Pauline’s Passion and Punishment by Louisa May Alcott

March 13, 2023

Louisa May Alcott is best known for her tale of Victorian life, Little Women. Still, she had a passion for horror and suspense, and wrote these tales of dark fiction under a plethora of pseudonyms to avoid tainting her reputation as a women’s fiction writer. Here is her most highly acclaimed suspense novella, Pauline’s Passion and Punishment.


Chapter I

To and fro, like a wild creature in its cage, paced that handsome woman,
with bent head, locked hands, and restless steps. Some mental storm,
swift and sudden as a tempest of the tropics, had swept over her and
left its marks behind. As if in anger at the beauty now proved
powerless, all ornaments had been flung away, yet still it shone
undimmed, and filled her with a passionate regret. A jewel glittered at
her feet, leaving the lace rent to shreds on the indignant bosom that
had worn it; the wreaths of hair that had crowned her with a woman's
most womanly adornment fell disordered upon shoulders that gleamed the
fairer for the scarlet of the pomegranate flowers clinging to the bright
meshes that had imprisoned them an hour ago; and over the face, once so
affluent in youthful bloom, a stern pallor had fallen like a blight, for
pride was slowly conquering passion, and despair had murdered hope.

Pausing in her troubled march, she swept away the curtain swaying in the
wind and looked out, as if imploring help from Nature, the great mother
of us all. A summer moon rode high in a cloudless heaven, and far as eye
could reach stretched the green wilderness of a Cuban _cafetal_. No
forest, but a tropical orchard, rich in lime, banana, plantain, palm,
and orange trees, under whose protective shade grew the evergreen coffee
plant, whose dark-red berries are the fortune of their possessor, and
the luxury of one-half the world. Wide avenues diverging from the
mansion, with its belt of brilliant shrubs and flowers, formed shadowy
vistas, along which, on the wings of the wind, came a breath of far-off
music, like a wooing voice; for the magic of night and distance lulled
the cadence of a Spanish _contradanza_ to a trance of sound, soft,
subdued, and infinitely sweet. It was a southern scene, but not a
southern face that looked out upon it with such unerring glance; there
was no southern languor in the figure, stately and erect; no southern
swarthiness on fairest cheek and arm; no southern darkness in the
shadowy gold of the neglected hair; the light frost of northern snows
lurked in the features, delicately cut, yet vividly alive, betraying a
temperament ardent, dominant, and subtle. For passion burned in the deep
eyes, changing their violet to black. Pride sat on the forehead, with
its dark brows; all a woman's sweetest spells touched the lips, whose
shape was a smile; and in the spirited carriage of the head appeared the
freedom of an intellect ripened under colder skies, the energy of a
nature that could wring strength from suffering, and dare to act where
feebler souls would only dare desire.

Standing thus, conscious only of the wound that bled in that high heart
of hers, and the longing that gradually took shape and deepened to a
purpose, an alien presence changed the tragic atmosphere of that still
room and woke her from her dangerous mood. A wonderfully winning guise
this apparition wore, for youth, hope, and love endowed it with the
charm that gives beauty to the plainest, while their reign endures. A
boy in any other climate, in this his nineteen years had given him the
stature of a man; and Spain, the land of romance, seemed embodied in
this figure, full of the lithe slenderness of the whispering palms
overhead, the warm coloring of the deep-toned flowers sleeping in the
room, the native grace of the tame antelope lifting its human eyes to
his as he lingered on the threshold in an attitude eager yet timid,
watching that other figure as it looked into the night and found no
solace there.


She turned as if her thought had taken voice and answered her, regarded
him a moment, as if hesitating to receive the granted wish, then
beckoned with the one word.


Instantly the fear vanished, the ardor deepened, and with an imperious
"Lie down!" to his docile attendant, the young man obeyed with equal
docility, looking as wistfully toward his mistress as the brute toward
her master, while he waited proudly humble for her commands.

"Manuel, why are you here?"

"Forgive me! I saw Dolores bring a letter; you vanished, an hour passed,
I could wait no longer, and I came."

"I am glad, I needed my one friend. Read that."

She offered a letter, and with her steady eyes upon him, her purpose
strengthening as she looked, stood watching the changes of that
expressive countenance. This was the letter:


Six months ago I left you, promising to return and take you home my
wife; I loved you, but I deceived you; for though my heart was wholly
yours, my hand was not mine to give. This it was that haunted me through
all that blissful summer, this that marred my happiness when you owned
you loved me, and this drove me from you, hoping I could break the tie
with which I had rashly bound myself. I could not, I am married, and
there all ends. Hate me, forget me, solace your pride with the memory
that none knew your wrong, assure your peace with the knowledge that
mine is destroyed forever, and leave my punishment to remorse and time.


With a gesture of wrathful contempt, Manuel flung the paper from him as
he flashed a look at his companion, muttering through his teeth,
"Traitor! Shall I kill him?"

Pauline laughed low to herself, a dreary sound, but answered with a slow
darkening of the face that gave her words an ominous significance. "Why
should you? Such revenge is brief and paltry, fit only for mock
tragedies or poor souls who have neither the will to devise nor the will
to execute a better. There are fates more terrible than death; weapons
more keen than poniards, more noiseless than pistols. Women use such,
and work out a subtler vengeance than men can conceive. Leave Gilbert to
remorse--and me."

She paused an instant, and by some strong effort banished the black
frown from her brow, quenched the baleful fire of her eyes, and left
nothing visible but the pale determination that made her beautiful face
more eloquent than her words.

"Manuel, in a week I leave the island."

"Alone, Pauline?"

"No, not alone."

A moment they looked into each other's eyes, each endeavoring to read
the other. Manuel saw some indomitable purpose, bent on conquering all
obstacles. Pauline saw doubt, desire, and hope; knew that a word would
bring the ally she needed; and, with a courage as native to her as her
pride, resolved to utter it.

Seating herself, she beckoned her companion to assume the place beside
her, but for the first time he hesitated. Something in the unnatural
calmness of her manner troubled him, for his southern temperament was
alive to influences whose presence would have been unfelt by one less
sensitive. He took the cushion at her feet, saying, half tenderly, half
reproachfully, "Let me keep my old place till I know in what character I
am to fill the new. The man you trusted has deserted you; the boy you
pitied will prove loyal. Try him, Pauline."

"I will."

And with the bitter smile unchanged upon her lips, the low voice
unshaken in its tones, the deep eyes unwavering in their gaze, Pauline
went on:

"You know my past, happy as a dream till eighteen. Then all was swept
away, home, fortune, friends, and I was left, like an unfledged bird,
without even the shelter of a cage. For five years I have made my life
what I could, humble, honest, but never happy, till I came here, for
here I saw Gilbert. In the poor companion of your guardian's daughter he
seemed to see the heiress I had been, and treated me as such. This
flattered my pride and touched my heart. He was kind, I grateful; then
he loved me, and God knows how utterly I loved him! A few months of
happiness the purest, then he went to make home ready for me, and I
believed him; for where I wholly love I wholly trust. While my own peace
was undisturbed, I learned to read the language of your eyes, Manuel, to
find the boy grown into the man, the friend warmed into a lover. Your
youth had kept me blind too long. Your society had grown dear to me, and
I loved you like a sister for your unvarying kindness to the solitary
woman who earned her bread and found it bitter. I told you my secret to
prevent the utterance of your own. You remember the promise you made me
then, keep it still, and bury the knowledge of my lost happiness deep in
your pitying heart, as I shall in my proud one. Now the storm is over,
and I am ready for my work again, but it must be a new task in a new
scene. I hate this house, this room, the faces I must meet, the duties I
must perform, for the memory of that traitor haunts them all. I see a
future full of interest, a stage whereon I could play a stirring part. I
long for it intensely, yet cannot make it mine alone. Manuel, do you
love me still?"

Bending suddenly, she brushed back the dark hair that streaked his
forehead and searched the face that in an instant answered her. Like a
swift rising light, the eloquent blood rushed over swarthy cheek and
brow, the slumberous softness of the eyes kindled with a flash, and the
lips, sensitive as any woman's, trembled yet broke into a rapturous
smile as he cried, with fervent brevity, "I would die for you!"

A look of triumph swept across her face, for with this boy, as
chivalrous as ardent, she knew that words were not mere breath. Still,
with her stern purpose uppermost, she changed the bitter smile into one
half-timid, half-tender, as she bent still nearer, "Manuel, in a week I
leave the island. Shall I go alone?"

"No, Pauline."

He understood her now. She saw it in the sudden paleness that fell on
him, heard it in the rapid beating of his heart, felt it in the strong
grasp that fastened on her hand, and knew that the first step was won. A
regretful pang smote her, but the dark mood which had taken possession
of her stifled the generous warnings of her better self and drove her

"Listen, Manuel. A strange spirit rules me tonight, but I will have no
reserves from you, all shall be told; then, if you will come, be it so;
if not, I shall go my way as solitary as I came. If you think that this
loss has broken my heart, undeceive yourself, for such as I live years
in an hour and show no sign. I have shed no tears, uttered no cry, asked
no comfort; yet, since I read that letter, I have suffered more than
many suffer in a lifetime. I am not one to lament long over any hopeless
sorrow. A single paroxysm, sharp and short, and it is over. Contempt has
killed my love, I have buried it, and no power can make it live again,
except as a pale ghost that will not rest till Gilbert shall pass
through an hour as bitter as the last."

"Is that the task you give yourself, Pauline?"

The savage element that lurks in southern blood leaped up in the boy's
heart as he listened, glittered in his eye, and involuntarily found
expression in the nervous grip of the hands that folded a fairer one
between them. Alas for Pauline that she had roused the sleeping devil,
and was glad to see it!

"Yes, it is weak, wicked, and unwomanly; yet I persist as relentlessly
as any Indian on a war trail. See me as I am, not the gay girl you have
known, but a revengeful woman with but one tender spot now left in her
heart, the place you fill. I have been wronged, and I long to right
myself at once. Time is too slow; I cannot wait, for that man must be
taught that two can play at the game of hearts, taught soon and sharply.
I can do this, can wound as I have been wounded, can sting him with
contempt, and prove that I too can forget."

"Go on, Pauline. Show me how I am to help you."

"Manuel, I want fortune, rank, splendor, and power; you can give me all
these, and a faithful friend beside. I desire to show Gilbert the
creature he deserted no longer poor, unknown, unloved, but lifted higher
than himself, cherished, honored, applauded, her life one of royal
pleasure, herself a happy queen. Beauty, grace, and talent you tell me I
possess; wealth gives them luster, rank exalts them, power makes them
irresistible. Place these worldly gifts in my hand and that hand is
yours. See, I offer it."

She did so, but it was not taken. Manuel had left his seat and now stood
before her, awed by the undertone of strong emotion in her calmly spoken
words, bewildered by the proposal so abruptly made, longing to ask the
natural question hovering on his lips, yet too generous to utter it.
Pauline read his thought, and answered it with no touch of pain or pride
in the magical voice that seldom spoke in vain.

"I know your wish; it is as just as your silence is generous, and I
reply to it in all sincerity. You would ask, 'When I have given all that
I possess, what do I receive in return?' This--a wife whose friendship
is as warm as many a woman's love; a wife who will give you all the
heart still left her, and cherish the hope that time may bring a harvest
of real affection to repay you for the faithfulness of years; who,
though she takes the retribution of a wrong into her hands and executes
it in the face of heaven, never will forget the honorable name you give
into her keeping or blemish it by any act of hers. I can promise no
more. Will this content you, Manuel?"

Before she ended his face was hidden in his hands, and tears streamed
through them as he listened, for like a true child of the south each
emotion found free vent and spent itself as swiftly as it rose. The
reaction was more than he could bear, for in a moment his life was
changed, months of hopeless longing were banished with a word, a
blissful yes canceled the hard no that had been accepted as inexorable,
and Happiness, lifting her full cup to his lips, bade him drink. A
moment he yielded to the natural relief, then dashed his tears away and
threw himself at Pauline's feet in that attitude fit only for a race as
graceful as impassioned.

"Forgive me! Take all I have--fortune, name, and my poor self; use us as
you will, we are proud and happy to be spent for you! No service will be
too hard, no trial too long if in the end you learn to love me with one
tithe of the affection I have made my life. Do you mean it? Am I to go
with you? To be near you always, to call you wife, and know we are each
other's until death? What have I ever done to earn a fate like this?"

Fast and fervently he spoke, and very winsome was the glad abandonment
of this young lover, half boy, half man, possessing the simplicity of
the one, the fervor of the other. Pauline looked and listened with a
soothing sense of consolation in the knowledge that this loyal heart was
all her own, a sweet foretaste of the devotion which henceforth was to
shelter her from poverty, neglect, and wrong, and turn life's sunniest
side to one who had so long seen only its most bleak and barren. Still
at her feet, his arms about her waist, his face flushed and proud,
lifted to hers, Manuel saw the cold mask soften, the stern eyes melt
with a sudden dew as Pauline watched him, saying, "Dear Manuel, love me
less; I am not worth such ardent and entire faith. Pause and reflect
before you take this step. I will not bind you to my fate too soon lest
you repent too late. We both stand alone in the world, free to make or
mar our future as we will. I have chosen my lot. Recall all it may cost
you to share it and be sure the price is not too high a one. Remember I
am poor, you the possessor of one princely fortune, the sole heir to

"The knowledge of this burdened me before; now I glory in it because I
have the more for you."

"Remember, I am older than yourself, and may early lose the beauty you
love so well, leaving an old wife to burden your youth."

"What are a few years to me? Women like you grow lovelier with age, and
you shall have a strong young husband to lean on all your life."

"Remember, I am not of your faith, and the priests will shut me out from
your heaven."

"Let them prate as they will. Where you go I will go; Santa Paula shall
be my madonna!"

"Remember, I am a deserted woman, and in the world we are going to my
name may become the sport of that man's cruel tongue. Could you bear
that patiently; and curb your fiery pride if I desired it?"

"Anything for you, Pauline!"

"One thing more. I give you my liberty; for a time give me forbearance
in return, and though wed in haste woo me slowly, lest this sore heart
of mine find even your light yoke heavy. Can you promise this, and wait
till time has healed my wound, and taught me to be meek?"

"I swear to obey you in all things; make me what you will, for soul and
body I am wholly yours henceforth."

"Faithful and true! I knew you would not fail me. Now go, Manuel.
Tomorrow do your part resolutely as I shall do mine, and in a week we
will begin the new life together. Ours is a strange betrothal, but it
shall not lack some touch of tenderness from me. Love, good night."

Pauline bent till her bright hair mingled with the dark, kissed the boy
on lips and forehead as a fond sister might have done, then put him
gently from her; and like one in a blessed dream he went away to pace
all night beneath her window, longing for the day.

As the echo of his steps died along the corridor, Pauline's eye fell on
the paper lying where her lover flung it. At this sight all the softness
vanished, the stern woman reappeared, and, crushing it in her hand with
slow significance, she said low to herself, "This is an old, old story,
but it shall have a new ending."

Chapter II

"What jewels will the senora wear tonight?"

"None, Dolores. Manuel has gone for flowers--he likes them best. You may

"But the senora's toilette is not finished; the sandals, the gloves, the
garland yet remain."

"Leave them all; I shall not go down. I am tired of this endless folly.
Give me that book and go."

The pretty Creole obeyed; and careless of Dolores' work, Pauline sank
into the deep chair with a listless mien, turned the pages for a little,
then lost herself in thoughts that seemed to bring no rest.

Silently the young husband entered and, pausing, regarded his wife with
mingled pain and pleasure--pain to see her so spiritless, pleasure to
see her so fair. She seemed unconscious of his presence till the
fragrance of his floral burden betrayed him, and looking up to smile a
welcome she met a glance that changed the sad dreamer into an excited
actor, for it told her that the object of her search was found.
Springing erect, she asked eagerly, "Manuel, is he here?"



"His wife is with him."

"Is she beautiful?"

"Pretty, petite, and petulant."

"And he?"

"Unchanged: the same imposing figure and treacherous face, the same
restless eye and satanic mouth. Pauline, let me insult him!"

"Not yet. Were they together?"

"Yes. He seemed anxious to leave her, but she called him back
imperiously, and he came like one who dared not disobey."

"Did he see you?"

"The crowd was too dense, and I kept in the shadow."

"The wife's name? Did you learn it?"

"Barbara St. Just."

"Ah! I knew her once and will again. Manuel, am I beautiful tonight?"

"How can you be otherwise to me?"

"That is not enough. I must look my fairest to others, brilliant and
blithe, a happy-hearted bride whose honeymoon is not yet over."

"For his sake, Pauline?"

"For yours. I want him to envy you your youth, your comeliness, your
content; to see the man he once sneered at the husband of the woman he
once loved; to recall impotent regret. I know his nature, and can stir
him to his heart's core with a look, revenge myself with a word, and
read the secrets of his life with a skill he cannot fathom."

"And when you have done all this, shall you be happier, Pauline?"

"Infinitely; our three weeks' search is ended, and the real interest of
the plot begins. I have played the lover for your sake, now play the man
of the world for mine. This is the moment we have waited for. Help me to
make it successful. Come! Crown me with your garland, give me the
bracelets that were your wedding gift--none can be too brilliant for
tonight. Now the gloves and fan. Stay, my sandals--you shall play
Dolores and tie them on."

With an air of smiling coquetry he had never seen before, Pauline
stretched out a truly Spanish foot and offered him its dainty covering.
Won by the animation of her manner, Manuel forgot his misgivings and
played his part with boyish spirit, hovering about his stately wife as
no assiduous maid had ever done; for every flower was fastened with a
word sweeter than itself, the white arms kissed as the ornaments went
on, and when the silken knots were deftly accomplished, the lighthearted
bridegroom performed a little dance of triumph about his idol, till she
arrested him, beckoning as she spoke.

"Manuel, I am waiting to assume the last best ornament you have given
me, my handsome husband." Then, as he came to her laughing with frank
pleasure at her praise, she added, "You, too, must look your best and
bravest now, and remember you must enact the man tonight. Before Gilbert
wear your stateliest aspect, your tenderest to me, your courtliest to
his wife. You possess dramatic skill. Use it for my sake, and come for
your reward when this night's work is done."

The great hotel was swarming with life, ablaze with light, resonant with
the tread of feet, the hum of voices, the musical din of the band, and
full of the sights and sounds which fill such human hives at a
fashionable watering place in the height of the season. As Manuel led
his wife along the grand hall thronged with promenaders, his quick ear
caught the whispered comments of the passers-by, and the fragmentary
rumors concerning themselves amused him infinitely.

"_Mon ami!_ There are five bridal couples here tonight, and there is the
handsomest, richest, and most enchanting of them all. The groom is not
yet twenty, they tell me, and the bride still younger. Behold them!"

Manuel looked down at Pauline with a mirthful glance, but she had not

"See, Belle! Cubans; own half the island between them. Splendid, aren't
they? Look at the diamonds on her lovely arms, and his ravishing
moustache. Isn't he your ideal of Prince Djalma, in The Wandering Jew?"

A pretty girl, forgetting propriety in interest, pointed as they passed.
Manuel half-bowed to the audible compliment, and the blushing damsel
vanished, but Pauline had not seen.

"Jack, there's the owner of the black span you fell into raptures over.
My lord and lady look as highbred as their stud. We'll patronize them!"

Manuel muttered a disdainful "_Impertinente!_" between his teeth as he
surveyed a brace of dandies with an air that augured ill for the
patronage of Young America, but Pauline was unconscious of both
criticism and reproof. A countercurrent held them stationary for a
moment, and close behind them sounded a voice saying, confidentially, to
some silent listener, "The Redmonds are here tonight, and I am curious
to see how he bears his disappointment. You know he married for money,
and was outwitted in the bargain; for his wife's fortune not only proves
to be much less than he was led to believe, but is so tied up that he is
entirely dependent upon her, and the bachelor debts he sold himself to
liquidate still harass him, with a wife's reproaches to augment the
affliction. To be ruled by a spoiled child's whims is a fit punishment
for a man whom neither pride nor principle could curb before. Let us go
and look at the unfortunate."

Pauline heard now. Manuel felt her start, saw her flush and pale, then
her eye lit, and the dark expression he dreaded to see settled on her
face as she whispered, like a satanic echo, "Let us also go and look at
this unfortunate."

A jealous pang smote the young man's heart as he recalled the past.

"You pity him, Pauline, and pity is akin to love."

"I only pity what I respect. Rest content, my husband."

Steadily her eyes met his, and the hand whose only ornament was a
wedding ring went to meet the one folded on his arm with a confiding
gesture that made the action a caress.

"I will try to be, yet mine is a hard part," Manuel answered with a
sigh, then silently they both paced on.

Gilbert Redmond lounged behind his wife's chair, looking intensely

"Have you had enough of this folly, Babie?"

"No, we have but just come. Let us dance."

"Too late; they have begun."

"Then go about with me. It's very tiresome sitting here."

"It is too warm to walk in all that crowd, child."

"You are so indolent! Tell me who people are as they pass. I know no one

"Nor I."

But his act belied the words, for as they passed his lips he rose erect,
with a smothered exclamation and startled face, as if a ghost had
suddenly confronted him. The throng had thinned, and as his wife
followed the direction of his glance, she saw no uncanny apparition to
cause such evident dismay, but a woman fair-haired, violet-eyed,
blooming and serene, sweeping down the long hall with noiseless grace.
An air of sumptuous life pervaded her, the shimmer of bridal snow
surrounded her, bridal gifts shone on neck and arms, and bridal
happiness seemed to touch her with its tender charm as she looked up at
her companion, as if there were but one human being in the world to her.
This companion, a man slender and tall, with a face delicately dark as a
fine bronze, looked back at her with eyes as eloquent as her own, while
both spoke rapidly and low in the melodious language which seems made
for lover's lips.

"Gilbert, who are they?"

There was no answer, and before she could repeat the question the
approaching pair paused before her, and the beautiful woman offered her
hand, saying, with inquiring smiles, "Barbara, have you forgotten your
early friend, Pauline?"

Recognition came with the familiar name, and Mrs. Redmond welcomed the
newcomer with a delight as unrestrained as if she were still the
schoolgirl, Babie. Then, recovering herself, she said, with a pretty
attempt at dignity, "Let me present my husband. Gilbert, come and
welcome my friend Pauline Valary."

Scarlet with shame, dumb with conflicting emotions, and utterly deserted
by self-possession, Redmond stood with downcast eyes and agitated mien,
suffering a year's remorse condensed into a moment. A mute gesture was
all the greeting he could offer. Pauline slightly bent her haughty head
as she answered, in a voice frostily sweet, "Your wife mistakes. Pauline
Valary died three weeks ago, and Pauline Laroche rose from her ashes.
Manuel, my schoolmate, Mrs. Redmond; Gilbert you already know."

With the manly presence he could easily assume and which was henceforth
to be his role in public, Manuel bowed courteously to the lady, coldly
to the gentleman, and looked only at his wife. Mrs. Redmond, though
childish, was observant; she glanced from face to face, divined a
mystery, and spoke out at once.

"Then you have met before? Gilbert, you have never told me this."

"It was long ago--in Cuba. I believed they had forgotten me."

"I never forget." And Pauline's eye turned on him with a look he dared
not meet.

Unsilenced by her husband's frown, Mrs. Redmond, intent on pleasing
herself, drew her friend to the seat beside her as she said petulantly,
"Gilbert tells me nothing, and I am constantly discovering things which
might have given me pleasure had he only chosen to be frank. I've spoken
of you often, yet he never betrayed the least knowledge of you, and I
take it very ill of him, because I am sure he has not forgotten you. Sit
here, Pauline, and let me tease you with questions, as I used to do so
long ago. You were always patient with me, and though far more
beautiful, your face is still the same kind one that comforted the
little child at school. Gilbert, enjoy your friend, and leave us to
ourselves until the dance is over."

Pauline obeyed; but as she chatted, skillfully leading the young wife's
conversation to her own affairs, she listened to the two voices behind
her, watched the two figures reflected in the mirror before her, and
felt a secret pride in Manuel's address, for it was evident that the
former positions were renewed.

The timid boy who had feared the sarcastic tongue of his guardian's
guest, and shrunk from his presence to conceal the jealousy that was his
jest, now stood beside his formal rival, serene and self-possessed, by
far the manliest man of the two, for no shame daunted him, no fear
oppressed him, no dishonorable deed left him at the mercy of another's

Gilbert Redmond felt this keenly, and cursed the falsehood which had
placed him in such an unenviable position. It was vain to assume the old
superiority that was forfeited; but too much a man of the world to be
long discomforted by any contretemps like this, he rapidly regained his
habitual ease of manner, and avoiding the perilous past clung to the
safer present, hoping, by some unguarded look or word, to fathom the
purpose of his adversary, for such he knew the husband of Pauline must
be at heart. But Manuel schooled his features, curbed his tongue, and
when his hot blood tempted him to point his smooth speech with a taunt,
or offer a silent insult with the eye, he remembered Pauline, looked
down on the graceful head below, and forgot all other passions in that
of love.

"Gilbert, my shawl. The sea air chills me."

"I forgot it, Babie."

"Allow me to supply the want."

Mindful of his wife's commands, Manuel seized this opportunity to win a
glance of commendation from her. And taking the downy mantle that hung
upon his arm, he wrapped the frail girl in it with a care that made the
act as cordial as courteous. Mrs. Redmond felt the charm of his manner
with the quickness of a woman, and sent a reproachful glance at Gilbert
as she said plaintively, "Ah! It is evident that my honeymoon is over,
and the assiduous lover replaced by the negligent husband. Enjoy your
midsummer night's dream while you may, Pauline, and be ready for the
awakening that must come."

"Not to her, madame, for our honeymoon shall last till the golden
wedding day comes round. Shall it not, carina?"

"There is no sign of waning yet, Manuel," and Pauline looked up into her
husband's face with a genuine affection which made her own more
beautiful and filled his with a visible content. Gilbert read the
glance, and in that instant suffered the first pang of regret that
Pauline had foretold. He spoke abruptly, longing to be away.

"Babie, we may dance now, if you will."

"I am going, but not with you--so give me my fan, and entertain Pauline
till my return."

He unclosed his hand, but the delicately carved fan fell at his feet in
a shower of ivory shreds--he had crushed it as he watched his first love
with the bitter thought "It might have been!"

"Forgive me, Babie, it was too frail for use; you should choose a

"I will next time, and a gentler hand to hold it. Now, Monsieur Laroche,
I am ready."

Mrs. Redmond rose in a small bustle of satisfaction, shook out her
flounces, glanced at the mirror, then Manuel led her away; and the other
pair were left alone. Both felt a secret agitation quicken their breath
and thrill along their nerves, but the woman concealed it best.
Gilbert's eye wandered restlessly to and fro, while Pauline fixed her
own on his as quietly as if he were the statue in the niche behind him.
For a moment he tried to seem unconscious of it, then essayed to meet
and conquer it, but failed signally and, driven to his last resources by
that steady gaze, resolved to speak out and have all over before his
wife's return. Assuming the seat beside her, he said, impetuously,
"Pauline, take off your mask as I do mine--we are alone now, and may see
each other as we are."

Leaning deep into the crimson curve of the couch, with the indolent
grace habitual to her, yet in strong contrast to the vigilant gleam of
her eye, she swept her hand across her face as if obeying him, yet no
change followed, as she said with a cold smile, "It is off; what next?"

"Let me understand you. Did my letter reach your hands?"

"A week before my marriage."

He drew a long breath of relief, yet a frown gathered as he asked, like
one loath and eager to be satisfied, "Your love died a natural death,
then, and its murder does not lie at my door?"

Pointing to the shattered toy upon the ground, she only echoed his own
words. "It was too frail for use--I chose a stronger."

It wounded, as she meant it should; and the evil spirit to whose
guidance she had yielded herself exulted to see his self-love bleed, and
pride vainly struggle to conceal the stab. He caught the expression in
her averted glance, bent suddenly a fixed and scrutinizing gaze upon
her, asking, below his breath, "Then why are you here to tempt me with
the face that tempted me a year ago?"

"I came to see the woman to whom you sold yourself. I have seen her, and
am satisfied."

Such quiet contempt iced her tones, such pitiless satisfaction shone
through the long lashes that swept slowly down, after her eye had met
and caused his own to fall again, that Gilbert's cheek burned as if the
words had been a blow, and mingled shame and anger trembled in his

"Ah, you are quick to read our secret, for you possess the key. Have you
no fear that I may read your own, and tell the world you sold your
beauty for a name and fortune? Your bargain is a better one than mine,
but I know you too well, though your fetters are diamonds and your
master a fond boy."

She had been prepared for this, and knew she had a shield in the real
regard she bore her husband, for though sisterly, it was sincere. She
felt its value now, for it gave her courage to confront the spirit of
retaliation she had roused, and calmness to answer the whispered taunt
with an unruffled mien, as lifting her white arm she let its single
decoration drop glittering to her lap.

"You see my 'fetters' are as loose as they are light, and nothing binds
me but my will. Read my heart, if you can. You will find there contempt
for a love so poor that it feared poverty; pity for a man who dared not
face the world and conquer it, as a girl had done before him, and
gratitude that I have found my 'master' in a truehearted boy, not a
falsehearted man. If I am a slave, I never know it. Can you say as

Her woman's tongue avenged her, and Gilbert owned his defeat. Pain
quenched the ire of his glance, remorse subdued his pride,
self-condemnation compelled him to ask, imploringly, "Pauline, when may
I hope for pardon?"


The stern utterance of the word dismayed him, and, like one shut out
from hope, he rose, as if to leave her, but paused irresolutely, looked
back, then sank down again, as if constrained against his will by a
longing past control. If she had doubted her power this action set the
doubt at rest, as the haughtiest nature she had known confessed it by a
bittersweet complaint. Eyeing her wistfully, tenderly, Gilbert murmured,
in the voice of long ago, "Why do I stay to wound and to be wounded by
the hand that once caressed me? Why do I find more pleasure in your
contempt than in another woman's praise, and feel myself transported
into the delights of that irrecoverable past, now grown the sweetest,
saddest memory of my life? Send me away, Pauline, before the old charm
asserts its power, and I forget that I am not the happy lover of a year

"Leave me then, Gilbert. Good night."

Half unconsciously, the former softness stole into her voice as it
lingered on his name. The familiar gesture accompanied the words, the
old charm did assert itself, and for an instant changed the cold woman
into the ardent girl again. Gilbert did not go but, with a hasty glance
down the deserted hall behind him, captured and kissed the hand he had
lost, passionately whispering, "Pauline, I love you still, and that look
assures me that you have forgiven, forgotten, and kept a place for me in
that deep heart of yours. It is too late to deny it. I have seen the
tender eyes again, and the sight has made me the proudest, happiest man
that walks the world tonight, slave though I am."

Over cheek and forehead rushed the treacherous blood as the violet eyes
filled and fell before his own, and in the glow of mingled pain and fear
that stirred her blood, Pauline, for the first time, owned the peril of
the task she had set herself, saw the dangerous power she possessed, and
felt the buried passion faintly moving in its grave. Indignant at her
own weakness, she took refuge in the memory of her wrong, controlled the
rebel color, steeled the front she showed him, and with feminine skill
mutely conveyed the rebuke she would not trust herself to utter, by
stripping the glove from the hand he had touched and dropping it
disdainfully as if unworthy of its place. Gilbert had not looked for
such an answer, and while it baffled him it excited his man's spirit to
rebel against her silent denial. With a bitter laugh he snatched up the

"I read a defiance in your eye as you flung this down. I accept the
challenge, and will keep gage until I prove myself the victor. I have
asked for pardon. You refuse it. I have confessed my love. You scorn it.
I have possessed myself of your secret, yet you deny it. Now we will try
our strength together, and leave those children to their play."

"We are the children, and we play with edge tools. There has been enough
of this, there must be no more." Pauline rose with her haughtiest mien,
and the brief command, "Take me to Manuel."

Silently Gilbert offered his arm, and silently she rejected it.

"Will you accept nothing from me?"


Side by side they passed through the returning throng till Mrs. Redmond
joined them, looking blithe and bland with the exhilaration of gallantry
and motion. Manuel's first glance was at Pauline, his second at her
companion; there was a shadow upon the face of each, which seemed
instantly to fall upon his own as he claimed his wife with a masterful
satisfaction as novel as becoming, and which prompted her to whisper,
"You enact your role to the life, and shall enjoy a foretaste of your
reward at once. I want excitement; let us show these graceless, frozen
people the true art of dancing, and electrify them with the life and
fire of a Cuban valse."

Manuel kindled at once, and Pauline smiled stealthily as she glanced
over her shoulder from the threshold of the dancing hall, for her
slightest act, look, and word had their part to play in that night's

"Gilbert, if you are tired I will go now."

"Thank you, I begin to find it interesting. Let us watch the dancers."

Mrs. Redmond accepted the tardy favor, wondering at his unwonted
animation, for never had she seen such eagerness in his countenance,
such energy in his manner as he pressed through the crowd and won a
place where they could freely witness one of those exhibitions of
fashionable figurante which are nightly to be seen at such resorts. Many
couples were whirling around the white hall, but among them one pair
circled with slowly increasing speed, in perfect time to the inspiring
melody of trumpet, flute, and horn, that seemed to sound for them alone.
Many paused to watch them, for they gave to the graceful pastime the
enchantment which few have skill enough to lend it, and made it a
spectacle of life-enjoying youth, to be remembered long after the music
ceased and the agile feet were still.

Gilbert's arm was about his little wife to shield her from the pressure
of the crowd, and as they stood his hold unconsciously tightened, till,
marveling at this unwonted care, she looked up to thank him with a happy
glance and discovered that his eye rested on a single pair, kindling as
they approached, keenly scanning every gesture as they floated by,
following them with untiring vigilance through the many-colored mazes
they threaded with such winged steps, while his breath quickened, his
hand kept time, and every sense seemed to own the intoxication of the
scene. Sorrowfully she too watched this pair, saw their grace, admired
their beauty, envied their happiness; for, short as her wedded life had
been, the thorns already pierced her through the roses, and with each
airy revolution of those figures, dark and bright, her discontent
increased, her wonder deepened, her scrutiny grew keener, for she knew
no common interest held her husband there, fascinated, flushed, and
excited as if his heart beat responsive to the rhythmic rise and fall of
that booted foot and satin slipper. The music ended with a crash, the
crowd surged across the floor, and the spell was broken. Like one but
half disenchanted, Gilbert stood a moment, then remembered his wife, and
looking down met brown eyes, full of tears, fastened on his face.

"Tired so soon, Babie? Or in a pet because I cannot change myself into a
thistledown and float about with you, like Manuel and Pauline?"

"Neither; I was only wishing that you loved me as he loves her, and
hoping he would never tire of her, they are so fond and charming now.
How long have you known them--and where?"

"I shall have no peace until I tell you. I passed a single summer with
them in a tropical paradise, where we swung half the day in hammocks,
under tamarind and almond trees; danced half the night to music, of
which this seems but a faint echo; and led a life of luxurious delight
in an enchanted climate, where all is so beautiful and brilliant that
its memory haunts a life as pressed flowers sweeten the leaves of a dull

"Why did you leave it then?"

"To marry you, child."

"That was a regretful sigh, as if I were not worth the sacrifice. Let us
go back and enjoy it together."

"If you were dying for it, I would not take you to Cuba. It would be
purgatory, not paradise, now."

"How stern you look, how strangely you speak. Would you not go to save
your own life, Gilbert?"

"I would not cross the room to do that, much less the sea."

"Why do you both love and dread it? Don't frown, but tell me. I have a
right to know."

"Because the bitterest blunder of my life was committed there--a blunder
that I never can repair in this world, and may be damned for in the
next. Rest satisfied with this, Babie, lest you prove like Bluebeard's
wife, and make another skeleton in my closet, which has enough already."

Strange regret was in his voice, strange gloom fell upon his face; but
though rendered doubly curious by the change, Mrs. Redmond dared not
question further and, standing silent, furtively scanned the troubled
countenance beside her. Gilbert spoke first, waking out of his sorrowful
reverie with a start.

"Pauline is coming. Say adieu, not au revoir, for tomorrow we must leave
this place."

His words were a command, his aspect one of stern resolve, though the
intensest longing mingled with the dark look he cast on the approaching
pair. The tone, the glance displeased his willful wife, who loved to use
her power and exact obedience where she had failed to win affection,
often ruling imperiously when a tender word would have made her happy to

"Gilbert, you take no thought for my pleasures though you pursue your
own at my expense. Your neglect forces me to find solace and
satisfaction where I can, and you have forfeited your right to command
or complain. I love Pauline, I am happy with her, therefore I shall stay
until we tire of one another. I am a burden to you; go if you will."

"You know I cannot without you, Babie. I ask it as a favor. For my sake,
for your own, I implore you to come away."

"Gilbert, do you love her?"

She seized his arm and forced an answer by the energy of her sharply
whispered question. He saw that it was vain to dissemble, yet replied
with averted head, "I did and still remember it."

"And she? Did she return your love?"

"I believed so; but she forgot me when I went. She married Manuel and is
happy. Babie, let me go!"

"No! you shall stay and feel a little of the pain I feel when I look
into your heart and find I have no place there. It is this which has
stood between us and made all my efforts vain. I see it now and despise
you for the falsehood you have shown me, vowing you loved no one but me
until I married you, then letting me so soon discover that I was only an
encumbrance to your enjoyment of the fortune I possessed. You treat me
like a child, but I suffer like a woman, and you shall share my
suffering, because you might have spared me, and you did not. Gilbert,
you shall stay."

"Be it so, but remember I have warned you."

An exultant expression broke through the gloom of her husband's face as
he answered with the grim satisfaction of one who gave restraint to the
mind, and stood ready to follow whatever impulse should sway him next.
His wife trembled inwardly at what she had done, but was too proud to
recall her words and felt a certain bitter pleasure in the excitement of
the new position she had taken, the new interest given to her listless

Pauline and Manuel found them standing silently together, for a moment
had done the work of years and raised a barrier between them never to be
swept away.

Mrs. Redmond spoke first, and with an air half resentful, half

"Pauline, this morose husband of mine says we must leave tomorrow. But
in some things I rule; this is one of them. Therefore we remain and go
with you to the mountains when we are tired of the gay life here. So
smile and submit, Gilbert, else these friends will count your society no
favor. Would you not fancy, from the aspect he thinks proper to assume,
that I had sentenced him to a punishment, not a pleasure?"

"Perhaps you have unwittingly, Babie. Marriage is said to cancel the
follies of the past, but not those of the future, I believe; and, as
there are many temptations to an idle man in a place like this,
doubtless your husband is wise enough to own that he dares not stay but
finds discretion the better part of valor."

Nothing could be softer than the tone in which these words were uttered,
nothing sharper than the hidden taunt conveyed, but Gilbert only laughed
a scornful laugh as he fixed his keen eyes full upon her and took her
bouquet with the air of one assuming former rights.

"My dear Pauline, discretion is the last virtue I should expect to be
accused of by you; but if valor consists in daring all things, I may lay
claim to it without its 'better part,' for temptation is my delight--the
stronger the better. Have no fears for me, my friend. I gladly accept
Babie's decree and, ignoring the last ten years, intend to begin life
anew, having discovered a sauce piquante which will give the stalest
pleasures a redoubled zest. I am unfortunate tonight, and here is a
second wreck; this I can rebuild happily. Allow me to do so, for I
remember you once praised my skill in floral architecture."

With an air of eager gallantry in strange contrast to the malign
expression of his countenance, Gilbert knelt to regather the flowers
which a careless gesture of his own had scattered from their jeweled
holder. His wife turned to speak to Manuel, and, yielding to the
unconquerable anxiety his reckless manner awoke, Pauline whispered below
her breath as she bent as if to watch the work, "Gilbert, follow your
first impulse, and go tomorrow."

"Nothing shall induce me to."

"I warn you harm will come of it." "Let it come; I am past fear now."

"Shun me for Babie's sake, if not for your own."

"Too late for that; she is headstrong--let her suffer."

"Have you no power, Gilbert?"

"None over her, much over you."

"We will prove that!"

"We will!" Rapidly as words could shape them, these questions and
answers fell, and with their utterance the last generous feeling died in
Pauline's breast; for as she received the flowers, now changed from a
love token to a battle gage, she saw the torn glove still crushed in
Gilbert's hand, and silently accepted his challenge to the tournament so
often held between man and woman--a tournament where the keen tongue is
the lance, pride the shield, passion the fiery steed, and the hardest
heart the winner of the prize, which seldom fails to prove a barren
honor, ending in remorse.

Chapter III

For several days the Cubans were almost invisible, appearing only for a
daily drive, a twilight saunter on the beach, or a brief visit to the
ballroom, there to enjoy the excitement of the pastime in which they
both excelled. Their apartments were in the quietest wing of the hotel,
and from the moment of their occupancy seemed to acquire all the charms
of home. The few guests admitted felt the atmosphere of poetry and peace
that pervaded the nest which Love, the worker of miracles, had built
himself even under that tumultuous roof. Strollers in the halls or along
the breezy verandas often paused to listen to the music of instrument or
voice which came floating out from these sequestered rooms. Frequent
laughter and the murmur of conversation proved that ennui was unknown,
and a touch of romance inevitably enhanced the interest wakened by the
beautiful young pair, always together, always happy, never weary of the
dolce far niente of this summer life.

In a balcony like a hanging garden, sheltered from the sun by blossoming
shrubs and vines that curtained the green nook with odorous shade,
Pauline lay indolently swinging in a gaily fringed hammock as she had
been wont to do in Cuba, then finding only pleasure in the luxury of
motion which now failed to quiet her unrest. Manuel had put down the
book to which she no longer listened and, leaning his head upon his
hand, sat watching her as she swayed to and fro with thoughtful eyes
intent upon the sea, whose murmurous voice possessed a charm more
powerful than his own. Suddenly he spoke:

"Pauline, I cannot understand you! For three weeks we hurried east and
west to find this man, yet when found you shun him and seem content to
make my life a heaven upon earth. I sometimes fancy that you have
resolved to let the past sleep, but the hope dies as soon as born, for
in moments like this I see that, though you devote yourself to me, the
old purpose is unchanged, and I marvel why you pause."

Her eyes came back from their long gaze and settled on him full of an
intelligence which deepened his perplexity. "You have not learned to
know me yet; death is not more inexorable or time more tireless than I.
This week has seemed one of indolent delight to you. To me it has been
one of constant vigilance and labor, for scarcely a look, act, or word
of mine has been without effect. At first I secluded myself that Gilbert
might contrast our life with his and, believing us all and all to one
another, find impotent regret his daily portion. Three days ago accident
placed an unexpected weapon in my hand which I have used in silence,
lest in spite of promises you should rebel and end his trial too soon.
Have you no suspicion of my meaning?"

"None. You are more mysterious than ever, and I shall, in truth, believe
you are the enchantress I have so often called you if your spells work

"They do not, and I use no supernatural arts, as I will prove to you.
Take my lorgnette that lies behind you, part the leaves where the green
grapes hang thickest, look up at the little window in the shadowy angle
of the low roof opposite, and tell me what you see."

"Nothing but a half-drawn curtain."

"Ah! I must try the ruse that first convinced me. Do not show yourself,
but watch, and if you speak, let it be in Spanish."

Leaving her airy cradle, Pauline bent over the balcony as if to gather
the climbing roses that waved their ruddy clusters in the wind. Before
the third stem was broken Manuel whispered, "I see the curtain move; now
comes the outline of a head, and now a hand, with some bright object in
it. Santo Pablo! It is a man staring at you as coolly as if you were a
lady in a balcony. What prying rascal is it?"


"Impossible! He is a gentleman."

"If gentlemen play the traitor and the spy, then he is one. I am not
mistaken; for since the glitter of his glass first arrested me I have
watched covertly, and several trials as successful as the present have
confirmed the suspicion which Babie's innocent complaints of his long
absences aroused. Now do you comprehend why I remained in these rooms
with the curtains seldom drawn? Why I swung the hammock here and let you
sing and read to me while I played with your hair or leaned upon your
shoulder? Why I have been all devotion and made this balcony a little
stage for the performance of our version of the honeymoon for one

Still mindful of the eager eyes upon her, Pauline had been fastening the
roses in her bosom as she spoke, and ended with a silvery laugh that
made the silence musical with its heartsome sound. As she paused, Manuel
flung down the lorgnette and was striding past her with ireful
impetuosity, but the white arms took him captive, adding another figure
to the picture framed by the green arch as she whispered decisively, "No
farther! There must be no violence. You promised obedience and I exact
it. Do you think detection to a man so lost to honor would wound as
deeply as the sights which make his daily watch a torment? Or that a
blow would be as hard to bear as the knowledge that his own act has
placed you where you are and made him what he is? Silent contempt is the
law now, so let this insult pass, unclench your hand and turn that
defiant face to me, while I console you for submission with a kiss."

He yielded to the command enforced by the caress but drew her jealously
from sight, and still glanced rebelliously through the leaves, asking
with a frown, "Why show me this if I may not resent it? How long must I
bear with this man? Tell me your design, else I shall mar it in some
moment when hatred of him conquers love of you."

"I will, for it is tune, because though I have taken the first step you
must take the second. I showed you this that you might find action
pleasanter than rest, and you must bear with this man a little longer
for my sake, but I will give you an amusement to beguile the time. Long
ago you told me that Gilbert was a gambler. I would not believe it then,
now I can believe anything, and you can convince the world of this vice
of his as speedily as you will."

"Do you wish me to become a gambler that I may prove him one? I also
told you that he was suspected of dishonorable play--shall I load the
dice and mark the cards to catch him in his own snares?"

Manuel spoke bitterly, for his high spirit chafed at the task assigned
him; womanly wiles seemed more degrading than the masculine method of
retaliation, in which strength replaces subtlety and speedier vengeance
brings speedier satisfaction. But Pauline, fast learning to play upon
that mysterious instrument, the human heart, knew when to stimulate and
when to soothe.

"Do not reproach me that I point out a safer mode of operation than your
own. You would go to Gilbert and by a hot word, a rash act, put your
life and my happiness into his hands, for though dueling is forbidden
here, he would not hesitate to break all laws, human or divine, if by so
doing he could separate us. What would you gain by it? If you kill him
he is beyond our reach forever, and a crime remains to be atoned for. If
he kill you your blood will be upon my head, and where should I find
consolation for the loss of the one heart always true and tender?"

With the inexplicable prescience which sometimes foreshadows coming
ills, she clung to him as if a vision of the future dimly swept before
her, but he only saw the solicitude it was a sweet surprise to find he
had awakened, and in present pleasure forgot past pain.

"You shall not suffer from this man any grief that I can shield you
from, rest assured of that, my heart. I will be patient, though your
ways are not mine, for the wrong was yours, and the retribution shall be
such as you decree."

"Then hear your task and see the shape into which circumstances have
molded my design. I would have you exercise a self-restraint that shall
leave Gilbert no hold upon you, accept all invitations like that which
you refused when we passed him on the threshold of the billiard room an
hour ago, and seem to find in such amusements the same fascination as
himself. Your skill in games of chance excels his, as you proved at home
where these pastimes lose their disreputable aspect by being openly
enjoyed. Therefore I would have you whet this appetite of his by losing
freely at first--he will take a grim delight in lessening the fortune he
covets--then exert all your skill till he is deeply in your debt. He has
nothing but what is doled out to him by Babie's father, I find; he dare
not ask help there for such a purpose; other resources have failed else
he would not have married; and if the sum be large enough, it lays him
under an obligation which will be a thorn in his flesh, the sharper for
your knowledge of his impotence to draw it out. When this is done, or
even while it is in progress, I would have you add the pain of a new
jealousy to the old. He neglects this young wife of his, and she is
eager to recover the affections she believes she once possessed. Help
her, and teach Gilbert the value of what he now despises. You are young,
comely, accomplished, and possessed of many graces more attractive than
you are conscious of; your southern birth and breeding gift you with a
winning warmth of manners in strong contrast to the colder natures
around you; and your love for me lends an almost tender deference to
your intercourse with all womankind. Amuse, console this poor girl, and
show her husband what he should be; I have no fear of losing your heart
nor need you fear for hers; she is one of those spaniel-like creatures
who love the hand that strikes them and fawn upon the foot that spurns

"Am I to be the sole actor in the drama of deceit? While I woo Babie,
what will you do, Pauline?"

"Let Gilbert woo me--have patience till you understand my meaning; he
still loves me and believes I still return that love. I shall not
undeceive him yet, but let silence seem to confess what I do not own in
words. He fed me with false promises, let me build my life's happiness
on baseless hopes, and rudely woke me when he could delude no longer,
leaving me to find I had pursued a shadow. I will do the same. He shall
follow me undaunted, undeterred by all obstacles, all ties; shall stake
his last throw and lose it, for when the crowning moment comes I shall
show him that through me he is made bankrupt in love, honor, liberty,
and hope, tell him I am yours entirely and forever, then vanish like an
ignis-fatuus, leaving him to the darkness of despair and defeat. Is not
this a better retribution than the bullet that would give him peace at

Boy, lover, husband though he was, Manuel saw and stood aghast at the
baleful spirit which had enslaved this woman, crushing all generous
impulses, withering all gentle charities, and making her the saddest
spectacle this world can show--one human soul rebelling against
Providence, to become the nemesis of another. Involuntarily he recoiled
from her, exclaiming, "Pauline! Are you possessed of a devil?"

"Yes! One that will not be cast out till every sin, shame, and sorrow
mental ingenuity can conceive and inflict has been heaped on that man's
head. I thought I should be satisfied with one accusing look, one bitter
word; I am not, for the evil genii once let loose cannot be recaptured.
Once I ruled it, now it rules me, and there is no turning back. I have
come under the law of fate, and henceforth the powers I possess will
ban, not bless, for I am driven to whet and wield them as weapons which
may win me success at the price of my salvation. It is not yet too late
for you to shun the spiritual contagion I bear about me. Choose now, and
abide by that choice without a shadow of turning, as I abide by mine.
Take me as I am; help me willingly and unwillingly; and in the end
receive the promised gift--years like the days you have called heaven
upon earth. Or retract the vows you plighted, receive again the heart
and name you gave me, and live unvexed by the stormy nature time alone
can tame. Here is the ring. Shall I restore or keep it, Manuel?"

Never had she looked more beautiful as she stood there, an image of
will, daring, defiant, and indomitable, with eyes darkened by intensity
of emotion, voice half sad, half stern, and outstretched hand on which
the wedding ring no longer shone. She felt her power, yet was wary
enough to assure it by one bold appeal to the strongest element of her
husband's character: passions, not principles, were the allies she
desired, and before the answer came she knew that she had gained them at
the cost of innocence and self-respect.

As Manuel listened, an expression like a dark reflection of her own
settled on his face; a year of youth seemed to drop away; and with the
air of one who puts fear behind him, he took the hand, replaced the
ring, resolutely accepted the hard conditions, and gave all to love,
only saying as he had said before, "Soul and body, I belong to you; do
with me as you will."

A fortnight later Pauline sat alone, waiting for her husband. Under the
pretext of visiting a friend, she had absented herself a week, that
Manuel might give himself entirely to the distasteful task she set him.
He submitted to the separation, wrote daily, but sent no tidings of his
progress, told her nothing when they met that night, and had left her an
hour before asking her to have patience till he could show his finished
work. Now, with her eye upon the door, her ear alert to catch the coming
step, her mind disturbed by contending hopes and fears, she sat waiting
with the vigilant immobility of an Indian on the watch. She had not long
to look and listen. Manuel entered hastily, locked the door, closed the
windows, dropped the curtains, then paused in the middle of the room and
broke into a low, triumphant laugh as he eyed his wife with an
expression she had never seen in those dear eyes before. It startled
her, and, scarcely knowing what to desire or dread, she asked eagerly,
"You are come to tell me you have prospered."

"Beyond your hopes, for the powers of darkness seem to help us, and lead
the man to his destruction faster than any wiles of ours can do. I am
tired, let me lie here and rest. I have earned it, so when I have told
all say, 'Love, you have done well,' and I am satisfied."

He threw himself along the couch where she still sat and laid his head
in her silken lap, her cool hand on his hot forehead, and continued in a
muffled voice.

"You know how eagerly Gilbert took advantage of my willingness to play,
and soon how recklessly he pursued it, seeming to find the satisfaction
you foretold, till, obeying your commands, I ceased losing and won sums
which surprised me. Then you went, but I was not idle, and in the effort
to extricate himself, Gilbert plunged deeper into debt; for my desire to
please you seemed to gift me with redoubled skill. Two days ago I
refused to continue the unequal conflict, telling him to give himself no
uneasiness, for I could wait. You were right in thinking it would
oppress him to be under any obligation to me, but wrong in believing he
would endure, and will hardly be prepared for the desperate step he took
to free himself. That night he played falsely, was detected, and though
his opponent generously promised silence for Babie's sake, the affair
stole out--he is shunned and this resource has failed. I thought he had
no other, but yesterday he came to me with a strange expression of
relief, discharged the debt to the last farthing, then hinted that my
friendship with his wife was not approved by him and must cease. This
proves that I have obeyed you in all things, though the comforting of
Babie was an easy task, for, both loving you, our bond of sympathy and
constant theme has been Pauline and her perfections."

"Hush! No praise--it is a mockery. I am what one man's perfidy has made;
I may yet learn to be worthy of another man's devotion. What more,

"I thought I should have only a defeat to show you, but today has given
me a strange success. At noon a gentleman arrived and asked for Gilbert.
He was absent, but upon offering information relative to the time of his
return, which proved my intimacy with him, this Seguin entered into
conversation with me. His evident desire to avoid Mrs. Redmond and
waylay her husband interested me, and when he questioned me somewhat
closely concerning Gilbert's habits and movements of late, my suspicions
were roused; and on mentioning the debt so promptly discharged, I
received a confidence that startled me. In a moment of despair Gilbert
had forged the name of his former friend, whom he believed abroad, had
drawn the money and freed himself from my power, but not for long. The
good fortune which has led him safely through many crooked ways seems to
have deserted him in this strait. For the forgery was badly executed,
inspection raised doubts, and Seguin, just returned, was at his banker's
an hour after Gilbert, to prove the fraud; he came hither at once to
accuse him of it and made me his confidant. What would you have had me
do, Pauline? Time was short, and I could not wait for you."

"How can I tell at once? Why pause to ask? What did you do?"

"Took a leaf from your book and kept accusation, punishment, and power
in my own hands, to be used in your behalf. I returned the money,
secured the forged check, and prevailed on Seguin to leave the matter in
my hands, while he departed as quietly as he had come. Babie's presence
when we met tonight prevented my taking you into my counsels. I had
prepared this surprise for you and felt a secret pride in working it out
alone. An hour ago I went to watch for Gilbert. He came, I took him to
his rooms, told him what I had done, added that compassion for his wife
had actuated me. I left him saying the possession of the check was a
full equivalent for the money, which I now declined to receive from such
dishonorable hands. Are you satisfied, Pauline?"

With countenance and gestures full of exultation she sprang up to pace
the room, exclaiming, as she seized the forged paper, "Yes, that stroke
was superb! How strangely the plot thickens. Surely the powers of
darkness are working with us and have put this weapon in our hands when
that I forged proved useless. By means of this we have a hold upon him
which nothing can destroy unless he escape by death. Will he, Manuel?"

"No; there was more wrath than shame in his demeanor when I accused him.
He hates me too much to die yet, and had I been the only possessor of
this fatal fact, I fancy it might have gone hard with me; for if ever
there was murder in a man's heart it was in his when I showed him that
paper and then replaced it next the little poniard you smile at me for
wearing. This is over. What next, my queen?"

There was energy in the speaker's tone but none in attitude or aspect,
as, still lying where she had left him, he pillowed his head upon his
arm and turned toward her a face already worn and haggard with the
feverish weariness that had usurped the blithe serenity which had been
his chiefest charm a month ago. Pausing in her rapid walk, as if
arrested by the change that seemed to strike her suddenly, she recalled
her thoughts from the dominant idea of her life and, remembering the
youth she was robbing of its innocent delights, answered the wistful
look which betrayed the hunger of a heart she had never truly fed, as
she knelt beside her husband and, laying her soft cheek to his,
whispered in her tenderest accents, "I am not wholly selfish or
ungrateful, Manuel. You shall rest now while I sing to you, and tomorrow
we will go away among the hills and leave behind us for a time the dark
temptation which harms you through me."

"No! Finish what you have begun. I will have all or nothing, for if we
pause now you will bring me a divided mind, and I shall possess only the
shadow of a wife. Take Gilbert and Babie with us, and end this devil's
work without delay. Hark! What is that?"

Steps came flying down the long hall, a hand tried the lock, then beat
impetuously upon the door, and a low voice whispered with shrill
importunity, "Let me in! Oh, let me in!"

Manuel obeyed the urgent summons, and Mrs. Redmond, half dressed, with
streaming hair and terror-stricken face, fled into Pauline's arms,
crying incoherently, "Save me! Keep me! I never can go back to him; he
said I was a burden and a curse, and wished I never had been born!"

"What has happened, Babie? We are your friends. Tell us, and let us
comfort and protect you if we can."

But for a time speech was impossible, and the poor girl wept with a
despairing vehemence sad to see, till their gentle efforts soothed her;
and, sitting by Pauline, she told her trouble, looking oftenest at
Manuel, who stood before them, as if sure of redress from him.

"When I left here an hour or more ago I found my rooms still empty, and,
though I had not seen my husband since morning, I knew he would be
displeased to find me waiting, so I cried myself to sleep and dreamed of
the happy time when he was kind, till the sound of voices woke me. I
heard Gilbert say, 'Babie is with your wife, her maid tells me;
therefore we are alone here. What is this mysterious affair, Laroche?'
That tempted me to listen, and then, Manuel, I learned all the shame and
misery you so generously tried to spare me. How can I ever repay you,
ever love and honor you enough for such care of one so helpless and
forlorn as I?"

"I am repaid already. Let that pass, and tell what brings you here with
such an air of fright and fear?"

"When you were gone he came straight to the inner room in search of
something, saw me, and knew I must have heard all he had concealed from
me so carefully. If you have ever seen him when that fierce temper of
his grows ungovernable, you can guess what I endured. He said such cruel
things I could not bear it, and cried out that I would come to you, for
I was quite wild with terror, grief, and shame, that seemed like oil to
fire. He swore I should not, and oh, Pauline, he struck me! See, if I do
not tell the living truth!"

Trembling with excitement, Mrs. Redmond pushed back the wide sleeve of
her wrapper and showed the red outline of a heavy hand. Manuel set his
teeth and stamped his foot into the carpet with an indignant exclamation
and the brief question, "Then you left him, Babie?"

"Yes, although he locked me in my room, saying the law gave him the
right to teach obedience. I flung on these clothes, crept noiselessly
along the balcony till the hall window let me in, and then I ran to you.
He will come for me. Can he take me away? Must I go back to suffer any

In the very act of uttering the words, Mrs. Redmond clung to Manuel with
a cry of fear, for on the threshold stood her husband. A comprehensive
glance seemed to stimulate his wrath and lend the hardihood wherewith to
confront the three, saying sternly as he beckoned, "Babie, I am waiting
for you."

She did not speak, but still clung to Manuel as if he were her only
hope. A glance from Pauline checked the fiery words trembling on his
lips, and he too stood silent while she answered with a calmness that
amazed him:

"Your wife has chosen us her guardians, and I think you will scarcely
venture to use force again with two such witnesses as these to prove
that you have forfeited your right to her obedience and justify the step
she has taken."

With one hand she uncovered the discolored arm, with the other held the
forgery before him. For a moment Gilbert stood daunted by these mute
accusations, but just then his ire burned hottest against Manuel; and
believing that he could deal a double blow by wounding Pauline through
her husband, he ignored her presence and, turning to the young man,
asked significantly, "Am I to understand that you refuse me my wife, and
prefer to abide by the consequences of such an act?"

Calmed by Pauline's calmness, Manuel only drew the trembling creature
closer, and answered with his haughtiest mien, "I do; spare yourself the
labor of insulting me, for having placed yourself beyond the reach of a
gentleman's weapon, I shall accept no challenge from a--"

A soft hand at his lips checked the opprobrious word, as Babie, true
woman through it all, whispered with a broken sob, "Spare him, for I
loved him once."

Gilbert Redmond had a heart, and, sinful though it was, this generous
forbearance wrung it with a momentary pang of genuine remorse, too
swiftly followed by a selfish hope that all was not lost if through his
wife he could retain a hold upon the pair which now possessed for him
the strong attraction of both love and hate. In that brief pause this
thought came, was accepted and obeyed, for, as if yielding to an
uncontrollable impulse of penitent despair, he stretched his arms to his
wife, saying humbly, imploringly, "Babie, come back to me, and teach me
how I may retrieve the past. I freely confess I bitterly repent my
manifold transgressions, and submit to your decree alone; but in
executing justice, oh, remember mercy! Remember that I was too early
left fatherless, motherless, and went astray for want of some kind heart
to guide and cherish me. There is still time. Be compassionate and save
me from myself. Am I not punished enough? Must death be my only
comforter? Babie, when all others cast me off, will you too forsake me?"

"No, I will not! Only love me, and I can forgive, forget, and still be

Pauline was right. The spaniel-like nature still loved the hand that
struck it, and Mrs. Redmond joyfully returned to the arms from which she
had so lately fled. The tenderest welcome she had ever received from him
welcomed the loving soul whose faith was not yet dead, for Gilbert felt
the value this once neglected possession had suddenly acquired, and he
held it close; yet as he soothed with gentle touch and tone, could not
forbear a glance of triumph at the spectators of the scene.

Pauline met it with that inscrutable smile of hers, and a look of
intelligence toward her husband, as she said, "Did I not prophesy truly,
Manuel? Be kind to her, Gilbert, and when next we meet show us a happier
wife than the one now sobbing on your shoulder. Babie, good night and
farewell, for we are off to the mountains in the morning."

"Oh, let us go with you as you promised! You know our secret, you pity
me and will help Gilbert to be what he should. I cannot live at home,
and places like this will seem so desolate when you and Manuel are gone.
May we, can we be with you a little longer?"

"If Gilbert wishes it and Manuel consents, we will bear and forbear much
for your sake, my poor child."

Pauline's eye said, "Dare you go?" and Gilbert's answered, "Yes," as the
two met with a somber fire in each; but his lips replied, "Anywhere with
you, Babie," and Manuel took Mrs. Redmond's hand with a graceful warmth
that touched her deeper than his words.

"Your example teaches me the beauty of compassion, and Pauline's friends
are mine."

"Always so kind to me! Dear Manuel, I never can forget it, though I have
nothing to return but this," and, like a grateful child, she lifted up
her innocent face so wistfully he could only bend his tall head to
receive the kiss she offered.

Gilbert's black brows lowered ominously at the sight, but he never
spoke; and, when her good-nights were over, bowed silently and carried
his little wife away, nestling to him as if all griefs and pains were
banished by returning love.

"Poor little heart! She should have a smoother path to tread. Heaven
grant she may hereafter; and this sudden penitence prove no sham."
Manuel paused suddenly, for as if obeying an unconquerable impulse,
Pauline laid a hand on either shoulder and searched his face with an
expression which baffled his comprehension, though he bore it steadily
till her eyes fell before his own, when he asked smilingly:

"Is the doubt destroyed, carina?"

"No; it is laid asleep."

Then as he drew her nearer, as if to make his peace for his unknown
offense, she turned her cheek away and left him silently. Did she fear
to find Babie's kiss upon his lips?

Chapter IV

The work of weeks is soon recorded, and when another month was gone
these were the changes it had wrought. The four so strangely bound
together by ties of suffering and sin went on their way, to the world's
eye, blessed with every gracious gift, but below the tranquil surface
rolled that undercurrent whose mysterious tides ebb and flow in human
hearts unfettered by race or rank or time. Gilbert was a good actor,
but, though he curbed his fitful temper, smoothed his mien, and
sweetened his manner, his wife soon felt the vanity of hoping to recover
that which never had been hers. Silently she accepted the fact and,
uttering no complaint, turned to others for the fostering warmth without
which she could not live. Conscious of a hunger like her own, Manuel
could offer her sincerest sympathy, and soon learned to find a troubled
pleasure in the knowledge that she loved him and her husband knew it,
for his life of the emotions was rapidly maturing the boy into the man,
as the fierce ardors of his native skies quicken the growth of wondrous
plants that blossom in a night. Mrs. Redmond, as young in character as
in years, felt the attraction of a nature generous and sweet, and
yielded to it as involuntarily as an unsupported vine yields to the wind
that blows it to the strong arms of a tree, still unconscious that a
warmer sentiment than gratitude made his companionship the sunshine of
her life. Pauline saw this, and sometimes owned within herself that she
had evoked spirits which she could not rule, but her purpose drove her
on, and in it she found a charm more perilously potent than before.
Gilbert watched the three with a smile darker than a frown, yet no
reproach warned his wife of the danger which she did not see; no jealous
demonstration roused Manuel to rebel against the oppression of a
presence so distasteful to him; no rash act or word gave Pauline power
to banish him, though the one desire of his soul became the discovery of
the key to the inscrutable expression of her eyes as they followed the
young pair, whose growing friendship left their mates alone. Slowly her
manner softened toward him, pity seemed to bridge across the gulf that
lay between them, and in rare moments time appeared to have retraced its
steps, leaving the tender woman of a year ago. Nourished by such
unexpected hope, the early passion throve and strengthened until it
became the mastering ambition of his life, and, only pausing to make
assurance doubly sure, he waited the advent of the hour when he could
"put his fortune to the touch and win or lose it all."

"Manuel, are you coming?"

He was lying on the sward at Mrs. Redmond's feet, and, waking from the
reverie that held him, while his companion sang the love lay he was
teaching her, he looked up to see his wife standing on the green slope
before him. A black lace scarf lay over her blonde hair as Spanish women
wear their veils, below it the violet eyes shone clear, the cheek glowed
with the color fresh winds had blown upon their paleness, the lips
parted with a wistful smile, and a knot of bright-hued leaves upon her
bosom made a mingling of snow and fire in the dress, whose white folds
swept the grass. Against a background of hoary cliffs and somber pines,
this figure stood out like a picture of blooming womanhood, but Manuel
saw three blemishes upon it--Gilbert had sketched her with that shadowy
veil upon her head, Gilbert had swung himself across a precipice to
reach the scarlet nosegay for her breast, Gilbert stood beside her with
her hand upon his arm; and troubled by the fear that often haunted him
since Pauline's manner to himself had grown so shy and sad, Manuel
leaned and looked forgetful of reply, but Mrs. Redmond answered

"He is coming, but with me. You are too grave for us, so go your ways,
talking wisely of heaven and earth, while we come after, enjoying both
as we gather lichens, chase the goats, and meet you at the waterfall.
Now senor, put away guitar and book, for I have learned my lesson; so
help me with this unruly hair of mine and leave the Spanish for today."

They looked a pair of lovers as Manuel held back the long locks blowing
in the wind, while Babie tied her hat, still chanting the burthen of the
tender song she had caught so soon. A voiceless sigh stirred the ruddy
leaves on Pauline's bosom as she turned away, but Gilbert embodied it in
words, "They are happier without us. Let us go."

Neither spoke till they reached the appointed tryst. The others were not
there, and, waiting for them, Pauline sat on a mossy stone, Gilbert
leaned against the granite boulder beside her, and both silently
surveyed a scene that made the heart glow, the eye kindle with delight
as it swept down from that airy height, across valleys dappled with
shadow and dark with untrodden forests, up ranges of majestic mountains,
through gap after gap, each hazier than the last, far out into that sea
of blue which rolls around all the world. Behind them roared the
waterfall swollen with autumn rains and hurrying to pour itself into the
rocky basin that lay boiling below, there to leave its legacy of
shattered trees, then to dash itself into a deeper chasm, soon to be
haunted by a tragic legend and go glittering away through forest, field,
and intervale to join the river rolling slowly to the sea. Won by the
beauty and the grandeur of the scene, Pauline forgot she was not alone,
till turning, she suddenly became aware that while she scanned the face
of nature her companion had been scanning hers. What he saw there she
could not tell, but all restraint had vanished from his manner, all
reticence from his speech, for with the old ardor in his eye, the old
impetuosity in his voice, he said, leaning down as if to read her heart,
"This is the moment I have waited for so long. For now you see what I
see, that both have made a bitter blunder, and may yet repair it. Those
children love each other; let them love, youth mates them, fortune makes
them equals, fate brings them together that we may be free. Accept this
freedom as I do, and come out into the world with me to lead the life
you were born to enjoy."

With the first words he uttered Pauline felt that the time had come, and
in the drawing of a breath was ready for it, with every sense alert,
every power under full control, every feature obedient to the art which
had become a second nature. Gilbert had seized her hand, and she did not
draw it back; the sudden advent of the instant which must end her work
sent an unwonted color to her cheek, and she did avert it; the
exultation which flashed into her eyes made it unsafe to meet his own,
and they drooped before him as if in shame or fear, her whole face woke
and brightened with the excitement that stirred her blood. She did not
seek to conceal it, but let him cheat himself with the belief that love
touched it with such light and warmth, as she softly answered in a voice
whose accents seemed to assure his hope.

"You ask me to relinquish much. What do you offer in return, Gilbert,
that I may not for a second time find love's labor lost?"

It was a wily speech, though sweetly spoken, for it reminded him how
much he had thrown away, how little now remained to give, but her mien
inspired him, and nothing daunted, he replied more ardently than ever:

"I can offer you a heart always faithful in truth though not in seeming,
for I never loved that child. I would give years of happy life to undo
that act and be again the man you trusted. I can offer you a name which
shall yet be an honorable one, despite the stain an hour's madness cast
upon it. You once taunted me with cowardice because I dared not face the
world and conquer it. I dare do that now; I long to escape from this
disgraceful servitude, to throw myself into the press, to struggle and
achieve for your dear sake. I can offer you strength, energy,
devotion--three gifts worthy any woman's acceptance who possesses power
to direct, reward, and enjoy them as you do, Pauline. Because with your
presence for my inspiration, I feel that I can retrieve my faultful
past, and with time become God's noblest work--an honest man. Babie
never could exert this influence over me. You can, you will, for now my
earthly hope is in your hands, my soul's salvation in your love."

If that love had not died a sudden death, it would have risen up to
answer him as the one sincere desire of an erring life cried out to her
for help, and this man, as proud as sinful, knelt down before her with a
passionate humility never paid at any other shrine, human or divine. It
seemed to melt and win her, for he saw the color ebb and flow, heard the
rapid beating of her heart, felt the hand tremble in his own, and
received no denial but a lingering doubt, whose removal was a keen
satisfaction to himself.

"Tell me, before I answer, are you sure that Manuel loves Babie?"

"I am; for every day convinces me that he has outlived the brief
delusion, and longs for liberty, but dares not ask it. Ah! that pricks
pride! But it is so. I have watched with jealous vigilance and let no
sign escape me; because in his infidelity to you lay my chief hope. Has
he not grown melancholy, cold, and silent? Does he not seek Babie and,
of late, shun you? Will he not always yield his place to me without a
token of displeasure or regret? Has he ever uttered reproach, warning,
or command to you, although he knows I was and am your lover? Can you
deny these proofs, or pause to ask if he will refuse to break the tie
that binds him to a woman, whose superiority in all things keeps him a
subject where he would be a king? You do not know the heart of man if
you believe he will not bless you for his freedom."

Like the cloud which just then swept across the valley, blotting out its
sunshine with a gloomy shadow, a troubled look flitted over Pauline's
face. But if the words woke any sleeping fear she cherished, it was
peremptorily banished, for scarcely had the watcher seen it than it was
gone. Her eyes still shone upon the ground, and still she prolonged the
bittersweet delight at seeing this humiliation of both soul and body by
asking the one question whose reply would complete her sad success.

"Gilbert, do you believe I love you still?"

"I know it! Can I not read the signs that proved it to me once? Can I
forget that, though you followed me to pity and despise, you have
remained to pardon and befriend? Am I not sure that no other power could
work the change you have wrought in me? I was learning to be content
with slavery, and slowly sinking into that indolence of will which makes
submission easy. I was learning to forget you, and be resigned to hold
the shadow when the substance was gone, but you came, and with a look
undid my work, with a word destroyed my hard-won peace, with a touch
roused the passion which was not dead but sleeping, and have made this
month of growing certainty to be the sweetest in my life--for I believed
all lost, and you showed me that all was won. Surely that smile is
propitious! and I may hope to hear the happy confirmation of my faith
from lips that were formed to say 'I love!'"

She looked up then, and her eyes burned on him, with an expression which
made his heart leap with expectant joy, as over cheek and forehead
spread a glow of womanly emotion too genuine to be feigned, and her
voice thrilled with the fervor of that sentiment which blesses life and
outlives death.

"Yes, I love; not as of old, with a girl's blind infatuation, but with
the warmth and wisdom of heart, mind, and soul--love made up of honor,
penitence and trust, nourished in secret by the better self which
lingers in the most tried and tempted of us, and now ready to blossom
and bear fruit, if God so wills. I have been once deceived, but faith
still endures, and I believe that I may yet earn this crowning gift of a
woman's life for the man who shall make my happiness as I make his--who
shall find me the prouder for past coldness, the humbler for past
pride--whose life shall pass serenely loving. And that beloved is--my
husband." If she had lifted her white hand and stabbed him, with that
smile upon her face, it would not have shocked him with a more pale
dismay than did those two words as Pauline shook him off and rose up,
beautiful and stern as an avenging angel. Dumb with an amazement too
fathomless for words, he knelt there motionless and aghast. She did not
speak. And, passing his hand across his eyes as if he felt himself the
prey to some delusion, he rose slowly, asking, half incredulously, half
imploringly, "Pauline, this is a jest?"

"To me it is; to you--a bitter earnest."

A dim foreboding of the truth fell on him then, and with it a strange
sense of fear; for in this apparition of human judgment he seemed to
receive a premonition of the divine. With a sudden gesture of something
like entreaty, he cried out, as if his fate lay in her hands, "How will
it end? how will it end?"

"As it began--in sorrow, shame and loss." Then, in words that fell hot
and heavy on the sore heart made desolate, she poured out the dark
history of the wrong and the atonement wrung from him with such pitiless
patience and inexorable will. No hard fact remained unrecorded, no
subtle act unveiled, no hint of her bright future unspared to deepen the
gloom of his. And when the final word of doom died upon the lips that
should have awarded pardon, not punishment, Pauline tore away the last
gift he had given, and dropping it to the rocky path, set her foot upon
it, as if it were the scarlet badge of her subjection to the evil spirit
which had haunted her so long, now cast out and crushed forever.

Gilbert had listened with a slowly gathering despair, which deepened to
the blind recklessness that comes to those whose passions are their
masters, when some blow smites but cannot subdue. Pale to his very lips,
with the still white wrath, so much more terrible to witness than the
fiercest ebullition of the ire that flames and feeds like a sudden fire,
he waited till she ended, then used the one retaliation she had left
him. His hand went to his breast, a tattered glove flashed white against
the cliff as he held it up before her, saying, in a voice that rose
gradually till the last words sounded clear above the waterfall's wild

"It was well and womanly done, Pauline, and I could wish Manuel a happy
life with such a tender, frank, and noble wife; but the future which you
paint so well never shall be his. For, by the Lord that hears me! I
swear I will end this jest of yours in a more bitter earnest than you
prophesied. Look; I have worn this since the night you began the
conflict, which has ended in defeat to me, as it shall to you. I do not
war with women, but you shall have one man's blood upon your soul, for I
will goad that tame boy to rebellion by flinging this in his face and
taunting him with a perfidy blacker than my own. Will that rouse him to
forget your commands and answer like a man?"


The word rang through the air sharp and short as a pistol shot, a
slender brown hand wrenched the glove away, and Manuel came between
them. Wild with fear, Mrs. Redmond clung to him. Pauline sprang before
him, and for a moment the two faced each other, with a year's smoldering
jealousy and hate blazing in fiery eyes, trembling in clenched hands,
and surging through set teeth in defiant speech.

"This is the gentleman who gambles his friend to desperation, and skulks
behind a woman, like the coward he is," sneered Gilbert.

"Traitor and swindler, you lie!" shouted Manuel, and, flinging his wife
behind him, he sent the glove, with a stinging blow, full in his
opponent's face.

Then the wild beast that lurks in every strong man's blood leaped up in
Gilbert Redmond's, as, with a single gesture of his sinewy right arm he
swept Manuel to the verge of the narrow ledge, saw him hang poised there
one awful instant, struggling to save the living weight that weighed him
down, heard a heavy plunge into the black pool below, and felt that
thrill of horrible delight which comes to murderers alone.

So swift and sure had been the act it left no time for help. A rush, a
plunge, a pause, and then two figures stood where four had been--a man
and woman staring dumbly at each other, appalled at the dread silence
that made high noon more ghostly than the deepest night. And with that
moment of impotent horror, remorse, and woe, Pauline's long punishment
Fracture by Mercedes M. Yardley - Mother: Tales of Love and Terror

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Featuring award-winning authors, gorgeous art, and stories that will crawl inside your brain and never leave, Playlist of the Damned in the earworm of your nightmares. Featuring new stories by Gemma Files, Mercedes M. Yardley, Philip Fracassi, and more!

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Humans are the Problem on Long List for Best Horror of the Year, Vol 14, ed. by Ellen Datlow

It’s been a crazy year with a lot of awesome news for Weird Little Worlds Press, and the perfect end to it was the inclusion of our inaugural anthology being considered for Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year anthology.

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