Lionel crossed over to her: her best support. He held her in his arms, tenderly and considerately, as though she had never given him an unwifely word. Stretching out his other hand to the bell, he rang it loudly. And then he looked at Mr. Massingbird.
“Run for your life,” he whispered. “Get Jan here.”
TRYING ON WREATHS.
The months went on, and Deerham was in a commotion: not the Clay Lane part of it, of whom I think you have mostly heard, but that more refined if less useful portion, represented by Lady Verner, the Elmsleys, the Bitterworths, and other of the aristocracy congregating in its environs.
Summer had long come in, and was now on the wane; and Sir Edmund Hautley, the only son and heir of Sir Rufus, was expected home. He had quitted the service, had made the overland route, and was now halting in Paris; but the day of his arrival at Deerham Hall was fixed. And this caused the commotion: for it had pleased Miss Hautley to determine to welcome him with a fete and ball, the like of which for splendour had never been heard of in the county.
Miss Hautley was a little given to have an opinion of her own, and to hold to it. Sir Rufus had been the same. Their friends called it firmness; their enemies obstinacy. The only sister of Sir Rufus, not cordial with him during his life, she had invaded the Hall as soon as the life had left him, quitting her own comfortable and substantial residence to do it, and persisted in taking up her abode there until Sir Edmund should return; as she was persisting now in giving this fete in honour of it. In vain those who deemed themselves privileged to speak, pointed out to Miss Hautley that a fete might be considered out of place, given before Sir Rufus had been dead a twelvemonth, and that Sir Edmund might deem it so; furthermore, that Sir Edmund might prefer to find quietness on his arrival instead of a crowd.
They might as well have talked to the wind, for all the impression it made upon Miss Hautley. The preparations for the gathering went on quickly, the invitations had gone out, and Deerham’s head was turned. Those who did not get invitations were ready to swallow up those who did. Miss Hautley was as exclusive as ever proud old Sir Rufus had been, and many were left out who thought they might have been invited. Amongst others, the Misses West thought so, especially as one card had gone to their house—for Mr. Jan Verner.
Two cards had been left at Deerham Court. For Lady and Miss Verner: for Mr. and Mrs. Verner. By some strange oversight, Miss Tempest was omitted. That it was a simple oversight there was no doubt; and so it turned out to be; for, after the fete was over, reserved old Miss Hautley condescended to explain that it was, and to apologise; but this is dating forward. It was not known to be an oversight when the cards arrived, and Lady Verner felt inclined to resent it. She hesitated whether to treat it resentfully and stay away herself; or to take no notice of it, further than by conveying Lucy to the Hall in place of Decima.