Page:Once a Week Volume 7.djvu/307

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Sep. 6, 1862.]
299
VERNER’S PRIDE.

Lucy shook her head. “He had no right to Verner’s Pride, and I did not like him. I am sorry, though, for himself, that he is dead. And—Lionel—you will never go away now?”

“I suppose not: to live.”

“I am so glad! I may tell you that I am glad, may I not?”

She half timidly held out her hand as she spoke. Lionel took it between both of his, toying with it as tenderly as he had ever toyed with Sibylla’s. And his low voice took a tone which was certainly not that of hatred, as he bent towards her.

“I am glad also, Lucy. The least pleasant part of my recent projected departure was the constantly remembered fact that I was about to put a distance of many miles between myself and you. It grew all too palpable towards the last.”

Lucy laughed and drew away her hand, her radiant countenance falling before the gaze of Lionel.

“So you will be troubled with me yet, you see, Miss Lucy,” he added in a lighter tone, as he left her and strode off with a step that might have matched Jan’s, on his way to ask the bells whether they were not ashamed of themselves.

 

CHAPTER XXII. “IT’S APPLEPLEXY.”

And so the laws of right and justice had eventually triumphed, and Lionel Verner took possession of his own. Mrs. Verner took possession of her own—her chamber; all she was ever again likely to take possession of at Verner’s Pride. She had no particular ailment, unless heaviness could be called an ailment, and steadily refused any suggestion of Jan’s.

“You’ll go off in a fit,” said plain Jan to her.

“Then I must go,” replied Mrs. Verner. “I can’t submit to be made wretched with your medical and surgical remedies, Mr. Jan. Old people should be let alone, to doze away their days in peace.”

“As good give some old people poison outright, as let them always doze,” remonstrated Jan.

“You’d like me to live sparingly—to starve myself, in short—and you’d like me to take exercise!” returned Mrs. Verner. “Wouldn’t you, now?”

“It would add ten years to your life,” said Jan.

“I daresay! It’s of no use your coming preaching to me, Mr. Jan. Go and try your eloquence upon others. I always have had enough to eat, and I hope I always shall. And as to my getting about, or walking, I can’t. When folks come to be my size, it’s cruel to want them to do it.”

Mrs. Verner was nodding before she had well spoken the last words, and Jan said no more. You may have met with some such case in your own experience.

When the news of Lionel Verner’s succession fell upon Roy, the bailiff, he could have gnashed his teeth in very vexation. Had he foreseen what was to happen he would have played his cards so differently. It had not entered into the head-piece of Roy, to reflect that Frederick Massingbird might die. Scarcely, had it, that he could die. A man, young and strong, what was likely to take off him? John had died, it was true; but John’s death had been a violent one. Had Roy argued the point at all—which he did not, for it had never occurred to his mind—he might have assumed that because John had died, Fred was the more likely to live. It is a somewhat rare case for two brothers to be cut down in their youth and prime, one closely following upon the other.

Roy lived in a cottage standing by itself, a little beyond Clay Lane, but not so far off as the gamekeeper’s. On the morning when the bells had rung out—to the surprise and vexation of Lionel—Roy happened to be at home. Roy never grudged himself holiday when it could be devoted to the benefit of his wife. A negative benefit she may have thought it, since it invariably consisted in what Roy called “a blowing of her up.”

Mrs. Roy had heard that the Australian mail was in. But the postman had not been to their door, therefore no letter could have arrived for them from Luke. A great many mails, as it appeared to Mrs. Roy, had come in with the like result. That Luke had been murdered, as his master John Massingbird had been before him, was the least she feared. Her fears and troubles touching Luke, were great; they were never at rest; and her tears fell frequently. All of which excited the ire of Roy.

She sat in a rocking-chair in the kitchen—a chair which had been new when the absent Luke was a baby, and which was sure to be the seat chosen by Mrs. Roy since, when she was in a mood to indulge any passing tribulation. The kitchen opened to the road, as the kitchens of many of the dwellings did open to it; a parlour was on the right, which was used only on the grand occasion of receiving visitors; and the stairs, leading to two rooms above, ascended from the kitchen. Here she sat, silently wiping away her dropping tears with a red cotton pocket-handkerchief. Roy was not in the sweetest possible temper himself that morning, so of course he turned it upon her.

“There you be, a-snivelling as usual! I’d have a bucket always at my feet, if I was you. It might save the trouble of catching rain-water.”

“If the letter-man had got anything for us, he’d have been round here a hour ago,” responded Mrs. Roy, bursting into unrestrained sobs.

Now, this happened to be the very grievance that was affecting the gentleman’s temper—the postman’s not having gone there. They had heard that the Australian mail was in. Not that he was actuated by any strong paternal feelings—such sentiments did not prey upon Mr. Roy. The hearing or the not hearing from his son would not thus have disturbed his equanimity. He took it for granted that Luke was alive somewhere—probably getting on—and was content to wait until himself or a letter should turn up. The one whom he had been expecting to hear from, was his new master, Mr. Massingbird. He had fondly indulged the hope that credential letters would arrive for him, confirming him in his place of manager; he believed that this mail would inevitably bring them, as the last mails had not. Hence he had stayed at home to receive the postman. But the