Sibylla looked up from the sofa, her eyes red with crying, her cheeks inflamed.
“Anybody but you, Lionel, would never allow him to turn you out. Why don’t you dispute the right with him? Turn him out, and defy him!”
He did not tell Sibylla that she was talking like a child. He only said that John Massingbird’s claim to Verner’s Pride was indisputable—that it had been his all along; that, in point of fact, he himself had been the usurper.
“Then you mean,” she said, “to give him up quiet possession?”
“I have no other resource, Sibylla. To attempt any sort of resistance would be foolish as well as wrong.”
“I shan’t give it up. I shall stay here in spite of him. You may do as you like, but he is not going to get me out of my own home.”
“Sibylla, will you try and be rational for once? If ever a time called for it, it is the present. I ask you whether I shall seek after lodgings.”
“And I wonder that you are not ashamed to ask me,” retorted Sibylla, bursting into tears. “Lodgings, after Verner’s Pride! No. I’d rather die than go into lodgings. I dare say I shall die soon, with all this affliction.”
“I do not see what else there is for us but lodgings,” resumed Lionel, after a pause. “You will not hear of Jan’s proposition.”
“Go back to my old home!” she shrieked. “Like—as poor Fred used to say—bad money returned. No! that I never will. You are wrapt up in Jan; if he proposed to give me poison, you’d say yes. I wish Fred had not died!”
“Will you be so good as tell me what you think ought to be done?” inquired Lionel.
“How can I think? Where’s the good of asking me? I think the least you can do in this wretchedness, is to take as much worry off me as you can, Lionel.”
“It is what I wish to do,” he gently said. “But I can see only one plan for us, Sibylla—lodgings. Here we cannot stay; it is out of the question. To take a house is equally so. We have no furniture—no money, in short, to set up a house, or to keep it on. Jan’s plan, until I can turn myself round and see what’s to be done, would be the best. You would be going to your own sisters, who would take care of you, should I find it necessary to be away.”
“Away! Where?” she quickly asked.
“I must go somewhere and do something. I cannot lead an idle life, living upon other people’s charity, or let you live upon it. I must find some way of earning a livelihood: in London, perhaps. While I am looking out, you would be with your sisters.”
“Then, Lionel, hear me!” she cried, her throat working, her blue eyes flashing with a strange light. “I will never go home to my sisters! I will never, so long as I live, enter that house again, to reside! You are no better than a bear to wish me to do it.”
What was he to do? She was his wife, and he must provide for her; but she would go neither into lodgings, nor to the proposed home. Lionel set his wits to work.