MR. AND MRS. VERNER.
Lionel Verner sat over his morning letters, bending upon one of them a perplexed brow. A claim which he had settled the previous spring—at least, which he believed had been settled—was now forwarded to him again. That there was very little limit to his wife’s extravagance, he had begun to know.
In spite of Sibylla’s extensive purchases made in Paris at the time of their marriage, she had contrived by the end of the following winter to run up a tolerable bill at her London milliner’s. When they had gone to town in the early spring, this bill was presented to Lionel. Four hundred and odd pounds. He gave Sibylla a cheque for its amount, and some gentle, loving words of admonition at the same time—not to spend him out of house and home.
A second account from the same milliner had arrived this morning—been delivered to him with other London letters. Why it should have been sent to him, and not to his wife, he was unable to tell—unless it was meant as a genteel hint that payment would be acceptable. The whole amount was for eleven hundred pounds, but part of this purported to be “To bill delivered”—four hundred and odd pounds—the precise sum which Lionel believed to have been paid. Eleven hundred pounds! and all the other claims upon him! No wonder he sat with a bent brow. If things went on at this rate, Verner’s Pride would come to the hammer.
He rose, the account in his hand, and proceeded to his wife’s dressing-room. Among other habits, Sibylla was falling into that of indolence, scarcely ever rising to breakfast now. Or, if she rose, she did not come down. Mademoiselle Benoite came whisking out of a side room as he was about to enter.
“Madame’s toilette is not made, sir,” cried she, in a tart tone, as if she thought he had no right to enter.
“What of that?” returned Lionel. And he went in.
Just as she had got out of bed, save that she had a blue quilted silk dressing-gown thrown on, and her feet were thrust into blue quilted slippers, sat Sibylla, before a good fire. She leaned in an easy-chair, reading; a miniature breakfast service of Sevres china, containing chocolate, on a low table at her side. Some people like to read a word or two of the Bible, as soon as conveniently may be, after getting up in the morning. Was that good book the study of Sibylla? Not at all. Her study was a French novel. By dint of patience, and the assistance of Mademoiselle Benoite in the hard words and complicated sentences, Mrs. Verner contrived to arrive tolerably well at its sense.
“Good gracious!” she exclaimed, when Lionel appeared, “are you not gone shooting with the rest?”
“I did not go this morning,” he answered, closing the door and approaching her.
“Have you taken breakfast?” she asked.
“Breakfast has been over a long while. Were I you, Sibylla, when I had guests staying in the house, I should try and rise to breakfast with them.”