She did not know, as she lay like a pale broken lily, that years ago her father, in the reckless heyday of youth, had wilfully deceived his father, and married against his wish and commands; she did not know how that unhappy marriage had ended in pride, passion, and sullen, jealous temper--while those who should have foreborne went each their own road--the proud, irritated husband abroad, away from every tie of home and duty, the jealous, angry wife secluding herself in the bitterness of her heart--both neglecting the children intrusted to them. She knew how one of those children had gone wrong; she knew the deceit, the misery, the sorrow that wrong had entailed. She was the chief victim, yet the sin had not been hers.
There were no fierce, rebellious feelings in her gentle heart, no angry warring with the mighty Hand that sends crosses and blessings alike. The flower bent by the wind was not more pliant. Where her sorrow and love had cast her she lay, silently enduring her suffering, while Lionel traveled without intermission, wishing only to find himself far away from the young girl he declared he had ceased to love yet could not forget.
Thursday evening, and the hand of the ormolu clock pointed to a quarter to ten. Lord Earle sat reading, Lady Helena had left Lillian asleep, and had taken up a book near him. Lord Airlie had been sketching for Beatrice a plan of a new wing at Lynnton. Looking up suddenly she saw the time. At ten Hugh Fernely would be at the shrubbery gate. She had not a moment to lose. Saying she was feeling tired, she rose and went to bid Lord Earle goodnight.
He remembered afterward how he had raised the beautiful face in his hands and gazed at it in loving admiration, whispering something the while about "Lady Airlie of Lynnton." He remembered how she, so little given to caressing, had laid her hand upon his shoulder, clasping her arms around his neck, kissing his face, and calling him, "her own dear papa." He remembered the soft, wistful light in her beautiful eyes, the sweet voice that lingered in his ears. Yet no warning came to him, nothing told him the fair child he loved so dearly stood in the shadow of deadly peril.
If he had known, how those strong arms would have been raised to shield her--how the stout, brave heart would have sheltered her! As it was, she left him with jesting words on his lips, and he did not even gaze after her as she quitted the room. If he had only known where and how he should see that face again!
Beatrice went up to Lady Helena, who smiled without raising her eyes from her book. Beatrice bent down and touched the kind, stately face with her lips.
"Good night, grandmamma," she said. "How studious you are!"
"Good night--bless you, my child," returned Lady Helena; and the fair face turned from her with a smile.