“Thank ye, sir; then I’ll wait till she’s home. You’ll not tell Roy that I have been up here, sir?”
“Not I,” said Lionel. “I was debating, when you came in, whether I should not turn Roy off the estate altogether. His past conduct to the men has been disgraceful.”
“Ay, it have, sir! But it was my fate to marry him, and I have had to look on in quiet, and see things done, not daring to say as my soul’s my own. It’s not my fault, sir.”
Lionel knew that it was not. He pitied her, rather than blamed.
“Will you go into the servants’ hall and eat something after your walk?” he kindly asked.
“No, sir, many thanks. I don’t want to see the servants. They might get telling that I have been here.”
She stole out from his presence, her pale, sad face, her evidently deep sorrow, whatever might be its source, making a vivid impression upon Lionel. But for that sad face, he might have dealt more harshly with her husband. And so Roy was tolerated still.
It was upon these various past topics that Lionel’s mind was running as he walked away from Deerham Court after that afternoon’s interview with Lucy, which he had made so significant. He had pleaded an engagement, as an excuse for quitting his mother’s drawing-room and her guests. It must have been at home, we must suppose, for ho took his way straight towards Verner’s Pride, sauntering through the village as if he had leisure to look about him, his thoughts deep in his projected improvements.
Here, a piece of stagnant water was to be filled in; there was the site of his new tenements; yonder, was the spot for a library and reading-room; on he walked, throwing his glances everywhere. As he neared the shop of Mrs. Duff, a man came suddenly in view, facing him; a little man, in a suit of rusty black, and a white neckcloth, with a pale face and red whiskers, whom Lionel remembered to have seen once before, a day or two previously. As soon as he caught sight of Lionel he turned short off, crossed the street, and darted out of sight down the Belvidere Road.
“That looks as though he wanted to avoid me,” thought Lionel. “I wonder who he may be? Do you know who that man is, Mrs. Duff?” asked he aloud; for that lady was taking the air at her shop-door, and had watched the movement.
“I don’t know much about him, sir. He have been stopping in the place this day or two. What did I hear his name was, again?” added Mrs. Duff, putting her fingers to her temples in a considering fit. “Jarrum, I think. Yes, that was it. Brother Jarrum, sir.”
“Brother Jarrum?” repeated Lionel, uncertain whether the “Brother” might be spoken in a social point of view, or was a name bestowed upon the gentleman in baptism.
“He’s a missionary from abroad, or something of that sort, sir. He is come to see what he can do towards converting us.”
“Oh, indeed,” said Lionel, his lip curling with a smile. The man’s face had not taken his fancy. “Honest missionaries do not need to run away to avoid meeting people, Mrs. Duff.”