Wife in Name Only
Charlotte M. Braeme (Bertha M. Clay)
Part 2 out of 6
Nothing more! Had he nothing more than this to be proud of? Was he so
blind that he could not see love in the girl's face--so deaf that he
could not hear it in the modulations of her musical voice? She bent her
beautiful face nearer him.
"We were always good friends, Norman," she said, simply, "you and I?"
"Yes, we were like brother and sister," he responded, "How we quarreled
and made friends! Do you remember?"
"Yes--but we were not like brother and sister, Norman. We did not call
each other by such names in those days, did we?"
"I never could find names pretty enough for you," he replied laughingly.
She raised her eyes suddenly to his.
"You cared for me a great deal in those days, Norman," she said, gently.
"Tell me the truth--in your travels have you ever met any one for whom
you care more?"
He was perfectly calm and unembarrassed.
"No, cousin, I have not. As I told you before, I have really made no
friends abroad for whom I care much--a few pleasant acquaintances,
"Then I am content," she said.
But he was deaf to the passionate music of her voice. Then the distance
between them seemed to grow less. They talked of her home, Verdun Royal;
they talked of Beechgrove, and his plans for living there. Their
conversation was the intimate exchange of thought of old friends; but
there was nothing of love. If she had expected that he would avail
himself of Lady Peters' absence to speak of it, she was mistaken. He
talked of old times, of friendship, of childhood's days, of great hopes
and plans for the future--of anything but love. It seemed to be and
perhaps was the farthest from his thoughts.
"I am going to Beechgrove in a week," he said; "you will give me
permission to call and see you every day, Philippa?"
"I shall be pleased to see you--my time is yours," she answered but he
did not understand the full meaning of the words.
Then Lady Peters came in and asked if he would join them at dinner.
"Philippa likes gayety," she said; "we have never had one quiet evening
since the season began; she has a ball for to-night."
"Yes," laughed the heiress; "the world is very sweet to me just now,
Norman; but I will give up my ball and stay at home purposely to sing to
you, if you will dine with us."
"That is a temptation I cannot resist," he returned. "I will come. All
your disappointed partners will, however, vent their wrath on me,
"I can bear it," she said, "and so can you. Now I can let you go more
willingly, seeing that I shall soon see you again."
And then he went away. After he had gone she spoke but little; once she
clasped her arms round Lady Peters' neck and kissed the kindly face.
"Do not speak to me," she said, "lest I should lose the echo of his
voice;" and Lady Peters watched her anxiously, as she stood with a rapt
smile on her face, as of one who has heard celestial music in a dream.
* * * * *
The Arleighs of Beechgrove had for many generations been one of the
wealthiest as well as one of the noblest families in England. To Norman,
Lord Arleigh, who had succeeded his father at the early age of twenty,
all this good gift of fame, fortune, and wealth had now fallen. He had
inherited also the far-famed Arleigh beauty. He had clear-cut features,
a fair skin, a fine manly frame, a broad chest, and erect, military
bearing; he had dark hair and eyes, with straight, clear brows, and a
fine, handsome mouth, shaded by a dark mustache Looking at him it was
easy to understand his character. There was pride in the dark eyes, in
the handsome face, in the high-bred manner and bearing, but not of a
In accordance with his late father's wish, he had gone through the usual
course of studies. He had been to Eton and to Oxford; he had made the
usual continental tour; and now he had returned to live as the Arleighs
had done before him--a king on his own estate. There was just one thing
in his life that had not pleased him. His mother, Lady Arleigh, had
always evinced the greatest affection for her cousin, the gentle Lady
L'Estrange. She had paid long visits to Verdun Royal, always taking her
son with her; and his earliest recollection was of his mother and Lady
L'Estrange sitting side by side planning the marriage of their two
children, Philippa and Norman. He could remember many of his mother's
pet phrases--"So suitable," "A perfect marriage," "The desire of my
heart." All his mother's thoughts and ideas seemed to begin and end
there. He had been taught, half seriously, half in jest, to call
Philippa his little wife, to pay her every attention, to present her
with jewels and with flowers, to make her his chief study. While be was
still a boy he had only laughed at it.
Philippa was a beautiful, high-sprited girl. Her vivacity and animation
amused him. He had spoken the truth in saying that he had met no one he
liked better than his old friend. He had seen beautiful girls, lovely
women, but he had not fallen in love. Indeed, love with the Arleighs was
a serious matter. They did not look lightly upon it. Norman. Lord
Arleigh, had not fallen; in love, but he had begun to think very
seriously about Philippa L'Estrange. He had been fond of her as a child,
with the kind of affection that often exists between children. He had
called her his "little wife" in jest, not in earnest. He had listened to
the discussions between the two ladies as he would have listened had
they been talking about adding a new wing to the house. It was not until
he came to the years of manhood that he began to see how serious the
whole matter was. Then he remembered with infinite satisfaction that
there had been nothing binding, that he had never even mentioned the
word "love" to Philippa L'Estrange, that he had never made love to her,
that the whole matter was merely a something that had arisen in the
imagination of two ladies.
He was not in the least degree in love with Philippa. She was a
brunette--he preferred a blonde; brunette beauty had no charm for him.
He liked gentle, fair-haired women, tender of heart and soul--brilliancy
did not charm him. Even when, previously to going abroad, he had gone
down to Verdun Royal to say good-by, there was not the least approach to
love in his heart. He had thought Philippa very charming and very
picturesque as she stood under the lilac-trees; he had said truly that
he should never see a lilac without thinking of her as she stood there.
But that had not meant that he loved her.
He had bent down, as he considered himself in courtesy bound, to kiss
her face when he bade her adieu; but it was no lover's kiss that fell so
lightly on her lips. He realized to himself most fully the fact that,
although he liked her, cared a great deal for her, and felt that she
stood in the place of a sister to him, he did not love her.
But about Philippa herself? He was not vain; the proud, stately Lord
Arleigh knew nothing of vanity. He could not think that the childish
folly had taken deep root in her heart-he would not believe it. She had
been a child like himself; perhaps even she had forgotten the nonsense
more completely than he himself had. On his return to England, the first
thing he heard when he reached London was that his old friend and
playfellow--the girl he had called his little wife--was the belle of the
season, with half London at her feet.
Lord Arleigh had been so accustomed to think of Philippa as a child that
he could with difficulty imagine the fact that she was now a lovely
girl, and one of the wealthiest heiresses in London. He felt some
curiosity about her. How would she greet him? How would she receive him?
He wrote to her at once, asking permission to visit her, and he came
away from that visit with his eyes a little dazzled, his brain somewhat
dazed, but his heart untouched. His fancy was somewhat disturbed by the
haunting memory of dark, splendid eyes, lighted with fire and passion,
and a bright, radiant face and scarlet lips--by a _melange_ of amber,
lace, and perfume--but his heart was untouched. She was beautiful beyond
his fairest dreams of woman--he owned that to himself--but it was not
the kind of beauty that he admired it was too vivid, too highly colored,
too brilliant. He preferred the sweet, pure lily to the queenly rose.
Still he said to himself that he had never seen a face or figure like
Miss L'Estrange's. No wonder that she had half London at her feet.
He was pleased with her kind reception of him, although he had not read
her welcome aright; he was too true a gentleman even to think that it
was love which shone in her eyes and trembled on her lips--love which
made her voice falter and die away--love which caused her to exert every
art and grace of which she was mistress to fascinate him. He was
delighted with her--his heart grew warm under the charm of her words,
but he never dreamed of love.
He had said to himself that there must be no renewal of his childish
nonsense of early days--that he must be careful not to allude to it; to
do so would be in bad taste--not that he was vain enough to think she
would attach any importance to it, even if he did so; but he was one of
nature's gentlemen, and he would have scorned to exaggerate or to say
one word more than he meant. Her welcome had been most graceful, most
kind--the beautiful face had softened and changed completely for him.
She had devoted herself entirely to him; nothing in all the wide world
had seemed to her of the least interest except himself and his
affairs--books, music, pictures, even herself, her own triumphs, were as
nothing when compared with him. He would have been less than mortal not
to have been both pleased and flattered.
Pressed so earnestly to return to dinner, he had promised to do so; and
evening, the sweet-scented May evening, found him once more at Hyde
Park. If anything, Philippa looked more lovely. She wore her favorite
colors--amber and white--a dress of rich amber brocade, trimmed with
white lace; the queenly head was circled with diamonds; jewels like fire
gleamed on the white breast; there was a cluster of choice flowers in
her bodice. He had seen her hitherto as a girl; now he was to see her as
the high-bred hostess, the mistress of a large and magnificent mansion.
He owned to himself that she was simply perfect. He had seen nothing in
better taste, although he had been on intimate terms with the great ones
of the earth. As he watched her, he thought to himself that, high and
brilliant as was her station, it was not yet high enough for her. She
flung a charm so magical around her that he was insensibly attracted by
it, yet he was not the least in love--nothing was further from his
thoughts. He could not help seeing that, after a fashion, she treated
him differently from her other guests. He could not have told why or
how; he felt only a certain subtle difference; her voice seemed to take
another tone in addressing him, her face another expression as though
she regarded him as one quite apart from all others.
The dinner-party was a success, as was every kind of entertainment with
which Philippa L'Estrange was concerned. When the visitors rose to take
their leave, Norman rose also. She was standing near him.
"Do not go yet, Norman," she said; "it is quite early. Stay, and I will
sing to you."
She spoke in so low a tone of voice that no one else heard her. He was
quite willing. Where could he feel more at home than in this charming
drawing-room, with this beautiful girl, his old friend and playmate?
She bade adieu to her visitors, and then turned to him with such a smile
as might have lost or won Troy.
"I thought they would never go," she said; "and it seems to me that I
have barely exchanged one word with you yet, Norman."
"We have talked many hours," he returned, laughing.
"Ah, you count time by the old fashion, hours and minutes. I forget it
when I am talking to one I--to an old friend like you."
"You are enthusiastic," said Lord Arleigh, wondering at the light on the
"Nay, I am constant," she rejoined.
And for a few minutes after that silence reigned between them. Philippa
was the first to break it.
"Do you remember," she asked, "that you used to praise my voice, and
prophesy that I should sing well?"
"Yes, I remember," he replied.
"I have worked hard at my music," she continued, "in the hope of
"In the hope of pleasing me?" he interrogated. "It was kind to think so
much of me."
"Of whom should I think, if not of you?" she inquired.
There were both love and reproach in her voice--he heard neither. Had he
been as vain as he was proud, he would have been quicker to detect her
love for himself.
The windows had been opened because the evening air was so clear and
sweet; it came in now, and seemed to give the flowers a sweeter
fragrance. Lord Arleigh drew his chair to the piano.
"I want you only to listen," she said. "You will have no turning over to
do for me; the songs I love best I know by heart. Shut your eyes,
Norman, and dream."
"I shall dream more vividly if I keep them open and look at you," he
Then in a few minutes he began to think he must be in dream-land--the
rich, sweet voice, so clear, so soft, so low, was filling the room with
sweetest music. It was like no human voice that he remembered;
seductive, full of passion and tenderness--a voice that told its own
story, that told of its owner's power and charm--a voice that carried
away the hearts of the listeners irresistibly as the strong current
carries the leaflet.
She sang of love, mighty, irresistible love, the king before whom all
bow down; and as she sang he looked at her. The soft, pearly light of
the lamps fell on her glorious face, and seemed to render it more
beautiful. He wondered what spell was fast falling over him, for he saw
nothing but Philippa's face, heard nothing but the music that seemed to
steep his senses as in a dream.
How fatally, wondrously lovely she was, this siren who sang to him of
love, until every sense was full of silent ecstasy, until his face
flushed, and his heart beat fast. Suddenly his eyes met hers; the
scarlet lips trembled, the white fingers grew unsteady; her eyelids
drooped, and the sweet music stopped.
She tried to hide her confusion by smiling.
"You should not look at me, Norman," she said, "when I sing; it
"You should contrive to look a little less beautiful then, Philippa," he
rejoined. "What was that last song?"
"It is a new one," she replied, "called 'My Queen.'"
"I should like to read the words," said Lord Arleigh.
In a few minutes she had found it for him, and they bent over the
printed page together; her dark hair touched his cheek, the perfume from
the white lilies she wore seemed to entrance him; he could not
understand the spell that lay over him.
"Is it not beautiful?" she said.
"Yes, beautiful, but ideal; few women, I think, would equal this poet's
"You do not know--you cannot tell, Norman. I think any woman who loves,
and loves truly, becomes a queen."
He looked at her, wondering at the passion in her voice--wondering at
the expression on her beautiful face.
"You are incredulous," she said; "but it is true. Love is woman's
dominion; let her but once enter it, and she becomes a queen; her heart
and soul grow grander, the light of love crowns her. It is the real
diadem of womanhood, Norman; she knows no other."
He drew back startled; her words seemed to rouse him into sudden
consciousness. She was quick enough to see it, and, with the _distrait_
manner of a true woman of the world, quickly changed the subject. She
asked some trifling question about Beechgrove, and then said, suddenly:
"I should like to see that fine old place of yours, Norman. I was only
ten when mamma took me there the last time; that was rather too young to
appreciate its treasures. I should like to see it again."
"I hope you will see it, Philippa; I have many curiosities to show you.
I have sent home treasures from every great city I have visited."
She looked at him half wonderingly, half wistfully, but he said no more.
Could it be that he had no thought of ever asking her to be mistress and
queen of this house of his?
"You must have a party in the autumn," she said. "Lady Peters and I must
be among your guests."
"That will be an honor. I shall keep you to your word, Philippa." And
then he rose to go.
The dark, wistful eyes followed him. She drew a little nearer to him as
he held out his hand to say good-night.
"You are quite sure, Norman, that you are pleased to see me again?" she
"Pleased! Why, Philippa, of course I am. What a strange question!"
"Because," she said, "there seems to be a cloud--a shadow--between us
that I do not remember to have existed before."
"We are both older," he explained, "and the familiarity of childhood
cannot exist when childhood ceases to be."
"I would rather be a child forever than that you should change to me,"
she said, quickly.
"I think," he returned, gravely, "that the only change in me is that I
admire you more than I have ever done"
And these words filled her with the keenest sense of rapture yet they
were but commonplace enough, if she had only realized it.
Lord Arleigh raised his hat from his brow and stood for a few minutes
bareheaded in the starlight. He felt like a man who had been in the
stifling atmosphere of a conservatory; warmth and perfume had dazed him.
How beautiful Philippa was--how bewildering! What a nameless wondrous
charm there was about her! No wonder that half London was at her feet,
and that her smiles were eagerly sought. He was not the least in love
with her; admiration, homage, liking, but not love--anything but
that--filled him; yet he dreamed of her, thought of her, compared her
face with others that he had seen--all simply because her beauty had
"I can believe now in the sirens of old," he said to himself; "they must
have had just such dark, glowing eyes, such rich, sweet voices and
beautiful faces. I should pity the man who hopelessly loved Philippa
L'Estrange. And, if she ever loves any one, it will be easy for her to
win; who could resist her?"
How little he dreamed that the whole passionate love of her heart was
given to himself--that to win from him one word of love, a single token
of affection, she would have given all that she had in the world.
On the day following he received a note; it said simply:
"Dear Norman: Can you join me in a ride? I have a new horse which
they tell me is too spirited. I shall not be afraid to try it if
you are with me.
He could not refuse--indeed, he never thought of refusing--why should
he? The beautiful girl who asked this kindness from him was his old
friend and playfellow. He hastened to Verdun House and found Philippa
waiting for him.
"I knew you would come," she said. "Lady Peters said you would be
engaged. I thought differently."
"You did well to trust me," he returned, laughingly; "it would require a
very pressing engagement to keep me from the pleasure of attending you."
He had thought her perfect on the previous evening, in the glitter of
jewels and the gorgeous costume of amber and while; yet, if possible,
she looked even better on this evening. Her riding-habit was neat and
plain, fitting close to the perfect figure, showing every gracious line
Philippa L'Estrange possessed that rare accomplishment among women, a
graceful "seat" on horseback. Lord Arleigh could not help noticing the
admiring glances cast on her as they entered the park together. He saw
how completely she was queen of society. Unusual homage followed her.
She was the observed of all observers; all the men seemed to pause and
look at her. Lord Arleigh heard repeatedly, as they rode along, the
question, "Who is that beautiful girl?" Every one of note or distinction
contrived to speak to her. The Prince of Auboine, at that time the most
_feted_ guest in England, could hardly leave her. Yet, in the midst of
all, Lord Arleigh saw that she turned to him as the sunflower to the
sun. No matter with whom she was conversing, she never for one moment
forgot him, never seemed inattentive, listened to him, smiled her
brightest on him, while the May sun shone, and the white hawthorn
flowers fell on the grass--while the birds chirped merrily, and crowds
of bright, happy people passed to and fro.
"How true she is to her old friends!" thought Lord Arleigh, when he saw
that even a prince could not take her attention from him.
So they rode on through the sunlit air--he fancy free, she loving him
every moment with deeper, truer, warmer love.
"I should be so glad, Norman," she said to him, "if you would give me a
few riding-lessons. I am sure I need them."
He looked at the graceful figure, at the little hands that held the
reins so deftly.
"I do not see what there is to teach you," he observed; "I have never
seen any one ride better."
"Still I should be glad of some little instruction from you," she said.
"I always liked riding with you, Norman."
"I shall be only too pleased to ride with you every day when I am in
town," he told her; and, though he spoke kindly, with smiling lips,
there was no warmth of love in his tone.
The day was very warm--the sun had in it all the heat of June. When they
reached Verdun House, Philippa said:
"You will come in for a short time, Norman? You look warm and tired.
Williams--the butler--is famous for his claret-cup."
He murmured something about being not fatigued, but disinclined for
"You will not see any one," she said; "you shall come to my own
particular little room, where no one dares enter, and we will have a
quiet conversation there."
It seemed quite useless to resist her. She had a true siren power of
fascination. The next minute saw him seated in the cool, shady
_boudoir_, where the mellow light came in, rose-filtered through the
silken blinds, and the perfumed air was sweet. Lady Peters, full of
solicitude, was there, with the iced claret cup, thinking he was tired
and-warm. It was so like home that he could not help feeling happy.
Presently Lady Peters retired for a few minutes, and in came Philippa.
She had changed her riding-costume for a white silk _neglige_ that fell
round her in loose, graceful folds. She wore no flowers, jewels, or
ribbons, but the dark masses of her hair were unfastened, and hung round
the white neck; there was a warm, bright flush on her face, with the
least touch of languor in her manner. She threw herself back in her
lounging chair, saying, with a dreamy smile:
"You see that I make no stranger of you, Norman."
From beneath the white silken folds peeped a tiny embroidered slipper; a
jeweled fan lay near her, and with it she gently stirred the perfumed
air. He watched her with admiring eyes.
"You look like a picture that I have seen, Philippa," he said.
"What picture?" she asked, with a smile.
"I cannot tell you, but I am quite sure I have seen one like you. What
picture would you care to resemble?"
A sudden gleam of light came into her dark eyes.
"The one underneath which you would write 'My Queen,'" she said,
He did not understand.
"I think every one with an eye to beauty would call you 'queen,'" he
observed, lightly. The graver meaning of her speech had quite escaped
Then Lady Peters returned, and the conversation changed.
"We are going to hear an _opera-bouffe_ to-night," said Philippa, when
Lord Arleigh was leaving. "Will you come and be our escort?"
"You will have a box filled with noisy chatterers the whole night," he
"They shall all make room for you, Norman, if you will come," she said.
"It is 'La Grande Duchesse,' with the far-famed Madame Schneider as her
Grace of Gerolstein."
"I have not heard it yet," returned Lord Arleigh. "I cannot say that I
have any great admiration for that school of music, but, if you wish it,
I will go, Philippa.
"It will increase my enjoyment a hundredfold," she said, gently, "if you
"How can I refuse when you say that? I will be here punctually," he
promised; and again the thought crossed his mind how true she was to her
old friends--how indifferent to new ones!
On that evening Philippa changed her customery style of dress--it was no
longer the favorite amber, so rich in hue and in texture, but white,
gleaming silk, relieved by dashes of crimson. A more artistic or
beautiful dress could not have been designed. She wore crimson roses in
her dark hair, and a cluster of crimson roses on her white breast. Her
bouquet was of the same odorous flowers. In the theater Lord Arleigh
noticed that Philippa attracted more attention than any one else, even
though the house was crowded; he saw opera-glasses turned constantly
toward her beautiful face.
Miss L'Estrange kept her word, saying but little to those who would fain
have engrossed her whole attention--that was given, to Lord Arleigh. She
watched his face keenly throughout the performance. He did not evince
any great interest in it.
"You do not care for 'La Grande Duchesse?'" she said.
"No--frankly, I do not," he replied.
"Tell me why," said Philippa.
"Can you ask me to do so, Philippa?" he returned, surprised; and then he
added, "I will tell you. First of all, despite the taking music, it is a
performance to which I should not care to bring my wife and sister."
"Tell me why?" she said, again.
"It lowers my idea of womanhood. I could not forgive the woman, let her
be duchess or peasant, who could show any man such great love, who could
lay herself out so deliberately to win a man."
She looked at him gravely. He continued:
"Beauty is very charming, I grant--as are grace and talent; but the
chief charm to me of a woman is her modesty. Do you not agree with me,
"Yes," she replied, "most certainly I do; but, Norman, you are hard upon
us. Suppose that, woman loves a man ever so truly--she must not make any
"Any sign she might make would most certainly, in my opinion, lessen her
greatest charm," he said.
"But," she persisted, "do you not think that is rather hard? Why must a
woman never evince a preference for the man she loves?"
"Woman should be wooed--never be wooer," said Lord Arleigh.
"Again I say you are hard, Norman. According to you, a woman is to break
her heart in silence and sorrow for a man, rather than give him the
least idea that she cares for him."
"I should say there is a happy medium between the Duchess of Gerolstein
and a broken heart. Neither men nor women can help their peculiar
disposition, but in my opinion a man never more esteems a woman than
when he sees she wants to win his love."
He spoke with such perfect freedom from all consciousness that she knew
the words could not be intended for her; nevertheless she had learned a
lesson from them.
"I am like yourself, Norman," she said; "I do not care for the play at
all; we will go home," and they left the house before the Grand Duchess
had played her part.
Philippa L'Estrange thought long and earnestly over her last
conversation with Lord Arleigh. She had always loved him; but the
chances are that, if he had been devoted to her on his return, if he had
wooed her as others did, she would have been less _empressee_. As it
was, he was the only man she had not conquered, the only one who
resisted her, on whom her fascinations fell without producing a magical
effect. She could not say she had conquered her world while he was
unsubdued. Yet how was it? She asked herself that question a hundred
times each day. She was no coquette, no flirt, yet she knew she had but
to smile on a man to bring him at once to her feet; she had but to make
the most trifling advance, and she could do what she would. The Duke of
Mornton had twice repeated his offer of marriage--she had refused him.
The Marquis of Langland, the great match of the day, had made her an
offer, which she had declined. The Italian Prince Cetti would have given
his possessions to take her back with him to his own sunny land, but she
had refused to go. No woman in England had had better offers of
marriage; but she had refused them all. How was it that, when others
sighed so deeply and vainly at her feet, Lord Arleigh alone stood aloof?
Of what use were her beauty, wit, grace, wealth, and talent, if she
could not win him? For the first time she became solicitous about her
beauty, comparing it with that of other women, always being compelled,
in the end, to own that she excelled. If Lord Arleigh talked, or danced,
or showed attention to any lady, she would critically examine her claim
to interest, whether she was beautiful, mentally gifted, graceful. But
Philippa detected another thing--if Lord Arleigh did not love her, it
was at least certain that he loved no one else.
The whole world was spoiled for her because she had not this man's love.
She desired it. Her beauty, her wealth, her talents, her grace, were all
as nothing, because with them she could not win him. Then, again, she
asked herself, could it be that she could not win him? What had men told
her? That her beauty was irresistible. It might be that he did care for
her, that he intended to carry out his mother's favorite scheme, but
that he was in no hurry, that he wanted her and himself to see plenty of
life first. It was easier, after all, to believe that than to think that
she had completely failed to win him. She would be quite satisfied if it
were so, although it was certainly not flattering to her that he should
be willing to wait so long; but, if he would only speak--if he would
only say the few words that would set her mind quite at ease--she would
Why did he not love her? She was fair, young, endowed with great gifts;
she had wealth, position; she had the claim upon him that his mother and
hers had wished the alliance. Why did she fail? why did he not love her?
It seemed to her that she was the one person in all the world to whom he
would naturally turn--that, above all others, he would select her for
his wife; yet he did not evince the least idea of so doing. Why was it?
Twice that night when he had so frankly told her his ideas about women,
she had been most careful, most reserved.
"If he likes reserve and indifference," she said to herself, "he shall
have plenty of it." Yet it was at the same time so mixed with kindness,
with thoughtful consideration for him, that the wonder was he did not
succumb. "I must find out," she said to herself, "whether he does really
care for me." How to do so she did not quite know--but woman's wits are
The more she saw of him the better she liked him--his single-mindedness,
his chivalry, his faith in women and his respect for them, were greater
than she had seen in any other, and she loved him for these qualities.
The more she contrasted him with others, the greater, deeper, and wider
grew her love. It must be that in time he should care for her.
The Duchess of Aytoun gave a grand ball, to which, as belle of the
season, Philippa was invited.
"Shall you go?" she asked of Lord Arleigh.
"I have hardly decided," he replied.
"Do go, Norman; I like waltzing, but I do not care to waltz with every
one. Do go, that I may dance with you."
"You do not mind waltzing with me, then?" he said.
The glance she gave him was answer sufficient. He could not kelp feeling
"I shall be there, Philippa," he said; and then she promised herself on
that evening she would try to discover what his sentiments were with
regard to her.
She took great pains with her toilet; she did not wish to startle, but
to attract--and the two things were very different. Her dress looked
brilliant, being of a silvery texture; the trimming was composed of
small fern-leaves; a _parure_ of fine diamonds crowned her head.
The effect of the dress was striking, and Philippa herself had never
looked more lovely. There was a flush of rose-color on her face, a light
in her eyes. If ever woman's face told a story, hers did--if ever love
softened, made more tender and pure any face on earth, it was hers.
After her toilet was complete, she stood for a few minutes looking in
her mirror. The tall, stately figure in the glorious dress was perfect;
the face, framed in shining masses of dark hair, was perfect too.
"If I can but win one word from him!" she thought. "If I can but remind
him of those childish days when he used to call me his little wife!"
She no sooner made her appearance than, as was usual, she was surrounded
by a little court of admirers--the Duke of Mornton first among them.
They little guessed that they owed her complacent reception of their
compliments to the fact that she was not even attending to them, but
with her whole soul in her eyes was watching for Lord Arleigh's arrival.
The duke even flattered himself that he was making some progress,
because at some chance word from him the beautiful face flushed a deep
crimson. How was he to know that Lord Arleigh had at that moment entered
The latter could not help feeling pleased and flattered at the way in
which Philippa received him. He was but mortal, and he could not help
seeing the dark eyes shine, the scarlet lips tremble, the whole face
soften. Presently she placed her hand on his arm, and walked away with
"I was growing impatient, Norman," she said; and then, remembering his
criticisms on the wooing of women, she hastened to add--"impatient at
the want of novelty; it seems to me that in London ball-rooms all the
men talk in the same fashion."
Lord Arleigh laughed.
"What are they to do, Philippa?" he asked. "They have each one the same
duties to perform--to please their partners and amuse themselves. You
would not have a 'hapless lordling' talk about science or metaphysics
while he danced, would you?"
"No; but they might find some intelligent remarks to make. You talk
well, Norman, and listening to you makes me impatient with others."
"You are very kind," he said, and he took the pretty tablets from her
"You have saved every waltz for me, Philippa. I shall expect to have a
dozen duels on my hands before morning."
"'This is my favorite," she said, as the music of the irresistible
"Blue Danube" filled the room.
Then it seemed to her that they floated away into another sphere. His
arm was round her, his eyes smiling down into hers. With youth, music,
beauty, love, there was nothing wanting to complete the charm.
When it was over, he asked her if she would rest.
"No," said Philippa; "I heard the playing of a fountain in the fernery.
I should like to go there."
They went through the magnificent suite of rooms, and then through the
conservatory into the dim, beautiful fernery, where the lamps glowed
like stars, and the cool rippling water fell with a musical rhythm into
the deep basin below. They could hear the distant sound of music from
the ball-room. It was a time when love, if it lay in a man's heart,
would spring, into sweet, sudden life.
"If he loves me," she said to herself, "he will tell me so now."
"I like this better than the ball-room," she said. "By the way, you have
not told me if you like my dress?" she added, anxious to bring him to
the one subject she had at heart. "Do you remember that when we were
children, Norman, you used to criticise my dress?"
"Did I? It was very rude of me. I should not venture to criticise
anything so marvelous now. It is a wonderful dress, Philippa; in the
light it looks like moonbeams, in the shade like snow. Do you suppose I
should ever have the courage to criticise anything so beautiful?"
"Do you really like it, Norman--without flattery?"
"I never flatter, Philippa, not even in jest; you should know that."
"I never heard you flatter," she acknowledged. "I took pains with my
toilet, Norman, to please you; if it does so I am well content."
"There is another waltz," said Lord Arleigh; "we will go back to the
"Make him love me!" she said to herself, in bitter disdain. "I might as
well wish for one of the stars as for his love--it seems just as far
Lord Arleigh did not go to Beechgrove as he had intended. He found so
many old friends and so many engagements in London that he was not
inclined to leave it. Then, too, he began to notice many little things
which made him feel uncomfortable. He began to perceive that people
considered him in some kind of way as belonging to Miss L'Estrange; no
matter how many surrounded her, when he entered a room they were seen
one by one to disappear until he was left alone by her side. At first he
believed this to be accidental; after a time he knew that it must be
Miss L'Estrange, too, appeared to see and hear him only. If any one
wanted to win a smile from her lovely lips, he had but to make way for
Lord Arleigh; if any man wanted a kind word, or a kind glance from the
beautiful eyes, he had but to praise Lord Arleigh. People soon perceived
all this. The last to discover it was Lord Arleigh himself. It dawned
but slowly upon him. He began to perceive also that Philippa, after a
fashion of her own, appropriated him. She looked upon it as a settled
arrangement that he should ride with her every day--that every day he
must either lunch or dine with them--that he must be her escort to
theater and ball. If he at times pleaded other engagements she would
look at him with an air of childish wonder and say:
"They cannot have so great a claim upon you as I have, Norman?"
Then he was disconcerted, and knew not what to answer; it was true that
there was no one with so great a claim--it seemed to have been handed
down from his mother to him.
His eyes were still further opened one day when a large and fashionable
crowd had gathered at Lady Dalton's garden-party. Philippa was, as
heretofore, the belle, looking more than usually lovely in a light
gossamer dress of white and pink. She was surrounded by admirers. Lord
Arleigh stood with a group of gentlemen under a great spreading
"How beautiful she is, that Miss L'Estrange!" said one--Sir Alfred
Martindale. "I can believe in the siege of Troy when I look at her; and
I think it just as well for mankind that such women are rare."
"If ever there was a human moth," observed another, "it is that
unfortunate Duke of Mornton. I have seen some desperate cases in my
time, but none so desperate as his."
Lord Arleigh laughed. They were all intimate friends.
"The Duke of Mornton is a great friend of mine," he said. "I can only
hope that he may be saved from the ultimate fate of a moth, and that
Miss L'Estrange will take pity on him."
He could not help seeing that the three gentleman looked up with an
expression of utter wonder.
"Do you mean," asked Sir Alfred, "that you hope Miss L'Estrange will
marry the duke?"
"I do not think she could do better," replied Lord Arleigh.
"You are the last man in London I should have expected to hear say so,"
said Sir Alfred, quietly.
"Am I? Pray may I ask why?"
"Yes, if you acquit me of all intention of rudeness in my reply. I
repeat that you are the last man in London whom I should have expected
to hear make such a remark, for the simple reason that every one
believes you are going to marry Miss L'Estrange yourself."
Lord Arleigh's face flushed hotly.
"Then 'every one,' as you put it, Sir Alfred, takes a great liberty--an
unauthorized liberty--with the name of a very charming lady. Miss
L'Estrange and myself were much together when children--our mothers were
distantly related--and at the present time we are--excellent friends."
"I am sorry," returned Sir Alfred, "if I have said anything to annoy
you. I thought the fact was as evident as the sun at noon-day; every one
in London believes it."
"Then people take an unwarrantable liberty with the lady's name," said
Some one else remarked, with a slightly impertinent drawl, that he did
not believe Miss L'Estrange would consider it a liberty. A flash from
Lord Arleigh's dark eyes silenced him.
A few minutes afterward Lord Arleigh found the Duchess of Aytoun and
Philippa seated underneath a large acacia-tree. Captain Gresham, a great
favorite in the London world, was by Philippa's side. The duchess, with
a charming gesture of invitation made room for Lord Arleigh by her side.
The gallant captain did not often find an opportunity of making love to
the belle of the season. Now that he had found it, he was determined not
to lose it--not for fifty Lord Arleighs. So, while the duchess talked to
the new-comer, he relentlessly pursued his conversation with Miss
There was but one music in the world for her, and that was the music of
Lord Arleigh's voice. Nothing could ever drown that for her. The band
was playing, the captain talking, the duchess conversing, in her gay,
animated fashion; but above all, clearly and distinctly, Philippa heard
every word that fell from Lord Arleigh's lips, although he did not know
it. He believed that she was, as she seemed to be, listening to the
"I have pleasing news concerning you, Lord Arleigh," said the duchess.
"I wonder if I may congratulate you?"
"What is it? I do not know of anything very interesting concerning
myself," he remarked--"nothing, I am sure, that calls for
"You are modest," said the duchess; "but I have certainly heard, and on
good authority, too, that you are about to be married."
"I can only say I was not in the least aware of it," he rejoined.
The duchess raised her parasol and looked keenly at him.
"Pray pardon me," she continued; "do not think that it is from mere
curiosity that I ask the question. Is there really no truth in the
"None whatever," he replied. "I have no more idea of being married than
I have of sailing this moment for the Cape."
"It is strange," said the duchess, musingly; "I had the information from
such good authority, too."
"There can be no better authority on the subject," said Lord Arleigh,
laughingly, "than myself."
"You; I admit that. Well, as the ice is broken, Lord Arleigh, and we are
old friends, I may ask, why do you not marry?"
"Simply because of marriage, and of love that ends in marriage, I have
not thought," he answered lightly.
"It is time for you to begin," observed the duchess; "my own impression
is that a man does no good in the world until he is married." And then
she added: "I suppose you have an ideal of womanhood?"
Lord Arleigh's face flushed.
"Yes," he acknowledged, "I have an ideal of my own, derived from poetry
I have read, from pictures I have seen--an ideal of perfect grace,
loveliness, and purity. When I meet that ideal, I shall meet my fate."
"Then you have never yet seen the woman you would like to to marry?"
pursued the duchess.
"No," he answered, quite seriously; "strange to say, although I have
seen some of the fairest and noblest types of womanhood, I have not yet
met with my ideal."
They were disturbed by a sudden movement--the flowers that Philippa held
in her hand had fallen to the ground.
Captain Greshan sprang forward to lift the flowers which Miss L'Estrange
"Nay," she said, "never mind them. A fresh flower is very nice. A flower
that has once been in the dust has lost its beauty."
There was no trace of pain in the clear voice; it was rich and musical.
Philippa L'Estrange, seated in the bright sunshine, heard the words
that were to her a death-warrant, yet made no sign. "I have not yet met
with my ideal," Lord Arleigh had said.
Captain Gresham picked up some of the fallen flowers.
"A dead flower from your hand, Miss L'Estrange," he observed "is worth a
whole gardenful of living ones from any one else."
She laughed again that sweet musical laugh which seemed to come only
from a happy heart; and then she looked round. The Duchess of Aytoun and
Lord Arleigh were still in deep converse. Miss L'Estrange turned to
"I have been told," she said, "that there are some beautiful white
hyacinths here; they are my favorite flowers. Shall we find them?"
He was only too pleased. She bade a laughing adieu to the duchess, and
smiled at Lord Arleigh. There was no trace of pain or of sadness in her
voice or face. They went away together and Lord Arleigh never even
dreamed that she had heard his remark.
Then the duchess left him, and he sat under the spreading beech alone.
His thoughts were not of the pleasantest nature; he did not like the
general belief in his approaching marriage; it was fair neither to
himself nor to Philippa--yet how was he to put an end to such gossip?
Another idea occurred to him. Could it be possible that Philippa herself
shared the idea? He would not believe it. Yet many things made him pause
and think. She certainly evinced great preference for his society; she
was never so happy as when with him. She would give up any engagement,
any promised gayety or pleasure to be with him. She dressed to please
him; she consulted him on most things; she seemed to identify her
interests with his. But all this might be the result of their old
friendship--it might have nothing to do with love.
Could it be possible that she still remembered the childish nonsense
that had passed between them--that she considered either herself or him
bound by a foolish tie that neither of them had contracted? Could it be
possible that she regarded herself as engaged to him? The bare idea of
it seemed absurd to him; he could not believe it. Yet many little things
that he could not explain to himself made him feel uncomfortable and
anxious. Could it be that she, the most beautiful and certainly the most
popular woman in London, cared so much for him as to hold him by so
slender a tie as their past childish nonsense?
He reproached himself for the thought, yet, do what he would, he could
not drive it away. The suspicion haunted him; it made him miserable. If
it was really so, what was he to do?
He was a gentleman, not a coxcomb. He could not go to this fair woman
and ask her if it was really true that she loved him, if she really
cared for him, if she held him by a tie contracted in childhood. He
could not do it. He had not sufficient vanity. Why should he think that
Philippa, who had some of the noblest men in England at her feet--why
should life think that she would renounce all her brilliant prospects
for him? Yet, if the mistake had really occurred--if she really thought
the childish nonsense binding--if she really believed that he was about
to make her his wife--it was high time that she was undeceived, that she
knew the truth. And the truth was that although he had a great liking, a
kindly affection for her, he was not in love with her. He admired her
beauty--nay, he went further; he thought her the most beautiful woman he
had ever seen, the most gifted, the most graceful. But he was not in
love with her--never would be. She was not his type of woman, not his
ideal. If she had been his sister, he would have loved her
exceedingly--a brotherly affection was what he felt for her.
Yet how could he go to this fair woman with the ungracious words that he
did not love her, and had no thought of marrying her? His face flushed
hotly at the thought--there was something in it against which his whole
manhood rose in hot rebellion Still it must be done; there must be no
such shadow between them as this--there must be no such fatal mistake.
If the report of their approaching marriage were allowed to remain much
longer uncontradicted, why, then he would be in honor compelled to
fulfill public expectations; and this he had no intention, no desire to
do. The only thing therefore was to speak plainly to her.
How he hated the thought! How he loathed the idea! It seemed to him
unmanly, most ignoble--and yet there was no help for it. There was one
gleam of comfort for him, and only one. She was so quick, so keen, that
she would be sure to understand him at once, without his entering into
any long explanation. Few words would suffice, and those words he must
choose as best he could. If it were possible, he would speak to her
to-day--the sooner the better-and then all uncertainty would be ended.
It seemed to him, as he pondered these things, that a cloud had fallen
over the sunshine. In his heart he blamed the folly of that gentle
mother who had been the cause of all this anxiety.
"Such matters are always best left alone," he said to himself, "If I
should ever have children of my own, I will never interfere in their
Think as he would ponder as he would, it was no easy task that lay
before him--to tell her in so many words that he did not love her.
Surely no man had ever had anything so ungracious to do before.
He looked round the grounds, and presently saw her the center of a
brilliant group near the lake. The Duke of Ashwood was by her side, the
_elite_ of the guests had gathered round her. She--beautiful, bright,
animated--was talking, as he could see, with her usual grace and ease.
It struck him suddenly as absurd that this beautiful woman should
care--as people said she did care--for him.
Let him get it all over. He longed to see the bright face shine on him
with sisterly kindness, and to feel himself at ease with her; he longed
to have all misunderstanding done away with.
He went up to the little group, and again the same peculiarity struck
him--they all made way for him--even the Duke of Ashwood, although he
did it with a frown on his face and an angry look in his eyes. Each one
seemed to consider that he had some special right to be by the side of
the beautiful Miss L'Estrange; and she, as usual when he was present,
saw and heard no one else.
It was high time the world was disabused. Did she herself join in the
popular belief? He could not tell. He looked at the bright face; the
dark eyes met his, but he read no secret in them.
"Philippa," he said, suddenly, "the water looks very tempting--would you
like a row?"
"Above everything else," she replied. And they went off in the little
It was a miniature lake, tall trees bordering it and dipping their green
branches into the water. The sun shone on the feathered spray that fell
from the sculls, the white swans raised their graceful heads as the
little boat passed by, and Philippa lay back languidly, watching the
shadow of the trees. Suddenly an idea seemed to occur to her. She looked
at Lord Arleigh.
"Norman," she said, "let the boat drift--I want to talk to you, and I
cannot while you are rowing."
He rested on his sculls, and the boat drifted under the drooping
branches of a willow-tree. He never forgot the picture that then
presented itself--the clear deep water, the green trees, and the
beautiful face looking at him.
"Norman," she said, in a clear, low voice, "I want to tell you that I
overheard all that you said to the Duchess of Aytoun. I could not help
it--I was so near to you."
She was taking the difficulty into her own hands! He felt most thankful.
"Did you, Philippa? I thought you were engrossed with the gallant
"Did you really and in all truth mean what you said to her?" she asked.
"Certainly; you know me well enough to be quite sure that I never say
what I do not mean."
"You have never yet seen the woman whom you would ask to be your wife?"
There was a brief silence, and then he replied:
"No, in all truth, I have not, Philippa."
A little bird was singing on a swaying bough just above them--to the
last day of her life it seemed to her that she remembered the notes. The
sultry silence seemed to deepen. She broke it.
"But, Norman," she said, in a low voice, "have you not seen me?"
He tried to laugh to hide his embarrassment, but it was a failure.
"I have seen you--and I admire you. I have all the affection of a
brother for you, Philippa--" and then he paused abruptly.
"But," she supplied, "you have never thought of making me your wife?
Speak to me quite frankly, Norman."
"No, Philippa, I have not."
"As matters stand between us, they require explanation," she said; and
he saw her lips grow pale. "It is not pleasant for me to have to mention
it, but I must do it. Norman, do you quite forget what we were taught to
believe when we were children--that our lives were to be passed
"My dearest Philippa, pray spare yourself and me. I did not know that
you even remembered that childish nonsense."
She raised her dark eyes to his face, and there was something in them
before which he shrank as one who feels pain.
"One word, Norman--only one word. That past which has been so much to
me--that past in which I have lived, even more than in the present or
the future--am I to look upon it as what you call nonsense?"
He took her hand in his.
"My dear Philippa," he said, "I hate myself for what I have to say--it
makes me detest even the sound of my own voice. Yet you are right--there
is nothing for us but perfect frankness; anything else would be foolish.
Neither your mother nor mine had any right to try to bind us. Such
things never answer, never prosper. I cannot myself imagine how they,
usually so sensible, came in this instance to disregard all dictates of
common sense. I have always looked upon the arrangement as mere
nonsense; and I hope you have done the same. You are free as air--and so
She made no answer, but, after a few minutes, when she had regained her
self-possession, she said:
"The sun is warm on the water--I think we had better return;" and, as
they went back, she spoke to him carelessly about the new rage for
"Does she care or not?" thought Lord Arleigh to himself. "Is she pleased
or not? I cannot tell; the ways of women are inscrutable. Yet a strange
idea haunts me--an uncomfortable suspicion."
As he watched her, there seemed to him no trace of anything but
light-hearted mirth and happiness about her. She laughed and talked; she
was the center of attraction, the life of the _fete_. When he spoke to
her, she had a careless jest, a laughing word for him; yet he could not
divest himself of the idea that there was something behind all this. Was
it his fancy, or did the dark eyes wear every now and then an expression
of anguish? Was it his fancy, or did it really happen that when she
believed herself unobserved, the light died out of her face?
He was uncomfortable, without knowing why--haunted by a vague, miserable
suspicion he could not explain, by a presentiment he could not
understand--compelled against his will to watch her, yet unable to
detect anything in her words and manner that justified his doing so. It
had been arranged that after the _fete_ he should return to Verdun House
with Lady Peters and Philippa. He had half promised to dine and spend
the evening there, but now he wondered if that arrangement would be
agreeable to Philippa. He felt that some degree of restraint had arisen
He was thinking what excuse he could frame, when Philippa sent for him.
He looked into the fresh young face; there was no cloud on it.
"Norman," she said, "I find that Lady Peters has asked Miss Byrton to
join us at dinner--will you come now? It has been a charming day, but I
must own that the warmth of the sun has tired me."
Her tone of voice was so calm, so unruffled, he could have laughed at
himself for his suspicions, his fears.
"I am quite ready," he replied. "If you would like the carriage ordered,
we will go at once."
He noticed her going home more particularly than he had ever done
before. She was a trifle paler, and there was a languid expression in
her dark eyes which might arise from fatigue, but she talked lightly as
usual. If anything, she was even kinder to him than usual, never
evincing the least consciousness of what had happened. Could it have
been a dream? Never was man so puzzled as Lord Arleigh.
They talked after dinner about a grand fancy ball that Miss Byrton
intended giving at her mansion in Grosvenor Square. She was one of those
who believed implicitly in the engagement between Lord Arleigh and Miss
"I have a Waverley quadrille already formed," said Miss Byrton--"that is
_de rigueur_. There could not be a fancy ball without a Waverley
quadrille. How I should like two Shakesperian ones! I thought of having
one from 'As You Like It' and another from 'Romeo and Juliet;' and, Miss
L'Estrange, I wish you would come as _Juliet_. It seems rude even to
suggest a character to any one with such perfect taste as yours--still I
should like a beautiful _Juliet--Juliet_ in white satin, and glimmer of
"I am quite willing," returned Philippa. "_Juliet_ is one of my favorite
heroines. How many _Romeos_ will you have?"
"Only one, if I can so manage it," replied Miss Byrton--"and that will
be Lord Arleigh."
She looked at him as she spoke; he shook his head, laughingly.
"No--I yield to no one in reverence for the creations of the great
poet," he said; "but, to tell the truth, I do not remember that the
character of _Romeo_ ever had any great charm for me."
"Why not?" asked Miss Byrton.
"I cannot tell you; I am very much afraid that I prefer _Othello_--the
noble Moor. Perhaps it is because sentiment has not any great attraction
for me. I do not think I could ever kill myself for love. I should make
a sorry _Romeo_, Miss Byrton."
With a puzzled face she looked from him to Miss L'Estrange.
"You surprise me," she said, quickly. "I should have thought _Romeo_ a
character above all others to please you."
Philippa has listened with a smile--nothing had escaped her. Looking up,
she said, with a bright laugh:
"I cannot compliment you on being a good judge of character, Miss
Byrton. It may be perhaps that you have not known Lord Arleigh well
enough. But he is the last person in the world to make a good _Romeo._ I
know but one character in Shakespeare's plays that would suit him."
"And that?" interrogated Lord Arleigh.
"That," replied Philippa, "is _Petruchio_;" and amidst a general laugh
the conversation ended.
Miss Byrton was the first to take her departure. Lord Arleigh lingered
for some little time--he was still unconvinced. The wretched,
half-formed suspicion that there was something hidden beneath Philippa's
manner still pursued him; he wanted to see if she was the same to him.
There was indeed no perceptible difference. She leaned back in her
favorite chair with an air of relief, as though she were tired of
"Now let us talk about the _fete_, Norman," she said. "You are the only
one I care to talk with about my neighbors."
So for half an hour they discussed the _fete_, the dresses, the music,
the different flirtations--Philippa in her usual bright, laughing,
half-sarcastic fashion, with the keen sense of humor that was peculiar
to her. Lord Arleigh could not see that there was any effort in her
conversation; he could not see the least shadow on her brightness; and
at heart he was thankful.
When he was going away, she asked him about riding on the morrow just as
usual. He could not see the slightest difference in her manner. That
unpleasant little conversation on the lake might never have taken place
for all the remembrance of it that seemed to trouble her. Then, when he
rose to take his leave, she held out her hand with a bright, amused
"Good-night, _Petruchio_," she said. "I am pleased at the name I have
found for you."
"I am not so sure that it is appropriate," he rejoined. "I think on the
whole I would rather love a _Juliet_ than tame a shrew."
"It may be in the book of fate that you will do both," she observed; and
they parted, laughing at the idea.
To the last the light shone in her eyes, and the scarlet lips were
wreathed in smiles; but, when the door had closed behind him and she was
alone, the haggard, terrible change that fell over the young face was
painful to see. The light, the youth, the beauty seemed all to fade from
it; it grew white, stricken, as though the pain of death were upon her.
She clasped her hands as one who had lost all hope.
"How am I to bear it?" she cried. "What am I to do?" She looked round
her with the bewildered air of one who had lost her way--with the dazed
appearance of one from beneath whose feet the plank of safety had been
withdrawn. It was all over--life was all over; the love that had been
her life was suddenly taken from her. Hope was dead--the past in which
she had lived was all a plank--he did not love her.
She said the words over and over again to herself. He did not love her,
this man to whom she had given the passionate love of her whole heart
and soul--he did not love her, and never intended to ask her to be his
Why, she had lived for this! This love, lying now in ruins around her,
had been her existence. Standing there, in the first full pain of her
despair, she realized what that love had been--her life, her hope, her
world. She had lived in it; she had known no other wish, no other
desire. It had been her all and now it was less than nothing.
"How am I to live and bear it?" she asked herself again; and the only
answer that came to her was the dull echo of her own despair.
That night, while the sweet flowers slept under the light of the stars,
and the little birds rested in the deep shade of the trees--while the
night wind whispered low, and the moon sailed in the sky--Philippa
L'Estrange, the belle of the season, one of the most beautiful women in
London, one of the wealthiest heiresses in England, wept through the
long hours--wept for the overthrow of her hope and her love, wept for
the life that lay in ruins around her.
She was of dauntless courage--she knew no fear; but she did tremble and
quail before the future stretching out before her--the future that was
to have no love, and was to be spent without him.
How was she to bear it? She had known no other hope in life, no other
dream. What had been childish nonsense to him had been to her a serious
and exquisite reality. He had either forgotten it, or had thought of it
only with annoyance; she had made it the very corner-stone of her life.
It was not only a blow of the keenest and cruelest kind to her
affections, but it was the cruelest blow her vanity could have possibly
received. To think that she, who had more admirers at her feet than any
other woman in London, should have tried so hard to win this one, and
have failed--that her beauty, her grace, her wit, her talent, should all
have been lavished in vain.
Why did she fail so completely? Why had she not won his love? It was
given to no other--at least she had the consolation of knowing that. He
had talked about his ideal, but he had not found it; he had his own
ideal of womanhood, but he had not met with it.
"Are other women fairer, more lovable than I am?" she asked herself.
"Why should another win where I have failed?"
So through the long hours of the starlit night she lamented the love and
the wreck of her life, she mourned for the hope that could never live
again, while her name was on the lips of men who praised her as the
queen of beauty, and fair women envied her as one who had but to will
and to win.
She would have given her whole fortune to win his love--not once, but a
hundred times over.
It seemed to her a cruel mockery of fate that she who had everything the
world could give--beauty, health, wealth, fortune--should ask but this
one gift, and that it should be refused her.
She watched the stars until they faded from the skies and then she
buried her face in the pillow and sobbed herself to sleep.
It was when the sun, shining into her room, reached her that an idea
occurred to Philippa which was like the up-springing of new life to her.
All was not yet lost. He did not love her--he had not thought of making
her his wife; but it did not follow that he would never do so. What had
not patience and perseverance accomplished before now? What had not love
He had acknowledged that she was beautiful; he had owned to her often
how much he admired her. So much granted, was it impossible that he
should learn to love her? She told herself that she would take
courage--that she would persevere--that her great love must in time
prevail, and that she would devote her life unweariedly to it.
She would carefully hide all traces of pique or annoyance. She would
never let him find her dull or unhappy. Men liked to be amused. She
would do her best to entertain him; he would never have a moment's
vacancy in her society. She would find sparkling anecdotes, repartees,
witty, humorous stories, to amuse him. He liked her singing; she would
cultivate it more and more. She would study him, dress for him, live for
him, and him alone; she would have no other end, aim, thought, or
desire. She would herself be the source of all his amusement, so that he
should look for the every-day pleasures of his life to her--and, such
being the case, she would win him; she felt sure of it. Why had she been
so hopeless, so despairing? There was no real cause for it. Perhaps,
after all, he had looked upon the whole affair, not as a solemn
engagement, but as a childish farce. Perhaps he had never really thought
of her as his wife; but there would be an end to that thoughtlessness
now. What had passed on the previous day would arouse his attention, he
could never know the same indifference again.
So she rose with renewed hope. She shrank from the look of her face in
the glass. "Cold water and fresh air," she said to herself, with a
smile, "will soon remedy such paleness." And thus on that very day began
for her the new life--the life in which, no longer sure of her love, she
was to try to win it.
He would have loved her had he been able; but his own words were
true--"Love is fate."
There was nothing in common between them--no sympathy--none of those
mystical cords that, once touched, set two human hearts throbbing, and
never rest until they are one. He could not have been fonder of her than
he was, in a brotherly sense; but as for lover's love, from the first
day he had seen her, a beautiful, dark-eyed child, until the last he
had never felt the least semblance of it.
It was a story of failure. She strove as perhaps woman never before had
striven, and she succeeded in winning his truest admiration, his warmest
friendship; he felt more at home with her than any one else in the wide
world. But there it ended--she won no more.
It was not his fault; it was simply because the electric spark called
love had never been and never could be elicited between his soul and
hers. He would have done anything for her--he was her truest, best
friend; but he was not her lover.
She hoped against hope. Each day she counted the kind words he had said
to her; she noted every glance, every look, every expression. But she
could not find that she made any progress--nothing that indicated any
change from brotherly friendship to love. Still she hoped against hope,
the chances are that she would have died of a broken heart.
Then the season ended. She went back to Verdun Royal with Lady Peters,
and Lord Arleigh to Beechgrove. They wrote to each other at Christmas,
and met at Calverley, the seat of Lord Rineham. She contrived, even when
away from him, to fill his life. She was always consulting him on
matters of interest to her; she sought his advice continually, and about
everything, from the renewal of a lease to the making of a new
acquaintance. "I cannot do wrong," she would say to him, "if I follow
your advice." He was pleased and happy to be able to help the daughter
of his mother's dearest friend.
Her manner completely deceived him. If she had evinced the least pique
or discontent--if she had by word or look shown the least resentment--he
would have suspected that she cared for him, and would have been on his
guard. As it was, he would not have believed any one who had told him
she loved him.
The explanation had been made; there was no longer even a shadow between
them; they both understood that the weak, nonsensical tie was broken.
That they were the dearest of friends, and quite happy, would have been
Lord Arleigh's notion of matters. Philippa L'Estrange might have told a
The proposed party at Beechgrove did not come off. There were some
repairs needed in the eastern wing, and Lord Arleigh himself had so many
engagements, that no time could be found for it; but when the season
came round Philippa and he met again.
By this time some of Miss L'Estrange's admirers had come to the
conclusion that there was no truth in the report of the engagement
between herself and Lord Arleigh. Among these was his grace the Duke of
Hazlewood. He loved the beautiful, queenly girl who had so disdainfully
refused his coronet--the very refusal had made him care more than ever
for her. He was worldly-wise enough to know that there were few women in
London who would have refused him; and he said to himself that, if she
would not marry him, he would go unmarried to the grave. He was one of
the first to feel sure that there was no truth in the rumors that had
grieved him so the previous year. Miss L'Estrange and Lord Arleigh were
by force of circumstances great friends--nothing more, and this season
he determined to make a friend of the man he had detested as a rival.
When the Duke of Hazlewood made up his mind, he generally accomplished
his desire; he sought Lord Arleigh with such assiduity, he made himself
so pleasant and agreeable to him, that the master of Beechgrove soon
showed him his most cordial and sincere liking. Then they became warm
friends. The duke confided in Lord Arleigh--he told him the whole story
of his love for Miss L'Estrange.
"I know," he said, "that no one has so much influence over her as you. I
do not believe in the absurd stores told about an engagement between
you, but I see plainly that she is your friend, and that you are hers;
and I want you to use your influence with her in my favor."
Lord Arleigh promised to do so--and he intended to keep his promise;
they were on such intimate and friendly terms that he could venture upon
saying anything of that kind to her. She would not be displeased--on the
contrary, she would like his advice; it might even be that before now
she had wished to ask for it, but had not liked to do so--so completely
did these two play at cross-purposes and misunderstand each other.
It was easier to say to himself that he would speak to her as the duke
wished than to do it. He saw that any allusion to her lovers or admirers
made her ill at ease--she did not like it; even his laughing comments on
the homage paid to her did not please her.
"I do not like lovers," she said to him one day, "and I am tired of
admirers--I prefer friends."
"But," he opposed, laughingly, "if all that wise men and philosophers
tell us is correct, there are no true friends."
He never forgot the light that shone in her face as she raised it to
"I do not believe that," she returned; "there are true friends--you are
one to me."
The tenderness of her manner struck him forcibly. Something kinder and
softer stirred in his heart than had ever stirred before for her; he
raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.
"You are right, Philippa" he said. "If ever a woman had a true, stanch
friend, I am and will be one to you."
From her heart to her lips rose the words: "Shall you never be more?"
Perhaps even her eyes asked the question more eloquently than her lips
could have done, for his face flushed, and she turned away with some
"I shall try and keep your friendship," she said; "but that will be
easily done, Norman."
"Yes," he replied; "one of the traditions of our house is 'truth in
friendship, trust in love, honor in war.' To be a true friend and a
noble foe is characteristic of the Arleighs."
"I hope that you will never be a foe of mine," she rejoined, laughingly.
And that evening, thinking over the events of the day she flattered
herself that she had made some little progress after all.
The opportunity that Lord Arleigh looked for came at last. Philippa had
some reason to doubt the honesty of a man whom she had been employing as
agent. She was kind of heart, and did not wish to punish him, yet she
felt sure that he had not done his duty by her. To speak to her
solicitors about it would be, she felt, injurious to him, whether
innocent or guilty. If innocent, it would create a prejudice against
him; if guilty, they would wish to punish him. She resolved upon laying
the matter before Lord Arleigh, and seeing what he thought of it.
He listened very patiently, examined the affair, and then told her that
he believed she had been robbed.
"What shall I do?" she asked, looking at him earnestly.
"I know what you ought to do, Philippa. You ought to punish him."
"But he has a wife, Norman, and innocent little children; in exposing
him I shall punish them, and they are innocent."
"That is one of the strangest of universal laws to me," said Lord
Arleigh--"why the innocent always do, and always must, suffer for the
guilty; it is one of the mysteries I shall never understand. Common
sense tells me that you ought to expose this man--that he ought to be
punished for what he has done. Yet, if you do, his wife and children
will be dragged down into an abyss of misery. Suppose you make a
compromise of matters and lecture him well."
He was half smiling as he spoke, but she took every word in serious
"Philippa," he continued, "why do you not marry? A husband would save
you all this trouble; he would attend to your affairs, and shield you
from annoyances of this kind."
"The answer to your question, 'Why do I not marry?' Would form a long
story," she replied, and then she turned the conversation.
But he was determined to keep his word, and pleaded with her for the
duke. Another opportunity came that evening. It was Lady Peters'
birthday, and Philippa had invited some of her most intimate friends;
not young people, but those with whom she thought her _chaperon_ would
enjoy herself best. The result was a very pleasant dinner-party,
followed by a very pleasant evening. Lord Arleigh could not be absent,
for it was, in some measure, a family _fete_.
The guests did not remain very late, and Lady Peters, professing herself
tired with the exertions she had made, lay down on a couch, and was soon
asleep. Philippa stood by the window with the rose-silk hangings drawn.
"Come out on the balcony," she said to Lord Arleigh, "the room is very
It was night, but the darkness was silver-gray, not black. The sky above
was brilliant with the gleam of a thousand stars, the moon was shining
behind some silvery clouds, the great masses of foliage in the park were
just stirred with the whisper of the night, and sweetest odors came from
heliotrope and mignonnette; the brooding silence of the summer night lay
over the land.
Philippa sat down, and Lord Arleigh stood by her side.
The moonlight falling on her beautiful face softened it into wondrous
loveliness--it was pale, refined, with depths of passion in the dark
eyes, and tender, tremulous smiles on the scarlet lips. She wore some
material of white and gold. A thin scarf was thrown carelessly over her
white shoulders. When the wind stirred it blew the scarf against her
She might have been the very goddess of love, she looked so fair out in
the starlight. If there had been one particle of love in Lord Arleigh's
heart, that hour and scene must have called it into life. For a time
they sat in perfect silence. Her head was thrown back against a pillar
round which red roses clustered and clung, and the light of the stars
fell full upon her face; the dark eyes were full of radiance.
"How beautiful it is, Norman," she said, suddenly. "What music has ever
equaled the whispers of the night-wind? It seems a sad pity after all
that we are obliged to lead such conventional lives, and spend the
greater part of them in warm, close rooms."
"You have a great love for out-of-door freedom," he remarked,
"Yes, I love the fresh air. I think if any one asked me what I loved
best on earth, I should say wind. I love it in all its moods--rough,
caressing, tender, impetuous, calm, stormy. It is always beautiful.
Listen to it now, just sighing in the branches of those tall trees.
Could any music be sweeter or softer?"
"No," he replied, and then added, "The time and the scene embolden me,
Philippa; there is something that I wish to say to you--something that I
long have wished to say. Will you hear it now?"
A tremor like that of the leaves in the wind seemed to pass over her.
There was a startled expression in the dark eyes, a quiver of the
crimson lips. Was it coming at last--this for which she had longed all
her life? She controlled all outward signs of emotion and turned to him
"I am always ready to listen to you, Norman, and to hear what you have
"You see, Philippa, the starlight makes me bold. If we were in that
brilliantly-lighted drawing-room of yours, I should probably hesitate
long before speaking plainly, as I am going to do now."
He saw her clasp her hands tightly, but he had no key to what was
passing in her mind. He drew nearer to her.
"You know, Philippa," he began, "that I have always been fond of you. I
have always taken the same interest in you that I should have taken in a
dearly-beloved sister of my own, if Heaven had given me one."
She murmured some few words which he did not hear.
"I am going to speak to you now," he continued, "just as though you were
my own sister, have I your permission to do so, Philippa?"
"Yes," she replied.
"And you promise not to be angry about any thing that I may say?"
"I could never be angry with you, Norman," she answered.
"Then I want you to tell me why you will not marry the Duke of
Hazlewood. You have treated me as your brother and your friend. The
question might seem impertinent from another; from me it will not appear
impertinent, not curious--simply true and kindly interest. Why will you
not marry him, Philippa?"
A quick sharp spasm of pain passed over her face. She was silent for a
minute before she answered him, and then she said:
"The reason is very simple, Norman--because I do not love him."
"That is certainly a strong reason; but, Philippa, let me ask you now
another question--why do you not love him?"
She could have retorted, "Why do you not love me?" but prudence forbade
"I cannot tell you. I have heard you say that love is fate. I should
imagine it must be because the Duke of Hazlewood is not my fate."
He did not know what answer to make to that, it was so entirely his own
way of thinking.
"But, Philippa," he resumed after a pause, "do you not think that you
might love him if you tried?"
"I have never thought about it," was the quiet reply.
Lord Arleigh continued:
"In my idea he is one of the most charming men in England; I have never
seen a more perfect type of what an English gentleman should be--he is
noble, generous, brave, chivalrous. What fault do you find with him,
"I?" she asked, looking up at him in wonder. "My dear Norman, I have
never found fault with the duke in my life."
"Then why can you not love him?"
"That is a very different thing. I find no fault with him; on the
contrary, I agree with you that he is one of the noblest of men, yet I
have never thought of marrying him."
"But, Philippa"--and with kindly impressiveness he laid one hand on her
shoulder--"why do you not think of marrying him? Between you and myself
there can be no compliments, no flattery. I tell you that of all the
women in England you are the most fitted to be the Duchess of
Hazlewood--and you would be a beautiful duchess, too. Think of the
position you would occupy--second only to royalty. I should like to see
you in such a position--you would fill it grandly. Think of the power,
the influence, the enormous amount of good you could do; think of it
He did not see the sudden, sharp quiver of pain that passed over the
beautiful face, nor how pale it grew in the starlight.
"I am thinking," she answered, quietly--"I am listening attentively to
all that you say."
She drew the light scarf more closely around her shoulders and shuddered
as though a chill breeze had passed over her.
"Are you cold, dear?" he asked kindly.
"Cold! How could I be on this warm starlit night? Go on, Norman; let me
hear all that you have to say."
"I am trying to persuade you to accept what seems to me one of the
happiest lots ever offered to woman. I want to see you the Duke of
Hazlewood's wife. I cannot imagine any man more calculated to win a
woman's love, or to please her fancy, than he is. He is young, handsome,
noble in face and figure as he is in heart and soul; and he is clever
"Yes," she allowed, slowly, "he is all that, Norman."
"Some day or other he will be the leading spirit in the land; he will
be the head of a great party."
"That I believe," she agreed.
"And he loves you so well, Philippa; I have never seen a man more
devoted. How many years has he loved you now--two or three? And he tells
me that he shall go unmarried to the grave unless you consent to be his
"Did he tell you that? He must indeed be attached to me," she observed.
"Norman, did he ask you to say all this to me?"
"He asked me to plead his cause," replied Lord Arleigh.
"Why did he ask you to do so?"
"Because--believing us to be what we really are, Philippa, tried and
true friends--he thought I should have some influence over you."
"Clever duke!" she said. "Norman, are you well versed in modern poetry?"
He looked up in blank surprise at the question--it was so totally
"In modern poetry?" he repeated. "Yes, I think I am. Why, Philippa?"
"I will tell you why," she said, turning her beautiful face to him. "If
you will be patient, I will tell you why."
She was silent for a few minutes, and then Lord Arleigh said:
"I am patient enough, Philippa; will you tell me why?"
The dark eyes raised to his had in them a strange light--a strange depth
"I want to know if you remember the beautiful story of Priscilla, the
Puritan maiden," she said, in a tremulous voice--the loveliest maiden of
"You mean the story of Miles Standish," he corrected. "Yes, I remember
"That which a Puritan maiden could do, and all posterity sing her
praises for, surely I--a woman of the world--may do without blame. Do
you remember, Norman, when John Alden goes to her to do the wooing which
the stanch soldier does not do for himself--do you remember her answer?
Let me give you the verse--
"'But, as he warmed and glowed in his simple and eloquent language,
Quite forgetful of self, and full of the praise of his rival,
Archly the maiden smiled, and with eyes overrunning with laughter,
Said in a tremulous voice, "Why don't you speak for yourself, John?"'"
The sweet musical voice died away in the starlight, the wind stirred the
crimson roses--silence, solemn and deep, fell over Lord Arleigh and his
companion. Philippa broke it.
"Surely you, in common with all of us, admire the Puritan maiden,
"Yes, I do admire her," he answered; "she is one of my favorite
"So she is of mine; and I love her the more for the womanly outburst of
honest truth that triumphed over all conventionality. Norman, what she,
the 'loveliest maiden in Plymouth,' the beloved of Miles Standish, said
to John Alden, I say to you--'Why don't you speak for yourself?'"
There was infinite tenderness in his face as he bent over her--infinite
pain in his voice as he spoke to her.
"John Alden loved Priscilla," he said, slowly--"she was the one woman in
all the world for him--his ideal--his fate, but I--oh Philippa, how I
hate myself because I cannot answer you differently! You are my friend,
my sister, but not the woman I must love as my wife."
"When you urged me a few minutes since to marry your friend, you asked
me why I could not love him, seeing that he had all lovable qualities.
Norman, why can you not love me?"
"I can answer you only in the same words--I do not know. I love you with
as true an affection as ever man gave to woman; but I have not for you a
lover's love. I cannot tell why, for you are one of the fairest of fair
"Fair, but not your 'ideal woman,'" she said, gently.
"No, not my 'ideal woman,'" he returned; "my sister, my friend--not my
"I am to blame," she said, proudly; "but again I must plead that I am
like Priscilla. While you are pleading the cause of another, the truth
came uppermost; you must forgive me for speaking so forcibly. As the
"'There are moments in life when the heart is so full of emotions
That if, by chance, it be shaken, or into its depths, like a pebble,
Drops some careless word, it overflows, and its secret,
Spilt on the ground like water, can never be gathered together.'"
"My dearest Philippa, you have not been to blame," he said; "you judge
yourself so hardly always."
"It is the fate of a woman to be silent," she said again. "Still, I am
glad that I have spoken. Norman, will you tell me what your ideal of
woman is like, that I may know her when I see her?"
"Nay," he objected, gently, "let us talk of something else."
But she persisted.
"Tell me," she urged, "that I may know in what she differs from me."
"I do not know that I can tell you," he replied. "I have not thought
much of the matter."
"But if any one asked you to describe your ideal of what a woman should
be, you could do it," she pursued.
"Perhaps so, but at best it would be but an imperfect sketch. She must
be young, fair, gentle, pure, tender of heart, noble in soul, with a
kind of shy, sweet grace; frank, yet not outspoken; free from all
affectation, yet with nothing unwomanly; a mixture of child and woman.
If I love an ideal, it is something like that."
"And she must be fair, like all the ladies Arleigh, with eyes like the
hyacinth, and hair tinged with gold, I suppose, Norman?"
"Yes; I saw a picture once in Borne that realized my notion of true
womanly loveliness. It was a very fair face, with something of the
innocent wonder of a child mixed with the dawning love and passion of
"You admire an _ingenue_. We have both our tastes; mine, if I were a
man, would incline more to the brilliant and handsome."
She would have added more, but at that moment Lady Peters drew aside the
"My dear children," she said, "I should ill play my part of chaperon if
I did not remind you of the hour. We have been celebrating my birthday,
but my birthday is past and gone--it is after midnight."
Lord Arleigh looked up in wonder.
"After midnight? Impossible! Yet I declare my watch proves that it is.
It is all the fault of the starlight, Lady Peters; you must blame that."
Lady Peters went out to them.
"I do not wonder at your lingering here," she said. "How calm and sweet
the night is! It reminds me of the night in 'Romeo and Juliet.' It was
on such a night _Jessica_--"
Philippa held up her hands in horror.
"No more poetry to-night, dear Lady Peters; we have had more than
"Is that true, Lord Arleigh? Have you really had more than enough?"
"I have not found it so," he replied. "However, I must go. I wish time
would sometimes stand still; all pleasant hours end so soon. Good-night,
But that most discreet of _chaperons_ had already re-entered the
drawing-room--it was no part of her business to be present when the two
friends said good-night.
"Good-night, Philippa," he said, in a low, gentle voice, bending over
The wind stirred her perfumed hair until it touched his cheek, the
leaves of the crimson roses fell in a shower around her. She raised her
beautiful pale face to his--the unspeakable love, the yearning sorrow on
it, moved him greatly. He bent down and touched her brow with his lips.
"Good-night, Philippa, my sister--my friend," he said.
Even by the faint starlight he saw a change pass over her face.
"Good-night," she responded. "I have more to say to you, but Lady Peters
will be horrified if you remain any longer. You will call to-morrow, and
then I can finish my conversation?"
"I will come," he replied, gravely.
He waited a moment to see if she would pass into the drawing-room before
him, but she turned away and leaned her arms on the stone balustrade.
It was nearly half an hour afterward when Lady Peters once more drew
aside the hangings.
"Philippa," she said, gently, "you will take cold out there."
She wondered why the girl paused some few minutes before answering; then
Miss L'Estrange said, in a low, calm voice:
"Do not wait for me, Lady Peters; I am thinking and do not wish to be
But Lady Peters did not seem quite satisfied.
"I do not like to leave you sitting there," she said, "the servants will
think it strange."
"Their thoughts do not concern me," she returned, haughtily.
"Good-night, Lady Peters; do not interrupt me again, if you please."
And the good-tempered _chaperon_ went away, thinking to herself that
perhaps she had done wrong in interrupting the _tete-a-tete_.
"Still I did it for the best," she said to herself; "and servants will
Philippa L'Estrange did not move. Lady Peters thought she spoke in a
calm, proud voice. She would have been surprised could she have seen the
beautiful face all wet with tears; for, Philippa had laid her head on
the cold stone, and was weeping such tears as women weep but once in
life. She sat there not striving to subdue the tempest of emotion that
shook her, giving full vent to her passion of grief, stretching out her
hands and crying to her lost love.
It was all over now. She had stepped down from the proud height of her
glorious womanhood to ask for his love, and he had told her that he had
none to give her. She had thrown aside her pride, her delicacy. She had
let him read the guarded secret of her heart, only to hear his
reply--that she was not his ideal of womanhood. She had asked for
bread--he had given her a stone. She had lavished her love at his
feet--he had coolly stepped aside. She had lowered her pride,
humiliated herself, all in vain.
"No woman," she said to herself, "would ever pardon such a slight or
forgive such a wrong."
At first she wept as though her heart would break--tears fell like rain
from her eyes, tears that seemed to burn as they fell; then after a time
pride rose and gained the ascendancy. She, the courted, beautiful woman,
to be so humiliated, so slighted! She, for whose smile the noblest in
the land asked in vain, to have her almost offered love so coldly
refused! She, the very queen of love and beauty, to be so spurned!
When the passion of grief had subsided, when the hot angry glow of
wounded pride died away, she raised her face to the night-skies.
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