“Lionel, look here,” said she, receiving the assurance in the same equable manner that she might have heard him assert it was a fine day, or a wet one, “I have been making up my mind not to let this bother worry me. That wretched old maid Deborah went on to me with such rubbish this morning about leaving you, about leaving Verner’s Pride, that she vexed me to anger. I came home and cried; and Benoite found me lying upon the sofa; and when I told her what it was, she said the best plan was, not to mind, to meet it with a laugh, instead of tears—”
“Sibylla!” he interposed in a tone of pain. “You surely did not make a confidante of Benoite!”
“Of course I did,” she answered, looking as if surprised at his question, his tone. “Why not? Benoite cheered me up, I can tell you, better than you do. ‘What matter to cry?’ she asked. ’If he does come back, you will still be the mistress of Verner’s Pride.’ And so I shall.”
Lionel let go her hands. She sped off to the house, eager to find Captain Cannonby. He—her husband—leaned against the trunk of a tree, bitter mortification in his face, bitter humiliation in his heart. Was this the wife to whom he had bound himself for ever? Well could he echo in that moment Lady Verner’s reiterated assertion, that she was not worthy of him. With a stifled sigh that was more like a groan, he turned to follow her.
“Be still, be still!” he murmured, beating his hand upon his bosom, that he might still its pain. “Let me bear on, doing my duty by her always in love!”
That pretty Mrs. Jocelyn ran up to Lionel, and intercepted his path. Mrs. Jocelyn would have liked to intercept it more frequently than she did, if she had but received a little encouragement. She tried hard for it, but it never came. One habit, at any rate, Lionel Verner had not acquired, amid the many strange examples of an artificial age—that of not paying considerate respect, both in semblance and reality, to other men’s wives.
“Oh, Mr. Verner, what a truant you are! You never come to pick up our arrows.”
“Don’t I?” said Lionel, with his courteous smile. “I will come presently if I can. I am in search of Mrs. Verner. She is gone in to welcome a friend who has arrived.”
And Mrs. Jocelyn had to go back to the targets alone.
“DON’T THROTTLE ME, JAN!”
There was a good deal of sickness at present in Deerham: there generally was in the autumn season. Many a time did Jan wish he could be master of Verner’s Pride just for twelve months, or of any other “Pride” whose revenues were sufficient to remedy the evils existing in the poor dwellings: the ill accommodation, inside; the ill draining, out. Jan, had that desirable consummation arrived, would not have wasted time in thinking over it; he would have commenced the work in the same hour with his own hands. However, Jan, like most of us, had not to do with things as they might be, but with things as they were. The sickness was great, and Jan, in spite of his horse’s help, was, as he often said, nearly worked off his legs.