Lady Verner felt inclined to blame those of her household who had been left at home, for Sibylla’s escapade: all of them—Lionel, Lucy Tempest, and the servants. They ought to have prevented it, she said; have kept her in by force, had need been. But she blamed them wrongly. Lionel might have done so had he been present; there was no knowing whether he would so far have exerted his authority, but the scene that would inevitably have ensued might not have been less fatal in its consequences to Sibylla. Lucy answered, and with truth, that any remonstrance of hers to Sibylla would never have been listened to; and the servants excused themselves—it was not their place to presume to oppose Mr. Verner’s wife.
She lay on the sofa in her dressing-room, propped up by pillows; her face wan, her breathing laboured. Decima with her, calm and still; Catherine hovered near, to be useful, if necessary; Lady Verner was in her room within call; Lucy Tempest sat on the stairs. Lucy, remembering certain curious explosions, feared that her presence might not be acceptable to the invalid; but Lucy partook of the general restlessness, and sat down in her simple fashion on the stairs, listening for news from the sick-chamber. Neither she nor any one else in the house could have divested themselves of the prevailing excitement that day, or settled to calmness in the remotest degree. Lucy wished from her very heart that she could do anything to alleviate the sufferings of Mrs. Verner, or to soothe the general discomfort.
By and by, Jan entered, and came straight up the stairs. “Am I to walk over you, Miss Lucy?”
“There’s plenty of room to go by, Jan,” she answered, pulling her dress aside.
“Are you doing penance?” he asked, as he strode past her.
“It is so dull remaining in the drawing-room by myself,” answered Lucy apologetically. “Everybody is upstairs.”
Jan went into the sick-room, and Lucy sat on in silence; her head bent down on her knees, as before. Presently Jan returned.
“Is she any better, Jan?”
“She’s no worse,” was Jan’s answer. “That’s something, when it comes to this stage. Where’s Lionel?”
“I do not know,” replied Lucy. “I think he went out. Jan,” she added, dropping her voice, “will she get well?”
“Get well!” echoed Jan in his plainness. “It’s not likely. She won’t be here four-and-twenty hours longer.”
“Oh, Jan!” uttered Lucy, painfully startled and distressed. “What a dreadful thing! And all because of her going out last night!”
“Not altogether,” answered Jan. “It has hastened it, no doubt; but the ending was not far off in any case.”
“If I could but save her!” murmured Lucy in her unselfish sympathy. “I shall always be thinking that perhaps if I had spoken to her last night, instead of going out to find Mr. Verner, she might not have gone.”
“Look here,” said Jan. “You are not an angel yet, are you, Miss Lucy?”