Page:"A modern Hercules", the tale of a sculptress (IA amodernherculest00wins).pdf/78

This page needs to be proofread.

a mad, ungovernable rage. Why should this ignorant, low, base-born son of a Russian exile possess this goddess? What moral right had this usurper to loll at ease in her chamber, barring out his betters of all the world? He knew that he possessed all her mighty love, and yet he saw the fruit of it slipping away forever. He was seized with a strange, overmastering desire to prevent, at all hazards and at any cost, the actual consummation of the marriage. He struggled, wrestled, tried to fight it down, but his feet carried him toward her house. He reached it before the bridal party had arrived, and, being familiar there, he ascended into the bridal chamber, and there secreted himself.

"Like a thief," he said to himself, "I steal into this now sacred apartment. Over my being creeps a determination so desperate, that I shudder at the spectacle of my own deformity. I have suffered more than mortal agony. There in the church, my much-abused spirit almost departed from me. Where was the artist to tear aside the flesh and paint the hearts as they really were? Paul, radiant and happy; Ouida, serene in the consciousness of self-imposed beauty, while I was burdened with the deepest sorrow of them all."

He waited, and soon Ouida entered, and threw off her veil and wraps.

"The deed is done," she murmured, "and yet I would it were undone. The marriage vows have been exchanged, and yet Paul is as far from me as I am from Paradise. Strange paradox am I. I know that Nugent's love has in it the sting of guilt, yet, through its scorching rays, I clearly see myself. Oh, what a madcap freak, to rouse the slumbering passion of my 'Modern Hercules,'