Looking out at the door, opposite to the ante-room, on the other side of the hall, was Decima. She had heard his step, and came to beckon him in. It was the dining-parlour, but a pretty room still; for Lady Verner would have nothing about her inelegant or ugly, if she could help it. Lucy Tempest, in her favourite school attitude, was half-kneeling, half-sitting on the rug before the fire; but she rose when Lionel came in.
Decima entwined her arm within his, and led him up to the fire-place. “Did you bring mamma bad news?” she asked. “I thought I read it in your countenance.”
“Very bad, Decima. Or I should not have sent you away while I told it.”
“I suppose there’s nothing left for mamma, or for Jan?”
“Mamma did not expect anything left for her, Decima. Don’t go away, Lucy,” he added, arresting Lucy Tempest, who, with good taste, was leaving them alone. “Stay and hear how poor I am; all Deerham knows it by this time.”
Lucy remained. Decima, her beautiful features a shade paler than usual, turned her serene eyes on Lionel. She little thought what was coming.
“Verner’s Pride is left away from me, Decima.”
“Left away from you! From you?”
“Frederick Massingbird inherits. I am passed over.”
“Oh, Lionel!” The words were not uttered angrily, passionately, as Lady Verner’s had been; but in a low, quiet voice, wrung from her, seemingly, by intense inward pain.
“And so there will be some additional trouble for you in the housekeeping line,” went on Lionel, speaking gaily, and ignoring all the pain at his heart. “Turned out of Verner’s Pride, I must come to you here—at least, for a time. What shall you say to that, Miss Lucy?”
Lucy was looking up at him gravely, not smiling in the least. “Is it true that you have lost Verner’s Pride?” she asked.
“But I thought it was yours—after Mr. Verner.”
“I thought so too, until to-day,” replied Lionel. “It ought to have been mine.”
“What shall you do without it?”
“What, indeed!” he answered. “From being a landed country gentleman—as people have imagined me—I go down to a poor fellow who must work for his bread and cheese before he eats it. Your eyes are laughing, Miss Lucy, but it is true.”
“Bread and cheese costs nothing,” said she.
“No? And the plate you put it on, and the knife you eat it with, and the glass of beer to help it go down, and the coat you wear during the repast, and the room it’s served in?—they cost something, Miss Lucy.”
Lucy laughed. “I think you will always have enough bread and cheese,” said she. “You look as though you would.”
Decima turned to them. She had stood buried in a reverie, until the light tone of Lionel aroused her from it. “Which is real, Lionel? This joking, or that you have lost Verner’s Pride?”