“Not out from dinner!” cried Jan, in his astonishment, when he arrived, and Tynn denied him to Lionel. “Why, it’s my supper-time! I must see him, whether he’s at dinner or not. Go and say so, Tynn. Something important, tell him.”
The message brought Lionel out. Thankful, probably, to get out. The playing the host with a mind ill at ease, how it jars upon the troubled and fainting spirit! Jan, disdaining the invitation to the drawing-room, had hoisted himself on the top of an old carved ebony cabinet that stood in the hall, containing curiosities, and sat there with his legs dangling. He jumped off when Lionel appeared, wound his arm within his, and drew him out on the terrace.
“I have come to the bottom of it, Lionel,” said he, without further circumlocution. “I dropped upon the ghost just now and pinned him. It is not Fred Massingbird.”
Lionel paused, and then drew a deep breath; like one who has been relieved from some great care.
“Cannonby said it was not!” he exclaimed. “Cannonby is here, Jan, and he assures me Frederick Massingbird is dead and buried. Who is it, then? Have you found it out?”
“I pinned him, I say,” said Jan. “I was going down to Hook’s, and he crossed my path. He—”
“It is somebody who has been doing it for a trick?” interrupted Lionel.
“Well—yes—in one sense. It is not Fred Massingbird, Lionel; he is dead, safe enough; but it is somebody from a distance; one who will cause you little less trouble. Not any less, in fact, putting Sibylla out of the question.”
Lionel stopped in his walk—they were pacing the terrace—and looked at Jan with some surprise; a smile, in his new security, lightening his face.
“There is nobody in the world, Jan, dead or alive, who could bring trouble to me, save Frederick Massingbird. Anybody else may come, so long as he does not.”
“Ah! You are thinking only of Sibylla.”
“Of whom else should I think?”
“Yourself,” replied Jan.
Lionel laughed in his gladness. How thankful he was for his wife’s sake ONE alone knew. “I am nobody, Jan. Any trouble coming to me I can battle with.”
“Well, Lionel, the returned man is John Massingbird.”
Of all the birds in the air and the fishes in the sea—as the children say—he was the very last to whom Lionel Verner had cast a thought. That it was John who had returned, had not entered his imagination. He had never cast a doubt on the fact of his death. Bringing the name out slowly, he stared at Jan in very astonishment.
“Well,” said he presently, “John is not Frederick.”
“No,” assented Jan. “He can put in no claim to your wife. But he can to Verner’s Pride.”
The words caused Lionel’s heart to go on with a bound. A great evil for him; there was no doubt of it; but still slight, compared to the one he had dreaded for Sibylla.