“Both,” he answered. “I am disinherited from Verner’s Pride; better perhaps that I should joke over it, than cry.”
“What will mamma do? What will mamma do?” breathed Decima. “She has so counted upon it. And what will you do, Lionel?”
“Decima!” came forth at this moment from the opposite room, in the imperative voice of Lady Verner.
Decima turned in obedience to it, her step less light than usual. Lucy addressed Lionel.
“One day at the rectory there came a gipsy woman, wanting to tell our fortunes; she accosted us in the garden. Mr. Cust sent her away, and she was angry, and told him his star was not in the ascendant. I think it must be the case at present with your star, Mr. Verner.”
Lionel smiled. “Yes, indeed.”
“It is not only one thing that you are losing; it is more. First, that pretty girl whom you loved; then, Mr. Verner; and now, Verner’s Pride. I wish I knew how to comfort you.”
Lucy Tempest spoke with the most open simplicity, exactly as a sister might have done. But the one allusion grated on Lionel’s heart.
“You are very kind, Lucy. Good-bye. Tell Decima I shall see her some time to-morrow.”
Lucy Tempest looked after him from the window as he paced the inclosed courtyard. “I cannot think how people can be unjust!” was her thought. “If Verner’s Pride was rightly his, why have they taken it from him?”
Certainly Lionel Verner’s star was not in the ascendant—though Lucy Tempest had used the words in jest. His love gone from him; his fortune and position wrested from him; all become the adjuncts of one man, Frederick Massingbird. Serenely, to outward appearance, as Lionel had met the one blow, so did he now meet the other; and none, looking on his calm bearing, could suspect what the loss was to him. But it is the silent sorrow that eats into the heart; the loud grief does not tell upon it.
An official search had been made; but no trace could be found of the missing codicil. Lionel had not expected that it would be found. He regarded it as a deed which had never had existence, and took up his abode with his mother. The village could not believe it; the neighbourhood resented it. People stood in groups to talk it over. It did certainly appear to be a most singular and almost incredible thing, that, in the enlightened days of the latter half of the nineteenth century, an official deed should disappear out of a gentleman’s desk, in his own well-guarded residence, in his habited chamber. Conjectures and thoughts were freely bandied about; while Dr. West and Jan grew nearly tired of the particulars demanded of them in their professional visits, for their patients would talk of nothing else.