“I know not,” she replied. “I was seized with a dreadful headache about an hour ago. It has left me; but I have a strange oppression at my chest, and breathe with difficulty.”
“You alarm me, my love,” rejoined Parravicin. “Were you ever attacked thus before?”
“Never,” she replied. “Oh! Disbrowe! if you knew how I have longed for your return, you would blame yourself for your absence. You have grown sadly neglectful of late. I suspect you love some one else. If I thought so------”
“What if you thought so, Margaret?” demanded Parravicin.
“What!” cried Mrs. Disbrowe, raising herself in the bed. “I would requite your perfidy—terribly requite it!”
“Then learn that Captain Disbrowe is faithless,” cried Parravicin, throwing back the curtains, and disclosing himself. “Learn that he loves another, and is with her now. Learn that he cares so little for you, that he has surrendered you to me.”
“What do I hear?” exclaimed Mrs. Disbrowe. “Who are you, and what brings you here?”
“You may guess my errand from my presence,” replied the knight. “I am called Sir Paul Parravicin, and am the most devoted of your admirers.”
“My husband surrender me to a stranger! It cannot be!” cried the lady, distractedly.
“You see me here, and may judge of the truth of my statement,” rejoined the knight. “Your husband gave me this key, with which I introduced myself to the house.”
“What motive could he have for such unheard-of baseness—such barbarity?” cried Mrs. Disbrowe, bursting into tears.
“Shall I tell you, madam?” replied Parravicin. “He is tired of you, and has taken this means of ridding himself of you.”
Mrs. Disbrowe uttered a loud scream, and fell back in the bed. Parravicin waited for a moment; but not hearing her move, brought the lamp to see what was the matter. She had fainted, and was lying across the pillow, with her night-dress partly open, so as to expose her neck and shoulders.
The knight was at first ravished with her beauty; but his countenance suddenly fell, and an expression of horror and alarm took possession of it. He appeared rooted to the spot, and instead of attempting to render her any assistance, remained with his gaze fixed upon her neck.
Rousing himself at length, he rushed out of the room, hurried down stairs, and without pausing for a moment, threw open the street-door. As he issued from it, his throat was forcibly griped, and the point of a sword was placed at his breast.
“You are now in my power, villain,” cried Disbrowe, “and shall not escape my vengeance.”
“You are already avenged,” replied Parravicin, shaking off his assailant. “Your wife has the plague.”
THE PLAGUE NURSE.