The words excited their amazement. They turned to Lady Verner, and were struck with the marks of agitation on her countenance.
“Mamma, what are you speaking of?” asked Decima.
Lady Verner pointed to Lionel, who was then passing through the front gates. “I speak of him,” she answered: “my darling; my pride; my much-loved son. That woman has worked his ruin.”
Decima verily thought her mother must be wandering in her intellect. Lucy could only gaze at Lady Verner in consternation.
“What woman?” repeated Decima.
“She. She who has been Lionel’s bane. She who came and thrust herself into his home last night in her unseemly conduct. What passed between them Heaven knows; but she has contrived to cajole him out of a promise to marry her.”
Decima’s pale cheek turned to a burning red. She was afraid to ask questions.
“Oh, mamma! it cannot be!” was all she uttered.
“It is, Decima. I told Lionel that he could not love her, who had been the wife of another man; and he did not refute it. I told him she must have drawn him into it; and that he left unanswered. He replied that she would be his wife, and must be honoured as such. Drawn in to marry her! one who is so utterly unworthy of him! whom he does not even love! Oh, Lionel, my son, my son!”
In their own grievous sorrow they noticed not the face of Lucy Tempest, or what they might have read there.
THE MISSES WEST EN PAPILLOTES.
Lionel went direct to the house of Dr. West. It was early; and the Misses West, fatigued with their night’s pleasure, had risen in a scuffle, barely getting down at the breakfast hour. Jan was in the country attending on a patient, and, not anticipating the advent of visitors, they had honoured Master Cheese with hair en papillotes. Master Cheese had divided his breakfast hour between eating and staring. The meal had been some time over, and the young gentleman had retired, but the ladies sat over the fire in unusual idleness, discussing the dissipation they had participated in. A scream from the two arose upon the entrance of Lionel, and Miss Amilly flung her pocket-handkerchief over her head.
“Never mind,” said Lionel, laughing good-naturedly; “I have seen curl-papers before, in my life. Your sitting here quietly, tells me that you do not know what has occurred.”
“What has occurred?” interrupted Deborah, before he could continue. “It—it”—her voice grew suddenly timid—“is nothing bad about papa?”
“No, no. Your sister has arrived from Australia. In this place of gossip, I wonder the news has not travelled to Jan or to Cheese.”
They had started up, poor things, their faces flushed, their eyelashes glistening, forgetting the little episode of the mortified vanity, eager to embrace Sibylla.