Maude did not produce the letter which had been the cause of such annoyance to Lady Bereford, but she disclosed part of the contents and part she kept for herself. Together they talked long and earnestly. Though she took no liberty in showing the relationship in which she considered Lady Rosamond, her simple and earnest nature seemed to give assurance to Gerald. He listened to his sister’s repeated praise of her companion—of their girlish attachment—and heartily hoped that Lady Rosamond would return the deep love which he had unreservedly placed at her disposal—his heart, name, riches—all were given the absent and beautiful maiden.
Musing awhile, Gerald was aroused by his sister, who almost petulantly exclaimed:
“Oh, Gerald, I do wish that Rosamond was home again, never to leave us. Two years separation seems a long time in the future. I grow so impatient. Do you know, Gerald,” added Maude, with a bright eagerness, “I am going to write and urge her to shorten this lengthy probation. I cannot endure the thought. Two years!” repeated she, a second time, with strong emphasis.
“But you must remember the fable of the boys and the frogs,” said Gerald, with an amused smile.
This remark reminded Maude of the sentiments of her mother, but she would not repeat them in the presence of her brother. She did not wish to cherish or countenance anything that would be disloyal to Lady Rosamond. In her sincerity she would not believe any views relating to her friend unless they received her direct sanction.
Gerald Bereford had misgivings regarding his hopes, but trusted that time and the favor of Sir Thomas would eventually disclose a brighter prospect. No jealousy had crossed his mind. Had Lady Bereford expressed her opinion in his presence he might have formed a far different view of the matter. At present all was tranquil. Maude’s earnestness momentarily affected him—nothing more.
Lord Bereford, the present incumbent, was a man of sterling integrity—a firm friend of his brother-in-law, Sir Thomas Seymour. Though a man of high birth, distinguished, and sought by the great and learned, he was gentle, unassuming, and benign.
From her father Maude Bereford inherited the quiet and unobtrusive demeanor, so strongly in contrast to the haughty and obsequious bearing of Lady Bereford. Gerald was a strange compound of both—a fact that gave birth to the honest convictions of his nature.
Lord Bereford was an ardent admirer of Lady Rosamond—“a true Bereford,”—the counterpart of her mother, Maria Bereford, whose beauty had been the theme of unusual admiration. For hours could he gaze upon his sister’s child and recall the past, when a beautiful girl wandered through the old familiar spots and looked to him for brotherly sympathy when any annoyance rose before her. When the young girl grew to womanhood and gave her affection to his boyhood friend, Sir Thomas Seymour, he bestowed his