“You allude to Verner’s Pride?”
“Everything’s gone that I valued in Deerham,” cried Lionel, with the same impulse—“Verner’s Pride amongst the rest. I would never stop here to see the rule of Fred Massingbird. Better that John had lived to take it, than that it should have come to him.”
“Was John better than his brother?”
“He would have made a better master. He was, I believe, a better man. Not but that John had his faults, as we all have.”
“All!” echoed Lucy. “What are your faults?”
Lionel could not help laughing. She asked the question, as she did all her questions, in the most genuine, earnest manner, really seeking the information. “I think for some time back, Lucy, my chief fault has been grumbling. I am sure you must find it so. Better days may be in store for us both.”
Lucy rose. “I think it must be time for me to go and make Lady Verner’s tea. Decima will not be home for it.”
“Where is Decima this evening?”
“She is gone her round to the cottages. She does not find time for it in the day, since you were ill. Is there anything I can do for you before I go down?”
“Yes,” he answered, taking her hand. “You can let me thank you for your patience and kindness. You have borne with me bravely, Lucy. God bless you, my dear child.”
She neither went away, nor drew her hand away. She stood there—as he had phrased it—patiently, until he should release it. He soon did so, with a weary movement: all he did was wearisome to him then, save the thinking and talking of the theme which ought to have been a barred one—Sibylla.
“Will you please to come down to tea this evening?” asked Lucy.
“I don’t care for tea; I’d rather be alone.”
“Then I will bring you some up.”
“No, no; you shall not be at the trouble. I’ll come down, then, presently.”
Lucy Tempest disappeared. Lionel leaned against the window, looking out on the night landscape, and lost himself in thoughts of his faithless love. He aroused himself from them with a stamp of impatience.
“I must shake it off,” he cried to himself; “I will shake it off. None, save myself or a fool, but would have done it months ago. And yet, Heaven alone knows how I have tried and battled, and how vain the battle has been!”
HOME TRUTHS FOR LIONEL.
The cottages down Clay Lane were ill-drained. It might be nearer the truth to say they were not drained at all. As is the case with many another fine estate besides Verner’s Pride, while the agricultural land was well drained, no expense spared upon it, the poor dwellings had been neglected. Not only in the matter of draining, but in other respects, were these habitations deficient: but that strong terms are apt to grate unpleasingly upon the ear, one might say shamefully deficient. The consequence was that no autumn ever went over, scarcely any spring, but somebody would be down with ague, with low fever; and it was reckoned a fortunate season if a good many were not prostrate.