“No?” returned Lionel, with good humour.
“It is not right of you, Lionel, to leave me to go alone, with only Decima.”
“Let Jan accompany you, mother.”
“Jan!” uttered Lady Verner, in the very extreme of astonishment. “I should be surprised to see Jan attempt to enter such a scene. Jan! I don’t suppose he possesses a fit coat and waistcoat.”
Lionel smiled, quitted his mother, and bent his steps towards Jan Verner’s.
Not to solicit Jan’s attendance upon Lady Verner to the festival scene, or to make close inquiries as to the state of Jan’s wardrobe. No; Lionel had a more serious motive for his visit.
He found Jan and Master Cheese enjoying a sort of battle. The surgery looked as if it had been turned upside down, so much confusion reigned. White earthenware vessels of every shape and form, glass jars, huge cylinders, brass pots, metal pans, were scattered about in inextricable confusion. Master Cheese had recently got up a taste for chemical experiments, in which it appeared necessary to call into requisition an unlimited quantity of accessories in the apparatus line. He had been entering upon an experiment that afternoon, when Jan came unexpectedly in, and caught him.
Not for the litter and confusion was Jan displeased, but because he found that Master Cheese had so bungled chemical properties in his head, so confounded one dangerous substance with another, that, five minutes later, the result would probably have been the blowing off of the surgery roof, and Master Cheese and his vessels with it. Jan was giving him a sharp and decisive word, not to attempt anything of the sort again, until he could bring more correct knowledge to bear upon it, when Lionel interrupted them.
“I want to speak to you, Jan,” he said.
“Here, you be off, and wash the powder from your hands,” cried Jan to Master Cheese, who was looking ruefully cross. “I’ll put the things straight.”
The young gentleman departed. Lionel sat down on the only chair he could see—one probably kept for the accommodation of patients who might want a few teeth drawn. Jan was rapidly reducing the place to order.
“What is it, Lionel?” he asked, when it was pretty clear.
“Jan, you must see Sibylla. She wants to go to Deerham Hall to-morrow night.”
“She can’t go,” replied Jan. “Nonsense.”
“But she says she will go.”
Jan leaned his long body over the counter, and brought his face nearly on a level with Lionel’s, speaking slowly and impressively—
“If she goes, Lionel, it will kill her.”
Lionel rose to depart. He was on his way to Verner’s Pride. “I called in to tell you this, Jan, and to ask you to step up and remonstrate with her.”
“Very well,” said Jan. “Mark me, Lionel, she must not go. And if there’s no other way of keeping her away, you, her husband, must forbid it. A little more excitement than usual, and there’ll be another vessel of the lungs ruptured. If that happens, nothing can save her life. Keep her at home, by force, if necessary: any way, keep her.”