Let Us Kiss and Part; or, A Shattered Tie


Transcriber’s Notes:

The Table of Contents was created by the transcriber and placed in the public domain.

Additional Transcriber’s Notes are at the end.


Chapter I. When Poverty Enters the Door.

Chapter II. Sixteen Years Later.

Chapter III. A Young Girl’s First Thought.

Chapter IV. The Winning of a Heart.

Chapter V. The First Kiss.

Chapter VI. Fate’s Decree.

Chapter VII. The Beautiful Rivals.

Chapter VIII. “She Shall Be Mine?”

Chapter IX. An Hour to Be Remembered.

Chapter X. The Ending of Her Love Dream.

Chapter XI. A Breaking Heart.

Chapter XII. An Evil Omen.

Chapter XIII. Forsaken at the Altar.

Chapter XIV. Waves of Memory.

Chapter XV. Forgetfulness, the Great Panacea.

Chapter XVI. When a Man Hates.

Chapter XVII. Dalrymple’s Secret.

Chapter XVIII. Laurier’s Atonement.

Chapter XIX. The New Wine of Love.

Chapter XX. Would the Old Love Return?

Chapter XXI. Playing With Fire.

Chapter XXII. A Desperate Deed.

Chapter XXIII. A Mysterious Disappearance.

Chapter XXIV. “Love, I Will Love You Ever!”

Chapter XXV. An Answered Prayer.

Chapter XXVI. An Ocean Tragedy.

Chapter XXVII. “I Loved Her Always.”

Chapter XXVIII. Was a Miracle Wrought?

Chapter XXIX. Alone Together.

Chapter XXX. A Heart of Sympathy.

Chapter XXXI. How Could He Lose Her Thus?

Chapter XXXII. The Heart of a Lover.

Chapter XXXIII. The Blackmailer.

Chapter XXXIV. “A Breaking Heart,” She Said.

Chapter XXXV. “Billing and Cooing Will Wait.”

Chapter XXXVI. “How Was It That Love Died?”

Chapter XXXVII. Startling News.

Chapter XXXVIII. Love Rekindled.

Chapter XXXIX. Hearts United.

Chapter XL. Deeds of Kindness.

Chapter XLI. Happiness Supreme.

Chapter XLII. Iris and Isabel.

Chapter XLIII. The Outcast.

Chapter XLIV. A Cruel Ordeal.

Chapter XLV. Entering on the New Life.

Chapter XLVI. The Unforgotten Face.

Chapter XLVII. Treachery.

Chapter XLVIII. A Cruel Stratagem.

Chapter XLIX. The Child of an Escaped Convict.

Chapter L. Sundered Hearts.

Chapter LI. Oscar Hilton’s Triumph.

Chapter LII. Another Enemy.

Chapter LIII. Hidden Perils.

Chapter LIV. In the Toils.

Chapter LV. Isabel’s Betrothal.

Chapter LVI. A Cruel Suspicion.

Chapter LVII. Homeless and Alone.

Chapter LVIII. The Arrest.

Chapter LIX. “Good-by.”

Chapter LX. Conclusion.


Let Us Kiss and Part

By Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller

Cover illustration.


Title page.

Let Us Kiss and Part;



Author of “Pretty Madcap Lucy,” “The Fatal Kiss,” “Loyal Unto
Death,” “The Strength of Love,” “Lady Gay’s Pride,”
and many other romances of American life published
exclusively in the Eagle and New Eagle Series.

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STREET & SMITH, Publishers
79-89 Seventh Avenue

Copyright, 1897-1898

Let Us Kiss and Part

All rights reserved, including that of translation into foreign languages,
including the Scandinavian.

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To love and hate in the same breath, it is as cruel as a tragedy.

Leon and Verna Dalrymple knew all that subtle pain as they faced each other in the cold, gray light of that autumn day whereon they were parting forever.

It was not simply a lovers’ quarrel, either.

The pity of it was that they were husband and wife, both very young, both very fond, but driven apart by unreasoning pride and passion.

The husband was twenty-one years old, the bride but seventeen—a case of “marry in haste, repent at leisure.”

Six months ago the bride, sole daughter of a wealthy family, had eloped from boarding school with a poor young man, a teacher of music.

For her fault the daughter had been cast off by her parents, and the young man dismissed from the school where he taught. Unable to secure another position, misfortune had steadily tracked his footsteps until he could scarcely afford bread for himself and the fair, dainty bride.

Having rushed into marriage without thought for the future, misfortune soured their naturally hasty tempers, and when the fierce wolf of poverty came in at the door love flew out of the window.


They could scarcely have told how it all began, but at last they were quarreling most bitterly. There were mutual recriminations and fault-findings, that increased in virulence until one day, goaded by Verna’s reproaches, Leon cried out in hot resentment:

“I regret that I ever saw you!”

“I hate you!” she replied, with a scornful flash of her great, somber, dark eyes, and whether the words were true or not, she never took them back—neither one ever professed sorrow for angry words or begged forgiveness. The husband, hurt by her sneers, pained by her reproaches, and inwardly wounded by his inability to provide for her better, took refuge in sullen silence that she resented by downright sulking. She was furious at his unkindness, disgusted with her poverty, and unconsciously ill of a trouble she did not suspect, so the breach widened between their hearts until one day she said with rigid white lips and somber, angry eyes:

“I am tired of starving and freezing here where I am not wanted! I shall go home and beg papa to forgive my folly and get me a divorce from you.”

The awful words were spoken and they fell on his heart like hailstones, but though he grew pale as death and his whole frame trembled, he feigned the cruelest indifference, saying bitterly:

“You could not please me better!”

So the die was cast.

Perhaps she had wished to test his love, perhaps she hoped that the fear of losing her might beat down the armor of his stubborn pride and make him sue for a reconciliation.


Whatever she might have secretly desired, his answer was a deathblow to her hopes.

At his words a strange look flashed into her large, dark eyes, and for a moment her red mouth quivered like a child’s at an unexpected blow. But she swallowed a choking sob, and the next moment her young face grew rigid as a mask.

Rising slowly from her seat, she put on her hat, caught up a small hand satchel from the floor, and passed silently from the poor apartment.

If only she had turned her fair, haughty head for one backward glance—if only——

For his passionate heart had almost leaped from his breast in the terror of his loss.

Anger, pride, and pique were forgotten alike in the supreme anguish of that moment’s despair.

As she turned away he stretched his arms out yearningly, whispering with stiff, white lips that could scarcely frame the words:

“Darling, come back!”

Had she only looked back, her heart would have melted with tenderness at sight of his grief. She would have fallen, sobbing, on his breast.

But she never turned her proud, dark head; she did not catch the yearning whisper, and his arms dropped heavily to his sides again, while the echo of her retreating footsteps fell like a death knell on his heart.

Angry and estranged, they had parted to go their separate ways forever, and the stream of destiny rolled in widely between their sundered lives, thus wrenched violently heart from heart.

To be born to the heritage of such beauty, pride,[8] and passion, is not altogether goodly—yet, it is the daughter of this strangely parted pair whom I have chosen for my heroine, for in four months after Verna Dalrymple left her husband she became the mother of a lovely daughter—a girl that in its dainty beauty possessed the blond fairness of the father, the dark, dreamy eyes and proud, beautiful mouth of the brunet mother.



“Sister Jessie, I am so hungry. Please give me some bread!” sobbed the pleading voice of a little child, clinging to the skirts of the young house mother, a dark-eyed girl of sixteen.

“I’se hungry, too. I want my bekfus!” sobbed a still younger child, petulantly, and for answer Jessie stooped down and gathered both the little boys into her yearning arms, crying tremulously:

“Wait a little while, my darlings, and sister Jessie will go and try to get you some bread!”

Oh! what a tale of wretchedness was told by the bare, fireless room and the pinched faces and hollow eyes of the three children, the girl of sixteen, the boys of six and four, respectively. It was midday, but they had not tasted food for twenty-four hours, and the cupboard was empty of the smallest crust. It was a chilly November day, but the small stove was fireless, though their thin, ragged garments were insufficient to keep out the biting cold.

Jessie kissed the wan, tear-wet faces of her hungry little brothers, then stood up again and looked round the room to see if there was anything left worthy the attention of the old pawnbroker on the corner.

A choking sob escaped the girl’s lips:

“Alas, there is nothing but trash! The little purse is empty, and the rent unpaid for two months. What shall we do?”


A loud rap on the door gave her a violent start, and she sprang to open it, exclaiming piteously:

“They have come again for the rent!”

She was confronted by a medium-sized young man, good-looking in a coarse style with red cheeks, keen, black eyes, and close-cropped, black hair, dressed flashily, with a long, gold watch chain dangling across his breast.

Staring curiously into the room and at the girl, he demanded:

“Is John Lyndon at home?”

“He is not.”

“Where is his wife, then, hey?”

A sob came from all three of the children, but no reply until a little, motherly looking woman suddenly pushed past the young man into the room, exclaiming:

“Arrah, now, how dare ye break the hearts av thim by yer impidence, axin for their mither, and herself dead of a faver six months ago!”

“Ah, and the father?”

“Poor sowl, they took him to the hospital, a month ago, hurt by an accident, and he died there but yesterday. I just came in to take the childer to git the last look at his dead face before they bury him at the city’s expinse.”

“Ah, very sorry, I’m sure, but, of course, now the rent will never be paid, and I was sent here to bring a dispossess warrant, so I may as well read it for the benefit of the children.”

And he coolly proceeded to do so, apparently unmoved by the sad story of death and disaster he had just heard.


Then he beckoned to two rough-looking men who had been standing in the hallway. They came up at once, and at a motion of the hand from the dispossess officer, they began at once to move the few shabby household effects into the street.

Painful sobs burst from the hapless orphans, but the little Irishwoman, with the calmness of one long familiar with the stern face of poverty, said to them gently:

“You see, dears, ye are turned into the street. Have yees any friends to take yees in?”

Jessie answered forlornly:

“We have an aunt, a dressmaker, in a distant part of the city. She was papa’s sister, but he would never let her know that we were so poor after he lost his steady job, saying she had troubles enough of her own.”

“Av coorse she will help yees, when she knows about your troubles, poor things, so now come to my room and have a little snack before we start to the hospital,” said Mrs. Ryan tenderly, marshaling the orphans past the dispossess agent, who remarked insinuatingly:

“The oldest girl’s big enough to go out and earn her own living, and if her aunt won’t take her to keep, I know of a situation she can get as parlormaid with a very nice lady.”

“Thank you kindly, but I hope she won’t need it,” returned Mrs. Ryan curtly, as she led the little flock to her own poor apartment where she fed them on the best she could afford, weak tea, baker’s stale bread, and a bit of cheese, but a feast to the famishing orphans whose thanks brought tears to her kind eyes.


Afterward she took them to look their last on the face of their dead before he was consigned to his grave among the city’s pauper dead, poor soul, the victim of penury and misfortune. Then she led them weeping away to their aunt, Mrs. Godfrey, who heard with grief of her poor brother’s death and looked with pity on his orphan children.

She said plaintively:

“I’m a lone widow with a sick daughter and no support but my needle, but, of course, I cannot turn John’s children out into the cold world. I’ll take Mark and Willie and do the best I can by them, but as for Jessie, she is old enough to go out and work for herself. Besides, she has no claim on me, as she was not my brother’s child!”

“Not papa’s child!” almost shrieked Jessie, in her astonishment, and Mrs. Godfrey, looking ready to faint under the burden of her new responsibilities, replied:

“No, you were only the niece of my brother’s wife, though she brought you up as her own child, and loved you just as well.”

Mrs. Ryan questioned eagerly:

“Are Jessie’s own parents living?”

“The Lord only knows,” was the answer, and, seeing the anxiety on their faces, Mrs. Godfrey continued:

“You see, it was this way: Jessie’s father and mother were divorced when they hadn’t been married more than seven months or so, and afterward their child was born, and when it was a few years old the father in a fit of rage stole Jessie away from her[13] mother and brought her to his sister to raise as her own. He went away and for years sent money liberally to keep and educate the child, but at last letters and money both stopped suddenly, and ’twas supposed he was dead. The Lyndons kept Jessie all the same, and did the best they could, but misfortunes began to come and death followed—so everything came to this pass. I’ll say it for Jess, she’s a good child, but I’m too poor to keep her, so she will have to look for a situation.”

“I’ve heard of one already, so I will take her back and try to get it for her. Bid your little brothers good-by, dear,” said Mrs. Ryan gently, in her pity for the forlorn girl, who now turned to Mrs. Godfrey, faltering:

“Maybe you can tell me where to find my mother?”

“I can’t, my dear, for now I remember I never heard her name, nor your pa’s, neither. You always went by the name of Lyndon, and was considered their child, so you will have to go on calling yourself Lyndon till you find out better. Maybe your ma wasn’t a good woman, anyway, or she wouldn’t had to be divorced.”

Cruel was the parting between Jessie and the little ones, but with kisses and tears, and promises to come again, the desolate girl was hurried away to her fate—every link broken between her and the past, her brain on fire, her heart aching, her future a chaos that no hope could pierce.

“If I could only find my mother!” she sighed to Mrs. Ryan.

“Sure, darlint, don’t fix your heart on her, for she must have been a bad woman indade, or your father[14] wouldn’t have stole ye away and put ye in his sister’s care. Arrah, now, I’m thinking of what the dispossess agent said about knowing of a good place for ye to stay as parlormaid. And good luck to ye, darlint; there he is in front of the tiniment now, having the old sticks of your furniture moved, bad cess to his eyes! But then ag’in, ’tain’t his fault. He was sint by the landlord to do it, and can’t help himself, so why should we be hard on him, thin! Och, if you plaze, sir, we would like to have the address of the good lady as you said would take Jessie for a parlormaid.”

The agent’s face beamed with surprise and delight, and, hastily drawing a card from his pocket, he presented it, saying:

“There’s the address, and just tell the lady I sent you, and I know she will give Miss Lyndon the place,” beaming on the girl in a way that made her shrink and shudder.

“Why, ’tis the old fortune teller in the next street,” said Mrs. Ryan, surveying the dingy card that read:

“Know your fate and fortune. Consult Madame Barto, scientific palmist, No. 16A West Twenty-third Street. Hours between ten and four daily. Fee one dollar.”



Madame Barto’s ideas of a parlormaid seemed rather confused, for her gloomy little brick house had no occupants save herself and Jessie, and before business hours in the morning she and Jessie did up all the household work, after which they separated, madame to sit in her dingy parlor and read detective stories in the intervals of waiting for customers, and Jessie to wait in a tiny anteroom off the hall to answer the doorbell.

The first thing that morning madame had gone out and bought her maid a neat, black gown finished with black and white ribbons, at neck and waist, and a neat little pair of buttoned boots that made quite an improvement in her appearance.

“This comes in advance out of your first month’s salary, and I think you will agree I am very generous to trust you,” she said frankly.

“I am very grateful, madame,” faltered the girl shyly, for she stood greatly in awe of the tall, dark, homely fortune teller, with her stern face and grenadierlike walk.

“See that you prove so,” the woman said dryly, adding, as she seized the girl’s hand and turned the pink palm to the light: “Let us see what fate has in store for such a pretty girl.”

“Shall I ever be married?” queried Jessie timidly, and Madame Barto laughed:


“Ha, ha, the first thought of a young girl—‘shall I ever be married?’ Yes, yes, pretty one. I can promise you a husband for certain! Girls like you—so lovely and naïve—are very sure to marry, for the men will not give them any peace. But you’ll repent it afterward if you’re like most women. I know, for marriage is a lottery, and more blanks are drawn than prizes.”

“I am sorry. I thought love must be so sweet,” said the girl with a little, unconscious sigh.

“Poor thing!” answered the woman, with a half sneer, her keen, deep-set eyes following the lines of the delicate palm while she pursued:

“I see dark clouds lowering over your life—and the line of life is strangely crossed. I foresee tragic elements in your future. The chances of happiness are against you, but you may possibly overcome these adverse influences. Let us hope so. Otherwise——” she paused, looked keenly at the girl, and exclaimed:

“You will not thank me if I tell you any more. What is the use, anyway? You will find it out soon enough yourself. These people who pay me a dollar for reading the future, what fools they are! If they wait they will know it for nothing!”

Jessie hung her golden head in cruel disappointment, having hoped that a good fortune might have been promised from the reading of her little hand, while the madame continued briskly:

“Come, now, you will sit here in the anteroom with this bit of sewing until the doorbell rings, then you will answer it, usher the caller in here, and come to me for instructions. Will you remember this?”


“Oh, yes, madame,” sitting down obediently with the roll of ruffling madame had given her to hemstitch, eager to be alone with her sad thoughts.

Sad they were, indeed, poor Jessie, thus wrenched from all she had known and loved in the past, and thrown alone on the world, to face the untried future.

Standing with reluctant feet,
Where the brook and river meet,
Womanhood and childhood fleet.

At the clanging of the doorbell she started quickly to her feet with a strange, inexplicable throb of the heart.

She flew out into the hall and turned the doorknob to admit the caller.

Had she guessed that it was the little god Cupid knocking, would she have unbarred the door?

Alas! destiny is strong. We could not shirk it if we would.

The fair little hand shot back the bolt and turned the doorknob.

And as the lid of Pandora’s box was opened, letting out evil on the world, so with the opening of the door Jessie let in love and pain:

Those kinsfolk twain.

On the threshold confronting her stood a young man of perhaps four and twenty, and if you had searched New York over you could not have found a more perfect specimen of manly grace, strength, and beauty.

Tall, athletic, with fine, clear-cut features, eyes like deep, blue pools under thick-fringed lashes, brown,[18] clustering locks of silken gloss and softness, he was a man to look at twice with frank admiration, and when you added to nature’s gifts the best efforts of the tailor, a man to set any girl’s heart throbbing wildly in her breast.

“I wish to see Madame Barto, please,” he said, in a voice of such strong agitation that Jessie looked at him in wonder at the deep pallor of his handsome young face and the lines of pain between his knitted brows.

“I will tell madame,” she said, leaving him in the anteroom, walking impatiently up and down.

Madame was deeply interested in her detective story, and she yawned impatiently, saying:

“Tell him I’m engaged with a caller, and will be at leisure in about ten minutes.”

“But he is in a hurry, and in some great trouble, madame. You could read it in his face and his voice, so strained and tremulous, poor fellow!” cried Jessie warmly.

Madame laughed heartlessly:

“Oh, I know the type! Jealous young fool, just had a quarrel with his sweetheart and wants to find out if she will ever make it up with him! Let him wait. Suspense will cool his temper. Meantime, I must have ten minutes to finish this thrilling chapter! Go!” turning eagerly to her book again.

The girl hurried back to the caller, who was pacing impatiently up and down the room just as she had left him.

“Madame Barto will be at leisure in ten minutes,” she said gently, sitting down to her work again, while[19] the young fellow went to the window and drummed a restless tattoo on the pane.

Jessie’s fingers had grown suddenly tremulous, and the color flushed up in her young face, for through her drooping lids she felt him gazing at her with suddenly aroused attention.

And one looking once at Jessie Lyndon could not help looking twice.

Of that rarest, most exquisite type, a dark-eyed blonde, she was possessed of most alluring beauty that not even want and poverty had sufficed to dim.

A little above medium height, slight and graceful, with perfect features, an oval face, a skin as delicate as a rose leaf, pouting, crimson lips, large, dark, haunting eyes, and a mass of curling golden hair, she would enchant any lover of beauty.

The young man, after watching her in blended admiration and curiosity several minutes, suddenly exclaimed:

“Excuse me, are you Madame Barto’s daughter?”

Jessie lifted those large, dark, haunting eyes to his face in wonder, answering:

“No, I am an orphan girl—living with madame and working for her because I have no home nor friends.”

The pathos of the low-spoken words went to his heart, and his voice grew soft with sympathy as he said:

“My name is Frank Laurier. May I know yours?”

“It is Jessie Lyndon,” she replied, dropping her eyes with a deepening blush at his eager glance.

“A pretty name. I should like to know you better,[20] Miss Lyndon. Will you take a little drive with me in the park some afternoon?”

She started in such surprise that the sewing fell from her little, trembling hands.

“Sir, I—I——” she faltered confusedly.

He smiled at her dismay, and added eagerly:

“No, no, I don’t mean to be impertinent. I would like the pleasure of a drive with you, and would return you safe to madame afterward. Please say you will accept my invitation,” he pleaded, his dark-blue eyes shining with a light that sent a sweet, warm thrill through her heart like a burning arrow—the flame-tipped arrow of love.

She grew dizzy with the thought of driving with him in the park—she, little Jessie Lyndon, poor, obscure, friendless, to be chosen by this splendid young exquisite, it was too good to be true.

“Will you go—to please me!” pleaded the musical, manly voice, and she murmured tremulously:

“I—would—go—if madame——”

“Leave that to me. I will coax her,” he said radiantly, as a little tinkle of the bell summoned him to the fortune teller.



Jessie set some very bad stitches in madame’s ruffling the next half hour, for her slender fingers trembled with the quick beating of her heart.

She had had her shy dreams of a lover, like other girls, and now they seemed about to become blissful reality.

Could it be he had fallen in love with her? This rich, handsome young man—in love with the face that she could not help knowing was very fair. Madame must be mistaken thinking that his strange agitation came from a quarrel with his sweetheart. He could not have had any sweetheart, surely.

Her dark eyes beamed with joy, her cheeks glowed crimson as a sea shell, and her heart throbbed wildly with suspense. Madame Barto came in presently with the young man, and said blandly:

“I have consented to your taking an hour’s drive in the park with this gentleman, my dear, if you wish.”

“Let it be this afternoon. I will call for you promptly at four o’clock,” he added, smiling at her as he bowed himself out.

Madame Barto laughed knowingly, and exclaimed:

“You pretty child, you are fortunate to have Frank Laurier pay you such attention. He is well-born, and rolling in wealth. Your dark eyes have turned his head! Hark, the bell again!” and she retreated quickly to her parlor.


Jessie hurried to the door, and again her unconscious hand opened the door to destiny.

A beautiful brunette of about twenty, richly gowned, and with an imperious air, entered the hall, and said curtly:

“I wish to see Madame Barto quickly.”

Jessie carried the message, and said:

“This young lady looks as pale and agitated as the young man who has just left.”

“Oh, it’s another love scrape, I suppose. That’s what usually brings them here! Well, you may send her in at once!”

The moment that the beautiful brunette found herself alone with Madame Barto she exclaimed breathlessly:

“Just now as I was passing in my carriage I saw a young man I know—Frank Laurier—leaving this house. Did he come to have his fortune told, or—or—to see that lovely girl that admitted me?”

Madame answered demurely:

“To have his fortune told, of course. In the lines of his hand I found a broken engagement, and he wished to know if it would ever be renewed.”

“And you told him——” eagerly.

“I beg pardon. I cannot disclose the secrets of my customers,” madame returned, rather stiffly, as she bent over the jeweled hand her customer had just ungloved.

A bursting sigh heaved the young girl’s breast, and she cried plaintively:

“Quick! What do you see?”


“Ah, how strange! I see in your hand, also, a broken engagement!” she exclaimed, in surprise.

“Yes, yes—now, tell me, will we ever make it up, our foolish quarrel!” cried the girl wildly.

Madame answered deliberately:

“The fates are against it. I see here that your path will be crossed by a charming rival, who will lure his heart away!”

The girl snatched her hand away and arose, furious with passion, crying:

“Woe be unto that girl! She had better never been born than come between me and my lover!”

“There are other men to love you!” consoled madame.

“What do I care for them? I want only him! And I have been so foolish, I have driven him from me! But no one else shall have him! I swear it!” cried the brunette, her dark eyes flashing wildly, as she paid the fortune teller, adding, “Come, tell me all you told Frank Laurier, and all this is yours!” and she held out a roll of bank notes.

Madame was not proof against the golden bribe, so she answered:

“I told him the engagement would most likely never be renewed—that a lovely blonde was fated to come between them and cause much unhappiness.”

“Let her beware!” hissed the beautiful girl, under her breath, as madame took up her hand again, saying:

“You have much to console you for a single disappointment in love. You are beautiful and rich, and you can have great success as an actress if you wish to——”


“That is an old story. I do not wish to hear any more—not that I believe what you have told me! It is all jargon—he shall make up with me!” muttered the proud, beautiful creature, tearing her hand from madame’s, and flinging out of the room in a rage.

As Jessie opened the door for her exit she gave the girl one keen, disdainful glance, whispering to herself like one distraught:

“A lovely blonde! But she shall rue the day she comes between us!”

She swept out of the house like a beautiful fury, and Jessie sighed.

“She must be very unhappy in spite of her silks and jewels!”

Then she forgot the haughty beauty in tender thoughts of the man who had preceded her—“my lover” she already called him softly to herself.

Ah, they give their faith too oft,
To the careless wooer;
Maidens’ hearts are always soft,
Would that men’s were truer!

It seemed long to Jessie till four o’clock sounded, though she was kept busy with the customers coming and going all day, eager to know their fate and fortune from the palmist.

But at last business hours were over, and Jessie and her employer lunched frugally, after which the madame said kindly:

“Now you may get ready for your drive with Mr. Laurier, for it is on the stroke of four o’clock.”

There was no getting ready for a girl who possessed but one gown, except to bathe her face and[25] hands and rearrange her wealth of sunshiny tresses in the loose plait in the back, then affected by girls of her age. This done, Jessie placed on her charming head the black sailor hat madame had bought her, while she sighed to herself:

“I fear my dress is not fine enough for a drive in the park with such a grand, rich gentleman as Mr. Laurier. Perhaps his fashionable friends will laugh at me. I wonder why he cares to take me with him like this, when he could have his pick of grand, rich girls like the one that came to have her fortune told this morning!”

The bell clanged loudly, and she flew with a beating heart to the door, her cheeks glowing, her eyes shining with the tenderest love light.

She had not the slightest doubt but that it was Frank Laurier waiting outside.

She opened the door quickly, with a smile of welcome on her coral lips.

Oh, how quickly the glad smile faded when she saw instead the young man who had recommended her to this place but yesterday—the dispossess agent.

He was dressed very fine in a loud, flashy style, and smiled patronizingly at lovely Jessie, exclaiming:

“Ah! Miss Jessie, how sweet you look. That new dress is very becoming. Now, don’t you feel grateful to me for getting you this nice place with my aunt? I didn’t tell you Madame Barto is my aunt, did I? My name is Carey Doyle, and I came to take you for a nice little walk, if you will go with me.”

“I—I—thank you, but—I have an engagement,”[26] Jessie faltered, drawing back in secret disgust from her bold admirer.

“Well, you may break that engagement, my pretty little Jessie, for I’m bound to have you for my little sweetheart, I swear, and you shall give me a kiss to seal the bargain!” protested Carey Doyle, crowding her to the wall and throwing his arms around her slender waist despite her cries and struggles in his effort to press a kiss on the pouting, scarlet lips.

But in the excitement of his entrance they had forgotten to close the door, and Frank Laurier, bounding up the steps, took in directly the situation.

The next moment he had wrenched the burly wretch away from Jessie, and thrust him by force down the steps, aiding his progress by a kick as he exclaimed:

“Take that for insulting the young lady!”



Pale and trembling from her fright, Jessie leaned against the wall when Frank Laurier returned to her, jaunty and debonair, saying lightly:

“I have pitched the bold fellow down the steps, and he has gone off out of the way. Why, how pale and ill you look! Were you so much frightened of a kiss?”

“Yes—from that wretch!” she faltered, and his deep-blue eyes laughed at her quizzically, and with something like daring in them as he led her out to the pavement to an elegant little trap, and, taking up the reins, drove off in great style for the park.

Jessie’s heart throbbed with pride and joy, but she still trembled violently from the struggle with Doyle.

She half sobbed:

“Oh, I never can thank you enough for driving him away! If he had kissed me—oh, I should have died of disgust!”

“Died of a kiss, ha, ha!” laughed the young man gayly, so amused at the idea that it took firm hold of his memory, to be recalled at a fateful aftertime.

“Have you never been kissed by a young man, then, little Jessie?” he added, still laughing.

“Oh, no, no, never!” blushing deeply.

“Then he will be a lucky young fellow who gets the first kiss from you! I wonder who he will be! Can you guess?”


The great, dark eyes stole a shy glance at him under the drooping lashes, as she whispered demurely:

“Only the man I shall marry!”

“Oh, indeed!”

Did he think she was chaffing him, or coquettishly daring him, or what? It is certain he was in a reckless, flippant mood, and that swift glance of hers warmed his blood like wine. They were in the park now, driving under the shadow of some autumn-colored trees, and all in a flash his arm slipped round her waist, the brown head bent over the golden one.

Two faces bent—
Bent in a swift and daring dream,
An ecstasy of trembling bliss,
And sealed together in a kiss.

She did not struggle, sweet Jessie, against this bold caress, simply yielded to it with a delirious throb of joy, letting his lips drain the sweetness of hers unhindered, as a bee sips the sweets of the rose, her thrilling form resting quiescent against the arm that clasped her close to his heart. When he released her, neither spoke a word, Jessie sat very still, her form inclined slightly toward him, her eyes downcast and shining, her cheeks warmly flushed, her moist lips tremulous, her bosom heaving with emotion, a lovely picture of girlish tenderness on which the young man’s eyes rested with pleasure.

He touched up the sleek, black ponies with the whip, and directly they were borne into the thick of the crowd that made the beautiful drives a gay, changeful panorama of fine horses, smart turnouts, and magnificently dressed women.


Frank Laurier blent readily with the animated crowd, sitting erect with a very pale face, compressed lips, and eyes that glittered with a blue fire as he swept them eagerly and restlessly over the passing faces, returning salutations every moment or so, and seemingly almost forgetting the girl by his side in some secret, overmastering excitement.

As for her, if she could have thought of anything but that kiss and the bliss of his nearness, she would have begun to feel out of place in her cheap, simple dress there in the moving throng of richly garbed women, whose glances rested in wonder on the fair face and cheap attire of the girl by Laurier’s side. She did not, indeed, guess how different she looked from the others, or how very strange it was for a man in his position to run the gantlet of all those curious, surprised eyes—he, one of the fashionable four hundred, with that little working girl by his side.

If the innocent child gave a thought to the incongruity, she only felt it as a tribute of his regard for her.

She felt an exquisite pleasure in thus being exhibited at his side to the habitués of his particular world, and did not realize the strangeness of his inattention to herself, or the eagerness of his excited glance as it roved from carriage to carriage filled with fair faces and bright, sparkling eyes, as if in restless search for some one.

At last!

Jessie, close to his side, felt the young man give a quick start of surprise and emotion, at the same moment lifting his hat with a low bow.


She saw passing them on the drive a splendid, low victoria, containing two handsome, elegantly dressed ladies, one past the first blush of girlhood, the other—oh!—the dark beauty of this morning who had come to Madame Barto’s to know her fate and fortune!

Jessie’s dark, uplifted eyes met and held for a moment the flashing orbs of the beautiful brunette, and all in a moment she felt as if she were withering in the heat of some desert simoom, so fierce and malevolent was that look that seemed to scorch her very soul.

She thought with a thrill of nameless fear:

“The beautiful stranger hates me!—I wonder why!”

But the next moment the fear was blotted out in a new terror.

No one could ever tell what frightened Frank Laurier’s spirited ponies, but just as they passed the victoria they bolted wildly and ran away in spite of his close grip on the reins, creating a terrible panic and confusion, and barely missing a collision with another carriage.



If Jessie had turned her fair head to look back as she drove off so triumphantly with her handsome escort, she would have seen Carey Doyle scrambling up from the gutter where he had landed after his animated encounter with Laurier, and shaking his fist after her malevolently, while curses low and deep shrilled over his lips, and his eyes blazed with a baleful light that boded no good to those who had aroused his jealous anger.

Brushing the soil of the gutter from his flashy suit, he shambled across the pavement and back into the house from which he had been so vigorously ejected.

Madame Barto herself met him on the threshold, and drew him in, exclaiming hoarsely:

“Why, Carey, what is the meaning of this? I was just coming into the hall to see Jessie off on her drive, when I beheld her struggling in your arms, and the next moment Mr. Laurier grasped you and sent you spinning down the steps like a top!”

“Laurier! Is that his name, curse him?” grumbled Doyle, rubbing his knee which seemed to have been crippled by the fall, and continuing excitedly, “It was this way, Aunt Barto: I fell in love with pretty little Jessie the minute I clapped my eyes on her yesterday, the beggarly little minx, and when I did her the good turn to send her to you, of course I meant to have my innings for the good deed. This afternoon I spruced[32] up in my very best and came to take her for a walk, but as soon as I came in and asked her, she tossed up her yellow head like a princess and said she had another engagement. My temper flared up and I said she should go with me and give me a kiss into the bargain, but when I grabbed her she fought like a little cat, and then that dandy rushed in like a whirlwind, caught me up with the strength of ten men and pitched me down the steps, rolling me into the gutter and nearly breaking every bone in my body, ugh!” with another groan.

“But, Carey, I thought you were courting that little Jewess, Yetta Stein.”

“So I am, and have bought the ring, but it’s all up with that since I’ve seen Jessie. Besides, Yetta’s family were bent on making me embrace the Jewish religion before the knot was tied, so I can refuse to do it and break off that way.”

“You mean to say you’ll throw over the match with the rich pawnbroker’s daughter for the sake of this beggar, Jessie?”

“Yes, I will. I wasn’t thinking at first of marriage, only having some good times with her, but now that dandified Samson has showed up I’ll take her from him if I can, just to break his heart as he tried to break my neck. Curse him!”

“Oh, pshaw, Carey, it’s nonsense of you to think of competing with a rich young millionaire like Frank Laurier. Why, he never saw her before to-day, and he must have become quite fascinated with her at first sight, for he invited her to drive with him in the park this afternoon.”


Carey Doyle shook his fist and raved impatiently:

“Thunderation! I say he shall not! I’ll follow them to the park, frighten his horses, and make them run away and break both the upstarts’ necks.”

“What good would that do, you foolish fellow? Better dismiss them both from your mind and stick to Yetta.”

“I won’t, so there! I swear to have Jessie Lyndon, by hook or crook!”

“You cannot succeed. I have read both their hands, and if the science of palmistry is true, which I firmly believe, those two, Laurier, the millionaire, and Jessie, the little working girl, are meant for each other by fate.”

“Bah, curse palmistry! Didn’t you read my hand and tell me a pack of lies?”

“No, I told you that a prison yawned for you, and that only a lawyer’s quibble would be able to save your neck from the gallows. I begged you to restrain your evil propensities and try to avert the disaster if you could! And I read all this written in your hand as plain as print,” returned the fortune teller solemnly, with full faith in her art; but, with an oath of incredulous scorn, her nephew limped heavily out of the house.



When the beautiful brunette in her drive through the park met Jessie Lyndon riding by the side of Frank Laurier, all the blood in her veins seemed momentarily to turn to ice in the shock of surprise, and then to burn like liquid fire under the impulse of jealous rage.

If a look could have killed, the fierce gleam of her eyes must have slain her fair rival instantly, as by a lightning flash!

Then all at once something terrible happened.

Frank Laurier’s gayly prancing horses suddenly snorted with fear and rage, and bounded forward so swiftly that he lost his grip on the reins, having been momentarily unstrung by a meeting he had anticipated ever since entering the park.

A dreadful panic ensued on the crowded driveway.

The air was filled with shouts and cries that only maddened the frantic steeds dashing madly forward without control, for all Laurier’s efforts to regain his reins were fruitless, and, leaning too far forward, he was jerked violently to one side and thrown from the vehicle out upon the ground, leaving Jessie alone, clinging desperately to the seat, her lovely face convulsed with terror, her dark eyes dilated with fear and dim with raining tears, a picture of beauty and distress, while her frightened shrieks rang wildly on the air.

Another harrowing moment, and the anguished[35] voice was hushed, the sweet eyes closed, the throbbing heart stilled! In their mad rush trying to evade capture, the horses collided with a tree, shattering the light vehicle, and hurling the young girl out upon the grass. All white and unconscious, she lay there, a thin stream of blood trickling down her temple where a stone had grazed it and staining the gold of her hair with crimson.

A sympathetic crowd soon gathered around, exclaiming in wonder and pity at her girlish beauty and her sorrowful plight.

But in a minute a light dogcart that had swiftly followed the runaways was reined in upon the spot, and a young man sprang quickly from it, advancing on the scene, while he cried with an air of authority:

“Stand back, everybody, and give her air!”

“Who is she? Who is she?” rang on every side, and the young man, who was no other than Carey Doyle, answered impudently:

“She is my little sister Jessie, and I would like to take her home, if you people will give me room to pass!”

Before his impatient show of authority, every one stupidly gave way, and, lifting her carefully in his arms, Carey Doyle placed Jessie in the dogcart, while he muttered exultantly to himself:

“Ah, my scornful little beauty, you are in my power now, and I will pay you well for your fine airs as well as for the kick that rich fool gave me!”

He was about to leap into the cart when an elegant victoria drove up, in which sat two very handsome[36] women. One of them, the youngest, leaned forward and called him to her side.

Flashing her great eyes imperiously at the impatient young man, she whispered eagerly:

“What is she to you?”

He muttered curtly:

“My sweetheart!”

“Ah!” she murmured joyfully, and added softly: “I saw you come up behind them and frighten his horses with the lash. Why did you do it?”

His coarse face was scowling as he answered sullenly:

“She went with him against my will, and I was furious enough to kill them both!”

“Do not be afraid of me—I will not betray you unless you disobey my orders. Listen: He is my lover, and she is trying to lure him from me. It is your task to keep them apart, and if they ever meet again, I will denounce you for this crime. You understand?”

“Yes, and will obey!” he returned, just as the other lady leaned across the seat, saying anxiously:

“What does he say about the young girl? Is she injured much?”

Carey Doyle answered quickly:

“Only a scratch on the temple and a fainting spell, madame. I’ll take her home fast as I can, and she will soon be all right,” and he leaped into the cart.

“I hope so,” she said kindly, and, as he drove away, she said to her companion:

“What an exquisitely lovely face the poor girl has! And what beautiful sunny hair, so fine and curly! I[37] wonder who she is, Cora, and where Frank happened to make her acquaintance?”

“I’ll tell you all I know when we get home,” the young lady answered, frowning darkly at the memory of that morning’s rencontre at Madame Barto’s with lovely Jessie.

She thought viciously:

“That old witch lied to me—she knew he was there to see the girl, but she feared to own the truth to me. But I shall have an ally now in the man who carried her off this evening, and woe to him if he breaks faith with me!”



With an evil smile on his face, Carey Doyle whipped up the horse and drove swiftly back to his aunt’s house, his eyes gloating on the pale, unconscious beauty of Jessie’s face as it lay across his knee where he had carefully placed it.

The man’s heart was aroused as it had never been before by this lovely girl, and he vowed to himself that she should become his own.

In the gray dusk of the November day he carried her into the house, to the dismay of Madame Barto, who exclaimed:

“So you were as good as your word! You tried to kill the poor child!”

Carey Doyle denied the impeachment with the greatest sang-froid, protesting that on the contrary he had saved the poor girl’s life in a runaway accident.

“And as soon as you bring her around I want to have a serious talk with you,” he said, as she turned him out of the little hall bedroom where Jessie lay on her narrow cot.

He waited impatiently in the parlor about half an hour before she reappeared, saying:

“She was hard to revive, and hardly knows what has happened to her yet, so I just gave her a sedative and left her to fall asleep while I come to hear what you have to say, Carey.”

“Well, as I told you just now, Laurier’s horses[39] bolted in the park and ran away, pitching him out, and leaving Jessie in. I happened to be looking on and stopped the team and saved her life.”

“Good!” said the fortune teller approvingly, and he continued:

“While I took Jessie into my dogcart to bring her home, two swell Fifth Avenue ladies had Laurier put into a carriage and taken home. Now, aunt, I want you to help me to win Jessie Lyndon, and to give up all such notions as Fate having cut her out for Mr. Laurier. It isn’t likely that he means fair by Jessie, anyway; rich young men don’t often marry poor girls, you know; while I’ll make her my wife at any moment you persuade her to have me.”

“How am I to manage it?”

“Tell her that Laurier was killed in the accident, and keep her a prisoner in her room until she consents to marry me.”

“A risky game—and what am I to gain by it, anyway?” asked madame significantly.

Doyle laughed coarsely:

“Well, I’ve helped you often enough in risky games, so it’s your turn now. You just help me in this, or I’ll split on you. See? And you know what I can say and do if I want to. But you do the right thing and I will, too. Here’s some money, but mind you do the right thing, or you’ll be sorry. I’ll go now and call to-morrow evening to see how our plan works,” he said, rising to go.

Alas, poor little Jessie, surrounded by cruel plotters and a jealous foe, it might have been better if she had died in the heavy sleep that lulled her senses[40] that dreary night rather than awaken to the sorrow of the next day.

When she sighed and opened her heavy-lidded eyes again, the fortune teller stood by the bed, looking down at her with a penetrating gaze.

“Ah, what a long sleep you’ve had, child. Do you feel better?” she asked.

“Better!” cried Jessie, then a wave of memory swept over her, and she moaned, “Oh, how terrible it was! How came I here? And he—oh, where is he?”

Madame took her hand and answered solemnly:

“You may well ask, where is he? Poor child, how can I tell you the dreadful truth? But you will have to bear it. He—poor Frank Laurier—was killed stone-dead!”

A shriek rang through the room—long, loud, heart-rending!—then Jessie lay like one dead before the heartless woman.

Madame Barto would never forget that day.

Jessie Lyndon’s grief for Frank Laurier when she recovered from her long swoon was indeed heart-rending.

In vain madame expostulated:

“Why should you take on so? You never saw him till yesterday!”

“Oh, I cannot understand it, but I know that he was as dear to me as if I had known him a year!”

“A young girl must not give her heart unsought.”

“Oh, madame, I did not. Oh, my heart!”

The girl flung herself back on the pillows in an agony of grieving that strangled words on her lips, and it was hours later when she asked plaintively:


“Where have they taken him?”

Madame answered soothingly:

“Two lady friends of his were in the park when he was killed—Mrs. Dalrymple and Miss Ellyson of Fifth Avenue—and they had him conveyed to their home.”

Jessie instantly remembered the ladies she had seen in the victoria, especially the dark, brilliant beauty who had frowned at her so blackly.

She gasped faintly:

“Oh, I must see him once more before he is hidden from me forever in the cold, dark grave!”

“Impossible!” cried madame sternly, and though the half-distraught girl knelt to her in an agony of entreaty, she still refused her prayer. Indeed, she could do no less, seeing what a falsehood she had told.

Then Jessie grew angry and desperate.

“You are wicked and heartless to tell me I cannot see him once before he is buried! I defy you! I will go!” she cried, with a passion of which madame had not believed her capable.

The dark, dreamy eyes flashed defiance out of the deadly, pale face, alarming Madame Barto so that she snatched up Jessie’s clothing and bore them away in triumph, exclaiming:

“There, now, I don’t think you will run off to Fifth Avenue in your nightgown, miss!”

And, locking the door on the outside, she left the poor girl to her fate, forgetting that in Jessie’s closet there still remained hanging the cheap, threadbare garments she had worn when she came.

But Jessie remembered, and she quickly put them on again, the torn calico gown, the broken shoes, the[42] old sailor hat—then she drew aside the curtain and looked out, starting to find that the gray November day was near its close and the sky overcast with threatening snow clouds.

How long it seemed since yesterday! He had been twenty-four hours dead.

Dead! Oh, how impossible it seemed for such youth and strength and beauty to be so quickly annihilated. His kiss still burned like fire on her lips and thrilled warmly through her veins.

“Oh, I must see him once again!” she sobbed, and pushed up the sash and measured the distance to the ground with frantic eyes.

It was only a story and a half, and a neglected awning rope fortunately hung from her own window. With a low cry of joy, Jessie caught it and knotted it to the window shutter. When it grew a little darker she climbed up into the window and swung herself out, tremblingly, on the frail support.

Halfway down to the ground the rope broke with her weight, and gave her a fall to the pavement, but the distance was not great, and with a little, stifled moan of pain, she dragged herself up from the ground and hurried off through the darkness, sobbing:

“I know where Fifth Avenue is, and I will go there if it kills me. But I hope that proud, beautiful lady will not be there to wither me with her angry eyes!”



The Fifth Avenue mansion where Mrs. Dalrymple lived was little less than a palace as she was little less than a princess, if royal beauty, royal wealth, and almost royal state could count. Her parents were dead, she was mistress of herself and many millions, and at barely thirty-three, while looking scarcely twenty-five, had scores of hearts at her feet from which to choose, if that way lay her happiness.

Some said that she had been widowed young, others that she was divorced, some that her heart was buried in a grave, others that she was a man hater. No one ever heard her own that either was true. She simply smiled and went her way, heedless of praise or blame.

That autumn evening when she swept down the grand staircase into the brilliantly lighted hall, her rich violet velvet robe trailing behind her, her jewels flashing like stars, she heard an altercation at the door. Her pompous servant was saying harshly:

“You cannot come in here; no, indeed, there’s no use begging me, I tell you. Go around to the servants’ entrance!”

Mrs. Dalrymple stopped short, listening to the low, pleading, girlish voice that half sobbed:

“I tell you I’m not a beggar! Oh, do let me in to see Mr. Laurier just once more!”

The man was about to laugh rudely just as his mistress came up behind him, exclaiming in her sweet, frosty voice:


“What is the trouble here?”

The man stepped back in dismay at the question, and a girlish form rushed past him and knelt at the lady’s feet.

It was Jessie Lyndon in her tattered garments, on which clung flecks of melting snow, her face drawn and pallid with misery, the tears half frozen on her cheeks, her form trembling with weariness, her beauty half obscured by her miserable plight, as strange a contrast to that palatial scene and the queenly woman before her as the mind could well imagine.

She knelt before the startled lady with upraised, pleading eyes and pathetic clasped hands, imploring:

“Oh, madam, forgive me this intrusion, but my heart is breaking! Oh, will you let me see Mr. Laurier once before he is lost to me forever!”

“Child, this is very strange!”

“Oh, madam, let me explain! I have a right to see him. We were out driving. There was such a dreadful accident! Oh, you can see for yourself how my heart is breaking!” wailed the poor girl, losing all control over her emotion, and sobbing outright.

Mrs. Dalrymple cried out in the greatest wonder:

“Why you are the little girl that was with Frank in the runaway accident yesterday, are you not? How very, very strange you look and act, poor child! You should not come here to see Mr. Laurier, you know. It is not proper to do so, and, besides——”

Jessie interrupted wildly:

“Oh, madam, do not scold me, I pray you. I am wretched enough already. Is there not a woman’s heart beating under your silks and jewels the same as[45] under my rags? Then pity me, I implore you, and grant the boon I crave! Let me see him but once.”

“All this is very strange to me, child, and for my life I cannot understand why you should be so anxious to see Frank Laurier, but I cannot resist your frenzied appeals, they touch me too deeply. He is in there. Go in and speak to him!” waving her jeweled hand toward the closed portières of a room on the left of the magnificent corridor.

With a strangled sob, Jessie sprang toward the curtains. Impelled by sympathy she could not understand, Mrs. Dalrymple followed her footsteps.

Frank Laurier was lying at ease on a sofa with one foot on a cushion—having sustained a severe sprain to one ankle that would keep him Mrs. Dalrymple’s welcome guest for several days. Some strips of court plaster on the side of his face slightly marred his beauty to an ordinary observer, but not to Jessie Lyndon, who, advancing at first with slow, awed footsteps, suddenly stopped, stared, then flew across the room to the sofa, murmuring in joyful incredulity:

“Alive! Alive!”

She sank on one knee, and pressed her lips tenderly on one hand that was thrown carelessly above his head.

“Why, that wicked woman told me you were dead! And I—I——” the sweet voice faltered.

A low, derisive laugh rang on the air, and, lifting her eyes, Jessie saw that they were not alone.

It was Cora Ellyson who had laughed, as with flashing eyes she pushed Jessie away from Frank’s side.


“Go away, you bold girl, how dare you force your way in here to annoy Mr. Laurier?” she cried angrily.

“Annoy him; I—it is not true! Do I annoy you?” pleaded Jessie tremulously, turning to the young man whose handsome face twitched with pain as he answered impatiently:

“My dear Miss Lyndon, this is very strange on your part! To come bursting into the room like this. What is the matter?”

To the day of his death he would never forget what happened in that room after his cold and haughty reception of little Jessie.



Laurier, startled, dismayed, and angered by Jessie’s sensational entrance, had spoken to her more harshly and hastily than if he had taken second thought.

The hateful, mocking laugh from Cora Ellyson accentuated his words, and Mrs. Dalrymple, who had paused just inside the door, gazed in wonder at the strange scene.

Instantly Jessie sprang to her feet. She stood still a moment, looking at him with wounded love, doubt, fear, incredulity, all struggling together in her great, soft, dark eyes like a dying fawn’s.

Again Cora Ellyson laughed, low and mockingly—a hateful, significant laugh that made Frank Laurier exclaim rebukingly:

“Hush, Cora, you are unjust!”

Then he looked at Jessie pityingly. He wished that he were not lame that he might fly from the room to avoid the plaintive reproaches of the one girl and the jealous fury of the other. Mrs. Dalrymple, who had drawn gradually nearer and nearer, was listening with a face drawn with deep emotion, but again Cora Ellyson’s scornful laugh rang through the room, and before Jessie could speak again, she cried mockingly:

“Pshaw, Frank, why not tell her the plain truth as you were telling me before she came in when we made up our silly lovers’ quarrel? Listen, Miss Lyndon; it was this way.”


“Hush, Cora, do not wound her so!” he entreated, but she advanced and stood close by him, silencing him by an imperious gesture, her rich silken robes rustling, her jewels flashing, her proud, dark head lifted haughtily as she surveyed her shrinking rival, poor Jessie, in her worn, shabby garments and broken shoes.

“It was this way, Miss Lyndon: Frank Laurier and I were plighted lovers until three days ago, when we had a foolish little lovers’ quarrel and parted, vowing never to meet again. But our wedding day was but a few days off, and as soon as we separated both began to repent, but were too proud to say so. Is not this true, Frank?”

“Yes—but do not wound the child’s heart by telling her the rest,” he implored, almost inaudibly.

“Nonsense!” she answered lightly, and added: “This is the rest, Miss Jessie Lyndon. Frank saw you, and, struck with your pretty face, decided to pique me into a reconciliation by flirting with you. Hence the drive in the park that resulted as he wished, in the making-up of our little difference to-day, and I assure you that but for your intrusion here this evening, he would never have given you another thought!”

She ended with a little, tinkling laugh of triumphant scorn that fell like hailstones on the heart she had crushed.

The cruel truth was out, and when the echo of that exultant laugh died away there was a silence like death in the brilliant, sumptuous room.

Frank Laurier, with a low, inarticulate cry, tried to rise from his recumbent position, scarcely knowing what to do, but his sweetheart’s jeweled hand on his[49] shoulder firmly pressed him back, while they gazed in rising awe at Jessie Lyndon.

She stood among them a breathing statue of shame-stricken girlhood, the hot color glowing in her cheeks, and mounting up to the roots of her bright hair, her red lips parted and tremulous, the big tears hanging like pearls on her lashes, her bosom rising and falling with emotion beneath the shabby gown that could not hide the budding grace of her perfect form.

This poor girl, so fair, so friendless, to whom no one spoke one word of sympathy, so terribly alone among them all, what would she do?

For several moments she did not speak a word—she could not, for the terrible, choking sensation in her throat, and the mad leaping of her burdened heart in her breast—then, as the scarlet glow faded into deadly pallor, she lifted her heavy eyes up to Cora Ellyson’s face.

“I cannot bear it, God forgive me!” she cried, and the little hand pressed to her lips a tiny vial, then flung it down empty as she rushed from the room, eluding the detaining hand Mrs. Dalrymple stretched forth.

“She has taken poison! Follow, and bring her back!” shouted Frank Laurier rising in alarm, then falling back with a groan on the sprained foot that would not support his weight.

“Pshaw, she was only shamming!” his proud sweetheart answered coolly, helping him back to his sofa, and bending to press a kiss on his brow.

But he did not notice the fond caress. He groaned in a sort of agony:

“My God, it is all my fault; I did not realize what[50] I was doing! If she dies, poor girl, it will lie at my door, her cruel fate.”

“Nonsense, Frank, it was not your fault, her making such a little fool of herself, trying to catch a rich husband! Lie still, and compose yourself! Aunt Verna will see about the silly creature!” drawing a chair to his side and overwhelming him with attentions to banish Jessie from his mind.

Meanwhile the shame-stricken, frantic girl had rushed past Mrs. Dalrymple’s outstretched arms to the corridor, and darting past the astonished servant, tore open the door, and disappeared in the gloom of the stormy night.

“Follow her, and bring her back by force!” exclaimed his mistress, in the wildest agitation.

“It is storming wildly, madam. The air is filled with snow, and it is deep already,” the man objected.

“Go! Bring her back at once! I tell you go!” she stormed at him, and he obeyed without further parley.

Then her writhing lips parted in incoherent words:

“Oh, God, this pain at my heart! That poor girl, she was so fatally like my lost daughter, my stolen child, that I could scarcely refrain from clasping her in my arms! Oh, if it should be my lost one! But, no, she said that her mother was dead! Oh, why am I idling here? I must telephone for a physician to be on hand when she is brought back. Perhaps her sweet young life may be saved, and I will make it my care henceforth for the sake of her haunting likeness to my lost darling!”

Poor Jessie had only carried out her intention on[51] coming to see Laurier, for life held so little charm for the unfortunate girl now that all who loved her were dead that in desperation she had resolved to end it all by suicide, that last resort of the wretched.

In the room she occupied at Madame Barto’s was a case of medicine, and from it she had selected the tiny vial labeled “Poison,” and filled with a dark liquid.

In her agony of shame it was worse to her than if Laurier had, indeed, been dead. The dark unknown was welcome to her as the terrible present.

Penniless, friendless, with no one to turn to, she yet dared not go back to Madame Barto, fearing alike her wrath at her escape, and the persecutions of her hated nephew. Crushed beneath the burden of unendurable despair, she drained the vial, and fled out into the night and the storm to die.

The black night, inhospitable as the hearts she had left, greeted her with storm and fury, driving her on before a furious gale that took away her breath and tossed her to and fro, at last throwing her down heavily, and striking her head against the curbing, so that in a minute she became unconscious, and lay still at the mercy of the elements.

The icy wind shrieked above her, the snow fell in thick, white sheets and wrapped her in a shroud of royal ermine, and thus she lay silent and moveless for about a quarter of an hour before she was found by the man Mrs. Dalrymple had sent to seek and bring her back.

She had barely gone half a square from the mansion, but in the stormy gloom it was hard to find any one,[52] and he was about to give up the quest in despair of success when his foot stumbled against a soft body under the snow.

With a startled cry he stooped down and dragged her up in his arms, bearing her to a little distance, where a light gleamed through a window. By its aid he saw that it was she whom he sought.

“But, poor little girl, she seems as dead as a door-nail! Howsomever, I’ll carry her back to my mistress, dead or alive!” he muttered, struggling on with his inert burden against the raging storm till he gained the shelter of the mansion.

Mrs. Dalrymple was waiting in the wildest anxiety, the physician having already arrived, and been told the meager story that a poor young girl had attempted suicide and rushed out into the storm to die.

“I should like to see the vial and determine the nature of the poison,” said Doctor Julian gravely, and he was keenly disappointed when Cora Ellyson confessed that she had inadvertently trod on it and crushed it, so that she had to call a servant to remove the fragments.

“That is very unfortunate, as a knowledge of the poison taken would have materially assisted in finding the antidote,” he said, and the servant was quickly summoned by his mistress to bring back the fragments.

The answer was that they had been consumed in the kitchen range.

Directly afterward the girl’s stiffening body was brought in and laid down upon the floor before their eyes—a hapless sight that wrung anguished groans[53] from Frank Laurier’s lips, though his proud sweetheart looked on coldly and unmoved, perhaps secretly glad in her heart of this calamity.

One glance at the pale, cold face in its frame of wet, disheveled gold, and the physician said sadly:

“Poor child, I can do nothing. She is already dead!”

“Oh, no, no, no, do not say such dreadful words! She must not die!” sobbed Mrs. Dalrymple, giving way to wild emotion as she knelt by Jessie, tore open her gown, and felt eagerly for the heart.

“Oh, Doctor Julian, feel here! Is not there some slight pulsation?” hopefully.

“Not the faintest, my dear madam. The deadly potion did its work quickly. The lovely girl is dead! Ah, how remarkable!” bending with a start to examine a mark on the young girl’s breast where it was exposed by the open gown.

Doctor Julian was an old man, the family physician, and he added surprisedly:

“See that red cross on her breast! It is precisely similar to your family birthmark, and if I mistake not, you have one like it yourself!”

“Precisely similar, doctor, and on the same spot—oh, Heaven, how strange this seems! My lost child—so cruelly stolen from me ere I had given her any name but darling—had the same mark! What if—what if—— Oh, my brain reels with wild suspicion. Could it be——”

“Calm yourself, my dear madam. This may be but a coincidence! However, it ought to be investigated to-morrow.”


“It shall be,” she sobbed, then started as Cora Ellyson cried impatiently:

“Are you going to leave that dead girl lying there all night? I declare I shall faint if she is not removed!”

“Cora!” expostulated her lover; but she shrugged her shoulders haughtily.

Doctor Julian glanced at her in surprise, then said gently, to Mrs. Dalrymple:

“What disposition will be made of the poor girl’s body?”

“It shall remain in my care, doctor, and the funeral shall be in my charge from this house, and at my own expense,” she sobbed.

Cora Ellyson started forward indignantly, crying:

“Dear aunt, you surely forget that my wedding is the third day from now. The girl shall not be buried from here. It would be unseemly amid wedding gayeties!”

“The wedding must be postponed!” the proud woman sighed, lifting Jessie’s cold little hand and pressing her lips upon it.

“It shall not. Postponements are unlucky!” Cora uttered angrily.

“Just a few days, dear—until next week, say,” whispered her lover, who could scarcely turn his horrified gaze from that fair, dead face before him to his pouting sweetheart.

He was recalling the words Jessie had used in speaking of Carey Doyle’s frustrated attempt to kiss her lips:

“I should have died of disgust!”


How he had laughed at the idea of any one dying of a kiss, but looking at that still form on the floor, he felt as if he had the brand of Cain on his high, white brow.

“Her death lies at my door!” he thought, in a passion of remorse.

They bore Jessie tenderly from his presence to a beautiful white and gold room near Mrs. Dalrymple’s own, and there the lady’s favorite maid robed the lovely form for the grave in beautiful white robes fit for a bride, selected from the wardrobe of her mistress. Then, laid on a soft, white couch with her golden locks drifting about her like sunshine on snow, and fragrant flowers between her waxen hands, she lay like one asleep in her calm, unearthly beauty.

And by her side Mrs. Dalrymple kept lonely vigil, distracted by doubts and fears lest this prove to be her own lost darling restored to her only in death.

Toward midnight a stealthy figure glided in—Cora Ellyson, in a crimson silk dressing gown with her raven hair streaming loose over her shoulders.

“Aunt Verna, you will make yourself sick, staying up like this! And what is the use?” remonstratingly.

There was no answer from the heavy-eyed woman brooding over the dead girl’s couch, and Cora continued eagerly:

“I beg you to reconsider your decision. Send this body away to the undertaker’s and let the funeral be from there, so that my wedding need not be overshadowed by so evil an omen.”

“I cannot grant your request, Cora. The funeral[56] will take place from this house, and your wedding must be postponed,” came the sad but firm reply.

“I tell you it shall not. I will not be disappointed for a hysterical sentiment. This poor girl is nothing to you, nothing! I give you notice that unless you do as I wish I will remove to-morrow to my Cousin van Dorn’s and have my wedding from his house Thursday!”

“Please yourself, Cora, but do not presume to dictate to me! And now, go; leave me, I prefer to be alone!” with a flash of spirit.



Madame Barto did not expect any customers the next morning; it was so still, so dark and lowering after the night’s storm, but at ten o’clock the bell clanged loudly and she admitted a beautiful, richly dressed woman who said excitedly:

“No, I do not wish my fortune told, but I will pay you well for any information about a young girl who has been living with you—Jessie Lyndon.”

“She ran away from me last night, the little vixen, and I did not discover it till this morning,” the fortune teller answered sullenly.

“Do not speak unkindly of the dead. Jessie Lyndon was found dead in the snow by one of my servants last night, and she is at my house awaiting burial,” was the startling reply.

“Good heavens! Poor little thing!” ejaculated Madame Barto, with a touch of sympathy.

“I have come,” continued the lady, with a quivering lip, “to get all the information possible about this young girl’s antecedents.”

“’Tis little I can give you, ma’am, in truth. She only stayed with me a day or so, but I can give you the address of Mrs. Ryan, the woman who brought her to me, and ’tis likely she can tell you all you want to know, though I don’t think she has any folks rich enough to bury her, poor thing, and, of course, she has no claim on me,” added Madame Barto apprehensively.

The caller gave her a haughty glance.


“I am not looking for any one to pay Jessie Lyndon’s burial expenses, my good woman,” she said freezingly; “Mrs. Ryan’s address, please, and take this for your trouble,” pressing a gold piece into the ready palm, and sweeping out to her waiting car.

“Whew! What a highflyer, to be sure! And liberal, too! I wish I knew her name! There, she’s dropped a dainty handkerchief! Here ’tis in the corner—Dalrymple! The same woman Carey told me about. I see how it all happened now. She got out of the window, poor little Jessie, for, after all, she was a sweet, pretty girl, and went to Fifth Avenue to find the man she believed dead! Then the blizzard caught and killed her in sight of the house! I’m free to own I am sorry, for I wished her no harm, only when my nephew told me about Mr. Laurier’s angry sweetheart, I thought just as well to keep Jessie out of his way for her own good. Well, well, Carey will be coming presently, and what a fit he will be in when he learns she is dead, poor Jessie Lyndon!”

Mrs. Dalrymple drove straight to Mrs. Ryan’s house, and found the good little woman at home busy with her needle. From her she learned enough to convince her that the hapless girl was no other than her lost child.

She stayed and listened to the woman’s harrowing story, and the tears fell in torrents when she learned all that Jessie, brave little Jessie, so lovely and so ill-fated, had suffered from the ills of poverty, while her mother would have given all her millions to find her lost child, her sole heiress.

All her pride gave way before the humble little[59] woman, who had been kind to the orphan girl, and she confessed the truth that she was Jessie’s mother, the woman from whom an angry, unforgiving husband had stolen away her heart’s idol, her little child.

Mrs. Ryan could not look into that proud, noble face, and believe she was the bad woman Mrs. Godfrey suspected. Her kind heart went out to her in sympathy, and she said:

“It’s been hard lines on yees both, lady, but yees can make it up to bonny Jessie now!”

“Did I not tell you? Alas, she is dead, my darling!” And at that moving story Mrs. Ryan’s heart was almost broken.

“You will come and see her, will you not? She looks like an angel, so fair, so pure, so peaceful!” the bereaved mother cried, on leaving, and in her gratitude for the woman’s kindness to Jessie she pressed on her a sum of money that seemed like riches itself to the toil-worn creature whose heart had kept warm and human through all the trials of pinching poverty.

Mrs. Dalrymple hastened home and found Frank and Cora together, the latter having just returned from arranging to celebrate her marriage at her cousin’s home, instead of here. She was complaining most bitterly to her lover of her aunt’s injustice, but he said impatiently:

“Cora, pray do not harp on this subject any more unless you would have me believe you heartless!”

Her eyes flashed with resentment, but before she could utter the angry reply that trembled on her lips, Mrs. Dalrymple swept into the room, and between[60] broken sobs, told them of her cruel discovery of her child’s identity when all too late to save her life.

“Last night when she stood talking to you so sadly I was dazed, confused, by a subtle something in her voice, glance, and gestures that recalled the past,” she said. “At last it struck me with staggering force that she reminded me of my divorced husband, while at the same time she bore a startling resemblance to my lost child. I was struck dumb with emotion, and could not move! Then that terrible thing happened. You know the rest—how Doctor Julian found on her breast the family birthmark. To-day it was easy to find the links in the chain that proved her my own, so long lost to me, and found, alas, only in—death!”

The pale, beautiful face drooped upon her breast in pitiful despair as she cried: “May God send his curse upon the man who made my life desolate, and robbed me of my child, my only comfort!”

Frank Laurier’s handsome face was pale with emotion as he faltered:

“Mrs. Dalrymple, I dare not ask you to forgive me for my share in your grief, it is beyond pardon. She did not forgive me, nor can you, I know. I feel that the sight of me must be hateful to you, so I shall trespass no longer on your hospitality. I leave to-day, but I pray you to believe that my undying remorse will be my bitterest punishment.”

She could well believe it from his pallid face and dejected mien, but she could not bring the word forgive to her trembling lips. When she remembered the previous night and the shame and pain of her hapless child that had hurried her cruelly out of life she[61] felt like crying out upon him in mad resentment for what he had done.

As for Cora, she was stunned into silence by the strange story she had heard.

She dared no longer inveigh against her aunt’s injustice. She could only bow to the inevitable. But fully determined not to risk the evil omen of a postponed marriage, she withdrew to her cousin’s house that day after forcing herself to utter some meaningless expressions of sympathy to the relative she was deserting in her hour of sorrow.

“You must forgive me, but dear Frank is so averse to a postponement,” she twittered, and Mrs. Dalrymple did not contradict her, though she knew it was not the truth.

She had seen within the last few hours a subtle change pass over the young man.

From being so passionately in love with beautiful Cora that he was willfully blind to her glaring faults, a chill seemed to have passed over him, making him temporarily cold to the fascinating blandishments of his triumphant betrothed.

Mrs. Dalrymple read in his sudden reserve and indifference that he would not be averse to a postponement out of sympathy with the house of mourning, but nothing was further from Cora Ellyson’s selfish thoughts.

Mrs. Dalrymple also knew something that Cora did not guess.

When the beautiful, white casket had been borne into the house some time ago and Jessie’s still form was laid in it, her golden head pillowed on fragrant[62] flowers after pressing so many thorns in life, Frank Laurier had gone on his crutch to the room, and spent half an hour alone with the beautiful dead.

The mother, who watched him, herself unseen, had seen in his deep-blue eyes, as they rested on her darling’s face, that look that cannot be mistaken, the dawning of a great and silent love.

Cora Ellyson’s rival dead was more dangerous to her peace than in life.

In her grave she would hold the best part of the heart that Cora claimed as all her own.

The bereaved mother had seen him press reverent lips on the shining mass of golden hair, had heard him murmur solemnly: “Jessie, darling, can you hear me pray for your forgiveness?”



Thursday morning dawned fair and sunny with all traces of Tuesday night’s storm swept away—the streets clean, the skies blue, the air crisply cold—the day set for Jessie Lyndon’s funeral and Frank Laurier’s wedding.

In the grand parlor of Mrs. Dalrymple’s home the dead girl lay like one asleep, in a white casket banked with rarest flowers whose delicate perfume pervaded the whole house. In yesterday’s newspapers a brief announcement had been made:

Died.—Suddenly, at her mother’s residence, No. 1512A Fifth Avenue, Tuesday evening, Darling, only daughter of Mrs. Verna Dalrymple.

“Friends and relatives of the family are respectfully invited to attend the funeral services from the family residence, Thursday noon. Interment at Greenwood.”

In other columns of the newspaper longer paragraphs were given to the grand noon wedding of the young millionaire, Frank Laurier, to the brilliant society belle and heiress, Miss Cora Ellyson. It would be a grand church wedding and the floral decorations were superb, while the trousseau, lately arrived from Paris, was simply magnificent. Pictures of the prospective bride and groom, intertwined with true-lovers’ knots, were duly printed for the benefit of an admiring public.


As the hour of noon drew near, Mrs. Dalrymple’s house was filled with sympathetic guests, to whose ears had floated rumors of the sad ending of her long grief for her stolen child—recovered only in death. When they saw Darling Dalrymple in her coffin—her mother had never given her any name but Darling—they wept in sympathy with the bereaved heart from whom this lovely treasure had been so cruelly wrested by the grim King of Terrors.

The beautiful Episcopal service was read, the mother’s farewell kiss pressed on the cold, white brow, the casket closed, and borne out to the white-plumed hearse, the carriages were filled with the mother and friends, and the solemn cortège moved away to Greenwood, where the grim family vault had been opened to receive another scion of the old house of Van Dorn, the fairest of all its fair daughters.

At the same time only a block away, on the same avenue, a bridal train was leaving the Van Dorn mansion for the church.

Life and death jostling each other almost side by side!

In one carriage sat the bride, with her cousins, the Van Dorns, and her dark, brilliant beauty was at its best, enhanced by the snowy bridal robes and the joy that flashed from her eyes at the thought that she would soon be the bride of the man she adored.

Laurier and his best man were to meet them at the church, the bridegroom having recovered sufficiently from his sprain that he could walk without a crutch.

In the sunshine of the brilliant day the two processions met and passed each other, the bridal train and[65] the funeral cortège—Cora going to her bridal, her rival to her grave!

The bride’s eyes were riveted on the white, flower-banked casket, and her florid color faded to ashen pallor while she shrank back shuddering:

“It is an evil omen to meet a corpse on the way to one’s wedding!”

“Do not give way to such fancies, dear,” Mrs. van Dorn answered soothingly, but she also grew pale with superstition, though having heard all about Jessie from Cora, she thought inwardly:

“Though it is evil-omened to meet a funeral on the way to one’s wedding, yet I fancy Cora is more fortunate to meet her rival dead than living. Though Frank Laurier treated that poor girl very badly, I believe that a secret remorse is gnawing at his heart, and if she had lived, who knows how it all might have turned out? Frank Laurier has appeared very strange to me these past two days—pale, distrait, and sad—the result of keen remorse, no doubt, but does he love Cora as well as before, I wonder! This encounter with the dead girl has shaken my nerves, and I feel uneasy. I wish the wedding was well over, and the knot safely tied for Cora’s sake. I hope he will be sure to meet us promptly at the church!”



Mrs. Dalrymple, throwing back her heavy veil for air, gasped with surprise and wonder.

She could not have dreamed of seeing Frank Laurier at the funeral services at the Van Dorn vault when it was the hour for his wedding at old Trinity.

Yet there he stood in their midst, his handsome head bowed reverently, his face pale, his eyes heavy with grief—he who should be so happy in this his bridal hour!

Catching her startled glance, he moved to her side, whispering sadly:

“I could not stay away, but I shall be in time to meet Cora at Trinity. Ah, how my heart aches with this cruel blow! Let me love you as a son for her dear sake!”—he paused, with a long-drawn sigh, for the venerable bishop was beginning the last sad rites: “Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”

Soon they had to come away and leave her there alone, sweet Jessie, among her dead kindred, she whose brief life had been so sad and lonely, ending with so cruel a tragedy.

So fare thee well, sweet friend of mine,
Veiled now from sight
By death’s dark night,
Thou givest back no word or sign.
I leave thee with the violets white,
By truth caressed,
In perfect rest,
And bid thee, dear, a fond good-night.


Frank Laurier, accompanied by his best man, Ernest Noel, returned to their coupé, and outside the cemetery limits ordered the coachman to proceed as fast as possible to old Trinity to meet the bridal party.

Noel thought that this attendance on a funeral in the very hour of his marriage was a very strange freak on the part of his friend, and he was puzzled yet more by the gravity and sadness of Laurier’s face as they drove swiftly along toward the church.

But having no clew to the enigma, he tried to dismiss it from his mind, glancing at his watch and saying:

“By George, we are due at Trinity now, and it would be shocking to get there late—a slight the bride would not easily forgive!”

He was astonished that Laurier made no reply, sitting pale and grave and seemingly indifferent in his seat as if he had not heard.

Noel shrugged his shoulders, and called to the coachman:

“Drive as fast as you dare. We are already late!”

Thereupon the horse was urged to a higher rate of speed, and presently there was a commotion outside, and the coupé stopped.

“What is the matter?” inquired Noel, putting his head outside, and thus encountering a burly policeman.

“You are under arrest for fast driving,” grunted the guardian of the law.

“But, good heavens, man, you must not detain us. It is necessary for us to drive fast in order to reach[68] old Trinity for a wedding ceremony,” expostulated Noel.

“Wedding or no wedding, all three of you must come to the station house with me,” answered the policeman, who was both surly and dull-witted.

Laurier suddenly aroused himself to the situation, and united his expostulations to Noel’s, but all to no avail.

The policeman would not hear to letting them go. He said to himself he would “teach them young bloods a lesson.” He did not credit at all the story of the wedding party waiting at the church.

Laurier, suddenly realizing the situation, and thinking of Cora’s anger and mortification at having to wait for him so long, grew frantic.

He whispered to Noel:

“Would it be any use to offer him a bribe to let us go?”

“No, he is so malicious he would get us indicted for trying to bribe him in the discharge of duty.”

Laurier turned to the stubborn policeman, asking politely:

“Could you not take our names and let us report to the police court to-morrow?”

“They may do that at the station house, but I am obliged to arrest you and take you there. Come, the longer you parley the more time you are losing! I’ll just jump up with your driver so we can lose no time.”

Noel whispered excitedly:

“Suppose we cut and run while he is getting on the box? We could easily get a cab.”


“Done!” And they slipped out unperceived on either side, to the vast amusement of a good-natured crowd that had collected on the corner.

Unfortunately the policeman caught the snickering at his expense, just as the coupé drove off, and turned his red head curiously back, at once catching sight of the fugitives.

“Stop!” he shouted angrily, springing down to follow.

A hot chase ensued, but as the sympathies of the spectators were all with the handsome young men, the poor policeman got no assistance, and presently he was outdistanced by the agile sprinters, and gave up the pursuit just a minute too soon, for, in turning a corner at breakneck speed, Frank Laurier collided with a bicycle and went down like a rock.

“Good heavens!” cried Ernest Noel, stopping short in horror above the wreck, the shattered wheel, and the two prostrate men.

They had both sustained injuries, but the rider directly got up on his feet, and declared himself all right save for a few bruises.

Not so with Frank Laurier, who lay like one dead before them, with his fair, handsome face upturned to the light, his eyes closed, and a dark bruise on the side of his temple, showing where he had struck it in falling against the curbstone. All efforts to revive him failed, and a physician who was called declared it was a case of concussion of the brain and that the patient must be removed at once to Bellevue Hospital.

“No, no—he is”—began Ernest Noel quickly, but at that moment the red-headed policeman trotted on[70] the scene with a bewildered air, awakening such instant fierce resentment in his breast that he sprang at him, exclaiming hotly:

“You red-headed villain, you are the cause of all this trouble! I should like to throttle you!”

Whereupon the indignant officer raised his club and brought it down on the cranium of the hot-headed young man with such telling effect that he was quite stunned, and fell an easy victim to arrest, being removed in an ambulance to the station house, while his poor friend, whose identity was equally unknown, was taken to Bellevue Hospital.

What an ending to a day that had been anticipated for months with the ardor of a true lover. Instead of wedding bells the slow procession to the grave, and now—far from the festal scene, alone among strangers who did not suspect his identity with the young millionaire Frank Laurier, terribly injured, perhaps unto death, how strange and sad a fate!

And the bride—poor girl!—so beautiful, so proud, so imperious, who can picture the depths of her pain and humiliation, waiting more than an hour at the thronged, fashionable church for a laggard bridegroom who never came, who sent no excuse, who left her to suffer under one of the cruelest blows woman’s heart can bear—forsaken at the altar!

She was taken home again by her relatives, a pallid, wild-eyed, half-frantic girl, vowing bitterest vengeance on her recreant lover as she stripped the bridal veil from her dark, queenly head, and tramped it angrily beneath her feet.

“Thus I trample on the past, on all the love I bore[71] him, and vow myself to vengeance!” she cried madly, to her cousin, Mrs. van Dorn, whose eyes filled with sympathetic tears as she cried:

“It is a cruel blow, dear Cora, but do not be too rash in your anger. Perhaps something happened to prevent Frank’s coming and everything may yet be explained to your satisfaction.”

But her consoling words rang hollow in her own ears, for she thought:

“I had a presentiment of this on the way to the church. I felt certain that he would fail to meet Cora there. Oh, it was very cruel in him to wound the poor girl so. It is a disgrace that will cling to a girl through life, being jilted at the altar. How much kinder it would have been to break with her sooner and avoid a public exposé like the painful one we have had to-day. I feel almost as indignant as Cora at the slight put on our family!”

Later on her husband looked in at the dressing-room door, saying kindly:

“How is Cora, poor child? I have something to tell her about Laurier if I may come in!”

“Speak quickly!” cried the half-distraught girl, turning almost fiercely upon him. “Has anything happened to the wretch?”

“I was just about to say that I just now met Hazelton, and he told me he saw Laurier and Noel at Greenwood when the funeral services over your aunt’s daughter were concluded at the vault.”

“At her funeral—in our bridal hour! False, wicked wretch! I will never forgive him, never! May the curse of a forsaken bride blight his life from now to[72] the grave! May the cruelest misfortunes of life overtake him!” raved the insulted girl in the madness of her wounded love and pride.

“Be calm, Cora, I shall avenge this slight to you,” her cousin said angrily, and just then he received a summons from downstairs.

It was sunset, and Ernest Noel, very pale and shaken, had just been released on bail and come to bring them the news of all that had happened to prevent Laurier from meeting his bride at the altar—lying instead at a hospital at the point of death.



When Laurier and Noel had both been taken away, the man whose bicycle had been the cause of their calamity stood alone among the curious onlookers gazing somewhat ruefully at the ruin of his wheel.

He was a fair-haired, fine-looking gentleman approaching middle age, and his blue eyes had in them a grave, sad expression, as of one who had looked on the sadder side of life.

To one and another he put the question: “Who were those two young men?”

No one could give him any satisfaction, and he was turning away, leaving the broken wheel to its fate when a reporter approached the scene, observing:

“I should like to get your name, sir, for my report of this accident for my evening paper.”

“Ah!—say John Smith,” the stranger returned impatiently, walking quickly away from his interlocutor and disappearing down a side street.

He stopped presently in a café for a glass of wine to settle his shaken nerves.

He could not get out of his mind the handsome, unconscious face of Laurier as it lay upturned to the winter sunlight after the shocking accident.

“I would give all I own if it had not happened,” he thought sorrowfully; “although I know I am not to blame, for he dashed into me full tilt as we turned the corner; still, I feel in a way responsible, and I[74] shall go to-morrow to Bellevue to inquire about his case, and to lend any financial aid required. But that will scarcely be necessary, I suppose, as both the young fellows were most expensively dressed as if for some elegant social function—perhaps a noon reception or wedding. The mysterious part of the affair is, what were they doing sprinting along the streets in that garb, and pursued by a policeman?”

He finished his wine, tipped the obsequious waiter, took a cigar, and strolled into the reading room to smoke.

As the blue wreaths of smoke curled over his fair head thrown carelessly back, exposing the clear-cut, spirited features, his thoughts ran thus:

“What an unlucky devil I am, anyway! If the Fates had had any mercy, they would have stretched me dead on the sidewalk instead of that handsome youth who doubtless had much in life to live for—everything, perhaps, that I have not—youth, love, happiness, home, while I am a lonely wanderer on the face of the earth. To her, false heart, I owe it all! Can I ever forgive her heartless desertion?”

A heavy frown came between his brows as he continued:

“What a return after my years of exile and toil—my sister and her husband dead, their children and my precious daughter lost to me in the mazes of this great, wicked city. For a week now I have vainly sought to trace them, but since my sister’s death and her husband’s removal I can find no trace save the item accidentally read in the World of John Lyndon’s[75] accident and death. I have been to the hospital where he died, but they can give me no clew to his family. He was buried at the city’s expense, they said, so they must be in the direst poverty. Oh, what a cruel fate must be theirs, dear little ones! Oh, my Jessie, my bright-eyed darling, I wronged you after all in taking my revenge on her! You would have fared better in her care. Oh, if God will only let me find you, my sweet one, I will make it up to you by such devotion as the world never knew! Jessie! Jessie!” and his head sank on his hands while the fire of his cigar went out in ashes.

Again he lifted his head with a start at the sound of a footstep. Other men were entering. They must not find him moping like a woman.

He took up a newspaper and looked over it at random. It bore yesterday’s date, but that did not matter. He was only pretending to read.

The column of deaths came before his eyes, and almost mechanically he read the first funeral notice:

Died.—Suddenly, at her mother’s residence, No. 1512A Fifth Avenue, Tuesday evening, Darling, only daughter of Mrs. Verna Dalrymple.

“Friends and relatives of the family are respectfully invited to attend the funeral services from the family residence, Thursday noon. Interment at Greenwood.”

“Merciful Heaven!”

The words breathed low and faintly over the man’s suddenly blanched lips, and the paper shook in his nervous grasp while his eyes stared in a sort of incredulous[76] horror at the printed words that moved him so.

Thoughts flew like lightning through his brain:

“Darling Dalrymple! What does it mean? It cannot be possible that she ever recovered the child! No, for the poor, kindly folk who were at my poor sister’s deathbed told me of her lovely, gentle daughter, golden-haired Jessie, with the big, soft, dark eyes and the tender, rosy lips, to whom the mother clung in dying, bidding her be a little mother to Mark and Willie. No, it could not be Jessie. She has most likely adopted a child in place of her lost daughter—a child that death has taken away!”

He remained silently musing with his eyes on the death notice till every printed word seemed photographed on his brain.

“Verna Dalrymple—Darling Dalrymple! How strange that she did not throw away the name with all the rest that it stood for—fickle heart! I suppose she had to keep it for the child’s sake, sweet little Jessie! Ah, how strange we never guessed she was coming! If we had known how different all might have been! I must have been more patient of her fretting, she more tender of my restlessness under misfortune! The dear little one coming must have held our hearts together—hearts now so terribly sundered!” And Leon Dalrymple bowed his fair head heavily while waves of memory swept across his heart.



A lonely life and much brooding inclines the mind to strange aspects.

Leon Dalrymple’s thoughts dwelt persistently on the dead girl—his divorced wife’s adopted daughter as he believed.

He felt a painful, almost jealous curiosity over her, wondering if she had usurped the love that belonged to Jessie as well as her place in her mother’s home.

“I should like to look upon her face!” he repeated over and over to himself, and the desire grew at last into a bold determination.

The early autumn twilight found him at the cemetery, whispering into the ear of the feeble old sexton who recoiled with surprise at his proposition:

“No, sir, no, it would be as much as my place is worth! I can’t do it!” he protested, but the clink of gold made him change his opinion.

“It is nothing, after all—only to give me one look at the dead girl’s face! What could they do to you even if they discovered the truth?” Dalrymple repeated impatiently, and he redoubled his bribe.

The cupidity of the old man made him falter in his opposition, and as a result they entered the vault just as the darkness of night settled over the earth, the sexton carrying a dark lantern, whose glare he turned on the bank of flowers that surrounded the[78] casket, blending their rich, rare odors with the noisome odors of mortality.

The dead are in their silent graves,
And the earth is cold above;
And the living weep and sigh
Over dust that once was love!

They advanced toward the casket, but suddenly each recoiled and glared at the other.

“What was that? It sounded like a stifled moan!” exclaimed Dalrymple, in alarm.

“Nothing but the wind in the trees,” exclaimed the old sexton, recovering himself, and wrenching loose the lid of the casket, sending out gusts of rich fragrance from the covering of tuberoses.

A moment more, and the casket was open, Dalrymple advancing with a quickened heartthrob to gaze on the silent sleeper.

It was a startling scene.

The old vault dark and grim, with rows of dead-and-gone aristocrats ranged around, in the center the bier banked with flowers, supporting the casket that held—not a dead girl, but a living one, for as the two men gazed with bated breath on the exquisite face, a second low moan sounded on the air, and then a pair of large, soft, wondering, dark eyes opened suddenly, and gazed up into their startled faces!

It was enough to shake the nerves of the strongest man, to see the dead thus suddenly come to life, and the old sexton was not strong—in fact, he had suffered for years from an organic disease of the heart.

So the shock was more than his weak heart could bear.


His face changed to an ashen hue, his old eyes dilated wildly, his frame shook like a leaf in the wind, his knees knocked together, and finally, with an awful groan, he sank in a senseless heap on the floor of the vault.

Dalrymple took no heed of the old man’s fate. All his attention was riveted on the girl struggling back to life from her place among the dead.

It was no strange face that he gazed on, for years ago he had kissed a fair, childish face with lineaments like these, as he placed the little one in his tender sister’s arms, saying:

“Call her Jessie Lyndon, after yourself, dear, and train her up to be noble and loving and true, as you have always been. I would not have her brought up by her proud, rich, heartless mother, who deserted me for my poverty, but rather as you have been, dear, to make a loving wife to your husband through all reverses. I leave her in your care, and I will send you ample money for her support, but Heaven alone knows whether I shall ever return to the land where I have suffered such a cruel shipwreck of my happiness.”

That was twelve long years ago that he had wreaked what he believed justifiable revenge on a heartless wife, goaded by ceaseless brooding on his wrongs that had well-nigh turned his brain. Then he had exiled himself from his native land and became a lonely wanderer.

I go, but whereso’er I flee
There’s not an eye will weep for me.
There’s not a kind, congenial heart
Where I may claim the smallest part.


He had but one solace, and that was in his art. Music had always been a passion with him until love had become its rival. Now Cupid had fled, he turned back to his old love. Drifting to Germany, he found congenial friends, and for some years made a meager living for himself and child, sending all he could spare to America for his golden-haired darling.

Then came that long, long illness that swallowed up almost a year of his life in a hospital—that strange illness that baffled the learned physicians, some declaring it was melancholy madness, others an unaccountable loss of memory, but all agreeing that it must have been brought about by long brooding over something that had become almost a monomania.

The whirlwind followed upon my brain and beat my thoughts to rack,
Who knows how many a month I lay ere memory floated back?

When strength slowly returned and with it some glimmerings of painful memory, a clever man, the wisest physician at the hospital, said to him:

“You have been strangely ill, and the wisest among us could not rightly name your disease, but it was next door to madness. I have studied your case with keen interest, and I learn that you are a lonely man much given to brooding and moping. Am I right in suspecting that you have a hopeless sorrow hidden in your past?”

Leon Dalrymple could only bend his blond, curly head in silent assent.

“I knew it,” said the wise physician, and he added kindly:

“Cease brooding over this ill that you cannot remedy,[81] for that way madness lies. Forgetfulness is the only panacea for a hopeless grief. You are a musician, they tell me. Give it up for a more practical life. The greatest bard in the world has written that music is the food of love. Thus it only ministers to your sorrow. Cast it aside for a totally different life. If you were strong enough, I should say try manual labor, that in exhausting the body, dulls and wearies the mind, curing its ills of brooding and melancholy. Try the Australian gold fields. Get rich and practical.”

The patient took his advice.

After years of toil and travel, when body and mind were both restored, he had permitted himself to dwell again with yearning memory on the past.

He was aghast when he counted up twelve years since he had come away.

“I must go home to my little Jessie!” he cried.

He had kissed her as a child and gone away—he found her again almost a woman, lying among funeral flowers in her soft, white shroud, but, thank Heaven, with the breath of life faintly heaving her bosom, and dawning in the dark of her tender eyes.

“Jessie, Jessie!” he cried, in a transport of joy, but she knew him not; her glance was dazed and frightened at her grim, unfamiliar surroundings.

It came to him suddenly that if she recovered consciousness fully and found she had been buried alive the shock might be too great for her reason.

She had closed her eyes again with a tired sigh, so he lifted her tenderly from her white satin bed, and bearing her outside, wrapped her carefully in his long, dark overcoat.



Rapid thoughts were revolving in his mind:

“I will take her far away from New York, my precious daughter, and her mother shall never know that she is not lying in the old vault among her dead-and-gone kindred, the proud Van Dorns. The rest of her sweet life shall belong to the plebian father her mother despised.”

Suddenly he remembered the old sexton lying, as he supposed, in a heavy swoon on the floor of the vault.

“Can I purchase his silence?” he wondered, laying Jessie’s quiet form down on the dry grass while he returned to the vault.

It gave him a shock to find that the old man was quite dead, but directly he began to perceive that the sudden death would help his plans materially.

“Poor old man, I am very sorry about it, but it makes my secret safe. Now, I will lay him with the lantern and the vault keys some distance away in one of the paths, so that when he is found in the morning no one will suspect what has happened here,” he thought, as he lifted the frame of the old man and bore it some distance away, placing beside it the lantern and keys as if he had fallen dead on the spot.

“God rest his soul!” he murmured, bending over the still form and placing in his inner coat pocket a sum of money more than sufficient to defray his burial expenses.


“For who knows but he may have left a widow and orphans who will mourn bitterly to-morrow when he is found here dead,” he thought, with a sigh, as he turned from the spot, returning to Jessie, who lay faintly breathing, but not yet fully conscious, on the grass.

“Now to get safely away from here before she awakes and realizes the horror of her position,” he muttered, fastening the long overcoat tightly around her to conceal her white robes as he bore her in his arms out of the beautiful cemetery, past glimmering statues marking the last repose of world-worn hearts.

The mossy marbles rest
On the lips that we have pressed
In their bloom.
And the names we loved to hear
Have been carved for many a year
On the tomb.

Once safely in the street, he ventured to call a taxicab, explaining to the chauffeur, who looked suspiciously at his strange burden, that his daughter had fainted in the street while they were on their way to a little party.

“Just drive about the streets a while until I give you further orders,” he said, wishing to gain time to think.

To carry Jessie in this garb and condition to any hotel, he knew, would bring upon him a suspicion he was unwilling to face, so he racked his brain in the endeavor to decide where to go with his charge.

In his extremity he thought of the woman by whom the Lyndons had once lived, and who had told him of[84] his sister’s death and the removal of the bereaved family to so distant a part of the city that she had quite lost track of them. The woman was widowed and lived alone in a poor cottage of her own, so it was the safest refuge he could find for Jessie.

To this kindly soul he went in his trouble, and was received with motherly cordiality.

Preferring not to tell her the actual truth, he satisfied her curiosity with a plausible story, and soon had Jessie disrobed and placed in a warm, comfortable bed.

But though the woman who had dearly loved Jessie always called her by every fond, endearing name, no light of recognition shone in the dazed, dark eyes. By morning they found that she was really ill, and needed a physician.

“She has had a fall and perhaps injured her brain—however, I can tell better by to-morrow,” said the man of healing.

Acting on this clever diagnosis, his treatment of the case was so correct that within three days the light of reason returned to Jessie’s eyes.

It was a fact that the fall on the pavement and striking her head had more seriously injured Jessie than the drug she had taken, the latter having only induced a long, deep sleep, very like its “twin brother death.”

Leon Dalrymple watched by her bedside with passionate devotion, feeling that he had at last something to live for in this beautiful daughter restored to him as from the dead.

While she still lay ill without having recognized[85] any one around her, he provided the Widow Doyle with a full purse and sent her out to buy a fine outfit.

“We are going away on a journey, my daughter and I,” he said. “She must have a large trunkful of good clothing suitable to a young lady of moderate fortune—nothing gaudy or cheap, but of fine material, and of the best make.”

Mrs. Doyle was a woman of excellent taste, and she fitted Jessie out well with clothing of the best style, so that when she was well enough to sit up she could while away the hours of convalescence by admiring her pretty, new things.

The day came when she opened wide her beautiful eyes with the light of reason shining in them, and saw sitting by the bed a handsome, fair-haired man, who had about him a subtle fascination that instantly drew her heart.

“Who are you?” she whispered faintly.

He turned and took her hand.

“Have you never heard of your absent father, dear little Jessie?”

“Yes. Are you——”

“Yes, I am your father, dearest. Will you kiss me?”

She held up her sweet face passively and gave him a child’s dutiful kiss, murmuring plaintively:

“And my mother?”

A dark frown gloomed his brow as he retorted angrily:

“We will never speak of her, Jessie. She is as one dead to us both.”



Jessie’s large, soft, dark eyes turned on her father’s face with a look that shook his soul, they were so like other eyes he had once loved.

She cried pleadingly:

“No, no, for I have had such a sweet dream of my mother it thrills my heart yet. Let me tell it to you, papa!”

The dark eyes and the pleading voice pierced his heart like a knife.

Why had God given her this subtle likeness to her mother that would always be like a thorn in his heart?

He could not answer for his tumultuous thoughts, and she continued thrillingly:

“Such a strange dream, papa!—sweet and strange, for I seemed to be dead, but I felt no sorrow for it, because life had been cruel to me, and I was glad to be at rest. Then she seemed to come and stand by my side, the mother I had never known till an hour before my death, when I saw her only as a proud, rich stranger. But in death she seemed to belong to me. She knelt by me and kissed my face, my hands, my hair; she called me Darling, and her tears rained on me while she deplored the cruel fate that parted us in life, and restored me to her only in death. Tell me, papa, could this be true? This proud, beautiful lady, was she my mother?”


He had listened in surprise and wonder, and now he said evasively:

“It was only a dream, you know, dear.”

“Only a dream—but I hoped it might prove a reality. I—I—loved her so dearly in my dream because she was so sweet and tender,” faltered the girl with tears of disappointment starting to her eyes while her father gazed at her in secret wonder, longing to know what strange events had preceded her supposed death.

He could not bear to see her yearning for the mother who had been so cruel to the father, but he did not know how to change that instinct of love; he could only say coldly:

“Do not think any more of your dream, child. It was very misleading.”

“Perhaps so,” she murmured humbly, believing it must be true what he said, for she could recall another dream that was, indeed, too subtly sweet to be aught but illusion.

In that strange dream a voice all too fatally dear to her heart had murmured words of love and tenderness, vowing fealty to her in heaven:

I love you, dearest one, all the while,
My heart is as full as it can hold,
There is place and to spare for the frank young smile,
And the red young mouth and the hair’s young gold,
So, hush, I will give you this leaf to keep,
See, I shut it inside the sweet, cold hand—
There, that is our secret! go to sleep;
You will wake, and remember and understand.

In that lovely dream he—Frank Laurier—had pressed his lips on her golden hair, had kissed a rose[88] and crushed it between her folded hands. Was it only a dream?

Yes, how could it be aught but a dream? He who had trifled with her, scorned her while living, how could he have changed when she lay dead?

The tears brimmed over in her eyes as she thought:

“How foolish I am, dwelling on such fancies. Of course, I have been ill—not dead!—and dreamed all about these people who care naught for me.”

Leon Dalrymple took her hand and looked at her with tender pity.

“My dear little one, do you feel well enough to go back with me over the cruel past?” he asked abruptly.

She assented eagerly, and with some evasions that he deemed necessary, he gave her a brief résumé of his life.

“I shall not tell you what your mother’s name was—nor mine—I call myself Leon Lyndon now,” he said curtly, continuing: “Suffice it to say you were born after your mother deserted me in disgust at my poverty. I did not suspect you were coming, and, if she guessed it, she selfishly kept the tender secret. You were born, and became the joy and pride of her life while I hated her for having deprived me of your love. I believe I was half mad in my troubles those days, and I contrived to see you often unsuspected by your mother, while you were out with your nurse. Your baby beauty and sweetness grew upon me so that at last I stole you away, gloating over the thought that I could punish her at last for her cruelty to me. I took you to my dear, sweet sister Jessie, left you in her care, and became an exile from my native land.[89] The story of those twelve years is too long for you now, but at length the longing for you drew me back again to New York, where I searched for you vainly for a week before I chanced on you at last.”

“You found me lying like one dead in the snow!” she cried, and he started, answering evasively:

“How came you there, my darling? I am very anxious to hear your story up to that point.”

To his surprise she burst into tears, sobbing unrestrainedly for several moments.

He waited patiently, stroking the fair head tenderly till the healing tears ceased to flow, then, little by little, he drew her on, until the story of her young life and her piteous little love secret lay bare before his eyes.

He was startled, touched, and pained; the tears were very near his eyes.

He kissed her tenderly, pityingly.

“It was very sad, my child, but you are so young you will soon get over this sorrow. It was rash in you to try to throw away your life like that, and I am very glad that I found you in your extremity and placed you in a physician’s care, else your life must have paid the forfeit of your desperate deed,” he said rapidly, determining in his mind that she should never know what had happened to her that night after she fell down in the snow and thought herself dying.

“But life is very sad,” she murmured plaintively. “He—he—will marry that scornful beauty, Miss Ellyson, and—and—they will laugh together many times over me—and my broken heart.”

The tears came again in a burning shower, but he[90] was glad to see them fall; he knew they would relieve her pain of wounded love and pride.

When she grew quiet he said tenderly:

“You must forget him, dear, as they will forget you in their happiness. I will take you away from New York, where you shall never meet those cruel hearts again.”

“I should like to go—I should like to forget!” she sighed, and his heart throbbed with divine sympathy, for he knew well all the anguish of her plaint.

Do I remember? Ask me not again!
My soul has but one passion—to forget!
Oh, is there nothing in the world then
To take away the soul’s divine regret?
Alas, for love is evermore divine,
Immortal is the sorrow love must bring,
The buried jewel seeketh yet to shine,
And music’s spirit haunts the idle string,
So doth the heart in sadness ever twine,
Some fading wreath that keeps hope lingering. [91]


When two people are of the same mind that certain subjects are painful, they are not apt to recall them to each other’s memory.

Leon Lyndon, as he chose to call himself, left New York within the week with his strangely recovered daughter, and in new pursuits and pleasures both sought oblivion of the painful past.

Lyndon had become rich while at the gold fields, and he spared no expense on Jessie.

Finding that in her restless mood she enjoyed travel more than anything else, they spent six months wandering over their native land, enjoying its beauties and grandeur, unsurpassed by any other country in the world.

Then they crossed the ocean and resumed their migratory habits.

Another six months were spent in this way, then a weariness fell on both and they longed for rest.

The father decided to settle in Germany for a year and cultivate his daughter’s mind.

He had already discovered to his delight that she had inherited his great talent for music, together with a voice of rare power and melody.

Securing the best teachers that money could procure, they spent eighteen quiet months in the polishing of Jessie’s mind, and father and daughter became passionately attached to each other, finding in this warm affection some balm for past sorrow.


Meanwhile, Lyndon had kept from his daughter one fact that she would doubtless have found very interesting—the story of the accident that had prevented the marriage of Frank Laurier at the appointed time.

He had read in the next day’s papers the story of the interrupted marriage—the bride’s long wait at the church, the mysterious failure of the bridegroom to arrive, the bride’s mortification and her return home—then the solution of the mystery in the accident that had befallen Laurier, nearly costing him his life, as it was stated that he was lingering between life and death with concussion of the brain.

Leon Lyndon immediately comprehended that he had been the cause of the trouble by running into Laurier with his wheel, and though it had been unavoidable, he felt a keen remorse and regret for his part in the tragedy, although he owed the victim no sympathy, seeing what grief he had brought upon his daughter.

These facts Lyndon thought it prudent to conceal from Jessie, supposing that the marriage would take place anyhow, as soon as the condition of the bridegroom improved, so the name was tacitly dropped between them, and after they left New York remained unspoken, if unforgotten.

Meanwhile, matters were quite different in New York from what either he or Jessie could have supposed.

Laurier, after his accident, had remained for several days in a serious condition, recovering consciousness so slightly as not to be able to recognize the friends who were permitted to visit him. Having no relatives in the city, his dearest friend, Ernest Noel,[93] was often by his bedside, and it was quite a week before the latter dared answer the half-dazed questions put to him by the sick man.

Then full consciousness dawned, and all the cruel truth came upon him.

The funeral, the accident, the interrupted wedding, all dawned on his mind, and a hollow groan burst from him as he turned his eyes on Noel.


Noel read the pained questioning in the one word. The stricken bridegroom was thinking of Cora and the cruel ordeal she had been called on to bear, the interrupted wedding, the gossip, the nine days’ wonder.

“She is well,” Noel said encouragingly.

“Tell me all about that day,” Laurier pleaded faintly, and his friend obeyed with some evasions.

Not for worlds would he have betrayed the whispers he had heard of the proud bride’s fury at her lover on that cruel wedding day when she had turned away from the altar, a bride without a bridegroom, a stricken creature who in her wrath hated the whole world, and felt revengeful enough to have plunged a knife into the heart of the man who had disappointed her and made her the sensation of an hour.

He glossed that fact over very lightly by saying:

“Miss Ellyson was naturally cruelly wounded, believing herself a jilted bride.”

“My proud, beautiful Cora, it was indeed a most cruel ordeal, and I would have died to spare her such pain. Are you quite sure she understands everything now, Noel?”


“Yes; I went and told her myself how everything fell out, and it was fully explained in the newspapers of the next day—so every one knows now that it was an untoward accident that prevented the wedding, and that it will take place as soon as you are recovered.”

“And Cora exonerates me from blame?”

“Ye-es,” hesitatingly.

“You are keeping back something, Noel? Speak out.”

“Well, then, she was rather vexed over your attending Miss Dalrymple’s funeral. You see, Laurier, it was that which really caused our deuced hurry, that upset everything.”

“I never intended Cora should know I went to that funeral.”

“You may be sure I did not tell her, for I thought strange of your doing it myself, but some dunce saw you there, blurted it out to Van Dorn, and he told Miss Ellyson. See?”

“Oh, yes,” and for a few moments Laurier remained silent, his thoughts divided between the dead girl and the living one—the one he had wounded unto death, the one who was to be his bride.

He gave a long, long sigh to Jessie’s memory, then a chivalrous thought to Cora.

“Poor girl, how cruelly she must have suffered in the terrible suspense of that hour. I must make it up to her, Noel, as soon as I can. Perhaps it would please her to be married now before I get well.”

“Now? Here?”—in surprise.

“Yes; why not? Loving each other so well, what does the time and place matter if it is a true union of[95] hearts? It would stop silly gossip over the interrupted wedding, and such a proof of my tenderness would perhaps condone my offense in showing respect to Mrs. Dalrymple by attending her daughter’s obsequies.”

There was a slight touch of bitterness in the last words that Noel did not understand, and he said, in his brusque way:

“Not many girls would care to be married by a sick bed and sacrifice all the fol-lalas of a brilliant wedding.”

“But Cora would because she loves me very fondly. Will you go and see her for me, Noel, and ask her if she would be willing to marry me to-morrow, so that we can start on our wedding tour as soon as I am well enough?”

Noel went, and the patient, tired by his long talk, dozed again, and filled up the interval of time this way till his friend’s return.

He wakened at last with a start at a light touch on his arm.

“Ah, Noel, is that you? Where have you been so long? Ah, I remember now! You saw Cora? She will grant my wish?”

“You are mistaken, old boy. She—refuses!”



Cora Ellyson had, indeed, refused her lover’s request.

Ernest Noel had gauged her quite correctly in asserting that she would be unwilling to be married simply, without the pomp and ceremony so dear to the feminine mind.

And, besides, though pained over her lover’s accident, she could not forgive in her heart the first cause of it.

She argued to herself that if he had not gone to the funeral he would not have been forced to the haste that had resulted so disastrously to himself and caused her so cruel a mortification.

“Whoever heard of anything so outré as a man’s going to a funeral in his wedding suit, and on the eve of his marriage?”

She cried to herself in a passion of jealous anger, hating poor Jessie for the sympathy he had shown and the few thoughts she had taken from the proud bride who had claimed all.

Despite her love for him, Cora longed to punish her lover for his fealty to Jessie’s memory.

She did not consider that he had already suffered enough. She desired his punishment to come through her, the chosen of his heart.

If any one had told her that the fire of his love that had burned so fiercely until that day in the park had[97] cooled down into an indifference that he would not own even to his own heart, she could not have believed it.

They had had their lovers’ quarrels before, flirted with others before, kissed and made up always. She expected things to go as usual.

She had not punished him enough yet, and the refusal to marry him on his sick bed was a stroke that secretly pleased her very much. It would cause him such cruel pain he would realize her value more.

She even declined to visit him while he lay ill at the hospital on the plea that her nerves could not bear the shock.

“Tell him to get well as soon as possible, so that my wedding gown will not get out of fashion,” was the gay message sent by Mrs. van Dorn, who with Mrs. Dalrymple went to call on the invalid.

Perhaps it was the sight of the bereaved mother in her deep mourning that put the thought of Jessie in his mind—perhaps she had never been out of it since that tragic night. Anyhow, he received Cora’s messages with apparent resignation, and in the long days of convalescence, while she thought he was yearning for her with ceaseless impatience, his thoughts kept wandering to the dead girl, living over in memory their brief acquaintance—the first time he had seen her and been startled by her naïve, girlish beauty, the struggle with Doyle when he had rescued her from the villain’s rude advances, the drive to the park, and—the fatal kiss!

Whenever Laurier recalled that sweet, clinging kiss he had taken from Jessie’s red, flowerlike lips, his heart[98] would beat wildly in his breast, and the warm color flush up to his brow.

The garbled story of a glass of wine too much that he had told to Jessie in excusing himself, was quite untrue. He had not taken any wine; it was a bewildering flash-up of emotion that had throbbed at his heart and made him yield to the temptation to press her sweet lips with his own.

It was true that the influence of Cora still remained so strong that he had soon turned from the girl to watch the passing throngs for his old love that he might note the jealous flash of her great eyes at sight of an apparent rival—afterward when suffering from the effects of his accident in the park, and exposed to the tender witcheries of Cora, it had been easy to win him back.

But the events of that night, when Jessie had come to Mrs. Dalrymple’s—her love, her humiliation, her despair, coupled with Cora’s heartless behavior, were impressed ineffaceably on his heart. The one had inspired pity and sympathy, the other deep disgust.

“Pity is akin to love,” and now that Jessie was dead Laurier knew that, had she lived, he could have loved her as well—aye, better—than he had ever loved proud, jealous Cora, who looked on him as a sort of slave to her caprices, to be scolded and sent away, then whistled back at will.

Had Jessie lived, he would have bidden this tenderness back, knowing that his fealty belonged to his betrothed, but it did not matter now if he gave Jessie some tender regrets in the few days that must elapse[99] before he married Cora and pledged to her irrevocably the devotion of his heart.

In the meantime, new influences were at work to sunder more widely the two hearts already chilled by jealousy and anger.

Ernest Noel, having always admired beautiful Cora at a distance, was now brought into more intimate relations with her by the errand on which he had gone for Laurier, and the young girl, not averse to a little flirtation to relieve the tedium of waiting her lover’s recovery, smilingly encouraged his frank advances.

It became the customary thing to call every evening and report Laurier’s progress on the road to recovery to his fair betrothed.

No secret was made of these calls to Laurier, who each morning received an enthusiastic description of how Cora had looked and acted and the flippant messages she had sent her lover.

Believing that she was arousing Laurier’s jealousy, as she had often done before, and thus increasing the fervor of his love, she rested secure, though secretly burning with anxiety to see him again, and only deterred from a visit to him by the rooted determination to pay him out for his fault, as she called it, to herself.

Beautiful, vindictive, jealous, she was capable of savage fury when aroused, but in indulging her fierce resentment she was running a risk she little dreamed.

Laurier, getting an insight into the flirtation, did not feel the least disturbed, but was startled at himself when he detected a latent wish that she would transfer her affections to Noel.



December snows lay deep upon the ground when Laurier left the hospital two weeks after the fateful accident that had postponed his wedding.

His first visit was to Cora.

Having punished him as she deemed sufficiently, she was passionately glad to see him again.

The fond arms twined about his neck, the dark head nestled against his breast, the dewy red lips were upturned to meet his own, but as he pressed them he remembered other lips, oh, so warm and sweet and clinging, now pale and cold in death.

Ah, pale, pale, now those rosy lips
That once I kissed so fondly,
And closed for aye the sparkling glance
That dwelt on me so kindly.
And moldering now in silent dust
The heart that loved me dearly,
But still within my bosom’s care
Shall live my Highland Mary!

Was it Laurier’s punishment for his sin that Jessie should haunt him so, that her pale wraith should glide between him and his living love, and make his lips cold to her kiss and his heart chill to her tender embrace!

Time was when his blood had run like fire with those arms about his neck, and that dark head on his breast, but how strangely all was altered now, and what a deep depression hung over him, though he tried to hide it from those searching, dark eyes, and to outdo her in the warmth of his greeting.


“Dear Frank, how pale and ill you look! And—and—you do not kiss me as of old. Are you vexed with me because I would not consent to a sick-bed wedding?” archly.

“No, no, dear; why should I be? It was better to wait and have a public wedding so as to display your lovely bridal gown, of course,” he answered, forcing a smile.

“And you were not impatient?”

“I was too ill for that, you know.”

“Poor Frank! How you must have suffered! I hope you were not vexed that I did not come to see you. But they told me you were looking so frightfully ill I had not the heart lest I should scold you, for, after all, everything was your own fault, you know, going to that girl’s funeral.”

“Do not let us bring that subject up again, Cora. I only did what I thought was my duty.”

“Duty! That kept you from your own wedding!” she cried reproachfully. “Only for that we should be married now.”

“We can be married to-morrow if you are willing, Cora.”

“Nonsense! How could we? All the arrangements will have to be made over again. And my maid of honor is out of town—gone South for a month.”

“You can choose another!”

“But she made me promise to wait her return!”

“I do not think that is at all necessary. Choose some other girl and let us have the agony over!” abstractedly.

“The agony! Sir?” and Cora Ellyson almost transfixed[102] him with the indignant flash of her great, dark eyes.

He started, realizing he had made a blunder.

“Dear Cora, I beg your pardon, I did not mean to wound you. Do you not understand my impatient mood? That it is agony to me, this waiting to call you mine,” anxiously.

“Dear Frank, was that what you meant? I thought for a moment that—that—but, no, it would be impossible you should look on our marriage as a bore!”

“Impossible!” he echoed fervently, but in the bottom of his heart he was terribly distressed at his own indifference, he who had once loved Cora to madness.

He would not have had her find out the cruel truth for the world. He played his part as a true lover still with amiable deceit, thinking anxiously:

“This is but a caprice of illness. Love will come back.”


Would Love his ruined quarters recognize
Where shrouded pictures of the past remain,
And gently turn them with forgiving eyes
If Love should come again?

Cora was charmed with the belief in his anxiety for the wedding. She thought that absence had, indeed, taught him her value. With pretty coquetry she pretended coyness in naming another wedding day just to make him plead for haste.

Understanding what was expected of him, he continued to insist, until she named a day just two weeks distant.

“And it shall be a home wedding this time. I could[103] not bear to go to church again after—that day! Oh, I knew it was ill-fated when we met that horrible funeral! I wish I had turned back then and so escaped the next cruel hour—the waiting, the anxiety, the curious faces, some sympathetic, some sarcastic—the sinking at the heart, the bitter resentment, believing myself jilted at the altar! Ah, Frank, there are times when I feel as if I can never forgive you for the humiliation of that hour!” cried Cora, in passionate excitement.

He took her burning hands and kissed them fondly, crying:

“I will make it all up to you, my darling, when I am your husband, by the most patient devotion!”

And as he gazed at the dark, brilliant face that had once charmed him so, he told himself that surely the old love would come back as soon as that painful, lingering remorse over Jessie should fade from his mind.

Who could help loving beautiful Cora, even in spite of the glimpses he had had of cruel depths in her mind? He would try to forget how heartlessly she had acted to her hapless little rival and love her again in spite of all.

He knew that scores of men envied him the prize he had won in the promise of her hand; even Ernest Noel, his best man, scarcely disguised the fact that he had fallen a victim to her witcheries, and frankly envied his friend, so he was not surprised on going out to meet Noel coming up the steps to call on Cora, as had now become his daily habit.



The young men nodded gayly at each other, then Ernest Noel passed into the house.

“How radiant you look, ma belle!” he exclaimed enviously.

Cora’s red lips parted over her pearly teeth in an enchanting smile of joy, as she answered:

“Frank has just gone, and we were naming the wedding day again.”

She knew well that the announcement would pierce his heart like a sword, for only yesterday Ernest had proved unfaithful to his friend and pleaded for her love.

Beautiful Cora had laughed at her passionate suitor, enraging him with her scorn.

“You led me on, encouraged me to love you, and hope for a return!” he cried sullenly.

“Nonsense! You knew I was engaged to Frank all the time!” she cried.

“Yet you pretend indifference to him, refused to marry him on what might have been his deathbed, and, besides, I had heard it whispered that you were so angry on your wedding day you had vowed vengeance on your recreant bridegroom. Is not all this true, Cora?”

“I deny your right to question me. I shall marry Frank when he gets well,” she cried, with her most imperious air.


“My God, then you were only coquetting with me to pass the time—is it true?”

“I was kind to you because you were Frank’s friend—that is all—and you are very wicked to try to steal me from him,” she cried defiantly.

“You were playing with fire,” he muttered, and turned and went away with a strange smile glooming his dark, strong face.

To-day he wore a careless smile, and did not flinch when she told him so triumphantly that she had just named the wedding day again.

“Is it so, indeed? Then you will soon be lost to me forever!” he cried lightly, adding: “I must steal every hour I can from my fortunate rival until the fatal day. The crust of the snow is hard, and my sleigh is at the door. Will you come with me for a ride?”

“Yes, I will go,” she answered kindly.

Warmly wrapped in sealskin, she followed him out to the natty little sleigh, careless in her happiness of the gloomy day and lowering storm clouds, little dreaming of what was coming.

He tucked the warm robes cozily about her, took up the reins, and they set off at a spanking pace, gliding gayly over the smooth crust of snow until they found themselves leaving the crowded city behind.

They had talked but little, but now Noel slackened rein, and said suddenly:

“So you really love Laurier after all?”

“Of course—when I am to marry him in two weeks!”

“Yet a week ago I could have sworn that you did not care for him.”


“Appearances are deceitful.”

“Yes, very,” he replied, with a low, bitter laugh, adding: “For I could almost have sworn that your heart had turned from him to me!”

“What egregious vanity!” cried Cora, laughing outright.

The laugh almost drove him mad. Striking the black, fiery horse lightly with the whip so that it dashed quickly forward again, he almost hissed:

“What would you do to any one who should come between you and Laurier?”

The girl’s eyes flashed, she ground her white teeth together viciously, crying:

“I should hate them, I should want to murder them!”

Noel’s face grew livid, but he looked around at her fixedly, crying:

“Then you will want to murder me, for I am a barrier between you and Laurier that cannot be removed. I am your lawful husband, beautiful Cora!”

“You are mad!” she cried, in alarm. “Let us turn back instantly. See, the snow is beginning to fall!”

Without heeding her command, Ernest Noel drove on through the gathering storm, replying hoarsely:

“I am not mad, Cora, I am telling you the truth. Do you remember the private theatricals we took part in last week for the benefit of that little church? You were the bride, I was the bridegroom, and it was a lawful marriage, for I made private arrangements to have it so, securing a license and a minister. You are my wife as fast as the law can make you. Now, what have you to say?”



Cora Ellyson sat speechless by the side of Ernest Noel for several minutes as the sleigh rushed on through the whirling snowflakes.

Her face was as white as the snowflakes, her very lips pale, and her eyes flashed with a dangerous anger that startled her desperate lover. In their dark gleam he read, indeed, a murderous hate too deep for words—a hate that could kill, so great was its fury. Choking with grief and rage, she remained speechless, though her writhing lips struggled for words. A despair too deep for utterance possessed her soul.

What, wedded to this villain! Tricked into a ceremony that bound her to him and cut her off from Frank, her beloved, forever! It was too horrible! She could not believe it!

“Is it really true? You have not lied to me?” gaspingly.

“It is true as Heaven, Cora. Say what you will, you are my wife, and as such I claim you! Come, give me a kiss, and let us make up our quarrel!”

Throwing his arm around her waist he drew her forcibly to his side, pressing hot kisses on the shrinking face, while her shrieks rang wildly on the air—wildly, but unheeded, for they were in the country now on a lonely, unfrequented road, and the darkness of the wintry afternoon, together with the whirling snowflakes, made everything dim and indistinct.


A very frenzy of rage possessed the wretched girl. She had said rightly that she could murder any one who came between her and Laurier.

As she struggled wildly with Noel, she flung one hand up to her hair, whose dark, silken braids were pierced through with a strong but slender silver dagger with a jeweled hilt. Withdrawing it dexterously, she made a lunge at his breast.

With a stifled oath he warded off the first blow, catching the point of the dagger in his own hand so that it pierced through, the blood spouting out in a fountain of crimson, but, withdrawing it quickly, she aimed again for his heart.

“My God!” shrilled in agony from his lips as his arm fell, and the reins dropped from his hands while he sank an inert mass at the bottom of the sleigh. The next moment the black horse, frightened by her shrieks, had the bit between his teeth and was running away, while Cora, crouched in the seat wild-eyed, pale-faced, an image of horror, resigned herself to inevitable death.

On over the frozen snow, through the whirling storm, he ran for over a mile, then—stumbling over some obstruction in the road, he came to a sudden stop, and the little sleigh overturned, throwing its occupants out into the drifted snow.

One breathless moment and Cora scrambled to her feet unhurt, but not so the companion of her wild drive.

Silent and pallid, a senseless heap with the blood staining his white shirt bosom and his wounded hand, Ernest Noel lay like one dead in the snow.


“I have killed him!” the girl muttered wildly, but so terrible was her resentment that she felt no remorse for her deed, only a fierce joy that he was out of her way.

“He deserved it all!” she muttered, casting her glance hurriedly around to see if there was any witness to her crime.

But she was all alone with nature—nature in her stormiest mood, the wind shrieking in a rising gale, blowing the snow across the fields, bending and twisting the bare boughs of the trees, while the drifts were piled high against the rough stones of an old lime quarry close to the side of the road.

In that lonely scene the desperate girl stood wild-eyed, breathless, still burning with rage that precluded all remorse.

“If I could only hide him, if only the snowdrifts would cover him from my sight forever!” she exclaimed, and then her glance fell on the old quarry and lighted with intelligence.

“I can throw him down there!” she muttered, and with a strength born of terror, dragged the inert body by the arms, and pushed it down into the pit.

It fell with a hollow thud that made the panting girl, listening above, shudder violently, and fly back to the sleigh.

The black horse, seemingly subdued by its wild race and with the sweat streaming from every pore, despite the biting wind, stood patiently waiting her pleasure as she nervously returned and caught up the reins preparing for the inclement drive home.

A voice struck on her ears, sending terror to her[110] heart lest the dead had arisen from his grave in the deserted pit.

“I’ll drive you home, Miss Ellyson!”

Who was this, calling her boldly by name? With a start of terror, she lifted her eyes, and saw a man striding to her through the snow.

She had seen the bold eyes, the coarse, good-looking face before. It was Carey Doyle.

“How came you here?” she faltered fearfully, and he answered coolly:

“I was cutting across fields visiting some country friends of mine when I saw you upset, and hastened to your assistance. Who was the man you pushed over into the pit, Miss Ellyson? Surely not Frank Laurier?”

Her heart sank with wild alarm as she answered faintly:

“You—you—are mistaken. I—I—came—here alone, I swear. I was only—only—looking down into the pit thinking how terrible if the sleigh had overset down there!”

“Miss Ellyson, I saw you dragging the man over there by his arms—don’t deny it,” Doyle returned masterfully.

She was detected, she realized it, and began to sob hysterically:

“Oh, for sweet pity’s sake do not betray me! He—he—was killed when the sleigh upset—and I—I—did not know what to do! I thought I would leave him there. How could I drive home with a dead man!” shudderingly.

“What was his name?”


“I will not tell you!” wildly.

“Miss Ellyson, there is blood on your hands and your dress. Is it possible you have done murder?” Carey Doyle demanded, with sudden sternness.

“No, no, it was an accident! He—he—would have mistreated me, and I—I—defended myself with the hairpin! It wounded him, and then the fall killed him! I—I—oh, sir, I cannot bear the sensation of discovery. I will make you rich if you will keep this terrible secret!” pleaded Cora, kneeling down abjectly in the snow before the exultant wretch glorying in the discovery he had made.

Rather than put herself in the power of this bad man Cora had better have put the dead man back into the sleigh and driven back to the city with a full confession of her sin. Surely no jury would have convicted her of murder when they heard how she had been goaded by cruel wrong into a terrible deed. They would all agree that she had been driven temporarily insane by her fear and suffering.

But her poor brain was too distraught to think clearly. A horrible fear possessed her lest the deed become known, and she should fall into the hands of the law.

She knelt down in the cold snow with the biting wind cutting her white face and blowing her dark, loosened hair about her, her small hands clasped, pleading, praying:

“Oh, sir, do not betray me! I could not bear detection! What will you take to keep my wretched secret?”

His eyes gleamed with cupidity as he answered:


“You are rich, so I don’t think you would mind a thousand dollars, would you?”

“You shall have it!”

“Then my lips are sealed. Get in and let me drive you home, Miss Ellyson. Then I must manage to have the horse and sleigh returned to the stables without exciting suspicion, so you will have to confide in me, don’t you see, so that I can help you better,” shrewdly.

Oh, how it galled her pride to take him into her confidence, but there was no other way, so she said evasively:

“He was Ernest Noel, who fell in love with me and tried to supplant Mr. Laurier in my heart. On this drive he took the liberty of kissing me, and in defending myself I gave him a fatal blow.”

He helped her in and took her home, afterward returning the sleigh to the stables in a way that diverted all suspicion.



Two weeks rolled around very quickly and brought Cora’s wedding day again.

It would be somewhat different from the one that had been so tragically interrupted the month before.

This would be a home wedding at Mrs. van Dorn’s, where Cora was still staying.

And she had chosen another maid of honor, because the first one was still absent in the South.

Laurier also would have to select another friend for his best man, as Ernest Noel had mysteriously disappeared.

No one had seen him since the afternoon when he had taken Miss Ellyson sleigh riding, and it was currently believed that the young man had committed suicide.

Cora had lent color to this report by frankly owning that Noel had perfidiously sought to win her from Laurier, and in the madness of disappointment threatened to take his own life.

She told glibly of their long sleigh ride, in which they had been caught in the snowstorm and lost their way, not returning until after nightfall.

She grew pale and grave when she told how Noel had pleaded for her love in passionate phrases, and how angry he had grown when she had upbraided him for his treachery to his friend.


“All is fair in love or war,” he had replied doggedly, and turned a deaf ear to her pleadings that he would turn back from the storm that was gathering.

“I shall drive on and on if it be to perdition until you take pity on me!” he had vowed grimly, but her fright and tears had moved him at last to bring her back home.

With her hand close clasped in Laurier’s, Cora had repeated her story, ending sadly:

“I was very angry with the poor fellow, yet I pitied him, too; he was so tragically in earnest, and I shall never forget him as I saw him last when he left me at the door. His face was pale as death, and his eyes glared wildly under the electric lights as he took my hand in his and kissed it, murmuring tragically:

“You will never see me again, for I cannot bear my life without your love! I shall end it to-night, and when you hear of my death you will know I did it for your sake, and may the thought of it prove a thorn in the roses of your happiness!”

Cora’s voice sank to a low, sobbing cadence as she added:

“He looked wild enough to do any rash deed, but I did not believe him, I thought he was only trying to frighten me. I said good night quickly, and ran into the house, for I was almost frozen, and scared half to death from our interview.”

“Poor Cora—poor Noel! It was very distressing to you both, I know, and I fear he really carried out his threat, for nothing has been heard of him yet, and his relatives are getting very anxious,” said Laurier[115] gravely, almost wishing in his heart that Cora had taken pity on Noel’s love and accepted him.

He knew well that she had coquetted with the young man and led him on to his madness—he had seen it all along while he lay ill—but it was useless to tax her with the wrong, he could only think bitterly:

“Why will women break hearts for pastime?”

But following the thought, a pale, reproachful face seemed to rise before him, and lips that he had kissed for the whim of a moment—red, rosy lips—seemed to murmur:

“What of men?”

So he could not reproach Cora; he was not without fault himself.

The days passed quickly with no tidings of Noel, and the twenty-second of December came—his wedding day!

Oh, with what joy he had looked forward to it once! The day that should give him proud, beautiful Cora for his own!

He had loved her madly for a little while, but all his efforts could not bring back the passion now. It was cold and dead, and his heart lay like a stone in his breast.

They had decided to go South on a bridal tour, both having crossed the ocean several times, so that there would have been no novelty in the trip. Everything was in readiness for the journey as soon as the wedding reception was over.

Why was it that he could look forward so indifferently to the tête-à-tête journey with the stately bride for whose sake he was bitterly envied by other men?[116] Did a dead hand, small and white and warning—rise between him and his bride, barring out happiness?

It almost seemed so.

Would to God I could awaken!
For I dream I know not how,
And my soul is sorely shaken
Lest an evil step be taken,
Lest the dead who is forsaken
May not be happy now.

He would not listen to the haunting voices throbbing at his heart, but, putting them aside, prepared to keep his troth plight, praying yet for love to come back to its forsaken nest in his heart.

Not so with beautiful Cora, who, beaming with joyous anticipations, was making ready for her bridal, smiling as the maid pinned on the bridal veil, thinking there could be no bar to her happiness now, for was not Frank waiting for her downstairs, and everything in readiness!

“Oh, Miss Cora, how magnificent you look! May I let them all see you now?” cried the exultant maid.

“Yes, I am ready to go downstairs now, and it is time, is it not?” tilting back the long pier glass for another admiring view at herself in the glory of her white brocade train and point-lace veil.

Fifine stepped to the door and called Mrs. van Dorn and the others who were waiting, but as they crossed the threshold, loud, piercing shrieks rang through the room, and a horrible sight met their eyes.

In stepping back for a better view of herself, Cora had thoughtlessly brushed against a cluster of wax lights burning in a silver candelabra on her dressing[117] table. In an instant the flames caught the filmy folds of her veil and ignited it, wrapping her quickly in leaping flames like so many writhing serpents.

Never had there been a more tragic interruption to a wedding.

The splendid mansion so gayly decorated for the occasion, instantly became a scene of dismay and confusion.

The shrieks of the frightened women upstairs brought the bridegroom and guests rushing to their aid, and it was Frank Laurier himself who first had the presence of mind to tear the burning garments from Cora, though at the cost of painful injuries to himself.

But he scarcely gave a thought to that, so keen was his pity for the poor wreck of what had been but five minutes ago a beautiful, radiant young girl, with her heart full of love and pride going to the altar with her handsome lover.

Cora’s injuries were so severe that her blackened, swollen features were quite unrecognizable. The bridal gown was reduced to a charred, black mass, and there was not a vestige left of the costly point-lace veil.

For long weeks she hovered between life and death, and no one supposed she could ever recover. Indeed, her best friends thought it might be better to die than to live with all her radiant beauty gone. All her beautiful hair, her eyebrows and lashes were burned away, and her once lovely skin was scarred and red. The great, flashing, dark eyes were dim and sunken.

When after long weeks she began to convalesce to[118] the surprise of all her doctors, people said that she ought to release Frank Laurier from his engagement. No man would be willing to marry such a fright.

But Cora was not so magnanimous. She sent word to her lover to be true to her, and she would marry him as soon as she was quite well again.

Then she consulted the most eminent physicians and dermatologists in the city about the restoration of her beauty.

She was wild with anguish over her disfigurements, and declared that she would sacrifice her whole fortune to regain what she had lost by the terrible accident.

She put herself in their hands and they promised to do their best, but the process would be slow—she must give up the world for a year, perhaps, ere success could crown their efforts. She agreed to this and refused to see her lover until her lost beauty should be restored.



Among the passengers on a steamer homeward bound from England to America were a man and his daughter who attracted much admiring attention from all the other passengers.

The man was Leon Lyndon, and he was returning with his daughter Jessie after nearly two years’ absence from New York. Lyndon, tall, fair, middle-aged, with a most serious expression, did not cultivate acquaintances, but rather repelled advances, preferring to devote himself to his beautiful daughter, who in turn gave him all her attention.

It was most provoking to all the young men, who were simply wild to know the dainty beauty, and to tempt her to flirtations on the deck these balmy September evenings when the sea shone like silver and the full moon rode in gleaming majesty through the pathless blue sky.

It was too bad, they said, for her father to monopolize her always, hanging around her chair with books that they read together all day, and in the evenings strumming on his mandolin while she warbled tender love songs in a voice so sweet that the very winds and waves seemed to hush themselves to listen.

Curiosity was rife concerning the attractive pair, but no one could satisfy it, and when they had been three days out no one had secured anything but a bowing acquaintance with either.

It was about this time that a young man who had[120] been confined to his stateroom all these days by sea-sickness now made his appearance on deck.

It was no less a person than Frank Laurier, who had been abroad almost a year, and was returning at the summons of his betrothed.

It was almost two years since Cora’s terrible accident had so abruptly interrupted their wedding, and never, since the first hour, had he been permitted to gaze on her face.

The restoration of her health and beauty had consumed many months, and though he had entreated to see her, the request had always been sorrowfully denied.

Cora’s heart ached for the sight of his face and the touch of his hand, but she dared not risk the shock he must have experienced at sight of her poor, marred face. Still believing in his love that had ceased to exist, she feared his disenchantment.

Afraid of the weakness of her own will, anxious to place herself out of temptation, she entreated him to go abroad while she was in the hands of the doctors, to remain until she summoned him with the glad news that they might meet again to part no more forever.

He had been absent almost a year now, and they had corresponded in a desultory fashion, when suddenly he received the letter of recall, telling him she was well and beautiful again, and he must return, because her heart was breaking to see him once more.

Laurier’s heart was touched by her faithful love, and he reproached himself for the way he had neglected her letters, often not answering them for weeks,[121] almost forgetting her existence in the indifference that had stolen over him and made him wish in secret that something would happen to break the irksome bond that fettered his changed heart.

Many a man would not have hesitated to own that he had ceased to love, and claimed his freedom from her hands, but not so Laurier, who prided himself on his honor, and pitied Cora too sincerely to wound her loving heart.

Doubt’s cruel whisper shall not break the spell,
Oh, thou whom to deceive is to befriend;
All shall be well with thee until the end,
Until the end believing all is well!

He was going home to marry her and make her as happy as he could. For himself it did not matter greatly. Even if his heart was cold to her, she had at least no living rival, and that must suffice.

That evening when he came on deck—the young men had persuaded him—begging him to come and listen to the sweet voice singing in the moonlight, the voice of a girl as lovely as an angel, but with such a selfish, cruel papa that he would not permit any of them to approach within arm’s length.

“I wish you would storm the citadel of her heart, Laurier, and avenge us!” laughed one.

“You forget that I am going home to be married!” he replied gravely.

“Oh, a little flirtation beforehand need not matter.”

“I beg your pardon. A young girl’s love is too sacred to be trifled with. I will go on deck and listen because I adore singing, but I shall not try to make the young lady’s acquaintance.”


So in the silvery moonlight of that balmy September evening he went on deck with his friends, and saw, sitting apart, the man lightly touching the strings of a mandolin, while by his side stood his daughter, a slender, classically gowned girl in a simple robe of warm, white cashmere falling in straight folds, her pure, lovely face crowned with golden hair, lifted to the sky while she sang in notes of liquid melody:

“Last night the nightingale woke me,
Last night when all was still,
It sang in the golden moonlight
From out the wooded hill.
I opened my window so gently,
I looked on the dreaming dew,
And, oh, the bird, my darling,
Was singing of you, of you!
“I think of you in the daytime,
I dream of you by night,
I wake, and would you were here, love,
And tears are blinding my sight.
I hear a low breath in the lime tree,
The wind is floating through,
And, oh, the night, my darling,
Is sighing, sighing, for you!
“Oh, think not I can forget you,
I could not though I would,
I see you in all around me
The stream, the night, the wood.
The flowers that slumber so gently,
The stars above the blue,
Oh, heaven itself, my darling,
Is praying, praying, for you!”

Frank Laurier stood apart, looking and listening spellbound, while something sweet and tender to the verge of pain stabbed his heart.


What was there in the pure, uplifted face and in the sweet, sad voice that seemed to strike a mournful chord in memory like some familiar strain? He had never heard the song before, and surely never seen the exquisite face, else it had never been forgotten.

He said to himself that she had only made him think of love again—love that had grown a stranger to his heart, though once as sweet and welcome as the song she sang.

She rested a few moments, without observing her rapt listeners, then the sweet voice rose again, following the chords of the mandolin:

“Beneath the trees together
They wandered hand in hand,
Oh, it was summer weather,
And Love was in the land;
Their hearts were light,
The sun shone bright,
And as they went along,
With voices sweetly mingled,
They sang the old, old song:
“Love, I will love you ever,
Love, I will leave you never,
Ever to me precious to be.
Never to part, heart bound to heart!
Ever am I, never to say good-by!
“Beneath the trees together
They went along apart,
Oh, it was autumn weather,
And heart had turned from heart,
Across the wold the air came cold,
The mists rose dull and gray,
And in their ears, like a mocking voice,
They heard the well-known lay:[124]
“Yet still while o’er the heather
They go their way alone,
Oh, it is wintry weather,
And all the summer’s gone!
They hear the air they love the most
Upon their fancy fall;
’Tis better to have loved and lost
Than not have loved at all.”

The sweet voice was inexpressibly pathetic. Laurier felt a lump rise in his throat and a moisture in his eyes. He longed to clasp the singer in his arms and soothe her tender grief.



The sweet voice died away in lingering echoes over the waters, the mandolin ceased its plaintive chords, and Jessie sat down with a low sigh by her father’s side, and leaned her head against his shoulder in pathetic silence, while the listeners stole away, leaving Laurier alone in the seat he had taken, gazing absently over the moonlit waters while ocean’s tone seemed to echo over and over:

“Love, I will love you ever,
Love, I will leave you never!”

He had sat down very suddenly because he had staggered from emotion over a shock.

It had come to him all at once why the girl’s face and voice had seemed so familiar that it had awakened subtle pain blent with keenest pleasure.

The fair, exquisite face was like one that had been lying long beneath the coffinlid, the voice was one whose sweet, reproachful tones had once pierced his heart like an avenging sword. She brought back to him the irrevocable past.

“So like, so like, she might be Jessie Lyndon’s sister,” he mused. “But no, that could not be. Mrs. Dalrymple had but one daughter. It is only a chance likeness.”

He began to wonder what their names could be, the father and daughter, and when one of his friends came back to his side he whispered the question:


“What did you say their names were?”

He was astounded when the young man answered calmly:

“His name is Lyndon, and he calls his daughter Jessie.”

“Heavens!” and Laurier started violently.

“What is it?” cried his friend.

“Nothing! Yes, that wretched sickness is coming on again. Will you assist me to my stateroom?”

He lay wakeful and wretched all night, tortured by a name and a semblance, thinking that surely she must have been related to the dead girl by some close tie, and wishing to know her just for the sake of the past.

The next morning, in spite of his bad night, he was on deck early, determined, if possible, to make the acquaintance of the new Jessie Lyndon.

But our heroine had not been on shipboard three days without finding out the name of this important fellow passenger.

Her father had discovered it early and communicated it briefly, saying:

“Do not recognize him when he comes on deck. If he addresses you, pretend perfect forgetfulness of him and the past.”

“You may be sure I will do so,” with a lightning gleam of pride in the soft, dark eyes, and a swift rush of color to the round cheek.

But a moment later she asked, almost inaudibly:

“His wife—does she accompany him?”

“No, he is alone.”

When Laurier saw her in the broad glare of daylight he perceived that her likeness to the dead Jessie[127] Lyndon was more startling even than it had seemed last night—it might have been Jessie herself with the additional charm of eighteen over sixteen added to two years of cultivation, and all the advantages of a rich and becoming dress.

But when he passed close by her as she lounged in her chair her calm glance swept over him like the veriest stranger’s, while the color rose in her cheek at his admiring glance.

It was quite useless for him to seek an introduction. No one dared penetrate their chill reserve but the captain, and he refused Laurier’s request regretfully, saying that the Lyndons were very offish and did not care to know people.

But all day Laurier haunted her vicinity. He could scarcely take his eyes from the beautiful, luring face with its down-dropped eyes bent so steadily over her book; he simply forgot his betrothed’s existence, and kept wishing feverishly that something would happen to make him acquainted with the fascinating stranger.

How terribly our wild wishes are answered sometimes!

Laurier did not dream that his good or evil fate would soon grant his prayer.

Jessie sang again on deck that night, and Laurier retired to toss on a restless pillow, and dream of her all night.

In the dark hour that comes before the dawn a leaping flame shot up from the steamer into the darkness, irradiating the gloom with awful light, while panic-stricken voices rang out upon the night, shouting: “Fire! Fire! Fire!”



Of the horrors that attended the burning of the Atlanta in mid-ocean that September night none could clearly tell, not even the survivors, so sudden had been the alarm, so terrible the onset of the leaping flames, so wild the ferocity of almost every one as they fought over the lifeboats, forgetting honor and chivalry in the mad rush for continued existence.

From the first moment it was evident that the ship was doomed. The fire had gained such headway before it was discovered that its progress could not be checked. So the dread alarm, “Fire! Fire! Fire!” rang out in horror from anguished voices blending with the roaring, leaping flames, and the sullen roar of old ocean, both deadly enemies to mankind, and eager for their destruction.

Over the hurly-burly of wind and wave and fire rose the captain’s voice, ordering out the lifeboats, and then the struggle for life began, intensified by the anguished shrieks of women and children, wailing and screaming in their despair.

The boats were lowered, but, alas, there would not be room for all the Atlanta’s freight of human souls!

So the struggle for supremacy began, the young and the strong jostling the old and weak, fighting for place and supremacy. Ah, Heaven, that such cruelty and selfishness should exist beneath the sky!

The few brave, chivalrous souls, the captain and[129] first mate among them, who insisted that the women and children should be given first place and the men take their chances, had their voices drowned by angry, clamorous cries, as the traitors scrambled down the ladder pell-mell into the boats, crowding them till they almost sank with their heavy freight.

In the awful glare of light that illuminated the sea and sky and the scene of terror, Leon Lyndon leaned against the deck rail with his arm about his daughter, pleading, praying the selfish wretches to take her in and save her, though he must himself perish.

In the lurid scene of smoke and flame Jessie’s face shone clear and pale as a lily, as she clasped his neck, entreating him not to let her be separated from him.

“Oh, papa, darling, there is no one to love poor Jessie but you! Think how lonely I should be in the wide world without you, my only friend! If both cannot be saved, let us die together!”

The man’s face, white already with the anguish of despair, grew more pallid still in the lurid light that glared on it as though her pathetic plaint went through his heart.

Clasping her close as though in a last embrace, he cried passionately:

“Oh, my darling, it is a cruel pass to which we are brought, but, as for me, I am growing old, and it does not much matter. My life has been a failure, and there are times when I have been tempted to end it with my own hands. But since I found you, Jessie, you have made it sweeter, so that I would fain live for you! But it cannot be. Even if I can persuade those selfish men to give you a place in the lifeboat, I[130] must be left behind. In a moment we part forever! Listen, Jessie, my sweet daughter, to the last words of a dying man!”

She clasped her fair arms about his neck, and raised her lovely face, tear-wet and pain-drawn, to his own.

“Papa, darling, we cannot part. Do not send me from you!”

All this time a man had been lingering near them unheeded. He could see their agony, but he could not catch their words, drowned in the ocean’s roar and the crackling of the flames, blent with the wild cries of the panic-stricken passengers.

Leon Lyndon bent his convulsed face to his daughter’s and pressed his lips to hers, then murmured solemnly:

“Darling, you will not be alone in the world as you said just now, and as I have made you believe in my selfish anger. You have your mother!”

“Papa!” she gasped.

The fire roared and crackled over their heads; the beasts still fought going down the ladder to safety, and the man close to them watched with impatience for the father to make some effort to save his child.



Leon Lyndon knew that his time was short. The last words must be hurried, and he continued:

“If you escape this horror, Jessie, go to New York to Mrs. Dalrymple. Tell her you are her daughter, sent to her at last by her erring husband. Tell her that in his last hour Leon Dalrymple’s heart was true to her as from the first hour he saw her beautiful face. Tell her he prayed her pardon for the impatient temper and cruel pride that turned her heart against him; that while both were wrong, he was most to blame; though if she had only looked back the day she went she would have seen his arms extended to take her back, and he would have gone on his knees to beg her to stay! All is past and gone—the hopes, the fears, the longings, the despair, the vengeful anger that deprived her of her child—but I have loved her always—I could not thrust her from my heart!”

His strained voice broke in agony and he hid his face against her shoulder, all the anguish of more than eighteen years crowding on him, blent with the horror of the moment.

Ah, those cruel years of separation, what agony, what hopeless love, what mad yearnings, what unutterable despair had been crowded in them!

If they had known the wastes lost love must cross
The wastes of unlit lands—
If they had known what seas of salt tears toss
Between the barren sands.[132]
If she had known that when in the wide west
The sun sank gold and red,
He whispered bitterly: “’Tis like the rest,”
The warmth and light have fled.
If he had known that she had borne so much
For sake of the sweet past,
That mere despair said: “This cold look and touch
Must be the cruel last!”
If she had known the longing and the pain.
If she had only guessed—
One look—one word—and she perhaps had lain
Reconciled on his breast!

Too late! Too late! All was ending now, the pain, the despair, of weary years and Death stared him in the face—Death that he had longed for often as the best friend of the wretched!

Why should we fear the beautiful angel Death,
Who waits us at the portals of the skies,
Ready to kiss away the struggling breath,
Ready with gentle hands to close our eyes?

Leon Lyndon had only one tie to bind him to life—this fair, loving daughter—but he knew they must be parted now, and he drew her close to the ladder, followed by Laurier, who had been most impatiently waiting, and again renewed his prayers to the men who were still crowding into the last boats.

It was a sight to touch the coldest heart to anger to see such selfishness, so many men crowded into the few boats with just a few fortunate women and children who had had husbands and fathers strong enough to force a way for them.

But on deck there were a score of people, two-thirds women and children, who were preparing to cast themselves[133] into the sea on frail planks and life preservers, their only refuge.

The last boat was filled, and there was but one woman in it. The rowers were putting off when a loud voice cried authoritatively:

“Hold! You can crowd in another and you shall take this lady, or I will sink the boat, by thunder, and send your selfish souls to Hades!”

It was a threat not to be lightly treated, and the rowers waited, turning their white, angry faces to the ladder where a man clambered down, assisting a beautiful young girl.

It was Frank Laurier who had broken in on Lyndon’s unheeded and uncared-for pleadings, crying abruptly:

“They will not hear you, sir, but give her to me and I will force them to take her in, or I will spring into the sea and overset the boat!”

And catching the astonished girl from her father’s clasp, for the exigencies of the moment admitted of no ceremony, he made the bold stroke that insured Jessie’s safety, placing her swooning form in the boat with the grumbling crew who yet dared not refuse his command.

Then they rowed quickly away out of reach of the storm of vituperations from the captain and other men who remained on the deck working away at a raft, on which they hoped to escape with the remaining women.

Laurier looked back at Leon Dalrymple as we may call him now, and the look on his face, the pain, the sorrow, was one never to be forgotten.


He cried out, though Laurier could not catch the words:

“My God, what have I done? I have sent her from me, penniless, with the belt of jewels, all our worldly wealth, secured around my waist! I must follow and cling to the boat until I can remove it and leave it with her, my darling; then no matter what becomes of me!”

The next instant he sprang over the deck rail into the sea, and, guided by the light of lurid flames, swam after the vanishing lifeboat.

“Poor fellow, I was about to propose to share with him the spar I see floating yonder, but he is doubtless crazed with excitement! I will follow and try to help him, for he cannot swim long in such a sea without support!” thought Laurier, springing into the sea and clutching the spar.

At that moment the first gray light of dawn shone over the sea, hailed with joy by scores of voices, and the raft was quickly launched, the rest of the passengers escaping gladly from the burning ship that was scattering them with firebrands and cinders.

But the raft so hastily constructed and overcrowded, began to give way, threatening instant destruction to those who had trusted to its frail support.

At that moment an empty lifeboat was observed floating near them, and they comprehended at once that the first lifeboat, overcrowded with selfish men, had somehow overturned and cast them all into the sea. They had no time to bemoan this new horror, they were too glad of this chance to save the imperiled women and children.



The sea was unusually calm and smooth that morning. A skillful swimmer could make good headway against the tide.

Laurier was an athlete, and swimming lightly and strongly after the vanishing lifeboat, he looked about anxiously for Lyndon, hoping to assist him.

To his surprise and dismay not a sign was to be seen of the fair head of the man in whom he took an almost painful interest for the sake of his daughter.

His straining gaze wandered here and there over the illuminated waters, but the glare of the burning ship pained his eyes, and nothing could be seen but floating débris, swirling black cinders, and the lifeboats vanishing in the gloom of the cold, gray dawn.

His heart sank with pain and sympathy thinking of the life gone down to the depths so suddenly, and the fair daughter left fatherless.

“Alone among those selfish wretches who received her so reluctantly that I feared to trust her to their care! What will become of her, poor girl?” he thought, and obeying a blind impulse he could not resist, swam after the boat that he now observed had slackened its speed as though too heavy freighted, being sunk to the water’s edge.

What he hoped or expected from following he did not know himself. The boat was so full they could not have made any room for him. He was all alone[136] in the wide waste of waters with nothing but a spar between him and eternity, and the chances were all against his rescue. With his superb strength and skill he might keep afloat for hours—or, something might happen to end his life any moment, he could not tell.

He was near enough now to see that there was some commotion in the boat as though of men struggling together in fierce dispute, and the rowers had much ado to keep it from being overset.

In the next moment the struggle was ended by a horrible deed.

Several men lifted and cast out of the boat into the sea the white-robed form of a woman that immediately sank! Shrieks and cries as of horror echoed from the boat upon the morning air! Then the rowers bent to their oars, the boat shot away, and Laurier knew that his efforts to save Jessie Lyndon had all been in vain—the heartless fiends, fearful for their own safety, had overpowered the more merciful minority and cast the unwelcome passenger into the ocean.

Thrown into the boat in a fainting condition, Jessie was a most undesirable burden, and for the few that pitied her, there was a majority who scowled in anger, declaring that the additional weight would cause them all to lose their lives.

“Oh, no, no, no!—let us be glad we can save her beautiful life!” cried the only one other woman in the boat, and dipping her hand in the water, she tenderly laved the girl’s pale brow, trying to restore animation to the still form.

But it was a long, deep swoon, and no wonder—torn from her beloved father, leaving him to a most[137] certain death, Jessie’s nerves had quite given way. She lay still and lifeless among them, heedless alike of bitter imprecations or exclamations of tender pity.

The most of these men were the offscourings of the passengers and crew—coarse, brutal men, selfish to the last extreme, ignorant of sympathy or pity. One of these men cried loudly:

“She is dead, and cannot be resuscitated. Let us cast her out!”

“Yes, let us do it! It is ill luck carrying a dead body!” cried a superstitious sailor.

Then the wrangle began, the woman and a few men declaring that the girl was yet alive and should be kept in the boat, others clamoring to get rid of the helpless burden. It ended in a struggle where the strong overpowered the weak, and amid the shrieks of the woman and the expostulations of the more merciful men, the unconscious form was torn from those who would have protected it, and thrown into the sea.

Then the rowers bent to the oars, and under their efforts the boat shot away, leaving Frank Laurier in the distance, a horrified spectator of one of the most dastardly deeds ever committed by fiends in the form of men.

Fate had indeed brought Jessie Lyndon and Frank Laurier together again under circumstances the most awful that could be imagined—both face to face with death, having scarcely one chance in a hundred of escape from their perilous strait.

As for Jessie, the only hope lay in Frank Laurier’s ability to reach and save her if she should rise to the surface again.


Ah, what deeds of valor Love can do! How it fires the heart, and nerves the arm to superhuman strength!

With a wild prayer to Heaven on his pallid lips, he swam quickly toward the spot where the white form had disappeared beneath the engulfing waves, but ere he reached it he saw to his joy that she had risen again and was floating on the surface, her skirts upheld by a piece of plank on which they had caught and become entangled.

His heart gave a wild, suffocating leap; his throat swelled; hot tears of joy sprang to his dark-blue eyes as he redoubled his efforts to reach her side.

Breathless, spent, exhausted with his wild struggle to overcome death, he reached the silent, floating form with its still, white face upturned to the sky, the golden locks streaming loose upon the water, and he clasped the beauteous form with the frenzy we feel when that which is dearest to us on earth seems slipping away from us forever.

“Jessie! Jessie!” he groaned, with a wild recollection of a face so like to this that he had seen once lying among funeral flowers in the ghastly shadow of the old family vault. “Jessie! Jessie!” But there came no movement of the white lips in answer to his wild appeal.

Yet even dead he would not cast her from him, but arranging her form carefully on the plank, and placing the spar beneath himself, they floated for an hour—the seeming dead and the anguished living side by side, away from the burning ship slowly settling beneath[139] the waters, out on the trackless waste, while the gray light in the sky slowly brightened.

Laurier’s eyes gazed on the beautiful face in mute love and despair, while in his heart there echoed the sweet plaint she had sung but yesternight:

“Love, I will love you ever,
Love, I will leave you never,
Ever to me, precious to be,
Never to part, heart bound to heart,
Ever am I, never to say good-by!”

He had never spoken one word to her, never touched her hand, never looked into her soft, dark eyes, as he believed, yet while she had stood there singing in the moonlight, she had lured the heart from his breast because she brought back to him in fancy the dead girl he had loved too late.

He vowed to himself that he would never be parted from this dead love of his, so fair and still. They would float on together side by side until he knew there was no longer any hope of her recovery, then he would fold her in his arms and they would plunge down together to the depths of ocean.

A sudden cry—of commingled hope, surprise, and doubt—shrilled over his blanched lips:

“Ah, am I dreaming, or is this a blissful reality? Did her lips move, her eyelids flutter?”

But it was no dream as he feared, no fancy of an overwrought brain.

A faint tinge of color had crept into the waxen cheek, the eyelids fluttered nervously, the lips parted in a strangling gasp.

A cry of rapture escaped his lips, and at the sound[140] so close to her ears Jessie opened wide her eyes with a dazed look straight upon his face.

There was no recognition at first. It was the startled wonder of a very young infant that looked out upon him—an infant just waking from sleep.

But little by little comprehension dawned on her mind. She recognized a familiar face presently, read passionate love in the blue eyes fixed upon her own, recalled his identity, and wondered why they were drifting thus with her head upon his arm, through sunlit seas together.



Laurier watched Jessie’s great, dark eyes widen and darken with feeling, and guessed the thought in her mind before she murmured in anguish:


He answered tenderly:

“Afloat somewhere on the wide, wide sea, as we are, little Jessie, and held in the hollow of the same Divine Hand that is able to save us even from this terrible plight. Be brave, and let us hope for the best.”

His voice trembled, for he knew too well how desperate were their chances, how slender the thread of hope to which they could cling.

Yet he was not at all unhappy.

All that the world held for him as dearest and sweetest was beside him here in the person of this girl almost a stranger to him, yet so fatally dear that she blotted out everything on earth beside.

The world is naught till one is come
Who is the world; then beauty wakes,
And voices sing that have been dumb.

As for Jessie, as full memory returned and she found herself alone with Laurier on the sunlit sea, under his tender care, her feelings were unenviable.

When she heard that he was on the steamer it brought back all the cruel past with a rush of pain.

When she saw him that night and the next day and that night again on the steamer, she could hardly bear it. When she felt him looking at her, hot blushes[142] burned her face lest he should recognize her as the girl who had given him an unrequited love from which he had turned in disgust.

But in spite of all her pride, she could not help looking at him at the rare times when he was not looking at her, and she saw that he was handsomer than ever, but with a different expression, a gravity he had not worn when she knew him first; something that was almost sadness lurking in his dark-blue eyes, and chastening the debonair smile that had thrilled her heart with such subtle tenderness.

She knew from the captain that he had sought an introduction to her, but she was frightened at the bare idea of it. She would not have spoken to him for anything the world held.

Then came the horrible alarm of fire, and she had rushed from her stateroom in the white dressing gown, warm and dainty, in which she had thrown herself down to rest on her couch. Her father had met her and caught her in his arms.

She saw Frank Laurier lingering near, but she quickly turned her head away, saying to herself that she would not speak to him if she were dying.

Such a little time afterward she had been caught up in his arms and borne down the ladder to the boat, swooning as soon as she was placed in it, and now—now—the incredible horror of the thought made her dizzy—she was lost to all the world but this man, alone with him on the wide, wide sea, under his protection, at his mercy.

How had it all come about?

Feminine curiosity made her put aside her vow of[143] silence, and she looked at him with wide, solemn eyes, murmuring:

“Where is the boat?”

“You fell out of it and sank, and those wretches left you to your fate. I saw them and swam near, catching you as you came to the surface.”


“Yes,” he answered, and she wondered at the sweet, significant smile that played around his lips.

He dared not tell his companion, either, of how the fiends in the boat had cast her out into the sea to perish. The shock would be too great to her nerves, already shattered by grief at her father’s loss.

He said to himself that if they escaped the perils of the sea the time might come when he could safely tell her these things and ask her to give him her life that he had saved to gladden his home forever.

Higher and higher climbed the sun in the heavens, and the sea glittered with a brilliancy that pained their eyes while the whitecapped waves rocked them on the breast of old ocean, the only living objects in the scene, while far in the distance the smoldering hulk of the Atlanta was slowly sinking from sight as it burned to the water’s edge.

They kept close together, their eyes turned on the far distance, watching for the gleam of a sail that might presage rescue, but at last hope began to die in their hearts, they were so weary with the buffeting of the cruel waves and the hot glare of the sun that they were almost ready to close their eyes on the waste of sunlit water and sink down, down, down, through the cool, green darkness to eternal rest.



It was a stroke of the rarest good fortune that Laurier and Jessie should be saved by a homeward-bound steamer—the Scythia, going straight to New York.

What a sensation they created when the passengers discovered them floating in the water on the poor raft formed of the plank and the spar.

A boat was quickly lowered, and they were drawn into it with all speed, and, oh, what pity and kindness was showered on them after their long exposure and peril!

The men took charge of Laurier, and the women of Jessie, every one eager to contribute dry clothing and administer all needed comforts.

All were strangers alike to Jessie, but among the passengers Laurier found several acquaintances, people he had met in London barely a week ago, and whom he knew intimately in New York.

Laurier satisfied their curiosity by a straightforward recital of the burning of the Atlanta, then he was glad enough to have a warm meal and to be left to rest in his stateroom, where, spent and weary, he remained until late next morning.

When he came on deck in a fairly well-fitting suit of clothing contributed by a friend, he looked about anxiously for Jessie, hoping she was well enough to come out this bright, sunny morning.

But she was not visible.


“Miss Lyndon is not well enough to come out to-day. The doctor thinks she should rest in her stateroom till to-morrow,” he was told.

He could hardly wait till to-morrow to see her again, he was so impatient.

How can I wait until you come to me?
The once fleet mornings linger by the way,
Their sunny smiles touched with malicious glee.
At my unrest they seem to pause and play,
Like truant children while I sigh and say,
How can I wait?

Meanwhile Jessie, really ill from fatigue and grief over her father’s unknown fate, rested until next day, her retirement enlivened by the visits of the ladies who vied with each other in their attentions and condolences, every one having fallen in love with the beautiful stranger.

They thought it most romantic that such a handsome pair as Laurier and Jessie should have been cast away together at sea.

“Such an incident should end most naturally in love and marriage,” declared Miss Chanler, who was a very romantic girl.

“What a pity that Miss Ellyson should be in the way!” added Mrs. de Vries, a young society matron in Laurier’s set.

Jessie’s large eyes had an inquiring expression that moved her to add further:

“Of course, you know all about his engagement?”

“No, I do not. I never met him until on shipboard,” Jessie answered with seeming indifference.

“And you did not really know that he is going home[146] to marry a girl he has been engaged to over two years?”

“No,” Jessie answered carelessly.

“Then we must tell you about it. The story is quite romantic, if it will not tire you to hear it.”

“Not at all,” she answered calmly, glad that they could not notice her agitation.

So he was not married to proud, scornful Cora yet? She wondered why, and listened eagerly to Mrs. de Vries as she rattled on and told all that had happened as we already know.

As Mrs. de Vries finished her dramatic recital, a quick sob followed from Jessie, who was weeping the tears that rise from a tender heart over her rival’s calamity.

“Oh, I did wrong to unnerve you so. Forgive me,” the lady cried repentantly.

“It is so dreadful!” Jessie sobbed, in answer, and for some moments she found it impossible to command her feelings.

Then she stifled the bursting sobs, murmuring faintly:

“It was so distressing I could not help it!”

“It does credit to your tender heart, dear girl, but do not forget that the story is going to end happily after all.”

A flood of sympathy for Frank Laurier’s troubles had been aroused in Jessie’s heart, blotting out all her passionate resentments.

“How he has suffered through the sufferings of the proud beauty he loved so well! And she, too, has atoned for all her heartlessness in the ordeal she has[147] passed through. I pity them too much to hate them any longer, and when we meet to-morrow I will be very kind to him,” she thought.

It was just what Laurier had been wishing—that she would be kind to him when they met again.

The next morning she came on deck in a pretty gown of Miss Chanler’s that had been altered to fit by a clever maid.

She looked lovely, though very, very pale still, as she went up to Laurier with frankly extended hand.

“I am much better, and I thank you for saving my life,” she faltered, with naïve directness.

“The opportunity made me very happy,” he answered, pressing the little hand warmly as he led her to a steamer chair, and lingered by her side, secretly jealous of every admiring glance that came her way.

But how could he blame them for feasting their eyes on such flawless beauty as Jessie Lyndon’s, as perfect as an opening flower!

No one could look into those deep, soft, dark eyes without a thrill at the heart; no one could gaze at the perfect, crimson lips without wishing to press a kiss on them, or to embrace the graceful young figure with the rounded slenderness of eighteen marking its lissom curves, while the wealth of wavy golden hair drew the eyes again and again in irresistible admiration.

But it seemed that even if Frank Laurier should fall in love with Jessie he would have several very formidable rivals.

Most of the eligible young men on board vied with each other in attentions to the newcomer.

They declared that she was the most beautiful[148] creature ever seen, and it was plainly to be seen that she could have her pick and choice of lovers. It mattered not that she was very shy and quiet, grieving always over her father’s loss, they hovered about her like bees about a flower, while the ladies were also so charmed that they forgot to be jealous of the lovely girl.

If Laurier was jealous he dared not say so, but the other young fellows grumbled that just because Laurier had saved her life he tried to monopolize all her time—and what was the use?—for they all knew he was going home to marry an heiress, and there was no need to flirt with beautiful Miss Lyndon.

Jessie herself wondered why, under the circumstances, he paid her so much attention, but being devoid of vanity, she ascribed it to the natural kindliness of his heart, and was very sweet and gentle in return, telling herself he had been so kind she must not repulse him these last few days when they would soon be parted forever. There were times when she could not help feeling that every look and action breathed love, then she would chide herself for her vanity.

“I am as vain and silly as when I thought him in love with me before, because he showed me some meaningless attentions just to pique the girl he loved into jealousy. I must not fall into such a mistake again,” she mused, trying to curb her tempestuous heart that beat so fast at his impassioned glances.



The days flew fast and to-morrow their eventful journey would be over—they would land at New York.

More than one heart was secretly sorry, grieving to lose sight of one sweet passenger—lovely Jessie Lyndon.

And what made the parting worse was that Jessie gave them no hope of meeting her again, in spite of their broad hints at renewing her acquaintance in New York.

She had said to one and all that she was going to relatives in the city, but not to any one, even Laurier, did she disclose their names.

In fact, Jessie was ill at ease over the thought of returning to her mother, because there she must meet again the proud beauty, Cora.

“I must be there through all the excitement of their wedding. How can I bear it?” she asked herself in frank dismay.

It seemed to her that she could not bear the pain of seeing him wedded to another. She would be sure to turn pale and tremble, and thus betray the secret of her sad heart—her unrequited love.

She wished that the wedding were over and done with, so that they might be gone away on their bridal tour before she entered the house.

The more she thought of it the more she felt that[150] she could not bear the excitement of the wedding, and at length she resolved to seek out some of her former humble friends and remain with them until Laurier and his bride were gone on their wedding tour.

That last night before they landed was the most beautiful they had experienced. The azure dome was gemmed with countless stars that were mirrored in the calm sea, the moon shed a bewitching, silvery light on everything, and the air was as soft as in midsummer.

Every one remained on deck till a late hour. They had music and flirting to beguile the time, and Laurier betrayed the fact of Jessie’s talent.

“Oh, why did you not tell us before?” they cried. “Oh, do not refuse to sing for us!”

They had been so kind that she could not well refuse; besides, she loved to sing as the birds love to warble.

She whispered to Laurier:

“I will do my best because they have all been so kind to me, but I fear I shall break down thinking of poor papa and the uncertainty of his fate.”

He tried to cheer her with hopeful words:

“Look on the bright side; your father may have been saved just as we were, and you may soon be reunited.”

“I fear not. He had a presentiment of death, I believe, for he sent messages as from the dying to his friends in New York,” she sighed.

“Still, I would not give up hope. Many people have been known to survive terrible accidents,” he replied, and she wondered if he was thinking of all that had happened to him and Cora.


She sighed, and began to strum softly on the guitar some one had offered for her accompaniments.

Then she sang, and the tremor in her voice made it all the sweeter. They hung spellbound on the liquid notes sweet as the nightingale.

“It is another Melba!” they cried in delight, but some were hushed into silence, their very heartstrings stirred by the divine strains.

When she stopped at last, all were clamorous for more, but she pleaded weariness.

A low voice murmured in her ear:

“Just one more, please—the song you sang for your father the night I first saw you.”

“I must have sung several,” she replied, and he answered:

“‘Love, I will love you ever!’”

The significant earnestness of the tone and words made her heart throb so quickly that the blood mantled her cheek with crimson. She made no answer, just swept the strings and sang the sweet old song, while his heart kept echoing the tender refrain:

“Love, I will love you ever,
Love, I will leave you never,
Faithful and true,
Ever to me precious to be,
Heart bound to heart,
Never to part,
Love, I will love you ever!”

She paused, and no one ventured to ask her to sing again. They wished to keep the last sweet strain in their hearts.

She turned her face up to the starry sky, and little[152] by little they fell away from her side, comprehending that she preferred to be alone.

Soon no one was left but Laurier, and for some little time he kept silence. It was enough to be near her, to gaze on the lovely face upturned to the moonlit sky, to breathe the same air with her, and to wonder of what she was thinking with that pensive curve on her crimson lips, whether of her dead father, or a possible lover.

He started while a twinge of jealousy tore through his heart like red-hot iron. A lover! Oh, how he hated the thought!

Then another thought came to vex him.

To-morrow they would be parted. She was going out of his life to unknown friends.

And she had shown no disposition to continue her acquaintance with him beyond to-morrow.

Could he bear to lose her thus?

Life would be unutterably dreary without this beautiful girl who had come into his life so strangely, and was about to fade from it so soon.

His heart leaped with great, suffocating throbs. He must speak, must know his fate!

He leaned closer to her till their heads almost touched, the brown, curly one, and the wavy, golden-tressed one.

“Jessie,” he faltered.

She started violently, and turned her face inquiringly toward him, as he continued:

“Ever since that first night I saw you with your pure face upturned to the sky, the words of your song have echoed in my heart. Will you forgive me for[153] daring to say them over to you? ‘Love, I will love you ever!’”

She could not pretend to misunderstand him. With dilated, wondering eyes, she gazed at him, as he continued thrillingly:

“I know this seems strange to you—strange and abrupt. But once before I knew and loved a Jessie Lyndon, so like to you that you might have been twin sisters. Perhaps you have had a near relative of that name?” anxiously.



The stars shone on, the wind sighed, the sea moaned, but Jessie’s heart almost stopped still.

The moment she had dreaded had come at last.

He was asking her about that other Jessie Lyndon.

And she would have to answer so that he would not suspect her identity.

Her heart beat suffocatingly and almost choked her voice as she tried to speak. “I have startled you, venturing so abruptly on this subject,” he said. “I would have waited longer, only that we shall be parting to-morrow, and I feared lest I should never see you again. Ah, Jessie, that is such a horrible thought to me. I could not bear it! I cannot bear to think that I shall never see you again! I love you—love you with a passion undreamed of till now! Are you willing for me to love you, to let me try to win your heart in return?”

A sudden flash of pride shone in her eyes, and she tried to answer him with scornful words, but they died on her lips.

She loved him so dearly, oh, Heaven, in spite of all her resolves against it, that she could not bring herself to say one cruel word to him, no matter how much she knew he was to blame. If she could have known that he was speaking truly, that he actually loved her, as he said, and had he but been free she would have fallen against his breast, and sobbed out all her love in his arms, the happiest girl in the whole world.


But once he had deceived her, and in fancy his kiss burned on her lips again—sweetest and falsest kiss the world ever knew.

She nerved herself to lift her head and drew back from him in sad surprise while he exclaimed ardently:

“You do not answer me, Jessie—may I hope, then, or——” The words died on his lips, for she interrupted reproachfully:

“Mr. Laurier, you have no right to speak such words to me—you who are going to New York to marry another girl!”

He gave a cry as if stunned, and his face drooped against his breast.

He had been forgetting Cora for many a day. This lovely girl had driven her from his memory.

Thus suddenly recalled to memory by her gently reproachful words, he groaned in agony, not daring to meet her dark, soft eyes.

“Is it not true?” she asked gently, but, looking up, he groaned angrily:

“It is Mrs. de Vries who has told you this! She was always a noted gossip!”

“Yes, she told me, but why should she not, if it is true, and you do not deny it,” she faltered, almost hoping that he could.

But Frank Laurier could not be untruthful. A bursting sigh heaved his breast as she watched him with pathetic, dark eyes.

He turned on her almost fiercely, crying:

“You think me a vile wretch, do you not?”

“No—but—a flirt—perhaps!” pensively, and he[156] gathered himself together to do battle for his happiness.

“I am not a flirt, Jessie, but I may be a vile wretch, for since the first night I saw you I have entirely forgotten the poor girl I am engaged to marry. Instead of loving her I almost hate her because she stands between your heart and mine!”

He paused, looking at her, and found her expression doubtful and wondering.

“That sounds very fickle and cruel to you, does it not?” he cried, “but let me explain, and you will see that I am not quite so bad as I seem. I was engaged to Cora two years ago, but just before our wedding day I met a girl—the Jessie Lyndon I spoke of to you just now—and there was a bitter rivalry between the two young girls, for I admired Jessie Lyndon very much. But I was bound to Cora and must keep my promise. The girl Jessie died very suddenly, and then I found out strangely that she was dearer to my heart than the living Cora. But I kept my secret locked in my heart, and would have married her the same only that our marriage has been twice postponed by a strange fatality. Now it is announced for the third time, and I am going home to marry her, but in the interval of my absence my heart has turned from her as utterly as if it had never known one throb of love for her in the past.”

She did not answer. She was dazed and full of wonder.

He had said such astonishing words that she could not forget them. Why did he think she was dead? How had he made so strange a mistake?


He added feverishly:

“All this while I have been loving Jessie Lyndon dead better than Cora Ellyson living, and when I saw you that night on the steamer my heart went out to you passionately as if you had risen from the dead in answer to my yearning prayer. It would be wrong to wed Cora with my heart full of you! I will go to her and confess the truth, and ask her to release me so that I may lay my life at your feet!”

Oh, what a moment of triumph for Jessie Lyndon!

When she remembered that awful night at Mrs. Dalrymple’s it seemed too strange to be true that she had won from proud, scornful Cora the lover whom she worshiped, thus paying back scorn for scorn.

And she could not doubt he loved her now. It quivered in his voice, and flushed his cheek, thrilling her with a secret happiness too deep for words.

Her heart cried wildly:

“Oh, if he were but free, my handsome lover, I would confess my love and make him happy!”

But the thought of Cora came over her with an icy chill.

He had belonged to her first, and, after all her suffering, Jessie was too noble a rival to break that proud girl’s heart.

She turned her face from him to the shining stars so that he could not read the despairing love written on it, and answered, firmly though gently:

“I forbid you to tell her the truth, for I can never accept happiness based on the wreck of another devoted heart. You must marry Cora as you promised to do, and, perhaps, you will learn to love her again!”



Madame Barto’s doorbell clanged impatiently twice, and then a deeply veiled young lady was admitted, and shown to the small parlor where madame received her callers. She glanced around her, muttering:

“Almost two years since I was here, yet how familiar everything appears! Madame herself would have the same old lying story to tell, perchance, if I were to cross her palm again with silver! Pah! the dingy hole disgusts me. I wish that wretch would hasten! I have no time to waste here, and Aunt Verna so ill that it was unseemly for me to quit the house.”

She paced up and down the floor with the impatience of a caged lioness.

“Why don’t he come? It is money again, I suppose! Money—always money! And since my unfaithful guardian speculated with my money and lost so much of it, I have scarcely enough for my own needs. I shall be glad when I am safely married to Frank, for then I shall defy Carey Doyle to do his worst. I can deny his story if he dares bring any charges, and Frank Laurier, I know, will defend his wife’s honor to the last. Ah, how I long to see him again, my love, my own! His steamer is due to-day, and I am wild with impatience. Ah! what cruel suspense I have endured since he went away. And even now I dread the meeting. My beauty is not as brilliant as before my terrible accident, and I shall always[159] be compelled to depend on cosmetics to aid the charms that before were unsurpassed!”

She flung back her thick veil and paused before a mirror, studying her face intently, as she had contracted a habit of doing now.

She was indeed changed from the brilliant Cora of two years ago.

The beauty specialists had done their best, but they could not restore all that the cruel flames had licked up so relentlessly that fatal wedding eve.

She had tried to cheat Frank Laurier, but she could not cheat herself, and she dreaded inexpressibly the moment of their meeting.

“Will his love survive the change? Has it, indeed, survived our long parting?” she asked herself anxiously, for she had not failed to notice how indifferent his letters had been, and how few and far between.

She thought:

“Perhaps he thinks I should release him, and that his indifference will goad me into it, but I will never do it, not even if he asked me! After all, I am afraid Frank is rather fickle in his love! He turned from me to another—that Jessie Lyndon that my aunt claimed as her daughter. If she had lived, I fear she would have made me trouble with Frank, for he must have secretly admired her, and it is fortunate for me in all ways that she died—for one thing, on account of her rivalry; the other, that now Aunt Verna will leave me her millions when she dies! And that may not be long, for she is certainly very ill now, and—ah!” her low soliloquy ended with a start as a young man abruptly entered the room.


“Good morning, Miss Ellyson. I am glad you obeyed my summons so promptly,” he sneered, with coarse triumph.

She frowned angrily as she cried:

“You are impertinent, Carey Doyle. How dared you summon me here?”

“You have ignored all my letters asking for money, and I had too much respect for your position to annoy you at your aunt’s, so I thought it was the best plan for you to meet me here and discuss matters.”

“What is it that you wish?”

“Money, of course!”

“Wretch! I have paid you over and over for keeping that miserable secret!”

“You have not paid me half that it was worth to you, my proud lady!” Carey Doyle answered boldly.

She was furious with rage, her eyes gleaming, her face death-white, her small hands clenched. She thought bitterly that she wished he were dead and lying by the side of her victim down in the old stone quarry, the thought of whose ghastly secret had kept her sleepless many a night.

But she had reasoned to herself many a time that the crime could never be traced to her, for she had covered up the clues too cleverly by her story of his suicidal threats.

Even if they were to find the whitening bones of Ernest Noel down in the dim old quarry, they could not fasten his death on anybody. They would simply believe he had carried out his threat of suicide.

Her anger blazed at the thought that in this insolent man, the witness of her evil deed, lay her only peril.


“I will not give you any more money, I have exhausted my resources. Besides, I am not afraid of your story. You will not dare repeat it, for I would give you into custody for attempted blackmail!” she hissed threateningly.

But Carey Doyle’s laugh was not reassuring. It stung her to fury, yet inspired her with alarm, though she persisted:

“I am not afraid of you. No one will take your word against mine!”

“You may risk it if you choose,” he answered, with persistent nonchalance.

She measured him with a scornful glance, but she could not cow him, and her heart sank with fear.

By to-morrow Frank Laurier would be in New York. Within a week, if woman’s wit could compass it, she would be his wife. Dare she risk any disclosure that might rouse her lover’s suspicions, and so postpone the wedding again?

She groaned in spirit, but she decided that she dare not defy Carey Doyle until she had a husband to defend her against his charges.

“How much do you require?”

“Just one thousand dollars!”

“You ask too much.”

“I cannot do with less.”

“You must!”

“I will not!”

They glared at each other, but she saw that she could not shake his resolution.

Swallowing her rage and chagrin, she expostulated:

“It is but a month ago I gave you five hundred dollars—and—and—since[162] that night you helped me you have had four thousand dollars.”

“For which I am most profoundly grateful,” airily, “and a poor price for such a secret, too, so you shouldn’t mind a last payment such as I ask for now.”

“A last payment! You will be calling for more in a week.”

“I swear to you I will not. I am about to leave the city for Alaska.”

“Do you mean it?”

“As surely as the sun shines in the heavens this bright September day! Perhaps you have read, Miss Ellyson, of the wonderful gold finds in Alaska that have stirred the whole country into a fever. Well, I have joined a party to go out to the gold diggings, and I mean to make my fortune or lose my life, whichever fate wills. It will cost me a thousand dollars to get to the Klondike, so you see I shall have no means of returning from those frozen wilds till I make my pile. Surely you would not begrudge a thousand dollars to be rid of me forever?”

No, she would not. It would be a small price to pay to rid herself of this terrible incubus.

She had read in all the newspapers of the perils of the awful journey to Alaska, and she thought in her heart with joy that surely he could never return from beyond the far Yukon.

Cora had shuddered at the tales of Alaska, but now she brightened at the thought that Carey Doyle was not, indeed, likely to return from so grim a journey.

“Since you need it so much and promise never to[163] ask for more, I will try to get the sum for you within the week,” she said, adding:

“I will send a letter to this address telling you when and how I will pay it to you. Is that satisfactory?”

“Perfectly, for I know you will keep your word,” he replied, smiling to himself at the victory he had won over the haughty girl who scorned him even while she cringed beneath his power.

She inclined her head haughtily, drew down the thick veil again, and swept out of the house down to her waiting limousine, and so back to Mrs. Dalrymple’s, where, since her return from the hospital, she again made her home, the Van Dorns being indefinitely absent in Paris.



Mrs. Dalrymple had never felt like a well woman since the day she kissed her daughter’s dead face and turned away from the old family vault, feeling that her last hope in life was gone.

Alone and lonely, though she had the whole world at command by the power of wealth, Verna Dalrymple, still a young woman, and a magnificently beautiful one, was as wretched as the veriest beggar starving in the streets.

Never since the moment she had turned from her angry young husband, doubting his love and hating his poverty, had Verna Dalrymple known a really happy hour.

Despite her pride and resentment that had driven them apart, she had loved Leon, her husband, with the passion of her life, and realized it too late.

The decree of divorce she had permitted her parents to secure for her fell like the trump of doom upon her heart, and the coming of her child had been her only consolation.

All these years she had fought down with resolution the passion of her heart, loving and hating alternately the man whose brief appearance on the stage of her life had been as fateful as a tragedy.

Yet she knew not if he were dead or living, for never since the moment of their parting had she gazed on his fair, handsome face.

The divorce case, based on nonsupport and incompatibility[165] of temper, had been cleverly managed by her lawyers without bringing them together again, and when she fainted on receiving the decree of divorce, all supposed it was from hysterical excitement; none guessed that the iron of despair had entered her soul on knowing herself parted forever from Leon Dalrymple.

She clung to his name still, with the excuse that it was for the sake of the unborn child, that it might bear the paternal name.

But with the coming of the beloved daughter one bitter drop always mingled with her cup of joy.

It was that he could not share her happiness.

His child looked at her with its father’s face, and had the sunny curls that had crowned his handsome head.

There was wordless reproach in the resemblance.

There are words of deeper sorrow
Than the wail above the dead;
Both shall live, but every morrow
Wake us from a widowed bed.
And when thou wouldst solace gather,
When our child’s first accents flow,
Wilt thou teach her to say “Father!”
Though his care she must forego?
When her little hand shall press thee,
When her lip to thine is pressed,
Think of him whose love had blessed thee,
Think of him thy love had blessed!

Four years the child remained the idol of her life, and kept alive in her heart the father’s memory—then the blow fell that almost crushed her—the loss of the child!


It was stolen while taking an airing in the park with its nurse.

The maid had been flirting with a policeman—she said she had only just turned her head—when the little darling had been snatched up by a stranger—a man with a black wig and bushy whiskers who got away with the child in spite of her pursuit.

On being cross-questioned, the maid admitted that the little girl had previously made the acquaintance of a blond gentleman with a melancholy aspect, and the two—Darling and the gentlemanly stranger—had become fast friends.

The little one would run to meet him, shouting with joy when he appeared, usually with a sweet bunch of flowers or a new toy. They would sit together on a bench a while, and Darling would prattle to him joyously, then with a long-drawn sigh he would leave the spot and reappear several days afterward, always meeting a glad welcome from the child. She did not think it was any harm as he seemed such a perfect gentleman. And she was sure it was not he who had kidnapped the child. It was a dark man, all bushy, black whiskers and wig.

The girl was lying; because she had been so busy with her flirtation that she did not know just when the child ran away to meet the blond gentleman beckoning from a distance, and threw herself into his arms. Then it was easy enough to whip into a carriage with her and away.

So the frightened nurse stuck to her story of the dark stranger, but the mother’s heart was not deceived. She knew that Darling’s abductor was no[167] one but her father, who, cheated of her sweetness all these years, had thus taken his revenge.

For a while the most bitter resentment possessed the mother’s heart.

She employed detectives, and spared neither time, money, nor patience in the effort to recover the child.

For several years the search went on, ending at last without success.

Leon Dalrymple, who had placed his child with his sister, the wife of a poor artisan in an obscure part of the city, and then sailed for Europe himself, had so cleverly covered up his tracks that Mrs. Dalrymple’s daughter was reared in poverty in the same city where her mother was rolling in wealth, yet as effectively separated as if continents had rolled between them.

So the years went on, and Mrs. Dalrymple, plunging into the social whirl, tried to drown her grief in vain.

Her parents died, and their large fortune fell to her, the only surviving child. Then she took her orphan niece, Cora Ellyson, into her home and heart.

But in no sense could Cora fill the lost child’s place. She was passionate, self-willed, imperious, and ungrateful. Her aunt wearied of her often, despairing of any congeniality between them, and secretly anxious that Cora should marry and thus remove to another home.

Then came the episode of Jessie Lyndon, the wonderful likeness that startled Mrs. Dalrymple, and the discovery of the family birthmark on the young girl’s breast.


Swiftly the links were fastened in the chain that proved the dead girl to be the stolen child, recovered only in death.

It was cruel, cruel! The woman’s heart so long on the rack of suspense almost broke beneath the awful strain of hope’s decay.

After Jessie’s death and Cora’s accident no one thought it strange that she gave up society, draping herself in the deepest mourning garb.

In her restless mood before finding Jessie she had promised to marry a titled Englishman, who, meeting her abroad, had followed her home to plead his suit.

Now she abruptly canceled this engagement, to the despair of her suitor, who adored her beauty as much as he did her millions.

Her heart had never been in it. No man had touched that since she had been parted from her husband, but she had thought to fill up her empty life with gratified vanity, to wear the tiara of a duchess.

Her heart revolted, and she realized that she would do her lover wrong to give him the hand without the heart.

So, in spite of his entreaties, she took back her promise, and set society caviling as much as it had done at her divorce. She did not care. She was growing indifferent to everything now that she had found Darling and lost her again in death.

So it happened that as time went by she lost heart and hope, sickening of a vague disease without a name, the slow loss of interest in life that had nothing left to make it dear.

She lay ill on her bed at last, and the old family[169] physician came and shook his head and said it must be nervous prostration.

“It is a breaking heart,” she replied wearily.

“No, no.”

“I tell you yes,” she cried. “It was too cruel a blow, finding Darling and losing her again as I did. I have never recovered from it. The thorn has been in my heart always, and I can never recover.”

“You should have married the duke. It would have diverted your mind to wear a coronet.”

“It would only have wearied me,” she replied, and the look in her great, languid, dark eyes made his old heart ache. “You may spare your pills and potions, doctor. They cannot cure me, for I do not wish to get well. I am reaping the crop of pain I sowed in my passionate youth, and I am weary of life!”

“You should have married another man and forgotten that episode,” he said; but she turned her face to the wall with a stifled moan:

“I could not forget!”

And he went away perplexed and unhappy, realizing that the medical art could not avail to cure that subtle malady—hopelessness and weariness of life.

So it happened that she grew worse and worse, weaker and weaker. She swallowed the doctor’s tonics patiently; but they did not do her any good, and she smiled sorrowfully when he chided her because she would not make an effort to live.

“The world is empty,” she murmured again, turning her lovely, pallid face to the wall.



So it happened that on the day when the Scythia came into port—the same day that Cora Ellyson went to Madame Barto’s at Carey Doyle’s command—Mrs. Dalrymple lay so ill that Cora felt it wrong to leave the house even for a moment.

Yet she dared not disobey the commands of her merciless tyrant.

On returning home she received a note from Frank Laurier announcing that he had arrived in New York that morning and would call on her that evening. The poor fellow having been parted from Jessie by her own decree of separation, had no resource now but to return to Cora, and most bitter indeed was the penalty.

He would never forget that night when his beautiful love had so gently forbidden him to hope to win her and bade him return to Cora.

Prayers and entreaties were of no avail; she put them gently aside, saying:

“Even if I loved you, how could I be happy with you when you had broken another’s heart for my sake?”

True as truth herself, she could not contemplate such treachery calmly, even though Cora had treated her so cruelly that many would have held it a fair revenge.

He took her little hand in spite of her protest, and held it, and it fluttered like a little, white bird in his clasp.


He looked full into her eyes, and, oh, how soft and dark they were, as if full of unshed tears.

“Answer me one question,” he said: “If I had been free to woo you, if there had been no Cora who held my promise, could you have given me your love?”

In the beautiful moonlight he saw her bosom heave with emotion, and she faltered sadly:

“You must pardon me for not answering that question.”

Then she tore her hand away, and fled from him in the wildest haste. He saw her no more till next morning in the rush of leaving.

He went up to her, saying:

“We shall be landing presently. Shall I take you to your friends, Jessie?”

She looked up at him very pale and constrained.

“My—my—friends are very plain, humble people—not at all in your set, Mr. Laurier.”

“No matter how humble, I would like to see you safely to them,” he said.

“It will not be necessary, I thank you. Mrs. de Vries has lent me the money for a cab, and I shall know where to go, as I have only been away from New York two years,” she replied quietly.

“You will at least allow me to see you safely on shore, and to find you a cab?”

“I shall be very grateful,” with a gentle smile.

After that, in the rush and confusion, he could say no more, but he stayed by her side and waited through all the excitement of the merry adieus, noting how popular she had become in the few days on the Scythia, so that every one wished to touch her hand[172] and wish her a happy future. At last he was leading her down the gangplank, saying to her with a mournful attempt at cheerfulness that the fire on the Atlanta had saved them the bother of having their luggage examined and paying customhouse duties.

A cab was found much sooner than he desired, and he stood by it, holding her hand very tight, longing to never let it go.

“Are we never to meet again?” he asked mournfully, and she answered, very low:

“We must, I fear, for our social circles may one day be the same—but not yet—not until—after you—are—married!”

She almost gasped as she uttered the last words, and tottered into the taxi, sinking heavily into the seat.

“Where to, lady?” asked the chauffeur, and she whispered a reply that Frank did not hear.

The door banged, the machine started, and he stood gazing after the taxi with his heart in his eyes as lonely in that gay, bustling throng as though stranded on a desert shore.

The world is naught when one is gone
Who was the world. Then the heart breaks
That this is last that once was won.

He hurried to his bachelor lodgings. He had written to his servants to make ready for his coming. From there he wrote, by and by, the note to Cora announcing his return, and his intention of calling on her that evening. He hurried to Mrs. Dalrymple’s mansion that evening, but while he waited for Cora’s entrance, a sad-faced servant informed him that she[173] would be with him as soon as she could leave her aunt, who was so ill that she was not expected to survive the night.

A rush of surprise and grief over this startling news drove his own troubles, temporarily, from the young man’s mind.

Five minutes later Cora hurried into the room, superbly attired, dabbing her eyes with a damp handkerchief, inwardly thankful that this show of grief would account for the vanished luster of her once bright orbs.

“Frank, dearest!” she cried, throwing herself upon his breast.

They sat down a little apart from each other by his own maneuver, while he said anxiously:

“This distressing news of Mrs. Dalrymple has driven everything else out of my head. Is it really so bad, Cora?”

“It is the strangest case I ever heard of, Frank. Aunt Verna has been steadily declining for long months of a malady so obscure that no doctor can diagnose it, and she declares herself that it is a breaking heart.”

“Oh, how sad, how pitiful!” he cried, and his thoughts returned to the day when he had seen her bending, a sad, black-draped figure, over her daughter’s bier. So this was the cruel end.

His betrothed continued sorrowfully:

“It will break my heart to lose my dear Aunt Verna, even though I shall be the heiress of all her millions!”

She thought it was a good idea to remind him slyly of this fact, but he looked at her coldly.


“You should not be counting on such things, Cora. It sounds mercenary,” he said, rebukingly, while all the while his eyes were taking in the change that had come over her once brilliant beauty—faded like a rose that has languished in the withering heat of an August day.

She looked at him reproachfully:

“Oh, Frank, I did not mean it that way, I love Aunt Verna dearly, and I am praying that she will not die.”

“Is there the slightest hope?”

“The doctors say if she had some shock to arouse her and draw her thoughts from herself, it might do good, but she cares about nothing. She has not shown any animation to-day, except a faint spark of interest when I told her you were coming.”

“I should so love to see her again. Shall I have that sad pleasure?” he asked, eager to escape from the tête-à-tête interview with Cora, now that he could not tax her at once with her treachery.

“She asked that you should come to her a while,” Cora answered, and then added sobbingly:

“But have you nothing more to say to me, dear Frank, after your long absence? How cold and careless you seem.”

“Billing and cooing will wait. Let us go to your aunt now, Cora,” he answered, rising impatiently.



“Let us go to your aunt now, Cora,” repeated Frank impatiently, and though her anger blazed at his coldness, she dared not give rein to it lest she lose him forever.

With a deep, quivering sigh she slipped her arm through his, and led him upstairs to the elegant suite of apartments where her aunt lay dying.

In an exquisite apartment furnished with Oriental magnificence, and sweet with the breath of roses in golden jardinières, while a soft, pearly light was diffused over everything by burning wax lights, Mrs. Dalrymple lay faintly breathing on a low, white couch, wrapped in a rich, white cashmere gown, girdled at the waist by a golden cord, her long, luxuriant tresses floating loose in ebon blackness over the pillow.

When Cora entered the room she led Frank Laurier straight to the couch, saying gently:

“Are you asleep, Aunt Verna? Here is Frank come to see you.”

At these words her eyes opened with a transient gleam of interest, and her white hand fluttered toward him while she murmured:

“I am glad to see you, Frank. You were always one of my favorites.”

He pressed her hand warmly, uttering words of deep sympathy as he sank into the chair the maid placed for him, then a slight pause ensued.


Mrs. Dalrymple’s eyes rested on the pair sitting side by side, and she said, with gentle interest:

“You have been gone a long time, Frank. Have you had many adventures?”

“None but the burning of my ship in mid-ocean while returning,” he replied, causing Cora to exclaim:

“Good heavens!”

Then he remembered that his betrothed had told him the doctors said that something to take Mrs. Dalrymple’s thought from brooding on herself might prove most beneficial, so he continued:

“You would find it quite a thrilling story if you were not too ill to listen to the telling.”

She sighed softly. “I am a dying woman, Frank. The blight of weariness, of ennui, of heart loneliness, has fallen on my life, and I am fading from earth, yet I have still a little human interest left, and it will not tire me to listen to your story.”

She had brightened perceptibly, this strange woman who lay there sinking into death, not of any vital trouble, but merely of morbid grief and despair that she could not quell.

So Frank plunged into the story of the Atlanta’s burning, and, seeing that her eyes rested on him with gentle interest, he told it in most eloquent fashion, dwelling at length on the beautiful girl he had rescued.

The invalid’s eyes brightened with interest, while a faint pink crept into her waxen cheek, but presently Cora’s jealousy broke bounds, and she exclaimed sharply.

“Pray tell us the name of this paragon of beauty—this[177] bewitching combination of dark eyes, dimples, rosy cheeks, and golden hair!”

A moment’s hesitation, and he answered frankly:

“Miss Jessie Lyndon!”


The stifled cry came from Mrs. Dalrymple’s suddenly blanched lips, and her dark eyes closed as if in death.

“You have killed her!” Cora cried to him angrily, but the maid came and knelt by her mistress, chafing her cold hands till her eyes opened again.

“I beg your pardon,” Frank began contritely, but she smiled faintly, saying:

“That name gave me a shock, but I am better now, and I find your story strangely interesting. Go on—tell me more of Jessie Lyndon.”

“There is no more to tell, except that I fear her father must, indeed, have perished in the cruel sea, leaving the poor girl an orphan,” he replied, wondering at the change that began to come over her, the quick flush of color to cheeks and lips, the renewed luster of the fading, eyes. She did not look like a dying woman, now, as she cried feverishly:

“Tell me all you know of Jessie Lyndon’s father!”

“Dear Aunt Verna, I fear this excitement must be very bad for you. Let me take Frank away!” interposed Cora jealously.

“No, no, I am better—I—I—am interested. Let him stay and tell me more of this interesting father and daughter,” her aunt faltered, and with a smoldering flash in her dark eyes, Cora sank back into her chair, while Frank answered:


“I know but little more to tell! Leon Lyndon, as he was called, was a very reticent man, making no friends among the passengers, keeping coldly aloof with a moody air like a man with a tragic past.”

“A tragic past! Well, and his looks? Was he dark or fair?”

“He was fair, with wavy, golden hair, slightly streaked with gray—dark-blue eyes, and a fair mustache. In his youth he must have been rarely handsome, but he could not be less than forty now.”

She cried out tremblingly:

“The very description of my divorced husband—the man that stole Darling from me, and broke my heart. And the girl, was she like him, tell me!”

Frank Laurier answered excitedly:

“She was the living picture of the dead Jessie Lyndon—the girl you buried as your daughter.”

“Nonsense, Frank——” began Cora rebukingly, but at that moment a maid appeared at the door, beckoning her away, and saying:

“There’s a young lady downstairs insisting on seeing Mrs. Dalrymple, and I told her I would call you.”

“I will come,” Cora answered quickly, then, looking back at Frank, “Please do not tell Aunt Verna any more startling stories while I am gone.”

She vanished, and Frank looked back at the invalid in whom a startling improvement had certainly taken place.

Motioning to the maid for some cordial that stood on the table, she swallowed it eagerly, then said:

“Suzanne, you may go into the dressing room within call if I need you.”


The maid retired, and she turned a piteous gaze on Frank Laurier’s sympathetic face.

“Oh, Frank, you have roused me to life again!” she moaned. “This story, it actually thrills me with hope! Yet—yet—how foolish I am! How could she be my daughter whose dead face I kissed in the coffin, whom I left in the old family vault among the dead-and-gone Van Dorns? But, oh, if I could only see her face! Do you think you can find her and bring her to me to-morrow?”

“I will try,” he replied, but he knew it would be no easy task. It seemed to him that Jessie Lyndon meant to hide herself from him.

She closed her eyes and lay still for a few moments, her bosom heaving with excited gasps, the color coming and going on her wasted cheeks.

Then she clutched his hand with her cold, damp fingers, crying:

“I cannot die till I have seen this girl who has a face like my dead child’s, Frank. Frank, I have a feverish fancy—perhaps a dying fancy! But will you try to gratify it?”

“Indeed I will,” he replied heartily.

“Bend closer, let me whisper it—for I shouldn’t like Cora or Suzanne to hear, and you will not betray me, will you?”

“Never, I promise you!”

“It is this: Go early to-morrow to the old family vault at Greenwood, make the sexton open it, and look in that white casket and see if Darling is still there, or—if her father has stolen her away and brought her to life again.”


It was the strangest fancy he had ever heard, and it made him shudder to think of that gruesome visit to the old Van Dorn vault, but we can refuse nothing to the dying.

“I will do what you wish,” he answered, just in time, for Cora entered at that moment, visibly nervous, but trying hard to conceal the signs of a terrible agitation.

She glanced suspiciously from one to the other, crying:

“Aunt Verna, how excited you look. I fear you are much worse!”

“No, Cora, I feel strangely better, as if Frank’s visit had done me much good.”

“It has done me much good, too—made me glad and happy! Oh, aunt, I hope you will get well in time for our wedding next week,” cried Cora, leaning a trembling hand on her betrothed’s shoulder.

“Next week!” he cried, with a start of dismay that Cora affected to misunderstand.

“Yes, I have arranged to have it next week, for what is the use of any further delay? We have waited long enough, you and I, for our happiness, have we not, dear? So everything is ready for our wedding and flitting next week. And because Aunt Verna is sick it shall be the quietest sort of a ceremony—no wedding breakfast, nor excitement—just a few friends for witnesses, and the marriage in my traveling gown—then the bridal tour. I have even planned that. We will go to California. Shall you not like that, dear?”

It made her furious that he grew so deadly pale, that he stammered, when he tried to answer. She[181] guessed with a sick heart that he would get out of it all if he could.

“All for the sake of that hateful girl—that Jessie Lyndon, number two, who has again come between me and happiness!” she thought bitterly.

She linked her hands in his arm and drew him away.

“Aunt Verna is tired now. Come away, and I will let you see her again to-morrow,” she said coaxingly.

They went back to the drawing-room, and she sat down by his side on a velvet fauteuil, still keeping her hands clasped in his arm.

But he sat by her pale and distrait, no pulse in his being answering to her blandishments.

He was thinking, miserably:

“Next week! Next week! How under heaven can I get out of this entanglement with honor to myself, and without scandal to Cora?”

He cried hoarsely, displeasedly, in his uncontrollable misery:

“Cora, why are you in such a hurry for the wedding?”

He felt the quick start she gave as she leaned against him, heard the catch in her breath as she sobbed:

“Oh, you are cruel! Think how often it has been postponed, and—and—I thought that you would be as impatient as I am! It—it—was Aunt Verna who advised it. She said: ‘Do not keep the poor fellow waiting long, Cora. No matter if I am sick, the marriage must not be postponed again! You can be married very quietly and go away, and no one will think hard of you, for you have suffered much and waited long!’[182] Oh, Frank, you seem so cold, so indifferent? Do not tell me you love me no more. If you tore that hope from me I should die here at your feet of my shame and my despair!”

No man ever had a tenderer heart than Laurier.

When he heard those passionate words from Cora’s lips, when he saw the burning tears in her dark eyes, he felt ashamed and remorseful that he had let his heart wander from her and fixed it on another.

“Poor girl, she loves me well, and dare I risk the breaking of my troth to her? She might be driven to suicide, and her death would lie at my door,” he thought, in painful indecision that she clearly read with her keen, feminine intuition.

She drooped sorrowfully before him, her hands clasped in a mute abandon of despair, as she continued pathetically:

“If, indeed, you think I am hurrying up the wedding too much, I can postpone it again, though it would indeed be evil-omened, a third postponement. But I wish above all things to please you, my dearest. So tell me what you wish. Shall it be two weeks hence, or a month?”

Frank felt like a contemptible wretch and villain, but he also knew she was weaving a web for him from which he could not escape, in honor.

“Don’t fret any more, Cora! You need not postpone it a day longer than you choose. I’m ready any time you are!”

“Then it shall be next week, as I had planned it, dearest. Must you go so soon?” as he rose. “Good night”—lifting her face for his careless kiss.



Jessie Lyndon had been strong enough to send her lover from her because he was bound to another, but she was not brave enough to meet him daily in the intimate association of her mother’s home as she knew must be the case if she went to Mrs. Dalrymple’s before the wedding.

She must see him there daily with Cora, and she knew that her presence would only make him more unhappy, and hinder the return of his heart to the girl to whom it was plighted.

Besides, she knew that she was not brave enough, or strong enough, to bear the pain of seeing him daily with his betrothed—perhaps to be compelled by the narrow conventionalities of society to be a guest at his wedding.

Fondly as she longed to meet her mother and convey to her the dying messages of her father, she determined to postpone that meeting till after Frank and Cora were married and gone.

Her mind ran over her few humble friends in New York, suggesting the Widow Doyle as the most available one with whom to stay during the short interval that must elapse between now and the marriage. In this secluded suburban cottage she had no fear that Frank Laurier could trace her even should he make an attempt.

So to Widow Doyle she went, and was fortunate to[184] find the good woman at home, receiving a hearty welcome, and most sincere sympathy, when the sorrowful tale of her father’s loss was told.

“Poor dear, you will have to stay with me and be my daughter,” she said, with a tenderness that brought tears to Jessie’s eyes.

“I will never forget your kindness—but I have a relative to whose care I shall go shortly. In the meantime, I will accept your hospitality most gratefully,” she cried, not caring to disclose her relationship to Mrs. Dalrymple until she should have been accepted as a daughter by the lady.

How could she tell but that the proud, rich lady might deny her claim, might denounce her as an impostor!

What proof could she offer save her dead father’s word?

And would that suffice for the proud, rich woman of whom she had dreamed such beautiful things, but who might not in any way come up to her ideal mother.

The future looked very gloomy to Jessie as she sat resting in the little easy-chair in Mrs. Doyle’s sitting room.

She realized that unless Mrs. Dalrymple accepted her as a daughter she would be thrown on the world penniless, and obliged to make her own way.

She had remembered that her father, by a strange whim, carried the whole of his fortune, consisting of magnificent uncut gems, in a belt of leather around his waist.

But she knew that she had a talent that, if exercised, would provide her a living. It was her voice, whose[185] power and sweetness equaled those of the most world famous prima donnas. The professors who had cultivated that charming voice had told her she could secure a position on the operatic stage any time she chose.

But Jessie cared nothing for fame. At the present moment, so young, so fair, so tender, all that her heart craved was love.

And the pain of her disappointment took all the zest out of life.

She spent a quiet, lonely day with her humble hostess, whom she entertained by a recital of the way she had spent her time since leaving New York.

In the evening she grew listless and taciturn, her mind wandering from this humble abode of the poor widow to the grand mansion on Fifth Avenue, where her beautiful, stately mother reigned supreme, and where Cora was now perhaps receiving Frank and renewing their vows of love.

“Perhaps when he sees her again his heart will turn back to her with the old love. How could he help it when once he loved her so well? He will soon forget poor Jessie, and that will be the best,” she thought, but so inconsistent is love that hot tears welled to her eyes at the fancy.

Then Widow Doyle ran in with the evening paper, which she had borrowed from a neighbor.

Jessie took it and glanced indifferently at the columns, thinking that the news of New York had but little interest for a sad heart like her own.

But presently she found herself quite mistaken, for her eyes lighted on a paragraph of vital importance to herself.


It ran briefly:

“Mrs. Verna Dalrymple, of No. 1512A Fifth Avenue, continues very ill with no prospects of recovery. Indeed, her death is hourly expected. The Four Hundred will thus lose one of its brightest ornaments, and the poor of the city one of their most charitable benefactors. It is a source of regret that so brilliant and beneficent a life should be thus untimely cut down in the prime of beauty and intellect.”

A cruel pain like a sharp thorn pierced Jessie’s heart as she clutched the newspaper in her rigid hands, staring at the fatal paragraph with dilated eyes.

She could not stay away from her mother as she had planned. She must go to her at once and receive her dying blessing.

Stifling back a choking sob, she rose to her feet, exclaiming eagerly:

“Mrs. Doyle, I have just read in this paper of the serious illness of a very dear friend of mine on Fifth Avenue. If I could get a cab I would go to her at once.”

“There is a cab stand on the next block. I’ll get you one at once.”

“Thank you—God bless you!” Jessie sobbed, and while the good woman was gone she slipped on her hat and jacket and stood impatiently waiting, her heart sinking with fear lest her mother should be dead ere she reached her side.

The cab arrived speedily, and Mrs. Doyle asked hospitably:

“Shall you return, my dear, to-night?”


“It is not likely, but you shall certainly hear from me to-morrow. Good night, dear, kind friend,” and with a word of direction to the chauffeur she was gone.

While Mrs. Doyle was wondering over Jessie’s sudden departure, there came a hasty knock on the door, and when she opened it there stood that black sheep of a stepson of hers that she had not seen for two years—the redoubtable Carey Doyle.

Slouching carelessly in, and falling into a seat, he said amiably:

“How-do, old lady?”

“Well, Carey, this is certainly a day of surprises, and you’re the second one that has turned up to-day that I hadn’t seen for two years!” ejaculated the old lady, in the pleased surprise of one that leads a quiet, lonely life when confronted with old friends.

“But where have you been all this time? Never coming near your poor old stepma for two years?” she added reproachfully.

“Has it been so long? By Jove, I didn’t think it! But I’ve been hard down to business, and though I thought of coming often, still I couldn’t spare the time. But you’ve been getting on all right, have you?”

“Yes, I’ve scratched along and kept body and soul together,” she replied, prudently making the worst of her situation, lest he had come to borrow money, a shrewd suspicion, for his face fell as he exclaimed:

“Then you haven’t a hundred dollars or so you could lend a fellow to help him off to the Klondyke?”

“Mercy, no! Where would a poor body like me get[188] a hundred dollars, or even a hundred cents ahead, making a living by her needle?” she exclaimed, prudently ignoring a little hoard, Leon Lyndon’s gift to her, that she had laid by for the future “rainy day” that must come to all the poor in sickness or trouble.

Doyle looked disappointed and muttered to himself that he was sorry he had taken the trouble of coming since he couldn’t wheedle any funds out of the old woman.

His disappointed gaze roved over the floor and he saw almost at his feet an exquisitely embroidered handkerchief. Picking it up, he read aloud the name in the corner:

“Lisa Chanler!”

“Why, that must be Miss Lyndon’s handkerchief. She went off in such a hurry she forgot it—a young girl that was staying with me, you know,” explanatorily.

Carey Doyle looked up with quick interest, for the name touched a chord in memory, and brought back a face that had charmed him with its beauty and enraged him with its pride.

He remembered that Jessie Lyndon was dead—that he had heard a strange story of how she had been found dead in the snow and acknowledged as the stolen daughter of a grand, rich woman on Fifth Avenue; then he had put her out of his thoughts and married the pawnbroker’s daughter, Yetta Stein, leading a cat-and-dog existence, quarreling, till a week ago, when he had left her, swearing that New York was not large enough to hold them both, and that he would start to Alaska next day. He meant what he said, and was[189] raising all the cash he could for the long, perilous journey.

But the name of Lyndon still held a charm for him that roused his curiosity, making him question his stepmother about her guest until she told all she knew about Jessie, from almost two years ago till now.

“And only think of being burned up in the middle of the ocean! All one’s clothes, I mean—and escaping without a rag to one’s back, or a dollar in one’s purse!” she added vaguely, continuing:

“That fine handkerchief you see was given her by a Miss Chanler, one of the passengers—and her other clothes, too, for, as I said, she hadn’t a rag to her back, poor girl!”

Carey Doyle was secretly astonished and mystified—Jessie Lyndon dead, and Jessie Lyndon living, what could it mean? He resolved to come back to-morrow and see the girl for himself.

When the old family physician came next morning to see his patient, he was surprised to see her so well.

“Why, how bright you look! You are certainly better,” he cried gladly.

“I am better, indeed, and it is all owing to such a pleasant visit I had last evening from an old friend. It was Frank, and you know how fond I am of him. Cora brought him in to see me, and he entertained me so pleasantly that I quite forgot I was almost dying. Indeed, I am almost resolved now to get well,” smiling brightly at him.

“Capital! Capital! You only need the will to get well, and you will soon be in your best health again.[190] I have always told you that, you know, and I am glad Frank has roused you to take an interest in life again!” he cried, with hearty joy.

“And he is coming again to-day. I am expecting him any moment!” Mrs. Dalrymple added, two spots of feverish color brightening her cheeks in the unrest of her mind. “There, I hear his voice now! No, doctor, do not go. He will have strange news for me, perhaps, and I may need you in my excitement. Besides, if it is good news I wish you to hear it.”

Frank Laurier entered with Cora, and after salutations all around, he looked anxiously at the patient, whispering:

“Can you bear the shock of good news?”

“Oh, Frank, yes, yes—speak quickly—my suspense has been terrible!” she cried hoarsely.

And to the amazement of the doctor and Cora, he replied: “I obeyed your command, and—the casket was empty!”

A shriek of joy broke on their ears, then Mrs. Dalrymple lay like a corpse before them, so ashen pale, so deadly still.

The old doctor with a cry of dismay knelt by her side, and felt for her heart.

“Do not tell me that my good news has killed her!” Frank cried with horror in his dark-blue eyes, while Cora awaited the dénouement in wild suspense.

A secret hope came to her that this might be death, that her aunt might not live to prosecute the search for her hated rival, Jessie Lyndon.

But presently the old doctor’s efforts at her recovery[191] were rewarded with success. Her eyes opened, the color came back to her lips, she faltered:

“Ah, you thought that I was dead!—but how could I die with such happy news!”

“But I do not understand!” the physician replied blankly, while Cora remained silent from consuming rage.

“Tell them all, Frank,” commanded Mrs. Dalrymple, with a happy smile, and he obeyed in a few words.

“We had reason to suspect that the young girl, Jessie Lyndon, whom Mrs. Dalrymple buried as her daughter almost two years ago, had been resurrected and was alive in New York, and—we find that our suspicions are true.”

“This is startling!” cried the doctor, but Cora listened silently with a ghastly face and burning eyes.

Frank Laurier continued:

“We know that it is true because I went, by Mrs. Dalrymple’s request, to her vault in Greenwood this morning, and opened the casket that we saw closed on the dead face of her daughter. It was empty.”

“Is it possible?”

“And,” continued Frank, “as if to prove correct the suspicions of our friend that her divorced husband had taken away the corpse, I found on the floor a glove that was marked inside with the name Leon Dalrymple.”

“Ah, it is true, it is true!” cried the invalid faintly, triumphantly. “My daughter lives! I shall not die now that I have that happy knowledge. And you will find her for me, Frank? Every moment is an hour[192] till my Darling is restored to me!” cried the anxious mother.

“I will do all that is possible,” he answered, but in her anxiety she made him promise to insert personals in all the newspapers begging Jessie Lyndon to come at once to her sick mother, V. D.

Frank’s first effort was to find the chauffeur who had taken Jessie away from the steamer, but he was unsuccessful.

Days came and went with no tidings, and then more personals appeared offering rewards for news of Jessie Lyndon.

In the meantime, she had never returned to the Widow Doyle’s humble cot nor sent any message.

But Carey Doyle, watching proceedings with a hawk eye, chanced upon the personals and ejaculated:

“Come, now, this is very strange. The old lady said she had gone to see Mrs. Dalrymple, yet apparently she never got there. Is there foul play anywhere? Maybe I have stumbled on a private Klondyke of my own! I’ll claim that reward for news of her anyway, but I won’t face Laurier, I’ll go to Mrs. Dalrymple herself.”

And so eager was the lady for news that he gained admittance to her boudoir, where she sat in an easy-chair getting stronger every day, and claiming the reward, obtained it, and blurted out his news.

Mrs. Dalrymple was terribly startled. She called out in wild excitement:

“Send Miss Ellyson to me instantly!”



Cora had been listening outside the door, and she darted in now, exclaiming:

“I was just coming in when I heard you call for me, dear aunt.”

She gazed at Carey Doyle as if he had been a perfect stranger, but her face was ghastly with fear lest he meant also to betray her secret.

But he flashed her a swift, reassuring look while Mrs. Dalrymple exclaimed:

“Only think, Cora, this man has news of Darling. Kindly repeat it to her, sir.”

And Carey Doyle, who remembered well the rivalry between Cora and Jessie, took a malicious pleasure in doing so, gloating over each word as he saw how ghastly pale and frightened she grew.

Mrs. Dalrymple was watching her niece, too, and very suddenly she said:

“While he was telling me this story, Cora, I remembered that on that same night a servant called you out of my room, saying a young lady wanted me, and that you must come down. You went, and when you returned, after a while, you said nothing of the visitor, and in my agitation I forgot it till just now. Cora, Cora, can it be possible”—she broke off short, for Cora fell at her feet in wildest agitation.

“Oh, Aunt Verna, can you ever forgive me for what I have done? Indeed, I meant it for the best, but it has turned out to be a terrible mistake!”


“Cora, Cora, what have you done?”

“Forgive me, forgive me; I did wrong.”

“Do not keep me in suspense, Cora. Answer me, was it my daughter that came that night?”

“It was a girl that looked like the one you interred in the old family vault. She said: ‘I am Jessie Lyndon, the stolen daughter of Mrs. Dalrymple. I wish to see her if you please!’”

“My God! And you sent her away?” groaned the agonized mother.

“Yes, I sent her away, for how could I dream that she was speaking the truth?”

“Cora, you should have brought her to me!” wildly.

“I feared it would kill you in your weak state, for every one thought you were sinking into death. It seemed to me I was acting very prudently, and when she was gone I kept the secret, believing it was for the best.”

Cora’s acting was superb. Her dark eyes were full of burning tears, and her whole behavior showed grief and regret.

Mrs. Dalrymple was completely deceived. She almost pitied Cora.

“Get up, dear girl, do not weep so bitterly. I will forgive you, for I know you did what you thought was for the best, though you made a sad and grievous mistake.”

She turned her eyes on Carey Doyle as if she had momentarily forgotten his presence, and exclaimed:

“Why, have you not seen the chauffeur who brought her here?”

“I did not neglect that, madam, but he said she paid[195] her fare and dismissed him, saying she should remain with her friends all night.”

“Oh, heavens, what a mystery! Where did my Darling go, alone, penniless, friendless, that gloomy night?” sobbed the mother.

Carey Doyle watched Cora with a lynx eye, but her perfectly acted remorse and grief baffled suspicion.

He rose, and Mrs. Dalrymple said eagerly:

“Keep up the search for my daughter and you shall be paid well for your work.”

“I will do what I can, madam, and I hope you will hear from me again,” he replied respectfully; then with a malignant look at Cora, he withdrew from the room and was shown out by a servant.

Cora had a difficult rôle to play now, pretending the keenest regret for her cousin’s disappearance, while at heart she was wildly elated over it.

But she was not finding much happiness in her position as bride elect, though she knew that half the girls in New York would envy her the honor of becoming the handsome young millionaire’s bride.

They did not know how she had schemed and sinned for that honor, nor that the sweets of victory had turned to dead sea fruit upon her lips.

His short-lived passion was dead, and in spite of his honorable efforts to disguise his indifference, Cora realized his patient misery, and knew that the day of their wedding was secretly unwelcome to his heart.

A nobler woman would have given him his freedom unasked, too proud to accept the hand without the heart.


Not so Cora, who recklessly ran every risk for the sake of gratifying her love and ambition, hurrying on the wedding day in spite of her aunt’s lingering illness and painful anxiety, and despite the fact that she knew that secretly Frank resented the unseemly haste.

Indeed, she had overheard him lamenting it to Mrs. Dalrymple, saying:

“I fear it looks selfish to you, our marrying and going off in such haste, leaving you in this trouble.”

“Do not think of me. Cora is the only one to be considered now. She feels that she has waited too long for her happiness to have it postponed longer,” she answered.

He noticed that she made no reference to his own case, and flushed slightly, dreading lest she had penetrated the secret of his love for her missing daughter, and meant to rebuke him for fickleness to Cora.

He said no more, for Cora entered just then with a downcast face, having managed to overhear their brief conversation. They were going for a drive, and presently Mrs. Dalrymple was left alone with her thoughts.

They were not pleasant ones, for they veered with painful persistence between the missing daughter and the dead father.

In the dear, dead past she had loved him well, and the old love seemed to wake again, now that he was dead and beyond her tenderness.

So often since you went away,
I wonder in a vain despair,
If you are sad, if you are glad,
And if you miss me there![197]
Do you recall impatient words
Full of life’s jar and pain?
Oh, I would take them back, dear heart,
If you could come again!

She leaned her beautiful, dark head on her wasted, white hand where the blue veins showed so clearly, and burning tears flowed down her cheeks.

Suzanne entered with the afternoon mail on a salver, placed it on a stand before her mistress, and gently retired.

Dashing away the unwelcome tears, she began going over the letters, mostly affectionate missives from her “dear Four Hundred friends,” expressing affectionate pleasure at her rumored great improvement in health.

Dropping them wearily one after the other, she came upon one addressed in so large a masculine hand that she stared at it in some curiosity.

Then she saw that it was not addressed to herself, but to Miss Darling Dalrymple, and was postmarked New York.

“How very, very strange this is, and how familiar the handwriting looks!” she cried with a quickened heartthrob, and she decided that in this case it was her duty to open her daughter’s letter.

She did so with nervous, fluttering fingers, and then she saw staring her in the face these words:

My Darling Daughter: If I had not thought I was destined to perish in the cruel sea that day, I should never have given you the clew to find your proud mother who wrecked my life with her relentless scorn.

“If I had not been sure of death, I never should[198] have intrusted you with those messages of remorse and forgiveness and love at which she laughed, perhaps, in her undying resentment against me. I could hope now that you forgot to tell her, for it might be better so.

“You are with your mother, no doubt, so I address this letter to her house. Oh, Jessie, darling, how I blundered when I gave you back to her! My heart cries out for you, my darling child, the only treasure I have in the world! I cannot give you up. Will you come back to me, darling? She has troops of friends, and does not need you, but I have only my dark-eyed Jessie.

“If she laughed and mocked at the tender messages I sent her when I believed I must die, never tell me of it, darling. I cannot bear the pain.

“Choose between us, quickly, Jessie, and come to me at once, if you can, at the Hotel Supremacy.

Leon Dalrymple.

The great, hollow, dark eyes devoured every word with surprise and joy, for nothing he could say against her mattered much now that she knew he lived, the man she had loved hopelessly through years of alienation and separation with the terrible barrier of divorce between their wedded hearts.

And no matter how far they had drifted apart, their hearts must share one common sorrow—the loss of their darling.

She bowed her head upon the letter, and the wild, hysterical sobs of an overburdened heart shook her frame.



Then she seized a pen and wrote falteringly:

“Leon, she has never come home to me, so I read your letter, hoping to find some clew to my lost Darling.

“I have been seeking her vainly for days, but she is lost to me in this great, wicked city!

“There is much to tell, but I am weak and ill, I cannot write more. Will you come and hear the story from my lips?


Calling a messenger, she dispatched the note to the Hotel Supremacy, and waited his reply in the wildest impatience.

Then she bade Suzanne dress her in a becoming negligee.

“Make me look as young and as well as possible, for I expect a visit from an old friend who has not seen me for years—he will be shocked at the change in me, I know.”

“Madame is more beautiful still than any young girl—only just a little too frail looking now from recent illness, but judicious dressing will disguise much of that,” cried the affectionate maid, applying herself with ardor to her task.

And a little later the result fairly justified her prediction.

The exquisite boudoir in white and gold harmonized[200] well with the delicately beautiful woman whose pallor was softened by the faint rose hues of her gown overlaid with rich, creamy laces. Reclining on a pale-hued divan, with that fitful color coming and going in her cheek, with a streaming light of expectant joy in her wide, dark eyes, she was, indeed, a charming picture—one to thrill a man’s heart to the core.

“Will he come?” she asked herself in painful uncertainty, as her mind reverted rapidly over eighteen years to the bleak November day whereon they had quarreled and parted.

Oh, how they had loved and hated in a breath, both so young, so hasty, so inexperienced, that they scarcely knew what a harvest of woe they were sowing when they turned their backs on each other.

They had sown, and, alas, they had reaped—and the harvest was a plenteous crop of tears that tasted bitter on their lips.

I am tired to-night, and I miss you,
And long for you, love, through tears;
And it seems but to-day that I saw you go—
You, who have been gone for years.
And I feel as I sit here thinking
That the hand of a dead old June
Has reached out hold of my loose heartstrings,
And is drawing them up in tune.
I am tired, and that old sorrow
Sweeps down on the bed of my soul,
As a turbulent river might suddenly break
Away from a dam’s control.
It beareth a wreck on its bosom,
A wreck with a snow-white sail,
And the hand on my heartstrings thrums away,
But they only respond with a wail.


She had taken a daring step—she had called him back whom in anger she had forsaken years ago.

Now, she began to be frightened at her own boldness.

“He will not come, he will laugh me to scorn!” she sighed, and dropped her pallid face down on her arms.

She had given her orders that if a gentleman named Dalrymple called he should be shown to her boudoir at once.

With her face bowed on her arms, she did not hear footsteps falling on the thick velvet carpet, obeying the low directions of the servant who said respectfully, as he drew back the portières:

“You will find Mrs. Dalrymple there.”

Leon Dalrymple, tall, pale, handsome still, in spite of years and sorrow, advanced softly across the room, his heart beating with loud, suffocating throbs.

He had been thinking of their parting in the shabby room amid pinching poverty that she despised, more than eighteen years ago.

Now they were meeting again, surrounded by all the luxury wealth can bestow, but how valueless it had been in exchange for what it had cost.

He saw before him a beautiful form with the dark head bowed on the folded arms as if in grief, and he stood waiting, hesitating, but she did not look up at him.

He coughed, timidly, to arouse her, and exclaimed hoarsely:

“Ver—Mrs. Dalrymple!”

A start of surprise, and she lifted her pale, excited[202] face, and saw him standing before her—her old love, her discarded husband—older, graver, sadder by eighteen long years.

Yet her heart leaped to meet him in a great, strangling sob of joy.

Without rising from her recumbent position she held out her hand, saying faintly:

“You will pardon my not rising. I have been ill—am yet weak.”

He advanced, and touched the cold hand with his own that was quite as cold—dropped it quickly, and took the seat she indicated close by her divan.

Controlling his emotions as well as he could, he began:

“Your letter filled me with alarm. What can have happened to my daughter?”

“Our daughter,” she said, gently correcting him, with a sad smile, adding: “It was very bold in me to send for you, Leon, but I thought that in this matter we might act together.”

“Leon”—she called him Leon as of old—and it made the blood rush to his face, and his whole frame tremble with agitation, the old love rising in him like a flood.

He answered gravely:

“This is very kind in you.”

And for a moment they were very silent, the novelty of the position bearing painfully on both their hearts—“so near and yet so far.”

Little by little they gained self-possession and talked seriously on the subject so near to their hearts—the mysterious disappearance of their daughter from the[203] hour when she had been turned away from her mother’s house by Cora.

She told him all she knew, and he could not conceal his alarm.

“It is the strangest thing in the world that she did not return to Mrs. Doyle, the only friend she had in New York!” he exclaimed.

The tortured mother bowed her head and wept.

Then Leon Dalrymple’s heart was melted with sympathy, and he cried:

“Do not weep so bitterly, Verna, I will find her for you if it is in the power of man to do it. And—and—I will never try to take her from you again. Let my heart bear all the pangs of loss and loneliness!”

“You have not told me yet how you brought Darling to life!” she suggested, with a grateful glance.

Then he had to go over the whole story, and she listened with the closest attention.

Their interview had now lasted more than an hour, and the ice between them was gradually thawing. The dark and the blue eyes looked very kindly at each other, and they were Leon and Verna again in their speech.

She opened the letter, and said daringly, encouraged by his kindness:

“I am very curious over some things you said in this letter to Darling. It seems you sent me some messages of remorse, forgiveness, and love when you thought you were about to perish. Will you tell me what they were?”

His face flushed with emotion, but he faltered nervously:

“They would not be welcome to you, Verna.”


To his delight she replied, with swimming eyes.

“My heart has been hungry for such words these eighteen years, Leon—hungry for the love that I threw away in my blindness—hungry for forgiveness that I dared not ask because I feared denial!”

“My darling!” and he was on his knees by her side, his arms opening to draw her back to her old shelter against his heart.

Gladly the dark head nestled there and in an hour all was explained and forgiven between them while hope came back to nestle in their hearts.

“We can be married again on the same day as Frank and Cora,” Mrs. Dalrymple exclaimed happily.



When Dalrymple tore himself away at last to prosecute the search for his daughter, it occurred to him to seek her at the home of Mrs. Godfrey, the aunt of his little nephews, Willie and Mark.

It was a great disappointment to him that she had heard nothing of Jessie, but after all he had hardly expected it. A forlorn hope had led him there, coupled with the desire to see his little nephews.

When the little lads were led in to him their chief interest in their new-found uncle was that he was the father of their loved Cousin Jessie. They plied him with anxious questions about her, to which he could only answer sadly that she had gone away for a while, but he hoped she would come back soon.

His first thought was for Mrs. Godfrey, whose care of his nephews he felt was deserving of a fair reward, so he presented her with a check for a thousand dollars.

The poor, toil-worn soul was overwhelmed with surprise and joy.

The sum represented a fortune in her eyes, to which the grateful tears rushed in torrents.

“Oh, I can never thank you enough! This will be like riches to my poor sister and me! She can have the comforts that an incurably sick woman needs now, thanks to your generosity! But I feel I don’t deserve it, when I remember how I had to send sweet Jessie away to earn her own living!”


“Do not worry over that, because it could not be helped. You did more than you were able, taking the little boys on your hands. I shall take care of them now and put them to school.”

“They were welcome to all I could do, poor little ones, and I love them dearly as the children of my dead brother and his sweet wife, but I am glad you can take care of them, and bring them up to be something in the great world,” she replied, with honest pride in her brother’s children.

“I will do my best,” he replied, bowing himself out, after promising to return in a day or two and make arrangements for taking Mark and Willie away.

Then so eager was he for another sight of Verna, that he must needs call again and tell her about his nephews and ask her advice about their future.

“I believe I neglected to tell you that I am fairly rich myself and can afford to do well by the boys without wronging you or Jessie,” he added.

To his surprise and delight she replied:

“I am almost sorry you are rich, Leon, for I would like to show you how generous I could be with these little ones, but they shall be my nephews as well as yours, and I insist on your bringing them here to-morrow to make their home with us.”

“My dearest, you do not understand how troublesome two growing boys could be. Your patience would very soon be exhausted.”

“No, indeed, Leon, for the patter of children’s feet and the sound of their happy voices would be like music in this great, lonely mansion. Here we could care for them like our own children, and how happy it[207] would make our daughter when she comes home to find her loved little cousins with us. Let me have my way in this, Leon, if you can feel satisfied with the arrangements.”

“Satisfied, my own love? Why, it will, indeed, be a boon to me for which I shall feel grateful to you till my dying day,” he declared with fervor.

And thus it happened that on the very next day Mark and Willie Lyndon were removed from the dreary abode of poverty to their new palatial home.

But the secret rage of Cora Ellyson at the turn affairs were taking can better be imagined than described.

She had never felt a spark of real love for Mrs. Dalrymple, and had contemplated her impending death with inward satisfaction, expecting to inherit all her money, and rule royally in the social world by reason of it.

It was a bitter blow when her aunt came back from the gates of death and began to convalesce, but she reasoned to herself:

“It is only a temporary improvement in health, for when her daughter’s fate continues to be unknown she will relapse into a worse stage than at first, and die of disappointment.”

But when Mrs. Dalrymple confided to her the new turn affairs had taken, she could scarcely conceal her rage.

“You are going to remarry your divorced husband—the man you deserted of your own will, Aunt Verna, and pretended to hate and despise all these years—Impossible!” she exclaimed remonstratingly.


Mrs. Dalrymple’s dark head instantly crested itself with the pride Cora knew so well, and she dared not find further fault.

So Cora, repulsed, could only vent her rage in secret, and bitter enough it was, though mixed with one sweet drop of triumph in the thought that never again would their eyes rest on Jessie’s sweet face.

“Let them search and search, but never again will their eyes be gladdened by her return. Let them go on believing that Cora Ellyson is sorry she sent her into exile that night. Ha, ha!” and a laugh that was fiendish in its cruel triumph rang out upon the stillness of the room. She was in a retrospective mood, and as she shook loose the braids of dark hair over her shoulder, she gazed fixedly at her pallid face in the long mirror, muttering:

“Yet Frank Laurier doesn’t love me. How mortifying to marry a man who shrinks from one with secret aversion! Yet I will not turn back. I will marry him if only to punish him for his perfidy! And if he withholds love then he shall feel to the core of his heart what it is to trample on a woman’s love!”

Stung to fury by the indifference he could not hide, Cora was filled with the venom of “a woman scorned.”

I will teach him to play with a rattlesnake’s tongue,
I will teach him the tiger to rob of its young,
I will teach him ’twere better a man were unborn
If the love of a proud-hearted woman he scorn.

The next day, after fitting out his manly little nephews in handsome new clothing, Leon Dalrymple took them to their future home, where they met a cordial[209] welcome from the woman who was soon to be their uncle’s wife again.

But not so with Cora, who watched their movements with angry eyes.

To the little boys, fresh from the tiny cot of poverty, the great house on Fifth Avenue was a wonderful Aladdin’s palace.

They gazed about them in round-eyed wonder, and as soon as the first sense of being company was over and they were left somewhat to their own devices, they began to explore the house, peeping into room after room with childish curiosity, mounting stairway after stairway, and wandering along broad, dark corridors, until they could not find their way back to the lower rooms where they had been left by Mrs. Dalrymple.

“I’m losted,” sobbed Willie, the six-year-old, digging his little fists into his tearful blue eyes.

“So am I,” cried Mark, who was older and more manly; “but don’t cry! Here’s another door! Let’s peep in here!” seizing the knob, and shaking it vigorously. But the lock refused to yield, and very suddenly he was caught by Cora Ellyson, who slapped his face till his ears tingled with pain.



Cora’s eyes flashed, her lips and face went ashen white, her form trembled with passion, as, catching the boys by their shoulders, she shook both violently, screaming:

“You little meddlesome wretches, how dare you sneak around this way, poking your noses into things that are none of your business! Go away, and if I ever find either one of you up in this hall again, I will kill you both!”

The elder boy shook himself loose from her angry grasp and tried to rescue Willie, saying tearfully:

“We didn’t mean no harm, ma’am.”

“Well, keep away from the servants’ hall, hereafter. Go downstairs now, and never come up here any more, and mind you never tell any one I slapped you and shook you just now. If you do I will shut you up in jail to stay forever!” menaced Cora, with flashing eyes.

The boys started to go down obediently, Willie hushing his low sobs in sheer terror, then Cora flew back to the locked door, opened it with a key that she took from a little concealed recess, beneath a small rug that lay before the door.

She did not dream that the curious Mark had darted back to the head of the stairway, and was closely watching her movements.

He put his arm around Willie, whispering excitedly:


“She has unlocked that room and gone and shut herself up in it, the mean, spiteful thing! Do you know I believe she has got something shut up in there.”

“I hate her, and I’m going to tell aunt on her!” came the sobbed reply.

“No, don’t say nothin’, but let’s watch our chance to get even with the mean thing by seeing into that locked door. I seen where she got the key!” consoled Mark, whose curiosity was a predominating trait.

“Yes,” muttered Willie, hopes of vengeance rising in his mind. “We’ll get in that room and see what ’tis she’s hiding.”

Then they pattered downstairs again and no one was the wiser for the little scene that had passed upstairs in the corridor.

Cora remained in the locked room only a few minutes, and on leaving it she again turned the key and slipped it in its place, then sped along the corridor and down the stairs again to her own rooms with an evil light in her dark, down-cast eyes that boded no good to any one who crossed the path of her desires.

The two boys waited and watched for an opportunity to get up into the servants’ hall again, but such a close vigil did Cora keep that they were unable to do so.

At last the wedding day arrived when Cora and Frank, and Mrs. Dalrymple and her divorced husband, were to be made one.

On the morning of this day the two brides were very busy, each in her own apartments were being robed by their respective maids for the noon ceremony—Cora in a handsome traveling gown and hat to go away immediately,[212] and her aunt in a dainty confection of blue brocade and rich lace for an informal luncheon with the few wedding guests.

Love and hope beat high in the breasts of both—the girl who had played such high stakes to gain a man’s heart, the woman who had never known the value of love till it was lost and found again.

The drawing-room and corridors were gracefully but not too lavishly decorated for the ceremony with stately palms and rich roses, whose fragrance filled the air with sweetness.

Little Mark and Willie were not watched so closely, and roved hither and thither about the great house, whispering to each other, and, truth to tell, feeling almost too grand in the fine suits of velvet with rich lace collars that had been put upon them to grace the occasion. Being left somewhat to their own devices in the prevailing excitement, they naturally turned at once to the locked room on the upper floor.

“We must do it now or never, because she is going off with that Mr. Laurier as soon as she is married, to stay a long while,” said Mark.

“Yes, we must. Let’s go now.” And they stole unseen upstairs and Mark soon found the key beneath the rug. But it was so large, and the lock so strong that when they got it in they could not turn it.

“Put your ear to the keyhole and listen. Don’t you hear something?” said Mark.

“Yes—sounds like a little kitty cryin’; pore li’l sing!” whimpered Willie.

It lacked only fifteen minutes to the ceremony now. The two bridegrooms with the guests and the bishop[213] had arrived and were waiting downstairs. Everything was in readiness for the hour.

The few wedding guests whispered to each other when Cora entered that she was the palest, most frightened-looking bride they had ever seen. What was it that could be preying upon her mind upon such an occasion as this?

But, they added kindly enough, that it was no wonder, for after her two former fateful wedding days who could blame her for being nervous and apprehensive of disaster.

She came in quietly enough, with downcast eyes, with her aunt, for the wedding was to be quite informal, the ceremony being performed first for the elder couple.

Frank Laurier was there looking quite as pale and troubled as his bride, but again the guests excused his perturbation, whispering:

“He is afraid something is going to happen.”

A sort of undefined dread of evil pervaded the air.

The bishop arose and opened his book as the elder couple moved in front of him, and the happiness on those two fine faces, the chastened happiness of reunion after long grief and pain—almost dissipated the lowering cloud of presentiment over every spirit.

Brief questions were asked, clear responses made, and the ring slipped over the bride’s slender finger, token of a union never to be broken “until death do us part.”

Kisses, congratulations, tears, and smiles, for the happy pair, then they moved aside for the others with a prayer in their hearts that these two might not sail[214] forth upon such stormy seas of matrimonial disaster as they had done in ignorant youth.

None had noticed in the excitement of the congratulations that three more guests had arrived—three men who had bribed the servants to let them look on at the scene from behind the tall palms at the open door of the drawing-room.

Pale, grave, silent, these three men watched the scene with eager eyes, as Frank and Cora stood side by side breathing the words that bound their lives in one forever.

Suddenly one gasped and started wildly forward as the minister repeated mechanically the customary warning, for any one who knew any impediment to the marriage to speak now or forever after hold his peace.

This man, tall, pale, with a sinister scar on his brow, and a painful limp, crossed the room as swiftly as his infirmity would permit, and thundered:

“I forbid the marriage. She is my wife!”

The bishop dropped his prayer book in amazement, and with startled cries, all faced around upon the newcomer.

Cries of doubtful recognition shrilled over every lip:

“Ernest Noel!”

Cora clung with frantic hands to Frank’s arm, gazing with horrified eyes at the daring intruder.

There stood Ernest Noel in the flesh, though his good looks were marred by a scar on his cheek and a decided limp received in some accident. Over one of his shoulders peered the grave, noble face of the minister who had married them in the mock marriage[215] that had turned out a real one, and over the other she saw, like a grinning fiend’s, Carey Doyle’s with an ugly sneer on the mustached lips.

She was dizzy and her brain reeled. She felt like a weak swimmer in a strong sea swept away by the relentless and treacherous undertow.

In the momentary silence that followed their cries of recognition, Ernest Noel continued earnestly:

“This lady is my wife, but I do not charge her with attempted bigamy. She believed me dead.”

“Explain!” thundered Frank Laurier, thrilled with chivalrous pity for the drooping figure that clutched his arm with frantic hands.

Ernest Noel bowed gravely, and said:

“Two years ago I was frantic with love for Miss Ellyson and tried to win her from you, Frank Laurier. We two were the principals in a mock marriage at some charitable affair, and in my desperation I made the ceremony a real one, taking out the necessary license and securing a young minister, Mr. Kincaid, to officiate. Some time afterward I ventured to confess to my bride the imposition I had practiced on her and was met by such indignant reproaches that I was driven to—suicide!

“Disappointed in my love, I sprang into a deep pit to end my life, but the fall did not kill me. I lingered on in agony till the next day, when this man with me, Carey Doyle, discovered and rescued me from my perilous situation, taking me to the home of some country friends of his, where I was cared for many months ere fully restored to myself.

“It was rumored that I had mysteriously disappeared,[216] and the report of my suicide was accepted as correct. Carey Doyle, for the sake of a whim, kept the secret of my identity, and so for many months I remained as one dead to the world that formerly knew me; while regaining my consciousness at last I learned that Cora had been almost fatally burned and would be the inmate of a hospital perhaps for years. In despair I forswore all former associations, and no one but the executors of my property were informed of my continued existence, while I brooded miserably over my faults and the wreck I had made of my own life, my selfish passion and reckless folly. I determined never to return to the world, but this morning Carey Doyle came to tell me that I must save Cora from bigamy by forbidding her contemplated marriage with another.”

Cora and Doyle at that moment exchanged malevolent glances, and she understood all.

In the beginning the wretch had concealed the fact of Noel’s continued existence that he might more effectually pursue his scheme of blackmail.

But again she looked from his taunting face back to the grave, sad face of Noel, who now added:

“I am here to say to Cora and you all, that my marriage to her was perfectly legal as far as church and State could make it. I love her still in spite of everything, and if she will forgive me the wrong I did in making her my wife against her will, and wishes to go with me, I on my part will forgive any harm she ever did me and gladly take her to my heart. On the other hand, if she prefers to secure a divorce and marry Laurier, I will make no fight against it. Her will shall be my law!”


It was a most noble rôle the man was playing in concealing Cora’s sins and taking them all on his own broad shoulders.

He had bought Carey Doyle’s silence, and was prepared to keep Cora’s secret forever from the world in atonement for the one great wrong he had done her—the wrong to which she had tempted him by her heartless coquetry.

Forgiving all her sins by the strength of his love he hoped to win her yet from Laurier, and awaited her answer with burning impatience.

But she clung all the closer to Frank, though she could read by his face that he thought she ought to turn to Noel.

She was opening her lips to cry out passionately that she loved only Laurier and would sue for a divorce, when Mark and Willie Lyndon rushed upon the scene, panting and excited, crying breathlessly:

“Oh, Uncle Leon, Aunt Verna, come with us! We have found our dear Cousin Jessie at last, but she is dead!”

Like a flash in the confusion of that startling announcement, Cora dropped Frank’s arm and flew to Noel’s side:

Her face was ghastly as she breathed in his ear:

“Come, Ernest, the machine is waiting! Let us fly! Fly to the other end of the world!”

Half dazed with the suddenness of the turn things were taking, he followed her lead, and while the others rushed upstairs, he and Cora sprang into the limousine and were driven to the railway station.


The secret of the locked room was no longer a secret.

A score of people followed the eager footsteps of the little lads upstairs to the sad sight they had encountered on opening the door.

There lay sweet Jessie, wan, pale, terribly emaciated, and still as death on the low couch—a sight that brought cries of grief and horror from women’s lips, and tears to the eyes of men.

Fortunately the old family physician was in the company.

It looked like death, but he would not pronounce it so. He remembered what a terrible mistake he had made over Jessie before.

He knelt by her side, doing all he could to restore life, and all the while he was inwardly praying:

“God help me! Give back her beautiful life to us!”

And all the time the anguished mother and father, the distracted lover, the interested friends, were echoing the prayer in their hearts.

Oh, what joy thrilled their hearts when the doctor found a faint little sign of life, but what long and skillful nursing it took before Jessie was well again, or even strong enough to tell the story of Cora’s satanic cruelty!

But they were happy days when she was convalescing with so many dear ones by her side—her reunited parents, her precious little cousins, and last but not least, her devoted lover, Frank Laurier.

They did not hide their love from each other now, they could talk of the past without embarrassment, and once when Darling Jessie, as they called her now,[219] scolded him for that first stolen kiss, he retorted by telling her of that second kiss upon the sea that had seemingly brought her back to life.

They had many things to tell her, but the story that interested her most of all was of her own apparent death and her interment in the old family vault.

She knew now that it was no dream, the memories she had cherished of her mother’s sorrow over her coffin, and Frank Laurier’s words of passionate love and grief. She would cherish them deep in her heart forever.

As for Mark and Willie, they received the most idolatrous love from all.

“It was so noble in you, Verna, to take them to our own home so generously that I was always thinking what I could do to reward you for your goodness, but, lo! God paid the debt of gratitude by making the little lads the saviors of our own daughter,” the fond husband cried, with deep emotion.

In the following spring Ernest Noel wrote to Mrs. Dalrymple telling her of Cora’s death at his villa in Italy.

Shortly after the announcement of this sad news Frank Laurier and the girl he loved were united in the holy bands of matrimony.



“What do you mean by disobeying my orders? Didn’t I tell you I would see no one to-night? How dare you take it upon yourself to act contrary to my wishes?”

Peter, the servant, to whom these angry, impatient words were addressed, stood meekly in the doorway of his master’s library, half in and half out of the room, waiting for Mr. Oscar Hilton’s loud voice to cease before venturing to explain his reason for thus intruding on the latter’s privacy.

“Please, sir, I didn’t forget your orders, but if you’ll remember, sir, you told me only yesterday never to deny you to Mr. St. John——”

As Peter uttered this name Oscar Hilton’s face, which had been haggard and pale as if some deep sorrow weighed upon him, brightened wonderfully, and his voice lost its angry tone.

“You are right, Peter; say to Mr. St. John that I will see him here, and——”

At this moment Peter drew himself back from the doorway, and a young girl entered the room—a petite and fairylike creature, looking even younger than her eighteen years, with eyes of that peculiar blue that darkens into purple, a complexion clear and fair as the lotus leaf, and hair of a deep reddish brown that shone like dull gold in the soft shaded light.

She was dressed richly, as became the daughter of Oscar Hilton—who was supposed to be one of the[221] richest men in New York. But that gentleman’s face betrayed neither admiration nor love as she advanced into the room and stood before him.

“We are ready for Mrs. Laurier’s reception, papa, and I wanted you to see my costume for the occasion before Isabel came to you, because I knew how my poor little self will fade into insignificance and be totally eclipsed by the superior beauty of my queenly sister—but what is the matter? Papa, you look pale and tired. Shall I stay at home and read for you? Indeed, I do not care about the party—do let me stay with you, papa.”

The girl’s sweet voice—at first full of playfulness and merriment—had grown tender and earnest with the utterance of the last words, and she came toward her father with hands extended as if to embrace him; but Oscar Hilton repulsed her almost rudely.

“Go to the reception by all means, Iris, and don’t be so silly and childish. I am expecting a visitor just now, and cannot be bothered. Say to Isabel that I will see her when she comes back from Mrs. Laurier’s. I have writing to do to-night, and shall not have retired.”

Iris Hilton bowed, and turned from her father without a word, but the sweet, girlish face had lost all its look of brightness, and the pretty lips quivered piteously while she went to do his bidding.

Mr. Hilton seemed to breathe more freely when she was gone, and it would have been hard to fathom the expression of his eyes as he followed the graceful little figure in its retreat from the room, muttering below his breath:


“Her ‘queenly sister,’ she called my dark-eyed Isabel. Ah, God! how easily I could bear the ruin that threatens me, and the disgrace that must inevitably follow, if my Isabel were provided for, my proud, imperious darling.”

Mr. Hilton’s meditations were here interrupted by the entrance of his visitor, Mr. Chester St. John, a handsome, distinguished-looking man of thirty years, whose easy, graceful bearing and cultured manner proclaimed him at once a gentleman in the truest sense of the word.

Mr. Hilton received him with every token of welcome, and St. John entered at once into the object of his visit.

“I think you must have guessed long ago, Mr. Hilton,” he said, when cozily seated with that gentleman before a bright grate fire in the luxuriously furnished library, “that I love your beautiful daughter with all my heart. I have not spoken to her of this love, as yet, but I think—I have dared to hope, that she reciprocates my feeling, and I only await your permission to ask her to make me the happiest of men.”

St. John paused here, waiting for Mr. Hilton’s answer.

It was so long before the latter made any reply to Chester’s proposal that the young man began to fear he had received it unfavorably.

“Is it possible that you have other views for your daughter, Mr. Hilton?” he asked, somewhat proudly, but with a tremor of real anxiety in his deep-toned voice.


“No, no, my dear boy, you are the one man of all others to whom I could think for a moment of giving my precious child. I feel—nay! I know that you are worthy of her, and I will not stand between her and her love.”

“Thanks, my dear sir, and I assure you you shall never have cause to regret the confidence you have placed in me. It shall be the labor of my life to make Iris happy——”


At Chester St. John’s mention of this name Oscar Hilton sprang to his feet, with every trace of color dying out of his face, and his hands pressed tightly to his heart.

“Iris!” he again ejaculated hoarsely; but when Chester sprang to his side in alarm he waved him back authoritatively. “It is nothing,” he cried, with quick, gasping breaths, “I am subject to these sudden spasms of pain—around my heart—and it is so natural for me to call on—Iris—there! it is over now, but I would like to be alone. Come to-morrow, St. John, and Iris will give you her answer.”

Chester was not in the least offended by this abrupt dismissal, having no suspicion that the pain of which Mr. Hilton had complained was purely imaginary, and that there was a deeper cause for that ashen, pale face and those trembling hands.

He bade Iris’ father good night with many expressions of regret, promising to call for Iris’ answer on the morrow, and taking his departure at last with such a look of hope upon his face that one might have guessed what he expected the girl’s answer to be.



“Iris! Iris! My God, have I killed her?”

The words came from the lips of Oscar Hilton with a cry of unutterable fear, as he bent over the rigid and senseless form of his young daughter, on the morning following his interview with Chester St. John.

“I have killed her!” the man reiterated; but even as he lifted the girl’s head from the floor, her lips trembled slightly, and the lids were lifted slowly from the beautiful blue eyes that looked purple now, as Iris awakened to the consciousness of a sorrow tenfold more bitter than death.

“It cannot—oh, it cannot be true!” she moaned, drawing herself away from the touch of his hands with an irrepressible shudder.

“You say that Chester St. John loves me, and will ask me to be his wife, and I—loving him with every pulse of my heart—must give him up. Nay! more—that I must tell him I have no love for him—must send him from me with the bitter thought that I am a false and heartless coquette. No! no! Oh, dear Heaven! I can do anything but that.”

Oscar Hilton had been terrified when it seemed to him that Iris lay dead at his feet, but at the moment when her voice fell again upon his ear, his voice grew stern and cold, and he spoke to her now with a sneer.

“Do you think Chester St. John would ask you to be his wife if he knew the true story of your life?[225] He is very proud of his fine old name; do you think he would care to give it to the child of a——”

The word he would have spoken died on his lips unuttered, for Iris had lifted her eyes quickly to his own, with an intangible something in their expression that daunted him.

“You have told me the story of my parentage, Mr. Hilton, and if you have any claim to the title of a gentleman, you will not insult my helplessness by repeating the epithet you were about to apply to me. When you married my father’s divorced wife, and took her to be a mother to your daughter Isabel, why did you allow her to rear me—that man’s offspring—as one entitled to your name, to crush me at this late day with a knowledge of the truth. It has pained me always to notice your coldness toward me, in contrast to your passionate love for Isabel; but I—I never suspected this. Oh, how could my own mother deceive me so?”

“I should never have told you the truth, Iris, but for this affair with St. John. I have treated you always as my own child, and denied you no luxury that Isabel herself has enjoyed. If I now demand a sacrifice at your hands, I think I have a right to expect that you will grant what I ask. At a word from me your mother would have given you, an infant of two years, into an asylum, sixteen years ago. I saved you from such a fate, and all I ask in return is that you will cure Chester St. John of his infatuation for your pretty, childish face. It is nothing more than infatuation, for before your return from school he was devoted to Isabel; and, Iris, I will tell you this[226] in strict confidence: unless my daughter makes an advantageous marriage very soon, I shall be a ruined man. Think what this word ruin means, not only to Isabel, but to your invalid mother, whose love of ease and luxury is part of her very life. Make St. John believe that you have no love for him, and all will be well, I know. The secret I have revealed to you to-day shall never again pass my lips, and——”

“Let me speak!” interrupted Iris, with quick, panting breaths. “I have no other way of paying you for what you have done for me, and I—I will do what you ask. But when I have sent Chester St. John from me I shall leave your home forever. I will never pass another night beneath your roof.”

A low knock on the door at this moment interrupted the girl’s brave words, and Peter entered, to announce that Mr. St. John was waiting in the parlor to see Miss Iris.

“So soon! Oh, how shall I meet him?” exclaimed Iris, with such a passionate cry of pain that Mr. Hilton feared her resolution would fail at the last, and, starting toward her, attempted to take one of her hands in his own.

“Iris, do not forget,” he began, but she drew herself shudderingly away from him, saying, as she moved slowly toward the door:

“I shall not forget the debt I owe you; I am going to pay it now—to pay it in full.”

There was no tremor in the low, sweet voice as she spoke these words, but her face, turned for a moment toward him as she crossed the threshold, was so pitifully white and hopeless that a momentary thrill of[227] compassion stirred Oscar Hilton’s heart, and he muttered to himself as he listened to the sound of her footsteps descending the stairs:

“Pshaw! she does not mean all that nonsense. I would never let her do that, but she shall not stand in my Isabel’s light. Ah, my daughter! I was thinking of you; was I speaking my thoughts aloud?”

He had spoken the last words audibly, just as the object of his thoughts entered the room.

“What is the matter, papa? I just passed Iris in the hall, looking like a ghost, and came in here to find you raving about somebody standing in my light. Tell me what it is all about, please; I hate anything approaching a mystery.”

Isabel spoke in the cold, imperious tones that were peculiar to her, but her father answered her almost humbly:

“There is no mystery, my darling; do not distress yourself. Don’t go yet, Isabel, I want to talk with you. You have not told me how you enjoyed yourself at Mrs. Laurier’s last night. Were there many there? Was Mr. St. John among the guests at any time during the evening?”

The last question was asked so earnestly that Isabel showed her white teeth in a laugh.

“You are always so anxious about Chester St. John, papa; I think you have set your heart upon having him for a son-in-law; is it not so, mon père ?”

Mr. Hilton answered his daughter gravely:

“I would like it of all things, Isabel; I should like to see you Chester St. John’s wife.”


Isabel’s dark, handsome face flushed, and she spoke somewhat bitterly:

“I would consent to be his wife if he asked me, papa, because he is the richest man I know, and the handsomest; but I do not like him. I think him proud, scornful, and sarcastic; and if the day ever comes when I—but I must not make idle threats; take comfort in the thought, my father, your dutiful daughter will employ every art in her power to bring Chester St. John to her feet.”



Chester St. John, waiting rather impatiently for the appearance of Iris in the parlor, came forward with warm words of greeting to meet the little white-robed figure, when the girl at last made her appearance, failing, in the semidarkness of the room, to notice the unusual pallor of her face, or the strange constraint of her manner.


He could only speak the two soft, sweet syllables of her name, thinking how well it suited her—Iris—like a rainbow, always bright.

He tried to take her hands in his own, for—although he had as yet made no actual declaration of his love, he knew he had shown her in many ways how dear she was to him, and if he was not mistaken in the language of her sweet, beautiful eyes, he felt equally confident that his love was returned.

It was not until her hand lay in his own, and he felt it cold as ice in his clasp, that he took the alarm.

“Iris, my beloved! You know why I have come to you this morning; your father has told you——” he began, and then—drawing her closely in his arms he looked intently in her face, uttering a low cry of alarm at sight of the white, changed countenance. “Iris! Oh, my love, what is it? What pain or sorrow has come to you?” he exclaimed, bending his lips to hers, while for one moment she lay white and passive in[230] his embrace. “Speak to me, my little one! My wife!” he ejaculated. But at the sound of those words, “My wife!” Iris drew herself out of his embrace, shivering from head to foot, and covering her ears to shut out the sound of the voice whose every accent was sweeter than any earthly music to her.

“You must not talk to me so. You have no right to address me in such terms,” she said in a voice that sounded cold and feelingless from the very effort she was making to control her emotion. “I cannot be your wife, Mr. St. John. I—I do not love you. You have been mistaken; please do not distress me by repeating your offer.”

It was such a cold and careless rejection that Chester St. John could not at first believe the evidence of his own ears.

What transpired during the next few minutes Iris could never clearly recall. She had a vague memory of hearing a voice that bore no resemblance to the clear tones of Chester St. John, upbraiding her in bitter, heartbreaking terms for making his life desolate, and destroying his faith in his mother’s sex.

She seemed to feel for days and weeks afterward the close, almost cruel, pressure of his hand as he held her fingers for one moment in parting; after which it had seemed to her that the earth grew suddenly dark and cold as the grave, and for the second time, since listening to Oscar Hilton’s story in the library, she had fallen like one dead.



“Jenny, how much longer must you work to-night? It is so tiresome, lying here alone, with no one to speak to me; won’t you put aside your sewing, dear, and read for me?”

It was a woman’s voice, weak and fretful, that uttered these words, and the person to whom they were addressed, a pale, weary-looking girl of twenty years, put aside the handsome silk robe upon which she had been sewing, and came to the bedside of the invalid.

“I must work a little longer, mother, dear,” she said softly. “Miss Hilton will be so angry about her dress; you know I promised it for last night, and failed to have it done, because of that unfortunate headache; but what is the matter, mother—are you feeling worse? Oh, my mother! I seem to see you failing, hour by hour.”

Jenny had broken into a passionate fit of weeping, kneeling by the low cot bed with her face on her mother’s breast.

“Hush! hush! my dear, poor child; you have been so brave always, and so patient with my fretful ways; don’t give way now, dear; try to prepare yourself——”

Jenny’s hand was pressed upon her lips now, and she could not finish the sentence.

“You shall not talk of leaving me,” the girl cried passionately; adding in tones of wild rebellion against the fate she had no power to avert, “God would not be so cruel to me.”


At this moment there was a crash of thunder that seemed to shake the tall tenement to its foundation, and the mother and daughter clung to each other almost in terror, the storm had arisen so suddenly.

It was the evening of the day on which Oscar Hilton had told Iris the story of her true parentage.

“How nervous I am to-night, mother. Let me close the window blinds, the rain is coming in through the broken pane, and if a drop should fall on Miss Hilton’s dress she would never forgive me. If it was her sister, Miss Iris, I should not be afraid.”

Jenny’s voice ceased suddenly, for at this moment there was a low knock on the door.

“Oh, dear! Oh, dear! I fear this is Miss Hilton’s servant for the dress,” murmured the little seamstress, as she hastened to admit the visitor; but the look of distress on her face changed to one of intense astonishment as she saw who it was that waited to be admitted.

“Miss Iris!” she could only ejaculate; and Iris came slowly into the room, seating herself on the nearest chair, like one who was very weary, while Jenny hastened to light a lamp, as the room was growing quite dark.

“Oh, Miss Iris!” she cried in alarm, when her eyes first fell upon the changed countenance of the young lady, “you are in trouble; what can I do for you? I know I am only a poor sewing girl, and you a rich man’s daughter, but——”

Until now Iris had been unable to speak, but here she interrupted:

“Listen to me, Jenny: I have come to you to-night[233] as poor and humble as yourself. You must not ask me to tell you all my story, but this you must know. I am no longer Iris Hilton, the rich man’s daughter; I must earn my bread even as you earn yours, by the labor of my hands. You have seemed so grateful for what little help I rendered you that I came to you to-night as to a friend—there, don’t cry, Jenny—I cannot cry; I do not feel as if I could ever shed a tear again. I would have gone to my friend Mrs. Laurier, but I could not. I am no longer in her social set, not that that would make any difference to her, but I simply could not take advantage of her friendship.”

There was something so unutterably sorrowful in the tone in which these words were spoken that both Jenny and the sick mother shed tears of sympathy, and the sound of the latter’s low sobbing had the effect of rousing Iris from the bitter train of thought into which she had fallen.

“Forgive me,” she said, in her sweet, gentle voice, as she approached the bedside and clasped the hand of the invalid. “I have been selfish to intrude my sorrows on you, but you shall see how cheerful I will be after to-night, for I am going to stay with you, if you will have me, and Jenny shall show me how to sew.”

The sound of footsteps approaching the door, followed by an imperative knock, interrupted Iris at this moment, and she had just time to seat herself when Jenny opened the door, to admit a gentleman, the first sight of whose face caused Iris to start and clasp her hands together in sudden excitement.


“The face in my mother’s locket!” she said to herself, and shivered when the man’s voice fell on her ear, although he was speaking merely on some trivial business matter that did not in the least concern her.

“Mrs. Neville requested me to remind you that she expects her dress to be completed before one o’clock to-morrow,” he was saying to Jenny, and in a moment more he would have left the room without glancing toward the spot where Iris was sitting but for some slight sound that caused him to turn in the doorway. He started at the sight of Iris’ face, even as Iris had done on first encountering his own, and Iris could hear the swift-spoken words he whispered to Jenny:

“Introduce me to that young lady; she is very like a—a friend I lost years ago.”

Jenny turned toward Iris with the words of introduction trembling on her lips, but Iris checked her by a glance, as she herself stepped forward.

“My name is Maggie Gordon, sir; I am a seamstress, like my friend.”

The abruptness of this singular introduction seemed to take the man completely by surprise, and he could only bow low in acknowledgment and hasten from the room, leaving Iris—or Maggie Gordon, as our heroine had called herself—white and trembling like one who had stood in the presence of some spirit of darkness.

“I am afraid! Oh, so horribly afraid,” she whispered, and crouched by the sick woman’s bedside, hiding her face in the bedclothes, and trembling in every limb.



“I called to see your dressmaker this evening, Clara, and she promises to have your work completed to-morrow, without fail, and—but by the way, my dear, I am not quite certain that the young girl will be able to keep her promise. I caught a glimpse of her invalid mother, and it is my belief that the poor woman will not live till morning. I suppose, in that case, the other young lady will be obliged to finish the work for you.”

The speaker was Mr. Charles Broughton, and the woman he addressed Mrs. Clara Neville, a haughty, handsome widow of thirty, and Mr. Broughton’s affianced wife.

The fair widow would never have owned to herself that she could harbor the slightest feeling of jealousy toward such an insignificant personage as a dressmaker’s associate; but there was something in Mr. Broughton’s expression and manner of speaking of that other lady that brought an angry glitter to the black eyes of his betrothed.

“Who is the person you are speaking of? I never had the pleasure of meeting any other sewing woman in Jenny’s home. I have always understood that Jenny Mason was without friends or connections in this country.”

“I saw a face in Jenny Mason’s home to-night that brought back——”


He did not finish the sentence, but threw his hands suddenly over his face, shivering in the warmth and luxury of the cozy apartment in which he sat, as if he had been facing a wintry blast.

“Let me finish the sentence for you, Mr. Broughton; the face you saw to-night brought back the memory of some woman you have loved in the past. What a pity that the possessor of this face should be only a working girl.”

“By heavens! you wrong me, Clara,” he cried hoarsely, “the girl I saw to-night reminded me of my bitterest enemy—of a woman I have cause to hate—and whose name I curse every hour of my life. If I thought one drop of that woman’s blood flowed in the veins of this working girl I would hunt her out of every place she found employment. I would never rest until I had visited the sin of her—but what wild talk is this? The woman whose name I curse is living in luxury wherever she may be, and the poor little seamstress is not to blame for her remarkable resemblance to one who must be a stranger to her. Never send me there again, Clara; the sight of that girl’s face aroused all the demon within me, and awakened passions that have lain dormant for years.”

He was a handsome man, despite his five-and-forty years. His thick, wavy black hair showed no thread of silver, and his eyes were keen and bright.

He was a general favorite among the fair sex, although but little was known of his antecedents or former history.

If there was an air of mystery surrounding him, this fact only tended to make him more interesting[237] in the eyes of the ladies, and there were many who envied Clara Neville her conquest when it became known that this fascinating little widow had won handsome Charley Broughton’s love.

Clara herself was very proud of her stately, distinguished-looking lover, and insanely jealous of him, as her recent exhibition of temper may have led the reader to suppose.

She was half frightened now at the storm of passion her own words had evoked, but she had no longer any fear that he admired the girl he had met at Jenny Mason’s.

“Pray calm yourself, my dear Charles,” she said; “you shall never go to my dressmaker’s again; you will surely be ill if you excite yourself so; I shall be quite anxious about you when you leave me; please look a little more cheerful for my sake.”

“For your sake, my pretty pleader, I would accomplish a much harder task,” replied Broughton, with assumed gayety, as he encircled the widow’s form with his arm, and pressed a kiss on her white forehead.

During the remainder of that evening he was as loving and attentive as even the most exacting lady love could have desired, and left Mrs. Neville in the happy belief that her idolatrous fondness for him was fully reciprocated.

But once outside her home the man’s whole demeanor changed, and as he wended his way to the hotel at which he had taken up his residence, he was saying to himself:

“Bah! how hard it is for me to humor her jealous whims, and to keep up a pretense of fondness for her.[238] If I had allowed her to continue in her belief that I admired this Maggie Gordon, she would have succeeded in getting the girl out of the way.”

Charles Broughton had reached his hotel by this time, and encountered a friend who had been awaiting his arrival in the reading room, and who greeted him with an exclamation of astonishment.

“Heavens, Charley, how ill you look!”

“Never mind my looks, my friend; I am a little under the weather, but I don’t care to be reminded of it continually. Come up to my den, and let me see if a chat with you and a glass of wine will not restore me,” said Broughton carelessly; and a few moments later found the friends chatting and laughing over their wine and cigars.

But always between Charles Broughton and the ruby liquid he raised so often to his lips came the beautiful face and violet eyes of the girl who had declared herself to be Maggie Gordon.



“Miss Iris! Oh, please excuse me, I promised to call you always Maggie, but I am so frightened—I don’t know what I say. Maggie, are you awake? My mother is very ill, I fear; I do not know what to do for her. Won’t you please get up and look at her?”

It was the night following that on which Iris had first entered the humble home of Jenny Mason, and a comfortable couch had been provided for her—at her own expense—in the little bedroom opening off the apartment which served as sitting room, dining room, and kitchen in one.

It was after eleven o’clock that night when Jenny aroused Iris from a deep sleep.

She arose from her bed with a sickening sense of dizziness and an oppressing weight on her heart, but one glance into the white, pained face of Jenny’s suffering mother gave her a false power of endurance.

It was plain to even her experienced eye—and she had never yet looked upon a person in the death struggle—that Mrs. Mason would never see another sunrise.

“Oh, Jenny, you must bring a doctor at once!” cried Iris, but at the sound of these words the invalid’s fingers closed tighter around the hand of her child.

“Do not leave me—no doctor can—give me one moment of life. I want you with me—till the end comes!” she whispered, and Iris had not the heart to oppose the dying woman’s wishes.


“Tell me where the doctor lives!” Iris whispered.

Jenny offered a feeble remonstrance, but Iris would not listen, and, a moment later, the latter was hurrying through the city streets.

The doctor of whom she was in search resided about a dozen blocks from the residence of Mrs. Mason, and Iris had gone about half that distance when two gentlemen met her face to face.

She was not veiled, and the moonlight fell upon her beautiful, pale face.

At sight of her both of the gentlemen started, and Iris in her turn—having recognized in one of these men the gentleman whose face had so strangely started her on the previous evening—uttered an exclamation of dismay at first, but quickly recovering herself, bent her head in acknowledgment of her recognition of him, and hurried on without a glance into the face of his companion, with whom she had often danced and chatted in the days when she believed herself the young daughter and joint heiress of Oscar Hilton.

Iris had not gone two dozen paces away from them when the companion of Charles Broughton clasped the latter’s arm excitedly.

“What can be the matter, Charley? Do you know anything about it? Iris Hilton is not the girl whom I would expect to find walking the streets at night alone, and at this hour, too. Why, Broughton, it is nearly half past eleven. I shall follow her—there must be something wrong.”

With these words, Gerald Dare, who had been a secret admirer of Oscar Hilton’s younger daughter, was about to start in pursuit of the lonely girl, but[241] the firm grip of Charles Broughton’s hand upon his arm restrained him.

At the first mention of the name “Iris,” a gray, ashen pallor had crept over Broughton’s face, and his breath had been quickly indrawn, like that of one who was drowning.

“Walk with me, Dare, to the nearest café—that deathly feeling of weakness is creeping over me again. You know how ill I was last night!”

His voice was so faint and tremulous that Dare was really alarmed, and accompanied his friend to a café, thus giving Iris a chance to escape his espionage, exactly the object which Broughton desired to attain.

Iris pursued her way to the doctor’s residence unmolested, and was fortunate enough to find that gentleman still in his office, he having just returned from visiting one of his serious cases.

Iris would have left the place at once on stating her errand, and gaining his promise to follow her immediately, but something in the expression of her wan, white face, with its innate and unmistakable look of refinement, had led the doctor to detain her.

“My child, you are yourself sadly in need of a physician’s care. You are not fit to be out at night alone. Wait just one moment, and I will have my gig made ready, and you and I will drive to Mrs. Mason’s together.”

They reached the tenement in which Mrs. Mason resided, some minutes after midnight; but, as the old physician saw at a glance, his coming had been in vain.

The grim King of Terrors had entered before him,[242] and the white, still form beside which Jenny Mason knelt was only a senseless and feelingless statue of clay—all that remained was the earthly tenement whence the immortal spirit had fled.

We will not linger over the days that followed; suffice it to say that the last dollar of which Iris had been possessed when she left the home of her reputed father was spent in defraying the funeral expenses of Mrs. Mason.

On the second day after Mrs. Mason’s burial Isabel Hilton called on Jenny, and reproached the latter sharply for failing to have her dress completed, refusing even to excuse the poor girl when she offered her mother’s death as an apology for failing to fulfill her contract.

Iris remained hidden in the inner room during Isabel’s visit, but the latter made no mention whatever of her missing sister’s name.

She quietly informed Jenny that in the future she would have no work for her, as she was not fond of disappointments, and left the unhappy little dressmaker in despair, as Mrs. Clara Neville had also withdrawn her patronage.

After this it was impossible for Iris and Jenny to live as the latter had formerly been able to do.

There came a day when the two girls left their humble home in search of work, without having eaten any breakfast, for the simple reason that there was not even a loaf of bread in the house.

Jenny soon succeeded in obtaining employment of a fashionable modiste in Forty-first Street, near Fifth Avenue, but Iris—or Maggie Gordon—must consent[243] to work six months for Madam Ward as an apprentice, if she would learn the trade by which her friend earned a livelihood.

Jenny urged her to accept the offer.

“Do consent to stay here, Maggie; madam seems to be a kind lady, and the girls with whom we will have to work—Emma and Sarah—have every appearance of being quiet and ladylike girls, who will never pry into your business or make themselves too familiar.”

Iris consented to Jenny’s plan, even remembering that she had not one dollar to her name, but thinking that the jewelry of which she was possessed—if sold—would bring her money enough to defray her expenses until she could learn to work with Jenny.

Jenny made it a condition with Madam Ward that Maggie should not be separated from her, and consequently another day found Maggie Gordon, with Jenny Mason, Emma Henry, and Sarah Bennett, engaged in the making of an elegant costume of white satin and point lace—the bridal dress of Mrs. Clara Neville, to be worn on the occasion of that lady’s marriage with Mr. Charles Broughton.

Despite all her brave efforts to accomplish the work expected of her, the constant and unusual confinement of the workroom quickly told upon Iris; and on the third day of her engagement with Madam Ward she was obliged to quit her work shortly after noontime, unable longer to combat the deathly feeling of sickness that had been gradually creeping upon her since the night of Mrs. Mason’s death.

Emma, who was just returning from the bank—where[244] she had been sent to change a check for her employer—met Maggie at the hall door.

“I have a telegram for you, Maggie; I signed the receipt myself to save you the trouble of coming downstairs,” said Emma, in her gentle, sympathetic voice; and Maggie could only bow her head in acknowledgment of Emma’s kindness, as she took the ominous yellow envelope from the latter’s hand, and seated herself, weak and trembling, on the lower step of the stairs leading to the workroom, to make herself mistress of its contents.

The girl, Emma, with the true instincts of a gentlewoman, passed up the stairs without waiting to see how the contents of the yellow envelope would affect her fellow worker, although her young heart ached for the girl whose sufferings she could read so plainly in the sorrowful eyes and pallid features for a moment uplifted to her gaze.

Maggie was therefore all alone when she opened the telegram, and read the following words:

To Iris—or Maggie Gordon: If you ever cared for Chester St. John come to him now. He is dying, and calls for you with every breath. He cannot live one hour from the time you receive this telegram; so if you slight this message you will render his last moments unhappy. Should you care to see him alive, call immediately at No. 685B Lexington Avenue.”

Iris read the message over and over again.

All the memory of the bitter words that had passed Chester St. John’s lips when he bade her farewell faded from her brain.


She scarcely looked at the name signed to the telegram—Gerald Dare.

She thought of nothing but that Chester St. John was dying, and that she loved him with all her heart and soul.

And with the telegram crushed in her hand, and only the thought of her approaching meeting with Chester St. John keeping her from giving way to that sickening sensation of weakness, she turned her steps in the direction of the house in Lexington Avenue, without a thought that any treachery had lured her thither, although St. John’s residence was not in that locality.

It never occurred to her to wonder how this Gerald Dare knew of her change of name, and the place where she worked.



Several of the friends whom Iris Hilton had visited in the days of her prosperity resided on Lexington Avenue, and she knew that the number mentioned in the dispatch was in the neighborhood of Twenty-third Street, so that she had not more than a dozen blocks to walk from Madam Ward’s establishment to her destination.

At last the goal was reached, and she stood still for one moment before she could ascend the high stone stoop, pressing her hands to her heart, and praying for strength to go through the ordeal before her.

“He must not see me looking so ill—as I feel I am looking now. Oh, my darling! My brave, strong, noble love, what can have stricken you down so soon?” she murmured; and summoning all her strength to overcome the faintness that was creeping slowly upon her, she ascended the steps and rang a soft peal at the doorbell.

A stolid-looking colored man opened the door at her summons, and the girl tried to read in his face some knowledge of the true state of affairs in his master’s household, but she might as well have sought to penetrate the countenance of a statue.

“I wish to see him—Mr. St. John—they—they telegraphed for me,” she said, with a quick, panting breath, and at her words the ebony statue smiled and opened the door wider, that she might enter.

“Oh, yes, missy, I have had my orders to admit[247] you,” he said, and something in his careless, and even jovial manner gave Iris a hope that things were not so bad with Chester St. John as she had feared.

“Will you take me to him now—at once,” she cried. “Oh, please make no delay—I am very calm, I shall say or do nothing to excite him.”

“All right, missy, just you follow me,” replied the negro; and, still smiling blandly, he led the way to a room in the second story.

On the threshold of this room the girl paused, her heart beating tumultuously, and her fair, young face growing white as the dead.

“Oh, God, grant that he may recognize me, and that I may teach him to know that I was never false to him,” she prayed, and then, forcing back the sobs that were rising in her throat, she followed the servant into the room, stepping softly in her fear of disturbing the invalid, but recoiling with a little cry of repugnance and dismay as her eyes fell upon the face of the man who had come forward to meet her—the handsome, saturnine face of Charles Broughton.

As yet she had not conceived any idea of treachery, and after this first involuntary shrinking from the man whom, for some reason, she disliked and feared—she would not allow herself to think of anything but Chester St. John.

“Where is he?” she whispered, with a wild glance around the room; and at her words Broughton broke into a low, mocking laugh.

“My dear, you must grant me your pardon for luring you here by stratagem. Your lover is—for aught I know to the contrary—as well as you or I[248] at this moment; but I knew of no other way of gaining an interview with you, and so took the liberty of using his name to accomplish my purpose—don’t look so horrified—I mean no harm to you—sit down, and Sam shall bring you some wine.”

There was no need for him to tell her to be seated.

She had fallen into the chair nearest her, trembling in every limb, and for the moment utterly incapable of speech or motion.

On the day subsequent to that on which Iris had left the home of Oscar Hilton, Isabel, the beloved daughter of the latter, was taken suddenly and dangerously ill, and the fond father was almost beside himself with fear for his darling’s safety.

But for this greater and all-absorbing sorrow he would have caused an immediate search to be made for Iris, as it had been no part of his policy to drive the girl from his roof.

Mrs. Hilton, as has been mentioned, was a confirmed invalid, and Iris had been her constant attendant.

She fretted and lamented her daughter’s absence now to such an extent that Mr. Hilton could not bear to enter her presence.

Evelyn Hilton had been a woman of rare and unusual beauty, and of the poor remains of this loveliness she was even now foolishly proud.

She was a vain, selfish woman, inordinately fond of dress and luxurious living, and with little affection to bestow on any object but self.

She had never seemed to bear the real mother love[249] for her only child, being unable to understand the noble nature of Iris, a nature high above her own as the stars above the earth.

It gave her no pain now to think of her child’s probable fate, but she lamented in bitter terms the girl’s heartlessness in leaving her to the care of hirelings.

“Why did you say anything to drive her away, Oscar? You know how sadly I shall miss her. I shall never be able to sleep without her voice to read to me, and no one can soothe me as Iris could, when I suffer with that dreadful pain in my head. You must find her and bring her back to me. I cannot get along without Iris; indeed, I cannot, Oscar,” the invalid had cried to her husband; and he had promised to find the girl if possible, and would certainly have made an attempt to do so had it not been for the fact of Isabel’s alarming seizure.

This put all thoughts of Iris from his mind, and during the three days that followed the house was in a state of confusion impossible to describe.

It appeared that every doctor of note in the city was called in to prescribe for Isabel, and it soon became known throughout the circle to which proud, dark-eyed Isabel had been wont to mingle that Oscar Hilton’s daughter’s life was despaired of.

On the fourth day of Isabel’s illness Chester St. John, who had left the city on the day when Iris rejected his love, returned to his home, and, chancing to hear of the illness of Hilton’s daughter through the conversation of two gentlemen in his clubroom, at once concluded that the sufferer was the girl whom[250] he had loved—nay, whom he still loved as he could never love another, although her own words had condemned her as a heartless coquette, and he had parted from her with bitter words of reproach and recrimination.

“Iris dying! Oh, it cannot be! My bright, beautiful love,” he groaned, and the impulse to go to her home and beg them to let him look upon her face once more was too strong to be resisted.

He remembered now, when he had believed that Heaven was taking her from him—remembered with an anguish keen as death—the last look he had seen in the deep blue eyes of Iris—the look of passionate love and bitter pain that had followed him, even while her cruel lips sent him from her.

“There was some mistake—oh, my love! My precious little Iris, if I could see you now you would make it plain to me,” he thought, and walked directly from the club to Oscar Hilton’s, his heart turning sick within him as he approached the house, and a terrible fear came to him that he might see long streamers of crape and white ribbon streaming from the bell handle.

“I think the sight would have killed me,” he murmured, as he stood on the threshold awaiting admittance a few minutes later.

On this day Isabel had been pronounced “out of danger,” and Oscar Hilton consented to leave her bedside long enough to see Mr. St. John.

The desire to win this rich man for his daughter’s husband instantly revived in the father’s heart at sight of Chester’s card, and he left the presence of the girl who had been so near to the portals of death[251] with no prayer of thanksgiving in his heart to the God who had spared her to him, but with wild schemes running through his brain for her worldly advancement. He knew that when she gained her strength again she would stop at nothing to bring this proud, handsome Chester St. John to her feet, and he himself had a plan by which he hoped to aid her in the accomplishment of this purpose.

On entering the little reception room into which a servant had shown St. John, Mr. Hilton was startled by the almost ghastly pallor of the young man’s face. He was not long in making the discovery that it was fears for the life of Iris, and no anxiety for Isabel, that had wrought this change in the strong, proud man before him, and a fierce and unreasoning hatred sprang to life in his heart for the hapless child whose sweet, young face had had power to awaken such a wondrous depth of love in this man’s soul, a love that his own queenly Isabel had failed as yet to inspire.

The plans which had been hitherto vague and shadowy took sudden form and shape in his scheming brain, and when Chester St. John left the house, nearly an hour later, Oscar Hilton watched his retreating form with a look almost amounting to triumph.

“I have shaken his faith in her, even as she herself could not shake it, although she assured him she had no love for him, and led him to think her a coquette. He will not seek her now, although he does not as yet believe—as I hinted to him—that she has left my roof for the arms of some unworthy lover. He shall believe it, though—if Evelyn has not forgotten her cunning in imitating her daughter’s pretty penmanship.”



In all her life Iris had never experienced such a feeling of horror as that which filled her heart on finding that she had been trapped to the house on Lexington Avenue by the man whom we know as Charley Broughton.

“Let me go away. What wrong have I ever done you that you should terrify me thus? What can you want of me?” she faltered, staggering like one under the influence of liquor, as she attempted to walk to the door.

But for all answer Broughton forced her back into the chair from which she had arisen, laughing sardonically at her childish betrayal of terror.

“My pretty one! I tell you I mean you no harm; why do you fear me so; do you know me?”

Iris shuddered, and covered her eyes with her hands to shut out the sight of his face.

“Do you know me, little Iris?” he repeated, fearing that she had not heard his question, and laying a particular stress on the name Iris.

“I will tell you all I know of you,” cried the girl at last, with a suddenness that startled Broughton more than he would have cared to confess. “One day, some three years ago, my mother, who is an invalid confined to her own chamber, sent me to her writing desk in search of some prescription—or the receipt of a remedy that would ease her pain. In my haste I[253] overturned the desk, and shattered it, as the wood was old and dried. While I was gathering up the contents, which had been scattered upon the floor, I found among them a small gold locket which I had never seen my mother wear. It was set with pearls, and I admired it greatly. I remember that my mother cried out in alarm when she saw the locket in my hands, but I had already opened it, and saw within it the picture of a man’s face—your face. I questioned my mother concerning the original, and for the first time in my life saw her violently agitated. She told me then that the man whose face I gazed upon in a species of fascination was my enemy—my enemy and hers, and if ever I met him in life to beware of him, for he would leave no means untried to work my ruin. That time has come, and your conduct toward me proves that my mother’s fears were not without foundation. I am in your power, a weak and unprotected girl, while you are strong and powerful and pitiless; but although I was terrified at first by the means which you employed to lure me into your power, I am not afraid of you now, for I remember that there is a God who knoweth even the fall of the sparrow, and that the same God watches over me in this—my hour of peril.”

Iris had arisen from her chair while speaking, and stood before Charles Broughton in an attitude of defiance, her small hands folded on her breast, her pretty, bright-tressed head thrown back, and her eyes uplifted in childish faith and confidence to the God who seems so dear to such as her.

For one brief moment, Charles Broughton, sin-hardened,[254] worldly, and unprincipled though he was, turned his eyes away from the sight of that pure, uplifted face, ashamed of his own vileness; but, alas! he did not listen long to the promptings of his better nature. The one aim and object of his life was to be revenged on one who had bitterly wronged him, and through this innocent child before him he saw the means of striking the first blow for the accomplishment of this revenge.

“You shall know the reason I have for being an enemy to the woman you call mother,” he said. “You shall know why Evelyn Hilton speaks of me as her enemy and yours. Twenty years ago I was not the man you see before you to-day. I was young and hopeful and tender-hearted.

“It is true I had been led into bad company, and had allowed myself to be drawn into temptation; but when I met the girl whom it was my fate to love, I swore to overcome all this temptation and to live a life I need not be ashamed to ask her to share.

“She was a poor girl, and married me; not because she loved me, but for the reason that my father was a wealthy man, and she hoped to live a luxurious life as the wife of his only son and heir.

“In this she was disappointed, for in the very hour in which he learned that I had made Evelyn Hardress my wife, he disinherited me, and, dying two months later, left all his wealth to the endowment of a charitable institution, cutting me off with the mocking bequest of one dollar.

“Had I been alone the sufferer, I would not have felt this injustice so bitterly; but my young wife was[255] passionately fond of the luxuries wealth alone could buy, and as I still loved her passionately, it almost killed me to be obliged to deny her anything for which she craved.

“At last I was obliged to tell her the truth; and from that hour my nature changed, until from the weak, extravagant, but foolishly fond boy of twenty years ago, you see me the bitter, vengeful man of to-day.

“You shrink from me still, and your heart clings to the woman who gave you birth; but you can never know what agony I endured for that woman’s sake.

“A distant relative of my father offered me at this time a position as cashier in his bank, and my acceptance of this offer sealed my doom. My wife was dearer to me than any consideration of honor, and when she threw herself weeping on my breast, lamenting that she could not attend a party to which she had been invited because of her inability to dress as richly as she had been used to do, I committed my first crime. I appropriated one thousand dollars of the money intrusted to my care, and gave it to her for her personal adornment. I saw her decked in the robes purchased at the sacrifice of my honor. I knew that I had become a thief for her sake, and yet I gloried in her peerless beauty, and never loved her as passionately as on that night when I heard her spoken of as the most beautiful woman in all that crowded assemblage.

“It was not love I felt for her, but a blind infatuation that led me on to repeat my first crime time and again, until from very terror of detection I determined[256] to quit the country. Evelyn encouraged me in this determination, until, just one day previous to that on which I was to have taken my departure for Europe, where I hoped to earn the wherewithal to repay the large sums I had purloined, I was arrested on the charge of forgery, a check having been presented at the bank bearing the signature of one of our wealthiest depositors, but written in a hand that was instantly recognized as my own.

“I could almost have sworn it myself to be my own handwriting, so perfect and faultless was the imitation; but after the first shock of this awful accusation was over I recognized it as the work of my wife, who had often boasted of her talent in copying the handwriting of any person whose penmanship she had ever studied.

“I made no charge against her at the time; indeed, I think the shock of the discovery deprived me for a time of my reason, and I remember nothing definitely until I recovered to find myself in a prison cell, branded as a felon, and doomed to years of confinement.

“When at last, after five years’ imprisonment, the full realization of my position was brought home to me, I swore a bitter and terrible oath of vengeance on the woman who had dragged me down to the lowest depths of degradation, on her and her offspring forever.

“I was allowed a limited communication with friends in the outside world, who had known and respected me in the days of my prosperity, and from them I learned that Evelyn, who had succeeded in[257] obtaining a divorce from me, had married a retired merchant named Oscar Hilton, and was living the luxurious life of which she had been always so fond.

“From these friends, also, I learned that she had given birth, some two months previous to her marriage with Hilton, to a female child, to whom, after her usual romantic notions, she had given the name of Cleopatra’s handmaiden, Iris.

“I believed at the time, as I believe now, that you, Iris, are my child as surely as you are Evelyn Hilton’s, and I claim an equal right to your obedience.

“I have no love for you, I must tell you frankly; you are too much like the woman who has cursed my life, and made me the reckless wretch I am to-day. You are beautiful as a siren, with the fatal beauty that lured me to destruction, and I have resolved that you shall never betray a good man’s trust as your mother betrayed mine.

“You are my child, Iris Trisilian, and you shall stay with me and do my bidding; nay, it is useless for you to glance so significantly toward the door—as well might a bird hope to escape the toils of a charmer, as you expect to leave my care.”

The man who had called himself Charles Broughton took forcible possession of the girl’s hands now, and attempted to seat her in the chair near which she stood; but at this moment the sound of low knocking on the door interrupted him.

Something in the expression of her face half frightened Charles Broughton, and grasping her arm almost rudely, he whispered:

“Do not contradict anything I say, no matter how[258] far I may depart from the truth. Do not dare to carry out the defiance your looks express, if you would not have me brand you as the daughter of a felon—and not only the child of a forger, but of an escaped convict. Say one word to betray me, and the proud aristocrat who has declared his love for you—the haughty Chester St. John, who is so proud of his spotless reputation and ancient lineage—shall know you as the offspring of Carleton Tresilian. Ah, I think that was some one knocking on the door—come in!” And Charles Broughton threw himself negligently into a chair at some distance from Iris, who was sitting now with her head thrown back among the cushions of an easy-chair, her hands locked tightly together in her lap, and those terrible words to which she had listened a moment before repeating themselves over and over again in her tortured brain—“the child of an escaped convict.”



On the afternoon of the day following Chester St. John’s visit to Mr. Hilton, the former was seated alone in the library of his father’s mansion on Fifth Avenue, pondering sadly over the change that seemed to have come over all his life since the hour when the hope he had cherished of winning Iris for his wife had been shattered by her own cruel rejection of him.

He felt assured that there was some mystery connected with Iris’ flight from the home of the man he still believed to be her father, but that this mystery was connected with any unworthy love never for one moment occurred to the loyal heart of Chester St. John, Oscar Hilton’s hints to that effect notwithstanding.

While he was thinking thus, a servant brought him a card bearing the name of Oscar Hilton, and informed him that that gentleman was waiting to see him downstairs.

“Thank Heaven, he brings me some news of Iris!” was Chester’s first thought. But his first glimpse into Hilton’s face showed him that whatever the tidings the latter brought there was in them no cause for rejoicing.

Mr. Hilton was very pale, and his face wore an expression of deep sorrow.

“I am in great trouble,” he said, in answer to Chester’s anxious inquiry, and stood for a moment with[260] his hands clasped on the low, marble mantel, and his face hidden in them.

St. John was terribly alarmed, but could not give voice to his fears, and Hilton himself was obliged to resume the conversation.

“I came to you, St. John, because I know you loved my unfortunate child, and——”

“My God, what is it? What has happened? Do not keep me in suspense; tell me the worst,” cried the young man hoarsely.

And with his hatred for unhappy Iris growing stronger than ever with every fresh evidence of this man’s love for her, Hilton exclaimed:

“The worst is only this—that Iris is unworthy your love or mine. Chester St. John, I will tell you a secret you should never have known but for that girl’s ingratitude to me. Iris is no child of mine; her mother was, when I first met her, the divorced wife of a man who was serving out a term of imprisonment for forgery.

“You can understand my infatuation, St. John, when I tell you that the mother at that time was far more beautiful than the daughter is to-day. Iris was then a child of two years, and I promised to rear her as my own, and have faithfully kept my vow, as you may have seen, making no difference between her and my own child, Isabel. When I listened to your confession of love for her, you may have seen that I was agitated, but even then I would have allowed you to take the girl to your heart without revealing a word of the truth to you, in my affection for her, had it not been for her conduct since that time. But[261] what is the matter with you? Why do you look at me so strangely?”

“I think I understand now the reason she rejected me. You were not so kind to her as you tried to be to me. You told her this story of her unhappy parentage, and the poor child was too proud to come to me with this stain upon her name, my poor, little love!”

The tone of exquisite tenderness in which these last words were spoken enraged Hilton almost beyond power of control, and he could not quite conceal his exultation as he handed Chester a dainty, pink-tinted envelope, with his own name written in a feminine hand on its face.

He recognized the penmanship instantly as that of Iris, who had once copied a song for him, and whose notes to his sister Grace he had read on several occasions.

“Read the letter; you have a right to be made acquainted with its contents,” said Mr. Hilton; and thus urged, St. John took the letter, upon which Iris’ blue eyes had never fallen, and read words that separated him from her so effectually that unless the truth of this missive should be discovered, she would be to him henceforth as the greatest stranger—a woman whom he could no longer respect.

He handed the letter back to Oscar Hilton in silence, but his face was as white as it would ever be in its coffin, and his hand trembled so that the letter fluttered from his hold to the floor.

“I thank you for having awakened me from my dream,” he said hoarsely; and a few minutes later[262] Mr. Hilton took his departure, exulting in the thought that if Chester St. John and Iris Tresilian met face to face on the morrow, the former would pass the girl as if she were a stranger; and it now only remained for Isabel to win the heart which no longer belonged to another.



The letter shown to Chester St. John was, as the reader has doubtless surmised, the work of Evelyn Hilton, and written at the dictation of her husband.

Cold and unkind though she had been to her daughter while the latter had been in attendance on her, it cost her a struggle to write the words that would make her child appear in such an evil light to the man for whose eye it was intended.

There had been a stormy scene in the chamber of the invalid on the occasion of the writing of this letter, for at first Mrs. Hilton had boldly declined to do the work required of her.

“You shall write the letter, and write just exactly as I dictate you. How dare you refuse to obey me?” he almost shouted, grasping Evelyn’s delicate wrist so tightly that she cried out with pain.

Even after this outburst she ventured to offer another feeble protest.

“How can you ask me to do that which will ruin the reputation of my own child? Oh, Oscar, think of your own Isabel. Could any threat of harm to yourself or any inducement that could be offered you compel you to write one line that would injure her?”

“You amuse me, Evelyn, you are developing rare dramatic talent in your old age—your pretense of love for your child is really a fine piece of acting—bah! Do you think I believe it is anything more than[264] acting? Did you love your child when you would have placed her in an asylum sixteen years ago? A little, helpless toddler of two years? You talk of the ties of natural affection! What had you done with that sentiment when you forged your husband’s name, and branded the man who had loved you truly as felon, suffering him to be cast into a prison for your sins? Good heavens, I have killed her!”

The last exclamation broke from Hilton’s lips with a cry of unfeigned alarm, for Evelyn had fallen back like one dead among the cushions of her easy-chair.

Oscar Hilton had loved this woman—next to his idolized daughter—better than anything in life, and she had not even yet lost all sway over his selfish heart.

He was thoroughly alarmed now, and used every effort in his power to restore her, fearing to call any assistance lest in her first moments of awakening to life she might say something to betray her perilous secret.

It seemed to him that hours had passed before his efforts were rewarded with success, and the dark-blue eyes he had once thought so beautiful lost that strained and awful look that had so terrified him.

“How did you learn my secret?” she cried, when fully restored.

“Your secret is known only to myself, Evelyn, and I assure you it is safe with me as long as you strive to please me and obey me. I learned the truth from your own lips, while you were sleeping at my side. You have a habit of talking aloud, and quite connectedly in your sleep, and you rave of that forged note continually. You are white and trembling still; drink[265] this glass of wine, and when you are little stronger I will dictate the words I wish you to write in your daughter’s name. The imitation of her handwriting will be no trouble to you, I know, for you have often boasted to me of your skill in this sort of work. Have you decided to obey me, Evelyn?”

“I have no choice left me but to obey you,” the woman answered, in a tone of intense weariness; and half an hour later found her engaged in writing the letter that was destined to cause her child many an hour of keen suffering. It was addressed to Oscar Hilton, and read as follows:

“I am leaving your home to follow the fortunes of a man whom I love, but of whom I know you would not approve. I can tell you nothing concerning him, only the simple fact of my love for him. I know you had set your heart upon my marriage with Chester St. John, but this could never have been.

“I like Mr. St. John very much, and I may have deceived him into the belief that I returned his affection for me, but I could not help it; it was so pleasant for me to feel in company that I had the power to retain the handsomest and wealthiest man among them by my side, while the other ladies were dying of envy.

“I am sorry now that I did so, because I know that I have often given pain to your Isabel, who loves Chester St. John with her whole heart. She never betrayed her secret to me until I told her of his proposal, and then she could not hide it.

“Her face turned white as death, and I heard her whisper his name over and over in such a tone of[266] love and sorrow that I was ashamed of my own heartless conduct.

“I hope he will learn to love Isabel, she is much more worthy than I am, and better fitted to grace his home.

“When you receive this I shall be with the man of my choice.

“Break the news as gently as possible to my mother, and ask her to forgive and forget her willful daughter,


This was the letter, and hardened and worldly as was the woman who wrote it, a tear fell on the open page before her as she signed the name of the sweet-faced girl who had never given her an angry or impatient word.

On the day following that on which he had shown St. John the letter, Mr. Hilton met Chester face to face on Broadway, and on the latter’s making a polite inquiry for Miss Hilton, answered in a grave and sorrowful tone:

“She does not appear to be making much progress toward recovery. Her doctors say she makes no effort, and they are astonished that one so young and lovely should seem to have so little desire for life. St. John, it would kill me to give her up,” and Hilton grasped the arm of his companion with a passionate vehemence that contrasted oddly with his usual calm and collected demeanor. “It would kill me,” he reiterated, “and to save her I would suffer any humiliation. St. John, you know the secret sorrow that is breaking my darling’s proud heart; I was obliged to[267] expose it to you when I showed you Iris’ heartless letter. Will not you do something to restore her to me? Call on her as a friend. Do not let her think that you have deserted our home because of Iris’ cruel treatment——”

“Hush, Mr. Hilton; please do not mention that name in my hearing,” exclaimed St. John, drawing his arm out of that of his companion with a shudder of uncontrollable repulsion.

The interview ended with a half reluctant promise from St. John to call on Isabel, and Isabel’s father went on his way triumphant, thinking as he proceeded toward his home: “Before another month is over, my darling shall be Chester St. John’s promised wife, and whether I fail or prosper, her future will be well provided for.”



The person who entered the presence of Iris and Charles Broughton at the latter’s invitation, was Mr. Gerald Dare, the young man who had recognized Iris while walking with Broughton on the night of Mrs. Mason’s death.

At sight of Iris now, seated in close proximity to his friend Broughton, Dare was literally spellbound, and found it impossible to conceal his astonishment.

“Iris Hilton!” he exclaimed, involuntarily uttering the name by which he had known her; and then catching the angry, indignant look in Broughton’s eyes, he sought to offer some apology for his rudeness. As for Iris herself, she uttered no word or sound.

“You told me to call at this hour, Broughton,” began Dare in a confused and hesitating manner; to which Broughton replied with a laugh:

“Of course I did, my dear boy, and we’ll settle our little business at once. Come downstairs with me, if you please; Iris will excuse me and remain here until I return to her, will you not, my dear?”

At this pointed question Iris lifted her face quickly with an angry, rebellious flash in her deep blue eyes, but the words she would have spoken died on her lips as she encountered his glance, and she could only bow her head in silence.

Finding herself alone a moment later, she tried to[269] collect her thoughts, and to arrange some plan for her future, but the weight of her mother’s sin was too heavy upon her, and she seemed alike incapable of thought or action.

“My duty is to obey him, and to so repair the wrong my mother has done him as to win him from his scheme of vengeance,” was the noble thought that came to Iris, even in this hour of her bitter humiliation and pain; and when Broughton—as we will still call the man who had declared his real name to be Carleton Tresilian—returned to the room after dismissing his visitor, Iris, white as the dead, but calm and tearless, met him with words that filled his heart with a thousand varying emotions.

“What can I do to repair the cruel wrong you have suffered at my mother’s hands? I am only a girl, weak and painfully ignorant of the world and its ways; but you say you are my father, and I am ready to obey you—what would you have me do?”

She was standing before him now, with her beautiful white face upturned to him, and her hands clasped tightly before her, showing the strong effort she was making to control her agitation.

If Iris had borne less resemblance to the woman who had wronged him, his heart might have softened to the innocent offspring, but now the girl’s beauty only recalled to mind the tortures her mother had forced him to endure, and he laughed mockingly at her efforts to conciliate him.

“My dear, I know you will obey me, simply for the reason that I shall compel you to do so. I do not intend to ask any great sacrifice at your hands; but[270] before I state what I shall require of you, I want you to tell me why you left the home of your mother’s husband so suddenly, and why you fled from the man who was willing to marry you—the wealthy Chester St. John. I have followed up your history pretty closely since I first looked upon your face in the room occupied by the sewing girl, Jenny Mason, but the cause of your leaving Mr. Hilton’s protection I have not as yet been able to discover. Please tell me the truth of the matter at once.”

“I left Mr. Hilton’s roof immediately upon learning that I had no legal right to the benefits he conferred on me; and as for Mr. St. John—you know that I would not marry him, believing myself the child of a felon!”

“Your home shall be with me for the future—at least until I can find a good husband for you. This is my residence, and as you may observe, it is pretty comfortable. I have no women in the house save one old negress, who attends to the chamber work. All the rest of my servants are males, and colored. I shall teach them to look upon you as their mistress, and I do not think you will find it any trouble to manage them. I receive a great many friends here almost every evening, and I shall expect you to help me entertain them. My friends are gentlemen always, and we employ our time in the enjoyment of a social game of cards. All I shall require of you, Iris, will be to dress handsomely, look your prettiest, and make yourself agreeable to my comrades and friends. Do you understand?”

Iris had listened to his words with a look of intense[271] horror gradually creeping into the blue depths of her wide, dilated eyes.

She did understand his plan, probably more thoroughly than he had intended her to do. She had read repeatedly of the fashionable gambling dens to which men were lured by the beauty of some fair woman who was employed for no other purpose than to tempt them hither.

She faced Charles Broughton suddenly, with a flash of defiance in her great, lustrous eyes.

“I shall not remain in this house; I shall not do what you ask of me. If you were poor—though you were guilty of any sin—I would work for you; yes, beg for you, I think, willingly, but to live in luxury, as a decoy for gamblers, this I cannot and shall not do, nor can you compel me to do so. Let me go away; I ask nothing from you; I never wish to see your face again.”

She made a step toward the door as she ceased speaking, but Broughton placed himself before it, laughing mockingly.

“Not so fast, my dear,” he said, with a sneer. “I have a few words more to say to you, before you take your departure. I shall not try to detain you here by force, but there is one thing I would like you to remember. The day is not far distant when you shall come to me and beg for a shelter under the roof you now despise. Go, now, if you will, but I advise you to think twice before you do so. I am not one to threaten idly, nor to forget a threat once uttered. The offer I first made you is still open to you, and——”


“And I still refuse to accept it as resolutely as before. Let me go from this house, and I can trust my after fate with God. I am not afraid that He will desert me; please stand aside and let me pass.”

“Very well, Miss Iris, have your own way in this matter; but remember my warning,” he said quietly, and then opened the door for her, and even preceded her to the lower hallway, and stood on the steps until she had left the house.

Once in the open air, Iris felt that she could breathe more freely, and a weight seemed lifted off her heart as she turned her steps in the direction of the humble abode in which she occupied a room with Jenny Mason.

At the very moment when Iris was descending the broad stone steps of the house in Lexington Avenue, a limousine was passing the door, and from the window of the vehicle a lady’s face looked out—the face of the rich widow who was Charles Broughton’s affianced wife.

Clara Neville had glanced toward the house occupied by the man she loved with some vague hope of seeing his face near one of the windows, or perhaps fancying that he might recognize her car and come down to speak with her.

There had been a smile on her lips, and a happy expression on her face when she turned toward the window that commanded the best view of Broughton’s residence, but this look had changed with the swiftness of a lightning’s flash to one of the wildest jealousy and intense hatred when her eyes fell upon the figure of Iris descending the steps from his door, and of Broughton himself standing in the doorway, and[273] so intent on watching the girl’s retreating form that he did not once glance toward her car as it passed.

Almost choking with rage the widow pulled the check string and instructed her chauffeur to turn at the corner and keep Iris in sight until she reached her destination, no matter to what part of the city she might lead him.

“All right, ma’am,” the man answered respectfully, and while Iris walked slowly toward the place she called home, there was no voice in her heart to tell her of the woman who followed on her track and was destined to be the most cruel and bitter enemy against whom she would be forced to contend in the new and strange life now opening before her.



Iris found Jenny at home, and terribly alarmed at her friend’s absence.

“Oh, Miss Ir—Maggie, I was so anxious about you,” she cried, embracing her companion affectionately.

These simple words and display of affection destroyed the last remnant of strength Iris had striven so hard to retain, and, throwing herself on Jenny’s breast, she sobbed as if her heart was breaking.

These tears relieved her overtasked brain, and she soon recovered herself and turned her sweet face toward Jenny, with its own bright, winning smile.

“There, dear Jenny, I am all right again, and now we will commence our life all anew. I shall never leave you, dear, as long as you care to have me with you, but you must not ask me anything about the telegram, or about anything I do that may seem strange to you. You must only trust me, dear little friend, and help me to—forget.”

“There is nothing in the world that would make me disturb you, Maggie, and I shall never question anything you may choose to do, no matter how strange it may appear to me—but, good gracious! while we have been talking and crying like two babies, our nice hot tea has been left to cool on the table. Sit down, dear; I am actually as hungry as a bear.”

The last remark brought a smile to Maggie’s pale[275] face, and the two girls were soon chatting pleasantly over their simple meal.

After this time, as day followed day, and Iris heard nothing further from Charles Broughton, she began to experience a sense of peace and security in her new and humble life. She became a great favorite with Madam Ward, and by her diligent attention to everything that was shown to her, bade fair to learn the trade by which she hoped to earn her livelihood in a very short time.

There was not a girl in Madam Ward’s employ who did not love the beautiful young apprentice, who never assumed any airs of superiority, although her every act and word proclaimed her a true lady.

She had a bright smile and a pleasant word for every one; and of the sorrows gnawing at her heart she never complained, even to Jenny. But the burden of her secret grief was telling upon her, and one night after the girls had taken their departure, Madam Ward said in confidence to her sister:

“I am afraid our little Maggie will not be able to stand the confinement of a workroom. I can see her failing day by day. She has not been accustomed to such a life, it is plain to be seen. I shall give her something to do that will take her out into the air to-morrow if the day is fine. Let me see—what errand can I send her upon? Oh, I have it, she shall take this check to the bank and bring me the money for it. By the way, I did not tell you that Mr. Stuart had sent me the amount of his wife’s bill—here it is—a check for two hundred dollars, and——”

Madam Ward’s voice ceased suddenly, for, on[276] chancing to raise her eyes from the check she was holding in her hand, she saw that the room had another occupant besides her sister and herself.

“Why, Mrs. Neville, I did not hear you enter; pray pardon me, and be seated.”

Madam drew forward an armchair for her wealthy customer, and Clara Neville accepted the invitation, laughing heartily at madam’s look of dismay.

“Pardon me, my dear madam, I must plead guilty to the crime of eavesdropping. I was so charmed to hear you speak so kindly of one of your poor little working girls—won’t you please tell me about this little Maggie?”

Madam Ward was pleased at the interest Mrs. Neville appeared to take in the subject, and at once proceeded to tell all she knew of Maggie Gordon—which was nothing beyond the fact that Maggie had come there with Jenny Mason to learn the dressmaking and that she had evidently been reared in a higher sphere of life, as madam expressed herself, and lastly that she was growing paler and thinner every day for want of outdoor exercise.

Mrs. Neville listened with an expression of deep interest and sympathy on her face, exclaiming, when madam had concluded:

“Poor little one! I should like to see her. You are to send her down to the bank to-morrow, you say, or I should drive down here expressly to have a glimpse at her, you have interested me so in her story. Of course, I should come ostensibly on some errand concerning the work you are doing for me—as I came in reality to-night.”


“You can do so still, Mrs. Neville. Maggie shall go to the bank about one o’clock. The business will not occupy more than two hours of her time, and during the rest of the day you can see her,” replied madam, failing to notice the quick flash of triumph that glittered in the lady’s eyes at this piece of information.

A few minutes later Mrs. Neville took her departure, promising to call on the morrow; but when the car door was closed upon her she laughed aloud, muttering, as she glanced back to the house she had just left:

“If you see either your pretty Maggie or your two hundred dollars after you send her on that errand to-morrow, it will be because my plan proves a failure, which I think is scarcely likely to be the case.”



All day long, while the eyes of her humble friend Jenny and the rest of her shopmates were on her, Iris preserved a calm and almost happy exterior; but when night came, and she lay awake by the sleeping Jenny’s side, then, indeed, the girl’s young heart was like to break, and the God in whom she trusted alone knew what she suffered.

It was a close, sultry day in early springtime, and Iris found great difficulty in breathing, but she never once raised the thick brown veil that concealed her face, having a constant horror of meeting Charles Broughton, or some of the sunny-day friends who might recognize in this pale little working girl the happy Iris of other days.

By walking slowly she reached the bank at last, but was unable to get her check cashed immediately, as there chanced to be quite a number of people to be served before her.

One gentleman, noting the weary attitude in which she stood, awaiting her turn, placed a chair for her behind a large, fluted column near the paying teller’s window, where she might sit comfortably and partly concealed from the throng of people around her.

While Iris was seated in this place, two gentlemen, leaning against the column behind which she was ensconced, and totally ignorant of her proximity, were conversing in low, guarded tones, every word uttered being distinctly audible to Iris.


She was about to cough, or make some sound that would warn the gentlemen of her presence, when some words spoken by one of them caused her to pause.

She had recognized the voice of Gerald Dare; and Dare had mentioned a name the very sound of which sent the blood tingling through her veins like wildfire.

“I am greatly surprised at the information you have just imparted to me,” Gerald’s companion said, in answer to something the former had been telling him; and Gerald hastily resumed: “But the information is perfectly correct, I assure you. I was somewhat surprised myself, on first hearing the news, although I don’t know why St. John should not marry old Hilton’s heiress—the black-browed Isabel is eminently more suited to him than that pretty little Iris could possibly have been. Sad affair—that of little Iris, was it not?”

“I never heard the truth of the girl’s story, Dare, beyond some vague rumors that she had left Mr. Hilton’s home, and that she was not his own daughter. I never had the pleasure of meeting Miss Iris but once, and then I thought her a charming little lady. What was the trouble, anyhow?”

Leaning slightly forward in her chair, with a face that was like a mask of marble behind the thick folds of her veil, Iris listened for Gerald Dare’s answer, her heart throbbing so wildly that she half feared its loud pulsations would betray her.

She could hear the long sigh with which Gerald Dare prefaced his answer to his friend’s question, and[280] then every word he uttered pierced her heart, and imprinted itself in characters of fire on her brain.

“I am sorry to say that the girl is unworthy of sympathy. I confess I was once sadly smitten with her charms, and when it leaked out that she had left her old home, I would not have believed any one who had dared tell me there was any guilty motive for her flight. I had my eyes opened to the truth in a very short time, however.

“You know Broughton, do you not? Yes, I mean Charley Broughton; well, what will you say of Miss Iris when I tell you that I found her at the house in Lexington Avenue. Ah, you wince, my friend; probably the mention of this house recalls the memory of many bright dollars lost inside its walls.

“Well, it was there I came upon Miss Iris, talking confidentially with Broughton, in that gentleman’s own private rooms.

“I was shocked beyond power of expression, and very nearly succeeded in incurring my host’s enmity by a too evident betrayal of my feelings on the subject. A couple of days after the encounter I fell across St. John at the club, and told him where I had seen the girl every one fancied him in love with. I know you think it was unmanly of me, but you see I owed St. John an old grudge, and I think I paid it then, in full.

“He looked like a dead man for a moment, and I could see him shiver as if some one had struck him a heavy blow; but he could not have taken the matter so much to heart as I believed at the time, or society[281] would not to-day be canvassing the probability of his early marriage with Isabel Hilton.”

At this moment another gentleman joined the speakers, and the subject of St. John and his loves was dropped for the time.

It would be a task beyond our feeble powers to describe the feelings of Iris at the time.

She made no sound, nor gave any outward sign of the torture she was enduring, nor did she give herself entirely up to the deadly weakness that was creeping over her.

She remembered Madam Ward’s check, and watched her opportunity to present it.

This accomplished, she left the bank building with slow and faltering steps, having first concealed the money in her bosom with a vague fear that she would not long have her senses, or the power to take care of it.

Just outside the door of the bank the girl was obliged to raise her veil, as she seemed literally stifling, and the instant she had done so a lady, who had been seated in a motor car at the entrance to the bank, some fifteen minutes before Iris emerged from the building, stepped out of the vehicle and approached her, exclaiming in a soft, well-modulated voice: “I beg your pardon, but are you Maggie Gordon, in the employ of Madam Ward, of Forty-first Street? Yes? How fortunate. I have just driven down from madam’s on the chance of meeting you. Madam told me she gave you a sample of silk to match on your way home. The silk is for my dress, you know, and I chanced to remember that I have two or three yards[282] of the same material at home, so that it would be only a useless piece of extravagance to purchase more. If you will step into the car and drive home with me I will give you the silk, and send my chauffeur with you to madam’s.”

Iris merely bowed in token that she was at Clara Neville’s service, and followed the latter to the machine, volunteering no remark as the vehicle drove away, and scarcely once glancing toward her companion, but lying back with closed eyes in a corner of the limousine, with the brown veil again concealing her white, pained face.



The handsome residence of Oscar Hilton was ablaze with lights from basement to attic, and from the long parlors issued the sound of merry dance music. It was Isabel’s birthday, and Isabel’s dear five hundred friends had been invited to do honor to the occasion.

It must have been almost, if not quite, eleven o’clock, and the festivities were at their height, when a servant made his way through the dancers to the place where his master stood, with such a look of alarm on his face, that every one who chanced to see it knew there was something wrong, or some sad news to be imparted to their host. Hilton himself turned white as death as he saw the man coming toward him.

A hush fell upon the assembled guests, and at this most inopportune moment the music ceased, and one could plainly hear the beating of the rain against the windows, one of those sudden storms peculiar to early springtime having arisen unknown to the dancers.

The servant was speaking in low, cautious tones to his master, but some of his words came plainly to the ears of the bystanders, among whom were St. John and Isabel.

“Miss Iris is outside, sir, an’ she’s sick, I think, fainted dead away. She’s drenched through with the rain—and—and, oh, sir, I think she’s a-dyin’. She just came up the stoop a-holdin’ by the rails, an’ when I opened the door she cried so faintly, sir, ‘mother![284] mother!’ an’ fell as if dead at my feet before I could catch her. I laid her in the reception room, sir—was that right?—an’ I thought it best to tell you before I frightened Mrs. Hilton.”

“Quite right, Peter; I will attend to the girl myself,” whispered Mr. Hilton, unconscious that any other ear than his own had caught Peter’s words.

Peter hurried from the room with his eyes suspiciously moistened and red; he had loved the gentle Iris very dearly.

Mr. Hilton shortly followed him, pausing first to make a polite apology to his guests for the necessity which obliged him to tear himself away from them for a few moments only.

From what Isabel had overheard, she knew that Iris had returned ill, and in trouble, at this late hour, and her eyes instinctively sought those of the man upon whose arm she leaned.

His face was white and set, and his lips pressed themselves tightly together, but he did not avoid her gaze.

He drew her hand closer within his arm, and led her to a spot a little distance removed from the rest of the company.

“Isabel,” he said gently, as if he had read aright the fear in her eyes, “you are my promised wife, and Iris has sinned beyond the possibility of forgiveness—you need not fear that I will give her one thought that would be a wrong to you. I know your father will deal gently with her, but you, Isabel, you who have loved her as a sister almost all her life, you will[285] be kind to her if she comes to you, penitent and suffering; will you not promise me this, Isabel, my wife?”

He spoke the last two words with a peculiar emphasis, as if trying to impress on his heart and brain that she was really to bear this relationship to him.

She smiled up into his face, while tears dimmed her lustrous eyes as she answered:

“Were she the vilest sinner on earth, I would receive her gladly—joyfully, and do everything in my power to reclaim her.”

As Isabel uttered these words, Chester St. John bent suddenly over her and touched his lips gently to her forehead.

It was the first time he had ever caressed her, and the warm blood crept into her dusky cheeks until they rivaled the crimson of the rose at her breast, but she knew that the kiss was given only for Iris’ sake, and her heart grew hard and bitter toward that hapless girl.

“She shall not return to this house though she die of starvation on the street,” was Isabel’s thought, and at the very first opportunity that offered she stole quietly from the room and made her way to the apartment where she expected to find her father and the unhappy Iris.



“Oh, madam, I cannot work any longer; something terrible has happened to Maggie; I have felt so uneasy all day about her, and now, see, it is almost night, and she has not yet returned. I must go and look for her; my hands tremble so that I can no longer hold my needle.”

The speaker was Jenny Mason, and the time almost evening of the day on which Iris had been sent to the bank by Madam Ward.

“I am beginning to grow the least bit uneasy myself,” exclaimed madam, while Jenny waited for her permission to quit work. “I think it probable that Mrs. Neville is detaining her; you know, Jenny, that Mrs. Neville said she should probably meet Maggie at the bank and drive her home. If this is the case I shall scold Maggie severely, for she should certainly know better than to keep me in this suspense all this time. You may go, Jenny, but I do not think there is any cause for alarm. Maggie is certainly no baby; she is fully capable of taking care of herself.”

Jenny did not wait to hear any further words from her employer. Her heart was sick with forebodings and fears for the safety of the friend she loved, and she left the shop in Forty-first Street looking like a little ghost.

After Jenny’s departure, Madam Ward grew more uneasy with every passing moment, and at last, when darkness began to settle over the city, and the girls[287] were making ready for departure, she called Emma Henry to her, and asked the latter to go to Mrs. Neville’s residence and see if the missing girl was still there.

Emma started upon the errand gladly, for she could hardly have slept that night without being satisfied of Maggie’s safety.

She had not been gone ten minutes when madam, whose face was pressed against the windowpane, uttered an exclamation of intense relief.

Mrs. Neville’s car was drawing up before the door.

“At last Maggie has come,” she said, half angrily, and hurried down to open the door herself in her impatience; but Maggie had not come.

Mrs. Neville herself stood on the threshold, looking flushed and angry.

“I declare, madam,” this lady began, “I shall never interest myself again in a shop girl. I took your pretty Maggie home with me to-day, and treated her like a lady, and here I find the silk I gave her to bring to you hidden behind my vestibule door. You know that I am in a great hurry for my dress, so I thought I would ride down and give you the silk, as I have other business in this direction. I do not quite like your favorite, Maggie. She was laboring under intense excitement to-day, and I confess her conduct displeased me. She refused to be driven back here in my car, and I think she went to meet some lover. I hope——”

But Mrs. Neville never finished her sentence, for madam was wringing her hands, and weeping violently.

“It cuts me to the heart to believe that Maggie is a thief,” she was sobbing, and Mrs. Neville smiled[288] behind her embroidered handkerchief at the success of her cruel plans, while she affected to sympathize with the too trusting mistress of the unworthy girl.

During the short drive from the bank to the residence of Clara Neville, Iris preserved an unbroken silence. The shock of the revelation to which she had been an unwilling listener seemed to have deprived her of thought or action.

Arriving at her home, Mrs. Neville requested Iris to follow her to a room on the second floor—her own boudoir—a pretty little apartment furnished in the gay, bright colors the widow loved.

“You had better be seated, girl, for I have a few words to say to you, and it makes me nervous to see you standing.”

“If you have any message for madam,” replied Iris, “I beg you will tell me at once, Mrs. Neville, as I am anxious to return with the money I have in charge for her. I am afraid she will be anxious if I am delayed a moment longer than is necessary.”

Mrs. Neville laughed mockingly at the girl’s impatience to be gone, and, sinking languidly into the nearest chair, exclaimed:

“I am very much afraid madam will be forced to endure the pangs of anxiety for some little time to come. Stay,” as Iris made an involuntary movement toward the door, “I do not choose that you shall leave this room until you have answered a few questions I desire to put to you. In the first place—what are you to Charles Broughton, my intended husband?”

Mrs. Neville had sprung to her feet as she uttered[289] the last words, and placed herself between Iris and the door, looking straight into the girl’s wide, dilated eyes, and noting the look of horror that crept into the blue depths at her sudden question.

She waited a moment for Iris’ answer, but the girl could not speak, and Mrs. Neville was more than even convinced of the truth of her suspicions.

We will spare the reader a repetition of the harsh, unwomanly language now uttered by the jealous woman, and the cruel epithets she applied to our unfortunate heroine.

For one moment only Iris stood listening, and shivering like a frail flower in a winter gale, and then the faintness that had been growing upon her all day overcame her, and she lost all knowledge of her sufferings in a blessed unconsciousness, falling to the floor without a moan or sigh, and lying at Clara Neville’s feet like one dead.

The widow knelt beside Iris and unfastened the bosom of her dress, and Madam Ward’s two hundred dollars fell out upon the carpet. She picked it up and placed it in her own pocket, smiling triumphantly as she did so.

At this moment the sound as of some one breathing startled her, and looking up quickly she encountered the astonished gaze of Charles Broughton, who had entered the room unobserved, his footsteps making no sound on the velvet pile of the carpet.

He was the first to break the embarrassing silence.

“What is the meaning of this scene, Clara, and what brought this girl here?”

There was nothing of tenderness in his eyes or his[290] voice, as he motioned carelessly toward the senseless girl, but Clara attributed his pallor to anxiety for her—Iris—and this belief increased her rage and jealousy tenfold.

She reproached him in bitter and cutting language for his supposed infidelity, and told him the circumstance of her having seen Iris leave his house on Lexington Avenue.

Her explanation of the scene Broughton had surprised her in was simple and plausible.

“This girl came here to get a piece of silk from me for her employer. I recognized her as your friend, and my temper got the better of my reason.

“She fainted when I told her of the wrong she was doing me—your promised wife—and as this fact in itself would have convinced me of her friendship for you, I confess I was bitterly angry; and in my desire to be revenged upon this little pauper who has succeeded in destroying my happiness, I would have sent her out of this house without one penny of the two hundred dollars she had just taken from the bank for Madam Ward.

“Now you know all the truth, Charles, and here and now I want you to choose between us—this pauper—this dressmaker’s apprentice—and myself.”

The widow’s face was actually ablaze with anger, and Broughton, knowing the need he had for her fortune, resolved to conciliate her at all hazards, regardless of the injury he must do his own child.

“My dear Clara,” he began, encircling her form with one arm despite her feeble effort to resist him, “you have caused yourself a world of unnecessary[291] trouble and heartache. So far from loving this girl am I, that I may safely assure you the feeling I cherish for her is one more closely approaching to hatred. I told you on the occasion of my first meeting with her in the home of your seamstress, Jenny Mason, that her face reminded me of a woman whom I considered my deadliest enemy.

“I have since discovered that she is the daughter of this enemy, and I have to revenge myself on the mother through the child. Some day, my own Clara, when you are my wife, and our interests are identical, I shall tell you all the story of my past; but you have assured me over and over again that you trusted me implicitly, and now is the time to prove your sincerity. I shall test it to the utmost, Clara, and—but see, the girl is reviving—keep the money in your own possession until we can venture to send it to the owner anonymously, and deny all knowledge of it should she,”—with a careless motion of his head toward the figure on the floor—“discover its loss before leaving the house, and——”

At this moment there was a hasty knock at the door, and the voice of a servant outside begging the privilege of a few words with her mistress.

Mrs. Neville left the room to ascertain the cause of this interruption.

As she passed out of the room, Iris opened wide her blue eyes and raised herself on her elbow, looking around her in bewilderment.

The instant her eyes fell on Broughton, who stood coolly looking down upon her, she remembered the scene through which she had lately passed, and arose[292] to her feet as rapidly as her feeble strength would allow, disdaining the aid of his proffered hand.

The man did not wait for her to speak, but placing a chair for her, almost forced her to be seated.

“You must listen to me, my dear,” he began, in the cold, stern voice she remembered so well. “I know all about the ordeal you have just gone through, and I have taught Mrs. Neville her error. Are you not tired of the life you have been living since we parted, Iris? Are you not ready to accept the offer I made you on the occasion of our last meeting? I have not interfered with you since then, trusting that time would show you the folly of your conduct, and now I am ready to renew the offer I then made you. Will you come with me to my home?”

Iris had by this time recovered the power of speech, and she would not allow Broughton to proceed further.

“What does your offer mean for me—a life of even greater misery than I have yet endured—a life I blush to name? Dear Heaven, do you know the shame I have suffered this day, to hear myself branded as a creature unfit for honest women to notice! You say you have been a convict, and I know you are now a gambler and the associate of gamblers; yet acknowledge me as your daughter and I will be your slave. I can bear anything but——”

Broughton at this moment checked the speaker by a gesture so fierce and determined that she shrank from him in actual fear.

“Cease, girl, and never dare to mention the word convict again in my presence. What you ask of me is impossible for me to grant. Come with me to my[293] home. Let the world say of you what it will, you will at least be secure from want. More than this I cannot do for you. Refuse the offer, and before the dawn of another day the woman who now employs you to work for her shall charge you with theft, and accuse you as a thief before the world.”

Iris had thrown herself before him in a kneeling attitude, and was clasping his knees in an agony of supplication.

At his last words the girl sprang quickly to her feet, repeating in accents of supreme horror:

“A thief, a thief! Great Heaven, what can you mean?”

The footsteps of Mrs. Neville were heard returning along the hallway now, and Broughton whispered hurriedly:

“I mean just what I have said. You shall be accused of theft unless you do my bidding. The two hundred dollars you had in your possession when you entered this house have been taken from you. If you go back to Madam Ward without the money, do you think she will believe the improbable story you would be obliged to tell to account for its loss? Think over my offer. I shall return to you in a couple of hours, during which time you shall remain in this room alone. Ah, Clara, my dear,” as the widow appeared in the doorway, “I was just telling this young lady you would permit her to remain here until she recovers from the effects of her swoon,” and before Iris could open her lips to speak, Broughton had drawn Mrs. Neville with him out of the room, and locked the door on the outside, leaving Iris for the time a prisoner.



It never occurred to Iris to attempt an escape from Mrs. Neville’s boudoir, until such time as Broughton saw fit to release her.

At ten o’clock that night Broughton reëntered the room.

“Well, have you concluded to accept my offer?” he asked sternly, and the sound of his voice had the effect of rousing the girl as nothing else could have done.

“I shall never accept your offer. Let me go, sir; I had rather be thrown into prison for a theft of which I am innocent than buy my freedom at such a price.”

“It will be a noble revenge, my dear, to doom the child of my betrayer to the same fate I suffered at her hands. Go, now, it is after ten o’clock, and Madam Ward will be terribly alarmed, you know.”

He moved aside for Iris to pass out as he concluded, and the girl went out into the street alone, knowing it would be useless to appeal to him again or to demand the return of madam’s money.

“Oh, what shall I do! I dare not face Madam Ward, nor can I go to Jenny; it would kill me to see a look of distrust in the eyes of the girl who has loved and trusted me always, and who is now my only friend. Father in heaven, look down on Thy most wretched child to-night, and direct her what to do; guide her to some haven of refuge, or she will die in the streets.”


She finally determined to go home to her mother.

Her hand was on the bell knob of the door of her home when the most cruel memory that had yet dawned upon her made her pause in the act of ringing. Chester St. John was surely in those lighted parlors—an honored guest, and the betrothed husband of Isabel, while she, whom he once loved, was an outcast and homeless, alone in the darkness of the night and the storm.

This bitter memory was as the last straw that broke the camel’s back, and when Peter opened the door, her lips could frame no other word than that piteous cry for “mother” ere the tortured brain once more gave way.

She did not faint, or entirely lose consciousness, but a deadly sickness robbed her limbs of their strength, and Peter was obliged to lift her into a little room across the hallway, ere he went to acquaint Mr. Hilton with the fact of her presence.

Iris would have made her own way to her mother’s apartments when he had departed on this mission, but it seemed that her limbs were palsied, and refused to obey her will, or even to bear her slight weight when she made an attempt to stand on her feet.

“Was it death that was coming to her?”

A happy light sprang into her weary eyes as this sweet hope dawned upon her, and she murmured in a tone loud enough to reach the ears of Mr. Hilton, who had just entered the room:

“Mother, you will let me stay with you till it is over; you will not turn your child out into the streets to die?”


“Good heavens, girl! Why do you talk of dying? You are raving; what has happened to you, and why are you here?”

The last words, harshly and coldly spoken, showed the girl that she had little mercy to expect at the hands of her mother’s husband.

“Let me see my mother—I am ill—dying, I think—and I—I have no one else in all the world,” she said faintly, holding to the back of a chair for support as she arose from the couch on which Peter had laid her.

“I cannot grant your request, Iris,” he said coldly. “By your own conduct you have forfeited your right to hold any manner of intercourse with my wife. If you are ill I will give you some money, and send Peter to take you to your lodgings, but this is all I can promise—ah, Isabel, my daughter, why did you follow me here? Go back to your guests.”

The bright head of Iris had drooped lower and lower while Hilton spoke until it rested on the back of the chair, but as he addressed Isabel, she—Iris—raised her eyes, with the vague hope that the girl whom she had loved as a sister would say some word in her favor.

“Isabel, I have only asked to see my mother,” she faltered, but Isabel retorted coldly:

“I fully agree with papa that it is impossible. How could you come here to-night, Iris, when you know how the world is talking of your disgraceful conduct. You must go away quietly——”


The voice that had spoken the name proceeded from the doorway, where Chester St. John was standing,[297] gazing into the room with eyes that were dark with scorn and anger, and a face white as that of Iris herself.

“Chester,” Isabel exclaimed, with an air of injured innocence and a reproachful glance toward the motionless figure in the doorway, “you think we are cruel and harsh to Iris; but you cannot understand that in denying her request to-night we were seeking to spare her the bitter knowledge that her own mother absolutely refuses to admit her, or to speak to her if she were dying. Is not this the truth, papa?”

“It is certainly true, St. John,” he answered. “I would have spared this unfortunate girl, had such a thing been at all possible; but my wife positively declines to have anything to do with her daughter now, or at any time in the future. Mrs. Hilton is even weaker to-night than usual, and—but,” with a sudden assumption of pride and offended dignity, “I do not really know why I am making these explanations to you, St. John; as my daughter’s accepted suitor, the affairs of this girl cannot concern you; and I think you will do me the justice to confess that I, who have fed and clothed and sheltered Iris Tresilian until she left my home of her own accord, and for what purpose you know—am fully capable of dealing justly with her now.”

“I understand your reproof, sir, and while I acknowledge that I have no right to dictate to you in this matter, I will still beg leave to say a word in the interests of common humanity. Had I never looked upon Iris Tresilian’s face I should still protest against a young creature like her being sent out[298] on such a night, unprotected and alone. If she has sinned——”

At the last words of St. John, “If she has sinned,” spoken in a sorrowful tone that told how firmly he believed in her guilt, all her soul seemed to rise in passionate rebellion, and with the false strength despair sometimes lends, Iris advanced toward the group near the doorway, and stood before them, a little, solitary figure, with white, set features, whose immobility would have been actually startling but for the convulsive twitching of the muscles of the colorless lips, and the large, blue eyes dilated like those of a hunted stag.

“Of what sin am I accused, Mr. Hilton?” she asked. “For what crime does my mother condemn me so harshly?” Then turning suddenly to St. John, before Hilton could answer: “I left this gentleman’s home because he taught me that I had no claim upon him—that I, who had believed myself his daughter, was the child of an unworthy father whose name I should blush to bear. I went forth from this house to earn my own bread, and since that time I have done nothing of which I need be ashamed, nor——”

She came to a sudden stop here, while for a moment the color grew deeper and deeper in her face, and then faded utterly, leaving her again deadly pale.

She had thought of Gerald Dare’s words, and the suspicions her presence in the house of Charles Broughton had awakened.

Her sudden hesitation and confusion, and the ineradicable flush of shame that had dyed her cheeks at this cruel memory, seemed to contradict her previous[299] assertion of innocence, and to shake the faith new-born in Chester St. John’s heart.

At Iris’ first words Oscar Hilton had trembled lest there should be something said concerning the forged letter, and he now seized this moment of the girl’s embarrassment to turn the drift of the conversation into a new channel.

“My poor child,” he ejaculated, in a tone of well-feigned sympathy, “do not seek to defend your conduct. Unhappily we have all been made acquainted with the manner in which you have passed your time since leaving my protection. If—as you say—you are innocent, will you be good enough to tell us what you are to the noted gambler and roué, Charles Broughton?”

At this coarse and rude question Iris started violently, and looked into the face of the speaker with an expression of actual terror, fearing for the moment that he had in some manner learned the secret of Broughton’s identity.

That one swift glance into his eyes reassured her. She knew that he shared, or pretended to share, the common belief that Broughton was her lover, and she dared say nothing to undeceive him.

“I can tell you nothing at present, but some time you will know all, and learn how deeply you have wronged me. My mother will forgive me then, and bitterly regret her cruelty.”

She took a step toward the door as she concluded, keeping her eyes turned resolutely away from the face of Chester St. John, lest the sight of it should rob[300] her of the last remnant of strength she was struggling so hard to maintain.

Isabel had thrown herself into an easy-chair near the door, and was holding her handkerchief to her face as if deeply affected by the scene, while Oscar Hilton was perhaps the most excited of all the little group.

He feared to detain Iris lest something should be said to betray his plot, and he dared not let her go forth alone lest St. John should follow to protect her, and thus learn all the truth.

Mr. Hilton himself was puzzled to account for the mystery of Iris’ connection with Broughton, for, from his own experience of his wife’s beautiful daughter, he knew her to be pure as the untrodden snow, and utterly incapable of the sin of which she stood accused.

Whatever the cause of the singular emotion she had betrayed at his chance mention of Broughton’s name, he—Hilton—was satisfied with the effect upon St. John, seeing as he did that the latter’s newly awakened faith in the girl he had loved so devotedly was again shattered.

Mr. Hilton made haste to respond to Iris’ last words before St. John had time to speak, if such had been that gentleman’s intention.

“My dear child, if you can prove to us that we have wronged you, I, for one, shall be happy, both for your own sake and that of the woman who bears my name, your mother; and now, Iris, I shall appropriate the car of one of my guests to take you to your home, as you are looking weak and ill, and it is nearly midnight.[301] St. John, I may have your machine for this purpose, may I not?”

At this direct appeal, Chester—who had crossed the room, and stood leaning against the low marble mantel, with his eyes bent on the floor, and his face pale with an agony he did not endeavor to conceal—advanced quickly to the spot on which Iris stood, with a look in his eyes that filled Oscar Hilton with fear.

St. John was about to ask Iris a question which would have betrayed him.

He was about to ask her where was the man whose fortune she had left her home to follow, that he might have constituted himself her champion and avenger, had he discovered that this lover had basely deserted or deceived her.

At this moment light footsteps were heard approaching the door, and a sweet, girlish voice calling gayly:

“Chester! Isabel! Where are you, truants?” as the door was thrown open unceremoniously to admit a fairylike vision in the person of pretty, golden-haired Grace St. John, who had been Iris Tresilian’s most intimate and best-loved friend.

“Ah, brother Chester, how wicked of you to keep Belle all this time from her friends; we shall be obliged——”

Grace’s merry voice ceased all of a sudden, for her eyes had fallen on the pale, drooped face of Iris, and although Chester made an involuntary movement as if to step between them—a movement Iris understood but too well, the impulsive Grace sprang quickly to the side of the outcast, and clasped her white arms around the latter’s neck, crying joyously:


“Oh, Iris, darling, I am so glad to see you; I have missed you so—I shall be so happy now that you have come home, but, Iris, dear, why do you sob so bitterly?”

At the first word of kindness, and the first touch of Grace’s caressing hands, Iris had broken down utterly, and her slender frame was racked with hoarse, convulsive sobs that were pitiful to hear.

Mr. Hilton addressed St. John in a harsh, imperative tone:

“Take your sister and Isabel back to the parlors while I attend to Iris. This is no scene for either of them.”

Iris heard these words, and put aside Grace’s clinging arms.

“Let me go, Gracie, dear; I am no fit associate for you now,” she said sadly and bitterly, walking with tottering steps toward the door as she spoke; but Grace St. John reached it before her and prevented her egress.

“Wait, Iris; I must understand this scene,” she said firmly, her pretty white-rose face growing paler than its wont, and her blue eyes glancing reproachfully from face to face. “I do not understand why you left your home, Iris. I only know that some great sorrow or misfortune has fallen on you, and changed you almost beyond recognition. I have loved you like a sister since you and I were little children, and yet you say you are no fit associate for me now, Iris! What do you mean? Why do you speak of leaving this house at such an hour, darling? If these doors are closed against you, you shall come home with me.[303] Don’t shudder and shake your head; I tell you, Iris, there is no barrier strong enough to separate us, unless—unless”—the girl hesitated, while a faint tinge of color crept into her white face—“unless you had sinned beyond even a mother’s forgiveness, and——”

The cold, metallic tones of Oscar Hilton’s voice here interposed:

“Miss St. John, it grieves me beyond the power of words to express, but I am forced to tell you the truth, that this scene may be no longer prolonged. Iris Tresilian has sinned beyond a mother’s forgiveness. My wife has cast her out of her heart, and forbidden me to receive her again in my home. She——” A suppressed cry from Isabel checked the words he was about to have added, and, following the glance of his daughter’s eyes, he saw the cause of her alarm.

The door near which Grace and Iris were standing had been pushed softly open, and Evelyn Hilton was crossing the threshold, moving slowly, with her hands clasped in front of her and her eyes bent downward.

She was attired in a long, loose white wrapper, and her fair hair, escaped from its fastenings, hung far below her waist, giving her a singularly weird and ghostlike appearance.

Oscar Hilton’s face grew white as marble, and great beads of perspiration stood out thickly on his forehead.

“She is asleep!” he whispered.

“Not a sound for your lives. A sudden awakening would cause her death—I have been warned.”

This was indeed true. Mrs. Hilton was a confirmed somnambulist, and her doctor feared that a sudden[304] awakening from one of these spells would sooner or later prove fatal.

“Steal quietly out of the room, and leave her alone with me,” said Hilton, in the same low whisper; but even while he spoke he saw that this would be impossible, for the sleepwalker had paused directly in the doorway, and stood in such a position that it would have been impossible for any one to pass out without touching her, and the very lightest touch would have awakened her.

There was a moment of intense silence, broken only by the heavy breathing of the sleeping woman.

Iris trembled like a leaf in a storm, and was scarcely conscious that it was Chester St. John’s firm hand that had forced her into an easy-chair, against the back of which he was now leaning, with his face hidden in his hands.

Presently the lips of the somnambulist opened, and she spoke, slowly and distinctly:

“Don’t ask me to do it, Oscar; I’ve been a bad, unfeeling mother always, but I cannot do this thing; it is such a cruel letter—it will make Chester St. John despise her—I can copy her handwriting—yes—I know—but to say she left her home for an unworthy lover—while I know that all her heart is given to him—to Chester—no! no! Oscar! Don’t threaten to betray my secret—I will write—anything—anything you dictate——”

Tears were streaming down the poor, wan cheeks of the unfortunate woman now, while Iris with difficulty checked her own wild sobbing, and Chester St. John whispered hoarsely:


“What can this mean!” And dropping on his knees, weak as a fainting woman, hid his face on the arm of the chair in which Iris reclined.

Oscar Hilton had crept noiselessly to his daughter’s side, and was pressing his hand firmly on her shoulder to prevent her from making any outcry; for, base and worldly as this man was, he loved his wife with all the strength of which his selfish nature was capable, and bore even this betrayal of his baseness rather than silence her at the risk of her life.

Again there was a moment of silence, while the fingers of the sleeper made the motions of writing, slowly and carefully, pausing often, and bending her head as if to study some written page before her.

She seemed to have finished at last, all to the signing of the name, and this she repeated aloud:

“Iris Tresilian,” adding, after a brief pause, during which she had sobbed like a child: “It is done, Oscar. I have bought your silence at the price of my daughter’s reputation, even as I purchased wealth at the cost of my husband’s honor.”

The last words were spoken very faintly, and Mrs. Hilton now came farther into the room, with her hands outstretched as if searching for something.

“My chair, Oscar; wheel it close to the fire,” she whispered, and Hilton sprang forward quickly to place a chair for her; but in his agitation his foot struck against a small ormolu stand upon which Isabel had placed a glass tank containing several gold fishes.

The stand was overturned, and the glass fell with a loud crash, shattered to pieces on the floor.

The eyes of the somnambulist sprang wide open;[306] she gazed wildly from one to another of the surrounding faces, and with a cry that echoed from basement to attic, fell to the ground, writhing in strong convulsions.

“Good God, I have killed her!” And Oscar Hilton threw himself frantically on his knees beside her, while the guests, attracted by that wild and pitiful cry, came thronging to the spot, and Iris, sobbing out the words: “Mamma! Oh, my poor mother!” attempted to reach the spot where the latter lay, but fell back, feeble and helpless as an infant, in Chester St. John’s outstretched arms.



In less than half an hour after Mrs. Hilton’s cry had alarmed the ladies and gentlemen assembled to do honor to Isabel Hilton in this celebration of her birthday, the house was cleared of every guest with the exception of Grace and Chester St. John.

“Go home, dear, and trust me to take care of Iris as if she were indeed your sister,” Chester had said to Grace; but pretty Grace had answered with a decision and dignity quite new to her:

“No, Chester; you believed that Iris was guilty—you were false to her when she most needed a true friend; but I could never doubt her, and I shall stay beside her now to give help and what comfort I may in the trial I see before her.”

“God bless you for your faith in her, my sweet sister!” answered Chester huskily, as he laid the trembling form of Iris out of his arms, back into the chair from which she had arisen, ere he hurried from the house to bring the doctor to Mrs. Hilton.

While he was absent on this errand, Isabel, who realized, with a sickening sense of desolation and misery, that St. John was lost to her forever, escaped to her own apartments, where she locked herself in, refusing to admit even her maid until the afternoon of the following day.

St. John returned with a doctor in less than fifteen minutes. Mrs. Hilton was still in convulsions, and[308] the physician saw at a glance that her case was hopeless.

He gave his decision promptly and without any unnecessary beating around the bush.

“I will do all that is possible to relieve your wife’s sufferings, Mr. Hilton, but it is beyond the power of mortal skill to save her. She may linger with intervals of consciousness for several days, and she may pass away before daylight; but in any case I have not the faintest hope of her recovery.”

Mr. Hilton groaned aloud at these words, while Iris wept bitterly.

The latter had not entirely lost consciousness, but that sickening feeling of weakness robbed her limbs of their strength, and she could not for her life have arisen from the chair in which Chester had placed her, until nearly an hour had passed, and Chester and Grace were preparing to take their departure.

Mrs. Hilton had been carried upstairs to her own apartments, but Mr. Hilton still lingered, waiting in an agony of impatience for the St. Johns to leave the house.

Iris scarcely heard Grace’s words of farewell, but every tone of Chester’s voice thrilled her heart to its inmost core, as he bent over her chair and clasped both her hands in his own.

“Iris, there has been treachery and deceit at work—and through my belief in your guilt I have lost you. Oh, this is killing me!”

He had crushed her passive hands so tightly in his agony and regret that she with difficulty repressed a[309] cry of pain, and then he hurriedly left the room, murmuring as he threw himself back among the car cushions by his sister’s side:

“Oh, if I had only trusted her, but my hand was the first to fling a stone at her memory, my heart the first to fail in its allegiance, and now I am pledged to another, and she——”

He could no longer carry out this bitter train of thought, it almost maddened him to think of Iris as he had left her, remaining on sufferance in the home from which she was an outcast, and where her mother lay dying.

After his departure Iris grew stronger, and, clasping Oscar Hilton’s hand in passionate pleading, begged to be allowed to nurse her mother until the end.

“Oh, sir, please do not refuse me—I will intrude not one hour after—after all is over,” she sobbed, and, broken and weakened by the shock of this sudden calamity, Mr. Hilton reluctantly consented for her to stay, and a few moments later Iris took her position beside her unconscious mother’s bed, prepared to do her duty faithfully to the end, although she knew now that this mother’s hand had doomed her to all the sorrow she had been forced to endure.

Toward noon on the following day Evelyn Hilton recovered consciousness, and, on recognizing her daughter, appeared much pleased, and sank into a heavy slumber, after whispering a few words which were heard by Iris alone.

“I will tell you everything, my daughter, when I wake, and you must try to forgive me.”


But, alas! before she again awakened, the greatest trial of Iris’ life had come to her, and the mother’s eyes were doomed to look no more on her child’s face on this side of the grave.

As early as was at all consistent with the rules of etiquette St. John and Grace called to inquire for the sufferer.

Isabel received them, looking unusually handsome in her bright, crimson morning robe, with all the rich color faded out of her dark face, and her lips quivering piteously as she reported that dear mamma was not any better, and that she—Isabel—was forced to stay out of the sick room because she could not listen to poor mamma’s wild and improbable fancies.

Grace understood the yearning look in her brother’s eyes, and proffered a timid request for a word with Iris; but Isabel declared that Iris could not be induced to leave her mother’s bedside for a moment, and the visitors could not persist any further.

During their brief stay she found an opportunity of speaking alone with Chester.

“This is a cruel trial, dear Chester; I long to hear some words of sympathy from your lips; I have sore need of your love now; it is all so lonesome and terrible with papa always in the sick room, and the house silent as the grave.”

She had clasped her small hands on his shoulder, and bent her head upon them, so that her face was very near his own; but although Chester smoothed her dark, glossy hair with a gentle touch, he did not give her the caress she expected, for between them[311] there arose a vision he could not banish—the vision of a sweet mignonne face, a pair of limpid, violet eyes, and a pretty, bright-tressed head that he had lately seen bowed in bitter sorrow.

The struggle going on within his heart was almost maddening. Could he, with his chivalrous sense of honor, ask this girl, who had openly confessed her love for him, to release him from his promise, that he might devote his life to the clearing of Iris Tresilian’s name, and afterward to the task of winning Iris’ forgiveness for having doubted her?

His conscience told him his first duty was to the woman who was his promised wife, and for the first time in his life he found it hard to obey this silent, inward voice.

While he was taking his leave of Isabel a loud ring at the doorbell startled them, and his heart throbbed with an unaccountable feeling of foreboding.

Grace was already in the vestibule, and opened the door before a servant had time to answer the summons. Two men stood on the doorstep, one of whom exclaimed, without preface:

“We are looking for a girl whose name, we believe, is Aris, or Iris Tresilian, but who calls herself Maggie Gordon.”

While speaking the man had coolly unbuttoned his coat and exhibited a shining shield, at sight of which Grace uttered a cry of terror, and clung to her brother’s arm, trembling in every limb.

“Great heavens! There is some terrible mistake,” ejaculated Chester, asking, as the men came across[312] the threshold: “With what do you charge Iris Tresilian?” to which the man replied in his usual cool, matter-of-fact tone:

“With the theft of two hundred dollars. Madam Marie Ward, of Forty-first Street, is her accuser.”



“Miss Tresilian accused of theft! There is—there must be some terrible mistake!” ejaculated Chester St. John, while Grace clung to his arm, pale and shivering, and Isabel, after the first shock of surprise was over, actually rejoiced in the new disgrace that had fallen on her rival, since it must serve to place Iris beyond the pale of Chester’s forgiveness.

“I shall send upstairs for Iris, that these men may see their mistake,” she said confidently, and Grace, taking courage from her firm and determined manner, now ventured to speak, begging Isabel to break the news to Iris gently, lest the shock should be too much for her. But the caution came just too late; for even while Grace was speaking, Iris was descending the stairs, her light footfall making no sound on the soft velvet pile of the carpet, and the sound of Grace’s low-toned voice coming distinctly to her ears.

“What is it?” she cried breathlessly, and one of the men whose business it was to arrest her stepped forward and answered:

“We have a painful duty to perform, young lady, and the quicker it is over the better for all parties. The name by which you have been known of late is Maggie Gordon, is it not? You are certainly the original of this portrait.”

The speaker here exhibited a penciled sketch of the beautiful working girl, executed by the sister of[314] Madam Ward, an amateur artist of no mean ability. At sight of this drawing St. John could not repress a groan, while Grace bowed her head and wept, and Isabel turned a shade paler. Iris herself was outwardly calm, but her eyes had the wild, scared look of a hunted animal, and fixed themselves for one brief second on the face of Chester St. John, as if mutely appealing to him for aid.

The look went straight to his heart, and, leaving his place by the side of Isabel, he spoke to Iris in a tone that was tremulous with deep feeling:

“Depend on me, Iris; I shall do everything in my power to clear you of this cruel charge. There must be some bitter enemy plotting against your peace and happiness, some bold and daring enemy, since they dare accuse you of theft! Oh, child, if you would only tell me everything I might save you this indignity——”

“Hush! Do not speak to me so; I—I cannot bear it,” she cried passionately, for the struggle to keep silent in the face of this appeal was almost killing her. She dared not speak. She dared not utter one word that might betray the author of her sufferings and her shame, lest all the shameful story of the past should be revealed and disgrace and dishonor fall on her dying mother.

It was the opinion of the doctors that life might linger in the poor, worn frame of Evelyn Hilton for many days, although they had believed at the time of her attack that her very minutes were numbered. While her mother still lived, Iris’ lips were effectually sealed, and, recovering at last from the emotion into[315] which St. John’s words had thrown her, she turned to him with the light of desperation in her wide, dilated eyes, and a reckless defiance on her face that filled him with horror and alarm.

“I have nothing to tell you, Mr. St. John. I cannot explain the loss of madam’s two hundred dollars, and I must expect to suffer the consequences. If these men will allow me to get my hat and cloak, and will wait just one moment while I bid my mother a last farewell, I shall be ready to accompany them.”

She avoided meeting St. John’s eyes as she spoke thus, and turned abruptly from him to the officers in the doorway. “You will not refuse me one moment with my mother, gentlemen, for, oh, sirs, she is dying; we shall meet no more on earth.”

There was not a break or a quiver in the girl’s voice now, but the look of dumb agony on her ashen face would have melted a heart of oak, and the men readily agreed to wait until she joined them, first ascertaining, however, that there was no back exit by which she might effect an escape. When she had disappeared up the broad staircase, St. John turned to Isabel, inquiring the whereabouts of her father, with the vague idea that Mr. Hilton would in some manner be able to save Iris—a hope that died again instantly as he remembered Iris’ avowal, which had amounted almost to a confession of guilt.

Isabel explained that her father had gone to Riverdale, the residence of an eminent physician, said to be skilled in the treatment of the disease of which Mrs. Hilton was dying, and might not be at home before evening.


“What is to be done? I would give half my fortune to spare her this awful ordeal,” cried Chester, in despair. “Oh, men,” turning desperately to the officers, “can any amount of money tempt you to go away and leave Iris Tresilian in peace? I will go at once to this woman to whom the lost money belonged, and repay it, aye, with interest, if she will withdraw her charge, and——”

“It is no use, sir,” interrupted one of the officers; “the charge has been made, and it is our duty to take the young lady into custody. I am truly sorry, sir, but I assure you there is no help for it.”

St. John realized the truth of this assertion, and knew he could do nothing at present for the unfortunate Iris.

“Come, Grace,” he said, gently addressing his weeping sister in a voice that one would scarcely have recognized as his own, “let me take you to the machine. Go home at once, dear, and leave me to see what steps may be taken in this dreadful affair. Your loyalty to Iris has taught me a lesson, Gracie, and from this hour she shall find in me as faithful a brother as you have been a sister to her.”

Grace allowed him to lead her to the car, saying, as he was closing the door upon her:

“She is innocent, brother; there is some enemy trying to work her ruin. Be a friend to her in her hour of need, for she seems to stand alone—even Isabel——”

“Hush, darling; not a word of Isabel. I have asked her to be my wife,” interrupted St. John, adding, in a tone of ineffable tenderness: “God bless you for[317] your faith in Iris, little sister, and God forgive me for the wrong I have done her by my cruel doubts.”

As St. John’s car drove away a taxicab was passing along, and the gentleman hailed it and placed it at the disposal of the officers to convey Iris to prison.

In the meantime Iris had stolen softly into her mother’s chamber, and fallen on her knees by her bedside. Mrs. Hilton was still sleeping, and could not hear the girl’s low sobbing, nor the broken, inarticulate words that fell from her lips.

“Oh, mother, my mother, if you could speak one kind, pitying word to me it would not be so hard to suffer for your sake. If you could hear me when I pray for you, if you could join me in asking God to forgive your sin. Oh, dear Saviour! Thou hearest me. Wilt Thou let my suffering atone for this dying mother’s sin?”

As if the Divine Comforter had lifted some portion of the burden from her well-nigh broken heart, Iris arose from her knees and bent closely over the sleeper.

“This is our last earthly parting,” she whispered, as she touched her lips softly to those of the unconscious sufferer. “Your child will see your face on earth no more. Good-by—good-by—my poor, poor mother; I leave you in God’s keeping—good-by, good-by.”

Iris now hurried from the room, lest the sound of her choking sobs might arouse the sleeper, and a few moments later she left the house, going forth with the calmness of utter despair to meet her fate.



As the motor car containing Iris and the officers rolled away from Oscar Hilton’s home, Peter, the servant who had admitted Iris on the preceding evening, stood in the area looking after the vehicle with a perplexed and sorrowful expression on his good-natured face.

A stranger came up excitedly, threw a hasty glance at the departing machine, and with a nervous gesture turned toward the servant.

“I say, my man,” said the stranger, addressing Peter, “is this the residence of Mr. Hilton? I have been sent to see the sick lady—his wife.”

Peter’s thoughts were traveling after Iris, and he readily believed that the man was a new physician engaged by Mr. Hilton.

“If you will step this way, sir, I will escort you to Mrs. Hilton’s chamber.”

In less than five minutes the stranger was at the bedside of the stricken woman.

Mrs. Hilton opened her eyes, and shivered slightly as she met the man’s gaze. At first she did not recognize him. Then with a low moan she gasped:

“You? What do you want?”

“I see you recognize me, my dear wife,” replied the stranger, who was none other than Carleton Tresilian, alias Charles Broughton. “You are sick unto death, and I have come to torture you, to cause you[319] some little bit of suffering in your dying moments to repay you for the intense suffering that you have caused me all these years. I am going to have my revenge. Listen while I tell you of my plans for vengeance.”

Before the wretched woman could reply, Tresilian unfolded the story of his meeting with Iris, his pursuit of her until she had been arrested charged with the theft of two hundred dollars from Madam Ward. From time to time during the recital of his cold-blooded plan of revenge a spasm of pain crossed the features of the unhappy woman.

“You have one chance to save your daughter, and that is by signing a confession to the crime for which I assumed the blame. If you refuse to do this, then I will publish to the world not only your shame, but your daughter’s shame as well. Will you sign?”

For a brief moment there was a terrific mental struggle on the part of Mrs. Hilton. She was still proud, and she was almost willing to sacrifice her daughter in order to save, if possible, her own connection with Carleton Tresilian. She realized that she was on the brink of death, and the fear of punishment hereafter was evidently strong upon her.

“Yes,” she finally faltered, “I will sign the confession, but only to save my daughter’s honor.”

Tresilian quickly wrote out the confession and summoned a couple of servants to witness the signing of the document. His business completed, he quickly left the house, but he had hardly passed from the portals of the palatial home when Mrs. Hilton breathed her last.


He hurried to the home of Mrs. Neville, where, after a stormy scene, the woman promised to return the money to Madam Ward and thus clear Iris of the terrible charge hanging over her. When a messenger had been called and dispatched with the money, Tresilian, before Mrs. Neville could interfere, jerked a revolver from his pocket and committed suicide.

When the effects of the dead man were examined, Mrs. Hilton’s confession was found in his pocket.

With the astounding discovery that the girl whom he loved most in all the world was guiltless of any wrongdoing, Chester St. John pleaded with Isabel for the release from his irksome engagement. She, with a woman’s quick intuition, realized that she could never hold his affections, and reluctantly gave him up.

Eventually Iris married the man whom she loved, and shortly after the wedding Mr. and Mrs. Frank Laurier gave a large reception in honor of the newlyweds. All during the succeeding years the affection between Iris and Jessie grew, and they became the dearest and most affectionate friends, both realizing the terrible experiences through which each had passed.


“She Could Not Tell” will be the title of the next volume, No 944, of the New Eagle Series. The forthcoming story is from the pen of Ida Reade Allen, and it is a most delightful tale of love, romance, hate, and intrigue. It is the kind of novel that you will not put down until you have finished it.

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Transcriber’s Notes:

Punctuation has been made consistent.

Variations in spelling and hyphenation were retained as they appear in the original publication, except that obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

The following changes were made:

p. 192: for changed to of (news of her)

p. 273: He changed to She (She made a)