“I should be most unwilling to——”
“Hold your tongue, Lionel. You must do it. Here she is.”
“I could not find Decima, Lady Verner,” said Lucy, entering. “When I had been all over the house for her, Catherine told me Miss Decima had gone out. She has gone to Clay Lane on some errand for Jan.”
“Oh, of course for Jan!” resentfully spoke Lady Verner. “Nothing else, I should think, would take her to Clay Lane. You see, Lionel!”
“There’s nothing in Clay Lane that will hurt Decima, mother.”
Lady Verner made no reply. She walked to the door, and stood with the handle in her hand, turning round to speak.
“Lucy, I have been acquainting Lionel with this affair between you and Lord Garle. I have requested him to speak to you upon the point; to ascertain your precise grounds of objection, and—so far as he can—to do away with them. Try your best, Lionel.”
She quitted the room, leaving them standing opposite each other. Standing like two statues. Lionel’s heart smote him. She looked so innocent, so good, in her delicate morning dress, with its gray ribbons and its white lace on the sleeves, open to the small fair arms! Simple as the dress was, it looked, in its exquisite taste, worth ten of Sibylla’s elaborate French costumes. Her cheeks were glowing, her hands were trembling, as she stood there in her self-consciousness.
Terribly self-conscious was Lionel. He strove to say something, but in his embarrassment could not get out a single word. The conviction of the grievous fact, that she loved him, went right to his heart in that moment, and seated itself there. Another grievous fact came home to him; that she was more to him than the whole world. However he had pushed the suspicion away from his mind, refused to dwell on it, kept it down, it was all too plain to him now. He had made Sibylla his wife. He stood there, feeling that he loved Lucy above all created things.
He crossed over to her, and laid his hand fondly and gently on her head, as he moved to the door. “May God forgive me, Lucy!” broke from his white and trembling lips. “My own punishment is heavier than yours.”
There was no need of further explanation on either side. Each knew that the love of the other was theirs, the punishment keenly bitter, as surely as if a hundred words had told it. Lucy sat down as the door closed behind him, and wondered how she should get through the long dreary life before her.
And Lionel? Lionel went out by Jan’s favourite way, the back, and plunged into a dark lane where neither ear nor eye was on him. He uncovered his head, he threw back his coat, he lifted his breath to catch only a gasp of air. The sense of dishonour was stifling him.
FARMER BLOW’S WHITE-TAILED PONY.