The first visible effect that the disappointment had, was to stretch Lady Verner on a sick-bed. She fell into a low, nervous state of prostration, and her irritability—it must be confessed—was great. But for this illness, Lionel would have been away. Thrown now upon his own resources, he looked steadily into the future, and strove to chalk out a career for himself; one by which—as he had said to Lucy Tempest—he might earn bread and cheese. Of course, at Lionel Verner’s age, and reared to no profession, unfamiliar with habits of business, that was easier thought of than done. He had no particular talent for literature; he believed that, if he tried his hand at that, the bread might come, but the cheese would be doubtful—although he saw men, with even less aptitude for it than he, turning to it and embracing it with all the confidence in the world, as if it were an ever-open resource for all, when other trades failed. There were the three professions; but were they available? Lionel felt no inclination to become a working drudge like poor Jan; and the Church, for which he had not any liking, he was by far too conscientious to embrace only as a means of living. There remained the Bar; and to that he turned his attention, and resolved to qualify himself for it. That there would be grinding, and drudgery, and hard work, and no pay for years, he knew; but, so there might be, go to what he would. The Bar did hold out a chance of success, and there was nothing in it derogatory to the notions in which he had been reared—those of a gentleman.
Jan came to him one day about the time of the decision, and Lionel told him that he should soon be away; that he intended to enter himself at the Middle Temple, and take chambers.
“Law!” said Jan. “Why, you’ll be forty, maybe, before you ever get a brief. You should have entered earlier.”
“Yes. But how was I to know that things would turn out like this?”
“Look here,” said Jan, tilting himself in a very uncomfortable fashion on the high back of an arm-chair, “there’s that five hundred pounds. You can have that.”
“What five hundred pounds?” asked Lionel.
“The five hundred that Uncle Stephen left me. I don’t want it. Old West gives me as much as keeps me in clothes and that, which is all I care about. You take the money and use it.”
“No, Jan. Thank you warmly, old boy, all the same; but I’d not take your poor little bit of money if I were starving.”
“What’s the good of it to me?” persisted Jan, swaying his legs about. “I can’t use it: I have got nothing to use it in. I have put it in the bank at Heartburg, but the bank may go smash, you know, and then who’d be the better for the money? You take it and make sure of it, Lionel.”
Lionel smiled at him. Jan was as simple and single-hearted in his way as Lucy Tempest was in hers. But Lionel must want money very grievously indeed, before he would have consented to take honest Jan’s.