by Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Mrs. Fleming, pale with secret wrath and chagrin, sent a venomous look after the retreating forms of Dallas and Daisie, then set herself the task of making everything right with her guests.
“It was all my fault. I am too fond of a joke,” she said plaintively. “But, as they were already engaged, I thought they would be rather pleased than otherwise. But Daisie chose to be offish about it, and I’m sorry now that I did it, of course.”
“Oh, I shall persuade her to forgive you to-morrow,” Royall said, with pretended carelessness; adding: “Good friends, do not let this awkward little contretemps spoil your pleasure.”
No one hinted, no one guessed, that the bride’s heart belonged to another man. No one took the affair au serieux, thinking it would all come right to-morrow when Daisie had had her little pouting spell.
So the gayeties of the evening went on, and[Pg 116] Dallas and Daisie, both so sorely stricken down from joy to woe, wended their way to her little cottage home, sad at heart and indignant over the cheat that had been practiced on her confidence, yet both believing that the unwelcome fetters might soon be broken.
Both felt quite certain that Royall Sherwood had been in the plot to deceive her, and Daisie’s pity for him had changed to hate and indignation.
“I would die now before I would become his wife in reality!” she vowed, in passionate resentment; and Dallas pressed her little hand tenderly, feeling that the joy of his life would be blotted out were he to lose his darling.
But he did not mean to lose her—not he; and he resolved to visit a noted lawyer to-morrow, and place the case in his hands, so that Daisie might be freed as soon as possible.
“Then, darling one, our wedding shall follow soon, and in our happiness we will soon forget this brief shadow,” he said fondly, as he stood on the steps looking up at her just as he had seen her first beneath the drooping wistarias—the picture that stayed in his heart till he died.
Suddenly Aunt Alice came to the door in her surliest mood.
“What has brought you home to-night, Daisie? I thought you meant to stay several days?” she exclaimed, glowering at the girl’s companion.
“I will tell you all presently, Aunt Alice,” the girl said, over her shoulder, then gave him her hand.
“Good night, Dallas. I shall expect you to-morrow,” she said; and, in spite of the old woman’s angry looks, he kissed the little hand, and his dark eyes beamed on her in the moonlight with the love that thrilled his heart.
She stood and watched him out of sight—her handsome lover—then went into the house with her aunt, and poured out the story of all that had happened at Sea View.
The old woman was simply overjoyed, and did not hesitate to say so.
“So you are Mrs. Royall Sherwood—a rich man’s bride! I congratulate you, Daisie!” she exclaimed eagerly.
“But I tell you I hate him, aunt, and I will get the law to free me!”
“You will not be so foolish, Daisie Bell. You,[Pg 118] a poor school-teacher, an orphan girl forced to earn her living in that wretched city where the lives of so many young girls are worn out in the struggle for bread! Oh, Daisie, do not be so foolish as to throw away this splendid chance! And you so beautiful, my dear—so fitted to take your place in the finest society!”
“Auntie, you forget that I have another lover—handsomer, nobler than Royall Sherwood. As soon as I am free I shall marry him.”
“Never, never, with my consent! I have heard all about him from Mr. Sherwood, and he is no match for you. No one knows aught about him. He is poor, of course, and some dreadful disgrace may possibly be attached to him. You must give him up now, and my advice to you is to make up your quarrel with Royall, and be thankful to get him.”
“Ah, how cruel it is to have not a friend on earth! To get such advice from you, who ought to fill the place of my poor, dead mother!” sobbed Daisie, heartbrokenly; but the old woman, who could be very hard and coarse when she chose, retorted sharply:
“Your poor mother would be alive now if she[Pg 119] hadn’t married a poor man, and broken her heart because her parents disinherited her and refused ever to see her again. She was as pretty as you, and had her pick of lovers; but she fell in love with that poor artist, Vivian Bell, my husband’s brother. And what came of it? You know their struggles, for they died one after another only two years ago in New York, and left you, their only child, to fight the battle of life alone. So how you can throw away this splendid chance fairly beats my time.”
“But I am used to poverty, Aunt Alice, so it does not daunt me. And I am sorry you have arrayed yourself in the ranks of my persecutors, for it makes me feel so friendless. True, you are not really my aunt; but, as Uncle John’s wife, I have loved you just the same, and now”—sobbingly—“you have turned against me, and I must go away alone and unpitied, unless by my true little friend Annette.”
She dragged herself wearily upstairs, and, throwing off, with a shudder of disgust, her white gown, donned a loose robe, and sat down beside the window to keep a vigil that was sad and strange for a new-made bride.
How long she sat there she never knew, so confused were her thoughts; but it could not have been more than an hour, when she heard carriage wheels grating on the stillness of the street, then pausing before the house, and a man sprang out and came into the porch, ringing a furious peal on the doorbell.
Daisie put her head out of the window, exclaiming nervously:
“What is wanted?”
At the same moment she recognized the young minister, and heard him say:
“Your husband is dying—they have sent for you to come!”
The Strength of Love by Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Author: Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Native Language: English