TO REMEMBER A LITTLE WHILE
by Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Mrs. Hill-Dixon, the famous society leader of New York, was so proud of her titled cousin, Lord Werter, that she fastened him by metaphorical chains to her triumphal car, and dragged her cynical victim whithersoever she would.
It had been a little different in past days, when Dallas Bain paid several visits to America.
Then he was only the earl’s younger son, destined for the army.
But when his elder and only brother was drowned in crossing the Channel last year, and Dallas Bain succeeded to the title of Lord Werter, and stood in direct succession to the earldom, oh, that was quite another thing—yes, indeed.
Dallas must be fêted and lionized now, although he said frankly that it went against the grain with him.
He might have told her as frankly that his good looks had won enough adulation from women already, and that he did not care for the surfeit he[Pg 203] would have now with his title and prospects added, but he did not wish to seem conceited. It was easier to give her her way for a few days, then to slip away when he grew too weary of the passing show.
But the second day after his arrival, when she was talking about the social queens, and mentioned Mrs. Royall Sherwood, he betrayed a sudden interest.
“The most beautiful and winning girl society has seen in years,” she said. “But at first some would have liked to put her down, you know, because she was only a poor girl—a New York teacher—though she looks like she was born to the purple. But, of course, her marriage to a Sherwood changed all that. And, really, Lutie Fleming stood by her grandly, and directly made her the fashion. I never liked the little widow, I own; but she has the true Sherwood grit, and never gives up what she sets her mind on. They say she helped Royall in his love affair, and he married the girl at her summer home down in Maryland last August. There was an awful tragedy about the case, you see, because Royall was shot in the grounds on his wedding night, by[Pg 204] a jealous rival, it is supposed, though it never could be traced directly to him. Well, the young husband did not die; but he had better, for he has been paralyzed ever since, waist downward, and lives in a roller chair.”
Dallas said huskily:
“And the bride’s devotion—did it outlive his affliction?”
“Why, they say that she is quite touching in her tenderness, and did not leave him at all for months until her health failed under the strain. So they made her go out with the widow, and she seems very gay, only there is something in her face at times—in repose, you know—that hints at secret grief. And, no wonder, with her husband struck down, almost the same as dead, on their bridal night, and she, poor girl! wedded, but a maiden wife, watching his slow descent into the grave, with what torture who can tell!”
“But must he die? Can he never recover?”
“It is supposed not. Poor fellow, it is such a shame! He used to be one of the best dancers in New York.”
“You will see his wife to-night, if you come[Pg 205] with me to see Calvé. Mrs. Fleming will have a box party that includes Daisie Sherwood and her guest, Miss Janowitz; and we will meet them at the Morton ball afterward, for they told me they were coming.”
Lord Werter resolved at first that he would not attend either of these functions, not caring to renew the impression Daisie made on him first under the drooping wistarias—that picture that was graven on his heart.
He hoped that time was effacing it now, since she was another’s wife; but insensibly there grew on him a wild longing to see her again.
He explained it to himself on the score of curiosity as to how she would look in the garb of wealth and fashion—beautiful Daisie, who had been irresistible in the simple white gown with lavender ribbons.
So he went with his cousin to hear Calvé, and in the opposite box he saw his old love sitting—Daisie, in her white silk and misty lace and costly jewels, and that crown of golden hair—golden hair that had once lain on his breast, in that time that seemed so far away. And people kept going in and out of the box to speak to the three[Pg 206] beauties; but he saw quickly that she attracted always the most admiration. She must enjoy it, too; for her face wore the most enchanting smiles, as if no care disturbed her mind.
“Yet she pretended that it grieved her to give me up. Was it not true? Has she forgotten so soon? Is she happy?” he mused angrily.
In his heart he was bitterly angry that she could be happy without him, though that was selfishness, he knew.
By and by he saw Mrs. Fleming looking over at their box, and the start she gave as she recognized him.
“Who is the young man in the box with Mrs. Hill-Dixon?”
“Her cousin, Lord Werter, a regular swell,” he replied.
Annette Janowitz brought her opera glass into play, exclaiming:
“What! a real live lord? Let me have a good look at him. Oh, dear me; he’s the living image of Dallas Bain! Do look, Daisie!”
Daisie looked, and Dallas met her glance and waited for recognition, but none came; and he[Pg 207] could not see how pale she grew as her eyes wavered and fell.
“Snubbed!” he said to himself indignantly; and it aroused the keenest anger in his breast. What had he done, that neither of the three would recognize him?
And, to add to his injury, Daisie never even looked at him again, though the eyes of the other two strayed to him often in wonder at his likeness to one they had known in the past.
He wondered cynically if Mrs. Fleming had got over her fancy for him as easily as Daisie seemed to have done.
“I will go to the Morton ball and see,” he resolved, in a spirit of audacity.
So, when the opera was over and they were in the crush of the ball, he asked the hostess for an introduction to Mrs. Fleming, and the little blonde beamed with delight when he asked her to dance.
“Lord Werter, I could not keep my eyes off you at the opera. You must have noticed it, and thought it strange. But I was almost certain you were an old friend of mine named Dallas Bain.[Pg 208] When Major Mays told me your name, I could hardly believe it,” she twittered.
So that explained her failure to bow? It lifted something from his heart; but he took a whim not to undeceive her yet, not to own his identity, to masquerade under his new splendor.
So he danced with the gay little widow, but his eyes wandered often to Daisie, who was Major Mays’ partner, and danced divinely. It vexed him that she would not even look at him, though she might have done that much for the sake of the likeness to her old love.
“She is heartless. Prosperity has spoiled her,” he thought bitterly, as he leaned against the wall and watched the clear-cut, smiling face so fair and flowerlike.
He felt as if he hated her for forgetting so soon.
“She might have done me that poor grace, to remember a little while,” he muttered, in his pain.
Then it came to him what his cousin had said, that though she seemed to be gay, there was sometimes a strange sadness on her lovely face.
“Perhaps it is for me. She is playing a part, as I am,” he thought, with a quickened heart throb.
Mrs. Fleming made herself just as charming as she knew how; but she could not help seeing how his gaze wandered, and she exclaimed, with something like pique:
“The lady you are looking at is my cousin, Mrs. Royall Sherwood. Would you like to be presented?”
“Yes, thank you,” he replied, although he knew it was not wise to risk it. His heartache was too keen already.
Mrs. Fleming was secretly piqued, for she had fallen in love with Lord Werter as madly as she had loved Dallas Bain, and was determined to marry him if she could.
But she did not dread Daisie as a rival, for she knew the girl was too pure and honest to flirt, so when the dance was over she led the handsome young nobleman over, and presented him to her cousin.
Daisie had been watching them furtively, and she was sure in her heart that it was Dallas Bain.
Why, then, was he masquerading under a title?
Her heart grew hot within her as she thought of the indignity he had put upon her in his elopement with Mrs. Fleming’s silly maid, Letty.
The Strength of Love by Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Author: Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Native Language: English