He was right. Heartless, selfish, vain, and ambitious, Verner’s Pride possessed far more attraction for Sibylla than did either Lionel or Frederick Massingbird. Allow her to keep quiet possession of that, and she would not cast much thought to either of them. If the conflict actually came, Lionel felt, in his innate refinement, that the proper course for Sibylla to adopt would be to retire from all social ties, partially to retire from the world—as Miss West had suggested she should do now in the uncertainty. Lionel did not wholly agree with Miss West. He deemed that, in the uncertainty, Sibylla’s place was by his side, still his wife; but, when once the uncertainty was set at rest by the actual appearance of Frederick Massingbird, then let her retire. It was the only course that he could pursue, were the case his own. His mind was made up upon one point—to withdraw himself out of the way when that time came. To India, to the wilds of Africa—anywhere, far, far away. Never would he remain to be an eye-sore to Sibylla or Frederick Massingbird—inhabiting the land that they inhabited, breathing the air that sustained life in them. Sibylla might rely on one thing—that when Frederick Massingbird did appear beyond doubt or dispute, that very hour he said adieu to Sibylla. The shock soothed—and he would soothe it for her to the very utmost of his power—he should depart. He would be no more capable of retaining Sibylla in the face of her husband, than he could have taken her, knowingly, from that husband in his lifetime.
But where was Frederick Massingbird? Tynn’s opinion had been—he had told it to his master—that when he saw Frederick Massingbird steal into the grounds of Verner’s Pride the previous evening, he was coming on to the house, there and then. Perhaps Lionel himself had entertained the same conviction. But the night had passed, and no Frederick Massingbird had come. What could be the meaning of it? What could be the meaning of his dodging about Deerham in this manner, frightening the inhabitants?—of his watching the windows of Verner’s Pride? Verner’s Pride was his; Sibylla was his; why, then, did he not arrive to assume his rights?