AN UNBIDDEN GUEST
by Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Did the strange, mysterious influences ever about and around us, though beyond our ken, bear to Dallas Bain the yearning heart cry of his deserted love? Did they bring him back to her side that night?
Far away, ’mid the busy haunts of the world of men, he had sought forgetfulness, and found it not.
He was a haunted man—haunted by a face, a voice, a wealth of golden hair, a soul—for was not Daisie’s soul always following and seeking his in the mystery that held him from her side? So at last, by the force of her yearning, she drew him back.
He was proud and angry, but insensibly his heart began to soften, he began to invent excuses, to believe that he had been too hasty, had judged her too harshly.
“I did not let her explain. I left too quickly. If I had waited, she might have justified herself,” he thought.
He began to doubt the cunning lies Mrs. Fleming had poured into his ears at their last interview.
“What if her story were false? Perhaps she was trying to turn my heart against the girl, because she wanted to win me herself.”
The more he thought of it, the more he began to soften toward the girl whose beautiful image filled his great, passionate heart.
And because she haunted him so, because he began to realize all the strength of his love, and the pain of their separation, he suddenly determined to return to Gull Beach.
“I will go and hear her story. Perhaps she can justify herself,” he said to his beating heart, as he opened the cottage gate.
All was still and quiet, but a light shone through the parlor blinds, and he hoped that she was there thinking of him in sadness and tears that would change to love and joy when she saw him enter the room.
His heart was beating almost to suffocation as he rang the bell at the door.
There was a little delay, then it swung open, and in the glow of the hall lamp he saw a rather[Pg 91] grim old lady in a widow’s cap and gown—Daisie’s Aunt Alice.
She recognized him at once—the disturbing cause in the broken engagement—and stiffened herself implacably.
“Good evening, Mrs. Bell. I see you know me. Is Miss Daisie at home?” he inquired eagerly.
“No; she has gone away,” curtly.
“May I ask where?” humbly.
“Certainly. She is up at Sea View, staying with her friend Mrs. Fleming, cousin to the gentleman she is engaged to marry.”
She saw Dallas give a great start of surprise and dismay, then he cried huskily:
“Is—she—engaged to him still?”
The old lady, seeing her opportunity to head him off, and pitiless to Daisie in her desire for the grand match, answered stolidly:
“Certainly she’s engaged to him still. What made you think the match could be broken off when they just dote on each other? Daisie’s been a bit of a flirt, I know, but she’s in dead earnest this time.”
“Good evening!” Dallas answered abruptly, turning from her, and stumbling down the steps,[Pg 92] like a drunken man, so hardly had he been stricken by the remorseless blow of the woman, who banged the door shut after him, chuckling maliciously:
“Guess I paid him out for his meddling with that match I was so set on. ’Twasn’t a story I told, either, for Mr. Sherwood told me he didn’t consider the engagement broken at all, and hoped soon to persuade Daisie to wear his ring. Now I’ve sent that fellow off about his business, I hope, so he won’t interfere any more.”
But Dallas, dazed with pain and woe, was making straight for Sea View.
All hope was dead in his breast now, for the mere fact of Daisie’s presence at Sea View, as the guest of Royall Sherwood’s cousin, seemed to prove the truth of Mrs. Bell’s assertion.
But a dumb longing in his breast made him yearn for a single look at her face again to ease the ache at his heart ere he turned away forever to carry his pain into the heedless throngs of the busy world.
“She is only a wretched little flirt, after all, yet she has wrecked my peace of mind, and I cannot thrust her from my memory,” he groaned, as he[Pg 93] went on to Sea View, meaning to see Daisie, himself unseen, and then depart forever.
As he went into the grounds he saw that the place was brilliantly lighted up, and heard the swell of music blending with the murmur of the sea as the tide rolled in to the shore.
“Madam must be holding one of her gay receptions. I wonder what she would say if she knew I was so near?” he muttered, as he dragged himself up the steps and hid on a balcony, where he could peer, unseen, into the room.
He saw the brilliant drawing-room gleaming with lights, adorned with flowers, and crowded with guests sitting about as if waiting for something. What?
And was not that a wedding march that rose on the air from the screen of plants yonder where the band was hidden?
His wandering eyes suddenly discovered a white dais erected at one end of the room, over which swung from broad white ribbons a magnificent floral wedding bell.
A bridal party entered the room and advanced toward the dais, on which suddenly appeared a[Pg 94] tall, pale young man in clerical garments, with an open book in his hand.
Louder and louder rose the strains of the joyous wedding march while Dallas looked on with dazed eyes and a numb pain at his heart, wondering what would happen next.
He was not left long in doubt.
He saw Mrs. Fleming and Daisie Bell advancing to meet Royall Sherwood and his best man at the altar.
Something—a grinning demon—seemed to clutch at the gazer’s heart and stop its beating, for Daisie was the bride—a wedding veil hid the dazzling sheen of her golden hair.
The Strength of Love by Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Author: Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Native Language: English