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Title: Wife in Name Only
Author: Brame, Charlotte M. (Charlotte Monica), 1836-1884
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Wife in Name Only" ***

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[Transcriber's Note: There were several words that appeared to be
printers errors in this book. These have been changed; the changes are
marked, and the original spellings are at the end of the text.]



WIFE IN NAME ONLY

By

Charlotte M. Braeme

(Bertha M. Clay)

Chicago



By The Same Author In Uniform Style


Dora Thorne
From Gloom to Sunlight
Her Martyrdom
Golden Heart
Her Only Sin
Lady Damer's Secret
The Squire's Darling
Her Mother's Sin
Wife in Name Only
Wedded and Parted
Shadow of a Sin



Wife in Name Only



Chapter I.



It was the close Of an autumn day, and Dr. Stephen Letsom had been
standing for some time at his window watching the sun go down. It faded
slowly out of the western sky. There had been a golden flush with the
sunset which changed into crimson, then into purple, and finally into
dull gray tints that were forerunners of the shades of night. Dr.
Stephen Letsom had watched it with sad, watchful eyes. The leaves on the
trees had seemed to be dyed first in red, then in purple. The
chrysanthemums changed color with every phase of the sunset; there was a
wail in the autumn wind as though the trees and flowers were mourning
over their coming fate. There was something of sadness in the whole
aspect of nature.

The doctor evidently shared it. The face looking from the window was
anything but a cheerful one. Perhaps it was not the most judicious
manner in which the doctor could have spent his time--above all, if he
wished to give people an impression that he had a large practice. But
Dr. Letsom had ceased to be particular in the matter of appearances. He
was to all intents and purposes a disappointed man. Years before, when
his eyes were bright with the fires of youth, and hope was strong in his
heart, he had invested such money as he possessed in the purchase of a
practice at Castledene, and it had proved to be a failure--why, no one
exactly knew.

Castledene was one of the prettiest little towns in Kent. It had a
town-hall, a market-place, a weekly market, and the remains of a fine
old castle; but it was principally distinguished for its races, a yearly
event which brought a great influx of visitors to the town. It was half
buried in foliage, surrounded by dense woods and green hills, with a
clear, swift river running by. The inhabitants were divided into three
distinct classes--the poor, who gained a scanty livelihood by working in
the fields, the shop-keepers, and the gentry, the latter class
consisting principally of old maids and widows, ladies of unblemished
gentility and limited means. Among the latter Dr. Letsom was not
popular. He had an unpleasant fashion of calling everything by its right
name. If a lady would take a little more stimulant than was good for her
he could not be persuaded to call her complaint "nervousness;" when
idleness and ennui preyed upon a languid frame, he had a startling habit
of rousing the patient by a mental cautery. The poor idolized him, but
the ladies pronounced him coarse, abrupt; and when ladies decide against
a doctor, fate frowns upon him.

How was he to get on in the world? Twenty years before he had thought
less of getting on than of the interests of science or of doing good;
now those ideas were gradually leaving him--life had become a stern
hand-to-hand fight with hard necessity. The poor seemed to be growing
poorer--the difficulty of getting a fee became greater--the ladies
seemed more and more determined to show their dislike and aversion.

Matters were growing desperate, thought Dr. Letsom on this autumn night,
as he stood watching the chrysanthemums and the fading light in the
western sky. Money was becoming a rare commodity with him. His
housekeeper, Mrs. Galbraith had long been evincing signs of great
discontent. She had not enough for her requirements--she wanted money
for a hundred different things, and the doctor had none to give her. The
curtains were worn and shabby, the carpets full of holes, the furniture,
though clean and well preserved, was totally insufficient. In vain the
doctor assured her he had not the means; after the fashion of
weak-minded women, she grumbled incessantly. On this night he felt
overwhelmed with cares. The rent due the preceding June had not been
paid; the gas and coal accounts were still unsettled; the butcher had
sent in his "little bill;" the baker had looked anything but pleased at
the non-payment of his. The doctor sadly wanted a new hat--and he had
hardly money in hand for the week's expenses. What was to be done?

Mrs. Galbraith retired to rest in a very aggrieved state of mind, and
the doctor stood watching the stars, as they came out in the darkening
sky. He was tired of the struggle; life had not been a success with him;
he had worked hard, yet nothing had prospered. In youth he had loved a
bright, pretty girl, who had looked forward to becoming his wife; but he
had never married, because he had not had the means, and the pretty girl
died a disappointed woman. Now, as he watched the stars, he fancied them
shining on her grave; fancied the grass waving above her head; studded
with large white daisies; and he wished that he were lying by her side,
free from care, and at rest. Strong man as he was his eyes grew dim with
tears, and his lips trembled with a deep-drawn, bitter sob.

He was turning away, with a feeling of contempt for his own weakness,
when he was startled by the sound of a vehicle driven furiously down
Castle street. What vehicle could it be at that hour of the
night--nearly eleven? Stephen Letsom stood still and watched. He saw a
traveling carriage, with two horses, driven rapidly up to the door of
the principal hotel--the Castle Arms--and there stand for some few
minutes. It was too dark for him to see if any one alighted from it, or
what took place; but, after a time the horses' heads were turned, and
then, like a roll of thunder, came the noise of the carriage-wheels.

The vehicle drew up before his door, and the doctor stood for a few
moments as though paralyzed. Then came a violent peal of the doorbell;
and he knowing that Mrs. Galbraith had retired for the evening, went to
answer it. There indeed, in the starlight, were the handsome traveling
carriage, the pair of gray horses, and the postilion. Stephen Letsom
looked about him like one in a dream. He had been twenty years in the
place, yet no carriage had ever stopped at his door.

He heard a quick, impatient voice, saying:

"Are you the doctor--Dr. Letsom?"

Looking in the direction of the sound, the doctor saw a tall,
distinguished-looking man, wrapped in a traveling cloak--a man whose
face and manner indicated at once that he belonged to the upper ranks of
society. Dr. Stephen Letsom was quick to recognize that fact.

"I am the doctor," he replied, quietly.

"Then for Heaven's sake, help me! I am almost mad. My wife has been
suddenly taken ill, and I have been to the hotel, where they tell me
they have not a room in which they can lodge her. The thing is
incredible. You must help me."

"I will do what I can," returned the doctor.

Had fortune indeed knocked at his door at last?

He went to the carriage-door, and, looking inside, saw a lady, young and
beautiful, who stretched out her hands to him, as though appealing for
help.

"I am very ill," she moaned, feebly.

Dr. Letsom guessed so much from her pallid face and shadowed eyes.

"What is the matter with your wife?" he asked of the strange gentleman,
who bent down and whispered something that made Dr. Letsom himself look
anxious.

"Now doctor," said the traveler, "it is useless to raise objections You
see how the matter stands; my wife must stop here. The hotel is full of
visitors--people who are here for the races. There is nowhere else for
her to go--she must stay here."

"At my house?" interrogated the doctor. "It is impossible."

"Why?" asked the stranger, quickly.

"Because I am not married--I have no wife, no sister."

"But you have women-servants, surely?" was the hasty rejoinder.

"Only one, and she is not over-clever."

"You can get more. My wife must have help. Send all over the place--get
the best nurses, the best help possible. Do not study expense. I will
make you a rich man for life if you will only help me now."

"I will help you," said Dr. Letsom.

For a moment his thoughts flew to the green grave under the stars.
Riches would come too late, after all; they could not bring back life to
the dead.

"Wait one moment," said the doctor; and he hastened to rouse his
housekeeper, who, curious and interested, exerted herself so as to
satisfy even the stranger.

Then the strange lady, all white and trembling, was helped down from the
parlor into the doctor's shabby little parlor.

"Am I going to die?" she asked, raising her large blue eyes to the
doctor's face.

"Certainly not," he replied, promptly; "you must not think of dying."

"But I am very ill; and last night I dreamed that I was dead."

"Have you any brandy in the house?" asked the traveler. "See how my wife
trembles."

Alas for the poor doctor! There was neither brandy nor wine. With an
impatient murmur, the stranger called the postilion and sent him to the
Castle arms with such an order as made Mrs. Galbraith open her eyes in
wonder. Than, without seeming to notice the doctor or his servant, he
flung himself on his knees by the lady's side, and kissed the beautiful
white face and colorless lips.

"My darling," he cried, "this is my fault. I ought not to have asked you
to undertake such a journey. Can you ever forgive me?"

She kissed him.

"You did all for the best, Hubert," she said, then adding, in a whisper:
"Do you think I shall die?"

Then the doctor thought it right to interpose.

"There is no question of death," he said; "but you must be quiet. You
must have no agitation--that would injure you."

Then he and Mrs. Galbraith led the beautiful, trembling girl to the
room which the latter had hastily prepared for her, and, when she was
installed therein, the doctor returned to the stranger, who was pacing,
with quick, impatient steps, up and down the little parlor.

"How is she?" he cried, eagerly.

The doctor shook his head.

"She is young and very nervous," he replied. "I had better tell you at
once that she will not be able to leave Castledene for a time--all
thought of continuing the journey must be abandoned."

"But she is in no danger?" cried the traveler, and Stephen Letsom saw an
agony of suspense in his face.

"No, she is not in danger; but she requires and must have both rest and
care."

"She shall have anything, if Heaven will only spare her. Doctor, my best
and safest plan will be to make a friend of you, to confide in you, and
then we can arrange together what had better be done. Can you spare me
five minutes?"

Stephen Letsom nodded assent, and sat down to listen to as strange a
story as he bad ever heard.

"I should imagine," said the strange gentleman, "that no man likes to
plead guilty to a folly. I must do so. Let me first of all introduce
myself to you as Lord Charlewood. I am the only son of the Earl of
Mountdean, and my father lies dying in Italy. I came of age only last
year, and at the same time I fell in love. Now I am not in any way
dependent on my father--the title and estate are entailed--but I love
him. In these degenerate days it seems perhaps strange to hear a son say
that he loves his father. I have obeyed him all my life from this
motive. I would give my life for him. But in one respect I have done
that which will cause him great annoyance and anger. I have married
without his knowledge."

The doctor looked up with greater interest; perhaps his thoughts
reverted to the grave in the starlight. Lord Charlewood moved uneasily
in his chair.

"I cannot say that I am sorry," he continued, "for I love my wife very
dearly; but I do wish now that I had been less hurried, less
precipitate. My wife's great loveliness must be my excuse. She is the
daughter of a poor curate, the Reverend Charles Trevor, who came two
years ago to supply temporarily the place of the Rector of Lynton. He
brought his daughter with him; and the first moment I saw her I fell in
love with her. My heart seemed to go out from me and cleave to her. I
loved her with what I can see now was the selfish ardor of a young man.
I had but one thought--to win her. I wrote to my father, who was in
Italy, and asked his consent. He refused it in the most decided manner,
and told me to think no more of what after all was but a boy's fancy. He
was then staying near the Lake of Como--staying for the benefit of his
health--and I went over to see him. I pleaded, prayed, urged my great
love--all in vain. The earl, my father, only laughed at me, and said all
young men suffered from the fever called love. I came back to England,
and found that Mr. Trevor was dead. Madaline, his daughter, was left
alone in the world. She raised her beautiful face to mine, poor child,
and tried to smile while she talked of going out into the world and of
working hard for her daily bread; and, as I listened, my love seemed to
grow stronger and deeper. I caught her in my arms, and swore that
nothing should part us--that, come what would, she must be my wife. She
was very unwilling--not that she did not love me, but because she was
afraid of making my father angry; that was her great objection. She knew
my love for him and his affection for me. She would not come between us.
It was in vain that I prayed her to do as I wished. After a time she
consented to a compromise--to marry me without my father's knowledge. It
was a folly, I own; now I see clearly its imprudence--then I imagined it
the safest and surest way. I persuaded her, as I had persuaded myself,
that, when my father once knew that we were married, he would forgive
us, and all would go well. We were married eleven mouths since, and I
have been so happy since then that it has seemed to me but a single day.
My beautiful young wife was frightened at the bold step we had taken,
but I soothed her. I did not take her home to Wood Lynton, but, laying
aside all the trappings of wealth and title, we have traveled from place
to place as Mr. and Mrs. Charlewood, enjoying our long honeymoon. If we
liked any one particular spot we remained in it. But a letter from Italy
came like a thunderbolt--my father had grown rapidly worse and wanted to
see me at once. If I had been content to go at once, all would have been
well. I could not endure that he should die without seeing, loving, and
blessing my wife Madaline. I told her my desire, and she consented most
cheerfully to accompany me. I ought to have known that--in her state of
health--traveling was most injurious; but I was neglectful of the
fact--I listened only to my heart's desire, that my father should see my
wife before he died. We started on our fatal journey--only this morning.
At first my wife seemed to enjoy it; and then I saw all the color fading
from her sweet face. I saw her lips grow white and tremble, and I became
alarmed. It was not until we reached Castledene that she gave in and
told me she could go no further. Still you say there is no danger, and
that you do not think she will die?"

"Danger? No, I see none. Life and death lie in the hands of One above
us; but, humanely speaking, I see no danger."

"Of course we cannot get on now," observed Lord Charlewood "at least
Lady Charlewood cannot. How long do you think my suspense will last?"

"Not much longer," was the calm reply. "By noon to-morrow all will be
safe and well, I hope."

"I must wait until then," said Lord Charlewood. "I could not leave my
wife while even the faintest shadow of danger lies over her. If all be
well, I can start the day after to-morrow; and, please Heaven, I shall
be in time to see my father. You think I shall have good news for him?"

"I have every hope that you will be able to tell him that the heir of
the Mountdeans is thriving and well."

Lord Charlewood smiled.

"Such news as that will more than reconcile him to our marriage," he
said. After a pause he continued: "It is a most unfortunate matter; yet
I am just as well pleased that my son and heir should be born in
England. Doctor, there is another thing I wish to say. I know perfectly
well what these little country towns are--everything is a source of
gossip and sensation. If it were known that such an incident as this had
happened to me, the papers would be filled with it; and it might fall
out that my father, the earl, would come to know of it before I myself
could tell him. We had better take all proper precautions against such a
thing. I should prefer that we be known here only as Mr. and Mrs.
Charlewood. No one will think of connecting the surname with the title."

"You are quite right," agreed the doctor.

"Another thing I wish to add is that I want you to spare no
expense--send for the best nurse, the best help it is possible to get.
Remember that I am a rich man, and that I would give my whole fortune,
my life itself a thousand times over, to save or to serve my wife."

Then came a summons for the doctor from the room above, and Lord
Charlewood was once more left alone. He was a young man, and was
certainly both a good and honorable one. He had never deliberately done
anything wicked--on the contrary he had tried always to do what was
best; yet, as he stood there, a strange sense of something wanting came
over him. The young wife he loved with such passionate worship was in
the hour of need, and he could render no assistance.

Later on a strange hush had fallen over the doctor's house. It was past
1 in the morning; the sky was overcast; the wind was moaning fitfully,
as though a storm was brewing in the autumn air. The dew lay thick and
heavy on the ground. Inside the house was the strange hush that
dangerous sickness always brings with it. The doctor had in haste
summoned the best nurse in Castledene, Hannah Furney, who shook her head
gravely when she saw the beautiful pale face. An hour passed, and again
Dr. Letsom sought his distinguished guest.

"I am sorry not to bring better news," he said. "Lady--Mrs
Charlewood--is not so well as I had hoped she would be. Dr. Evans is
considered very clever. I should like further advice. Shall I send for
him?"

The sudden flash of agony that came into Lord Charlewood's face was a
revelation to Dr. Letsom; he laid his hand with a gentle touch on the
stranger's arm.

"Do not fear the worst," he said. "She is in the hands of Heaven. I am
taking only ordinary precautions. I do not say she is in danger--I
merely say that she is not so well as I should like to see her."

Another hour passed, the church clock at Castledene was striking two,
and Dr. Evans had joined the grave-faced group around the sick woman's
bed. He, too, had looked with compassion on the beautiful young
face--he, too, had bent forward to listen to the whisper that parted the
white lips.

"Am I going to die?" she asked.

He tried to smile and say something about hope; but Nurse Furney knew,
and she turned away lest the sick woman's questioning eyes should read
what her face betrayed.

Three o'clock struck. A sweet voice, abrupt and clear, broke the silence
of the solemn scene.

"Hubert. Where is Hubert? I must see him."

"Tell him to come," said Dr. Evans to Dr. Letsom, "but do not tell him
there is any danger."

A few minutes later Lord Charlewood stood by the side of his young wife.

"Hubert," she said to him, with outstretched hands, "Hubert, my husband,
I am so frightened. They do not tell me the truth. Am I going to die?"

He bent down to kiss her.

"Die, my darling? No, certainly not. You are going to live, to be what
you always have been, the dearest, sweetest wife in the world." And he
believed implicitly[1] what he said.

Then came a strange sleep, half waking, half dreaming. Lady Charlewood
fancied that she was with her husband on the seashore, and that the
waves were coming in so fast that they threatened to drown her, they
were advancing in such great sheets of foam. Once more she clung to him,
crying:

"Help me, Hubert; I shall be drowned--see how the tide is coming in!"

Then the doctor bade him leave her--he must go down to the shabby,
lowly little room, where the gas was burning, and the early dawn of the
morning was coming in. The agony of unrest was on him. He thought how
useless was money, after all; here he was with thousands at his command,
yet he could not purchase help or safety for her whom his soul loved
best. He was helpless, he could do nothing to assist her; he could trust
only to Heaven.

He went from the window to the door; he trembled at the solemn silence,
the terrible hush; he longed for the full light of day. Suddenly he
heard a sound that stirred the very depths of his heart--that brought a
crimson flush to his face and tears to his eyes. It was the faint cry of
a little child. Presently he heard the footsteps of Dr. Letsom; and the
next minute the doctor was standing before him, with a grave look on his
face.

"You have a little daughter," he said--"a beautiful little girl--but
your wife is in danger; you had better come and see her."

Even he--the doctor--accustomed to scenes of sorrow and desolation was
startled by the cry of pain that came from the young man's lips.



Chapter II



Five o'clock! The chimes had played the hour, the church clock had
struck; the laborers were going to the fields, the dairy-maids were
beginning their work; the sky had grown clear and blue, the long night
of agony was over. The Angel of Death had spread his wings over the
doctor's house, and awaited only the moment when his sword should fall.

Inside, the scene had hardly changed. The light of the lamp seemed to
have grown so ghostly that the nurse had turned it out, and, drawing the
blinds, let the faint morning light come in. It fell on the beautiful
face that had grown even whiter in the presence of death. Lady
Charlewood was dying; yet the feeble arms held the little child tightly.
She looked up as her husband entered the room. He had combated by a
strong effort all outward manifestations of despair.

"Hubert," whispered the sweet, faint voice, "see, this is our little
daughter."

He bent down, but he could not see the child for the tears that filled
his eyes.

"Our little daughter," she repeated; "and they say, Hubert, that I have
given my life for hers. Is it true?"

He looked at the two doctors; he looked at the white face bearing the
solemn, serene impress of death. It would be cruel to deceive her now,
when the hands that caressed the little child were already growing
colder.

"Is it true, Hubert?" she repeated, a clear light shining in her dying
eyes.

"Yes, my darling, it is true," he said, in a low voice.

"I am dying--really dying--when I have my baby and you?" she questioned.
"Oh, Hubert, is it really true?"

Nothing but his sobs answered her; dying as she was, all sweet, womanly
compassion awoke in her heart.

"Hubert," she whispered--"oh, my darling, if you could come with me!--I
want to see you kiss the baby while it lies here in my arms."

He bent down and kissed the tiny face, she watching him all the time.

"You will be very kind to her, darling, for my sake, because you have
loved me so much, and call her by my name--Madaline. Tell her about me
when she grows up--how young I was to die, how dearly I loved you, and
how I held her in my arms. You will not forget?"

"No," he said, gently; "I shall not forget."

The hapless young mother kissed the tiny rosebud face, all the passion
and anguish of her love shining in her dying eyes; and then the nurse
carried the babe away.

"Hubert," said Lady Charlewood, in a low, soft, whisper, "may I die in
your arms, darling?"

She laid her head on his breast, and looked at him with the sweet
content of a little child.

"I am so young," she said, gently, "to die--to leave you Hubert. I have
been so happy with you--I love you so much."

"Oh, my wife, my wife!" he groaned, "how am I to bear it?"

The white hands softly clasped his own.

"You will bear it in time," she said. "I know how you will miss me; but
you have the baby and your father--you will find enough to fill your
life. But you will always love me best--I know that, Hubert. My heart
feels so strange; it seems to stop, and then to beat slowly. Lay your
face on mine, darling."

He did just as she requested, whispering sweet, solemn words of comfort;
and then, beneath his own he felt her lips grow cold and still.
Presently he heard one long, deep-drawn sigh. Some one raised the sweet
head from his breast, and laid it back upon the pillow. He knew she was
dead.

He tried to bear it; he said to himself that he must be a man, that he
had to live for his child's sake. He tried to rise, but the strength of
his manhood failed him. With a cry never forgotten by those who heard
it, Lord Charlewood fell with his face on the ground.

Seven o'clock. The full light of day was shining in the solemn chamber;
the faint golden sunbeams touched the beautiful white face, so still and
solemn in death; the white hands were folded, and lay motionless on the
quiet heart. Kindly hands had brushed back the golden-brown hair; some
one had gathered purple chrysanthemums and laid them round the dead
woman, so that she looked like a marble bride on a bed of flowers. Death
wore no stern aspect there; the agony and the torture, the dread and
fear, were all forgotten; there was nothing but the sweet smile of one
at perfect rest.

They had not darkened the room, after the usual ghostly fashion--Stephen
Letsom would not have it so--but they had let in the fresh air and the
sunshine, and had placed autumn flowers in the vases. The baby had been
carried away--the kind-hearted nurse had charge of it. Dr. Evans had
gone home, haunted by the memory of the beautiful dead face. The birds
were singing in the morning sun; and Lord Charlewood, still crushed by
his great grief, lay on the couch in the little sitting-room where he
had spent so weary a night.

"I cannot believe it," he said, "or, believing, cannot realize it. Do
you mean to tell me, doctor, that she who only yesterday sat smiling by
my side, life of my life, soul of my soul, dearer to me than all the
world, has gone from me, and that I shall see her no more? I cannot, I
will not believe it! I shall hear her crying for me directly, or she
will come smiling into the room. Oh, Madaline, my wife, my wife!"

Stephen Letsom was too clever a man and too wise a doctor to make any
endeavor to stem such a torrent of grief. He knew that it must have its
way. He sat patiently listening, speaking when he thought a word would
be useful; and Lord Charlewood never knew how much he owed to his kind,
unwearied patience.

Presently he went up to look at his wife, and, kneeling by her side,
nature's great comforter came to him. He wept as though his heart would
break--tears that eased the burning brain, and lightened the heavy
heart. Dr. Letsom was a skillful, kindly man; he let the tears flow, and
made no effort to stop them. Then, after a time, disguised in a glass of
wine, he administered a sleeping potion, which soon took effect. He
looked with infinite pity on the tired face. What a storm, a tempest of
grief had this man passed through!

"It will be kinder and better to let him sleep the day and night
through, if he can," said Stephen to himself. "He would be too ill to
attend to any business even if he were awake."

So through the silent hours of the day Lord Charlewood slept, and the
story spread from house to house, until the little town rang with
it--the story of the travelers, the young husband and wife, who, finding
no room at the hotel, had gone to the doctors, where the poor lady had
died. Deep sympathy and pity were felt and expressed; kind-hearted
mothers wept over the babe; some few were allowed to enter the solemn
death chamber; and these went away haunted, as Dr. Evans was, by the
memory of the lovely dead face. Through it all Lord Charlewood slept the
heavy sleep of exhaustion and fatigue, and it was the greatest mercy
that could have befallen him.

The hour of wakening was to come--Stephen Letsom never forgot it. The
bereaved man was frantic in his grief, mad with the sense of his loss.
Then the doctor, knowing how one great sorrow counteracts another, spoke
of his father, reminding him that if he wished to see him alive he must
take some little care of himself.

"I shall not leave her!" cried Lord Charlewood. "Living or dead, she is
dearer than all the world to me--I shall not leave her!"

"Nor do I wish you to do so," said the doctor. "I know you are a strong
man--I believe you to be a brave one; in grief of this kind the first
great thing is to regain self-control. Try to regain yours, and then you
will see for yourself what had better be done."

Lord Charlewood discerned the truth.

"Have patience with me," he said, "a little longer; the blow is so
sudden, so terrible, I cannot yet realize what the world is without
Madaline."

A few hours passed, and the self-control he had struggled for was his.
He sent for Dr. Letsom.

"I have been thinking over what is best," he said, "and have decided on
all my plans. Have you leisure to discuss them with me?"

The question seemed almost ironical to the doctor, who had so much more
time to spare than he cared to have. He sat down by Lord Charlewood's
side, and they held together the conversation that led to such strange
results.

"I should not like a cold, stone grave for my beautiful wife," said Lord
Charlewood. "She was so fair, so _spirituelle_, she loved all nature so
dearly; she loved the flowers, trees, and the free fresh air of heaven.
Let her be where she can have them all now."

The doctor looked up with mild reproach in his eyes.

"She has something far better than the flowers of this world," he said.
"If ever a dead face told of rest and peace, hers does; I have never
seen such a smile on any other."

"I should like to find her a grave where the sun shines and the dew
falls," observed Lord Charlewood--"where grass and flowers grow and
birds sing in the trees overhead. She would not seem so far away from me
then."

"You can find many such graves in the pretty church-yard here in
Castledene," said the doctor.

"In time to come," continued Lord Charlewood, "she shall have the
grandest marble monument that can be raised, but now a plain white cross
will be sufficient, with her name, Madaline Charlewood; and, doctor,
while I am away you will have the grave attended to--kept bright with
flowers--tended as for some one that you loved."

Then they went out together to the green church-yard at the foot of the
hill, so quiet, so peaceful, so calm, and serene, that death seemed
robbed of half its terrors; white daisies and golden buttercups studded
it, the dense foliage of tall lime-trees rippled above it. The graves
were covered with richly-hued autumn flowers; all was sweet, calm,
restful. There was none of earth's fever here. The tall gray spire of
the church rose toward, the clear blue sky.

Lord Charlewood stood looking around him in silence.

"I have seen such a scene in pictures," he said. "I have read of such in
poems, but it is the first I have really beheld. If my darling could
have chosen for herself, she would have preferred to rest here."

On the western slope, where the warmest and brightest sun beams lay,
under the shade of the rippling lime-trees, they laid Lady Charlewood to
rest. For long years afterward the young husband was to carry with him
the memory of that green grassy grave. A plain white cross bore for the
present her name; it said simply:

         In Loving Memory of
         MADALINE CHARLEWOOD,
      who died in her 20th year.
    ERECTED BY HER SORROWING HUSBAND.

"When I give her the monument she deserves," he said. "I can add no
more."

They speak of that funeral to this day in Castledene--of the sad, tragic
story, the fair young mother's death, the husband's wild despair. They
tell how the beautiful stranger was buried when the sun shone and the
birds sang--how solemnly the church-bell tolled, each knell seeming to
cleave the clear sunlit air--how the sorrowing young husband, so
suddenly and so terribly bereft, walked first, the chief mourner in the
sad procession; they tell how white his face was, and how at each toll
of the solemn bell he winced as though some one had struck him a
terrible blow--how he tried hard to control himself, but how at the
grave, when she was hidden forever from his sight, he stretched out his
hands, crying, "Madaline, Madaline!" and how for the remainder of that
day he shut himself up alone, refusing to hear the sound of a voice, to
look at a human face--refusing food, comfort, grieving like one who has
no hope for the love he had lost. All Castledene grieved with him; it
seemed as though death and sorrow had entered every house.

Then came the morrow, when he had to look his life in the face
again--life that he found so bitter without Madaline. He began to
remember his father, who, lying sick unto death, craved for his
presence. He could do no more for Madaline; all his grief, his tears,
his bitter sorrow, were useless; he could not bring her back; he was
powerless where she was concerned. But with regard to his father matters
were different--to him he could take comfort, healing, and consolation.
So it was decided that he should at once continue his broken journey.

What of little Madaline, the child who had her dead mother's large blue
eyes and golden hair? Again Lord Charlewood and the doctor sat in solemn
conclave; this time the fate of the little one hung in the balance.

Lord Charlewood said that if he found his father still weak and ill, he
should keep the secret of his marriage. Of course, if Madaline had
lived, all would have been different--he would have proudly owned it
then. But she was dead. The child was so young and so feeble, it seemed
doubtful whether it would live. What need then to grieve the old earl by
the story of his folly and his disobedience? Let the secret remain.
Stephen Letsom quite agreed with him in this; no one knew better than
himself how dangerous was the telling of bad or disagreeable news to a
sick man. And then Lord Charlewood added:

"You have indeed been a friend in need to me, Dr. Letsom. Money can no
more repay such help as yours than can thanks; all my life I shall be
grateful to you. I am going now to Italy, and most probably shall remain
there until the earl, my father, grows better, or the end comes. When I
return to England, my first care shall be to forward your views and
prospects in life; until then I want you to take charge of my child."

Stephen Letsom looked up, with something like a smile.

"I shall be a rough nurse," he observed.

"You understand me," said Lord Charlewood. "You have lived here so long
that you know the place and every one in it, I have been thinking so
much of my little one. It would be absurd for me to take her to Italy;
and as, for my father's sake, I intend to keep my marriage a secret for
some time longer, I cannot send her to any of my own relatives or
friends. I think the best plan will be for you to find some healthy,
sensible woman, who would be nurse and foster-mother to her."

"That can easily be managed," remarked Stephen Letsom.

"Then you will have both child and nurse entirely under your own
control. You can superintend all arrangements made for the little one's
benefit. I have thought of offering to send you five hundred per annum,
from which you can pay what you think proper for the child. You can
purchase what is needful for her, and you will have an income for
yourself. That I beg you accept in return for the services you have
rendered me."

Dr. Letsom expressed his gratitude. He thanked Lord Charlewood and began
at once to look around for some one who would be a fitting person to
take care of little Madaline. Lord Charlewood had expressed a desire to
see all settled before leaving for Italy.

Among the doctor's patients was one who had interested him very
much--Margaret Dornham. She had been a lady's-maid. She was a pretty,
graceful woman, gentle and intelligent--worthy of a far better lot than
had fallen to her share. She ought to have married a well-to-do
tradesman, for whom she would have made a most suitable wife; but she
had given her love to a handsome ne'er do well, with whom she had never
had one moment of peace or happiness. Henry Dornham had never borne a
good character; he had a dark, handsome face--a certain kind of rich,
gypsy-like beauty--but no other qualifications. He was neither
industrious, nor honest, nor sober. His handsome face, his dark eyes,
and rich curling hair had won the heart of the pretty, graceful, gentle
lady's-maid, and she had married him--only to rue the day and hour in
which she had first seen him.

They lived in a picturesque little cottage called Ashwood, and there
Margaret Dornham passed through the greatest joy and greatest sorrow of
her life. Her little child, the one gleam of sunshine that her darkened
life had ever known, was born in the little cottage, and there it had
died.

Dr. Letsom, who was too abrupt for the ladies of Castledene, had watched
with the greatest and most untiring care over the fragile life of that
little child. He had exerted his utmost skill in order to save it. But
all was in vain; and on the very day that Lord Charlewood arrived at
Castledene the child died.

When a tender nurse and foster-mother was needed for little Madaline,
the doctor thought of Margaret Dornham. He felt that all difficulty was
at an end. He sent for her. Even Lord Charlewood looked with interest at
the graceful, timid woman, whose fair young face was so deeply marked
with lines of care.

"Will I take charge of a little child?" she replied to the doctor's
question. "Indeed I will, and thank Heaven for sending me something to
keep my heart from breaking."

"You feel the loss of your own little one very keenly?" said Lord
Charlewood.

"Feel it, sir? All the heart I have lies in my baby's grave."

"You must give a little of it to mine, since Heaven has taken its own
mother," he said, gently. "I am not going to try flu bribe you with
money--money does not buy the love and care of good women like you--but
I ask you, for the love you bore to your own child, to be kind to mine.
Try to think, if you can, that it is your own child brought back to
you."

"I will," she promised, and she kept her word.

"You will spare neither expense nor trouble," he continued, "and when I
return you shall be most richly recompensed. If all goes well, and the
little one prospers with you, I shall leave her with you for two or
three years at least. You have been a lady's-maid, the doctor tells me.
In what families have you lived?"

"Principally with Lady L'Estrange, of Verdun Royal, sir," she replied.
"I left because Miss L'Estrange was growing up, and my lady wished to
have a French maid."

In after years he thought how strange it was that he should have asked
the question.

"I want you," said Lord Charlewood, "to devote yourself entirely to the
little one; you will be so liberally paid as not to need work of any
other kind. I am going abroad, but I leave Dr. Letsom as the guardian of
the child; apply to him for everything you want, as you will not be able
to communicate with me."

He watched her as she took the child in her arms. He was satisfied when
he saw the light that came into her face: he knew that little Madaline
would be well cared for. He placed a bank note for fifty pounds in the
woman's hands.

"Buy all that is needful for the little one," he said.

In all things Margaret Dornham promised obedience. One would have
thought she had found a great treasure. To her kindly, womanly heart,
the fact that she once more held a little child in her arms was a source
of the purest happiness The only drawback was when she reached home, and
her husband laughed coarsely at the sad little story.

"You have done a good day's work, Maggie," he said; "now I shall expect
you to keep me, and I shall take it easy."

He kept his word, and from that day made no further effort to earn any
money.

"Maggie had enough for both," he said--"for both of them and that bit of
a child."

Faithful, patient Margaret never complained, and not even Dr. Letsom
knew how the suffering of her daily life had increased even though she
was comforted by the love of the little child.



Chapter III.



Madaline slept in her grave--her child was safe and happy with the
kindly, tender woman who was to supply its mother's place. Then Lord
Charlewood prepared to leave the place where he had suffered so
bitterly. The secret of his title had been well kept. No one dreamed
that the stranger whose visit to the little town had been such a sad one
was the son of one of England's earls. Charlewood did not strike any one
as being a very uncommon name. There was not the least suspicion as to
his real identity. People thought he must be rich; but that he was noble
also no one ever imagined.

Mary Galbraith, the doctor's housekeeper, thought a golden shower had
fallen over the house. Where there had been absolute poverty there was
now abundance. There were no more shabby curtains and threadbare
carpets--everything was new and comfortable. The doctor seemed to have
grown younger--relieved as he was from a killing weight of anxiety and
care.

The day came when Lord Charlewood was to say good-by to his little
daughter, and the friends who had been friends indeed. Margaret Dornham
was sent for. When she arrived the two gentlemen were in the parlor, and
she was shown in to them. Every detail of that interview was impressed
on Margaret's mind. The table was strewn with papers, and Lord
Charlewood taking some in his hand, said:

"You should have a safe place for those doctor. Strange events happen in
life. They might possibly be required some day as evidences of
identification."

"Not much fear of that," returned the doctor, with a smile. "Still, as
you say, it is best to be cautious."

"Here is the first--you may as well keep it with the rest," said Lord
Charlewood; "it is a copy of my marriage certificate. Then you have here
the certificates of my little daughter's birth and of my poor wife's
death. Now we will add to these a signed agreement between you and
myself for the sum I have spoken about."

Rapidly enough Lord Charlewood filled up another paper, which was signed
by the doctor and himself; then Stephen Letsom gathered them all
together. Margaret Dornham saw him take from the sideboard a plain oaken
box bound in brass, and lock the papers in it.

"There will be no difficulty about the little lady's identification
while this lasts," he said, "and the papers remain undestroyed."

She could not account for the impulse that led her to watch him so
closely, while she wondered what the papers could be worth.

Then both gentlemen turned their attention from the box to the child.
Lord Charlewood would be leaving directly, and it would be the last time
that he, at least, could see the little one. There was all a woman's
love in his heart and in his face, as he bent down to kiss it and say
farewell.

"In three years' time, when I come back again," he said, "she will be
three years old--she will walk and talk. You must teach her to say my
name, Mrs. Dornham, and teach her to love me."

Then he bade farewell to the doctor who had been so kind a friend to
him, leaving something in his hand which made his heart light for many a
long day afterward.

"I am a bad correspondent, Dr. Letsom," he said; "I never write many
letters--but you may rely upon hearing from me every six months. I shall
send you half-yearly checks--and you may expect me in three years from
this at latest; then my little Madaline will be of a manageable age, and
I can take her to Wood Lynton."

So they parted, the two who had been so strangely brought
together--parted with a sense of liking and trust common among
Englishmen who feel more than they express. Lord Charlewood looked round
him as he left the town.

"How little I thought," he said, "that I should leave my dead wife and
living child here! It was a town so strange to me that I hardly even
knew its name."

On arriving at his destination, to his great joy, and somewhat to his
surprise, Lord Charlewood found that his father was better; he had been
afraid of finding him dead. The old man's joy on seeing his son again
was almost pitiful in its excess--he held his hands in his.

"My son--my only son! why did you not come sooner?" he asked. "I have
longed so for you. You have brought life and healing with you; I shall
live years longer now that I have you again."

And in the first excitement of such happiness Lord Charlewood did not
dare to tell his father the mournful story of his marriage and of his
young wife's untimely death. Then the doctors told him that the old earl
might live for some few years longer, but that he would require the
greatest care; he had certainly heart-disease, and any sudden
excitement, any great anxiety, any cause of trouble might kill him at
once. Knowing this Lord Charlewood did not dare to tell his secret; it
would have been plunging his father into danger uselessly; besides which
the telling of it was useless now--his beautiful wife was dead, and the
child too young to be recognized or made of consequence. So he devoted
himself to the earl, having decided in his own mind what steps to take.
If the earl lived until little Madaline reached her third year, then he
would tell him his secret; the child would be pretty and graceful--she
would, in all probability, win his love. He could not let it go on
longer than that. Madaline could not remain unknown and uncared for in
that little county town; it was not to be thought of. Therefore, if his
father lived, and all went well, he would tell his story then; if, on
the contrary, his health failed, then he would keep his secret
altogether, and his father would never know that he had disobeyed him.

There was a wonderful affection between this father and son. The earl
was the first to notice the change that had come over his bright,
handsome boy; the music had all gone from his voice, the ring from his
laughter, the light from his face. Presently he observed the deep
mourning dress.

"Hubert," he asked, suddenly, "for whom are you in mourning?"

Lord Charlewood's face flushed. For one moment he felt tempted to
answer--

"For my beloved wife whom Heaven has taken from me."

But he remembered the probable consequence of such a shock to his
father, and replied, quietly:

"For one of my friends, father--one whom you did not know." And Lord
Mountdean did not suspect.

Another time the old earl placed his arm round his son's neck.

"How I wish, Hubert," he said, "that your mother had lived to see you a
grown man! I think--do not laugh at me, my son--I think yours is perfect
manhood; you please me infinitely."

Lord Charlewood smiled at the simple, loving praise.

"I have a woman's pride in your handsome face and tall, stately figure.
How glad I am, my son, that no cloud has ever come between us! You have
been the best of sons to me. When I die you can say to yourself that you
have never once in all your life given me one moment's pain. How pleased
I am that you gave up that foolish marriage for my sake! You would not
have been happy. Heaven never blesses such marriages."

He little knew that each word was as a dagger to his son's heart.

"After you had left me and had gone back to England," he continued, "I
used to wonder if I had done wisely or well in refusing you your heart's
desire; now I know that I did well, for unequal marriages never prosper.
She, the girl you loved, may have been very beautiful, but you would
never have been happy with her."

"Hush, father!" said Lord Charlewood, gently. "We will not speak of
this again."

"Does it still pain you? tell me, my son," cried the earl.

"Not in the way you think," he replied.

"I would not pain you for the world--you know that, Hubert. But you must
not let that one unfortunate love affair prejudice you against marriage.
I should like to see you married, my son. I should like you to love some
noble, gentle lady whom I could call daughter; I should like to hold
your children in my arms, to hear the music of children's voices before
I go."

"Should you love my children so much, father?" he asked.

"Yes, more than I can tell you. You must marry, Hubert, and then, as far
as you are concerned, I shall not have a wish left unfulfilled."

There was hope then for his little Madaline--hope that in time she would
win the old earl's heart, and prevent his grieving over the unfortunate
marriage. For two years and a half the Earl of Mountdean lingered; the
fair Italian clime, the warmth, the sunshine, the flowers, all seemed to
join in giving him new life. For two years and a half he improved, so
that his son had begun to hope that he might return to England, and once
more see the home he loved so dearly--Wood Lynton; and, though during
this time his secret preyed upon him through every hour of every day,
causing him to long to tell his father, yet he controlled the longing,
because he would do nothing that might in the least degree retard his
recovery. Then, when the two years and a half had passed, and he began
to take counsel with himself how he could best break the intelligence,
the earl's health suddenly failed him, and he could not accomplish his
purpose.

During this time he had every six months sent regular remittances to
England, and had received in return most encouraging letters about
little Madaline. She was growing strong and beautiful; she was healthy,
fair, and happy. She could say his name; she could sing little
baby-songs. Once, the doctor cut a long golden-brown curl from her
little head and sent it to him; but when he received it the earl lay
dying, and the son could not show his father his little child's hair. He
died as he had lived, loving and trusting his son, clasping his hand to
the last, and murmuring sweet and tender words to him. Lord Charlewood's
heart smote him as he listened, he had not merited such implicit faith
and trust.

"Father," he said, "listen for one moment! Can you hear me? I did marry
Madaline--I loved her so dearly, I could not help it--I married her; and
she died one year afterward. But she left me a little daughter. Can you
hear me, father?"

No gleam of light came into the dying eyes, no consciousness into the
quiet face; the earl did not hear. When, at last, his son had made up
his mind to reveal his secret, it was too late for his father to
hear--and he died without knowing it. He died, and was brought back to
England, and buried with great pomp and magnificence; and then his son
reigned in his stead, and became Earl of Mountdean. The first thing that
he did after his father's funeral was to go down to Castledene; he had
made all arrangements for bringing his daughter and heiress home. He was
longing most impatiently to see her; but when he reached the little town
a shock of surprise awaited him that almost cost him his life.



Chapter IV.



Dr. Letsom had prospered; one gleam of good fortune had brought with it
a sudden outburst of sunshine. The doctor had left his little house in
Castle street, and had taken a pretty villa just outside Castledene. He
had furnished it nicely--white lace curtains were no longer an
unattainable luxury; no house in the town looked so clean, so bright, or
so pretty as the doctor's People began to look up to him; it was rumored
that he had had money left to him--a fortune that rendered him
independent of his practice. No sooner was that quite understood than
people began to find out that after all he was a very clever man. No
sooner did they feel quite convinced that he was indifferent about his
practice than they at once appreciated his services; what had been
called abruptness now became truth and sincerity He was declared to be
like Dr. Abernethy--wonderfully clever, though slightly brusque in
manner. Patients began to admire him; one or two instances of wonderful
cures were noted in his favor; the world, true to itself, true to its
own maxims, began to respect him when it was believed that he had good
fortune for his friend. In one year's time he had the best practice in
the town, the ladies found his manner so much improved.

He bore his good-fortune as he had borne his ill-fortune, with great
equanimity; it had come too late. If but a tithe of it had fallen to his
share twelve years earlier, he might have made the woman he loved so
dearly his wife. She might have been living--- loving happy, by his
side. Nothing could bring her back--the good-fortune had come all too
late; still he was grateful for it. It was pleasant to be able to pay
his bills when they became due, to be able to help his poorer neighbors,
to be able to afford for himself little luxuries such as he had long
been without. The greatest happiness he had now in life was his love for
little Madeline. The hold she had taken of him was marvelous from the
first moment she held out her baby-hands until the last in which he saw
her she was his one dream of delight. At first he had visited Ashwood as
a matter of duty; but, as time passed on those visits became his dearest
pleasures. The child began to know him, her lovely little face to
brighten for him; she had no fear of him, but would sit on his knee and
lisp her pretty stories and sing her pretty songs until he was fairly
enchanted.

Madaline was a lovely child. She had a beautiful head and face, and a
figure exquisitely molded. Her smiles were like sunshine; her hair had
in it threads of gold; her eyes were of the deep blue that one sees in
summer. It was not only her great loveliness, but there was about her a
wonderful charm, a fascination, that no one could resist.

Dr. Letsom loved the child. She sat on his knee and talked to him, until
the whole face of the earth seemed changed to him. Besides his great
love for the little Madaline, he became interested in the story of
Margaret Dornham's life--in her love for the handsome, reckless
ne'er-do-well who had given up work as a failure--in her wonderful
patience, for she never complained--in her sublime heroism, for she bore
all as a martyr. He heard how Henry Dornham was often seen
intoxicated--heard that he was abusive, violent. He went afterward to
the cottage, and saw bruises on his wife's delicate arms and hands--dark
cruel marks on her face; but by neither word nor look did she ever
betray her husband. Watching that silent, heroic life, he became
interested in her. More than once he tried to speak to her about her
husband--to see if anything could be done to reclaim him. She knew that
all efforts were in vain--there was no good in him; still more she knew
now that there never had been such good as she had hoped and believed.
Another thing pleased and interested the doctor--it was Margaret
Dornham's passionate love for her foster child. All the love that she
would have lavished on her husband, all the love that she would have
given to her own child, all the repressed affection and buried
tenderness of heart were given to this little one. It was touching
pitiful, sad, to see how she worshiped her.

"What shall I do when the three years are over, and her father comes to
claim her?" she would say to the doctor. "I shall never be able to part
with her. Sometimes I think I shall run away with her and hide her."

How little she dreamed that there was a prophecy in the words!

"Her father has the first claim," said Dr. Letsom. "It may be hard for
us to lose her, but she belongs to him."

"He will never love her as I do," observed Margaret Dornham.

Of the real rank and position of that father she had not the faintest
suspicion. He had money, she knew; but that was all she knew--and money
to a woman whose heart hungers for love seems very little.

"There is something almost terrible in the love of that woman for that
child," thought the doctor. "She is good, earnest, tender, true, by
nature; but she is capable of anything for the little one's sake."

So the two years and a half passed, and the child, with her delicate,
marvelous grace, had become the very light of those two lonely lives. In
another six months they would have to lose her. Dr. Letsom knew very
well that if the earl were still living at the end of the three years
his son would tell him of his marriage.

On a bright, sunshiny day in June the doctor walked over to Ashwood. He
had a little packet of fruit and cakes with him, and a wonderful doll,
dressed most royally.

"Madaline!" he cried, as he entered the cottage, and she came running to
him, "should you like a drive with me to-morrow?" he asked. "I am going
to Corfell, and I will promise to take you if you will be a good girl."

She promised--for a drive with the doctor was her greatest earthly
delight.

"Bring her to my house about three to-morrow afternoon, Mrs. Dornham,"
said Dr. Letsom, "and she shall have her drive."

Margaret promised. When the time came she took the little one, dressed
in her pretty white frock; and as they sat in the drawing-room, the
doctor was brought home to his house--dead.

It was such a simple yet terrible accident that had killed him. A poor
man had been injured by a kick from a horse. For want of better
accommodation, he had been carried up into a loft over a stable, where
the doctor attended him. In the loft was an open trap-door, through
which trusses of hay and straw were raised and lowered. No one warned
Dr. Letsom about it. The aperture was covered with straw, and he,
walking quickly across, fell through. There was but one comfort--he did
not suffer long. His death was instantaneous; and on the bright June
afternoon when he was to have taken little Madaline for a drive, he was
carried home, through the sunlit streets, dead.

Margaret Dornham and the little child sat waiting for him when the sad
procession stopped at the door.

"The doctor is dead!" was the cry from one to another.

A terrible pain shot through Margaret's head. Dead! The kindly man, who
had been her only friend, dead! Then perhaps the child would be taken
from her, and she should see it no more!

An impulse, for which she could hardly account, and for which she was
hardly responsible, seized her. She must have the box that contained the
papers, lest, finding the papers, people should rob her of the child.
Quick as thought, she seized the box--which always stood on a bracket in
the drawing-room--and hid it under her shawl. To the end of her life she
was puzzled as to why she had done this. It would not be missed, she
knew, in the confusion that was likely to ensue. She felt sure, also,
that no one, save herself and the child's father, knew of its contents.

She did not wait long in that scene of confusion and sorrow. Clasping
the child in her arms, lest she should see the dead face, Margaret
Dornham hurried back to the cottage, bearing with her the proofs of the
child's identity.

The doctor was buried, and with him all trace of the child seemed lost.
Careful search was made in his house for any letters that might concern
her, that might give her father's address; but Stephen Letsom had been
faithful to his promise--he had kept the secret. There was nothing that
could give the least clew. There were no letters, no memoranda; and,
after a time, people came to the conclusion that it would be better to
let the child remain where she was, for her father would be sure in time
to hear of the doctor's death and to claim her.

So September came, with its glory of autumn leaves. Just three years had
elapsed since Lady Charlewood had died; and then the great trouble of
her life came to Margaret Dornham.



Chapter V.



On the day after Dr. Letsom's death, Margaret Dornham's husband was
apprehended on a charge of poaching and aiding in a dangerous assault on
Lord Turton's gamekeepers. Bail was refused for him, but at the trial he
was acquitted for want of evidence. Every one knew he was guilty. He
made no great effort to conceal it. But he defied the whole legal power
of England to prove him guilty. He employed clever counsel, and the
result was his acquittal. He was free; but the prison brand was on him,
and his wife felt that she could not endure the disgrace.

"I shall go from bad to worse now, Maggie," he said to her. "I do not
find prison so bad, nor yet difficult to bear; if ever I Bee by any
lucky hit I can make myself a rich man, I shall not mind a few years in
jail as the price. A forgery, or something of that kind, or the robbery
of a well-stocked bank, will be henceforward my highest aim in life."

She placed her hand on his lips and prayed him for Heaven's sake to be
silent. He only laughed.

"Nature never intended me to work--she did not indeed, Maggie. My
fellow-men must keep me; they keep others far less deserving."

From that moment she knew no peace or rest. He would keep his word; he
would look upon crime as a source of profit; he would watch his
opportunity of wrong-doing, and seize it When it came.

In the anguish of her heart she cried aloud that it must not be at Ash
wood; anywhere else, in any other spot, but not there, where she had
been known in the pride of her fair young life--not there, where people
had warned her not to marry the handsome reckless, ne'er-do-well, and
had prophesied such terrible evil for her if she did marry him--not
there, where earth was so fair, where all nature told of innocence and
purity. If he must sin, let it be far away in large cities where the
ways of men were evil.

She decided on leaving Ashwood. Another and perhaps even stronger motive
that influenced her was her passionate love for the child; that was her
one hope in life, her one sheet-anchor, the one thing that preserved her
from the utter madness of desolation.

The three years had almost elapsed; the doctor was dead, and had left
nothing behind him that could give any clew to Madaline's identity, and
in a short time--she trembled to think how short--the father would come
to claim his child, and she would lose her. When she thought of that,
Margaret Dornham clung to the little one in a passion of despair. She
would go away and take Madaline with her--keep her where she could love
her--where she could bring her up as her own child, and lavish all the
warmth and devotion of her nature upon her. She never once thought that
in acting thus she was doing a selfish, a cruel deed--that she was
taking the child from her father, who of all people living had the
greatest claim upon her.

"He may have more money than I have," thought poor, mistaken Margaret,
"but he cannot love her so much; and after all love is better than
money."

It was easy to manage her husband. She had said but little to him at the
time she undertook the charge of little Madaline, and he had been too
indifferent to make inquiries. She told him now, what was in some
measure quite true, that with the doctor's death her income had ceased,
and that she herself not only was perfectly ignorant of the child's real
name, but did not even know to whom to write. It was true, but she knew
at the same time that, if she would only open the box of papers, she
would not be ignorant of any one point; for those papers she had firmly
resolved never to touch, so that in saying she knew nothing of the
child's identity she would be speaking the bare truth.

At first Henry Dornham was indignant. The child should not be left a
burden and drag on his hands, he declared--it must go to the work-house.

But patient Margaret clasped her arms round his neck, and whispered to
him that the child was so clever, so pretty, she would be a gold-mine to
them in the future--only let them get away from Ashwood, and go to
London, where she could be well trained and taught. He laughed a
sneering laugh, for which, had he been any other than her husband, she
would have hated him.

"Not a bad plan, Maggie," he said; "then she can work to keep us. I,
myself, do not care where we go or what we do, so that no one asks me to
work."

He was easily persuaded to say nothing about their removal, to go to
London without saying anything to his old friends and neighbors of their
intentions. Margaret knew well that so many were interested in the child
that she would not be allowed to take her away if her wish became known.

How long the little cottage at Ashwood had been empty no one knows. It
stood so entirely alone that for weeks together nothing was seen or
known of its inhabitants. Henry Dornham was missed from his haunts. His
friends and comrades wondered for a few days, and then forgot him; they
thought that in all probability he was engaged in some not very
reputable pursuit.

The rector of Castledene--the Rev. John Darnley--was the first really to
miss them. He had always been interested in little Madaline. When he
heard from the shop keepers that Margaret had not been seen in the town
lately, he feared she was ill, and resolved to go and see her. His
astonishment was great when he found the cottage closed and the Dornhams
gone--the place had evidently been empty for some weeks. On inquiry he
found that the time of their departure and the place of their
destination was equally unknown. No one knew whither they had gone or
anything about them. Mr. Darnley was puzzled; it seemed to him very
strange that, after having lived in the place so long, Margaret Dornham
should have left without saying one word to any human being.

"There is a mystery in it," thought the rector. He never dreamed that
the cause of the mystery was the woman's passionate love for the child.

All Castledene wondered with him--indeed, for some days the little town
was all excitement. Margaret Dornham had disappeared with the child who
had been left in their midst. Every one seemed to be more or less
responsible for her; but neither wonder nor anything else gave them the
least clew as to whither or why she had gone. After a few day's earnest
discussion and inquiry the excitement died away, when a wonderful event
revived it. It was no other than the arrival of the new Earl of
Mountdean in search of his little girl.

This time the visitor did not take any pains to conceal his title. He
drove to the "Castle Arms," and from there went at once to the doctor's
house. He found it closed and empty. The first person he asked told him
that the doctor had been for some weeks dead and buried.

The young earl was terribly shocked. Dead and buried--the kindly man who
had befriended him in the hour of need! It seemed almost incredible. And
why had no one written to him? Still he remembered the address of his
child's foster-mother. It was Ashwood Cottage; and he went thither at
once. When he found that too closed and deserted, it seemed to him that
fortune was playing him a trick.

He was disconcerted; and then, believing that this at least was but a
case of removal, he decided upon going to the rector of the parish, whom
he well remembered. He surely would be able to give him all information.

Mr. Darnley looked up in wonder at the announcement of his visitor's
name--the Earl of Mountdean. What could the earl possibly want of him?

His wonder deepened as he recognized in the earl the stranger at the
burial of whose fair young wife he had assisted three years before. The
earl held out his hand.

"You are surprised to see me, Dr. Darnley? You recognize me, I
perceive."

The rector contrived to say something about his surprise, but Lord
Mountdean interrupted him hastily:

"Yes, I understand. I was traveling as Mr. Charlewood when my terrible
misfortune overtook me here. I have returned from Italy, where I have
been spending the last three years. My father has just died, and I am
here in search of my child. My child," continued the earl, seeing the
rector's blank face--"where is she? I find my poor friend the doctor is
dead, and the house where my little one's foster-mother lived is empty.
Can you tell me what it means?"

He tried to speak calmly, but his handsome face had grown quite white,
his lips were dry and hot, his voice, even to himself, had a strange,
harsh sound.

"Where is she?" he repeated. "The little one--my Madaline's child? I
have a strange feeling that all is not well. Where is my child?"

He saw the shadow deepen on the rector's face, and he clasped his arm.

"Where is she?" he cried. "You cannot mean that she is dead? Not dead,
surely? I have not seen her since I left her, a little, feeble baby; but
she has lived in my heart through all these weary years of exile. My
whole soul has hungered and thirsted for her. By night and by day I have
dreamed of her, always with Madaline's face. She has spoken sweet words
to me in my dreams, always in Madaline's voice. I must see her. I cannot
bear this suspense. You do not answer me. Can it be that she too is
dead?"

"No, she is not dead," replied the rector. "I saw her two months since,
and she was then living--well, beautiful, and happy. No, the little one
is not dead."

"Then tell me, for pity's sake, where she is!" cried the earl, in an
agony of impatience.

"I cannot. Two months since I was at Ashwood Cottage Margaret Dornham's
worthless husband was in some great trouble. I went to console his wife;
and then I saw the little one. I held her in my arms, and thought, as I
looked at her, that I had never seen such a lovely face. Then I saw no
more of her; and my wonder was aroused on hearing some of the
tradespeople say that Mrs. Dornham had not been in town for some weeks.
I believed she was ill, and went to see. My wonder was as great as your
own at finding the house closed. Husband, wife, and child had
disappeared as though by magic from the place, leaving no clew or trace
behind them."

The rector was almost alarmed at the effect of his words. The young earl
fell back in his chair, looking as though the shadow of death had fallen
over him.



Chapter VI.



It was but a child, the rector thought to himself, whom its father had
seen but a few times. He did not understand that to Lord Mountdean this
child--his dying wife's legacy--was the one object in life, that she was
all that remained to him of a love that had been dearer than life
itself. Commonplace words of comfort rose to his lips, but the earl did
not even hear them. He looked up suddenly, with a ghastly pallor still
on his face.

"How foolish I am to alarm myself so greatly!" he said. "Some one or
other will be sure to know whither the woman has gone. She may have had
some monetary trouble, and so have desired to keep her whereabouts a
secret; but some one or other will know. If she is in the world I will
find her. How foolish I am to be so terribly frightened! If the child
is living what have I to fear?"

But, though his words were brave and courageous, his hands trembled, and
the rector saw signs of great agitation. He rang for wine, but Lord
Mountdean could not take it--he could do nothing until he had found his
child.

In few words he told the rector the story of his marriage.

"I thought," he said, "that I could not do better for the little one
than leave her here in the doctor's care."

"You were right," returned the rector; "the poor doctor's love for the
child was talked about everywhere. As for Margaret Dornham, I do not
think, if she had been her own, she could have loved her better.
Whatever else may have gone wrong, take my word for it, there was no
lack of love for the child; she could not have been better cared for--of
that I am quite sure."

"I am glad to hear you say so; that is some comfort. But why did no one
write to me when the doctor died?"

"I do not think he left one shred of paper containing any allusion to
your lordship. All his effects were claimed by some distant cousin, who
now lives in his house. I was asked to look over his papers, but there
was not a private memorandum among them--not one; there was nothing in
fact but receipted bills."

Lord Mountdean looked up.

"There must be some mistake," he observed. "I myself placed in his
charge all the papers necessary for the identification of my little
daughter."

"May I ask of what they consisted?" said the rector.

"Certainly--the certificate of my marriage, of my beloved wife's death,
of my little daughter's birth, and an agreement between the doctor and
myself as to the sum that was to be paid to him yearly while he had
charge of my child."

"Then the doctor knew your name, title, and address?"

"Yes; I had no motive in keeping them secret, save that I did not wish
my marriage to be known to my father until I myself could tell him--and
I know how fast such news travels. I remember distinctly where he placed
the papers. I watched him."

"Where was it?" asked Mr. Darnley. "For I certainly have seen nothing of
them."

"In a small oaken box with brass clasps, which stood on a sideboard. I
remember it as though it were yesterday."

"I have seen no such box," said the rector. "Our wisest plan will be to
go at once to the house where his cousin, Mr. Grey, resides, and see if
the article is in his possession. I am quite sure, though, that he would
have mentioned it if he had seen it."

Without a minute's delay they drove at once to the house, and found Mr.
Grey at home. He was surprised when he heard the name and rank of his
visitor, and above all when he understood his errand.

"A small oaken box with brass clasps?" he said. "No; I have nothing of
the kind in my possession; but, if your lordship will wait, I will have
a search made at once."

Every drawer, desk, and recess were examined in vain. There was no trace
of either the box or the papers.

"I have an inventory of everything the doctor's house contained--it was
taken the day after his death," said Mr. Grey; "we can look through
that."

Item after item was most carefully perused. The list contained no
mention of a small oaken box. It was quite plain that box and papers had
both disappeared.

"Could the doctor have given them into Mrs. Dornham's charge?" asked the
earl.

"No," replied the rector--"I should say certainly not. I am quite sure
that Mrs. Dornham did not even know the child's surname. I remember once
asking her about it; she said it was a long name, and that she could
never remember it. If she had had the papers, she would have read them.
I cannot think she holds them."

Then they went to visit Mrs. Galbraith, the doctor's housekeeper. She
had a distinct recollection of the box--it used to stand on the
sideboard, and a large-sized family Bible generally lay on the top of
it. How long it had been out of sight when the doctor died she did not
know, but she had never seen it since. Then they drove to the bank,
thinking that, perhaps, for greater security, he might have deposited it
there. No such thing had been heard of. Plainly enough, the papers had
disappeared; both the earl and the rector were puzzled.

"They can be of no possible use to any one but myself," said Lord
Mountdean. "Now that my poor father is dead and cannot be distressed
about it, I shall tell the whole world--if it cares to listen--the story
of my marriage. If I had wanted to keep that or the birth of my child a
secret, I could have understood the papers being stolen by one wishing
to trade with them. As it is, I cannot see that they are of the least
use to any one except myself."

They gave up the search at last, and then Lord Mountdean devoted himself
to the object--the finding of his child.

In a few days the story of his marriage was told by every newspaper in
the land; also the history of the strange disappearance of his child.
Large rewards were offered to any one who could bring the least
information. Not content with employing the best detective skill in
England, he conducted the search himself. He worked unwearyingly.

"A man, woman, and child could not possibly disappear from the face of
the earth without leaving some trace behind," he would say.

One little gleam of light came, which filled him with hope--they found
that Margaret Dornham had sold all her furniture to a broker living at a
town called Wrentford. She had sent for him herself, and had asked him
to purchase it, saying that she, with her husband, was going to live at
a distance, and that they did not care about taking it with them. He
remembered having asked her where she was going, but she evaded any
reply. He could tell no more. He showed what he had left of the
furniture and tears filled Lord Mountdean's eyes as he saw among it a
child's crib. He liberally rewarded the man, and then set to work with
renewed vigor to endeavor to find out Margaret Dornham's destination.

He went to the railway stations; and, though the only clew he succeeded
in obtaining was a very faint one, he had some reason for believing that
Margaret Dornham had gone to London.

In that vast city he continued the search, until it really seemed that
every inch of ground had been examined. It was all without
result--Margaret Dornham and her little foster-child seemed to have
vanished.

"What can be the woman's motive?" the earl would cry, in despair. "Why
has she taken the child? What does she intend to do with it?"

It never occurred to him that her great, passionate love for the little
one was the sole motive for the deed she had done.

The papers were filled with appeals to Margaret Dornham to return to
Castledene, or to give some intelligence of her foster-child. The events
of the story were talked about everywhere; but, in spite of all that was
done and said, Lord Mountdean's heiress remained undiscovered. Months
grew into years, and the same mystery prevailed. The earl was desperate
at first--his anguish and sorrow were pitiful to witness; but after a
time he grew passive in his despair. He never relaxed in his efforts.
Every six months the advertisements with the offers of reward were
renewed; every six months the story was retold in the papers. It had
become one of the common topics of the day. People talked of the Earl of
Mountdean's daughter, of her strange disappearance, of the mysterious
silence that had fallen over her. Then, as the years passed on, it was
agreed that she would never be found, that she must be dead. The earl's
truest friends advised him to marry again. After years of bitter
disappointment, of anguish and suspense, of unutterable sorrow and
despair, he resigned himself to the entire loss of Madaline's child.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nature had made Philippa L'Estrange beautiful, circumstances had helped
to make her proud. Her father, Lord L'Estrange, died when she was quite
a child, leaving her an enormous fortune that was quite under her own
control. Her mother, Lady L'Estrange, had but one idea in life, and that
was indulging her beautiful daughter in her every caprice. Proud,
beautiful, and wealthy, when she most needed her mother's care that
mother died, leaving her sole mistress of herself. She was but seventeen
then, and was known as one of the wealthiest heiresses and loveliest
girls of the day. Her first step was, in the opinion of the world, a
wise one; she sent for a widowed cousin, Lady Peters, to live with her
as chaperon. For the first year after her mother's death she remained at
Verdun Royal, the family estate. After one year given to retirement,
Philippa L'Estrange thought she had mourned for her mother after the
most exemplary fashion She was just nineteen when she took her place
again in the great world, one of its brightest ornaments.

An afternoon in London in May. The air was clear and fresh; there was in
it a faint breath of the budding chestnuts, the hawthorn and lilac; the
sun shone clear and bright, yet not too warmly.

On this afternoon Miss L'Estrange sat in the drawing-room of the
magnificent family mansion in Hyde Park. The whole world could not have
produced a more marvelous picture. The room itself was large, lofty,
well proportioned, and superbly furnished; the hangings were of
pale-rose silk and white lace the pictures and statues were gems of art,
a superb copy of the Venus of Milo gleaming white and shapely from
between the folds of rose silk, also a marble Flora, whose basket was
filled with purple heliotropes, and a Psyche that was in itself a dream
of beauty; the vases were filled with fairest and most fragrant flowers.
Nothing that art, taste, or luxury could suggest was wanting--the eye
reveled in beauty. Miss L'Estrange had refurnished the room in
accordance with her own ideas of the beautiful and artistic.

The long windows were opened, and through them one saw the rippling of
the rich green foliage in the park; the large iron balconies were filled
with flowers, fragrant mignonette, lemon-scented verbenas, purple
heliotropes, all growing in rich profusion. The spray of the little
scented fountain sparkled in the sun. Every one agreed that there was no
other room in London like the grand drawing-room at Verdun House.

There was something on that bright May afternoon more beautiful even
than the flowers, the fountains, the bright-plumaged birds in their
handsome cages, the white statues, or the pictures; that was the
mistress and queen of all this magnificence, Philippa L'Estrange. She
was reclining on a couch that had been sent from Paris--a couch made of
finest ebony, and covered with pale, rose-colored velvet. If Titian or
Velasquez had seen her as she lay there, the world would have been the
richer by an immortal work of art; Titian alone could have reproduced
those rich, marvelous colors; that perfect, queenly beauty. He would
have painted the picture, and the world would have raved about its
beauty. The dark masses of waving hair; the lovely face with its warm
Southern tints; the dark eyes lighted with fire and passion; the perfect
mouth with its proud, sweet, imperial, yet tender lips; the white,
dimpled chin; the head and face unrivaled in their glorious contour; the
straight, dark brows that could frown and yet soften as few other brows
could; the white neck, half hidden, half revealed by the coquettish
dress; the white rounded arms and beautiful hands--all would have struck
the master. Her dress fell round her in folds that would have charmed an
artist. It was of some rich, transparent material, the pale amber hue of
which enhanced her dark loveliness. The white arms were half shown, half
covered by rich lace--in the waves of her dark hair lay a yellow rose.
She looked like a woman whose smile could be fatal and dangerous as that
of a siren, who could be madly loved or madly hated, yet to whom no man
living could be indifferent.

She played for some few minutes with the rings on her fingers, smiling
to herself a soft, dreamy smile, as though her thoughts were very
pleasant ones; then she took up a volume of poems, read a few lines, and
then laid the book down again. The dark eyes, with a gleam of impatience
in them, wandered to the clock.

"How slowly those hands move!" she said.

"You are restless," observed a calm, low voice; "watching a clock always
makes time seem long."

"Ah, Lady Peters," said the rich, musical tones, "when I cease to be
young, I shall cease to be impatient."

Lady Peters, the chosen confidante and chaperon of the brilliant
heiress, was an elderly lady whose most striking characteristic appeared
to be calmness and repose. She was richly dressed in a robe of black
_moire_, and she wore a cap of point lace; her snowy hair was braided
back from a broad white brow; her face was kindly, patient, cheerful;
her manner, though somewhat stately, the same. She evidently deeply
loved the beautiful girl whose bright face was turned to hers.

"He said three in his note, did he not, Lady Peters?"

"Yes, my dear, but it is impossible for any one to be always strictly
punctual; a hundred different things may have detained him."

"But if he were really anxious to see me, he would not let anything
detain him," she said.

"Your anxiety about him would be very flattering to him if he knew it,"
remarked the elder lady.

"Why should I not be anxious? I have always loved him better than the
whole world. I have had reason to be anxious."

"Philippa, my dear Philippa, I would not say such things if I were you,
unless I had heard something really definite from himself."

The beautiful young heiress laughed a bright, triumphant laugh.

"Something definite from himself! Why, you do not think it likely that
he will long remain indifferent to me, even if he be so now--which I do
not believe."

"I have had so many disappointments in life that I am afraid of being
sanguine," said Lady Peters; and again the young beauty laughed.

"It will seem so strange to see him again. I remember his going away so
well. I was very young then--I am young now, but I feel years older. He
came down to Verdun Royal to bid us good-by, and I was in the grounds.
He had but half an hour to stay, and mamma sent him out to me,"

The color deepened in her face as she spoke, and the light shone in her
splendid eyes--there was a kind of wild, restless passion in her words.

"I remember it all so well! There had been a heavy shower of rain in the
early morning, that had cleared away, leaving the skies blue, the
sunshine golden, while the rain-drops still glistened on the trees and
the grass. I love the sweet smell of the green leaves and the moist
earth after rain. I was there enjoying it when he came to say good-by to
me--mamma came with him. 'Philippa,' she said, 'Norman is going; he
wants to say good-by to his little wife.' He always calls me his little
wife. I saw him look very grave. She went away and left us together.
'You are growing too tall to be called my little wife, Philippa,' she
said, and I laughed at his gravity. We were standing underneath a great
flowering lilac-tree--the green leaves and the sweet flowers were still
wet with the rain. I remember it so well! I drew one of the tall
fragrant sprays down, and shaking the rain-drops from it, kissed it. I
can smell the rich, moist odor now. I never see a lilac-spray or smell
its sweet moisture after rain but that the whole scene rises before me
again--I see the proud, handsome face that I love so dearly, the clear
skies and the green trees. 'How long shall you be away, Norman?' asked
him. 'Not more than two years,' he replied. 'You will be quite a
brilliant lady of fashion when I return, Philippa; you will have made
conquests innumerable.' 'I shall always be the same to you,' I replied;
but he made no answer. He took the spray of lilac from my hands. 'My
ideas of you will always be associated with lilacs,' he said; and that
is why, Lady Peters, I ordered the vases to be filled with lilacs
to-day. He bent down and kissed my face. 'Good-by, Philippa,' he said,
'may I find you as good and as beautiful as I leave you.' And then he
went away. That is just two years ago; no wonder that I am pleased at
his return."

Lady Peters looked anxiously at her.

"There was no regular engagement between you and Lord Arleigh, was
there, Philippa?"

"What do you call a regular engagement?" said the young heiress. "He
never made love to me, if that is what you mean--he never asked me to be
his wife; but it was understood--always understood."

"By whom?" asked Lady Peters.

"My mother and his. When Lady Arleigh lived, she spent a great deal of
time at Verdun Royal with my mother; they were first cousins, and the
dearest of friends. Hundreds of times I have seen them sitting on the
lawn, while Norman and I played together. Then they were always talking
about the time we should be married. 'Philippa will make a beautiful
Lady Arleigh,' his mother used to say. 'Norman, go and play with your
little wife,' she would add; and with all the gravity of a grown
courtier, he would bow before me and call me his little wife."

"But you were children then, and it was perhaps all childish folly."

"It was nothing of the kind," said the heiress, angrily. "I remember
well that, when I was presented, my mother said to me, 'Philippa, you
are sure to be very much admired; but remember, I consider you engaged
to Norman. Your lot in life is settled; you are to be Lady Arleigh of
Beechgrove.'"

"But," interposed Lady Peters, "it seems to me, Philippa, that this was
all your mother's fancy. Because you played together as
children--because, when you were a child he called you his little
wife--because your mother and his were dear friends, and liked the
arrangement--it does not follow that he would like it, or that he would
choose the playmate of his childhood as the love of his manhood. In all
that you have said to me, I see no evidence that he loves you, or that
he considers himself in any way bound to you."

"That is because you do not understand. He has been in England only two
days, yet, you see, he comes to visit me."

"That may be for old friendship's sake," said Lady Peters. "Oh, my
darling, be careful! Do not give the love of your heart and soul for
nothing."

"It is given already," confessed the girl, "and can never be recalled,
no matter what I get in return. Why, it is twenty minutes past three; do
you think he will come?"

Philippa L'Estrange rose from the couch and went to the long open
window.

"I have never seen the sun shine so brightly before," she said; and Lady
Peters sighed as she listened. "The world has never looked so beautiful
as it does to-day. Oh, Norman, make, haste! I am longing to see you."

She had a quaint, pretty fashion of calling Lady Peters by the French
appellation _maman_. She turned to her now, with a charming smile. She
shook out the perfumed folds of her dress--she smoothed the fine white
lace.

"You have not told me, _maman_," she said, "whether I am looking my best
to-day. I want Norman to be a little surprised when he sees me. If you
saw me for the first time to-day, would you think me nice?"

"I should think you the very queen of beauty," was the truthful answer.

A pleased smile curved the lovely, scarlet lips.

"So will Norman. You will see, _maman_, there is no cause for anxiety,
none for fear. You will soon be wondering why you looked so grave over
my pretty love story."

"It seems to me," observed Lady Peters, "that it is a one sided story.
You love him--you consider yourself betrothed to him. What will you say
or do, Philippa, if you find that, during his travels, he has learned to
love some one else? He has visited half the courts of Europe since he
left here; he must have seen some of the loveliest women in the world.
Suppose he has learned to love one--what then?"

The beautiful face darkened.

"What then, _maman_? I know what I should do, even in that case. He
belonged to me before he belonged to any one else, and I should try to
win him back again."

"But if his word were pledged?"

"He must break his pledge. It would be war to the knife; and I have an
idea that in the end I should win."

"But," persisted Lady Peters, "if you lost--what then?"

"Ah, then I could not tell what would happen! Love turns to burning hate
at times. If I failed I should seek revenge. But we will not talk of
failure. Oh, _maman_, there he is."

How she loved him! At the sound of his footsteps a crimson glow shone in
her face, a light shone in the depth of her splendid dark eyes; the
scarlet lips trembled. She clenched her fingers lest a sound that might
betray her should escape her.

"Lord Arleigh," announced a servant at the door.

Tall, stately, self-possessed, she went forward to greet him. She held
out her hand; but words failed her, as she looked once more into the
face she loved so well.

"Philippa!" cried the visitor, in tones of wonder. "I expected to find
you changed, but I should not have known you."

"Am I so greatly altered?" she asked.

"Altered?" he repeated, "I left you a pretty school-girl--I find you a
queen." He bowed low over the white hand.

"The queen bids you welcome," she said, and then after introducing Lady
Peters, she added: "Should you not really have known me, Norman?"

He had recovered from his first surprise, and Lady Peters, who watched
him closely, fancied that she detected some little embarrassment in his
manner. Of one thing she was quite sure--there was admiration and
affection in his manner, but there was nothing resembling love.

He greeted her, and then took a seat, not by Philippa's side, but in one
of the pretty lounging chairs by the open window.

"How pleasant it is to be home again!" he said. "How pleasant, Philippa,
to see you!" And then he began to talk of Lady L'Estrange. "It seems
strange," he went on, "that your mother and mine, after being such true
friends in life, should die within a few days of each other. I would
give the whole world to see my mother again. I shall find Beechgrove so
lonely without her."

"I always recognize a good man," put in Lady Peters, "by the great love
he bears his mother."

Lord Arleigh smiled.

"Then you think I am a good man?" he interrogated. "I hope, Lady Peters,
that I shall never forfeit your good opinion."

"I do not think it likely," said her ladyship.

Philippa grew impatient on finding his attention turned, even for a few
moments, from herself.

"Talk to me, Norman," she said; "tell me of your travels--of what you
have seen and done--of the new friends you have made."

"I have made no new friends, Philippa," he said; "I love the old ones
best."

He did not understand the triumphant expression of the dark eyes as they
glanced at Lady Peters. He told her briefly of the chief places that he
had visited, and then he said:

"What a quantity of flowers you have, Philippa! You still retain your
old love."

She took a spray of lilac from one of the vases and held it before him.
Again Lady Peters noted confusion on his face.

"Do you remember the lilac, and what you said about it?" she asked.

"Yes," he replied, "I was in Florence last year when they were in
flower, and I never looked at the beautiful blooming trees without
fancying that I saw my cousin's face among the blossoms."

"Why do you call me 'cousin?'" she asked, impatiently.

He looked up in surprise.

"You are my cousin, are you not, Philippa?"

"I am only your second cousin," she said; "and you have never called me
so before."

"I have always called you 'cousin' in my thoughts," he declared. "How
remiss I am!" he exclaimed, suddenly. "You will think that I have
forgotten what little manners I had. I never congratulated you on your
success."

"What success?" she asked, half impatiently.

"I have not been twenty-four hours in London, yet I have heard on all
sides of your charms and conquests. I hear that you are the belle of the
season--that you have slain dukes, earls, marquises, and baronets
indiscriminately. I hear that no one has ever been more popular or more
admired that Philippa L'Estrange. Is it all true?"

"You must find out for yourself," she said, laughingly, half
disappointed that he had laid the spray of lilac down without any
further remark, half disappointed that he should speak in that light,
unconcerned fashion about her conquests; he ought to be jealous, but
evidently he was not.

Then, to her delight, came a summons for Mrs. Peters; she was wanted in
the housekeeper's room.

"Now we are alone," thought Philippa, "he will tell me that he is
pleased to see me. He will remember that he called me his little wife."

But, as Lady Peters closed the door, he took a book from the table, and
asked her what she had been reading lately--which was the book of that
season. She replied to his questions, and to the remarks that followed;
but they were not what she wanted to hear.

"Do not talk to me about books, Norman," she cried at last. "Tell me
more about yourself; I want to hear more about you."

She did not notice the slight flush that spread over his face.

"If we are to talk about ourselves," he said, "I should prefer you to be
the subject. You have grown very beautiful, Philippa."

His eyes took in every detail of the rich amber costume--the waving mass
of dark hair--the splendid face, with its scarlet lips and glorious
eyes--the white hands that moved so incessantly. He owned to himself
that in all his travels he had seen nothing like the imperial loveliness
of this dark-eyed girl.

"Does it please you to find me what you call beautiful?" she asked,
shyly.

"Of course it does. I am very proud of you--proud to be known as the
cousin of Philippa L'Estrange."

Nothing more! Had he nothing more than this to be proud of? Was he so
blind that he could not see love in the girl's face--so deaf that he
could not hear it in the modulations of her musical voice? She bent her
beautiful face nearer him.

"We were always good friends, Norman," she said, simply, "you and I?"

"Yes, we were like brother and sister," he responded, "How we quarreled
and made friends! Do you remember?"

"Yes--but we were not like brother and sister, Norman. We did not call
each other by such names in those days, did we?"

"I never could find names pretty enough for you," he replied laughingly.

She raised her eyes suddenly to his.

"You cared for me a great deal in those days, Norman," she said, gently.
"Tell me the truth--in your travels have you ever met any one for whom
you care more?"

He was perfectly calm and unembarrassed.

"No, cousin, I have not. As I told you before, I have really made no
friends abroad for whom I care much--a few pleasant acquaintances,
nothing more."

"Then I am content," she said.

But he was deaf to the passionate music of her voice. Then the distance
between them seemed to grow less. They talked of her home, Verdun Royal;
they talked of Beechgrove, and his plans for living there. Their
conversation was the intimate exchange of thought of old friends; but
there was nothing of love. If she had expected that he would avail
himself of Lady Peters' absence to speak of it, she was mistaken. He
talked of old times, of friendship, of childhood's days, of great hopes
and plans for the future--of anything but love. It seemed to be and
perhaps was the farthest from his thoughts.

"I am going to Beechgrove in a week," he said; "you will give me
permission to call and see you every day, Philippa?"

"I shall be pleased to see you--my time is yours," she answered but he
did not understand the full meaning of the words.

Then Lady Peters came in and asked if he would join them at dinner.

"Philippa likes gayety," she said; "we have never had one quiet evening
since the season began; she has a ball for to-night."

"Yes," laughed the heiress; "the world is very sweet to me just now,
Norman; but I will give up my ball and stay at home purposely to sing to
you, if you will dine with us."

"That is a temptation I cannot resist," he returned. "I will come. All
your disappointed partners will, however, vent their wrath on me,
Philippa."

"I can bear it," she said, "and so can you. Now I can let you go more
willingly, seeing that I shall soon see you again."

And then he went away. After he had gone she spoke but little; once she
clasped her arms round Lady Peters' neck and kissed the kindly face.

"Do not speak to me," she said, "lest I should lose the echo of his
voice;" and Lady Peters watched her anxiously, as she stood with a rapt
smile on her face, as of one who has heard celestial music in a dream.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Arleighs of Beechgrove had for many generations been one of the
wealthiest as well as one of the noblest families in England. To Norman,
Lord Arleigh, who had succeeded his father at the early age of twenty,
all this good gift of fame, fortune, and wealth had now fallen. He had
inherited also the far-famed Arleigh beauty. He had clear-cut features,
a fair skin, a fine manly frame, a broad chest, and erect, military
bearing; he had dark hair and eyes, with straight, clear brows, and a
fine, handsome mouth, shaded by a dark mustache Looking at him it was
easy to understand his character. There was pride in the dark eyes, in
the handsome face, in the high-bred manner and bearing, but not of a
common kind.

In accordance with his late father's wish, he had gone through the usual
course of studies. He had been to Eton and to Oxford; he had made the
usual continental tour; and now he had returned to live as the Arleighs
had done before him--a king on his own estate. There was just one thing
in his life that had not pleased him. His mother, Lady Arleigh, had
always evinced the greatest affection for her cousin, the gentle Lady
L'Estrange. She had paid long visits to Verdun Royal, always taking her
son with her; and his earliest recollection was of his mother and Lady
L'Estrange sitting side by side planning the marriage of their two
children, Philippa and Norman. He could remember many of his mother's
pet phrases--"So suitable," "A perfect marriage," "The desire of my
heart." All his mother's thoughts and ideas seemed to begin and end
there. He had been taught, half seriously, half in jest, to call
Philippa his little wife, to pay her every attention, to present her
with jewels and with flowers, to make her his chief study. While be was
still a boy he had only laughed at it.

Philippa was a beautiful, high-sprited girl. Her vivacity and animation
amused him. He had spoken the truth in saying that he had met no one he
liked better than his old friend. He had seen beautiful girls, lovely
women, but he had not fallen in love. Indeed, love with the Arleighs was
a serious matter. They did not look lightly upon it. Norman. Lord
Arleigh, had not fallen; in love, but he had begun to think very
seriously about Philippa L'Estrange. He had been fond of her as a child,
with the kind of affection that often exists between children. He had
called her his "little wife" in jest, not in earnest. He had listened to
the discussions between the two ladies as he would have listened had
they been talking about adding a new wing to the house. It was not until
he came to the years of manhood that he began to see how serious the
whole matter was. Then he remembered with infinite satisfaction that
there had been nothing binding, that he had never even mentioned the
word "love" to Philippa L'Estrange, that he had never made love to her,
that the whole matter was merely a something that had arisen in the
imagination of two ladies.

He was not in the least degree in love with Philippa. She was a
brunette--he preferred a blonde; brunette beauty had no charm for him.
He liked gentle, fair-haired women, tender of heart and soul--brilliancy
did not charm him. Even when, previously to going abroad, he had gone
down to Verdun Royal to say good-by, there was not the least approach to
love in his heart. He had thought Philippa very charming and very
picturesque as she stood under the lilac-trees; he had said truly that
he should never see a lilac without thinking of her as she stood there.
But that had not meant that he loved her.

He had bent down, as he considered himself in courtesy bound, to kiss
her face when he bade her adieu; but it was no lover's kiss that fell so
lightly on her lips. He realized to himself most fully the fact that,
although he liked her, cared a great deal for her, and felt that she
stood in the place of a sister to him, he did not love her.

But about Philippa herself? He was not vain; the proud, stately Lord
Arleigh knew nothing of vanity. He could not think that the childish
folly had taken deep root in her heart-he would not believe it. She had
been a child like himself; perhaps even she had forgotten the nonsense
more completely than he himself had. On his return to England, the first
thing he heard when he reached London was that his old friend and
playfellow--the girl he had called his little wife--was the belle of the
season, with half London at her feet.



Chapter VII.



Lord Arleigh had been so accustomed to think of Philippa as a child that
he could with difficulty imagine the fact that she was now a lovely
girl, and one of the wealthiest heiresses in London. He felt some
curiosity about her. How would she greet him? How would she receive him?
He wrote to her at once, asking permission to visit her, and he came
away from that visit with his eyes a little dazzled, his brain somewhat
dazed, but his heart untouched. His fancy was somewhat disturbed by the
haunting memory of dark, splendid eyes, lighted with fire and passion,
and a bright, radiant face and scarlet lips--by a _mélange_ of amber,
lace, and perfume--but his heart was untouched. She was beautiful beyond
his fairest dreams of woman--he owned that to himself--but it was not
the kind of beauty that he admired it was too vivid, too highly colored,
too brilliant. He preferred the sweet, pure lily to the queenly rose.
Still he said to himself that he had never seen a face or figure like
Miss L'Estrange's. No wonder that she had half London at her feet.

He was pleased with her kind reception of him, although he had not read
her welcome aright; he was too true a gentleman even to think that it
was love which shone in her eyes and trembled on her lips--love which
made her voice falter and die away--love which caused her to exert every
art and grace of which she was mistress to fascinate him. He was
delighted with her--his heart grew warm under the charm of her words,
but he never dreamed of love.

He had said to himself that there must be no renewal of his childish
nonsense of early days--that he must be careful not to allude to it; to
do so would be in bad taste--not that he was vain enough to think she
would attach any importance to it, even if he did so; but he was one of
nature's gentlemen, and he would have scorned to exaggerate or to say
one word more than he meant. Her welcome had been most graceful, most
kind--the beautiful face had softened and changed completely for him.
She had devoted herself entirely to him; nothing in all the wide world
had seemed to her of the least interest except himself and his
affairs--books, music, pictures, even herself, her own triumphs, were as
nothing when compared with him. He would have been less than mortal not
to have been both pleased and flattered.

Pressed so earnestly to return to dinner, he had promised to do so; and
evening, the sweet-scented May evening, found him once more at Hyde
Park. If anything, Philippa looked more lovely. She wore her favorite
colors--amber and white--a dress of rich amber brocade, trimmed with
white lace; the queenly head was circled with diamonds; jewels like fire
gleamed on the white breast; there was a cluster of choice flowers in
her bodice. He had seen her hitherto as a girl; now he was to see her as
the high-bred hostess, the mistress of a large and magnificent mansion.

He owned to himself that she was simply perfect. He had seen nothing in
better taste, although he had been on intimate terms with the great ones
of the earth. As he watched her, he thought to himself that, high and
brilliant as was her station, it was not yet high enough for her. She
flung a charm so magical around her that he was insensibly attracted by
it, yet he was not the least in love--nothing was further from his
thoughts. He could not help seeing that, after a fashion, she treated
him differently from her other guests. He could not have told why or
how; he felt only a certain subtle difference; her voice seemed to take
another tone in addressing him, her face another expression as though
she regarded him as one quite apart from all others.

The dinner-party was a success, as was every kind of entertainment with
which Philippa L'Estrange was concerned. When the visitors rose to take
their leave, Norman rose also. She was standing near him.

"Do not go yet, Norman," she said; "it is quite early. Stay, and I will
sing to you."

She spoke in so low a tone of voice that no one else heard her. He was
quite willing. Where could he feel more at home than in this charming
drawing-room, with this beautiful girl, his old friend and playmate?

She bade adieu to her visitors, and then turned to him with such a smile
as might have lost or won Troy.

"I thought they would never go," she said; "and it seems to me that I
have barely exchanged one word with you yet, Norman."

"We have talked many hours," he returned, laughing.

"Ah, you count time by the old fashion, hours and minutes. I forget it
when I am talking to one I--to an old friend like you."

"You are enthusiastic," said Lord Arleigh, wondering at the light on the
splendid face.

"Nay, I am constant," she rejoined.

And for a few minutes after that silence reigned between them. Philippa
was the first to break it.

"Do you remember," she asked, "that you used to praise my voice, and
prophesy that I should sing well?"

"Yes, I remember," he replied.

"I have worked hard at my music," she continued, "in the hope of
pleasing you."

"In the hope of pleasing me?" he interrogated. "It was kind to think so
much of me."

"Of whom should I think, if not of you?" she inquired.

There were both love and reproach in her voice--he heard neither. Had he
been as vain as he was proud, he would have been quicker to detect her
love for himself.

The windows had been opened because the evening air was so clear and
sweet; it came in now, and seemed to give the flowers a sweeter
fragrance. Lord Arleigh drew his chair to the piano.

"I want you only to listen," she said. "You will have no turning over to
do for me; the songs I love best I know by heart. Shut your eyes,
Norman, and dream."

"I shall dream more vividly if I keep them open and look at you," he
returned.

Then in a few minutes he began to think he must be in dream-land--the
rich, sweet voice, so clear, so soft, so low, was filling the room with
sweetest music. It was like no human voice that he remembered;
seductive, full of passion and tenderness--a voice that told its own
story, that told of its owner's power and charm--a voice that carried
away the hearts of the listeners irresistibly as the strong current
carries the leaflet.

She sang of love, mighty, irresistible love, the king before whom all
bow down; and as she sang he looked at her. The soft, pearly light of
the lamps fell on her glorious face, and seemed to render it more
beautiful. He wondered what spell was fast falling over him, for he saw
nothing but Philippa's face, heard nothing but the music that seemed to
steep his senses as in a dream.

How fatally, wondrously lovely she was, this siren who sang to him of
love, until every sense was full of silent ecstasy, until his face
flushed, and his heart beat fast. Suddenly his eyes met hers; the
scarlet lips trembled, the white fingers grew unsteady; her eyelids
drooped, and the sweet music stopped.

She tried to hide her confusion by smiling.

"You should not look at me, Norman," she said, "when I sing; it
embarrasses me."

"You should contrive to look a little less beautiful then, Philippa," he
rejoined. "What was that last song?"

"It is a new one," she replied, "called 'My Queen.'"

"I should like to read the words," said Lord Arleigh.

In a few minutes she had found it for him, and they bent over the
printed page together; her dark hair touched his cheek, the perfume from
the white lilies she wore seemed to entrance him; he could not
understand the spell that lay over him.

"Is it not beautiful?" she said.

"Yes, beautiful, but ideal; few women, I think, would equal this poet's
queen."

"You do not know--you cannot tell, Norman. I think any woman who loves,
and loves truly, becomes a queen."

He looked at her, wondering at the passion in her voice--wondering at
the expression on her beautiful face.

"You are incredulous," she said; "but it is true. Love is woman's
dominion; let her but once enter it, and she becomes a queen; her heart
and soul grow grander, the light of love crowns her. It is the real
diadem of womanhood, Norman; she knows no other."

He drew back startled; her words seemed to rouse him into sudden
consciousness. She was quick enough to see it, and, with the _distrait_
manner of a true woman of the world, quickly changed the subject. She
asked some trifling question about Beechgrove, and then said, suddenly:

"I should like to see that fine old place of yours, Norman. I was only
ten when mamma took me there the last time; that was rather too young to
appreciate its treasures. I should like to see it again."

"I hope you will see it, Philippa; I have many curiosities to show you.
I have sent home treasures from every great city I have visited."

She looked at him half wonderingly, half wistfully, but he said no more.
Could it be that he had no thought of ever asking her to be mistress and
queen of this house of his?

"You must have a party in the autumn," she said. "Lady Peters and I must
be among your guests."

"That will be an honor. I shall keep you to your word, Philippa." And
then he rose to go.

The dark, wistful eyes followed him. She drew a little nearer to him as
he held out his hand to say good-night.

"You are quite sure, Norman, that you are pleased to see me again?" she
interrogated, gently.

"Pleased! Why, Philippa, of course I am. What a strange question!"

"Because," she said, "there seems to be a cloud--a shadow--between us
that I do not remember to have existed before."

"We are both older," he explained, "and the familiarity of childhood
cannot exist when childhood ceases to be."

"I would rather be a child forever than that you should change to me,"
she said, quickly.

"I think," he returned, gravely, "that the only change in me is that I
admire you more than I have ever done"

And these words filled her with the keenest sense of rapture yet they
were but commonplace enough, if she had only realized it.



Chapter VIII.



Lord Arleigh raised his hat from his brow and stood for a few minutes
bareheaded in the starlight. He felt like a man who had been in the
stifling atmosphere of a conservatory; warmth and perfume had dazed him.
How beautiful Philippa was--how bewildering! What a nameless wondrous
charm there was about her! No wonder that half London was at her feet,
and that her smiles were eagerly sought. He was not the least in love
with her; admiration, homage, liking, but not love--anything but
that--filled him; yet he dreamed of her, thought of her, compared her
face with others that he had seen--all simply because her beauty had
dazed him.

"I can believe now in the sirens of old," he said to himself; "they must
have had just such dark, glowing eyes, such rich, sweet voices and
beautiful faces. I should pity the man who hopelessly loved Philippa
L'Estrange. And, if she ever loves any one, it will be easy for her to
win; who could resist her?"

How little he dreamed that the whole passionate love of her heart was
given to himself--that to win from him one word of love, a single token
of affection, she would have given all that she had in the world.

On the day following he received a note; it said simply:

     "Dear Norman: Can you join me in a ride? I have a new horse which
     they tell me is too spirited. I shall not be afraid to try it if
     you are with me.

     "Yours, Philippa."

He could not refuse--indeed, he never thought of refusing--why should
he? The beautiful girl who asked this kindness from him was his old
friend and playfellow. He hastened to Verdun House and found Philippa
waiting for him.

"I knew you would come," she said. "Lady Peters said you would be
engaged. I thought differently."

"You did well to trust me," he returned, laughingly; "it would require a
very pressing engagement to keep me from the pleasure of attending you."

He had thought her perfect on the previous evening, in the glitter of
jewels and the gorgeous costume of amber and while; yet, if possible,
she looked even better on this evening. Her riding-habit was neat and
plain, fitting close to the perfect figure, showing every gracious line
and curve.

Philippa L'Estrange possessed that rare accomplishment among women, a
graceful "seat" on horseback. Lord Arleigh could not help noticing the
admiring glances cast on her as they entered the park together. He saw
how completely she was queen of society. Unusual homage followed her.
She was the observed of all observers; all the men seemed to pause and
look at her. Lord Arleigh heard repeatedly, as they rode along, the
question, "Who is that beautiful girl?" Every one of note or distinction
contrived to speak to her. The Prince of Auboine, at that time the most
_fêted_ guest in England, could hardly leave her. Yet, in the midst of
all, Lord Arleigh saw that she turned to him as the sunflower to the
sun. No matter with whom she was conversing, she never for one moment
forgot him, never seemed inattentive, listened to him, smiled her
brightest on him, while the May sun shone, and the white hawthorn
flowers fell on the grass--while the birds chirped merrily, and crowds
of bright, happy people passed to and fro.

"How true she is to her old friends!" thought Lord Arleigh, when he saw
that even a prince could not take her attention from him.

So they rode on through the sunlit air--he fancy free, she loving him
every moment with deeper, truer, warmer love.

"I should be so glad, Norman," she said to him, "if you would give me a
few riding-lessons. I am sure I need them."

He looked at the graceful figure, at the little hands that held the
reins so deftly.

"I do not see what there is to teach you," he observed; "I have never
seen any one ride better."

"Still I should be glad of some little instruction from you," she said.
"I always liked riding with you, Norman."

"I shall be only too pleased to ride with you every day when I am in
town," he told her; and, though he spoke kindly, with smiling lips,
there was no warmth of love in his tone.

The day was very warm--the sun had in it all the heat of June. When they
reached Verdun House, Philippa said:

"You will come in for a short time, Norman? You look warm and tired.
Williams--the butler--is famous for his claret-cup."

He murmured something about being not fatigued, but disinclined for
conversation.

"You will not see any one," she said; "you shall come to my own
particular little room, where no one dares enter, and we will have a
quiet conversation there."

It seemed quite useless to resist her. She had a true siren power of
fascination. The next minute saw him seated in the cool, shady
_boudoir_, where the mellow light came in, rose-filtered through the
silken blinds, and the perfumed air was sweet. Lady Peters, full of
solicitude, was there, with the iced claret cup, thinking he was tired
and-warm. It was so like home that he could not help feeling happy.

Presently Lady Peters retired for a few minutes, and in came Philippa.
She had changed her riding-costume for a white silk _négligé_ that fell
round her in loose, graceful folds. She wore no flowers, jewels, or
ribbons, but the dark masses of her hair were unfastened, and hung round
the white neck; there was a warm, bright flush on her face, with the
least touch of languor in her manner. She threw herself back in her
lounging chair, saying, with a dreamy smile:

"You see that I make no stranger of you, Norman."

From beneath the white silken folds peeped a tiny embroidered slipper; a
jeweled fan lay near her, and with it she gently stirred the perfumed
air. He watched her with admiring eyes.

"You look like a picture that I have seen, Philippa," he said.

"What picture?" she asked, with a smile.

"I cannot tell you, but I am quite sure I have seen one like you. What
picture would you care to resemble?"

A sudden gleam of light came into her dark eyes.

"The one underneath which you would write 'My Queen,'" she said,
hurriedly.

He did not understand.

"I think every one with an eye to beauty would call you 'queen,'" he
observed, lightly. The graver meaning of her speech had quite escaped
him.

Then Lady Peters returned, and the conversation changed.

"We are going to hear an _opéra-bouffe_ to-night," said Philippa, when
Lord Arleigh was leaving. "Will you come and be our escort?"

"You will have a box filled with noisy chatterers the whole night," he
remarked, laughingly.

"They shall all make room for you, Norman, if you will come," she said.
"It is 'La Grande Duchesse,' with the far-famed Madame Schneider as her
Grace of Gérolstein."

"I have not heard it yet," returned Lord Arleigh. "I cannot say that I
have any great admiration for that school of music, but, if you wish it,
I will go, Philippa.

"It will increase my enjoyment a hundredfold," she said, gently, "if you
go."

"How can I refuse when you say that? I will be here punctually," he
promised; and again the thought crossed his mind how true she was to her
old friends--how indifferent to new ones!

On that evening Philippa changed her customery style of dress--it was no
longer the favorite amber, so rich in hue and in texture, but white,
gleaming silk, relieved by dashes of crimson. A more artistic or
beautiful dress could not have been designed. She wore crimson roses in
her dark hair, and a cluster of crimson roses on her white breast. Her
bouquet was of the same odorous flowers. In the theater Lord Arleigh
noticed that Philippa attracted more attention than any one else, even
though the house was crowded; he saw opera-glasses turned constantly
toward her beautiful face.

Miss L'Estrange kept her word, saying but little to those who would fain
have engrossed her whole attention--that was given, to Lord Arleigh. She
watched his face keenly throughout the performance. He did not evince
any great interest in it.

"You do not care for 'La Grande Duchesse?'" she said.

"No--frankly, I do not," he replied.

"Tell me why," said Philippa.

"Can you ask me to do so, Philippa?" he returned, surprised; and then he
added, "I will tell you. First of all, despite the taking music, it is a
performance to which I should not care to bring my wife and sister."

"Tell me why?" she said, again.

"It lowers my idea of womanhood. I could not forgive the woman, let her
be duchess or peasant, who could show any man such great love, who could
lay herself out so deliberately to win a man."

She looked at him gravely. He continued:

"Beauty is very charming, I grant--as are grace and talent; but the
chief charm to me of a woman is her modesty. Do you not agree with me,
Philippa?"

"Yes," she replied, "most certainly I do; but, Norman, you are hard upon
us. Suppose that, woman loves a man ever so truly--she must not make any
sign?"

"Any sign she might make would most certainly, in my opinion, lessen her
greatest charm," he said.

"But," she persisted, "do you not think that is rather hard? Why must a
woman never evince a preference for the man she loves?"

"Woman should be wooed--never be wooer," said Lord Arleigh.

"Again I say you are hard, Norman. According to you, a woman is to break
her heart in silence and sorrow for a man, rather than give him the
least idea that she cares for him."

"I should say there is a happy medium between the Duchess of Gérolstein
and a broken heart. Neither men nor women can help their peculiar
disposition, but in my opinion a man never more esteems a woman than
when he sees she wants to win his love."

He spoke with such perfect freedom from all consciousness that she knew
the words could not be intended for her; nevertheless she had learned a
lesson from them.

"I am like yourself, Norman," she said; "I do not care for the play at
all; we will go home," and they left the house before the Grand Duchess
had played her part.



Chapter IX.



Philippa L'Estrange thought long and earnestly over her last
conversation with Lord Arleigh. She had always loved him; but the
chances are that, if he had been devoted to her on his return, if he had
wooed her as others did, she would have been less _empressée_. As it
was, he was the only man she had not conquered, the only one who
resisted her, on whom her fascinations fell without producing a magical
effect. She could not say she had conquered her world while he was
unsubdued. Yet how was it? She asked herself that question a hundred
times each day. She was no coquette, no flirt, yet she knew she had but
to smile on a man to bring him at once to her feet; she had but to make
the most trifling advance, and she could do what she would. The Duke of
Mornton had twice repeated his offer of marriage--she had refused him.
The Marquis of Langland, the great match of the day, had made her an
offer, which she had declined. The Italian Prince Cetti would have given
his possessions to take her back with him to his own sunny land, but she
had refused to go. No woman in England had had better offers of
marriage; but she had refused them all. How was it that, when others
sighed so deeply and vainly at her feet, Lord Arleigh alone stood aloof?

Of what use were her beauty, wit, grace, wealth, and talent, if she
could not win him? For the first time she became solicitous about her
beauty, comparing it with that of other women, always being compelled,
in the end, to own that she excelled. If Lord Arleigh talked, or danced,
or showed attention to any lady, she would critically examine her claim
to interest, whether she was beautiful, mentally gifted, graceful. But
Philippa detected another thing--if Lord Arleigh did not love her, it
was at least certain that he loved no one else.

The whole world was spoiled for her because she had not this man's love.
She desired it. Her beauty, her wealth, her talents, her grace, were all
as nothing, because with them she could not win him. Then, again, she
asked herself, could it be that she could not win him? What had men told
her? That her beauty was irresistible. It might be that he did care for
her, that he intended to carry out his mother's favorite scheme, but
that he was in no hurry, that he wanted her and himself to see plenty of
life first. It was easier, after all, to believe that than to think that
she had completely failed to win him. She would be quite satisfied if it
were so, although it was certainly not flattering to her that he should
be willing to wait so long; but, if he would only speak--if he would
only say the few words that would set her mind quite at ease--she would
be content.

Why did he not love her? She was fair, young, endowed with great gifts;
she had wealth, position; she had the claim upon him that his mother and
hers had wished the alliance. Why did she fail? why did he not love her?
It seemed to her that she was the one person in all the world to whom he
would naturally turn--that, above all others, he would select her for
his wife; yet he did not evince the least idea of so doing. Why was it?

Twice that night when he had so frankly told her his ideas about women,
she had been most careful, most reserved.

"If he likes reserve and indifference," she said to herself, "he shall
have plenty of it." Yet it was at the same time so mixed with kindness,
with thoughtful consideration for him, that the wonder was he did not
succumb. "I must find out," she said to herself, "whether he does really
care for me." How to do so she did not quite know--but woman's wits are
proverbially keen.

The more she saw of him the better she liked him--his single-mindedness,
his chivalry, his faith in women and his respect for them, were greater
than she had seen in any other, and she loved him for these qualities.
The more she contrasted him with others, the greater, deeper, and wider
grew her love. It must be that in time he should care for her.

The Duchess of Aytoun gave a grand ball, to which, as belle of the
season, Philippa was invited.

"Shall you go?" she asked of Lord Arleigh.

"I have hardly decided," he replied.

"Do go, Norman; I like waltzing, but I do not care to waltz with every
one. Do go, that I may dance with you."

"You do not mind waltzing with me, then?" he said.

The glance she gave him was answer sufficient. He could not kelp feeling
flattered.

"I shall be there, Philippa," he said; and then she promised herself on
that evening she would try to discover what his sentiments were with
regard to her.

She took great pains with her toilet; she did not wish to startle, but
to attract--and the two things were very different. Her dress looked
brilliant, being of a silvery texture; the trimming was composed of
small fern-leaves; a _parure_ of fine diamonds crowned her head.

The effect of the dress was striking, and Philippa herself had never
looked more lovely. There was a flush of rose-color on her face, a light
in her eyes. If ever woman's face told a story, hers did--if ever love
softened, made more tender and pure any face on earth, it was hers.

After her toilet was complete, she stood for a few minutes looking in
her mirror. The tall, stately figure in the glorious dress was perfect;
the face, framed in shining masses of dark hair, was perfect too.

"If I can but win one word from him!" she thought. "If I can but remind
him of those childish days when he used to call me his little wife!"

She no sooner made her appearance than, as was usual, she was surrounded
by a little court of admirers--the Duke of Mornton first among them.
They little guessed that they owed her complacent reception of their
compliments to the fact that she was not even attending to them, but
with her whole soul in her eyes was watching for Lord Arleigh's arrival.
The duke even flattered himself that he was making some progress,
because at some chance word from him the beautiful face flushed a deep
crimson. How was he to know that Lord Arleigh had at that moment entered
the room?

The latter could not help feeling pleased and flattered at the way in
which Philippa received him. He was but mortal, and he could not help
seeing the dark eyes shine, the scarlet lips tremble, the whole face
soften. Presently she placed her hand on his arm, and walked away with
him.

"I was growing impatient, Norman," she said; and then, remembering his
criticisms on the wooing of women, she hastened to add--"impatient at
the want of novelty; it seems to me that in London ball-rooms all the
men talk in the same fashion."

Lord Arleigh laughed.

"What are they to do, Philippa?" he asked. "They have each one the same
duties to perform--to please their partners and amuse themselves. You
would not have a 'hapless lordling' talk about science or metaphysics
while he danced, would you?"

"No; but they might find some intelligent remarks to make. You talk
well, Norman, and listening to you makes me impatient with others."

"You are very kind," he said, and he took the pretty tablets from her
hand.

"You have saved every waltz for me, Philippa. I shall expect to have a
dozen duels on my hands before morning."

"'This is my favorite," she said, as the music of the irresistible
"Blue Danube" filled the room.

Then it seemed to her that they floated away into another sphere. His
arm was round her, his eyes smiling down into hers. With youth, music,
beauty, love, there was nothing wanting to complete the charm.

When it was over, he asked her if she would rest.

"No," said Philippa; "I heard the playing of a fountain in the fernery.
I should like to go there."

They went through the magnificent suite of rooms, and then through the
conservatory into the dim, beautiful fernery, where the lamps glowed
like stars, and the cool rippling water fell with a musical rhythm into
the deep basin below. They could hear the distant sound of music from
the ball-room. It was a time when love, if it lay in a man's heart,
would spring, into sweet, sudden life.

"If he loves me," she said to herself, "he will tell me so now."

"I like this better than the ball-room," she said. "By the way, you have
not told me if you like my dress?" she added, anxious to bring him to
the one subject she had at heart. "Do you remember that when we were
children, Norman, you used to criticise my dress?"

"Did I? It was very rude of me. I should not venture to criticise
anything so marvelous now. It is a wonderful dress, Philippa; in the
light it looks like moonbeams, in the shade like snow. Do you suppose I
should ever have the courage to criticise anything so beautiful?"

"Do you really like it, Norman--without flattery?"

"I never flatter, Philippa, not even in jest; you should know that."

"I never heard you flatter," she acknowledged. "I took pains with my
toilet, Norman, to please you; if it does so I am well content."

"There is another waltz," said Lord Arleigh; "we will go back to the
ball-room."

"Make him love me!" she said to herself, in bitter disdain. "I might as
well wish for one of the stars as for his love--it seems just as far
off."



Chapter X.



Lord Arleigh did not go to Beechgrove as he had intended. He found so
many old friends and so many engagements in London that he was not
inclined to leave it. Then, too, he began to notice many little things
which made him feel uncomfortable. He began to perceive that people
considered him in some kind of way as belonging to Miss L'Estrange; no
matter how many surrounded her, when he entered a room they were seen
one by one to disappear until he was left alone by her side. At first he
believed this to be accidental; after a time he knew that it must be
purposely done.

Miss L'Estrange, too, appeared to see and hear him only. If any one
wanted to win a smile from her lovely lips, he had but to make way for
Lord Arleigh; if any man wanted a kind word, or a kind glance from the
beautiful eyes, he had but to praise Lord Arleigh. People soon perceived
all this. The last to discover it was Lord Arleigh himself. It dawned
but slowly upon him. He began to perceive also that Philippa, after a
fashion of her own, appropriated him. She looked upon it as a settled
arrangement that he should ride with her every day--that every day he
must either lunch or dine with them--that he must be her escort to
theater and ball. If he at times pleaded other engagements she would
look at him with an air of childish wonder and say:

"They cannot have so great a claim upon you as I have, Norman?"

Then he was disconcerted, and knew not what to answer; it was true that
there was no one with so great a claim--it seemed to have been handed
down from his mother to him.

His eyes were still further opened one day when a large and fashionable
crowd had gathered at Lady Dalton's garden-party. Philippa was, as
heretofore, the belle, looking more than usually lovely in a light
gossamer dress of white and pink. She was surrounded by admirers. Lord
Arleigh stood with a group of gentlemen under a great spreading
beech-tree.

"How beautiful she is, that Miss L'Estrange!" said one--Sir Alfred
Martindale. "I can believe in the siege of Troy when I look at her; and
I think it just as well for mankind that such women are rare."

"If ever there was a human moth," observed another, "it is that
unfortunate Duke of Mornton. I have seen some desperate cases in my
time, but none so desperate as his."

Lord Arleigh laughed. They were all intimate friends.

"The Duke of Mornton is a great friend of mine," he said. "I can only
hope that he may be saved from the ultimate fate of a moth, and that
Miss L'Estrange will take pity on him."

He could not help seeing that the three gentleman looked up with an
expression of utter wonder.

"Do you mean," asked Sir Alfred, "that you hope Miss L'Estrange will
marry the duke?"

"I do not think she could do better," replied Lord Arleigh.

"You are the last man in London I should have expected to hear say so,"
said Sir Alfred, quietly.

"Am I? Pray may I ask why?"

"Yes, if you acquit me of all intention of rudeness in my reply. I
repeat that you are the last man in London whom I should have expected
to hear make such a remark, for the simple reason that every one
believes you are going to marry Miss L'Estrange yourself."

Lord Arleigh's face flushed hotly.

"Then 'every one,' as you put it, Sir Alfred, takes a great liberty--an
unauthorized liberty--with the name of a very charming lady. Miss
L'Estrange and myself were much together when children--our mothers were
distantly related--and at the present time we are--excellent friends."

"I am sorry," returned Sir Alfred, "if I have said anything to annoy
you. I thought the fact was as evident as the sun at noon-day; every one
in London believes it."

"Then people take an unwarrantable liberty with the lady's name," said
Lord Arleigh.

Some one else remarked, with a slightly impertinent drawl, that he did
not believe Miss L'Estrange would consider it a liberty. A flash from
Lord Arleigh's dark eyes silenced him.

A few minutes afterward Lord Arleigh found the Duchess of Aytoun and
Philippa seated underneath a large acacia-tree. Captain Gresham, a great
favorite in the London world, was by Philippa's side. The duchess, with
a charming gesture of invitation made room for Lord Arleigh by her side.
The gallant captain did not often find an opportunity of making love to
the belle of the season. Now that he had found it, he was determined not
to lose it--not for fifty Lord Arleighs. So, while the duchess talked to
the new-comer, he relentlessly pursued his conversation with Miss
L'Estrange.

There was but one music in the world for her, and that was the music of
Lord Arleigh's voice. Nothing could ever drown that for her. The band
was playing, the captain talking, the duchess conversing, in her gay,
animated fashion; but above all, clearly and distinctly, Philippa heard
every word that fell from Lord Arleigh's lips, although he did not know
it. He believed that she was, as she seemed to be, listening to the
captain.

"I have pleasing news concerning you, Lord Arleigh," said the duchess.
"I wonder if I may congratulate you?"

"What is it? I do not know of anything very interesting concerning
myself," he remarked--"nothing, I am sure, that calls for
congratulation."

"You are modest," said the duchess; "but I have certainly heard, and on
good authority, too, that you are about to be married."

"I can only say I was not in the least aware of it," he rejoined.

The duchess raised her parasol and looked keenly at him.

"Pray pardon me," she continued; "do not think that it is from mere
curiosity that I ask the question. Is there really no truth in the
report?"

"None whatever," he replied. "I have no more idea of being married than
I have of sailing this moment for the Cape."

"It is strange," said the duchess, musingly; "I had the information from
such good authority, too."

"There can be no better authority on the subject," said Lord Arleigh,
laughingly, "than myself."

"You; I admit that. Well, as the ice is broken, Lord Arleigh, and we are
old friends, I may ask, why do you not marry?"

"Simply because of marriage, and of love that ends in marriage, I have
not thought," he answered lightly.

"It is time for you to begin," observed the duchess; "my own impression
is that a man does no good in the world until he is married." And then
she added: "I suppose you have an ideal of womanhood?"

Lord Arleigh's face flushed.

"Yes," he acknowledged, "I have an ideal of my own, derived from poetry
I have read, from pictures I have seen--an ideal of perfect grace,
loveliness, and purity. When I meet that ideal, I shall meet my fate."

"Then you have never yet seen the woman you would like to to marry?"
pursued the duchess.

"No," he answered, quite seriously; "strange to say, although I have
seen some of the fairest and noblest types of womanhood, I have not yet
met with my ideal."

They were disturbed by a sudden movement--the flowers that Philippa held
in her hand had fallen to the ground.



Chapter XI.



Captain Greshan sprang forward to lift the flowers which Miss L'Estrange
had dropped.

"Nay," she said, "never mind them. A fresh flower is very nice. A flower
that has once been in the dust has lost its beauty."

There was no trace of pain in the clear voice; it was rich and musical.
Philippa L'Estrange, seated in the bright sunshine, heard the words
that were to her a death-warrant, yet made no sign. "I have not yet met
with my ideal," Lord Arleigh had said.

Captain Gresham picked up some of the fallen flowers.

"A dead flower from your hand, Miss L'Estrange," he observed "is worth a
whole gardenful of living ones from any one else."

She laughed again that sweet musical laugh which seemed to come only
from a happy heart; and then she looked round. The Duchess of Aytoun and
Lord Arleigh were still in deep converse. Miss L'Estrange turned to
Captain Gresham.

"I have been told," she said, "that there are some beautiful white
hyacinths here; they are my favorite flowers. Shall we find them?"

He was only too pleased. She bade a laughing adieu to the duchess, and
smiled at Lord Arleigh. There was no trace of pain or of sadness in her
voice or face. They went away together and Lord Arleigh never even
dreamed that she had heard his remark.

Then the duchess left him, and he sat under the spreading beech alone.
His thoughts were not of the pleasantest nature; he did not like the
general belief in his approaching marriage; it was fair neither to
himself nor to Philippa--yet how was he to put an end to such gossip?
Another idea occurred to him. Could it be possible that Philippa herself
shared the idea? He would not believe it. Yet many things made him pause
and think. She certainly evinced great preference for his society; she
was never so happy as when with him. She would give up any engagement,
any promised gayety or pleasure to be with him. She dressed to please
him; she consulted him on most things; she seemed to identify her
interests with his. But all this might be the result of their old
friendship--it might have nothing to do with love.

Could it be possible that she still remembered the childish nonsense
that had passed between them--that she considered either herself or him
bound by a foolish tie that neither of them had contracted? Could it be
possible that she regarded herself as engaged to him? The bare idea of
it seemed absurd to him; he could not believe it. Yet many little things
that he could not explain to himself made him feel uncomfortable and
anxious. Could it be that she, the most beautiful and certainly the most
popular woman in London, cared so much for him as to hold him by so
slender a tie as their past childish nonsense?

He reproached himself for the thought, yet, do what he would, he could
not drive it away. The suspicion haunted him; it made him miserable. If
it was really so, what was he to do?

He was a gentleman, not a coxcomb. He could not go to this fair woman
and ask her if it was really true that she loved him, if she really
cared for him, if she held him by a tie contracted in childhood. He
could not do it. He had not sufficient vanity. Why should he think that
Philippa, who had some of the noblest men in England at her feet--why
should life think that she would renounce all her brilliant prospects
for him? Yet, if the mistake had really occurred--if she really thought
the childish nonsense binding--if she really believed that he was about
to make her his wife--it was high time that she was undeceived, that she
knew the truth. And the truth was that although he had a great liking, a
kindly affection for her, he was not in love with her. He admired her
beauty--nay, he went further; he thought her the most beautiful woman he
had ever seen, the most gifted, the most graceful. But he was not in
love with her--never would be. She was not his type of woman, not his
ideal. If she had been his sister, he would have loved her
exceedingly--a brotherly affection was what he felt for her.

Yet how could he go to this fair woman with the ungracious words that he
did not love her, and had no thought of marrying her? His face flushed
hotly at the thought--there was something in it against which his whole
manhood rose in hot rebellion Still it must be done; there must be no
such shadow between them as this--there must be no such fatal mistake.
If the report of their approaching marriage were allowed to remain much
longer uncontradicted, why, then he would be in honor compelled to
fulfill public expectations; and this he had no intention, no desire to
do. The only thing therefore was to speak plainly to her.

How he hated the thought! How he loathed the idea! It seemed to him
unmanly, most ignoble--and yet there was no help for it. There was one
gleam of comfort for him, and only one. She was so quick, so keen, that
she would be sure to understand him at once, without his entering into
any long explanation. Few words would suffice, and those words he must
choose as best he could. If it were possible, he would speak to her
to-day--the sooner the better-and then all uncertainty would be ended.
It seemed to him, as he pondered these things, that a cloud had fallen
over the sunshine. In his heart he blamed the folly of that gentle
mother who had been the cause of all this anxiety.

"Such matters are always best left alone," he said to himself, "If I
should ever have children of my own, I will never interfere in their
love affairs."

Think as he would ponder as he would, it was no easy task that lay
before him--to tell her in so many words that he did not love her.
Surely no man had ever had anything so ungracious to do before.

He looked round the grounds, and presently saw her the center of a
brilliant group near the lake. The Duke of Ashwood was by her side, the
_élite_ of the guests had gathered round her. She--beautiful, bright,
animated--was talking, as he could see, with her usual grace and ease.
It struck him suddenly as absurd that this beautiful woman should
care--as people said she did care--for him.

Let him get it all over. He longed to see the bright face shine on him
with sisterly kindness, and to feel himself at ease with her; he longed
to have all misunderstanding done away with.

He went up to the little group, and again the same peculiarity struck
him--they all made way for him--even the Duke of Ashwood, although he
did it with a frown on his face and an angry look in his eyes. Each one
seemed to consider that he had some special right to be by the side of
the beautiful Miss L'Estrange; and she, as usual when he was present,
saw and heard no one else.

It was high time the world was disabused. Did she herself join in the
popular belief? He could not tell. He looked at the bright face; the
dark eyes met his, but he read no secret in them.

"Philippa," he said, suddenly, "the water looks very tempting--would you
like a row?"

"Above everything else," she replied. And they went off in the little
pleasure-boat together.

It was a miniature lake, tall trees bordering it and dipping their green
branches into the water. The sun shone on the feathered spray that fell
from the sculls, the white swans raised their graceful heads as the
little boat passed by, and Philippa lay back languidly, watching the
shadow of the trees. Suddenly an idea seemed to occur to her. She looked
at Lord Arleigh.

"Norman," she said, "let the boat drift--I want to talk to you, and I
cannot while you are rowing."

He rested on his sculls, and the boat drifted under the drooping
branches of a willow-tree. He never forgot the picture that then
presented itself--the clear deep water, the green trees, and the
beautiful face looking at him.

"Norman," she said, in a clear, low voice, "I want to tell you that I
overheard all that you said to the Duchess of Aytoun. I could not help
it--I was so near to you."

She was taking the difficulty into her own hands! He felt most thankful.

"Did you, Philippa? I thought you were engrossed with the gallant
captain."

"Did you really and in all truth mean what you said to her?" she asked.

"Certainly; you know me well enough to be quite sure that I never say
what I do not mean."

"You have never yet seen the woman whom you would ask to be your wife?"
she said.

There was a brief silence, and then he replied:

"No, in all truth, I have not, Philippa."

A little bird was singing on a swaying bough just above them--to the
last day of her life it seemed to her that she remembered the notes. The
sultry silence seemed to deepen. She broke it.

"But, Norman," she said, in a low voice, "have you not seen me?"

He tried to laugh to hide his embarrassment, but it was a failure.

"I have seen you--and I admire you. I have all the affection of a
brother for you, Philippa--" and then he paused abruptly.

"But," she supplied, "you have never thought of making me your wife?
Speak to me quite frankly, Norman."

"No, Philippa, I have not."

"As matters stand between us, they require explanation," she said; and
he saw her lips grow pale. "It is not pleasant for me to have to mention
it, but I must do it. Norman, do you quite forget what we were taught to
believe when we were children--that our lives were to be passed
together?"

"My dearest Philippa, pray spare yourself and me. I did not know that
you even remembered that childish nonsense."

She raised her dark eyes to his face, and there was something in them
before which he shrank as one who feels pain.

"One word, Norman--only one word. That past which has been so much to
me--that past in which I have lived, even more than in the present or
the future--am I to look upon it as what you call nonsense?"

He took her hand in his.

"My dear Philippa," he said, "I hate myself for what I have to say--it
makes me detest even the sound of my own voice. Yet you are right--there
is nothing for us but perfect frankness; anything else would be foolish.
Neither your mother nor mine had any right to try to bind us. Such
things never answer, never prosper. I cannot myself imagine how they,
usually so sensible, came in this instance to disregard all dictates of
common sense. I have always looked upon the arrangement as mere
nonsense; and I hope you have done the same. You are free as air--and so
am I."

She made no answer, but, after a few minutes, when she had regained her
self-possession, she said:

"The sun is warm on the water--I think we had better return;" and, as
they went back, she spoke to him carelessly about the new rage for
garden-parties.

"Does she care or not?" thought Lord Arleigh to himself. "Is she pleased
or not? I cannot tell; the ways of women are inscrutable. Yet a strange
idea haunts me--an uncomfortable suspicion."

As he watched her, there seemed to him no trace of anything but
light-hearted mirth and happiness about her. She laughed and talked; she
was the center of attraction, the life of the _fête_. When he spoke to
her, she had a careless jest, a laughing word for him; yet he could not
divest himself of the idea that there was something behind all this. Was
it his fancy, or did the dark eyes wear every now and then an expression
of anguish? Was it his fancy, or did it really happen that when she
believed herself unobserved, the light died out of her face?

He was uncomfortable, without knowing why--haunted by a vague, miserable
suspicion he could not explain, by a presentiment he could not
understand--compelled against his will to watch her, yet unable to
detect anything in her words and manner that justified his doing so. It
had been arranged that after the _fête_ he should return to Verdun House
with Lady Peters and Philippa. He had half promised to dine and spend
the evening there, but now he wondered if that arrangement would be
agreeable to Philippa. He felt that some degree of restraint had arisen
between them.

He was thinking what excuse he could frame, when Philippa sent for him.
He looked into the fresh young face; there was no cloud on it.

"Norman," she said, "I find that Lady Peters has asked Miss Byrton to
join us at dinner--will you come now? It has been a charming day, but I
must own that the warmth of the sun has tired me."

Her tone of voice was so calm, so unruffled, he could have laughed at
himself for his suspicions, his fears.

"I am quite ready," he replied. "If you would like the carriage ordered,
we will go at once."

He noticed her going home more particularly than he had ever done
before. She was a trifle paler, and there was a languid expression in
her dark eyes which might arise from fatigue, but she talked lightly as
usual. If anything, she was even kinder to him than usual, never
evincing the least consciousness of what had happened. Could it have
been a dream? Never was man so puzzled as Lord Arleigh.

They talked after dinner about a grand fancy ball that Miss Byrton
intended giving at her mansion in Grosvenor Square. She was one of those
who believed implicitly in the engagement between Lord Arleigh and Miss
L'Estrange.

"I have a Waverley quadrille already formed," said Miss Byrton--"that is
_de rigueur_. There could not be a fancy ball without a Waverley
quadrille. How I should like two Shakesperian ones! I thought of having
one from 'As You Like It' and another from 'Romeo and Juliet;' and, Miss
L'Estrange, I wish you would come as _Juliet_. It seems rude even to
suggest a character to any one with such perfect taste as yours--still I
should like a beautiful _Juliet--Juliet_ in white satin, and glimmer of
pearls."

"I am quite willing," returned Philippa. "_Juliet_ is one of my favorite
heroines. How many _Romeos_ will you have?"

"Only one, if I can so manage it," replied Miss Byrton--"and that will
be Lord Arleigh."

She looked at him as she spoke; he shook his head, laughingly.

"No--I yield to no one in reverence for the creations of the great
poet," he said; "but, to tell the truth, I do not remember that the
character of _Romeo_ ever had any great charm for me."

"Why not?" asked Miss Byrton.

"I cannot tell you; I am very much afraid that I prefer _Othello_--the
noble Moor. Perhaps it is because sentiment has not any great attraction
for me. I do not think I could ever kill myself for love. I should make
a sorry _Romeo_, Miss Byrton."

With a puzzled face she looked from him to Miss L'Estrange.

"You surprise me," she said, quickly. "I should have thought _Romeo_ a
character above all others to please you."

Philippa has listened with a smile--nothing had escaped her. Looking up,
she said, with a bright laugh:

"I cannot compliment you on being a good judge of character, Miss
Byrton. It may be perhaps that you have not known Lord Arleigh well
enough. But he is the last person in the world to make a good _Romeo._ I
know but one character in Shakespeare's plays that would suit him."

"And that?" interrogated Lord Arleigh.

"That," replied Philippa, "is _Petruchio_;" and amidst a general laugh
the conversation ended.

Miss Byrton was the first to take her departure. Lord Arleigh lingered
for some little time--he was still unconvinced. The wretched,
half-formed suspicion that there was something hidden beneath Philippa's
manner still pursued him; he wanted to see if she was the same to him.
There was indeed no perceptible difference. She leaned back in her
favorite chair with an air of relief, as though she were tired of
visitors.

"Now let us talk about the _fête_, Norman," she said. "You are the only
one I care to talk with about my neighbors."

So for half an hour they discussed the _fête_, the dresses, the music,
the different flirtations--Philippa in her usual bright, laughing,
half-sarcastic fashion, with the keen sense of humor that was peculiar
to her. Lord Arleigh could not see that there was any effort in her
conversation; he could not see the least shadow on her brightness; and
at heart he was thankful.

When he was going away, she asked him about riding on the morrow just as
usual. He could not see the slightest difference in her manner. That
unpleasant little conversation on the lake might never have taken place
for all the remembrance of it that seemed to trouble her. Then, when he
rose to take his leave, she held out her hand with a bright, amused
expression.

"Good-night, _Petruchio_," she said. "I am pleased at the name I have
found for you."

"I am not so sure that it is appropriate," he rejoined. "I think on the
whole I would rather love a _Juliet_ than tame a shrew."

"It may be in the book of fate that you will do both," she observed; and
they parted, laughing at the idea.

To the last the light shone in her eyes, and the scarlet lips were
wreathed in smiles; but, when the door had closed behind him and she was
alone, the haggard, terrible change that fell over the young face was
painful to see. The light, the youth, the beauty seemed all to fade from
it; it grew white, stricken, as though the pain of death were upon her.
She clasped her hands as one who had lost all hope.

"How am I to bear it?" she cried. "What am I to do?" She looked round
her with the bewildered air of one who had lost her way--with the dazed
appearance of one from beneath whose feet the plank of safety had been
withdrawn. It was all over--life was all over; the love that had been
her life was suddenly taken from her. Hope was dead--the past in which
she had lived was all a plank--he did not love her.

She said the words over and over again to herself. He did not love her,
this man to whom she had given the passionate love of her whole heart
and soul--he did not love her, and never intended to ask her to be his
wife.

Why, she had lived for this! This love, lying now in ruins around her,
had been her existence. Standing there, in the first full pain of her
despair, she realized what that love had been--her life, her hope, her
world. She had lived in it; she had known no other wish, no other
desire. It had been her all and now it was less than nothing.

"How am I to live and bear it?" she asked herself again; and the only
answer that came to her was the dull echo of her own despair.

That night, while the sweet flowers slept under the light of the stars,
and the little birds rested in the deep shade of the trees--while the
night wind whispered low, and the moon sailed in the sky--Philippa
L'Estrange, the belle of the season, one of the most beautiful women in
London, one of the wealthiest heiresses in England, wept through the
long hours--wept for the overthrow of her hope and her love, wept for
the life that lay in ruins around her.

She was of dauntless courage--she knew no fear; but she did tremble and
quail before the future stretching out before her--the future that was
to have no love, and was to be spent without him.

How was she to bear it? She had known no other hope in life, no other
dream. What had been childish nonsense to him had been to her a serious
and exquisite reality. He had either forgotten it, or had thought of it
only with annoyance; she had made it the very corner-stone of her life.

It was not only a blow of the keenest and cruelest kind to her
affections, but it was the cruelest blow her vanity could have possibly
received. To think that she, who had more admirers at her feet than any
other woman in London, should have tried so hard to win this one, and
have failed--that her beauty, her grace, her wit, her talent, should all
have been lavished in vain.

Why did she fail so completely? Why had she not won his love? It was
given to no other--at least she had the consolation of knowing that. He
had talked about his ideal, but he had not found it; he had his own
ideal of womanhood, but he had not met with it.

"Are other women fairer, more lovable than I am?" she asked herself.
"Why should another win where I have failed?"

So through the long hours of the starlit night she lamented the love and
the wreck of her life, she mourned for the hope that could never live
again, while her name was on the lips of men who praised her as the
queen of beauty, and fair women envied her as one who had but to will
and to win.

She would have given her whole fortune to win his love--not once, but a
hundred times over.

It seemed to her a cruel mockery of fate that she who had everything the
world could give--beauty, health, wealth, fortune--should ask but this
one gift, and that it should be refused her.

She watched the stars until they faded from the skies and then she
buried her face in the pillow and sobbed herself to sleep.



Chapter XII.



It was when the sun, shining into her room, reached her that an idea
occurred to Philippa which was like the up-springing of new life to her.
All was not yet lost. He did not love her--he had not thought of making
her his wife; but it did not follow that he would never do so. What had
not patience and perseverance accomplished before now? What had not love
won?

He had acknowledged that she was beautiful; he had owned to her often
how much he admired her. So much granted, was it impossible that he
should learn to love her? She told herself that she would take
courage--that she would persevere--that her great love must in time
prevail, and that she would devote her life unweariedly to it.

She would carefully hide all traces of pique or annoyance. She would
never let him find her dull or unhappy. Men liked to be amused. She
would do her best to entertain him; he would never have a moment's
vacancy in her society. She would find sparkling anecdotes, repartees,
witty, humorous stories, to amuse him. He liked her singing; she would
cultivate it more and more. She would study him, dress for him, live for
him, and him alone; she would have no other end, aim, thought, or
desire. She would herself be the source of all his amusement, so that he
should look for the every-day pleasures of his life to her--and, such
being the case, she would win him; she felt sure of it. Why had she been
so hopeless, so despairing? There was no real cause for it. Perhaps,
after all, he had looked upon the whole affair, not as a solemn
engagement, but as a childish farce. Perhaps he had never really thought
of her as his wife; but there would be an end to that thoughtlessness
now. What had passed on the previous day would arouse his attention, he
could never know the same indifference again.

So she rose with renewed hope. She shrank from the look of her face in
the glass. "Cold water and fresh air," she said to herself, with a
smile, "will soon remedy such paleness." And thus on that very day began
for her the new life--the life in which, no longer sure of her love, she
was to try to win it.

He would have loved her had he been able; but his own words were
true--"Love is fate."

There was nothing in common between them--no sympathy--none of those
mystical cords that, once touched, set two human hearts throbbing, and
never rest until they are one. He could not have been fonder of her than
he was, in a brotherly sense; but as for lover's love, from the first
day he had seen her, a beautiful, dark-eyed child, until the last he
had never felt the least semblance of it.

It was a story of failure. She strove as perhaps woman never before had
striven, and she succeeded in winning his truest admiration, his warmest
friendship; he felt more at home with her than any one else in the wide
world. But there it ended--she won no more.

It was not his fault; it was simply because the electric spark called
love had never been and never could be elicited between his soul and
hers. He would have done anything for her--he was her truest, best
friend; but he was not her lover.

She hoped against hope. Each day she counted the kind words he had said
to her; she noted every glance, every look, every expression. But she
could not find that she made any progress--nothing that indicated any
change from brotherly friendship to love. Still she hoped against hope,
the chances are that she would have died of a broken heart.

Then the season ended. She went back to Verdun Royal with Lady Peters,
and Lord Arleigh to Beechgrove. They wrote to each other at Christmas,
and met at Calverley, the seat of Lord Rineham. She contrived, even when
away from him, to fill his life. She was always consulting him on
matters of interest to her; she sought his advice continually, and about
everything, from the renewal of a lease to the making of a new
acquaintance. "I cannot do wrong," she would say to him, "if I follow
your advice." He was pleased and happy to be able to help the daughter
of his mother's dearest friend.

Her manner completely deceived him. If she had evinced the least pique
or discontent--if she had by word or look shown the least resentment--he
would have suspected that she cared for him, and would have been on his
guard. As it was, he would not have believed any one who had told him
she loved him.

The explanation had been made; there was no longer even a shadow between
them; they both understood that the weak, nonsensical tie was broken.
That they were the dearest of friends, and quite happy, would have been
Lord Arleigh's notion of matters. Philippa L'Estrange might have told a
different story.

The proposed party at Beechgrove did not come off. There were some
repairs needed in the eastern wing, and Lord Arleigh himself had so many
engagements, that no time could be found for it; but when the season
came round Philippa and he met again.

By this time some of Miss L'Estrange's admirers had come to the
conclusion that there was no truth in the report of the engagement
between herself and Lord Arleigh. Among these was his grace the Duke of
Hazlewood. He loved the beautiful, queenly girl who had so disdainfully
refused his coronet--the very refusal had made him care more than ever
for her. He was worldly-wise enough to know that there were few women in
London who would have refused him; and he said to himself that, if she
would not marry him, he would go unmarried to the grave. He was one of
the first to feel sure that there was no truth in the rumors that had
grieved him so the previous year. Miss L'Estrange and Lord Arleigh were
by force of circumstances great friends--nothing more, and this season
he determined to make a friend of the man he had detested as a rival.

When the Duke of Hazlewood made up his mind, he generally accomplished
his desire; he sought Lord Arleigh with such assiduity, he made himself
so pleasant and agreeable to him, that the master of Beechgrove soon
showed him his most cordial and sincere liking. Then they became warm
friends. The duke confided in Lord Arleigh--he told him the whole story
of his love for Miss L'Estrange.

"I know," he said, "that no one has so much influence over her as you. I
do not believe in the absurd stores told about an engagement between
you, but I see plainly that she is your friend, and that you are hers;
and I want you to use your influence with her in my favor."

Lord Arleigh promised to do so--and he intended to keep his promise;
they were on such intimate and friendly terms that he could venture upon
saying anything of that kind to her. She would not be displeased--on the
contrary, she would like his advice; it might even be that before now
she had wished to ask for it, but had not liked to do so--so completely
did these two play at cross-purposes and misunderstand each other.

It was easier to say to himself that he would speak to her as the duke
wished than to do it. He saw that any allusion to her lovers or admirers
made her ill at ease--she did not like it; even his laughing comments on
the homage paid to her did not please her.

"I do not like lovers," she said to him one day, "and I am tired of
admirers--I prefer friends."

"But," he opposed, laughingly, "if all that wise men and philosophers[2]
tell us is correct, there are no true friends."

He never forgot the light that shone in her face as she raised it to
his.

"I do not believe that," she returned; "there are true friends--you are
one to me."

The tenderness of her manner struck him forcibly. Something kinder and
softer stirred in his heart than had ever stirred before for her; he
raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.

"You are right, Philippa" he said. "If ever a woman had a true, stanch
friend, I am and will be one to you."

From her heart to her lips rose the words: "Shall you never be more?"
Perhaps even her eyes asked the question more eloquently than her lips
could have done, for his face flushed, and she turned away with some
slight embarrassment.

"I shall try and keep your friendship," she said; "but that will be
easily done, Norman."

"Yes," he replied; "one of the traditions of our house is 'truth in
friendship, trust in love, honor in war.' To be a true friend and a
noble foe is characteristic of the Arleighs."

"I hope that you will never be a foe of mine," she rejoined, laughingly.
And that evening, thinking over the events of the day she flattered
herself that she had made some little progress after all.



Chapter XIII.



The opportunity that Lord Arleigh looked for came at last. Philippa had
some reason to doubt the honesty of a man whom she had been employing as
agent. She was kind of heart, and did not wish to punish him, yet she
felt sure that he had not done his duty by her. To speak to her
solicitors about it would be, she felt, injurious to him, whether
innocent or guilty. If innocent, it would create a prejudice against
him; if guilty, they would wish to punish him. She resolved upon laying
the matter before Lord Arleigh, and seeing what he thought of it.

He listened very patiently, examined the affair, and then told her that
he believed she had been robbed.

"What shall I do?" she asked, looking at him earnestly.

"I know what you ought to do, Philippa. You ought to punish him."

"But he has a wife, Norman, and innocent little children; in exposing
him I shall punish them, and they are innocent."

"That is one of the strangest of universal laws to me," said Lord
Arleigh--"why the innocent always do, and always must, suffer for the
guilty; it is one of the mysteries I shall never understand. Common
sense tells me that you ought to expose this man--that he ought to be
punished for what he has done. Yet, if you do, his wife and children
will be dragged down into an abyss of misery. Suppose you make a
compromise of matters and lecture him well."

He was half smiling as he spoke, but she took every word in serious
earnest.

"Philippa," he continued, "why do you not marry? A husband would save
you all this trouble; he would attend to your affairs, and shield you
from annoyances of this kind."

"The answer to your question, 'Why do I not marry?' Would form a long
story," she replied, and then she turned the conversation.

But he was determined to keep his word, and pleaded with her for the
duke. Another opportunity came that evening. It was Lady Peters'
birthday, and Philippa had invited some of her most intimate friends;
not young people, but those with whom she thought her _chaperon_ would
enjoy herself best. The result was a very pleasant dinner-party,
followed by a very pleasant evening. Lord Arleigh could not be absent,
for it was, in some measure, a family _fête_.

The guests did not remain very late, and Lady Peters, professing herself
tired with the exertions she had made, lay down on a couch, and was soon
asleep. Philippa stood by the window with the rose-silk hangings drawn.

"Come out on the balcony," she said to Lord Arleigh, "the room is very
warm."

It was night, but the darkness was silver-gray, not black. The sky above
was brilliant with the gleam of a thousand stars, the moon was shining
behind some silvery clouds, the great masses of foliage in the park were
just stirred with the whisper of the night, and sweetest odors came from
heliotrope and mignonnette; the brooding silence of the summer night lay
over the land.

Philippa sat down, and Lord Arleigh stood by her side.

The moonlight falling on her beautiful face softened it into wondrous
loveliness--it was pale, refined, with depths of passion in the dark
eyes, and tender, tremulous smiles on the scarlet lips. She wore some
material of white and gold. A thin scarf was thrown carelessly over her
white shoulders. When the wind stirred it blew the scarf against her
face.

She might have been the very goddess of love, she looked so fair out in
the starlight. If there had been one particle of love in Lord Arleigh's
heart, that hour and scene must have called it into life. For a time
they sat in perfect silence. Her head was thrown back against a pillar
round which red roses clustered and clung, and the light of the stars
fell full upon her face; the dark eyes were full of radiance.

"How beautiful it is, Norman," she said, suddenly. "What music has ever
equaled the whispers of the night-wind? It seems a sad pity after all
that we are obliged to lead such conventional lives, and spend the
greater part of them in warm, close rooms."

"You have a great love for out-of-door freedom," he remarked,
laughingly.

"Yes, I love the fresh air. I think if any one asked me what I loved
best on earth, I should say wind. I love it in all its moods--rough,
caressing, tender, impetuous, calm, stormy. It is always beautiful.
Listen to it now, just sighing in the branches of those tall trees.
Could any music be sweeter or softer?"

"No," he replied, and then added, "The time and the scene embolden me,
Philippa; there is something that I wish to say to you--something that I
long have wished to say. Will you hear it now?"

A tremor like that of the leaves in the wind seemed to pass over her.
There was a startled expression in the dark eyes, a quiver of the
crimson lips. Was it coming at last--this for which she had longed all
her life? She controlled all outward signs of emotion and turned to him
quite calmly.

"I am always ready to listen to you, Norman, and to hear what you have
to say."

"You see, Philippa, the starlight makes me bold. If we were in that
brilliantly-lighted drawing-room of yours, I should probably hesitate
long before speaking plainly, as I am going to do now."

He saw her clasp her hands tightly, but he had no key to what was
passing in her mind. He drew nearer to her.

"You know, Philippa," he began, "that I have always been fond of you. I
have always taken the same interest in you that I should have taken in a
dearly-beloved sister of my own, if Heaven had given me one."

She murmured some few words which he did not hear.

"I am going to speak to you now," he continued, "just as though you were
my own sister, have I your permission to do so, Philippa?"

"Yes," she replied.

"And you promise not to be angry about any thing that I may say?"

"I could never be angry with you, Norman," she answered.

"Then I want you to tell me why you will not marry the Duke of
Hazlewood. You have treated me as your brother and your friend. The
question might seem impertinent from another; from me it will not appear
impertinent, not curious--simply true and kindly interest. Why will you
not marry him, Philippa?"

A quick sharp spasm of pain passed over her face. She was silent for a
minute before she answered him, and then she said:

"The reason is very simple, Norman--because I do not love him."

"That is certainly a strong reason; but, Philippa, let me ask you now
another question--why do you not love him?"

She could have retorted, "Why do you not love me?" but prudence forbade
it.

"I cannot tell you. I have heard you say that love is fate. I should
imagine it must be because the Duke of Hazlewood is not my fate."

He did not know what answer to make to that, it was so entirely his own
way of thinking.

"But, Philippa," he resumed after a pause, "do you not think that you
might love him if you tried?"

"I have never thought about it," was the quiet reply.

Lord Arleigh continued:

"In my idea he is one of the most charming men in England; I have never
seen a more perfect type of what an English gentleman should be--he is
noble, generous, brave, chivalrous. What fault do you find with him,
Philippa?"

"I?" she asked, looking up at him in wonder. "My dear Norman, I have
never found fault with the duke in my life."

"Then why can you not love him?"

"That is a very different thing. I find no fault with him; on the
contrary, I agree with you that he is one of the noblest of men, yet I
have never thought of marrying him."

"But, Philippa"--and with kindly impressiveness he laid one hand on her
shoulder--"why do you not think of marrying him? Between you and myself
there can be no compliments, no flattery. I tell you that of all the
women in England you are the most fitted to be the Duchess of
Hazlewood--and you would be a beautiful duchess, too. Think of the
position you would occupy--second only to royalty. I should like to see
you in such a position--you would fill it grandly. Think of the power,
the influence, the enormous amount of good you could do; think of it
all, Philippa?"

He did not see the sudden, sharp quiver of pain that passed over the
beautiful face, nor how pale it grew in the starlight.

"I am thinking," she answered, quietly--"I am listening attentively to
all that you say."

She drew the light scarf more closely around her shoulders and shuddered
as though a chill breeze had passed over her.

"Are you cold, dear?" he asked kindly.

"Cold! How could I be on this warm starlit night? Go on, Norman; let me
hear all that you have to say."

"I am trying to persuade you to accept what seems to me one of the
happiest lots ever offered to woman. I want to see you the Duke of
Hazlewood's wife. I cannot imagine any man more calculated to win a
woman's love, or to please her fancy, than he is. He is young, handsome,
noble in face and figure as he is in heart and soul; and he is clever
and gifted."

"Yes," she allowed, slowly, "he is all that, Norman."

"Some day or other he will be the leading spirit in the land; he will
be the head of a great party."

"That I believe," she agreed.

"And he loves you so well, Philippa; I have never seen a man more
devoted. How many years has he loved you now--two or three? And he tells
me that he shall go unmarried to the grave unless you consent to be his
wife."

"Did he tell you that? He must indeed be attached to me," she observed.
"Norman, did he ask you to say all this to me?"

"He asked me to plead his cause," replied Lord Arleigh.

"Why did he ask you to do so?"

"Because--believing us to be what we really are, Philippa, tried and
true friends--he thought I should have some influence over you."

"Clever duke!" she said. "Norman, are you well versed in modern poetry?"

He looked up in blank surprise at the question--it was so totally
unexpected.

"In modern poetry?" he repeated. "Yes, I think I am. Why, Philippa?"

"I will tell you why," she said, turning her beautiful face to him. "If
you will be patient, I will tell you why."

She was silent for a few minutes, and then Lord Arleigh said:

"I am patient enough, Philippa; will you tell me why?"

The dark eyes raised to his had in them a strange light--a strange depth
of passion.

"I want to know if you remember the beautiful story of Priscilla, the
Puritan maiden," she said, in a tremulous voice--the loveliest maiden of
Plymouth?"

"You mean the story of Miles Standish," he corrected. "Yes, I remember
it, Philippa."

"That which a Puritan maiden could do, and all posterity sing her
praises for, surely I--a woman of the world--may do without blame. Do
you remember, Norman, when John Alden goes to her to do the wooing which
the stanch soldier does not do for himself--do you remember her answer?
Let me give you the verse--

    "'But, as he warmed and glowed in his simple and eloquent language,
    Quite forgetful of self, and full of the praise of his rival,
    Archly the maiden smiled, and with eyes overrunning with laughter,
    Said in a tremulous voice, "Why don't you speak for yourself, John?"'"

The sweet musical voice died away in the starlight, the wind stirred the
crimson roses--silence, solemn and deep, fell over Lord Arleigh and his
companion. Philippa broke it.

"Surely you, in common with all of us, admire the Puritan maiden,
Norman?"

"Yes, I do admire her," he answered; "she is one of my favorite
heroines."

"So she is of mine; and I love her the more for the womanly outburst of
honest truth that triumphed over all conventionality. Norman, what she,
the 'loveliest maiden in Plymouth,' the beloved of Miles Standish, said
to John Alden, I say to you--'Why don't you speak for yourself?'"

There was infinite tenderness in his face as he bent over her--infinite
pain in his voice as he spoke to her.

"John Alden loved Priscilla," he said, slowly--"she was the one woman in
all the world for him--his ideal--his fate, but I--oh Philippa, how I
hate myself because I cannot answer you differently! You are my friend,
my sister, but not the woman I must love as my wife."

"When you urged me a few minutes since to marry your friend, you asked
me why I could not love him, seeing that he had all lovable qualities.
Norman, why can you not love me?"

"I can answer you only in the same words--I do not know. I love you with
as true an affection as ever man gave to woman; but I have not for you a
lover's love. I cannot tell why, for you are one of the fairest of fair
women."

"Fair, but not your 'ideal woman,'" she said, gently.

"No, not my 'ideal woman,'" he returned; "my sister, my friend--not my
love."

"I am to blame," she said, proudly; "but again I must plead that I am
like Priscilla. While you are pleading the cause of another, the truth
came uppermost; you must forgive me for speaking so forcibly. As the
poem says:

    "'There are moments in life when the heart is so full of emotions
    That if, by chance, it be shaken, or into its depths, like a pebble,
    Drops some careless word, it overflows, and its secret,
    Spilt on the ground like water, can never be gathered together.'"

"My dearest Philippa, you have not been to blame," he said; "you judge
yourself so hardly always."

"It is the fate of a woman to be silent," she said again. "Still, I am
glad that I have spoken. Norman, will you tell me what your ideal of
woman is like, that I may know her when I see her?"

"Nay," he objected, gently, "let us talk of something else."

But she persisted.

"Tell me," she urged, "that I may know in what she differs from me."

"I do not know that I can tell you," he replied. "I have not thought
much of the matter."

"But if any one asked you to describe your ideal of what a woman should
be, you could do it," she pursued.

"Perhaps so, but at best it would be but an imperfect sketch. She must
be young, fair, gentle, pure, tender of heart, noble in soul, with a
kind of shy, sweet grace; frank, yet not outspoken; free from all
affectation, yet with nothing unwomanly; a mixture of child and woman.
If I love an ideal, it is something like that."

"And she must be fair, like all the ladies Arleigh, with eyes like the
hyacinth, and hair tinged with gold, I suppose, Norman?"

"Yes; I saw a picture once in Borne that realized my notion of true
womanly loveliness. It was a very fair face, with something of the
innocent wonder of a child mixed with the dawning love and passion of
noblest womanhood."

"You admire an _ingénue_. We have both our tastes; mine, if I were a
man, would incline more to the brilliant and handsome."

She would have added more, but at that moment Lady Peters drew aside the
silken hanging.

"My dear children," she said, "I should ill play my part of chaperon if
I did not remind you of the hour. We have been celebrating my birthday,
but my birthday is past and gone--it is after midnight."

Lord Arleigh looked up in wonder.

"After midnight? Impossible! Yet I declare my watch proves that it is.
It is all the fault of the starlight, Lady Peters; you must blame that."

Lady Peters went out to them.

"I do not wonder at your lingering here," she said. "How calm and sweet
the night is! It reminds me of the night in 'Romeo and Juliet.' It was
on such a night _Jessica_--"

Philippa held up her hands in horror.

"No more poetry to-night, dear Lady Peters; we have had more than
enough."

"Is that true, Lord Arleigh? Have you really had more than enough?"

"I have not found it so," he replied. "However, I must go. I wish time
would sometimes stand still; all pleasant hours end so soon. Good-night,
Lady Peters."

But that most discreet of _chaperons_ had already re-entered the
drawing-room--it was no part of her business to be present when the two
friends said good-night.

"Good-night, Philippa," he said, in a low, gentle voice, bending over
her.

The wind stirred her perfumed hair until it touched his cheek, the
leaves of the crimson roses fell in a shower around her. She raised her
beautiful pale face to his--the unspeakable love, the yearning sorrow on
it, moved him greatly. He bent down and touched her brow with his lips.

"Good-night, Philippa, my sister--my friend," he said.

Even by the faint starlight he saw a change pass over her face.

"Good-night," she responded. "I have more to say to you, but Lady Peters
will be horrified if you remain any longer. You will call to-morrow, and
then I can finish my conversation?"

"I will come," he replied, gravely.

He waited a moment to see if she would pass into the drawing-room before
him, but she turned away and leaned her arms on the stone balustrade.

It was nearly half an hour afterward when Lady Peters once more drew
aside the hangings.

"Philippa," she said, gently, "you will take cold out there."

She wondered why the girl paused some few minutes before answering; then
Miss L'Estrange said, in a low, calm voice:

"Do not wait for me, Lady Peters; I am thinking and do not wish to be
interrupted."

But Lady Peters did not seem quite satisfied.

"I do not like to leave you sitting there," she said, "the servants will
think it strange."

"Their thoughts do not concern me," she returned, haughtily.
"Good-night, Lady Peters; do not interrupt me again, if you please."

And the good-tempered _chaperon_ went away, thinking to herself that
perhaps she had done wrong in interrupting the _tete-a-tete_.

"Still I did it for the best," she said to herself; "and servants will
talk."

Philippa L'Estrange did not move. Lady Peters thought she spoke in a
calm, proud voice. She would have been surprised could she have seen the
beautiful face all wet with tears; for, Philippa had laid her head on
the cold stone, and was weeping such tears as women weep but once in
life. She sat there not striving to subdue the tempest of emotion that
shook her, giving full vent to her passion of grief, stretching out her
hands and crying to her lost love.

It was all over now. She had stepped down from the proud height of her
glorious womanhood to ask for his love, and he had told her that he had
none to give her. She had thrown aside her pride, her delicacy. She had
let him read the guarded secret of her heart, only to hear his
reply--that she was not his ideal of womanhood. She had asked for
bread--he had given her a stone. She had lavished her love at his
feet--he had coolly stepped aside. She had lowered her pride,
humiliated herself, all in vain.

"No woman," she said to herself, "would ever pardon such a slight or
forgive such a wrong."

At first she wept as though her heart would break--tears fell like rain
from her eyes, tears that seemed to burn as they fell; then after a time
pride rose and gained the ascendancy. She, the courted, beautiful woman,
to be so humiliated, so slighted! She, for whose smile the noblest in
the land asked in vain, to have her almost offered love so coldly
refused! She, the very queen of love and beauty, to be so spurned!

When the passion of grief had subsided, when the hot angry glow of
wounded pride died away, she raised her face to the night-skies.

"I swear," she said, "that I will be revenged--that I will take such
vengeance on him as will bring his pride down far lower than he has
brought mine. I will never forgive him. I have loved him with a devotion
passing the love of woman. I will hate more than I have loved him. I
would have given my life to make him happy. I now consecrate it to
vengeance. I swear to take such revenge on him as shall bring the name
of Arleigh low indeed."

And that vow she intended to keep.

"If ever I forget what has passed here," she said to herself, "may
Heaven forget me!"

To her servants she had never seemed colder or haughtier than on this
night, when she kept them waiting while she registered her vow.

What shape was her vengeance to take?

"I shall find out," she thought; "it will come in time."



Chapter XIV.



Miss L'Estrange was standing alone in the small conservatory on the
morning following her eventful conversation with Lord Arleigh, when the
latter was announced. How she had passed the hours of the previous night
was known only to herself. As the world looks the fairer and fresher for
the passing of a heavy storm, the sky more blue, the color of flowers
and trees brighter so she on this morning, after those long hours of
agony, looked more beautiful than ever. Her white morning dress, made of
choice Indian muslin, was relieved by faint touches of pink; fine white
lace encircled her throat and delicate wrists. Tall and slender, she
stood before a large plant with scarlet blossoms when he came in.

Lord Arleigh looked as he felt--ill at ease. He had not slept through
thinking of the conversation in the balcony--it had made him profoundly
wretched. He would have given much not to renew it; but she had asked
him to come, and he had promised.

Would she receive him with tears and reproaches? Would she cry out that
he was cold and cruel? Would she torture himself and herself by trying
to find out why he did not love her? Or would she be sad, cold, and
indifferent?

His relief was great when she raised a laughing, radiant face to his and
held out her hand in greeting.

"Good-morning, Norman," she said, in a pleasant voice. "Now confess that
I am a clever actress, and that I have given you a real fright."

He looked at her in wonder.

"I do not understand you," he returned.

"It is so easy to mislead a man," she said, laughingly.

"I do not understand, Philippa," he repeated.

"Did you really take all my pretty balcony scene in earnest last night?"
she asked.

"I did indeed," he replied; and again the clear musical laugh, seemed to
astonish him.

"I could not have believed it, Norman," she said. "Did you really think
I was in earnest?"

"Certainly I did. Were you not?"

"No," she answered.

"Then I thank Heaven for it," he said, "for I have been very unhappy
about you. Why did you say so much if you did not mean it, Philippa?"

"Because you annoyed me by pleading the cause of the duke. He had no
right to ask you to do such a thing, and you were unwise to essay such a
task. I have punished you by mystifying you--I shall next punish him."

"Then you did not mean all that you said?" he interrogated, still
wondering at this unexpected turn of events.

"I should have given you credit for more penetration, Norman," she
replied. "I to mean such nonsense--I to avow a preference for any man!
Can you have been so foolish as to think so? It was only a charade,
acted for your amusement."

"Oh, Philippa," he cried, "I am so pleased, dear! And yet--yet, do you
know, I wish that you had not done it. It has given me a shock. I shall
never be quite sure whether you are jesting or serious. I shall never
feel that I really understand you."

"You will, Norman. It did seem so ridiculous for you, my old
playfellow, to sit lecturing me so gravely about matrimony. You took it
so entirely for granted that I did not care for the duke."

"And do you care for him, Philippa?" he asked.

"Can you doubt it, after the description you gave of him, Norman?"

"You are mocking me again, Philippa," he said.

"But you were very eloquent, Norman," she persisted. "I have never heard
any one more so. You painted his Grace of Hazlewood in such glowing
colors that no one could help falling in love with him."

"Did I? Well, I do think highly of him, Philippa. And so, after all, you
really care for him?"

"I do not think I shall tell you, Norman. You deserve to be kept in the
dark. Would you tell me if you found your ideal woman?"

"I would. I would tell you at once," he replied, eagerly.

"If you could but have seen your face!" she cried. "I feel tempted to
act the charade over again. Why, Norman, what likeness can you see
between Philippa L'Estrange, the proud, cold woman of the world, and
that sweet little Puritan maiden at her spinning wheel?"

"I should never have detected any likeness unless you yourself had first
pointed it out," he said. "Tell me, Philippa, are you really going to
make the duke happy at last?"

"It may be that I am going to make him profoundly miserable As
punishment for your lecture, I shall refuse to tell you anything about
it," she replied; and then she added: "You will ride with me this
morning, Norman?"

"Yes. I will ride with you, Philippa. I cannot tell you how thankful and
relieved I am."

"To find that you have not made quite so many conquests as you thought,"
she said. "It was a sorry jest to play after all; but you provoked me to
it, Norman. I want you to make me a promise."

"That I will gladly do," he replied. Indeed he was so relieved so
pleased, so thankful to be freed from the load of self-reproach that he
would have promised anything.

Her face grew earnest. She held out her hand to him.

"Promise me this, Norman," she said--"that, whether I remain Philippa
L'Estrange or become Duchess of Hazlewood--no matter what I am, or may
be--you will always be the same to me as you are now--my brother, my
truest, dearest, best friend. Promise me."

"I do promise, Philippa, with all my heart," he responded. "And I will
never break my promise."

"If I marry, you will come to see me--you-will trust in me--you will be
just what you are now--you will make my house your home, as you do
this?"

"Yes--that is, if your husband consents," replied Lord Arleigh.

"Rely upon it, my husband--if I ever have one--will not dispute my
wishes," she said. "I am not the model woman you dream of. She, of
course, will be submissive in everything; I intend to have my own way."

"We are friends for life, Philippa," he declared; "and I do not think
that any one who really understands me will ever cavil at our
friendship."

"Then, that being settled, we will go at once for our ride. How those
who know me best would laugh, Norman, if they heard of the incident of
the Puritan maiden! If I go to another fancy ball this season, I shall
go as _Priscilla_ of Plymouth and you had better go as _John Alden_."

He held up his hands imploringly.

"Do not tease me about it any more, Philippa," he remarked, "I cannot
quite tell why, but you make me feel both insignificant and vain; yet
nothing would have been further from my mind than the ideas you have
filled it with."

"Own you were mistaken, and then I will be generous and forgive you,"
she said, laughingly.

"I was mistaken--cruelly so--weakly so--happily so," he replied. "Now
you will be generous and spare me."

He did not see the bitter smile with which she turned away, nor the
pallor that crept even to her lips. Once again in his life Lord Arleigh
was completely deceived.

A week afterward he received "a note in Philippa's handwriting it said,
simply:

     "Dear Norman: You were good enough to plead the duke's cause. When
     you meet him next, ask him if he has anything to tell you.

     Philippa L'Estrange."

What the Duke of Hazlewood had to tell was that Miss L'Estrange had
promised to be his wife, and that the marriage was to take place in
August. He prayed Lord Arleigh to be present as his "best man" on the
occasion.

On the same evening Lady Peters and Miss L'Estrange sat in the
drawing-room at Verdun House, alone. Philippa had been very restless.
She had been walking to and fro; she had opened her piano and closed it;
she had taken up volume after volume and laid it down again, when
suddenly her eyes fell on a book prettily bound in crimson and gold,
which Lady Peters had been reading.

"What book is that?" she asked, suddenly.

"Lord Lytton's 'Lady of Lyons,'" replied Lady Peters.

Philippa raised it, looked through it, and then, with a strange smile
and a deep sigh, laid it down.

"At last," she said--"I have found it at last!"

"Found what, my dear?" asked Lady Peters, looking up.

"Something I have been searching for," replied Philippa, as she quitted
the room, still with the strange smile on her lips.



Chapter XV.



The great event of the year succeeding was the appearance of the Duchess
of Hazlewood. Miss L'Estrange the belle and the heiress, had been very
popular; her Grace of Hazlewood was more popular still. She was queen of
fashionable London. At her mansion all the most exclusive met. She had
resolved upon giving her life to society, upon cultivating it, upon
making herself its mistress and queen. She succeeded. She became
essentially a leader of society. To belong to the Duchess of Hazlewood's
"set" was to be the _créme de la créme_. The beautiful young duchess had
made up her mind upon two things. The first was that she would be a
queen of society; the second, that she would reign over such a circle as
had never been gathered together before. She would have youth, beauty,
wit, genius; she would not trouble about wealth. She would admit no one
who was not famous for some qualification or other--some grace of body
or mind--some talent or great gift. The house should be open to talent
of all kinds, but never open to anything commonplace. She would be the
encourager of genius, the patroness of the fine arts, the friend of all
talent.

It was a splendid career that she marked out for herself, and she was
the one woman in England especially adapted for it The only objection to
it was that while she gave every scope to imagination--while she
provided for all intellectual wants and needs--she made no allowance for
the affections; they never entered into her calculations.

In a few weeks half London was talking about the beautiful Duchess of
Hazlewood. In all the "Fashionable Intelligence" of the day she had a
long paragraph to herself. The duchess had given a ball, had had a grand
_réunion_, a _soirée_, a garden-party; the duchess had been at such an
entertainment; when a long description of her dress or costume would
follow. Nor was it only among the upper ten thousand that she was so
pre-eminently popular. If a bazar, a fancy fair, a ball, were needed to
aid some charitable cause, she was always chosen as patroness; her
vote, her interest, one word from her, was all-sufficient.

Her wedding had been a scene of the most gorgeous magnificence. She had
been married from her house at Verdun Royal, and half the county had
been present at what was certainly the most magnificent ceremonial of
the year. The leading journal, the _Illustrated Intelligence_, produced
a supplement on the occasion, which was very much admired. The duke gave
the celebrated artist, M. Delorme, a commission to paint the interior of
the church at Verdun Royal as it appeared while the ceremony was
proceeding. That picture forms the chief ornament now of the grand
gallery at the Court.

The wedding presents were something wonderful to behold; it was
considered that the duchess had one of the largest fortunes in England
in jewels alone. The wedding-day was the fourth of August, and it had
seemed as though nature herself had done her utmost to make the day most
brilliant.

It was not often that so beautiful a bride was seen as the young
duchess. She bore her part in the scene very bravely. The papers toll
how Lord Arleigh was "best man" on the occasion but no one guessed even
ever so faintly of the tragedy that came that morning to a crisis. The
happy pair went off to Vere Court, the duke's favorite residence, and
there for a short time the public lost sight of them.

If the duke had been asked to continue the history of his wedding-day,
he would have told a strange story--how, when they were in the
railway-carriage together, he had turned to his beautiful young wife
with some loving words on his lips, and she had cried out that she
wanted air, to let no one come near her--that she had stretched out her
hands wildly, as though beating off something terrible.

He believed that she was overcome by excitement or the heat of the day;
he soothed her as he would have soothed a child; and when they readied
Vere Court he insisted that they should rest. She did so. Her dark hair
fell round her white neck and shoulders, her beautiful face was flushed,
the scarlet lips trembled as though she were a grieving child; and the
young duke stood watching her, thinking how fair she was and what a
treasure he had won. Then he heard her murmur some words in her
sleep--what were they? He could not quite distinguish them; it was
something about a Puritan maiden _Priscilla_ and _John_--he could not
catch the name--something that did not concern him, and in which he had
no part. Suddenly she held out her arms, and, in a voice he never
forgot, cried, "Oh, my love, my love!" That of course meant himself.
Down on his knees by her side went the young duke--he covered her hands
with kisses.

"My darling," he said, "you are better now, I have been alarmed about
you, Philippa; I feared that you were ill. My darling, give me a word
and a smile."

She had quite recovered herself then; she remembered that she was
Duchess of Hazlewood--wife of the generous nobleman who was at her side.
She was mistress of herself in a moment.

"Have I alarmed you?" she said. "I did feel ill; but I am better
now--quite well, in fact."

She said to herself that she had her new life to begin, and the sooner
she began it the better; so she made herself very charming to the young
duke, and he was in ecstasies over the prize he had won.

Thenceforward[3] they lived happily enough. If the young duke found his
wife less loving, less tender of heart, than he had believed her to be,
he had no complaint.

"She is so beautiful and gifted," he would say to himself. "I cannot
expect everything. I know that she loves me, although she does not say
much about it. I know that I can trust her in all things, even though
she makes no protestations."

They fell into the general routine of life. One loved--the other allowed
herself to be loved. The duke adored his wife, and she accepted his
adoration.

They were never spoken of as a model couple, although every one agreed
that it was an excellent match--that they were very happy. The duke
looked up with wondering admiration to the beautiful stately lady who
bore his name. She could not do wrong in his eyes, everything she said
was right, all she did was perfect. He never dreamed of opposing her
wishes. There was no lady in England so completely her own mistress, so
completely mistress of every one and everything around her, as her Grace
of Hazlewood.

When the season came around again, and the brilliant life which she had
laid out for herself was hers, she might have been the happiest of women
but for the cloud which darkened, her whole existence. Lord Arleigh had
kept his promise--he, had been her true friend, with her husband's full
permission. The duke was too noble and generous himself to feel any such
ignoble passion as jealousy--he was far too confiding. To be jealous of
his wife would never have entered his mind; nor was there the least
occasion for it. If Lord Arleigh had been her own brother, their
relationship could not have been of a more blameless kind; even the
censorious world of fashion, so quick to detect a scandal, so merciless
in its enjoyment of one, never presumed to cast an aspersion on this
friendship. There was something so frank, so open about it, that blame
was an impossibility. If the duke was busy or engaged when his wife
wanted to ride or drive, he asked her cousin Lord Arleigh to take his
place, as he would have asked his own brother. If the duke could not
attend opera or ball, Lord Arleigh was at hand. He often said it was a
matter of perplexity to him which was his own home--whether he liked
Beechgrove, Verdun Royal or Vere Court best.

"No one was ever so happy, so blessed with true friends as I am," he
would say; at which speech the young duchess would smile that strange
fathomless smile so few understood.

If they went to Vere Court, Lord Arleigh was generally asked to go with
them; the Duke really liked him--a great deal for his own sake, more
still for the sake of his wife. He could understand the childish
friendship having grown with their growth; and he was too noble to
expect anything less than perfect sincerity and truth.

The duchess kept her word. She made no further allusion to the Puritan
maiden--that little episode had, so it appeared, completely escaped her
memory. There was one thing to be noticed--she often read the "Lady of
Lyons," and appeared to delight in it. When she had looked through a few
pages, she would close the book with a sigh and a strange, brooding
smile. At times, too, she would tease Lord Arleigh about his ideal woman
but that was always in her husband's presence.

"You have not found the ideal woman yet, Norman?" she would ask him,
laughingly; and he would answer. "No, not yet."

Then the duke would wax eloquent, and tell him that he really knew
little of life--that if he wanted to be happy he must look for a wife.

"You were easily contented," the duchess would say. "Norman wants an
ideal. You were content with a mere mortal--he will never be."

"Then find him an ideal, Philippa," would be the duke's reply "You know
some of the nicest girls in London; find him an ideal among them."

Then to the beautiful face would come the strange, brooding smile.

"Give me time," would her Grace of Hazlewood say; "I shall find just
what I want for him--in time."



Chapter XVI.



It was a beautiful, pure morning. For many years there had not been so
brilliant a season in London; every one seemed to be enjoying it; ball
succeeded ball; _fête_ succeeded _fête_. Lord Arleigh had received a
note from the Duchess of Hazlewood, asking him if he would call before
noon, as she wished to see him.

He went at once to Verdun House, and was told that the duchess was
engaged, but would see him in a few minutes. Contrary to the usual
custom, he was shown into a pretty morning-room, one exclusively used by
the duchess--a small, octagonal room, daintily furnished, which opened
on to a small rose-garden, also exclusively kept for the use of the
duchess. Into this garden neither friend nor visitor ever ventured; it
was filled with rose-trees, a little fountain played in the midst, and a
small trellised arbor was at one side. Why had he been shown into the
duchess' private room? He had often heard the duke tease his wife about
her room, and say that no one was privileged to enter it; why, then, was
such a privilege accorded him?

He smiled to himself, thinking that in all probability it was some
mistake of the servants; he pictured to himself the expression of
Philippa's face when she should find him there. He looked round; the
room bore traces of her presence--around him were some of her favorite
flowers and books.

He went to the long French window, wondering at the rich collection of
roses, and there he saw a picture that never forsook his memory
again--there he met his fate--saw the ideal woman of his dreams at last.
He had treated all notions of love in a very off-hand, cavalier kind of
manner; he had contented himself with his own favorite axiom--"Love is
fate;" if ever it was to come to him it would come, and there would be
an end of it. He had determined on one thing--this same love should be
his slave, his servant, never his master; but, as he stood looking out,
he was compelled to own his kingship was over.

Standing there, his heart throbbing as it had never done before, every
nerve thrilling, his face flushed, a strange, unknown sensation filling
him with vague, sweet wonder, Lord Arleigh met his fate.

This was the picture he saw--a beautiful but by no means a common one.
In the trellised arbor, which contained a stand and one or two chairs,
was a young girl of tall, slender figure, with a fair, sweet face,
inexpressibly lovely, lilies and roses exquisitely blended--eyes like
blue hyacinths, large, bright, and starlight, with white lids and dark
long lashes, so dark that they gave a peculiar expression to the
eyes--one of beauty, thought, and originality. The lips were sweet and
sensitive, beautiful when smiling, but even more beautiful in repose.
The oval contour of the face was perfect; from the white brow, where the
veins were so clearly marked, rose a crown of golden hair, not brown or
auburn, but of pure pale gold--a dower of beauty in itself.

The expression of the face was one of shy virgin beauty. One could
imagine meeting it in the dim aisles of some cathedral, near the shrine
of a saint, as an angel or a Madonna; one could imagine it bending over
a sick child, lighting with its pure loveliness the home of sorrow; but
one could never picture it in a ball-room. It was a face of girlish,
saintly purity, of fairest loveliness--a face where innocence, poetry,
and passion all seemed to blend in one grand harmony. There was nothing
commonplace about it. One could not mistake it for a plebeian face;
"patrician" was written on every feature.

Lord Arleigh looked at her like one in a dream.

"If she had an aureole round her head, I should take her for an angel,"
he thought to himself, and stood watching her.

The same secret subtle harmony pervaded[4] every action; each new
attitude seemed to be the one that suited her best. If she raised her
arms, she looked like a statue. Her hands were white and delicate, as
though carved in ivory. He judged her to be about eighteen. But who was
she, and what had brought her there? He could have stood through the
long hours of the sunny day watching her, so completely had she charmed
him, fascinated his very senses.

"Love is fate!" How often had he said that to himself, smiling the
while? Now here his fate had come to him all unexpectedly--this most
fair face had found its way to the very depths of his heart and nestled
there.

He could not have been standing there long, yet it seemed to him that
long hours parted him from the life he had known before. Presently he
reproached himself for his folly. What had taken place? He had seen a
fair face, that was all--a face that embodied his dream of loveliness.
He had realized his ideal, he had suddenly, and without thinking of it,
found his fate--the figure, the beauty that he had dreamed of all his
life.

Nothing more than that; yet the whole world seemed changed. There was a
brighter light in the blue skies, a new beauty had fallen on the
flowers; in his heart was strange, sweet music; everything was
idealized--glorified. Why? Because he had seen the face that had always
filled his thoughts.

It seemed to him that he had been there long hours, when the door
suddenly opened, and her Grace of Hazlewood entered.

"Norman," she said, as though in sudden wonder, "why did they show you
in here?"

"I knew they were doing wrong," he replied. "This is your own special
sanctum, Philippa?"

"Yes, it is indeed; still, as you are here, you may stay. I want to
speak to you about that Richmond dinner. My husband does not seem to
care about it. Shall we give it up?"

They talked for a few minutes about it, and then the duchess said,
suddenly:

"What do you think about my roses, Norman?"

"They are wonderful," he replied, and then, in a low voice, he asked,
"Philippa, who is that beautiful girl out there among your flowers?"

She did not smile, but a sudden light came into her eyes.

"It would be a great kindness not to tell you," she answered. "You see
what comes of trespassing in forbidden places. I did not intend you to
see that young lady."

"Why not?" he asked, abruptly.

"The answer to your question would be superfluous," she replied.

"But, Philippa, tell me at least who she is."

"That I cannot do," she replied, and then the magnificent face was
lighted with a smile. "Is she your ideal woman, Norman?" she asked.

"My dear Philippa," he answered, gravely, "she is the idea," woman
herself neither more nor less."

"Found at last!" laughed the duchess. "For all that, Norman, you must
not look it her."

"Why not? Is she married--engaged?"

"Married? That girl! Why, she has only just left school. If you really
wish to know who she is I will tell you; but you must give me your word
not to mention it."

"I promise," he replied.

He wondered why the beautiful face grew crimson and the dark eyes
dropped.

"She is a poor relative of ours," said the duchess, "poor, you
understand--nothing else."

"Then she is related to the duke?" he interrogated.

"Yes, distantly; and, after a fashion, we have adopted her. When she
marries we shall give her a suitable dot. Her mother married
unfortunately."

"Still, she was married?" said Lord Arleigh.

"Yes, certainly; but unhappily married. Her daughter, however, has
received a good education, and now she will remain with us. But, Norman,
in this I may trust you, as in everything else?"

"You may trust me implicitly," he replied.

"The duke did not quite like the idea of having her to live with us at
first--and I do not wish it to be mentioned to him. If he speaks of it
to you at all, it will be as my caprice. Let it pass--do not ask any
questions about her; it only annoys her--it only annoys him. She is very
happy with me. You see," she continued, "women can keep a secret. She
has been here three weeks, yet you have never seen her before, and now
it is by accident."

"But," said Norman, "what do you intend to do with her?"

The duchess took a seat near him, and assumed quite a confidential air.

"I have been for some time looking out for a companion," she said; "Lady
Peters really must live at Verdun Royal--a housekeeper is not sufficient
for that large establishment--it requires more than that. She has
consented to make it her home, and I must have some one to be with me."

"You have the duke," he put in, wonderingly.

"True, and a husband most, perforce, be all that is adorable; still,
having been accustomed to a lady-companion, I prefer keeping one; and
this girl, so beautiful, so pure, so simple, is all that I need, or
could wish for."

"So I should imagine," he replied. "Will you introduce her into society,
Philippa?"

"I think not; she is a simple child, yet wonderfully clever. No, society
shall not have her. I will keep her for my own."

"What is her name?" asked Lord Arleigh.

The duchess laughed.

"Ah, now, man-like, you are growing curious! I shall not tell you. Yes,
I will; it is the name above all others for an ideal--Madaline."

"Madaline," he repeated; "it is very musical--Madaline."

"It suits her," said the duchess; "and now, Norman, I must go. I have
some pressing engagements to-day."

"You will not introduce me then, Philippa?"

"No--why should I? You would only disturb the child's dream."



Chapter XVII.



Lord Arleigh could not rest for thinking of the vision he had seen; the
face of the duchess' companion haunted him as no other face had ever
done. He tried hard to forget it, saying to himself that it was a fancy,
a foolish imagination, a day-dream; he tried to believe that in a few
days he should have forgotten it.

It was quite otherwise. He left Vere House in a fever of unrest; he went
everywhere he could think of to distract his thoughts. But the fair face
with its sweet, maidenly expression, the tender blue eyes with their
rich poetic depths, the sweet, sensitive lips were ever present. Look
where he would he saw them. He went to the opera, and they seemed to
smile at him from the stage; he walked home in the starlight--they were
smiling at him from the stars; he tried to sleep--they haunted him; none
had followed him as those eyes did.

"I think my heart and brain are on fire," he said to himself. "I will
go and look once again at the fair young face; perhaps if she smiles at
me or speaks to me I shall be cured."

He went; it was noon when he reached the Duke of Hazlewood's mansion. He
inquired for the duchess, and was told she had gone to Hampton Court. He
repeated the words in surprise.

"Hampton Court!" he said. "Are you quite sure?"

"Yes, my lord," was the footman's reply. "Her grace has gone there, for
I heard her talking about the pictures this morning."

He could hardly imagine the duchess at Hampton Court. He felt half
inclined to follow, and then he thought that perhaps it would be an
intrusion; if she had wanted his society, she would certainly have asked
for it. No, he would not go. He stood for a few minutes irresolute,
wondering if he could ask whether the duchess had taken her young
companion with her, and then he remembered that he did not even know her
name.

How was the day to pass? Matters were worse than ever. If he had seen
her, if he could have spoken to her, he might perhaps have felt better;
as it was, the fever of unrest had deepened.

He was to meet the duchess that evening at the French Embassy; he would
tell her she must relax some of her rigor in his favor. She was talking
to the ambassador when he entered, but with a smiling gesture she
invited him to her side.

"I hear that you called to-day," she said. "I had quite forgotten to
tell you that we were going to Hampton Court."

"I could hardly believe it," he replied. "What took you there?"

"You will wonder when I tell you, Norman," she replied, laughingly. "I
have always thought that I have a great capacity for spoiling people. My
fair Madaline, as I have told you, is both poet and artist. She begged
so hard to see the pictures at Hampton Court that I could not refuse
her."

"I should not think the history of the belles of the court of Charles
II. would be very useful to her," he said; and she was quick to detect
the jealousy in his voice.

"Norman, you are half inclined to be cross, I believe, because I did not
ask you to go with us."

"I should have enjoyed it, Philippa, very much."

"It would not have been prudent," she observed, looking most
bewitchingly beautiful in her effort to look matronly and wise.

He said no more; but if her grace had thought of a hundred plans for
making him think of Madaline, she could not have adopted one more to the
purpose.

From the moment Lord Arleigh believed that the young duchess intended
to forbid all acquaintance with her fair _protégée_, he resolved to see
her and to make her like him.

The day following he went again to the mansion; the duchess was at home,
and wished to see him, but at that moment she was engaged. He was shown
into the library, where in a few minutes she joined him.

"My dear Norman," she said, with a bright smile of greeting, "Vere told
me, if you came, to keep you for luncheon; he wants to see you
particularly. The horse that won the Derby, he has been told, is for
sale, and he wants you to see it with him."

"I shall be very pleased," replied Lord Arleigh. "You seem hurried this
morning, Philippa."

"Yes; such a _contretemps_! Just as I was anticipating a few hours with
you, the Countess of Farnley came in, with the terrible announcement
that she was here to spend the morning. I have to submit to fate, and
listen to the account of Clara's last conquests, of the infamous
behavior of her maid, of Lord Darnley's propensity for indiscreet
flirtations. I tell her there is safety in number. I have to look kind
and sympathetic while I am bored to death."

"Shall I accompany you and help you to amuse Lady Farnley?"

She repeated the words with a little laugh.

"Amuse Lady Farnley? I never undertake the impossible. You might as well
ask me to move the monument, it would be quite as easy."

"Shall I help her to amuse you, then?" he said.

"No, I will not impose on your friendship. Make yourself as comfortable
as you can, and I will try to hasten her departure."

Just as she was going away Lord Arleigh called to her.

"Philippa!" she turned her beautiful head half impatiently to him.

"What is it, Norman? Quick! The countess will think I am lost."

"May I go into your pretty rose-garden?" he asked.

She laughed.

"What a question! Certainly; you my go just where you please."

"She has forgotten her companion," he said to himself, "or she is not
about."

He went into the morning-room and through the long, open French window;
there were the lovely roses in bloom, and there--oh, kind, blessed
fate!--there was his beautiful Madaline, seated in the pretty trellised
arbor, busily working some fine point-lace, looking herself like the
fairest flower that ever bloomed.

The young girl looked up at him with a startled glance--shy, sweet,
hesitating--and then he went up to her.

"Do not let me disturb you," he said. "The duchess is engaged and gave
me permission to wait for her here."

She bowed, and he fancied that her white fingers trembled.

"May I introduce myself to you?" he continued. "I am Lord Arleigh."

A beautiful blush, exquisite as the hue of the fairest rose, spread over
her face. She looked at him with a smile.

"Lord Arleigh," she repeated--"I know the name very well."

"You know my name very well--how is that?" he asked, in surprise.

"It is a household word here," she said; "I hear it at least a hundred
times a day."

"Do you? I can only hope that you are not tired of it."

"No, indeed I am not;" and then she drew back with a sudden hesitation,
as though it had just occurred to her that she was talking freely to a
stranger.

He saw her embarrassment, and did his best to remove it.

"How beautiful these roses are!" he said, gently. "The duchess is
fortunate to have such a little paradise here."

"She ought to be surrounded by everything that is fairest and most
beautiful on earth," she declared, "for there is no one like her."

"You are fond of her?" he said.

She forgot all her shyness, and raised her blue eyes to his.

"Fond of her? I love her better than any one on earth--except perhaps,
my mother. I could never have dreamed of any one so fair, so bewitching,
so kind as the duchess."

"And she seems attached to you," he said, earnestly.

"She is very good to me--she is goodness itself;" and the blue eyes,
with their depth of poetry and passion, first gleamed with light, and
then filled with tears.

"We must be friends," said Lord Arleigh, "for I, too, love the duchess.
She has been like a sister to me ever since I can remember;" and he drew
nearer to the beautiful girl as he spoke. "Will you include me among
your friends?" he continued. "This is not the first time that I have
seen you. I stood watching you yesterday; you were among the roses, and
I was in the morning-room. I thought then, and I have thought ever
since, that I would give anything to be included among your friends."

His handsome face flushed as he spoke, his whole soul was in his eyes.

"Will you look upon me as one of your friends?" he repeated, and his
voice was full of softest music. He saw that even her white brow grew
crimson.

"A friend of mine, my lord?" she exclaimed. "How can I? Surely you know
I am not of your rank--I am not one of the class from which you select
your friends."

"What nonsense!" he exclaimed. "If that is your only objection I can
soon remove it. I grant that there may be some trifling difference. For
instance, I may have a title; you--who are a thousand times more worthy
of one--have none. What of that? A title does not make a man. What is
the difference between us? Your beauty--nay, do not think me rude or
abrupt--- my heart is in every word that I say to you--your grace would
ennoble any rank, as your friendship would ennoble any man."

She looked up at him, and said, gently:

"I do not think you quite understand."

"Yes, I do," he declared, eagerly; "I asked the duchess yesterday who
you were, and she told me your whole story."

It was impossible for him not to see how she shrank with unutterable
pain from the words. The point-lace fell on the grass at her feet--she
covered her face with her hands.

"Did she? Oh, Lord Arleigh, it was cruel to tell it!"

"It was not cruel to tell me," he returned. "She would not tell any one
else, I am quite sure. But she saw that I was really anxious--that I
must know it--that it was not from curiosity I asked."

"Not from curiosity!" she repeated, still hiding her burning face with
her hands.

"No, it was from a very different motive." And then he paused abruptly.
What was he going to say? How far had he already left all
conventionality behind? He stopped just in time, and then continued,
gravely: "The Duchess of Hazlewood and myself are such true and tried
friends that we never think of keeping any secrets from each other. We
have been, as I told you before, brother and sister all our lives--it
was only natural that she should tell me about you."

"And, having heard my story, you ask me to be one of your friends?" she
said, slowly. There were pain and pathos in her voice as she spoke.

"Yes," he replied, "having heard it all, I desire nothing on earth so
much as to win your friendship."

"My mother?" she murmured.

"Yes--your mother's unfortunate marriage, and all that came of it. I can
repeat the story."

"Oh, no!" she interrupted. "I do not wish to hear it. You know it, and
you would still be my friend?"

"Answer me one question," he said, gently. "Is this sad story the
result of any fault of yours? Are you in any way to blame for it?"

"No; not in the least. Still, Lord Arleigh, although I do not share the
fault, I share the disgrace--nothing can avert that from me."

"Nothing of the kind," he opposed; "disgrace and yourself are as
incompatible as pitch and a dove's wing."

"But," she continued, wonderingly, "do you quite understand?"

"Yes; the duchess told me the whole story. I understand it, and am truly
grieved for you; I know the duke's share in it and all."

He saw her face grow pale even to the lips.

"And yet you would be my friend--you whom people call proud--you whose
very name is history! I cannot believe it, Lord Arleigh."

There was a wistful look in her eyes, as though she would fain believe
that it were true, yet that she was compelled to plead even against
herself.

"We cannot account for likes or dislikes," he said; "I always look upon
them as nature's guidance as to whom we should love, and whom we should
avoid. The moment I saw you I--liked you. I went home, and thought about
you all day long."

"Did you?" she asked, wonderingly. "How very strange!"

"It does not seem strange to me," he observed. "Before I had looked at
you three minutes I felt as though I had known you all my life. How long
have we been talking here? Ten minutes, perhaps--yet I feel as though
already there is something that has cut us off from the rest of the
world, and left us alone together. There is no accounting for such
strange feelings as these."

"No," she replied, dreamily, "I do not think there is."

"Perhaps," he continued, "I may have been fanciful all my life; but
years ago, when I was a boy at school, I pictured to myself a heroine
such as I thought I should love when I came to be a man."

She had forgotten her sweet, half sad shyness, and sat with faint flush
on her face, her lips parted, her blue eyes fixed on his.

"A heroine of my own creation," he went on; "and I gave her an ideal
face--lilies and roses blended, rose-leaf lips, a white brow, eyes the
color of hyacinths, and hair of pale gold."

"That is a pretty picture," she said, all unconscious that it was her
own portrait he had sketched.

His eyes softened and gleamed at the _naïveté_ of the words.

"I am glad you think so. Then my heroine had, in my fancy, a mind and
soul that suited her face--pure, original, half sad, wholly sweet, full
of poetry."

She smiled as though charmed with the picture.

"Then I grew to be a youth, and then to be a man," he continued. "I
looked everywhere for my ideal among all the fair women I knew. I looked
in courts and palaces, I looked in country houses, but I could not find
her. I looked at home and abroad, I looked at all times and all seasons,
but I could not find her."

He saw a shadow come over the sweet, pure face as though she felt sorry
for him.

"So time passed, and I began to think that I should never find my ideal,
that I must give her up, when one day, quite unexpectedly, I saw her."

There was a gleam of sympathy in the blue eyes.

"I found her at last," he continued. "It was one bright June morning;
she was sitting out among the roses, ten thousand times fairer and
sweeter than they."

She looked at him with a startled glance; not the faintest idea had
occurred to her that he was speaking of her.

"Do you understand me?" he asked.

"I--I am frightened, Lord Arleigh."

"Nay, why should you fear? What is there to fear? It is true. The moment
I saw you sitting here I knew that you were my ideal, found at last."

"But," she said, with the simple wonder of a child. "I am not like the
portrait you sketched."

"You are unlike it only because you are a hundred times fairer," he
replied; "that is why I inquired about you--why I asked so many
questions. It was because you were to me a dream realized. So it came
about that I heard your true history. Now will you be my friend?"

"If you still wish it, Lord Arleigh, yes; but, if you repent of having
asked me, and should ever feel ashamed of our friendship, remember that
I shall not reproach you for giving me up."

"Giving you up?" cried Lord Arleigh. "Ah, Madaline--let me call you
Madaline, the name is so sweet--I shall never give you up! When a man
has been for many years looking for some one to fill his highest and
brightest dreams, he knows how to appreciate that some one when found."

"It seems all so strange," she said, musingly.

"Nay, why strange? You have read that sweetest and saddest of all love
stories--'Romeo and Juliet?' Did _Juliet_ think it strange that, so soon
after seeing her, _Romeo_ should be willing to give his life for her?"

"No, it did not seem strange to them," she replied, with a smile; "but
it is different with us. This is the nineteenth century, and there are
no _Juliets_."

"There are plenty of _Romeos_, though," he remarked, laughingly. "The
sweetest dreams in my life are the briefest. Will you pluck one of those
roses for me and give it to me, saying, 'I promise to be your friend?'"

"You make me do things against my will," she said; but she plucked a
rose, and held it toward him in her hand. "I promise to be your friend,"
she said, gently.

Lord Arleigh kissed the rose. As he did so their eyes met; and it would
have been hard to tell which blushed the more deeply. After that,
meetings between them became more frequent. Lord Arleigh made seeing her
the one great study of his life--and the result was what might be
imagined.



Chapter XVIII.



The yacht of Mr. Conyers, one of the richest commoners in England--a
yacht fitted as surely no yacht ever before had been fitted--was for
sale. He was a wealthy man, but to keep that sea-palace afloat was
beyond his means. The Duchess of Hazlewood was sole mistress of a large
fortune in her own right; the duke had made most magnificent settlements
upon her. She had a large sum of money at her command; and the idea
suddenly occurred to her to purchase Mr. Conyers' yacht unknown to her
husband and present him with it. He was fond of yachting--it was his
favorite amusement. She herself was a wretched sailor, and would not be
able to accompany him; but that would not matter. It was not of her own
pleasure that the Duchess of Hazlewood was thinking, while the old
strange brooding smile lingered on her beautiful face and deepened on
her perfect lips.

"It would be the very thing," she said to herself, "it would afford to
me the opportunity I am seeking--nothing could be better."

She purchased the yacht and presented it to the duke, her husband. His
pleasure and astonishment were unbounded. She was, as a rule, so
undemonstrative that he could not thank her sufficiently for what seemed
to him her great interest in his favorite pursuit.

"The only drawback to the splendid gift, Philippa, is that you can never
enjoy it; it will take me away from you."

"Yes, I do indeed deplore that I am a wretched sailor, for I can imagine
nothing pleasanter than life on board such a yacht as that. But, while
you are cruising about, Vere, I shall go to Verdun Royal and take
Madaline with me; then I shall go to Vere Court--make a kind of royal
progress, set everything straight and redress all wrongs, hold a court
at each establishment I shall enjoy that more than yachting."

"But I shall miss you so much, Philippa," said the young husband.

"We have the remainder of our lives to spend together," she rejoined;
"if you are afraid of missing me too much, you had better get rid of the
yacht."

But he would not hear of that--he was delighted with the beautiful and
valuable present. The yacht was christened "Queen Philippa"; and it was
decided that, when the end of the season had come, the duke should take
his beautiful wife to Verdun Royal, and, after having installed her
there, should go at once to sea. He had invited a party of friends--all
yachtsmen like himself--and they had agreed to take "Queen Philippa" to
the Mediterranean, there to cruise during the autumn months.

As it was settled so it was carried out; before the week had ended the
duke, duchess, and Madeline were all at Verdun Royal. Perhaps the proud
young wife had never realized before how completely her husband loved
her. This temporary parting was to him a real pain.

A few days before it took place he began to look pale and ill. She saw
that he could not eat, that he did not sleep or rest. Her heart was
touched by his simple fidelity, his passionate love, although the one
fell purpose of her life remained unchanged.

"If you dislike going, Vere," she said to him one day, "do not go--stay
at Verdun Royal."

"The world would laugh if I did that, Philippa," he returned; "it would
guess at once what was the reason, because every one knows how dearly I
love you. We should be called _Darby_ and _Joan_."

"No one would ever dare to call me _Joan_," she said, "for I have
nothing of _Joan_ in me."

The duke sighed--perhaps he thought that it would be all the better if
she had; but, fancying there was something, after all, slightly
contemptuous in her manner, as though she thought it unmanly in him to
repine about leaving her, he said no more.

One warm, brilliant day he took leave of her and she was left to work
out her purpose. She never forgot the day of his departure--it was one
of those hot days when the summer skies seemed to be half obscured by a
copper-colored haze, when the green leaves hang languidly, and the birds
seek the coolest shade, when the flowers droop with thirst, and never a
breath of air stir their blossoms, when there is no picture so
refreshing to the senses as that of a cool deep pool in the recesses of
a wood.

She stood at the grand entrance, watching him depart, and she knew that
with all her beauty, her grace, her talent, her sovereignty, no one had
ever loved her as this man did. Then, after he was gone, she stood still
on the broad stone terrace, with that strange smile on her face, which
seemed to mar while it deepened her beauty.

"It will be a full revenge," she said to herself. "There could be no
fuller. But what shall I do when it is all known?"

She was not one to flinch from the course of action she had marked out
for herself, nor from the consequences of that course; but she shuddered
even in the heat, as she thought what her life would be when her
vengeance was taken.

"He will never forgive me," she said, "he will look upon me as the
wickedest of women. It does not matter; he should not have exasperated
me by slighting me."

Then the coppery haze seemed to gather itself together--great purple
masses of clouds piled themselves in the sky, a lurid light overspread
the heavens, the dense oppressive silence was broken by a distant peal
of thunder, great rain-drops fell--fierce, heavy drops. The trees seemed
to stretch out their leaves to drink in the moisture, the parched
flowers welcomed the downpour; and still the Duchess of Hazlewood stood
out on the terrace, so deeply engrossed in her thoughts that she never
heeded the rain.

Madaline hastened out to her with a shawl.

"Dear duchess," she cried, "it is raining; and you are so absorbed in
thought that you do not notice it."

She laughed a strange, weird laugh, and raised her beautiful face with
its expression of gloom.

"I did not notice it, Madaline," she said; "but there is no need for
anxiety about me," she added, proudly.

They re-entered the house together. Madaline believed that the duchess
was thinking of and grieving over the departure of the duke. Lady Peters
thought the same. They both did their best to comfort her--to amuse her
and distract her thoughts. But the absent expression did not die from
her dark eyes. When they had talked to her some little time she took up
the "Lady of Lyons."

"How much you admire that play," said Madaline; "I see you reading it so
often."

"I have a fancy for it," returned the duchess; "it suits my taste. And I
admire the language very much."

"Yet it is a cruel story," observed Madaline; "the noblest character in
it is _Pauline_."

"She was very proud; and pride, I suppose, must suffer," said the
duchess, carelessly.

"She was not too proud, after all, to love a noble man, when she once
recognized him, duchess."

"She learned to love the prince--she would never have loved the
gardener," remarked Philippa; "it was a terrible vengeance."

"I do not like stories of vengeance," said Madaline. "After all, though,
I love the _Claude_ of the story, and find much true nobility in
him--much to admire. When reading the play I am tempted all the time to
ask myself, How could he do it? It was an unmanly act."

There was a strange light in the dark eyes, a quiver on the scarlet
lips, as Philippa said:

"Do you think so? Suppose some one had offended you as _Pauline_
offended _Claude_--laughing at the love offered, scorned, mocked,
despised you--and that such vengeance as his lay in your power; would
you not take it?"

The sweet face flushed.

"No, I would rather die," Madaline replied, quickly.

"I would take it, and glory in it," said the duchess, firmly

"If I were wounded, insulted, and slighted as _Claude_ was, I would take
the cruelest revenge that I could."

Madeline took one of the jeweled hands in her own and kissed it.

"I should never be afraid of you," she said; "you can never hurt any
one. Your vengeance would end in the bestowal of a favor."

"Do you think so highly of me, Madaline?" asked Philippa, sadly.

"Think highly of you! Why, you would laugh if you knew how I loved
you--how I adore you. If all the world were to swear to me that you
could do the least thing wrong, I should not believe them."

"Poor child!" said the duchess, sadly.

"Why do you call me 'poor child?'" she asked, laughingly.

"Because you have such implicit faith, and are sure to be so cruelly
disappointed."

"I would rather have such implicit faith, and bear the disappointment,
than be without both," said Madaline.



Chapter XIX.



On the day of his departure the duke had said to his wife: "I have
invited Norman to spend a few weeks with you; have some pleasant people
to meet him. He tells me he shall not go to Scotland this year."

"I will ask Miss Byrton and Lady Sheldon," Philippa had promised.

"Only two ladies!" the duke had laughed. "He will want some one to smoke
his cigar with."

"I will trust to some happy inspiration at the time, then," she had
replied; and they had not mentioned the matter again.

Early in August Lord Arleigh wrote that if it were convenient he should
prefer paying his promised visit at once. He concluded his letter by
saying:

"My dear Philippa, your kind, good husband has said something to me
about meeting a pleasant party. I should so much prefer one of my old
style visits--no parties, no ceremonies. I want to see you and Verdun
Royal, not a crowd of strange faces. Lady Peters is _chaperon_, if you
have any lingering doubt about the 'proprieties.'"

So it was agreed that he should come alone, and later on, if the duchess
cared to invite more friends, she could do so.

The fact was that Lord Arleigh wanted time for his wooing. He had found
that he could not live without Madaline. He had thought most carefully
about everything, and had decided on asking her to be his wife. True,
there was the drawback of her parentage--but that was not grievous, not
so terrible. Of course, if she had been lowly-born--descended from the
dregs of the people, or the daughter of a criminal--he would have
trampled his love under foot. He would have said to himself "_Noblesse
oblige_," and rather than tarnish the honor of his family, he would have
given her up.

This was not needed. Related to the Duke of Hazlewood, there could not
be anything wrong. The duchess had told him distinctly that Madaline's
mother had married beneath her, and that the whole family on that
account had completely ignored her. He did not remember that the duchess
had told him so in as many words, but he was decidedly of the opinion
that Madaline's mother was a cousin of the duke's, and that she had
married a drawing-master, who had afterward turned out wild and
profligate. The drawing-master was dead. His darling Madaline had good
blood in her veins--was descended from an ancient and noble family. That
she had neither fortune nor position was immaterial to him. He had
understood from the duchess that the mother of his fair young love lived
in quiet retirement. He could not remember in what words all this had
been told to him, but this was the impression that was on his mind. So
he had determined on making Madaline his wife if he could but win her
consent. The only thing to be feared was her own unwillingness. She was
fair and fragile, but she had a wonderful strength of will.

He had thought it all over. He remembered well what the duchess had
said about the duke's not caring to hear the matter mentioned. Lord
Arleigh could understand that, with all his gentleness, Hazlewood was a
proud man, and that, if there had been a _mésalliance_ in his family, he
would be the last to wish it discussed. Still Lord Arleigh knew that he
would approve of the marriage. It was plain, however, that it would be
better for it to take place while he was away from England, and then it
would not, could not in any way compromise him. A quiet marriage would
not attract attention.

If he could only win Madeline's consent. She had been so unwilling to
promise him her friendship, and then so unwilling to hear that he loved
her. He could form no idea how she would receive the offer of marriage
that he intended to make her.

That was why he wished to go alone. He would have time and opportunity
then. As for Philippa, he did not fear any real objection from her; if
she once believed or thought that his heart was fixed on marrying
Madaline, he was sure she would help him.

Marry Madaline he must--life was nothing to him without her. He had
laughed at the fever called love. He knew now how completely love had
mastered him. He could think of nothing but Madaline.

He went down to Verdun Royal, heart and soul so completely wrapped in
Madaline that he hardly remembered Philippa--hardly remembered that he
was going as her guest; he was going to woo Madeline--fair, sweet
Madaline--to ask her to be his wife, to try to win her for his own.

It was afternoon when he reached Verdun Royal. The glory of summer was
over the earth. He laughed at himself, for he was nervous and timid; he
longed to see Madaline, yet trembled at the thought of meeting her.

"So this is love?" said Lord Arleigh to himself, with a smile. "I used
to wonder why it made men cowards, and what there was to fear; I can
understand it now."

Then he saw the gray towers and turrets of Verdun Royal rising from the
trees; he thought of his childish visits to the house, and how his
mother taught him to call the child Philippa his little wife. Who would
have thought in those days that Philippa would live to be a duchess, and
that he should so wildly worship, so madly love a fairer, younger face?

He was made welcome at Verdun Royal. Lady Peters received him as though
he were her own son. Then the duchess entered, with a glad light in her
eyes, and a smile that was half wistful. She greeted him warmly; she was
pleased to see him--pleased to welcome him; the whole house was at his
service, and everything in it. He had never seen the duchess look
better; she wore her favorite colors, amber and white.

"I have attended to your wishes, Norman," she said; "you must not blame
me if you are dull. I have asked no one to meet you."

"There is no fear of my ever being dull here, Philippa," he returned.
"You forget that I am almost as much at home as you are yourself. I can
remember when I looked upon coming to Verdun Royal as coming home."

A shadow of pain crossed her face at this reference to those early,
happy days. Then he summoned up courage, and said to her:

"Where is your fair companion, Philippa?"

"She is somewhere about the grounds," replied the duchess. "I can never
persuade her to remain in-doors unless she has something to do. So you
have not forgotten her?" added the duchess, after a short pause.

"I have not forgotten her, Philippa. I shall have something very
important to say to you about her before I go away again."

She gave no sign that she understood him, but began to talk to him on a
number of indifferent matters--the warmth of the weather, his journey
down, the last news from her husband--and he answered her somewhat
impatiently. His thoughts were with Madaline.

At last the signal of release came.

"We need not play at 'company,' Norman," said the duchess. "As you say,
Verdun Royal has always been like home to you. Continue to make it so.
We dine at eight--it is now nearly five. You will find plenty to amuse
yourself with. Whenever you wish for my society, you will find me in the
drawing-room or my _boudoir_."

He murmured some faint word of thanks, thinking to himself how
considerate she was, and that she guessed he wanted to find Madaline.
With a smile on her face, she turned to him as she was quitting the
room.

"Vere seemed very uneasy, when he was going away, lest you should not
feel at liberty to smoke when you liked," she said. "Pray do not let the
fact of his absence prevent you from enjoying a cigar whenever you feel
inclined for one."

"A thousand thanks, Philippa," returned Lord Arleigh, inwardly hoping
that Madaline would give him scant time for the enjoyment of cigars.

Then he went across the lawn, wondering how she would look, where he
should find her, and what she would say to him when she saw him. Once or
twice he fancied he saw the glimmer of a white dress between the trees.
He wondered if she felt shy at seeing him, as he did at seeing her. Then
suddenly--it was as though a bright light had fallen from the skies--he
came upon her standing under a great linden tree.

"Madaline!" he said, gently. And she came to him with outstretched
hands.



Chapter XX.



Later on that afternoon the heat seemed to have increased, not lessened,
and the ladies had declared even the cool, shaded drawing-room, with its
sweet scents and mellowed light, to be too warm; so they had gone out on
to the lawn, where a sweet western wind was blowing. Lady Peters had
taken with her a book, which she made some pretense of reading, but over
which her eyes closed in most suspicious fashion. The duchess, too, had
a book, but she made no pretense of opening it--her beautiful face had a
restless, half-wistful expression. They had quitted the drawing-room all
together, but Madaline had gone to gather some peaches. The duchess
liked them freshly gathered, and Madaline knew no delight so keen as
that of giving her pleasure.

When she had been gone some few minutes, Lord Arleigh asked where she
was, and the duchess owned, laughingly, to her fondness for ripe,
sun-kissed peaches.

"Madaline always contrives to find the very best forms," she said. "She
is gone to look for some now."

"I will go and help her," said Lord Arleigh, looking at Philippa's face.
He thought the fair cheeks themselves not unlike peaches, with their
soft, sweet, vivid coloring.

She smiled to herself with bitter scorn as he went away.

"It works well," she said; "but it is his own fault--Heaven knows, his
own fault."

An hour afterward Lady Peters said to her, in a very solemn tone of
voice:

"Philippa, my dear, it may not be my duty to speak, but I cannot help
asking you if you notice anything?"

"No, nothing at this minute."

But Lady Peters shook her head with deepest gravity.

"Do you not notice the great attention that Lord Arleigh pays your
beautiful young companion?"

"Yes, I have noticed it," said the duchess--and all her efforts did not
prevent a burning, passionate flush rising to her face.

"May I ask you what you think of it, my dear?"

"I think nothing of it. If Lord Arleigh chooses to fall in love with
her, he may. I warned him when she first came to live with me--I kept
her most carefully out of his sight; and then, when I could no longer
conveniently do so, I told him that he must not fall in love with her. I
told him of her birth, antecedents, misfortunes--everything connected
with her. His own mother or sister could not have warned him more
sensibly."

"And what was the result?" asked Lady Peters, gravely.

"Just what one might have expected from a man," laughed the duchess.
"Warn them against any particular thing, and it immediately possesses a
deep attraction for them. The result was that he said she was his ideal,
fairly, fully, and perfectly realized. I, of course, could say no more."

"But," cried Lady Peters, aghast, "you do not think it probable that he
will marry her?"

"I cannot tell. He is a man of honor. He would not make love to her
without intending to marry her."

"But there is not a better family in England than the Arleighs of
Beechgrove, Philippa. It would be terrible for him--such a
_mésalliance;_ surely he will never dream of it."

"She is beautiful, graceful, gifted, and good," was the rejoinder. "But
it is useless for us to argue about the matter. He has said nothing
about marrying her; he has only called her his ideal."

"I cannot understand it," said poor Lady Peters. "It seems strange to
me."

She would have thought it stranger still if she had followed them and
heard what Lord Arleigh was saying.

He had followed Madaline to the southern wall, whereon the luscious
peaches and apricots grew. He found her, as the duchess had intimated,
busily engaged in choosing the ripest and best. He thought he had never
seen a fairer picture than this golden-haired girl standing by the green
leaves and rich fruit. He thought of Tennyson's "Gardener's daughter."

                               "One arm aloft----
    Gowned in pure white that fitted to the shape--
    Holding the bush, to fix it back, she stood.
    The full day dwelt on her brows and sunned
    Her violet eyes, and all her Hebe bloom,
    And doubled his own warmth against her lips,
    And on the beauteous wave of such a breast
    As never pencil drew. Half light, half shade,
    She stood, a sight to make an old man young."

He repeated the lines as he stood watching her, and then he went nearer
and called:

"Madaline!"

Could he doubt that she loved him? Her fair face flushed deepest
crimson; but, instead of turning to him, she moved half coyly, half
shyly away.

"How quick you are," he said, "to seize every opportunity of evading
me! Do you think you can escape me, Madaline? Do you think my love is so
weak, so faint, so feeble, that it can be pushed aside lightly by your
will? Do you think that, if you tried to get to the other end of the
world, you could escape me?"

Half blushing, half laughing, trembling, yet with a happy light in her
blue eyes, she said:

"I think you are more terrible than any one I know."

"I am glad that you are growing frightened, and are willing to own that
you have a master--that is as it should be. I want to talk to you,
Madaline. You evade me lest you should be compelled to speak to me; you
lower those beautiful eyes of yours, lest I should be made happy by
looking into them. If you find it possible to avoid my presence, to run
away from me, you do. I am sure to woo you, to win you, to make you my
sweet, dear wife--to make you happier, I hope, than any woman has ever
been before--and you try to evade me, fair, sweet, cruel Madaline!"

"I am afraid of you, Lord Arleigh," she said, little dreaming how much
the naïve confession implied.

"Afraid of me! That is because you see that I am quite determined to win
you. I can easily teach you how to forget all fear."

"Can you?" she asked, doubtfully.

"Yes, I can, indeed, Madaline. Deposit those peaches in their green
leaves on the ground. Now place both your hands in mine."

She quietly obeyed the first half of his request as though she were a
child, and then she paused. The sweet face crimsoned again; he took her
hands in his.

"You must be obedient," he said. "Now look at me."

But the white lids drooped over the happy eyes.

"Look at me, Madaline," he repeated, "and say, 'Norman, I do love you. I
will forget all the nonsense I have talked about inequality of position,
and will be your wife.'"

"In justice to yourself I cannot say it."

He felt the little hands tremble in his grasp, and he released them with
a kiss.

"You will be compelled to say it some day, darling. You might as well
try now. If I cannot win you for my wife, I will have no wife, Madaline.
Ah, now you are sorry you have vexed me!

    "'And so it was--half sly, half shy;
      You would and would not, little one,
    Although I pleaded tenderly
      And you and I were all alone.'

Why are you so hard, Madaline? I am sure you like me a little; you dare
not raise your eyes to mine and say, 'I do not love you, Norman.'"

"No," she confessed, "I dare not. But there is love and love; the lowest
love is all self, the highest is all sacrifice. I like the highest."

And then her eyes fell on the peaches, and she gave a little cry of
alarm.

"What will the duchess say?" she cried. "Oh, Lord Arleigh, let me go."

"Give me one kind word, then."

"What am I to say? Oh, do let me go!"

"Say, 'I like you, Norman.'"

"I like you, Norman," she said; and, taking up the peaches, she hastened
away. Yet, with her flushed face and the glad light in her happy eyes,
she did not dare to present herself at once before the duchess and Lady
Peters.



Chapter XXI.



Was there some strange, magnetic attraction between Lord Arleigh and
Madaline, or could it be that the _valet_, knowing or guessing the state
of his master's affections, gave what he no doubt considered a timely
hint? Something of the kind must have happened, for Madaline, unable to
sleep, unable to rest, had risen in the early morning, while the dew was
on the grass, and had gone out into the shade of the woods. The August
sun shone brightly, a soft wind fanned her cheeks.

Madaline looked round before she entered the woods. The square turrets
of Verdun Royal rose high above the trees. They were tall and massive,
with great umbrageous boughs and massive rugged trunks, the boughs
almost reaching down to the long, thick grass. A little brook went
singing through the woods--a brook of clear, rippling water. Madaline
sat down by the brook-side. Her head ached for want of sleep, her heart
was stirred by a hundred varied emotions.

Did she love him? Why ask herself the question? She did love him--she
trembled to think how much. It was that very love which made her
hesitate. She hardly dared to think of him. In her great humility she
overlooked entirely the fact of her own great personal loveliness, her
rare grace and gifts. She could only wonder what there was in her that
could attract him.

He was a descendant of one of the oldest families in England--he had a
title, he was wealthy, clever, he had every great and good gift--yet he
loved her; he stooped from his exalted position to love her, and she,
for his own sake, wished to refuse his love. But she found it difficult.

She sat down by the brook-side, and, perhaps for the first time in her
gentle life, a feeling of dissatisfaction rose within her; yet it was
not so much that as a longing that she could be different from what she
was--a wish that she had been nobly born, endowed with some great gift
that would have brought her nearer to him. How happy she would have been
then--how proud to love him--how glad to devote her sweet young life to
him! At present it was different; the most precious thing that she could
give him--which was her love--would be most prejudicial to him. And just
as that thought came to her, causing the blue eyes to fill with tears,
she saw him standing before her.

She was not surprised; he was so completely part and parcel of her
thoughts and her life that she would never have felt surprised at seeing
him. He came up to her quietly.

"My darling Madaline, your face is pale, and there are tears in your
eyes. What is the matter? What has brought you out here when you ought
to be in-doors? What is the trouble that has taken away the roses and
put lilies in their place?"

"I have no trouble, Lord Arleigh," she replied. "I came here only to
think."

"To think of what, sweet?"

Her face flushed.

"I cannot tell you," she answered. "You cannot expect that I should tell
you everything."

"You tell me nothing, Madaline. A few words from you should make me the
happiest man in the world, yet you will not speak them."

Then all the assumed lightness and carelessness died from his manner. He
came nearer to her; her eyes drooped before the fire of his.

"Madaline, my love, let me plead to you," he said, "for the gift of your
love. Give me that, and I shall be content. You think I am proud," he
continued; "I am not one-half so proud, sweet, as you. You refuse to
love me--why? Because of your pride. You have some foolish notions that
the difference in our positions should part us. You are quite
wrong--love knows no such difference."

"But the world does," she interrupted.

"The world!" he repeated, with contempt. "Thank Heaven it is not my
master! What matters what the world says?"

"You owe more to the name and honor of your family than to the world,"
she said.

"Of that," he observed, "you must allow me to be the best judge."

She bowed submissively.

"The dearest thing in life to me is the honor of my name, the honor of
my race," said Lord Arleigh. "It has never been tarnished and I pray
Heaven that no stain may ever rest upon it. I will be frank with you,
Madaline, as you are with me, though I love you so dearly that my very
life is bound up in yours. I would not ask you to be my wife if I
thought that in doing so I was bringing a shadow of dishonor on my
race--if I thought that I was in even ever so slight a degree tarnishing
my name; but I do not think so. I speak to you frankly. I know the story
of your misfortunes, and, knowing it, do not deem it sufficient to part
us. Listen and believe me, Madaline--if I stood with you before the
altar, with your hand in mine, and the solemn words of the marriage
service on my lips, and anything even then came to my knowledge which I
thought prejudicial to the fame and honor of my race, I should without
hesitation ask you to release me. Do you believe me?"

"Yes," she replied, slowly, "I believe you."

"Then why not trust me fully? I know your story--it is an old story
after all. I know it by heart; I am the best judge of it. I have weighed
it most carefully; it has not been a lightly-considered matter with me
at all, and, after thinking it well over, I have come to the conclusion
that it is not sufficient to part us. You see, sweet, that you may
implicitly believe me. I have no false gloss of compliments. Frankly, as
you yourself would do, I admit the drawback; but, unlike you, I affirm
that it does not matter."

"But would you always think so? The time might come when the remembrance
of my father's----"

"Hush!" he said, gently. "The matter must never be discussed between us.
I tell you frankly that I should not care for the whole world to know
your story. I know it--the duke and duchess know it. There is no need
for it to be known to others; and, believe me, Madaline, it will never
be and need never be known--we may keep it out of sight. It is not
likely that I shall ever repent, for it will never be of any more
importance to me than it is now."

He paused abruptly, for her blue eyes were looking wistfully at him.

"What is it, Madaline?" he asked, gently.

"I wish you would let me tell you all about it--how my mother, so gentle
and good, came to marry my father, and how he fell--how he was tempted
and fell. May I tell you, Lord Arleigh?"

"No," he replied, after a short pause, "I would rather not hear it. The
duchess has told me all I care to know. It will be better, believe me,
for the whole story to die away. If I had wished to hear it, I should
have asked you to tell it me."

"It would make me happier," she said; "I should know then that there was
no mistake."

"There is no mistake, my darling--the duchess has told me; and it is not
likely that she has made a mistake, is it?"

"No. She knows the whole story from beginning to end. If she has told
you, you know all."

"Certainly I do; and, knowing all, I have come here to beg you to make
me happy, to honor me with your love, to be my Wife. Ah, Madaline, do
not let your pride part us!"

He saw that she trembled and hesitated.

"Only imagine what life must be for us, Madaline, if we part. You would
perhaps go on living with the duchess all your life--for, in spite of
your coyness and your fear, I believe you love me so well, darling,
that, unless you marry me, you will marry no one--you would drag on a
weary, tried, sad, unhappy existence, that would not have in it one
gleam of comfort."

"It is true," she said, slowly.

"Of course it is true. And what would become of me? The sun would have
no more brightness for me; the world would be as a desert; the light
would die from my life. Oh, Madaline, make me happy by loving me!"

"I do love you," she said, unguardedly.

"Then why not be my wife?"

She drew back trembling, her face pale as death.

"Why not be my wife?" he repeated.

"It is for your own sake," she said. "Can you not see? Do you not
understand?"

"For my sake. Then I shall treat you as a vanquished kingdom--I shall
take possession of you, my darling, my love!"

Bending down, he kissed her face--and this time she made no resistance
to his sovereign will.

"Now," said Lord Arleigh, triumphantly, "you are my very own, nothing
can separate us--that kiss seals our betrothal; you must forget all
doubts, all fears, all hesitation, and only say to yourself that you are
mine--all mine. Will you be happy, Madaline?"

She raised her eyes to his, her face bedewed with happy tears.

"I should be most ungrateful if I were not happy," she replied; "you are
so good to me, Lord Arleigh."

"You must not call me 'Lord Arleigh'--say 'Norman.'"

"Norman," she repeated, "you are so good to me."

"I love you so well, sweet," he returned.

The happy eyes were raised to his face.

"Will you tell me," she asked, "why you love me, Norman? I cannot think
why it is. I wonder about it every day. You see girls a thousand times
better suited to you than I am. Why do you love me so?"

"What a question to answer, sweet! How can I tell why I love you? I
cannot help it; my soul is attracted to your soul, my heart to your
heart, Madaline. I shall be unwilling to leave you again; when I go away
from Verdun Royal, I shall want to take my wife with me."

She looked at him in alarm.

"I am quite serious," he continued. "You are so sensitive, so full of
hesitation, that, if I leave you, you will come to the conclusion that
you have done wrong, and will write me a pathetic little letter, and go
away."

"No, I shall not do that," she observed.

"I shall not give you a chance, my own; I shall neither rest myself nor
let any one else rest until you are my wife. I will not distress you now
by talking about it. I shall go to the duchess to-day, and tell her that
you have relented in my favor at last; then you will let us decide for
you, Madaline, will you not?"

"Yes," she replied, with a smile; "it would be useless for me to rebel."

"You have made some very fatal admissions," he said, laughingly. "You
have owned that you love me; after that, denial, resistance, coyness,
shyness, nothing will avail. Oh, Madaline, I shall always love this spot
where I won you! I will have a picture of this brook-side painted some
day. We must go back to the house now; but, before we go, make me happy;
tell me of your own free will that you love me."

"You know I do. I love you, Norman--I will say it now--I love you ten
thousand times better than my life. I have loved you ever since I first
saw you; but I was afraid to say so, because of--well, you know why."

"You are not afraid now, Madaline?"

"No, not now," she replied; "you have chosen me from all the world to be
your wife. I will think of nothing but making you happy."

"In token of that, kiss me--just once--of your own free will."

"No," she refused, with a deep blush.

"You will, if you love me," he said; and then she turned her face to
his. She raised her pure, sweet lips to his and kissed him, blushing as
she did so to the very roots of her golden hair.

"You must never ask me to do that again," she said, gravely.

"No," returned he; "it was so remarkably unpleasant, Madaline, I could
not wish for a repetition;" and then they went back to the house
together.

"Norman," said Madaline, as they stood before the great Gothic porch,
"will you wait until to-morrow before you tell the duchess?"

"No," he laughed, "I shall tell her this very day."



Chapter XXII.



It was almost noon before Lord Arleigh saw Philippa, and then it struck
him that she was not looking well. She seemed to have lost some of her
brilliant color, and he fancied she was thinner than she used to be. She
had sent for him to her _boudoir_.

"I heard that you were inquiring for me, Norman," she said. "Had you any
especial reason for so doing?"

"Yes," he replied, "I have a most important reason. But you are not
looking so bright as usual, Philippa. Are you not well?"

"The weather is too warm for one to look bright," she said, "much
sunshine always tires me. Sit down here, Norman; my room looks cool
enough, does it not?"

In its way her room was a triumph of art; the hangings were of pale
amber and white--there was a miniature fountain cooling the air with its
spray, choice flowers emitting sweet perfume. The fair young duchess was
resting on a couch of amber satin; she held a richly-jeweled fan in her
hands, which she used occasionally. She looked very charming in her
dress of light material, her dark hair carelessly but artistically
arranged. Still there was something about her unlike herself; her lips
were pale, and her eyes had in them a strange, wistful expression.
Norman took his seat near the little conch.

"I have come to make a confession, Philippa," he began.

"So I imagined; you look very guilty. What is it?"

"I have found my ideal. I love her, she loves me, and I want to marry
her."

The pallor of the lovely lips deepened. For a few minutes no sound was
heard except the falling of the spray of the fountain and then the
Duchess of Hazlewood looked up and said:

"Why do you make this confession to me, Norman?"

"Because it concerns some one in whom you are interested. It is Madaline
whom I love, Madaline whom I wish to marry. But that is not strange news
to you, I am sure, Philippa."

Again there was a brief silence; and then the duchess said, in a low
voice:

"You must admit that I warned you, Norman, from the very first."

He raised his head proudly.

"You warned me? I do not understand."

"I kept her out of your sight. I told you it would be better for you not
to see her. I advised you, did I not?"

She seemed rather to be pleading in self-defense than thinking of him.

"But, my dearest Philippa, I want no warning--I am very happy as to the
matter I have nearest my heart. I thank you for bringing my sweet
Madaline here. You do not seem to understand?"

She looked at him earnestly.

"Do you love her so very much, Norman?"

"I love her better than any words of mine can tell," he said. "The
moment I saw her first I told you my dream was realized--I had found my
ideal. I have loved her ever since."

"How strange!" murmured the duchess.

"Do you think it strange? Remember how fair and winsome she is--how
sweet and gentle. I do not believe there is any one like her."

The white hand that, held the jeweled fan moved more vigorously.

"Why do you tell me this, Norman? What do you wish me to do?"

"You have always been so kind to me," he said, "you have ever been as a
sister, my best, dearest, truest friend. I could not have a feeling of
this kind without telling you of it. Do you remember how you used to
tease me about my ideal. Neither of us thought in those days that I
should find her under your roof."

"No," said the duchess, quietly, "it is very strange."

"I despaired of winning Madaline," he continued. "She had such strange
ideas of the wonderful distance between us--she thought so much more of
me than of herself, of the honor of my family and my name--that, to tell
you the truth, Philippa, I thought I should never win her consent to be
my wife."

"And you have won it at last," she put in, with quiet gravity.

"Yes--at last. This morning she promised to be my wife."

The dark eyes looked straight into his own.

"It is a miserable marriage for you, Norman. Granted that Madaline has
beauty, grace, purity, she is without fortune, connection, position.
You, an Arleigh of Beechgrove, ought to do better. I am speaking as the
world will speak. It is really a wretched marriage."

"I can afford to laugh at the world to please myself in the choice of a
wife. There are certain circumstances under which I would not have
married any one; these circumstances do not surround my darling. She
stands out clear and distinct as a bright jewel from the rest of the
world. To-day she promised to be my wife, but she is so sensitive and
hesitating that I am almost afraid I shall lose her even now, and I want
to marry her as soon as I can."

"But why," asked the duchess, "do you tell me this?"

"Because it concerns you most nearly. She lives under your roof--she is,
in some measure, your protégée."

"Vere will be very angry when he hears of it," said the duchess. And
then Lord Arleigh looked up proudly.

"I do not see why he should. It is no business of his."

"He will think it so strange."

"It is no stranger than any other marriage," said Lord Arleigh.
"Philippa, you disappoint me. I expected more sympathy at least from
you."

The tone of his voice was so full of pain that she looked up quickly.

"Do you think me unkind, Norman? You could not expect any true friend of
yours to be very delighted at such a marriage as this, could you?" It
seemed as though she knew and understood that opposition made his own
plan seem only the dearer to him. "Still I have no wish to fail in
sympathy. Madaline is very lovely and very winning--I have a great
affection for her--and I think--nay, I am quite sure--that she loves you
very dearly."

"That is better--that is more like your own self, Philippa. You used to
be above all conventionality. I knew that in the depths of your generous
heart you would be pleased for your old friend to be happy at last--and
I shall be happy, Philippa. You wish me well, do you not?"

Her lips seemed hard and dry as she replied:

"Yes, I wish you well."

"What I wished to consult you about is my marriage. It must not take
place here, of course. I understand, and think it only natural, that the
duke does not wish to have public attention drawn to Madaline. We all
like to keep our little family secrets; consequently I have thought of a
plan which I believe will meet all the difficulties of the case."

The pallor of the duchess' face deepened.

"Are you faint or ill, Philippa?" he asked, wondering at her strange
appearance.

"No," she replied, "it is only the heat that affects me. Go on with your
story, Norman; it interests me."

"That is like my dear old friend Philippa. I thought a marriage from
here would not do--it would entail publicity and remark; that none of us
would care for--besides, there could hardly be a marriage under your
auspices during the absence of the duke."

"No, it would hardly be _en rêgle_," she agreed.

"But," continued Norman, "if Lady Peters would befriend me--if she would
go away to some quiet sea-side place, and take Madaline with her--then,
at the end of a fortnight, I might join them there, and we could be
married, with every due observance of conventionality, but without
calling undue public attention to the ceremony. Do you not think that a
good plan, Philippa?"

"Yes," she said slowly.

"Look interested in it, or you will mar my happiness. Why, if it were
your marriage, Philippa, I should consider every detail of high
importance. Do not look cold or indifferent about it."

She roused herself with a shudder.

"I am neither cold nor indifferent," she said--"on the contrary I am
vitally interested. You wish me, of course, to ask Lady Peters if she
will do this?"

"Yep, because I know she will refuse you nothing."

"Then that is settled," said the duchess. "There is a pretty, quiet
little watering-place called St. Mildred's--I remember hearing Vere
speak of it last year--which would meet your wishes, I think, if Lady
Peters and Madaline consent."

"I am sure they will consent," put in Lord Arleigh hopefully.

"There is another thing to be thought of," said the duchess--"a
_trousseau_ for the fair young bride."

"Yes, I know. She will have every fancy gratified after our marriage,
but there will not be time for much preparations before it."

"Let me be fairy godmother," said the duchess. "In three weeks from
to-day I engage to have such a _trousseau_ as has rarely been seen. You
can add dresses and ornaments to it afterward."

"You are very good. Do you know," he said, "that it is only now that I
begin to recognize my old friend? At first you seemed so unsympathetic,
so cold--now you are my sister Philippa the sharer of my joys and
sorrows. We had no secrets when we were children."

"No," she agreed, mournfully, "none."

"And we have none now," he said, with a happy laugh. "How astonished
Vere will be when he returns and finds that Madaline is married! And I
think that, if it can be all arranged without any great blow to his
family pride, he will not be ill-pleased."

"I should think not," she returned, listlessly.

"And you, Philippa--you will extend to my beloved wife the friendship
and affection that you have given to me?"

"Yes," she replied, absently.

"Continue to be her fairy-godmother. There is no friend who can do as
you can do. You will be Madaline's sheet-anchor and great hope."

She turned away with a shudder.

"Philippa," he continued, "will you let me send Lady Peters to you now,
that I may know as soon as possible whether she consents?"

"You can send her if you will, Norman."

Was it his fancy, or did he really, as he stood at the door, hear a
deep, heart-broken sigh? Did her voice, in a sad, low wail, come to
him--"Norman, Norman!"

He turned quickly[5], but she seemed already to have forgotten him, and
was looking through the open window.

Was it his fancy again, when the door had closed, or did she really
cry--"Norman!" He opened the door quickly.

"Did you call me, Philippa?" he asked.

"No," she replied; and he went away.

"I do not understand it," he thought; "there is something not quite
right. Philippa is not like herself."

Then he went in search of Lady Peters, whom he bewildered and astonished
by telling her that it lay in her power to make him the happiest of men.

"That is what men say when they make an offer of marriage," she
observed; "and I am sure you are not about to make one to me."

"No; but, dear Lady Peters, I want you to help me marry some one else.
Will you go to the duchess? She will tell you all about it."

"Why not tell me yourself?" she asked.

"She has better powers of persuasion," he replied, laughingly.

"Then I am afraid, if so much persuasion is required, that something
wrong is on the _tapis_," said Lady Peters. "I cannot imagine why men
who have beautiful young wives go yachting. It seems to me a terrible
mistake."

Lord Arleigh laughed.

"The duke's yachting has very little to do with this matter," he said.
"Lady Peters, before you listen to the duchess, let me make one appeal
to you. With all my heart I beseech you to grant the favor that she will
ask."

He bent his handsome head, and kissed her hand, while emotion rose to
the lady's eyes.

"Is it something for you, Lord Arleigh?" she asked.

"Yes," he replied, "for my own unworthy self."

"Then I will do it if possible," she replied.

But when the Duchess of Hazlewood had told her what was needed, and had
placed the whole matter before her, Lady Peters looked shocked.

"My dear Philippa," she said, "this is terrible. I could not have
believed it. She is a lovely, graceful, pure-minded girl, I know; but
such a marriage for an Arleigh! I cannot believe it."

"That is unfortunate," said her grace, dryly, "for he seems very much in
earnest."

"No money, no rank, no connections, while he is one of the finest
matches in England."

"She is his ideal," was the mocking reply. "It is not for us to point
out deficiencies."

"But what will the duke say?" inquired her ladyship, anxiously.

"I do not suppose that he will be very much surprised. Even if he is, he
will have had time to recover from his astonishment before he returns.
The duke knows that 'beauty leads man at its will.' Few can resist the
charm of a pretty face"

"What shall I do?" asked Lady Peters, hopelessly. "What am I to say?"

"Decide for yourself. I decline to offer any opinion. I say simply that
if you refuse he will probably ask the favor of some one else."

"But do you advise me to consent, Philippa?" inquired Lady Peters,
anxiously.

"I advise you to please yourself. Had he asked a similar favor of me, I
might have granted or I might have refused it; I cannot say."

"To think of that simple, fair-faced girl being Lady Arleigh!" exclaimed
Lady Peters. "I suppose that I had better consent, or he will do
something more desperate. He is terribly in earnest, Philippa."

"He is terribly in love," said the duchess, carelessly, and then Lady
Peters decided that she would accede to Lord Arleigh's request.



Chapter XXIII.



More than once during the week that ensued after his proposal of
marriage to Madaline, Lord Arleigh looked in wonder at the duchess. She
seemed so unlike herself--absent, brooding, almost sullen. The smiles,
the animation, the vivacity, the wit, the brilliant repartee that had
distinguished her had all vanished. More than once he asked her if she
was ill; the answer was always "No." More than once he asked her if she
was unhappy; the answer was always the same--"No."

"You are miserable because your husband is not here," he said to her one
day, compassionately. "If you had known how much you would have missed
him, you would not have let him go."

There was a wondrous depth of pain in the dark eyes raised to his.

"I wish he had not gone," she said; "from the very depths of my heart I
wish that." Then she seemed to recover her natural gayety. "I do not
know, though, why I should have detained him," she said, half
laughingly. "He is so fond of yachting."

"You must not lose all your spirits before he returns, Philippa, or he
will say we have been but sorry guardians."

"No one has ever found fault with my spirits before," said the duchess.
"You are not complimentary, Norman."

"You give me such a strange impression," he observed. "Of course it is
highly ridiculous, but if I did not know you as well as I do, I should
think that you had something on your mind, some secret that was making
you unhappy--that there was a struggle always going on between something
you would like to do and something you are unwilling to do. It is an
absurd idea, I know, yet it has taken possession of me."

She laughed, but there was little music in the sound.

"What imaginative power you have, Norman! You would make your fortune as
a novelist. What can I have to be unhappy about? Should you think that
any woman has a lot more brilliant than mine? See how young I am for my
position--how entirely I have my own way! Could any one, do you think,
be more happy than I?"

"No, perhaps not," he replied.

So the week passed, and at the end of it Lady Peters went with Madaline
to St. Mildred's. At first the former had been unwilling to go--it had
seemed to her a terrible _mésalliance_, but, woman-like, she had grown
interested in the love-story--she had learned to understand the
passionate love that Lord Arleigh had for his fair-haired bride. A
breath of her own youth swept over her as she watched them.

It might be a _mésalliance_, a bad match, but it was decidedly a case of
true love, of the truest love she had ever witnessed; so that her
dislike to the task before her melted away.

After all, Lord Arleigh had a perfect right to please himself--to do as
he would; if he did not think Madaline's birth placed her greatly
beneath him, no one else need suggest such a thing. From being a violent
opponent of the marriage, Lady Peters became one of its most strenuous
supporters. So they went away to St. Mildred's, where the great tragedy
of Madaline's life was to begin.

On the morning that she went way, the duchess sent for her to her room.
She told her all that she intended doing as regarded the elaborate and
magnificent _trousseau_ preparing for her. Madaline was overwhelmed.

"You are too good to me," she said--"you spoil me. How am I to thank
you?"

"Your wedding-dress--plain, simple, but rich, to suit the occasion--will
be sent to St. Mildred's," said the duchess--"also a handsome traveling
costume; but all the rest of the packages can be sent to Beechgrove. You
will need them only there."

Madaline kissed the hand extended to her.

"I shall never know how to thank you," she said.

A peculiar smile came over the darkly-beautiful face.

"I think you will," returned the duchess "I can imagine what blessings
you will some day invoke on my name."

Then she withdrew her hand suddenly from the touch of the pure sweet
lips.

"Good-by, Madaline," she said; and it was long before the young girl saw
the fair face of the duchess again.

Just as she was quitting the room Philippa placed a packet in her hand.

"You will carefully observe the directions given in this?" she said; and
Madaline promised to do so.

The time at St. Mildred's soon passed. It was a quiet, picturesque
village, standing at the foot of a green hill facing the bay. There was
little to be seen, except the shining sea and the blue sky. An old
church, called St. Mildred's, stood on the hill-top. Few strangers ever
visited the little watering-place. The residents were people who
preferred quiet and beautiful scenery to everything else. There was a
hotel, called the Queen's, where the few strangers that came mostly
resided; and just facing the sea stood a newly-built terrace of houses
called Sea View, where other visitors also sojourned.

It was just the place for lovers' dreams--a shining sea, golden sands,
white cliffs with little nooks and bays, pretty and shaded walks on the
hill-top.

Madaline's great happiness was delightful to see. The fair face grew
radiant in its loveliness; the blue eyes shone brightly. There was the
delight, too, every day of inspecting the parcels that arrived one after
the other; but the greatest pleasure of all was afforded by the
wedding-dress. It was plain, simple, yet, in its way, a work of art--a
rich white silk with little lace or trimming, yet looking so like a
wedding-dress that no one could mistake it. There were snowy gloves and
shoes--in fact everything was perfect, selected by no common taste, the
gift of no illiberal hand. Was it foolish of her to kiss the white folds
while the tears filled her eyes, and to think of herself that she was
the happiest creature under the sun? Was it foolish of her to touch the
pretty bridal robes with soft, caressing fingers, as though they were
some living thing that she loved--to place them where the sunbeams fell
on them, to admire them in every different fold and arrangement?

Then the eventful day came--Lord Arleigh and Madaline were to be married
at an early hour.

"Not," said Lord Arleigh, proudly, "that there is any need for
concealment--why should there be?--but you see, Lady Peters if it were
known that it was my wedding-day, I have so many friends, so many
relatives, that privacy would be impossible for us; therefore the world
has not been enlightened as to when I intended to claim my darling for
my own."

"It is a strange marriage for an Arleigh," observed Lady Peters--"the
first of its kind, I am sure. But I think you are right--your plan is
wise."

All the outward show made at the wedding consisted in the rapid driving
of a carriage from the hotel to the church--a carriage containing two
ladies--one young, fair, charming as a spring morning, the other older,
graver, and more sedate.

The young girl was fair and sweet, her golden hair shining through the
marriage vail, her blue eyes wet with unshed tears, her face flushed
with daintiest rose-leaf bloom.

It was a pleasant spectacle to see the dark, handsome face of her lover
as he greeted her, the love that shone in his eyes, the pride of his
manner, as though he would place her before the whole world, and defy it
to produce one so graceful or so fair. Lady Peters' face softened and
her heart beat as she walked up to the altar with them. This was true
love.

So the grand old words of the marriage-service were pronounced--they
were promised to each other for better for worse, for weal for
woe--never to part until death parted them--to be each the other's
world.

It was the very morning for a bride. Heaven and earth smiled their
brightest, the sunshine was golden, the autumn flowers bloomed fair, the
autumn foliage had assumed its rich hues of crimson and of burnished
gold; there was a bright light over the sea and the hill-tops.

Only one little _contretemps_ happened at the wedding. Madaline smiled
at it. Lord Arleigh was too happy even to notice it, but Lady Peters
grew pale at the occurrence; for, according to her old-fashioned ideas,
it augured ill.

Just as Lord Arleigh was putting the ring on the finger of his fair
young bride, it slipped and fell to the ground. The church was an
old-fashioned one, and there were graves and vaults all down the aisle.
Away rolled the little golden ring, and when Lord Arleigh stooped down
he could not see it. He was for some minutes searching for it, and then
he found it--it had rolled into the hollow of a large letter on one of
the level grave-stones.

Involuntarily he kissed it as he lifted it from the ground; it was too
cruel for anything belonging to that fair young bride to have been
brought into contact with death. Lady Peters noted the little incident
with a shudder, Madaline merely smiled. Then the ceremony was over--Lord
Arleigh and Madaline were man and wife. It seemed to him that the whole
world around him was transformed.

They walked out of the church together, and when they stood in the
sunlight he turned to her.

"My darling, my wife," he said, in an impassioned voice, "may Heaven
send to us a life bright as this sunshine, love as pure--life and death
together! I pray Heaven that no deeper cloud may come over our lives
than there is now in the sky above us."

These words were spoken at only eleven in the morning. If he had known
all that he would have to suffer before eleven at night, Lord Arleigh,
with all his bravery, all his chivalry, would have been ready to fling
himself from the green hill-top into the shimmering sea.



Chapter XXIV.



It was the custom of the Arleighs to spend their honeymoon at home; they
had never fallen into the habit of making themselves uncomfortable
abroad. The proper place, they considered, for a man to take his young
wife to was home; the first Lord Arleigh had done so, and each lord had
followed this sensible example. Norman, Lord Arleigh, had not dreamed of
making any change. True, he had planned with his fair young bride that
when the autumn month had passed away they would go abroad, and not
spend the winter in cold, foggy England. They had talked of the cities
they would visit--and Madaline's sweet eyes had grown brighter with
happy thoughts. But that was not to be yet; they were to go home first,
and when they had learned something of what home-life would be together,
then they could go abroad.

Lady Peters went back to Verdun Royal on the same morning; her task
ended with the marriage. She took back with her innumerable messages for
the duchess. As she stood at the carriage-door, she--so little given to
demonstration--took the young wife into her arms.

"Good-by, Madaline--or I should say now, Lady Arleigh--good-by, and may
Heaven bless you! I did not love you at first, my dear, and I thought my
old friend was doing a foolish thing; but now I love you with all my
heart; you are so fair and wise, so sweet and pure, that in making you
his wife he has chosen more judiciously than if he had married the
daughter of a noble house. That is my tribute to you, Madaline; and to
it I add, may Heaven bless you, and send you a happy life!"

Then they parted; but, as she went home through all the glory of the
sunlit day, Lady Peters did not feel quite at ease.

"I wish," she said to herself, "that he had not dropped the
Wedding-ring; it has made me feel uncomfortable."

Bride and bridegroom had one of the blithest, happiest journeys ever
made. What cloud could rise in such a sky as theirs. They were blessed
with youth, beauty, health; there had been no one to raise the least
opposition to their marriage; before them stretched a long golden
future.

The carriage met them at the station, it was then three in the
afternoon, and the day continued fair.

"We will have a long drive through the park, Madaline," said Lord
Arleigh. "You will like to see your new home."

So, instead of going direct to the mansion, they turned off from the
main avenue to make a tour of the park.

"Now I understand why this place is called Beechgrove," said Madaline,
suddenly. "I have never seen such trees in my life."

She spoke truly. Giant beech-trees spread out their huge boughs on all
sides. They were trees of which any man would have been proud, because
of their beauty and magnificence. Presently from between the trees she
saw the mansion itself, Lord Arleigh touched his young wife's arm
gently.

"My darling," he said, "that is home."

Her face flushed, her eyes brightened, the sensitive lips quivered.

"Home!" she repeated. "How sweet the word sounds to me!" With a
tremulous smile she raised her face to his. "Nor man," she said, "do
you know that I feel very much as Lady Burleigh, the wife of Lord
Burleigh, of Stamford-town, must have felt."

"But you, Madaline," he laughed, "are not quite the simple maiden--he
wooed and won. You have the high-bred grace of a lady--nothing could rob
you of that."

"She must have been lovely and graceful to have won Lord Burleigh," she
remarked.

"Perhaps so, but not like you, Madaline--there has never been any one
quite like you. I shall feel tempted to call you 'Lady Burleigh.' Here
we are at home; and, oh, my wife, my darling, how sweet the coming home
is!"

The carriage stopped at the grand entrance. Wishing to spare his young
wife all fatigue and embarrassment, Lord Arleigh had not dispatched the
news of his marriage home, so that no one at Beechgrove expected to see
Lady Arleigh. He sent at once for the housekeeper, a tall, stately dame,
who came into the dining-room looking in unutterable amazement at the
beautiful, blushing young face.

"Mrs. Chatterton," he said, "I wish to introduce you to my wife, Lady
Arleigh."

The stately dame curtesied almost to the ground.

"Welcome home, my Lady," she said, deferentially. "If I had known that
your ladyship was expected I would have made more befitting
preparations."

"Nothing could be better--you have everything in admirable order,"
responded Lord Arleigh, kindly.

Then the housekeeper turned with a bow to her master.

"I did not know that you were married, my lord," she said.

"No, Mrs. Chatterton; for reasons of my own, I hurried on my marriage.
No one shall lose by the hurry, though"--which she knew meant a promise
of handsome bounty.

Presently the housekeeper went with Lady Arleigh to her room.

The grandeur and magnificence of the house almost startled her. She felt
more like Lady Burleigh than ever, as she went up the broad marble
staircase and saw the long corridors with the multitude of rooms.

"His lordship wrote to tell me to have all the rooms in the western wing
ready," said Mrs. Chatterton; "but he did not tell why. They are
splendid rooms, my lady--large, bright and cheerful. They look over the
beautiful beeches in the park, from which the place takes its name. Of
course you will have what is called Lady Arleigh's suite."

As she spoke Mrs. Chatterton threw open the door, and Lady Arleigh saw
the most magnificent rooms she had ever beheld in her life--a _boudoir_
all blue silk and white lace, a spacious sleeping-chamber daintily hung
with pink satin, a dressing-room that was a marvel of elegance, and a
small library, all fitted with the greatest luxury.

"This is the finest suite of rooms in the house," said the housekeeper;
"they are always kept for the use of the mistress of Beechgrove. Has
your ladyship brought your maid?"

"No," replied Lady Arleigh; "the fact is I have not chosen one. The
Duchess of Hazlewood promised to find one for me."

The illustrious name pleased the housekeeper. She had felt puzzled at
the quiet marriage, and the sudden home-coming. If the new mistress of
Beechgrove was an intimate friend of her Grace of Hazlewood's, as her
words seemed to imply, then all must be well.

When Lady Arleigh had changed her traveling-dress, she went down-stairs.
Her young husband looked up in a rapture of delight.

"Oh, Madaline," he said, "how long have you been away from me? It seems
like a hundred hours, yet I do not suppose it has been one. And how fair
you look, my love! That cloudy white robe suits your golden hair and
your sweet face, which has the same soft, sweet expression as when I saw
you first; and those pretty shoulders of yours gleam like polished
marble through the lace. No dress could be more coquettish or prettier."

The wide hanging sleeves were fastened back from the shoulders with
buttons of pearl, leaving the white, rounded arms bare; a bracelet of
pearls--Lady Peters' gift--was clasped round the graceful neck; the
waves of golden hair, half loose, half carelessly fastened, were like a
crown on the beautiful head.

"I am proud of my wife," he said. "I know that no fairer Lady Arleigh
has ever been at Beechgrove. When we have dined, Madaline, I will take
you to the picture-gallery, and introduce you to my ancestors and
ancestresses."

A _récherché_ little dinner had been hastily prepared, and was served in
the grand dining-room. Madaline's eyes ached with the dazzle of silver
plate, the ornaments and magnificence of the room.

"Shall I ever grow accustomed to all this?" she asked herself. "Shall I
ever learn to look upon it as my own? I am indeed bewildered."

Yet her husband admired her perfect grace and self-possession. She might
have been mistress of Beechgrove all her life for any evidence she gave
to the contrary. His pride in her increased every moment; there was no
one like her.

"I have never really known what 'home' meant before, Madaline," he said.
"Imagine sitting opposite to a beautiful vision, knowing all the time
that it is your wife. My own wife--there is magic in the words."

And she, in her sweet humility, wondered why Heaven had so richly
blessed her, and what she had done that the great, passionate love of
this noble man should be hers. When dinner was ended he asked her if she
was tired.

"No," she answered, laughingly; "I have never felt less fatigued."

"Then I should like to show you over the house," he said--"my dear old
home. I am so proud of it, Madaline; you understand what I mean--proud
of its beauty; its antiquity--proud that no shadow of disgrace has ever
rested on it. To others these are simply ancient gray walls; to me they
represent the honor, the stainless repute, the unshadowed dignity of my
race. People may sneer if they will, but to me there seems nothing so
sacred as love of race--jealousy of a stainless name."

"I can understand and sympathize with you," she said, "although the
feeling is strange to me."

"Not quite strange, Madaline. Your mother had a name, dear, entitled to
all respect. Now come with me, and I will introduce you to the long line
of the Ladies Arleigh."

They went together to the picture-gallery, and as they passed through
the hall Madaline heard the great clock chiming.

"Ah, Norman," she said, listening to the chimes, "how much may happen in
one day, however short that day may be."



Chapter XXV.



The picture-gallery was one of the chief attractions of Beechgrove; like
the grand old trees, it had been the work of generations. The Arleighs
had always been great patrons of the fine arts; many a lord of
Beechgrove had expended what was a handsome fortune in the purchase of
pictures. The gallery itself was built on a peculiar principal; it went
round the whole of the house, extending from the eastern to the western
wing--it was wide, lofty, well-lighted, and the pictures were well hung.
In wet weather the ladies of the house used it as a promenade. It was
filled with art-treasures of all kinds, the accumulation of many
generations. From between the crimson velvet hangings white marble
statues gleamed, copies of the world's great masterpieces; there were
also more modern works of art. The floor was of the most exquisite
parquetry; the seats and lounges were soft and luxurious; in the great
windows east and west there stood a small fountain, and the ripple of
the water sounded like music in the quietude of the gallery. One
portion of it was devoted entirely to family portraits. They were a
wonderful collection perhaps one of the most characteristic in England.

Lord Arleigh and his young wife walked through the gallery.

"I thought the gallery at Verdun Royal the finest in the world," she
said; "it is nothing compared to this."

"And this," he returned, "is small, compared with the great European
galleries."

"They belong to nations; this belongs to an individual," she
said--"there is a difference."

Holding her hand in his, he led her to the long line of fair-faced
women. As she stood, the light from the setting sun falling on her fair
face and golden hair, he said to himself that he had no picture in his
gallery one-half so exquisite.

"Now," he said, "let me introduce you to the ladies of my race."

At that moment the sunbeams that had been shining on the wall died out
suddenly. She looked up, half laughingly.

"I think the ladies of your race are frowning on me, Norman," she said.

"Hardly that; if they could but step down from their frames, what a
stately company they would make to welcome you!"

And forthwith he proceeded to narrate their various histories.

"This resolute woman," he said, "with the firm lips and strong, noble
face, lived in the time of the Roses; she held this old hall against her
foes for three whole weeks, until the siege was raised, and the enemy
retired discomfited."

"She was a brave woman," remarked Lady Arleigh.

"This was a heroine," he went on--"Lady Alicia Arleigh; she would not
leave London when the terrible plague raged there. It is supposed that
she saved numberless lives; she devoted herself to the nursing of the
sick, and when all the fright and fear had abated, she found herself
laden with blessings, and her name honored throughout the land. This is
Lady Lola, who in time of riot went out unattended, unarmed, quite
alone, and spoke to three or four hundred of the roughest men in the
country; they had come, in the absence of her husband, to sack and
pillage the Hall--they marched back again, leaving it untouched. This,
Lady Constance, is a lineal descendant of Lady Nethsdale--the brave Lady
Nethsdale."

She clung to his arm as she stood there.

"Oh, Norman," she said, "do you mean that my portrait, too, will hang
here?"

"I hope so, my darling, very soon."

"But how can I have a place among all these fair and noble women," she
asked, with sad humility--"I whose ancestors have done nothing to
deserve merit or praise? Why, Norman, in the long years to come, when
some Lord Arleigh brings home his wife, as you have brought me, and they
stand together before my picture as I stand before these, the young wife
will ask: 'Who was this?' and the answer will be: 'Lady Madaline
Arleigh.' She will ask again: 'Who was she?' And what will the answer
be? 'She was no one of importance; she had neither money, rank, nor
aught else.'"

He looked at the bent face near him.

"Nay, my darling, not so. That Lord Arleigh will be able to answer: 'She
was the flower of the race; she was famed for her pure, gentle life, and
the good example she gave to all around her; she was beloved by rich and
poor.' That is what will be said of you, my Madaline."

"Heaven make me worthy!" she said, humbly. And then they came to a
picture that seemed to strike her.

"Norman," she said, "that face is like the Duchess of Hazlewood's."

"Do you think so, darling? Well, there is perhaps a faint resemblance."

"It lies in the brow and in the chin," she said. "How beautiful the
duchess is!" she continued. "I have often looked at her till her face
seemed to dazzle me."

"I know some one who is far more beautiful in my eyes," he returned.

"Norman," she said, half hesitatingly, "do you know one thing that I
have thought so strange?"

"No, I have not been trusted with many of your thoughts yet," he
returned.

"I have wondered so often why you never fell in love with the duchess."

"Fate had something better in store for me," he said, laughing.

She looked surprised.

"You cannot mean that you really think I am better than she is, Norman?"

"I do think it, darling; ten thousand times better--ten thousand times
fairer in my eyes."

"Norman," she said, a sudden gleam of memory brightening her face; "I had
almost forgotten--the duchess gave me this for you; I was to be sure to
give it to you before the sun set on our wedding-day."

She held out a white packet sealed securely, and he took it wonderingly.
He tore off the outer cover, and saw, written on the envelope:

"A wedding present from Philippa, Duchess of to Lord Arleigh. To be read
alone on his wedding-day."



Chapter XXVI.



Lord Arleigh stared at the packet which his wife had given him, and
again and again read the words that were inscribed on it: "A wedding
present from Philippa, Duchess of Hazlewood to Lord Arleigh. To be read
alone on his wedding-day." What could it mean? Philippa at times took
strange caprices into her head. This seemed to be one of the strangest.
He held the letter in his hand, a strange presentiment of evil creeping
over him which he could not account for. From the envelope came a sweet
scent, which the duchess always used. It was so familiar to him that for
a few minutes it brought her vividly before him--he could have fancied
her standing near him. Then he remembered the strange words: "To be read
alone." What could that mean? That the letter contained something that
his young wife must not see or hear.

He looked at her. She had seemingly forgotten all about the packet, and
stood now, with a smile on her face, before one of the finest pictures
in the gallery, wrapt in a dream of delight. There could not be anything
in the letter affecting her. Still, as Philippa had written so
pointedly, it would be better perhaps for him to heed her words.

"Madaline, my darling," he said, sinking on to an ottoman, "you have
taken no tea. You would like some. Leave me here alone for half an hour.
I want to think."

She did what she had never done voluntarily before. She went up to him,
and clasped her arms round his neck. She bent her blushing face over
his, and the caress surprised as much as it delighted him--she was so
shyly demonstrative.

"What are you going to think about, Norman? Will it be of me?"

"Of whom else should I think on my wedding-day, if not of my wife?" he
asked.

"I should be jealous if your thoughts went anywhere else," replied
Madaline. "There is a daring speech, Norman. I never thought I should
make such a one."

"Your daring is very delightful, Madaline; let me hear more of it."

She laughed the low, happy, contented laugh that sounded like sweetest
music in his ears.

"I will dare to say something else, Norman, if you will promise not to
think it uncalled for. I am very happy, my darling husband--I love you
very much, and I thank you for your love."

"Still better," he said, kissing the beautiful, blushing face. "Now go,
Madaline. I understand the feminine liking for a cup of tea."

"Shall I send one to you?" she asked.

"No," he replied, laughingly. "You may teach me to care about tea in
time. I do not yet."

He was still holding the letter in his hand, and the faint perfume was
like a message from Philippa, reminding him that the missive was still
unread.

"I shall not be long," said Madaline. She saw that for some reason or
other he wanted to be alone.

"You will find me here," he returned. "This is a favorite Book of mine.
I shall not leave it until you return."

The nook was a deep bay window from which there was a magnificent view
of the famous beeches. Soft Turkish cushions and velvet lounges filled
it, and near it hung one of Titian's most gorgeous pictures--a dark-eyed
woman with a ruby necklace. The sun's declining rays falling on the
rubies, made them appear like drops of blood. It was a grand picture,
one that had been bought by the lords of Beechgrove, and the present
Lord Arleigh took great delight in it.

He watched the long folds of Madaline's white dress, as she passed along
the gallery, and then the hangings fell behind her. Once more he held up
the packet.

"A wedding present from Philippa, Duchess of Hazlewood, to Lord
Arleigh."

Whatever mystery it contained should be solved at once. He broke the
seal; the envelope contained a closely-written epistle. He looked at it
in wonder. What could Philippa have to write to him about? The letter
began as follows:

"A wedding present from Philippa, Duchess of Hazlewood, to Norman, Lord
Arleigh. You will ask what it is? My answer is, my revenge--well
planned, patiently awaited.

"You have read the lines:

    "'Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned,
    Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.'

They are true. Fire, fury, and hatred rage now in my heart as I write
this to you. You have scorned me--this is my revenge. I am a proud
woman--I have lowered my pride to you. My lips have never willfully
uttered a false word; still they have lied to you. I loved you once,
Norman, and on the day my love died I knew that nothing could arise from
its ashes. I loved you with a love passing that of most women; and it
was not all my fault. I was taught to love you--the earliest memory of
my life is having been taught to love you.

"You remember, too. It may have been injudicious, imprudent, foolish,
yet while I was taught to think, to read, to sing, I was also taught to
consider myself your 'little wife.' Hundreds of times have you given me
that name, while we walked together as children--you with your arm about
my neck, I proud of being called your 'little wife.'

"As a child, I loved you better than anything else in the wide
world--better than my mother, my home, my friends; and my love grew with
my growth. I prided myself on my unbroken troth to you. I earned the
repute of being cold and heartless, because I could think of no one but
you. No compliments pleased me, no praise flattered me; I studied,
learned, cultivated every gift Heaven had given me--all for your sake. I
thought of no future, but with you, no life but with you, no love but
for you; I had no dreams apart from you. I was proud when they talked of
my beauty; that you should have a fair wife delighted me.

"When you returned home I quite expected that you were coming to claim
me as your wife--I thought that was what brought you to England. I
remember the day you came. Ah, well, revenge helps me to live, or I
should die! The first tones of your voice, the first clasp of your hand,
the first look of your eyes chilled me with sorrow and disappointment.
Yet I hoped against hope. I thought you were shy, perhaps more reserved
than of yore. I thought everything and anything except that you had
ceased to love me; I would have believed anything rather than that you
were not going to fulfill our ancient contract, and make me your wife. I
tried to make you talk of old times--you were unwilling; you seemed
confused, embarrassed I read all those signs aright; still I hoped
against hope. I tried to win you--I tried all that love, patience,
gentleness, and consideration could do.

"What women bear, and yet live on! Do you know that every moment of that
time was full of deadly torture to me, deadly anguish? Ah, me, the very
memory of it distresses me! Every one spoke to me as though our
engagement was a certainty, and our marriage settled. Yet to me there
came, very slowly, the awful conviction that you had ignored, or had
forgotten the old ties. I fought against that conviction. I would not
entertain it. Then came for me the fatal day when I heard you tell the
Duchess of Aytoun that you had never seen the woman you would care to
make your wife. I heard your confession, but would not give in; I clung
to the idea of winning your love, even after I had hoped against hope,
and tried to make you care for me. At last came the night out on the
balcony, when I resolved to risk all, to ask you for your love--do you
remember it? You were advocating the cause of another; I asked you why
you did not speak for yourself. You must have known that my woman's
heart was on fire--you must have seen that my whole soul was in my
speech, yet you told me in cold, well-chosen words that you had only a
brother's affection for me. On that night, for the first time, I
realized the truth that, come what might, you would never love me--that
you had no idea of carrying out the old contract--that your interest in
me was simply a kindly, friendly one. On that night, when I realized
that truth, the better part of me died; my love--the love of my
life--died; my hopes--the life-long hopes--died; the best, truest,
noblest part of me died.

"When you had gone away, when I was left alone, I fell on my knees and
swore to be revenged. I vowed vengeance against you, no matter what it
might cost. Again let me quote to you the lines:

    "'Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned,
    Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.'

You scorned me--you must suffer for it. I swore to be revenged, but how
was I to accomplish my desire? I could not see any way in which it was
possible for me to make you suffer. I could not touch your heart, your
affections, your fortune. The only thing that I could touch was your
pride. Through your pride, your keen sensitiveness I decided to stab
you; and I have succeeded! I recovered my courage and my pride together,
made you believe that all that had passed had been jest, and then I told
you that I was going to marry the duke.

"I will say no more of my love or my sorrow. I lived only for vengeance,
but how my object was to be effected I could not tell. I thought of many
plans, they were all worthless--they could not hurt you as you had hurt
me. At last, one day, quite accidentally I took up 'The Lady of Lyons,'
and read it through. That gave me an idea of what my revenge should be
like. Do you begin to suspect what this present is that the Duchess of
Hazlewood intends making to you on your wedding-day?"

As he read on his face grew pale. What could it mean--this reference to
"The Lady of Lyons?" That was the story of a deceitful marriage--surely
all unlike his own.

"You are wondering. Turn the page and you shall read that, when an idea
once possesses a woman's mind, she has no rest until it is carried out.
I had none. My vengeance was mapped out for me--it merely required
filling in. Let me show you how it was filled up--how I have lied to
you, who to another have never uttered a false word.

"Years ago we had a maid whom my mother liked very much. She was gentle,
well-mannered, and well-bred for her station in life. She left us, and
went to some other part of England. She married badly--a handsome,
reckless ne'er-do-well, who led her a most wretched life.

"I know not, and care nothing for the story of her married life, her
rights and wrongs. How she becomes of interest to you lies in the fact
that shortly after my marriage she called to see me and ask my aid. She
had been compelled to give up her home in the country and come to
London, where, with her husband and child, she was living in poverty and
misery. While she was talking to me the duke came in. I think her
patient face interested him. He listened to her story, and promised to
do something for her husband. You will wonder how this story of Margaret
Dornham concerns you. Read on. You will know in time.

"My husband having promised to assist this man, sent for him to the
house; and the result of that visit was that the man seeing a quantity
of plate about, resolved upon helping himself to a portion of it. To
make my story short, he was caught, after having broken into the house,
packed up a large parcel of plate, and filled his pockets with some of
my most valuable jewels. There was no help for it but to prosecute him,
and his sentence was, under the circumstances, none too heavy, being ten
years' penal servitude.

"Afterward I went to see his wife Margaret, and found her in desperate
circumstances; yet she had one ornament in her house--a beautiful young
girl, her daughter, so fair of face that she dazzled me. The moment I
saw her I thought of your description of your ideal--eyes like blue
hyacinths, and hair of gold. Forthwith a plan entered my mind which I
have most successfully carried out.

"I asked for the girl's name, and was told that it was Madaline--an
uncommon name for one of her class--but the mother had lived among
well-to-do people, and had caught some of their ideas. I looked at the
girl--her face was fair, sweet, pure. I felt the power of its beauty,
and only wondered that she should belong to such people at all; her
hands were white and shapely as my own, her figure was slender and
graceful. I began to talk to her, and found her well educated, refined,
intelligent--all, in fact, that one could wish.

"Little by little their story came out--it was one of a mother's pride
and glory in her only child. She worshiped her--literally worshiped her.
She had not filled the girl's mind with any nonsensical idea about being
a lady, but she had denied herself everything in order that Madaline
might be well educated. For many years Madaline had been what is called
a governess-pupil in a most excellent school. 'Let me die when I may,'
said the poor, proud mother, 'I shall leave Madaline with a fortune in
her own hands; her education will always be a fortune to her.'

"I asked her one day if she would let me take Madaline home with me for
a few hours; she seemed delighted, and consented at once. I took the
girl home, and with my own hands dressed her in one of my most becoming
toilets. Her beauty was something marvelous. She seemed to gain both
grace and dignity in her new attire. Shortly afterward, with her
mother's permission, I sent her for six months to one of the most
fashionable schools in Paris. The change wrought in her was magical; she
learned as much in that time as some girls would have learned in a
couple of years. Every little grace of manner seemed to come naturally
to her; she acquired a tone that twenty years spent in the best of
society does not give to some. Then I persuaded Vere, my husband, to
take me to Paris for a few days, telling him I wanted to see the
daughter of an old friend, who was at school there. In telling him that
I did not speak falsely--Madaline's mother had been an old friend of
mine. Then I told him that my whim was to bring Madaline home and make a
companion of her; he allowed me to do just as I pleased, asking no
questions about her parents, or anything else. I do not believe it ever
occurred to him as strange that the name of my _protégée_ and of the man
who had robbed him was the same--indeed, he seemed to have forgotten all
about the robbery. So I brought Madaline home to Vere Court, and then to
London, where I knew that you would see her. My husband never asked any
questions about her; he made no objection, no remark--everything that I
did was always well done in his eyes.

"But you will understand clearly that to you I told a lie when I said
that Madaline's mother was a poor relative of the duke's--you know now
what relationship there is between them. Even Lady Peters does not know
the truth. She fancies that Madaline is the daughter of some friend of
mine who, having fallen on evil days, has been glad to send her to me.

"Knowing you well, Norman, the accomplishment of my scheme was not
difficult. If I had brought Madaline to you and introduced her, you
might not have been charmed; the air of mystery about her attracted you.
My warning against your caring for her would, I knew, also help to
allure you. I was right in every way. I saw that you fell in love with
her at once--the first moment you saw her--and then I knew my revenge
was secured.

"I bought my husband the yacht on purpose that he might go away and
leave me to work out my plans. I knew that he could not resist the
temptation I offered. I knew also that if he remained in England he
would want to know all about Madaline before he allowed you to marry
her. If the marriage was to take place at all, it must be during his
absence. You seemed, of your own free will, Norman, to fall naturally
into the web woven for you.

"I write easily, but I found it hard to be wicked--hard to see my lost
love, my dear old companion, drift on to his ruin.

"More than once I paused, longing to save you; more than once I drew
back, longing to tell you all. But the spirit of revenge within me was
stronger than myself--my love had turned to hate. Yet I could not quite
hate you, Norman--not quite. Once, when you appealed to my old
friendship, when you told me of your plans, I almost gave way. 'Norman!'
I cried, as you were leaving me; but when you turned again I was dumb.

"So I have taken my revenge. I, Philippa, Duchess of Hazlewood on this
your wedding-day, reveal to you the first stain on the name of
Arleigh--unvail the first blot on one of the noblest escutcheons in the
land. You have married not only a low-born girl, but the daughter of a
felon--a felon's daughter is mistress of proud Beechwood! You who
scorned Philippa L'Estrange, who had the cruelty to refuse the love of a
woman who loved you--you who looked for your ideal in the clouds, have
found it near a prison cell! The daughter of a felon will be the
mistress of the grand old house where some of the noblest ladies of the
land have ruled--the daughter of a felon will be mother of the heirs of
Arleigh. Could I have planned, prayed for, hoped for, longed for a
sweeter revenge?

"I am indifferent as to what you may do in return. I have lived for my
revenge, and now that I have tasted it life is indifferent to me. You
will, of course, write to complain to the duke, and he, with his honest
indignation justly aroused, will perhaps refuse to see me again. I care
not; my interest in life ended when my love died.

"Let me add one thing more. Madaline herself has been deceived. I told
her that you knew all her history, that I had kept nothing from you, and
that you loved her in spite of it, but that she was never to mention it
to you."

He read the letter with a burning flush on his face, which afterward
grew white as with the pallor of death; a red mist was before his eyes,
the sound of surging waters in his ears, his heart beat loud and fast.
Could it be true--oh, merciful Heaven, could it be true? At first he had
a wild hope that it was a cruel jest that Philippa was playing with him
on his wedding-day. It could not be true--his whole soul rose in
rebellion against it. Heaven was too just, too merciful--it could not
be. It was a jest. He drew his breath with a long quivering sigh--his
lips trembled; it was simply a jest to frighten him on his wedding day.

Then, one by one--slowly, sadly, surely--a whole host of circumstances
returned to his mind, making confirmation strong. He remembered
well--only too well--the scene in the balcony. He remembered the pale
starlight, the light scarf thrown over Philippa's shoulders, even the
very perfume that came from the flowers in her hair; he remembered how
her voice had trembled, how her face had shown in the faint evening
light. When she had quoted the words of _Priscilla_, the loveliest
maiden of Plymouth, she had meant them as applicable to her own
case--"Why don't you speak for yourself, John?" They came back to him
with a fierce, hissing sound, mocking his despair. She had loved him
through all--this proud, beautiful, brilliant woman for whom men of
highest rank had sighed in vain. And, knowing her pride, her
haughtiness, he could guess exactly what her love had cost her, and that
all that followed had been a mockery. On that night her love had changed
to hate. On that night she had planned this terrible revenge. Her
offering of friendship had been a blind. He thought to himself that he
had been foolish not to see it. A thousand circumstances presented
themselves to his mind. This, then, was why Madaline had so
persistently--and, to his mind, so strangely--refused his love. This was
why she had talked incessantly of the distance between them--of her own
unworthiness to be his wife. He bad thought that she alluded merely to
her poverty, whereas it was her birth and parentage she referred to.

How cleverly, how cruelly Philippa had deceived them both--Philippa, his
old friend and companion, his sister in all but name! He could see now a
thousand instances in which Madaline and himself had played at cross
purposes--a thousand instances in which the poor girl had alluded to her
parent's sin, and he had thought she was speaking of her poverty. It was
a cruel vengeance, for, before he had read the letter through, he knew
that if the story were correct, she could be his wife in name only--that
they must part. Poverty, obscurity, seemed as nothing now--but crime?
Oh, Heaven, that his name and race should be so dishonored! If he had
known the real truth, he would have died rather than have uttered one
word of love to her.

The daughter of a felon--and he had brought her to Beechgrove as
successor to a roll of noble women, each one of whom had been of noble
birth! She was the daughter of a felon--no matter how fair, how
graceful, how pure. For the first time the glory of Beechgrove was
tarnished. But it would not be for long--it could not be for long; she
must not remain. The daughter of a felon to be the mother of his
children--ah, no, not if he went childless to the grave! Better that his
name were extinct, better that the race of Arleigh should die out, than
that his children should be pointed at as children with tainted blood!
It could never be. He would expect the dead and gone Arleighs to rise
from their graves in utter horror, he would expect some terrible curse
to fall on him, were so terrible a desecration to happen. They must
part. The girl he loved with all the passionate love of his heart, the
fair young wife whom he worshiped must go from him, and he must see her
no more. She must be his wife in name only.

He was young, and he loved her very dearly. His head fell forward on his
breast, and as bitter a sob as ever left man's lips died on his. His
wife in name only! The sweet face, the tender lips were not for him--yet
he loved her with the whole passion and force of his soul. Then he
raised his head--for he heard a sound, and knew that she was returning.
Great drops of anguish fell from his brow--over his handsome face had
come a terrible change; it had grown fierce with pain, haggard with
despair, white with sorrow.

Looking up, he saw her--she was at the other end of the gallery; he saw
the tall, slender figure and the sweeping dress--he saw the white arms
with their graceful contour, the golden hair, the radiant face--and he
groaned aloud; he saw her looking up at the pictures as she passed
slowly along--the ancestral Arleighs of whom he was so proud. If they
could have spoken, those noble women, what would they have said to this
daughter of a felon?

She paused for a few minutes to look up at her favorite, Lady Alicia,
and then she came up to him and stood before him in an the grace of her
delicate loveliness, in all the pride of her dainty beauty. She was
looking at the gorgeous Titian near him.

"Norman," she said, "the sun has turned those rubies into drops of
blood--- they looked almost terrible on the white throat. What a strange
picture! What a tragical face!"

Suddenly with outstretched arms she fell on her knees at his side.

"Oh, my darling, what has happened? What is the matter?"

She had been away from him only half an hour, yet it seemed to him ages
since he had watched her leave the gallery with a smile on her lips.

"What is it, my darling?" she cried again. "Dear Norman, you look as
though the shadow of death had passed over you. What is it?"

In another moment she had flung herself on his breast, clasped her arms
round his neck, and was kissing his pale changed face as she had never
done before.

"Norman, my darling husband, you are ill," she said--"ill, and you will
not tell me. That is why you sent me away."

He tried to unclasp her arms, but she clung the more closely to him.

"You shall not send me away. You wish to suffer in silence? Oh, my
darling, my husband, do you forget that I am your wife, for better, for
worse, in sickness and in health? You shall not suffer without my
knowledge."

"I am not ill, Madaline," he said, with a low moan. "It is not that."

"Then something has happened--you have been frightened."

He unclasped her arms from his neck--their caress was a torture to him.

"My poor darling, my poor wife, it is far worse than that. No man has
ever seen a more ghastly specter than I have seen of death in life."

She looked round in quick alarm.

"A specter!" she cried fearfully; and then something strange in his face
attracted her attention. She looked at him. "Norman," she said, slowly,
"is it--is it something about me?"

How was he to tell her? He felt that it would be easier to take her out
into the glorious light of the sunset and slay her than kill her with
the cruel words that he must speak. How was he to tell her? No physical
torture could be so great as that which he must inflict; yet he would
have given his life to save her from pain.

"It is--I am quite sure," she declared, slowly--"something about me. Oh,
Norman, what is it? I have not been away from you long. Yet no change
from fairest day to darkest night could be so great as the change in you
since I left you. You will not tell me what it is--you have taken my
arms from your neck--you do not love me!"

"Do not torture me, Madaline," he said. "I am almost mad. I cannot bear
much more."

"But what is it? What have I done? I who you send from you now am the
same Madaline whom you married this morning--whom you kissed half an
hour since. Norman, I begin to think that I am in a terrible dream."

"I would to Heaven it were a dream. I am unnerved--unmanned--I have lost
my strength, my courage, my patience, my hope. Oh, Madaline, how can I
tell you?"

The sight of his terrible agitation seemed to calm her; she took his
hand in hers.

"Do not think of me," she said--"think of yourself. I can bear what you
can bear. Let me share your trouble, whatever it may be, my husband."

He looked at the sweet, pleading face. How could he dash the light and
brightness from it? How could he slay her with the cruel story he had to
tell. Then, in a low, hoarse voice, he said:

"You must know all, and I cannot say it. Read this letter, Madeline,
and then you will understand."



Chapter XXVII.



Slowly, wonderingly, Lady Arleigh took the Duchess of Hazlewood's letter
from her husband's hands and opened it.

"Is it from the duchess?" she asked.

"Yes, it is from the duchess," replied her husband.

He saw her sink slowly down upon a lounge. Above her, in the upper panes
of the window beneath which they were sitting, were the armorial
bearings of the family in richest hues of stained glass. The colors and
shadows fell with strange effects on her white dress, great bars of
purple and crimson crossing each other, and opposite to her hung the
superb Titian, with the blood-red rubies on the white throat.

Lord Arleigh watched Madaline as she read. Whatever might be the agony
in his own heart, it was exceeded by hers. He saw the brightness die out
of her face, the light fade from her eyes, the lips grow pale. But a few
minutes before that young face had been bright with fairest beauty,
eloquent with truest love, lit with passion and with poetry--now it was
like a white mask.

Slowly, and as though it was with difficulty that she understood Lady
Arleigh read the letter through, and then--she did not scream or cry
out--she raised her eyes to his face. He saw in them a depth of human
sorrow and human woe which words are powerless to express.

So they looked at each other in passionate anguish. No words passed--of
what avail were they? Each read the heart of the other. They knew that
they must part. Then the closely-written pages fell to the ground, and
Madaline's hands clasped each other in helpless anguish. The golden head
fell forward on her breast. He noticed that in her agitation and sorrow
she did not cling to him as she had clung before--that she did not even
touch him. She seemed by instinct to understand that she was his wife
now in name only.

So for some minutes they sat, while the sunset glowed in the west. He
was the first to speak.

"My dear Madaline," he said, "my poor wife"--his voice seemed to startle
her into new life and new pain--"I would rather have died than have
given you this pain."

"I know it--I am sure of it," she said, "but, oh, Norman, how can I
release you?"

"There is happily no question about that," he answered.

He saw her rise from her seat and stretch out her arms.

"What have I done," she cried, "that I must suffer so cruelly? What have
I done?"

"Madaline," said Lord Arleigh, "I do not think that so cruel a fate has
ever befallen any one as has befallen us. I do not believe that any one
has ever suffered so cruelly, my darling. If death had parted us, the
trial would have been easier to bear."

She turned her sad eyes to him.

"It is very cruel," she said, with a shudder. "I did not think the
duchess would be so cruel."

"It is more than that--it is infamous!" he cried. "It is vengeance
worthier of a fiend than of a woman."

"And I loved her so!" said the young girl, mournfully. "Husband, I will
not reproach you--your love was chivalrous and noble; but why did you
not let me speak freely to you? I declared to you that no doubt ever
crossed my mind. I thought you knew all, though I considered it strange
that you, so proud of your noble birth, should wish to marry me. I never
imagined that you had been deceived. The duchess told me that you knew
the whole history of my father's crime, that you were familiar with
every detail of it, but that you wished me never to mention it--never
even ever so remotely to allude to it. I thought it strange, Norman,
that one in your position should be willing to overlook so terrible a
blot; but she told me your love for me was so great that you could not
live without me. She told me even more--that I must try to make my own
life so perfect that the truest nobility of all, the nobility of virtue,
might be mine."

"Did she really tell you that?" asked Lord Arleigh wonderingly.

"Yes; and, Norman, she said that you would discuss the question with me
once, and once only--that would be on my wedding-day. On that day you
would ask for and I should tell the whole history of my father's crime;
and after that it was to be a dead-letter, never to be named between
us."

"And you believed her?" he said.

"Yes, as I believe you. Why should I have doubted her? My faith in her
was implicit. Why should I have even thought you would repent? More than
once I was on the point of running away. But she would not let me go.
She said that I must not be cruel to you--that you loved me so dearly
that to lose me would prove a death-blow. So I believed her, and,
against my will, staid on."

"I wish you had told me this," he said, slowly.

She raised her eyes to his.

"You would not let me speak, Norman. I tried so often, dear, but you
would not let me."

"I remember," he acknowledged; "but, oh, my darling, how little I knew
what you had to say! I never thought that anything stood between us
except your poverty."

They remained silent for a few minutes--such sorrow as theirs needed no
words. Lord Arleigh was again the first to speak.

"Madaline," he said, "will you tell me all you remember of your life."

"Yes; it is not much. It has been such a simple life, Norman, half made
up of shadows. First, I can remember being a child in some far off
woodland house. I am sure it was in the woods; for I remember the nuts
growing on the trees, the squirrels, and the brown hares. I remember
great masses of green foliage, a running brook, and the music of wild
birds. I remember small latticed windows against which the ivy tapped.
My father used to come in with his gun slung across his shoulders--he
was a very handsome man, Norman, but not kind to either my mother or me.
My mother was then, as she is now, patient, kind, gentle,
long-suffering. I have never heard her complain. She loved me with an
absorbing love. I was her only comfort. I did my best to deserve her
affection. I loved her too. I cannot remember that she ever spoke one
unkind word to me, and I can call to mind a thousand instances of
indulgence and kindness. I knew that she deprived herself of almost
everything to give it to me. I have seen her eat dry bread patiently,
while for me and my father there was always some little dainty. The
remembrance of the happiness of my early life begins and ends with my
mother. My memories of her are all pleasant." She continued as though
recalling her thoughts with difficulty. "I can remember some one else. I
do not know who or what he was, except that he was, I think, a doctor.
He used to see me, and used to amuse me. Then there came a dark day. I
cannot tell what happened, but after that day I never saw my friend
again."

He was looking at her with wondering eyes.

"And you remember no more than that about him, Madaline?"

"No," she replied. "Then came a time," she went on, "when it seemed to
me that my mother spent all her days and nights in weeping. There fell a
terrible shadow over us, and we removed. I have no recollection of the
journey--not the faintest; but I can remember my sorrow at leaving the
bright green woods for a dull, gloomy city lodging. My mother was still
my hope and comfort. After we came to London she insisted that, no
matter what else went wrong I should have a good education; she toiled,
saved, suffered for me. 'My darling must be a lady,' she used to say.
She would not let me work, though I entreated her with tears in my eyes.
I used to try to deceive her even, but I never could succeed. She loved
me so, my poor mother. She would take my hands in hers and kiss them.
'Such dainty hands, dear,' she would say, 'must not be spoiled.' After a
great deal of trouble and expense, she contrived to get me an engagement
as governess-pupil in a lady's school; there I did receive a good
education. One failing of my mother always filled me with wonder--she
used to fancy that people watched me. 'Has any one spoken to you,
darling?' she would ask. 'Has any stranger seen you?' I used to laugh,
thinking it was parental anxiety; but it has struck me since as strange.
While I was at the ladies' school my father committed the crime for
which I--alas!--am suffering now."

"Will you tell me what the crime was?" requested Lord Arleigh.

A dreary hopelessness, inexpressibly painful to see, came over her face,
and a deep-drawn sigh broke from her lips.

"I will tell you all about it," she said--"would to Heaven that I had
done so before! My mother, many years ago, was in the service of Lady
L'Estrange; she was her maid then. Miss L'Estrange married the Duke of
Hazlewood, and, when my mother was in great difficulties, she went to
the duchess to ask for employment. The duchess was always kind,"
continued Madaline, "and she grew interested in my mother. She came to
see her, and I was at home. She told me afterward that when she first
saw me she conceived a liking for me. I know now that I was but the
victim of her plot."

She stopped abruptly, but Lord Arleigh encouraged her.

"Tell me all, Madaline," he said, gently; "none of this is your fault,
my poor wife. Tell me all."

"The duchess was very kind to my mother, and befriended her in many
ways. She interested the duke in her case, and he promised to find
employment for my unfortunate father, who went to his house to see him.
Whether my father had ever done wrong before, I cannot tell. Sometimes I
fear that he had done so, for no man falls suddenly into crime. In few
words--oh, Norman, how hard they are to say!--what he saw in the duke's
mansion tempted him. He joined some burglars, and they robbed the house.
My unfortunate father was found with his pockets filled with valuable
jewelry. My mother would not let me read the history of the trial, but I
learned the result--he was sentenced to ten years' penal servitude."

She paused again; the dreary hopelessness of her face, the pain in her
voice, touched him inexpressibly.

"None of this is your fault, my darling," he said. "Go on."

"Then," she continued "the duchess was kinder than ever to my mother.
She furnished her with the means of gaining her livelihood; she offered
to finish my education and adopt me. My mother was at first unwilling;
she did not wish me to leave her. But the duchess said that her love was
selfish--that it was cruel to stand in my light when such an offer was
made. She consented and I, wondering much what my ultimate fate was to
be, was sent to school in Paris. When I had been there for some time,
the duke and duchess came to see me. I must not forget to tell you,
Norman, that she saw me herself first privately. She said he was so
forgetful that he would never remember having heard the name of Dornham.
She added that the keeping of the secret was very important, for, if it
became known, all her kind efforts in our favor must cease at once. I
promised to be most careful. The duke and duchess arranged that I was to
go home with them and live as the duchess' companion. Again she warned
me never upon any account to mention who I was, or anything about me.
She called me the daughter of an old friend--and so I was, although that
friend was a very humble one. From the first, Norman, she talked so much
about you; you were the model of everything chivalrous and noble, the
hero of a hundred pleasant stories. I had learned to love you long even
before I saw you--to love you after a fashion, Norman, as a hero. I can
see it all now. She laid the plot--we were the victims. I remember that
the very morning on which you saw me first the duchess sent me into the
trellised arbor; I was to wait there until she summoned me. Rely upon
it, Norman, she also gave orders that you were to be shown into the
morning-room, although she pretended to be annoyed at it. I can see all
the plot now plainly. I can only say---- Oh, Norman, you and I were both
blind! We ought to have seen through her scheme. Why should she have
brought us together if she had not meant that we should love each other?
What have we in common--I, the daughter of a felon; you, a nobleman,
proud of your ancestry, proud of your name? Oh, Norman, if I could but
die here at your feet, and save you from myself!"

Even as she spoke she sank sobbing, no longer on to his breast, no
longer with her arms clasped round his neck, but at his feet.

He raised her in his arms--for he loved her with passionate love.

"Madaline," he said, in a low voice, "do not make my task harder for me.
That which I have to do is indeed bitter to me--do not make it harder."

His appeal touched her. For his sake she must try to be strong.

Slowly he looked up at the long line of noblemen and women whose faces
shone down upon him; slowly he looked at her graceful figure and bowed
head of his wife, the daughter of a felon--the first woman who had ever
entered those walls with even the semblance of a stain upon her name. As
he looked at her the thought came to him that, if his housekeeper had
told him that she had inadvertently placed such a person--the daughter
of a felon--in his kitchen, he would never have rested until she had
been sent away.

He must part from her--this lovely girl-wife whom he loved with such
passionate love. The daughter of a criminal could not reign at
Beechgrove. If the parting cost his life and hers it must take place. It
was cruel. The strong man trembled with agitation; his lips quivered,
his face was pale as death. He bent over his weeping wife.

"Madaline," he said, gently, "I do not understand the ways of destiny.
Why you and I have to suffer this torture I cannot say. I can see
nothing in our lives that deserves such punishment. Heaven knows best.
Why we have met and loved, only to undergo such anguish, is a puzzle I
cannot solve. There is only one thing plain to me, and that is that we
must part."

He never forgot how she sprang away from him, her colorless face raised
to his.

"Part, Norman!" she cried. "We cannot part now; I am your wife!"

"I know it; but we must part."

"Part!" repeated the girl. "We cannot; the tie that binds us cannot be
sundered so easily."

"My poor Madaline, it must be."

She caught his hand in hers.

"You are jesting, Norman. We cannot be separated--we are one. Do you
forget the words--'for better for worse,' 'till death us do part?'--You
frighten me!" And she shrank from him with a terrible shudder.

"It must be as I have said," declared the unhappy man. "I have been
deceived--so have you. We have to suffer for another's sin."

"We may suffer," she said, dully, "but we cannot part. You cannot send
me away from you."

"I must," he persisted. "Darling, I speak with deepest love and pity,
yet with unwavering firmness. You cannot think that, with that terrible
stain resting on you, you can take your place here."

"But I am your wife!" she cried, in wild terror.

"You are my wife," he returned, with quivering lips; "but you must
remain so in name only." He paused abruptly, for it seemed to him that
the words burned his lips as they passed them. "My wife," he muttered,
"in name only."

With a deep sob she stretched out her arms. "But I love you,
Norman--you must not send me away! I love you--I shall die if I have to
leave you!"

The words seemed to linger on her lips.

"My darling," he said, gently, "it is even harder for me than for you."

"No, no," she cried, "for I love you so dearly, Norman--better than my
life! Darling, my whole heart went out to you long ago--you cannot give
it back to me."

"If it kills you and myself too," he declared, hoarsely, "I must send
you away."

"Send me away? Oh, no, Norman, not away! Let me stay with you, husband,
darling. We were married only this morning My place is here by your
side--I cannot go."

Looking away from her, with those passionate accents still ringing in
his ears, his only answer was:

"Family honor demands it."

"Norman," she implored, "listen to me, dear! Do not send me away from
you. I will be so good, so devoted. I will fulfill my duties so well, I
will bear myself so worthily that no one shall remember anything against
me; they shall forget my unhappy birth, and think only that you have
chosen well. Oh, Norman, be merciful to me! Leaving you would be a
living death!"

"You cannot suffer more than I do," he said--"and I would give my life
to save you pain; but, my darling, I cannot be so false to the
traditions of my race, so false to the honor of my house, so untrue to
my ancestors and to myself, as to ask you to stay here. There has never
been a blot on our name. The annals of our family are pure and
stainless. I could not ask you to remain here and treat you as my wife,
even to save my life!"

"I have done no wrong, Norman; why should you punish me so cruelly?"

"No, my darling, you have done no wrong--and the punishment is more mine
than yours. I lose the wife whom I love most dearly--I lose my all."

"And what do I lose?" she moaned.

"Not so much as I do, because you are the fairest and sweetest of women.
You shall live in all honor, Madaline. You shall never suffer social
degradation, darling--the whole world shall know that I hold you
blameless; but you can be my wife in name only."

She was silent for a few minutes, and then she held out her arms to him
again.

"Oh, my love, relent!" she cried. "Do not be so hard on me--indeed, I
have done no wrong. Be merciful! I am your wife; your name is so mighty,
so noble, it will overshadow me. Who notices the weed that grows under
the shadow of the kingly oak? Oh, my husband, let me stay! I love you
so dearly--let me stay!"

The trial was so hard and cruel that great drops fell from his brow and
his lips trembled.

"My darling, it is utterly impossible. We have been deceived. The
consequences of that deceit must be met. I owe duties to the dead as
well as to the living. I cannot transgress the rules of my race. Within
these time-honored walls no woman can remain who is not of stainless
lineage and stainless repute. Do not urge me further."

"Norman," she said, in a trembling voice, "you are doing wrong in
sending me away. You cannot outrage Heaven's laws with impunity. It is
Heaven's law that husband and wife should cleave together. You cannot
break it."

"I have no wish to break it. I say simply that I shall love you until I
die, but that you must be my wife in name only."

"It is bitterly hard," she observed; and then she looked up at him
suddenly. "Norman," she said, "let me make one last appeal to you. I
know the stigma is terrible--I know that the love-story must be hateful
to you--I know that the vague sense of disgrace which clings to you even
now is almost more than you can bear; but, my darling, since you say you
love me so dearly, can you not bear this trial for my sake, if in
everything else I please you--if I prove myself a loving, trustful,
truthful wife, if I fulfill all my duties so as to reflect honor on you;
if I prove a worthy mistress of your household?"

"I cannot," he replied, hoarsely; but there must have been something in
his face from which she gathered hope, for she went on, with a ring of
passionate love in her voice.

"If, after we had been married, I had found out that you had concealed
something from me, do you think that I should have loved you less?"

"I do not think you would, Madaline; but the present case is
different--entirely different; it is not for my own sake, but for the
honor of my race. Better a thousand times that my name should die out
than that upon it there should be the stain of crime!"

"But, Norman--this is a weak argument, I know--a woman's
argument--still, listen to it, love--who would know my secret if it were
well kept?"

"None; but I should know it," he replied, "and that would be more than
sufficient. Better for all the world to know than for me. I would not
keep such a secret. I could not. It would hang over my head like a drawn
sword, and some day the sword would fall. My children, should Heaven
send any to me, might grow up, and then, in the height of some social or
political struggle, when man often repeats against his fellow man all
that he knows of the vilest and the worst, there might be thrown into
their faces the fact that they were descended from a felon. It must not
be; a broken heart is hard to bear--injured honor is perhaps harder."

She drew up her slender figure to its full height, her lovely face
glowed with a light he did not understand.

"You may be quite right," she said. "I cannot dispute what you say. Your
honor may be a sufficient reason for throwing aside the wife of less
than twelve hours, but I cannot see it. I cannot refute what you have
said, but my heart tells me you are wrong."

"Would to Heaven that I thought the same!" he rejoined, quickly. "But I
understand the difficulties of the case, my poor Madaline, and you do
not."

She turned away with a low, dreary sigh, and the light died from her
face.

"Madaline," said Lord Arleigh, quietly, "do not think, my darling, that
you suffer most--indeed, it is not so. Think how I love you--think how
precious you are to me--and then ask yourself if it is no pain to give
you up."

"I know it is painful," she continued, sadly, "but, Norman, if the
decision and choice rested with me as they do with you, I should act
differently."

"I would, Heaven knows, if I could," he said, slowly.

"Such conduct is not just to me," she continued, her face flushing with
the eagerness of her words. "I have done no wrong, no harm, yet I am to
be driven from your house and home--I am to be sent away from you,
divorced in all but name. I say it is not fair, Norman--not just. All my
womanhood rises in rebellion against such a decree. What will the world
say of me? That I was weighed in the balance and found wanting--that I
was found to be false or light, due doubtless to my being lowly born. Do
you think I have no sense of honor--no wish to keep my name and fame
stainless? Could you do me a greater wrong, do you think, than to put me
away, not twelve hours after our marriage, like one utterly unworthy?"

He made no answer. She went on in her low, passionate, musical voice.

"When I read in history the story of Anne of Cleves, I thought it cruel
to be sought in marriage, brought over from another land, looked at,
sneered at, and dismissed; but, Norman, it seems to me her fate was not
so cruel as mine."

"You are wrong," he cried. "I hold you in all reverence, all honor, in
deepest respect. You are untouched by the disgrace attached to those
nearest to you. It is not that. You know that, even while I say we must
part, I love you from the very depths of my heart."

"I can say no more," she moaned, wringing her hands. "My own heart, my
woman's instinct, tells me you are wrong. I cannot argue with you, nor
can I urge anything more."

She turned from him. He would have given much to take her into his arms,
and kissing her, bid her stay.

"You remember the old song, Madaline?

    "'I could not love thee, dear, so much,
    Loved I not honor more.'

If I could be false to the dead, Madaline, I should be untrue to the
living. That I am not so is your security for my faith. If I could be
false to the traditions of my race, I could be false to my vows of
love."

"I can say no more--I can urge no more. You are a man--wise, strong,
brave. I submit."

It was a cruel fate. He looked round on his pictured ancestors Would
they have suffered, have sacrificed as much for the honor of their house
as he was about to sacrifice now? Yes, he knew they would, for love of
race and pride of name had always been unspeakably dear to them.



Chapter XXVIII.



Lord Arleigh raised his head from his breast. His wife was kneeling
sobbing at his feet.

"Norman," she said, in a broken voice, "I yield, I submit. You know
best, dear. In truth, I am not worthy to be your wife. I urge no claim
on you; but, my darling, must I leave you? You are the very light of my
life, heart of my heart, soul of my soul--must I leave you? Could I not
remain here as your servant, your slave, the lowliest in your
house--somewhere near, where I may hear the tones of your voice, the
sound of your footsteps--where I may stand sometimes at the window and
see you ride away--where I may render you little attentions such as
loving wives render? Oh, Norman, be merciful and grant me that at
least!"

"My darling, I cannot--do not tempt me. You do not understand I love you
with a fierce, passionate love. If you were near me, I should be
compelled to show that love to you every hour of the day--to treat you
as my dear and honored wife. If you were near me, I might forget my
resolves and remember only my love."

"No one should know," she whispered, "that I was your wife. I should
take the guise of the humblest servant in the place. No one should know,
love. Oh, darling, let it be so!"

She saw great drops of agony on his brow; she saw a world of pain in
his eyes which alarmed her.

"It cannot be," he replied, hoarsely. "You must urge me no more--you are
torturing me."

Then she rose, humbly enough, and turned away.

"I will say no more, Norman. Now do with me what you please."

There was silence for a few minutes. The sun was sinking low in the
western sky, the chirp of the birds was growing faint in the trees. She
raised her colorless face to his.

"I submit, Norman," she said. "You have some plan to propose. Do with me
just as you will."

It was cruel--no crueler fate had ever fallen to a man's lot--but honor
obliged him to act as he did. He took her hand in his.

"Some day, dear wife," he said, "you will understand what suffering this
step has cost me."

"Yes," she murmured, faintly; "I may understand in time."

"While I have been sitting here," he went on, "I have been thinking it
all over, and I have come to a decision as to what will be best for you
and for me. You are Lady Arleigh of Beechgrove--you are my wife; you
shall have all the honor and respect due to your position."

She shuddered as though the words were a most cruel mockery.

"You will honor," she questioned, bitterly, "the daughter of a felon?"

"I will honor my wife, who has been deceived even more cruelly than
myself," he replied. "I have thought of a plan," he continued, "which
can be easily carried out. On our estate not twenty miles from
here--there is a little house called the Dower House--a house where the
dowagers of the family have generally resided. It is near Winiston, a
small country town. A housekeeper and two servants live in the house
now, and keep it in order. You will be happy there, my darling, I am
sure, as far as is possible. I will see that you have everything you
need or require."

She listened as one who hears but dimly.

"You have no objection to raise, have you, Madaline?"

"No," she replied, "it matters little where I live; I only pray that my
life may be short."

"Hush, my darling. You pain me."

"Oh, Norman, Norman," she cried, "what will they think of me--what will
they say--your servants, your friends?"

"We must not trouble about that," said Norman; "we must not pause to
consider what the world will say. We must do what we think is right."

He took out his watch and looked at it.

"It is eight o'clock," he said; "we shall have time to drive to Winiston
to-night."

There was a world of sorrowful reproach in the blue eyes raised to his.

"I understand," she said, quietly; "you do not wish that the daughter of
a felon should sleep, even for one night, under your roof."

"You pain me and you pain yourself; but it is, if you will bear the
truth, my poor Madaline, just as you say. Even for these ancient walls I
have such reverence."

"Since my presence dishonors them," she said, quietly, "I will go.
Heaven will judge between us, Norman. I say that you are wrong. If I am
to leave your house, I should like to go at once. I will go to my room
and prepare for the journey."

He did not attempt to detain her, for he well knew that, if she made
another appeal to him, he could not resist the impulse to clasp her in
his arms, and at the cost of what he thought his honor to bid her stay.

She lingered before him, beautiful, graceful, sorrowful.

"Is there anything more you would like to say to me?" she asked, with
sad humility.

"I dare not," he uttered, hoarsely; "I cannot trust myself."

He watched her as with slow, graceful steps she passed down, the long
gallery, never turning her fair face or golden head back to him, her
white robes trailing on the parquetry floor. When she had reached the
end, he saw her draw aside the hangings and stand for a minute looking
at the pictured faces of the Arleighs; then she disappeared, and he was
left alone.

He buried his face in his hands and wept bitterly.

"I could curse the woman who has wrought this misery!" he exclaimed,
presently.

And then the remembrance of Philippa, as he had known her years
before--Philippa as a child, Philippa, his mother's favorite--restrained
him.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Perhaps I too was to blame," he thought; "she would not have taken such
cruel vengeance had I been more candid."

Lady Arleigh went to her room. The pretty traveling-costume lay where
she had left it; the housekeeper had not put away anything. Hastily
taking off her white dress and removing the jewels from her neck, and
the flowers from her hair, Madaline placed them aside, and then having
attired herself for the journey, she went down stairs, meeting no one.

Some little surprise was created among the servants when orders came for
the carriage to be got ready.

"Going out at this time of night. What can it mean?" asked one of them.

"They are going to the Dower House," answered a groom.

"Ah, then his lordship and her ladyship will not remain at the Abbey!
How strange! But there--rich people have nothing to do but indulge in
whims and caprices!" said the under house-maid, who was immediately
frowned down by her superiors in office.

Not a word was spoken by husband and wife as Lady Arleigh took her seat
in the carriage. Whatever she felt was buried in her own breast. Her
face shone marble-white underneath her vail, and her eyes were bent
downward. Never a word did she speak as the carriage drove slowly
through the park, where the dews were falling and the stars were bright.

Once her husband turned to her and tried to take her hand in his, but
she drew back.

"It will be better not to talk, Norman," she said. "I can bear it best
in silence."

So they drove on in unbroken quietude. The dew lay glistening on the
grass and trees; all nature was hushed, tranquil, sweet, and still. It
was surely the strangest drive that husband and wife had ever taken
together. More than once, noting the silent, graceful figure, Lord
Arleigh was tempted to ask Madaline to fly with him to some foreign
land, where they could live and die unknown--more than once he was
tempted to kiss the beautiful lips and say to her, "Madaline, you shall
not leave me;" but the dishonor attaching to his name caused him to
remain silent.

They had a rapid drive, and reached Winiston House--as it was generally
called--before eleven. Great was the surprise and consternation excited
by so unexpected an arrival. The house was in the charge of a widow
whose husband had been the late, lord's steward. She looked somewhat
dubiously at Lord Arleigh and then at his companion, when they had
entered. Madaline never opened her lips. Lord Arleigh was strangely pale
and confused.

"Mrs. Burton," he said, "I can hardly imagine that you have heard of my
marriage. This is my wife--Lady Arleigh."

All the woman's doubt and hesitation vanished then--she became all
attention; but Lord Arleigh inwardly loathed his fate when he found
himself compelled to offer explanations that he would have given worlds
to avoid.

"I am not going to remain here myself," he said, in answer to the
inquiries about rooms and refreshments. "Lady Arleigh will live at
Winiston House altogether; and, as you have always served the family
faithfull and well, I should like you to remain in her service."

The woman looked up at him in such utter bewilderment and surprise that
he felt somewhat afraid of what she might say; he therefore hastened to
add:

"Family matters that concern no one but ourselves compel me to make this
arrangement. Lady Arleigh will be mistress now of Winiston House. She
will have a staff of servants here. You can please yourself about
remaining--either as housekeeper or not--just as you like."

"Of course, my lord, I shall be only too thankful to remain, but it
seems so very strange--"

Lord Arleigh held up his hand.

"Hush!" he said. "A well-trained servant finds nothing strange."

The woman took the hint and retired. Lord Arleigh turned to say farewell
to his wife. He found her standing, white and tearless, by the window.

"Oh, my darling," he cried, "we must now part! Yet how can I leave
you--so sad, so silent, so despairing? Speak to me, my own love--one
word--just one word."

Her woman's heart, so quick to pity, was touched by his prayer. She
stalled as sad, as sweet a smile as ever was seen on woman's lips.

"I shall be better in time, Norman," she said, "and shall not always be
sad."

"There are some business arrangements which must be made," he continued,
hurriedly--"but it will be better for us not to meet again just yet,
Madaline--I could not bear it. I will see that all is arranged for your
comfort. You must have every luxury and--"

"Luxury!" she repeated, mockingly. "Why, I would rather be the sorriest
beggar that ever breathed than be myself! Luxury! You mock me, Lord
Arleigh."

"You will be less bitter against me in time, my darling," he said. "I
mean just what I say--that you will have everything this world can give
you--"

"Except love and happiness," she interposed.

"Love you have, sweet; you have mine--the fervent, true, honest, deep
love of my heart and soul. Happiness comes in time to all who do their
duty. Think of Carlyle's words--'Say unto all kinds of happiness, "I can
do without thee"--with self-renunciation life begins.'"

"Carlyle had no such fate as mine in his thoughts," she said, "when he
wrote that. But, Lord Arleigh, I do not wish to complain. I am sorry
that I have interrupted you. I have accepted my fate. Say all you
wish--I will be silent."

"I have only to add, my darling, that if money, luxury, comfort can give
you happiness, you shall have them all. You shall have respect and
honor too, for I will take care that the whole world knows that this
separation arises from no fault of yours. Promise me, darling wife--oh,
Heaven help me, how hard it is!--promise me, when the first smart of the
pain is over, that you will try to be happy."

She bent her head, but spoke no word.

"Promise me too, Madaline, that, if sickness and sorrow should come to
you, you will send for me at once."

"I promise," she said.

"A few words more, and I have done. Tell me what course you wish me to
pursue toward the duchess."

"I have no wish in the matter," she replied, directly. "She was kind to
me once; for the sake of that kindness I forgive her. She forgot that I
must suffer in her wish to punish you. I shall leave her to Heaven."

"And I," he said, "will do the same; voluntarily I will never see her or
speak to her again."

There remained for him only to say farewell. He took her little white
hand; it was as cold as death.

"Farewell, my love," he said--"farewell!"

He kissed her face with slow, sweet reverence, as he would have kissed
the face of a dead woman whom he loved; and then he was gone.

Like one in a dream, she heard the wheel of a carriage rolling away. She
stretched out her hands with a faint cry.

"Norman--my husband--my love!" she called; but from the deep silence of
the night there came no response. He was gone.

Madaline passed the night in watching the silent skies. Mrs. Burton,
after providing all that was needful, had retired quickly to rest. She
did not think it "good manners" to intrude upon her ladyship.

All night Madaline watched the stars, and during the course of that
night the best part of her died--youth, love, hope, happiness. Strange
thoughts came to her--thoughts that she could hardly control. Why was
she so cruelly punished? What had she done? She had read of wicked lives
that had met with terrible endings. She had read of sinful men and
wicked women whose crimes, even in this world, had been most bitterly
punished. She had read of curses following sin. But what had she done?
No woman's lot surely had ever been so bitter. She could not understand
it, while the woman who had loved her husband, who had practiced fraud
and deceit, and lied, went unpunished.

Yet her case was hardly that, for Norman did not love her. Daughter of a
felon as she--Madaline--was--poor, lowly, obscure--he had given her his
heart, although he could never make her the mistress of his home. There
was some compensation for human suffering, some equality in the human
lot, after all. She would be resigned. There were lots in life far worse
than hers. What if she had learned to love Norman, and he had never
cared for her? What if she had learned to love him, and had found him
less noble than he was? What if, in the bitterness of his disappointment
and passion, he had vented his anger upon her? After all, she could not
but admire his sense of honor, his respect for his name, his devotion to
his race; she could not find fault with his conduct, although it had
cost her so dear.

"I think," she admitted to herself, "that in his place I should have
done the same thing. If my parent's crime has brought sorrow and
disgrace to me, who have no name, no fame, no glory of race to keep up,
what must it have brought to him? In his place I should have done as he
has done."

Then, after a time, she clasped her hands.

"I will submit," she said. "I will leave my fate to Providence."

When morning dawned she went to her room; she did not wish the household
to know that she had sat up and watched the night through.

Once out of the house, Lord Arleigh seemed to realize for the first time
what had happened; with a gesture of despair he threw himself back in
the carriage. The footman came to him.

"Where to, my lord--to Beechgrove?"

"No," replied Lord Arleigh--"to the railway station. I want to catch the
night-mail for London."

Lord Arleigh was just in time for the train. The footman caught a
glimpse of his master's face as the train went off--it was white and
rigid.

"Of all the weddings in this world, well, this is the queerest!" he
exclaimed to himself.

When he reached Beechgrove, he told his fellow-servants what had
happened, and many were the comments offered about the marriage that was
yet no marriage--the wedding that was no wedding--the husband and wife
who were so many miles apart. What could it mean?



Chapter XXIX.



Three days after Lord Arleigh's most inauspicious marriage. The Duchess
of Hazlewood sat in her drawing-room alone. Those three days had changed
her terribly; her face had lost its bloom, the light had died from her
dark eyes, there were great lines of pain round her lips. She sat with
her hands folded listlessly, her eyes, full of dreamy sorrow, fixed on
the moving foliage of the woods. Presently Lady Peters entered with an
open newspaper in her hand.

"Philippa, my dear," she said, "I am very uncomfortable. Should you
think this paragraph refers to Lord Arleigh? It seems to do so--yet I
cannot believe it."

The deadly pallor that was always the sign of great emotion with the
duchess spread now even to her lips.

"What does it say?" she asked.

Lady Peters held the paper out to her; but her hands trembled so that
she could not take it.

"I cannot read it," she said, wearily. "Read it to me."

And then Lady Peters read:

     "Scandal in High Life.--Some strange revelations are shortly
     expected in aristocratic circles. A few days since a noble lord,
     bearing one of the most ancient titles in England, was married. The
     marriage took place under circumstances of great mystery; and the
     mystery has been increased by the separation of bride and
     bridegroom on their wedding-day. What has led to a separation is at
     present a secret, but it is expected that in a few days all
     particulars will be known. At present the affair is causing a great
     sensation."

A fashionable paper which indulged largely in personalities, also had a
telling article on Lord Arleigh's marriage. No names were mentioned, but
the references were unmistakable. A private marriage, followed by a
separation on the same day, was considered a fair mark for scandal. This
also Lady Peters read, and the duchess listened with white, trembling
lips.

"It must refer to Lord Arleigh," said Lady Peters.

"It cannot," was the rejoinder. "He was far too deeply in love with his
fair-faced bride to leave her."

"I never did quite approve of that marriage," observed Lady Peters.

"The scandal cannot be about him," declared the duchess. "We should have
heard if there had been anything wrong."

The next day a letter was handed to her. She recognized the
handwriting--it was Lord Arleigh's. She laid the note down, not daring
to read it before Lady Peters. What had he to say to her?

When she was alone she opened it.

     "You will be pleased to hear, duchess, that your scheme has
     entirely succeeded. You have made two innocent people who have
     never harmed you as wretched as it is possible for human beings to
     be. In no respect has your vengeance failed. I--your old friend,
     playmate, brother, the son of your mother's dearest friend--have
     been made miserable for life. Your revenge was well chosen. You
     knew that, however I might worship Madaline, my wife, however much
     I might love her, she could never be mistress of Beechgrove, she
     could never be the mother of my children; you knew that, and
     therefore I say your revenge was admirably chosen. It were useless
     to comment on your wickedness, or to express the contempt I feel
     for the woman who could deliberately plan such evil and distress. I
     must say this, however. All friendship and acquaintance between us
     is at an end. You will be to me henceforward an entire stranger. I
     could retaliate. I could write and tell your husband, who is a man
     of honor, of the unworthy deed you have done; but I shall not do
     that--it would be unmanly. Before my dear wife and I parted, we
     agreed that the punishment of your sin should be left to Heaven. So
     I leave it. To a woman unworthy enough to plan such a piece of
     baseness, it will be satisfaction sufficient to know that her
     scheme has succeeded. Note the words 'my wife and I
     parted'--parted, never perhaps to meet again. She has all my love,
     all my heart, all my unutterable respect and deep devotion; but, as
     you know, she can never be mistress of my house. May Heaven forgive
     you.

     Arleigh."

She could have borne with his letter if it had been filled with the
wildest invictives--if he had reproached her, even cursed her; his
dignified forbearance, his simple acceptance of the wrong she had done
him, she could not tolerate.

She laid down the letter. It was all over now--the love for which she
would have given her life, the friendship that had once been so true,
the vengeance that had been so carefully planned. She had lost his love,
his friendship, his esteem. She could see him no more. He despised her.
There came to her a vision of what she might have been to him had things
been different--his friend, adviser, counselor--the woman upon whom he
would have looked as the friend of his chosen wife--the woman whom,
after all, he loved best--his sister, his truest confidante. All this
she might have been but for her revenge. She had forfeited it all now.
Her life would be spent as though he did not exist; and there was no one
but herself to blame.

Still she had had her revenge; she smiled bitterly to herself as she
thought of that. She had punished him. The beautiful face grew pale, and
the dark eyes shone through a mist of tears.

"I am not hardened enough," she said to herself, mockingly, "to be quite
happy over an evil deed. I want something more of wickedness in my
composition."

She parried skillfully all Lady Peters' questions; she professed entire
ignorance of all that had happened. People appealed to her as Lord
Arleigh's friend. They asked her:

"What does this mean? Lord Arleigh was married quietly, and separated
from his wife the same day. What does it mean?"

"I cannot tell, but you may rely upon it that a reasonable explanation
of the circumstances will be forthcoming," she would reply. "Lord
Arleigh is, as we all know, an honorable man, and I knew his wife."

"But what can it mean?" the questioners would persist.

"I cannot tell," she would answer, laughingly. "I only know we must give
the matter the best interpretation we can."

So she escaped; and no one associated the Duchess of Hazlewood with Lord
Arleigh's strange marriage. She knew that when her husband returned she
would have to give some kind of explanation; but she was quite
indifferent about that. Her life, she said to herself, was ended.

When the duke did come home, after a few pleasant weeks on the sea, the
first thing he heard was the story about Lord Arleigh. It astounded him.
His friend Captain Austin related it to him as soon as he had landed.

"Whom did you say he married?" inquired the duke.

"Rumor said at first that it was a distant relative of yours," replied
the captain, "afterward it proved to be some young lady whom he had met
at a small watering-place."

"What was her name? Who was she? It was no relative of mine; I have very
few; I have no young female relative at all."

"No--that was all a mistake; I cannot tell you how it arose. He married
a lady of the name of Dornham."

"Dornham!" said the puzzled nobleman. "The name is not unfamiliar to
me--Dornham--ah, I remember!"

He said no more, but the captain saw a grave expression come over his
handsome face, and it occurred to him that some unpleasant thought
occurred to his companion's mind.



Chapter XXX.



One of the first questions, after his return, that the Duke of Hazlewood
put to his wife was about Lord Arleigh. She looked at him with an uneasy
smile.

"Am I my brother's keeper?" she asked.

"Certainly not, Philippa; but, considering that Arleigh has been as a
brother to you all these years, you must take some interest in him. Is
this story of his marriage true?"

"True?" she repeated. "Why, of course it is--perfectly true! Do you not
know whom he has married?"

"I am half afraid to ask--half afraid to find that my suspicions have
been realized."

"He has married my companion," said the duchess. "I have no wish to
blame him; I will say nothing."

"It is a great pity that he ever saw her," observed the duke, warmly.
"From all I hear, the man's life is wrecked."

"I warned him," said Philippa, eagerly. "I refused at first to introduce
her to him. I told him that prudence and caution were needful."

"How came it about then, Philippa?"

The duchess shrugged her shoulders.

"There is a fate, I suppose, in these things. He saw her one day when I
was out of the way, and, according to his own account, fell in love with
her on the spot. Be that as it may, he was determined to marry her."

"It seems very strange," said the Duke of Hazlewood, musingly. "I have
never known him to do anything 'queer' before."

"He can never say that I did not warn him," she remarked, carelessly.

"But it was such a wretched marriage for him. Who was she, Philippa? I
have never made many inquiries about her."

"I would really rather not discuss the question," said the duchess; "it
has no interest for me now. Norman and I have quarreled. In all
probability we shall never be friends again."

"All through this marriage?" interrogated the duke.

"All through this marriage," repeated his wife--"and I know no subject
that irritates me so much. Please say no more about it, Vere."

"I should like to know who the girl is," he urged. "You have never told
me."

"I shall be jealous of her in a few minutes!" exclaimed Philippa
"Already she has sundered an old friendship that I thought would last
forever; and now, directly you return, you can talk of no one else."

"I should like to see you jealous," said the duke, who was one of the
most unsuspicious of men.

She smiled; yet there came to her a sharp, bitter memory of the night on
the balcony when she had been jealous of the ideal woman, the unknown
love whom Norman had sketched for her.

The duke, however, was pertinacious; he could not give up the subject.

"You told me," he resumed, "that she was the daughter of an old friend
of yours named Dornham--and it seems to me, Philippa, that I have some
kind of remembrance of that name which is far from pleasant."

With an air of resignation the duchess rose from her seat.

"I am tired, Vere," she said, "quite tired of the subject. Yet I ought
not to be selfish. Of course, the incident is all new to you--you have
been away from all kinds of news; to us it is an old, worn-out story.
Lord Arleigh and I quarreled and parted because of his marriage, so you
may imagine it is not a very attractive subject to me."

"Well, I will say no more about it, but I am sincerely sorry, Philippa.
Of all our friends, I like Lord Arleigh best; and I shall decidedly
refuse to quarrel with him. His marriage is his own affair, not mine."

"Still, you cannot make a friend of the man whom I decline to know," she
rejoined, hurriedly.

"Certainly not, if you place the matter in such a light," he said,
gravely. "I shall always consider it my pleasure and duty to consult you
on such points. I will call no man my friend whom you dislike."

So, for the time, all danger was tided over; the duke saw that the
subject annoyed his wife, and did not voluntarily resume it. He was too
true a gentleman to think of discussing with another lady what he did
not discuss with his own wife, so that the subject was not mentioned
between Lady Peters and himself.

Then for the fair young Duchess of Hazlewood began the new life which
had in it no old friend. If she repented of her vengeance, she did not
say so. If she would fain have undone her evil deed, she never owned it.
But, as time wore on, people saw a great change in her. She gave herself
more to the gayeties and follies of the world; there were few fashions
which she did not lead, few gay pursuits in which she did not take an
active part. The character of her beauty, too, seemed changed. She had
always been brilliant, but somewhat of a strange unrest came into her
face and manner; the dark eyes seemed to be always looking for something
they could not find. Her mind, though charming and fascinating as ever,
grew variable and unsteady. She had always been too proud for coquetry;
she remained so now. But she no longer shunned and avoided all flattery
and homage; it seemed rather to please her than not. And--greatest
change of all--the name of Lord Arleigh never crossed her lips. He
himself had retired from public life; the great hopes formed of him were
all dying away. Men spoke of him with mystery, women with sad, gentle
interest; those who had known him knew him no more.

He did not return to Beechgrove: it seemed to him that he could never
again endure the sight of the place where he had separated from his
wife--that his ancient home had been in some manner desecrated. The
mansion was left in charge of Mrs. Chatterton, whose wonder at the new
and strange state of things never ceased.

"Such a marriage!" She held up her hands in horror as she thought of it.
Indeed, to her the event appeared like a wedding and a funeral on the
same day. She had not seen Lady Arleigh since, yet she had never forgot
the fair, lovely young face that had shone for so short a time in the
grand old home.

Lord Arleigh saw that his wife had everything needful for her; he
settled a large income on her; he sent from London horses, carriages,
everything that her heart could desire; he saw that she had a proper
household formed. Whatever else the world might say, it could not say
that he showed her any want of respect or any want of attention. Lord
Arleigh did not live with his wife, never visited her, never spoke of
her; but it was quite clear that his motive for doing none of these
things lay deeper than the world knew or could even guess.

The family solicitor went down to Winiston House occasionally, but Lord
Arleigh never. The few who met him after his marriage found him
strangely altered. Even his face had changed; the frank, honest, open
look that had once seemed to defy and challenge and meet the whole world
had died away; he looked now like a man with a secret to keep--a secret
that had taken his youth from him, that had taken the light from his
life, that hod shadowed his eyes, drawn hard lines of care round his
lips, wrinkled his face, taken the music from his voice, and made of him
a changed and altered, a sad, unhappy man.

There were one or two intimate friends--friends who had known him in his
youth--who ventured to ask what this secret was, who appealed to him
frankly to make his trouble known, telling him that sorrow shared was
sorrow lightened; but with a sad smile he only raised his head and
answered that his sorrow was one of which he could not speak. Sometimes
a kindly woman who had known him as boy and man--one with daughters, and
sons of her own--would ask him what was the nature of his sorrow. He
would never tell.

"I cannot explain," he would reply.

Society tried hard to penetrate the mystery. Some said that Lady Arleigh
was insane, and that he had not discovered it until the afternoon of his
wedding-day. Others said that she had a fierce temper, and that he was
unaware of it until they were traveling homeward. These were the most
innocent rumors; others were more scandalous. It was said that he had
discovered some great crime that she had committed. Few such stories;
Lord Arleigh, they declared, was not the man to make so terrible a
mistake.

Then, after a time, all the sensation and wonder died away, society
accepted the fact that Lord Arleigh was unhappily married and had
separated from his wife.

He went abroad, and then returned home, sojourning at quiet watering
places where he thought his story and himself would be unknown.
Afterward he went to Normandy, and tried to lose the remembrance of his
troubles in his search after the picturesque. But, when he had done
everything that he could do to relieve his distress of mind, he owned to
himself that he was a most miserable man.



Chapter XXXI.



A year and a half bad passed, and Lord Arleigh was still, as it were,
out of the world. It was the end of April, a spring fresh and beautiful.
His heart had turned to Beechgrove, where the violets were springing and
the young larches were budding; but he could not go thither--the
picture-gallery was a haunted spot to him--and London he could endure.
The fashionable intelligence told him that the Duke and Duchess of
Hazlewood had arrived for the season, that they had had their
magnificent mansion refurnished, and that the beautiful duchess intended
to startle all London by the splendor and variety of her entertainments.

He said to himself that it would be impossible for him to remain in town
without seeing them--and see them of his own free will he never would
again.

Fate was, however, too strong for him. He had decided that he would
leave London rather than run the risk of meeting the Duchess of
Hazlewood. He went one morning to a favorite exhibition of pictures, and
the first person he saw in the gallery was the duchess herself. As their
eyes met her face grew deadly pale, so pale that he thought she would
faint and fall to the ground; her lips opened as though she would fain
utter his name. To him she looked taller, more beautiful, more stately
than ever--her superb costume suited her to perfection--yet he looked
coldly into the depths of her dark eyes, and without a word or sign of
greeting passed on.

He never knew whether she was hurt or not, but he decided that he would
leave London at once. He was a sensitive man more tender of heart than
men as a rule, and their meeting had been a source of torture to him. He
could not endure even the thought that Philippa should have lost all
claim to his respect. He decided to go to Tintagel, in wild, romantic
Cornwall; at least there would be boating, fishing, and the glorious
scenery.

"I must go somewhere," he said to himself--"I must do something. My life
hangs heavy on my hands--how will it end?"

So in sheer weariness and desperation he went to Tintagel, having, as he
thought, kept his determination to himself, as he wished no one to know
whither he had retreated. One of the newspapers, however, heard of it,
and in a little paragraph told that Lord Arleigh of Beechgrove had gone
to Tintagel for the summer. That paragraph had one unexpected result.

It was the first of May. The young nobleman was thinking of the May days
when he was a boy--of how the common near his early home was yellow with
gorse, and the hedges were white with hawthorn. He strolled sadly along
the sea-shore, thinking of the sunniest May he had known since then, the
May before his marriage. The sea was unusually calm, the sky above was
blue, the air mild and balmy, the white sea-gulls circled in the air,
the waves broke with gentle murmur on the yellow sand.

He sat down on the sloping beach. They had nothing to tell him, those
rolling, restless waves--no sweet story of hope or of love, no vague
pleasant harmony. With a deep moan he bent his head as he thought of the
fair young wife from whom he had parted for evermore, the beautiful
loving girl who had clung to him so earnestly.

"Madaline, Madaline!" he cried aloud: and the waves seemed to take up
the cry--they seemed to repeat "Madaline" as they broke on the shore.
"Madaline," the mild wind whispered. It was like the realization of a
dream, when he heard his name murmured, and, turning, he saw his lost
wife before him.

The next moment he had sprung to his feet, uncertain at first whether it
was really herself or some fancied vision.

"Madaline," he cried, "is it really you?"

"Yes; you must not be angry with me, Norman. See, we are quite alone;
there is no one to see me speak to you, no one to reveal that we have
met."

She trembled as she spoke; her face--to him more beautiful than
ever--was raised to his with a look of unutterable appeal.

"You are not angry, Norman?"

"No, I am not angry. Do not speak to me as though I were a tyrant.
Angry--and with you, Madaline--always my best beloved--how could that
be?"

"I knew that you were here," she said. "I saw in a newspaper that you
were going to Tintagel for the summer. I had been longing to see you
again--to see you, while unseen myself so I came hither."

"My dear Madaline, to what purpose?" he asked, sadly.

"I felt that if I did not look upon your face I should die--that I could
live no longer without seeing you. Such a terrible fever seemed to be
burning my very life away. My heart yearned for the touch of your hand.
So I came. You are not angry that I came?"

"No, not angry; but, my darling, it will be harder for us to part."

"I have been here in Tintagel for two whole days," she continued. "I
have seen you, but this is the first time you have gone where I could
follow. Now speak to me, Norman. Say something to me that will cure my
terrible pain--that will take the weary aching from my heart. Say
something that will make me stronger to bear my desolate life--braver to
live without you. You are wiser, better, stronger, braver than I. Teach
me to bear my fate."

What could he say? Heaven help them both--what could he say? He looked
with dumb, passionate sorrow into her fair loving face.

"You must not think it unwomanly in me to come," she said. "I am you
wife--there is no harm in my coming. If I were not your wife, I would
sooner have drowned myself than return after you had sent me away."

Her face was suffused with a crimson blush.

"Norman," she said gently, "sit down here by my side, and I will tell
you why I have come."

They sat down side by side on the beach. There was only the wide blue
sky above, only the wide waste of restless waters at their feet, only a
circling sea-gull near--no human being to watch the tragedy of love and
pride played out by the sea Waves.

"I have come," she said, "to make one more appeal to you, Norman--to ask
you to change this stern determination which is ruining your life and
mine--to ask you to take me back to your home and your heart. For I have
been thinking, dear, and I do not see that the obstacle is such as you
seem to imagine. It was a terrible wrong, a great disgrace--it was a
cruel deception, a fatal mistake; but, after all, it might be
overlooked. Moreover, Norman, when you made me your wife, did you not
promise to love and to cherish, to protect me and make me happy until I
died?"

"Yes," he replied, briefly.

"Then how are you keeping that promise--a promise made in the sight of
Heaven?"

Lord Arleigh looked down at the fair, pure face, a strange light
glowing in his own.

"My dear Madaline," he said, "you must not overlook what the honor of my
race demands. I have my own ideas of what is due to my ancestors; and I
cannot think that I have sinned by broken vows. I vowed to love you--so
I do, my darling, ten thousand times better than anything else on earth.
I vowed to be true and faithful to you--so I am, for I would not ever
look at another woman's face. I vowed to protect you and to shield
you--so I do, my darling; I have surrounded you with luxury and ease."

What could she reply--what urge or plead?

"So, in the eyes of Heaven, my wife, I cannot think I am wronging you."

"Then," she said, humbly, "my coming here, my pleading, is in vain."

"Not in vain, my darling. Even the sight of you for a few minutes has
been like a glimpse of Elysium."

"And I must return," she said, "as I came--with my love thrown back, my
prayers unanswered, my sorrow redoubled."

She hid her face in her hands and wept aloud. Presently she bent
forward.

"Norman," she said, in a low whisper, "my darling, I appeal to you for
my own sake. I love you so dearly that I cannot live away from you--it
is a living death. You cannot realize it. There are few moments, night
or day, in which your face is not before me--few moments in which I do
not hear your voice. Last night I dreamed that you stood before me with
outstretched arms and called me. I went to you, and you clasped me in
your arms. You said, 'My darling wife, it has all been a mistake--a
terrible mistake--and I am come to ask your pardon and to take you
home.' In my dream, Norman, you kissed my face, my lips, my hands, and
called me by every loving name you could invent. You were so kind to me,
and I was so happy. And the dream was so vivid, Norman, that even after
I awoke I believed it to be reality. Then I heard the sobbing of the
waves on the beach, and I cried out, 'Norman, Norman!' thinking you were
still near me; but there was no reply. It was only the silence that
roused me to a full sense that my happiness was a dream. There was no
husband with kind words and tender kisses. I thought my heart would have
broken. And then I said to myself that I could live no longer without
making an effort once more to change your decision. Oh, Norman, for my
sake, do not send me back to utter desolation and despair! Do not send
me back to coldness and darkness, to sorrow and tears. Let me be near
you! You have a thousand interests in life--I have but one. You can live
without love, I cannot. Oh, Norman, for my sake, for my love's sake,
for my happiness' sake, take me back, dear--take me back!"

The golden head dropped forward and fell on his breast, her hands clung
to him with almost despairing pain.

"I will be so humble, darling. I can keep away from all observation. It
is only to be with you that I wish--only to be near you. You cannot be
hard--you cannot send me away; you will not, for I love you!"

Her hands clung more closely to him.

"Many men have forgiven their wives even great crimes, and have taken
them back after the basest desertion. Overlook my father's crime and
pardon me, for Heaven's dear sake!"

"My dearest Madaline, if you would but understand! I have nothing to
pardon. You are sweetest, dearest, loveliest, best. You are one of the
purest and noblest of women. I have nothing to pardon; it is only that I
cannot take disgrace into my family. I cannot give to my children an
inheritance of crime."

"But, Norman," said the girl, gently, "because my father was a felon,
that does not make me one--because he was led into wrong, it does not
follow that I must do wrong. Insanity may be hereditary, but surely
crime is not; besides, I have heard my father say that his father was an
honest, simple, kindly northern farmer. My father had much to excuse
him. He was a handsome man, who had been flattered and made much of."

"My darling I could not take your hands into mine and kiss them so, if I
fancied that they were ever so slightly tainted with sin."

"Then why not take me home. Norman?"

"I cannot," he replied, in a tone of determination. "You must not
torture me, Madaline, with further pleading. I cannot--that is
sufficient."

He rose and walked with rapid steps down the shore. How bard it was, how
terrible--bitter almost as the anguish of death!

She was by his side again, walking in silence. He would bare given the
whole world if he could have taken her into his arms and have kissed
back the color into her sad young face.

"Norman," said a low voice, full of bitterest pain, "I am come to say
good-by. I am sorry I have done harm--not good. I am sorry--forgive me,
and say good-by."

"It has made our lot a thousand times harder, Madaline," he returned,
hoarsely.

"Never mind the hardship; you will soon recover from that," she said. "I
am sorry that I have acted against your wishes, and broken the long
silence. I will never do it again, Norman."

"Never, unless you are ill and need me," he supplemented. "Then you have
promised to send for me."

"I will do so" she said. "You will remember, dear husband, that my last
words to you were 'Good-by, and Heaven bless you.'"

The words died away on her lips. He turned aside lest she should see the
trembling of his face; he never complained to her. He knew now that she
thought him hard, cold, unfeeling, indifferent--that she thought his
pride greater than his love; but even that was better than that she
should know he suffered more than she did--she must never know that.

When he turned back from the tossing waves and the summer sun she was
gone. He looked across the beach--there was no sign of her. She was
gone; and he avowed to himself that it would be wonderful if ever in
this world he saw her again. She did not remain at Tintagel; to do so
would be useless, hopeless. She saw it now. She had hoped against hope:
she had said to herself that in a year and a half he would surely have
altered his mind--he would have found now how hard it was to live alone,
to live without love--he would have found that there was something
dearer in the world than family pride--he would have discovered that
love outweighed everything else. Then she saw that her anticipations
were all wrong--he preferred his dead ancestors to his living wife.

She went back to Winiston House and took up the dreary round of life
again. She might have made her lot more endurable and happier, she might
have traveled, have sought society and amusement; but she had no heart
for any of these things. She had spent the year and a half of her lonely
married life in profound study, thinking to herself that if he should
claim her he would be pleased to find her yet more accomplished and
educated. She was indefatigable, and it was all for him.

Now that she was going back, she was without this mainspring of
hope--her old studies and pursuits wearied her. To what end and for what
purpose had been all her study, all her hard work? He would never know
of her proficiency; and she would not care to study for any other object
than to please him.

"What am I to do with my life," she moaned. "Mariana in the moated
grange was not more to be pitied than I."

How often the words occurred to her:

        "The day is dreary,
      'He cometh not,' she said:
    She said, 'I am aweary, aweary,
      would that I were dead.'"

It was one of the strangest, dullest, saddest lives that human being
ever led. That she wearied of it was no wonder. She was tired of the
sorrow, the suffering, the despair--so tired that after a time she fell
ill; and then she lay longing for death.



Chapter XXXII.



It was a glorious September, and the Scottish moors looked as they had
not looked for years; the heather grew in rich profusion, the grouse
were plentiful. The prospects for sportsmen were excellent.

Not knowing what else to do, Lord Arleigh resolved to go to Scotland for
the shooting; there was a sort of savage satisfaction in the idea of
living so many weeks alone, without on-lookers, where he could be dull
if he liked without comment--where he could lie for hours together on
the heather looking up at the blue skies, and puzzling over the problem
of his life--where, when the fit of despair seized him, he could indulge
in it, and no one wonder at him. He hired a shooting-lodge called
Glaburn. In his present state of mind it seemed to him to be a relief to
live where he could not even see a woman's face. Glaburn was kept in
order by two men, who mismanaged it after the fashion of men, but Lord
Arleigh was happier there than he had been since his fatal marriage-day,
simply because he was quite alone. If he spent more time in lying on the
heather and thinking of Madaline than he did in shooting, that was his
own concern--there was no one to interfere.

One day, when he was in one of his most despairing moods, he went out
quite early in the morning, determined to wander the day through, to
exhaust himself pitilessly with fatigue, and then see if he could not
rest without dreaming of Madaline. But as he wandered east and west,
knowing little and caring less, whither he went, a violent storm, such
as breaks at times over the Scottish moors, overtook him. The sky grew
dark as night, the rain fell in a torrent--blinding, thick, heavy--he
could hardly see his hand before him. He wandered on for hours, wet
through, weary, cold, yet rather rejoicing than otherwise in his
fatigue. Presently hunger was added to fatigue; and then the matter
became more serious--he had no hope of being able to find his way home,
for he had no idea in what direction he had strayed.

At last he grew alarmed; life did not hold much for him, it was true,
but he had no desire to die on those lonely wilds, without a human being
near him. Then it became painful for him to walk; his fatigue was so
great that his limbs ached at every step. He began to think his life was
drawing near its close. Once or twice he had cried "Madaline" aloud and
the name seemed to die away on the sobbing wind.

He grew exhausted at last; for some hours he had struggled on in the
face of the tempest.

"I shall have to lie down like a dog by the road-side and die," he
thought to himself.

No other fate seemed to be before him but that, and he told himself that
after all he had sold his life cheaply. "Found dead on the Scotch
moors," would be the verdict about him.

What would the world say? What would his golden-haired darling say when
she heard that he was dead?

As the hot tears blinded his eyes--tears for Madaline, not for
himself--a light suddenly flashed into them, and he found himself quite
close to the window of a house. With a deep-drawn, bitter sob, he
whispered to himself that he was saved. He had just strength enough to
knock at the door; and when it was opened he fell across the threshold,
too faint and exhausted to speak, a sudden darkness before his eyes.

When he had recovered a little, he found that several gentlemen were
gathered around him, and that one of them was holding a flask of whisky
to his lips.

"That was a narrow escape," said a cheery, musical voice. "How long have
you been on foot?"

"Since eight this morning," he replied.

"And now it is nearly eight at night! Well, you may thank Heaven for
preserving your life."

Lord Arleigh turned away with a sigh. How little could any one guess
what life meant for him--life spent without love--love--without
Madaline!

"I have known several lose their lives in this way," continued the same
voice. "Only last year poor Charley Hartigan was caught in a similar
storm, and he lay for four days dead before he was found. This gentleman
has been fortunate."

Lord Arleigh roused himself and looked around. He found himself the
center of observation. The room in which he was lying was large and well
furnished, and from the odor of tobacco it was plainly used as a
smoking-room.

Over him leaned a tall, handsome man, whose hair was slightly tinged
with gray.

"I think," he said, "you are my neighbor, Lord Arleigh? I have often
seen you on the moors."

"I do not remember you," Lord Arleigh returned; "nor do I know where I
am."

"Then let me introduce myself as the Earl of Mountdean," said the
gentleman. "You are at Rosorton, a shooting-lodge belonging to me, and I
beg that you will make yourself at home."

Every attention was paid to him. He was placed in a warm bed, some
warm, nourishing soup was brought to him, and he was left to rest.

"The Earl of Mountdean." Then this was the tall figure he had seen
striding over the hills--this was the neighbor he had shunned and
avoided, preferring solitude. How kind he was, and how his voice
affected him! It was like long-forgotten melody. He asked himself
whether he had seen the earl anywhere. He could not remember. He could
not recall to his mind that they had ever met, yet he had most certainly
heard his voice. He fell asleep thinking of this, and dreamed of
Madaline all night long.

In the morning the earl came himself to his room to make inquiries; and
then Lord Arleigh liked him better than ever. He would not allow his
guest to rise.

"Remember," he said, "prevention is better than cure. After the terrible
risk you have run, it will not do for you to be rash. You must rest."

So Lord Arleigh took the good advice given to him to lay still, but on
the second day he rose, declaring that he could stand no further
confinement. Even then Lord Mountdean would not hear of his going.

"I am compelled to be despotic with you," he said. "I know that at
Glaburn you have no housekeeper, only men-servants--and they cannot make
you comfortable, I am sure. Stay here for a few days until you are quite
well."

So Lord Arleigh allowed himself to be persuaded, saying, with a smile,
that he had come to Glaburn purposely for solitude.

"It was for the same thing that I came here," said the earl. "I have had
a great sorrow in my life, and I like sometimes to be alone to think
about it."

The two men looked at each other, but they liked each other all the
better for such open confession.

When a few days had passed, it was Lord Arleigh who felt unwilling to
leave his companion. He had never felt more at home than he did with
Lord Mountdean. He had met no one so simple, so manly, so intelligent,
and at the same time such a good fellow. There were little peculiarities
in the earl, too, that struck him very forcibly; they seemed to recall
some faint, vague memory, a something that he could never grasp, that
was always eluding him, yet that was perfectly clear; and he was
completely puzzled.

"Have I ever met you before?" he asked the earl one day.

"I do not think so. I have no remembrance of ever having sees you."

"Your voice and face are familiar to me," the younger man continued.
"One or two of your gestures are as well known to me as though I had
lived with you for years."

"Remembrances of that kind sometimes strike me," said the earl--"a
mannerism, a something that one cannot explain. I should say that you
have seen some one like me, perhaps."

It was probable enough, but Lord Arleigh was not quite satisfied. The
earl and his guest parted in the most friendly manner.

"I shall never be quite so much in love with solitude again," said Lord
Arleigh, as they were parting; "you have taught me that there is
something better."

"I have learned the same lesson from you," responded the earl, with a
sigh. "You talk about solitude. I had not been at Rosorton ten days
before a party of four, all friends of mine, proposed to visit me. I
could not refuse. They left the day after you came."

"I did not see them," said Lord Arleigh.

"No, I did not ask them to prolong their stay, fearing that after all
those hours on the moors, you might have a serious illness; but now,
Lord Arleigh, you will promise me that we shall be friends."

"Yes," he replied, "we will be friends."

So it was agreed that they should be strangers no longer--that they
should visit and exchange neighborly courtesies and civilities.



Chapter XXXIII.



The Earl of Mountdean and Lord Arleigh were walking up a steep hill one
day together, when the former feeling tired, they both sat down among
the heather to rest. There was a warm sun shining, a pleasant wind
blowing, and the purple heather seemed literally to dance around them.
They remained for some time in silence; it was the earl who broke it by
saying:

"How beautiful the heather is! And here indeed on this hill-top is
solitude! We might fancy ourselves quite alone in the world. By the way,
you have never told me, Arleigh, what it is that makes you so fond of
solitude."

"I have had a great trouble," he replied, briefly.

"A trouble! But one suffers a great deal before losing all interest in
life. You are so young, you cannot have suffered much."

"I know no other life so utterly helpless as my own."

The earl looked at him thoughtfully.

"I should like to know what your trouble is?" he said gently.

"I can tell you only one half of it," was the reply. "I fell in love
with one of the sweetest, fairest, purest of girls. How I loved her is
only known to myself. I suppose every man thinks his own love the
greatest and the best. My whole heart went out to this girl--with my
whole soul I loved her! She was below me in the one matter of worldly
wealth and position--above me in all other. When I first asked her to
marry me, she refused. She told me that the difference in our rank was
too great. She was most noble, most self-sacrificing; she loved me, I
know, most dearly, but she refused me. I was for some time unable to
overcome her opposition; at last I succeeded. I tell you no details
either of her name or where she lived, nor any other circumstances
connected with her--I tell you only this, that, once having won her
consent to our marriage, I seemed to have exchanged earth for Elysium.
Then we were married, not publicly and with great pomp, but as my
darling wished--privately and quietly. On the same day--my
wedding-day--I took her home. I cannot tell how great was my
happiness--no one could realize it. Believe me, Lord Mountdean, that she
herself is as pure as a saint, that I know no other woman at once so
meek and so lofty, so noble and so humble. Looking at her, one feels how
true and sweet a woman's soul can be. Yet--oh, that I should live to say
it!--on my wedding-day I discovered something--it was no fault of hers,
I swear--that parted us. Loving her blindly, madly, with my whole heart
and soul, I was still compelled to leave her. She is my wife in name
only, and can never be more to me, yet, you understand, without any
fault of hers."

"What a strange story!" said the earl, thoughtfully. "But this barrier,
this obstacle--can it never be removed?"

"No," answered Lord Arleigh, "never!"

"I assure you of my deepest sympathy," said the earl. "It is a strange
history."

"Yes, and a sad fate," sighed Lord Arleigh. "You cannot understand my
story entirely. Wanting a full explanation, you might fairly ask me why
I married with this drawback. I did not know of it, but my wife believed
I did. We were both most cruelly deceived, it does not matter now. She
is condemned to a loveless, joyless life; so am I. With a wife beautiful
loving, young, I must lead a most solitary existence--I must see my name
die out for want of heirs--I must see my race almost extinct, my life
passed in repining and misery, my heart broken, my days without
sunshine. I repeat that it is a sad fate."

"It is indeed," agreed the earl--"and such a strange one. Are you quite
sure that nothing can be done to remedy it?"

"Quite sure," was the hopeless reply.

"I can hardly understand the need for separation, seeing that the wife
herself is blameless."

"In this case it is unavoidable."

"May I, without seeming curious, ask you a question?" said the earl.

"Certainly--as many as you like."

"You can please yourself about answering it," observed the earl; and
then he added: "Tell me, is it a case of insanity? Has your wife any
hereditary tendency to anything of that kind?"

"No," replied Lord Arleigh; "it is nothing of that description. My wife
is to me perfect in body and mind; I can add nothing to that."

"Then your story is a marvel; I do not--I cannot understand it. Still I
must say that, unless there is something far deeper and more terrible
than I can imagine, you have done wrong to part from your wife."

"I wish I could think so. But my doom is fixed, and no matter how long I
live, or she lives, it can never be altered."

"My story is a sad one," observed Lord Mountdean, "but it is not so sad
as yours. I married when I was quite young--married against my father's
wish, and without his consent. The lady I loved was like your own; she
was below me in position, but in nothing else. She was the daughter of a
clergyman, a lady of striking beauty, good education and manners. I need
not trouble you by telling you how it came about. I married her against
my father's wish; he was in Italy at the time for his health--he had
been there indeed for some years. I married her privately; our secret
was well kept. Some time after our marriage I received a telegram
stating that my father was dying and wished to see me. At that very time
we were expecting the birth of what we hoped would be a son and heir.
But I was anxious that my father should see and bless my wife before he
died. She assured me that the journey would not hurt her, that no evil
consequences would ensue; and, as I longed intensely for my father to
see her, it was arranged that we should go together. A few hours of the
journey passed happily enough, and then my poor wife was taken ill.
Heaven pardon me because of my youth, my ignorance, my inexperience! I
think sometimes that I might have saved her--but it is impossible to
tell. We stopped at a little town called Castledene, and I drove to the
hotel. There were races, or something of the kind, going on in the
neighborhood, and the proprietors could not accommodate us. I drove to
the doctor, who was a good Samaritan; he took us into his house--my
child was born, and my wife died there. It was not a son and heir, as we
had hoped it might be, but a little daughter, as fair as her mother. Ah,
Lord Arleigh, you have had your troubles, I have had mine. My wife was
buried at Castledene--my beautiful young wife, whom I loved so dearly. I
left my child, under the doctor's care, with a nurse, having arranged to
pay so much per annum for her, and intending when I returned to England
to take her home to Wood Lynton as my heiress. My father, contrary to
the verdict of the physicians, lingered about three years. Then he died,
and I became Earl of Mountdean. The first thing I did was to hurry to
Castledene. Can you imagine my horror when I found that all trace of my
child was lost? The poor doctor had met with some terrible death, and
the woman who had charge of my little one had left the neighborhood. Can
you imagine what this blow was to me? Since then my life has been spent
in one unceasing effort to find my daughter."

"How strange!" said Lord Arleigh. "Did you not know the name of the
nurse?"

"Yes, she lived at a little place called Ashwood. I advertised for her,
I offered large rewards, but I have never gleaned the least news of her;
no one could ever find her. Her husband, it appeared, had been guilty of
crime. My opinion is that the poor woman fled in shame from the
neighborhood where she was known, and that both she and my dear child
are dead."

"It seems most probable," observed Lord Arleigh.

"If I could arrive at any certainty as to her fate," said the earl, "I
should be a happier man. I have been engaged to my cousin Lady Lily
Gordon for four years, but I cannot make up my mind to marry until I
hear something certain about my daughter."



Chapter XXXIV.



Winiston House was prettily situated. The house stood in the midst of
charming grounds. There was a magnificent garden, full of flowers, full
of fragrance and bloom; there was an orchard filled with rich, ripe
fruit, broad meadow-land where the cattle grazed, where daisies and
oxlips grew. To the left of the house was a large shrubbery, which
opened on to a wide carriage drive leading to the high road. The house
was an old red-brick building, in no particular style of architecture,
with large oval windows and a square porch. The rooms were large, lofty,
and well lighted. Along the western side of the house ran a long
terrace called the western terrace; there the sun appeared to shine
brightest, there tender plants flourished, there tame white doves came
to be fed and a peacock walked in majesty; from there one heard the
distant rush of the river.

There Lady Arleigh spent the greater part of her time--there she wore
her gentle life away. Three years had elapsed, and no change had come to
her. She read of her husband's sojourn in Scotland. Then she read in the
fashionable intelligence that he had gone to Wood Lynton, the seat of
the Earl of Mountdean. He remained there three days, and then went
abroad. Where he was now she did not know; doubtless he was traveling
from one place to another, wretched, unhappy as she was herself.

The desolate, dreary life had begun to prey upon her at last. She had
fought against it bravely for some time--she had tried to live down the
sorrow; but it was growing too strong for her--the weight of it was
wearing her life away. Slowly but surely she began to fade and droop. At
first it was but a failure in strength--a little walk tired her, the
least fatigue or exercise seemed too much for her. Then, still more
slowly, the exquisite bloom faded from the lovely face, a weary languor
shone in the dark-blue eyes, the crimson lips lost their color. Yet Lady
Arleigh grew more beautiful as she grew more fragile. Then all appetite
failed her. Mrs. Burton declared that she ate nothing.

She might have led a different life--she might have gone out into
society--she might have visited and entertained guests. People knew that
Lady Arleigh was separated from her husband; they knew also that,
whatever might have been the cause of separation, it had arisen from no
fault of hers. She would, in spite of her strange position, have been
welcomed with open arms by the whole neighborhood, but she was sick with
mortal sorrow--life had not a charm for her.

She had no words for visitors--she had no wish left for enjoyment. Just
to dream her life away was all she cared for. The disappointment was so
keen, so bitter, she could not overcome it. Death would free Norman from
all burden--would free him from this tie that must be hateful to him.
Death was no foe to be met and fought with inch by inch; he was rather a
friend who was to save her from the embarrassment of living on--a friend
who would free her husband from the effects of his terrible mistake.

Madaline had never sent for her mother, not knowing whether Lord
Arleigh would like it; but she had constantly written to her, and had
forwarded money to her. She had sent her more than Margaret Dornham was
willing to accept. Another thing she had done--she had most carefully
refrained from saying one word to her mother as to the cause of her
separation from her husband. Indeed, Margaret Dornham had no notion of
the life that her well-beloved Madaline was leading.

It had been a terrible struggle for Margaret to give her up.

"I might as well have let her go back years ago to those to whom she
belonged," she said to herself, "as to let her go now."

Still, she stood in great awe of the Duchess of Hazlewood, who seemed to
her one of the grandest ladies in all England; and, when the duchess
told her it was selfish of her to stand in her daughter's light,
Margaret gave way and let her go. Many times, after she had parted with
her, she felt inclined to open the oaken box with brass clasps, and see
what the papers in it contained, but a nameless fear came over her. She
did not dare to do what she had not done earlier.

Madaline had constantly written to her, had told her of her lover, had
described Lord Arleigh over and over again to her. On the eve of her
wedding-day she had written again; but, after that fatal marriage-day,
she had not told her secret. Of what use would it be to make her mother
more unhappy than she was--of what avail to tell her that the dark and
terrible shadow of her father's crime had fallen over her young life,
blighting it also?

Of all her mother's troubles she knew this would be the greatest so she
generously refrained from naming it. There was no need to tell her
patient, long-suffering, unhappy mother that which must prove like a
dagger in her gentle heart. So Margaret Dornham had one gleam of
sunshine in her wretched life. She believed that the girl she had loved
so dearly was unutterably happy. She had read the descriptions of Lord
Arleigh with tears in her eyes.

"That is how girls write of the men they love," she said--"my Madaline
loves him."

Madaline had written to her when the ceremony was over. She had no one
to make happy with her news but her distant mother. Then some days
passed before she heard again--that did not seem strange. There was, of
course, the going home, the change of scene, the constant occupation.
Madaline would write when she had time. At the end of a week she heard
again; and then it struck her that the letter was dull, unlike one
written by a happy bride--but of course she must be mistaken--why should
not Madaline be happy?

After that the letters came regularly, and Madaline said that the
greatest pleasure she had lay in helping her mother. She said that she
intended to make her a certain allowance, which she felt quite sure
would be continued to her after her death, should that event precede her
mother's; so that at last, for the weary-hearted woman, came an interval
of something like contentment. Through Madaline's bounty she was able to
move from her close lodgings in town to a pretty cottage in the country
Then she had a glimpse of content.

After a time her heart yearned to see the daughter of her adoption, the
one sunbeam of her life, and she wrote to that effect.

"I will come to you," wrote Madaline, in reply, "if you will promise me
faithfully to make no difference between me and the child Madaline who
used to come home from school years ago."

Margaret promised, and Madaline, plainly dressed, went to see her
mother. It was sweet, after those long, weary months of humiliation and
despair, to lay her head on that faithful breast and hear whispered
words of love and affection. When the warmth of their first greeting was
over, Margaret was amazed at the change in her child. Madaline had grown
taller, the girlish graceful figure had developed into a model of
perfect womanhood. The dress that she wore became her so well that the
change in the marvelous face amazed her the most, it was so wonderfully
wonderful, so fair, so pure, so _spirituelle_, yet it had so strange a
story written upon it--a story she could neither read nor understand. It
was not a happy face. The eyes were shadowed, the lips firm, the
radiance and brightness that had distinguished her were gone; there were
patience and resignation Instead.

"How changed you are, my darling!" said Margaret, as she looked at her.
"Who would have thought that my little girl would grow into a tall,
stately, beautiful lady, dainty and exquisite? What did Lord Arleigh say
to your coming, my darling?"

"He did not say anything," she replied, slowly.

"But was he not grieved to lose you?"

"Lord Arleigh is abroad," said Madaline, gently. "I do not expect that
he will return to England just yet."

"Abroad!" repeated Margaret. "Then, my darling, how is it that you are
not with him?"

"I could not go," she replied, evasively.

"And you love your husband very much, Madaline, do you not?" inquired
Margaret.

"Yes, I love him with all my heart and soul!" was the earnest reply.

"Thank Heaven that my darling is happy!" said Margaret, "I shall find
everything easier to bear now that I that."



Chapter XXXV.



Margaret Dornham was neither a clever nor a far-seeing woman; had she
been either, she would never have acted as she did. She would have known
that in taking little Madaline from Castledene she was destroying her
last chance of ever being owned or claimed by her parents; she would
have understood that, although she loved the child very dearly, she was
committing a most cruel act. But she thought only of how she loved her.
Yet, undiscerning as she was, she was puzzled about her daughter's
happiness. If she was really so happy, why did she spend long hours in
reverie--why sit with folded hands, looking with such sad eyes at the
passing clouds? That did not look like happiness. Why those heavy sighs,
and the color that went and came like light and shade? It was strange
happiness. After a time she noticed that Madaline never spoke
voluntarily of her husband. She would answer any questions put to
her--she would tell her mother anything she desired to know; but of her
own accord she never once named him. That did not look like happiness.
She even once, in answer to her mother's questions, described Beechgrove
to her--told her of the famous beeches, the grand picture gallery; she
told her of the gorgeous Titian--the woman with rubies like blood
shining on her white neck. But she did not add that she had been at
Beechgrove only once, and had left the place in sorrow and shame.

She seemed to have every comfort, every luxury; but Margaret noticed
also that she never spoke of her circle of society--that she never
alluded to visitors.

"It seems to me, my darling, that you lead a very quiet life," she said,
one day; and Madaline's only answer was that such was really the case.

Another time Margaret said to her:

"You do not write many letters to your husband, Madaline. I could
imagine a young wife like you writing every day," and her daughter made
no reply.

On another occasion Mrs. Dornham put the question to her:

"You are quite sure, Madaline, that you love your husband?"

"Love him!" echoed the girl, her face lighting up--"love him, mother? I
think no one in the wide world has ever loved another better!"

"Such being the case, my darling," said Margaret, anxiously, "let me
ask you if you are quite sure he loves you?"

No shadow came into the blue eyes as she raised them to her mother's
face.

"I am as sure of it," she replied, "as I am of my own existence."

"Then," thought Margaret to herself, "I am mistaken; all is well between
them."

Madaline did not intend to remain very long with her mother, but it was
soothing to the wounded, aching heart to be loved so dearly. Margaret
startled her one day, by saying:

"Madaline, now that you are a great lady, and have such influential
friends, do you not think you could do something for your father?"

"Something for my father?" repeated the girl, with a shudder. "What can
I do for him?"

A new idea suddenly occurred to Mrs. Dornham. She looked into Lady
Arleigh's pale, beautiful face.

"Madaline," she said, earnestly, "tell me the whole truth--is your
father's misfortune any drawback to you? Tell me the truth; I have a
reason for asking you."

But Lady Arleigh would not pain her mother--her quiet, simple heart had
ached bitterly enough. She would not add one pang.

"Tell me, dear," continued Margaret, earnestly; "you do not know how
important it is for me to understand."

"My dear mother," said Lady Arleigh, gently clasping her arms round her
mother's neck; "do not let that idea make you uneasy. All minor lights
cease to shine, you know, in the presence of greater ones. The world
bows down to Lord Arleigh; very few, I think, know what his wife's name
was. Be quite happy about me, mother. I am sure that no one who has seen
me since my marriage knows anything about my father."

"I shall be quite happy, now that I know that," she observed.

More than once during that visit Margaret debated within herself whether
she would tell Lady Arleigh her story or not; but the same weak fear
that had caused her to run away with the child, lest she should lose her
now, made her refrain from speaking, lest Madaline, on knowing the
truth, should be angry with her and forsake her.

If Mrs. Dornham had known the harm that her silence was doing she would
quickly have broken it.

Lady Arleigh returned home, taking her silent sorrow with her. If
possible, she was kinder then ever afterward to her mother, sending her
constantly baskets of fruit and game--presents of every kind. If it had
not been for the memory of her convict husband, Mrs. Dornham would for
the first time in her life have been quite happy.

Then it was that Lady Arleigh began slowly to droop, then it was that
her desolate life became utterly intolerable--that her sorrow became
greater than she could bear. She must have some one near her, she
felt--some one with whom she could speak--or she should go mad. She
longed for her mother. It was true Margaret Dornham was not an educated
woman, but in her way she was refined. She was gentle, tender-hearted,
thoughtful, patient, above all, Madaline believed she was her
mother--and she had never longed for her mother's love and care as she
did now, when health, strength, and life seemed to be failing her.

By good fortune she happened to see in the daily papers that Lord
Arleigh was staying at Meurice's Hotel, in Paris. She wrote to him
there, and told him that she had a great longing to have her mother with
her. She told him that she had desired this for a long time, but that
she had refrained[6] from expressing the wish lest it should be
displeasing to him.

"Do not scruple to refuse me," she said, "if you do not approve. I
hardly venture to hope that you will give your consent. If you do, I
will thank you for it. If you should think it best to refuse it, I
submit humbly as I submit now. Let me add that I would not ask the favor
but that my health and strength are failing fast."

Lord Arleigh mused long and anxiously over this letter. He hardly cared
that her mother should go to Dower House; it would perhaps be the means
of his unhappy secret becoming known. Nor did he like to refuse
Madaline, unhappy, lonely, and ill. Dear Heaven, if he could but go to
her himself and comfort her.



Chapter XXXVI.



Long and anxiously did Lord Arleigh muse over his wife's letter. What
was he to do? If her mother was like the generality of her class, then
he was quite sure that the secret he had kept would be a secret no
longer--there was no doubt of that. She would naturally talk, and the
servants would prove the truth of the story, and there would be a
terrible _exposé_. Yet, lonely and sorrowful as Madaline declared
herself to be, how could he refuse her? It was an anxious question for
him, and one that caused him much serious thought. Had he known how ill
she was he would not have hesitated a moment.

He wrote to Madaline--how the letter was received and cherished no one
but herself knew--and told her that he would be in England in a day or
two, and would then give her a decided answer. The letter was kind and
affectionate; it came to her hungry heart like dew to a thirsty flower.

A sudden idea occurred to Lord Arleigh. He would go to England and find
out all about the unfortunate man Dornham. Justice had many victims; it
was within the bounds of possibility that the man might have been
innocent--might have been unjustly accused. If such--and oh, how he
hoped it might be!--should prove to be the case, then Lord Arleigh felt
that he could take his wife home. It was the real degradation of the
crime that he dreaded so utterly--dreaded more than all that could ever
be said about it. He thought to himself more than once that, if by any
unexpected means he discovered that Henry Dornham was innocent of the
crime attributed to him, he would in that same hour ask Madaline to
forgive him, and to be the mistress of his house. That was the only real
solution of the difficulty that ever occurred to him. If the man were
but innocent he--Lord Arleigh--would never heed the poverty, the
obscurity the humble name--all that was nothing. By comparison it seemed
so little that he could have smiled at it. People might say it was a low
marriage, but he had his own idea of what was low. If only the man could
be proved innocent of crime, then he might go to his sweet, innocent
wife, and clasping her in his arms, take her to his heart.

The idea seemed to haunt him--it seemed to have a fatal attraction for
him. He resolved to go to London at once and see if anything could be
done in the matter. How he prayed and longed and hoped! He passed
through well-nigh every stage of feeling--from the bright rapture of
hope to the lowest depths of despair. He went first to Scotland Yard,
and had a long interview with the detective who had given evidence
against Henry Dornham. The detective's idea was that he was emphatically
"a bad lot."

He smiled benignly when Lord Arleigh suggested that possibly the man was
innocent, remarking that it was very kind of the gentleman to think so;
for his own part he did not see a shadow of a chance of it.

"He was caught, you see, with her grace's jewels in his pocket, and gold
and silver plate ready packed by his side--that did not look much like
innocence."

"No, certainly not," Lord Arleigh admitted; "but then there have been
cases in which circumstances looked even worse against an innocent man."

"Yes"--the detective admitted it, seeing that for some reason or other
his lordship had a great desire to make the man out innocent.

"He will have a task," the detective told himself, grimly.

To the inquiry as to whether the man had been sent out of England the
answer was "No; he is at Chatham."

To Chatham Lord Arleigh resolved to go. For one in his position there
would not be much difficulty in obtaining an interview with the convict.
And before long[7] Lord Arleigh, one of the proudest men in England, and
Henry Dornham, poacher and thief, stood face to face.

Lord Arleigh's first feeling was one of great surprise--Henry Dornham
was so different from what he had expected to find him; he had not
thought that he would be fair like Madaline, but he was unprepared for
the dark, swarthy, gypsy-like type of the man before him.

The two looked steadily at each other; the poacher did not seem in the
least to stand in awe of his visitor. Lord Arleigh tried to read the
secret of the man's guilt or innocence in his face. Henry Dornham
returned the gaze fearlessly.

"What do you want with me?" he asked. "You are what we call a swell. I
know by the look of you. What do you want with me?"

The voice, like the face, was peculiar, not unpleasant--deep, rich, with
a clear tone, yet not in the least like Madaline's voice.

"I want," said Lord Arleigh, steadily, "to be your friend, if you will
let me."

"My friend!" a cynical smile curled the handsome lips. "Well, that is
indeed a novelty. I should like to ask, if it would not seem rude, what
kind of a friend can a gentleman like you be to me?"

"You will soon find out," said Lord Arleigh.

"I have never known a friendship between a rich man and a ne'er-do-well
like myself which did not end in harm for the poorer man. You seek us
only when you want us--and then it is for no good."

"I should not be very likely to seek you from any motive but the desire
to help you," observed Lord Arleigh.

"It is not quite clear to me how I am to be helped," returned the
convict with a cynical smile; "but if you can do anything to get me out
of this wretched place, please do."

"I want you to answer me a few questions," said Lord Arleigh--"and very
much depends on them. To begin, tell me, were you innocent or guilty of
the crime for which you are suffering? Is your punishment deserved or
not?"

"Well," replied Henry Dornham, with a sullen frown, "I can just say
this--it is well there are strong bars between us; if there were not you
would not live to ask such another question."

"Will you answer me?" said Lord Arleigh, gently.

"No, I will not--why should I? You belong to a class I hate and
detest--a class of tyrants and oppressors."

"Why should you? I will tell you in a few words. I am interested in the
fate of your wife and daughter."

"My what?" cried the convict, with a look of wonder.

"Your wife and daughter," said Lord Arleigh.

"My daughter!" exclaimed the man. "Good Heaven! Oh, I see! Well, go on.
You are interested in my wife and daughter--what else?"

"There is one thing I can do which would not only be of material benefit
to them, but would make your daughter very happy. It cannot be done
unless we can prove your innocence."

"Poor little Madaline," said the convict, quietly--"poor, pretty little
girl!"

Lord Arleigh's whole soul revolted on hearing this man speak so of his
fair, young wife. That this man, with heavy iron bars separating him, as
though he were a wild animal, from the rest of the world, should call
his wife "poor, pretty little Madaline."

"I would give," said Lord Arleigh, "a great deal to find that your
conviction had been a mistake. I know circumstances of that kind will
and do happen. Tell me honestly, is there any, even the least
probability, of finding out anything to your advantage?"

"Well," replied Henry Dornham, "I am a ne'er-do-well by nature. I was an
idle boy, an idle youth, and an idle man. I poached when I had a chance.
I lived on my wife's earnings. I went to the bad as deliberately as any
one in the world did, but I do not remember that I ever told a willful
lie."

There passed through Lord Arleigh's mind a wish that the Duchess of
Hazlewood might have heard this avowal.

"I do not remember," the man said again, "that I have ever told a
willful lie in my life. I will not begin now. You asked me if I was
really guilty. Yes, I was--guilty just as my judges pronounced me to
be!"

For a few minutes Lord Arleigh was silent; the disappointment was almost
greater than he could bear. He had anticipated so much from this
interview; and now by these deliberately spoken words his hopes were
ended--he would never be able to take his beautiful young wife to his
heart and home. The bitterness of the disappointment seemed almost
greater than he could bear. He tried to recover himself, while Henry
Dornham went on:

"The rich never have anything to do with the poor without harm comes of
it. Why did they send me to the duke's house? Why did be try to
patronize me? Why did he parade his gold and silver plate before my
eyes?"

The passion of his words seemed to inflame him.

"Why," he continued angrily, should he eat from silver while others were
without bread? Why should his wife wear diamonds while mine cried with
hunger and cold? I saw how unjust it was. Who placed his foot on my
neck? Who made him my master and tyrant, patronizing me with his 'my
good fellow' this and the other? What right had he to such abundance
while I had nothing?"

"That which was his," said Lord Arleigh, bluntly, "at least was not
yours to take."

"But I say it was! I helped myself before, and, if I were out of this
place, having the chance, I would help myself again."

"That would be equally criminal," said Lord Arleigh, fearlessly and
again Henry Dornham laughed his cynical laugh.

"It is too late in the day for me to talk over these matters," said the
convict. "When I roamed in the woods as a free man, I had my own ideas;
prison has not improved them. I shall never make a reformed convict--not
even a decent ticket-of-leave man. So if you have any thought of
reclaiming me, rid your mind of it at once."

"It will be best to do so, I perceive," observed Lord Arleigh. "I had
some little hope when I came in--I have none now."

"You do not mean to say, though, that I am not to be any the better off
for your visit?" cried the man. "I do not know your name, but I can see
what you are. Surely you will try to do something for me?"

"What can I do?" asked Lord Arleigh. "If you had been innocent--even if
there had been what they call extenuating circumstances--I would have
spent a fortune in the endeavor to set you free; but your confession
renders me powerless."

"The only extenuating circumstance in the whole affair," declared the
man, after a pause, "was that I wanted money, and took what I thought
would bring it. So you would give a small fortune to clear me, eh?" he
interrogated.

"Yes," was the brief reply.

The man looked keenly at him.

"Then you must indeed have a strong motive. It is not for my own sake, I
suppose?" A new idea occurred to him. A sudden smile curled his lip. "I
have it!" he said. "You are in love with my--with pretty little
Madaline, and you want to marry her! If you could make me out innocent,
you would marry her; if you cannot--what then? Am I right?"

All the pride of his nature rose in rebellion against this coarse
speech. He, an Arleigh of Beechgrove, to hear this reprobate sneering at
his love! His first impulse was an angry one, but he controlled himself.
After all, it was Madaline's father--for Madaline's sake he would be
patient.

"Am I right?" the prisoner repeated, with the same mocking smile.

"No," replied Lord Arleigh, "you are not right. There is no need for me
to offer any explanation, and, as I have failed in my object, I will
go."

"You might just as well tell me if you are in love with my little
Madaline. I might make it worth your while to let me know."

It was with great difficulty that Lord Arleigh controlled his
indignation; but he replied, calmly:

"I have nothing to tell you."

A look of disappointment came over the dark, handsome face.

"You can keep your secrets," he said--"so can I. If you will tell me
nothing, neither shall I; but I might make it worth your while to trust
me."

"I have nothing to confide," returned Lord Arleigh; "all I can say to
you on leaving is that I hope you will come to your senses and repent of
your past wickedness."

"I shall begin to think that you are a missionary in disguise," said
Henry Dornham. "So you will not offer me anything for my secret?" he
interrogated.

"No secret of yours could interest me," rejoined Lord Arleigh abruptly,
as he went away.

So, for the second time in his life, he was at the door of the mystery,
yet it remained unopened. The first time was when he was listening to
Lord Mountdean's story, when the mention of the name Dornham should lead
to a denouement; the second was now, when, if he had listened to the
convict, he would have heard that Madaline was not his child.

He left Chatham sick at heart. There was no help for him--his fate was
sealed. Never, while he lived, could he make his beautiful wife his own
truly--they were indeed parted for evermore. There remained to him to
write that letter; should he consent to Madaline's mother living with
her or should he not?

He reflected long and anxiously, and then having well weighed the matter
he decided that he would not refuse his wife her request. He must run
the risk, but he would not caution her.

He wrote to Madaline, and told her that he would be pleased if she were
pleased, and that he hoped she would be happy with her mother, adding
the caution that he trusted she would impress upon her mother the need
of great reticence, and that she must not mention the unfortunate
circumstances of the family to any creature living.

Madaline's answer touched him. She assured him that there was no
fear--that her mother was to be implicitly trusted. She told him also
how entirely she had kept the secret of his separation from her, lest it
should add to her mother's trouble.

"She will know now that I do not live with you, that I never see you,
that we are as strangers, but she will never know the reason."

He was deeply moved. What a noble girl she was, bearing her troubles so
patiently, and confiding them to no human soul!

Then he was compelled to go to Beechgrove--it was long since he had been
there, and so much required attention, he was obliged to go, sorely
against his will, for he dreaded the sight of the place, haunted as it
was by the remembrance of the love and sorrow of his young wife. He
avoided going as long as possible, but the place needed the attention of
a master.

It was June when he went--bright, smiling, perfumed, sunny June--and
Beechgrove was at its best; the trees were in full foliage, the green
woods resounded with the song of birds, the gardens were filled with
flowers, the whole estate was blooming and fair. He took up his abode
there. It was soon noticed in the house that he avoided the
picture-gallery--nothing ever induced him to enter it. More than once,
as he was walking through the woods, his heartbeat and his face flushed;
there, beyond the trees lived his wife, his darling, from whom a fate
more cruel than death had parted him. His wife! The longing to see her
grew on him from day to day. She was so near him, yet so far away--she
was so fair, yet her beauty must all fade and die; it was not for him.

In time he began to think it strange that he had never heard anything of
her. He went about in the neighborhood, yet no one spoke of having seen
her. He never heard of her being at church, nor did he ever meet her on
the high-road. It was strange how completely a vail of silence and
mystery had fallen over her.

When he had been some time at Beechgrove he received one morning a
letter from the Earl of Mountdean, saying that he was in the
neighborhood, and would like to call. Lord Arleigh was pleased at the
prospect. There was deep and real cordiality between the two men--they
thoroughly understood and liked each other; it was true that the earl
was older by many years than Lord Arleigh, but that did not affect their
friendship.

They enjoyed a few days together very much. One morning they rode
through the woods--the sweet, fragrant, June woods--when, from between
the trees, they saw the square turrets of the Dower House. Lord
Mountdean stopped to admire the view.

"We are a long distance from Beechgrove," he said; "what is that pretty
place?"

Lord Arleigh's face flushed hotly.

"That," he replied, "is the Dower House, where my wife lives."

The earl looked with great interest at Lady Arleigh's dwelling-place.

"It is very pretty," he said--"pretty and quiet; but it must be dull for
a young girl. You said she was young, did you not?"

"Yes, she is years younger than I am," replied Lord Arleigh.

"Poor girl!" said the earl, pityingly; "it must be rather a sad fate--so
young and beautiful, yet condemned all her life to live alone. Tell me,
Arleigh, did you take advice before you separated yourself so abruptly
from her?"

"No," replied Lord Arleigh, "I did not ever seek it; the matter
appeared plain enough to me."

"I should not like you to think me curious," pursued the earl. "We are
true friends now, and we can trust each other. You have every confidence
in me, and I have complete faith in you. I would intrust to you the
dearest secret of my heart. Arleigh, tell me what I know you have told
to no human being--the reason of your separation from the wife you
love."

Lord Arleigh hesitated for one half minute.

"What good can it possibly do?" he said.

"I am a great believer in the good old proverb that two heads are better
than one," replied the earl. "I think it is just possible that I might
have some idea that has not occurred to you; I might see some way out of
the difficulty, that has not yet presented itself to you. Please
yourself about it; either trust me or not, as you will; but if you do
trust me, rely upon it I shall find some way of helping you."

"It is a hopeless case," observed Lord Arleigh, sadly. "I am quite sure
that even if you knew all about it, you would not see any comfort for
me. For my wife's sake I hesitate to tell you, not for my own."

"Your wife's secret will be as safe with me as with yourself," said the
earl.

"I never thought that it would pass my lips, but I do trust you,"
declared Lord Arleigh; "and if you can see any way to help me, I shall
thank Heaven for the first day I met you. You must hold my wife
blameless, Lord Mountdean," he went on. "She never spoke untruthfully,
she never deceived me; but on our wedding-day I discovered that her
father was a convict--a man of the lowest criminal type."

Lord Mountdean looked as he felt, shocked.

"But how," he asked, eagerly, "could you be so deceived?"

"That I can never tell you; it was an act of fiendish revenge--cruel,
ruthless, treacherous. I cannot reveal the perpetrator. My wife did not
deceive me, did not even know that I had been deceived; she thought,
poor child, that I was acquainted with the whole of her father's story,
but I was not. And now, Lord Mountdean, tell me, do you think I did
wrong?"

He raised his care-worn, haggard face as he asked the question and the
earl was disturbed at sight of the terrible pain in it.



Chapter XXXVII.



The reason of his separation from his wife revealed, Lord Arleigh again
put the question:

"Do you think, Lord Mountdean, that I have done wrong?"

The earl looked at him.

"No," he replied, "I cannot say that you have."

"I loved her," continued Lord Arleigh, "but I could not make the
daughter of a convict the mistress of my house, the mother of my
children. I could not let my children point to a felon's cell as the
cradle of their origin. I could not sully my name, outrage a long line
of noble ancestors, by making my poor wife mistress of Beechgrove. Say,
if the same thing had happened to you, would you not have acted in like
manner?"

"I believe that I should," answered the earl, gravely.

"However dearly you might love a woman, you could not place your coronet
on the brow of a convict's daughter," said Lord Arleigh. "I love my wife
a thousand times better than my life, yet I could not make her mistress
of Beechgrove."

"It was a cruel deception," observed the earl--"one that it is
impossible to understand. She herself--the lady you have made your
wife--must be quite as unhappy as yourself."

"If it be possible she is more so," returned Lord Arleigh; "but tell me,
if I had appealed to you in the dilemma--if I had asked your
advice--what would you have said to me?"

"I should have no resource but to tell you to act as you have done,"
replied the earl; "no matter what pain and sorrow it entailed you could
not have done otherwise."

"I thought you would agree with me. And now, Mountdean, tell me, do you
see any escape from my difficulty?"

"I do not, indeed," replied the earl.

"I had one hope," resumed Lord Arleigh; "and that was that the father
had perhaps been unjustly sentenced, or that he might after all prove
to be innocent. I went to see him--he is one of the convicts working at
Chatham."

"You went to see him!" echoed the earl, in surprise.

"Yes; and I gave up all hope from the moment I saw him. He is simply a
handsome reprobate. I asked him if it was true that he had committed the
crime, and he answered me quite frank, 'Yes.' I asked him if there were
any extenuating circumstances; he replied 'want of money.' When I had
seen and spoken to him, I felt convinced that the step I had taken with
regard to my wife was a wise one, however cruel it may have been. No man
in his senses would voluntarily admit a criminal's daughter into his
family."

"No; it is even a harder case than I thought it," said the earl. "The
only thing I can recommend is resignation."

Lord Mountdean thought that he would like to see the hapless young wife,
and learn if she suffered as her husband did. He wondered too what she
could be like, this convict's daughter who had been gifted with a regal
dower of grace and beauty--this lowly-born child of the people who had
been fair enough to charm the fastidious Lord Arleigh.

Meanwhile Madaline was all unconscious of the strides that destiny was
making in her favor. She had thought her husband's letter all that was
most kind; and, though she felt that there was no real grounds for it,
she impressed upon her mother the need of the utmost reticence. Margaret
Dornham understood from the first.

"Never have a moment's uneasiness, Madaline," she said. "From the hour I
cross your threshold until I leave, your father's name shall never pass
my lips."

It was a little less dreary for Madaline when her mother was with her.
Though they did not talk much, and had but few tastes alike, Margaret
was all devotion, all attention to her child.

She was sadly at a loss to understand matters. She had quite expected to
find Madaline living at Beechgrove--she could not imagine why she was
alone in Winiston House. The arrangement had seemed reasonable enough
while Lord Arleigh was abroad, but now that he had returned to England,
why did he not come to his wife, or why did not she go to him? She could
not understand it; and as Madaline volunteered no explanation, her
mother asked for none.

But, when day after day she saw her daughter fading away--when she saw
the fair face lose its color, the eyes their light--when she saw the
girl shrink from the sunshine and the flowers, from all that was bright
and beautiful, from all that was cheerful and exhilarating--she knew
that her soul was sick unto death. She would look with longing eyes at
the calm, resigned face, wishing with all her heart that she might
speak, yet not daring to do so.

What seemed to her even more surprising[8] was that no one appeared to
think such a state of things strange; and when she had been at Winiston
some few weeks, she discovered that, as far as the occupants of the
house were concerned, the condition of matters was not viewed as
extraordinary. She offered no remark to the servants, and they offered
none to her, but from casual observations she gathered that her daughter
had never been to Beechgrove, but had lived at Winiston all her married
life, and that Lord Arleigh had never been to visit her.

How was this? What did the terrible pain in her daughter's face mean?
Why was her bright young life so slowly but surely fading away? She
noted it for some time in silence, and then she decided to speak.

One morning when Madaline had turned with a sigh from the old-fashioned
garden with its wilderness of flowers, Margaret said, gently:

"Madaline, I never hear you speak of the Duchess of Hazlewood who was so
very kind to you. Does she never come to see you?"

She saw the vivid crimson mount to the white brow, to be speedily
replaced by a pallor terrible to behold.

"My darling," she cried, in distress, "I did not expect to grieve you!"

"Why should I be grieved?" said the girl, quietly. "The duchess does not
come to see me because she acted to me very cruelly; and I never write
to her now."

Then Margaret for awhile was silent. How was she to bring forward the
subject nearest to her heart? She cast about for words in which to
express her thoughts.

"Madaline," she said, at last, "no one has a greater respect than I have
for the honor of husband and wife; I mean for the good faith and
confidence there should be between them. In days gone by I never spoke
of your poor father's faults--I never allowed any one to mention them to
me. If any of the neighbors ever tried to talk about him, I would not
allow it. So, my darling, do not consider that there is any idle
curiosity in what I am about to say to you. I thought you were so
happily married, my dear; and it is a bitter disappointment to me to
find that such is not the case."

There came no reply from Lady Arleigh; her hands were held before her
eyes.

"I am almost afraid, dearly as I love you, to ask you the question,"
Margaret continued; "but, Madaline, will you tell me why you do not live
with your husband?"

"I cannot, mother," was the brief reply.

"Is it--oh, tell me, dear!--is it any fault of yours? Have you
displeased him?"

"It is through no fault of mine, mother. He says so himself."

"Is it from any fault of his? Has he done anything to displease you?"

"No," she answered, with sudden warmth, "he has not--indeed, he could
not, I love him so."

"Then, if you have not displeased each other, and really love each
other, why are you parted in this strange fashion? It seems to me,
Madaline, that you are his wife only in name."

"You are right, mother--and I shall never be any more; but do not ask me
why--I can never tell you. The secret must live and die with me."

"Then I shall never know it, Madaline?"

"Never, mother," she answered.

"But do you know, my darling, that it is wearing your life away?"

"Yes, I know it, but I cannot alter matters. And, mother," she
continued, "if we are to be good friends and live together, you must
never mention this to me again."

"I will remember," said Margaret, kissing the thin white hands, but to
herself she said matters should not so continue. Were Lord Arleigh
twenty times a lord, he should not break his wife's heart in that cold,
cruel fashion.

A sudden resolve came to Mrs. Dornham--she would go to Beechgrove and
see him herself. It he were angry and sent her away from Winiston House,
it would not matter--she would have told him the truth. And the truth
that she had to tell him was that the separation was slowly but surely
killing his wife.



Chapter XXXVIII.



Margaret Dornham knew no peace until she had carried out her intention.
It was but right, she said to herself, that Lord Arleigh should know
that his fair young wife was dying.

"What right had he to marry her?" she asked herself indignantly, "if he
meant to break her heart?"

What could he have left her for? It could not have been because of her
poverty or her father's crime--he knew of both beforehand. What was it?
In vain did she recall all that Madaline had ever said about her
husband--she could see no light in the darkness, find no solution to the
mystery; therefore the only course open to her was to go to Lord
Arleigh, and to tell him that his wife was dying.

"There may possibly have been some slight misunderstanding between them
which one little interview might remove," she thought.

One day she invented some excuse for her absence from Winiston House,
and started on her expedition, strong with the love that makes the
weakest heart brave. She drove the greater part of the distance, and
then dismissed the carriage, resolving to walk the remainder of the
way--she did not wish the servants to know whither she was going. It was
a delightful morning, warm, brilliant, sunny. The hedge-rows were full
of wild roses, there was a faint odor of newly-mown hay, the westerly
wind was soft and sweet.

As Margaret Dornham walked through the woods, she fell deeply into
thought. Almost for the first time a great doubt had seized her, a doubt
that made her tremble and fear. Through many long years she had clung to
Madaline--she had thought her love and tender care of more consequence
to the child than anything else. Knowing nothing of her father's rank or
position, she had flattered herself into believing that she had been
Madaline's best friend in childhood. Now there came to her a terrible
doubt. What if she had stood in Madaline's light, instead of being her
friend? She had not been informed of the arrangements between the doctor
and his patron, but people had said to her, when the doctor died, that
the child had better be sent to the work-house--and that had frightened
her. Now she wondered whether she had done right or wrong. What if she,
who of all the world had been the one to love Madaline best, had been
her greatest foe?

Thinking of this, she walked along the soft greensward. She thought of
the old life in the pretty cottage at Ashwood, where for so short a time
she had been happy with her handsome, ne'er-do-well husband, whom at
first she had loved so blindly; she thought of the lovely, golden-haired
child which she had loved so wildly, and of the kind, clever doctor, who
had been so suddenly called to his account; and then her thoughts
wandered to the stranger who had intrusted his child to her care. Had
she done wrong in leaving him all these years in such utter ignorance of
his child's welfare? Had she wronged him? Ought she to have waited
patiently until he had returned or sent? If she were ever to meet him
again, would he overwhelm her with reproaches? She thought of his tall,
erect figure, of his handsome face, so sorrowful and sad, of his
mournful eyes, which always looked as though his heart lay buried with
his dead wife.

Suddenly her face grew deathly pale, her lips flew apart with a
terrified cry, her whole frame trembled. She raised her hands as one who
would fain ward off a blow, for, standing just before her, looking down
on her with stern, indignant eyes, was the stranger who had intrusted
his child to her.

For some minutes--how many she never knew--they stood looking at each
other--he stern, indignant, haughty, she trembling, frightened, cowed.

"I recognize you again," he said, at length, in a harsh voice.

Cowed, subdued, she fell on her knees at his feet.

"Woman," he cried, "where is my child?"

She made him no answer, but covered her face with her hands.

"Where is my child?" he repeated. "I intrusted her to you--where is
she?"

The white lips opened, and some feeble answer came which he could not
hear.

"Where is my child?" he demanded. "What have you done with her? For
Heaven's sake, answer me!" he implored.

Again she murmured something he could not catch, and he bent over her.
If ever in his life Lord Mountdean lost his temper, he lost it then. He
could almost, in his impatience, have forgotten that it was a woman who
was kneeling at his feet, and could have shaken her until she spoke
intelligibly. His anger was so great he could have struck her. But he
controlled himself.

"I am not the most patient of men, Margaret Dornham," he said; "and you
are trying me terribly. In the name of Heaven, I ask you, what have you
done with my child?"

"I have not injured her," she sobbed.

"Is she living or dead?" asked the earl, with terrible calmness.

"She is living," replied the weeping woman.

Lord Mountdean raised his face reverently to the summer sky.

"Thank Heaven!" he said, devoutly; and then added, turning to the
woman--"Living and well?"

"No, not well; but she will be in time. Oh, sir, forgive me! I did
wrong, perhaps, but I thought I was acting for the best."

"It was a strange 'best,'" he said, "to place a child beyond its
parent's reach."

"Oh, sir," cried Margaret Dornham, "I never thought of that! She came to
me in my dead child's place--it was to me as though my own child had
come back again. You could not tell how I loved her. Her little head lay
on my breast, her little fingers caressed me, her little voice murmured
sweet words to me. She was my own child--I loved her so, sir!" and the
poor woman's voice was broken with sobs. "All the world was hard and
cruel and cold to me--the child never was; all the world disappointed
me--the child never did. My heart soul clung to her. And then, sir,
when she was able to run about, a pretty, graceful, loving child, the
very joy of my heart and sunshine of my life, the doctor died, and I was
left alone with her."

She paused for some few minutes, her whole frame shaken with sobs. The
earl, bending down, spoke kindly to her.

"I am quite sure," he said, "that if you erred it has been through love
for my child. Tell me all--have no fear."

"I was in the house, sir," she continued, "when the poor doctor was
carried home dead--in his sitting-room with my--with little
Madaline--and when I saw the confusion that followed upon his death, I
thought of the papers in the oaken box; and, without saying a word to
any one, I took it and hid it under my shawl."

"But, tell me," said the earl, kindly, "why did you do that?"

"I can hardly remember now," she replied--"it is so long since. I think
my chief motive was dread lest my darling should be taken from me. I
thought that, if strangers opened the box and found out who she was,
they would take her away from me, and I should never see her again. I
knew that the box held all the papers relating to her, so I took it
deliberately."

"Then, of course," said the earl, "you know her history?"

"No," she replied, quickly; "I have never opened the box."

"Never opened it!" he exclaimed, wonderingly.

"No, sir--I have never even touched it; it is wrapped in my old shawl
just as I brought it away."

"But why have you never opened it?" he asked, still wondering.

"Because, sir, I did not wish to know who the little child really was,
lest, in discovering that, I should discover something also which would
compel me to give her up."

Lord Mountdean looked at her in astonishment. How woman-like she was!
How full of contradictions! What strength and weakness, what honor and
dishonor, what love and selfishness did not her conduct reveal!

"Then," continued Margaret Dornham, "when the doctor died, people
frightened me. They said that the child must go to the work-house. My
husband soon afterward got into dreadful trouble, and I determined to
leave the village. I tell the truth, sir. I was afraid, too, that you
would return and claim the child; so I took her away with me to London.
My husband was quite indifferent--I could do as I liked, he said. I took
her and left no trace behind. After we reached London, my husband got
into trouble again; but I always did my best for the darling child.
She was well dressed, well fed, well cared for, well educated--she has
had the training of a lady."

"But," put in Lord Mountdean, "did you never read my advertisments?"

"No, sir," she replied; "I have not been in the habit of reading
newspapers."

"It was strange that you should remain hidden in London while people
were looking for you," he said. "What was your husband's trouble, Mrs.
Dornham?"

"He committed a burglary, sir; and, as he had been convicted before, his
sentence was a heavy one."

"And my daughter, you say, is living, but not well? Where is she?"

"I will take you to her, sir," was the reply--"at once, if you will go."

"I will not lose a minute," said the earl, hastily. "It is time, Mrs.
Dornham, that you knew my name, and my daughter's also. I am the Earl of
Mountdean, and she is Lady Madaline Charlewood."

On hearing this, Margaret Dornham was more frightened than ever. She
rose from her knees and stood before him.

"If I have done wrong, my lord," she said, "I beg of you to pardon
me--it was all, as I thought, for the best. So the child whom I have
loved and cherished was a grand lady after all?"

"Do not let us lose a moment," he said. "Where is my daughter?"

"She lives not far from here; but we cannot walk--the distance is too
great," replied Margaret.

"Well, we are near to the town of Lynton--it is not twenty minutes walk;
we will go to an hotel, and get a carriage. I--I can hardly endure this
suspense."

He never thought to ask her how she had come thither; it never occurred
to him. His whole soul was wrapped in the one idea--that he was to see
his child again--Madaline's child--the little babe he had held in his
arms, whose little face he had bedewed with tears--his own child--the
daughter he had lost for long years and had tried so hard to find. He
never noticed the summer woods through which he was passing; he never
heard the wild birds' song; of sunshine or shade he took no note. The
heart within him was on fire, for he was going to see his only
child--his lost child--the daughter whose voice he had never heard.

"Tell me," he said, stopping abruptly, and looking at Margaret "you saw
my poor wife when she lay dead--is my child like her?"

Margaret answered quickly.

"She is like her; but, to my mind, she is a thousand times fairer."

They reached the principal hotel at Lynton, and Lord Mountdean called
hastily for a carriage. Not a moment was to be lost--time pressed.

"You know the way," he said to Margaret, "will you direct the driver?"

He did not think to ask where his daughter lived, if she was married or
single, what she was doing or anything else; his one thought was that he
had found her--found her, never to lose her again.

He sat with his face shaded by his hand during the whole of the drive,
thanking Heaven that he had found Madaline's child. He never noticed the
woods, the high-road bordered with trees, the carriage-drive with its
avenue of chestnuts; he did not even recognize the picturesque, quaint
old Dower House that he had admired so greatly some little time before.
He saw a large mansion, but it never occurred to him to ask whether his
daughter was mistress or servant; he only knew that the carriage had
stopped, and that very shortly he should see his child.

Presently he found himself in a large hall gay with flowers and covered
with Indian matting, and Margaret Dornham was trembling before him.

"My lord," she said, "your daughter is ill, and I am afraid the
agitation may prove too much for her. Tell me, what shall I do?"

He collected his scattered thoughts.

"Do you mean to tell me," he asked, "that she has been kept In complete
ignorance of her history all these years?"

"She has been brought up in the belief that she is my daughter," said
Margaret--"she knows nothing else."

A dark frown came over the earl's face.

"It was wickedly unjust," he said--"cruelly unjust. Let me go to her at
once,"

Pale, trembling, and frightened, Margaret led the way. It seemed to the
earl that his heart had stopped beating, and a thick mist was spread
before his eyes, that the surging of a deep sea filled his ears. Oh,
Heaven, could it be that after all these years he was really going to
see Madaline's child, his own lost daughter? Very soon he found himself
looking on a fair face framed in golden hair, with dark blue eyes, full
of passion, poetry, and sorrow, sweet crimson lips, sensitive, and
delicate, a face so lovely that its pure, saint-like expression almost
frightened him. He looked at it in a passion of wonder and grief of love
and longing; and then he saw a shadow of fear gradually darken the
beautiful eyes.

"Madaline," he said gently; and she looked at him in wonder "Madaline,"
he repeated.

"I--I--do not know you," she replied, surprised.

She was lying, when he entered the room, on a little couch drawn close
to the window, the sunlight, which fell full upon her, lighting up the
golden hair and refined face with unearthly beauty. When he uttered her
name, she stood up, and so like her mother did she appear that it was
with difficulty he could refrain from clasping her in his arms. But he
must not startle her, he reflected--he saw how fragile she was.

"You call me Madaline," she said again--"but I do not know you."

Before answering her, Lord Mountdean turned to Margaret.

"Will you leave us alone?" he requested, but Lady Arleigh stretched out
her hand.

"That is my mother," she said--"she must not be sent away from me."

"I will not be long away, Madaline. You must listen to what this
gentleman says--and, my dear, do not let it upset you."

Mrs. Dornham retired, closing the door carefully behind her, and Lady
Arleigh and the earl stood looking at each Other.

"You call we Madaline," she said, "and you send my mother from me. What
can you have to say?" A sudden thought occurred to her. "Has Lord
Arleigh sent you to me?" she asked.

"Lord Arleigh!" he repeated, in wonder. "No, he has nothing to do with
what I have to say. Sit down--you do not look strong--and I will tell
you why I am here."

It never occurred to him to ask why she had named Lord Arleigh. He saw
her sink, half exhausted, half frightened, upon the couch, and he sat
down by her side.

"Madaline," he began, "will you look at me, and see if my face brings
back no dream, no memory to you? Yet how foolish I am to think of such a
thing! How can you remember me when your baby-eyes rested on me for only
a few minutes?"

"I do not remember you," she said, gently--"I have never seen you
before."

"My poor child," he returned, in a tone so full of tenderness and pain
that she was startled by it, "this is hard!"

"You cannot be the gentleman I used to see sometimes in the early home
that I only just remember, who used to amuse me by showing me his watch
and take me out for drives?"

"No. I never saw you. Madeline as a child--I left you when you were
three or four days old. I have never seen you since, although I have
spent a fortune almost in searching for you."

"You have?" she said, wonderingly. "Who then are yon?"

"That is what I want to tell you without startling you, Madaline--dear
Heaven, how strange it seems to utter that name again! You have always
believed that good woman who has just quitted the room to be your
mother?"

"Yes, always," she repeated, wonderingly.

"And that wretched man, the convict, you have always believed to be your
father?"

"Always," she repeated.

"Will it pain or startle you very much to hear that they are not even
distantly related to you--that the woman was simply chosen as your
foster mother because she had just lost her own child?"

"I cannot believe it," she cried, trembling violently. "Who are you who
tells me this?"

"I am Hubert, Earl of Mountdean," he replied, "and, if you will allow
me, I will tell you what else I am."

"Tell me," she said, gently.

"I am your father, Madaline--and the best part of my life has been spent
in looking for you."

"My father," she said, faintly. "Then I am not the daughter of a
convict--my father is an earl?"

"I am your father," he repeated, "and you, child, have you, child, have
your mother's face."

"And she--who has just left us--is nothing to me?"

"Nothing. Do not tremble, my dear child. Listen--try to be brave. Let me
hold your hands in mine while I tell you a true story."

He held her trembling hands while he told her the story of his life, of
his marriage, of the sudden and fatal journey, and her mother's
death--told it in brief, clear words that left no shadow of doubt on her
mind as to its perfect truth.

"Of your nurse's conduct," he said, "I forbear to speak--it was cruel,
wicked; but, as love for you dictated it, I will say no more. My dear
child, you must try to forget this unhappy past, and let me atone to you
for it. I cannot endure to think that my daughter and heiress, Lady
Madaline Charlewood, should have spent her youth under so terrible a
cloud."

There came no answer, and, looking at her, he saw that the color had
left her face, that the white eyelids had fallen over the blue eyes,
that the white lips were parted and cold--she had fainted, fallen into a
dead swoon.

He knelt by her side and called to her with passionate cries, he kissed
the white face and tried to 'recall the wandering senses, and then he
rang the bell with a heavy peal. Mrs. Dornham came hurrying in.

"Look!" said Lord Mountdean. "I have been as careful as I could, but
that is your work."

Margaret Dornham knelt by the side of the senseless girl.

"I would give my life to undo my past folly," she said. "Oh, my lord,
can you ever forgive me?"

He saw the passionate love that she had for her foster-child; he saw
that it was a mother's love, tender, true, devoted and self-sacrificing,
though mistaken. He could not be angry, for he saw that her sorrow even
exceeded his own.

To his infinite joy, Madaline presently opened her dark eyes and looked
up at him. She stretched out her hands to him.

"My father," she said--"you are really my father?"

He kissed her face.

"Madaline," he replied, "my heart is too full for words. I have spent
seventeen years in looking for you, and have found you at last. My dear
child, we have seventeen years of love and happiness to make up."

"It seems like an exquisite dream," she said. "Can it be true?"

He saw her lovely face grow crimson, and bending her fair, shapely head,
she whispered:

"Papa, does Lord Arleigh know?"

"Lord Arleigh!" he repeated. "My dear child, this is the second time you
have mentioned him. What has he to do with you?"

She looked up at him in wonder.

"Do you not know?" she asked. "Have they not told you I am Lord
Arleigh's wife?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Lord Arleigh felt very disconsolate that June morning. The world was so
beautiful, so bright, so fair, it seemed hard that he should have no
pleasure in it. If fate had but been kinder to him! To increase his
dullness, Lord Mountdean, who had been staying with him some days, had
suddenly disappeared. He had gone out early in the morning, saying that
he would have a long ramble in the woods, and would probably not return
until noon for luncheon. Noon had come and passed, luncheon was served,
yet there was no sign of the earl, Lord Arleigh was not uneasy, but he
longed for his friend's society.

At last he decided upon going in search of him. He had perhaps lost his
way in the woods, or he had mistaken some road. It was high time that
they looked after him--he had been so many hours absent without apparent
cause. Lord Arleigh whistled for his two favorite dogs, Nero and Venus,
and started out in search of his friend.

He went through the woods and down the high-road, but there was no sign
of the earl. "He must have walked home by another route," thought Lord
Arleigh; and he went back to Beechgrove. He did not find the earl there,
but the groom, who had evidently been riding fast, was waiting for him
in the hall.

"My lord," he said, "I was directed to give you this at once, and beg of
you not to lose a moment's time."

Wondering what had happened, Lord Arleigh opened the note and read:

     "My Dear Lord Arleigh: Something too wonderful for me to set down
     in words has happened. I am at the Dower House, Winiston. Come at
     once, and lose no time.

     Mountdean."

"At the Dower House?" mused Lord Arleigh. "What can it mean?"

"Did the Earl of Mountdean send this himself?" he said to the man.

"Yes, my lord. He bade me ride as though for life, and ask your lordship
to hurry in the same way."

"Is he hurt? Has there been any accident?"

"I have heard of no accident, my lord; but, when the earl came to give
me the note, he looked wild and unsettled."

Lord Arleigh gave orders that his fleetest horse should be saddled at
once, and then he rode away.

He was so absorbed in thought that more than once he had a narrow
escape, almost striking his head against the overhanging boughs of the
trees. What could it possibly mean? Lord Mountdean at the Dower House!
He fancied some accident must have happened to him.

He had never been to the Dower House since the night when he took his
young wife thither, and as he rode along his thoughts recurred to that
terrible evening. Would he see her now, he wondered, and would she, in
her shy, pretty way, advance to meet him? It could not surely be that
she was ill, and that the earl, having heard of it, had sent for him.
No, that could not be--for the note said that something wonderful had
occurred.

Speculation was evidently useless--the only thing to be done was to
hasten as quickly as he could, and learn for himself what it all meant.
He rode perhaps faster than he had ever ridden in his life before. When
he reached the Dower House the horse was bathed in foam. He thought to
himself, as he rang the bell at the outer gate, how strange it was that
he--the husband--should be standing there ringing for admittance.

A servant opened the gate, and Lord Arleigh asked if the Earl of
Mountdean was within, and was told that he was.

"There is nothing the matter, I hope," said Lord Arleigh--"nothing
wrong?"

The servant replied that something strange had happened, but he could
not tell what it was. He did not think there was anything seriously
wrong. And then Lord Arleigh entered the house where the years of his
young wife's life had drifted away so sadly.



Chapter XXXIX.



Lord Arleigh was shown into the dining-room at Winiston House, and stood
there impatiently awaiting the Earl of Mountdean. He came in at last,
but the master of Beechgrove barely recognized him, he was so completely
changed. Years seemed to have fallen from him. His face was radiant with
a great glad light. He held out his hand to his friend.

"Congratulate me," he said; "I am one of the happiest men in the world."

"What has happened?" asked Lord Arleigh, in surprise.

"Follow me," said the earl; and in silence Lord Arleigh obeyed him.

They came to the pretty shaded room, and the earl, entering first, said:

"Now, my darling, the hour has come which will repay you for the sorrow
of years."

Wondering at such words, Lord Arleigh followed his friend. There lay his
beautiful wife, lovelier than ever, with the sunlight touching her hair
with gold, her fair face transparent as the inner leaf of a
rose--Madaline, his darling, who had been his wife in name only.

What did it mean? Why had the earl led him thither? Was it wanton
cruelty or kindness? His first impulse was to fall on his knees by the
little couch and kiss his wife's hands, his second to ask why he had
been led thither to be tortured so. Madaline rose with a glad cry at his
entrance, but Lord Mountdean laid a restraining hand on her shoulder.

"Lord Arleigh," said the earl, "tell me who this is."

"My wife, Lady Arleigh," he replied.

She bent forward with clasped hands.

"Oh, listen. Norman," she said, "listen."

"You looked upon her as the only woman you ever could love; you made her
your wife; yet, believing her to be the daughter of a felon, you
separated from her, preferring a life-time of misery to the dishonor of
your name. Is it not so, Lord Arleigh?"

"Yes," he replied, "it is indeed so."

"Then now learn the truth. This lady, your wife, is not the daughter of
a convict. In her--how happy the telling of it makes me--behold my
daughter, the child whom for seventeen years I have sought
incessantly--my heiress, Lady Madaline Charlewood, the descendant of a
race as honored, as ancient, and as noble as your own!"

Lord Arleigh listened like one in a dream. It could not be possible, it
could not be true, his senses must be playing him false--he must be
going mad. His wife--his deserted wife--the earl's long-lost daughter!
It was surely a cruel fable.

His dark, handsome face grew pale, his hands trembled, his lips quivered
like a woman's. He was about to speak, when Madaline sprang forward and
clasped her arms around his neck.

"Oh, my darling," she cried, "it is true--quite true! You need not be
afraid to kiss me and to love me now--you need not be afraid to call me
your wife--you need not be ashamed of me any longer. Oh, my darling,
believe me, I am not a thief's daughter. My father is here--an honorable
man, you see, not a convict. Norman, you may love me now; you need not
be ashamed of me. Oh, my love, my love, I was dying, but this will make
me well!"

Her golden head drooped on to his breast, the clinging arms tightened
their hold of him. The earl advanced to them.

"It is all true, Arleigh," he said. "You look bewildered, but you need
not hesitate to believe it. Later on I will tell you the story myself,
and we will satisfy all doubts. Now be kind to her; she has suffered
enough. Remember, I do not blame you, nor does she. Believing what you
did, you acted for the best. We can only thank Heaven that the mystery
is solved; and you can take a fair and noble maiden, who will bring
honor to your race, to your home."

"My love," said Madaline, "it seems to me a happy dream." When Lord
Arleigh looked around again the earl had vanished and he was alone with
his fair young wife.

       *       *       *       *       *

Half an hour afterward Lord Arleigh and his wife stood together under
the great cedar on the lawn. They had left the pretty drawing-room, with
its cool shade and rich fragrance, and Lord Arleigh stood holding his
wife's hand in his.

"You can really forgive me, Madaline?" he said. "You owe me no ill-will
for all that I have made you suffer?"

She smiled as she looked at him.

"No," she replied. "How could there be ill-will between you and me? You
did right--in your place I should have acted as you did."

He caressed the fair, sweet face.

"Thank you, my darling," he said. "How thin you are!" he added. "How you
have worn yourself away with fretting! What must I do to bring the roses
back to this sweet face, and the light that I remember so well to the
dear eyes?"

She looked up at him, her whole soul in her eyes.

"You have but one thing to do, and that is--love me," she said; "and
then I shall be the happiest wife in all the world. If a choice were
offered me of all the good gifts of this world, mine would be my
husband's love."

Lord Arleigh looked thoughtfully at her. The sunshine glistened through
the green boughs, and touched her graceful golden head as with an
aureole of glory.

"I am beginning to think," he said, "that all that happens is for the
best. We shall be wiser and better all our lives for having suffered."

"I think so too," observed Madaline.

"And my darling," he said, "I am quite sure of another thing. There are
many good gifts in the world--wealth, fame, rank, glory--but the best
gift of all is that which comes straight from Heaven--the love of a
pure, good wife."

Looking up, they saw the earl crossing the lawn to meet them.

"Madaline," he said, gently, when he was close to them, "how rejoiced I
am to see that look on your face. You have no thought of dying now?"

"Not if I can help it, papa," she replied.

"I think," continued the earl, "that this is the happiest day of my
life. I must say this to you, Norman--that, if I had chosen from all the
world, I could not have chosen a son whom I should care for more than
for you, and that, if I had a son of my own, I should have wished him to
be like you. And now we will talk about our future--I am so proud to
have two children to arrange for instead of one--our future, that is to
have no clouds. In the first place, what must we do with this good
foster-mother of yours, Madaline, whose great love for you has led to
all this complication?"

"I know what I should like to do," said Lady Arleigh, gently.

"Then consider it done," put in her husband.

"I should like her to live with me always," said Lady Arleigh any
capacity--as housekeeper, or whatever she would like. She has had so
little happiness in her life, and she would find her happiness now in
mine. When her unfortunate husband is free again, she can do as she
likes--either go abroad with him, or we can find them a cottage and
keep them near us."

So it was arranged; and there were few happier women than Margaret
Dornham when she heard the news.

"I thought," she sobbed, in a broken voice, "that I should never be
forgiven; and now I find that I am to be always near to the child for
whose love I would have sacrificed the world."

Lord Mountdean insisted on the fullest publicity being given to
Madaline's abduction.

"There is one thing," he said, "I cannot understand--and that is how you
came to misunderstand each other. Why did Madaline believe that you knew
all about her story when you knew nothing of it? That secret, I suppose,
you will keep to yourselves?"

"Yes," replied Lord Arleigh. "The truth is, we were both cruelly
deceived--it matters little by whom and how.'"

"That part of the story, then, will never be understood," said Lord
Mountdean. "The rest must be made public, no matter at what cost to our
feelings--there must be no privacy, no shadow over my daughter's name.
You give me your full consent, Norman?"

"Certainly; I think your proposal is very wise," Lord Arleigh replied.

"Another thing, Norman--I do not wish my daughter to go home to
Beechgrove until her story has been made known. Then I will see that all
honor is paid to her."

So it was agreed, and great was the sensation that ensued. "The Arleigh
Romance," as it was called, was carried from one end of the kingdom to
the other. Every newspaper was filled with it; all other intelligence
sank into insignificance when compared with it. Even the leading
journals of the day curtailed their political articles to give a full
account of the Arleigh romance. But it was noticeable that in no way
whatsoever was the name of the Duchess of Hazlewood introduced.

The story was fairly told. It recalled to the minds of the public that
some time previously Lord Arleigh had made what appeared a strange
marriage, and that he had separated from his wife on their wedding-day,
yet paying her such honor and respect that no one could possibly think
any the worse of her for it. It reminded the world how puzzled it had
been at the time; and now it gave a solution of the mystery. Through no
act of deception on the part of his wife, Lord Arleigh had believed that
he knew her full history; but on their wedding-day he found that she
was, to all appearance, the daughter of a man who was a convict.
Therefore--continued the story--the young couple had agreed to separate.
Lord Arleigh, although loving his wife most dearly, felt himself
compelled to part from her. He preferred that his ancient and noble
race should become extinct rather than that it should be tarnished by an
alliance with the offspring of crime. Lady Arleigh agreed with her
husband, and took up her abode at the Dower House, surrounded by every
mark of esteem and honor. Then the story reverted to the Earl of
Mountdean's lost child, and how, at length, to the intense delight of
the husband and father, it was discovered that Lady Arleigh was no other
than the long-lost daughter of Lord Mountdean.

As the earl had said, the only obscure point in the narrative was how
Lord Arleigh had been deceived. Evidently it was not his wife who had
deceived him--who, therefore, could it have been? That the world was
never to know.

It was extraordinary how the story spread, and how great was the
interest it excited. There was not a man or woman in all England who did
not know it.

When the earl deemed that full reparation had been made to his daughter,
he agreed that she should go to Beechgrove.

The country will never forget that home-coming. It was on a brilliant
day toward the end of July. The whole country side was present to bid
Lady Arleigh welcome--the tenants, servants, dependents, friends;
children strewed flowers in her path, flags and banners waved in the
sunlit air, there was a long procession with bands of music, there were
evergreen arches with "Welcome Home" in monster letters.

It was difficult to tell who was cheered most heartily--the fair young
wife whose beauty won all hearts, the noble husband, or the gallant earl
whose pride and delight in his daughter were so great. Lord Arleigh said
a few words in response to this splendid reception--and he was not
ashamed of His own inability to finish what he had intended to say.

There had never been such a home-coming within one's memory The old
house was filled with guests, all the _élite_ of the county were there.
There was a grand dinner, followed by a grand ball, and there was
feasting for the tenantry--everything that could be thought of for the
amusement of the vast crowd.

On that evening, while the festivities were at their height, Lord
Arleigh and his lovely young wife stole away from their guests and went
up to the picture-gallery. The broad, silvery moonbeams fell on the spot
where they had once endured such cruel anguish. The fire seemed to have
paled in the rubies round the white neck of Titian's gorgeous beauty.
Lord Arleigh clasped his wife in his arms, and then he placed her at
some little distance from himself, where the silvery moonlight fell on
the fair, lovely profile, on the golden head, on the superb dress of
rich white silk and on the gleaming diamonds.

"My darling," he said, "you are thousand times lovelier than even
Titian's beauty here! Do you remember all we suffered in this spot?'

"I can never forget it," she replied.

"But you must forget it--it is for that I have brought you hither. This
is the pleasantest nook in our house, and I want you to have pleasant
associations with it. Where we suffered hear me say----" He paused.

"What is it?" she asked, quietly.

He threw his arms round her, and drew her to his breast.

"Hear me say this, my darling--that I love you with all my heart; that I
will so love you, truthfully and faithfully, until death; and that I
thank Heaven for the sweetest and best of all blessings, the gift of a
good, pure, and loving wife."



Chapter XL.



Philippa, Duchess of Hazlewood, was sitting in the superb drawing-room
at Vere Court. It was some time since she had left town, but she had
brought some portion of the gay world back with her. The court was
filled with visitors, and nothing was thought of but brilliant
festivities and amusement. The duchess was queen of all gayety; the time
that had passed had simply added to her beauty--she was now one of the
handsomest women in society.

It was a warm day, the last day in June, and Vere Court had never seemed
so brilliant. The lovely young duchess had withdrawn for a short time
from her guests. Most of them had gone out riding or driving. There was
to be a grand ball that evening and her Grace of Hazlewood did not wish
to fatigue herself before it came off. As for driving or riding in the
hot sun simply because the day was fine and the country fair, she did
not believe in it. She had retired to her drawing-room; a soft couch,
had been placed near one of the open windows, and the breeze that came
in was heavy with perfume. On the stand by her side lay a richly-jeweled
fan, a bottle of sweet scent, a bouquet of heliotrope--her favorite
flower--and one or two books which she had selected to read. She lay,
with her dark, queenly head on the soft cushion of crimson velvet in an
attitude that would have charmed a painter. But the duchess was not
wasting the light of her dark eyes over a book. She had closed them, as
a flower closes its leaves in the heat of the sun. As she lay there,
beautiful, languid, graceful, the picture she formed was a marvelous
rich study of color. So thought the duke, who, unheard by her, had
entered the room.

Everything had prospered with his grace. He had always been extremely
wealthy, but his wealth had been increased in a sudden and unexpected
fashion. On one of his estates in the north a vein of coal had been
discovered, which was one of the richest in England. The proceeds of it
added wonderfully to his income, and promised to add still more. No
luxury was wanting; the duchess had all that her heart, even in its
wildest caprices, could desire. The duke loved her with as keen and
passionate a love as ever. He had refused to go out this morning,
because she had not gone; and now he stood watching her with something
like adoration in his face--the beautiful woman, in her flowing
draperies of amber and white. He went up to her and touched her brow
lightly with his lips.

"Are you asleep, my darling?" he asked.

"No," she replied, opening her eyes.

"I have something to read to you--something wonderful."

She roused herself.

"Your geese are generally swans, Vere. What is the wonder?"

"Listen, Philippa;" and, as the duke scanned the newspaper in his hands,
he sang the first few lines of his favorite song:

    "'Queen Philippa sat in her bower alone.'

"Ah, here it is!" he broke off. "I am sure you will say that this is
wonderful. It explains all that I could not understand--and, for
Arleigh's sake, I am glad, though what you will say to it, I cannot
think."

And, sitting down by her side, he read to her the newspaper account of
the Arleigh romance.

He read it without interruption, and the queenly woman listening to him
knew that her revenge had failed, and that, instead of punishing the man
who had slighted her love, she had given him one of the sweetest,
noblest and wealthiest girls in England. She knew that her vengeance had
failed--that she had simply crowned Lord Arleigh's life with the love of
a devoted wife.

When the duke looked up from his paper to see what was the effect of his
news, he saw that the duchess had quietly fainted away, and lay with the
pallor of death on her face. He believed that the heat was the cause,
and never suspected his wife's share in the story.

She recovered after a few minutes. She did not know whether she was more
glad or sorry at what she had heard. She had said once before of herself
that she was not strong enough to be thoroughly wicked--and she was
right.

       *       *       *       *       *

A year had elapsed, and Lord Arleigh and his wife were in town for the
season, and were, as a matter of course, the objects of much curiosity.
He was sitting one evening in the drawing-room of his town-house, when
one of the servants told him that a lady wished to see him. He inquired
her name and was told that she declined to give it. He ordered her to be
shown into the room where he was, and presently there entered a tall
stately lady, whose face was closely vailed; but the imperial figure,
the stately grace were quite familiar to him.

"Philippa!" he cried, in astonishment.

Then she raised her vail, and once again he saw the grandly-beautiful
face of the woman who had loved him with such passionate love.

"Philippa!" he repeated.

"Yes," said the duchess, calmly. "And do you know why I am here?"

"I cannot even guess," he replied.

"I am here to implore your pardon," she announced, with deep
humility--"to tell you that neither by night nor by day, since I planned
and carried out my revenge, have I known peace. I shall neither live nor
die in peace unless you forgive me, Norman."

She bent her beautiful, haughty head before him--her eyes were full of
tears.

"You will forgive me, Norman?" she said in her low, rich voice.
"Remember that it was love for you which bereft me of my reason and
drove me mad--love for you. You should pardon me."

Leaving her standing there, Lord Arleigh drew aside the velvet hangings
and disappeared. In a few moments he returned leading his wife by the
hand.

"Philippa," he said, gravely, "tell my wits your errand; hear what she
says. We will abide by her decision."

At first the duchess drew back with a haughty gesture.

"It was you I came to see," she said to Lord Arleigh; and then the sweet
face touched her and her better self prevailed.

"Madaline," she said, quietly, "you have suffered much through me--will
you pardon me?"

The next moment Lady Arleigh's arms were clasped round her neck, and the
pure sweet lips touched her own.

"It was because you loved him," she whispered, "and I forgive you."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Duke of Hazlewood did not understand the quarrel between his wife
and Lord Arleigh, nor did he quite understand the reconciliation; still
he is very pleased that they are reconciled, for he likes Lord Arleigh
better than any friend he has ever had. He fancies, too, that his
beautiful wife always seems kinder to him when she has been spending
some little time with Lady Arleigh.

In the gallery at Verdun Royal there is a charming picture called "The
Little Lovers." The figures in it are those of a dark-haired, handsome
boy of three whose hand is filled with cherries, and a lovely little
girl, with hair like sunshine and a face like a rosebud, who is
accepting the rich ripe fruit. Those who understand smile as they look
at this painting, for the dark-haired boy is the son and heir of the
Duke of Hazlewood, and the fair-faced girl is Lord Arleigh's daughter.

The Earl of Mountdean and his wife, _neé_ Lady Lily Gordon, once went to
see that picture, and, as they stood smiling before it, he said:

"It may indicate what lies in the future. Let us hope it does for the
greatest gift of Heaven is the love of a good and pure-minded wife."



PG Errata



1. Changed from "implicity".

2. Changed from "philosphers".

3. Changed from "Thenceforwarward".

4. Changed from "prevaded".

5. Changed from "quicky".

6. Changed from "refained".

7. Changed from "Long".

8. Changed from "surprisng".





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