Sharing her crime

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SHARINGHERCRIME ANOVEL BY MAYAGNESFLEMING, AUTHOROF “GUYEARLSCOURT’SWIFE,”“ATERRIBLESECRET,”“SILENTAND TRUE,” “AWONDERFULWOMAN,”“LOSTFORAWOMAN,” “ONENIGHT’SMYSTERY,”“ABADMARRIAGE,” ETC ETC “Aperfectwoman,noblyplanned, Towarn,tocomfort,andcommand; Andyetaspiritstillandbright, Withsomethingofanangellight.” NEWYORK:G W Dillingham,Publisher, SUCCESSORTOG W CARLETON&CO.LONDON:S LOW,SON&CO MDCCCLXXXVIII SHARINGHERCRIME CHAPTERI THEPLOTTERS “‘Tisawomanhardoffeature, Old,andvoidofallgoodnature ‘Tisanugly,enviousshrew, Railingforeveratmeandyou.” —POPE ITwasChristmasEve Alldaylongcrowdsofgaylydressedpeoplehadwalked thestreets,baskinginthebrightwintrysunshine Sleighaftersleighwent dashingpast,withmerrilyjinglingbells,freightedwithrosycheeks,andbright eyes,andyouthfulfaces,allaglowwithhappiness ButthesunmustsetonChristmasEve,asonallotherdays;andredly, threateningly,angrily,hesankdowninthefarwest Dark,sullencloudscame rollingominouslyovertheheavens;thewindblewpiercinglycold,accompanied withathin,drizzlingrainthatfrozeereitfell Graduallythestreetsweredesertedasthestormincreasedinfury;buttheYule logswerepiledhigh,thecurtainsdrawn,andeveryhouse,saveone,inthe handsomestreettowhichmystoryleadsme,wasallaglow,allablazewithlight Inalullofthestormthesoundsofmusicandmerry-makingwouldriseand swellontheair,aslightfeettrippedmerrilyamidthemazesofthedance;ora silverypealoflaughterwouldbreakeasilyonthewayfarer’sear Thereflection ofthelightthroughthecrimsoncurtainsshedawarm,rosyglowoverthesnowy ground,brighteningthegloomofthatstormywinter’snight Butrisingdark,grim,andgloomyamidthosegaylylightedmansions,stooda large,quaintbuildingofdark-redsandstone Itstoodbyitself,spectral,shadowy, andgrand Norayoflightcamefromthegloomywindowsthatseemedtobe hermeticallysealed Allaroundwasstern,black,andforbidding Andyet—yes,fromonesolitarywindowtheredidstreamalong,thinlineof light Buteventhisdidnotlookbrightandcheerfulliketherest;ithada cold,yellowishglare,makingtheutterblacknessoftherestofthemansion blackerstillbycontrast Theroomfromwhichthelightissuedwashighandlofty Theuncarpetedfloor wasofblackpolishedoak,asalsowerethewainscotingandmantel Thewalls werecoveredwithlandscapepaper,representingthehideousDanceofDeath,in allitsvarietyoffrightfulforms Thehighwindowswerehungwithheavygreen damask,nowblackwithdirtandage Alargecirculartableofblackmarble stoodinoneshadowycorner,andadark,hardsofa,solongandblackthatit resembledacoffin,stoodintheother Asmolderingsea-coalfire,theonlycheerfulthinginthatgloomyroom, struggledforlifeinthewide,yawningchimney Nowitwoulddieaway, envelopingtheapartmentingloom,andanonflamefitfullyup,untiltheghostly shadowsonthewallwouldseemlikeatrainofghastlyspectersflittingbyinthe darkness Theelmtreesinfrontofthehousetrailedtheirlongarmsagainstthe windowwithasoundinexpressiblydreary;andthedrivinghailbeat clamorously,asifforadmittance Oneithersideofthefire-placestoodtwolargeeasy-chairs,cushionedwithdeep crimsonvelvet Inthese,facingeachother,sattwopersons—amananda woman—theonlyoccupantsoftheroom Thewomanwastall,straight,andstiff,andseeminglyaboutfiftyyearsofage Herdresswasarustlingblacksatin,withasmallcrapehandkerchieffastenedon herbosomwithamagnificentdiamondpin Herhands,stillsmallandwhite, wereflashingwithjewelsastheylayquietlyfoldedinherlap Awidow’scap restedonherhead,whichwasalternatelystreakedwithgrayandjet Butherface —sostern,sorigid,noonecouldlookuponitwithoutafeelingoffear Thelips —sothinthatsheseemedtohavenolipsatall—werecompressedwithalookof unswervingdetermination Herforeheadwaslowandretreating,withthickblack eyebrowsmeetingacrossthelong,sharpnose,withalookatoncehaughtyand sinister Andfromunderthosemidnightbrowsglitteredandgleamedapairof eyessosmall,sosharpandkeen—withsuchalookofcold,searching,steely brightness—thattheboldestgazemightwellquailbeforethem Onthatgrim, hardfacenotraceofwomanlyfeelingseemedevertohavelingered—allwas stern,harsh,andfreezinglycold Shesatrigidlyerectinherchair,withher needle-likeeyesrivetedimmovablyonthefaceofhercompanion,whoshifted withevidentuneasinessbeneathheruncompromisingstare Hewasamanofforty,orthereabouts,sosmallofstatutethat,standingsideby side,hecouldscarcelyhavereachedthewoman’sshoulder But,notwithstanding hisdiminutivesize,hislimbsweredisproportionatelylargeforhisbody,giving himtheappearanceofbeingalllegsandarms Hislittle,roundbullet-headwas setonaprodigiouslythick,bull-likeneck;andhishair,short,andbristlingup overhishead,gavehimverymuchthelookofthesun,aspicturedinthe almanacs Thisprepossessinggentlemanwasarrayedinanimmaculatesuitofblack,witha spotlesswhitedickey,bristlingwithstarchanddignity,andamostexcruciating cravat Halfadozenringsgarnishedhisclaw-likehands,andaprodigious quantityofwatch-chaindangledfromhisvest Theworthytwainwereengaged indeepandearnestconversation “Well,doctor,”saidthelady,inacold,measuredtone,thatwasevidently habitual,“nodoubtyouarewonderingwhyIsentforyouinsuchhastetonight.” “Ineverwonder,madam,”saidthedoctor,inapompoustone—which, consideringhissize,wasquiteimposing “Nodoubtyouhavesomeexcellent reasonforsendingforme,which,ifnecessaryformetoknow,youwillexplain.” “Youareright,doctor,”saidthelady,withagrimsortofsmile “Ihavean excellentreasonforsendingforyou Youarefondofmoney,Iknow.” “Why,madam,althoughitistherootofallevil—” “Tush,man!ThereisnoneedforSatantoquoteScripturejustnow,”she interruptedwithasneer “Say,doctor,whatwouldyoudotoearnfivehundred dollarstonight?” “Fivehundreddollars?”saidthedoctor,hissmalleyessparkling,whileagleam ofsatisfactionlighteduphiswitheredface “Yes,”saidthelady,“andifwelldone,Imaydoublethesum Whatwouldyou doforsuchaprice?” “RatheraskmewhatIwouldnotdo.” “Well,thejobisaneasyone ‘Tisbutto—” Shepaused,andfixedhereyesonhisfacewithsuchawildsortofgleamthat, involuntarily,hequailedbeforeher “Praygoon,madam I’mallattention,”hesaid,almostfearingtobreakthe dismalsilence “‘Tisbutto—_what?“_ “Makeawaywith—awomanandchild!” “Murderthem?”saidthedoctor,involuntarilyrecoiling “Donotusethatword!”shesaid,sharply “Coward!doyoureallyblanchand drawback!Methoughtoneofyourprofessionwouldnothesitatetosenda patienttoheaven.” “But,madam,”saidthestartleddoctor,“youknowthepenaltywhichthelaw awardsformurder.” “Oh,Iperceive,”saidthewoman,scornfully,“itisnotthecrimeyouare thinkingof,butyourownpreciousneck Fearnot,mygoodfriend;thereisno dangerofitseverbeingdiscovered.” “But,mydearmadam,”saidthedoctor,glancinguneasilyatthestern,bitterface beforehim,“Ihavenotthenerve,thestrength,northe—” “Courage!”shebrokein,passionately “Oh,craven—weak,chicken-hearted, miserablecraven!Go,then—leaveme,andIwilldoitmyself Youdarenot betrayme—youcouldnotwithoutbringingyournecktothehalter—soIfear younot Oh,coward!coward!whydidnotheavenmakemeaman?” Inherfierceoutburstofpassionshearosetoherfeet,andhertallfigureloomed uplikesomeunnaturallylarge,darkshadow Themanquailedinfearbeforeher “Go!”shesaid,fiercely,pointingtothedoor,“Youhaverefusedtosharemy crime Go!poorcowardlypoltroon!butremember,MadgeOranmorenever forgivesnorforgets!” “But,mydearMrs Oranmore,justlistentomeonemoment,”saidthedoctor, alarmedbythisthreat “Ihavenotrefused,Ionlyobjected Ifyouwillhavethe goodnesstoexplain—totellmewhatImustdo,Iwill—seeaboutit.” “Seeaboutit!”hastilyinterruptedthelady “Youcandoit—itisinyourpower; andyes,orno,mustbeyouranswer,immediately.” “But—” “Nobuts,sir Iwillnothavethem Ifyouansweryes,onethousanddollarsand myfuturepatronageshallbeyours Ifyousayno,yonderisthedoor;andonce youhavecrossedthethreshold,beware!Now,DoctorWiseman,Iawaityour reply.” Sheseatedherselfagaininherchair;and,foldingherhandsinherlap,fixedher hawk-likeeyesonhisface,withherkeen,searchinggaze Hiseyeswerebentin troubledthoughtonthefloor Notthatthecrimeappalledhim;butifdetected —thatwastherub DoctorWisemanwas,ashisnameimplies,amanofsense, withanexceedinglyaccommodatingconscience,thatwouldstretchadlibitum, andnevertroubledhimwithanysuchnonsenseasremorse Butifitwere discovered!Withratherunpleasantvividness,thevisionofahangmanandhalter arosebeforehim,andheinvoluntarilyloosenedhiscravat Still,onethousand dollarsweretempting DoctorNicholasWisemanhadneverbeensoperplexedin hislife “Well,doctor,well,”impatientlybrokeinthelady,“haveyoudecided—_yes_or no?” “Yes,”saidthedoctor,driventodesperationbyhersneeringtone “‘Tiswell,”shereplied,withamockingsmile,“Iknewyouweretoosensiblea mantorefuse Afterall,‘tisbutamoment’swork,andallisover.” “Willyoubegoodenoughtogivemetheexplanationnow,madam?”saidthe doctor,almostshudderingatthecold,unfeelingtoneinwhichshespoke “Certainly Youareaware,doctor,thatwhenImarriedmylatehusband,Mr
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