THE DIE WAS CAST
by Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Poor Daisie Bell! Everything and everybody seemed to be against her, and the old doctor’s specious reasoning appealed to her pride, if not her heart.
What was any proud, sensitive girl likely to do, confronted with such conditions—to wear the willow, on the one hand, for a fickle, faithless lover, or to “take the goods the gods provided”?
Every one advised the latter, and Daisie’s pride was a powerful ally.
In her secret despair, she longed for death; but it would not come at her call.
She was young, beautiful, and possessed of superb health, besides an overweening pride that would not permit her to pine away and die for a faithless lover who had fled with so contemptible a rival.
She looked piteously at the old doctor, exclaiming:
“I would rather return to my teacher’s desk in[Pg 167] New York, and to a life of poverty and toil, than remain here in luxury as the wife of a man I do not love.”
“I believe you, my dear young lady; but you are hedged in by circumstances you cannot break through. The condition of the man you have married appeals to your pity, if not your heart.”
“Yes,” she assented sadly; and he continued:
“If you turned against him now you would, by the shock of your desertion, destroy his slight chance of life. Can you bear to do it?”
“And if he lives,” she said, “I am bound for life to a man I cannot love.”
He shrank before the despair in her eyes, not knowing how to urge her further, and for a moment there was a blank silence.
The next moment something happened that turned the wavering scales in Royall Sherwood’s favor. The sick nurse came to the door, saying:
“Mrs. Fleming wants you to come at once, Doctor Burns; Mr. Sherwood has a sinking spell.”
“Tell her I am coming,” and he beckoned Daisie to follow.
She shrank back, and he said, almost sternly:
“It may mean death. Can you be so—heartless?”
He could not bear to lose his patient. As for her—who pitied her? Who considered for a moment whether her life was to be wrecked or not, poor Daisie Bell?
He was rich, and she was poor—that made all the difference in the world. They all thought she should be proud of her good luck.
She was like a solitary leaf blown hither and thither by the winds of destiny, with no volition of her own. Why struggle against overwhelming fate?
She looked appealingly into the old doctor’s stern, questioning eyes, and faltered despairingly:
“You can tell him that—that I will—stay.”
Then, before he could put out an arresting hand, she swayed like a broken flower, and fell unconscious at his feet.
Meanwhile, Dallas Bain—an equal victim with Daisie in the diabolical plot that had sundered two devoted hearts—had gone away, indeed, fooled by the cunning of an unscrupulous woman, who, angered by his scorn, had sworn to wreck[Pg 169] his hopes by parting him from his beautiful young love forever.
She had succeeded but too well, and could laugh now at the success of her treacherous schemes.
Letty Green had, indeed, visited him at the hotel that night, but it was as the tool of her wicked mistress, bought over to evil by a tempting bribe.
She had carried to Dallas the first news of the attempted murder of Royall Sherwood, and also a note purporting to be from Daisie, in which she stated that she felt it her duty to remain with her husband, as the physician represented that his only chance of life lay in her forgiveness.
Mrs. Fleming was an adept at counterfeiting penmanship, and it was a very fair sample of Daisie’s in which she wrote:
All is over between us, Dallas, though I love you best, for duty binds me to my suffering husband. And this tie of duty I shall faithfully observe, for I pity him now; and as pity is akin to love, perhaps I may forget my infatuation for you, and learn to love him yet. This would be the best way out of my trouble, so I pray you not to urge me to see you again, but to pass out of my life as if you had never existed. It will help me to forget the sooner, and God knows I have need to forget.
Dallas Bain was almost stunned by the weight of his misfortunes, but all his cross-examination of smiling Letty did not trip the clever little maid, who had been well tutored by her mistress, and did not forget her part.
With a smile on her treacherous lips, Letty told glib stories of how the young bride had clung to her wounded husband, beseeching him to live for her sake, that she would never leave him again, et cetera, until the listener’s heart sank like a stone in his breast.
“And he will live?” Dallas asked presently, in a husky voice that she scarcely knew as his own, it was so changed by grief.
“Oh, yes, sir—or, at least, the doctor hopes so, and thinks it likely; but he told Mrs. Sherwood flatly that if she left him he was sure to die. She said she shouldn’t think of such a thing; so then Mr. Sherwood was delighted, and said he didn’t mean to die, in spite of the cruel rival who had meant to kill him.”
Then, for the first time, Dallas felt some curiosity over Sherwood, and asked:
“Who was it that shot him?”
The maid gave him a searching glance, and answered pertly:
“No names were called, but everybody is saying that the deed was done by some lover of the lady who was mad about her marriage.”
“Meaning me?” he asked, with a scornful glance; and Letty giggled, without answering.
He regarded her sternly a moment; then said:
“Go back to—the lady that sent you here, and tell her it shall be as she wishes. I am leaving for New York on the first train, and I shall never cross her path again.”
“Yes, sir—and I make no doubt she will be glad to hear it. Old sweethearts are just in the way when a girl is once married,” Letty uttered mockingly, as she flounced out of the presence of the man she had deceived to carry on her nefarious work.
The next step was to go to the station and board the same train with Dallas, so as to lend color to the story of her elopement, as related in the letter that Cullen had shown to Daisie, it also having been written by the clever little schemer, Mrs. Fleming.
So the cruel deed was done, and two loving[Pg 172] hearts forced asunder to tread divided paths in a wretched life made desolate in its dawning by the tragedy of hopeless love.
The jealous pain of Dallas was, indeed, beyond expression, but no angry thought of Daisie mixed with his grief.
He could understand from Letty’s garbled story what an influence had been brought to bear on the young girl’s heart, and how she had almost been forced into submission.
His grief for her was as bitter as for himself, and he knew it was better to go away, as she had said, and never see her again, since they were sundered by so insurmountable an obstacle.
One thing racked his heart in her letter. It was the hope she expressed that she might forget him and learn to love her husband.
“That was cruel, but she did not mean it so, poor little Daisie, my lost love!” he sighed; and he resolved that he would try to forget her also, since to remember was but pain. “Let her forget me if she will. I, too, will forget—if I can.”
The end of it was that presently he went away to New York with the heaviest heart in the world,[Pg 173] leaving behind him the scene of his brief love dream, with its blended joy and sorrow, to take up in sadness the burden of a life whence hope had fled, and to try to drown memory in Lethe’s tide.
The Strength of Love by Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Author: Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Native Language: English