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Title: Daisy Brooks - Or, A Perilous Love
Author: Libbey, Laura Jean, 1862-1924
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 "Daisy Brooks - Or, A Perilous Love" ***

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A Perilous Love.



Author of

"Parted on Her Bridal Tour," or "Miss Middleton's Lover,"
"When His Love Grew Cold," "He Loved, But Was Lured Away,"
"When Lovely Maiden Stoops to Folly," "The Crime of Hallow E'en,"
"Lovers Once, But Strangers Now," Etc., Etc.

Copyright 1883, by George Munro.
Copyright 1911, by J. S. Ogilvie Publishing Company.
Dramatic Rights Reserved by Laura Jean Libbey-Stillwell.

New York:
J. S. Ogilvie Publishing Company,
57 Rose Street.



A warm day in the southern part of West Virginia was fast drawing to a
close; the heat during the day had been almost intolerable under the
rays of the piercing sun, and the night was coming on in sullen
sultriness. No breath of cooling air stirred the leafy branches of the
trees; the stillness was broken only by the chirping of the crickets,
and the fire-flies twinkled for a moment, and were then lost to sight
in the long grasses.

On one of the most prosperous plantations in that section of the
country there was a great stir of excitement; the master, Basil
Hurlhurst, was momentarily expected home with his bride. The negroes
in their best attire were scattered in anxious groups here and there,
watching eagerly for the first approach of their master's carriage on
the white pebbled road.

The curtains of Whitestone Hall were looped back, and a cheerful flood
of light shone out on the waving cotton fields that stretched out as
far as the eye could reach, like a field of snow. The last touches had
been given to the pillars of roses that filled every available nook
and corner, making the summer air redolent with their odorous
perfumes. Mrs. Corliss, who had maintained the position of housekeeper
for a score of years or more, stood at the window twisting the
telegram she held in her hand with ill-concealed impatience. The
announcement of this home-coming had been as unexpected as the news of
his marriage had been quite a year before.

"Let there be no guests assembled--my reasons will be made apparent to
you later on," so read the telegram, which puzzled the housekeeper
more than she cared to admit to the inquisitive maid, who stood near
her, curiously watching her thoughtful face.

"'Pears to me it will rain afore they get here, Hagar," she said,
nervously, and, as if in confirmation of her words, a few rain-drops
splashed against the window-pane.

Both stood gazing intently out into the darkness. The storm had now
commenced in earnest. The great trees bent to and fro like reeds
before the wind; the lightning flashed, and the terrific crash of
roaring thunder mingled with the torrent of rain that beat furiously
against the casement. It seemed as if the very flood-gates of heaven
were flung open wide on this memorable night of the master's return.

"It is a fearful night. Ah! happy is the bride upon whose home-coming
the sunlight falls," muttered Mrs. Corliss under her breath.

Hagar had caught the low-spoken words, and in a voice that sounded
strange and weird like a warning, she answered:

"Yes, and unhappy is the bride upon whose home-coming rain-drops

How little they knew, as they stood there, of the terrible tragedy--the
cruelest ever enacted--those grim, silent walls of Whitestone Hall
were soon to witness, in fulfillment of the strange prophecy. Hagar,
the maid, had scarcely ceased speaking ere the door was flung violently
open, and a child of some five summers rushed into the room, her face
livid with passion, and her dark, gleaming eyes shining like baneful
stars, before which the two women involuntarily quailed.

"What is this I hear?" she cried, with wild energy, glancing fiercely
from the one to the other. "Is it true what they tell me--my father is
bringing home his bride?"

"Pluma, my child," remonstrated Mrs. Corliss, feebly, "I--"

"Don't Pluma me!" retorted the child, clutching the deep crimson
passion-roses from a vase at her side, and trampling them ruthlessly
beneath her feet. "Answer me at once, I say--has he _dared_ do it?"

"P-l-u-m-a!" Mrs. Corliss advances toward her, but the child turns her
darkly beautiful, willful face toward her with an imperious gesture.

"Do not come a step nearer," cried the child, bitterly, "or I shall
fling myself from the window down on to the rocks below. I shall never
welcome my father's wife here; and mark me, both of you, I hate her!"
she cried, vehemently. "She shall rue the day that she was born!"

Mrs. Corliss knew but too well the child would keep her word. No
power, save God, could stay the turbulent current of the ungovernable
self-will which would drag her on to her doom. No human being could
hold in subjection the fierce, untamed will of the beautiful, youthful

There had been strange rumors of the unhappiness of Basil Hurlhurst's
former marriage. No one remembered having seen her but once, quite
five years before. A beautiful woman with a little babe had suddenly
appeared at Whitestone Hall, announcing herself as Basil Hurlhurst's
wife. There had been a fierce, stormy interview, and on that very
night Basil Hurlhurst took his wife and child abroad; those who had
once seen the dark, glorious, scornful beauty of the woman's face
never forgot it. Two years later the master had returned alone with
the little child, heavily draped in widower's weeds.

The master of Whitestone Hall was young; those who knew his story were
not surprised that he should marry--he could not go through life
alone; still they felt a nameless pity for the young wife who was to
be brought to the home in which dwelt the child of his former wife.

There would be bitter war to the end between them. No one could tell
on which side the scales of mercy and justice would be balanced.

At that instant, through the raging of the fierce elements, the sound
of carriage wheels smote upon their ears as the vehicle dashed rapidly
up the long avenue to the porch; while, in another instant, the young
master, half carrying the slight, delicate figure that clung timidly
to his arm, hurriedly entered the spacious parlor. There was a short
consultation with the housekeeper, and Basil Hurlhurst, tenderly
lifting the slight burden in his strong, powerful arms, quickly bore
his wife to the beautiful apartments that had been prepared for her.

In the excitement of the moment Pluma was quite forgotten; for an
instant only she glanced bitterly at the sweet, fair face resting
against her father's shoulder, framed in a mass of golden hair. The
child clinched her small hands until she almost cried aloud with the
intense pain, never once deigning a glance at her father's face. In
that one instant the evil seeds of a lifetime were sown strong as life
and more bitter than death.

Turning hastily aside she sprung hurriedly down the long corridor, and
out into the darkness and the storm, never stopping to gain breath
until she had quite reached the huge ponderous gate that shut in the
garden from the dense thicket that skirted the southern portion of the
plantation. She laughed a hard, mocking laugh that sounded unnatural
from such childish lips, as she saw a white hand hurriedly loop back
the silken curtains of her father's window, and saw him bend tenderly
over the golden-haired figure in the arm-chair. Suddenly the sound of
her own name fell upon her ear.

"Pluma," whispered a low, cautious voice; and in the quick flashes of
lightning she saw a white, haggard woman's face pressed close against
the grating, and two white hands were steadily forcing the rusty lock.
There was no fear in the fiery, rebellious heart of the dauntless

"Go away, you miserable beggar-woman," she cried, "or I shall set the
hounds on you at once. Do you hear me, I say?"

"Who are you?" questioned the woman, in the same low, guarded voice.

The child threw her head back proudly, her voice rising shrilly above
the wild warring of the elements, as she answered:

"Know, then, I am Pluma, the heiress of Whitestone Hall."

The child formed a strange picture--her dark, wild face, so strangely
like the mysterious woman's own, standing vividly out against the
crimson lightning flashes, her dark curls blown about the gypsy-like
face, the red lips curling scornfully, her dark eyes gleaming.

"Pluma," called the woman, softly, "come here."

"How dare _you_, a beggar-woman, call me!" cried the child,


There was a subtle something in the stranger's voice that throbbed
through the child's pulses like leaping fire--a strange, mysterious
influence that bound her, heart and soul, like the mesmeric influence
a serpent exerts over a fascinated dove. Slowly, hesitatingly, this
child, whose fiery will had never bowed before human power, came
timidly forward, step by step, close to the iron gate against which
the woman's face was pressed. She stretched out her hand, and it
rested for a moment on the child's dark curls.

"Pluma, the gate is locked," she said. "Do you know where the keys

"No," answered the child.

"They used to hang behind the pantry door--a great bunch of them.
Don't they hang there now?"


"I thought so," muttered the woman, triumphantly. "Now, listen, Pluma;
I want you to do exactly as I bid you. I want you to go quickly and
quietly, and bring me the longest and thinnest one. You are not to
breathe one word of this to any living soul. Do you understand,
Pluma--I command you to do it."

"Yes," answered the child, dubiously.

"Stay!" she called, as the child was about to turn from her. "Why is
the house lighted up to-night?"

Again the reckless spirit of the child flashed forth.

"My father has brought home his bride," she said. "Don't you see him
bending over her, toward the third window yonder?"

The woman's eyes quickly followed in the direction indicated.

Was it a curse the woman muttered as she watched the fair, golden-haired
young girl-wife's head resting against Basil Hurlhurst's breast, his
arms clasped lovingly about her?

"Go, Pluma!" she commanded, bitterly.

Quickly and cautiously the child sped on her fatal errand through the
storm and the darkness. A moment later she had returned with the key
which was to unlock a world of misery to so many lives.

"Promise me, Pluma, heiress of Whitestone Hall, never to tell what you
have done or seen or heard to-night. You must never dare breathe it
while you live. Say you will never tell, Pluma."

"No," cried the child, "I shall never tell. They might kill me, but I
would never tell them."

The next moment she was alone. Stunned and bewildered, she turned her
face slowly toward the house. The storm did not abate in its fury;
night-birds flapped their wings through the storm overhead; owls
shrieked in the distance from the swaying tree-tops; yet the child
walked slowly home, knowing no fear. In the house lights were moving
to and fro, while servants, with bated breath and light footfalls,
hurried through the long corridors toward her father's room. No one
seemed to notice Pluma, in her dripping robe, creeping slowly along by
their side toward her own little chamber.

It was quite midnight when her father sent for her. Pluma suffered him
to kiss her, giving back no answering caress.

"I have brought some one else to you, my darling," he said. "See,
Pluma--a new mamma! And see who else--a wee, dimpled little sister,
with golden hair like mamma's, and great blue eyes. Little Evalia is
your sister, dear. Pluma must love her new mamma and sister for papa's

The dark frown on the child's face never relaxed, and, with an
impatient gesture, her father ordered her taken at once from the

Suddenly the great bells of Whitestone Hall ceased pealing for the
joyous birth of Basil Hurlhurst's daughter, and bitter cries of a
strong man in mortal anguish rent the air. No one had noticed how or
when the sweet, golden-haired young wife had died. With a smile on her
lips, she was dead, with her tiny little darling pressed close to her
pulseless heart.

But sorrow even as pitiful as death but rarely travels singly. Dear
Heaven! how could they tell the broken-hearted man, who wept in such
agony beside the wife he had loved so well, of another mighty sorrow
that had fallen upon him? Who was there that could break the news to
him? The tiny, fair-haired infant had been stolen from their midst.
They would have thanked God if it had been lying cold in death upon
its mother's bosom.

Slowly throughout the long night--that terrible night that was never
to be forgotten--the solemn bells pealed forth from the turrets of
Whitestone Hall, echoing in their sound: "Unhappy is the bride the
rain falls on." Most truly had been the fulfillment of the fearful

"Merciful God!" cried Mrs. Corliss, "how shall I break the news to my
master? The sweet little babe is gone!"

For answer Hagar bent quickly over her, and breathed a few words in
her ear that caused her to cry out in horror and amaze.

"No one will ever know," whispered Hagar; "it is the wisest course.
The truth will lie buried in our own hearts, and die with us."

                  *       *       *       *       *

Six weeks from the night his golden-haired wife had died Basil Hurlhurst
awoke to consciousness from the ravages of brain-fever--awoke to a life
not worth the living. Quickly Mrs. Corliss, the housekeeper, was
sent for, who soon entered the room, leaning upon Hagar's arm.

"My wife is--" He could not say more.

"Buried, sir, beneath yonder willow."

"And the babe?" he cried, eagerly. "Dead," answered Hagar, softly.
"Both are buried in one grave."

Basil Hurlhurst turned his face to the wall, with a bitter groan.

Heaven forgive them--the seeds of the bitterest of tragedies were
irrevocably sown.


One bright May morning some sixteen years later, the golden sunshine
was just putting forth its first crimson rays, lighting up the
ivy-grown turrets of Whitestone Hall, and shining upon a little white
cottage nestling in a bower of green leaves far to the right of it,
where dwelt John Brooks, the overseer of the Hurlhurst plantation.

For sixteen years the grand old house had remained closed--the
plantation being placed in charge of a careful overseer. Once again
Whitestone Hall was thrown open to welcome the master, Basil
Hurlhurst, who had returned from abroad, bringing with him his
beautiful daughter and a party of friends.

The interior of the little cottage was astir with bustling activity.

It was five o'clock; the chimes had played the hour; the laborers were
going to the fields, and the dairy-maids were beginning their work.

In the door-way of the cottage stood a tall, angular woman, shading
her flushed and heated face from the sun's rays with her hand.

"Daisy, Daisy!" she calls, in a harsh, rasping voice, "where are you,
you good-for-nothing lazy girl? Come into the house directly, I say."
Her voice died away over the white stretches of waving cotton, but no
Daisy came. "Here's a pretty go," she cried, turning into the room
where her brother sat calmly finishing his morning meal, "a pretty go,
indeed! I promised Miss Pluma those white mulls should be sent over to
her the first thing in the morning. She will be in a towering rage,
and no wonder, and like enough you'll lose your place, John Brooks,
and 'twill serve you right, too, for encouraging that lazy girl in her

"Don't be too hard on little Daisy, Septima," answered John Brooks,
timidly, reaching for his hat. "She will have the dresses at the Hall
in good time, I'll warrant."

"Too hard, indeed; that's just like you men; no feeling for your poor,
overworked sister, so long as that girl has an easy life of it. It was
a sorry day for _me_ when your aunt Taiza died, leaving this girl to
our care."

A deep flush mantled John Brooks' face, but he made no retort, while
Septima energetically piled the white fluted laces in the huge
basket--piled it full to the brim, until her arm ached with the weight
of it--the basket which was to play such a fatal part in the truant
Daisy's life--the life which for sixteen short years had been so

Over the corn-fields half hid by the clover came a young girl tripping
lightly along. John Brooks paused in the path as he caught sight of
her. "Poor, innocent little Daisy!" he muttered half under his breath,
as he gazed at her quite unseen.

Transferred to canvas, it would have immortalized a painter. No wonder
the man's heart softened as he gazed. He saw a glitter of golden
curls, and the scarlet gleam of a mantle--a young girl, tall and
slender, with rounded, supple limbs, and a figure graceful in every
line and curve--while her arms, bare to the elbow, would have charmed
a sculptor. Cheek and lips were a glowing rosy red--while her eyes, of
the deepest and darkest blue, were the merriest that ever gazed up to
the summer sunshine.

Suddenly from over the trees there came the sound of the great bell at
the Hall. Daisy stood quite still in alarm.

"It is five o'clock!" she cried. "What shall I do? Aunt Septima will
be so angry with me; she promised Miss Pluma her white dresses should
be at the Hall by five, and it is that already."

Poor little Daisy! no wonder her heart throbbed painfully and the look
of fear deepened in her blue eyes as she sped rapidly up the path that
led to the little cottage where Septima grimly awaited her with
flushed face and flashing eyes.

"So," she said, harshly, "you are come at last, are you? and a pretty
fright you have given me. You shall answer to Miss Pluma _herself_ for
this. I dare say you will never attempt to offend her a second time."

"Indeed, Aunt Septima, I never dreamed it was so late," cried
conscious Daisy. "I was watching the sun rise over the cotton-fields,
and watching the dewdrops glittering on the corn, thinking of the
beautiful heiress of Whitestone Hall. I am so sorry I forgot about the

Hastily catching up the heavy basket, she hurried quickly down the
path, like a startled deer, to escape the volley of wrath the
indignant spinster hurled after her.

It was a beautiful morning; no cloud was in the smiling heavens; the
sun shone brightly, and the great oak and cedar-trees that skirted the
roadside seemed to thrill with the song of birds. Butterflies spread
their light wings and coquetted with the fragrant blossoms, and busy
humming-bees buried themselves in the heart of the crimson wild rose.
The basket was very heavy, and poor little Daisy's hands ached with
the weight of it.

"If I might but rest for a few moments only," she said to herself,
eying the cool, shady grass by the roadside. "Surely a moment or two
will not matter. Oh, dear, I am so tired!"

She set the basket down on the cool, green grass, flinging herself
beside it beneath the grateful shade of a blossoming magnolia-tree,
resting her golden head against the basket of filmy laces that were to
adorn the beautiful heiress of whom she had heard so much, yet never
seen, and of whom every one felt in such awe.

She looked wistfully at the great mansion in the distance, thinking
how differently her own life had been.

The soft, wooing breeze fanned her cheeks, tossing about her golden
curls in wanton sport. It was so pleasant to sit there in the dreamy
silence watching the white fleecy clouds, the birds, and the flowers,
it was little wonder the swift-winged moments flew heedlessly by.
Slowly the white lids drooped over the light-blue eyes, the long,
golden lashes lay against the rosy cheeks, the ripe lips parted in a
smile--all unheeded were the fluted laces--Daisy slept. Oh, cruel
breeze--oh, fatal wooing breeze to have infolded hapless Daisy in your
soft embrace!

Over the hills came the sound of baying hounds, followed by a quick,
springy step through the crackling underbrush, as a young man in
close-fitting velvet hunting-suit and jaunty velvet cap emerged from
the thicket toward the main road.

As he parted the magnolia branches the hound sprang quickly forward at
some object beneath the tree, with a low, hoarse growl.

"Down, Towser, down!" cried Rex Lyon, leaping lightly over some
intervening brushwood. "What kind of game have we here? Whew!" he
ejaculated, surprisedly; "a young girl, pretty as a picture, and, by
the eternal, fast asleep, too!"

Still Daisy slept on, utterly unconscious of the handsome brown eyes
that were regarding her so admiringly.

"I have often heard of fairies, but this is the first time I have ever
caught one napping under the trees. I wonder who she is anyhow? Surely
she can not be some drudging farmer's daughter with a form and face
like that?" he mused, suspiciously eying the basket of freshly
laundered laces against which the flushed cheeks and waving golden
hair rested.

Just then his ludicrous position struck him forcibly.

"Come, Towser," he said, "it would never do for you and me to be
caught staring at this pretty wood-nymph so rudely, if she should by
chance awaken just now."

Tightening the strap of his game-bag over his shoulder, and
readjusting his velvet cap jauntily over his brown curls, Rex was
about to resume his journey in the direction of Whitestone Hall, when
the sound of rapidly approaching carriage-wheels fell upon his ears.
Realizing his awkward position, Rex knew the wisest course he could
possibly pursue would be to screen himself behind the magnolia
branches until the vehicle should pass. The next instant a pair of
prancing ponies, attached to a basket phaeton, in which sat a young
girl, who held them well in check, dashed rapidly up the road. Rex
could scarcely repress an exclamation of surprise as he saw the
occupant was his young hostess, Pluma Hurlhurst of Whitestone Hall.
She drew rein directly in front of the sleeping girl, and Rex Lyon
never forgot, to his dying day, the discordant laugh that broke from
her red lips--a laugh which caused poor Daisy to start from her
slumber in wild alarm, scattering the snowy contents of the basket in
all directions.

For a single instant their eyes met--these two girls, whose lives were
to cross each other so strangely--poor Daisy, like a frightened bird,
as she guessed intuitively at the identity of the other; Pluma,
haughty, derisive, and scornfully mocking.

"You are the person whom Miss Brooks sent to Whitestone Hall with my
mull dresses some three hours since, I presume. May I ask what
detained you?"

Poor Daisy was quite crestfallen; great tear-drops trembled on her
long lashes. How could she answer? She had fallen asleep, wooed by the
lulling breeze and the sunshine.

"The basket was so heavy," she answered, timidly, "and I--I--sat down
to rest a few moments, and--"

"Further explanation is quite unnecessary," retorted Pluma, sharply,
gathering up the reins. "See that you have those things at the Hall
within ten minutes; not an instant later."

Touching the prancing ponies with her ivory-handled whip, the haughty
young heiress whirled leisurely down the road, leaving Daisy, with
flushed face and tear-dimmed eyes, gazing after her.

"Oh, dear, I wish I had never been born," she sobbed, flinging herself
down on her knees, and burying her face in the long, cool grass. "No
one ever speaks a kind word to me but poor old Uncle John, and even he
dare not be kind when Aunt Septima is near. She might have taken this
heavy basket in her carriage," sighed Daisy, bravely lifting the heavy
burden in her delicate arms.

"That is just what I think," muttered Rex Lyon from his place of
concealment, savagely biting his lip.

In another moment he was by her side.

"Pardon me," he said, deferentially raising his cap from his glossy
curls, "that basket is too heavy for your slender arms. Allow me to
assist you."

In a moment the young girl stood up, and made the prettiest and most
graceful of courtesies as she raised to his a face he never forgot.
Involuntarily he raised his cap again in homage to her youth, and her
shy sweet beauty.

"No; I thank you, sir, I have not far to carry the basket," she
replied, in a voice sweet as the chiming of silver bells--a voice that
thrilled him, he could not tell why.

A sudden desire possessed Rex to know who she was and from whence she

"Do you live at the Hall?" he asked.

"No," she replied, "I am Daisy Brooks, the overseer's niece."

"Daisy Brooks," said Rex, musingly. "What a pretty name! how well it
suits you!"

He watched the crimson blushes that dyed her fair young face--she
never once raised her dark-blue eyes to his. The more Rex looked at
her the more he admired this coy, bewitching, pretty little maiden.
She made a fair picture under the boughs of the magnolia-tree, thick
with odorous pink-and-white tinted blossoms, the sunbeams falling on
her golden hair.

The sunshine or the gentle southern wind brought Rex no warning he was
forging the first links of a dreadful tragedy. He thought only of the
shy blushing beauty and coy grace of the young girl--he never dreamed
of the hour when he should look back to that moment, wondering at his
own blind folly, with a curse on his lips.

Again from over the trees came the sound of the great bell from the

"It is eight o'clock," cried Daisy, in alarm. "Miss Pluma will be so
angry with me."

"Angry!" said Rex; "angry with you! For what?"

"She is waiting for the mull dresses," replied Daisy.

It was a strange idea to him that any one should dare be angry with
this pretty gentle Daisy.

"You will at least permit me to carry your basket as far as the gate,"
he said, shouldering her burden without waiting for a reply. Daisy had
no choice but to follow him. "There," said Rex, setting the basket
down by the plantation gate, which they had reached all too soon, "you
must go, I suppose. It seems hard to leave the bright sunshine to go

"I--I shall soon return," said Daisy, with innocent frankness.

"Shall you?" cried Rex. "Will you return home by the same path?"

"Yes," she replied, "if Miss Pluma does not need me."

"Good-bye, Daisy," he said. "I shall see you again."

He held out his hand and her little fingers trembled and fluttered in
his clasp. Daisy looked so happy yet so frightened, so charming yet so
shy, Rex hardly knew how to define the feeling that stirred in his

He watched the graceful, fairy figure as Daisy tripped away--instead
of thinking he had done a very foolish thing that bright morning. Rex
lighted a cigar and fell to dreaming of sweet little Daisy Brooks, and
wondering how he should pass the time until he should see her again.

While Daisy almost flew up the broad gravel path to the house, the
heavy burden she bore seemed light as a feather--no thought that she
had been imprudent ever entered her mind.

There was no one to warn her of the peril which lay in the witching
depths of the handsome stranger's glances.

All her young life she had dreamed of the hero who would one day come
to her, just such a dream as all youthful maidens experience--an idol
they enshrine in their innermost heart, and worship in secret, never
dreaming of a cold, dark time when the idol may lie shattered in ruins
at their feet. How little knew gentle Daisy Brooks of the fatal love
which would drag her down to her doom!


In an elegant boudoir, all crimson and gold, some hours later, sat
Pluma Hurlhurst, reclining negligently on a satin divan, toying idly
with a volume which lay in her lap. She tossed the book aside with a
yawn, turning her superb dark eyes on the little figure bending over
the rich trailing silks which were to adorn her own fair beauty on the
coming evening.

"So you think you would like to attend the lawn fête to-night, Daisy?"
she asked, patronizingly.

Daisy glanced up with a startled blush,

"Oh, I should like it so much, Miss Pluma," she answered, hesitatingly,
"if I only could!"

"I think I shall gratify you," said Pluma, carelessly. "You have made
yourself very valuable to me. I like the artistic manner you have
twined these roses in my hair; the effect is quite picturesque." She
glanced satisfiedly at her own magnificent reflection in the
cheval-glass opposite. 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 raven-black hair; the proud, haughty face, with
its warm southern tints; the dusky eyes, lighted with fire and
passion, and the red, curved lips. "I wish particularly to look my
very best to-night, Daisy," she said; "that is why I wish you to
remain. You can arrange those sprays of white heath in my hair
superbly. Then you shall attend the fête, Daisy. Remember, you are not
expected to take part in it; you must sit in some secluded nook
where you will be quite unobserved."

Pluma could not help but smile at the ardent delight depicted in
Daisy's face.

"I am afraid I can not stay," she said, doubtfully, glancing down in
dismay at the pink-and-white muslin she wore. "Every one would be sure
to laugh at me who saw me. Then I would wish I had not stayed."

"Suppose I should give you one to wear--that white mull, for
instance--how would you like it? None of the guests would see you,"
replied Pluma.

There was a wistful look in Daisy's eyes, as though she would fain
believe what she heard was really true.

"Would you really?" asked Daisy, wonderingly. "You, whom people call
so haughty and so proud--you would really let me wear one of your
dresses? I do not know how to tell you how much I am pleased!" she
said, eagerly.

Pluma Hurlhurst laughed. Such rapture was new to her.

The night which drew its mantle over the smiling earth was a perfect
one. Myriads of stars shone like jewels in the blue sky, and not a
cloud obscured the face of the clear full moon. Hurlhurst Plantation
was ablaze with colored lamps that threw out soft rainbow tints in all
directions as far as the eye could reach. The interior of Whitestone
Hall was simply dazzling in its rich rose bloom, its lights, its
fountains, and rippling music from adjoining ferneries.

In an elegant apartment of the Hall Basil Hurlhurst, the recluse
invalid, lay upon his couch, trying to shut out the mirth and gayety
that floated up to him from below. As the sound of Pluma's voice
sounded upon his ear he turned his face to the wall with a bitter
groan. "She is so like--" he muttered, grimly. "Ah! the pleasant
voices of our youth turn into lashes which scourge us in our old age.
'Like mother, like child.'"

The lawn fête was a grand success; the _élite_ of the whole country
round were gathered together to welcome the beautiful, peerless
hostess of Whitestone Hall. Pluma moved among her guests like a queen,
yet in all that vast throng her eyes eagerly sought one face. "Where
was Rex?" was the question which constantly perplexed her. After the
first waltz he had suddenly disappeared. Only the evening before
handsome Rex Lyon had held her jeweled hand long at parting,
whispering, in his graceful, charming way, he had something to tell
her on the morrow. "Why did he hold himself so strangely aloof?" Pluma
asked herself, in bitter wonder. Ah! had she but known!

While Pluma, the wealthy heiress, awaited his coming so eagerly, Rex
Lyon was standing, quite lost in thought, beside a rippling fountain
in one of the most remote parts of the lawn, thinking of Daisy Brooks.
He had seen a fair face--that was all--a face that embodied his dream
of loveliness, and without thinking of it found his fate, and the
whole world seemed changed for him.

Handsome, impulsive Rex Lyon, owner of several of the most extensive
and lucrative orange groves in Florida, would have bartered every
dollar of his worldly possessions for love.

He had hitherto treated all notion of love in a very off-hand,
cavalier fashion.

"Love is fate," he had always said. He knew Pluma loved him. Last
night he had said to himself: The time had come when he might as well
marry; it might as well be Pluma as any one else, seeing she cared so
much for him. Now all that was changed. "I sincerely hope she will not
attach undue significance to the words I spoke last evening," he

Rex did not care to return again among the throng; it was sweeter far
to sit there by the murmuring fountain dreaming of Daisy Brooks, and
wondering when he should see her again. A throng which did not hold
the face of Daisy Brooks had no charm for Rex.

Suddenly a soft step sounded on the grass; Rex's heart gave a sudden
bound; surely it could not be--yes, it was--Daisy Brooks.

She drew back with a startled cry as her eyes suddenly encountered
those of her hero of the morning. She would have fled precipitately
had he not stretched out his hand quickly to detain her.

"Daisy," cried Rex, "why do you look so frightened? Are you displeased
to see me?"

"No," she said. "I--I--do not know--"

She looked so pretty, so bewildered, so dazzled by joy, yet so
pitifully uncertain, Rex was more desperately in love with her than

"Your eyes speak, telling me you _are_ pleased, Daisy, even if your
lips _refuse_ to tell me so. Sit down on this rustic bench, Daisy,
while I tell you how anxiously I awaited your coming--waited until the
shadows of evening fell."

As he talked to her he grew more interested with every moment. She
had no keen intellect, no graceful powers of repartee, knew little of
books or the great world beyond. Daisy was a simple, guileless child
of nature.

Rex's vanity was gratified at the unconscious admiration which shone
in her eyes and the blushes his words brought to her cheeks.

"There is my favorite waltz, Daisy," he said, as the music of the
irresistible "Blue Danube" floated out to them. "Will you favor me
with a waltz?"

"Miss Pluma would be so angry," she murmured.

"Never mind her anger, Daisy. I will take all the blame on _my_
shoulders. They are unusually broad, you see."

He led her half reluctant among the gay throng; gentlemen looked at
one another in surprise. Who is she? they asked one of the other,
gazing upon her in wonder. No one could answer. The sweet-faced little
maiden in soft, floating white, with a face like an angel's, who wore
no other ornament than her crown of golden hair, was a mystery and a
novelty. In all the long years of her after life Daisy never forgot
that supremely blissful moment. It seemed to her they were floating
away into another sphere. Rex's arms were around her, his eyes smiling
down into hers; he could feel the slight form trembling in his
embrace, and he clasped her still closer. With youth, music, and
beauty--there was nothing wanting to complete the charm of love.

Leaning gracefully against an overarching palm-tree stood a young man
watching the pair with a strange intentness; a dark, vindictive smile
hovered about the corners of his mouth, hidden by his black mustache,
and there was a cruel gleam in the dark, wicked eyes scanning the face
of the young girl so closely.

"Ah! why not?" he mused. "It would be a glorious revenge." He made his
way hurriedly in the direction of his young hostess, who was, as
usual, surrounded by a group of admirers. A deep crimson spot burned
on either cheek, and her eyes glowed like stars, as of one under
intense, suppressed excitement.

Lester Stanwick made his way to her side just as the last echo of the
waltz died away on the air, inwardly congratulating himself upon
finding Rex and Daisy directly beside him.

"Miss Pluma," said Stanwick, with a low bow, "will you kindly present
me to the little fairy on your right? I am quite desperately smitten
with her."

Several gentlemen crowded around Pluma asking the same favor.

With a smile and a bow, what could Rex do but lead Daisy gracefully
forward. Those who witnessed the scene that ensued never forgot it.
For answer Pluma Hurlhurst turned coldly, haughtily toward them,
drawing herself up proudly to her full height.

"There is evidently some mistake here," she said, glancing scornfully
at the slight, girlish figure leaning upon Rex Lyon's arm. "I do not
recognize this person as a guest. If I mistake not, she is one of the
hirelings connected with the plantation."

If a thunderbolt had suddenly exploded beneath Rex's feet he could not
have been more thoroughly astounded.

Daisy uttered a piteous little cry and, like a tender flower cut down
by a sudden, rude blast, would have fallen at his feet had he not
reached out his arm to save her.

"Miss Hurlhurst," cried Rex, in a voice husky with emotion, "I hold
myself responsible for this young lady's presence here. I--"

"Ah!" interrupts Pluma, ironically; "and may I ask by what right you
force one so inferior, and certainly obnoxious, among us?"

Rex Lyon's handsome face was white with rage. "Miss Hurlhurst," he
replied, with stately dignity, "I regret, more than the mere words
express, that my heedlessness has brought upon this little creature at
my side an insult so cruel, so unjust, and so bitter, in simply
granting my request for a waltz--a request very reluctantly granted.
An invited guest among you she may not be; but I most emphatically
defy her inferiority to any lady or gentleman present."

"Rex--Mr. Lyon," says Pluma, icily, "you forget yourself."

He smiled contemptuously. "I do not admit it," he said, hotly. "I have
done that which any gentleman should have done; defended from insult
one of the purest and sweetest of maidens. I will do more--I will
shield her, henceforth and forever, with my very life, if need be. If
I can win her, I shall make Daisy Brooks my wife."

Rex spoke rapidly--vehemently. His chivalrous soul was aroused; he
scarcely heeded the impetuous words that fell from his lips. He could
not endure the thought that innocent, trusting little Daisy should
suffer through any fault of his.

"Come, Daisy," he said, softly, clasping in his own strong white ones
the little fingers clinging so pitifully to his arm, "we will go away
from here at once--our presence longer is probably obnoxious.
Farewell, Miss Hurlhurst."

"Rex," cried Pluma, involuntarily taking a step forward, "you do not,
you can not mean what you say. You will not allow a creature like that
to separate us--you have forgotten, Rex. You said you had something to
tell me. You will not part with me so easily," she cried.

A sudden terror seized her at the thought of losing him. He was her
world. She forgot the guests gathering about her--forgot she was the
wealthy, courted heiress for whose glance or smiles men sued in
vain--forgot her haughty pride, in the one absorbing thought that Rex
was going from her. Her wild, fiery, passionate love could bear no

"Rex," she cried, suddenly falling on her knees before him, her face
white and stormy, her white jeweled hands clasped supplicatingly, "you
must not, you shall not leave me so; no one shall come between us.
Listen--I love you, Rex. What if the whole world knows it--what will
it matter, it is the truth. My love is my life. You loved me until she
came between us with her false, fair face. But for this you would have
asked me to be your wife. Send that miserable little hireling away,
Rex--the gardener will take charge of her."

Pluma spoke rapidly, vehemently. No one could stay the torrent of her
bitter words.

Rex was painfully distressed and annoyed. Fortunately but very few of
the guests had observed the thrilling tableau enacted so near them.

"Pluma--Miss Hurlhurst," he said, "I am sorry you have unfortunately
thus expressed yourself, for your own sake. I beg you will say no
more. You yourself have severed this night the last link of
friendship between us. I am frank with you in thus admitting it. I
sympathize with you, while your words have filled me with the
deepest consternation and embarrassment, which it is useless longer to

Drawing Daisy's arm hurriedly within his own, Rex Lyon strode quickly
down the graveled path, with the full determination of never again
crossing the threshold of Whitestone Hall, or gazing upon the face of
Pluma Hurlhurst.

Meanwhile Pluma had arisen from her knees with a gay, mocking laugh,
turning suddenly to the startled group about her.

"Bravo! bravo! Miss Pluma," cried Lester Stanwick, stepping to her
side at that opportune moment. "On the stage you would have made a
grand success. We are practicing for a coming charade," explained
Stanwick, laughingly; "and, judging from the expressions depicted on
our friend's faces, I should say you have drawn largely upon real
life. You will be a success, Miss Pluma."

No one dreamed of doubting the assertion. A general laugh followed,
and the music struck up again, and the gay mirth of the fête resumed
its sway.

Long after the guests had departed Pluma sat in her boudoir, her heart
torn with pain, love, and jealousy, her brain filled with schemes of

"I can not take her life!" she cried; "but if I could mar her
beauty--the pink-and-white beauty of Daisy Brooks, which has won Rex
from me--I would do it. I shall torture her for this," she cried. "I
will win him from her though I wade through seas of blood. Hear me,
Heaven," she cried, "and register my vow!"

Pluma hastily rung the bell.

"Saddle Whirlwind and Tempest at once!" she said to the servant who
answered her summons.

"It is after midnight, Miss Pluma. I--"

There was a look in her eyes which would brook no further words.

An hour later they had reached the cottage wherein slept Daisy Brooks,
heedless of the danger that awaited her.

"Wait for me here," said Pluma to the groom who accompanied her--"_I
will not be long!_"


"Daisy," said Rex, gently, as he led her away from the lights and the
echoing music out into the starlight that shone with a soft, silvery
radiance over hill and vale, "I shall never forgive myself for being
the cause of the cruel insult you have been forced to endure to-night.
I declare it's a shame. I shall tell Pluma so to-morrow."

"Oh, no--no--please don't, Mr. Rex. I--I--had no right to waltz with
you," sobbed Daisy, "when I knew you were Pluma's lover."

"Don't say that, Daisy," responded Rex, warmly. "I am glad, after all,
everything has happened just as it did, otherwise I should never have
known just how dear a certain little girl had grown to me; besides, I
am not Pluma's lover, and never shall be now."

"You have quarreled with her for my sake," whispered Daisy,
regretfully. "I am so sorry--indeed I am."

Daisy little dreamed, as she watched the deep flush rise to Rex's
face, it was of her he was thinking, and not Pluma, by the words, "a
certain little girl."

Rex saw she did not understand him; he stopped short in the path,
gazing down into those great, dreamy, pleading eyes that affected him
so strangely.

"Daisy," he said, gently, taking her little clinging hands from his
arm, and clasping them in his own, "you must not be startled at what I
am going to tell you. When I met you under the magnolia boughs, I knew
I had met my fate. I said to myself: 'She, and no other, shall be my

"Your wife," she cried, looking at him in alarm. "Please don't say so.
I don't want to be your wife."

"Why not, Daisy?" he asked, quickly.

"Because you are so far above me," sobbed Daisy. "You are so rich, and
I am only poor little Daisy Brooks."

Oh, how soft and beautiful were the eyes swimming in tears and lifted
so timidly to his face! She could not have touched Rex more deeply.
Daisy was his first love, and he loved her from the first moment their
eyes met, with all the strength of his boyish, passionate nature; so
it is not strange that the thought of possessing her, years sooner
than he should have dared hope, made his young blood stir with ecstasy
even though he knew it was wrong.

"Wealth shall be no barrier between us, Daisy," he cried. "What is all
the wealth in the world compared to love? Do not say that again. Love
outweighs everything. Even though you bid me go away and forget you,
Daisy, I could not do it. I can not live without you."

"Do you really love me so much in so short a time?" she asked,

"My love can not be measured by the length of time I have known you,"
he answered, eagerly. "Why, Daisy, the strongest and deepest love men
have ever felt have come to them suddenly, without warning."

The glamour of love was upon him; he could see no faults in pretty
little artless Daisy. True, she had not been educated abroad like
Pluma, but that did not matter; such a lovely rosebud mouth was made
for kisses, not grammar.

Rex stood in suspense beside her, eagerly watching the conflict going
on in the girl's heart.

"Don't refuse me, Daisy," he cried, "give me the right to protect you
forever from the cold world; let us be married to-night. We will keep
it a secret if you say so. You must--you _must_, Daisy, for I can not
give you up."

Rex was so eager, so earnest, so thoroughly the impassioned lover! His
hands were clinging to her own, his dark, handsome face drooped near
hers, his pleading eyes searching her very soul.

Daisy was young, romantic, and impressible; a thousand thoughts rushed
through her brain; it would be so nice to have a young husband to love
her and care for her like Rex, so handsome and so kind; then, too, she
would have plenty of dresses, as fine as Pluma wore, all lace and
puffs; she might have a carriage and ponies, too; and when she rolled
by the little cottage, Septima, who had always been so cruel to her,
would courtesy to _her_, as she did when Pluma, the haughty young
heiress, passed.

The peachy bloom on her cheeks deepened; with Daisy's thoughtless
clinging nature, her craving for love and protection, her implicit
faith in Rex, who had protected her so nobly at the fête--it is not to
be wondered Rex won the day.

Shyly Daisy raised her blue eyes to his face--and he read a shy, sweet
consent that thrilled his very soul.

"You shall never regret this hour, my darling," he cried, then in the
soft silvery twilight he took her to his heart and kissed her

His mother's bitter anger, so sure to follow--the cold, haughty
mother, who never forgot or forgave an injury, and his little sister
Birdie's sorrow were at that moment quite forgotten--even if they had
been remembered they would have weighed as naught compared with his
lovely little Daisy with the golden hair and eyes of blue looking up
at him so trustingly.

Daisy never forgot that walk through the sweet pink clover to the
little chapel on the banks of the lonely river. The crickets chirped
in the long green grass, and the breeze swayed the branches of the
tall leafy trees, rocking the little birds in their nests.

A sudden, swift, terrified look crept up into Daisy's face as they
entered the dim shadowy parlor. Rex took her trembling chilled hands
in his own; if he had not, at that moment, Daisy would have fled from
the room.

"Only a little courage, Daisy," he whispered, "then a life of

Then as if in a dream she stood quite still by his side, while the
fatal ceremony went on; in a confused murmur she heard the questions
and responses of her lover, and answered the questions put to her;
then Rex turned to her with a smile and a kiss.

Poor little thoughtless Daisy--it was done--in a moment she had sown
the seeds from which was to spring up a harvest of woe so terrible
that her wildest imagination could not have painted it.

"Are we really married, Rex?" she whispered, as he led her out again
into the starlight; "it seems so much like a dream."

He bent his handsome head and kissed his pretty child-bride. Daisy
drew back with a startled cry--his lips were as cold as ice.

"Yes, you are my very own now," he whispered. "No one shall ever have
the right to scold you again; you are mine now, Daisy, but we must
keep it a secret from every one for awhile, darling. You will do this
for my sake, won't you, Daisy?" he asked. "I am rich, as far as the
world knows, but it was left to me under peculiar conditions. I--I--do
not like to tell you what those conditions were, Daisy."

"Please tell me, Rex," she said, timidly; "you know I am

Daisy blushed so prettily as she spoke. Rex could not refrain from
catching her up in his arms and kissing her.

"You _shall_ know, my darling," he cried. "The conditions were I
should marry the bride whom my mother selected for me. I was as much
startled as you will be, Daisy, when you hear who it was--Pluma
Hurlhurst, of Whitestone Hall."

"But you can not marry her now, Rex," whispered the little child-bride,
nestling closer in his embrace.

"No; nor I would not if I could. I love you the best, my pretty wild
flower. I would not exchange you, sweet, for all the world. I have
only told you this so you will see why it is necessary to keep our
marriage a secret--for the present, at least."

Daisy readily consented.

"You are very wise, Rex," she said. "I will do just as you tell me."

By this time they had reached Daisy's home.

"I will meet you to-morrow at the magnolia-tree, where first I found
my little wood-nymph, as I shall always call you. Then we can talk
matters over better. You will be sure to come while the dew sparkles
on your pretty namesakes?" he asked, eagerly.

Before she had time to answer the cottage door opened and Septima
appeared in the door-way. Rex was obliged to content himself with
snatching a hasty kiss from the rosy lips. The next moment he was

He walked slowly back through the tangled brushwood--not to
Whitestone Hall, but to an adjoining hostelry--feeling as though he
were in a new world. True, it _was_ hard to be separated from his
little child-bride. But Rex had a clever brain; he meant to think
of some plan out of the present difficulty. His face flushed and
paled as he thought of his new position; it seemed to him every
one must certainly read in his face he was a young husband.

Meanwhile Daisy flitted quickly up the broad gravel path to the little
cottage, wondering if it were a dream.

"Well!" said Septima, sharply, "this is a pretty time of night to come
dancing home, leaving me all alone with the baking! If I hadn't my
hands full of dough I'd give your ears a sound boxing! I'll see you're
never out after dark again, I'll warrant."

For a moment Daisy's blue eyes blazed, giving way to a roguish smile.

"I wonder what she would say if she knew I was Daisy Brooks no longer,
but Mrs. Rex Lyon?" she thought, untying the blue ribbons of her hat.
And she laughed outright as she thought how amazed Septima would look;
and the laugh sounded like the ripple of a mountain brook.

"Now, Aunt Seppy," coaxed Daisy, slipping up behind her and flinging
her plump little arms around the irate spinster's neck, "please don't
be cross. Indeed I was very particularly detained."

Stptima shook off the clinging arms angrily.

"You can't coax _me_ into upholding you with your soft, purring ways.
I'm not Brother John, to be hoodwinked so easily. Detained! A likely

"No," laughed Daisy; "but you are dear old Uncle John's sister, and I
could love you for that, if for nothing else. But I really was
detained, though. Where's Uncle John?"

"He's gone to the Hall after you, I reckon. I told him he had better
stop at home--you were like a bad penny, sure to find your way back."

A sudden terror blanched Daisy's face.

"When did he go, Aunt Seppy?" she asked, her heart throbbing so loudly
she was sure Septima would hear it.

"An hour or more ago."

Daisy hastily picked up her hat again.

"Where are you going?" demanded Septima, sharply.

"I--I--am going to meet Uncle John. Please don't stop me," she cried,
darting with the speed of a young gazelle past the hand that was
stretched out to stay her mad flight. "I--I--must go!"


"I say you shall not," cried Septima, planting herself firmly before
her. "You shall not leave this house to-night."

"You have no right to keep me here," panted Daisy. "I am--I am--" The
words died away on her lips. Rex had told her she must not tell just

"You are a rash little fool," cried Septima, wrathfully. "You are the
bane of my life, and have been ever since that stormy winter night
John brought you here. I told him then to wash his hands of the whole
matter; you would grow up a willful, impetuous minx, and turn out at
last like your mother."

Daisy sprung to her feet like lightning, her velvet eyes blazing, her
breath coming quick and hot.

"Speak of me as lightly as you will, Aunt Septima," she cried, "but
you must spare my poor mother's name! Oh, mother, mother!" she cried,
flinging herself down on her knees, and sobbing piteously, "if you had
only taken me with you, down into the dark cruel waters!"

"I only wish to Heaven she had!" fervently ejaculated Septima.

At that moment a quick, hurried step sounded on the gravel path
without, and John Brooks hastily entered the room.

"Ah! thank God! here you are, Daisy. I was over at the Hall for you,
and they told me you had left some hours before. I knew you had not
been home, and I was sorely afraid something had happened you."

Ah! how little he knew! Something had happened to her, the darkest and
cruelest shadow that had ever darkened a girl's life was slowly
gathering above her innocent head, and was soon to break, carrying in
its turbulent depths a sorrow more bitter than death to bear.

John Brooks glanced inquiringly from the one to the other, intuitively
guessing he must have interrupted a scene.

Daisy had struggled up from her knees to a sitting posture, putting
her hair, curled into a thousand shining rings, away from her flushed

"Have you been scolding Daisy again, Septima?" he asked, angrily,
taking the panting little damsel from the floor and seating her upon
his knee, and drawing her curly head down to his rough-clad shoulder,
and holding it there with his toil-hardened hand. "What have you been
saying to my little Daisy that I find her in tears?"

"I was telling her if she did not mend her willful ways she might turn
out like her moth--"

"Hush!" exclaimed John Brooks, excitedly. "I shouldn't have thought
you would have dared say that. What does Daisy know of such things?"
he muttered, indignantly. "Don't let your senses run away with you,

"Don't let your senses run away with you, John Brooks. Haven't you the
sense to know Daisy is getting too big for you to take on your knee
and pet in that fashion? I am really ashamed of you. Daisy is almost a
woman!" snapped Septima, scornfully--"quite sixteen."

John Brooks looked at his sister in amazement, holding little Daisy
off and gazing into the sweet little blooming face, and stroking the
long fluffy golden curls as he replied:

"Ah, no, Septima; Daisy is only a child. Why, it seems as though
it were but yesterday I used to take her with me through the
cotton-fields, and laugh to see her stretch her chubby hands up,
crying for the bursting blossoms, growing high above her curly
golden head. Pshaw! Septima, Daisy is only a merry, frolicsome,
romantic child yet."

Daisy nestled her tell-tale face closer on his broad shoulder to hide
the swift blushes that crept up to cheek and brow.

"Look up, pet," he said, coaxingly, "I have news for you."

"What--what is it?" gasped Daisy, wondering if he could possibly have
heard of her romantic marriage with Rex, turning white to the very
lips, her blue eyes darkening with suspense.

"Come, come, now," laughed, John, good-humoredly, "don't get excited,
pet, it will take me just as long to tell it anyhow; it is something
that will please you immensely."

He drew from his breast pocket as he spoke a thick, yellow envelope,
which contained several printed forms with blank spaces which were to
be filled up. There was something in his voice which made Daisy look
at him, but her eyes fell and her cheeks flushed hotly as she met his

Daisy was not used to keeping a secret locked up in her truthful
little heart. She longed to throw her arms around his neck and whisper
to him of her mad, romantic marriage, and of the handsome young
husband who loved her so fondly.

Daisy knew so little of real life, and less of love and marriage, up
to the time she had met Rex! Her heroes had been imaginary ones, her
ideas of love only girlish, romantic fancies. It was all very
exciting and charming. She was very fond of handsome Rex, but she had
yet to learn the depths of love which, sooner or later, brightens the
lives of lovable women.

Daisy looked at the envelope with a wistful glance.

"I am going to make a lady of you, my little sunbeam. I am going to
send you off to boarding-school. That's what you have always wanted;
now I am going to humor your whim."

"But I--I do not want to go now, Uncle John. I--I have changed my


"I--I don't want to go off to boarding-school now. I had rather stay
here with you."

John Brooks laid down the pipe he was just lighting in genuine

"Why, it's only last week you were crying those pretty eyes of yours
out, teasing to be sent to school. I--well, confound it--I don't
understand the ways of women. I always thought you were different from
the rest, little Daisy, but I see you are all the same. Never two days
of the same mind. What is the reason you've changed your mind, pet?"

"Indeed, I don't want to go now, Uncle John. Please don't talk about
it any more. I--I am happier here than I can tell you."

John Brooks laughed cheerily.

"It's too late for you to change your mind now, little one. I have
made arrangements for you to start bright and early to-morrow morning.
The stage will be here by daylight, so you had better start off to bed
at once, or there will be no roses in these checks to-morrow."

He never forgot the expression of the white, startled face Daisy
raised to his. For once in her life Daisy was unable to shake him from
his purpose.

"I know best, little one," he said. "I mean to make a lady of you. You
have no fortune, little Daisy, but your pretty face. It will be hard
to lose my little sunbeam, but it is my duty, Daisy. It is too late to
back out now; for once I am firm. You must start to-morrow morning."

"Oh, dear, oh, dear!" sobbed Daisy, throwing herself down on her
little white bed when she had reached her own room, "what shall I do?
I can't go without seeing Rex. I never heard of a girl that was
married being sent off to school. I--I dare not tell Uncle John I am
somebody's wife. Oh, if I could only see Rex!" Daisy springs out of
bed and crosses over to the little white curtained window, gazing out
into the still calm beauty of the night. "If I only knew where to
find Rex," she mused, "I would go to him now. Surely he would not let
me be sent away from him." She turned away from the window with a
sigh. "I must see Rex to-morrow morning," she said, determinedly. And
the weary little golden head, tired out with the day which had just
died out, sunk restfully down upon the snowy pillow in a dreamless
sleep, the happiest, alas! that poor little girl-bride was to know for
long and weary years.

A dark, dreamy silence wraps the cottage in its soft embrace, the
moon, clear and full, sails tranquilly through the star-sown heavens,
and the sweet scent of distant orange groves is wafted through the
midnight breeze. Yet the dark-cloaked figure that walks quickly and
softly up the graveled walk sees none of the soft, calm beauty of the
still summer night. She raises the brass knocker with a quick,
imperative touch. After a wait of perhaps ten minutes or so Septima
answers the summons, but the candle she holds nearly drops from her
hands as she beholds the face of her midnight visitor in the dim,
uncertain flickering glare of the candle-light.

"Miss Pluma," she exclaims, in amazement, "is there any one ill at the

"No!" replies Pluma, in a low, soft, guarded whisper. "I wished to see
you--my business is most important--may I come in?"

"Certainly," answered Septima, awkwardly. "I beg your pardon, miss,
for keeping you standing outside so long."

As Pluma took the seat Septima placed for her, the dark cloak she wore
fell from her shoulders, and Septima saw with wonder she still wore
the shimmering silk she had in all probability worn at the fête. The
rubies still glowed like restless, leaping fire upon her perfect arms
and snowy throat, and sprays of hyacinth were still twined in her
dark, glossy hair; but they were quite faded now, drooping, crushed,
and limp among her curls; there was a strange dead-white pallor on her
haughty face, and a lurid gleam shone in her dark, slumbrous eyes.
Pluma had studied well the character of the woman before her--who made
no secret of her dislike for the child thrust upon their bounty--and
readily imagined she would willingly aid her in carrying out the
scheme she had planned.

Slowly one by one the stars died out of the sky; the pale moon drifted
silently behind the heavy rolling clouds; the winds tossed the tops of
the tall trees to and fro, and the dense darkness which precedes the
breaking of the gray dawn settled over the earth.

The ponies which the groom had held for long hours pawed the ground
restlessly; the man himself was growing impatient.

"She can be up to no good," he muttered; "all honest people should be
in their beds."

The door of the cottage opened, and Pluma Hurlhurst walked slowly down
the path.

"All is fair in love's warfare," she mutters, triumphantly. "Fool!
with your baby face and golden hair, you shall walk quickly into the
net I have spread for you; he shall despise you. Ay, crush with his
heel into the earth the very flowers that bear the name of _Daisy_."


Under the magnolia-tree, among the pink clover, Rex Lyon paced
uneasily to and fro, wondering what could have happened to detain
Daisy. He was very nervous, feverish, and impatient, as he watched the
sun rising higher and higher in the blue heavens, and glanced at his
watch for the fifth time in the space of a minute.

"Pshaw!" he muttered, whisking off the tops of the buttercups near him
with his ebony walking-stick. "I am not myself at all. I am growing as
nervous as a woman. I think I'll read little sister Birdie's letter
over again to occupy my mind until my sweet little Daisy comes."

He sighed and smiled in one breath, as he threw himself down at full
length on the green grass under the trees. Taking from his pocket a
little square white envelope, addressed in a childish hand to "Mr.
Rexford Lyon, Allendale, West Virginia, Care of Miss Pluma." Rex
laughed aloud, until the tears started to his eyes, as they fell on
the words "_Care of Miss Pluma_," heavily underlined in the lower

"That is just like careless little romping Birdie," he mused. "She
supposes, because _she_ knows who _Miss Pluma_ is, every one else must
certainly be aware of the same fact."

He spread out the letter on his knee, trying hard to while away time
in perusing its pages.

Rex looked so fresh and cool and handsome in his white linen suit,
lying there under the shady trees that summer morning, his dark curls
resting on his white hand, and a smile lighting up his pleasant face,
it is not to be wondered at he was just the kind of young fellow to
win the love of young romantic girls like Daisy and Pluma--the haughty
young heiress.

Slowly Rex read the letter through to the end. The morning stage
whirled rapidly past him on its way to meet the early train. Yet, all
unconscious that it bore away from him his treasure, he never once
glanced up from the letter he was reading.

Again Rex laughed aloud as he glanced it over, reading as follows:

  "DEAR BROTHER REX,--We received the letter you wrote, and the
  picture you sent with it, and my heart has been so heavy ever
  since that I could not write to you because big tears would fall
  on the page and blot it. Now, dear old Brother Rex, don't be angry
  at what your little Birdie is going to say. Mamma says you are
  going to marry and bring home a wife, and she showed me her
  picture, and said you was very much in love with her, and I must
  be so too. But I can't fall in love with her, Brother Rex; indeed,
  I've tried very hard and I can't; don't tell anybody, but I'm
  awfully afraid I sha'n't like her one bit. She looks stylish, and
  her name Pluma sounds real stylish too, but she don't look kind. I
  thought, perhaps, if I told you I did not like her you might give
  her up and come home. I forgot to tell you the blue room and the
  room across the hall is being fixed up for you just lovely, and I
  am to have your old one.

  "P.S.--And we received a letter from Mr. Lester Stanwick, too. He
  says he will be passing through here soon and wishes to call. When
  are you coming home, Rex? Don't bring any one with you.

                                 "Your loving little sister,

"There's no fear of my bringing Pluma home now," he laughed, whistling
a snatch of "The Pages' Chorus." "Birdie won't have anything to fear
on that score. I do wish mother hadn't set my heart on my marrying
Pluma. Parents make a mistake in choosing whom their children shall
marry and whom they shall not. Love goes where it is sent."

He looked at his watch again.

"By George!" he muttered, turning very pale upon seeing another hour
had slipped away, "I can not stand this a minute longer. I _must_ see
what has happened to Daisy."

With a nameless fear clutching at his heart--a dark, shadowy
fear--like the premonition of coming evil, Rex made his way rapidly
through the tangled underbrush, cutting across lots to John Brooks'

He had determined to call for Daisy upon some pretext. It was rather a
bold undertaking and might cause comment, still Rex was reckless of
all consequences; he _must_ see Daisy at all hazards; and when Rex
made up his mind to do anything he usually succeeded; he was as daring
and courageous as he was reckless and handsome.

Once, twice, thrice he knocked, receiving no answer to his summons.

"That's strange," he mused, "exceedingly strange."

Hardly knowing what prompted him to do it, Rex turned the knob; it
yielded to the touch, swinging slowly back on its creaking hinges.

"Good heavens!" he ejaculated, gazing wildly about him and as pale as
death, "Daisy is gone and the cottage is empty!"

He leaned against the door-way, putting his hand to his brow like one
who had received a heavy blow; and the bare walls seemed to take up
the cry and echo, mockingly, "Gone!"

The blow was so sudden and unexpected he was completely bewildered;
his brain was in a whirl.

He saw a laborer crossing the cotton-fields and called to him.

"I was looking for John Brooks," said Rex. "I find the cottage empty.
Can you tell me where they have gone?"

"Gone!" echoed the man, surprisedly. "I don't understand it; I was
passing the door a few hours since, just as the stage drove off with
John Brooks and Daisy. 'Good-bye, neighbor,' he called out to me, 'I
am off on an extended business trip. You must bring your wife over to
see Septima; she will be lonely, I'll warrant.' There was no sign of
him moving then. I--I don't understand it."

"You say he took Daisy with him," asked Rex, with painful eagerness.
"Can you tell me where they went?"

The man shook his head and passed on. Rex was more mystified than

"What can it all mean?" he asked himself. "Surely," he cried,
"Daisy--dear little innocent blue-eyed Daisy--could not have meant to
deceive me; yet why has she not told me?"

The hot blood mounted to his temples. Perhaps Daisy regretted having
married him and had fled from him. The thought was so bitter it almost
took his breath away. Rex loved her so madly, so passionately, so
blindly, he vowed to himself he would search heaven and earth to find
her. And in that terrible hour the young husband tasted the first
draught of the cup of bitterness which he was to drain to the very

Poor Rex! he little knew this was but the first stroke of Pluma
Hurlhurst's fatal revenge--to remove her rival from her path that she
might win him back to his old allegiance.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Early that morning there had been great bustle and stir in the Brooks'
cottage. In vain Daisy had attempted to steal quietly away into her
own little room and write a hasty line to Rex, which, if all other
means failed her, she could send to him by one of the men employed in
the fields, begging him to come to her at once. Septima would not
leave her to herself for a single instant. Even her writing-desk,
which had stood on the bureau in the corner for years, was gone. Poor
little Daisy cried out to herself--fate was against her.

"I should like to say good-bye to the old familiar scenes, Septima,"
she said, making a desperate effort to meet Rex by some means. "I
should like to see the old magnolia-tree down in the glade just once
before I go."

"Nonsense," replied Septima, sharply, a malicious smile hovering about
the corners of her mouth. "I guess the trees and the flowers won't
wither and die of grief if you don't bid them good-bye; it's too late
now, anyhow. See, here is the stage coming already," she cried,
glancing out of the window, "and here comes John with his valise and
umbrella. Make haste, Daisy; where's your gloves and satchel?"

For one brief instant Daisy stood irresolute; if she had only dared
cry out to them "I am a bride; it is cruel to send me away from Rex,"
what a world of misery might have been spared her! but her lips were

"Well, well," cried John Brooks, hurriedly entering the room; "not
ready yet, little girlie? We must be off at once or we will miss the

In vain Daisy protested brokenly she could not go, and the agony in
those blue uplifted eyes would have touched a heart of stone. Still
John Brooks believed it would be a sin to comply with her request. Go
to school she must, for Heaven had intended a cultured mind should
accompany so beautiful a face. Half lifting, half carrying the slight
figure in his powerful arms, Daisy was borne, half fainting and
sobbing as though her heart would break, to the vehicle which stood in

On through the fragrant stillness of that sunshiny summer morning the
jolting stage rolled rapidly on its way, crossing the little bridge
where she had lingered only the night before with Rex, her husband;
they would soon reach the alder bushes that skirted the pool. The next
bend in the road would bring her in sight of the magnolia-tree where
Rex would be awaiting her.

Ah, thank Heaven, it was not too late! she could fling out her arms,
and cry out: "Rex, my love, my darling, they are bearing me from you!
Save me, Rex, my darling, save me!"

John Brooks sat quietly by her side silently wondering what had come
over little Daisy--sweet, impulsive little Daisy--in a single night.
"She is only a child," he muttered to himself, "full of whims and
caprices; crying her eyes out last week because she could not go off
to school, and now crying because she's got to go."

Swiftly the stage rolled down the green sloping hill-side; in another
moment it had reached the alder bushes and gained the curve of the
road, and she saw Rex lying on the green grass waiting for her. The
sunlight drifting through the magnolia blossoms fell upon his
handsome, upturned, smiling face and the dark curls pushed back from
his white forehead. "Rex! Rex!" she cried, wringing her white hands,
but the words died away on her white lips, making no sound. Then the
world seemed to close darkly around her, and poor little Daisy, the
unhappy girl-bride, fell back in the coach in a deadly swoon.


"Poor little Daisy!" cried John Brooks, wiping away a suspicious
moisture from his eyes with his rough, toil-hardened hand, "she takes
it pretty hard now; but the time will come when she will thank me for
it. Heaven knows there's nothing in this world more valuable than an
education; and she will need it, poor little, motherless child!"

As the stage drove up before the station Daisy opened her blue eyes
with a sigh. "I can at least write to Rex at once," she thought, "and
explain the whole matter to him." Daisy smiled as she thought Rex
would be sure to follow on the very next train.

John Brooks watched the smile and the flush of the rosy face, and
believed Daisy was beginning to feel more reconciled about going to

"I hope we will get there by noon," said John, anxiously, taking the
seat beside her on the crowded train. "If we missed the train at the
cross-roads it would be a serious calamity. I should be obliged to
send you on alone; for I _must_ get to New York by night, as I have
some very important business to transact for the plantation which
must be attended to at once."

"Alone!" echoed Daisy, tremblingly. "Why, Uncle John, I was never away
from home alone in my life!"

"That's just the difficulty," he answered, perplexedly. "I have always
guarded my little flower from the world's cruel blasts, and you are
unused to the rough side of life."

"Still, I _could_ go on alone," persisted Daisy, bravely.

John Brooks laughed outright.

"You would get lost at the first corner, my girlie! Then I should have
to fly around to these newspaper offices, advertising for the recovery
of a little country Daisy which was either lost, strayed, or stolen.
No, no, little one!" he cried; "I would not trust you alone, a
stranger in a great city. A thousand ills might befall a young girl
with a face like yours."

"No one would know I was a stranger," replied Daisy, innocently. "I
should simply inquire the way to Madame Whitney's, and follow the
directions given me."

"There! didn't I tell you you could never find the way?" laughed John
until he was red in the face. "You suppose a city is like our country
lanes, eh?--where you tell a stranger: 'Follow that path until you
come to a sign-post, then that will tell you which road leads to the
village.' Ha! ha! ha! Why, my dear little Daisy, not one person in a
hundred whom you might meet ever heard of Madame Whitney! In cities
people don't know their very neighbors personally. They are sure to
find out if there's any scandal afloat about them--and that is all
they do know about them. You would have a lively time of it finding
Madame Whitney's without your old uncle John to pilot you through, I
can tell you."

Daisy's last hope was nipped in the bud. She had told herself, if she
were left alone, she could send a telegram back at once to Rex, and he
would join her, and she would not have to go to school--school, which
would separate a girl-bride from her handsome young husband, of whom
she was fast learning to be so fond.

"I could have sent you under the care of Mr. Stanwick," continued
John, thoughtfully. "He started for the city yesterday--but I did not
receive Madame Whitney's letter in time."

He did not notice, as he spoke, that the occupant in the seat directly
in front of them gave a perceptible start, drawing the broad slouch
hat he wore, which concealed his features so well, still further over
his face, while a cruel smile lingered for a moment about the handsome

The stranger appeared deeply interested in the columns of the paper he
held before him; but in reality he was listening attentively to the
conversation going on behind him.

"I shall not lose sight of this pretty little girl," said Lester
Stanwick to himself, for it was he. "No power on earth shall save her
from me. I shall win her from him--by fair means or foul. It will be a
glorious revenge!"

"Madame Whitney's seminary is a very high-toned institution,"
continued John, reflectively; "and the young girls I saw there wore no
end of furbelows and ribbons; but I'll warrant for fresh, sweet beauty
you'll come out ahead of all of 'em, Pet."

"You think so much of me, dear good old uncle," cried Daisy,
gratefully. "I--I wonder if any one in the world could ever--could
ever care for me as--as you do?" whispered Daisy, laying her soft,
warm cheek against his rough hand.

"No one but a husband," he responded, promptly. "But you are too young
to have such notions in your head yet awhile. Attend to your books,
and don't think of beaus. Now that we are on the subject, I might as
well speak out what I've had on my mind some time back. I don't want
my little Daisy to fall in love with any of these strangers she
happens to meet. You are too young to know anything about love
affairs. You'll never rightly understand it until it comes to you. I
must know all about the man who wants my little Daisy. Whatever you
do, little one, do upright and honestly. And, above all, never deceive
me. I have often heard of these romantic young school-girls falling in
love with handsome strangers, and clandestine meetings following,
ending in elopements; but, mark my words, no good comes of these
deceptions--forewarned is forearmed. Daisy, you'll always remember my
words, and say to yourself: 'He knows what is best.' You will remember
what I say, won't you, Pet?"

He wondered why the fair, sweet face grew as pale as a snow-drop, and
the cold little fingers trembled in his clasp, and the velvety eyes
drooped beneath his earnest gaze.

"Yes," whispered Daisy; "I shall remember what you have said."

In spite of her efforts to speak naturally and calmly the sweet voice
would tremble.

"Bal--ti--more!" shouted the brakeman, lustily. "Twenty minutes for
breakfast. Change cars for the north and west!"

"Ah, here we are!" cried John, hastily gathering up their satchels and
innumerable bundles. "We must make haste to reach the uptown omnibus
to get a seat, or we shall have to stand and cling to the strap all
the way up. I'm an old traveler, you see. There's nothing like knowing
the ins and outs."

"Have a coach uptown, sir? Take you to any part of the city. Coach,
sir?" cried innumerable hackmen, gathering about them.

Daisy tightened her hold on John's arm. She quite believed they
intended to pick her up and put her in the coach by main force. One of
them was actually walking off with her reticule.

"Hold there, young man," cried John, quickly, recovering the satchel.
"Don't make yourself uneasy on our account. We would be pleased to
ride in your conveyance if you don't charge anything. We have no

The loquacious hackmen fell back as if by magic. Daisy was blushing
like a rose, terribly embarrassed. John Brooks laughed long and

"That's the quickest way in the world to rid yourself of those
torments," he declared, enjoying his little joke hugely. "Why, Daisy,
if you had come on alone some of those chaps would have spirited you
away without even saying so much as 'by your leave.'"

Mme. Whitney's Seminary for Young Ladies was a magnificent structure,
situated in the suburbs of Baltimore. On either side of the pebbled
walk which led to the main entrance were tall fountains tossing their
rainbow-tinted sprays up to the summer sunshine. The lawn in front was
closely shaven, and through the trees in the rear of the building
could be seen the broad rolling Chesapeake dancing and sparkling in
the sunlight. The reputation of this institution was second to none.
Young ladies were justly proud of being able to say they finished
their education at Mme. Whitney's establishment.

As a natural consequence, the school was composed of the _élite_ of
the South. Clang! clang! clang! sounded the great bell from the belfry
as Daisy, with a sinking, homesick feeling stealing over her, walked
slowly up the paved walk by John Brooks' side toward the imposing,
aristocratic structure.

Poor little Daisy never forgot that first day at boarding-school; how
all the dainty young girls in their soft white muslins glanced in
surprise at her when Mme. Whitney brought her into the school-room,
but she could have forgiven them for that if they had not laughed at
her poor old uncle John, in his plain country garb, and they giggled
behind their handkerchiefs when she clung to his neck and could not
say good-bye through her tears, but sunk down into her seat, leaning
her head on her desk, bravely trying to keep back the pearly drops
that would fall.

When recess came Daisy did not leave her seat. She would have given
the world to have heard Rex's voice just then; she was beginning to
realize how much his sheltering love was to her. She would even have
been heartily glad to have been back in the little kitchen at the
cottage, no matter how much Septima scolded her.

All the girls here had the same haughty way of tossing their heads and
curling their lips and looking innumerable things out of their eyes,
which reminded Daisy so strongly of Pluma Hurlhurst.

Most of the girls had left the school-room, dividing off into groups
and pairs here and there. Daisy sat watching them, feeling wretchedly
lonely. Suddenly a soft white hand was laid lightly on her shoulder,
and a sweet voice said:

"We have a recess of fifteen minutes, won't you come out into the
grounds with me? I should be so pleased to have you come." The voice
was so gentle, so coaxing, so sweet, Daisy involuntarily glanced up at
the face of the young girl bending over her as she arose to accompany
her. She put her arm around Daisy's waist, school-girl fashion, as
they walked down the lone halls and out to the green grassy lawn. "My
name is Sara Miller," she said; "will you tell me yours?"

"Daisy Brooks," she answered, simply.

"What a pretty name!" cried her new-found friend, enthusiastically,
"and how well it suits you! Why, it is a little poem in itself."

Daisy flushed as rosy as the crimson geraniums near them, remembering
Rex, her own handsome Rex, had said the same thing that morning he had
carried her heavy basket to the gates of Whitestone Hall--that morning
when all the world seemed to change as she glanced up into his merry
brown eyes.

"We are to be room-mates," explained Sara, "and I know I shall like
you ever so much. Do you think you will like me?"

"Yes," said Daisy. "I like you now."

"Thank you," said Miss Sara, making a mock courtesy. "I am going to
love you with all my might, and if you don't love me you will be the
most ungrateful creature in the world. I know just how lonesome you
must be," continued Sara. "I remember just how lonesome I was the
first day I was away from mamma, and when night set in and I was all
alone, and I knew I was securely locked in, I was actually thinking of
tearing the sheets of my bed into strips and making a rope of them,
and letting myself down to the ground through the window, and making
for home as fast as I could. I knew I would be brought back the next
day, though," laughed Sara. "Mamma is so strict with me. I suppose
yours is too?"

"I have no mother--or father," answered Daisy. "All my life I have
lived with John Brooks and his sister Septima, on the Hurlhurst
Plantation. I call them aunt and uncle. Septima has often told me no
relationship at all existed between us."

"You are an orphan, then?" suggested the sympathetic Sara. "Is there
no one in all the world related to you?"

"Yes--no--o," answered Daisy, confusedly, thinking of Rex, her young
husband, and of the dearest relationship in all the world which
existed between them.

"What a pity," sighed Sara. "Well, Daisy," she cried, impulsively,
throwing both her arms around her and giving her a hearty kiss, "you
and I will be all the world to each other. I shall tell you all my
secrets and you must tell me yours. There's some girls you can trust,
and some you can't. If you tell them your secrets, the first time you
have a spat your secret is a secret no longer. Every girl in the
school knows all about it; of course you are sure to make up again.
But," added Sara, with a wise expression, "after you are once
deceived, you can never trust them again."

"I have never known many girls," replied Daisy. "I do not know how
others do, but I'm sure you can always trust my friendship."

And the two girls sealed their compact with a kiss, just as the great
bell in the belfry rang, warning them they must be at their lessons
again--recess was over.


In one of the private offices of Messrs. Tudor, Peck & Co., the shrewd
Baltimore detectives, stood Rex, waiting patiently until the senior
member of the firm should be at leisure.

"Now, my dear sir, I will attend you with pleasure," said Mr. Tudor,
sealing and dispatching the note he had just finished, and motioning
Rex to a seat.

"I shall be pleased if you will permit me to light a cigar," said Rex,
taking the seat indicated.

"Certainly, certainly; smoke, if you feel so inclined, by all means,"
replied the detective, watching with a puzzled twinkle in his eye the
fair, boyish face of his visitor. "No, thank you," he said, as Rex
tendered him an Havana; "I never smoke during business hours."

"I wish to engage your services to find out the whereabouts
of--of--of--my wife," said Rex, hesitatingly. "She has left
me--suddenly--she fled--on the very night of our marriage!"

It hurt Rex's pride cruelly to make this admission, and a painful
flush crept up into the dark rings of hair lying on his white

Mr. Tudor was decidedly amazed. He could not realize how any sane
young woman could leave so handsome a young fellow as the one before
him. In most cases the shoe was on the other foot; but he was too
thoroughly master of his business to express surprise in his face. He
merely said:

"Go on, sir; go on!"

And Rex did go on, never sparing himself in describing how he urged
Daisy to marry him on the night of the fête, and of their parting, and
the solemn promise to meet on the morrow, and of his wild grief--more
bitter than death--when he had found the cottage empty.

"It reads like the page of a romance," said Rex, with a dreary smile,
leaning his head on his white hand. "But I must find her!" he cried,
with energy. "I shall search the world over for her. If it takes every
cent of my fortune, I shall find Daisy!"

Rex looked out of the window at the soft, fleecy clouds overhead,
little dreaming Daisy was watching those self-same clouds, scarcely a
stone's throw from the very spot where he sat, and at that moment he
was nearer Daisy than he would be for perhaps years again, for the
strong hand of Fate was slowly but surely drifting them asunder.

For some moments neither spoke.

"Perhaps," said Mr. Tudor, breaking the silence, "there was a previous
lover in the case?"

"I am sure there was not!" said Rex, eagerly.

Still the idea was new to him. He adored Daisy with a mad, idolatrous
adoration, almost amounting to worship, and a love so intense is
susceptible to the poisonous breath of jealousy, and jealousy ran in
Rex's veins. He could not endure the thought of Daisy's--his
Daisy's--eyes brightening or her cheek flushing at the approach of a
rival--that fair, flower-like face, sweet and innocent as a
child's--Daisy, whom he so madly loved.

"Well," said Mr. Tudor, as Rex arose to depart, "I will do all I can
for you. Leave your address, please, in case I should wish to
communicate with you."

"I think I shall go back to Allendale, remaining there at least a
month or so. I have a strong conviction Daisy might come back, or at
least write to me there."

Mr. Tudor jotted down the address, feeling actually sorry for the
handsome young husband clinging to such a frail straw of hope. In his
own mind, long before Rex had concluded his story, he had settled his
opinion--that from some cause the young wife had fled from him with
some rival, bitterly repenting her mad, hasty marriage.

"I have great faith in your acknowledged ability," said Rex, grasping
Mr. Tudor's outstretched hand. "I shall rest my hopes upon your
finding Daisy. I can not, will not, believe she is false. I would as
soon think of the light of heaven playing me false as my sweet little

                  *       *       *       *       *

The dark mantle of night had folded its dusky wings over the inmates
of the seminary. All the lights were out in the young ladies'
rooms--as the nine-o'clock call, "All lights out!" had been called
some ten minutes before--all the lights save one, flickering, dim, and
uncertain, from Daisy's window.

"Oh, dear!" cried Daisy, laying her pink cheek down on the letter she
was writing to Rex, "I feel as though I could do something _very_
desperate to get away from here--and--and--back to Rex. Poor fellow!"
she sighed, "I wonder what he thought, as the hours rolled by and I
did not come? Of course he went over to the cottage," she mused, "and
Septima must have told him where I had gone. Rex will surely come for
me to-morrow," she told herself, with a sweet, shy blush.

She read and reread the letter her trembling little hands had penned
with many a heart-flutter. It was a shy, sweet little letter,
beginning with "Dear Mr. Rex," and ending with, "Yours sincerely,
Daisy." It was just such a dear, timid letter as many a pure,
fresh-hearted loving young girl would write, brimful of the love which
filled her guileless heart for her handsome, debonair Rex--with many
allusions to the secret between them which weighed so heavily on her
heart, sealing her lips for his dear sake.

After sealing and directing her precious letter, and placing it in the
letter-bag which hung at the lower end of the corridor, Daisy hurried
back to her own apartment and crept softly into her little white bed,
beside Sara, and was soon fast asleep, dreaming of Rex and a dark,
haughty, scornful face falling between them and the sunshine--the
cold, mocking face of Pluma Hurlhurst.

Mme. Whitney, as was her custom, always looked over the out-going
mail early in the morning, sealing the letters of which she approved,
and returning, with a severe reprimand, those which did not come up to
the standard of her ideas.

"What is this?" she cried, in amazement, turning the letter Daisy had
written in her hand. "Why, I declare, it is actually sealed!" Without
the least compunction she broke the seal, grimly scanning its contents
from beginning to end. If there was anything under the sun the madame
abominated it was love-letters.

It was an established fact that no tender _billets-doux_ found their
way from the academy; the argus-eyed madame was too watchful for

With a lowering brow, she gave the bell-rope a hasty pull.

"Jenkins," she said to the servant answering her summons, "send Miss
Brooks to me here at once!"

"Poor little thing!" cried the sympathetic Jenkins to herself. "I
wonder what in the world is amiss now? There's fire in the madame's
eye. I hope she don't intend to scold poor little Daisy Brooks."
Jenkins had taken a violent fancy to the sweet-faced, golden-haired,
timid young stranger.

"It must be something terrible, I'm sure!" cried Sara, when she heard
the madame had sent for Daisy; while poor Daisy's hand trembled
so--she could scarcely tell why--that she could hardly bind up the
golden curls that fell down to her waist in a wavy, shining sheen.

Daisy never once dreamed her letter was the cause of her unexpected
summons, until she entered Mme. Whitney's presence and saw it
opened--yes, opened--her own sacred, loving letter to Rex--in her

Daisy was impulsive, and her first thought was to grasp her precious
letter and flee to her own room. How dared the madame open the
precious letter she had intended only for Rex's eyes!

"Miss Brooks," began madame, impressively, "I suppose I am right in
believing this epistle belongs to you?"

A great lump rose in Daisy's throat.

"Yes, madame," answered Daisy, raising her dark-blue eyes pleadingly
to the stern face before her.

"And may I ask by what right you dared violate the rules and
regulations of this establishment by sending a sealed letter to--a
man? Your guardian strictly informed me you had no correspondents
whatever, and I find this is a--I blush to confess it--actually a
love-letter. What have you to say in reference to your folly, Miss

"I'm sure I don't know," sobbed Daisy.

"You don't know?" repeated madame, scornfully. "Not a very satisfactory
explanation. Well, Miss Brooks, I have fully determined what steps I
shall take in the matter. I shall read this letter this morning before
the whole school; it will afford me an excellent opportunity to point
out the horrible depths to which young girls are plunged by allowing
their minds to wander from their books to such thoughts as are here
expressed. What do you mean by this secret to which you allude so
often?" she asked, suddenly.

"Please do not ask me, madame," sobbed Daisy; "I can not tell
you--indeed I can not. I dare not!"

An alarming thought occurred to madame.

"Speak, girl!" she cried, hoarsely, grasping her firmly by the
shoulder. "I must know the meaning of this secret which is so
appalling. You fear to reveal it! Does your guardian know of it?"

"No--o!" wailed Daisy; "I could not tell him. I must keep the

Poor little innocent Daisy! her own words had convicted her beyond all
pardon in the eyes of shrewd, suspicious Mme. Whitney, who guessed, as
is usually the case, wide of the mark, as to the cause of the secret
Daisy dare not to reveal to her guardian or herself.

"My duty is plain in this case," said madame. "I shall read this as a
terrible warning to the young ladies of this institution; then I will
send for Mr. John Brooks, your guardian, and place this letter in his

"Oh, no, madame, in pity's name, no!" sobbed Daisy, wildly, kneeling
imploringly at her feet, her heart beating tumultuously, and her hands
locked convulsively together. "Do not, madame, I pray you; anything
but that; he would cast me out of his heart and home, and I--I could
not go to Rex, you see."

But madame did not see. She laughed a little hard, metallic laugh that
grated, oh, so cruelly, on Daisy's sensitive nerves.

When one woman's suspicions are aroused against another, Heaven help
the suspected one; there is little mercy shown her.

"Man's inhumanity to man" is nothing compared to woman's inhumanity to

Mme. Whitney had discovered a capital way to score a hit in the
direction of morality.

"No," she said, laying the letter down on the table before her. "Arise
from your knees, Miss Brooks. Your prayers are useless. I think this
will be a life-long lesson to you."

"Oh, madame, for the love of Heaven!" cried Daisy, rocking herself to
and fro, "spare me, I beseech you! Can nothing alter your purpose?"

"Well," said madame, reflectively, "I may not be quite so severe with
you if you will confess, unreservedly, the whole truth concerning this
terrible secret, and what this young man Rex is to you."

"I can not," wailed Daisy, "I can not. Oh, my heart is breaking, yet I
dare not."

"Very well," said madame, rising, indicating the conversation was at
an end, "I shall not press you further on the subject. I will excuse
you now, Miss Brooks. You may retire to your room."

Still Daisy rocked herself to and fro on her knees at her feet.
Suddenly a daring thought occurred to her. The letter which had caused
her such bitter woe lay on the table almost within her very grasp--the
letter, every line of which breathed of her pure, sacred love for
Rex--her Rex--whom she dared not even claim. She could imagine madame
commenting upon every word and sentence, ridiculing those tender
expressions which had been such rapturous joy to her hungry little
heart as she had penned them. And, last of all, and far the most
bitter thought, how dear old John Brooks would turn his honest eyes
upon her tell-tale face, demanding to know what the secret was--the
secret which she had promised her young husband she would not reveal,
come what would. If his face should grow white and stern, and those
lips, which had blessed, praised, and petted, but never scolded
her--if those lips should curse her, she would die then and there at
his feet. In an instant she had resolved upon a wild, hazardous plan.
Quick as a flash of lightning Daisy sprung to her feet and tore the
coveted letter from madame's detaining grasp; the door stood open, and
with the fleetness of a hunted deer she flew down the corridor, never
stopping for breath until she had gained the very water's edge.

Mme. Whitney gave a loud shriek and actually fainted, and the
attendant, who hurried to the scene, caught but a glimpse of a white,
terrified, beautiful face, and a cloud of flying golden hair. No one
in that establishment ever gazed upon the face of Daisy Brooks again!


"Where is Miss Brooks?" cried Mme. Whitney, excitedly, upon opening
her eyes. "Jenkins," she cried, motioning to the attendant who stood
nearest her, "see that Miss Brooks is detained in her own room under
lock and key until I am at liberty to attend to her case."

The servants looked at one another in blank amazement. No one dared
tell her Daisy had fled.

The torn envelope, which Daisy had neglected to gain possession of,
lay at her feet.

With a curious smile Mme. Whitney smoothed it out carefully, and
placed it carefully away in her private desk.

"Rex Lyon," she mused, knitting her brow. "Ah, yes, that was the name,
I believe. He must certainly be the one. Daisy Brooks shall suffer
keenly for this outrage," cried the madame, grinding her teeth with
impotent rage. "I shall drag her pride down to the very dust beneath
my feet. How dare the little rebel defy my orders? I shall have her
removed to the belfry-room; a night or two there will humble her
pride, I dare say," fumed the madame, pacing up and down the room. "I
have brought worse tempers than hers into subjection; still I never
dreamed the little minx would dare openly defy _me_ in that manner. I
shall keep her in the belfry-room, under lock and key, until she asks
my pardon on her bended knees; and what is more, I shall wrest the
secret from her--the secret she has defied me to discover."

                  *       *       *       *       *

On sped Daisy, as swift as the wind, crushing the fatal letter in her
bosom, until she stood at the very edge of the broad, glittering
Chesapeake. The rosy-gold rays of the rising sun lighted up the waves
with a thousand arrowy sparkles like a vast sea of glittering, waving
gold. Daisy looked over her shoulder, noting the dark forms hurrying
to and fro.

"They are searching for me," she said, "but I will never go back to

She saw a man's form hurrying toward her. At that moment she beheld,
moored in the shadow of a clump of alders at her very feet, a small
boat rocking to and fro with the tide. Daisy had a little boat of her
own at home; she knew how to use the oars.

"They will never think of looking for me out on the water," she cried,
triumphantly, and quickly untying it, she sprung into the little
skiff, and seizing the oars, with a vigorous stroke the little shell
shot rapidly out into the shimmering water, Daisy never once pausing
in her mad, impetuous flight until the dim line of the shore was
almost indistinguishable from the blue arching dome of the horizon.
"There," she cried, flushed and excited, leaning on the oars; "no one
could possibly think of searching for me out here."

Her cheeks were flushed and her blue eyes danced like stars, while the
freshening breeze blew her bright shining hair to and fro.

Many a passing fisherman cast admiring glances at the charming little
fairy, so sweet and so daring, out all alone on the smiling,
treacherous, dancing waves so far away from the shore. But if Daisy
saw them, she never heeded them.

"I shall stay here until it is quite dark," she said to herself; "they
will have ceased to look for me by that time. I can reach the shore
quite unobserved, and watch for Sara to get my hat and sacque; and
then"--a rosy flush stole up to the rings of her golden hair as she
thought what she would do then--"I shall go straight back to Rex--my

She knew John Brooks would not return home for some time to come, and
she would not go back to Septima. She made up her mind she would
certainly go to Rex. She would wait at the depot, and, if Rex did not
come in on the early train, she would go back at once to Allendale.
Her purse, with twenty dollars in it--which seemed quite a fortune to
Daisy--was luckily in her pocket, together with half of an apple and a
biscuit. The healthful exercise of rowing, together with the fresh,
cool breeze, gave Daisy a hearty appetite, and the apple and biscuit
afforded her quite a pleasant lunch.

Poor Daisy! The pretty little girl-bride had no more thought of danger
than a child. She had no premonition that every moment the little
boat, drifting rapidly along with the tide, was bearing her rapidly
onward toward death and destruction.

Daisy paid little heed to the dark rolling clouds that were slowly
obscuring the brilliant sunshine, or the swirl and dash of the waves
that were rocking her little boat so restlessly to and fro. The hours
seemed to slip heedlessly by her. The soft gloaming seemed to fall
about her swiftly and without warning.

"I must turn my boat about at once!" cried Daisy, in alarm. "I am
quite a long way from the shore!"

At that moment the distant rumbling roar of thunder sounded dismally
over the leaden-gray, white-capped water; and the wind, rising
instantly into a fierce gale, hurled the dark storm-clouds across the
sky, blotting the lurid glow of sunset and mantling the heavens above
her in its dusky folds.

Daisy was brave of heart, but in the face of such sudden and
unlooked-for danger her courage failed her. The pretty rose-bloom
died away from her face, and her beautiful blue eyes expanded wide
with terror. She caught her breath with a sob, and, seizing the oar
with two soft, childish hands, made a desperate attempt to turn the
boat. The current resisted her weak effort, snapping the oar in twain
like a slender twig and whirling it from her grasp.

"Rex! Rex!" she cried out, piteously, stretching out her arms, "save
me! Oh, I am lost--lost! Heaven pity me!"

The night had fallen swiftly around her. Out, alone, on the wild,
pitiless, treacherous waves--alone with the storm and the darkness!

The storm had now commenced in earnest, beating furiously against the
little boat, and lashing the mad waves into seething foam as they
dashed high above the terrified girl. No sound could be heard above
the wild warring of the elements--the thunder's roar, the furious
lashing of the waves and the white, radiant lightning blazing across
the vast expanse of water, making the scene sublime in its terrible

"Rex! my love, my life!" she cried, in the intense agony of despair,
"you will never know how well I loved you! I have faced death rather
than betray the sweet, sad secret--I am your wife!"

Was it the wild flashing of the lightning, or was it a red light she
saw swinging to and fro, each moment drawing rapidly nearer and
nearer? Heaven be praised! it was a barge of some kind; help was
within her reach.

"Help!" cried Daisy, faintly. "Help! I am alone out on the water!" she
held out her arms toward the huge vessel which loomed up darkly before
her, but the terrified voice was drowned by the fierce beating of the

Suddenly her little boat spun round and round, the swift water was
drawing her directly in the path of the barge; another moment and it
would be upon her; she beat the air with her white hands, gazing with
frozen horror at the fatal lights drawing nearer and nearer.

"Rex, my love, good-bye!" she wailed, sinking down in the bottom of
the boat as one end of the barge struck it with tremendous force.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Leaning over the railing, evidently unmindful of the fierce fury
of the storm that raged around him, stood a young man, gazing
abstractedly over the wild dashing waves. A dark smile played about
the corners of his mouth, and his restless eyes wore a pleased
expression, as though his thoughts were in keeping with the wild,
warring elements.

Suddenly, through the terrible roar of the storm, he heard a piteous
appeal for help, and the voice seemed to die away over the angry,
muttering waves. He leaned over the railing breathless with
excitement. The thunder crashed almost incessantly, and there came a
stunning bolt, followed by a blinding blaze of lightning. In that one
instant he had seen a white, childish face, framed in a mass of
floating golden hair, turned toward him.

One instant more and she would be swept beneath the ponderous wheel,
beyond all mortal power of help; then the dark, hungry waters closed
cruelly over her, but in that one instantaneous glance the man's face
had turned deadly pale.

"Great God!" he shrieked, hoarsely, "it is Daisy Brooks!"


On the evening which followed the one just described in our last
chapter, Pluma Hurlhurst sat in her luxuriant boudoir of rose and
gold, deeply absorbed in the three letters which she held in her lap.
To one was appended the name of Septima Brooks, one was from Rex's
mother, and the last--and by far the most important one--bore the
signature of Lester Stanwick.

Once, twice, thrice she perused it, each time with growing interest,
the glittering light deepening in her dark, flashing eyes, and the red
lips curling in a scornful smile.

"This is capital!" she cried, exultingly; "even better than I had
planned. I could not see my way clear before, but now everything is
clear sailing." She crossed over to the mirror, looking long and
earnestly at the superb figure reflected there. "I am fair to look
upon," she cried, bitterly. "Why can not Rex love me?"

Ah! she was fair to look upon, standing beneath the softened glow of
the overhanging chandelier, in her dress of gold brocade, with a
pomegranate blossom on her bosom, and a diamond spray flashing from
the dark, glossy curls, magnificently beautiful.

"I was so sure of Rex," she said, bitterly; "if any one had said to
me, 'Rex prefers your overseer's niece, Daisy Brooks, with her baby
face and pink-and-white beauty,' I would have laughed them to scorn.
Prefers her to me, the haughty heiress of Whitestone Hall, for whose
love, or even smile, men have sued in vain! I have managed the whole
affair very cleverly!" she mused. "John Brooks does not return before
the coming spring, and Septima is removed from my path most
effectually, and if Lester Stanwick manages his part successfully, I
shall have little to fear from Daisy Brooks! How clever Lester was to
learn Rex had been to the Detective Agency! How he must have loved
that girl!" she cried, hotly, with a darkening brow. "Ah, Rex!" she
whispered, softly (and for an instant the hard look died out of her
face), "no one shall take you from me. I would rather look upon your
face cold in death, and know no one else could claim you, than see you
smile lovingly upon a rival. There is no torture under heaven so
bitter to endure as the pangs of a love unreturned!" she cried,
fiercely. She threw open the window and leaned far out into the
radiant starlight, as the great clock pealed the hour of seven. "Rex
has received my note," she said, "with the one from his mother
inclosed. Surely he will not refuse my request. He will come, if only
through politeness!" Again she laughed, that low, mocking laugh
peculiar to her, as she heard the peal of the bell. "It is Rex," she
whispered, clasping her hands over her beating heart. "To-night I will
sow the first seeds of distrust in your heart, and when they take root
you shall despise Daisy Brooks a thousand-fold more than you love her
now. She shall feel the keen thrust of a rival's bitter vengeance!"

Casting a last lingering glance (so woman-like!) at the perfect face
the mirror reflected, to give her confidence in herself for the coming
ordeal, Pluma Hurlhurst glided down to the parlor, where Rex awaited

It would have been hard to believe the proud, willful, polished young
heiress could lend herself to a plot so dark and so cruel as the one
she was at that moment revolving in her fertile brain.

Rex was standing at the open window, his handsome head leaning wearily
against the casement. His face was turned partially toward her, and
Pluma could scarcely repress the cry of astonishment that rose to her
lips as she saw how pale and haggard he looked in the softened light.
She knew but too well the cause.

He was quite unaware of Pluma's presence until a soft, white, jeweled
hand was laid lightly on his arm, and a low, musical voice whispered,
"I am so glad you have come, Rex," close to his elbow.

They had parted under peculiar circumstances. He could fancy her at
that moment kneeling to him, under the glare of the lamp-light,
confessing her love for him, and denouncing poor little clinging Daisy
with such bitter scorn. His present position was certainly an
embarrassing one to Rex.

"I am here in accordance with your request, Miss Hurlhurst," he said,
simply, bowing coldly over the white hand that would cling to his

"You are very kind," she said, sweetly, "to forget that unpleasant
little episode that happened at the fête, and come to-night. I believe
I should never have sent for you," she added, archly, smiling up into
his face, "had it not been at the urgent request of your mother,

Pluma hesitated. Rex bit his lip in annoyance, but he was too
courteous to openly express his thoughts; he merely bowed again. He
meant Pluma should understand all thoughts of love or tenderness must
forever more be a dead letter between them.

"My mother!" he repeated, wonderingly; "pardon me, I do not

For answer she drew his mother's letter from her bosom and placed it
in his hands.

He ran his eyes quickly over the page. The postscript seemed to
enlighten him.

"The course of true love never runs smooth," it ran, "and I beseech
you, Pluma dear, if anything should ever happen, any shadow fall upon
your love, I beseech you send for Rex and place this letter in his
hands. It would not be unwomanly, Pluma, because I, his mother, so
earnestly request it; for, on your love for each other hangs my hopes
of happiness. Rex is impulsive and willful, but he will respect his
mother's wishes."

No thought of treachery ever crossed Rex's mind as he read the lines
before him; he never once dreamed the ingeniously worded postscript
had been so cleverly imitated and added by Pluma's own hand. It never
occurred to him for an instant to doubt the sincerity of the words he
read, when he knew how dearly his mother loved the proud, haughty
heiress before him.

"I heard you were going away, Rex," she said, softly, "and I--I could
not let you go so, and break my own heart."

"In one sense, I am glad you sent for me," said Rex, quietly ignoring
her last remark. "I shall be much pleased to renew our friendship,
Miss Pluma, for I need your friendship--nay, more, I need your
sympathy and advice more than I can express. I have always endeavored
to be frank with you, Pluma," he said, kindly. "I have never spoken
words which might lead you to believe I loved you."

He saw her face grow white under his earnest gaze and the white lace
on her bosom rise and fall convulsively, yet she made him no answer.

"Please permit me to tell you why, Pluma," he said, taking her hand
and leading her to a sofa, taking a seat by her side. "I could not,"
he continued, "in justice to either you or myself; for I never knew
what love was," he said, softly, "until the night of the fête." Again
he paused; but, as no answer was vouchsafed him, he went on: "I never
knew what love meant until I met Daisy--little Daisy Brooks."

"Rex!" cried Pluma, starting to her feet, "you know not what you
say--surely you do not know! I would have warned you, but you would
not listen. I saw you drifting toward a yawning chasm; I stretched out
my arms to save you, but you would not heed me. You are a stranger to
the people around here, Rex, or they would have warned you. Sin is
never so alluring as in the guise of a beautiful woman. It is not too
late yet. Forget Daisy Brooks; she is not a fit companion for noble
Rex Lyon, or pure enough to kiss an honest man's lips."

"For God's sake, Miss Hurlhurst, what do you mean?" cried Rex, slowly
rising from his seat and facing her, pale as death. "In Heaven's name,
explain the accusations you have just uttered, or I shall go mad! If a
man had uttered those words, I would have--"

The words died away on his lips; he remembered he was talking to a
woman. Rex's eyes fairly glowed with rage as he turned on his heel and
strode rapidly up and down the room.

"Rex," said Pluma, softly advancing a step toward him, "it always
grieves a true woman to admit the error of a fallen sister--they would
shield her if such a thing were possible."

"I do not believe it," retorted Rex, impetuously. "Women seem to take
a keen delight in slandering one another, as far as I can see. But you
might as well tell me yonder moon was treacherous and vile as to tell
me Daisy Brooks was aught but sweet and pure--you could not force me
to believe it."

"I do not attempt to force you to believe it. I have told you the
truth, as a loving sister might have done. None are so blind as those
who will not see," she said, toying with the jewels upon her white

"Daisy Brooks is as pure as yonder lily," cried Rex, "and I love her
as I love my soul!"

His quivering, impassioned voice thrilled Pluma to her heart's core,
and she felt a keen regret that this wealth of love was withheld from
her own hungry heart. Rex had never appeared so noble, so handsome,
so well worth winning, in her eyes, as at that moment.

"I am sorry for you, Rex," sobbed Pluma, artfully burying her face in
her lace kerchief, "because she can never return your love; she does
not love you, Rex."

"Yes, she does love me," cried Rex. "I have settled it beyond a

"She has settled it beyond a doubt--is not that what you mean, Rex?"
she asked, looking him squarely in the face, with a peculiar glitter
in her sparkling dark eyes.

"There is something you are keeping from me, Pluma," cried Rex,
seizing both of her hands, and gazing anxiously into the false, fair,
smiling, treacherous face. "You know where Daisy has gone--in Heaven's
name, tell me! I can not endure the suspense--do not torture me,
Pluma! I will forget you have spoken unkindly of poor little Daisy if
you will only tell me where she has gone."

"Sit down, Rex," she said, soothingly; "I will not dare tell you while
you look at me with such a gleaming light in your eyes. Promise not to
interrupt me to the end."

A nameless dread was clutching at his heart-strings. What could she
mean? he asked himself, confusedly. What did this foul mystery mean?
He must know, or he would go mad!

"You may speak out unreservedly, Miss Pluma," he said, hoarsely. "I
give you my word, as a gentleman, I shall not interrupt you, even
though your words should cause me a bitter heart-pang."

He stood before her, his arms folded across his breast, yet no pang of
remorse crept into Pluma Hurlhurst's relentless heart for the cruel
blow she was about to deal him.

"I must begin at the time of the lawn fête," she said. "That morning
a woman begged to see me, sobbing so piteously I could not refuse
her an audience. No power of words could portray the sad story of
suffering and wrong she poured into my ears, of a niece--beautiful,
young, passionate, and willful--and of her prayers and useless
expostulations, and of a handsome, dissolute lover to whom the
girl was passionately attached, and of elopements she had frustrated,
alas! more than once. Ah! how shall I say it!--the lover was not a
marrying man."

Pluma stopped short, and hid her face again in her kerchief as if in
utter confusion.

"Go on--go on!" cried Rex, hoarsely.

"'Lend me money,' cried the woman, 'that I may protect the girl by
sending her off to school at once. Kind lady, she is young, like
you, and I beg you on my knees!' I gave the woman the required
amount, and the girl was taken to school the very next day. But the
end was not there. The lover followed the girl--there must have been
a preconcerted plan between them--and on the morning after she had
entered school she fled from it--fled with her lover. That lover
was Lester Stanwick--gay, fascinating, perfidious Lester--whom you
know but too well. Can you not guess who the girl was, Rex?"

The dark eyes regarding her were frozen with horror, his white lips
moved, but no sound issued from them. She leaned nearer to him, her
dark, perfumed hair swept across his face as she whispered, with
startling effect:

"The girl was Daisy Brooks, and she is at this moment in company with
her lover! Heaven pity you, Rex; you must learn to forget her."


When Daisy Brooks opened her eyes, she found herself lying on a white
bed, and in a strange apartment which she never remembered having seen
before. For one brief instant she quite imagined the terrible ordeal
through which she had passed was but a dream. Then it all came back to
her with cruel distinctness.

"Where am I?" she cried, struggling up to a sitting posture, and
putting back the tangled golden hair from her face. "How came I here?
Who saved me from the terrible dark water?"

"I did," answered a young man, rising from his seat by the open
window. "I saved your life at the risk of my own. Look up into my
face, Daisy, and see if you do not remember me."

She lifted her blue eyes to the dark, handsome, smiling face before
her. Yes, she had seen that face before, but she could not remember

He laughed, disclosing his handsome white teeth.

"You can not guess, eh?" he said. "Then it is certainly evident I did
not make much of an impression upon you. I am disappointed. I will not
keep you in suspense, however. We met at Whitestone Hall, on the night
of the lawn fête, and my name is Lester Stanwick."

Ah, she _did_ remember him, standing beneath a waving palm-tree, his
bold, dark eyes following her every motion, while she was waltzing
with Rex.

He saw the flash of recognition in her eyes, and the blush that
mantled her fair, sweet face.

"I am very grateful to you, sir, for saving me. But won't you take me
home, please? I don't want to go back to Madame Whitney's."

"Of course not," he said, with a twinkle in his eyes, "when you left
it in such a remarkable manner as running away."

"How did you know I ran away?" asked Daisy, flushing hotly.

"Madame Whitney has advertised for you," he responded, promptly.

Although he well knew what he uttered was a deliberate falsehood, he
merely guessed the little wild bird had grown weary of the restraint,
and had flown away.

"Did she do that?" asked Daisy, thoroughly alarmed, her great blue
eyes dilating with fear. "Oh, Mr. Stanwick, what shall I do? I do not
want to go back. I would sooner die first."

"There is no occasion for you to do either," he replied. "You are in
good hands. Stay here until the storm blows over. In all probability
the madame has sent detectives out in all directions searching for

Daisy was so young, so unsuspecting, so artless, and knew so little of
the ways of the world or its intriguing people that she quite believed
his assertion.

"Oh, what shall I do?" she sobbed, covering her face with her hands.
"Oh, I _must_ go back to Uncle John, and--to--to--"

Stanwick had no idea she meant Rex. He took it for granted she meant
John Brooks and Septima.

"It is quite uncertain when John Brooks returns to Allendale," he
said; "and I suppose you are aware his sister has also left the
place--gone, no one knows whither--the Brookses' cottage on the brow
of the hill stands empty."

"Gone!" cried Daisy, catching her breath swift and hard, "did you say,
sir? Aunt Septima has gone--no one lives in the cottage?" Poor Daisy
quite believed she was losing her senses.

"Yes," said Stanwick, smothering a low, malicious laugh, "that is what
I said; but I am quite surprised that it is news to you. You are all
alone in the world, you see. Of course you could not go back to
Allendale. You can do no better than stay in your present quarters for
at least a week or so, until you fully recover from your mad frolic on
the water and gain a little strength."

                  *       *       *       *       *

"Where am I?" asked Daisy, "and how did I get here? and who lives

"One question at a time, if you please," laughed Stanwick, gazing
admiringly at the beautiful, questioning, eager face.

"I suppose," he began, with provoking coolness, "you have been filling
that little head of yours with romantic ideas of running away from
school, and sailing far out to sea, and straight into the arms of some
handsome hero who would save you, and would carry you off to some
castle, and turn out to be a prince in disguise! That's the way they
usually turn out, isn't it? But you found the theory did not work very
well in real life, and your little romance came near costing you your
life--eh, Miss Daisy? As for the second question, I rescued you, just
in the nick of time, by jumping into the turbulent waves and bearing
you out of harm's way and keeping that little romantic head of yours
above water until the barge could be stopped, and you were then
brought on board. I recognized you at once," he continued; "and to
prevent suspicion and inquiry, which would have been sure to follow, I
claimed you--as my wife! Do not be alarmed," he said, as a sharp,
horrified cry rose to the red lips. "I simply did that in order to
protect you from being returned at once in bitter disgrace to Madame
Whitney's. Not knowing what else to do with you when the boat landed,
I brought you here, and here you have been ever since, quite
unconscious up to date."

"Was it last night you brought me here?" asked Daisy.

"You are not good at guessing. You have been here two nights and two

"But who lives here?" persisted Daisy. "Is this your house?"

"Oh, dear, no," laughed Stanwick. "Upon my honor, you are not very
complimentary to my taste," he said, glancing around the meagerly
furnished apartment. "As near as I can understand it, the house is
occupied by three grim old maids. Each looks to be the twin of the
other. This was the first shelter I could find, and I had carried you
all the way from the boat in my arms, and under the circumstances,
after much consulting, they at last agreed to allow you to remain
here. Now you have the whole story in a nutshell."

"Why did they not send to Septima to come to me?" she asked

"Because they thought you were with your best protector--your

"Did you tell them that here, too?" asked Daisy, growing white and ill
with a dizzy horror. "Oh, Mr. Stanwick, send for them at once, and
tell them it is not so, or I must!" she added, desperately.

"You must do nothing of the kind, you silly child. Do you suppose they
would have sheltered you for a single instant if they had not believed
you were my wife? You do not know the ways of the world. Believe me,
it was the only course I could pursue, in that awkward dilemma,
without bringing disgrace and detection upon you."

As if in answer to the question that was trembling upon Daisy's lips,
he continued:

"I am stopping at a boarding-place some little distance from here.
This is not Baltimore, but a little station some sixty miles from
there. When you are well and strong you may go where you please,
although I frankly own the situation is by no means an unpleasant one
for me. I would be willing to stay here always--with you."

"Sir!" cried Daisy, flushing as red as the climbing roses against the
window, her blue eyes blazing up with sudden fire, "do you mean to
insult me?"

"By no means," responded Lester Stanwick, eagerly. "Indeed, I respect
and honor you too much for that. Why, I risked my life to save yours,
and shielded your honor with my name. Had I been your husband in very
truth I could not have done more."

Daisy covered her face with her hands.

"I thank you very much for saving me," she sobbed, "but won't you
please go away now and leave me to myself?"

_Roué_ and villain as Lester Stanwick was, he could not help feeling
touched by the innocence and beauty of little Daisy, and from that
instant he loved her with a wild, absorbing, passionate love, and he
made a vow, then and there, that he would win her.

From their boyhood up Rex and Lester had been rivals. At college Rex
had carried off the honors with flying colors. Pluma Hurlhurst, the
wealthy heiress, had chosen Rex in preference to himself. He stood
little chance with bright-eyed maidens compared with handsome,
careless, winning Rex Lyon.

Quite unobserved, he had witnessed the meeting between Rex and Daisy
at the fountain, and how tenderly he clasped her in his arms as they
waltzed together in the mellow light, to the delicious strains of the
"Blue Danube," and knowing Rex as well as he did, he knew for the
first time in life Rex's heart was touched.

"It would be a glorious revenge," Stanwick had muttered to himself,
"if I could win her from him." Then a sordid motive of revenge alone
prompted him--now he was beginning to experience the sweet thrillings
of awakened love himself. Yes, he had learned to love Daisy for her
own sweet self.

He smiled as he thought of the last words Pluma Hurlhurst had said to
him: "Revenge is sweet, Lester, when love is turned to bitter hatred.
Help me to drag Rex Lyon's pride as low as he has this night dragged
mine, and you shall have my hand as your reward. My father is an
invalid--he can not live much longer--then you will be master of
Whitestone Hall." As he had walked down the broad gravel path, running
his eye over the vast plantation stretching afar on all sides, like a
field of snow, as the moonlight fell upon the waving cotton, he owned
to himself it was a fair domain well worth the winning.

But as he stood there, gazing silently down upon little Daisy's
face--how strange it was--he would have given up twenty such
inheritances for the hope of making sweet little Daisy Brooks his

It was well for Daisy Brooks he little dreamed of the great barrier
which lay between them, shutting him out completely from all thoughts
of love in Daisy's romantic heart.


"Please go away," sobbed Daisy. "Leave me to myself, and I will get

"Very well," said Stanwick, involuntarily raising her little white
hands courteously to his lips; "and remember, I warn you, for your own
sake, not to dispute the assertion I have made--that you are my

"Why?" asked Daisy, wistfully. "They will forgive me when I tell them
how it all came about."

"You do not know women's ways," he replied. "They would hand you over
at once to the authorities; you would bring disgrace and ruin upon
your own head, and bitter shame to John Brooks's heart. I know him
well enough to believe he would never forgive you. On the other hand,
when you feel well enough to depart, you can simply say you are going
away with your husband. No one will think of detaining you; you will
be free as the wind to go where you will. It will cost you but a few
words. Remember, there are occasions when it is necessary to
prevaricate in order to prevent greater evils--this is one of them."

Daisy could not dispute this specious logic, and she suffered herself
to be persuaded against her will and better judgment. She was
dreadfully homesick, poor little soul! and to go back to Allendale, to
Rex, was the one wish of her heart. But would he clasp her in his arms
if a shadow of disgrace blotted her fair name? She would go back to
him and kneel at his feet, and tell him why she had left Mme.
Whitney's. She certainly meant to tell him of all that followed, and,
with her little, warm cheek pressed close to his, ask him if she had
done right.

At that moment the door of an adjoining room opened, and Lester
observed the three ladies standing in a row in the door-way. He knew
that three pairs of eyes were regarding him intently through as many
pairs of blue glasses.

"Good-bye, my little wife," he said, raising his voice for their
benefit; "I'm off now. I shall see you again to-morrow;" and, before
Daisy had the least idea of his intentions, he had pressed a kiss upon
her rosy lips and was gone.

The three ladies quickly advanced to the couch upon which Daisy

"We are very glad to find you are so much better this morning," they
exclaimed, all in a breath. "Your husband has been almost demented
about you, my dear."

They wondered why the white face on the pillow turned so pink, then
faded to a dead white, and why the tear-drops started to her beautiful
blue eyes.

"I was telling my sisters," pursued one of the ladies, softly, "you
were so young to be married--hardly more than a child. How old are
you, my dear--not more than sixteen, I suppose?"

"Sixteen and a few months," answered Daisy.

"How long have you been married, my dear?" questioned another of the

A great sob rose in Daisy's throat as she remembered it was just a
week that very day since she had stood in the dim old parlor at the
rectory, while Rex clasped her hands, his handsome, smiling eyes
gazing so lovingly down upon her, while the old minister spoke the
words that bound them for life to each other. It almost seemed to
Daisy that long years had intervened, she had passed through so much
since then.

"Just a week to-day, madame," she made answer.

"Why, you are a bride, then," they all chorused. "Ah! that accounts
for your husband's great anxiety about you. We all agreed we had never
seen a husband more devoted!"

Daisy hid her face in the pillow. She thought she would go mad upon
being so cruelly misunderstood. Oh! if she had only dared throw
herself into their arms and sob out her heartaches on their bosoms.
Yes, she was a bride, but the most pitifully homesick, weary,
disheartened little girl-bride that ever the sun shone on in the wide,
wild world.

They assisted Daisy to arise, brushing out her long, tangled, golden
curls, declaring to one another the pretty little creature looked more
like a merry, rosy-cheeked school-girl than a little bride-wife, in
her pink-and-white dotted muslin, which they had in the meantime done
up for her with their own hands.

They wondered, too, why she never asked for her husband, and she
looked almost ready to faint when they spoke of him.

"There seems to be something of a mystery here," remarked one of
the sisters when the trio were alone. "If that child is a bride,
she is certainly not a happy one. I do not like to judge a
fellow-creature--Heaven forbid! but I am sorely afraid all is not
right with her. Twice this afternoon, entering the room quietly, I
have found her lying face downward on the sofa, crying as if her
heart would break! I am sorely puzzled!"

And the flame of suspicion once lighted was not easily extinguished in
the hearts of the curious spinsters.

"'Won't you tell me your sorrow, my dear?' I said.

"'No, no; I dare not!' she replied.

"'Will you not confide in me, Mrs. Stanwick?' I asked.

"She started up wildly, throwing her arms about my neck.

"'Won't you please call me Daisy?' she sobbed, piteously; 'just
Daisy--nothing else.'

"'Certainly, my dear, if you wish it,' I replied. 'There is one
question I would like to ask you, Daisy--you have told me your mother
is dead?'

"'Yes,' she said, leaning her golden head against the window, and
watching the white clouds overhead in the blue sky--'my poor, dear
mother is dead!'

"'Then will you answer me truthfully the question I am about to ask
you, Daisy, remembering your mother up in heaven hears you.'

"She raised her blue eyes to mine.

"'I shall answer truthfully any question you may put to me,' she said;
'if--if--it is not about Mr. Stanwick.'

"'It is about yourself, Daisy,' I said, gravely. 'Tell me truthfully,
child, are you really a wife?'

"She caught her breath with a hard, gasping sound; but her blue eyes
met mine unflinchingly.

"'Yes, madame, I am, in the sight of God and man; but I am such an
unhappy one. I can not tell you why. My heart is breaking. I want to
go back to Allendale!'

"'Is that where you live, Daisy?'

"'Yes,' she said; 'I am going to start to-morrow morning.'"

"How strange!" echoed the two sisters.

"The strangest part of the affair is yet to come. The little creature
drew from her pocket a twenty-dollar bill.

"'You have been kind and good to me,' she said. I must take enough to
carry me back to Allendale. You shall have all the rest, madame.'

"'Put your money back into your pocket, Daisy,' I replied. 'Your
husband has already paid your bill. He begged me to accept it in
advance on the night you came.'

"She gave a great start, and a flood of hot color rushed over her

"'I--I--did not know,' she said, faintly, 'how very good Mr. Stanwick
has been to me.'"

The three sisters looked at one another in silent wonder over the rims
of their spectacles and shook their heads ominously.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Dear reader, we must return at this period to Rex--poor, broken-hearted
Rex--whom we left in the company of Pluma Hurlhurst in the spacious
parlor of Whitestone Hall.

"Daisy Brooks is at this moment with Lester Stanwick! You must learn
to forget her, Rex," she repeated, slowly.

A low cry escaped from Rex's lips, and he recoiled from her as though
she had struck him a heavy blow. His heart seemed fairly stifled in
his bosom, and he trembled in every limb with repressed excitement.

"Here is a letter from Madame Whitney," she continued. "Read it for
yourself, Rex. You see, she says: 'Daisy fled. It has been since
ascertained she went to Elmwood, a station some sixty miles from here,
where she now is, at the cottage of the Burton sisters, in company
with her lover. I shall not attempt to claim her--her retribution must
come from another source.'"

The words seemed to stand out in letters of fire.

"Oh, my little love," he cried, "there must be some terrible mistake!
My God! my God! there must be some horrible mistake--some foul
conspiracy against you, my little sweetheart, my darling love!"

He rose to his feet with a deep-drawn sigh, his teeth shut close, his
heart beating with great strangling throbs of pain. Strong and brave
as Rex was, this trouble was almost more than he could bear.

"Where are you going, Rex?" said Pluma, laying a detaining hand upon
his arm.

"I am going to Elmwood," he cried, bitterly, "to prove this accusation
is a cruel falsehood. Daisy has no lover; she is as sweet and pure as
Heaven itself! I was mad to doubt her for a single instant."

"Judge for yourself, Rex--seeing is believing," said Pluma,
maliciously, a smoldering vengeance burning in her flashing eyes, and
a cold, cruel smile flitting across her face, while she murmured under
her breath: "Go, fond, foolish lover; your fool's paradise will be
rudely shattered--ay, your hopes crushed worse than mine are now, for
your lips can not wear a smile like mine when your heart is breaking.
Good-bye, Rex," she said, "and remember, in the hour when sorrow
strikes you keenest, turn to me; my friendship is true, and shall
never fail you."

Rex bowed coldly and turned away; his heart was too sick for empty
words, and the heavy-hearted young man, who slowly walked down the
graveled path away from Whitestone Hall in the moonlight, was as
little like the gay, handsome Rex of one short week ago as could well
be imagined.

There was the scent of roses and honeysuckles in the soft wind; and
some sweet-voiced bird awakened from sleep, and fancying it was day,
swung to and fro amid the green foliage, filling the night with
melody. The pitying stars shone down upon him from the moonlighted
heavens; but the still, solemn beauty of the night was lost upon Rex.
He regretted--oh! so bitterly--that he had parted from his sweet
little girl-bride, fearing his mother's scornful anger, or through a
sense of mistaken duty.

"Had they but known little Daisy is my wife, they would have known how
impossible was their accusation that she was with Lester Stanwick."

He shuddered at the very thought of such a possibility.

The thought of Daisy, his little girl-bride, being sent to school
amused him.

"Poor little robin!" he murmured. "No wonder she flew from her bondage
when she found the cage-door open! How pleased the little gypsy will
be to see me!" he mused. "I will clasp the dear little runaway in my
arms, and never let her leave me again! Mother could not help loving
my little Daisy if she were once to see her, and sister Birdie would
take to her at once."

The next morning broke bright and clear; the sunshine drifted through
the green foliage of the trees, and crimson-breasted robins sung
their sweetest songs in the swaying boughs of the blossoming
magnolias; pansies and buttercups gemmed the distant hill-slope, and
nature's fountain--a merry, babbling brook--danced joyously through
the clover banks. No cloud was in the fair, blue, smiling heavens; no
voice of nature warned poor little Daisy, as she stood at the open
window drinking in the pure, sweet beauty of the morning of the dark
clouds which were gathering over her innocent head, and of the storm
which was so soon to burst upon her in all its fury. Daisy turned away
from the window with a little sigh. She did not see a handsome,
stalwart figure hurrying down the hill-side toward the cottage. How
her heart would have throbbed if she had only known Rex (for it was
he) was so near her! With a strangely beating heart he advanced toward
the little wicket gate, at which stood one of the sisters, busily
engaged pruning her rose-bushes.

"Can you tell me, madame, where I can find the Misses Burton's
cottage?" he asked, courteously lifting his hat.

"This is the Burton cottage," she answered, "and I am Ruth Burton.
What can I do for you?"

"I would like to see Daisy Brooks, if you please. She is here, I
believe?" he said, questioningly. "May I come in?"

Rex's handsome, boyish face and winning smile won their way straight
to the old lady's heart at once.

"Perhaps you are the young lady's brother, sir? There is evidently
some mistake, however, as the young lady's name is Stanwick--Daisy
Stanwick. Her husband, Lester Stanwick--I believe that is the name--is
also in Elmwood."

All the color died out of Rex's handsome face and the light from his
brown eyes. He leaned heavily against the gate-post. The words seemed
shrieked on the air and muttered on the breeze.

"Daisy is _not_ his wife! My God, madame!" he cried, hoarsely, "she
_could not_ be!"

"It is very true," replied the old lady, softly. "I have her own words
for it. There may be some mistake, as you say," she said, soothingly,
noting the death-like despair that settled over the noble face. "She
is a pretty, fair, winsome little creature, blue-eyed, and curling
golden hair, and lives at Allendale. She is certainly married. I will
call her. She shall tell you so herself. Daisy--Mrs. Stanwick--come
here, dear," she called.

"I am coming, Miss Ruth," answered a sweet, bird-like voice, which
pierced poor Rex's heart to the very core as a girlish little figure
bounded through the open door-way, out into the brilliant sunshine.

"God pity me!" cried Rex, staggering forward. "It _is_ Daisy--my


Rex had hoped against hope.

"Daisy!" he cried, holding out his arms to her with a yearning,
passionate cry. "My God! tell me it is false--you are _not_ here with
Stanwick--or I shall go mad! Daisy, my dear little sweetheart, my
little love, why don't you speak?" he cried, clasping her close to his
heart and covering her face and hair and hands with passionate,
rapturous kisses.

Daisy struggled out of his embrace, with a low, broken sob, flinging
herself on her knees at his feet with a sharp cry.

"Daisy," said the old lady, bending over her and smoothing back the
golden hair from the lovely anguished face, "tell him the truth, dear.
You are here with Mr. Stanwick; is it not so?"

The sudden weight of sorrow that had fallen upon poor, hapless Daisy
seemed to paralyze her very senses. The sunshine seemed blotted out,
and the light of heaven to grow dark around her.

"Yes," she cried, despairingly; and it almost seemed to Daisy another
voice had spoken with her lips.

"This Mr. Stanwick claims to be your husband?" asked the old lady,

"Yes," she cried out again, in agony, "but, Rex, I--I--"

The words died away on her white lips, and the sound died away in her
throat. She saw him recoil from her with a look of white, frozen
horror on his face which gave place to stern, bitter wrath. Slowly and
sadly he put her clinging arms away from him, folding his arms across
his breast with that terrible look upon his face such as a hero's face
wears when he has heard, unflinchingly, his death sentence--the calm
of terrible despair.

"Daisy," he said, proudly, "I have trusted you blindly, for I loved
you madly, passionately. I would as soon believe the fair smiling
heavens that bend above us false as you whom I loved so madly and so
well. I was mad to bind you with such cruel, irksome bonds when your
heart was not mine but another's. My dream of love is shattered now.
You have broken my heart and ruined and blighted my life. God forgive
you, Daisy, for I never can! I give you back your freedom; I release
you from your vows; I can not curse you--I have loved you too well for
that; I cast you from my heart as I cast you from my life; farewell,
Daisy--farewell forever!"

She tried to speak, but her tongue cleaved to the roof of her mouth.
Oh, pitying Heaven, if she could only have cried out to you and the
angels to bear witness and proclaim her innocence! The strength to
move hand or foot seemed suddenly to have left her. She tried hard,
oh! so hard, to speak, but no sound issued from her white lips. She
felt as one in a horrible trance, fearfully, terribly conscious of all
that transpired around her, yet denied the power to move even a muscle
to defend herself.

"Have you anything to say to me, Daisy?" he asked, mournfully, turning
from her to depart.

The woful, terrified gaze of the blue eyes deepened pitifully, but she
spoke no word, and Rex turned from her--turned from the girl-bride
whom he loved so madly, with a bursting, broken heart, more bitter to
bear than death itself--left her alone with the pitying sunlight
falling upon her golden hair, and her white face turned up to heaven,
silently praying to God that she might die then and there.

Oh, Father above, pity her! She had no mother's gentle voice to guide
her, no father's strong breast to weep upon, no sister's soothing
presence. She was so young and so pitifully lonely, and Rex had
drifted out of her life forever, believing her--oh, bitterest of
thoughts!--believing her false and sinful.

Poor little Daisy was ignorant of the ways of the world; but a dim
realization of the full import of the terrible accusation brought
against her forced its way to her troubled brain.

She only realized--Rex--her darling Rex, had gone out of her life

Daisy flung herself face downward in the long, cool, waving green
grass where Rex had left her.

"Daisy," called Miss Burton, softly, "it is all over; come into the
house, my dear."

But she turned from her with a shuddering gasp.

"In the name of pity, leave me to myself," she sobbed; "it is the
greatest kindness you can do me."

And the poor old lady who had wrought so much sorrow unwittingly in
those two severed lives, walked slowly back to the cottage, with tears
in her eyes, strongly impressed there must be some dark mystery in the
young girl's life who was sobbing her heart out in the green grass
yonder; and she did just what almost any other person would have done
under the same circumstances--sent immediately for Lester Stanwick.
He answered the summons at once, listening with intense interest while
the aged spinster briefly related all that had transpired; but through
oversight or excitement she quite forgot to mention Rex had called
Daisy his wife.

"Curse him!" he muttered, under his breath, "I--I believe the girl
actually cares for him."

Then he went out to Daisy, lying so still and lifeless among the pink
clover and waving grass.

Poor Daisy! Poor, desperate, lonely, struggling child! All this cruel
load of sorrow, crushing her girlish heart, and blighting her young
life, and she so innocent, so entirely blameless, yet such a plaything
of fate.

"Daisy," he said, bending over her and lifting the slight form in his
arms, "they tell me some one has been troubling you. Who has dared
annoy you? Trust in me, Daisy. What is the matter?"

Lester Stanwick never forgot the white, pitiful face that was raised
to his.

"I want to die," she sobbed. "Oh, why did you not leave me to die in
the dark water? it was so cruel of you to save me."

"Do you want to know why I risked my life to save you, Daisy? Does not
my every word and glance tell you why?" The bold glance in his eyes
spoke volumes. "Have you not guessed that I love you, Daisy?"

"Oh, please do not talk to me in that way, Mr. Stanwick," she cried,
starting to her feet in wild alarm. "Indeed you must not," she

"Why not?" he demanded, a merciless smile stirring beneath his heavy
mustache. "I consider that you belong to me. I mean to make you my
wife in very truth."

Daisy threw up her hands in a gesture of terror heart-breaking to see,
shrinking away from him in quivering horror, her sweet face ashen

"Oh, go away, go away!" she cried out. "I am growing afraid of you. I
could never marry you, and I would not if I could. I shall always be
grateful to you for what you have done for me, but, oh, go away, and
leave me now, for my trouble is greater than I can bear!"

"You would not if you could," he repeated, coolly, smiling so
strangely her blood seemed to change to ice in her veins. "I thank you
sincerely for your appreciation of me. I did not dream, however, your
aversion to me was so deeply rooted. That makes little difference,
however. I shall make you my wife this very day all the same;
business, urgent business, calls me away from Elmwood to-day. I shall
take you with me as my wife."

She heard the cruel words like one in a dream.

"Rex! Rex!" she sobbed, under her breath. Suddenly she remembered Rex
had left her--she was never to look upon his face again. He had left
her to the cold mercies of a cruel world. Poor little Daisy--the
unhappy, heart-broken girl-bride--sat there wondering what else could
happen to her. "God has shut me out from His mercy," she cried; "there
is nothing for me to do but to die."

"I am a desperate man, Daisy," pursued Stanwick, slowly. "My will is
my law. The treatment you receive at my hands depends entirely upon
yourself--you will not dare defy me!" His eyes fairly glowed with a
strange fire that appalled her as she met his passionate glance.

Then Daisy lifted up her golden head with the first defiance she had
ever shown, the deathly pallor deepening on her fair, sweet,
flower-like face, and the look of a hunted deer at bay in the
beautiful velvety agonized eyes, as she answered:

"I refuse to marry you, Mr. Stanwick. Please go away and leave me in

He laughed mockingly.

"I shall leave you for the present, my little sweetheart," he said,
"but I shall return in exactly fifteen minutes. Hold yourself in
readiness to receive me then; I shall not come alone, but bring with
me a minister, who will be prepared to marry us. I warn you not to
attempt to run away," he said, interpreting aright the startled glance
she cast about her. "In yonder lane stands a trusty sentinel to see
that you do not leave this house. You have been guarded thus since you
entered this house; knowing your proclivity to escape impending
difficulties, I have prepared accordingly. You can not escape your
fate, my little wild flower!"

"No minister would marry an unwilling bride--he could not. I would
fling myself at his feet and tell him all, crying out I was--I was--"

"You will do nothing of the kind," he interrupted, a hard, resolute
look settling on his face. "I would have preferred winning you by fair
means, if possible; if you make it impossible I shall be forced to a
desperate measure. I had not intended adopting such stringent
measures, except in an extreme case. Permit me to explain what I shall
do to prevent you from making the slightest outcry." As he spoke he
drew from his pocket a small revolver heavily inlaid with pearl and
silver. "I shall simply hold this toy to your pretty forehead to
prevent a scene. The minister will be none the wiser--he is blind? Do
you think," he continued, slowly, "that I am the man to give up a
thing I have set my heart upon for a childish whim?"

"Believe me," cried Daisy, earnestly, "it is no childish whim. Oh, Mr.
Stanwick, I want to be grateful to you--why will you torture me until
I hate you?"

"I will marry you this very day, Daisy Brooks, whether you hate me or
love me. I have done my best to gain your love. It will come in time;
I can wait for it."

"You will never make me love you," cried Daisy, covering her face with
her hands; "do not hope it--and the more you talk to me the less I
like you. I wish you would go away."

"I shall not despair," said Stanwick, with a confident smile. "I like
things which I find it hard to obtain--that was always one of my
characteristics--and I never liked you so well as I like you now, in
your defiant anger, and feel more determined than ever to make you my

Suddenly a new thought occurred to him as he was about to turn from

"Why, how stupid of me!" he cried. "I could not bring the parson here,
for they think you my wife already. I must change my plan materially
by taking you to the parsonage. We can go from here directly to the
station. I shall return in exactly fifteen minutes with a conveyance.
Remember, I warn you to make no outcry for protection in the meantime.
If you do I shall say you inherited your mother's malady. I am well
acquainted with your history, you see." He kissed his finger-tips to
her carelessly. "_Au revoir_, my love, but not farewell," he said,
lightly, "until we meet to be parted nevermore," and, with a quick,
springy step Lester Stanwick walked rapidly down the clover-bordered
path on his fatal errand.

In the distance the little babbling brook sung to her of peace and
rest beneath its curling, limpid waters.

"Oh, mother, mother," she cried, "what was the dark sorrow that
tortured your poor brain, till it drove you mad--ay, mad--ending in
death and despair? Why did you leave your little Daisy here to suffer
so? I feel such a throbbing in my own poor brain--but I must fly
anywhere, anywhere, to escape this new sorrow. God has forgotten me."
She took one step forward in a blind, groping, uncertain way. "My last
ray of hope has died out," she cried as the memory of his cruel words
came slowly back to her, so mockingly uttered--"the minister would be
none the wiser--he is blind."


When Lester Stanwick returned to the cottage he found that quite an
unexpected turn of events had transpired. Miss Burton had gone out to
Daisy--she lay so still and lifeless in the long green grass.

"Heaven bless me!" she cried, in alarm, raising her voice to a pitch
that brought both of the sisters quickly to her side. "Matilda, go at
once and fetch the doctor. See, this child is ill, her cheeks are
burning scarlet and her eyes are like stars."

At that opportune moment they espied the doctor's carriage proceeding
leisurely along the road.

"Dear me, how lucky," cried Ruth, "Doctor West should happen along
just now. Go to the gate, quick, Matilda, and ask him to stop."

The keen eyes of the doctor, however, had observed the figure lying on
the grass and the frantic movements of the three old ladies bending
over it, and drew rein of his own accord to see what was the matter.

He drew back with a cry of surprise as his eyes rested on the
beautiful flushed face of the young girl lying among the blue
harebells at his feet.

"I am afraid this is a serious case," he said, thoughtfully, placing
his cool hand on her burning forehead; "the child has all the symptoms
of brain fever in its worst form, brought on probably through some
great excitement." The three ladies looked at one another meaningly.
"She must be taken into the house and put to bed at once," he
continued, authoritatively, lifting the slight figure in his strong
arms, and gazing pityingly down upon the beautiful flushed face framed
in its sheen of golden hair resting against his broad shoulders.

The doctor was young and unmarried and impressible; and the strangest
sensation he had ever experienced thrilled through his heart as the
blue, flaring eyes met his and the trembling red lips incoherently
beseeched him to save her, hide her somewhere, anywhere, before the
fifteen minutes were up.

A low muttered curse burst from Stanwick's lips upon his return, as he
took in the situation at a single glance.

As Daisy's eyes fell upon Stanwick's face she uttered a piteous little

"Save me from him--save me!" she said, hysterically, growing rapidly
so alarmingly worse that Stanwick was forced to leave the room,
motioning the doctor to follow him into the hall.

"The young lady is my wife," he said, with unflinching assurance,
uttering the cruel falsehood, "and we intend leaving Elmwood to-day. I
am in an uncomfortable dilemma. I must go, yet I can not leave my--my
wife. She must be removed, doctor; can you not help me to arrange it
in some way?"

"No, sir," cried the doctor, emphatically; "she can not be removed. As
her physician, I certainly would not give my consent to such a
proceeding; her very life would pay the forfeit."

For a few moments Lester Stanwick paced up and down the hall lost in
deep thought; his lips were firmly set, and there was a determined
gleam in his restless black eyes. Suddenly he stopped short directly
before the doctor, who stood regarding him with no very agreeable
expression in his honest gray eyes.

"How long will it be before the crisis is past--that is, how long will
it be before she is able to be removed?"

"Not under three weeks," replied the doctor, determinedly.

"Good heavens!" he ejaculated, sharply. "Why, I shall have to--" He
bit his lip savagely, as if he had been on the point of disclosing
some guarded secret. "Fate is against me," he said, "in more ways than
one; these things can not be avoided, I suppose. Well, doctor, as I am
forced to leave to-day I shall leave her in your charge. I will return
in exactly two weeks. She has brain fever, you say?"

The doctor nodded.

"You assure me she can not leave her bed for two weeks to come?" he
continued, anxiously.

"I can safely promise that," replied the doctor, wondering at the
strange, satisfied smile that flitted like a meteor over his
companion's face for one brief instant.

"This will defray her expenses in the meantime," he said, putting a
few crisp bank-notes into the doctor's hand. "See that she has every

He was about to re-enter the room where Daisy lay, but the doctor held
him back.

"I should advise you to remain away for the present," he said, "your
presence produces such an unpleasant effect upon her. Wait until she

"I have often thought it so strange people in delirium shrink so from
those they love best; I can not understand it," said Stanwick, with an
odd, forced laugh. "As you are the doctor, I suppose your orders must
be obeyed, however. If the fever should happen to take an unfavorable
turn in the meantime, please drop a line to my address, 'care of Miss
Pluma Hurlhurst, of Whitestone Hall, Allendale,'" he said, extending
his card. "It will be forwarded to me promptly, and I can come on at

Again the doctor nodded, putting the card safely away in his wallet,
and soon after Lester Stanwick took his departure, roundly cursing his
luck, yet congratulating himself upon the fact that Daisy could not
leave Elmwood--he could rest content on that score.

Meanwhile the three venerable sisters and the young doctor were
watching anxiously at Daisy's bedside.

"Oh, my poor little dear--my pretty little dear!" sobbed Ruth,
caressing the burning little hands that clung to her so tightly.

"Won't you hide me?" pleaded Daisy, laying her hot cheek against the
wrinkled hand that held hers. "Hide me, please, just as if I were your
own child; I have no mother, you know."

"God help the pretty, innocent darling!" cried the doctor, turning
hastily away to hide the suspicious moisture that gathered in his
eyes. "No one is going to harm you, little one," he said, soothingly;
"no one shall annoy you."

"Was it so great a sin? He would not let me explain. He has gone out
of my life!" she wailed, pathetically, putting back the golden rings
of hair from her flushed face. "Rex! Rex!" she sobbed, incoherently,
"I shall die--or, worse, I shall go mad, if you do not come back to

The three ladies looked at one another questioningly, in alarm.

"You must not mind the strange ravings of a person in delirium," said
the doctor, curtly; "they are liable to imagine and say all sorts of
nonsense. Pay no attention to what she says, my dear ladies; don't
disturb her with questions. That poor little brain needs absolute
rest; every nerve seems to have been strained to its utmost."

After leaving the proper medicines and giving minute instructions as
to how and when it should be administered, Dr. West took his
departure, with a strange, vague uneasiness at his heart.

"Pshaw!" he muttered to himself, as he drove briskly along the shadowy
road, yet seeing none of its beauty, "how strange it is these young
girls will fall in love and marry such fellows as that!" he mused.
"There is something about his face that I don't like; he is a
scoundrel, and I'll bet my life on it!"

The doctor brought his fist down on his knee with such a resounding
blow that poor old Dobbin broke into a gallop. But, drive as fast he
would, he could not forget the sweet, childish face that had taken
such a strong hold upon his fancy. The trembling red lips and pleading
blue eyes haunted him all the morning, as though they held some secret
they would fain have whispered.

All the night long Daisy clung to the hands that held hers, begging
and praying her not to leave her alone, until the poor old lady was
quite overcome by the fatigue of continued watching beside her couch.
Rest or sleep seemed to have fled from Daisy's bright, restless eyes.

"Don't go away," she cried; "everybody goes away. I do not belong to
any one. I am all--all--alone," she would sigh, drearily.

Again she fancied she was with Rex, standing beneath the magnolia
boughs in the sunshine; again, she was clinging to his arm--while some
cruel woman insulted her--sobbing pitifully upon his breast; again,
she was parting from him at the gate, asking him if what they had done
was right; then she was in some school-room, begging piteously for
some cruel letter; then out on the waves in the storm and the
on-coming darkness of night.

The sisters relieved one another at regular intervals. They had ceased
to listen to her pathetic little appeals for help, or the wild cries
of agony that burst from the red feverish lips as she started up from
her slumbers with stifled sobs, moaning out that the time was flying;
that she must escape anywhere, anywhere, while there were still
fifteen minutes left her.

She never once mentioned Stanwick's name, or Septima's, but called
incessantly for Rex and poor old Uncle John.

"Who in the world do you suppose Rex is?" said Matilda, thoughtfully.
"That name is continually on her lips--the last word she utters when
she closes her eyes, the first word to cross her lips when she awakes.
That must certainly be the handsome young fellow she met at the gate.
If he is Rex I do not wonder the poor child loved him so. He was the
handsomest, most noble-looking, frank-faced young man I have ever
seen; and he took on in a way that made me actually cry when I told
him she was married. He would not believe it, until I called the child
and she told him herself it was the truth. I was sorry from the bottom
of my heart that young fellow had not won her instead of this
Stanwick, they were so suited to each other."

"Ah," said Ruth, after a moment's pause, "I think I have the key to
this mystery. She loves this handsome Rex, that is evident; perhaps
they have had a lovers' quarrel, and she has married this one on the
spur of the moment through pique. Oh, the pretty little dear!" sighed
Ruth. "I hope she will never rue it."


Slowly the days came and went for the next fortnight. The crisis had
passed, and Dr. West said she would soon recover. The beautiful, long,
golden hair had been shorn from the pretty little head, and the
rose-bloom had died out of the pretty cheeks, but the bright, restless
light never left the beautiful blue eyes--otherwise there was but
little change in Daisy.

It had been just two weeks that morning, they told her, as she opened
her eyes to consciousness, since she had first been stricken down.

"And I have been here ever since?" she inquired, wonderingly.

"Yes, my dear," replied Ruth Burton, softly patting the thin white
cheeks; "of course you have been here ever since. I am afraid we are
going to lose you soon, however. We have received a letter from your
husband, saying he will be here some time to-morrow. Shall you be
pleased to see him, dear?"

In one single instant all the dim, horrible past rushed back to Daisy's
mind. She remembered flinging herself down in the clover-scented
grass, and the world growing dark around her, as the terrible words of
Stanwick rang in her ears--he would be back in just fifteen minutes to
claim her.

Ah, bonny little Daisy, tossing on your pillow, babbling empty
nothings, better would it have been for you, perhaps, if you had
dropped the weary burden of your life into the kindly arms of death
then and there than to struggle onward into the dark mystery which lay
entombed in your future.

"Shall you be glad to see Mr. Stanwick, dear?" repeated the old lady,
and, unconscious of any wrong, she placed the letter he had written in
Daisy's hands. Like one in a terrible dream, Daisy read it quite
through to the end. "You see, he says he incloses fifty dollars extra
for you, dear. I have placed it with the twenty safe in your little

"Oh, Miss Ruth, you are so very kind to me. I shall never forget how
good you have all been to me," said Daisy, softly, watching the three
peaceful-faced old ladies, who had drawn their rocking-chairs, as was
their custom, all in a row, and sat quietly knitting in the sunshine,
the gentle click of their needles falling soothingly upon Daisy's
poor, tired brain.

"We shall miss you sadly when you go," said Ruth, knitting away
vigorously. "You have been like a ray of sunshine in this gloomy old
house. We have all learned to love you very dearly."

"You love me?" repeated Daisy, wonderingly. "I was beginning to
believe every one hated me in the whole world, every one has been so
bitter and so cruel with me, except poor old Uncle John. I often
wonder why God lets me live--what am I to do with my life! Mariana in
the moated grange, was not more to be pitied than I. Death relieved
her, but I am left to struggle on."

"Heaven hear her!" cried Ruth. "One suffers a great deal to lose all
interest in life. You are so young, dear, you could not have suffered

"I have lost all I hold dear in life," she answered, pathetically,
lifting her beautiful, childish blue eyes toward the white fleecy
clouds tinted by the setting sun.

Their hearts ached for the pretty, lonely little creature. They
believed she was thinking of her mother. So she was--and of Rex, the
handsome young husband whom she so madly idolized in her worshipful
childish fashion, who was worse than dead to her--the husband who
should have believed in her honor and purity, though the world had
cried out to him that she was false. He had thrust aside all
possibility of her writing to him; cast her out from his life; left
her to be persecuted beyond all endurance; bound by a vow she dare not
break to keep her marriage with Rex a secret. Though he was more cruel
than death, she loved Rex with a devotion that never faltered.

Daisy lay there, thinking of it all, while the soft, golden sunlight
died out of the sky, and the deep dusk of twilight crept softly on.

Then the old ladies arose from their chairs, folded their knitting,
and put it away. Dusk was their hour for retiring.

They were discussing which one should sit up with Daisy, when she
summoned them all to her bedside.

"I want you all to go to bed and never mind me," coaxed Daisy, with a
strange light in her eyes. "Take a good sleep, as I am going to do. I
shall be very happy to-morrow--happier than I have ever been before!"

She clasped her white arms about their necks in turn, clinging to
them, and sobbing as though she was loath to part with them.

Ruth's hand she held last and longest.

"Please kiss me again," she sobbed. "Clasp your arms tight around me,
and say 'Good-night, Daisy.' It will be so nice to dream about."

With a cheery laugh the old lady lovingly complied with her request.

"You must close those bright little eyes of yours, and drift quickly
into the Land of Nod, or there will be no roses in these cheeks
to-morrow. Good-night, my pretty little dear!"

"Good-night, dear, kind Ruth!" sighed Daisy.

And she watched the old lady with wistful, hungry eyes as she picked
up her shaded night-lamp, that threw such a soft, sweet radiance over
her aged face, as she quietly quitted the room.

A sudden change came over Daisy's face as the sound of her footsteps
died away in the hall.

"Oh, God! help me!" she cried, piteously, struggling to her feet. "I
must be far away from here when daylight breaks."

She was so weak she almost fell back on her bed again when she
attempted to rise. The thought of the morrow lent strength to her
flagging energies. A strange mist seemed rising before her. Twice she
seemed near fainting, but her indomitable courage kept her from
sinking, as she thought of what the morrow would have in store for

Quietly she counted over the little store in her purse by the moon's

"Seventy dollars! Oh, I could never use all that in my life!" she
cried. "Besides, I could never touch one cent of Stanwick's money. It
would burn my fingers--I am sure it would!"

Folding the bill carefully in two she placed it beneath her little
snowy ruffled pillow. Then catching up the thick, dark shawl which lay
on an adjacent table, she wrapped it quickly about her. She opened the
door leading out into the hall, and listened. All was still--solemnly

Daisy crept softly down the stairs, and out into the quiet beauty of
the still, summer night.

"Rex," she wailed, softly, "perhaps when I am dead you will feel sorry
for poor little Daisy, and some one may tell you how you have wronged
me in your thoughts, but you would not let me tell you how it

In the distance she saw the shimmer of water lying white and still
under the moon's rays, tipped by the silvery light of the stars.

"No, not that way," she cried, with a shudder; "some one might save
me, and I want to die!"

In the distance the red and colored gleaming lights of an apothecary's
shop caught her gaze.

"Yes, that way will be best," she said, reflectively.

She drew the shawl closer about her, pressing on as rapidly as her
feeble little feet would carry her. How weak she was when she turned
the knob and entered--the very lights seemed dancing around her.

A small, keen-eyed, shrewd little man stepped briskly forward to wait
upon her. He started back in horror at the utter despair and woe in
the beautiful young face that was turned for a moment toward him,
beautiful in all its pallor as a statue, with a crown of golden hair
such as pictures of angels wear encircling the perfect head.

"What can I do for you, miss?" queried the apothecary, gazing
searchingly into the beautiful dreamy blue eyes raised up to his and
wondering who she could possibly be.

"I wish to purchase some laudanum," Daisy faltered. "I wish it to
relieve a pain which is greater than I can bear."

"Toothache, most probably?" intimated the brisk little doctor. "I know
what it is. Lord bless you! I've had it until I thought I should jump
through the roof. Laudanum's a first-class thing, but I can tell you
of something better--jerk 'em out, that's my recipe," he said, with an
odd little smile. "Of course every one to their notion, and if you say
laudanum--and nothing else--why it's laudanum you shall have; but
remember it's powerful. Why, ten drops of it would cause--death."

"How many drops did you say?" asked Daisy, bending forward eagerly.
"I--I want to be careful in taking it."

"Ten drops, I said, would poison a whole family, and twenty a
regiment. You must use it very carefully, miss. Remember I have warned
you," he said, handing her the little bottle filled with a dark liquid
and labeled conspicuously, "Laudanum--a poison."

"Please give me my change quickly," she said, a strange, deadly
sickness creeping over her.

"Certainly, ma'am," assented the obliging little man, handing her back
the change.

Daisy quite failed to notice that he returned her the full amount she
had paid him in his eagerness to oblige her, and he went happily back
to compounding his drugs in the rear part of the shop, quite
unconscious he was out the price of the laudanum.

He was dreaming of the strange beauty of the young girl, and the smile
deepened on his good-humored face as he remembered how sweetly she had
gazed up at him.

Meanwhile Daisy struggled on, clasping her treasure close to her
throbbing heart. She remembered Ruth had pointed out an old shaft to
her from her window; it had been unused many years, she had said.

"The old shaft shall be my tomb," she said; "no one will think of
looking for me there."

Poor little Daisy--unhappy girl-bride, let Heaven not judge her
harshly--she was sorely tried.

"Mother, mother!" she sobbed, in a dry, choking voice, "I can not live
any longer. I am not taking the life God gave me, I am only returning
it to Him. This is the only crime I have ever committed, mother, and
man will forget it, and God will forgive me. You must plead for me,
angel-mother. Good-bye, dear, kind Uncle John, your love never failed
me, and Rex--oh, Rex--whom I love best of all, you will not know how I
loved you. Oh, my love--my lost love--I shall watch over you up
there!" she moaned, "and come to you in your dreams! Good-bye, Rex, my
love, my husband!" she sobbed, holding the fatal liquid to her parched

The deep yawning chasm lay at her feet. Ten--ay, eleven drops she
hastily swallowed. Then with one last piteous appeal to Heaven for
forgiveness, poor, helpless little Daisy closed her eyes and sprung
into the air.


A strong hand drew Daisy quickly back.

"Rash child! What is this that you would do?" cried an eager, earnest
voice, and, turning quickly about, speechless with fright, Daisy met
the stern eyes of the apothecary bent searchingly, inquiringly upon

"It means that I am tired of life," she replied, desperately. "My life
is so full of sadness it will be no sorrow to leave it. I wanted to
rest quietly down there, but you have held me back; it is useless to
attempt to save me now. I have already swallowed a portion of the
laudanum. Death must come to relieve me soon. It would be better to
let me die down there where no one could have looked upon my face

"I had no intention to let you die so easily," said the apothecary,
softly. "I read your thoughts too plainly for that. I did not give you
laudanum, but a harmless mixture instead, and followed you to see if
my surmise was correct. You are young and fair--surely life could not
have lost all hope and sunshine for you?"

"You do not know all," said Daisy, wearily, "or you would not have
held me back. I do not know of another life so utterly hopeless as my

The good man looked at the sweet, innocent, beautiful face, upon which
the starlight fell, quite bewildered and thoughtful.

"I should like to know what your trouble is," he said, gently.

"I could tell you only one half of it," she replied, wearily. "I have
suffered much, and yet through no fault of my own. I am cast off,
deserted, condemned to a loveless, joyless life; my heart is broken;
there is nothing left me but to die. I repeat that it is a sad fate."

"It is indeed," replied the apothecary, gravely. "Yet, alas! not an
uncommon one. Are you quite sure that nothing can remedy it?"

"Quite sure," replied Daisy, hopelessly. "My doom is fixed; and no
matter how long I live, or how long he lives, it can never be

The apothecary was uncomfortable without knowing why, haunted by a
vague, miserable suspicion, which poor Daisy's words secretly
corroborated; yet it seemed almost a sin to harbor one suspicion
against the purity of the artless little creature before him. He
looked into the fresh young face. There was no cloud on it, no guilt
lay brooding in the clear, truthful blue eyes. He never dreamed little
Daisy was a wife. "Why did he not love her?" was the query the
apothecary asked himself over and over again; "she is so young, so
loving, and so fair. He has cast her off, this man to whom she has
given the passionate love of her young heart."

"You see you did wrong to hold me back," she said, gently. "How am I
to live and bear this sorrow that has come upon me? What am I to do?"

She looked around her with the bewildered air of one who had lost her
way, with the dazed appearance of one from beneath whose feet the bank
of safety has been withdrawn. Hope was dead, and the past a blank.

"No matter what your past has been, my poor child, you must remember
there is a future. Take up the burden again, and bear it nobly; go
back to your home, and commence life anew."

"I have no home and no friends," she sighed, hopelessly.

"Poor child," he said, pityingly, "is it as bad as that?"

A sudden idea seemed to occur to him.

"You are a perfect stranger to me," he said, "but I believe you to be
an honorable girl, and I should like to befriend you, as I would pray
Heaven to befriend a daughter of mine if she were similarly situated.
If I should put you in a way of obtaining your own living as companion
to an elderly lady in a distant city, would you be willing to take up
the tangled threads of your life again, and wait patiently until God
saw fit to call you--that is, you would never attempt to take your
life into your own hands again?" he asked, slowly. "Remember, such an
act is murder, and a murderer can not enter the kingdom of heaven."

He never forgot the startled, frightened glance that swept over the
beautiful face, plainly discernible in the white moonlight, nor the
quiver of the sweet, tremulous voice as Daisy answered:

"I think God must have intended me to live, or He would not have sent
you here to save me," she answered, impulsively. "Twice I have been
near death, and each time I have been rescued. I never attempted to
take my own life but this once. I shall try and accept my fate and
live out my weary life."

"Bravely spoken, my noble girl," replied her rescuer, heartily.

"I must go far away from here, though," she continued, shuddering; "I
am sorely persecuted here."

The old man listened gravely to her disconnected, incoherent words,
drawing but one conclusion from them--"the lover who had cast her off
was pursuing the child, as her relentless foe, to the very verge of
death and despair."

"It is my sister who wants a companion," he said. "She lives in the
South--in Florida. Do you think you would like to go as far away as

"Yes," said Daisy, mechanically. "I should like to go to the furthest
end of the world. It does not matter much where I go!"

How little she knew where fate was drifting her! Rex had not told her
his home was in Florida; he meant to tell her that on the morning he
was to have met her.

"It will be a long, wearisome journey for you to undertake, still I
feel sure you are brave enough to accomplish it in safety."

"I thank you very much for your confidence in me, sir," said Daisy,

"Tut, tut, child!" exclaimed the old man, brusquely. "That innocent
little face of yours ought to be a passport to any one's confidence. I
don't think there's any doubt but what you will get on famously with
Maria--that's my sister Mrs. Glenn--but she's got three daughters that
would put an angel's temper on edge. They're my nieces--more's the
pity, for they are regular Tartars. Mrs. Glenn sent for my daughter
Alice to come down there; but, Lord bless you, I wouldn't dare send
her! There would be a raging quarrel before twenty-four hours! My
Alice has got a temper of her own. But, pshaw! I ought not to frighten
you, my dear; they could not help but love _you_."

And thus it was Daisy's fate was unchangeably settled for her.

"There is one thing I would like you to promise me," she said,
timidly, "and that is never to divulge my whereabouts to any one who
might come in search of me. I must remain dead to the world forever; I
shall never take up the old life again. They must believe me dead."

Argument and persuasion alike were useless; and, sorely troubled at
heart, the apothecary reluctantly consented. Poor little Daisy
impulsively caught him by both hands, and gratefully sobbed out her

The arrangements were soon completed, and before the gray dawn pierced
the darkness of the eastern sky poor little Daisy was whirling rapidly
away from Elmwood.

The consternation and excitement which prevailed at the Burton Cottage
when Daisy's absence was discovered can better be imagined than
described; or the intense anger of Stanwick upon finding Daisy had
eluded him.

"Checkmated!" he cried, white to the very lips. "But she shall not
escape me; she shall suffer for this freak. I am not a man to be
trifled with. She can not have gone far," he assured himself. "In all
probability she has left Elmwood; but if by rail or by water I can
easily recapture my pretty bird. Ah, Daisy Brooks!" he muttered, "you
can not fly away from your fate; it will overtake you sooner or

Some hours after Stanwick had left the cottage, an old man toiled
wearily up the grass-grown path.

"Oh, poor little Daisy," he said, wiping the tears from his eyes with
his old red and white cotton kerchief; "no matter what you have done
I will take you back to my heart--that I will!"

He clutched the letter Mme. Whitney had written him close in his
toil-hardened hand. The letter simply told him Daisy had fled from the
seminary, and she had every reason to believe she was now in Elmwood.
He had received the letter while in New York, and hastily proceeded to
Elmwood, the station indicated, at once, without stopping over at
Allendale to acquaint Septima with the news.

"She shall never be sent off to school again," he commented; "but she
shall stop at home. Poor little pet, she was always as happy as the
day was long; she sha'n't have book-learning if she don't want it. I
am too hard, I s'pose, with the child in sending her off among these
primpy city gals, with their flounces and furbelows, with only three
plain muslin frocks. The dickens fly away with the book-learnin'; I
like her all the better just as she is, bless her dear little heart!
I'm after little Daisy Brooks," he said, bowing to the ladies who met
him at the door. "I heard she was here--run away from school, you see,
ma'am--but I'll forgive the little gypsy. Tell her old Uncle John is
here. She'll be powerful glad to see me."

Slowly and gently they broke to him the cruel story. How the dark,
handsome stranger had brought her there in the storm and the night;
and they could not refuse her shelter; the gentleman claimed her to be
his wife; of her illness which culminated in her disappearance.

They never forgot the white, set face turned toward them. The veins
stood out like cords on his forehead, and the perspiration rolled down
his pallid cheeks in great quivering beads. This heart-rending, silent
emotion was more terrible to witness than the most violent paroxysms
of grief. Strangely enough they had quite forgotten to mention Rex's

"You don't know how I loved that child," he cried, brokenly. "She was
all I had to love in the whole world, and I set such store by her, but
Stanwick shall pay dearly for this," he cried, hoarsely. "I shall
never rest day or night until my little Daisy's honor is avenged, so
help me God! You think she is dead?" he questioned, looking brokenly
from the one to the other.

They only nodded their heads; they could not speak through their

At that moment several of the neighbors who were assisting in the
search were seen coming toward the cottage.

They gathered in a little knot by the garden wall. With a heart
heavier than lead in his bosom John Brooks went forward to meet them.

"You haven't got any track of my little Daisy?" he asked, despondingly.
The men averted their faces. "For God's sake speak out, my men!" he
cried, in agony; "I can't stand this suspense."

"There are footprints in the wet grass down yonder," one of them
replied; "and they lead straight down to the old shaft. Do you think
your girl has made away with herself?"

A gray, ghastly pallor settled over John Brooks' anguished face.

"The Lord knows! All of you stay here while I go down there and look.
If I should find anything there I'd rather be alone."

There was a depth of agony in the man's voice that touched his
hearers, and more than one coat-sleeve was drawn hastily across
sympathetic eyes as they whispered one to the other he would surely
find her there.

John Brooks had reached the very mouth of the pit now, and through the
branches of the trees the men saw him suddenly spring forward, and
stoop as if to pick up something, and bitter cries rent the stillness
of the summer morning.

"Daisy! oh, Daisy! my child, my child!"

Then they saw him fall heavily to the ground on the very brink of the

"I guess he's found her!" cried the sympathizing men. "Let us go and

They found John Brooks insensible, lying prone on his face, grasping a
tiny little glove in one hand, and in the other a snowy little
handkerchief, which bore, in one corner, worked in fanciful design,
the name of "Daisy."


Glengrove was one of the most beautiful spots in the south of
Florida. The house--similar to many in the South in style of
architecture--stood in the midst of charming grounds which were
filled with flowers. To the left of the house was a large shrubbery
which opened on to a wide carriage-drive leading to the main road,
but the principal attraction of Glengrove was its magnificent
orange grove, where the brilliant sunshine loved to linger longest
among the dark-green boughs, painting the luscious fruit with its
own golden coloring--from green to gold. A low stone wall divided
it from the beach which led to the sea.

It was early morning. In an elegant boudoir, whose oriel window
overlooked the garden, sat three young ladies, respectively, Bessie
Glenn, two-and-twenty; Gertie Glenn, twenty; and Eve Glenn,
eighteen--all dark-eyed, dark-haired, and handsome, yet each of a
distinct different type.

"I declare, Bess," cried Gertie, indignantly, twisting the telegram
she held in her hand into a wisp, "it's from Uncle Jet! Guess what he

"I couldn't possibly," yawns Bess, from the depths of her easy-chair;
"it's too much trouble."

"Is it about Alice?" questioned Eve, maliciously.

"Yes," replied Gertie; "but you are to try and guess what it is."

"Why, I suppose some stranger has chanced to flutter down into the
quiet little village of Elmwood, and Alice thinks it her duty to stay
there and capture him."

"That isn't it at all," snapped Gertie. "Uncle Jet says Alice can not
come; but he has taken the liberty of sending another young lady in
her stead, and hopes Miss Daisy Brooks will be the right person in the
right place. She will arrive on the twentieth, at nine A. M."

Eve jumped to her feet in actual astonishment, and even Bessie dropped
her novel, with widely opened eyes.

"Just fancy some tall, gaunt old maid of a companion, with such a
name!" she cried, raising her eyebrows and picking up her book again.
"I think you will find the daisy a rather ancient and faded flower."

"She couldn't be anything else," assented Gertie.

"Wouldn't it be fun if she should turn out to be young and pretty, and
take the shine off both of you?" laughed Eve, puckering up her mouth.
"I would enjoy it immensely!"

"Eve, will you hold your tongue?" commanded Bessie, sharply.

"You'd better hold your temper!" retorted Eve.

"Pshaw! what's the use of being so silly as to quarrel over a Miss
Nobody?" cried Gertie, stamping her pretty slippered foot. "Guess what
else is the news."

"Haven't I told you I despise guessing?" cried Bess, angrily. "It is
not good form to insist upon a person's guessing--please remember

"Write it down on ice," said Eve, _sotto voce_, mimicking her elder
sister's tone.

"Well," said Gertie, with a look of triumph, "I drove over to Mrs.
Lyon's yesterday to see how everything was progressing for that
contemplated marriage, and, lo! she informs me the wedding is
postponed for the present, and Rex--handsome Rex--is coming home

"No--o!" cried both the sisters in chorus.

Bess sat bolt upright, and Eve danced around the room clapping her

"I don't think much of a marriage which has been postponed," said
Bess, a bright spot glowing on both of her cheeks. "Who knows but what
one of us may have a chance of winning handsome Rex Lyon, after all?
He is certainly a golden prize!"

"'Don't count the chickens,' etc.," quoted Eve, saucily.

"Gertrude!" said Bess, severely, "you will learn after awhile never to
speak before Eve. She is as liable to do mischief as her namesake was
in the Garden of Eden."

"You ought never to go back on your own sex," retorted Eve, banging
the door after her as she quitted the room, Rover, an ugly-looking
mastiff, closely following at her heels.

"That is certainly an astonishing piece of news," said Bess,
reflectively, smoothing out the folds of her white cashmere morning
wrapper. "Now, here's a plan for you, Gertie. Find out his address in
some way, and we will write to him on some pretext or other. Rex has
probably quarreled with the haughty heiress of Whitestone Hall, and
one of us ought certainly to catch his heart in the rebound. Send him
an invitation to your birthday party, Gertie."

"I would be more likely to succeed than you, Bess," said Gertie,
rocking complacently to and fro, and looking maliciously at her
sister. "You remember he once remarked he did not like tall ladies,
and you are certainly tall, Bess."

"Well, I'd rather be tall and willowy and graceful, than short and fat
and dumpy," jerked out Bess, spitefully.

"What! at swords' points yet, eh? Ha, ha, ha!" cried Eve, suddenly,
popping her head in at the door. "I'll be back after awhile to see
which one of you gets the best of it."

Before either of the sisters had time to reply, the family carriage
dashed suddenly up to the porch, and a moment later a slight,
dark-robed little figure was ushered into their presence.

"This is Miss Brooks, mum," said Jim, the coachman, addressing the
elder sister.

"I'd like to know why you have brought her in here?" cried Bess,
angrily. "Why did you not take her into the servants' hall or into the

But Jim had disappeared.

"Well, now that you are here, you might sit down," suggested Gertie,
wondering what kind of a face was hid behind the long, thick, clinging
veil. "You may lay aside your bonnet and veil."

Trembling and sick at heart with the cold greeting which had been
given her, Daisy did as she was bid.

"Why, I declare, you are younger than I am!" cried Eve, impulsively.
"We were all expecting to see a wrinkled, dried-up old maid. Why,
you'd make a much better companion for me than for mother."

"E--v--e!" cried the elder Miss Glenn, severely, "be kind enough to
leave the room."

"I sha'n't go one step until I have had my say out," cried Eve,
planting herself firmly down on a hassock in the middle of the floor.
"Nobody likes me because I'm rude and free-spoken," declared Eve,
addressing Daisy; "but I believe in letting people know just what I am
to begin with. I'm not one of these sleek, smooth, tigery creatures
that hide their claws under velvet-paws. We are three model sisters,"
she went on, recklessly; "we have tremendous spats--when we are here
alone; but if a visitor happens in we all sit with our arms around one
another, 'just to have the appearance' of affection, you know."

The elder Miss Glenn arose with dignity, motioning Daisy to follow

"Papa will see you later, Eve, dear," she said, with a baleful glitter
in her sloe-black eyes; and as Daisy followed her she could not help
but compare her with Pluma Hurlhurst, with that treacherous, mocking
smile playing about her full, red lips--and quite unconsciously poor
little Daisy fell to thinking.

"Rex will go back to Pluma Hurlhurst now," she thought, with a bitter
sigh. "He has cast me out of his life; he will go back and marry

Poor, innocent Daisy, how little she knew of life or the insurmountable
barrier which lay between the haughty, scheming heiress and Rex--her

"I was asking you if you resided in Elmwood, Miss Brooks," said Bess,
raising her voice. "I have asked you twice."

"I beg your pardon; please forgive me," said Daisy, flushing
painfully. "I--I was not aware you had spoken. No, I lived near
Elmwood--between there and Baltimore."

Daisy was sorely afraid Miss Glenn would ask her to name the exact
location. She did not, however, much to Daisy's relief. By this time
they had reached the door of Mrs. Glenn's room, and as it was
slightly ajar Bessie pushed it open without further ceremony and

"Has Miss Brooks come yet?" asked a thin, querulous voice.

"Yes," answered Bessie; "here she is, mamma."

The room was so dark Daisy could scarcely distinguish the different
objects for a moment or so. She saw, however, a dark figure on a couch
and a white jeweled hand waving a fan indolently to and fro. A sudden
impulse came over Daisy to turn and run away, but by a great effort
she controlled her feelings.

"Step forward, if you please, Miss Brooks. I can not observe you well
at such a distance; do not tread on the poodle on the rug or brush
against the bric-à-brac placed indiscriminately about the room."

"Oh, dear, if there were only a light," thought Daisy, in dismay. She
was afraid of taking a single step for fear some of the bric-à-brac
mentioned, either at the right or left of her, should come crashing
down under her blundering little feet.

"I always exclude the broad glare of early morning light, as I find it
especially trying."

As she spoke she threw back one of the shutters with the end of her
fan, and a warm flood of invigorating sunshine poured into the room.

"Dear me," she cried, staring hard at the beautiful little face before
her. "Why, you are a child, scarcely older than my Eve. What could
that stupid brother of mine mean by sending you to me? I have a notion
to send you back again directly."

"Oh, please do not, madame," cried Daisy, piteously. "Only try me
first; I will do my very best to please you."

"But I did not want a young person," expostulated Mrs. Glenn.

"But you sent for Alice, his daughter, and--and he thought I would do
as well," faltered Daisy, timidly.

"Alice Jet is over forty, and you are not more than sixteen, I should
judge. How did you happen to think you could do as well as she?"

The color came and went on Daisy's pretty flower-like face, and her
heart throbbed pitifully.

"I am not so very wise or learned," she said, "but I should try so
hard to please you, if you will only let me try."

"I suppose, now that you are here, we will have to make the best of
it," replied Mrs. Glenn, condescendingly.

The fair beauty of the young girl's face did not please her.

"I have always dreaded fair women," she thought to herself, "they are
the most dangerous of rivals. If she stays at Glengrove I shall see
she is kept well in the background."

While in the morning-room below the three girls were discussing the
new turn of affairs vigorously.

"I am determined she shall not remain here," Bessie Glenn was saying.

"I heartily indorse your opinion," said Gertie, slowly.

And for once in her life the tongue of reckless Eve was silent. She
looked thoughtfully out of the window.


The first week of Daisy's stay at Glengrove passed quickly. She was
beginning to feel quite at home with Mrs. Glenn and Eve, but Bessie
and Gertie held aloof from her. She was beginning to believe she never
would be able to win her way to their hearts. Eve--warm-hearted,
impulsive Eve--took to her at once.

"You are just the kind of a girl I like, Daisy," said Eve, twirling
one of her soft gold curls caressingly around her finger; "and if I
were a handsome young man, instead of a girl, I should fall
straightway in love with you. Why, what are you blushing so for?"
cried Eve. "Don't you like to talk about love and lovers?"

"No," said Daisy, in a low voice, a distressed look creeping into her
blue eyes. "If you please, Eve, I'd rather not talk about such

"You are certainly a funny girl," said Eve, wonderingly. "Why, do you
know all the handsome young fellows around here have fallen deeply in
love with you, and have just been besieging both Bess and Gertie for
an introduction to you."

No laughing rejoinder came from Daisy's red lips. There was an anxious
look in her eyes. Ah! this, then, accounted for the growing coldness
with which the two sisters greeted her.

"You do not seem enough interested to even ask who they are," said
Eve, disappointedly. "I suppose you have never heard we have some
of the handsomest gentlemen around here to be met with in the
whole South--or in the North either, for that matter," said Eve,
enthusiastically. "Wait until you have seen some of them."

How little she knew the girl's heart and soul was bound up in Rex,
whom she told herself she was never again to see.

"Do you see that large gray, stone house yonder, whose turrets you
can just see beyond those trees?" asked Eve, suddenly, a mischievous
light dancing in her merry hazel eyes.

"Yes," replied Daisy. "I have a fine view of it from my window
upstairs. I have seen a little child swinging to and fro in a hammock
beneath the trees. Poor little thing, she uses a crutch. Is she

"Yes," replied Eve, "that's little Birdie; she's lame. I do not want
to talk about her but about her brother. Oh, he is perfectly
splendid!" declared Eve, enthusiastically, "and rich, too. Why, he
owns I don't know how many cotton plantations and orange groves, and
he is--oh--so handsome! You must take care you do not fall in love
with him. All the girls do. If you did not, you would be a great
exception; you could scarcely help caring for him, he is so winning
and so nice," said Eve, blushing furiously.

How poor little Daisy's heart longed for sympathy and consolation! Oh,
if she only dared tell Eve the great hidden sorrow that seemed eating
her heart away! She felt that she must unburden her heart to some one,
or it must surely break.

"Eve," she said, her little hands closing softly over the restless
brown one drumming a tattoo on the window-sill, and her golden head
drooping so close to Eve's, her curls mingled with her dark locks, "I
could never love any one in this world again. I loved once--it was the
sweetest, yet the most bitter, experience of my life. The same voice
that spoke tender words to me cruelly cast me from him. Yet I love him
still with all my heart. Do not talk to me of love, or lovers, Eve, I
can not bear it. The world will never hold but one face for me, and
that is the face of him who is lost to me forever."

"Oh, how delightfully romantic!" cried Eve. "I said to myself over and
over again there was some mystery in your life. I have seen such
strange shadows in your eyes, and your voice often had the sound of
tears in it. I do wish I could help you in some way," said Eve,
thoughtfully. "I'd give the world to set the matter straight for you.
What's his name, and where does he live?"

"I can not tell you," said Daisy, shaking her golden curls sadly.

"Oh, dear! then I do not see how I can help you," cried Eve.

"You can not," replied Daisy; "only keep my secret for me."

"I will," she cried, earnestly.

And as they parted, Eve resolved in her own mind to bring this truant
lover of Daisy's back to his old allegiance; but the first and most
important step was to discover his name.

Eve went directly to her own room, her brain whirling with a new plan,
which she meant to put into execution at once, while Daisy strolled on
through the grounds, choosing the less frequented paths. She wanted to
be all alone by herself to have a good cry. Somehow she felt so much
better for having made a partial confidante of Eve.

The sun was beginning to sink in the west; still Daisy walked on,
thinking of Rex. A little shrill piping voice falling suddenly upon
her ears caused her to stop voluntarily.

"Won't you please reach me my hat and crutch? I have dropped them on
your side of the fence."

Daisy glanced around, wondering in which direction the voice came

"I am sitting on the high stone wall; come around on the other side of
that big tree and you will see me."

The face that looked down into Daisy's almost took her breath away for
a single instant, it was so like Rex's.

A bright, winning, childish face, framed in a mass of dark nut-brown
curls, and the brownest of large brown eyes.

"Certainly," said Daisy, stooping down with a strange unexplainable
thrill at her heart and picking up the wide-brimmed sun-hat and
crutch, which was unfortunately broken by the fall.

A low cry burst from the child's lips.

"Oh, my crutch is broken!" she cried, in dismay. "What shall I do? I
can not walk back to the house. I am lame!"

"Let me see if I can help you," said Daisy, scaling the stone wall
with the grace of a fawn. "Put your arms around my neck," she said,
"and cling very tight. I will soon have you down from your high perch;
never mind the crutch. I can carry you up to the porch; it is not very
far, and you are not heavy."

In a very few moments Daisy had the child down safely upon _terra

"Thank you," said the child. "I know you are tired; we will rest a
moment, please, on this fallen log."

The touch of the little girl's hands, the glance of the soft brown
eyes, and the tone of her voice seemed to recall every word and glance
of Rex, and hold a strange fascination for her.

"I shall tell my mother and my brother how good you have been to me,
and they will thank you too. My name is Birdie; please tell me

"My name is Daisy Brooks," she answered.

Poor little girl-bride, there had been a time when she had whispered
to her heart that her name was Daisy Lyon; but that bright dream was
over now; she would never be aught else than--Daisy Brooks.

"Is your name really Daisy?" cried the little girl in a transport of
delight, scarcely catching the last name. "Why, that is the name my
brother loves best in the world. You have such a sweet face," said the
child, earnestly. "I would choose the name of some flower as just
suited to you. I should have thought of Lily, Rose, Pansy, or Violet,
but I should never have thought of anything one half so pretty as
Daisy; it just suits you."

All through her life Daisy felt that to be the sweetest compliment
ever paid her. Daisy laughed--the only happy laugh that had passed her
lips since she had met Rex that morning under the magnolia-tree.

"Shall I tell you what my brother said about daisies?"

"Yes, you may tell me, if you like," Daisy answered, observing the
child delighted to talk of her brother.

"He has been away for a long time," explained Birdie. "He only came
home last night, and I cried myself to sleep, I was so glad. You see,"
said the child, growing more confidential, and nestling closer to
Daisy's side, and opening wide her great brown eyes, "I was crying for
fear he would bring home a wife, and mamma was crying for fear he
wouldn't. I wrote him a letter all by myself once, and begged him not
to marry, but come home all alone, and you see he did," cried the
child, overjoyed. "When he answered my letter, he inclosed a little
pressed flower, with a golden heart and little white leaves around it,
saying: 'There is no flower like the daisy for me. I shall always
prize them as pearls beyond price.' I planted a whole bed of them
beneath his window, and I placed a fresh vase of them in his room,
mingled with some forget-me-nots, and when he saw them, he caught me
in his arms, and cried as though his heart would break."

If the white fleecy clouds in the blue sky, the murmuring sea, or the
silver-throated bobolink swinging in the green leafy bough above her
head, had only whispered to Daisy why he loved the flowers so well
which bore the name of daisy, how much misery might have been spared
two loving hearts! The gray, dusky shadows of twilight were creeping
up from the sea.

"Oh, see how late it is growing," cried Birdie, starting up in alarm.
"I am afraid you could not carry me up to the porch. If you could
only summon a servant, or--or--my brother."

For answer, Daisy raised the slight burden in her arms with a smile.

"I like you more than I can tell," said Birdie, laying her soft, pink,
dimpled cheek against Daisy's. "Won't you come often to the angle in
the stone wall? That is my favorite nook. I like to sit there and
watch the white sails glide by over the white crested waves."

"Yes," said Daisy, "I will come every day."

"Some time I may bring my brother with me; you must love him, too,
won't you?"

"I should love any one who had you for a sister," replied Daisy,
clasping the little figure she held still closer in her arms; adding,
in her heart: "You are so like him."

Birdie gave her such a hearty kiss, that the veil twined round her hat
tumbled about her face like a misty cloud.

"You must put me down while you fix your veil," said Birdie. "You can
not see with it so. There are huge stones in the path, you would
stumble and fall."

"So I shall," assented Daisy, as she placed the child down on the
soft, green grass.

At that instant swift, springy footsteps came hurriedly down the path,
and a voice, which seemed to pierce her very heart, called: "Birdie,
little Birdie, where are you?"

"Here, Brother Rex," called the child, holding out her arms to him
with eager delight. "Come here, Rex, and carry me; I have broken my

For one brief instant the world seemed to stand still around poor,
hapless Daisy, the forsaken girl-bride. The wonder was that she did
not die, so great was her intense emotion. Rex was standing before
her--the handsome, passionate lover, who had married her on the
impulse of the moment; the man whom she loved with her whole heart, at
whose name she trembled, of whom she had made an idol in her girlish
heart, and worshiped--the lover who had vowed so earnestly he would
shield her forever from the cold, cruel world, who had sworn eternal
constancy, while the faithful gleaming stars watched him from the blue
sky overhead.

Yes, it was Rex! She could not see through the thick, misty veil, how
pale his face was in the gathering darkness. Oh, Heaven! how her
passionate little heart went out to him! How she longed, with a
passionate longing words could not tell, to touch his hand, or rest
her weary head on his breast.

Her brain whirled; she seemed, to live ages in those few moments.
Should she throw herself on her knees, and cry out to him, "Oh, Rex,
Rex, my darling! I am _not_ guilty! Listen to me, my love. Hear my
pleading--listen to my prayer! I am more sinned against than sinning.
My life has been as pure as an angel's--take me back to your heart, or
I shall die!"

"She has been so good to me, Rex," whispered Birdie, clinging to the
veil which covered Daisy's face. "I broke my crutch, and she has
carried me from the stone wall; won't you please thank her for me,

Daisy's heart nearly stopped beating; she knew the eventful moment of
her life had come, when Rex, her handsome young husband, turned
courteously toward her, extending his hand with a winning smile.


On the day following Rex's return home, and the morning preceding the
events narrated in our last chapter, Mrs. Theodore Lyon sat in her
dressing-room eagerly awaiting her son; her eyebrows met in a dark
frown and her jeweled hands were locked tightly together in her lap.

"Rex is like his father," she mused; "he will not be coerced in this
matter of marriage. He is reckless and willful, yet kind of heart. For
long years I have set my heart upon this marriage between Rex and
Pluma Hurlhurst. I say again it must be!" Mrs. Lyon idolized her only
son. "He would be a fitting mate for a queen," she told herself. The
proud, peerless beauty of the haughty young heiress of Whitestone Hall
pleased her. "She and no other shall be Rex's wife," she said.

When Rex accepted the invitation to visit Whitestone Hall she smiled

"It can end in but one way," she told herself; "Rex will bring Pluma
home as his bride."

Quite unknown to him, his elegant home had been undergoing repairs for

"There will be nothing wanting for the reception of his bride," she
said, viewing the magnificent suites of rooms which contained every
luxury that taste could suggest or money procure.

Then came Rex's letter like a thunderbolt from a clear sky begging her
not to mention the subject again, as he could never marry Pluma

"I shall make a flying trip home," he said, "then I am going abroad."

She did not notice how white and worn her boy's handsome face had
grown when she greeted him the night before, in the flickering light
of the chandelier. She would not speak to him then of the subject
uppermost in her mind.

"Retire to your room at once, Rex," she said, "your journey has
wearied you. See, it is past midnight already. I will await you
to-morrow morning in my boudoir; we will breakfast there together."

She leaned back against the crimson velvet cushions, tapping her satin
quilted slipper restlessly on the thick velvet carpet, ever and anon
glancing at her jeweled watch, wondering what could possibly detain

She heard the sound of a quick, familiar footstep in the corridor; a
moment later Rex was by her side. As she stooped down to kiss his face
she noticed, in the clear morning light, how changed he was. Her
jeweled hands lingered on his dark curls and touched his bright, proud
face. "What had come over this handsome, impetuous son of hers?" she
asked herself.

"You have been ill, Rex," she said, anxiously, "and you have not told

"I have not, indeed, mother," he replied.

"Not ill? Why, my dear boy, your face is haggard and worn, and there
are lines upon it that ought not to have been there for years. Rex,"
she said, drawing him down on the sofa beside her, and holding his
strong white hands tightly clasped in her own, "I do not want to tease
you or bring up an unpleasant subject, but I had so hoped, my boy, you
would not come alone. I have hoped and prayed, morning and night, you
would bring home a bride, and that bride would be--Pluma Hurlhurst."

Rex staggered from her arms with a groan. He meant to tell her the
whole truth, but the words seemed to fail him.

"Mother," he said, turning toward her a face white with anguish, "in
Heaven's name, never mention love or marriage to me again or I shall
go mad. I shall never bring a bride here."

"He has had a quarrel with Pluma," she thought.

"Rex," she said, placing her hands on his shoulders and looking down
into his face, "tell me, has Pluma Hurlhurst refused you? Tell me what
is the matter, Rex. I am your mother, and I have the right to know.
The one dream of my life has been to see Pluma your wife; I can not
give up that hope. If it is a quarrel it can be easily adjusted;
'true love never runs smooth,' you know."

"It is not that, mother," said Rex, wearily bowing his head on his

Then something like the truth seemed to dawn upon her.

"My son," she said, in a slight tone of irritation, "Pluma wrote me of
that little occurrence at the lawn fête. Surely you are not in love
with that girl you were so foolishly attentive to--the overseer's
niece, I believe it was. I can not, I will not, believe a son of mine
could so far forget his pride as to indulge in such mad, reckless
folly. Remember, Rexford," she cried, in a voice fairly trembling with
suppressed rage, "I could never forgive such an act of recklessness.
She should never come here, I warn you."

"Mother," said Rex, raising his head proudly, and meeting the flashing
scorn of her eyes unflinchingly, "you must not speak so; I--can not
listen to it."

"By what right do you forbid me to speak of that girl as I choose?"
she demanded, in a voice hard and cold with intense passion.

Once or twice Rex paced the length of the room, his arms folded upon
his breast. Suddenly he stopped before her.

"What is this girl to you?" she asked.

With white, quivering lips Rex answered back:

"She is my wife!"

The words were spoken almost in a whisper, but they echoed like
thunder through the room, and seemed to repeat themselves, over and
over again, during the moment of utter silence that ensued. Rex had
told his pitiful secret, and felt better already, as if the worst was
over; while his mother stood motionless and dumb, glaring upon him
with a baleful light in her eyes. He had dashed down in a single
instant the hopes she had built up for long years.

"Let me tell you about it, mother," he said, kneeling at her feet.
"The worst and bitterest part is yet to come."

"Yes, tell me," his mother said, hoarsely.

Without lifting up his bowed head, or raising his voice, which was
strangely sad and low, Rex told his story--every word of it: how his
heart had went out to the sweet-faced, golden-haired little creature
whom he found fast asleep under the blossoming magnolia-tree in the
morning sunshine; how he protected the shrinking, timid little
creature from the cruel insults of Pluma Hurlhurst; how he persuaded
her to marry him out in the starlight, and how they had agreed to meet
on the morrow--that morrow on which he found the cottage empty and
his child-bride gone; of his search for her, and--oh, cruelest and
bitterest of all!--where and with whom he found her; how he had left
her lying among the clover, loving her too madly to curse her, yet
praying Heaven to strike him dead then and there. Daisy--sweet little,
blue-eyed Daisy was false; he never cared to look upon a woman's face
again. He spoke of Daisy as his wife over and over again, the name
lingering tenderly on his lips. He did not see how, at the mention of
the words, "My wife," his mother's face grew more stern and rigid, and
she clutched her hands so tightly together that the rings she wore
bruised her tender flesh, yet she did not seem to feel the pain.

She saw the terrible glance that leaped into his eyes when he
mentioned Stanwick's name, and how he ground his teeth, like one
silently breathing a terrible curse. Then his voice fell to a

"I soon repented of my harshness," he said, "and I went back to
Elmwood; but, oh, the pity of it--the pity of it--I was too late;
little Daisy, my bride, was dead! She had thrown herself down a shaft
in a delirium. I would have followed her, but they held me back. I can
scarcely realize it, mother," he cried. "The great wonder is that I do
not go insane."

Mrs. Lyon had heard but one word--"Dead." This girl who had inveigled
her handsome son into a low marriage was dead. Rex was free--free to
marry the bride whom she had selected for him. Yet she dare not
mention that thought to him now--no, not now; she must wait a little.

No pity lurked in her heart for the poor little girl-bride whom she
supposed lying cold and still in death, whom her son so wildly
mourned; she only realized her darling Rex was free. What mattered it
to her at what bitter a cost Rex was free? She should yet see her
darling hopes realized. Pluma should be his wife, just as sure as they
both lived.

"I have told you all now, mother," Rex said, in conclusion; "you must
comfort me, for Heaven knows I need all of your sympathy. You will
forgive me, mother," he said. "You would have loved Daisy, too, if you
had seen her; I shall always believe, through some enormous villainy,
Stanwick must have tempted her. I shall follow him to the ends of the
earth. I shall wring the truth from his lips. I must go away," he
cried--"anywhere, everywhere, trying to forget my great sorrow. How am
I to bear it? Has Heaven no pity, that I am so sorely tried?"

At that moment little Birdie came hobbling into the room, and for a
brief moment Rex forgot his great grief in greeting his little

"Oh, you darling brother Rex," she cried, clinging to him and laughing
and crying in one breath, "I told them to wake me up sure, if you came
in the night. I dreamed I heard your voice. You see, it must have been
real, but I couldn't wake up; and this morning I heard every one
saying: 'Rex is here, Rex is here,' and I couldn't wait another
moment, but I came straight down to you."

Rex kissed the pretty little dimpled face, and the little chubby hands
that stroked his hair so tenderly.

"Why, you have been crying, Rex," she cried out, in childish wonder.
"See, there are tear-drops on your eyelashes--one fell on my hand.
What is the matter, brother dear, are you not happy?"

Birdie put her two little soft white arms around his neck, laying her
cheek close to his in her pretty, childish, caressing way.

He tried to laugh lightly, but the laugh had no mirth in it.

"You must run away and play, Birdie, and not annoy your brother," said
Mrs. Lyon, disengaging the child's clinging arms from Rex's neck.
"That child is growing altogether too observing of late."

"Child!" cried Birdie. "I am ten years old. I shall soon be a young
lady like Bess and Gertie, over at Glengrove."

"And Eve," suggested Rex, the shadow of a smile flickering around his

"No, not like Eve," cried the child, gathering up her crutch and
sun-hat as she limped toward the door; "Eve is not a young lady, she's
a Tom-boy; she wears short dresses and chases the hounds around, while
the other two wear silk dresses with big, big trains and have beaus to
hold their fans and handkerchiefs. I am going to take my new books you
sent me down to my old seat on the stone wall and read those pretty
stories there. I don't know if I will be back for lunch or not," she
called back; "if I don't, will you come for me, Brother Rex?"

"Yes, dear," he made answer, "of course I will."

The lunch hour came and went, still Birdie did not put in an
appearance. At last Rex was beginning to feel uneasy about her.

"You need not be the least alarmed," said Mrs. Lyon, laughingly, "the
child is quite spoiled; she is like a romping gypsy, more content to
live out of doors in a tent than to remain indoors. She is probably
waiting down on the stone wall for you to come for her and carry her
home as you used to do. You had better go down and see, Rex; it is
growing quite dark."

And Rex, all unconscious of the strange, invisible thread which fate
was weaving so closely about him, quickly made his way through the
fast-gathering darkness down the old familiar path which led through
the odorous orange groves to the old stone wall, guided by the shrill
treble of Birdie's childish voice, which he heard in the distance,
mingled with the plaintive murmur of the sad sea-waves--those waves
that seemed ever murmuring in their song the name of Daisy. Even the
subtle breeze seemed to whisper of her presence.


"I am very grateful to you for the service you have rendered my little
sister," said Rex, extending his hand to the little veiled figure
standing in the shade of the orange-trees. "Allow me to thank you for

Poor Daisy! she dared not speak lest the tones of her voice should
betray her identity.

"I must for evermore be as one dead to him," she whispered to her
wildly beating heart.

Rex wondered why the little, fluttering, cold fingers dropped so
quickly from his clasp; he thought he heard a stifled sigh; the
slight, delicate form looked strangely familiar, yet he could see it
was neither Eve, Gerty, nor Bess. She bowed her head with a few
low-murmured words he scarcely caught, and the next instant the little
figure was lost to sight in the darkness beyond.

"Who was that, Birdie?" he asked, scarcely knowing what prompted the

Alas for the memory of childhood! poor little Birdie had quite

"It is so stupid of me to forget, but when I see her again I shall ask
her and try and remember it then."

"It is of no consequence," said Rex, raising the little figure in his
arms and bearing her quickly up the graveled path to the house.

As he neared the house Rex observed there was great confusion among
the servants; there was a low murmur of voices and lights moving to
and fro.

"What is the matter, Parker?" cried Rex, anxiously, of the servant who
came out to meet him.

"Mrs. Lyon is very ill, sir," he answered, gravely; "it is a
paralytic stroke the doctor says. We could not find you, so we went
for Doctor Elton at once."

It seemed but a moment since he had parted from his mother in the
gathering twilight, to search for Birdie. His mother very ill--dear
Heaven! he could scarcely realize it.

"Oh, take me to mother, Rex!" cried Birdie, clinging to him piteously.
"Oh, it can not, it cannot be true; take me to her, Rex!"

The sound of hushed weeping fell upon his ears and seemed to bring to
him a sense of what was happening. Like one in a dream he hurried
along the corridor toward his mother's boudoir. He heard his mother's
voice calling for him.

"Where is my son?" she moaned.

He opened the door quietly and went in. Her dark eyes opened feebly as
Rex entered, and she held out her arms to him.

"Oh, my son, my son!" she cried; "thank Heaven you are here!"

She clung to him, weeping bitterly. It was the first time he had ever
seen tears in his mother's eyes, and he was touched beyond words.

"It may not be as bad as you think, mother," he said; "there is always
hope while there is life."

She raised her face to her son's, and he saw there was a curious
whiteness upon it.

The large, magnificent room was quite in shadow; soft shadows filled
the corners; the white statuettes gleamed in the darkness; one blind
was half drawn, and through it came the soft, sweet moonlight. A large
night-lamp stood upon the table, but it was carefully shaded. Faint
glimmers of light fell upon the bed, with its costly velvet hangings,
and on the white, drawn face that lay on the pillows, with the gray
shadow of death stealing softly over it--the faint, filmy look that
comes only into eyes that death has begun to darken.

His mother had never been demonstrative; she had never cared for many
caresses; but now her son's love seemed her only comfort.

"Rex," she said, clinging close to him, "I feel that I am dying. Send
them all away--my hours are numbered--a mist rises before my face,
Rex. Oh, dear Heaven! I can not see you--I have lost my sight--my eyes
grow dim."

A cry came from Rex's lips.

"Mother, dear mother," he cried, "there is no pain in this world I
would not undergo for your dear sake!" he cried, kissing the
stiffening lips.

She laid her hands on the handsome head bent before her.

"Heaven bless you, my son," she murmured. "Oh, Rex, my hope and my
trust are in you!" she wailed. "Comfort me, calm me--I have suffered
so much. I have one last dying request to make of you, my son. You
will grant my prayer, Rex? Surely Heaven would not let you refuse my
last request!"

Rex clasped her in his arms. This was his lady-mother, whose proud,
calm, serene manner had always been perfect--whose fair, proud face
had never been stained with tears--whose lips had never been parted
with sighs or worn with entreaties.

It was so new to him, so terrible in its novelty, he could hardly
understand it. He threw his arms around her, and clasped her closely
to his breast.

"My dearest mother," he cried, "you know I would die for you if dying
would benefit you. Why do you doubt my willingness to obey your
wishes, whatever they may be? Whatever I can do to comfort you I will
surely do it, mother."

"Heaven bless you, Rex!" she cried, feebly caressing his face and his
bands. "You make death a thousand-fold more easy to bear, my darling,
only son!"

"My dear sir," said the doctor, bending over him gently, "I must
remind you your mother's life hangs on a thread. The least excitement,
the least agitation, and she will be dead before you can call for
help. No matter what she may say to you, listen and accede."

Rex bent down and kissed the pale, agitated face on the pillow.

"I will be careful of my dearest mother. Surely you may trust me," he

"I do," replied the doctor, gravely. "Your mother's life, for the
present, lies in your hands."

"Is it true, Rex, that I must die?" she gasped. The look of anguish on
his face answered her. "Rex," she whispered, clinging like a child to
his strong white hands, "my hope and trust are in you, my only son. I
am going to put your love to the test, my boy. I beseech you to say
'Yes' to the last request I shall ever make of you. Heaven knows, Rex,
I would not mention it now, but I am dying--yes, dying, Rex."

"You need not doubt it, mother," he replied, earnestly, "I can not
refuse anything you may ask! Why should I?"

But, as he spoke, he had not the faintest idea of what he would be
asked to do. As he spoke his eyes caught the gleam of the moonlight
through the window, and his thoughts traveled for one moment to the
beloved face he had seen in the moonlight--how fair and innocent the
face was as they parted on the night they were wed! The picture of
that lonely young girl-wife, going home by herself, brought tears to
his eyes.

"Was there ever a fate so cruel?" he said to himself. "Who ever lost a
wife on his wedding-day?"

Surely there had never been a love-dream so sweet, so passionate, or
so bright as his. Surely there had never been one so rudely broken.

Poor little Daisy--his wife--lying cold and still in death. Even his
mother was to be taken from him.

The feeble pressure of his mother's hands recalled his wandering

"Listen, Rex," she whispered, faintly, "my moments are precious."

He felt his mother's arms clasp closely round his neck.

"Go on, mother," he said, gently.

"Rex, my son," she whispered, gaspingly, "I could not die and leave
the words unspoken. I want my race to live long generations after me.
Your poor little lame sister will go unmarried to the grave; and now
all rests with you, my only son. You understand me, Rex; you know the
last request I have to ask."

For the first time a cry came to Rex's lips; her words pierced like a
sword in his heart.

"Surely, mother, you do not mean--you do not think I could ever--"

The very horror of the thought seemed to completely unman him.

"You will marry again," she interrupted, finishing the sentence he
could not utter. "Remember, she whom you loved is dead. I would not
have asked this for long years to come, but I am dying--I must speak

"My God, mother!" he cried out in agony, "ask anything but that. My
heart is torn and bleeding; have pity on me, have pity!"

Great drops of agony started on his brow; his whole frame shook with

He tried to collect himself, to gather his scattered thoughts, to
realize the full import of the words she had spoken.

Marry again! Heaven pity him! How could he harbor such a thought for a
single instant, when he thought of the pale, cold face of little
Daisy--his fair young bride--whom he so madly loved, lying pale and
still in death, like a broken lily, down in the dark, bottomless pit
which never yielded up its terrible secrets!

"Rex," wailed his mother, feebly, gazing into his eyes with a suspense
heart-breaking to witness, "don't refuse me this the first prayer I
had ever made. If you mean to refuse it would be kinder far to plunge
a dagger into my heart and let me die at once. You can not refuse."
One trembling hand she laid on his breast, and with the other caressed
his face. "You are good and gentle of heart, Rex; the prayers of your
dying mother will touch you. Answer me, my son; tell me my proud old
race shall not die with you, and I will rest calmly in my grave."

The cold night-wind fanned his pallid brow, and the blood coursed
through his veins like molten lead. He saw the tears coursing down her
pale, withered cheeks. Ah, God! was it brave to speak the words which
must bring despair and death to her? Was it filial to send his mother
to her grave with sorrow and sadness in her heart? Could he thrust
aside his mother's loving arms and resist her dying prayer? Heaven
direct him, he was so sorely tried.

"Comfort me, Rex," she whispered, "think of how I have loved you since
you were a little child, how I used to kiss your rosy little face and
dream what your future would be like. It comes back to me now while I
plead to you with my fast-fleeting breath. Oh, answer me, Rex."

All the love and tenderness of the young man's impulsive heart was
stirred by the words. Never was a man so fearfully tried. Rex's
handsome face had grown white with emotion; deep shadows came into his
eyes. Ah, what could it matter now? His hopes were dead, his heart
crushed, yet how could he consent?

"Oh, Heaven, Rex!" she cried, "what does that look on your face mean?
What is it?"

The look of terror on her face seemed to force the mad words from his
lips, the magnetic gaze seemed to hold him spellbound. He bent over
hie mother and laid his fresh, brave young face on the cold, white
face of his dying mother.

"Promise me, Rex," she whispered.

"I promise, mother!" he cried. "God help me; if it will make your last
moments happier, I consent."

"Heaven bless you, my noble son!" whispered the quivering voice. "You
have taken the bitter sting from death, and filled my heart with
gratitude. Some day you will thank me for it, Rex."

They were uttered! Oh, fatal words! Poor Rex, wedded and parted, his
love-dream broken, how little he knew of the bitter grief which was to
accrue from that promise wrung from his white lips.

Like one in a dream he heard her murmur the name of Pluma Hurlhurst.
The power of speech seemed denied him; he knew what she meant. He
bowed his head on her cold hands.

"I have no heart to give her," he said, brokenly. "My heart is with
Daisy, my sweet little lost love."

Poor Rex! how little he knew Daisy was at that self-same moment
watching with beating heart the faint light of his window through the
branches of the trees--Daisy, whom he mourned as dead, alas! dead to
him forever, shut out from his life by the rash words of that fatally
cruel promise.


One thought only was uppermost in Daisy's mind as she sped swiftly
down the flower-bordered path in the moonlight, away from the husband
who was still so dear to her.

"He did not recognize me," she panted, in a little quivering voice.
"Would he have cursed me, I wonder, had he known it was I?"

Down went the little figure on her knees in the dew-spangled grass
with a sharp little cry.

"Oh, dear, what shall I do?" she cried out in sudden fright. "How
could I know she was his sister when I told her my name?" A twig fell
from the bough above her head brushed by some night-bird's wing. "He
is coming to search for me," she whispered to herself.

A tremor ran over her frame; the color flashed into her cheek and
parted lips, and a startled, wistful brightness crept into the blue

Ah! there never could have been a love so sweetly trustful and
child-like as little Daisy's for handsome Rex, her husband in name

Poor, little, innocent Daisy! if she had walked straight back to him,
crying out, "Rex, Rex, see, I am Daisy, your wife!" how much untold
sorrow might have been spared her.

Poor, little, lonely, heart-broken child-bride! how was she to know
Rex had bitterly repented and come back to claim her, alas! too late;
and how he mourned her, refusing to be comforted, and how they forced
him back from the edge of the treacherous shaft lest he should plunge
headlong down the terrible depths. Oh, if she had but known all this!

If Rex had dropped down from the clouds she could not have been more
startled and amazed at finding him in such close proximity away down
in Florida.

She remembered he had spoken to her of his mother, as he clasped her
to his heart out in the starlight of that never-to-be-forgotten night,
whispering to her of the marriage which had been the dearest wish of
his mother's heart.

She remembered how she had hid her happy, rosy, blushing face on his
breast, and asked him if he was quite sure he loved her better than
Pluma Hurlhurst, the haughty, beautiful heiress.

"Yes, my pretty little sweetheart, a thousand times better," he had
replied, emphatically, holding her off at arm's-length, watching the
heightened color that surged over the dainty, dimpled face so plainly
discernible in the white, radiant starlight.

Daisy rested her head on one soft, childish hand, and gazed
thoughtfully up at the cold, brilliant stars that gemmed the heavens
above her.

"Oh, if you had only warned me, little stars!" she said. "I was so
happy then; and now life is so bitter!"

A sudden impulse seized her, strong as her very life, to look upon his
face again.

"I would be content to live my weary life out uncomplainingly then,"
she said.

Without intent or purpose she walked hurriedly back through the
pansy-bordered path she had so lately traversed.

The grand old trees seemed to stretch their giant arms protectingly
over her, as if to ward off all harm.

The night-wind fanned her flushed cheeks and tossed her golden curls
against her wistful, tear-stained face. Noiselessly she crept up the
wide, graveled path that led to his home--the home which should have
been hers.

Was it fancy? She thought she heard Rex's voice crying out: "Daisy, my
darling!" How pitifully her heart thrilled! Dear Heaven! if it had
only been true. It was only the restless murmur of the waves sighing
among the orange-trees.

A light burned dimly in an upper window. Suddenly a shadow fell across
the pale, silken curtains. She knew but too well whose shadow it was;
the proud, graceful poise of the handsome head, and the line of the
dark curls waving over the broad brow, could belong to no one but Rex.
There was no one but the pitying moonlight out there to see how
passionately the poor little child-bride kissed the pale roses on
which that shadow had fallen, and how she broke it from the stem and
placed it close to her beating heart--that lonely, starved little
heart, chilled under the withering frost of neglect, when life, love
and happiness should have been just bursting into bloom for her.

"He said I had spoiled his life," she sighed, leaning her pale face
wearily against the dark-green ivy vines. "He must have meant I had
come between him and Pluma. Will he go back to her, now that he
believes me dead?"

One question alone puzzled her: Had Birdie mentioned her name, and
would he know it was she, whom every one believed lying so cold and
still in the bottomless pit? She could not tell.

"If I could but see Birdie for a moment," she thought, "and beseech
her to keep my secret!"

Birdie had said her brother was soon going away again.

"How could I bear it?" she asked herself, piteously.

It was not in human nature to see the young husband whom she loved so
well drifting so completely away from her and still remain silent. "I
will watch over him from afar; I will be his guardian angel; I must
remain as one dead to him forever," she told herself.

Afar off, over the dancing, moonlighted waters she saw a pleasure-boat
gliding swiftly over the rippling waves. She could hear their merry
laughter and gay, happy voices, and snatches of mirthful songs.
Suddenly the band struck up an old, familiar strain. Poor little Daisy
leaned her head against the iron railing of the porch and listened to
those cruel words--the piece that they played was "Love's Young

Love's young dream! Ah! how cruelly hers had ended! She looked up at
the white, fleecy clouds above her, vaguely wondering why the love of
one person made the earth a very paradise, or a wilderness. As the
gay, joyous music floated up to her the words of the poet found echo
in her heart in a passionate appeal:

             "No one could tell, for nobody knew,
             Why love was made to gladden a few;
             And hearts that would forever be true,
             Go lone and starved the whole way through,"

Oh, it was such a blessed relief to her to watch that shadow. Rex was
pacing up and down the room now, his arms folded and his head bent on
his breast. Poor, patient little Daisy, watching alone out in the
starlight, was wondering if he was thinking of her.

No thought occurred to her of being discovered there with her arms
clasped around that marble pillar watching so intently the shadow of
that graceful, manly figure pacing to and fro.

No thought occurred to her that a strange event was at that moment
transpiring within those walls, or that something unusual was about to

How she longed to look upon his face for just one brief moment!
Estrangement had not chilled her trusting love, it had increased it,
rather, tenfold.

Surely it was not wrong to gaze upon that shadow--he was her husband.

In that one moment a wild, bitter thought swept across her heart.

Did Rex regret their marriage because she was poor, friendless, and an
orphan? Would it have been different if she had been the heiress of
Whitestone Hall?

She pitied herself for her utter loneliness. There was no one to whom
she could say one word of all that filled her heart and mind, no face
to kiss, no heart to lean on; she was so completely alone. And this
was the hour her fate was being decided for her. There was no sympathy
for her, her isolation was bitter. She thought of all the heroines she
had ever read of. Ah, no one could picture such a sad fate as was

A bright thought flashed across her lonely little heart.

"His mother is there," she sighed. "Ah, if I were to go to her and cry
out: 'Love me, love me! I am your son's wife!' would she cast me from
her? Ah, no, surely not; a woman's gentle heart beats in her breast, a
woman's tender pity. I will plead with her on my knees--to comfort
me--to show me some path out of the pitiful darkness; I can love her
because she is his mother."

Daisy drew her breath quickly; the color glowed warmly on her cheek
and lips; she wondered she had not thought of it before. Poor child!
she meant to tell her all, and throw herself upon her mercy.

Her pretty, soft blue eyes, tender with the light of love, were
swimming with tears. A vain hope was struggling in her heart--Rex's
mother might love her, because she worshiped her only son so dearly.

Would she send her forth from that home that should have sheltered
her, or would she clasp those little cold fingers in Rex's strong
white ones, as she explained to him, as only a mother can, how sadly
he had misjudged poor little Daisy--his wife?

No wonder her heart throbbed pitifully as she stole silently
across the wide, shadowy porch, and, quivering from head to foot,
touched the bell that echoed with a resounding sound through the long

"I would like to see Mrs. Lyon," she said, hesitatingly, to the
servant who answered her summons. "Please do not refuse me," she said,
clasping her little white hands pleadingly. "I must see her at once.
It is a question of life or death with me. Oh, sir, please do not
refuse me. I must see her at once--and--all alone!"


In the beautiful drawing-room at Whitestone Hall sat Pluma Hurlhurst,
running her white, jeweled fingers lightly over the keyboard of a
grand piano, but the music evidently failed to charm her. She arose
listlessly and walked toward the window, which opened out upon the
wide, cool, rose-embowered porch.

The sunshine glimmered on her amber satin robe, and the white
frost-work of lace at her throat, and upon the dark, rich beauty of
her southern face.

"Miss Pluma," called Mrs. Corliss, the housekeeper, entering the room,
"there is a person down-stairs who wishes to see you. I have told her
repeatedly it is an utter impossibility--you would not see her; but
she declares she will not go away until she does see you."

Pluma turns from the window with cold disdain.

"You should know better than to deliver a message of this kind to me.
How dare the impertinent, presuming beggar insist upon seeing me!
Order the servants to put her out of the house at once."

"She is not young," said the venerable housekeeper, "and I thought, if
you only would--"

"Your opinion was not called for, Mrs. Corliss," returned the heiress,
pointing toward the door haughtily.

"I beg your pardon," the housekeeper made answer, "but the poor
creature begged so hard to see you I did feel a little sorry for

"This does not interest me, Mrs. Corliss," said Pluma, turning toward
the window, indicating the conversation was at an end--"not in the

"The Lord pity you, you stony-hearted creature!" murmured the
sympathetic old lady to herself as the door closed between them. "One
word wouldn't have cost you much, Heaven knows, it's mightly little
comfort poor old master takes with you! You are no more like the
bonny race of Hurlhursts than a raven is like a white dove!" And the
poor old lady walked slowly back to the dark-robed figure in the hall,
so eagerly awaiting her.

"There was no use in my going to my young mistress; I knew she would
not see you. But I suppose you are more satisfied now."

"She utterly refuses to see me, does she," asked the woman, in an
agitated voice, "when you told her I wished to see her particularly?"

The housekeeper shook her head.

"When Miss Pluma once makes up her mind to a thing, no power on earth
could change her mind," she said; "and she is determined she won't see
you, so you may as well consider that the end of it."

Without another word the stranger turned and walked slowly down the
path and away from Whitestone Hall.

"Fool that I was!" she muttered through her clinched teeth. "I might
have foreseen this. But I will haunt the place day and night until I
see you, proud heiress of Whitestone Hall. We shall see--time will

Meanwhile Mrs. Corliss, the housekeeper, was staring after her with
wondering eyes.

"I have heard that voice and seen that face somewhere," she ruminated,
thoughtfully; "but where--where? There seems to be strange leaks in
this brain of mine--I can not remember."

A heavy, halting step passed the door, and stopped there.

"What did that woman want, Mrs. Corliss?"

She started abruptly from her reverie, replying, hesitatingly.

"She wanted to see Miss Pluma, sir."

"Was Pluma so busily engaged she could not spare that poor creature a
moment or so?" he inquired, irritably. "Where is she?"

"In the parlor, sir."

With slow, feeble steps, more from weakness than age, Basil Hurlhurst
walked slowly down the corridor to the parlor.

It was seldom he left his own apartments of late, yet Pluma never
raised her superb eyes from the book of engravings which lay in her
lap as he entered the room.

A weary smile broke under his silver-white mustache.

"You do not seem in a hurry to bid me welcome, Pluma," he said,
grimly, throwing himself down into an easy-chair opposite her. "I
congratulate myself upon having such an affectionate daughter."

Pluma tossed aside her book with a yawn.

"Of course I am glad to see you," she replied, carelessly; "but you
can not expect me to go into ecstasies over the event like a child in
pinafores might. You ought to take it for granted that I'm glad you
are beginning to see what utter folly it is to make such a recluse of

He bit his lip in chagrin. As is usually the case with invalids, he
was at times inclined to be decidedly irritable, as was the case just

"It is you who have driven me to seek the seclusion of my own
apartments, to be out of sight and hearing of the household of
simpering idiots you insist upon keeping about you," he cried,
angrily. "I came back to Whitestone Hall for peace and rest. Do I get
it? No."

"That is not my fault," she answered, serenely. "You do not mingle
with the guests. I had no idea they could annoy you."

"Well, don't you suppose I have eyes and ears, even if I do not mingle
with the chattering magpies you fill the house up with? Why, I can
never take a ramble in the grounds of an evening without stumbling
upon a dozen or more pair of simpering lovers at every turn. I like
darkness and quiet. Night after night I find the grounds strung up
with these Chinese lanterns, and I can not even sleep in my bed for
the eternal brass bands at night; and in the daytime not a moment's
quiet do I get for these infernal sonatas and screeching trills of the
piano. I tell you plainly, I shall not stand this thing a day longer.
I am master of Whitestone Hall yet, and while I live I shall have
things my own way. After I die you can turn it into a pandemonium, for
all I care."

Pluma flashed her large dark eyes upon him surprisedly, beginning to
lose her temper, spurred on by opposition.

"I am sure I do not mean to make a hermit of myself because you are
too old to enjoy the brightness of youth," she flashed out, defiantly;
"and you ought not to expect it--it is mean and contemptible of you."

"Pluma!" echoed Basil Hurlhurst, in astonishment, his noble face
growing white and stern with suppressed excitement, "not another

Pluma tossed her head contemptuously. When once her temper arose it
was quite as impossible to check it as it was when she was a willful,
revengeful, spoiled child.

"Another man as rich as you are would have taken their daughter to
Washington for a season, and in the summer to Long Branch or
Newport--somewhere, anywhere, away from the detestable waving
cotton-fields. When you die I shall have it all set on fire."

"Pluma!" he cried, hoarsely, rising to his feet and drawing his
stately, commanding figure to its full height, "I will not brook such
language from a child who should at least yield me obedience, if not
love. You are not the heiress of Whitestone Hall yet, and you never
may be. If I thought you really contemplated laying waste these waving
fields that have been my pride for long years--and my father's before
me--I would will it to an utter stranger, so help me Heaven!"

Were his words prophetic? How little she knew the echo of these words
were doomed to ring for all time down the corridors of her life! How
little we know what is in store for us!

"I am your only child," said Pluma, haughtily; "you would not rob me
of my birthright. I shall be forced to submit to your pleasure--while
you are here--but, thank Heaven, the time is not far distant when I
shall be able to do as I please. 'The mills of the gods grind slowly,
but they grind exceeding fine,'" she quoted, saucily.

"Thank Heaven the time is not far distant when I shall be able to do
as I please." He repeated the words slowly after her, each one sinking
into his heart like a poisoned arrow. "So you would thank Heaven for
my death, would you?" he cried, with passion rising to a white heat.
"Well, this is no better than I could expect from the daughter--of
such a mother."

He had never intended speaking those words; but she goaded him on to
it with her taunting, scornful smile, reminding him so bitterly of the
one great error of his past life.

He was little like the kind, courteous master of Whitestone Hall, whom
none named but to praise, as he stood there watching the immovable
face of his daughter. All the bitterness of his nature was by passion
rocked. No look of pain or anguish touched the dark beauty of that
southern face at the mention of her mother's name.

"You have spoken well," she said. "I am her child. You speak of love,"
she cried, contemptuously. "Have you not told me, a thousand times,
you never cared for my mother? How, then, could I expect you to care
for me? Have you not cried out unceasingly for the golden-haired young
wife and the babe you lost, and that you wished Heaven had taken you
too? Did I ever hear my mother's name upon your lips except with a
sneer? Do you expect these things made that mother's child more fond
of you, were you twenty times my father?"

She stood up before him, proudly defiant, like a beautiful tragedy
queen, the sunlight slanting on the golden vines of her amber satin
robe, on the long, dark, silken curls fastened with a ruby star, and
on the deep crimson-hearted passion-roses that quivered on her heaving
breast. There was not one feature of that gloriously dark face that
resembled the proud, cold man sitting opposite her.

He knew all she had said was quite true. He had tried so hard to love
this beautiful queenly girl from her infancy up. He was tender of
heart, honest and true; but an insurmountable barrier seemed ever
between them; each year found them further apart.

Basil Hurlhurst lived over again in those few moments the terrible
folly that had cursed his youth, as he watched the passion-rocked face
before him.

"Youth is blind and will not see," had been too bitterly true with
him. It was in his college days, when the world seemed all gayety,
youth and sunshine to him, he first met the beautiful face that was to
darken all of his after life. He was young and impulsive; he thought
it was love that filled his heart for the beautiful stranger who
appeared alone and friendless in that little college town.

He never once asked who or what she was, or from whence she came, this
beautiful creature with the large, dark, dreamy eyes that thrilled his
heart into love. She carried the town by storm; every young man at the
college was deeply, desperately in love. But Basil, the handsomest and
wealthiest of them all, thought what a lark it would be to steal a
march on them all by marrying the dark-eyed beauty then and there. He
not only thought it, but executed it, but it was not the lark that he
thought it was going to be. For one short happy week he lived in a
fool's paradise, then a change came over the spirit of his dreams. In
that one week she had spent his year's income and all the money he
could borrow, then petulantly left him in anger.

For two long years he never looked upon her face again. One stormy
night she returned quite unexpectedly at Whitestone Hall, bringing
with her their little child Pluma, and, placing her in her father's
arms, bitter recriminations followed. Bitterly Basil Hurlhurst
repented that terrible mistake of his youth, that hasty marriage.

When the morning light dawned he took his wife and child from
Whitestone Hall--took them abroad. What did it matter to him where
they went? Life was the same to him in one part of the world as
another. For a year they led a weary life of it. Heaven only knew how
weary he was of the woman the law called his wife!

One night, in a desperate fit of anger, she threw herself into the
sea; her body was never recovered. Then the master of Whitestone Hall
returned with his child, a sadder and wiser man.

But the bitterest drop in his cup had been added last. The golden-haired
young wife, the one sweet love whom he had married last, was taken
from him; even her little child, tiny image of that fair young mother,
had not been spared him.

How strange it was such a passionate yearning always came over him
when he thought of his child!

When he saw a fair, golden-haired young girl, with eyes of blue, the
pain in his heart almost stifled him. Some strange unaccountable fate
urged him to ever seek for that one face even in the midst of crowds.
It was a mad, foolish fancy, yet it was the one consolation of Basil
Hurlhurst's weary, tempest tossed life.

No wonder he set his teeth hard together as he listened to the cold
words of the proud, peerless beauty before him, who bore every
lineament of her mother's dark, fatal beauty--this daughter who
scornfully spoke of the hour when he should die as of some happy,
long-looked-for event.

Those waving cotton-fields that stretched out on all sides as far as
the eye could reach, like a waving field of snow, laid waste beneath
the fire fiend's scorching breath! Never--never!

Then and there the proud, self-conscious young heiress lost all
chances of reigning a regal queen, by _fair_ means, of Whitestone


The servant who opened the door for Daisy looked earnestly at the
fair, pleading young face, framed in rings of golden hair, so pure and
spiritual that it looked like an angel's with the soft white moonlight
falling over it.

"You will not refuse me," she repeated, timidly. "I must speak to Mrs.

"You have come too late," he replied, gently; "Mrs. Lyon is dead."

The man never forgot the despairing look of horror that deepened in
the childish blue eyes raised to his.

"Rex's mother dead!" she repeated, slowly, wondering if she had heard
aright. "Oh, my poor Rex, my poor Rex!"

How she longed to go to him and comfort him in that terrible hour, but
she dared not intrude upon him.

"If there is any message you would like to leave," said the
kind-hearted Parker, "I will take it to Mr. Rex."

"No," said Daisy, shaking her head, "I have no message to leave;
perhaps I will come again--after this is all over," she made answer,
hesitatingly; her brain was in a whirl; she wanted to get away all by
herself to think. "Please don't say any one was here," she said,
quickly; "I--I don't want any one to know."

The sweet, plaintive voice, as sweet as the silvery note of a forest
bird, went straight to his heart.

Whatever the mission of this beautiful, mysterious visitor, he would
certainly respect her wishes.

"I shall not mention it if you do not wish it," he said.

"Thank you," she replied, simply; "you are very kind. My life seems
made up of disappointments," she continued, as she walked slowly home
under the restless, sighing green branches.

It seemed so indeed. She was so young and inexperienced to be thrown
so entirely upon the cold, pitiless world--cut off so entirely from
all human sympathy. She entered the house quite unobserved.
Eve--bright, merry, dashing Eve--was singing like a lark in the
drawing-room, making the old house echo with her bright young voice.

"How happy she is!" thought Daisy, wistfully. "She has home, friends,
and love, while I have nothing that makes life worth the living."

Like a shadow, she flitted on through the dim, shadowy hall, toward
her own little room. She saw Gertie's door was ajar as she passed it,
and the sound of her own name caused her to pause voluntarily.

It was very natural for Daisy to pause. How many are there who would
have passed on quietly, with no desire to know what was being said of
themselves, when they heard their own names mentioned in such a
sneering manner? Daisy certainly meant no harm by it; she paused,
thoughtfully and curiously, as any one would have done.

"I am sure I don't like it," Gertie was saying, spitefully. "It is an
actual shame allowing Daisy Brooks to remain here. Uncle Jet was a
mean old thing to send her here, where there were three marriageable
young ladies. I tell you he did it out of pure spite."

"I believe it," answered Bess, spiritedly. "Every one of my beaus
either hints for an introduction or asks for it outright."

"What do you tell them?" questions Gertie, eagerly.

"Tell them! Why, I look exceedingly surprised, replying: 'I do not
know to whom you refer. We have no company at the house just now.' 'I
mean that beautiful, golden-haired little fairy, with the rosy cheeks
and large blue eyes. If not your guest, may I ask who she is?' I am
certainly compelled to answer so direct a thrust," continued Bess,
angrily; "and I ask in well-feigned wonder: 'Surely you do not mean
Daisy Brooks, my mother's paid companion?'"

"What do they say to that?" asked Gertie, laughing heartily at her
elder sister's ingenuity, and tossing her curl papers until every curl
threatened to tumble down. "That settles it, doesn't it?"

"Mercy, no!" cried Bess, raising her eyebrows; "not a bit of it. The
more I say against her--in a sweet way, of course--the more they are
determined to form her acquaintance."

"I don't see what every one can see in that little pink-and-white
baby-face of hers to rave over so!" cried Gertie, hotly. "I can't
imagine where in the world people see her. I have as much as told her
she was not expected to come into the parlor or drawing-room when
strangers were there, and what do you suppose she said?"

"Cried, perhaps," said Bess, yawning with ennui.

"She did nothing of the kind," retorted Gertie. "She seized my hand,
and said: 'Oh, Miss Gertrude, that is very kind of you, indeed! I
thank you ever so much!'"

"Pshaw!" cried Bess, contemptuously. "That was a trick to make you
believe she did not want to be observed by our guests. She is a sly,
designing little creature, with her pretty face and soft, childish

"But there is one point that seriously troubles me," said Gertie,
fastening the pink satin bow on her tiny slipper more securely, and
breaking off the thread with a nervous twitch. "I am seriously afraid,
if Rex were to see her, that would be the end of our castle in the
air. Daisy Brooks has just the face to attract a handsome, debonair
young fellow like Rex."

"You can depend upon it he shall never see her," said Bess, decidedly.
"Where there's a will there's a way."

"I have never been actually jealous of anyone before," said Gertie,
flushing furiously, as she acknowledged the fact; "but that Daisy has
such a way of attracting people toward her they quite forget your
presence when she is around. 'When one rival leaves the field, another
one is sure to come to the fore.' That's a true saying," said Gertie,
meditatively. "You see, he did not marry the heiress of Whitestone
Hall. So he is still in the market, to be captured by some lucky

"Well, if I am the lucky one, you must forgive me, Gertie. All is fair
in love and war, you know. Besides, his wealth is too tempting to see
slip quietly by without a struggle."

Before she could reply Eve popped in through the long French window
that opened out on the porch.

"Oh, I'm so tired of hearing you two talk of lovers and riches!" she
cried, throwing herself down on the sofa. "I do hate to hear love
weighed against riches, as if it were a purchasable article. According
to your ideas, if a fellow was worth a hundred thousand, you would
love him moderately; but if he was worth half a million, you could
afford to love him immensely."

"You have got a sensible idea of the matter," said Bess, coolly.

"For shame!" cried Eve, in a hot fury. "It's an actual sin to talk in
that way. If a handsome young man loves you, and you love him, why,
you ought to marry him if he hadn't a dollar in the world!"

Gertie and the worldly-wise Bess laughed at their younger sister's

"Now, there's Rex Lyon, for instance," persisted Eve, absolutely
refusing to be silenced. "I would wager a box of the best kid gloves
either one of you would marry him to-morrow, if he were to ask you, if
he hadn't a penny in his pocket."

"Pshaw!" reiterated Gertie, and Bess murmured something about absurd
ideas; but nevertheless both sisters were blushing furiously to the
very roots of their hair. They well knew in their hearts what she said
was perfectly true.

"Eve," said Bess, laying her hand coaxingly on the young rebel's arm,
"Gertie and I want you to promise us something. Come, now, consent
that you will do as we wish, that's a good girl."

"How can I promise before I know what you want?" said Eve, petulantly.
"You might want the man in the moon, after you've tried and failed to
get his earthly brethren, for all I know!"

"Eve, you are actually absurd!" cried Bess, sharply. "This is merely a
slight favor we wish you to do."

"If you warn her not to do a thing, that is just what she will set her
heart upon doing," said Gertie, significantly.

By this time Eve's curiosity was well up.

"You may as well tell me anyhow," she said; "for if you don't, and I
ever find out what it is, I'll do my very worst, because you kept it
from me."

"Well," said Gertie, eagerly, "we want you to promise us not to give
Daisy Brooks an introduction to Rex Lyon."

A defiant look stole over Eve's mischievous face.

"If he asks me, I'm to turn and walk off, or I'm to say, 'No, sir, I
am under strict orders from my marriageable sisters not to.' Is that
what you mean?"

"Eve," they both cried in chorus, "don't be unsisterly; don't put a
stumbling-block in our path; rather remove it!"

"I shall not bind myself to such a promise!" cried Eve. "You are
trying to spoil my pet scheme. I believe you two are actually witches
and guessed it. What put it into your heads that I had any such
intentions anyhow?"

"Then you were actually thinking of going against our interest in that
way," cried Gertie, white to the very lips, "you insolent little

"I don't choose to remain in such polite society," said Eve, with a
mocking courtesy, skipping toward the door. "I may take a notion to
write a little note to Mr. Rex, inviting him over here to see our
household fairy, just as the spirit moves me."

This was really more than Gertie's warm, southern temper could bear.
She actually flew at the offending Eve in her rage; but Eve was nimble
of foot and disappeared up the stairway, three steps at a bound.

"What a vixen our Gertie is growing to be!" she cried, pantingly, as
she reached the top step.

She saw a light in Daisy's room, and tapped quietly on the door.

"Is that you, Eve?" cried a smothered voice from the pillows.

"Yes," replied Eve; "I'd like very much to come in. May I?"

For answer, Daisy opened the door, but Eve stood quite still on the

"What's the matter, Daisy, have you been crying?" she demanded. "Why,
your eyelids are red and swollen, and your eyes glow like the stars.
Has Gertie or Bess said anything cross to you?" she inquired,
smoothing back the soft golden curls that clustered round the white

"No," said Daisy, choking down a hard sob; "only I am very unhappy,
Eve, and I feel just--just as if every one in the world hated me."

"How long have you been up here in your room?" asked Eve, suspiciously,
fearing Daisy had by chance overheard the late conversation

"Quite an hour," answered Daisy, truthfully.

"Then you did not hear what I was talking about down-stairs, did you?"
she inquired, anxiously.

"No," said Daisy, "you were playing over a new waltz when I came

"Oh," said Eve, breathing freer, thinking to herself, "She has not
heard what we said. I am thankful for that."

"You must not talk like that, Daisy," she said, gayly, clasping her
arms caressingly around the slender figure leaning against the
casement; "I predict great things in store for you--wonderful things.
Do not start and look at me so curiously, for I shall not tell you
anything else, for it is getting dangerously near a certain forbidden
subject. You know you warned me not to talk to you of love or lovers.
I intend to have a great surprise for you. That is all I'm going to
tell you now."

Eve was almost frightened at the rapture that lighted up the beautiful
face raised to her own.

"Has any one called for me, Eve?" she asked, piteously. "Oh, Eve, tell
me quickly. I have hoped against hope, almost afraid to indulge so
sweet a dream. Has any one inquired for me?"

Eve shook her head, sorely puzzled.

"Were you expecting any one to call?" she asked. She saw the light die
quickly out of the blue eyes and the rich peachlike bloom from the
delicate, dimpled cheeks. "I know something is troubling you greatly,
little Daisy," she said, "and I sympathize with you even if I may not
share your secret."

"Every one is so cold and so cruel to me, I think I should die if I
were to lose your friendship, Eve," she said.

Eve held the girl's soft white hand in hers. "You will never die,
then, if you wait for that event to happen. When I like a person, I
like them for all time. I never could pretend a friendship I did not
feel. And I said to myself the first moment I saw you: 'What a sweet
littly fairy! I shall love her, I'm sure.'"

"And do you love me?" asked Daisy.

"Yes," said Eve; "my friendship is a lasting one. I could do almost
anything for you."

She wondered why Daisy took her face between her soft little palms and
looked so earnestly down into her eyes, and kissed her lips so

Poor Daisy! if she had only confided in Eve--reckless, impulsive,
warm-hearted, sympathetic Eve--it might have been better for her. "No
matter what you might hear of me in the future, no matter what fate
might tempt me to do, promise me, Eve, that you, of all the world,
will believe in me, you will not lose your faith in me." The sweet
voice sounded hollow and unnatural. "There are dark, pitiful secrets
in many lives," she said, "that drive one to the very verge of madness
in their woe. If you love me, pray for me, Eve. My feet are on the
edge of a terrible precipice."

In after years Eve never forgot the haunted look of despair that
crossed the fair face of Daisy Brooks, as the words broke from her
lips in a piteous cry.


The announcement of Mrs. Lyon's sudden and unexpected death caused
great excitement and consternation the next morning at Glengrove.

"Oh, dear!" cried Gertie, "how provokingly unfortunate for her to die
just now! Why couldn't she have waited until after our birthday party?
Of course Rex wouldn't be expected to come now; and this whole matter
was arranged especially for him; and my beautiful lilac silk is all
made, and so bewitchingly lovely, too!"

"What can't be cured must be endured, you know," said Bess; "and now
the best thing to be done is to send a note of condolence to him,
extending our deepest sympathy, and offering him any assistance in our
power; and be sure to add: 'We would be very pleased to have Birdie
come over here until you can make other arrangements for her.'"

"Have Birdie here!" flashed Gertie, angrily. "I actually think you
have gone crazy!"

"Well, there is certainly a method in my madness," remarked Bess.
"Aren't you quick-witted enough to understand that would be a sure way
of bringing Rex over here every day?--he would come to see his
sister--and that is quite a point gained."

"You are rather clever, Bess; I never thought of that."

And straightway the perfumed little note was dispatched, bearing
Gertie's monogram and tender-worded sympathy to the handsome young
heir, who sat all alone in that darkened chamber, wondering why Heaven
had been so unkind to him.

An hour later Bess and Gertie were in the library arranging some new
volumes on the shelves. Mrs. Glenn sat in a large easy-chair
superintending the affair, while Daisy stood at an open window,
holding the book from which she had been reading aloud in her restless
fingers, her blue eyes gazing earnestly on the distant curling smoke
that rose up lazily from the chimneys of Rex's home, and upon the
brilliant sunshine that lighted up the eastern windows with a blaze of
glory--as if there was no such thing as death or sorrow within those
palatial walls--when Rex's answer was received.

"It is from Rex!" cried Gertie, all in a flutter. "Shall I read it
aloud, mamma?" she asked, glancing furtively at Daisy, who stood at
the window, her pale, death-like face half buried in the lace

"It is certainly not a personal letter," said Bess, maliciously
glancing at the superscription. "Don't you see it is addressed to
'Mrs. Glenn and daughters.'"

"In a time like that people don't think much of letters," commented
Mrs. Glenn, apologetically. "Read the letter aloud, of course, my

It read:

  "DEAR LADIES,--I thank you more than I can express for your kind
  sympathy in my present sad bereavement. I would gladly have
  accepted your offer of bringing my dear little orphan sister to
  you, had I not received a telegram this morning from Miss Pluma
  Hurlhurst, of Whitestone Hall, West Virginia, announcing her
  intention of coming on at once, accompanied by Mrs. Corliss, to
  take charge of little Birdie.

  "Again thanking you for the courtesy and kindness shown me, I am

                                           "Yours very truly,
                                                 "REXFORD LYON."

There was a low, gasping, piteous cry; and the little figure at the
window slipped down among the soft, billowy curtains in a deadly
swoon; but the three, so deeply engrossed in discussing the contents
of the note, did not notice it. At last Daisy opened her eyes, and the
blue eyes were dazed with pain. She could hear them coupling the names
of Rex and Pluma Hurlhurst. Rex--her husband!

Daisy was blind and stupefied. She groped rather than walked from the
library--away from the three, who scarcely noticed her absence.

Who cared that her heart was broken? Who cared that the cruel stab had
gone home to her tender, bleeding heart; that the sweet young face was
whiter than the petals of the star-bells tossing their white plumes
against the casement?

Slowly, blindly, with one hand grasping the balusters, she went up the
broad staircase to her own room.

She tried to think of everything on the way except the one thing that
had taken place. She thought of the story she had read, of a girl who
was slain by having a dagger plunged into her breast. The girl ran a
short distance, and when the dagger was drawn from the wound, she fell
down dead. In some way she fancied she was like that girl--that, when
she should reach her own room and stand face to face with her own
pain, she should drop down dead.

The door was closed, and she stood motionless, trying to understand
and realize what she had heard.

"Have my senses deceived me?" She said the words over and over to
herself. "Did I dream it? Can it even be possible Pluma Hurlhurst is
coming here, coming to the home where I should have been? God help me.
Coming to comfort Rex--my husband!"

She could fancy the darkly beautiful face bending over him; her white
jeweled hands upon his shoulder, or, perhaps, smoothing back the bonny
brown clustering curls from his white brow.

"My place should have been by his side," she continued.

It hurt and pained her to hear the name of the man she loved dearer
than life mentioned with the name of Pluma Hurlhurst.

"Oh, Rex, my love, my love!" she cried out, "I can not bear it any
longer. The sun of my life has gone down in gloom and chill. Oh, Rex,
my husband, I have not the strength nor the courage to bear it. I am a
coward. I can not give you up. We are living apart under the blue,
smiling sky and the golden sun. Yet in the sight of the angels, I am
your wife."

Suddenly, the solemn bells from Rex's home commenced tolling, and
through the leafy branches of the trees she caught a glimpse of a
white face and bowed head, and of a proud, cold face bending
caressingly over it, just as she had pictured it in her imagination.

Dear Heaven! it was Rex and Pluma! She did not moan. She did not cry
out, nor utter even a sigh. Like one turned to marble she, the poor
little misguided child-wife, stood watching them with an intentness
verging almost into madness.

She saw him lift his head wearily from his white hands, rise slowly,
and then, side by side, both disappeared from the window.

After that Daisy never knew how the moments passed. She remembered the
tidy little waiting-maid coming to her and asking if she would please
come down to tea. She shook her head but no sound issued from the
white lips, and the maid went softly away, closing the door behind

Slowly the sun sunk in the west in a great red ball of fire. The light
died out of the sky, and the song birds trilled their plaintive
good-night songs in the soft gloaming. Still Daisy sat with her hands
crossed in her lap, gazing intently at the window, where she had seen
Pluma standing with Rex, her husband.

A hand turned the knob of her door.

"Oh, dear me," cried Gertie, "you are all in the dark. I do not see
you. Are you here, Daisy Brooks?"

"Yes," said Daisy, controlling her voice by a violent effort. "Won't
you sit down? I will light the gas."

"Oh, no, indeed!" cried Gertie. "I came up to ask you if you would
please sew a little on my ball dress to-night. I can not use it just
now; still, there is no need of putting it away half finished."

Sew on a ball dress while her heart was breaking! Oh, how could she do
it? Quietly she followed Gertie to her pretty little blue and gold
boudoir, making no remonstrance. She was to sew on a ball dress while
the heiress of Whitestone Hall was consoling her young husband in his
bitter sorrow?

The shimmering billows of silk seemed swimming before her eyes, and
the frost-work of seed-pearls to waver through the blinding tears that
would force themselves to her eyes. Eve was not there. How pitifully
lonely poor Daisy felt! The face, bent so patiently over the lilac
silk, had a strange story written upon it. But the two girls,
discussing the events of the day, did not glance once in her
direction; their thoughts and conversation were of the handsome young
heiress and Rex.

"For once in your life you were wrong," said Bess. "The way affairs
appear now does not look much like a broken-off marriage, I can assure

"Those who have seen her say she is peculiarly beautiful and
fascinating, though cold, reserved, and as haughty as a queen," said

"Cold and reserved," sneered Bess. "I guess you would not have thought
so if you had been at the drawing-room window to-day and seen her
bending over Rex so lovingly. I declare I expected every moment to see
her kiss him."

The box which held the seed-pearls dropped to the floor with a crash,
and the white, glistening beads were scattered about in all

"Why, what a careless creature you are, Daisy Brooks!" cried Gertie,
in dismay. "Just see what you have done! Half of them will be lost,
and what is not lost will be smashed, and I had just enough to finish
that lily on the front breadth and twine among the blossoms for my
hair. What do you suppose I'm going to do now, you provoking girl? It
is actually enough to make one cry."

"I am so sorry," sighed Daisy, piteously.

"Sorry! Will that bring back my seed-pearls? I have half a mind to
make mamma deduct the amount from your salary."

"You may have it all if it will only replace them," said Daisy,
earnestly. "I think, though, I have gathered them all up."

A great, round tear rolled off from her long, silky eyelashes and into
the very heart of the frosted lily over which she bent, but the lily's
petals seemed to close about it, leaving no trace of its presence.

Bessie and Gertie openly discussed their chagrin and keen disappointment,
yet admitting what a handsome couple Rex and Pluma made--he so courteous
and noble, she so royal and queenly.

"Of course we must call upon her if she is to be Rex's wife," said
Gertie, spitefully. "I foresee she will be exceedingly popular."

"We must also invite her to Glengrove," said Bess, thoughtfully. "It
is the least we can do, and it is expected of us. I quite forgot to
mention one of their servants was telling Jim both Rex and little
Birdie intend to accompany Miss Hurlhurst back to Whitestone Hall as
soon after the funeral as matters can be arranged."

"Why, that is startling news indeed! Why, then, they will probably
leave some time this week!" cried Gertie.

"Most probably," said Bess. "You ought certainly to send over your
note this evening--it is very early yet."

"There is no one to send," said Gertie. "Jim has driven over to
Natchez, and there is no one else to go."

"Perhaps Daisy will go for you," suggested Bess.

There was no need of being jealous _now_ of Daisy's beauty in that
direction. Gertie gladly availed herself of the suggestion.

"Daisy," she said, turning abruptly to the quivering little figure,
whose face drooped over the lilac silk, "never mind finishing that
dress to-night. I wish you to take a note over to the large gray stone
house yonder, and be sure to deliver it to Mr. Rex Lyon himself."


Gertie Glenn never forgot the despairing cry that broke from Daisy's
white lips as she repeated her command:

"I wish you to deliver this note to Mr. Rex Lyon himself."

"Oh, Miss Gertie," she cried, clasping her hands together in an agony
of entreaty, "I can not--oh, indeed I can not! Ask anything of me but
that and I will gladly do it!"

Both girls looked at her in sheer astonishment.

"What is the reason you can not?" cried Gertie, in utter amazement. "I
do not comprehend you."

"I--I can not take the note," she said, in a frightened whisper. "I do

She stopped short in utter confusion.

"I choose you shall do just as I bid you," replied Gertie, in her
imperious, scornful anger. "It really seems to me you forget your
position here, Miss Brooks. How dare you refuse me?"

Opposition always strengthened Gertie's decision, and she determined
Daisy should take her note to Rex Lyon at all hazards.

The eloquent, mute appeal in the blue eyes raised to her own was
utterly lost on her.

"The pride of these dependent companions is something ridiculous," she
went on, angrily. "You consider yourself too fine, I suppose, to be
made a messenger of." Gertie laughed aloud, a scornful, mocking laugh.
"Pride and poverty do not work very well together. You may go to your
room now and get your hat and shawl. I shall have the letter written
in a very few minutes. There will be no use appealing to mamma. You
ought to know by this time we overrule her objections always."

It was too true, Mrs. Glenn never had much voice in a matter where
Bess or Gertie had decided the case.

Like one in a dream Daisy turned from them. She never remembered how
she gained her own room. With cold, tremulous fingers she fastened her
hat, tucking the bright golden hair carefully beneath her veil, and
threw her shawl over her shoulders, just as Gertie approached, letter
in hand.

"You need not go around by the main road," she said, "there is a much
nearer path leading down to the stone wall. You need not wait for an
answer: there will be none. The servants over there are awkward,
blundering creatures--do not trust it to them--you must deliver it to
Rex himself."

"I make one last appeal to you, Miss Gertie. Indeed, it is not pride
that prompts me. I could not bear it. Have pity on me. You are gentle
and kind to others; please, oh, please be merciful to me!"

"I have nothing more to say upon the subject--I have said you were to
go. You act as if I were sending you to some place where you might
catch the scarlet fever or the mumps. You amuse me; upon my word you
do. Rex is not dangerous, neither is he a Bluebeard; his only fault is
being alarmingly handsome. The best advice I can give you is, don't
admire him too much. He should be labeled, 'Out of the market.'"

Gertie tripped gayly from the room, her crimson satin ribbons
fluttering after her, leaving a perceptible odor of violets in the
room, while Daisy clutched the note in her cold, nervous grasp,
walking like one in a terrible dream through the bright patches of
glittering moonlight, through the sweet-scented, rose-bordered path,
on through the dark shadows of the trees toward the home of Rex--her

A soft, brooding silence lay over the sleeping earth as Daisy, with a
sinking heart, drew near the house. Her soft footfalls on the green
mossy earth made no sound.

Silently as a shadow she crept up to the blossom-covered porch; some
one was standing there, leaning against the very pillar around which
she had twined her arms as she watched Rex's shadow on the roses.

The shifting moonbeams pierced the white, fleecy clouds that enveloped
them, and as he turned his face toward her she saw it was Rex. She
could almost have reached out her hand and touched him from where she
stood. She was sorely afraid her face or her voice might startle him
if she spoke to him suddenly.

"I do not need to speak," she thought. "I will go up to him and lay
the letter in his hand."

Then a great intense longing came over her to hear his voice and know
that he was speaking to her. She had quite decided to pursue this
course, when the rustle of a silken garment fell upon her ear. She
knew the light tread of the slippered feet but too well--it was Pluma.
She went up to him in her usual caressing fashion, laying her white
hand on his arm.

"Do you know you have been standing here quite two hours, Rex,
watching the shadows of the vine-leaves? I have longed to come up and
ask you what interest those dancing shadows had for you, but I could
not make up my mind to disturb you. I often fancy you do not know how
much time you spend in thought."

Pluma was wondering if he was thinking of that foolish, romantic fancy
that had come so near separating them--his boyish fancy for Daisy
Brooks, their overseer's niece. No, surely not. He must have forgotten
her long ago.

"These reveries seem to have grown into a habit with me," he said,
dreamily; "almost a second nature, of late. If you were to come and
talk to me at such times, you would break me of it."

The idea pleased her. A bright flush rose to her face, and she made
him some laughing reply, and he looked down upon her with a kindly

Oh! the torture of it to the poor young wife standing watching them,
with heart on fire in the deep shadow of the crimson-hearted
passion-flowers that quivered on the intervening vines. The letter she
held in her hand slipped from her fingers into the bushes all
unheeded. She had but one thought--she must get away. The very air
seemed to stifle her; her heart seemed numb--an icy band seemed
pressing round it, and her poor forehead was burning hot. It did not
matter much where she went, nobody loved her, nobody cared for her. As
softly as she came, she glided down the path that led to the
entrance-gate beyond. She passed through the moonlighted grounds,
where the music and fragrance of the summer night was at its height.
The night wind stirred the pink clover and the blue-bells beneath her
feet. Her eyes were hot and dry; tears would have been a world of
relief to her, but none came to her parched eyelids.

She paid little heed to the direction she took. One idea alone took
possession of her--she must get away.

"If I could only go back to dear old Uncle John," she sighed. "His
love has never failed me."

It seemed long years back since she had romped with him, a happy,
merry child, over the cotton fields, and he had called her his sunbeam
during all those years when no one lived at Whitestone Hall and the
wild ivy climbed riotously over the windows and doors. Even Septima's
voice would have sounded so sweet to her. She would have lived over
again those happy, childish days, if she only could. She remembered
how Septima would send her to the brook for water, and how she
sprinkled every flower in the path-way that bore her name; and how
Septima would scold her when she returned with her bucket scarce half
full; and how she had loved to dream away those sunny summer days,
lying under the cool, shady trees, listening to the songs the robins
sang as they glanced down at her with their little sparkling eyes.

How she had dreamed of the gallant young hero who was to come to her
some day. She had wondered how she would know him, and what were the
words he first would say! If he would come riding by, as the judge did
when "Maud Muller stood in the hay-fields;" and she remembered, too,
the story of "Rebecca at the Well." A weary smile flitted over her
face as she remembered when she went to the brook she had always put
on her prettiest blue ribbons, in case she might meet her hero.

Oh, those sweet, bright, rosy dreams of girlhood! What a pity it is
they do not last forever! Those girlish dreams, where glowing fancy
reigns supreme, and the prosaic future is all unknown. She remembered
her meeting with Rex, how every nerve in her whole being thrilled, and
how she had felt her cheeks grow flaming hot, just as she had read
they would do when she met the right one. That was how she had known
Rex was the right one when she had shyly glanced up, from under her
long eyelashes, into the gay, brown hazel eyes, fixed upon her so
quizzically, as he took the heavy basket from her slender arms, that
never-to-be-forgotten June day, beneath the blossoming magnolia-tree.

Poor child! her life had been a sad romance since then. How strange it
was she was fleeing from the young husband whom she had married and
was so quickly parted from!

All this trouble had come about because she had so courageously
rescued her letter from Mme. Whitney.

"If he had not bound me to secrecy, I could have have cried out before
the whole world I was his wife," she thought.

A burning flush rose to her face as she thought how cruelly he had
suspected her, this poor little child-bride who had never known one
wrong or sinful thought in her pure, innocent young life.

If he had only given her the chance of explaining how she had happened
to be there with Stanwick; if they had taken her back she must have
confessed about the letter and who Rex was and what he was to her.

Even Stanwick's persecution found an excuse in her innocent,
unsuspecting little heart.

"He sought to save me from being taken back when he called me his
wife," she thought. "He believed I was free to woo and win, because I
dared not tell him I was Rex's wife." Yet the thought of Stanwick
always brought a shudder to her pure young mind. She could not
understand why he would have resorted to such desperate means to gain
an unwilling bride.

"Not yet seventeen. Ah, what a sad love-story hers had been. How
cruelly love's young dream had been blighted," she told herself; and
yet she would not have exchanged that one thrilling, ecstatic moment
of rapture when Rex had clasped her in his arms and whispered: "My
darling wife," for a whole lifetime of calm happiness with any one

On and on she walked through the violet-studded grass, thinking--thinking.
Strange fancies came thronging to her overwrought brain. She pushed her
veil back from her face and leaned against the trunk of a tree; her brain
was dizzy and her thoughts were confused; the very stars seemed dancing
riotously in the blue sky above her, and the branches of the trees were
whispering strange fancies. Suddenly a horseman, riding a coal-black
charger, came cantering swiftly up the long avenue of trees. He saw the
quiet figure standing leaning against the drooping branches.

"I will inquire the way," he said to himself, drawing rein beside her.
"Can you tell me, madame, if this is the most direct road leading to
Glengrove and that vicinity? I am looking for a hostelry near it. I
seem to have lost my way. Will you kindly direct me?" he asked, "or to
the home of Mr. Rex Lyon?"

The voice sounded strangely familiar to Daisy. She was dimly conscious
some one was speaking to her. She raised her face up and gazed at the
speaker. The cold, pale moonlight fell full upon it, clearly revealing
its strange, unearthly whiteness, and the bright flashing eyes, gazing
dreamily past the terror-stricken man looking down on her, with white,
livid lips and blanched, horror-stricken face. His eyes almost leaped
from their sockets in abject terror, as Lester Stanwick gazed on the
upturned face by the roadside.

"My God, do I dream?" he cried, clutching at the pommel of his saddle.
"Is this the face of Daisy Brooks, or is it a specter, unable to sleep
in the depths of her tomb, come back to haunt me for driving her to
her doom?"


Rex and Pluma talked for some time out in the moonlight, then Rex
excused himself, and on the plea of having important business letters
to write retired to the library.

For some minutes Pluma leaned thoughtfully against the railing. The
night was still and clear; the moon hung over the dark trees; floods
of silvery light bathed the waters of the glittering sea, the sleeping
flowers and the grass, and on the snowy orange-blossoms and golden
fruit amid the green foliage.

"I shall always love this fair southern home," she thought, a bright
light creeping into her dark, dazzling eyes. "I am Fortune's
favorite," she said, slowly. "I shall have the one great prize I covet
most on earth. I shall win Rex at last. I wonder at the change in him.
There was a time when I believed he loved me. Could it be handsome,
refined, courteous Rex had more than a passing fancy for Daisy
Brooks--simple, unpretentious Daisy Brooks? Thank God she is dead!"
she cried, vehemently. "I would have periled my very soul to have won

Even as the thought shaped itself in her mind, a dark form stepped
cautiously forward.

She was not startled; a passing wonder as to who it might be struck
her. She did not think much about it; a shadow in the moonlight did
not frighten her.

"Pluma!" called a low, cautious voice, "come down into the garden; I
must speak with you. It is I, Lester Stanwick."

In a single instant the soft love-light had faded from her face,
leaving it cold, proud, and pitiless. A vague, nameless dread seized
her. She was a courageous girl; she would not let him know it.

"The mad fool!" she cried, clinching her white jeweled hands together.
"Why does he follow me here? What shall I do? I must buy him off at
any cost. I dare not defy him. Better temporize with him." She
muttered the words aloud, and she was shocked to see how changed and
hoarse her own voice sounded. "Women have faced more deadly peril than
this," she muttered, "and cleverly outwitted ingenious foes. I _must_
win by stratagem."

She quickly followed the tall figure down the path that divided the
little garden from the shrubbery.

"I knew you would not refuse me, Pluma," he said, clasping her hands
and kissing her cold lips. He noticed the glance she gave him had
nothing in it but coldness and annoyance. "You do not tell me you are
pleased to see me, Pluma, and yet you have promised to be my wife."
She stood perfectly still leaning against an oleander-tree. "Why don't
you speak to me, Pluma?" he cried. "By Heaven! I am almost beginning
to mistrust you. You remember your promise," he said, hurriedly--"if I
removed the overseer's niece from your path you were to reward me
with your heart and hand." She would have interrupted him, but he
silenced her with a gesture. "You said your love for Rex had turned to
bitter hatred. You found he loved the girl, and that would be a
glorious revenge. I did not have to resort to abducting her from the
seminary as we had planned. The bird flew into my grasp. I would have
placed her in the asylum you selected, but she eluded me by leaping
into the pit. I have been haunted by her face night and day ever
since. I see her face in crowds, in the depths of the silent forest,
her specter appears before me until I fly from it like one accursed."

She could not stay the passionate torrent of his words.

"Lester, this is all a mistake," she said; "you have not given me a
chance to speak." Her hands dropped nervously by her side. There were
fierce, rebellious thoughts in her heart, but she dare not give them
utterance. "What have I done to deserve all this?" she asked, trying
to assume a tender tone she was far from feeling.

"What have you done?" he cried, hoarsely. "Why, I left you at
Whitestone Hall, feeling secure in the belief that I had won you.
Returning suddenly and unexpectedly, I found you had gone to Florida,
to the home of Rex Lyon. Do you know what I would have done, Pluma, if
I had found you his wife and false to your trust?"

"You forget yourself, Lester," she said; "gentlemen never threaten

He bit his lip angrily.

"There are extreme cases of desperation," he made reply. "You must
keep your promise," he said, determinedly. "No other man must dare
speak to you of love."

She saw the angry light flame into his eyes, and trembled under her
studied composure; yet not the quiver of an eyelid betrayed her
emotion. She had not meant to quarrel with him; for once in her life
she forgot her prudence.

"Suppose that, by exercise of any power you think you possess, you
could really compel me to be your wife, do you think it would benefit
you? I would learn to despise you. What would you gain by it?"

The answer sprung quickly to his lips: "The one great point for which
I am striving--possession of Whitestone Hall;" but he was too
diplomatic to utter the words. She saw a lurid light in his eyes.

"You shall be my wife," he said, gloomily. "If you have been
cherishing any hope of winning Rex Lyon, abandon it at once. As a
last resort, I would explain to him how cleverly you removed the
pretty little girl he loved from his path."

"You dare not!" she cried, white to the very lips. "You have forgotten
your own share in that little affair. Who would believe you acted upon
a woman's bidding? You would soon be called to account for it. You
forget that little circumstance, Lester; you dare not go to Rex!" He
knew what she said was perfectly true. He had not intended going to
Rex; he knew it would be as much as his life was worth to encounter
him. He was aware his name had been coupled with Daisy's in the
journals which had described her tragic death. He knew Rex had fallen
madly, desperately in love with little Daisy Brooks, but he did not
dream he had made her his wife. "You have not given me time to explain
why I am here."

"I have heard all about it," he answered, impatiently; "but I do not
understand why they sent for you."

"Mrs. Lyon requested it," she replied, quietly. "Rex simply obeyed her

"Perhaps she looked upon you as her future daughter-in-law," sneered
Lester, covertly. "I have followed you to Florida to prevent it; I
would follow you to the ends of the earth to prevent it! A promise to
me can not be lightly broken."

Not a feature of that proud face quivered to betray the sharp spasm of
fear that darted through her heart.

"You should have waited until you had cause to reproach me, Lester,"
she said, drawing her wrap closer about her and shivering as if with
cold. "I must go back to the house now; some one might miss me."

He made no reply. The wind bent the reeds, and the waves of the sea
dashed up on the distant beach with a long, low wash. He was wondering
how far she was to be trusted.

"You may have perfect confidence in me, Lester," she said; "my word
ought to be sufficient," as if quite divining his thoughts. "You need
have no fear; I will be true to you."

"I shall remain away until this affair has blown over," he replied. "I
can live as well in one part of the country as another, thanks to the
income my father left me." He laid great stress on the last sentence;
he wanted to impress her with the fact that he had plenty of money.
"She must never know," he told himself, "that he had so riotously
squandered the vast inheritance that had been left him, and he was
standing on the verge of ruin." A marriage with the wealthy heiress
would save him at the eleventh hour. "I will trust you, Pluma," he
continued. "I know, you will keep your vow."

The false ring of apparent candor did not deceive her; she knew it
would be a case of diamond cut diamond.

"That is spoken like your own generous self, Lester," she said,
softly, clasping his hands in her own white, jeweled ones. "You pained
me by your distrust."

He saw she was anxious to get away from him, and he bit his lip with
vexation; her pretty, coaxing manner did not deceive him one whit, yet
he clasped his arms in a very lover-like fashion around her as he

"Forget that it ever existed, my darling. Where there is such ardent,
passionate love, there is always more or less jealousy and fear. Do
you realize I am making an alien of myself for your sweet sake? I
could never refuse you a request. Your slightest will has been my law.
Be kind to me, Pluma."

She did try to be more than agreeable and fascinating.

"I must remove all doubts from his mind," she thought. "I shall
probably be Rex's wife when we meet again. Then his threats will be
useless; I will scornfully deny it. He has no proofs."

She talked to him so gracefully, so tenderly, at times, he was almost
tempted to believe she actually cared for him more than she would
admit. Still he allowed it would do no harm to keep a strict watch of
her movements.

"Good-bye, Pluma, dearest," he said, "I shall keep you constantly
advised of my whereabouts. As soon as matters can be arranged
satisfactorily, I am coming back to claim you."

Another moment and she was alone, walking slowly back to the house, a
very torrent of anger in her proud, defiant heart.

"I must hurry matters up, delays are dangerous," she thought, walking
slowly up the broad path toward the house.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Slowly the long hours of the night dragged themselves by, yet Daisy
did not return to Glengrove. The hours lengthened into days, and days
into weeks, still there was no trace of her to be found. Gertie's
explanation readily accounted for her absence.

"She preferred to leave us rather than deliver my note," she said,
angrily; "and I for one am not sorry she has gone."

"Rex did not mention having received it," said Bess, "when he came
with Birdie to bid us good-bye."

"She probably read it and destroyed it," said Gertie, "Well, there was
nothing in it very particular. Toward the last of it I mentioned I
would send the note over by Daisy Brooks, my mother's companion. More
than likely she took umbrage at that."

"That was a very unkind remark," asserted Eve. "You had no business to
mention it at all; it was uncalled for."

"Well, she would not have known it if she had not read it," replied
Gertie. "You must admit that."

Mrs. Glenn felt sorely troubled. In the short time Daisy had been with
her she had put unlimited confidence in her.

No one thought of searching for her; they all accepted the facts as
the case presented itself to them. Daisy had certainly left them of
her own free will.

Eve alone felt distressed.

"I know everything looks that way, but I shall never believe it," she

She remembered the conversation she had so lately had with Daisy. How
she had clasped her loving little arms about her neck, crying out:

"Pray for me, Eve. I am sorely tried. My feet are on the edge of a
precipice. No matter what I may be tempted to do, do not lose faith in
me, Eve; always believe in me."

Poor little Daisy! what was the secret sorrow that was goading her on
to madness? Would she ever know?

Where was she now? Ah, who could tell?

A curious change seemed to come over romping, mischievous, merry Eve;
she had grown silent and thoughtful.

"I could never believe any one in this world was true or pure again if
I thought for one moment deceit lay brooding in a face so fair as
little Daisy Brooks's."


The months flew quickly by; the cold winter had slipped away, and the
bright green grass and early violets were sprinkling the distant
hill-slopes. The crimson-breasted robins were singing in the budding
branches of the trees, and all Nature reminded one the glorious spring
had come.

Rex Lyon stood upon the porch of Whitestone Hall gazing up at the
white, fleecy clouds that scudded over the blue sky, lost in deep

He was the same handsome, debonair Rex, but ah, how changed! The
merry, laughing brown eyes looked silent and grave enough now, and the
lips the drooping brown mustache covered rarely smiled. Even his voice
seemed to have a deeper tone.

He had done the one thing that morning which his mother had asked him
to do with her dying breath--he had asked Pluma Hurlhurst to be his

The torture of the task seemed to grow upon him as the weeks rolled
by, and in desperation he told himself he must settle the matter at
once, or he would not have the strength to do it.

He never once thought what he should do with his life after he married
her. He tried to summon up courage to tell her the story of his
marriage, that his hopes, his heart, and his love all lay in the grave
of his young wife. Poor Rex, he could not lay bare that sweet, sad
secret; he could not have borne her questions, her wonder, her
remarks, and have lived; his dead love was far too sacred for that; he
could not take the treasured love-story from his heart and hold it up
to public gaze. It would have been easier for him to tear the living,
beating heart from his breast than to do this.

He had walked into the parlor that morning, where he knew he should
find Pluma. She was standing before the fire. Although it was early
spring the mornings were chilly, and a cheerful fire burned in the
grate, throwing a bright, glowing radiance over the room and over the
exquisite morning toilet of white cashmere, with its white lace
frills, relieved here and there with coquettish dashes of scarlet
blossoms, which Pluma wore, setting off her graceful figure to such
queenly advantage.

Rex looked at her, at the imperious beauty any man might have been
proud to win, secretly hoping she would refuse him.

"Good-morning, Rex," she said, holding out her white hands to him. "I
am glad you have come to talk to me. I was watching you walking up and
down under the trees, and you looked so lonely I half made up my mind
to join you."

A lovely color was deepening in her cheeks, and her eyes drooped
shyly. He broke right into the subject at once while he had the
courage to do it.

"I have something to say to you, Pluma," he began, leading her to an
adjacent sofa and seating himself beside her. "I want to ask you if
you will be my wife." He looked perhaps the more confused of the two.
"I will do my best to make you happy," he continued. "I can not say
that I will make a model husband, but I will say I will do my best."

There was a minute's silence, awkward enough for both.

"You have asked me to be your wife, Rex, but you have not said one
word of loving me."

The remark was so unexpected Rex seemed for a few moments to be
unable to reply to it. Looking at the eager, expectant face turned
toward him, it appeared ungenerous and unkind not to give her one
affectionate word. Yet he did not know how to say it; he had never
spoken a loving word to any one except Daisy, his fair little

He tried hard to put the memory of Daisy away from him as he

"The question is so important that most probably I have thought more
of it than of any words which should go with it."

"Oh, that is it," returned Pluma, with a wistful little laugh. "Most
men, when they ask women to marry them, say something of love, do they

"Yes," he replied, absently.

"You have had no experience," laughed Pluma, archly.

She was sorely disappointed. She had gone over in her own imagination
this very scene a thousand times, of the supreme moment he would clasp
his arms around her, telling her in glowing, passionate words how
dearly he loved her and how wretched his life would be without her. He
did nothing of the kind.

Rex was thinking he would have given anything to have been able to
make love to her--anything for the power of saying tender words--she
looked so loving.

Her dark, beautiful face was so near him, and her graceful figure so
close, that he could have wound his arm around her, but he did not. In
spite of every resolve, he thought of Daisy the whole time. How
different that other love-making had been! How his heart throbbed, and
every endearing name he could think of trembled on his lips, as he
strained Daisy to his heart when she had bashfully consented to be his

That love-making was real substance; this one only the shadow of

"You have not answered my question, Pluma. Will you be my wife?"

Pluma raised her dark, beautiful face, radiant with the light of love,
to his.

"If I consent will you promise to love me better than anything else or
any one in the wide world?"

"I will devote my whole life to you, study your every wish," he
answered, evasively.

How was she to know he had given all his heart to Daisy?

She held out her hands to him with a charming gesture of affection. He
took them and kissed them; he could do neither more nor less.

"I will be your wife, Rex," she said, with a tremulous, wistful sigh.

"Thank you, Pluma," he returned, gently, bending down and kissing the
beautiful crimson lips; "you shall never regret it. You are so kind,
I am going to impose on your good nature. You have promised me you
will be my wife--when may I claim you, Pluma?"

"Do you wish it to be soon?" she asked, hesitatingly, wondering how he
would answer her.

"Yes," he said, absently; "the sooner it is over the better I shall be

She looked up into his face, at a loss how to interpret the words.

"You shall set the day, Rex," she replied.

"I have your father's consent that it may take place just as soon as
possible, in case you promised to marry me," he said. "Suppose it
takes place in a fortnight, say--will that be too soon for you?"

She gave a little scream of surprise. "As soon as that?" she murmured;
but ended by readily consenting.

He thanked her and kissed her once more. After a few quiet words they
parted--she, happy in the glamour of her love-dream; he, praying to
Heaven from the depths of his miserable heart, to give him strength to
carry out the rash vow which had been wrung from his unwilling lips.

In his heart Rex knew no one but Daisy could ever reign. Dead, he was
devoted to her memory.

His life was narrowing down. He was all kindness, consideration and
devotion; but the one supreme magnet of all--love--was wanting.

In vain Pluma exerted all her wondrous powers of fascination to win
him more completely. How little he dreamed of the depths of love which
controlled that passionate heart, every throb of which was for
him--that to have won from him one token of warm affection she would
have given all she held dear in this world.

"How does it happen, Rex," she asked, one evening, "you have not asked
me to sing to you since you have asked me to be your wife? Music used
to be such a bond of sympathy between us."

There was both love and reproach in her voice. He heard neither. He
had simply forgotten it.

"I have been thinking of other things, I presume. Allow me to make up
for it at once, however, by asking you if you will sing for me now."

The tears came to her dark, flashing eyes, but she forced them bravely
back. She had hoped he would clasp her in his arms, whispering some
sweet compliment, then say to her "Darling, won't you sing to me

She swept toward the piano with the air of a queen.

"I want you to sit where I can see you, Rex," she demanded, prettily;
"I like to watch your face when I sing you my favorite songs."

Rex drew his chair up close to the piano, laying his head back
dreamily against the crimson cushions. He would not be obliged to
talk; for once--just once--he would let his fancies roam where they
would. He had often heard Pluma sing before, but never in the way
she sung to-night. A low, thrilling, seductive voice full of
pleading, passionate tenderness--a voice that whispered of the
sweet irresistible power of love, that carried away the hearts of
her listeners as a strong current carries a leaflet.

Was it a dream, or was it the night wind breathing the name of Daisy?
The tears rose in his eyes, and he started to his feet, pale and
trembling with agitation. Suddenly the music ceased.

"I did not think such a simple little melody had power to move you,"
she said.

"Is it a new song?" he asked. "I do not remember having heard it
before. What is the title of it?"

He did not notice her face had grown slightly pale under the soft,
pearly light of the gleaming lamps, as she held the music out toward

"It is a pretty title," she said, in her low, musical voice, "'Daisies
Growing o'er my Darling's Grave.'"

In the terrible look of agony that swept over his handsome face, Pluma
read the secret of his life; the one secret she had dreaded stood as
clearly revealed to her as though it had been stamped in glowing
letters upon his brow. She would have stood little chance of being
Rex's wife if Daisy Brooks had lived.

Who would have dreamed the beautiful, proud young heiress could have
cursed the very memory of the young girl whom she believed to be
dead--lying all uncared for in a neglected, lonely grave?

Rex felt sorely disturbed. He never remembered how the remainder of
the evening passed. Ah, heavens! how his mind wandered back to that
sweet love-dream so cruelly broken. A mist as of tears spread before
his eyes, and shut the whole world from him as he glanced out of the
window and up at the star-gemmed sky--that was his Daisy's home.

"I hope my little song has not cast a gloom over you, Rex?" she said,
holding out her hands to him as she arose to bid him good-night--those
small white hands upon one of which his engagement-ring glowed with a
thousand prismatic hues.

"Why should it?" he asked, attempting to laugh lightly. "I admired it
perhaps more than any other I have ever heard you sing."

Pluma well knew why.

"It was suggested to me by a strange occurrence. Shall I relate it to
you, Rex?"

He made some indistinct answer, little dreaming of how wofully the
little anecdote would affect him.

"I do not like to bring up old, unpleasant subjects, Rex. But do you
remember what the only quarrel we ever had was about, or rather _who_
it was about?"

He looked at her in surprise; he had not the least idea of what she
alluded to.

"Do you remember what a romantic interest you once took in our
overseer's niece--the one who eloped with Lester Stanwick from
boarding-school--the one whose death we afterward read of? Her name
was Daisy--Daisy Brooks."

If she had suddenly plunged a dagger into his heart with her white
jeweled hands he could not have been more cruelly startled. He could
have cried aloud with the sharp pain of unutterable anguish that
memory brought him. His answer was a bow; he dared not look up lest
the haggard pain of his face should betray him.

"Her uncle (he was no relation, I believe, but she called him that)
was more fond of her than words can express. I was driving along by an
unfrequented road to-day when I came across a strange, pathetic sight.
The poor old man was putting the last touches to a plain wooden cross
he had just erected under a magnolia-tree, which bore the simple
words: 'To the memory of Daisy Brooks, aged sixteen years.' Around the
cross the grass was thickly sown with daisies.

"'She does not rest here,' the old man said, drawing his rough sleeve
across his tear-dimmed eyes; 'but the poor little girl loved this spot
best of any.'"

Pluma wondered why Rex took her just then in his arms for the first
time and kissed her. He was thanking her in his heart; he could have
knelt to her for the kind way she had spoken of Daisy.

A little later he was standing by the open window of his own room in
the moonlight.

"My God!" he cried, burying his face in his hands, "this poor John
Brooks did what I, her husband, should have done; but it is not
too late now. I shall honor your memory, my darling; I shall have
a costly marble monument erected to your memory, bearing the
inscription: 'Sacred to the memory of Daisy, beloved wife of Rex Lyon,
aged sixteen years.' Not Daisy Brooks, but Daisy Lyon. Mother is dead,
what can secrecy avail now?"

He would not tell Pluma until the last moment. Straightway he ordered
a magnificent monument from Baltimore--one of pure unblemished white,
with an angel with drooping wings overlooking the tall white pillar.

When it arrived he meant to take Pluma there, and, reverently kneeling
down before her, tell her all the story of his sweet, sad love-dream
with his face pressed close against the cold, pulseless marble--tell
her of the love-dream which had left him but the ashes of dead hope.
He sealed the letter and placed it with the out-going morning mail.

"Darling, how I wish I had not parted from you that night!" he

How bitterly he regretted he could not live that one brief hour of his
past life over again--how differently he would act!


While Rex was penning his all-important letter in his room, Pluma was
walking restlessly to and fro in her boudoir, conning over in her mind
the events of the evening.

Rex had asked her to be his wife, but she stood face to face with the
truth at last--he did not love her. It was not only a blow of the
keenest and cruelest kind to her affection, but it was the cruelest
blow her vanity could possibly have received.

To think that she, the wealthy, petted heiress, who counted her
admirers by the score, should have tried so hard to win the love of
this one man and have failed; that her beauty, her grace, her wit, and
her talent had been lavished upon him, and lavished in vain. "Was that
simple girl, with her shy, timid, shrinking manner, more lovable than
I?" she asked herself, incredulously.

She could not realize it--she, whose name was on the lips of men, who
praised her as the queen of beauty, and whom fair women envied as one
who had but to will to win.

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

Was it impossible that he should learn to love her?

She told herself that she should take courage, that she would
persevere, that her great love must in time prevail.

"I must never let him find me dull or unhappy," she thought. "I must
carefully hide all traces of pique or annoyance."

She would do her best to entertain him, and make it the study of her
life to win his love.

She watched the stars until they faded from the skies, then buried her
face in her pillow, falling into an uneasy slumber, through which a
beautiful, flower-like, girlish face floated, and a slight, delicate
form knelt at her feet holding her arms out imploringly, sobbing out:

"Do not take him from me--he is my world--I love him!"

And with a heart racked by terrible jealousy, Pluma turned uneasily on
her pillow and opened her eyes. The stars were still glimmering in the
moonlighted sky.

"Is the face of Daisy Brooks ever to haunt me thus?" she cried out,
impatiently. "How was I to know she was to die?" she muttered,
excitedly. "I simply meant to have Stanwick abduct her from the
seminary that Rex might believe him her lover and turn to me for
sympathy. I will not think of it," she cried; "I am not one to flinch
from a course of action I have marked out for myself, no matter what
the consequences may be, if I only gain Rex's love."

And Pluma, the bride soon to be, turned her flushed face again to the
wall to dream again of Daisy Brooks.

She little dreamed Rex, too, was watching the stars, as wakeful as
she, thinking of the past.

Then he prayed Heaven to help him, so that no unworthy thought should
enter his mind. After that he slept, and one of the most painful days
of his life was ended.

The days at Whitestone Hall flew by on rapid wings in a round of
gayety. The Hall was crowded with young folks, who were to remain
until after the marriage. Dinner parties were followed by May-pole
dances out on the green lawns, and by charades and balls in the
evening. The old Hall had never echoed with such frolicsome mirth
before. Rex plunged into the excitement with strange zest. No one
guessed that beneath his winning, careless smile his heart was almost

One morning Pluma was standing alone on the vine-covered terrace,
waiting for Rex, who had gone out to try a beautiful spirited horse
that had just been added to the stables of Whitestone Hall. She
noticed he had taken the unfrequented road the magnolia-trees shaded.
That fact bore no significance, certainly; still there was a strong
feeling of jealousy in her heart as she remembered that little wooden
cross he would be obliged to pass. Would he stop there? She could not

"How I love him--and how foolish I am!" she laughed, nervously. "I
have no rival, yet I am jealous of his very thoughts, lest they dwell
on any one else but myself. I do not see how it is," she said,
thoughtfully, to herself, "why people laugh at love, and think it
weakness or a girl's sentimental folly. Why, it is the strongest of
human passions!"

She heard people speak of her approaching marriage as "a grand
match"--she heard him spoken of as a wealthy Southerner, and she
laughed a proud, happy, rippling laugh. She was marrying Rex for love;
she had given him the deepest, truest love of her heart.

Around a bend in the terrace she heard approaching footsteps and the
rippling of girlish laughter.

"I can not have five minutes to myself to think," she said to herself,
drawing hastily back behind the thick screen of leaves until they
should pass. She did not feel in the humor just then to listen to Miss
Raynor's chatter or pretty Grace Alden's gossip.

"Of course every one has a right to their own opinion," Grace was
saying, with a toss of her pretty nut-brown curls, "and I, for one, do
not believe he cares for her one whit."

"It is certainly very strange," responded Miss Raynor, thoughtfully.
"Every one can see she is certainly in love with Rex; but I am afraid
it is quite a one-sided affair."

"Yes," said Grace, laughing shyly, "a _very_ one-sided affair. Why,
have you ever noticed them together--how Pluma watches his face and
seems to live on his smiles? And as for Rex, he always seems to be
looking over her head into the distance, as though he saw something
there far more interesting than the face of his bride-to-be. That
doesn't look much like love or a contented lover."

"If you had seen him this morning you might well say he did not look
contented," replied Miss Raynor, mysteriously. "I was out for a
morning ramble, and, feeling a little tired, I sat down on a
moss-covered stone to rest. Hearing the approaching clatter of a
horse's hoofs, I looked up and saw Rex Lyon coming leisurely down the
road. I could not tell you what prompted me to do it, but I drew
quietly back behind the overhanging alder branches that skirted the
brook, admiring him all unseen."

"Oh, dear!" cried Grace, merrily, "this is almost too good to keep.
Who would imagine dignified Miss Raynor peeping admiringly at
handsome Rex, screened by the shadows of the alders!"

"Now don't be ridiculous, Grace, or I shall be tempted not to tell you
the most interesting part," returned Miss Raynor, flushing hotly.

"Oh, that would be too cruel," cried Grace, who delighted on anything
bordering on mystery. "Do tell it."

"Well," continued Miss Raynor, dropping her voice to a lower key,
"when he was quite opposite me, he suddenly stopped short and quickly
dismounted from his horse, and picked up from the roadside a handful
of wild flowers."

"What in the world could he want with them?" cried Grace, incredulously.

"Want with them!" echoed Miss Raynor. "Why, he pressed them to his
lips, murmuring passionate, loving words over them. For one brief
instant his face was turned toward me, and I saw there were tears
standing in his eyes, and there was a look on his face I shall never
forget to my dying day. There was such hopeless woe upon it--indeed
one might have almost supposed, by the expression of his face, he was
waiting for his death-sentence to be pronounced instead of a marriage
ceremony, which was to give him the queenly heiress of Whitestone Hall
for a bride."

"Perhaps there is some hidden romance in the life of handsome Rex the
world does not know of," suggested Grace, sagely.

"I hope not," replied Miss Raynor. "I would hate to be a rival of
Pluma Hurlhurst's. I have often thought, as I watched her with Rex, it
must be terrible to worship one person so madly. I have often thought
Pluma's a perilous love."

"Do not speak so," cried Grace. "You horrify me. Whenever I see her
face I am afraid those words will be ringing in my ears--a perilous

Miss Raynor made some laughing rejoinder which Pluma, white and
trembling behind the ivy vines, did not catch, and still discussing
the affair, they moved on, leaving Pluma Hurlhurst standing alone,
face to face with the truth, which she had hoped against hope was
false. Rex, who was so soon to be her husband, was certainly not her

Her keen judgment had told her long ago all this had come about
through his mother's influence.

Every word those careless lips had uttered came back to her heart with
a cruel stab.

"Even my guests are noticing his coldness," she cried, with a
hysterical little sob. "They are saying to each other, 'He does not
love me'--I, who have counted my triumphs by the scores. I have
revealed my love in every word, tone and glance, but I can not awaken
one sentiment in his proud, cold heart."

When she remembered the words, "He pressed them to his lips, murmuring
passionate, loving words over them," she almost cried aloud in her
fierce, angry passion. She knew, just as well as though she had
witnessed him herself, that those wild flowers were daisies, and she
knew, too, why he had kissed them so passionately. She saw the sun
shining on the trees, the flower-beds were great squares and circles
of color, the fountains sparkled in the sunlight, and restless
butterflies flitted hither and thither.

For Pluma Hurlhurst, after that hour, the sunshine never had the same
light, the flowers the same color, her face the same smile, or her
heart the same joyousness.

Never did "good and evil" fight for a human heart as they struggled in
that hour in the heart of the beautiful, willful heiress. All the
fire, the passion, and recklessness of her nature were aroused.

"I will make him love me or I will die!" she cried, vehemently. "The
love I long for shall be mine. I swear it, cost what it may!"

She was almost terribly beautiful to behold, as that war of passion
raged within her.

She saw a cloud of dust arising in the distance. She knew it was Rex
returning, but no bright flush rose to her cheek as she remembered
what Miss Raynor had said of the wild flowers he had so rapturously
caressed--he had given a few rank wild flowers the depths of a
passionate love which he had never shown to her, whom he had asked to
be his wife.

She watched him as he approached nearer and nearer, so handsome, so
graceful, so winning, one of his white hands carelessly resting on the
spirited animal's proudly arched, glossy neck, and with the other
raising his hat from his brown curls in true courtly cavalier fashion
to her, as he saw her standing there, apparently awaiting him on the
rose-covered terrace.

He looked so handsome and lovable Pluma might have forgotten her
grievance had she not at that moment espied, fastened to the lapel of
his coat, a cluster of golden-hearted daisies.

That sight froze the light in her dark, passionate eyes and the
welcome that trembled on her scarlet lips.

He leaped lightly from the saddle, and came quickly forward to meet
her, and then drew back with a start.

"What is the matter, Pluma?" he asked, in wonder.

"Nothing," she replied, keeping her eyes fastened as if fascinated on
the offending daisies he wore on his breast.

"I left you an hour ago smiling and happy. I find you white and worn.
There are strange lights in your eyes like the slumbrous fire of a
volcano; even your voice seems to have lost its tenderness. What is
it, Pluma?"

She raised her dark, proud face to his. There was a strange story
written on it, but he could not tell what it was.

"It--it is nothing. The day is warm, and I am tired, that is all."

"You are not like the same Pluma who kissed me when I was going away,"
he persisted. "Since I left this house something has come between you
and me. What is it, Pluma?"

She looked up to him with a proud gesture that was infinitely

"Is anything likely to come between us?" she asked.

"No; not that I know of," he answered, growing more and more puzzled.

"Then why imagine it?" she asked.

"Because you are so changed, Pluma," he said. "I shall never perhaps
know the cause of your strange manner toward me, but I shall always
feel sure it is something which concerns myself. You look at me as
though you were questioning me," he said. "I wish you would tell me
what is on your mind?"

"I do not suppose it could make the least difference," she answered,
passionately. "Yes, I will tell you, what you must have been blind not
to notice long ago. Have you not noticed how every one watches us with
a peculiar smile on their lips as we come among them; and how their
voices sink to a whisper lest we should overhear what they say? What
is commented upon by my very guests, and the people all about us?
Listen, then, it is this: Rex Lyon does not love the woman he has
asked to be his wife. The frosts of Iceland could not be colder than
his manner toward her. They say, too, that I have given you the truest
and deepest love of my heart, and have received nothing in return.
Tell me that it is all false, my darling. You do care for me, do you
not, Rex? Tell me," she implored.

"Good heavens!" cried Rex, almost speechless in consternation; "do
they dare say such things? I never thought my conduct could give rise
to one reproach, one unkind thought."

"Tell me you do care for me, Rex," she cried. "I have been almost mad
with doubt."

There was something in the lovely face, in the tender, pleading eyes,
and quivering, scarlet mouth, that looked as if it were made for
kisses--that Rex would have had to have been something more than
mortal man to have resisted her pleading with sighs and tears for his
love, and refuse it, especially as she had every reason to expect it,
as he had asked her to be his wife. There was such a look of
unutterable love on her face it fairly bewildered him. The passion in
her voice startled him. What was he to do with this impetuous girl?
Rex looked as if he felt exceedingly uncomfortable.

He took her in his arms and kissed her mechanically; he knew that was
what she wanted and what she expected him to do.

"This must be my answer, dear," he said, holding her in a close

In that brief instant she had torn the daisies from the lapel of his
coat with her white, jeweled fingers, tossed them to the earth, and
stamped her dainty feet upon them, wishing in the depths of her soul
she could crush out all remembrance from his heart of the young girl
for whose memory this handsome lover of hers wore these wild blossoms
on his breast.

As Rex looked down into her face he missed them, and quickly unclasped
his arms from around her with a little cry.

Stooping down he instantly recovered his crushed treasures and lifted
them reverently in his hand with a sigh.

"I can not say that I admire your taste, Rex," she said, with a short,
hard laugh, that somehow grated harshly on her lover's ears. "The
conservatories are blooming with rare and odorous flowers, yet you
choose these obnoxious plants; they are no more or less than a species
of weeds. Never wear them again, Rex--I despise them--throw them away,
and I will gather you a rare bouquet of white hyacinths and starry
jasmine and golden-rod bells."

The intense quiver in her voice pained him, and he saw her face wore
the pallor of death, and her eyes were gleaming like restless fire.

"I will not wear them certainly if you dislike them, Pluma," he said,
gravely, "but I do not care to replace them by any other; daisies are
the sweetest flowers on earth for me."

He did not fasten them on his coat again, but transferred them to his
breast-pocket. She bit her scarlet lips in impotent rage.

In the very moment of her supreme triumph and happiness he had
unclasped his arms from about her to pick up the daisies she had
crushed with her tiny heel--those daisies which reminded him of that
other love that still reigned in his heart a barrier between them.


"I do think it is a perfect shame those horrid Glenn girls are to be
invited up here to Rex's wedding," cried little Birdie Lyon, hobbling
into the room where Mrs. Corliss sat, busily engaged in hemming some
new table-linen, and throwing herself down on a low hassock at her
feet, and laying down her crutch beside her--"it is perfectly awful."

"Why," said Mrs. Corliss, smoothing the nut-brown curls back from the
child's flushed face, "I should think you would be very pleased. They
were your neighbors when you were down in Florida, were they not?"

"Yes," replied the little girl, frowning, "but I don't like them one
bit. Bess and Gertie--that's the two eldest ones, make me think of
those stiff pictures in the gay trailing dresses in the magazines. Eve
is nice, but she's a Tom-boy."

"A wh--at!" cried Mrs. Corliss.

"She's a Tom-boy, mamma always said; she romps, and has no manners."

"They will be your neighbors when you go South again--so I suppose
your brother thought of that when he invited them."

"He never dreamed of it," cried Birdie; "it was Miss Pluma's doings."

"Hush, child, don't talk so loud," entreated the old housekeeper; "she
might hear you."

"I don't care," cried Birdie. "I don't like her anyhow, and she knows
it. When Rex is around she is as sweet as honey to me, and calls me
'pretty little dear,' but when Rex isn't around she scarcely notices
me, and I _hate_ her--yes, I do."

Birdie clinched her little hands together venomously, crying out the
words in a shrill scream.

"Birdie," cried Mrs. Corliss, "you _must not_ say such hard, cruel
things. I have heard you say, over and over again, you liked Mr.
Hurlhurst, and you must remember Pluma is his daughter, and she is to
be your brother's wife. You must learn to speak and think kindly of

"I never shall like her," cried Birdie, defiantly, "and I am sure Mr.
Hurlhurst don't."

"Birdie!" ejaculated the good lady in a fright, dropping her scissors
and spools in consternation; "let me warn you not to talk so again;
if Miss Pluma was to once hear you, you would have a sorry enough time
of it all your after life. What put it into your head Mr. Hurlhurst
did not like his own daughter?"

"Oh, lots of things," answered Birdie. "When I tell him how pretty
every one says she is, he groans, and says strange things about fatal
beauty, which marred all his young life, and ever so many things I
can't understand, and his face grows so hard and so stern I am almost
afraid of him."

"He is thinking of Pluma's mother," thought Mrs. Corliss--but she made
no answer.

"He likes to talk to me," pursued the child, rolling the empty spools
to and fro with her crutch, "for he pities me because I am lame."

"Bless your dear little heart," said Mrs. Corliss, softly stroking the
little girl's curls; "it is seldom poor old master takes to any one as
he has to you."

"Do I look anything like the little child that died?" questioned

A low, gasping cry broke from Mrs. Corliss's lips, and her face grew
ashen white. She tried to speak, but the words died away in her

"He talks to me a great deal about her," continued Birdie, "and he
weeps such bitter tears, and has such strange dreams about her. Why,
only last night he dreamed a beautiful, golden-haired young girl came
to him, holding out her arms, and crying softly: 'Look at me, father;
I am your child. I was never laid to rest beneath the violets, in my
young mother's tomb. Father, I am in sore distress--come to me,
father, or I shall die!' Of course it was only a dream, but it makes
poor Mr. Hurlhurst cry so; and what do you think he said?"

The child did not notice the terrible agony on the old housekeeper's
face, or that no answer was vouchsafed her.

"'My dreams haunt me night and day,' he cried. 'To still this wild,
fierce throbbing of my heart I must have that grave opened, and gaze
once more upon all that remains of my loved and long-lost bride, sweet
Evalia and her little child.' He was--"

Birdie never finished her sentence.

A terrible cry broke from the housekeeper's livid lips.

"My God!" she cried, hoarsely, "after nearly seventeen years the sin
of my silence is about to find me out at last."

"What is the matter, Mrs. Corliss? Are you ill?" cried the startled

A low, despairing sob answered her, as Mrs. Corliss arose from her
seat, took a step or two forward, then fell headlong to the floor in a
deep and death-like swoon.

Almost any other child would have been terrified, and alarmed the

Birdie was not like other children. She saw a pitcher of ice-water on
an adjacent table, which she immediately proceeded to sprinkle on the
still, white, wrinkled face; but all her efforts failed to bring the
fleeting breath back to the cold, pallid lips.

At last the child became fairly frightened.

"I must go and find Rex or Mr. Hurlhurst," she cried, grasping her
crutch, and limping hurriedly out of the room.

The door leading to Basil Hurlhurst's apartments stood open--the
master of Whitestone Hall sat in his easy-chair, in morning-gown and
slippers, deeply immersed in the columns of his account-books.

"Oh, Mr. Hurlhurst," cried Birdie, her little, white, scared face
peering in at the door, "won't you please come quick? Mrs. Corliss,
the housekeeper, has fainted ever so long ago, and I can't bring her

Basil Hurlhurst hurriedly arose and followed the now thoroughly
frightened child quickly to the room where the old housekeeper lay,
her hands pressed close to her heart, the look of frozen horror
deepening on her face.

Quickly summoning the servants, they raised her from the floor. It was
something more than a mere fainting fit. The poor old lady had fallen
face downward on the floor, and upon the sharp point of the scissors
she had been using, which had entered her body in close proximity to
her heart. The wound was certainly a dangerous one. The surgeon, who
was quickly summoned, shook his head dubiously.

"The wound is of the most serious nature," he said. "She can not
possibly recover."

"I regret this sad affair more than I can find words to express," said
Basil Hurlhurst, gravely. "Mrs. Corliss's whole life almost has been
spent at Whitestone Hall. You tell me, doctor, there is no hope. I can
scarcely realize it."

Every care and attention was shown her; but it was long hours before
Mrs. Corliss showed signs of returning consciousness, and with her
first breath she begged that Basil Hurlhurst might be sent for at

He could not understand why she shrunk from him, refusing his
proffered hand.

"Tell them all to leave the room," she whispered. "No one must know
what I have to say to you."

Wondering a little what she had to say to him, he humored her wishes,
sending them all from the room.

"Now, Mrs. Corliss," he said, kindly drawing his chair up close by the
bedside, "what is it? You can speak out without reserve; we are all

"Is it true that I can not live?" she asked, eagerly scanning his
face. "Tell me truthfully, master, is the wound a fatal one?"

"Yes," he said, sympathetically, "I--I--am afraid it is."

He saw she was making a violent effort to control her emotions. "Do
not speak," he said, gently; "it distresses you. You need perfect rest
and quiet."

"I shall never rest again until I make atonement for my sin," she
cried, feebly. "Oh, master, you have ever been good and kind to me,
but I have sinned against you beyond all hope of pardon. When you hear
what I have to say you will curse me. Oh, how can I tell it! Yet I can
not sleep in my grave with this burden on my soul."

He certainly thought she was delirious, this poor, patient, toil-worn
soul, speaking so incoherently of sin; she, so tender-hearted--she
could not even have hurt a sparrow.

"I can promise you my full pardon, Mrs. Corliss," he said, soothingly;
"no matter on what grounds the grievance may be."

For a moment she looked at him incredulously.

"You do not know what you say. You do not understand," she muttered,
fixing her fast-dimming eyes strangely upon him.

"Do not give yourself any uneasiness upon that score, Mrs. Corliss,"
he said, gently; "try to think of something else. Is there anything
you would like to have done for you?"

"Yes," she replied, in a voice so hoarse and changed he could scarcely
recognize it was her who had spoken; "when I tell you all, promise me
you will not curse me; for I have sinned against you so bitterly that
you will cry out to Heaven asking why I did not die long years ago,
that the terrible secret I have kept so long might have been wrung
from my lips."

"Surely her ravings were taking a strange freak," he thought to
himself; "yet he would be patient with her and humor her strange

The quiet, gentle expression did not leave his face, and she took

"Master," she said, clasping her hands nervously together, "would it
pain you to speak of the sweet, golden-haired young girl-bride who
died on that terrible stormy night nearly seventeen years ago?"

She saw his care-worn face grow white, and the lines of pain deepen
around his mouth.

"That is the most painful of all subjects to me," he said, slowly.
"You know how I have suffered since that terrible night," he said
shudderingly. "The double loss of my sweet young wife and her little
babe has nearly driven me mad. I am a changed man, the weight of the
cross I have had to bear has crushed me. I live on, but my heart is
buried in the grave of my sweet, golden-haired Evalia and her little
child. I repeat, it is a painful subject, still I will listen to what
you have to say. I believe I owe my life to your careful nursing, when
I was stricken with the brain fever that awful time."

"It would have been better if I had let you die then, rather than live
to inflict the blow which my words will give you. Oh, master!" she
implored, "I did not know then what I did was a sin. I feared to tell
you lest the shock might cost you your life. As time wore on, I grew
so deadly frightened I dared not undo the mischief my silence had
wrought. Remember, master, when you looked upon me in your bitterest,
fiercest moments of agony, what I did was for _your_ sake; to save
your bleeding heart one more pang. I have been a good and faithful
woman all my life, faithful to your interests."

"You have indeed," he responded, greatly puzzled as to what she could
possibly mean.

She tried to raise herself on her elbows, but her strength failed her,
and she sunk back exhausted on the pillow.

"Listen, Basil Hurlhurst," she said, fixing her strangely bright eyes
upon his noble, care-worn face; "this is the secret I have carried in
this bosom for nearly seventeen years: 'Your golden-haired young wife
died on that terrible stormy night you brought her to Whitestone
Hall;' but listen, Basil, '_the child did not!_' It was stolen from
our midst on the night the fair young mother died."


"My God!" cried Basil Hurlhurst, starting to his feet, pale as death,
his eyes fairly burning, and the veins standing out on his forehead
like cords, "you do not know what you say, woman! My little
child--Evalia's child and mine--not dead, but stolen on the night its
mother died! My God! it can not be; surely you are mad!" he shrieked.

"It is true, master," she moaned, "true as Heaven."

"You knew my child, for whom I grieved for seventeen long years, was
stolen--not dead--and dared to keep the knowledge from me?" he cried,
passionately, beside himself with rage, agony and fear. "Tell me
quickly, then, where I shall find my child!" he cried, breathlessly.

"I do not know, master," she moaned.

For a few moments Basil Hurlhurst strode up and down the room like a
man bereft of reason.

"You will not curse me," wailed the tremulous voice from the bed; "I
have your promise."

"I can not understand how Heaven could let your lips remain silenced
all these long, agonizing years, if your story be true. Why, yourself
told me my wife and child had both died on that never-to-be-forgotten
night, and were buried in one grave. How could you dare steep your
lips with a lie so foul and black? Heaven could have struck you dead
while the false words were yet warm on your lips!"

"I dared not tell you, master," moaned the feeble voice, "lest the
shock would kill you; then, after you recovered, I grew afraid of the
secret I had dared to keep, and dared not tell you."

"And yet you knew that somewhere in this cruel world my little child
was living--my tender, little fair-haired child--while I, her father,
was wearing my life out with the grief of that terrible double loss.
Oh, woman, woman, may God forgive you, for I never can, if your words
be true."

"I feared such anger as this; that is why I dared not tell you," she
whispered, faintly. "I appeal to your respect for me in the past to
hear me, to your promise of forgiveness to shield me, to your love for
the little child to listen calmly while I have strength to speak."

He saw she was right. His head seemed on fire, and his heart seemed
bursting with the acute intensity of his great excitement.

He must listen while she had strength to tell him of his child.

"Go on--go on!" he cried, hoarsely, burying his face in the
bed-clothes; "tell me of my child!"

"You remember the terrible storm, master, how the tree moaned, and
without against the western wing--where your beautiful young wife lay
dead, with the pretty, smiling, blue-eyed babe upon her breast?"

"Yes, yes--go on--you are driving me mad!" he groaned.

"You remember how you fell down senseless by her bedside when we told
you the terrible news--the young child-bride was dead?"

She knew, by the quivering of his form, he heard her.

"As they carried you from the room, master, I thought I saw a woman's
form gliding stealthily on before, through the dark corridors. A blaze
of lightning illumined the hall for one brief instant, and I can swear
I saw a woman's face--a white, mocking, gloriously beautiful
face--strangely like the face of your first wife, master, Pluma's
mother. I knew it could not be her, for she was lying beneath the
sea-waves. It was not a good omen, and I felt sorely afraid and
greatly troubled. When I returned to the room from which they had
carried you--there lay your fair young wife with a smile on her
lips--but the tiny babe that had slumbered on her breast was gone."

"Oh, God! if you had only told me this years ago," cried the unhappy
father. "Have you any idea who could have taken the child? It could
not have been for gain, or I should have heard of it long ago. I did
not know I had an enemy in the wide world. You say you saw a woman's
face?" he asked, thoughtfully.

"It was the ghost of your first wife," asserted the old housekeeper,
astutely. "I never saw her face but once; but there was something
about it one could not easily forget."

Basil Hurlhurst was not a superstitious man, yet he felt a strange,
unaccountable dread stealing over him at the bare mention of such a
thing. It was more than he could endure to hear the name of the wife
he had loved, and the wife who slept beneath the wild sea-waves,
coupled in one breath--the fair young wife he had idolized, and the
dark, sparkling face of the wife who had brought upon him such
wretched folly in his youth!

"Have you not some clew to give me?" he cried out in agony--"some way
by which I can trace her and learn her fate?"

She shook her head.

"This is unbearable!" he cried, pacing up and down the room like one
who had received an unexpected death-blow. "I am bewildered! Merciful
Heaven! which way shall I turn? This accounts for my restlessness all
these years, when I thought of my child--my restless longing and
fanciful dreams! I thought her quietly sleeping on Evalia's breast.
God only knows what my tender little darling has suffered, or in what
part of the world she lives, or if she lives at all!"

It had been just one hour since Basil Hurlhurst had entered that room,
a placid-faced, gray-haired man. When he left it his hair was white as
snow from the terrible ordeal through which he had just passed.

He scarcely dared hope that he should yet find her--where or how he
should find her, if ever.

In the corridor he passed groups of maidens, but he neither saw nor
heard them. He was thinking of the child that had been stolen from him
in her infancy--the sweet little babe with the large blue eyes and
shining rings of golden hair.

He saw Pluma and Rex greeting some new arrivals out on the flower-bordered
terrace, but he did not stop until he had reached his own apartments.

He did not send for Pluma, to divulge the wonderful discovery he had
made. There was little sympathy or confidence between the father and

"I can never sleep again until I have some clew to my child!" he
cried, frantically wringing his hands.

Hastily he touched the bell-rope.

"Mason," he said to the servant who answered the summons, "pack my
valise at once. I am going to take the first train to Baltimore. You
have no time to lose."

He did not hear the man's ejaculation of surprise as his eyes fell on
the face of the master who stood before him with hair white as
snow--so utterly changed in one short hour.

"You couldn't possibly make the next train, sir; it leaves in a few

"I tell you you _must_ make it!" cried Basil Hurlhurst. "Go and do as
I bid you at once! Don't stand there staring at me; you are losing
golden moments. Fly at once, I tell you!"

Poor old Mason was literally astounded. What had come over his kind,
courteous master?

"I have nothing that could aid them in the search," he said to
himself, pacing restlessly up and down the room. "Ah! stay!--there is
Evalia's portrait! The little one must look like her mother if she is
living yet!"

He went to his writing-desk and drew from a private drawer a little
package tied with a faded ribbon, which he carefully untied with
trembling fingers.

It was a portrait on ivory of a beautiful, girlish, dimpled face, with
shy, upraised blue eyes, a smiling rosebud mouth, soft pink cheeks,
and a wealth of rippling, sunny-golden hair.

"She must look like this," he whispered. "God grant that I may find

"Mr. Rex Lyon says, please may he see you a few moments, sir," said
Mason, popping his black head in at the door.

"No; I do not wish to see any one, and I will not see any one. Have
you that satchel packed, I say?"

"Yes, sir; it will be ready directly, sir," said the man, obediently.

"Don't come to me with any more messages--lock everybody out. Do you
hear me, Mason? I _will_ be obeyed!"

"Yes, sir, I hear. No one shall disturb you."

Again Basil Hurlhurst turned to the portrait, paying little attention
to what was transpiring around him. "I shall put it at once in the
hands of the cleverest detectives," he mused; "surely they will be
able to find some trace of my lost darling."

Seventeen years! Ah, what might have happened her in that time? The
master of Whitestone Hall always kept a file of the Baltimore papers;
he rapidly ran his eye down the different columns.

"Ah, here is what I want," he exclaimed, stopping short. "Messrs.
Tudor, Peck & Co., Experienced Detectives, ---- Street, Baltimore.
They are noted for their skill. I will give the case into their hands.
If they restore my darling child alive and well into my hands I will
make them wealthy men--if she is dead, the blow will surely kill me."

He heard voices debating in the corridor without.

"Did you tell him I wished particularly to see him?" asked Rex, rather
discomfited at the refusal.

"Yes, sir," said Mason, dubiously.

"Miss Pluma, his daughter, wishes me to speak with him on a very
important matter. I am surprised that he so persistently refuses to
see me," said Rex, proudly, wondering if Pluma's father had heard that
gossip--among the guests--that he did not love his daughter. "I do not
know that I have offended the old gentleman in any way," he told
himself. "If it comes to that," he thought, "I can do no more than
confess the truth to him--the whole truth about poor little Daisy--no
matter what the consequences may be."

Fate was playing at cross-purposes with handsome Rex, but no subtle
warning came to him.


The preparations for the wedding went steadily on. It was to be a
magnificent affair. Inside and outside of Whitestone Hall fairly
glowed with brilliancy and bloom.

Rex's deportment toward his promised bride was exemplary; he did his
best to show her every possible attention and kindness in lieu of the
love which should have been hers.

There seemed to be no cloud in Pluma Hurlhurst's heaven.

She had no warning of the relentless storm-cloud that was gathering
above her head and was so soon to burst upon her in all its fury.

She walked among her guests with a joyous, happy smile and the air of
a queen. Why should she not? On the morrow she would gain the prize
she coveted most on earth--she would be Rex's wife.

Her father had gone unexpectedly to Baltimore, and the good old
housekeeper had been laid to rest, but in the excitement and bustle
attending the great coming event these two incidents created little

Mirth and gayety reigned supreme, and the grim old halls resounded
with laughter and song and gay young voices from morning until night.

Pluma, the spoiled, petted, willful heiress, was fond of excitement
and gay throngs.

"Our marriage must be an event worthy of remembrance, Rex," she said,
as they walked together through the grounds the morning before the
wedding. "We must have something new and novel. I am tired of
brilliant parlors and gas-light. I propose we shall have a beautiful
platform built, covered with moss and roses, beneath the blossoming
trees, with the birds singing in their boughs, upon which we shall be
united. What do you think of my idea--is it not a pretty one?"

"Your ideas are always poetical and fanciful," said Rex, glancing down
into the beautiful brilliant face beside him. "My thoughts are so dull
and prosy compared with yours, are you not afraid you will have a very
monotonous life-companion?"

"I am going to try my best to win you from that cold reserve. There
must not be one shadow between us; do you know, Rex, I have been
thinking, if anything should ever happen to take your love from me I
should surely die. I--I am jealous of your very thoughts. I know I
ought not to admit it, but I can not help it."

Rex flushed nervously; it was really embarrassing to him, the tender
way in which she looked up to him--her black eyelids coyly drooping
over her dark, slumbrous eyes, inviting a caress. He was certainly
wooed against his will, but there was no help for it; he was forced to
take up his part and act it out gracefully.

"You need not be jealous of my thoughts, Pluma," he replied, "for they
were all of you."

"I wonder if they were pleasant thoughts?" she asked, toying with the
crimson flower-bells she holds in her white hands. "I have heard you
sigh so much of late. Are you quite happy, Rex?" she inquired,

The abruptness of the question staggered him: he recovered his
composure instantly, however.

"How can you ask me such a question, Pluma?" he asked, evasively; "any
man ought to be proud of winning so peerless a treasure as you are. I
shall be envied by scores of disappointed lovers, who have worshiped
at your shrine. I am not as demonstrative as some might be under
similar circumstances, but my appreciation is none the less keen."

She noticed he carefully avoided the word--love.

In after years Rex liked to remember that, yielding to a kindly
impulse, he bent down and kissed her forehead.

It was the first time he had caressed her voluntarily; it was not love
which prompted the action--only kindness.

"Perhaps you will love me some day with your whole heart, Rex?" she

"You seem quite sure that I do not do that now?" he remarked.

"Yes," she said, clasping his arm more closely, "I often fear you do
not, but as time passes you will give me all your affection. Love must
win love."

Other young girls could not have made such an open declaration without
rosy blushes suffusing their cheeks; they would have been frightened
at their free-spoken words, even though the morrow _was_ their

She stood before him in her tall, slim loveliness, as fair a picture
as any man's eyes could rest on. She wore a most becoming dress, and a
spring blossom was in her hair. Almost any other man's heart would
have warmed toward her as she raised her dark eyes to his and the
white fingers trembled on his arm.

Rex was young, impulsive, and mortal; tender words from such lovely
lips would have intoxicated any man. Yet from that faithful heart of
his the words did not take one thought that belonged to Daisy; he did
his utmost to forget that sunny, golden memory.

To Pluma, handsome, courtly Rex was an enigma. In her own mind she
liked him all the better because he had not fallen down and worshiped
her at once. Most men did that.

For several moments they walked along in utter silence--until they had
reached the brink of the dark pool, which lay quite at the further end
of the inclosure.

Pluma gave a little shuddering scream:

"I did not mean to bring you here," she cried. "I always avoid this
path; the waters of the pool have always had a great dread for me."

"It should be filled up," said Rex, "or fenced around; it is certainly
a dangerous locality."

"It can not be filled up," she returned, laughingly; "it is said to be
bottomless. I do not like to think of it; come away, Rex."

The magnificent bridal costume, ordered expressly from Paris, had
arrived--perfect even to the last detail. The bride-maids' costumes
were all ready; and to everything in and about the Hall the last
finishing touches had been given.

All the young girls hovered constantly around Pluma, in girl-fashion
admiring the costume, the veil, the wreath, and above all the
radiantly beautiful girl who was to wear them. Even the Glenn girls
and Grace Alden were forced to admit the willful young heiress would
make the most peerless bride they had ever beheld.

Little Birdie alone held aloof, much to Rex's amusement and Pluma's
intense mortification.

"Little children often take such strange freaks," she would say to
Rex, sweetly. "I really believe your little sister intends never to
like me; I can not win one smile from her."

"She is not like other children," he replied, with a strange twinkle
in his eye. "She forms likes and dislikes to people from simply
hearing their name. Of course I agree with you it is not right to do
so, but Birdie has been humored more or less all her life. I think she
will grow to love you in time."

Pluma's lips quivered like the lips of a grieving child.

"I shall try so hard to make her love me, because she is your sister,

He clasped the little jeweled hands that lay so confidingly within his
own still closer, saying he knew she could not help but succeed.

The whole country-side was ringing with the coming marriage. No one
could be more popular than handsome Rex Lyon, no one admired more than
the young heiress of Whitestone Hall. The county papers were in
ecstasies; they discussed the magnificent preparations at the Hall,
the number of bride-maids, the superb wedding-presents, the
arrangements for the marriage, and the ball to be given in the

The minister from Baltimore who was to perform the ceremony was
expected to arrive that day. That all preparations might be completed
for the coming morrow, Rex had gone down to meet the train, and Pluma
strolled into the conservatory, to be alone for a few moments with
her own happy thoughts.

Out on the green lawns happy maidens were tripping here and there,
their gay laughter floating up to her where she stood.

Every one seemed to be making the most of the happy occasion.
Lawn-tennis parties here and croquet-parties there, and lovers
strolling under the blossoming trees or reclining on the rustic
benches--it was indeed a happy scene.

Pluma leaned her dark head against the fragrant roses. The breeze, the
perfume of the flowers, all told one story to the impassioned
girl--the story of her triumph and her mad, reckless love.

She gathered a spray of the fairest flowers, and fastened them in the
bodice of her dress.

"To-morrow I shall have won the one great prize I covet," she
murmured, half aloud. "After to-morrow I can defy Lester Stanwick to
bring one charge against me. I shall be Rex's wife--it will avail him

"Speaking of angels, you often hear 'the rustle of their wings.' I
believe there is an old adage of that sort, or something similar,"
said a deep voice beside her, and turning around with a low cry she
saw Lester Stanwick himself standing before her.

For one moment her lips opened as though to utter a piercing cry, but
even the very breath seemed to die upon them, they were so fixed and

The flowers she held in her hand fell into the fountain against which
she leaned, but she did not heed them.

Like one fascinated, her eyes met the gaze of the bold, flashing dark
ones bent so steadily upon her.

"You thought you would escape me," he said. "How foolish and blind you
are, my clever plotter. Did you think I did not see through your
clever maneuverings? There shall be a wedding to-morrow, but you shall
marry me, instead of handsome, debonair Rex. You can not fly from your

She set her lips firmly together. She had made a valiant struggle. She
would defy him to the bitter end. She was no coward, this beautiful,
imperious girl. She would die hard. Alas! she had been too sanguine,
hoping Lester Stanwick would not return before the ceremony was

The last hope died out of that proud, passionate heart--as well hope
to divert a tiger from its helpless prey as expect Lester Stanwick to
relinquish any plans he had once formed.

"I have fought my fight," she said to herself, "and have failed on the
very threshold of victory, still, I know how to bear defeat. What do
you propose to do?" she said, huskily. "If there is any way I can buy
your silence, name your price, keeping back the truth will avail me
little now. I love Rex, and no power on earth shall prevent me from
becoming his wife."

Lester Stanwick smiled superciliously--drawing from his pocket a
package of letters.

"Money could not purchase these charming _billets-doux_ from me," he
said. "This will be charming reading matter for the Honorable Rex
Lyon, and the general public to discuss."

She raised her flashing eyes unflinchingly to his face, but no word
issued from her white lips.

"A splendid morsel for the gossips to whisper over. The very refined
and exclusive heiress of Whitestone Hall connives to remove an
innocent rival from her path, by providing money for her to be sent
off secretly to boarding-school, from which she is to be abducted and
confined in a mad-house. Your numerous letters give full instructions;
it would be useless to deny these accusations. I hold proof

"That would not screen you," she said, scornfully.

"I did not carry out your plans. No matter what the intentions were,
the points in the case are what actually happened. I can swear I
refused to comply with your nefarious wishes, even though you promised
me your hand and fortune if I succeeded," he answered, mockingly.

"Will not money purchase your silence?" she said, with a deep-drawn
breath. "I do not plead with you for mercy or compassion," she said,

Lester Stanwick laughed a mocking laugh.

"Do not mistake me, Miss Pluma," he said, making no attempt at
love-making; "I prefer to wrest you from Rex Lyon. I have contemplated
with intense satisfaction the blow to his pride. It will be a glorious
revenge, also giving me a charming bride, and last, but not least, the
possession at some future day of Whitestone Hall and the Hurlhurst
Plantations. A pleasing picture, is it not, my dear?"


Pluma Hurlhurst never quailed beneath the cold, mocking glance bent
upon her.

There was no hope for her; disgrace and ruin stared her in the face;
she would defy even Fate itself to the bitter end with a heroism
worthy of a better cause. In that hour and that mood she was capable
of anything.

She leaned against a tall palm-tree, looking at him with a strange
expression on her face, as she made answer, slowly:

"You may depend upon it, I shall never marry you, Lester Stanwick. If
I do not marry Rex I shall go unmarried to the grave. Ah, no!" she
cried desperately; "Heaven will have more mercy, more pity than to
take him from me."

"What mercy or pity did you feel in thrusting poor little Daisy Brooks
from his path?" asked Stanwick, sarcastically. "Your love has led you
through dangerous paths. I should call it certainly a most perilous

She recoiled from him with a low cry, those words again still ringing
in her ears, "A perilous love."

She laughed with a laugh that made even Stanwick's blood run cold--a
horrible laugh.

"I do not grieve that she is dead," she said. "You ought to understand
by this time I shall allow nothing to come between Rex and me."

"You forget the fine notions of honor your handsome lover entertains;
it may not have occurred to you that he might object at the eleventh

"He will not," she cried, fiercely, her bosom rising and falling
convulsively under its covering of filmy lace and the diamond brooch
which clasped it. "You do not know the indomitable will of a desperate
woman," she gasped. "I will see him myself and confess all to him, if
you attempt to reveal the contents of those letters. He will marry me
and take me abroad at once. If I have Rex's love, what matters it what
the whole world knows or says?"

She spoke rapidly, vehemently, with flushed face and glowing eyes; and
even in her terrible anger Stanwick could not help but notice how
gloriously beautiful she was in her tragic emotion.

"I have asked you to choose between us," he said, calmly, "and you
have chosen Rex regardless of all the promises of the past. The
consequences rest upon your own head."

"So be it," she answered, haughtily.

With a low bow Stanwick turned and left her.

"_Au revoir_, my dear Pluma," he said, turning again toward her on the
threshold. "Not farewell--I shall not give up hope of winning the
heiress of Whitestone Hall."

For several moments she stood quite still among the dark-green shrubs,
and no sound told of the deadly strife and despair. Would he see Rex
and divulge the crime she had planned? Ah! who would believe she, the
proud, petted heiress had plotted so cruelly against the life of an
innocent young girl because she found favor in the eyes of the lover
she had sworn to win? Ah! who could believe she had planned to confine
that sweet young life within the walls of a mad-house until death
should release her?

What if the plan had failed? The intention still remained the same.
She was thankful, after all, the young girl was dead.

"I could never endure the thought of Rex's intense anger if he once
imagined the truth; he would never forgive duplicity," she cried,

The proud, beautiful girl, radiant with love and happiness a short
time since, with a great cry flung herself down among the ferns, the
sunlight gleaming on the jewels, the sumptuous morning dress, the
crushed roses, and the white, despairing face.

Any one who saw Pluma Hurlhurst when she entered the drawing-room
among her merry-hearted guests, would have said that she had never
shed a tear or known a sigh. Could that be the same creature upon
whose prostrate figure and raining tears the sunshine had so lately
fallen? No one could have told that the brightness, the smiles, and
the gay words were all forced. No one could have guessed that beneath
the brilliant manner there was a torrent of dark, angry passions and
an agony of fear.

It was pitiful to see how her eyes wandered toward the door. Hour
after hour passed, and still Rex had not returned.

The hum of girlish voices around her almost made her brain reel. Grace
Alden and Miss Raynor were singing a duet at the piano. The song they
were singing fell like a death-knell upon her ears; it was "'He Cometh
Not,' She Said."

Eve Glenn, with Birdie upon her lap, sat on an adjoining sofa flirting
desperately with the two or three devoted beaus; every one was
discussing the prospect of the coming morrow.

Her father had returned from Baltimore some time since. She was too
much engrossed with her thoughts of Rex to notice the great change in
him--the strange light in his eyes, or the wistful, expectant
expression of his face, as he kissed her more fondly than he had ever
done in his life before.

She gave appropriate answers to her guests grouped around her, but
their voices seemed afar off. Her heart and her thoughts were with
Rex. Why had he not returned? What was detaining him? Suppose anything
should happen--it would kill her now--yet nothing could go wrong on
the eve of her wedding-day. She would not believe it. Stanwick would
not dare go to Rex with such a story--he would write it--and all
those things took time. With care and caution and constant watching
she would prevent Rex from receiving any communications whatever until
after the ceremony; then she could breathe freely, for the battle so
bravely fought would be won.

"If to-morrow is as bright as to-day, Pluma will have a glorious
wedding-day," said Bessie Glenn, smiling up into the face of a
handsome young fellow who was fastening a rosebud she had just given
him in the lapel of his coat with one hand, and with the other tightly
clasping the white fingers that had held the rose.

He did not notice that Pluma stood in the curtained recesses of an
adjoining window as he answered, carelessly enough:

"Of course, I hope it will be a fine, sunshiny day, but the
indications of the weather don't look exactly that way, if I am any

"Why, you don't think it is going to rain, do you? Why, it will spoil
the rose-bower she is to be married in and all the beautiful
decoration. Oh, please don't predict anything so awfully horrible; you
make me feel nervous; besides, you know what everybody says about
weddings on which the rain falls."

"Would you be afraid to experiment on the idea?" asked the impulsive
young fellow, who always acted on the spur of the moment. "If
to-morrow were a rainy day, and I should say to you, 'Bess, will you
marry me to-day or never?' what would your answer be?"

"I should say, just now, I do not like 'ifs and ands.' Supposing a
case, and standing face to face with it, are two different things. I
like people who say what they mean, and mean what they say."

Pluma saw the dazzling light flame into the bashful young lover's eyes
as he bent his head lower over the blushing girl who had shown him the
right way to capture a hesitating heart.

"_That_ is love," sighed Pluma. "Ah, if Rex would only look at me like
that I would think this earth a heaven." She looked up at the bright,
dazzling clouds overhead; then she remembered the words she had
heard--"It looked like rain on the morrow."

Could those white, fleecy clouds darken on the morrow that was to give
her the only treasure she had ever coveted in her life?

She was not superstitious. Even if it did rain, surely a few
rain-drops could not make or mar the happiness of a lifetime. She
would not believe it.

"Courage until to-morrow," she said, "and my triumph will be complete.
I will have won Rex." The little ormolu clock on the mantel chimed the
hour of five. "Heavens!" she cried to herself, "Rex has been gone over
two hours. I feel my heart must be bursting."

No one noticed Pluma's anxiety. One moment hushed and laughing, the
queen of mirth and revelry, then pale and silent, with shadowed eyes,
furtively glancing down the broad, pebbled path that led to the
entrance gate.

Yet, despite her bravery, Pluma's face and lips turned white when she
heard the confusion of her lover's arrival.

Perhaps Pluma had never suffered more suspense in all her life than
was crowded into those few moments.

Had he seen Lester Stanwick? Had he come to denounce her for her
treachery, in his proud, clear voice, and declare the marriage broken

She dared not step forward to greet him, lest the piercing glance of
his eyes would cause her to fall fainting at his feet.

"A guilty conscience needs no accuser." Most truly the words were
exemplified in her case. Yet not one pang of remorse swept across her
proud heart when she thought of the young girl whose life she had so
skillfully blighted.

What was the love of Daisy Brooks, an unsophisticated child of nature,
only the overseer's niece, compared to her own mighty, absorbing

The proud, haughty heiress could not understand how Rex, polished,
courteous and refined, could have stooped to such a reckless folly. He
would thank her in years to come for sparing him from such a fate.
These were the thoughts she sought to console herself with.

She stood near the door when he entered, but he did not see her; a
death-like pallor swept over her face, her dark eyes had a wild,
perplexing look.

She was waiting in terrible suspense for Rex to call upon her name;
ask where she was, or speak some word in which she could read her
sentence of happiness or despair in the tone of his voice.

She could not even catch the expression of his face; it was turned
from her. She watched him so eagerly she hardly dared draw her

Rex walked quickly through the room, stopping to chat with this one or
that one a moment; still, his face was not turned for a single instant
toward the spot where she stood.

Was he looking for her? She could not tell. Presently he walked toward
the conservatory, and a moment later Eve Glenn came tripping toward

"Oh, here you are!" she cried, flinging her arms about her in regular
school-girl _abandon_, and kissing the cold, proud mouth, that deigned
no answering caress. "Rex has been looking for you everywhere, and at
last commissioned me to find you and say he wants to speak to you. He
is out on the terrace."

How she longed to ask if Rex's face was smiling or stern, but she
dared not.

"Where did you say Rex was, Miss Glenn?"

"I said he was out on the terrace; but don't call me Miss Glenn, for
pity's sake--it sounds so freezingly cold. Won't you please call me
Eve," cried the impetuous girl--"simply plain Eve? That has a more
friendly sound, you know."

Another girl less proud than the haughty heiress would have kissed
Eve's pretty, piquant, upturned, roguish face.

"What did Rex have to say to her?" she asked herself, in growing

The last hope seemed withering in her proud, passionate heart. She
rose haughtily, and walked with the dignity of a queen through the
long drawing-room toward the terrace. Her heart almost stopped beating
as she caught sight of Rex leaning so gracefully against the trunk of
an old gnarled oak tree, smoking a cigar. That certainly did not look
as if he meant to greet her with a kiss.

She went forward hesitatingly--a world of anxiety and suspense on her
face--to know her fate. The color surged over her face, then receded
from it again, as she looked at him with a smile--a smile that was
more pitiful than a sigh.

"Rex," she cried, holding out her hands to him with a fluttering,
uncertain movement that stirred the perfumed laces of the exquisite
robe she wore, and the jewels on her white, nervous hands--"Rex, I am


We must now return to Daisy, whom we left standing in the heart of the
forest, the moonlight streaming on her upturned face, upon which the
startled horseman gazed.

He had not waited for her to reply, but, touching his horse hastily
with his riding-whip, he sped onward with the speed of the wind.

In that one instant Daisy had recognized the dark, sinister, handsome
face of Lester Stanwick.

"They have searched the pit and found I was not there. He is searching
for me; he has tracked me down!" she cried, vehemently, pressing her
little white hands to her burning head.

Faster, faster flew the little feet through the long dew-damp

"My troubles seem closing more darkly around me," she sobbed. "I wish
I had never been born, then I could never have spoiled Rex's life. But
I am leaving you, my love, my darling, so you can marry Pluma, the
heiress. You will forget me and be happy."

Poor little, neglected, unloved bride, so fair, so young, so fragile,
out alone facing the dark terrors of the night, fleeing from the young
husband who was wearing his life out in grief for her. Ah, if the
gentle winds sighing above her, or the solemn, nodding trees had only
told her, how different her life might have been!

"No one has ever loved me but poor old Uncle John!" She bent her fair
young head and cried out to Heaven: "Why has no mercy been shown to
me? I have never done one wrong, yet I am so sorely tried. Oh, mother,
mother!" she cried, raising her blue eyes up to the starry sky, "if
you could have foreseen the dark, cruel shadows that would have folded
their pitiless wings over the head of your child, would you not have
taken me with you down into the depths of the seething waters?" She
raised up her white hands pleadingly as though she would fain pierce
with her wrongs the blue skies, and reach the great White Throne. "I
must be going mad," she said. "Why did Rex seek me out?" she cried, in
anguish. "Why did Heaven let me love him so madly, and my whole life
be darkened by living apart from him if I am to live? I had no thought
of suffering and sorrow when I met him that summer morning. Are the
summer days to pass and never bring him? Are the flowers to bloom, the
sun to shine, the years to come and go, yet never bring him once to
me? I can not bear it--I do not know how to live!"

If she could only see poor old, faithful John Brooks again she would
kneel at his feet just as she had done when she was a little child,
lay her weary head down on his toil-hardened hand, tell him how she
had suffered, and ask him how she could die and end it all.

She longed so hungrily for some one to caress her, murmuring tender
words over her. She could almost hear his voice saying as she told
him her pitiful story: "Come to my arms, pet, my poor little trampled
Daisy! You shall never want for some one to love you while poor old
Uncle John lives. Bless your dear little heart!"

The longing was strongly upon her. No one would recognize her--she
_must_ go and see poor old John. She never thought what would become
of her life after that.

At the station she asked for a ticket for Allendale. No one seemed to
know of such a place. After a prolonged search on the map the agent
discovered it to be a little inland station not far from Baltimore.

"We can sell you a ticket for Baltimore," he said, "and there you can
purchase a ticket for the other road."

And once again poor little Daisy was whirling rapidly toward the scene
of her first great sorrow.

Time seemed to slip by her unheeded during all that long, tedious
journey of two nights and a day.

"Are you going to Baltimore?" asked a gentle-faced lady, who was
strangely attracted to the beautiful, sorrowful young girl, in which
all hope, life, and sunshine seemed dead.

"Yes, madame," she made answer, "I change cars there; I am going

The lady was struck by the peculiar mournful cadence of the young

"I beg your pardon for my seeming rudeness," she said, looking long
and earnestly at the fair young face; "but you remind me so strangely
of a young school-mate of my youth; you are strangely like what she
was then. We both attended Madame Whitney's seminary. Perhaps you have
heard of the institution; it is a very old and justly famous school."
She wondered at the beautiful flush that stole into the girl's
flower-like face--like the soft, faint tinting of a sea-shell. "She
married a wealthy planter," pursued the lady, reflectively; "but she
did not live long to enjoy her happy home. One short year after she
married Evalia Hurlhurst died." The lady never forgot the strange
glance that passed over the girl's face, or the wonderful light that
seemed to break over it. "Why," exclaimed the lady, as if a sudden
thought occurred to her, "when you bought your ticket I heard you
mention Allendale. That was the home of the Hurlhursts. Is it possible
you know them? Mr. Hurlhurst is a widower--something of a recluse, and
an invalid, I have heard; he has a daughter called Pluma."

"Yes, madame," Daisy made answer, "I have met Miss Hurlhurst, but not
her father."

How bitterly this stranger's words seemed to mock her! Did she know
Pluma Hurlhurst, the proud, haughty heiress who had stolen her young
husband's love from her?--the dark, sparkling, willful beauty who had
crossed her innocent young life so strangely--whom she had seen
bending over _her_ husband in the pitying moonlight almost caressing
him? She thought she would cry out with the bitterness of the thought.
How strange it was! The name, Evalia Hurlhurst, seemed to fall upon
her ears like the softest, sweetest music. Perhaps she wished she was
like that young wife, who had died so long ago, resting quietly
beneath the white daisies that bore her name.

"That is Madame Whitney's," exclaimed the lady, leaning forward toward
the window excitedly. "Dear me! I can almost imagine I am a young girl
again. Why, what is the matter, my dear? You look as though you were
about to faint."

The train whirled swiftly past--the broad, glittering Chesapeake on
one side, and the closely shaven lawn of the seminary on the other. It
was evidently recess. Young girls were flitting here and there under
the trees, as pretty a picture of happy school life as one would wish
to see. It seemed to poor hapless Daisy long ages must have passed
since that morning poor old John Brooks had brought her, a shy,
blushing, shrinking country lassie, among those daintily attired,
aristocratic maidens, who had laughed at her coy, timid mannerism, and
at the clothes poor John wore, and at his flaming red cotton

She had not much time for further contemplation. The train steamed
into the Baltimore depot, and she felt herself carried along by the
surging crowd that alighted from the train.

She did not go into the waiting-room; she had quite forgotten she was
not at the end of her journey.

She followed the crowds along the bustling street, a solitary,
desolate, heart-broken girl, with a weary white face whose beautiful,
tender eyes looked in vain among the throngs that passed her by for
one kindly face or a sympathetic look.

Some pushed rudely by her, others looked into the beautiful face with
an ugly smile. Handsomely got-up dandies, with fine clothes and no
brains, nodded familiarly as Daisy passed them. Some laughed, and
others scoffed and jeered; but not one--dear Heaven! not one among the
vast throng gave her a kindly glance or a word. Occasionally one,
warmer hearted than the others, would look sadly on that desolate,
beautiful, childish face.

A low moan she could scarcely repress broke from her lips. A
handsomely dressed child, who was rolling a hoop in front of her,
turned around suddenly and asked her if she was ill.

"Ill?" She repeated the word with a vague feeling of wonder. What was
physical pain to the torture that was eating away her young life? Ill?
Why, all the illness in the world put together could not cause the
anguish she was suffering then--the sting of a broken heart.

She was not ill--only desolate and forsaken.

Poor Daisy answered in such a vague manner that she quite frightened
the child, who hurried away as fast as she could with her hoop,
pausing now and then to look back at the white, forlorn face on which
the sunshine seemed to cast such strange shadows.

On and on Daisy walked, little heeding which way she went. She saw
what appeared to be a park on ahead, and there she bent her steps. The
shady seats among the cool green grasses under the leafy trees looked
inviting. She opened the gate and entered. A sudden sense of dizziness
stole over her, and her breath seemed to come in quick, convulsive

"Perhaps God has heard my prayer, Rex, my love," she sighed. "I am
sick and weary unto death. Oh, Rex--Rex--"

The beautiful eyelids fluttered over the soft, blue eyes, and with
that dearly loved name on her lips, the poor little child-bride sunk
down on the cold, hard earth in a death-like swoon.

"Oh, dear me, Harvey, who in the world is this?" cried a little,
pleasant-voiced old lady, who had witnessed the young girl enter the
gate, and saw her stagger and fall. In a moment she had fluttered down
the path, and was kneeling by Daisy's side.

"Come here, Harvey," she called; "it is a young girl; she has

Mr. Harvey Tudor, the celebrated detective, threw away the cigar he
had been smoking, and hastened to his wife's side.

"Isn't she beautiful?" cried the little lady, in ecstasy. "I wonder
who she is, and what she wanted."

"She is evidently a stranger, and called to consult me professionally,"
responded Mr. Tudor; "she must be brought into the house."

He lifted the slight, delicate figure in his arms, and bore her into
the house.

"I am going down to the office now, my dear," he said; "we have some
important cases to look after this morning. I will take a run up in
the course of an hour or so. If the young girl should recover and
wish to see me very particularly, I suppose you will have to send for
me. Don't get me away up here unless you find out the case is

And with a good-humored nod, the shrewd detective, so quiet and
domesticated at his own fireside, walked quickly down the path to the
gate, whistling softly to himself--thinking with a strange, puzzled
expression in his keen blue eyes, of Daisy. Through all of his
business transactions that morning the beautiful, childish face was
strangely before his mind's eye.

"Confound it!" he muttered, seizing his hat, "I must hurry home and
find out at once who that pretty little creature is--and what she


The sunny summer days came and went, lengthening themselves into long
weeks before Daisy Brooks opened her eyes to consciousness. No clew
could be found as to who the beautiful young stranger was.

Mr. Tudor had proposed sending her to the hospital--but to this
proposition his wife would not listen.

"No, indeed, Harvey," she exclaimed, twisting the soft, golden curls
over her white fingers, "she shall stay here where I can watch over
her myself, poor little dear."

"You amaze me, my dear," expostulated her husband, mildly. "You can
not tell who you may be harboring."

"Now, Harvey," exclaimed the little woman, bending over the beautiful,
still, white face resting against the crimson satin pillow, "don't
insinuate there could be anything wrong with this poor child. My
woman's judgment tells me she is as pure as those lilies in yonder
fountain's bed."

"If you had seen as much of the world as I have, my dear, you would
take little stock in the innocence of beautiful women; very homely
women are rarely dangerous."

"There is no use in arguing the point, Harvey. I have determined she
shall not be sent to the hospital, and she shall stay here."

Mrs. Tudor carried the point, as she always did in every argument.

"Well, my dear, if any ill consequences arise from this piece of folly
of yours, remember, I shirk all responsibility."

      "'When a woman will, she will, you may depend on't,
      And when she won't--she won't, and there's an end on't,'"

he quoted, dryly. "I sincerely hope you will not rue it."

"Now, you would be surprised, my dear, to find out at some future time
you had been entertaining an angel unawares."

"I should be _extremely_ surprised; you have put it mildly, my
dear--nay, I may say dumbfounded--to find an angel dwelling down here
below among us sinners. My experience has led me to believe the best
place for angels is up above where they belong. I am glad that _you_
have such pretty little notions, though, my dear. It is not best for
women to know too much of the ways of the world."

"Harvey, you shock me!" cried the little lady, holding up her hands in
horror at her liege lord's remarks.

Still she had her own way in the matter, and Daisy stayed.

Every day the detective grew more mystified as to who in the world she
could be. One thing was certain, she had seen some great trouble which
bid fair to dethrone her reason.

At times she would clasp his hands, calling him Uncle John, begging
him piteously to tell her how she could die. And she talked
incoherently, too, of a dark, handsome woman's face, that had come
between her and some lost treasure.

Then a grave look would come into the detective's face. He had seen
many such cases, and they always ended badly, he said to himself. She
had such an innocent face, so fair, so childish, he could not make up
his mind whether she was sinned against or had been guilty of a hidden
sin herself.

Love must have something to do with it, he thought, grimly. Whenever
he saw such a hopeless, despairing look on a young and beautiful face
he always set it down as a love case in his own mind, and in nine
cases out of ten he was right.

"Ah! it is the old, old story," he muttered. "A pretty, romantic
school-girl, and some handsome, reckless lover," and something very
much like an imprecation broke from his lips, thorough man of the
world though he was, as he ruminated on the wickedness of men.

Two days before the marriage of Rex and Pluma was to be solemnized,
poor little Daisy awoke to consciousness, her blue eyes resting on the
joyous face of Mrs. Tudor, who bent over her with bated breath, gazing
into the upraised eyes, turned so wonderingly upon her.

"You are to keep perfectly quiet, my dear," said Mrs. Tudor,
pleasantly, laying her hands on Daisy's lips as she attempted to
speak. "You must not try to talk or to think; turn your face from the
light, and go quietly to sleep for a bit, then you shall say what you

Daisy wondered who the lady was, as she obeyed her like an obedient,
tired child--the voice seemed so motherly, so kind, and so soothing,
as she lay there, trying to realize how she came there. Slowly all her
senses struggled into life, her memory came back, her mind and brain
grew clear. Then she remembered walking into the cool, shady garden,
and the dizziness which seemed to fall over her so suddenly. "I must
have fainted last night," she thought. She also remembered Pluma
bending so caressingly over her young husband in the moonlight, and
that the sight had almost driven her mad, and, despite her efforts to
suppress her emotion, she began to sob aloud.

Mrs. Tudor hurried quickly to the bedside. She saw at once the ice
from the frozen fountain of memory had melted.

"If you have any great sorrow on your mind, my dear, and wish to see
Mr. Tudor, I will call him at once. He is in the parlor."

"Please don't," sobbed Daisy. "I don't want to see anybody. I must go
home to Uncle John at once. Have I been here all night?"

"Why, bless your dear little heart, you have been here many a night
and many a week. We thought at one time you would surely die."

"I wish I had," moaned Daisy. In the bitterness of her sorely wounded
heart she said to herself that Providence had done everything for her
without taking her life.

"We thought," pursued Mrs. Tudor, gently, "that perhaps you desired to
see my husband--he is a detective--upon some matter. You fainted when
you were just within the gate."

"Was it your garden?" asked Daisy, surprisedly. "I thought it was a

"Then you were not in search of Mr. Tudor, my dear?" asked his wife,
quite mystified.

"No," replied Daisy. "I wanted to get away from every one who knew me,
or every one I knew, except Uncle John."

"I shall not question her concerning herself to-day," Mrs. Tudor
thought. "I will wait a bit until she is stronger." She felt delicate
about even asking her name. "She will seek my confidence soon," she
thought. "I must wait."

Mrs. Tudor was a kind-hearted little soul. She tried every possible
means of diverting Daisy's attention from the absorbing sorrow which
seemed consuming her.

She read her choice, sparkling paragraphs from the papers, commenting
upon them, in a pretty, gossiping way.

Nothing seemed to interest the pretty little creature, or bring a
smile to the quivering, childish lips.

"Ah! here is something quite racy!" she cried, drawing her chair up
closer to the bedside. "_A scandal in high life._ This is sure to be

Mrs. Tudor was a good little woman, but, like all women in general,
she delighted in a spicy scandal.

A handsome stranger had married a beautiful heiress. For a time all
went merry as a marriage-bell. Suddenly a second wife appeared on the
scene, of which no one previously knew the existence. The husband had
sincerely believed himself separated by law from wife number one, but
through some technicality of the law, the separation was pronounced
illegal, and the beautiful heiress bitterly realized to her cost that
she was no wife.

"It must be a terrible calamity to be placed in such a predicament,"
cried Mrs. Tudor, energetically. "I blame the husband for not finding
out beyond a doubt that he was free from his first wife."

A sudden thought seemed to come to Daisy, so startling it almost took
her breath away.

"Supposing a husband left his wife, and afterward thought her dead,
even though she were not, and he should marry again, would it not be
legal? Supposing the poor, deserted wife knew of it, but allowed him
to marry that some one else, because she believed he was unhappy with
herself, would it not be legal?" she repeated in an intense voice,
striving to appear calm.

"I can scarcely understand the question, my dear. I should certainly
say, if the first wife knew her husband was about to remarry, and she
knew she was not separated from him by law or death, she was certainly
a criminal in allowing the ceremony to proceed. Why, did you ever hear
of such a peculiar case, my dear?"

"No," replied Daisy, flushing crimson. "I was thinking of Enoch

"Why, there is scarcely a feature in Enoch Arden's case resembling the
one you have just cited. You must have made a mistake?"

"Yes; you are right. I have made a mistake," muttered Daisy, growing
deadly pale. "I did not know. I believed it was right."

"You believed what was right?" asked Mrs. Tudor, in amazement.

"I believed it was right for the first wife to go out of her husband's
life if she had spoiled it, and leave him free to woo and win the
bride he loved," replied Daisy, pitifully embarrassed.

"Why, you innocent child," laughed Mrs. Tudor, "I have said he would
_not_ be free as long as the law did not separate him from his first
wife, and she was alive. It is against the law of Heaven for any man
to have two wives; and if the first wife remained silent and saw the
sacred ceremony profaned by that silence, she broke the law of
Heaven--a sin against God beyond pardon. Did you speak?" she asked,
seeing Daisy's white lips move.

She did not know a prayer had gone up to God from that young tortured
heart for guidance.

Had she done wrong in letting Rex and the whole world believe her
dead? Was it ever well to do a wrong that good should come from it?

And the clear, innocent, simple conscience was quick to answer, "No!"

Poor Daisy looked at the position in every possible way, and the more
she reflected the more frightened she became.

Poor, little, artless child-bride, she was completely bewildered. She
could find no way out of her difficulty until the idea occurred to her
that the best person to help her would be John Brooks; and her whole
heart and soul fastened eagerly on this.

She could not realize she had lain ill so long. Oh, Heaven, what might
have happened in the meantime, if Rex should marry Pluma? She would
not be his wife because _she_--who was a barrier between them--lived.


Daisy had decided the great question of her life. Yes, she would go to
John Brooks with her pitiful secret, and, kneeling at his feet, tell
him all, and be guided by his judgment.

"I can never go back to Rex," she thought, wearily. "I have spoiled
his life; he does not love me; he wished to be free and marry Pluma."

"You must not think of the troubles of other people, my dear," said
Mrs. Tudor, briskly, noting the thoughtful expression of the fair
young face. "Such cases as I have just read you are fortunately rare.
I should not have read you the scandals. Young girls like to hear
about the marriages best. Ah! here is one that is interesting--a grand
wedding which is to take place at Whitestone Hall, in Allendale,
to-morrow night. I have read of it before; it will be a magnificent
affair. The husband-to-be, Mr. Rexford Lyon, is very wealthy; and the
bride, Miss Pluma Hurlhurst, is quite a society belle--a beauty and an

Poor Daisy! although she had long expected it, the announcement seemed
like a death-blow to her loving little heart; in a single instant all
her yearning, passionate love for her handsome young husband awoke
into new life.

She had suddenly awakened to the awful reality that her husband was
about to marry another.

"Oh, pitiful Heaven, what shall I do?" she cried, wringing her hands.
"I will be too late to warn them. Yet I must--I must! It must not be!"
she cried out to herself; "the marriage would be wrong." If she
allowed it to go on, she would be guilty of a crime; therefore, she
must prevent it.

Pluma was her mortal enemy. Yet she must warn her that the flower-covered
path she was treading led to a precipice. The very thought filled her
soul with horror.

She wasted no more time in thinking, she must act.

"I can not go to poor old Uncle John first," she told herself. "I must
go at once to Pluma. Heaven give me strength to do it. Rex will never
know, and I can go quietly out of his life again."

The marriage must not be! Say, think, argue with herself as she would,
she could not help owning to herself that it was something that must
be stopped at any price. She had not realized it in its true light
before. She had had a vague idea that her supposed death would leave
Rex free to marry Pluma. That wrong could come of it, in any way, she
never once dreamed.

The terrible awakening truth had flashed upon her suddenly; she might
hide herself forever from her husband, but it would not lessen the
fact; she, and she only, was his lawful wife before God and man. From
Heaven nothing could be hidden.

Her whole heart seemed to go out to her young husband and cling to him
as it had never done before.

"What a fatal love mine was!" she said to herself; "how fatal, how
cruel to me!"

To-morrow night! Oh, Heaven! would she be in time to save him? The
very thought seemed to arouse all her energy.

"Why, what are you going to do, my dear?" cried Mrs. Tudor, in
consternation, as Daisy staggered, weak and trembling, from her

"I am going away," she cried. "I have been guilty of a great wrong. I
can not tell you all that I have done, but I must atone for it if it
is in my power while yet there is time. Pity me, but do not censure
me;" and sobbing as if her heart would break, she knelt at the feet of
the kind friend Heaven had given her and told her all.

Mrs. Tudor listened in painful interest and amazement. It was a
strange story this young girl told her; it seemed more like a romance
than a page from life's history.

"You say you must prevent this marriage at Whitestone Hall." She took
Daisy's clasped hands from her weeping face, and holding them in her
own looked into it silently, keenly, steadily. "How could you do it?
What is Rexford Lyon to you?"

Lower and lower drooped the golden bowed head, and a voice like no
other voice, like nothing human, said:

"I am Rex Lyon's wife, his wretched, unhappy, abandoned wife."

Mrs. Tudor dropped her hands with a low cry of dismay.

"You will keep my secret," sobbed Daisy; and in her great sorrow she
did not notice the lady did not promise.

In vain Mrs. Tudor pleaded with her to go back to her husband and beg
him to hear her.

"No," said Daisy, brokenly. "He said I had spoiled his life, and he
would never forgive me. I have never taken his name, and I never
shall. I will be Daisy Brooks until I die."

"Daisy Brooks!" The name seemed familiar to Mrs. Tudor, yet she could
not tell where she had heard it before.

Persuasion was useless. "Perhaps Heaven knows best," sighed Mrs.
Tudor, and with tears in her eyes (for she had really loved the
beautiful young stranger, thrown for so many long weeks upon her mercy
and kindness) she saw Daisy depart.

"May God grant you may not be too late!" she cried, fervently,
clasping the young girl, for the last time, in her arms.

Too late! The words sounded like a fatal warning to her. No, no; she
could not, she must not, be too late!

                  *       *       *       *       *

At the very moment Daisy had left the detective's house, Basil
Hurlhurst was closeted with Mr. Tudor in his private office, relating
minutely the disappearance of his infant daughter, as told him by the
dying housekeeper, Mrs. Corliss.

"I will make you a rich man for life," he cried, vehemently, "if you
can trace my long-lost child, either dead or alive!"

Mr. Tudor shook his head. "I am inclined to think there is little
hope, after all these years."

"Stranger things than that have happened," cried Basil Hurlhurst,
tremulously. "You must give me hope, Mr. Tudor. You are a skillful,
expert detective; you will find her, if any one can. If my other child
were living," he continued, with an effort, "you know it would make
considerable difference in the distribution of my property. On the
night my lost child was born I made my will, leaving Whitestone Hall
and the Hurlhurst Plantations to the child just born, and the
remainder of my vast estates I bequeathed to my daughter Pluma. I
believed my little child buried with its mother, and in all these
years that followed I never changed that will--it still stands. My
daughter Pluma is to be married to-morrow night. I have not told her
of the startling discovery I have made; for if anything should come of
it, her hopes of a lifetime would be dashed. She believes herself sole
heiress to my wealth. I have made up my mind, however," he continued,
eagerly, "to confide in the young man who is to be my future
son-in-law. If nothing ever comes of this affair, Pluma need never
know of it."

"That would be a wise and safe plan," assented the detective.

"Wealth can have no influence over him," continued the father,
reflectively; "for Mr. Rex Lyon's wealth is sufficient for them, even
if they never had a single dollar from me; still, it is best to
mention this matter to him."

Rex Lyon! Ah! the detective remembered him well--the handsome,
debonair young fellow who had sought his services some time since,
whose wife had died such a tragic death. He remembered how sorry he
had been for the young husband; still he made no comment. He had
little time to ruminate upon past affairs. It was his business now to
glean from Mr. Hurlhurst all the information possible to assist him in
the difficult search he was about to commence. If he gave him even the
slightest clew, he could have had some definite starting point. The
detective was wholly at sea--it was like looking for a needle in a

"You will lose no time," said Basil Hurlhurst, rising to depart. "Ah!"
he exclaimed, "I had forgotten to leave you my wife's portrait. I have
a fancy the child, if living, must have her mother's face."

At that opportune moment some one interrupted them. Mr. Tudor had not
time to open the portrait and examine it then, and, placing it
securely in his private desk, he courteously bade Mr. Hurlhurst
good-afternoon; adding, if he _should_ find a possible clew, he would
let him know at once, or, perhaps, take a run up to Whitestone Hall to
look around a bit among the old inhabitants of that locality.

It was almost time for quitting the office for the night, when the
detective thought of the portrait. He untied the faded blue ribbon,
and touched the spring; the case flew open, revealing a face that made
him cry out in amazement:

"Pshaw! people have a strange trick of resembling each other very
often," he muttered; "I must be mistaken."

Yet the more he examined the fair, bewitching face of the portrait,
with its childish face and sunny, golden curls, the more he knit his
brow and whistled softly to himself--a habit he had when thinking

He placed the portrait in his breast-pocket, and walked slowly home. A
brilliant idea was in his active brain.

"I shall soon see," he muttered.

His wife met him at the door, and he saw that her eyes were red with

"What is the commotion, my dear?" he asked, hanging his hat and coat
on the hat-rack in the hall. "What's the difficulty?"

"Our protégée has gone, Harvey; she--"

"Gone!" yelled the detective, frantically, "where did she go? How long
has she been gone?"

Down from the rack came his hat and coat.

"Where are you going, Harvey?"

"I am going to hunt that girl up just as fast as I can."

"She did not wish to see you, my dear."

"I haven't the time to explain to you," he expostulated. "Of course,
you have no idea where she went, have you?"

"Wait a bit, Harvey," she replied, a merry twinkle in her eye. "You
have given me no time to tell you. I do know where she went. Sit down
and I will tell you all about it."

"You will make a long story out of nothing," he exclaimed, impatiently;
"and fooling my time here may cost me a fortune."

Very reluctantly Mr. Tudor resumed his seat at his wife's earnest

"Skim lightly over the details, my dear; just give me the main
points," he said.

Like the good little wife she was, Mrs. Tudor obediently obeyed.

It was not often the cool, calculating detective allowed himself to
get excited, but as she proceeded he jumped up from his seat, and
paced restlessly up and down the room. He was literally astounded.

"Rex Lyon's wife," he mused, thoughtfully. "Well, in all the years of
my experience I have never come across anything like this. She has
gone to Whitestone Hall, you say, to stop the marriage?" he
questioned, eagerly.

"Yes," she replied, "the poor child was almost frantic over it. You
seem greatly agitated, Harvey. Have you some new case connected with

"Yes," he answered, grimly. "I think I have two cases."

Mr. Tudor seldom brought his business perplexities to his fireside.
His little wife knew as little of business matters as the sparrows
twittering on the branches of the trees out in the garden.

He made up his mind not to mention certain suspicions that had lodged
in his mind until he saw his way clearly out of the complicated

He determined it would do no harm to try an experiment, however.
Suiting the action to the thought, he drew out the portrait from his

"I do not think I shall have as much trouble with this affair as I

Mrs. Tudor came and leaned over his shoulder.

"Whose picture have you there, Harvey? Why, I declare," she cried, in
amazement, "if it isn't Daisy Brooks!"

"Mrs. Rex Lyon, you mean," said the detective, with a sly twinkle in
his eye. "But for once in your life you are at sea--and far from
shore; this portrait represents a different person altogether. Come,
come, wife, get me a cup of tea--quick--and a biscuit," he cried,
leading the way to the kitchen, where the savory supper was cooking.
"I haven't time to wait for tea, I must overtake that girl before she
reaches Whitestone Hall."


The shade of night was wrapping its dusky mantle over the earth as
Daisy, flushed and excited, and trembling in every limb, alighted from
the train at Allendale.

Whitestone Hall was quite a distance from the station; she had quite a
walk before her.

Not a breath of air seemed to stir the branches of the trees, and the
inky blackness of the sky presaged the coming storm.

Since dusk the coppery haze seemed to gather itself together; great
purple masses of clouds piled themselves in the sky; a lurid light
overspread the heavens, and now and then the dense, oppressive silence
was broken by distant peals of thunder, accompanied by great fierce

Daisy drew her cloak closer about her, struggling bravely on through
the storm and the darkness, her heart beating so loudly she wondered
it did not break.

Poor child! how little she knew she was fast approaching the crisis of
her life!

She remembered, with a little sob, the last time she had traversed
that road--she was seated by John Brooks's side straining her eyes
toward the bend in the road, watching eagerly for the first glimpse of
the magnolia-tree, and the handsome young husband waiting there.

Coy blushes suffused Daisy's cheeks as she struggled on through the
pouring rain. She forgot she was a wretched, unpitied, forsaken little
bride, on a mission of such great importance. She was only a simple
child, after all, losing sight of all the whole world, as her thoughts
dwelt on the handsome young fellow, her husband in name only, whom she
saw waiting for her at the trysting-place, looking so cool, so
handsome and lovable in his white linen suit and blue tie; his white
straw hat, with the blue-dotted band around it, lying on the green
grass beside him, and the sunshine drifting through the green leaves
on his smiling face and brown, curling hair.

"If Rex had only known I was innocent, he could not have judged me so
harshly. Oh, my love--my love!" she cried out. "Heaven must have made
us for each other, but a fate more cruel than death has torn us
asunder. Oh, Rex, my love, if you had only been more patient with

She crept carefully along the road through the intense darkness and
the down-pouring rain. She knew every inch of the ground. She could
not lose her way. She reached the turn in the road which was but a few
feet distant from the magnolia-tree where first she had met Rex and
where she had seen him last--a few steps more and she would reach it.

A blinding glare of lightning lighted up the scene for one brief
instant; there was the tree, but, oh! was it only a fancy of her
imagination? she thought she saw a man's figure kneeling under it.

"Who was he, and what was he doing there?" she wondered. She stood
rooted to the spot. "Perhaps he had taken refuge there from the fury
of the storm."

Daisy was a shrinking, timid little creature; she dared not move a
step further, although the golden moments that flitted by were as
precious as her life-blood.

She drew back, faint with fear, among the protecting shadows of the
trees. Another flash of light--the man was surely gathering wild
flowers from the rain-drenched grass.

"Surely the man must be mad," thought Daisy, with a cold thrill of

Her limbs trembled so from sheer fright they refused to bear her
slight weight, and with a shudder of terror she sunk down in the wet
grass, her eyes fixed as one fascinated on the figure under the tree,
watching his every movement, as the lurid lightning illumined the
scene at brief intervals.

The great bell from the turret of Whitestone Hall pealed the hour of
seven, and in the lightning's flash she saw the man arise from his
knees; in one hand he held a small bunch of flowers, the other was
pressed over his heart.

Surely there was something strangely familiar in that graceful form;
then he turned his face toward her.

In that one instantaneous glance she had recognized him--it was Rex,
her husband--as he turned hastily from the spot, hurrying rapidly away
in the direction of Whitestone Hall.

"Why was Rex there alone on his wedding-night under the magnolia-tree
in the terrible storm?" she asked herself, in a strange, bewildered
way. "What could it mean?" She had heard the ceremony was to be
performed promptly at half past eight, it was seven already. "What
could it mean?"

She had been too much startled and dismayed when she found it was Rex
to make herself known. Ah, no, Rex must never know she was so near
him; it was Pluma she must see.

"Why had he come to the magnolia-tree?" she asked herself over and
over again. A moment later she had reached the self-same spot, and was
kneeling beneath the tree, just as Rex had done. She put out her
little white hand to caress the grass upon which her husband had
knelt, but it was not grass which met her touch, but a bed of flowers;
that was strange, too.

She never remembered flowers to grow on that spot. There was nothing
but the soft carpet of green grass, she remembered.

One or two beneath her touch were broken from the stem. She knew Rex
must have dropped them, and the poor little soul pressed the flowers
to her lips, murmuring passionate, loving words over them. She did not
know the flowers were daisies; yet they seemed so familiar to the

She remembered how she had walked home from the rectory with Rex in
the moonlight, and thought to herself how funny it sounded to hear Rex
call her his wife, in that rich melodious voice of his. Septima had
said it was such a terrible thing to be married. She had found it just
the reverse, as she glanced up into her pretty young husband's face,
as they walked home together; and how well she remembered how Rex had
taken her in his arms at the gate, kissing her rosy, blushing face,
until she cried out for mercy.

A sudden, blinding flash of lightning lighted up the spot with a lurid
light, and she saw a little white cross, with white daisies growing
around it, and upon the cross, in that one meteoric flash, she read
the words, "Sacred to the memory of Daisy Brooks."

She did not faint, or cry out, or utter any word. She realized all in
an instant why Rex had been there. Perhaps he felt some remorse for
casting her off so cruelly. If some tender regret for her, whom he
supposed dead, was not stirring in his heart, why was he there,
kneeling before the little cross which bore her name, on his

Could it be that he had ever loved her? She held out her arms toward
the blazing lights that shone in the distance from Whitestone Hall,
with a yearning, passionate cry. Surely, hers was the saddest fate
that had ever fallen to the lot of a young girl.

A great thrill of joy filled her heart, that she was able to prevent
the marriage.

She arose from her knees and made her way swiftly through the storm
and the darkness, toward the distant cotton fields. She did not wish
to enter the Hall by the main gate; there was a small path, seldom
used, that led to the Hall, which she had often taken from John
Brooks's cottage; that was the one she chose to-night.

Although the storm raged in all its fury without, the interior of
Whitestone Hall was ablaze with light, that streamed with a bright,
golden glow from every casement.

Strains of music, mingled with the hum of voices, fell upon Daisy's
ear, as she walked hurriedly up the path. The damp air that swept
across her face with the beating rain was odorous with the perfume of
rare exotics.

The path up which she walked commanded a full view of Pluma
Hurlhurst's boudoir.

The crimson satin curtains, for some reason, were still looped back,
and she could see the trim little maid arranging her long dark hair;
she wore a silver-white dressing-robe, bordered around with soft
white swan's-down and her dainty white satin-slippered feet rested on
a crimson velvet hassock.

"How beautiful she is!" thought the poor little child-wife, wistfully
gazing at her fair, false enemy. "I can not wonder Rex is dazzled by
her peerless, royal beauty. I was mad to indulge the fatal, foolish
dream that he could ever love me, poor, plain little Daisy Brooks."

Daisy drew her cloak closer about her, and her thick veil more
securely over her face. As she raised the huge brass knocker her heart
beat pitifully, yet she told herself she must be brave to the bitter

One, two, three minutes passed. Was no one coming to answer the
summons? Yes--some one came at last, a spruce little French maid, whom
Daisy never remembered having seen before.

She laughed outright when Daisy falteringly stated her errand.

"You are mad to think mademoiselle will see you to-night," she
answered, contemptuously. "Do you not know this is her wedding-night?"

"She is not married _yet_?" cried Daisy, in a low, wailing voice. "Oh,
I must see her!"

With a quizzical expression crossing her face the girl shrugged her
shoulders, as she scanned the little dark, dripping figure, answering

"The poor make one grand mistake, insisting on what the rich must do.
I say again, my lady will not see you--you had better go about your

"Oh, I _must_ see her! indeed, I must!" pleaded Daisy. "Your heart,
dear girl, is human, and you can see my anguish is no light one."

Her courage and high resolve seemed to give way, and she wept--as
women weep only once in a lifetime--but the heart of the French maid
was obdurate.

"Mademoiselle would only be angry," she said; "it would be as much as
my place is worth to even mention you to her."

"But my errand can brook no delay," urged Daisy. "You do not realize,"
she gasped, brokenly, while her delicate frame was shaken with sobs,
and the hot tears fell like rain down her face.

"All that you say is useless," cried the girl, impatiently, as she
purposely obstructed the passage-way, holding the doorknob in her
hand; "all your speech is in vain--she will not see you, I say--I will
not take her your message."

"Then I will go to her myself," cried Daisy, in desperate determination.

"What's the matter, Marie?" cried a shrill voice from the head of the
rose-lighted stairway; "what in the world keeps you down there so
long? Come here instantly."

Daisy knew too well the handsome, impatient face and the imperious,
commanding voice.

"Miss Hurlhurst," she called out, piteously, "I must see you for a few
minutes. I shall die if you refuse me. My errand is one of almost life
and death; if you knew how vitally important it was you would not
refuse me," she panted.

Pluma Hurlhurst laughed a little hard laugh that had no music in it.

"What would a hundred lives or deaths matter to me?" she said,
contemptuously. "I would not listen to you ten minutes to-night if I
actually knew it was to save your life," cried the haughty beauty,
stamping her slippered foot impatiently.

"It is for your own sake," pleaded Daisy. "See, I kneel to you, Miss
Hurlhurst. If you would not commit a crime, I implore you by all you
hold sacred, to hear me--grant me but a few brief moments."

"Not an instant," cried Pluma, scornfully; "shut the door, Marie, and
send that person from the house."

"Oh, what shall I do!" cried Daisy, wringing her hands. "I am driven
to the very verge of madness! Heaven pity me--the bitter consequence
must fall upon your own head."

She turned away with a low, bitter cry, as the maid slammed the heavy
oaken door in her face.

"There is no other way for me to do," she told herself, despairingly,
"but to see Rex. I do not know how I am going to live through the
ordeal of entering his presence--listening to his voice--knowing I
bring him such a burden of woe--spoiling his life for the second

She did not hear the door quietly reopen.

"I have heard all that has just passed, young lady," said a kind voice
close beside her. "I am extremely sorry for you--your case seems a
pitiful one. I am sorry my daughter refused to see you; perhaps I can
be of some assistance to you. I am Miss Hurlhurst's father."


For a moment Daisy stood irresolute. "Follow me into my study, and
tell me your trouble. You say it concerns my daughter. Perhaps I can
advise you."

Ah, yes! he above all others could help her--he was Pluma's father--he
could stop the fatal marriage. She would not be obliged to face Rex.

Without another word Daisy turned and followed him. Although Daisy had
lived the greater portion of her life at John Brooks' cottage on the
Hurlhurst plantation, this was the first time she had ever gazed upon
the face of the recluse master of Whitestone Hall. He had spent those
years abroad; and poor Daisy's banishment dated from the time the lawn
fête had been given in honor of their return.

Daisy glanced shyly up through her veil with a strange feeling of awe
at the noble face, with the deep lines of suffering around the mouth,
as he opened his study door, and, with a stately inclination of the
head, bade her enter.

"His face is not like Pluma's," she thought, with a strange flutter at
her heart. "He looks good and kind. I am sure I can trust him."

Daisy was quite confused as she took the seat he indicated. Mr.
Hurlhurst drew up his arm-chair opposite her, and waited with the
utmost patience for her to commence.

She arose and stood before him, clasping her trembling little white
hands together supplicatingly. He could not see her face, for she
stood in the shadow, and the room was dimly lighted; but he knew that
the sweet, pathetic voice was like the sound of silvery bells chiming
some half-forgotten strain.

"I have come to tell you this wedding can not--must not--go on
to-night!" she cried, excitedly.

Basil Hurlhurst certainly thought the young girl standing before him
must be mad.

"I do not understand," he said, slowly, yet gently. "Why do you, a
stranger, come to me on my daughter's wedding-night with such words as
these? What reason can you offer why this marriage should not

He could not tell whether she had heard his words or not, she stood
before him so silent, her little hands working nervously together. She
looked wistfully into his face, and she drew her slender figure up to
its full height, as she replied, in a low, passionate, musical voice:

"Mr. Lyon can not marry your daughter, sir, for he has a living

"Mr. Lyon has a wife?" repeated Basil Hurlhurst, literally dumbfounded
with amazement. "In Heaven's name, explain yourself!" he cried, rising
hastily from his chair and facing her.

The agitation on his face was almost alarming. His grand old face was
as white as his linen. His eyes were full of eager, painful suspense
and excitement. With a violent effort at self-control he restrained
his emotions, sinking back in his arm-chair like one who had received
an unexpected blow.

Daisy never remembered in what words she told him the startling truth.
He never interrupted her until she had quite finished.

"You will not blame Rex," she pleaded, her sweet voice choking with
emotion; "he believes me dead."

Basil Hurlhurst did not answer; his thoughts were too confused. Yes,
it was but too true--the marriage could not go on. He reached hastily
toward the bell-rope.

"You will not let my--Rex know until I am far away," she cried,
piteously, as she put her marriage certificate in Mr. Hurlhurst's

"I am going to send for Rex to come here at once," he made answer.

With a low, agonized moan, Daisy grasped his outstretched hand,
scarcely knowing what she did.

"Oh, please do not, Mr. Hurlhurst," she sobbed. "Rex must not see me;
I should die if you sent for him; I could not bear it--indeed, I could
not." She was looking at him, all her heart in her eyes, and, as if he
felt magnetically the power of her glance, he turned toward her,
meeting the earnest gaze of the blue, uplifted eyes.

The light fell full upon her fair, flushed face, and the bonnet and
veil she wore had fallen back from the golden head.

A sudden mist seemed to come before his eyes, and he caught his breath
with a sharp gasp.

"What did you say your name was before you were married?" he asked, in
a low, intense voice. "I--I--did not quite understand."

"Daisy Brooks, your overseer's niece," she answered, simply.

She wondered why he uttered such a dreary sigh as he muttered, half
aloud, how foolish he was to catch at every straw of hope.

Carefully he examined the certificate. It was too true. It certainly
certified Rexford Lyon and Daisy Brooks were joined together in the
bonds of matrimony nearly a year before. And then he looked at the
paper containing the notice of her tragic death, which Daisy had read
and carefully saved. Surely no blame could be attached to Rex, in the
face of these proofs.

He was sorry for the beautiful, haughty heiress, to whom this terrible
news would be a great shock; he was sorry for Rex, he had grown so
warmly attached to him of late, but he felt still more sorry for the
fair child-bride, toward whom he felt such a yearning, sympathetic

The great bell in the tower slowly pealed the hour of eight, with a
dull, heavy clang, and he suddenly realized what was to be done must
be done at once.

"I must send for both Rex and Pluma," he said, laying his hands on the
beautiful, bowed head; "but, if it will comfort you to be unobserved
during the interview, you shall have your wish." He motioned her to
one of the curtained recesses, and placed her in an easy-chair. He saw
she was trembling violently.

It was a hard ordeal for him to go through, but there was no

He touched the bell with a shaking hand, thrusting the certificate and
paper into his desk.

"Summon my daughter Pluma to me at once," he said to the servant who
answered the summons, "and bid Mr. Lyon come to me here within half an

He saw the man held a letter in his hand.

"If you please, sir," said the man, "as I was coming to answer your
bell I met John Brooks, your overseer, in the hall below. A stranger
was with him, who requested me to give you this without delay."

Basil Hurlhurst broke open the seal. There were but a few penciled
words, which ran as follows:

  "MR. HURLHURST,--Will you kindly grant me an immediate interview?
  I shall detain you but a few moments.

                                            "Yours, hastily,
                                                  "HARVEY TUDOR,
                     "Of Tudor, Peck & Co, Detectives, Baltimore."

The man never forgot the cry that came from his master's lips as he
read those brief words.

"Yes, tell him to come up at once," he cried; "I will see him here."

He forgot the message he had sent for Pluma and Rex--forgot the
shrinking, timid little figure in the shadowy drapery of the
curtains--even the gay hum of the voices down below, and the strains
of music, or that the fatal marriage moment was drawing near.

He was wondering if the detective's visit brought him a gleam of hope.
Surely he could have no other object in calling so hurriedly on this
night above all other nights.

A decanter of wine always sat on the study table. He turned toward it
now with feverish impatience, poured out a full glass with his nervous
fingers, and drained it at a single draught.

A moment later the detective and John Brooks, looking pale and
considerably excited, were ushered into the study.

For a single instant the master of Whitestone Hall glanced into the
detective's keen gray eyes for one ray of hope, as he silently grasped
his extended hand.

"I see we are alone," said Mr. Tudor, glancing hurriedly around the
room--"we three, I mean," he added.

Suddenly Basil Hurlhurst thought of the young girl, quite hidden from

"No," he answered, leading the way toward an inner room, separated
from the study by a heavy silken curtain; "but in this apartment we
shall certainly be free from interruption. Your face reveals nothing,"
he continued, in an agitated voice, "but I believe you have brought me
news of my child."

Basil Hurlhurst had no idea the conversation carried on in the small
apartment to which he had conducted them could be overheard from the
curtained recess in which Daisy sat. But he was mistaken; Daisy could
hear every word of it.

She dared not cry out or walk forth from her place of concealment lest
she should come suddenly face to face with Rex.

As the light had fallen on John Brooks' honest face, how she had
longed to spring forward with a glad little cry and throw herself into
his strong, sheltering arms! She wondered childishly why he was there
with Mr. Tudor, the detective, whose voice she had instantly

"I have two errands here to-night," said the detective, pleasantly. "I
hope I shall bring good news, in one sense; the other we will discuss
later on."

The master of Whitestone Hall made no comments; still he wondered why
the detective had used the words "one sense." Surely, he thought,
turning pale, his long-lost child could not be dead.

Like one in a dream, Daisy heard the detective go carefully over the
ground with Basil Hurlhurst--all the incidents connected with the loss
of his child. Daisy listened out of sheer wonder. She could not tell

"I think we have the right clew," continued the detective, "but we
have no actual proof to support our supposition; there is one part
still cloudy."

There were a few low-murmured words spoken to John Brooks. There was a
moment of silence, broken by her uncle John's voice. For several
moments he talked rapidly and earnestly, interrupted now and then by
an exclamation of surprise from the master of Whitestone Hall.

Every word John Brooks uttered pierced Daisy's heart like an arrow.
She uttered a little, sharp cry, but no one heard her. She fairly held
her breath with intense interest. Then she heard the detective tell
them the story of Rex Lyon's marriage with her, and he had come to
Whitestone Hall to stop the ceremony about to be performed.

Basil Hurlhurst scarcely heeded his words. He had risen to his feet
with a great, glad cry, and pushed aside the silken curtains that led
to the study. As he did so he came face to face with Daisy Brooks,
standing motionless, like a statue, before him. Then she fell, with a
low, gasping cry, senseless at Basil Hurlhurst's feet.


Pluma Hurlhurst received her father's summons with no little surprise.
"What can that foolish old man want, I wonder?" she soliloquized,
clasping the diamond-studded bracelets on her perfect arms. "I shall
be heartily glad when I am Rex Lyon's wife. I shall soon tell him,
then, in pretty plain words, I am not at his beck and call any longer.
Come to him instantly, indeed! I shall certainly do no such thing,"
she muttered.

"Did you speak, mademoiselle?" asked the maid.

"No," replied Pluma, glancing at the little jeweled watch that
glittered in its snow-white velvet case. She took it up with a
caressing movement. "How foolish I was to work myself up into such a
fury of excitement, when Rex sent for me to present me with the
jewels!" she laughed, softly, laying down the watch, and taking up an
exquisite jeweled necklace, admired the purity and beauty of the soft,
white, gleaming stones.

The turret-bell had pealed the hour of eight; she had yet half an

She never could tell what impulse prompted her to clasp the shining
gems around her white throat, even before she had removed her

She leaned back dreamily in her cushioned chair, watching the effect
in the mirror opposite.

Steadfastly she gazed at the wondrous loveliness of the picture she
made, the dark, lustrous eyes, gleaming with unwonted brilliancy, with
their jetty fringe; the rich, red lips, and glowing cheeks.

"There are few such faces in the world," she told herself triumphantly.

Those were the happiest moments proud, peerless Pluma Hurlhurst was
ever to know--"before the hour should wane the fruition of all her
hopes would be attained."

No feeling of remorse stole over her to imbitter the sweets of her
triumphant thoughts.

She had lived in a world of her own, planning and scheming, wasting
her youth, her beauty, and her genius, to accomplish the one great
ultimatum--winning Rex Lyon's love.

She took from her bosom a tiny vial, containing a few white, flaky
crystals. "I shall not need this now," she told herself. "If Lester
Stanwick had intended to interfere he would have done so ere this; he
has left me to myself, realizing his threats were all in vain; yet I
have been sore afraid. Rex will never know that I lied and schemed to
win his love, or that I planned the removal of Daisy Brooks from his
path so cleverly; he will never know that I have deceived him, or the
wretched story of my folly and passionate, perilous love. I could not
have borne the shame and the exposure; there would have been but one
escape"--quite unconsciously she slid the vial into the pocket of her
silken robe--"I have lived a coward's life; I should have died a
coward's death."

"It is time to commence arranging your toilet, mademoiselle," said the
maid, approaching her softly with the white glimmering satin robe, and
fleecy veil over her arm. "My fingers are deft, but you have not one
moment to spare."

Pluma waved her off with an imperious gesture.

"Not yet," she said. "I suppose I might as well go down first as last
to see what in the world he wants with me; he should have come to me
if he had wished to see me so very particularly;" and the dutiful
daughter, throwing the train of her dress carelessly over her arm,
walked swiftly through the brilliantly lighted corridor toward Basil
Hurlhurst's study. She turned the knob and entered. The room was
apparently deserted. "Not here!" she muttered, with surprise. "Well,
my dear, capricious father, I shall go straight back to my apartments.
You shall come to me hereafter." As she turned to retrace her steps a
hand was laid upon her shoulder, and a woman's voice whispered close
to her ear:

"I was almost afraid I should miss you--fate is kind."

Pluma Hurlhurst recoiled from the touch, fairly holding her breath,
speechless with fury and astonishment.

"You insolent creature!" she cried. "I wonder at your boldness in
forcing your presence upon me. Did I not have you thrust from the
house an hour ago, with the full understanding I would not see you, no
matter who you were or whom you wanted."

"I was not at the door an hour ago," replied the woman, coolly; "it
must have been some one else. I have been here--to Whitestone
Hall--several times before, but you have always eluded me. You shall
not do so to-night. You shall listen to what I have come to say to

For once in her life the haughty, willful heiress was completely taken
aback, and she sunk into the arm-chair so lately occupied by Basil

"I shall ring for the servants, and have you thrown from the house;
such impudence is unheard of, you miserable creature!"

She made a movement toward the bell-rope, but the woman hastily thrust
her back into her seat, crossed over, turned the key in the lock, and
hastily removed it. Basil Hurlhurst and John Brooks were about to rush
to her assistance, but the detective suddenly thrust them back,
holding up his hand warningly.

"Not yet," he whispered; "we will wait until we know what this strange
affair means. I shall request you both to remain perfectly quiet until
by word or signal I advise you to act differently."

And, breathless with interest, the three, divided only by the silken
hanging curtains, awaited eagerly further developments of the strange
scene being enacted before them.

Pluma's eyes flashed like ebony fires, and unrestrained passion was
written on every feature of her face, as the woman took her position
directly in front of her with folded arms, and dark eyes gleaming
quite as strangely as her own. Pluma, through sheer astonishment at
her peculiar, deliberate manner, was hushed into strange expectancy.

For some moments the woman gazed into her face, coolly--deliberately--her
eyes fastening themselves on the diamond necklace which clasped her
throat, quivering with a thousand gleaming lights.

"You are well cared for," she said, with a harsh, grating laugh, that
vibrated strangely on the girl's ear. "You have the good things of
life, while I have only the hardships. I am a fool to endure it. I
have come to you to-night to help me--and you must do it."

"Put the key in that door instantly, or I shall cry out for
assistance. I have heard of insolence of beggars, but certainly this
is beyond all imagination. How dare you force your obnoxious presence
upon me? I will not listen to another word; you shall suffer for this
outrage, woman! Open the door instantly, I say."

She did not proceed any further in her breathless defiance of retort;
the woman coolly interrupted her with that strange, grating laugh
again, as she answered, authoritatively:

"I shall not play at cross-purposes with you any longer; it is plainly
evident there is little affection lost between us. You will do exactly
as I say, Pluma; you may spare yourself a great deal that may be
unpleasant--if you not only listen but quietly obey me. Otherwise--"

Pluma sprung wildly to her feet.

"Obey you! obey you!"

She would have screamed the words in her ungovernable rage, had not a
look from this woman's eyes, who used her name with such ill-bred
familiarity, actually frightened her.

"Be sensible and listen to what I intend you shall hear, and, as I
said and repeat, obey. You have made a slight mistake in defying me,
young lady. I hoped and intended to be your friend and adviser; but
since you have taken it into your head to show such an aversion to me,
it will be so much the worse for you, for I fully intend you shall act
hereafter under my instructions; it has spoiled you allowing you to
hold the reins in your own hands unchecked."

"Oh, you horrible creature! I shall have you arrested and--"

The woman interrupted her gasping, vindictive words again, more
imperiously than before.

"Hush! not another word; you will not tell any one a syllable of what
has passed in this room."

"Do you dare threaten me in my own house," cried Pluma, fairly beside
herself with passion. "I begin to believe you are not aware to whom
you are speaking. You shall not force me to listen. I shall raise the
window and cry out to the guests below."

"Very well, then. I find I am compelled to tell you something I never
intended you should know--something that, unless I am greatly mistaken
in my estimate of you, will change your high and mighty notions

The woman was bending so near her, her breath almost scorched her

"I want money," she said, her thin lips quivering in an evil smile,
"and it is but right that you should supply me with it. Look at the
diamonds, representing a fortune, gleaming on your throat, while I am
lacking the necessaries of life."

"What is that to me?" cried Pluma, scornfully. "Allow me to pass from
the room, and I will send my maid back to you with a twenty-dollar
note. My moments are precious; do not detain me."

The woman laughed contemptuously.

"Twenty dollars, indeed!" she sneered, mockingly. "Twenty thousand
will not answer my purpose. From this time forth I intend to live as
befits a lady. I want that necklace you are wearing, as security that
you will produce the required sum for me before to-morrow night."

The coarse proposal amazed Pluma.

"I thought Whitestone Hall especially guarded against thieves," she
said, steadily. "You seem to be a desperate woman; but I, Pluma
Hurlhurst, do not fear you. We will pass over the remarks you have
just uttered as simply beyond discussion."

With a swift, gliding motion she attempted to reach the bell-rope.
Again the woman intercepted her.

"Arouse the household if you dare!" hissed the woman, tightening her
hold upon the white arm upon which the jewels flashed and quivered.
"If Basil Hurlhurst knew what I know you would be driven from this
house before an hour had passed."

"I--I--do not know what you mean," gasped Pluma, her great courage and
fortitude sinking before this woman's fearlessness and defiant

"No, you don't know what I mean; and little you thank me for carrying
the treacherous secret since almost the hour of your birth. It is time
for you to know the truth at last. You are not the heiress of
Whitestone Hall--you are not Basil Hurlhurst's child!"

Pluma's face grew deathly white; a strange mist seemed gathering
before her.

"I can not--seem--to--grasp--what you mean, or who you are to terrify
me so."

A mocking smile played about the woman's lips as she replied, in a
slow, even, distinct voice:

"I am your mother, Pluma!"


At the self-same moment that the scene just described was being
enacted in the study Rex Lyon was pacing to and fro in his room,
waiting for the summons of Pluma to join the bridal-party in the
corridor and adjourn to the parlors below, where the guests and the
minister awaited them.

He walked toward the window and drew aside the heavy curtains. The
storm was beating against the window-pane as he leaned his feverish
face against the cool glass, gazing out into the impenetrable darkness

Try as he would to feel reconciled to his marriage he could not do it.
How could he promise at the altar to love, honor, and cherish the wife
whom he was about to wed?

He might honor and cherish her, but love her he could not, no matter
for all the promises he might make. The power of loving was directed
from Heaven above--it was not for mortals to accept or reject at

His heart seemed to cling with a strange restlessness to Daisy, the
fair little child-bride, whom he had loved so passionately--his first
and only love, sweet little Daisy!

From the breast-pocket of his coat he took the cluster of daisies he
had gone through the storm on his wedding-night to gather. He was
waiting until the monument should arrive before he could gather
courage to tell Pluma the sorrowful story of his love-dream.

All at once he remembered the letter a stranger had handed him outside
of the entrance gate. He had not thought much about the matter until
now. Mechanically he picked it up from the mantel, where he had tossed
it upon entering the room, glancing carelessly at the superscription.
His countenance changed when he saw it; his lips trembled, and a hard,
bitter light crept into his brown eyes. He remembered the chirography
but too well.

"From Stanwick!" he cried, leaning heavily against the mantel.

Rex read the letter through with a burning flush on his face, which
grew white as with the pallor of death as he read; a dark mist was
before his eyes, the sound of surging waters in his ears.

"OLD COLLEGE CHUM,"--it began,--"For the sake of those happy hours of
our school-days, you will please favor me by reading what I have
written to the end.

"If you love Pluma Hurlhurst better than your sense of honor this
letter is of no avail. I can not see you drifting on to ruin without
longing to save you. You have been cleverly caught in the net the
scheming heiress has set for you. It is certainly evident she loves
you with a love which is certainly a perilous one. There is not much
safety in the fierce, passionate love of a desperate, jealous woman.
You will pardon me for believing at one time your heart was elsewhere.
You will wonder why I refer to that; it will surprise you to learn,
that one subject forms the basis of this letter. I refer to little
Daisy Brooks.

"You remember the night you saw little Daisy home, burning with
indignation at the cut direct--which Pluma had subjected the pretty
little fairy to? I simply recall that fact, as upon that event hangs
the terrible sequel which I free my conscience by unfolding. You had
scarcely left the Hall ere Pluma called me to her side.

"'Do not leave me, Lester,' she said; 'I want to see you; remain until
after all the guests have left.'

"I did so. You have read the lines:

           "'Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned,
           Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned'?

"They were too truly exemplified in the case of Pluma Hurlhurst when
she found you preferred little golden-haired Daisy Brooks to her own
peerless self. 'What shall I do, Lester,' she cried, 'to strike his
heart? What shall I do to humble his mighty pride as he has humbled
mine?' Heaven knows, old boy, I am ashamed to admit the shameful
truth. I rather enjoyed the situation of affairs. 'My love is turned
to hate!' she cried, vehemently. 'I must strike him through his love
for that little pink-and-white baby-faced creature he is so madly
infatuated with. Remove her from his path, Lester,' she cried, 'and I
shall make it worth your while. You asked me once if I would marry
you. I answer _now_: remove that girl from his path, by fair means or
foul, and I give you my hand as the reward, I, the heiress of
Whitestone Hall.'

"She knew the temptation was dazzling. For long hours we talked the
matter over. She was to furnish money to send the girl to school, from
which I was shortly to abduct her. She little cared what happened the
little fair-haired creature. Before I had time to carry out the design
fate drifted her into my hands. I rescued her, at the risk of my own
life, from a watery grave. I gave out she was my wife, that the affair
might reach your ears, and you would believe the child willfully
eloped with me. I swear to you no impure thought ever crossed that
child's brain. I gave her a very satisfactory explanation as to why I
had started so false a report. In her innocence--it seemed
plausible--she did not contradict my words.

"Then you came upon the scene, charging her with the report and
demanding to know the truth.

"At that moment she saw the affair in its true light. Heaven knows she
was as pure as a spotless lily; but appearances were sadly against the
child, simply because she had not contradicted the report that I had
circulated--that she was my wife. Her lips were dumb at the mere
suspicion you hurled against her, and she could not plead with you for
very horror and amazement.

"When you left her she was stricken with a fever that was said to have
cost her her life. She disappeared from sight, and it was said she had
thrown herself into the pit.

"I give you this last and final statement in all truth. I was haunted
day and night by her sad, pitiful face; it almost drove me mad with
remorse, and to ease my mind I had the shaft searched a week ago, and
learned the startling fact--it revealed no trace of her ever having
been there.

"The shaft does not contain the remains of Daisy Brooks, and I
solemnly affirm (although I have no clew to substantiate the belief)
that Daisy Brooks is not dead, but living, and Pluma Hurlhurst's soul
is not dyed with the blood which she would not have hesitated to shed
to remove an innocent rival from her path. I do not hold myself
guiltless, still the planner of a crime is far more guilty than the
tool who does the work in hope of reward.

"The heiress of Whitestone Hall has played me false, take to your
heart your fair, blushing bride, but remember hers is a perilous

                  *       *       *       *       *

The letter contained much more, explaining each incident in detail,
but Rex had caught at one hope, as a drowning man catches at a straw.

"Merciful Heaven!" he cried, his heart beating loud and fast. "Was it
not a cruel jest to frighten him on his wedding-eve? Daisy alive! Oh,
just Heaven, if it could only be true!" He drew his breath, with a
long, quivering sigh, at the bare possibility. "Little Daisy was as
pure in thought, word and deed as an angel. God pity me!" he cried.
"Have patience with me for my harshness toward my little love. I did
not give my little love even the chance of explaining the situation,"
he groaned. Then his thoughts went back to Pluma.

He could not doubt the truth of the statement Stanwick offered, and
the absolute proofs of its sincerity. He could not curse her for her
horrible deceit, because his mother had loved her so, and it was done
through her blinding, passionate love for him; and he buried his face
in his hands, and wept bitterly. It was all clear as noonday to him
now why Daisy had not kept the tryst under the magnolia-tree, and the
cottage was empty. She must certainly have attempted to make her
escape from the school in which they placed her to come back to his

"Oh, dupe that I have been!" he moaned. "Oh, my sweet little innocent
darling!" he cried. "I dare not hope Heaven has spared you to me!"

Now he understood why he had felt such a terrible aversion to Pluma
all along. She had separated him from his beautiful, golden-haired

His eyes rested on the certificate which bore Pluma's name, also his
own. He tore it into a thousand shreds.

"It is all over between us now," he cried. "Even if Daisy were dead, I
could never take the viper to my bosom that has dealt me such a
death-stinging blow. If living, I shall search the world over till I
find her; if dead, I shall consecrate my life to the memory of my
darling, my pure, little, injured _only_ love."

He heard a low rap at the door. The servant never forgot the young
man's haggard, hopeless face as he delivered Basil Hurlhurst's

"Ah, it is better so," cried Rex to himself, vehemently, as the man
silently and wonderingly closed the door. "I will go to him at once,
and tell him I shall never marry his daughter. Heaven help me! I will
tell him all."

Hastily catching up the letter, Rex walked, with a firm, quick tread,
toward the study, in which the strangest tragedy which was ever
enacted was about to transpire.

                  *       *       *       *       *

"I am your mother, Pluma," repeated the woman, slowly. "Look into my
face, and you will see every lineament of your own mirrored there. But
for me you would never have enjoyed the luxuries of Whitestone Hall,
and this is the way you repay me! Is there no natural instinct in your
heart that tells you you are standing in your mother's presence?"

"Every instinct in my heart tells me you are a vile impostor, woman. I
wonder that you dare intimate such a thing. You are certainly an
escaped lunatic. My mother was lost at sea long years ago."

"So every one believed. But my very presence here is proof positive
such was not the case."

Pluma tried to speak, but no sound issued from her white lips. The
very tone of the woman's voice carried positive conviction with it. A
dim realization was stealing over her that this woman's face, and the
peculiar tone of her voice, were strangely mixed up with her childhood
dreams; and, try as she would to scoff at the idea, it seemed to be
gaining strength with every moment.

"You do not believe me, I see," pursued the woman, calmly. "There is
nothing but the stern facts that will satisfy you. You shall have
them. They are soon told: Years ago, when I was young and fair as you
are now, I lived at the home of a quiet, well-to-do spinster, Taiza
Burt. She had a nephew, an honest, well-to-do young fellow, who
worshiped me, much to the chagrin of his aunt; and out of pique one
day I married him. I did not love the honest-hearted fellow, and I
lived with him but a few brief months. I hated him--yes, hated him,
for I had seen another--young, gay and handsome--whom I might have won
had it not been for the chains which bound me. He was a handsome,
debonair college fellow, as rich as he was handsome. This was Basil
Hurlhurst, the planter's only son and heir. Our meeting was romantic.
I had driven over to the village in which the college was situated, on
an errand for Taiza. Basil met me driving through the park. He was
young, reckless and impulsive. He loved me, and the knowledge of his
wealth dazzled me. I did not tell him I was a wife, and there
commenced my first sin. My extreme youth and ignorance of the world
must plead for me--my husband or the world would never know of it. I
listened to his pleading, and married him--that is, we went through
the ceremony. He had perfect faith in its sincerity. I alone knew the
guilty truth. Yet enormous as was my crime, I had but a dim
realization of it.

"For one brief week I was dazzled with the wealth and jewels he
lavished upon me; but my conscience would not let me rest when I
thought of my honest-hearted husband, from whom I had fled and whom I
had so cruelly deceived.

"My love for Basil was short lived; I was too reckless to care much
for any one. My conscience bade me fly from him. I gathered up what
money and jewels I could, and fled. A few months after you were born;
and I swear to you, by the proofs I can bring you, beyond all shadow
of a doubt, you were my lawful husband's child, not Basil's.

"Soon after this event a daring thought came to me. I could present
you, ere long, with myself, at Whitestone Hall. Basil Hurlhurst would
never know the deception practiced upon him; and you, the child of
humble parentage, should enjoy and inherit his vast wealth. My bold
plan was successful. We had a stormy interview, and it never occurred
to him there could be the least deception--that I was not his lawful
wife, or you his child.

"I found Basil had learned to despise even more fiercely than he had
ever loved me.

"He took us abroad, refusing to speak or look upon my face, even
though he escorted us. In a fit of desperation I threw myself into the
sea, but I was rescued by another vessel. A strong inclination seized
me to again visit Whitestone Hall and see what disposition he had made
of you. Years had passed; you were then a child of five years.

"One terrible stormy night--as bad a night as this one--I made my way
to the Hall. It was brilliantly lighted up, just as it is to-night.

"I saw the gate was locked; and through the flashes of lightning I saw
a little girl sobbing wildly, flung face downward in the grass,
heedless of the storm.

"I knew you, and called you to me. I questioned you as to why the
house was lighted, and learned the truth. Basil Hurlhurst had
remarried; he had been abroad with his wife, and to-night he was
bringing home his young wife.

"My rage knew no bounds. I commanded you to bring me the key of the
gate. You obeyed. That night a little golden-haired child was born at
Whitestone Hall, and I knew it would live to divide the honors and
wealth of Whitestone Hall with you--my child.

"The thought maddened me. I stole the child from its mother's arms,
and fled. I expected to see the papers full of the terrible deed, or
to hear you had betrayed me, a stranger, wanting the key of the

"My surprise knew no bounds when I found it was given out the child
had died, and was buried with its young mother. I never understood why
Basil Hurlhurst did not attempt to recover his child.

"I took the child far from here, placing it in a basket on the river
brink, with a note pinned to it saying that I, the mother, had sinned
and had sought a watery grave beneath the waves. I screened myself,
and watched to see what would become of the child, as I saw a man's
form approaching in the distance.

"I fairly caught my breath as he drew near. I saw it was my own
husband, whom I had so cruelly deserted years ago--your father, Pluma,
who never even knew or dreamed of your existence.

"Carefully he lifted the basket and the sleeping babe. How he came in
that locality I do not know. I found, by some strange freak of fate,
he had taken the child home to his aunt Taiza, and there the little
one remained until the spinster died.

"Again, a few years later, I determined to visit Whitestone Hall, when
a startling and unexpected surprise presented itself. Since then I
have believed in fate. All unconscious of the strange manner in which
these two men's lives had crossed each other, I found Basil Hurlhurst
had engaged my own husband, and your father, John Brooks, for his

Pluma gave a terrible cry, but the woman did not heed her.

"I dared not betray my identity then, but fled quickly from Whitestone
Hall; for I knew, if all came to light, it would be proved without a
doubt you were not the heiress of Whitestone Hall.

"I saw a young girl, blue-eyed and golden-haired, singing like a lark
in the fields. One glance at her face, and I knew she was Basil
Hurlhurst's stolen child fate had brought directly to her father's
home. I questioned her, and she answered she had lived with Taiza
Burt, but her name was Daisy Brooks."

"It is a lie--a base, ingenious lie!" shrieked Pluma. "Daisy Brooks
the heiress of Whitestone Hall! Even if it were true," she cried,
exultingly, "she will never reign here, the mistress of Whitestone
Hall. She is dead."

"Not exactly!" cried a ringing voice from the rear; and before the two
women could comprehend the situation, the detective sprung through the
silken curtains, placing his back firmly against the door. "You have
laid a deep scheme, with a cruel vengeance; but your own weapons are
turned against you. Bring your daughter forward, Mr. Hurlhurst. Your
presence is also needed, Mr. Brooks," he called.


Not a muscle of Pluma Hurlhurst's face quivered, but the woman uttered
a low cry, shrinking close to her side.

"Save me, Pluma!" she gasped. "I did it for your sake!"

Basil Hurlhurst slowly put back the curtain, and stepped into the
room, clasping his long-lost daughter to his breast. Daisy's arms were
clinging round his neck, and her golden head rested on his shoulder.
She was sobbing hysterically, John Brooks, deeply affected, following

Like a stag at bay, the woman's courage seemed to return to her, as
she stood face to face after all those years with the husband whom she
had so cruelly deceived--and the proud-faced man who stood beside
him--whose life she had blighted with the keenest and most cruel blow
of all.

Basil Hurlhurst was the first to break the ominous silence.

"It is unnecessary to tell you we have heard all," he said, slowly. "I
shall not seek redress for your double crime. Leave this locality at
once, or I may repent the leniency of my decision. I hold you
guiltless, Pluma," he added, gently. "You are not my child, yet I have
not been wanting in kindness toward you. I shall make every provision
for your future comfort with your father," he said, indicating John
Brooks, who stood pale and trembling at his side.

"Pluma, my child," cried John Brooks, brokenly, extending his arms.

But the scornful laugh that fell from her lips froze the blood in his

"Your child!" she shrieked, mockingly; "do not dare call me that
again. What care I for your cotton fields, or for Whitestone Hall?"
she cried, proudly, drawing herself up to her full height. "You have
always hated me, Basil Hurlhurst," she cried, turning haughtily toward
him. "This is your triumph! Within the next hour I shall be Rex Lyon's

She repeated the words with a clear, ringing laugh, her flaming eyes
fairly scorching poor little Daisy's pale, frightened face.

"Do you hear me, Daisy Brooks!" she screamed. "You loved Rex Lyon, and
I have won him from you. You can queen it over Whitestone Hall, but I
shall not care. I shall be queen of Rex's heart and home! Mine is a
glorious revenge!"

She stopped short for want of breath, and Basil Hurlhurst interrupted

"I have to inform you you are quite mistaken there," he replied,
calmly. "Mr. Rexford Lyon will not marry you to-night, for he is
already married to my little daughter Daisy." He produced the
certificate as he spoke, laying it on the table. "Rex thought her
dead," he continued, simply. "I have sent for him to break the
startling news of Daisy's presence, and I expect him here every

"Pluma," cried Daisy, unclasping her arms from her father's neck, and
swiftly crossing over to where her rival stood, beautifully, proudly
defiant, "forgive me for the pain I have caused you unknowingly. I did
not dream I was--an--an--heiress--or that Mr. Hurlhurst was my father.
I don't want you to go away, Pluma, from the luxury that has been
yours; stay and be my sister--share my home."

"My little tender-hearted angel!" cried Basil Hurlhurst, moved to

John Brooks hid his face in his hands.

For a single instant the eyes of these two girls met--whose lives had
crossed each other so strangely--Daisy's blue eyes soft, tender and
appealing, Pluma's hard, flashing, bitter and scornful.

She drew herself up to her full height.

"Remain in your house?" she cried, haughtily, trembling with rage.
"You mistake me, girl: do you think I could see you enjoying the home
that I have believed to be mine--see the man I love better than life
itself lavish caresses upon you--kiss your lips--and bear it calmly?
Live the life of a pauper when I have been led to believe I was an
heiress! Better had I never known wealth than be cast from luxury into
the slums of poverty," she wailed out, sharply. "I shall not touch a
dollar of your money, Basil Hurlhurst. I despise you too much. I have
lived with the trappings of wealth around me--the petted child of
luxury--all in vain--all in vain."

Basil Hurlhurst was struck with the terrible grandeur of the picture
she made, standing there in her magnificent, scornful pride--a wealth
of jewels flashing on her throat and breast and twined in the long,
sweeping hair that had become loosened and swept in a dark, shining
mass to her slender waist, her flashing eyes far outshining the jewels
upon which the softened gas-light streamed. Not one gleam of remorse
softened her stony face in its cruel, wicked beauty. Her jeweled hand
suddenly crept to the pocket of her dress where she had placed the

"Open that door!" she commanded.

The key fell from her mother's nerveless grasp. The detective quietly
picked it up, placed it in the lock, and opened the door. And just at
that instant, Rex Lyon, with the letter in his hand, reached it.

Pluma saw him first.

"Rex!" she cried, in a low, hoarse voice, staggering toward him; but
he recoiled from her, and she saw Stanwick's letter in his hands; and
she knew in an instant all her treachery was revealed; and without
another word--pale as death--but with head proudly erect, she swept
with the dignity of a princess from the scene of her bitter defeat,
closely followed by her cowering mother.

Rex did not seek to detain her; his eyes had suddenly fallen upon the
golden-haired little figure kneeling by Basil Hurlhurst's chair.

He reached her side at a single bound.

"Oh, Daisy, my darling, my darling!" he cried, snatching her in his
arms, and straining her to his breast, as he murmured passionate,
endearing words over her.

Suddenly he turned to Mr. Hurlhurst.

"I must explain--"

"That is quite unnecessary, Rex, my boy," said Mr. Tudor, stepping
forward with tears in his eyes; "Mr. Hurlhurst knows all."

It never occurred to handsome, impulsive Rex to question what Daisy
was doing there. He only knew Heaven had restored him his beautiful,
idolized child-bride.

"You will forgive my harshness, won't you, love?" he pleaded. "I will
devote my whole life to blot out the past. Can you learn to love me,
sweetheart, and forget the cloud that drifted between us?"

A rosy flush suffused the beautiful flower-like face, as Daisy shyly
lifted her radiantly love-lighted blue eyes to his face with a coy
glance that fairly took his breath away for rapturous ecstasy.

Daisy's golden head nestled closer on his breast, and two little soft,
white arms, whose touch thrilled him through and through, stole round
his neck--that was all the answer she made him.

John Brooks had quietly withdrawn from the room; and while Basil
Hurlhurst with a proudly glowing face went down among the waiting and
expectant guests to unfold to them the marvelous story, and explain
why the marriage could not take place, the detective briefly
acquainted Rex with the wonderful story.

"I sought and won you when you were simple little Daisy Brooks, and
now that you are a wealthy heiress in your own right, you must not
love me less."

Daisy glanced up into her handsome young husband's face as she
whispered, softly:

"Nothing can ever change my love, Rex, unless it is to love you more
and more."

And for answer Rex clasped the little fairy still closer in his arms,
kissing the rosy mouth over and over again, as he laughingly replied
he was more fortunate than most fellows, being lover and husband all
in one.

The announcement created an intense _furor_ among the fluttering
maidens down in the spacious parlors. Nobody regretted Pluma's
downfall, although Basil Hurlhurst carefully kept that part of the
narrative back.

"Oh, it is just like a romance," cried Eve Glenn, rapturously; "but
still we must not be disappointed, girls; we must have a wedding all
the same. Rex and Daisy must be married over again."

Every one was on the tiptoe of expectancy to see the beautiful little
heroine of a double romance.

Eve Glenn, followed by Birdie, found her out at once in the study.

"Oh, you darling!" cried Eve, laughing and crying in one breath, as
she hugged and kissed Daisy rapturously; "and just to think you were
married all the time, and to Rex, too; above all other fellows in the
world, he was just the one I had picked out for you."

Rex was loath to let Daisy leave him even for a moment. Eve was firm.

"I shall take her to my room and convert her in no time at all into a
veritable Cinderella."

"She is the pretty young girl that carried me from the stone wall, and
I have loved her so much ever since, even if I couldn't remember her
name," cried Birdie, clapping her hands in the greatest glee.

In the din of the excitement, Pluma Hurlhurst shook the dust of
Whitestone Hall forever from her feet, muttering maledictions at the
happy occupants. She had taken good care to secure all the valuables
that she could lay her hands on, which were quite a fortune in
themselves, securing her from want for life. She was never heard from

                  *       *       *       *       *

Eve Glenn took Daisy to her own room, and there the wonderful
transformation began. She dressed Daisy in her own white satin dress,
and twined deep crimson passion-roses in the golden curls, clapping
her hands--at Daisy's wondrous beauty--kissing her, and petting her by

"There never was such a little fairy of a bride!" she cried,
exultantly leading Daisy to the mirror. "True, you haven't any
diamonds, and I haven't any to loan you; but who would miss such
trifles, gazing at such a bewitching, blushing face and eyes bright as
stars? Oh, won't every one envy Rex, though!"

"Please don't, Eve," cried Daisy. "I'm so happy, and you are trying to
make me vain."

A few moments later there was a great hush in the vast parlors below,
as Daisy entered the room, leaning tremblingly on Rex's arm, who
looked as happy as a king, and Basil Hurlhurst, looking fully ten
years younger than was his wont, walking proudly beside his long-lost

The storm had died away, and the moon broke through the dark clouds,
lighting the earth with a silvery radiance, as Rex and Daisy took
their places before the altar, where the ceremony which made them man
and wife was for the second time performed.

Heaven's light never fell on two such supremely happy mortals as were
Rex and his bonny blushing bride.

Outside of Whitestone Hall a motley throng was gathering with the
rapidity of lightning--the story had gone from lip to lip--the
wonderful story of the long-lost heiress and the double romance.

Cheer after cheer rent the air, and telegraph wires were busy with the
startling revelations.

The throng around the Hall pressed forward to catch a glimpse of the
pretty little bride. Young girls laughed and cried for very joy.
Mothers, fathers, and sweethearts fervently cried: "God bless her!"

All night long the bells rang from the church belfries, bonfires were
lighted on all the surrounding hills. A telegram was sent to a
Baltimore marble firm countermanding a certain order.

All night long the young people danced to the chime of merry music,
and all night long the joy-bells pealed from the turrets of Whitestone
Hall, and they seemed to echo the chorus of the people. "God bless
sweet little Daisy Lyon, the long-lost heiress of Whitestone Hall!"




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