Lucy looked a little foolish. “I will tell you the difference, as it seems to me, between Jan and other people,” she said. “Jan is like a rough diamond—real within, unpolished without—but a genuine diamond withal. Many others are but the imitation stone—glittering outside, false within.”
Lionel was amused.
“Am I one of the false ones, Miss Lucy?”
She took the question literally.
“No; you are true,” she answered, shaking her head, and speaking with grave earnestness.
“Lucy, my dear, I would not espouse Jan’s cause so warmly, were I you,” advised Lady Verner. “It might be misconstrued.”
“How so?” simply asked Lucy.
“It might be thought that you—pray excuse the common vulgarity of the suggestion—were in love with Jan.”
“In love with Jan!” Lucy paused for a moment after the words, and then burst into a merry fit of laughter. “Oh, Lady Verner! I cannot fancy anybody falling in love with Jan. I don’t think he would know what to do.”
“I don’t think he would,” quietly replied Lady Verner.
A peal at the courtyard bell, and the letting down the steps of a carriage. Visitors for Lady Verner. They were shown to the drawing-room, and the servant came in.
“The Countess of Elmsley and Lady Mary, my lady.”
Lady Verner rose with alacrity. They were favourite friends of hers—nearly the only close friends she had made in her retirement.
“Lucy, you must not venture into the drawing-room,” she stayed to say. “The room is colder than this. Come.”
The last “come” was addressed conjointly to her son and daughter. Decima responded to it, and followed; Lionel remained where he was.
“The cold room would not hurt me, but I am glad not to go,” began Lucy, subsiding into a more easy tone, a more social manner, than she ventured on in the presence of Lady Verner. “I think morning visiting the greatest waste of time! I wonder who invented it?”
“Somebody who wanted to kill time,” answered Lionel.
“It is not as though friends, who really cared for each other, met and talked. The calls are made just for form’s sake, and for nothing else, I will never fall into it when I am my own mistress.”
“When is that to be?” asked Lionel, smiling.
“Oh! I don’t know,” she answered, looking up at him in all confiding simplicity. “When papa comes home, I suppose.”
Lionel crossed over to where she was sitting.
“Lucy, I thank you for your partisanship of Jan,” he said, in a low, earnest tone. “I do not believe anybody living knows his worth.”
“Yes; for I do,” she replied, her eyes sparkling.
“Only, don’t you get to like him too much—as Lady Verner hinted,” continued Lionel, his eyes dancing with merriment at his own words.
Lucy’s eyelashes fell on her hot cheek. “Please not to be so foolish,” she answered, in a pleading tone.