Dora Thorne
Charlotte M. Braeme

Part 2 out of 7

Valentine smiled and raised her fact to the quiet summer sky,
thinking of the hope that had been hers a few short hours before.

"You will go at once and see your father, will you not?" she said
to Ronald, as they parted.

"I am going now," he replied; but at that very moment Lady Earle
came up to him.

"Ronald," she said, "come into my boudoir. Your father is there
he wants to see you before he goes to Holtham."

Valentine went straight to her mother's room. Lady Charteris sat
waiting for her, beguiling the time with a book. She smiled as
her daughter entered.

"I hope you have had a pleasant walk," she said; but both smile
and words died away as she saw the expression on her daughter's
face, as she bent over her mother.

"Mamma," said Valentine, gently, "all I said to you last night
about Earlescourt was a great mistake--it will never be my home.
My vanity misled me."

"Have you quarreled with Ronald?" asked Lady Charteris, quietly.

"No," was the calm reply. "We are excellent friends but, mamma,
I was mistaken. He did want to tell me something, but it was of
his love for some one else--not for me."

"He has behaved shamefully to you!" cried Lady Charteris.

"Hush, mamma!" said Valentine. "You forget how such words
humiliate me. I have refused men of far better position that
Ronald Earle. Never let it be imagined that I have mistaken his

"Of course not," said her mother. "I only say it to yourself,
Valentine; he seemed unable to live out of your sight--morning,
noon, and night he was always by your side."

"He only wanted me to be his friend," said Valentine.

"Ah, he is selfish, like all the men!" said Lady Charteris.
"With whom has he fallen in love, my dear?"

"Do not ask me," replied Valentine. "He is in a terrible
dilemma. Do not talk to me about it, mamma. I made a foolish
mistake, and do not wish to be reminded of it."

Lady Charteris detected the suppressed pain in the tone of her
child's voice, and instantly formed her plans.

"I think of returning tomorrow," she said. "Your father is
getting impatient to have us with him. He can not come to
Earlescourt himself. You say Mr. Earle is in a terrible dilemma,
Valentine. I hope there will be no scandalous expose while we
are here. I detest scenes."

"Lord Earle is far too proud for anything of that kind," said
Valentine. "If there should be any unpleasantness, it will not
appear on the surface. Mamma, you will not mention this to me

Valentine threw off her lace shawl and pretty hat; she then took
up the book her mother had laid down.

"My walk has tired me," she said; "the sun is very warm."

She lay down upon the sofa and turned her face to the window,
where the roses came nodding in.

"Stay here and read," said lady Charteris, with delicate tact.
"I am going to write my letters."

Valentine lay still, looking at the summer beauty outside. No
one knew of the tears that gathered slowly in those proud eyes;
no one knew of the passionate weeping that could not be stilled.

When Lady Charteris returned in two hours, Valentine had regained
her calm, and there was no trace of tears in the smiles which
welcomed her. Proudly and calmly she bore the great
disappointment of her life. She was no tragedy queen; she never
said to herself that her life was blighted or useless or
burdensome. But she did say that she would never marry until she
found some one with Ronald's simple chivalry, his loyal, true
nature, and without the weakness which had caused and would cause
so much suffering.

Chapter VIII

Lady Earle's boudoir was always considered one of the prettiest
rooms at Earlescourt. Few, but rare, pictures adorned its walls.
The long French windows opened on to the prettiest part of the
gardens, where a large fountain rippled merrily in the sunshine.
Groups of flowers in rare and costly vases perfumed the room.

Lord Earle had but drawn a pretty lounging chair to the window,
and sat there, looking happier than he had looked for months.
Lady Earle went on with her task of arranging some delicate
leaves and blossoms ready for sketching.

"Ronald," said his father, "I have been waiting here some time.
Have you been out?"

"I have been in the park with Miss Charteris," replied Ronald.

Lord Earle smiled again, evidently well pleased to hear that

"A pleasant and sensible method of spending your time," he
continued; "and, strange to say, it is on that very subject I
wish to speak to you. Your attentions to Miss Charteris--"

"My attentions!" cried Ronald. "You are mistaken. I have never
paid any."

"You need have no fear this time," said Lord Earle. "Your mother
tells me of the numerous comments made last evening on your long
tete-a-tete in the conservatory. I know some of your secrets.
There can be no doubt that Miss Charteris has a great regard for
you. I sent for you to say that, far from my again offering any
opposition to your marriage, the dearest wish of my heart will be
gratified when I call Valentine Charteris my daughter."

He paused for a reply, but none came. Ronald's face had grown
strangely pale.

"We never named our wish to you," continued Lord Earle, "but
years ago your mother and I hoped you would some day love Miss
Charteris. She is very beautiful; she is the truest, noblest,
the best woman I know. I am proud of your choice, Ronald--more
proud than words can express."

Still Ronald made no reply, and Lady Earle looked up at him

"You need not fear for Valentine," she said. "I must not betray
any secrets; she likes you, Ronald; I will say no more. If you
ask her to be your wife, I do not think you will ask in vain."

"There is some great mistake," said Ronald, his pale lips
quivering. "Miss Charteris has no thought for me."

"She has no thought for any one else," rejoined Lady Earle,

"And I," continued Ronald, "never dreamed of making her my wife.
I do not love her. I can never marry Valentine Charteris."

The smiles died from Lord Earle's face, and his wife dropped the
pretty blossoms she was arranging.

"Then why have you paid the girl so much attention?" asked his
father, gravely. "Every one has remarked your manner; you never
seemed happy away from her."

"I wished to make her my friend," said Ronald; "I never thought
of anything else."

He stood aghast when he remembered why he had tried so hard to
win her friendship. What if Valentine misunderstood him?

"Others thought for you," said Lady Earle, dryly. "Of course, if
I am mistaken, there is no more to be said; I merely intended to
say how happy such a marriage would make me. If you do not love
the young lady the matter ends, I suppose."

"Can you not love her, Ronald?" asked his mother, gently. "She
is so fair and good, so well fitted to be the future mistress of
Earlescourt. Can you not love her?"

"Nothing was further from my thoughts," he replied.

"Surely," interrupted Lady Earle, "you have forgotten the idle,
boyish folly that angered your father some time since--that can
not be your reason?"

"Hush, mother," said Ronald, standing erect and dauntless; "I was
coming to tell you my secret when you met me. Father, I deceived
and disobeyed you. I followed Dora Thorne to Eastham, and
married her there."

A low cry came from Lady Earle's lips. Ronald saw his father's
face grow white--livid--with anger; but no word broke the awful
silence that fell upon them. Hours seemed to pass in the space
of a few minutes.

"You married her," said Lord Earle, in a low, hoarse voice,
"remembering what I said?"

"I married her," replied Ronald, "hoping you would retract hard,
cruel words that you never meant. I could not help it, father;
she has no one but me; they would have forced her to marry some
one she did not like."

"Enough," interrupted Lord Earle. "Tell me when and where. Let
me understand whether the deed is irrevocable or not."

Calmly, but with trembling lips, Ronald gave him every

"Yes, the marriage is legal enough," said the master of
Earlescourt. "You had to choose between duty, honor, home,
position--and Dora Thorne. You preferred Dora; you must leave
the rest."

"Father, you will forgive me," cried Ronald. "I am your only

"Yes," said Lord Earle, drearily, "you are my only son. Heaven
grant no other child may pierce his father's heart as you have
done mine! Years ago, Ronald, my life was blighted--my hopes,
wishes, ambitions, and plans all melted; they lived again in you.
I longed with wicked impatience for the time when you should
carry out my dreams, and add fresh luster to a grand old name. I
have lived in your life; and now, for the sake of a simple,
pretty, foolish girl, you have forsaken me--you have
deliberately trampled upon every hope that I had."

"Let me atone for it," cried Ronald. "I never thought of these

"You can not atone," said Lord Earle, gravely. "I can never
trust you again. From this time forth I have no son. My heir
you must be when the life you have darkened ends. My son is dead
to me."

There was no anger in the stern, grave face turned toward the
unhappy young man.

"I never broke my word," he continued, "and never shall. You
have chosen your own path; take it. You preferred this Dora to
me; go to her. I told you if you persisted in your folly, I
would never look upon your face again, and I never will."

"Oh, Rupert!" cried Lady Earle; "be merciful. He is my only
child. I shall die if you send him from me."

"He preferred this Dora to you or to me," said Lord Earle. "I am
sorry for you, Helena--Heaven knows it wrings my heart--but I
shall not break my word! I will not reproach you," he continued,
turning to his son, "it would be a waste of time and words; you
knew the alternative, and are doubtless prepared for it."

"I must bear it, father; the deed was my own," said Ronald.

"We will end this scene," said Lord Earle, turning from his
unhappy wife, who was weeping passionately. "Look at your
mother, Ronald; kiss her for the last time and go from her; bear
with you the memory of her love and of her tenderness, and of how
you have repaid them. Take your last look at me. I have loved
you--I have been proud of you, hopeful for you; now I dismiss
you from my presence, unworthy son of a noble race. The same
roof will never shelter us again. Make what arrangements you
will. You have some little fortune; it must maintain you. I
will never contribute one farthing to the support of my lodge
keeper's daughter. Go where you like--do as you like. You have
chosen your own path. Some day you must return to Earlescourt as
its master. I thank Heaven it will be when the degradation of my
home and the dishonor of my race can not touch me. Go now; I
shall expect you to have quitted the Hall before tomorrow

"You can not mean it, father," cried Ronald. "Send me from you
punish me--I deserve it; but let me see you again!"

"Never in life," said Lord Earle, calmly. "Remember, when you
see me lying dead, that death itself was less bitter than the
hour in which I learned that you had deceived me."

"Mother," cried the unhappy youth, "plead for me!"

"It is useless," replied his father; "your choice has been made
deliberately. I am not cruel. If you write to me I shall return
your letters unopened. I shall refuse to see or hear from you,
or to allow you to come near Earlescourt; but you can write to
your mother--I do not forbid that. She can see you under any
roof save mine. Now, farewell; the sunshine, the hope, the
happiness of my life go with you, but I shall keep my word. See
my solicitor, Mr. Burt, about your money, and he will arrange
everything in my place."

"Father," cried Ronald, with tears in his eyes, "say one kind
word, touch my hand once again!"

"No," said Lord Earle, turning from the outstretched hand; "that
is not the hand of an honorable man; I can not hold it in my

Then Ronald bent down to kiss his mother; her face was white and
still; she was not conscious of his tears or his passionate
pleading. Lord Earle raised her face. "Go," said he, calmly;
"do not let your mother find you here when she recovers."

He never forgot the pleading of those sorrowful eyes, the anguish
of the brave young face, as Ronald turned from him and left the

When Lady Earle awoke to consciousness of her misery, her son had
left her. No one would have called Lord Earle hard or stern who
saw him clasp his weeping wife in his arms, and console her by
every kind and tender word he could utter.

Lord Earle did not know that in his wife's heart there was a hope
that in time he would relent. It was hard to lose her brave boy
for a few months or even years; but he would return, his father
must forgive him, her sorrow would be but for a time. But Lord
Earle, inflexible and unflinching, knew that he should never in
life see his son again.

No one knew what Lord Earle suffered; as Valentine Charteris
said, he was too proud for scenes. He dined with Lady Charteris
and her daughter, excusing his wife, and never naming his son.
After dinner he shut himself in his own room, and suffered his
agony along.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Earlescourt was full of bustle and activity. The young heir was
leaving suddenly; boxes and trunks had to be packed. He did not
say where he was going; indeed those who helped him said
afterward that his face was fixed and pale, and that he moved
about like one in a dream.

Everything was arranged for Ronald's departure by the night mail
from Greenfield, the nearest station to Earlescourt. He took
with him neither horses nor servants; even his valet, Morton, was
left behind. "My lady" was ill, and shut up in her room all day.

Valentine Charteris sat alone in the drawing room when Ronald
came in to bid her farewell. She was amazed at the unhappy
termination of the interview. She would have gone instantly to
Lord Earle, but Ronald told her it was useless--no prayers, no
pleadings could change his determination.

As Ronald stood here, looking into Valentine's beautiful face, he
remembered his mother's words, that she cared for him as she
cared for no other. Could it be possible that this magnificent
girl, with her serene, queenly dignity, loved him? She looked
distressed by his sorrow. When he spoke of his mother, and she
saw the quivering lips he vainly tried to still, tears filled her

"Where shall you go," she asked, "and what shall you do?"

"I shall go to my wife at once," he replied, "and take her
abroad. Do not look so pained and grieved for me, Miss Charteris
I must do the best I can. If my income will not support me, I
must work; a few months' study will make me a tolerable artist.
Do not forget my mother, Valentine, and bid me 'Godspeed.'"

Her heart yearned for him--so young, so simple, so brave. She
longed to tell him how much she admired him--how she wanted to
help him, and would be his friend while she lived. But Miss
Charteris rarely yielded to any emotion; she had laid her hand in
his and said:

"Goodbye, Ronald--God bless you! Be brave; it is not one great
deed that makes a hero. The man who bears trouble well is the
greatest hero of all."

As he left his home in that quiet starlit night, Ronald little
thought that, while his mother lay weeping as though her heart
would break, a beautiful face, wet with bitter tears, watched him
from one of the upper windows, and his father, shut up alone,
listened to every sound, and heard the door closed behind his son
as he would have heard his own death knell.

The next day Lady Charteris and her daughter left Earlescourt.
Lord Earle gave no sign of the heavy blow which had struck him.
He was their attentive host while they remained; he escorted them
to their carriage, and parted from them with smiling words. Then
he went back to the house, where he was never more to hear the
sound of the voice he loved best on earth.

As the days and months passed, and the young heir did not return,
wonder and surprise reigned at Earlescourt. Lord Earle never
mentioned his son's name. People said he had gone abroad, and
was living somewhere in Italy. To Lord Earl it seemed that his
life was ended; he had no further plans, ambition died away; the
grand purpose of his life would never be fulfilled.

Lady Earle said nothing of the trouble that had fallen upon her.
She hoped against hope that the time would come when her husband
would pardon their only son. Valentine Charteris bore her
disappointment well. She never forgot the simple, chivalrous man
who had clung to her friendship and relied so vainly upon her

Many lovers sighed round Valentine. One after another she
dismissed them. She was waiting until she saw some one like
Ronald Earle--like him in all things save the weakness which had
so fatally shadowed his life.

Chapter IX

In a small, pretty villa, on the banks of the Arno, Ronald Earle
established himself with his young wife. He had gone direct to
Eastham, after leaving Earlescourt, his heart aching with sorrow
for home and all that he had left there, and beating high with
joy at the thought that now nothing stood between him and Dora.
He told her of the quarrel--of his father's stern words--and
Dora, as he had foreseen clung round his neck and wept.

She would love him all the more, she said. She must love him
enough to make up for home and every one else.

Yet, strange to say, when Ronald told his pretty, weeping wife
all that happened, he made no mention of Valentine Charteris--he
did not even utter her name.

Ronald's arrangements were soon made. He sent for Stephen Thorne
and his wife, and told them how and when he had married Dora.

"I am sorry for it," said Stephen. "No good will ever come of
such an unequal match. My girl had better have stayed at home,
or married the young farmer who loved her. The distance between
you is too great, Mr. Earle, and I fear me you will find it out."

Ronald laughed at the idea that he should ever tire of Dora. How
little these prosaic, commonplace people knew of love!

The good lodge keeper and his wife parted from Dora with many
tears. She was never to brighten their home again with her sweet
face and gay voice. She was going away to strange lands over the
sea. Many dark forebodings haunted them; but it was too late for
advice and interference now.

The first news that came to the villa on the banks of the Arno
was that Stephen Thorne and his wife had left the lodge and taken
a small farm somewhere in the county of Kent. Lady Earle had
found them the means, and they had left without one word from
Lord Earle. He never asked whither they had gone.

Despite his father's anger and his mother's sorrow, despite his
poverty and loss of position, Ronald for some months was very
happy with his young wife. It was so pleasant to teach Dora, to
watch her sweet, dimpled face and the dark eyes grow large with
wonder; to hear her simple, naive remarks, her original ideas; to
see her pretty, artless ways; above all, it was pleasant to be so
dearly loved.

He often thought that there never had been, never could be, a
wife so loving as Dora. He could not teach her much, although he
tried hard. She sang simple little ballads sweetly and clearly;
but although master after master tried his best, she could never
be taught to play--not even as much as the easy accompaniments
of her own songs. Ronald hoped that with time and attention she
would be able to sketch, but Dora never managed it. Obediently
enough she took pencil and paper in her hands and tried, but the
strokes would never come straight. Sometimes the drawing she
made would resemble something so comical that both she and Ronald
laughed heartily; while the consciousness of her own inferiority
grieved her, and large, bright tears would frequently fall upon
the paper. Then Ronald would take the pencils away, and Dora
would cling around his neck and ask him if he would not have been
happier with a cleverer wife.

"No, a thousand times, no," he would say; he loved Dora better in
her artless simplicity than he could have loved the cleverest
woman in the world.

"And you are quite sure," said Dora, "that you will never repent
marrying me?"

"No, again," was the reply. "You are the crowning joy of my

It was pleasant to sit amid the oleanders and myrtles, reading
the great poems of the world to Dora. Even if she did not
understand them, her face lighted with pleasure as the grand
words came from Ronald's lips. It was pleasant, too, to sit on
the banks of the Arno, watching the blue waters gleaming in the
sun. Dora was at home there. She would say little of books, of
pictures, or music; but she could talk of beautiful Nature, and
never tire. She knew the changing colors of the sky, the varied
hues of the waves, the different voices of the wind, the songs of
the birds. All these had a separate and distinct meaning for

Ronald could not teach her much more. She liked the beautiful
poems he read, but never could remember who had written them.
She forgot the names of great authors, or mixed them up so
terribly that Ronald, in despair, told her it would be better not
to talk of books just yet--not until she was more familiar with

But he soon found out that Dora could not read for many minutes
together. She would open her book, and make a desperate attempt;
then her dark eyes would wander away to the distant mountains, or
to the glistening river. She could never read while the sun
shone or the birds sang.

Seeing that, Ronald gave up all attempts at literature in the
daytime; when the lamps were lighted in the evening, and the fair
face of Nature was shut out, he tried again, and succeeded for
ten minutes; then Dora's eyes drooped, the white lids with their
jetty fringe closed; and with great dismay he found that over the
masterpieces of the world Dora had fallen asleep.

Two long, bright years had passed away before Ronald began to
perceive that he could educate his pretty young wife no further.
She was a strange mixture of ignorance and uncultivated poetry.
She could speak well; her voice was sweet, her accent, caught
from him, good; alone he never noticed any deficiencies, but if
he met an English friend in Florence and brought him home to
dine, then Ronald began to wish that Dora would leave off
blushing and grow less shy, that she could talk a little more,
and that he might lose all fear of her making some terrible

The third year of their married life dawned; Dora was just
twenty, and Ronald twenty-three. There had been no rejoicing
when he had attained his majority; it passed over unnoticed and
unmarked. News came to them from England, letters from the
little farm in Kent, telling of simple home intelligence, and
letters from Lady Earle, always sad and stained with tears. She
had no good news to tell them. Lord Earle was well, but he would
never allow his son's name to be mentioned before him, and she
longed to see her son. In all her letters Lady Earle said: "Give
my love to Dora."

In this, the third year of his married life, Ronald began to feel
the pressure of poverty. His income was not more than three
hundred a year. To Dora this seemed boundless riches; but the
heir of Earlescourt had spent more in dress and cigars. Now
debts began to press upon him, writing home he knew was useless.
He would not ask Lady Earle, although he knew that she would have
parted with the last jewel in her case for him.

Ronald gave himself up to the study of painting. A pretty little
studio was built, and Dora spent long hours in admiring both her
husband and his work. He gave promise of being some day a good
artist--not a genius. The world would never rave about his
pictures; but, in time, he would be a conscientious, painstaking
artist. Among his small coterie of friends some approved, others

"Why not go to the Jews?" asked fashionable young men.
"Earlescourt must be yours some day. You can borrow money if you

Ronald steadily refused to entertain the idea. He wondered at
modern ideas of honor--that men saw no shame in borrowing upon
the lives of their nearest and dearest, yet thought it a disgrace
to be a follower of one of the grandest of arts. He made one
compromise--that was for his father's sake. As an artist, he
was known by Dora's name of Thorne, and, before long, Ronald
Thorne's pictures were in great request. There was no dash of
genius about them; but they were careful studies. Some few were
sold, and the price realized proved no unwelcome addition to a
small income.

Ronald became known in Florence. People who had not thought much
of Mr. Earle were eager to know the clever artist and his pretty,
shy wife. Then the trial of Ronald Earle began in earnest. Had
he lived always away from the world, out of society, the chances
are that his fate would have been different; but invitations
began to pour in upon him and Dora, and Ronald, half tired of his
solitude, although he never suspected it, accepted them eagerly.

Dora did not like the change; she felt lonely and lost where
Ronald was so popular and so much at home.

Among those who eagerly sought Ronald's society was the pretty
coquette, the Countess Rosali, an English lady who had married
the Count Rosali, a Florentine noble of great wealth.

No one in Florence was half so popular as the fair countess.
Among the dark, glowing beauties of sunny Italy she was like a
bright sunbeam. Her fair, piquant face was charming from its
delicate bright coloring and gay smiles; her hair, of the rare
color painted by the old masters, yet so seldom seen, was of pure
golden hue, looking always as though the sun shone upon it.

Countess Rosali, there was no denying the fact, certainly did
enjoy a little flirtation. Her grave, serious husband knew it,
and looked on quite calmly. To his grave mind the pretty
countess resembled a butterfly far more than a rational being.
He knew that, though she might laugh and talk to others, though
she might seek admiration and enjoy delicate flattery, yet in her
heart she was true as steel. She loved bright colors, and
everything else that was gay and brilliant. She had gathered the
roses; perhaps some one else had her share of thorns.

The fair, dainty lady had a great desire to see Mr. Thorne. She
had seen one of his pictures at the house of one of her friends
a simple little thing, but it had charmed her. It was merely a
bouquet of English wild flowers; but then they were so naturally
painted! The bluebells looked as though they had just been
gathered. One almost fancied dew drops on the delicate wild
roses; a spray of pink hawthorn, daisies and golden buttercups
mingled with woodbine and meadow-sweet, told sweet stories of the
English meadows.

"Whoever painted that," said the fair countess, "loves flowers,
and knows what English flowers mean."

The countess did not rest until Ronald had been introduced to
her, and then she would know his wife. Her grave, silent husband
smiled at her evident admiration of the handsome young
Englishman. She liked his clear, Saxon face and fair hair; she
liked his simple, kindly manner, so full of chivalry and truth.
She liked pretty Dora, too; but there were times when the dainty,
fastidious countess looked at the young wife in wonder, for, as
she said one evening to her husband:

"There is something in Mrs. Thorne that puzzles me--she does not
always speak or look like a lady--"

Few days passed without bringing Ronald and Dora to the Villa
Rosali. It would have been better for Ronald had he never left
his pretty home on the banks of the Arno.

Chapter X

Going into society increased the expenses which Ronald and his
wife found already heavy enough. There were times when the money
received from the sale of his pictures failed in liquidating
bills; then Ronald grew anxious, and Dora, not knowing what
better to do, wept and blamed herself for all the trouble. It
was a relief then to leave the home over which the clouds lowered
and seek the gay villa, where something pleasant and amusing was
always going on.

The countess gathered around her the elite of Florentine society;
she selected her friends and acquaintances as carefully as she
selected her dresses, jewels, and flowers. She refused to know
"bores" and "nobodies"; her lady friends must be pretty, piquant,
or fashionable, any gentleman admitted into her charmed circle
must have genius, wit, or talent to recommend him. Though grave
matrons shook their heads and looked prudish when the Countess
Rosali was mentioned, yet to belong to her set was to receive the
"stamp of fashion." No day passed without some amusement at the
villa--picnic, excursion, soiree, dance, or, what its fair
mistress preferred, private theatricals and charades.

"Help me," she said one morning, as Ronald and Dora, in
compliance with her urgent invitation, came to spend the day at
the villa--"help me; I want to do something that will surprise
every one. There are some great English people coming to
Florence--one of your heiresses, who is at the same time a
beauty. We must have some grand charades or tableaus. What
would you advise? Think of something original that will take
Florence by surprise."

"Wishing any one to be original," said Ronald, smiling at her
quick, eager ways, "immediately deprives one of all thought. I
must have time; it seems to me you have exhausted every subject."

"An artist has never-failing resources," she replied; "when every
'fount of inspiration' is closed it will be time to tell me there
are no ideas. You must have seen many charades, Mrs. Thorne,"
she said, turning suddenly to Dora; "they are very popular in
England. Tell me of some."

Dora blushed. She thought of the lodge and its one small parlor,
and then felt wretched and uncomfortable, out of place, and

"I have never seen any charades," she said, stiffly, and with
crimson cheeks.

The countess opened her blue eyes in surprise, and Ronald looked
anxiously from one to the other.

"My wife was too young when we were married to have seen much of
the world," he said, inwardly hoping that the tears he saw
gathering in Dora's dark eyes would not fall.

"Ah, then, she will be of no use in our council," replied the
countess, quickly. "Let us go out on the terrace; there is
always inspiration under an Italian sky."

She led the way to a pretty veranda on the terrace, and they sat
under the shade of a large spreading vine.

"Now we can discuss my difficulty in peace," said the lady, in
her pretty, imperious way. "I will, with your permission, tell
you some of my ideas."

The countess was not particularly gifted, but Ronald was charmed
by the series of pictures she placed before him, all well chosen,
with startling points of interest, scenes from noble poems,
pictures from fine old tragedies. She never paused or seemed
tired, while Dora sat, her face still flushed, looking more
awkward and ill at ease than Ronald had ever seen her. For the
first time, as they sat under the vine that morning, Ronald
contrasted his wife with his dainty, brilliant hostess, and felt
that she lost by the contrast--"awkward and ill at ease," self-
conscious to a miserable degree. For the first time Ronald felt
slightly ashamed of Dora, and wished that she knew more, and
could take some part in the conversation. Dimples and smiles,
curling rings of dark hair, and pretty rosebud lips were, he
thought, all very well, but a man grew tired of them in time,
unless there was something to keep up the charm. But poor little
Dora had no resources beyond her smiles and tears. She sat
shrinking and timid, half frightened at the bright lady who knew
so much and told it so well; feeling her heart cold with its
first dread that Ronald was not pleased with her. Her eyes
wandered to the far-off hills. Ah! Could it be that he would
ever tire of her and wished that he had married some one like
himself. The very thought pierced her heart, and the timid young
wife sat with a sorrowful look upon her face that took away all
its simple beauty.

"I will show you a sketch of the costume," said the countess; "it
is in my desk. Pray excuse me."

She was gone in an instant, and Dora was alone with her husband.

"For Heaven's sake, Dora," he said, quickly, "do look a little
brighter; what will the countess think of you? You look like a
frightened school girl."

It was an injudicious speech. If Ronald had only caressed her,
all would have been sunshine again; as it was, the first
impatient words she had ever heard from him smote her with a new,
strange pain, and the tears overflowed.

"Do not--pray--never do that," said Ronald; "we shall be the
laughing stock of all Florence. Well-bred people never give way
to emotion."

"Here is the sketch," said the countess, holding a small drawing
in her hand. Her quick glance took in Dora's tears and the
disturbed expression of Ronald's face.

With kind and graceful tact the countess gave Dora time to
recover herself; but that was the last time she ever invited the
young artist and his wife alone. Countess Rosali had a great
dread of all domestic scenes.

Neither Dora nor Ronald ever alluded again to this little
incident; it had one bad effect--it frightened the timid young
wife, and made her dread going into society. When invitations to
grand houses came, she would say, "Go alone, Ronald; if I am with
you they are sure to ask me ever so many questions which I can
not answer; then you will be vexed with me, and I shall be
ashamed of my ignorance."

"Why do you not learn?" Ronald would ask, disarmed by her sweet

"I can not," said Dora, shaking her pretty head. "The only
lesson I ever learned in my life was how to love you."

"You have learned that by heart," replied Ronald. Then he would
kiss her pitiful little face and go without her.

By slow degrees it became a settled rule that Dora should stay at
home and Ronald go out. He had no scruples in leaving her--she
never objected; her face was always smiling and bright when he
went away, and the same when he returned. He said to himself
that Dora was happier at home than elsewhere, that fine ladies
frightened her and made her unhappy.

Their ways in life, now became separate and distinct, Ronald
going more than ever into society, Dora clinging more to the safe
shelter of home.

But society was expensive in two ways--not only from the outlay
in dress and other necessaries, but in the time taken from work.
There were many days when Ronald never went near his studio, and
only returned home late in the evening to leave early in the
morning. He was only human, this young hero who had sacrificed
so much for love; and there were times, after some brilliant fete
or soiree, when the remembrance of home, Dora, hard work, narrow
means, would come to him like a heavy weight or the shadow of a
dark cloud.

Not that he loved her less--pretty, tender Dora; but there was
not one feeling or taste in common between them. Harder men
would have tired of her long before. They never cared to speak
much of home, for Dora noticed that Ronald was always sad after a
letter from Lady Earle. The time came when she hesitated to
speak of her own parents, lest he should remember much that she
would have liked him to forget.

If any true friend had stepped in then, and warned them, life
would have been a different story for Ronald Earle and his wife.

Ronald's story became known in Florence. He was the son of a
wealthy English peer, who had offended his father by a "low"
marriage; in time he would succeed to the title. Hospitalities
were lavished upon him, the best houses in Florence were thrown
open to him, and he was eagerly welcomed there. When people met
him continually unaccompanied by his young wife they smiled
significantly, and bright eyes grew soft with pity. Poor, pretty

Ronald never knew how the long hours of his absence were spent by
Dora. She never looked sad or weary to him, he never saw any
traces of tears, yet Dora shed many. Through the long sunny
hours and far into the night she sat alone, thinking of the home
she had left in far-off England--where she had been loved and
worshiped by her rough, homely, honest father and a loving
mother; thinking too, of Ralph, and his pretty, quiet homestead
in the green fields, where she would have been honored as its
mistress, where no fine ladies would have vexed her with
questions, and no one would have thought her ignorant or awkward;
thinking of all these things, yet loving Ronald none the less,
except that a certain kind of fear began to mingle with her love.

Gradually, slowly, but surely, the fascination of the gay and
brilliant society in which Ronald was so eagerly courted laid
hold of him. He did not sin willfully or consciously; little by
little a distaste for his own home and a weariness of Dora's
society overcame him. He was never unkind to her, for Ronald was
a gentleman; but he lingered no more through the long sunny
morning by her side. He gave up all attempts to educate her. He
ceased to tease her about books; he never offered to read to her;
and pretty, simple Dora, taught by the keen instinct of love,
noted it all.

Ronald saw some little change in her. The dimples and smiles had
almost vanished from her face. He seldom heard the laugh that
had once been so sweet to him. There was retiring grace in her
manner that suited her well. He thought she was catching the
"tone of good society," and liked the change.

Some natures become ennobled under the pressure of adversity; but
limited means and petty money cares had no good effect upon
Ronald Earle. He fretted under them. He could do nothing as
other people did. He could not purchase a magnificent bouquet
for the countess; his means would not permit it. He could not
afford a horse such as all his gentlemen friends rode. Adversity
developed no good qualities in him; the discipline was harder and
sterner still that made of him a true man at last.

Ronald went on with his painting fitfully, sometimes producing a
good picture, but often failing.

The greatest patron of the fine arts in Florence was the Prince
di Borgezi. His magnificent palace was like one picture gallery.
He saw some sketches of Ronald's, and gave an order to him to
paint a large picture, leaving him to choose the subject. In
vain by night and by day did Ronald ponder on what that subject
should be. He longed to make his name immortal by it. He
thought once of Tennyson's "Dora," and of sketching his wife for
the principal figure. He did make a sketch, but he found that he
could not paint Dora's face; he could not place the dimpling
smiles and bright blushes on canvas, and they were the chief
charm. He therefore abandoned the idea.

Standing one day where the sunbeams fell lightly through the
thick myrtles, an inspiration came to him. He would paint a
picture of Queen Guinevere in her gay sweet youth and bright
innocent beauty--Guinevere with her lovely face and golden hair,
the white plumes waving and jewels flashing; the bright figure on
the milk-white palfrey shining in the mellow sunlight that came
through the green trees.

Lancelot should ride by her side; he could see every detail of
the picture; he knew just the noble, brave, tender face Sir
Lancelot should have; but where could he find a model for
Guinevere? Where was there a face that would realize his artist
dreams of her? The painting was half completed before he thought
of Valentine Charteris and her magnificent blonde beauty--the
very ideal of Queen Guinevere.

With renewed energy Ronald set to work. Every feature of that
perfect face was engraved upon his mind. He made sketch after
sketch, until, in its serene, sweet loveliness, Valentine's face
smiled upon him.

Chapter XI

"Queen Guinevere" was a success far beyond Ronald's dearest
hopes. Artists and amateurs, connoisseurs of all ranks and
degrees were delighted with it. The great charm of the picture
was the lovely young face. "Whom was it like? Where had he
found his model?" "Was ever any woman so perfectly beautiful?:"
Such were the questions that people never seemed tired of

The picture was hung in the gallery of the palace, and the Prince
di Borgezi became one of Ronald's best patrons.

The prince gave a grand ball in honor of a beautiful English
lady, who, with her family, had just arrived in Florence.
Countess Rosali raved about her, wisely making a friend where any
one else would have feared a rival.

Ronald had contrived an invitation, but was prevented from
attending. All the elite of Florence were there, and great was
the excitement when Countess Rosali entered the ball room with an
exceedingly beautiful woman--a queenly blonde--the lady about
whom all Florence was interested--an English heiress, clever as
she was fair, speaking French with a courtly grace and Italian
with fluent skill; and when the prince stood before her he
recognized in one moment the original of his famous "Guinevere."

The countess was in danger--a fairer, brighter star had arisen.
Valentine Charteris was the belle of the most brilliant hall ever
given in Florence.

When the prince had received his guest, and danced once with Miss
Charteris, he asked her if she would like to see his celebrated
picture, the "Guinevere," whose fame was spreading fast.

"Nothing," she said, "would please her better;" and as the
Countess Rosali stood near, the prince included her in the

"Certainly; I never tire of the 'Guinevere,' never weary of the
artist's triumph, for he is one of the most valued of my

Prince di Borgesi smiled, thinking how much of the fair
coquette's admiration went to the artist's talent, and how much
to his handsome face.

They entered the long gallery, where some of the finest pictures
in Italy were hung. The prince led the ladies to the southern
end. Valentine saw before her a magnificent painting--tall
forest trees, whose thick branches were interwoven, every green
leaf distinct and clear; she saw the mellow light that fell
through them, the milk-white palfrey and the jeweled harness, the
handsome knight who rode near; and then she saw her own face,
bright, smiling, glowing with beauty, bright in innocence, sweet
in purity. Valentine stared in astonishment, and her companion

"There can be no doubt about the resemblance," said the countess.
"The artist has made you Queen Guinevere, Miss Charteris."

"Yes," said Valentine, wonderingly; "it is my own face. How came
it there? Who is the artist?"

"His name is Ronald Thorne," replied the countess. "There is
quite a romance about him."

The countess saw Miss Charteris grow pale and silent.

"Have you ever seen him?" inquired the countess. "Do you know

"Yes," said Valentine, "my family and his have been on intimate
terms for years. I knew that he was in Italy with his wife."

"Ah," rejoined the countess, eagerly, "then perhaps you know all
about his marriage? Who was Mrs. Thorne? Why did he quarrel
with his father? Do tell us, Miss Charteris."

"Nay," said Valentine; "if Mrs. Thorne has any secrets, I shall
not reveal them. I must tell mamma they are in Florence. We
must call and see them."

"I was fond of Mrs. Thorne once," said the countess, plaintively,
"but really there is nothing in her."

"There must be something both estimable and lovable," replied
Valentine quickly, "or Mr. Thorne would never have married her."

Prince di Borgesi smiled approval of the young lady's reply.

"You admire my picture, Miss Charteris?" he asked.

"The more so because it is the work of an old friend," said
Valentine; and again the prince admired the grace of her words.

"Any other woman in her place," he thought, "would have blushed
and coquetted. How charming she is!"

From that moment Prince di Borgezi resolved to win Valentine if
he could.

Lady Charteris was half pleased, half sorry, to hear that Ronald
was in Florence. No one deplored his rash, foolish marriage more
than she did. She thought Lord Earle stern and cruel; she pitied
the young man she had once liked so well, yet for all that she
did not feel inclined to renew the acquaintance. When Valentine
asked her to drive next morning to the little villa on the banks
of the Arno, she at first half declined.

"I promised to be Ronald's friend years ago," said Valentine,
calmly; "and now, mamma, you must allow me to keep my word. We
must visit his wife, and pay her every attention. To refuse
would imply a doubt of me, and that I could not endure."

"You shall do as you like, my dear," replied Lady Charteris; "the
young man's mother is my dearest friend, and for her sake we will
be kind to him."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It was one of those Italian mornings when the fair face of Nature
seemed bathed in beauty. The air was full of the music of birds;
the waters of the Arno rolled languidly on; oleanders and myrtles
were in full bloom; birds sang as they sing only under the blue
sky of Italy.

It was not yet noon when Lady Charteris and her daughter reached
the little villa. Before they came to the house, Valentine
caught one glimpse of a pretty, pale face with large dark eyes.
Could that be pretty, smiling Dora? There were the shining rings
of dark hair; but where were the smiles Ronald had described?
That was not a happy face. Care and sorrow were in every line of

They were told that Mr. Thorne was in his studio, and would see
them there. They had sent no card, and Ronald believed the "two
ladies" to have called on some business connected with pictures.
He started with surprise when Lady Charteris and Valentine
entered. There were a few words of confused greeting, a hurried
explanation of the circumstances that led Sir Hugh to Florence;
and then Valentine looked long and steadily at the only man she
had ever cared for. He was altered; the frank, handsome face
looked worn and thin; it had a restless expression. He did not
look like a man who had found peace. Lady Charteris told him of
her last visit to Earlescourt--how his mother never ceased
speaking of him, and his father still preserved the same rigid,
unbending silence.

"I have seen your picture," said Lady Charteris. "How well you
remembered my daughter's face."

"It is one not easily forgotten," he replied; and then another
deep silence fell upon him.

"Where is Mrs. Earle?" asked Valentine. "Our visit is chiefly to
her. Pray introduce her to mamma. I know her already by

"I left my wife in the garden," said Ronald; "shall we join her

They followed him into the pretty sunlit garden, where Valentine
had seen the pale, sad face.

"My wife is timid," said Ronald, "always nervous with strangers."

Dora was sitting under the shade of a large flowering tree, her
hands folded, and her eyes riveted on the distant hills; there
was something in her listless manner that touched both ladies
more than any words could have done. A deep flush crimsoned her
face when Ronald and his guests stood before her. She rose, not
ungracefully; her eyelids drooped in their old shy manner. As
Ronald introduced his wife, something in the girl's wistful face
went straight to Lady Charteris's heart. She spoke not a word,
but folded Dora in her arms and kissed her as her own mother
might have done.

"You must learn to love us," said Valentine; "we are your
husband's dearest friends."

Poor Dora had no graceful words ready; her heart was full of
gratitude, but she knew not how to express it. Ronald looked at
her anxiously, and she caught his glance.

"Now," thought Dora, "he will not be pleased." She tried to say
something of her pleasure in seeing them, but the words were so
stiff and ungracious that Ronald hastened to interrupt them.

A luncheon of fruit and wine was brought out into the garden, and
they talked merrily--of Earlescourt and the dear old friends
there; of the ball and Prince di Borgesi; in all of which Dora
felt that she had no share.

Who was this beautiful lady, with her fair face and golden hair?

The same face she saw that Ronald had painted in his picture, and
every one admired. How graceful she was! How she talked! The
words seemed to ripple like music over her perfect lips. Where
had Ronald known her? Why had he never told her of Miss

"Ah!" thought Dora, "if I could be like her!" And a sudden sense
of wonder struck her that Ronald had not loved and married this
fair and gracious lady.

Valentine neither forgot nor neglected her. She tried to draw
her into their conversation, but Dora replied so uneasily and so
briefly to all her remarks that she saw the truest kindness was
to leave her alone.

They spent a few hours pleasantly, and Lady Charteris would not
leave until Ronald promised to take his wife to spend a long day
with them.

"I can hardly promise for Dora," said Ronald, kindly; "she seldom
leaves home."

"Mrs. Earle will not refuse me," said Valentine, with that smile
which no one ever resisted. "She will come with you, and we will
make her happy."

When the day was settled, the ladies drove away, and Ronald
watched the carriage until it was out of sight.

"My dear Valentine," cried Lady Charteris when they were out of
hearing, "my dear child, what could possess Ronald Earle? What
could he see in that shy, awkward girl to induce him to give up
everything and go into exile for her sake? She is not even

"She is altered, mamma," began Valentine.

"Altered!" interrupted Lady Charteris. "I should imagine she is,
and unhappy, too. She is frightened to speak--she has no style,
no manner, no dignity. He must have been insane."

"I am quite sure he loved her," said Valentine, warmly, "and
loves her now."

"That is just the mystery," replied her mother--"a clever man
like he is, accustomed to intelligent and beautiful women. I
shall never understand it."

"Do not try," said Valentine, calmly. "She is evidently nervous
and sensitive. I mean to be a true friend to Ronald, mamma; I
shall try to train and form his wife."

Poor Dora! She was already trained and formed, but no one would
understand that. People do not expect the perfume of the rose in
a wild strawberry blossom, or the fragrance of the heliotrope in
a common bluebell. Yet they wondered that in this simple girl,
ignorant of the world and it ways, they did not find a cultivated
mind, a graceful manner, and a dignified carriage. Their only
thought was to train and form her, whereas Nature and not Art had
done both.

"Dora," said Ronald, as the carriage disappeared from view, "try
to like Lady Charteris and her daughter; they are so kindly
disposed toward you. I shall be so pleased to see you good

"I will try," she replied, cheerfully. "How beautiful she is,
Ronald! Tell me about her. You remember her face exactly;
should you remember mine as well?"

It was the first touch of jealousy stirring in the simple, loving

"Far better," said Ronald, with a smile; and then he looked up in
alarm, for Dora was weeping wildly, and clinging to him.

"Oh, Ronald!" she said, "for your sake I wish I was like her.
Shall you ever tire of me, or wish you had not married me?"

Ronald soothed and comforted his wife, and did not return to his
studio that day, but sat talking to her, telling her how noble
and good Valentine Charteris was.

Chapter XII

It is very seldom that a man of good disposition goes wrong
willfully. Ronald Earle would have felt indignant if any one had
accused him of dishonor or even neglect. He thought Dora enjoyed
herself more at home than in society, consequently he left her
there. Habits soon grow. The time came when he thought it was
the wiser course. He felt more at ease without her. If Dora by
chance accompanied him, he watched her anxiously, fearful lest
others should discover and comment upon the little deficiencies
she felt so acutely.

The visit to Lady Charteris was duly paid--a day that Ronald
enjoyed, and Dora thought would never end. She could not feel at
home with these fine ladies, although Lady Charteris was kind to
her and Valentine laid herself out to please; not even when
Valentine, pitying her shy, timid manner and evident constraint,
took her out into the garden and tried hard to win her
confidence. Dora's heart seemed to close against the beautiful,
brilliant lady who knew her husband and all his friends so well.
A fierce, hot breath of jealousy stirred the simple nature.
Ronald talked to Miss Charteris of things all unknown to her;
they seemed to have the same thoughts and feelings, while she was
outside the charmed circle, and could never enter it. She
watched the growing admiration on Ronald's face when Valentine
played and sang, and her restless heart grew weary and faint.
She had never felt jealous before. When Countess Rosali talked
and laughed with her husband, treating him sometimes as a captive
and again as a victor, Dora never cared; but every smile on this
woman's fair face pained her--she hardly knew why.

When Miss Charteris, under pretense of showing her favorite
flower, took Dora away from the others, and condescended to her
as she had never done to any other, actually caressing the
anxious little face and herself offering to be Mrs. Earle's true
friend, Dora's heart closed against her. She only replied by
faint monosyllables, and never raised her dark eyes to the face
turned so kindly upon her.

When Ronald had taken his young wife away, Lady Charteris sat
with her daughter in an unbroken silence.

"Poor boy!" said the other lady at length, "and poor Dora! This
is one more added to the list of unhappy marriages. How will it

As she watched the sun set in the golden west, Valentine asked
herself the same question: "How will it end?"

If any one had told Dora she was jealous, she would have denied
it indignantly, although Valentine was seldom out of her mind.

From pure kindness Lady Charteris wished Ronald to paint her
daughter's portrait; it was to be a large picture they could take
back to Greenoke. He was pleased with the commission, and began
to work at it eagerly. Lady Charteris came with Valentine, and
remained with her during the long sittings, doing everything in
her power to please and win the artist's timid wife.

The fair face, in its calm, Grecian beauty, grew upon the canvas.
Many a long hour, when Ronald was absent, Dora lingered over it.
The portrait had a strange fascination for her. She dwelt upon
every feature until, if the lips had opened and smiled a mocking
smile at her, she would not have felt greatly surprised. It was
less a picture to her than a living, breathing reality. She
would watch Ronald as he worked at it, eager and enthusiastic;
then, looking up and finding her dark eyes riveted upon him with
so strange an expression, he would call her to see what progress
he had made; and, never dreaming of the growing jealousy in
Dora's heart, speak with an artist's delight of the peerless

Without any great or sudden change, day by day Dora grew more
silent and reserved. She was learning to hide her thoughts, to
keep her little troubles in her own heart and ponder them. The
time was past when she would throw herself into Ronald's arms and
weep out her sorrows there.

Ronald did not notice the change. Home seemed very dull. It was
a great pleasure to leave the solitary little villa and sit in
the brilliant salon of Lady Charteris's well-appointed home. It
was pleasant to exchange dull monotony for sparkling conversation
and gay society.

Valentine had many admirers. Every one knew the Prince di
Borgesi would gladly have laid his fortune and title at her feet;
but she cared for neither. Ronald often watched her as noble and
learned men offered their homage to her. She smiled brightly,
spoke well and gracefully; but he never saw in her face the look
he once remembered there. Lady Charteris deplored her daughter's
obstinacy. She took Ronald into her confidence, and confided to
him her annoyance when one suitor after another was dismissed.

Ronald was not particularly vain. Like most men, he had a
pleasing consciousness of his own worth; but he could not help
remembering his mother's assurance that Valentine cared for him.
Could it have been true? Was there ever a time when that
beautiful girl, so indifferent to all homage, cared for him?
Could there have been a time when the prize for which others
sighed in vain was within his grasp and he slighted it?

He did not dwell upon these thoughts, but they would come into
his mind. It was seldom that a day passed without his calling at
the pretty home where Lady Charteris always welcomed him kindly.
She was sorry for him. He was never de trop with her.
Occasionally, too, she drove out to see his wife; but the visits
were rather of duty than of pleasure.

Then Dora's health failed. She grew weak and languid--irritable
at times--as unlike the smiling, blushing girl Ronald had met at
Earlescourt gardens as it was possible for her to be. He wrote
to tell his mother that at length there was hope of an heir to
their ancient house. He was very kind and patient to his ailing,
delicate wife, giving up parties and soirees to sit with her, but
never able to guess why Dora's dark eyes looked so strangely upon

Lady Charteris had planned an excursion to some picturesque ruin
that had pleased her daughter, who wished to make a sketch of it.
Ronald was asked to join them, and he had been looking forward
for many days to a few pleasant hours away from all care and
anxiety--out in the beautiful country with Valentine. But when
the morning came Dora looked pale and ill. She did not ask him
to stay with her, but he read the wish in her face.

"I will not go, Dora," said her husband; "I will not leave you.
I shall send a note of excuse to Lady Charteris, and take care of
you all day."

"Is Miss Charteris going?" she asked, quietly.

"Yes, and several others," he replied.

"Then never mind me," said Dora; "do not give up a day's pleasure
for me."

Ronald might have guessed there was something wrong from the tone
of her voice, but Ronald was not of a suspicious nature.

"Now, Dora," he said, gently, "you know I would give up every
pleasure in the world for you."

He bent over her, and kissed her pale little face. Time had been
when the simple heart would have thrilled with happiness at his
words; but Dora grew cold and hard.

"It used to be always so," she thought, "before she came with her
beauty and took him from me."

How much misery would have been averted had she told Ronald of
her jealous thoughts and fears! He never suspected them. When
he returned home, looking bright and happy, she would ask him,
"Have you seen Miss Charteris today?" and he, glad of her
interest in his friends, would reply that he had been to her
mother's house, and tell her of music he had heard or people he
had met, or of Valentine's messages to her. So Dora fed the
dark, bitter jealousy that had crept into her heart.

It was a proud but anxious day for Ronald when he wrote to tell
his mother that he was now the father of little twin daughters,
two pretty, fair babies, in place of the long looked-for heir of

Lady Charteris was very kind to the lonely young mother--so kind
that, had she borne any other name, Dora must have loved her. A
glimpse of the old happiness came back, for Ronald was proud and
pleased with the little twin sisters.

One bright morning, when Dora had been taken down into the pretty
room where the infants lay sleeping, Lady Charteris and her
daughter came in. Ronald joined them and there was a long
discussion as to the names.

"You must have an eye to the future," said Valentine, smiling.
"These little ladies will be very grand personages some day. It
would be a nice compliment to Lady Earle if you called one

"I have made my choice," said Dora, in a clear, ringing voice.
"I shall call this little one with the fair hair Lillian, the
other Beatrice."

A faint flush rose to her face as she spoke. She would allow of
no interference here. This smiling beauty should not give names
to her children.

"I admire your choice," said Lady Charteris; "Beatrice and
Lillian are very pretty names."

When Valentine bent over the cradle and kissed the children
before taking leave, Dora said, "I have had my own way, you see,
Miss Charteris, with my little ones. Mr. Earle did not oppose

Valentine thought the words harsh and strange; she had no clew to
their meaning. She could not have imagined Dora jealous of her.
She made some laughing reply, and passed on. Dora was not lonely
now, the care of the little ones occupying her whole time; but,
far from their binding Ronald to his home, he became more
estranged from it than ever.

The pretty, picturesque villa was very small; there was no room
available for a nursery. Wherever Dora sat, there must the
little ones be; and although they were very charming to the
mother and the nurse, the continued cries and noise irritated
Ronald greatly. Then he grew vexed; Dora cried, and said he did
not love them, and so the barrier grew day by day between those
who should have been all in all to each other.

The children grew. Little Beatrice gave promise of great beauty.
She had the Earle face, Ronald said. Lillian was a fair, sweet
babe, too gentle, her mother thought, to live. Neither of them
resembled her, and at times Dora wished it had been otherwise.

Perhaps in all Ronald Earle's troubled life he never spent a more
unsettled or wretched year than this. "It is impossible to
paint," he said to himself, "when disturbed by crying babies."
So the greater part of his time was spent away from home. Some
hours of every day were passed with Valentine; he never stopped
to ask himself what impulse led him to seek her society; the calm
repose of her fair presence contrasted so pleasantly with the
petty troubles and small miseries of home. When Miss Charteris
rode out he accompanied her; he liked to meet her at parties and
balls. He would have thought a day sad and dark wherein he did
not see her.

When the little ones reached their first birthday, Valentine,
with her usual kind thought, purchased a grand assortment of
toys, and drove over quite unexpectedly to the villa. It was not
a very cheerful scene which met her gaze.

Ronald was busily engaged in writing. Dora, flushed and worn,
was vainly trying to stop the cries of one child, while the other
pulled at her dress. The anxious, dreary face struck Valentine
with pain. She laid the parcel of toys down, and shook hands
with Ronald, who looked somewhat ashamed of the aspect of
affairs. Then, turning to Dora, she took the child from her
arms, and little Beatrice, looking at her with wondering eyes,
forgot to cry.

"You are not strong enough, Dora, to nurse this heavy child,"
said Miss Charteris. "Why do you not find some one to help you?"

"We can not afford it," said Ronald, gloomily.

"We spend too much in gloves and horses," added Dora, bitterly;
but no sooner were the words spoken than she would have given the
world to recall them.

Ronald made no reply, and Valentine, anxious to avert the storm
she had unwittingly raised, drew attention to the toys.

When Valentine left them, Dora and Ronald had their first quarrel
long and bitter. He could ill brook the insult her words
implied--spoken before Valentine, too!--and she for the first
time showed him how an undisciplined, untrained nature can throw
off the restraint of good manners and good breeding. It was a
quarrel never to be forgotten, when Ronald in the height of his
rage wished that he had never seen Dora, and she re-echoed the
wish. When such a quarrel takes place between man and wife, the
bloom and freshness are gone from love. They may be reconciled,
but they will never again be to each other what they once were.
A strong barrier is broken down, and nothing can be put in its

Chapter XIII

The angry, passionate words spoken by Ronald--almost the first
he had ever uttered--soon faded from his mind, but they rankled
like poisoned arrows in Dora's heart. She believed them. Before
evening her husband repented of his anger, and called himself a
coward for having scolded Dora. He went up to her and raised her
face to his.

"Little wife," He said, "we have both been wrong. I am very
sorry--let us make friends."

There was just a suspicion of sullenness in Dora's nature, and it
showed itself in full force now.

"It is no matter," she replied, coolly; "I knew long ago that you
were tired of me."

Ronald would not answer, lest they should quarrel again, but he
thought to himself that perhaps she was not far wrong.

From that day the breach between them widened. In after years
Dora saw how much she was to blame. She understood then how
distasteful her quiet, sullen reserve must have been to a high-
bred, fastidious man like Ronald. She did not see it then, but
nursed in her heart imaginary wrongs and injuries; and, above
all, she yielded to a wild, fierce jealousy of Valentine

For some weeks Miss Charteris saw the cloud deepening on Ronald's
face. He grew silent, and lost the flow of spirit that had once
seemed never to fail; and during the few weeks that followed, a
strong resolution grew in her mind. She was his true friend, and
she would try to restore peace and harmony between him and his
wife. She waited for some days, but at her mother's house it was
impossible to see him alone. Yet she honestly believed that, if
she could talk to him, remind him of his first love for Dora, of
her simplicity and many virtues, she might restore peace and
harmony to her old friend's house. She thought Ronald to blame.
He had voluntarily taken active duties upon himself, and to her
clearly, rightly judging mind, there was no earthly reason why he
should not fulfill them. He would not feel hurt at her speaking,
she felt sure, for he had voluntarily sought her aid years ago.
So Valentine waited day after day, hoping to find a chance for
those few words she thought would do so much good; but, as no
opportunity came, she resolved to make one. Taking her little
jeweled pencil, she wrote the following lines that were in after-
time a death warrant:

"Dear Mr. Earle,--I wish to speak to you particularly and
privately. I shall be in our grounds tomorrow morning about ten;
let me see you there before you enter the house. Your sincere
friend, Valentine Charteris."

All the world might have read the note--there was nothing wrong
in it--good intentions and a kindly heart dictated it, but it
worked fatal mischief. When Ronald was leaving her mother's
house, Miss Charteris openly placed the letter in his hands.

"This is the first note I have ever written to you," she said,
with a smile. "You must not refuse the request it contains."

"I will send him home happy tomorrow," she thought, "he is easily
influenced for good. He must make up the misunderstanding with
his pretty little wife--neither of them look happy."

Ronald did not open the letter until he reached home. Then he
read it with a half-consciousness of what Valentine wanted him

"She is a noble woman," he thought. "Her words made me brave
before--they will do me good again."

He left the folded paper upon the table in his studio; and
jealous little Dora, going in search of some work she had left,
found it there. She read it word by word, the color dying slowly
out of her face as she did so, and a bitter, deadly jealousy
piercing her heart like a two-edged sword. It confirmed her
worst fears, her darkest doubts. How dared this brilliant,
beautiful woman lure Ronald from her? How dared she rob her of
his love?

Ronald looked aghast at his wife's face as she re-entered the
sitting room. He had been playing with the children, and had
forgotten for the time both Valentine and her note. He cried out
in alarm as she turned her white, wild face to him in dumb,
silent despair.

"What is the matter, Dora?" he cried. "Are you ill or
frightened? You look like a ghost."

She made no reply, and her husband, thinking she had relapsed
into one of her little fits of temper, sighed heavily and bade
her good night.

Poor, foolish, jealous heart--she never lay down to rest!

She had quite resolved she would go and meet the husband who was
tired of her and the woman who lured him away. She would listen
to all they had to say, and then confront them. No thought of
the dishonor of such a proceeding struck her. Poor Dora was not
gifted with great refinement of feeling--she looked upon the
step she contemplated rather as a triumph over an enemy than a
degradation to herself. She knew the place in the grounds where
they should be sure to meet. Miss Charteris called it her bower;
it was a thick cluster of trees under the shade of which stood a
pretty, rustic seat; and Dora thought that, if she placed herself
behind the trees, she would be able to hear all unseen.

Before Ronald partook of breakfast, Dora had quitted the house on
her foolish errand. She knew the way to the house and the
entrance to the garden. She had no fear; even were she
discovered there, no one could surmise more than that she was
resting on her way to the house. She crouched behind the trees
and waited. It was wrong, weak, and wicked; but there was
something so pitiful in the white face full of anguish, that one
would hardly know whether to pity or blame her.

The sunshine reached her, the birds were singing in the trees,
the flowers were all blooming--she, in her sorrow and
desolation, heeded nothing. At length she saw them--Valentine
in her white morning dress, her beautiful face full of deep,
earnest emotion, and Ronald by her side. As she surmised, they
walked straight to the trees, and Valentine signed to Ronald to
take a seat by her side. Sweetly and clearly every word she
uttered sounded to Ronald, but they fell like drops of molten
lead on the jealous heart of Ronald's wife.

"You must try," Valentine was saying; "I used to think you would
be a hero. You are proving yourself a very weak and erring man."

Dora could not distinguish Ronald's words so plainly; he said
something about life and its mistakes.

"I told you once," said Valentine, "that the man who could endure
so bravely the consequences of his own actions was a true hero.
Grant the worst--that you have made a mistake. You must make
the best you can of it, and you are not doing that now."

"No," he said gravely. "I am very unhappy--more so than you can
imagine, Valentine. Life seems to have lost all its charms for
me. I had such great hopes once, but they are all dead now."

"You are too young to say that," she replied; "a little courage,
a little patience, and all will be well. If it comforts you to
know that my warmest, deepest sympathy is with you--"

Valentine Charteris never finished her sentence; a pale, angry
face and dark, gleaming eyes full of passion suddenly flashed
before her.

"You may spare your pity, Miss Charteris," cried a hoarse voice.
"Why have you made my husband dissatisfied with me? Why have you
taken his love from me? Why do you write notes asking him to
meet you, that you may both speak evil and wrong of his low-born

"Hush!" said Ronald, sternly, grasping her arm. "Stop those wild
words, Dora! Are you mad?"

"No, not yet," she cried; "but this false woman will drive me

Then Miss Charteris rose, her calm, grand face unruffled, not a
quiver on her proud lips.

"Stay, Miss Charteris, one moment, I pray you," said Ronald,
"while my wife apologizes for her folly."

"It is all true," cried Dora. "She wrote and asked you to meet
her here."

"Dora," said her husband, gravely, "did you read the letter Miss
Charteris wrote to me?"

"I did," she replied.

"And you deliberately came here to listen to what she had to say
to me?" he continued. "You deliberately listened to what you
were never intended to hear?"

His grave, stern dignity calmed her angry passion, and she looked
half-frightened into his quiet white face.

"Answer me!" he said. "Have you crouched behind those trees
deliberately and purposely to listen?

"Yes," she said; "and I would do so again if any one tried to
take my husband from me."

"Then may I be forgiven for the dishonor I have brought to my
name and race!" said Ronald. "May I be forgiven for thinking
such a woman fit to be my wife! Hear me," he continued, and the
passion in his voice changed to contempt: "Miss Charteris is your
friend; she asked me to meet her here that she might plead your
cause, Dora--that she might advise me to remain more at home
with you, to go less into society, to look more at the bright
side of our married life, and be a better husband than I have
been lately; it was for that she summoned me here."

"I--I do not believe it," sobbed his wife.

"That is at your option," he replied coolly. "Miss Charteris, I
should kneel to ask your pardon for the insults you have
received. If a man had uttered them, I would avenge them. The
woman who spoke them bears my name. I entreat your pardon."

"It is granted," she replied; "your wife must have been mad, or
she would have known I was her friend. I deeply regret that my
good intentions have resulted so unhappily. Forget my annoyance,
Mr. Earle, and forgive Dora; she could not have known what she
was saying."

"I forgive her," said Ronald; "but I never wish to look upon her
face again. I see nothing but dishonor there. My love died a
violent death ten minutes since. The woman so dead to all
delicacy, all honor as to listen and suspect will never more be
wife of mine."

"Be pitiful," said Valentine, for Dora was weeping bitterly now;
all her fire and passion, all her angry jealousy, had faded
before his wrath.

"I am pitiful," he replied. "Heaven knows I pity her. I pity
myself. We Earles love honorable women when we love at all. I
will escort you to your house, Miss Charteris, and then Mrs.
Earle and myself will make our arrangements."

In her sweet, womanly pity, Valentine bent down and kissed the
despairing face.

"Try to believe that you are wrong and mistaken, Mrs. Earle," she
said gently. "I had no thought save to be your friend."

They spoke no word as they passed through the pretty grounds.
Valentine was full of pity for her companion, and of regret for
her own share in that fatal morning's work.

When Ronald reached the cluster of trees again, Dora was not
there. Just at that moment he cared but little whither she had
gone. His vexation and sorrow seemed almost greater than he
could bear.

Chapter XIV

The passion and despair of that undisciplined heart were
something painful to see. Reason, sense, and honor, for a time
were all dead. If Dora could have stamped out the calm beauty of
Valentine's magnificent face, she would have done so. Ronald's
anger, his bitter contempt, stung her, until her whole heart and
soul were in angry revolt, until bitter thoughts raged like a
wild tempest within her. She could not see much harm in what she
had done; she did not quite see why reading her own husband's
letter, or listening to a private conversation of his was a
breach of honor. She thought but little at the time of what she
had done; her heart was full of anger against Ronald and
Valentine. She clasped her hands angrily after Mrs. Charteris
had kissed her, crying out that she was false, and had lured
Ronald from her. Any one passing her on the high-road would have
thought her mad, seeing the white face, the dark, gleaming eyes,
the rigid lips only opening for moans and cries that marred the
sweet silence. He should keep his word; never--come what might
never should he look upon her fair face again--the face he had
caressed so often and thought so fair. She would go away--he
was quite tired of her, and of her children, too. They would
tease him and intrude upon him no more. Let him go to the fair,
false woman, who had pretended to pity her.

The little nurse-maid, a simple peasant girl, looked on in mute
amazement when her mistress entered the room where the children

"Maria," she said, "I am going home, over the seas to England.
Will you come with me?"

The only thing poor Dora had learned during those quiet years was
a moderate share of Italian. The young nurse looked up in wonder
at the hard voice, usually soft as the cooing of a ring-dove.

"I will go," she replied, "if the signora will take me. I leave
none behind that I love."

With trembling, passionate hands and white, stern face, Dora
packed her trunks and boxes--the children's little wardrobe and
her own, throwing far from her every present, either of dress or
toys, that Valentine had brought.

She never delayed to look round and think of the happy hours
spent in those pretty rooms. She never thought of the young
lover who had given up all the world for her. All she remembered
was the wrathful husband who never wished to see her more--who,
in presence of another, had bitterly regretted having made her
his wife. She could not weep--the burning brain and jealous,
angry heart would have been better for that, but the dark eyes
were bright and full of strange, angry light. The little ones,
looking upon her, wept for fear. With eager, passionate love she
caught them in her arms, crying the while that they should never
remain to be despised as she was.

In the white-faced, angry woman, roused to the highest pitch of
passion, there was no trace of pretty, blushing Dora. Rapidly
were the boxes packed, corded, and addressed. Once during that
brief time Maria asked, "Where are you going, signora?" And the
hard voice answered, "To my father's--my own home in England."

When everything was ready, the wondering children dressed, and
the little maid waiting, Dora sat down at her husband's desk and
wrote the following lines. No tears fell upon them; her hand did
not tremble, the words were clear and firmly written:

"I have not waited for you to send me away. Your eyes shall not
be pained again by resting on the face where you read dishonor.
I saw months ago that you were tired of me. I am going to my
father's house, and my children I shall take with me--you care
no more for them than for me. They are mine--not yours. I
leave you with all you love in the world. I take all I love with
me. If you prayed for long years, I would never return to you
nor speak to you again."

She folded the note and addressed it to her husband. She left no
kiss warm from her lips upon it. As she passed forever from the
little villa, she never turned for one last look at its vine-clad

The gaunt, silent Italian servant who had lived with Dora since
the first day she reached Florence came to her in wonder and
alarm, barely recognizing her pretty, gentle mistress in the
pale, determined woman who looked like one brought to bay. To
her Dora spoke of the letter; it was to be given to her husband
as soon as he returned. Not one word did she utter in reply to
the woman's question. She hurried with the keen desperation of
despair, lest Ronald should return and find her still there.

Soon after noon, and while Ronald lingered with some friends upon
the steps of the Hotel d'Italia, his wife reached the busy
railway station at Florence. She had money enough to take her
home, but none to spare. She knew no rest; every moment seemed
like an age to her, until the train was in motion, and fair,
sunny Florence left far behind.

Without the stimulus of anger Dora would have shrunk in terror
from the thought of a long journey alone--she who had never been
without the escort of a kind and attentive husband. But no
prospect daunted her now--the wide seas, the dangers of rail and
road had no terror for her. She was flying in hot haste and
anger from one who had said before her rival that he never wished
to see her face again.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The sun shining so brightly on the waters of the Arno lingered
almost lovingly on the fair, quiet English landscape. Far down
in the fertile and beautiful county of Kent, where the broad
channel washes the shore, stands the pretty, almost unknown
village of Knutsford.

The world is full of beauty, every country has its share
Switzerland its snow-clad mountains, Germany its dark woods and
broad streams, France its sunny plains, Italy its "thousand
charms of Nature and Art;" but for quiet, tranquil loveliness,
for calm, fair beauty, looking always fresh from the mighty hand
that created it, there is nothing like English scenery.

The white cliffs of Knutsford, like "grand giants," ran along the
shore; there was a broad stretch of yellow sand, hidden when the
tide was in, shining and firm when it ebbed. The top of the
cliff was like a carpet of thick green grass and springing
heather. Far away, in the blue distance, one could see, of a
bright, sunny day, the outline of the French coast. The waves
rolled in, and broke upon the yellow sands; the sea-birds flew by
with busy wings, white sails gleamed in the sunshine.
Occasionally a large steamer passed; there was no sound save the
rich, never-changing music of Nature, the rush of wind and waves,
the grand, solemn anthem that the sea never tires of singing.

Far down the cliff ran the zigzag path that led to the village;
there was no sign of the sea on the other side of the white
rocks. There the green fields and pretty hop-gardens stretched
out far and wide, and the Farthinglow Woods formed a belt around
them. In the midst of a green, fertile valley stood the lovely
village of Knutsford. It had no regular street; there were a few
cottages, a few farm houses, a few little villas, one grand
mansion, three or four shops, and quiet homesteads with thatched
roofs and eaves of straw.

The prettiest and most compact little farm in the village was the
one where Stephen Thorne and his wife dwelt. It was called the
elms, a long avenue of elms leading to the little house and
skirting the broad green meadows. It was at a short distance
from the village, so quiet, so tranquil, that, living there, one
seemed out of the world.

Stephen Thorne and his wife were not rich. In spite of Lady
Earle's bounty, it was hard for them at times to make both ends
meet. Crops, even in that fair and fertile county, would fail,
cattle would die, rain would fall when it should not, and the sun
refuse to shine. But this year everything had gone on well; the
hay stood in great ricks in the farm yard, the golden corn waved
in the fields ripe and ready for the sickle, the cows and sheep
fed tranquilly in the meadows, and all things had prospered with
Stephen Thorne. One thing only weighed upon his heart--his wife
would have it that Dora's letters grew more and more sad; she
declared her child was unhappy, and he could not persuade her to
the contrary.

It was a fair August evening. Ah! How weak and feeble are the
words. Who could paint the golden flush of summer beauty that
lay over the meadows and corn fields--the hedge rows filled with
wild flowers, the long, thick grass studded with gay blossoms,
the calm, sullen silence only broken by the singing of the birds,
the lowing of cattle, the rustling of green leaves in the sweet
soft air?

Stephen Thorne had gone with his guest and visitor, Ralph Holt,
to fetch the cattle home. In Ralph's honor, good, motherly Mrs.
Thorne had laid out a beautiful tea--golden honey that seemed
just gathered from the flowers, ripe fruits, cream from the dairy
everything was ready; yet the farmer and his guest seemed long
in coming. She went to the door and looked across the meadows.
The quiet summer beauty stole like a spell over her.

Suddenly, down in the meadows, Mrs. Thorne caught sight of a lady
leading a little child by the hand. She was followed by a young
maid carrying another. As the lady drew nearer, Mrs. Thorne
stood transfixed and bewildered. Could the summer sun or the
flickering shade be mocking her? Was she dreaming or awake? Far
off still, through the summer haze, she saw a white, wan face;
dark eyes, shadowed and veiled, as though by long weeping; lips,
once rosy and smiling, rigid and firm. She saw what seemed to
her the sorrowful ghost of the pretty, blooming child that had
left her long ago. She tried to call out, but her voice failed
her. She tried to run forward and meet the figure coming slowly
through the meadows, but she was powerless to move. She never
heard the footsteps of her husband and his guest. She only
stirred when Stephen Thorne placed his hand upon her shoulder,
and in a loud, cheery voice, asked what ailed her.

"Look," she said, hoarsely, "look down the meadow there and tell
me--if that is Dora or Dora's ghost?"

She drew near more swiftly now, for she had seen the three
figures at the door. The white face and wild eyes seemed aflame
with anxiety.

"Dora, Dora!" cried Mrs. Thorne, "is it really you?"

"It is," said a faint, bitter voice. "I am come home, mother.
My heart is broken and I long to die."

They crowded around her, and Ralph Holt, with his strong arms,
carried the fragile, drooping figure into the house. They laid
her upon the little couch, and drew the curling rings of dark
hair back from her white face. Mrs. Thorne wept aloud, crying
out for her pretty Dora, her poor, unhappy child. The two men
stood watching her with grave, sad eyes. Ralph clenched his hand
as he gazed upon her, the wreck of the simple, gentle girl he had
loved so dearly.

"If he has wronged her," he said to Stephen Thorne, "if he has
broken her heart, and sent her home to die, let him beware!"

"I knew it would never prosper," groaned her father; "such
marriages never do."

When Dora opened her eyes, and saw the three anxious faces around
her, for a moment she was bewildered. They knew when the torture
of memory returned to her, for she clasped her hands with a low

"Dora," said her mother, "what has happened? Trust us, dear
child--we are your best friends. Where is your husband? And
why have you left him?"

"Because he has grown tired of me," she cried, with passion and
anger flaming again in her white, worn face. "I did something he
thought wrong, and he prayed to Heaven to pardon him for making
me his wife."

"What did you do?" asked her father, anxiously.

"Nothing that I thought wrong," she replied. "Ask me no
questions, father. I would rather die any death than return to
him or see him again. Yet do not think evil of him. It was all
a mistake. I could not think his thoughts or live his life--we
were quite different, and very unhappy. He never wishes to see
me again, and I will suffer anything rather than see him."

The farmer and his wife looked at each other in silent dismay.
This proud, angry woman and her passionate words frightened them.
Could it be their Dora, who had ever been sunshine and music to

"If you do not like to take me home, father," she said, in a hard
voice, "I can go elsewhere; nothing can surprise or grieve me

But kindly Mrs. Thorne had drawn the tired head to her.

"Do you not know, child," she said, gently, "that a mother's love
never fails?"

Ralph had raised the little one in his arms, and was looking with
wondering admiration at the proud, beautiful face of the little
Beatrice, and the fair loveliness of Lillian. The children
looked with frank, fearless eyes into his plain, honest face.

"This one with dark hair has the real Earle face," said Stephen
Thorne, proudly; "that is just my lord's look--proud and quiet.
And the little Lillian is something like Dora, when she was quite
a child."

"Never say that!" cried the young mother. "Let them grow like
any one else, but never like me!"

They soothed her with gentle, loving words. Her father said she
should share his home with her children, and he would never give
her up again. They bade her watch the little ones, who had
forgotten their fears, and laughed over the ripe fruit and golden
honey. They also drew aside the white curtain, and let her tired
eyes fall upon the sweet summer beauty of earth and sky. Was not
everything peaceful? The sun sinking in the west, the birds
singing their evening song, the flowers closing their bright
eyes, the wind whispering "good night" to the shimmering,
graceful elms--all was peace, and the hot, angry heart grew calm
and still. Bitter tears rose to the burning eyes--tears that
fell like rain, and seemed to take away the sharpest sting of her

With wise and tender thought they let Dora weep undisturbed. The
bitter sobbing ceased at last. Dora said farewell to her love.
She lay white and exhausted, but the anger and passion had died

"Let me live with you, father," she said, humbly. "I will serve
you, and obey you. I an content, more than content, with my own
home. But for my little children, let all be as it was years

When the little ones, like the flowers, had gone to sleep, and
Dora had gone into the pretty white room prepared for her, Ralph
rose to take his leave.

"Surely," said Thorne, "you are not leaving us. You promised to
stay a whole week."

"I know," said the young farmer; "but you have many to think for
now, Mr. Thorne. The time will come when the poor, wearied girl
sleeping above us will be Lady Earle. Her husband knew I loved
her. No shadow even of suspicion must rest upon her. While your
daughter remains under your roof, I shall not visit you again."

Dora's father knew the young man was right.

"Let me see the little ones sometimes," continued Ralph; "and if
large parcels of toys and books find their way to the Elms, you
will know who sent them. But I must not come in Dora's way; she
is no loner Dora Thorne."

As Stephen watched the young man walking quickly through the long
gray fields, he wished that Dora had never seen Ronald Earle.

Poor Dora's troubles were not yet ended. When the warm August
sun peeped into her room on the following morning, she did not
see it shine; when the children crept to her side and called for
mamma, she was deaf to their little voices. The tired head
tossed wearily to and fro, the burning eyes would not close. A
raging fever had her in its fierce clutches. When Mrs. Thorne,
alarmed by the children's cries, came in, Dora did not know her,
but cried out loudly that she was a false woman, who had lured
her husband from her.

They sent in all haste for aid; but the battle was long and
fierce. During the hours of delirium, Mrs. Thorne gleaned
sorrowfully some portions of her daughter's story. She cried out
incessantly against a fair woman--one Valentine--whom Ronald
loved--cried in scorn and anger. Frequently she was in a
garden, behind some trees; then confronting some one with flaming
eyes, sobbing that she did not believe it; then hiding her face
and crying out:

"He has ceased to love me--let me die!"


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