Lurana Waterhouse Sheldon.

My Queen: A Weekly Journal for Young Women. Issue 3, October 13, 1900 online

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hate to be sent away when my probationary term was over. I’d almost be
tempted to commit some crime that would send me back——”

Miss Allyn was a newspaper reporter who had been their dearest friend
ever since the girls began their search for work in the big city. She
was not as beautiful as the two country girls, but she made up in
wisdom what she lacked in beauty.

“You are our encyclopedia, directory, almanac and family guide,” Marion
had told her, but Miss Allyn was too modest to admit her worth. She
was one of the few who could do favors without becoming obtrusively
patronizing. Dollie Marlowe was eager to hear about her sister’s visit
to their parents, and her blue eyes filled with tears as Marion told
them all about it, for in spite of her father’s hardness, and her
mother’s weakness, she was still their child and loved her parents
dearly.

When Marion told them of poor Sallie, Dollie was terribly grieved. She
sympathized so deeply with the girl that she became almost hysterical.

“I suppose that is exactly the way Sile would have treated me if I had
married him,” she cried, with her blue eyes blazing. “Oh, Marion, if
Sallie had only had a sister like you, she would never have been weak
enough to marry Silas!”

“Sallie was a poor, foolish girl,” said Marion, sadly, “and for that
very reason Silas abuses her now.”

“I think a girl is a fool to marry a man she doesn’t love,” said Miss
Allyn, sharply, “particularly when he has no money and she doesn’t even
respect him!”

“So do I,” said Marion, stoutly, “but Sallie did not know any better.
She’s just like dozens of other women—she has never done any thinking.
Why, Alma, some of the women in the country are a different order of
beings from you city women. They think that marrying is the only end
and aim of existence.”

“Poor things! I pity them, and I despise them, too,” said Miss Allyn,
sadly. “There is no excuse for such reasoning at this stage of the
world’s progress. There are so many fields of usefulness for a woman
to-day.”

“Well, I am glad that Dollie and I are safely out of the rut,” said
Marion, thankfully. “We’ve got a chance to develop and see something of
the world before we marry and settle down.”

“Oh, but I’m going to marry some day,” said Dollie, merrily, as she
clambered into bed and placed her pretty plump arms above her head.
“Ralph says he won’t wait very long after he is able to support me.”

“I’ll have to scold Ralph a little,” said Marion, pinching her sister’s
dimpled arm as it lay on the pillow. “He must not be in such a hurry to
rob me of my sister, not that I blame him a bit, do you?” she added,
laughing.

“Not a bit,” said Miss Allyn, quickly. “I’m half in love with her
myself. Still, I’d rather she’d marry a millionaire, and she could do
it just as easily. Ralph Moore is all right, but he’s too poor for
Dollie.”

“Oh, Miss Allyn!” cried both girls in half serious horror. “Who ever
would have dreamed of you harboring such sentiments?”

“Well, I’ve got ’em, and I might as well be honest,” was the answer.
“Dollie’s too pretty to have to spend her life in a poor man’s home. I
want to see diamonds in her golden hair and fine lace on those white
shoulders, and I don’t see why she can’t love a rich man as well as a
poor one.”

“If she could it would be all right, and I would agree with you,” said
Marion, thoughtfully.

“Well, I’ll never love any one but Ralph,” said Dollie, stoutly, “and I
don’t care if he is poor. It just makes me love him still the harder.”

“You are a brave little kitten,” said Marion, smoothing the golden
hair, “but what is it, Alma, you look so terribly serious?”

Miss Allyn was just raising her hand to turn off the gas for the girls
before going to her own room, but she waited long enough to make a
candid statement.

“I know a young man that would make a lovely husband for one of you
girls,” she said, slowly. “He’s an only child, and he’s as rich as
Crœsus.”

“Who is he?” asked Marion, half rising on her pillow.

Miss Allyn turned off the gas before she answered.

“His name is Reginald Brookes, and he is a medical student. He’s
exactly the kind of a man you should marry.”


CHAPTER V.

MISS ALLYN’S SECRET.

Marion never quite knew what kept her silent after Miss Allyn had
mentioned the name of Reginald Brookes, but she allowed her friend to
leave the room without saying a word, although she had news that would
have interested both of her companions greatly.

“I am surprised that she did not see him at the depot,” she thought, as
she lay silently beside Dollie, “but I guess they left too quickly.”

For an hour after that Marion’s mind wandered restlessly. It had been
an exciting day as well as a painful one. She rehearsed over and over
the scene in the old kitchen—her parents’ grief when she first saw them
and their rejoicing later.

The glimpse of the old home had stirred memories of her childhood, but
it had also brought back all the old loathing for country life and made
her wondrously contented with her present surroundings.

“Poor Sallie! How I pity her!” she exclaimed, then listened
breathlessly to see if she had awakened Dollie.

“The dear child! How happy she is in her love for Ralph!” she mused.
“Well, if she loves him and he is kind to her, what does it matter?
After all, it is one’s happiness that is to be considered first. Oh,
I wonder if I shall ever be really and truly happy?” Then, strangely
enough, two faces appeared suddenly before her mind. They were both
handsome, both young, and both fired with manly purpose, and peculiarly
enough, they were both of men who possessed great riches.

The first picture was that of a tall young man, with dark, trusting
eyes and a tender smile that was almost irresistible.

The other was of a blonde, with bright, laughing blue eyes, yet with
a frankness and alertness of expression which won one’s confidence
immediately.

The first picture was that of an old friend who was now abroad—Mr.
Archibald Ray, the young man who had aided her in her search for
Dollie. The other was that of Reginald Brookes, the medical student—the
one whom her friend, Miss Allyn, had said was just the kind of a man
that she should marry.

When the girls awoke the next morning they were as happy as larks.
There was so much to be talked over in regard to their plans for the
future.

Miss Allyn went downtown to her work, early, as usual, but she
astonished the girls by coming in at noon and bringing a tall, dark
gentleman with her.

“My _fiancé_, Mr. Colebrook,” she said, with a deep blush. “You must
forgive me, girls, but I could not tell you any sooner.”

“Oh, how perfectly lovely!” cried Dollie, giving her a hug. “To think
that you, too, are in love, and we never even guessed it!”

Marion smiled as cordially as possible as she greeted Mr. Colebrook,
but there was something about him that repelled her strangely.

Once before in her life she had experienced the same sensation, and
as she thought of it now she could feel herself becoming awkward and
embarrassed.

“We are on our way to a matinee,” said Miss Allyn, hurriedly, “but I
could not resist the temptation of just bringing him in and introducing
him.”

“We are ever so glad you did,” said Dollie, so cordially that Marion’s
hesitating manner passed unnoticed for the time.

Miss Allyn’s every expression spoke of confidence in her lover. She
looked at him shyly, but with such trust in her glance that to Marion
she hardly seemed like the same little woman.

“How she does love him!” cried Dolly, the moment they had gone.

Marion still said nothing, but bit her lips savagely. She was wondering
why her friend’s _fiancé_ should have pressed her hand so tenderly when
he said good-by at parting.

“What’s the matter, Marion? You look so glum!” said Dollie, after a
minute. She had been dusting the room, while Marion put the dressing
case in order.

“I don’t like that man, that Mr. Colebrook,” said Marion, slowly. “I
hope I may be wrong, but I don’t trust him, Dollie.”

Dollie dropped her duster and gave a little cry. “Oh, Marion, don’t say
that!” she exclaimed. “You are so keen in your intuitions, and read
people so cleverly that I shall begin this moment to tremble for Alma.”

“Well, I hope I am mistaken,” was Marion’s answer. “But, nevertheless,
I shall keep an eye on him whenever I can, for I have never felt such a
dreadful feeling at sight of a person unless there was something about
them that wasn’t trustworthy.”

“I know,” said Dollie, sadly, “you felt that way about Mr. Lawson. Oh,
if you had only acted upon your first impulse with our rascally boarder
I might never have fallen into his clutches, Marion.”

“I hope this fellow isn’t a hypnotist like Mr. Lawson,” said Marion,
slowly, “but there’s one thing sure—he has cast a spell over Miss
Allyn. He’s made her love him, and I call that wonderful.”

“Do you suppose he is rich,” said Dollie, remembering Miss Allyn’s
conversation the evening before.

“Did you notice her eyes?” asked Marion, sagely. “Why, that girl is so
much in love with him she doesn’t even think about it. I’d be willing
to declare she’s forgotten that there is such a thing as money—and to
think of her reading us such a lecture on finance!”

Both girls laughed heartily, but Marion’s smile ended in a sigh.

She was not able to shake off her impression of Mr. Colebrook.

“Hello! Can I come in?” called a voice outside the door.

Dollie opened it quickly and admitted a youth of seventeen,
frank-faced and healthy and brimming over with good nature.

“Oh, Bert, is that you?” called Marion, quickly. “Come right in, so I
can tell you all about my visit to the country.”

“Have they erected a headstone to my memory in the Poor Farm graveyard
yet?” asked the boy, “and is the village of Hickorytown draped in
mourning for my decease?”

“No, neither,” said Marion, laughing, “but they all think you are dead,
Bert. That letter of mine to Matt Jenkins, telling him of your death,
was accepted by them all, in spite of the made-up signature.”

“You did me a big favor when you wrote that letter, Marion,” said Bert,
quickly, “and I’ll never forget it if I live to be a hundred; but see
here, I’ve got some news for you that will make your eyes stick out!
There is a personal in the paper for Ila de Parloa, the singer.”

He held out a scrap of paper toward Marion as he spoke, and the girl’s
face flushed and paled alternately as she read it.

“A manager of some theatrical troupe wants my address,” she said to
Dollie. “He tried to get it from the manager of that concert hall where
I sang, but old Vandergrift was so mad that he wouldn’t give it to him.”

“I’ll bet there’s lots of them that want you, and that will give you a
good price, too, Marion,” said Bert Jackson, eagerly. “If you say so,
I’ll look this up and see what there is in it.”

“Wait a minute—let me think,” said the fair girl, slowly; then she
shook her head with a decided motion. “No, I will not listen to their
offers at present,” she said, emphatically. “I am to enter Charity
Hospital as a nurse next Monday. It is a noble profession, and I feel,
some way, that I am called to it.”


CHAPTER VI.

TESTING A LOVER.

Marion had ample opportunity to observe George Colebrook in the next
two days, for Miss Allyn was furnishing her little flat, and her
_fiancé_ was assiduous in his attentions to her.

“I’m a little puzzled about George,” Miss Allyn confided to Marion as
they were busily arranging and rearranging the new furniture.

Dollie was out in the little kitchen making some tea, so Marion knew
instinctively that Miss Allyn had something on her mind that she did
not wish any one else to know about. She looked at her inquiringly, and
with so much sympathy in her face that Alma Allyn stopped in her work
and came over and stood by her.

“You think I’m a fool for being so much in love, don’t you, Marion?”
she asked, smilingly. “Well, let me tell you how it was; George and
I were children together. He wasn’t a very good boy, and I suppose
I sympathized with him. He was always in some scrape or other, and
everybody was down on him. Well, when we grew up there was no one
else. George made love to me, and I let him, but then we were too
poor to think of marrying. When mother died and I went home to her
funeral, I found him there. We had then been separated two years, but
had corresponded regularly. Almost immediately after the funeral he
asked me to marry him, and I was so utterly lonely that I accepted him
thoughtlessly. Not that I didn’t love him, Marion, for I did love him
dearly. Someway he grew into my life and seems almost a part of it.”

“And do you trust him, Alma?” asked Marion, as she paused. “Are you
sure that he will treat you right and be a good husband to you?”

Alma Allyn’s face clouded a little as she made her reply. In spite of
her great love, she was still able to reason.

“I did trust him when I promised to marry him,” she said, slowly, “but
something has happened since that is puzzling me, Marion. George is not
the same man that he was at mother’s funeral.”

Marion’s lips framed a question that she did not ask. There was no need
to ask it, for Miss Allyn was already answering it instinctively.

“He wanted me to marry him as soon as he got back from England, where
he had to go on business, he said, and that is why I decided to
take this flat with Dollie, but in the last two days he has changed
his mind. He is not going to England, yet he says nothing about our
marriage.”

Marion bit her lips and thought quietly for a moment. She could see
that her friend was suffering, and she dreaded to say anything that
would add to her sorrow.

“He may be undecided,” she said at last, “or perhaps he is planning
something different, Alma, but if I were in your place, I would come
right out and ask him.”

Miss Allyn was a trifle pale when she spoke again, and it was plain to
Marion that she had doubts of her lover.

“If I thought he did not love me, I would release him at once,” she
said, quietly, “but he has professed to love me for years, so why
should I doubt him?”

“There is no reason why you should,” said Marion, firmly. “It is very
probable that he is just waiting for something, some business matter or
affair of some kind before he says anything.”

“Well, I hope it will soon be settled, for this suspense is mighty
unpleasant, I can tell you,” said Miss Allyn, smiling a little. “Why,
for the first time in my life, Marion, I’m not fit to attend to
business.”

“Love affairs are dreadful things,” said Marion, trying to laugh it
over. “I’m so glad that up to date I have never been affected.”

“Oh, I’m not so sure,” said Miss Allyn, more gayly. “You were pretty
sweet on Mr. Ray, and you may as well own it, and, by the way, is he
coming back to this country ever?” she asked.

“They are to sail next week, he and Adele,” was the answer, “but I
shall be in the hospital then, so I suppose I can’t see them.”

“Love will find the way,” quoted Miss Allyn, slyly. “You can trust that
Mr. Ray to find you, Marion.”

Dollie entered just then, evidently in a state of great excitement.

“Oh, girls!” she screamed, half crying, “I’m just frightened to death.
I’ve broken my hand glass into a thousand pieces.”

“That means seven years of bad luck,” said Miss Allyn, laughing; “and a
half a dollar to buy a new hand glass.”

“Never mind, Dollie,” said Marion, who was not at all superstitious.
“You’ll be earning six dollars a week after this, so it won’t take long
to buy the new glass.”

“Oh, but I’m to save every penny to buy my trousseau,” said Dollie,
brightening. “You keep forgetting, Marion, that I’m going to be
married.”

“There is little danger of her forgetting it while you are around,
Dimples,” said Miss Allyn, laughing. “You take pains to remind her of
it every fifteen minutes.”

“Here comes Mr. Colebrook,” was Dollie’s whispered reply. “Quick, come
out in the kitchen with me, Marion, so we won’t interrupt the lovers.”

“Nonsense!” cried Miss Allyn, as she darted toward the kitchen. “I’ll
go out there myself and see if he misses me.”

Dollie followed her into the kitchen of the little flat and closed the
door softly, leaving Marion alone in their pretty parlor.

“Oh, all alone, Miss Marlowe,” was Mr. Colebrook’s greeting. “Well, for
once in my life I am deucedly lucky.”

Marion looked up in surprise, but controlled her feelings wonderfully.
It had popped into her head to test her friend’s lover a little.

“Why do you think yourself lucky in finding me alone,” she asked,
archly, as she went on arranging the furniture.

“Because you are the sweetest girl that I ever met,” was the
astonishing reply, “and I am lucky in having a chance to say so.”

For a moment Marion could hardly believe her ears; then a great feeling
of pity for Miss Allyn swept through her every fibre.

Almost involuntarily she glanced toward the kitchen door, but it was
tightly closed, so she breathed a little more freely.

“Miss Marlowe—Marion,” cried Mr. Colebrook, suddenly, “have you no eyes
to see how much I admire you? Why, I’ve been crazy with admiration ever
since I met you. You are as beautiful as a saint, and I am desperately
in love with you.”

Poor Marion’s breath came with a little gasp now. It was almost
impossible for a girl with her honest nature to grasp such a situation.
Here was her best friend’s betrothed husband actually making love to
her. He had the open assurance to tell her that he loved her.

As she stood almost paralyzed by her emotions, he seized her hand in
both his own, and before she could stop him he had kissed it fervently.

Suddenly one word issued from the pale girl’s lips.

“Traitor!”

She hissed it out slowly, her tone tense and vibrating.

The fellow drew back as if he had been stung.

The next instant Alma Allyn opened the kitchen door and stepped calmly
between them.


CHAPTER VII.

MARION RECEIVES A CALLER.

“Thank you, Marion.”

This was all that Miss Allyn said as she paused beside the two, her
dearest friend and the man who was her lover. Her face was of a
death-like pallor, and her eyes were gleaming, but there was nothing
further to tell how terribly she was suffering.

With the utmost coolness she drew the ring from her finger and was
about to hand it to him, when she changed her mind suddenly.

“No, I won’t give it back. I’ll keep it,” she said, quietly. “It will
be a constant reminder of a man’s perfidy. Any time when you want the
price of it let me know. You are mean enough to ask for it,” she said,
with a shrug of her shoulders.

George Colebrook’s face was a study for a moment. He looked first at
one of the girls and then at the other.

“You had better go,” said Miss Allyn, coolly. “You can see that you are
out of place. My friends, like myself, despise a traitor.”

With a glance of hatred toward Marion, the fellow turned and fled.

The moment he was gone, Miss Allyn dropped heavily on the sofa.

“It has killed her!” cried Dollie, darting to her side.

“She has fainted. Bring some water,” was Marion’s answer.

“It is all for the best, dear; do try and think so,” urged Marion a few
minutes later, when Miss Allyn opened her eyes.

Miss Allyn drew herself up slowly and looked around.

“So it is all over, my dream of love,” she said, very slowly. “Well,
I guess I’ve got spunk enough to pull me through. Where’s that
looking-glass, Dollie. I want to smash the pieces.”

That was the last the girls heard of Miss Allyn’s love affair. Her
lover’s name was buried in oblivion from that very moment.

If Miss Allyn grieved for him, she did not show it, but, if anything,
she became a trifle more sad and pessimistic.

“It would have killed me, I know,” Dollie told Marion in confidence.
“Why, if Ralph should deceive me, I’d commit suicide, I’m certain.”

“Well, then, you’d be a little goose, that’s all I’ve got to say,” was
Marion’s answer. “Why, any one would think to hear you, Dollie, that
Ralph was the only man in the world worth having.”

“Sometimes I think he is,” said Dollie, complacently. Her faith in her
lover was something that passed comprehension.

That evening both Dollie and Miss Allyn went out, Dollie with her lover
and Miss Allyn on business. As Marion seated herself in a big arm-chair
in the semi-darkness, she looked around their little home with a sigh
of genuine pleasure.

“I almost hate to leave it,” she said aloud. “It is so sweet, so
homelike and so beautifully cosy.”

There was a peal of the bell just at that very moment, which was so
shrill that it brought her to her feet in a second.

“Our callers are coming early,” she thought as she went to look for the
door opener, “but everything looks cosy even if we are not all settled.”

“I am looking for Miss Marion Marlowe,” said a voice on the stairs as
Marion stepped out into the hall.

“I have been to her old address and they sent me here. I wonder, if I
should find her, if she would be willing to see me?”

Marion’s laugh rippled out merrily at this naive request, and she held
out her hand cordially to her unexpected caller.

“I am delighted to see you, Dr. Brookes,” she said, smiling, “but I am
very sorry that both my friend and my sister are absent this evening.
They would both have stayed at home if we had known you were coming.”

“Oh, I am not so difficult to entertain as all that,” was the jolly
answer. “One young lady at a time is enough, I find, Miss Marlowe. I am
not so piggish as to want a dozen.”

“They say there is safety in a multitude,” said Marion, slyly. “No
danger of falling in love when there are plenty of them. It’s the
monopoly of one that proves fatal, they tell me.”

“So you think falling in love a fatality, do you?” asked the young man,
quickly. “Well, if that is the case, I confess that I’m a fatalist.”

“It has fatal consequences, I have discovered,” said Marion, half
sadly, “although I must admit that I speak from observation and not
experience.”

“A confession that I am glad to hear you make, Miss Marlowe,” said her
caller almost seriously; “for most of the women that men meet nowadays
are either just recovering from some heart malady or at the actual
crisis of the disease, or else, what is worse, they have so thoroughly
recovered from some violent attack as to render them immune from ever
having another.”

“Poor things! I pity them,” said Marion, laughing, “but I can fancy
that none of the three classes would afford very desirable companions.
Still, we are all liable to infection of that kind,” she added, as she
offered him a chair, “and up to the present time no one has produced a
preventive.”

“No, nor an antidote,” was the answer, in the same serious voice, “but
now tell me, Miss Marlowe, about your plans for the future.”

He spoke with so much sympathetic interest that Marion did not dream of
resenting it; rather, it seemed most natural for her to sit there and
tell him all about her plans.

He was to be a physician and she a nurse. They had many hopes and
aspirations in common.

The evening passed so quickly that Marion was astonished when at ten
o’clock the young man rose to leave her.

“I shall arrange to come over to Charity often,” he said at parting. “I
know several of the doctors there, so I can do so easily.”

“I hope I shall like it,” said Marion, soberly. “It seems such a noble
profession to be caring for the sick and suffering.”

“It is terribly hard work, though,” said Mr. Brookes, somewhat
discouragingly, “and I wish it was almost any other hospital than
Charity.”

Marion was about to reply, when she heard Miss Allyn coming up the
stairs.

She bit her lips with amusement as she pictured what was about to


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Online LibraryLurana Waterhouse SheldonMy Queen: A Weekly Journal for Young Women. Issue 3, October 13, 1900 → online text (page 2 of 6)