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DAISY BROOKS;

Or,

A Perilous Love.

by

LAURA JEAN LIBBEY,

Author of

"Parted on Her Bridal Tour," or "Miss Middleton's Lover,"
"When His Love Grew Cold," "He Loved, But Was Lured Away,"
"When Lovely Maiden Stoops to Folly," "The Crime of Hallow E'en,"
"Lovers Once, But Strangers Now," Etc., Etc.







Copyright 1883, by George Munro.
Copyright 1911, by J. S. Ogilvie Publishing Company.
Dramatic Rights Reserved by Laura Jean Libbey-Stillwell.

New York:
J. S. Ogilvie Publishing Company,
57 Rose Street.




DAISY BROOKS.




CHAPTER I.


A warm day in the southern part of West Virginia was fast drawing to a
close; the heat during the day had been almost intolerable under the
rays of the piercing sun, and the night was coming on in sullen
sultriness. No breath of cooling air stirred the leafy branches of the
trees; the stillness was broken only by the chirping of the crickets,
and the fire-flies twinkled for a moment, and were then lost to sight
in the long grasses.

On one of the most prosperous plantations in that section of the
country there was a great stir of excitement; the master, Basil
Hurlhurst, was momentarily expected home with his bride. The negroes
in their best attire were scattered in anxious groups here and there,
watching eagerly for the first approach of their master's carriage on
the white pebbled road.

The curtains of Whitestone Hall were looped back, and a cheerful flood
of light shone out on the waving cotton fields that stretched out as
far as the eye could reach, like a field of snow. The last touches had
been given to the pillars of roses that filled every available nook
and corner, making the summer air redolent with their odorous
perfumes. Mrs. Corliss, who had maintained the position of housekeeper
for a score of years or more, stood at the window twisting the
telegram she held in her hand with ill-concealed impatience. The
announcement of this home-coming had been as unexpected as the news of
his marriage had been quite a year before.

"Let there be no guests assembled - my reasons will be made apparent to
you later on," so read the telegram, which puzzled the housekeeper
more than she cared to admit to the inquisitive maid, who stood near
her, curiously watching her thoughtful face.

"'Pears to me it will rain afore they get here, Hagar," she said,
nervously, and, as if in confirmation of her words, a few rain-drops
splashed against the window-pane.

Both stood gazing intently out into the darkness. The storm had now
commenced in earnest. The great trees bent to and fro like reeds
before the wind; the lightning flashed, and the terrific crash of
roaring thunder mingled with the torrent of rain that beat furiously
against the casement. It seemed as if the very flood-gates of heaven
were flung open wide on this memorable night of the master's return.

"It is a fearful night. Ah! happy is the bride upon whose home-coming
the sunlight falls," muttered Mrs. Corliss under her breath.

Hagar had caught the low-spoken words, and in a voice that sounded
strange and weird like a warning, she answered:

"Yes, and unhappy is the bride upon whose home-coming rain-drops
fall."

How little they knew, as they stood there, of the terrible tragedy - the
cruelest ever enacted - those grim, silent walls of Whitestone Hall
were soon to witness, in fulfillment of the strange prophecy. Hagar,
the maid, had scarcely ceased speaking ere the door was flung violently
open, and a child of some five summers rushed into the room, her face
livid with passion, and her dark, gleaming eyes shining like baneful
stars, before which the two women involuntarily quailed.

"What is this I hear?" she cried, with wild energy, glancing fiercely
from the one to the other. "Is it true what they tell me - my father is
bringing home his bride?"

"Pluma, my child," remonstrated Mrs. Corliss, feebly, "I - "

"Don't Pluma me!" retorted the child, clutching the deep crimson
passion-roses from a vase at her side, and trampling them ruthlessly
beneath her feet. "Answer me at once, I say - has he _dared_ do it?"

"P-l-u-m-a!" Mrs. Corliss advances toward her, but the child turns her
darkly beautiful, willful face toward her with an imperious gesture.

"Do not come a step nearer," cried the child, bitterly, "or I shall
fling myself from the window down on to the rocks below. I shall never
welcome my father's wife here; and mark me, both of you, I hate her!"
she cried, vehemently. "She shall rue the day that she was born!"

Mrs. Corliss knew but too well the child would keep her word. No
power, save God, could stay the turbulent current of the ungovernable
self-will which would drag her on to her doom. No human being could
hold in subjection the fierce, untamed will of the beautiful, youthful
tyrant.

There had been strange rumors of the unhappiness of Basil Hurlhurst's
former marriage. No one remembered having seen her but once, quite
five years before. A beautiful woman with a little babe had suddenly
appeared at Whitestone Hall, announcing herself as Basil Hurlhurst's
wife. There had been a fierce, stormy interview, and on that very
night Basil Hurlhurst took his wife and child abroad; those who had
once seen the dark, glorious, scornful beauty of the woman's face
never forgot it. Two years later the master had returned alone with
the little child, heavily draped in widower's weeds.

The master of Whitestone Hall was young; those who knew his story were
not surprised that he should marry - he could not go through life
alone; still they felt a nameless pity for the young wife who was to
be brought to the home in which dwelt the child of his former wife.

There would be bitter war to the end between them. No one could tell
on which side the scales of mercy and justice would be balanced.

At that instant, through the raging of the fierce elements, the sound
of carriage wheels smote upon their ears as the vehicle dashed rapidly
up the long avenue to the porch; while, in another instant, the young
master, half carrying the slight, delicate figure that clung timidly
to his arm, hurriedly entered the spacious parlor. There was a short
consultation with the housekeeper, and Basil Hurlhurst, tenderly
lifting the slight burden in his strong, powerful arms, quickly bore
his wife to the beautiful apartments that had been prepared for her.

In the excitement of the moment Pluma was quite forgotten; for an
instant only she glanced bitterly at the sweet, fair face resting
against her father's shoulder, framed in a mass of golden hair. The
child clinched her small hands until she almost cried aloud with the
intense pain, never once deigning a glance at her father's face. In
that one instant the evil seeds of a lifetime were sown strong as life
and more bitter than death.

Turning hastily aside she sprung hurriedly down the long corridor, and
out into the darkness and the storm, never stopping to gain breath
until she had quite reached the huge ponderous gate that shut in the
garden from the dense thicket that skirted the southern portion of the
plantation. She laughed a hard, mocking laugh that sounded unnatural
from such childish lips, as she saw a white hand hurriedly loop back
the silken curtains of her father's window, and saw him bend tenderly
over the golden-haired figure in the arm-chair. Suddenly the sound of
her own name fell upon her ear.

"Pluma," whispered a low, cautious voice; and in the quick flashes of
lightning she saw a white, haggard woman's face pressed close against
the grating, and two white hands were steadily forcing the rusty lock.
There was no fear in the fiery, rebellious heart of the dauntless
child.

"Go away, you miserable beggar-woman," she cried, "or I shall set the
hounds on you at once. Do you hear me, I say?"

"Who are you?" questioned the woman, in the same low, guarded voice.

The child threw her head back proudly, her voice rising shrilly above
the wild warring of the elements, as she answered:

"Know, then, I am Pluma, the heiress of Whitestone Hall."

The child formed a strange picture - her dark, wild face, so strangely
like the mysterious woman's own, standing vividly out against the
crimson lightning flashes, her dark curls blown about the gypsy-like
face, the red lips curling scornfully, her dark eyes gleaming.

"Pluma," called the woman, softly, "come here."

"How dare _you_, a beggar-woman, call me!" cried the child,
furiously.

"Pluma - come - here - instantly!"

There was a subtle something in the stranger's voice that throbbed
through the child's pulses like leaping fire - a strange, mysterious
influence that bound her, heart and soul, like the mesmeric influence
a serpent exerts over a fascinated dove. Slowly, hesitatingly, this
child, whose fiery will had never bowed before human power, came
timidly forward, step by step, close to the iron gate against which
the woman's face was pressed. She stretched out her hand, and it
rested for a moment on the child's dark curls.

"Pluma, the gate is locked," she said. "Do you know where the keys
are?"

"No," answered the child.

"They used to hang behind the pantry door - a great bunch of them.
Don't they hang there now?"

"Ye - es."

"I thought so," muttered the woman, triumphantly. "Now, listen, Pluma;
I want you to do exactly as I bid you. I want you to go quickly and
quietly, and bring me the longest and thinnest one. You are not to
breathe one word of this to any living soul. Do you understand,
Pluma - I command you to do it."

"Yes," answered the child, dubiously.

"Stay!" she called, as the child was about to turn from her. "Why is
the house lighted up to-night?"

Again the reckless spirit of the child flashed forth.

"My father has brought home his bride," she said. "Don't you see him
bending over her, toward the third window yonder?"

The woman's eyes quickly followed in the direction indicated.

Was it a curse the woman muttered as she watched the fair, golden-haired
young girl-wife's head resting against Basil Hurlhurst's breast, his
arms clasped lovingly about her?

"Go, Pluma!" she commanded, bitterly.

Quickly and cautiously the child sped on her fatal errand through the
storm and the darkness. A moment later she had returned with the key
which was to unlock a world of misery to so many lives.

"Promise me, Pluma, heiress of Whitestone Hall, never to tell what you
have done or seen or heard to-night. You must never dare breathe it
while you live. Say you will never tell, Pluma."

"No," cried the child, "I shall never tell. They might kill me, but I
would never tell them."

The next moment she was alone. Stunned and bewildered, she turned her
face slowly toward the house. The storm did not abate in its fury;
night-birds flapped their wings through the storm overhead; owls
shrieked in the distance from the swaying tree-tops; yet the child
walked slowly home, knowing no fear. In the house lights were moving
to and fro, while servants, with bated breath and light footfalls,
hurried through the long corridors toward her father's room. No one
seemed to notice Pluma, in her dripping robe, creeping slowly along by
their side toward her own little chamber.

It was quite midnight when her father sent for her. Pluma suffered him
to kiss her, giving back no answering caress.

"I have brought some one else to you, my darling," he said. "See,
Pluma - a new mamma! And see who else - a wee, dimpled little sister,
with golden hair like mamma's, and great blue eyes. Little Evalia is
your sister, dear. Pluma must love her new mamma and sister for papa's
sake."

The dark frown on the child's face never relaxed, and, with an
impatient gesture, her father ordered her taken at once from the
room.

Suddenly the great bells of Whitestone Hall ceased pealing for the
joyous birth of Basil Hurlhurst's daughter, and bitter cries of a
strong man in mortal anguish rent the air. No one had noticed how or
when the sweet, golden-haired young wife had died. With a smile on her
lips, she was dead, with her tiny little darling pressed close to her
pulseless heart.

But sorrow even as pitiful as death but rarely travels singly. Dear
Heaven! how could they tell the broken-hearted man, who wept in such
agony beside the wife he had loved so well, of another mighty sorrow
that had fallen upon him? Who was there that could break the news to
him? The tiny, fair-haired infant had been stolen from their midst.
They would have thanked God if it had been lying cold in death upon
its mother's bosom.

Slowly throughout the long night - that terrible night that was never
to be forgotten - the solemn bells pealed forth from the turrets of
Whitestone Hall, echoing in their sound: "Unhappy is the bride the
rain falls on." Most truly had been the fulfillment of the fearful
prophecy!

"Merciful God!" cried Mrs. Corliss, "how shall I break the news to my
master? The sweet little babe is gone!"

For answer Hagar bent quickly over her, and breathed a few words in
her ear that caused her to cry out in horror and amaze.

"No one will ever know," whispered Hagar; "it is the wisest course.
The truth will lie buried in our own hearts, and die with us."

* * * * *

Six weeks from the night his golden-haired wife had died Basil Hurlhurst
awoke to consciousness from the ravages of brain-fever - awoke to a life
not worth the living. Quickly Mrs. Corliss, the housekeeper, was
sent for, who soon entered the room, leaning upon Hagar's arm.

"My wife is - " He could not say more.

"Buried, sir, beneath yonder willow."

"And the babe?" he cried, eagerly. "Dead," answered Hagar, softly.
"Both are buried in one grave."

Basil Hurlhurst turned his face to the wall, with a bitter groan.

Heaven forgive them - the seeds of the bitterest of tragedies were
irrevocably sown.




CHAPTER II.


One bright May morning some sixteen years later, the golden sunshine
was just putting forth its first crimson rays, lighting up the
ivy-grown turrets of Whitestone Hall, and shining upon a little white
cottage nestling in a bower of green leaves far to the right of it,
where dwelt John Brooks, the overseer of the Hurlhurst plantation.

For sixteen years the grand old house had remained closed - the
plantation being placed in charge of a careful overseer. Once again
Whitestone Hall was thrown open to welcome the master, Basil
Hurlhurst, who had returned from abroad, bringing with him his
beautiful daughter and a party of friends.

The interior of the little cottage was astir with bustling activity.

It was five o'clock; the chimes had played the hour; the laborers were
going to the fields, and the dairy-maids were beginning their work.

In the door-way of the cottage stood a tall, angular woman, shading
her flushed and heated face from the sun's rays with her hand.

"Daisy, Daisy!" she calls, in a harsh, rasping voice, "where are you,
you good-for-nothing lazy girl? Come into the house directly, I say."
Her voice died away over the white stretches of waving cotton, but no
Daisy came. "Here's a pretty go," she cried, turning into the room
where her brother sat calmly finishing his morning meal, "a pretty go,
indeed! I promised Miss Pluma those white mulls should be sent over to
her the first thing in the morning. She will be in a towering rage,
and no wonder, and like enough you'll lose your place, John Brooks,
and 'twill serve you right, too, for encouraging that lazy girl in her
idleness."

"Don't be too hard on little Daisy, Septima," answered John Brooks,
timidly, reaching for his hat. "She will have the dresses at the Hall
in good time, I'll warrant."

"Too hard, indeed; that's just like you men; no feeling for your poor,
overworked sister, so long as that girl has an easy life of it. It was
a sorry day for _me_ when your aunt Taiza died, leaving this girl to
our care."

A deep flush mantled John Brooks' face, but he made no retort, while
Septima energetically piled the white fluted laces in the huge
basket - piled it full to the brim, until her arm ached with the weight
of it - the basket which was to play such a fatal part in the truant
Daisy's life - the life which for sixteen short years had been so
monotonous.

Over the corn-fields half hid by the clover came a young girl tripping
lightly along. John Brooks paused in the path as he caught sight of
her. "Poor, innocent little Daisy!" he muttered half under his breath,
as he gazed at her quite unseen.

Transferred to canvas, it would have immortalized a painter. No wonder
the man's heart softened as he gazed. He saw a glitter of golden
curls, and the scarlet gleam of a mantle - a young girl, tall and
slender, with rounded, supple limbs, and a figure graceful in every
line and curve - while her arms, bare to the elbow, would have charmed
a sculptor. Cheek and lips were a glowing rosy red - while her eyes, of
the deepest and darkest blue, were the merriest that ever gazed up to
the summer sunshine.

Suddenly from over the trees there came the sound of the great bell at
the Hall. Daisy stood quite still in alarm.

"It is five o'clock!" she cried. "What shall I do? Aunt Septima will
be so angry with me; she promised Miss Pluma her white dresses should
be at the Hall by five, and it is that already."

Poor little Daisy! no wonder her heart throbbed painfully and the look
of fear deepened in her blue eyes as she sped rapidly up the path that
led to the little cottage where Septima grimly awaited her with
flushed face and flashing eyes.

"So," she said, harshly, "you are come at last, are you? and a pretty
fright you have given me. You shall answer to Miss Pluma _herself_ for
this. I dare say you will never attempt to offend her a second time."

"Indeed, Aunt Septima, I never dreamed it was so late," cried
conscious Daisy. "I was watching the sun rise over the cotton-fields,
and watching the dewdrops glittering on the corn, thinking of the
beautiful heiress of Whitestone Hall. I am so sorry I forgot about the
dresses."

Hastily catching up the heavy basket, she hurried quickly down the
path, like a startled deer, to escape the volley of wrath the
indignant spinster hurled after her.

It was a beautiful morning; no cloud was in the smiling heavens; the
sun shone brightly, and the great oak and cedar-trees that skirted the
roadside seemed to thrill with the song of birds. Butterflies spread
their light wings and coquetted with the fragrant blossoms, and busy
humming-bees buried themselves in the heart of the crimson wild rose.
The basket was very heavy, and poor little Daisy's hands ached with
the weight of it.

"If I might but rest for a few moments only," she said to herself,
eying the cool, shady grass by the roadside. "Surely a moment or two
will not matter. Oh, dear, I am so tired!"

She set the basket down on the cool, green grass, flinging herself
beside it beneath the grateful shade of a blossoming magnolia-tree,
resting her golden head against the basket of filmy laces that were to
adorn the beautiful heiress of whom she had heard so much, yet never
seen, and of whom every one felt in such awe.

She looked wistfully at the great mansion in the distance, thinking
how differently her own life had been.

The soft, wooing breeze fanned her cheeks, tossing about her golden
curls in wanton sport. It was so pleasant to sit there in the dreamy
silence watching the white fleecy clouds, the birds, and the flowers,
it was little wonder the swift-winged moments flew heedlessly by.
Slowly the white lids drooped over the light-blue eyes, the long,
golden lashes lay against the rosy cheeks, the ripe lips parted in a
smile - all unheeded were the fluted laces - Daisy slept. Oh, cruel
breeze - oh, fatal wooing breeze to have infolded hapless Daisy in your
soft embrace!

Over the hills came the sound of baying hounds, followed by a quick,
springy step through the crackling underbrush, as a young man in
close-fitting velvet hunting-suit and jaunty velvet cap emerged from
the thicket toward the main road.

As he parted the magnolia branches the hound sprang quickly forward at
some object beneath the tree, with a low, hoarse growl.

"Down, Towser, down!" cried Rex Lyon, leaping lightly over some
intervening brushwood. "What kind of game have we here? Whew!" he
ejaculated, surprisedly; "a young girl, pretty as a picture, and, by
the eternal, fast asleep, too!"

Still Daisy slept on, utterly unconscious of the handsome brown eyes
that were regarding her so admiringly.

"I have often heard of fairies, but this is the first time I have ever
caught one napping under the trees. I wonder who she is anyhow? Surely
she can not be some drudging farmer's daughter with a form and face
like that?" he mused, suspiciously eying the basket of freshly
laundered laces against which the flushed cheeks and waving golden
hair rested.

Just then his ludicrous position struck him forcibly.

"Come, Towser," he said, "it would never do for you and me to be
caught staring at this pretty wood-nymph so rudely, if she should by
chance awaken just now."

Tightening the strap of his game-bag over his shoulder, and
readjusting his velvet cap jauntily over his brown curls, Rex was
about to resume his journey in the direction of Whitestone Hall, when
the sound of rapidly approaching carriage-wheels fell upon his ears.
Realizing his awkward position, Rex knew the wisest course he could
possibly pursue would be to screen himself behind the magnolia
branches until the vehicle should pass. The next instant a pair of
prancing ponies, attached to a basket phaeton, in which sat a young
girl, who held them well in check, dashed rapidly up the road. Rex
could scarcely repress an exclamation of surprise as he saw the
occupant was his young hostess, Pluma Hurlhurst of Whitestone Hall.
She drew rein directly in front of the sleeping girl, and Rex Lyon
never forgot, to his dying day, the discordant laugh that broke from
her red lips - a laugh which caused poor Daisy to start from her
slumber in wild alarm, scattering the snowy contents of the basket in
all directions.

For a single instant their eyes met - these two girls, whose lives were
to cross each other so strangely - poor Daisy, like a frightened bird,
as she guessed intuitively at the identity of the other; Pluma,
haughty, derisive, and scornfully mocking.

"You are the person whom Miss Brooks sent to Whitestone Hall with my
mull dresses some three hours since, I presume. May I ask what
detained you?"

Poor Daisy was quite crestfallen; great tear-drops trembled on her
long lashes. How could she answer? She had fallen asleep, wooed by the
lulling breeze and the sunshine.

"The basket was so heavy," she answered, timidly, "and I - I - sat down
to rest a few moments, and - "

"Further explanation is quite unnecessary," retorted Pluma, sharply,
gathering up the reins. "See that you have those things at the Hall
within ten minutes; not an instant later."

Touching the prancing ponies with her ivory-handled whip, the haughty
young heiress whirled leisurely down the road, leaving Daisy, with
flushed face and tear-dimmed eyes, gazing after her.

"Oh, dear, I wish I had never been born," she sobbed, flinging herself
down on her knees, and burying her face in the long, cool grass. "No
one ever speaks a kind word to me but poor old Uncle John, and even he
dare not be kind when Aunt Septima is near. She might have taken this
heavy basket in her carriage," sighed Daisy, bravely lifting the heavy
burden in her delicate arms.

"That is just what I think," muttered Rex Lyon from his place of
concealment, savagely biting his lip.

In another moment he was by her side.

"Pardon me," he said, deferentially raising his cap from his glossy
curls, "that basket is too heavy for your slender arms. Allow me to
assist you."

In a moment the young girl stood up, and made the prettiest and most
graceful of courtesies as she raised to his a face he never forgot.
Involuntarily he raised his cap again in homage to her youth, and her
shy sweet beauty.

"No; I thank you, sir, I have not far to carry the basket," she
replied, in a voice sweet as the chiming of silver bells - a voice that
thrilled him, he could not tell why.

A sudden desire possessed Rex to know who she was and from whence she
came.

"Do you live at the Hall?" he asked.

"No," she replied, "I am Daisy Brooks, the overseer's niece."

"Daisy Brooks," said Rex, musingly. "What a pretty name! how well it


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