“I think it has put Lionel in a worse,” responded Jan.
“For fear of losing her?” laughed John Massingbird. “Wouldn’t it have been a charming prospect for some husbands, who are tired of their wives! Is Lionel tired of his?”
“Can’t say,” replied Jan. “There’s no appearance of it.”
“I should be, if Sibylla had been my wife for two years,” candidly avowed John Massingbird. “Sibylla and I never hit it off well as cousins. I’d not own her as wife, if she were dowered with all the gold mines in Australia. What Fred saw in her was always a puzzle to me. I knew what was going on between them, though nobody else did. But, Jan, I’ll tell you what astonished me more than everything else when I learned it—that Lionel should have married her subsequently. I never could have imagined Lionel Verner taking up with another man’s wife.”
“She was his widow,” cried literal Jan.
“All the same. ’Twas another man’s leavings. And there’s something about Lionel Verner, with his sensitive refinement, that does not seem to accord with the notion. Is she healthy?”
“Who? Sibylla? I don’t fancy she has much of a constitution.”
“No, that she has not! There are no children, I hear. Jan, though, you need not have pinched so hard when you pounced upon me,” he continued, rubbing his arm. “I was not going to run away.”
“How did I know that?” said Jan.
“It’s my last night of fun, and when I saw YOU I said to myself, ’I’ll be caught.’ How are old Deb and Amilly?”
“Much as usual. Deb’s in a fever just now. She has heard that Fred Massingbird’s back, and thinks Sibylla ought to leave Lionel on the strength of it.”
John laughed again. “It must have put others in a fever, I know, besides poor old Deb. Jan, I can’t stop talking to you all night, I should get no more fun. I wish I could appear to all Deerham collectively, and send it into fits after Dan Duff! To-morrow, as soon as I genteelly can after breakfast, I go up to Verner’s Pride and show myself. One can’t go at six in the morning.”
He went off in the direction of Clay Lane as he spoke, and Jan turned to make the best of his way to Verner’s Pride.
A THREAT TO JAN.
They had dined unusually late at Verner’s Pride that evening, and Lionel Verner was with his guests, making merry with the best heart he had. Now, he would rely upon the information given by Captain Cannonby; the next moment he was feeling that the combined testimony of so many eye-witnesses must be believed, and that it could be no other than Frederick Massingbird. Tynn had been with the man face to face only the previous night; Roy had distinctly asserted that he was back, in life, from Australia. Whatever his anxiety may have been, his wife seemed at rest. Full of smiles and gaiety, she sat opposite to him, glittering gems in her golden hair, shining forth from her costly robes.