Read CHAPTER XXXII of Pretty Madcap Dorothy How She Won a Lover , free online book, by Laura Jean Libbey, on

Whenever a jealous woman is looking for something with which to feed the green-eyed monster, she usually finds it, or imagines she does, which amounts to the same thing. It was so with Nadine.

No one mentioned to Nadine the fact that Jessie was betrothed to Jack Garner. Even had she heard it, she would not have believed it. She would have imagined that it was a falsehood made up for her benefit.

She could not endure the kindly looks he gave Jessie, nor endure to see him bend over her, raise her from her pillow, and, while one strong arm supported her, coax her to take her medicine.

Such sights as these were more terrible for Nadine to endure than the pangs of death; and for hours afterward she would feel an almost uncontrollable desire to strangle the sick girl.

In Nadine’s heart there rose a mad wish that Jessie would die before Harry Kendal became too fond of her.

While Jessie slept and she was not buried in the depths of a newspaper to kill time, she would be brooding over this subject: If Jessie Staples would only die!

One day, while in this morbid mood, her eyes fell upon a fatal paragraph that riveted her attention with breathless interest.

It spoke of the death of a once noted court beauty who had been in her time the toast of all Europe. Men had fought duels for her sake, and courtiers thought it a great honor to risk life and limb to do her bidding, being repaid by only a smile or one glance from her wine-dark eyes.

It happened that while riding about in her pony-cart she had, by chance, one day encountered a poor tradesman’s son who had stopped by a brook at which her own horse was slaking his thirst, to give his steed a drink.

One glance at the fair, handsome Saxon face, and the girl who had laughed to scorn full many a lover, felt her heart going from her keeping to this bonny stranger.

Although he was poor—only a tradesman’s son—and she had wealth untold, yet the beauty was not fair in his eyes.

He passed her by with only a gracious bow, as any courtier might, for he was in a hurry to reach the side of his beloved Gretchen. She was only a peasant maid, but in his eyes she was more beautiful than a queen.

He loved the pretty Gretchen with all his heart.

When my lady came to inquire about him, and learned he had a pretty little sweetheart, she grew very wroth, but she said never a word.

On that day she sent for Gretchen, and employed her as her maid. But from that hour there was a change in Gretchen’s life.

Slowly but surely she faded, although her distracted lover did everything in his power to prolong the life of the maid he loved.

In the early spring-time, while robins sang and the trees put forth their blossoms, he gazed his last on all that was mortal of poor Gretchen.

The great lady tried her best to comfort Gretchen’s lover, but he would not be comforted.

His hopes were buried in Gretchen’s grave, and she could not turn his thoughts to herself, and ere the first moon waned, they laid him, too, beside his Gretchen, in his last home.

The great lady never smiled again, and soon after the doors of the convent closed upon one of the most beautiful women of her time.

On her death-bed she called one and all of those about her to listen to her tragic story.

She cried out that they must not touch her hand, for it was stained with human blood; and it was then that her horrible story was brought to light.

And in an awful whisper, while the long shadows deepened, she made this terrible revelation: that years, before she had murdered her maid, Gretchen, because the girl was loved by him whom she would have won.

By night and by day she pondered upon how it should be done, then suddenly the way and means occurred to her.

There was a powerful drug of which she had heard that gave women the most marvelous of complexions, but which sooner or later caused death.

Gretchen should take it; it could be placed in the basin of water in which she was wont to bathe her face each morning, and it would enter the body through the pores of the skin. In this way the doctors would be completely baffled, for they would not be able to trace the poison.

She put this dastardly plot into execution, and her cruel heart did not upbraid her, though she saw the girl droop and fade daily before her eyes.

When she looked out of her window and saw Gretchen and her lover pacing up and down the primrose path in the moonlight, a horrible laugh would break from the great lady’s ripe, red lips.

“There will be but a few more of these meetings, tender partings and kisses under the larch-tree boughs.”

She had never dreamed, this false, cruel beauty, that a man’s heart could be constant to a dead love and spurn a living one.

All these years she had lived to rue it; but neither prayers, nor suffering, nor pangs of conscience could atone for the terrible crime committed.

During all the years that had passed since Gretchen had been lying in that lonely grave, she had never known one moment’s peace of mind, until this hour when she lay dying and had confessed all.

Slowly, twice, thrice, Nadine Holt read the story through, and as she read, a terrible thought came into her own mind.

Why could not she procure this same drug and administer it in the same way to Jessie Staples?

She took the paper up to her room and hid it very carefully in her satchel.

True, Jessie had taken her in this time without saying one word of the past unpleasantness, treating her as though that quarrel had never been.

But Nadine was different. She was one of the kind that “never forgets, never forgives” while life lasts.

When the household was wrapped in deep sleep that night, Nadine stole out upon her terrible mission.

Several careful druggists refused to fill her order; but this did not daunt her. She knew that among the lot she would soon come across a catch-penny, and in this supposition she was quite right.

She soon found a place, and secured the deadly drug which she called for, and she stole into the house again without any one being the wiser for her midnight trip.

The light was burning low in the sick-room as she entered it, and Mrs. Brown sat half dozing in her chair by the bedside.

She started up as Nadine crossed the threshold.

“You needn’t mind staying any longer,” she remarked, brusquely; “I will take charge of the patient now.”

“No,” said the other, quietly but firmly. “It is between twelve and one that the most important medicine must be administered.”

“Don’t you suppose I am capable of giving it?” retorted Nadine angrily enough. “You don’t seem to realize what is the business of a paid nurse!”

The other made no remark, but still she lingered. Had she a suspicion that there was anything amiss?

She was a strange creature, anyhow, with that old-looking face, the great mass of thick black hair studded with gray, and the thick blue glasses.

Where had she seen some one of whom this creature reminded her so strangely and so strongly?

Even the tone of her voice, although it sounded hoarse and unnatural, was somehow familiar to her.

The very way in which Mrs. Brown crested her head she had seen somewhere before, and it had made quite an impression upon her at the time.

“I can not help thinking that she is always spying upon every movement of mine, and she listens—I am sure she does—to every word the doctor and I say; and these people who watch others so much always need watching themselves.”

Seeing that Nadine Holt was determined to banish her from the sick-room, Dorothy quitted the apartment with a very heavy heart, though she could not have told why.