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A BROKEN WEDDING RING.

BY BERTHA M. CLAY.

CHAPTER XIV. During the neit three years Leah Hatton was the very queen of fashion. She •was more popular, more sought after, more admired, more beloved, more envied than any other woman of ncr day. Her beauty grew with her years. She was 21 now, and the magnificent promise of her girlhood had been fulfilled. Her loveliness had grown richer; the gleam in her dark eyes was brighter; the dainty bloom that had been faint as the hue of a blush rose had deepened; the face was radiant in its own loveliness—men found it more than fair. During those three years she had presided with infinite grace over the large establishment at Brentwood and the magnificent house in town. At Brentwood ehe had received party after party of guests, including some of the greatest statesmen of the day, and she was considered one of the moet attractive hostesses in the land. In a wonderfully short time she acquired the art of entertaining, knew "who was who," and, in fact, was equal to all the requirements of social life. She never made any mistakes. After a few weeks the general found that he could with safety leave everythin gto her. The servants worshipped her; one word from their beautiful young mistress was law. She was worshipped, too, by the poor around Brentwood, for she gave with a liberal hand, she was beloved by all her dependents, for she was both just and generous—by all who knew her for her beauty and talents and winsome grace. At Harbury House during those three seasons she was queen. The best dinners, the best balls, the most successful private theatricals were given v there. There were many other debutantes, but no one ever approached her; the throne she held was entirely her own. Season after season the beautiful Leah Hatton came back to the gay world with fresh graces and charms. She was singular in many respects. She made many acquaintances, but very few friends. She had no grrl friend to whom she could speak of her thoughts and feelings; her heart grew sad when she thought of anyone else in Hetties place. Among the faces of the girls around her she saw not one so sweet and fair as Hetties; and, remembering this, a coldness came to Miss Hatton which added to the effect of her proud young beauty. She was considered everywhere as the most eligible, the most desirable match of the day. It was well known that she was the general's niece; no one cared to ask whetheT she was the child of sister or brother. It was also well known that the whole of the general's vast fortune would be hers. She was at the very height of her popularity: people epared themselves no trouble to obtain even a glimpse of her fair face. When she went to the opera, more attention was paid to her than to the stage. "Beautiful Leah HattonT" What moTe in life could she desire than she had — wealth, popularity, affection? Yet she. was not happy; her soul had found no rest. Brilliant and gay as was her life, it did not satisfy her. It was but as a dream to one who has infinite longings and infinite desires. If Martin Ray succeeded in nothing elee, he had done this for hie daughter— he had taken her out of the common groove, he had made her think, he had filled her mind with a thousand ideas of life. These were always puzzling her. She had the air, the manner, the look of one whose thoughts and aims were higher and loftier than those of others. This added much to the charm of her passionate, proud beauty. The men who danced with her admired her the more because no flush of vanity came to her face. There was upon it the far-off look, the restless longing that nothing could gratify. "Aβ for lovers," the Ducfiess of Rosedene cried, holding up her hands in horror, "there is not an eligible man in the land who has not sought her! Such offers, and all refused! Refused, too, without rhyme or reason! Leah has some notion that she must love some one, that love is fhe great end and aim of each one's Cie—love—not wealth, pleasure, or gaiety, but love; and, with such ideas, what can one do?" The duchess shrugged her shoulders as she epoke. "Love, with such prospects as she has before her!" Some of the offers Miss Hatton received were dazzling ones. The young Earl of Barberry was handsome, talented and passionately fond of her. No; she would not lie Countess of Barberry. There was the Duke of Lincoln, who had country se&ts, town mansion and untold wealth, -who would have made her his duchess. She would not be Duehes-s of Lincoln; and she had no other reason to give than that she did not love him; and the one thing she longed for in this life was love. "Love!" said the duchess. "It will come with marriage." "Not the love I want," she replied; "that must come before. I want a romance in my life." "It is the way with those dark-eyed girls," said the duchese. "What a pity it ie!" Then a great legal celebrity fell in love with Leah; and of all the conquests she made that was certainly the most wonderful. He was a man whose name was a tower of strength, whose opinion was held in the highest esteem, and who had never spent one half-hour in wooing in his life. Hβ grew desperate about her, and' the wonder was that he did not run away with her. He could not realise his disappointment; he could hardly bear his life when sho refused him. The ducheos sighed, bat said nothing. If the Earl of Barberry could not win her, there waa little hope for the legal loid. "You will marry some time, Leah," she said, with the resignation of despair. "It is possible," she replied, smiling; "but it is more probable that I shall never marrjvat all." "Should "you mind telling mc why?" asked the duchess, in tones of mock resignation. "I will tell you, duchess; but you will be angry with mc. I want some one to love mc more than life itself —some one to be devoted to mc, to give mc all his thoughts, his whole life; I want his heart to be one with mine, his eoul to be the other half of my soul. I want perfect love and I want a perfect lover. I have my ideal love, and no other will do; I have my ideal lover, and I shall wait foT him " "My dear Leah, you are all wrong," cried the duchess; "you are, indeed! Take care that you do not find such love and snch a lover costly. "I will take the pain, if there GhoiiM be any, with the happiness," she stricl. "All my life I hwvo thought that the one thing to be desired Is love." "There is no accounting for taste, Leah; but certainly, -with such prospects

as you have, to make love the chiei aim of your life is, to cay the least of it, a sad pity. Thie ideal hero of yours ia sure-to be both poor and unknown." Le&h laughed again. How sweet that laughter was! The duchess smiled as she heard it. "I cannot tell; he may be the very reverse of poor or unknown. I do not know-•who he is or where he may be. It is just possible that I may never meet him; but he exists somewhere. You know the old belief, duchess, that soule were made in halves, and that real marriage ia the union of those half souls in one?" "Oh, Leah," cried the duchess, laughing, "there is no hope for you!" "Not much," she said, "for I believe that 1 am waiting for my ideal; and he, rely upon it, is seeking mc somewhere. ■If we meet, I ehall ask no more in life. He may be poor and unknown; if so, it will make no difference to mc. He may be great, noble, and wealthy; it will be a matter of perfect indifference to mc. Shall I eliock you just a little duchess?" she added. "Say what you will, my dear; I am resigned." "I have an idea that the moment I see him I ehall know him. I shall look into his face, and a revelation will come to mc." "A very dangerous notion, Leah. You may fall in love with the wrong man altogether." » "Bow can I, if my theory "be true?" she replied. "I have no doubt it seems absurd to you; but it is a serious matter to mc. I should not be surprised if some day I look into a face and hear a voice say. U have been looking for you all these yeara.'" The duchese raised her hands. "And this," she said musingly—''thie is after iflve years spent almost entirely with mc, after three eeasone of brilliant, uninterrupted success!" "I have enjoyed it," replied Leah; "but there must be something better. Balls and operas, jetes and garden parties, dinners and picnice, dresses and diamonds, flattery and homage, are all very -well —but they could not fill a life. There ia no heart, no soul in them; and,' , she continued, half sadly, "one must tire of them after a time." "©o you think so?" aeked the duchess, looking at her gravely. "Yes, I do. One ball is like another— there are "the same people, the same dances, music, jewels; all one's partners say pretty nearly the same things. Dinners are the same —one differs very little from anotheri?- . At the opera, although there is infinite beauty in the music, it is ahvaye the same story of love or jealousy. No, I do not think that even a Hfe spent amid such brilliant Bcenes could fill one's heart and soul." "You are a strange girl, Leah," said the duohees. "Who would imagine that the belle of the seaeon had euch notione as these? You hove made mc very uncomfortable, my dear. I shall, live now in dread always that some day or other you will meet with one whom you may choose to imagine your ideal, and do something raeh. I always eaid that there was something in your face even that made you different from other girls. But, Leah, as you hare trusted mc so far, trust mc even further. Tell mc, among all the men you have met—and you know the wisest, the noblest, the best —is there not one of them whom you have liked?" "Not one," she replied. "I shall know, when I meet my ideal; my heart shall speak and tell mc. I have not met him yet." "When you do, my dear, I prophesy Well, I will not prophesy; I will ionly tell that p. grand passion brings more pain than pleasure, and that if you want to be happy you must avoid the terrible fever that men call love."

(To be continued daily.)

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A BROKEN WEDDING RING. Auckland Star, Volume XL, Issue 79, 2 April 1909

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