for," she murmurs, "much to 
accomplish, and we will not 
disappoint our dear ones. We 
will not fail." 

Stretching out her hand, she 
touches with her finger-tips the 
pictured image that responds 
in mirrored acquiescence. She 
throws herself, heart and soul, 
into her work ; painting, sketch- 
ing, dreaming, and reading. 
Perfecting the efforts in critical 
detail, when the time of sudden 
inspiration changes to moments 
of performance. She takes the 
keenest delight in watching the 
creatures of her imagination 
take definite form beneath her 
artistic brush. 



S3 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

She IS never lonely, never 
dull. Daily she sees her two 
friends ; daily the companion- 
ship forges new links in the 
chain of intercourse between 
them. Her mentor has more 
time to spare for her encourage- 
ment, more idle moments to 
give for a few hints and sugges- 
tions on her work. He really 
takes an interest in her and all 
she does. He pities the woman 
immensely, feeling strangely 
drawn to her. He thinks her 
so plucky, so unhappy, so much 
misunderstood. He imagines 
he really understands her, under- 
stands the want of sympathy in 
her life. It seems a little thing 
for him to give — real, true 



54 



ANOTHER WICKLED WOMaK. 

sympathy, and he loves to give 
it. To pour balm into the 
bitter wounds she has sustained 
to her faith, trust, vanity and 
pride. 

So they drift. 

One day they are driving 
through the wintry lanes, 
chatting, laughing, discussing 
books, politics, English and 
Continental life, and the 
necessity to most natures for 
active work. He is speaking — 

'' Look at my wife now. 
There's a case in point. She 
is never happy unless there is 
some one to be married, born, 
or even buried, at a pinch when 
things are dull." 

They both laugh. 



SS 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

" She really is too funny 
about the babies in the village. 
Tou call her the Universal 
Philanthropist. / call her the 
Universal Mother. She knows 
every child by name, when it 
was born, where it was 
christened, etcetera. I give you 
my word, the real mothers only 
have a limited liability interest 
in their children. The first 
proprietary share apparently 
belongs to my wife, from the 
point of her personal insistence 
that she knows so much more 
than any one else, or any one 
else can be expected to know. 
At least the villagers have 
accepted her own valuation of 
her worth and abilities, and find 



56 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

submission easiest and more 
remunerative. Imposed upon : 
Of course she is; but she has 
so many excuses for those she 
finds out in their impositions, 
and so deplores the surround- 
ings that made such depravity 
possible, that one's sympathies 
are equally divided between the 
miscreant and one's love of the 
picturesque, either in dreams or 
reality." 

" She is a novelty ! " 

"Yes, she is decidedly a 
novelty ; she is so absolutely 
sincere in her life, sincere in 
her endeavour to do real and 
lasting good. In her censure 
of insincerity, in her wish, and 
in her belief of the possibility, 



57 



AKOTttER WICKED WOMAN. 

to accomplish more than any 
one woman, or a dozen women 
couldy by any possibility what- 
ever, and sincere in her belief 
of herself." 

"It's the queerest form of 
egotism." 

" Yes ; isn't it ? She is 
wildly angry with any woman 
who, according to her standard, 
falls short of legitimate ends. 
Who aims at the highest, and 
in weakly thriftlessness contents 
herself with the lowest." 

" And yet she objects to 
obedience ? " 

"She holds blind obedience 
despicable, unless thought and 
reason are satisfied by compli- 
ance with the demand. Yet 



S8 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMA 

you know she is an absolute 
contradiction to her own con- 
victions ; for the very sins she 
condemns have no attraction 
for her, and the side issues of 
her departmental fallacies create 
far more uneasiness, and more 
widely diffused discomfort, than 
the ordinary failure common to 
all humanity/' 

*^ Namely?" 

" Namely, love of indolence, 
love of ease, enjoyment of the 
best. Her very energy is fatigu- 
ing, her help often hindrance." 

" She talks a great deal about 
the independence of women ! " 

"Theoretically — yes." 

" Special callings, self-help, 
self-reliance ! " 



59 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

" Theoretically, I repeat; and 
yet I have seldom met a woman, 
so entirely dependent on others 
as she is for her pleasure, ex- 
citement, results. Have you?" 

"She is rather theoretical, 
when one comes to think of 
it. Of course she is clever, 
awfully clever, — a Bohemian 
in her tastes and talents. I 
wonder if she really could 
prove her utter independence, 
were she put to the test." 

" No ; I am morally sure 
she could not. Practical test 
applied to her would be ab- 
solute cruelty, unnecessary bru- 
tality, for she would suffer 
doubly. Suffer in the fact, and 
in the theory, and suffer most 



60 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMA: 

in proving her belief fallacies. 
It would be very sad to watch 
the process ; she is such a 
thoroughly good little woman, 
means so awfiiUy well, don't you 
know, and wants all human 
suffering, all human need, 
helped, alleviated. She does not 
understand the pain, or the 
sedative required, she simply 
does not understand. Do you 
know, I really believe she finds 
others' misfortunes a positive 
boon. She has personally 
superintended all the household 
arrangements of the entire vil- 
lage. And then there is Daisy." 
"By the way, where did 
that child come from.'* Has 
she been adopted? 



6i 



a 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

" Well, yes, I suppose she 
has," he answers. " It's rather 
an odd arrangement." 

There is a note of something 
less than wild enthusiasm in 
his voice and manner, noticed 
immediately by the woman at 
his side. 

" You see/' he goes on, *' a 
cousin of my wife took an 
interest in the child, and, in a 
manner, made it rather a sine 
qud non to our continued 
friendship that we should do 
something for the girl. She's 
not a bad sort when one comes 
to know her ; not brilliant, or 
well educated, or even pretty ; 
but she is awfully willing, and 
very much alone in the world. 



62 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

poor little thing ! Do you think 
she is a mistake ? " 

" Yes." 

" Why ? " 

" Oh ! she is not one of you. 
I mean to say she is not china, 
and I don't think delf and 
china ever look well grouped 
together." 

" No ; I believe you're right. 
I even believe the Philanthro- 
pist wearies a little of the per- 
petual contact. One never feels 
alone — ^rather a lodger, or one 
of the lodgers in one's own 
home. It does grow to be 
rather a bore." 

He laughs rather mirthlessly, 
and then sighs. His companion 
flushes a deep red as she re- 
joins — 

63 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

" It must be a bore. I often 
wonder at your gentleness and 
courtesy in your home. You 
never let any one feel de tropy 
never wound any one's feelings, 
if you can avoid doing so, by 
effacing your own wishes, your 
own inclinations. I think you 
are the best man I " 

" Oh, nonsense, don't be a 
ridiculous little goose. I am 
supremely selfish if you judged 
fairly. I love eulogy, and only 
mask my conceit under an ap- 
pearance of guileless, natural 
spontaniety." They both laugh. 

" What a magnificent speech, 
but tell me, how are your ex- 
periments progressing ? " 

**They could not be doing 



64 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

worse," the man replies. ** All 
the patience in the world won't 
get me over the insurmountable 
difficulty I am now in. The 
further one gets, in a way, the 
less one advances. Do you 
know what I mean ? " 

"Yes, I understand, or at 
least I understand the sense of 
difficulty. Don*t you think a 
block of that sort generally 
occurs before a final accomplish- 
ment? But then nothing is 
ever accomplished of any real 
value without an awful amount 
of real grind. I'm not original, 
am I ? But I am tremendously 
interested. I don't understand 
your work a bit. I know it is 
clever and good, and the results 



65 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

you have already achieved scien- 
tifically give me immense and 
boundless faith in your future. 
I know you will be a success. 
I only know it for certain ; 
and you have often said you 
would rather trust to a woman's 
instinct than to all the philoso- 
phy of all the philosophers, dead 
and living. Ah ! here we are 
home again. I have enjoyed 
my outing so much. It is so 
good of you to take me these 
lovely drives, and Carmen has 
outdone herself to-day." 

" How do you like the new 
trap ? " he asks, as he drives 
with a sweep up to the porch. 

'* Immensely," is the reply. 
" If all trades fail, you might 



66 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

turn coach designer, and ob- 
tain a royal patronage and 
commission. Won't you come 
in and have some tea ? Do, 
unless of course you want to 
get home." 

"No, thanks, I am not in a 
bit of a hurry back. The Philan- 
thropist won't have returned 
from her committee meeting, 
and I never care to be in the 
house without her. Shall I 
take the gee round to the stable, 
and follow you in ? " 

" Yes, do — there's a Briton. 
You'll find the faithful Tom 
somewhere about, and oh, I 
say," calling after him, *'Will 
you have some scones or hot 
buttered toast ? " 



67 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

** Toast ! " he calls back, only 
half pulling up at her call. 

A little later they are grouped 
before a bright fire, a pretty 
tea tray, hot toast, and all kinds 
of afternoon-tea dainties. The 
man in an easy chair, with a 
stool at his elbow, for his cup ; 
the woman on the rug before 
the fire. 

" I like this room. It's a jolly 
room. No, thanks, no more 
toast. Do you know you're 
something like my wife, in a 
way you have of curling your- 
self up on a chair or on the 
floor. Something like a cosy 
little cat, when she has had 
enough of fighting and univer- 
sal rampage, most misleading 



68 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

to one, especially strangers, who 
don't happen to know your 
little ways." 

** Don't be rude. Now listen. 
When we were out, you said 
your wife did not understand 
the pain or the sedative re- 
quired. Why sedative } Why 
not remedy?" 

" Oh, you mean as regards 
helping all the world to an 
impossible level of happiness 
and piety ? " 

" Yes," laughing a little. 

"Well, I say sedative, because 
there is no remedy. We are 
no better, no worse, in this 
nineteenth century, than we 
have been hitherto. We will 
never be better or worse, mor- 



69 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

ally. But in these days it is 
the fashion to talk things over. 
We turn the policeman's lantern 
on to all the dark corners of 
social intercourse, and the 
visions the search-light reveal 
makes us stand aghast and cry 
aloud for reform." 

" But surely things, or rather 
the evils of things, are improv- 
ing by comparison of twenty 
years ago. When maids were 
supposed to be good ; when men 
were supposed to be chivalrous ; 
when women of gentle birth 
were kept ignorant of ill and 
wrong ; when women of low 
birth were kept ignorant of 
right." 

" Were they ? " 



70 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

" Well, SO I have read in 
books ! " 

" Education has been more 
diffused over the human race, 
if you mean that ; so has 
vice ; but the quantity and the 
quality remain pretty station- 
ary, I imagine. So we dull 
our susceptibilities with large 
and small doses of philanthro- 
phy." 

** How do you mean? *' 

" We build hospitals ; our 
sisters and daughters nurse the 
sick. We build churches ; our 
sons and brothers draw the pay 
and preach the newest faith. 
Heresy — anything you like, 
and Society demands for its 
money. We head subscription 



71 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

lists for workmen on strike, 
that the struggle may last a 
little longer, and our names 
may appear in the newspapers." 
" How bitter you are." 
" No ; you are wrong ; I am 
not in the least bitter. I am 
observant, and I like fair play. 
We poke about with our long, 
inquisitive reform pole, bringing 
the filth of the gutters into the 
light of day, and while it settles 
back again beneath the stagnant 
water we cackle and argue, only 
noticing the prismatic lights on 
the shimmering surface, reflected 
by the sunshine. Then we cry. 
Oh, how beautiful ! See what 
light and air will do ! But the 
old filth remains, the same old 



72 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

defiling filth, only we do not 
see it." 

" It's all a matter of educa- 
tion and knowledge, fi*om your 
point of view ? " 

** Yes ; *a little knowledge is 
a dangerous thing.' Apt to 
make fools of would-be wise- 
acres. That many, instead of 
few, should be supplied with 
a little knowledge does not 
make the danger less, the evil 
greater, or the sedative, more 
deadly. And sometimes we 
have sweet dreams. Let us 
sleep." 

Then follows a rather silent 
ten minutes, and the man says 
in a teasing voice — 

" I bet you have not heard a 



73 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

single word I have been saying ! 
What are you smiling at the 
fire in that pensive way for ? " 

" Well, I was thinking of a 
dream I had last night, or 
rather this morning, just as I 
awoke." 

" What was it ? No, do tell 
me. I should like to hear it.*' 

" I know you'll laugh, but it 
really is haunting me, not so 
much what was suggested by 
the dream, but what is no 
longer a tangible good. I 
thought I stood with my feet 
in the dew-laden grass of the 
early summer morning. My 
hands were full of flowers, of 
pale and varied hues, and the 
mists were round my head 



74 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

and in my eyes. The first 
sweet efFort of song of the baby 
birds, that were learning their 
melody before the more finished 
songsters awoke to music and 
sunshine, filled my ears. My 
heart ached with a big desire, 
that grew and grew, pressing 
against the prison of my brain 
for freedom and space to breathe 
and become glorious. I was 
filled with a passionate, silent 
longing for work, and an active 
ambition to strain after desired 
good. The feeling of possi- 
bilities, of power, of gifts be- 
stowed, of strength and com- 
petency, were strong within me. 
I saw the sun flash through the 
dim mists, the message of the 



75 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

morning. The morning of the 
day — ^the morning of my fore- 
shadowed destiny. I saw the 
throng of upturned faces. I 
saw the cheeks paling and flash- 
ing as young girls listened to 
me. I saw the light of Youth, 
of gentle Hope, and Love, flame 
in old eyes. I saw the throng 
in that great wide hall. I felt 
the hush, and I heard my voice, 
ringing clear and true, in its 
anthem of sound and beautiful 
melody. Trembling up to the 
stars, reaching to the Great 
White Throne, filling the 
heavens, flooding the earth, 
flowing through all the uni- 
verse. The madness of the 
ecstasy was in my brain. Oh, 



76 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

beautiful music, beautiful echoes, 
beautiful dreams ! I awoke to 
find my pillow wet with tears, 
the nightingale singing, and all 
my exquisite vision fled. Only 
the cold moonlight, my empty 
hands, my silent voice and my 
spirit steeped in regret." 

"Why do you not take up 
your singing again ? " her com- 
panion asks gently. 

"No, I shall never sing 
again as I did ; I do not want 
to. I like this life best. I 
want no change." 

It is an hour later — an hour ? 
It seems a year. He has gone. 

It is five months since the 
disaster that blighted all the 
outlook of her young life, and 



77 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

they had drifted into a retro- 
spect concerning her past sor- 
row. They had seemed so near 
in sympathy. Such good friends. 
When he had stood up to go, 
he had taken her two hands in 
his, and looking into the wo- 
man's eyes, repeated for the 
twentieth time the old-framed 
words of afFection and friend- 
ship. Leaving her, he had 
courteously raised her right 
hand to his lips in token of his 
esteem and respect ; and then 
had taken his departure. 

What has he done ? 

She stands dazed and still, 
with her heart beating to suffo- 
cation. Her brain is in a tur- 
moil, and her senses on fire 



78 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

with intense feeling that she 
has never experienced before. 
She looks back upon the inti- 
macy of these past few months 
in wild afFright. Where had 
it begun? Why had she not 
some slight premonition of 
whither she was drifting, in 
blindness of thought and action ? 
She loves this man, is entirely 
absorbed by thoughts of him. 
She has no desire for anything 
in life apart from him. She 
shuts her eyes and endeavours 
to steady her brain, forcing 
herself to take in the situation 
and decide. 

Because her life has been 
utter and complete shipwreck, 
shall she allow the smallest 



79 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

possibility of her influence to 
eflTect unhappily those two, 
that have befriended her in her 
desolation ? She will go away, 
vanish. They will wonder at 
first, and then they will cease 
to wonder, thinking her most 
probably ungrateful and odd. 
Yes, she will go away. 

Go away where ? Where in 
all this wide world can she go ? 

To her mother is out of the 
question ; at all events for the 
present. She must be alone. 
She cannot think, she is in a 
whirl. There seems no outlook 
either way. Her past seems 
always to have led her thither. 
Her present to be fraught 
with wild misery ; her future 



80 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

void of any hope. How mis- 
fortune pursues her. She covers 
her face with her hands, and 
rocks her body in silent misery. 
Then the longing for move- 
ment takes possession of her, 
and she catches up her outdoor 
wraps, and hastily arrays her- 
self for walking. She will go 
out, go into the great, dark, 
silent woods, and grow calm, 
when 

" Ah ! you dear woman, 
where are you ofF to so late ? " 

She turns and smiles as she 
thinks, "What a heart-whole 
voice, what a depth of unruffled 
calm." 

" Nowhere," she replies, 
taking the ofFered hand. Re- 



8i 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

gaining her composure as quick- 
ly as she lost it an hour before, 
she adds, "I have been out 
driving with your good man ; 
then we had tea and scandal 
over the fire, after which he 
went off, and you find me alone 
in my glory." 

It is bravely done, but a wee 
bit overdone. The eyes of the 
women meet ; one knows her 
friend is acting, whilst the 
other feels that her agitation 
has been half-guessed at. Then 
follow ten minutes filled with 
idle gossip, broken at last by 
the honesty and true grit of the 
Philanthropist. 

" What's the matter ? Some- 
thing has gone wrong with you 



82 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

since we last met. I hope you 
have not received any bad news. 
Have you ? I mean you are 
not troubled in any way about 
the things that have passed. 
Don't tell me if you don't want 
to do so, but do tell me if I can 
be of any help. Oh, my dear, 
don't lef the past annoy or 
grieve you. You are such a 
clever woman, you have your 
life now in your own hands. 
You need not return to any 
bondage. You ought to be 
free. Do not let any feeling 
of conventionality come be- 
tween you and your real happi- 
ness. Nobody could really 
think it right or just that a 
woman should be the slave. 



83 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

body and soul, to so vile a 
creature as your husband. For- 
give me if I speak strongly on 
this subject, I feel strongly. I 
know what a brave fight you 
have made. How much you 
have done. A great deal too 
much. How much you have 
borne ; more than there was 
any need to bear, more than 
any one would have expected 
you to bear had they known. 
I have put what I know, and 
what you have told me together, 
and I stand amazed at your 
endurance. You have sacrificed 
your girlhood, your talents, 
your health, almost your life. 
You are just regaining some of 
your old light-heartedness. I 



84 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

have heard you singing again 
lately, and the pathos of all 
those long, silent months, when 
you only endured in patient 
quietness, brought the tears to 
my eyes, and made my heart 
yearn to you, poor darling. 
You have suffered so much. 
Take the peace and happiness 
of your living now that you 
have started. You can keep it, 
if only you will make up your 
mind to turn a deaf ear to 
all arguments, all persuasions, 
urging you to return to the 
hateful yoke you have at last 
freed yourself of. Oh, it is not 
right, it is not needful, for any 
woman to place herself in a 
position where her feelings are 



85 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

trampled on, her chastity ig- 
nored, her body abused. It is 
not necessary. I consider it a 
wrong to submit to cruelty and 
ill treatment, when both can be 
escaped at will. Just for some 
foolish consideration for the 
feeling of those who are sup- 
posed to love you ! I say sup- 
posed advisedly, for they could 
not really love you, or they 
would not urge you to throw 
away your last chance of happi- 
ness. Once you return to him 
now you can never leave him 
again. Think what you will 
voluntarily throw away ! Think 
of the calm of the last few 
months in contrast with the 
strain and agony of the time 



86 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

before we helped you to escape 
it all." 

But her listener can bear no 
more. 

" You don't understand," she 
gasps. " You never will under- 
stand. I cannot be more ex- 
plicit. I am driven by a whirl- 
wind of circumstances. I have 
not only my own happiness to 
consider in all the world. I 
must not be utterly selfish, or 
so completely degraded. I must 
not listen to you. I cannot 
make myself understood. I can 
only ask you please, please to 
try and believe the best of me 
always. My movements may 
sometimes appear to you in an 
unfavourable light. You may 



87 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

censure and condemn my word 
and act, but please reserve your 
judgment and trust to time to 
smooth away the unintelligible. 
You will not think me wanting 
in courtesy if I ask you to leave 
me alone with my black mood ? 
I shall be all right to-morrow. 
I will think over calmly all you 
have said, staunch, true friend ; 
and believe me when I reiterate 
that you and your husband have 
been the very breath of my life 
for the past few months. You 
have lifted the burden off my 
shoulders and made me less of 
a pariah to softening influences 
and the charm of my surround- 
ings. But I musf be alone now, 
or I think I shall go mad." 



88 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

" Very well, dear, I will go, 
but I implore you not to brood 
over things and see them all 
upside down. If you feel you 
can tell me and you want me, 
let me know, let me help. 
Good-bye now. No, do not 
come to the door. I can let 
myself out, and mind you eat 
some dinner." 

As the sound of the closing 
door strikes upon the senses of 
the listening woman, she throws 
out her arms with a hoarse cry, 
and paces restlessly backwards 
and forwards. Heavens and 
earth, this is awful, awful ! 
She does not know if she hates 
or worships the woman she has 
just parted from. She loves 



89 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

her intensely for her desire to 
help ; her wish to be fair, and 
gentle, and straight. She loves 
her, for her unquestioning 
friendship, for the faith that 
believes, and imagines no 
wrong, no side issue. For 
her blindness in not seeing 
into her heart, and reading her 
secret. Yet she hates her for 
that very blindness, for the 
want of foresight to credit with 
possibilities an intimacy of 
contact such as has been thrust 
upon her — yes, thrust. She 
has not sought the communion 
of this daily intercourse. Why 
had his wife not been more 
often with them .? Why had 
she not been more indispensable 



90 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

to him ? Why had she not 
made more calls upon his atten- 
tion and time ? Why had she 
left it all to a stranger to 
supply the want of companion- 
ship ? 

Then the demon of Jealousy 
wakes in her heart, and she 
pictures them together, loving, 
contented, interested outside 
her interests. She sees them 
in imagination together^ whilst 
she is outside in the cold, in 
the dark, in the abstract of 
their lives, and a tearing sob 
convulses her frame. Why 
may she not win him ? She 
could make him so much 
happier than can his legitimate 
wife. She feels such an interest 



91 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

in his interests. She would 
look after his creature comforts 
with such care, such pleasure. 
She would wind her influence 
into all his life ; pile up his 
ambition high above his head, 
till for shame of emulation he 
would be forced to climb to the 
giddy pinnacle of fame she 
should erect for him. Love 
should supply the rest. Love 
should lull to sleep all regret, 
all repining and vain imagi- 
nings. His Present should be 
so real that his Past would be 
the merest dream. His wife ! 
his wife ! ! Ah God ! ! ! his 
wife. How she would suffer, 
how she would Sorrow seeing 
in one the falseness of her love, 



92 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN 

the faithlessness of her husband, 
the failure of her friendship, 
the death of her illusions and 
belief in all humanity. His 
wife shall not suffer — must not 
suffer. 

What is she ? 

Despicable in thought and 
heart. False — false as hell. 
She will not stoop to lower 
depths of action, driven by this 
mad, blind love. She will go 
away, utterly, out of their lives, 
out of their sight, and be as one 
dead to them. 

Her decision is made. She 
has no time for tears. With 
feverish haste she goes to her 
escretoire^ tearing up, destroying, 
sorting, and putting in order 



93 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

papers and affairs. She writes 
a letter saying she has wearied 
of the life she has been leading. 
She bids them good-bye, and 
asks as a last request that they 
should not endeavour to find 
her, saying her desire is for 
a lonely life, and praying them 
to respect her wishes. This 
she directs and closes in her 
desk. 

She will go to her painting 
room for the last time. She 
will watch the cheery flicker of 
the firelight on the books and 
draperies for the last time. 
She will sit in the cosy chair he 
gave her — for the last time. 
Touch the quaint carved cup- 
boards and settees he has 



94 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

picked up at old curiosity- 
shops, to adorn her sanctum 
sanctorum — for the last time. 

Oh, the pity of it ! The 
anguish of the parting ! She 
takes a rough sketch she has 
made of his head, meaning 
later to create a portrait, and 
placing it on a low chair, kneels 
with clasped hands before it. 
How well she knows that turn 
of his head. How well the 
firm set of mouth and lips, the 
obstinate moulding of the chin, 
and the dear, dear eyes. The 
dear, kind eyes, mirrors of the 
heart that always knows, always 
understands. 

"Oh, my love," she wails, 
" why did you wake me from 



95 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

my magic sleep? Why did 
your hand show me the stern 
reality ? Now, the calm of my 
life is all broken up, all adrift, 
all destroyed. Why did I not 
guess where my heart was 
leading me ? To think I shall 
never see you again, never 
feel the touch of your fingers, 
never hear the sound of your 
voice. My love ! My love, 
my dear, dead love." 

She raises her eyes, and the 
blinding tears are raining down 
her pale drawn face. Then 
her expression freezes. The 
sobs cease. Her breath almost 
stops, for gazing at her with 
horror are the living eyes of 
the man whose portrait she 



96 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

kneels to. The woman springs 
to her feet and covers her face 
with her hands. 

"My God!'' he cries, 
" don't say that / have done 
you this injury. Don't say 
that I have hurt you. I could 
not bear that." The woman 
has turned away, and stands 
silently listening as the man 
proceeds — 

" I only wanted to help you 
by my friendship and com- 
panionship. To make you 
forget the past. To alter the 
sad tenure of your thoughts. 
To give your life colour and 
interest. My wife told me 
you seemed unhappy about 
something when she was here 



97 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

this afternoon, and so after 
dinner I thought I would run 
down and see what was the 
trouble, if I could help in any 
way. Your maid told me you 
were in the studio, so I walked 
in, which explains my presence 
here. I am sorry to surprise 
you thus. Forgive me. I did 
not know my visit would be so 
inopportune." 

"There is nothing to for- 
give." 

** Don't say that your present 
state of unhappiness is my fault. 
Don't say you really love me. 
What is there in me to love ? 
Say there is some mistake, and 
we will laugh it off." 

"There is no mistake. I 



98 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

have given my whole heart to 
you. No — let me speak. I do 
not know when it began. I 
think it must have been always. 
Looking back now, I do not 
realise the time when I did not 
love you. But now that I do 
know, I must cut myself adrift 
from you for ever." 

" What do you mean ? " 

*' That I must go away some- 
where." 

" Where ? " 

" Ah ! I do not know where, 
only I know that I must go 
away at once. You do not 
love me." 

"No, I do not love you. 
I love my wife ; but I like you, 
and admire you immensely. 



99 




ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

I should hate you to go away, 
hate to feel that I had been the 
means of driving you from 
your home. After all, perhaps 
it is only a sick fancy on your 
part. You mistake the warmth 
of our friendship for something 
deeper, and by degrees this 
madness will die out. You 
will not grow weary of my 
companionship. I do not 
mean that, for I am not so 
blind as to think you could 
feign this love if you really did 
not feel it, but you will grow 
accustomed to my being less 
than the dearest to you. Ac- 
customed to my sympathy, 
which will ever be ready for 
you. Accustomed to the 



100 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

oddity of the relationship, 
and feel secure and content. 
Believe me, I know more of 
my fellow-creatures, their im- 
pulses, their affections, their 
necessities, than you give me 
credit for. You have been 
badly treated, tortured. You 
have fought a good fight, but 
your susceptibilities are over- 
wrought, and you exaggerate 
all that you feel, all that you 
dream. You must not for a 
fad bring fresh trouble on your- 
self. Be sensible, there's a 
good girl. Don't meet worry 
half-way, and above all, don't 
act on impulse, and create situ- 
ations that would be difficult 
to abandon." 



lOI 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

"And how about your 
wife ? " 

" Oh — er — well. Don^t you 
understand ? I am very fond 
of you, dear, admire and re- 
spect you, but I am convinced 
that this is only the sick fancy 
of your brain, and will pass. 
Why shouldn't it ? '' 

" You wish me to be your 
friend still ? " 

" Yes. Why not ? There 
is no harm in our friendship. 
What you have told me will 
only make me honour you the 
more, and remember, I found 
you out, so you must let me 
take advantage of my know- 
ledge to urge and counsel 
you to do no rash thing that 



1 02 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

would only end in repentance. 
Six months hence you will 
laugh over this heroic folly, 
that is, if you have not for- 
gotten it." 

"Then you really think 
there is no harm in our inti- 
macy continuing on the old 
footing ? " 

" None in the world. I am 
sure my wife would agree with 
me." 

" See, then ; before I decide 
anything I will see your wife. 
I will tell her myself what I 
feel, and she shall determine in 
this matter exactly as she thinks 
fit. Do not you say one word 
to her. I want her to see the 
thing as it is, not in any way 



103 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

biased by feelings of pity. I 
do not desire an appeal to her 
generosity." 

" Very well, leave it at that. 
I will tell her you want to see 
her, and she will be down some 
time to-morrow morning. Now 
good-night. For goodness sake 
go to bed and go to sleep, and 
don't raise ghosts to scare your 
life away. Oh, you silly, silly 
baby,'* he says, and stooping, 
kisses her cheek, as a brother 
might kiss a sister. 

Next morning she leans 
across her wicket gate, watch- 
ing his wife as she comes 
towards her through the flicker- 
ing light that ripples over her 
in its delicate green shadows 



104 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

from between the tender bud- 
ding leaves. The morning is 
fiill of sunshine and the song of 
birds. Both women are very 
nervous as their hands touch. 
And the one, looking into the 
white face of the other, says 
with a little laugh, that betrays 
the pitch to which her nerves 
are strung — 

"Your mentor said you 
wanted to see me about im- 
portant affairs of state. What 
is it all about ? What is it, 
dear ? " she repeats, as she looks 
with her big, honest eyes, into 
the face of her friend ; then 
she adds lightly, as the other's 
difficulty to break the ice be- 
comes more apparent, " my 



105 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

husband told me that you had 
got some silly notion into your 
head about going abroad and 
leaving everything because you 
thought his friendship for you 
was an insecure one.'* 

" No, that is not so," the 
woman answers. "How can 
I tell you how things really are 
without seeming positively 
brutal.^ I love him. I am 
not mistaken, though he chose 
to consider me so. You and I 
know what that means. Friend- 
ship between a man and a 
woman with such an element 
in it is dangerous. It is to my 
mind impossible, because no 
woman would be strong enough 
to stand the test," 



1 06 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

"I do not agree with you 
there, but even supposing the 
woman was weak — I do not 
say this unkindly — I do under- 
stand. I am sure I do. I am 
so sorry for you, dear. Even 
as I say, supposing the woman 
was weak, there are certain 
men to whom complications of 
that sort are impossible. My 
husband is one of them. I 
trust him implicitly." 

" But it is not a question of 
trusting your husband ! It is 
a question of trusting me. Do 
not be mistaken ; it is the 
woman you must trust, not the 
man. That is an after con- 
sideration." 

" There I disagree with you 



107 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

entirely, but I am quite happy 
in taking that risk. I repeat, 
I trust my husband. I am 
sure I can trust him, I know 
him so well ; and I will trust 
you too." 

" Oh ! do not decide hur- 
riedly,*' is the passionate re- 
sponse. **You have been so 
good to me, so good to me. 
My past life has not been 
bright, but I do not wish to 
appeal to your charity. I want 
you to consider the risks, and I 
leave the decision entirely in 
your hands. Do not consider 
me, I am only one ; there are 
two of you. My life has been 
spoiled, but more ruin will 
never create a fresh paradise ; 

io8 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

and you must realise before 
you decide that you are trusting 
mer 

Her listener smiles. 

" Well, I will trust you, my 
dear. I feel I am right, and 
we will keep our friendship 
intact. Keep our ambitions. 
Keep our security. Work 
together in the future with 
mutual faith and better under- 
standing. No, do not say 
anything. Go and put on 
your hat and come along to 
lunch. My mother is dying 
for some music, and I want 
you to help me with those 
awful accounts." 



109 



^m 




DESECRATION. 

ICTURE to 

yourself a 

room, replete 

' with every 

r ll* ll* ill '"^"'■y ^"'l 
■ fltlaiW^^ i T lH article of 
adornment. A room where 
the walls are covered with 
choice pictures, old china, 
lovely curios in silver and gold ; 
where every nook holds a 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

charming fancy modelled in 
ivory or marble ; where re- 
finement of taste and decora- 
tion catch the straying glances, 
and rivet attention on some- 
thing specially dainty, to wan- 
der again till the sense of 
gratified vision is forgotten in 
the flood of harmonious melody 
that satisfies the ear. 

Picture to yourself the fire- 
light dancing and gleaming, 
touching here the disc of some 
Eastern platter of bold design, 
there the outline of some 
rounded nymph, standing in 
half-seen loveliness against the 
dark background of the oak 
pannelling, rippling in tiny 
waves of iridescent light over 



III 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

the surface of the mirrors, 
dancing in and out amongst 
the shadows of the carving on 
walls and ceiling, kissing to 
rosy red the cheeks of the 
singer, and throwing into deep 
shadow the figure by the ingle. 

Picture to yourself the wife 
sitting in doubled-up fashion 
betore the blaze, throwing fir 
cones in a lazy conceit on to 
the glowing embers, and watch- 
ing with an almost childish 
pleasure the flames leap round 
the frail windfeUs she gives to 
the fire for its demolition. 

Song after song rings out 
true and clear in the gloaming. 
The dainty humour of the 
singer sounds by turns merrily. 



112 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

sadly, anon mockingly, and the 
music floats steadily on in a 
dreamy cadence, calling up in 
the heart of one listener visions 
of the days that have of late 
flown past with such startling 
rapidity. 

The man gazes at the two 
women — the one his wife, the 
other his friend, and the 
memory of that evening when 
he had discovered her love for 
himself recurs to him. He had 
mocked almost at its existence, 
from his own utter inexperience 
of such depth of affection. 
Why was he so blind, so 
criminally blind to her attrac- 
tiveness.^ What is there in 
his love for his wife that has 



113 H 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

made him hitherto feel so 
secure, so absolutely unap- 
proachable ? What is there in 
his love for her to act as a 
charm against other and more 
potent attractions ? She is 
sweet and dainty, but not 
beautiful enough to hold and 
chain a man's undivided fancy 
on that one account. She is 
clever, but not so clever as that 
other woman ; that dear other 
woman with her fascination of 
voice, her charm of interest, 
her unselfishness, and her love. 
The love that, when he dis- 
covered its existence, he had 
failed to realise, failed to appre- 
ciate. What a tangle it is ! 
What a miserable tangle of 



U4 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

circumstances and chance ! If 
only they had let her go abroad 
when she wanted to do so, 
when her instinct had warned 
her of the danger of trying to 
prove a fallacy a possibility, 
merely by the practical applica- 
tion of common sense ! If 
only they had listened to her 
warning, had trusted to her 
conviction, and let her go ! 

Then a revulsion of feeling 
sets in. If only he could take 
her in his arms, kiss her eyes, 
her lips, her hair. Tell her in 
a thousand passionate words of 
his devotion, his love, his mad 
infatuation ! If only she would 
look at him ! She is a woman, 
fickle, fanciful. She has grown 

IIS 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

used to him, to the idea of 
loving him, and he had treated 
the knowledge of that love so 
lightly, so carelessly, because he 
could not then understand what 
it meant to her. Perhaps she 
does not love him after all. 
She has never by so much as a 
look betrayed herself since that 
night long ago. How long 
ago is it ? Three months ! 
Great heavens, three months ! 
Three months in which he has 
seen her every day, taken her 
for countless drives, showed 
her the beauties of scene, the 
glories of the evening light, 
told her of his hopes and ambi- 
tions, explained his work, 
always feeling sure of her 

ii6 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

sympathy. Perhaps he has 
bored her, estranged her love ; 
perhaps she has listened pa- 
tiently to his long-winded illus- 
trations, merely because she 
was sorry for his need of real 
companionship. 

He thinks how little his 
wife is to him, how completely 
wrapped up in her own philan- 
thropic performances, how often 
she ruffles him with her idiotic 
questions. When he is weary 
and overstrained how she will 
obtrude her household worries, 
ply him with questions about 
things of little or no interest to 
him. How little she under- 
stands the art of repose, the 
need of silence. And again, 

117 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

how coldly she loves him. 
Does she love him at all ? 

However, he really does not 
care now, she has lost her chance. 
He does not care for anything, 
he only longs for one thing — to 
hear the voice of the woman he 
loves, to take her in his arms, 
and tell her how it is with 
him. He cannot bear this un- 
certainty ; he must know how 
she feels, and he must speak to 
her plainly. She is so wise, 
she will know what to say. 
He will not think of the future, 
he will tell her first, tell her all. 
He must not betray himself 
before his wife, for her sake he 
must be careful, so he takes 
refuge in a brusqueness of 

ii8 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

manner sometimes noticeable 
with him, though his heart 
feels bursting, and his temples 
feel like iron vices on either 
side of his head. 

"I think you have sung 
enough now, and I have some- 
thing rather particular I want 
to do this evening, so put on 
your things and I will see you 
home." Then to his wife, " I 
shall be busy to-night, I have 
something I want to finish, do 
not wait here for me." 

She answers, ** You need not 
bother to walk home with her. 
I will do so, and shall enjoy 
the walk." 

" How absurd you are. Who 
will walk back with you ? " 



119 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

" Oh ! I shall be quite safe. 
I often trot down to the cottage 
in the evening, and you have 
never worried about my safety 
before/' she persists. 

** I wish you would leave my 
plans alone. I never say I will 
do a thing unless I want to do 
it." 

"Don't be so absurd, my 
dear man, one would think it 
was of the utmost importance. 
You always make such a ridicu- 
lous fuss over little things ; you 
never will understand that other 
people can do things quite as 
well, if not decidedly better, 
than you. You are quite a 
ridiculous person." 

" I have no doubt you think 



120 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

SO, you have said so very often 
of late." 

Their guest breaks in with, 
**I think you are both ridiculous 
people. I am old enough and 
ugly enough, surely," laughing, 
" to see myself home, and " 

"No," the man interrupts, 
"I want to go out. Run 
away and put on your things." 

The woman leaves the room ; 
he feels suddenly ashamed, with 
an intense desire to be saved 
from himself, and turns to his 
wife speaking rapidly. 

" I am sorry I was so cross, 
dear. I am irritable to-night." 

"You generally are," she 
answers coldly. 

" Yes," he replies, keeping 



121 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

his temper by an efFort, " but 
I am always awfully sorry when 
I speak roughly to you. Say 
it's all right, dear ? " And he 
tries to pass his arm round her 
shoulders, but with a little im- 
patient movement she shakes 
herself free, saying indifferently, 
" Oh ! very well, only try and 
keep your temper a little more 
evenly for the future. I must 
go and see if she's ready." 

The man stands quite still 
for a moment, watching the 
door through which she has 
gone from the room. Oh, 
upon what little, insignificant 
acts do our lives turn, does our 
happiness hinge! Then with 
sudden passion he throws out 



122 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

his arms saying, '* My God ! 
Can I help myself? She freezes 
me at every turn. She may be 
very fond of me, but by 
Heaven she goes a very ec- 
centric way to prove it ! Ah ! '* 
his voice changes, " here you 
are. Well, come along, we 
can go through the window 
and cross the lawn." 

To which his wife queries — 
" Why through the window ? 
The door is just as near, and 

oh ! dont drag the curtains 

back like that ; you will have 
them all ofF the rings. Did 
you ever know such an im- 
patient man ? " she asks her 
friend. " Shall you be busy 
painting to-morrow, or will you 

123 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

drive over with me to see the 
Babies ? *' 

"No, I shall not be busy," 
is the rejoinder. *' Call for me 
at three. I shall be ready." 
Then in reply to a provoked 
** Do come along " from the 
man waiting outside, the two 
women kiss ; one steps out of 
the window into the spring 
night, the other stands a moment 
calling " Good-night " as they 
pass through the gate, and 
murmuring, "What a fussy 
man he is sometimes," closes 
the window, draws the curtains, 
and picking up a book, settles 
herself cosily before the fibre to 
read. 

Her mother and Daisy are 



124 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

knitting in the drawing-room 
overhead, and by and by she 
hears them move, hears the 
door open and shut, hears their 
voices on the stairs, hears the 
child go to her room. She 
disapproves of demonstrative- 
ness, or "gush," as she terms 
the usual exchange of family 
civility ; then the door of her 
room opens, and a kind, sweet 
voice asks, " Shall I ring for the 
lights to be put out, my dear ? " 

" Oh, yes, if you will, please. 
Going to bed, mother?" 

" Yes, dear. Do you want 
me to do anything for you ? " 

" No, thanks," without look- 
ing up from her book. " Good- 
night. Shut the door." 

125 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

" Good-night, dear. Don't 
let the fire burn too low while 
you are reading, for the evenings 
are quite wintry still." 

*' Oh ! all right, my dear 
mother, don't bother. When 
will I teach you that I am quite 
capable of taking care of my- 
self? " 

" Very well, dear. Good- 
night," and the old lady goes. 

The daughter may well de- 
spair of ever teaching that 
gentle old nature the repellent 
manners fashionable in the nine- 
teenth century ; may well de- 
spair of creating indifference 
where only the fondest solicitude 
for the wants of others exists 
in the warm old heart, young 

iz6 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

with the everlasting youth of 
love and sympathetic kindness. 

The fire flickers and crackles, 
the glow of the lamps fall 
steadily on the figure of the 
woman, and her small brown 
hands as they turn over the 
leaves of her book. The 
clock ticks on in whispering 
monotony. 

Meanwhile those other two 
have arrived at the cottage. 
They have spoken very little 
by the way ; he is thinking 
fast and furiously, she is think- 
ing too — wondering how that 
little wife of his can irritate 
him as she does ; blaming him, 
in spite of her aflFection, for 
his touchiness, and wondering 

127 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

sadly how the little rift in the 
lute has almost marred the 
entire harmony. 

They reach the cottage. She 
turns brightly to her companion 
saying, *' Good-night, now, and 
thanks so much for seeing me 
safe home. No bogie-man will 
run away with me between this 
and my beddy-house." 

" May I come in for a little 
while ? " he asks. " I won't 
keep you up long." 

" Yes, of course," she replies, 
wondering. " Come in by all 
means. I did not ask you to 
do so because I fancied you 
were in a hurry to get away." 

She precedes him into the 
house, where the cosy interior 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

appeals to every sense of luxury 
in their nature. 

He follows her closely into 
the room, and shuts the door 
behind him. 

She goes to the fire, and is 
poking it into a blaze, when 
his voice, calling her by name, 
causes her to turn swiftly in his 
direction with a startled, half- 
credulous look. His fece is 
deathly white, and his voice 
unsteady. 

" Come here. I want you," 
he says, and waits. But the 
woman never moves. Then, 
with a sudden stride, he is by 
her side, he lifts her to her feet 
with one strong movement, and 
folding her in his arms, showers 

129 I 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

mad, burning kisses on her 
lips, her eyes, her hair. He 
calls her by a thousand love 
names, presses her head down 
against his beating heart, re- 
peating again and again, " My 
love, my love." 

The woman is completely 
swept away by the force of his 
impulse, and for a few moments 
seems paralysed by the intensity 
of her emotions. Then she 
suddenly wrenches herself free, 
and holds him from her with 
one trembling hand pressed 
against his breast. 

"Do not. Do not. Wait. 
Oh, think what you have 
done ! What madness is this ? 
You do not love me. Oh, 



130 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

what have you said ? What 
have you done ? " 

Her voice is low. She is 
utterly unstrung, and she is 
shaking from head to foot as 
if with ague. He answers : 
" Do not hold me from you, 
my sweet. See, I will not touch 
you unless you give me leave 
to do so. Do not fear me, 
dear ; I would not hurt you, 
or frighten you, on any account. 
I seem to have lived for this 
moment all my life, for this 
one moment of blissful, utter 
content, when I held you in 
my arms, when I kissed your 
sweet lips, when I held you 
against my heart and knew you 
were mine, as surely as I am 



13' 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

yours. Do not fear me, my 
sweet, sweet love.*' He lifts 
her hands on to his shoulders 
and holds them there. His 
eyes are burning ; and looking 
into his face she knows how it 
is with him, and that he speaks 
the truth, the passionate truth, 
that carries on its breath the 
flame of Paradise and disaster ; 
and she shrinks as his excited 
words beat on her senses, sick 
at heart with a deadly fear and 
foreboding of evil to come. 

" Look at me," he pleads ; 
*' do you not see how I love 
you, my darling, darling one? 
Do you not know how the 
mockery of friendship must 
end, and that no power within 

132 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

me could keep me silent, when 
my soul feels drawn out of my 
body with the strength and 
utter singleness of my love for 
you ? When I heard you sing- 
ing this evening, when I saw 
your hair shine in the firelight 
as you sat there, I felt how you 
were singing your very heart 
away ; and it was then, then, 
dear love, that I knew my own 
heart — ^when I felt that I must 
take you in my arms and tell 
you how I love you. How 
dear you are, how good you 
are, how I love you, thus, and 
thus." 

But again she slips from his 
embrace, and falling on her 
knees before him, winds her 



133 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

arms round his legs, and her 
pent-up emotion finds words 
which pour in excited rapidity. 
" Listen, oh, listen to me ! 
Do not raise me ; let me speak, 
let me tell you how this thing 
looks to me. Let us put the 
sweetness away. Oh! what 
bitter misfortune has thrown 
my shadow across your life to 
blot out the sunshine, to canker 
your love, to blight your ambi- 
tion? Oh! I was wise, wise 
when I said this thing was not 
possible, when I said that my 
love for you was dangerous. 
My soul must have whispered 
that caution to my heart. Ah ! 
why did I not go — go away 
before this damage occurred ; 

134 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

go before the evil arose ? You 
did not love me then. Why 
have I not seen this thing 
coming ? Blind, blind fool that 
I have been ! *' 

" Do not accuse yourself so, 
my darling. It was not your 
fault. Who could have guessed 
that? I should love you thus? 
It is fate ; we cannot resist it, 
we cannot avoid it. Let us 
take the joy, and forget the 
rest ; forget all else but the 
delight of being together — the 
glorious present of intense 
satisfaction." 

" Oh ! do not forget ; do 
not forget for a single moment. 
Therein lies the awful sorrow 
of this love. We cannot forget. 

135 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

We must not forget. Think 
of your work ; think of your 
wife." 

" My God, I had forgotten 
her ! " 

" Do not forget her — not for 
an instant ; remember her faith 
in you, her love for you, her 
trust in you, and remember she 
trusted me also. She gave me 
the very breath of my life ; 
she gave me the very core of 
mv heart. She did not know 
how black my heart was, how 
little I was to be trusted. 
How have I won your love? 
I did not seek it ; I did not in 
any way wish it. I was so 
shocked, so humiliated, when 
I first discovered my love for 

136 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

you, that my one idea was 
instant flight. But she was so 
sure that no harm could come 
of my love, and of your know- 
ledge of it, that I was sure in 
the false security of her faith. 
How she would scorn me ! She 
would not understand how this 
thing came to us, unsought, 
undesired. She has not the 
nature for strong emotion of 
any sort. She will break her 
heart if she knows. Her life 
will be spoiled, her faith in all 
good will be killed, her love 
for you will lose its element 
of respect, she will be in a 
purgatory of suffering. Her 
ideals will vanish, her idols be 
broken. She must not know ; 



137 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

she must never know. Ours 
is the fault, ours must be the 
sufFering. She trusts us so 
utterly, so perfectly. She can- 
not imagine wrong ; she goes 
so straight." 

Suddenly the brave voice 
breaks and quavers, and bitter 
sobbing makes indistinct the 
hitherto clear utterance. 

"We tried to go straight 
too ; let us still endeavour to 
do so." 

He has moved away from 
her and sits with his face 
buried in his hands ; while 
kneeling still, she urges her 
religion of self-denial. 

" It will be only the pain of 
the first wrench, only the agony 

i38 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

of the break, and then in the 
days to come, peace and content 
will blot out the sufFering that 
has passed, that will fade from 
our hearts. The healing thought 
that we suffered bravely that 
good might come of it will 
help so much. You do love 
your wife, dear. I know you 
do, and she loves you." 

"But not as we love," he 
pleads ; " not as you love me, 
and I love you. She has not 
got it in her. My love for 
her is a cold flame of friendli- 
ness. It is not worthy of the 
designation of love. Love exists 
for you and for me. Love lifts 
one's life to enormous heights 
of superiority of Thought, of 

139 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

Desire. Love is like a fierce 
white flame that takes one's 
soul on its utmost point and 
hurls it into a chaos of falling 
stars, where each star is an eye, 
each eye a mirror wherein the 
image of love reigns supreme." 

But the woman's voice is 
once more heard in colder 
accents than hitherto, as she 
preaches the sermon of asceti- 
cism. 

" If you have no thought for 
your wife, then think of me ; 
think of the shame and the 
sorrow that would haunt me 
all my life, if I listened to you. 
Think what the recollection 
would be to me of broken 
faith, abused trust ; haunting 



140 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

me waking and sleeping. 
Think how her mother's heart 
would be torn, how the dear 
old lady would sufFer through 
the hurt to her child, her one 
ewe lamb. If you befriended 
me when I needed a friend, so 
also did she. If you have tried 
to make my life happy, so also 
has she. If you have given 
me help in a thousand countless 
ways, and encouragement, so 
also has she. She believes in me 
also. Shall I disappoint her? 
She trusts me entirely. Shall 
I betray her ? Ah ! do not let 
your love for me drive you 
upon a rock of destruction. 
Do not allow me to have the 
memory always with me of 

141 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

your failure, your disastrous 
defeat in a fight so well worth 
winning, so well worth fighting. 
And oh ! my dear, what pleasure 
should you and I compass for 
ourselves with the sin of wrong- 
doing on our conscience? We 
are not just ordinary wicked 
people ; we have refinement, 
ambition, sacred feelings, and 
knowledge of wrong and right. 
Bohemians ? Yes ; but un- 
clean. No ; we would never 
find our happiness in others' un- 
happiness, in the downfall of our 
lives, in the absence of social 
security, personal morality. 
We are not boy and girl. 
We have lived, and we have 
loved. Yes, I know, dear, how 



142 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

much harder it is to dash this 
cup of happiness from our lips, 
knowing as we do know that 
it is our last chance. That we 
give up entire happiness for 
ever ; that our lives, incomplete 
hitherto, will be doubly desolate 
for the thought of this forlorn 
possibility we put away from 
us. Be brave. You are so 
brave. That has always been one 
of the reasons for my love. Be 
honest, steadfast, and true. The 
real denial of your life has only 
just commenced, has but just 
occurred. Do not let your 
heart fail now, and your feet 
stray into the wrong path, just 
because it is the easiest, just 
because the situation appeals to 

143 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

your pleasure and desires. Ah ! 
listen to me. I know it is hard, 
doubly hard, because we neither 
of us sought this issue. Let 
us part to-night from the old 
way, and the new way will 
divide our steps. Let us destroy 
the link of daily intercourse 
that binds our lives ; and re- 
lieved from the tension to 
appear what we no longer are, 
let hopes of ambition awake 
within us. We will both do 
good work, hard work ; we 
will live — ^and suffer if needs 
be — bravely and calmly, and 
pray that there may be a dim 
future in the hereafter, where 
our sacrifice will be taken into 
account. Do not let your tears 



144 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

fall ; do not let your sorrow 
warp your life. Take me once 
again in your arms and bid me 
good-night, and good-bye. My 
dear love, my dear, dear love." 

" You are an angel. You 
are not a woman. You are 
right — you are always right, 
and you shall decide. It is 
more bitter than death. It 
is more hopeless than any 
words can tell. Nothing can 
be done except, as you say, to 
endure quietly, and by so doing 
help you to bear your burden. 
Shall I see you again ? " 

" Oh, yes, you must see 
me, perhaps a dozen times. 
Keep out of my way as much 
as possible, and leave the rest 

H5 K 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

to me. When I am alone I 
shall be able to think more 
clearly, and you must not give 
yourself time for much thought 
of any sort. Work at the 
work that interests you, that 
taxes your brain power, your 
nerve and strength ; you will 
do good work, and remember, 
only by the results of your 
labour, by the publicity of your 
successes, shall I be able to 
hear of you in the days to 
come, after our parting. Do not 
grieve for me, dear. My sor- 
row will grow lighter as time 
heals the first poignartcy of 
the grief we bear ; and now go, 
for the strain is becoming very 
painful, and I cannot bear much 



more." 



146 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

She walks with him to the 
door, and closes it gently be- 
hind him. Oh, the desolate 
longing ! Oh, the sick dull 
pain ! Why should she be so 
sorely tried ? Why should she 
be so loved, and love so fondly, 
only that her love should create 
more woe ? And to think that 
that little cold woman, with 
her countless theories, her in- 
terests, her mixture of apathy 
and activity, her asceticism — 
with her love of gaiety, and 
her numerous proteges^ should 
hold in the hollow of her hand 
the lives of two who feel more 
acutely the fleeting interest of 
a moment than she could, the 
Crisis of a Life. 



147 




5sO you're really 
j thinking of 
I going abroad 
for a while to 
I study? Well, 
I daresay you'll 
have a jolly time, but I hope 
you will be back before I come 
home again. When do you 
think of starting ? I am off 
to-morrow, and the old man 



148 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

will be desolate without us 
both ; left to the tender mercies 
of my mother and Daisy. 

"Where are you going to- 
morrow? You did not say 
you were going anywhere yester- 
day evening, when I was up at 
the house/' 

« Didn't I ? Oh ! well, 
Eleanor is expecting her trouble 
any day, and it has been a long- 
standing promise that I am to 
go to her. I heard this morn- 
ing, so I am off to-morrow by 
the 9.9 train." 

"Won't your husband be 
awfully dull without you ? '* 

" Oh, no, I don t think so. 
He is most awfully interested 
in this new work he is doiiig ; 



149 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

he didn't go to bed till any 
hour last night." 

** Do you think it is good 
for him always working so 
hard.^ Why don't you go 
in and distract him more, rattle 
to him about nothing, make 
him go out with you, go driving 
with him, or try and interest 
him in your interests ? " 

" Oh ! no thanks, dear, I 
hate driving when one drives 
without an object, just for the 
sake of driving about the 
country, and my interests are 
so widely dissimilar from his 
that we never even clash." 

" I don't think you are 
enough to one another. Don't 
be angry with me, dear, but 

150 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

you are out so much ; he seems 
so often alone. Alone with his 
books, alone with his work, 
and his life seems so isolated. 
He is very fond of your mother, 
I know, and of Daisy ; but 
don't you think that perhaps, 
sometimes, his home life bores 
him a little .? " 

" Oh, no, I am sure it 
doesn't ; he never notices who 
is in the house ; I assure you if 
I filled it from garret to cellar 
he would be none the wiser. 
He is quite happy, so long as 
nobody bothers him to do 
things he doesn't want to do. 
If one taxes him to do things 
he gets awfully crotchetty." 

** Don't you think, dear, that 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

such crotchettiness sometimes is 
the outcome of mental friction, 
at which perhaps you never 
trouble to make a guess?" 

"Much more likely to be 
liver than mental strain, I as- 
sure you ; but, however, we 
need not discuss that ; he and 
I understand one another per- 
fectly, we like to go our own 
ways, and are both perfectly 
happy in doing so. When do 
you go ? " 

" Well, I don't quite know ; 
in a day or two at latest." 

" And when do you re- 
turn ? " 

" Beautifully vague on that 
score also ; perhaps I may go 
right away down south, and 

152 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

get some Arab models, not 
knowing my movements when 
I am possessed of a real ram- 
bling fit." 

" I hope you are not going 
to be such an utter idiot as to 
run any risks of meeting that 
husband of yours } " 

" Oh ! there's no knowing. 
After all, he is my husband, 
you know/' She gives the 
wrong impression intentionally, 
and does not betray her inmost 
thoughts by the quiver of an 
eyelid. Her companion jumps 
to her feet. 

*' Oh ! I have no patience 
with you, and women of your 
stamp — all common sense seems 
merged in a swamp of senti- 

IS3 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

mentality. I should not won- 
der a bit if you went back 
to him, and lived happy ever 
after, like the good little girls 
in the fairy tales. It's prosaic 
and probably natural, but not 
up to date enough for me. I 
think if two people are not 
absolutely happy together they 
should agree to separate." 

**That is so easily said — of 
another, but when it becomes 
a question for one's own de- 
cision, the argument wants to 
be more substantial ; one is 
never so utterly alone that one's 
acts do not effect others." 

"Well, all I know is, that 
if I ever found out I was not 
sufficient for my husband, in 

1 54 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

every sense of the word, I 
would not make any fuss, but 
would put an end to the possi- 
bility of further complications 
by quietly withdrawing my 
presence/* 

" Ah ! well, my dear, that is 
never the least likely to happen, 
and so your convictions and 
propositions, which you prove 
by reasonings are not likely to 
be put to any real practical test. 
Good-bye, my little friend, I 
shall miss you and the dogs, 
and your little breezy, airy 
way of settling the sternest 
realities with a word, and a 
laugh over improbabilities or 
disturbing complications. Good- 
bye." 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

'* Good-bye ; write and let me 
know how you get on." 

She waves adieu to her friend, 
till the shade of her dust- 
coloured tailor-made gown, and 
the tail of the last dog follow- 
ing her, merge in the shadows 
of the forest trees, and are lost 
to sight. 

Ah I the pity of it, the pity ! 
She has done what she could ; 
she has sent her lover from her, 
she has given a word of caution 
to the wife, has suggested the 
need for more close relationship 
between them, and has been 
scoffed at for her efforts. She 
has worn the mask of Friend- 
ship, hiding the face of Love ; 
has ruthlessly applied the test 

iS6 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

of practice to her precept ; has 
warned in vain the self-con- 
tained, self-absorbed woman, 
who sees in the fact of the 
marriage service an existing, 
tangible bond, that seems to 
her sufficient to compass peace 
of mind and all understanding 
between husband and wife, he^ 
cause they are husband and 
wife in the eyes of the Law, 
in the eyes of Society, with 
Heaven's approval. She can- 
not plan anything yet ; to- 
morrow she will prepare for the 
long, long journey ; to-morrow 
she will break the last links, 
destroy the love, abandon the 
last hope. To-day she will 
idle, she will visit all the scenes 

157 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

that are specially graven on her 
heart by tender association. 
She will go to the old grey 
stones, where so many good 
fights have been won over her 
own desires, where so many 
hours have been spent in soli- 
tude and thought ; the old grey 
stones that have been the tryst 
for so many lovers in days gone 
by, that have heard so many 
promises made — out-lived the 
breaking of them, and will 
remain unchanged long after 
her hot tired heart is resting 
in the cold peace of the forget- 
ful grave, when the tumult of 
living for her, and for others, 
will be hushed in the long 
sleep, where there shall exist 

m8 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

no more anguish of mind or 
body. 

All through the day she 
wanders in the woods, listening 
to the tinkle of the sheep- 
bells, listening to the everlast- 
ing twitter of the birds, watch- 
ing the sunshine, like a sea of 
golden coins falling through 
the delicate green leaves on to 
the grass, hearing as in a dream 
the lowing of the cattle as they 
are driven home to the farms, 
resting after the agony of in- 
tense feeling and silent suffer- 
ing, that has been compressed 
into the last few hours. She 
is almost unconscious of the 
failing light, only half under- 
standing the lengthening sha- 

159 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

dows, the chill in the air, the 
falling of evening upon herself 
and her surroundings. The 
deepening of the gloom among 
the trees passes unheeded. She 
does not realise that the day is 
finished — the evening advanc- 
ing into night; she does not 
feel the cold, the fatigue ; she 
has lost sensation of hunger ; 
she has almost lost sensation of 
life and suflFering in any form ; 
when she hears the voice that 
would reach her were she dead 
— the tender voice that above 
all others is so dear, so precious 
to her. 

" Good gracious ! how long 
have you been here ? I thought 
at first my eyes deceived me," 

1 60 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

Stretching out his hand and 
touching her fingers. "You 
are cold — cold as death. How 
long have you been here? I 
could not rest. I have not 
been near the cottage, I have 
not been seeking you. Why 
don't you speak.? Don't you 
believe me } " 

For answer she rises to her 
feet with difficulty, and then 
stumbles heavily, and he has 
only time to clasp her in his 
arms to prevent her from fall- 
ing. All the heroism is dead 
within her. She is only a tired 
little fragile woman, nearly 
frozen, very hungry, faint, and 
weak; and, like a child, she 
allows herself to be led back 



i6i 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

to the cottage, where her own 
faithful maid gives her some- 
thing to eat and a cup of tea, 
and where her mentor, seeing at 
a glance her collapse, mentally 
and physically, chats gaily, 
ministers to her wants, and 
leaves her in the care of her 
maidservant, with strict injunc- 
tions to go to bed at once. 

He runs to his home for 
some soothing draught that will 
give rest and quiet to the poor 
over-wrought brain of the 
woman he sees, all too plainly, 
has broken down completely 
under the tension of self-re- 
straint that she has imposed 
upon herself for the sake of 
those she loves. 



162 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

As he runs through the dew- 
laden grass, thoughts of her 
sweetness, her devotion, her 
courage, and her simplicity 
flash through his mind. He 
lives over again the scene of 
yesterday, when she had so 
bravely said to him : ** Go ! ** 
when no word of her own suf- 
fering had crossed her lips ; 
and how she must have suffered 
he knows from observation of 
her power of endurance, how 
she must suffer in the future 
when they are parted. Then 
he asks himself wildly — ^why 
should they part ? Why should 
she suflfer so cruelly through 
this love that has come to them 
both ? He will see her again, 

163 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

and tell her quietly that he can- 
not live without her, that she 
must not leave him, that he has 
made the choice and she must 
abide by the consequences. He 
feels so strong — so elated ; so 
intoxicated by his passionate 
love. He feels the desire for 
this woman completely master- 
ing him, and he makes no effort 
to stem the current bearing him 
whither he knows not. 

He does not stay to think, 
he deliberately puts calm 
thought from him. He will 
not go to his home after all, 
he turns back and hurries 
whence he has just come. He 
is at the window in a moment, 
his breath is coming fast, his 

164 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

heart beating to suffocation, 
and he is trembling violently. 

His hand is on the window- 
fastening that leads from the 
verandah into her room, when 
he is recalled to a sense of 
fitness by the voices within, 
and he leans, panting, ag^nst 
the wall in the darkness with- 
out — listening and waiting. 

"Can I get you anything 
more, ma'am ? " 

" No, thank you, Mary, 
Draw the curtain across the 
door as you go out, and do 
not come to me in the morning 
till I ring. I am very tired. 
No— do not mind the window, 
I want to take a peep at the 
stars before I go to bed ; they 

165 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

are so soothing. I like the 
stars. Dont you?" 

" Well, yes, ma*am ; but I 
likes the moon a deal better, 
it's so much brighter." 

" Ah ! yes, Mary, so it is — 
so much brighter. As you say 
— so much brighter," is the 
dreamy answer, and then she 
sighs. 

The maid's voice replies, 
" Mistress, dear, do go to bed, 
and try and get to sleep. I 
don't know what ails you this 
while away, but I make so bold 
as to try and say a word 
of " 

" Yes, yes, Mary, thank you. 
You are a good girl. I shall 
be all right to-morrow. Now 

i66 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

leave me ; go straight to bed. 
I wish it. Good-night." 

" Good - night, ma'am, an' 
the dear Lord bless you, iand 
mend the sorrow, whatever it 
is." 

Then the sound of the closing 
door strikes on the listener's 
ears, and the hot fire of Love's 
desire leaps to his brain. She 
is alone. In sorrow. She is 
his. Then he opens the win- 
dow and steps within the room, 
thus in a flash is the situation 
sprung upon her. In her weak, 
spent state she has not the 
power of thought, the power 
of resistance. 

He sees her standing there 
in her snowy night-dress with 

167 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

the dainty ribbons and laces 
at throat and wrist ; with her 
veil of soft hair like a mantle 
round her shoulders ; the pink 
little toes like delicious rose- 
buds peeping beneath the hem 
of her garment, and he is drunk 
with love's wild intoxication. 
Quickly he turns the key in 
door and window, blows out 
the light, and then — ^they are 
alone with the firelight — alone 
with the night. 

" My love," he pleads ex- 
citedly, " speak to me — look at 
me — you are not sorry — you 
do not regret? You will not 
regret ! We set ourselves too 
big a task ; we could not live 
apart. We did not seek this 

1 68 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

love. It came — and I am glad. 
I shall always be glad. Come 
what may in the future, I have 
known perfect happiness for 
one hour ; a life of sorrow 
would be less to bear than the 
lost remembrance of that one 
blissful hour of supreme and 
utter content." 

The woman laughs a low, 
rippling laugh, and says — 

**How you take my breath 
away. How I love you." 

" Do you, dear ? Say it 
again and again, I shall never 
tire of hearing you repeat your- 
self so. How wonderful it all 
is." And he gathers her in a 
close embrace. **I kiss your 
hair in token of the countless 



169 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

reasons why I love you ; your 
eyes, that they may always 
faithfully mirror your heart ; 
your lips, to seal the compact 
of our vows ; and your dear 
little nose, so that it won*t feel 
neglected ; your hands, in token 
of your gift of yourself to me ; 
your feet, that you may know 
how much I am your slave." 

" Ah ! no, no ; you frighten 
me!" 

"Do not shrink away from 
me, dear love. Think of all 
the long quiet years I have 
lived ; how the capacity for a 
great love that must always 
have been with me has been 
growing, gaining force, gaining 
power. Do not dream you can 
stem the torrent now." 

170 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

'' Ah ! but I must try to do 
so, try to show you the little 
cloud no bigger than a man's 
hand, or a man's fancy. Try 
to show you that I feel a panic 
regarding a future wherein we 
know not whither we may drift. 
I cannot forget my past, so 
storm-tossed, so unhappy. It 
is so hard to believe in anything 
joyous again — so hard/' 

" Be brave, dear heart. Be- 
lieve in me, and in my love — 
for I pledge my life, my soul, 
to you. Good-bye ; I hate to 
leave you, but I suppose I really 
must. I shall be round with 
the trap about eleven, and we 
will lunch somewhere in the 
woods together. So pack a 

171 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

good hamper^ and be ready 
when I call for you." 

Then, taking her again in 
his arms, with tender kisses on 
lips and brow, he leaves her. 

And to-morrow is another 
day — a day of pleasure, a day 
of love and content, a day that 
both will remember, when the 
young moon hanging in the sky 
of rosy sunset is called by two 
happy hearts fbeir moon — ^their 
honeymoon. 

When the glistening evening 
star is but another token of 
their happiness, and they set it 
in the sky as a talisman for 
ever of their faith and love, 
as a messenger for the future, 
should they ever be apart and 



172 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

see it, to bind their souls 
together, and cast fond memory 
of this day across their paths, 
however sundered, however far 
apart — a sign in the sky, an 
understanding, a link, in whose 
shadeless glimmer they will 
ever see the beacon of a fond 
memory, to bid them hope, to 
restore their failing courage. 

Oh, the happy days ! — the 
time of spring for those two 
poor souls, prior to the re- 
nunciation, before the thin 
grey mist of past passion, the 
tide of slow repentance, rising 
and falling, intangible as the 
summer wind, sweeping in 
flower-laden fragrance, solid as 
a granite rock and as cold, 

173 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

divided a dream of radiant joy 
from the chill reality of doing 
and suffering that lives in 
everyday memory, every idle- 
ness of thought and act. 

They recalled the summer 
only as the autumn leaves may, 
in the ripeness that fades from 
excess of maturity. Oh, the 
happy, fleeting time, in which 
they are wholly content with 
the abandonment of despair ; 
for both know in their hearts 
that this must end sooner or 
later, that it must end swiftly 
and surely ; but in their coward 
shrinking from the pain of it 
they put the necessity away. 
Still the stern reality of fate 
creeps nearer, nearer ^very day, 

174 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

and the awful reckoning is at 
hand, growing daily, hourly 
closer. Then it comes home 
to them, for the woman wakes 
first firom the perilous torpor 
and realises what this thing is 
that she has done. Needless 
to dwell upon her agony of 
awakening. She knowsy and 
she suffers accordingly. 

This love she has stolen 
haunts her, destroys her peace 
of mind. She has ever with 
her the torture of her falseness 
the knowledge of her broken 
faith, her trust betrayed, and 
the only way of escape from 
deeper depths is flight, prompt 
and definite flight. So she 
decides to go, late though it be, 

175 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

to cut adrift her life from that 
of the man she has enslaved, 
to cast herself adrift, and by 
degrees annihilate all the links 
of the chain forged by passion, 
stimulated by love. 

Ah, the awful bitterness, the 
parting that she knows to be a 
parting for ever, and which he 
deems is only for a time, the 
little comedy of vows given for 
future re-union that she plays 
so well, and to the bitter end ! 

Her last glimpse of him 
buying a paper at the railway 
station, and she never sees him 
again. 

She writes — once, twice — 
passionate, regretful letters, 
every word breathing of her 

176 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

love, her absolute devotion ; 
and then she writes and bids 
him good-bye for ever in terms 
he cannot fail to respect — ^tells 
him how much she repents, 
how for the future he must live 
for his real wife, endure in 
brave silence the severing of 
the last ties between them, 
work for work's sake, and 
never let his wife know of the 
failure of their high standard, 
their deception, and their sin. 
But one of these first two 
passionate letters that she wrote 
when her heart was bursting 
with the agony she endured 
and tried to hide from the 
world — one of those letters fell 
by mischance into the hands of 

177 M 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

the woman who had trusted 
her, the woman whom she had 
called friend — and betrayed. 
As the eyes of the Philan- 
thropist scanned the written 
words of burning love, her 
charity froze, her philanthropy 
was forgotten, her friendship 
died. Only the woman in her 
lived — the jealous, passionate 
Eve in her character. She did 
not know anything but the 
seeming^ and in the first burst 
of her indignant fury and pain 
over losing the treasure that 
until lost had been lightly 
regarded, she wrote to her erst- 
while friend and companion, 
smarting as she was under the 
bitter sense of wrong, however 

178 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

unjustifiable her wrath, at a 
development which under all 
the circumstances should not 
have been surprising to her. 

The following three letters 
tell the rest of my story better 
than I can. 

No. I. 

" I have just read your letter 
that came yesterday. I did not 
know you were such a wicked 
woman. I trusted to your 
honour. It has indeed proved 
a broken reed, for you have 
destroyed my faith in man and 
woman for ever. You have 
spoilt my life and ruined my 
love. You have dragged a 
noble nature in the mire of 



179 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

falsehood and deception. I 
hope God may reward you 
according as you deserve. 

" I have opened this to add 
the enclosed. I demanded it 
as my right. It cannot describe 
half my contempt and loathing 
for one who has proved herself 
so base, so false a friend." 

"The enclosed " was a broken 
ring hammered in many pieces. 

No. 2. 

" My wife opened and read 
your letter to me from Paris. 
There is nothing more to be 
said, and I suppose our parting 
must be final under the circum- 
stances. Her grief resulting 

x8o 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

from her discovery has deve- 
loped to the point of extreme 
gentleness, and holy forgiveness 
of sins past, present, and to 
come, though she threw herselt 
into the part of Injured Inno- 
cence in her usual thorough 
style, and played to the gods 
for applause of her good old- 
fashioned, wifely sentiments in 
a truly dramatic manner. I 
daresay you can imagine the 
scene. My own feelings in 
the matter take the form of 
blind, impotent rage against 
developments and the Fates 
generally. I miss you at every 
turn, and shall continue to do 
so. My dear, I think it quite 
possible that one may lose 

i8i 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

more by trying to be an im- 
possible saint than by sub- 
mitting to the role of an 
ordinary sinner. One panders 
so much to what people will 
say, forgetting that the gossip 
can never hurt as much as the 
endurance of pain in order to 
avoid publicity ; and when one 
considers that, without scandal, 
life in the country would be 
a blank, conversation would 
languish and die, and until an 
era be reached when Science, 
Art, and a General Admiration 
Society monopolise the inte- 
rests of our gatherings, the 
*' latest thing " about the con- 
cerns of our friends, or their 
disagreeable notoriety for choice, 

182 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

will retain the value hitherto 
ascribed to such gossip. Ah ! 
well, I feel played out, miser- 
able, and intensely lonely. God 
bless you always. Send for me 
if you want me, and always 
believe that I hold your welfare 
as a first consideration, your 
happiness pre-eminent, your 
wishes my law. I was obliged 
to give my wife the little ring 
you gave me. She demanded 
it as her right. I am sorry 
now — it was weak of me ; she 
is not judicious, and I fear your 
being hurt in any unnecessary 
way, for two wrongs will never 
make a right, even from a 
jealous woman's point of view. 
What a muddle life is — ^what a 



183 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

hopeless muddle ! This is my 
last letter, I suppose, and yet 
nothing but the most ordinary 
platitudes occur to me. I ought 
to suggest hope — give you help 
in some way. The most un- 
bearable thought in the whole 
concern is that /, who only 
wanted to help you, should 
have brought you such awful 
misery. We neither of us can 
wipe out the past from our 
minds. We can only endure, 
and be silent." 

No. 3, IN ANSWER TO No. I. 

" And do you consider your- 
self free from blame ? — free 
from responsibility ? I do not. 
You are cold, selfish, and devoid 

184 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

of generosity. You are need- 
lessly cruel, too. You say, 
* May God reward me accord- 
ing as I deserve.' I hope so. 
He is merciful, you are pitiless. 
You accuse me of dragging a 
noble nature in the mire. I 
know it. Do you think that 
does not hurt ? The unnatvu'al 
arrangement you insisted upon 
was not possible — ^was not right. 
Yet behind your personal purity 
you would stand in scorn and 
security, flinging insult and 
heartless jibe at one less for- 
tunate. You give so little — 
why do you expect so much.? 
Where was your sympathy 
— ^where your consideration ? 
When he was tired, did you 

lis 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

remember ever to put your own 
trivial, little, uninteresting 
affairs on one side to attend 
to his calls upon your sym- 
pathy ? When he turned to 
you for love, you gave him 
friendship ; when he turned to 
you for help, you took no 
interest in his worries. You 
had your foundling, your gaiety, 
your friends, your adopted 
child, and your mother. I 
wrote to him some weeks ago 
and said good-bye. Now I 
have the knowledge that you 
will make his life even more 
unbearable than hitherto ; and 
his broken ring — what petty 
spite ! My God I when I think 
how I have ruined his life, my 

1 86 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

own is hell. But you — you are 
such a good woman, so very 
charitable^ so pure^ so up to 
date in your theoretical mora- 
lity, so altogether blameless 
and exalted. Your method 
for managing other people's 
affairs has hitherto been so 
extremely satisfactory and suc- 
cessful, your remarks on the 
behaviour of married life so 
characteristically sweeping and 
condemnatory of possible fric- 
tion. You are so thoroughly 
independent of what people 
will say. Tou ! should hardly 
be astonished, much less hurt, 
either through your heart or 
intelligence at the consequences 
of your experimentalising. Yet 

187 



ANOTHER WICKED WOMAN. 

you resent the only-to-be-ex- 
pected result of your sophistical 
ethics, and stoop to the phari- 
saical profession of an unfelt 
forgiveness, while in reality 
you wreck your vengeance of 
personal unhappiness on all 
whom you may have it in your 
power to make suffer. I am 
glad you suffer — glad. Out of 
it may come a little true appre- 
ciation of the wants and sorrows 
of others, instead of the narrow 
vision of self-restraint and selfish 
desire to shirk all your respon- 
sibilities. 

" God shall judge 'twixt thee 
and me." 



i88 



UHWIN BB0THXB8, 
OEILWOBTB AND LOMOOV.