The Treasure of Heaven - A Romance of Riches
by Marie Corelli
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"You will keep it here for me, won't you?" she said, when the clerks had retired and the business was concluded—"And I shall feel so much more at rest now! For when I have talked it over with Angus I shall realise everything more clearly—he will advise me what to do—he is so much wiser than I am! And you will write to me and tell me all that is needful for me to know—shall I leave this paper?"—and she held up the document in which the list of Helmsley's various legacies was written—"Surely you ought to keep it?"

Sir Francis smiled gravely.

"I think not!" he said—"I think I must urge you to retain that paper on which my name is so generously remembered, in your own possession, Miss Deane. You understand, I suppose, that you are not by the law compelled to pay any of these legacies. They are left entirely to your own discretion. They merely represent the last purely personal wishes of my late friend, David Helmsley, and you must yourself decide whether you consider it practical to carry them out."

She looked surprised.

"But the personal wishes of the dead are more than any law" she exclaimed—"They are sacred. How could I"—and moved by a sudden impulse she laid her hand appealingly on his arm—"How could I neglect or fail to fulfil any one of them? It would be impossible!

Responding to her earnest look and womanly gentleness, Sir Francis who had not forgotten the old courtesies once practised by gentlemen to women whom they honoured, raised the hand that rested so lightly on his arm, and kissed it.

"I know" he said—"that it would be impossible for you to do what is not right and true and just! And you will need no advice from me save such as is purely legal and technical. Let me be your friend in these matters——"

"And in others too,"—said Mary, sweetly—"I do hope you will not dislike me!"

Dislike her? Well, well! If any mortal man, old or young, could "dislike" a woman with a face like hers and eyes so tender, such an one would have to be a criminal or a madman! In a little while they fell into conversation as naturally as if they had known each other for years: Sir Francis listening with profound interest to the story of his old friend's last days. And presently, despatching a telegram to his wife to say that he was detained in the city by pressing business, he took Mary out with him to a quiet little restaurant where he dined with her, and finally saw her off from Paddington station by the midnight train for Minehead. Nothing would induce her to stay in London,—her one aim and object in life now was to return to Weircombe and explain everything to Angus as quickly as possible. And when the train had gone, Sir Francis left the platform in a state of profound abstraction, and was driven home in his brougham feeling more like a sentimentalist than a lawyer.

"Extraordinary!" he ejaculated—"The most extraordinary thing I ever heard of in my life? But I knew—I felt that Helmsley would dispose of his wealth in quite an unexpected way! Now I wonder how the man—Mary Deane's lover—will take it? I wonder! But what a woman she is!—how beautiful!—how simple and honest—above all how purely womanly!—with all the sweet grace and gentleness which alone commands, and ever will command man's adoration! Helmsley must have been very much at peace and happy in his last days! Yes!—the sorrowful 'king' of many millions must have at last found the treasure he sought and which he considered more precious than all his money! For Solomon was right: 'If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly contemned!'"

* * * * *

At Weircombe next day there was a stiff gale of wind blowing inland, and the village, with its garlands and pyramids of summer blossom, was swept from end to end by warm, swift, salty gusts, that bent the trees and shook the flowers in half savage, half tender sportiveness, while the sea, shaping itself by degrees into "wild horses" of blue water bridled with foam, raced into the shore with ever-increasing hurry and fury. But notwithstanding the strong wind, there was a bright sun, and a dazzling blue sky, scattered over with flying masses of cloud, like flocks of white birds soaring swiftly to some far-off region of rest. Everything in nature looked radiant and beautiful,—health and joy were exhaled from every breath of air—and yet in one place—one pretty rose-embowered cottage, where, until now, the spirit of content had held its happy habitation, a sudden gloom had fallen, and a dark cloud had blotted out all the sunshine. Mary's little "home sweet home" had been all at once deprived of sweetness,—and she sat within it like a mournful castaway, clinging to the wreck of that which had so long been her peace and safety. Tired out by her long night journey and lack of sleep, she looked very white and weary and ill—and Angus Reay, sitting opposite to her, looked scarcely less worn and weary than herself. He had met her on her return from London at the Minehead station, with all the ardour and eagerness of a lover and a boy,—and he had at once seen in her face that something unexpected had happened,—something that had deeply affected her—though she had told him nothing, till on their arrival home at the cottage, she was able to be quite alone with him. Then he learned all. Then he knew that "old David" had been no other than David Helmsley the millionaire,—the very man whom his first love, Lucy Sorrel, had schemed and hoped to marry. And he realised—and God alone knew with what a passion of despair he realised it!—that Mary—his bonnie Mary—his betrothed wife—had been chosen to inherit those very millions which had formerly stood between him and what he had then imagined to be his happiness. And listening to the strange story, he had sunk deeper and deeper into the Slough of Despond, and now sat rigidly silent, with all the light gone out of his features, and all the ardour quenched in his eyes. Mary looking at him, and reading every expression in that dark beloved face, felt the tears rising thickly in her throat, but bravely suppressed them, and tried to smile.

"I knew you would be sorry when you heard all about it, Angus,"—she said—"I felt sure you would! I wish it had happened differently—" Here she stopped, and taking up the little dog Charlie, settled him on her knee. He was whimpering to be caressed, and she bent over his small silky head to hide the burning drops that fell from her eyes despite herself. "If it could only be altered!—but it can't—and the only thing to do is to give the money away to those who need it as quickly as possible——"

"Give it away!" answered Angus, bitterly—"Good God! Why, to give away seven or eight millions of money in the right quarters would occupy one man's lifetime!"

His voice was harsh, and his hand clenched itself involuntarily as he spoke. She looked at him in a vague fear.

"No, Mary,"—he said—"You can't give it away—not as you imagine. Besides,—there is more than money—there is the millionaire's house—his priceless pictures, his books—his yacht—a thousand and one other things that he possessed, and which now belong to you. Oh Mary! I wish to God I had never seen him!"

She trembled.

"Then perhaps—you and I would never have met," she murmured.

"Better so!" and rising, he paced restlessly up and down the little kitchen—"Better that I should never have loved you, Mary, than be so parted from you! By money, too! The last thing that should ever have come between us! Money! Curse it! It has ruined my life!"

She lifted her tear-wet eyes to his.

"What do you mean, Angus?" she asked, gently—"Why do you talk of parting? The money makes no difference to our love!"

"No difference? No difference? Oh Mary, don't you see!" and he turned upon her a face white and drawn with his inward anguish—"Do you think—can you imagine that I would marry a woman with millions of money—I—a poor devil, with nothing in the world to call my own, and no means of livelihood save in my brain, which, after all, may turn out to be quite of a worthless quality! Do you think I would live on your bounty? Do you think I would accept money from you? Surely you know me better! Mary, I love you! I love you with my whole heart and soul!—but I love you as the poor working woman whose work I hoped to make easier, whose life it was my soul's purpose to make happy—but,—you have everything you want in the world now!—and I—I am no use to you! I can do nothing for you—nothing!—you are David Helmsley's heiress, and with such wealth as he has left you, you might marry a prince of the royal blood if you cared—for princes are to be bought,—like anything else in the world's market! But you are not of the world—you never were—and now—now—the world will take you! The world leaves nothing alone that has any gold upon it!"

She listened quietly to his passionate outburst. She was deadly pale, and she pressed Charlie close against her bosom,—the little dog, she thought half vaguely, would love her just as well whether she was rich or poor.

"How can the world take me, Angus?" she said—"Am I not yours?—all yours!—and what has the world to do with me? Do not speak in such a strange way—you hurt me——"

"I know I hurt you!" he said, stopping in his restless walk and facing her—"And I know I should always hurt you—now! If David Helmsley had never crossed our path, how happy we might have been——"

She raised her hand reproachfully.

"Do not blame the poor old man, even in a thought, Angus!" she said—"His dream—his last hope was that we two might be happy! He brought us together,—and I am sure, quite sure, that he hoped we would do good in the world with the money he has left us——"

"Us!" interrupted Angus, meaningly.

"Yes,—surely us! For am I not to be one with you? Oh Angus, be patient, be gentle! Think kindly of him who meant so much kindness to those whom he loved in his last days!" She smothered a rising sob, and went on entreatingly—"He has forgotten no one who was friendly to him—and—and—Angus—remember!—remember in that paper I have shown to you—that list of bequests, which he has entrusted me to pay, he has left me to you, Angus!—me—with all I possess——"

She broke off, startled by the sorrow in his eyes.

"It is a legacy I cannot accept!" he said, hoarsely, his voice trembling with suppressed emotion—"I cannot take it—even though you, the most precious part of it, are the dearest thing to me in the world! I cannot! This horrible money has parted us, Mary! More than that, it has robbed me of my energy for work—I cannot work without you—and I must give you up! Even if I could curb my pride and sink my independence, and take money which I have not earned, I should never be great as a writer—never be famous. For the need of patience and grit would be gone—I should have nothing to work for—no object in view—no goal to attain. Don't you see how it is with me? And so—as things have turned out—I must leave Weircombe at once—I must fight this business through by myself——"

"Angus!" and putting Charlie gently down, she rose from her chair and came towards him, trembling—"Do you mean—do you really mean that all is over between us?—that you will not marry me?"

He looked at her straightly.

"I cannot!" he said—"Not if I am true to myself as a man!"

"You cannot be true to me, as a woman?"

He caught her in his arms and held her there.

"Yes—I can be so true to you, Mary, that as long as I live I shall love you! No other woman shall ever rest on my heart—here—thus—as you are resting now! I will never kiss another woman's lips as I kiss yours now!" And he kissed her again and again—"But, at the same time, I will never live upon your wealth like a beggar on the bounty of a queen! I will never accept a penny at your hands! I will go away and work—and if possible, will make the fame I have dreamed of—but I will never marry you, Mary—never! That can never be!" He clasped her more closely and tenderly in his arms—"Don't—don't cry, dear! You are tired with your long journey—and—and—with all the excitement and trouble. Lie down and rest awhile—and—don't—don't worry about me! You deserve your fortune—you will be happy with it by and by, when you find out how much it can do for you, and what pleasures you can have with it—and life will be very bright for you—I'm sure it will! Mary—don't cling to me, darling!—it—it unmans me!—and I must be strong—strong for your sake and my own"—here he gently detached her arms from about his neck—"Good-bye, dear!—you must—you must let me go!—God bless you!"

As in a dream she felt him put her away from his embrace—the cottage door opened and closed—he was gone.

Vaguely she looked about her. There was a great sickness at her heart—her eyes ached, and her brain was giddy. She was tired,—very tired—and hardly knowing what she did, she crept like a beaten and wounded animal into the room which had formerly been her own, but which she had so long cheerfully resigned for Helmsley's occupation and better comfort,—and there she threw herself upon the bed where he had died, and lay for a long time in a kind of waking stupor.

"Oh, dear God, help me!" she prayed—"Help me to bear it! It is so hard—so hard!—to have won the greatest joy that life can give—and then—to lose it all!"

She closed her eyes,—they were hot and burning, and now no tears relieved the pressure on her brain. By and by she fell into a heavy slumber. As the afternoon wore slowly away, Mrs. Twitt, on neighbourly thoughts intent, came up to the cottage, eager to hear all the news concerning "old David"—but she found the kitchen deserted; and peeping into the bedroom adjoining, saw Mary lying there fast asleep, with Charlie curled up beside her.

"She's just dead beat and tired out for sure!" and Mrs. Twitt stole softly away again on tip-toe. "'Twould be real cruel to wake her. I'll put a bit on the kitchen fire to keep it going, and take myself off. There's plenty of time to hear all the news to-morrow."

So, being left undisturbed, Mary slept on and on—and when she at last awoke it was quite dark. Dark save for the glimmer of the moon which shone with a white vividness through the lattice window—shedding on the room something of the same ghostly light as on the night when Helmsley died. She sat up, pressing her hands to her throbbing temples,—for a moment she hardly knew where she was. Then, with a sudden rush of recollection, she realised her surroundings—and smiled. She was one of the richest women in the world!—and—without Angus—one of the poorest!

"But he does not need me so much as I need him!" she said aloud—"A man has so many thing to live for; but a woman has only one—love!"

She rose from the bed, trembling a little. She thought she saw "old David" standing near the door,—how pale and cold he seemed!—what a sorrow there was in his eyes! She stretched out her arms to the fancied phantom.

"Don't,—don't be unhappy, David dear!" she said—"You meant all for the best—I know—I know! But even you, old as you were, tried to find some one to care for you—and you see—surely in Heaven you see how hard it is for me to have found that some one, and then to lose him! But you must not grieve!—it will be all right!"

Mechanically she smoothed her tumbled hair—and taking up Charlie from the bed where he was anxiously watching her, she went into the kitchen. A small fire was burning low—and she lit the lamp and set it on the table. A gust of wind rushed round the house, shaking the door and the window, then swept away again with a plaintive cry,—and pausing to listen, she heard the low, thunderous boom of the sea. Moving about almost automatically, she prepared Charlie's supper and gave it to him, and slipping a length of ribbon through his collar, tied him securely to a chair. The little animal was intelligent enough to consider this an unusual proceeding on her part—and as a consequence of the impression it made upon his canine mind, refused to take his food. She saw this—but made no attempt to coax or persuade him. Opening a drawer in her oaken press, she took out pen, ink, and paper, and sitting down at the table wrote a letter. It was not a long letter—for it was finished, put in an envelope and sealed in less than ten minutes. Addressing it "To Angus"—she left it close under the lamp where the light might fall upon it. Then she looked around her. Everything was very quiet. Charlie alone was restless—and sat on his tiny haunches, trembling nervously, refusing to eat, and watching her every movement. She stooped suddenly and kissed him—then without hat or cloak, went out, closing the cottage door behind her.

What a night it was! What a scene of wild sky splendour! Overhead the moon, now at the full, raced through clouds of pearl-grey, lightening to milky whiteness, and the wind played among the trees as though with giant hands, bending them to and fro like reeds, and rustling through the foliage with a swishing sound like that of falling water. The ripple of the hill-torrent was almost inaudible, overwhelmed as it was by the roar of the gale and the low thunder of the sea—and Mary, going swiftly up the "coombe" to the churchyard, was caught by the blast like a leaf, and blown to and fro, till all her hair came tumbling about her face and almost blinded her eyes. But she scarcely heeded this. She was not conscious of the weather—she knew nothing of the hour. She saw the moon—the white, cold moon, staring at her now and then between pinnacles of cloud—and whenever it gleamed whitely upon her path, she thought of David Helmsley's dead face—its still smile—its peacefully closed eyelids. And with that face ever before her, she went to his grave. A humble grave—with the clods of earth still fresh and brown upon it—the chosen grave of "one of the richest men in the world!" She repeated this phrase over and over again to herself, not knowing why she did so. Then she knelt down and tried to pray, but could find no words—save "O God, bless my dear love, and make him happy!" It was foolish to say this so often,—God would be tired of it, she thought dreamily—but—after all—there was nothing else to pray for! She rose, and stood a moment—thinking—then she said aloud—"Good-night, David! Dear old David, you meant to make me so happy! Good-night! Sleep well!"

Something frightened her at this moment,—a sound—or a shadow on the grass—and she uttered a cry of terror. Then, turning, she rushed out of the churchyard, and away—away up the hills, towards the rocks that over-hung the sea.

Meanwhile, Angus Reay, feverish and miserable, had been shut up in his one humble little room for hours, wrestling with himself and trying to work out the way in which he could best master and overcome what he chose to consider the complete wreck of his life at what had promised to be its highest point of happiness. He could not shake himself free of the clinging touch of Mary's arms—her lovely, haunting blue eyes looked at him piteously out of the very air. Never had she been to him so dear—so unutterably beloved!—never had she seemed so beautiful as now when he felt that he must resign all claims of love upon her.

"For she will be sought after by many a better man than myself,"—he said—"Even rich men, who do not need her millions, are likely to admire her—and why should I stand in her way?—I, who haven't a penny to call my own! I should be a coward if I kept her to her promise. For she does not know yet—she does not see what the possession of Helmsley's millions will mean to her. And by and bye when she does know she will change—she will be grateful to me for setting her free——"

He paused, and the hot tears sprang to his eyes—"No—I am wrong! Nothing will change Mary! She will always be her sweet self—pure and faithful!—and she will do all the good with Helmsley's money that he believed and hoped she would. But I—I must leave her to it!"

Then the thought came to him that he had perhaps been rough in speech to her that day—abrupt in parting from her—even unkind in overwhelming her with the force of his abnegation, when she was so tired with her journey—so worn out—so weary looking. Acting on a sudden impulse, he threw on his cap.

"I will go and say good-night to her,"—he said—"For the last time!"

He strode swiftly up the village street and saw through the cottage window that the lamp was lighted on the table. He knocked at the door, but there was no answer save a tiny querulous bark from Charlie. He tried the latch; it was unfastened, and he entered. The first object he saw was Charlie, tied to a chair, with a small saucer of untasted food beside him. The little dog capered to the length of his ribbon, and mutely expressed the absence of his kind mistress, while Angus, bewildered, looked round the deserted dwelling in amazement. All at once his eyes caught sight of the letter addressed to him, and he tore it open. It was very brief, and ran thus—

"My Dearest,

"When you read this, I shall be gone from you. I am sorry, oh, so sorry, about the money—but it is not my fault that I did not know who old David was. I hope now that everything will be right, when I am out of the way. I did not tell you—but before I left London I asked the kind gentleman, Sir Francis Vesey, to let me make a will in case any accident happened to me on my way home. He arranged it all for me very quickly—so that everything I possess, including all the dreadful fortune that has parted you from me,—now belongs to you. And you will be a great and famous man; and I am sure you will get on much better without me than with me—for I am not clever, and I should not understand how to live in the world as the world likes to live. God bless you, darling! Thank you for loving me, who am so unworthy of your love! Be happy! David and I will perhaps be able to watch you from 'the other side,' and we shall be proud of all you do. For you will spend those terrible millions in good deeds that must benefit all the world, I am sure. That is what I hoped we might perhaps have done together—but I see quite plainly now that it is best you should be without me. My love, whom I love so much more than I have ever dared to, say!—Good-bye! MARY."

With a cry like that of a man in physical torture or despair, Angus rushed out of the house.

"Mary! Mary!" he cried to the tumbling stream and the moonlit sky. "Mary!"

He paused. Just then the clock in the little church tower struck ten. The village was asleep—and there was no sound of human life anywhere. The faint, subtle scent of sweetbriar stole on the air as he stood in a trance of desperate uncertainty—and as the delicate odour floated by, a rush of tears came to his eyes.

"Mary!" he called again—"Mary!"

Then all at once a fearful idea entered his brain that filled him as it were with a mad panic. Rushing up the coombe, he sprang across the torrent, and raced over the adjoining hill, as though racing for life. Soon in front of him towered the "Giant's Castle" Rock, and he ran up its steep ascent with an almost crazy speed. At the summit he halted abruptly, looking keenly from side to side. Was there any one there? No. There seemed to be no one. Chilled with a nameless horror, he stood watching—watching and listening to the crashing noise of the great billows as they broke against the rocks below. He raised his eyes to the heavens, and saw—almost unseeingly—a white cloud break asunder and show a dark blue space between,—just an azure setting for one brilliant star that shone out with a sudden flash like a signal. And then—then he caught sight of a dark crouching figure in the corner of the rocky platform over-hanging the sea,—a dear, familiar figure that even while he looked, rose up and advanced to the extreme edge with outstretched arms,—its lovely hair loosely flowing and flecked with glints of gold by the light of the moon. Nearer, nearer to the very edge of the dizzy height it moved—and Angus, breathless with terror, and fearing to utter a sound lest out of sudden alarm it should leap from its footing and be lost for ever, crept closer and ever closer. Closer still,—and he heard Mary's sweet voice murmuring plaintively—

"I wish I did not love him so dearly! I wish the world were not so beautiful! I wish I could stay—but I must go—I must go!—"Here there was a little sobbing cry—"You are so deep and cruel, you sea!—you have drowned so many brave men! You will not be long in drowning poor me, will you?—I don't want to struggle with you! Cover me up quickly—and let me forget—oh, no, no! Dear God, don't let me forget Angus!—I want to remember him always—always!"

She swayed towards the brink—one second more—and then, with a swift strong clasp and passionate cry Angus had caught her in her arms.

"Mary! Mary, my love! My wife! Anything but that, Mary! Anything but that!"

Heart to heart they stood, their arms entwined, clasping each other in a wild passion of tenderness,—Angus trembling in all his strong frame with the excitement and horror of the past moment, and Mary sobbing out all her weakness, weariness and gladness on his breast. Above their heads the bright star shone, pendant between the snowy wings of the dividing cloud, and the sound of the sea was as a sacred psalm of jubilation in their ears.

"Thank God I came in time! Thank God I have you safe!" and Angus drew her closer and yet closer into his fervent embrace—"Oh Mary, my darling!—sweetest of women! How could you think of leaving me? What should I have done without you! Poverty or riches—either or neither—I care not which! But I cannot lose you, Mary! I cannot let my heavenly treasure go! Nothing else matters in all the world—I only want love—and you!"


- Transcriber's Notes 1. Punctuation normalized to contemporary standards. 2. "Sorrel" was originally misspelled "Sorrell" on these pages: p. 15: "Mrs. Sorrel would be sorry" p. 15: "Matt Sorrel never did anything" p. 18: "Sorrel, I assure you!" p. 18: "Mrs. Sorrel peered at him" p. 19: "Mrs. Sorrel did not attempt" p. 20: "Mrs. Sorrel visibly swelled" 3. Individual spelling corrections and context: p. 30 pressent -> present ("always been present") p. 34 thresold -> threshold ("standing shyly on the thresold") p. 44 repudiatel -> repudiated ("firmly repudiated") p. 77 temprary -> temporary ("such temporary pleasures") p. 82 kitting -> knitting ("went on kitting rapidly") p. 85 Brush -> Bush ("and Bill Bush") p. 99 her -> he ("And he drew out") p. 92 undisguisel -> undisguised ("undisguised admiration") p. 116 a -> I ("if I can") p. 147 Wothram -> Wrotham ("answered Lord Wrotram") p. 157 scared -> scared ("scarred his vision") p. 184 sungly -> snugly ("was snugly ensconced") p. 190 mintes -> minutes ("A few minutes scramble") p. 255 must -> much ("dare not talk much") p. 270 acomplished -> accomplished ("fairly accomplished") p. 276 gentlemen -> gentleman ("rank of a gentleman") p. 335 me -> be ("There must be") p. 359 severel -> several ("writing several letters") p. 372 childred -> children ("sees his children") p. 396 troubed -> troubled ("quite confused and troubled") p. 399 addessed -> addressed ("to whom it was addressed") -


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