He bowed and left her, passing into another room, and closing the door.
All in an agitated flutter, Mollie opened her door and entered. But on the threshold she paused, with a shrill cry of wonder, terror, and doubt; for the padded walls and floor, the blind windows, the lighted lamp, the bed, the furniture, were all recognized in a moment.
It was the room where she had been first imprisoned—where she had consented to marry the masked man.
A quiet figure rose from a chair under the lamp and faced her with a courtesy. It was the girl who had lured her from her home—Sarah Grant.
“Come in, miss,” said this young person, as though they had just parted an hour ago. “Master told me to expect you. Sit down; he’ll be here in a minute. You look fit to drop.”
She felt “fit to drop.” She sunk into the proffered seat, trembling through every limb in her body, overwhelmed with a stunning consciousness that the supreme moment of her life had come.
Sarah Grant left the room, and Mollie was alone. Her eyes turned to the door, and fixed themselves there as if fascinated. Her head was awhirl—her mind a blank. Something tremendous was about to happen—what, she could not think.
The door opened slowly—the man in the black mask strode in and stood, silent and awful, before her.
Without a word or cry, but white as death, she rose up and confronted him with wild, dilated eyes.
“You know me, Mollie,” the masked man said, addressing her, as before, in French—“I am your husband.”
“Yes,” Mollie answered, her white lips scarce able to form the words. “For God’s sake, take off that mask and show me your face!”
Without a word, he unclasped the cloak and let it slip on the floor; he removed the flowing hair and beard, and with it the mask. And uttering a low, wailing cry, Mollie staggered back—for there before her, pale as herself, stood the man she loved—Hugh Ingelow!
WHICH WINDS UP THE BUSINESS.
He stood before her, pale and stern, his eyes fixed upon her, as a culprit before his judge waiting sentence of death.
But Mollie never looked. After that one brief, irrepressible cry, she had fallen back, her face bowed and hidden in her hands.
“You shrink from me, Mollie,” Hugh Ingelow said; “you will not even look at me. I knew it would be so. I know I deserve it; but if I were never to see you again, I must tell you the truth all the same. Yes, Mollie, recoil from me, hate me, spurn me, for the base, unmanly part I have acted. It is not Doctor Oleander who is the dastard, the villain, the abductor of weak women—it is I!”
She did not speak, she did not move, she made no sign that she even heard him.
“It will avail me little, I know,” he continued, “to tell you I have repented the dastardly deed in bitterness of spirit since. It will avail nothing to tell you how I have hated myself for that cruel and cowardly act that made me your husband. I think you maddened me, Mollie, with your heartless, your insulting rejection, and I did love you passionately. I swore, in my heart of hearts, I would be avenged, and, Mollie, you know how I kept my vow.”