A whole week passed, and the "something" Beatrice longed for had not happened. Life went on quietly and smoothly. Her father and Lady Earle busied themselves in talking of preparations for the marriage. Lionel Dacre and Lillian slowly drifted into the fairyland of hope, Lord Airlie wrote every day. No one dreamed of the dark secret that hung over Earlescourt.
Every morning Beatrice, with the sanguine hopefulness of youth, said to herself, "Something will happen today;" every night she thought, "Something must happen tomorrow;" but days and nights went on calmly, unbroken by any event or incident such as she wished.
The time of reprieve was rapidly passing. What should she do if, at the end of three weeks, Lord Airlie returned and Hugh Fernely came back to Earlescourt? Through the long sunny hours that question tortured her--the suspense made her sick at heart. There were times when she thought it better to die at once than pass through this lingering agony of fear.
But she was young, and youth is ever sanguine; she was brave, and the brave rarely despair. She did not realize the difficulties of her position, and she did not think it possible that anything could happen to take her from Hubert Airlie.
Only one person noted the change in Beatrice, and that was her sister, Lillian Earle. Lillian missed the high spirits, the brilliant repartee, the gay words that had made home so bright; over and over again she said to herself all was not well with her sister.
Lillian had her own secret--one she had as yet hardly whispered to herself. From her earliest childhood she had been accustomed to give way to Beatrice. Not that there was any partiality displayed, but the willful young beauty generally contrived to have her own way. By her engaging manners and high spirits she secured every one's attention; and thus Lillian was in part overlooked.
She was very fair and gentle, this golden-haired daughter of Ronald Earle. Her face was so pure and spirituelle that one might have sketched it for the face of a seraph; the tender violet eyes were full of eloquence, the white brow full of thought. Her beauty never dazzled, never took any one by storm; it won by slow degrees a place in one's heart.
She was of a thoughtful, unobtrusive nature; nothing could have made her worldly, nothing could have made her proud.