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"My QUEEN :
"All my life I have worshiped an ideal. Just when I had grown to believe, that she did not exist save in my dreams, you flashed upon my horizon. I loved you; but I have not dared dream that you would love me, until to-day. I saw it in your face, dear, and I know that you are a woman who, once loving, will love forever. You know the story of my life. I am going abroad very soon. I shall remain away, until this miserable experience of which I told you, this terrible error, becomes a thing of the past. I shall strive to make myself worthy of your respect, of your love. When I come back, I shall ask you to be my wife, Helena. Until then, farewell. Read the verses I enclose. I found them in the poet's corner of one of our daily papers, and cut them out, because they seemed like a versified history of my own life. First, the mirage dream--then the jungle of the senses, then the cold world of fashion, until I lost faith in the existence of the storied Land of Love.
"Then I met you, and you taught me that the true kingdom of love lies in the precincts of a pure home. Farewell, my sweet saint, my angel guide.
The poem he enclosed we give below.
THE KINGDOM OF LOVE.
In the dawn of the day, when the sea and the earth
Reflected the sunrise above,
I set forth, with a heart full of courage and mirth,
To seek for the Kingdom of Love.
I asked of a Poet I met on the way,
Which cross-road would lead me aright.
And he said : "Follow me, and ere long you will see
Its glistening turrets of Light."
And soon in the distance a city shone fair;
"Look yonder," he said, "there it gleams!"
But alas! for the hopes that were doomed to despair,
It was only the Kingdom of Dreams.
Then the next man I asked was a gay cavalier,
And he said : "Follow me, follow me,"
And with laughter and song we went speeding along
By the shores of life's beautiful sea,
Till we came to a valley more tropical far,
Than the wonderful Vale of Cashmere.
And I saw from a bower a face like a flower,
Smile out on the gay cavalier.
And he said: "We have come to humanity's goal--
Here love and delight are intense."
But alas! and alas! for the hope of my soul--
It was only the Kingdom of Sense.
As I journeyed more slowly, I met on the road,
A coach with retainers behind,
And they said : "Follow us, for our lady's abode
Belongs in the realm you would find."
'Twas a grand dame of fashion, a newly-wed bride;
I followed, encouraged and bold.
But my hopes died away, like the last gleams of day,
For we came to the Kingdom of Gold.
At the door of a cottage I asked a fair maid.
"I have heard of that Realm," she replied,
"But my feet never roam from the Kingdom of Home,
So I know not the way," and she sighed.
I looked on the cottage, how restful it seemed!
And the maid was as fair as a dove.
Great light glorified my soul as I cried,
"Why, home is the Kingdom of Love!"
The following day, when Percy ushered himself into Dolores'
apartments by his latch-key, he was surprised to find those bijou rooms
in a state of disorder. Boxes, trunks, and packing cases were scattered
about, while Dolores, attired in a loose white gown, was busily at work
arranging garments and bric-a-bric.
' What in the world are you doing?" he asked, in amazement. "Are you going away?"
She lifted her wan, white face to his, with a look so pathetic, so full of widowed sorrow, that his heart smote him. O, Sin! how bitter are thy fruits.
"Yes, I am going away," she said. "Come and sit down here, and let me tell you all about it." And she led him to his favorite chair and sank upon the ottoman at his feet. "Ever since you went away the last time, I have been thinking, thinking, thinking," she said, pressing her hands to her head, "until I nearly grew wild. And the result of it all is, that I going away : going to California. I think it is better that we should be parted, at least for a time."
She looked eagerly in his face; somehow she had fancied that when he found she was really determined to go away from him, that his old love for her, and his longing for her companionship would overmaster every other consideration.
She had reasoned it all out, through the sleepless night.
"He will be surprised, startled and hurt," she thought. "He does not believe I have strength to leave him. But I will go--and he shall follow me and sue hard, before I return to him. Not until I am gone will he fully realize what my love has been to him. If I were his wife, now, I could not go, and he would know I could not. When he stops and thinks what this step might mean--and all it might mean, I know he will regret having driven me to it. Even if he has tired of me himself, man-like, he will dread the possibility of my going to another lover--as many women in my situation would do. But go where I will I shall be true to him--oh, so true! for I must love him, and him only till I die. It is my fate."
So she had talked to herself while she made her plans. Now, when she had told him that she was going away, she looked up in his face, expecting to see surprise and chagrin. Instead, she saw only relief, intense relief.
"Yes, Dolores, it is better that we should part, even as you say," he answered. "There is a better and a truer life for each of us, than the life we are living, even if it is a lonelier one. We have made a great mistake, but we can rectify it in a measure, by parting now."
All hope died in her heart. Her face flushed, her breast heaved with violent emotion.
"You are late in finding this out!" she said, bitterly; "but I believe it is customary with men, to never discover mistakes of this kind, until the woman's life is wrecked. It is so very natural for a man to moralize standing on a crushed and ruined heart."
"Dolores, let us part without any bitter words, for heaven's sake!" he cried. "Our mistake, our sin, whatever we may choose to call it, has been mutual. I never lured you to destruction; I never deceived you; I never meant to wrong you. You understood the world, you were no ignorant girl : you were a woman, old enough to know the importance of the step I proposed."
"Had I been a young girl I should never have yielded," she answered. "It is the ripe fruit which falls when a south wind shakes the tree."
"Well, you must not forget that we agreed upon the course of action which has resulted in our misery. Neither should blame the other. Let us part friends, not enemies."
"Friends!" and all of wounded pride and scorned love, and hopeless passion was in her voice as she repeated the word.
Ah! when will a man ever learn that he cannot offer a more cruel insult to a woman he has once professed to love, than to call her his "friend."
Percy felt great drops of perspiration starting out on his brow. He drew his handkerchief from his pocket, and with it a letter fluttered and fell at Dolores' feet.
She picked it up, and she might have returned it without a glance at the superscription had not Percy sprung forward with a guilty flush, crying hurriedly,
"Excuse my awkwardness; give me the letter, please?"
Then she glanced down upon it. It was addressed in a delicate feminine penmanship, and the date of the post-mark was not a week old.
A sudden suspicion fired her blood; her pansy eyes blazed black as sloes as she turned them on Percy's tell-tale face.
"So!" she said, slowly and mockingly; "there is a cause for all this excess of morality, mon ami, is there?"
"Give me the letter, please?" was his only response.
She took a step back, and looked at him with defiant eyes.
"I demand to know the contents of this letter before I return it!" she said. "If it in no way relates to our proposed separation, you will not fear to show it to me. If it does, I have a right to know."
He looked at her coldly, and his words, as they fell, pierced her like poisoned arrows.
' You have no right to demand any thing of the kind," he said, quietly. "Our relations are simply with each other. We have always understood that, I believe. You are not that most despised object in your own eyes, Dolores--a wife. Therefore you have no right to question me concerning my correspondence. The letter, please."
She threw it at his feet. "Take it!" she cried, "but remember, Percy Durand, as God hears me, no other woman shall be your wife while I live."
He turned toward the door without a word. But as he went, he took her latch-key from his pocket and dropped it carelessly on the open leaf of her ebony desk.
That one act, said more effectually than the bitterest words could have said, that all was at an end between them. He was no longer her comrade, her friend, her lover, who came and went at will; he was a stranger, who, if he ever came again, would come in the capacity of a guest.
She flung out her arms with a wild cry :
"Percy, Percy, come back! Do not leave me like this--I cannot bear it."
He turned back, moved by the passionate pain of her voice.
As he turned, his eye fell upon an old photograph, lying among a parcel of letters, in the open tray of a partially packed trunk.
"Who is this, Dolores?" he asked, picking up the card, and standing as if transfixed.
Dolores went forward and looked over his shoulder. She thought he was relenting toward her, and if a reconciliation seemed possible, she desired it at any cost.
Ah! pitying heaven! how at the mercy of the weakest man, the strongest woman is, if she loves him.
"That?" she said, laying her hand gently on his arm, "that is an old picture of a school-mate of mine,--oh, how long ago it seems! She was the only intimate friend I ever had until I met Mrs. Butler. And yet I have utterly lost all trace of her. Our correspondence died a natural death, before I had been two years abroad."
"What was her name?" asked Percy, and his heart almost stood still to listen to her reply.
"Her name was Lena--Helena Maxon. She lived in a pretty place called Elm Hill. I suppose she is married and the mother of a family ere this. She was just the kind of girl to marry young, and she was abnormally fond of babies, I remember. She actually brought her doll to school with her, when she was seventeen years old."
Dolores talked on volubly, glad to forget the torturing scene of a few moments before. She fancied that he felt the same, and that he was asking these questions simply to bridge over their quarrel.
Percy thought the room was whirling around him. He sat down in a neighboring chair.
"I wonder you never spoke of her to me before!" he said. "She has an interesting face. I did not know you had such a friend in America. Why have you never looked her up?"
She gazed at him in questioning surprise, his voice, his manner were so strange.
"I think I mentioned her to you when I told you the story of my Uncle's death," she answered, pleasantly, eager to win him to good humor again. "While abroad, our lives drifted so far apart, I seldom recalled the old intimacy. Since my return--I have hardly felt situated to seek a renewal of our acquaintance. It might have been embarrassing for both of us, Percy, and you know I have not felt the need of any friend or companion but you."
He laid down the picture and covered his eyes as if to shut out the sight of it.
"My God!" he cried, suddenly, "it cannot be true--it is too terrible."
Dolores' jealous suspicions concerning the letter took definite shape and form.
"Why are you talking so strangely?" she asked, facing him suddenly. "Do you know Helena Maxon, Percy? Have you ever met her?"
"Yes," he answered, "I know her--I have met her. Oh, Dolores, I wish to God I were dead."
"I wish wo both were!" she cried passionately. "I wish God had sent death to us there in that Andean valley, when something told me, that we were never to be so happy again." Then, growing excited, she clenched her slender hands and stood before him, speaking in a low suppressed voice. "You shall never marry her, never!" she cried. " I can hinder it. When we were in Santiago, you registered me as your wife, to avoid gossip. To Lorette, you have called me Madame Percy--your wife. These things, told in a court of justice, would prevent you from making another woman your wife. I will follow you to the ends of the earth to prevent it."
Percy put his hands to his head in a dazed way.
"Don't!" he protested wearily. "I am ill, suffering, Dolores. Let us end this miserable scene. I have no idea of making any woman my wife. It would be an insult to any good woman to ask her to take the remnant of my miserable existence. "I am going abroad at once--to-morrow; and I hope you will continue your preparations for your journey. And now, good by--I am too ill to endure another word to-day."
He loosened the hold she had taken on his arm in her excitment, and almost staggered out of the room and down the stairs.
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