A Royal Wrongby Fred M White
As Lady Letty Stanborough stood in the garden listening to the rustle of silken skirts and the ripple of laughter, she was faintly conscious of the fragrance of the early May evening. The trees were touched with their spring greenery and in the air was the scent of violets. The grounds beyond the house in Dorchester Gardens were filled with guests gathered in honour… See more details below
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As Lady Letty Stanborough stood in the garden listening to the rustle of silken skirts and the ripple of laughter, she was faintly conscious of the fragrance of the early May evening. The trees were touched with their spring greenery and in the air was the scent of violets. The grounds beyond the house in Dorchester Gardens were filled with guests gathered in honour of the engagement between Lady Letty and Stephen Du Cros, the South African millionaire.
It was a marriage of convenience, of course—everybody recognised that. The Earl, her father, sorely needed money; indeed there were some who said that but for the weight of Du Cros's influence his lordship might have found himself face to face with a judge and jury. It was impossible, too, that Lady Letty should care for her wealthy admirer—that cold, proud beauty seemed to indicate a nature incapable of caring for anything or anybody. And yet——
The girl had a moment to herself presently, when the chattering mob of friends had lisped their insipid congratulations and she was alone in a corner of the garden. She had an uneasy feeling that the jealous eye of Du Cros was upon her, for in his way the millionaire was jealous. Perhaps he understood the hollowness of the compact between them.
But at any rate he could not be jealous of the man who came up just then. He would hardly condescend to be suspicious of a mere novelist dependent upon his pen for a living. He did not know that these two had been brought up together, nor that Hugh Childers had chosen to quarrel with a rich father over the young man's devotion to his art. The bitterness had lasted five years, and Childers was still struggling. Now, for the first time, he was regretting his folly. But for his pride in his work, he would stand to-day as the heir to the vast Childers estates, with their iron and steel foundries and prosperous coal mines. He looked down into Lady Letty's face, an eloquent sadness in his eyes. What a fool he had been! Even if he went to his father and obtained a tardy pardon he could not save Lady Letty now.
"I haven't had an opportunity of congratulating you before," he said. "Permit me——"
"Don't," Lady Letty whispered. The mask had fallen from her face and the beautiful eyes were tired and weary. "Not from you, Hugh. Oh, don't you understand!"
Childers nodded gloomily. He understood only too well, and might have prevented it all. He knew that this woman had a warm and passionate heart under her seemingly haughty demeanour, and that it beat only for him. He guessed at the tragic sacrifice she was making to save the family honour.
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