The Early Life and Adventures of Sylvia Scarlett - novelonlinefree.info
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"Sylvia dear, you're working yourself up needlessly. How can you say that you're bad? How can you say such things about yourself? You're not religious, perhaps."
"Listen, Olive, if I marry Arthur I swear I'll make it a success. You know that I have a strong will. I'm not going to criticize him. I'm simply determined to make him and myself happy. It's very easy to love him, really. He's like a boy--very weak, you know--but with all sorts of charming qualities, and his mother would be so glad if it were all settled. Olive, I meant to tell you a whole heap of things about myself, about what I've done, but I won't. I'm going to forget it all and be happy. I'm glad it's Christmas-time. I've bought such ripping things for the kids. When I was buying them to-night there came into my head almost my first adventure when I was a very little girl and thought I'd found a ten-franc piece which was really the money I'd been given for the marketing. I had just such an orgy of buying to-night. Did you know that a giraffe could make a noise? Well, it can, or at any rate the giraffe I bought for Sylvius can. You twist its neck and it protests like a bronchial calf."
The party on Christmas Eve was a great success. Lucian Hope burnt a hole in the table-cloth with what was called a drawing-room firework. Jack split his coat trying to hide inside his bureau. Arthur, sitting on a bottle with his legs crossed, lit a candle, twice running. The little red-haired singer found the ring in the pudding. Sylvia found the sixpence. Nobody found the button, so it must have been swallowed. It was a splendid party. Sylvius and Rose did not begin to cry steadily until after ten o'clock.
When the guests were getting ready to leave, about two o'clock on Christmas morning, and while Lucian Hope was telling everybody in turn that somebody must have swallowed the button inadvertently, to prove that he was quite able to pronounce "inadvertently," Sylvia took Arthur down the front-door steps and walked with him a little way along the foggy street.
"Arthur, I'll marry you when you like," she said, laying a hand upon his arm.
"Sylvia, what a wonderful Christmas present!"
"To us both," she whispered.
Then on an impulse she dragged him back to the house and proclaimed their engagement, which meant the opening of new bottles of champagne and the drinking of so many healths that it was three o'clock before the party broke up. Nor was there any likelihood of anybody's being able to say "inadvertently" by the time he had reached the corner of the street.
Arthur had begged Sylvia to come down to Dulwich on Christmas day, and Mrs. Madden rejoiced over the decision they had reached at last. There were one or two things to be considered, the most important of which was the question of money. Sylvia had spent the last penny of what was left of Morera's money in launching herself, and she owed nearly two hundred pounds besides. Arthur had saved nothing. Both of them, however, had been offered good engagements for the spring, Arthur to tour as lead in one of the Vanity productions, which might mean an engagement at the Vanity itself in the autumn; Sylvia to play a twenty minutes' turn at all the music-halls of a big circuit. It seemed unsatisfactory to marry and immediately afterward to separate, and they decided each to take the work that had been offered, to save all the money possible, and to aim at both playing in London next autumn, but in any case to be married in early June when the tours would end. They should then have a couple of months to themselves. Mrs. Madden wanted them to be married at once; but the other way seemed more prudent, and Sylvia, having once made up her mind, was determined to be practical and not to run the risk of spoiling by financial worries the beginning of their real life together. Her marriage in its orderliness and forethought and simplicity of intention was to compensate for everything that had gone before. Mrs. Madden thought they were both of them being too deliberate, but then she had run away once with her father's groom and must have had a fundamentally impulsive, even a reckless temperament.
The engagement was announced with an eye to the most advantageous publicity that is the privilege of being servants of the public. One was able to read everywhere of a theatrical romance or more coldly of a forthcoming theatrical marriage; nearly all the illustrated weeklies had two little oval photographs underneath which ran the legend:
We learn that Miss Sylvia Scarlett, who recently registered such an emphatic success in her original entertainment at the Pierian Hall, will shortly wed Mr. Arthur Madden, whom many of our readers will remember for his rendering of "Somebody is sitting in the sunset"
at the Frivolity Theater.
In one particularly intimate paper was a short interview headed:
ACTRESS'S DELIGHTFUL CANDOR
"No," said Miss Scarlett to our representative who had called upon the clever and original young performer to ascertain when her marriage with Mr. Arthur Madden of "Somebody is sitting in the sunset" fame would take place. "No, Arthur and I have decided to wait till June. Frankly, we can't afford to be married yet...."
and so on, with what was described as a portrait of Miss Sylvia Scarlet inset, but which without the avowal would probably have been taken for the thumbprint of a paperboy.
"This is all terribly vulgar," Sylvia bewailed, but Jack, Arthur, and Olive were all firm in the need for thorough advertisement, and she acquiesced woefully. In January she and Arthur parted for their respective tours. Jack, before she went away, begged Sylvia for the fiftieth time to take back the money she had settled on her godchildren.
He argued with her until she got angry.
"Jack, if you mention that again I'll never come to your house any more. One of the most exquisite joys in all my life was when I was able to do that, and when you and Olive were sweet enough to let me, for you really were sweet and simple in those days and not purse-proud _bourgeois_, as you are now. Please, Jack!" She had tears in her eyes.
"Don't be unkind."
"But supposing you have children of your own?" he urged.
"Jack, don't go on. It really upsets me. I cannot bear the idea of that money's belonging to anybody but the twins."
"Did you tell Arthur?"
"It's nothing to do with Arthur. It's only to do with me. It was my present. It was made before Arthur came on the scene."
With great unwillingness Jack obeyed her command not to say anything more on the subject.
Sylvia earned a good enough salary to pay off nearly all her debts by May, when her tour brought her to the suburban music-halls and she was able to amuse herself by house-hunting for herself and Arthur. All her friends, and not the least old ones like Gladys and Enid, took a profound interest in her approaching marriage. Wedding-presents even began to arrive. The most remarkable omen of the gods' pleasure was a communication she received in mid-May from Miss Dashwood's solicitors to say that Miss Dashwood had died and had left to Sylvia in her will the freehold of Mulberry Cottage with all it contained. Olive was enraptured with her good fortune, and wanted to telegraph to Arthur, who was in Leeds that week; but Sylvia said she would rather write:
DEAREST ARTHUR,--You remember my telling you about Mulberry Cottage? Well, the most wonderful thing has happened. That old darling, Miss Dashwood, the sister of Mrs. Gainsborough's captain, has left it to me with everything in it. It has of course for me all sorts of memories, and I want to tell you very seriously that I regard it as a sign, yes, really a sign of my wanderings and restlessness being forever finished. It seems to me somehow to consecrate our marriage. Don't think I'm turning religious: I shall never do that. Oh no, never! But I can't help being moved by what to you may seem only a coincidence. Arthur, you must forgive me for the way in which I've often treated you. You mustn't think that because I've always bullied you in the past I'm always going to in the future. If you want me now, I'm yours _really_, much more than I ever was in America, much, much more. You _shall_ be happy with me. Oh, it's such a dear house with a big garden, for London a very big garden, and it held once two such true hearts. Do you see the foolish tears smudging the ink? They're my tears for so much. I'm going to-morrow morning to dust our house. Think of me when you get this letter as really at last
The next morning arrived a letter from Leeds, which had crossed hers:
MY DEAR SYLVIA,--I don't know how to tell you what I must tell. I was married this morning to Maimie Vernon. I don't know how I let myself fall in love with her. I never looked at her when she sang at the Pierian with you. But she got an engagement in this company and--well, you know the way things happen on tour. The only thing that makes me feel not an absolutely hopeless cad is that I've a feeling somehow that you were going to marry me more out of kindness and pity than out of love.
"That funny little red-haired girl!" Sylvia gasped. Then like a surging wave the affront to her pride overwhelmed her. With an effort she looked at her other letters. One was from Michael Fane's sister:
HARDINGHAM HALL, HUNTS, _May, 1914_.
DEAR MISS SCARLETT,--My brother is back in England and so anxious to meet you again. I know you're playing near town at present.
Couldn't you possibly come down next Sunday morning and stay till Monday? It would give us the greatest pleasure.
"Never," Sylvia cried, tearing the letter into small pieces. "Ah no!
That, never, never!"
She left her rooms, and went to Mulberry Cottage. The caretaker fluttered round her to show her sense of Sylvia's importance as her new mistress. Was there nothing that she could do? Was there nothing that she could get?
Sylvia sat on the seat under the mulberry-tree in the still morning sunlight of May. It was impossible to think, impossible to plan, impossible, impossible. The ideas in her brain went slowly round and round. Nothing would stop them. Round and round they went, getting every moment more mixed up with one another. But gradually from the confusion one idea emerged, sharp, strong, insistent--she must leave England. The moment this idea had stated itself, Sylvia could think of nothing but the swiftness and secrecy of her departure. She felt that if one person should ever fling a glance of sympathy or condolence or pity or even of mild affection, she should kill herself to set free her outraged soul.
She made no plans for the future. She had no reproaches for Arthur. She had nothing but the urgency of flight as from the Furies themselves.
Quickly she went back to her rooms and packed. All her big luggage she took to Mulberry Cottage and placed with the caretaker. She sent a sum of money to the solicitors and asked them to pay the woman until she came back.
At the last moment, in searching through her trunks, she found the yellow shawl that was wrapped round her few treasures of ancestry. She was going to leave it behind, but on second thought she packed it in the only trunk she took with her. She was going back perhaps to the life of which these treasures were the only solid pledge.
"This time, yes, I'm off with the raggle-taggle gipsies in deadly earnest. Charing Cross," she told the taxi-driver.