“Lady Verner has always been prejudiced against Sibylla,” observed Lionel. “You might have remembered that, Jan.”
“So I did,” said Jan; “though I assumed that what she said was sure to be true. You see, I have been on the wrong scent lately. I thought you were getting fond of Lucy Tempest. It has looked like it.”
Lionel murmured some unintelligible answer, and turned away, a hot flush dyeing his brow.
Meanwhile Sibylla was already up, but not down. Breakfast she would have carried up to her room, she told Mrs. Tynn. She stood at the window, looking forth; not so much at the extensive prospect that swept the horizon in the distance, as at the fair lands immediately around. “All his,” she murmured, “and I shall be his wife at last!”
She turned languidly round at the opening of the door, expecting to see her breakfast. Instead of which, two frantic little bodies burst in and seized upon her. Sibylla shrieked—
“Don’t, Deb! don’t, Amilly! Are you going to hug me to death?”
Their kisses of welcome over, they went round about her, fondly surveying her from all points with their tearful eyes. She was thinner; but she was more lovely. Amilly expressed an opinion that the bloom on her delicate wax face was even brighter than of yore.
“Of course it is, at the present moment,” answered Sibylla, “when you have been kissing me into a fever.”
“She is not tanned a bit with her voyage, that I see,” cried Deborah, with undisguised admiration. “But Sibylla’s skin never did tan. Child,” she added, bending towards her, and allowing her voice to become grave, “how could you think of coming to Verner’s Pride? It was not right. You should have come home.”
“I thought Mrs. Verner was living still.”
“And if she had been?—This is Mr. Lionel’s house now; not hers. You ought to have come home, my dear. You will come home with us now, will you not?”
“I suppose you’ll allow me to have some breakfast first,” was Sibylla’s answer. Secure in her future position, she was willing to go home to them temporarily now. “Why is papa gone away, Deborah?”
“He will be coming back some time, dear,” was Deborah’s evasive answer, spoken soothingly. “But tell us a little about yourself, Sibylla. When poor Frederick—”
“Not this morning, Deborah,” she interrupted, putting up her hand. “I will tell you all another time. It was an unlucky voyage.”
“Have you realised John’s money that he left? That he lost, I should rather say.”
“I have realised nothing,” replied Sibylla—“nothing but ill luck. We never got tidings of John in any way, beyond the details of his death; we never saw a particle of the gold belonging to him, or could hear of it. And my husband lost his desk the day we landed—as I sent you word; and I had no money out there, and I have only a few shillings in my pocket.”