The Fate of Fenella Page 01
The Fate of Fenella
By Bram Stoker
The Fate of Fenella was published in 1892 as a serial novel in Cassell's Magazine with a different author writing each of the twenty-four chapters. Chapter ten of the series was written by Bram Stoker.
Lord Francis Onslow lifted his cap. The action was an instinctive one, for he was face to face with a lady; but he was half dazed with the unexpected meeting, and could not collect his thoughts. He only remembered that when he had last seen his wife she was opening the door of her chamber to De Murger. For weeks he had been schooling himself for such a meeting, for he knew that on his return such might at any time occur; but now, when the moment had come, and unexpectedly, the old pain of his shame overwhelmed him anew. His face grew white-white till it seemed to Fenella that it was of the pallor of death. She knew that she had been so far guilty of what had happened that the murder had been the outcome of her previous acts. She knew also that her husband was ignorant of his part in the deed-and her horror of the man, blood-guilty in such a way, was fined down by the sense of her own partial guilt. The trial, with all its consequent pain to a proud and sensitive woman, had softened her, and she grasped at any hope. The sight of Frank, his gaunt cheeks, which told their tale of suffering, and now the deadly pallor, awoke all the protective feeling which is a part of a woman's love. It was with her whole soul in her voice that she said again:
"Frank!" His voice was stern as well as sad as he answered her:
"What is it?" Her heart went cold, but she persevered.
"Frank, I must have a word with you-I must. For God's sake, for Ronny's sake, do not deny me." She did not know that as yet Frank Onslow was in ignorance of De Murger's death; and when his answer came it seemed more hard than even he intended:
"Do you wish to speak of that night?" In a faint voice she answered:
"I do." Then looking in his eyes and seeing the hard look becoming harder still-for a man is seldom generous with a woman where his honour is concerned, she added:
"O Heaven! Frank! You do not think me guilty! No, no, not you! not you! That would be too cruel!"
Frank Onslow paused and said:
"Fenella, God help me! but I do," and he turned away his head. His wife, of course, thought that he alluded to the murder, and not to her sin against him as he saw it, and with a low moan she turned away and hid her face in her hands. Then with an effort she drew herself up, and without a word or a single movement to show that she even recognized his presence, she passed on up the street.
Frank Onslow stood for a few moments watching her retreating figure, and then went across the street and turned the next corner on his way to the post-office, for which he had been inquiring when he met his wife. At the door he was stopped by a cheery voice and an outstretched hand:
"Castleton! The two men shook hands warmly.
"I see you did not get my telegram," said Lord Castleton. "It is waiting for you at the post-office."
"To tell you that I was on my way here from London. I went in your interest, old fellow. I thought you would like full particulars-the newspapers are so vague."
"What papers? My interest? Tell me all. I am ignorant of all that has passed for the last six weeks." A vague, shadowy fear began to creep over his spirits. Castleton's voice was full of sympathy as he answered:
"Then you have not heard of-but stay. It is a long story. Come back to the yacht. I was just going to join you there. We shall be all alone, and I can tell you all. I have the newspapers here for you." He motioned to a roll under his arm.
The two went down to the harbour, and finding the sailor waiting with the boat at the steps, were rowed to the yacht and got on board. Here the two men were all alone. Then, with a preliminary clearing of his voice, Castleton began his story:
"Frank Onslow-better get the worst over at once-just after you went away from Harrogate your wife was tried for murder and acquitted."
"My God! Fenella tried for murder? Whose murder?"
"That scoundrel De Murger. It seems he went into her room in the night and attempted violence, so she stabbed him-"
Castleton stopped in amazement, for a look of radiance came over Frank Onslow's face, as he murmured "Thank God!" Recalled to himself by Castleton's silence, for he was too amazed to go on, Frank said. "I have a reason, old fellow; I shall tell it to you later, but go on. Tell me all the facts, or let me read the papers. Remember I am as yet quite ignorant of it all and I am full of anxiety!"
Without a word Castleton handed him the papers, and, lighting a fresh cigar, sat down with his back to him, and presently yielded to the sun and fresh air and fell into a doze.
Frank Onslow took the papers, and read carefully from end to end the account of the trial of his wife for the murder of De Murger. When he had finished he sat with the folded paper in his hand, and his eyes had the same far-away look in them which they had had on that fatal night.