“And what of the excitement that that will cause?” questioned Lionel. “It may be as fatal as the other.”
“I don’t know,” returned Jan, speaking for once in his life testily, in the vexation the difficulty brought him. “My belief is that Sibylla’s mad. She’d never be so stupid, were she sane.”
“Go to her, and see what you can do,” concluded Lionel, as he turned away.
Jan proceeded to Deerham Court, and had an interview with Mrs. Verner. It was not of a very agreeable nature, neither did much satisfaction ensue from it. After a few recriminating retorts to Jan’s arguments, which he received as equably as though they had been compliments, Sibylla subsided into sullen silence. And when Jan left, he could not tell whether she still persisted in her project, or whether she gave it up.
WELL-NIGH WEARIED OUT.
Lionel returned late in the evening; he had been detained at Verner’s Pride. Sibylla appeared sullen still. She was in her own sitting-room, upstairs, and Lucy was bearing her company. Decima was in Lady Verner’s chamber.
“Have you had any dinner?” inquired Lucy. She did not ask. She would not have asked had he been starving.
“I took a bit with John Massingbird,” he replied. “Is my mother better, do you know?”
“Not much, I think,” said Lucy. “Decima is sitting with her.”
Lionel stood in his old attitude, his elbow on the mantel-piece by his wife’s side, looking down at her. Her eyes were suspiciously bright, her cheeks now shone with their most crimson hectic. It was often the case at this, the twilight hour of the evening. She wore a low dress, and the gold chain on her neck rose and fell with every breath. Lucy’s neck was uncovered, too: a fair, pretty neck; one that did not give you the shudders when looked at as poor Sibylla’s did. Sibylla leaned back on the cushions of her chair, toying with a fragile hand-screen of feathers; Lucy, sitting on the opposite side, had been reading; but she laid the book down when Lionel entered.
“John Massingbird desired me to ask you, Sibylla, if he should send you the first plate of grapes they cut.”
“I’d rather have the first bag of walnuts they shake,” answered Sibylla. “I never cared for grapes.”
“He can send you both,” said Lionel; but an uncomfortable, dim recollection came over him, of Jan’s having told her she must not eat walnuts. For Jan to tell her not to do a thing, however—or, in fact, for anybody else—was the sure signal for Sibylla to do it.
“Does John Massingbird intend to go to-morrow evening?” inquired Sibylla.
“To Deerham Hall, do you mean? John Massingbird has not received an invitation.”
“What’s that for?” quickly asked Sibylla.
“Some whim of Miss Hautley’s, I suppose. The cards have been issued very partially. John says it is just as well he did not get one, for he should either not have responded to it, or else made his appearance there with his clay pipe.”