FOR ROYALL’S SAKE
by Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
She was better, sweet Daisie—with care and good nursing her life would be preserved to her friends.
But that obdurate nurse, so clever and opinionated, would not permit Royall Sherwood to see his wife for a week. She said:
“I don’t profess to understand it, doctor, not at all, but facts are stubborn things, and I know that the presence of her husband has a distinctly injurious effect on Mrs. Sherwood’s health. Perhaps they had quarreled before she left home; I don’t know; but if he wants her to get well tell him to stay out of the sick room for a week, at least.”
Royall was secretly furious, but he had to obey.
“A week is not long,” encouraged the sympathetic old doctor. “And we have to humor the whims of nurses as well as invalids, you know. After all, it will do you more good to exercise your newly gained strength in the open air than pottering about a sick room.”
Royall grumbled, but he obeyed, taking rooms at the hotel, and calling each day at the cottage.
And he managed to kill time and enjoy himself in many ways, despite his solicitude over Daisie. He boated, drove, and walked with some congenial friends he made at the hotel, and his strength and his good looks returned fast. The days flew fast and pleasantly.
When the week was up, the grim nurse herself came to meet him when he called to inquire for Daisie.
“She is improving every day, but very slowly, and I have let her sit up in an easy-chair to-day for the first time,” she said.
“Does she know I am here?” he asked hopefully, eagerly.
“I broke it to her gently this morning, but still the shock was great. Perhaps it was from joy at hearing you were well again,” said the nurse, who could not understand a fact that she easily perceived—that the invalid seemed to have a secret shrinking from him.
As she knew none of the circumstances of the strange marriage, she felt convinced that the[Pg 292] young wife must have had a quarrel with her husband before she came to visit her aunt.
How could she gauge the strange despair of Daisie when she learned that her duty would be harder than ever now? That instead of playing the rôle of friend and sister, as heretofore, she must assume the real status of a wife?
No wonder that she fainted, and that the nurse was sadly frightened ere she restored her to consciousness.
She felt sorry for the anxious young husband, and said gently:
“My dear young lady, if you could bear to see him a little while it would make him very happy.”
Daisie was silent a moment, then she said gently and hopelessly, it seemed to the attentive nurse:
“Of course I will see my husband. It is his right and my duty—I mean, my pleasure.”
So the woman let her sit up after a while, and made her as pretty as she could—poor, pallid, wasted Daisie, with her shorn head, where the golden locks were just peeping out again, covered with a soft lace scarf; and so she awaited his coming.
She had been so sorry for his affliction that she was unselfishly glad of his restoration to health, and the tears came to her eyes when he entered, stepping with the free grace of old.
She held her face up bravely for the kiss she knew he wanted, and the nurse, just leaving the room, thought it was a reconciliation.
“All will go well now,” she said.
Daisie fought with herself for power to seem glad and kind. As she read in his eyes the love that filled his heart she determined that she must try to forget and forgive the fraud by which he had won her, because of his great love. She would pray Heaven as she had never done before to let her forget a pair of haunting dark eyes, lips that were sweeter than honey, a voice like music, and to put in her tortured heart a wife’s love for her husband.
When she saw him looking at her so fondly, she blushed and murmured:
“Am I not hideous—all my curls gone?”
“They will grow again, just as beautiful as[Pg 294] ever, and you could never be hideous to me, anyway.”
“Thank you. But I know I look wretched. My cheeks so thin, my eyes so big and hollow! But I have been very ill. It is a wonder I did not die.”
“I was afraid that you would, dear. I began to feel that fate was against me in everything, and that you would be taken from me in punishment for the fraud by which I won you. It was wicked, I know, but perhaps God will forgive and let me find happiness with you at last—because I love you so.”
It was pathetic, pitiful—this mad love that had broken the barriers of Right and Duty for its own sake. But would Heaven indeed forgive?
Royall Sherwood never considered any one but himself in the struggle for Daisie’s love—not even Daisie herself. Still less the man he had robbed of his love and cheated of his happiness. Would he indeed prosper at last on the wreck of another’s hopes?
He looked so yearningly at Daisie that she murmured:
“I—I have not told you yet how glad I am that you are well again.”
“Glad? Oh, thank you for that sweet word! If you had been sorry, darling, it must have broken my heart. Now you will be truly mine! I have been making such plans, dear, for our future. As soon as you are well enough to travel, I want to take you abroad on our real bridal tour. Will you come with me?”
“Yes, I will come.”
Her cheeks were ashen, and the light of her eyes grew dim, but the promise was made, and he thanked her so eloquently, adding proudly:
“Before long I shall make you love me as fondly as I love you. Will you try, Daisie?”
“Yes, I will try, Royall.”
But it startled her to find that she did not feel as tender over him as she used to do. It was only pity then, and now he was well and strong, he did not need it, and there was nothing to take its place.
He continued anxiously:
“When you get really fond of me, dear Daisie, perhaps you will forgive poor Lutie’s sins—will you?”
She made no answer save a flash of her eyes, and he added:
“Poor Lutie, I feel sorry for her, because she was so madly in love with Dallas Bain, and could stop at nothing to win his heart in return. Why, she has even followed him to California, still hoping to catch his heart in the rebound.”
“Do not let us speak of either of them. I hate her—and I must forget him,” Daisie faltered valiantly.
“Forgive me; I will not, dear,” regretting his slip of the tongue.
He stayed with her an hour; then the nurse came in to say she had talked long enough to-day; Mr. Sherwood might stay longer to-morrow.
He took the hint, and rose, though he grumbled that it was very hard to drive a man away so soon from his own sweet wife.
The nurse went to the window so as not to embarrass the parting, and then Daisie whispered, with a kindling blush:
“We had better begin all over again, Royall—like sweethearts, you know. You may come and court me every day, but we will pretend we are[Pg 297] not married till—we go away—on our bridal tour.”
“It shall be as you wish, my angel,” he answered tenderly, in the great happiness of feeling that she would soon be all his own. Who could not be patient, having gained so sweet a promise?
So the April days came and went, till it was three weeks since the fire and his coming to Gull Beach.
Annette had written to say that Ray Dering—all knew him by his own name now, for when he believed himself dying he had confessed his sin to Royall and won his forgiveness—was convalescing fast, and would soon be well again. She was busy buying her wedding clothes in New York, and mamma had consented for her to marry Ray in June, when they would go abroad for a trip.
Royall had told Daisie of Ray’s confession, and added:
“But we must never betray the poor fellow’s secret to any one else—not even Lutie. He saved my life so nobly that his confidence shall be sacred.”
Daisie was more glad to hear this secret than he guessed, for she had been tormented by the mystery of who had wounded Royall ever since Mrs. Fleming had told her she had seen Dallas Bain commit the crime—not that she believed the story, but she feared the wicked woman might dare to accuse Dallas of it to gain revenge for his scorn.
The first day of May—would Daisie ever forget it?—Royall remained all day with his “sweetheart,” as he gayly called her, humoring her whims; and on kissing her good-by, he said tenderly:
“A dozen kisses this time, sweetheart, because I am going to New York to-night, to be gone a few days, to meet poor Lutie, who has written me that she has come home, disappointed, from California, and wants to see me about pressing business matters.”
How glad Daisie was afterward that she let him take all the kisses he wanted, and that she even clasped her white arms tenderly about his neck, and sent him away happy, confident that he was winning her love at last.
Was it true? Was she going to find happiness[Pg 299] with him at last, or was it only a pitiful playing at love?
He was fated never to know.
Between the dark and the dawn, his train broke through a trestle, and crashed down into a raging hell of swollen waters. The twoscore souls among whom he perished were hurled in an instant from life to death.
Full of hope and joy, dreaming of his love—Daisie—Royall Sherwood went to death through the gates of sleep.
The waters gave up his bruised body the next morning, and on his lips was a smile—the smile that Daisie’s caress had left shining there.
Two days later he had a grand funeral, at which Mrs. Fleming was the chief mourner, for his young widow was too ill to attend it. She had a relapse from the awful shock of the news, and hovered for days between life and death.
When she was well enough to sit up again, she found two very tender letters awaiting her perusal. One was a very fond and tender note from Annette, proffering her sympathy, and telling her of the grand funeral, and how beautiful[Pg 300] the new mound looked in Greenwood, all banked with fragrant flowers.
The other letter was from Mrs. Fleming, whose pride, crushed and broken by the death of the cousin she had truly loved, stooped now to crave forgiveness of her she had wronged.
Think kindly of his memory, now that he is gone; for indeed I am most to blame, and I feel that Heaven has punished me for my sin in taking him away, when we were always so fond of each other, having no nearer kin. I know you can never be real friends with me; but won’t you pretend to be friends, so that the world—Royall’s world and mine—need never know how that marriage came about? I would like to come and see you, so that people might say we love each other for Royall’s sake. May I? And, Daisie, will you please me by wearing black for him? It would please him if he could know. Of course you will marry Lord Werter after a while; it is only right you should. I have not a word to say. I loved him myself—perhaps Royall told you that—but Dallas cared only for you, and you two will be happy together at last, despite all my wicked scheming. It is the will of Heaven. Oh, if you could find it in your tender heart to pity and forgive me!
The next mail carried the repentant woman an envelope sealed in black, and one tear-blotted line:
I forgive—for Royall’s sake.
The Strength of Love by Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Author: Mrs. ALEX. McVEIGH MILLER
Native Language: English