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Utu: A Story of Love, Hate and Revenge


Silently staring at the signature, Eleanor sat for some terrible moments as if stunned by this new source of misery. Then letting fall the letter, she buried her face in her hands and tried to realise all its import, while grimly smiling, her husband watched her. At length she raised her head, demanding—

‘The letters! The enclosure! Where are they?’

Ma foi!’ he answered, chuckling. ‘Afraid, ma belle, that they might distress you, I took the liberty of destroying them.’

‘Liar! You feared they might be used against you. I see it all—the whole vile plot. You wrote them, perjured villain, fiend incarnate!’

‘Fie, Madame! Such language is not pretty on lips so fair.’

‘Oh, my God, give me patience! If you can speak truth, Monsieur, tell me what this letter means.’

Perdien! It appears moderately explicit. In love as in war, Madame, all tactics are fair, and as Miss Radcliffe was not to be won by ordinary methods, her fortunate present possessor had to use extraordinary.’

‘Which means, that fair methods failing, you used foul?’

He shrugged his shoulders, grimacing.

‘And are you not ashamed? Can you unblushingly own to this perfidy?’

Ma foi! I am rather proud of my achievement, Madame.’

‘Monster! Have you no moral sense?’

‘None whatever, Madame,’ and again he grimaced, but looked withal so dangerous that his wife involuntarily shuddered.

‘What?’ she cried, in despairing accents, ‘What was your motive?’

‘Love!, ma belle—and—also—revenge.’

‘Love!’ she repeated, scornfully. ‘You know not what it means. And revenge—upon whom?’

‘Upon several people. But you mistake, Madame. I have had some experience in love, and should know its meaning and worth. It is, however, poor stuff at the best, and lacks the flavour one never misses in revenge. It palls with possession, but revenge—ma foi! it sometimes lingers in the mouth forever,’ and the Comte smacked his lips as if tasting it. ‘You, ma chère,’ he continued, ‘proved too unresponsive to keep up the fire of my passion; no doubt your heart was still with le page 49 capitaine; I am proud of my conquest, nevertheless—and shall keep you for my vengeance.’

‘Perjured wretch! I shall not stay. This very day shall I take steps to have the bond annulled.’

He chuckled. ‘Reflect, Madame. A bond must exist before it can be annulled. Here you have no status, for our English marriage would not count, since my parents' consent was withheld.’

‘Your parents?’ she cried wildly. ‘You said they were dead.’

‘Ha! ha! The credulity of English maids, and the carelessness of English guardians is proverbial. They never suspect a titled personage, ma foi! But be reasonable, ma chèr, In England we are man and wife.’

‘Then take me back? I demand it. Nay—’ she went on with a change of manner, as the full degradation of her position forced itself upon her. ‘I implore you, it you ever loved me, take me back to England.’

He smiled. ‘You would be nearer Monsieur le Capitaine. Is it not so? Well, Madame, I am desolated to deny you, but truly I have not the wherewithal.’

‘Not the wherewithal? What mean you?’

Pardieu! What I say, Madame. I have been unfortunate lately, and at this moment am penniless.’

‘But you have possessions. You can raise money?’

Diable! Think you I should plead poverty if I had a stone or stock unpledged?’

Eleanor paled.

‘Where then is the money I brought you?’

‘Bah! A bagatelle! I have staked more on the cast of die.’

‘You had forty thousand pounds. Surely it is not all gone?’

‘Every son, I had to raise on stocks, and lost on the transaction.’

Some silent minutes passed, then, with outward calmness, Eleanor asked:

‘Is there no way then to leave this odious place?’

‘There is but one, Madame. You have settlements.’

‘Settlements? Yes, you wish to lay hands on them?’

‘If it should be convenient, Madame, to transfer them, I see a way out of our present difficulties.’

‘Ah! You are considerate, Monsieur. What are my settlements?’

‘You have, I believe, the Hall Radcliffe, the town house, and twenty thousand in stocks.’

‘Radcliffe Hall is entailed. If I transfer the rest, will you swear to send me back to England at once?’

Pardieu! In that case, Madame, I will myself escort you.’

‘If I give you this money I go to England alone. It shall be the price of our separation.’

page 50

‘So, Madame? Then you must permit me to decline it. I have business in England, and we return together, or not at all. You are necessary to my comfort, ma belle, and, moreover,’ he added, breathing hard, ‘you shall swear to me upon the evangel to keep all these matters inviolably secret. If you disclose an iota to any human being, par Dieu! I shall murder you,’ and seizing her two shoulders in an iron grasp, he glared into her eyes until she trembled.