“Yes, it is.”
Lionel closed the book. “Promise me, Sibylla, that you will not attempt to read more of it. Give it her back at once, and tell her to send it out of the house, or to keep it under lock and key while it remains within it.”
“Is it so very hard a promise?” he tenderly asked. “I would do a great deal more for you.”
“Yes, Lionel, I will promise,” she replied, a better feeling coming over her. “I will give it her back now. Benoite!”
She called loudly. Benoite heard, and came in.
“Mr. Verner says this is not a nice book. You may take it away.”
Mademoiselle Benoite advanced with a red face, and took the book.
“Have you any more such books?” inquired Lionel, looking at her.
“No, sir, I not got one other,” hardily replied she.
“Have the goodness to put this one away. Had your mistress been aware of the nature of the book, she had not suffered you to produce it.”
Mademoiselle went away, her skirts jerking. Lionel bent down to his wife.
“You know that it pains me to find fault, Sibylla,” he fondly whispered. “I have ever your welfare and happiness at heart. More anxiously, I think, than you have mine.”
COMMOTION IN DEERHAM.
Lionel Verner was strolling out later in the day, and met the shooting-party coming home. After congratulating them on their good sport, he was turning home with them, when the gamekeeper intimated that he should be glad to speak a word to him in private. Upon which, Lionel let the gentlemen go on.
“What is it, Broom?” asked he.
“I’m much afeared, sir, if thing’s are not altered, that there’ll be murder committed some night,” answered Broom, without circumlocution.
“I hope not,” replied Lionel. “Are you and the poachers again at issue?”
“It’s not about the poachers, hang ’em! It’s about Robin Frost, sir. What on earth have come to him I can’t conceive. This last few nights he have took to prowling out with a gun. He lays himself down in the copse, or a ditch, or the open field—no matter where—and there he stops, on the watch, with his gun always pointed.”
“On the watch for what?” asked Lionel.
“He best knows himself, sir. He’s going quite cracked, it’s my belief; he have been half-way to it this long while. Sometimes he’s trailing through the brushwood on all fours, the gun ever pointed; but mostly he’s posted on the watch. He’ll get shot for a poacher, or some of the poachers will shoot him, as sure as it’s a gun that he carries.”
“What can be his motive?” mused Lionel.
“I’m inclined to think, sir, though he is Robin Frost, that he’s after the birds,” boldly returned Broom.
“Then rely upon it that you think wrong, Broom,” rebuked Lionel, “Robin Frost would no more go out poaching, than I should go out thieving.”