DAYS AND NIGHTS OF PAIN.
In his darkened chamber at Deerham Court lay Lionel Verner. Whether it was a sun-stroke, or whether it was but the commencement of a fever, which had suddenly struck him down that day, certain it was, that a violent sickness attacked him, and he lay for many, many days—days and weeks as old Frost had called it—between life and death. Fever and delirium struggled with life, which should get the mastery.
Very little doubt was there, that his state of mind increased the danger of his state of body. How bravely Lionel had struggled to do battle with his great anguish, he might scarcely have known himself, in all its full intensity, save for this illness. He had loved Sibylla with the pure fervour of feelings young and fresh. He could have loved her to the end of life; he could have died for her. No leaven was mixed with his love, no base dross; it was refined as the purest silver. It is only these exalted, ideal passions, which partake more of heaven’s nature than of earth’s, that tell upon the heart when their end comes. Terribly had it told upon Lionel Verner’s. In one hour he had learned that Sibylla was false to him, was about to become the wife of another. In his sensitive reticence, in his shrinking pride, he had put a smiling face upon it before the world. He had watched her marry Frederick Massingbird, and had “made no sign.” Deep, deep in his heart, fifty fathom deep, had he pressed down his misery, passing his days in what may be called a false atmosphere—showing a false side to his friends. It seemed false to Lionel, the appearing what he was not. He was his true self at night only, when he could turn, and toss, and groan out his trouble at will. But, when illness attacked him, and he had no strength of body to throw off his pain of mind, then he found how completely the blow had shattered him. It seemed to Lionel, in his sane moments, in the intervals of his delirium, that it would be far happier to die, than to wake up again to renewed life, to bear about within him that ever-present sorrow. Whether the fever—it was not brain fever, though bordering closely upon it—was the result of this state of mind, more than of the sun-stroke, might be a question. Nobody knew anything of that inward state, and the sun-stroke got all the blame—save, perhaps, from Lionel himself. He may have doubted.
One day Jan called in to see him. It was in August. Several weeks had elapsed since the commencement of his illness, and he was so far recovered as to be removed by day to a sitting-room on a level with his chamber—a wondrously pretty sitting-room over Lady Verner’s drawing-room, but not so large as that, and called “Miss Decima’s room.” The walls were panelled in medallions, white and delicate blue, the curtains were of blue satin and lace, the furniture blue. In each medallion hung an exquisite painting in water colours, framed—Decima’s doing. Lady Verner was one who liked at times