Captain Cannonby appeared completely thunderstruck at the revelation. “Why, then,” he cried, after a pause, “this may supply the very motive-power that is wanting, for one to personate Fred Massingbird.”
“Scarcely,” replied Lionel. “No ghost, or seeming ghost, walking about in secret at night, could get Verner’s Pride resigned to him. He must come forward in the broad face of day, and establish his identity by indisputable proof.”
“True, true. Well, it is a curious tale! I should like, as I say, to witness the winding-up.”
Lionel looked about for his wife. He could not find her. But few of their guests were in the rooms; they had dispersed somewhere or other. He went up to Sibylla’s dressing-room, but she was not there. Mademoiselle Benoite was coming along the corridor as he left it again.
“Do you know where your mistress is?” he asked.
“Mais certainement,” responded mademoiselle. “Monsieur will find madam at the archerie.”
He bent his steps to the targets. On the lawn, flitting amidst the other fair archers, in her dress of green and gold, was Sibylla. All traces of care had vanished from her face, her voice was of the merriest, her step of the fleetest, her laugh of the lightest. Truly, Lionel marvelled. There flashed into his mind the grieving face of another, whom he had not long ago parted from; grieving for their woes. Better for his mind’s peace that these contrasts had not been forced so continually upon him.
Could she, in some unaccountable manner, have heard the consoling news that Cannonby brought? In the first moment, he thought it must be so: in the next, he knew it to be impossible. Smothering down a sigh, he went forward, and drew her apart from the rest; choosing that covered walk where he had spoken to her a day or two previously, regarding Mrs. Duff’s bill. Taking her hands in his, he stood before her, looking with a reassuring smile into her face.
“What will you give me for some good news, Sibylla?”
“What about?” she rejoined.
“Need you ask? There is only one point upon which news could greatly interest either of us, just now. I have seen Cannonby. He is here, and—”
“Here! At Verner’s Pride?” she interrupted. “Oh, I shall like to see Cannonby; to talk over old Australian times with him.”
Who was to account for her capricious moods? Lionel remembered the evening, during the very moon not yet dark to the earth, when Sibylla had made a scene in the drawing-room, saying she could not bear to hear the name of Cannonby, or to be reminded of the past days in Melbourne. She was turning to fly to the house, but Lionel caught her.
“Wait, wait, Sibylla! Will you not hear the good tidings I have for you? Cannonby says there cannot be a doubt that Frederick Massingbird is dead. He left him dead and buried, as he told you in Melbourne. We have been terrified and pained—I trust—for nothing.”