Lady Verner saw Dr. Hayes when he was going away.
“There was no change,” he said, in answer to her inquiries. “Mrs. Verner was certainly in a very weak, sick state, and—there was no change.”
The Misses West removed their travelling garments, and took up their stations in the sick-room—not to leave it again, until the life should have departed from Sibylla. Lionel remained in it. Decima and Catherine went in and out, and Jan made frequent visits to the house.
“Tell papa it is the leaving Verner’s Pride that has killed me,” said Sibylla to Amilly with nearly her latest breath.
There was no bed for any of them that night, any more than there had been the previous one. A life was hovering in the balance. Lucy sat with Lady Verner, and the rest went in to them occasionally, taking news. Dawn was breaking when one went in for the last time.
It was Jan. He had come to break the tidings to his mother, and he sat himself down on the arm of the sofa—Jan fashion—while he did it.
The flickering lamp of life had burned out at last.
If there be one day in the whole year more gladdening to the heart than all others, it is surely the first day of early spring. It may come and give us a glimpse almost in mid-winter; it may not come until winter ought to have been long past: but, appear when it will, it brings rejoicing with it. How many a heart, sinking under its bitter burden of care, is reawakened to hope by that first spring day of brightness! It seems to promise that there shall be yet a change in the dreary lot; it whispers that trouble may not last: that sickness may be superseded by health; that this dark wintry world will be followed by heaven.
Such a day was smiling over Deerham. And they were only in the first days of February. The sun was warm, the fields were green, the sky was blue; all Nature seemed to have put on her brightness. As Mrs. Duff stood at her door and exchanged greetings with sundry gossips passing by—an unusual number of whom were abroad—she gave it as her opinion that the charming weather had been vouchsafed as a special favour to Miss Decima Verner; for it was the wedding-day of that young lady and Sir Edmund Hautley.
Sir Edmund would fain have been married immediately after his return. Perhaps Decima would also. But Lady Verner, always given to study the proprieties of life, considered that it would be more seemly to allow first a few months to roll on after the death of her son’s wife. So the autumn and part of the winter were allowed to go by; and in this, the first week of February, they were united; being favoured with weather that might have cheated them into a belief that it was May-day.