The Lovely Lady (2)
The voice stopped speaking. Ciss realized that her aunt had a secret. Pauline's husband, Ronald, had not been Robert's father! Robert's father had been an Italian man called Mauro.
'I'm disappointed with you, Robert,' continued Pauline's voice. 'Your father was a priest, but he was the best lover in the world. You are like a cold fish. And Ciss is like a cat who is trying to catch you.'
Ciss suddenly put her mouth near the hole in the rain pipe and spoke. 'Leave Robert alone!' she said in a deep voice. 'Don't kill him too.'
There was a silence. The hot afternoon sun shone on the flat roof of the stables. Ciss listened, with her heart beating quickly. At last, she heard her aunt Pauline whisper the words, 'Did someone speak?'
Ciss spoke again into the hole of the lead gutter.
'You killed me,' she said in a deep, terrible voice. 'Don't kill Robert too!'
'Ah!' said Pauline, giving a little cry. 'Who's speaking?'
'Henry!' said Ciss in the same, deep voice.
There was silence again.
'I didn't kill you, Henry,' said Pauline. 'No! No! Henry, it wasn't my fault. I loved you, my dearest boy. I only wanted to help you.'
'You killed me!' Ciss said in the deep voice. Now, let Robert live. Let him go! Let him marry!'
'Henry!' said Pauline. Are you a ghost? Have you come to punish me for your death?'
'YES! I HAVE COME TO PUNISH YOU!' said Ciss in a terrible, frightening voice.
She was very angry with Pauline. She felt that her anger was going down the rain pipe to her aunt. At the same time, she almost laughed. This was a very funny conversation!
Ciss lay and listened. No sound came from the rain pipe. The afternoon had become cooler. Yellow and grey clouds had covered the sun. There was a roar of thunder. A storm was coming. Ciss dressed quickly, went down the ladder, and ran to the corner of the stables.
'Aunt Pauline!' she called. 'Did you hear thunder?'
'Y-yes! I am going indoors,' her aunt replied in a weak voice. 'Don't wait for me.'
Ciss watched her aunt go inside the house. The sky was growing darker. Ciss took the blankets and the chair and hurried inside.
Then the storm began. Pauline did not come downstairs to tea because she did not like thunder. Robert did not arrive home until after tea. By this time, the rain was pouring down.
Ciss went to her flat and got ready for dinner. She put on a pretty white dress and fastened some white flowers at her breast. When she went into the drawing room, Robert was waiting. He was standing by the drawing-room window and listening to the rain falling. He now had a different look on his face as he watched her.
The drawing room was lit by the soft light of a table lamp. Ciss walked towards the bookshelves near the door. When she heard the door opening softly, Ciss suddenly turned on the switch of the ceiling light. Her aunt, wearing a black dress, stood in the doorway. The strong, hard light showed her face clearly. Pauline was wearing make-up, but her face looked old and full of hate.
'Oh, aunt!' cried Ciss.
'Mother, you look like a little old lady!' said Robert in a shocked voice.
'Aren't we going to eat dinner?' asked Pauline angrily.
Pauline sat at the table, getting angrier and angrier. She looked very, very old and very ugly.
Ciss and Robert watched each other. He was very shocked by his mother's face. Pauline ate her dinner quickly, like a hungry dog. As soon as they had finished eating, she ran towards the stairs. Robert and Ciss followed her from the room.
'You pour the coffee. I hate it,' said the old woman quickly. 'I'm going to bed! Goodnight!'
There was silence. At last, Robert said, 'I'm afraid that mother isn't well. She must see a doctor.'
'Yes,' said Ciss.
The rest of the evening passed in silence. Robert and Ciss stayed in the drawing room. A fire was lit. Outside, cold rain was falling.
At about ten o'clock, the door opened and Pauline came into the room. She shut the door and came to the fire. Then she looked at Robert and Ciss with hate in her eyes.
'You two should get married quickly,' she said in an ugly voice. 'You are so much in love.'
Robert looked up at his mother. 'You believed that cousins should not marry, Mother,' he said quietly. 'You told me that often.'
'I do believe that cousins shouldn't marry,' replied Pauline. 'But you're not cousins. Your father was an Italian priest, Robert. He was a great man. And he was too great to have a weak son like you.'
With a terrible look on her face, Pauline left the room.
Pauline had gone mad. Her madness continued for a week. The doctor came and told her that she must sleep. He gave her drugs to help her. But she did not take the medicine. She walked about her room, looking ugly and full of hate. She would not look at either Robert or Ciss.
At first, Ciss was frightened by what she had done. She realized that her trick had made her aunt mad. Ciss almost felt sorry for the terrible thing that she had done.
Then she thought, 'This woman is the real Pauline. We never saw her true character before.'
But Pauline was not going to live long. She stayed in her room, and did not see anyone. She had her mirrors taken away. She did not want to look at herself.
Robert and Ciss spent a lot of time together. But Ciss could not tell Robert what she had done. She was afraid.
'Do you think that your mother ever loved anybody?' Ciss asked him one evening.
'Mother only loved herself!' Robert said. 'And she loved power. She got her power by controlling other people's lives. She was beautiful, and she grew strong by controlling everyone and everything. She destroyed Henry and she was destroying me.'
'And don't you forgive her?' asked Ciss.
'No, I don't. She took other people's hopes and happiness and destroyed them.'
Two days later, Pauline died.
Ciss found her dead, in her bed. Pauline's heart had become weak, and the drugs that she took were too strong for her. But after her death, Pauline got her revenge on her son and her niece.
Pauline Attenborough was a very rich woman, but she left Robert only one thousand pounds. And she left Ciss only one hundred pounds. The rest of her money went to a museum. She had built a museum and given it her own name - the Pauline Attenborough Museum.