“My Child Is the Heiress of Heathdale!”
Mrs. Farnum looked frightened at Virgie’s startling threat, and she realized at once that she had underrated the character of the woman with whom she had to deal.
She saw that she was capable of great decision and prompt action; that beneath her gracious sweetness, and gentle, winning manner, there lay a reserve force and strength upon which she had not reckoned, and which would have to be overcome—if overcome at all—by strategy and deception.
It would never do for the young wife to set out for England, at least if there was any power to prevent it, for it would destroy all their carefully laid plans, and their hopes for the future.
It had never occurred to Mrs, Farnum that she would contemplate such a proceeding.
She knew that she was a stranger and absolutely friendless in the city; there would be no one on whom she could rely to fight her battles. She had imagined her to be weak and yielding, and that she would sink helplessly beneath the terrible blows that she had dealt her, that all life and spirit would be crushed out of her, and she would be only too willing to fly from every one whom she knew, and hide herself and her child, with their supposed shame, in some remote corner of the earth, and that would be the last of them.
Then when Sir William should search for her, as of course she knew he would do, and fail to find her, he could easily be made to believe that she had been untrue, and fled from him; a divorce could be readily obtained to set him free, and thus Sadie, if she played her cards aright, might yet become the mistress of Heathdale.
But the injured wife’s project of going to face her recreant husband, and demanding to be acknowledged as the lawful mistress of Heathdale, must be defeated at any cost, and the wily woman immediately set about accomplishing her object.
“Ah, my poor child!” she began, assuming a sympathetic tone, “one cannot blame you for just indignation at having been so deeply wronged. I never would have believed Sir William capable of such dishonor. But surely you will never think of subjecting yourself to an ordeal so terrible as that you have just proposed.”
“Why should I not? Why should I shrink from anything that will right this wrong? Nothing can hurt me more than I have been hurt to-day,” Virgie answered, spiritedly, yet with inconceivable bitterness.
“But think of Sir William’s family. They are exceedingly sensitive and proud spirited, and they would never tolerate your claim for an instant; no shadow of dishonor has ever touched them in any way, and they would not endure the scandal.”
“Think of Sir William’s family! Why should I consider them? Madam, it is myself of whom I have to think—myself and my innocent little one; and do you suppose I will tolerate the indignity which has been offered me? Is not my good name and that of my child as much at stake, and of as much value as the name of Heath?” Virgie cried, her proud spirit blazing forth in righteous indignation.