SHE LONGED FOR DEATH
by Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Daisie Bell followed the kindly old physician back to the little room where they had spoken together a while ago, her heart throbbing wildly, her eyes gleaming brightly, her color coming and going with the delightful anticipation of soon meeting her darling.
Doctor Burns held open the door, and she stepped eagerly across the threshold, flashing her eyes brightly around in search of Dallas Bain.
But the room was untenanted by the splendid form she had expected to see, and the old doctor said gently:
“I did not find Mr. Bain. He had gone away.”
“Gone away?” And her face paled with astonishment.
“Yes; he left the hotel a little before daylight this morning, telling the clerk he was returning to New York. But sit down, my dear young lady, and call up all your fortitude, for I fear I have most unpleasant news for you,” exclaimed[Pg 157] Doctor Burns solicitously, and as she sank nervously into the nearest seat he continued: “I almost fear that this Dallas Bain is unworthy of your regard. Has there not always been something mysterious about the young man?”
“Oh, Doctor Burns, do not you also join the ranks of his traducers!” Daisie faltered, clasping her little hands together, tears welling into her beautiful eyes.
Then she looked up into his benevolent old face, and was startled at the fatherly pity that beamed from his kind gray eyes.
Drawing his chair close to hers, he regarded her kindly, saying:
“I have something very strange to tell you, but perhaps you will be able to explain the mystery of it, since you know Mr. Bain so well.”
His voice was so grave that she felt an icy chill run over her frame, and her lips refused to utter a word, so he continued:
“About two hours after midnight a young woman dressed in black, and so heavily veiled as to be unrecognizable, called at the hotel, and insisted on having Dallas Bain called up, as she had very important news for him.
“The clerk sent the porter upstairs for Mr. Bain, and he was found up and dressed, not having retired yet. He came down quickly, and the young woman insisted on having a private interview with him. He yielded, and they were alone some moments in the clerk’s private office. They came out, and the woman hurried away, and the man, looking as though he had seen a ghost, went quickly upstairs to his room again. In half an hour he came down, paid his bill, and said he was returning to New York by the first train. He had no baggage, having only arrived the evening before, and said he would walk to the train.
“Well, the curious part of the story is, the hotel porter, prompted by curiosity, followed the veiled lady in black. She went directly to the station, and the porter, remaining to watch her, saw her finally board the train for New York. Directly Dallas Bain came hurrying up, and leaped on the train just as it was pulling out of the station.
“So there is my story as brief as I could make it. Can you make anything out of it, my dear?”
She was pale as death, her great eyes black[Pg 159] with emotion, her hand pressed convulsively upon her heart as she faltered, through trembling lips:
“You have no suspicion as to the identity of the veiled woman?”
“No. I know nothing of his past. She may have been his mother, his sister,” she breathed hopefully.
“Perhaps so,” he replied; then paused and regarded her with tender, pitying eyes.
“Why do you look at me so strangely? I will not be pitied!” the girl cried, with sudden anger. “You have something more to tell me. Go on, then. Say your worst. I don’t think it will kill me,” proudly.
“That’s right, my brave girl! No man is worth dying for, and there’s as good fish in the sea as ever were caught,” cried the old doctor jovially, glad of her pride.
But in a minute he looked away from her to the window, and asked, in a lowered voice:
“Have you happened to hear that—Mrs. Fleming’s maid, pretty little Letty Green, eloped last night?”
“No.” She stared at him in wonder, then[Pg 160] laughed unnaturally. “She went with Cullen, of course?”
“No, Cullen is here.”
There was an awful silence for a few moments. She broke it with a scornful laugh, asking coldly:
“Do you wish me to believe that—that—my noble, handsome lover, Dallas—went off with Mrs. Fleming’s servant, that pert little Letty?”
“That is what the jealous Cullen is saying. I don’t ask you to believe it, but he seems to be sure of his facts.”
He saw the golden head droop, and the face fall into the hands, and he guessed the awful humiliation that made her hide it from his gaze.
“My poor child, you don’t know how it pained me to come to you with this horrible story to shake your faith in your lover; but it could not be withheld, you know,” he said.
She lifted her face, and it was like a death mask, so cold, so stony, the light and beauty all stricken from it at a blow.
“I am not blaming you,” she said, in a cold voice that matched her face. “But—will you bring that man here to me?”
He went out, and she was alone—alone with a sorrow more bitter than death.
“And I loved him so!” she murmured, with an ineffable pathos, throwing her arms to the empty air, as if throwing from her the broken love dream that had fooled her heart.
The door opened, and the servant, Cullen, stood before her—a stocky, red-headed man, with a merry, good-looking face—sullen and red with anger now.
He said, almost rudely:
“If you want me, miss, say your say quick, for I’m in a devil of a hurry to catch the next train for New York, and if I get on their track I’ll kill ’em both, certain!”
Daisie shuddered with dread, for the deserted lover looked both ferocious and bloodthirsty, and was glowering upon her now as if he held her personally responsible for the miscarriage of his love affair.
“So, then—Letty Green has really gone?” she faltered.
“Yes, miss, and with that darn rascal—begging your pardon; the words slipped out—yes, she went with that fine gentleman, Mr. Bain, who[Pg 162] wasn’t too fine to be courting Mrs. Fleming’s maid on the sly while he courted her mistress in the parlor. Oh, he was a flirt, was that fellow, and could fool any woman with his deceitful black eyes! Letty was fairly crazed with them till he up and went off without a good-by to her; then her pride was up in arms, and she made believe she didn’t care. I was fool enough to believe her, and made her promise to marry me. A good enough match I was for her, too, if her silly head hadn’t been turned by soft sawder before. D—n him!”
“Cullen, you forget yourself,” reminded Doctor Burns sternly.
“Lord, sir, I know it, and I humbly ask the lady’s pardon for cussing. But I ain’t myself at all, that I ain’t, and all along of that humbug Letty that I was saving my wages to marry. And I give her my money to keep, too, and she’s off with it along of that scamp, and sent me back from the station a sassy, impertinent note, the baggage, that—I’d like to cram down her throat!”
So saying, he thrust the note rudely into Daisie’s hand.
Her first impulse was to cast it from her with[Pg 163] loathing, but feminine curiosity prevailed, and she read these words:
It’s an ill wind blows nobody good. Miss Bell’s marriage was good luck for me.
She had lured Dallas Bain from me, but as soon as he found out she was married and he couldn’t get her, his thoughts turned back to me. After Mr. Sherwood was shot, and his bride came back to him, I found Dallas wandering half crazy about the grounds, and set myself to comfort him. It was easier than I thought, for he owned to me that if he hadn’t taken that sudden infatuation for Daisie Bell, he’d have married me weeks before. So I told him it wasn’t too late, and he jumped at the idea, and in short, he said if I’d come with him to New York on the first train, he’d marry me soon as we got there. You can guess how quick I consented, Cullen, for you knew all along I loved him, though you was foolish enough to take me on any terms. But you’ll never get me. I’m born for your betters, though Dallas did own that he warn’t no fit match for Miss Bell, as he lived by his wits, and had served a burglary term in the penitentiary. But I can overlook everything, I love him so, with his soft white hands, and sweet smiles, and solemn black eyes! So I’m writing this at the station while we wait for the train to come.
Good-by, old friend. I’ll keep your savings for a wedding present. You’ll have to find another sweetheart, and that spiteful cat, Mrs. Fleming, another maid.
Letty Green—soon to be Letty Bain—Mrs. Dallas Bain! Don’t that sound grand? Maybe I’ll be back to Gull Beach some time flying in high society. Tra, la!
The letter slipped from Daisie’s trembling hand to the floor, and the jilted lover caught it up, muttering:
“I’ll keep it till I find her, and cram it down her sassy throat, the impertinent jade! Keep my savings for a wedding gift, indeed! We’ll see about that! Most likely they’ll buy her a coffin, if I swing for it—yes, and him, too, the sneaking dude! You are well rid of him, miss—or missus, I ought to say—for you’ve got a noble husband, by good luck, and——”
Here Daisie put out a protesting hand, and the old doctor exclaimed:
“You’ll miss your train, Cullen!”
At that, the man rushed away, and they were left alone.
Doctor Burns patted her cold hand, and asked her if the story could be true.
His fatherly heart ached for her when she sighed and answered:
“It is horrible. I would rather die than believe it—but there seems no room for doubt.”
The anguish of a broken heart was in her face and voice, and all his manhood rose in arms in her defense.
“Curse the villain! I’d like to horsewhip him for you, and I hope Cullen will find him and do it on his own account!” he exclaimed angrily, adding: “But, my dear, you’ve had a lucky escape from his toils, and I wouldn’t wear the willow if I were you. You’ve made a grand match, if it was brought about by a joke, and Royall loves you madly. Take my advice, and stick to him. He may get well and catch your heart in the rebound yet, so you may save your pride from this downfall.”
The Strength of Love by Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Author: Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Native Language: English