All of fashionable London is amazed and shocked when the beautiful and charming Diana Warwick suddenly leaves her husband’s house. The marriage was ill-fated from the start, for Augustus Warwick, a calculating, ambitious politician, considered the marriage to Diana as largely one of convenience. Diana, for her part, accepted his proposal as a refuge from the unwelcome attentions to which her position as an orphan exposed her.
Diana Merion first appears in society at a state ball in Dublin, where her unspoiled charm and beauty attract many admirers. Lady Emma Dunstane introduces Diana to Thomas Redworth, a friend of her husband, Sir Lukin Dunstane. Redworth’s attentions so enrage Mr. Sullivan Smith, a hot-tempered Irishman, that he attempts to provoke the Englishman to a duel. Redworth pacifies the Irishman, however, to avoid compromising Diana by a duel fought on her account.
Later, while visiting Lady Emma at Copsley, the Dunstane country home in England, Diana is forced to rebuff Sir Lukin when he attempts to make love to her. Leaving Copsley, she goes to visit the Warwicks. Thomas tells Lady Emma that he loves Diana, but by then it is too late. Diana has already agreed to marry Augustus Warwick.
In London, the Warwicks live in a large house and entertain lavishly. Among their intimates is Lord Dannisburgh, an elderly peer who becomes Diana’s friend and adviser. While Warwick is away on a government mission, the two are often seen together, and Diana is so indiscreet as to let Lord Dannisburgh accompany her when she goes to visit Lady Emma, which gives rise to unkind gossip. On his return, Warwick, who is incapable of understanding that his wife is innocent, serves Diana with a divorce suit in which he accuses her of infidelity and names Lord Dannisburgh as correspondent. Diana disappears from Warwick’s house and from London. In a letter, she tells Lady Emma that she intends to leave England. Her friend, realizing that flight will be tantamount to confession, feels sure that before she leaves the country, Diana will go to Crossways, her father’s old home. Determined that Diana should remain and boldly defend herself, Lady Emma sends Redworth to Crossways with instructions to detain Diana and persuade her to stay with the Dunstanes at Copsley.
Lady Emma guesses correctly; Diana is at Crossways with her maid. At first, she is unwilling to see Lady Emma’s point of view, for she thinks of her flight as a disdainful stepping aside from Warwick’s sordid accusations; finally, however, she gives in to Redworth’s arguments and returns with him to Copsley.
Although the court returns a verdict of not guilty to the charge Warwick brings against her, Diana feels that her honor is ruined and that in the eyes of the world she is guilty. For a time, she is able to forget her own distress by nursing her friend, Lady Emma, who is seriously ill. Later, she leaves England to go on a Mediterranean cruise. Before her departure, she writes a book entitled The Princess Egeria.
In Egypt, she meets Redworth, now a brilliant member of Parliament. He is accompanied by Sir Percy Dacier, Lord Dannisburgh’s nephew and a...
(The entire section is 1304 words.)