Wife in Name Only
Charlotte M. Braeme (Bertha M. Clay)
Part 6 out of 6
"Thank Heaven!" he said, devoutly; and then added, turning to the
woman--"Living and well?"
"No, not well; but she will be in time. Oh, sir, forgive me! I did
wrong, perhaps, but I thought I was acting for the best."
"It was a strange 'best,'" he said, "to place a child beyond its
"Oh, sir," cried Margaret Dornham, "I never thought of that! She came to
me in my dead child's place--it was to me as though my own child had
come back again. You could not tell how I loved her. Her little head lay
on my breast, her little fingers caressed me, her little voice murmured
sweet words to me. She was my own child--I loved her so, sir!" and the
poor woman's voice was broken with sobs. "All the world was hard and
cruel and cold to me--the child never was; all the world disappointed
me--the child never did. My heart soul clung to her. And then, sir,
when she was able to run about, a pretty, graceful, loving child, the
very joy of my heart and sunshine of my life, the doctor died, and I was
left alone with her."
She paused for some few minutes, her whole frame shaken with sobs. The
earl, bending down, spoke kindly to her.
"I am quite sure," he said, "that if you erred it has been through love
for my child. Tell me all--have no fear."
"I was in the house, sir," she continued, "when the poor doctor was
carried home dead--in his sitting-room with my--with little
Madaline--and when I saw the confusion that followed upon his death, I
thought of the papers in the oaken box; and, without saying a word to
any one, I took it and hid it under my shawl."
"But, tell me," said the earl, kindly, "why did you do that?"
"I can hardly remember now," she replied--"it is so long since. I think
my chief motive was dread lest my darling should be taken from me. I
thought that, if strangers opened the box and found out who she was,
they would take her away from me, and I should never see her again. I
knew that the box held all the papers relating to her, so I took it
"Then, of course," said the earl, "you know her history?"
"No," she replied, quickly; "I have never opened the box."
"Never opened it!" he exclaimed, wonderingly.
"No, sir--I have never even touched it; it is wrapped in my old shawl
just as I brought it away."
"But why have you never opened it?" he asked, still wondering.
"Because, sir, I did not wish to know who the little child really was,
lest, in discovering that, I should discover something also which would
compel me to give her up."
Lord Mountdean looked at her in astonishment. How woman-like she was!
How full of contradictions! What strength and weakness, what honor and
dishonor, what love and selfishness did not her conduct reveal!
"Then," continued Margaret Dornham, "when the doctor died, people
frightened me. They said that the child must go to the work-house. My
husband soon afterward got into dreadful trouble, and I determined to
leave the village. I tell the truth, sir. I was afraid, too, that you
would return and claim the child; so I took her away with me to London.
My husband was quite indifferent--I could do as I liked, he said. I took
her and left no trace behind. After we reached London, my husband got
into trouble again; but I always did my best for the darling child.
She was well dressed, well fed, well cared for, well educated--she has
had the training of a lady."
"But," put in Lord Mountdean, "did you never read my advertisments?"
"No, sir," she replied; "I have not been in the habit of reading
"It was strange that you should remain hidden in London while people
were looking for you," he said. "What was your husband's trouble, Mrs.
"He committed a burglary, sir; and, as he had been convicted before, his
sentence was a heavy one."
"And my daughter, you say, is living, but not well? Where is she?"
"I will take you to her, sir," was the reply--"at once, if you will go."
"I will not lose a minute," said the earl, hastily. "It is time, Mrs.
Dornham, that you knew my name, and my daughter's also. I am the Earl of
Mountdean, and she is Lady Madaline Charlewood."
On hearing this, Margaret Dornham was more frightened than ever. She
rose from her knees and stood before him.
"If I have done wrong, my lord," she said, "I beg of you to pardon
me--it was all, as I thought, for the best. So the child whom I have
loved and cherished was a grand lady after all?"
"Do not let us lose a moment," he said. "Where is my daughter?"
"She lives not far from here; but we cannot walk--the distance is too
great," replied Margaret.
"Well, we are near to the town of Lynton--it is not twenty minutes walk;
we will go to an hotel, and get a carriage. I--I can hardly endure this
He never thought to ask her how she had come thither; it never occurred
to him. His whole soul was wrapped in the one idea--that he was to see
his child again--Madaline's child--the little babe he had held in his
arms, whose little face he had bedewed with tears--his own child--the
daughter he had lost for long years and had tried so hard to find. He
never noticed the summer woods through which he was passing; he never
heard the wild birds' song; of sunshine or shade he took no note. The
heart within him was on fire, for he was going to see his only
child--his lost child--the daughter whose voice he had never heard.
"Tell me," he said, stopping abruptly, and looking at Margaret "you saw
my poor wife when she lay dead--is my child like her?"
Margaret answered quickly.
"She is like her; but, to my mind, she is a thousand times fairer."
They reached the principal hotel at Lynton, and Lord Mountdean called
hastily for a carriage. Not a moment was to be lost--time pressed.
"You know the way," he said to Margaret, "will you direct the driver?"
He did not think to ask where his daughter lived, if she was married or
single, what she was doing or anything else; his one thought was that he
had found her--found her, never to lose her again.
He sat with his face shaded by his hand during the whole of the drive,
thanking Heaven that he had found Madaline's child. He never noticed the
woods, the high-road bordered with trees, the carriage-drive with its
avenue of chestnuts; he did not even recognize the picturesque, quaint
old Dower House that he had admired so greatly some little time before.
He saw a large mansion, but it never occurred to him to ask whether his
daughter was mistress or servant; he only knew that the carriage had
stopped, and that very shortly he should see his child.
Presently he found himself in a large hall gay with flowers and covered
with Indian matting, and Margaret Dornham was trembling before him.
"My lord," she said, "your daughter is ill, and I am afraid the
agitation may prove too much for her. Tell me, what shall I do?"
He collected his scattered thoughts.
"Do you mean to tell me," he asked, "that she has been kept In complete
ignorance of her history all these years?"
"She has been brought up in the belief that she is my daughter," said
Margaret--"she knows nothing else."
A dark frown came over the earl's face.
"It was wickedly unjust," he said--"cruelly unjust. Let me go to her at
Pale, trembling, and frightened, Margaret led the way. It seemed to the
earl that his heart had stopped beating, and a thick mist was spread
before his eyes, that the surging of a deep sea filled his ears. Oh,
Heaven, could it be that after all these years he was really going to
see Madaline's child, his own lost daughter? Very soon he found himself
looking on a fair face framed in golden hair, with dark blue eyes, full
of passion, poetry, and sorrow, sweet crimson lips, sensitive, and
delicate, a face so lovely that its pure, saint-like expression almost
frightened him. He looked at it in a passion of wonder and grief of love
and longing; and then he saw a shadow of fear gradually darken the
"Madaline," he said gently; and she looked at him in wonder "Madaline,"
"I--I--do not know you," she replied, surprised.
She was lying, when he entered the room, on a little couch drawn close
to the window, the sunlight, which fell full upon her, lighting up the
golden hair and refined face with unearthly beauty. When he uttered her
name, she stood up, and so like her mother did she appear that it was
with difficulty he could refrain from clasping her in his arms. But he
must not startle her, he reflected--he saw how fragile she was.
"You call me Madaline," she said again--"but I do not know you."
Before answering her, Lord Mountdean turned to Margaret.
"Will you leave us alone?" he requested, but Lady Arleigh stretched out
"That is my mother," she said--"she must not be sent away from me."
"I will not be long away, Madaline. You must listen to what this
gentleman says--and, my dear, do not let it upset you."
Mrs. Dornham retired, closing the door carefully behind her, and Lady
Arleigh and the earl stood looking at each Other.
"You call we Madaline," she said, "and you send my mother from me. What
can you have to say?" A sudden thought occurred to her. "Has Lord
Arleigh sent you to me?" she asked.
"Lord Arleigh!" he repeated, in wonder. "No, he has nothing to do with
what I have to say. Sit down--you do not look strong--and I will tell
you why I am here."
It never occurred to him to ask why she had named Lord Arleigh. He saw
her sink, half exhausted, half frightened, upon the couch, and he sat
down by her side.
"Madaline," he began, "will you look at me, and see if my face brings
back no dream, no memory to you? Yet how foolish I am to think of such a
thing! How can you remember me when your baby-eyes rested on me for only
a few minutes?"
"I do not remember you," she said, gently--"I have never seen you
"My poor child," he returned, in a tone so full of tenderness and pain
that she was startled by it, "this is hard!"
"You cannot be the gentleman I used to see sometimes in the early home
that I only just remember, who used to amuse me by showing me his watch
and take me out for drives?"
"No. I never saw you. Madeline as a child--I left you when you were
three or four days old. I have never seen you since, although I have
spent a fortune almost in searching for you."
"You have?" she said, wonderingly. "Who then are yon?"
"That is what I want to tell you without startling you, Madaline--dear
Heaven, how strange it seems to utter that name again! You have always
believed that good woman who has just quitted the room to be your
"Yes, always," she repeated, wonderingly.
"And that wretched man, the convict, you have always believed to be your
"Always," she repeated.
"Will it pain or startle you very much to hear that they are not even
distantly related to you--that the woman was simply chosen as your
foster mother because she had just lost her own child?"
"I cannot believe it," she cried, trembling violently. "Who are you who
tells me this?"
"I am Hubert, Earl of Mountdean," he replied, "and, if you will allow
me, I will tell you what else I am."
"Tell me," she said, gently.
"I am your father, Madaline--and the best part of my life has been spent
in looking for you."
"My father," she said, faintly. "Then I am not the daughter of a
convict--my father is an earl?"
"I am your father," he repeated, "and you, child, have you, child, have
your mother's face."
"And she--who has just left us--is nothing to me?"
"Nothing. Do not tremble, my dear child. Listen--try to be brave. Let me
hold your hands in mine while I tell you a true story."
He held her trembling hands while he told her the story of his life, of
his marriage, of the sudden and fatal journey, and her mother's
death--told it in brief, clear words that left no shadow of doubt on her
mind as to its perfect truth.
"Of your nurse's conduct," he said, "I forbear to speak--it was cruel,
wicked; but, as love for you dictated it, I will say no more. My dear
child, you must try to forget this unhappy past, and let me atone to you
for it. I cannot endure to think that my daughter and heiress, Lady
Madaline Charlewood, should have spent her youth under so terrible a
There came no answer, and, looking at her, he saw that the color had
left her face, that the white eyelids had fallen over the blue eyes,
that the white lips were parted and cold--she had fainted, fallen into a
He knelt by her side and called to her with passionate cries, he kissed
the white face and tried to 'recall the wandering senses, and then he
rang the bell with a heavy peal. Mrs. Dornham came hurrying in.
"Look!" said Lord Mountdean. "I have been as careful as I could, but
that is your work."
Margaret Dornham knelt by the side of the senseless girl.
"I would give my life to undo my past folly," she said. "Oh, my lord,
can you ever forgive me?"
He saw the passionate love that she had for her foster-child; he saw
that it was a mother's love, tender, true, devoted and self-sacrificing,
though mistaken. He could not be angry, for he saw that her sorrow even
exceeded his own.
To his infinite joy, Madaline presently opened her dark eyes and looked
up at him. She stretched out her hands to him.
"My father," she said--"you are really my father?"
He kissed her face.
"Madaline," he replied, "my heart is too full for words. I have spent
seventeen years in looking for you, and have found you at last. My dear
child, we have seventeen years of love and happiness to make up."
"It seems like an exquisite dream," she said. "Can it be true?"
He saw her lovely face grow crimson, and bending her fair, shapely head,
"Papa, does Lord Arleigh know?"
"Lord Arleigh!" he repeated. "My dear child, this is the second time you
have mentioned him. What has he to do with you?"
She looked up at him in wonder.
"Do you not know?" she asked. "Have they not told you I am Lord
* * * * *
Lord Arleigh felt very disconsolate that June morning. The world was so
beautiful, so bright, so fair, it seemed hard that he should have no
pleasure in it. If fate had but been kinder to him! To increase his
dullness, Lord Mountdean, who had been staying with him some days, had
suddenly disappeared. He had gone out early in the morning, saying that
he would have a long ramble in the woods, and would probably not return
until noon for luncheon. Noon had come and passed, luncheon was served,
yet there was no sign of the earl, Lord Arleigh was not uneasy, but he
longed for his friend's society.
At last he decided upon going in search of him. He had perhaps lost his
way in the woods, or he had mistaken some road. It was high time that
they looked after him--he had been so many hours absent without apparent
cause. Lord Arleigh whistled for his two favorite dogs, Nero and Venus,
and started out in search of his friend.
He went through the woods and down the high-road, but there was no sign
of the earl. "He must have walked home by another route," thought Lord
Arleigh; and he went back to Beechgrove. He did not find the earl there,
but the groom, who had evidently been riding fast, was waiting for him
in the hall.
"My lord," he said, "I was directed to give you this at once, and beg of
you not to lose a moment's time."
Wondering what had happened, Lord Arleigh opened the note and read:
"My Dear Lord Arleigh: Something too wonderful for me to set down
in words has happened. I am at the Dower House, Winiston. Come at
once, and lose no time.
"At the Dower House?" mused Lord Arleigh. "What can it mean?"
"Did the Earl of Mountdean send this himself?" he said to the man.
"Yes, my lord. He bade me ride as though for life, and ask your lordship
to hurry in the same way."
"Is he hurt? Has there been any accident?"
"I have heard of no accident, my lord; but, when the earl came to give
me the note, he looked wild and unsettled."
Lord Arleigh gave orders that his fleetest horse should be saddled at
once, and then he rode away.
He was so absorbed in thought that more than once he had a narrow
escape, almost striking his head against the overhanging boughs of the
trees. What could it possibly mean? Lord Mountdean at the Dower House!
He fancied some accident must have happened to him.
He had never been to the Dower House since the night when he took his
young wife thither, and as he rode along his thoughts recurred to that
terrible evening. Would he see her now, he wondered, and would she, in
her shy, pretty way, advance to meet him? It could not surely be that
she was ill, and that the earl, having heard of it, had sent for him.
No, that could not be--for the note said that something wonderful had
Speculation was evidently useless--the only thing to be done was to
hasten as quickly as he could, and learn for himself what it all meant.
He rode perhaps faster than he had ever ridden in his life before. When
he reached the Dower House the horse was bathed in foam. He thought to
himself, as he rang the bell at the outer gate, how strange it was that
he--the husband--should be standing there ringing for admittance.
A servant opened the gate, and Lord Arleigh asked if the Earl of
Mountdean was within, and was told that he was.
"There is nothing the matter, I hope," said Lord Arleigh--"nothing
The servant replied that something strange had happened, but he could
not tell what it was. He did not think there was anything seriously
wrong. And then Lord Arleigh entered the house where the years of his
young wife's life had drifted away so sadly.
Lord Arleigh was shown into the dining-room at Winiston House, and stood
there impatiently awaiting the Earl of Mountdean. He came in at last,
but the master of Beechgrove barely recognized him, he was so completely
changed. Years seemed to have fallen from him. His face was radiant with
a great glad light. He held out his hand to his friend.
"Congratulate me," he said; "I am one of the happiest men in the world."
"What has happened?" asked Lord Arleigh, in surprise.
"Follow me," said the earl; and in silence Lord Arleigh obeyed him.
They came to the pretty shaded room, and the earl, entering first, said:
"Now, my darling, the hour has come which will repay you for the sorrow
Wondering at such words, Lord Arleigh followed his friend. There lay his
beautiful wife, lovelier than ever, with the sunlight touching her hair
with gold, her fair face transparent as the inner leaf of a
rose--Madaline, his darling, who had been his wife in name only.
What did it mean? Why had the earl led him thither? Was it wanton
cruelty or kindness? His first impulse was to fall on his knees by the
little couch and kiss his wife's hands, his second to ask why he had
been led thither to be tortured so. Madaline rose with a glad cry at his
entrance, but Lord Mountdean laid a restraining hand on her shoulder.
"Lord Arleigh," said the earl, "tell me who this is."
"My wife, Lady Arleigh," he replied.
She bent forward with clasped hands.
"Oh, listen. Norman," she said, "listen."
"You looked upon her as the only woman you ever could love; you made her
your wife; yet, believing her to be the daughter of a felon, you
separated from her, preferring a life-time of misery to the dishonor of
your name. Is it not so, Lord Arleigh?"
"Yes," he replied, "it is indeed so."
"Then now learn the truth. This lady, your wife, is not the daughter of
a convict. In her--how happy the telling of it makes me--behold my
daughter, the child whom for seventeen years I have sought
incessantly--my heiress, Lady Madaline Charlewood, the descendant of a
race as honored, as ancient, and as noble as your own!"
Lord Arleigh listened like one in a dream. It could not be possible, it
could not be true, his senses must be playing him false--he must be
going mad. His wife--his deserted wife--the earl's long-lost daughter!
It was surely a cruel fable.
His dark, handsome face grew pale, his hands trembled, his lips quivered
like a woman's. He was about to speak, when Madaline sprang forward and
clasped her arms around his neck.
"Oh, my darling," she cried, "it is true--quite true! You need not be
afraid to kiss me and to love me now--you need not be afraid to call me
your wife--you need not be ashamed of me any longer. Oh, my darling,
believe me, I am not a thief's daughter. My father is here--an honorable
man, you see, not a convict. Norman, you may love me now; you need not
be ashamed of me. Oh, my love, my love, I was dying, but this will make
Her golden head drooped on to his breast, the clinging arms tightened
their hold of him. The earl advanced to them.
"It is all true, Arleigh," he said. "You look bewildered, but you need
not hesitate to believe it. Later on I will tell you the story myself,
and we will satisfy all doubts. Now be kind to her; she has suffered
enough. Remember, I do not blame you, nor does she. Believing what you
did, you acted for the best. We can only thank Heaven that the mystery
is solved; and you can take a fair and noble maiden, who will bring
honor to your race, to your home."
"My love," said Madaline, "it seems to me a happy dream." When Lord
Arleigh looked around again the earl had vanished and he was alone with
his fair young wife.
* * * * *
Half an hour afterward Lord Arleigh and his wife stood together under
the great cedar on the lawn. They had left the pretty drawing-room, with
its cool shade and rich fragrance, and Lord Arleigh stood holding his
wife's hand in his.
"You can really forgive me, Madaline?" he said. "You owe me no ill-will
for all that I have made you suffer?"
She smiled as she looked at him.
"No," she replied. "How could there be ill-will between you and me? You
did right--in your place I should have acted as you did."
He caressed the fair, sweet face.
"Thank you, my darling," he said. "How thin you are!" he added. "How you
have worn yourself away with fretting! What must I do to bring the roses
back to this sweet face, and the light that I remember so well to the
She looked up at him, her whole soul in her eyes.
"You have but one thing to do, and that is--love me," she said; "and
then I shall be the happiest wife in all the world. If a choice were
offered me of all the good gifts of this world, mine would be my
Lord Arleigh looked thoughtfully at her. The sunshine glistened through
the green boughs, and touched her graceful golden head as with an
aureole of glory.
"I am beginning to think," he said, "that all that happens is for the
best. We shall be wiser and better all our lives for having suffered."
"I think so too," observed Madaline.
"And my darling," he said, "I am quite sure of another thing. There are
many good gifts in the world--wealth, fame, rank, glory--but the best
gift of all is that which comes straight from Heaven--the love of a
pure, good wife."
Looking up, they saw the earl crossing the lawn to meet them.
"Madaline," he said, gently, when he was close to them, "how rejoiced I
am to see that look on your face. You have no thought of dying now?"
"Not if I can help it, papa," she replied.
"I think," continued the earl, "that this is the happiest day of my
life. I must say this to you, Norman--that, if I had chosen from all the
world, I could not have chosen a son whom I should care for more than
for you, and that, if I had a son of my own, I should have wished him to
be like you. And now we will talk about our future--I am so proud to
have two children to arrange for instead of one--our future, that is to
have no clouds. In the first place, what must we do with this good
foster-mother of yours, Madaline, whose great love for you has led to
all this complication?"
"I know what I should like to do," said Lady Arleigh, gently.
"Then consider it done," put in her husband.
"I should like her to live with me always," said Lady Arleigh any
capacity--as housekeeper, or whatever she would like. She has had so
little happiness in her life, and she would find her happiness now in
mine. When her unfortunate husband is free again, she can do as she
likes--either go abroad with him, or we can find them a cottage and
keep them near us."
So it was arranged; and there were few happier women than Margaret
Dornham when she heard the news.
"I thought," she sobbed, in a broken voice, "that I should never be
forgiven; and now I find that I am to be always near to the child for
whose love I would have sacrificed the world."
Lord Mountdean insisted on the fullest publicity being given to
"There is one thing," he said, "I cannot understand--and that is how you
came to misunderstand each other. Why did Madaline believe that you knew
all about her story when you knew nothing of it? That secret, I suppose,
you will keep to yourselves?"
"Yes," replied Lord Arleigh. "The truth is, we were both cruelly
deceived--it matters little by whom and how.'"
"That part of the story, then, will never be understood," said Lord
Mountdean. "The rest must be made public, no matter at what cost to our
feelings--there must be no privacy, no shadow over my daughter's name.
You give me your full consent, Norman?"
"Certainly; I think your proposal is very wise," Lord Arleigh replied.
"Another thing, Norman--I do not wish my daughter to go home to
Beechgrove until her story has been made known. Then I will see that all
honor is paid to her."
So it was agreed, and great was the sensation that ensued. "The Arleigh
Romance," as it was called, was carried from one end of the kingdom to
the other. Every newspaper was filled with it; all other intelligence
sank into insignificance when compared with it. Even the leading
journals of the day curtailed their political articles to give a full
account of the Arleigh romance. But it was noticeable that in no way
whatsoever was the name of the Duchess of Hazlewood introduced.
The story was fairly told. It recalled to the minds of the public that
some time previously Lord Arleigh had made what appeared a strange
marriage, and that he had separated from his wife on their wedding-day,
yet paying her such honor and respect that no one could possibly think
any the worse of her for it. It reminded the world how puzzled it had
been at the time; and now it gave a solution of the mystery. Through no
act of deception on the part of his wife, Lord Arleigh had believed that
he knew her full history; but on their wedding-day he found that she
was, to all appearance, the daughter of a man who was a convict.
Therefore--continued the story--the young couple had agreed to separate.
Lord Arleigh, although loving his wife most dearly, felt himself
compelled to part from her. He preferred that his ancient and noble
race should become extinct rather than that it should be tarnished by an
alliance with the offspring of crime. Lady Arleigh agreed with her
husband, and took up her abode at the Dower House, surrounded by every
mark of esteem and honor. Then the story reverted to the Earl of
Mountdean's lost child, and how, at length, to the intense delight of
the husband and father, it was discovered that Lady Arleigh was no other
than the long-lost daughter of Lord Mountdean.
As the earl had said, the only obscure point in the narrative was how
Lord Arleigh had been deceived. Evidently it was not his wife who had
deceived him--who, therefore, could it have been? That the world was
never to know.
It was extraordinary how the story spread, and how great was the
interest it excited. There was not a man or woman in all England who did
not know it.
When the earl deemed that full reparation had been made to his daughter,
he agreed that she should go to Beechgrove.
The country will never forget that home-coming. It was on a brilliant
day toward the end of July. The whole country side was present to bid
Lady Arleigh welcome--the tenants, servants, dependents, friends;
children strewed flowers in her path, flags and banners waved in the
sunlit air, there was a long procession with bands of music, there were
evergreen arches with "Welcome Home" in monster letters.
It was difficult to tell who was cheered most heartily--the fair young
wife whose beauty won all hearts, the noble husband, or the gallant earl
whose pride and delight in his daughter were so great. Lord Arleigh said
a few words in response to this splendid reception--and he was not
ashamed of His own inability to finish what he had intended to say.
There had never been such a home-coming within one's memory The old
house was filled with guests, all the _elite_ of the county were there.
There was a grand dinner, followed by a grand ball, and there was
feasting for the tenantry--everything that could be thought of for the
amusement of the vast crowd.
On that evening, while the festivities were at their height, Lord
Arleigh and his lovely young wife stole away from their guests and went
up to the picture-gallery. The broad, silvery moonbeams fell on the spot
where they had once endured such cruel anguish. The fire seemed to have
paled in the rubies round the white neck of Titian's gorgeous beauty.
Lord Arleigh clasped his wife in his arms, and then he placed her at
some little distance from himself, where the silvery moonlight fell on
the fair, lovely profile, on the golden head, on the superb dress of
rich white silk and on the gleaming diamonds.
"My darling," he said, "you are thousand times lovelier than even
Titian's beauty here! Do you remember all we suffered in this spot?'
"I can never forget it," she replied.
"But you must forget it--it is for that I have brought you hither. This
is the pleasantest nook in our house, and I want you to have pleasant
associations with it. Where we suffered hear me say----" He paused.
"What is it?" she asked, quietly.
He threw his arms round her, and drew her to his breast.
"Hear me say this, my darling--that I love you with all my heart; that I
will so love you, truthfully and faithfully, until death; and that I
thank Heaven for the sweetest and best of all blessings, the gift of a
good, pure, and loving wife."
Philippa, Duchess of Hazlewood, was sitting in the superb drawing-room
at Vere Court. It was some time since she had left town, but she had
brought some portion of the gay world back with her. The court was
filled with visitors, and nothing was thought of but brilliant
festivities and amusement. The duchess was queen of all gayety; the time
that had passed had simply added to her beauty--she was now one of the
handsomest women in society.
It was a warm day, the last day in June, and Vere Court had never seemed
so brilliant. The lovely young duchess had withdrawn for a short time
from her guests. Most of them had gone out riding or driving. There was
to be a grand ball that evening and her Grace of Hazlewood did not wish
to fatigue herself before it came off. As for driving or riding in the
hot sun simply because the day was fine and the country fair, she did
not believe in it. She had retired to her drawing-room; a soft couch,
had been placed near one of the open windows, and the breeze that came
in was heavy with perfume. On the stand by her side lay a richly-jeweled
fan, a bottle of sweet scent, a bouquet of heliotrope--her favorite
flower--and one or two books which she had selected to read. She lay,
with her dark, queenly head on the soft cushion of crimson velvet in an
attitude that would have charmed a painter. But the duchess was not
wasting the light of her dark eyes over a book. She had closed them, as
a flower closes its leaves in the heat of the sun. As she lay there,
beautiful, languid, graceful, the picture she formed was a marvelous
rich study of color. So thought the duke, who, unheard by her, had
entered the room.
Everything had prospered with his grace. He had always been extremely
wealthy, but his wealth had been increased in a sudden and unexpected
fashion. On one of his estates in the north a vein of coal had been
discovered, which was one of the richest in England. The proceeds of it
added wonderfully to his income, and promised to add still more. No
luxury was wanting; the duchess had all that her heart, even in its
wildest caprices, could desire. The duke loved her with as keen and
passionate a love as ever. He had refused to go out this morning,
because she had not gone; and now he stood watching her with something
like adoration in his face--the beautiful woman, in her flowing
draperies of amber and white. He went up to her and touched her brow
lightly with his lips.
"Are you asleep, my darling?" he asked.
"No," she replied, opening her eyes.
"I have something to read to you--something wonderful."
She roused herself.
"Your geese are generally swans, Vere. What is the wonder?"
"Listen, Philippa;" and, as the duke scanned the newspaper in his hands,
he sang the first few lines of his favorite song:
"'Queen Philippa sat in her bower alone.'
"Ah, here it is!" he broke off. "I am sure you will say that this is
wonderful. It explains all that I could not understand--and, for
Arleigh's sake, I am glad, though what you will say to it, I cannot
And, sitting down by her side, he read to her the newspaper account of
the Arleigh romance.
He read it without interruption, and the queenly woman listening to him
knew that her revenge had failed, and that, instead of punishing the man
who had slighted her love, she had given him one of the sweetest,
noblest and wealthiest girls in England. She knew that her vengeance had
failed--that she had simply crowned Lord Arleigh's life with the love of
a devoted wife.
When the duke looked up from his paper to see what was the effect of his
news, he saw that the duchess had quietly fainted away, and lay with the
pallor of death on her face. He believed that the heat was the cause,
and never suspected his wife's share in the story.
She recovered after a few minutes. She did not know whether she was more
glad or sorry at what she had heard. She had said once before of herself
that she was not strong enough to be thoroughly wicked--and she was
* * * * *
A year had elapsed, and Lord Arleigh and his wife were in town for the
season, and were, as a matter of course, the objects of much curiosity.
He was sitting one evening in the drawing-room of his town-house, when
one of the servants told him that a lady wished to see him. He inquired
her name and was told that she declined to give it. He ordered her to be
shown into the room where he was, and presently there entered a tall
stately lady, whose face was closely vailed; but the imperial figure,
the stately grace were quite familiar to him.
"Philippa!" he cried, in astonishment.
Then she raised her vail, and once again he saw the grandly-beautiful
face of the woman who had loved him with such passionate love.
"Philippa!" he repeated.
"Yes," said the duchess, calmly. "And do you know why I am here?"
"I cannot even guess," he replied.
"I am here to implore your pardon," she announced, with deep
humility--"to tell you that neither by night nor by day, since I planned
and carried out my revenge, have I known peace. I shall neither live nor
die in peace unless you forgive me, Norman."
She bent her beautiful, haughty head before him--her eyes were full of
"You will forgive me, Norman?" she said in her low, rich voice.
"Remember that it was love for you which bereft me of my reason and
drove me mad--love for you. You should pardon me."
Leaving her standing there, Lord Arleigh drew aside the velvet hangings
and disappeared. In a few moments he returned leading his wife by the
"Philippa," he said, gravely, "tell my wits your errand; hear what she
says. We will abide by her decision."
At first the duchess drew back with a haughty gesture.
"It was you I came to see," she said to Lord Arleigh; and then the sweet
face touched her and her better self prevailed.
"Madaline," she said, quietly, "you have suffered much through me--will
you pardon me?"
The next moment Lady Arleigh's arms were clasped round her neck, and the
pure sweet lips touched her own.
"It was because you loved him," she whispered, "and I forgive you."
* * * * *
The Duke of Hazlewood did not understand the quarrel between his wife
and Lord Arleigh, nor did he quite understand the reconciliation; still
he is very pleased that they are reconciled, for he likes Lord Arleigh
better than any friend he has ever had. He fancies, too, that his
beautiful wife always seems kinder to him when she has been spending
some little time with Lady Arleigh.
In the gallery at Verdun Royal there is a charming picture called "The
Little Lovers." The figures in it are those of a dark-haired, handsome
boy of three whose hand is filled with cherries, and a lovely little
girl, with hair like sunshine and a face like a rosebud, who is
accepting the rich ripe fruit. Those who understand smile as they look
at this painting, for the dark-haired boy is the son and heir of the
Duke of Hazlewood, and the fair-faced girl is Lord Arleigh's daughter.
The Earl of Mountdean and his wife, _nee_ Lady Lily Gordon, once went to
see that picture, and, as they stood smiling before it, he said:
"It may indicate what lies in the future. Let us hope it does for the
greatest gift of Heaven is the love of a good and pure-minded wife."
1. Changed from "implicity".
2. Changed from "philosphers".
3. Changed from "Thenceforwarward".
4. Changed from "prevaded".
5. Changed from "quicky".
6. Changed from "refained".
7. Changed from "Long".
8. Changed from "surprisng".
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