In an elegant boudoir, all crimson
and gold, some hours later, sat Pluma Hurlhurst, reclining
negligently on a satin divan, toying idly with a volume
which lay in her lap. She tossed the book aside
with a yawn, turning her superb dark eyes on the little
figure bending over the rich trailing silks which
were to adorn her own fair beauty on the coming evening.
“So you think you would like
to attend the lawn fête to-night, Daisy?” she
Daisy glanced up with a startled blush,
“Oh, I should like it so much,
Miss Pluma,” she answered, hesitatingly, “if
I only could!”
“I think I shall gratify you,”
said Pluma, carelessly. “You have made
yourself very valuable to me. I like the artistic
manner you have twined these roses in my hair; the
effect is quite picturesque.” She glanced
satisfiedly at her own magnificent reflection in the
cheval-glass opposite. Titian alone
could have reproduced those rich, marvelous colors—that
perfect, queenly beauty. He would have painted
the picture, and the world would have raved about its
beauty. The dark masses of raven-black hair;
the proud, haughty face, with its warm southern tints;
the dusky eyes, lighted with fire and passion, and
the red, curved lips. “I wish particularly
to look my very best to-night, Daisy,” she said;
“that is why I wish you to remain. You
can arrange those sprays of white heath in my hair
superbly. Then you shall attend the fête, Daisy.
Remember, you are not expected to take part in it;
you must sit in some secluded nook where you will
be quite unobserved.”
Pluma could not help but smile at
the ardent delight depicted in Daisy’s face.
“I am afraid I can not stay,”
she said, doubtfully, glancing down in dismay at the
pink-and-white muslin she wore. “Every one
would be sure to laugh at me who saw me. Then
I would wish I had not stayed.”
“Suppose I should give you one
to wear—that white mull, for instance—how
would you like it? None of the guests would see
you,” replied Pluma.
There was a wistful look in Daisy’s
eyes, as though she would fain believe what she heard
was really true.
“Would you really?” asked
Daisy, wonderingly. “You, whom people call
so haughty and so proud—you would really
let me wear one of your dresses? I do not know
how to tell you how much I am pleased!” she
Pluma Hurlhurst laughed. Such rapture was new
The night which drew its mantle over
the smiling earth was a perfect one. Myriads
of stars shone like jewels in the blue sky, and not
a cloud obscured the face of the clear full moon.
Hurlhurst Plantation was ablaze with colored lamps
that threw out soft rainbow tints in all directions
as far as the eye could reach. The interior of
Whitestone Hall was simply dazzling in its rich rose
bloom, its lights, its fountains, and rippling music
from adjoining ferneries.
In an elegant apartment of the Hall
Basil Hurlhurst, the recluse invalid, lay upon his
couch, trying to shut out the mirth and gayety that
floated up to him from below. As the sound of
Pluma’s voice sounded upon his ear he turned
his face to the wall with a bitter groan. “She
is so like—” he muttered, grimly.
“Ah! the pleasant voices of our youth turn into
lashes which scourge us in our old age. ‘Like
mother, like child.’”
The lawn fête was a grand success;
the elite of the whole country round were gathered
together to welcome the beautiful, peerless hostess
of Whitestone Hall. Pluma moved among her guests
like a queen, yet in all that vast throng her eyes
eagerly sought one face. “Where was Rex?”
was the question which constantly perplexed her.
After the first waltz he had suddenly disappeared.
Only the evening before handsome Rex Lyon had held
her jeweled hand long at parting, whispering, in his
graceful, charming way, he had something to tell her
on the morrow. “Why did he hold himself
so strangely aloof?” Pluma asked herself, in
bitter wonder. Ah! had she but known!
While Pluma, the wealthy heiress,
awaited his coming so eagerly, Rex Lyon was standing,
quite lost in thought, beside a rippling fountain
in one of the most remote parts of the lawn, thinking
of Daisy Brooks. He had seen a fair face—that
was all—a face that embodied his dream
of loveliness, and without thinking of it found his
fate, and the whole world seemed changed for him.
Handsome, impulsive Rex Lyon, owner
of several of the most extensive and lucrative orange
groves in Florida, would have bartered every dollar
of his worldly possessions for love.
He had hitherto treated all notion
of love in a very off-hand, cavalier fashion.
“Love is fate,” he had
always said. He knew Pluma loved him. Last
night he had said to himself: The time had come
when he might as well marry; it might as well be Pluma
as any one else, seeing she cared so much for him.
Now all that was changed. “I sincerely hope
she will not attach undue significance to the words
I spoke last evening,” he mused.
Rex did not care to return again among
the throng; it was sweeter far to sit there by the
murmuring fountain dreaming of Daisy Brooks, and wondering
when he should see her again. A throng which did
not hold the face of Daisy Brooks had no charm for
Suddenly a soft step sounded on the
grass; Rex’s heart gave a sudden bound; surely
it could not be—yes, it was—Daisy
She drew back with a startled cry
as her eyes suddenly encountered those of her hero
of the morning. She would have fled precipitately
had he not stretched out his hand quickly to detain
“Daisy,” cried Rex, “why
do you look so frightened? Are you displeased
to see me?”
“No,” she said. “I—I—do
She looked so pretty, so bewildered,
so dazzled by joy, yet so pitifully uncertain, Rex
was more desperately in love with her than ever.
“Your eyes speak, telling me
you are pleased, Daisy, even if your lips refuse
to tell me so. Sit down on this rustic bench,
Daisy, while I tell you how anxiously I awaited your
coming—waited until the shadows of evening
As he talked to her he grew more interested
with every moment. She had no keen intellect,
no graceful powers of repartee, knew little of books
or the great world beyond. Daisy was a simple,
guileless child of nature.
Rex’s vanity was gratified at
the unconscious admiration which shone in her eyes
and the blushes his words brought to her cheeks.
“There is my favorite waltz,
Daisy,” he said, as the music of the irresistible
“Blue Danube” floated out to them.
“Will you favor me with a waltz?”
“Miss Pluma would be so angry,” she murmured.
“Never mind her anger, Daisy.
I will take all the blame on my shoulders.
They are unusually broad, you see.”
He led her half reluctant among the
gay throng; gentlemen looked at one another in surprise.
Who is she? they asked one of the other, gazing upon
her in wonder. No one could answer. The sweet-faced
little maiden in soft, floating white, with a face
like an angel’s, who wore no other ornament
than her crown of golden hair, was a mystery and a
novelty. In all the long years of her after life
Daisy never forgot that supremely blissful moment.
It seemed to her they were floating away into another
sphere. Rex’s arms were around her, his
eyes smiling down into hers; he could feel the slight
form trembling in his embrace, and he clasped her
still closer. With youth, music, and beauty—there
was nothing wanting to complete the charm of love.
Leaning gracefully against an overarching
palm-tree stood a young man watching the pair with
a strange intentness; a dark, vindictive smile hovered
about the corners of his mouth, hidden by his black
mustache, and there was a cruel gleam in the dark,
wicked eyes scanning the face of the young girl so
“Ah! why not?” he mused.
“It would be a glorious revenge.”
He made his way hurriedly in the direction of his
young hostess, who was, as usual, surrounded by a
group of admirers. A deep crimson spot burned
on either cheek, and her eyes glowed like stars, as
of one under intense, suppressed excitement.
Lester Stanwick made his way to her
side just as the last echo of the waltz died away
on the air, inwardly congratulating himself upon finding
Rex and Daisy directly beside him.
“Miss Pluma,” said Stanwick,
with a low bow, “will you kindly present me
to the little fairy on your right? I am quite
desperately smitten with her.”
Several gentlemen crowded around Pluma
asking the same favor.
With a smile and a bow, what could
Rex do but lead Daisy gracefully forward. Those
who witnessed the scene that ensued never forgot it.
For answer Pluma Hurlhurst turned coldly, haughtily
toward them, drawing herself up proudly to her full
“There is evidently some mistake
here,” she said, glancing scornfully at the
slight, girlish figure leaning upon Rex Lyon’s
arm. “I do not recognize this person as
a guest. If I mistake not, she is one of the
hirelings connected with the plantation.”
If a thunderbolt had suddenly exploded
beneath Rex’s feet he could not have been more
Daisy uttered a piteous little cry
and, like a tender flower cut down by a sudden, rude
blast, would have fallen at his feet had he not reached
out his arm to save her.
“Miss Hurlhurst,” cried
Rex, in a voice husky with emotion, “I hold
myself responsible for this young lady’s presence
“Ah!” interrupts Pluma,
ironically; “and may I ask by what right you
force one so inferior, and certainly obnoxious, among
Rex Lyon’s handsome face was
white with rage. “Miss Hurlhurst,”
he replied, with stately dignity, “I regret,
more than the mere words express, that my heedlessness
has brought upon this little creature at my side an
insult so cruel, so unjust, and so bitter, in simply
granting my request for a waltz—a request
very reluctantly granted. An invited guest among
you she may not be; but I most emphatically defy her
inferiority to any lady or gentleman present.”
says Pluma, icily, “you forget yourself.”
He smiled contemptuously. “I
do not admit it,” he said, hotly. “I
have done that which any gentleman should have done;
defended from insult one of the purest and sweetest
of maidens. I will do more—I will
shield her, henceforth and forever, with my very life,
if need be. If I can win her, I shall make Daisy
Brooks my wife.”
Rex spoke rapidly—vehemently.
His chivalrous soul was aroused; he scarcely heeded
the impetuous words that fell from his lips. He
could not endure the thought that innocent, trusting
little Daisy should suffer through any fault of his.
“Come, Daisy,” he said,
softly, clasping in his own strong white ones the
little fingers clinging so pitifully to his arm, “we
will go away from here at once—our presence
longer is probably obnoxious. Farewell, Miss
“Rex,” cried Pluma, involuntarily
taking a step forward, “you do not, you can
not mean what you say. You will not allow a creature
like that to separate us—you have forgotten,
Rex. You said you had something to tell me.
You will not part with me so easily,” she cried.
A sudden terror seized her at the
thought of losing him. He was her world.
She forgot the guests gathering about her—forgot
she was the wealthy, courted heiress for whose glance
or smiles men sued in vain—forgot her haughty
pride, in the one absorbing thought that Rex was going
from her. Her wild, fiery, passionate love could
bear no restraint.
“Rex,” she cried, suddenly
falling on her knees before him, her face white and
stormy, her white jeweled hands clasped supplicatingly,
“you must not, you shall not leave me so; no
one shall come between us. Listen—I
love you, Rex. What if the whole world knows it—what
will it matter, it is the truth. My love is my
life. You loved me until she came between us
with her false, fair face. But for this you would
have asked me to be your wife. Send that miserable
little hireling away, Rex—the gardener
will take charge of her.”
Pluma spoke rapidly, vehemently.
No one could stay the torrent of her bitter words.
Rex was painfully distressed and annoyed.
Fortunately but very few of the guests had observed
the thrilling tableau enacted so near them.
he said, “I am sorry you have unfortunately
thus expressed yourself, for your own sake. I
beg you will say no more. You yourself have severed
this night the last link of friendship between us.
I am frank with you in thus admitting it. I sympathize
with you, while your words have filled me with the
deepest consternation and embarrassment, which it is
useless longer to prolong.”
Drawing Daisy’s arm hurriedly
within his own, Rex Lyon strode quickly down the graveled
path, with the full determination of never again crossing
the threshold of Whitestone Hall, or gazing upon the
face of Pluma Hurlhurst.
Meanwhile Pluma had arisen from her
knees with a gay, mocking laugh, turning suddenly
to the startled group about her.
“Bravo! bravo! Miss Pluma,”
cried Lester Stanwick, stepping to her side at that
opportune moment. “On the stage you would
have made a grand success. We are practicing
for a coming charade,” explained Stanwick, laughingly;
“and, judging from the expressions depicted on
our friend’s faces, I should say you have drawn
largely upon real life. You will be a success,
No one dreamed of doubting the assertion.
A general laugh followed, and the music struck up
again, and the gay mirth of the fête resumed its sway.
Long after the guests had departed
Pluma sat in her boudoir, her heart torn with pain,
love, and jealousy, her brain filled with schemes of
“I can not take her life!”
she cried; “but if I could mar her beauty—the
pink-and-white beauty of Daisy Brooks, which has won
Rex from me—I would do it. I shall
torture her for this,” she cried. “I
will win him from her though I wade through seas of
blood. Hear me, Heaven,” she cried, “and
register my vow!”
Pluma hastily rung the bell.
“Saddle Whirlwind and Tempest
at once!” she said to the servant who answered
“It is after midnight, Miss Pluma. I—”
There was a look in her eyes which would brook no
An hour later they had reached the
cottage wherein slept Daisy Brooks, heedless of the
danger that awaited her.
“Wait for me here,” said
Pluma to the groom who accompanied her—“I
will not be long!”