FOR DAISIE’S SAKE
by Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
It was no wonder that Annette cried out in alarm, for a most startling change had come over the handsome face of Lord Werter.
His splendid dark eyes fairly blazed with indignation, and his face went death-white, while his whole frame trembled with emotion.
“You have told me a most startling story,” he said hoarsely.
“Yes; but I did not expect that it would affect a stranger so greatly,” the young girl returned significantly.
He looked searchingly at her, and answered slowly:
“You suspect me?”
“Yes—by your emotion—of being Dallas Bain himself,” she returned frankly.
“You are right, Miss Janowitz. I am that much-wronged and slandered man!”
“Then why this masquerade—this title?” she inquired dubiously.
“The title belongs to me,” he said briefly, explaining everything.
“I am very much surprised,” she owned; adding: “Royall Sherwood tried to make every one believe you were a nobody.”
“That was my fault. Just for a whim, I kept up a mystery over my past, and, of course, he thought I had something to hide. Then I fell in love with Daisie Bell and wanted to win her on my own merits.”
“And you did. She loved you madly!” cried Annette, but she added: “It nearly broke her heart, I know, when you ran away with Letty Green.”
“But I did not run away with Letty Green. There is some terrible mistake here. It is not possible that she—that Daisie—believed it?”
“There was no room for doubt,” said Annette; and, between eager questions and answers, he presently knew the whole story of that night and day, whose adverse influences had goaded Daisie Bell into acquiescence with the fate that had made her Royall Sherwood’s wife.
Then he told his own story of the letter Daisie had sent him that night by the maid.
“She did not send that letter,” Annette assured him; and he said, with bitter anger:
“Then we were both the victims of a dastardly plot. Who was the instigator?”
“I cannot tell. Of course, Royall Sherwood was much benefited by it; but in his almost dying condition it was not possible for him to carry it out.”
They looked at each other silently a moment, then Dallas said, with conviction:
“I have heard that his loving cousin, Mrs. Fleming, helped him with his marriage. Doubtless this was her way.”
“I do not know for certain; but I believe that you are right,” acquiesced the young girl; but she added: “Daisie stood firm against everything until Royall had that sinking spell, and even the doctor believed he was dying. Then she yielded for pity’s sake. We all persuaded her, I don’t deny it. But I always stood your friend until that night.”
“I know that, and I thank you,” he said; and was rising when she put out her hand to arrest him.
“Where are you going?”
“To Daisie—to tell her the truth,” his eyes flashing.
“Oh, for pity’s sake!” she cried, seizing his arm, and gently forcing him back into his seat.
He paused, reluctantly saying:
“But I shall not make a scene. I shall tell her quietly, before that wicked woman’s face, how we both have been deceived.”
“You must not!”
Annette’s face became like a rose at his angry exclamation, but she repeated again, low and firmly:
“You must not!”
“I say that I will!” the angry young man exclaimed, endeavoring to go; but he could not break away without rudeness from the white, jeweled hand that grasped his arm.
“Wait! Let us talk it over first!” entreated the girl, and most unwillingly he assented, for he was wild with anger, and eager to remove from Daisie’s mind the false impression that had turned her heart against him.
Annette’s first words fell like ice on his burning heart:
“What is to be gained by telling poor Daisie the truth? She is already Royall Sherwood’s wife. Nothing can alter that.”
It was true, and the realization of it forced a stifled groan from his pallid lips.
The majority of people thought that Annette Janowitz was only a pretty, frivolous girl, with not an idea in her head beyond dressing and flirting; but she showed herself to be very sensible in her advice to the angry lover.
Still grasping him lest he should escape her, she continued eagerly:
“I want you to consider Daisie now, and not yourself. She believes now that you are a wretch, unworthy her love and confidence.”
“She shall not think so long!” he groaned.
“But yes, she shall; for, Lord Werter, it would but make our poor Daisie more unhappy to tell her the truth.”
He did not answer, only looked incredulous, and she hurried on:
“I will tell you the truth, for it is your due. Daisie is bitterly unhappy—yes, I know it, for I am her confidante—and her only comfort is in feeling that she acted for the best in everything;[Pg 220] that she saved Royall’s life by staying with him, and that she had a lucky escape in not marrying such a wretch as you are supposed to be.”
Again he groaned in bitterness of soul, and Annette added:
“If she learned the cruel truth—that she was duped into the marriage, and that you were loyal all the while—I believe that her heart would break with the agony of the knowledge.”
“My poor lost love!” he sighed; and his grief for her seemed even greater than his own.
He remembered how dearly she had loved him, how she had clung to him the night of their parting. And the cruel woman whose prattling had forced them asunder, he cursed her in his heart.
“If you could see Royall Sherwood, who won her from you, in the desolation and hopelessness of his life, in his secret, jealous pain over Daisie, I believe you could find it in your heart to pity him,” exclaimed Annette, with tears in her brilliant eyes.
“I do pity him,” he answered.
“Then have mercy on him and on her—the girl you love. Keep this miserable secret, that could[Pg 221] but add to their misery, and leave them in peace!” she implored.
“And forego revenge on that scheming woman?” he cried wrathfully.
“Yes; for both their sakes. Some day, when he is dead, poor fellow!”—she shuddered as with a chill—“let the truth come out, take Daisie, and be happy.”
“I am not waiting for dead men’s shoes; and he may live to be an old man.”
“You would not think so, if you could see what a wreck he is—so wasted and worn that you would scarcely know him again.”
“You seem to have a great sympathy for him,” Lord Werter said, guessing perhaps at its source, from what Ray Dering had told him.
“Yes,” Annette answered, and her lips trembled with the sob that ached in her throat for the poor victim of her lover’s jealous wrath.
“Oh,” she thought distressfully, “he is to blame for the misery of all these lives. How will he ever atone to offended Heaven?”
Suddenly she realized that she had been monopolizing Lord Werter for more than an hour, and[Pg 222] that people would be thinking she was a most outrageous flirt.
“I dare not detain you longer!” she exclaimed. “But how can I let you go without your promise of silence—for Daisie’s sake?”
“It almost seems to me that it would make her happier to know that I was true and loyal all the while,” he answered bravely.
“No, no; it could but torture her with a hopeless regret. It were wiser, better to keep her in the dark. ‘Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise.’”
“You are a woman. You should know best,” said Lord Werter, with a mirthless smile of consent; and she exclaimed gladly:
“You consent—you promise?”
“Yes—for Daisie’s sake.”
The despair in his face and voice made her kind heart ache, and she murmured:
“Thank you, and may God bless you. I know you will never regret this promise.”
“I am not so sure of that,” he answered, sighing; though he added: “But my word is given, and the motto of our house is Toujours fidèle.”
She rose and took his arm.
“I must go back to my chaperon now. I dare say Mrs. Fleming will scold me for monopolizing the lion of the hour.”
“And must I—be civil to that woman?” he exclaimed, with a man’s horror of duplicity.
“Yes; you must be very clever, and not let her know I have betrayed her—especially do not let her trap you into an admission of your identity,” cautioned Annette anxiously.
“I will not,” he promised; and, emboldened by success, she added:
“And I hope you will be going away from New York soon. It would be very embarrassing to have you about long.”
But to her dismay Lord Werter replied gravely:
“I shall not promise you that, my little friend, for now that I know Daisie Bell was true to me, I shall like to remain near her for a little while to gladden my eyes with a sight of her beauty. And to do this I shall wish to be very friendly with you, Miss Janowitz, so that I may sometimes call on you at Mrs. Sherwood’s house.”
“Oh, but that would be very wrong. Please do[Pg 224] not!” she exclaimed. But all her entreaties were of no use.
“You may trust my honor that she shall not find me out!” was all he would say.
When he led her back to Daisie, Mrs. Fleming was dancing, and he was glad he did not have to encounter the wicked little schemer yet until he was calmer and could act the part he had set for himself.
How his heart thrilled as he met the gaze of Daisie again, and he gave her such a penetrating look that she blushed in confusion! Poor Daisie, who could not help her heart from beating faster, though her manner to him was cold as ice.
They went home presently, and Annette soon found from Mrs. Fleming’s manner that she was both angry and jealous because of her long stay in the conservatory. This only amused her, and she said saucily:
“Really, I couldn’t get away any sooner! I declare, I have made quite an impression on his lordship, and he is going to call on me to-morrow!”
The Strength of Love by Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Author: Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Native Language: English