There was some little restraint between them at first. Lord Earle seemed at a loss what to talk about; then Lady Helena's gracious tact came into play. She would not have dinner in the large dining room, she ordered it to be served in the pretty morning room, where the fire burned cheerfully and the lamps gave a flow of mellow light. It was a picture of warm, cozy English comfort, and Lord Earle looked pleased when he saw it.
Then, when dinner was over, she asked Beatrice to sing, and she, only pleased to show Lord Earle the extent of her accomplishments, obeyed. Her superb voice, with its clear, ringing tones, amazed him. Beatrice sang song after song with a passion and fire that told how deep the music lay in her soul.
Then Lady Helena bade Lillian bring out her folio of drawings, and again Lord Earle was pleased and surprised by the skill and talent he had not looked for. He praised the drawings highly. One especially attracted his attention--it was the pretty scene Lillian had sketched on the May day now so long passed--the sun shining upon the distant white sails, and the broad, beautiful sweep of sea at Knutsford.
"That is an excellent picture," he said; "it ought to be framed. It is too good to be hidden in a folio. You have just caught the right coloring, Lillian; one can almost see the sun sparkling on the water. Where is this sea-view taken from?"
"Do you not know it?" she asked, looking at him with wonder in her eyes. "It is from Knutsford--mamma's home."
Ronald looked up in sudden, pained surprise.
"Mamma's home!" The words smote him like a blow. He remembered Dora's offense--her cold letter, her hurried flight, his own firm resolve never to receive her in his home again--but he had not remembered that the children must love her--that she was part of their lives. He could not drive her memory from their minds. There before him lay the pretty picture of "mamma's home."
"This," said Lillian, "is the Elms. See those grand old trees, papa! This is the window of Mamma's room, and this was our study."