Violet Earle was not surprised at her brother’s action. She was
rather relieved by it. The first shock over, she was rather glad that
Jaquelina had lost all her charms. Ronald Valchester had nothing to
regret now. The beauty he had loved was lost forever.
The day before she returned home, she went to see Jaquelina. She was
curious to know what her generous rival proposed to do with her blank
and ruined life.
“Do you really intend to return to Europe as you said you would?” she
“Yes, I am going back after awhile,” Jaquelina answered, “but first, I
am going to pay a visit to Virginia. I have had a letter from my Uncle
Meredith, and he has invited me to pay him a visit.”
“I do not believe you would enjoy a visit to Meredith Farm,” said
Violet, quickly. “Mr. Meredith has become involved in debt, somehow,
and there is a mortgage on the whole estate. His wife is crosser than
ever, and she has two more children.”
“Yes, I know, Uncle Charlie wrote me about all his troubles,” Jaquelina
answered, simply, “and I will tell you what I mean to do, Violet. I
shall pay off the mortgage on the farm, and settle twenty-five thousand
dollars on Uncle Meredith, so that he may get a new start in life.”
Pretty Violet, rustling in her silks and furs, looked at her with
“Lina, you are not in earnest?” she said.
“Yes, I am quite in earnest. I have more money than I know what to do
with, and I am going to help Uncle Charlie out of his difficulty.”
“They have not been so kind to you, Lina, that you need trouble
yourself over them,” said Violet, her mind going back to the old days
when Jaquelina had been the patient nurse and drudge, neglected and
“I know,” said Lina. “I have not forgotten the past, but I am sorry
for them all the same. And then, too, Violet, you must remember,” her
voice sank slightly lower, “I can never have any more happiness in life
except what I can make for others.”
Violet and her brother returned south the next day. Violet had promised
Mrs. Valchester to spend a few days with her in Richmond before she
went to Laurel Hill. She felt quite sure of having Ronald all to
herself then. What was her dismay to find him preparing to leave for
New York again the very day she arrived in Richmond?
“Were you growing impatient at my lengthened stay?” she asked him,
fondly. “It was Walter that kept me. I was very anxious to get back to
“I thought Walter intended to have brought back a bride with him,”
ignoring her first question.
“Oh! did not Walter tell you?” she cried out, carelessly. “The
engagement is off.”
“I do not think I understand you,” Ronald replied.
“The engagement is broken–they are not to be married,” she explained.
“Why not?” gravely.
“Oh, Mr. Valchester, she is so changed, you know,” said Violet, a
little disconcerted by his grave eyes. “She has lost her voice and
her beauty. She offered Walter his freedom, and he was glad enough to
“I could not have believed it of Walter!” said Ronald Valchester,
“Oh, Mr. Valchester, she is a perfect fright! You would not blame
Walter if you could see how she looks!” cried Violet, warmly defending
Ronald said no more. He had turned to go.
“You are not going to New York now! What is the use, when I am already
here?” she cried, in dismay.
Then Ronald answered, with a slight flush:
“Excuse me, Violet. At the risk of seeming rude, I must tell you I was
not going after you exactly. I am publishing another volume of poetry,
and I was going to New York on urgent business.”
“You were going to see Jaquelina!” Violet broke out, in a sudden
passion of anger and jealousy. And then she threw herself on a sofa and
burst into bitter weeping.
Ronald stood looking at her in amazement. He did not kneel down by her
and kiss away the tears, as she expected him to do. He said, sadly and
“Violet, this is quite unworthy of you. You must remember that Lina
herself gave me to you.”
“I have small pleasure in the gift,” she retorted. “I but seldom see
The passionate complaint opened Ronald’s eyes. He bent down and touched
his affianced’s cheek with his lips while he said, quietly:
“Violet, when I return from New York I shall ask you to name our
wedding day. You must think about it while I am gone.”
“When–when will you return?” sobbed Violet, with a smile struggling
through her tears.
“In about two weeks, I think,” said Ronald.
“Two weeks longer; I shall be gone to Laurel Hill before that time,”
she said, disappointed.
“I do not think I can get back any sooner than that,” he answered, “but
I will come to Laurel Hill as soon as I return.”
“You promise,” she said, “faithfully?”
“I promise faithfully,” he replied, with a slight smile at her anxiety.
He went away and Violet was obliged to content herself with the thought
of seeing him again in two weeks. She returned to her mountain home
where she found her father very glad to see her again. In a week’s time
she heard that Jaquelina Meredith had returned to the farm on a visit
to her uncle.
“May I see you for a little while, Lina? I have important news for you.”
It was two weeks after Jaquelina had come to the farm-house that she
stood holding Ronald Valchester’s card in her trembling hand and
reading the few lines scribbled upon it. Her uncle Charlie had brought
it to her. He told her that Mr. Valchester was waiting outside.
She started up nervously when Mr. Meredith gave her Ronald’s card, and
told her that he was waiting to see her. An impulse came over her to
decline to grant him the interview he asked.
“He has come to tell me when he will be married to Violet,” she said to
her wildly beating heart. “I–I am not so strong as I thought I was–I
do not believe I could bear it. It was cruel to come. I should not have
thought it of Ronald. He must have known how it would hurt me. Oh! I
should not have come here–so near to the sight of Violet’s happiness.”
Then it crossed her mind that she was weak and selfish. She had begged
him to marry Violet. She must be brave enough to bear what she had
“Uncle Charlie, you may tell him to come in,” she said, with lips that
Then when he had gone out and closed the door she drooped into a chair
and hid her poor, marred face in her hands. She could not bear for
Ronald Valchester to behold it in its changed and altered guise.
She heard the door open softly, then Ronald’s unforgotten step as he
crossed the floor. She could not look up. He knelt down beside her and
took one of the hands that hid her face and held it tightly in his own.
“Lina, look at me,” he said, in a voice that was as tender as a caress.
“Do not be afraid to show me your sad affliction.”
Jaquelina looked up with something like a sob into the handsome,
thoughtful face of her lost lover. It was beaming with an eager joy
and tenderness that was like the expression she remembered on it in
the brief, happy summer of their betrothal. Even when he saw the face
that had frightened Walter Earle’s love away, no change came into the
blue-gray eyes fixed on her with such adoring love blent with such
“Lina, do not grieve for the beauty you have lost,” he said. “I am so
thankful that your life is spared that all else is of little account.”
The sad dark eyes regarded him in wonder.
“Yes, darling,” he said, with a smile into the wondering eyes; “all
that you have suffered only makes you dearer to my heart.”
She pulled her small hand from his clasp and tried to rise.
“Mr. Valchester, you must not speak to me so,” she cried. “You forget
Violet–you forget everything.”
“I forget nothing,” he returned. “Listen, Lina, I did not come here
simply to pain you. I have news for you. Gerald Huntington is dead.”
At those words from her lover’s lips Jaquelina gasped for breath like
one dying. Her head fell heavily back against her chair, and her
eyelids closed. Ronald bent over her in surprise and alarm.
“Lina, did I tell you too suddenly?” he exclaimed, chafing the limp and
nerveless hands. “Forgive me, I forgot how weak and nervous you must be
It was a shock to her, there could be no doubt of that. She lay silent
several minutes, her heart throbbing quick and fast. It was some little
while before she could speak. When she did, she uttered only one word
through pale lips:
“Almost a week ago now,” he replied. “Are you strong enough for me to
tell you about it, Lina?”
“Yes,” she replied, and he drew a chair to her side.
“Will you suffer me to hold your hand while I am telling you, Lina?” he
She seemed to be lost in thought for a moment, then she answered, with
a slight flush:
“No; I would rather you should not do so.”
A troubled look came into the blue-gray eyes a moment as they rested on
the leaping flames of the fire; then he said, with apparent composure:
“You knew I had been in New York for two weeks, Lina?”
“No, I did not know it,” she replied, surprised.
“True, how should you know it?” he said, half to himself. “Well, I was,
and last week Professor Larue called on me at my hotel.”
“The dear old soul! I hope he was well,” exclaimed Jaquelina, warmly.
“Yes, he was well,” said Ronald Valchester, “and very impatient for
your return to New York. A dying man had sent for you, and when he
found that you were out of reach he called for me.”
“You went?” said Lina, looking at him with wide, dark eyes.
“Yes, Lina. Judge of my surprise when, in an obscure and comfortless
abode in the suburbs of Brooklyn, I found the handsome outlaw, Gerald
Huntington, stretched upon his dying bed.”
“Dying!” Jaquelina repeated after him, with something like awe in her
“Yes, dying, but dying ashamed and repentant. There was a priest with
him. He passed away peacefully.”
“And he sent for me?” the girl said, wonderingly.
“Yes, he sent for you, and he was very much disappointed and grieved
that you were too far away to come in time. He wished to ask your
forgiveness for the cowardly revenge he took upon you for the ill-turn
you did him once.”
“I have been so sorry for it,” she said, weakly, and blushing crimson.
“I was so young and untutored I did not think. It was all because I
needed the money so much. If I could have seen him on his dying bed I
would have asked him to forgive me my sin of ingratitude, and I must
have forgiven him for the revenge he took. I could not have refused to
forgive him when he was dying.”
“Yes, I told him that,” said Ronald. “I understood you so well, Lina,
I knew just what you would say and feel. I told him to rest quite easy
Lina thanked him with a grateful glance, quickly withdrawn.
“He had sinned against you, too,” she said, tremulously. “That dreadful
wound! You forgave him, Ronald?”
“Freely,” he replied; and then they were silent a moment, and Lina
looked at the softly falling snow through the windows, and Ronald
looked at her steadily and gravely.
He did not flinch as his eyes marked the scarred, discolored skin that
covered the once delicately lovely face.
After a pause Ronald said, gravely:
“Huntington had a confession to make to you, Lina.”
“A confession?” she repeated, turning her dark eyes from the window to
look at him with grave surprise.
“Yes,” he said. “You must have wondered, Lina, often and often, what
mysterious discovery caused him to give you up in the very moment when,
by violence he had made you his bride.”
“I have wondered over it often. It was the happy cause that delivered
me from a life more bitter than death,” she replied, with a shudder.
“He explained it to me, Lina, and perhaps I should leave the story
untold to you. Are you willing for me to do so?” he inquired.
Lina meditated a moment, then replied:
“I would prefer to hear it.”
“Spoken like a true daughter of Eve,” said her companion, with a slight
smile. “Very well, Lina, I will do as you say, but I fear it will pain
you to hear my story. And there is one thing you must promise me. You
will tell no one else?”
“Yes, I will promise that,” she replied.
“Listen to a bit of the outlaw’s history, then,” he said. “In the first
place, his true name was not Gerald Huntington at all.”
“Then what—-” said Lina, and paused abruptly.
“It was an _alias_ he adopted when he fell into evil and wicked
courses. He belonged to a well-born family in France. He was not an
American, Lina–he was French.”
Lina’s eyes were a little startled as she looked up at him; a sight
pallor crept about her lips.
“He was the younger son of a man who was so severely just, Lina, and so
proud and passionate, withal, that his children feared him instead of
loving him. His eldest daughter ran away with a young American artist,
and died under Virginian skies in only a few brief months. His younger
son, maddened by the sternness and harshness of his only parent, also
ran away to America. He fell into temptation, yielded blindly to evil,
and cast aside forever, the noble name he had disgraced.”
He paused, and Jaquelina regarded him with wild, wondering eyes.
“Lina, I need not tell you more,” he said. “You can guess.”
She lifted her small hands dizzily to her brow.
“Tell me yourself,” she said. “I am so dazed it seems to me I cannot
understand unless I hear the very words.”
He said them over, reluctantly enough:
“Gerald Huntington’s true name is Ardelle. Your mother, little Lina,
was his elder sister. He was your own uncle. Your mother’s jewelry
revealed your true identity to him that night.”
A moan of pain came from the girl’s white lips as she pressed her hand
to her brow.
“My own uncle!” she cried. “Oh, the shame and disgrace of it!”
“It is a buried secret,” he replied. “No one will ever know! I promised
him that myself, Lina. He died repentant. I believe that a noble nature
was marred when Gerald Ardelle, with his princely beauty and glorious
intellect, fell into evil ways.”
“But he died repentant,” she murmured, hopefully.
“Yes, he was very sorry for his sins,” replied Ronald. “He regretted
his sin against you the most of all.”
After a moment he added, gently:
“His dearest wish, Lina, was that you and I might be re-united.”
She put up her hands as if she could not bear the words.
“He was full of life and strength,” she said. “Why did he die? What
killed him, Ronald?”
“You will not be shocked if I tell you?” he said, hesitatingly.
“I wish to know,” she answered.
“He was in the theater the night you were burned,” he answered in a low
voice. “He tried to save your life, dear. He leaped from the upper tier
into the parquette–fell, and was almost trampled to death beneath the
feet of the maddened multitude. He died a slow and painful death from
“He died for me,” Jaquelina cried in a voice of pain, and the tears
fell from her eyes for the man who had wrecked her life and given his
own so freely at last for her sake.
Ronald wiped those tears away, and when she could speak she said,
looking gravely at him:
“Ronald, who was it that saved my life? Tell me.”
“No one knows,” he replied, uneasily.
“Yes, Ronald, _I_ know–I have always known,” she replied. “Ah, do not
blush. I have never breathed it to anyone, but I know that it was you
that saved me from death that night.”
“I thought you insensible,” he exclaimed, unconsciously admitting the
truth of her words.
“Ah, Ronald!” she cried, with sudden uncontrollable pain and passion.
“I was almost dead, but I knew whose arms held me, and whose lips
kissed me. It seems to me if I were dead and you touched me, even, I
should surely know it.”
“Ah, Lina, my darling,” he cried, “there are no barriers between us
now. All are broken. You will be my own at last!”
She looked at her lover with dark, despairing eyes and a death-white
“You forget–Violet,” she said, in a desolate whisper.
She saw a dark shadow come over the handsome, love-lighted face.
“Lina, I have not told you all that Gerald Huntington told me yet,” he
said. “Do you remember that it was a disguised woman who liberated him
“Yes,” she replied, wonderingly.
“It was Violet who connived at his escape, and furnished him the means
to get away safely. The price of her aid was that he should kidnap you
and prevent our marriage.”
“I can scarcely believe it,” cried the girl.
“It is quite true,” he answered. “Gerald swore to it. Violet does not
“You did not charge her with it?” the girl cried, in breathless dismay.
“Yes,” he replied, firmly. “She was very angry at first, but when I
had talked to her awhile, she owned the truth. She had visited the
prisoner, and they had concocted their diabolical plan of revenge
together. She hated you, dear, because–she loved me.”
“And she gave you back your freedom?” Lina said, with unconscious
“Yes, when I had asked her,” he answered, with a slight flush. “Her
offense had been too great for me to marry her. Do you blame me, Lina?”
She would not say, only asked him, anxiously:
“Was Violet repentant?”
“She was sorry she had been found out, and very angry with Gerald
Huntington for betraying the secret. I do not believe she has reached
the verge of repentance just yet.”
“Poor Violet!” the girl said, with infinite compassion. “You will not
tell anyone about it, Ronald?”
“No, darling, I promised her I would not. Many people have secrets
hidden in their lives. This will be one in Violet’s, and Gerald
Huntington’s near kinship to you, will be one in yours. I did not even
tell Walter her story. I gave her the privilege of saying she had
jilted me. You will not mind taking a man who has been jilted, will
She looked at the handsome, happy face, with the eager light of hope
shining in the blue-gray eyes, and her lips quivered. Years had
passed since she had seen the light of happiness shining on Ronald
“Ronald, I must not take you now,” she said, “I am not the Lina you
loved years ago. I have lost my beauty.”
“You will always be beautiful to me,” he answered, loyally. “Lina,
my love was no weak, shallow passion for a fair face such as Walter
Earle cherished for you. It was not altogether your beauty that won me
first. There was about you a singular unconscious fascination–a luring
charm–sweet and subtle as the fragrance of a flower, that won me even
against my will. That nameless charm lingers about you still, though
your wondrous fairness has faded like a flower. You remember–
“‘You may break–you may shatter
The vase if you will,
But the scent of the roses
Will cling round it still.’
So, although you have lost your beauty, Lina, the real, undefinable
charm that held me, holds me still.”
Lina looked at him with dewy eyes. His whole, handsome, eager face was
lighted with the tenderness of his heart.
He took her small hands and held them fondly in his own.
“Lina, we were made for each other,” he pleaded; “we both love poetry,
music, and everything beautiful. Fate has been hard and unkind to us,
but she has relented at last. You are going to be my wife.”
Lina could not resist his pleading, and the gentle arm that stole
around her. She hid her face on his breast and wept the happiest tears
that ever rained from a happy woman’s eyes. She had loved Ronald so
long and so well, and she was going to be his wife at last.
* * * * *
Only one month later they were happily married amid the rejoicings of
all the neighborhood. General and Mrs. Valchester were present and
seemed very happy in the happiness of their idolized son. Mr. Earle was
also present, but Walter and Violet sent regrets. Their father said
that they were very busy making arrangements for a long projected tour
Mrs. Meredith’s wedding-gift to her husband’s niece was a mysterious
box swathed around with silver paper.
Ronald was quite mystified to hear her say, gratefully, when she
“A thousand thanks, Aunt Meredith. I would rather have this box than
It has been frequently said that women have all the curiosity in the
world and men none at all, but Ronald Valchester was exceedingly
curious over his wife’s bridal gift. He thought over it several times,
and at last he said to her:
“Lina, my darling, what precious gift was that which your uncle’s wife
gave you on your wedding-day?”
They were in Richmond then, spending the honey-moon very quietly at
General Valchester’s splendid residence at the West End. Lina was too
sensitive over her marred beauty to allow them to persuade her into
society and gayety. She took Ronald’s white fingers now, and passed
them gently over her cheeks.
“Ronald,” she said, “do you perceive that my skin is becoming softer
“Yes, and fairer, too,” he replied. “The discolorations are
disappearing very fast. What does it mean, Lina?”
“It means that Aunt Meredith was wiser than the New York doctors,” she
laughed. “She has prepared a salve for me from various woodland roots
and herbs that is slowly obliterating every scar and discoloration from
my face. She declares that in a year I shall be as pretty as I ever
“Then I shall bless the kind soul forever!” he cried out joyfully, and
Lina knew then for the first time how silently and sadly Ronald had
sorrowed for the loss of her wondrous beauty.
It was two years later when the two were traveling, that they met
He had attended morning service at a pretty English church, and he
heard a grand, glorious, triumphant voice, rising, as it were, to
Heaven on the wings of the _Gloria in Excelsis_. He looked around and
saw Ronald Valchester sitting by his wife’s side.
Jaquelina had grown more beautiful than ever. Every trace of her
accident had disappeared. The dark eyes were radiant with youth and
health, the long lashes rested on a rose-flushed cheek, the scarlet
mouth smiled as she chanted:
“Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, good will to men.”
Walter covered his face with his hands, and gave one sigh, deep and
bitter, to the memory of what he had lost through his weakness.
When they came out of the church he was strong enough to meet them and
speak to them.
They were glad and surprised in a breath. They asked him if he was
married yet, and if Violet was with him.
“No, I am not married yet, and my sister is dead,” he answered sadly,
and then he showed them her grave. It was right in the churchyard
there, and just a little way from the path.
The low, green mound was covered with white and blue violets, and
there was a broken marble shaft at the head, twined about with passion
“She has been dead six months,” he said, tremulously, and then he saw
the husband and wife look at each other with a shade of remorse and
pain in their speaking eyes.
“She had quite gotten over her trouble,” he said, quickly. “She seemed
perfectly well and happy. She talked of you, Ronald, and you, Mrs.
Valchester, kindly and often. But she inherited her mother’s disease.
She died very suddenly and painlessly one evening while sitting in her
chair and watching a beautiful sunset.”
Jaquelina shed some quiet and sorrowful tears over Violet’s early doom.
They were the first tears that had dimmed her lovely eyes since she had
married Ronald Valchester. He made her very happy.
In the beautiful, calm years of wedded happiness that flowed serenely
over their future lives, the few years of passionate sorrow she had
known were forgotten wholly, or remembered only as a haunting dream.