“But you must afford me some treat in place of it,” she immediately added. “Will you promise to take me for a whole day next week to Heartburg?”
“Willingly,” replied Lionel. “There is to be a morning concert at Heartburg next Tuesday. If you feel well enough, we can attend that.”
He did not think morning concerts, and the fatigue they sometimes entail, particularly desirable things for his wife; but, compared with hot ballrooms and the night air, they seemed innocuous. Sibylla liked morning concerts uncommonly, nearly as much as Master Cheese liked tarts; she liked anything that afforded an apology for dress and display.
“Mind, Lionel, you promise to take me,” she reiterated.
“Yes. Provided you feel equal to going.”
Sibylla took breakfast in her own room, according to custom. Formerly, she had done so through idleness: now, she was really not well enough to rise early. Lionel, when he joined the family breakfast table, announced the news; announced it in his own characteristic manner.
“Sibylla thinks, after all, that she will be better at home this evening,” he said. “I am glad she has so decided it.”
“Her senses have come to her, have they?” remarked Lady Verner.
He made no reply. He never did make a reply to any shaft lanced by Lady Verner at his wife. My lady was sparing of her shafts in a general way since they had resided with her, but she did throw one out now and then.
“You will go with me then, Lionel?”
He shook his head, telling his mother she must excuse him: it was not his intention to be present.
Sibylla continued in a remarkably quiet, not to say affable, temper all day. Lionel was out, but returned home to dinner. By and by Lady Verner and Decima retired to dress. Lucy went up with Decima, and Lionel remained with his wife.
When they came down, Sibylla was asleep on the sofa. Lady Verner wore some of the magnificent and yet quiet attire that had pertained to her gayer days; Decima was in white. Lionel put on his hat, and went out to hand them into the carriage that waited. As he did so, the aspect of his sister’s face struck him.
“What is the matter, Decima?” he exclaimed. “You are looking perfectly white.”
She only smiled in answer; a forced, unnatural smile, as it appeared to Lionel. But he said no more; he thought the white hue might be only the shade cast by the moonlight. Lady Verner looked from the carriage to ask a question.
“Is Jan really going, do you know, Lionel? Lucy says she thinks he is. I do hope and trust that he will be attired like a Christian, if he is absurd enough to appear.”
“I think I’ll go and see,” answered Lionel, a smile crossing his face. “Take care, Catherine!”
Old Catherine, who had come out with shawls, was dangerously near the wheels—and the horses were on the point of starting. She stepped back, and the carriage drove on.