“I hope I see you well, sir, after your journey.”
“Quite well. Roy, some papers have been left at Verner’s Pride for my inspection, regarding the dispute in Farmer Hartright’s lease. I do not understand them. They bear your signature, not Mrs. Verner’s. How is that?”
Roy stopped a while—to collect his thoughts, possibly. “I suppose I signed it for her, sir.”
“Then you did what you had no authority to do. You never received power to sign from Mrs. Verner.”
“Mrs. Verner must have give me power, sir, if I have signed. I don’t recollect signing anything. Sometimes, when she was ill, or unwilling to be disturbed, she’d say, ‘Roy, do this,’ or, ‘Roy, do the other.’ She—”
“Mrs. Verner never gave you authority to sign,” impressively repeated Lionel. “She is gone, and therefore cannot be referred to; but you know as well as I do, that she never did give you such authority. Come to Verner’s Pride to-morrow morning at ten, and see these papers.”
Roy signified his obedience, and Lionel departed. He bent his steps towards home, taking the field way; all the bitter experiences of the day rising up within his mind. Ah! try as he would, he could not deceive himself; he could not banish or drown the one ever-present thought. The singular information imparted by Mr. Bourne; the serio-comic tribulation of Mrs. Peckaby, waiting for her white donkey; the mysterious behaviour of Dinah Roy, in which there was undoubtedly more than met the ear; all these could not cover for a moment the one burning fact—Lucy’s love, and his own dishonour. In vain Lionel flung off his hat, heedless of any second sun-stroke, and pushed his hair from his heated brow. It was of no use; as he had felt when he went out from the presence of Lucy, so he felt now—stifled with dishonour.
Sibylla was at a table, writing notes, when he reached home. Several were on it, already written, and in their envelopes. She looked up at him.
“Oh, Lionel, what a while you have been out! I thought you were never coming home.”
He leaned down and kissed her. Although his conscience had revealed to him, that day, that he loved another better, she should never feel the difference. Nay, the very knowledge that it was so would render him all the more careful to give her marks of love.
“I have been to my mother’s, and to one or two more places. What are you so busy over, dear?”
“I am writing invitations,” said Sibylla.
“Invitations! Before people have called upon you?”
“They can call all the same. I have been asking Mary Tynn how many beds she can, by dint of screwing, afford. I am going to fill them all. I shall ask them for a month. How grave you look, Lionel!”
“In this first early sojourn together in our own house, Sibylla, I think we shall be happier alone.”
“Oh, no, we should not. I love visitors. We shall be together all the same, Lionel.”