There was a pause then, and Lord Airlie longed to see who the speakers were--who the girl was that spoke such frank, bright words--that loved truth, and hated all things false--what kind of face accompanied that voice. Suddenly the young earl remembered that he was listening, and he started in horror from his seat. He pushed aside the clustering roses. At first he saw nothing but the golden blossoms of a drooping laburnum; then, a little further on, he saw a fair head bending over some fragrant flowers; then a face so beautiful, so perfect, that something like a cry of surprise came from Lord Airlie's lips.
He had seen many beauties, but nothing like this queenly young girl. Her dark, bright eyes were full of fire and light; the long lashes swept her cheek, the proud, beautiful lips, so haughty in repose, so sweet when smiling, were perfect in shape. From the noble brow a waving mass of dark hair rippled over a white neck and shapely shoulders. It was a face to think and dream of, peerless in its vivid, exquisite coloring and charmingly molded features. He hardly noticed the fair-haired girl.
"Who can she be?" thought Lord Airlie. "I believed that I had seen every beautiful woman in London."
Satisfied with having seen what kind of face accompanied the voice, the young earl left the pretty rose thicket. His friends must have thought him slightly deranged. He went about asking every one, "Who is here today?" Among others, he saluted Lord Dolchester with that question.
"I can scarcely tell you,"replied his lordship. "I am somewhat in a puzzle. If you want to know who is the queen of the fete, I can tell you. It is Lord Earle's daughter, Miss Beatrice Earle. She is over there, see with Lady Downham."
Looking in the direction indicated, Lord Airlee saw the face that haunted him.
"Yes," said Lord Dolchester, with a gay laugh; "and if I were young and unfettered, she would not be Miss Earle much longer."
Lord Airlie gazed long and earnestly at the beautiful girl who looked so utterly unconscious of the admiration she excited.