“It’s a shocking pity that you are turned from Verner’s Pride!” resumed the doctor.
“It is. But there’s no help for it.”
“Does Sibylla grieve after it very much? Has it any real effect, think you, upon her health?—as she seemed to intimate.”
“She grieves, no doubt. She keeps up the grief, if you can understand it, Dr. West. Not a day passes, but she breaks into lamentations over the loss, complaining loudly and bitterly. Whether her health would not equally have failed at Verner’s Pride, I am unable to say. I think it would.”
“John Massingbird, under the circumstances, ought to give it up to you. It is rightfully yours. Sibylla’s life—and she is his own cousin—may depend upon it: he ought not to keep it. But for the loss of the codicil, he would never have come to it.”
“Of course he could not,” assented Lionel. “It is that loss which has upset everything.”
Dr. West fell into silence, and continued in it until his house was in view. Then he spoke again.
“What will you undertake to give me, Mr. Verner, if I can bring John Massingbird to hear reason, and re-establish you at Verner’s Pride?”
“Not anything,” answered Lionel. “Verner’s Pride is John Massingbird’s according to the law; therefore it cannot be mine. Neither would he resign it.”
“I wonder whether it could be done by stratagem?” mused Dr. West. “Could we persuade him that the codicil has turned up?—or something of that? It would be very desirable for Sibylla.”
“If I go back to Verner’s Pride at all, sir, I go back by right; neither by purchase nor by stratagem,” was the reply of Lionel. “Rely upon it, things set about in an underhand manner never prosper.”
“I might get John Massingbird to give it up to you,” continued the doctor, nodding his head thoughtfully, as if he had some scheme afloat in it. “I might get him to resign it to you, rents and residence and all, and betake himself off. You would give me a per centage?”
“Were John Massingbird to offer such to me to-morrow, of his own free will, I should decline it,” decisively returned Lionel. “I have suffered too much from Verner’s Pride ever to take possession of it again, except by indisputable right—a right in which I cannot be disturbed. Twice have I been turned from it, as you know. And the turning out has cost me more than the world deemed.”
“But surely you would go back to it if you could, for Sibylla’s sake?”
“Were I a rich man, able to rent Verner’s Pride from John Massingbird, I might ask him to let it me, if it would gratify Sibylla. But, to return there as its master, on sufferance, liable to be expelled again at any moment—never! John Massingbird holds the right to Verner’s Pride, and he will exercise it, for me.”
“Then you will not accept my offer—to try and get you back again; and to make me a substantial honorarium if I do it?”