“I do not understand your request, Lionel, or why you make it. Whatever may be my opinion of Frederick Massingbird’s widow, I will not insult her sense of propriety by supposing that she would attempt to remain at Verner’s Pride now her aunt is dead. It is absurd of you to ask me to come; neither shall I send Decima. Were I and Decima residing with you, it would not be the place for Sibylla Massingbird. She has her own home to go to.”
There was no signature. Lionel knew his mother’s handwriting too well to require the addition. It was just the note that he might have expected her to write.
What was he to do? In the midst of his ruminations, Sibylla rose.
“I am warm now,” she said. “I should like to go upstairs and take this heavy shawl off.”
Lionel rang the bell for Mrs. Tynn. And Sibylla left the room with her.
“I’ll get her sisters here!” he suddenly exclaimed, the thought of them darting into his mind. “They will be the proper persons to explain to her the inexpediency of her remaining here. Poor girl! she is unable to think of it in her fatigue and grief.”
He did not give it a second thought, but snatched his hat, and went down himself to Dr. West’s with strides as long as Jan’s. Entering the general sitting-room without ceremony, his eyes fell upon a supper-table and Master Cheese; the latter regaling himself upon apple-puffs to his heart’s content.
“Where are the Misses West?” asked Lionel.
“Gone to a party,” responded the young gentleman, as soon as he could get his mouth sufficiently empty to speak.
“To Heartburg, sir. It’s a ball at old Thingumtight’s, the doctor’s. They are gone off in gray gauze, with, branches of white flowers hanging to their curls, and they call that mourning. The fly is to bring them back at two in the morning. They left these apple-puffs for me and Jan. Jan said he should not want any; he’d eat meat; so I have got his share and mine!”
And Master Cheese appeared to be enjoying the shares excessively. Lionel left him to it, and went thoughtfully back to Verner’s Pride.
A MOMENT OF DELIRIUM.
The dining-room looked a picture of comfort, and Lionel thought so as he entered. A blaze of light and warmth burst upon him. A well-spread tea-table was there, with cold meat, game and else, at one end of it. Standing before the fire, her young, slender form habited in its black robes, was Sibylla. No one, looking at her, would have believed her to be a widow; partly from her youth, partly that she did not wear the widow’s dress. Her head was uncovered, and her fair curls fell, shading her brilliant cheeks. It has been mentioned that her chief beauty lay in her complexion: seen by candle-light, flushed as she was now, she was inexpressibly beautiful. A dangerous hour, a perilous situation for the yet unhealed heart of Lionel Verner.