“Come back from Australia!” uttered Deborah in wild astonishment. “Then where is she, that she is not here, in her own home?”
“She came to mine,” replied Lionel. “She supposed Mrs. Verner to be its mistress still. I made my way here last night to ask you to come up, and found you were gone to Heartburg.”
“But—she—is not remaining at it?” exclaimed Deborah, speaking with hesitation, in her doubt, the flush on her face deepening.
“I placed it at her disposal until other arrangements could be made,” replied Lionel. “I am at present the guest of Lady Verner. You will go to Sibylla, will you not?”
Go to her? Ay! They tore the curl-papers out of their hair, and flung on bonnets and shawls, and hastened to Verner’s Pride.
“Say that I will call upon her in the course of the morning, and see how she is after her journey,” said Lionel.
In hurrying out, they encountered Jan. Deborah stopped to say a word about his breakfast: it was ready, she said, and she thought he must want it.
“I do,” responded Jan. “I shall have to get an assistant, after all, Miss Deb. I find it doesn’t answer to go quite without meals and sleep; and that’s what I have done lately.”
“So you have, Mr. Jan. I say every day to Amilly that it can’t go on, for you to be walked off your legs in this way. Have you heard the cheering news, Mr. Jan? Sibylla’s come home. We are going to her now, at Verner’s Pride?”
“I have heard it,” responded Jan. “What took her to Verner’s Pride?”
“We have yet to learn all that. You know, Mr. Jan, she never was given to consider a step much, before she took it.”
They tripped away, and Jan, in turning from them, met his brother. Jan was one utterly incapable of finesse: if he wanted to say a thing, he said it out plainly. What havoc Jan would have made, enrolled in the corps of diplomatists!
“I say, Lionel,” began he, “is it true that you are going to marry Sibylla West?”
Lionel did not like the plain question, so abruptly put. He answered curtly—
“I am going to marry Sibylla Massingbird.”
“The old name comes the readiest,” said Jan. “How did it come about, Lionel?”
“May I ask whence you derived your information, Jan?” returned Lionel, who was marvelling where Jan could have heard this.
“At Deerham Court. I have been calling in, as I passed it, to see Miss Lucy. The mother is going wild, I think. Lionel, if it is as she says, that Sibylla drew you into it against your will, don’t you carry it out. I’d not. Nobody should hook me into anything.”
“My mother said that, did she? Be so kind as not to repeat it, Jan. I am marrying Sibylla because I love her; I am marrying her of my own free will. If anybody—save my mother—has aught of objection to make to it, let them make it to me.”
“Oh! that’s it, is it?” returned Jan. “You need not be up, Lionel, it is no business of mine. I’m sure you are free to marry her for me. I’ll be groomsman, if you like.”