Sibylla still sat at the window, looking out into the twilight. Decima stood near the fire in a thoughtful mood. Lucy was downstairs in the drawing-room at the piano. They could hear the faint echo of her soft playing as they sat there in silence. Sibylla was in no humour to talk: she had repulsed Decima rudely—or it may rather be said fractiously—when the latter had ventured on conversation. Lady Verner had gone out to dinner. The Countess of Elmsley had been there that day, and she had asked Lady Verner to go over in the evening and take a friendly dinner with her. “Bring any of them that you like with you,” had been her careless words in parting. But Lady Verner had not chosen to take “any of them.” She had dressed and driven off in the hired fly alone; and this it was that was exciting the anger of Sibylla. She thought Lady Verner might have taken her.
Lucy came in and knelt down on the rug before the fire, half shivering. “I am so cold!” she said. “Do you know what I did, Decima? I let the fire go out. Some time after Lady Verner went up to dress, I turned round and found the fire was out. My hands are quite numbed.”
“You have gone on playing there without a fire!” cried Decima.
“I shall be warm again directly,” said Lucy cheerily. “As I passed through the hall, the reflection of the blaze came out of the dining-room. We shall get warm there. Is your head still aching, Mrs. Verner?”
“It is always aching,” snapped Sibylla.
Lucy, kind and gentle in spirit, unretorting, ever considerate for the misfortunes which had come upon Mrs. Verner, went to her side. “Shall I get you a little of your aromatic vinegar?” she asked.
“You need not trouble to get anything for me,” was the ungracious answer.
Lucy, thus repulsed, stood in silence at the window. The window on this side of the house overlooked the road which led to Sir Rufus Hautley’s. A carriage, apparently closely shut up, so far as she could see in the dusk, its coachman and footman attending it, was bowling rapidly down towards the village.
“There’s Sir Rufus Hautley’s carriage,” said Lucy. “I suppose he is going out to dinner.”
Decima drew to the window and looked out. The carriage came sweeping round the point, and turned on its road to the village, as they supposed. In the still silence of the room, they could hear its wheels on the frosty road, after they lost sight of it; could hear it bowl before their house and—pull up at the gates.
“It has stopped here!” exclaimed Lucy.
Decima moved quietly back to the fire and sat down. A fancy arose to Lucy that she, Decima, had turned unusually pale. Was it so?—or was it fancy? If it was fancy, why should the fancy have arisen? Ghastly pale her face certainly looked, as the blaze played upon it.
A few minutes, and one of the servants came in, handing a note to Decima.