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The Lady Isabel.
The Broken Cross.
The Moonlight Interview.
Mr. Carlyle’s Office.
Richard Hare, the Younger.
Miss Carlyle at Home.
Mr. Kane’s Concert.
The Song and the Dirge.
The Keepers of the Dead.
The New Peer — The Bank-note
Life at Castle Marling.
A Moonlight Walk.
The Earl’s Astonishment.
Visit of the Hare Family.
Miss Carlyle — Isabel Unhappy.
Captain Thorn at West Lynne.
Going from Home.
Quitting the Danger.
Mrs. Hare’s Dream.
Captain Thorn in Trouble About “A Bill.”
Richard Hare at Mr. Dill’s Window.
Alone for Evermore.
An Unexpected Visitor at East Lynne.
A Night Invasion of East Lynne.
Barbara’s Heart at Rest.
Mr. Dill in an Embroidered Shirt-front.
Meeting of Lady Isabel and Afy.
The Yearning of a Breaking Heart.
An M. P. For West Lynne.
A Mishap to the Blue Spectacles.
Appearance of a Russian Bear at West Lynne.
Mr. Carlyle Invited to Some Pate De Foie Gras.
The World Turned Upside Down.
Mrs. Carlyle in Full Dress, Afy Also.
The Death Chamber.
Lord Vane Dating Forward.
“It Won’t Do, Afy!”
I. M. V.
In an easy-chair of the spacious and handsome library of his town-house, sat William, Earl of Mount Severn. His hair was gray, the smoothness of his expansive brow was defaced by premature wrinkles, and his once attractive face bore the pale, unmistakable look of dissipation. One of his feet was cased in folds of linen, as it rested on the soft velvet ottoman, speaking of gout as plainly as any foot ever spoke yet. It would seem — to look at the man as he sat there — that he had grown old before his time. And so he had. His years were barely nine and forty, yet in all save years, he was an aged man.
A noted character had been the Earl of Mount Severn. Not that he had been a renowned politician, or a great general, or an eminent statesman, or even an active member in the Upper House; not for any of these had the earl’s name been in the mouths of men. But for the most reckless among the reckless, for the spendthrift among spendthrifts, for the gamester above all gamesters, and for a gay man outstripping the gay — by these characteristics did the world know Lord Mount Severn. It was said his faults were those of his head; that a better heart or a more generous spirit never beat in human form; and there was much truth in this. It had been well for him had he lived and died plain William Vane. Up to his five and twentieth year, he had been industrious and steady, had kept his terms in the Temple, and studied late and early. The sober application of William Vane had been a by word with the embryo barristers around; Judge Vane, they ironically called him; and they strove ineffectually to allure him away to idleness and pleasure. But young Vane was ambitious, and he knew that on his own talents and exertions must depend his own rising in the world. He was of excellent family, but poor, counting a relative in the old Earl of Mount Severn. The possibility of his succeeding to the earldom never occurred to him, for three healthy lives, two of them young, stood between him and the title. Yet those have died off, one of apoplexy, one of fever, in Africa, the third boating at Oxford; and the young Temple student, William Vane, suddenly found himself Earl of Mount Severn, and the lawful possessor of sixty thousand a year.
His first idea was, that he should never be able to spend the money; that such a sum, year by year, could not be spent. It was a wonder his head was not turned by adulation at the onset, for he was courted, flattered and caressed by all classes, from a royal duke downward. He became the most attractive man of his day, the lion in society; for independent of his newly-acquired wealth and title, he was of distinguished appearance and fascinating manners. But unfortunately, the prudence which had sustained William Vane, the poor law student, in his solitary Temple chambers entirely forsook William Vane, the young Earl of Mount Severn, and he commenced his career on a scale of speed so great, that all staid people said he was going to ruin and the deuce headlong.
But a peer of the realm, and one whose rent-roll is sixty thousand per annum, does not go to ruin in a day. There sat the earl, in his library now, in his nine-and-fortieth year, and ruin had not come yet — that is, it had not overwhelmed him. But the embarrassments which had clung to him, and been the destruction of his tranquility, the bane of his existence, who shall describe them? The public knew them pretty well, his private friends knew better, his creditors best; but none, save himself knew, or could ever know, the worrying torment that was his portion, wellnigh driving him to distraction. Years ago, by dint of looking things steadily in the face, and by economizing, he might have retrieved his position; but he had done what most people do in such cases — put off the evil day sine die, and gone on increasing his enormous list of debts. The hour of exposure and ruin was now advancing fast.
Perhaps the earl himself was thinking so, as he sat there before an enormous mass of papers which strewed the library table. His thoughts were back in the past. That was a foolish match of his, that Gretna Green match for love, foolish so far as prudence went; but the countess had been an affectionate wife to him, had borne with his follies and his neglect, had been an admirable mother to their only child. One child alone had been theirs, and in her thirteenth year the countess had died. If they had but been blessed with a son — the earl moaned over the long-continued disappointment still — he might have seen a way out of his difficulties. The boy, as soon as he was of age, would have joined with him in cutting off the entail, and ——
“My lord,” said a servant entering the room and interrupting the earl’s castles in the air, “a gentleman is asking to see you.”
“Who?” cried the earl, sharply, not perceiving the card the man was bringing. No unknown person, although wearing the externals of a foreign ambassador, was ever admitted unceremoniously to the presence of Lord Mount Severn. Years of duns had taught the servants caution.
“His card is here, my lord. It is Mr. Carlyle, of West Lynne.”
“Mr. Carlyle, of West Lynne,” groaned the earl, whose foot just then had an awful twinge, “what does he want? Show him up.”
The servant did as he was bid, and introduced Mr. Carlyle. Look at the visitor well, reader, for he will play his part in this history. He was a very tall man of seven and twenty, of remarkably noble presence. He was somewhat given to stooping his head when he spoke to any one shorter than himself; it was a peculiar habit, almost to be called a bowing habit, and his father had possessed it before him. When told of it he would laugh, and say he was unconscious of doing it. His features were good, his complexion was pale and clear, his hair dark, and his full eyelids drooped over his deep gray eyes. Altogether it was a countenance that both men and women liked to look upon — the index of an honorable, sincere nature — not that it would have been called a handsome face, so much as a pleasing and a distinguished one. Though but the son of a country lawyer, and destined to be a lawyer himself, he had received the training of a gentleman, had been educated at Rugby, and taken his degree at Oxford. He advanced at once to the earl, in the straightforward way of a man of business — of a man who has come on business.
“Mr. Carlyle,” said the latter, holding out his hand — he was always deemed the most affable peer of the age —“I am happy to see you. You perceive I cannot rise, at least without great pain and inconvenience. My enemy, the gout, has possession of me again. Take a seat. Are you staying in town?”
“I have just arrived from West Lynne. The chief object of my journey was to see your lordship.”
“What can I do for you?” asked the earl, uneasily; for a suspicion had crossed his mind that Mr. Carlyle might be acting for some one of his many troublesome creditors.
Mr. Carlyle drew his chair nearer to the earl, and spoke in a low tone —
“A rumor came to my ears, my lord, that East Lynne was in the market.”
“A moment, sir,” exclaimed the earl, with reserve, not to say hauteur in his tone, for his suspicions were gaining ground; “are we to converse confidentially together, as men of honor, or is there something concealed behind?”
“I do not understand you,” said Mr. Carlyle.
“In a word — excuse my speaking plainly, but I must feel my ground — are you here on the part of some of my rascally creditors, to pump information out of me, that otherwise they would not get?”
“My lord,” uttered the visitor, “I should be incapable of so dishonorable an action. I know that a lawyer gets credit for possessing but lax notions on the score of honor, but you can scarcely suspect that I should be guilty of underhand work toward you. I never was guilty of a mean trick in my life, to my recollection, and I do not think I ever shall be.”
“Pardon me, Mr. Carlyle. If you knew half the tricks and ruses played upon me, you would not wonder at my suspecting all the world. Proceed with your business.”
“I heard that East Lynne was for private sale; your agent dropped half a word to me in confidence. If so, I should wish to be the purchaser.”
“For whom?” inquired the earl.
“You!” laughed the earl. “Egad! Lawyering can’t be such bad work, Carlyle.”
“Nor is it,” rejoined Mr. Carlyle, “with an extensive, first-class connection, such as ours. But you must remember that a good fortune was left me by my uncle, and a large one by my father.”
“I know. The proceeds of lawyering also.”
“Not altogether. My mother brought a fortune on her marriage, and it enabled my father to speculate successfully. I have been looking out for an eligible property to invest my money upon, and East Lynne will suit me well, provided I can have the refusal of it, and we can agree about the terms.”
Lord Mount Severn mused for a few moments before he spoke. “Mr. Carlyle,” he began, “my affairs are very bad, and ready money I must find somewhere. Now East Lynne is not entailed, neither is it mortgaged to anything like its value, though the latter fact, as you may imagine, is not patent to the world. When I bought it at a bargain, eighteen years ago, you were the lawyer on the other side, I remember.”
“My father,” smiled Mr. Carlyle. “I was a child at the time.”
“Of course, I ought to have said your father. By selling East Lynne, a few thousands will come into my hands, after claims on it are settled; I have no other means of raising the wind, and that is why I have resolved to part with it. But now, understand, if it were known abroad that East Lynne is going from me, I should have a hornet’s nest about my ears; so that it must be disposed of privately. Do you comprehend?”
“Perfectly,” replied Mr. Carlyle.
“I would as soon you bought it as anyone else, if, as you say, we can agree about terms.”
“What does your lordship expect for it — at a rough estimate?”
“For particulars I must refer you to my men of business, Warburton & Ware. Not less than seventy thousand pounds.”
“Too much, my lord,” cried Mr. Carlyle, decisively.
“And that’s not its value,” returned the earl.
“These forced sales never do fetch their value,” answered the plain-speaking lawyer. “Until this hint was given me by Beauchamp, I had thought East Lynne was settled upon your lordship’s daughter.”
“There’s nothing settled on her,” rejoined the earl, the contraction on his brow standing out more plainly. “That comes of your thoughtless runaway marriages. I fell in love with General Conway’s daughter, and she ran away with me, like a fool; that is, we were both fools together for our pains. The general objected to me and said I must sow my wild oats before he would give me Mary; so I took her to Gretna Green, and she became Countess of Mount Severn, without a settlement. It was an unfortunate affair, taking one thing with another. When her elopement was made known to the general, it killed him.”
“Killed him!” interrupted Mr. Carlyle.
“It did. He had disease of the heart, and the excitement brought on the crisis. My poor wife never was happy from that hour; she blamed herself for her father’s death, and I believe it led to her own. She was ill for years; the doctors called it consumption; but it was more like a wasting insensibly away, and consumption never had been in her family. No luck ever attends runaway marriages; I have noticed it since, in many, many instances; something bad is sure to turn up from it.”
“There might have been a settlement executed after the marriage,” observed Mr. Carlyle, for the earl had stopped, and seemed lost in thought.
“I know there might; but there was not. My wife had possessed no fortune; I was already deep in my career of extravagance, and neither of us thought of making provision for our future children; or, if we thought of it, we did not do it. There is an old saying, Mr. Carlyle, that what may be done at any time is never done.”
Mr. Carlyle bowed.
“So my child is portionless,” resumed the earl, with a suppressed sigh. “The thought that it may be an embarrassing thing for her, were I to die before she is settled in life, crosses my mind when I am in a serious mood. That she will marry well, there is little doubt, for she possesses beauty in a rare degree, and has been reared as an English girl should be, not to frivolity and foppery. She was trained by her mother, who save for the mad act she was persuaded into by me, was all goodness and refinement, for the first twelve years of her life, and since then by an admirable governess. No fear that she will be decamping to Gretna Green.”
“She was a very lovely child,” observed the lawyer; “I remember that.”
“Ay; you have seen her at East Lynne, in her mother’s lifetime. But, to return to business. If you become the purchaser of the East Lynne estate, Mr. Carlyle, it must be under the rose. The money that it brings, after paying off the mortgage, I must have, as I tell you, for my private use; and you know I should not be able to touch a farthing of it if the confounded public got an inkling of the transfer. In the eyes of the world, the proprietor of East Lynne must be Lord Mount Severn — at least for some little time afterwards. Perhaps you will not object to that.”
Mr. Carlyle considered before replying; and then the conversation was resumed, when it was decided that he should see Warburton and Ware the first thing in the morning, and confer with them. It was growing late when he rose to leave.
“Stay and dine with me,” said the earl.
Mr. Carlyle hesitated, and looked down at his dress — a plain, gentlemanly, morning attire, but certainly not a dinner costume for a peer’s table.
“Oh, that’s nothing,” said the earl; “we shall be quite alone, except my daughter. Mrs. Vane, of Castle Marling, is staying with us. She came up to present my child at the last drawing-room, but I think I heard something about her dining out today. If not, we will have it by ourselves here. Oblige me by touching the bell, Mr. Carlyle.”
The servant entered.
“Inquire whether Mrs. Vane dines at home,” said the earl.
“Mrs. Vane dines out, my lord,” was the man’s immediate reply. “The carriage is at the door now.”
“Very well. Mr. Carlyle remains.”
At seven o’clock the dinner was announced, and the earl wheeled into the adjoining room. As he and Mr. Carlyle entered it at one door, someone else came in by the opposite one. Who — what — was it? Mr. Carlyle looked, not quite sure whether it was a human being — he almost thought it more like an angel.
A light, graceful, girlish form; a face of surpassing beauty, beauty that is rarely seen, save from the imagination of a painter; dark shining curls falling on her neck and shoulders, smooth as a child’s; fair, delicate arms decorated with pearls, and a flowing dress of costly white lace. Altogether the vision did indeed look to the lawyer as one from a fairer world than this.
“My daughter, Mr. Carlyle, the Lady Isabel.”
They took their seats at the table, Lord Mount Severn at its head, in spite of his gout and his footstool. And the young lady and Mr. Carlyle opposite each other. Mr. Carlyle had not deemed himself a particular admirer of women’s beauty, but the extraordinary loveliness of the young girl before him nearly took away his senses and his self-possession. Yet it was not so much the perfect contour or the exquisite features that struck him, or the rich damask of the delicate cheek, or the luxuriant falling hair; no, it was the sweet expression of the soft dark eyes. Never in his life had he seen eyes so pleasing. He could not keep his gaze from her, and he became conscious, as he grew more familiar with her face, that there was in its character a sad, sorrowful look; only at times was it to be noticed, when the features were at repose, and it lay chiefly in the very eyes he was admiring. Never does this unconsciously mournful expression exist, but it is a sure index of sorrow and suffering; but Mr. Carlyle understood it not. And who could connect sorrow with the anticipated brilliant future of Isabel Vane?
“Isabel,” observed the earl, “you are dressed.”
“Yes, papa. Not to keep old Mrs. Levison waiting tea. She likes to take it early, and I know Mrs. Vane must have kept her waiting dinner. It was half-past six when she drove from here.”
“I hope you will not be late to-night, Isabel.”
“It depends upon Mrs. Vane.”
“Then I am sure you will be. When the young ladies in this fashionable world of ours turn night into day, it is a bad thing for their roses. What say you, Mr. Carlyle?”
Mr. Carlyle glanced at the roses on the cheeks opposite to him; they looked too fresh and bright to fade lightly.
At the conclusion of dinner a maid entered the room with a white cashmere mantle, placing it over the shoulders of her young lady, as she said the carriage was waiting.
Lady Isabel advanced to the earl. “Good-bye, papa.”
“Good-night, my love,” he answered, drawing her toward him, and kissing her sweet face. “Tell Mrs. Vane I will not have you kept out till morning hours. You are but a child yet. Mr. Carlyle, will you ring? I am debarred from seeing my daughter to the carriage.”
“If your lordship will allow me — if Lady Isabel will pardon the attendance of one little used to wait upon young ladies, I shall be proud to see her to her carriage,” was the somewhat confused answer of Mr. Carlyle as he touched the bell.
The earl thanked him, and the young lady smiled, and Mr. Carlyle conducted her down the broad, lighted staircase and stood bareheaded by the door of the luxurious chariot, and handed her in. She put out her hand in her frank, pleasant manner, as she wished him good night. The carriage rolled on its way, and Mr. Carlyle returned to the earl.
“Well, is she not a handsome girl?” he demanded.
“Handsome is not the word for beauty such as hers,” was Mr. Carlyle’s reply, in a low, warm tone. “I never saw a face half so beautiful.”
“She caused quite a sensation at the drawing-room last week — as I hear. This everlasting gout kept me indoors all day. And she is as good as she is beautiful.”
The earl was not partial. Lady Isabel was wondrously gifted by nature, not only in mind and person but in heart. She was as little like a fashionable young lady as it was well possible to be, partly because she had hitherto been secluded from the great world, partly from the care bestowed upon her training. During the lifetime of her mother, she had lived occasionally at East Lynne, but mostly at a larger seat of the earl’s in Wales, Mount Severn; since her mother’s death, she had remained entirely at Mount Severn, under the charge of a judicious governess, a very small establishment being kept for them, and the earl paying them impromptu and flying visits. Generous and benevolent she was, timid and sensitive to a degree, gentle, and considerate to all. Do not cavil at her being thus praised — admire and love her whilst you may, she is worthy of it now, in her innocent girlhood; the time will come when such praise would be misplaced. Could the fate that was to overtake his child have been foreseen by the earl, he would have struck her down to death, in his love, as she stood before him, rather than suffer her to enter upon it.
Lady Isabel’s carriage continued its way, and deposited her at the residence of Mrs. Levison. Mrs. Levison was nearly eighty years of age, and very severe in speech and manner, or, as Mrs. Vane expressed it, “crabbed.” She looked the image of impatience when Isabel entered, with her cap pushed all awry, and pulling at the black satin gown, for Mrs. Vane had kept her waiting dinner, and Isabel was keeping her from her tea; and that does not agree with the aged, with their health or with their temper.
“I fear I am late,” exclaimed Lady Isabel, as she advanced to Mrs. Levison; “but a gentleman dined with papa today, and it made us rather longer at table.”
“You are twenty-five minutes behind your time,” cried the old lady sharply, “and I want my tea. Emma, order it in.”
Mrs. Vane rang the bell, and did as she was bid. She was a little woman of six-and-twenty, very plain in face, but elegant in figure, very accomplished, and vain to her fingers’ ends. Her mother, who was dead, had been Mrs. Levison’s daughter, and her husband, Raymond Vane, was presumptive heir to the earldom of Mount Severn.
“Won’t you take that tippet off, child?” asked Mrs. Levison, who knew nothing of the new-fashioned names for such articles, mantles, burnous, and all the string of them; and Isabel threw it off and sat down by her.
“The tea is not made, grandmamma!” exclaimed Mrs. Vane, in an accent of astonishment, as the servant appeared with the tray and the silver urn. “You surely do not have it made in the room.”
“Where should I have it made?” inquired Mrs. Levison.
“It is much more convenient to have it brought in, readymade,” said Mrs. Vane. “I dislike the embarass of making it.”
“Indeed!” was the reply of the old lady; “and get it slopped over in the saucers, and as cold as milk! You always were lazy, Emma — and given to use those French words. I’d rather stick a printed label on my forehead, for my part, ‘I speak French,’ and let the world know it in that way.”
“Who makes tea for you in general?” asked Mrs. Vane, telegraphing a contemptuous glance to Isabel behind her grandmother.
But the eyes of Lady Isabel fell timidly and a blush rose to her cheeks. She did not like to appear to differ from Mrs. Vane, her senior, and her father’s guest, but her mind revolted at the bare idea of ingratitude or ridicule cast on an aged parent.
“Harriet comes in and makes it for me,” replied Mrs. Levison; “aye, and sits down and takes it with me when I am alone, which is pretty often. What do you say to that, Madame Emma — you, with your fine notions?”
“Just as you please, of course, grandmamma.”
“And there’s the tea-caddy at your elbow, and the urn’s fizzing away, and if we are to have any tea to-night, it had better be made.”
“I don’t know how much to put in,” grumbled Mrs. Vane, who had the greatest horror of soiling her hands or her gloves; who, in short, had a particular antipathy to doing anything useful.
“Shall I make it, dear Mrs. Levison?” said Isabel, rising with alacrity. “I had used to make it quite as often as my governess at Mount Severn, and I make it for papa.”
“Do, child,” replied the old lady. “You are worth ten of her.”
Isabel laughed merrily, drew off her gloves, and sat down to the table; and at that moment a young and elegant man lounged into the room. He was deemed handsome, with his clearly-cut features, his dark eyes, his raven hair, and his white teeth; but to a keen observer those features had not an attractive expression, and the dark eyes had a great knack of looking away while he spoke to you. It was Francis, Captain Levison.
He was grandson to the old lady, and first cousin to Mrs. Vane. Few men were so fascinating in manners, at times and seasons, in face and in form, few men won so completely upon their hearers’ ears, and few were so heartless in their hearts of hearts. The world courted him, and society honored him; for, though he was a graceless spendthrift, and it was known that he was, he was the presumptive heir to the old and rich Sir Peter Levison.
The ancient lady spoke up, “Captain Levison, Lady Isabel Vane.” They both acknowledged the introduction; and Isabel, a child yet in the ways of the world, flushed crimson at the admiring looks cast upon her by the young guardsman. Strange — strange that she should make the acquaintance of these two men in the same day, almost in the same hour; the two, of all the human race, who were to exercise so powerful an influence over her future life!
“That’s a pretty cross, child,” cried Mrs. Levison as Isabel stood by her when tea was over, and she and Mrs. Vane were about to depart on their evening visit.
She alluded to a golden cross, set with seven emeralds, which Isabel wore on her neck. It was of light, delicate texture, and was suspended from a thin, short, gold chain.
“Is it not pretty?” answered Isabel. “It was given me by my dear mamma just before she died. Stay, I will take it off for you. I only wear it upon great occasions.”
This, her first appearance at the grand duke’s, seemed a very great occasion to the simply-reared and inexperienced girl. She unclasped the chain, and placed it with the cross in the hands of Mrs. Levison.
“Why, I declare you have nothing on but that cross and some rubbishing pearl bracelets!” uttered Mrs. Vane to Isabel. “I did not look at you before.”
“Mamma gave me both. The bracelets are those she used frequently to wear.”
“You old-fashioned child! Because your mamma wore those bracelets, years ago, is that a reason for your doing so?” retorted Mrs. Vane. “Why did you not put on your diamonds?”
“I— did — put on my diamonds; but I— took them off again,” stammered Isabel.
“What on earth for?”
“I did not like to look too fine,” answered Isabel, with a laugh and a blush. “They glittered so! I feared it might be thought I had put them on to look fine.”
“Ah! I see you mean to set up in that class of people who pretend to despise ornaments,” scornfully remarked Mrs. Vane. “It is the refinement of affectation, Lady Isabel.”
The sneer fell harmlessly on Lady Isabel’s ear. She only believed something had put Mrs. Vane out of temper. It certainly had; and that something, though Isabel little suspected it, was the evident admiration Captain Levison evinced for her fresh, young beauty; it quite absorbed him, and rendered him neglectful even of Mrs. Vane.
“Here, child, take your cross,” said the old lady. “It is very pretty; prettier on your neck than diamonds would be. You don’t want embellishing; never mind what Emma says.”
Francis Levison took the cross and chain from her hand to pass them to Lady Isabel. Whether he was awkward, or whether her hands were full, for she held her gloves, her handkerchief, and had just taken up her mantle, certain it is that it fell; and the gentleman, in his too quick effort to regain it, managed to set his foot upon it, and the cross was broken in two.
“There! Now whose fault was that?” cried Mrs. Levison.
Isabel did not answer; her heart was very full. She took the broken cross, and the tears dropped from her eyes; she could not help it.
“Why! You are never crying over a stupid bauble of a cross!” uttered Mrs. Vane, interrupting Captain Levison’s expression of regret at his awkwardness.
“You can have it mended, dear,” interposed Mrs. Levison.
Lady Isabel chased away the tears, and turned to Captain Levison with a cheerful look. “Pray do not blame yourself,” she good-naturedly said; “the fault was as much mine as yours; and, as Mrs. Levison says, I can get it mended.”
She disengaged the upper part of the cross from the chain as she spoke, and clasped the latter round her throat.
“You will not go with that thin string of gold on, and nothing else!” uttered Mrs. Vane.
“Why not?” returned Isabel. “If people say anything, I can tell them an accident happened to the cross.”
Mrs. Vane burst into a laugh of mocking ridicule. “‘If people say anything!’” she repeated, in a tone according with the laugh. “They are not likely to ‘say anything,’ but they will deem Lord Mount Severn’s daughter unfortunately short of jewellery.”
Isabel smiled and shook her head. “They saw my diamonds at the drawing-room.”
“If you had done such an awkward thing for me, Frank Levison,” burst forth the old lady, “my doors should have been closed against you for a month. There, if you are to go, Emma, you had better go; dancing off to begin an evening at ten o’clock at night! In my time we used to go at seven; but it’s the custom now to turn night into day.”
“When George the Third dined at one o’clock upon boiled mutton and turnips,” put in the graceless captain, who certainly held his grandmother in no greater reverence than did Mrs. Vane.
He turned to Isabel as he spoke, to hand her downstairs. Thus she was conducted to her carriage the second time that night by a stranger. Mrs. Vane got down by herself, as she best could, and her temper was not improved by the process.
“Good-night,” said she to the captain.
“I shall not say good-night. You will find me there almost as soon as you.”
“You told me you were not coming. Some bachelor’s party in the way.”
“Yes, but I have changed my mind. Farewell for the present, Lady Isabel.”
“What an object you will look, with nothing on your neck but a schoolgirl’s chain!” began Mrs. Vane, returning to the grievance as the carriage drove on.
“Oh, Mrs. Vane, what does it signify? I can only think of my broken cross. I am sure it must be an evil omen.”
“An evil — what?”
“An evil omen. Mamma gave me that cross when she was dying. She told me to let it be to me as a talisman, always to keep it safely; and when I was in any distress, or in need of counsel, to look at it and strive to recall what her advice would be, and to act accordingly. And now it is broken — broken!”
A glaring gaslight flashed into the carriage, right into the face of Isabel. “I declare,” uttered Mrs. Vane, “you are crying again! I tell you what it is, Isabel, I am not going to chaperone red eyes to the Duchess of Dartford’s, so if you can’t put a stop to this, I shall order the carriage home, and go on alone.”
Isabel meekly dried her eyes, sighing deeply as she did so. “I can have the pieces joined, I dare say; but it will never be the same cross to me again.”
“What have you done with the pieces?” irascibly asked Mrs. Vane.
“I folded them in the thin paper Mrs. Levison gave me, and put it inside my frock. Here it is,” touching the body. “I have no pocket on.”
Mrs. Vane gave vent to a groan. She never had been a girl herself — she had been a woman at ten; and she complimented Isabel upon being little better than an imbecile. “Put it inside my frock!” she uttered in a torrent of scorn. “And you eighteen years of age! I fancied you left off ‘frocks’ when you left the nursery. For shame, Isabel!”
“I meant to say my dress,” corrected Isabel.
“Meant to say you are a baby idiot!” was the inward comment of Mrs. Vane.
A few minutes and Isabel forgot her grievance. The brilliant rooms were to her as an enchanting scene of dreamland, for her heart was in its springtide of early freshness, and the satiety of experience had not come. How could she remember trouble, even the broken cross, as she bent to the homage offered her and drank in the honeyed words poured forth into her ear?
“Halloo!” cried an Oxford student, with a long rent-roll in prospective, who was screwing himself against the wall, not to be in the way of the waltzers, “I thought you had given up coming to these places?”
“So I had,” replied the fast nobleman addressed, the son of a marquis. “But I am on the lookout, so am forced into them again. I think a ball-room the greatest bore in life.”
“On the lookout for what?”
“For a wife. My governor has stopped supplies, and has vowed by his beard not to advance another shilling, or pay a debt, till I reform. As a preliminary step toward it, he insists upon a wife, and I am trying to choose one for I am deeper in debt than you imagine.”
“Take the new beauty, then.”
“Who is she?”
“Lady Isabel Vane.”
“Much obliged for the suggestion,” replied the earl. “But one likes a respectable father-in-law, and Mount Severn is going to smash. He and I are too much in the same line, and might clash, in the long run.”
“One can’t have everything; the girl’s beauty is beyond common. I saw that rake, Levison, make up to her. He fancies he can carry all before him, where women are concerned.”
“So he does, often,” was his quiet reply.
“I hate the fellow! He thinks so much of himself, with his curled hair and shining teeth, and his white skin; and he’s as heartless as an owl. What was that hushed-up business about Miss Charteris?”
“Who’s to know? Levison slipped out of the escapade like an eel, and the woman protested that he was more sinned against than sinning. Three-fourths of the world believed them.”
“And she went abroad and died; and Levison here he comes! And Mount Severn’s daughter with him.”
They were approaching at that moment, Francis Levison and Lady Isabel. He was expressing his regret at the untoward accident of the cross for the tenth time that night. “I feel that it can never be atoned for,” whispered he; “that the heartfelt homage of my whole life would not be sufficient compensation.”
He spoke in a tone of thrilling gentleness, gratifying to the ear but dangerous to the heart. Lady Isabel glanced up and caught his eyes gazing upon her with the deepest tenderness — a language hers had never yet encountered. A vivid blush again arose to her cheek, her eyelids fell, and her timid words died away in silence.
“Take care, take care, my young Lady Isabel,” murmured the Oxonian under his breath, as they passed him, “that man is as false as he is fair.”
“I think he is a rascal,” remarked the earl.
“I know he is; I know a thing or two about him. He would ruin her heart for the renown of the exploit, because she’s a beauty, and then fling it away broken. He has none to give in return for the gift.”
“Just as much as my new race-horse has,” concluded the earl. “She is very beautiful.”
West Lynne was a town of some importance, particularly in its own eyes, though being neither a manufacturing one nor a cathedral one, nor even the chief town of the county, it was somewhat primitive in its manners and customs. Passing out at the town, toward the east, you came upon several detached gentleman’s houses, in the vicinity of which stood the church of St. Jude, which was more aristocratic, in the matter of its congregation, than the other churches of West Lynne. For about a mile these houses were scattered, the church being situated at their commencement, close to that busy part of the place, and about a mile further on you came upon the beautiful estate which was called East Lynne.
Between the gentlemen’s houses mentioned and East Lynne, the mile of road was very solitary, being much overshadowed with trees. One house alone stood there, and that was about three-quarters of a mile before you came to East Lynne. It was on the left hand side, a square, ugly, red brick house with a weathercock on the top, standing some little distance from the road. A flat lawn extended before it, and close to the palings, which divided it from the road, was a grove of trees, some yards in depth. The lawn was divided by a narrow middle gravel path, to which you gained access from the portico of the house. You entered upon a large flagged hall with a reception room on either hand, and the staircase, a wide one, facing you; by the side of the staircase you passed on to the servants’ apartments and offices. That place was called the Grove, and was the property and residence of Richard Hare, Esq., commonly called Mr. Justice Hare.
The room to the left hand, as you went in, was the general sitting-room; the other was very much kept boxed up in lavender and brown Holland, to be opened on state occasions. Justice and Mrs. Hare had three children, a son and two daughters. Annie was the elder of the girls, and had married young; Barbara, the younger was now nineteen, and Richard the eldest — but we shall come to him hereafter.
In this sitting-room, on a chilly evening, early in May, a few days subsequent to that which had witnessed the visit of Mr. Carlyle to the Earl of Mount Severn, sat Mrs. Hare, a pale, delicate woman, buried in shawls and cushions: but the day had been warm. At the window sat a pretty girl, very fair, with blue eyes, light hair, a bright complexion, and small aquiline features. She was listlessly turning over the leaves of a book.
“Barbara, I am sure it must be tea-time now.”
“The time seems to move slowly with you, mamma. It is scarcely a quarter of an hour since I told you it was but ten minutes past six.”
“I am so thirsty!” announced the poor invalid. “Do go and look at the clock again, Barbara.”
Barbara Hare rose with a gesture of impatience, not suppressed, opened the door, and glanced at the large clock in the hall. “It wants nine and twenty minutes to seven, mamma. I wish you would put your watch on of a day; four times you have sent me to look at that clock since dinner.”
“I am so thirsty!” repeated Mrs. Hare, with a sort of sob. “If seven o’clock would but strike! I am dying for my tea.”
It may occur to the reader, that a lady in her own house, “dying for her tea,” might surely order it brought in, although the customary hour had not struck. Not so Mrs. Hare. Since her husband had first brought her home to that house, four and twenty-years ago, she had never dared to express a will in it; scarcely, on her own responsibility, to give an order. Justice Hare was stern, imperative, obstinate, and self-conceited; she, timid, gentle and submissive. She had loved him with all her heart, and her life had been one long yielding of her will to his; in fact, she had no will; his was all in all. Far was she from feeling the servitude a yoke: some natures do not: and to do Mr. Hare justice, his powerful will that must bear down all before it, was in fault: not his kindness: he never meant to be unkind to his wife. Of his three children, Barbara alone had inherited his will.
“Barbara,” began Mrs. Hare again, when she thought another quarter of an hour at least must have elapsed.
“Ring, and tell them to be getting it in readiness so that when seven strikes there may be no delay.”
“Goodness, mamma! You know they do always have it ready. And there’s no such hurry, for papa may not be at home.” But she rose, and rang the bell with a petulant motion, and when the man answered it, told him to have tea in to its time.
“If you knew dear, how dry my throat is, how parched my mouth, you would have more patience with me.”
Barbara closed her book with a listless air, and turned listlessly to the window. She seemed tired, not with fatigue but with what the French express by the word ennui. “Here comes papa,” she presently said.
“Oh, I am so glad!” cried poor Mrs. Hare. “Perhaps he will not mind having the tea in at once, if I told him how thirsty I am.”
The justice came in. A middle sized man, with pompous features, and a pompous walk, and a flaxen wig. In his aquiline nose, compressed lips, and pointed chin, might be traced a resemblance to his daughter; though he never could have been half so good-looking as was pretty Barbara.
“Richard,” spoke up Mrs. Hare from between her shawls, the instant he opened the door.
“Would you please let me have tea in now? Would you very much mind taking it a little earlier this evening? I am feverish again, and my tongue is so parched I don’t know how to speak.”
“Oh, it’s near seven; you won’t have long to wait.”
With this exceedingly gracious answer to an invalid’s request, Mr. Hare quitted the room again and banged the door. He had not spoken unkindly or roughly, simply with indifference. But ere Mrs. Hare’s meek sigh of disappointment was over, the door reopened, and the flaxen wig was thrust in again.
“I don’t mind if I do have it now. It will be a fine moonlight night and I am going with Pinner as far as Beauchamp’s to smoke a pipe. Order it in, Barbara.”
The tea was made and partaken of, and the justice departed for Mr. Beauchamp’s, Squire Pinner calling for him at the gate. Mr. Beauchamp was a gentleman who farmed a great deal of land, and who was also Lord Mount Severn’s agent or steward for East Lynne. He lived higher up the road some little distance beyond East Lynne.
“I am so cold, Barbara,” shivered Mrs. Hare, as she watched the justice down the gravel path. “I wonder if your papa would say it was foolish of me, if I told them to light a bit of fire?”
“Have it lighted if you like,” responded Barbara, ringing the bell. “Papa will know nothing about it, one way or the other, for he won’t be home till after bedtime. Jasper, mamma is cold, and would like a fire lighted.”
“Plenty of sticks, Jasper, that it may burn up quickly,” said Mrs. Hare, in a pleading voice, as if the sticks were Jasper’s and not hers.
Mrs. Hare got her fire, and she drew her chair in front, and put her feet on the fender, to catch its warmth. Barbara, listless still, went into the hall, took a woolen shawl from the stand there, threw it over her shoulders, and went out. She strolled down the straight formal path, and stood at the iron gate, looking over it into the public road. Not very public in that spot, and at that hour, but as lonely as one could wish. The night was calm and pleasant, though somewhat chilly for the beginning of May, and the moon was getting high in the sky.
“When will he come home?” she murmured, as she leaned her head upon the gate. “Oh, what would life be like without him? How miserable these few days have been! I wonder what took him there! I wonder what is detaining him! Corny said he was only gone for a day.”
The faint echo of footsteps in the distance stole upon her ear, and Barbara drew a little back, and hid herself under the shelter of the trees, not choosing to be seen by any stray passer-by. But, as they drew near, a sudden change came over her; her eyes lighted up, her cheeks were dyed with crimson, and her veins tingled with excess of rapture — for she knew those footsteps, and loved them, only too well.
Cautiously peeping over the gate again, she looked down the road. A tall form, whose very height and strength bore a grace of which its owner was unconscious, was advancing rapidly toward her from the direction of West Lynne. Again she shrank away; true love is ever timid; and whatever may have been Barbara Hare’s other qualities, her love at least was true and deep. But instead of the gate opening, with the firm quick motion peculiar to the hand which guided it, the footsteps seemed to pass, and not to have turned at all toward it. Barbara’s heart sank, and she stole to the gate again, and looked out with a yearning look.
Yes, sure enough he was striding on, not thinking of her, not coming to her; and she, in the disappointment and impulse of the moment, called to him —
Mr. Carlyle — it was no other — turned on his heel, and approached the gate.
“Is it you, Barbara! Watching for thieves and poachers? How are you?”
“How are you?” she returned, holding the gate open for him to enter, as he shook hands, and striving to calm down her agitation. “When did you return?”
“Only now, by the eight o’clock train, which got in beyond its time, having drawled unpardonably at the stations. They little thought they had me in it, as their looks betrayed when I got out. I have not been home yet.”
“No! What will Cornelia say?”
“I went to the office for five minutes. But I have a few words to say to Beauchamp, and am going up at once. Thank you, I cannot come in now; I intend to do so on my return.”
“Papa has gone up to Mr. Beauchamp’s.”
“Mr. Hare! Has he?”
“He and Squire Pinner,” continued Barbara. “They have gone to have a smoking bout. And if you wait there with papa, it will be too late to come in, for he is sure not to be home before eleven or twelve.”
Mr. Carlyle bent his head in deliberation. “Then I think it is of little use my going on,” said he, “for my business with Beauchamp is private. I must defer it until tomorrow.”
He took the gate out of her hand, closed it, and placed the hand within his own arm, to walk with her to the house. It was done in a matter-of-fact, real sort of way; nothing of romance or sentiment hallowed it; but Barbara Hare felt that she was in Eden.
“And how have you all been, Barbara, these few days?”
“Oh, very well. What made you start off so suddenly? You never said you were going, or came to wish us good-bye.”
“You have just expressed it, Barbara —‘suddenly.’ A matter of business suddenly arose, and I suddenly went upon it.”
“Cornelia said you were only gone for a day.”
“Did she? When in London I find so many things to do! Is Mrs. Hare better?”
“Just the same. I think mamma’s ailments are fancies, half of them; if she would rouse herself she would be better. What is in that parcel?”
“You are not to inquire, Miss Barbara. It does not concern you. It only concerns Mrs. Hare.”
“Is it something you have brought for mamma, Archibald?”
“Of course. A countryman’s visit to London entails buying presents for his friends; at least, it used to be so, in the old-fashioned days.”
“When people made their wills before starting, and were a fortnight doing the journey in a wagon,” laughed Barbara. “Grandpapa used to tell us tales of that, when we were children. But is it really something for mamma?”
“Don’t I tell you so? I have brought something for you.”
“Oh! What is it?” she uttered, her color rising, and wondering whether he was in jest or earnest.
“There’s an impatient girl! ‘What is it?’ Wait a moment, and you shall see what it is.”
He put the parcel or roll he was carrying upon a garden chair, and proceeded to search his pockets. Every pocket was visited, apparently in vain.
“Barbara, I think it is gone. I must have lost it somehow.”
Her heart beat as she stood there, silently looking up at him in the moonlight. Was it lost? What had it been?
But, upon a second search, he came upon something in the pocket of his coat-tail. “Here it is, I believe; what brought it there?” He opened a small box, and taking out a long, gold chain, threw it around her neck. A locket was attached to it.
Her cheeks’ crimson went and came; her heart beat more rapidly. She could not speak a word of thanks; and Mr. Carlyle took up the roll, and walked on into the presence of Mrs. Hare.
Barbara followed in a few minutes. Her mother was standing up, watching with pleased expectation the movements of Mr. Carlyle. No candles were in the room, but it was bright with firelight.
“Now, don’t laugh at me,” quoth he, untying the string of the parcel. “It is not a roll of velvet for a dress, and it is not a roll of parchment, conferring twenty thousand pounds a year. But it is — an air cushion!”
It was what poor Mrs. Hare, so worn with sitting and lying, had often longed for. She had heard such a luxury was to be bought in London, but never remembered to have seen one. She took it almost with a greedy hand, casting a grateful look at Mr. Carlyle.
“How am I to thank you for it?” she murmured through her tears.
“If you thank me at all, I will never bring you anything again,” cried he, gaily. “I have been telling Barbara that a visit to London entails bringing gifts for friends,” he continued. “Do you see how smart I have made her?”
Barbara hastily took off the chain, and laid it before her mother.
“What a beautiful chain!” muttered Mrs. Hare, in surprise. “Archibald, you are too good, too generous! This must have cost a great deal; this is beyond a trifle.”
“Nonsense!” laughed Mr. Carlyle. “I’ll tell you both how I happened to buy it. I went into a jeweller’s about my watch, which has taken to lose lately in a most unceremonious fashion, and there I saw a whole display of chains hanging up; some ponderous enough for a sheriff, some light and elegant enough for Barbara. I dislike to see a thick chain on a lady’s neck. They put me in mind of the chain she lost, the day she and Cornelia went with me to Lynchborough, which loss Barbara persisted in declaring was my fault, for dragging her through the town sight-seeing, while Cornelia did her shopping — for it was then the chain was lost.”
“But I was only joking when I said so,” was the interruption of Barbara. “Of course it would have happened had you not been with me; the links were always snapping.”
“Well, these chains in the shop in London put me in mind of Barbara’s misfortune, and I chose one. Then the shopman brought forth some lockets, and enlarged upon their convenience for holding deceased relatives’ hair, not to speak of sweethearts’, until I told him he might attach one. I thought it might hold that piece of hair you prize, Barbara,” he concluded, dropping his voice.
“What piece?” asked Mrs. Hare.
Mr. Carlyle glanced round the room, as if fearful the very walls might hear his whisper. “Richard’s. Barbara showed it me one day when she was turning out her desk, and said it was a curl taken off in that illness.”
Mrs. Hare sank back in her chair, and hid her face in her hands, shivering visibly. The words evidently awoke some poignant source of deep sorrow. “Oh, my boy! My boy!” she wailed —“my boy! My unhappy boy! Mr. Hare wonders at my ill-health, Archibald; Barbara ridicules it; but there lies the source of all my misery, mental and bodily. Oh, Richard! Richard!”
There was a distressing pause, for the topic admitted of neither hope nor consolation. “Put your chain on again, Barbara,” Mr. Carlyle said, after a while, “and I wish you health to wear it out. Health and reformation, young lady!”
Barbara smiled and glanced at him with her pretty blue eyes, so full of love. “What have you brought for Cornelia?” she resumed.
“Something splendid,” he answered, with a mock serious face; “only I hope I have not been taken in. I bought her a shawl. The venders vowed it was true Parisian cashmere. I gave eighteen guineas for it.”
“That is a great deal,” observed Mrs. Hare. “It ought to be a very good one. I never gave more than six guineas for a shawl in all my life.”
“And Cornelia, I dare say, never more than half six,” laughed Mr. Carlyle. “Well, I shall wish you good evening, and go to her; for if she knows I am back all this while, I shall be lectured.”
He shook hands with them both. Barbara, however, accompanied him to the front door, and stepped outside with him.
“You will catch cold, Barbara. You have left your shawl indoors.”
“Oh, no, I shall not. How very soon you are leaving. You have scarcely stayed ten minutes.”
“But you forget I have not been at home.”
“You were on your road to Beauchamp’s, and would not have been at home for an hour or two in that case,” spoke Barbara, in a tone that savored of resentment.
“That was different; that was upon business. But, Barbara, I think your mother looks unusually ill.”
“You know she suffers a little thing to upset her; and last night she had what she calls one of her dreams,” answered Barbara. “She says that it is a warning that something bad is going to happen, and she has been in the most unhappy, feverish state possible all day. Papa has been quite angry over her being so weak and nervous, declaring that she ought to rouse herself out of her ‘nerves.’ Of course we dare not tell him about the dream.”
“It related to — the ——”
Mr. Carlyle stopped, and Barbara glanced round with a shudder, and drew closer to him as she whispered. He had not given her his arm this time.
“Yes, to the murder. You know mamma has always declared that Bethel had something to do with it; she says her dreams would have convinced her of it, if nothing else did; and she dreamt she saw him with — with — you know.”
“Hallijohn?” whispered Mr. Carlyle.
“With Hallijohn,” assented Barbara, with a shiver. “He was standing over him as he lay on the floor; just as he did lay on it. And that wretched Afy was standing at the end of the kitchen, looking on.”
“But Mrs. Hare ought not to suffer dreams to disturb her peace by day,” remonstrated Mr. Carlyle. “It is not to be surprised at that she dreams of the murder, because she is always dwelling upon it; but she should strive and throw the feeling from her with the night.”
“You know what mamma is. Of course she ought to do so, but she does not. Papa wonders what makes her get up so ill and trembling of a morning; and mamma has to make all sorts of evasive excuses; for not a hint, as you are aware, must be breathed to him about the murder.”
Mr. Carlyle gravely nodded.
“Mamma does so harp about Bethel. And I know that dream arose from nothing in the world but because she saw him pass the gate yesterday. Not that she thinks that it was he who did it; unfortunately, there is no room for that; but she will persist that he had a hand in it in some way, and he haunts her dreams.”
Mr. Carlyle walked on in silence; indeed there was no reply that he could make. A cloud had fallen upon the house of Mr. Hare, and it was an unhappy subject. Barbara continued —
“But for mamma to have taken it into her head that ‘some evil is going to happen,’ because she had this dream, and to make herself miserable over it, is so absurd, that I have felt quite cross with her all day. Such nonsense, you know, Archibald, to believe that dreams give signs of what is going to happen, so far behind these enlightened days!”
“Your mamma’s trouble is great, Barbara; and she is not strong.”
“I think all our troubles have been great since — since that dark evening,” responded Barbara.
“Have you heard from Anne?” inquired Mr. Carlyle, willing to change the subject.
“Yes, she is very well. What do you think they are going to name the baby? Anne; after her mamma. So very ugly a name! Anne!”
“I do not think so,” said Mr. Carlyle. “It is simple and unpretending, I like it much. Look at the long, pretentious names of our family — Archibald! Cornelia! And yours, too — Barbara! What a mouthful they all are!”
Barbara contracted her eyebrows. It was equivalent to saying that he did not like her name.
They reached the gate, and Mr. Carlyle was about to pass out of it when Barbara laid her hand on his arm to detain him, and spoke in a timid voice —
“What is it?”
“I have not said a word of thanks to you for this,” she said, touching the chain and locket; “my tongue seemed tied. Do not deem me ungrateful.”
“You foolish girl! It is not worth them. There! Now I am paid. Good-night, Barbara.”
He had bent down and kissed her cheek, swung through the gate, laughing, and strode away. “Don’t say I never gave you anything,” he turned his head round to say, “Good-night.”
All her veins were tingling, all her pulses beating; her heart was throbbing with its sense of bliss. He had never kissed her, that she could remember, since she was a child. And when she returned indoors, her spirits were so extravagantly high that Mrs. Hare wondered.
“Ring for the lamp, Barbara, and you can get to your work. But don’t have the shutters closed; I like to look out on these light nights.”
Barbara, however, did not get to her work; she also, perhaps, liked “looking out on a light night,” for she sat down at the window. She was living the last half hour over again. “‘Don’t say I never gave you anything,’” she murmured; “did he allude to the chain or to the — kiss? Oh, Archibald, why don’t you say that you love me?”