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A Devotee by Mary Cholmondeley

Lady Pierpoint received a note from Sibyl


'And

have you continued it, or part of it?' asked Mr. Loftus gravely.

Sibyl owned that she had never thought of doing so.

'Everything I have is yours now,' she said, looking up at him.

'And I am spending it,' he said, 'freely. Thousands of yours are being put into the estate, in repairs, and new farms and buildings. I am like the man in Scripture who pulled down his barns to build greater--at least, who intended to do so if he had had time.'

Mr. Loftus stopped. For the first time for many years a faint wish crossed his mind that his soul might not be required of him till all those expensive improvements were paid for, which would make Doll's position as landlord easier than his own had been.

'Even in these bad times,' he went on, 'Wilderleigh will come round. You have taken a great weight off my mind, Sibyl.'

'That is what I wish,' she said, turning her face, as he put back a little ring of hair behind her ear, so that her lips met his hand.

'But Lady Pierpoint? I am afraid, Sibyl, her husband left her very badly off.'

'I will write now,' said Sibyl, springing to her feet.

Crack rose too, and jumped on Mr. Loftus's knees, quietly pushing his hands off them with his strong

nose, and accommodating his long, thin body by a few jerks into the groove which a masculine lap presents. Mr. Loftus did not want him, and it tired him to keep his knees together; but he knew there was a draught on the floor, and he allowed him to remain.

'How much shall I say? A thousand a year or fifteen hundred for her life?' asked Sibyl, dipping her pen in the ink. It was all one to her. She always gave freely of what cost her nothing--namely, money.

'It must not be too much, or she won't feel able to take it,' said Mr. Loftus, considering. 'And if it is an annuity, it does not help the children.' And he wondered how far he dared go.

And when, a few days later, Lady Pierpoint received a note from Sibyl, very delicately and affectionately expressed, and offering, in such a manner as to make refusal almost impossible, a sum of money more than sufficient to provide for both her daughters, she guessed immediately whose tact had dictated the letter.

'Sibyl would never have thought of it,' she said to herself, as she wrote a note of acceptance. 'It never crossed her mind when she left us, or even to offer to pay for Peggy's and Molly's bridesmaids' gowns, although she chose such expensive ones. And if it had occurred to her since, she would not have put it like that.'

CHAPTER VIII.

'Le monde est plein de gens qui ne sont pas plus sages.'--LA FONTAINE.

With the winter came many invitations, but they were nearly all refused, for Mr. Loftus had long since dispensed himself from attending county festivities, and Sibyl, though she had recovered her health, was always delicate. Lady Pierpoint had had doubts as to whether she ought to winter in England, but not only was Sibyl herself determined so to do, but when Lady Pierpoint saw her in London before Christmas with a vivid colour and an elasticity of bearing which made a marked contrast to the drooping, listless demeanour of the previous winter, her doubts were at once set at rest.


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