“I arrived at the conclusion, I say,” continued Lady Verner, “and I began to consider whom the object could be. I called over in my mind all the gentlemen she was in the habit of seeing; and unfortunately there was only one—only one upon whom my suspicions could fix. I recalled phrases of affection openly lavished upon him by Lucy; I remembered that there was no society she seemed to enjoy and be so much at ease with as his. I have done what I could since to keep him at arm’s length; and I shall never forgive myself for having been so blind. But, you see, I no more thought she, or any other girl, could fall in love with him, than that she could with one of my serving men.”
“Lady Verner, you should not say it!” burst forth Lucy, with vehemence, as she turned her white face, her trembling lips, to Lady Verner. “Surely I might refuse to marry Lord Garle without caring unduly for another!”
Lady Verner looked quite aghast at the outburst. “My dear, does not this prove that I am right?”
“But who is it?” interrupted Sir Henry Tempest.
“Alas!—Who! I could almost faint in telling it to you,” groaned Lady Verner. “My unfortunate son, Jan.”
The relief was so great to Lucy; the revulsion of feeling so sudden; the idea called up altogether so comical, that she clasped her hands one within the other, and laughed out in glee.
“Oh, Lady Verner! Poor Jan! I never thought you meant him. Papa,” she said, turning eagerly to Sir Henry, “Jan is downright worthy and good, but I should not like to marry him.”
“Jan may be worthy; but he is not handsome,” gravely remarked Sir Henry.
“He is better than handsome,” returned Lucy. “I shall love Jan all my life, papa; but not in that way.”
Her perfect openness, her ease of manner, gave an earnest of the truth with which she spoke; and Lady Verner was summarily relieved of the fear which had haunted her rest.
“Why could you not have told me this before, Lucy?”
“Dear Lady Verner, how could I tell it you? How was I to know anything about it?”
“True,” said Lady Verner. “I was simple; to suppose any young lady could ever give a thought to that unfortunate Jan! You saw him, Sir Henry. Only fancy his being my son and his father’s!”
“He is certainly not like either of you,” was Sir Henry’s reply. “Your other son was like both. Very like his father.”
“Ah! he is a son!” spoke Lady Verner, in her enthusiasm. “A son worth having; a son that his father would be proud of, were he alive. Handsome, good, noble;—there are few like Lionel Verner. I spoke in praise of Lord Garle, but he is not as Lionel. A good husband, a good son, a good man. His conduct under his misfortunes was admirable.”
“His misfortunes have been like a romance,” remarked Sir Henry.
“More like that than reality. You will see him presently. I asked him to dine with me, and expect him in momentarily. Ah, he has had trouble in all ways. His wife brought him nothing else.”