“I hear Mrs. Massingbird has arrived, sir,” cried she.
“Yes,” replied Lionel. “She will like some tea presently. She appears very much fatigued.”
“Is the luggage to be taken upstairs, sir?” she continued, pointing to the pile in the hall. “Is she going to stay here?”
Lionel really did not know what answer to make.
“She came expecting to stay,” he said, after a pause. “She did not know but your mistress was still here. Should she remain, I dare say Lady Verner, or my sister, will join her. You have beds ready?”
“Plenty of them, sir, at five minutes’ notice.”
When Lionel entered the room, Sibylla was in the same attitude, shivering over the fire. Unnaturally cold she appeared to be, and yet her cheeks were brilliantly bright, as if with a touch of fever.
“I fear you have caught cold on the journey to-day,” he said.
“I don’t think so,” she answered. “I am cold from nervousness. I went cold at the station when they told me that my aunt was dead, and I have been shivering ever since. Never mind me; it will go off presently.”
Lionel drew a chair to the other side of the fire, compassionately regarding her. He could have found in his heart to take her in his arms, and warm her there.
“What was that about a codicil?” she suddenly asked him. “When my aunt wrote to me upon Mr. Verner’s death, she said that a codicil had been lost: or that, otherwise, the estate would have been yours.”
Lionel explained it to her, concealing nothing.
“Then—if that codicil had been forthcoming, Frederick’s share would have been but five hundred pounds?”
“That is all.”
“It was very little to leave him,” she musingly rejoined.
“And still less to leave me, considering my nearer relationship—my nearer claims. When the codicil could not be found, the will had to be acted upon: and five hundred pounds was all the sum it gave me.”
“Has the codicil never been found?”
“How very strange! What became of it, do you think?”
“I wish I could think what,” replied Lionel. “Although Verner’s Pride has come to me without it, it would be satisfactory to solve the mystery.”
Sibylla looked round cautiously, and sunk her voice. “Could Tynn or his wife have done anything with it? You say they were present when it was signed.”
“Most decidedly they did not. Both of them were anxious that I should succeed.”
“It is so strange! To lock a paper up in a desk, and for it to disappear of its own accord! The moths could not have got in and eaten it?”
“Scarcely,” smiled Lionel. “The day before your aunt died, she——”
“Don’t talk of that,” interrupted Mrs. Massingbird. “I will hear about her death to-morrow. I shall be ill if I cry much to-night.”
She sank into silence, and Lionel did not interrupt it. It continued, until his quick ears caught the sound of the groom’s return. The man rode his horse round to the stables at once. Presently Tynn came in with a note. It was from Lady Verner. A few lines, written hastily with a pencil:—