“Mother, why don’t you come?”
Lady Verner half turned from him.
“Lionel, you must not forget our compact. If I visit your wife now and then, just to keep gossiping tongues quiet, from saying that Lady Verner and her son are estranged, I cannot do it often.”
“Were there any cause why you should show this disfavour to Sibylla—”
“Our compact, our compact, my son! You are not to urge me upon this point, do you remember? I rarely break my resolutions, Lionel.”
“Or your prejudices either, mother.”
“Very true,” was the equable answer of Lady Verner.
Little more was said. Lionel found the time drawing on, and left. Lady Verner’s carriage was already at the door, waiting to convey Decima and Lucy Tempest to the dinner at Verner’s Pride. As he was about to mount his horse, Peckaby passed by, rolling a wheel before him. He touched his cap.
“Well,” said Lionel, “has the white donkey arrived yet?”
A contraction of anger, not, however, unmixed with mirth, crossed the man’s face.
“I wish it would come, sir, and bear her off on’t!” was his hearty response. “She’s more a fool nor ever over it, a-whining and a-pining all day long, ’cause she ain’t at New Jerusalem. She wants to be in Bedlam, sir; that’s what she do! it ’ud do her more good nor t’other.”
Lionel laughed, and Peckaby struck his wheel with such impetus that it went off at a tangent, and he had to follow it on the run.
THE YEW-TREE ON THE LAWN.
The rooms were lighted at Verner’s Pride; the blaze from the chandeliers fell on gay faces and graceful forms. The dinner was over, its scene “a banquet hall deserted”; and the guests were filling the drawing-rooms.
The centre of an admiring group, its chief attraction, sat Sibylla, her dress some shining material that glimmered in the light, and her hair confined with a band of diamonds. Inexpressibly beautiful by this light she undoubtedly was, but she would have been more charming had she less laid herself out for attraction. Lionel, Lord Garle, Decima, and young Bitterworth—he was generally called young Bitterworth, in contradistinction to his father, who was “old Bitterworth”—formed another group; Sir Rufus Hautley was talking to the Countess of Elmsley; and Lucy Tempest sat apart near the window.
Sir Rufus had but just moved away from Lucy, and for the moment she was alone. She sat within the embrasure of the window, and was looking on the calm scene outside. How different from the garish scene within! See the pure moonlight, side by side with the most brilliant light we earthly inventors can produce, and contrast them! Pure and fair as the moonlight looked Lucy, her white robes falling softly round her, and her girlish face wearing a thoughtful expression. It was a remarkably light night; the terrace, the green slopes beyond it, and the clustering trees far away, all standing out clear and distinct in the moon’s rays. Suddenly her eye rested on a particular spot. She possessed a very clear sight, and it appeared to detect something dark there; which dark something had not been there a few moments before.