She did not answer. She began to shake again; she tossed back her golden hair. Some blue ribbons had been wreathed in it for dinner; she pulled them out and threw them on the ground, her hair partially falling with their departure.
“I wish I could have some wine?”
He moved to the door to get it for her. “Don’t you let her in, Lionel,” she called out as he unlocked it.
“That Deborah. I hate her now,” was the ungenerous remark.
Lionel opened the door, called to Tynn, and desired him to bring wine. “What time did Captain Cannonby get here?” he whispered, as he took it from the butler.
“Who, sir?” asked Tynn.
Tynn paused, like one who does not understand. “There’s no gentleman here of that name, sir. A Mr. Rushworth called to-day, and my mistress asked him to stay dinner. He is in the drawing-room now. There is no other stranger.”
“Has Captain Cannonby not been here at all?” reiterated Lionel. “He left London this morning to come.”
Tynn shook his head to express a negative. “He has not arrived, sir.”
Lionel went in again, his feelings undergoing a sort of revulsion, for there now peeped out a glimmer of hope. So long as the nearly certain conviction on Lionel’s mind was not confirmed by positive testimony—as he expected Captain Cannonby’s would be—he could not entirely lose sight of all hope. That he most fervently prayed the blow might not fall, might even now be averted, you will readily believe. Sibylla had not been to him the wife he had fondly hoped for; she provoked him every hour in the day; she appeared to do what she could, wilfully to estrange his affection. He was conscious of all this; he was all too conscious that his inmost love was another’s, not hers. But he lost sight of himself in anxiety for her; it was for her sake he prayed and hoped. Whether she was his wife by law or not; whether she was loved or hated, Lionel’s course of duty lay plain before him now—to shield her, so far as he might be allowed, in all care and tenderness. He would have shed his last drop of blood to promote her comfort; he would have sacrificed every feeling of his heart for her sake.
The wine in his hand, he turned into the room again. A change had taken place in her aspect. She had left the chair, and was standing against the wall opposite the door, her tears dried, her eyes unnaturally bright, her cheeks burning.
“Lionel,” she uttered, a catching of the breath betraying her emotion, “if he is alive, whose is Verner’s Pride?”
“His,” replied Lionel, in a low tone.
She shrieked out, very much after the manner of a petulant child. “I won’t leave it!—I won’t leave Verner’s Pride! You could not be so cruel as to wish me. Who says he is alive? Lionel, I ask you who it is that says he is alive?”
“Hush, my dear! This excitement will do you a world of harm, and it cannot mend the matter, however it may be. I want to know who told you of this, Sibylla. I supposed it to be Cannonby; but Tynn says Cannonby has not been here.”