BLTC Press Titles


available for Kindle at Amazon.com


The Haunted Bookshop

Christopher Morely


Through the Looking Glass

Lewis Carroll


The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite


Tao Te Ching

Lao Tzu, James Legge (trans.)


A marriage under the terror

by Patricia Wentworth

Excerpt:

She had not even seen her betrothed as yet,—that dim figure which she had contemplated for so many years of cloistered monotony, until it had become the model upon which her dreams and hopes were hung. Now that the opening of the door might at any moment reveal him in the flesh, the dreams wore suddenly thin, and she was conscious of an overpowering suspense. She hoped for so much, and all at once she was afraid. Husbands, to be sure, were not romantic, not the least in the world, and, according to the nuns, it would be the height of impropriety to wish that they should be. One married because it was the convenable thing to do, but to fall in love,—fi donc, Mademoiselle, the idea! Aline laughed, for she remembered Sister Seraphine's face, all soft and shocked and wrinkled, and then in a minute she was grave again. Dreams may be forbidden, but when one is nineteen they have a way of recurring, and it is certain that Mlle de Rochambeau's heart beat faster than Sister SeVaphine would have approved, as she stood by Mme de Montargis' gilded chair and heard the servant announce "M. le Vicomte de Selincourt."

He kissed Madame's hand; and then hers. A sensation that was almost terror caught the colour from her face. Was this little, dark, bowing fop the dream hero? His eyes were like a squirrel's—black, restless, shallow ■—and his mouth displeased her. Something about its puckered outline made her recoil from the touch of it upon her hand, and the Marquise, glancing at her, saw all the young face pale and distressed. She smiled maliciously, and reflected on the folly of youth and the kind connivance of Fate.

Selincourt, for his part, was well enough satisfied. Mademoiselle was too tall for his taste, it was true; her beautifully shaped shoulders and bust too thin; but of those dark grey Irish eyes there could be no two opinions, and his quick glance approved her on the whole. She would play her part as Mme la Vicomtesse very creditably when a little modish polish had softened her convent stateliness, and for the rest he had no notion of being in love with his bride. It was long, in fact, since his small, jaded heart had beaten the faster for any woman, and his eyes left her face with a genuine indifference which did not escape either woman.

"Mademoiselle, I felicitate Paris, and myself," he said, with a formal bow. Mademoiselle made him a stately reverence, and the long-dreamed-of meeting was over.

He turned at once to her cousin.

"You have written to our friend, Madame?"

"I wrote immediately, M. le Vicomte."

He lowered his voice.

"The paper with the cipher on it, did I give you my copy as well as your own?"

"But no, mon ami. Why, have you not got it?"

Selincourt raised his shoulders.

"Certainly not, since I ask if you have it," he returned.

Madame's delicate chin lifted a little.

"And when did you find this out?" she asked.

"I had no occasion to use the code until yesterday, and then . . ." the lift of his shoulders merged into a decided shrug.

The Marquise turned away with a slight frown. It was annoying, but then the Vicomte was always careless, and no doubt the paper would be found; it must be somewhere, and her guests were assembling.

Of such stuff were the conspirators of those days,— triflers, fops, and flirts; men who mislaid the papers which meant life and death to them and to a hundred more; women who chattered secrets in the hearing of their lackeys and serving-maids, unable to realise that these were listeners more dangerous than the chairs and tables of their gaily furnished salons. What wonder that of all the aristocratic plots and counterplots of the Revolution there was not one but perished immature? Powdered nobles and painted dames, they played at conspiracy as they played at love and hate, played with gilded counters instead of sterling gold, and in the end they paid the reckoning in blood.


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