"Yes," said Lady Earle; "there is no place I love so well as home. We owe our neighbors something, too. I am almost ashamed when I remember how noted Earlescourt once was for its gay and pleasant hospitality. We must introduce the girls to our neighbors. I can foresee quite a cheerful winter."
"Let us get over the summer and autumn," said Ronald with a smile, "then we will look the winter bravely in the face. I suppose, mother, you can guess who has managed to procure an invitation to Earlescourt!"
"Lord Airlie?" asked Lady Helena.
"Yes," was the laughing reply. "It did me good, mother--it made me feel young and happy again to see and hear him. His handsome, frank face clouded when I told him we were going; then he sighed said London would be like a desert--declared he could not go to Lynnton, the place was full of work-people. He did not like Scotland, and was as homeless as a wealthy young peer with several estates could well be. I allowed him to bewilder himself with confused excuses and blunders, and then asked him to join us at Earlescourt. He almost 'jumped for joy,' as the children say. He will follow us in a week or ten days. Lionel will come with us."
"I am very pleased," said Lady Earle. "Next to you, Ronald, I love Lionel Dacre; his frank, proud, fearless disposition has a great charm for me. He is certainly like Beatrice. How he detests everything false, just as she does!"
"Yes," said Ronald, gravely; "I am proud of my children. There is no taint of untruth or deceit there, mother; they are worthy of their race. I consider Beatrice the noblest girl I have ever known; and I love my sweet Lily just as well."
"You would not like to part with them now?" said Lady Earle.
"I would sooner part with my life!" he replied. "I am not given to strong expressions, mother, but even you could never guess how my life is bound up in theirs."