“Dan,” said she, “do you happen to have seen Mr. Verner pass lately?”
Dan, just then on his head, turned himself upside down, and alighted on his feet, humble and subdued, “Please, miss, I see’d him awhile agone along of Mr. Jan,” was the answer, pulling his hair by way of salutation. “They went that way. Mr. Jan was all in black, he was.”
The boy pointed towards Deerham Court, towards Deerham Hall. There was little doubt that Jan was then on his way to the latter. But the question for Lucy was—where had Lionel gone?
She could not tell; the very speculation upon it was unprofitable, since it could lead to no certainty. Lucy turned homewards, walking quickly.
She had got past the houses, when she discerned before her in the distance, a form which instinct—perhaps some dearer feeling told her was that of him of whom she was in search. He was walking with a slow, leisurely step towards his home. Lucy’s heart gave a bound—that it did so still at his sight, as it had done in the earlier days, was no fault of hers: Heaven knew that she had striven and prayed against it. When she caught him up she was out of breath, so swiftly had she sped.
“Lucy!” he exclaimed. “Lucy! What do you do here?”
“I came out to look for you,” she simply said; “there was nobody else at home to come. I went to Jan’s, thinking you might be there. Mrs. Verner has dressed herself to go to Sir Edmund’s. You may be in time to stop her, if you make haste.”
With a half-uttered exclamation, Lionel was speeding off, when he appeared to remember Lucy. He turned to take her with him.
“No,” said Lucy, stopping. “I could not go as quickly as you; and a minute, more or less, may make all the difference. There is nothing to hurt me. You make the best of your way. It is for your wife’s sake.”
There was good sense in all she said, and Lionel started off with a fleet foot. Before Lucy had quite gained the Court she saw him coming back to meet her. He drew her hand within his arm in silence, and kept his own upon it for an instant’s grateful pressure.
“Thank you, Lucy, for what you have done. Thank you now and ever. I was too late.”
“Is Mrs. Verner gone?”
“She has been gone these ten minutes past, Catherine says. A fly was found immediately.”
They turned into the house; into the sitting-room. Lucy threw off the large shawl and the shapeless green bonnet: at any other moment she would have laughed at the figure she must have looked in them. The tea-things still waited on the table.
“Shall I make you some tea?” she asked.
Lionel shook his head. “I must go up and dress. I shall go after Sibylla.”