Wife in Name Only
Charlotte M. Braeme (Bertha M. Clay)
Part 1 out of 6
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[Transcriber's Note: There were several words that appeared to be
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marked, and the original spellings are at the end of the text.]
WIFE IN NAME ONLY
Charlotte M. Braeme
(Bertha M. Clay)
By The Same Author In Uniform Style
From Gloom to Sunlight
Her Only Sin
Lady Damer's Secret
The Squire's Darling
Her Mother's Sin
Wife in Name Only
Wedded and Parted
Shadow of a Sin
Wife in Name Only
It was the close Of an autumn day, and Dr. Stephen Letsom had been
standing for some time at his window watching the sun go down. It faded
slowly out of the western sky. There had been a golden flush with the
sunset which changed into crimson, then into purple, and finally into
dull gray tints that were forerunners of the shades of night. Dr.
Stephen Letsom had watched it with sad, watchful eyes. The leaves on the
trees had seemed to be dyed first in red, then in purple. The
chrysanthemums changed color with every phase of the sunset; there was a
wail in the autumn wind as though the trees and flowers were mourning
over their coming fate. There was something of sadness in the whole
aspect of nature.
The doctor evidently shared it. The face looking from the window was
anything but a cheerful one. Perhaps it was not the most judicious
manner in which the doctor could have spent his time--above all, if he
wished to give people an impression that he had a large practice. But
Dr. Letsom had ceased to be particular in the matter of appearances. He
was to all intents and purposes a disappointed man. Years before, when
his eyes were bright with the fires of youth, and hope was strong in his
heart, he had invested such money as he possessed in the purchase of a
practice at Castledene, and it had proved to be a failure--why, no one
Castledene was one of the prettiest little towns in Kent. It had a
town-hall, a market-place, a weekly market, and the remains of a fine
old castle; but it was principally distinguished for its races, a yearly
event which brought a great influx of visitors to the town. It was half
buried in foliage, surrounded by dense woods and green hills, with a
clear, swift river running by. The inhabitants were divided into three
distinct classes--the poor, who gained a scanty livelihood by working in
the fields, the shop-keepers, and the gentry, the latter class
consisting principally of old maids and widows, ladies of unblemished
gentility and limited means. Among the latter Dr. Letsom was not
popular. He had an unpleasant fashion of calling everything by its right
name. If a lady would take a little more stimulant than was good for her
he could not be persuaded to call her complaint "nervousness;" when
idleness and ennui preyed upon a languid frame, he had a startling habit
of rousing the patient by a mental cautery. The poor idolized him, but
the ladies pronounced him coarse, abrupt; and when ladies decide against
a doctor, fate frowns upon him.
How was he to get on in the world? Twenty years before he had thought
less of getting on than of the interests of science or of doing good;
now those ideas were gradually leaving him--life had become a stern
hand-to-hand fight with hard necessity. The poor seemed to be growing
poorer--the difficulty of getting a fee became greater--the ladies
seemed more and more determined to show their dislike and aversion.
Matters were growing desperate, thought Dr. Letsom on this autumn night,
as he stood watching the chrysanthemums and the fading light in the
western sky. Money was becoming a rare commodity with him. His
housekeeper, Mrs. Galbraith had long been evincing signs of great
discontent. She had not enough for her requirements--she wanted money
for a hundred different things, and the doctor had none to give her. The
curtains were worn and shabby, the carpets full of holes, the furniture,
though clean and well preserved, was totally insufficient. In vain the
doctor assured her he had not the means; after the fashion of
weak-minded women, she grumbled incessantly. On this night he felt
overwhelmed with cares. The rent due the preceding June had not been
paid; the gas and coal accounts were still unsettled; the butcher had
sent in his "little bill;" the baker had looked anything but pleased at
the non-payment of his. The doctor sadly wanted a new hat--and he had
hardly money in hand for the week's expenses. What was to be done?
Mrs. Galbraith retired to rest in a very aggrieved state of mind, and
the doctor stood watching the stars, as they came out in the darkening
sky. He was tired of the struggle; life had not been a success with him;
he had worked hard, yet nothing had prospered. In youth he had loved a
bright, pretty girl, who had looked forward to becoming his wife; but he
had never married, because he had not had the means, and the pretty girl
died a disappointed woman. Now, as he watched the stars, he fancied them
shining on her grave; fancied the grass waving above her head; studded
with large white daisies; and he wished that he were lying by her side,
free from care, and at rest. Strong man as he was his eyes grew dim with
tears, and his lips trembled with a deep-drawn, bitter sob.
He was turning away, with a feeling of contempt for his own weakness,
when he was startled by the sound of a vehicle driven furiously down
Castle street. What vehicle could it be at that hour of the
night--nearly eleven? Stephen Letsom stood still and watched. He saw a
traveling carriage, with two horses, driven rapidly up to the door of
the principal hotel--the Castle Arms--and there stand for some few
minutes. It was too dark for him to see if any one alighted from it, or
what took place; but, after a time the horses' heads were turned, and
then, like a roll of thunder, came the noise of the carriage-wheels.
The vehicle drew up before his door, and the doctor stood for a few
moments as though paralyzed. Then came a violent peal of the doorbell;
and he knowing that Mrs. Galbraith had retired for the evening, went to
answer it. There indeed, in the starlight, were the handsome traveling
carriage, the pair of gray horses, and the postilion. Stephen Letsom
looked about him like one in a dream. He had been twenty years in the
place, yet no carriage had ever stopped at his door.
He heard a quick, impatient voice, saying:
"Are you the doctor--Dr. Letsom?"
Looking in the direction of the sound, the doctor saw a tall,
distinguished-looking man, wrapped in a traveling cloak--a man whose
face and manner indicated at once that he belonged to the upper ranks of
society. Dr. Stephen Letsom was quick to recognize that fact.
"I am the doctor," he replied, quietly.
"Then for Heaven's sake, help me! I am almost mad. My wife has been
suddenly taken ill, and I have been to the hotel, where they tell me
they have not a room in which they can lodge her. The thing is
incredible. You must help me."
"I will do what I can," returned the doctor.
Had fortune indeed knocked at his door at last?
He went to the carriage-door, and, looking inside, saw a lady, young and
beautiful, who stretched out her hands to him, as though appealing for
"I am very ill," she moaned, feebly.
Dr. Letsom guessed so much from her pallid face and shadowed eyes.
"What is the matter with your wife?" he asked of the strange gentleman,
who bent down and whispered something that made Dr. Letsom himself look
"Now doctor," said the traveler, "it is useless to raise objections You
see how the matter stands; my wife must stop here. The hotel is full of
visitors--people who are here for the races. There is nowhere else for
her to go--she must stay here."
"At my house?" interrogated the doctor. "It is impossible."
"Why?" asked the stranger, quickly.
"Because I am not married--I have no wife, no sister."
"But you have women-servants, surely?" was the hasty rejoinder.
"Only one, and she is not over-clever."
"You can get more. My wife must have help. Send all over the place--get
the best nurses, the best help possible. Do not study expense. I will
make you a rich man for life if you will only help me now."
"I will help you," said Dr. Letsom.
For a moment his thoughts flew to the green grave under the stars.
Riches would come too late, after all; they could not bring back life to
"Wait one moment," said the doctor; and he hastened to rouse his
housekeeper, who, curious and interested, exerted herself so as to
satisfy even the stranger.
Then the strange lady, all white and trembling, was helped down from the
parlor into the doctor's shabby little parlor.
"Am I going to die?" she asked, raising her large blue eyes to the
"Certainly not," he replied, promptly; "you must not think of dying."
"But I am very ill; and last night I dreamed that I was dead."
"Have you any brandy in the house?" asked the traveler. "See how my wife
Alas for the poor doctor! There was neither brandy nor wine. With an
impatient murmur, the stranger called the postilion and sent him to the
Castle arms with such an order as made Mrs. Galbraith open her eyes in
wonder. Than, without seeming to notice the doctor or his servant, he
flung himself on his knees by the lady's side, and kissed the beautiful
white face and colorless lips.
"My darling," he cried, "this is my fault. I ought not to have asked you
to undertake such a journey. Can you ever forgive me?"
She kissed him.
"You did all for the best, Hubert," she said, then adding, in a whisper:
"Do you think I shall die?"
Then the doctor thought it right to interpose.
"There is no question of death," he said; "but you must be quiet. You
must have no agitation--that would injure you."
Then he and Mrs. Galbraith led the beautiful, trembling girl to the
room which the latter had hastily prepared for her, and, when she was
installed therein, the doctor returned to the stranger, who was pacing,
with quick, impatient steps, up and down the little parlor.
"How is she?" he cried, eagerly.
The doctor shook his head.
"She is young and very nervous," he replied. "I had better tell you at
once that she will not be able to leave Castledene for a time--all
thought of continuing the journey must be abandoned."
"But she is in no danger?" cried the traveler, and Stephen Letsom saw an
agony of suspense in his face.
"No, she is not in danger; but she requires and must have both rest and
"She shall have anything, if Heaven will only spare her. Doctor, my best
and safest plan will be to make a friend of you, to confide in you, and
then we can arrange together what had better be done. Can you spare me
Stephen Letsom nodded assent, and sat down to listen to as strange a
story as he bad ever heard.
"I should imagine," said the strange gentleman, "that no man likes to
plead guilty to a folly. I must do so. Let me first of all introduce
myself to you as Lord Charlewood. I am the only son of the Earl of
Mountdean, and my father lies dying in Italy. I came of age only last
year, and at the same time I fell in love. Now I am not in any way
dependent on my father--the title and estate are entailed--but I love
him. In these degenerate days it seems perhaps strange to hear a son say
that he loves his father. I have obeyed him all my life from this
motive. I would give my life for him. But in one respect I have done
that which will cause him great annoyance and anger. I have married
without his knowledge."
The doctor looked up with greater interest; perhaps his thoughts
reverted to the grave in the starlight. Lord Charlewood moved uneasily
in his chair.
"I cannot say that I am sorry," he continued, "for I love my wife very
dearly; but I do wish now that I had been less hurried, less
precipitate. My wife's great loveliness must be my excuse. She is the
daughter of a poor curate, the Reverend Charles Trevor, who came two
years ago to supply temporarily the place of the Rector of Lynton. He
brought his daughter with him; and the first moment I saw her I fell in
love with her. My heart seemed to go out from me and cleave to her. I
loved her with what I can see now was the selfish ardor of a young man.
I had but one thought--to win her. I wrote to my father, who was in
Italy, and asked his consent. He refused it in the most decided manner,
and told me to think no more of what after all was but a boy's fancy. He
was then staying near the Lake of Como--staying for the benefit of his
health--and I went over to see him. I pleaded, prayed, urged my great
love--all in vain. The earl, my father, only laughed at me, and said all
young men suffered from the fever called love. I came back to England,
and found that Mr. Trevor was dead. Madaline, his daughter, was left
alone in the world. She raised her beautiful face to mine, poor child,
and tried to smile while she talked of going out into the world and of
working hard for her daily bread; and, as I listened, my love seemed to
grow stronger and deeper. I caught her in my arms, and swore that
nothing should part us--that, come what would, she must be my wife. She
was very unwilling--not that she did not love me, but because she was
afraid of making my father angry; that was her great objection. She knew
my love for him and his affection for me. She would not come between us.
It was in vain that I prayed her to do as I wished. After a time she
consented to a compromise--to marry me without my father's knowledge. It
was a folly, I own; now I see clearly its imprudence--then I imagined it
the safest and surest way. I persuaded her, as I had persuaded myself,
that, when my father once knew that we were married, he would forgive
us, and all would go well. We were married eleven mouths since, and I
have been so happy since then that it has seemed to me but a single day.
My beautiful young wife was frightened at the bold step we had taken,
but I soothed her. I did not take her home to Wood Lynton, but, laying
aside all the trappings of wealth and title, we have traveled from place
to place as Mr. and Mrs. Charlewood, enjoying our long honeymoon. If we
liked any one particular spot we remained in it. But a letter from Italy
came like a thunderbolt--my father had grown rapidly worse and wanted to
see me at once. If I had been content to go at once, all would have been
well. I could not endure that he should die without seeing, loving, and
blessing my wife Madaline. I told her my desire, and she consented most
cheerfully to accompany me. I ought to have known that--in her state of
health--traveling was most injurious; but I was neglectful of the
fact--I listened only to my heart's desire, that my father should see my
wife before he died. We started on our fatal journey--only this morning.
At first my wife seemed to enjoy it; and then I saw all the color fading
from her sweet face. I saw her lips grow white and tremble, and I became
alarmed. It was not until we reached Castledene that she gave in and
told me she could go no further. Still you say there is no danger, and
that you do not think she will die?"
"Danger? No, I see none. Life and death lie in the hands of One above
us; but, humanely speaking, I see no danger."
"Of course we cannot get on now," observed Lord Charlewood "at least
Lady Charlewood cannot. How long do you think my suspense will last?"
"Not much longer," was the calm reply. "By noon to-morrow all will be
safe and well, I hope."
"I must wait until then," said Lord Charlewood. "I could not leave my
wife while even the faintest shadow of danger lies over her. If all be
well, I can start the day after to-morrow; and, please Heaven, I shall
be in time to see my father. You think I shall have good news for him?"
"I have every hope that you will be able to tell him that the heir of
the Mountdeans is thriving and well."
Lord Charlewood smiled.
"Such news as that will more than reconcile him to our marriage," he
said. After a pause he continued: "It is a most unfortunate matter; yet
I am just as well pleased that my son and heir should be born in
England. Doctor, there is another thing I wish to say. I know perfectly
well what these little country towns are--everything is a source of
gossip and sensation. If it were known that such an incident as this had
happened to me, the papers would be filled with it; and it might fall
out that my father, the earl, would come to know of it before I myself
could tell him. We had better take all proper precautions against such a
thing. I should prefer that we be known here only as Mr. and Mrs.
Charlewood. No one will think of connecting the surname with the title."
"You are quite right," agreed the doctor.
"Another thing I wish to add is that I want you to spare no
expense--send for the best nurse, the best help it is possible to get.
Remember that I am a rich man, and that I would give my whole fortune,
my life itself a thousand times over, to save or to serve my wife."
Then came a summons for the doctor from the room above, and Lord
Charlewood was once more left alone. He was a young man, and was
certainly both a good and honorable one. He had never deliberately done
anything wicked--on the contrary he had tried always to do what was
best; yet, as he stood there, a strange sense of something wanting came
over him. The young wife he loved with such passionate worship was in
the hour of need, and he could render no assistance.
Later on a strange hush had fallen over the doctor's house. It was past
1 in the morning; the sky was overcast; the wind was moaning fitfully,
as though a storm was brewing in the autumn air. The dew lay thick and
heavy on the ground. Inside the house was the strange hush that
dangerous sickness always brings with it. The doctor had in haste
summoned the best nurse in Castledene, Hannah Furney, who shook her head
gravely when she saw the beautiful pale face. An hour passed, and again
Dr. Letsom sought his distinguished guest.
"I am sorry not to bring better news," he said. "Lady--Mrs
Charlewood--is not so well as I had hoped she would be. Dr. Evans is
considered very clever. I should like further advice. Shall I send for
The sudden flash of agony that came into Lord Charlewood's face was a
revelation to Dr. Letsom; he laid his hand with a gentle touch on the
"Do not fear the worst," he said. "She is in the hands of Heaven. I am
taking only ordinary precautions. I do not say she is in danger--I
merely say that she is not so well as I should like to see her."
Another hour passed, the church clock at Castledene was striking two,
and Dr. Evans had joined the grave-faced group around the sick woman's
bed. He, too, had looked with compassion on the beautiful young
face--he, too, had bent forward to listen to the whisper that parted the
"Am I going to die?" she asked.
He tried to smile and say something about hope; but Nurse Furney knew,
and she turned away lest the sick woman's questioning eyes should read
what her face betrayed.
Three o'clock struck. A sweet voice, abrupt and clear, broke the silence
of the solemn scene.
"Hubert. Where is Hubert? I must see him."
"Tell him to come," said Dr. Evans to Dr. Letsom, "but do not tell him
there is any danger."
A few minutes later Lord Charlewood stood by the side of his young wife.
"Hubert," she said to him, with outstretched hands, "Hubert, my husband,
I am so frightened. They do not tell me the truth. Am I going to die?"
He bent down to kiss her.
"Die, my darling? No, certainly not. You are going to live, to be what
you always have been, the dearest, sweetest wife in the world." And he
believed implicitly what he said.
Then came a strange sleep, half waking, half dreaming. Lady Charlewood
fancied that she was with her husband on the seashore, and that the
waves were coming in so fast that they threatened to drown her, they
were advancing in such great sheets of foam. Once more she clung to him,
"Help me, Hubert; I shall be drowned--see how the tide is coming in!"
Then the doctor bade him leave her--he must go down to the shabby,
lowly little room, where the gas was burning, and the early dawn of the
morning was coming in. The agony of unrest was on him. He thought how
useless was money, after all; here he was with thousands at his command,
yet he could not purchase help or safety for her whom his soul loved
best. He was helpless, he could do nothing to assist her; he could trust
only to Heaven.
He went from the window to the door; he trembled at the solemn silence,
the terrible hush; he longed for the full light of day. Suddenly he
heard a sound that stirred the very depths of his heart--that brought a
crimson flush to his face and tears to his eyes. It was the faint cry of
a little child. Presently he heard the footsteps of Dr. Letsom; and the
next minute the doctor was standing before him, with a grave look on his
"You have a little daughter," he said--"a beautiful little girl--but
your wife is in danger; you had better come and see her."
Even he--the doctor--accustomed to scenes of sorrow and desolation was
startled by the cry of pain that came from the young man's lips.
Five o'clock! The chimes had played the hour, the church clock had
struck; the laborers were going to the fields, the dairy-maids were
beginning their work; the sky had grown clear and blue, the long night
of agony was over. The Angel of Death had spread his wings over the
doctor's house, and awaited only the moment when his sword should fall.
Inside, the scene had hardly changed. The light of the lamp seemed to
have grown so ghostly that the nurse had turned it out, and, drawing the
blinds, let the faint morning light come in. It fell on the beautiful
face that had grown even whiter in the presence of death. Lady
Charlewood was dying; yet the feeble arms held the little child tightly.
She looked up as her husband entered the room. He had combated by a
strong effort all outward manifestations of despair.
"Hubert," whispered the sweet, faint voice, "see, this is our little
He bent down, but he could not see the child for the tears that filled
"Our little daughter," she repeated; "and they say, Hubert, that I have
given my life for hers. Is it true?"
He looked at the two doctors; he looked at the white face bearing the
solemn, serene impress of death. It would be cruel to deceive her now,
when the hands that caressed the little child were already growing
"Is it true, Hubert?" she repeated, a clear light shining in her dying
"Yes, my darling, it is true," he said, in a low voice.
"I am dying--really dying--when I have my baby and you?" she questioned.
"Oh, Hubert, is it really true?"
Nothing but his sobs answered her; dying as she was, all sweet, womanly
compassion awoke in her heart.
"Hubert," she whispered--"oh, my darling, if you could come with me!--I
want to see you kiss the baby while it lies here in my arms."
He bent down and kissed the tiny face, she watching him all the time.
"You will be very kind to her, darling, for my sake, because you have
loved me so much, and call her by my name--Madaline. Tell her about me
when she grows up--how young I was to die, how dearly I loved you, and
how I held her in my arms. You will not forget?"
"No," he said, gently; "I shall not forget."
The hapless young mother kissed the tiny rosebud face, all the passion
and anguish of her love shining in her dying eyes; and then the nurse
carried the babe away.
"Hubert," said Lady Charlewood, in a low, soft, whisper, "may I die in
your arms, darling?"
She laid her head on his breast, and looked at him with the sweet
content of a little child.
"I am so young," she said, gently, "to die--to leave you Hubert. I have
been so happy with you--I love you so much."
"Oh, my wife, my wife!" he groaned, "how am I to bear it?"
The white hands softly clasped his own.
"You will bear it in time," she said. "I know how you will miss me; but
you have the baby and your father--you will find enough to fill your
life. But you will always love me best--I know that, Hubert. My heart
feels so strange; it seems to stop, and then to beat slowly. Lay your
face on mine, darling."
He did just as she requested, whispering sweet, solemn words of comfort;
and then, beneath his own he felt her lips grow cold and still.
Presently he heard one long, deep-drawn sigh. Some one raised the sweet
head from his breast, and laid it back upon the pillow. He knew she was
He tried to bear it; he said to himself that he must be a man, that he
had to live for his child's sake. He tried to rise, but the strength of
his manhood failed him. With a cry never forgotten by those who heard
it, Lord Charlewood fell with his face on the ground.
Seven o'clock. The full light of day was shining in the solemn chamber;
the faint golden sunbeams touched the beautiful white face, so still and
solemn in death; the white hands were folded, and lay motionless on the
quiet heart. Kindly hands had brushed back the golden-brown hair; some
one had gathered purple chrysanthemums and laid them round the dead
woman, so that she looked like a marble bride on a bed of flowers. Death
wore no stern aspect there; the agony and the torture, the dread and
fear, were all forgotten; there was nothing but the sweet smile of one
at perfect rest.
They had not darkened the room, after the usual ghostly fashion--Stephen
Letsom would not have it so--but they had let in the fresh air and the
sunshine, and had placed autumn flowers in the vases. The baby had been
carried away--the kind-hearted nurse had charge of it. Dr. Evans had
gone home, haunted by the memory of the beautiful dead face. The birds
were singing in the morning sun; and Lord Charlewood, still crushed by
his great grief, lay on the couch in the little sitting-room where he
had spent so weary a night.
"I cannot believe it," he said, "or, believing, cannot realize it. Do
you mean to tell me, doctor, that she who only yesterday sat smiling by
my side, life of my life, soul of my soul, dearer to me than all the
world, has gone from me, and that I shall see her no more? I cannot, I
will not believe it! I shall hear her crying for me directly, or she
will come smiling into the room. Oh, Madaline, my wife, my wife!"
Stephen Letsom was too clever a man and too wise a doctor to make any
endeavor to stem such a torrent of grief. He knew that it must have its
way. He sat patiently listening, speaking when he thought a word would
be useful; and Lord Charlewood never knew how much he owed to his kind,
Presently he went up to look at his wife, and, kneeling by her side,
nature's great comforter came to him. He wept as though his heart would
break--tears that eased the burning brain, and lightened the heavy
heart. Dr. Letsom was a skillful, kindly man; he let the tears flow, and
made no effort to stop them. Then, after a time, disguised in a glass of
wine, he administered a sleeping potion, which soon took effect. He
looked with infinite pity on the tired face. What a storm, a tempest of
grief had this man passed through!
"It will be kinder and better to let him sleep the day and night
through, if he can," said Stephen to himself. "He would be too ill to
attend to any business even if he were awake."
So through the silent hours of the day Lord Charlewood slept, and the
story spread from house to house, until the little town rang with
it--the story of the travelers, the young husband and wife, who, finding
no room at the hotel, had gone to the doctors, where the poor lady had
died. Deep sympathy and pity were felt and expressed; kind-hearted
mothers wept over the babe; some few were allowed to enter the solemn
death chamber; and these went away haunted, as Dr. Evans was, by the
memory of the lovely dead face. Through it all Lord Charlewood slept the
heavy sleep of exhaustion and fatigue, and it was the greatest mercy
that could have befallen him.
The hour of wakening was to come--Stephen Letsom never forgot it. The
bereaved man was frantic in his grief, mad with the sense of his loss.
Then the doctor, knowing how one great sorrow counteracts another, spoke
of his father, reminding him that if he wished to see him alive he must
take some little care of himself.
"I shall not leave her!" cried Lord Charlewood. "Living or dead, she is
dearer than all the world to me--I shall not leave her!"
"Nor do I wish you to do so," said the doctor. "I know you are a strong
man--I believe you to be a brave one; in grief of this kind the first
great thing is to regain self-control. Try to regain yours, and then you
will see for yourself what had better be done."
Lord Charlewood discerned the truth.
"Have patience with me," he said, "a little longer; the blow is so
sudden, so terrible, I cannot yet realize what the world is without
A few hours passed, and the self-control he had struggled for was his.
He sent for Dr. Letsom.
"I have been thinking over what is best," he said, "and have decided on
all my plans. Have you leisure to discuss them with me?"
The question seemed almost ironical to the doctor, who had so much more
time to spare than he cared to have. He sat down by Lord Charlewood's
side, and they held together the conversation that led to such strange
"I should not like a cold, stone grave for my beautiful wife," said Lord
Charlewood. "She was so fair, so _spirituelle_, she loved all nature so
dearly; she loved the flowers, trees, and the free fresh air of heaven.
Let her be where she can have them all now."
The doctor looked up with mild reproach in his eyes.
"She has something far better than the flowers of this world," he said.
"If ever a dead face told of rest and peace, hers does; I have never
seen such a smile on any other."
"I should like to find her a grave where the sun shines and the dew
falls," observed Lord Charlewood--"where grass and flowers grow and
birds sing in the trees overhead. She would not seem so far away from me
"You can find many such graves in the pretty church-yard here in
Castledene," said the doctor.
"In time to come," continued Lord Charlewood, "she shall have the
grandest marble monument that can be raised, but now a plain white cross
will be sufficient, with her name, Madaline Charlewood; and, doctor,
while I am away you will have the grave attended to--kept bright with
flowers--tended as for some one that you loved."
Then they went out together to the green church-yard at the foot of the
hill, so quiet, so peaceful, so calm, and serene, that death seemed
robbed of half its terrors; white daisies and golden buttercups studded
it, the dense foliage of tall lime-trees rippled above it. The graves
were covered with richly-hued autumn flowers; all was sweet, calm,
restful. There was none of earth's fever here. The tall gray spire of
the church rose toward, the clear blue sky.
Lord Charlewood stood looking around him in silence.
"I have seen such a scene in pictures," he said. "I have read of such in
poems, but it is the first I have really beheld. If my darling could
have chosen for herself, she would have preferred to rest here."
On the western slope, where the warmest and brightest sun beams lay,
under the shade of the rippling lime-trees, they laid Lady Charlewood to
rest. For long years afterward the young husband was to carry with him
the memory of that green grassy grave. A plain white cross bore for the
present her name; it said simply:
In Loving Memory of
who died in her 20th year.
ERECTED BY HER SORROWING HUSBAND.
"When I give her the monument she deserves," he said. "I can add no
They speak of that funeral to this day in Castledene--of the sad, tragic
story, the fair young mother's death, the husband's wild despair. They
tell how the beautiful stranger was buried when the sun shone and the
birds sang--how solemnly the church-bell tolled, each knell seeming to
cleave the clear sunlit air--how the sorrowing young husband, so
suddenly and so terribly bereft, walked first, the chief mourner in the
sad procession; they tell how white his face was, and how at each toll
of the solemn bell he winced as though some one had struck him a
terrible blow--how he tried hard to control himself, but how at the
grave, when she was hidden forever from his sight, he stretched out his
hands, crying, "Madaline, Madaline!" and how for the remainder of that
day he shut himself up alone, refusing to hear the sound of a voice, to
look at a human face--refusing food, comfort, grieving like one who has
no hope for the love he had lost. All Castledene grieved with him; it
seemed as though death and sorrow had entered every house.
Then came the morrow, when he had to look his life in the face
again--life that he found so bitter without Madaline. He began to
remember his father, who, lying sick unto death, craved for his
presence. He could do no more for Madaline; all his grief, his tears,
his bitter sorrow, were useless; he could not bring her back; he was
powerless where she was concerned. But with regard to his father matters
were different--to him he could take comfort, healing, and consolation.
So it was decided that he should at once continue his broken journey.
What of little Madaline, the child who had her dead mother's large blue
eyes and golden hair? Again Lord Charlewood and the doctor sat in solemn
conclave; this time the fate of the little one hung in the balance.
Lord Charlewood said that if he found his father still weak and ill, he
should keep the secret of his marriage. Of course, if Madaline had
lived, all would have been different--he would have proudly owned it
then. But she was dead. The child was so young and so feeble, it seemed
doubtful whether it would live. What need then to grieve the old earl by
the story of his folly and his disobedience? Let the secret remain.
Stephen Letsom quite agreed with him in this; no one knew better than
himself how dangerous was the telling of bad or disagreeable news to a
sick man. And then Lord Charlewood added:
"You have indeed been a friend in need to me, Dr. Letsom. Money can no
more repay such help as yours than can thanks; all my life I shall be
grateful to you. I am going now to Italy, and most probably shall remain
there until the earl, my father, grows better, or the end comes. When I
return to England, my first care shall be to forward your views and
prospects in life; until then I want you to take charge of my child."
Stephen Letsom looked up, with something like a smile.
"I shall be a rough nurse," he observed.
"You understand me," said Lord Charlewood. "You have lived here so long
that you know the place and every one in it, I have been thinking so
much of my little one. It would be absurd for me to take her to Italy;
and as, for my father's sake, I intend to keep my marriage a secret for
some time longer, I cannot send her to any of my own relatives or
friends. I think the best plan will be for you to find some healthy,
sensible woman, who would be nurse and foster-mother to her."
"That can easily be managed," remarked Stephen Letsom.
"Then you will have both child and nurse entirely under your own
control. You can superintend all arrangements made for the little one's
benefit. I have thought of offering to send you five hundred per annum,
from which you can pay what you think proper for the child. You can
purchase what is needful for her, and you will have an income for
yourself. That I beg you accept in return for the services you have
Dr. Letsom expressed his gratitude. He thanked Lord Charlewood and began
at once to look around for some one who would be a fitting person to
take care of little Madaline. Lord Charlewood had expressed a desire to
see all settled before leaving for Italy.
Among the doctor's patients was one who had interested him very
much--Margaret Dornham. She had been a lady's-maid. She was a pretty,
graceful woman, gentle and intelligent--worthy of a far better lot than
had fallen to her share. She ought to have married a well-to-do
tradesman, for whom she would have made a most suitable wife; but she
had given her love to a handsome ne'er do well, with whom she had never
had one moment of peace or happiness. Henry Dornham had never borne a
good character; he had a dark, handsome face--a certain kind of rich,
gypsy-like beauty--but no other qualifications. He was neither
industrious, nor honest, nor sober. His handsome face, his dark eyes,
and rich curling hair had won the heart of the pretty, graceful, gentle
lady's-maid, and she had married him--only to rue the day and hour in
which she had first seen him.
They lived in a picturesque little cottage called Ashwood, and there
Margaret Dornham passed through the greatest joy and greatest sorrow of
her life. Her little child, the one gleam of sunshine that her darkened
life had ever known, was born in the little cottage, and there it had
Dr. Letsom, who was too abrupt for the ladies of Castledene, had watched
with the greatest and most untiring care over the fragile life of that
little child. He had exerted his utmost skill in order to save it. But
all was in vain; and on the very day that Lord Charlewood arrived at
Castledene the child died.
When a tender nurse and foster-mother was needed for little Madaline,
the doctor thought of Margaret Dornham. He felt that all difficulty was
at an end. He sent for her. Even Lord Charlewood looked with interest at
the graceful, timid woman, whose fair young face was so deeply marked
with lines of care.
"Will I take charge of a little child?" she replied to the doctor's
question. "Indeed I will, and thank Heaven for sending me something to
keep my heart from breaking."
"You feel the loss of your own little one very keenly?" said Lord
"Feel it, sir? All the heart I have lies in my baby's grave."
"You must give a little of it to mine, since Heaven has taken its own
mother," he said, gently. "I am not going to try flu bribe you with
money--money does not buy the love and care of good women like you--but
I ask you, for the love you bore to your own child, to be kind to mine.
Try to think, if you can, that it is your own child brought back to
"I will," she promised, and she kept her word.
"You will spare neither expense nor trouble," he continued, "and when I
return you shall be most richly recompensed. If all goes well, and the
little one prospers with you, I shall leave her with you for two or
three years at least. You have been a lady's-maid, the doctor tells me.
In what families have you lived?"
"Principally with Lady L'Estrange, of Verdun Royal, sir," she replied.
"I left because Miss L'Estrange was growing up, and my lady wished to
have a French maid."
In after years he thought how strange it was that he should have asked
"I want you," said Lord Charlewood, "to devote yourself entirely to the
little one; you will be so liberally paid as not to need work of any
other kind. I am going abroad, but I leave Dr. Letsom as the guardian of
the child; apply to him for everything you want, as you will not be able
to communicate with me."
He watched her as she took the child in her arms. He was satisfied when
he saw the light that came into her face: he knew that little Madaline
would be well cared for. He placed a bank note for fifty pounds in the
"Buy all that is needful for the little one," he said.
In all things Margaret Dornham promised obedience. One would have
thought she had found a great treasure. To her kindly, womanly heart,
the fact that she once more held a little child in her arms was a source
of the purest happiness The only drawback was when she reached home, and
her husband laughed coarsely at the sad little story.
"You have done a good day's work, Maggie," he said; "now I shall expect
you to keep me, and I shall take it easy."
He kept his word, and from that day made no further effort to earn any
"Maggie had enough for both," he said--"for both of them and that bit of
Faithful, patient Margaret never complained, and not even Dr. Letsom
knew how the suffering of her daily life had increased even though she
was comforted by the love of the little child.
Madaline slept in her grave--her child was safe and happy with the
kindly, tender woman who was to supply its mother's place. Then Lord
Charlewood prepared to leave the place where he had suffered so
bitterly. The secret of his title had been well kept. No one dreamed
that the stranger whose visit to the little town had been such a sad one
was the son of one of England's earls. Charlewood did not strike any one
as being a very uncommon name. There was not the least suspicion as to
his real identity. People thought he must be rich; but that he was noble
also no one ever imagined.
Mary Galbraith, the doctor's housekeeper, thought a golden shower had
fallen over the house. Where there had been absolute poverty there was
now abundance. There were no more shabby curtains and threadbare
carpets--everything was new and comfortable. The doctor seemed to have
grown younger--relieved as he was from a killing weight of anxiety and
The day came when Lord Charlewood was to say good-by to his little
daughter, and the friends who had been friends indeed. Margaret Dornham
was sent for. When she arrived the two gentlemen were in the parlor, and
she was shown in to them. Every detail of that interview was impressed
on Margaret's mind. The table was strewn with papers, and Lord
Charlewood taking some in his hand, said:
"You should have a safe place for those doctor. Strange events happen in
life. They might possibly be required some day as evidences of
"Not much fear of that," returned the doctor, with a smile. "Still, as
you say, it is best to be cautious."
"Here is the first--you may as well keep it with the rest," said Lord
Charlewood; "it is a copy of my marriage certificate. Then you have here
the certificates of my little daughter's birth and of my poor wife's
death. Now we will add to these a signed agreement between you and
myself for the sum I have spoken about."
Rapidly enough Lord Charlewood filled up another paper, which was signed
by the doctor and himself; then Stephen Letsom gathered them all
together. Margaret Dornham saw him take from the sideboard a plain oaken
box bound in brass, and lock the papers in it.
"There will be no difficulty about the little lady's identification
while this lasts," he said, "and the papers remain undestroyed."
She could not account for the impulse that led her to watch him so
closely, while she wondered what the papers could be worth.
Then both gentlemen turned their attention from the box to the child.
Lord Charlewood would be leaving directly, and it would be the last time
that he, at least, could see the little one. There was all a woman's
love in his heart and in his face, as he bent down to kiss it and say
"In three years' time, when I come back again," he said, "she will be
three years old--she will walk and talk. You must teach her to say my
name, Mrs. Dornham, and teach her to love me."
Then he bade farewell to the doctor who had been so kind a friend to
him, leaving something in his hand which made his heart light for many a
long day afterward.
"I am a bad correspondent, Dr. Letsom," he said; "I never write many
letters--but you may rely upon hearing from me every six months. I shall
send you half-yearly checks--and you may expect me in three years from
this at latest; then my little Madaline will be of a manageable age, and
I can take her to Wood Lynton."
So they parted, the two who had been so strangely brought
together--parted with a sense of liking and trust common among
Englishmen who feel more than they express. Lord Charlewood looked round
him as he left the town.
"How little I thought," he said, "that I should leave my dead wife and
living child here! It was a town so strange to me that I hardly even
knew its name."
On arriving at his destination, to his great joy, and somewhat to his
surprise, Lord Charlewood found that his father was better; he had been
afraid of finding him dead. The old man's joy on seeing his son again
was almost pitiful in its excess--he held his hands in his.
"My son--my only son! why did you not come sooner?" he asked. "I have
longed so for you. You have brought life and healing with you; I shall
live years longer now that I have you again."
And in the first excitement of such happiness Lord Charlewood did not
dare to tell his father the mournful story of his marriage and of his
young wife's untimely death. Then the doctors told him that the old earl
might live for some few years longer, but that he would require the
greatest care; he had certainly heart-disease, and any sudden
excitement, any great anxiety, any cause of trouble might kill him at
once. Knowing this Lord Charlewood did not dare to tell his secret; it
would have been plunging his father into danger uselessly; besides which
the telling of it was useless now--his beautiful wife was dead, and the
child too young to be recognized or made of consequence. So he devoted
himself to the earl, having decided in his own mind what steps to take.
If the earl lived until little Madaline reached her third year, then he
would tell him his secret; the child would be pretty and graceful--she
would, in all probability, win his love. He could not let it go on
longer than that. Madaline could not remain unknown and uncared for in
that little county town; it was not to be thought of. Therefore, if his
father lived, and all went well, he would tell his story then; if, on
the contrary, his health failed, then he would keep his secret
altogether, and his father would never know that he had disobeyed him.
There was a wonderful affection between this father and son. The earl
was the first to notice the change that had come over his bright,
handsome boy; the music had all gone from his voice, the ring from his
laughter, the light from his face. Presently he observed the deep
"Hubert," he asked, suddenly, "for whom are you in mourning?"
Lord Charlewood's face flushed. For one moment he felt tempted to
"For my beloved wife whom Heaven has taken from me."
But he remembered the probable consequence of such a shock to his
father, and replied, quietly:
"For one of my friends, father--one whom you did not know." And Lord
Mountdean did not suspect.
Another time the old earl placed his arm round his son's neck.
"How I wish, Hubert," he said, "that your mother had lived to see you a
grown man! I think--do not laugh at me, my son--I think yours is perfect
manhood; you please me infinitely."
Lord Charlewood smiled at the simple, loving praise.
"I have a woman's pride in your handsome face and tall, stately figure.
How glad I am, my son, that no cloud has ever come between us! You have
been the best of sons to me. When I die you can say to yourself that you
have never once in all your life given me one moment's pain. How pleased
I am that you gave up that foolish marriage for my sake! You would not
have been happy. Heaven never blesses such marriages."
He little knew that each word was as a dagger to his son's heart.
"After you had left me and had gone back to England," he continued, "I
used to wonder if I had done wisely or well in refusing you your heart's
desire; now I know that I did well, for unequal marriages never prosper.
She, the girl you loved, may have been very beautiful, but you would
never have been happy with her."
"Hush, father!" said Lord Charlewood, gently. "We will not speak of
"Does it still pain you? tell me, my son," cried the earl.
"Not in the way you think," he replied.
"I would not pain you for the world--you know that, Hubert. But you must
not let that one unfortunate love affair prejudice you against marriage.
I should like to see you married, my son. I should like you to love some
noble, gentle lady whom I could call daughter; I should like to hold
your children in my arms, to hear the music of children's voices before
"Should you love my children so much, father?" he asked.
"Yes, more than I can tell you. You must marry, Hubert, and then, as far
as you are concerned, I shall not have a wish left unfulfilled."
There was hope then for his little Madaline--hope that in time she would
win the old earl's heart, and prevent his grieving over the unfortunate
marriage. For two years and a half the Earl of Mountdean lingered; the
fair Italian clime, the warmth, the sunshine, the flowers, all seemed to
join in giving him new life. For two years and a half he improved, so
that his son had begun to hope that he might return to England, and once
more see the home he loved so dearly--Wood Lynton; and, though during
this time his secret preyed upon him through every hour of every day,
causing him to long to tell his father, yet he controlled the longing,
because he would do nothing that might in the least degree retard his
recovery. Then, when the two years and a half had passed, and he began
to take counsel with himself how he could best break the intelligence,
the earl's health suddenly failed him, and he could not accomplish his
During this time he had every six months sent regular remittances to
England, and had received in return most encouraging letters about
little Madaline. She was growing strong and beautiful; she was healthy,
fair, and happy. She could say his name; she could sing little
baby-songs. Once, the doctor cut a long golden-brown curl from her
little head and sent it to him; but when he received it the earl lay
dying, and the son could not show his father his little child's hair. He
died as he had lived, loving and trusting his son, clasping his hand to
the last, and murmuring sweet and tender words to him. Lord Charlewood's
heart smote him as he listened, he had not merited such implicit faith
"Father," he said, "listen for one moment! Can you hear me? I did marry
Madaline--I loved her so dearly, I could not help it--I married her; and
she died one year afterward. But she left me a little daughter. Can you
hear me, father?"
No gleam of light came into the dying eyes, no consciousness into the
quiet face; the earl did not hear. When, at last, his son had made up
his mind to reveal his secret, it was too late for his father to
hear--and he died without knowing it. He died, and was brought back to
England, and buried with great pomp and magnificence; and then his son
reigned in his stead, and became Earl of Mountdean. The first thing that
he did after his father's funeral was to go down to Castledene; he had
made all arrangements for bringing his daughter and heiress home. He was
longing most impatiently to see her; but when he reached the little town
a shock of surprise awaited him that almost cost him his life.
Dr. Letsom had prospered; one gleam of good fortune had brought with it
a sudden outburst of sunshine. The doctor had left his little house in
Castle street, and had taken a pretty villa just outside Castledene. He
had furnished it nicely--white lace curtains were no longer an
unattainable luxury; no house in the town looked so clean, so bright, or
so pretty as the doctor's People began to look up to him; it was rumored
that he had had money left to him--a fortune that rendered him
independent of his practice. No sooner was that quite understood than
people began to find out that after all he was a very clever man. No
sooner did they feel quite convinced that he was indifferent about his
practice than they at once appreciated his services; what had been
called abruptness now became truth and sincerity He was declared to be
like Dr. Abernethy--wonderfully clever, though slightly brusque in
manner. Patients began to admire him; one or two instances of wonderful
cures were noted in his favor; the world, true to itself, true to its
own maxims, began to respect him when it was believed that he had good
fortune for his friend. In one year's time he had the best practice in
the town, the ladies found his manner so much improved.
He bore his good-fortune as he had borne his ill-fortune, with great
equanimity; it had come too late. If but a tithe of it had fallen to his
share twelve years earlier, he might have made the woman he loved so
dearly his wife. She might have been living--- loving happy, by his
side. Nothing could bring her back--the good-fortune had come all too
late; still he was grateful for it. It was pleasant to be able to pay
his bills when they became due, to be able to help his poorer neighbors,
to be able to afford for himself little luxuries such as he had long
been without. The greatest happiness he had now in life was his love for
little Madeline. The hold she had taken of him was marvelous from the
first moment she held out her baby-hands until the last in which he saw
her she was his one dream of delight. At first he had visited Ashwood as
a matter of duty; but, as time passed on those visits became his dearest
pleasures. The child began to know him, her lovely little face to
brighten for him; she had no fear of him, but would sit on his knee and
lisp her pretty stories and sing her pretty songs until he was fairly
Madaline was a lovely child. She had a beautiful head and face, and a
figure exquisitely molded. Her smiles were like sunshine; her hair had
in it threads of gold; her eyes were of the deep blue that one sees in
summer. It was not only her great loveliness, but there was about her a
wonderful charm, a fascination, that no one could resist.
Dr. Letsom loved the child. She sat on his knee and talked to him, until
the whole face of the earth seemed changed to him. Besides his great
love for the little Madaline, he became interested in the story of
Margaret Dornham's life--in her love for the handsome, reckless
ne'er-do-well who had given up work as a failure--in her wonderful
patience, for she never complained--in her sublime heroism, for she bore
all as a martyr. He heard how Henry Dornham was often seen
intoxicated--heard that he was abusive, violent. He went afterward to
the cottage, and saw bruises on his wife's delicate arms and hands--dark
cruel marks on her face; but by neither word nor look did she ever
betray her husband. Watching that silent, heroic life, he became
interested in her. More than once he tried to speak to her about her
husband--to see if anything could be done to reclaim him. She knew that
all efforts were in vain--there was no good in him; still more she knew
now that there never had been such good as she had hoped and believed.
Another thing pleased and interested the doctor--it was Margaret
Dornham's passionate love for her foster child. All the love that she
would have lavished on her husband, all the love that she would have
given to her own child, all the repressed affection and buried
tenderness of heart were given to this little one. It was touching
pitiful, sad, to see how she worshiped her.
"What shall I do when the three years are over, and her father comes to
claim her?" she would say to the doctor. "I shall never be able to part
with her. Sometimes I think I shall run away with her and hide her."
How little she dreamed that there was a prophecy in the words!
"Her father has the first claim," said Dr. Letsom. "It may be hard for
us to lose her, but she belongs to him."
"He will never love her as I do," observed Margaret Dornham.
Of the real rank and position of that father she had not the faintest
suspicion. He had money, she knew; but that was all she knew--and money
to a woman whose heart hungers for love seems very little.
"There is something almost terrible in the love of that woman for that
child," thought the doctor. "She is good, earnest, tender, true, by
nature; but she is capable of anything for the little one's sake."
So the two years and a half passed, and the child, with her delicate,
marvelous grace, had become the very light of those two lonely lives. In
another six months they would have to lose her. Dr. Letsom knew very
well that if the earl were still living at the end of the three years
his son would tell him of his marriage.
On a bright, sunshiny day in June the doctor walked over to Ashwood. He
had a little packet of fruit and cakes with him, and a wonderful doll,
dressed most royally.
"Madaline!" he cried, as he entered the cottage, and she came running to
him, "should you like a drive with me to-morrow?" he asked. "I am going
to Corfell, and I will promise to take you if you will be a good girl."
She promised--for a drive with the doctor was her greatest earthly
"Bring her to my house about three to-morrow afternoon, Mrs. Dornham,"
said Dr. Letsom, "and she shall have her drive."
Margaret promised. When the time came she took the little one, dressed
in her pretty white frock; and as they sat in the drawing-room, the
doctor was brought home to his house--dead.
It was such a simple yet terrible accident that had killed him. A poor
man had been injured by a kick from a horse. For want of better
accommodation, he had been carried up into a loft over a stable, where
the doctor attended him. In the loft was an open trap-door, through
which trusses of hay and straw were raised and lowered. No one warned
Dr. Letsom about it. The aperture was covered with straw, and he,
walking quickly across, fell through. There was but one comfort--he did
not suffer long. His death was instantaneous; and on the bright June
afternoon when he was to have taken little Madaline for a drive, he was
carried home, through the sunlit streets, dead.
Margaret Dornham and the little child sat waiting for him when the sad
procession stopped at the door.
"The doctor is dead!" was the cry from one to another.
A terrible pain shot through Margaret's head. Dead! The kindly man, who
had been her only friend, dead! Then perhaps the child would be taken
from her, and she should see it no more!
An impulse, for which she could hardly account, and for which she was
hardly responsible, seized her. She must have the box that contained the
papers, lest, finding the papers, people should rob her of the child.
Quick as thought, she seized the box--which always stood on a bracket in
the drawing-room--and hid it under her shawl. To the end of her life she
was puzzled as to why she had done this. It would not be missed, she
knew, in the confusion that was likely to ensue. She felt sure, also,
that no one, save herself and the child's father, knew of its contents.
She did not wait long in that scene of confusion and sorrow. Clasping
the child in her arms, lest she should see the dead face, Margaret
Dornham hurried back to the cottage, bearing with her the proofs of the
The doctor was buried, and with him all trace of the child seemed lost.
Careful search was made in his house for any letters that might concern
her, that might give her father's address; but Stephen Letsom had been
faithful to his promise--he had kept the secret. There was nothing that
could give the least clew. There were no letters, no memoranda; and,
after a time, people came to the conclusion that it would be better to
let the child remain where she was, for her father would be sure in time
to hear of the doctor's death and to claim her.
So September came, with its glory of autumn leaves. Just three years had
elapsed since Lady Charlewood had died; and then the great trouble of
her life came to Margaret Dornham.
On the day after Dr. Letsom's death, Margaret Dornham's husband was
apprehended on a charge of poaching and aiding in a dangerous assault on
Lord Turton's gamekeepers. Bail was refused for him, but at the trial he
was acquitted for want of evidence. Every one knew he was guilty. He
made no great effort to conceal it. But he defied the whole legal power
of England to prove him guilty. He employed clever counsel, and the
result was his acquittal. He was free; but the prison brand was on him,
and his wife felt that she could not endure the disgrace.
"I shall go from bad to worse now, Maggie," he said to her. "I do not
find prison so bad, nor yet difficult to bear; if ever I Bee by any
lucky hit I can make myself a rich man, I shall not mind a few years in
jail as the price. A forgery, or something of that kind, or the robbery
of a well-stocked bank, will be henceforward my highest aim in life."
She placed her hand on his lips and prayed him for Heaven's sake to be
silent. He only laughed.
"Nature never intended me to work--she did not indeed, Maggie. My
fellow-men must keep me; they keep others far less deserving."
From that moment she knew no peace or rest. He would keep his word; he
would look upon crime as a source of profit; he would watch his
opportunity of wrong-doing, and seize it When it came.
In the anguish of her heart she cried aloud that it must not be at Ash
wood; anywhere else, in any other spot, but not there, where she had
been known in the pride of her fair young life--not there, where people
had warned her not to marry the handsome reckless, ne'er-do-well, and
had prophesied such terrible evil for her if she did marry him--not
there, where earth was so fair, where all nature told of innocence and
purity. If he must sin, let it be far away in large cities where the
ways of men were evil.
She decided on leaving Ashwood. Another and perhaps even stronger motive
that influenced her was her passionate love for the child; that was her
one hope in life, her one sheet-anchor, the one thing that preserved her
from the utter madness of desolation.
The three years had almost elapsed; the doctor was dead, and had left
nothing behind him that could give any clew to Madaline's identity, and
in a short time--she trembled to think how short--the father would come
to claim his child, and she would lose her. When she thought of that,
Margaret Dornham clung to the little one in a passion of despair. She
would go away and take Madaline with her--keep her where she could love
her--where she could bring her up as her own child, and lavish all the
warmth and devotion of her nature upon her. She never once thought that
in acting thus she was doing a selfish, a cruel deed--that she was
taking the child from her father, who of all people living had the
greatest claim upon her.
"He may have more money than I have," thought poor, mistaken Margaret,
"but he cannot love her so much; and after all love is better than
It was easy to manage her husband. She had said but little to him at the
time she undertook the charge of little Madaline, and he had been too
indifferent to make inquiries. She told him now, what was in some
measure quite true, that with the doctor's death her income had ceased,
and that she herself not only was perfectly ignorant of the child's real
name, but did not even know to whom to write. It was true, but she knew
at the same time that, if she would only open the box of papers, she
would not be ignorant of any one point; for those papers she had firmly
resolved never to touch, so that in saying she knew nothing of the
child's identity she would be speaking the bare truth.
At first Henry Dornham was indignant. The child should not be left a
burden and drag on his hands, he declared--it must go to the work-house.
But patient Margaret clasped her arms round his neck, and whispered to
him that the child was so clever, so pretty, she would be a gold-mine to
them in the future--only let them get away from Ashwood, and go to
London, where she could be well trained and taught. He laughed a
sneering laugh, for which, had he been any other than her husband, she
would have hated him.
"Not a bad plan, Maggie," he said; "then she can work to keep us. I,
myself, do not care where we go or what we do, so that no one asks me to
He was easily persuaded to say nothing about their removal, to go to
London without saying anything to his old friends and neighbors of their
intentions. Margaret knew well that so many were interested in the child
that she would not be allowed to take her away if her wish became known.
How long the little cottage at Ashwood had been empty no one knows. It
stood so entirely alone that for weeks together nothing was seen or
known of its inhabitants. Henry Dornham was missed from his haunts. His
friends and comrades wondered for a few days, and then forgot him; they
thought that in all probability he was engaged in some not very
The rector of Castledene--the Rev. John Darnley--was the first really to
miss them. He had always been interested in little Madaline. When he
heard from the shop keepers that Margaret had not been seen in the town
lately, he feared she was ill, and resolved to go and see her. His
astonishment was great when he found the cottage closed and the Dornhams
gone--the place had evidently been empty for some weeks. On inquiry he
found that the time of their departure and the place of their
destination was equally unknown. No one knew whither they had gone or
anything about them. Mr. Darnley was puzzled; it seemed to him very
strange that, after having lived in the place so long, Margaret Dornham
should have left without saying one word to any human being.
"There is a mystery in it," thought the rector. He never dreamed that
the cause of the mystery was the woman's passionate love for the child.
All Castledene wondered with him--indeed, for some days the little town
was all excitement. Margaret Dornham had disappeared with the child who
had been left in their midst. Every one seemed to be more or less
responsible for her; but neither wonder nor anything else gave them the
least clew as to whither or why she had gone. After a few day's earnest
discussion and inquiry the excitement died away, when a wonderful event
revived it. It was no other than the arrival of the new Earl of
Mountdean in search of his little girl.
This time the visitor did not take any pains to conceal his title. He
drove to the "Castle Arms," and from there went at once to the doctor's
house. He found it closed and empty. The first person he asked told him
that the doctor had been for some weeks dead and buried.
The young earl was terribly shocked. Dead and buried--the kindly man who
had befriended him in the hour of need! It seemed almost incredible. And
why had no one written to him? Still he remembered the address of his
child's foster-mother. It was Ashwood Cottage; and he went thither at
once. When he found that too closed and deserted, it seemed to him that
fortune was playing him a trick.
He was disconcerted; and then, believing that this at least was but a
case of removal, he decided upon going to the rector of the parish, whom
he well remembered. He surely would be able to give him all information.
Mr. Darnley looked up in wonder at the announcement of his visitor's
name--the Earl of Mountdean. What could the earl possibly want of him?
His wonder deepened as he recognized in the earl the stranger at the
burial of whose fair young wife he had assisted three years before. The
earl held out his hand.
"You are surprised to see me, Dr. Darnley? You recognize me, I
The rector contrived to say something about his surprise, but Lord
Mountdean interrupted him hastily:
"Yes, I understand. I was traveling as Mr. Charlewood when my terrible
misfortune overtook me here. I have returned from Italy, where I have
been spending the last three years. My father has just died, and I am
here in search of my child. My child," continued the earl, seeing the
rector's blank face--"where is she? I find my poor friend the doctor is
dead, and the house where my little one's foster-mother lived is empty.
Can you tell me what it means?"
He tried to speak calmly, but his handsome face had grown quite white,
his lips were dry and hot, his voice, even to himself, had a strange,
"Where is she?" he repeated. "The little one--my Madaline's child? I
have a strange feeling that all is not well. Where is my child?"
He saw the shadow deepen on the rector's face, and he clasped his arm.
"Where is she?" he cried. "You cannot mean that she is dead? Not dead,
surely? I have not seen her since I left her, a little, feeble baby; but
she has lived in my heart through all these weary years of exile. My
whole soul has hungered and thirsted for her. By night and by day I have
dreamed of her, always with Madaline's face. She has spoken sweet words
to me in my dreams, always in Madaline's voice. I must see her. I cannot
bear this suspense. You do not answer me. Can it be that she too is
"No, she is not dead," replied the rector. "I saw her two months since,
and she was then living--well, beautiful, and happy. No, the little one
is not dead."
"Then tell me, for pity's sake, where she is!" cried the earl, in an
agony of impatience.
"I cannot. Two months since I was at Ashwood Cottage Margaret Dornham's
worthless husband was in some great trouble. I went to console his wife;
and then I saw the little one. I held her in my arms, and thought, as I
looked at her, that I had never seen such a lovely face. Then I saw no
more of her; and my wonder was aroused on hearing some of the
tradespeople say that Mrs. Dornham had not been in town for some weeks.
I believed she was ill, and went to see. My wonder was as great as your
own at finding the house closed. Husband, wife, and child had
disappeared as though by magic from the place, leaving no clew or trace
The rector was almost alarmed at the effect of his words. The young earl
fell back in his chair, looking as though the shadow of death had fallen
It was but a child, the rector thought to himself, whom its father had
seen but a few times. He did not understand that to Lord Mountdean this
child--his dying wife's legacy--was the one object in life, that she was
all that remained to him of a love that had been dearer than life
itself. Commonplace words of comfort rose to his lips, but the earl did
not even hear them. He looked up suddenly, with a ghastly pallor still
on his face.
"How foolish I am to alarm myself so greatly!" he said. "Some one or
other will be sure to know whither the woman has gone. She may have had
some monetary trouble, and so have desired to keep her whereabouts a
secret; but some one or other will know. If she is in the world I will
find her. How foolish I am to be so terribly frightened! If the child
is living what have I to fear?"
But, though his words were brave and courageous, his hands trembled, and
the rector saw signs of great agitation. He rang for wine, but Lord
Mountdean could not take it--he could do nothing until he had found his
In few words he told the rector the story of his marriage.
"I thought," he said, "that I could not do better for the little one
than leave her here in the doctor's care."
"You were right," returned the rector; "the poor doctor's love for the
child was talked about everywhere. As for Margaret Dornham, I do not
think, if she had been her own, she could have loved her better.
Whatever else may have gone wrong, take my word for it, there was no
lack of love for the child; she could not have been better cared for--of
that I am quite sure."
"I am glad to hear you say so; that is some comfort. But why did no one
write to me when the doctor died?"
"I do not think he left one shred of paper containing any allusion to
your lordship. All his effects were claimed by some distant cousin, who
now lives in his house. I was asked to look over his papers, but there
was not a private memorandum among them--not one; there was nothing in
fact but receipted bills."
Lord Mountdean looked up.
"There must be some mistake," he observed. "I myself placed in his
charge all the papers necessary for the identification of my little
"May I ask of what they consisted?" said the rector.
"Certainly--the certificate of my marriage, of my beloved wife's death,
of my little daughter's birth, and an agreement between the doctor and
myself as to the sum that was to be paid to him yearly while he had
charge of my child."
"Then the doctor knew your name, title, and address?"
"Yes; I had no motive in keeping them secret, save that I did not wish
my marriage to be known to my father until I myself could tell him--and
I know how fast such news travels. I remember distinctly where he placed
the papers. I watched him."
"Where was it?" asked Mr. Darnley. "For I certainly have seen nothing of
"In a small oaken box with brass clasps, which stood on a sideboard. I
remember it as though it were yesterday."
"I have seen no such box," said the rector. "Our wisest plan will be to
go at once to the house where his cousin, Mr. Grey, resides, and see if
the article is in his possession. I am quite sure, though, that he would
have mentioned it if he had seen it."
Without a minute's delay they drove at once to the house, and found Mr.
Grey at home. He was surprised when he heard the name and rank of his
visitor, and above all when he understood his errand.
"A small oaken box with brass clasps?" he said. "No; I have nothing of
the kind in my possession; but, if your lordship will wait, I will have
a search made at once."
Every drawer, desk, and recess were examined in vain. There was no trace
of either the box or the papers.
"I have an inventory of everything the doctor's house contained--it was
taken the day after his death," said Mr. Grey; "we can look through
Item after item was most carefully perused. The list contained no
mention of a small oaken box. It was quite plain that box and papers had
"Could the doctor have given them into Mrs. Dornham's charge?" asked the
"No," replied the rector--"I should say certainly not. I am quite sure
that Mrs. Dornham did not even know the child's surname. I remember once
asking her about it; she said it was a long name, and that she could
never remember it. If she had had the papers, she would have read them.
I cannot think she holds them."
Then they went to visit Mrs. Galbraith, the doctor's housekeeper. She
had a distinct recollection of the box--it used to stand on the
sideboard, and a large-sized family Bible generally lay on the top of
it. How long it had been out of sight when the doctor died she did not
know, but she had never seen it since. Then they drove to the bank,
thinking that, perhaps, for greater security, he might have deposited it
there. No such thing had been heard of. Plainly enough, the papers had
disappeared; both the earl and the rector were puzzled.
"They can be of no possible use to any one but myself," said Lord
Mountdean. "Now that my poor father is dead and cannot be distressed
about it, I shall tell the whole world--if it cares to listen--the story
of my marriage. If I had wanted to keep that or the birth of my child a
secret, I could have understood the papers being stolen by one wishing
to trade with them. As it is, I cannot see that they are of the least
use to any one except myself."
They gave up the search at last, and then Lord Mountdean devoted himself
to the object--the finding of his child.
In a few days the story of his marriage was told by every newspaper in
the land; also the history of the strange disappearance of his child.
Large rewards were offered to any one who could bring the least
information. Not content with employing the best detective skill in
England, he conducted the search himself. He worked unwearyingly.
"A man, woman, and child could not possibly disappear from the face of
the earth without leaving some trace behind," he would say.
One little gleam of light came, which filled him with hope--they found
that Margaret Dornham had sold all her furniture to a broker living at a
town called Wrentford. She had sent for him herself, and had asked him
to purchase it, saying that she, with her husband, was going to live at
a distance, and that they did not care about taking it with them. He
remembered having asked her where she was going, but she evaded any
reply. He could tell no more. He showed what he had left of the
furniture and tears filled Lord Mountdean's eyes as he saw among it a
child's crib. He liberally rewarded the man, and then set to work with
renewed vigor to endeavor to find out Margaret Dornham's destination.
He went to the railway stations; and, though the only clew he succeeded
in obtaining was a very faint one, he had some reason for believing that
Margaret Dornham had gone to London.
In that vast city he continued the search, until it really seemed that
every inch of ground had been examined. It was all without
result--Margaret Dornham and her little foster-child seemed to have
"What can be the woman's motive?" the earl would cry, in despair. "Why
has she taken the child? What does she intend to do with it?"
It never occurred to him that her great, passionate love for the little
one was the sole motive for the deed she had done.
The papers were filled with appeals to Margaret Dornham to return to
Castledene, or to give some intelligence of her foster-child. The events
of the story were talked about everywhere; but, in spite of all that was
done and said, Lord Mountdean's heiress remained undiscovered. Months
grew into years, and the same mystery prevailed. The earl was desperate
at first--his anguish and sorrow were pitiful to witness; but after a
time he grew passive in his despair. He never relaxed in his efforts.
Every six months the advertisements with the offers of reward were
renewed; every six months the story was retold in the papers. It had
become one of the common topics of the day. People talked of the Earl of
Mountdean's daughter, of her strange disappearance, of the mysterious
silence that had fallen over her. Then, as the years passed on, it was
agreed that she would never be found, that she must be dead. The earl's
truest friends advised him to marry again. After years of bitter
disappointment, of anguish and suspense, of unutterable sorrow and
despair, he resigned himself to the entire loss of Madaline's child.
* * * * *
Nature had made Philippa L'Estrange beautiful, circumstances had helped
to make her proud. Her father, Lord L'Estrange, died when she was quite
a child, leaving her an enormous fortune that was quite under her own
control. Her mother, Lady L'Estrange, had but one idea in life, and that
was indulging her beautiful daughter in her every caprice. Proud,
beautiful, and wealthy, when she most needed her mother's care that
mother died, leaving her sole mistress of herself. She was but seventeen
then, and was known as one of the wealthiest heiresses and loveliest
girls of the day. Her first step was, in the opinion of the world, a
wise one; she sent for a widowed cousin, Lady Peters, to live with her
as chaperon. For the first year after her mother's death she remained at
Verdun Royal, the family estate. After one year given to retirement,
Philippa L'Estrange thought she had mourned for her mother after the
most exemplary fashion She was just nineteen when she took her place
again in the great world, one of its brightest ornaments.
An afternoon in London in May. The air was clear and fresh; there was in
it a faint breath of the budding chestnuts, the hawthorn and lilac; the
sun shone clear and bright, yet not too warmly.
On this afternoon Miss L'Estrange sat in the drawing-room of the
magnificent family mansion in Hyde Park. The whole world could not have
produced a more marvelous picture. The room itself was large, lofty,
well proportioned, and superbly furnished; the hangings were of
pale-rose silk and white lace the pictures and statues were gems of art,
a superb copy of the Venus of Milo gleaming white and shapely from
between the folds of rose silk, also a marble Flora, whose basket was
filled with purple heliotropes, and a Psyche that was in itself a dream
of beauty; the vases were filled with fairest and most fragrant flowers.
Nothing that art, taste, or luxury could suggest was wanting--the eye
reveled in beauty. Miss L'Estrange had refurnished the room in
accordance with her own ideas of the beautiful and artistic.
The long windows were opened, and through them one saw the rippling of
the rich green foliage in the park; the large iron balconies were filled
with flowers, fragrant mignonette, lemon-scented verbenas, purple
heliotropes, all growing in rich profusion. The spray of the little
scented fountain sparkled in the sun. Every one agreed that there was no
other room in London like the grand drawing-room at Verdun House.
There was something on that bright May afternoon more beautiful even
than the flowers, the fountains, the bright-plumaged birds in their
handsome cages, the white statues, or the pictures; that was the
mistress and queen of all this magnificence, Philippa L'Estrange. She
was reclining on a couch that had been sent from Paris--a couch made of
finest ebony, and covered with pale, rose-colored velvet. If Titian or
Velasquez had seen her as she lay there, the world would have been the
richer by an immortal work of art; Titian alone could have reproduced
those rich, marvelous colors; that perfect, queenly beauty. He would
have painted the picture, and the world would have raved about its
beauty. The dark masses of waving hair; the lovely face with its warm
Southern tints; the dark eyes lighted with fire and passion; the perfect
mouth with its proud, sweet, imperial, yet tender lips; the white,
dimpled chin; the head and face unrivaled in their glorious contour; the
straight, dark brows that could frown and yet soften as few other brows
could; the white neck, half hidden, half revealed by the coquettish
dress; the white rounded arms and beautiful hands--all would have struck
the master. Her dress fell round her in folds that would have charmed an
artist. It was of some rich, transparent material, the pale amber hue of
which enhanced her dark loveliness. The white arms were half shown, half
covered by rich lace--in the waves of her dark hair lay a yellow rose.
She looked like a woman whose smile could be fatal and dangerous as that
of a siren, who could be madly loved or madly hated, yet to whom no man
living could be indifferent.
She played for some few minutes with the rings on her fingers, smiling
to herself a soft, dreamy smile, as though her thoughts were very
pleasant ones; then she took up a volume of poems, read a few lines, and
then laid the book down again. The dark eyes, with a gleam of impatience
in them, wandered to the clock.
"How slowly those hands move!" she said.
"You are restless," observed a calm, low voice; "watching a clock always
makes time seem long."
"Ah, Lady Peters," said the rich, musical tones, "when I cease to be
young, I shall cease to be impatient."
Lady Peters, the chosen confidante and chaperon of the brilliant
heiress, was an elderly lady whose most striking characteristic appeared
to be calmness and repose. She was richly dressed in a robe of black
_moire_, and she wore a cap of point lace; her snowy hair was braided
back from a broad white brow; her face was kindly, patient, cheerful;
her manner, though somewhat stately, the same. She evidently deeply
loved the beautiful girl whose bright face was turned to hers.
"He said three in his note, did he not, Lady Peters?"
"Yes, my dear, but it is impossible for any one to be always strictly
punctual; a hundred different things may have detained him."
"But if he were really anxious to see me, he would not let anything
detain him," she said.
"Your anxiety about him would be very flattering to him if he knew it,"
remarked the elder lady.
"Why should I not be anxious? I have always loved him better than the
whole world. I have had reason to be anxious."
"Philippa, my dear Philippa, I would not say such things if I were you,
unless I had heard something really definite from himself."
The beautiful young heiress laughed a bright, triumphant laugh.
"Something definite from himself! Why, you do not think it likely that
he will long remain indifferent to me, even if he be so now--which I do
"I have had so many disappointments in life that I am afraid of being
sanguine," said Lady Peters; and again the young beauty laughed.
"It will seem so strange to see him again. I remember his going away so
well. I was very young then--I am young now, but I feel years older. He
came down to Verdun Royal to bid us good-by, and I was in the grounds.
He had but half an hour to stay, and mamma sent him out to me,"
The color deepened in her face as she spoke, and the light shone in her
splendid eyes--there was a kind of wild, restless passion in her words.
"I remember it all so well! There had been a heavy shower of rain in the
early morning, that had cleared away, leaving the skies blue, the
sunshine golden, while the rain-drops still glistened on the trees and
the grass. I love the sweet smell of the green leaves and the moist
earth after rain. I was there enjoying it when he came to say good-by to
me--mamma came with him. 'Philippa,' she said, 'Norman is going; he
wants to say good-by to his little wife.' He always calls me his little
wife. I saw him look very grave. She went away and left us together.
'You are growing too tall to be called my little wife, Philippa,' she
said, and I laughed at his gravity. We were standing underneath a great
flowering lilac-tree--the green leaves and the sweet flowers were still
wet with the rain. I remember it so well! I drew one of the tall
fragrant sprays down, and shaking the rain-drops from it, kissed it. I
can smell the rich, moist odor now. I never see a lilac-spray or smell
its sweet moisture after rain but that the whole scene rises before me
again--I see the proud, handsome face that I love so dearly, the clear
skies and the green trees. 'How long shall you be away, Norman?' asked
him. 'Not more than two years,' he replied. 'You will be quite a
brilliant lady of fashion when I return, Philippa; you will have made
conquests innumerable.' 'I shall always be the same to you,' I replied;
but he made no answer. He took the spray of lilac from my hands. 'My
ideas of you will always be associated with lilacs,' he said; and that
is why, Lady Peters, I ordered the vases to be filled with lilacs
to-day. He bent down and kissed my face. 'Good-by, Philippa,' he said,
'may I find you as good and as beautiful as I leave you.' And then he
went away. That is just two years ago; no wonder that I am pleased at
Lady Peters looked anxiously at her.
"There was no regular engagement between you and Lord Arleigh, was
"What do you call a regular engagement?" said the young heiress. "He
never made love to me, if that is what you mean--he never asked me to be
his wife; but it was understood--always understood."
"By whom?" asked Lady Peters.
"My mother and his. When Lady Arleigh lived, she spent a great deal of
time at Verdun Royal with my mother; they were first cousins, and the
dearest of friends. Hundreds of times I have seen them sitting on the
lawn, while Norman and I played together. Then they were always talking
about the time we should be married. 'Philippa will make a beautiful
Lady Arleigh,' his mother used to say. 'Norman, go and play with your
little wife,' she would add; and with all the gravity of a grown
courtier, he would bow before me and call me his little wife."
"But you were children then, and it was perhaps all childish folly."
"It was nothing of the kind," said the heiress, angrily. "I remember
well that, when I was presented, my mother said to me, 'Philippa, you
are sure to be very much admired; but remember, I consider you engaged
to Norman. Your lot in life is settled; you are to be Lady Arleigh of
"But," interposed Lady Peters, "it seems to me, Philippa, that this was
all your mother's fancy. Because you played together as
children--because, when you were a child he called you his little
wife--because your mother and his were dear friends, and liked the
arrangement--it does not follow that he would like it, or that he would
choose the playmate of his childhood as the love of his manhood. In all
that you have said to me, I see no evidence that he loves you, or that
he considers himself in any way bound to you."
"That is because you do not understand. He has been in England only two
days, yet, you see, he comes to visit me."
"That may be for old friendship's sake," said Lady Peters. "Oh, my
darling, be careful! Do not give the love of your heart and soul for
"It is given already," confessed the girl, "and can never be recalled,
no matter what I get in return. Why, it is twenty minutes past three; do
you think he will come?"
Philippa L'Estrange rose from the couch and went to the long open
"I have never seen the sun shine so brightly before," she said; and Lady
Peters sighed as she listened. "The world has never looked so beautiful
as it does to-day. Oh, Norman, make, haste! I am longing to see you."
She had a quaint, pretty fashion of calling Lady Peters by the French
appellation _maman_. She turned to her now, with a charming smile. She
shook out the perfumed folds of her dress--she smoothed the fine white
"You have not told me, _maman_," she said, "whether I am looking my best
to-day. I want Norman to be a little surprised when he sees me. If you
saw me for the first time to-day, would you think me nice?"
"I should think you the very queen of beauty," was the truthful answer.
A pleased smile curved the lovely, scarlet lips.
"So will Norman. You will see, _maman_, there is no cause for anxiety,
none for fear. You will soon be wondering why you looked so grave over
my pretty love story."
"It seems to me," observed Lady Peters, "that it is a one sided story.
You love him--you consider yourself betrothed to him. What will you say
or do, Philippa, if you find that, during his travels, he has learned to
love some one else? He has visited half the courts of Europe since he
left here; he must have seen some of the loveliest women in the world.
Suppose he has learned to love one--what then?"
The beautiful face darkened.
"What then, _maman_? I know what I should do, even in that case. He
belonged to me before he belonged to any one else, and I should try to
win him back again."
"But if his word were pledged?"
"He must break his pledge. It would be war to the knife; and I have an
idea that in the end I should win."
"But," persisted Lady Peters, "if you lost--what then?"
"Ah, then I could not tell what would happen! Love turns to burning hate
at times. If I failed I should seek revenge. But we will not talk of
failure. Oh, _maman_, there he is."
How she loved him! At the sound of his footsteps a crimson glow shone in
her face, a light shone in the depth of her splendid dark eyes; the
scarlet lips trembled. She clenched her fingers lest a sound that might
betray her should escape her.
"Lord Arleigh," announced a servant at the door.
Tall, stately, self-possessed, she went forward to greet him. She held
out her hand; but words failed her, as she looked once more into the
face she loved so well.
"Philippa!" cried the visitor, in tones of wonder. "I expected to find
you changed, but I should not have known you."
"Am I so greatly altered?" she asked.
"Altered?" he repeated, "I left you a pretty school-girl--I find you a
queen." He bowed low over the white hand.
"The queen bids you welcome," she said, and then after introducing Lady
Peters, she added: "Should you not really have known me, Norman?"
He had recovered from his first surprise, and Lady Peters, who watched
him closely, fancied that she detected some little embarrassment in his
manner. Of one thing she was quite sure--there was admiration and
affection in his manner, but there was nothing resembling love.
He greeted her, and then took a seat, not by Philippa's side, but in one
of the pretty lounging chairs by the open window.
"How pleasant it is to be home again!" he said. "How pleasant, Philippa,
to see you!" And then he began to talk of Lady L'Estrange. "It seems
strange," he went on, "that your mother and mine, after being such true
friends in life, should die within a few days of each other. I would
give the whole world to see my mother again. I shall find Beechgrove so
lonely without her."
"I always recognize a good man," put in Lady Peters, "by the great love
he bears his mother."
Lord Arleigh smiled.
"Then you think I am a good man?" he interrogated. "I hope, Lady Peters,
that I shall never forfeit your good opinion."
"I do not think it likely," said her ladyship.
Philippa grew impatient on finding his attention turned, even for a few
moments, from herself.
"Talk to me, Norman," she said; "tell me of your travels--of what you
have seen and done--of the new friends you have made."
"I have made no new friends, Philippa," he said; "I love the old ones
He did not understand the triumphant expression of the dark eyes as they
glanced at Lady Peters. He told her briefly of the chief places that he
had visited, and then he said:
"What a quantity of flowers you have, Philippa! You still retain your
She took a spray of lilac from one of the vases and held it before him.
Again Lady Peters noted confusion on his face.
"Do you remember the lilac, and what you said about it?" she asked.
"Yes," he replied, "I was in Florence last year when they were in
flower, and I never looked at the beautiful blooming trees without
fancying that I saw my cousin's face among the blossoms."
"Why do you call me 'cousin?'" she asked, impatiently.
He looked up in surprise.
"You are my cousin, are you not, Philippa?"
"I am only your second cousin," she said; "and you have never called me
"I have always called you 'cousin' in my thoughts," he declared. "How
remiss I am!" he exclaimed, suddenly. "You will think that I have
forgotten what little manners I had. I never congratulated you on your
"What success?" she asked, half impatiently.
"I have not been twenty-four hours in London, yet I have heard on all
sides of your charms and conquests. I hear that you are the belle of the
season--that you have slain dukes, earls, marquises, and baronets
indiscriminately. I hear that no one has ever been more popular or more
admired that Philippa L'Estrange. Is it all true?"
"You must find out for yourself," she said, laughingly, half
disappointed that he had laid the spray of lilac down without any
further remark, half disappointed that he should speak in that light,
unconcerned fashion about her conquests; he ought to be jealous, but
evidently he was not.
Then, to her delight, came a summons for Mrs. Peters; she was wanted in
the housekeeper's room.
"Now we are alone," thought Philippa, "he will tell me that he is
pleased to see me. He will remember that he called me his little wife."
But, as Lady Peters closed the door, he took a book from the table, and
asked her what she had been reading lately--which was the book of that
season. She replied to his questions, and to the remarks that followed;
but they were not what she wanted to hear.
"Do not talk to me about books, Norman," she cried at last. "Tell me
more about yourself; I want to hear more about you."
She did not notice the slight flush that spread over his face.
"If we are to talk about ourselves," he said, "I should prefer you to be
the subject. You have grown very beautiful, Philippa."
His eyes took in every detail of the rich amber costume--the waving mass
of dark hair--the splendid face, with its scarlet lips and glorious
eyes--the white hands that moved so incessantly. He owned to himself
that in all his travels he had seen nothing like the imperial loveliness
of this dark-eyed girl.
"Does it please you to find me what you call beautiful?" she asked,
"Of course it does. I am very proud of you--proud to be known as the
cousin of Philippa L'Estrange."
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