Part 4 out of 7
"that I had seen you before. They told me my little twin
children had grown into beautiful girls, but I did not realize
And again, when she saw his proud happiness, Lady Helena longed
to plead for the mother of his children, that she might also
share in his love; but she dared not. His words haunted her.
Dora would be forgiven only in the hour of death.
The evening of his return was one of the happiest of Lord Earle's
life. He was charmed with his daughters. Lady Helena thought,
with a smile, that it was difficult to realize the relationship
between them. Although her son looked sad and care-worn, he
seemed more like an elder brother than the father of the two
There was some little restraint between them at first. Lord
Earle seemed at a loss what to talk about; then Lady Helena's
gracious tact came into play. She would not have dinner in the
large dining room, she ordered it to be served in the pretty
morning room, where the fire burned cheerfully and the lamps gave
a flow of mellow light. It was a picture of warm, cozy English
comfort, and Lord Earle looked pleased when he saw it.
Then, when dinner was over, she asked Beatrice to sing, and she,
only pleased to show Lord Earle the extent of her
accomplishments, obeyed. Her superb voice, with its clear,
ringing tones, amazed him. Beatrice sang song after song with a
passion and fire that told how deep the music lay in her soul.
Then Lady Helena bade Lillian bring out her folio of drawings,
and again Lord Earle was pleased and surprised by the skill and
talent he had not looked for. He praised the drawings highly.
One especially attracted his attention--it was the pretty scene
Lillian had sketched on the May day now so long passed--the sun
shining upon the distant white sails, and the broad, beautiful
sweep of sea at Knutsford.
"That is an excellent picture," he said; "it ought to be framed.
It is too good to be hidden in a folio. You have just caught the
right coloring, Lillian; one can almost see the sun sparkling on
the water. Where is this sea-view taken from?"
"Do you not know it?" she asked, looking at him with wonder in
her eyes. "It is from Knutsford--mamma's home."
Ronald looked up in sudden, pained surprise.
"Mamma's home!" The words smote him like a blow. He remembered
Dora's offense--her cold letter, her hurried flight, his own
firm resolve never to receive her in his home again--but he had
not remembered that the children must love her--that she was
part of their lives. He could not drive her memory from their
minds. There before him lay the pretty picture of "mamma's
"This," said Lillian, "is the Elms. See those grand old trees,
papa! This is the window of Mamma's room, and this was our
He looked with wonder. This, then, was Dora's home--the pretty,
quaint homestead standing in the midst of the green meadows. As
he gazed, he half wondered what the Dora who for fifteen years
had lived there could be like. Did the curling rings of black
hair fall as gracefully as ever? Had the blushing dimpled face
grown pale and still? And then, chasing away all softened
thought, came the remembrance of that hateful garden scene. Ah,
no, he could never forgive--he could not speak of her even to
these, her children! The two pictures were laid aside, and no
more was said of framing them.
Lord Earle said to himself, after his daughters had retired, that
both were charming; but, though he hardly owned it to himself, if
he had a preference, it was for brilliant, beautiful Beatrice.
He had never seen any one to surpass her. After Lady Helena had
left him, he sat by the fire dreaming, as his father long years
ago had done before him.
It was not too late yet, he thought, to retrieve the fatal
mistake of his life. He would begin at once. He would first
give all his attention to his estate; it should be a model for
all others. He would interest himself in social duties; people
who lamented his foolish, wasted youth should speak with warm
admiration of his manhood; above all matters he dreamed of great
things for his daughters, especially Beatrice. With her beauty
and grace, her magnificent voice, her frank, fearless spirit, and
piquant, charming wit, she would be a queen of society; through
his daughter his early error would be redeemed. Beatrice was
sure to marry well; she would bring fresh honors to the grand old
race ha had shamed. When the annals of the family told, in years
to come, the story of his mistaken marriage, it would be amply
redeemed by the grand alliance Beatrice would be sure to
His hopes rested upon her and centered in her. As he sat
watching the glowing embers, there came to him the thought that
what Beatrice was to him he had once been to the father he was
never more to see. Ah! If his daughter should be like himself
if she should ruin his hopes, throw down the air castle he had
built--should love unworthily, marry beneath her, deceive and
disappoint him! But no, it should not be--he would watch over
her. Lord Earle shuddered at the thought.
During breakfast on the morning following his return Lady Helena
asked what his plans were for the day--whether he intended
driving the girls over to Holte.
"No," said Lord Earle. "I wish to have a long conversation with
my daughters. We shall be engaged during the morning. After
luncheon we will go to Holte."
Ronald, Lord Earle, had made up his mind. In the place where his
father had warned him, and made the strongest impression upon
him, he would warn his children, and in the same way; so he took
them to the picture gallery, where he had last stood with his
With gentle firmness he said: "I have brought you here as I have
something to say to you which is best said here. Years ago,
children, my father brought me, as I bring you, to warn and
advise me--I warn and advise you. We are, though so closely
related, almost strangers. I am ready to love you and do love
you. I intend to make your happiness my chief study. But there
is one thing I must have--that is, perfect openness, one thing I
must forbid--that is, deceit of any kind, on any subject. If
either of you have in your short lives a secret, tell it to me
now; if either of you love any one, even though it be one
unworthy, tell me now. I will pardon any imprudence, any folly,
any want of caution--everything save deceit. Trust me, and I
will be gentle as a tender woman; deceive me, and I will never
Both fair faces had grown pale--Beatrice's from sudden and
deadly fear; Lillian's from strong emotion.
"The men of our race," said Lord Earle, "have erred at times, the
women never. You belong to a long line of noble, pure, and high-
bred woman; there must be nothing in your lives less high, and
less noble than in theirs; but if there had been--if, from want
of vigilance, of training, and of caution there should be
anything in this short past, tell it to me now, and I will forget
Neither spoke to him one word, and a strange pathos came into his
"I committed one act of deceit in my life," continued Lord Earle;
"it drove me from home, and it made me an exile during the best
years of my life. It matters little what it was--you will never
know; but it has made me merciless to all deceit. I will never
spare it; it has made me harsh and bitter. You will both find in
me the truest, the best of friends; if in everything you are
straightforward and honorable; but, children, dearly as I love
you, I will never pardon a lie or an act of deceit."
"I never told a lie in my life," said Lillian, proudly. "My
mother taught us to love the truth."
"And you, my Beatrice?" he asked, gently as he turned to the
beautiful face half averted from him.
"I can say with my sister," was the haughty reply, "I have never
told a lie."
Even as she spoke her lips grew pale with fear, as she remembered
the fatal secret of her engagement to Hugh Fernely.
"I believe it," replied Lord Earle. "I can read truth in each
face. Now tell me--have no fear--have you any secret in that
past life? Remember, no matter what you may have done, I shall
freely pardon it. If you should be in any trouble or difficulty,
as young people are at times, I will help you. I will do
anything for you, if you will trust me."
And again Lillian raised her sweet face to his.
"I have no secret," she said, simply. "I do not think I know a
secret, or anything like one. My past life is an open book,
papa, and you can read every page in it."
"Thank Heaven!" said Lord Earle, as he placed his hand
caressingly upon the fair head.
It was strange, and he remembered the omission afterward, that he
did not repeat the question to Beatrice--he seemed to consider
that Lillian's answer included her. He did not know her heart
was beating high with fear.
"I know," he continued, gently, "that some young girls have their
little love secrets. You tell me you have none. I believe you.
I have but one word more to say. You will be out in the great
world soon, and you will doubtless both have plenty of admirers.
Then will come the time of trial and temptation; remember my
words--there is no curse so great as a clandestine love, no
error so great or degrading. One of our race was so cursed, and
his punishment was great. No matter whom you love and who loves
you, let all be fair, honorable, and open as the day. Trust me,
do not deceive me. Let me in justice say I will never oppose any
reasonable marriage, but I will never pardon a clandestine
"However dearly I might love the one who so transgressed,"
continued Lord Earle, "even if it broke my heart to part from
her, I should send her from me at once; she should never more be
a child of mine. Do not think me harsh or unkind; I have weighty
reasons for every word I have uttered. I am half ashamed to
speak of such things to you, but it must be done. You are
smiling, Lillian, what is it?"
"I should laugh, papa," she replied, "if you did not look so very
grave. We must see people in order to love them. Beatrice, how
many do we know in the world? Farmer Leigh, the doctor at
Seabay, Doctor Goode, who came to the Elms when mamma was ill,
two farm laborers, and the shepherd--that was the extent of our
acquaintance until we came to Earlescourt. I may now add Sir
Henry Holt and Prince Borgesi to my list. You forget, papa, we
have lived out of the world."
Lord Earle remembered with pleasure that it was true. "You will
soon be in the midst of a new world," he said, "and before you
enter society I thought it better to give you this warning. I
place no control over your affections; the only thing I forbid,
detest, and will never pardon, is any underhand, clandestine love
affair. You know not what they would cost."
He remembered afterward how strangely silent Beatrice was, and
how her beautiful, proud face was turned from him.
"It is a disagreeable subject," said Lord Earle, "and I am
pleased to have finished with it--it need never be renewed. Now
I have one more thing to say--I shall never control or force
your affections, but in my heart there is one great wish."
Lord Earle paused for a few minutes; he was looking at the face
of Lady Alicia Earle, whom Beatrice strongly resembled.
"I have no son," he continued, "and you, my daughters, will not
inherit title or estate--both go to Lionel Dacre. If ever the
time should come when Lionel asks either of you to be his wife,
my dearest wish will be accomplished. And now, as my long
lecture is finished, and the bell has rung, we will prepare for a
visit to Sir Harry and Lady Laurence."
There was not much time for thought during the rest of the day;
but when night came, and Beatrice was alone, she looked the
secret of her life in the face.
She had been strongly tempted, when Lord Earle had spoken so
kindly, to tell him all. She now wished she had done so; all
would have been over. He would perhaps have chided her simple,
girlish folly, and have forgiven her. He would never forgive her
now that she had deliberately concealed the fact; the time for
forgiveness was past. A few words, and all might have been told;
it was too late now to utter them. Proud of her and fond of her
as she saw Lord Earle was, there would be no indulgence for her
if her secret was discovered.
She would have to leave the magnificent and luxurious home, the
splendor that delighted her, the glorious prospects opening to
her, and return to the Elms, perhaps never to leave it again.
Ah, no! The secret must be kept! She did not feel much alarmed;
many things might happen. Perhaps the "Seagull" might be lost
she thought, without pain or sorrow, of the possible death of the
man who loved her as few love.
Even if he returned, he might have forgotten her or never find
her. She did not feel very unhappy or ill at ease--the chances,
she thought, were many in her favor. She had but one thing to do
to keep all knowledge of her secret from Lord Earle.
As time passed on all constraint between Lord Earle and his
daughters wore away; Ronald even wondered himself at the force of
his own love for them. He had made many improvements since his
return. He did wonders upon the estate; model cottages seemed to
rise by magic in place of the wretched tenements inhabited by
poor tenants; schools, almshouses, churches, all testified to his
zeal for improvement. People began to speak with warm admiration
of the Earlescourt estate and of their master.
Nor did he neglect social duties; old friends were invited to
Earlescourt; neighbors were hospitably entertained. His name was
mentioned with respect and esteem; the tide of popularity turned
in his favor. As the spring drew near, Lord Earle became anxious
for his daughters to make their debut in the great world. They
could have no better chaperone than his own mother. Lady Helena
was speaking to him one morning of their proposed journey, when
Lord Earle suddenly interrupted her.
"Mother," he said, "where are all your jewels? I never see you
"I put them all away," said Lady Earle, "when your father died.
I shall never wear them again. The Earle jewels are always worn
by the wife of the reigning lord, not by the widow of his
predecessor. Those jewels are not mine."
"Shall we look them over?" asked Ronald. "Some of them might be
reset for Beatrice and Lillian."
Lady Helena rang for her maid, and the heavy cases of jewelry
were brought down. Beatrice was in raptures with them, and her
sister smiled at her admiration.
The jewels might have sufficed for a king's ransom; the diamonds
were of the first water; the rubies flashed crimson; delicate
pearls gleamed palely upon their velvet beds; there were emeralds
of priceless value. One of the most beautiful and costly jewels
was an entire suite of opals intermixed with small diamonds.
"These," said Lord Earle, raising the precious stones in his
hands, "are of immense value. Some of the finest opals ever seen
are in this necklace; they were taken from the crown of an Indian
price and bequeathed to one of our ancestors. So much is said
about the unlucky stone--the pierre du malheur, as the French
call the opal--that I did not care so much for them."
"Give me the opals, papa," said Beatrice, laughing; "I have no
superstitious fears about them. Bright and beautiful jewels
always seemed to me one of the necessaries of life. I prefer
diamonds, but these opals are magnificent."
She held out her hands, and for the first time Lord Earle saw the
opal ring upon her finger. He caught the pretty white hand in
"That is a beautiful ring," he said. "These opals are splendid.
Who gave it to you, Beatrice?"
The question came upon her suddenly like a deadly shock; she had
forgotten all about the ring, and wore it only from habit.
For a moment her heart seemed to stand still and her senses to
desert her. Then with a self-possession worthy of a better
cause, Beatrice looked up into her father's face with a smile.
"It was given to me at the Elms," she said, so simply that the
same thought crossed the minds of her three listeners--that it
had been given by Dora and her daughter did not like to say so.
Lord Earle looked on in proud delight while his beautiful
daughters chose the jewels they liked best. The difference in
taste struck and amused him. Beatrice chose diamonds, fiery
rubies, purple amethysts; Lillian cared for nothing but the
pretty pale pearls and bright emeralds.
"Some of those settings are very old-fashioned," said Lord Earle.
"We will have new designs from Hunt and Boskell. They must be
reset before you go to London."
The first thing Beatrice did was to take off the opal ring and
lock it away. She trembled still from the shock of her father's
question. The fatal secret vexed her. How foolish she had been
to risk so much for a few stolen hours of happiness--for praise
and flattery--she could not say for love.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The time so anxiously looked for came at last. Lord Earle took
possession of his town mansion, and his daughters prepared for
their debut. It was in every respect a successful one. People
were in raptures with the beautiful sisters, both so charming yet
so unlike. Beatrice, brilliant and glowing, her magnificent face
haunted those who saw it like a beautiful dream--Lillian, fair
and graceful, as unlike her sister as a lily to a rose.
They soon became the fashion. No ball or soiree, no dance or
concert was considered complete without them. Artists sketched
them together as "Lily and Rose," "Night and Morning," "Sunlight
and Moonlight." Poets indited sonnets to them; friends and
admirers thronged around them. As Beatrice said, with a deep-
drawn sigh of perfect contentment, "This is life"--and she
reveled in it.
That same year the Earl of Airlie attained his majority, and
became the center of all fashionable interest. Whether he would
marry and whom he would be likely to marry were two questions
that interested every mother and daughter in Belgravia. There
had not been such an eligible parti for many years. The savings
of a long minority alone amounted to a splendid fortune.
The young earl had vast estates in Scotland. Lynnton Hall and
Craig Castle, two of the finest seats in England, were his. His
mansion in Belgravia was the envy of all who saw it.
Young, almost fabulously wealthy, singularly generous and
amiable, the young Earl of Airlie was the center of at least half
a hundred of matrimonial plots; but he was not easily managed.
Mammas with blooming daughters found him a difficult subject. He
laughed, talked, danced, walked, and rode, as society wished him
to do; but no one had touched his heart, or even his fancy. Lord
Airlie was heart-whole, and there seemed no prospect of his ever
being anything else. Lady Constance Tachbrook, the prettiest,
daintiest coquette in London, brought all her artillery of
fascination into play, but without success. The beautiful
brunette, Flora Cranbourne, had laid a wager that, in the course
of two waltzes, she would extract three compliments from him, but
she failed in the attempt. Lord Airlie was pronounced
The fact was that his lordship had been sensibly brought up. He
intended to marry when he could find some one to love him for
himself, and not for his fortune. This ideal of all that was
beautiful, noble, and true in woman the earl was always searching
for, but as yet had not found.
On all sides he had heard of the beauty of Lord Earle's
daughters, but it did not interest him. He had been hearing of,
seeing, and feeling disappointed in beautiful women for some
years. Many people made the point of meeting the "new beauties,"
but he gave himself no particular trouble. They were like every
one else, he supposed.
One morning, having nothing else to do, Lord Airlie went to a
fete given in the beautiful grounds of Lady Downham. He went
early, intending to remain only a short time. He found but a few
guests had arrived. After paying the proper amount of homage to
Lady Downham, the young earl wandered off into the grounds.
It was all very pretty and pleasant, but he had seen the same
before, and was rather tired of it. The day was more Italian
than English, bright and sunny, the sky blue, the air clear and
filled with fragrance, the birds singing as they do sing under
bright, warm skies.
Flags were flying from numerous tents, bands of music were
stationed in different parts of the grounds, the fountains played
merrily in the sunlit air. Lord Airlie walked mechanically on,
bowing in reply to the salutations he received.
A pretty little bower, a perfect thicket of roses, caught his
attention. From it one could see all over the lake, with its gay
pleasure boats. Lord Airlie sat down, believing himself to be
quite alone; but before he had removed a large bough that
interfered with the full perfection of the view he heard voices
on the other side of the thick, sheltering rose bower.
He listened involuntarily, for one of the voices was clear and
pure, the other more richly musical than any he had ever heard
at times sweet as the murmur of the cushat dove, and again
ringing joyously and brightly.
"I hope we shall not have to wait here long, Lillian," the blithe
voice was saying. "Lady Helena promised to take us on the lake."
"It is very pleasant," was the reply; "but you always like to be
in the very center of gayety."
"Yes," said Beatrice; "I have had enough solitude and quiet to
last me for life. Ah, Lillian, this is all delightful. You
think so, but do not admit it honestly as I do."
There was a faint, musical laugh, and then the sweet voice
"I am charmed, Lillian, with this London life; this is worth
calling life--every moment is a golden one. If there is a
drawback, it consists in not being able to speak one's mind."
"What do you mean?" asked Lillian.
"Do you not understand?" was the reply. "Lady Helena is always
talking to me about cultivating what she calls 'elegant repose.'
Poor, dear grandmamma! Her perfect idea of good manners seems to
me to be a simple absence--in society, at least--of all emotion
and all feeling. I, for one, do not admire the nil admirari
"I am sure Lady Helena admires you, Bee," said her sister.
"Yes," was the careless reply. "Only imagine, Lillian,
yesterday, when Lady Cairn told me some story about a favorite
young friend of hers the tears came to my eyes. I could not help
it, although the drawing room was full. Lady Helena told me I
should repress all outward emotion. Soon after, when Lord
Dolchester told me a ridiculous story about Lady Everton, I
laughed--heartily, I must confess, though not loudly--and she
looked at me. I shall never accomplish 'elegant repose.'"
"You would not be half so charming if you did," replied her
"Then it is so tempting to say at times what one really thinks!
I can not resist it. When Lady Everton tells me, with that
tiresome simper of hers, that she really wonders at herself, I
long to tell her other people do the same thing. I should enjoy,
for once, the luxury of telling Mrs. St. John that people flatter
her, and then laugh at her affectation. It is a luxury to speak
the truth at all times, is it not, Lily? I detest everything
false, even a false word; therefore I fear Lady Helena will never
quite approve of my manner."
"You are so frank and fearless! At the Elms, do you remember how
every one seemed to feel that you would say just the right thing
at the right time?" asked Lillian.
"Do not mention that place," replied Beatrice; "this life is so
different. I like it so much, Lily--all the brightness and
gayety. I feel good and contented now. I was always restless
and longing for life; now I have all I wish for."
There was a pause then, and Lord Airlie longed to see who the
speakers were--who the girl was that spoke such frank, bright
words--that loved truth, and hated all things false--what kind
of face accompanied that voice. Suddenly the young earl
remembered that he was listening, and he started in horror from
his seat. He pushed aside the clustering roses. At first he saw
nothing but the golden blossoms of a drooping laburnum; then, a
little further on, he saw a fair head bending over some fragrant
flowers; then a face so beautiful, so perfect, that something
like a cry of surprise came from Lord Airlie's lips.
He had seen many beauties, but nothing like this queenly young
girl. Her dark, bright eyes were full of fire and light; the
long lashes swept her cheek, the proud, beautiful lips, so
haughty in repose, so sweet when smiling, were perfect in shape.
From the noble brow a waving mass of dark hair rippled over a
white neck and shapely shoulders. It was a face to think and
dream of, peerless in its vivid, exquisite coloring and
charmingly molded features. He hardly noticed the fair-haired
"Who can she be?" thought Lord Airlie. "I believed that I had
seen every beautiful woman in London."
Satisfied with having seen what kind of face accompanied the
voice, the young earl left the pretty rose thicket. His friends
must have thought him slightly deranged. He went about asking
every one, "Who is here today?" Among others, he saluted Lord
Dolchester with that question.
"I can scarcely tell you,"replied his lordship. "I am somewhat
in a puzzle. If you want to know who is the queen of the fete, I
can tell you. It is Lord Earle's daughter, Miss Beatrice Earle.
She is over there, see with Lady Downham."
Looking in the direction indicated, Lord Airlee saw the face that
"Yes," said Lord Dolchester, with a gay laugh; "and if I were
young and unfettered, she would not be Miss Earle much longer."
Lord Airlie gazed long and earnestly at the beautiful girl who
looked so utterly unconscious of the admiration she excited.
"I must ask Lady Downham to introduce me," he said to himself,
wondering whether the proud face would smile upon him, and, if
she carried into practice her favorite theory of saying what she
thought, what she would say to him.
Lady Downham smiled when the young earl made his request.
"I have been besieged by gentlemen requesting introductions to
Miss Earle," she said. "Contrary to your general rule, Lord
Airlie, you go with the crowd."
He would have gone anywhere for one word from those perfect lips.
Lady Downham led him to the spot where Beatrice stood, and in a
few courteous words introduced him to her.
Lord Airlie was celebrated for his amiable, pleasing manner. He
always knew what to say and how to say it, but when those
magnificent eyes looked into his own, the young earl stood silent
and abashed. In vain he tried confusedly to utter a few words;
his face flushed, and Beatrice looked at him in wonder.--Could
this man gazing so ardently at her be the impenetrable Lord
He managed at length to say something about the beauty of the
grounds and the brightness of the day. Plainly as eyes could
speak, hers asked: Had he nothing to say?
He lingered by her side, charmed and fascinated by her grace; she
talked to Lillian and to Lady Helena; she received the homage
offered to her so unconscious of his presence and his regard that
Lord Airlie was piqued. He was not accustomed to being
"Do you never grow tired of flowers and fetes, Miss Earle?" he
asked at length.
"No," replied Beatrice, "I could never grow tired of flowers--
who could? As for fetes, I have seen few, and have liked each
one better than the last."
"Perhaps your life has not been, like mine, spent among them," he
"I have lived among flowers," she replied, "but not among fetes;
they have all the charm of novelty for me."
"I should like to enjoy them as you do," he said. "I wish you
would teach me, Miss Earle."
She laughed gayly, and the sound of that laugh, like a sweet,
silvery chime, charmed Lord Airlie still more.
He found out the prettiest pleasure boat, and persuaded Beatrice
to let him row her across the lake. He gathered a beautiful
water lily for her. When they landed, he found out a seat in the
prettiest spot and placed her there.
Her simple, gay manner delighted him. He had never met any one
like her. She did not blush, or look conscious, or receive his
attentions with the half-fluttered sentimental air common to most
young ladies of his acquaintance.
She never appeared to remember that he was Lord Airlie, nor
sought by any artifice to keep him near her. The bright, sunny
hours seemed to pass rapidly as a dream. Long before the day
ended, the young earl said to himself that he had met his fate;
that if it took years to win her he would count them well spent
that in all the wide world she was the wife for him.
Lord Earle was somewhat amused by the solicitude the young
nobleman showed in making his acquaintance and consulting his
tastes. After Lady Downham's fete he called regularly at the
house. Lady Helena liked him, but could hardly decide which of
her grandchildren it was that attracted him.
The fastidious young earl, who had smiled at the idea of love and
had disappointed half the fashionable mothers in Belgravia, found
himself a victim at last.
He was diffident of his own powers, hardly daring to hope that he
should succeed in winning the most beautiful and gifted girl in
London. He was timid in her presence, and took refuge with
All fashionable London was taken by surprise when Lord Airlie
threw open his magnificent house, and, under the gracious
auspices of his aunt, Lady Lecomte, issued invitations for a
Many were the conjectures, and great was the excitement. Lord
Earle smiled as he showed Lady Helena the cards of invitation.
"Of course you will go," he said. "We have no engagement for
that day. See that the girls look their best, mother."
He felt very proud of his daughters--Lillian, looking so fair
and sweet in her white silk dress and favorite pearls! Beatrice,
like a queen, in a cloud of white lace, with coquettish dashes of
crimson. The Earle diamonds shone in her dark hair, clasped the
fair white throat, and encircled the beautiful arms. A
magnificent pomegranate blossom lay in the bodice of her dress,
and she carried a bouquet of white lilies mixed with scarlet
The excitement as to the ball had been great. It seemed like a
step in the right direction at last. The great question was,
with whom would Lord Airlie open the ball? Every girl was on the
The question was soon decided. When Beatrice Earle entered the
room, Lord Airlie went straight to meet her and solicited her
hand for the first dance. She did not know how much was meant by
that one action.
He wondered, as he looked upon her, the queen of the most
brilliant ball of the season, whether she would ever love him
if it was within the bounds of possibility that she should ever
care for him. That evening, for the first time, he touched the
proud heart of Beatrice Earle. On all sides she had heard
nothing but praises of Lord Airlie his wealth, his talents, his
handsome person and chivalrous manner. The ladies were eloquent
in praise of their young host. She looked at him, and for the
first time remarked the noble, dignified carriage, the tall,
erect figure, the clear-cut patrician face--not handsome
according to the rules of beauty, but from the truth and honor
written there in nature's plainest hand.
Then she saw--and it struck her with surprise how Lord Airlie,
so courted and run after, sought her out. She saw smiles on
friendly faces, and heard her name mingled with his.
"My dear Miss Earle," said Lady Everton, "you have accomplished
wonders--conquered the unconquerable. I believe every eligible
young lady in London has smiled upon Lord Airlie, and all in
vain. What charm have you used to bring him to your feet?"
"I did not know that he was at my feet," replied Beatrice. "You
like figurative language, Lady Everton."
"You will find I am right," returned lady Everton. "Remember I
was the first to congratulate you."
Beatrice wondered, in a sweet, vague way, if there could be
anything in it. She looked again at Lord Airlie. Surely any one
might be proud of the love of such a man. He caught her glance,
and her face flushed. In a moment he was by her side.
"Miss Earle," he said, eagerly, "you told me the other day you
liked flowers. If you have not been in the conservatory, may I
escort you there?"
She silently accepted his arm, and they went through the
magnificent suite of rooms into the cool, fragrant conservatory.
The pretty fountain in the midst rippled musically, and the lamps
gleamed like pale stars among masses of gorgeous color.
Beatrice was almost bewildered by the profusion of beautiful
plants. Tier upon tier of superb flowers rose until the eye was
dazzled by the varied hues and brightness--delicate white heaths
of rare perfection, flaming azaleas, fuchsias that looked like
showers of purple-red wine. The plant that charmed Beatrice most
was one from far-off Indian climes--delicate, perfumed blossoms,
hanging like golden bells from thick, sheltering green leaves.
Miss Earle stood before it, silent in sheer admiration.
"You like that flower?" said Lord Airlie.
"It is one of the prettiest I ever saw," she replied.
In a moment he gathered the fairest sprays from the precious
tree. She cried out in dismay at the destruction.
"Nay," said Lord Airlie, "if every flower here could be
compressed into one blossom, it would hardly be a fitting
offering to you."
She smiled at the very French compliment, and he continued--"I
shall always have a great affection for that tree."
"Why?" she asked, unconsciously.
"Because it has pleased you," he replied.
They stood by the pretty plant, Beatrice touching the golden
bells softly with her fingers. Something of the magic of the
scene touched her. She did not know why the fountain rippled so
musically, why the flowers seemed doubly fair as her young lover
talked to her. She had been loved. She had heard much of love,
but she herself had never known what it really meant. She did
not know why, after a time, her proud, bright eyes drooped, and
had never met Lord Airlie's gaze, why her face flushed and grew
pale, why his words woke a new, strange, beautiful music in her
heart--music that never died until--
"I ask for one spray--only one--to keep in memory of this
pleasant hour," said Lord Airlie, after a pause.
She gave him a spray of the delicate golden bells.
"I should like to be curious and rude," he said, "and ask if you
ever gave any one a flower before?"
"No," she replied.
"Then I shall prize this doubly," he assured her.
That evening Lord Airlie placed the golden blossom carefully
away. The time came when he would have parted with any treasure
on earth rather than that.
But his question had suddenly disturbed Beatrice. For a moment
her thoughts flew to the sea shore at Knutsford. The present
faded from her; she saw Hugh Fernely's face as it looked when he
offered her the beautiful lily. The very remembrance of it made
her shudder as though seized with deathly cold--and Lord Airlie
"You are cold," he said; "how careless I am to keep you standing
here!" He helped her to draw the costly lace shawl around her
shoulders, and Beatrice was quickly herself again, and they
returned to the ball room; but Lord Airlie lingered by Miss
"You have enjoyed the ball, Beatrice," said Lord Earle, as he
bade his daughters good night.
"I have, indeed, papa," she replied. "This has been the happiest
evening of my life."
"I can guess why," thought Lord Earle, as he kissed the bright
face upraised to him; "there will be no wretched underhand love
He was not much surprised on the day following when Lord Airlie
was the first morning caller, and the last to leave, not going
until Lady Helena told him that they should all be at the opera
that evening and should perhaps see him there. He regretted that
he had promised Lady Morton his box for the night, when Lady
Earle felt herself bound to ask him to join them in theirs.
All night Beatrice had dreamed of the true, noble face which
began to haunt her. She, usually so regardless of all flattery,
remembered every word Lord Airlie had spoken. Could it be true,
as Lady Everton had said, that he cared for her?
Her lover would have been spared many anxious hours could he have
seen how the golden blossoms were tended and cared for. Long
afterward they were found with the little treasures which young
girls guard so carefully.
When Lord Airlie had taken his departure and Lord Earle found
himself alone with his mother, he turned to her with the happiest
look she had ever seen upon his face.
"That seems to me a settled affair," he said. "Beatrice will
make a grand countess--Lady Airlie of Lynnton. He is the finest
young fellow and the best match in England. Ah, mother, my folly
might have been punished more severely. There will no
"No," said Lady Earle, "I have no fears for Beatrice; she is too
proud ever to do wrong."
It was a pretty love story, although told in crowded London ball
rooms instead of under the shade of green trees. Beatrice Earle
began by wondering if Lord Airlie cared for her; she ended by
loving him herself.
It was no child's play this time. With Beatrice, to love once
was to love forever, with fervor and intensity which cold and
worldly natures can not even understand.
The time came when Lord Airlie stood out distinct from all the
world, when the sound of his name was like music, when she saw no
other face, heard no other voice, thought of nothing else save
him. He began to think there might be some hope for him; the
proud, beautiful face softened and brightened for him as it did
for no other, and the glorious dark eyes never met his own, the
frank, bright words died away in his presence. Seeing all these
things, Lord Airlie felt some little hope.
For the first time he felt proud and pleased with the noble
fortune and high rank that were his by birthright. He had not
cared much for them before; now he rejoiced that he could lavish
wealth and luxury upon one so fair and worthy as Beatrice Earle.
Lord Airlie was not a confident lover. There were times when he
felt uncertain as to whether he should succeed. Perhaps true and
reverential love is always timid. Lord Earle had smiled to
himself many long weeks at the "pretty play" enacted before him,
and Lady Helena had wondered when the young man would "speak out"
long before Lord Airlie himself presumed to think that the
fairest and proudest girl in London would accept him.
No day ever passed during which he did not manage to see her. He
was indefatigable in finding out the balls, soirees, and operas
she would attend. He was her constant shadow, never happy out of
her sight, thinking of her all day, dreaming of her all night,
yet half afraid to risk all and ask her to be his wife, lest he
should lose her.
To uninterested speculators Lord Airlie was a handsome, kindly,
honorable young man. Intellectual, somewhat fastidious, lavishly
generous, a great patron of fine arts; to Beatrice Earle he was
the ideal of all that was noble and to be admired. He was a
prince among men. The proud heart was conquered. She loved him
and said to herself that she would rather love him as a neglected
wife than be the worshiped wife of any other man.
She had many admirers; "the beautiful Miss Earle" was the belle
of the season. Had she been inclined to coquetry or flirtation
she would not have been so eagerly sought after. The gentlemen
were quite as much charmed by her utter indifference and haughty
acceptance of their homage as by her marvelous beauty.
At times Beatrice felt sure that Lord Airlie loved her; then a
sudden fit of timidity would seize her young lover, and again she
would doubt it. One thing she never doubted--her own love for
him. If her dreams were all false, and he never asked her to be
his wife, she said to herself that she would never be the wife of
any other man.
The remembrance of Hugh Fernely crossed her mind at times--not
very often, and never with any great fear or apprehension. It
seemed to her more like a dark, disagreeable dream than a
reality. Could it be possible that she, Beatrice Earle, the
daughter of that proud, noble father, so sternly truthful, so
honorable, could ever have been so mad or so foolish? The very
remembrance of it made the beautiful face flush crimson. She
could not endure the thought, and always drove it hastily from
The fifteenth of July was drawing near; the two years had nearly
passed, yet she was not afraid. He might never return, he might
forget her, although, remembering his looks and words, that, she
feared, could not be.
If he went to Seabay--if he went to the Elms, it was not
probable that he would ever discover her whereabouts, or follow
her to claim the fulfillment of her absurd promise. At the very
worst, if he discovered that she was Lord Earle's daughter, she
believed that her rank and position would dazzle and frighten
him. Rarely as those thoughts came to her, and speedily as she
thrust them from her, she considered them a dear price for the
little novelty and excitement that had broken the dead level calm
of life at the Elms.
Lord Airlie, debating within himself whether he should risk,
during the whirl and turmoil of the London season, the question
upon which the happiness of his life depended, decided that he
would wait until Lord Earle returned to Earlescourt, and follow
The summer began to grow warm; the hawthorn and apple blossoms
had all died away; the corn waved in the fields, ripe and golden;
the hay was all gathered in; the orchards were all filled with
fruit. The fifteenth of July--the day that in her heart
Beatrice Earle had half feared--was past and gone. She had been
nervous and half frightened when it came, starting and turning
deathly pale at the sound of the bell or of rapid footsteps. She
laughed at herself when the day ended. How was it likely he
would find her? What was there in common between the beautiful
daughter of Lord Earle and Hugh Fernely, the captain of a trading
vessel? Nothing, save folly and a foolish promise rashly asked
and rashly given.
Three days before Lord Earle left London, he went by appointment
to meet some friends at Brookes's. While there, a gentleman
entered the room who attracted his attention, most forcibly--a
young man of tall and stately figure, with a noble head,
magnificently set upon broad shoulders; a fine, manly face, with
proud, mobile features--at times all fire and light, the eyes
clear and glowing, again, gentle as the face of a smiling woman.
Lord Earle looked at him attentively; there seemed to be
something familiar in the outline of the head and face, the
haughty yet graceful carriage.
"Who is that?" he inquired of his friend, Captain Langdon. "I
have seen that gentleman before, or have dreamed of him."
"Is it possible that you do not know him?" cried the captain.
"That is Lionel Dacre, 'your next of kin,' if I am not mistaken."
Pleasure and pain struggled in Lord Earle's heart. He remembered
Lionel many years ago, long before he committed the foolish act
that had cost him so much. Lionel had spent some time with him
at Earlescourt; he remembered a handsome and high-spirited boy,
proud and impetuous, brave to rashness, generous to a fault; a
fierce hater of everything mean and underhand; truthful and
honorable--his greatest failing, want of cool, calm thought.
Lionel Dacre was poor in those days; now he was heir to
Earlescourt, heir to the title that, with all his strange
political notions, Ronald Earle ever held in high honor; heir to
the grand old mansion and fair domain his father had prized so
highly. Pleasure and pain were strangely intermingled in his
heart when he remembered that no son of his would every succeed
him, that he should never train his successor. The handsome boy
that had grown into so fine a man must take his place one day.
Lord Earle crossed the room, and going up to the young man, laid
one hand gently upon his shoulder.
"Lionel," he said, "it is many years since we met. Have you no
remembrance of me?"
The frank, clear eyes looked straight into his. Lord Earle's
heart warmed as he gazed at the honest, handsome face.
"Not the least in the world," replied Mr. Dacre, slowly. "I do
not remember ever to have seen you before."
"Then I must have changed," said Lord Earle. "when I saw you
last, Lionel, you were not much more than twelve years old, and I
gave you a 'tip' the day you went back to Eton. Charlie Villiers
was with you."
"Then you are Lord Earle," returned Lionel. "I came to London
purposely to see you," and his frank face flushed, and he held
out his hand in greeting.
"I have been anxious to see you," said Lord Earle; "but I have
not been long in England. We must be better acquainted; you are
my heir at law."
"Your what?" said Mr. Dacre, wonderingly.
"My heir," replied Lord Earle. "I have no son; my estates are
entailed, and you are my next of kin."
"I thought you had half a dozen heirs and heiresses," said
Lionel. "I remember some story of a romantic marriage. Today I
hear of nothing but the beautiful Miss Earle."
"I have no son," interrupted Lord Earle, sadly. "I wrote to you
last week, asking you to visit me. Have you any settled home?"
"No," replied the young man gayly. "My mother is at Cowes, and I
have been staying with her."
"Where are you now?" asked Lord Earle.
"I am with Captain Poyntz, at his chambers; I promised to spend
some days with him," replied Lionel, who began to look slightly
"I must not ask you to break an engagement," said Lord Earle,
"but will you dine with us this evening, and, when you leave
Captain Poyntz, come to us?"
"I shall be very pleased," said Lionel, and the two gentlemen
left Brookes's together.
"I must introduce you to Lady Earle and my daughters," said
Ronald, as they walked along. "I have been so long absent from
home and friends that it seems strange to claim relationship with
"I could never understand your fancy for broiling in Africa, when
you might have been happier at home," said Lionel.
"Did you not know? Have you not heard why I went abroad?" asked
Lord Earle, gravely.
"No," replied Lionel. "Your father never invited me to
Earlescourt after you left."
In a few words Lord Earle told his heir that he had married
against his father's wish, and in consequence had never been
"And you gave up everything," said Lionel Dacre--"home, friends,
and position, for the love of a woman. She must have been well
Lord Earle grew pale, as with sudden pain. Had Dora been so well
worth loving? Had she been worth the heavy price?
"You are my heir," he said gravely--"one of my own race; before
you enter our circle, Lionel, and take your place there, I must
tell you that my wife and I parted years ago, never to meet
again. Do not mention her to me--it pains me."
Lionel looked at the sad face; he could understand the shadows
"I will not," he said. "She must have been--"
"Not one word more," interrupted Lord Earle. "In your thoughts
lay no unjust blame on her. She left me of her own free will.
My mother lives with me; she will be pleased to see you.
"I shall not forget," said Lionel, pained at the sad words and
the sad voice.
As Lord Earle went home for the first time during the long years,
a softer and more gentle thought of Dora came to him. "She must
have been--" What--what did Lionel suspect of her? Could it
be that, seeing their divided lives, people judged as his young
kinsman had judged--that they thought Dora to blame--criminal,
perhaps? And she had never in her whole life given one thought
to any other than himself; nay, her very errors--the deed he
could not pardon--sprung from her great affection for him. Poor
Dora! The pretty, blushing face, with its sweet, shy eyes, and
rosy lips, came before him--the artless, girlish love, the
tender worship. If it had been anything else, any other fault,
Ronald must have forgiven her in that hour. But his whole heart
recoiled again as the hated scene rose before him.
"No," he said, "I can not forgive it. I can not forget it. Men
shall respect Dora; no one must misjudge her; but I can not take
her to my heart or my home again. In the hour of death," he
murmured, "I will forgive her."
Lady Earle thought her son looked graver and sadder that day than
she had ever seen him. She had not the clew to his reflections;
she did not know how he was haunted by the thought of the
handsome, gallant young man who must be his heir--how he
regretted that no son of his would ever succeed him--how proud
he would have been of a son like Lionel. He had but two
children, and they must some day leave Earlescourt for homes of
their own. The grand old house, the fair domain, must all pass
into the hands of strangers unless Lionel married one of the
beautiful girls he loved so dearly.
Lady Helena understood a little of what was passing in his mind
when he told her that he had met Lionel Dacre, who was coming to
dine with him that day.
"I used to hope Beatrice might like him," said Lady Earle; "but
that will never be--Lord Airlie has been too quick. I hope he
will not fall in love with her; it would only end in
"He may like Lillian," said Lord Earle.
"Yes," assented Lady Helena. "Sweet Lily--she seems almost too
pure and fair for this dull earth of ours."
"If they both marry, mother," said Ronald, sadly, "we shall be
"Yes," she returned, "quite alone," and the words smote her with
pain. She looked at the handsome face, with its sad, worn
expression. Was life indeed all over for her son--at the age,
too, when other men sunned themselves in happiness, when a loving
wife should have graced his home, cheered and consoled him,
shared his sorrows, crowned his life with love? In the midst of
his wealth and prosperity, how lonely he was! Could it be
possible that one act of disobedience should have entailed such
sad consequences? Ah, if years ago Ronald had listened to
reason, to wise and tender counsel--if he had but given up Dora
and married Valentine Charteris, how different his life would
have been, how replete with blessings and happiness, how free
Lady Earle's eyes grew dim with tears as these thoughts passed
through her mind. She went up to him and laid her hand upon his
"Ronald," she said, "I will do my best to make home happy after
our bonny birds are caged. For your sake, I wish things had been
"Hush, mother," he replied gently. "Words are all useless. I
must reap as I have sown; the fruits of disobedience and deceit
could never beget happiness. I shall always believe that evil
deeds bring their own punishment. Do not pity me--it unnerves
me. I can bear my fate."
Lady Helena was pleased to see Lionel again. She had always
liked him, and rejoiced now in his glorious manhood. He stood
before the two sisters, half dazzled by their beauty. The fair
faces smiled upon him; pretty, white hands were outstretched to
meet his own.
"I am bewildered by my good fortune," he said. "I shall be the
envy of every man in London; people will no longer call me Lionel
Dacre. I shall be known as the cousin of 'Les Demoiselles
Earle.' I have neither brother nor sister of my own. Fancy the
happiness of falling into the midst of such a family group."
"And being made welcome there!" interrupted Beatrice. Lionel
bowed profoundly. At first he fancied he preferred this
brilliant, beautiful girl to her fair, gentle sister. Her frank,
fearless talk delighted him. After the general run of young
ladies--all fashioned, he thought, after one model--it was
refreshing to meet her. Her ideas were so original.
Lord Airlie joined the little dinner party, and then Lionel Dacre
read the secret which Beatrice hardly owned even to herself.
"I shall not be shipwrecked on that rock," he said to himself.
"When Beatrice Earle speaks to me her eyes meet mine; she smiles,
and does not seem afraid of me; but when Lord Airlie speaks she
turns from him, and her beautiful eyes droop. She evidently
cares more for him than for all the world besides."
But after a time the fair, spirituelle loveliness of Lillian
stole into his heart. There was a marked difference between the
two sisters. Beatrice took one by storm, so to speak; her
magnificent beauty and queenly grace dazzled and charmed one.
With Lillian it was different. Eclipsed at first sight by her
more brilliant sister, her fair beauty grew upon one by degrees.
The sweet face, the thoughtful brow, the deep dreamy eyes, the
golden ripples of hair, the ethereal expression on the calm
features, seemed gradually to reveal their charm. Many who at
first overlooked Lillian, thinking only of her brilliant sister,
ended by believing her to be the more beautiful of the two.
They stood together that evening, the two sisters, in the
presence of Lord Airlie and Lionel Dacre. Beatrice had been
singing, and the air seemed still to vibrate with the music of
her passionate voice.
"You sing like a siren," said Mr. Dacre; he felt no diffidence in
offering so old a compliment to his kins-woman.
"No," replied Beatrice; "I may sing well--in fact, I believe I
do. My heart is full of music, and it overflows on my lips; but
I am no siren, Mr. Dacre. No one ever heard of a siren with
dusky hair and dark brows like mine."
"I should have said you sing like an enchantress," interposed
Lord Airlie, hoping that he was apter in his compliments.
"You have been equally wrong, my lord," she replied, but she did
not laugh at him as she had done at Lionel. "If I were an
enchantress," she continued, "I should just wave my wand, and
that vase of flowers would come to me; as it is, I must go to it.
Who can have arranged those flowers? They have been troubling me
for the last half hour." She crossed the room, and took from a
small side table an exquisite vase filled with blossoms.
"See," she cried, turning to Lionel, "white heath, white roses,
white lilies, intermixed with these pale gray flowers! There is
no contrast in such an arrangement. Watch the difference which a
glowing pomegranate blossom or a scarlet verbena will make."
"You do not like such quiet harmony?" said Lionel, smiling,
thinking how characteristic the little incident was.
"No," she replied; "give me striking contrasts. For many years
the web of my life was gray-colored, and I longed for a dash of
scarlet in its threads."
"You have it now," said Mr. Dacre, quietly.
"Yes," she said, as she turned her beautiful, bright fact to him;
"I have it now, never to lose it again."
Lord Airlie, looking on and listening, drinking in every word
that fell from her lips, wondered whether love was the scarlet
thread interwoven with her life. He sighed deeply as he said to
himself that it would not be; this brilliant girl could never
care for him. Beatrice heard the sigh and turned to him.
"Does your taste resemble mine, Lord Airlie?"
"I," interrupted Lord Airlie--"I like whatever you like, Miss
"Yourself best of all," whispered Lionel to Beatrice with a
* * * * * * * * * * * *
As Mr. Dacre walked home that evening, he thought long and
anxiously about the two young girls, his kins-women. What was
the mystery? he asked himself--what skeleton was locked away in
the gay mansion? Where was Lord Earle's wife--the lady who
ought to have been at the head of his table--the mother of his
children? Where was she? Why was her place empty? Why was her
husband's face shadowed and lined with care?
"Lillian Earle is the fairest and sweetest girl I have ever met,"
he said to himself. "I know there is danger for me in those
sweet, true eyes, but if there be anything wrong--if the mother
is blameworthy--I will fly from the danger. I believe in
hereditary virtue and in hereditary vice. Before I fall in love
with Lillian, I must know her mother's story."
So he said, and he meant it. There was no means of arriving at
the knowledge. The girls spoke at times of their mother, and it
was always with deep love and respect. Lady Helena mentioned
her, but her name never passed the lips of Lord Earle. Lionel
Dacre saw no way of obtaining information in the matter.
There was no concealment as to Dora's abode. Once, by special
privilege, he was invited into the pretty room where the ladies
sat in the morning--a cozy, cheerful room, into which visitors
never penetrated. There, upon the wall, he saw a picture framed
a beautiful landscape, a quiet homestead in the midst of rich,
green meadows; and Lillian told him, with a smile, that was the
Elms, at Knutsford, "where mamma lived."
Lionel was too true a gentleman to ask why she lived there; he
praised the painting, and then turned the subject.
As Lady Earle foresaw, the time had arrived when Dora's children
partly understood there was a division in the family, a breach
never to be healed. "Mamma was quite different from papa," they
said to each other; and Lady Helena told them their mother did
not like fashion and gayety, that she had been simply brought up,
used always to quietness and solitude, so that in all probability
she would never come to Earlescourt.
But as time went on, and Beatrice began to understand more of the
great world, she had an instinctive idea of the truth. It came
to her by slow degrees. Her father had married beneath him, and
her mother had no home in the stately hall of Earlescourt. At
first violent indignation seized her; then calmer reflection told
her she could not judge correctly. She did not know whether Lord
Earle had left his wife, or whether her mother had refused to
live with him.
It was the first cloud that shadowed the life of Lord Earle's
beautiful daughter. The discovery did not diminish her love for
the quiet, sad mother, whose youth and beauty had faded so soon.
If possible, she loved her more; there was a pitying tenderness
in her affection.
"Poor mamma!" thought the young girl--"poor, gentle mamma! I
must be doubly kind to her, and love her better than ever."
Dora did not understand how it happened that her beautiful
Beatrice wrote so constantly and so fondly to her--how it
happened that week after week costly presents found their way to
"The child must spend all her pocket money on me," she said to
herself. "How well and dearly she loves me--my beautiful
Lady Helena remembered the depth of her mother's love. She
pitied the lonely, unloved wife, deprived of husband and
children. She did all in her power to console her. She wrote
long letters, telling Dora how greatly her children were admired,
and how she would like their mother to witness their triumph.
She told how many conquests Beatrice had made; how the proud and
exclusive Lord Airlie was always near her, and that Beatrice, of
her own fancy, liked him better than any one else.
"Neither Lord Earle nor myself could wish a more brilliant future
for Beatrice," wrote Lady Helena. "As Lady Airlie of Lynnton,
she will be placed as her birth and beauty deserve."
But even Lady Helena was startled when she read Dora's reply. It
was a wild prayer that her child should be saved--spared the
deadly perils of love and marriage--left to enjoy her innocent
"There is no happy love," wrote poor Dora, "and never can be.
Men can not be patient, gentle, and true. It is ever self they
worship--self-reflected in the woman they love. Oh, Lady
Helena, let my child be spared! Let no so-called love come near
her! Love found me out in my humble home, and wrecked all my
life. Do not let my bright, beautiful Beatrice suffer as I have
done. I would rather fold my darlings in my arms and lie down
with them to die than live to see them pass through the cruel
mockery of love and sorrow which I have endured. Lady Helena, do
not laugh; your letter distressed me. I dreamed last night,
after reading it, that I placed a wedding veil on my darling's
head, when, as it fell round her, it changed suddenly into a
shroud. A mother's love is true, and mine tells me that Beatrice
is in danger."
"I have been abroad long enough," said Lord Earle, in reply to
some remark made by Lady Helena. "The girls do not care for the
sea--Beatrice dislikes it even; so I think we can not do better
than to return to Earlescourt. It may not be quite fashionable,
but it will be very pleasant."
"Yes," said Lady Earle; "there is no place I love so well as
home. We owe our neighbors something, too. I am almost ashamed
when I remember how noted Earlescourt once was for its gay and
pleasant hospitality. We must introduce the girls to our
neighbors. I can foresee quite a cheerful winter."
"Let us get over the summer and autumn," said Ronald with a
smile, "then we will look the winter bravely in the face. I
suppose, mother, you can guess who has managed to procure an
invitation to Earlescourt!"
"Lord Airlie?" asked Lady Helena.
"Yes," was the laughing reply. "It did me good, mother--it made
me feel young and happy again to see and hear him. His handsome,
frank face clouded when I told him we were going; then he sighed
said London would be like a desert--declared he could not go
to Lynnton, the place was full of work-people. He did not like
Scotland, and was as homeless as a wealthy young peer with
several estates could well be. I allowed him to bewilder himself
with confused excuses and blunders, and then asked him to join us
at Earlescourt. He almost 'jumped for joy,' as the children say.
He will follow us in a week or ten days. Lionel will come with
"I am very pleased," said Lady Earle. "Next to you, Ronald, I
love Lionel Dacre; his frank, proud, fearless disposition has a
great charm for me. He is certainly like Beatrice. How he
detests everything false, just as she does!"
"Yes," said Ronald, gravely; "I am proud of my children. There
is no taint of untruth or deceit there, mother; they are worthy
of their race. I consider Beatrice the noblest girl I have ever
known; and I love my sweet Lily just as well."
"You would not like to part with them now?" said Lady Earle.
"I would sooner part with my life!" he replied. "I am not given
to strong expressions, mother, but even you could never guess how
my life is bound up in theirs."
"Then let me say one word, Ronald," said his mother; "remember
Dora loves them as dearly and as deeply as you do. Just think
for a moment what it has cost her to give them up to you! She
must see them soon, with your full consent and permission. They
can go to her if you will."
"You are right, mother," he said, after a few minutes. "They are
Dora's children, and she ought to see them; but they must not
return to that farm house--I can not bear the thought of it.
Surely they can meet on neutral ground--at your house, say, or
in London; and let it be at Christmas."
"It had better be in London," said Lady Helena. "I will write to
Dora, and tell her. The very anticipation of it will make her
happy until the time arrives--she loves the children so dearly."
And again a softened thought of Dora came to her husband. Of
course she loved them. The little villa at Florence rose before
him; he saw vividly, as though he had left it but yesterday, the
pretty vine-shaded room where Dora used to sit nursing the little
ones. He remembered her sweet patience, her never-failing,
gentle love. Had he done right to wound that sad heart afresh by
taking those children from her? Was it a just and fitting reward
for the watchful love and care of those lonely years?
He would fain have pardoned her, but he could not; and he said to
himself again: "In the hour of death! I will forgive her then."
* * * * * * * * * * * *
The glowing August, so hot and dusty in London, was like a dream
of beauty at Earlescourt. The tall trees gave grateful shelter,
baffling the sun's warm rays; the golden corn stood in the broad
fields ready for the sickle; the hedge-rows were filled with
flowers. The beech trees in the park were in full perfection.
Fruit hung ripe and heavy in the orchards. It was no longer the
blossoming promise of spring, but the perfect glory of summer.
For many long years Earlescourt had not been so gay. The whole
country-side rang with fashionable intelligence. The house was
filled with visitors, Lord Airlie heading the list. Lionel
Dacre, thinking but little of the time when the grand old place
would be his own, was full of life and spirits.
Long arrears of hospitalities and festivities had to be repaid to
the neighborhood. Beatrice and Lillian had to make their debut
there. Lady Helena decided upon commencing the programme with a
grand dinner party, to be followed by a ball in the evening.
Ronald said something about the weather being warm for dancing.
"We danced in London, papa," said Beatrice, "when the heat was so
great that I should not have felt any surprise if the whole
roomful of people had dissolved. Here we have space--large,
cool rooms, fresh air, a conservatory as large as a London house;
it will be child's play in comparison with what we have gone
"Miss Earle is quite right," said Lord Airlie. "A ball during
the season in London is a toil; here it would be nothing but a
"Then a ball let it be," said Lord Earle. "Lillian, make out a
list of invitations, and head it with Sir Harry and Lady Laurence
of Holtham Hall. That reminds me, their eldest son, Gaspar, came
home yesterday from Germany; do not forget to include him."
"Little Gaspar," cried Lady Helena--"has he returned? I should
like to see him."
"Little Gaspar," said Lord Earle, laughing, "is six feet high
now, mother. You forget how time flies; he is taller than
Lionel, and a fine, handsome young fellow he is. He will be
quite an acquisition."
Lord Earle was too much engrossed to remark the uneasiness his
few words had caused. Lord Airlie winced at the idea of a rival
a handsome man, and sentimental, too, as all those people
educated in Germany are!
"I can not understand what possesses English people to send their
sons abroad for education," he said to Beatrice--"and to Germany
of all places in the world."
"Why should they not?" she asked.
"The people are so absurdly sentimental," he replied. "Whenever
I see a man with long hair and dreamy eyes, I know he is a
"You are unjust," said Beatrice, as she left him to join Lillian.
"You are jealous," said Lionel, who had overheard the
conversation. "Look out for a rival in the lists, my lord."
"I wish this tiresome ball were over," sighed Lord Airlie. "I
shall have no chance of speaking while it is on the tapis."
But he soon forgot his chagrin. The formidable Gaspar appeared
that very morning, and, although Lord Airlie could perceive that
he was at once smitten with Beatrice's charms, he also saw that
she paid no heed whatever to the new-comer; indeed, after a few
words of courteous greeting, she returned to the point under
discussion--what flowers would look best in the ball room.
"If we have flowers at all," she said, imperiously, "let them be
a gorgeous mass of bloom--something worth looking at; not a few
pale blossoms standing here and there like 'white sentinels'; let
us have flowers full of life and fragrance. Lillian, you know
what I mean; you remember Lady Manton's flowers--tier after tier
of magnificent color."
"You like to do everything en reine, Beatrice," said Lady Helena,
with a well-pleased smile.
"If you have not flowers sufficient, Miss Earle," said Lord
Airlie, "I will send to Lynnton. My gardener considers himself a
past master of his art."
"My dear Lord Airlie," said Lady Earle, "we have flowers in
profusion. You have not been through the conservatories. It
would while away the morning pleasantly for you all. Beatrice,
select what flowers you will, and have them arranged as you
"See," said the triumphant beauty, "what a grand thing a strong
will is! Imagine papa's saying he thought thirty or forty plants
in full flower would be sufficient! We will surprise him. If
the gardener loses his reason, as Lady Earle seems to think
probable, he must be taken care of."
Lord Airlie loved Beatrice best in such moods; imperious and
piquant, melting suddenly into little gleams of tenderness, then
taking refuge in icy coldness and sunny laughter. Beautiful,
dazzling, capricious, changing almost every minute, yet charming
as she changed, he would not have bartered one of her proudest
smiles or least words for anything on earth.
He never forgot that morning spent among the flowers. It was a
glimpse of elysium to him. The way in which Beatrice contrived
to do as she liked amused him; her face looked fairer than ever
among the blooming flowers.
"There is the bell for lunch," she said at last. "We have been
here nearly three hours."
"Most of your attendants look slightly deranged," said Lionel.
"I am sure I saw poor Donald weeping over his favorite plants.
He told me confidentially they would be fit for nothing after the
heat of the ball room."
"I shall invent some means of consolation for him," she replied.
"I like dancing among the bright flowers. Why should we not have
everything gay and bright and beautiful, if we can?"
"Why not?" said Lionel, gravely. "Ah, Miss Earle, why are we not
always young and beautiful and happy? Why must flowers die,
beauty fade, love grow old? Ask a philosopher--do not ask me.
I know the answer, but let some one else give it to you."
"Philosophy does not interest me at present," she said. "I like
flowers, music, and dancing better. I hope I shall never tire of
them; sometimes--but that is only when I am serious or tired--I
feel that I shall never live to grow old. I can not imagine my
eyes dim or my hair gray. I can not imagine my heart beating
slowly. I can not realize a day when the warmth and beauty of
life will have changed into cold and dullness."
Even as she spoke a gentle arm stole round her, a fair,
spirituelle face, eyes full of clear, saintly light looked into
hers, and a soft voice whispered to her of something not earthly,
not of flowers and music, not of life and gayety, something far
beyond these, and the proud eyes for a moment grew dim with
"Lily," she said, "I am not so good as you, but I will endeavor
to be. Let me enjoy myself first, just for a short time; I will
be good, dear."
Her mood changed then, and Lord Airlie thought her more
entrancing than ever.
"That is the kind of wife I want," thought Lionel Dacre to
himself, looking at Lillian--"some one to guide me, to teach me.
Ah, if women only understood their mission! That girl looked as
I can imagine only guardian angels look--I wish she would be
Lord Airlie left the conservatory, with its thousand flowers,
more in love than ever.
He would wait, he said to himself, until the ball was over; then
he would ask Beatrice Earle to be his wife. If she refused him,
he would go far away where no one knew him; if she accepted him,
he would be her devoted slave. She should be a queen, and he
would be her knight.
Ah! What thanks would he return to Heaven if so great a blessing
should be his.
Lord Airlie muttered something that was not a benediction when,
on the morning following, Gaspar Laurence made his appearance at
"We can not receive visitors this morning," said Beatrice, half
impatiently. "Mr. Laurence must have forgotten the ball
But Mr. Laurence had forgotten nothing of the kind. It was a
delicious morning, the sun shining brightly and clearly, the
westerly breeze blowing fresh and cool. He had thought it likely
that the young ladies would spend the morning out-of-doors, and
begged permission to join them.
Lady Earle was pleased with the idea. Lord Airlie mentioned
something about fatigue, but he was overruled.
"Stroll in the grounds," said Lady Helena; "go down by the lake;
I will join you there afterward. A few hours in the fresh air
will be the best preparation for the ball."
They went together. Gaspar's preference soon became apparent
he would not leave Beatrice, and Lord Airlie devotedly wished him
at the antipodes.
They sat down under the shade of a tall lady-birch, the deep,
sunlit lake shining through the trees. Then Gaspar, taking a
little book in his hands, asked:
"Have you read 'Undine,' Miss Earle--Fonque's 'Undine?'"
"No," she replied; "I am half ashamed to say so."
"It is the sweetest, saddest story ever written," he continued.
"This is just the morning for it. May I read it to you?"
There was a general and pleased murmur of assent. Lord Airlie
muttered to himself that he knew the fellow would air his German
sentiment--at their expense.
Still it was very pleasant. There was a gentle ripple on the
deep lake, the water washed among the tall reeds, and splashed
with a faint, musical murmur on the stones; the thick leafy
branches rustled in the wind; the birds sang in the trees.
Gaspar Laurence read well; his voice was clear and distinct; not
a word of the beautiful story was lost.
Beatrice listened like one in a dream. Her proud, bright face
softened, her magnificent eyes grew tender and half sad. Gaspar
read on--of the fair and lovely maiden, of the handsome young
knight and his love, of the water sprite, grim old Kuhlehorn, and
the cottage where Undine dwelt, of the knight's marriage, and
then of proud, beautiful Bertha.
The rippling of the lake and the singing of the birds seemed like
an accompaniment to the words, so full of pathos. Then Gaspar
came to Bertha's love for the knight--their journey on the river
to the huge hand rising and snatching the jewel from Undine's
soft fingers, while the knight's love grew cold.
Even the waters of the lake seemed to sob and sigh as Gaspar read
on of sweet, sad Undine and of her unhappy love, of Bertha's
proud triumph, her marriage with the knight, and the last, most
beautiful scene of all--Undine rising from the unsealed fountain
and going to claim her love.
"How exquisite!" said Beatrice, drawing a long, deep breath. "I
did not know there was such a story in the world. That is indeed
a creation of genius. I shall never forget Undine."
Her eyes wandered to the sweet spirituelle face and fair golden
hair of her sister. Lionel Dacre's glance followed hers.
"I know what you are thinking of," he said--"Miss Lillian is a
perfect Undine. I can fancy her, with clasped hands and sad
eyes, standing between the knight and Bertha, or rising with
shadowy robes from the open fountain."
"It is a beautiful creation," said Beatrice, gently. "Lillian
would be an ideal Undine--she is just as gentle, as fair, as
true. I am like Bertha, I suppose; at least I know I prefer my
own way and my own will."
"You should give some good artist a commission to paint a
picture," said Lord Airlie. "Choose the scene in the boat
Undine bending over the water, a dreamy expression on her fair
face; Bertha sitting by the knight, proud, bright, and half
scornful of her companion. Imagine the transparent water
Undine's little hand half lost in it, and the giant fingers
clasping hers. I wonder that an artist has never painted that
"Who would do for the knight?" said Beatrice. "Lillian and I
will never dispute over a knight."
"Artists would find some difficulty in that picture," said
Lillian. "How could one clothe a beautiful ideal like Undine?
Sweeping robes and waving plumes might suit Bertha; but how could
one depict Undine?"
"The knight is the difficulty," laughed Lionel.
"Why should we not go out on the lake now?" said Gaspar; "I will
"I have been wishing for the last ten minutes," replied Beatrice,
"to be upon the lake. I want to put my hand in the water and see
Gaspar was not long in getting a pleasure boat out of the boat
house. Lionel managed to secure a seat near his Undine, and Lord
Airlie by his Beatrice.
It was even more pleasant on the water than on the land; the boat
moved easily along, the fresh, clear breeze helping it.
"Steer for those pretty water lilies," said Beatrice, "they look
so fresh and shining in the sun."
And as they floated over the water, her thoughts went back to
that May morning when Lillian sat upon the cliffs and sketched
the white far-off sails. How distant it seemed! She longed then
for life. Now every sweet gift which life could bestow was here,
crowned with love. Yet she sighed as Hugh Fernely's face rose
before her. If she could but forget it! After all it had been
on her side but a mockery of love. Yet another sigh broke from
her lips, and then Lord Airlie looked anxiously at her.
"Does anything trouble you, Miss Earle?" he asked. "I never
remember to have seen you so serious before."
She looked for a moment wistfully into his face. Ah, if he could
help her, if he could drive this haunting memory from her, if
ever it could be that she might tell him of this her trouble and
ask him to save her from Hugh Fernely! But that was impossible.
Almost as though in answer to her thought, Gaspar Laurence began
to tell them of an incident that had impressed him. A gentleman,
a friend of his, after making unheard-of sacrifices to marry a
lady who was both beautiful and accomplished, left her suddenly,
and never saw her again, the reason being that he discovered that
she had deceived him by telling him a willful lie before her
marriage. Gaspar seemed to think she had been hardly used. Lord
Airlie and Lionel differed from him.
"I am quite sure," said Lord Airlie, "that I could pardon
anything sooner than a lie; all that is mean, despicable, and
revolting to me is expressed in the one word, 'liar.' Sudden
anger, passion, hot revenge--anything is more easily forgiven.
When once I discover that a man or woman has told me a lie, I
never care to see their face again."
"I agree with you," said Lionel; "perhaps I even go further. I
would never pardon an air of deceit; those I love must be
straightforward, honest, and sincere always."
"Such a weight of truth might sink the boat," said Beatrice,
carelessly; but Lord Airlie's words had gone straight to her
heart. If he only knew. But he never would. And again she
wished that in reply to her father's question she had answered
The time came when Lillian remembered Mr. Dacre's words, and knew
they had not been spoken in vain.
Beatrice had taken off her glove, and drew her hand trough the
cool, deep water; thinking intently of the story she had just
heard--of Undine and the water-sprites--she leaned over the
boat's side and gazed into the depths. The blue sky and white
fleecy clouds, the tall green trees and broad leaves, were all
reflected there. There was a strange, weird fascination in the
placid water--what went on in the depths beneath? What lay
beneath the ripples? Suddenly she drew back with a startled cry
a cry that rang out in the clear summer air, and haunted Lord
Airlie while he lived. He looked at her; her face had grown
white, even to the very lips, and a nameless, awful dread lay in
her dark eyes.
"What is it?" he asked, breathlessly. She recovered herself with
a violent effort, and tried to smile.
"How foolish I am!" she said; "and what is worse you will all
laugh at me. It was sheer fancy and nonsense, I know; but I
declare that looking down into the water, I saw my own face there
with such a wicked, mocking smile that it frightened me."
"It was the simple reflection," said Lionel Dacre. "I can see
mine. Look again, Miss Earle."
"No," she replied, with a shudder; "it is only nonsense, I know,
but it startled me. The face seemed to rise from the depths and
smile--oh, oh, such a smile! When shall I forget it?"
"It was only the rippling of the water which distorted the
reflection," said Lord Airlie.
Beatrice made no reply, but drew her lace shawl around her as
though she were cold.
"I do not like the water," she said presently; "it always
frightens me. Let us land, Mr. Laurence, please. I will never
go on the lake again."
Gaspar laughed, and Mr. Dacre declared Beatrice had had too
strong a dose of Undine and the water-sprites. Lord Airlie felt
her hand tremble as he helped her to leave the boat. He tried to
make her forget the incident by talking of the ball and the
pleasure it would bring. She talked gayly, but every now and
then he saw that she shuddered as though icily cold.
When they were entering the house she turned round, and, in her
charming, imperious way, said:
"None of you must tell papa about my fright. I should not like
him to think that an Earle could be either fanciful or a coward.
I am brave enough on land."
The heat had tried both girls, and Lady Helena said they must
rest before dinner. She made Beatrice lie down upon the cosy
little couch in her dressing room. She watched the dark eyes
close, and thought how beautiful the young face looked in repose.
But the girl's sleep was troubled. Lady Earle, bending over her,
heard her sigh deeply and murmur something about the "deep
water." She awoke, crying out that she saw her own face, and Lady
Earle saw great drops of perspiration standing in beads upon her
"What have you been dreaming of, child?" she asked. "Young girls
like you ought to sleep like flowers."
"Flowers never quite close their eyes," said Beatrice, with a
smile. "I shut mine, but my brain is active, it seems, even in
sleep. I was dreaming of the lake, Lady Helena. Dreams are very
wonderful; do they ever come true?"
"I knew one that did," replied Lady Earle. "When I was young, I
had a friend whom I loved very dearly--Laura Reardon. A
gentleman, a Captain Lemuel, paid great attention to her. She
loved him--my poor Laura--as I hope few people love. For many
months he did everything but make an offer--saw her ever day,
sent her flowers, books, and music, won her heart by a thousand
sweet words and gentle deeds. She believed he was in earnest,
and never suspected him of being a male flirt. He left London,
suddenly, saying goodbye to her in the ordinary way, and speaking
of his return in a few weeks.
"She came to me one morning and told me a strange dream. She
dreamed she was dead, and lay buried in the center aisle of an
old country church. At the same time, and in the usual vague
manner of dreams, she was conscious of an unusual stir. She
heard carriages drive up to the church door; she heard the
rustling of dresses, the sound of footsteps above her head, the
confused murmur of a crowd of people; then she became aware that
a marriage was going on. She heard the minister ask:
"'George Victor Lemuel, will you have this woman for your lawful
"The voice she knew and loved best in the world replied:
"'Alice Ferrars, will you take this man for your lawful wedded
"'I will,' replied the clear, low voice.
"She heard the service finished, the wedding bells peal, the
carriages drive away. I laughed at her, Beatrice; but the
strange thing is, Captain George Lemuel was married on the very
day Laura dreamed the dream. He married a young lady, Alice
Ferrars, and Laura had never heard of the name before she dreamed
it. The marriage took place in an old country church. That
dream came true, Beatrice; I never heard of another dream like
"Did your friend die?" she asked.
"No," replied Lady Helena; "she did not die, but her life was
spoiled by her unhappy love."
"I should have died had it been my disappointment," said
Beatrice; "the loss of what one loves must be more bitter than
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Far and near nothing was spoken of but the ball at Earlescourt.
Anything so brilliant or on so grand a scale had not been given
in the county for many years.
Lord Earle felt proud of the arrangements as he looked through
the ball room and saw the gorgeous array of flowers, tier upon
tier of magnificent bloom, a sight well worth coming many miles
to see. Here and there a marble statue stood amid the flowers.
Little fountains of scented water rippled musically. He stopped
for a few moments looking at the blossoms and thinking of his
"How she loves everything bright and gay!" he said to himself.
"She will be queen of the ball tonight."
As Lord Earle stood alone in his library that evening, where he
had been reading, stealing a quiet half hour, there came a gentle
knock at the door.
"Come in," he said, and there stood before him something that he
thought must be a vision.
"Grandmamma sent me," said Beatrice, blushing, "to see if I
should do. You are to notice my diamonds, papa, and tell me if
you approve of the setting."
As he looked at the radiant figure a sense of wonder stole over
him. Could this magnificent beauty really be Dora's daughter--
Dora who had stained her pretty hand with strawberry juice so
many years ago?
He knew nothing of the details of the dress, he saw only the
beautiful face and glorious eyes, the crowns of waving hair, the
white, stately neck and exquisite arms. Before him was a gleam
of pale pink satin, shrouded with lace so fine and delicate that
it looked like a fairy web; and the Earle diamonds were not
brighter than the dark eyes. They became the wearer well. They
would have eclipsed a fair, faded beauty; they added radiance to
"Where is Lillian?" he asked; and she knew from the tone of his
voice how proud and satisfied he was.
"I am here, papa," said a gentle voice. "I wanted you to see
Lord Earle hardly knew which to admire the more. Lillian looked
so fair and graceful; the pure, spiritual face and tender eyes
had new beauty; the slender, girlish figure contrasted well with
the stately dignity of Beatrice.
"I hope it will be a happy evening for you both," he said.
"I feel sure it will for me," said Beatrice, with a smile. "I am
thoroughly happy, and am looking forward to the ball with
Lord Earle smiled half sadly as he gazed at her bright face,
wondering whether, in years to come, it would be clouded or
"Will you dance, papa?" asked Beatrice, with a gleam of mischief
in her dark eyes.
"I think not," he replied; and Ronald Earle's thoughts went back
to the last time he had ever danced--with Valentine Charteris.
He remembered it well. Ah, no! All those pleasant, happy days
were over for him.
The dinner party was over, and carriage after carriage rolled up
to the Hall; the rooms began to fill; there was a faint sound of
music, a murmur of conversation and laughter.
"You have not forgotten your promise to me, Miss Earle?" said
Lord Airlie. "I am to have the first dance and the last,
certainly, and as many more as you can spare."
"I have not forgotten," replied Beatrice. She was never quite at
her ease with him, although she loved him better than any one
else on earth. There was ever present with her the consciousness
that she did so love him, and the wonder whether he cared for
They opened the ball, and many significant comments were made
upon the fact. Gaspar Laurence was present. He was deeply
engaged for more than two hours in making up his mind whether he
should ask Beatrice to dance with him or not--she looked so
beautiful, so far above him. Gaspar could not help loving her--
that was impossible; the first moment he saw her he was
entranced. But his was a humble, hopeless kind of adoration. He
would sooner have dreamed of wooing and winning a royal princess
than of ever asking Beatrice to be his wife.
At length he summoned up courage, and was rewarded by a bright
smile and kind words. Poor Gaspar! When the beautiful face was
near him, and her hand rested on his shoulder, he thought he must
"There," he said, when the dance was over; "I shall not dance
again. I should not like to lose the memory of that waltz."
"Why not?" she asked, wonderingly.
"I must be candid with you," said Gaspar, sadly. "Perhaps my
confession is a vain one; but I love you, Miss Earle--so dearly
that the ground on which you stand is sacred to me."
"That is not a very timid declaration," said Beatrice with a
smile. "You are courageous, Mr. Laurence. I have only seen you
"It would make no difference," said Gaspar, "whether I had seen
you only once, or whether I met you every day. I am not going to
pain you, Miss Earle. Think kindly of me--I do not ask more;
only remember that living in this world there is one who would
stand between you and all peril--who would sacrifice his life
for you. You will not forget?"
"I will not,"said Beatrice, firmly. "Never could I forget such
words. I am willing to be your friend--I know how to value
"I shall be happier with your friendship than with the love of
any other woman," said Gaspar, gratefully.
Just then Lord Earle came and took Mr. Laurence away. Beatrice
stood where he had left her, half screened from sight by the
luxuriant foliage and magnificent flowers of a rare American
plant. There was a thoughtful, tender expression on her face