Beck Center English Dept. University Libraries Emory University
Emory Women Writers Resource Project Collections:
Emory Women Writers Resource Project

My Queen, an electronic edition

by Sandette [Walsh, Marie A.]

date: 1878
source publisher: G. W. Carleton & Co., Publishers; S. Low, Son & Co.
collection: Genre Fiction

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| | 238

CHAPTER XXII.
THE BROKEN IDOL.

OREANA was at last alone with the man who had so cruelly insulted her; the man whom she called husband, the father of her children--he who was yet her idol, although the gilding was fast wearing off, showing her that what she had fancied gold was naught but brass. But as she once idealized him, so she must ever love him. That fanatical passion, blinded by which she had gazed indifferently upon the blood-stained corpse of the lover of her youth, still ruled her, absorbing her faculties, her emotions. When that passion died out she would also die. It was her life, it would be her death.

But she must know why he had insulted her. Trembling with passion, born of outraged love, she approached him.

"My husband, what did you mean to-night by those cruel words?"

"Cruel words! You speak enigmatically. What do you mean?"

"Oh, you know! You must remember. Say it was only a joke, uttered while fascinated by that artful girl."

"No woman's meanness here, madam. I am not usually fascinated. Do you hate a sister because she is handsomer than you? Explain yourself."

A hectic spot glowed on Oreana's cheeks: her pride was taking fire.

"I cannot, cannot say the words: they were so | | 239 cruel, so degrading. Tell me you did not mean them, and I will try to forget."

"Oreana, you anger me with this nonsense. Repeat what I said, that I may know what all this fuss is about."

"I cannot."

"I command you to do so." At that tone, so keen and cold, a tone so merciless that few had ever resisted it, Oreana shuddered. He knew well what the insult was of which Oreana complained; but he was determined to force her to utter the words she so much hated. Of late, she had been growing monotonous: this ebullition promised to be an interesting study. Not that women in his opinion were worthy of much thought. He despised the sex, and nothing lately so delighted him as to see woman, whom civilization exalts to sovereignty, fall to her proper sphere of man's slave: to see her writhe in the pangs of jealousy, wounded love, and pride; yet, submitting to her master, not daring to rebel. He had seen it in many women who had come to him for counsel and aid, and at whom he had laughed. It was a cruelty he could indulge in without drawing down upon himself the world's anathemas.

These cruel propensities developed themselves in the sunshine of prosperity. A few years ago they had no life; now, day by day they grew stronger, fiercer.

For some months he had anticipated this enjoyment of Oreana's agony: an enjoyment of which his other wives had disappointed him; but here was one whose tortures would be too great to be concealed.

With his metallic eyes gleaming, his thin lips com- | | 240 pressed with a sneer, he watched the heightening glow, the convulsive twitching of her throat.

"Oh, you must remember; don't make me say them," cried Oreana, kneeling by his side.

"Enough of nonsense; tell me, now. Do you hear?"

Her frame seemed convulsed as she rose, and, with one hand pressed upon her heart to calm its beating, she said, with a gasp:

"You said that my day is over. Tell me that I did not hear aright--that it is not true."

He answered with a coarse laugh.

The cruelest words of mockery or hate could not have tortured Oreana as did this laugh, coming from lips she once thought divine.

She covered her face with her hands, as if to shut out the horror.

The laugh ended; words interpreted it.

"Well, have you not had your day, and a pretty long one, too? I suppose you began to think that you were the only woman in the world. It is time you undeceived yourself. Look at my other wives; they don't make fools of themselves. I have spoilt you with kindness. A little bitterness will do you good: it is time you had it."

"Have you, then, ceased to love me?"

"Love! Why, you have been spending your time novel-reading. Love! we leave that to the Gentiles. Saints marry from principle: women to get to heaven, and men to amuse themselves. Laima is too good-looking to be anything less in heaven than a sovereign queen; and it is my pleasure to make her such as I have you. So quell that rebellious spirit of | | 241 yours, and don't bother me with any sentimental nonsense, or you will be sorry for it."

A groan escaped from Oreana's heart, her hands fell from her face, and the gaze that now met the torturer's eye fully realized all he had anticipated.

"Now I tell you, once for all, I won't have any glum faces around me. You are pretty good-looking yet, not a hundredth part as tempting as Laima, but then you'll do for a change, once in a way, if you don't grow cross-looking. Think well upon what I have said. Good-night. Ah! I was nigh forgetting; you and Sister Silea will call upon Laima to-morrow afternoon. I will have the carriage here at 2 P.M. It will be no use to have a headache, for you will have to go. Good-night."

Oreana sank into a chair, and the morning light found sitting there a pale, worn woman, aged by sorrow.

Those hours of darkness, alone with the ghosts of the past and the shadows of the future, upbraiding, menacing, counted as years in the record of life.

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