Lionel Dacre loved her best of all. His only wonder was that any one could even look at Beatrice when Lillian was near. He wondered sometimes whether she had not been made expressly for him--she was so strong where he was weak, her calm serene patience controlled his impetuosity, her gentle thoughtfulness balanced his recklessness, her sweet, graceful humility corrected his pride.
She influenced him more than he knew--one word from her did wonders with him. He loved her for her fair beauty, but most of all for the pure, guileless heart that knew no shadow of evil upon which the world had never even breathed.
Lionel Dacre had peculiar ideas about women. His mother, who had been a belle in her day, was essentially worldly. The only lessons she had ever taught him were how to keep up appearance, how to study fashionable life and keep pace with it.
She had been a lady of fashion, struggling always with narrow means; and there were times when her son's heart grew sick, remembering the falseness, the meanness, the petty cunning maneuvers she had been obliged to practice.
As he grew older and began to look around the world, he was not favorably impressed. The ladies of his mother's circle were all striving together to get the foremost place. He heard of envy, jealousy, scandal, untruth, until he wondered if all women were alike.
He himself was of a singularly truthful, honorable nature--all deceit, all false appearances were hateful to him. He had formed to himself an ideal of a wife, and he resolved to live and die unmarried unless he could find some one to realize it.
Lillian Earle did. He watched her keenly; she was truthful and open as the day. He never heard a false word from her not even one of the trifling excuses that pass current in society for truth. He said to himself, if any one was all but perfect, surely she was. To use his own expression, he let his heart's desire rest in her; all he had ever hoped for or dreamed of was centered in her. He set to work deliberately and with all the ardor of his impetuous nature to win her love.
At first she did not understand him; then by degrees he watched the pure young heart awaken to consciousness. It was as pretty a development of love as ever was witnessed. At the sound of his footsteps or his voice the faint color flushed into her face, light came into her eyes; and when he stood by her side, bending his handsome head to read her secret, she would speak a word or two, and then hurry away from him. If he wished to join her in her walks or rides, she begged to be excused with trembling lips and drooping eyes.