Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1068
Captain George D’Alroy, whose mother was married to a French marquis, fell in love with a beautiful dancer named Esther Eccles. Despite his mother’s pride in rank and family, he was resolved to marry the girl, but his good sense warned him that the marriage might result in his mother’s unhappiness. In an effort to prove he was right in wishing to marry her, in spite of her place in a lower level of society, D’Alroy took his friend, Captain Hawtree, to see Esther at her home.
Hawtree agreed that Esther was a charming girl. Indeed, he himself was quite charmed with Esther’s sister Polly. He warned D’Alroy, however, that the differences in social position and culture were too great to be bridged; he pointed out what D’Alroy wished to overlook—that Esther’s father was a confirmed drunkard and loafer and that Polly was satisfied to marry a petty tradesman. Hawtree tried to make D’Alroy see that such people could never be acknowledged as the relatives of the daughter-in-law of the Marquise de St. Maur and the wife of an officer in a good regiment.
When Hawtree recommended that D’Alroy take a leave of absence from the regiment and travel to the West Indies in an effort to forget Esther, D’Alroy said that he had already tried unsuccessfully to stay away from her. He said also that he would rather be dead than give her up for good. D’Alroy pointed out that the girl’s love for him was worth more than a title, at which statement Hawtree only smiled.
Captain D’Alroy, refusing to listen to his friend’s well-intended advice, married Esther, and the newly married pair moved into good lodgings. A few weeks after the wedding D’Alroy’s regiment was ordered to service in India. The captain did not know how to break the news to Esther. When the day of departure arrived, he still had not told her. To add to the complications, he had word that his mother, the marquise, was coming to bid him goodbye. Before he could tell Esther, his mother arrived. Afraid to let his mother meet Esther, D’Alroy had her hide in a bedroom. Overhearing the conversation, Esther learned that her husband would embark within a few hours. Unable to contain herself, she burst into the room. The marquise misunderstood at first and thought that Esther was her son’s mistress. When she learned that the girl was his wife, however, she was only slightly mollified. Then Esther’s drunken father came in, accompanied by Polly’s tradesman-fiance, Sam Gerridge. The marquise was dismayed.
A few months after D’Alroy’s departure for India, Esther gave birth to a son. While she was still convalescing, word came that D’Alroy had been captured by Sepoys and undoubtedly killed. In addition, Esther was in need of money. Her father, entrusted with the money D’Alroy had left to provide for her, had spent the funds on drink and horse-racing. Too proud to ask her mother-in-law for help, Esther lived in real poverty. When the marquise heard of Esther’s sad straits, she offered to take the baby and rear it as a grandson of the nobility ought to be reared. Too spirited and loving to accept the offer, Esther indignantly showed the marquise to the door.
Esther then tried to get work as a dancer, but the theater managers, knowing her story, took advantage of her plight and refused to pay her even a living wage, so that she and the baby were forced to rely on financial help from Polly’s fiance, who had but little money of his own, and on an unexpected check from Hawtree. Esther felt truly degraded when she found her father stealing the baby’s gold necklace in order to pawn it for money to buy liquor.
Captain Hawtree, who had been promoted to a majority, returned from India and went to see what he might do to help his friend’s widow. He had not even guessed the...
(The entire section contains 1068 words.)
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