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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Survivor - Chapter 36. A Scene At The Club
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The Survivor - Chapter 36. A Scene At The Club Post by :erikhj Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :1445

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The Survivor - Chapter 36. A Scene At The Club


He made her sit down, for she was white and faint. For the moment he left her question unanswered.

"You have learnt the truth, Joan, from his own lips," he said. "I have a confession signed last week by him before the fever set in. You can read it if you like."

"There is no need," she answered. "I have heard enough. Who is this Emily de Reuss?"

"She is a very clever woman," he said, "with whom your brother became most unreasonably infatuated. She took an interest in him, as she has done in many young literary men. He fell in love with her without any encouragement, and gave way to his foolishness in a most unwarrantable manner. He neglected his work to follow her about, lost his position and his friends--eventually, as you see, his reason. I cannot tell you any more than that. She was perhaps unwise in her kindness, perhaps a little vain, inasmuch as she liked to pose as the literary inspirer of young talent, and to surround herself with worshippers. That is the extent of her fault. I do not believe that for a moment she deliberately encouraged him, or was in any way personally responsible for the wreck of his life."

"You perhaps know her."

"I do."


"I think that I may say so."

She rose.

"Then you can tell her this," she said. "Tell her that before long she will have a visit from David Strong's sister." Douglas shook his head. "It is not she who is to blame," he said. She pointed to the room which they had left.

"Men do not become like that," she said, "of their own will, or from their own fault alone. He is mad, and in madness is truth. Did you not hear him say that it was she who had destroyed him? Am I to lose father and brother, ay, and husband, Douglas, and sit meekly in my chimney-corner?"

"As to the last," he said, "you know that it was your father's doing. I was nothing to you. He ordered, and we obeyed in those days. He ruled us like a tyrant. One would not wish to speak evil of the dead, or else one would surely say that it was he who was responsible for the evil things which have come upon us.

"How do you know?" she demanded fiercely. "Were you not my promised husband?--and you stole away like a coward from the pestilence."

He was aghast, silent from sheer confusion. This was a point of view which had never once occurred to him.

"Am I not a woman?" she continued, with rising passion--"as other women? You were given to me, you were mine. Why should you steal away like a thief with never a word, and ignore me wholly as a creature of no worth? Come, answer me that. Were you not my promised husband?"

"I never spoke a word of love to you," he said "Your father forced it on us."

She leaned over the table towards him.

"You fool!" she cried. "Do you think life at Feldwick was any more bearable to me than to you and Cissy, because I wasn't always mooning about on the hills or reading poetry? You never took the trouble to find out. You looked upon me as a drudge because I did the work which was my duty. You were mine, and I wanted you. When you stole away I hated you. I have tried to hunt you down because I hated you. You have escaped me now, but I shall hate you always. Remember it, Douglas Guest. Some day you may yet have cause to."

She left him speechless, too amazed to think of making her any answer. It was Joan who had said these things to him, Joan the silent, with her hard, handsome face and her Lather's dogged silence. Never again would he believe that he understood anything whatsoever about women. He walked up and down for a while restlessly, then put on his hat and walked across to the club.

* * * * *

"Let me go, I tell you! By Heaven, there'll be mischief if you don't!"

Half a dozen of them were holding Drexley--a pitiable sight. His coat was torn, his eyes seemed starting from his sockets, his breath reeked of brandy and his face was pale with passion. Opposite him was Douglas, his cheek bleeding from the sudden blow which Drexley had struck him, gazing with blank surprise at his late assailant. Some one had told him that Drexley was there, had been drinking brandy all day and was already verging on madness, and he had gone at once into the little bar, hoping to be able to quieten him. But at his first words Drexley had sprung upon him like a wild animal--nothing but his own great personal strength and the prompt intervention of all the men who were present had saved the attack from being a murderous one. There had been no words--no sort of explanation. None came now--Drexley was furious but silent.

"I think you had better go away, Jesson," one of the members said. "We will take him home."

But Drexley heard and shook his head. He spoke then for the first time.

"I want a word with Jesson," he said. "I'm sorry I made a fool of myself. I'm all right now. You needn't hold me."

They stood away from him. He made no movement.

"I've a word or two to say to Jesson in private," he said. "No one need be afraid of me. You can tie my hands if you like, but it isn't necessary."

Cleavers, one of the members who had witnessed the assault, shook his head.

"I wouldn't trust myself with him if I were you, Jesson," he said. "He's half mad now, and for some reason or other he's got his knife into you. You slip off home quietly."

Jesson looked across the room to Drexley, who was leaning against the wall with folded arms.

"Give me your word of honour, Drexley," he said, "and I'll hear what you have to say."

"I give it. I swear that I will not lay a finger upon you."

"Come this way, then," Jesson added.

He left the room and entered a small committee chamber nearly opposite. Drexley closed the door but he showed no signs of excitement.

"Jesson," he began, "I hated you once because I was the poor slave of a woman who cared nothing for me or any who had gone before me, and who from the first looked upon you differently. I hated you from the day Emily de Reuss wrote me, and ordered me to delay your story and deny you work so that you might be driven to go to her for aid. Then I think I became apathetic. We drifted together, I tolerated you. The woman I had worshipped all my life forgot to dole out to me even those few crumbs of consolation to which I had become accustomed. It was then--I met--through you--Miss Strong."

Douglas was suddenly interested. What had Cissy to do with it all? He put his thought into words.

"What of that?" he asked. "I don't understand how I have injured you."

"Oh, you have not injured me," Drexley answered bitterly. "You have simply stood between me and salvation."

"You must speak more plainly if you want me to understand you," Douglas said.

"There was only one thing in the world which could have saved me from this--from myself," Drexley continued fiercely. "Call me what hard names you like. I'll accept them. I wasted half a lifetime only to find that my folly had been colossal. No other woman but your cousin has ever been kind to me--she held out her hand and I seemed to see the light--and then you must come and take her from me."

Douglas gazed at him in blank amazement.

"Do you mean to tell me that you care for my cousin--seriously--would have asked her to marry you?" he exclaimed. "Yes."

"And she?"

"She was kind to me. In time I should have won her. I am sure of it."

Douglas rose from his chair and walked restlessly up and down the room.

"Drexley," he said, "if only I could have guessed this--if only I could have had any idea of it!"

"You couldn't," Drexley answered shortly. "I couldn't myself. I'd have given the lie to anybody who had dared so much as to hint at it. It was like a thunderclap to me."

"You know that I have asked her to be my wife?" "Yes."

"Listen then," Douglas said, suddenly pausing in his restless walk and facing his companion. "I will tell you how it came about. You remember the night that we were at the 'Milan'?


"Emily de Reuss was there."


"For months I had been steadily trying to forget her. That night the work of months was undone. She had only to hold out her hands, to speak for a moment kindly, and the truth seemed to flare out in letters of fire. I cannot forget her. I never shall be able to forget her. I own myself, Drexley, one of the vanquished. I love her as I shall never love any other woman in this world."

Drexley's face was black with passion, but Douglas would not have him speak.

"Wait," he said. "Hear my story first. I left you that night abruptly--as you know. I went to her. I put aside all false modesty. I forgot that I was only a journalist with a possible future and no past--and that she was an aristocrat--my passion carried me away. I knew only that I was a man and she was the woman I loved. So I pleaded with her, and at first I thought that I had won."

"Ah. Others have thought that," Drexley scoffed.

"She answered me," Douglas continued, in a tone momentarily softened, "as I would have had her answer me, and for a time I thought that I was going to be the happiest man in the world. But--afterwards--Drexley, even at this moment I do not know whether I have not been the most consummate fool on God's earth."

"Go on. Speak plainly."

"I spoke of marriage--she evaded it. There was an obstacle. I begged for her whole confidence. She withheld it. Then, Drexley, all your damnable warnings, all that I had ever heard of--her vanity, her heartlessness, her self-worship, came like madness into my brain. I refused to trust to my own instincts, I refused to trust her, so she sent me away. And, Drexley, if she be a true woman then may God help me, for I need it."

"She sent you away?"

"Ay. I spent some miserable days. No word came from her. It was over. Then it chanced that Cicely came to me. She was sympathetic, bright, and cheerful. She made me forget for a little while my despair. I have always been fond of her, I think that she has always been fond of me. You know the rest."

"You are going to marry Cicely Strong," Drexley said, slowly. "But you love Emily de Reuss?"

Douglas winced.

"I am afraid--that you are right," he said.

"And have you told Miss Strong," Drexley continued, "that you are proposing to marry her, but that you love another woman?" ''

Douglas looked up frowning. Drexley's tone had become almost contemptuous.

"Do you think that you are behaving fairly to her?" he asked. "Remember that she is not the child with whom you used to talk sentiment in your little Cumberland village. She is a woman now, with keen susceptibilities--as little a woman to be trifled with in her way as Emily de Reuss herself."

The two men faced one another. Douglas was angry with Drexley, angry too with himself.

"I believe you're right, Drexley," he said, with an effort, "but I'm hanged if I see what business it is of yours."

"It is the business of any man at any time," Drexley answered softly, "to speak for the woman whom he loves."

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