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Title: A Dangerous Flirtation; Or, Did Ida May Sin?

Author: Laura Jean Libbey

Release date: December 6, 2016 [eBook #53676]

Language: English

Credits: E-text prepared by Chris Whitehead, Demian Katz, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team ( from page images generously made available by Villanova University Digital Library (



E-text prepared by Chris Whitehead, Demian Katz,
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team
from page images generously made available by
Villanova University Digital Library


Note: Images of the original pages are available through Villanova University Digital Library. See





Dangerous Flirtation; or Did Ida May sin?

Title page for Dangerous Flirtation; or Did Ida May sin?


CHAPTER XXXVIII.           160






Three young girls, as fair as youth and beauty could make them, stood with arms twined about one another on the sands of Newport one hot August afternoon.

Neither of the trio could have been over seventeen. All three were dressed in white, and looked as delightfully cool, sweet and airy, with their floating white ribbons and wind-blown curls, as summer maidens can possibly look.

"If I were an artist, I would immortalize that glorious scene," cried Lily Ryder, her blue eyes sparkling with the fire of enthusiasm.

"And if I were an artist, I would paint you," cried a handsome, fair-haired young man sotto voce, who had stopped short in his stroll along the sands with his friend, to admire the three lovely young girls, feeling sure that his keen scrutiny would not be observed, they were gazing so intently out to sea.

"Who are they, Ravenswood?" he asked, eagerly, turning to his companion. "You know everyone at[6] Newport worth knowing, of course—'a golden key throws open all doors.'"

"Oh, of course," echoed Philip Ravenswood, with the slow drawl habitual to him. "They are called at Newport 'The Three Graces.' The blonde fairy to the right is Lily Ryder, an ex-governor's daughter. The bewitching girl in the center of the group is Miss Hildegarde Cramer, a banker's daughter; and, by the way, she's one of the jolliest girls that ever dazzled a fellow's wits as well as his eyes—looks more bewitching every time you see her."

"But who is the other young girl?" interrupted his companion, impatiently. "According to my ideas of feminine loveliness, she's far the prettiest of the three."

"Hold on, my dear Royal Ainsley, lest you provoke a duel here and now. Remember, that trio contains the peerless Hildegarde," laughed Philip Ravenswood, relighting a fresh Havana.

"All allowance made for difference of opinion," smiled Ainsley; "but really, Phil, who is the dark-eyed beauty this way?"

Little dreaming of what would come of those few idly spoken words, Philip Ravenswood answered, carelessly:

"Her name is Ida May. She's the only living relative of the Mays of Boston, I understand. I do not know the Mays personally, but know them well by reputation. They are fabulously rich, it is generally believed."

"Suppose you introduce me to the Three Graces," said Royal Ainsley, banteringly.

His companion flushed, and looked a trifle uncomfortable.

"At another time, my dear fellow," he said, answering[7] Ainsley's question after a moment's pause. "Let the girls enjoy their rhapsodies over the sunset in peace this time. We really haven't time just now. The fellows are waiting for us at the club, you know."

But Ainsley refused to go on; yet he did it in such a gay, off-hand, rollicking, fun-loving fashion, his friend did not see the fixed purpose in his action.

He was quite sure that if they stood there long enough they could not help attracting the attention of the pretty maidens, and there was no time like the present to meet them. In this surmise, he was quite correct. Attracted by the sound of voices almost behind them, Miss Ryder glanced around.

"Hildegarde—Ida!" she exclaimed, in a flutter of delighted surprise, "why, here is Mr. Ravenswood!"

She stopped short, for just then she observed that the handsome young gentleman in the white linen suit, standing a little apart from Mr. Ravenswood, was with him.

It was too late to beat a retreat then, for he had been discovered. He was certainly in for it, and there was no help for it but to bring his companion forward with the best possible grace and present him to the young ladies.

Ainsley bowed low in his most charming manner, raising, with a smile, his white straw hat from his fair, clustering hair, and Philip Ravenswood could see, with consternation, the apparent admiration for his friend on all three girlish faces, including Hildegarde, whom he had believed to be quite smitten with himself.

Royal Ainsley made the most of that next half hour on the sands. He was so brilliant, so witty, so clever, he fairly astonished his friend, used as he was to his gay[8] bon-mots and to see him the life of all the affairs at the club.

They chatted brightly enough, until Hildegarde exclaimed, with a little cry:

"Why, there is some bell striking seven! We have been here over an hour. We must get back to the hotel, girls, or we will never be dressed for dinner. Won't you stroll back that way with us?" she added, with a dazzling smile to both of the young gentlemen.

"I think not," replied Ainsley, quickly, taking it upon himself to answer for his friend. "We have an engagement, and have barely time to save ourselves from being the annoying cause of giving our friends a cold dinner."

"We hope to see you both soon again," said Lily, with another blush.

"We do, indeed!" echoed Hildegarde, archly. But the girl with the velvet pansy eyes made no audible remark, though her crimson lips parted, then shut quickly again.

The next moment the two gentlemen were gone, and the three young girls retraced their steps slowly hotelward along the beach. They had a much pleasanter subject to discuss now than the sunset.

"Isn't the new-comer handsome?" remarked Lily.

"Splendid! but not quite as Phil, though."

Again they both asked together:

"What say you, Ida?"

The girl with cheeks like a damask rose and velvety pansy eyes blushed to the roots of her jetty curls.

"He is like the hero of a novel. I have never seen any one so handsome before—so fair, so smiling—so—so—delightful," she answered.


"Ida May's heart has been hit by the first shot of those arrows of blue eyes," laughed Lily, mockingly. "I knew when she declared that, come what would, she would not fall in love with any young man she met at Newport, she was more than likely to meet her fate."


For some moments the two young men walked on in silence, which was at last broken by Ainsley.

"I say, Phil," he began, eagerly, laying his hand on his friend's shoulder, "do you think any one of those three beauties would accept an invitation to go down and see the yacht-race with me to-morrow afternoon?"

Ravenswood looked shocked.

"You are surely jesting to ask my opinion as to whether any one of those young girls would accompany a stranger to a place of amusement. You certainly know, as well as I do, that they wouldn't entertain such a thought for an instant. And even suppose they did? Their parents would soon let you know what they thought on the subject. Like all sweet rosebuds, they are guarded by thorns. A very stern duenna usually accompanies them on their afternoon rambles, and woe to anything masculine who attempts to hold a few moments' conversation with any one of them. I confess I was surprised to find them alone to-day—very much surprised, I must say."

"Fate interposed in my behalf," laughed Ainsley, nonchalantly; adding: "I tell you, Phil, I am a strong believer in fate, no matter what any one says to the contrary, believing with the poet—everything is preordained,[10] planned out ahead for us, and we can not escape it. We are to meet certain people. One girl makes no impression upon us whatever, no matter how pretty she may be; we meet another, and lo! with the first glance from her eyes, the mischief's done—we are done for. Now, am I not correct?"

"I hope you have not made such a fool of yourself as to fall in love at first sight with any one of those young ladies to whom I was mad enough to introduce you, Ainsley!" cried Ravenswood, very much nettled.

"And why not, pray?" returned Royal Ainsley, coolly. "You should blame fate if I have done so, not me, my dear fellow."

"I am sorry for you, Ainsley, if such is indeed a fact," declared Philip Ravenswood, gravely, "for I do not think you could win the girl. Plainly speaking, you are no match for either of them. You know that. But which one of them is it?"

"The one with the pansy velvet dark eyes—with the face of a damask rose—Ida May, I believe you called her."

Ravenswood looked wonderfully relieved. As long as it was not Hildegarde, he would not trouble himself.

"By George!" exclaimed Ainsley, stopping short, "I believe those three young girls ride the bicycle. Now that I think of it, I'm sure I saw them whirl past the club yesterday morning. They wore natty navy blue suits and blue veils. I couldn't see what their faces were like. Two elderly gentlemen accompanied them."

"Yes, they ride the wheel," assented Ravenswood, reluctantly. "The two gentlemen were Mr. Ryder and Mr. Cramer, who are very enthusiastic over the sport.[11] There's a millionaire's club of wheelmen here at Newport."

"I presume they will be at the fancy masquerade cycle tournament next week, then?" said Ainsley, carelessly, though he listened anxiously for the reply.

"No doubt," returned Ravenswood. "They were all at the last one. By the way, it's a very select affair. One has to be a member of the club, or have considerable outside influence, to secure tickets."

"Are you a member?" asked Ainsley, quickly.

"Yes," returned Ravenswood. "It was Hildegarde's father who proposed my name. I did not get even one black ball, and was consequently voted a member."

"Do you suppose, if you had been a poor devil of a clerk, instead of a millionaire's son, you would have been voted in?" asked Ainsley, a trifle bitterly, a hard light flashing into his eyes.

"Possibly not," replied Ravenswood, with a good-humored laugh.

"I should have thought you would have improved the opportunity of seeing considerable of the Three Graces awheel," said Ainsley, after a few moments' pause.

"Their fathers discourage anything of that kind," laughed Philip; "as more than one young man has found out."

"But Miss May's relatives—do none of them ride?"

"They are too old for that sort of thing," laughed Ravenswood. "The old gentleman is as deaf as a post, and is relegated to the hotel piazza because of the gout. His wife is equally as deaf, and is too unwieldly to venture far from her corner of the piazza. It is laughable to hear them shout at each other through their ear-trumpets. I have often thought what a lonely life of it that beautiful[12] young girl must have with those two old people. It would be unendurable, I fancy, if it were not for her two young friends."

"Probably they make up for not being companionable by not being so strict with their pretty prospective little heiress?" suggested Ainsley, again listening eagerly for his friend's reply.

"They certainly allow their granddaughter, or niece, whichever she is, more liberty than Hildegarde's or Lily Ryder's parents do. Still, I suppose they are confident that she can come to no harm, surrounded by such careful friends and companions."

"Did you say, Philip, you were going to the fancy-dress masquerade tournament?" asked Royal Ainsley, slowly.

"I do not propose to miss it," responded Ravenswood.

"Do you think you can secure me a ticket, Phil?" asked Ainsley, point-blank. "Grant me that favor if you can. Remember, I ask it as a great favor. Surely you can manage it somehow for me."

"I'll try," replied Ravenswood. "If it's possible, you shall attend."

During the next few days that followed, handsome Royal Ainsley saw as much of the Three Graces as was possible. One day he was content with a bow or a smile—on the next, a few words in passing; but he was wise enough to keep out of the way whenever their relatives were about.



The fancy-dress masquerade cycle carnival had been the talk of fashionable circles in Newport for the last fortnight, and now, as the auspicious evening drew near, excitement was almost at fever heat.

The tickets of admission had been closely guarded; gold could not buy them. The tickets, which were strictly not transferable, had been duly delivered by messengers to the different members whose names they bore, and the promoters of the affair felt duly satisfied that no one outside the charmed circle of Newport's fashionable Four Hundred could by any possibility invade the sacred precincts.

A whole army of officers were to guard against intruders. There was to be a banquet in the supper-room at midnight, after the masks of the merry cyclers had been removed, that would be so startling in its sumptuousness that the whole country would be talking about it, and those who had been fortunate enough to attend would never forget it in their after lives.

Philip Ravenswood had indeed done his utmost to secure the admittance of his friend; but even he had failed signally. The officers were inexorable in their polite but firm refusal to his request.

Two hours later the grand masquerade cycle carnival was at its height. The marble walls of the millionaire club never held a more brilliant gathering of ladies fair, with eyes behind silken masks brighter than the diamonds they wore, and men braver than the famous knights of old in their powdered wigs, satin knee-breeches and spangled waistcoats.


One wheelman, in the costume of handsome Romeo, sprung from his wheel near one of the fountains, and watched with keen eyes through his mask the cyclers as they passed him one after another.

"Aha! I have them at last," he muttered, as he noted three wood-nymphs hovering close together. "Well, I declare, I thought I should have little difficulty in distinguishing one from the other," he muttered; "but to save my life, I can not tell them apart. I shall trust to fate to choose for me, hoping it will be the beauteous Hildegarde."

Suddenly two plumed cavaliers sprung from their wheels before the two foremost wood-nymphs, and asked permission in silent pantomime to ride as their escorts around the rink, which request was graciously acceded to, but with the dignity of young princesses.

"This is my opportunity," thought Romeo. "I must claim the remaining wood-nymph before some other fellow has the chance to capture her."

The next instant he was bowing low before her.

"May I have the great honor of riding as your escort around the rink, fair wood-nymph?" he whispered in a low, melodious voice. "Ah, pardon my speaking; it was purely a slip of the tongue. I should have made known my request in pantomime. But pray forgive, and do not betray me, fairest of all maidens, to the floor manager, pray, or I shall be ordered from the floor in deep disgrace."

"If she answers, I shall know by her voice which one of the three heiresses she is," he thought.

"Oh, I shall not betray you, Mr. Ainsley," replied the girl, with a jolly little laugh, showing the whitest of pearly teeth, "and I accept your escort to ride with[15] me. I—I am so afraid of tumbling off my wheel, this gay throng and the flashing lights bewilder me so. I—I was just wondering if you would be here to-night."

"Fair maid, you know me?" he whispered, in apparent amazement. "I am astounded, yet flattered. Pray be kind enough to exchange confidences. I have been hoping against hope that you are the one whom I longed to see here. Surely the throbbings of my heart tell me who you are, fair nymph. Shall I breathe to you the name of her whom I ardently wish it to be?" he asked, softly.

"Yes," she answered, eagerly; and there was no mistaking the characteristic catching of the breath, and the intense, eager gaze in the velvety eyes behind the silken mask.

He crushed the furtive hope that had stirred his heart for an instant that it might be Hildegarde, and answered, boldly:

"I prayed the fates to lead me to the feet of beauteous Ida May! Oh, tell me—am I right? Do be kind, and tell me."

"Then the fates have answered your prayer," she replied. "I suppose I ought not to tell you until unmasking time, but really I can not help it. I am Ida May."

"Thanks, ten thousand thanks for ending my suspense, dear girl," he murmured, as only Royal Ainsley could utter the words. A few sweeps around the rink, where handsome Romeo, with his superb fancy riding, was the cynosure of all eager feminine eyes, midst murmurs of admiration, then he whispered to his companion: "Come into the conservatory; the air is too close here. You are riding as though you were dizzy. Are you?"

"Yes," she answered. "I must have air. I——"


The wheel suddenly wobbled recklessly from side to side, as though its rider had lost control of it entirely.

Royal Ainsley sprung from his wheel just in time to prevent her from falling, and in that instant he crushed her closely to his heart, then as quickly released her.

The excitement was so great, no one noticed this little by-play, or saw Romeo lead the fair wood-nymph from amid the glittering lights to the shadowy depths of the cool conservatory. Standing their wheels against a marble Flora, he found a rustic bench on which he placed her, taking a seat beside her, dangerously near, his hand closing over the fluttering little white one, his handsome head, with its fair, clustering hair, bent near her own. A half hour they spent amid the dim, cool shadows, the perfume of the roses enfolding them, the soft, low, bewildering echo of the delicious music floating out to them.

Remember, the young girl was only seventeen, dear reader, otherwise the place, and the scene, and the fair, handsome lover by her side could not have infatuated her so quickly or so deeply.

"This is heaven!" he whispered. "How I wish we could linger here forever, Ida—I your devoted knight, and you my queen, the world forgetting, by the world forgot! Do you wish it could be so?"

The low cadence of his voice; the thrilling touch of that strong, white hand that was stealing around the supple waist, drawing her toward him; the panting of his breath, which she could feel on her flushed cheek; the mesmeric, steady gaze of those bright blue, shining eyes, bewildered her—made her heart flutter as it had never fluttered before.


"Do you wish we could be always together, Ida?" he persisted.

"Yes," answered the girl, with a half sob of affright, trembling under the strange spell that had slowly but surely been cast over her.

"Then marry me, Ida!" he cried, "this very night—within the hour, and no one can ever part us after that! Oh, Ida, do not refuse me!" he urged. "I love you so that I would die for you. Fate surely intended us for each other, or we would never have met and loved as we do. Oh, my darling, you can not deny it! You do love me, Ida May?"

She strove with all her might to deny it; but, in spite of herself, he wrung the truth from her lips—that she did love him. A sudden light that she could not quite understand leaped up into his eyes for a moment, and a triumphant smile curved his lips.

"We shall be married to-night, Ida!" he cried. "I will arrange it somehow;" and as he uttered the words, he told himself that the great heiress was as good as won.


The crash of the music, the hum of voices, and the song of the rippling fountains seemed to dazzle Ida May's senses.

"Promise me that you will marry me, my darling!" cried the impetuous lover. "Would it be so very difficult, Ida?" he whispered.

She clung to him, the terror deepening in her eyes.

"This is a little romance all our own," he added,[18] clasping her closely. "Ida, let me kiss you!" He clasped his arms around her and drew her to his breast. "You are mine in life, mine in death, and mine through all eternity!"

He kissed the sweet lips over and over again.

She was so young that she believed him.

"Let us be married first, then we can talk over all these things after!" he exclaimed, impetuously.

She was dazed by his passionate words.

He felt quite sure that this sweet, beautiful, dainty young girl could not hold out against him if he only persisted.

One more bold stroke, and the heiress would be his.

There would be a scene, he well knew, when he brought the young girl back to the old folks. But it would surely end by their forgiving her. They could not hold out against her very long.

"You are—sure—it—it—would be right, Mr. Ainsley?" she faltered.

"You must not call me 'mister' sweet one," he cried. "To you I shall be 'Royal' from now on to eternity. Let me manage this affair, my darling," he added.

All power of resistance seemed swallowed up by his indomitable will.

"Go to the cloak-room, my love," he whispered, "and change your attire as quickly as you can. I will meet you at the fountain nearest the entrance. Not one word to either of your friends, Ida," he said, warningly. "Promise me that!"

There was no crossing him. Indeed, the very power to even think for herself seemed to have left her.

Like one in a dream, Ida May donned her street clothes, the thought filling her mind of what Hildegarde[19] and Lily would say when it was unmasking time and they came to look for her. How startled they would be!

Outside all was confusion. There was a great crush of carriages, the babble of coachmen and footmen, the crunching of wheels, and the calling of numbers. To the girl whom Royal Ainsley led on to so strange a fate it seemed like a dream. Some one followed with their wheels. Royal Ainsley took them from the man, and she saw him toss him several pieces of silver.

He did not tell her that he had written a note to an old minister, living two miles out of the village, asking him to remain at home to marry them. No name had been signed to the note; but he had argued to himself that the minister, who probably was sadly in need of making an extra dollar, would stay at home to perform the ceremony. If his plans matured well, all well and good; if they miscarried, well, no one would be the wiser as to who sent the letter.

He assisted her to mount her wheel, and, as if in a dream, they went speeding down the boulevard.

"We must make quicker time, my darling," he said.

Was it a sob he heard coming from the girl's lips? Ida May seemed to have suddenly awakened to a sense of what she had done. A brief half hour since she had been in the midst of a brilliant party, and now, scarcely knowing how it had come about, she found herself flying with the handsome lover, whom she had known but a few short weeks, going she knew not whither.

The awakening came to her like a terrible shock.

"Royal!" she cried, "oh, Royal, what have we done? Where are we going? I did not mean to run away. I must have been mad. Let us go back again!"


As she spoke, the great clock from some adjoining tower struck the hour of twelve.

"We are too late," he said. "We have burned our bridges behind us. They are unmasking now, and they have missed you. They will soon institute a search."

She clasped his arm.

"Oh, Royal! I must tell you all!"

The hot, trembling hand clung to him, the lovely young face was full of awful grief.

"My own darling!" he cried, leaning over and rapturously embracing her, though in doing so he nearly caused her to fall from her wheel.

Suddenly the heavens overhead seemed to darken, the wind to freshen, and the booming of the waves, as they dashed heavily against the shore, sounded dismally in the distance.

"We must make haste," said Royal Ainsley; "there is a storm coming up. I think we could save nearly half a mile by cutting across this field."

He swung open a gate opening out into a broad patch of land, and Ida rode in.


"I see a light glimmering in a window a short distance away. I will take you there, and walk back to the village to get some kind of a conveyance."

In a few moments they found themselves knocking for admission at the little cottage from whence they had observed the light.

His impatient knock brought a white, terrified face to a window which was opened above.


"What do you want?" asked a voice in unmistakable tones of fear.

"I must have shelter for this young lady for a little while," exclaimed Ainsley, impatiently; adding: "I will pay you handsomely if you will allow her to remain here an hour or two, until I can go for a carriage for her."

The window was closed quickly down again, and Royal heard some one say quite distinctly:

"I tell you it is only a ruse. It is an officer of the law."

Again Royal knocked impatiently.

"It is commencing to rain," he called. "For Heaven's sake, open the door quickly!"

Despite the sobs and protestations of the voice inside, a man opened the door and stepped out, confronting them. One hand held a lighted lamp and the other rested upon his hip pocket.

To Royal Ainsley's intense astonishment, he found that he was at the summer cottage of Newport's haughty mayor.

"I beg your pardon," stammered the man, in dire confusion.

"It is rather late to awaken any one; but you have heard the words, 'any port in a storm'? The truth is, I want to find shelter for this young lady until I can go for a conveyance to take her to a minister who is awaiting us to perform the marriage ceremony."

"Oh, that is it!" exclaimed the mayor, with a look of relief coming over his face. "An elopement, eh?"

"All is fair in love, you know," laughed the young man, leading Ida into the parlor, his host preceding them.

"Who are you, and who is the young lady?" inquired the man.


It was Royal's turn to hesitate now. If he found out that the young girl clinging to his arm was the heiress of the Mays, would he not refuse to perform the ceremony until they could be communicated with?

"I am Royal Ainsley," answered the young man, affecting not to hear the last part of the question; and Ida, thinking she was called upon to speak, responded, promptly:

"And I am Ida May, sir."

The mayor wheeled about quickly.

"What! Did I hear you say the name May? Are you the young girl stopping at the Ocean House whom they call the niece of the Mays?"

The girl was trembling so she could not answer.

"We might as well put a bold front on the matter," whispered Royal, clasping quickly the ice-cold hands.

"She is, sir," he answered, with an air of assurance which he was far from feeling.

The effect of his words upon his host was wonderful. An expression that was almost diabolical flashed over his face.

"Hold!" he cried. "You need look no further for a minister; I will perform the ceremony. It is a pity for the young lady to have to go out in the storm to have a little service like that rendered. Old May's niece!" he muttered under his breath. "Ah, what a glorious revenge it is for me to give her to this profligate! Of course, old May don't know anything about the escapade of this girl!"

He clinched his hands tightly together as he looked at her. There was no feature of old John May perceptible in this slender little creature; but for all that, he hated[23] her—ay, he hated her with a deadly hatred. He knew why.

"I will help you in this affair," he said, with a peculiar laugh that might mean much or might mean little.

The ceremony was not a long one, and almost before Ida could realize what was taking place, Royal Ainsley was bending over her, and calling her his dear little wife. But there was something about the kiss that he laid on her lips that made a strange shiver creep over her.

Royal Ainsley could hardly conceal his triumph. No matter if the Mays did find her now, they could not undo what had been done. He had wedded her and her millions!

"Is there a train that leaves for New York?" he asked.

"Yes; one passes here in about twenty minutes from now. By cutting across over to that side road you could easily catch it."

Half an hour later, they were steaming toward the city as fast as steam could carry them. The dark curly head nestled against his shoulder, while Royal looked out of the window, out into the blackness of the night, little dreaming that he was on the eve of a terrible tragedy.

He had been lucky enough to secure the little compartment at the rear of the drawing-room car, which those who have money enough to pay for can secure exclusively for themselves.

"I ought to tell you something that is weighing very heavily upon my mind, Royal," she said, nestling closer to her fair, handsome, boyish husband.

"Not until to-morrow, love," he declared, drawing her toward him, and kissing her fondly.



It was early the next morning when the Newport express steamed into the Grand Central Depot.

Royal Ainsley cast a furtive glance around him as he stepped upon the platform. He had quite expected a dozen or more detectives to spring forward, for, of course, the telegraph wires had been busy during the night.

They would no doubt be waiting to arrest him for abducting the heiress. But when he had blandly informed them that lovely Ida May was his wife, what could they do but fall back abashed and disconcerted.

To his great surprise, he seemed to create no sensation whatever. No one even noticed him as he joined the throng, with Ida May clinging tightly to his arm.

"I will give them some little trouble to find us," he thought to himself.

He knew of a quiet, aristocratic family hotel facing the park, and placing Ida in a carriage, he took a seat beside her, and directed the driver to proceed as quickly as possible to the place indicated.

Whirling through the streets of gay New York was quite a sensation to Ida, who had never been outside of her own country village, save for that fateful trip to Newport.

With Royal clasping her two little fluttering hands in one of his strong white ones, his left arm holding her close as the cab rattled up Broadway, her fear of the noise, the great rush of people hurrying hither and thither, and the great crush of vehicles that threatened to demolish them every moment, gradually subsided as they rode along.


They reached their destination, and a moment more were ushered into the little white-and-gold parlor.

"We will have the best breakfast that they can prepare," said Royal, "and then I shall take you to see the sights of the city."

He was obliged to take the hotel clerk into his confidence.

"It's an elopement," he whispered in the clerk's ear. "My bride is the heiress of the wealthy Mays, of Boston. There may be a deuce of a row when they trace us to this place, but it will end all right by the fatted calf being killed for us. But as for the breakfast, how long will it take to prepare it?"

"Not more than fifteen minutes," returned the clerk, with an obsequious bow. "We will send up to the parlor, and let you know when it is ready," he added.

He turned away with a royal air. Already he felt as if the May millions were in his pocket, that he was a man to be envied, that he was of great importance.

Royal Ainsley immediately joined Ida in the parlor. He found her ensconced in one of the large velvet easy-chairs, looking out of the window, with something very like fright in her great dark eyes.

"Oh, Royal, are you sure it is quite right?" she sobbed. "Did you want me to marry you so very much?"

"What a silly little girl you are!" he cried, impetuously. "Of course, I want you. I could not live without you. I know you must be very hungry, as well as tired from loss of sleep. Come over to this sofa and sit down, and we will talk over our plans."

"Royal," she whispered, clasping his hands closer, "you would not listen to me when I tried to tell you something in the conservatory; but you must listen to[26] me now. I can not be quite happy, dear, until you know all. I—I have a confession to make."

He looked at her blankly.

"What odd words you use, my darling Ida!" he said. "A confession! I do not like to hear you use such an expression. I hope that there is no other lover in the background?"

"It is not a lover!" she cried, clinging to him. "I have never loved any one else but you!"

"Then it is all right, my angel!" he cried, brightly, gathering her closely to him, despite the fact that people were passing in the corridor outside, and had a full view of all that was taking place within the room. She struggled out of his arms, blushing like a peony, even though she was his bride.

"Sit opposite me, where I can see you, and it will not be so hard to tell you all," sobbed Ida, faintly.

He complied with her wishes.

"Cut the story as short as possible, dear," he said, "or you will be obliged to have it continued in our next, as breakfast will soon be ready."

"Oh, how shall I tell you the truth, Royal!" she said, distressedly. "Perhaps you won't smile so when you know all, and—and—you might even hate me."

"No matter what the little story is that you have to tell me, my darling, I will love you better than ever."

"Oh, Royal, are you sure of it?" she cried, with that frightened look which puzzled him so.

"Yes; I give you my word beforehand, that, no matter what you have to tell me, I will love you all the more!"

"I will tell you all, then, and throw myself on your mercy to forgive me for the past," she sobbed. "Hold[27] my hands, Royal, closely in your own, while I tell you all of the pitiful past, from beginning to end; and then, Royal, you shall kiss my tears away, even—oh, Heaven, pity me!—though I have sinned beyond pardon!"


Little dreaming of the purport of the story Ida had to tell, Royal Ainsley drew near. For a moment, Ida May's great somber eyes looked into his as though she would read his very soul.

"Tell me over again that you will forgive me, no matter what it is that I have to tell you."

"I have already given you that promise over and over again," he declared. "Surely you don't want me to take an oath to that effect?"

"Not if your solemn promise is strong enough to bind you."

"You forget that you are wasting time, Ida?" he said, good-humoredly.

"It will not take me long to tell my sad little story," she answered, with a half sob; "and oh, what a world of comfort it will be for me to know that you will care for me, no matter what the world may think. When you hear my story you will understand the great temptation, and will not judge me too cruelly.

"To begin with, my mother and I lived with a very wealthy family in Dorchester. My mother was housekeeper, and I—well, I had no regular position there, until, owing to the meager salary they paid my mother, I was compelled to learn telegraphy, and found a position[28] at the station. To gain my mother's consent to do this was extremely hard.

"'They will not be pleased, Ida,' she said, piteously.

"'What do the Deerings care for you or me?' I answered, bitterly. 'Only to make you toil year in and year out for a pittance so meager that it scarcely keeps body and soul together!'

"'But they allow me to keep you with me, my dear child. That is everything to a mother who is poor,' she sighed.

"'I am not a child any longer,' I cried. 'I am quite sixteen. I must be making money now, if ever, to help you!'

"'But what can you do?' she asked.

"When I told her my plans, she looked at me dubiously.

"'Surely Mrs. Deering would not object,' I declared.

"But she did object. To my surprise she flew into a terrible rage when I summoned courage enough to go to the morning-room the next day and asked to speak to her.

"I unfolded to the cold, proud woman my plans to make a living. She did not wait to hear me through, but flew into such a passion of rage that I drew back in terror.

"'I have different plans for you entirely, Ida May,' she said. 'Go to your mother. I told her my plans scarcely half an hour ago. She will unfold them to you. Mind, they must be carried out by you, or your mother and you will suffer. Your father owed us a sum of money before he died, and during the past years your mother has worked to pay us off. Over one-half yet remains to be paid. Your mother's name is signed to your father's notes of indebtedness, and she is responsible[29] for them. If I pressed for payment and she could not pay, she could be thrown into a debtor's prison.'

"I sobbed aloud in my terror: 'Oh, Mrs. Deering, if this indeed be true, there is more need than ever for me to earn money to pay off my mother's debts.'

"'There is another way in which you can pay them off,' she answered.

"'Oh, how?' I cried, falling on my knees and clasping my hands.

"The answer came like a crash of thunder from a clear sky.

"'By marrying my nephew,' she said, harshly.

"I sprung to my feet in terror. Marry any one! I, who was only a child!

"'My mother would not consent to anything like that, even——'

"'She will be forced to consent!' was the harsh reply. 'My nephew will be here in a week.'

"I found my mother walking her room, wringing her hands and tearing her hair. Her excitement was so great that for a moment I was terrified.

"'Has she told you all, Ida?' she asked, in terror.

"'Yes, mother,' I answered.

"'And did she tell you what this nephew of hers was like?'

"'No,' I replied, greatly puzzled by her manner.

"She shuddered as with a terrible chill.

"'Listen, Ida,' she said, in a strained, awful voice: 'Her nephew is such a horrid creature, that to be hated he needs but to be seen. He is a hunchback—and—an idiot—has a touch of insanity about him. Except the first few years of his life, he has been confined in an asylum. This nephew has a bachelor uncle, who has declared his[30] intention to make the young man his heir if he marries when he is twenty-one. Otherwise the great fortune goes to another branch of the family. They would make a victim of you, wreck your beautiful young life for their own ambitious aims. It will be six months before he is of age. But the marriage shall never be, my darling. Your young life shall never be sacrificed by these inhuman Shylocks. When the hour comes, we will die together.'

"One day my mother met me with a white, awful face.

"'Mrs. Deering's nephew has arrived with a valet!' she cried, under her breath.

"'But the six months are not up, mother," I cried. 'It wants a fortnight to that time.'

"'He has come to stay until you make your decision.'

"Oh, God! the horror of it! Death a thousand times over would have been preferable to that.

"How could I stand at the altar and promise to obey a creature the very sight of whom filled me with disgust and terror?

"I fled through the village, not daring to look behind me, and never stopping until I reached the telegraph office.

"It was little wonder that I made strange mistakes during the hour that followed.

"It was during this time that Mrs. May stepped up to the window and called for a blank.

"Although her name was the same as mine, yet we were in no way related to each other. They were wealthy people from Boston, I had heard, and were summering in the village.

"Without waiting to see the message sent, the lady hurried out of the office. A great sigh broke from my lips as[31] I noted the well-filled purse that she carried, the magnificent diamonds she wore on her hands, and which swung sparkling from her ears. Any one of the gems she wore would have been a fortune to a poor girl like me.

"As she crossed the railway track in the direction of the post office, she must have seen the train bearing down upon her from around the curve of the road.

"However, she fainted away from fright, and lay directly on the track. I had seen it all from my window, and I sprung to her rescue and dragged her by main force from the track just in time to save her from destruction, as the ponderous locomotive just then thundered by. Mrs. May's gratitude was great when she recovered consciousness.

"'How shall I ever reward you, my good girl?' she cried.

"'I need no reward,' I answered. 'I would have done that for any one!'

"'You must be rewarded,' she declared. 'My husband is coming from Boston to-night, and he will insist upon doing handsomely by you.'

"I was living at home with my poor old mother, and when I went home that evening and told her the story, she wept like a child.

"'You did a noble action, Ida,' she said; adding slowly: 'The Mays are very rich. I should not be surprised if they made you a handsome present. I once knew a gentleman who gave a lad twenty-five dollars for saving his son from drowning. Perhaps they may do as well by you.'

"You see, we were very poor—mother and I—and twenty-five dollars seemed a great deal to us.


"'How much good we could do with that sum,' my mother said. 'We could get a little ahead in our rent, and spare enough out of it to get a new dress for you.'

"I clasped my hands. A new dress! Oh, surely it would be madness to hope for such a thing!

"That evening Mrs. May sent for me to come to the grand cottage where she was stopping. Her husband, a very deaf old gentleman, sat at the window as I entered. They both thanked me in the most eager and grateful fashion.

"'We have been thinking the matter over,' said Mrs. May, 'and I have come to the conclusion that I will do something handsome for you—give you a pleasure such as you have never experienced in your young life.'"


"Mrs. May paused and looked smilingly at me for a moment or two.

"'So great is the treat I have in store for you that you will never forget it. But Mr. May and I disagree slightly as to what it shall be. We now lay the proposition before you. Which would you prefer—have five hundred dollars in cash, or be taken to Newport for a season, have lovely dresses, and stop at a great hotel, under my protection, and have as fine a time as any young girl at the sea-shore?'

"I cried aloud in the exuberance of my joy. I had read of the lives of other young girls at the sea-shore, and this opportunity seemed like the opening out of fairy-land to me. You will not blame me, Royal; I was young and romantic. I had never seen anything of life[33] or its pleasures. A season at Newport! The very thought of it fairly took away my breath.

"'Oh, I will go to Newport!' I cried. 'Then the great dream of my life will be realized!'

"'My husband thought you would prefer the money, but I knew that you would prefer the pleasure.'

"Half wild with joy, I went home and told my mother the wonderful news. She shook her head sadly.

"'We are so poor, you should have chosen the money, Ida,' she sobbed. 'Such a great gift is offered you but once in a life-time!'

"'But what does Mrs. May want you to do for her, Ida? Are you to be her maid?'

"'Oh, no, mother!' I cried, with a hysterical laugh. 'I am to be a real lady, wear fine clothes, and sit on the porch reading novels, or promenade on the sea-shore, from the time I get up in the morning till I retire at night. I shall have pin-money, too, they say, and that I will send home to you. So everything will go on with you while I am away as it did while I was here.'

"We had never been parted from each other, mother and I, and oh! it wrung her heart to say 'Yes.'

"But after much pleading on my part she consented to let me go. She made one proviso, however, and that was—I was not to fall in love with any one whom I might meet.

"Oh, I can not tell you of my delight when I saw the wonderful dresses that Mrs. May purchased for me, saying that they were all my own forever after. She took me to Newport with her. As my name was the same as theirs, every one took it for granted that I was a niece of theirs, instead of their protégée for a few short[34] weeks, a report which the Mays did not trouble themselves to contradict."

She had told her story hastily, impetuously, not daring to look into her lover's face until she had concluded. Then she raised her great dark eyes slowly. But what she saw in her husband's face made her cry out in terror.

"Oh, Royal! Royal! what is the matter?" she cried, in alarm.

He sat before her as though he were petrified. The glassy, horrified stare in his eyes cut to her heart like the thrust of a sword.

"I married you for love. You have helped me to escape Mrs. Deering's dreaded nephew," she faltered.

By a wonderful effort he found his voice.

"Not the heiress of the Mays!" he cried, hoarsely, as though he was unable to realize the truth.

"You do not love me the less for what I have done, do you?" she cried, catching her breath with a sharp sob.

Before he could find words to answer, breakfast was announced.

"Go in and eat your breakfast, Ida," he said. "I have some important matters which I must attend to that will keep me busy for the next hour to come. Don't wait for me. Lie down and rest until you hear from me. You will need all your strength to meet that which is before you." And his brows darkened ominously.

She was young, and youth has an appetite all its own. She was very tired with all she had gone through the last few hours, and the appetizing breakfast spread before her caused her to forget everything else.

Like all young, healthy girls, she ate heartily; then she rose from the table and re-entered the little parlor[35] to wait for the coming of Royal to ask him to send a telegram to her mother.

"Shall I show you to your room, miss?" asked the waiter.

"No," she answered. "I will wait here."

"Then here is a letter which has just been handed me to give to you."

She opened it, and found that it was from Royal.

For one moment Ida May looked with an expression of puzzled wonder at the letter which the hotel waiter had handed her.

It was in Royal's handwriting; she saw that at once.

What could he write to her about, when he had been away from her scarcely an hour? He probably wished to remind her to be sure to be ready when he arrived.

"How he loves me!" she murmured, a pink flush stealing into the dimpled cheeks. "What a happy girl I ought to be that my lover loves me so well!"

The waiter had gone back to attend to his duty. She saw that she was alone, and with a quick action she raised the envelope to her lips with her little white hands and kissed it—ay, kissed passionately the sword which was to slay her the next moment.

Seating herself in a cozy arm-chair close by the open window, Ida May opened the letter which was to be her death-warrant, and read as follows:

"Ida, I suppose the contents of this note will give you something of a shock; but it is best to know the truth now than later on. I shall come to the point at once, that you may not be kept in suspense.

"The truth is, Ida, that your confession has knocked all our little plans on the head. To write plainly, when I thoughtlessly married you, it was under the impression[36] that you were the niece of the Mays—their future heiress. I have not told you much about myself in the past, but I am obliged to do so now.

"I am not at all a rich fellow. I am working along as best I can, living on what people call wits—and expectations, which make me a veritable slave to the whims of a capricious old aunt and uncle.

"They have decided that I must marry a girl who has money. I would not dare to present a portionless bride to them. In such a case, all my future prospects would be ruined. I must add that I have a still greater surprise for you. On leaving you, I purchased this morning's paper, and the first item that met my eye was the absconding of the man who performed the ceremony for us last night. It appears that he was turned out of office some two days before, impeached, as it were, for embezzling money.

"All power was taken from him to act in the capacity of mayor. Thus the ceremony which we thought made us one is not binding. You are free as air. No one will be any the wiser, and you are none the worse for our little escapade—romance—call it what you will.

"A little affair in the life of a telegraph operator will not set the heart of the great world throbbing with excitement. I am sorry affairs have turned out this way; for, upon my word, I could have liked you. There is but one thing to do under the circumstances; that is, to part company. I advise you to go quietly back and marry the rich lover Mrs. Deering has selected for you. That will be better than drudging your life away in a telegraph office.

"This is all I have to say, and thus I take French leave of you. Forget me as quickly as you can, little girl. I[37] am nearly dead broke, but I am generous enough to share what money I have with you. Inclosed you will find a twenty-dollar bill—quite enough to take you back to the village which you should never have left. Yours in great haste,


Once, twice, thrice—ay, a dozen times—the girl read the heartless letter through until every word was scorched into her brain in letters of fire, then it fluttered from her hands to the floor.

She sat quite still, like one petrified by a sudden awful horror; then creeping to the window, she raised the sash, and, looking up into God's face through the glinting sunshine, asked the angels in Heaven to tell her if it was true that the husband she had but just wedded had deserted her.


Again the poor child picked up the cruel letter; but she could not read a line of it, though she sat looking at the written page.

"Not his wife!" she moaned over and over again, clutching her little hands over her heart.

With a sudden frenzy she tore the letter into a thousand shreds, and flung the pieces from her through the open window.

Would her poor, sick mother's heart break when she told her all? When she went home, would they force her to marry the terrible being she abhorred?

Home! Ah, God! what a mockery! She had only a shelter. If she refused to marry the horrible hunchback, her mother and herself would not even have that.


How could she face the future? The very thought of it made the blood chill in her veins.

"Oh, Royal! Royal! death from your hands would have been easier than that!" she moaned.

The next moment there was a heavy fall, and one of the house-maids, passing the parlor, saw the girl lying in a heap.

They did all in their power to restore her to consciousness; but it was quite useless. When they had worked an hour over her, they became alarmed.

Where was her husband? Why did he not return? The hotel physician did all in his power, but without avail.

"It looks like a case of brain fever," he said, "or perhaps typhoid. Either is contagious, therefore dangerous. I should advise that she be sent to the hospital around the corner."

"That husband of hers has not settled his bill!" exclaimed the proprietor, his face darkening angrily.

"It is my opinion," said the doctor, "that it is best not to await the return of the young gentleman who accompanied her here. In short, it is my opinion that he has deserted her."

In less time than it takes to tell it, poor, hapless Ida May, the victim of such a cruel misfortune, and a sadder fate yet to follow, was taken to the hospital. The waning summer days drifted slowly by, and autumn came with its dead, rustling leaves and sobbing winds, before Ida May opened her eyes to consciousness and turned them full upon the white-capped nurse bending over her.

"Where is Royal?" she asked, faintly.

"You mean the young man who left you at the[39] hotel?" queried the nurse, who had heard the young girl's sad story; adding: "He never came back to inquire for you. He has deserted you. He did not care whether or not the shock would kill you. If there was ever a heartless scoundrel on the face of the earth, he is that one!"

The lovely white young face never changed its pallor, the dark eyes never left the grim countenance of the nurse.

"I want to leave this place at once," said the girl, attempting to rise from her cot.

"No, no; you must not do so!" exclaimed the nurse. "It would be dangerous in your case."

"But I want my mother," moaned Ida, piteously.

When the nurse made her rounds an hour later, to her great consternation she found that Cot 27 was empty. The girl had flown! The most diligent search through the city failed to elicit the slightest trace of her whereabouts.

An hour later a little dark figure, ensconced in a corner of the car, was whirling rapidly toward Dorchester.

She sat staring from the window with eyes that did not see so intent was she with her own thoughts.

"I can not marry Mrs. Deering's nephew," she sobbed, under her breath. "It would be easier for me to die. But what shall I do to raise the money for which they hold my poor mother a veritable slave!"

She clasped her hands in piteous entreaty; but the soft, radiant moon and the golden stars to which she raised her eyes so appealingly could find no answer for her.

As the train slowed up at the station, she pulled her[40] veil down closely. She hurriedly alighted and sped like a storm-driven swallow up the village street and along the high-road, until, almost out of breath, she reached the Deerings' mansion. She stood transfixed for a moment at the gate.

What was there about the place that caused such a shudder to creep over her? What did the awful presentiment, as of coming evil, mean that took possession of her body and soul?


How weird the place looked, how gaunt and bare the great oak-trees looked, looming up darkly against the moonlit sky! The dead leaves rustled across her path as she crept around to the rear door.

She looked up at her mother's window, and another great chill crept over her. All was dark there. It had always been her mother's custom to place her lamp on the broad window-sill at night. Many a time it had been her beacon-light in cutting across lots from the station on evenings when she had been detained by her work. How strange it was that the light was not in the window to-night!

"Mother is not expecting me to-night," she said to herself, "that is the reason it is not there."

But ah, how she missed it! How her heart had yearned to behold it, with a yearning so great that it had been the most intense pain. She lifted the latch and entered tremblingly, hesitatingly. It had been over two months since her mother had heard from her.[41] How had her patient, suffering mother lived through it?

As she crossed the hall she heard the sound of Mrs. Deering's voice in a sharp, high key. Perhaps the horrible nephew was with her. She paused in a paroxysm of terror. She was talking to her husband, scolding him, rather.

"It isn't my fault that we lost the fortune," he was answering her meekly. "You brought your nephew out of the asylum too soon. You knew he would not be here a fortnight before he would do some terrible deed—burn the house down over our heads, or kill himself when the attendant was not watching, or some other horrible deed of that kind. When he did succeed in mutilating himself before any of us was aware of it, instead of sending him back to the asylum, to be cared for, you kept him here under lock and key thinking to cure him yourself in a couple of months or so."

"Ah!" thought Ida May, leaning faint and dizzy against the wall, "now I understand why Mrs. Deering consented to let me go away. Anything to get me out of the house while she was curing the insane nephew whom she had vowed I must wed."

The next words, while they shocked her inexpressively, lifted a world of woe from her heart.

"Well, despite our watchfulness, he succeeded in killing himself at last; so there's the end of it. The fortune is lost, and there's no use in raving over it, and in venting your bitter wrath upon everything and every one that comes within your range."

Mrs. Deering's anger was so great that she could not utter a word. She flung open the door and dashed into the hall. The very first object that met her gaze was[42] the cowering little figure leaning against the balustrade.

"You!" she cried, quite as soon as she could catch her breath. "How dare you come here, Ida May, you wicked girl! I am amazed that you have the effrontery to face honest people after what you have done! We read all about it in the newspapers—how you ran away from Newport with a gay, dashing fellow who soon after deserted you. Don't attempt to tell me anything about it. I won't listen to a word. Get out of this house as quick as you can! Go, before I bid the servants throw you from the house!"

"But my mother! Surely you will let me see my mother!" sobbed the girl, piteously. "The whole wide world may be against me, but she will believe me guiltless! Please let me see her."

A laugh that was horrible to hear broke from Mrs. Deering's thin lips.

"Your mother!" she sneered; "much you cared about her, or how your doings affected her. That article in the newspapers did the work, as you might have known it would. I carried the paper to her myself, and when she read it she fell to the floor with a bitter cry, and she never spoke again. It was her death-warrant!"

For one moment the girl looked at the woman with frightened eyes, as though she could not quite comprehend the full import of what the woman was saying.

"It killed your mother!" she repeated pitilessly. "You might have known it would. She died of a broken heart!"

A long, low moan came from the girl's lips. The awful despair in the dark eyes would have touched any other heart, even though it were made of stone; but[43] in Mrs. Deering's heart there was neither pity nor mercy.

"Go!" she repeated, threateningly, "and do not dare to ever darken my door again!"

"Will you tell me where you have buried my poor mother?" moaned Ida May, with bitter anguish.

"In the lot where the poor of the village are put," she answered, unfeelingly. "We had to have a mark put over her. You can easily find it. It's to the left-hand corner, the last one on the row. It would be better for you, you shameless girl, if you were lying beside her rather than sink to the lowest depths of the road you are traveling. Go—go at once!"

With trembling feet she crept down the broad path and out of the gate. She was drenched to the skin, and the chill October winds pierced through her thin wet clothes like the sharp cut of a knife. It did not matter much; nothing mattered for her any more. She was going to find her mother's grave, kneel down beside it, lay her tired head on the little green mound, and wait there for death to come to her, for surely God would grant her prayer and in pity reach out His hand to her and take her home. There would be a home there where her mother was, even if all other doors were closed to her.

She had little difficulty in finding the place—a small inclosure in the rear of the old church that had fallen into decay and crumbling ruins many years ago—and by the blinding flashes of lightning, she found the grave of her mother—her poor, suffering mother, the only being who had ever loved her in the great, cold, desolate earth.

"Mother," she sobbed, laying her face on the cold,[44] wet leaves that covered the mound, "mother, I have come to you to die. The world has gone all wrong with me. I never meant to go wrong. I do not know how it happened. Other young girls have married the lovers whom they thought God had sent to them, and lived happy enough lives. I built such glorious air-castles of the home I should have, the handsome, strong young husband to love and to labor for me, and how you should live with me, mother, never having to work any more. But oh, mother, all my plans went wrong! I don't know why."

Ida May crouched there among the sleeping dead, her brain in a whirl; and the long night wore on. The storm subsided, the wind died away over the tossing trees and the far-off hills, and the rain ceased. Morning broke faint and gray in the eastern sky, and the flecks of crimson along the horizon presaged a bright and gladsome day.

The station-agent, hurrying along to his duties at that early hour, was startled to see a dark figure lying among the graves. In a moment he was bending over the prostrate form. He could not distinguish in the dim light whose grave it was upon which the poor creature was lying, but as he lifted the slender figure, and the faint, early light fell upon the white, beautiful young face, he started back with an exclamation of horror.

"Great God! it is little Ida May!"

For an instant he was incapable of action, his surprise was so intense.

"Dead!" he muttered, cold drops of perspiration standing out like beads on his perturbed brow.[45] "Little Ida May dead on her mother's grave! God, how pitiful! She was so young to die!"

Then he knelt down beside her in the thick, wet grass, and placed his hand over her heart in the wild hope that a spark of life might yet be there.


With bated breath, Hugh Rowland, the station-agent, knelt down in the dew-wet grass, and placed his hand over the girl's heart. Although the sweet white face upturned to the gray morning light was as white as death, he cried out sharply to himself: "Her heart still beats! God be praised! There is life in her yet!"

Gathering her in his arms, as though she were a little child, he carried her quickly across lots to the station, and placed her upon a rude bench. Once there, he could control himself no longer. He dropped upon his knees beside her, burying his face in the folds of her wet dress, chafing her hands, and sobbing as though his heart would break.

He had loved the girl lying there so stark and motionless as he had never loved anything in his life before; but he had never dared to tell her of it. Though he was station-agent, and she a telegraph operator, she seemed as far above him as the star is from the earth.

For a moment Hugh Rowland had almost lost control of himself; then he remembered how horribly cold she was, and he had the presence of mind to start a fire in the big stove that always stood in the center of the waiting-room.


The grateful heat that rose from it quickly brought the breath of life to the girl's white lips. The great, dark, somber eyes opened wide, and she saw the rugged, kindly face of the young station-agent bending over her.

"I found you—you had fainted in the graveyard," he said. "Luckily enough, I was just passing, and I brought you here."

"Oh, why didn't you let me die?" moaned the girl, so bitterly that he was shocked.

"It is very wicked to talk like that," he said, forcing down the great lump that rose in his throat.

"No!" she cried, vehemently. "How could it be very wrong to leave a great, cold, cruel world in which nobody wants you. I have nothing to live for."

"But somebody does want you, Ida May!" cried the great rough fellow, with tears that were no disgrace to his manhood coursing down his cheek. "I want you with all my heart!"

"Hush, hush, hush!" she cried; "you must not talk so to me!" she cried. "Don't say any more! It can never be! You do not know all!"

"Do not say me nay. Give me the right to protect you, Ida. We can go away from this village. I can get a job on the road anywhere along the line. I will work for you, and tend to you so very carefully that you will forget the past!"

She only turned away from him, pleading with him for the love of Heaven to say no more. He stopped short, looking at her gloomily. He had used all the words that he could command, and they had been of no avail. She would not even listen.

"One moment more!" he cried, hoarsely. "Always[47] remember, Ida May, that you leave behind you a heart that beats only for you—only for you. No other woman's face shall ever win my love from you. I will wait here, where you leave me, for long years, until you come back to me—ay, I will wait from day to day with this one hope in my heart: Some day she will come back to me; she will find the world too cold and hard, and will come back to me to comfort her. I will watch for you from darkness until day dawns again. My form, so straight now, may grow bent with years, my hair grow white, and lines seam my face, but through it all I shall watch for your coming until God rewards my vigilance. Good-bye, and God bless you, Ida May, oh love of my heart!"

She passed from his sight with those words ringing in her ears, and when the New York express passed on again after she had boarded it, the young station-agent fell prone upon his face to the floor, and lay there like one dead.


Few passengers turned to look at the little figure that entered the car at the way-side station at so early an hour of the morning, and Ida May cowered quickly down into the first seat. The clothes under the long, dark cloak were saturated, but no one could see that, nor notice how damp and matted were the curling rings of dark hair which the hood of the cloak but half concealed. The hours crept on as the express whirled over the rails; but Ida May paid no heed to time.

But hunger at last began to tell upon her, and she[48] eagerly hailed a boy who passed through the train with a basket of sandwiches on his arm.

She looked at the coins she still held loosely in her hand, and found to her dismay that, with the exception of two pieces of silver, she held a handful of gold dollars.

"His pocket-pieces," she sobbed. "Oh, if I had known that, I would have refused to take them; but—but I will work and earn money, and—and pay him back double their value. Poor fellow—poor fellow!" and she laid her face on the window-sill, sobbing as though her heart would break.

Suddenly she heard a voice in the seat back of her say:

"You seem very much distressed, poor girl. Is there any way in which I can serve you?"

The deep, musical voice was so kind, so humane, so sympathetic, that Ida May turned around with a start to see who it was who had asked the question.

She saw directly back of her a fair, handsome young man who had evidently just entered the car, and who was depositing his grip-sack and umbrella in the rack above his head.

At the first glance a faint shriek broke from her lips. She was just about to cry out, "Royal Ainsley—great Heaven!—do we meet again?" when she saw her error in time. Although bearing a certain resemblance to the lover who had so cruelly betrayed her, a second glance told her it was not him.

It was a moment ere she recovered herself sufficiently to answer, then she faltered, piteously:

"I am in sorrow, sir, so great that I do not think[49] any young girl but me could ever pass through it—and live."

"I do not wish to pry into your private affairs," said the young man, courteously, "but I wish to repeat, if you will tell me what troubles you, and I can be of service to you, I shall be only too pleased. Although a stranger, you will find me worthy of your confidence, my poor child!"

There was something about the handsome, kindly, blue-eyed young man that caused Ida May's heart to go out to him at once. His was a face that women always trusted, and no one had ever had cause to regret it.

"I am going to New York in search of work," faltered the girl, clasping her little hands closely together.

"That is certainly reason enough to weep," he replied earnestly. "May I ask if you have friends there to whom you are going until you can find employment?"

Ida May shook her head, her breast heaved, her white lips quivered, while great tears welled up to the great dark eyes, so like purple velvet pansies drowned in rain.

"I have no friends—no one. I am all alone in the world, sir," she sobbed. "My mother is dead—dead. I have just left her grave. She and I were all in all to each other; now she is gone, and I—Oh, only the angels know that no sorrow is so bleak, so pitiful, so awful, as to be all alone in the world."

"I can understand the situation perfectly," he answered in a low voice, "and I can pity you. Although not quite alone in the world myself, I am almost as badly off. But to return to yourself: I may be able[50] to serve you. What kind of employment were you intending to search for? In some store, or dress-making or millinery establishment?" he queried.

She looked blankly up into his fair, handsome, earnest face.

"I do not know how to do anything of that kind," she answered, simply. "I thought perhaps I might find employment in some telegraph office."

"Why, yes, indeed. I wonder that that idea did not occur to me before. A friend of mine is superintendent of a large branch of the Western Union, up Broadway. I will give you a note to him, and I have no doubt he will do all in his power to aid you, providing he has a vacancy."

"Oh, thank you a thousand times, sir," cried Ida May, thankfully; "I shall be so grateful—oh, so very grateful!"

"Mind, it is not a certainty, you know," admonished the stranger earnestly; "I can only write the letter. But that is not assuring you of a situation—we can only hope for it."

He tore out a leaf from his memorandum, and taking a gold pencil from his vest pocket, hastily jotted down a few lines upon it.

"I am sorry I am not going through to New York; otherwise I would take you there myself," he said, courteously, as he folded up the note and handed it to her.

At that moment his station was reached. He had barely time to touch his hat to her, gather up his parcels, and alight, ere the train moved out again. The young man looked after it and the sweet, tearful young[51] face pressed against one of the windows until it was out of sight.

"By all that is wonderful!" he ejaculated in a very troubled voice, "I am almost positive that I forgot to sign my name to that note, and it was written so badly on that jolting car, Ernscourt won't be able to make it out or know whose writing it is. Poor little girl! I hope she will find a position there. What a terrible thing it is to be young and desolate in the great wicked city of New York! She is so young, guileless and innocent, I hope no ill will befall her. I must remember to look up my friend Ernscourt to learn if he gave her a position or not. I declare, if it were not that I am betrothed to the sweetest girl in all the world, I am afraid I should commit the desperate folly of falling in love with that beautiful, dark-eyed little stranger. Now that I think of it, it did not occur to me to even ask her name or where she was from."

His reverie was somewhat rudely interrupted by a hearty slap on the shoulder and a hearty voice calling out gayly:

"Why, Royal, how are you, old fellow? What, in the name of all that's amazing, brings you to Yonkers?"

"Why, Hal, is this you?" cried the other, in astonishment and delight. "This is an additional pleasure, meeting my old college chum fully a thousand miles from where I would never have imagined finding him. But a word in your ear, my dear boy: It's two years since you and I parted at college, old fellow, and a great deal has happened in that time. We will walk up the street while I inform you."

"With the greatest of pleasure, Royal," returned his companion.


"Tut! tut! Don't call me Royal—Royal Ainsley. I'm that no longer, you know—no, I suppose you don't know; but that's exactly what I want to talk to you about."

"I am too astonished for utterance," declared his friend.

"Why, the explanation is certainly simple enough," declared the other, with a good-natured, mellow little laugh; adding: "Why, you, my college chum, knew what many another friend of mine does not know, namely, that there are two Royal Ainsleys, or, rather, there was up to the present year. It's a bit of secret family history; but I am obliged to take you into my confidence, in order that you may fully understand my most peculiar position. Two brothers, who were almost enemies born, married about the same time, and to each of the gentlemen—namely, my uncle and my father, was born a son—my cousin and myself.

"These gentlemen had an eccentric elder brother who had money to burn, as the saying is, and what should each of these younger brothers do but name their sons after the wealthy old Royal Ainsley, if you please, each hoping that his son would be the old uncle's heir.

"A pretty mess these two belligerent gentlemen made of the affair, I assure you. Two Royal Ainsleys, each resembling the other to an unpleasantly startling degree, of almost the same age, being born scarcely a week apart.

"We were constantly getting into all manner of scrapes, a case of being continually taken for the fellow that looks like me, as the song goes. Each disputed with the other the right to bear the name, and neither would put a handle to it or do anything to cause it to[53] differ in any way from the cognomen of the famous old uncle, who was certainly quite as bewildered as any one else.

"As we two lads grew older, I took to books, my cousin to sports and the pretty faces of girls. When his folks died and he was left to follow the bent of his own inclination, in spite of my earnest admonition and my uncle's combined, he jumped the traces of home restraint altogether, and started out to see life on his own hook. The last I heard of him he was with some distant relative, clerking in a New York importing house.

"Now for my side of the story. From the hour he defied uncle and shook off his restraint, old Royal Ainsley's hatred of him grew so bitter we dared not mention my wayward cousin, Royal Ainsley, in his presence. My uncle actually forced me to change my name through legislative enactment to make it legal. He insisted upon naming me Eugene Mallard, declaring that my cousin would be sure to disgrace the name of Royal Ainsley through the length and breadth of the land before he stopped in his mad downward career.

"Well, to make a long story short, my uncle sent me to Europe on business for him, and his sudden death brought me hurriedly home this week, to find that he has left me his entire fortune, with the proviso that not one dollar shall ever go to my cousin, who, in all probability, does not yet know of his sad plight.

"Now, last but by no means least, on the steamer coming back from London I met a beautiful young girl, Miss Hildegarde Cramer. It was a case of love at first sight between us. You know I'm a very impulsive fellow. I proposed, and she accepted me on the[54] spot; but mind, she knows me as Eugene Mallard, and so she shall know me to the end of her sweet life, bless her.

"Now you know the whole story. Mind, I'm not Royal Ainsley, but, instead, Eugene Mallard, at your service.

"Hildegarde is visiting in Yonkers, so I ran up to see my sweetheart. Sounds like a romance or a comedy, doesn't it?"

"I hope there will be no tinge of tragedy in it," laughed his friend, thoughtlessly.


With a note of introduction to the superintendent clutched tightly in her hand, Ida May reached New York City. She took barely time to swallow a cup of coffee ere she hurried to the number indicated. Her heart sunk within her as she looked up at the immense building; but with a courage which should have met with a better reward, she took the elevator, and soon found herself on the eighth floor, where the superintendent's office was situated.

"He is not in," an attendant told her. "He left the city two days ago, and is not expected to return for a fortnight."

Tears that she could not control sprung into Ida May's dark eyes.

"Oh, what shall I do?" cried the girl; "I want to see him so much!"

The attendant was moved to pity by her great distress.


"If you are looking for a position, or anything of that kind, perhaps I could suggest something."

"Oh, yes, that is it, sir," exclaimed Ida May, looking up through her tears—"that is my errand. I want to secure a position."

"Then it is the manager, instead of the superintendent, you will have to apply to. I think he is in his office. Step this way, please."

He threw open a door to the right, and Ida May followed him into a large room, in which were dozens of young girls bending over tables.

The deafening click! click! click! of the telegraph instruments drowned every sound.

Some girls never raised their heads, as Ida May, following the attendant, passed down the long aisle. Others, however, glanced at her, at first casually, which deepened instantly into a gaze of curiosity and intense interest, for they had never beheld a creature with such superb beauty. Their hearts beat with envy.

"The manager will be sure to engage her," they whispered. "Her pretty face will be sure to be a passport to favor. There used to be a time when it was 'How much do you know about the business?' but now it is 'What kind of a face have you? If it's a pretty and dashing one, I'll engage you.' An old or a homely girl doesn't stand any show whatever nowadays."

All unconscious of these remarks, Ida May passed on. The attendant threw open another door at the end of a large room, and she found herself in a luxuriously furnished office. A young and exceedingly handsome man sat at a desk writing. He glanced up[56] angrily at the sound of footsteps, and was about to make a sharp remark to the man, when he caught sight of the beautiful young creature he was ushering into his presence.

"Ah, sit down," he said, blandly; "I will attend to you in one moment."

The attendant had scarcely closed the door behind him ere the manager—for such he proved to be—turned quickly about and faced the young girl.

"What can I do for you?" he said in his blandest voice. He had taken in at first glance the wondrous beauty of the young girl. It was certainly the most exquisite face he had ever beheld, and a strange gleam leaped into his eyes. He told himself that, from her appearance, she had certainly come in search of a position. Ida May looked up into the dark, handsome face. Instinctively she shrunk from him, but could not tell why. Very timidly she stated her errand, the color on her face deepening, as she could not help but notice the ardent glance of admiration he bent upon her, and there was something in the bold glance of his eyes that made her feel extremely uncomfortable.

In a falteringly voice Ida stated her errand, and what experience she had had in her little village home. To her great delight and surprise, he answered quickly:

"I think I will be able to make a place for you. It would be a pity to send away such a pretty girl as you are."

Ida May drew back in alarm. She did not like the remark, nor the look which accompanied it; but she dared not make an indignant reply.


"Where are you stopping?" he asked in the next breath.

"I have just reached the city, sir," she responded. "I came in search of a position even before I found a place to stop."

"It is well you did so," he responded quickly. "I know of a place that I think will suit you. The lady has no other boarders. You would be company for her. I would make this observation here and now: the girls we have here are a talkative set. Pay no attention to their remarks."

He wrote an address on a slip of paper, and handed it to the girl.

"I am very grateful, sir, for the interest you have taken in me, a poor girl," she said, tremulously. "Shall I report to-day for work, sir?" she asked. "I should like to commence as soon as possible."

"To-morrow will do," he answered.

With a heart full of thanks, she left the office.

Frank Garrick, the manager, looked after her with a smile that was not pleasant to see.

"I have run across many a little beauty in my time," he muttered, gazing after her, "but surely never such an exquisite little beauty as this one."

The girls looked at one another, nodding grimly, when Ida May presented herself for duty the next day.

"Didn't I tell you how it would be?" sneered one of the girls. "Our handsome manager, Mr. Garrick, was captivated by the girl's beauty, as I knew he would be, and engaged her, although he refused to take on, only the day before, three girls whom I knew to be actually starving."


There was one girl who looked at Ida May with darkening eyes.

She bent over her task; but though the hours passed, the terrible look never left her face.

"Nannie is jealous," more than one girl whispered to her neighbor. "You see, she's head over heels in love with our manager. If he so much as looks at any other girl that passes along, she sulks for a week. What fun it would be to make her jealous. Oh, let's try, girls! Let's put up a job on her. It would be such fun!"

"Not for the new-comer!" laughed another girl.

"Nannie would make it pretty hot for her here."

Little dreaming of the tempest they were stirring up, the girls thoughtlessly planned their little joke. Their shouts of laughter would have been turned into tears of pity could they have beheld the harvest of woe that was to spring from it.

Nannie Rogers noticed that the beautiful new-comer was assigned to an instrument at a table almost directly opposite the private office. This inflamed the jealously of Nannie Rogers.

She noted how he watched her from the window of his office all the next day.

More than one girl called Nannie Rogers' attention to this at noon-hour.

"You will have to look to your laurels, Nan," more than one declared, banteringly. "You will find this Ida May a rival, I fear."

"Any girl had better be dead than attempt to be a rival of mine," she answered.

There came a time when the girls remembered that remark all too forcibly.

Ida May bent over her task, paying little attention[59] to anything around her. She was trying to forget her double sorrow, all that she had gone through, and the death of her poor mother that had followed.


Ida May had found no difficulty whatever in securing board at the place where Frank Garrick had suggested.

Mrs. Cole, who owned the cottage, told Ida that she was a widow.

"I have a little income that keeps me comfortable," she added; "but to accommodate my friend, Mr. Garrick, I will take you in."

"He is a friend of yours?" exclaimed the girl.

"Yes; I used to be in the telegraph office before I married," she responded. "In fact, my husband and Mr. Garrick were both paying attention to me at the same time. To be candid, I liked Mr. Garrick the better; but we had a little misunderstanding, and through pique I married his rival. I lost sight of him after that until my husband died. After I became a widow he called upon me several times."

She gave the impression to Ida that she expected a proposal from her old lover some time in the near future, but the girl paid little heed to the blushing widow. Her thoughts were elsewhere.

One evening, at the end of the second week, as Ida was hurrying homeward, she was startled by a step behind her.

"You seem to be in a hurry, Miss May," a voice said; and turning quickly around, she beheld the handsome manager, Mr. Garrick.


"I am in a hurry!" she assented. "I am a little late now, and Mrs. Cole does not like me to keep supper waiting."

"Never mind what she likes," he returned, impatiently. "Let us take a little walk, I have something to say to you, pretty one."

There was something in his eyes, his voice, that somehow startled her.

"Pardon me, but I do not care to walk," she said, simply, with the haughty air of a young princess.

"Don't put on airs," he said, harshly; "you are not very wise to try to snub a manager who has the power to turn you out of your position at any moment."

Ida grew frightfully pale.

"Come, let us take a little walk," he urged. "You're a very pretty girl, and I like you."

Ida May drew back with an exclamation of alarm.

"I refuse to walk with you!" she said.

"Don't make an enemy of me, Ida May!" he hissed between his teeth.

"If such a trifle will make an enemy, I would rather make an enemy than a friend of you!" she answered.

"Are you mad, girl, to defy me like this?" he cried, setting his white teeth together, his eyes fairly blazing.

"I have no wish to defy you! I can not see why my refusing to walk with you should offend you!"

"Come, be reasonable," he urged; "let us have a little quiet talk. I have called at your boarding-house half a dozen times since you have been there, but that idiotic fool, who is half in love with me herself, would not let me see you. I might have known how it would be: I'll look for another boarding-place at once for you."


The interest he took in her alarmed her.

"I am very well satisfied where I am, Mr. Garrick," she answered, with dignity. "I beg that you will not call upon me, for I do not care to receive gentlemen callers."

Again a rage that was terrible to see flashed into his eyes.

"You must see me!" he hissed. "It is not for you to be chooser. Don't you see I have taken a fancy to you," he said, throwing off all reserve. "You must be mine! I never really knew what love meant until I saw you!"

"Stop! Stop!" panted Ida May. "I will not listen to another word. You must not talk to me of love!"

"Yes, I loved you, Ida May, from the first time I saw you. There was something about you which thrilled my heart and caused me to wish that you should be mine, cost what it would!"

"I will not listen to another word!" said Ida May.

He laughed an insolent laugh that made the blood fairly boil in her veins.

"Come, we will go into this restaurant where we can talk at our leisure."

He had caught her by the arm. With a cry of terror the girl wrenched herself free from his grasp and fairly flew down the street, and she did not stop until she reached her boarding-house.

"Why, dear me, Miss May, one would think you were flying from a cyclone!" declared Mrs. Cole, who was just passing through the hall as she came in.

Gasping for breath, and scarcely able to keep from tears, Ida May told her all, believing that the woman would sympathize with her.


"Why, you are more of a prude than I thought you were," said Mrs. Cole.

Ida May drew back with dilated eyes.

"You, a woman, to tell me this! Why, I tell you he was insulting me!" cried the girl, vehemently.

Mrs. Cole laughed cynically.

"Nonsense!" she declared. "You might do worse than accept his attentions. He's over head and heels in love with you. I could have told you that a week ago."

"He is a bold, bad man!" cried Ida May. "And yet you would counsel me to encourage him wouldn't you?"

The elder woman shrugged her shoulders.

"Any one could easily see that you are a country girl," she said, with a harsh laugh that grated on the girl who listened with amazement.

With this parting shot the woman turned on her heel and left Ida May staring after her.

To Ida's intense anxiety, her landlady was unusually cool at the tea-table. She did not come up to Ida May's room that evening to chat, but announced that she had a headache, needed quiet, and would stay in her own room. Her presence during the long evenings had done much toward making the girl forget her sorrow, and she felt her absence keenly enough on this night when she had so much need of sympathy.

Feeling too restless to commune with her own thoughts, she concluded to read a book to fill in the time that hung so heavily on her hands.

Ida May descended to the sitting-room, where, she remembered, she had left the book on the table. She went down the carpeted stairs quietly, passing Mrs.[63] Cole's door with noiseless feet, that she might not disturb her.

As she stood before the door of the sitting-room, with her hand on the knob, she was suddenly attracted by the sound of voices from within, her own name falling distinctly upon her ears. She stood still with astonishment, for the voice that uttered her name was that of Frank Garrick.

Her first impulse was to turn quickly away; but the words that she heard him utter held her spell-bound.

Mr. Garrick was talking to Mrs. Cole in a low, excited voice, and what the girl heard filled her soul with wildest terror.

For a moment she stood irresolute; then her decision was made. As soon as the morning broke, she would leave that house.

She flew back to her room, her mind in a whirl, her brain dizzy with conflicting emotions. She sat down in a chair by the open window, and leaned her hot, flushed face in the palms of her hands. She was beginning to learn the lessons of the great, wicked world. How long she sat there she never knew.

She was planning about what she should do when the morrow came. Though she starved on the street, she would not go back to the telegraph office where Frank Garrick was; nor could she remain in the house that now sheltered her, where the woman who pretended to be her friend and counselor was deliberately plotting against her.

She had purchased a dress, cloak, and hat out of the money she had found in her pocket. This expenditure had reduced the little sum considerably; but she had been obliged to present a respectable appearance.


Where should she look for work in the great big city? While she was cogitating over the matter, Mrs. Cole appeared in the door-way with a glass of lemonade in her hand.

"I have brought you something very refreshing, Ida," she said. "It took away my headache, and it will make you enjoy a good night's sleep."

"Thank you, but I do not care for the lemonade," returned the girl, coldly.

Her first impulse had been to spring to her feet, and inform her that she had accidently overheard her conversation with Frank Garrick, and upbraid her for it in the bitterest of words. Then the thought occurred to her that discretion was the better part of valor—to say nothing, and leave the house quietly in the morning.

"But I insist upon your drinking the lemonade," declared the young widow.

Ida looked at her steadily, and something in the reproachful glance of the girl's eyes made her wince. The hand that held the glass shook in spite of her efforts at composure.

"It will induce an excellent night's sleep, my dear," said Mrs. Cole, smoothly. "Stir it up; you are letting all the sugar settle at the bottom."

"I do not care for it," repeated Ida, a trifle more haughtily.

"But as it is for your good, you must drink it!" repeated her companion. "I shall not leave the room until you do so."

At that moment Katie, the little maid of all work, entered the room with towels.


Passing near the back of her chair, she managed to whisper in her ear, unobserved by Mrs. Cole:

"Promise her to drink the lemonade if she will leave it on the table; but don't touch a drop of it. I'll tell you why later."

The remark was accompanied by a warning glance from the girl's eyes. Laying down the towels, Katie retreated to the door; but the warning look that she cast back at her aroused Ida May.

"Set the glass down, and I will drink the lemonade later on," she said, quietly.

"Do you promise me that you will?" said Mrs. Cole, with unusual interest.

"Yes," said Ida, hesitatingly. "Put it down on the table."

"I will come back in ten minutes," declared Mrs. Cole, "and if you have not drunk it by that time—well, I'll make you, that's all," she added, with a forced laugh, but meaning just what she said.

Ida May sat down when she found herself alone, wondering in amazement what Katie could have meant by her strange words. At that moment the girl glided into the room.


"Oh! do not touch it, my dear young lady!" cried Katie, rushing into the room and seizing the lemonade with hands that were trembling. "Listen, miss," she cried in an awful whisper. "They put something into it—the lemonade is drugged!"


Ida May looked at her with the utmost astonishment. She could scarcely understand her words.

"I saw them do it!" repeated the girl. "I heard him say, 'Put in enough, and it will make her sleep soundly.' It was a white powder he had brought with him," the maid went on, excitedly. "Oh, he makes such a dupe of my poor mistress! He has hypnotized her so that she is afraid to say that her soul is her own. I heard a great deal more that he said, but I can not tell you now. All I can do is to warn you. Go away from here as quickly as you can. They are enemies of yours, both of them."

The girl's words terrified Ida May. She recalled Frank Garrick's words as he walked along the street beside her.

"Take care! beware, girl! You had better not make an enemy of me! If you do, you will rue the hour! For I can make it very unpleasant for you. Ay, you will be sorry that you were ever born."

She had made an enemy of him, and now he was about to take some terrible revenge upon her. She did not have time to exchange another word with the maid, for she had fled from the room as quickly as she had entered it, and she was left alone with her conflicting thoughts.

The window was open, and she threw the contents of the glass out on the pavement below.

She had scarcely set it down, before Mrs. Cole glided into the room.

"Ah! you have drunk the lemonade. That's right!" she added in a triumphant tone. "But I won't sit down to talk to you to-night; you look sleepy. I would advise you to retire at once."


Ida looked at her steadily, remembering the startling words that Katie had whispered in her ears. Was this a woman or a fiend incarnate? Ida wondered.

Her footsteps had scarcely died away ere Ida took down a long dark cloak, and hurriedly donning it, together with her hat and veil, she gathered her effects together, and thrusting them into a hand-bag, stole silently as a shadow out into the darkened hall. As she passed the sitting-room door she heard the sound of voices.

Frank Garrick was still there.

In the shadow of the vestibule door she saw Katie waiting for her.

"Good-bye, and God bless you, Ida May!" she said, holding out her rough, toil-worn little hand.

"Good-bye, and thank you for the service you have rendered me," she answered, with deep feeling. "If we ever meet again, perhaps it may be in my power to repay you," added Ida, the tears standing out on her long lashes.

She little dreamed that the hour would come when she would be called upon to remember that promise.

Out of the house she stole, out into the darkness of the street.

At last, when faint and almost falling down from exhaustion, she ran directly into the arms of a blue coat who was leisurely passing a corner.

"Halloo there, my good girl!" he cried. "What are you doing out at this hour of the night?"

Trembling piteously, and all unnerved at this unexpected encounter, for a moment the girl was speechless.


"I am trying to find shelter until to-morrow morning, sir," she said. "Then I shall look for work."

But the officer would not parley with her. He grasped her by the arm, and was forcing the sobbing girl along, when he was suddenly confronted by a young man who was passing, and who had witnessed the affair.

"Officer," he said, sternly, "this is an outrage. Why do you not let that young girl go her way in peace? Why do you molest her?"

"It's my duty to run in every girl who walks the street at night, without a justifiable reason."

"Let me be responsible for this young woman," said the man. "I believe what she told you to be true—that she wants to find a place to stop until day-break, and then she will look for work."

The officer recognized the young man at once.

"If you will vouch for her," he said, "why, she can go her way, certainly."

"I think I'm a tolerably good judge of character," returned the young man, "and I see nothing in her face to mistrust. Take her to one of the missions near at hand. She can certainly stay there till morning."

The policeman made a low bow, and the young man passed on.

"You have interested one of the richest young men in New York in your behalf," said the policeman, after they had passed on.

Ida did not ask the name of her benefactor, though she felt deeply grateful for the kind service he had rendered her.

The matron of the home for friendless girls received the young girl with the kindliness that characterized her.


She assigned her a little cot, and, wretched and footsore, Ida May threw herself upon it and sobbed herself to sleep.

The matron looked at her as she passed through the long dormitory on her way to her room.

"She has a sweet face!" she muttered, as she turned away; "but one on which a tragedy is written."

Ida May was sitting in the reception-room when the matron passed through it the next morning, and she asked her if there was anything she could do for her.

"If you could only tell me, please, where I could find something to do," she answered. "I must find work, or—starve!"

"When do you wish to look for a situation?" asked the matron, noting how wan and pale the girl looked.

"This day, this very hour!" cried Ida May, eagerly.

The matron hesitated.

"I must first know what sort of employment you are seeking—what you are best suited for."

"I am suited for nothing," Ida answered, despondently. "But that must not deter me. If one did only the work one was fitted for, three-quarters of the world would be idle."

"Would you take a situation as governess if one could be found for you?"

She shook her head dejectedly.

"I have not education enough," she replied. "I did not have much opportunity of going to school when I was a little girl, and I am suffering for it now."

After a moment's pause the matron said, thoughtfully:

"Would you like to try dress-making?"

"That's another thing that I know nothing about,"[70] she said. "I was never taught to mend or sew. I always got out of it. Mother did it for me rather than scold me."

"Perhaps you would take a position as lady's-maid."

A gasp, a shiver passed over her. Quick as lightning there flashed before her mind the humiliation of three or four maids who had accompanied their mistresses to the Ocean Hotel, at Newport, and how Lily Ryder and Hildegarde Cramer had turned up their noses at them because they had pretty faces, and had dared to pin in a pretty ribbon or two in the lace caps they were forced to wear on all occasions.

"I am afraid I wouldn't be a success at that," she declared.

"I don't suppose you would like to be a house-maid," suggested the matron, looking at the small white hands that lay in the girl's lap—the blue-veined hands that were never designed to scour kettles or clean floors. "My dear child," said the matron, compassionately, "there is little else in a great city to do."

There was a pause—a pause broken presently by Ida May.

"Don't you think that if I could get into one of those large stores, I could try on cloaks and hats without requiring any great amount of knowledge of any kind?"

The matron looked doubtful.

"It is not as easy as you may imagine, my dear, to obtain admission into any of those large stores. They have any amount of girls on their books who are waiting eagerly for positions—persons with whom they are acquainted—and they would stand a better chance than a stranger. Besides, I hardly think a situation in a place of that kind would be suitable for one so young. We[71] will look over the paper and read the advertisements."

She touched a bell, and told the attendant who answered it to bring in the morning paper.

"You can look over it, my child," said the matron. "I will return in half an hour. By that time you will perhaps have found something that will suit you."

Left alone, Ida May commenced to look through the "Want" columns.

All through sixteen columns of the paper the girl's eyes eagerly ran. She did not find anything that she was competent to do, and tears of vexation rolled down her cheeks.

Suddenly her eyes rested upon an advertisement which she must have missed in her hurried examination of the column.

"Wanted.—A few more hands in a cotton-mill. No. — Canal Street. Applicants must apply between the hours of nine and ten, this A. M."

Little dreaming of what was to come of it, Ida May concluded that this was certainly the only position she could dare apply for.


The matron entered presently, and Ida May showed her the advertisement that had attracted her attention.

"It might be as well to try that," said the matron, encouragingly.

She looked after the girl as she went slowly down the steps, and shook her head sadly.

As usual, Ida May's lovely face attracted the envy[72] of all the girls in the mill. The foreman, as well as the clerks in the office, admired her, and that was enough to make the girls detest her.

Ida had secured lodgings in a boarding-house where a score of the girls stopped. She shared her room with Emily Downs, a very quiet little thing, who had been a general favorite with the girls up to this time.

Matters were going from bad to worse in the mill. The girls gathered together in little groups here and there, and looked darkly at Ida May. Even those who were wont to say "good-night" or "good-morning" passed her by without a word.

The comments of the jealous girls became louder and deeper as another fortnight dragged its slow lengths by. Whether Ida May heard or heeded them, they did not care to know. The beautiful face grew whiter still, and the large dark eyes became more pitiful in their pathetic terror.

The girls gathered together one noon hour, and held a long and excited conversation.

Ida and Emily Downs were eating their luncheon at the further end of the room, quite apart by themselves. Emily could see that something of an unusual order was transpiring, by the girl's fierce gesticulations and the angry glances that were cast upon her companion, who seemed oblivious to it all.

At length one of them called Emily to them. There was a whispered conversation, and looking mechanically across the table at that moment, Ida May saw Emily start back with a cry of horror.

"They are talking about me," thought Ida, crushing back a sob. "They want to turn the only friend I have from me."


She finished her simple luncheon in silence. It was scarcely concluded ere she noticed with wonder that the girls had formed a group and were marching over in her direction in a body. There were fully fifty of them, and Ida noticed with wonder that the face of every one of them was white, set, and stern.

"Ida May," said the ringleader, harshly, "we have something to say to you!"

"Yes," she answered, thinking that they had reconsidered the matter, and were going to ask her to join them.

For a moment the girl seemed at a loss to know what to say, but the angry murmurs of her companions in the rear nerved her to her task.

"After consultation, we have concluded that, as respectable girls, we can not remain in the mills another day if you are allowed to work here. You must leave at once, or we shall do so."

For an instant Ida May was fairly dazed. She scarcely believed that she had heard aright—surely her senses were playing her false. She sprung to her feet, and confronted the girls, who stood, with angered faces, looking at her.

"Surely you can not mean what you say!" she gasped. "What have I done that you should say this to me?"

The ringleader looked at her with withering scorn.

"We do not consider you a proper companion to mingle among us," returned the girl, stolidly. "We all work for our living in this cotton-mill, but if we are poor we are honest. Is that plain enough for you to understand? If not, I will add this"—and stepping up to the trembling girl's side, she whispered a few[74] sharp words in her ear—words that made Ida May recoil as though they had been thrusts of a knife that cut to her heart.

With a piteous cry she sunk on her knees, covering her death-white face with her trembling hands.

"It remains with you to deny or affirm our accusation," went on the girl, harshly "What have you to say to our charge, Ida May; is it true or false?"

There was no answer, save the heartrending sobs of the girl cowering before them in such abject misery—surely the most pitiful a human heart ever knew.

"You see she can not deny it," cried the ringleader, turning triumphantly to her companions. "I assured you all that I was certain before I advised this step. We may well look upon her with scorn; she is not worthy to breathe the same air with us!"

Ida May rose slowly to her feet.


Half fainting with grief and pain, Ida May rushed out into the street.

The sun was shining bright and warm, but it seemed to the girl that the whole earth was dark and gloomy.

Where should she go? Which way should she turn? She would not go back to the little lodging-house for her few belongings; she never wanted to see it again. Let them do what they would with her few belongings. The few dollars that were hers, she happened to have in the pocket of her dress.

"Royal!" she murmured, "I can not go to you in this hour of my deepest woe!"


She drew her veil down over her face, and the passers-by did not see the tears that rolled like rain down her white, despairing face. It mattered little to her which way she went.

Suddenly she heard the sound of a voice just ahead of her—a voice that sent a thrill to her heart.

"Heaven pity me!" she gasped; "it is Royal Ainsley!"

He was bidding good-bye to a companion on the corner.

The next moment he had boarded a street car. With a smothered cry, Ida May sprung after him. She must see him, she must speak to him!

The car was crowded. He was in the front of the car and she was at the rear. There was no way of speaking to him. She must ride in the car as far as he did, and when he alighted she must follow him. As she watched him with strained eyes, she saw him greet a young and lovely girl.

The sight made the blood turn cold in her veins: Light, airy, gay as of yore he was, all unconscious of the misery he had brought to a human heart. He had wrecked her life. How could he stand there smiling into the face of another girl?

Ida's heart swelled with bitter anguish.

She saw the young girl alight from the car at the corner of a fashionable street, and Royal Ainsley accompanied her. He took her arm and bent lovingly over her. She was some rich man's daughter. Ida May, who followed in their footsteps, was sure of that.

They entered a handsome brown-stone house midway up the street. The veiled, dark-robed little figure passed on, and stood at the end of the street until he[76] should reappear. Scores of pedestrians passed as the hours rolled on.

Up and down past the house she paced under cover of the darkness. As she paced slowly to the other end of the street, a coach stopped before the house she was so intently watching.

Before she could reach a place where she could get a full view, Royal Ainsley, with one or two others—she could not tell whether they were men or women—ran lightly down the steps and entered the vehicle, which rolled rapidly away.

"I have missed him!" sobbed Ida May. "God help me!"

On the morrow, Ida May was so ill that she could not leave the little room to which she had come for temporary shelter.

The woman who kept the place took a great interest in her.

But every night, as soon as dusk had fallen, Ida May took up her lonely vigil before the house Royal Ainsley had visited.

In her anxiety she did not notice that she had been observed from an upper window by the mistress of the mansion. One night she found herself suddenly confronted by that lady.

"What are you doing here?" she asked, grasping her by the shoulder. "Speak at once!"

For a moment Ida May was so taken aback that she could not utter a sound.

"Answer me at once, or I will have you arrested!" repeated the lady.

Ida May hung down her head.

"I must and will know!" cried the lady, pitilessly.[77] "Are you watching for the butler or any of the servants?"

The young girl lifted her head as proudly as any young queen might have done. She remembered those weeks at Newport, during which she had been considered the equal of the wealthiest girl there.

"No, madame!" she answered, sharply, "I was not waiting for any of your servants to appear, but for one of your guests."

The lady gave a little gasp; but in an instant she recovered herself.

"A guest!" she repeated. "Of whom are you speaking?"

"Mr. Royal Ainsley," replied Ida May, gasping the words out brokenly, the tears falling like rain down her face.

"Come inside," said the lady, drawing her hurriedly into the hall-way, lest she should create a scene. "Now," she said, standing before the girl with folded arms, "let me hear all about the matter. You must speak the truth, or I will certainly force it from you."

"It would illy become me to speak anything but the truth," responded Ida May. "Royal Ainsley comes here to see some beautiful young girl who lives in this house. But this must not be. He is mine—mine—by every tie that binds man to woman!"

"Surely he is not your—your—husband?" exclaimed the lady, excitedly.

"He—he should have been," sobbed Ida May, in a quivering voice. "It was all a mistake, a terrible mistake," she continued, wringing her hands.

The lady, who did not know her story, mistook her.

When she told her she started back in wonder.


Quick as thought she had decided upon her course of action.

"I wish to make an appointment with you," she said, "to talk over this matter. Can you come here to-morrow?"

"No," said Ida May. "I shall be too busy. I have some work from one of the stores, that will keep me engaged."

"Perhaps I can assist you so that it will not be necessary for you to work so hard. Still, if to-morrow is inconvenient, come in the evening."

She was about to add, "I pity you;" but there was something in the girl's face that forbid her pity.

The lady watched her curiously until she was out of sight. Then, with a sigh of relief, she walked slowly up the grand staircase to her boudoir.

A young and lovely girl was reclining on a couch, turning over the leaves of a photograph album.

"Well, did you find out what is the matter with the girl?" she asked.

"Yes," said the elder woman. "And you would never guess what it was."

"Pardon me; but I shall not even try," said the young girl, indolently, "for the simple reason that it would be too much of an effort for me."

"I will tell you," said the lady, drawing up a chair; "and I want you to pay the strictest attention, Florence St. John."

"The subject will not interest me, mamma," returned the young girl, turning over the leaves.

"But it will interest you," returned the other, "when I tell you that it concerns your new handsome lover."


She was quite right. The album fell to the floor with a crash.

"It appears," said Mrs. St. John, "that young Ainsley has got into some kind of an intrigue with a poor but very pretty shop-girl. I think she must be a shop-girl."

"I shall write to him at once never to cross this threshold again!" cried the young girl, indignantly.

"You will do nothing of the kind," replied her mother. "Sit down and listen to me. All young men are wild, and you must not take a man to task for what he has done before he knew you. Shut your eyes to it, and never bring it up to him. That's always safest. If he thinks you do know about his past life, he will be reckless, and think he doesn't need to care."

"About this girl, mamma—who is she?" she asked.

"A very pretty young creature," was the reply.


Faint and heart-sick, Ida May crept down the broad stone steps of the elegant mansion, and wended her way back to her humble lodgings. Just as she was about to touch the bell, a man ran hastily up the steps.

"Well, well, I declare!" he exclaimed, "I am at the wrong house. But in this confounded tenement row, one house is so like the other that one can not help making a mistake now and then."

With a gasp, Ida May reeled backward. At the very first word he had uttered, Ida May had recognized Royal Ainsley.


It was Frank Garrick, the manager of the telegraph office.

The sentence had scarcely left his lips ere he recognized her.

"Aha!" he cried, a fierce imprecation accompanying the words. "So it's you, Ida May?" he added, catching her fiercely by the cloak. "So I have found you at last!"

She was too frightened to reply.

"So this is where you are stopping, is it? Come, walk as far as the end of the street with me. I want to talk to you."

"No!" cried Ida May, struggling to free herself from his grasp. "I have nothing to say to you, nor will I listen to you!"

"We shall see about that presently," he cried. "Frank Garrick is not a man to be balked in this way by a little girl. You shall listen to me!"

Ida May reached out her hand quickly to touch the bell, but he anticipated the movement, and caught her arm roughly.

She tried to cry out, but no sound issued from her lips.

She had already gone through more than her overstrained nerves could bear. Without a cry or a moan, she sunk in a dead faint at his feet.

Gathering her up in his arms, Frank Garrick sprung quickly down the steps. For a moment he stood there with his helpless burden in his arms.

"This is quite an unexpected go," he muttered, standing there undecided for a moment. "I must leave her here a moment, that is certain, while I run for a man's voice."


He placed Ida on the the lower step, in a sitting position, and darted down the street in the direction of a cab-stand.

He did not see the open window of an adjoining house, because of the closed blind which protected it, nor the crouching form of the woman behind it, who had heard and witnessed all.

Like a flash she caught up her hat, which was lying on an adjacent table, and sprung out of the door.

"I knew he would come to see her at last!" she said, fairly hissing the words. "They have had a quarrel. That is why he has stayed away so long. He has gone after a cab to take her elsewhere. But I will block his little game!" cried Nannie Rogers—for it was she. "I shall take a terrible revenge upon him by striking him through her."

Taking a short cut to a nearer cab-stand, she hailed the first vehicle. The man sprung down from his box.

"Why, is that you, Nannie?" he cried, in unfeigned surprise.

"Yes, Joe," she answered, quickly. "I want your cab for a while."

In a few words she told him of a woman lying on the steps of the house next to her—a woman whom she wished to befriend.

"I want you to take her to a certain place. I will tell you about it when we start. Come quickly and help me to get her into your cab."

This was accomplished in less time than it takes to tell it.

"Where to, Nannie?" asked the driver, as he picked up the reins.


"Why in the world are you taking her there?" he exclaimed in dismay.

"Make no comments," she replied, angrily: "but drive on as fast as you can. I wouldn't take her there unless it was all right."

"Oh, of course," returned the driver. "I am not saying but that you know what you're doing. But she seems mighty quiet for that kind of a person."

They had scarcely turned the first corner ere Frank Garrick drove up in a cab.

"By thunder! she has vanished!" he exclaimed, excitedly, looking in astonishment at the spot where he had left her a short time before. "She must have fled into the house," he muttered. "Well, cabby, here's your fee, anyhow. You may as well go back."

For some moments Frank Garrick stood quite still and looked up at the house.

"Of all places in the world, who would have expected to find her here—next door to Nannie. It's certain that Nannie does not know of it. She could not keep it if she did. Well, this is a pretty howdy-do—two rivals living next door to each other. Nannie is expecting me to call on her this evening. If it were not for that, I wouldn't show up at all, I'm so upset by that little beauty, Ida May."

Very slowly he walked up the steps of the adjoining house and pulled the bell. To his great surprise, he learned that Nannie was out.

"She will be sure to be back presently," added the girl who answered the bell. "Won't you come in and wait?"

"No," he answered, glad of the excuse. "I'll run in some evening during the week."


With that he turned on his heel and walked rapidly away.

Meanwhile, the carriage bearing Nannie Rogers and the still unconscious Ida May rolled quickly onward, and stopped at length before a red-brick building on the outskirts of the city.

Ida May's swoon lasted so long that even Nannie grew frightened.

"Wait," she said to the driver, "I will have to step in first and see if they will receive her."

After fully five minutes had elapsed, the door opened and a tall man looked out.

"It is I, doctor," said Nannie Rogers. "May I step inside? I want to speak to you. I have a patient waiting outside the gate."

"Dear me! is it really you? You come at rather a late hour. Still, you know you are a priviliged person here."

"I ought to be, since I have learned so many secrets about the place and yourself," she said, "when I was nurse here."

"Didn't I give you five hundred dollars to insure secrecy when you left here?"

"Well, I kept my promise. I never told anything, did I?"

"Let me understand what you want," he said, abruptly. "Did I understand you to say that there was a patient outside?"

The girl nodded.

"It does not matter who or what she is," she said, tersely. "It is the desire of her friends that she be kept here for a few months. I suppose you are anxious to know about the pay?"


"Of course. That's where my interest comes in," he said.

"Well, I will be responsible for it," she said.

"You?" he said, amazedly.

"Yes; why not?" she returned.

He looked at her with something like doubt.

"You dare not refuse to accept her!" she declared.

"Do you mean that for a threat?" he exclaimed, fiercely.

She shrugged her shoulders.

"I can not be held accountable for the way in which you take my assertion," she declared.

The frown deepened on the man's face.

"For convenience's sake, we will say that the girl is an opium-eater, and that is why you are keeping her under such strict surveillance."

The man muttered some strange, unintelligible remark.

"I suppose the cabman will help me in with the girl?" he said, harshly.

"Of course," replied Nannie Rogers, impatiently.

The girl's figure was so light that "the doctor," as he termed himself, found little difficulty in bringing her into the house without aid.

Nannie Rogers stood in the hall-way, and followed him into the reception room, where he laid the girl down upon a rude couch. She watched him as he threw back her long dark veil, and cried out in wonder at the marvelous beauty of the still white face—the face so like chiseled marble.

"How young and how very lovely!" he remarked; and as he spoke, he unfolded the long dark cloak that enveloped her.


A sharp exclamation broke from his lips, and he turned around suddenly.

"Nannie Rogers!" he said.

But the look of astonishment that he saw on her face was as great as his own bore. Nannie Rogers' look of astonishment quickly gave way to one of the most intense hatred; ay, a very demon of rage seemed to have taken possession of her.

"I wonder that you brought her here," said the doctor.

But Nannie Rogers was speechless. She was gazing like one turned to stone upon the face of the girl whom she believed to be her rival.

"I have a double reason for hating her now," she said, under her breath, clinching her hands so tightly that her nails cut deep into her palms. But she did not even feel the pain.

"I say, I wonder that you brought her here," repeated the doctor.

"I knew of no better place," she replied, turning her eyes uneasily away from him. "You must not refuse to receive her."

"Who is she?" he asked.

"I refuse to answer your question," she replied, grimly. "You know only this about her: She is a confirmed opium-eater. One who is very much interested in her brought her here to be treated by you. She is to be kept here, under strict watch, to prevent her getting away. If she writes any letters they are to be forwarded to me."

And thus it happened that when Ida May opened her troubled eyes, after the doctor and an attendant had worked over her for upward of an hour, she found[86] herself in a strange room, with strange faces bending over her. She looked blankly up at them.

"The waves are very high," she moaned. "Come back on the beach, girls," she murmured.

"She is out of her head," exclaimed the doctor, turning nervously to his attendant. "I ought not to have taken this girl in," he continued, in alarm. "I fear we shall have no end of trouble with her. This looks like a long and lingering illness."

"She is so young, and as fair as a flower," murmured the attendant, bending over her. "I feel very sorry for her. If a fever should happen to set in, do you think it would prove fatal to her?" she asked, eagerly.

"In nine cases out of ten—yes," he replied, brusquely.

At the very hour that this conversation was taking place, Royal Ainsley, the scape-grace, was ascending the brown-stone steps of the St. John mansion.

"I will take beautiful Florence and her stately mamma to the ball to-night," he mused, under his breath. "Before we return, I will have proposed to the haughty beauty. Trust me for that. They think I am the heir of my uncle, wealthy old Royal Ainsley, who died recently, and—curse him!—left all his wealth to my gentlemanly cousin, even making him change his name to that of Eugene Mallard, that the outside world might not confound it with mine. Yes, I will marry beautiful Florence St. John, and live a life of luxury!"

In that moment there rose before his mental vision the sweet sad face of beautiful Ida May, the fair young girl whom he had wronged so cruelly and then deserted so heartlessly.



The servant who answered the bell at that moment, put a stop to Royal Ainsley's musings.

He had only a few moments to wait in the drawing-room before Miss St. John appeared.

She looked so lovely in her beautiful ball-dress that his eyes glowed and his heart beat. Before he had an opportunity to utter the words that were on his lips, the young girl's mother entered the drawing-room.

She was so gay and bright with him, that the mother wondered vaguely if she had forgotten the story which she had told concerning him.

The warning glance which she gave her daughter reminded her that she must act decorously.

The girl was very much in love, and it was easy enough for her to forgive him for having had another sweetheart.

He accompanied mother and daughter to the grand ball. He was so gay and so brilliant and so witty, that he charmed the beautiful Miss St. John more than ever, and he knew by her smiles that his efforts were not in vain.

Ainsley was the very poetry of motion. It was a dream of delight to Florence St. John, as they made the round of the magnificent ball-room, with his arms clasped about her, his handsome face so near her own.

"Come into the conservatory, Florence," he whispered; "I have something to tell you."

How strange it was the scene and the occasion did not cause him to remember that other scene and that[88] other girl whom he had once brought into the conservatory to listen to words of burning love!

"Florence," he whispered, "I have something to tell you. Will you listen to me?"

"Yes," she said, her heart beating furiously, for, woman-like, she knew what was coming. The lovely color on her cheeks deepened, the girl's blue eyes grew luminous and tender.

"Florence," he cried, "how shall I tell you what I have to say? Oh, Florence, let me tell it quickly, lest my courage fail! I love you, dear—love you as I have never loved any one in my life before!"

Looking into the dark, handsome face of the young man before her, Florence St. John saw that she was in the presence of a mighty passion—a great love.

In an instant he was kneeling by her side, his whole soul in his eyes and on his lips. It was the very first time in his life that Royal Ainsley's heart was ever stirred with love.

If Florence St. John had even been poor, he would have cared for her. He started in first by wanting the girl for her money; it ended by his wanting her for herself.

He caught the little hand in his that was carrying the beautiful bouquet of roses he had sent her, and held it tightly.

"Thank Heaven!" he said, "the time has come at last, my beautiful love, for which I have waited so long. Surely you know what I have to tell you, Florence!" he said, drawing back and looking at her.

"I haven't the least idea," declared the girl, in whom the spirit of coquetry was strong. "Really, I do not understand."


"There needs be no understanding, my beautiful love!" he cried. "None! I have come to tell you in words what I have already told you a hundred times in a hundred different ways—I love you with all my heart! I love you! I know no other words. There is none which can tell how dearly or how much all my heart, my soul, my life goes out in those few words—I love you!"

His voice died away in a whisper.

"I have a true and serious friendship for you, Mr. Ainsley," she answered, coyly; "but I—I have never thought of such a thing as love or marriage."

"Will you think of it now?" he answered, eagerly.

He loved her all the more for this sweet, womanly, modest hesitation.

She arose from the seat near the fountain where he had placed her.

"Well, let it rest in that way," she answered. "I'll refer the subject to mamma; but you are not to say one word of love to me, nor speak to her about the matter for at least two months."

"Florence, you are cruel," he cried, "to keep me so long in suspense. Tell me, at least, that if your mother favors my suit, I may hope that you are not indifferent to me."

But she would not answer him. Her heart beat high, the fever of love throbbed in her veins; but, like all well-bred young girls, she had been schooled by early training to make no sign of preference for any man at his first avowal of affection. As he led her from the conservatory, past the fountain, the fragrant water-lilies, past the green palms and the flowering orchids, he gave a terrible start.

In that moment there came to him the memory of Ida May. He was annoyed by the very thought of her in that hour, and he quickly put it from him.

When they returned to the ball-room, Florence was as sweet as ever; but neither by word or by sign did she betray any rememberance of the scene which had just occurred in the conservatory.


He left Florence and her mother at the door of their home an hour later, but he did not have the opportunity of holding the little white hand in his for one moment, or of holding even a word of conversation with her.

"Well," said Mrs. St. John, when she and her daughter found themselves alone for a moment, "I saw him take you to the conservatory. You were gone a long time. Did he propose?"

"Yes!" returned the girl, languidly.

"Yes!" echoed Mrs. St. John. "Why, how can you take it so calmly, my Florence? You accepted him, of course?"

"No," returned the girl, calmly. "I said that I would like to have two months to consider the matter before the subject was broached to you."

"You are mad, Florence!" cried her mother. "A wealthy young man like that is not captured every day."

"We are not so poor, mamma, that I should make a god of wealth," said the girl.

"Oh, certainly not," said her mother; "but I have always been afraid you would be sought after by some fortune-hunter."


"I am sorry," said Mrs. St. John, after a moment's pause, "that you have refused to consider his suit for at least two months. Eligible young men are not so plentiful nowadays that a young girl can be so independent."

"I need not ask you what your opinion of an eligible young man is," said the young girl, throwing back her head haughtily, "for I know you would answer—a large bank account. But in my opinion that does not constitute all, where the happiness of a life-time is at stake. I would rather marry a man whose reputation[91] was spotless, if he did not have a second coat to his back. There is something more than money in this world to make our happiness. I am glad instead of sorry that I refused to give him an answer for two months. I shall demand to know who the young girl is who came to our door, and what she is to him."

"Then you will be doing a very unwise thing," declared her mother, emphatically. "Let well enough alone. I told the girl to call around to-morrow night, and when she comes I will have a talk with her."

"Will you permit me to be present at the interview, mamma?"

"By no means!" exclaimed Mrs. St. John, with asperity. "The story that no doubt will be unfolded to me is not for ears such as yours. I will tell as much to you as I deem necessary for you to know; let that suffice."

But the young beauty and heiress was not to be appeased. She made up her mind to see the girl at all hazards when she should come; but much to the surprise of both mother and daughter, the girl did not put in an appearance.

That day passed, as did also the next and the next. A week went by and lengthened into a fortnight, and still the girl came not.

"You see, my dear, her statement was false!" cried Mrs. St. John, triumphantly. "She feared that we would investigate her story, and she was no doubt a fraud. If you believe all those strange stories you hear, you will have enough to do. She was no doubt looking for hush-money, and when I did not offer to give it to her, you see she did not return."

This seemed quite the truth, as Florence saw it.

How wrong it had been to even suspect him! She made up her mind that if he should broach the subject before the time she had named, she might not refuse his pleading.

She was expecting him that very evening. He came at last, looking so handsome, so buoyant, that the girl's[92] heart went out to him at once, as the hearts of so many women had done.

He brought her some beautiful violets, and he knew he had as good as won her when he saw her fasten them in the bodice of her dress.

Florence St. John was sitting in a velvet arm-chair but a short distance away. Her beautiful face was softened, more so than he had ever seen it before, the smile on her lips was sweeter—the proud, half-defiant, flashing loveliness seemed all at once to grow gentle.

He no longer seemed quite sure of her. It was Florence St. John's silence that alarmed him, perhaps.

"I wish," he cried, "that I knew in what words and in what fashion other men make love."

"Does not your own heart teach you?" asked the young girl, suddenly.

His face flushed at the question.

"Yes," he answered; "but I am not sure that the teachings are of the right kind. You have not answered me, and it must be my fault, either because I have not expressed myself properly or that I have not made myself understood. Florence, I want you—with my whole heart I ask you—I want you to become my wife."

"Am I the first person you have ever told this to?" she asked, slowly, looking him in the face.

Almost every girl he had ever made love to had asked him the same question, and he was not abashed by it.

The ever-ready answer was on his lips instantly.

"How could you ever believe that I had spoken one word of love to any one but yourself," he said, reproachfully. "No other face has ever had the slightest attraction for me. The men of my race have but one love in a life-time. I have never loved before I met you. I shall love you until I die. Are you answered?"

He looked straight into her face as he uttered the falsehood.

There did sweep across his mind, as he uttered the falsehood, the memory of Ida May; but he put it from him quickly.


How strange it was that her memory should always haunt him, try hard as he would to banish it!

"You are quite sure that you never loved any girl but me?" she repeated.

"Quite sure," he responded. "To doubt me causes me great pain, Florence."

"Then forget that I asked the question," she said, sweetly, believing in him implicitly.

"And you will be mine?" he whispered, holding the little hand closer.

"Yes," she answered, solemnly.

He caught her in his arms in a transport of delight.

"Thank you—thank you for those words, Ida!" he cried.

"Did I understand you to call me Ida?" she asked in wonder.

"No," he answered, boldly, cursing himself for the slip of the tongue. "I was about to add: 'I do so thank you,' but you did not give me an opportunity to finish the sentence."

The falsehood was so adroitly told that she believed him.

"I shall have to put a curb on my tongue, or Heaven knows what name I shall be saying next."

Should she tell him of the young girl who was at the door waiting to see him? She remembered her mother's words the next moment, to say nothing of the matter.

"Now that you have been so good as to consent to marry me, we are to consider ourselves engaged. The question is, when will you marry me? It may as well be soon as late."

"Oh, I really don't know about that now," she declared.

"Make me happy by saying that it will be as soon as possible," he urged.

There was no denying anything he asked in that winsome voice.

"I promise," she repeated, after another pause.

He caught her in his arms and strained her to his bosom.


"You have made me the happiest man in the whole wide world, Florence!" he cried, rapturously.

Suddenly his arms fell from her and he reeled backward, staring at the window with widely dilated eyes.

"What is the matter, Royal? Are you ill?" cried Florence, in the greatest terror.

"Some one passed along the porch just outside the window," he panted—"a woman hurrying toward the vestibule door. She will ring the bell in a moment!" he gasped.

At that instant there was a heavy peal at the front door bell.


"Florence," repeated Royal Ainsley, his face white as death, his teeth chattering, "order the servants not to answer the bell!"

But it was too late; the door had already swung back on its hinges. An instant later the servant appeared with a card.

"A gentleman, miss," he said. "I told him you were not at home, as you requested."

Florence St. John held the card in her white fingers.

"You see, it was not a lady," she said, half amused at his agitation.

He drew a breath of intense relief.

"Pardon me, Florence," he said. "I—I—thought it was one of your girl friends who was about to share your attention with me. I gave way to my annoyance. Be kind, and forget it. Remember the old adage: 'One finds much to pardon in a man who is in love.'"

His explanation of the matter satisfied her. Very young girls are never suspicious. The remembrance of that one evening always stood out bright and clear in Florence St. John's life. She gave herself up to happiness, and when Royal urged her to name an early day, she laughingly consented.


"All the ladies in our family have been married in April," she declared.

"That is almost four months from now, my darling," he groaned. "Do not ask me to wait so long. So much might take place within that time!"

He was about to add "to part us," but stopped himself just in time.

"A lady has to have a trousseau prepared," she said, archly. "And when you put yourself in the hands of these modistes, you are at their mercy; they will not be hurried. Mamma, I am sure, would not consent to an earlier marriage than that. I hope that I may persuade her to do so."

"You will allow me to persuade her differently, if I can?" he asked, eagerly.

"Yes, if you can," she answered.

"I will try to settle it before I leave the house this very night," he declared. "Ah, here comes your mother now! If you will make some kind of an excuse to absent yourself from the room, my darling, for a few moments, I will urge my suit so eloquently that she will find it difficult to say 'no' to me."

Mrs. St. John greeted the young man pleasantly as she entered. She was too thoroughly a woman of the world to greet him effusively, knowing, had she done so, it would be sure to make him too confident of success.

Royal Ainsley laid himself out to please the mother as he had never attempted to please an elderly woman before.

"You asked me to play over a new piece of music for you when you came. If you will please excuse me for a moment, I will get it," said Florence, glancing up shyly at him with laughing eyes, as much as to say, "I am going to give you a chance for the longed-for interview with mamma"—a look which Royal Ainsley answered with a nod. Florence had scarcely reached the upper landing ere Royal Ainsley left his seat, and walked eagerly over to Mrs. St. John's side.

"My dear lady," he began, dropping into a seat opposite[96] her, "I want to tell you a little story and hear your opinion about it."

Mrs. St. John was wise enough to know what was coming, but she did not betray more than the usual interest.

"It is the story of a young man who wished to possess a treasure which belonged to another. He yearned for it with all his soul.

"My dear lady, not to beat further round the bush, let me say I am the young man who wishes to possess the treasure which you hold as sacred. That treasure is your beautiful daughter Florence, my dear lady. I love her with all my heart. I want your consent to make her my wife."

"Dear, dear me!" exclaimed Mrs. St. John, apparently greatly frustrated. "I hope you have not spoken a word of this to the dear child."

"Yes, I have, and we have both determined to abide by your decision, as to how long we shall have to wait, though we both hope you will set as early a day as possible."

"Remember that my Florence is only a school-girl yet," declared the mother. "I could not think of parting from her yet."

"Dear, dear lady!" cried Royal Ainsley, "do not doom me to such pitiful suspense, I beg of you! There are some men who could wait with much patience, but I am not one of them. I should have to go away and travel incessantly."

This was exactly what Mrs. St. John did not wish to happen. The gilded youth before her was too good a catch in the matrimonial market to lose.

Every mother is always glad to have her daughter make a good match. She was no exception to the rule.

And when she read in the paper, a few months later, of that uncle's death, and that he had left his vast wealth to his nephew, Royal Ainsley, she was determined that no effort should be spared to make him fall in love with her daughter.

He grew eloquent in his pleading. Ere ten minutes[97] more had elapsed, he had drawn from Mrs. St. John's lips the promise that the wedding should take place in four months' time at the very latest.

He made up his mind to accept this decision for the present, but he would certainly depend upon his own eloquence and persuasive powers in the near future to overcome her scruples and influence her to name an earlier day.

He left the house that night buoyant of spirits and gay of heart. It was strange that in that hour he thought of Ida May.


We must now return to Ida May, dear reader, and the thrilling experiences the poor girl was passing through in the lonely stone house on the river-road.

Owing to the drug which was being constantly administered to her, from the hour she crossed the threshold Ida knew little or nothing of what was going on in the outside world.

The days lengthened into weeks, and the weeks into months.

Her remittances came regularly; still, the "doctor" of the sanitarium was heartily sick of his bargain. He dared not refuse Nannie Rogers' request to keep her there, for reasons which would put him behind the prison bars had they reached the ears of the authorities.

When he saw the girl grow whiter and more fragile with each passing day, his alarm increased.

In this horrible place Ida May wore out four long and weary months of her young life.

They had long since ceased giving her the drug. It was unnecessary now to waste any more of it upon her.

When Ida May's mind slowly cleared, and a realization of what was going on about her came to her, she looked in the greatest astonishment at the strange[98] apartment and the grim-faced woman who was bringing food to her.

"Where am I, and who are you?" she asked. "Oh, I remember! I swooned on the steps of the boarding-house. Did he have me brought here?"

"Yes," retorted the doctor's sister, thinking that the better way of stopping all questioning.

A bitter cry of horror rose to Ida May's lips.

"Then I must go away from here at once!" she declared, attempting to gain her feet.

But she was so weak that she staggered and would have fallen had not the woman sprung forward and saved her.

"Don't go on in that way," said the woman, brusquely. "You are to remain here until you are—well. It won't be over a fortnight longer. You've been here some time."

"But I will not remain here!" exclaimed Ida May, excitedly. "I shall leave at once!"

The woman turned the key in the lock, coolly removed it, and slipping it into her pocket, remarked:

"This is a sanitarium. It is not for patients to say when they shall leave here. That is the doctor's business."

"But tell me, why does any one wish to keep me here?" cried Ida May, piteously. "No one in the whole world has any interest in me."

"I am surprised to hear you say that," declared the woman, grimly, with something very much like a sneer in her harsh voice.

The words, the tone in which they were uttered, and the look which accompanied them, cut the poor girl to the heart.

"Let me tell you about the man who brought me here," cried Ida, trembling like a leaf, believing it must certainly be her sworn enemy, Frank Garrick, who had taken cruelly taken advantage of her to abduct her when she swooned on the boarding-house stoop.

"I have no time to listen to you," exclaimed the[99] woman. "We are strictly forbidden to talk to the patients or listen to their tales of woe, which are always woven out of whole cloth."

"You are a woman like myself," cried Ida May, sobbing bitterly. "Surely you can not find it in your heart to turn a deaf ear to me, for pity's sake, if for nothing else."

But the woman was inexorable, and said:

"I tell you, I don't want to hear what you have got to say—and I won't, that's all about it. If you make any fuss, you will be put on a diet of bread and water."

"But answer me this one question," said Ida May, in terror. "What reason has any one in keeping me here against my will?"

The woman shrugged her shoulders.

"There may be plenty of reasons," she retorted, sharply. "Perhaps you are a wife that some man wants to be rid of. Then, again, perhaps you are no wife—a better reason still for some young man wishing to get you safely out of his path just now. A father or a brother may have brought you here to save the family honor. I could go on with any amount of practical reasons."

"Have I not told you that I am all alone in the world?" panted the poor girl, clinging to her with death-cold hands.

"Yes; but I have good reason to think otherwise," replied the woman, bluntly. "There's no use in your making a fuss," continued the woman, harshly. "You may have to put in a long time beneath this roof."


Long hours after the woman left the room, Ida May sat by the window looking out into the darkness, and trying to fathom what seemed to her the greatest kind of a mystery.

Why should Frank Garrick take interest enough in[100] her to have her brought here and to pay money for having her retained here? What interest could he have in her?

He had vowed a terrible vengeance upon her when she repulsed his offer of love. But why should his vengeance have taken this form? What benefit could it be to him to shut her in from the world?

As Ida sat there in the waning light, her eyes fell upon a piece of newspaper in the open fire-place.

"I will wrap up my few belongings in that," she muttered, "and then set about making my way out of this place."

As she smoothed out the half sheet, a few lines midway down one of the columns held her spell-bound as they caught her eye.

For a moment she stared at the words. They seemed to fairly turn the heart in her bosom to stone, for they read as follows:

"The engagement is announced of Miss Florence St. John, of No. —, Fifth Avenue, daughter of Mrs. J. St. John, to Mr. Royal Ainsley, of New York. The wedding will take place at Peekskill, on the Hudson, a month from date."

As she read it, the room seemed to whirl around her. With a cry so piteous that it seemed it must reach God's ear, the poor girl sunk on her knees.

Her husband about to marry another!

No matter what the world might say, she had married him in good faith. He was hers; he belonged to her before Heaven and all the world.

She wrung her hands wildly.

"The marriage must not take place! I must save the man I love from himself and the anger of the watching angels!" she cried.

She prayed wildly that she might not be too late.

Her hat and cloak were hanging on a peg near the door. She took them down, and her hands trembled so that she could hardly put them on. Her knees trembled, and she felt faint. But she summoned all her[101] strength, and reached the door and turned the knob. But it was locked on the outside.

Her weak hands were powerless to force the door. She crept back to the window and threw open the sash. All that she could behold was a dense mass of trees.

A sturdy oak grew close to the window, its great branches spread out invitingly before her. It was a desperate chance to take in order to reach the ground, which was fully thirty feet below.

Would her strength give way? Dare she take the terrible risk?

"I must! I must!" she cried. "Heaven will protect me!"

Without stopping to debate the matter further, lest she should lose courage, the poor girl climbed with difficulty out on the broad sill and grasped one of the boughs.

Would it bear her weight?

The great bough creaked with its unaccustomed weight, slight as it was, then shot downward.

In the old days at home Ida May had been accustomed to climb trees and to swing about in their branches. She realized that when the bough bent its entire length earthward she must let go her hold, or it would carry her quickly up again. She let go her hold when she felt that the bough of the tree had bent to its utmost. Quickly she fell downward, and Ida May, stunned and helpless for a moment, found herself lying in the long green grass.

She had scarcely fallen three feet, yet the shock had stunned her.

She knew that she must be on some country road. Afar in the distance she could distinctly see rows of glimmering lights. Those she knew must be the lights of the city. She must reach it and find the house on Fifth Avenue before she dared give herself a moment's rest.

She reached the outskirts of the city at last, and crept on toward its great throbbing heart.


Like one in a dream, Ida May saw a tall, thin woman and a young girl, who appeared to be her maid, step from a carriage.

She tried to get out of their way, but if her very life had depended upon it, she could not have done so. The tall woman and Ida May jostled against each other.

With a sharp exclamation of anger, the lady turned upon her. But at that moment Ida reeled, and, with a piteous moan, fell senseless at her feet.

"Well, well! here's a pretty howdy-do!" exclaimed the tall, angular woman. "Here, John!" she called to the footman, who was just shutting the door of the vehicle, "pick up this poor creature, and carry her into the house. It appears I have knocked her down. I hope no bones are broken."

The house into which Ida May was carried was a very small cottage, occupied by a poor laborer and his wife, who were the parents of a little one who was ill but was slowly convalescing.

The wealthy spinster and her maid often called to bring some fruit or medicine to the child.

Miss Fernly was not fair to look upon, but she had a heart of gold. She was quite eccentric; but her purse was always open to the wants of the needy.

"Leave the room instantly," she said to her maid. "Run out and tell the coachman to go for the nearest doctor, and to fetch him back with him at once!"

It seemed an age until the doctor arrived. Everything in human power was done to render the sufferer comfortable.

It was early morn when the doctor departed—and there had come into this great world of sorrow a dark-eyed little stranger—a tiny little one, with a lovely face like its mother's.

"Will it live?" cried the young mother, as she listened breathlessly to its faint little wails.

"I am afraid not," replied the doctor pityingly. "We can only hope."

"Oh, if it would only die—only die!" sobbed the girl's mother. "The world is so cold and so dark!"


Miss Fernly drew back, shocked and pained.

"You must not wish for anything like that to happen," she said, "for God might take you at your word."

For ten long and weary days the hapless young mother lay with her face to the wall, crying out to Heaven to take her and her baby from this cruel world.

In great fear, the doctor had taken charge of the little one, and conveyed it to a near-by foundling asylum. Its presence seemed to irritate the hapless young mother, who was already in a high fever.

Miss Fernly called every day at the cottage, to see how her latest charge was progressing.

She had taken a strange interest in the girl whose identity seemed shrouded in such profound mystery.


The beautiful girl lying so ill under Miss Fernly's care grew steadily worse. Her constant cry for the little one was most pitiful to hear.

"How are we to let her know that it is slowly fading away?" said the woman to the doctor.

"We will not let her know until the last moment; it would do her no good, and be only a setback for her," he responded.

Miss Fernly pitied the young mother from the very depths of her heart. It made this spinster more than ever enraged at men. She had tried to gain the girl's confidence. But it had all been in vain. Ida would lie for hours, looking out of the window at the fleecy clouds, muttering piteously:

"It must have taken place by this time! Oh! I am too late, too late!"

At last Miss Fernly's curiosity got the better of her.

"Will you tell me what you mean by those words, my dear?" she asked, one day. "Perhaps I can help you in some way."


"No," returned Ida May, wearily. "It would be useless, useless."

Miss Fernly took the little white hand in her own and pressed it gently.

"Do not say that, my dear, and in that tone; it is not right. Heaven is always kind enough to send a friend to those who are in need of help."

"You are right," said the girl, quickly. "In my life I have been used to cruelty and unkindness. I—I—"

She stopped for a moment, and something like a flush crossed her pale cheeks; then she burst into tears.

"I will tell you my story, my good lady," she sobbed; "for the weight of it is eating my soul away."

With her throbbing little hands still held tightly in Miss Fernly's, she sobbed wretchedly:

"Surely it is the cruelest story that ever a young girl had to tell. I might have led a happy life if I had not been foolish enough to want to be a fine lady. I had often read of such things happening, and oh! I believed it. Cinderella was changed from a kitchen-maid to a fairy princess, and oh! how happy she was, if but for a brief hour.

"It seemed to me that an opportunity always came for those who watched for it. One came to me. A wealthy family took me with them to Newport for the summer, and there I met a young man fair of face, handsome as a dream. I had never before seen any one like him. You will not wonder that my heart went out to him. I had known him but a few short weeks ere he asked me to marry him, counseling a secret marriage, and I—I consented. It was not a regular minister who married us, but a—a—mayor, or somebody like that.

"My husband brought me to the city. We had barely reached here, after an all-night's journey, when I learned to my horror that he believed me to be the heiress of the wealthy people with whom I had been stopping. When I told him I was not, what a change there came over him! With a face as white as it would ever be in death, he drew back and looked at me.


"'Not an heiress?' he cried. 'Great heavens! what an eternal fool I have made of myself!'

"He left my presence quickly, telling me that it was all a mistake—that the man who had married us had not the power to do so; that it was just as well, perhaps, for he never could wed a poor girl.

"He advised me to go home and forget him, adding insult to injury by concluding with the cruel words; 'Such a little incident in the life of a working-girl will not amount to anything.'"

"The scoundrel of a man!" cried Miss Fernly, in intense indignation. "I wonder that a righteous God lets such men live!"

She found herself intensely interested in the story of this beautiful young girl, whose innocent face she could not help but trust from the first moment that she beheld it.

At first it had occurred to Miss Fernly to ask the name of the rascal, her husband; then she told herself that in all probability it was a false one, and that he could not be traced by it.

"I will think the matter over," said Miss Fernly, "and conclude what action you should take. For your child's sake, you can not allow this man to go free. You would be committing a crime against society at large."

Just at that moment the doctor entered the room. He motioned Miss Fernly to one side. By some strange intuition, Ida May guessed the import of his visit.

"My—my little one!" she cried, inquiringly—"tell me of her! How is she?"

For a moment the doctor was silent.

"I may as well tell the truth now as tell it at some future time," he thought, pityingly.

"Tell me what news do you bring of my little child?" cried Ida.

He crossed over to where the hapless young girl sat, and bent over her pityingly.

"The little one is dead!" he said in a low, hushed voice.

It was dying when he left the foundling asylum. As[106] he gazed upon it, he said to himself that it would be but a question of a few short hours. He turned away from it, leaving it in the care of the good nurses, that he might go and gently break the sad news to the young mother.

While Miss Fernly and the hapless young mother were discussing the flowers they would plant over baby's grave, the nurses, with bated breath, were standing around the little cot. Another physician sat by the cot, holding the waxen wrist.

"Quick! hand me the cordial!" he cried. "I may be able to save this little life!"

A small vial was hurriedly handed to him. He poured a few drops between the white lips, and sat down again, patiently awaiting the result.

"If the infant lives five minutes, it will be able to pull through," he observed, quietly.

They watched the great clock on the opposite wall, whose pendulum swung noiselessly to and fro. One minute, two; there was no change. A third; the doctor bent his ear to listen for the feeble breathing, holding a mirror close to the child's lips. There was moisture upon it as he drew it away. Another moment, the crucial moment, was reached.

"See! it is dying!" whispered one of the nurses, touching the doctor's arm.

A half minute more, and then another half minute passed by.

"The baby will live!" exclaimed the doctor, rising to his feet. "Yes, the baby will live," repeated the doctor. "It has had a hard time of it, I see, but it has conquered death.

"It is so strange," he mused, "whom nobody wants or seems to care for clings to life most tenaciously, as though it were worth having.

"A few hours since I was at the home of one of the wealthiest families in the city. That young mother's babe died, though I did everything in human power to save it. The father caught me by the arm when I was first called there, and said:


"'Doctor, save that little child upstairs, and it will be the making of your fortune. You shall name your own price. Stay right here, by night and by day, until it is out of danger, and anything you may ask for shall be yours.'

"He led me through the marble hall and past gilded drawing-rooms and spacious parlors to the chamber above where mother and child lay. It was a plump little mite, with everything to live for. I thought my task would be an easy one; but you have heard the old saying: 'Man proposes, but God disposes.'

"Well it was so in this case. It had only the measles—a disease which every little one has at some time during infancy. No wonder I felt no alarm.

"Although I did my best, it began to fail. I summoned all the experts in the city, bringing together men who were older and wiser than myself, to discover what could possibly be the reason why my skill had failed me in this instance.

"There was nothing which science could suggest that we did not do. But it seemed that fate was against us. The child literally faded before our very eyes, and passed away.

"This one had no such chance of life as the other had, yet it has passed through an illness so dangerous that not one in a thousand ever live through. I predict that it will have an uncommon future," he added, thoughtfully.


For long hours after the doctor had left Ida May, she wept so bitterly over the fate of her little child that Miss Fernly grew alarmed.

"Crying will not bring the baby back," she said. "The Almighty knew best whether He wanted it to live or die. You must not rail against the judgment of God!"


She felt that she must draw her mind into another channel.

"Say that you will be more composed when I see you again," she replied, earnestly, "though it may not be for some days."

"I will try," murmured Ida May, with a sigh. "Will it be long before I see you?" she added, wistfully.

"I am going to my niece's wedding," answered Miss Fernly. "I may remain a few days after at the house."

Ida May drew a long, deep sob.

"How strange the word 'marriage' sounds to me now," she moaned. "When I hear of a young girl's marriage nowadays, I earnestly pray Heaven that her husband may not deceive her!"

"I am sure that there need be nothing to fear in this instance," said Miss Fernly. "My niece sent me her fiancé's picture this morning. He seems to be a noble young fellow. By the way, I will show it to you," she added, still believing that the one thing needful was to divert the girl's mind.

Thoughtless as to what would accrue from her action, Miss Fernly drew a small case from her pocket and touched the spring.

The lid flew back, disclosing a magnificent affair in ivory—the portrait of a young and handsome man.

"He has an honest look in his eyes, and a fair, open countenance," said Miss Fernly. "It was painted three years ago."

As she uttered the words, she handed the portrait to Ida May.

One glance, then a cry of the wildest horror broke from the girl's white, terrified lips.

"God have mercy!" she gasped, "it is he!"

Miss Fernly sprung to her feet, quite as white and terrified as Ida.

"You—you do not mean to say that this is the man who wrought all your woe?" she cried, in horror too great for words.

"Yes!" cried Ida May, springing to her feet, and[109] crying out: "I swear to you that this is Royal Ainsley, the man whom I wedded, and who deserted me! This is the father of my little dead babe!"

The expression upon Miss Fernly's face was horrible to see.

She rose in awful wrath and struck her hands sharply together as she turned and faced the girl.

"It was fate that sent you across my path," she exclaimed, hoarsely. "But for this timely intervention my innocent niece would have wedded that villain on the morrow. But I thank Heaven that I am now able to prevent it, and to avenge you as well, my poor child. Ah!" she cried, as a sudden thought flashed through her mind, "an idea has come to me, by which I can not only wreak my vengeance upon him, but mete out justice to you as well."

"Oh, no, no; do not do anything to harm him!" cried Ida May, in terror. "Cruel as he has been to me, I love him still, and I shall always love him!"

"What I intend to do will not harm him. I repeat that it will right your wrong," she added, grimly. "There shall be a wedding to-morrow, my poor, unfortunate girl. But listen to me well, and heed what I say—you shall be this man's bride to-morrow, instead of my niece. Leave everything to me."

She gathered up her wrap and gloves and put them on.

"I shall have a great deal to do between now and nightfall. But this I say to you, Ida May: Be ready to go with me when I shall come for you. It may be to-night, perhaps to-morrow night. Ask me no questions now, but trust in me implicitly. Since the hour I came across you in your misfortune, you have found me a good friend to you, Ida May, have you not?"

"Yes," sobbed Ida May, wretchedly. "I—I—would have perished in the street but for you, noble lady. I respect and have all confidence in you."

"Then by that confidence do as I bid you," repeated Miss Fernly. "I will send some clothing for you to[110] wear. Wrap about you the long, dark cloak you wore in coming here, and be in readiness."

With these words, Miss Fernly fairly flew from the cottage.

Ida May sunk back in her chair, pale and excited.

"Why should the announcement that he is to be married to-morrow have shocked me?" she moaned. "I had every reason to expect that would occur any day after I read it myself in the paper."

She did not sob or cry out. It seemed to Ida that the very heart within her was crushed. She had borne so much that it appeared there was nothing more left for her to endure.

Miss Fernly was thankful beyond words that she had not brought her maid with her on her last visit.

In all possible haste she hurried to the magnificent home of her sister on Riverside Drive.

Although living in the same city, the married sister saw very little of Miss Fernly, the latter devoted so much of her time to charity. She had not been to the house but once since Mrs. Cramer had written to her of her daughter Hildegarde, and that she was soon to be married.

Hildegarde was delighted when she looked out and saw her aunt drive up.

"What a surprise, dear aunt!" she cried, throwing her white arms about her. "Mamma and I were just speaking of you. I was almost afraid that you had forgotten the date set for the wedding. And just to think you have never met my intended, and he so anxious to see the darling aunt I have always been talking of! I want you to see him, he is so lovely. But what did you think of the picture?" rattled on Hildegarde, in her gay, girlish fashion, without giving the other a chance to answer.

"You are very, very much in love with him?" asked Miss Fernly, anxiously.

"Why shouldn't I be?" cried the girl, blushing as red as a rose, and hiding her peachy face against her[111] aunt's broad shoulder. "No girl ever had a more devoted lover."

"Yes, it is plainly to be seen that you do love him," said Miss Fernly, sternly.

"I do not know what to tell you about him, auntie, except that he is the dearest fellow in all the world, and just adores me; at least, that is what he tells me," said Hildegarde.

"Humph!" ejaculated Miss Fernly.

"I would rather you would see him for yourself, then you could form your own opinion. He will be here this evening. I am sure you will like him."

"At what time do you expect him!" asked Miss Fernly, with unusual interest.

"Let me answer you in the words of the song," said Hildegarde, laughing lightly.

"'Somebody's coming when the dew-drops fall.'"

"Do not be silly, Hildegarde," said her aunt, sharply.

"I asked you what time this young man is to call here this evening."

"It is generally half past seven when he arrives," said Miss Cramer, smiling mischievously.

"Very well," said Miss Fernly. "When he calls, I will go down into the parlor and interview him."

"I'm sure he would be most delighted," returned the young girl, demurely.

"That's neither here nor there," returned Miss Fernly. "I do not care whether he likes me or not."


Miss Fernly had made her resolution. She would interview this man when he came. She would foil him, this fiend in human form, who would wed one young and lovely girl after bringing sorrow to another.

When Miss Fernly made up her mind to a course, nothing could change it.

"What I am about to do is for Hildegarde's good,"[112] she told herself grimly. "There will be a few tears at first, but the time will come when she will thank me with all her heart for saving her from such a consummate rascal. The woman of our race have never forgiven men who have deceived other women. Hildegarde should not be an exception to the rule. She is young now, but when she comes to know more about life she will thank me for saving her."

"Now," said her aunt, aloud, depositing herself in the nearest chair, and deliberately removing her hat and mantle, "tell me about this sweetheart of yours."

Hildegarde came over to the hassock and flung herself down upon it and looked up with laughing eyes into her aunt's face.

"I sent you his picture," she said, "because you did not seem inclined to come here to meet him, auntie, so that you could see for yourself just how he looks. But it does not do him justice," went on Hildegarde, clasping her hands. "That portrait does not tell you how good and noble he is, and how much he thinks of me!"

An expression that was almost divine came over the face of Hildegarde Cramer as she uttered the words in a low, sweet voice.

"Tell me about him," again urged her aunt, anxious to fathom just how deep was the love the girl bore him.

Should she confide in Hildegarde the story of Ida May, Miss Fernly knew that the present state of affairs must end.

There were girls who would turn in horror from a man who had done as cruel a deed as that which was laid at the door of the man whom Hildegarde was about to marry. But might not Hildegarde cling to him despite all?

"He is all that is noble," continued Hildegarde, dreamily.

"What if he should cease to love you?" said her aunt.

Hildegarde started; a quiver of pain passed over the lovely face.


"Cease to love me!" she repeated. "Ah! do you know what would happen to me, auntie, if that were to occur? I should die, that is all. When all was gone that made life worth living, how could I live?"

"It is not easy to die," said Miss Fernly, huskily.

"It would be easy for me," declared Hildegarde.

"One can not live without a heart, and I have given mine to my love."

She continued to talk of her lover in a sweet, girlish fashion; but Miss Fernly scarcely heard a word she said, she was so engrossed in her own thoughts and plans.

"You would be so glad if you knew just how perfectly happy I am, auntie," she went on, in a half-dreamy fashion. "Why, it doesn't seem the same world to me. He came into my life as the sun breaks upon the flowers, suddenly, swiftly, and all at once my life became complete. I met him on board the steamer. I shall never forget how it came about. I had just come upon deck, and was about to walk to the railing, when the ship suddenly gave a lurch and I fell forward. I would have fallen to the deck had not a young man who was standing near-by sprung quickly forward and caught me. That was the beginning of our acquaintance. My mother, who had followed me on deck, thanked him warmly. Love came to me swiftly. At the first glance, when our eyes met, I knew that I had met the only one in the world that I could ever love. I loved him then with all my heart."

"Such a sudden love could not be a happy one; it could not end happily."

The girl smiled.

"In most instances that is the case," replied Hildegarde. "But in mine—mine—ah, Heaven is to be thanked—mine is to be a happy love, and will have a happy ending!"

Ah, if she had but known, if she had but guessed the thoughts that filled Miss Fernly's heart, she might have died then and there.

The sun set, and the dusk crept into the room; but it[114] was a subject that Hildegarde loved, and she could have talked on forever about her lover.

"Mamma is quite late in returning," she said, at length. "She may not even come home to dinner."

This proved to be the case. Hildegarde and her aunt dined alone. She could not help but notice how her niece watched the clock with the brightest of eyes, the color deepening on her cheeks.

"I shall want to talk with this lover of yours alone," said Miss Fernly, a trifle hoarsely.

"Will you want to talk to him long, auntie?" asked her niece, wistfully.

"Yes, an hour, or perhaps two. I ordered my carriage at seven; it will be here as soon as he arrives. He will drive home with me, and can talk with me in the carriage."

Hildegarde was a little surprised at this announcement, but it did not occur to her to offer any objection.

"Ah, here he comes now!" cried Hildegarde, blushing furiously, all in a flutter of delight.

In a moment it seemed to her that her aunt had donned her hat and mantle. She was at the door as soon as the servant, dragging Hildegarde by the arm.

Eugene Mallard was surprised to see Hildegarde coming to the door to meet him. Then his eyes fell upon the tall, austere woman in the rear.

He felt intuitively that this must be the aunt of whom Hildegarde was always speaking. Even before he heard the hurried words of introduction, the young man held out his hand with a cordial smile.

"I am most pleased to meet you, Miss Fernly," he said. "I have heard Hildegarde speak of you so much that I feel as if I really knew and loved you already."

Was it only his fancy, or was the greeting of Hildegarde's aunt a trifle chilly?

"You are to accompany my aunt to her home," said his fiancée; adding, with a little twinkle in her eye: "Auntie has something to say to you."


For a moment he looked crestfallen; then he added, gallantly:

"I shall be most pleased. Pray command me, Miss Fernly."

Another moment, and they were seated in the carriage. He began to talk brightly to his companion; but to his great surprise, she answered him only in monosyllables.

"I am very much afraid she does not like me," he thought, with some consternation, and he redoubled his efforts to be agreeable. Any one who was related in any way to his darling Hildegarde was dear to him. He was always liked by women; he hoped from the depths of his heart that this lady would not form an aversion to him. But somehow he felt a cold, uncomfortable chill creeping over his heart. Was it a premonition of the evil that was so soon to come?


Although Eugene Mallard tried his best to entertain Hildegarde's aunt as they rode along, it seemed to him an almost impossible undertaking. She stared at him too intently that he wondered what she was thinking of. He thought it might be as to whether he would make Hildegarde a good husband, and he wished with all his heart to set her doubts at rest on this point, so he began to talk of Hildegarde, and tell her how much he thought of her.

The more he spoke of her niece, the sterner Miss Fernly's face seemed to grow.

He was wondering to himself how long she would detain him, he longed so for to return to Hildegarde, who he knew was waiting for him with the utmost impatience.

Suddenly Miss Fernly turned to him.

"You say you would do anything for Hildegarde's good—for her future happiness?" she asked, slowly.


"Yes—certainly," he answered. "I would lay down my life for her. No sacrifice would be too great for me to make."

"You are sure of that?" she asked, quickly.

"There is no question of it," Hildegarde's lover answered, promptly. "To save her from a moment's pain, I would lay down twenty lives if I had them."

"Very well; I will soon put you to the test," thought Miss Fernly.

Suddenly the carriage came to a stop. To the young man's great surprise, he found, as he assisted Miss Fernly to alight, that they were in front of a small and unpretentious church.

"Step this way," she said, leading him round to the door of the parsonage.

He had heard that Miss Fernly was very religious; but her action now rather puzzled him. Still without a thought of what the outcome might be, he followed where she led.

She spoke hurriedly to the coachman, and with a bow, he drove quickly away.

"The minister has been called suddenly away to a sick person," said the girl who admitted them to the parsonage. "He has begged me to say that he would return within the hour."

The young man wondered what business she had with the parson; but he made no comment, but followed her into the parsonage. The reception room into which they were shown was dimly lighted. Miss Fernly seemed to be well acquainted there.

Mr. Mallard took the seat Miss Fernly indicated.

"I have something to say to you," she began, in a hard, set voice. "I shall break right into the subject at once. Your wedding with my niece is fixed for to-morrow night, is it not?"

"Yes," he said, wonderingly.

"Why should not your marriage take place to-night—here and now?" she asked, looking intently at him.

For an instant he almost believed that the good[117] lady had taken leave of her senses. He stared at her in the most complete bewilderment.

In a slow and emphatic voice she repeated her words.

"My dear madame," he said, "I do not see how that could possibly be. You know it is not to be a quiet affair. Over five hundred invitations have been issued."

"You will be married to-night, and let to-morrow night take care of itself," said Miss Fernly, sternly.

Had Hildegarde sent her aunt to make this arrangement? He could hardly believe his own senses. But surely it must be so.

He remembered the twinkle in her eyes as she had said.

"You are to ride with auntie, she has something to say to you."

"I am so dumfounded, I do not know how to answer you," he declared.

"You will not refuse me?" she asked.

"Refuse you! How could I refuse a request in which my happiness is so much bound up?" he answered, eagerly.

"It is well!" said Miss Fernly. "Your bride is on the way here by this time."

"Is this idea one of your planning?" asked Hildegarde's lover, curiously.

"Yes," she answered, very quickly.

It seemed a very strange proceeding to him, but he then did not pretend to understand the ways of women. He was only too anxious to carry out Hildegarde's slightest wish. He was so deeply in love with her that he did not question the strangeness of her aunt's action.

Before he had time to think over the matter, two carriages drove up to the door from different directions. Out of one stepped the minister, and from the other a slender figure, robed in snowy white, and almost enveloped in a white tulle veil.

He would have sprung to meet her, but Miss Fernly held him back.


"Not yet," she said. "She will meet us at the altar; the minister will bring her in."

Miss Fernly seemed to be running this novel affair, and he did not suppose that it would be worth while to try to dissuade her, since she must have talked it over with Hildegarde.

He followed her into the dimly lighted church, and down the long aisle to the altar-rail. Only one light was lighted, which left all the corners of the great edifice in darkness and gloom.

He had naturally a great deal of nerve; but to save his life he could not help a feeling of awe coming over him.

Before he had time to say anything, he saw the minister in his clerical robes coming from an opposite direction with the bride-elect on his arm. His heart throbbed, every pulse quickened; a moment more, and they had advanced.

"My darling!" he cried, as he sprang forward and clasped the trembling girl in his arms.

She tried to speak, but the words died away in her throat. It seemed to Eugene Mallard that he was in a dream. Even the girl who stood by his side seemed scarcely real. The folds of the filmy veil almost concealed her.

"Are you ready?" asked the minister, opening the book.

"Yes," answered Eugene Mallard, promptly.

"Yes," said Miss Fernly, speaking for the bride-elect.

The marriage ceremony was begun. Then came the question solemnly, warningly, from the minister's lips: "If any one knows aught why this man or woman should not be united in holy wedlock, let him now speak, or forever hold his peace!"

There was an ominous silence. Miss Fernly trembled. She was doing a noble action in righting a terrible wrong, she told herself, and there was no response to the clergyman's appeal.

In a voice which seemed still more solemn, he pronounced the two before him man and wife.


The bridegroom caught the bride in his arms, and he laughed gayly to see how she trembled in his embrace.

"My wife!" he cried, straining her to his heart. "Sweet," he murmured in a voice just audible to his bride, "to be the lover of the girl you love, is bliss; but to be the husband of the girl you love, is heaven! Tell me, Hildegarde, are you not as happy as I am?"

A low cry broke from the white lips of the girl he held in his arms. The minister had stepped into the parsonage in response to a summons from one of the servants, and invited the newly wedded couple and Miss Fernly to follow him.

He was not surprised that they held back a moment. It seemed to be the custom with all new-married couples to loiter for a moment in the dim shadows of the old church. The critical moment of Miss Fernly's triumph had come. She had done a noble action, she told herself. But somehow she trembled at the thought of what Eugene Mallard would do when he discovered that the girl whom he had wedded was not the beautiful Hildegarde but the cruelly wronged Ida May.

The young husband had drawn his bride beneath the chandelier of the church, and all unmindful of Miss Fernly's presence, he declared, rapturously:

"I must have a kiss from the lips of my wife."

As he spoke he drew aside her veil. One glance at the face it had hidden—oh, so piteous to behold in its awful pallor! and a cry, surely the most bitter that ever broke from human lips, issued from Eugene Mallard's. His arms fell from the supple figure, and he drew back, crying hoarsely:

"You are not Hildegarde! Great God! what does this mean? Who are you?"

Miss Fernly stepped forward.

"I wonder that you ask such a question!" she cried, shrilly. "Look upon her, and behold for yourself the young girl you duped and deserted! Now, thank Heaven, she is your wedded wife!" she added, triumphantly. "I have helped her to right her wrongs!"


"But I never saw this young woman before!" cried Eugene Mallard, striking his forehead with his clinched hand. "There is some terrible mistake! Speak out!" he cried to the girl at his side, who was trembling like an aspen-leaf. "Who are you who has done this terrible deed?"

Like one dying, the hapless bride fell on her knees at Miss Fernly's feet.

"There is some terrible mistake!" she cried, wildly. "I—I did not discover it until he drew back my veil. He—is—not—the man!"

"Not the man?" repeated Miss Fernly, aghast, hardly believing that she had heard aright, her eyes almost starting from their sockets. "I—I do not understand!" she cried, recoiling from the girl. "Do you mean that the man you have just wedded, and the one to whom you told me was the cause of wrecking your life, is not one and the same?"

The girl shook her head, while Eugene Mallard looked from one to the other like one in a dream from which he was expecting to soon awake.

Miss Fernly caught her by the shoulder.

"What does it mean?" she cried, hoarsely. "You assured me that this man was the cause of all your trouble, and now you dare to tell me that he is not the one! And I—brought about this, making you his wife! It was a trick of yours, you shameless creature, to secure a husband for yourself. Quick! Be gone from this sacred edifice ere I strike you down at my feet, you most shameless outcast, you horrible creature!"

Ida May drew back in terror from the upraised hand.

"Hold!" cried Eugene Mallard, stepping between them. "No matter what this poor creature has done, she is, in the eyes of God and man, my wife!"

By a dexterous movement he had raised the poor girl from her knees, and had swung her out of the reach of the blow that had been meant for her. Despite his anguish, it aroused all the pity and chivalry in his nature to see how the poor thing clung to him in her terror.

"Save me from her wrath," she murmured, clinging[121] to him with death-cold hands, and adding vehemently: "Believe me, it was all a horrible mistake! I saw your picture, and—and I mistook you for another. The church was so dimly lighted, I—I could not see, and I did not know the terrible mistake until—until it was too late! Oh, tell me, tell me, what can I do to undo the great wrong that I have done you?"


Eugene Mallard had sunk into the nearest seat, covering his face with his hands. The horror of the situation had just come to him. By the cruel working of fate he had been wedded to one woman through a horrible mistake, while his heart and soul were another's.

It seemed to him like some horrible dream from which he must soon awake. He had parted from Hildegarde full of hope and love, scarcely an hour before, saying to himself, as he turned and looked back at her, that ere the sun would rise and set again, she would be his own, that they would never be parted from each other after that. And now a barrier had suddenly risen between them which parted them just as surely as though one of them lay in the grave.

His whole soul was bound up in Hildegarde; yet he was wedded to another. It seemed to him that the anguish of it was more than he could bear.

Then came to him the thought that he must protect the woman he had wedded—this poor young creature who still clung to him, imploring him to save her from Miss Fernly's wrath, repeating to him, over and over again, that it was a mistake.

Eugene Mallard roused himself from the stupor which was stealing over him. He must face the terrible consequences of that rash marriage. Although this girl had wrecked his life, ruined his future, yet he could not find it in his heart to curse her.

He could not help but believe her—that it was some[122] terrible mistake; he could not judge her before he knew more about what had prompted her to do this deed. He could not rest until he knew the reason that lay behind it.

"Tell me all about it," he said, hoarsely, turning to the girl, "that I may judge for myself of this action of yours."

"Yes, tell him," cried Miss Fernly, "that I may be cleared of my part in this transaction. You deceived me as well."

In a faltering voice that sounded as though she were dying, Ida May told her story, the man she had married listening intently.

He did not speak until she had concluded, but Miss Fernly saw that the girl's story was greatly affecting him.

"No wonder you mistook me for Royal Ainsley, when you saw that picture," he exclaimed, "for we are cousins. The resemblance between us was most marked when that picture was taken."

"I—I—thought the name Miss Fernly told me was an assumed name, or else you had given me a false one."

Miss Fernly's self-control seemed to leave her entirely as she listened.

"I am responsible for it!" she groaned, wringing her hands. "Oh, what will Hildegarde and my sister say!"

Eugene Mallard and Miss Fernly looked into each other's faces, and their lips were mute.

"Let me go to her and tell her my story," sobbed the hapless bride, "then I will go away, and you shall never look upon my face again!"

"That would not mend matters," replied Eugene Mallard. "I have married you, and nothing can undo that."

"Oh, do not say so!" cried Ida May. "I will free you from the bond whose links have just been forged. You shall have a divorce. I will set you free!"

Eugene Mallard shook his head.

"You would do so if you could," he answered; "but, alas! you can not. Those whom God hath joined[123] together no one has the right to put asunder."

With a sigh that nearly rent his heart, he rose to his feet. The carriage still stood in waiting at the door.

"Where are you going?" asked Miss Fernly.

"We will all three go to Hildegarde, and break it as gently as we can to her—tell her what has happened—break the sad story to her as gently as we can," Eugene repeated.

As one whose feet refused to do her bidding, Miss Fernly tottered up the aisle behind them. What would Hildegarde say—what would she do? Perhaps she would fall dead at their feet, for she loved, with all the passionate love of her heart, the man whom she had promised to wed on the morrow.

"Oh, if I had not been so hasty!" cried Miss Fernly. "I meant to do a noble action, but instead I have wrecked two lives!"

They entered the carriage in silence—a silence which was not broken until they reached the door of the beautiful Cramer mansion. They saw Hildegarde standing at the lace-draped window, peering out into the darkness, eagerly watching for them.

The hapless young lover groaned aloud. Miss Fernly hid her face in her hands. Hildegarde was at the door to greet them almost as soon as the servant.

"You have been gone very long, Eugene!" she cried. "Dear me! how surprised I was to see Aunt Fernly returning with you!"

Then her eyes fell upon the girl in bridal robes her lover was holding by the hand. She did not recognise Ida May because of the veil which she had drawn down over her face, nor did she hear the cry of surprise Ida May uttered when she recognized her.

Miss Fernly had always spoken of the bride to be as her niece, but had never once mentioned her name.

For one moment Ida May stood irresolute. She now realized what she had done, and wondered how Hildegarde would take the terrible mistake.

For a moment the three stood silent. Who would[124] be the one to break the terrible news to Hildegarde?

"What is the matter, and who is this beautiful young girl, clad in bridal robes, whom you hold by the hand, Eugene?"

He tried to speak, but he could not utter a word if his life had depended upon it. Even Miss Fernly seemed to have been stricken dumb. Ida May knew that it devolved upon her to utter the words which would stab Hildegarde Cramer to the very soul. She saw the lover try to speak, and fail, and also saw Miss Fernly's lips twitch convulsively.

Nerving herself for the ordeal through which she must pass, she stepped forward.

"Let me answer for them," she said, in a voice that sounded to Hildegarde's ears like the strain of some half-forgotten melody. And as she uttered the words she threw back her veil.

"Ida May!" cried Hildegarde, aghast.

"Yes, I am that hapless creature whom you knew as Ida May."

For an instant there was silence, broken only by the sound of the labored breathing of Miss Fernly, Hildegarde, and Eugene Mallard.

In an instant the haughty heiress had recovered herself. She recoiled from the girl who advanced pleadingly before her.

"Hildegarde! Hildegarde!" Ida cried, much to the astonishment of Miss Fernly and her companion, "I did not know that it was you whom I was to confront in this awful hour!"

But Hildegarde shrunk still further from her. How dared this creature, who had passed those weeks at Newport a living lie, to claim acquaintance with her!

She flushed crimson, and retreated from her in abhorrence, wondering how this creature had come here, accompanied by her aunt and lover.

"Hildegarde!" cried Ida May, "listen, for the love of Heaven, and do not judge me too harshly until you have heard all!"

Sobbing wildly, Ida caught at the hem of Hilde[125]garde's dress.

"Auntie!" cried Hildegarde, turning to her relative, "I do not care to listen to anything this—this person has to say. The very air she breathes stifles me. Eugene!" she cried, springing to her lover's side, "take me in to the drawing-room. I—I can not talk to this young girl."

He did not clasp her in his arms, though he made a movement to do so. His arms fell to his sides, and his head drooped to his breast.

He was enduring torture so acute that many a man would have fainted under the strain of it.

Hildegarde looked up into his face in wonder.

"Eugene, my darling!" she cried "are you ill? Tell me! Something terrible must be the matter! Why do you not speak?"

In that instant she seemed to forget the presence of everybody, save the lover who had parted from her a few hours since, and who was now standing before her so greatly changed.

She looked from one to the other in consternation.

"Something has happened," she said. "Why do you keep me in suspense?"

"I am trying to tell you," sobbed Ida May, "but you will not listen."

"Must I listen to her, auntie?" cried Hildegarde, turning to her aunt.

"Yes," said Miss Fernly, "you must listen, my poor child, while I pray to Heaven to give you strength to bear it."

"Eugene!" cried the girl, "why are you silent?"

He could not answer her. He only looked at her with a world of woe in his gaze, his whole frame trembling with anguish.

Ida May never knew in what words she told her strange story. Hildegarde listened like one turned to stone. Ida May told her of the awful mistake that had blasted two lives and parted two who fondly loved each other.

Those who saw the look of pity in the face of Hildegarde[126] would never forget it.

Her face became as pale as marble; the blood receded from the ripe-red lips.

She passed through a life-time of woe in those few minutes. She did not look at Ida May or her lover when the former ceased speaking, but she turned her white, set, tragic face to her aunt.

"You have done this dreadful thing!" she cried. "I wonder that Heaven does not strike you dead for it!"

"Hildegarde! Hildegarde!" cried Miss Fernly, "I would only be too glad to give my life to atone for my part in this dreadful affair."

The girl looked at her with eyes like jets of flame.

"If you had but told me," she said, in a voice that was more sorrowful than any tears could have been. "You took the reins into your own hands; you meddled with the affairs of another, and see the mischief you have wrought!"

A sort of frenzy seemed to possess her.

"Go!" she cried, turning to Ida May, and pointing toward the door. "Get out of this house, out of my sight, before I call the servants to fling you into the street!"

Ida May crept toward the door. To Hildegarde's intense surprise, Eugene Mallard turned to follow her.

"I will go with you," he said, huskily, "for you—you are my—my wife!"


"Yes; where she goes, I must follow," repeated Eugene Mallard, in a voice husky with emotion, "for she is my wife!"

The words fell upon Hildegarde's ears with a dreadful shock. It was not until then that she realized her lover was separated from her.

She saw him take Ida May's hand and lead her slowly out of the house.


In the years that followed she wondered that the sight did not kill her.

When the door closed after them, Hildegarde stood for a moment stunned, with a white, awful pallor on her face.

Miss Fernly watched her in silence.

Was Hildegarde going mad? If she would only cry out, utter some word. But no; only that awful silence. "Hildegarde," said Miss Fernly, approaching her tremblingly, "what can I say, what can I do, to repair the terrible wrong I have done you?"

"The only thing you can do is to kill me," answered the girl, in a hoarse, unnatural voice.

"Oh, my niece! my precious niece, do not say that!" replied Miss Fernly, beside herself with grief. "You will break my heart!"

"Yours is not the only one that will be broken," returned Hildegarde.

Miss Fernly attempted to approach her, but Hildegarde drew back in loathing.

"Do not come near me!" she cried, with flashing eyes, "lest I forget who you are, and strike you dead at my feet!"

With a quick motion, Hildegarde turned, and without another word, flew up the staircase and up to her own boudoir, and closed the door securely after her.

"Let me realize it," she murmured. "A few hours ago I was the happiest girl the world held; now I cry out to Heaven to end my life."

She crept up to the mirror, and she stood before it, tall, slender, and erect in the dignity of her own despair, her face white, her dark eyes dark with sorrow.

"Can that be me?" she murmured, crossing her hands over her breast. But the figure reflected gave back no answer.

"He has gone out of my life. What am I to do?" she murmured. "One can never be sure of anything in this world. He left me only a few hours ago, and there was nothing between us but love. I can not believe[128] it! It is some awful dream from which I shall presently awake!"

She wrung her hands wildly; she tore her beautiful dark hair; she was as one mad with anguish. Then she thought of Ida May, and she clinched her hands.

Some one knocked at the door

"Let me in, Hildegarde!" cried her mother, anxiously.

"No!" answered the girl. "I can not—do not ask me. Only leave me here alone. The sight of human faces, the sound of human voices, would drive me mad!"

All in vain the mother pleaded. Suddenly she heard a fall, and when one of the servants whom Mrs. Cramer had summoned burst open the door, she found Hildegarde lying face downward on the velvet carpet.

Miss Fernly had told her sister all, made a clean breast of the whole affair. But Hildegarde's mother did not curse her, as she feared she might do. She only looked at her sister with horror-stricken eyes.

For a fortnight Hildegarde lay on the bed where they had placed her.

The doctor had worked over her for hours.

"She is young," he said to the heart-broken mother, "and while there is life there is hope."

When she arose from her bed, every one was startled at the change in her. She made no complaint, even to Miss Fernly, who hovered around her in an agony more pitiful than words can describe.

Hildegarde was like one on whom the shadow of death had fallen. She grew thin and white; the light was gone from her beautiful eyes, the color from her beautiful face.

No smile, no sound of laughter, came to the pale lips. If her mother, whose heart ached over her beloved child, tried to cheer her, she had but one answer for her, and it was:

"I shall die soon, my heart is slowly bleeding to death."

Then came the announcement that Hildegarde was[129] going abroad. But the paper did not state how long she would remain.

This looked very serious indeed to the friends who had hoped against all hope.

Mrs. Cramer was anxious that none of her companions should behold her, she was so terribly altered. She could not bear the criticisms which she knew her appearance would be sure to occasion. But Hildegarde had stoutly declared she would not go abroad.

"I want to die in my native land," pleaded the girl, piteously.

She sought her couch early, because her mother was anxious about her; but her mother did not know that she paced the floor until the gray dawn.

Now her mother hastened the preparations for the trip abroad.

"She is young, and a change of air and scene will surely bring about forgetfulness," thought Mrs. Cramer.

It was well for her that she could not foresee what was to happen in the near future.


We must return to Ida May, dear reader, and picture to you the awful woe she experienced as she turned from Hildegarde, saying. "Let me go away out of your lives; if my life could atone for what I have done, I would give it."

She scarcely heard Eugene Mallard's words, "Where you go, I must follow, for you are my wife."

She was unaware of his presence, until fleeing down the graveled walk, she heard a step behind her, and a firm hand caught her arm. Turning, she saw the man whom she had just wedded.

She drew back in fear and trembling. He noticed her action, and despite his bitter woe he could not but feel sorry for her.


"We can not undo what has been done, my poor girl," he said. "It was a terrible mistake, but we must face it bravely."

She looked up into his face with wistful eyes.

"If you would only kill me here and now, I would be so grateful to you. No one would ever know. My life is of so little account that not one in the whole world would miss me or grieve for me, and then you could marry Hildegarde!"

He drew back shocked.

"You must not speak in that way," he said. "The life of every human being is sacred. You are entitled to your life, no matter what has happened, until God calls you. I do not blame you, my poor girl, for what has happened. I only say we must try to face the future, and to see what can be done."

Before he could realize what she was about to do, she had flung herself on her knees at his feet, and covered his hands with kisses. Her heart was full of the deepest gratitude to him. He was the only being who had ever spoken kindly to her of late.

He raised her gently.

"You should not kneel to me," he said, "it is not right."

"Yes, I will!" she cried, impulsively. "You are good—you are noble. You do not curse me for what I could not help. I want to show you how bitterly I deplore what has been done! But how are you to realize it?"

While they were speaking, a few drops of rain fell from the heavens, and Ida May, looking up, said to herself that even the angels above were weeping for her.

"Come!" he said, taking her by the hand and leading her along as though she were a little child, "you can not stand out in the rain. Come with me!"

He hailed a passing cab and placed her in it.

"Where are we going?" she asked, timidly, looking up into his troubled face.

"I do not know until I have had time to think," he[131] answered. "I have told the driver to drive about for an hour. By that time I shall have arrived at some conclusion."

The girl's dark head drooped. Great as her own sorrow was, her heart bled for the trouble which she had unintentionally caused this young man.

On and on rolled the cab. So busy was Eugene Mallard with his own troubled thoughts that he almost forgot the girl shrinking away in her corner, who was regarding him so piteously and anxiously.

Suddenly he turned to her.

"There is but one course left open to us," he said, huskily, "and that we must follow. You are my wife, and I must take you to the home that has been prepared to receive my bride."

She uttered a low cry; but before she could speak, he hastened to add:

"No advantage shall be taken of the position in which you are so strangely placed. You shall be my wife in the eyes of the world, but to me you shall be just as sacred as a sister. We will live our lives through in this way."

She bowed her head. Whatever he suggested must be wisest and best, she thought.

"Indeed, I can see no other way out of it at the present outlook," he went on, his voice trembling a little. "I will take you to a hotel near where I am stopping. To-morrow, at this time, I will come for you to take the train with me!"

A little later Ida found herself alone in the comfortable room which he had secured for her at the hotel.

It was then and not until then that the poor girl gave vent to her grief, suffering almost as deeply as did Hildegarde, as the long hours of the night passed away.

The sun was shining bright and warm when she opened her eyes the next morning. For a moment she was dazed and bewildered; then a rush of memory came to her, and she remembered all that had taken place. She sprung from her couch with a bitter sob on her lips. Some one tapped at the door. It was the chamber-maid.


"Your breakfast is to be served to you here, ma'am," she said. "The waiter is bringing it. I will take it from him. Here are also some large packages which arrived for you."

"Thank you!" murmured the girl. "Just put them on the table. But stay," she added in the next breath; "you may as well open them. I do not think they are for me."

With deft fingers the girl unwrapped the bundle, and held up to her astonished gaze a beautiful brown traveling suit of the finest cloth, with hat, shoes, gloves, and lingerie to match. Gazing upon the outfit with wide-opened eyes, she forgot her sorrow for the moment.

This was another proof of the thoughtfulness and kindness of the man whose life she had wrecked.

"What a superb traveling-dress!" cried the maid, with delight. "I have never seen anything like it. And the hat; why, it is a veritable dream, madame. It is so exquisitely dainty! There is something in the pocket of the dress!" exclaimed the maid. "Does madame wish me to see what it is?"

"Yes," said Ida.

The next moment the girl had produced a tiny box. On a bed of violet velvet reposed a band of plain gold. Within were the engraved words: "My wife!"

The poor girl caught her breath with a sob as the maid handed it to her. The color came and went on her face; her eyes grew dim with tears. It was with the greatest difficulty that she succeeded in hiding her emotion from the maid, whose eyes were intently fixed on her.

"I thought she was a single young girl," she thought, "but she seems to be married."

Ida May turned away; she could not bear to have any one see her emotion.

"I can not accept it, nor any of his gifts, because I can not make use of them," she thought. "I am going away from here, going out of his life. I could[133] not go with him to his Southern home; I have no right there!"

When the maid came to her, and asked her if she wished all her meals served in her room, she mechanically answered, "Yes." Tempting dishes were brought, but they went back untasted.

"The lady in Room 27 seems very ill," said the chamber-maid, when she went down to the servant's hall below. "She is very mysterious. Her eyes are so big, so black, and so mournful, you are sure she is going to burst into tears at every word she utters. She looks like a creature who has passed through some great sorrow. With the exception of one lady, I never saw any-one else look like that. And oh, mercy! she had the same room too—No. 27.

"This woman left word that I was to come to her in the morning. To my great surprise, I found the door open as I turned the knob. As I went forward to awaken her, I saw the still form lying on the bed. As I approached, I saw, to my great amazement, that her eyes were wide open and staring at me.

"'I beg your pardon for not coming sooner, ma'am,' I said. 'I did not think you would be awake so early. There—'

"The rest of the sentence was never finished. I saw that the eyes staring up into mine were glazed in death. The scream I uttered brought half the people in the hotel to the scene, a physician being among them.

"He said that the young lady had been dead some hours. She had taken poison. The mystery surrounding her—who she was, and whence she came, has never been solved from that day to this. There is much the same look in this lady's face as there was in that other one's. I think she will bear watching.

"You know, too, that nine out of ten of the people who think of committing suicide choose a hotel in which to commit the deed. This young lady in No. 27 seems to be dazed. She scarcely knows what one is speaking to her about."


Having told her story, the chamber-maid left the room, shaking her head as she went. The clerk of the hotel, who was passing through the corridor, and who had heard the story was a little annoyed over it. He knew the habit of the maids to gossip; still, there might be some truth in the story.

It would certainly not be amiss to look into the matter a little. He remembered a tall and handsome gentleman had made arrangements for the lady, paying her bills in advance.

He thought he would wait a day and then speak to the proprietor concerning the matter.

The sunshine of the afternoon faded; the gloaming crept up, deepening into the soft beauty of the starry night.

As the hours rolled by, the girl made a resolve to end it all.

She arose quietly and donned the dark cloak which Miss Fernly had wrapped about her as they stepped from the rector's cottage. She was glad to have it now, for it would cover the bridal robes which she had donned. Her bridegroom was to be death!


With trembling hands, this hapless girl, who had taken such a terrible resolve, opened the door of her room, and glided softly down the long corridor and out of the hotel.

Ida May had scarcely gained the street before a carriage drove up, and Eugene Mallard sprung from it. He was surprised at seeing Ida advancing to meet him. She drew back with a cry.

"Are you ready?" he asked; but before she could answer, he went on: "You do not wear your traveling-dress. Was there anything amiss with it?"


She tried to keep back the sobs from her lips; but almost before she was aware of it, she had confessed to him that she was about to flee from him.

Standing there, very gently and patiently, he went over the ground with her, insisting upon her following out their original plan; and the upshot of it all was, she returned to her room, donned her traveling-dress, joined him again, and took a seat beside him in the carriage.

A little later the railway station was reached, and they were soon whirling away toward the mysteries of the future.

"We will reach our destination a little before midnight," Eugene said, seating himself opposite her. "There will be a number of old friends at the station to give my bride a welcome home," he added in a voice that was husky, despite his efforts at self-control; and Ida knew that he was thinking of that other bride whom he had intended to bring to them, and she felt most wretched at the effort he was making to look the present difficulty in the face and bear up under it.

How he must loathe her! Her very presence most be hateful to him! The thought of that made her shrink still further from Eugene Mallard.

She felt like opening the car window and springing from it out into the blackness of the night. Then he would be free to marry Hildegarde. On and on through the darkness rushed the express.

"The next station will be ours," he said at length. Ida looked up in apprehension. There would be a party of friends awaiting Eugene's home-coming; but, ah! what would they say when they saw that it was not Hildegarde whom he had wedded? Had he a mother—had he sisters?

Perhaps he divined her thoughts, for quite as soon as they had flashed through her brain he turned to her, and said, abruptly:

"I have told you nothing of my home life. It was an oversight on my part, possibly because the idea did[136] not occur to me. I have no relatives upon the face of the earth, except the scape grace cousin you know of. From my uncle I inherited the Virginia home to which I am taking you. It is presided over by Mrs. Rice, an old lady who has served in the capacity of housekeeper for twenty years. All the servants have been in the household quite as long a time. They are good and faithful to me. They will receive you warmly. Your word shall be their law. No one outside the household will know of our strained relationship. The secret will be kept faithfully from the world by the members of my household."

"I do not deserve so much consideration at your hands," murmured the girl.

Before he had time to reply, their station was reached. There were few people at the station owing to the lateness of the hour.

An old-fashioned carry-all was waiting at the rear. Peering out from it was the face of old Black Joe.

"Welcome, marse! welcome!" he cried. "An' a thousand welcomes to the lovely young missus, your bride! There's a great company at the house, sir, awaiting you both."

Eugene Mallard thanked the old colored servant for his kind wishes for himself and bride, as he helped Ida into the vehicle.

There was a long ride over a rough mountain road, during which time, much to old Black Joe's surprise, scarcely a word was exchanged between the bride and groom, and it puzzled the good old man.

Was the lady ill? So great was his concern over it, that he was tempted to ask his master the question a dozen times. But prudence restrained him.

At length, in turning an abrupt curve in the road, a gray stone mansion, fairly ablaze with lights from cellar to dome, loomed in sight—lights that twinkled like glow-worms in the distance. They could hear the strains of music, and as they approached they could even hear the sound of voices.

Still no word was uttered by either of them.



In less time than it takes to tell it, the strained relationship between Eugene Mallard and his bride was whispered through the household. They had laughed at old Black Joe when he had whispered the story of their silence from the railroad station, declaring he was romancing. Later events certainly gave color to the story, however. She was all that was sweet and fair. What could be the trouble?

"If there was ever a bride most wretchedly unhappy, she is that one," said Mrs. Rice, shaking her head.

"Why did he marry her if he did not love her? I can not understand it, I am sure."

Mrs. Rice went to the bride's room the next morning to awaken her. She found her already up and sitting by the window, and there was no indication that she had removed her dress. This was reduced to a certainty when she went into the adjoining apartment and found the couch just as it had been the previous evening.

She went back to where young Mrs. Mallard was sitting, and laid her hand gently upon the girl's arm.

"I hope you will be happy with us here, my dear," she said in her sweet, gentle old voice, "for we will do everything to serve you. I have been here for many years and have witnessed the home-coming of many of the brides of the Mallards. There was never one that I took to more than I did to you, my dear child. I felt like taking you in my arms and pressing you to my heart. But you seem lonely. Tell me, is there anything I can do for you?"

Ida lifted her face.

"You are very, very kind," she said, gratefully, "and I thank you with all my heart."

She looked as if she were about to add something, but quickly checked herself.

"Perhaps you would like to see the grounds, my[138] dear," said Mrs. Rice. "Will you come out into the garden?"

The young woman acquiesced readily enough.

"Your trunks have not come yet, my dear," said Mrs. Rice, as they walked along. "The railway service in this part of the country is abominable. It looks strange to have you come down to breakfast in your traveling-dress, but—"

"I have no trunks coming. This is the only dress I have to wear at present," returned the girl, quietly.

It was as much as the old housekeeper could do to restrain herself from an exclamation of astonishment at this announcement.

What could it mean? Why had Eugene Mallard's bride no trousseau, as he had been preparing for this event for months, as eager in his anticipation of it as a school-boy for a holiday! She could not understand it; she felt mystified. But with the quick wit habitual to her, Mrs. Rice replied almost instantly:

"A wardrobe can be easily supplied by our Virginia modistes. Indeed, they are world-famous, I may add. They make dresses for many of the ladies of Washington on the shortest notice. Mr. Mallard pressed a roll of bills into my hand when he arrived, and said: 'See that my wife has everything needful, Mrs. Rice.' I could not think what he meant at the time. Now I see it was your wardrobe he referred to. You and I will set about getting the things at once. Or if it will fatigue you too much after your journey, you leave it to me, and I will see that you have a complete wardrobe in a short time. You must not say no, my dear; for remember, it is your husband's wish, and you surely wish to please him."

The girl looked at her with the strangest expression in her dark eyes.

"Nothing that I could do would please him," she said, hopelessly.

Mrs. Rice did not tell that remark to the servants, or there would have been no end of gossip among them.

"There is some great mystery between Eugene Mallard and his bride," she said to herself. "I will not attempt[139] to probe into the mystery, but I will endeavor to bring them together, if it lies within human power."

The fortnight that followed, the old mansion was fairly alive with guests coming and going.

Eugene Mallard could not help but admire Ida for bearing up so bravely under the terrible ordeal. During that fortnight a strange thing happened—the cruelest blow that Heaven could have dealt Ida. The lovely girl had learned to love Eugene Mallard with all the strength of her nature. She was in love with him, and he was cold and indifferent.

Another fortnight passed, and yet another. Everything at the great mansion passed pleasantly enough to the outside world. But the young girls for miles around who envied the young bride never dreamed of the skeleton that existed in that magnificent mansion.

Eugene Mallard was all that was kind and considerate. It seemed a necessity to him to have the house full of company. He was never alone with Ida. How gayly he talked to his guests! Looking at him, Ida said to herself:

"If he would but smile so when he speaks to me! His eyes are always cold; no warmth or brightness ever comes into them for me."

Although Eugene Mallard appeared so bright and gay before his guests; yet, unknown to any one, his heart was filled with the bitterness of death. It did not seem possible for him to live through the hours day after day. He felt thankful to Heaven that no one guessed that he had brought home a different bride from what he had intended. He dashed recklessly from one gayety to another, his object being to try to forget Hildegarde, his love. He never voluntarily looked at the girl he had married.

At the end of six weeks most of the guests returned to their homes, and Eugene Mallard suddenly found himself alone with his young wife and the servants.

"I must not let this happen again," he said. "To[140] live here alone requires more strength than I am possessed of."

They breakfasted alone in the great oak dining-room, and each felt the restraint which they could illy conceal.

As she took her place at the table she was perfectly calm and self-possessed, but the mask of smiles she had worn before his guests fell from her face. She did not attempt any conversation with him, but with a quick, flashing smile she answered when she was spoken to.

"It seems to take the servants exceptionally long to serve breakfast," he said, impatiently; adding: "Will you permit me to glance over the morning paper? I am interested in this column on stocks."

She bowed her head gracefully, and watched him, as he read in silence. There came over her face an air of sadness painful to see in one so young.

To Ida the departure of the company was a great relief. Indeed, she longed for solitude, and thought that if they did not go soon she could not keep up much longer.

She had wanted to go away long ago; but she had remained there, and now the attraction was so great that she would not break away even if she could. Her love for her husband was like a magnet, strong as her very life-blood, a part of every heart-beat.

For long hours she would muse over her strange position.

It was an uncommon fate—young, with life all before her, she longed for its blessings. It was pitiful for her to know that the man she had learned to love cared for another, that she was no more to her husband than she would be to a brother.

How sad it was that she should long for the love of her husband as she had never longed for anything else in life! It seemed so strange to live in that magnificent home, to have everything that her heart desired, to be wealthy, honored, and envied, yet to have no husband's love.

Did he still sigh for Hildegarde? Was he thinking[141] of her when that dreamy look came into his eyes? She would give the world to know. She felt a terrible jealousy in her heart.

"Will he never change?" she asked herself, in despair. "Living under the same roof with me, seeing me day after day, will his heart never warm ever so little toward me?"

Once more the old resolve, to steal away from the house, came to her. Should she go to him, kneel at his feet, and sob out:

"I can not remain in this house any longer, because I—I—have learned to love you!"

She could picture the surprise on his face. Perhaps there would be anger, scorn. The eagle dared to look at the sun, the worm dared to creep into the tender heart of the rose. Was it strange that she had dared to love him?

Hers was a dreary fate, and she tried to bear it bravely. If she had only some one to confide in, some one to talk to! Was his heart dead because of his bitter disappointment?


One morning Eugene Mallard informed his young wife at the breakfast-table that he had invited a party of friends from the adjoining city, and had just received word that they would be with them that day. This was sorrowful news to Ida, for she realized that she would see less of her husband when they came. But he seemed to await their arrival in a fever of impatience.

While she was wondering how many there would be in the party, her husband said, as if in answer to the unexpressed thought:

"There will be six in the party—Mrs. Staples and her[142] two daughters, Dora and Louisa, Captain Drury, Arthur Hollis, and—and Vivian Deane."

Ida looked up quickly as her husband pronounced the last name. Was it only her fancy, or did he turn away abruptly?

Somehow she could not rid herself of the fancy.

Then suddenly it occurred to her that she had heard the name, Vivian Deane, before. She remembered the conversation well.

While their former guests were there, she had been sitting in the rose-embowered veranda one day, while two of them passed on the lawn, and the fragments of their conversation floated up to her.

"I am surprised to find that Vivian Deane is not here," said one.

"Indeed! I would have been more surprised if she had been here," said the other.

They were idle words, almost meaningless, as far as she was concerned, but the name, Vivian Deane, clung to her for many days afterward. This was the last morning she would have with her husband. It was generally his custom to smoke in the grounds after breakfast. If she walked over the lawn she might be able to have a little chat with him.

She made a tour of the grounds, but to her surprise she did not see Eugene Mallard. Perhaps he was detained in the library writing letters. A little brook ran through a far corner of the grounds, and on either side of it tall laurel bushes grew.

Would life ever be any different for her? Would fate be always as unkind as now? Bitter tears, which she could not restrain, sprung to her eyes and coursed down her cheeks.

She tried to stop their flow, but she could not, though she realized that they would be a sorry object before her husband's guests. At that moment she heard the sound of footsteps.

Looking through the bushes she saw two of the servants walking leisurely along, one carrying a basket[143] of newly gathered fruit, and the other a basket of freshly cut roses.

Was it fate that caused one of them to say:

"Let us not return to the house just yet. The morning is warm and fine, why not sit down here under the shade of this tree and tie the roses into bunches? I can do it as well here as in the house."

Whereupon they leisurely proceeded to seat themselves.

"It isn't the same house since master brought home his bride," said the other. "It's nothing but company, company, all the time. Now we are to have another new lot of guests."

"And guess who is invited this time," said her companion.

"Mr. Mallard seems to know everybody in the country, so it would be a pretty hard guess," laughed the girl.

"Well," returned the other, "as you are not so good at guessing, I may as well tell you—it is Miss Vivian Deane."

"Pray, who is she?" asked the girl who was tying the roses.

"Oh, I forgot you were not here long enough to know about her. Well, I will tell you. She is a young girl who lives a few miles away in a magnificent house called Deane Castle. She is as beautiful as a dream, and as heartless as she is beautiful. She has a doll-like pink-and-white face, big blue eyes, and a wealth of flaxen curls. Though she looks like an angel, a bigger devil in woman's form never lived.

"She was a great favorite with old Eugene Mallard, the uncle, and his fond wish was that his favorite nephew should fall in love with and marry the pretty girl. But, bless you, the young man had ideas of his own."

"Who else is coming?" was the next question.

"A lady and her two daughters. They used to be dead in love with Mr. Mallard, until they found it was useless. They were more sensible, however, than Vivian[144] Deane. They turned their attention elsewhere, and they are still looking for eligible husbands."

Ida May's heart throbbed wildly. Now she knew why her husband's face had flushed as he mentioned the name of Vivian Deane. And this was the young girl whom she was so soon to meet!

Ida felt nervous at the very thought of the ordeal before her. She knew she must be in the drawing-room to welcome his guests. Her husband would expect that of her.

Drying her tears, though her heart was heavy indeed, the young wife stole back quietly to the house, and up to her own room. When she had removed the traces of tears, she looked with pitiful wistfulness at the face which the mirror reflected.

How long would it take this Vivian Deane, who loved her husband so madly, to discover that he was most unhappy in his marriage?

There was a light tap on the door, and in answer to her "Come in" one of the maids entered the room.

"If you please, Mrs. Mallard, your husband would like to have you come down into the drawing-room. He says the guests are likely to arrive at any moment."

"Say that I will be down directly," she replied, and her voice sounded so hoarse and unnatural that she feared the girl would notice her emotion.

"Would you like me to help you arrange your toilet, ma'am?" she asked, still holding the door knob in her hand.

Her toilet! she had not thought of it, so deeply had she been engrossed in her thoughts. Yes, she must make every effort to look well, because the eyes of her rival would be upon her.

"Yes, you may help me if you will," she said, wistfully. And when she was dressed and standing before her mirror, she was so nervous she could hardly stand. The maid noticed her trembling.

"You are ill, my lady," she cried, in alarm; "your face has grown very pale. Do let me bring you a glass of wine!"


"No," replied her young mistress; "it is only a momentary pain. I will be better presently."

As the maid watched, Ida's face grew from deathly pale to a flushed appearance, and her hands were burning hot.

"I think I must go and see the housekeeper. I am sure Mrs. Mallard is not fit to receive guests. She is very ill," she said to herself.

"If you only felt as well as you looked, my lady," said the girl, aloud and admiringly.

"Do you think I look well, Marie?" she asked, with a pitiful eagerness in her voice.

"Oh, ma'am, if I dared speak the truth without being accused of flattery, I would say I never saw any-one so beautiful in all my life!"

"Do I look more beautiful than Vivian Deane?" was the question that rose to her lips. But she checked the words just in time. At that moment another maid tapped at the door, and inquired if her mistress would soon be down.

"Yes," returned Ida. "I am coming directly."

As she uttered the words, she heard the sound of carriage wheels. By a great effort, she nerved herself for the ordeal.

"Why, how foolish I am!" she said, with a nervous little laugh. But somehow a premonition of coming evil crept over her which she could not shake off.


Eugene Mallard did not look up as his young wife entered the room. He was gazing so steadily out of the window that he did not even hear her light footsteps. She went up to him timidly. Whatever she was about to say died away on her lips, for the expression on his[146] face startled her. She had never seen him look so cross before.

At that moment the servant announced: "Mrs. and the Misses Staples!"

Eugene Mallard stepped forward quickly to receive them. How his face lighted up! Was it only her fancy, or did he hold the hand of the prettiest girl a moment longer than was necessary? Then he turned and introduced them to his young wife. Louisa and Dora Staples looked at her eagerly; she could see great surprise in their faces.

Were they disappointed in her? That was the first thought that crossed Ida's mind. How was she to know their thoughts? Dora Staples came forward, holding out her hands and blushing like a school-girl. Louisa stood back, gazing in puzzled wonder at the bride.

"We were very sorry that we could not be here to witness your home-coming and to participate in the grand wedding reception that every one is talking about even yet. But we were miles and miles away."

Then the conversation drifted into other channels.

A few moments later two gentlemen arrived—Captain Drury and Arthur Hollis. Ida remembered them well; they had been to the reception. The two girls were delighted at this acquisition to the party, and in a few moments Dora Staples had captured the dashing captain for a chat, leaving Arthur Hollis for her sister Louisa.

But Mr. Hollis was not in a mood to enjoy the senseless chatter of Miss Louisa Staples, for whom he inwardly felt a cordial dislike.

On the pretense of wishing to smoke a cigar, especially as her mother and Mrs. Mallard had joined the group, he begged her to excuse him for a little while. He saw his host on the terrace, and stepped out of the long French window, and went at once to where he stood.

"I congratulate you upon the rare beauty of your wife," he said, touching him familiarly upon the arm.[147] "I thought her exceedingly pretty the first time I saw her; she has grown more beautiful since."

"I really ought to be obliged to you for the compliment," returned Eugene Mallard, laughingly.

"You ought to love her very much, for she is worth loving," said Arthur Hollis, bluntly, as he knocked the ashes from his cigar.

"Has any one told you that I do not?" asked Mallard, quickly.

"No, certainly not; but she does not look happy," returned Hollis, thoughtfully. "As a friend of many years' standing, I feel myself privileged to speak without reserve to you, my old comrade. Forgive me for saying that though your bride's eyes ought to be filled with sunshine, they are noticeably sad and dreary. Hers is not a happy face, Eugene."

Mr. Mallard frowned. He had heard quite enough of this topic. His wife's face did not interest him. Arthur Hollis had been his friend for long years; they had been chums from childhood. Suddenly Eugene turned and laid his hand on Arthur Hollis's shoulder.

"I have a strange explanation to make to you," he said in a voice husky with emotion. "Your keen eyes have discovered, Hollis, what I would fain have kept from you. A full confession is good for the soul, they say, and I will tell you this much, Arthur: the girl whom I told you so much about, is not the one whom I have married. At the altar, in a dimly lighted church, this girl took the place of the one whom I was to wed, and I did not find it out until we had been pronounced man and wife."

Hollis could not have been more completely astounded if a volcano had opened at his feet.

Eugene Mallard had to repeat his words before Hollis could grasp the whole meaning of what he had heard.

"You must not think that I wronged her in any way, that she had any claim upon me," went on Eugene Mallard, huskily. "Do not judge me too hastily. It all came about through a mistake. She—she—mistook me for Royal Ainsley, my cousin, and hearing that I was[148] to be married, came there, and—and, by the aid of a woman, succeeded in becoming my bride. And now, because of it, three lives are ruined. I am trying to make the best of it, but it seems, at times, as though I will not be able to bear up under it—my whole heart belonging to one woman, while I am wedded to another."

"Great heavens!" exclaimed Hollis. "I did not dream of such a state of affairs!"

"She is my wife in name only," added Eugene Mallard, bitterly. "I do not know what the future will bring forth. I can only say that I am trying to live it out as best I can. My life is full of wretchedness, and I can not see what will be the end of it all."

Now Arthur Hollis could readily understand the brooding look in Ida's eyes. Why she was graver, more thoughtful, more abstracted than when he had seen her last.

While they were talking, another carriage drove up.

They saw a beautiful face at the window.

"It is Vivian Deane," said Mr. Mallard.

Hollis looked surprised.

"I hope, my dear boy," he said in a tone of jest, beneath which was certainly a vein of earnestness, "that Miss Deane has got over her mad infatuation for you, now that she knows you are married!"

Mr. Mallard looked thoughtful.

"I suppose you are wondering why I invited her here," he said, slowly, "and I may as well tell you the truth, that you will not for a moment imagine I sent for her to indulge in a flirtation. Miss Deane wrote me that she was coming to pay my wife a fortnight's visit, so what could I do. Without waiting to receive a reply from me, here she is. You will come with me, and welcome her?"

"Certainly," said Hollis, understanding Eugene's position.

Miss Deane looked exceedingly annoyed as the two men approached.

She had calculated upon meeting Eugene alone.[149] She meant to tell him in a few words that her life was ruined because of his marriage. Now she could only exchange the merest formal greeting. Biting her red lips fiercely, and forcing a smile to them, she held out her hand.

"I am so delighted at seeing you again, Mr. Mallard," she declared, giving Hollis a stiff, haughty bow.

Eugene assisted her from the carriage and avoided looking at her as much as possible—a fact which annoyed her exceedingly.

"And I am so anxious to see your bride," she continued.

Eugene could readily understand that, and so could Hollis.

Hollis followed his friend to the drawing-room. He stood by the young bride's side when Vivian Deane was presented to her.

He had expected to see an expression of bitter dislike on the doll-like pink-and-white face. He was surprised and relieved to see Vivian hold out her little hands and murmur in her cooing voice:

"I am so delighted to see you, Mrs. Mallard, I am sure we shall be friends."

Ida gazed anxiously, wistfully, into the pink-and-white face. Vivian's sea-blue eyes met her gaze unflinchingly; her red lips, which suggested more of art than nature, wore a mask of the sweetest smiles.

The young bride drew a deep breath of relief. She had been unnecessarily frightened, she told herself. Now that Vivian knew Eugene was married, she had in all probability resigned herself to the inevitable.

"Probably she has another lover by this time, and thinks no more of Eugene," thought Ida.



Alone in her room, Vivian Deane stood before her mirror and critically viewed the face reflected in it.

"I am more beautiful than Eugene Mallard's wife," she cried, nodding approvingly to the dimpled, smiling face, "and I will make that beauty tell. He does not look happy," she mused. "I, who know him so well, can see it. He has married her, but he is dissatisfied. There is something amiss between them. Ere I have been in this house a week, I will discover what it is." She nodded to the reflection in the mirror. "I had hoped that, seeing him married, I could steel my heart against him, but I find I can not."

"There is something connected with the manner in which Eugene Mallard first met his wife that I must find out," was Vivian's mental comment.

It was not long before Vivian discovered that her beautiful young hostess knew almost nothing of music.

"I think I have discovered her secret," she said to herself. "She must have been a poor girl, perhaps a working-girl."

Instead of seeing the wisdom of God in such an alliance, whereby the wealthy might share with the poor the gifts God had showered upon them, she was angrier than ever.

From the hour in which she had asked Ida the question concerning her meeting with Eugene Mallard, the young wife avoided being alone with her guest.

Vivian could not help but notice it, and she smiled to herself. She seemed to have no wish to capture handsome Captain Drury or Arthur Hollis. She preferred to talk to her hostess on each and every occasion.

"Yon have not told me," she said one day, "whether you lived in New York, San Francisco or Boston."

"Most of my life was spent in a little village outside of the great metropolis," said Ida, inwardly hoping the[151] inquisitive girl would not think of asking the name of the village.

Vivian did think of it, but concluded that it would be wisest not to pursue her inquiries too ardently.

"All this ought to have been mine," muttered Vivian, clinching her hands tightly—"all mine! I loved him first, and I loved him best. She had no right to take him from me!"

These thoughts often ran through Vivian's mind while Ida was talking to her, believing she was entertaining the best and truest friend she had in the great cruel world.

If the young wife had known her as she really was, she would have turned in utter loathing from the beautiful pink-and-white face; she would have prayed Heaven to save her from this, her greatest foe.

As it was, she saw only Vivian Deane's beauty and grace. She heard only kindness in her voice, and she thought to herself that she was very fortunate indeed in securing such a friend.

She talked and laughed so happily that the poor young wife almost forgot her sorrow while listening to her.

Vivian wondered if by any chance the young bride had found out how desperately she had been in love with her husband in other days.

The young wife became more and more unhappy day by day. Once, in following the windings of a brook, Ida was startled at finding herself several miles from home. Glancing up with a start, she found that the sun had almost reached its height. She had been gone longer than she had intended.

Perhaps there was some way by which she could take a shorter cut to the house. She saw a woman slowly advancing along the path, carrying a little baby in her arms. She stopped short as the woman approached. She recognized her as the wife of one of the village merchants.

Ida had often seen her driving on the road with her husband, holding the little child in her lap, and she[152] had said to herself, as she turned away to hide the tears that would spring to her eyes: "That woman has everything in the world to make her life happy. I would exchange places with her gladly if I could."

The woman smiled as she saw Eugene Mallard's young wife, and appeared annoyed upon observing that she was about to stop and speak to her. She answered her question readily enough, and pointed out the way, a short cut over the meadows, that would bring her near her home. Still Ida lingered, looking wistfully at the young mother.

"I have often seen you, from my window, rambling by the brook-side. You must be very fond of out-door life," said Ida.

"I do love the sunshine," replied the young woman; "but I do not come out for it only for myself, but for baby's sake also."

A great, sudden thrill that made her soul grow faint and dizzy filled Ida's whole being as her gaze rested on the babe she carried. She thought of that other one, in a nameless grave, sleeping under the daisies. It would have been just about the age of this little one had it lived.

"How happy you must be!" sighed Ida.

"We are not always what we seem," replied the woman, with a sigh. "I love this little thing very dearly, but it is not my own child. I had a little one whom I loved better than my life," went on the woman, sadly. "When it died, I refused to be comforted. I took on so that my husband grew frightened.

"'Don't fret, Margaret,' he said; 'I will find a way to comfort you.'

"He sent to some foundling asylum in the great city, and this little one was brought to me to fill the aching void in my heart. I love it very dearly, but oh! it can never take the place of the one I lost."

Eugene Mallard's wife was looking at it with her soul in her eyes.

"Poor little waif!" she sighed; "it was very fortunate in securing a home with you."


"Thank you, Mrs. Mallard," said the woman. "We are poor and plain people, but we will do what we can for the poor little thing."

She was about to pass on, thinking she had taken up too much of the lady's time with her story.

Suddenly Ida turned, her beautiful dark eyes heavy with tears.

"Would you mind letting me hold the baby for just one minute?" she asked, wistfully.

"No, certainly not," replied the woman, with a pleasant smile.

Again that thrill which she could hardly define shot through her as she received the babe from the woman's arms. She bent her face over the little rose-leaf one that lay upon her breast. Her lips moved, but no sound came from them.

It seemed to rend her very heart-strings to relinquish her hold of the infant—to hand it back to the woman who waited to receive it. The moments seemed to fly by on golden wings.

It seemed to Ida that she could stand there for long hours looking down into that lovely little face and those two great starry eyes that looked up wonderingly into her own. It cost her a great pang to hand the child back to the woman. But time was fleeting. She could not remain there longer, for the distant bells of the village were already ringing, proclaiming the noonday hour, and she must go home, or luncheon would be kept waiting.

"You come here often?" she asked, turning again to the woman.

"Almost every day," was the reply.

The hapless young wife made up her mind that she would see them often. Acting upon a sudden impulse, she took out her purse and handed the woman a golden coin.

"Take that for the little one," she said. "What is its name?"

"We haven't decided upon its name yet," returned the woman; "we have only had the child a few weeks."


"Would you think over it if I suggested a name?" asked Ida, wistfully.

"Yes, indeed," replied the woman. "You may be sure I would."

"Why not call her 'Ida May'?" murmured the young wife, with her whole heart and soul in her eyes.

"That is a beautiful name," cried the woman—"Ida May Lester. That is what it shall be!"

Somehow the naming of the poor waif gave to the hapless young wife a great relief.


Ida wended her way over the flower-strewn meadow, with her heart beating more wildly than it had ever beaten before. She could not forget the flower-like little infant that had looked up into her face, and which had so strangely affected her.

Even the guests noted her heightened color; and Vivian Deane, watching her narrowly from across the table, wondered what brought the brightness to her eyes.

She looked at Eugene Mallard with intense interest. Surely there was no corresponding gladness in his eyes. Indeed, he looked unusually careworn.

"I will soon find out what has happened," said Vivian, with a pang of bitter jealousy.

A little later Vivian sought Ida in her boudoir.

"It has commenced to rain," she said, "and I am at a loss to know what to do with myself. The Staples girls have gone to their rooms to rest, and their mother wearies me talking about Christian charity. The gentlemen have repaired to the smoking-room, and so I have sought you."


"You are very welcome," said Ida. "I will do my best to amuse you."

As she looked at Vivian, she said to herself:

"How foolish I have been to imagine that this brilliant, beautiful girl should care for a man who belonged to another girl."

Vivian had a very fascinating way when among women, and now she exerted herself to please Eugene Mallard's young wife as she had never exerted herself to please any one before.

"What a very cozy boudoir you have, Ida!" she said. "It is like a casket for some precious jewel. How considerate your husband was to have it furnished to suit your rich dark beauty. I used to think that nothing was pretty except white and gold or blue and white."

"That is only natural," returned Ida. "You are a pronounced blonde, you know."

"Then you do not agree with me that there is a possibility of blondes liking rich dark surroundings?"

"No; I should not fancy so," returned Ida, "except that blondes usually fall in love with dark men."

Vivian flushed a vivid scarlet, which Ida did not see, for at that moment Vivian's face was turned from her.

"Yes, that is very true," returned Vivian, making an effort to control her emotion.

In her case, Vivian knew that the old saying was at fault. The strong, passionate love of her heart had gone out to Eugene Mallard, and he was fair. He was her ideal of manly beauty. The faces of other men appeared quite insignificant when compared to his. She was anxious to turn the conversation into another channel.

"I have often thought, amid all this gayety, how lonely you must be at times without some girl friend to talk matters over with you," said Vivian.

"You are quite right," said Ida, eagerly. "I do need a girl friend, some one of my own age, to whom I could open my heart."

Vivian glided up to her and threw her arms about her neck.


"Let me be that friend," she whispered, eagerly.

The young wife looked at her wistfully; her cheeks flushed.

"I shall be only too glad, Vivian," Ida said.

"If she had heard that I was in love with her husband, I must first throw her off the track," thought Vivian.

"I am going to tell you a secret," she murmured, aloud; "but you must not reveal it to any one, I have had a strange love affair, Ida."

She felt the young wife start, her figure tremble; she saw the lovely face grow pale. But not appearing to notice her agitation, she went on:

"My hero is as dark as a Spanish knight. I met him recently. It was a case of love at first sight. He proposed to me within a fortnight. But my relatives do not like him, wealthy, handsome, courteous though he is. They have forbidden him the house, yet I think in time they will overcome their objections."

She could plainly see how her fictitious story relieved the young wife. The color came back to Ida's cheeks, the light to her eyes. She threw her arms impulsively about Vivian, and kissed her fair, lovely, treacherous face.

"You are indeed to be envied, Vivian," she said, earnestly. "To love and be loved is the greatest happiness God can give any one. I hope, for your sake, that your lover may win his way to the hearts of your relatives. But you know that the course of true love never did run smoothly."

"My lover is a great friend of your husband's, and perhaps he has told you about it?"

"No," said Ida. "I assure you that Mr. Mallard has not spoken to me on the subject," and she looked very discomforted.

"I am sure your husband must have received a letter from my lover and hidden it away somewhere. Won't you be so kind as to look thoroughly through his desk, and see?" asked Vivian.

Ida drew back in alarm.


"Oh, I could do not do what you ask. Mr. Mallard's rooms are in another part of the house," Ida answered, thoughtlessly.

Ida now realized the importance of the admission she had thoughtlessly made. But she could not recall her words—it was too late.

Vivian looked astounded. This was a state of affairs of which she had never dreamed. Her idea had been to find some pretext to look through Eugene Mallard's desk, and to abstract all the notes she had written to him.

She remembered one or two which she had written in which she had poured out her love for him in a mad fashion, and she would not like any one to come across them.

But here she had unearthed a startling surprise. Eugene Mallard's rooms were in another part of the house. Then they were indeed estranged. She must find out the secret that lay between them.

"I am so sorry to have unearthed so sad a secret," cried the false friend, winding her arms more tightly about Ida, and turning her face away, that the young wife might not observe the look of triumph in it. "But every life has its sorrow, and perhaps it was meant that I should comfort you. If you are wearing out your heart longing for the sympathy of a true friend, oh, dear Ida, please do confide in me, and let me help you!"

The words had such a ring of sympathy in them that it was no wonder the young wife believed her. She was young and unversed in the ways of the world, or this beautiful false friend could not have deceived her so.

"Oh, Vivian, I am unhappy," she sobbed, "surely the most unhappy girl the sun ever shone on! I must make a confidant of some one—tell some one my troubles, or I shall die. My—my husband does not love me!"

"Does not love you!" repeated Vivian. "Then why on earth did he marry you?"


The hapless young wife could find no answer to that question; her head drooped, and her lips were dumb.

"I am so glad you told me this," said Vivian; and it was strange that Ida did not notice the ring of triumph in the voice of her false friend as she said: "I will do my best to bring you two together. I do not ask which one is at fault. Both can not be entirely blameless."

"There is a shadow between us which never can be lifted," sobbed the young wife, putting her head on Vivian's shoulder. "There is love on only one side," went on Ida, despairingly. "He is indifferent to me, and—and he will grow to hate me."

"Forgive me, please, if I have been so engrossed in my own love affair that I did not notice anything was amiss between my old friend Eugene and his fair young bride."

"I almost dread to think of the future," moaned the young wife. "There are times when I give myself up to wondering over the strange problems of life, and I ask myself why I, who should be happy, find the world so dark and dreary."

"You must be very patient," said Vivian, "and above all things, let me warn you against being the first to make overtures for a reconciliation."

"Oh, I am so very, very glad that I have had this talk with you," sobbed Ida, "for during the past week I had come to the conclusion that the very first time I found my husband in the library, I would go up to him, and say; 'This kind of life is killing me. It would be better far for you to plunge a knife in my breast and kill me. Either take me to your heart, either make me your wife in fact as well as name, or send me out into the coldness and bitterness of the world. I can endure this no longer. Your friends crowd about me, thinking I am the happiest person in the world, while I am the most miserable. I must go from here, because I have learned to love you, my husband, with all my heart and soul. You may be surprised to hear this from me, but it is the truth. I love you as no one else ever will.[159] You may live for years, flattered and happy, but no love like mine will ever come to you again. Although you married me, yet you do not love me, and never will. Always remember that the wife who is leaving you loves you with all her heart. I would not tell you this now, but that I know in this world we may never meet again.'"

Her voice died away in a whisper as she uttered the last word, and the false friend who had determined to part husband and wife said she had learned just in time what was necessary to prevent a reconciliation between Ida and her husband.


After Vivian Deane had learned of the estrangement of Eugene and Ida, she made up her mind that she would part them forever.

But how? She thought over the matter long and earnestly. She was standing in the magnificent drawing-room one morning, when Arthur Hollis entered.

"How does it happen that you are not out for a canter on horseback with our host and Captain Drury?" she asked. "This is such a delightful morning."

"Ah, Miss Deane," he replied, laughingly, showing a handsome set of white teeth, "I was just bemoaning that fact. But I had some important letters to write, and I was obliged to remain in my room and finish them."

At that moment they saw their young hostess crossing the lawn. Vivian saw Arthur Hollis look after her with a long, steady, earnest gaze, until she was quite out of their sight.


"Are you admiring our young hostess?" she asked, suddenly, with something like a frown on her face.

"Yes," he answered, frankly. "I was just thinking that Mrs. Mallard has the sweetest face and most charming manner of any woman I ever met."

"Then you admire her style of beauty?" said Vivian, a little piqued.

"Yes, very much," said Arthur Hollis. "If I had met her before she married our friend Eugene, I think I should have fallen in love with her myself."

The words were innocent enough; but Arthur Hollis never for a moment dreamed of the terrible mischief they were to do in the after years.

Those words so simply uttered sent a thrill through the heart of the girl who listened.

"Ah, I have it!" she said to herself. "A way is opened to me at last to part Eugene Mallard and his wife. I will encourage Arthur Hollis's admiration for the beautiful Ida. Men are easily flattered. There is no knowing what the end will be."

It was a plot worthy of a fiend incarnate; but this girl, who loved Eugene Mallard, would stop at nothing to gain her end.


During the fortnight that followed, Arthur Hollis sunned himself each day more and more in Ida's presence.

No one noticed it save Vivian Deane. He saw no danger, nor did she, in their companionship. In the meantime, the shadow darkened and deepened. It was simply the old story in another form.

They were both young. She was gifted with the sweetest grace that ever a woman possessed; he was[161] brave, courteous, and noble, with the first throb of a mighty passion in his heart.

What usually happens in such cases? He fell desperately in love with Ida.

At first Arthur told himself it was pity for her loneliness that actuated him to be always at her side, to make time pass pleasantly for her. He realized, when it was too late, that pity had deepened into a mighty love. And he told himself, in his despair, as the truth forced itself upon him, that he loved her.

The truth came to him like a great shock. He went to Eugene Mallard, and told him he must go away at once. It would have been better if he had told him why; but he did not.

"I will not listen to such a thing!" cried Eugene. "You have promised to stay until the shooting season, and I will hold you to your word."

In vain he pleaded. But Eugene was obdurate.

"There is no good reason for your hurrying away," said Eugene.

"Then you want me to stay, no matter what happens?" replied his friend, quickly.

"Yes," replied Eugene Mallard; and he thought of Arthur's words for many a day afterward.

Arthur Hollis tried to reason with himself, saying that it was better to go. But he was like the moth, who felt insensibly attracted toward the flame, drawing nearer and nearer, until, like the moth, he would perish in it.

After his conversation with Eugene, he proceeded to shut his eyes to the danger.

He was a free-lance. No woman's face had ever touched his heart before, and he was frightened at the intensity of the love that thrilled his heart for beautiful Ida Mallard.

He would sun himself in her presence for one brief fortnight longer, and then go away. Surely it was not much in a life-time. He would not deprive himself of the one glimpse of sunshine that had drifted into his life.


Every day found them together.

Although Ida did not realize what was in his heart, yet she felt intuitively that there was a great change in Arthur Hollis since he had been beneath that roof.

Although he lingered with his feet on the edge of a precipice, yet he stood face to face with the truth—he loved at last with all the passionate strength of his heart and nature.

He said to himself that if marriages were made in heaven, she was the one woman intended for him; she was the only woman in this world that he could ever love.

If she had only been free, he would have given her his life, his love—all that he had on earth to give.

To make the situation all the more pitiful, he knew that she was a wife in name only to the man whose name she bore; that she was as far removed from him as though she dwelt in an opposite part of the world from him.

She was so young, so unhappy, he pitied her with all his heart. He was perplexed, agitated.

How he enjoyed the rambles, the rides with her! The sweetest moment of his life was when he could steal upon her unawares.

He saw no danger, and in the meantime the shadow darkened and deepened. Vivian Deane watched them with exultant eyes.

"It will end in an elopement," she told herself, triumphantly. "Their hearts are drifting nearer and nearer together, and the end is not far off."

Every day seemed to make Ida more cold and careless, and to leave an added sternness upon the face of Eugene Mallard, and a harshness in his voice.

His marriage had been a bitter regret. It was an effort now to even keep up appearances. He had sealed his misery. There were times when he wished fiercely, miserably, that he could sever that most unhappy bond and set her free.

Not all the wealth and luxury and the army of obsequious[163] servants could make the grand old mansion a home in its true sense.

The young wife plunged into a ceaseless round of frivolity with a reckless abandon quite foreign to her nature.

She accepted every invitation that came to her, and gave in return a series of entertainments of so extravagant and magnificent a character that the people around opened their eyes in astonishment, and whispered it was well that Eugene Mallard's pocket was a deep one.

But before long they found something else to comment upon. Wherever Ida went, whether she went abroad or entertained at home, at dinner, ball, assembly, there, always closely in her train, might be seen the handsome Arthur Hollis.

Gossip began to circulate, slight and vague at first, but it soon became plainly hinted that Eugene Mallard's beautiful young wife was flirting with Arthur Hollis—flirting defiantly, desperately, recklessly. People wondered in indignant astonishment if her husband was blind or mad.

Almost everybody was discussing the piquant scandal. Even those who had been her guests found something to say, declaring that they had noticed it from the first, adding this or that detail as the occasion prompted.

They wondered why some one did not drop a hint to the husband. Unsuspicious by nature, and disregarding the formal calls of society whenever he could possibly do so, he very seldom accompanied his wife on the rounds of gayety on which she had embarked. For weeks neither significant words nor glances came to him.

But he did hear of it at last, and then the blow struck him with terrible effect. It was only a few sentences spoken by a couple of ladies, and pointed with a venom which only a woman's tongue can give, coupling the name of his wife with that of Arthur Hollis.

But the import of their words was unmistakable, and the shock seemed momentarily to stop the young man's[164] breath. The two scandal-mongers lingered over their gossip with keen delight, not knowing that they were overheard. It was at a garden-party given by Ida. Eugene Mallard had gone into the grounds to enjoy a cigar in a favorite little retreat which few of the guests had as yet discovered. He did not care for the dancing on the lawn, and could not be induced to join the dancers.

Hidden by a group of laurel-bushes, Eugene's quick ear caught the words of two young girls walking slowly down the path.

"Have you seen our hostess, young Mrs. Mallard?" asked one of the other. "I have been searching for her everywhere."

"Look for handsome Arthur Hollis," returned her companion. "You will surely find her with him."

The rest of the sentence was uttered in a whisper, but Eugene Mallard heard every word of it.


Eugene Mallard flung down the cigar which he had just lighted as soon as the girls passed, and made his way from the place.

He resisted the impulse to turn fiercely upon them and demand how they dared to speak of his young wife in that manner. It required all his strength of will to keep down his anger.

He passed the two girls on the path a moment later, and though they gave a start, they believed that he had not heard their remarks, for he did not betray his anger in his face.

Eugene looked about for his wife. His eyes wandered sharply around as he threaded his way among the dancers. But Ida was not visible.


Crossing the lawn, he encountered Vivian Deane and Captain Drury. She was looking her sweetest in pale-blue summer silk half veiled by white lace and pink rosebuds.

He would have passed them by, with a few forced words of pleasantry, but Vivian would not have it so.

"You have not danced once this afternoon, Eugene," she said; "and a host who does his duty should figure in some of the waltzes at least. Are you looking for a partner now? Shall I find you one?"

"No; thanks, Vivian," he answered. "I am looking for my—my wife. Do you know where she is?"

"Yes," returned Vivian. "I saw her a moment ago. Let me see where it was. Oh, yes; I remember—down by the clump of oaks. She and Mr. Hollis had danced four consecutive dances together, and were resting. By the way," she added, with a gay little laugh, and something like a pout on her pretty red lips, "you must tell her not to monopolize Mr. Hollis, Eugene. It is too bad of her. It does not give a single girl a fair chance, you know."

Vivian moved away with the captain after giving him that parting shot, and Eugene was not rendered much easier by her last words, although they were apparently gayly and carelessly spoken.

He walked hurriedly to the further end of the grounds, and there, under a huge oak-tree, he caught a glimpse of a filmy white dress.

Advancing, he saw his wife sitting there, with Arthur Hollis beside her.

Neither saw him. Ida's eyes were fixed upon a crimson rose she was recklessly plucking to pieces. She seemed to be hardly heeding her companion's words.

Arthur was leaning back against the oak-tree, looking down at the dark, curly head, and he was speaking earnestly in a tone hardly above a whisper.

A handsome couple they looked, and surely like nothing so much as lovers.

Eugene realized this, and a feeling of wrath took possession of him. He did not love her; in fact, there[166] were times when he told himself that he hated her with the bitterest kind of hatred; but she bore his name, and she must not be allowed to set the tongues of gossipers wagging.

Eugene knew that she did not mean anything by receiving the attentions of handsome Arthur Hollis, his friend. She was but a young girl, after all, and she thoughtlessly allowed herself to drift into this most wretched flirtation.

His thoughts went no deeper, no further than that; but that was far enough, and for the sake of her good name, this thoughtless, reckless nonsense must be stopped. He trusted her implicitly, yet he felt a mad, unreasonable rage against the two sitting there.

It was well his will was so strong and his temper so well under control, or he could not have advanced as calmly as he did.

Ida was dressed in white. It struck him that she looked very beautiful. But just then her beauty seemed to exasperate and harden her husband toward her.

Ida glanced up, and seeing him, started.

Arthur Hollis appeared a little uncomfortable, but after the first sharp glance, Eugene Mallard did not look at him, feeling that he could not trust himself to do so. He addressed his wife, looking at her with a dark frown on his face.

"Vivian told me you were here," he began. "Are you going to dance the next set?"

Her face flushed, her hands trembled. Was he, her husband, coming to ask her to dance with him? His next words showed her how mad she had been to cherish such a hope.

"I was going to ask Vivian to dance," he said. "I see there are three couples standing over there ready to dance. It will require one more couple to fill up the set."

With something like haughty pride, she raised her dark head.

"I shall not dance," said Ida, in a cold, bitter voice. "I am tired."


Arthur Hollis had the grace to laughingly excuse himself. He had been enjoying his tête-à-tête, and the sudden appearance of her husband on the scene was not welcome. Besides, he had noticed that there was something in Eugene Mallard's face which he did not like.

Arthur Hollis did not speak, and Eugene Mallard waited until he was well out of hearing. The silence lasted so long that Ida broke it by petulantly saying:

"As I shall not dance this set, would it not be as well for you to find some one else? The music is just starting."

He did not appear to listen to the remark. His eyes were riveted on the little satin programme, suspended by a little silver cord at her belt, and he saw the initials of Arthur Hollis written opposite six or eight dances.

His face grew hard, stern, and rigid. Had he been blind not to have noticed what was going on, when it was so plainly apparent to every one else?

"I should like to ask something of you," he said, pointing to the card. "I want you to promise me that you will not dance any more with Arthur Hollis."

With a feeling of mingled rage and pain he saw that Ida turned first pale then scarlet. She drew herself up to her full height and looked at him with a hauteur which she never knew she possessed.

"May I ask why you make such a request?" she asked, sharply.

"For to-day let it be enough that I make the request. Will you promise me?"

All the spirit that Ida possessed was up in arms.

"Certainly not," Ida responded. "I would not dream of breaking an engagement for no reason whatever."

There was a pause, filled only by the strains of distant music.

Paler than usual and with a stern look overspreading his face, Eugene Mallard waited for his wife to continue, as she seemed to have something more to say.

"If you objected to your friend dancing with me,[168] you—you should have made the request before the engagements were made."

He looked at her angrily, his fair, handsome face flushing.

"A half dozen engagements should not have been made," he returned. "People will certainly comment upon it. They are already whispering of my friend's attention to you."

A strange look which he could not analyze crossed the beautiful face.

"You must stop this gossip," he went on, "or I will take measures to do so. I have made a request of you, and shown you why I made it. Will you grant it—for your own sake?"

"I refuse!" she repeated. "I am sorry that you do not think me capable of protecting my own name—and yours."

With something like a muttered imprecation on his lips, he turned on his heel, and strode rapidly from her side.

"Fool that I was!" he muttered, clinching his hands together. "To save her honor I married her. But what does she care for my honor?"

The breech between them grew wider than ever now.

Ida danced with Arthur Hollis, and the tongues of the gossips wagged. If Eugene Mallard heard, he paid no heed. Strange thoughts were passing through his mind.

All unmindful of what Eugene Mallard had to say to his wife, Arthur Hollis danced with her, and hovered more closely than ever by her side.

He was growing desperate. His stay was drawing to a close. He meant to make the most of the few hours of sunshine and happiness before he turned his back on all that made life worth the living.

At the finish of one of the dances a messenger-boy was seen approaching with a telegram.

"For Mr. Arthur Hollis," he called.

Mechanically Arthur held out his hand. It was a[169] dispatch requiring his immediate presence in Baltimore to attend to some urgent business.

"Have you bad news?" asked Ida, turning to him; for she saw his face had grown very pale.

"Yes—no," he answered, incoherently, a troubled look coming into his eyes. "I must go away." He did not look at her as he uttered the words. "I must go within the hour," he said, huskily. "Come down by the brook where we have passed so many happy hours. I should like to say good-bye to you there."

For a moment she hesitated; then seeing the sorrowful look on his face, she quietly allowed him to lead her down the path toward the brook.

In silence they walked through the sunshine, heedless that there were two pairs of eyes following them—Vivian Deane's from one part of the grounds, and Eugene Mallard's from another.

Vivian turned and followed them. That was the beginning of the tragedy that darkened three lives.


Slowly Ida and Arthur Hollis walked together over the beautiful green lawn, Vivian Deane creeping like the shadow of fate after them.

Arthur seated Ida in her favorite nook on the mossy stone. For a moment neither of them spoke; then he suddenly caught her little hand in his. Ida did not know why she trembled, why her hand grew cold in his clasp.

There was not a cloud in the blue sky overhead. The cool, sweet breeze shook the rose leaves and scattered them on the grass; the leaves of the oak-trees stirred on the great boughs. A calm, sweet and solemn in its beauty, stole over them.


"Ida," he whispered, hoarsely, "did ever a great pity fill your heart for any one? If so, let pity fill it now for me, for I am in need of it."

"Why?" she asked, looking wonderingly up at him.

"How I shall look back to this hour when I am gone!" he said, brokenly.

"When I am gone!" The words had a sad murmur in them, like the fall of autumn leaves. They pierced the very heart of the girl who heard them.

"When you are gone?" she repeated. "What do you mean?"

"I am going away within the hour," he said. "The telegram I received calls me back to Baltimore by the first train," he added.

Involuntarily Ida drew closer to him, her face paling. Suddenly the light went out of the sun, the glory faded from the blue sky; the music of the birds was hushed, the bitterness of death seemed to have fallen over her heart.

"Going away?" She repeated the words over and over again, but she could not realize their meaning.

"I—I have been so happy, I forgot you would have to go away," she said, slowly.

"I am going down to Central America. I may die of fever and never come back," he answered, with passionate pain in his voice. "If I am spared to return, it may not be for years. I will have passed out of your thoughts by that time. You will have forgotten the pleasant hours we spent together, forgotten our rambles through the sunny hours. You will have grown into a woman of the world by that time. You have not begun life yet."

"I feel as though I had finished with it," she murmured.

She did not try to check the words that came throbbing to her lips.

"I wish you had not come into my life only to go out of it," she added, with passionate pain.

He looked at her, and strong man though he was, his lips trembled. She had raised her face to his, and she[171] looked so beautiful, so unhappy, that he turned away with a groan which came from the very depths of his heart.

Vivian Deane had crept near enough to hear the first words that had passed between them. She knew that he had received a telegram calling him away. He had either taken Ida Mallard down to the brook-side to say good-bye, or to urge her to elope with him. Most likely the latter.

She would go and fetch Eugene. He should be a silent witness to the scene; then her vengeance would be complete.

She knew his pride, his temper. She knew he would not raise his voice to utter one word to stay her steps. He would spurn her, he would force her to go.

Vivian hurried back to the dancers on the lawn. Eugene Mallard was standing apart from his guests. She glided up to him and laid a little white hand upon his arm.

"Eugene," she said, in a voice which trembled with excitement, "I have always been your true friend. If I saw you in danger, my first impulse would be to save you. If I saw an enemy pointing a deadly arrow at your heart, I would try to turn it aside. If I saw a dark cloud hanging over you, my first impulse would be to warn you."

"I anticipate what you are going to say, Vivian," he broke in, with an expression of annoyance on his face. "You are going to repeat some gossip to me, and I will say, before you begin, that I do not care to hear it."

"If you will not heed the words of warning of one who wishes you well, you must submit to the jeers of the whole country. I advise you to go to the brook-side, where your wife is saying farewell to Arthur Hollis; or perhaps she is going with him."

She saw the look that passed over his face as she turned swiftly and hurried away. He could not have answered her if his life had depended upon it. Glancing[172] back over her shoulder, she saw that he had strolled off in the direction which she had indicated.

"He will catch them making love to each other, and then—Ah, well, we shall see!"

Ida and Arthur had walked in silence by the brook, and they stood beside it for some moments without speaking; then suddenly Arthur Hollis turned toward her.

"Say that you will miss me when I am gone," he murmured, with emotion.

"You know that I will," she answered. "But for you, my life here would have been very lonely."

"Do you really mean that?" he asked, quickly.

"Yes," she returned, with something very like a sob on her lips.

Impetuously he caught the little white hand that hung by her side.

"Those words will linger in my memory until the day I die!" he cried, huskily. "Ida, I am going away. You will never see me in this world again. I shall never come back."

She looked at him with her great dark eyes.

"It breaks my heart to say farewell," he continued, huskily, "for when I leave you, Ida, I go out into the darkness of death."

"Oh, do not say that!" she cried.

"Yes, the hour has come when I must tell you," he answered. "It will ease my heart. Only forgive and forget me. Oh, how am I to say good-bye to you?" he asked, sharply, looking, with desperation in his eyes, at the lovely pale face. "I have lived under the same roof with you. I have been thrown into your society day by day, yet I have kept my secret in my own heart. Now I am going away, and I will tell you the truth—I love you, Ida—I love you!"

He caught her hands in his, and she was too bewildered and dazed to withdraw them.

"You must forgive me!" he cried. "Have pity on me, if my words do not please you!"

She was carried away by his reckless impetuosity, and[173] was too much surprised to interrupt him. She had not even recovered herself sufficiently to withdraw her hands from his. All she knew, in her bewilderment, was, that he was kneeling upon the grass at her feet, with his head bent, and that hot, passionate tears were falling from his eyes.

"I have brought you here because I could not bear the pain any longer. I must speak to you or die. I love you! Ah, Heaven knows how I love you!"

She had no power to stop the torrent of words that fell from his lips.

"You will no doubt wonder how I dare say this to you," he went on, brokenly, "but my answer is—love dares anything. It must express itself in action or words. No mortal can keep it back."

She tried to check him, but it was impossible.

"Hush—hush!" was all she could say.

"I know the gulf that lies between us," he went on: "I realize that it can never be bridged over. If I had met you first, I feel all would have ended differently. You would have loved me as I love you. I feel it—I know it."

At that moment Eugene Mallard, who had hurried down the path at the suggestion of Vivian Deane, arrived upon the scene.

Only the tall lilac bushes sheltered him from the two who stood by the brook-side. For a moment he was horrified at what he saw and heard. He stood fairly rooted to the spot. His first impulse was to dash in upon them, fling Arthur Hollis to the earth, and beat his very life out.

His next impulse was to rush to the house for his revolver, return with it, and shoot his false friend before his guilty wife's eyes.

He acted upon the latter impulse, turned on his heel, and a moment later, white as death, he dashed into the house and ran up a rear stair-way to his room.

He did not love the girl who bore his name, but she should learn, even if it were at the cost of a life, what it meant to drag his name, his honor, through the mire.



Although scarcely five minutes had elapsed since Eugene Mallard dashed into the house in search of his revolver, when he returned to the brook-side neither his wife nor Arthur Hollis was to be seen.

His rage was so great that he could scarcely contain himself. In his present state of mind he did not dare return to his guests, lest his emotion should betray him.

He thought they were planning an elopement; but he would nip that in the bud.

The woman to whom he had given his name should not disgrace him. He determined upon that as he hurried up a rear stair-way to his wife's apartments to verify his suspicions.

To his utter surprise, as he flung open the door, he saw her sitting by the window. She sprung to her feet, looking at him with widely distended eyes.

It was the first time that her husband had ever crossed the threshold of her apartments.

He entered the room, closed the door behind him, and stood with folded arms before her.

Husband and wife looked at each other.

It was he who broke the awful silence. He strode up to her, and seized her wrist in a vise-like grasp.

"There is little use in making a preliminary speech," he cried, hoarsely. "I will come to the point at once!"

His face was ghastly, his lips trembled with uncontrollable rage.

Ida, pale, terrified, wondering, gazed at him with undisguised terror in her eyes.

"What is it?" she gasped.

"You guilty woman!" cried Eugene Mallard—"you cruel, guilty woman, I have interrupted you in your preparation for flight, it seems!"

His stern face, the anger that shone in his eyes, and the harsh voice frightened her. She shrunk back as[175] though he had struck her. Her lips parted as though she would speak; but all sound died away on them.

"It is time," said Eugene Mallard, "that we came to a clear understanding. In every way you have deceived me! I have been fatally betrayed! Your shameless flirtation has tarnished my name and lowered my position! I am ashamed to look men in the face! Where is he?" he demanded, looking about him, as though he expected to see Arthur Hollis in the room.

"Down by the brook," she faltered.

Eugene laughed a harsh, satirical laugh.

"He must have seen me coming while he waited there for you, and fled from my wrath." He turned on his heel. "I repeat, if you stir from this room until I give you leave, it will end in a tragedy!"

In his anger, he did not see that he was trampling under foot a noble heart. If she had been able to calmly explain to him just what had occurred, she might have been saved. She attempted to speak, but he held up his hand.

"Not one word!" he cried. "I will not listen!"

He turned suddenly, hurried from the room, closed the door after him, and went quickly to his library, where he could be alone.

Ida, left alone, reeled into the nearest chair. She shook as if in an ague; she was cold, and her head reeled. Her keen pain and agony kept her from fainting.

She tried to imagine her future life. What was Eugene Mallard about to do? Her future was now ruined, sacrificed. Eugene Mallard had been cold and indifferent to her before, now he hated her.

He said she was to remain in that room until he should return. She flung herself face downward upon the floor. He had called her guilty and cruel; he had vented his rage upon her. Her brain was dizzy with the unusual excitement.

When Vivian Deane glided into Ida's room to find out what was going on, to see whether Ida had really eloped, she found her in a deep swoon. She did not call the servants, but set about reviving her herself.


Ida lay white and still as one dead. Above her bent Vivian Deane, half terrified at the result of her work. Very soon her labors were rewarded, and Ida opened her large, dark eyes.

"Vivian—Vivian!" she murmured, catching at the arms of her false friend, her teeth chattering.

The blinding tears that now fell from Ida's eyes was a mercy sent directly from Heaven, for they saved the hapless young wife from going mad.

"Something has gone wrong with you, my dear," said Vivian, in her sweetest, most cooing voice. "Tell me what it is, Ida, dear. Let me console and comfort you."

Another fit of sobbing more violent than the first, and Ida threw herself into the arms of her treacherous friend, sobbing out:

"Oh! Vivian, I must tell some one."

In a voice that shook with emotion, she proceeded to confide to her enemy what had happened down by the brook-side, adding that her husband had discovered it in some way, and accused her of encouraging Arthur Hollis.

"Even if you had given him encouragement, no one could have blamed you," Vivian said in a soft, purring voice, "for your husband's neglect has been noticeable by every one!"

"But I did not encourage him!" cried Ida, in agony. "He was pleasant company, but I thought no more of him, even though I spent so much of my time in his society, than I did of Captain Drury, or any of the other guests beneath this roof. Oh! I do wish I were dead—I do—I do!"

In this exaggerated feeling of one ill in body and in mind, in a state of nervous tension, a true friend would have shown the unhappy Ida that her position was not so desperate and hopeless as she imagined. Matters could not, however, be carried to an extremity without an explanation.

"He bid me to remain here until he should return," sobbed Ida. "What do you suppose he means to do?"


"Do you really want my honest opinion?" asked Vivian, with a steely glitter in her blue eyes.

"Yes!" said the young wife, anxiously, fairly holding her breath in suspense.

"Well, then, my dear, if you must have it, here it is: I, who know the fierce temper of the Mallards, say to you that I think he intends to call all the guests here, to openly denounce you before them, and then turn you away from his house!"

The face of the girl-wife who listened grew ghastly.

"I would never stay beneath this roof to face his anger," said Vivian, her eyes glistening. "I would gather up what money and jewels I could lay my hands on, and run away—go as far away as possible."

"Would you?" cried Ida, in a hushed, awful voice.

"Yes," advised Vivian, firmly. "And every moment of delay brings you nearer and nearer to face the terrible ordeal that I am sure he intends to mete out to you!"

Ida rose suddenly to her feet

"I will do as you advise, Vivian," she whispered, her dark eyes filled with terror. "I will fly at once!"


Vivian Deane looked down at the cowering girl at her feet. It seemed to her then that her triumph was complete. She could scarcely keep back the cry of exultation that rose to her lips.

"How shall I leave the house without being seen?" whispered Ida, piteously.

"Leave that to me," murmured Vivian. "I am very sorry for you, Ida, and I will do all I can to aid you in this, your hour of greatest sorrow."


"You are, indeed, a true friend to me," sobbed Ida. "I shall never, never forget your kindness."

Vivian looked a trifle uncomfortable at these words of unmerited praise. She dared not remain longer with Ida, for she knew that two or three partners would be looking for her.

"Stay here for at least fifteen minutes," she said, eagerly, "and by that time I will join you, and tell you what plans I have made for you."

Ida could not think for herself, her brain was so benumbed. She could only nod in silence.

Scarcely five minutes had elapsed since Vivian had quitted the boudoir, until Eugene Mallard again knocked for admittance at the door.

There was no answer. He turned the knob, entered, and found his young wife lying senseless upon the carpet. For the second time, Ida had given away to the awful agony that consumed her. Among those at the fête was a young doctor. Eugene summoned him hastily.

"Dear me, this is quite serious!" exclaimed the doctor, as he bent over the prostrate form which Eugene had borne to a couch. "Your wife has brain fever. It is a serious case, I fear."

The garden-party broke up quite suddenly. The news that Mrs. Mallard had been taken ill was rumored among the revelers, and silently but quickly the guests took their departure, all save Vivian Deane.

She went up to Eugene, and laid a hand on his arm.

"Let me remain and nurse my dear friend Ida," she pleaded. "Do not refuse, I beg of you!"

"Let it be as the doctor says," answered Eugene.

But the physician shook his head decisively.

"This is a case requiring the most competent nurses. I am sorry to refuse you, Miss Deane, but in this instance I must do so."

Vivian controlled the anger that leaped into her heart.

"You certainly mean well," added the doctor, "but in such a case as this even her nearest relatives are not to be allowed in the sick-room."

Vivian was obliged to swallow her chagrin as best[179] she could. If she had been allowed her way, the young wife who had come between her love and herself would never rise from her bed.

"When she is convalescing I will visit her," she said to herself.

As she had no excuse to remain longer in the house, she was obliged to take her departure along with the other guests.

When Eugene Mallard had hurried to his room, after bidding Ida to remain there until his return, it was his intention to go to his room for writing materials, and returning to Ida, force from her a written confession of her love for his friend, and her intention to elope with him.

Under the circumstances, he could not very well carry his plan into execution. His rage against his hapless young wife turned to pity when he saw her lying there so helplessly before him.

During the fortnight that followed, the servants, who knew of their master's estrangement from his young wife, and how little he cared for her, were greatly surprised to find themselves banished from the sick-room, while Eugene Mallard took possession of it.

The fact was, he was puzzled at her raving. Sometimes, when taking the place of the trained nurse for an hour, he was troubled beyond expression to hear her go over again and again the scene that had taken place by the brook.

In her delirium, Ida vehemently repulsed Arthur Hollis, demanding of him how it was that he dared speak a word of love to her, the wife of another.

Then the scene would change, and she would fancy herself once more in her own room, falling on her knees and crying out to Heaven that she could not bear her husband's coldness.

Often would Eugene listen intently while Ida clasped her hands and moaned:

"Oh, Eugene! Eugene! will I ever be more to you than I am now? I love you! Yes, I love you, but you will never know it! If you only knew it, you would be[180] surprised. A wife never loved a husband more dearly, more devotedly than I love you. I would have devoted my whole life to you. I would have died for you! Every beat of my heart, every thought of my mind, every action of my life is for you! I love you as no one else ever will, as no one has loved you! You may live many years, happy, flattered by the women of the world, but no love like mine will ever come to you. The wife who is to you as the dirt beneath your feet is the truest friend you have!"

Eugene Mallard looked terribly distressed as he listened.

"Ida, my dear wife, listen to me," he would say. "I—I—shall try very hard to be kinder to you than I have been. Do you hear me, do you understand?"

There was no gleam of love in the pale face; no light such as he had thought his words would bring there; no gleam of joy. She did not seem to understand him. He said to himself that he must be cautious; that he must not distress her by speaking words that would give her hope.

The news of the illness of Eugene Mallard's young wife had traversed far beyond the small Virginia town. He was well known in New York, and the papers of the metropolis copied the bit of news; but in doing so, they made a great mistake. The items read that the young wife of Eugene Mallard had died from the effects of brain fever.

Miss Fernly read the article, and without delay she wrote to Eugene Mallard.

In one part of her letter she said:

"I should never have written you the following if the wife whom you had wedded through my mistake had lived. But now that she is gone, I will tell you the truth—that hapless deed came very near costing your poor Hildegarde her life. From the time of your marriage to the present, she has never been the same. She loved you then, she still loves you.

"This is what I would advise you to do: wait a reasonable length of time, and then come and claim Hildegarde,[181] and this time nothing shall happen to prevent the marriage of you two whom Heaven had intended for each other. I know Hildegarde is breaking her heart day by day, hour by hour, for love of you.

"I urge you to come to her just as soon as you think it prudent, as I think it is my duty to warn you that Hildegarde is fading away before our very eyes, and your presence is the only thing that can save her life.

"I here inclose you a small portrait of her I had taken only a little while ago. Her face is as sweet as a flower, but, ah, me! one can not help but read the sadness in every line of it."

It was just at the time when Eugene Mallard was feeling kinder toward his wife than ever that he received Miss Fernly's letter inclosing Hildegarde's picture. He had done his best to try to crush out his hopeless love for one from whom Heaven had so strangely parted him.

Great drops of perspiration stood out on his brow as he folded the letter and turned the picture face downward on his desk.

It seemed to Eugene that the bitter waves of death were sweeping over him. It was the reopening of the old wound in his heart that he prayed Heaven to heal. He loved Hildegarde with all the strength of his manhood. He wished that he were dead. The pain seemed greater than he could bear. He found that he still loved sweet Hildegarde; but he was bound to another in honor and conscience. He would try to do his duty toward the one who bore his name.

He took the letter to the open fire-place, where a log fire burned lazily, and knelt down before it, holding it to the flame. Red tongues of fire caught at it gleefully, and the next instant it was a heap of ashes in one corner of the grate.

Then he held out the picture to the flames, but involuntarily he drew it back. He could not allow it to burn. It seemed to him that his own heart would burn first.


"Heaven give me strength to destroy it!" he cried. "I dare not trust myself to keep it. It will drive me mad!"


The flames touched the portrait, and with a cry Eugene Mallard hastily drew it back.

"No, no—a thousand times no!" It would be as easy to burn the living, beating heart in his bosom.

While he had the strength, he hurried to his writing-desk, placed it in a pigeon-hole, shut down the lid, and turned the key. Then he buried his face in his hands.

He ruminated upon the strangeness of the position he was placed in. Both of these young girls loved him, while he loved but one of them, and the one whom he loved so deeply could never be anything in this world to him. He wondered in what way he had offended Heaven that such a fate should be meted out to him.

At that moment quite a thrilling scene was transpiring at the railway station of the little Virginia town.

The New York Express, which had just steamed in, stood before it, and from one of the drawing-room cars there stepped a handsome man dressed in the height of fashion.

He sauntered into the waiting-room, looking about him as though in search of the ticket-agent.

A woman entered the depot at that moment carrying a little child in her arms. She recognized the man at a single glance.

"Why, Mr. Royal Ainsley!" she cried, "is this indeed you returning to your old home?"


Turning hastily around at the mention of his name, he beheld Mrs. Lester standing before him.

"Yes; I have returned like a bad penny, Mrs. Lester," he said, with a light, flippant laugh. "But, judging from the expression on your face, you are not glad to see me."

"I have not said so," she answered.

"Sit down, Mrs. Lester," he said, flinging himself down on one of the benches. "I should like to inquire of you about the women-folk of the village."

The woman sat down beside him, in obedience to his request.

"There is very little to tell," she answered; "everything in our village moves on about the same, year in and year out. Nothing of importance has taken place, except the marriage of your cousin, Eugene Mallard."

"Ha! ha! ha! So my fastidious cousin has changed his name from Royal Ainsley to that of Eugene Mallard to please his uncle, has he? Well, I read of it in one of the New York papers, but I scarcely credited it. Between you and me, Mrs. Lester, that was a mighty mean piece of work—the old fool leaving his entire fortune to him, and cutting me off without a cent."

"Every one knows that you were warned of what was to come unless you mended your ways," answered the woman.

"Bah! I never thought for a moment that the old fool would keep his word," retorted the other. "But you say that my cousin is wedded. That is indeed news to me. Whom did he wed—Vivian Deane?"

"Oh, no," she answered, "not Miss Deane. Every one in the village prophesied that he wouldn't wed her, although she was so infatuated with him."

"I suppose she is an heiress," said Ainsley, savagely knocking the ashes off his cigar. "It's easy enough to marry another fortune if you have one already."

"I don't know if she is an heiress," returned Mrs. Lester; "but she's a real lady. Any one can see that. But I fear that he is in great danger of losing her. She is[184] now very low with brain fever, and it is doubtful whether she will live."

"Humph!" he muttered. "My visit here is most inopportune then. I wanted to see my cousin, and strike him for the loan of a few thousand dollars. He won't be in very good humor now to accede to my request. I think I'll keep shady and wait a fortnight before seeing him. But who is this?" he cried, looking at the child she carried in her arms. "I understood that your baby died."

"So it did," replied Mrs. Lester. "This is the little foundling whom we are about to adopt. My husband brought it to me from a foundling asylum."

"Well, I do declare!" said Ainsley. "That's quite a risky operation, taking a little waif into your home, when you don't know its parents."

"But I do know its mother," she answered. "I wrote and found out all about its mother. She was a young girl who was taken ill in the streets. A poor family permitted her to be brought into their house, and there her babe was born. The young mother was so ill that the babe was taken to the foundling asylum by the doctor who attended her, where it could have constant attention, for its little life was despaired of. By a strange mistake, word was sent to the mother that the little one had died. But the baby rallied and recovered. Almost heart-broken over the news of its death, the young mother disappeared. There was no one so interested as to make search for her, and tell her that her little one had been spared. In her flight she left behind her a package which contained some articles that may lead to her identity, if the child should ever want to find her hapless mother when she grows to womanhood. I have them with me now. Do let me show them to you, Mr. Ainsley."

At that moment the little one, who had been sleeping, slowly opened its great, dark, solemn eyes, looked up into the face of Royal Ainsley, and uttered a plaintive little sob.

It was not often that he noticed little children—indeed, he had an aversion to them—but he could not understand[185] the impulse that made him bend forward and look with interest into the flower-like little face.

Where had he seen just such a face? The great, dark, solemn eyes, so like purple pansies, held him spell-bound.

An impulse which he could not control or define caused him to reach out his trembling hand and touch the waxen little fingers, and the contact made the blood rush through his veins like fire. He tried to speak, but his tongue seemed too thick and heavy to perform its functions.

The woman did not notice his agitation. She was busily engaged in unwrapping a small parcel which she had tied up in oil silk.

Then, to his astonished gaze, Mrs. Lester held up before him a beautiful bracelet made of tiny pink sea-shells, with a heavy gold clasp, upon which was engraved, "From R. to I."

If Mrs. Lester had but looked at him, she would have seen that his face had grown ghastly.

At a glance he recognized the bracelet as one which he had designed and presented to Ida May, at Newport, when he believed her to be the heiress of the wealthy Mays.

"That is not all," said Mrs. Lester, holding up a man's pocket-book, which he recognized as his own—-the identical one he had sent up to Ida May by the porter, with a little change in it, on the morning he deserted her.

Again he opened his mouth to speak; but no sound issued from his lips. The pocket-book contained only a part of a sleeve-link that had belonged to himself, the other part of the link was in his pocket at that moment.

In a flash, the truth came to him—this little one was Ida May's child.

He now recalled the appealing letters she had written to him at the hotel after he had deserted her. He had never answered them, for by that time he was trying to win the beautiful heiress, Florence St. John. He had told Ida May that his marriage to her was not legal, while in truth it was as binding as Church and State could make it.


He had cast all upon the throw of a dice, and it would never do for the poor young girl whom he had married to come between him and the young girl whom he was about to win.

He had resolved upon a desperate scheme to gain a fortune, by deluding the young girl whom he had made his wife into believing that she was not such, and going through the ceremony with the heiress, Florence St. John.

But Fate had snatched the beautiful Florence St. John from his grasp just as he was about to wed her. Her brother came on the scene, and Royal Ainsley beat a hasty retreat, as he had commenced to inquire into his antecedents.

All these thoughts flashed through his brain in an instant. Then he realized that Mrs. Lester was speaking to him.

"A pretty baby, is she not?" said the woman, holding the infant toward him. "But we have decided not to keep her, after all. I am going to take the first train to New York, and return the baby to the foundling asylum, though Heaven knows I shall miss her sorely. We are too poor to keep her."

Royal Ainsley turned toward her with strange eagerness.

"What do you say if I take your charge off your hands?" he asked, huskily.

"You, Mr. Ainsley?" exclaimed the woman, amazed. "Why, what in the world could you, a young bachelor, do with a baby?"

"I will give you one hundred dollars to give me the child. Is it a bargain, Mrs. Lester? Speak quickly, before I change my mind!"



Royal Ainsley leaned forward, and caught Mrs. Lester's arm, saying hastily:

"I repeat, that you shall have one hundred dollars if you will but give the child into my custody."

"Again I ask, what could you, a bachelor, do with it, Mr. Ainsley?" said Mrs. Lester.

He had an answer ready for her.

"I know a family who lost a little one, and would be only too delighted to take the infant and give it a good home."

Mrs. Lester breathed a sigh of relief.

"I am very poor, as you know very well, Mr. Ainsley," she answered, "and I can not refuse your kind offer. Take the little one with welcome. Only be sure that it is a good home you consign it to."

He counted out the money and handed it to her, and she resigned the infant to his arms. At that moment they heard the shriek of the incoming express.

"That is the train I was going to take," she said, "and now I am out the price of my ticket, which I bought in advance."

"If you will give it to me, I will use it," he said.

She handed him the ticket, and in another moment Mrs. Lester saw him board the train with the child.

"I wonder if I have done right or wrong," she thought, a scared look coming into her face. "It was all done so quickly that I had not the time to consider the matter. But this much I do know; I have the hundred dollars in my pocket, and that is a God-send to me. We need the money badly just now."

She turned and walked slowly away; but somehow she did not seem quite easy regarding the fate of the little child.

"I ought to have asked him the name of the family to whom he was going to take the baby," she mused; "then[188] I could have written to them to be very careful, and to bring her up to be a good and true woman. I shall certainly ask him all about it the very next time I see him—that is, if I ever do see him."

Meanwhile the train thundered on, carrying Royal Ainsley and the child away. It was hard to keep back the expression of mingled hatred and rage with which Royal Ainsley regarded the infant he held in his arms. He knew full well that the child was his own, but he had no love for it. If it had died then and there, that fact would have afforded him much satisfaction.

But one course presented itself. He would take it to New York, and once there, he would have no further trouble with it—he would manage to lose it. Many waifs were found on the doorsteps, and no one ever could trace their parentage, or whose hand had placed them there.

In all probability he would never run across Ida May again. She believed her child dead.

While these thoughts were flitting through his brain, the little one commenced to cry. Its piteous wails attracted the attention of more than one person in the car.

"Mother," said a buxom young woman sitting opposite, "I am sure that young man is a widower, left with the little child, and he is taking it to his folks. You see he is in deep mourning.

"I'll bet that baby's hungry, mother, and I'll bet, too, that he hasn't a nursing-bottle to feed it from."

"You can depend upon it that he has one," remarked her mother. "Every father knows that much about babies."

"Of course he has it in his pocket; he never came away without one; but he is so deeply engrossed in his own thoughts that he does not hear the baby. Don't you think you ought to give him a little reminder of it?" said her daughter, thoughtfully. "You're an elderly woman, and can do it."

"He might tell me to mind my own business," said the elder woman. "Some strangers don't take kindly to other people meddling in their affairs."


As the plaintive wails of the infant increased instead of diminished, the elder woman got up and made her way up the aisle.

Royal Ainsley started violently as he felt the heavy hand on his shoulder.

"Why don't you feed your baby, sir?" she said, brusquely.

He looked at her angrily, his brows bent together in a decided frown.

"What do you mean by interrupting my thoughts, woman?" he cried, harshly.

His angry retort roused all the antagonism in the woman's nature.

"I mean just what I say—your baby's hungry, mister," she replied. "If you had the feelings of a loving father, you'd know enough to feed it."

He looked at her in consternation.

"Feed it?" he echoed, blankly. "I—I was not prepared for anything like this. Such a thing did not occur to me."

"And you didn't bring a nursing-bottle along with you?" echoed the woman.

"No," he responded, curtly, but also somewhat blankly.

"Good Lord! that's just like a man, to forget important things like that."

"What am I to do?" he asked, appealingly. "What would you suggest, madame. I am at sea."

She looked at him perplexedly; then her motherly face brightened as she glanced about the car.

"I will soon see what can be done," she answered, making her way as quickly as the moving train would allow to the end of the car, where two women sat with tiny infants on their laps.

Very soon she returned with the article she had gone in search of.

"Let me take the poor little thing," she said, "and feed it. Men, and more especially young men, don't know anything about such things."

Royal Ainsley gladly delivered his charge into her keeping. Very soon the woman had stilled its cries, and[190] it was sleeping peacefully in her arms. An idea then came to Royal Ainsley. His pale-blue eyes glittered with a fiendish light.

He almost laughed aloud at the thought that flashed through his mind.

"Do you think the baby will sleep a little while?" he asked, drawing his hat down over his face.

"It is likely to," she answered; "still, one can not always tell. Samantha, my daughter here, never slept ten minutes on a stretch when she was a baby. She was a lot of trouble to me then; but I don't mind it now, for she's a heap of comfort to me, sir. I wouldn't know how to get along without Samantha. She——"

Royal Ainsley interrupted her impatiently.

"I was going to say that if you would be kind enough to hold the little one for awhile I would like to go into the smoking-car and smoke a cigar."


Royal Ainsley thought the woman did not hear his question, for she did not answer, and he repeated, in his suave, winning way:

"Could I trouble you to hold the little one a few moments, while I enjoy a smoke in the car ahead?"

Widow Jones answered readily enough:

"To be sure I will take care of the little one, sir. Go right along and enjoy your cigar. I know just how a man feels when he is deprived of a smoke. My husband had to have his pipe every night after his supper, just as sure as the sun went down. If he missed it, he was fairly beside himself—like a fish out of water."


It suddenly occurred to Royal Ainsley that it wouldn't be a bad idea to know more about this woman.

"Do you live near here?" he asked.

"Just three stations above—near Larchmont village. We won't reach there for nearly three-quarters of an hour, so that need not trouble you, sir. I take it that you are a widower, sir," she went on, before he could rise from his seat.

"Yes," he answered, shortly, and with considerable impatience.

"It's too bad!" chimed in Samantha—"and to be left with such a young baby, too. It's too bad that you didn't get a nurse for her, unless you are taking her to some of your folks."

"I have no relatives," he answered. "I am going to New York for the express purpose of finding some one to take care of the child."

"Indeed!" exclaimed Widow Jones. "How strange that you should come across me! Why, do you know, I used to take little ones in occasionally, and keep them for their fathers until they were old enough to get about. Before you look further, sir—although I don't like to recommend myself—I'd like to have you stop off at Larchmont and inquire all about me. There isn't a man, woman, or child for miles around but can tell you about me."

"Why, it is indeed a piece of good luck that I should have come across you, madame!" declared Royal Ainsley. "We may be able to come to terms here and now."

"Don't ask too much, ma," whispered Samantha, under her breath.

"You can set your own price," said Royal Ainsley, in an off-hand manner.

"Oh, I will leave that entirely to you, sir," said the widow. "I'll take the baby and care for her, and you can come and see her whenever you like. I'll leave the pay entirely to you. That's fair enough, sir, isn't it?"

"You are entirely too magnanimous," he declared. "By the way, here's a ten-dollar note to start with. That's the only bill I have, save those of very large[192] denomination. In the course of a few weeks I will make permanent arrangements with you."

"But surely you are going to stop off at Larchmont, sir, and see where I live. I don't expect that you will trust a dear little baby like this to a stranger. You will most likely want a recommendation."

"Your face is certainly recommendation enough, my good woman," he declared. "Nevertheless, I shall, of course, stop off with you."

He rose with a bow.

"Remember, sir," chimed in Samantha, "that part of the train switches off just a few miles below there. If you don't look out, you'll be taken on to New York."

"I must look out for that," he said. "I had certainly intended to take a little nap after my smoke. I haven't closed my eyes for two nights; the baby was not feeling well. Your warning will put me on my guard, at all events."

Again he bowed, and in an instant he had disappeared.

"I wonder what his name is," said Samantha. "You forgot to ask him, ma."

"So I did, to be sure. But it's easy finding that out."

Further conversation was stopped by the sudden waking up of the pretty dark-eyed babe; but a little milk from the bottle and a few soothing words soon succeeded in quieting her.

"We are almost at the switch," said Samantha. "Ought not somebody go into the smoking-car and inform the gentleman of it?"

"Why, certainly not. It's likely he knows of it. He was told of it, and it's likely some one will inform him. You had better look after your boxes and bundles. Be sure to pick up the bag of candy, the ginger-snaps, the bunch of bachelor buttons, the rosemary, my shawl, and your new pair of shoes."

"If I have to hold this baby and pick up my dress, it will be as much as I can do. But I'm quite sure the gentleman will come and take care of the baby himself," added Samantha, wistfully.

The conductor called out the station. It was the busiest[193] junction in the northern part of Virginia. Two trains met and passed each other here, while still another was side-tracked, waiting for the right of way. There was always a rush of people at the station, and consequently confusion and noise. Widow Jones and Samantha stepped from the car to the platform.

"We ought to have waited," declared the girl. "See, we have missed him, as I told you we would. I had better run back and see if he's there. He's probably going on to New York. But he will be sure to see us, no matter what car he is in."

A moment more, and the two trains moved on. Even Widow Jones was now thoroughly alarmed. What her daughter had feared had taken place. The young man had certainly missed them.

"Overcome with fatigue, he probably fell asleep in the smoking-car, in spite of himself," said Samantha.

"Well, anyhow he knows your name and address, mother. He will be sure to telegraph back to us at Larchmont."

Still, Widow Jones, who held the baby close in her arms, looked troubled.


"He has certainly been carried on to New York," said Widow Jones. "There is nothing left but to get home and await results."

"I guess you're about right," said Samantha.

They left word at the railroad station to at once bring up any telegram that might come for them.

An hour after they arrived at Larchmont, every one[194] had heard of Mrs. Jones and the baby, and her experience with the handsome stranger.

When a fortnight passed, and the weeks lengthened into months, Mrs. Jones began to be a little skeptical.

"We will keep the baby until he does come for it, Samantha," she said.

Somehow the little waif with the great dark eyes and the little rose-bud mouth had crept into their hearts, and they could not turn it away.

Samantha did her share in looking after the baby; but it was a little hard, for she had a great deal to do waiting upon customers in the village bakery.

The mother and daughter made no further mention of the handsome stranger.

"If we had but asked him his name. I wanted you to, ma," declared Samantha. "But there's no use in crying now. We have the satisfaction of having a baby, anyhow," declared the girl, spiritedly.

"Yes," assented her mother, dubiously; "but it's quite a task to bring up other people's children."

Meanwhile, freed from the care of the child, Royal Ainsley walked through the train. It was just approaching the station, when, all unobserved, he swung from the back platform just as the express was moving out again.

A chuckle of delight broke from his lips.

"That was most cleverly managed. My compliments to Mrs. Jones, of Larchmont. She has been exceedingly useful to me."

He did not trouble himself as to what disposition they might make of the child.

The question that occurred to him was—"how am I to destroy the proofs I have concerning the child?"

But no answer came to him regarding this dilemma. He thrust them back into his pocket. He would have plenty of time to plan when he reached New York.

Suddenly the thought came to him, that he would be foolish to turn back from the course he had marked out for himself. Instead of returning, he would go back and see Eugene.

There was a friend of his living in the vicinity. He[195] would find him, and pass a week or two with him, then he would carry out his original scheme. He acted upon this thought.

It was the fishing season, and Royal Ainsley made a valuable addition to a party of young men already gathered at his friend's quarters. Five weeks elapsed before the party broke up.

"By this time Eugene's wife must have recovered from her illness," he said, grimly. "If I don't go and see him now, they will probably be getting ready to go off somewhere, and I will miss them."

Suiting the action to the word, Royal Ainsley took the train the next day and arrived at his native village at dusk.

He had taken the precaution to provide himself with a long top-coat and a slouch hat.

He avoided the depot and its waiting-room, lest he should meet some one who might recognize him.

He struck into a side-path, and a sharp walk of some fifteen minutes brought him in sight of the old mansion.

How dark and gloomy the night was! There was no moon, and not a star shone in the heavens.

A short cut across the fields brought him to a little brook. He looked down upon it in silence as it gurgled on sullenly over its rocky bed.

He looked back at the grand old mansion looming up in the distance. And as he looked, he clinched his hands, and the bitterness in his heart became more intense.

"But for Eugene, all that would be mine," he muttered. "He stepped between me and the fortune. When we were boys together, I realized that he would do it, and I hated him—hated him for his suave, winning ways and the love which every one showered on him. He was always lucky."

He turned and looked again at the great stone mansion, whose turrets were dimly outlined against the sky. And as he looked he saw a door on the rear porch open and a figure clad in a white, fleecy dress glide out upon the porch and walk slowly into the grounds.


"That is probably the bride," he muttered, with a harsh little laugh.

To his surprise, she crossed the lawn and made directly for the spot where he stood.

"I shall not be likely to get a good look at her unless the moon comes out," he thought.

He drew back into the shadow of the alders that skirted the brook. His bitter, vengeful thoughts were turned aside for a moment while watching the advancing figure.

"Why should my cousin have wealth, love, happiness, while I have to knock about here and there, getting my living as best I can, being always in hard luck and a mark for the arrows of relentless fate?" he soliloquized.

Nearer and nearer drew the slender, graceful figure.

Royal Ainsley was right. It was his cousin's wife.

She went on slowly over the greensward in the sweet night air, little dreaming what lay at the end of her path.

By the merest chance the hapless young wife had come across the letter that Miss Fernly had written to Eugene Mallard. It had fallen from his pocket when he was looking over some papers on the porch one day.

Passing by soon after, Ida saw the paper lying there, picked it up, and opened it. There, while the sun shone and the birds sung, she read it through, and the wonder was that she did not die then and there.


From the moment that Ida had learned through Miss Fernly's letter how Hildegarde Cramer had mourned for her lover, the young wife's life had become very unhappy.

She knew well that she stood between Hildegarde[197] Cramer and her happiness. She had done her best to die, but Heaven had not so willed it.

The pity of it was that her love for Eugene Mallard had increased a hundred fold. It was driving her to madness.

"Oh, if it were all ended!" she cried aloud. "Better anything than this awful despair!"

No one heard her. There was no one near to hear what she moaned out to the brook that kept so many secrets.

She heard a crash in the branches near by—a slight crash, but she started. It was only a bird that had fallen from its nest in the tree overhead, she told herself.

But even after she had said it she felt a sense of uncontrollable terror that she could not account for; felt the weight of some strange presence.

That voice!

When Ida cried aloud in her despair, the words fell like an electric shock upon the ears of a man who listened behind the alder branches.

"By all that is wonderful!" he cried, under his breath. "Either my ears have deceived me, or that is the voice of Ida May! Well, well! Will surprises never cease?"

He stepped quickly forward, and the next moment he was by her side. How strange it was that at that instant the moon came out from behind a cloud and rendered every object as bright as if in the noonday sun.

At the sound of the step, Ida started back in affright.

One glance into the face looking down into her own and she started back with a cry that was scarcely human.

"You!" she gasped.

Then her lips grew cold and stiff. She could not utter another word.

"The surprise is mutual!" he answered. "What in the name of all that is wonderful are you doing in this house? Come, my dear, let us sit down on this log while you explain matters."

Ida drew back in loathing.

"Stand back!" she cried. "Do not attempt to touch me, or I shall cry out for help!"


A fierce imprecation broke from the man's lips.

"What do you mean by all this high and mighty nonsense?" he cried. "Speak at once. You are my wife! Why shouldn't I lay hands on you?"

"No!" she cried. "Though you have so cruelly deceived me, I thank God that I am not your wife."

He threw back his fair, handsome head, and a laugh that was not pleasant to hear fell from his lips.

"Don't make any mistake about that!" he cried. "I remember what I wrote you—that there was some illegality in the ceremony which made our marriage invalid. But I learned afterward, when I met the chap who performed the ceremony, that it was entirely legal. If you doubt that what I say is true, I can easily convince you of the truth of my assertion."

Ida drew back with a cry so awful that he looked at her.

"Well, well, who can understand the ways of women?" he remarked, ironically. "I thought that you would rejoice over the fact that our marriage was legal, but I find that you are sorry."

Still she was looking at him with wide-open eyes.

"I can not, I will not believe anything so horrible!" she gasped. "It would drive me mad!"

"I assure you it is true," he declared. "Like yourself, I believed that the marriage was not binding. But I found it was, and that saved me from wedding another girl."

A cry that seemed to rend her heart in twain broke from her white lips.

"But tell me, what are you doing here?" he asked, wonderingly.

Then it was that something like an inkling of the truth came to him.

"Great God!" he cried, "it can not be possible that you are in any way connected with my cousin—that you are the bride he brought home? Speak! Why are you trembling so? Has my guess come anywhere near the mark?"


Ida looked up at him with wild, frightened eyes like those of a hunted deer.

"Speak!" he cried again, fiercely grasping her arm, "or I will wring the truth from you!"

"I—I am Eugene Mallard's wife," she whispered in a voice that would have touched any other man's heart than the one who was bending over her with rage depicted on his face.

He laughed aloud, and that laugh was horrible to hear.

She did not spare herself. She told him all the bitter truth—how, being thrown in contact with Eugene Mallard day after day, she had learned to love him with all the strength of her nature; how, seeing how good, kind and true he was—a king among men—she fell face downward in the dew-wet grass and cried out to Heaven that her life would cease the moment she went out of Eugene Mallard's life.

"This is, indeed, a fine state of affairs!" he cried out.

"What would you have me do?" cried the unhappy young girl in the voice of one dying.

He did not answer her at once; but, taking a cigar from his pocket, he coolly lighted it.

"When you are through with your hysterics, we will talk the matter over," he assented, frowningly.

She struggled to her feet.

"Sit down!" he commanded, pointing to the trunk of a tree.

Feeling more dead than alive, she sat down in the place which he had indicated. She expected that her life would end at any moment, the tension on her nerves was so great.

He did not speak; but the short, harsh laugh that broke from his lips, as he puffed away at his cigar, was more cruel than the harshest words.

"This is what one might call a melodrama in real life," he said, at length. "It savors of comedy, too, and illustrates fully the old saying: 'Truth is often stranger than fiction!' But, to get down to business. Turn around and face me, while I tell you the injunction I lay upon you, and which you dare not refuse to obey!"



The hapless young wife looked into the hard, set face above her, her eyes dilating with fear.

Her brain reeled; it seemed to her that she was dying.

"Listen to what I have to say," exclaimed Royal Ainsley, his hand tightening on her shoulder. "You have a fine home here—much finer than I could possibly offer you—and I propose that you shall keep it. There is no use in wasting sentiment between us. We do not care for each other, and you do care for Eugene Mallard. It will be some satisfaction for you to live beneath this roof, and I won't mind it at all, providing you make it worth my while. I will make my meaning clearer to you. I must have some money, and you are the one who must help me to it. Get a thousand dollars, and I will go away and never again molest you. Come, now, what do you say?"

Ida drew back and looked at him.

"You know that I could not get it for you," she said, with calmness.

"You know the alternative," he said, harshly.

"No matter what the alternative is, I—I could not help you," she answered, huskily.

"If you refuse," he went on, "I can have Eugene Mallard and yourself arrested for bigamy. I can send you both to prison, and, so help me Heaven, I'll do it! You say that you love Eugene Mallard. We will see if you love him well enough to save him."

"You monster!" she gasped, wildly, "you would not[201] do such a thing, I say. You dare not outrage Heaven like that."

"The shoe is on the other foot. It is you who have outraged Heaven in violating the law. I must have that money, and you know I am a desperate man."

He would not tell her just now that her child was alive. He would save that piece of news for some other time.

Before she could reply, they saw some of the servants crossing the lawn.

"I must go!" she cried, wrenching herself free from his grasp. "They have come in search of me!"

"I shall be here to-morrow night at this very spot awaiting your answer," he said, harshly.

Why had Heaven let Royal Ainsley find her? Had he not already brought misery enough into her life?

She turned the matter over in her mind. Every word he had said, every threat he had made, occurred to her.

Would he make good his threat, and take vengeance upon the man she loved if she refused to raise one thousand dollars for him?

She knew he was what he had said—a desperate man.

Oh, if she had but dared creep into the library, throw herself at Eugene Mallard's feet, and tell him all, what woe would have been spared her. But, alas! she dared not.

Heaven help her! How could she leave Eugene Mallard, whom she loved better than life.

She crept up to her room, and during the long hours of the night she fought the fiercest battle that woman ever fought with herself. If she gave Royal Ainsley the money he had asked for, he would certainly go away and never cross her path again.

Her heart leaped at the thought. The thought that[202] she was still bound to Royal Ainsley brought with it the most poignant grief—a feeling of horror.

She did realize what it meant to live there beneath that roof, even after she had found out the truth—that she was not Eugene Mallard's wife.

What harm was there in living in the home of the man she loved, seeing that they were so far apart in heart as well as in purpose?

"No, I can not tear myself away from the only one I have ever loved!" she cried. "If I were living here with Eugene Mallard as his wife, then my duty would be plain—I would have to leave here at once."

No, no! Come what might, she could not tear herself away from Eugene Mallard.

In the drawer of her writing-desk lay a roll of bills which Eugene had handed her the day before, to purchase new furniture for her suite of rooms.

"Select it the first day you go to the city," he had said.

She had intended purchasing it the following week.

Now she went hurriedly to her desk, took out the roll of bills, and counted them.

There was just a thousand dollars. She drew a great sigh of relief. That would buy Royal Ainsley's eternal silence. Before handing it to him, she would swear him to secrecy forever.

She never knew how she lived through the next day.

There was not a moment that Royal Ainsley's handsome, cruel, sneering face did not appear before her.

How she loathed him! She hated, with fierce, intense hatred, the very sound of his name.

Night came at last.

The few guests that were stopping at the house were assembled in the drawing-room, and it was not an easy[203] matter to find some convenient excuse to get away from them.

But when the hands of the clock on the mantel pointed to the hour of eight, she felt that she must get away.

Some one suggested playing a piece of music which she had taken to her room the day before to study.

"I will go and search for it," she said; and with that remark she glided from the room.

How dark the night was! She almost shivered as she touched the graveled walk and hurried down to the brook-side.

When this night had passed away, a life-time of happiness would lay before her. The wind moaned fitfully among the trees, and the branches of the tall oaks swayed to and fro. She heard the murmur of the brook before she reached it, and as she drew near and became accustomed to the dim light, she saw a tall man pacing up and down.

He did not hear the light step on the grass. He was muttering imprecations that made the girl's heart turn cold with dread as she listened. Then he saw her.

"Ah! you have come!" he eagerly called out. "It is well for you that you did," he continued, "for I had just made up my mind to go to the house and ask for you."

In the dim light he saw her recoil. Although she made no answer, he fancied he could almost hear the wild throbbing of her heart.

"Did you bring the money?" he asked.

"Yes," she answered hoarsely; "but before I give it to you, I shall exact a solemn promise that you will never come near me again!"

"Certainly you shall have the promise—a dozen of[204] them if you like," he cried, forcing back an insolent laugh.

"You must solemnly promise that you will never come near me again if I give this money to you," she said.

"No," he answered; "I will never come near you. I will go abroad. Does that satisfy you?"

"Yes," she answered. "Only go so far away that I shall never see your face again."

He closed his hand eagerly over the money, saying to himself that it was a veritable gold mine that he had found.

"Let me go!" she panted, as he put out his hand to touch her.

With the swiftness of a startled deer, she fled past him into the darkness of the grounds.

Royal Ainsley laughed harshly.

"This money will last me for a few weeks, my lady," he muttered, "and then—Ah! we shall see!"


When Ida re-entered the house, the guests were still assembled in the drawing-room.

Eugene Mallard was standing a little apart from the rest, looking thoughtfully into vacancy.

As she entered the room, he started, and, to her surprise, he crossed over to her.


"Ida," he said, "will you come out on the porch with me for a few moments? I wish to speak with you."

She looked at him in terror. Had he learned of the return of Royal Ainsley?

A great darkness seemed to suddenly envelop her, and it was by the greatest effort that she kept herself from swooning. But the fresh air revived her.

Eugene placed a chair for her, and as she was trembling violently, she was glad to sink into it. There was a seat near. Eugene did not take it, but, instead, stood leaning against one of the fluted columns of the porch. For a few moments he was silent, and those few moments seemed like long years to Ida.

"I have brought you out here to have an earnest talk with you," he said, huskily. "The time has now come when we should try to understand each other. Don't you think so?"

She looked up at him in affright. Was he going to send her away? Was he growing tired of the position in which they stood to each other?

"Yes," she answered; and it caused her a desperate effort to utter the word.

"I am going to take you into my confidence, Ida," he said. "Come under this swinging lamp. I want to read you this letter."

She followed him with faltering steps.

To her great surprise she saw him take from his breast-pocket the very letter which Miss Fernly had sent, and which she had slipped into his desk. But she dared not tell him that she knew what the letter contained.

"I will preface my remarks by saying that the news of your illness has spread far and wide, and that the report was repeated in different forms. Instead of[206] saying that you were ill, some of the papers had it that my young wife had died. Miss Fernly, whom you have good reason to remember, thereupon wrote me this letter."

She listened, her face white as death. He handed her the letter. Every word made a new wound in her heart. How well she remembered each and every sentence! Slowly she read the letter through. Then she folded and handed it back to him.

"Ida," he said, "I have been trying to forget the past as no man has ever tried before. All my time has been given up to it. I have drawn a curtain over my past, and shut out its brightness, its hopes, from my life. I have pulled the roots of a beautiful budding plant from my soul, and bid it grow there no more. I have tried to do my duty by you, and now I have come to this conclusion—you must help me bury the past. I have brought you out here to ask you to be my wife in fact as well as in name."

He did not tell her that during her illness he had discovered the secret of her life—that she loved him with all the passionate love of her nature, and that his indifference was eating out her life.

Ever since he had been turning the matter over in his mind, and asking himself what he should do, and at last he was brought face to face with the truth—he had no right to marry her unless he intended living with her.

So clearly had his duty become defined to him that the path of the future was now plain before him. He must forget his love for Hildegarde, and the only way to do that was to ask the wife he had wedded to help him.

"I ask you this after much calm deliberation," he said, slowly. "Be my wife in reality as well as in name, and[207] we may yet make good and useful lives out of what is left of them!"

He heard a cry escape from her lips, but he could not tell whether it was one of pleasure or pain.

"I do not ask you to give my answer at once, unless you choose to do so," he said, gently.

He bent over her and took her hand. He was startled at its icy coldness. He could feel that she trembled at his touch.

"I have startled you," he said, gently. "I would advise you to go to your room, instead of mingling with the guests to-night. There you can reflect upon what you wish to do. I will leave you here," he said. But before he turned away, he involuntarily stooped down, and kissed the white face raised so appealingly to his.

It was the first caress he had ever offered her, and that kiss burned her face for long hours afterward. It filled her to the very depth of her soul, to the very center of her heart.

Like one stricken suddenly blind, Ida groped her way to her room.

"Ah! if I could only die with the memory of that kiss burning my lips!" she cried.

She was like one stunned. What she had longed for, yearned for with all the intensity of her soul, was laid at her feet at last. But it was too late.

His love was offered her now, when she dared not claim it, dared not accept it.

Ida rose the next morning with a heavy heart. She had slept the sleep of exhaustion.

Eugene was surprised when she came down to the table, she looked so changed. There were heavy circles under her eyes, as though she had been weeping.


He could not understand her. He was quite sure she would meet him with a happy, blushing face and downcast eyes. Ida would be glad when she could escape his wondering eyes. An hour later she was standing at the window of the morning-room, which opened out on the terrace, her mind in a tumult, when she heard Eugene's voice at the other end of the room. She knew instinctively that he was looking for her. Only two days ago she would have waited there for him—would have eagerly sought the opportunity of a few words with him; but now she hastily unfastened the long French window, and fled out into the grounds.

Eugene saw the flutter of the white figure hurrying down the terrace.

"She wishes to escape an encounter with me," he thought; and he was puzzled.

Ida went to the further end of the garden, where the tall rose-bushes hid her from human eyes. She sat down upon a little rustic bench and tried to think. But her brain grew confused.

Only a short time ago she had cried out to Heaven to give her the love of Eugene Mallard. Now that it was laid at her feet, what should she do?

"Heaven direct me," she cried out; "I am so sorely tempted! I used to wonder what people meant when they talked of the agony of death. Now I know."

She was frightened at the vehemence of her emotion; the memory of that caress made her tremble. She dreaded the moment when she should see Eugene alone again, but, woman-like, hoped that it would be soon. Her heart was awakened at last. The sun of love shone in its glory upon her.

It had come to her, this woman's heritage, this dower[209] of passion and sorrow, called love, changing the world into a golden gleam.

How was she ever to calm the fever that burned in her veins? Yes, she loved him. She who had never, until she met Eugene Mallard, known what love meant; she, so young, beautiful, made so essentially for love, and yet whose life had been so joyless and hopeless, loved at last.

Eugene Mallard noticed her avoidance of him during the week that followed. She was trying to think out the problem in her own mind. Dare she drink of the cup of joy that he had pressed to her lips? In her simplicity, Ida thought that she had done much in denying herself a look at him.

If she had been the most accomplished of coquettes, she could not have chosen a method more calculating to awaken his interest than by avoiding him.

"She does not care for me as much as I thought," he told himself; and, man-like, he felt a trifle piqued.

He had fancied that all he would have to do would be to ask her, and she would come straight to his arms.

This was, indeed, a new phase of her character. Yet he could not help but admire her maidenly modesty.

He would give her her own time to think over the proposition that he had laid before her. He would not seek her, would not intrude upon her. He looked at her more during that day than he had during all the time she had been under his roof.

He had not known before that she was so beautiful, so sweet, so womanly. How careless he had been in letting her go about by herself, a prey for such rascals as Arthur Hollis!


Once he surprised her in the grounds. He had come up to her very quietly.

"Ida," he said, "have you forgotten that you have not so far answered the question I asked of you two weeks ago on the porch? Tell me, when am I to claim my wife?"

His wife! Great Heaven! Had she been mad, dreaming? What had she been doing? What had she done?

His wife! She was Royal Ainsley's wife, and she could not belong to any other man. She looked at him with the pallor of despair in her face, the shadow of death in her eyes.

What had she been doing to think of love in connection with Eugene Mallard, when she was bound by the heaviest of chains? The shock was terrible to her in those few minutes, and the wonder is that it did not kill her.

"I must have your answer here and now," Eugene said, a trifle impatiently.


Eugene Mallard, looking down at the lovely, terrified face, wondered what there could be to frighten her so.

He was intending to do a kind action. That she should take the matter in this fashion rather surprised him. He told himself that he could not understand women and their ways.


"My reason for coming to this conclusion," he said, "is that I am intending to take a trip through the country, and desire that you shall accompany me, Ida. We could not go as we are now, and lead the same life as we are living under this roof," he added, as she did not appear to understand him. "You understand what I mean?" he asked.

She answered "Yes," though he doubted very much if she really did comprehend his words.

"That will be a fortnight from now. It will give you plenty of time to think the matter over."

With these words he turned and left her.

She sank down into a garden-seat near by, her heart in a tumult. The sheltered spot in which she sat was free from observation. The tall, flowering branches screened her.

During the days that followed, Eugene Mallard watched Ida sharply. If the girl loved him as well as she said she did, how strange it was that she was unwilling to come to him.

One day, while they were at the breakfast-table, the servant brought in the morning's mail.

"Here is a letter for you, Ida," said Eugene, handing her a square white envelope.

One glance at it, and her soul seemed to turn sick within her. It was from Royal Ainsley!

What had he to say to her? When he left her he promised that she should never see his face again, that he would never cross her path.

What did this communication mean?

Breakfast was over at last, and she hastened to the morning-room, where she could read her letter without being observed.


     "My little Wife.—I am running in hard luck after all. I invested all the money you were so generous as to give me, and lost every cent of it. An open confession is good for the soul. Having told you the truth, I feel better. I will need just the same amount of money to float me, and you must raise it for me somehow. I use the word must to duly impress it upon you. I will be at the same place where I met you last, on the evening of the fourteenth. That will be just ten days from the time you receive this letter. Do not fail me, Ida, or I might be tempted to wreak vengeance upon my amiable cousin, fascinating Eugene.

            "Yours in haste, and with much love,


She flung the letter from her as though it were a scorpion. A look of terror came over her face, her head throbbed, and her brain whirled. Oh, Heaven! the torture of it!

What if he kept this up? It would not be long before she would be driven to madness.

"My little wife!" How the words galled her; they almost seemed to take her life away.

"He will torture me to madness," she thought, with the agony of despair.

How was she to raise the money to appease the man who was her relentless foe?

Then she thought of her diamonds. Among the gifts which she had received from Eugene was a diamond necklace. This he had inherited from his uncle.

"The setting is very old," he had said, "because the necklace has been worn by the ladies of our family for[213] generations. The stones, however, are remarkably white and brilliant. They are among the finest in this country, and worth a fortune in themselves."

She had often looked at them as they lay in their rich purple-velvet case.

"I—I could raise the money on them," she thought, with a little sob.

But she did not know it was to end in a tragedy.


Ida no sooner found herself alone than she took from her wardrobe a black dress, a long cloak, a bonnet and black veil. She quickly donned them, then stole into the corridor, locking the door after her, and putting the key in her pocket.

If she could get out of the house and into the grounds unobserved, all would be well. Fortune favored her; no one was in sight.

She made her way to the railway station, and bought a ticket for Washington. On the train was quite a number of people whom she had met before. But they did not recognize her with the veil pulled so closely over her face.

The world seemed to stand still; but her heart seemed to beat wildly, as she thought of it all.

At last Washington was reached, and for a minute she[214] stood irresolute as she stepped upon the platform of the depot. Then she timidly crossed over to where a policeman stood.

"I—I would like to be directed to a pawn-broker's store, if—if you know where there is one," she said.

The guardian of the peace looked at her suspiciously.

It was a part of his business to believe all strangers dishonest until he found them otherwise.

"Are you so much in need of money as to have to resort to that?" he asked, taking in the stylish make and fine texture of the clothes she wore.

"Yes," she answered, timidly.

The policeman pointed to a store a couple of blocks further up, and Ida started for the place indicated, after stopping to inquire when the train returned to where she had come from.

He gave her the information, and watched her curiously until she was out of sight.

"It is evident that she has come to Washington simply for the purpose of pawning something. As soon as I reach the other end of my beat I will make it my business to step into Uncle Samuel's and ask what she has disposed of. It is just as well for me to know."

Meanwhile, Ida hurried quickly on her errand.

The pawn-broker's clerk glanced up impatiently as the door opened and the dark-clad figure glided in.

"I—I should like to see the proprietor, to ask if he will advance me a sum of money on some diamonds."

"Have you got them with you?" asked the man, carelessly.

"Yes," said Ida, faintly; "but can't I see the proprietor?"

"You can deal with me just as well," he answered.


After a moment's hesitation, Ida produced the package from her pocket, and unwrapping it, disclosed the magnificent diamonds.

A cry of surprise broke from the clerk's lips. In all the years of his life he had never seen anything so grand as the diamond necklace. But, like all shrewd men in his calling, he carefully suppressed the cry of astonishment.

"How much do you want to realize on this?" he asked, indifferently.

"One thousand dollars," said Ida, faintly.

"Ha! ha! ha!" he laughed. "That's pretty good, when you know full well that you couldn't realize one-half that sum on them."

"But I shall have to!" cried Ida.

The man closed his hand down over the lid.

"How did you come by these?" he asked.

He saw the slender figure shiver.

"You have no right to ask me anything like that," she replied.

"Probably not," returned the man; "still, when we don't ask, we generally do a great deal of guessing. But to end the matter, I will advance you a couple of hundred on them."

"I must have a thousand dollars," repeated Ida. "If it were not absolutely necessary for me to raise the money on them, I should not have brought them here."

"Two hundred is a nice little sum," said the man. "If you refuse to take that, I might take it into my head to hold you on suspicion, and call in a policeman. Bear in mind, I will give you that amount of money without asking you where they came from. A policeman would[216] want to know the whys and wherefores of the whole thing."

"I—I must raise a thousand dollars on them," she reiterated, grasping the jewel-case.

The man's bluff had not worked.

"That's all I'll give; but father might accommodate you with a little more," he added, touching a little bell.

The summons was instantly answered by a short, stout little man who looked as if he had overheard the conversation.

A quick glance passed between them.

"Here is something for you to decide," went on the young man. "This lady tells me that she wants a certain amount for these diamonds."

"I must have a thousand dollars," interposed Ida, "and if you can not advance me that amount, do not detain me, please; I must look elsewhere."

Again the lid was thrown back, and the casket exposed to the elder man's gaze. He fairly caught his breath as the blazing jewels met his eye. A wolfish expression leaped into his face.

"I think I can accommodate the lady," he said, blandly. "My motto is to please the ladies even if I have to strain a point to do so."

He placed his hand in his pocket and brought forth a roll of bills.

"How will you have the money—in tens or twenties?" he asked.

"It does not matter much," said Ida.

He handed her a roll of bills.

"You can count it, and see if the amount you wish is there," he said.


She counted it over with trembling hands. Yes, there was just a thousand dollars there.

"You will take great care of the diamonds?" she asked, eagerly.

"Certainly—certainly. They are as safe in my hands as though they were in your own keeping, lady."

She put the money in her pocket, and hurried from the place.

"Abraham! Abraham!" cried the old man, excitedly, as soon as the street door had closed upon her, "our fortune is made! This necklace is worth at least a cool seventy-five thousand if it's worth a penny, and we have got it in our possession for a paltry thousand dollars!"

"I knew the diamonds were very fine, and worth a fortune," replied the young man; "but I did not know they were worth as much as that. What do you intend to do with them, father? You will have to give them up to her if she claims them."

"Do you think I'm a fool!" exclaimed the elder man, angrily. "She'll never lay eyes on those stones. Depend on that!"


Ida hurried back to the depot, purchased her ticket, and boarded the train for home.

She had scarcely stepped from the ticket-agent's window,[218] ere the policeman who had directed her to the pawn-shop accosted the agent.

"Where did that veiled woman buy her ticket for? What is her destination?" he whispered.

He told him, and the officer jotted down the name of the station in his note-book.

With the money securely in her possession, Ida reached home. Dusk had crept up; the stars were out in the sky.

She succeeded in gaining her own room unobserved. She was tired and hungry; indeed, she had not thought of food since she had left the house early in the day.

She threw off the long black cloak, the bonnet, thick veil, and black dress she had worn on her visit to Washington. After bathing her face in fragrant water and donning a silken house-robe, Ida rang the bell for her maid.

"Nora," she said, "you may bring me a cup of tea and a biscuit."

"I am very glad that you are awake at last," said Nora. "I wanted very much to tell you something; but as you bid me not to disturb you on any account, I dared not come and knock on the door, ma'am."

"You are quite right," said Ida, wearily, "not to disturb me. I needed rest—rest," said Ida, brokenly.

"I wanted to tell you about the man who was skulking in the grounds. I was hurrying along here a few moments ago, when some one sprung out from behind the rose-bushes and grasped me by the arm.

"I certainly would have cried out with terror, but he put his hand over my mouth.

"'Keep still, and I won't hurt you,' he said, with an oath.

"Trembling with terror, I stood still. I saw that he[219] was a gentleman; but I noticed also that he was very much under the influence of wine.

"'Tell me, are you one of the maids from the house?' he asked.

"'Yes,' I answered.

"'Do you know me?' he questioned.

"'No,' I replied. 'I am a stranger in the village. I have only been in my lady's employ a little more than a fortnight.'

"'I want you to give your mistress this,' he said, producing an envelope from his pocket."

She did not add that the stranger had given her a bill to insure the safe delivery of his message, and to keep her from saying anything about it.

As the girl spoke, she produced an envelope.

Even before the hapless Ida saw it, she knew full well from whom it came.

Poor, hapless Ida! She sunk down into the nearest seat, white as she would ever be in death. She did not dare open it until after the girl had gone for the tea.

She drank it eagerly.

"Please bring me another cup, Nora," she said, "stronger than the first."

"I am afraid that you have a fever, my lady," said the girl, anxiously.

"I am only thirsty. You may as well take the biscuit back; I am afraid it would choke me," said Ida.

"But you must be hungry," persisted the maid. "I am sure you have eaten nothing since breakfast time."

When the girl had gone, Ida tore open the envelope, and read:

"My clever little wife, I am here a day earlier than I anticipated. Meet me at once in the same place. Of[220] course you have the money by this time. Bring it with you."

She crushed the note in her hand. No one heard the gasping, the bitter sob, the despairing cry she uttered. The iron had entered her soul. There was nothing but to obey his commands.

The girl had said that he was under the influence of wine.

Ida had seen him in that condition once before, and that was on his bridal-eve, and the memory of it had never left her.

He was terrible enough when sober, but under the influence of liquor he might be a fiend.

The girl brought a second cup of tea, which Ida drank eagerly.

"Now, leave me, Nora," she said, "and do not come again until I ring for you."

With trembling hands, Ida placed the money in her bosom, drew the black cloak over her shoulders, and hurried into the grounds.

Trembling with a vague apprehension, she sped by a path that was seldom used down to the brook-side.

"True to your tryst!" said a well-known voice. "Fairest, cleverest of women, how can I thank you enough for your promptness?"

She stood still, cold as marble, her face ghastly white in the flickering light of the stars.

"Have you no word for me?" he cried, with a harsh, derisive laugh. "Have you no smile, no kiss, no kind word? Have you nothing to say to me? You have no love, no light of welcome in your eyes, and yet you loved me so dearly once, my sweet Ida? Do you remember? And now——"


"You mocking demon!" she panted, "how dare you utter such words to me? I wonder you are not afraid that Heaven will strike you dead where you stand!"

"Heaven strike me dead?" he repeated. "What a horrible idea! Afraid? Oh, no, my dear. You are the first charming creature I ever saw who flew into such a rage because her husband was pleased to be sentimental to her."

He heard her draw her breath hard. She stood before him white and trembling, her eyes filled with burning fire.

"Say, Ida, couldn't you manage somehow to get the rest of the money—the five thousand?"

"No!" she answered, pitifully.

"That's only a bluff," he cried. "But it won't work with me!"

"You have sworn eternal silence now!" she cried; "you have given your oath, and you dare not break it. I can not raise any more money!"

"Perhaps you will pay that amount for a little secret which I possess, my lady," he said, mockingly.

"There is nothing more you could tell me that would interest me."

"We shall see," he replied, sneeringly.

He pulled from under his coat a dark-lantern, shot back the slide, and a flood of light illumined the scene. He drew a package from his pocket and unwrapped it. Ida watched him like one in a dream.

Suddenly an awful cry broke from her lips. One by one he took from the package the articles of clothing that had been worn by the little child he had secured from the village merchant's wife.

A cry awful to hear broke from her lips.


"I suppose, Ida, it isn't the proper thing to keep a person in suspense," he cried. "You deserted your little child—never once sought to discover whether it were dead or alive. By the merest chance, I ran across it lately. I took possession of it, and I have it now."

"I can not, I will not believe you," she answered, quickly.

"Perhaps this will convince you," he said, reading aloud a letter from the superintendent of the foundling asylum where the child had been placed.

It gave a full account of all that could be ascertained of the hapless mother of the child. As he read by the light of the dark-lantern, she knew that it was all true.

Her child alive!

The rapture of the thought was drowned in the horror that it was in this man's possession.

She fell on her face in the long grass, mad with misery and despair.


For a moment it seemed as though the darkness of death had come over Ida.

"My revelation surprises you," Royal Ainsley said, with a most horrible laugh.

The laugh and the words recalled her to her senses. She sprung to her feet and faced him.


"Where is my child?" she cried, wildly. "Speak, for the love of Heaven, I pray you."

"It will cost you just another thousand dollars to find that out. Bring me that amount here to-morrow night at the same hour, and I will give you full information. Isn't that fair enough?"

Pleadings and prayers were alike unavailing.

"Do you suppose I am going to tell you for nothing, when I can make you pay handsomely?"

"But I haven't the money," she sobbed, "and—and you know it!"

"How did you get this thousand?" he asked.

Then Ida told him all.

"You were a fool to get rid of the diamonds before you had asked Eugene Mallard for the money and been refused. Go to him and ask him for the money now. He does not know how to refuse a woman, and he will give it to you."

"And if I refuse?" she asked, desperately.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"Then you and the man you love will be thrown into prison," Royal declared, "to serve a term of fifteen or twenty years. After that you can not complain as to how I brought up your daughter, if she follows in the footsteps of her mother!"

He could not have used a more conclusive argument.

"Have you no heart, man—no mercy?" cried Ida.

"Come, come, I say, do not be theatrical; the role does not become you! Better be sensible, and consider the proposition I make you."

"I will leave you now," he said; "but I will be here, at this same hour, to-morrow night."

"No, no!" she cried. "Give me a week to think it[224] over, and—and to see what I can do about raising the money."

"Well, then, a week, if you must have it," he replied; "but no longer. Here, you can take these proofs of my story regarding your child and look them over at your leisure," he said, thrusting the package into her hand.

The next moment he was gone. She did not faint; she knew that if she did she would be found there with the package in her hand. She was so dazed, so bewildered, she never remembered how she reached the house and her own room. Again she rang the bell for Nora.

"You may bring me another cup of tea," she said, faintly, "as strong as the last one."

The girl, noticing how pale and ill her mistress looked, thought it would be best to bring her a glass of wine as well.

"Unless I am very much mistaken, she has a sick spell coming on. Her face is pale, but every now and then it flushes burning red."

Ida did not seek her couch that night until she had eagerly scanned every article of clothing the parcel contained.

Her excitement knew no bounds as she read the letter from the superintendent of the foundling asylum, concerning all that he knew of the baby's parentage, in which he stated that the doctor who had attended the young mother had brought the child to the institution in a dying condition, as he supposed, and was hastily called abroad, and had barely time to make the outgoing steamer. He had told them that they could tell the hapless young mother when she was able to bear the sad news.

Ida wept as she had never wept before as she read those written words, and her excitement increased as she[225] saw that the letter was directed to the village merchant's wife, Mrs. Lester, who had taken the child.

It was, then, her own child that she had clasped in her arms, the eyes of her own babe into which she had gazed with such agony and yet with such rapture.

Then another fear seized her. She had not seen the little one for weeks.

Was it ill? Had anything happened to it? She could not visit Mrs. Lester's home until the day broke.

How came her little child in the possession of Royal Ainsley?

The suspense which she endured almost drove her insane. The next morning she was up as early as the servants were.

"Joe," she said to the old coachman, "I want you to harness up the swiftest horses you have in the stable, and take me to the village. I want to go to the store kept by the Lesters."

"You will not find it open so early in the mornin', ma'am," declared Joe. "Dem village folk am pow'ful lazy."

"We will go to their garden, and perhaps be fortunate enough to find them there," said Ida, eagerly. "Harness the horses at once, Joe."

The hapless young mother scarcely breathed during that ride.

After what seemed to her almost an endless ride, they drew up before the village store kept by the Lesters.

As Joe had predicted, the door was closed, and the blinds drawn.

"There they are in the garden yonder; at least, there am Mrs. Lester in the strawberry-patch, and there am her husband, off further in the fields."


"I will go to her," said Ida, stepping quickly from the carriage.

So busy was Mrs. Lester with her task of gathering the ripe fruit, that she did not know of the presence of her visitor until she stood beside her.

"Mrs. Lester," said a quick, eager, husky voice, "I do hope I have not surprised you this morning."

"Well, well, you have surprised me, for a fact. I suppose you want to get something from the store."

"Yes, I do, but not just now," returned Ida, with feverish impatience. "Let me sit down here a few moments and talk with you."

"Certainly," said the woman; "but I haven't anything out here to invite you to sit upon, save that little garden-seat which I always take around with me, so that I can rest myself when I get tired."

"It will do very well, thank you," said Ida, feeling so weak and faint that she could hardly stand.

"I have not seen you nor your little child lately," began Ida.

Then she stopped short, lest her quivering voice should betray her terrible anxiety.

"No," returned Mrs. Lester. "I no longer have the little one, bless its poor, dear little heart!"

"Has anything happened to it?" asked Ida, the agony of death in her voice. "Oh, tell me, where is it? Is the little baby dead?"



It seemed to Ida that it took ages for the woman to reply. She leaned forward breathlessly, fairly devouring her with her dark, dilated eyes.

"Oh, no! the baby did not die," said Mrs. Lester, "although it was a weak, puny little thing.

"I'll just tell you all about it, for I feel just like talking it over with some one.

"The child required so much care that my husband decided we could not keep it, and I was on my way to take it back to the foundling asylum in New York, when the strangest thing happened.

"In the depot I met a young man who used to live in the village. His name is Royal Ainsley."

"Yes! yes!" interposed Ida, faintly, feeling almost more dead than alive.

"I was telling him all about the baby, showing him the letters that came with it, and the proofs I had of its identity, when he suddenly exclaimed:

"'I will tell you in a few words what I'll do. I'll take this little one back to New York, and save you the trip!'

"He offered me one hundred dollars to give him the child then and there. We are very poor, Mrs. Mallard, and a hundred dollars seemed a fortune to me.

"It's over a fortnight since that occurred, but I have not ceased to worry about it, I assure you."

Young Mrs. Mallard suddenly staggered to her feet and turned away.

"I think I will not wait any longer," said Ida, in a strangely altered voice. "Good-morning, Mrs. Lester!"


The next moment she hurried down the garden-path, and entered her carriage.

Like one wild with terror, Ida hurried back to the carriage and re-entered it.

"Home!" she said; and old Joe was surprised at the sound of her voice, it was so unnatural.

"What Royal Ainsley told me is indeed too true!" she said to herself, with an inward moan. "He has possession of my little child. Only Heaven knows how he will use his power to crush me, and the fair, sweet, innocent babe as well!"

It seemed to her as though the very thought of it would drive her mad. She knew she was in his power, and that he would certainly use that power to extort every dollar from her that he possibly could. And then, when there was no more money to be gained, what would he do?

She avoided Eugene Mallard during the next few days, lest he should repeat the question he had asked when he last talked with her.

He watched her in wonder. Her apparent coyness amused as well as surprised him.

"There is no way of understanding women," he said to himself. "To-day they are eager for something; to-morrow they will not have it!"

He was surprised when he received a message from her one day, asking him if she could see him alone in the library.

He sent back a reply in the affirmative, and awaited her coming with some curiosity, no doubt entering his mind as to what she wished to say.

It was some time before she put in an appearance. He was not aware of her presence, he was gazing so intently out of the window, until she stood by his side.


"Mr. Mallard," she began, hesitatingly, "please pardon me for intruding upon you; but I could not wait."

He looked down wonderingly at the lovely young face so strangely pale.

"Would it not be as well for my wife to address me as Eugene?" he asked, with a grave smile.

She looked up at him and tried to utter the word; but somehow it seemed as though she could not.

My wife!

How those words cut her! If they had been the sharp thrust of a sword, they could not have cut her deeper.

His wife!

She would have given everything in this world if indeed it were true that she was Eugene Mallard's wife.

Another face rose before her vision—a fair, handsome, sneering face—and she drew back with a shudder.

He noticed it, and the kindly words he was about to utter were hushed on his lips.

After placing a chair for her, and taking one near it, he waited for her to proceed.

"I—I have come to ask your indulgence in a little matter," she said, faintly.

"Yes?" he said, kindly.

For a moment there was silence between them—a deep, painful, awkward silence, which was broken at length by Ida.

"I have been looking over some furniture," she said, tremulously, "and—and I could use just double the amount of money you gave me. Would you be very, very angry if I asked you for a thousand dollars more?"

He threw back his head and laughed outright.

"One would think, by the manner in which you express[230] yourself, that you were suing for some great favor, the granting of which you doubted."

She looked at him with dilated eyes, the color coming and going in her face.

She could not understand, by his remark, whether or not he intended giving it to her.

He turned at once to his desk, saying:

"I will write out a check for the amount you wish."

"No; not a check, please," she answered, piteously. "I would so much rather have the money."

He looked surprised.

"I haven't the amount you wish," he said. "I have not half that amount probably. I always use checks in preference to carrying money about with me."

He was quite mystified at the look of terror that crept into her eyes.

"I must have it in cash," she said, imploringly. "Could you not get it for me somehow?"

"Yes—certainly," he replied. "When will you want it?"

"To-night," she answered, piteously.

"You shall have it," he answered.

But there flashed through his mind a suspicion he would have given anything to have removed.


Eugene Mallard thought long and earnestly after Ida had left him: "What can Ida want with the cash, and in so short a time?"


He put on his hat, went round to the stables, and ordered his horse. A canter over the hills would drive away these gloomy, unhappy thoughts.

The sun had crept to its zenith, and was now sinking toward the west as he reined his horse before the little village inn at Hampton Corners.

Every one knew Eugene Mallard. The proprietor of the hotel on the old Virginia turnpike road warmly welcomed him. He had concluded to rest a little and refresh his horse.

As he lighted his cigar and sat down on the porch, the first person he saw was Dora Staples.

"I am really so delighted to see you, Mr. Mallard," she said in her pretty lisping accent.

"I had not expected to see you before the fourteenth. We have not had an acknowledgment of the invitation to our ball which we sent you and your wife a week ago; but I feel sure you won't disappoint us. We count upon you two as our most particular guests."

Eugene flushed hotly.

"Oh, certainly," he said. "I hope you will pardon my not answering your kind favor at once. I will see that my wife writes you and accepts the invitation."

"By the way," went on Dora. "I saw Mr. Hollis only yesterday. We went to Richmond to do some shopping, and the first person I met was Mr. Hollis. I am sure he tried to avoid me, though he says he didn't. I told him about the ball, as I did not know where to send the invitation to him. I told him that you and Mrs. Mallard would be there, and that all we now needed to make the affair as pleasant as the one at your house was his presence.

"'I will come if I can,' he said; 'but don't feel hard[232] toward me if I should fail to be there. I have a matter of considerable importance on hand for that date, and I do not know just how I will be able to arrange it.'"

Eugene Mallard drove slowly homeward. Although he tried to banish Dora's words from his mind, yet they still haunted him.

What was Arthur Hollis doing in Richmond? He was more puzzled over it than he cared to own.

As he rode up to the door, he saw Ida on the veranda, talking to a group of friends. It then struck him as it had never struck him before that his young wife was very handsome; and he was beginning to wonder how it was that he had been so blind as to not see that which was attracting the attention of every one else.

She wore a tight-fitting dress of pale-blue silk, with a crimson rose in its bodice. She held a bunch of roses in her white hand. There were several other ladies present, but not one of them could compare with her.

For the first time since his marriage a feeling of exultation stole into his heart at the thought that this peerless creature belonged solely to him.

They were speaking of the grand ball the Staples's were to give, and commenting on what they were going to wear.

"How about you, Mrs. Mallard? What are you going to wear? Don't keep what you are going to wear a secret, and then spring some wonderful creation upon our wondering gaze."

"I assure you," said Ida, "that I have no intention of doing anything of the kind. Indeed," she declared, earnestly, "in sending out the invitations, I am sure they have forgotten us!"

At this juncture, Eugene stepped forward, saying:


"Is there any excuse a man can offer for forgetting so great a favor as an invitation to a grand ball? That is exactly what has occurred. I received the invitation for the Staples's ball one day last week. I should have taken it direct to my wife, but you know that 'procrastination is the thief of time.' It has proved so in this case. I laid it down, and in the press of other matters, I forgot it. My papers must have covered it, and the matter entirely escaped my mind until to-day."

"Of course you will go?" remarked the ladies in chorus.

"Oh, yes; we are sure to do so," he responded.

A little later he found Ida alone in the drawing-room.

"I do hope you will look your best at this particular ball," he said. "The governor of the State; in fact, any number of my old friends will be there. I want you to wear your most becoming dress, and all the family diamonds."

Ida had been looking down calmly at the roses she held. But as mention of the diamonds fell from her husband's lips, a change that was alarming came over her face.

She grew white as death; her eyes lost their light. The roses which she held fell to her feet.

"Why, Ida, you look as if it were an occasion for sorrow instead of one of joy," Eugene remarked.

"What is the date of the ball?" she asked.

"The fourteenth," he responded.

Again that ashen pallor spread over her face, leaving it white to the lips.

That was the date upon which Royal Ainsley was to bring her child to her.

What was the great ball to her compared with this event?


While in the village Eugene had got the money she had asked of him. He had handed it to her inclosed in an envelope.

Oh, how kind and good he was to her! How very despicable it was to deceive him! But what could she do? Fate was against her.

Eugene could not help but notice the intense excitement under which she labored during the time that elapsed to the coming of the ball. She longed, yet dreaded to have the day arrive.

The day came at last, bright and clear. There was no cloud in the blue sky; the sun shone brightly in the heavens. She was glad that there were several guests at the house, as her husband would not have much opportunity of observing her.

How that day passed she never knew. One moment she was as white as death, the next she flushed as red as a rose.

"Heaven help me to live over the excitement of to-day!" she murmured, clasping her hands tightly.

She prayed for the noonday to linger. But time, which stays at no man's bidding, rolled on. The sun went down in a sweep of crimson glory; dusk gathered and deepened into the darkness of night.

Seven o'clock sounded from the pearl-and-gold clock on the mantel. Seven o'clock resounded from the great brass-throated clock in the main hall.

"Nora," said Ida to her maid, "go down to the library and tell Mr. Mallard that I am indisposed and can not go with him to the ball, but that I earnestly pray he will go without me, and enjoy himself. Say that I wish particularly that he should go; and notice what he says, Nora, and come back and tell me."


It seemed to Ida that Nora would never deliver the message.

Why did she linger? At last the girl returned.

"What did he say, Nora?" she asked, breathlessly, fixing her startled eyes eagerly on the girl's face.

"He made no reply, ma'am," returned Nora; "but I am sure he will go, since you so earnestly requested it."


It was with the greatest surprise that Eugene Mallard received the message that Nora delivered—that Ida was too ill to attend the grand ball with him.

"She did not seem to be ill this afternoon," he said to himself.

Obeying a sudden impulse, he hurried from the room, intent upon going to Ida's boudoir and offering her his sympathy; but, on second thought, he concluded that in all probability she would not care to be disturbed.

He felt grievously disappointed. He knew that many of his friends would be present; and besides, what could he say to Mrs. Staples and her daughters?

Some of her friends had left Ida apparently in the best of health and spirits at noon. How could he account to them for her sudden indisposition?

During the forenoon he saw that there was something on Ida's mind; that she was greatly troubled.


Perhaps the words he had said to her only a short time before had much to do with her indisposition. He felt that he ought to have a talk with Ida. If he were to reassure her that she could have everything her own way, she might feel much relieved.

A second time he started for her boudoir; but again he drew back. He could not tell what prompted him to do so.

"Such strange, contradictory emotions seem to possess me," he said. "I will go out into the grounds and smoke a cigar. That will quiet me a little, and afterward I will have a talk with Ida."

Eugene Mallard wandered about the grounds for half an hour or more. He heard a clock strike the hour of eight.

How dark and gloomy it was! There was no moon, but the stars shed a faint, glimmering light.

He had smoked a cigar; but still he paced aimlessly up and down the grounds, lost in thought.

He came to one of the garden benches. It looked so inviting that he threw himself down upon it.

How long he sat there he never knew. Presently he was disturbed by the sound of slow, cautious footsteps. It could not be one of the servants stealing through the grounds in that manner. It must be some poacher.

He drew back into the shadow of the trees, and watched with no little curiosity. He had been so kind to the villagers that he felt surprised at this apparent ingratitude.

Presently a figure came down the path. The more he watched the figure the more certain he became that he had seen it before. Its every move seemed familiar to him.


Suddenly a thought flashed into his mind that made him hold his breath.

"Great Heavens! can it be Arthur Hollis?" he ejaculated.

His face paled; great flashes of fire seemed to come from his eyes. The very blood in his veins seemed to stagnate. Faint and dizzy, he leaned back against the trunk of a tree.

Great God! what could it mean? His wife supposed him to be by this time on his way to the ball. During his absence would she meet, dared she meet Arthur Hollis?

The tall, familiar-looking figure paced impatiently by the brook-side under the dim light of the stars. Yes, the man was there waiting for some one.

From where he stood he could plainly see a faint light in the window of his wife's room, and as his eyes were fixed upon it, the light was extinguished.

If a sword had been plunged into Eugene Mallard's heart, it could not have given him a greater shock.

Many a night he had paced up and down the grounds, watching the light in that window. Then it had never been put out before ten. Why should it be extinguished so early to-night?

The thought troubled Eugene Mallard, as he turned his head and saw the figure still pacing restlessly up and down by the brook.

He dared not utter a word. He would await developments. He scarcely breathed, in his suspense. It seemed to him that the blood in his veins was turned to ice.

He took up a position where there was no possible danger of being observed, and there he watched and waited.


Up in her boudoir Ida was donning with trembling hands, the long cloak that was to disguise her.

She had sent Nora from her room. But it seemed to her that the girl looked back suspiciously as she went out and closed the door after her.

"Heaven help me to get through with this exciting scene!" Ida muttered.

Her heart was throbbing so, her limbs were so weak, that she was obliged to sit down for a minute.

"Oh, Heaven help me! How thankful I am that Eugene did not send for me before he left for the ball. He has reached there by this time!" she muttered.

She looked at the clock, and said to herself that time was flying, and she must hasten to keep her appointment.

Again she counted over the money which Eugene had given her—the money that was to restore her little child to her—the money that was to purchase her freedom and end forever Royal Ainsley's persecutions.

"What would Eugene say if he knew all?" she asked herself, in great trepidation.

She trembled even at the thought of it.

Was she doing right in concealing the truth from Eugene Mallard?

She sprung from her chair and paced hurriedly up and down the room.

If Eugene knew all, he would certainly tell her that her path lay with Royal Ainsley, that his roof would shelter her no more. And now she could not part from him. Every fiber of her heart was woven about him.

She tried to look into the future; but, think what she would, the pictures presented frightened her.

Presently she paused before the window. Was it only her fancy, or did she hear the patter of rain-drops?


She turned out the light and threw open the window. She felt relieved to find that it was only the leaves that were tapping against the window-pane. She closed the window, with a sigh, and opened the door softly.

The corridor was empty; the gas-jets of the great chandelier were turned low. Like a thief in the night, she stole noiselessly down the winding passageway.

The sound of laughter from the servants' hall below floated up to her through the awful stillness.

What if one of the doors on either side should open, and some one step out and confront her?

She drew her long cloak closely about her, and pulled the hood down over her head.

There was a side door opening on to a porch, and leading directly into the grounds.

Ida hurried toward this door and opened it cautiously. For a moment she stood on the threshold, and in that moment a gust of wind blew the cloak from about her shoulders, and it fell at her feet.

The light from the hall lamp clearly revealed her form to Eugene Mallard, who stood leaning against an oak-tree scarcely one hundred feet distant.

"It is Ida!" he muttered, hoarsely.

She turned her steps down toward the brook, as he had feared she would do.

"She stayed away from the ball to meet that scoundrel!" he muttered under his breath.

With hesitating steps, little dreaming of what the end of her adventure would be, Ida hurried on to her doom.

The wind sighed a mournful requiem in the trees, the songs of the birds were hushed, and the sweet murmur of the brook seemed to end in a sob as it rushed onward to the sea.


The night was warm, but a great shiver crept over Ida as she turned out of the path and hurried along through the garden by a short cut to the place where she knew Royal Ainsley was impatiently waiting for her.


Royal Ainsley was not a man to be trusted when under the influence of drink. As the minutes went by, and Ida did not come, he was beside himself with rage.

"What does she mean by keeping me waiting in this manner?" he roared. "By the Lord Harry, I'll make her pay for this!"

Then, like Eugene Mallard, who was watching but a few feet from him, he saw the light go out in Ida's room.

"That must be her room. She is coming at last," he murmured.

He braced himself against the trunk of a tree, for by this time his limbs were none too steady under him.

When the door opened, and he saw Ida approach, an exclamation of satisfaction broke from his lips.

He sat down upon the mossy rock and watched the slim figure as it moved slowly over the greensward.

"She is certainly in no hurry to see me," he muttered, with a grim smile. "But I'll change all that."

Meanwhile, Ida had stopped short, and was standing motionless in the path.

Putting her hand into the pocket of her dress, the girl found, to her great amazement, that she had come[241] away without the roll of bills she had intended to bring with her. In her excitement she had left the money on the table.

What should she do? There was no course to pursue but go back for it.

Then a superstitious terror for which she could not account seemed to seize her.

"It will surely be a bad omen to return to the house." she told herself; "and yet I dare not meet Royal Ainsley without the money. He will say that my story about forgetting the money is only an excuse."


As Ida paused for a moment, wondering what course would be best to pursue, she concluded that her only course would be to return to the house for the money.

She had scarcely turned, before a piercing cry sounded through the grounds, coming from the direction of the brook.

Ida, terrified, stood for a moment rooted to the spot. She tried to fly, but if her life had depended upon it, she could not have stirred hand or foot.

She distinctly heard the sound of voices. Still, all power to fly seemed to have left her.

What could it be? Had some of the servants discovered Royal Ainsley's presence?


She tried to think, but she was powerless. Every sound seemed confusing.

Guided by the light, Nora had dashed quickly down toward the brook. But ere she could reach the figure pacing up and down so impatiently, she was seized from behind by a pair of strong arms, a white angry face bent over her, and a voice, which she instantly recognized as her master's, cried harshly:

"Let me understand what this means!"

The girl was too frightened to speak.

"This is why you would not come to the ball, is it?" he cried, excitedly, dragging her toward the spot where her lover stood. "Come, you and I will confront the lover whom you stayed away from the ball to meet here!"

Royal Ainsley took in the situation at once. He recognized Eugene's voice.

"He has discovered Ida Mallard's appointment with me in some way," he thought. And the knowledge terrified him, coward as he was.

He turned and beat a hasty retreat, dodging directly into the arms of old Joe.

"Ha! I've caught you this time!" cried the old servitor.

With an oath, Royal Ainsley flung Joe from him.

"Out of my way!" he cried, fiercely, "or I'll kill you!"

The voice, as well as the words, startled old Joe, and threw him entirely off his guard for an instant. In that instant a heavy blow was dealt him which caused him to loosen his hold on the intruder.

Then Royal Ainsley sped like a deer through the grounds, every foot of which he knew well, and was quickly lost to sight in the darkness.


After that first sharp cry, Nora regained something of her natural bravado.

In less time than it takes to tell it, her master had dragged her toward the house and under the full light of the swinging lamp.

"Oh, master!" she cried, gaining her breath at last "It's I, Nora, the maid!"

Eugene Mallard's tightly clinched hands fell from her; he stared aghast at the girl.

"You, Nora!" he cried, in the greatest amazement, with a world of relief and thankfulness blended in his voice.

"Pray for—forgive me, Mr. Mallard," sobbed the girl. "I—I did not do any intentional wrong. I was only going down to the old south gate to meet my lover, sir. I—I did not think for a moment that any one would mind. My lady did not need me for an hour or more. Oh, please forgive me if my action has displeased you!"

"It was your lover that you were going to meet?" repeated Eugene Mallard, as if to satisfy himself that he had heard aright.

He drew back and looked at Nora with fixed intentness, the color that had left his face surging back to it again.

Eugene Mallard now walked to his library, and flung himself down to think over the situation.

He felt grateful beyond words that matters were no worse. He was ashamed of the thought that for a moment had found lodgment in his brain against the wife whom he had wedded.

Then it came to him—his love for Ida, whom he knew now that he worshipped with all the passionate love of his heart. How different it was from the love he had borne Hildegarde Cramer!


He wondered that he had been so blind as not to have noticed his love for her sooner. He could scarcely wait until the day dawned, that he might go to her and tell her of the great love for her that was consuming his soul.

He said to himself that it was only her innate modesty that caused her to hold aloof from him of late, and to make her hesitate about giving him her answer.

He looked shudderingly backward over the past for the last time. Yes, he would urge her to give him his answer on the morrow. It never once occurred to him but that her answer would be "Yes."


When Royal Ainsley shook himself free from old Joe's detaining grasp, his first impulse was to get as far away from the place as possible.

With second thoughts, however, came another decision. No; he must learn all that was taking place.

Quickly circling the grounds, he soon gained a vantage-place behind a group of bushes not far from the house. There he could easily see and hear all that transpired without being seen himself.

He saw Eugene Mallard as he drew the girl beneath the swinging lamp in the hall, and heard the conversation that passed between them.

"So!" he muttered, grinding his white teeth savagely,[245] "the girl is my lady's maid, eh? I dare say, she sent her with some message to me when she was intercepted by Eugene Mallard. But Ida will find that this will not work with me. See her I shall, if I have to stay in these grounds till broad daylight."

He watched and waited until he saw even old Joe relax his vigilance and go into the house.

Royal Ainsley waited there until the old mansion was wrapped in gloom and darkness, then he slipped from his hiding-place, passed noiselessly over the graveled walk, and stood beneath Ida's window.

Stooping, he caught up a handful of pebbles. One by one he flung them up against the window-pane. Just as he had expected, he saw a white, terrified face appear at the window, and two white hands threw up the sash.

He saw at once that it was Ida. He moved out from the shadow of the trees. She saw him at once, and recognized him.

"Is it you?" she cried, in the greatest alarm. "What in Heaven's name are you doing there, pray?"

"Your common sense ought to tell you that;" he retorted, harshly. "Come down here at once, I tell you, and be sure to bring that money with you!"

"Oh, no! no! I can not!" she answered him, piteously.

"Why?" he demanded, with something very much like an imprecation upon his lips.

"I dropped the money in the dining-room as I was passing through it to get out into the grounds. The room is locked; I can not get it until to-morrow morning. Old Joe always carries the key with him."

"It is a lie!" he cried, fiercely.

"No! no! On my life, it is true!" she answered, with a piteous quiver in her voice; adding: "I was hurrying[246] through the room, and there I must have dropped it. I searched for it in every other place."

"Then hear what I say," he retorted, with an oath, "in these very grounds I shall stay until you come to me. I know well that old Joe is astir at dawn. You must be up then, find the money which you say you dropped, and bring it out to me. I will be waiting for you at the same place."

Before she could utter a word of protest, he had turned and disappeared in the darkness.

All night long Ida Mallard paced the floor of her room, scarcely heeding the hours that dragged their slow lengths by. Dawn came before she realized it. She was startled from her reverie by hearing old Joe throwing open the shutters about the house. That recalled her to a realization of passing events.

Joe had unlocked the door of the dining-room at last, but his sight was so poor that he could not espy a small roll of bills lying on the floor.

Ida, gliding into the room as soon as his footsteps echoed down the corridor, found the package.

She stole to the door as soon as it was unlocked.

Ah! how sweet and fragrant was the early morning. How cool and green the grass looked, wet with the morning dew! Little she dreamed that ere the day waned that same grass would be dyed with a human being's blood.

She shivered as she stepped forth into the grounds. With hurried steps she crossed the lawn, and went into the rose-garden beyond. There she saw Royal Ainsley. He was pacing the little path by the brook, his face white, his eyes angry-looking, downcast and sullen.


"So you have come at last, eh?" he exclaimed, angrily.

"I am here," she responded, tremulously.

"I was just about to go and wake up the household," he cried, his rage increasing.

"Now, that I am here, you will not have to do that," she answered, wearily.

"Where is the money?" he asked, abruptly.

She held it in her hand, but clutched it more tightly.

"I have it with me," she responded; "but it is not yours until you carry out your promises!"

He looked at her with a cunning gleam in his eyes.

"To be sure I will carry out my agreement," he said.

"But I must have proof that you will do so before I part with so much money," she said. "You must give me your written word that you will never trouble me again. You must also tell me where I can find my child, for I see that you have not kept your word about bringing her with you!"

He laughed aloud—a harsh, mocking laugh.

"I am not surprised at hearing a remark like that from your lips. A woman who could abandon her child as easily as you did, without so much as knowing its fate, and who is content to live here as Eugene Mallard's wife, whenever he is ready to take you to his heart, is capable of doing anything. I do not wonder that you supposed the little one was here in the grounds all night long awaiting your fancy to appear!"

She recoiled at the words as though he had struck her a blow.

"Let me tell you where your child is," he said, hoarsely. "You shall know its fate!"

As he spoke, he seized the hand that held the money, and tore the bills from her grasp.



Ida sunk on her knees before him.

"Come," he said; "you must go quietly with me."

"Inhuman monster!" moaned Ida.

"Come. This is no time to exchange compliments," he said. "We have parleyed here too long already."

His grasp tightened on the slender wrist, but she did not seem to heed the pain of it.

"I can not, I will not go with you!" she panted.

A taunting laugh answered her. He was dragging her by main force down the path, when the figure of a man suddenly sprung before him.

"You!" cried Royal Ainsley, furiously.

"Yes, it is I!" returned Eugene Mallard, sternly. "I am just in time, it appears, to save my—this lady from you."

At the sight of Eugene, Ida flung up her hands with a wild cry, and sunk at his feet unconscious. Royal Ainsley sprung forward to catch her in his arms, but Eugene dashed up to him.

"Lay one hand on her at your peril!" he commanded.

"And who shall prevent me, when she is my wife?" sneered Royal Ainsley.

"She is not your wife!" cried Eugene Mallard, his face darkening; "and here and now, I propose to avenge the wrongs you have done her. There will be a duel to the death between us! I have two pistols in my pocket, you shall take one and defend yourself, I will use the other."


Royal Ainsley sprung forward. Quick as a flash he drew something from his vest-pocket. It was a sharp steel dagger which he always carried.

He made a lunge forward, but his foot slipped, and he fell to the earth in mortal pain. The dagger he had intended to plunge into the body of his cousin had been the cause of his own death.

In an instant Eugene was bending over him.

"It is too late!" gasped the miserable man—"it is all over with me now. I am about to pass in my checks. Don't you think so?"

"Yes," said Eugene; "you are mortally wounded, I can see that. Heaven forgive you for the sins you have committed!"

Eugene carried Ida to her own room, thanking Heaven that he had met no one. No one would know of her presence in the grounds.

Then he quickly summoned the servants.

Royal Ainsley, lying there with his face upturned to the sunlight and his hand clutching the fatal dagger, told its own story.

As soon as Ida was able to see him Eugene sent for her to come to the library.

When she received the summons, the poor soul, white as death, fell upon her knees.

"He is going to denounce me for my sin, and for not telling him when I found it out," she said.

Could she face him, now that he knew all?

As she knelt there she caught a glimpse of herself in the great mirror opposite.

Again the girl knocked at the door.

"Tell your master that I will see him to-morrow," she[250] whispered in a strained, strange voice; and the girl went away.

Strange fancies seemed to throng through her brain.

Royal Ainsley was dead, she had heard them say; and she fancied that her child was dead, too.

And now the man she loved had sent for her to turn her from the house, and she would never see him again.

Then she thought of the brook, so deep, so wide, that struggled on to meet the sea.

Yes, she would go there where some of the happiest, ay, and some of the most sorrowful moments of her life had been spent. The deep waters would carry her away on their bosom.

At intervals the girl came to the door to inquire if she wanted anything. The answer was always the same—"No."

She never knew how the long hours passed; she was like one in a dream.

At last night came. She waited until the house was dark and still. There was silence in the hall. All the lights were out, every one was asleep, and the troubles of the day were blotted out.

She raised the long French window that opened out onto the lawn and stepped out into the garden.

As she passed the room in which Eugene Mallard was quietly sleeping, she knelt and laid her cold white lips on the threshold his feet would press.

How cruelly Heaven had punished her, because in those other days she had longed to be a lady, like the heroines she had read of in the great world of beauty and fashion.

She reached the brook and knelt down beside it. The moon threw a silvery light upon it, and in its song she[251] seemed to hear Eugene's voice mingled with that of the little child she had lost.

"I am coming to you, little baby!" she muttered below her breath. Then aloud, she said: "Good-bye, Eugene—good-bye forever!"

Suddenly a pair of strong arms clasped her, and Eugene's voice whispered:

"Not good-bye, my darling!"

Only the stars and the moonlight and the rippling waters of the brook heard what he said—how he pleaded with her to live only for him and her little child.

Ida could not believe the great happiness that had suddenly fallen upon her like a mantle from God's hands.

They talked by the brook-side for long hours. The next day the master and mistress of the great mansion went away.

When they reached New York, another ceremony was performed, which made Ida Eugene Mallard's wife until death should part them.

Then they quietly went and obtained the little child, whom both idolized, and went abroad, where they remained for years.

No one learned the strange romance of the fair young girl whom Eugene Mallard worshipped so fondly.

When they returned to their home, years after, with a lovely, dark-eyed little girl and a sturdy, blue-eyed boy, no one guessed but that they were Eugene Mallard's children.

While they had been abroad they read of the marriage of Hildegarde Cramer to Philip Ravenswood, the noble young man who had loved her ever since they had first met on the Newport sands.

The same paper also brought the intelligence of the[252] engagement of Arthur Hollis and pretty Dora Staples, and the sad ending, in a railroad accident, of beautiful, hapless Vivian Deane and her maid Nora.

Eugene passed the paper to his wife, and Ida read it, making no comments. But after awhile, as though the subject weighed heavily on her mind, she went up to Eugene, and laid her soft white arms round his neck, and whispered:

"Does the knowledge of Hildegarde's marriage bring you any regrets, Eugene?"

"No, my darling!" he cried, clasping her in his strong arms. "For all the love of my heart is yours now, and—and—our children's."

"I have often wanted to ask you, Eugene," she murmured, with her face hidden on his breast, "if the story of my past were known, how would people judge me? Would the world say, 'Ida May had sinned'?"

Let us hope all our readers will join heartily in his answer—"No."



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The A. and L. SERIES will contain, among others, the following stories by


The Kidnapped President
A Prince of Swindlers
The Mystery of the Clasped Hands


King Solomon's Mines
The Witches' Head
The World's Desire


The Jewel of Death
A Japanese Revenge


Mystery of the Crimson Blind


Mysterious Mr. Sabin


The Shadow on the Sea


The Severed Hand


Kidnapped at the Altar
Gladiola's Two Lovers
A Bride for a Day
Aleta's Terrible Secret
The Romance of Enola
A Handsome Engineer's Flirtation
Was She Sweetheart or Wife
Della's Handsome Lover
Flora Garland's Courtship
My Sweetheart Idabell
Pretty Madcap Dorothy
The Loan of a Lover
A Fatal Elopement
The Girl He Forsook
Which Loved Her Best
A Dangerous Flirtation
Garnetta, the Silver King's Daughter
Flora Temple
Pretty Rose Hall
Cora, the Pet of the Regiment
Jolly Sally Pendleton


A Romance of Two Worlds


She Loved Him
The Marquis
A Wasted Love
Her Ransom


St. Elmo


The Missing Bride


Thorns and Orange Blossoms
A Dark Marriage Morn
Dora Thorne



Obvious printer errors have been corrected. Otherwise, the author's original spelling, punctuation and hyphenation have been left intact.

The cover image was restored by the transcriber and is placed in the public domain.