“I Will Prove It.”
It was very fortunate for Virgie that she had a little one at this time, else she would have deemed life scarcely worth the living, so stunned and crushed was she by the terrible blow that had fallen upon her.
For two long hours, after reading that letter from Lady Linton, and the paper containing that paragraph of William Heath’s marriage, she lay as if paralyzed upon her bed. One would hardly believe that she lived at all, but for that look of unutterable woe in her eyes and the expression of agony about her mouth.
But she was aroused at last to a sense of her duties and responsibilities as a mother, by the crying of little Virgie in the outer room; and yet that cry was like another dagger plunged into her heart, for it reminded her that, if the dreadful things which she had been told were true, her whole future was dishonored—that she was a betrayed and deserted woman and her child nameless.
“Oh, Heaven! it cannot be!” she cried, lifting her arms with a gesture of despair and locking her fingers in a convulsive clasp above her head, while her mind went back over the past and reviewed every event that had occurred since the beginning of her acquaintance with Sir William Heath.
She had believed in him so thoroughly, he had seemed so noble and true, so entirely above all deception and double dealing. He had appeared to love her so devotedly, had been so proud of her as the future mistress of his beautiful home, and so supremely happy in the anticipation of the coming of their little one. He had hoped for a son and heir, and yet he had expressed no disappointment upon learning that their child was a daughter; he had welcomed the little stranger most tenderly in his letter and fondly named her, to please himself, for her mother.
He had seemed so impatient and regretful at the thought of leaving her so long alone, and had promised to come to her the moment that he could safely leave his mother.
All this made it very difficult for Virgie to believe in his apparent perfidy and treachery, and yet the evidence against him seemed so overwhelming that she was convinced in spite of herself.
She did not dream of a plot against her, for she could not conceive of any motive for one; but his letters had suddenly ceased and she could not believe accident had caused it, when she had written again and again telling him of it and pleading for but a word from him.
Then she had heard that story of the engagement to Margaret Stanhope, then the account of the marriage at Heathdale, by Lady Linton, who appeared entirely ignorant of her existence even; and taking all this into consideration, together with the notice which had appeared in the paper sent to Mrs. Farnum she felt obliged to accept the fact of Sir William’s intentional treachery and desertion.
Yet in the face of everything she clung to the conviction that she was a lawful wife—that her child was the heiress of Heathdale; but the difficulty was to prove it.