“It must be paid. But it is a great deal of money. I cannot continue to pay these large sums, Sibylla. I have not the money to do it with.”
“Not the money! When you know you are paying heaps for Lady Verner! Before you tell me not to spend, you should cease supplying her.”
Lionel’s very brow flushed. “My mother has a claim upon me only in a degree less than you have,” he gravely said. “Part of the revenues of Verner’s Pride ought to have been hers years ago; and they were not.”
“If my husband had lived—if he had left me a little child—Verner’s Pride would have been his and mine, and never yours at all.”
“Hush, Sibylla! You don’t know how these allusions hurt me,” he interrupted, in a tone of intense pain.
“They are true,” said Sibylla.
“But not—forgive me, my dear, for saying it—not the less unseemly.”
“Why do you grumble at me, then?”
“I do not grumble,” he answered in a kind tone. “Your interests are mine, Sibylla, and mine are yours. I only tell you the fact—and a fact it is—that our income will not stand these heavy calls upon it. Were I to show you how much you have spent in dress since we were married—what with Paris, London, and Heartburg—the sum total would frighten you.”
“You should not keep the sum total,” resentfully spoke Sibylla. “Why do you add it up?”
“I must keep my accounts correctly. My uncle taught me that.”
“I am sure he did not teach you to grumble at me,” she rejoined. “I look upon Verner’s Pride as mine, more than yours; if it had not been for the death of my husband, you would never have had it.”
Inexpressibly vexed—vexed beyond the power to answer, for he would not trust himself to answer—Lionel prepared to quit the room. He began to wish he had not had Verner’s Pride, if this was to be its domestic peace. Sibylla petulantly threw the French book from her lap upon the table, and it fell down with its page open.
Lionel’s eyes caught its title, and a flush, not less deep than the preceding flush, darkened his brow. He laid his open palm upon the page with an involuntary movement, as if he would guard it from the eyes of his wife. That she should be reading that notorious work!
“Where did you get this?” he cried. “It is not a fit book for you.”
“There’s nothing-the matter with the book as far as I have gone.”
“Indeed you must not read it! Pray don’t, Sibylla! You will be sorry for it afterwards.”
“How do you know it is not a fit book?”
“Because I have read it.”
“There! You have read it! And you would like to deny the pleasure to me! Don’t say you are never selfish.”
“Sibylla! What is fit for me to read may be most unfit for you. I read the book when I was a young man; I would not read it now. Is it Benoite’s?” he inquired, seeing the name in the first page.