Page:Once a Week Volume 7.djvu/305

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Sep. 6, 1862.]

passage home!” he reiterated. “Has she no money?”

Mrs. Verner looked at him.

“They accuse me of forgetting things in my sleep, Lionel; but I think you must be getting worse than I am. Poor Fred told us in his last letter that he had been robbed of his desk, and that it had got his money in it.”

“But I did not suppose it contained all—that they were reduced so low as for his wife to have no money left for a passage. What will she do there, until some can be got out?”

“If she is with comfortable folks, they’d not turn her out,” cried Jan.

Lionel took up the letters, and ran his eyes over them. They told him little else of the facts; though more of the details. It appeared to have taken place pretty much as Mrs. Verner said. The closing part of Sibylla’s letter ran as follows:

“After we wrote to you, Fred met Captain Cannonby. You must remember, dear aunt, how often Fred would speak of him. Captain Cannonby has relatives out here, people in very good position—if people can be said to be in a position at all in such a horrid place. We knew Captain Cannonby had come over, but thought he was at the Bendigo diggings. However, Fred met him; and he was very civil and obliging. He got us apartments in the best hotel—one of the very places that had refused us, saying they were crowded. Fred seemed to grow a trifle better, and it was decided that they should go to the place where John died, and try and get particulars about his money, &c., which in Melbourne we could hear nothing of. Indeed, nobody seemed to know even John’s name. Captain Cannonby (who has really made money here in some way; trading, he says; and expects to make a good deal more) agreed to go with Fred. Then Fred told me of the loss of his desk and money, his bills of credit, and that; whatever the term may be. It was stolen from the quay, the day we arrived, and he had never been able to hear of it; but, while there seemed a chance of finding it, he would not let me know the ill news. Of course, with this loss upon us, there was all the more necessity for our getting John’s money as speedily as might be. Captain Cannonby introduced me to his relatives, the Eyres, told them my husband wanted to go up the country for a short while, and they invited me to stay with them. And here I am, and very kind they are to me in this dreadful trouble.

“Aunt Verner, I thought I should have died when, a day or two after they started, I saw Captain Cannonby come back alone, with a long sorrowful face. I seemed to know in a moment what had happened: I had thought at the time they started, that Fred was too ill to go. I said to him, ‘my husband is dead!’ and he confessed that it was so. He had been taken ill at the end of the first day, and did not live many hours.

“I can’t tell you any more, dear Aunt Verner; I am too sick and ill. And if I filled ten sheets with the particulars, it would not alter the dreadful facts. I want to come home to you; I know you will receive me, and let me live with you always. I have not any money. Please send me out sufficient to bring me home by the first ship that sails. I don’t care for any of the things we brought out; they may stop here or be lost in the sea, for all the difference it will make to me: I only want to come home. Captain Cannonby says he will take upon himself now to look after John’s money, and transmit it to us, if he can get it.

“Mrs. Eyre has just come in. She desires me to say that they are taking every care of me, and are all happy to have me with them: she says I am to tell you that her own daughters are about my age. It is all true, dear aunt, and they are exceedingly kind to me. They seem to have plenty of money, are intimate with the governor’s family, and with what they call the good society of the colony. When I think what my position would have been now, had I not met with them, I grow quite frightened.

“I have to write to papa, and must close this. I have requested Captain Cannonby to write to you himself, and give you particulars about the last moments of Frederick. Send me the money without delay, dear aunt. The place is hateful to me now he is gone, and I’d rather be dead than stop in it.

“Your affectionate and afflicted niece,
Sibylla Massingbird.”

Lionel folded the letter musingly. “It would almost appear that they had not heard of your son’s accession to Verner’s Pride,” he remarked to Mrs. Verner. “It is not alluded to, in any way.”

“I think it is sure they had not heard of it,” she answered. “I remarked so to Mary Tynn. The letters must have been delayed in their passage. Lionel, you will see to the sending out of the money for me.”

“Immediately,” replied Lionel.

“And when do you come home?”

“Do you mean—do you mean when do I come here?” returned Lionel.

“To be sure I mean it. It is your home. Verner’s Pride is your home, Lionel, now; not mine. It has been yours this three or four months past, only we did not know it. You must come home to it at once, Lionel.”

“I suppose it will be right that I should do so,” he answered.

“And I shall be thankful,” said Mrs. Verner. “There will be a master once more, and no need to bother me. I have been bothered, Lionel. Mr. Jan”—turning to the bureau—“it’s that which has made me feel ill. One comes to me with some worry or other, and another comes to me: they will come to me. The complaints and tales of that Roy fidget my life out.”

“I shall discharge Roy at once, Mrs. Verner.”

Mrs. Verner made a deprecatory movement of the hands, as much as to say that it was no business of hers. “Lionel, I have only one request to make of you: never speak of the estate to me again, or of anything connected with its management. You are its sole master, and can do as you please. Shall you turn me out?”

Lionel’s face flushed. “No, Mrs. Verner,” he