Lionel’s face flushed, and he replied coldly, hauteur in his tone, “Nonsense, Jan! you are speaking most unwarrantably. When Sibylla chose Fred Massingbird, I was the heir to Verner’s Pride.”
“I know,” said Jan. “Verner’s Pride would be a great temptation to Sibylla; and I can but think she knew it was left to Fred when she married him.”
Lionel did not condescend to retort. He would as soon believe himself capable of bowing down before the god of gold, in a mean spirit, as believe Sibylla capable of it. Indeed, though he was wont to charm himself with the flattering notion that his love for Sibylla had died out, or near upon it, he was very far off the point when he could think any ill of Sibylla.
“My patients will be foaming,” remarked Jan, who continued his way to Verner’s Pride with Lionel. “They will conclude I have gone off with Dr. West; and I have his list on my hands now, as well as my own. I say, Lionel, when I told you the letters from Australia were in, how little we guessed they would contain this news.”
“Little, indeed!” said Lionel.
“I suppose you won’t go to London now?”
“I suppose not,” was the reply of Lionel; and a rush of gladness illumined his heart as he spoke it. No more toil over those dry old law books! The study had never been to his taste.
The servants were gathered in the hall when Lionel and Jan entered it. Decorously sorry, of course, for the tidings which had arrived, but unable to conceal the inward satisfaction which peeped out—not satisfaction at the death of Fred, but at the accession of Lionel. It is curious to observe how jealous the old retainers of a family are, upon all points which touch the honour or the well-being of the house. Fred Massingbird was an alien; Lionel was a Verner; and now, as Lionel entered, they formed into a double line that he might pass between them, their master from henceforth.
Mrs. Verner was in the old place, the study. Jan had seen her in bed that morning; but, since then, she had risen. Early as the hour yet was, recent as the sad news had been, Mrs. Verner had dropped asleep. She sat nodding in her chair, snoring heavily, breathing painfully, her neck and face all one colour—carmine red. That she looked—as Jan had observed—a very apoplectic subject, struck Lionel most particularly on this morning.
“Why don’t you bleed her, Jan?” he whispered.
“She won’t be bled,” responded Jan. “She won’t take physic. She won’t do anything that she ought to do. You may as well talk to a post. She’ll do nothing but eat and drink, and fall asleep afterwards, and then wake up to eat and drink and fall asleep again. Mrs. Verner”—exalting his voice—“here’s Lionel.”
Mrs. Verner partially woke up. Her eyes opened sufficiently to observe Jan; and her mind apparently grew awake to a confused remembrance of facts. “He’s gone to London,” said she to Jan. “You won’t catch him:” and then she nodded again.