When Lord Airlie bade Beatrice good night, he bent low over the white, jeweled hand.
"I forget all time when with you," he said; "it does not seem an hour since I came to Earlescourt."
The morrow brought the letter she had dreaded yet expected to see.
It was not filled with loving, passionate words, as was the first Hugh had written. He said the time had come when he must have an answer--when he must know from her own lips at what period he might claim the fulfillment of her promise--when she would be his wife.
He would wait no longer. If it was to be war, let the war begin he should win. If peace, so much the better. In any case he was tired of suspense, and must know at once what she intended to do. He would trust to no more promises; that very night he would be at Earlescourt, and must see her. Still, though he intended to enforce his rights, he would not wantonly cause her pain. He would not seek the presence of her father until she had seen him and they had settled upon some plan of action.
"I know the grounds around Earlescourt well," he wrote. "I wandered through them for many nights three weeks ago. A narrow path runs from the gardens to the shrubbery--meet me there at nine; it will be dark then, and you need not fear being seen. Remember, Beatrice, at nine tonight I shall be there; and if you do not come, I must seek you in the house, for see you I will."
The letter fell from her hands; cold drops of fear and shame stood upon her brow; hatred and disgust filled her heart. Oh, that she should ever have placed herself in the power of such a man!
The blow had fallen at last. She stood face to face with her shame and fear. How could she meet Hugh Fernely? What should she say to him? How must such a meeting end? It would but anger him the more. He should not even touch her hand in greeting, she said to herself; and how would he endure her contempt?