- part: MY QUEEN;
- CHAPTER XXIII. BROKEN HEARTS.
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FROM the time Julian left Oreana at the gate, he wandered about bewildered, neither knowing nor caring whither. Wearied with fatigue, he at length sought his room, and fell asleep.
The morning's light brought comfort. The events of the previous afternoon seemed like a hideous dream. It could not be true that the pure, lofty-minded Oreana would consent to become No. 11 in the harem of this Mohammed of the Desert.
It must be some horrible phantasm of his brain.
He would revisit the Delvilles. He started out with this purpose; but he had not gone far when he met Mrs. Delville. Julian sighed, she looked so thin and ill; her eyes, too, were red with weeping.
"O, Julian," she cried, "take me somewhere, where I can have a good cry; my heart is bursting. I didn't think I could ever feel so again."
Julian took her to his lodging.
"Cousin Lucy, what is the matter?"
"It is killing me, Julian: I wish I were dead. Why did we ever come to this horrible place? My beautiful home gone, gone forever. But that isn't all. Tomorrow,--oh dear! if I only could die. Kill me, Julian, if you love me. Robert is going to take another | | 114 wife to-morrow, and they say I must go and give her to him. It will break my heart. After all the years we have lived together so happily. What a disgrace for my Stanly. Would to God I had died with my Lizzie! My heart feels heavy enough to sink me to the bottom of the lake. The teachers tell me it is because I am unregenerate; but I can't help it. And you, too, my dear boy, it is hard for you. How can Oreana do it?"
Julian gasped. It was true, then. Should he let the infamy be spoken? Yes, he must hear it, even if the hearing of it should kill him. Perhaps it was not true after all: it might be of Oreana's refusal that Mrs. D--was thinking.
"Do what, Cousin Lucy?"
"Why, she has promised to marry the great priest, who has a dozen wives. Is it not horrible?"
Drops of agony stood on Julian's brow. Alas it was then all true.
Cousin Lucy, can we not save her from this infamy? Will you not help? We might carry her off. I had planned to leave next week."
"Carry her off! Why, you are mad to think of such a thing. Look at those mountains that hem us in. Think of that band who have sworn to kill apostates. Robert is one. Oh, God! that I have lived. No, we must submit till we die,--we women. As for the men, they seem to like it. No doubt you will comfort yourself for Oreana's loss with four or five wives."
Julian answered with such a look of scorn and anguish that Mrs. Delville cried out:
"Oh, dear I don't look at me like that. I'm wild to talk that way of you, Julian. But just look at my Robert. I have sworn upon his goodness,--see what | | 115 he is going to do. Pray to the Lord to take me. I bless Him that He took my Lizzie."
The wretched woman wept and moaned. Julian could not comfort her. Perhaps tears were her best consolation.
When she left, she begged Julian not to go to the house that day. But Julian was restless. He could not stay in his room. He wandered out and made his way mechanically to the Delvilles.
Mr. Delville was at the gate. He met Julian, took his arm, and led him into the garden.
As they passed the window, Julian saw his rival paying court to Oreana.
At the sight he clenched his hands: his blood boiled with rage.
"Be calm, be calm, Brother Julian," said Mr. Delville. "It is concerning this little matter that I wish to talk with you. It is pretty rough on you just now, but is a fine thing for Rena; in fact, it is a jolly good thing for all of us. I expect she will be the favorite, and good chances will be ours even without the asking; good thing, you know. Now don't look so glum; there are plenty of pretty girls here, and one woman is as good as another; their beauty don't last, you know. But the jolly thing is that here you can always keep the article fresh. Those are the very words of the president. To-morrow I'm going to try it. Fine stunning girl. Old lady feels rather blue about it: but she will soon get used to it. The word of God must be obeyed; and as for you, I will find you two nice wives to make up for Oreana. There, now, don't look so murderous."
In truth Julia did look dangerous; indignation | | 116 and horror gleamed from his eyes and distorted his features. He shook off Mr. Delville's hand, as if contagion were in the touch, recoiled a few paces, then, in a burst of passion exclaimed:
"Great God! have I lived to hear such blasphemies from the lips of a man, a loyal, God-fearing, Anglo-Saxon, a husband, a father. O! thrice-accursed creed, whose teachings thus destroy humanity! thrice-accursed place, whose influence changes men to beasts! Ah! you wince. Have I struck the right chord? Robert Delville, leave these crazy people; flee from this infamous place before these horrible ideas become living acts; leave it before your wife dies, crushed by your hand; leave it before Oreana is dishonored, and I become a murderer, for think you I will calmly yield her to that demon of lust? She, the star of my life! See, here is her picture. It has lain next my heart for many a year, sacred as an angel's, reverenced as an image of all that is purest and holiest in womanhood; it has been my shield in temptation, my inspiration in virtue. Can I cast it from me now? Can I stand meekly by and see my love the victim of that tigerish, blasphemous, polygamous hypocrite, to whom women are no more than cows? No! I have sworn to save her, and I will do it if I have to wade through blood. My wealth, my strength, my life, I consecrate to that purpose; so help me the All-powerful God."
Julian walked rapidly away. Mr. Delville stood motionless, dazed apparently by what he had heard. He did not move even when the chief came out. The latter had heard, perforce, Julian's denunciations and oath, which had somewhat disturbed his wooing; for the exalted passion of the young lover made the stereo- | | 117 typed phrases of the old polygamist appear vapid indeed. He felt this, and his usual mask of saintly patience failed to conceal the looks of sinister malice he gave the retreating form of his rival.
"Brother Delville, that young man is in a bad way. If he repent not, the vengeance of God will consume him in the midst of his days. It is not fit that an enemy of God, an apostate, should carry about him the picture of our beautiful Oreana. If you would do me a favor get it from him without delay."
The chief drove off. Mr. Delville bowed in answer; he still remained as if rooted to the spot.
"That young relation of yours will dance over the rim of the basin, if he doesn't take care, eh? Brother Delville," remarked a neighbor, who had witnessed the scene. The words seemed to recall Mr. Delville to life. He repeated the words, "Over the rim of the basin," laughed loud, then began to walk up and down the lot, humming and singing, the burden of his song ever the same: "Over the rim of the basin."
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