Never had the magnificent voice rung out so joyously, never had the beautiful face looked so bright. She sang something that was like an air of triumph--no under current of sadness marred its passionate sweetness. Lord Airlie bent over her chair enraptured.
"You sing like one inspired, Beatrice," he said.
"I was thinking of you," she replied; and he saw by the dreamy, rapt expression of her face that she meant what she had said.
Presently Lord Airlie was summoned to Lady Helena's assistance in some little argument over cards, and Beatrice, while her fingers strayed mechanically over the keys, arrived at her decision. She would see Hugh. She could not avert that; and she must meet him as bravely as she could. After all, as Lillian had said, he was not cruel, and he did love her. The proud lip curled in scornful triumph as she thought how dearly he loved her. She would appeal to his love, and beseech him to release her.
She would beseech him with such urgency that he could not refuse. Who ever refused her? Could she not move men's hearts as the wind moves the leaves? He would be angry at first, perhaps fierce and passionate, but in the end she would prevail. As she sat there, dreamy, tender melodies stealing, as it were, from her fingers, she went in fancy through the whole scene. She knew how silent the sleeping woods would be--how dark and still the night. She could imagine Hugh's face, browned by the sun and travel. Poor Hugh! In the overflow of her happiness she felt more kindly toward him.
She wished him well. He might marry some nice girl in his own station of life, and be a prosperous, happy man, and she would be a good friend to him if he would let her. No one would ever know her secret. Lillian would keep it faithfully, and down the fair vista of years she saw herself Lord Airlie's beloved wife, the error of her youth repaired and forgotten.
The picture was so pleasant that it was no wonder her songs grew more triumphant. Those who listened to the music that night never forgot it.
Lionel Dacre stood for some minutes stunned with the shock and surprise. He could not be mistaken; unless his senses played him false, it was Lillian Earle whom he had mistaken for a maid meeting her lover. It was Lillian he had believed so pure and guileless who had stolen from her father's home under the cover of night's darkness and silence--who had met in her father's grounds one whom she dared not meet in the light of day.