DEAD IN HER BED.
AS the door closed upon Percy after that tragic interview,
Dolores stood and listened to his departing footsteps, until the last echo
Then she flung herself down among the objects which were
all associated with their happy hours of love and companionship, while
dry despairing sobs shook her frail form.
"Oh, Christ, pity me! my life is all in ruins, all in
ruins!" she moaned, "Father--Mother--God, why did you curse me with
the existence I never desired?"
After a time, she rose up and tried to set her apartment
in order. Every where she turned her eyes, they were greeted with some
reminder of her life with Percy. Here was a souvenir of the happy bohemian
days, in Paris. There a momento of that fatal ice-boat journey. Fatal,
because she believed it was during that dangerous experience that Mrs.
Butler contracted the illness which resulted in her death; and because
on that day, Percy really passed from the position of friend to lover.
Then, as she opened a book, trying to divert her tortured mind from these
memories, out dropped a pressed
fern, gathered in the Andean valley. She covered her face with her
hands; she seemed to see again the fading glory of that wonderful sunset,
the towering steeples of granite, and again she could hear the saucy Ta-ha-ha
of the arajojo bird.
It was more than she could bear. She rose hurriedly, and
walked across the room, weeping silently.
Suddenly her eyes fell upon the old faded photograph,
which Percy had dropped beside the chair he occupied. She picked it up
and gazed upon it with passionate fury, distorting her beautiful face.
"Curse you, curse you!" she almost shrieked, and tearing
the card in a thousand fragments, she trampled them under her feet, and
fell in a dead swoon upon the floor beside them.
It was dark when she returned to consciousness. She groped
her way toward her couch, and, throwing herself upon it, fell into a troubled
sleep, which lasted until the entrance of Lorette the following day.
She awoke to renewed suffering, and spent wretched hours
in forming a thousand futile plans of revenge. Scarcely having tasted food
since Percy's departure, she felt her strength leaving her. And with her
strength, went her anger, resentment and pride. During the long sleepless
night, of the second day, the desire to see Percy again overmastered every
other feeling. The intensity of her love seemed to increase, as her physical
vigor lessened. The knowledge that, no matter how she destroyed his happiness,
or ruined his hopes in life, she must still love him, and live without
him, bore down upon her heart like a burning weight, and put to flight
all desire for revenge. The one thing, the only thing which made the future
worth living, was a reconciliation with Percy.
She rose and sat by her window in the chill, gray dawn.
"He must come back to me, he must," she whispered, "at
any cost! I have given up the whole world for his love, for his companionship.
Even if his love has been given to another, he must still give me his companionship.
I will see him--I will send for him to-day, and tell him so."
A strange idea had presented itself to her feverish, suffering
heart. An idea born of her wild love and her crushed and ruined pride.
In the silent watches of the night, the thought had come to her, that even
if Percy made Helena his wife, he might still give her (his comrade, his
long-time confidant and friend)--his occasional affectionate companionship.
If she submitted quietly and passively to his marriage, he might not wholly
cast her off. She believed that society was full of men, respectable citizens
in the eyes of the world--who retained their intimate lady friends after
marriage. And she knew that the United States Government permitted a large
and increasing colony to exist, where men retained any number of wives.
Surely, if any woman on earth had the right to be so retained,
it was she. And Percy would see it so—and he would not cast her off. She
could scarcely wait for the day to advance, to send for him and lay the
plan before him.
She had not the faintest comprehension of the mighty magnitude
or the exalted nature of the love which had sprung to life in Percy's heart
for Helena. She believed it to be the passing fancy of the hour--a sudden
passion of the senses. She remembered the subtle magnetism which Helena
possessed in days of old--a peculiar power of drawing people to her--of
attracting them and winning their confidence with no seeming effort of
her own. She remembered how popular she was in Madame Scranton's Academy--and
in those days she had believed it to be the mesmerism of her eyes, that
won the hearts of her companions. Percy was, no doubt, affected by this
mysterious influence which fascinated every one who lingered long in Helena's
presence. But it would pass away--and his love for her, his ideal mate
and comrade, would burn again with greater lustre, if she waited patiently.
She wrote a note, full of humility, begging his forgiveness
for her conduct during their last interview, and asking him to grant her
a few moments' conversation during the day. She sent for a messenger to
carry the note, and then she dismissed Lorette for the day and began to
prepare herself for the expected guest.
Lorette took her departure reluctantly. "Madame is not
herself; Madame is ill, and needs looking after!" she muttered, as she
went out, and many times during the day and in succeeding days and weeks,
her light volatile French spirits were shadowed by the recollection of
her mistress's face, as she last saw it.
Dolores was one of the few women who can be beautiful
even when suffering mental and physical pain. As a rule, happiness and
health are necessary cosmetics to beauty; but hers was a face that even
much weeping, and sleepless nights of torturing pain could not disfigure.
She robed herself all in white, as Percy best loved to
see her. She wore his favorite jewels, and a bright knot of ribbon he had
once admired, at her throat. Suddenly, in the midst of her preparation,
she paused. The full consciousness of her humiliating position dawned upon
her with startling force.
"My God! how low I have fallen!" she sobbed, and yet she
did not draw back from the resolution she had formed, to throw herself
upon the pity of the man she loved.
She had been Queen of the feast; and now she was about
to beg for crumbs from the table presided over by another.
The hours lagged by on leaden wings. Why did not the messenger
It was late in the afternoon when he made his appearance.
He was out of breath from running up the flight of stairs, and he handed
her back--her own note.
"Could you not find the gentleman? I told you to leave
the note if he was not in!" she said sharply, so keen was her disappointment.
"Yes'm, I know you did," the boy answered, "but there
was people there, and a doctor. And the doctor he came to the door, and
he said as the gentleman mustn't be disturbed--he was sick, and goin' to
die before mornin', perhaps. And I felt scared like, and come off without
leaving the letter."
The boy turned away, and Dolores closed the door upon
him, quickly, as if to shut out his evil message with him.
Sick, dying! and who were the people with him? who had
the right to be with him and minister to his needs, save herself? It was
her place--hers only. She must go to him--she must save him by the strength
of her love.
She did not wait to make any change in her attire. She
seized the nearest garment at hand--a soft white shawl, and a hat with
nodding white plumes, and hurried forth.
When she reached the building in which Percy's apartments
were situated, she met the physician just emerging from the street door.
She forced a calm exterior as she addressed him.
"I came to ask after your patient," she said. "Is it true
that he is not expected to live?"
He looked at her sharply. Her white attire, her beauty
and her pallor made her a remarkable picture as she stood there in the
"Are you a relative of his?" he asked.
She shook her head. "No, only a friend; one to whom he
has been very kind," she answered. "But I want you to tell me the truth.
Will he die?"
"I fear he will," the old physician answered, gravely.
"There is small chance that he can live through the night. If he lives,
it will be a miracle." Then he passed on.
She glided through the entrance he had left open, and
hurried up the flight of stairs that led to his rooms. The door stood ajar
upon the landing. She pushed it open and entered; no one was visible in
the outer room which served as a parlor. At one side, in a sort of study,
sat a gentleman and lady engaged in low conversation; but they did not
hear her light footsteps as she walked across the yielding carpet, and
stood between the velvet portieres which curtained his sleeping-room.
Through the colored globe the gas-light shone with subdued
lustre, filling the apartment with the mellow halo of an autumn sunset.
Propped up on pillows lay Percy, while above him leaned the shapely
figure of a woman clothed all in black; her dusky hair and brunette face
showing in marked contrast to the blond locks and marble pallor of the
Her hand was making light soothing passes across his brow;
her eyes were full of unutterable love and sorrow. Gently she drooped over
his pillow and pressed a light kiss upon his closed lids, as she murmured--"My
Dolores drew a deep, gasping breath, like one who has
been struck suddenly by an unseen foe.
Helena heard the sound, and turned a startled glance in
the direction from which it came.
Standing between the velvet curtains, she saw the motionless
figure of Dolores, majestic in her beauty, her white garments and her golden
hair dearly defined against the crimson background of the draperies.
Just for one breathless, pained second the two women who
had been schoolmates and dear friends, looked into each other's eyes again.
Then, as Helena made a movement toward her, Dolores turned her glance upon
Percy--a strange, radiant, triumphant smile illuminating her face--and
vanished as suddenly as she had appeared.
As she made her way through the city streets, many turned
to look upon the white-robed figure, and the strangely-beautiful smiling
face under the nodding plumes of her hat. But no man dared speak to her.
There was something in her face that awed them, and protected her from
She was still smiling when she entered her own apartment
again. Carefully laying aside her wraps, she proceeded to set the room
in perfect order. Then she brought out a little ebony box, in which she
kept many curious souvenirs of her life abroad. In one corner lay a small
chamois-skin bag. She opened it, and into a corner of a snowy cambric
handkerchief, she shook a portion of its contents--a brilliant, crystallized
substance--and then replaced the bag and locked the ebony box away in her
Laying the handkerchief on the pillow of her couch, she
disrobed, brushed out her beautiful hair, and leaving the gas jet turned
low, she crept into her snowy bed. Bringing the handkerchief close to her
face, she looked smilingly down on the tiny crystals of the powder, as
she murmured, "If only Madame Volkenburg was not mistaken--if only it is
swift and sure, as she said! Oh Love, Love! even in death we shall not
be parted. She will mourn over your cold clay; but your spirit will
be with me, with me! You would have lived for her, but
I die for you. Ah, God! how much sweeter death is, than life.
Oh, my Love, my Love, you shall not take the journey alone! Whatever
the great mystery is, we will solve it--together. May Christ receive
She emptied the powder into her sweetly-parted lips, folded
the handkerchief under her cheek, and lay quite still, as if she slept.
When Lorette came in the morning, she found her lying
in the same position, the handkerchief under her cheek, and a sweet, glad
smile upon her dead face.
The papers, on the following day, reported the sudden
death, by heart disease, of beautiful Madame Percy, a young French lady.