HIS CRUEL RIVAL
by Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
A cry of angry incredulity came from Daisie’s lips.
“It is not true. This is some new plot against me. I will not go!”
But just then Mrs. Bell jerked open the front door, and held an anxious colloquy with the young man.
As a result of it, she came upstairs presently, exclaiming:
“It is all true, Daisie. That young man is a preacher, so, of course, he wouldn’t tell you a lie! Royall Sherwood was shot to-night—shot in the back as he was walking along with his cousin—and they think he is dying. He begs for you, and, my dear, you can’t refuse to go.”
No, she could not refuse. The wishes of the dying are sacred.
But her lips trembled so with the shock that she could hardly stand upright. Aunt Alice helped her to put on a warm, dark gown suited to[Pg 122] the chilly midnight hour, and supported her feeble steps down the stairs.
“You will come with me?” she said, in a dazed way, and the old woman assented readily.
The young minister helped them into the carriage, entered himself, and the door was closed. The driver whipped up his horses, and then Mrs. Bell asked, in a tone of awe:
“Who was the wretch that did it?”
“I do not suppose any one knows. It was all very sudden. Mrs. Fleming and her cousin were walking in the grounds, discussing his marriage, when the shot was fired from behind by some one who must have been concealed in the shrubberies. Instantly all was confusion, as there were other parties also out in the moonlight. A crowd gathered instantly. It was found that Mr. Sherwood was shot through the body. A physician was by, fortunately, and, on a hasty examination, he pronounced the wound mortal. He was removed to his room, and, on recovering consciousness, asked for his wife to be summoned. Mrs. Fleming begged me to come with the carriage and urge her to return with me.”
Daisie sobbed aloud in grief and pity for the[Pg 123] man suddenly stricken down in youth’s early dawn, and the young minister thought:
“Mrs. Fleming was right: She loved him, after all, and they would have been reconciled to-morrow. What a calamity it is that sunders their wedded lives so soon.”
But he did not attempt to offer any condolences to the sobbing girl. It seemed to him that she had been rude to him all through in her pettish anger.
A silent, miserable cortège, they filed into the hall, where so lately mirth and joy reigned, now still and lonely, with scared servants gliding to and fro, turning down the brilliant lights, and removing the traces of festivity.
Letty Green was waiting with Cullen at the door to conduct them to the dying man, and as they went along the corridor Mrs. Fleming herself came to meet them, her eyes dim with tears, that made her festal robes look strangely out of place.
She took Daisie’s hand, and whispered:
“You will soon be free now. Poor Royall cannot live long. It is his love for you that has caused his death. That wretch killed him!”
“That wretch?” Daisie sobbed uncomprehendingly; and Mrs. Fleming hissed in her ear:
“Who but his cruel rival?”
Daisie would have sunk to the floor but for the widow’s supporting arm, and she moaned, in distress:
“Ah, no, no, no!”
They were almost at the door, the minister and Mrs. Bell in advance, when, pausing a moment, Mrs. Fleming muttered:
“Compose yourself. I have told no one the truth, and perhaps I never shall. That will depend on you, Daisie Bell. But listen: When the fatal shot was fired, I looked around quickly, and saw the cruel murderer rushing from the scene. He was tall, and dark, and handsome, and I knew him at once; and I shrieked out his name, but I think no one heard it. So presently, even while they were all crying out to know who did it, I feigned swooning, and answered nothing, for a thought came to me, that——But come, let us go in to Royall now, poor boy!” dragging her over the threshold.
The Strength of Love by Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Author: Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Native Language: English