But as time went on, and Beatrice began to understand more of the great world, she had an instinctive idea of the truth. It came to her by slow degrees. Her father had married beneath him, and her mother had no home in the stately hall of Earlescourt. At first violent indignation seized her; then calmer reflection told her she could not judge correctly. She did not know whether Lord Earle had left his wife, or whether her mother had refused to live with him.
It was the first cloud that shadowed the life of Lord Earle's beautiful daughter. The discovery did not diminish her love for the quiet, sad mother, whose youth and beauty had faded so soon. If possible, she loved her more; there was a pitying tenderness in her affection.
"Poor mamma!" thought the young girl--"poor, gentle mamma! I must be doubly kind to her, and love her better than ever."
Dora did not understand how it happened that her beautiful Beatrice wrote so constantly and so fondly to her--how it happened that week after week costly presents found their way to the Elms.
"The child must spend all her pocket money on me," she said to herself. "How well and dearly she loves me--my beautiful Beatrice!"
Lady Helena remembered the depth of her mother's love. She pitied the lonely, unloved wife, deprived of husband and children. She did all in her power to console her. She wrote long letters, telling Dora how greatly her children were admired, and how she would like their mother to witness their triumph. She told how many conquests Beatrice had made; how the proud and exclusive Lord Airlie was always near her, and that Beatrice, of her own fancy, liked him better than any one else.
"Neither Lord Earle nor myself could wish a more brilliant future for Beatrice," wrote Lady Helena. "As Lady Airlie of Lynnton, she will be placed as her birth and beauty deserve."
But even Lady Helena was startled when she read Dora's reply. It was a wild prayer that her child should be saved--spared the deadly perils of love and marriage--left to enjoy her innocent youth.