PALLIDA MORS

“He comes unsought
To young and old,
Can ne’er be bought
By tears or gold,
He buries us all in the churchyard’s mould.

“Oh, man, why weep?
His gifts are blest,
He brings us sleep,
He gives us rest.
And the world’s care ceases upon his breast.

“Receive, if wise,
Affliction’s rod,
The body lies
Beneath the sod,
But the soul we love is at home with God.”

It was now nearly the end of the season, and Society was preparing to
amuse itself in another fashion. Brighton, and Trouville, and Dieppe,
and Scarborough were thronged with languid men and women, slowly
regaining from the fresh salt breeze of the sea the strength they had
wasted during the feverish existence of the season. After her
brilliant entertainment, Mrs. Veilsturm had taken a villa at San Remo
for a month or so, prior to departing for the States, and managed to
amuse herself very comfortably by the blue Mediterranean, with an
occasional run over to Monte Carlo and Nice.

The Major was in Paris, looking after some business connected with the
inevitable West Indian estate, though what Paris had to do with the
West Indies nobody could find out. However, his business being duly
finished, he went South, at the kind invitation of Mrs. Veilsturm, and
found Anthony at the feet of Cleopatra, in other words, Sir Guy
Errington in attendance.

Yes! Guy, in spite of the calls of honour and respectability, had
followed his charmer to the Continent, and being released from the
microscopic vision of Mrs. Grundy, Cleopatra had been very kind to
him, fully recouping him for the cavalier fashion in which she had
treated him in Town. He had never written to his wife since leaving
her, except a curt note telling her he was leaving England for an
indefinite period, and to this he had received no answer. Angered at
her silence, he abandoned any scruples he might have had and went off
to dishonour and Mrs. Veilsturm, who was delighted at the easy victory
she had secured over her hated rival. She flattered and caressed
Errington with all the infinite charm of which she was mistress, was
kind and cruel by turns, but never permitted him to go beyond a
certain limit, which cautious conduct perplexed him exceedingly. He
had thrown up everything for her, and expected a like sacrifice in
return, but Mrs. Veilsturm was not by any means prepared to give up
her hardly-won position even for revenge. All she wanted was to
destroy the married life of Lady Errington, and she was quite willing
to accomplish this by keeping Guy near her under the shadow of
suspicion, without giving that suspicion any real grounds. Therefore,
she kept him in a fool’s paradise of meaningless caresses, which meant
nothing, and had he been a wise man he would have seen that he had
given up the substance for the shadow.

He was not a wise man, however, and dangled after Mrs. Veilsturm in a
manner that would have won his own contempt had he thought. But he
never thought, or if he did, it was more of the wife he had left
behind than this capricious woman, whose slave he was supposed to be.
He did not love her, but was content to surrender himself to the spell
of her evil beauty, and acted as he did more from a sense of revolt
against his wife’s scorn, than any innate desire to do wrong. It was
an unsatisfactory position, and he felt it to be so, but Mrs.
Veilsturm was too clever to let him go until her revenge was quite
complete, and every day wound her chains closer round him.

Major Griff was not pleased to find Errington in this position, as he
thought it would compromise Cleopatra’s reputation too much, but when
he saw the way in which she was conducting the campaign he was
perfectly satisfied, and smiled grimly at the dexterous manner in
which she was revenging herself for the insult she had received.

Dolly Thambits, in company with the faithful Jiddy, was staying at
Monte Carlo, and losing his money with wonderful skill at the tables.
This, however, seemed a waste of God’s best gifts to the Major, and,
aided by the seductions of Cleopatra, he inveigled Dolly to San Remo
and kept him under his own eye. He won a lot of money from him, which
came in useful, and occasionally went out with him to Monaco, so as to
make such pigeon-plucking look less glaring.

Dolly was anxious to marry Mrs. Veilsturm, who simply laughed at his
frequent proposals, as she was by no means tired of being a free
lance, but she decided in her own mind, that when she was she would
marry Mr. Thambits and give the cold shoulder to Major Griff. At
present, however, she coquetted with Guy so as to retain him in her
toils, and made poor Dolly deadly jealous of the good-looking baronet,
which was useful in keeping him by her side out of contrariness. She
was a clever woman, Maraquita Veilsturm, and kept everyone well in
hand, so that not even the astute Major suspected her designs.

While Guy was thus abandoning himself to the spell of Circe, Eustace
had gone down to Castle Grim, and was seeing a good deal of the
deserted wife. He did not make much progress, however, in his wooing,
as Alizon was not a woman to wear her heart on her sleeve, and never
spoke of her husband in any way. She simply said that her husband was
abroad, made no reference to the reason of their separation, and for
the rest, passed her days with her child, and treated Eustace in a
kindly fashion when he came over on a visit.

Astute man of the world as he was, Gartney was quite at a loss how to
proceed, and might have retired from the unequal contest in despair,
much as he loved her, had not an event happened which gave him the
opening he desired.

Aunt Jelly died.

She had been ailing for a long time, poor soul, and was glad when the
time came to leave this world, in which she had found such small
pleasure. Her imperious spirit held out to the last, but she was
strangely gentle at times, especially to Minnie Pelch, whom she knew
would be left quite alone in the world when she died. Otterburn’s
engagement to Victoria gave her the greatest delight, and she insisted
that they should get married at once, so that she could leave the
world satisfied that the child of her old lover was under the safe
protection of a husband.

Otterburn was quite willing that the marriage should take place
without delay, and wrote a letter to Lord Dunkeld announcing his
determination. By the advice of Johnnie (who was greatly pleased with
his new mistress, pronouncing her a “canty lass,” which was
complimentary if not intelligible), he wrote a crafty letter to
Mactab, enlisting his good offices to gain the consent of the old
lord. Mactab thought a good deal over the letter, but when he
discovered that the proposed bride was handsome, good, and had a large
income, he came to the conclusion that “the laddie micht hae din
waur,” and went to interview Lord Dunkeld.

The fiery old gentleman was in a great rage, averring that neither
money nor good looks could make up for want of birth, but the
discovery that Victoria’s mother was a Macjean, and therefore
connected with the family, calmed his anger and after some hesitation
he consented to the match. Not only that, but he came up to London to
the marriage and brought the redoubtable Mactab to tie the nuptial
knot, so everything was really very pleasant.

They were married in a quiet fashion at Aunt jelly’s house, and Lord
Dunkeld was very much pleased with his new daughter, both as regards
fortune and looks. The young couple went off to Ventnor for their
honeymoon, and after a fortnight in Town, round which they were shewn
by Eustace, Lord Dunkeld and his spiritual adviser returned to the
North, satisfied that the future head of the clan had obtained a “guid
doonsettin’.”

Before the end of the honeymoon, however, Mrs. Macjean was summoned
home to the bedside of Aunt Jelly, but alas, before she arrived, Aunt
Jelly had already passed away attended to the last by Minnie Pelch.
Both Otterburn and his young wife were sorry for the death of the
stern old woman, who had been so kind to them both; and their sorrow
was shared by Eustace, who came up from Castle Grim for the funeral.
Guy was telegraphed to, but as his relations with his aunt had not
been of the best during the latter part of his life, and he blamed her
for making trouble between himself and his wife, he refused to come
over.

“Aunt jelly hated me,” he wrote to Eustace, “and although I would
liked to have made it up with her before she died, yet I cannot forget
the letter she wrote to my wife, which has been the cause of all my
trouble. She will no doubt leave you all her money, as I know she had
every intention of altering the will she made in my favour, and I am
sorry for my son’s sake, if not for my own.”

There was much more in the letter which Eustace pondered over, as he
understood perfectly that Guy was not happy, but as he did not see how
he could alter things, he left them alone.

On the will being read, it turned out exactly as Guy had anticipated,
for Aunt Jelly left all her real and personal estate to Eustace, with
the exception of two hundred a year to Minnie Pelch, and some legacies
to her servants, Victoria and Doctor Pargowker. To Guy she did not
leave a single thing, his name not even being mentioned in the will.

Eustace wrote to his cousin and offered him half the fortune, but Guy
refused, so Gartney found himself an enormously rich man, and more
miserable than ever.

He sincerely loved Alizon Errington, but did not know how to make his
love known to her, and as he could not see how to remedy the terrible
misunderstanding between husband and wife, he was forced to take up a
neutral position.

Mr. and Mrs. Macjean, after the funeral, took their departure to
Dunkeld Castle, on a visit to the old lord, and after installing
Minnie Pelch as mistress of the house in Delphson Square, Eustace went
down to Castle Grim, in order to tell Lady Errington about the will.

It was a terribly bitter situation altogether. Husband parted from
wife by a miserable misunderstanding, and this man, wealthy and
clever, wavering between honour and dishonour, between respect for Guy
and love for Alizon.