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  • “Eugenie’s Mistake: A Story”
  • Victoria Earle [Matthews]

“You are sure you love me, Adele—that your heart is still my own?”

“Need you question me, Royal?” A sudden tightening about her heart, intercepting further words, a wounded look overspread the girl’s sweet, earnest face[.] Did she love him? Was her heart all his? Why to prove to him that her love for him was without limit was her most constant thought; so much did she muse and meditate on her love, so often was her heart filled with sweet thoughts of him, and their future, that his playful question was positive pain to her. To her it was all so solemn—and why should it be otherwise, when her love was to be in very truth his lever on time’s rudder?—all things under its touch should light up with lofty aspiration, tender hopes. Often she had fancied their lives as a tiny craft setting out on life’s sea, drifting past treacherous shoals through the guidance of this sweet power.

They stood in the soft moonlight; the starry jasmine in sweet profusion blended its perfume with roses, sweet shrub and magnolia, while gentle zephyrs, fresh from ripening pomegranates, like sweets from Elysium,1 played around them; beyond, a quaintly carved fountain, in uniform squares, nestled closer to earth; sturdy pineapple shrubs with their great pink blossoms, white in the silvery light; across a moon-lit plain softly waved shadowy fields of sugar-cane. Adele experienced an exquisite thrill of sadness—so enchanting to natures like hers—as she gazed on the dreamy beauty all around, and thought that ere the moonbeams would again encircle the tree-tops and play hide-and-seek among the flowers she would stand in the vine-covered chapel that stood relic-like on the Van Arsden estate—she would stand as Adele Van Arsden for the last time!

“Love you! my heart, my life” she whispered—her beautiful eyes like stars, in their unfathomable beauty. “Yes, you are my life, Royal—without you all is dark—without you”—her words fluttering on stillness—“without you I should die!—and willingly,” she added, with startling intensity. A vague unrest permeated Royal Clifford’s heart—that moment her love seemed akin to idolatry.

“Forgive the question, my darling; you are so pure, so beautiful; your possessions almost boundless, while I am——”

“My love!” [End Page 162]

Rapturously encircling his strong arms about her and kissing the sweet lips, yet his face paled, and then grew rigid, and for a moment his utterance seemed choked.

“I will be worthy of your love, my darling.” Something in his eyes that was not spoken seemed to overspread his face, and for a brief instant threatened utterance, but passed, as he softly murmured—

“Love the tender rests with longing upon love the ever strong, Faithful in the Alpha and Omega—right or wrong.”2

Adele Van Arsden was the only child of old Pierre Van Arsden—child of his old age—who came to Louisiana from the West Indies, years before; and with his magic gold transformed vast areas into flourishing plantations whose annual income doubled and redoubled the expended sum. His wife died when little Adele came—so rumor said, and very plausible it was, too; for no one remembered to have seen her. While still a baby, Adele had been sent to France, for reasons best know to her strangely taciturn parent. She was placed in charge of a certain Mme. Charmet, a distant relative, who in after-years established a famous school for young ladies in picturesque old Normandy.

The child early developed traits of a most lovable nature, and naturally became a special object of the stately dame’s love and care. When portentious tidings came from over the seas, followed by imperative summons, it required all the courage Madame possessed to part from her darling; for like her own idolized daughter—

“Folded close, under deep’ning snow”—3

Adele had grown. But old Pierre Van Arsden had sent for her and she must go; so with tender foresight she was prepared for the voyage. On the broad white deck, surrounded by the...


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