“But you will give her to me?”
“I had rather—forgive me if I speak candidly—that she married one who had not called another woman wife.”
“I heartily wish I never had called another woman wife,” was the response of Lionel. “But I cannot alter the past. I shall not make Lucy the less happy; and, for moving her—I tell you that my love for her, throughout, has been so great, as to have put it almost beyond the power of suppression.”
A servant entered, and said my lady was waiting tea. Lionel waved his hand towards the man with an impatient movement, and they were left at peace again.
“You tell me that her heart is engaged in this, as well as yours?” resumed Sir Henry.
A half-smile flitted for a moment over Lionel’s face; he was recalling Lucy’s whispered words to him that very afternoon.
“Yes,” he answered, “her heart is bound up in me: I may almost say her life. If ever love served out its apprenticeship, Sir Henry, ours has. It is stronger than time and change.”
“Well, I suppose you must have her,” conceded Sir Henry. “But for your own marriage, I should have looked on this as a natural result. What about the revenues of Verner’s Pride?”
“I am in debt,” freely acknowledged Lionel. “In my wife’s time we spent too much, and outran our means. Part of my income for three or four years must be set apart to pay it off.”
He might have said, “In my wife’s time she spent too much;” said it with truth. But, as he spared her feelings, living, so he spared her memory, dead.
“Whoever takes Lucy, takes thirty thousand pounds on her wedding-day,” quietly remarked Sir Henry Tempest.
The words quite startled Lionel. “Thirty thousand pounds!” he repeated mechanically.
“Thirty thousand pounds. Did you think I should waste all my best years in India, Lionel, and save up nothing for my only child?”
“I never thought about it,” was Lionel’s answer. “Or if I ever did think, I suppose I judged by my father. He saved no money.”
“He had not the opportunity that I have had; and he died early. The appointment I held, out there, has been a lucrative one. That will be the amount of Lucy’s present fortune.”
“I am glad I did not know it!” heartily affirmed Lionel.
“It might have made the winning her more difficult, I suppose you think?”
“Not the winning her,” was Lionel’s answer, the self-conscious smile again on his lips. “The winning your consent, Sir Henry.”
“It has not been so hard a task, either,” quaintly remarked Sir Henry, as he rose. “I am giving her to you, understand, for your father’s sake; in the trust that you are the same honourably good man, standing well before the world and Heaven, that he was. Unless your looks belie you, you are not degenerate.”
Lionel stood before him, almost too agitated to speak. Sir Henry stopped him, laying his hand upon his shoulder.