Lionel leaned his brow on his hand, deep in thought. “How far was Frederick implicated?” he asked in a low tone. “Did he—did he put her into the pond?”
“No!” burst forth John Massingbird, with a vehemence that sent the ashes of his pipe flying. “Fred would not be guilty of such a crime as that, any more than you or I would. He had—he had made vows to the girl, and broken them; and that was the extent of it. No such great sin, after all, or it wouldn’t be so fashionable a one,” carelessly added John Massingbird.
Lionel waited in silence.
“By what Luke could gather,” went on John, “it appeared that Rachel had seen Fred that night with his cousin Sibylla—your wife now. What she had seen or heard, goodness knows; but enough to prove to her that Fred’s real love was given to Sibylla, that she was his contemplated wife. It drove Rachel mad: Fred had probably filled her up with the idea that the honour was destined for herself. Men are deceivers ever, and women soft, you know, Lionel.”
“And they quarrelled over it?”
“They quarrelled over it. Rachel, awakened out of her credulity, met him with bitter reproaches. Luke could not hear what was said towards its close. The meeting—no doubt a concerted one—had been in that grove in view of the Willow Pond, the very spot that Master Luke had chosen for his own hiding-place. They left it and walked towards Verner’s Pride, disputing vehemently; Roy made off the other way, and the last he saw of them, when they were nearly out of sight, was a final explosion, in which they parted. Fred set off to run towards Verner’s Pride, and Rachel came flying back towards the pond. There’s not a shadow of doubt that in her passion, her unhappy state of feeling, she flung herself in; and if Luke had only waited two minutes longer, he might have been in at the death—as we say by the foxes. That’s the solution of what has puzzled Deerham for years, Lionel.”
“Could Luke not have saved her?”