“Oh, why did I not know what I was doing!” she moaned to herself, as she rocked in the chair. “I must have been very wicked in some former life, to be so tortured in this!”
But it was too late now. She had burnt her ships, and nothing remained to her but her pride. Since she had thrown away joy she could at least keep that and never let him see how she was being punished.
And to-night it was her turn to look in anguish at the closed door, and to toss in restless pain of soul, on her bed.
A bombshell, in the shape of Lady Betty Burns, burst into the bedroom of Emily and Mary next morning, while the two girls were sitting up in their great bed at about eight o’clock, reading their letters and sipping their tea.
“May I come in, darlings?” a voice full of purpose said, and a flaxen head peeped in.
“Why, Betty, of course!” both girls answered and, in a blue silk dressing-gown and a long fair plait of hair hanging down, Lady Betty stalked in.
None of the Council of Three, going to deliver secret sentence, could have advanced with more dignity or consciousness of the solemnity of the occasion. Emily and Mary were thrilled.
“Be prepared!” she said dramatically, while she climbed to the foot of the bed and sat down. “It is just what I told you. She’s been the heroine of a murder—if she did not do it herself!”
“Heavens! Betty, who?” almost screamed the girls.
“Your sister-in-law! I had to come at once to tell you, darlings. Last night, Aunt Muriel (the young Lady Melton was her uncle’s second wife and chaperoning her to the party) would drag me into her room, and I could not get to you. You would have been asleep when I at last escaped, so I determined to come the first thing this morning and tell you my news.”
Four round eyes of excited horror fixed themselves upon her, so with deep importance of voice and manner, Lady Betty went on:
“I sat with Captain Hume in the picture gallery, just before we went to bed. Believe me, I have not been able to sleep all night from it, dears! Well, we had been speaking of that fighting scene by Teniers in a beer house, you know, the one which hangs by the big Snuyders. The moon—no, it could not have been the moon. It must have been the arc light over the entrance which shines in from the angle. Anyway, it felt as if it were the moon, when I drew aside the blind; and it struck my heart with a cold foreboding, as he said such things, fights, happened now sometimes, and he was at Monte Carlo when Count Shulski was shot; and, though it was hushed up by the authorities and no one hardly heard of it much, still it made a stir. And,” continued Lady Betty, now rising majestically and pointing an accusing forefinger at Emily and Mary, “Countess Shulski was your sister-in-law’s name!”
“Oh, hush, Betty!” said Emily, almost angrily. “You must not say such things. There might have been a lot of Count Shulskis. Foreigners are all counts.”