AN EVENING AT LADY VERNER’S.
In the well-lighted drawing-room at Deerham Court was its mistress, Lady Verner. Seated with her on the same sofa was her son, Lionel. Decima, at a little distance, was standing talking to Lord Garle. Lucy Tempest sat at the table cutting the leaves of a new book; and Sibylla was bending over the fire in a shivering attitude, as if she could not get enough of its heat. Lord Garle had been dining with them.
The door opened and Jan entered. “I have brought you a visitor, Sibylla,” said he, in his unceremonious fashion, without any sort of greeting to anybody. “Come in, doctor.”
It caused quite a confusion, the entrance of Dr. West. All were surprised. Lionel rose, Lucy rose; Lord Garle and Decima came forward, and Sibylla sprang towards him with a cry. Lady Verner was the only one who retained entire calmness.
“Papa! it cannot be you! When did you come?”
Dr. West kissed her, and turned to Lady Verner with some courtly words. Dr. West was an adept at such. Not the courtly words that spring genuinely from a kindly and refined nature; but those that are put on to hide a false one. All people, true-hearted ones, too, cannot distinguish between them; the false and the real. Next, the doctor grasped the hand of Lionel.
“My son-in-law!” he exclaimed in a very demonstrative manner. “The last time you and I had the pleasure of meeting, Mr. Verner, we little anticipated that such a relationship would ensue. I rejoice to welcome you in it, my dear sir.”
“True,” said Lionel, with a quiet smile. “Coming events do not always cast their shadows before.”
With Decima, with Lord Garle, with Lucy Tempest, the doctor severally shook hands; he had a phrase of suavity for them all.
“I should not have known you,” he said to the latter.
“No!” returned Lucy. “Why?”
“You have grown, Miss Tempest. Grown much.”
“Then I must have been very short before,” said Lucy. “I am not tall now.”
“You have grown into remarkable beauty,” added the doctor.
Whether Lucy had grown into beauty, or not, she did not like being told of it. And she did not like Dr. West. She had not been in love with him ever, as you may recollect; but she seemed to like him now, as he stood before her, less and less. Drawing away from him when she could do so civilly, she went up and talked to Jan.
A little while, and they had become more settled, dispersing into groups. The doctor, his daughter, and Lionel were sitting on a couch apart, conversing in an undertone; the rest disposed themselves as they would. Dr. West had accepted a cup of coffee. He kept it in his hand, sipping it now and then, and slowly ate a biscuit.
“Mr. Jan tells me Sibylla is not very strong,” he observed, addressing both of them, but more particularly Lionel.