She turned round fiercely on Jan as she spoke. Jan had followed her to her chair, and stood near her; he may have deemed that so evident an invalid should possess a doctor at hand. A good thing that Jan was of equable disposition, of easy temperament; otherwise there might have been perpetual open war between him and Sibylla. She did not spare to him her sarcasms and her insults; but never, in all Jan’s intercourse with her, had he resented them.
“No one has told me anything about you in particular, Mrs. Verner,” was the reply of Sir Edmund. “I see that you look delicate.”
“I am not delicate,” she sharply said. “It is nothing. I should be very well, if it were not for Jan.”
“That’s good,” returned Jan. “What do I do?”
“You worry me,” she answered curtly. “You say I must not go out; I must not do this, or do the other. You know you do. Presently you will be saying I must not dance. But I will.”
“Does Lionel know you have come?” inquired Jan, leaving other questions in abeyance.
“I don’t know. It’s nothing to him. He was not going to stop me. You should pay attention to your own appearance, Jan, instead of to mine; look at your gloves!”
“They split as I was drawing them on,” said Jan.
Sibylla turned from him with a gesture of contempt. “I am enchanted that you have come home, Sir Edmund,” she said to the baronet.
“I am pleased myself, Mrs. Verner. Home has more charms for me than the world knows of.”
“You will give us some nice entertainments, I hope,” she continued, her cough beginning to subside. “Sir Rufus lived like a hermit.”
That she would not live to partake of any entertainments he might give, Sir Edmund Hautley felt as sure as though he had then seen her in her grave-clothes. No, not even could he be deceived, or entertain the faintest false hope, though the cough became stilled, and the brilliant hectic of reaction shone on her cheeks. Very beautiful would she then have looked, save for her attenuate frame, with that bright crimson flush and her gleaming golden hair.
Quite sufficiently beautiful to attract partners, and one came up and requested her to dance. She rose in acquiescence, turning her back right upon Jan, who would have interposed.
“Go away,” said she. “I don’t want any lecturing from you.”
But Jan did not go away. He laid his hand impressively upon her shoulder. “You must not do it, Sibylla. There’s a pond outside; it’s just as good you went and threw yourself into that. It would do you no more harm.”
She jerked her shoulder away from him; laughing a little, scornful laugh, and saying a few contemptuous words to her partner, directed to Jan. Jan propped his back against the wall, and watched her, giving her a few words in his turn.
“As good try to turn a mule, as turn her.”