But the Verner pride had been wounded to its very core.
Gathered before a target on the lawn, in their archery costume gleaming with green and gold, was a fair group, shooting their arrows in the air. Far more went into the air than struck the target. They were the visitors of Verner’s Pride; and Sibylla, the hostess, was the gayest, the merriest, the fairest among them.
Lionel came on to the terrace, descended the steps, and crossed the lawn to join them—as courtly, as apparently gay, as if that bill of Mrs. Duff’s was not making havoc of his heartstrings. They all ran to surround him. It was not often they had so attractive a host to surround; and attractive men are, and always will be, welcome to women. A few minutes, a quarter of an hour given to them, an unruffled smoothness on his brow, a smile upon his lips, and then he contrived to draw his wife aside.
“Oh, Lionel, I forgot to tell you,” she exclaimed. “Poynton has been here. He knows of the most charming pair of gray ponies, he says. And they can be ours if secured at once.”
“I don’t want gray ponies,” replied Lionel.
“But I do,” cried Sibylla. “You say I am too timid to drive. It is all nonsense; I should soon get over the timidity. I will learn to drive, Lionel. Mrs. Jocelyn, come here,” she called out.
Mrs. Jocelyn, a young and pretty woman, almost as pretty as Sibylla, answered to the summons.
“Tell Mr. Verner what Poynton said about the ponies.”
“Oh, you must not miss the opportunity,” cried Mrs. Jocelyn to Lionel. “They are perfectly beautiful, the man said. Very dear, of course; but you know nobody looks at money when buying horses for a lady. Mrs. Verner must have them. You might secure them to-day.”
“I have no room in my stables for more horses,” said Lionel, smiling at Mrs. Jocelyn’s eagerness.
“Yes, you have, Lionel,” interposed his wife. “Or, if not, room must be made. I have ordered the ponies to be brought.”
“I shall send them back,” said Lionel, laughing.
“Don’t you wish your wife to take to driving, Mr. Verner? Don’t you like to see a lady drive? Some do not.”
“I think there is no necessity for a lady to drive, while she has a husband at her side to drive for her,” was the reply of Lionel.
“Well—if I had such a husband as you to drive for me, I don’t know but I might subscribe to that doctrine,” candidly avowed Mrs. Jocelyn. “I would not miss these ponies, were I Mrs. Verner. You can drive them, you know. They are calling me. It is my turn, I suppose.”
She ran back to the shooting, Sibylla was following her, but Lionel caught her hand and drew her into a covered walk. Placing her hand within his arm, he began to pace it.
“I must go back, too, Lionel.”