The door opened, and one of the servants entered. “Mr. Jan is wanted.”
“Who’s been taken ill now, I wonder?” cried Jan, descending from the arm of his mother’s sofa, where he had been perched.
In the ante-room was Master Cheese, looking rueful.
“There’s a message come from Squire Pidcock’s,” cried he in a most resentful tone. “Somebody’s to attend immediately. Am I to go?”
“I suppose you’d faint at having to go, after being up to Miss Hautley’s,” returned Jan. “You’d never survive the two, should you?”
“Well, you know, Jan, it’s a good mile and a half to Pidcock’s, and I had to go to the other place without my tea,” remonstrated Master Cheese.
“I dare say Miss Deb has given you your tea since you came home.”
“But it’s not like having it at the usual hour. And I couldn’t finish it in comfort, when this message came.”
“Be off back and finish it now, then,” said Jan. And the young gentleman departed with alacrity, while Jan made the best of his way to Squire Pidcock’s.
AN APPEAL TO JOHN MASSINGBIRD.
Lionel Verner walked home with Dr. West, later in the evening. “What do you think of Sibylla?” was his first question, before they had well quitted the gates.
“My opinion is not a favourable one, so far as I can judge at present,” replied Dr. West. “She must not be crossed, Mr. Verner.”
“Heaven is my witness that she is not crossed by me, Dr. West,” was the reply of Lionel, given more earnestly than the occasion seemed to call for. “From the hour I married her, my whole life has been spent in the endeavour to shield her from crosses, so far as lies in the power of man; to cherish her in all care and tenderness. There are few husbands would bear with her—her peculiarities—as I have borne; as I will still bear. I say this to you, her father; I would say it to no one else. My chief regret, at the wrenching from me of Verner’s Pride, is for Sibylla’s sake.”
“My dear sir, I honestly believe you. I know what Sibylla was at home, fretful, wayward, and restless; and those tendencies are not likely to be lessened, now disease has shown itself. I always feared it was in her constitution; that, in spite of all our care, she would follow her sisters. They fell off and died, you may remember, when they seemed most blooming. People talked freely—as I understood at the time—about my allowing her so suddenly to marry Frederick Massingbird; but my course was dictated by one sole motive—that it would give her the benefit of a sea voyage, which might prove invaluable to her constitution.”
Lionel believed just as much of this as he liked. Dr. West was his wife’s father, and, as such, he deferred to him. He remembered what had been told him by Sibylla; and he remembered the promise he had given her.