“Is it Jan’s dog?” inquired Lucy.
“Yes,” said Lionel. “I thought you knew it. Why, don’t you remember, Lucy, the day I—”
Whatever reminiscence Lionel may have been about to recall, he cut it short midway, and subsided into silence. What was his motive? Did Lucy know? She did not ask for the ending, and the rest were then occupied, and had not heard.
More awkward pauses—as in these visits where the parties do not amalgamate is sure to be the case, and then Lady Verner slightly bowed to Lucy, as she might have done on their retiring from table, and rose. Extending the tips of her delicately-gloved fingers to Sibylla, she swept out of the room. Decima shook hands with her more cordially, although she had not spoken half a dozen words during the interview, and Sibylla turned and put her hand into Lucy’s.
“I hope we shall be intimate friends,” she said. “I hope you will be our frequent guest at Verner’s Pride.”
“Thank you,” replied Lucy. And perhaps the sudden flush on her face might have been less vivid had Lionel not been standing there.
He attended them to the carriage, taking up his hat as he passed through the vestibule; for really the confined space that did duty for hall in Dr. West’s house did not deserve the name. Lady Verner sat on one side the carriage, Decima and Lucy on the seat opposite. Lionel stood a moment after handing them in.
“If you can tear yourself away from the house for half an hour, I wish you would take a drive with us,” said Lady Verner, her tone of voice no more pleasant than her words. Try as she would, she could not help her jealous resentment against Sibylla from peeping out.
Lionel smiled, and took his seat by his mother, opposite to Lucy. He was resolved to foster no ill-feeling by his own conduct, but to do all that lay in his power to subdue it in Lady Verner. He had not taken leave of Sibylla; and it may have been this, the proof that he was about to return to her, which had excited the ire of my lady. She, his mother, nothing to him; Sibylla all in all. Sibylla stood at the window, and Lionel bent forward, nodded his adieu, and raised his hat.
The footman ascended to his place, and the carriage went on. All in silence for some minutes. A silence which Lady Verner suddenly broke.
“What have you been doing to your cheeks, Lucy? You look as if you had caught a fever.”
Lucy laughed. “Do I, Lady Verner? I hope it is not a third cold coming on, or Jan will grumble that I take them on purpose—as he did the last lime.”
She caught the eyes of Lionel riveted on her with a strangely perplexed expression. It did not tend to subdue the excitement of her cheeks.
Another moment, and Decima’s cheeks appeared to have caught the infection. They had suddenly become one glowing crimson; a strange sight on her delicately pale face. What could have caused it? Surely not the quiet riding up to the carriage of a stately old gentleman who was passing, wearing a white frilled shirt and hessian boots. He looked as if he had come out of a picture-frame, as he sat there, his hat off and his white hair flowing, courteously, but not cordially, inquiring after the health of my Lady Verner.