“I’ll do it,” said he.
“No, no; let the man,” said Lady Honoria. “Look! it is going to catch fire!”
“Nonsense,” he answered, rising solemnly and reaching his arm towards the shade. As he touched it, it caught fire; indeed, by touching it he caused it to catch fire. He seized hold of it, and made an effort to put it out, but it burnt his fingers.
“Curse the thing!” he said aloud, and threw it from him. It fell flaming in his sister’s dress among the thickest of the filmy laces; they caught, and instantly two wreathing snakes of fire shot up her. She sprang from her seat and rushed screaming down the room, an awful mass of flame!
In ten more minutes Lady Honoria had left this world and its pleasures to those who still lived to taste them.
An hour passed. Geoffrey still sat brooding heavily over his pipe in the study in Bolton Street and waiting for Honoria, when a knock came to his door. The servants had all gone to bed, all except the sick nurse. He rose and opened it himself. A little red-haired, pale-faced man staggered in.
“Why, Garsington, is it you? What do you want at this hour?”
“Screw yourself up, Bingham, I’ve something to tell you,” he answered in a thick voice.
“What is it? another disaster, I suppose. Is somebody else dead?”
“Yes; somebody is. Honoria’s dead. Burnt to death at the ball.”
“Great God! Honoria burnt to death. I had better go——”
“I advise you not, Bingham. I wouldn’t go to the hospital if I were you. Screw yourself up, and if you can, give me something to drink—I’m about done—I must screw myself up.”
And here we may leave this most fortunate and gifted man. Farewell to Geoffrey Bingham.
Thus, then, did these human atoms work out their destinies, these little grains of animated dust, blown hither and thither by a breath which came they knew not whence.
If there be any malicious Principle among the Powers around us that deigns to find amusement in the futile vagaries of man, well might it laugh, and laugh again, at the great results of all this scheming, of all these desires, loves and hates; and if there be any pitiful Principle, well might it sigh over the infinite pathos of human helplessness. Owen Davies lost in his own passion; Geoffrey crowned with prosperity and haunted by undying sorrow; Honoria perishing wretchedly in her hour of satisfied ambition; Beatrice sacrificing herself in love and blindness, and thereby casting out her joy.
Oh, if she had been content to humbly trust in the Providence above her; if she had but left that deed undared for one short week!
But Geoffrey still lived, and the child recovered, after hanging for a while between life and death, and was left to comfort him. May she survive to be a happy wife and mother, living under conditions more favourable to her well-being than those which trampled out the life of that mistaken woman, the ill-starred, great-souled Beatrice, and broke her father’s heart.