A rush of blood to her heart, a rush of moisture to her forehead; for Sibylla West was not wholly without feeling, and she knew, as Lionel said, that it was a decision fraught with grave destiny. But Frederick Massingbird was more to her than he was.
“I have given my promise. I cannot go from it,” was her scarcely breathed answer.
“May your falsity never come home to you!” broke from Lionel, in the bitterness of his anguish. And he strode from the room without another word or look, and quitted the house.
THE NIGHT BEFORE THE WEDDING.
Deerham could not believe the news. Verner’s Pride could not believe it. Nobody believed it, save Lady Verner, and she was only too thankful to believe it and hug it. There was nothing surprising in Sibylla’s marrying her cousin Fred, for many had shrewdly suspected that the favour between them was not altogether cousinly favour; but the surprise was given to the hasty marriage. Dr. West vouchsafed an explanation. Two of his daughters, aged respectively one year and two years younger than Amilly, had each died of consumption, as all Deerham knew. On attaining her twenty-fifth year, each one had shown rapid symptoms of the disease, and had lingered but a few weeks. Sibylla was only one-and-twenty yet; but Dr. West fancied he saw, or said he saw, grounds for fear. It was known of what value a sea-voyage was in these constitutions; hence his consent to the departure of Sibylla. Such was the explanation of Dr. West.
“I wonder whether the stated ‘fear of consumption’ has been called up by himself for the occasion?” was the thought that crossed the mind of Decima Verner. Decima did not believe in Dr. West.
Verner’s Pride, like the rest, had been taken by surprise. Mrs. Verner received the news with equanimity. She had never given Fred a tithe of the love that John had had, and she did not seem much to care whether he married Sibylla, or whether he did not—whether he went out to Australia, or whether he stayed at home. Frederick told her of it in a very off-hand manner; but he took pains to bespeak the approbation of Mr. Verner.
“I hope my choice is pleasant to you, sir. That you will cordially sanction it.”
“Whether it is pleasant to me or not, I have no right to say it shall not be,” was the reply of Mr. Verner. “I have never interfered with you, or with your brother, since you became inmates of my house.”
“Do you not like Sibylla, sir?”
“She is a pretty girl. I know nothing against her. I think you might have chosen worse.”
Coldly, very coldly were the words delivered, and there was a strangely keen expression of anguish on Mr. Verner’s face; but that was nothing unusual now. Frederick Massingbird was content to accept the words as a sanction of approval.