Charlotte M. Braeme
Part 3 out of 7
But the time came when the fierce fever burned itself out, and
Dora lay weak and helpless as a little child. She recovered
slowly, but she was never the same again. Her youth, hope, love,
and happiness were all dead. No smile or dimple, no pretty
blush, came to the changed face; the old coy beauty was all gone.
Calm and quiet, with deep, earnest eyes, and lips that seldom
smiled, Dora seemed to have found another self. Even with her
children the sad restraint never wore off nor grew less. If they
wanted to play, they sought the farmer in the fields, the good-
natured nurse, or the indulgent grandmamma--never the sad, pale
mother. If they were in trouble then they sought her.
Dora asked for work. She would have been dairy maid, house maid,
or anything else, but her father said "No." A pretty little room
was given to her, with woodbines and roses peeping in at the
window. Here for long hours every day, while the children played
in the meadows, she sat and sewed. There, too, Dora, for the
first time, learned what Ronald, far away in sunny Italy, failed
to teach her--how to think and read. Big boxes of books came
from the town of Shorebeach. Stephen Thorne spared no trouble or
expense in pleasing his daughter. Dora wondered that she had
never cared for books, now that deeper and more solemn thoughts
came to her. The pale face took a new beauty; no one could have
believed that the thoughtful woman with the sweet voice and
refined accent was the daughter of the blunt farmer Thorne and
his homely wife.
A few weeks passed, and but for the little ones Dora would have
believed the whole to have been but a long, dark dream. She
would not think of Ronald; she would not remember his love, his
sacrifices for her; she thought only of her wrongs and his cruel
The children grew and throve. Dora had no care at present as to
their education. From her they learned good English, and between
herself and the faithful young nurse they could learn, she
thought, tolerable Italian. She would not think of a future that
might take these beloved children from her. She ignored Ronald's
claim to them--they were hers. He had tired of them when he
tired of her. She never felt the days monotonous in that quiet
farm house, as others might have done. A dead calm seemed to
surround her; but it was destined soon to be broken.
Ronald did not return in the evening to the pretty villa where he
had once been so happy. In the warmth of his anger, he felt that
he never could look again upon his wife. To his sensitive,
refined nature there was something more repulsive in the
dishonorable act she had committed than there would have been in
a crime of deeper dye. He was shocked and startled--more so
than if he awoke some fair summer morning to find Dora dead by
his side. She was indeed dead to him in one sense. The ideal
girl, all purity, gentleness, and truth, whom he had loved and
married, had, it appeared, never really existed after all. He
shrank from the idea of the angry, vehement words and foul
calumnies. He shrank from the woman who had forgotten every rule
of good breeding, every trace of good manners, in angry, fierce
How was he ever to face Miss Charteris again? She would never
mention one word of what had happened, but he could ill brook the
shame Dora had brought upon him. He remembered the summer
morning in the woods when he told Valentine the story of his
love, and had pictured his pretty, artless Dora to her. Could
the angry woman who had dared to insult him, and to calumniate
the fairest and truest lady in all England, possibly be the same?
Ronald had never before been brought into close contact with
dishonor. He had some faint recollection at college of having
seen and known a young man, the son of a wealthy nobleman,
scorned and despised, driven from all society, and he was told
that it was because he had been detected in the act of listening
at the principal's door. He remembered how old and young had
shunned this young man as though he were plague-stricken; and now
his own wife Dora had done the very same thing under
circumstances that rendered the dishonor greater. He asked
himself, with a cynical smile, what he could expect? He had
married for love of a pretty, child-like face, never giving any
thought to principle, mind, or intellect. The only wonder was
that so wretched and unequal a match had not turned out ten times
worse. His father's warning rang in his ears. How blind, how
foolish he had been!
Every hope of his own life was wrecked, every hope and plan of
his father's disappointed and dead. There seemed to him nothing
left to care for. His wife--oh, he would not think of her! The
name vexed him. He could not stand in Valentine's presence
again, and for the first time he realized what she had been to
him. Home, and consequently England, was closed to him; the
grand mansion he had once believed his had faded from his mind.
Thinking of all these things, Ronald's love for his young wife
seemed changed to dislike. Three days passed before he returned
home; then he was somewhat startled to find her really gone. He
had anticipated sullen temper, renewed quarrels, and then perhaps
a separation, but he was startled to find her actually gone. The
servant gave him the cold farewell letter, written without tears,
without sorrow. He tore it into shreds and flung it from him.
"The last act in the farce," he said, bitterly. "If I had not
been mad, I should have foreseen this."
The silent, deserted rooms did not remind him of the loving young
wife parted from him forever. He was too angry, too annoyed, for
any gentle thoughts to influence him. She had left him--so much
the better; there could never again be peace between them. He
thought with regret of the little ones--they were too young for
him to undertake charge of them, so that they were best left with
their mother for a time. He said to himself that he must make
the best use he could of his life; everything seemed at an end.
He felt very lonely and unhappy as he sat in his solitary home;
and the more sorrow present upon him, the more bitter his
thoughts grew, the deeper became his dislike to this unhappy
Ronald wrote to his mother, but said no word to her of the cause
of their quarrel.
"Dora and I," he said, "will never live together again--perhaps
never meet. She has gone home to her father; I am going to
wander over the wide earth. Will you induce my father to receive
my children at Earlescourt? And will you see Mr. Burt, and
arrange that half of my small income is settled upon Dora?"
But to all his wife's entreaties Lord Earle turned a deaf ear.
He declared that never during his life time should the children
of Dora Thorne enter Earlescourt. His resolution was fixed and
unalterable. How, he asked, was he to trust the man who had once
deceived him? For aught he knew, the separation between Ronald
and his wife might be a deeply laid scheme, and, the children
once with him, there would be a grand reconciliation between the
"I am not surprised," he said, "that the unhappy boy is weary of
his pretty toy. It could not be otherwise; he must bear the
consequences of his own folly. He had time for thought, he made
his own choice--now let him abide by it. You have disregarded
my wish, Lady Helena, in even naming the matter to me. Let all
mention of it cease. I have no son. One thing remember--I am
not hard upon you--you can go where you like, see whom you like,
and spend what money you will, and as you will."
Lady Earle was not long in availing herself of the permission.
There was great excitement at the Elms one morning, caused by the
receipt of a letter from Lady Earle saying that she would be
there on the same day to visit the son's wife and children.
The little ones looked up to her with wondering eyes. To them
she was like a vision, with her noble face and distinguished air.
Stephen Thorne and his wife received the great lady not without
some trepidation; yet they were in no way to blame. The fatal
marriage had been as great a blow to them as to Lord and Lady
Earle. With the quiet dignity and graceful ease that never
deserted her, Lady Earle soon made them feel at home. She
started in utter surprise, when a quiet, grave woman, on whose
face sweetness and sullen humor were strangely mingled, entered
the room. This could not be pretty, coy, blushing Dora! Where
were the dimples and smiles? The large dark eyes raised so sadly
to hers were full of strange, pathetic beauty. With sharp pain
the thought struck Lady Earle, "What must not Dora have suffered
to have changed her so greatly!" The sad eyes and worn face
touched her as no beauty could have done. She clasped Dora in
her arms and kissed her.
"You are my daughter now," she said, in that rich, musical voice
which Dora remembered so well. "We will not mention the past; it
is irrevocable. If you sinned against duty and obedience, your
face tells me you have suffered. What has come between you and
my son I do not seek to know. The shock must have been a great
one which parted you, for he gave up all the world for you, Dora,
years ago. We will not speak of Ronald. Our care must be the
children. Of course you wish them to remain with you?"
"While it is possible," said Dora, wearily. "I shall never leave
home again; but I can not hope to keep them here always."
"I should have liked to adopt them," said Lady Earle; "to take
them home and educate them, but--"
"Lord Earle will not permit it," interrupted Dora, calmly. "I
know--I do not wonder."
"You must let me do all I can for them here," continued Lady
Earle; "I have made all plans and arrangements. We will give the
children an education befitting their position, without removing
them from you. Then we shall see what time will do. Let me see
the little ones. I wish you had called one Helena, after me."
Dora remembered why she had not done so, and a flush of shame
rose to her face.
They were beautiful children, and Dora brought them proudly to
the stately lady waiting for them. Lady Earle took Beatrice in
"Why, Dora," she said admiringly, "she has the Earle face, with a
novel charm all its own. The child will grow up into magnificent
"She has the Earle spirit and pride," said the young mother; "I
find it hard to manage her even now."
Then Lady Earle looked at the fair, spirituelle face and golden
hair of little Lillian. The shy, dove-like eyes and sweet lips
"There is a great contrast between them," she said, thoughtfully.
"They will require careful training, Dora; and now we will speak
of the matter which brought me here."
Dora noticed that, long as she remained, Lady Earle never let
Beatrice leave her arms; occasionally she bent over Lillian and
touched her soft golden curls, but the child with the "Earle
face" was the one she loved best.
Together with Stephen Thorne and his wife, Lady Earle went over
the Elms. The situation delighted her; nothing could be better
or more healthy for the children, but the interior of the house
must be altered. Then with delicate grace that could only charm,
never wound, Lady Earle unfolded her plans. She wished a new
suite of rooms to be built for Dora and the children, to be
nicely furnished with everything that could be required. She
would bear the expense. Immediately on her return she would send
an efficient French maid for the little ones, and in the course
of a year or two she would engage the services of an accomplished
governess, who would undertake the education of Beatrice and
Lillian without removing them from their mother's care.
"I shall send a good piano and harp," said Lady Earle, "it will
be my pride and pleasure to select books, music, drawings, and
everything else my grandchildren require. I should wish them
always to be nicely dressed and carefully trained. To you, Dora,
I must leave the highest and best training of all. Teach them to
be good, and to do their duty. They have learned all when they
have learned that."
For the first time in her life, the thought came home to Dora:
How was she to teach what she had never learned and had failed to
practice? That night, long after Lady Earle had gone away, and
the children had fallen to sleep, Dora knelt in the moonlight and
prayed that she might learn to teach her children to do their
As Lady Earle wished, the old farm house was left intact, and a
new group of buildings added to it. There was a pretty sitting
room for Dora, and a larger one to serve as a study for the
children, large sleeping rooms, and a bathroom, all replete with
comfort. Two years passed before all was completed, and Lady
Earle thought it time to send a governess to the Elms.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
During those years little or nothing was heard from Ronald.
After reading the cold letter Dora left for him, it seemed as
though all love, all care, all interest died out of his heart.
He sat for many long hours thinking of the blighted life "he
could not lay down, yet cared little to hold."
He was only twenty-three--the age at which life opens to most
men; yet he was worn, tired, weary of everything--the energies
that once seemed boundless, the ambition once so fierce and
proud, all gone. His whole nature recoiled from the shock. Had
Dora, in the fury of her jealousy and rage, tried to kill him, he
would have thought that but a small offense compared with the
breach of honor in crouching behind the trees to listen. He
thought of the quiet, grand beauty of Valentine's face while Dora
was convulsed with passion. He remembered the utter wonder in
Valentine's eyes when Dora's flamed upon them. He remembered the
sickening sense of shame that had cowed him as he listened to her
angry, abusive words. And this untrained, ignorant, ill-bred
woman was his wife! For her he had given up home, parents,
position, wealth--all he had in life worth caring for. For her,
and through her, he stood there alone in the world.
Those thoughts first maddened him, then drove him to despair.
What had life left for him? He could not return to England; his
father's doors were closed against him. There was no path open
to him; without his father's help he could not get into
Parliament. He could not work as an artist at home. He could
not remain in Florence; never again, he said to himself, would he
see Valentine Charteris--Valentine, who had been the witness of
his humiliation and disgrace. Sooner anything than that. He
would leave the villa and go somewhere--he cared little where.
No quiet, no rest came to him. Had his misfortunes been
accidental--had they been any other than they were, the result
of his boyish folly and disobedience, he would have found them
easier to bear; as it was, the recollection that it was all his
own fault drove him mad.
Before morning he had written a farewell note to Lady Charteris,
saying that he was leaving Florence at once, and would not be
able to see her again. He wrote to Valentine, but the few stiff
words expressed little of what he felt. He prayed her to forget
the miserable scene that would haunt him to his dying day; to
pardon the insults that had driven him nearly mad; to pardon the
mad jealousy, the dishonor of Dora; to forget him and all
belonging to him. When Miss Charteris read the letter she knew
that all effort to restore peace would for a time be in vain.
She heard the day following that the clever young artist, Mr.
Earle, had left.
Countess Rosali loudly lamented Ronald's departure. It was so
strange, she said; the dark-eyed little wife and her children had
gone home to England, and the husband, after selling off his
home, had gone with Mr. Charles Standon into the interior of
Africa. What was he going to do there?
She lamented him for two days without ceasing, until Valentine
was tired of her many conjectures. He was missed in the
brilliant salons of Florence, but by none so much as by Valentine
What the pretty, coquettish countess had said was true. After
making many plans and forming many resolutions, Ronald met Mr.
Standon, who was on the point of joining an exploring expedition
in South Africa. He gladly consented to accompany him. There
was but little preparation needed. Four days after the never-to-
be-forgotten garden scene, Ronald Earle left Italy and became a
wanderer upon the face of the earth.
Valentine Charteris never told the secret. She listened to the
wonder and conjectures of all around her, but not even to her
mother did she hint what had passed. She pitied Ronald
profoundly. She knew the shock Dora had inflicted on his
sensitive, honorable disposition. For Dora herself she felt
nothing but compassion. Her calm, serene nature was incapable of
such jealousies. Valentine could never be jealous or mean, but
she could understand the torture that had made shy, gentle Dora
"Jealous of me, poor child!" said Valentine to herself. "Nothing
but ignorance can excuse her. As though I, with half Florence at
my feet, cared for her husband, except as a dear and true
So the little villa was deserted; the gaunt, silent servant found
a fresh place. Ronald's pictures were eagerly bought up; the
pretty countess, after looking very sentimental and sad for some
days, forgot her sorrow and its cause in the novelty of making
the acquaintance of an impassive unimpressionable American.
Florence soon forgot one whom she had been proud to know and
Two months afterward, as Miss Charteris sat alone in her favorite
nook--the bower of trees where poor Dora's tragedy had been
enacted--she was found by the Prince di Borgezi. Every one had
said that sooner or later it would come to this. Prince di
Borgezi, the most fastidious of men, who had admired many women
but loved none, whose verdict was the rule of fashion, loved
Valentine Charteris. Her fair English face, with its calm, grand
beauty, her graceful dignity, her noble mind and pure soul had
captivated him. For many long weeks he hovered round Valentine,
longing yet dreading to speak the words which would unite or part
them for life.
Lately there had been rumors that Lady Charteris and her daughter
intended to leave Florence; then Prince di Borgezi decided upon
knowing his fate. He sought Valentine, and found her seated
under the shade of her favorite trees.
"Miss Charteris," he said, after a few words of greeting, "I have
come to ask you the greatest favor, the sweetest boon, you can
confer on any man."
"What is it?" asked Valentine, calmly, anticipating some trifling
"Your permission to keep for my own the original 'Queen
Guinevere'," he replied; "that picture is more to me than all
that I possess. Only one thing is dearer, the original. May I
ever hope to make that mine also?"
Valentine opened her magnificent eyes in wonder. It was an
offer of marriage then that he was making.
"Have you no word for me, Miss Charteris?" he said. "I lay my
life and my love at your feet. Have you no word for me?"
"I really do not know what to say," replied Valentine.
"You do not refuse me?" said her lover.
"Well, no," replied Valentine.
"And you do not accept me?" he continued.
"Decidedly not," she replied, more firmly.
"Then I shall consider there is some ground for hope," he said.
Valentine had recovered her self-possession. Her lover gazed
anxiously at her beautiful face, its proud calm was unbroken.
"I will tell you how it is," resumed Valentine, after a short
pause; "I like you better, perhaps, than any man I know, but I do
not love you."
"You do not forbid me to try all I can to win your love?" asked
"No," was the calm reply. "I esteem you very highly, prince. I
can not say more."
"But you will in time," he replied. "I would not change your
quiet friendly liking, Miss Charteris, for the love of any other
Under the bright sky the handsome Italian told the story of his
love in words that were poetry itself--how he worshiped the fair
calm girl so unlike the women of his own clime. As she listened,
Valentine thought of that summer morning years ago when Ronald
had told her the story of his love; and then Valentine owned to
her own heart, that, if Ronald were in Prince di Borgezi's place,
she would not listen so calmly nor reply so coolly.
"How cold and stately these English girls are!" thought her
lover. "They are more like goddesses than women. Would any word
of mine ever disturb the proud coldness of that perfect face?"
It did not then, but before morning ended Prince di Borgezi had
obtained permission to visit England in the spring and ask again
the same question. Valentine liked him. She admired his noble
and generous character, his artistic tastes, his fastidious
exclusiveness had a charm for her; she did not love him, but it
seemed to her more than probable that the day would come when she
would do so.
* * * * * * * * * * * *
Lady Charteris and her daughter left Florence and returned to
Greenoke. Lady Earle paid them a long visit, and heard all they
had to tell of her idolized son. Lady Charteris spoke kindly of
Dora; and Valentine, believing she could do something to restore
peace, sent an affectionate greeting, and asked permission to
visit the Elms.
Lady Earle saw she had made a mistake when she repeated
Valentine's words to Dora. The young wife's face flushed burning
red, and then grew white as death.
"Pray bring me no more messages from Miss Charteris," she
replied. "I do not like her--she would only come to triumph
over me; I decline to see her. I have no message to send her."
Then, for the first time, an inkling of the truth came to Lady
Earle. Evidently Dora was bitterly jealous of Valentine. Had
she any cause for it? Could it be that her unhappy son had
learned to love Miss Charteris when it was all too late? From
that day Lady Earle pitied her son with a deeper and more tender
compassion; she translated Dora's curt words into civil English,
and then wrote to Miss Charteris. Valentine quite understood
upon reading them that she was not yet pardoned by Ronald Earle's
Time passed on without any great changes, until the year came
when Lady Earle thought her grandchildren should begin their
education. She was long in selecting one to whom she could
intrust them. At length she met with Mrs. Vyvian, the widow of
an officer who had died in India, a lady qualified in every way
for the task, accomplished, a good linguist, speaking French and
Italian as fluently as English--an accomplished musician, an
artist of no mean skill, and, what Lady Earl valued still more, a
woman of sterling principles and earnest religious feeling
It was not a light task that Mrs. Vyvian undertook. The children
had reached their fifth year, and for ten years she bound herself
by promise to remain with them night and day, to teach and train
them. It is true the reward promised was great. Lady Earle
settled a handsome annuity upon her. Mrs. Vyvian was not
dismayed by the lonely house, the complete isolation from all
society, or the homely appearance of the farmer and his wife. A
piano and a harp were sent to the Elms. Every week Lady Earle
dispatched a large box of books, and the governess was quite
Mrs. Vyvian, to whom Lady Earle intrusted every detail of her
son's marriage, was well pleased to find that Dora liked her and
began to show some taste for study. Dora, who would dream of
other things when Ronald read, now tried to learn herself. She
was not ashamed to sit hour after hour at the piano trying to
master some simple little air, or to ask questions when anything
puzzled her in her reading. Mrs. Vyvian, so calm and wise, so
gentle, yet so strong, taught her so cleverly that Dora never
felt her own ignorance, nor did she grow disheartened as she had
done with Ronald.
The time came when Dora could play pretty simple ballads, singing
them in her own bird-like, clear voice, and when she could
appreciate great writers, and speak of them without any mistake
either as to their names or their works.
It was a simple, pleasant, happy life; the greater part of the
day was spent by mother children in study. In the evening came
long rambles through the green woods, where Dora seemed to know
the name and history of every flower that grew; over the smiling
meadows, where the kine stood knee-deep in the long, scented
grass; over the rocks, and down by the sea shore, where the waves
chanted their grand anthem, and broke in white foam drifts upon
No wonder the young girls imbibed a deep warm love for all that
was beautiful in Nature. Dora never wearied of it--from the
smallest blade of grass to the most stately of forest trees, she
loved it all.
The little twin sisters grew in beauty both in body and mind; but
the contrast between them was great; Beatrice was the more
beautiful and brilliant; Lillian the more sweet and lovable.
Beatrice was all fire and spirit; her sister was gentle and calm.
Beatrice had great faults and great virtues; Lillian was simply
good and charming. Yet, withal, Beatrice was the better loved.
It was seldom that any one refused to gratify her wishes.
Dora loved both children tenderly; but the warmest love was
certainly for the child who had the Earle face. She was
imperious and willful, generous to a fault, impatient of all
control; but her greatest fault, Mrs. Vyvian said, was a constant
craving for excitement; a distaste for and dislike of quiet and
retirement. She would ride the most restive horse, she would do
anything to break the ennui and monotony of the long days.
Beautiful, daring, and restless, every day running a hundred
risks, and loved the better for the dangers she ran, Beatrice was
almost worshiped at the Elms. Nothing ever daunted her, nothing
ever made her dull or sad. Lillian was gentle and quiet, with
more depth of character, but little power of showing it; somewhat
timid and diffident--a more charming ideal of an English girl
could not have been found--spirituelle, graceful, and refined;
so serene and fair that to look at her was a pleasure.
Lady Earle often visited the Elms; no mystery had been made to
the girls--they were told their father was abroad and would not
return for many years, and that at some distant day they might
perhaps live with him in his own home. They did not ask many
questions, satisfied to believe what was told them, not seeking
to know more.
Lady Earle loved the young girls very dearly. Beatrice, so like
her father, was undoubtedly the favorite. Lord Earle never
inquired after them; when Lady Earle asked for a larger check
than usual, he gave it to her with a smile, perfectly
understanding its destination, but never betraying the knowledge.
So eleven years passed like a long tranquil dream. The sun rose
and set, the tides ebbed and flowed, spring flowers bloomed, and
died, the summer skies smiled, autumn leaves of golden hue
withered on the ground; and winter snows fell; yet no change came
to the quiet homestead in the Kentish meadows.
Beatrice and Lillian had reached their sixteenth year, and two
fairer girls were seldom seen. Mrs. Vyvian's efforts had not
been in vain; they were accomplished far beyond the ordinary run
of young girls. Lillian inherited her father's talent for
drawing. She was an excellent artist. Beatrice excelled in
music. She had a magnificent contralto voice that had been
carefully trained. Both were cultivated, graceful, elegant
girls, and Lady Earle often sighed to think they should be living
in such profound obscurity. She could do nothing; seventeen
years had not changed Lord Earle's resolution. Time, far from
softening, imbittered him the more against his son. Of Ronald
Lady Earle heard but little. He was still in Africa; he wrote at
rare intervals, but there was little comfort in his letters.
Lady Earle did what she could for her grandchildren, but it was a
strange, unnatural life. They knew no other girls; they had
never ben twenty miles from Knutsford. All girlish pleasures and
enjoyments were a sealed book to them. They had never been to a
party, a picnic, or a ball; no life was ever more simple, more
quiet, more devoid of all amusement than theirs. Lillian was
satisfied and happy; her rich, teeming fancy, her artistic mind,
and contented, sweet disposition would have rendered her happy
under any circumstances--but it was different with brilliant,
beautiful Beatrice. No wild bird in a cage ever pined for
liberty or chafed under restraint more than she did. She cried
out loudly against the unnatural solitude, the isolation of such
Eleven years had done much for Dora. The coy, girlish beauty
that had won Ronald Earle's heart had given place to a sweet,
patient womanhood. Constant association with one so elegant and
refined as Mrs. Vyvian had done for her what nothing else could
have achieved. Dora had caught the refined, high-bred accent,
the graceful, cultivated manner, the easy dignity. She had
become imbued with Mrs. Vyvian's noble thoughts and ideas.
Dora retained two peculiarities--one was a great dislike for
Ronald, the other a sincere dread of all love and lovers for her
children. From her they heard nothing but depreciation of men.
All men were alike, false, insincere, fickle, cruel; all love was
nonsense and folly. Mrs. Vyvian tried her best to counteract
these ideas; they had this one evil consequence--that neither
Lillian nor Beatrice would ever dream of even naming such
subjects to their mother, who should have been their friend and
confidante. If in the books Lady Earle sent there was any
mention of this love their mother dreaded so, they went to Mrs.
Vyvian or puzzled over it themselves. With these two exceptions
Dora had become a thoughtful, gentle woman. As her mind became
more cultivated she understood better the dishonor of the fault
which had robbed her of Ronald's love. Her fair face grew
crimson when she remembered what she had done.
It was a fair and tranquil womanhood; the dark eyes retained
their wondrous light and beauty; the curling rings of dark hair
were luxuriant as ever; the lips wore a patient, sweet
expression. The clear, healthy country air had given a delicate
bloom to the fair face. Dora looked more like the elder sister
of the young girls than their mother.
The quiet, half-dreamy monotony was broken at last. Mrs. Vyvian
was suddenly summoned home. Her mother, to whom she was warmly
attached, was said to be dying, and she wished her last few days
to be spent with her daughter. At the same time Lady Earle wrote
to say that her husband was so ill that it was impossible for her
to look for any lady to supply Mrs. Vyvian's place. The
consequence was that, for the first time in their lives, the
young girls were left for a few weeks without a companion and
One beautiful morning in May, Lillian went out alone to sketch.
The beauty of the sky and sea tempted her; fleecy-white clouds
floated gently over the blue heavens; the sun shone upon the
water until, at times, it resembled a huge sea of rippling gold.
Far off in the distance were the shining white sails of two
boats; they looked in the golden haze like the brilliant wings of
some bright bird. The sun upon the white sails struck her fancy,
and she wanted to sketch the effect.
It was the kind of morning that makes life seem all beauty and
gladness, even if the heart is weighed down with care. It was a
luxury merely to live and breathe. The leaves were all springing
in the woods; the meadows were green; wild flowers blossomed by
the hedge-rows; the birds sang gayly of the coming summer; the
white hawthorn threw its rich fragrance all around, and the
yellow broom bloomed on the cliffs.
As she sat there, Lillian was indeed a fair picture herself on
that May morning; the sweet, spirituelle face; the noble head
with its crown of golden hair; the violet eyes, so full of
thought; the sensitive lips, sweet yet firm; the white forehead,
the throne of intellect. The little fingers that moved rapidly
and gracefully over the drawing were white and shapely; there was
a delicate rose-leaf flush in the pretty hand. She looked fair
and tranquil as the morning itself.
The pure, sweet face had no touch of fire or passion; its
serenity was all unmoved; the world had never breathed on the
innocent, child-like mind. A white lily was not more pure and
stainless than the young girl who sat amid the purple heather,
sketching the white, far-off sails.
So intent was Lillian upon her drawing that she did not hear
light, rapid steps coming near; she was not aroused until a rich
musical voice called, "Lillian, if you have not changed into
stone or statue, do speak." Then, looking up, she saw Beatrice
by her side.
"Lay down your pencils and talk to me," said Beatrice,
imperiously. "How unkind of you, the only human being in this
place who can talk, to come here all by yourself! What do you
think was to become of me?"
"I thought you were reading to mamma," said Lillian, quietly.
"Reading!" exclaimed Beatrice. "You know I am tired of reading,
tired of writing, tired of sewing, tired of everything I have to
Lillian looked up in wonder at the beautiful, restless face.
"Do not look 'good' at me," said Beatrice, impatiently. "I am
tired to death of it all. I want some change. Do you think any
girls in the world lead such lives as we do--shut up in a
rambling old farm house, studying from morn to night; shut in on
one side by that tiresome sea, imprisoned on the other by fields
and woods? How can you take it so quietly, Lillian? I am
wearied to death."
"Something has disturbed you this morning," said Lillian, gently.
"That is like mamma," cried Beatrice; "just her very tone and
words. She does not understand, you do not understand; mamma's
life satisfies her, your life contents you; mine does not content
me--it is all vague and empty. I should welcome anything that
changed this monotony; even sorrow would be better than this dead
level--one day so like another, I can never distinguish them."
"My dear Beatrice, think of what you are saying," said Lillian.
"I am tired of thinking," said Beatrice; "for the last ten years
I have been told to 'think' and 'reflect.' I have thought all I
can; I want a fresh subject."
"Think how beautiful those far-off white sails look," said
Lillian--"how they gleam in the sunshine. See, that one looks
like a mysterious hand raised to beckon us away."
"Such ideas are very well for you, Lillian," retorted Beatrice.
"I see nothing in them. Look at the stories we read; how
different those girls are from us! They have fathers, brothers,
and friends; they have jewels and dresses; they have handsome
admirers, who pay them homage; they dance, ride, and enjoy
themselves. Now look at us, shut up here with old and serious
"Hush, Beatrice," said Lillian; "mamma is not old."
"Not in years, perhaps," replied Beatrice; "but she seems to me
old in sorrow. She is never gay nor light-hearted. Mrs. Vyvian
is very kind, but she never laughs. Is every one sad and
unhappy, I wonder? Oh, Lillian, I long to see the world--the
bright, gay world--over the sea there. I long for it as an
imprisoned bird longs for fresh air and green woods."
"You would not find it all happiness," said Lillian, sagely.
"Spare me all truism," cried Beatrice. "Ah, sister, I am tired
of all this; for eleven years the sea has been singing the same
songs; those waves rise and fall as they did a hundred years
since; the birds sing the same story; the sun shines the same;
even the shadow of the great elms fall over the meadow just as it
did when we first played there. I long to away from the sound of
the sea and the rustling of the elm trees. I want to be where
there are girls of my own age, and do as they do. It seems to
me we shall go on reading and writing, sewing and drawing, and
taking what mamma calls instructive rambles until our heads grow
"It is not so bad as that, Beatrice," laughed Lillian. "Lady
Earle says papa must return some day; then we shall all go to
"I never believe one word of it," said Beatrice, undauntedly.
"At times I could almost declare papa himself was a myth. Why do
we not live with him? Why does he never write? We never hear of
or from him, save through Lady Earle; besides, Lillian, what do
you think I heard Mrs. Vyvian say once to grandmamma? It was
that we might not go to Earlescourt at all--that if papa did not
return, or died young, all would go to a Mr. Lionel Dacre, and we
should remain here. Imagine that fate--living a long life and
dying at the Elms!"
"It is all conjecture," said her sister. "Try to be more
contented, Beatrice. We do not make our own lives, we have not
the control of our own destiny."
"I should like to control mine," sighed Beatrice.
"Try to be contented, darling," continued the sweet, pleading
voice. "We all love and admire you. No one was ever loved more
dearly or better than you are. The days are rather long at
times, but there are all the wonders and beauties of Nature and
"Nature and Art are all very well," cried Beatrice; "but give me
She turned her beautiful, restless face from the smiling sea; the
south wind dancing over the yellow gorse caught up the words
uttered in that clear, musical voice and carried them over the
cliff to one who was lying with half-closed eyes under the shade
of a large tree--a young man with a dark, half-Spanish face
handsome with a coarse kind of beauty. He was lying there,
resting upon the turf, enjoying the beauty of the morning. As
the musical voice reached him, and the strange words fell upon
his ear, he smiled and raised his head to see who uttered them.
He saw the young girls, but their faces were turned from him;
those words range in his ears--"Nature and Art are all very
well, but give me life."
Who was it longed for life? He understood the longing; he
resolved to wait there until the girls went away. Again he heard
the same voice.
"I shall leave you to your sails, Lillian. I wish those same
boats would come to carry us away--I wish I had wings and could
fly over the sea and see the bright, grand world that lies beyond
it. Goodbye; I am tired of the never-ending wash of those long,
He saw a young girl rise from the fragrant heather and turn to
descend the cliff. Quick as thought he rushed down by another
path, and, turning back, contrived to meet her half-way.
Beatrice came singing down the cliff. Her humor, never the same
ten minutes together, had suddenly changed. She remembered a new
and beautiful song that Lady Earle had sent, and determined to go
home and try it. There came no warning to her that bright summer
morning. The south wind lifted the hair from her brow and wafted
the fragrance of hawthorn buds and spring flowers to greet her,
but it brought no warning message; the birds singing gayly, the
sun shining so brightly could not tell her that the first link in
a terrible chain was to be forged that morning.
Half-way down the cliff, where the path was steep and narrow,
Beatrice suddenly met the stranger. A stranger was a rarity at
the Elms. Only at rare intervals did an artist or a tourist seek
shelter and hospitality at the old farm house. The stranger
seemed to be a gentleman. For one moment both stood still; then,
with a low bow, the gentleman stepped aside to let the young girl
pass. As he did so, he noted the rare beauty of that brilliant
face--he remembered the longing words.
"No wonder," he thought; "it is a sin for such a face as that to
be hidden here."
The beauty of those magnificent eyes startled him. Who was she?
What could she be doing here? Beatrice turning again, saw the
stranger looking eagerly after her, with profound admiration
expressed in every feature of his face; and that admiring gaze,
the first she had ever received in her life, sank deep into the
vain, girlish heart.
He watched the graceful, slender figure until the turn of the
road hid Beatrice from his view. He followed her at a safe
distance, and saw her cross the long meadows that led to the
Elms. Then Hugh Fernely waited with patience until one of the
farm laborers came by. By judicious questioning he discovered
much of the history of the beautiful young girl who longed for
life. Her face haunted him--its brilliant, queenly beauty, the
dark, radiant eyes. Come what might, Hugh Fernely said to
himself, he must see her again.
On the following morning he saw the girls return to the cliff.
Lillian finished her picture. Ever and anon he heard Beatrice
singing, in a low, rich voice, a song that had charmed her with
its weird beauty:
"For men must work, and women must weep;
And the sooner it's over, the sooner to sleep
And goodbye to the bar and its moaning."
"I like those words, Lillian," he heard her say. "I wonder how
soon it will be 'over' for me. Shall I ever weep, as the song
says? I have never wept yet."
This morning the golden-haired sister left the cliff first, and
Beatrice sat reading until the noonday sun shone upon the sea.
Her book charmed her; it was a story telling of the life she
loved and longed for--of the gay, glad world. Unfortunately all
the people in the book were noble, heroic, and ideal. The young
girl, in her simplicity, believed that they who lived in the
world she longed for were all like the people in her book.
When she left the path that led to the meadows, she saw by her
side the stranger who had met her the day before. Again he bowed
profoundly, and, with many well-expressed apologies, asked some
trifling question about the road.
Beatrice replied briefly, but she could not help seeing the
wonder of admiration in his face. Her own grew crimson under his
gaze--he saw it, and his heart beat high with triumph. As
Beatrice went through the meadows he walked by her side. She
never quite remembered how it happened, but in a few minutes he
was telling her how many years had passed since he had seen the
spring in England. She forgot all restraint, all prudence, and
raised her beautiful eyes to his.
"Ah, then," she cried, "you have seen the great world that lies
over the wide sea."
"Yes," he replied, "I have seen it. I have been in strange,
bright lands, so different from England that they seemed to
belong to another world. I have seen many climes, bright skies,
and glittering seas, where the spice islands lie."
As he spoke, in words that were full of wild, untutored
eloquence, he saw the young girl's eyes riveted upon him. Sure
of having roused her attention, he bowed, apologized for his
intrusion, and left her.
Had Dora been like other mothers, Beatrice would have related
this little adventure and told of the handsome young traveler who
had been in strange climes. As it was, knowing her mother's
utter dread of all men--her fear lest her children should ever
love and marry--Beatrice never named the subject. She thought
much of Hugh Fernely--not of him himself, but of the world he
had spoken about--and she hoped it might happen to her to meet
"If we had some one here who could talk in that way," she said to
herself, "the Elms would not be quite so insupportable."
Two days afterward, Beatrice, wandering on the sands, met Hugh
Fernely. She saw the startled look of delight on his face, and
smiled at his pleasure.
"Pray forgive me," he said. "I--I can not pass you without one
word. Time has seemed to me like one long night since I saw you
He held in his hand some beautiful lilies of the valley--every
little white warm bell was perfect. He offered them to her with
a low bow.
"This is the most beautiful flower I have seen for many years,"
he said. "May I be forgiven for begging permission to offer it
to the most beautiful lady I have ever seen?"
Beatrice took it from him, blushing at his words. He walked by
her side along the yellow sands, the waves rolling in and
breaking at their feet. Again his eloquence charmed her. He
told her his name, and how he was captain of a trading vessel.
Instinctively he seemed to understand her character--her
romantic, ideal way of looking at everything. He talked to her
of the deep seas and their many wonders; of the ocean said to be
fathomless; of the coral islands and of waters in whose depths
the oyster containing the pale, gleaming pearl is found; of the
quiet nights spent at sea, where the stars shine as they never
seem to shine on land; of the strange hush that falls upon the
heaving waters before a storm. He told of long days when they
were becalmed upon the green deep, when the vessel seemed
"A painted ship upon a painted ocean."
With her marvelous fancy and quick imagination she followed him
to the wondrous depth of silent waters where strange shapes,
never seen by human eye, abound. She hung upon his words; he saw
it, and rejoiced in his success. He did not startle her by any
further compliment, but when their walk was ended he told her
that morning would live in his memory as the happiest time of his
After a few days it seemed to become a settled thing that
Beatrice should meet Hugh Fernely. Lillian wondered that her
sister so often preferred lonely rambles, but she saw the
beautiful face she loved so dearly grow brighter and happier,
never dreaming the cause.
For many long days little thought of Hugh Fernely came to
Beatrice. Her mind ran always upon what he had told her--upon
his description of what he had seen and heard. He noted this,
and waited with a patience born of love for the time when she
should take an interest in him.
Words were weak in which to express the passionate love he felt
for this beautiful and stately young girl. It seemed to him like
a fairy tale. On the morning he first saw Beatrice he had been
walking a long distance, and had lain down to rest on the cliffs.
There the beautiful vision had dawned upon him. The first moment
he gazed into that peerless face he loved Beatrice with a passion
that frightened himself. He determined to win her at any cost.
At last and by slow degrees he began to speak of her and himself,
slowly and carefully, his keen eyes noting every change upon her
face; he began to offer her delicate compliments and flattery so
well disguised that it did not seem to her flattery at all. He
made her understand that he believed her to be the most beautiful
girl he had ever beheld. He treated her always as though she
were a queen, and he her humblest slave.
Slowly but surely the sweet poison worked its way; the day came
when that graceful, subtle flattery was necessary to the very
existence of Beatrice Earle. There was much to excuse her; the
clever, artful man into whose hands she had fallen was her first
admirer--the first who seemed to remember she was no longer a
child, and to treat her with deferential attention. Had she
been, as other girls are, surrounded by friends, accustomed to
society, properly trained, prepared by the tender wisdom of a
loving mother, she would never have cast her proud eyes upon Hugh
Fernely; she would never have courted the danger or run the risk.
As it was, while Dora preferred solitude, and nourished a keen
dislike to her husband in her heart--while Ronald yielded to
obstinate pride, and neglected every duty--while both preferred
the indulgence of their own tempers, and neglected the children
the Almighty intrusted to them, Beatrice went on to her fate.
It was so sad a story, the details so simple yet so pitiful.
Every element of that impulsive, idealistic nature helped on the
tragedy. Hugh Fernely understood Beatrice as perhaps no one else
ever did. He idealized himself. To her at length he became a
hero who had met with numberless adventures--a hero who had
traveled and fought, brave and generous. After a time he spoke
to her of love, at first never appearing to suppose that she
could care for him, but telling her of his own passionate worship
how her face haunted him, filled his dreams at night, and shone
before him all day--how the very ground she stood upon was
sacred to him--how he envied the flowers she touched--how he
would give up everything to be the rose that died in her hands.
It was all very pretty and poetical, and he knew how to find
pretty, picturesque spots in the woods where the birds and the
flowers helped him to tell his story.
Beatrice found it very pleasant to be worshiped like a queen;
there was no more monotony for her. Every morning she looked
forward to seeing Hugh--to learning more of those words that
seemed to her like sweetest music. She knew that at some time or
other during the day she would see him; he never tired of
admiring her beauty. Blameworthy was the sad mother with her
stern doctrines, blameworthy the proud, neglectful father, that
she knew not how wrong all this was. He loved her; in a thousand
eloquent ways he told her so. She was his loadstar, beautiful
and peerless. It was far more pleasant to sit on the sea shore,
or under the greenwood trees, listening to such words than to
pass long, dreary hours indoors. And none of those intrusted
with the care of the young girl ever dreamed of her danger.
So this was the love her mother dreaded so much. This was the
love poets sung of and novelists wrote about. It was pleasant;
but in after days, when Beatrice herself came to love, she knew
that this had been but child's play.
It was the romance of the stolen meeting that charmed Beatrice.
If Hugh had been admitted to the Elms she would have wearied of
him in a week; but the concealment gave her something to think
of. There was something to occupy her mind; every day she must
arrange for a long ramble, so that she might meet Hugh. So,
while the corn grew ripe in the fields, and the blossoms died
away--while warm, luxurious summer ruled with his golden wand
Ronald Earle's daughter went on to her fate.
At length there came an interruption to Hugh Fernely's love
dream. The time drew near when he must leave Seabay. The vessel
he commanded was bound for China, and was to sail in a few days.
The thought that he must leave the beautiful girl he loved so
dearly and so deeply struck him with unendurable pain; he seemed
only to have lived since he had met her, and he knew that life
without her would be a burden too great for him to bear. He
asked himself a hundred times over: "Does she love me?" He could
not tell. He resolved to try. He dared not look that future in
the face which should take her from him.
The time drew near; the day was settled on which the "Seagull"
was to set sail, and yet Hugh Fernely had won no promise from
One morning Hugh met her at the stile leading from the field into
the meadow lane--the prettiest spot in Knutsford. The ground
was a perfectly beautiful carpet of flowers--wild hyacinths,
purple foxgloves, pretty, pale strawberry blossoms all grew
there. The hedges were one mass of wild roses and woodbine; the
tall elm trees that ran along the lane met shadily overhead; the
banks on either side were radiant in different colored mosses;
huge ferns surrounded the roots of the trees.
Beatrice liked the quiet, pretty, green meadow lane. She often
walked there, and on this eventful morning Hugh saw her sitting
in the midst of the fern leaves. He was by her side in a minute,
and his dark, handsome face lighted up with joy.
"How the sun shines!" he said. "I wonder the birds begin to sing
and the flowers to bloom before you are out, Miss Earle."
"But I am not their sun," replied Beatrice with a smile.
"But you are mine," cried Hugh; and before she could reply he was
kneeling at her feet, her hands clasped in his, while he told her
of the love that was wearing his life away.
No one could listen to such words unmoved; they were true and
eloquent, full of strange pathos. He told her how dark without
her the future would be to him, how sad and weary his life;
whereas if she would only love him, and let him claim her when he
returned, he would make her as happy as a queen. He would take
her to the bright sunny lands--would show her all the beauties
and wonders she longed to see--would buy her jewels and dresses
such as her beauty deserved--would be her humble, devoted slave,
if she would only love him.
It was very pleasant--the bright morning, the picturesque glade,
the warmth and brightness of summer all around. Beatrice looked
at the handsome, pale face with emotion, she felt Hugh's warm
lips pressed to her hand, she felt hot tears rain upon her
fingers, and wondered at such love. Yes, this was the love she
had read of and thought about.
"Beatrice," cried Hugh, "do not undo me with one word. Say you
love me, my darling--say I may return and claim you as my own.
Your whole life shall be like one long, bright summer's day."
She was carried away by the burning torrent of passionate words.
With all her spirit and pride she felt weak and powerless before
the mighty love of this strong man. Almost unconscious of what
she did, Beatrice laid her white hands upon the dark, handsome
head of her lover.
"Hush, Hugh," she said, "you frighten me. I do love you; see,
you tears wet my hand."
It was not a very enthusiastic response, but it satisfied him.
He clasped the young girl in his arms, and she did not resist; he
kissed the proud lips and the flushed cheek. Beatrice Earle said
no word; he was half frightened, half touched, and wholly
"Now you are mine," cried Hugh--"mine, my own peerless one;
nothing shall part us but death!"
"Hush!" cried Beatrice, again shuddering as with cold fear.
"That is a word I dislike and dread so much, Hugh--do not use
"I will not," he replied; and then Beatrice forgot her fears. He
was so happy--he loved her so dearly--he was so proud of
winning her. She listened through the long hours of that sunny
morning. It was the fifteenth of July--he made her note the day
and in two years he would return to take her forever from the
quiet house where her beauty and grace alike were buried.
That was the view of the matter that had seized upon the girl's
imagination. It was not so much love for Hugh--she liked him.
His flattery--the excitement of meeting him--his love, had
become necessary to her; but had any other means of escape from
the monotony she hated presented itself, she would have availed
herself of it quite as eagerly. Hugh was not so much a lover to
her as a medium of escape from a life that daily became more and
She listened with bright smiles when he told her that in two
years he should return to fetch her; and she, thinking much of
the romance, and little of the dishonor of concealment, told him
how her sad young mother hated and dreaded all mention of love
"Then you must never tell her," he said--"leave that for me
until I return. I shall have money then, and perhaps the command
of a fine vessel. She will not refuse me when she knows how
dearly I love you, and even should your father--the father you
tell of--come home, you will be true to me, Beatrice, will you
"Yes, I will be true," she replied--and, to do her justice, she
meant it at the time. Her father's return seemed vague and
uncertain; it might take place in ten or twenty years--it might
never be. Hugh offered her freedom and liberty in two years.
"If others should seek your love," he said, "should praise your
beauty, and offer you rank or wealth, you will say to yourself
that you will be true to Hugh?"
"Yes," she said, firmly, "I will do so."
"Two years will soon pass away," said he. "Ah, Beatrice," he
continued, "I shall leave you next Thursday; give me all the
hours you can. Once away from you, all time will seem to me a
long, dark night."
It so happened that the farmer and his men were at work in a
field quite on the other side of Knutsford. Dora and Lillian
were intent, the one upon a box of books newly arrived, the other
upon a picture; so Beatrice had every day many hours at her
disposal. She spent them all with Hugh, whose love seemed to
increase with every moment.
Hugh was to leave Seabay on Thursday, and on Wednesday evening he
lingered by her side as though he could not part with her. To do
Hugh Fernely justice, he loved Beatrice for herself. Had she
been a penniless beggar he would have loved her just the same.
The only dark cloud in his sky was the knowledge that she was far
above him. Still, he argued to himself, the story she told of
her father was an impossible one. He did not believe that Ronald
Earle would ever take his daughters home--he did not quite know
what to think, but he had no fear on that score.
On the Wednesday evening they wandered down the cliff and sat
upon the shore, watching the sun set over the waters. Hugh took
from his pocket a little morocco case and placed it in Beatrice's
hands. She opened it, and cried out with admiration; there lay
the most exquisite ring she had ever seen, of pure pale gold,
delicately and elaborately chased, and set with three gleaming
opals of rare beauty.
"Look at the motto inside," said Hugh.
She held the ring in her dainty white fingers, and read: "Until
death parts us."
"Oh, Hugh," she cried, that word again?" I dread it; why is it
always coming before me?"
He smiled at her fears, and asked her to let him place the ring
upon her finger.
"In two years," he said, "I shall place a plain gold ring on this
beautiful hand. Until then wear this, Beatrice, for my sake; it
is our betrothal ring."
"It shall not leave my finger," she said. "Mamma will not notice
it, and every one else will think she has given it to me
"And now," said Hugh, "promise me once more, Beatrice, you will
be true to me--you will wait for me--that when I return you
will let me claim you as my own?"
"I do promise," she said, looking at the sun shining on the
Beatrice never forgot the hour that followed. Proud, impetuous,
and imperial as she was, the young man's love and sorrow touched
her as nothing had ever done. The sunbeams died away in the
west, the glorious mass of tinted clouds fell like a veil over
the evening sky, the waves came in rapidly, breaking into sheets
of white, creamy foam in the gathering darkness, but still he
could not leave her.
"I must go, Hugh," said Beatrice, at length; "mamma will miss
She never forgot the wistful eyes lingering upon her face.
"Once more, only once more," he said. "Beatrice, my love, when I
return you will be my wife?"
"Yes," she replied, startled alike by his grief and his love.
"Never be false to me," he continued. "If you were--"
"What then?" she asked, with a smile, as he paused.
"I should either kill myself or you," he replied, "perhaps both.
Do not make me say such terrible things. It could not be. The
sun may fall from the heavens, the sea rolling there may become
dry land. Nature--everything may prove false, but not you, the
noblest, the truest of women. Say 'I love you, Hugh,' and let
those be your last words to me. They will go with me over the
wide ocean, and be my rest and stay."
"I love you, Hugh," she said, as he wished her.
Something like a deep, bitter sob came from his white lips.
Death itself would have been far easier than leaving her. He
raised her beautiful face to his--his tears and kisses seemed to
burn it--and then he was gone.
Gone! The romance of the past few weeks, the engrossing
interest, all suddenly collapsed. Tomorrow the old monotonous
life must begin again, without flattery, praise, or love. He had
gone; the whole romance was ended; nothing of it remained save
the memory of his love and the ring upon her finger.
At first there fell upon Beatrice a dreadful blank. The
monotony, the quiet, the simple occupations, were more
unendurable than ever; but in a few days that feeling wore off,
and then she began to wonder at what she had done. The glamour
fell from before her eyes; the novelty and excitement, the
romance of the stolen meetings, the pleasant homage of love and
worship no longer blinded her. Ah, and before Hugh Fernely had
been many days and nights upon the wide ocean, she ended by
growing rather ashamed of the matter, and trying to think of it
as little as she could! Once she half tried to tell Lillian; but
the look of horror on the sweet, pure face startled her, and she
turned the subject by some merry jest.
Then there came a letter from Mrs. Vyvian announcing her return.
The girls were warmly attached to the lady, who had certainly
devoted the ten best years of her life to them. She brought with
her many novelties, new books, new music, amusing intelligence
from the outer world. For some days there was no lack of
excitement and amusement; then all fell again into the old
Mrs. Vyvian saw a great change in Beatrice. Some of the old
impetuosity had died away; she was as brilliant as ever, full of
life and gayety, but in some way there was an indescribable
change. At times a strange calm would come over the beautiful
face, a far-off, dreamy expression steal into the dark, bright
eyes. She had lost her old frankness. Time was when Mrs. Vyvian
could read all her thoughts, and very rebellious thoughts they
often were. But now there seemed to be a sealed chamber in the
girl's heart. She never spoke of the future, and for the first
time her watchful friend saw in her a nervous fear that
distressed her. Carefully and cautiously the governess tried to
ascertain the cause; she felt sure at last that, young as she
was, carefully as she had been watched, Beatrice Earle had a
secret in her life that she shared with no one else.
There were confusion and dismay in the stately home of the
Earles. One sultry morning in August Lord Earle went out into
the garden, paying no heed to the excessive heat. As he did not
return to luncheon, the butler went in search of him and found
his master lying as one dead on the ground. He was carried to
his own room, doctors were summoned in hot haste from far and
near; everything that science or love, skill or wisdom could
suggest was done for him, but all in vain. The hour had come
when he must leave home, rank, wealth, position--whatever he
valued most--when he must answer for his life and what he had
done with it--when he must account for wealth, talent, for the
son given to him--when human likings, human passions, would seem
so infinitely little.
But while Lord Earle lay upon the bed, pale and unconscious, Lady
Earle, who knelt by him and never left him, felt sure that his
mind and heart were both active. He could not speak; he did not
seem to understand. Who knows what passes in those dread moments
of silence, when the light of eternity shows so clearly all that
we have done in the past? It may be that while he lay there,
hovering as it were between two worlds, the remembrance of his
son struck him like a two-edged sword--his son, his only child
given to him to train, not only for earth but for heaven--the
boy he had loved and idolized, then cast off, and allowed to
become a wanderer on the face of the earth. It may be that his
stern, sullen pride, his imperious self-will, his resolute
trampling upon the voice of nature and duty, confronted him in
the new light shining upon him. Perhaps his own words returned
to him, that until he lay dead Ronald should never see
Earlescourt again; for suddenly the voice they thought hushed
forever sounded strangely in the silence of that death chamber.
"My son!" cried the dying man, clasping his hands--"my son!"
Those who saw it never forgot the blank, awful terror that came
upon the dying face as he uttered his last words.
They bore the weeping wife from the room. Lady Earle, strong,
and resolute though she was, could not drive that scene from her
mind. She was ill for many days, and so it happened that the
lord of Earlescourt was laid in the family vault long ere the
family at the Elms knew of the change awaiting them.
Ronald was summoned home in all haste; but months passed ere
letters reached him, and many more before he returned to England.
Lord Earle's will was brief, there was no mention of his son's
name. There was a handsome provision for Lady Earle, the pretty
little estate of Roslyn was settled upon her; the servants
received numerous legacies; Sir Harry Laurence and Sir Hugh
Charteris were each to receive a magnificent mourning ring; but
there was no mention of the once-loved son and heir.
As the heir at law, everything was Ronald's--the large amount of
money the late lord had saved, title, estates, everything
reverted to him. But Ronald would have exchanged all for one
line of forgiveness, one word of pardon from the father he had
never ceased to love.
It was arranged that until Ronald's return his mother should
continue to reside at Earlescourt, and the management of the
estates was intrusted to Mr. Burt, the family solicitor.
Lady Earle resolved to go to the Elms herself; great changes must
be made there. Ronald's wife and children must take their places
in the world; and she felt a proud satisfaction in thinking that,
thanks to her sensible and judicious management, Dora would fill
her future position with credit. She anticipated Ronald's
delight when he should see his beautiful and accomplished
daughters. Despite her great sorrow, the lady of Earlescourt
felt some degree of hope for the future. She wrote to the Elms,
telling Dora of her husband's death, and announcing her own
coming; then the little household understood that their quiet and
solitude had ended forever.
The first thing was to provide handsome mourning. Dora was
strangely quiet and sad through it all. The girls asked a
hundred questions about their father, whom they longed to see.
They knew he had left home in consequence of some quarrel with
his father--so much Lady Earle told them--but they never
dreamed that his marriage had caused the fatal disagreement; they
never knew that, for their mother's sake, Lady Earle carefully
concealed all knowledge of it from them.
Lady Earle reached the Elms one evening in the beginning of
September. She asked first to see Dora alone.
During the long years Dora had grown to love the stately, gentle
lady who was Ronald's mother. She could not resist her sweet,
gracious dignity and winning manners. So, when Lady Earle,
before seeing her granddaughters, went to Dora's room, wishing
for a long consultation with her, Dora received her with gentle,
"I wish to see you first," said Lady Helena Earle, "so that we
may arrange our plans before the children know anything of them.
Ronald will return to England in a few months. Dora, what course
shall you adopt?"
"None," she replied. "Your son's return has nothing whatever to
do with me."
"But, surely," said lady Helena, "for the children's sake you
will not refuse at least an outward show of reconciliation?"
"Mr. Earle has not asked it," said Dora--"he never will do so,
Lady Helena. It is as far from his thoughts as from mine."
Lady Earle sat for some moments too much astounded for speech.
"I never inquired the cause of your separation, Dora," she said,
gently, "and I never wish to know it. My son told me you could
live together no longer. I loved my own husband; I was a devoted
and affectionate wife to him. I bore with his faults and loved
his virtues, so that I can not imagine what I should do were I in
your place. I say to you what I should say to Ronald--they are
solemn words--'What therefore God hath joined together, let no
man put asunder.' Now let me tell you my opinion. It is this,
that nothing can justify such a separation as yours--nothing but
the most outrageous offenses or the most barbarous cruelty. Take
the right course, Dora; submit to your husband. Believe me,
woman's rights are all fancy and nonsense; loving, gentle
submission is the fairest ornament of woman. Even should Ronald
be in the wrong, trample upon all pride and temper, and make the
first advances to him."
"I can not," said Dora gravely.
"Ronald was always generous and chivalrous," continued Lady
Earle. "Oh, Dora, have you forgotten how my son gave up all the
world for you?"
"No," she replied, bitterly; "nor has he forgotten it, Lady
The remembrance of what she thought her wrongs rose visibly
before her. She saw again the magnificent face of Valentine
Charteris, with its calm, high-bred wonder. She saw her
husband's white, angry, indignant countenance--gestures full of
unutterable contempt. Ah, no, never again! Nothing could heal
"You must take your place in the world," continued Lady Earle.
"You are no longer simply Mrs. Earle of the Elms; you are Lady
Earle, of Earlescourt, wife of its lord, the mother of his
children. You have duties too numerous for me to mention, and
you must not shrink from them."
"I refuse all," she replied, calmly; "I refuse to share your
son's titles, his wealth, his position, his duties; I refuse to
make any advances toward a reconciliation; I refuse to be
"And why?" asked Lady Helena, gravely.
A proud flush rose to Dora's face--hot anger stirred in her
"Because your son said words to me that I never can and never
will forget," she cried. "I did wrong--Lady Helena, I was mad,
jealous, blind--I did wrong--I did what I now know to be
dishonorable and degrading. I knew no better, and he might have
pardoned me, remembering that. But before the woman I believe to
be my rival he bitterly regretted having made me his wife."
"They were hard words," said Lady Earle.
"Very hard," replied Dora; "they broke my heart--they slew me in
my youth; I have never lived since then."
"Can you never forgive and forget them, Dora?" asked Lady Helena.
"Never," she replied; "they are burned into my heart and on my
brain. I shall never forget them; your son and I must be
strangers, Lady Earle, while we live."
"I can say no more," sighed Lady Earle. "Perhaps a mightier
voice will call to you, Dora, and then you will obey."
A deep silence fell upon them. Lady Helena was more grieved and
disconcerted than she cared to own. She had thought of taking
her son's wife and children home in triumph, but it was not to
"Shall we speak of the children now?" she asked at length. "Some
arrangements must be made for them."
"Yes," said Dora, "their father has claims upon them. I am ready
to yield to them. I do not believe he will ever love them or
care for them, because they are mine. At the same time, I give
them up to him and to you, Lady Earle. The sweetest and best
years of their lives have been spent with me; I must therefore
not repine. I have but one stipulation to make, and it is that
my children shall never hear one word against me."
"You know little of me," said Lady Helena, "if you think such a
thing is possible. You would rather part with your children than
"Far rather," she replied. "I know you will allow them to visit
me, Lady Earle. I have known for many years that such a time
must come, and I am prepared for it."
"But, my dear Dora," said Lady Earle, warmly, "have you
considered what parting with your children implies--the
solitude, the desolation?"
"I know it all," replied Dora. "It will be hard, but not so hard
nor so bitter as living under the same roof with their father."
Carefully and quietly Dora listened to Lady Earle's plans and
arrangements--how her children were to go to Earlescourt and
take the position belonging to them. Mrs. Vyvian was to go with
them and remain until Lord Earle returned. Until then they were
not to be introduced into society; it would take some time to
accustom them to so great a change. When Lord Earl returned he
could pursue what course he would.
"He will be so proud of them!" said Lady Earle. "I have never
seen a girl so spirited and beautiful as Beatrice, nor one so
fair and gentle as Lillian. Oh, Dora, I should be happy if you
were going with us."
Never once during the few days of busy preparation did Dora's
proud courage give way. The girls at first refused to leave her;
they exhausted themselves in conjectures as to her continued
residence at the Elms, and were forced to be satisfied with Lady
Earle's off-hand declaration that their mother could not endure
any but a private life.
"Mamma has a title now," said Beatrice, wonderingly; "why will
she not assume it?"
"Your mother's tastes are simple and plain," replied Lady Earle.
"Her wishes must be treated with respect."
Dora did not give way until the two fair faces that had
brightened her house vanished. When they were gone, and a
strange, hushed silence fell upon the place, pride and courage
gave way. In that hour the very bitterness of death seemed to be
It was a proud moment for Lady Earle when she led the two young
girls through the long line of servants assembled to receive
them. They were both silent from sheer wonder. They had left
Florence at so early an age that they had not the faintest
remembrance of the pretty villa on the banks of the Arno. All
their ideas were centered in the Elms--they had never seen any
Lady Earle watched the different effect produced upon them by the
glimpse of Earlescourt. Lillian grew pale; she trembled, and her
wondering eyes filled with tears. Beatrice, on the contrary,
seemed instantly to take in the spirit of the place. Her face
flushed; a proud light came into her glorious eyes; her haughty
head was carried more regally than ever. There was no timidity,
no shyly expressed wonder, no sensitive shrinking from new and
They were deeply impressed with the magnificence of their new
home. For many long days Lady Earle employed herself in showing
the numerous treasures of art and vertu the house contained. The
picture gallery pleased Beatrice most; she gloried in the
portraits of the grand old ancestors, "each with a story to his
name." One morning she stood before Lady Helena's portrait,
admiring the striking likeness. Suddenly turning to the stately
lady by her side, she said: "All the Ladies Earle are here; where
is my own mamma? Her face is sweet and fair as any of these.
Why is there no portrait of her?"
"There will be one some day," said Lady Helena. "When your
father returns all these things will be seen to."
"We have no brother," continued Beatrice. "Every baron here
seems to have been succeeded by his son--who will succeed my
"His next of kin," replied Lady Earle, sadly--"Lionel Dacre; he
is a third cousin of Lord Earle. He will have both title and
She signed deeply; it was a real trouble to Lady Helena that she
should never see her son's son, never love and nurse, never bless
the heir of Earlescourt.
Lillian delighted most in the magnificent gardens, the thickly
wild wooded park, where every dell was filled with flowers and
ferns, every knoll crowned with noble trees. The lake, with
white lilies sleeping on its tranquil bosom and weeping willows
touching its clear surface, pleased her most of all. As they
stood on its banks, Beatrice, looking into the transparent
depths, shuddered, and turned quickly away.
"I am tired of water," she said; "nothing wearied me so much at
Knutsford as the wide, restless sea. I must have been born with
a natural antipathy to water."
Many days passed before they were familiar with Earlescourt.
Every day brought its new wonders.
A pretty suite of rooms had been prepared for each sister; they
were in the western wing, and communicated with each other. The
Italian nurse who had come with them from Florence had preferred
remaining with Dora. Lady Earle had engaged two fashionable
ladies' maids, had also ordered for each a wardrobe suitable to
the daughters of Lord Earle.
Mrs. Vyvian had two rooms near her charges. Knowing that some
months might elapse before Ronald returned, Lady Helena settled
upon a course of action. The young girls were to be kept in
seclusion, and not to be introduced to the gay world, seeing only
a few old friends of the family; they were to continue to study
for a few hours every morning, to drive or walk with Lady Earle
after luncheon, to join her at the seven o'clock dinner, and to
pass the evening in the drawing room.
It was a new and delightful life. Beatrice reveled in the luxury
and grandeur that surrounded her. She amused Lady Earle by her
vivacious description of the quiet home at the Elms.
"I feel at home here," she said, "and I never did there. At
times I wake up, half dreading to hear the rustling of the tall
elm trees, and old Mrs. Thorne's voice asking about the cows.
Poor mamma! I can not understand her taste."
When they became more accustomed to the new life, the strange
incongruity in their family struck them both. On one side a
grand old race, intermarried with some of the noblest families in
England--a stately house, title, wealth, rank, and position; on
the other a simple farmer and his homely wife, the plain old
homestead, and complete isolation from all they considered
How could it be? How came it that their father was lord of
Earlescourt and their mother the daughter of a plain country
farmer? For the first time it struck them both that there was
some mystery in the life of their parents. Both grew more shy of
speaking of the Elms, feeling with the keen instinct peculiar to
youth that there was something unnatural in their position.
Visitors came occasionally to Earlescourt. Sir Harry and Lady
Laurence of Holtham often called; Lady Charteris came from
Greenoke, and all warmly admired the lovely daughters of Lord
Beatrice, with her brilliant beauty, her magnificent voice, and
gay, graceful manner, was certainly the favorite. Sir Harry
declared she was the finest rider in the county.
There was an unusual stir of preparation once when Lady Earle
told them that the daughter of her devoted friend, Lady
Charteris, was coming to spend a few days at Earlescourt. Then,
for the first time, they saw the beautiful and stately lady whose
fate was so strangely interwoven with theirs.
Valentine Charteris was no longer "the queen of the county."
Prince di Bergezi had won the beautiful English woman. He had
followed her to Greenoke and repeated his question. There was
neither coquetry nor affectation in Valentine--she had thought
the matter over, and decided that she was never likely to meet
with any one else she liked and respected so much as her Italian
lover. He had the virtues, without the faults, of the children
of the South; a lavishly generous, princely disposition; well-
cultivated artistic tastes; good principles and a chivalrous
sense of honor. Perhaps the thing that touched her most was his
great love for her. In many respects he resembled Ronald Earle
more nearly than any one else she had ever met.
To the intense delight of both parents, Miss Charteris accepted
him. For her sake the prince consented to spend every alternate
year in England.
Three times had the whole country side welcomed the stately
Italian and his beautiful wife. This was their fourth visit to
England, and, when the princess heard from Lady Charteris that
Ronald's two daughters, whom she remembered as little babes, were
at Earlescourt, nothing would satisfy her but a visit there.
The young girls looked in admiring wonder at the lady. They had
never seen any one so dazzling or so bright. The calm, grand,
Grecian face had gained in beauty; the magnificent head, with its
wealth of golden hair, the tall, stately figure, charmed them.
And when Valentine took them in her arms and kissed them her
thoughts went back to the white, wild face in the garden and the
dark eyes that had flamed in hot anger upon her.
"I knew your mother years ago," she said; "has she never
mentioned my name? I used to nurse you both in the little villa
at Florence. I was one of your father's oldest friends."
No, they had never heard her name; and Beatrice wondered that her
mother could have known and forgotten one so beautiful as the
The week she remained passed like a long, bright dream. Beatrice
almost worshiped Valentine; this was what she had dreamed of long
ago; this was one of the ideal ladies living in the bright, gay
world she was learning to understand.
When the prince and princess left Earlescourt they made Lady
Helena promise that Beatrice and Lillian should visit them at
Florence. They spoke of the fair and coquettish Countess Rosali,
still a reigning belle, and said how warmly she would welcome
them for their father's sake.
"You talk so much of Italy," said Valentine to Beatrice. "It is
just the land for the romance you love. You shall see blue skies
and sunny seas, vines, and myrtles, and orange trees in bloom;
you shall see such luxuriance and beauty that you will never wish
to return to this cold, dreary England."
It was thus arranged that, when Lord Earle returned, the visit
should be paid. The evening after their guests' departure seemed
long and triste.
"I will write to mamma," said Beatrice; "it is strange she never
told us anything of her friend. I must tell her all about the
Not daring to ask the girls to keep any secret from Dora, Lady
Earle was obliged to let the letter go. The passionate, lonely
heart brooded over every word. Beatrice dwelt with loving
admiration on the calm, grand beauty of the princess, her sweet
and gracious manner, her kindly recollection of Dora, and her
urgent invitation to them. Dora read it through calmly, each
word stabbing her with cruel pain. The old, fierce jealousy rose
in her heart, crushing every gentle thought. She tore the
letter, so full of Valentine, into a thousand shreds.
"She drew my husband from me," she cried, "with the miserable
beauty of her fair face, and now she will win my children."
Then across the fierce tempest of jealous anger came one thought
like a ray of light. Valentine was married; she had married the
wealthy, powerful prince who had been Ronald's patron; so that,
after all, even if she had lured Ronald from her, he had not
cared for her, or she had soon ceased to care for him.
Beatrice thought it still more strange when her mother's reply to
that long, enthusiastic letter came. Dora said simply that she
had never named the Princess di Borgesi because she was a person
whom she did not care to remember.
Fifteen months passed, and at length came a letter from Lord
Earle, saying that he hoped to reach England before Christmas,
and in any case would be with them by Christmas day. It was a
short letter, written in the hurry of traveling; the words that
touched his children most, were "I am glad you have the girls at
Earlescourt; I am anxious to see what they are like. Make them
happy, mother; let hem have all they want; and, if it be
possible, after my long neglect, teach them to love me."
The letter contained no mention of their mother; no allusion was
made to her. The girls marked the weeks go by in some little
trepidation. What if, after all, this father, whom they did not
remember, should not like them: Beatrice did not think such a
thing very probable, but Lillian passed many an hour in nervous,
It was strange how completely all the old life had died away.
Both had felt a kind of affection for the homely farmer and his
wife--they sent many presents to them--but Beatrice would curl
her proud lip in scorn when she read aloud that "Mr. And Mrs.
Thorne desired their humble duty to Lady Earle."
Lady Earle felt no anxiety about her son's return; looking at his
daughters, she saw no fault in them. Beautiful, accomplished,
and graceful, what more could he desire? She inwardly thanked
Providence that neither of them bore the least resemblance to the
Thornes. Beatrice looked like one of the Ladies Earle just
stepped out from a picture; Lillian, in her fair, dove-like
loveliness, was quite as charming. What would Lady Earle--so
truthful, so honorable--have thought or said had she known that
their bright favorite with the Earle face had plighted her troth,
unknown to any one, to the captain of a trading vessel, who was
to claim her in two years for his wife?
Lady Earl had formed her own plans for Beatrice; she hoped the
time would come when she would be Lady Earle of Earlescourt.
Nothing could be more delightful, nothing easier, provided
Beatrice would marry the young heir, Lionel Dacre.
One morning, as the sisters sat in Lillian's room, Lady Earle
entered with an unusual expression of emotion on her fair, high-
bred face. She held an open letter in her hand.
"My dear children," she said, "you must each look your very best
this evening. I have a note here--your father will be home
The calm, proud voice faltered then, and the stately mistress of
Earlescourt wept at the thought of her son's return as she had
never wept since he left her.
Once more Ronald Earle stood upon English shores; once again he
heard his mother tongue spoken all around him, once again he felt
the charm of quiet, sweet English scenery. Seventeen years had
passed since he had taken Dora's hand in his and told her he
cared nothing for all he was leaving behind him, nothing for any
one in the world save herself--seventeen years, and his love-
dream had lasted but two! Then came the cruel shock that blinded
him with anger and shame; then came the rude awakening from his
dream when, looking his life bravely in the face, he found it
nothing but a burden--hope and ambition gone--the grand
political mission he had once believed to be his own impossible
nothing left to him of his glorious dreams but existence--and
all for what? For the mad, foolish love of a pretty face. He
hated himself for his weakness and folly. For that--for the
fair, foolish woman who had shamed him so sorely--he had half
broken his mother's heart, and had imbittered his father's life.
For that he had made himself an exile, old in his youth, worn and
weary, when life should have been all smiling around him.
These thoughts flashed through his mind as the express train
whirled through the quiet English landscape. Winter snows had
fallen, the great bare branches of the tall trees were gaunt and
snow-laden, the fields were one vast expanse of snow, the frost
had hardened the icicles hanging from hedges and trees. The
scene seemed strange to him after so many years of the tropical
sun. Yet every breath of the sharp, frosty air invigorated him
and brought him new life and energy.
At length the little station was reached, and he saw the carriage
with his liveried servants awaiting him. A warm flush rose to
Lord Earle's face; for a moment he felt almost ashamed of meeting
his old domestics. They must all know now why he had left home.
His own valet, Morton, was there. Lord Earle had kept him, and
the man had asked permission to go and meet his old master.
Ronald was pleased to see him; there were a few words of
courteous greeting from Lord Earle to all around, and a few still
kinder words to Morton.
Once again Ronald saw the old trees of which he had dreamed so
often, the stately cedars, the grand spreading oaks, the tall
aspens, the lady beeches, the groves of poplars--every spot was
familiar to him. In the distance he saw the lake shining through
the trees; he drove past the extensive gardens, the orchards now
bare and empty. He was not ashamed of the tears that rushed
warmly to his eyes when the towers and turrets of Earlescourt
came in sight.
A sharp sense of pain filled his heart--keen regret, bitter
remorse, a longing for power to undo all that was done, to recall
the lost miserable years--the best of his life. He might
return; he might do his best to atone for his error; but neither
repentance nor atonement would give him back the father whose
pride he had humbled in the dust.
As the carriage rolled up the broad drive, a hundred instances of
his father's love and indulgence flashed across him--he had
never refused any request save one. He wisely and tenderly tried
to dissuade him from the false step that could never be retraced
but all in vain.
He remembered his father's face on that morning when, with
outstretched hands, he bade him leave his presence and never seek
it more--when he told him that whenever he looked upon his dead
face he was to remember that death itself was less bitter than
the hour in which he had been deceived.
Sad, bitter memories filled his heart when the carriage stopped
at the door and Ronald caught sight of the old familiar faces,
some in smiles, some in tears.
The library door was thrown open. Hardly knowing whither he
went, Lord Earle entered, and it was closed behind him. His
eyes, dimmed with tears, saw a tall, stately lady, who advanced
to meet him with open arms.
The face he remembered so fair and calm bore deep marks of
sorrow; the proud, tender eyes were shadowed; the glossy hair was
threaded with silver; but it was his mother's voice that cried to
him, "My son, my son, thank Heaven you have returned!"
He never remembered how long his mother held him clasped in her
arms. Earth has no love like a mother's love--none so tender,
so true, so full of sweet wisdom, so replete with pity and
pardon. It was her own son whom Lady Earle held in her arms.
She forgot that he was a man who had incurred just displeasure.
He was her boy, her own treasure, and so it was that her words of
greeting were all of loving welcome.
"How changed you are," she said, drawing him nearer to the fast-
fading light. "Your face is quite bronzed, and you look so many
years older--so sad, so worn! Oh, Ronald, I must teach you to
grow young and happy again!"
He sighed deeply, and his mother's heart grew sad as she watched
his restless face.
"Old-fashioned copy-books say, mother, that 'to be happy one must
be good.' I have not been good," he said with a slight smile,
"and I shall never be happy."
In the faint waning light, through which the snow gleamed
strangely, mother and son sat talking. Lady Earle told Ronald of
his father's death--of the last yearning cry when all the pent-
up love of years seemed to rush forth and overpower him with its
force. It was some comfort to him, after all, that his father's
last thoughts and last words had been of him.
His heart was strangely softened; a new hope came to him.
Granted that the best part of his life was wasted, he would do
his best with the remainder.
"And my children," he said, "my poor little girls! I will not
see them until I am calm and refreshed. I know they are well and
happy with you."
Then, taking advantage of his mood, Lady Helena said what she had
been longing to say.
"Ronald," she began, "I have had much to suffer. You will never
know how my heart has been torn between my husband and my son.
Let my last few years be spent in peace."
"They shall, mother," he said. "Your happiness shall be my
"There can be no rest for me," continued his mother, "unless all
division in our family ends. Ronald, I, who never asked you a
favor before, ask one now. Seek Dora and bring her home
reconciled and happy."
A dark angry frown such as she had never seen there before came
into Lord Earle's face.
"Anything but that," he replied, hastily; "I can not do it,
mother. I could not, if I lay upon my death bed."
"And why?" asked Lady Helena, simply, as she had asked Dora.
"For a hundred reasons, the first and greatest of which is that
she has outraged all my notions of honor, shamed and disgraced me
in the presence of one whom I esteemed and revered; she has--But
no, I will not speak of my wife's errors, it were unmanly. I can
not forgive her, mother. I wish her no harm; let her have every
luxury my wealth can procure, but do not name her to me. I
should be utterly devoid of all pride if I could pardon her."
"Pride on your side," said Lady Earle, sadly, "and temper on
hers! Oh, Ronald, how will it end? Be wise in time; the most
honest and noble man is he who conquers himself. Conquer
yourself, my son, and pardon Dora."
"I could more easily die," he replied, bitterly.
"Then," said Lady Earle, sorrowfully, "I must say to you as I
said to Dora--beware; pride and temper must bend and break. Be
warned in time."
"Mother," interrupted Ronald, bending over the pale face so full
of emotion, "let this be the last time. You distress yourself
and me; do not renew the subject. I may forgive her in the hour
of death--not before."
Lady Helena's last hope died away; she had thought that in the
first hour of his return, when old memories had softened his
heart, she would prevail on him to seek his wife whom he had
ceased to love, and for their children's sake bring her home. She
little dreamed that the coming home, the recollection of his
father, the ghost of his lost youth and blasted hopes rising
every instant, had hardened him against the one for whom he had
"You will like to see the children now," said Lady Helena. "I
will ring for lights. You will be charmed with both. Beatrice
is much like you--she has the Earle face, and, unless I am
mistaken, the Earle spirit, too."
"Beatrice," said Lillian, as they descended the broad staircase,
"I am frightened. I wish I could remember something of papa
his voice or his smile; it is like going to see a stranger. And
suppose, after all, he does not like us!"
"Suppose what is of greater importance," said Beatrice proudly
"that we do not like him!"
But, for all her high spirits and hauteur, Beatrice almost
trembled as the library door opened and Lady Earle came forward
to met them. Beatrice raised her eyes dauntlessly and saw before
her a tall, stately gentleman with a handsome face, the saddest
and noblest she had ever seen--clear, keen eyes that seemed to
pierce through all disguise and read all thoughts.
"There is Beatrice," said Lady Helena, as she took her hand
gently; and Ronald looked in startled wonder at the superb beauty
of the face and figure before him.
"Beatrice," he said, kissing the proud, bright face, "can it be
possible? When I saw you last you were a little, helpless
"I am not helpless now," she replied, with a smile; "and I hope
you are going to love me very much, papa. You have to make up
for fifteen years of absence. I think it will not be very
difficult to love you."
He seemed dazzled by her beauty--her frank, high spirit and
fearless words. Then he saw a golden head, with sweet, dove-like
eyes, raised to his.
"I am Lillian, papa," said a clear, musical voice. "Look at me,
please--and love me too."
He did both, charmed with the gentle grace of her manner, and the
fair, pure face. Then Lord Earle took both his children in his
"I wish," he said, in a broken voice and with tears in his eyes,
Back to Full Books