“On the look-out for the white donkey, Mrs. Peckaby?” asked Lionel.
The husband inside heard the words, and flew into a tantrum.
“She’s never on the look-out for nothing else, sir, asking pardon for saying it to you.”
Mrs. Peckaby clasped her hands together.
“It’ll come!” she murmured. “Sometimes, sir, when my patience is well nigh exhausted, I has a vision of the New Jerusalem in the night, and is revived. It’ll come, sir, the quadruple’ll come!”
“I wonder,” laughed Lucy, as they walked on, “whether she will go on to the end of her life expecting it?”
“If her husband will allow her,” answered Lionel. “But by what I have heard since I came home, his patience is—as she says by her own with reference to the white ’quadruple’—well nigh exhausted.”
“He told Decima, the other day, that he was sick of the theme and of her folly, and he wished the New Jerusalem had her and the white donkey together. Here we are!” added Lucy, as they came in front of Deerham Court. “Lionel, please, let me go in the back way—Jan’s way. And then Lady Verner will not see me. She will say I ought not to have come through the rain.”
“She’ll see the shoes and the silk dress, and she’ll say you should have stopped at Verner’s Pride, as a well-trained young lady ought,” returned Lionel.
He took her safely to the back door, opened it, and sent her in.
“Thank you very much,” said she, holding out her hand to him. “I have given you a disagreeable walk, and now I must give you one back again.”
“Change your shoes at once, and don’t talk foolish things,” was Lionel’s answer.
A wet walk back Lionel certainly had; but, wet or dry, it was all the same in his present distressed frame of mind. Arrived at Verner’s Pride, he found his wife dressed for dinner, and the centre of a host of guests gay as she was. No opportunity, then, to question her about Frederick Massingbird’s death, and how far Captain Cannonby was cognisant of the particulars.
He had to change his own things. It was barely done by dinner-time; and he sat down to table, the host of many guests. His brow was smooth, his speech was courtly; how could any of them suspect that a terrible dread was gnawing at his heart? Sibylla, in a rustling silk dress and a coronet of diamonds, sat opposite to him, in all her dazzling beauty. Had she suspected what might be in store for her, those smiles would not have chased each other so incessantly on her lips.
Sibylla went up to bed early. She was full of caprices as a wayward child. Of a remarkably chilly nature—as is the case, sometimes, where the constitution is delicate—she would have a fire in her dressing-room night and morning all the year round, even in the heat of summer. It pleased her this evening to desert her guests suddenly; she had the headache, she said.