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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesDr. Dumany's Wife - Part 2 - Chapter 10. After The Wedding
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Dr. Dumany's Wife - Part 2 - Chapter 10. After The Wedding Post by :mobiaus Category :Long Stories Author :Maurus Jokai Date :May 2012 Read :1276

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Dr. Dumany's Wife - Part 2 - Chapter 10. After The Wedding

PART II CHAPTER X. AFTER THE WEDDING

So overwhelming was my happiness that I sometimes fancied that it was all a dream, and that I should wake to find myself in my former condition. In one short week I had had my old mansion refurnished in a style worthy of the high-born and gently-reared bride who was to inhabit it; and I thought what joy it would give me if she should walk through the halls and chambers of her new home, and find everything arranged to suit her own delicate and refined taste, and answering all her requirements as to beauty and comfort.

And then I had dreamt of the first supper we should eat at home at our own table; each dish an inviting delicacy, deliciously prepared; and yet we should hardly taste of it, our palates thirsting for different feasts.

And now this dream had become a reality, and I looked at my beloved, and tried to catch a glance of her beautiful, downcast eyes. I had as yet never enjoyed the privilege of a kiss from her lips, and I was longing for one; but when I tried to draw her close to me, she whispered, "Don't, we shall be observed by the servants!"

At last the meal was over, and we rose from the table.

"Pray lead me to your work-room. I have yet to hand you over my dowry."

I laughed. "Time enough for that a week or more hence. No? Well, any day you please; but not now." Still she persisted.

"It has to be done this evening. I can't keep it any longer. You did not accept of it from Diodora, so you must take it from me. It is no longer my own--it is yours."

"Dearest, there is no such distinction existing! Since this blessed morning neither of us can claim possession of anything that is not common to both alike. What is mine is all yours, and what is yours I claim all for myself! For the marriage tie has made us one for ever!"

"But pray come," she said again; "I have the chest with the securities here with me, and I should like to have it all over."

I sighed and obeyed. At the door of my study she left me for a moment, returning instantly with a rosewood chest, richly ornamented with silver. On one of her bracelets a tiny filigree key was dangling; with this key she opened the chest, and then, stepping back, she said--

"Convince yourself. The contents must amount to exactly one million of florins."

"I am quite convinced," I said, "and accept it as correct."

"That you shall not. Let us take out everything, and reckon up the amount." With that she took the papers out herself, and I had to sit down, take slate and pencil, while she dictated to me the value of each bond, its title, and, looking into every one, she satisfied herself that the coupons were attached to it.

In the abstract it may seem rather a pleasant occupation for a married couple to reckon up a million of money as their joint property; but, in this concrete instance, to spend the wedding-night in a study, making pecuniary computation, is the pinnacle of pedantry.

At last it was done; and, as I computed it, I made the total to be one million and twenty-five thousand florins.

"How is that possible?" she asked.

I had to explain to her the fluctations of the market price in relation to the nominal value, which was the basis of our computation.

"Then let us look for the market-price of the bonds as it is at present. I know it is to be found in every newspaper," and with that she took one up from the table, looked for the exchange report, and dictated again, "Hungarian real estate bonds, 85; Lower-Austrian, 88; Transylvanian, 82, etc."

This time we have thirty thousand florins less than the million.

"How is that possible?" she asked again.

"Dearest," said I, "let that be! What does it matter if--"

"But it does matter. My grandfather left me exactly one million; neither more nor less. So I must find out this balance of thirty thousand, also."

"Maybe, at the time when he bequeathed this money to you the price of these securities was higher than at present," I suggested.

"That is possible. But then there ought to be some list, or something else relating to it. Let me look it over again."

Great heavens! she took everything out again, and searched for a last year's exchange list. A crumbled yellow newspaper clipping was found, and then the whole process had to be repeated again; and now thank God, the million came out even! I drew a great sigh of relief; but I had triumphed too soon. She asked for pen and ink, and, as I got up from the seat before the writing-desk, she sat down and wrote on each of the bonds, deeds, obligations, mortgages, etc., her own name--"Flamma Maria Dumany of Dumanyfalva, _nee Countess Vernoeczy of Vranicsa," in a clear, almost masculine hand.

"What is the use of this, dearest?" I asked.

"You know," she replied, "all these papers, as yet, bear the name of my grandfather, and we could not realise upon them as they are. I must first write my own name upon each."

"But we do not want to realise on them."

"That you don't know--at present."

"But there would be time for this on some future day."

"No. Pray compose yourself. I have to finish this now."

And she did finish it. On two hundred different securities she wrote, in bold, large letters, her full name, and I stood there and looked on in helpless despair.

At last there was an end of it. She put the papers in the chest again, handed me the key, and begged me to lock everything up in the safe. I obeyed, in the ardent hope that at last I had done with papers and accounts.

"There is something else I have to hand over to you," said Flamma, as I stepped nearer; and, drawing from the pocket of her dress an envelope, she handed me an official-looking document, fastened with tri-coloured tape, with a large official seal upon it. It was a power of attorney from Flamma Maria, Countess Vernoeczy of Vranicsa, to her husband Dr. Cornelius Dumany of Dumanyfalva, giving him full authority over her dowry, consisting of real estate, bonds, etc., to the amount of one million of florins, and authorising him to sell or retain or use the aforesaid securities according to his own need or pleasure, and without previous consultation with any person, his wife included.

"Dearest," I said, "this is very generous of you; but there is no need of any such document to give me proof of your confidence."

"I did not intend it as such a proof."

"Then what was your intention?"

"To give you no cause to accuse me of meanness. You shall not say that I left you on your wedding-day without a shilling in your pocket, as your friend was left on the Isle of Wight."

I gazed at her, at the pale face that was even paler than usual, and cold and inanimate as a block of ice.

"Flamma!" I cried, "what does it mean? How am I to take this?"

"As a confession. That other man has made me--his--wife."

"Flamma!"

She stood there, pale, cold, statue-like, and her voice sounded like that of an automaton. I felt like one stupefied, like one who had meant to enter the gates of paradise and found himself in a sea of fire and brimstone.

"Who is the man?" I stammered.

"Siegfried."

"And why did he not marry you, if--"

"Because he is married already. His wife lives in Egypt, and he cannot get a legal divorce from her."

"And why have you married me? For we are married. The ceremony of this afternoon was real, not a comedy like that other?"

"No; we are married. When that--misfortune--happened to me Siegfried promised to marry me to some distinguished gentleman who might give me a good name and an acceptable position, so that the marriage should need no explanation."

"When was that?"

"Three months ago."

"At the time I arrived from Vienna?"

"Yes."

"Was that the reason for his instantaneous proffer of friendship?"

"Yes."

"And for that reason I was nominated for Parliament?"

"Yes, but that also was the cause of your first failure. It was Siegfried who bribed the witnesses against you. He wanted to crush your pride, draw you closer to him, bring you into close connection with and dependence upon our homes and us."

"So it was all a conspiracy?"

"Yes."

"And Cenni's mock-marriage and your betrayal of the scheme?"

"Were meant to win your confidence."

"So Cenni co-operated with you?"

"She had to. At first she opposed it, and meant to win you for herself. She is a poor girl, and dependent on Diodora's charity; and she had to give way."

"And Diodora?"

"It was she who designed the whole plot. Her sickness that night was simulated in order to bring you near me, and to encourage you to the proposal."

This whole discourse, so closely resembling a cross-examination, had altogether the appearance of such an interrogatory as a magnetiser would address to his subject; and the answers I received were given with the plain, involuntary precision characteristic of hypnotised persons. She stood there before me, with her hands clasped in each other; that seraph-face of hers, that seemed the type of innocence and purity, without a tinge of colour, although her dreadful confession was enough to paint the cheeks of the most degraded woman with the colour of shame. She seemed to have no bashfulness, no sense of shame, and to be wholly incapable of realising her offence. And I had not believed in a Devil! Here he was before me, in the shape of this fair woman, who had tempted me with her angel's mien to sell my soul for her, and now she was dragging me down with her to eternal damnation! And the other one had warned me! She had told me with that "biting kiss" of hers that this seeming angel was no angel, but a Devil to kill me body and soul. She had told me that this fair rose was full of foul poison, and her warning had filled me with vain conceit and enhanced my love for my executioner. I saw it now. Cenni had meant to make that elopement real; and if I had taken her she would have given me her love, as this one had given me her accursed million. Money to pay for my honest name, money for my lost life and happiness, money to bribe me to the endurance of these hellish tortures!

Impossible! I cannot believe that human nature can be so vile, so miserably cunning and treacherous. This is some evil dream, some test, perhaps, of the sincerity of my love and trust in her.

"Flamma!" I said--"dearest! do not continue this ugly jest. I cannot hear foul words come out of your pure mouth;" and I tried to take her hand. But she drew back.

"I have told you the truth," she said, with a repellent gesture.

The truth! The truth! This shameful, horrid confession was the truth? Like an idiot or a lunatic I stared, gazing before me, with scarcely a thought in my stunned, aching head. A Calabrian dagger lay before me on the table. I had taken it from the museum, and used it for paper-cutting. Upon the steel blade was graven, in golden letters, "_Buona notte_;" and "_Buona notte! buona notte_," I kept incoherently murmuring.

"Have you no other question to address to me?" she asked, in a tremulus voice.

I shook my head, and pointed to the door, and, like a wooden puppet, she turned and disappeared through it. At the moment when her back was turned something like a flame flashed through my brain and body. For an instant I felt a mad impulse to rush after her, and with one bound bury this two-edged knife in her heart. Yes, in her heart; but from behind, just as they had stabbed me unawares, like assassins. My better self kept me back. My Uncle Diogenes rose before me. "Never quarrel with, never hurt a woman!" and my professional instinct was awakened. I should then have destroyed two lives; with the guilty I should have slain the innocent--a life which was in God's keeping as yet. Now the door closed behind her, and I had let the only opportunity for a deadly revenge upon the woman who had tricked me pass by neglected. Had I killed her at that moment I should have washed off the stain she had brought on my name in her own blood. "Look," I might have said, "she was led astray by another man, and I have killed her; it was my right and my duty!" This I could no longer do. She had escaped, and would live on safe and unharmed, and I should be dead and buried alive. I remembered now how confused they looked, Cenni and she, when I related to them the story of my friend, and how I had prided myself on my own prudence and good sense! And the trap was already laid for me, and I, who had thought myself safe from every such danger, here was I, on my wedding night, left alone, insulted, degraded as he was. No, not quite. He had had no money, and I had received a million. I had been paid for my disgrace, bribed for my infamy with money!

Great Jehovah, Whose vengeance is mighty, lend me Thine ear! No! Thou art too just and upright, I'll have nothing from Thee! Turn from me! I will none of Thy advice, none of Thy heavenly patience and magnanimous mercy! That marble-hearted woman had said to me, "If you deny God, He will forgive you, for He is infinitely good and merciful; but if you deny the Devil, he will be revenged on you!" and I had seen the devilish light in their eyes. I had shuddered and shunned them, and yet I had plunged headlong into the abyss which they had opened at my feet.

But now they had conjured up the Devil before me, I felt that in my own breast they had awakened a demon quite as cunning and wicked as their hoofed and horned idol; and we would see whose teachings would prove more destructive! Only, cool blood! Let me not betray myself; let me consider how to act, and then keep my own counsel. Shall I go to Volhynia after that man? Hold him to account, invite him to face the muzzle of my pistol or the edge of my sword? He is a ruffian and a notorious duellist. I am a bad shot and an indifferent fencer. He is perfect in both; it is his profession. Naturally, he would kill me, and where would be my revenge? Should I kill myself? Die the death of a suicide, and be spoken of as a lunatic who had crazy fancies because his fortune had turned his head? And what would be the result? Flamma would perhaps faint away for a few seconds, have bad dreams for a week, wear mourning for six months, and--would be none the worse for being a widow, whereas I should be laughed at as a silly fool. Shall I sue for a legal divorce? "_Si fuerit dolus_?" Had I not had enough of notoriety? Enough of laughter, calumny, and ridicule? Must I drag my honest and hitherto respected name through the mire, and become the laughing-stock of every fop throughout the country? No, anything but that! Help me, thou worser self, thou Devil in my own breast, help me to find some revenge worthy of a Devil's teaching! Give me death, for it is death I crave; but such a death as will give me peace and rest and honour in my grave, and to those others remaining here on earth, shame, sorrow, and remorse! I am a dead man from this accursed night forward, but I can, at least, choose the manner of my corporal death, and woe to her who has driven me to the choice!

When the morning dawned my scheme was complete, and it was a scheme that did honour to my special demon. I would die, but fame and glory should write my epitaph; and dead, I should be remembered by this woman with lifelong sorrow. She shall never be happy; and in remembering me, her soul shall be filled with bitter repentance for the misfortune she brought on me. She shall yearn for me, shed bitter tears for me, and fret away her life in despair. This should be my revenge.

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