The Price a Woman Pays - Edgar Wallace - ebook

The Price a Woman Pays ebook

Edgar Wallace

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Dr. Beechington knew how difficult it was to live in genteel poverty. He was determined his daughter Mary should marry a wealthy man but Mary wasn’t so sure. Should she obey her father or follow her heart? Best remembered for penning the screenplay for the classic film „King Kong”, author Edgar Wallace was an astoundingly popular luminary in the action-adventure genre in the early twentieth century. „The Price a Woman Pays” is a story packed with great fun and Wallace keeps the action moving along swiftly, as he always did, and it highlights Wallace’s unmatched skill in setting a pulse-pounding pace. Wonderful entertainment and highly entertaining.

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Liczba stron: 116

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Contents

Chapter I. It Was a Lover and His Lass

Chapter II. In Which We Meet Many People

Chapter III. The Emerald Pendant

Chapter IV. A Promise to the Dead

Chapter V. Vascour Meets an Old Acquaintance

Chapter VI. When the Sun Rose

Chapter VII. The Price of Silence

Chapter VIII. Morretti Meets His Son

Chapter IX. The Princess Explains

Chapter X. Vascour Plays His Last Card

Chapter XI. Towards the Dawn

I. IT WAS A LOVER AND HIS LASS

ALL that April had promised May was giving. A pair of pheasants that had strayed from their cover and were solemnly crossing the path, were startled back by a sound of singing. Such clear young voices! They rang through the woods and were flung out in an unpremeditated way, a though their owners were in the habit of singing together.

‘It was a lover and his lass, With a hey and a ho, and a hey nononino,’

they carolled full of exultation and delight.

Presently the singers came into view. The man was a typical Englishman–well-built and almost stalwart–with a clear, brown complexion and clean-cut features. The girl walked with a light step–a slim slip of a creature. Her frock was white, and she carried a broad-brimmed hat and swung it backwards and forwards as she walked. Her golden hair, which was ruffled in the wind, framed an elfish, laughter-loving face. There was mischief in its every line, and yet there was sweetness in the curves of the mouth and a lurking seriousness in the depths of her blue eyes.

‘We have done a hard afternoon’s work,’ she said. ‘I am tired now; I am going to rest a while.’

She settled herself comfortably at the foot of a pine, all in among the bracken. Her companion set the basket of bluebells that he had been carrying on the ground and flung himself at her feet.

‘In the spring time, The only pretty ring time,’

sang Winifred softly, with her hands clasping her knees and rocking herself to and fro in time with the refrain.

Frank did not join her. He just gazed up at her with adoring eyes, thinking what a delicious picture she made in her white frock and blue ribbons set in the green of the wood. Her hair was glittering in the light that filtered through the waving branches, and he lay and watched her as she sang, following in idea the spirit of her singing, and exulting in the thought of future ownership.

‘Winifred,’ he said presently, ‘your eyes are exactly the colour of the bluebells, and your hair looks as though it were made of sunbeams combed out of the sun.’

‘Now don’t begin with compliments,’ Winifred said contentedly.

‘Very well, then, I will give you some home truths. One–your hair is disgracefully rough.’

‘Home truths are truths you don’t want to hear. Why they should be called home truths, I can’t think, when they are unpleasant. What has anything unpleasant to do with home?’

‘They are called home truths because they go right home,’ said Frank solemnly. ‘Two–you have torn your frock and got it muddy round the hem. Three–your shoes are dusty.’

‘I can’t help that,’ indignantly.

‘Four–your hair ribbon is coming untied, and your whole appearance denotes a “careless desolation”.’

Winifred’s lips curved in a bewitching little smile.

‘Oh, well,’ she said, complacently, beginning to tie her hair ribbon afresh, ‘all these things can be remedied.’

‘Oh, but I haven’t finished yet. Six–’

‘Five,’ she put in.

‘No,’ Frank said firmly, ‘five was the “careless desolation.” Six–your nose is just a trifle–shall I say–“tip-tilted.” Seven–your upper lip is undeniably too short, and eight–I am not sure that I don’t prefer raven locks, the colour of my own, to golden curls; and brown eyes, like mine, to blue ones.’

Winifred had covered her ears with her hands.

‘You are a horrid boy,’ she said, pouting. ‘I am going on.’

‘No,’ Frank said decidedly, putting his arms round her to hold her down. ‘You shalln’t go until you confess that you prefer compliments to home truths.’

‘Oh, you terrible boy! Well! you must confess something first.’ She leaned towards him with an air in which coaxing and command were mixed in a bewildering way. ‘Say that you like golden hair better than black. Say it!’

‘I like golden hair better than black,’ repented Frank: ‘I am letting myself be entangled by its glittering, silken meshes.’

‘Say,’ she whispered, leaning a thought closer, ‘that you like blues eyes better than brown.’

‘I like blue eyes better than brown,’ repeated Frank, adoring her: ‘I am being drowned, deliciously drowned in their sparkling, blue depths.’

‘Winifred broke into a delightful little laugh,

‘And now is there any need for me to actually confess in cold words that I like compliments better than home truths.’

‘You’re a witch!’ said her lover. ‘I believe you could got the better of anybody.’

‘No, I couldn’t,’ laughed Winifred, ‘I only get the better of people who are so foolish as to admire me, and still more so foolish as to show it. No, I don’t, like home truths; they do you good, and I don’t like being done good to.’

‘No more do I,’ cried Frank impulsively. ‘It’s disrespectful treatment.’

‘Yes,’ Winifred said thoughtfully, ‘we are not truly in sympathy with people when we are trying to do them good.’

‘Winifred, when you and I are married, we will never try to do one another good.’

A faint flush overspread her face and a look of of delicious consciousness dawned in her eyes: but she looked straight at her lover as she replied, ‘I don’t think we ever shall, We have had all our lives to learn one another, and as we go on growing we can go on learning, can’t we?’

‘Dear little comrade,’ murmured Frank, as he kissed the slim hand that rested in his.

The rectory at Fallingham was quaint and romantic. The high and trim-cut box hedge shut it away from the outer world and within there was the fragrance of sweet flowers, and the hush and peacefulness that come of ordered seclusion.

On this warm afternoon in May, Dr. Beechington sat in his great cane chair, watching idly and with some amusement the magnificent futilities of Henry, For Henry had a method peculiarly his own of doing small nothings with feverish haste.

The Rector read for a while; then, speaking over his paper, he asked: ‘Has Miss Winifred returned yet, Henry?’

‘No, sir. She went down to the village a couple of hours ago.’

The Doctor was sitting with his back to the old oaken gate that led into the rectory garden, and neither he nor Henry noticed the entrance of its young mistress. Followed by her lover and holding up a warning finger to him, she ran noiselessly down the steps, crept up behind her father’s chair, and put her hands before his eyes.

‘Who is it?’ she demanded.

‘It doesn’t want much cleverness to answer that question,’ said the Rector, taking hold of her hands and kissing them fondly. ‘Where have you been?’

‘In the copse and in the woods and in the village. Frank,’ she commanded, ‘bring forward the spoils!’

But at this, the Rector rose with a troubled face, ‘Winifred, my love, I have something to say to Mr. Bennett which will take me some time. Will you leave us together for a while?’

‘Why, of course I will,’ she said gaily. ‘I hope it is nothing very serious, father. I am not in the mood for anything serious. Can you be, on a lovely day like this?’

She broke into the song they had been singing in the woods:

‘Hey noni nonino, hey noni nonino,’

and turned towards the house, adding over her shoulder, ‘Mr. Morretti says: “Never talk business before meals”.’

‘Oh, by the way, Winifred,’ Bennett said, ‘you have forgotten to tell your father that we met the great millionaire in the village, and that he is coming along to see him.’

The old Rector looked at his daughter. She made a very pleasant picture as she stood by the terrace steps, lightly swinging her basket of bluebells. He frowned thoughtfully as though some ugly vision had come between his eyes and the beautiful child who waited on his word.

‘Was Mr. Morretti alone?’ he asked.

It was Bennett who answered, and the Rector’s frown was reflected on his boyish face.

‘N–no,’ he replied reluctantly, ‘that fellow Vascour was with him–he has just returned from the Continent.’

The look of displeasure on the older man’s face deepened. ‘I do not like the way you speak of Mr. Vascour,’ he said shortly. ‘Remember, he is a great friend of mine; he himself is a man of some wealth and influence.’

It seemed to Frank that the lovely eyes of the girl were clouded as she rejoined quietly, ‘He is not a good man, father. There is something about him that repels me. When he is near me I feel as though I were in the presence of some dreadful, warped creation of Nature’s–that–oh, it’s a dreadful thing to say–that soils all things and all people it touches.’

The Rector stared at her in amazement. ‘Tush, my child,’ he said sharply; ‘your prejudice against Mr. Vascour is unreasonable, it is embarrassing, the more so since–’ he stopped short and bit his lip.

‘Yes, father? Since–’

Dr. Beechington waved his hand wearily. ‘Never mind, never mind,’ he said, ‘run along and make the arrangements that are necessary. Perhaps Mr. Morretti will stay to dinner.’

He turned to Frank. ‘I presume that even you, Mr. Bennett, have no feeling against our neighbour and my good friend, the African millionaire?’

Frank laughingly shook his head. ‘I? None whatever, Doctor,’ he said. ‘Indeed, It would be churlish to harbour one unkind thought against this man.’

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