“You ‘may’ sit in any chair that the room contains, or on an ottoman, or anywhere that you like,” answered Lionel, considerably amused. “Perhaps you would prefer this?”
“This” was a very low seat indeed—in point of fact, Lady Verner’s footstool. He had spoke in jest, but she waited for no second permission, drew it close to the fire, and sat down upon it. Lionel looked at her, his lips and eyes dancing.
“Possibly you would have preferred the rug?”
“Yes, I should,” answered she frankly, “It is what we did at the rectory. Between the lights, on a winter’s evening, we were allowed to do what we pleased for twenty minutes, and we used to sit down on the rug before the fire, and talk.”
“Mrs. Cust, also?” asked Lionel.
“Not Mrs. Cust; you are laughing at me. If she came in, and saw us, she would say we were too old to sit there, and should be better on chairs. But we liked the rug best.”
“What had you used to talk of?”
“Of everything, I think. About the poor; Mr. Cust’s poor, you know; and the village, and our studies, and—But I don’t think I must tell you that,” broke off Lucy, laughing merrily at her own thoughts.
“Yes, you may,” said Lionel.
“It was about that poor old German teacher of ours. We used to play her such tricks, and it was round the fire that we planned them. But she is very good,” added Lucy, becoming serious, and lifting her eyes to Lionel, as if to bespeak his sympathy for the German teacher.
“She was always patient and kind. The first time Lady Verner lets me go to a shop, I mean to buy her a warm winter cloak. Hers is so thin. Do you think I could get her one for two pounds?”
“I don’t know at all,” smiled Lionel. “A greatcoat for me would cost more than two pounds.”
“I have two sovereigns left of my pocket-money, besides some silver. I hope it will buy a cloak. It is Lady Verner who will have the management of my money, is it not, now that I have left Mrs. Cust’s?”
“I believe so.”
“I wonder how much she will allow me for myself?” continued Lucy, gazing up at Lionel with a serious expression of inquiry, as if the question were a momentous one.
“I think cloaks for old teachers ought to be apart,” cried Lionel. “They should not come out of your pocket-money.”
“Oh, but I like them to do so. I wish I had a home of my own!—as I shall have when papa returns to Europe. I should invite her to me for the holidays, and give her nice dinners always, and buy her some nice clothes, and send her back with her poor old heart happy.”
“Fraulein Mueller. Her father was a gentleman of good position, and he somehow lost his inheritance. When he died she found it out—there was not a shilling for her, instead of a fortune, as she had always thought. She was over forty then, and she had to come to England and begin teaching for a living. She is fifty now, and nearly all she gets she sends to Heidelberg to her poor sick sister. I wonder how much good warm cloaks do cost?”