The Hundredth Chance - Ethel M. Dell - ebook

The Hundredth Chance ebook

Ethel M. Dell

0,0

Opis

The Hundredth Chance” is one of Ethel M. Dell’s most passionate and dramatic tales. Jack Bolton is the genius of the racing stable of Lord Saltash. He falls in love with Maud Brian, daughter of Lady Bernard Brian, who is married to the innkeeper Giles Sheppard. While Maud knows Jack is in love with her, she is half in love with Lord Saltash and does not love Jack. However, Lord Saltash’s cruelty to her crippled brother Bunny makes her hesitate. She contemplates marrying Jack to protect her brother. Jack then takes the „hundredth chance” and asks Maud to marry him, hoping her love will come later. A classic romance and mystery/saga of a pair of star-crossed lovers, who, after many chances, have one last chance to express themselves.

Ebooka przeczytasz w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS
czytnikach certyfikowanych
przez Legimi
czytnikach Kindle™
(dla wybranych pakietów)
Windows
10
Windows
Phone

Liczba stron: 799

Odsłuch ebooka (TTS) dostepny w abonamencie „ebooki+audiobooki bez limitu” w aplikacjach Legimi na:

Androidzie
iOS



Contents

PART I

THE START

CHAPTER I. BEGGARS

CHAPTER II. THE IDOL

CHAPTER III. THE NEW ACQUAINTANCE

CHAPTER IV. THE ACCEPTED SUITOR

CHAPTER V. IN THE DARK

CHAPTER VI. THE UNWILLING GUEST

CHAPTER VII. THE MAGICIAN

CHAPTER VIII.

CHAPTER IX. THE REAL MAN

CHAPTER X. THE HEAD OF THE FAMILY

CHAPTER XI. THE DECLARATION OF WAR

CHAPTER XII. THE RECKONING

CHAPTER XIII. THE ONLY PORT

CHAPTER XIV. THE WAY OF ESCAPE

CHAPTER XV. THE CLOSED DOOR

CHAPTER XVI. THE CHAMPION

CHAPTER XVII. THE WEDDING MORNING

CHAPTER XVIII. THE WEDDING NIGHT

CHAPTER XIX. THE DAY AFTER

CHAPTER XX. A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY

CHAPTER XXI. THE OLD LIFE

CHAPTER XXII. THE FAITHFUL WIDOWER

CHAPTER XXIII. THE NARROWING CIRCLE

CHAPTER XXIV. BROTHERS

CHAPTER XXV. MISADVENTURE

CHAPTER XXVI. THE WORD UNSPOKEN

CHAPTER XXVII. THE TOKEN

CHAPTER XXVIII. THE VISITOR

CHAPTER XXIX. HER OTHER SELF

CHAPTER XXX. THE RISING CURRENT

CHAPTER XXXI. LIGHT RELIEF

CHAPTER XXXII. THE ONLY SOLUTION

CHAPTER XXXIII. THE FURNACE

CHAPTER XXXIV. THE SACRIFICE

CHAPTER XXXV. OFFER OF FREEDOM

CHAPTER XXXVI. THE BOND

PART II

THE RACE

CHAPTER I. HUSKS

CHAPTER II. THE POISON PLANT

CHAPTER III. CONFIDENCES

CHAPTER IV. THE LETTER

CHAPTER V. REBELLION

CHAPTER VI. THE PROBLEM

CHAPTER VII. THE LAND OF MOONSHINE

CHAPTER VIII. THE WARNING

CHAPTER IX. THE INVITATION

CHAPTER X. THE MISTAKE

CHAPTER XI. THE REASON

CHAPTER XII. REFUGE

CHAPTER XIII. THE LAMP BEFORE THE ALTAR

CHAPTER XIV. THE OPEN DOOR

CHAPTER XV. THE DOWNWARD PATH

CHAPTER XVI. THE REVELATION

CHAPTER XVII. THE LAST CHANCE

CHAPTER XVIII. THE WHIRLPOOL

CHAPTER XIX. THE OUTER DARKNESS

CHAPTER XX. DELIVERANCE

CHAPTER XXI. THE POISON FRUIT

CHAPTER XXII. THE LOSER

CHAPTER XXIII. THE STORM WIND

CHAPTER XXIV. THE GREAT BURDEN

CHAPTER XXV. THE BLOW

CHAPTER XXVI. THE DEED OF GIFT

CHAPTER XXVII. THE IMPOSSIBLE

CHAPTER XXVIII. THE FIRST OF THE VULTURES

CHAPTER XXIX. THE DUTIFUL WIFE

CHAPTER XXX. THE LANE OF FIRE

CHAPTER XXXI. THE NEW BOSS

CHAPTER XXXII. OLD SCORES

EPILOGUE. THE FINISH

PART I

THE START

CHAPTER I

BEGGARS

“My dear Maud, I hope I am not lacking in proper pride. But it is an accepted–though painful–fact that beggars cannot be choosers.”

Lady Brian spoke with plaintive emphasis the while she drew an elaborate initial in the sand at her feet with the point of her parasol.

“I cannot live in want,” she said, after a thoughtful moment or two. “Besides, there is poor little Bunny to be considered.” Another thoughtful pause; then: “What did you say, dear?”

Lady Brian’s daughter made an abrupt movement without taking her eyes off the clear-cut horizon; beautiful eyes of darkest, deepest blue under straight black brows that gave them a somewhat forbidding look. There was nothing remarkable about the rest of her face. It was thin and sallow and at the moment rather drawn, not a contented face, and yet possessing a quality indefinable that made it sad rather than bitter. Her smile was not very frequent, but when it came it transfigured her utterly. No one ever pictured that smile of hers beforehand. It came so brilliantly, so suddenly, like a burst of sunshine over a brown and desolate landscape, making so vast a difference that all who saw it for the first time marvelled at the unexpected glow.

But it was very far from her face just now. In fact she looked as if she could never smile again as she said: “Bunny would sooner die of starvation than have you do this thing. And so would I.”

“You are so unpractical,” sighed Lady Brian. “And really, you know, dear, I think you are just a wee bit snobbish too, you and Bunny. Mr. Sheppard may be a self-made man, but he is highly respectable.”

“Oh, is he?” said Maud, with a twist of the lips that made her look years older than the woman beside her.

“I’m sure I don’t know why you should question it,” protested Lady Brian. “He is extremely respectable. He is also extremely kind,–in fact, a friend in need.”

“And a beast!” broke in her daughter, with sudden passionate vehemence. “A hateful, familiar beast! Mother, how can you endure the man? How can you for a single moment demean yourself by the bare idea of–of marrying him?”

Lady Brian sighed again. “It isn’t as if I had asked you to marry him,” she pointed out. “I never even asked you to marry Lord Saltash, although–as you must now admit–it was the one great chance of your life.”

Again Maud made that curious, sharp movement of hers that was as if some inner force urged her strongly to spring up and run away.

“We won’t discuss Lord Saltash,” she said, with lips that were suddenly a little hard.

“Then I don’t see why we should discuss Giles Sheppard either,” said Lady Brian, with a touch of querulousness. “Of course I know he doesn’t compare well with your poor father. Second husbands so seldom do–which to my mind is one of the principal objections to marrying twice. But–as I said before–beggars cannot be choosers and something has got to be sacrificed, so there is an end of the matter.”

Maud turned her eyes slowly away from the horizon, swept with them the nearer expanse of broad, tumbling sea, and finally brought them to rest upon her mother’s face.

Lady Brian was forty-five, but she looked many years younger. She was a very pretty woman, delicate-featured, softly-tinted, with a species of appealing charm about her that all but the stony-hearted few found it hard to resist. She put her daughter wholly in the shade, but then Maud never attempted to charm anyone. She had apparently no use for the homage that was as the very breath of life to her mother’s worldly little soul. She never courted popularity. All her being seemed to be bound up in that of her young brother who had been a helpless cripple from his babyhood, and dependent upon her care. The ten years that stretched between them were as nought to these two. They were pals; and if the boy tyrannized freely over her, she was undoubtedly the only person in the world for whom he entertained the smallest regard. She had lavished all a mother’s love upon him during the whole of his fifteen years, and she alone knew how much had been sacrificed before the shrine of her devotion. He filled all the empty spaces in her heart.

But now–now that they were practically penniless–the great question arose: Who was to provide for Bunny? Lady Brian had lived more or less comfortably upon credit for the past five years. It was certainly not her fault that this bruised reed had broken at last in her hand. She had tried every device to strengthen it. And then too there had always been the possibility that Maud might marry Lord Saltash, who was extremely wealthy and–by fits and starts–very sedulous in his attentions.

It was of course very unfortunate that he should have been connected with that unfortunate scandal in the Divorce Court; but then everyone knew that he had led a somewhat giddy life ever since his succession to the title. Besides, nothing had been proved, and the unlucky affair had fallen through in consequence. It was really too absurd of Maud to treat it seriously, if indeed she had treated it seriously. Not being in her daughter’s confidence, Lady Brian was uncertain on this point. But, whatever the circumstances, Charlie Saltash had obviously abandoned his allegiance. And Maud–poor girl!–had no one else to fall back upon. Of course it was very sweet of her to devote herself so unsparingly to dear little Bunny, but Lady Brian was privately of the opinion that she wasted a good deal of valuable time in his service. She was twenty-five already, and–now that the crash had come–little likely to find another suitor.

They had come down to this cheery little South Coast resort to recruit and look around them. Obviously something would have to be done, and done very quickly, or they would end their days in the workhouse.

Lady Brian had relations in the North, but, as she was wont to express it, they were not inclined to be kind to her. Her runaway marriage with Sir Bernard Brian in her irresponsible girlhood had caused something of a split between them. The wild Irish baronet had never been regarded with a favourable eye, and her subsequent sojourn in Ireland had practically severed all connection with them.

Sir Bernard’s death and her subsequent migration to London had not healed the breach. She was regarded as flighty and unreliable. There was no knowing what her venture might be, and, save for a very occasional correspondence with an elderly bachelor uncle who was careful not to betray too keen an interest in her affairs, she was left severely alone.

Therefore she had too much pride to ask for help, sustaining herself instead upon the kindness of friends till even this prop at length gave way; and she, Maud and poor little Bunny (whose very empty title was all he possessed in the world) found themselves stranded at Fairharbour at the dead end of the season with no means of paying their way even there.

Not wholly stranded, however! Lady Brian had stayed at Fairharbour before at the Anchor Hotel down by the fishing-quay–“the Anchovy Hotel” Bunny called it on account of its situation. It was not a very high-class establishment, but Lady Brian had favoured it on a previous occasion because Lord Saltash had a yacht in the vicinity, and it had seemed such a precious opportunity for dear Maud. He also had large racing-stables in the neighbourhood of the downs behind the little town, and there was no knowing when one or other of his favourite pastimes might tempt him thither.

Nothing had come of the previous visit, however, save a pleasant, half-joking acquaintance with Mr. Sheppard, the proprietor of the Anchor Hotel, during the progress of which Lady Brian’s appealing little ways had laid such firm hold of the worthy landlord’s rollicking fancy that she had found it quite difficult to tear herself away.

Matters had not then come to such a pass, and she had finally extricated herself with no more than a laughing promise to return as soon as the mood took her. Maud had been wholly unaware of the passage between them which had been of a very slight and frothy order; and not till she found herself established in some very shabby lodgings within a stone’s throw of the Anchor Hotel did the faintest conception of her mother’s reason for choosing Fairharbour as their city of refuge begin to dawn in her brain.

She was very fully alive to it now, however, and hotly, furiously resentful, albeit she had begun already to realize (how bitterly!) that no resentment on her part could avert the approaching catastrophe. As Lady Brian pathetically said, something had got to be sacrificed.

And there was Bunny! She could not leave Bunny to try to earn a living. He was utterly dependent upon her–so dependent that it did not seem possible that he could live without her. No, she could see no way of escape. But it was too horrible, too revolting! She was sure, too, that her mother had a sneaking liking for the man, and that fact positively nauseated her. That awful person! That bounder!

“So, you see, dear, it really can’t be helped,” Lady Brian said, rising and opening her sunshade with a dainty air of finality. “Why his fancy should have fallen upon me I cannot imagine. But–all things considered–it is perhaps very fortunate that it has. He is quite ready to take us all in, and that, even you must admit, is really very generous of him.”

Maud’s eyes travelled again to the far sky-line. They had a look in them as of a caged thing yearning for freedom.

“It is getting late,” said Lady Brian.

Sharply she turned. “Mother,” she said, “I shall write to Uncle Edward. This is too much. I am sure he will not condemn us to this.”

Lady Brian sighed a trifle petulantly. “You will do as you like, dear, no doubt. But pray do not write on my account! Whatever he may be moved to do or say can make no difference to me now.”

“Why not?” Curtly her daughter put the question. The beautiful brows were painfully drawn.

“Because,” said Lady Brian plaintively, “it will be too late–so far as I am concerned.”

“What do you mean?” Again, almost like a challenge, the girl flung the question.

Lady Brian began to walk along the beach. “I mean, dear, that I have promised to give Mr. Sheppard his answer to-night.”

“But–but–Mother–” there was almost a cry in the words, “you can’t–you can’t have quite decided upon what the answer will be!”

Lady Brian sighed again. “Oh, do let us have a little common-sense!” she said, with just a touch of irritation. “Of course I have decided. The decision has been simply thrust upon me. I had no choice.”

“Then you mean to say Yes?” Maud’s voice fell suddenly flat. She turned her face again to the open sea, a glint of desperation in her eyes.

“Yes,” said Lady Brian very definitely. “I mean to say Yes.”

“Then Heaven help us!” said Maud, under her breath.

“My dear, don’t be profane!” said Lady Brian.

CHAPTER II

THE IDOL

“I say, Maud, what a dratted long time you’ve been! What on earth have you and the mother been doing?” Young Bernard Brian turned his head towards his sister with the chafing, impatient movement of one bitterly at variance with life. “You swore you wouldn’t be long,” he said.

“I know. I’m sorry.” Maud came to his side and stooped over him. “I couldn’t help it, Bunny,” she said. “I haven’t been enjoying myself.”

He looked up at her suspiciously. “Oh, it’s never your fault,” he said, with dreary sarcasm.

Maud said nothing. She only laid a smoothing hand on his crumpled brow, and after a moment bent and kissed it.

He jerked his head away from her caress, opening and shutting his hands in a nervous way he had acquired in babyhood. “I’ve had a perfectly sickening time,” he said. “There’s a brute with a gramophone upstairs been driving me nearly crazy. For goodness’ sake, see if you can put a stop to it before to-night comes! I shall go clean off my head if you don’t!”

“I’ll do my best, dear,” Maud promised.

“I wish to goodness we could get away from this place,” the boy said restlessly. “Even the old ‘Anchovy’ was preferable. I loathe this hole.”

“Oh, so do I!” said Maud, with sudden vehemence. And then she checked herself quickly as if half-ashamed. “Of course it might be worse, you know, Bunny,” she said.

Bunny curled a derisive lip, and looked out of the window.

“Did you really like ‘The Anchor’ better?” Maud asked, after a moment.

He drew his brows together–beautiful brows like her own, betraying a sensitive, not too well-balanced temperament. “It was better,” he said.

Maud sat down beside his sofa with a slight gesture of weariness. “You would like to go back there?” she asked.

He looked at her sharply. “We are going?”

She met his look with steady eyes. “Mr. Sheppard has offered to take us in,” she said.

The boy frowned still more. “What! For nothing?” he said.

“No; not for nothing.” The girl was frowning too–the frown of one confronted with a difficult task. “Nobody ever does anything for nothing,” she said.

“Well? What is it?” Bunny’s eyes suddenly narrowed and became shrewd. “He doesn’t want you to marry him, I suppose?”

“Good gracious, Bunny!” Maud gasped the words in sheer horror. “What ever made you think of that?”

Bunny laughed–a cracked, difficult laugh. “Because he’s bounder enough for anything; and you’re so beastly fond of him, aren’t you?”

“Oh, don’t!” Maud said. “Really don’t, Bunny! It’s too horrible to joke about. No, it isn’t me he wants to marry. It’s–it’s–-”

“The mother?” queried Bunny, without perturbation. “Oh, he’s quite welcome to her. It’s a pity he’s been such a plaguey time making up his mind. He might have known she’d jump at him.”

“But, Bunny–“ Maud was gazing at him in utter amazement. There were times when the working of her young brother’s brain was wholly beyond her comprehension. “You can’t be–pleased!” she said.

“I’m never pleased,” said Bunny sweepingly. “I hate everything and everybody–except you, and you don’t count. The man’s a brute of course; but if the mother has a mind to marry him, why on earth shouldn’t she? Especially if it’s going to make us more comfortable!”

“Comfortable on his money!” There was scorn unutterable in Maud’s voice. Her eyes were tragically proud.

“But, why not?” said Bunny, with cynical composure. “We shall never be comfortable on our own, that’s certain. If the man is fool enough to want to lay out his money in that way, why, let him!”

“Live on his–charity!” said Maud very bitterly.

The boy’s mouth twisted. “We’ve got to live on someone’s,” he said. “There’s nothing new in that. I think you’re rather an ass, Maud. It’s no good being proud when you can’t afford it. We can’t earn a living for ourselves, so someone must do it for us, that’s all.”

“Bunny!” There was passionate protest in the exclamation; but he passed it by.

“What’s the good of arguing?” he said irritably. “We can’t help ourselves. If the mother would rather marry that bawling beast Sheppard than starve on a doorstep with us, who’s to blame her? I suppose we’re included in the bargain for good, are we?”

Maud nodded mutely, her fingers locked and straining against each other.

Bunny screwed his face up for a moment. Then: “There’s that filthy gramophone again!” he suddenly exclaimed. “Go and stop it, I say! I can’t bear the noise! I won’t bear it! It’s–it’s–it’s infernal! That’s what it is!” He flung his arms up frenziedly above his head, and then suddenly uttered an anguished cry of pain.

Maud was on her feet on the instant. She caught the arms, drew them firmly down again. “Oh, don’t, dear, don’t!” she said. “You know you can’t!”

The boy’s face was convulsed. “I didn’t know! I can sometimes! Oh, Maud, I hate life! I hate it! I hate it!”

His voice choked, became a gasping moan, ceased altogether.

Maud stooped over him. His eyes were shut, his face white as death. “Bunny, Bunny darling!” she whispered passionately. “I would give–all the world–to make it better for you!”

There fell a silence, while gradually the awful paroxysm began to pass.

Then very abruptly Bunny opened his eyes. “No, you wouldn’t!” he said unexpectedly.

“Indeed I would!” she said very earnestly.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.

This is a free sample. Please purchase full version of the book to continue.