“Jan dropped a hint of that,” said Sir Henry. “I should think he would not be in a hurry to marry again!
“I should think not, indeed. He—Lucy, where are you going?”
Lucy turned round with her crimsoned face. “Nowhere, Lady Verner.”
“I thought I heard a carriage stop, my dear. See if it is Lionel.”
Lucy walked to the window in the other room. Sir Henry followed her. The blue and silver carriage of Verner’s Pride was at the Court gates, Lionel stepping from it. He came in, looking curiously at the gray head next to Lucy’s.
“A noble form, a noble face!” murmured Sir Henry Tempest.
He wore still the mourning for his wife. A handsome man never looks so well in other attire. There was no doubt that he divined now who the stranger was, and a glad smile of welcome parted his lips. Sir Henry met him on the threshold, and grasped both his hands.
“I should have known you, Lionel, anywhere, from your likeness to your father.”
IT MIGHT HAVE BEEN JAN!
Lionel could not let the evening go over without speaking of the great secret. When he and Sir Henry were left together in the dining-room, he sought the opportunity. It was afforded by a remark of Sir Henry’s.
“After our sojourn in London shall be over, I must look out for a residence, and settle down. Perhaps I shall purchase one. But I must first of all ascertain what locality would be agreeable to Lucy.”
“Sir Henry,” said Lionel in a low tone, “Lucy’s future residence is fixed upon—if you will accord your permission.”
Sir Henry Tempest, who was in the act of raising his wine-glass to his lips, set it down again and looked at Lionel.
“I want her at Verner’s Pride.”
It appeared that Sir Henry could not understand—did not take in the meaning of the words.
“What did you say?” he asked.
“I have loved her for years,” answered Lionel, the, scarlet spot of emotion rising to his cheeks. “We—we have known each other’s sentiments a long while. But I did not intend to speak more openly to Lucy until I had seen you. To-day, however, in the sudden excitement of hearing of her contemplated departure, I betrayed myself. Will you give her to me, Sir Henry?”
Sir Henry Tempest looked grave. “It cannot have been so very long an attachment,” he observed. “The time since your wife’s death can only be counted by months.”
“True. But the time since I loved Lucy can be counted by years. I loved her before I married,” he added in a low tone.
“Why, then, have married another?” demanded Sir Henry, after a pause.
“You may well ask it, Sir Henry,” he replied, the upright line in his brow showing out just then all too deep and plain. “I engaged myself to my first wife in an unguarded moment; as soon as the word was spoken I became aware that she was less dear to me than Lucy. I might have retracted; but the retractation would have left a stain on my honour that could never be effaced. I am, not the first man who has paid by years of penitence for a word spoken in the heat of passion.”