“And how was I to send the letter? Chuck it into the sea in the ship’s wake, and give it orders to swim back to port?”
“You might have posted it at the first place you touched at.”
“Look here, Lionel. I never regarded it in that grave light. How was I to suppose that old Verner would disinherit you for that trumpery escapade? I never knew why he had disinherited you, until I came home and heard from yourself the story of the inclosed glove, which he left you as a legacy. It’s since then that I have been wanting to make a clean breast of it. I say, only fancy Fred’s deepness! We should never have thought it of him. The quarrel between him and Rachel that night appeared to arise from the fact of her having seen him with Sibylla; having overheard that there was more between them than was pleasant to her: at least, so far as Luke could gather it. Lionel, what should have brought your glove lying by the pond?”
“I am unable to say. I had not been there, to drop it. The most feasible solution that I can come to is that Rachel may have had it about her for the purpose of mending, and let it drop herself, when she jumped in.”
“Ay. That’s the most likely. There was a hole in it, I remember; and it was Rachel who attended to such things in the household. It must have been so.”
Lionel fell into a reverie. How—but for this mistake of John Massingbird’s, this revelation to his uncle—the whole course of his life’s events might have been changed! Verner’s Pride bequeathed to him, never bequeathed at all to the Massingbirds, it was scarcely likely that Sibylla, in returning home, would have driven to Verner’s Pride. Had she not driven to it that night, he might never have been so surprised by his old feelings as to have proposed to her. He might have married Lucy Tempest; have lived, sheltered with her in Verner’s Pride from the storms of life; he might——
“Will you forgive me, old chap?”
It was John Massingbird who spoke, interrupting his day dreams. Lionel shook them off, and took the offered hand stretched out.
“Yes,” he heartily said. “You did not do me the injury intentionally. It was the result of a mistake, brought about by circumstances.”
“No, that I did not, by Jove!” answered John Massingbird. “I don’t think I ever did a fellow an intentional injury in my life. You would have been the last I should single out for it. I have had many ups and downs, Lionel, but somehow I have hitherto always managed to alight on my legs; and I believe it’s because I let other folks get along—tit for tat, you see. A fellow who is for ever putting his hindering spoke in the wheel of others, is safe to get hindering spokes put into his. I am not a pattern model,” comically added John Massingbird; “but I have never done wilful injury to others, and my worst enemy (if I possess one) can’t charge it upon me.”
True enough. With all Mr. John Massingbird’s failings, his heart was not a bad one. In the old days his escapades had been numerous; his brother Frederick’s, none (so far as the world knew); but the one was liked a thousand times better than the other.