“Cannonby remaining with him?”
“Yes. I am sure I have told you this before, Lionel. I told it to you on the night of my return.”
He was aware she had. He could not say: “But I wish to press you upon the points; to ascertain beyond doubt that Frederick Massingbird did really die; that he is not living.” “Did Cannonby stay until he was buried?” he asked aloud.
“You are sure of this?”
Sibylla looked at him curiously. She could not think why he was recalling this; why want to know it?
“I am sure of it only so far as that Captain Cannonby told me so,” replied Sibylla.
The reservation struck upon him with a chill; it seemed to be a confirmation of his worst fears. Sibylla continued, for he did not speak—
“Of course he stayed with him until he was buried. When Captain Cannonby came back to me at Melbourne, he said he had waited to lay him in the ground. Why should he have said it, if he did not?”
“True,” murmured Lionel.
“He said the burial-service had been read over him. I remember that, well. I reproached Captain Cannonby with not having come back to me immediately, or sent for me that I might at least have seen him dead, if not alive. He excused himself by saying that he did not think I should like to see him; and he had waited to bury him before returning.”
Lionel fell into a reverie. If this, that Captain Cannonby had stated, was correct, there was no doubt that Frederick Massingbird was safely dead and buried. But he could not be sure that it was correct; Captain Cannonby may not have relished waiting to see a dead man buried; although he had affirmed so much to Sibylla. A thousand pounds would Lionel have given out of his pocket at that moment, for one minute’s interview with Captain Cannonby.
The call came from Sibylla with sudden intensity, half startling him. She had got one of her fingers pointed to the lawn.
“Who’s that—peeping forth from underneath the yew-tree?”
The same place, the same tree which had been pointed to by Lucy Tempest! An impulse, for which Lionel could not have accounted, caused him to turn round and put out the lamp.
“Who can it be?” wondered Sibylla. “He appears to be watching us. How foolish of any of them to go out! I should not feel safe under a tree, although that lightning is only sheet-lightning.”
Every perceptive faculty that Lionel Verner possessed was strained upon the spot. He could make out a tall man; a man whose figure bore—unless his eyes and his imagination combined to deceive him—a strong resemblance to Frederick Massingbird’s. Had it come to it? Were he and his rival face to face; was she, by his own side now, about to be bandied between them?—belonging, save by the priority of the first marriage ceremony, no more to one than to the other? A stifled cry, suppressed instantly, escaped his lips; his pulses stood still, and then throbbed on with painful violence.