Chapter-25 The Strength of Love

Chapter 25



Dallas Bain was shocked into momentary silence by the revelation just made to him.

He had not thought of connecting Ray Dering with the attempted murder of Sherwood until this explanation made it clear to his mind.

And it did not give him a very pleasant feeling to know how narrowly he had escaped death at the hands of an impetuous lover driven mad by jealousy.

Had this been their first meeting he must have shrunk from Dering in horror and repulsion.

But weeks of intimate companionship had shown him the real worth of the young man’s nature, marred only by the jealous passion that had driven him to crime. He knew that he was capable of noble things, understood also that he was the victim of an undying remorse. His revenge had recoiled upon himself, and the serpents of remorse were coiled in his heart to sting him to death.

[Pg 187]

All this rushed over the mind of Dallas as he gazed at the pale, handsome face and the somber, dark eyes, where the fires of remorse and regret smoldered under the heavy lashes.

“You despise me!” exclaimed Ray Dering hoarsely. “Who can blame you? I, for one, do not. I am even glad I told you, for it made me restless, your kindness, when I knew I did not deserve it. I have sinned so deeply against you that your goodness has heaped coals of fire upon my head. I can only give you my miserable secrets, suspected by no one on earth before, except Annette, and thank you before we part.”

He scarcely expected anything but reproof and desertion, and cowered before the thought, for he had grown to love Dallas Bain, and coveted his good opinion; but the manliness within him would not permit him to claim it unworthily, so he bowed his head and waited sadly enough for the end.

But into the mind of Dallas surged a great wave of pity.

Impulsively he held out his hand.

“I forgive you, my friend,” he said cordially.

“You call me your friend—you offer me your[Pg 188] hand, Dallas Bain—after what I have told you! Good heavens! I did not dream there was any man so noble!” cried Ray Dering, choking with emotion as he received the offered handclasp, adding: “I swear to you that this shall make a new man of me. I will deserve this confidence by some great deed that will condone the hateful past.”

Dallas Bain answered quietly:

“Your first step must be to control your jealous, fiery temper. He that is ruler over his own spirit is greater than a king.”

“Ah, Dallas, I am cured of all that madness, believe me. My spirit is crushed within me, and my remorse for the evil I have wrought is almost greater than I can bear. Think of my poor little love, Annette, unjustly accused and wounded, perhaps hating me in her heart, for which, indeed, I could not blame her, but must agree that she is right. Then, too, that poor fellow wounded unto death by my hand. Yet he never did me any harm. What if he dies? I shall be a wretched murderer!”

“He will not die,” answered Dallas Bain.

“Not die! Thank the good God who has spared[Pg 189] me that remorse! Then you have heard from Gull Beach?”

“Not directly, but through the newspapers. Of course, a man as rich as Royall Sherwood must get due attention from the press.”

“And I thank God again that he is going to get well.”

“Not well, Ray.”

“But you said so only a minute ago, didn’t you?” anxiously.

“I said he would not die.”

“But what did you mean, then?”

“This: That poor Royall Sherwood is doomed to such a fate that even I, whom he has supplanted in Daisie’s heart; even I, whom he has robbed of the dearest treasure on earth, can afford to pity him. He will be a hopeless cripple for life. The shot in his back affected the spinal column, so that from his waist down he is hopelessly paralyzed—a lifelong wreck.”

“My God! And this was my fiendish work!” The man’s face sank on the window sill, his strong frame shook with remorseful sobs that did not shame his young manhood.

Dallas did not know how to offer any comfort[Pg 190] in the face of this remorse. The whole affair was, to him, very terrible.

He pitied Royall Sherwood with the greatness of a noble nature, forgiving all his own wrongs because of the other’s affliction.

For it seemed to him that the young man’s affliction was more cruel than death.

To have all the best gifts of life at command—youth, health, wealth, love—and to be struck down like this at one fell blow into worse than nothingness, to be looking into heaven, yet always lying outside the beautiful gates. Ah, what refinement of cruelty, what living torture!

Of her—his lost love, his bonny Daisie—lured from him by a hideous cheat, kept away by her pity and her sense of duty, a pitiful sacrifice to a cruel plot, he scarce dared think. That way lay madness.

So he did not know how to offer comfort to the broken man before him, crushed by remorse for his hideous sin.

“What must I do to atone?” groaned Ray. “Shall I go to him, confess my crime, and offer him my service through life, to make up for his loss?”

[Pg 191]

“My poor fellow, I do not think you can make it up to him. It is too great, and he will not need you. He is so rich he will not lack loving service. No, your part is to bear your cross in patience and to lead such a life hereafter that the blackness of past sins shall be blotted out in refulgent light.”

“I swear I will—God helping me! And you believe in me?”

“Yes, and will try to help you to lead a new life. I am going to cross the sea next week. Will you come with me as my guest? I did not tell you I was English-born before—did I—though I have spent much time in America, for my mother is a native of this land. Well, come with me, and we will seek new scenes a while, to dull the pain in both our hearts. You will? That’s a good fellow! Your hand on it, Ray; we are true friends till death!”

The Strength of Love by Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER

Status: Ongoing


Native Language: English

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