“Was she wandering in her mind?”
“I think not. She spoke with an air of truth. When I heard of the flight of the converts the next morning, I could only conclude that Mrs. Roy had intended to be amongst them. But now, understand me, Mr. Verner, although I have told you this, I have not mentioned it to another living soul. Neither do I intend to do so. It can do no good to reap up the sad tale; whether Frederick Massingbird was or was not with Rachel that night; whether he was in any way guilty, or was purely innocent, it boots not to inquire now.”
“It does not,” warmly replied Lionel. “You have done well. Let us bury Mrs. Roy’s story between us, and forget it, so far as we can.”
They parted. Lionel took his way to Deerham Court, absorbed in thought. His own strong impression had been, that Mr. Fred Massingbird was the black sheep with regard to Rachel.
LIONEL’S PRAYER FOR FORGIVENESS.
Lady Verner, like many more of us, found that misfortunes do not come singly. Coeval almost with that great misfortune, Lionel’s marriage—at any rate, coeval with his return to Verner’s Pride with his bride—another vexation befell Lady Verner. Had Lady Verner found real misfortunes to contend with, it is hard to say how she would have borne them. Perhaps Lionel’s marriage to Sibylla was a real misfortune; but this second vexation assuredly was not—at any rate to Lady Verner.
Some women—and Lady Verner was one—are fond of scheming and planning. Whether it be the laying out of a flower-bed, or the laying out of a marriage, they must plan and project. Disappointment with regard to her own daughter—for Decima most unqualifyingly disclaimed any match-making on her own score—Lady Verner had turned her hopes in this respect on Lucy Tempest. She deemed that she should be ill-fulfilling the responsibilities of her guardianship, unless when Colonel Tempest returned to England, she could present Lucy to him a wife, or, at least, engaged to be one. Many a time now did she unavailingly wish that Lionel had chosen Lucy, instead of her whom he had chosen. Although—and mark how we estimate things by comparison—when, in the old days, Lady Verner had fancied Lionel was growing to like Lucy, she had told him emphatically it “would not do.” Why would it not do? Because, in the estimation of Lady Verner, Lucy Tempest was less desirable in a social point of view than the Earl of Elmsley’s daughter, and upon the latter lady had been fixed her hopes for Lionel.
All that was past and gone. Lady Verner had seen the fallacy of sublunary hopes and projects. Lady Mary Elmsley was rejected—Lionel had married in direct defiance of everybody’s advice—and Lucy was open to offers. Open to offers, as Lady Verner supposed; but she was destined to find herself unpleasantly disappointed.