Lucy laughed. She did not seem to care at all for the omission; but as to going without the invitation, or in anybody’s place, she would not hear of it.
“Decima will not mind staying at home,” said Lady Verner. “She never cares to go out. You will not care to go, will you, Decima?”
An unwonted flush of crimson rose to Decima’s usually calm face. “I should like to go to this, mamma, as Miss Hautley has invited me.”
“Like to go to it!” repeated Lady Verner. “Are you growing capricious, Decima? You generally profess to ‘like’ to stay at home.”
“I would rather go this time, if you have no objection,” was the quiet answer of Decima.
“Dear Lady Verner, if Decima remained at home ever so, I should not go,” interposed Lucy. “Only fancy my intruding there without an invitation! Miss Hautley might order me out again.”
“It is well to make a joke of it, Lucy, when I am vexed,” said Lady Verner. “I dare say it is only a mistake; but I don’t like such mistakes.”
“I dare say it is nothing else,” replied Lucy, laughing. “But as to making my appearance there under the circumstances, I could not really do it to oblige even you, Lady Verner. And I would just as soon be at home.”
Lady Verner resigned herself to the decision, but she did not look pleased.
“It is to be I and Decima, then. Lionel,” glancing across the table at him—“you will accompany me. I cannot go without you.”
It was at the luncheon table they were discussing this; a meal of which Lionel rarely partook; in fact, he was rarely at home to partake of it; but he happened to be there to-day. Sibylla was present. Recovered from the accident—if it may be so called—of the breaking of the blood-vessel; she had appeared to grow stronger and better with the summer weather. Jan knew the improvement was all deceit, and told them so; told her so; that the very greatest caution was necessary, if she would avert a second similar attack; in fact, half the time of Jan’s visits at Deerham Court was spent in enjoining perfect tranquillity on Sibylla.
But she was so obstinate! She would not keep herself quiet; she would go out; she would wear those thin summer dresses, low, in the evening. She is wearing a delicate muslin now, as she sits by Lady Verner, and her blue eyes are suspiciously bright, and her cheeks are suspiciously hectic, and the old laboured breath can be seen through the muslin moving her chest up and down, as it used to be seen—a lovely vision still, with her golden hair clustering about her; but her hands are hot and trembling, and her frame is painfully thin. Certainly she does not look fit to enter upon evening gaiety, and Lady Verner in addressing her son, “You will go with me, Lionel,” proved that she never so much as cast a thought to the improbability that Sibylla would venture thither.
“If—you—particularly wish it, mother,” was Lionel’s reply, spoken with hesitation.