Part 4 out of 6
"Yep, because I know she will refuse you nothing."
"Then that is settled," said the duchess. "There is a pretty, quiet
little watering-place called St. Mildred's--I remember hearing Vere
speak of it last year--which would meet your wishes, I think, if Lady
Peters and Madaline consent."
"I am sure they will consent," put in Lord Arleigh hopefully.
"There is another thing to be thought of," said the duchess--"a
_trousseau_ for the fair young bride."
"Yes, I know. She will have every fancy gratified after our marriage,
but there will not be time for much preparations before it."
"Let me be fairy godmother," said the duchess. "In three weeks from
to-day I engage to have such a _trousseau_ as has rarely been seen. You
can add dresses and ornaments to it afterward."
"You are very good. Do you know," he said, "that it is only now that I
begin to recognize my old friend? At first you seemed so unsympathetic,
so cold--now you are my sister Philippa the sharer of my joys and
sorrows. We had no secrets when we were children."
"No," she agreed, mournfully, "none."
"And we have none now," he said, with a happy laugh. "How astonished
Vere will be when he returns and finds that Madaline is married! And I
think that, if it can be all arranged without any great blow to his
family pride, he will not be ill-pleased."
"I should think not," she returned, listlessly.
"And you, Philippa--you will extend to my beloved wife the friendship
and affection that you have given to me?"
"Yes," she replied, absently.
"Continue to be her fairy-godmother. There is no friend who can do as
you can do. You will be Madaline's sheet-anchor and great hope."
She turned away with a shudder.
"Philippa," he continued, "will you let me send Lady Peters to you now,
that I may know as soon as possible whether she consents?"
"You can send her if you will, Norman."
Was it his fancy, or did he really, as he stood at the door, hear a
deep, heart-broken sigh? Did her voice, in a sad, low wail, come to
He turned quickly, but she seemed already to have forgotten him, and
was looking through the open window.
Was it his fancy again, when the door had closed, or did she really
cry--"Norman!" He opened the door quickly.
"Did you call me, Philippa?" he asked.
"No," she replied; and he went away.
"I do not understand it," he thought; "there is something not quite
right. Philippa is not like herself."
Then he went in search of Lady Peters, whom he bewildered and astonished
by telling her that it lay in her power to make him the happiest of men.
"That is what men say when they make an offer of marriage," she
observed; "and I am sure you are not about to make one to me."
"No; but, dear Lady Peters, I want you to help me marry some one else.
Will you go to the duchess? She will tell you all about it."
"Why not tell me yourself?" she asked.
"She has better powers of persuasion," he replied, laughingly.
"Then I am afraid, if so much persuasion is required, that something
wrong is on the _tapis_," said Lady Peters. "I cannot imagine why men
who have beautiful young wives go yachting. It seems to me a terrible
Lord Arleigh laughed.
"The duke's yachting has very little to do with this matter," he said.
"Lady Peters, before you listen to the duchess, let me make one appeal
to you. With all my heart I beseech you to grant the favor that she will
He bent his handsome head, and kissed her hand, while emotion rose to
the lady's eyes.
"Is it something for you, Lord Arleigh?" she asked.
"Yes," he replied, "for my own unworthy self."
"Then I will do it if possible," she replied.
But when the Duchess of Hazlewood had told her what was needed, and had
placed the whole matter before her, Lady Peters looked shocked.
"My dear Philippa," she said, "this is terrible. I could not have
believed it. She is a lovely, graceful, pure-minded girl, I know; but
such a marriage for an Arleigh! I cannot believe it."
"That is unfortunate," said her grace, dryly, "for he seems very much in
"No money, no rank, no connections, while he is one of the finest
matches in England."
"She is his ideal," was the mocking reply. "It is not for us to point
"But what will the duke say?" inquired her ladyship, anxiously.
"I do not suppose that he will be very much surprised. Even if he is, he
will have had time to recover from his astonishment before he returns.
The duke knows that 'beauty leads man at its will.' Few can resist the
charm of a pretty face"
"What shall I do?" asked Lady Peters, hopelessly. "What am I to say?"
"Decide for yourself. I decline to offer any opinion. I say simply that
if you refuse he will probably ask the favor of some one else."
"But do you advise me to consent, Philippa?" inquired Lady Peters,
"I advise you to please yourself. Had he asked a similar favor of me, I
might have granted or I might have refused it; I cannot say."
"To think of that simple, fair-faced girl being Lady Arleigh!" exclaimed
Lady Peters. "I suppose that I had better consent, or he will do
something more desperate. He is terribly in earnest, Philippa."
"He is terribly in love," said the duchess, carelessly, and then Lady
Peters decided that she would accede to Lord Arleigh's request.
More than once during the week that ensued after his proposal of
marriage to Madaline, Lord Arleigh looked in wonder at the duchess. She
seemed so unlike herself--absent, brooding, almost sullen. The smiles,
the animation, the vivacity, the wit, the brilliant repartee that had
distinguished her had all vanished. More than once he asked her if she
was ill; the answer was always "No." More than once he asked her if she
was unhappy; the answer was always the same--"No."
"You are miserable because your husband is not here," he said to her one
day, compassionately. "If you had known how much you would have missed
him, you would not have let him go."
There was a wondrous depth of pain in the dark eyes raised to his.
"I wish he had not gone," she said; "from the very depths of my heart I
wish that." Then she seemed to recover her natural gayety. "I do not
know, though, why I should have detained him," she said, half
laughingly. "He is so fond of yachting."
"You must not lose all your spirits before he returns, Philippa, or he
will say we have been but sorry guardians."
"No one has ever found fault with my spirits before," said the duchess.
"You are not complimentary, Norman."
"You give me such a strange impression," he observed. "Of course it is
highly ridiculous, but if I did not know you as well as I do, I should
think that you had something on your mind, some secret that was making
you unhappy--that there was a struggle always going on between something
you would like to do and something you are unwilling to do. It is an
absurd idea, I know, yet it has taken possession of me."
She laughed, but there was little music in the sound.
"What imaginative power you have, Norman! You would make your fortune as
a novelist. What can I have to be unhappy about? Should you think that
any woman has a lot more brilliant than mine? See how young I am for my
position--how entirely I have my own way! Could any one, do you think,
be more happy than I?"
"No, perhaps not," he replied.
So the week passed, and at the end of it Lady Peters went with Madaline
to St. Mildred's. At first the former had been unwilling to go--it had
seemed to her a terrible _mesalliance_, but, woman-like, she had grown
interested in the love-story--she had learned to understand the
passionate love that Lord Arleigh had for his fair-haired bride. A
breath of her own youth swept over her as she watched them.
It might be a _mesalliance_, a bad match, but it was decidedly a case of
true love, of the truest love she had ever witnessed; so that her
dislike to the task before her melted away.
After all, Lord Arleigh had a perfect right to please himself--to do as
he would; if he did not think Madaline's birth placed her greatly
beneath him, no one else need suggest such a thing. From being a violent
opponent of the marriage, Lady Peters became one of its most strenuous
supporters. So they went away to St. Mildred's, where the great tragedy
of Madaline's life was to begin.
On the morning that she went way, the duchess sent for her to her room.
She told her all that she intended doing as regarded the elaborate and
magnificent _trousseau_ preparing for her. Madaline was overwhelmed.
"You are too good to me," she said--"you spoil me. How am I to thank
"Your wedding-dress--plain, simple, but rich, to suit the occasion--will
be sent to St. Mildred's," said the duchess--"also a handsome traveling
costume; but all the rest of the packages can be sent to Beechgrove. You
will need them only there."
Madaline kissed the hand extended to her.
"I shall never know how to thank you," she said.
A peculiar smile came over the darkly-beautiful face.
"I think you will," returned the duchess "I can imagine what blessings
you will some day invoke on my name."
Then she withdrew her hand suddenly from the touch of the pure sweet
"Good-by, Madaline," she said; and it was long before the young girl saw
the fair face of the duchess again.
Just as she was quitting the room Philippa placed a packet in her hand.
"You will carefully observe the directions given in this?" she said; and
Madaline promised to do so.
The time at St. Mildred's soon passed. It was a quiet, picturesque
village, standing at the foot of a green hill facing the bay. There was
little to be seen, except the shining sea and the blue sky. An old
church, called St. Mildred's, stood on the hill-top. Few strangers ever
visited the little watering-place. The residents were people who
preferred quiet and beautiful scenery to everything else. There was a
hotel, called the Queen's, where the few strangers that came mostly
resided; and just facing the sea stood a newly-built terrace of houses
called Sea View, where other visitors also sojourned.
It was just the place for lovers' dreams--a shining sea, golden sands,
white cliffs with little nooks and bays, pretty and shaded walks on the
Madaline's great happiness was delightful to see. The fair face grew
radiant in its loveliness; the blue eyes shone brightly. There was the
delight, too, every day of inspecting the parcels that arrived one after
the other; but the greatest pleasure of all was afforded by the
wedding-dress. It was plain, simple, yet, in its way, a work of art--a
rich white silk with little lace or trimming, yet looking so like a
wedding-dress that no one could mistake it. There were snowy gloves and
shoes--in fact everything was perfect, selected by no common taste, the
gift of no illiberal hand. Was it foolish of her to kiss the white folds
while the tears filled her eyes, and to think of herself that she was
the happiest creature under the sun? Was it foolish of her to touch the
pretty bridal robes with soft, caressing fingers, as though they were
some living thing that she loved--to place them where the sunbeams fell
on them, to admire them in every different fold and arrangement?
Then the eventful day came--Lord Arleigh and Madaline were to be married
at an early hour.
"Not," said Lord Arleigh, proudly, "that there is any need for
concealment--why should there be?--but you see, Lady Peters if it were
known that it was my wedding-day, I have so many friends, so many
relatives, that privacy would be impossible for us; therefore the world
has not been enlightened as to when I intended to claim my darling for
"It is a strange marriage for an Arleigh," observed Lady Peters--"the
first of its kind, I am sure. But I think you are right--your plan is
All the outward show made at the wedding consisted in the rapid driving
of a carriage from the hotel to the church--a carriage containing two
ladies--one young, fair, charming as a spring morning, the other older,
graver, and more sedate.
The young girl was fair and sweet, her golden hair shining through the
marriage vail, her blue eyes wet with unshed tears, her face flushed
with daintiest rose-leaf bloom.
It was a pleasant spectacle to see the dark, handsome face of her lover
as he greeted her, the love that shone in his eyes, the pride of his
manner, as though he would place her before the whole world, and defy it
to produce one so graceful or so fair. Lady Peters' face softened and
her heart beat as she walked up to the altar with them. This was true
So the grand old words of the marriage-service were pronounced--they
were promised to each other for better for worse, for weal for
woe--never to part until death parted them--to be each the other's
It was the very morning for a bride. Heaven and earth smiled their
brightest, the sunshine was golden, the autumn flowers bloomed fair, the
autumn foliage had assumed its rich hues of crimson and of burnished
gold; there was a bright light over the sea and the hill-tops.
Only one little _contretemps_ happened at the wedding. Madaline smiled
at it. Lord Arleigh was too happy even to notice it, but Lady Peters
grew pale at the occurrence; for, according to her old-fashioned ideas,
it augured ill.
Just as Lord Arleigh was putting the ring on the finger of his fair
young bride, it slipped and fell to the ground. The church was an
old-fashioned one, and there were graves and vaults all down the aisle.
Away rolled the little golden ring, and when Lord Arleigh stooped down
he could not see it. He was for some minutes searching for it, and then
he found it--it had rolled into the hollow of a large letter on one of
the level grave-stones.
Involuntarily he kissed it as he lifted it from the ground; it was too
cruel for anything belonging to that fair young bride to have been
brought into contact with death. Lady Peters noted the little incident
with a shudder, Madaline merely smiled. Then the ceremony was over--Lord
Arleigh and Madaline were man and wife. It seemed to him that the whole
world around him was transformed.
They walked out of the church together, and when they stood in the
sunlight he turned to her.
"My darling, my wife," he said, in an impassioned voice, "may Heaven
send to us a life bright as this sunshine, love as pure--life and death
together! I pray Heaven that no deeper cloud may come over our lives
than there is now in the sky above us."
These words were spoken at only eleven in the morning. If he had known
all that he would have to suffer before eleven at night, Lord Arleigh,
with all his bravery, all his chivalry, would have been ready to fling
himself from the green hill-top into the shimmering sea.
It was the custom of the Arleighs to spend their honeymoon at home; they
had never fallen into the habit of making themselves uncomfortable
abroad. The proper place, they considered, for a man to take his young
wife to was home; the first Lord Arleigh had done so, and each lord had
followed this sensible example. Norman, Lord Arleigh, had not dreamed of
making any change. True, he had planned with his fair young bride that
when the autumn month had passed away they would go abroad, and not
spend the winter in cold, foggy England. They had talked of the cities
they would visit--and Madaline's sweet eyes had grown brighter with
happy thoughts. But that was not to be yet; they were to go home first,
and when they had learned something of what home-life would be together,
then they could go abroad.
Lady Peters went back to Verdun Royal on the same morning; her task
ended with the marriage. She took back with her innumerable messages for
the duchess. As she stood at the carriage-door, she--so little given to
demonstration--took the young wife into her arms.
"Good-by, Madaline--or I should say now, Lady Arleigh--good-by, and may
Heaven bless you! I did not love you at first, my dear, and I thought my
old friend was doing a foolish thing; but now I love you with all my
heart; you are so fair and wise, so sweet and pure, that in making you
his wife he has chosen more judiciously than if he had married the
daughter of a noble house. That is my tribute to you, Madaline; and to
it I add, may Heaven bless you, and send you a happy life!"
Then they parted; but, as she went home through all the glory of the
sunlit day, Lady Peters did not feel quite at ease.
"I wish," she said to herself, "that he had not dropped the
Wedding-ring; it has made me feel uncomfortable."
Bride and bridegroom had one of the blithest, happiest journeys ever
made. What cloud could rise in such a sky as theirs. They were blessed
with youth, beauty, health; there had been no one to raise the least
opposition to their marriage; before them stretched a long golden
The carriage met them at the station, it was then three in the
afternoon, and the day continued fair.
"We will have a long drive through the park, Madaline," said Lord
Arleigh. "You will like to see your new home."
So, instead of going direct to the mansion, they turned off from the
main avenue to make a tour of the park.
"Now I understand why this place is called Beechgrove," said Madaline,
suddenly. "I have never seen such trees in my life."
She spoke truly. Giant beech-trees spread out their huge boughs on all
sides. They were trees of which any man would have been proud, because
of their beauty and magnificence. Presently from between the trees she
saw the mansion itself, Lord Arleigh touched his young wife's arm
"My darling," he said, "that is home."
Her face flushed, her eyes brightened, the sensitive lips quivered.
"Home!" she repeated. "How sweet the word sounds to me!" With a
tremulous smile she raised her face to his. "Nor man," she said, "do
you know that I feel very much as Lady Burleigh, the wife of Lord
Burleigh, of Stamford-town, must have felt."
"But you, Madaline," he laughed, "are not quite the simple maiden--he
wooed and won. You have the high-bred grace of a lady--nothing could rob
you of that."
"She must have been lovely and graceful to have won Lord Burleigh," she
"Perhaps so, but not like you, Madaline--there has never been any one
quite like you. I shall feel tempted to call you 'Lady Burleigh.' Here
we are at home; and, oh, my wife, my darling, how sweet the coming home
The carriage stopped at the grand entrance. Wishing to spare his young
wife all fatigue and embarrassment, Lord Arleigh had not dispatched the
news of his marriage home, so that no one at Beechgrove expected to see
Lady Arleigh. He sent at once for the housekeeper, a tall, stately dame,
who came into the dining-room looking in unutterable amazement at the
beautiful, blushing young face.
"Mrs. Chatterton," he said, "I wish to introduce you to my wife, Lady
The stately dame curtesied almost to the ground.
"Welcome home, my Lady," she said, deferentially. "If I had known that
your ladyship was expected I would have made more befitting
"Nothing could be better--you have everything in admirable order,"
responded Lord Arleigh, kindly.
Then the housekeeper turned with a bow to her master.
"I did not know that you were married, my lord," she said.
"No, Mrs. Chatterton; for reasons of my own, I hurried on my marriage.
No one shall lose by the hurry, though"--which she knew meant a promise
of handsome bounty.
Presently the housekeeper went with Lady Arleigh to her room.
The grandeur and magnificence of the house almost startled her. She felt
more like Lady Burleigh than ever, as she went up the broad marble
staircase and saw the long corridors with the multitude of rooms.
"His lordship wrote to tell me to have all the rooms in the western wing
ready," said Mrs. Chatterton; "but he did not tell why. They are
splendid rooms, my lady--large, bright and cheerful. They look over the
beautiful beeches in the park, from which the place takes its name. Of
course you will have what is called Lady Arleigh's suite."
As she spoke Mrs. Chatterton threw open the door, and Lady Arleigh saw
the most magnificent rooms she had ever beheld in her life--a _boudoir_
all blue silk and white lace, a spacious sleeping-chamber daintily hung
with pink satin, a dressing-room that was a marvel of elegance, and a
small library, all fitted with the greatest luxury.
"This is the finest suite of rooms in the house," said the housekeeper;
"they are always kept for the use of the mistress of Beechgrove. Has
your ladyship brought your maid?"
"No," replied Lady Arleigh; "the fact is I have not chosen one. The
Duchess of Hazlewood promised to find one for me."
The illustrious name pleased the housekeeper. She had felt puzzled at
the quiet marriage, and the sudden home-coming. If the new mistress of
Beechgrove was an intimate friend of her Grace of Hazlewood's, as her
words seemed to imply, then all must be well.
When Lady Arleigh had changed her traveling-dress, she went down-stairs.
Her young husband looked up in a rapture of delight.
"Oh, Madaline," he said, "how long have you been away from me? It seems
like a hundred hours, yet I do not suppose it has been one. And how fair
you look, my love! That cloudy white robe suits your golden hair and
your sweet face, which has the same soft, sweet expression as when I saw
you first; and those pretty shoulders of yours gleam like polished
marble through the lace. No dress could be more coquettish or prettier."
The wide hanging sleeves were fastened back from the shoulders with
buttons of pearl, leaving the white, rounded arms bare; a bracelet of
pearls--Lady Peters' gift--was clasped round the graceful neck; the
waves of golden hair, half loose, half carelessly fastened, were like a
crown on the beautiful head.
"I am proud of my wife," he said. "I know that no fairer Lady Arleigh
has ever been at Beechgrove. When we have dined, Madaline, I will take
you to the picture-gallery, and introduce you to my ancestors and
A _recherche_ little dinner had been hastily prepared, and was served in
the grand dining-room. Madaline's eyes ached with the dazzle of silver
plate, the ornaments and magnificence of the room.
"Shall I ever grow accustomed to all this?" she asked herself. "Shall I
ever learn to look upon it as my own? I am indeed bewildered."
Yet her husband admired her perfect grace and self-possession. She might
have been mistress of Beechgrove all her life for any evidence she gave
to the contrary. His pride in her increased every moment; there was no
one like her.
"I have never really known what 'home' meant before, Madaline," he said.
"Imagine sitting opposite to a beautiful vision, knowing all the time
that it is your wife. My own wife--there is magic in the words."
And she, in her sweet humility, wondered why Heaven had so richly
blessed her, and what she had done that the great, passionate love of
this noble man should be hers. When dinner was ended he asked her if she
"No," she answered, laughingly; "I have never felt less fatigued."
"Then I should like to show you over the house," he said--"my dear old
home. I am so proud of it, Madaline; you understand what I mean--proud
of its beauty; its antiquity--proud that no shadow of disgrace has ever
rested on it. To others these are simply ancient gray walls; to me they
represent the honor, the stainless repute, the unshadowed dignity of my
race. People may sneer if they will, but to me there seems nothing so
sacred as love of race--jealousy of a stainless name."
"I can understand and sympathize with you," she said, "although the
feeling is strange to me."
"Not quite strange, Madaline. Your mother had a name, dear, entitled to
all respect. Now come with me, and I will introduce you to the long line
of the Ladies Arleigh."
They went together to the picture-gallery, and as they passed through
the hall Madaline heard the great clock chiming.
"Ah, Norman," she said, listening to the chimes, "how much may happen in
one day, however short that day may be."
The picture-gallery was one of the chief attractions of Beechgrove; like
the grand old trees, it had been the work of generations. The Arleighs
had always been great patrons of the fine arts; many a lord of
Beechgrove had expended what was a handsome fortune in the purchase of
pictures. The gallery itself was built on a peculiar principal; it went
round the whole of the house, extending from the eastern to the western
wing--it was wide, lofty, well-lighted, and the pictures were well hung.
In wet weather the ladies of the house used it as a promenade. It was
filled with art-treasures of all kinds, the accumulation of many
generations. From between the crimson velvet hangings white marble
statues gleamed, copies of the world's great masterpieces; there were
also more modern works of art. The floor was of the most exquisite
parquetry; the seats and lounges were soft and luxurious; in the great
windows east and west there stood a small fountain, and the ripple of
the water sounded like music in the quietude of the gallery. One
portion of it was devoted entirely to family portraits. They were a
wonderful collection perhaps one of the most characteristic in England.
Lord Arleigh and his young wife walked through the gallery.
"I thought the gallery at Verdun Royal the finest in the world," she
said; "it is nothing compared to this."
"And this," he returned, "is small, compared with the great European
"They belong to nations; this belongs to an individual," she
said--"there is a difference."
Holding her hand in his, he led her to the long line of fair-faced
women. As she stood, the light from the setting sun falling on her fair
face and golden hair, he said to himself that he had no picture in his
gallery one-half so exquisite.
"Now," he said, "let me introduce you to the ladies of my race."
At that moment the sunbeams that had been shining on the wall died out
suddenly. She looked up, half laughingly.
"I think the ladies of your race are frowning on me, Norman," she said.
"Hardly that; if they could but step down from their frames, what a
stately company they would make to welcome you!"
And forthwith he proceeded to narrate their various histories.
"This resolute woman," he said, "with the firm lips and strong, noble
face, lived in the time of the Roses; she held this old hall against her
foes for three whole weeks, until the siege was raised, and the enemy
"She was a brave woman," remarked Lady Arleigh.
"This was a heroine," he went on--"Lady Alicia Arleigh; she would not
leave London when the terrible plague raged there. It is supposed that
she saved numberless lives; she devoted herself to the nursing of the
sick, and when all the fright and fear had abated, she found herself
laden with blessings, and her name honored throughout the land. This is
Lady Lola, who in time of riot went out unattended, unarmed, quite
alone, and spoke to three or four hundred of the roughest men in the
country; they had come, in the absence of her husband, to sack and
pillage the Hall--they marched back again, leaving it untouched. This,
Lady Constance, is a lineal descendant of Lady Nethsdale--the brave Lady
She clung to his arm as she stood there.
"Oh, Norman," she said, "do you mean that my portrait, too, will hang
"I hope so, my darling, very soon."
"But how can I have a place among all these fair and noble women," she
asked, with sad humility--"I whose ancestors have done nothing to
deserve merit or praise? Why, Norman, in the long years to come, when
some Lord Arleigh brings home his wife, as you have brought me, and they
stand together before my picture as I stand before these, the young wife
will ask: 'Who was this?' and the answer will be: 'Lady Madaline
Arleigh.' She will ask again: 'Who was she?' And what will the answer
be? 'She was no one of importance; she had neither money, rank, nor
He looked at the bent face near him.
"Nay, my darling, not so. That Lord Arleigh will be able to answer: 'She
was the flower of the race; she was famed for her pure, gentle life, and
the good example she gave to all around her; she was beloved by rich and
poor.' That is what will be said of you, my Madaline."
"Heaven make me worthy!" she said, humbly. And then they came to a
picture that seemed to strike her.
"Norman," she said, "that face is like the Duchess of Hazlewood's."
"Do you think so, darling? Well, there is perhaps a faint resemblance."
"It lies in the brow and in the chin," she said. "How beautiful the
duchess is!" she continued. "I have often looked at her till her face
seemed to dazzle me."
"I know some one who is far more beautiful in my eyes," he returned.
"Norman," she said, half hesitatingly, "do you know one thing that I
have thought so strange?"
"No, I have not been trusted with many of your thoughts yet," he
"I have wondered so often why you never fell in love with the duchess."
"Fate had something better in store for me," he said, laughing.
She looked surprised.
"You cannot mean that you really think I am better than she is, Norman?"
"I do think it, darling; ten thousand times better--ten thousand times
fairer in my eyes."
"Norman," she said, a sudden gleam of memory brightening her face; "I had
almost forgotten--the duchess gave me this for you; I was to be sure to
give it to you before the sun set on our wedding-day."
She held out a white packet sealed securely, and he took it wonderingly.
He tore off the outer cover, and saw, written on the envelope:
"A wedding present from Philippa, Duchess of to Lord Arleigh. To be read
alone on his wedding-day."
Lord Arleigh stared at the packet which his wife had given him, and
again and again read the words that were inscribed on it: "A wedding
present from Philippa, Duchess of Hazlewood to Lord Arleigh. To be read
alone on his wedding-day." What could it mean? Philippa at times took
strange caprices into her head. This seemed to be one of the strangest.
He held the letter in his hand, a strange presentiment of evil creeping
over him which he could not account for. From the envelope came a sweet
scent, which the duchess always used. It was so familiar to him that for
a few minutes it brought her vividly before him--he could have fancied
her standing near him. Then he remembered the strange words: "To be read
alone." What could that mean? That the letter contained something that
his young wife must not see or hear.
He looked at her. She had seemingly forgotten all about the packet, and
stood now, with a smile on her face, before one of the finest pictures
in the gallery, wrapt in a dream of delight. There could not be anything
in the letter affecting her. Still, as Philippa had written so
pointedly, it would be better perhaps for him to heed her words.
"Madaline, my darling," he said, sinking on to an ottoman, "you have
taken no tea. You would like some. Leave me here alone for half an hour.
I want to think."
She did what she had never done voluntarily before. She went up to him,
and clasped her arms round his neck. She bent her blushing face over
his, and the caress surprised as much as it delighted him--she was so
"What are you going to think about, Norman? Will it be of me?"
"Of whom else should I think on my wedding-day, if not of my wife?" he
"I should be jealous if your thoughts went anywhere else," replied
Madaline. "There is a daring speech, Norman. I never thought I should
make such a one."
"Your daring is very delightful, Madaline; let me hear more of it."
She laughed the low, happy, contented laugh that sounded like sweetest
music in his ears.
"I will dare to say something else, Norman, if you will promise not to
think it uncalled for. I am very happy, my darling husband--I love you
very much, and I thank you for your love."
"Still better," he said, kissing the beautiful, blushing face. "Now go,
Madaline. I understand the feminine liking for a cup of tea."
"Shall I send one to you?" she asked.
"No," he replied, laughingly. "You may teach me to care about tea in
time. I do not yet."
He was still holding the letter in his hand, and the faint perfume was
like a message from Philippa, reminding him that the missive was still
"I shall not be long," said Madaline. She saw that for some reason or
other he wanted to be alone.
"You will find me here," he returned. "This is a favorite Book of mine.
I shall not leave it until you return."
The nook was a deep bay window from which there was a magnificent view
of the famous beeches. Soft Turkish cushions and velvet lounges filled
it, and near it hung one of Titian's most gorgeous pictures--a dark-eyed
woman with a ruby necklace. The sun's declining rays falling on the
rubies, made them appear like drops of blood. It was a grand picture,
one that had been bought by the lords of Beechgrove, and the present
Lord Arleigh took great delight in it.
He watched the long folds of Madaline's white dress, as she passed along
the gallery, and then the hangings fell behind her. Once more he held up
"A wedding present from Philippa, Duchess of Hazlewood, to Lord
Whatever mystery it contained should be solved at once. He broke the
seal; the envelope contained a closely-written epistle. He looked at it
in wonder. What could Philippa have to write to him about? The letter
began as follows:
"A wedding present from Philippa, Duchess of Hazlewood, to Norman, Lord
Arleigh. You will ask what it is? My answer is, my revenge--well
planned, patiently awaited.
"You have read the lines:
"'Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned,
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.'
They are true. Fire, fury, and hatred rage now in my heart as I write
this to you. You have scorned me--this is my revenge. I am a proud
woman--I have lowered my pride to you. My lips have never willfully
uttered a false word; still they have lied to you. I loved you once,
Norman, and on the day my love died I knew that nothing could arise from
its ashes. I loved you with a love passing that of most women; and it
was not all my fault. I was taught to love you--the earliest memory of
my life is having been taught to love you.
"You remember, too. It may have been injudicious, imprudent, foolish,
yet while I was taught to think, to read, to sing, I was also taught to
consider myself your 'little wife.' Hundreds of times have you given me
that name, while we walked together as children--you with your arm about
my neck, I proud of being called your 'little wife.'
"As a child, I loved you better than anything else in the wide
world--better than my mother, my home, my friends; and my love grew with
my growth. I prided myself on my unbroken troth to you. I earned the
repute of being cold and heartless, because I could think of no one but
you. No compliments pleased me, no praise flattered me; I studied,
learned, cultivated every gift Heaven had given me--all for your sake. I
thought of no future, but with you, no life but with you, no love but
for you; I had no dreams apart from you. I was proud when they talked of
my beauty; that you should have a fair wife delighted me.
"When you returned home I quite expected that you were coming to claim
me as your wife--I thought that was what brought you to England. I
remember the day you came. Ah, well, revenge helps me to live, or I
should die! The first tones of your voice, the first clasp of your hand,
the first look of your eyes chilled me with sorrow and disappointment.
Yet I hoped against hope. I thought you were shy, perhaps more reserved
than of yore. I thought everything and anything except that you had
ceased to love me; I would have believed anything rather than that you
were not going to fulfill our ancient contract, and make me your wife. I
tried to make you talk of old times--you were unwilling; you seemed
confused, embarrassed I read all those signs aright; still I hoped
against hope. I tried to win you--I tried all that love, patience,
gentleness, and consideration could do.
"What women bear, and yet live on! Do you know that every moment of that
time was full of deadly torture to me, deadly anguish? Ah, me, the very
memory of it distresses me! Every one spoke to me as though our
engagement was a certainty, and our marriage settled. Yet to me there
came, very slowly, the awful conviction that you had ignored, or had
forgotten the old ties. I fought against that conviction. I would not
entertain it. Then came for me the fatal day when I heard you tell the
Duchess of Aytoun that you had never seen the woman you would care to
make your wife. I heard your confession, but would not give in; I clung
to the idea of winning your love, even after I had hoped against hope,
and tried to make you care for me. At last came the night out on the
balcony, when I resolved to risk all, to ask you for your love--do you
remember it? You were advocating the cause of another; I asked you why
you did not speak for yourself. You must have known that my woman's
heart was on fire--you must have seen that my whole soul was in my
speech, yet you told me in cold, well-chosen words that you had only a
brother's affection for me. On that night, for the first time, I
realized the truth that, come what might, you would never love me--that
you had no idea of carrying out the old contract--that your interest in
me was simply a kindly, friendly one. On that night, when I realized
that truth, the better part of me died; my love--the love of my
life--died; my hopes--the life-long hopes--died; the best, truest,
noblest part of me died.
"When you had gone away, when I was left alone, I fell on my knees and
swore to be revenged. I vowed vengeance against you, no matter what it
might cost. Again let me quote to you the lines:
"'Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned,
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.'
You scorned me--you must suffer for it. I swore to be revenged, but how
was I to accomplish my desire? I could not see any way in which it was
possible for me to make you suffer. I could not touch your heart, your
affections, your fortune. The only thing that I could touch was your
pride. Through your pride, your keen sensitiveness I decided to stab
you; and I have succeeded! I recovered my courage and my pride together,
made you believe that all that had passed had been jest, and then I told
you that I was going to marry the duke.
"I will say no more of my love or my sorrow. I lived only for vengeance,
but how my object was to be effected I could not tell. I thought of many
plans, they were all worthless--they could not hurt you as you had hurt
me. At last, one day, quite accidentally I took up 'The Lady of Lyons,'
and read it through. That gave me an idea of what my revenge should be
like. Do you begin to suspect what this present is that the Duchess of
Hazlewood intends making to you on your wedding-day?"
As he read on his face grew pale. What could it mean--this reference to
"The Lady of Lyons?" That was the story of a deceitful marriage--surely
all unlike his own.
"You are wondering. Turn the page and you shall read that, when an idea
once possesses a woman's mind, she has no rest until it is carried out.
I had none. My vengeance was mapped out for me--it merely required
filling in. Let me show you how it was filled up--how I have lied to
you, who to another have never uttered a false word.
"Years ago we had a maid whom my mother liked very much. She was gentle,
well-mannered, and well-bred for her station in life. She left us, and
went to some other part of England. She married badly--a handsome,
reckless ne'er-do-well, who led her a most wretched life.
"I know not, and care nothing for the story of her married life, her
rights and wrongs. How she becomes of interest to you lies in the fact
that shortly after my marriage she called to see me and ask my aid. She
had been compelled to give up her home in the country and come to
London, where, with her husband and child, she was living in poverty and
misery. While she was talking to me the duke came in. I think her
patient face interested him. He listened to her story, and promised to
do something for her husband. You will wonder how this story of Margaret
Dornham concerns you. Read on. You will know in time.
"My husband having promised to assist this man, sent for him to the
house; and the result of that visit was that the man seeing a quantity
of plate about, resolved upon helping himself to a portion of it. To
make my story short, he was caught, after having broken into the house,
packed up a large parcel of plate, and filled his pockets with some of
my most valuable jewels. There was no help for it but to prosecute him,
and his sentence was, under the circumstances, none too heavy, being ten
years' penal servitude.
"Afterward I went to see his wife Margaret, and found her in desperate
circumstances; yet she had one ornament in her house--a beautiful young
girl, her daughter, so fair of face that she dazzled me. The moment I
saw her I thought of your description of your ideal--eyes like blue
hyacinths, and hair of gold. Forthwith a plan entered my mind which I
have most successfully carried out.
"I asked for the girl's name, and was told that it was Madaline--an
uncommon name for one of her class--but the mother had lived among
well-to-do people, and had caught some of their ideas. I looked at the
girl--her face was fair, sweet, pure. I felt the power of its beauty,
and only wondered that she should belong to such people at all; her
hands were white and shapely as my own, her figure was slender and
graceful. I began to talk to her, and found her well educated, refined,
intelligent--all, in fact, that one could wish.
"Little by little their story came out--it was one of a mother's pride
and glory in her only child. She worshiped her--literally worshiped her.
She had not filled the girl's mind with any nonsensical idea about being
a lady, but she had denied herself everything in order that Madaline
might be well educated. For many years Madaline had been what is called
a governess-pupil in a most excellent school. 'Let me die when I may,'
said the poor, proud mother, 'I shall leave Madaline with a fortune in
her own hands; her education will always be a fortune to her.'
"I asked her one day if she would let me take Madaline home with me for
a few hours; she seemed delighted, and consented at once. I took the
girl home, and with my own hands dressed her in one of my most becoming
toilets. Her beauty was something marvelous. She seemed to gain both
grace and dignity in her new attire. Shortly afterward, with her
mother's permission, I sent her for six months to one of the most
fashionable schools in Paris. The change wrought in her was magical; she
learned as much in that time as some girls would have learned in a
couple of years. Every little grace of manner seemed to come naturally
to her; she acquired a tone that twenty years spent in the best of
society does not give to some. Then I persuaded Vere, my husband, to
take me to Paris for a few days, telling him I wanted to see the
daughter of an old friend, who was at school there. In telling him that
I did not speak falsely--Madaline's mother had been an old friend of
mine. Then I told him that my whim was to bring Madaline home and make a
companion of her; he allowed me to do just as I pleased, asking no
questions about her parents, or anything else. I do not believe it ever
occurred to him as strange that the name of my _protegee_ and of the man
who had robbed him was the same--indeed, he seemed to have forgotten all
about the robbery. So I brought Madaline home to Vere Court, and then to
London, where I knew that you would see her. My husband never asked any
questions about her; he made no objection, no remark--everything that I
did was always well done in his eyes.
"But you will understand clearly that to you I told a lie when I said
that Madaline's mother was a poor relative of the duke's--you know now
what relationship there is between them. Even Lady Peters does not know
the truth. She fancies that Madaline is the daughter of some friend of
mine who, having fallen on evil days, has been glad to send her to me.
"Knowing you well, Norman, the accomplishment of my scheme was not
difficult. If I had brought Madaline to you and introduced her, you
might not have been charmed; the air of mystery about her attracted you.
My warning against your caring for her would, I knew, also help to
allure you. I was right in every way. I saw that you fell in love with
her at once--the first moment you saw her--and then I knew my revenge
"I bought my husband the yacht on purpose that he might go away and
leave me to work out my plans. I knew that he could not resist the
temptation I offered. I knew also that if he remained in England he
would want to know all about Madaline before he allowed you to marry
her. If the marriage was to take place at all, it must be during his
absence. You seemed, of your own free will, Norman, to fall naturally
into the web woven for you.
"I write easily, but I found it hard to be wicked--hard to see my lost
love, my dear old companion, drift on to his ruin.
"More than once I paused, longing to save you; more than once I drew
back, longing to tell you all. But the spirit of revenge within me was
stronger than myself--my love had turned to hate. Yet I could not quite
hate you, Norman--not quite. Once, when you appealed to my old
friendship, when you told me of your plans, I almost gave way. 'Norman!'
I cried, as you were leaving me; but when you turned again I was dumb.
"So I have taken my revenge. I, Philippa, Duchess of Hazlewood on this
your wedding-day, reveal to you the first stain on the name of
Arleigh--unvail the first blot on one of the noblest escutcheons in the
land. You have married not only a low-born girl, but the daughter of a
felon--a felon's daughter is mistress of proud Beechwood! You who
scorned Philippa L'Estrange, who had the cruelty to refuse the love of a
woman who loved you--you who looked for your ideal in the clouds, have
found it near a prison cell! The daughter of a felon will be the
mistress of the grand old house where some of the noblest ladies of the
land have ruled--the daughter of a felon will be mother of the heirs of
Arleigh. Could I have planned, prayed for, hoped for, longed for a
"I am indifferent as to what you may do in return. I have lived for my
revenge, and now that I have tasted it life is indifferent to me. You
will, of course, write to complain to the duke, and he, with his honest
indignation justly aroused, will perhaps refuse to see me again. I care
not; my interest in life ended when my love died.
"Let me add one thing more. Madaline herself has been deceived. I told
her that you knew all her history, that I had kept nothing from you, and
that you loved her in spite of it, but that she was never to mention it
He read the letter with a burning flush on his face, which afterward
grew white as with the pallor of death; a red mist was before his eyes,
the sound of surging waters in his ears, his heart beat loud and fast.
Could it be true--oh, merciful Heaven, could it be true? At first he had
a wild hope that it was a cruel jest that Philippa was playing with him
on his wedding-day. It could not be true--his whole soul rose in
rebellion against it. Heaven was too just, too merciful--it could not
be. It was a jest. He drew his breath with a long quivering sigh--his
lips trembled; it was simply a jest to frighten him on his wedding day.
Then, one by one--slowly, sadly, surely--a whole host of circumstances
returned to his mind, making confirmation strong. He remembered
well--only too well--the scene in the balcony. He remembered the pale
starlight, the light scarf thrown over Philippa's shoulders, even the
very perfume that came from the flowers in her hair; he remembered how
her voice had trembled, how her face had shown in the faint evening
light. When she had quoted the words of _Priscilla_, the loveliest
maiden of Plymouth, she had meant them as applicable to her own
case--"Why don't you speak for yourself, John?" They came back to him
with a fierce, hissing sound, mocking his despair. She had loved him
through all--this proud, beautiful, brilliant woman for whom men of
highest rank had sighed in vain. And, knowing her pride, her
haughtiness, he could guess exactly what her love had cost her, and that
all that followed had been a mockery. On that night her love had changed
to hate. On that night she had planned this terrible revenge. Her
offering of friendship had been a blind. He thought to himself that he
had been foolish not to see it. A thousand circumstances presented
themselves to his mind. This, then, was why Madaline had so
persistently--and, to his mind, so strangely--refused his love. This was
why she had talked incessantly of the distance between them--of her own
unworthiness to be his wife. He bad thought that she alluded merely to
her poverty, whereas it was her birth and parentage she referred to.
How cleverly, how cruelly Philippa had deceived them both--Philippa, his
old friend and companion, his sister in all but name! He could see now a
thousand instances in which Madaline and himself had played at cross
purposes--a thousand instances in which the poor girl had alluded to her
parent's sin, and he had thought she was speaking of her poverty. It was
a cruel vengeance, for, before he had read the letter through, he knew
that if the story were correct, she could be his wife in name only--that
they must part. Poverty, obscurity, seemed as nothing now--but crime?
Oh, Heaven, that his name and race should be so dishonored! If he had
known the real truth, he would have died rather than have uttered one
word of love to her.
The daughter of a felon--and he had brought her to Beechgrove as
successor to a roll of noble women, each one of whom had been of noble
birth! She was the daughter of a felon--no matter how fair, how
graceful, how pure. For the first time the glory of Beechgrove was
tarnished. But it would not be for long--it could not be for long; she
must not remain. The daughter of a felon to be the mother of his
children--ah, no, not if he went childless to the grave! Better that his
name were extinct, better that the race of Arleigh should die out, than
that his children should be pointed at as children with tainted blood!
It could never be. He would expect the dead and gone Arleighs to rise
from their graves in utter horror, he would expect some terrible curse
to fall on him, were so terrible a desecration to happen. They must
part. The girl he loved with all the passionate love of his heart, the
fair young wife whom he worshiped must go from him, and he must see her
no more. She must be his wife in name only.
He was young, and he loved her very dearly. His head fell forward on his
breast, and as bitter a sob as ever left man's lips died on his. His
wife in name only! The sweet face, the tender lips were not for him--yet
he loved her with the whole passion and force of his soul. Then he
raised his head--for he heard a sound, and knew that she was returning.
Great drops of anguish fell from his brow--over his handsome face had
come a terrible change; it had grown fierce with pain, haggard with
despair, white with sorrow.
Looking up, he saw her--she was at the other end of the gallery; he saw
the tall, slender figure and the sweeping dress--he saw the white arms
with their graceful contour, the golden hair, the radiant face--and he
groaned aloud; he saw her looking up at the pictures as she passed
slowly along--the ancestral Arleighs of whom he was so proud. If they
could have spoken, those noble women, what would they have said to this
daughter of a felon?
She paused for a few minutes to look up at her favorite, Lady Alicia,
and then she came up to him and stood before him in an the grace of her
delicate loveliness, in all the pride of her dainty beauty. She was
looking at the gorgeous Titian near him.
"Norman," she said, "the sun has turned those rubies into drops of
blood--- they looked almost terrible on the white throat. What a strange
picture! What a tragical face!"
Suddenly with outstretched arms she fell on her knees at his side.
"Oh, my darling, what has happened? What is the matter?"
She had been away from him only half an hour, yet it seemed to him ages
since he had watched her leave the gallery with a smile on her lips.
"What is it, my darling?" she cried again. "Dear Norman, you look as
though the shadow of death had passed over you. What is it?"
In another moment she had flung herself on his breast, clasped her arms
round his neck, and was kissing his pale changed face as she had never
"Norman, my darling husband, you are ill," she said--"ill, and you will
not tell me. That is why you sent me away."
He tried to unclasp her arms, but she clung the more closely to him.
"You shall not send me away. You wish to suffer in silence? Oh, my
darling, my husband, do you forget that I am your wife, for better, for
worse, in sickness and in health? You shall not suffer without my
"I am not ill, Madaline," he said, with a low moan. "It is not that."
"Then something has happened--you have been frightened."
He unclasped her arms from his neck--their caress was a torture to him.
"My poor darling, my poor wife, it is far worse than that. No man has
ever seen a more ghastly specter than I have seen of death in life."
She looked round in quick alarm.
"A specter!" she cried fearfully; and then something strange in his face
attracted her attention. She looked at him. "Norman," she said, slowly,
"is it--is it something about me?"
How was he to tell her? He felt that it would be easier to take her out
into the glorious light of the sunset and slay her than kill her with
the cruel words that he must speak. How was he to tell her? No physical
torture could be so great as that which he must inflict; yet he would
have given his life to save her from pain.
"It is--I am quite sure," she declared, slowly--"something about me. Oh,
Norman, what is it? I have not been away from you long. Yet no change
from fairest day to darkest night could be so great as the change in you
since I left you. You will not tell me what it is--you have taken my
arms from your neck--you do not love me!"
"Do not torture me, Madaline," he said. "I am almost mad. I cannot bear
"But what is it? What have I done? I who you send from you now am the
same Madaline whom you married this morning--whom you kissed half an
hour since. Norman, I begin to think that I am in a terrible dream."
"I would to Heaven it were a dream. I am unnerved--unmanned--I have lost
my strength, my courage, my patience, my hope. Oh, Madaline, how can I
The sight of his terrible agitation seemed to calm her; she took his
hand in hers.
"Do not think of me," she said--"think of yourself. I can bear what you
can bear. Let me share your trouble, whatever it may be, my husband."
He looked at the sweet, pleading face. How could he dash the light and
brightness from it? How could he slay her with the cruel story he had to
tell. Then, in a low, hoarse voice, he said:
"You must know all, and I cannot say it. Read this letter, Madeline,
and then you will understand."
Slowly, wonderingly, Lady Arleigh took the Duchess of Hazlewood's letter
from her husband's hands and opened it.
"Is it from the duchess?" she asked.
"Yes, it is from the duchess," replied her husband.
He saw her sink slowly down upon a lounge. Above her, in the upper panes
of the window beneath which they were sitting, were the armorial
bearings of the family in richest hues of stained glass. The colors and
shadows fell with strange effects on her white dress, great bars of
purple and crimson crossing each other, and opposite to her hung the
superb Titian, with the blood-red rubies on the white throat.
Lord Arleigh watched Madaline as she read. Whatever might be the agony
in his own heart, it was exceeded by hers. He saw the brightness die out
of her face, the light fade from her eyes, the lips grow pale. But a few
minutes before that young face had been bright with fairest beauty,
eloquent with truest love, lit with passion and with poetry--now it was
like a white mask.
Slowly, and as though it was with difficulty that she understood Lady
Arleigh read the letter through, and then--she did not scream or cry
out--she raised her eyes to his face. He saw in them a depth of human
sorrow and human woe which words are powerless to express.
So they looked at each other in passionate anguish. No words passed--of
what avail were they? Each read the heart of the other. They knew that
they must part. Then the closely-written pages fell to the ground, and
Madaline's hands clasped each other in helpless anguish. The golden head
fell forward on her breast. He noticed that in her agitation and sorrow
she did not cling to him as she had clung before--that she did not even
touch him. She seemed by instinct to understand that she was his wife
now in name only.
So for some minutes they sat, while the sunset glowed in the west. He
was the first to speak.
"My dear Madaline," he said, "my poor wife"--his voice seemed to startle
her into new life and new pain--"I would rather have died than have
given you this pain."
"I know it--I am sure of it," she said, "but, oh, Norman, how can I
"There is happily no question about that," he answered.
He saw her rise from her seat and stretch out her arms.
"What have I done," she cried, "that I must suffer so cruelly? What have
"Madaline," said Lord Arleigh, "I do not think that so cruel a fate has
ever befallen any one as has befallen us. I do not believe that any one
has ever suffered so cruelly, my darling. If death had parted us, the
trial would have been easier to bear."
She turned her sad eyes to him.
"It is very cruel," she said, with a shudder. "I did not think the
duchess would be so cruel."
"It is more than that--it is infamous!" he cried. "It is vengeance
worthier of a fiend than of a woman."
"And I loved her so!" said the young girl, mournfully. "Husband, I will
not reproach you--your love was chivalrous and noble; but why did you
not let me speak freely to you? I declared to you that no doubt ever
crossed my mind. I thought you knew all, though I considered it strange
that you, so proud of your noble birth, should wish to marry me. I never
imagined that you had been deceived. The duchess told me that you knew
the whole history of my father's crime, that you were familiar with
every detail of it, but that you wished me never to mention it--never
even ever so remotely to allude to it. I thought it strange, Norman,
that one in your position should be willing to overlook so terrible a
blot; but she told me your love for me was so great that you could not
live without me. She told me even more--that I must try to make my own
life so perfect that the truest nobility of all, the nobility of virtue,
might be mine."
"Did she really tell you that?" asked Lord Arleigh wonderingly.
"Yes; and, Norman, she said that you would discuss the question with me
once, and once only--that would be on my wedding-day. On that day you
would ask for and I should tell the whole history of my father's crime;
and after that it was to be a dead-letter, never to be named between
"And you believed her?" he said.
"Yes, as I believe you. Why should I have doubted her? My faith in her
was implicit. Why should I have even thought you would repent? More than
once I was on the point of running away. But she would not let me go.
She said that I must not be cruel to you--that you loved me so dearly
that to lose me would prove a death-blow. So I believed her, and,
against my will, staid on."
"I wish you had told me this," he said, slowly.
She raised her eyes to his.
"You would not let me speak, Norman. I tried so often, dear, but you
would not let me."
"I remember," he acknowledged; "but, oh, my darling, how little I knew
what you had to say! I never thought that anything stood between us
except your poverty."
They remained silent for a few minutes--such sorrow as theirs needed no
words. Lord Arleigh was again the first to speak.
"Madaline," he said, "will you tell me all you remember of your life."
"Yes; it is not much. It has been such a simple life, Norman, half made
up of shadows. First, I can remember being a child in some far off
woodland house. I am sure it was in the woods; for I remember the nuts
growing on the trees, the squirrels, and the brown hares. I remember
great masses of green foliage, a running brook, and the music of wild
birds. I remember small latticed windows against which the ivy tapped.
My father used to come in with his gun slung across his shoulders--he
was a very handsome man, Norman, but not kind to either my mother or me.
My mother was then, as she is now, patient, kind, gentle,
long-suffering. I have never heard her complain. She loved me with an
absorbing love. I was her only comfort. I did my best to deserve her
affection. I loved her too. I cannot remember that she ever spoke one
unkind word to me, and I can call to mind a thousand instances of
indulgence and kindness. I knew that she deprived herself of almost
everything to give it to me. I have seen her eat dry bread patiently,
while for me and my father there was always some little dainty. The
remembrance of the happiness of my early life begins and ends with my
mother. My memories of her are all pleasant." She continued as though
recalling her thoughts with difficulty. "I can remember some one else. I
do not know who or what he was, except that he was, I think, a doctor.
He used to see me, and used to amuse me. Then there came a dark day. I
cannot tell what happened, but after that day I never saw my friend
He was looking at her with wondering eyes.
"And you remember no more than that about him, Madaline?"
"No," she replied. "Then came a time," she went on, "when it seemed to
me that my mother spent all her days and nights in weeping. There fell a
terrible shadow over us, and we removed. I have no recollection of the
journey--not the faintest; but I can remember my sorrow at leaving the
bright green woods for a dull, gloomy city lodging. My mother was still
my hope and comfort. After we came to London she insisted that, no
matter what else went wrong I should have a good education; she toiled,
saved, suffered for me. 'My darling must be a lady,' she used to say.
She would not let me work, though I entreated her with tears in my eyes.
I used to try to deceive her even, but I never could succeed. She loved
me so, my poor mother. She would take my hands in hers and kiss them.
'Such dainty hands, dear,' she would say, 'must not be spoiled.' After a
great deal of trouble and expense, she contrived to get me an engagement
as governess-pupil in a lady's school; there I did receive a good
education. One failing of my mother always filled me with wonder--she
used to fancy that people watched me. 'Has any one spoken to you,
darling?' she would ask. 'Has any stranger seen you?' I used to laugh,
thinking it was parental anxiety; but it has struck me since as strange.
While I was at the ladies' school my father committed the crime for
which I--alas!--am suffering now."
"Will you tell me what the crime was?" requested Lord Arleigh.
A dreary hopelessness, inexpressibly painful to see, came over her face,
and a deep-drawn sigh broke from her lips.
"I will tell you all about it," she said--"would to Heaven that I had
done so before! My mother, many years ago, was in the service of Lady
L'Estrange; she was her maid then. Miss L'Estrange married the Duke of
Hazlewood, and, when my mother was in great difficulties, she went to
the duchess to ask for employment. The duchess was always kind,"
continued Madaline, "and she grew interested in my mother. She came to
see her, and I was at home. She told me afterward that when she first
saw me she conceived a liking for me. I know now that I was but the
victim of her plot."
She stopped abruptly, but Lord Arleigh encouraged her.
"Tell me all, Madaline," he said, gently; "none of this is your fault,
my poor wife. Tell me all."
"The duchess was very kind to my mother, and befriended her in many
ways. She interested the duke in her case, and he promised to find
employment for my unfortunate father, who went to his house to see him.
Whether my father had ever done wrong before, I cannot tell. Sometimes I
fear that he had done so, for no man falls suddenly into crime. In few
words--oh, Norman, how hard they are to say!--what he saw in the duke's
mansion tempted him. He joined some burglars, and they robbed the house.
My unfortunate father was found with his pockets filled with valuable
jewelry. My mother would not let me read the history of the trial, but I
learned the result--he was sentenced to ten years' penal servitude."
She paused again; the dreary hopelessness of her face, the pain in her
voice, touched him inexpressibly.
"None of this is your fault, my darling," he said. "Go on."
"Then," she continued "the duchess was kinder than ever to my mother.
She furnished her with the means of gaining her livelihood; she offered
to finish my education and adopt me. My mother was at first unwilling;
she did not wish me to leave her. But the duchess said that her love was
selfish--that it was cruel to stand in my light when such an offer was
made. She consented and I, wondering much what my ultimate fate was to
be, was sent to school in Paris. When I had been there for some time,
the duke and duchess came to see me. I must not forget to tell you,
Norman, that she saw me herself first privately. She said he was so
forgetful that he would never remember having heard the name of Dornham.
She added that the keeping of the secret was very important, for, if it
became known, all her kind efforts in our favor must cease at once. I
promised to be most careful. The duke and duchess arranged that I was to
go home with them and live as the duchess' companion. Again she warned
me never upon any account to mention who I was, or anything about me.
She called me the daughter of an old friend--and so I was, although that
friend was a very humble one. From the first, Norman, she talked so much
about you; you were the model of everything chivalrous and noble, the
hero of a hundred pleasant stories. I had learned to love you long even
before I saw you--to love you after a fashion, Norman, as a hero. I can
see it all now. She laid the plot--we were the victims. I remember that
the very morning on which you saw me first the duchess sent me into the
trellised arbor; I was to wait there until she summoned me. Rely upon
it, Norman, she also gave orders that you were to be shown into the
morning-room, although she pretended to be annoyed at it. I can see all
the plot now plainly. I can only say---- Oh, Norman, you and I were both
blind! We ought to have seen through her scheme. Why should she have
brought us together if she had not meant that we should love each other?
What have we in common--I, the daughter of a felon; you, a nobleman,
proud of your ancestry, proud of your name? Oh, Norman, if I could but
die here at your feet, and save you from myself!"
Even as she spoke she sank sobbing, no longer on to his breast, no
longer with her arms clasped round his neck, but at his feet.
He raised her in his arms--for he loved her with passionate love.
"Madaline," he said, in a low voice, "do not make my task harder for me.
That which I have to do is indeed bitter to me--do not make it harder."
His appeal touched her. For his sake she must try to be strong.
Slowly he looked up at the long line of noblemen and women whose faces
shone down upon him; slowly he looked at her graceful figure and bowed
head of his wife, the daughter of a felon--the first woman who had ever
entered those walls with even the semblance of a stain upon her name. As
he looked at her the thought came to him that, if his housekeeper had
told him that she had inadvertently placed such a person--the daughter
of a felon--in his kitchen, he would never have rested until she had
been sent away.
He must part from her--this lovely girl-wife whom he loved with such
passionate love. The daughter of a criminal could not reign at
Beechgrove. If the parting cost his life and hers it must take place. It
was cruel. The strong man trembled with agitation; his lips quivered,
his face was pale as death. He bent over his weeping wife.
"Madaline," he said, gently, "I do not understand the ways of destiny.
Why you and I have to suffer this torture I cannot say. I can see
nothing in our lives that deserves such punishment. Heaven knows best.
Why we have met and loved, only to undergo such anguish, is a puzzle I
cannot solve. There is only one thing plain to me, and that is that we
He never forgot how she sprang away from him, her colorless face raised
"Part, Norman!" she cried. "We cannot part now; I am your wife!"
"I know it; but we must part."
"Part!" repeated the girl. "We cannot; the tie that binds us cannot be
sundered so easily."
"My poor Madaline, it must be."
She caught his hand in hers.
"You are jesting, Norman. We cannot be separated--we are one. Do you
forget the words--'for better for worse,' 'till death us do part?'--You
frighten me!" And she shrank from him with a terrible shudder.
"It must be as I have said," declared the unhappy man. "I have been
deceived--so have you. We have to suffer for another's sin."
"We may suffer," she said, dully, "but we cannot part. You cannot send
me away from you."
"I must," he persisted. "Darling, I speak with deepest love and pity,
yet with unwavering firmness. You cannot think that, with that terrible
stain resting on you, you can take your place here."
"But I am your wife!" she cried, in wild terror.
"You are my wife," he returned, with quivering lips; "but you must
remain so in name only." He paused abruptly, for it seemed to him that
the words burned his lips as they passed them. "My wife," he muttered,
"in name only."
With a deep sob she stretched out her arms. "But I love you,
Norman--you must not send me away! I love you--I shall die if I have to
The words seemed to linger on her lips.
"My darling," he said, gently, "it is even harder for me than for you."
"No, no," she cried, "for I love you so dearly, Norman--better than my
life! Darling, my whole heart went out to you long ago--you cannot give
it back to me."
"If it kills you and myself too," he declared, hoarsely, "I must send
"Send me away? Oh, no, Norman, not away! Let me stay with you, husband,
darling. We were married only this morning My place is here by your
side--I cannot go."
Looking away from her, with those passionate accents still ringing in
his ears, his only answer was:
"Family honor demands it."
"Norman," she implored, "listen to me, dear! Do not send me away from
you. I will be so good, so devoted. I will fulfill my duties so well, I
will bear myself so worthily that no one shall remember anything against
me; they shall forget my unhappy birth, and think only that you have
chosen well. Oh, Norman, be merciful to me! Leaving you would be a
"You cannot suffer more than I do," he said--"and I would give my life
to save you pain; but, my darling, I cannot be so false to the
traditions of my race, so false to the honor of my house, so untrue to
my ancestors and to myself, as to ask you to stay here. There has never
been a blot on our name. The annals of our family are pure and
stainless. I could not ask you to remain here and treat you as my wife,
even to save my life!"
"I have done no wrong, Norman; why should you punish me so cruelly?"
"No, my darling, you have done no wrong--and the punishment is more mine
than yours. I lose the wife whom I love most dearly--I lose my all."
"And what do I lose?" she moaned.
"Not so much as I do, because you are the fairest and sweetest of women.
You shall live in all honor, Madaline. You shall never suffer social
degradation, darling--the whole world shall know that I hold you
blameless; but you can be my wife in name only."
She was silent for a few minutes, and then she held out her arms to him
"Oh, my love, relent!" she cried. "Do not be so hard on me--indeed, I
have done no wrong. Be merciful! I am your wife; your name is so mighty,
so noble, it will overshadow me. Who notices the weed that grows under
the shadow of the kingly oak? Oh, my husband, let me stay! I love you
so dearly--let me stay!"
The trial was so hard and cruel that great drops fell from his brow and
his lips trembled.
"My darling, it is utterly impossible. We have been deceived. The
consequences of that deceit must be met. I owe duties to the dead as
well as to the living. I cannot transgress the rules of my race. Within
these time-honored walls no woman can remain who is not of stainless
lineage and stainless repute. Do not urge me further."
"Norman," she said, in a trembling voice, "you are doing wrong in
sending me away. You cannot outrage Heaven's laws with impunity. It is
Heaven's law that husband and wife should cleave together. You cannot
"I have no wish to break it. I say simply that I shall love you until I
die, but that you must be my wife in name only."
"It is bitterly hard," she observed; and then she looked up at him
suddenly. "Norman," she said, "let me make one last appeal to you. I
know the stigma is terrible--I know that the love-story must be hateful
to you--I know that the vague sense of disgrace which clings to you even
now is almost more than you can bear; but, my darling, since you say you
love me so dearly, can you not bear this trial for my sake, if in
everything else I please you--if I prove myself a loving, trustful,
truthful wife, if I fulfill all my duties so as to reflect honor on you;
if I prove a worthy mistress of your household?"
"I cannot," he replied, hoarsely; but there must have been something in
his face from which she gathered hope, for she went on, with a ring of
passionate love in her voice.
"If, after we had been married, I had found out that you had concealed
something from me, do you think that I should have loved you less?"
"I do not think you would, Madaline; but the present case is
different--entirely different; it is not for my own sake, but for the
honor of my race. Better a thousand times that my name should die out
than that upon it there should be the stain of crime!"
"But, Norman--this is a weak argument, I know--a woman's
argument--still, listen to it, love--who would know my secret if it were
"None; but I should know it," he replied, "and that would be more than
sufficient. Better for all the world to know than for me. I would not
keep such a secret. I could not. It would hang over my head like a drawn
sword, and some day the sword would fall. My children, should Heaven
send any to me, might grow up, and then, in the height of some social or
political struggle, when man often repeats against his fellow man all
that he knows of the vilest and the worst, there might be thrown into
their faces the fact that they were descended from a felon. It must not
be; a broken heart is hard to bear--injured honor is perhaps harder."
She drew up her slender figure to its full height, her lovely face
glowed with a light he did not understand.
"You may be quite right," she said. "I cannot dispute what you say. Your
honor may be a sufficient reason for throwing aside the wife of less
than twelve hours, but I cannot see it. I cannot refute what you have
said, but my heart tells me you are wrong."
"Would to Heaven that I thought the same!" he rejoined, quickly. "But I
understand the difficulties of the case, my poor Madaline, and you do
She turned away with a low, dreary sigh, and the light died from her
"Madaline," said Lord Arleigh, quietly, "do not think, my darling, that
you suffer most--indeed, it is not so. Think how I love you--think how
precious you are to me--and then ask yourself if it is no pain to give
"I know it is painful," she continued, sadly, "but, Norman, if the
decision and choice rested with me as they do with you, I should act
"I would, Heaven knows, if I could," he said, slowly.
"Such conduct is not just to me," she continued, her face flushing with
the eagerness of her words. "I have done no wrong, no harm, yet I am to
be driven from your house and home--I am to be sent away from you,
divorced in all but name. I say it is not fair, Norman--not just. All my
womanhood rises in rebellion against such a decree. What will the world
say of me? That I was weighed in the balance and found wanting--that I
was found to be false or light, due doubtless to my being lowly born. Do
you think I have no sense of honor--no wish to keep my name and fame
stainless? Could you do me a greater wrong, do you think, than to put me
away, not twelve hours after our marriage, like one utterly unworthy?"
He made no answer. She went on in her low, passionate, musical voice.
"When I read in history the story of Anne of Cleves, I thought it cruel
to be sought in marriage, brought over from another land, looked at,
sneered at, and dismissed; but, Norman, it seems to me her fate was not
so cruel as mine."
"You are wrong," he cried. "I hold you in all reverence, all honor, in
deepest respect. You are untouched by the disgrace attached to those
nearest to you. It is not that. You know that, even while I say we must
part, I love you from the very depths of my heart."
"I can say no more," she moaned, wringing her hands. "My own heart, my
woman's instinct, tells me you are wrong. I cannot argue with you, nor
can I urge anything more."
She turned from him. He would have given much to take her into his arms,
and kissing her, bid her stay.
"You remember the old song, Madaline?
"'I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not honor more.'
If I could be false to the dead, Madaline, I should be untrue to the
living. That I am not so is your security for my faith. If I could be
false to the traditions of my race, I could be false to my vows of
"I can say no more--I can urge no more. You are a man--wise, strong,
brave. I submit."
It was a cruel fate. He looked round on his pictured ancestors Would
they have suffered, have sacrificed as much for the honor of their house
as he was about to sacrifice now? Yes, he knew they would, for love of
race and pride of name had always been unspeakably dear to them.
Lord Arleigh raised his head from his breast. His wife was kneeling
sobbing at his feet.
"Norman," she said, in a broken voice, "I yield, I submit. You know
best, dear. In truth, I am not worthy to be your wife. I urge no claim
on you; but, my darling, must I leave you? You are the very light of my
life, heart of my heart, soul of my soul--must I leave you? Could I not
remain here as your servant, your slave, the lowliest in your
house--somewhere near, where I may hear the tones of your voice, the
sound of your footsteps--where I may stand sometimes at the window and
see you ride away--where I may render you little attentions such as
loving wives render? Oh, Norman, be merciful and grant me that at
"My darling, I cannot--do not tempt me. You do not understand I love you
with a fierce, passionate love. If you were near me, I should be
compelled to show that love to you every hour of the day--to treat you
as my dear and honored wife. If you were near me, I might forget my
resolves and remember only my love."
"No one should know," she whispered, "that I was your wife. I should
take the guise of the humblest servant in the place. No one should know,
love. Oh, darling, let it be so!"
She saw great drops of agony on his brow; she saw a world of pain in
his eyes which alarmed her.
"It cannot be," he replied, hoarsely. "You must urge me no more--you are
Then she rose, humbly enough, and turned away.
"I will say no more, Norman. Now do with me what you please."
There was silence for a few minutes. The sun was sinking low in the
western sky, the chirp of the birds was growing faint in the trees. She
raised her colorless face to his.
"I submit, Norman," she said. "You have some plan to propose. Do with me
just as you will."
It was cruel--no crueler fate had ever fallen to a man's lot--but honor
obliged him to act as he did. He took her hand in his.
"Some day, dear wife," he said, "you will understand what suffering this
step has cost me."
"Yes," she murmured, faintly; "I may understand in time."
"While I have been sitting here," he went on, "I have been thinking it
all over, and I have come to a decision as to what will be best for you
and for me. You are Lady Arleigh of Beechgrove--you are my wife; you
shall have all the honor and respect due to your position."
She shuddered as though the words were a most cruel mockery.
"You will honor," she questioned, bitterly, "the daughter of a felon?"
"I will honor my wife, who has been deceived even more cruelly than
myself," he replied. "I have thought of a plan," he continued, "which
can be easily carried out. On our estate not twenty miles from
here--there is a little house called the Dower House--a house where the
dowagers of the family have generally resided. It is near Winiston, a
small country town. A housekeeper and two servants live in the house
now, and keep it in order. You will be happy there, my darling, I am
sure, as far as is possible. I will see that you have everything you
need or require."
She listened as one who hears but dimly.
"You have no objection to raise, have you, Madaline?"
"No," she replied, "it matters little where I live; I only pray that my
life may be short."
"Hush, my darling. You pain me."
"Oh, Norman, Norman," she cried, "what will they think of me--what will
they say--your servants, your friends?"
"We must not trouble about that," said Norman; "we must not pause to
consider what the world will say. We must do what we think is right."
He took out his watch and looked at it.
"It is eight o'clock," he said; "we shall have time to drive to Winiston
There was a world of sorrowful reproach in the blue eyes raised to his.
"I understand," she said, quietly; "you do not wish that the daughter of
a felon should sleep, even for one night, under your roof."
"You pain me and you pain yourself; but it is, if you will bear the
truth, my poor Madaline, just as you say. Even for these ancient walls I
have such reverence."
"Since my presence dishonors them," she said, quietly, "I will go.
Heaven will judge between us, Norman. I say that you are wrong. If I am
to leave your house, I should like to go at once. I will go to my room
and prepare for the journey."
He did not attempt to detain her, for he well knew that, if she made
another appeal to him, he could not resist the impulse to clasp her in
his arms, and at the cost of what he thought his honor to bid her stay.
She lingered before him, beautiful, graceful, sorrowful.
"Is there anything more you would like to say to me?" she asked, with
"I dare not," he uttered, hoarsely; "I cannot trust myself."
He watched her as with slow, graceful steps she passed down, the long
gallery, never turning her fair face or golden head back to him, her
white robes trailing on the parquetry floor. When she had reached the
end, he saw her draw aside the hangings and stand for a minute looking
at the pictured faces of the Arleighs; then she disappeared, and he was
He buried his face in his hands and wept bitterly.
"I could curse the woman who has wrought this misery!" he exclaimed,
And then the remembrance of Philippa, as he had known her years
before--Philippa as a child, Philippa, his mother's favorite--restrained
* * * * *
"Perhaps I too was to blame," he thought; "she would not have taken such
cruel vengeance had I been more candid."
Lady Arleigh went to her room. The pretty traveling-costume lay where
she had left it; the housekeeper had not put away anything. Hastily
taking off her white dress and removing the jewels from her neck, and
the flowers from her hair, Madaline placed them aside, and then having
attired herself for the journey, she went down stairs, meeting no one.
Some little surprise was created among the servants when orders came for
the carriage to be got ready.
"Going out at this time of night. What can it mean?" asked one of them.
"They are going to the Dower House," answered a groom.
"Ah, then his lordship and her ladyship will not remain at the Abbey!
How strange! But there--rich people have nothing to do but indulge in
whims and caprices!" said the under house-maid, who was immediately
frowned down by her superiors in office.
Not a word was spoken by husband and wife as Lady Arleigh took her seat
in the carriage. Whatever she felt was buried in her own breast. Her
face shone marble-white underneath her vail, and her eyes were bent
downward. Never a word did she speak as the carriage drove slowly
through the park, where the dews were falling and the stars were bright.
Once her husband turned to her and tried to take her hand in his, but
she drew back.
"It will be better not to talk, Norman," she said. "I can bear it best
So they drove on in unbroken quietude. The dew lay glistening on the
grass and trees; all nature was hushed, tranquil, sweet, and still. It
was surely the strangest drive that husband and wife had ever taken
together. More than once, noting the silent, graceful figure, Lord
Arleigh was tempted to ask Madaline to fly with him to some foreign
land, where they could live and die unknown--more than once he was
tempted to kiss the beautiful lips and say to her, "Madaline, you shall
not leave me;" but the dishonor attaching to his name caused him to
They had a rapid drive, and reached Winiston House--as it was generally
called--before eleven. Great was the surprise and consternation excited
by so unexpected an arrival. The house was in the charge of a widow
whose husband had been the late, lord's steward. She looked somewhat
dubiously at Lord Arleigh and then at his companion, when they had
entered. Madaline never opened her lips. Lord Arleigh was strangely pale
"Mrs. Burton," he said, "I can hardly imagine that you have heard of my
marriage. This is my wife--Lady Arleigh."
All the woman's doubt and hesitation vanished then--she became all
attention; but Lord Arleigh inwardly loathed his fate when he found
himself compelled to offer explanations that he would have given worlds
"I am not going to remain here myself," he said, in answer to the
inquiries about rooms and refreshments. "Lady Arleigh will live at
Winiston House altogether; and, as you have always served the family
faithfull and well, I should like you to remain in her service."
The woman looked up at him in such utter bewilderment and surprise that
he felt somewhat afraid of what she might say; he therefore hastened to
"Family matters that concern no one but ourselves compel me to make this
arrangement. Lady Arleigh will be mistress now of Winiston House. She
will have a staff of servants here. You can please yourself about
remaining--either as housekeeper or not--just as you like."
"Of course, my lord, I shall be only too thankful to remain, but it
seems so very strange--"
Lord Arleigh held up his hand.
"Hush!" he said. "A well-trained servant finds nothing strange."
The woman took the hint and retired. Lord Arleigh turned to say farewell
to his wife. He found her standing, white and tearless, by the window.
"Oh, my darling," he cried, "we must now part! Yet how can I leave
you--so sad, so silent, so despairing? Speak to me, my own love--one
word--just one word."
Her woman's heart, so quick to pity, was touched by his prayer. She
stalled as sad, as sweet a smile as ever was seen on woman's lips.
"I shall be better in time, Norman," she said, "and shall not always be
"There are some business arrangements which must be made," he continued,
hurriedly--"but it will be better for us not to meet again just yet,
Madaline--I could not bear it. I will see that all is arranged for your
comfort. You must have every luxury and--"
"Luxury!" she repeated, mockingly. "Why, I would rather be the sorriest
beggar that ever breathed than be myself! Luxury! You mock me, Lord
"You will be less bitter against me in time, my darling," he said. "I
mean just what I say--that you will have everything this world can give
"Except love and happiness," she interposed.
"Love you have, sweet; you have mine--the fervent, true, honest, deep
love of my heart and soul. Happiness comes in time to all who do their
duty. Think of Carlyle's words--'Say unto all kinds of happiness, "I can
do without thee"--with self-renunciation life begins.'"
"Carlyle had no such fate as mine in his thoughts," she said, "when he
wrote that. But, Lord Arleigh, I do not wish to complain. I am sorry
that I have interrupted you. I have accepted my fate. Say all you
wish--I will be silent."
"I have only to add, my darling, that if money, luxury, comfort can give
you happiness, you shall have them all. You shall have respect and
honor too, for I will take care that the whole world knows that this
separation arises from no fault of yours. Promise me, darling wife--oh,
Heaven help me, how hard it is!--promise me, when the first smart of the
pain is over, that you will try to be happy."
She bent her head, but spoke no word.
"Promise me too, Madaline, that, if sickness and sorrow should come to
you, you will send for me at once."
"I promise," she said.
"A few words more, and I have done. Tell me what course you wish me to
pursue toward the duchess."
"I have no wish in the matter," she replied, directly. "She was kind to
me once; for the sake of that kindness I forgive her. She forgot that I
must suffer in her wish to punish you. I shall leave her to Heaven."
"And I," he said, "will do the same; voluntarily I will never see her or
speak to her again."
There remained for him only to say farewell. He took her little white
hand; it was as cold as death.
"Farewell, my love," he said--"farewell!"
He kissed her face with slow, sweet reverence, as he would have kissed
the face of a dead woman whom he loved; and then he was gone.
Like one in a dream, she heard the wheel of a carriage rolling away. She
stretched out her hands with a faint cry.
"Norman--my husband--my love!" she called; but from the deep silence of
the night there came no response. He was gone.
Madaline passed the night in watching the silent skies. Mrs. Burton,
after providing all that was needful, had retired quickly to rest. She
did not think it "good manners" to intrude upon her ladyship.
All night Madaline watched the stars, and during the course of that
night the best part of her died--youth, love, hope, happiness. Strange
thoughts came to her--thoughts that she could hardly control. Why was
she so cruelly punished? What had she done? She had read of wicked lives
that had met with terrible endings. She had read of sinful men and
wicked women whose crimes, even in this world, had been most bitterly
punished. She had read of curses following sin. But what had she done?
No woman's lot surely had ever been so bitter. She could not understand
it, while the woman who had loved her husband, who had practiced fraud
and deceit, and lied, went unpunished.
Yet her case was hardly that, for Norman did not love her. Daughter of a
felon as she--Madaline--was--poor, lowly, obscure--he had given her his
heart, although he could never make her the mistress of his home. There
was some compensation for human suffering, some equality in the human
lot, after all. She would be resigned. There were lots in life far worse
than hers. What if she had learned to love Norman, and he had never
cared for her? What if she had learned to love him, and had found him
less noble than he was? What if, in the bitterness of his disappointment
and passion, he had vented his anger upon her? After all, she could not
but admire his sense of honor, his respect for his name, his devotion to
his race; she could not find fault with his conduct, although it had
cost her so dear.
"I think," she admitted to herself, "that in his place I should have
done the same thing. If my parent's crime has brought sorrow and
disgrace to me, who have no name, no fame, no glory of race to keep up,
what must it have brought to him? In his place I should have done as he
Then, after a time, she clasped her hands.
"I will submit," she said. "I will leave my fate to Providence."
When morning dawned she went to her room; she did not wish the household
to know that she had sat up and watched the night through.
Once out of the house, Lord Arleigh seemed to realize for the first time
what had happened; with a gesture of despair he threw himself back in