Desperately frightened but afraid to hesitate, she went directly up to Madeleine who was still sitting like a statue, listening to Ratcliffe's last words. As she hurriedly entered, Mrs. Lee, looking up, caught sight of her pale face, and started from her seat.
"Are you ill, Sybil?" she exclaimed; "is anything the matter?"
"A little--fatigued," gasped Sybil; "I thought you might be ready to go home."
"I am," cried Madeleine; "I am quite ready. Good evening, Mr. Ratcliffe. I will see you to-morrow. Lord Skye, shall I take leave of the Princess?"
"The Princess retired half an hour ago," replied Lord Skye, who saw the situation and was quite ready to help Sybil; "let me take you to the dressing-room and order your carriage." Mr. Ratcliffe found himself suddenly left alone, while Mrs. Lee hurried away, torn by fresh anxieties. They had reached the dressing-room and were nearly ready to go home, when Victora Dare suddenly dashed in upon them, with an animation of manner very unusual in her, and, seizing Sybil by the hand, drew her into an adjoining room and shut the door. "Can you keep a secret?" said she abruptly.
"What!" said Sybil, looking at her with open-mouthed interest; "you don't mean--are you really--tell me, quick!"
"Yes!" said Victoria relapsing into composure; "I am engaged!"
Victoria nodded, and Sybil, whose nerves were strung to the highest pitch by excitement, flattery, fatigue, perplexity, and terror, burst into a paroxysm of laughter, that startled even the calm Miss Dare.