“What is it? Why are you back?” she exclaimed. “Has the train broken down?”
Lionel smiled at her vehemence; at her crimsoned countenance; at her unbounded astonishment altogether.
“The train has not broken down, I trust, Lucy. I did not go with it. Do you know where my mother is?”
“She is gone out with Decima.”
He felt a temporary disappointment; the news, he was aware, would be so deeply welcome to Lady Verner. Lucy stood regarding him, waiting the solution of the mystery.
“What should you say, Lucy, if I tell you Deerham is not going to get rid of me at all?”
“I do not understand you,” replied Lucy, colouring with surprise and emotion. “Do you mean that you are going to remain here?”
“Not here—in this house. That would be a calamity for you.”
Lucy looked as if it would be anything but a calamity.
“You are as bad as our French mistress at the rectory,” she said. “She would never tell us anything; she used to make us guess.”
Her words were interrupted by the breaking out of the church bells: a loud peal, telling of joy. A misgiving crossed Lionel that the news had got wind, and that some officious person had been setting on the bells to ring for him, in honour of his succession. The exceeding bad taste of the proceeding—should it prove so—called a flush of anger to his brow. His inheritance had cost Mrs. Verner her son.
The suspicion was confirmed. One of the servants, who had been to the village, came running in at this juncture with open mouth, calling out that Mr. Lionel had come into his own, and that the bells were ringing for it. Lucy Tempest heard the words, and turned to Lionel.
“It is so, Lucy,” he said, answering the look. “Verner’s Pride is at last mine. But—”
She grew strangely excited. Lionel could see her heart beat—could see the tears of emotion gather in her eyes.
“I am so glad!” she said in a low, heartfelt tone. “I thought it would be so, sometime. Have you found the codicil?”
“Hush, Lucy! Before you express your gladness, you must learn that sad circumstances are mixed with it. The codicil has not been found; but Frederick Massingbird has died.”
Lucy shook her head. “He had no right to Verner’s Pride, and I did not like him. I am sorry, though, for himself, that he is dead. And—Lionel—you will never go away now?”
“I suppose not: to live.”
“I am so glad! I may tell you that I am glad, may I not?”
She half timidly held out her hand as she spoke. Lionel took it between both of his, toying with it as tenderly as he had ever toyed with Sibylla’s. And his low voice took a tone which was certainly not that of hatred, as he bent towards her.
“I am glad also, Lucy. The least pleasant part of my recent projected departure was the constantly remembered fact that I was about to put a distance of many miles between myself and you. It grew all too palpable towards the last.”