The Adventures of Miss Volney
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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  For an hour, perhaps, Vey knew what perfect happiness was. She sat at a little table opposite the idol of her heart, while all about them glimmered a host of unknown faces, and people came and went, and many well-bred glances of curiosity were cast upon this absorbed young couple, who left their ices untasted while they talked in low, earnest voices, and saw only each other.

  "I searched for you everywhere. I advertised in the daily papers, even," Jack was saying. "I can hardly believe my eyes, that tell me you are sitting there opposite me. Why did you leave me with no clue? You must tell me all--mind that I say all that has happened to you since--since I sent you that damnable letter. Hide nothing from me! I must have the whole story after all this suspense and separation."

  His eager voice thrilling with excitement, his eyes blazing with a passion he could not conceal, gave her the most exquisite sensations of happiness.

  At last, at last he had come back to her! Her suffering had found its reward, her weary struggles their recompense in this one moment, she thought.

  She looked him frankly in the face with a world of tenderness and trust in her eyes.

  "I will tell you all; there is nothing to conceal, now that you have found me," she said. "And I have prayed to God so fervently to let me see you once more--to let me tell you this story. I wanted you to know--to believe--that I am not the evil girl you thought me. I know it was my own fault; I have never blamed you, and since I have read books and associated with cultured people I have known and understood how bold and bad I must have seemed to you. But, indeed, indeed, I was a good, pure girl then as now, Jack, and there is nothing in my life you could not know, as God hears me, and what I am about to tell you is the truth and the whole truth."

  She put her hands to her eyes for a moment to force back the up-welling tears, and Jack set his teeth hard over his lips and breathed like one in pain, so fierce was his desire to take her in his arms and comfort her.

  "Go on," he said, almost roughly. "Let me hear the story from the day I saw you last until now."

  So Vey began and told him the pitiful story from beginning to end. She was obliged to drop her little masque veil over her eyes, and a gray gloved hand with a delicate web of white lace stole ever and anon under the transparent domino to wipe away the tears that rose in very pity for herself as she went over the desolate tale.

  When she told him about the pretty costume she had made for herself in a fit of sarcasm toward the world, and the one solitary promenade she had taken in it, a startled "My God!" burst from Jack's lips and he interrupted her.

  "I saw you go past Brentano's," he said. "I was standing inside the door; it was a day in late February, but your hair--Vey, it was not like those chestnut locks--it was bleached to straw color, and I always think a woman who bleaches her hair must artificialize her heart as well, and I believed--I thought--oh--" He paused, choked with his emotions, and Vey hastened to explain.

  "It was my stage wig," she said. "I wore it purposely to disguise myself. I believed no one would recognize me under that."

  Jack groaned aloud and ground his teeth in rage at his own folly, while Vey continued her story to the end, not omitting the episodes of the meeting with Bella and the disguise as the old apple woman whom Jack indistinctly remembered having encountered.

  He looked at her as she sat there in the refined perfection of her beauty, and heard her modest reference to her progress in music, and her good fortune in possessing such friends as the MacArthurs, and his heart seemed to be dying within him.

  "They are going abroad to remain a year," she said, "and they expect me to accompany them. They pay all my expenses, beside a snug little salary, and I am to look after the children, which is mere sport for me, I love them so dearly and they are so tractable. We are to pass the summer in London,, where Mrs. MacArthur ahs friends who will give us a key to the gayeties of social life there; then we are to stay in Paris after that, and the children and I are to speak no more of English, and I am to devote my spare time to music. Mrs. MacArthur wants me to fit myself for a concert singer. She says she is sure I have a career before me."

  All women are more or less feline in their natures. Vey possess less of the quality than most of her sex, but there was a vein of it underneath her character.

  In the long time during which she had yearned for a sight of Jack's face it had seemed to her she would gladly grovel in the dust at his feet and wipe his shoes with her hair to gain one kind word form him again. Now that she sat opposite him and saw such a passion shining in his eyes as she had never in her wildest dreams expected to see, she deliberately tortured him with an elaborate account of her speedy departure and prolonged absence and proposed career.

  In her secret heart she despised a career, and she felt sure that Jack would never permit the ocean to separate them now that they had found each other.

  But she could not resist the temptation to make him feel for the moment that she was to slip away from him again, and perhaps, subconsciously to herself, she hoped to hasten his claim of ownership.

  Jack's eyes burned like coals of fire, and he leaned across the table and spoke in a low, hurried voice.

  "Do not go away from me, Vey," he said; "go with me. We must never again try to live apart. I have money enough to take us wherever we would go. I have prospered in a worldly sense since I last saw you, and am now a rich man, as the saying goes. You love me enough to leave the world behind you, I am sure, and to never regret the loss. You are the only woman I ever saw who knew how to love. The majority of women love only with their imagination. You love with every faculty of brain and body, and I--I can swear that I have never cared for anyone but you, and if I did not know before I surely know to-day how much you are to me. Say but one word and we will turn our backs on the world to-morrow, and find together what we have not found apart--happiness. Will you go, Vey?"

  Vey was gazing into his face with her heart in wild commotion. How very strangely he talked; and his words and manner almost frightened her.

  "I will be your wife any hour you wish it, Jack," she said tremulously, startled at her own words. "Yet, why need we go away so suddenly--"

  "Wife?" he interrupted with a voice full of passionate pain and surprise. "Why, good God, Vey, don't you know I am married already? I was married two years ago. But it was all a mistake. You only, in the sight of heaven, are my wife. I came back from Boston that time fully intending to ask you to marry me, and you had disappeared. Now fate has reunited our ways, and they must never again separate. I--"

  He paused, startled at the expression on Vey's face. She put out her hand in a blind way, like one dazed, but there was command in the action. "Vey," he began in a gentler tone, "you surely love me enough to understand--"

  "I loved you enough once," she said, very quietly, "to go away alone into poverty and a desolation worse than death rather than lower myself in your eyes; rather than to look in your face knowing you believed me a light creature like that. Surely now, I shall not descend still lower than you thought me, and ruin other lives besides our own. Will you call a carriage, Jack? I feel very ill--very faint. No, do not urge me to remain another moment. I must go."

  She arose and walked quickly toward the door. Jack lingered a brief space of time, for, though the ices he had ordered were untouched, the formality of paying for them must be gone through. Into the most dramatic situations of life these commonplaces intrude, and while his heart and brain were in a wild maelstrom of passion he was obliged to stand at the office window and receive change for a twenty-dollar bill.

  When he turned to join Vey she had disappeared.

  A waiter volunteered the information that the lady had stepped into a carriage and driven away while the gentleman was paying his bill.

  Jack rushed into the street, hailed a passing cab and bade the driver take him with all speed to the Brooklyn ferry.

  He arrived just in time to see the boat receding from the pier and a shapely gray-clad figure stood with her back to the New York shore and her face turned away from him.

  He thought her cruel, and never dreamed that each turn of the wheel seemed tearing out the fibers of her heart, for she knew or believed that she was turning her back on love and happiness forever, for in this second separation from the man she loved there lay no hope of a future reconciliation or explanation.

  All the new life seemed suddenly distasteful, and the thought of books and study and travel almost loathsome. She had only cared for these things because she had hoped some day to meet him again, and now it was all over--all over forever. And she must keep up the farce and go on with the work, although there was no longer any zest in it. There was a strange look in her face when she reached the house, but Mrs. MacArthur thought she was only tired, and begged her to lie down and rest, which Vey refused to do, plunging feverishly into work instead, which kept her employed until every other member of the family had retired.

  The next morning brought her the second letter she had ever received, and the address was in the same penmanship as that memorable first. It is strange how situations repeat themselves in our lies. Although the season was spring instead of fall, the morning was almost identically like the one when the other letter came; and, as on that occasion, she opened the door herself in answer to the postman's ring, and the memory of it all came back with sickening force as she took the letter into Mrs. MacArthur's pleasant sewing-room, occupied only by little Elsie at present, and sat down to read its contents.

  She opened it carefully across the end with a long silver hairpin which was thrust through her closely coiled curls, and this was what she read:

  "DEARIE:--I want to ask your forgiveness for my wild words to-day. Ever since I saw your name in the paper I have been in a state of excitement, wondering if it was you and if I had wronged you in my thoughts, and feelings awoke to life which I supposed dead. When I met you and heard your pathetic story and realized all I had made you suffer in the past I lost control of my reason for a time. I said things to you that I regretted as soon as uttered. Although I am far from being a happy man in my domestic life, I am not weak enough to desert the woman who bears my name. Even if you had consented to my proposition my better judgment would have come to our rescue before the fatal step was taken. I want you to believe this and to forgive the wild words uttered in a state of great excitement and I want you to be my friend, dear, and to let me see you sometimes.

  "Why can I not call upon you as one of your old friends? Or if you fear it would excite remarks among your new friends, why can you not come over to New York once in a while and lunch with me, or go to a matinee where we can for an hour or two be together as of old. It would give me something to live for, and infuse new ambition into my unhappy life. Surely marriage need not deprive a man of the pleasures of friendship, and I swear to you I will ask only for your friendship. I do not feel that I can endure existence if you refuse me this or deny me the privilege and opportunity of proving to you that I ask only to be your friend.


  The letter slipped from Vey's nerveless hand to the floor unnoticed.

  Her ideals of marriage were as high as her powers of love were strong. They were somewhat old-fashioned, too, judged from the standpoint of modern society, and she had brought ridicule upon herself once or twice by giving vent to her opinions on the subject. The wives who allowed young men to pay their marked attentions and jested in a free and easy manner regarding their love affairs, she despised, and the married Lotharios, who grow as rank in society as rushes in a marsh, and who were often aggressive in their attentions to this "new type" of beauty, met with her merciless condemnation.

  Marriage was to her idea a sacrament, and it closed the door as effectually to all folly or promiscuous pleasures as the grave. That was her ideal of the relation.

  "I don't want any man who has used bad judgment in the selection of a wife to come to me for solace or sympathy," she would say, "and surely I don't want any man who has a congenial mate at home to waste time on me. I have no use for married men."

  And now here was the idol of her soul, the man by whom she measured all other men and found them wanting, the man who had awakened her heart to life and inspired her to every ambition she had known, begging her to meet him at restaurants and theaters unknown to her friends and to his wife!

  The thought shocked her far beyond expression, and seemed even worse to her than the proposition contained in his first letter She felt that out and out wickedness would be more possible for her than a common vulgarity.

  She put her hands over her eyes to shut out the memory of the words she had seen; she would rather have fallen in her own estimation than to have him fall--her Jack, her idol! But, it is just in this way that we are often times punished for the worship of false gods. She was suffering tortures when suddenly a peaceful feeling seemed stealing over heart, and she lifted her head and looked up to Dr. Milford's dark eyes. She was silent for a second, and then she said:

  "Well, that is the most curious thing I ever knew to happen in my life."

  "What?" asked the doctor, smiling.

  "Why, when I looked up and saw you standing there I suddenly remembered a place--somewhere--a day--sometime, when I had seen you before under just such circumstances. I could almost have described the time and place--and was just about to speak of it definitely when the whole thing fled. Is it not very queer?"

  Dr. Milford smiled again. "I passed through the same experience the first time I ever laid eyes upon you at the hospital," he said, "I felt sure that we had met and knew each other before--"

  "But we never had!" Vey interrupted. "That was certainly the first time you ever saw me, Dr. Milford."

  'In this state--yes; but we may have known each other in some previous existence." Then, seeing her baffled expression, he changed the conversation by saying:

  "I came over to ask you and Mrs. MacArthur to drive with me this morning. The day is beautiful. My sister cannot go, but she kindly consented to allow me to take you without her, as she says you are not feeling at all well. I am sure the ozone of this splendid air is exactly what you need. Will you go?"

  Little Elsie, who had been playing about the room when her uncle entered, overheard the invitation and assumed an attitude of command.

  "Miss Volney can't go without Elsie," she said. "Elsie has a headache and wants ozone, boo!" and the tiny maiden put he hand to her brow with a weary gesture.

  "I will go on condition that we take Elsie along," Vey said, and the condition was, of course, accepted. Vey understood with that intuitive knowledge which women always possess in these matters that Max Milford loved her. When the heart is full to bursting with passionate love for one object, a noble nature is repelled by the suggestion of any other love as the appetite of one who has feasted to repletion is nauseated by the offer of food, however savory.


  Deprived of the man she loved, Vey shrank from the slightest approach to devotion of any other. Dr. Milford believed his love wholly hidden from sight, but it is only women who can successfully conceal a passions from the object which inspires it.

  Vey avoided many a tête-à-tête conversation with Dr. Milford, and during the drive she encouraged Elsie's chatter, and allowed no dangerous pauses to occur without introducing some new topic of conversation.

  Dr. Milford thought he had never seen her so talkative and brilliant, yet he was both physician and mind-reader enough to know that she was laboring under unusual excitement, and that she was suffering keenly he was by the dark shadows under her eyes and the lines about her mouth.

  "I think I must mix up a tonic for you when I return," he said in a solicitous voice. "You need to be braced up before you set out on your long journey."

  The tenderness of his tone alarmed Vey, and she answered him hurriedly and with a light laugh:

  "Medicines are out of fashion! If you are up with the times you would be able to think me well, sir! I have been reading about it lately, and there will be no more use for doctors and medicines after this, they say."

  "You mean the mental scientists, I suppose," Dr. Milford replied. "I have been looking into their theories myself a little of late, and I am convinced there is something in it. But I doubt doctors or drugs can be done away with under a century of time yet. People, as a rule, like to take medicine and enjoy the sympathy and occasional sickness it invites. In reality, I cure a third, at least, of my patients with a mental process. I find they are blue, overworked or in trouble of some kind, and not really ill. I cheer them up, get them to thinking of other things, and in the meantime give them harmless medicines, to which they attribute their cure. I would be glad enough if the new school of 'healing' would take all this class of patients off my hands."

  Vey looked at him in surprise. "I am astonished to hear you speak as if there was something of worth in this craze," she said. "I supposed it was only a sort of lunacy affecting weak-minded people. I am sure I do not understand it all."

  "It is really very simple and nothing more nor less than the literal application of what the Sunday schools teach in theory," Dr. Milford said. "Let me explain in a few words. This science says just what every clergyman says in his pulpit--God is goodness personified, and God made everything and everybody. Now disease and poverty and sorrow are not good things, therefore the Christian Scientist reasons that God did not make them, and they must have been made by man. Man has imagined the whole herd of them, and by wrong thoughts and acts he has grown to believe in sickness and poverty and trouble, and to forget that God only makes us good things.

  "This science teaches that if a man made these evils he can unmake them. If wrong thinking has created an evil, right thinking will destroy it, and leave only the health, prosperity and hope which God meant each one of us to enjoy. There you have the science in a nutshell. It is very simple and beautiful, and more respectful to God, more cheering to man than the creeds of most of the churches."

  "But I don't see how it can cure sickness," Vey replied, still puzzled.

  "Well, in this way. The science holds that thoughts are things; like insects, we will say. Gloomy, sinful, angry or selfish thoughts carry poison on their wings wherever they fly and breed disease; while good, pure, loving thoughts carry healing and cure disease."

  "But if that is true, then all disease ought to be cured by them, and only the other day I read of a man who died of pneumonia because his wife believed in this craze and would not call a doctor."

  "There is where the scientists make an awful mistake and injure their cause," replied the Doctor.

  "They claim, with a great deal of reason, that the conditions of the minds of people about the patient influence the result. For instance, if six people constantly think that the patient will not get well, while only the one mind of the healer thinks he will--that the recovery is retarded, or hindered. It is one insect flying with healing on his wings against six with poison toward the patient. Now, I claim that they have no right to take a case where the patient is in immediate danger, while these conditions can influence them.

  "The ought to leave pneumonia, fevers and all diseases which demand quick attention to regular practitioners, for one death does more harm to this new cause than ten do to the old. I lost a patient with pneumonia last week, yet the papers have not said one word against my practice, but when the mental science healer lost one the whole newspaper force cried out upon it.

  "I think these metaphysicians would show more sense and greatly strengthen their cause if they would refuse to take any case unless it was one which allowed time for the cure, like rheumatism, throat troubles, nervous diseases and neuralgia. There is a large field for them without risking any lives."

  "But now really do you suppose they ever cured anyone yet?" asked Vey, half laughing at his serious tone of discussing a subject which she had introduced in jest.'

  "I do not think I know," he answered earnestly. "I have been attending a lady for two years who has been lame with a curious contraction of the muscles of the limb. Her foot was twisted out of place and she could not touch it to the floor. The knee was drawn up, and all my efforts to cure her seemed unavailing. She has taken five treatments of mental science, and she walked one mile last week and came to call on me. This is what turned my serious attention to the subject. Up to that time I had supposed the science only able to cure mental depression and nervousness. But heaven knows we all ought to welcome it with open arms if it did only that. The churches are full of gloomy, depressing, nervous invalids, who come to us in vain for medicine to cure their mental conditions. Now, so long as clergymen and doctors fail to help them, why not rejoice that a new science has come to their rescue? I believe there is room for all of us, and I, for one, shall be glad to see this cause prosper, and I believe it is one more step toward the enlightenment of the world on that vast subject, the power of mind over matter."

  Vey went to her room after her ride, rested and soothed in a measure despite herself.

  "Doctor Milford must be very deep to understand all these theories," she mused, "and he talks very well. But I do not like a man who delves into the occult--I like a nice, sensible, practical, jolly business man, who looks after the affairs of this world and lets the Lord attend to the others. And I do not like dark men--I like men with the sunlight in their faces. Dr. Milford's eyes make me feel so queer, although they are so kind. Oh! I do not like any man but you, Jack, Jack, Jack, and you have broken my heart and crushed it under your feet." And the poor girl threw herself upon her bed and sobbed wildly for hours.

  Her idol had tumbled from the loft pedestal whereon her love had placed him, and she was stunned and bruised by the fall.

  Heretofore she had blamed herself for causing Jack to misjudge her. She had not lived up to his ideal of true womanhood, she thought, and therefore his treatment of her. Now he deliberately sought to lead her into wrong doing, or at least wrong seeming, and although he knew it would imperil her reputation and his own.

  Yet she tried to believe that the letter was written under momentary excitement, and that he must have been made very unhappy at home before he so far forgot himself as to address her as he had done.

  It is so easy for the noblest woman to condone the worst sin in man when she believes it is caused by love of her. Is vanity stronger than principle in our sex?

  She struggled valiantly to place her idol back on the old pedestal. A woman would always prefer to worship a false god blindly than to confess to herself that it is unworthy.

  While Vey knew her passion to be a hopeless one, woman like, she preferred to suffer a continuance of its anguish than to e disillusioned with its object.

  The worshiper of Jupiter Ammon would rather torture himself at the bidding of the oracle than to find the temple vacant. Pain is easier to bear than desolation.

  While Vey lay nursing her misery Dr. Milford sat in his room trying to reason with himself. His passion for her was daily increasing, yet he saw more plainly than ever before that she was utterly indifferent to him save as a friend, and that to differ one hair's breadth in his brotherly treatment of her would be disastrous to even that relation.

  Yet it was like tearing out his heart to think of letting her cross the ocean with no bond between them.

  He reached out his hand for a book of Emerson's essays, a resource he often sought when his mind was disquieted. The first sentence on which his eye fell was "Love and you shall be loved." He closed the book, unwilling to disturb the impression left by that sentence with any other.

  A stack of unopened mail lay on his desk. He tore off the wrapper of a newspaper parcel mechanically which had been addressed to him in an unknown hand and found it to be a journal published in the interests of mental science. The first article which drew his attention was entitled "Love," and he read as follows:

  "Love, though the most comforting and attractive, is but one element of the Divine, and has subdivisions which are of the utmost importance for mental scientists to understand. Each should be affirmed into consciousness to make up the full and perfect man: First love toward the Lord; second, love toward the world; third, love toward those whom the fixed reality of the true being places nearest to us for ever; fourth, love within the union of oneness of male and female which was divine marriage from the foundations. To affirm into consciousness love for the Lord brings divine trust. To affirm into consciousness love for the world awakens the real object of being--that of usefulness. To affirm into consciousness love for those nearest, brings harmony. To affirm into consciousness the peculiar love of the divine union answers the soul's deepest cry in manifestation of real companionship and reciprocal oneness.

  "A faithful course of affirmation respecting these loves separately, on the part of any scientist who feels the lack of the love--warmth, will develop a full and rounded love, such as will bring trust, desire to work, harmony and perfect individual happiness. These affirmations lie at the root of all the desires of our hearts, and are of much grater importance than the fragmentary methods usually employed by young scientists."

  It was densely worded, but his mathematical mind grasped the meaning, which he resolved into this:

  "If you desire the love of any human being, with a good and noble motive declare that you already possess it and in due time the force of your assertions, based on the love of God and humanity, will bring the result you crave. First be sure that your heart is all right toward your Creator and toward your fellow men, and then affirm that the individual love you want is yours, and it will come."

  He smiled sadly at the idea of applying the theory to his own condition. "There is no proviso for a case where two men love the same woman," he thought. "I wonder if the result would be determined by the one most in harmony with the divine forces?"

  Removing his handkerchief from his pocket just then, a wad of crumples paper fell upon the floor. He picked it up and found that it contained some confectionary drops which little Elsie had tucked into his pocket while driving, telling him it was "good medicing." He had pleased the child by promising to take a piece of it before retiring. Conscientious in so small a matter as this, he unfolded the paper to keep his promise and half mechanically his eye caught the boldly written words, "Surely marriage need not deprive a man of the pleasures of friendship," and with human curiosity roused, he began at the first word and read the letter to the end before he realized that he had learned a secret and violated a privacy of the woman he loved.

  He reached the room in great excitement. He was mortified at the nature of his own act, and he was horrified to discover that the unknown lover who had forestalled him in the possession of Vey's heart was a married man.

  Maxton Milford, although a remarkably fascinating man and a man of intense force, had reached the age of thirty years and maintained a very clean state of morality. His mother had taken him into her confidence while his mind was still untarnished and taught him to reverence woman and all that related to her. He had never been able to put the low price upon his manhood which many of his companions did who sold themselves to so-called pleasure, and all his ideals of life were consequently higher. A great anger filled him now at the writer of the letter he had just read. Evidently this man had at one time loved Vey and in some way misjudged her. Evidently they had met again only yesterday, and he had proposed flight and she had indignantly refused and now he wrote to apologize and to propose clandestine meetings and coarse recontres as a compromise!

  "Great heavens!" he said, "and men, like the writer of that letter are admitted into pure homes, and very likely are considered props of society. How dare he address that divine girl as if she were a common adventuress; and how can she still retain one lingering spark of affection for a man who could make such a proposition to her?"

  Had he known the circumstances of her barren childhood and desolate youth he would have better understood how this agreeable and thoughtful lover had grafted her heart to his by the firs t kindness and attention she had ever known. Now that the tree proved to be the poison upas it would require more than one blow from the ax of fate to sever the grafted limb.

  "A love like hers is a disease and should be regarded as such," he said. "There is nothing admirable in such a phase of constancy; it is simply a morbid disease."

  Then suddenly he sat down and took up the little journal on mental science and began to read it again carefully.

  It gave a vague and rambling formula for the treatment of disease, which Dr. Milford simplified to his own satisfaction.

  He had said that Vey's love for this man who signed his letter "Jack" was a disease, and he was trying to find how mental science would apply to her case. He found that the absence of the patient was no drawback to a really developed metaphysician, as mind ignores material objects and spaces. The first step toward the cure of disease was to deny its reality, the next to affirm health. Following the formula, he prepared to give Vey her first "treatment," and he said the words aloud in a low voice, in order to e sure that he was keeping to the "prescription," as he called it, laughingly.

  "Vey Volney," he began, "you are a direct emanation from the thought of God; therefore you must be and are all cheerfulness, all joy, love and reason. You have no melancholy and morbid passion for this man Jack, who is already married. Melancholy and morbidness were not made by God--therefore they cannot exist for you. You are free from this unhappy condition of mind, and as I love you so, so you love me--love me--LOVE ME!"

  He started to his feet, laughing aloud at the absurdity of his words, yet strangely excited at the sound of them. His heart throbbed violently and an intense exhilaration took possession of his recently dejected spirits.

  He tossed Jack's crumpled letter into an open grate fire, and as it withered in the flames he said: "So may her unhappy fancy wither in the fire of a true and noble passion!"

  The day previous to the departure for foreign lands Mrs. MacArthur put her arms about her brother's neck, and said earnestly: "Dear Max, I cannot bear to give you pain, but I feel it is my duty to tell you that your love for my dear Vey is hopeless. She is breaking her heart over an old love affair. The man is lost to her, yet her constancy never wavers. Do you know, Max, I think lots of much extolled constancy of women in such affairs is just the result of the stubbornness of the sex? Now, I dearly love Vey, as you know, and she is an admirable character. But like all people who never get into a great temper, she is very stubborn. You know the Mother Eve has to find vent in one way or the other always. I have a fiery temper, as you know, and if I had lost dear Tom in our courtship I would probably have gone nearly mad with grief and anger at fate, and then I would have calmed down to a reasonable state of mind. But Vey is naturally stubborn, and so she just sulks at fate and goes right on feeling the same devotion. It is no use for you to waste you life, Max, in waiting for her to grow sensible. I don't believe she ever will think differently on this subject."

  What was Mrs. MacArthur's surprise to have him reply to the words she had dreaded saying with the most seemingly irrelevant question:

  "Elsie, do you know why so many people are unhappy in married life? It is because men allow their spiritual insight to become clouded by physical emotions, and the senses choose a mate, and soon weary of the choice which is not to the spirit's liking. Now, my spiritual vision was very clear and bright when I first saw and recognized my mate in Vey Volney. I could not be mistaken, and therefore I have no fear or doubt of the result."

  Mrs. MacArthur knew that her brother was a devoted student of the occult, and that he was much interested in theosophy. And she sighed as she turned away from him, wondering if he were really quite sane, and confident of the disappointment in store for him.

  Dr. Milford waved farewell from the shore with a smile upon his face, as the ship which bore Vey and his sister's family steamed out to sea. The smile might have vanished, however, had he seen Vey suddenly encounter a blonde man wearing a long ulster and a Tam O'Shanter cap, who cam eon deck half an hour later, and had he heard her startled cry, "Jack! Oh, Jack! how came you here?"

  Mrs. MacArthur was in the state-room where she would remain during the voyage, as she was never able to maintain an upright position for one hour on shipboard. And Vey and Jack Dayton stood there on the deck of an outward bound steamer gazing into each other's faces--one in terror, one in triumph.

  "Did you think I would let the ocean separate us without seeing you again? I care too much for you to do that'," and he laughed, and drew a camp stool close to the seat she had just vacated.

  Hearing him laugh, looking in his dear face, Vey for the moment forgot everything save that he was the man she worshiped and that they were together, virtually alone on the great ocean. A sensation of wild joy took possession of her, a savage selfish feeling of delight that at last in spite of her resistance, fate had given her own back to her for at least one week. After that one week--well, perhaps the ship would go on the rocks and there would be no "after."

  It was just as these wild thoughts surged through her desperate young heart that the ship gave a great lurch and something unlooked for occurred.

The Adventures of Miss Volneyby Ella Wheeler Wilcox.
Tumwater, WA: The Ella Wheeler Wilcox Society, 2006.
Based on the printing by Street & Smith, c1900.

The Adventures of Miss Volney
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox
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