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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Millionaire Baby - Chapter 26. "He Will Never Forgive"
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The Millionaire Baby - Chapter 26. 'He Will Never Forgive' Post by :joker Category :Long Stories Author :Anna Katharine Green Date :May 2012 Read :708

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The Millionaire Baby - Chapter 26. "He Will Never Forgive"

CHAPTER XXVI. "HE WILL NEVER FORGIVE"

I was walking away when a man touched me. Some one had seen me come from the doctor's office a few minutes before. Of course this meant detention till the coroner should arrive. I quarreled with the circumstances but felt forced to submit. Happily Jupp now came to the front and I was able to send him to New York to keep that watch over Mrs. Carew, without which I could not have rested quiet an hour. One great element of danger was removed most remarkably, if not providentially, from the path I had marked out for myself; but there still remained that of this woman's possible impulses under her great determination to keep Gwendolen in her own care. But with Jupp to watch the dock, and a man in plain clothes at the door of the small hotel she was at present bound for, I thought I might remain in Yonkers contentedly the whole day.

It was not, however, till late the next afternoon that I found myself again in Homewood. I had heard from Jupp. The steamer had sailed, but without two passengers who had been booked for the voyage. Mrs. Carew and the child were still at the address she had given me. All looked well in that direction; but what was the aspect of affairs in Homewood? I trembled in some anticipation of what these many hours of bitter thought might have effected in Mrs. Ocumpaugh. Evidently nothing to lessen the gloom into which the whole household had now fallen. Miss Porter, who came in haste to greet me, wore the careworn look of a long and unrelieved vigil. I was not astonished when she told me that she had not slept a wink.

"How could I," she asked, "when Mrs. Ocumpaugh did not close her eyes? She did not even lie down, but sat all night in an arm-chair which she had wheeled into Gwendolen's room, staring like one who sees nothing out into the night through the window which overlooks the river. This morning we can not make her speak. Her eyes are dry with fever; only now and then she utters a little moan. The doctor says she will not live to see her husband, unless something comes to rouse her. But the papers give no news, and all the attempts of the police end in nothing. You saw what a dismal failure their last attempt was. The child on which they counted proved to be both red-haired and pock-marked. Gwendolen appears to be lost, lost."

In spite of the despair thus expressed my way seemed to open a little.

"I think I can break Mrs. Ocumpaugh's dangerous apathy if you will let me see her again. Will you let me try?"

"The nurse--we have a nurse now--will not consent, I fear."

"Then telephone to the doctor. Tell him I am the only man who can do anything for Mrs. Ocumpaugh. This will not be an exaggeration."

"Wait! I will get his order. I do not know why I have so much confidence in you."

In another fifteen minutes she came to lead me to Mrs. Ocumpaugh.

I entered without knocking; they told me to. She was seated, as they said, in a large chair, but with no ease to herself; for she was not even leaning against its back, but sat with body strained forward and eyes fixed on the ripple of the great river where, from what she had intimated to me in our last interview, she probably saw her grave. There was a miniature in her hand, but I saw at first glance that it was not the face of Gwendolen over which her fingers closed so spasmodically. It was her husband's portrait which she held, and it was his face, aroused and full of denunciation, which she evidently saw in her fancy as I drew nearer her in my efforts to attract her attention; for a shiver suddenly contracted her lovely features and she threw her arms out as if to ward from herself something which she had no power to meet. In doing this her head turned slightly and she saw me.

Instantly the spell under which she sat frozen yielded to a recognition of something besides her own terrible brooding. She let her arms drop, and the lips which had not spoken that morning moved slightly. I waited respectfully. I saw that in another moment she would speak.

"You have come," she panted out at last, "to hear my decision. It is too soon. The steamer has twenty-four hours yet before it can make port. I have not finished weighing my life against the good opinion of him I live for." Then faintly--"Mrs. Carew has gone."

"To New York," I finished.

"No farther than that?" she asked anxiously. "She has not sailed?"

"I did not see how it was compatible with my duty to let her."

Mrs. Ocumpaugh's whole form collapsed; the dangerous apathy was creeping over her again. "You are deciding for me,"--she spoke very faintly--"you and Doctor Pool."

Should I tell her that Doctor Pool was dead? No, not yet. I wanted her to choose the noble course for Mr. Ocumpaugh's sake--yes, and for her own.

"No," I ventured to rejoin. "You are the only one who can settle your own fate. The word must come from you. I am only trying to make it possible for you to meet your husband without any additional wrong to blunt his possible forgiveness."

"Oh, he will never forgive--and I have lost all."

And the set look returned in its full force.

I made my final attempt.

"Mrs. Ocumpaugh, we may never have another moment together in confidence. There is one thing I have never told you, something which I think you ought to know, as it may affect your whole future course. It concerns Gwendolen's real mother. You say you do not know her."

"No, no; do not bring up that. I do not want to know her. My darling is happy with Mrs. Carew--too happy. O God! Give me no opportunity for disturbing that contentment. Don't you see that I am consumed with jealousy? That I might--"

She was roused enough now, cheek and lip and brow were red; even her eyes looked blood-shot. Alarmed, I put out my hand in a soothing gesture, and when her voice stopped and her words trailed off into an inarticulate murmur I made haste to say:

"Listen to my little story. It will not add to your pain, rather alleviate it. When I hid behind the curtain on that day we all regret, I did not slip from my post at your departure. I knew that another patient awaited the doctor's convenience in my own small room, where he had hastily seated her when your carriage drove up. I also knew that this patient had overheard what you said as well as I, for impervious as the door looked I had often heard the doctor's mutterings when he thought I was safe beyond ear-shot, if not asleep. And I wanted to see how she would act when she rejoined the doctor; for I had heard a little of what she had said before, and was quite aware that she could help you out of your difficulty if she wished. She was a married woman, or rather had been, but she had no use for a child, being very poor and anxious to earn her own living. Would she embrace this opportunity to part with it when it came? You may imagine my interest, boy though I was."

"And did she? Was she--"

"Yes. She was ready to make her compact with the doctor just as you had done. Before she left everything was arranged for. It was her child you took--reared--loved--and have now lost."

At another time she might have resented these words, especially the last; but I had roused her curiosity, her panting eager curiosity, and she let them pass altogether unchallenged.

"Did you see this woman? Was she of common blood, common manners? It does not seem possible--Gwendolen is by nature so dainty in all her ways."

"The woman was a lady. I did not see her face, it was heavily veiled, but I heard her voice; it was a lady's voice and--"

"What?"

"She wore beautiful jewels."

"Jewels? You said she was poor."

"So she declared herself, but she had on her neck under her coat a string of beads which were both valuable and of exquisite workmanship. I know, because it broke just as she was leaving, and the beads fell all over the floor, and one rolled my way and I picked it up, scamp that I was, when both their backs were turned in their search for the others."

"A bead--a costly bead--and you were not found out?"

"No, Mrs. Ocumpaugh, she never seemed to miss it. She was too excited over what she had just done to count correctly. She thought she had them all. But this has been in my pocket for six years. Perhaps you have seen its like; I never have, in jeweler's shop or elsewhere, till yesterday."

"Yesterday?" Her great eyes, haggard with suffering, rose to mine, then they fell on the bead which I had taken from my pocket. The cry she gave was not loud, but it effectually settled all my doubts.

"What did you know of Mrs. Carew before she came to ----?" I asked impressively.

For minutes she did not answer; she was trembling like a leaf.

"Her mother!" she exclaimed at last. "Her mother! her own mother! And she never hinted it to me by word or look. Oh, Valerie, Valerie, what tortures we have both suffered! and now you are happy while I--"

Grief seemed to engulf her. Feeling my position keenly, I walked to the window, but soon turned and came back in response to her cry: "I must see Mrs. Carew instantly. Give my orders. I will start at once to New York. They will think I have gone to be on hand to meet Mr. Ocumpaugh, and will say that I have not the strength. Override their objections. I put my whole cause in your hands. You will go with me?"

"With pleasure, madam."

And thus was that terrifying apathy broken up, to be succeeded by a spell of equally terrifying energy.

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