At the time of her father's death, Lady Verner had no children, and she was, I believe, disposed to treat her brother very generously; but he was an obstinate, headstrong man, and persisted in believing that she had purposely done him injury with his father. He would not see her. He refused to accept any favour at her hands, and a complete estrangement took place.
Now she could eat and sleep all day, and never need be asked a single question, or hear whether the outside world had stopped, or was going on still. "You will just pen a few words for me to Sibylla, Lionel," she called out. "I am past much writing now." "If it be necessary that I should," he coldly replied. "And send them with the remittance," concluded Mrs. Verner.
"Lady Verner," was Lucy's answer, her voice subsiding into a confidential tone. "She tells us all about it, me and Decima, when we are sitting by the fire of an evening. She is to be the mistress of Verner's Pride." "Oh, indeed," said Lionel. "She is, is she! Shall I tell you something, Lucy?" "Well?"
He would give anything, he added, half in self-soliloquy, to have the point cleared up of who it was young Duff had seen in the lane. Mrs. Tynn answered this, lowering her voice. "It was one of our young gentlemen, sir; there's, no doubt of it. Dolly saw one of them come in." "Dolly did!" echoed Mr. Verner. Mrs. Tynn proceeded to explain.
It has been mentioned that her chief beauty lay in her complexion: seen by candle-light, flushed as she was now, she was inexpressibly beautiful. A dangerous hour, a perilous situation for the yet unhealed heart of Lionel Verner. The bright flush was the result of excitement, of some degree of inward fever. Let us allow that it was a trying time for her. She had arrived to find Mrs.
"In the old days I declare I don't mind letting out the secret in the old days before he was married at all, mamma and Lady Verner contrived to let me know, by indirect hints, that Lionel Verner might be expected to to solicit the honour of my becoming his wife. How I laughed behind their backs!
West and a surgeon from a neighbouring town, who had jointly made the post-mortem examination, testified that there was a cause for Rachel Frost's unevenness of spirits, spoken to by her father and by Mrs. Verner. She might possibly, they now thought, have thrown herself into the pool; induced to it by self-condemnation. It electrified Deerham. It electrified Mr. Verner.
The words excited their amazement. They turned to Lady Verner, and were struck with the marks of agitation on her countenance. "Mamma, what are you speaking of?" asked Decima. Lady Verner pointed to Lionel, who was then passing through the front gates. "I speak of him," she answered: "my darling; my pride; my much-loved son. That woman has worked his ruin."
Jan slaving and working for him! "I never knew this," he cried. "I am sure I thought you did," said Lady Verner. "I supposed it to have been a prearranged thing between you and Jan. Lionel," looking up into his face with an expression of care, and lowering her voice, "but for that hundred and forty pounds, I don't see how I could have gone on.
That Lucy Tempest was thoroughly and genuinely unsophisticated; that she was of a nature too sincere and honest for her manners to be otherwise than of truthful simplicity, he was certain. A delightful child, he thought; one he could have taken to his heart and loved as a sister. Not with any other love: that was already given elsewhere by Lionel Verner.