Sibylla believed he had purposely flung a shaft at her. And she flung one again—not at him, but at Decima. She was of a terribly jealous nature, and could bear any reproach to herself, better than that another woman should be praised beside her.
“When young ladies find themselves neglected, their charms wasted on the desert air, they naturally do covet attention, although it be but a brother’s.”
Perhaps the first truly severe glance that Lionel Verner ever gave his wife he gave her then. Disdaining any defence off his sister, he stood, haughty, impassive, his lips drawn in, his eyes fixed sternly on Sibylla. Decima remained quiet under the insult, save that she flushed scarlet. Lord Garle did not. Lord Garle spoke up again, in the impetuosity of his open, honest nature.
“I can testify that if Miss Verner is neglected, it is her own fault alone. You are mistaken in your premises, Mrs. Verner.”
The tone was pointedly significant, the words were unmistakably clear, and the room could not but become enlightened to the fact that Miss Verner might have been Lady Garle. Sibylla laughed a little laugh of disbelief, as she went onwards with Sir Rufus Hautley; and Lionel remained enshrined in his terrible mortification. That his wife should so have forgotten herself!
“I must be going off,” cried Jan, good-naturedly interrupting the unpleasant silence.
“You have not long come,” said Lucy.
“I didn’t leave word where I was coming, and somebody may be going dead while they are scouring the parish for me. Good-night to you all; good-night, Miss Lucy.”
With a nod to the room, away went Jan as unceremoniously as he had come; and, not very long afterwards, the first carriage drew up. It was Lady Verner’s. Lord Garle hastened to Decima, and Lionel took out Lucy Tempest.
“Will you think me very foolish, if I say a word of warning to you?” asked Lucy, in a low tone to Lionel, as they reached the terrace.
“A word of warning to me, Lucy!” he repeated. “Of what nature?”
“That Roy is not a good man. He was greatly incensed at your putting him out of his place when you succeeded to Verner’s Pride, and it is said that he cherishes vengeance. He may have been watching to-night for an opportunity to injure you. Take care of him.”
Lionel smiled as he looked at her. Her upturned face looked pale and anxious in the moonlight. Lionel could not receive the fear at all: he would as soon have thought to dread the most improbable thing imaginable, as to dread this sort of violence, whether from Roy, or from any one else.
“There’s no fear whatever, Lucy.”
“I know you will not see it for yourself, and that is the reason why I am presumptive enough to suggest the idea to you. Pray be cautious! pray take care of yourself!”
He shook his head laughingly as he looked down upon her. “Thank you heartily all the same for your consideration, Lucy,” said he, and for the very life of him he could not help pressing her hand warmer than was needful as he placed her in the carriage.