“Did you mean to leave it? Or have you forgotten it?”
He had forgotten it. He took it from her, retaining her hand for a moment. “Lucy, you will not misjudge me?” he said, in a strange tone of pain.
Lucy looked up at him with a bright smile and a very emphatic shake of the head. She knew by instinct that he alluded to the accusation of his wife, touching Rachel Frost. Lucy misjudge him!
“You should have waited to eat some dinner,” she gaily said. “Take care you don’t faint by the way, as that sick patient of Jan’s did the other morning.”
Lionel went on. At any rate there was peace outside, if not within; the peace of outward calm. He lifted his hat; he bared his brow, aching with its weight of trouble, to the clear night air; he wondered whether he should have this to bear his whole life long. At the moment of passing the outer gates, the carriage of Sir Rufus Hautley drew up, bearing Decima.
Lionel waited to receive her. He helped her out, and gave her his arm to the hall door. Decima walked with her head down.
“You are silent, Decima. Are you sad?”
“Yes,” she answered. “Sir Rufus is dead.”
“Dead!” echoed Lionel, in very astonishment, for he had heard nothing of the sudden illness.
“It is so,” she replied, breaking into sobs. “Spasms at the heart, they say. Jan and Dr. Hayes were there, but they could not save him.”
AN UNEXPECTED ARRIVAL.
Deborah and Amilly West were sitting over the fire In the growing dusk of a February evening. Their sewing lay on the table; some home dresses they were making for themselves, for they had never too much superfluous cash for dressmakers, with fashionable patterns and fashionable prices. It had grown too dark to work, and they had turned to the fire for a chat, before the tea came in, and the gas was lighted.
“I tell you, Amilly, it is of no use playing at concealment, or trying to suppress the truth,” Deborah was saying. “She is as surely going as that the other two went; as sure as sure can be. I have always felt that she would go. Mr. Lionel was talking to me only yesterday. He was not satisfied with his brother; at least, he thought it as well to act as though he were not satisfied with him; and he was about to ask Dr. Hayes——”
Her voice died away. Master Cheese had come in with a doleful face.
“Miss Deb, I’m sent up to Deerham Hall. There’s a bothering note come from Miss Hautley to Jan, about one of the servants, and he says I am to go up and see what it is.”
“Well?” returned Miss Deb, wondering why Master Cheese should come in to give the information to her. “You couldn’t expect Mr. Jan to go up, after being out all day, as he has.”
“Folks are sure to go and fall ill at the most untoward hour of the twenty-four,” grumbled Master Cheese. “I was just looking for a good tea. I feel as empty as possible, after my short dinner. I wish——”