He watched her through the quadrille. He watched the gradually increasing excitement of her temperament. Nothing could be more pernicious for her; nothing more dangerous; as Jan knew. Presently he watched her plunge into a waltz; and just at that moment his eyes fell on Lionel.
He had just entered; he was shaking hands with Sir Edmund Hautley. Jan made his way to them.
“Have you seen Sibylla, Jan?” was the first question of Lionel to his brother. “I hear she has come.”
For answer, Jan pointed towards a couple amidst the waltzers, and Lionel’s dismayed gaze fell on his wife, whirling round at a mad speed, her eyes glistening, her cheeks burning, her bosom heaving. With the violence of the exertion, her poor breath seemed to rise in loud gasps, shaking her to pieces, and the sweat-drops poured off her brow.
One dismayed exclamation, and Lionel took a step forward. Jan caught him back.
“It is of no use, Lionel. I have tried. It would only make a scene, and be productive of no end. I am not sure either, whether opposition at the present moment would not do as much harm as is being done.”
“Jan!” cried Sir Edmund in an undertone, “is—she—dying?”
“She is not far off it,” was Jan’s answer.
Lionel had yielded to Jan’s remonstrance, and stood back against the wall, as Jan had previously been doing. The waltz came to an end. In the dispersion Lionel lost sight of his wife. A few moments, and strange sounds of noise and confusion were echoing from an adjoining room. Jan went away at his own rate of speed, Lionel in his wake. They had caught the reiterated words, spoken in every phase of terrified tones, “Mrs. Verner! Mrs. Verner!”
Ah, poor Mrs. Verner! That had been her last dance on earth. The terrible exertion had induced a fit of coughing of unnatural violence, and in the straining a blood-vessel had once more broken.
THE LAMP BURNS OUT AT LAST.
From the roof of the house to the floor of the cellar, ominous silence reigned in Deerham Court. Mrs. Verner lay in it—dying. She had been conveyed home from the Hall on the morning following the catastrophe. Miss Hautley and Sir Edmund urged her remaining longer, offering every possible hospitality; but poor Sibylla seemed to have taken a caprice against it. Caprices she would have, up to her last breath. All her words were “Home! home!” Jan said she might be moved with safety; and she was taken there.
She seemed none the worse for the removal—she was none the worse for it. She was dying, but the transit had not increased her danger or her pain. Dr. Hayes had been over in the course of the night, and was now expected again.
“It’s all waste of time, his coming; he can’t do anything; but it is satisfaction for Lionel,” observed Jan to his mother.