He stepped into the dressing-room, feeling more than he could have expressed, feeling that he could never repay all the kindness they seemed to be receiving. Equally inviting looked the dressing-room. The first thing that caught Lionel’s eye were some delicate paintings on the walls, done by Decima.
His gaze and his ruminations were interrupted. Violent sobs had struck on his ear from the bed-chamber; he hastened back, and found Sibylla extended at full length on the sofa, crying.
“It is such a dreadful change after Verner’s Pride!” she querulously complained. “It’s not half as nice as it was there! Just this old bedroom and a mess of a dressing-room, and nothing else! And only that stupid Catherine to wait upon me!”
It was ungrateful. Lionel’s heart, in its impulse, resented it as such. But, ever considerate for his wife, ever wishing, in the line of conduct he had laid down for himself, to find excuses for her, he reflected the next moment that it was a grievous thing to be turned from a home as she had been. He leaned over her; not answering as he might have answered, that the rooms were all that could be wished, and far superior they, and all other arrangements made for them, to anything enjoyed by Sibylla until she had entered upon Verner’s Pride; but he took her hand in his, and smoothed the hair from her brow, and softly whispered—
“Make the best of it, Sibylla, for my sake.”
“There’s no ‘best’ to be made,” she replied, with a shower of tears, as she pushed his hand and his face away.
Catherine knocked at the door. Miss Decima had sent her and bade her say that dinner was on the point of being served. Sibylla sprang up from the sofa, and dried her tears.
“I wonder whether I can get at my gold combs?” cried she, all her grief flying away.
Lionel turned to Catherine; an active little woman with a high colour and a sensible countenance, looking much younger than her real age. That was not far off fifty; but in movement and lissomeness, she was young as she had been at twenty. Nothing vexed Catherine so much as for Lady Verner to allude to her “age.” Not from any notions of vanity, but lest she might be thought growing incapable of her work.
“Catherine, is not that my mother’s bed?”
“To think that you should have found it out, Mr. Lionel!” echoed Catherine, with a broad smile. “Well, sir, it is, and that’s the truth. We have been making all sorts of changes. Miss Lucy’s bed has gone in for my lady, and my lady’s has been brought here. See, what a big, wide bed it is!” she exclaimed, putting her arm on the counterpane. “Miss Lucy’s was a good-sized bed, but my lady thought it would be hardly big enough for two; so she said hers should come in here.”
“And what’s Miss Lucy sleeping on?” asked Lionel, amused. “The boards?”
Catherine laughed. “Miss Lucy has got a small bed now, sir. Not, upon my word, that I think she’d mind if we did put her on the boards. She is the sweetest young lady to have to do with, Mr. Lionel! I don’t believe there ever was one like her. She’s as easy satisfied as ever Mr. Jan was.”