“I wonder—whether—my mother—would invite us there, for a short while?” The words were spoken slowly, reluctantly, as if there were an undercurrent of strong doubt in his mind. “Would you go to Deerham Court for a time, Sibylla, if Lady Verner were agreeable?”
“Yes,” said Sibylla, after a minute’s consideration. “I’d go there.”
Deeming it well that something should be decided, Lionel went downstairs, caught up his hat, and proceeded to Deerham Court. He did not say a word about his wife’s caprice; or that two plans, proposed to her, had been rejected. He simply asked his mother whether she would temporarily receive him and his wife, until he could look round and decide on the future.
To his great surprise, Lady Verner answered that she would; and answered readily. Lionel, knowing the light in which she regarded his wife, had anticipated he knew not what of objection, if not of positive refusal.
“I wish you to come here, Lionel; I intended to send for you and tell you so,” was the reply of Lady Verner. “You have no home to turn to, and I could not have it said that my son in his strait was at fault for one. I never thought to receive your wife inside my doors, but for your sake I will do so. No servants, you understand, Lionel.”
“Certainly not,” he answered. “I cannot afford servants now as a matter of luxury.”
“I can neither afford them for you, nor is there room in my house to accommodate them. This applies to that French maid of yours,” Lady Verner pointedly added. “I do not like the woman; nothing would induce me to admit her here, even were circumstances convenient. Any attendance that your wife may require, she shall have.”
Lionel smiled a sad smile. “Be easy, mother. The time for my wife to keep a French maid has gone by. I thank you very sincerely.”
And so Lionel Verner was once more to be turned from Verner’s Pride, to take up his abode with his wife in his mother’s home. When were his wanderings to be at rest?
The battle that there was with Mrs. Verner! She cried, she sobbed, she protested, she stormed, she raved. Willing enough, was she, to go to Lady Verner’s; indeed the proposed visit appeared to be exceedingly palatable to her; but she was not willing to go without Mademoiselle Benoite. She was used to Benoite; Benoite dressed her, and waited on her, and read to her, and took charge of her things; Benoite was in her confidence, kept her purse; she could not do without Benoite, and it was barbarous of Lionel to wish it. How could she manage without a maid?
Lionel gravely laid his hand upon her shoulder. Some husbands might have reminded her that until she married him she had never known the services of a personal attendant; that she had gone all the way to Melbourne, had—as John Massingbird had expressed it with regard to himself—been knocking about there, and had come back home again alone, all without so much as thinking of one. Not so Lionel. He laid his hand upon her shoulder in his grave kindness.