Her last words had galled Mrs. Farnum almost beyond endurance; no doubt because she realized that there was so much truth in them, while her threat regarding a righteous judgment overtaking the family at Heathdale caused her heart to sink with a sudden dread of disgraceful punishment for herself if ever her complicity in this foul plot should be discovered.
She arose, cold and stern.
“I ruin your life, indeed!” she answered, haughtily. “I think you have no one to thank for that but yourself, for having lent a too willing ear to the flattering tongue of a strange young man.”
She swept from the room with a firm step and uplifted head, while Virgie sank prostrate upon the floor, feeling as if her heart had been ruthlessly trampled upon and all the life and hope crushed out of it.
The Last Drop in a Bitter Cup.
“The girl has more spirit than I gave her credit for,” Mrs. Farnum muttered to herself, as she entered her own rooms after leaving Virgie. “If she persists in her purpose of securing proofs and going to Heathdale to claim her position, of course it will upset everything. However, she will not be able to do that at present; she must first take a long journey, and meantime Miriam will, no doubt, think of some way to prevent a denouement. Doubtless the girl will write once more and charge Sir William with his perfidy—she is not one to bear tamely such a wrong; but Miriam will be on the watch, and if the little upstart gets no reply, her pride will probably assert itself, and we shall have no more trouble with her, for a while at least. Meantime Sir William may be prevailed upon to get a divorce, and then the way will be clear once more for Sadie.
“How fortunate,” she added, going on with her soliloquy, “that Will Heath and Margie were married just at this time!—she swallowed that story whole. Well, I must confess it was calculated to stagger any one, though I was almost afraid she had heard something before about the facts; but it seems she had not.”
* * * * *
The truth regarding the news that Mrs. Farnum had received from Lady Linton, and which the latter had so cunningly utilized to further her scheme to separate her brother and his wife, was this:
Sir William Heath had a cousin who bore the same name as himself, though without the title, of course.
He was three years older than the young baronet, and had been named for his uncle, with the hope that he would be received as the heir in case no son was born to the elder Sir William. But this was not to be.
From childhood the boy had been attached to his little, neighbor and playmate, Margaret Stanhope, and they had been engaged for years, as Mrs. Farnum told Virgie.
But being the son of a younger son, he had had to struggle somewhat for his education and position in life, and it was only a few months previous to Sir William’s return from America that he had succeeded in securing a situation as private secretary to a nobleman, and thus felt that at last he had a right to marry the sweet girl whom he had so long and so fondly loved, and make a home for himself.