“And why? You don’t intend to tell her I am to be taken into your confidence, I suppose?”
“Not much!” said Mr. Parmalee, emphatically. “Never you mind, Sybilla. Before you become Mrs. P., you’ll know it all safe enough. I’ll write it at once.”
He took a stumpy lead-pencil from his pocket, tore a leaf out of his pocket-book, and wrote these words:
MY LADY,—You knew the picture, and I know your secret. Should like to see you, if convenient, soon. That person is in London waiting to hear from me.
Your most obedient,
G. W. PARMALEE.
The photographer handed the scrawl to Sybilla.
“Well?” she said, taking it all in at a glance.
“Give her this. She’ll see me before I leave this house, or I’m much mistaken. She’s a very proud lady, this baronet’s bride; but for all that she’ll obey G. W. Parmalee’s orders, or he’ll know the reason why.”
MISS SILVER PLAYS HER FIRST CARD.
It was all very well for Sir Everard Kingsland to ride his high horse in the presence of Miss Sybilla Silver, and superbly rebuke her suspicions of his wife, but her words had planted their sting, nevertheless.
He loved his beautiful, imperious, gray-eyed wife with so absorbing and intense a love that the faintest doubt of her was torture inexpressible.
“I remember it all now,” he said to himself, setting his teeth; “she was agitated at sight of that picture. She turned, with the strangest look in her face I ever saw there, to the American, and rose abruptly from the table immediately after. She has not been herself since; she has not once left her room. Is she afraid of meeting that man? Is there any secret in her life that he shares? What do I know of her past life, save that she has been over the world with her father? Good Heaven! if she and this man should have a secret between them, after all!”
The cold drops actually stood on his brow at the thought. The fierce, indomitable pride of his haughty race and the man’s own inward jealousy made the bare suspicion agony. But a moment after, and with a sudden impulse of generous love, he recoiled from his own thoughts.
“I am a wretch,” he thought, “a traitor to the best and most beautiful of brides, to harbor such an unworthy idea! What! shall I doubt my darling girl because Sybilla Silver thinks she recognized that portrait, or because an inquisitive stranger chooses to ask questions? No! I could stake my life on her perfect truth—my own dear wife.”
Impulsively he turned to go; at once he must seek her, and set every doubt at rest. He ascended rapidly to her room and softly tapped at the door. There was no answer. He knocked again; still no response. He turned the handle and went in.
She was asleep. Lying on a sofa, among a heap of pillows, arrayed in a white dressing-gown, her profuse dark hair all loose and disordered, Lady Kingsland lay, so profoundly sleeping that her husband’s knocking had not disturbed her. Her face was as white as her robe, and her eyelashes were wet, as though she had cried herself to sleep like a child.