“Take this seat, Mr. Jan,” said Miss Amilly, drawing a chair forward next her own. “Master Cheese, have the kindness to move a little round: Mr. Jan can’t see the fire if you sit there.”
“I don’t want to see it,” said literal Jan. “I’m not cold.” And Master Cheese took the opportunity which the words gave to remain where he was. He liked to sit in warmth with his back to the fire.
“I cannot think where papa is,” said Miss Deborah. “Mr. Lionel, is it of any use asking you to take a cup of tea?”
“Thank you, I am going home to dinner,” replied Lionel. “Dr. West is coming in now,” he added, perceiving that gentleman’s approach from the window.
“Miss Amilly,” asked Jan, “have you been at the castor oil?”
Poor Miss Amilly turned all the colours of the rainbow; if she had one weakness, it was upon the subject of her diminishing locks. While Cheese, going red also, administered to Jan sundry kicks under the table, as an intimation that he should have kept counsel. “I—took—just a little drop, Mr. Jan,” said she. “What’s the dose, if you please? Is it one tea-spoonful or two?”
“It depends upon the age,” said Jan, “if you mean taken inwardly. For you it would be—I say, Cheese, what are you kicking at?”
Cheese began to stammer something about the leg of the table; but the subject was interrupted by the entrance of Sibylla. Lionel wished them good-evening, and went out with her. Outside the room door they encountered Dr. West.
“Where are you going, Sybilla?” he asked, almost sharply, as his glance fell upon his daughter and Lionel.
“To Verner’s Pride.”
“Go and take your things off. You cannot go to Verner’s Pride this evening.”
“But, papa, why?” inquired Sibylla, feeling that she should like to turn restive.
“I have my reasons for it. You will know them later. Now go and take your things off without another word.”
Sibylla dared not openly dispute the will of her father, neither would she essay to do it before Lionel Verner. She turned somewhat unwillingly towards the staircase, and Dr. West opened the drawing-room door, signing to Lionel to wait.
“Deborah, I am going out. Don’t keep the tea. Mr. Jan, should I be summoned anywhere, you’ll attend for me, I don’t know when I shall be home.”
“All right,” called out Jan. And Dr. West went out with Lionel Verner.
“I am going to Verner’s Pride,” he said, taking Lionel’s arm as soon as they were in the street. “There’s news come from Australia. John Massingbird’s dead.”
The announcement was made so abruptly, with so little circumlocution or preparation, that Lionel Verner failed at the first moment to take in the full meaning of the words. “John Massingbird dead?” he mechanically asked.
“He is dead. It’s a sad tale. He had the gold about him, a great quantity of it, bringing it down to Melbourne, and he was killed on the road; murdered for the sake of the gold.”