Saturday, November 9, 2013

The Price of Vanity

The Worthington Advance.
January 07, 1897

In an exquisite boudoir Cecile Chetwynde was sitting, one stormy winter

night, languidly watching her rich cousin's toilet.

It was just such a place and scene as Cecile loved; yet she was only hereon sufferance—a poor relation, tolerated
with a sort of grudging hospitality.

And Mis. Framley, their wealthy cousin, was a short, vulgar-looking woman —cross, ill-bred, ill-tempered and gaudily
arrayed in. ruby velvet.

"How strangely things are ordered!"

Cecile could not "help saying to herself, as she caught a reflection of her own cameo-like profile and aristocratic figure in an opposite mirror. "I should have been the child of wealth; she the toiler. But, never mind! I will yet compel Fortune to empty her golden coffers at my feet!"

"How do you like the red camellias in my hair, Cecile?" Mrs. Framley demanded.

"No, Fanclicra, not the diamonds, you goose! The rubies, tonight."

The trim little French maid tripped airily to the jewel casket to get out the great crimson rubies, that flashed in the gaslight like drops of blood; and Cecile, leaning back in her shell-shaped chair, thought secretly that her Cousin Barbara would look like a scarlet flamingo in her intensely-colored velvet and jewels, and complexion to match.

And so Mm. Framley rolled away to the ball in her softly-cushioned carriage, well content with herself, and Cecile  started out of her reverie.

"You may go, now, Fanchon," she said, "and you needn't sit up. I have letters to write, and I will attend to Mrs. Framley's toilet when she returns."

Fanchon lifted her dovelike eyes to Miss Chetwynde's imperially beautiful face.

"Shall I not remain to arrange the room, mademoiselle?" she inquired.

"No, no, no!" Cecile answered, impatiently.

"The room is well enough, and I would rather be alone."

And not until Fanchon had vanished did she lift the scarlet Indian scarf which had fallen over the. casket of diamonds,
with a. smile of triumph mantling her exquisite coral lips.

"I will wear them this once," she murmured, to herself. "Harold Disart shall see that I can grace his wealth like any princess. How they glitter! How they sparkle! Oh, will the time ever come when I, too, shall wear diamonds of my own ?"

Swiftly and silently she hurried to her own room, carrying the precious casket of white velvet, lined with snowpure satin, in her hands, and dressed herself  tarlatan and clematis blossoms.
And while Mrs. Framley fondly imagined her young cousin was sleeping
peacefully at home, and poor Fanchon supposed her to be writing letters, Cecile Chetwynde was. gliding through
the mazes of the redowa at a stately mansion In Belgravia, with Harold Bisart's admiring eyes drinking in her Hebe-like loveliness, while on heir brow and throat and marble-molded arms the diamonds shone and scintillated like threads and lines of fire.

"But, Fanehon, It must have been you? Who else shouldn't it be? Confess quickly and tell me what you hare done with it? Why, child; the stone in that eardrop were worth. £ 200."

Poor little Fanchon stood pale and trembling before her indignant mistress.

"Oh, madame, madame! Pray believe that I never beheld them!" she faltered, wringing her hands and looking
wildly around her, as if apprehensive that the emissaries of the law might already be upon her.

"What nonsense!'* cried Mrs. Framley, angrily. "Here's Cecile, who can bear -witness that they were all here
last night, when you brought them in, and no one but yourself has had access to them since! Of course it is you, and you only, who has stolen my diamond ring. I was a fool eves to employ a French maid
—I've always heard that they are dishonest! Cecile, ring the bell! Send James for a policeman at once!"

Cecile Chetwynde, herself very pale, yet languidly self-possessed, pulled the silken rope.

Fanchont de Lisle clasped her hands and fell at the portly lady's feet.
"Oh, madame, spare me! Do not bring this disgrace—this unmerited shame—on me and mine. Oh, madame, I am as innocent as yourself!" she! cried.

Mrs. Framley jerked her skirts from the French girl's clasp.

"You shall prove that in a court of justice," she said, harshly. "A policeman! Why does not some one bring a

The words had scarcely passed her lips when Fanchon de Lisle fell, white and lifeless, to the floor, her luxurious
jet black hair escaping from its bands; and falling, like a veil, over her ashen-pale face.

"She is fainting," said Cecile, with a quiver in her voice.

"She is dead, ma'am," said Mrs. Hoyle, the motherly old housekeeper. "It's the heart—she was always complaining of pains round the heart. You've frightened her to death, ma'am!"

"Don't be a fool, Hoyle!" cried Mrs. Framley, clutching nervously at her throat. "It's only a swoon. Get some
camphor, somebody. Oh, here comes the officer!"

But it was no gruff-voiced policeman! who was ushered into Mrs. Framley's boudoir—only Harold Disart, who
looked around him with a puzzled countenance.

"Pray pardon me," he said, with a courteous bow in Mrs. Framley's direction.
"I fear I am intruding; but I will detain you only for an instant. I have come to return the diamond earring
Miss Chetwynde lost last night at Mrs. Fontaine's party. It was found in the conservatory, close to the big palm
where I brought you that last ice, Miss Chetwynde."

Cecile grew scarlet, then pale, as Mr. Disart laid the glittering ornament beside her on the table. She shrank from her cousin's eye even while she strove to mutter some faint formula of thanks.

"The diamond that Cecile Chetwynde lost!" Mrs. Framley shrilly ejaculated, beginning to comprehend the true situation
of affairs. "Cecile Chetwynde at Mrs. Fontaine's party last night! Base girl! How dared you deceive me thus ?
You have been flaunting in my diamonds! You have been systematically acting a false part! Wretch, viper! I will no longer have you in my house!"

Mr. Disart looked from the infuriated matron to the shrinking girl, in surprise and perplexity; but there were half a
score of voices ready to enlighten him on the matter.

Cecile buried her face in her hands. "I—I meant no harm," she faltered.

"It was only for once."'

"And you would have let this poor child suffer for your fault?" Harold Disart exclaimed, reproachfully. "Oil,

Miss Chetwynde! how completely you have blinded me up to this time!"

And he turned away, in cold anger and ill-concealed disgust. At that instant the experienced old physician whom the servants had summoned glanced up from his examination.

"It will matter little to this girl," he said, quietly, "what the world may say of her henceforth. She has gone to a
greater tribunal to plead her poor little cause!"

He spoke truly. Fanchon de Lisle was dead.

The burial certificate called it "heart disease," and they buried her in a lonely cemetery in a strange land, where no
tender hand could hang garlands on her tombstone. But Cecile Chetwynde, albeit she bears a brave front before the
world, feels that she walks ever with the crimson stain of murder on her slender white hand!

And sometimes she wishes it were she lying under the daisies where Fanchon sleeps

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