He released one of his hands and laid it gently upon her head for a minute, his lips moving silently. Then he let her go. It was over.
She sat down on the low stool again on the opposite side the hearth, and buried her face and her anguish. Lionel buried his face, his elbow on the mantel-piece, his hand uplifted. He never looked at her again, or spoke; she never raised her head; and when the company began to arrive, and came in, the silence was still unbroken.
And, as they talked and laughed that night, fulfilling the usages of society amidst the guests, how little did any one present suspect the scene which had taken place but a short while before! How many of the smiling faces we meet in society cover aching hearts!
MASTER CHEESE BLOWN UP.
There were other houses in Deerham that night, not quite so full of sociability as was Lady Verner’s. For one, may be instanced that of the Misses West. They sat at the table in the general sitting-room, hard at work, a lamp between them, for the gas-burners above were high for sewing, and their eyes were no longer so keen as they had been. Miss Deborah was “turning” a table-cloth; Miss Amilly was darning sundry holes in a pillow-case. Their stock of household linen was in great need of being replaced by new; but, not having the requisite money to spare, they were doing their best to renovate the old.
A slight—they could not help feeling it as such—had been put upon them that day, in not having been invited to Decima Verner’s wedding. The sisters-in-law of Lionel Verner, connected closely with Jan, they had expected the invitation. But it had not come. Lionel had pressed his mother to give it; Jan, in his straightforward way, when he had found it was not forthcoming, said, “Why don’t you invite them! They’d do nobody any harm.” Lady Verner, however had positively declined: the Wests had never been acquaintances of hers, she said. They felt the slight, poor ladies, but they felt it quite humbly and meekly; not complaining; not venturing even to say to each other that they might have been asked. They only sat a little more silent than usual over their work that evening, doing more, and talking less.
The servant came in with the supper-tray, and laid it on the table. “Is the cold pork to come in?” asked she. “I have not brought it. I thought, perhaps, you’d not care to have it in to-night, ma’am, as Mr. Jan’s out.”
Miss Deborah cast her eyes on the tray. There was a handsome piece of cheese, and a large glass of fresh celery. A rapid calculation passed through her mind that the cold pork, if not cut for supper, would make a dinner the following day, with an apple or a jam pudding.
“No, Martha, this will do for to-night,” she answered. “Call Master Cheese, and then draw the ale.”
“It’s a wonder he waits to be called,” was Martha’s comment, as she went out. “He is generally in afore the tray, whatever the meals may be, he is.”