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Dora Thorne by Charlotte M. Braeme

Part 7 out of 7

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but not lost to us--only gone before."

The young girl recovered very slowly. The skillful doctor in
attendance upon her sad that, as soon as it was possible to
remove her, she should be carried direct from her room to a
traveling carriage, taken from home, and not allowed to return to
the Hall until she was stronger and better.

They waited until that day came, and meanwhile Lady Dora Earle
learned to esteem Lord Airlie very dearly. He seemed to find
more comfort with her than with any one else. They spoke but of
one subject--the loved, lost Beatrice.

Her secret was never known. Lord Earle and Lionel Dacre kept it
faithfully. No allusion to it ever crossed their lips. To Lord
Airlie, while he lived, the memory of the girl he had loved so
well was pure and untarnished as the falling snow. Not even to
her mother was the story told. Dora believed, as did every one
else, that Beatrice had fallen accidentally into the lake.

When Lillian grew stronger--better able to bear the mention of
her sister's name--Lord Earle went to her room one day, and,
gently enough, tried to win her to speak to him of what she knew.

She told him all--of her sister's sorrow, remorse, and tears;
her longing to be free from the wretched snare in which she was
caught; how she pleaded with her to interfere. She told him of
her short interview with the unhappy man, and its sad
consequences for her.

Then the subject dropped forever. Lord Earle said nothing to her
of Lionel, thinking it would be better for the young lover to
plead his own cause.

One morning, when she was able to rise and sit up for a time,
Lionel asked permission to see her. Lady Dora, who knew nothing
of what had passed between them, unhesitatingly consented.

She was alarmed when, as he entered the room, she saw her
daughter's gentle face grow deathly pale.

"I have done wrong," she said. "Lillian is not strong enough to
see visitors yet."

"Dear Lady Dora," explained Lionel, taking her hand, "I love
Lillian; and she loved me before I was so unhappy as to offend
her. I have come to beg her pardon. Will you trust her with me
for a few minutes?"

Lady Dora assented, and went away, leaving them together.

"Lillian," said Lionel, "I do not know in what words to beg your
forgiveness. I am ashamed and humbled. I know your sister's
story, and all that you did to save her. When one was to be
sacrificed, you were the victim. Can you ever forgive me?"

"I forgive you freely," she gently answered. "I have been in the
Valley of the Shadow of Death, and all human resentment and
unkindness seem as nothing to me."

"And may I be to you as I was before?" he asked.

"That is another question," she said. "I can not answer it now.
You did not trust me, Lionel."

Those were the only words of reproach she ever uttered to him.
He did not annoy her with protestation; he trusted that time
would do for him what he saw just then he could not do for

He sat down upon the couch by her side, and began to speak to her
of the tour she was about to make; of the places she should visit
carefully avoiding all reference to the troubled past.

Three days afterward Lillian started on her journey to the south
of France insisted upon by the doctor. Lord Earle and his wife
took charge of their child; Lord Airlie, declaring he could not
yet endure Lynnton, went with them. Lady Helena and Lionel Dacre
remained at home, in charge of the Hall and the estate.

One thing the latter had resolved upon--that, before the
travelers returned, the lake should be filled up, and green trees
planted over the spot where its waters now glistened in the sun.

No matter how great the expense and trouble, he was resolved that
it should be done.

"Earlescourt would be wretched," he said, "if that fatal lake

The day after the family left Earlescourt, he had workmen
engaged. No one was sorry at his determination. Lady Helena
highly approved of it. The water was drained off, the deep basin
filled with earth, and tall saplings planted where once the water
had glistened in the sun. The boat house was pulled down, and
all vestige of the lake was done away with.

Lionel Dacre came home one evening from the works in very low
spirits. Imbedded in the bottom of the lake they had found a
little slipper--the fellow to it was locked away in Dora's
drawer. He saved it to give it to her when she returned.

Chapter XLIV

Two years passed away, and the travelers thought of returning.
Lillian had recovered health and strength, and, Lord Earle said,
longed for home.

One bright June day they were expected back. Lionel Dacre had
driven to the station. Lady Earle had laid aside her mourning
dress, and sat anxiously awaiting her son. She wished the
homecoming were over, and that they had all settled down to the
new life.

Her wish was soon gratified. Once again she gazed upon the face
of her only and beloved son. He was little changed--somewhat
sunburned, it was true; but there was less of the old pride and
sternness, a kindly smile playing round his lips. There was,
too, a shade of sadness that plainly would never leave him; Lord
Earle could never forget his lost child.

Lady Helena looked anxiously at Dora, but there was no cause for
fear. The rosy, dimpled beauty of youth had passed away, but a
staid dignity had taken its place. She looked a graceful amiable
woman, with eyes of wondrous beauty thickly veiled by long
lashes, and a wealth of rippling black hair. Lady Helena thought
her far more beautiful now than when the coy smiles and dimples
had been the chief charm. She admired, too, the perfect and easy
grace with which Dora fell at once into her proper place as
mistress of that vast establishment.

The pretty, musical voice was trained and softened; the delicate,
refined accent retained no trace of provincialism. Everything
about Dora pleased the eye and gratified the taste; the girlish
figure had grown matronly and dignified; the sweet face had in it
a tinge of sadness one may often see in the face of a mother who
has lost a child. Lady Helena, fastidious and critical, could
find no fault with her son's wife.

She welcomed her warmly, giving up to her, in her own graceful
way, all rule and authority. Helping her if in any way she
required it, but never interfering, she made Dora respected by
the love and esteem she always evinced for her.

But it was on Lillian's face that Lady Helena gazed most
earnestly. The pallor of sickness had given way to a rosy and
exquisite bloom. The fair, sweet face in its calm loveliness
seemed to her perfect, the violet eyes were full of light.
Looking at her, Lady Helena believed there were years of life in
store for Ronald's only child.

There was much to talk about. Lord Earle told his mother how
Hubert Airlie had gone home to Lynnton, unable to endure the
sight of Earlescourt. He had never regained his spirits. In the
long years to come it was possible, added Ronald, that Lord
Airlie might marry, for the sake of his name; but if ever the
heart of living man lay buried in a woman's grave, his was with
the loved, lost Beatrice.

Lionel Dacre knew he had done wisely and well to have the bed of
the lake filled up. In the morning he saw how each member of the
family shrank from going out into the grounds. He asked Lord
Earle to accompany him, and then the master of Earlescourt saw
that the deep, cruel water no longer shimmered amid the trees.

Lionel let him bring his wife and daughter to see what had been
done; and they turned to the author of it with grateful eyes,
thanking him for the kind thought which had spared their
feelings. Green trees flourished now on the spot where the water
had glistened in the sun; birds sang in their branches, green
grass and ferns grew round their roots.

Yet among the superstitious, strange stories were told. They
said that the wind, when it rustled among those trees, wailed
with a cry like that of one drowning, that the leaves shivered
and trembled as they did on no other branches; that the stirring
of them resembled deep-drawn sighs. They said flowers would
never grow in the thick grass, and that the antlered deer shunned
the spot.

As much as possible the interior arrangements of Earlescourt had
been altered. Lillian had rooms prepared for her in the other
wing; those that had belonged to her hapless sister were left
undisturbed. Lady Dora kept the key; it was known when she had
been visiting them; the dark eyes bore traces of weeping.

Beatrice had not been forgotten and never would be. Her name was
on Lillian's lips a hundred times each day. They had been twin
sisters, and it always seemed to her that part of herself lay in
the church yard at the foot of the hill.

Gaspar Laurence had gone abroad--he could not endure the sight
or name of home. Lady Laurence hoped that time would heal a
wound that nothing else could touch. When, after some years, he
did return, it was seen that his sorrow would last for life. He
never married--he never cared for the name of any woman save
that of Beatrice Earle.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

A week after their return, Lillian Earle stood one evening
watching from the deep oriel window the sun's last rays upon the
flowers. Lionel joined her, and she knew from his face that he
had come to ask the question she had declined to answer before.

"I have done penance, Lillian," he said, "if ever man has. For
two years I have devoted time, care, and thought to those you
love, for your sake; for two years I have tried night and day to
learn, for your sake, to become a better man. Do not visit my
fault too heavily upon me. I am hasty and passionate--I doubted
you who were true and pure; but, Lillian, in the loneliness and
sorrow of these two years I have suffered bitterly for my sin. I
know you are above all coquetry. Tell me, Lillian, will you be
my wife?"

She gave him the answer he longed to hear, and Lionel Dacre went
straight to Lord Earle. He was delighted--it was the very
marriage upon which he had set his heart years before. Lady Dora
was delighted, too; she smiled more brightly over it than she had
smiled since the early days of her married life. Lady Helena
rejoiced when they told her, although it was not unexpected news
to her, for she had been Lionel's confidante during Lillian's

There was no reason why the marriage should be delayed; the June
roses were blooming then, and it was arranged that it should take
place in the month of August.

There were to be no grand festivities--no one had heart for
them; the wedding was to be quiet, attended only by a few
friends; and Lord Earle succeeded in obtaining a promise from
Lionel which completely set his heart at rest. It was that he
would never seek another home--that he and Lillian would consent
to live at Earlescourt. Her father could not endure the thought
of parting with her.

"It will be your home, Lionel," he said, "in the course of after-
years. Make it so now. We shall be one family, and I think a
happy one."

So it was arranged, much to everybody's delight. A few days
before the wedding took place, a letter came which seemed to
puzzle Lord Earle very much. He folded it without speaking, but,
when breakfast was over, he drew his wife's hand within his own.

"Dora," he said, "there will never be any secrets between us for
the future. I want you to read this letter--it is from
Valentine Charteris that was, Princess Borgezi that is. She is
in England, at Greenoke, and asks permission to come to Lillian's
wedding; the answer must rest with you, dear."

She took the letter from him and read it through; the noble heart
of the woman spoke in every line, yet in some vague way Dora
dreaded to look again upon the calm, grand beauty of Valentine's

"Have no fear, Dora, in saying just what you think," said her
husband; "I would not have our present happiness clouded for the
world. One word will suffice--if you do not quite like the
thought, I will write to her and ask her to defer the visit."

But Dora would not be outdone in magnanimity. With resolute
force, she cast from her every unworthy thought.

"Let her come, Ronald," she said, raising her clear, dark eyes to
his. "I shall be pleased to see her. I owe her some amends."

He was unfeignedly pleased, and so was every one else. Lady
Helena alone felt some little doubts as to Dora's capability of
controlling herself.

The Princess Borgezi was to come alone; she had not said at what
hour they might expect her.

Lady Dora had hardly understood why her thoughts went back so
constantly to her lost child. Beatrice had loved the beautiful,
gracious woman who was coming to visit them. It may have been
that which prompted her, on the day before Lillian's marriage,
when the house was alive with the bustle and turmoil of
preparation, to go to the silent, solitary rooms where her
daughter's voice had once made sweetest music.

She was there alone for some time; it was Lord Earle who found
her, and tried to still her bitter weeping.

"It is useless, Ronald," she cried; "I can not help asking why my
bright, beautiful darling should be lying there. It is only two
years since a wedding wreath was made for her."

Nothing would comfort her but a visit to her daughter's grave.
It was a long walk, but she preferred taking it alone. She said
she should feel better after it. They yielded to her wish.
Before she had quitted the house many minutes, the Princess
Borgezi arrived.

There was no restraint in Ronald's greeting. He was heartily
glad to see her--glad to look once more on the lovely Grecian
face that had seemed to him, years ago, the only model for Queen
Guinivere. They talked for a few minutes; then Valentine,
turning to him, said:

"Now let me see Lady Dora. My visit is really to her."

They told her whither she had gone; and Lady Helena whispered
something to her with brought tears to Valentine's eyes.

"Yes," she said; "I will follow her. I will ask her to kiss me
over her daughter's grave."

Some one went with her to point out the way, but Valentine
entered the church yard alone.

Through the thick green foliage she saw the shining of the white
marble cross, and the dark dress of Dora, who knelt by the grave.

She went up to her. Her footsteps, falling noiselessly on the
soft grass, were unheard by the weeping mother.

Valentine knelt by her side. Dora, looking up, saw the calm face
beaming down upon her, ineffable tenderness in the clear eyes.
She felt the clasp of Valentine's arms, and heard a sweet voice

"Dora, I have followed you here to ask you to try to love me, and
to pardon me for my share in your unhappy past. For the love of
your dead, who loved me, bury here all difference and dislike."

She could not refuse. For the first time, Lord Earle's wife laid
her head upon that noble woman's shoulder and wept away her
sorrow, while Valentine soothed her with loving words.

Over the grave of a child the two women were reconciled--all
dislike, jealousy, and envy died away forever. Peace and love
took their place.

In the after-time there was something remarkable in Dora's
reverential love for Valentine. Lord Earle often said that in
his turn he was jealous of her. His wife had no higher ideal, no
truer friend than the Princess Borgezi.

The wedding day dawned at last; and for a time all trace of
sadness was hidden away. Lord Earle would have it so. He said
that that which should be the happiest day of Lillian's life must
not be clouded. Such sad thoughts of the lost Beatrice as came
into the minds of those who had loved her remained unspoken.

The summer sun never shone upon a more lovely bride, nor upon a
fairer scene than that wedding. The pretty country church was
decorated with flowers and crowded with spectators.

Side by side at the altar stood Lady Dora Earle and Valentine.
People said afterward they could not decide whom they admired
most--Lady Helena's stately magnificence, Dora's sweet, simple
elegance, or the Princess Borgezi's statuesque Grecian beauty.

Lord Earle had prepared a surprise for Dora. When the little
wedding party returned from the church, the first to greet them
was Stephen Thorne, now a white-headed old man, and his wife.
The first to show them all honor and respect were Lord Earle and
his mother. Valentine was charmed with their homely simplicity.

For months after they returned to Knutsford the old people talked
of "the lady with the beautiful face, who had been so kind and
gracious to them."

Lord Airlie did not attend the wedding, but he had urged Lionel
to spend his honeymoon at Lynnton Hall, and Lillian had willingly

So they drove away when the wedding breakfast was over. A hundred
wishes for their happiness following them, loving words ringing
after them. Relatives, friends, and servants had crowded round
them; and Lillian's courage gave way at last. She turned to
Lionel, as though praying him to shorten their time of parting.

"Heaven bless you, my darling!" whispered Dora to her child.
"And mind, never--come what may--never be jealous of your

"Goodbye, Lionel," said Lord Earle, clasping the true, honest
hand in his; "and, if ever my little darling here tries you, be
patient with her."

The story of a life time was told in these two behests.

Chapter XLV

Ten years had passed since the wedding bells chimed for the
marriage of Lillian Earle. New life had come to Earlescourt.
Children's happy voices made music there; the pattering of little
feet sounded in the large, stately rooms, pretty, rosy faces made
light and sunshine.

The years had passed as swiftly and peacefully as a happy dream.
One event had happened which had saddened Lord Earle for a few
days--the death of the pretty, coquettish Countess Rosali. She
had nor forgotten him; there came to him from her sorrowing
husband a ring which she had asked might be given to him.

Gaspar Laurence was still abroad, and there was apparently no
likelihood of his return. The Princess Borgezi with her husband
and children, had paid several visits to the Hall. Valentine had
one pretty little daughter, upon whom Lionel's son was supposed
to look with most affection. She had other daughters--the
eldest, a tall, graceful girl, inherited her father's Italian
face and dark, dreamy eyes. Strange to say, she was not unlike
Beatrice. It may have been that circumstance which first
directed Lord Airlie's attention to her. He met her at
Earlescourt, and paid her more attention than he had paid to any
one since he had loved so unhappily years before.

No one was much surprised when he married her. And Helena
Borgezi made a good wife. She knew his story, and how much of
his heart lay in the grave of his lost love. He was kind,
gentle, and affectionate to her, and Helena valued his
thoughtful, faithful attachment more than she would have valued
the deepest and most passionate love of another man.

One room at Lynnton was never unlocked; strange feet never
entered it; curious eyes never looked round it. It was the
pretty boudoir built, but never furnished, for Hubert Airlie's
first love.

Time softened his sorrow; his fair, gentle wife was devoted to
him, blooming children smiled around him; but he never forgot
Beatrice. In his dreams, at times, Helena heard her name on his
lips; but she was not jealous of the dead. No year passed in
which she did not visit the grave where Beatrice Earle slept her
last long sleep.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Dora seemed to grow young again with Lillian's children. She
nursed and tended them. Lady Helena, with zealous eyes, looked
after Bertrand, the future lord of Earlescourt, a brave, noble
boy, his father's pride and Lillian's torment and delight, who
often said he was richer than any other lad in the country, for
he had three mothers, while others had but one.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The sun was setting over the fair broad lands of Earlescourt, the
western sky was all aflame; the flowers were thirsting for the
soft dew which had just begun to fall.

Out in the rose garden, where long ago a love story had been
told, were standing a group that an artist would have been
delighted to sketch.

Lionel had some choice roses in bloom, and after dinner the whole
party had gone out to see them. Lady Helena Earle was seated on
the garden chair whereon Beatrice had once sat listening to the
words which had gladdened her brief life. A number of fair
children played around her.

Looking on them with pleased eyes was a gentle, graceful lady.
Her calm, sweet face had a story in it, the wondrous dark eyes
had in them a shadow as of some sorrow not yet lived down. Lady
Dora Earle was happy; the black clouds had passed away. She was
her husband's best friend, his truest counselor; and Ronald had
forgotten that she was ever spoken of as "lowly born." The
dignity of her character, acquired by long years of stern
discipline, asserted itself; no one in the whole country side was
more loved or respected than Lady Dora Earle.

Ronald, Lord Earle, was lying on the grass at his wife's feet.
He looked older, and the luxuriant hair was threaded with silver;
but there was peace and calm in his face.

He laughed at Lillian and her husband conversing so anxiously
over the roses.

"They are lovers yet," he said to Dora; and she glanced smilingly
at them.

The words were true. Ten years married, they were lovers yet.
There was gentle forbearance on one side, an earnest wish to do
right on the other. Lillian Dacre never troubled her head about
"woman's rights;" she had no idea of trying to fill her husband's
place; if her opinion on voting was asked, the chances were that
she would smile and say, "Lionel manages all those matters." Yet
in her own kingdom she reigned supreme; her actions were full of
wisdom, he words were full of kindly thought. The quiet, serene
beauty of her youth had developed into that of magnificent
womanhood. The fair, spirituelle face was peerless in her
husband's eyes. There was no night or day during which Lionel
Dacre did not thank Heaven for that crown of all great gifts, a
good and gentle wife.

There was a stir among the children; a tall, dark gentleman was
seen crossing the lawn, and Lionel cried: "Here is Gaspar
Laurence with his arms full of toys--those children will be
completely spoiled!"

The little ones rushed forward, and Bertrand, in his hurry, fell
over a pretty child with large dark eyes and dark hair. Lord
Earle jumped up and caught her in his arms.

"Bertie, my boy," he said, "always be kind to little Beatrice!"
The child clasped her arms round his neck. He kissed the dark
eyes and murmured to himself, "Poor little Beatrice!"

The summer wind that played among the roses, lifting the golden,
rippling hair from Lillian's forehead and tossing her little
girl's curls into Lord Earle's face, was singing a sweet, low
requiem among the trees that shaded the grave of Beatrice Earle.

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