“It is to be hoped that your fond dream may serve you aright,” said her ladyship, with a tinge of sarcasm in her voice.
At that moment Maude Bereford arose and playfully approached the door wherein stood the future Lord Bereford, the heir of Bereford Castle.
Tall, handsome, and affable, Gerald Bereford bore a strong resemblance to her ladyship, but lacking that severity which predominated in the latter. Bold, regular features stamped the face of the young man. There was firmness about the mouth that indicated a strong energy and perseverance, at the sacrifice of much feeling. On the whole there was much in favor of Gerald Bereford’s preferences; his clear, grey eye showed keen intellect, combined with mirth and humor; a deep manly voice, with purity of tone, spoke of truth and conscientious convictions. Such was the character and personal appearance of the nephew and favorite of Sir Thomas Seymour.
Maude led her brother to a seat beside Lady Bereford, and seated herself on a stool at his feet.
“Is this not a golden evening, Gerald?” questioned the young girl, looking up in her brother’s face.
“Yes,” replied Gerald, “but to enjoy the golden beauty, as you term it, I enforce strict and immediate attention to my wishes, and request your ladyship, and this little girl, will accept the escort of your liege lord.”
“My liege lord will need those gallantries in reserve,” returned the sister, in arch and naive tones.
Lady Bereford waived the imperative demand by desiring to remain. Maude accepted the proffered arm of Gerald to stroll beneath the inviting branches of the dear old oaks, so firmly interwoven in the scenes of innocent childhood and succeeding girlhood. The tender, sensitive girl loved her brother too deeply to believe that any could supplant his place in the love of Lady Rosamond. Her true criterion was the pure, innocent, and trusting love of a sister.
“Gerald, my dear, I am glad this opportunity has been so timely chosen,” said the fond sister in an earnest tone, placing her delicate little hand upon her brother’s shoulder.
“Pray, what has happened, Maude, that you look so sad?” said Gerald, breaking out into a hearty laugh.
“Nothing has happened,” answered Maude; “really, if I look sad I do most wrongfully disavow my intention, having news for you—good news, too, I assure you,” said Maude, again looking at her brother wistfully. “Can you not guess?” said she.
“How should I?” returned Gerald; “that would be a fruitless task.”
“Since you have exercised such patience I will tell you,” said Maude: “I have just received a letter from Rosamond.”
A blush quickly overspread Gerald’s face as he bowed acknowledgment.