Lucy Tempest spoke the last sentence dreamily. She was evidently debating the question in her own mind. Her small white hands rested inertly upon her pink dress, her clear face with its delicate bloom was still, her eyes were bent on the fire. But that Lionel’s heart was elsewhere, it might have gone out, there and then, to that young girl and her attractive simplicity.
“What a pretty child you are!” involuntarily broke from him.
Up came those eyes to him, soft and luminous, their only expression being surprise, not a shade of vanity.
“I am not a child; why do you call me one? But Mrs. Cust said you would all be taking me for a child, until you knew me.”
“How old are you?” asked Lionel.
“I was eighteen last September.”
“Eighteen!” involuntarily repeated Lionel.
“Yes; eighteen. We had a party on my birthday. Mr. Cust gave me a most beautifully bound copy of Thomas a Kempis; he had had it bound on purpose. I will show it to you when my books are unpacked. You would like Mr. Cust, if you knew him. He is an old man now, and he has white hair. He is twenty years older than Mrs. Cust; but he is so good!”
“How is it,” almost vehemently broke forth Lionel, “that you are so different from others?”
“I don’t know. Am I different?”
“So different—so different—that—that—”
“What is the matter with me?” she asked timidly, almost humbly, the delicate colour in her cheeks deepening to crimson.
“There is nothing the matter with you,” he answered, smiling; “a good thing if there were as little the matter with everybody else. Do you know that I never saw any one whom I liked so much at first sight as I like you, although you appear to me only as a child? If I call here often I shall grow to love you almost as much as I love my sister Decima.”
“Is not this your home?”
“No. My home is at Verner’s Pride.”
DR. WEST’S HOME.
The house of Dr. West was already lighted up. Gas at its front door, gas at its surgery door, gas inside its windows: no habitation in the place was ever so extensively lighted as Dr. West’s. The house was inclosed with iron railings, and on its side—detached—was the surgery. A very low place, this surgery; you had to go down a step or two, and then plunge into a low door. In the time of the last tenant it had been used as a garden tool-house. It was a tolerably large room, and had a tolerably small window, which was in front, the door being on the side, opposite the side entrance of the house. A counter ran along the room at the back, and a table, covered with miscellaneous articles, stood on the right. Shelves were ranged completely round the room aloft, and a pair of steps, used for getting down the jars and bottles, rested in a corner. There was another room behind it, used exclusively by Dr. West.