Colonel Quaritch, V.C. eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 363 pages of information about Colonel Quaritch, V.C..

“Yes,” said Ida, moving impatiently, “but why do you tell me all this?  It is very painful and I had rather not hear it.”

“Why do I tell you?  I tell you because I do not wish you to marry Edward Cossey.  I tell you because I wish him to feel a little of what I have to feel, and because I have said that he should not marry you.”

“I wish that you could prevent it,” said Ida, with a sudden outburst.  “I am sure you are quite welcome to Mr. Cossey so far as I am concerned, for I detest him, and I cannot imagine how any woman could ever have done otherwise.”

“Thank you,” said Belle; “but I have done with Mr. Cossey, and I think I hate him too.  I know that I did hate him when I met him in the street just now and he told me that he was not engaged to you.  You say that you detest him, why then do you marry him—­you are a free woman?”

“Do you want to know?” said Ida, wheeling round and looking her visitor full in the face.  “I am going to marry him for the same reason that you say caused you to marry—­because I must.  I am going to marry him because he lent us money on condition that I promised to marry him, and as I have taken the money, I must give him his price, even if it breaks my heart.  You think that you are wretched; how do you know that I am not fifty times as wretched?  Your lot is to lose your lover, mine is to have one forced upon me and endure him all my life.  The worst of your pain is over, all mine is to come.”

“Why? why?” broke in Belle.  “What is such a promise as that?  He cannot force you to marry him, and it is better for a woman to die than to marry a man she hates, especially,” she added meaningly, “if she happens to care for somebody else.  Be advised by me, I know what it is.”

“Yes,” said Ida, “perhaps it is better to die, but death is not so easy.  As for the promise, you do not seem to understand that no gentleman or lady can break a promise in consideration of which money has been received.  Whatever he has done, and whatever he is, I must marry Mr. Cossey, so I do not think that we need discuss the subject any more.”

Belle sat silent for a minute or more, and then rising said that she must go.  “I have warned you,” she added, “although to warn you I am forced to put myself at your mercy.  You can tell the story and destroy me if you like.  I do not much care if you do.  Women such as I grow reckless.”

“You must understand me very little, Mrs. Quest” (it had always been Belle before, and she winced at the changed name), “if you think me capable of such conduct.  You have nothing to fear from me.”

She held out her hand, but in her humility and shame, Belle went without taking it, and through the angry sunset light walked slowly back to Boisingham.  And as she walked there was a look upon her face that Edward Cossey would scarcely have cared to see.

CHAPTER XXVII

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Colonel Quaritch, V.C. from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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