Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Wife in Name Only by Charlotte M. Braeme (Bertha M. Clay)

Part 3 out of 6

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

"I swear," she said, "that I will be revenged--that I will take such
vengeance on him as will bring his pride down far lower than he has
brought mine. I will never forgive him. I have loved him with a devotion
passing the love of woman. I will hate more than I have loved him. I
would have given my life to make him happy. I now consecrate it to
vengeance. I swear to take such revenge on him as shall bring the name
of Arleigh low indeed."

And that vow she intended to keep.

"If ever I forget what has passed here," she said to herself, "may
Heaven forget me!"

To her servants she had never seemed colder or haughtier than on this
night, when she kept them waiting while she registered her vow.

What shape was her vengeance to take?

"I shall find out," she thought; "it will come in time."

Chapter XIV.

Miss L'Estrange was standing alone in the small conservatory on the
morning following her eventful conversation with Lord Arleigh, when the
latter was announced. How she had passed the hours of the previous night
was known only to herself. As the world looks the fairer and fresher for
the passing of a heavy storm, the sky more blue, the color of flowers
and trees brighter so she on this morning, after those long hours of
agony, looked more beautiful than ever. Her white morning dress, made of
choice Indian muslin, was relieved by faint touches of pink; fine white
lace encircled her throat and delicate wrists. Tall and slender, she
stood before a large plant with scarlet blossoms when he came in.

Lord Arleigh looked as he felt--ill at ease. He had not slept through
thinking of the conversation in the balcony--it had made him profoundly
wretched. He would have given much not to renew it; but she had asked
him to come, and he had promised.

Would she receive him with tears and reproaches? Would she cry out that
he was cold and cruel? Would she torture himself and herself by trying
to find out why he did not love her? Or would she be sad, cold, and

His relief was great when she raised a laughing, radiant face to his and
held out her hand in greeting.

"Good-morning, Norman," she said, in a pleasant voice. "Now confess that
I am a clever actress, and that I have given you a real fright."

He looked at her in wonder.

"I do not understand you," he returned.

"It is so easy to mislead a man," she said, laughingly.

"I do not understand, Philippa," he repeated.

"Did you really take all my pretty balcony scene in earnest last night?"
she asked.

"I did indeed," he replied; and again the clear musical laugh, seemed to
astonish him.

"I could not have believed it, Norman," she said. "Did you really think
I was in earnest?"

"Certainly I did. Were you not?"

"No," she answered.

"Then I thank Heaven for it," he said, "for I have been very unhappy
about you. Why did you say so much if you did not mean it, Philippa?"

"Because you annoyed me by pleading the cause of the duke. He had no
right to ask you to do such a thing, and you were unwise to essay such a
task. I have punished you by mystifying you--I shall next punish him."

"Then you did not mean all that you said?" he interrogated, still
wondering at this unexpected turn of events.

"I should have given you credit for more penetration, Norman," she
replied. "I to mean such nonsense--I to avow a preference for any man!
Can you have been so foolish as to think so? It was only a charade,
acted for your amusement."

"Oh, Philippa," he cried, "I am so pleased, dear! And yet--yet, do you
know, I wish that you had not done it. It has given me a shock. I shall
never be quite sure whether you are jesting or serious. I shall never
feel that I really understand you."

"You will, Norman. It did seem so ridiculous for you, my old
playfellow, to sit lecturing me so gravely about matrimony. You took it
so entirely for granted that I did not care for the duke."

"And do you care for him, Philippa?" he asked.

"Can you doubt it, after the description you gave of him, Norman?"

"You are mocking me again, Philippa," he said.

"But you were very eloquent, Norman," she persisted. "I have never heard
any one more so. You painted his Grace of Hazlewood in such glowing
colors that no one could help falling in love with him."

"Did I? Well, I do think highly of him, Philippa. And so, after all, you
really care for him?"

"I do not think I shall tell you, Norman. You deserve to be kept in the
dark. Would you tell me if you found your ideal woman?"

"I would. I would tell you at once," he replied, eagerly.

"If you could but have seen your face!" she cried. "I feel tempted to
act the charade over again. Why, Norman, what likeness can you see
between Philippa L'Estrange, the proud, cold woman of the world, and
that sweet little Puritan maiden at her spinning wheel?"

"I should never have detected any likeness unless you yourself had first
pointed it out," he said. "Tell me, Philippa, are you really going to
make the duke happy at last?"

"It may be that I am going to make him profoundly miserable As
punishment for your lecture, I shall refuse to tell you anything about
it," she replied; and then she added: "You will ride with me this
morning, Norman?"

"Yes. I will ride with you, Philippa. I cannot tell you how thankful and
relieved I am."

"To find that you have not made quite so many conquests as you thought,"
she said. "It was a sorry jest to play after all; but you provoked me to
it, Norman. I want you to make me a promise."

"That I will gladly do," he replied. Indeed he was so relieved so
pleased, so thankful to be freed from the load of self-reproach that he
would have promised anything.

Her face grew earnest. She held out her hand to him.

"Promise me this, Norman," she said--"that, whether I remain Philippa
L'Estrange or become Duchess of Hazlewood--no matter what I am, or may
be--you will always be the same to me as you are now--my brother, my
truest, dearest, best friend. Promise me."

"I do promise, Philippa, with all my heart," he responded. "And I will
never break my promise."

"If I marry, you will come to see me--you-will trust in me--you will be
just what you are now--you will make my house your home, as you do

"Yes--that is, if your husband consents," replied Lord Arleigh.

"Rely upon it, my husband--if I ever have one--will not dispute my
wishes," she said. "I am not the model woman you dream of. She, of
course, will be submissive in everything; I intend to have my own way."

"We are friends for life, Philippa," he declared; "and I do not think
that any one who really understands me will ever cavil at our

"Then, that being settled, we will go at once for our ride. How those
who know me best would laugh, Norman, if they heard of the incident of
the Puritan maiden! If I go to another fancy ball this season, I shall
go as _Priscilla_ of Plymouth and you had better go as _John Alden_."

He held up his hands imploringly.

"Do not tease me about it any more, Philippa," he remarked, "I cannot
quite tell why, but you make me feel both insignificant and vain; yet
nothing would have been further from my mind than the ideas you have
filled it with."

"Own you were mistaken, and then I will be generous and forgive you,"
she said, laughingly.

"I was mistaken--cruelly so--weakly so--happily so," he replied. "Now
you will be generous and spare me."

He did not see the bitter smile with which she turned away, nor the
pallor that crept even to her lips. Once again in his life Lord Arleigh
was completely deceived.

A week afterward he received "a note in Philippa's handwriting it said,

"Dear Norman: You were good enough to plead the duke's cause. When
you meet him next, ask him if he has anything to tell you.

Philippa L'Estrange."

What the Duke of Hazlewood had to tell was that Miss L'Estrange had
promised to be his wife, and that the marriage was to take place in
August. He prayed Lord Arleigh to be present as his "best man" on the

On the same evening Lady Peters and Miss L'Estrange sat in the
drawing-room at Verdun House, alone. Philippa had been very restless.
She had been walking to and fro; she had opened her piano and closed it;
she had taken up volume after volume and laid it down again, when
suddenly her eyes fell on a book prettily bound in crimson and gold,
which Lady Peters had been reading.

"What book is that?" she asked, suddenly.

"Lord Lytton's 'Lady of Lyons,'" replied Lady Peters.

Philippa raised it, looked through it, and then, with a strange smile
and a deep sigh, laid it down.

"At last," she said--"I have found it at last!"

"Found what, my dear?" asked Lady Peters, looking up.

"Something I have been searching for," replied Philippa, as she quitted
the room, still with the strange smile on her lips.

Chapter XV.

The great event of the year succeeding was the appearance of the Duchess
of Hazlewood. Miss L'Estrange the belle and the heiress, had been very
popular; her Grace of Hazlewood was more popular still. She was queen of
fashionable London. At her mansion all the most exclusive met. She had
resolved upon giving her life to society, upon cultivating it, upon
making herself its mistress and queen. She succeeded. She became
essentially a leader of society. To belong to the Duchess of Hazlewood's
"set" was to be the _creme de la creme_. The beautiful young duchess had
made up her mind upon two things. The first was that she would be a
queen of society; the second, that she would reign over such a circle as
had never been gathered together before. She would have youth, beauty,
wit, genius; she would not trouble about wealth. She would admit no one
who was not famous for some qualification or other--some grace of body
or mind--some talent or great gift. The house should be open to talent
of all kinds, but never open to anything commonplace. She would be the
encourager of genius, the patroness of the fine arts, the friend of all

It was a splendid career that she marked out for herself, and she was
the one woman in England especially adapted for it The only objection to
it was that while she gave every scope to imagination--while she
provided for all intellectual wants and needs--she made no allowance for
the affections; they never entered into her calculations.

In a few weeks half London was talking about the beautiful Duchess of
Hazlewood. In all the "Fashionable Intelligence" of the day she had a
long paragraph to herself. The duchess had given a ball, had had a grand
_reunion_, a _soiree_, a garden-party; the duchess had been at such an
entertainment; when a long description of her dress or costume would
follow. Nor was it only among the upper ten thousand that she was so
pre-eminently popular. If a bazar, a fancy fair, a ball, were needed to
aid some charitable cause, she was always chosen as patroness; her
vote, her interest, one word from her, was all-sufficient.

Her wedding had been a scene of the most gorgeous magnificence. She had
been married from her house at Verdun Royal, and half the county had
been present at what was certainly the most magnificent ceremonial of
the year. The leading journal, the _Illustrated Intelligence_, produced
a supplement on the occasion, which was very much admired. The duke gave
the celebrated artist, M. Delorme, a commission to paint the interior of
the church at Verdun Royal as it appeared while the ceremony was
proceeding. That picture forms the chief ornament now of the grand
gallery at the Court.

The wedding presents were something wonderful to behold; it was
considered that the duchess had one of the largest fortunes in England
in jewels alone. The wedding-day was the fourth of August, and it had
seemed as though nature herself had done her utmost to make the day most

It was not often that so beautiful a bride was seen as the young
duchess. She bore her part in the scene very bravely. The papers toll
how Lord Arleigh was "best man" on the occasion but no one guessed even
ever so faintly of the tragedy that came that morning to a crisis. The
happy pair went off to Vere Court, the duke's favorite residence, and
there for a short time the public lost sight of them.

If the duke had been asked to continue the history of his wedding-day,
he would have told a strange story--how, when they were in the
railway-carriage together, he had turned to his beautiful young wife
with some loving words on his lips, and she had cried out that she
wanted air, to let no one come near her--that she had stretched out her
hands wildly, as though beating off something terrible.

He believed that she was overcome by excitement or the heat of the day;
he soothed her as he would have soothed a child; and when they readied
Vere Court he insisted that they should rest. She did so. Her dark hair
fell round her white neck and shoulders, her beautiful face was flushed,
the scarlet lips trembled as though she were a grieving child; and the
young duke stood watching her, thinking how fair she was and what a
treasure he had won. Then he heard her murmur some words in her
sleep--what were they? He could not quite distinguish them; it was
something about a Puritan maiden _Priscilla_ and _John_--he could not
catch the name--something that did not concern him, and in which he had
no part. Suddenly she held out her arms, and, in a voice he never
forgot, cried, "Oh, my love, my love!" That of course meant himself.
Down on his knees by her side went the young duke--he covered her hands
with kisses.

"My darling," he said, "you are better now, I have been alarmed about
you, Philippa; I feared that you were ill. My darling, give me a word
and a smile."

She had quite recovered herself then; she remembered that she was
Duchess of Hazlewood--wife of the generous nobleman who was at her side.
She was mistress of herself in a moment.

"Have I alarmed you?" she said. "I did feel ill; but I am better
now--quite well, in fact."

She said to herself that she had her new life to begin, and the sooner
she began it the better; so she made herself very charming to the young
duke, and he was in ecstasies over the prize he had won.

Thenceforward[3] they lived happily enough. If the young duke found his
wife less loving, less tender of heart, than he had believed her to be,
he had no complaint.

"She is so beautiful and gifted," he would say to himself. "I cannot
expect everything. I know that she loves me, although she does not say
much about it. I know that I can trust her in all things, even though
she makes no protestations."

They fell into the general routine of life. One loved--the other allowed
herself to be loved. The duke adored his wife, and she accepted his

They were never spoken of as a model couple, although every one agreed
that it was an excellent match--that they were very happy. The duke
looked up with wondering admiration to the beautiful stately lady who
bore his name. She could not do wrong in his eyes, everything she said
was right, all she did was perfect. He never dreamed of opposing her
wishes. There was no lady in England so completely her own mistress, so
completely mistress of every one and everything around her, as her Grace
of Hazlewood.

When the season came around again, and the brilliant life which she had
laid out for herself was hers, she might have been the happiest of women
but for the cloud which darkened, her whole existence. Lord Arleigh had
kept his promise--he, had been her true friend, with her husband's full
permission. The duke was too noble and generous himself to feel any such
ignoble passion as jealousy--he was far too confiding. To be jealous of
his wife would never have entered his mind; nor was there the least
occasion for it. If Lord Arleigh had been her own brother, their
relationship could not have been of a more blameless kind; even the
censorious world of fashion, so quick to detect a scandal, so merciless
in its enjoyment of one, never presumed to cast an aspersion on this
friendship. There was something so frank, so open about it, that blame
was an impossibility. If the duke was busy or engaged when his wife
wanted to ride or drive, he asked her cousin Lord Arleigh to take his
place, as he would have asked his own brother. If the duke could not
attend opera or ball, Lord Arleigh was at hand. He often said it was a
matter of perplexity to him which was his own home--whether he liked
Beechgrove, Verdun Royal or Vere Court best.

"No one was ever so happy, so blessed with true friends as I am," he
would say; at which speech the young duchess would smile that strange
fathomless smile so few understood.

If they went to Vere Court, Lord Arleigh was generally asked to go with
them; the Duke really liked him--a great deal for his own sake, more
still for the sake of his wife. He could understand the childish
friendship having grown with their growth; and he was too noble to
expect anything less than perfect sincerity and truth.

The duchess kept her word. She made no further allusion to the Puritan
maiden--that little episode had, so it appeared, completely escaped her
memory. There was one thing to be noticed--she often read the "Lady of
Lyons," and appeared to delight in it. When she had looked through a few
pages, she would close the book with a sigh and a strange, brooding
smile. At times, too, she would tease Lord Arleigh about his ideal woman
but that was always in her husband's presence.

"You have not found the ideal woman yet, Norman?" she would ask him,
laughingly; and he would answer. "No, not yet."

Then the duke would wax eloquent, and tell him that he really knew
little of life--that if he wanted to be happy he must look for a wife.

"You were easily contented," the duchess would say. "Norman wants an
ideal. You were content with a mere mortal--he will never be."

"Then find him an ideal, Philippa," would be the duke's reply "You know
some of the nicest girls in London; find him an ideal among them."

Then to the beautiful face would come the strange, brooding smile.

"Give me time," would her Grace of Hazlewood say; "I shall find just
what I want for him--in time."

Chapter XVI.

It was a beautiful, pure morning. For many years there had not been so
brilliant a season in London; every one seemed to be enjoying it; ball
succeeded ball; _fete_ succeeded _fete_. Lord Arleigh had received a
note from the Duchess of Hazlewood, asking him if he would call before
noon, as she wished to see him.

He went at once to Verdun House, and was told that the duchess was
engaged, but would see him in a few minutes. Contrary to the usual
custom, he was shown into a pretty morning-room, one exclusively used by
the duchess--a small, octagonal room, daintily furnished, which opened
on to a small rose-garden, also exclusively kept for the use of the
duchess. Into this garden neither friend nor visitor ever ventured; it
was filled with rose-trees, a little fountain played in the midst, and a
small trellised arbor was at one side. Why had he been shown into the
duchess' private room? He had often heard the duke tease his wife about
her room, and say that no one was privileged to enter it; why, then, was
such a privilege accorded him?

He smiled to himself, thinking that in all probability it was some
mistake of the servants; he pictured to himself the expression of
Philippa's face when she should find him there. He looked round; the
room bore traces of her presence--around him were some of her favorite
flowers and books.

He went to the long French window, wondering at the rich collection of
roses, and there he saw a picture that never forsook his memory
again--there he met his fate--saw the ideal woman of his dreams at last.
He had treated all notions of love in a very off-hand, cavalier kind of
manner; he had contented himself with his own favorite axiom--"Love is
fate;" if ever it was to come to him it would come, and there would be
an end of it. He had determined on one thing--this same love should be
his slave, his servant, never his master; but, as he stood looking out,
he was compelled to own his kingship was over.

Standing there, his heart throbbing as it had never done before, every
nerve thrilling, his face flushed, a strange, unknown sensation filling
him with vague, sweet wonder, Lord Arleigh met his fate.

This was the picture he saw--a beautiful but by no means a common one.
In the trellised arbor, which contained a stand and one or two chairs,
was a young girl of tall, slender figure, with a fair, sweet face,
inexpressibly lovely, lilies and roses exquisitely blended--eyes like
blue hyacinths, large, bright, and starlight, with white lids and dark
long lashes, so dark that they gave a peculiar expression to the
eyes--one of beauty, thought, and originality. The lips were sweet and
sensitive, beautiful when smiling, but even more beautiful in repose.
The oval contour of the face was perfect; from the white brow, where the
veins were so clearly marked, rose a crown of golden hair, not brown or
auburn, but of pure pale gold--a dower of beauty in itself.

The expression of the face was one of shy virgin beauty. One could
imagine meeting it in the dim aisles of some cathedral, near the shrine
of a saint, as an angel or a Madonna; one could imagine it bending over
a sick child, lighting with its pure loveliness the home of sorrow; but
one could never picture it in a ball-room. It was a face of girlish,
saintly purity, of fairest loveliness--a face where innocence, poetry,
and passion all seemed to blend in one grand harmony. There was nothing
commonplace about it. One could not mistake it for a plebeian face;
"patrician" was written on every feature.

Lord Arleigh looked at her like one in a dream.

"If she had an aureole round her head, I should take her for an angel,"
he thought to himself, and stood watching her.

The same secret subtle harmony pervaded[4] every action; each new
attitude seemed to be the one that suited her best. If she raised her
arms, she looked like a statue. Her hands were white and delicate, as
though carved in ivory. He judged her to be about eighteen. But who was
she, and what had brought her there? He could have stood through the
long hours of the sunny day watching her, so completely had she charmed
him, fascinated his very senses.

"Love is fate!" How often had he said that to himself, smiling the
while? Now here his fate had come to him all unexpectedly--this most
fair face had found its way to the very depths of his heart and nestled

He could not have been standing there long, yet it seemed to him that
long hours parted him from the life he had known before. Presently he
reproached himself for his folly. What had taken place? He had seen a
fair face, that was all--a face that embodied his dream of loveliness.
He had realized his ideal, he had suddenly, and without thinking of it,
found his fate--the figure, the beauty that he had dreamed of all his

Nothing more than that; yet the whole world seemed changed. There was a
brighter light in the blue skies, a new beauty had fallen on the
flowers; in his heart was strange, sweet music; everything was
idealized--glorified. Why? Because he had seen the face that had always
filled his thoughts.

It seemed to him that he had been there long hours, when the door
suddenly opened, and her Grace of Hazlewood entered.

"Norman," she said, as though in sudden wonder, "why did they show you
in here?"

"I knew they were doing wrong," he replied. "This is your own special
sanctum, Philippa?"

"Yes, it is indeed; still, as you are here, you may stay. I want to
speak to you about that Richmond dinner. My husband does not seem to
care about it. Shall we give it up?"

They talked for a few minutes about it, and then the duchess said,

"What do you think about my roses, Norman?"

"They are wonderful," he replied, and then, in a low voice, he asked,
"Philippa, who is that beautiful girl out there among your flowers?"

She did not smile, but a sudden light came into her eyes.

"It would be a great kindness not to tell you," she answered. "You see
what comes of trespassing in forbidden places. I did not intend you to
see that young lady."

"Why not?" he asked, abruptly.

"The answer to your question would be superfluous," she replied.

"But, Philippa, tell me at least who she is."

"That I cannot do," she replied, and then the magnificent face was
lighted with a smile. "Is she your ideal woman, Norman?" she asked.

"My dear Philippa," he answered, gravely, "she is the idea," woman
herself neither more nor less."

"Found at last!" laughed the duchess. "For all that, Norman, you must
not look it her."

"Why not? Is she married--engaged?"

"Married? That girl! Why, she has only just left school. If you really
wish to know who she is I will tell you; but you must give me your word
not to mention it."

"I promise," he replied.

He wondered why the beautiful face grew crimson and the dark eyes

"She is a poor relative of ours," said the duchess, "poor, you
understand--nothing else."

"Then she is related to the duke?" he interrogated.

"Yes, distantly; and, after a fashion, we have adopted her. When she
marries we shall give her a suitable dot. Her mother married

"Still, she was married?" said Lord Arleigh.

"Yes, certainly; but unhappily married. Her daughter, however, has
received a good education, and now she will remain with us. But, Norman,
in this I may trust you, as in everything else?"

"You may trust me implicitly," he replied.

"The duke did not quite like the idea of having her to live with us at
first--and I do not wish it to be mentioned to him. If he speaks of it
to you at all, it will be as my caprice. Let it pass--do not ask any
questions about her; it only annoys her--it only annoys him. She is very
happy with me. You see," she continued, "women can keep a secret. She
has been here three weeks, yet you have never seen her before, and now
it is by accident."

"But," said Norman, "what do you intend to do with her?"

The duchess took a seat near him, and assumed quite a confidential air.

"I have been for some time looking out for a companion," she said; "Lady
Peters really must live at Verdun Royal--a housekeeper is not sufficient
for that large establishment--it requires more than that. She has
consented to make it her home, and I must have some one to be with me."

"You have the duke," he put in, wonderingly.

"True, and a husband most, perforce, be all that is adorable; still,
having been accustomed to a lady-companion, I prefer keeping one; and
this girl, so beautiful, so pure, so simple, is all that I need, or
could wish for."

"So I should imagine," he replied. "Will you introduce her into society,

"I think not; she is a simple child, yet wonderfully clever. No, society
shall not have her. I will keep her for my own."

"What is her name?" asked Lord Arleigh.

The duchess laughed.

"Ah, now, man-like, you are growing curious! I shall not tell you. Yes,
I will; it is the name above all others for an ideal--Madaline."

"Madaline," he repeated; "it is very musical--Madaline."

"It suits her," said the duchess; "and now, Norman, I must go. I have
some pressing engagements to-day."

"You will not introduce me then, Philippa?"

"No--why should I? You would only disturb the child's dream."

Chapter XVII.

Lord Arleigh could not rest for thinking of the vision he had seen; the
face of the duchess' companion haunted him as no other face had ever
done. He tried hard to forget it, saying to himself that it was a fancy,
a foolish imagination, a day-dream; he tried to believe that in a few
days he should have forgotten it.

It was quite otherwise. He left Vere House in a fever of unrest; he went
everywhere he could think of to distract his thoughts. But the fair face
with its sweet, maidenly expression, the tender blue eyes with their
rich poetic depths, the sweet, sensitive lips were ever present. Look
where he would he saw them. He went to the opera, and they seemed to
smile at him from the stage; he walked home in the starlight--they were
smiling at him from the stars; he tried to sleep--they haunted him; none
had followed him as those eyes did.

"I think my heart and brain are on fire," he said to himself. "I will
go and look once again at the fair young face; perhaps if she smiles at
me or speaks to me I shall be cured."

He went; it was noon when he reached the Duke of Hazlewood's mansion. He
inquired for the duchess, and was told she had gone to Hampton Court. He
repeated the words in surprise.

"Hampton Court!" he said. "Are you quite sure?"

"Yes, my lord," was the footman's reply. "Her grace has gone there, for
I heard her talking about the pictures this morning."

He could hardly imagine the duchess at Hampton Court. He felt half
inclined to follow, and then he thought that perhaps it would be an
intrusion; if she had wanted his society, she would certainly have asked
for it. No, he would not go. He stood for a few minutes irresolute,
wondering if he could ask whether the duchess had taken her young
companion with her, and then he remembered that he did not even know her

How was the day to pass? Matters were worse than ever. If he had seen
her, if he could have spoken to her, he might perhaps have felt better;
as it was, the fever of unrest had deepened.

He was to meet the duchess that evening at the French Embassy; he would
tell her she must relax some of her rigor in his favor. She was talking
to the ambassador when he entered, but with a smiling gesture she
invited him to her side.

"I hear that you called to-day," she said. "I had quite forgotten to
tell you that we were going to Hampton Court."

"I could hardly believe it," he replied. "What took you there?"

"You will wonder when I tell you, Norman," she replied, laughingly. "I
have always thought that I have a great capacity for spoiling people. My
fair Madaline, as I have told you, is both poet and artist. She begged
so hard to see the pictures at Hampton Court that I could not refuse

"I should not think the history of the belles of the court of Charles
II. would be very useful to her," he said; and she was quick to detect
the jealousy in his voice.

"Norman, you are half inclined to be cross, I believe, because I did not
ask you to go with us."

"I should have enjoyed it, Philippa, very much."

"It would not have been prudent," she observed, looking most
bewitchingly beautiful in her effort to look matronly and wise.

He said no more; but if her grace had thought of a hundred plans for
making him think of Madaline, she could not have adopted one more to the

From the moment Lord Arleigh believed that the young duchess intended
to forbid all acquaintance with her fair _protegee_, he resolved to see
her and to make her like him.

The day following he went again to the mansion; the duchess was at home,
and wished to see him, but at that moment she was engaged. He was shown
into the library, where in a few minutes she joined him.

"My dear Norman," she said, with a bright smile of greeting, "Vere told
me, if you came, to keep you for luncheon; he wants to see you
particularly. The horse that won the Derby, he has been told, is for
sale, and he wants you to see it with him."

"I shall be very pleased," replied Lord Arleigh. "You seem hurried this
morning, Philippa."

"Yes; such a _contretemps_! Just as I was anticipating a few hours with
you, the Countess of Farnley came in, with the terrible announcement
that she was here to spend the morning. I have to submit to fate, and
listen to the account of Clara's last conquests, of the infamous
behavior of her maid, of Lord Darnley's propensity for indiscreet
flirtations. I tell her there is safety in number. I have to look kind
and sympathetic while I am bored to death."

"Shall I accompany you and help you to amuse Lady Farnley?"

She repeated the words with a little laugh.

"Amuse Lady Farnley? I never undertake the impossible. You might as well
ask me to move the monument, it would be quite as easy."

"Shall I help her to amuse you, then?" he said.

"No, I will not impose on your friendship. Make yourself as comfortable
as you can, and I will try to hasten her departure."

Just as she was going away Lord Arleigh called to her.

"Philippa!" she turned her beautiful head half impatiently to him.

"What is it, Norman? Quick! The countess will think I am lost."

"May I go into your pretty rose-garden?" he asked.

She laughed.

"What a question! Certainly; you my go just where you please."

"She has forgotten her companion," he said to himself, "or she is not

He went into the morning-room and through the long, open French window;
there were the lovely roses in bloom, and there--oh, kind, blessed
fate!--there was his beautiful Madaline, seated in the pretty trellised
arbor, busily working some fine point-lace, looking herself like the
fairest flower that ever bloomed.

The young girl looked up at him with a startled glance--shy, sweet,
hesitating--and then he went up to her.

"Do not let me disturb you," he said. "The duchess is engaged and gave
me permission to wait for her here."

She bowed, and he fancied that her white fingers trembled.

"May I introduce myself to you?" he continued. "I am Lord Arleigh."

A beautiful blush, exquisite as the hue of the fairest rose, spread over
her face. She looked at him with a smile.

"Lord Arleigh," she repeated--"I know the name very well."

"You know my name very well--how is that?" he asked, in surprise.

"It is a household word here," she said; "I hear it at least a hundred
times a day."

"Do you? I can only hope that you are not tired of it."

"No, indeed I am not;" and then she drew back with a sudden hesitation,
as though it had just occurred to her that she was talking freely to a

He saw her embarrassment, and did his best to remove it.

"How beautiful these roses are!" he said, gently. "The duchess is
fortunate to have such a little paradise here."

"She ought to be surrounded by everything that is fairest and most
beautiful on earth," she declared, "for there is no one like her."

"You are fond of her?" he said.

She forgot all her shyness, and raised her blue eyes to his.

"Fond of her? I love her better than any one on earth--except perhaps,
my mother. I could never have dreamed of any one so fair, so bewitching,
so kind as the duchess."

"And she seems attached to you," he said, earnestly.

"She is very good to me--she is goodness itself;" and the blue eyes,
with their depth of poetry and passion, first gleamed with light, and
then filled with tears.

"We must be friends," said Lord Arleigh, "for I, too, love the duchess.
She has been like a sister to me ever since I can remember;" and he drew
nearer to the beautiful girl as he spoke. "Will you include me among
your friends?" he continued. "This is not the first time that I have
seen you. I stood watching you yesterday; you were among the roses, and
I was in the morning-room. I thought then, and I have thought ever
since, that I would give anything to be included among your friends."

His handsome face flushed as he spoke, his whole soul was in his eyes.

"Will you look upon me as one of your friends?" he repeated, and his
voice was full of softest music. He saw that even her white brow grew

"A friend of mine, my lord?" she exclaimed. "How can I? Surely you know
I am not of your rank--I am not one of the class from which you select
your friends."

"What nonsense!" he exclaimed. "If that is your only objection I can
soon remove it. I grant that there may be some trifling difference. For
instance, I may have a title; you--who are a thousand times more worthy
of one--have none. What of that? A title does not make a man. What is
the difference between us? Your beauty--nay, do not think me rude or
abrupt--- my heart is in every word that I say to you--your grace would
ennoble any rank, as your friendship would ennoble any man."

She looked up at him, and said, gently:

"I do not think you quite understand."

"Yes, I do," he declared, eagerly; "I asked the duchess yesterday who
you were, and she told me your whole story."

It was impossible for him not to see how she shrank with unutterable
pain from the words. The point-lace fell on the grass at her feet--she
covered her face with her hands.

"Did she? Oh, Lord Arleigh, it was cruel to tell it!"

"It was not cruel to tell me," he returned. "She would not tell any one
else, I am quite sure. But she saw that I was really anxious--that I
must know it--that it was not from curiosity I asked."

"Not from curiosity!" she repeated, still hiding her burning face with
her hands.

"No, it was from a very different motive." And then he paused abruptly.
What was he going to say? How far had he already left all
conventionality behind? He stopped just in time, and then continued,
gravely: "The Duchess of Hazlewood and myself are such true and tried
friends that we never think of keeping any secrets from each other. We
have been, as I told you before, brother and sister all our lives--it
was only natural that she should tell me about you."

"And, having heard my story, you ask me to be one of your friends?" she
said, slowly. There were pain and pathos in her voice as she spoke.

"Yes," he replied, "having heard it all, I desire nothing on earth so
much as to win your friendship."

"My mother?" she murmured.

"Yes--your mother's unfortunate marriage, and all that came of it. I can
repeat the story."

"Oh, no!" she interrupted. "I do not wish to hear it. You know it, and
you would still be my friend?"

"Answer me one question," he said, gently. "Is this sad story the
result of any fault of yours? Are you in any way to blame for it?"

"No; not in the least. Still, Lord Arleigh, although I do not share the
fault, I share the disgrace--nothing can avert that from me."

"Nothing of the kind," he opposed; "disgrace and yourself are as
incompatible as pitch and a dove's wing."

"But," she continued, wonderingly, "do you quite understand?"

"Yes; the duchess told me the whole story. I understand it, and am truly
grieved for you; I know the duke's share in it and all."

He saw her face grow pale even to the lips.

"And yet you would be my friend--you whom people call proud--you whose
very name is history! I cannot believe it, Lord Arleigh."

There was a wistful look in her eyes, as though she would fain believe
that it were true, yet that she was compelled to plead even against

"We cannot account for likes or dislikes," he said; "I always look upon
them as nature's guidance as to whom we should love, and whom we should
avoid. The moment I saw you I--liked you. I went home, and thought about
you all day long."

"Did you?" she asked, wonderingly. "How very strange!"

"It does not seem strange to me," he observed. "Before I had looked at
you three minutes I felt as though I had known you all my life. How long
have we been talking here? Ten minutes, perhaps--yet I feel as though
already there is something that has cut us off from the rest of the
world, and left us alone together. There is no accounting for such
strange feelings as these."

"No," she replied, dreamily, "I do not think there is."

"Perhaps," he continued, "I may have been fanciful all my life; but
years ago, when I was a boy at school, I pictured to myself a heroine
such as I thought I should love when I came to be a man."

She had forgotten her sweet, half sad shyness, and sat with faint flush
on her face, her lips parted, her blue eyes fixed on his.

"A heroine of my own creation," he went on; "and I gave her an ideal
face--lilies and roses blended, rose-leaf lips, a white brow, eyes the
color of hyacinths, and hair of pale gold."

"That is a pretty picture," she said, all unconscious that it was her
own portrait he had sketched.

His eyes softened and gleamed at the _naivete_ of the words.

"I am glad you think so. Then my heroine had, in my fancy, a mind and
soul that suited her face--pure, original, half sad, wholly sweet, full
of poetry."

She smiled as though charmed with the picture.

"Then I grew to be a youth, and then to be a man," he continued. "I
looked everywhere for my ideal among all the fair women I knew. I looked
in courts and palaces, I looked in country houses, but I could not find
her. I looked at home and abroad, I looked at all times and all seasons,
but I could not find her."

He saw a shadow come over the sweet, pure face as though she felt sorry
for him.

"So time passed, and I began to think that I should never find my ideal,
that I must give her up, when one day, quite unexpectedly, I saw her."

There was a gleam of sympathy in the blue eyes.

"I found her at last," he continued. "It was one bright June morning;
she was sitting out among the roses, ten thousand times fairer and
sweeter than they."

She looked at him with a startled glance; not the faintest idea had
occurred to her that he was speaking of her.

"Do you understand me?" he asked.

"I--I am frightened, Lord Arleigh."

"Nay, why should you fear? What is there to fear? It is true. The moment
I saw you sitting here I knew that you were my ideal, found at last."

"But," she said, with the simple wonder of a child. "I am not like the
portrait you sketched."

"You are unlike it only because you are a hundred times fairer," he
replied; "that is why I inquired about you--why I asked so many
questions. It was because you were to me a dream realized. So it came
about that I heard your true history. Now will you be my friend?"

"If you still wish it, Lord Arleigh, yes; but, if you repent of having
asked me, and should ever feel ashamed of our friendship, remember that
I shall not reproach you for giving me up."

"Giving you up?" cried Lord Arleigh. "Ah, Madaline--let me call you
Madaline, the name is so sweet--I shall never give you up! When a man
has been for many years looking for some one to fill his highest and
brightest dreams, he knows how to appreciate that some one when found."

"It seems all so strange," she said, musingly.

"Nay, why strange? You have read that sweetest and saddest of all love
stories--'Romeo and Juliet?' Did _Juliet_ think it strange that, so soon
after seeing her, _Romeo_ should be willing to give his life for her?"

"No, it did not seem strange to them," she replied, with a smile; "but
it is different with us. This is the nineteenth century, and there are
no _Juliets_."

"There are plenty of _Romeos_, though," he remarked, laughingly. "The
sweetest dreams in my life are the briefest. Will you pluck one of those
roses for me and give it to me, saying, 'I promise to be your friend?'"

"You make me do things against my will," she said; but she plucked a
rose, and held it toward him in her hand. "I promise to be your friend,"
she said, gently.

Lord Arleigh kissed the rose. As he did so their eyes met; and it would
have been hard to tell which blushed the more deeply. After that,
meetings between them became more frequent. Lord Arleigh made seeing her
the one great study of his life--and the result was what might be

Chapter XVIII.

The yacht of Mr. Conyers, one of the richest commoners in England--a
yacht fitted as surely no yacht ever before had been fitted--was for
sale. He was a wealthy man, but to keep that sea-palace afloat was
beyond his means. The Duchess of Hazlewood was sole mistress of a large
fortune in her own right; the duke had made most magnificent settlements
upon her. She had a large sum of money at her command; and the idea
suddenly occurred to her to purchase Mr. Conyers' yacht unknown to her
husband and present him with it. He was fond of yachting--it was his
favorite amusement. She herself was a wretched sailor, and would not be
able to accompany him; but that would not matter. It was not of her own
pleasure that the Duchess of Hazlewood was thinking, while the old
strange brooding smile lingered on her beautiful face and deepened on
her perfect lips.

"It would be the very thing," she said to herself, "it would afford to
me the opportunity I am seeking--nothing could be better."

She purchased the yacht and presented it to the duke, her husband. His
pleasure and astonishment were unbounded. She was, as a rule, so
undemonstrative that he could not thank her sufficiently for what seemed
to him her great interest in his favorite pursuit.

"The only drawback to the splendid gift, Philippa, is that you can never
enjoy it; it will take me away from you."

"Yes, I do indeed deplore that I am a wretched sailor, for I can imagine
nothing pleasanter than life on board such a yacht as that. But, while
you are cruising about, Vere, I shall go to Verdun Royal and take
Madaline with me; then I shall go to Vere Court--make a kind of royal
progress, set everything straight and redress all wrongs, hold a court
at each establishment I shall enjoy that more than yachting."

"But I shall miss you so much, Philippa," said the young husband.

"We have the remainder of our lives to spend together," she rejoined;
"if you are afraid of missing me too much, you had better get rid of the

But he would not hear of that--he was delighted with the beautiful and
valuable present. The yacht was christened "Queen Philippa"; and it was
decided that, when the end of the season had come, the duke should take
his beautiful wife to Verdun Royal, and, after having installed her
there, should go at once to sea. He had invited a party of friends--all
yachtsmen like himself--and they had agreed to take "Queen Philippa" to
the Mediterranean, there to cruise during the autumn months.

As it was settled so it was carried out; before the week had ended the
duke, duchess, and Madeline were all at Verdun Royal. Perhaps the proud
young wife had never realized before how completely her husband loved
her. This temporary parting was to him a real pain.

A few days before it took place he began to look pale and ill. She saw
that he could not eat, that he did not sleep or rest. Her heart was
touched by his simple fidelity, his passionate love, although the one
fell purpose of her life remained unchanged.

"If you dislike going, Vere," she said to him one day, "do not go--stay
at Verdun Royal."

"The world would laugh if I did that, Philippa," he returned; "it would
guess at once what was the reason, because every one knows how dearly I
love you. We should be called _Darby_ and _Joan_."

"No one would ever dare to call me _Joan_," she said, "for I have
nothing of _Joan_ in me."

The duke sighed--perhaps he thought that it would be all the better if
she had; but, fancying there was something, after all, slightly
contemptuous in her manner, as though she thought it unmanly in him to
repine about leaving her, he said no more.

One warm, brilliant day he took leave of her and she was left to work
out her purpose. She never forgot the day of his departure--it was one
of those hot days when the summer skies seemed to be half obscured by a
copper-colored haze, when the green leaves hang languidly, and the birds
seek the coolest shade, when the flowers droop with thirst, and never a
breath of air stir their blossoms, when there is no picture so
refreshing to the senses as that of a cool deep pool in the recesses of
a wood.

She stood at the grand entrance, watching him depart, and she knew that
with all her beauty, her grace, her talent, her sovereignty, no one had
ever loved her as this man did. Then, after he was gone, she stood still
on the broad stone terrace, with that strange smile on her face, which
seemed to mar while it deepened her beauty.

"It will be a full revenge," she said to herself. "There could be no
fuller. But what shall I do when it is all known?"

She was not one to flinch from the course of action she had marked out
for herself, nor from the consequences of that course; but she shuddered
even in the heat, as she thought what her life would be when her
vengeance was taken.

"He will never forgive me," she said, "he will look upon me as the
wickedest of women. It does not matter; he should not have exasperated
me by slighting me."

Then the coppery haze seemed to gather itself together--great purple
masses of clouds piled themselves in the sky, a lurid light overspread
the heavens, the dense oppressive silence was broken by a distant peal
of thunder, great rain-drops fell--fierce, heavy drops. The trees seemed
to stretch out their leaves to drink in the moisture, the parched
flowers welcomed the downpour; and still the Duchess of Hazlewood stood
out on the terrace, so deeply engrossed in her thoughts that she never
heeded the rain.

Madaline hastened out to her with a shawl.

"Dear duchess," she cried, "it is raining; and you are so absorbed in
thought that you do not notice it."

She laughed a strange, weird laugh, and raised her beautiful face with
its expression of gloom.

"I did not notice it, Madaline," she said; "but there is no need for
anxiety about me," she added, proudly.

They re-entered the house together. Madaline believed that the duchess
was thinking of and grieving over the departure of the duke. Lady Peters
thought the same. They both did their best to comfort her--to amuse her
and distract her thoughts. But the absent expression did not die from
her dark eyes. When they had talked to her some little time she took up
the "Lady of Lyons."

"How much you admire that play," said Madaline; "I see you reading it so

"I have a fancy for it," returned the duchess; "it suits my taste. And I
admire the language very much."

"Yet it is a cruel story," observed Madaline; "the noblest character in
it is _Pauline_."

"She was very proud; and pride, I suppose, must suffer," said the
duchess, carelessly.

"She was not too proud, after all, to love a noble man, when she once
recognized him, duchess."

"She learned to love the prince--she would never have loved the
gardener," remarked Philippa; "it was a terrible vengeance."

"I do not like stories of vengeance," said Madaline. "After all, though,
I love the _Claude_ of the story, and find much true nobility in
him--much to admire. When reading the play I am tempted all the time to
ask myself, How could he do it? It was an unmanly act."

There was a strange light in the dark eyes, a quiver on the scarlet
lips, as Philippa said:

"Do you think so? Suppose some one had offended you as _Pauline_
offended _Claude_--laughing at the love offered, scorned, mocked,
despised you--and that such vengeance as his lay in your power; would
you not take it?"

The sweet face flushed.

"No, I would rather die," Madaline replied, quickly.

"I would take it, and glory in it," said the duchess, firmly

"If I were wounded, insulted, and slighted as _Claude_ was, I would take
the cruelest revenge that I could."

Madeline took one of the jeweled hands in her own and kissed it.

"I should never be afraid of you," she said; "you can never hurt any
one. Your vengeance would end in the bestowal of a favor."

"Do you think so highly of me, Madaline?" asked Philippa, sadly.

"Think highly of you! Why, you would laugh if you knew how I loved
you--how I adore you. If all the world were to swear to me that you
could do the least thing wrong, I should not believe them."

"Poor child!" said the duchess, sadly.

"Why do you call me 'poor child?'" she asked, laughingly.

"Because you have such implicit faith, and are sure to be so cruelly

"I would rather have such implicit faith, and bear the disappointment,
than be without both," said Madaline.

Chapter XIX.

On the day of his departure the duke had said to his wife: "I have
invited Norman to spend a few weeks with you; have some pleasant people
to meet him. He tells me he shall not go to Scotland this year."

"I will ask Miss Byrton and Lady Sheldon," Philippa had promised.

"Only two ladies!" the duke had laughed. "He will want some one to smoke
his cigar with."

"I will trust to some happy inspiration at the time, then," she had
replied; and they had not mentioned the matter again.

Early in August Lord Arleigh wrote that if it were convenient he should
prefer paying his promised visit at once. He concluded his letter by

"My dear Philippa, your kind, good husband has said something to me
about meeting a pleasant party. I should so much prefer one of my old
style visits--no parties, no ceremonies. I want to see you and Verdun
Royal, not a crowd of strange faces. Lady Peters is _chaperon_, if you
have any lingering doubt about the 'proprieties.'"

So it was agreed that he should come alone, and later on, if the duchess
cared to invite more friends, she could do so.

The fact was that Lord Arleigh wanted time for his wooing. He had found
that he could not live without Madaline. He had thought most carefully
about everything, and had decided on asking her to be his wife. True,
there was the drawback of her parentage--but that was not grievous, not
so terrible. Of course, if she had been lowly-born--descended from the
dregs of the people, or the daughter of a criminal--he would have
trampled his love under foot. He would have said to himself "_Noblesse
oblige_," and rather than tarnish the honor of his family, he would have
given her up.

This was not needed. Related to the Duke of Hazlewood, there could not
be anything wrong. The duchess had told him distinctly that Madaline's
mother had married beneath her, and that the whole family on that
account had completely ignored her. He did not remember that the duchess
had told him so in as many words, but he was decidedly of the opinion
that Madaline's mother was a cousin of the duke's, and that she had
married a drawing-master, who had afterward turned out wild and
profligate. The drawing-master was dead. His darling Madaline had good
blood in her veins--was descended from an ancient and noble family. That
she had neither fortune nor position was immaterial to him. He had
understood from the duchess that the mother of his fair young love lived
in quiet retirement. He could not remember in what words all this had
been told to him, but this was the impression that was on his mind. So
he had determined on making Madaline his wife if he could but win her
consent. The only thing to be feared was her own unwillingness. She was
fair and fragile, but she had a wonderful strength of will.

He had thought it all over. He remembered well what the duchess had
said about the duke's not caring to hear the matter mentioned. Lord
Arleigh could understand that, with all his gentleness, Hazlewood was a
proud man, and that, if there had been a _mesalliance_ in his family, he
would be the last to wish it discussed. Still Lord Arleigh knew that he
would approve of the marriage. It was plain, however, that it would be
better for it to take place while he was away from England, and then it
would not, could not in any way compromise him. A quiet marriage would
not attract attention.

If he could only win Madeline's consent. She had been so unwilling to
promise him her friendship, and then so unwilling to hear that he loved
her. He could form no idea how she would receive the offer of marriage
that he intended to make her.

That was why he wished to go alone. He would have time and opportunity
then. As for Philippa, he did not fear any real objection from her; if
she once believed or thought that his heart was fixed on marrying
Madaline, he was sure she would help him.

Marry Madaline he must--life was nothing to him without her. He had
laughed at the fever called love. He knew now how completely love had
mastered him. He could think of nothing but Madaline.

He went down to Verdun Royal, heart and soul so completely wrapped in
Madaline that he hardly remembered Philippa--hardly remembered that he
was going as her guest; he was going to woo Madeline--fair, sweet
Madaline--to ask her to be his wife, to try to win her for his own.

It was afternoon when he reached Verdun Royal. The glory of summer was
over the earth. He laughed at himself, for he was nervous and timid; he
longed to see Madaline, yet trembled at the thought of meeting her.

"So this is love?" said Lord Arleigh to himself, with a smile. "I used
to wonder why it made men cowards, and what there was to fear; I can
understand it now."

Then he saw the gray towers and turrets of Verdun Royal rising from the
trees; he thought of his childish visits to the house, and how his
mother taught him to call the child Philippa his little wife. Who would
have thought in those days that Philippa would live to be a duchess, and
that he should so wildly worship, so madly love a fairer, younger face?

He was made welcome at Verdun Royal. Lady Peters received him as though
he were her own son. Then the duchess entered, with a glad light in her
eyes, and a smile that was half wistful. She greeted him warmly; she was
pleased to see him--pleased to welcome him; the whole house was at his
service, and everything in it. He had never seen the duchess look
better; she wore her favorite colors, amber and white.

"I have attended to your wishes, Norman," she said; "you must not blame
me if you are dull. I have asked no one to meet you."

"There is no fear of my ever being dull here, Philippa," he returned.
"You forget that I am almost as much at home as you are yourself. I can
remember when I looked upon coming to Verdun Royal as coming home."

A shadow of pain crossed her face at this reference to those early,
happy days. Then he summoned up courage, and said to her:

"Where is your fair companion, Philippa?"

"She is somewhere about the grounds," replied the duchess. "I can never
persuade her to remain in-doors unless she has something to do. So you
have not forgotten her?" added the duchess, after a short pause.

"I have not forgotten her, Philippa. I shall have something very
important to say to you about her before I go away again."

She gave no sign that she understood him, but began to talk to him on a
number of indifferent matters--the warmth of the weather, his journey
down, the last news from her husband--and he answered her somewhat
impatiently. His thoughts were with Madaline.

At last the signal of release came.

"We need not play at 'company,' Norman," said the duchess. "As you say,
Verdun Royal has always been like home to you. Continue to make it so.
We dine at eight--it is now nearly five. You will find plenty to amuse
yourself with. Whenever you wish for my society, you will find me in the
drawing-room or my _boudoir_."

He murmured some faint word of thanks, thinking to himself how
considerate she was, and that she guessed he wanted to find Madaline.
With a smile on her face, she turned to him as she was quitting the

"Vere seemed very uneasy, when he was going away, lest you should not
feel at liberty to smoke when you liked," she said. "Pray do not let the
fact of his absence prevent you from enjoying a cigar whenever you feel
inclined for one."

"A thousand thanks, Philippa," returned Lord Arleigh, inwardly hoping
that Madaline would give him scant time for the enjoyment of cigars.

Then he went across the lawn, wondering how she would look, where he
should find her, and what she would say to him when she saw him. Once or
twice he fancied he saw the glimmer of a white dress between the trees.
He wondered if she felt shy at seeing him, as he did at seeing her. Then
suddenly--it was as though a bright light had fallen from the skies--he
came upon her standing under a great linden tree.

"Madaline!" he said, gently. And she came to him with outstretched

Chapter XX.

Later on that afternoon the heat seemed to have increased, not lessened,
and the ladies had declared even the cool, shaded drawing-room, with its
sweet scents and mellowed light, to be too warm; so they had gone out on
to the lawn, where a sweet western wind was blowing. Lady Peters had
taken with her a book, which she made some pretense of reading, but over
which her eyes closed in most suspicious fashion. The duchess, too, had
a book, but she made no pretense of opening it--her beautiful face had a
restless, half-wistful expression. They had quitted the drawing-room all
together, but Madaline had gone to gather some peaches. The duchess
liked them freshly gathered, and Madaline knew no delight so keen as
that of giving her pleasure.

When she had been gone some few minutes, Lord Arleigh asked where she
was, and the duchess owned, laughingly, to her fondness for ripe,
sun-kissed peaches.

"Madaline always contrives to find the very best forms," she said. "She
is gone to look for some now."

"I will go and help her," said Lord Arleigh, looking at Philippa's face.
He thought the fair cheeks themselves not unlike peaches, with their
soft, sweet, vivid coloring.

She smiled to herself with bitter scorn as he went away.

"It works well," she said; "but it is his own fault--Heaven knows, his
own fault."

An hour afterward Lady Peters said to her, in a very solemn tone of

"Philippa, my dear, it may not be my duty to speak, but I cannot help
asking you if you notice anything?"

"No, nothing at this minute."

But Lady Peters shook her head with deepest gravity.

"Do you not notice the great attention that Lord Arleigh pays your
beautiful young companion?"

"Yes, I have noticed it," said the duchess--and all her efforts did not
prevent a burning, passionate flush rising to her face.

"May I ask you what you think of it, my dear?"

"I think nothing of it. If Lord Arleigh chooses to fall in love with
her, he may. I warned him when she first came to live with me--I kept
her most carefully out of his sight; and then, when I could no longer
conveniently do so, I told him that he must not fall in love with her. I
told him of her birth, antecedents, misfortunes--everything connected
with her. His own mother or sister could not have warned him more

"And what was the result?" asked Lady Peters, gravely.

"Just what one might have expected from a man," laughed the duchess.
"Warn them against any particular thing, and it immediately possesses a
deep attraction for them. The result was that he said she was his ideal,
fairly, fully, and perfectly realized. I, of course, could say no more."

"But," cried Lady Peters, aghast, "you do not think it probable that he
will marry her?"

"I cannot tell. He is a man of honor. He would not make love to her
without intending to marry her."

"But there is not a better family in England than the Arleighs of
Beechgrove, Philippa. It would be terrible for him--such a
_mesalliance;_ surely he will never dream of it."

"She is beautiful, graceful, gifted, and good," was the rejoinder. "But
it is useless for us to argue about the matter. He has said nothing
about marrying her; he has only called her his ideal."

"I cannot understand it," said poor Lady Peters. "It seems strange to

She would have thought it stranger still if she had followed them and
heard what Lord Arleigh was saying.

He had followed Madaline to the southern wall, whereon the luscious
peaches and apricots grew. He found her, as the duchess had intimated,
busily engaged in choosing the ripest and best. He thought he had never
seen a fairer picture than this golden-haired girl standing by the green
leaves and rich fruit. He thought of Tennyson's "Gardener's daughter."

"One arm aloft----
Gowned in pure white that fitted to the shape--
Holding the bush, to fix it back, she stood.
The full day dwelt on her brows and sunned
Her violet eyes, and all her Hebe bloom,
And doubled his own warmth against her lips,
And on the beauteous wave of such a breast
As never pencil drew. Half light, half shade,
She stood, a sight to make an old man young."

He repeated the lines as he stood watching her, and then he went nearer
and called:


Could he doubt that she loved him? Her fair face flushed deepest
crimson; but, instead of turning to him, she moved half coyly, half
shyly away.

"How quick you are," he said, "to seize every opportunity of evading
me! Do you think you can escape me, Madaline? Do you think my love is so
weak, so faint, so feeble, that it can be pushed aside lightly by your
will? Do you think that, if you tried to get to the other end of the
world, you could escape me?"

Half blushing, half laughing, trembling, yet with a happy light in her
blue eyes, she said:

"I think you are more terrible than any one I know."

"I am glad that you are growing frightened, and are willing to own that
you have a master--that is as it should be. I want to talk to you,
Madaline. You evade me lest you should be compelled to speak to me; you
lower those beautiful eyes of yours, lest I should be made happy by
looking into them. If you find it possible to avoid my presence, to run
away from me, you do. I am sure to woo you, to win you, to make you my
sweet, dear wife--to make you happier, I hope, than any woman has ever
been before--and you try to evade me, fair, sweet, cruel Madaline!"

"I am afraid of you, Lord Arleigh," she said, little dreaming how much
the naive confession implied.

"Afraid of me! That is because you see that I am quite determined to win
you. I can easily teach you how to forget all fear."

"Can you?" she asked, doubtfully.

"Yes, I can, indeed, Madaline. Deposit those peaches in their green
leaves on the ground. Now place both your hands in mine."

She quietly obeyed the first half of his request as though she were a
child, and then she paused. The sweet face crimsoned again; he took her
hands in his.

"You must be obedient," he said. "Now look at me."

But the white lids drooped over the happy eyes.

"Look at me, Madaline," he repeated, "and say, 'Norman, I do love you. I
will forget all the nonsense I have talked about inequality of position,
and will be your wife.'"

"In justice to yourself I cannot say it."

He felt the little hands tremble in his grasp, and he released them with
a kiss.

"You will be compelled to say it some day, darling. You might as well
try now. If I cannot win you for my wife, I will have no wife, Madaline.
Ah, now you are sorry you have vexed me!

"'And so it was--half sly, half shy;
You would and would not, little one,
Although I pleaded tenderly
And you and I were all alone.'

Why are you so hard, Madaline? I am sure you like me a little; you dare
not raise your eyes to mine and say, 'I do not love you, Norman.'"

"No," she confessed, "I dare not. But there is love and love; the lowest
love is all self, the highest is all sacrifice. I like the highest."

And then her eyes fell on the peaches, and she gave a little cry of

"What will the duchess say?" she cried. "Oh, Lord Arleigh, let me go."

"Give me one kind word, then."

"What am I to say? Oh, do let me go!"

"Say, 'I like you, Norman.'"

"I like you, Norman," she said; and, taking up the peaches, she hastened
away. Yet, with her flushed face and the glad light in her happy eyes,
she did not dare to present herself at once before the duchess and Lady

Chapter XXI.

Was there some strange, magnetic attraction between Lord Arleigh and
Madaline, or could it be that the _valet_, knowing or guessing the state
of his master's affections, gave what he no doubt considered a timely
hint? Something of the kind must have happened, for Madaline, unable to
sleep, unable to rest, had risen in the early morning, while the dew was
on the grass, and had gone out into the shade of the woods. The August
sun shone brightly, a soft wind fanned her cheeks.

Madaline looked round before she entered the woods. The square turrets
of Verdun Royal rose high above the trees. They were tall and massive,
with great umbrageous boughs and massive rugged trunks, the boughs
almost reaching down to the long, thick grass. A little brook went
singing through the woods--a brook of clear, rippling water. Madaline
sat down by the brook-side. Her head ached for want of sleep, her heart
was stirred by a hundred varied emotions.

Did she love him? Why ask herself the question? She did love him--she
trembled to think how much. It was that very love which made her
hesitate. She hardly dared to think of him. In her great humility she
overlooked entirely the fact of her own great personal loveliness, her
rare grace and gifts. She could only wonder what there was in her that
could attract him.

He was a descendant of one of the oldest families in England--he had a
title, he was wealthy, clever, he had every great and good gift--yet he
loved her; he stooped from his exalted position to love her, and she,
for his own sake, wished to refuse his love. But she found it difficult.

She sat down by the brook-side, and, perhaps for the first time in her
gentle life, a feeling of dissatisfaction rose within her; yet it was
not so much that as a longing that she could be different from what she
was--a wish that she had been nobly born, endowed with some great gift
that would have brought her nearer to him. How happy she would have been
then--how proud to love him--how glad to devote her sweet young life to
him! At present it was different; the most precious thing that she could
give him--which was her love--would be most prejudicial to him. And just
as that thought came to her, causing the blue eyes to fill with tears,
she saw him standing before her.

She was not surprised; he was so completely part and parcel of her
thoughts and her life that she would never have felt surprised at seeing
him. He came up to her quietly.

"My darling Madaline, your face is pale, and there are tears in your
eyes. What is the matter? What has brought you out here when you ought
to be in-doors? What is the trouble that has taken away the roses and
put lilies in their place?"

"I have no trouble, Lord Arleigh," she replied. "I came here only to

"To think of what, sweet?"

Her face flushed.

"I cannot tell you," she answered. "You cannot expect that I should tell
you everything."

"You tell me nothing, Madaline. A few words from you should make me the
happiest man in the world, yet you will not speak them."

Then all the assumed lightness and carelessness died from his manner. He
came nearer to her; her eyes drooped before the fire of his.

"Madaline, my love, let me plead to you," he said, "for the gift of your
love. Give me that, and I shall be content. You think I am proud," he
continued; "I am not one-half so proud, sweet, as you. You refuse to
love me--why? Because of your pride. You have some foolish notions that
the difference in our positions should part us. You are quite
wrong--love knows no such difference."

"But the world does," she interrupted.

"The world!" he repeated, with contempt. "Thank Heaven it is not my
master! What matters what the world says?"

"You owe more to the name and honor of your family than to the world,"
she said.

"Of that," he observed, "you must allow me to be the best judge."

She bowed submissively.

"The dearest thing in life to me is the honor of my name, the honor of
my race," said Lord Arleigh. "It has never been tarnished and I pray
Heaven that no stain may ever rest upon it. I will be frank with you,
Madaline, as you are with me, though I love you so dearly that my very
life is bound up in yours. I would not ask you to be my wife if I
thought that in doing so I was bringing a shadow of dishonor on my
race--if I thought that I was in even ever so slight a degree tarnishing
my name; but I do not think so. I speak to you frankly. I know the story
of your misfortunes, and, knowing it, do not deem it sufficient to part
us. Listen and believe me, Madaline--if I stood with you before the
altar, with your hand in mine, and the solemn words of the marriage
service on my lips, and anything even then came to my knowledge which I
thought prejudicial to the fame and honor of my race, I should without
hesitation ask you to release me. Do you believe me?"

"Yes," she replied, slowly, "I believe you."

"Then why not trust me fully? I know your story--it is an old story
after all. I know it by heart; I am the best judge of it. I have weighed
it most carefully; it has not been a lightly-considered matter with me
at all, and, after thinking it well over, I have come to the conclusion
that it is not sufficient to part us. You see, sweet, that you may
implicitly believe me. I have no false gloss of compliments. Frankly, as
you yourself would do, I admit the drawback; but, unlike you, I affirm
that it does not matter."

"But would you always think so? The time might come when the remembrance
of my father's----"

"Hush!" he said, gently. "The matter must never be discussed between us.
I tell you frankly that I should not care for the whole world to know
your story. I know it--the duke and duchess know it. There is no need
for it to be known to others; and, believe me, Madaline, it will never
be and need never be known--we may keep it out of sight. It is not
likely that I shall ever repent, for it will never be of any more
importance to me than it is now."

He paused abruptly, for her blue eyes were looking wistfully at him.

"What is it, Madaline?" he asked, gently.

"I wish you would let me tell you all about it--how my mother, so gentle
and good, came to marry my father, and how he fell--how he was tempted
and fell. May I tell you, Lord Arleigh?"

"No," he replied, after a short pause, "I would rather not hear it. The
duchess has told me all I care to know. It will be better, believe me,
for the whole story to die away. If I had wished to hear it, I should
have asked you to tell it me."

"It would make me happier," she said; "I should know then that there was
no mistake."

"There is no mistake, my darling--the duchess has told me; and it is not
likely that she has made a mistake, is it?"

"No. She knows the whole story from beginning to end. If she has told
you, you know all."

"Certainly I do; and, knowing all, I have come here to beg you to make
me happy, to honor me with your love, to be my Wife. Ah, Madaline, do
not let your pride part us!"

He saw that she trembled and hesitated.

"Only imagine what life must be for us, Madaline, if we part. You would
perhaps go on living with the duchess all your life--for, in spite of
your coyness and your fear, I believe you love me so well, darling,
that, unless you marry me, you will marry no one--you would drag on a
weary, tried, sad, unhappy existence, that would not have in it one
gleam of comfort."

"It is true," she said, slowly.

"Of course it is true. And what would become of me? The sun would have
no more brightness for me; the world would be as a desert; the light
would die from my life. Oh, Madaline, make me happy by loving me!"

"I do love you," she said, unguardedly.

"Then why not be my wife?"

She drew back trembling, her face pale as death.

"Why not be my wife?" he repeated.

"It is for your own sake," she said. "Can you not see? Do you not

"For my sake. Then I shall treat you as a vanquished kingdom--I shall
take possession of you, my darling, my love!"

Bending down, he kissed her face--and this time she made no resistance
to his sovereign will.

"Now," said Lord Arleigh, triumphantly, "you are my very own, nothing
can separate us--that kiss seals our betrothal; you must forget all
doubts, all fears, all hesitation, and only say to yourself that you are
mine--all mine. Will you be happy, Madaline?"

She raised her eyes to his, her face bedewed with happy tears.

"I should be most ungrateful if I were not happy," she replied; "you are
so good to me, Lord Arleigh."

"You must not call me 'Lord Arleigh'--say 'Norman.'"

"Norman," she repeated, "you are so good to me."

"I love you so well, sweet," he returned.

The happy eyes were raised to his face.

"Will you tell me," she asked, "why you love me, Norman? I cannot think
why it is. I wonder about it every day. You see girls a thousand times
better suited to you than I am. Why do you love me so?"

"What a question to answer, sweet! How can I tell why I love you? I
cannot help it; my soul is attracted to your soul, my heart to your
heart, Madaline. I shall be unwilling to leave you again; when I go away
from Verdun Royal, I shall want to take my wife with me."

She looked at him in alarm.

"I am quite serious," he continued. "You are so sensitive, so full of
hesitation, that, if I leave you, you will come to the conclusion that
you have done wrong, and will write me a pathetic little letter, and go

"No, I shall not do that," she observed.

"I shall not give you a chance, my own; I shall neither rest myself nor
let any one else rest until you are my wife. I will not distress you now
by talking about it. I shall go to the duchess to-day, and tell her that
you have relented in my favor at last; then you will let us decide for
you, Madaline, will you not?"

"Yes," she replied, with a smile; "it would be useless for me to rebel."

"You have made some very fatal admissions," he said, laughingly. "You
have owned that you love me; after that, denial, resistance, coyness,
shyness, nothing will avail. Oh, Madaline, I shall always love this spot
where I won you! I will have a picture of this brook-side painted some
day. We must go back to the house now; but, before we go, make me happy;
tell me of your own free will that you love me."

"You know I do. I love you, Norman--I will say it now--I love you ten
thousand times better than my life. I have loved you ever since I first
saw you; but I was afraid to say so, because of--well, you know why."

"You are not afraid now, Madaline?"

"No, not now," she replied; "you have chosen me from all the world to be
your wife. I will think of nothing but making you happy."

"In token of that, kiss me--just once--of your own free will."

"No," she refused, with a deep blush.

"You will, if you love me," he said; and then she turned her face to
his. She raised her pure, sweet lips to his and kissed him, blushing as
she did so to the very roots of her golden hair.

"You must never ask me to do that again," she said, gravely.

"No," returned he; "it was so remarkably unpleasant, Madaline, I could
not wish for a repetition;" and then they went back to the house

"Norman," said Madaline, as they stood before the great Gothic porch,
"will you wait until to-morrow before you tell the duchess?"

"No," he laughed, "I shall tell her this very day."

Chapter XXII.

It was almost noon before Lord Arleigh saw Philippa, and then it struck
him that she was not looking well. She seemed to have lost some of her
brilliant color, and he fancied she was thinner than she used to be. She
had sent for him to her _boudoir_.

"I heard that you were inquiring for me, Norman," she said. "Had you any
especial reason for so doing?"

"Yes," he replied, "I have a most important reason. But you are not
looking so bright as usual, Philippa. Are you not well?"

"The weather is too warm for one to look bright," she said, "much
sunshine always tires me. Sit down here, Norman; my room looks cool
enough, does it not?"

In its way her room was a triumph of art; the hangings were of pale
amber and white--there was a miniature fountain cooling the air with its
spray, choice flowers emitting sweet perfume. The fair young duchess was
resting on a couch of amber satin; she held a richly-jeweled fan in her
hands, which she used occasionally. She looked very charming in her
dress of light material, her dark hair carelessly but artistically
arranged. Still there was something about her unlike herself; her lips
were pale, and her eyes had in them a strange, wistful expression.
Norman took his seat near the little conch.

"I have come to make a confession, Philippa," he began.

"So I imagined; you look very guilty. What is it?"

"I have found my ideal. I love her, she loves me, and I want to marry

The pallor of the lovely lips deepened. For a few minutes no sound was
heard except the falling of the spray of the fountain and then the
Duchess of Hazlewood looked up and said:

"Why do you make this confession to me, Norman?"

"Because it concerns some one in whom you are interested. It is Madaline
whom I love, Madaline whom I wish to marry. But that is not strange news
to you, I am sure, Philippa."

Again there was a brief silence; and then the duchess said, in a low

"You must admit that I warned you, Norman, from the very first."

He raised his head proudly.

"You warned me? I do not understand."

"I kept her out of your sight. I told you it would be better for you not
to see her. I advised you, did I not?"

She seemed rather to be pleading in self-defense than thinking of him.

"But, my dearest Philippa, I want no warning--I am very happy as to the
matter I have nearest my heart. I thank you for bringing my sweet
Madaline here. You do not seem to understand?"

She looked at him earnestly.

"Do you love her so very much, Norman?"

"I love her better than any words of mine can tell," he said. "The
moment I saw her first I told you my dream was realized--I had found my
ideal. I have loved her ever since."

"How strange!" murmured the duchess.

"Do you think it strange? Remember how fair and winsome she is--how
sweet and gentle. I do not believe there is any one like her."

The white hand that, held the jeweled fan moved more vigorously.

"Why do you tell me this, Norman? What do you wish me to do?"

"You have always been so kind to me," he said, "you have ever been as a
sister, my best, dearest, truest friend. I could not have a feeling of
this kind without telling you of it. Do you remember how you used to
tease me about my ideal. Neither of us thought in those days that I
should find her under your roof."

"No," said the duchess, quietly, "it is very strange."

"I despaired of winning Madaline," he continued. "She had such strange
ideas of the wonderful distance between us--she thought so much more of
me than of herself, of the honor of my family and my name--that, to tell
you the truth, Philippa, I thought I should never win her consent to be
my wife."

"And you have won it at last," she put in, with quiet gravity.

"Yes--at last. This morning she promised to be my wife."

The dark eyes looked straight into his own.

"It is a miserable marriage for you, Norman. Granted that Madaline has
beauty, grace, purity, she is without fortune, connection, position.
You, an Arleigh of Beechgrove, ought to do better. I am speaking as the
world will speak. It is really a wretched marriage."

"I can afford to laugh at the world to please myself in the choice of a
wife. There are certain circumstances under which I would not have
married any one; these circumstances do not surround my darling. She
stands out clear and distinct as a bright jewel from the rest of the
world. To-day she promised to be my wife, but she is so sensitive and
hesitating that I am almost afraid I shall lose her even now, and I want
to marry her as soon as I can."

"But why," asked the duchess, "do you tell me this?"

"Because it concerns you most nearly. She lives under your roof--she is,
in some measure, your protegee."

"Vere will be very angry when he hears of it," said the duchess. And
then Lord Arleigh looked up proudly.

"I do not see why he should. It is no business of his."

"He will think it so strange."

"It is no stranger than any other marriage," said Lord Arleigh.
"Philippa, you disappoint me. I expected more sympathy at least from

The tone of his voice was so full of pain that she looked up quickly.

"Do you think me unkind, Norman? You could not expect any true friend of
yours to be very delighted at such a marriage as this, could you?" It
seemed as though she knew and understood that opposition made his own
plan seem only the dearer to him. "Still I have no wish to fail in
sympathy. Madaline is very lovely and very winning--I have a great
affection for her--and I think--nay, I am quite sure--that she loves you
very dearly."

"That is better--that is more like your own self, Philippa. You used to
be above all conventionality. I knew that in the depths of your generous
heart you would be pleased for your old friend to be happy at last--and
I shall be happy, Philippa. You wish me well, do you not?"

Her lips seemed hard and dry as she replied:

"Yes, I wish you well."

"What I wished to consult you about is my marriage. It must not take
place here, of course. I understand, and think it only natural, that the
duke does not wish to have public attention drawn to Madaline. We all
like to keep our little family secrets; consequently I have thought of a
plan which I believe will meet all the difficulties of the case."

The pallor of the duchess' face deepened.

"Are you faint or ill, Philippa?" he asked, wondering at her strange

"No," she replied, "it is only the heat that affects me. Go on with your
story, Norman; it interests me."

"That is like my dear old friend Philippa. I thought a marriage from
here would not do--it would entail publicity and remark; that none of us
would care for--besides, there could hardly be a marriage under your
auspices during the absence of the duke."

"No, it would hardly be _en regle_," she agreed.

"But," continued Norman, "if Lady Peters would befriend me--if she would
go away to some quiet sea-side place, and take Madaline with her--then,
at the end of a fortnight, I might join them there, and we could be
married, with every due observance of conventionality, but without
calling undue public attention to the ceremony. Do you not think that a
good plan, Philippa?"

"Yes," she said slowly.

"Look interested in it, or you will mar my happiness. Why, if it were
your marriage, Philippa, I should consider every detail of high
importance. Do not look cold or indifferent about it."

She roused herself with a shudder.

"I am neither cold nor indifferent," she said--"on the contrary I am
vitally interested. You wish me, of course, to ask Lady Peters if she
will do this?"

Book of the day: