This page contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates we earn from qualifying purchases.
Language:
Form:
Genre:
Published:
  • 1861
Collection:
Buy it on Amazon Listen via Audible FREE Audible 30 days

entered. “I knew how it would be.”

“Has he come yet?”

“I have no doubt of it; but he has made no signal.”

Mrs. Hare, feverish and agitated, with a burning spot on her delicate cheeks, stood by the chair, not occupying it. Mr. Carlyle placed a pocket-book in her hands. “I have brought it chiefly in notes,” he said: “they will be easier for him to carry than gold.”

Mrs. Hare answered only by a look of gratitude, and clasped Mr. Carlyle’s hand in both hers. “Archibald, I /must/ see my boy; how can it be managed? Must I go into the garden to him, or may he come in here?”

“I think he might come in; you know how bad the night air is for you. Are the servants astir this evening?”

“Things seem to have turned out quite kindly,” spoke up Barbara. “It happens to be Anne’s birthday, so mamma sent me just now into the kitchen with a cake and a bottle of wine, desiring them to drink her health. I shut the door and told them to make themselves comfortable; that if we wanted anything we would ring.”

“Then they are safe,” observed Mr. Carlyle, “and Richard may come in.”

“I will go and ascertain whether he is come,” said Barbara.

“Stay where you are, Barbara; I will go myself,” interposed Mr. Carlyle. “Have the door open when you see us coming up the path.”

Barbara gave a faint cry, and, trembling, clutched the arm of Mr. Carlyle. “There he is! See! Standing out from the trees, just opposite this window.”

Mr. Carlyle turned to Mrs. Hare. “I shall not bring him in immediately; for if I am to have an interview with him, it must be got over first, that I may go back home to the justices, and keep Mr. Hare all safe.”

He proceeded on his way, gained the trees, and plunged into them; and, leaning against one, stood Richard Hare. Apart from his disguise, and the false and fierce black whiskers, he was a blue-eyed, fair, pleasant-looking young man, slight, and of middle height, and quite as yielding and gentle as his mother. In her, this mild yieldingness of disposition was rather a graceful quality; in Richard it was regarded as a contemptible misfortune. In his boyhood he had been nicknamed Leafy Dick, and when a stranger inquired why, the answer was that, as a leaf was swayed by the wind, so he was swayed by everybody about him, never possessing a will of his own. In short, Richard Hare, though of an amiable and loving nature, was not over-burdened with what the world calls brains. Brains he certainly had, but they were not sharp ones.

“Is my mother coming out to me?” asked Richard, after a few interchanged sentences with Mr. Carlyle.

“No. You are to go indoors. Your father is away, and the servants are shut up in the kitchen and will not see you. Though if they did, they could never recognize you in that trim. A fine pair of whiskers, Richard.”

“Let us go in, then. I am all in a twitter till I get away. Am I to have the money?”

“Yes, yes. But, Richard, your sister says you wish to disclose to me the true history of that lamentable night. You had better speak while we are here.”

“It was Barbara herself wanted you to hear it. I think it of little moment. If the whole place heard the truth from me, it would do no good, for I should get no belief–not even from you.”

“Try me, Richard, in as few words as possible.”

“Well, there was a row at home about my going so much to Hallijohn’s. The governor and my mother thought I went after Afy; perhaps I did, and perhaps I didn’t. Hallijohn had asked me to lend him my gun, and that evening, when I went to see Af–when I went to see some one– never mind–“

“Richard,” interrupted Mr. Carlyle, “there’s an old saying, and it is sound advice: ‘Tell the whole truth to your lawyer and your doctor.’ If I am to judge whether anything can be attempted for you, you must tell it to me; otherwise, I would rather hear nothing. It shall be sacred trust.”

“Then, if I must, I must,” returned the yielding Richard. “I did love the girl. I would have waited till I was my own master to make her my wife, though it had been for years and years. I could not do it, you know, in the face of my father’s opposition.”

“Your wife?” rejoined Mr. Carlyle, with some emphasis.

Richard looked surprised. “Why, you don’t suppose I meant anything else! I wouldn’t have been such a blackguard.”

“Well, go on, Richard. Did she return your love?”

“I can’t be certain. Sometimes I thought she did, sometimes not; she used to play and shuffle, and she liked too much to be with–him. I would think her capricious–telling me I must not come this evening, and I must not come the other; but I found out they were the evenings when she was expecting him. We were never there together.”

“You forget that you have not indicted ‘him’ by any name, Richard. I am at fault.”

Richard Hare bent forward till his black whiskers brushed Mr. Carlyle’s shoulder. “It was that cursed Thorn.”

Mr. Carlyle remembered the name Barbara had mentioned. “Who was Thorn? I never heard of him.”

“Neither had anybody else, I expect, in West Lynne. He took precious good care of that. He lives some miles away, and used to come over in secret.”

“Courting Afy?”

“Yes, he did come courting her,” returned Richard, in a savage tone. “Distance was no barrier. He would come galloping over at dusk, tie his horse to a tree in the wood, and pass an hour or two with Afy. In the house, when her father was not at home; roaming about the woods with her, when he was.”

“Come to the point, Richard–to the evening.”

“Hallijohn’s gun was out of order, and he requested the loan of mine. I had made an appointment with Afy to be at her house that evening, and I went down after dinner, carrying the gun with me. My father called after me to know where I was going; I said, out with young Beauchamp, not caring to meet his opposition; and the lie told against me at the inquest. When I reached Hallijohn’s, going the back way along the fields, and through the wood-path, as I generally did go, Afy came out, all reserve, as she could be at times, and said she was unable to receive me then, that I must go back home. We had a few words about it, and as we were speaking, Locksley passed, and saw me with the gun in my hand; but it ended in my giving way. She could do just what she liked with me, for I loved the very ground she trod on. I gave her the gun, telling her it was loaded, and she took it indoors, shutting me out. I did not go away; I had a suspicion that she had got Thorn there, though she denied it to me; and I hid myself in some trees near the house. Again Locksley came in view and saw me there, and called out to know why I was hiding. I shied further off, and did not answer him–what were my private movements to him?–and that also told against me at the inquest. Not long afterwards–twenty minutes, perhaps–I heard a shot, which seemed to be in the direction of the cottage. ‘Somebody having a late pop at the partridges,’ thought I; for the sun was then setting, and at the moment I saw Bethel emerge from the trees, and run in the direction of the cottage. That was the shot that killed Hallijohn.”

There was a pause. Mr. Carlyle looked keenly at Richard there in the moonlight.

“Very soon, almost in the same moment, as it seemed, some one came panting and tearing along the path leading from the cottage. It was Thorn. His appearance startled me: I had never seen a man show more utter terror. His face was livid, his eyes seemed starting, and his lips were drawn back from his teeth. Had I been a strong man I should surely have attacked him. I was mad with jealousy; for I then saw that Afy had sent me away that she might entertain him.”

“I thought you said this Thorn never came but at dusk,” observed Mr. Carlyle.

“I never knew him to do so until that evening. All I can say is, he was there then. He flew along swiftly, and I afterwards heard the sound of his horse’s hoofs galloping away. I wondered what was up that he should look so scared, and scutter away as though the deuce was after him;: I wondered whether he had quarreled with Afy. I ran to the house, leaped up the two steps, and–Carlyle–I fell over the prostrate body of Hallijohn! He was lying just within, on the kitchen floor, dead. Blood was round about him, and my gun, just discharged, was thrown near. He had been shot in the side.”

Richard stopped for breath. Mr. Carlyle did not speak.

“I called to Afy. No one answered. No one was in the lower room; and it seemed that no one was in the upper. A sort of panic came over me, a fear. You know they always said at home I was a coward: I could not have remained another minute with that dead man, had it been to save my own life. I caught up the gun, and was making off, when–“

“Why did you catch up the gun?” interrupted Mr. Carlyle.

“Ideas pass through our minds quicker than we can speak them, especially in these sorts of moments,” was the reply of Richard Hare. “Some vague notion flashed on my brain that /my gun/ ought not to be found near the murdered body of Hallijohn. I was flying from the door, I say, when Locksley emerged from the wood, full in view; and what possessed me I can’t tell, but I did the worst thing I could do–flung the gun indoors again, and got away, although Locksley called after me to stop.”

“Nothing told against you so much as that,” observed Mr. Carlyle. “Locksley deposed that he had seen you leave the cottage, gun in hand, apparently in great commotion; that the moment you saw him, you hesitated, as from fear, flung back the gun, and escaped.”

Richard stamped his foot. “Aye; and all owing to my cursed cowardice. They had better have made a woman of me, and brought me up in petticoats. But let me go on. I came upon Bethel. He was standing in that half-circle where the trees have been cut. Now I knew that Bethel, if he had gone straight in the direction of the cottage, must have met Thorn quitting it. ‘Did you encounter that hound?’ I asked him. ‘What hound?’ returned Bethel. ‘That fine fellow, that Thorn, who comes after Afy,’ I answered, for I did not mind mentioning her name in my passion. ‘I don’t know any Thorn,’ returned Bethel, ‘and I did not know anybody was after Afy but yourself.’ ‘Did you hear a shot?’ I went on. ‘Yes, I did,’ he replied; ‘I suppose it was Locksley, for he’s about this evening,’ ‘And I saw you,’ I continued, ‘just at the moment the shot was fired, turn round the corner in the direction of Hallijohn’s.’ ‘So I did,’ he said, ‘but only to strike into the wood, a few paces up. What’s your drift?’ ‘Did you not encounter Thorn, running from the cottage?’ I persisted. ‘I have encountered no one,’ he said, ‘and I don’t believe anybody’s about but ourselves and Locksley.’ I quitted him, and came off,” concluded Richard Hare. “He evidently had not seen Thorn, and knew nothing.”

“And you decamped the same night, Richard; it was a fatal step.”

“Yes, I was a fool. I thought I’d wait quiet, and see how things turned out; but you don’t know all. Three or four hours later, I went to the cottage again, and I managed to get a minute’s speech with Afy. I never shall forget it; before I could say one syllable she flew out at me, accusing me of being the murderer of her father, and she fell into hysterics out there on the grass. The noise brought people from the house–plenty were in it then–and I retreated. ‘If /she/ can think me guilty, the world will think me guilty,’ was my argument; and that night I went right off, to stop in hiding for a day or two, till I saw my way clear. It never came clear; the coroner’s inquest sat, and the verdict floored me over. And Afy–but I won’t curse her– fanned the flame against me by denying that any one had been there that night. ‘She had been at home,’ she said, ‘and had strolled out at the back door, to the path that led from West Lynne, and was lingering there when she heard a shot. Five minutes afterward she returned to the house, and found Locksley standing over her dead father.’ “

Mr. Carlyle remained silent, rapidly running over in his mind the chief points of Richard Hare’s communication. “Four of you, as I understand it, were in the vicinity of the cottage that night, and from one or the other the shot no doubt proceeded. You were at a distance, you say, Richard; Bethel, also, could not have been–“

“It was not Bethel who did it,” interrupted Richard; “it was an impossibility. I saw him, as I tell you, in the same moment that the gun was fired.”

“But now, where was Locksley?”

“It is equally impossible that it could have been Locksley. He was within my view at the same time, at right angles from me, deep in the wood, away from the paths altogether. It was Thorn did the deed, beyond all doubt, and the verdict ought to have been willful murder against him. Carlyle, I see you don’t believe my story.”

“What you say has startled me, and I must take time to consider whether I believe it or not,” said Mr. Carlyle, in his straightforward manner. “The most singular thing is, if you witnessed this, Thorn’s running from the cottage in the manner you describe, that you did not come forward and denounce him.”

“I didn’t do it, because I was a fool, a weak coward, as I have been all my life,” rejoined Richard. “I can’t help it; it was born with me, and will go with me to my grave. What would my word have availed that it was Thorn, when there was nobody to corroborate it? And the discharged gun, mine, was a damnatory proof against me.”

“Another thing strikes me as curious,” cried Mr. Carlyle. “If this man, Thorn, was in the habit of coming to West Lynne, evening after evening, how was it that he never was observed? This is the first time I have heard any stranger’s name mentioned in connection with the affair, or with Afy.”

“Thorn chose by-roads, and he never came, save that once, but at dusk and dark. It was evident to me at the time that he was striving to do it on the secret. I told Afy so, and that it augured no good for her. You are not attaching credit to what I say, and it is only as I expected; nevertheless, I swear that I have related the facts. As surely as that we–I, Thorn, Afy and Hallijohn, must one day meet together before our Maker, I have told you the truth.”

The words were solemn, their tone earnest, and Mr. Carlyle remained silent, his thoughts full.

“To what end, else, should I say this?” went on Richard. “It can do me no service; all the assertion I could put forth would not go a jot toward clearing me.”

“No, it would not,” assented Mr. Carlyle. “If ever you are cleared, it must be by proofs. But–I will keep my thought on the matter, and should anything arise—- What sort of a man was this Thorn?”

“In age he might be three or four and twenty, tall and slender; an out-and-out aristocrat.”

“And his connections? Where did he live?”

“I never knew. Afy, in her boasting way, would say he had come from Swainson, a ten mile ride.”

“From Swainson?” quickly interrupted Mr. Carlyle.

“Could it be one of the Thorns of Swainson?”

“None of the Thorns that I know. He was a totally different sort of man, with his perfumed hands, and his rings, and his dainty gloves. That he was an aristocrat I believe, but of bad taste and style, displaying a profusion of jewellery.”

A half smile flitted over Carlyle’s face.

“Was it real, Richard?”

“It was. He would wear diamond shirt-studs, diamond rings, diamond pins; brilliants, all of the first water. My impression was, that he put them on to dazzle Afy. She told me once that she could be a grander lady, if she chose, than I could ever make her. ‘A lady on the cross,’ I answered, ‘but never on the square.’ Thorn was not a man to entertain honest intentions to one in the station of Afy Hallijohn; but girls are simple as geese.”

“By your description, it could not have been one of the Thorns of Swainson. Wealthy tradesmen, fathers of young families, short, stout, and heavy as Dutchmen, staid and most respectable. Very unlikely men are they, to run into an expedition of that sort.”

“What expedition?” questioned Richard. “The murder?”

“The riding after Afy. Richard, where is Afy?”

Richard Hare lifted his eyes in surprise. “How should I know? I was just going to ask you.”

Mr. Carlyle paused. He thought Richard’s answer an evasive one. “She disappeared immediately after the funeral; and it was thought–in short, Richard, the neighborhood gave her credit for having gone after and joined you.”

“No! did they? What a pack of idiots! I have never seen or heard of her, Carlyle, since that unfortunate night. If she went after anybody, it was after Thorn.”

“Was the man good-looking?”

“I suppose the world would call him so. Afy thought such an Adonis had never been coined, out of fable. He had shiny black hair and whiskers, dark eyes and handsome features. But his vain dandyism spoilt him; would you believe that his handkerchiefs were soaked in scent? They were of the finest cambric, silky as a hair, as fine as the one Barbara bought at Lynneborough and gave a guinea for; only hers had a wreath of embroidery around it.”

Mr. Carlyle could ascertain no more particulars, and it was time Richard went indoors. They proceeded up the path. “What a blessing it is the servants’ windows don’t look this way,” shivered Richard, treading on Mr. Carlyle’s heels. “If they should be looking out upstairs!”

His apprehensions were groundless, and he entered unseen.

Mr. Carlyle’s part was over; he left the poor banned exile to his short interview with his hysterical and tearful mother, Richard nearly as hysterical as she, and made the best of his way home again, pondering over what he had heard.

The magistrates made a good evening of it. Mr. Carlyle entertained them to supper–mutton chops and bread and cheese. They took up their pipes for another whiff when the meal was over, but Miss Carlyle retired to bed; the smoke, to which she had not been accustomed since her father’s death, had made her head ache and her eyes smart. About eleven they wished Mr. Carlyle good-night, and departed, but Mr. Dill, in obedience to a nod from his superior, remained.

“Sit down a moment, Dill; I want to ask you a question. You are intimate with the Thorns, of Swainson; do they happen to have any relative, a nephew or cousin, perhaps, a dandy young fellow?”

“I went over last Sunday fortnight to spend the day with young Jacob,” was the answer of Mr. Dill, one wider from the point than he generally gave. Mr. Carlyle smiled.

“/Young/ Jacob! He must be forty, I suppose.”

“About that. But you and I estimate age differently, Mr. Archibald. They have no nephew; the old man never had but those two children, Jacob and Edward. Neither have they any cousin. Rich men they are growing now. Jacob has set up his carriage.”

Mr. Carlyle mused, but he expected the answer, for neither had he heard of the brothers Thorn, tanners, curriers, and leather-dressers, possessing a relative of the name. “Dill,” said he, “something has arisen which, in my mind, casts a doubt upon Richard Hare’s guilt. I question whether he had anything to do with the murder.”

Mr. Dill opened his eyes. “But his flight, Mr. Archibald, And his stopping away?”

“Suspicious circumstances, I grant. Still, I have good cause to doubt. At the time it happened, some dandy fellow used to come courting Afy Hallijohn in secret; a tall, slender man, as he is described to me, bearing the name of Thorn, and living at Swainson. Could it have been one of the Thorn family?”

“Mr. Archibald!” remonstrated the old clerk; “as if those two respected gentlemen, with their wives and babies, would come sneaking after that flyaway Afy!”

“No reflection on them,” returned Mr. Carlyle. “This was a young man, three or four and twenty, a head taller than either. I thought it might be a relative.”

“I have repeatedly heard them say that they are alone in the world; that they are the two last of the name. Depend upon it, it was nobody connected with them;” and wishing Mr. Carlyle good-night, he departed.

The servant came in to remove the glasses and the obnoxious pipes. Mr. Carlyle sat in a brown study; presently he looked round at the man.

“Is Joyce gone to bed?”

“No, sir. She is just going.”

“Send her here when you have taken away those things.”

Joyce came in–the upper servant at Miss Carlyle’s. She was of middle height, and would never see five and thirty again; her forehead was broad, her gray eyes were deeply set, and her face was pale. Altogether she was plain, but sensible-looking. She was the half- sister of Afy Hallijohn.

“Shut the door, Joyce.”

Joyce did as she was bid, came forward, and stood by the table.

“Have you ever heard from your sister, Joyce?” began Mr. Carlyle, somewhat abruptly.

“No, sir,” was the reply; “I think it would be a wonder if I did hear.”

“Why so?”

“If she would go off after Richard Hare, who had sent her father into his grave, she would be more likely to hide herself and her doings than to proclaim them to me, sir.”

“Who was that other, that fine gentleman, who came after her?”

The color mantled in Joyce’s cheeks, and she dropped her voice.

“Sir! Did you hear of him?”

“Not at that time. Since. He came from Swainson, did he not?”

“I believe so, sir. Afy never would say much about him. We did not agree upon the point. I said a person of his rank would do her no good; and Afy flew out when I spoke against him.”

Mr. Carlyle caught her up. “His rank. What was his rank?”

“Afy bragged of his being next door to a lord; and he looked like it. I only saw him once; I had gone home early, and there sat him and Afy. His white hands were all glittering with rings, and his shirt was finished off with shining stones where the buttons ought to be.”

“Have you seen him since?”

“Never since, never but once; and I don’t think I should know him if I did see him. He got up, sir, as soon as I went into the parlor, shook hands with Afy, and left. A fine, upright man he was, nearly as tall as you, sir, but very slim. Those soldiers always carry themselves well.”

“How do you know he was a soldier?” quickly rejoined Mr. Carlyle.

“Afy told me so. ‘The Captain’ she used to call him; but she said he was not a captain yet awhile–the next grade to it, a–a—-“

“Lieutenant?” suggested Mr. Carlyle.

“Yes, sir, that was it–Lieutenant Thorn.”

“Joyce,” said Mr. Carlyle, “has it never struck you that Afy is more likely to have followed Lieutenant Thorn than Richard Hare?”

“No, sir,” answered Joyce; “I have felt certain always that she is with Richard Hare, and nothing can turn me from the belief. All West Lynne is convinced of it.”

Mr. Carlyle did not attempt to “turn her from her belief.” He dismissed her, and sat on still, revolving the case in all its bearings.

Richard Hare’s short interview with his mother had soon terminated. It lasted but a quarter of an hour, both dreading interruptions from the servants; and with a hundred pounds in his pocket, and desolation in his heart, the ill-fated young man once more quitted his childhood’s home. Mrs. Hare and Barbara watched him steal down the path in the telltale moonlight, and gain the road, both feeling that those farewell kisses they had pressed upon his lips would not be renewed for years, and might not be forever.

CHAPTER VII.

MISS CARLYLE AT HOME.

The church clocks at West Lynne struck eight one lovely morning in July, and then the bells chimed out, giving token that it was Sunday.

East Lynne had changed owners, and now it was the property of Mr. Carlyle. He had bought it as it stood, furniture and all; but the transfer had been conducted with secrecy, and was suspected by none, save those engaged in the negotiations. Whether Lord Mount Severn thought it might prevent any one getting on the scent, or whether he wished to take farewell of a place he had formerly been fond of, certain it is that he craved a week or two’s visit to it. Mr. Carlyle most readily and graciously acquiesced; and the earl, his daughter, and retinue had arrived the previous day.

West Lynne was in ecstacies. It called itself an aristocratic place, and it indulged hopes that the earl might be intending to confer permanently the light of his presence, by taking up his residence again at East Lynne. The toilettes prepared to meet his admiring eyes were prodigious and pretty Barbara Hare was not the only young lady who had thereby to encounter the paternal storm.

Miss Carlyle was ready for church at the usual time, plainly, but well dressed. As she and Archibald were leaving their house, they saw something looming up the street, flashing and gleaming in the sun. A pink parasol came first, a pink bonnet and feather came behind it, a gray brocaded dress and white gloves.

“The vain little idiot!” ejaculated Miss Carlyle. But Barbara smiled up the street toward them, unconscious of the apostrophe.

“Well done, Barbara!” was the salutation of Miss Carlyle. “The justice might well call out–you are finer than a sunbeam!”

“Not half so fine as many another in the church will be to-day,” responded Barbara, as she lifted her shy blue eyes and blushing face to answer the greetings of Mr. Carlyle. “West Lynne seems bent on out- dressing the Lady Isabel. You should have been at the milliner’s yesterday morning, Miss Carlyle.”

“Is all the finery coming out to-day?” gravely inquired Mr. Carlyle, as Barbara turned with them toward the church, and he walked by her side and his sister’s, for he had an objection, almost invincible as a Frenchman’s, to give his arm to two ladies.

“Of course,” replied Barbara. “First impression is everything, you know, and the earl and his daughter will be coming to church.”

“Suppose she should not be in peacock’s plumes?” cried Miss Carlyle, with an imperturbable face.

“Oh! But she is sure to be–if you mean richly dressed,” cried Barbara, hastily.

“Or, suppose they should not come to church?” laughed Mr. Carlyle. “What a disappointment to the bonnets and feathers!”

“After all, Barbara, what are they to us, or we to them?” resumed Miss Carlyle. “We may never meet. We insignificant West Lynne gentry shall not obtrude ourselves into East Lynne. It would scarcely be fitting– or be deemed so by the earl and Lady Isabel.”

“That’s just how papa went on,” grumbled Barbara. “He caught sight of this bonnet yesterday; and when, by way of excuse, I said I had it to call on them, he asked whether I thought the obscure West Lynne families would venture to thrust their calls on Lord Mount Severn, as though they were of the county aristocracy. It was the feather that put him out.”

“It is a very long one,” remarked Miss Carlyle, grimly surveying it.

Barbara was to sit in the Carlyle pew that day, for she thought the farther she was from the justice the better; there was no knowing but he might take a sly revengeful cut at the feather in the middle of service, and so dock its beauty. Scarcely were they seated when some strangers came quietly up the aisle–a gentleman who limped as he walked, with a furrowed brow and gray hair; and a young lady. Barbara looked round with eagerness, but looked away again; they could not be the expected strangers, the young lady’s dress was too plain–a clear- looking muslin dress for a hot summer’s day. But the old beadle in his many-caped coat, was walking before them sideways with his marshalling baton, and he marshaled them into the East Lynne pew, unoccupied for so many years.

“Who in the world can they be?” whispered Barbara to Miss Carlyle. “That old stupid is always making a mistake and putting people into the wrong places.”

“The earl and Lady Isabel.”

The color flushed into Barbara’s face, and she stared at Miss Corny. “Why, she has no silks, and no feathers, and no anything!” cried Barbara. “She’s plainer than anybody in the church!”

“Plainer than any of the fine ones–than you, for instance. The earl is much altered, but I should have known them both anywhere. I should have known her from the likeness to her poor mother–just the same eyes and sweet expression.”

Aye, those brown eyes, so full of sweetness and melancholy; few who had once seen could mistake or forget them; and Barbara Hare, forgetting where she was, looked at them much that day.

“She is very lovely,” thought Barbara, “and her dress is certainly that of a lady. I wish I had not had this streaming pink feather. What fine jackdaws she must deem us all!”

The earl’s carriage, an open barouche, was waiting at the gate, at the conclusion of the service. He handed his daughter in, and was putting his gouty foot upon the step to follow her, when he observed Mr. Carlyle. The earl turned and held out his hand. A man who could purchase East Lynne was worthy of being received as an equal, though he was but a country lawyer.

Mr. Carlyle shook hands with the earl, approached the carriage and raised his hat to Lady Isabel. She bent forward with her pleasant smile, and put her hand into his.

“I have many things to say to you,” said the earl. “I wish you would go home with us. If you have nothing better to do, be East Lynne’s guest for the remainder of the day.”

He smiled peculiarly as he spoke, and Mr. Carlyle echoed it. East Lynne’s guest! That is what the earl was at present. Mr. Carlyle turned aside to tell his sister.

“Cornelia, I shall not be home to dinner; I am going with Lord Mount Severn. Good-day, Barbara.”

Mr. Carlyle stepped into the carriage, was followed by the earl, and it drove away. The sun shone still, but the day’s brightness had gone out for Barbara Hare.

“How does he know the earl so well? How does he know Lady Isabel?” she reiterated in her astonishment.

“Archibald knows something of most people,” replied Miss Corny. “He saw the earl frequently, when he was in town in the spring, and Lady Isabel once or twice. What a lovely face hers is!”

Barbara made no reply. She returned home with Miss Carlyle, but her manner was as absent as her heart, and that had run away to East Lynne.

CHAPTER VIII.

MR. KANE’S CONCERT.

Before Lord Mount Severn had completed the fortnight of his proposed stay, the gout came on seriously. It was impossible for him to move away from East Lynne. Mr. Carlyle assured him he was only too pleased that he should remain as long as might be convenient, and the earl expressed his acknowledgments; he hoped soon to be re-established on his legs.

But he was not. The gout came, and the gout went–not positively laying him up in bed, but rendering him unable to leave his rooms; and this continued until October, when he grew much better. The county families had been neighborly, calling on the invalid earl, and occasionally carrying off Lady Isabel, but his chief and constant visitor had been Mr. Carlyle. The earl had grown to like him in no common degree, and was disappointed if Mr. Carlyle spent an evening away from him, so that he became, as it were, quite domesticated with the earl and Isabel. “I am not quite equal to general society,” he observed to his daughter, “and it is considerate and kind of Carlyle to come here and cheer my loneliness.”

“Extremely kind,” said Isabel. “I like him very much, papa.”

“I don’t know anybody that I like half as well,” was the rejoinder of the earl.

Mr. Carlyle went up as usual the same evening, and, in the course of it, the earl asked Isabel to sing.

“I will if you wish, papa,” was the reply, “but the piano is so much out of tune that it is not pleasant to sing to it. Is there any one in West Lynne who could come here and tune my piano, Mr. Carlyle?” she added, turning to him.

“Certainly there is. Kane would do it. Shall I send him to-morrow?”

“I should be glad, if it would not be giving you too much trouble. Not that tuning will benefit it greatly, old thing that it is. Were we to be much at East Lynne, I should get papa to exchange it for a good one.”

Little thought Lady Isabel that that very piano was Mr. Carlyle’s, and not hers. The earl coughed, and exchanged a smile and a glance with his guest.

Mr. Kane was the organist of St. Jude’s church, a man of embarrassment and sorrow, who had long had a sore fight with the world. When he arrived at East Lynne, the following day, dispatched by Mr. Carlyle, Lady Isabel happened to be playing, and she stood by, and watched him begin his work. She was courteous and affable–she was so to every one –and the poor music master took courage to speak of his own affairs, and to prefer a humble request–that she and Lord Mount Severn would patronize and personally attend a concert he was about to give the following week. A scarlet blush came into his thin cheeks as he confessed that he was very poor, could scarcely live, and he was getting up this concert in his desperate need. If it succeeded well, he could then go on again; if not, he should be turned out of his home, and his furniture sold for the two years’ rent he owed–and he had seven children.

Isabel, all her sympathies awakened, sought the earl. “Oh, papa! I have to ask you the greatest favor. Will you grant it?”

“Ay, child, you don’t ask them often. What is it?”

“I want you to take me to a concert at West Lynne.”

The earl fell back in surprise, and stared at Isabel. “A concert at West Lynne!” he laughed. “To hear the rustics scraping the fiddle! My dear Isabel!”

She poured out what she had just heard, with her own comments and additions. “Seven children, papa! And if the concert does not succeed he must give up his home, and turn out into the streets with them–it is, you see, almost a matter of life or death with him. He is very poor.”

“I am poor myself,” said the earl.

“I was so sorry for him when he was speaking. He kept turning red and white, and catching up his breath in agitation; it was painful to him to tell of his embarrassments. I am sure he is a gentleman.”

“Well, you may take a pound’s worth of tickets, Isabel, and give them to the upper servants. A village concert!”

“Oh, papa, it is not–can’t you see it is not? If we, you and I, will promise to be present, all the families round West Lynne will attend, and he will have the room full. They will go because we do–he said so. Make a sacrifice for once, dearest papa, and go, if it be only for an hour. /I/ shall enjoy it if there’s nothing but a fiddle and a tambourine.”

“You gipsy! You are as bad as a professional beggar. There–go and tell the fellow we will look in for half an hour.”

She flew back to Mr. Kane, her eyes dancing. She spoke quietly, as she always did, but her own satisfaction gladdened her voice.

“I am happy to tell you that papa has consented. He will take four tickets and we will attend the concert.”

The tears rushed into Mr. Kane’s eyes; Isabel was not sure but they were in her own. He was a tall, thin, delicate-looking man, with long, white fingers, and a long neck. He faltered forth his thanks with an inquiry whether he might be allowed to state openly that they would be present.

“Tell everybody,” said she, eagerly. “Everybody you come across, if, as you think, it will be the means of inducing people to attend. I shall tell all friends who call upon me, and ask them to go.”

When Mr. Carlyle came up in the evening, the earl was temporarily absent from the room. Isabel began to speak of the concert.

“It is a hazardous venture for Mr. Kane,” observed Mr. Carlyle. “I fear he will only lose money, and add to his embarrassments.”

“Why do you fear that?” she asked.

“Because, Lady Isabel, nothing gets patronized at West Lynne–nothing native; and people have heard so long of poor Kane’s necessities, that they think little of them.”

“Is he so very poor?”

“Very. He is starved half his time.”

“Starved!” repeated Isabel, an expression of perplexity arising to her face as she looked at Mr. Carlyle, for she scarcely understood him. “Do you mean that he does not have enough to eat?”

“Of bread he may, but not much better nourishment. His salary, as organist, is thirty pounds, and he gets a little stray teaching. But he has his wife and children to keep, and no doubt serves them before himself. I dare say he scarcely knows what it is to taste meat.”

The words brought a bitter pang to Lady Isabel.

“Not enough to eat! Never to taste meat!” And she, in her carelessness, her ignorance, her indifference–she scarcely knew what term to give it–had not thought to order him a meal in their house of plenty! He had walked from West Lynne, occupied himself an hour with her piano, and set off to walk back again, battling with his hunger. A word from her, and a repast had been set before him out of their superfluities such as he never sat down to, and that word she had not spoken.

“You are looking grave, Lady Isabel.”

“I’m taking contrition to myself. Never mind, it cannot now be helped, but it will always be a dark spot on my memory.”

“What is it?”

She lifted her repentant face to his and smiled. “Never mind, I say, Mr. Carlyle; what is past cannot be recalled. He looks like a gentleman.”

“Who? Kane? A gentleman bred; his father was a clergyman. Kane’s ruin was his love of music–it prevented his settling to any better paid profession; his early marriage also was a drawback and kept him down. He is young still.”

“Mr. Carlyle I would not be one of your West Lynne people for the world. Here is a young gentleman struggling with adversity, and you won’t put out your hand to help him!”

He smiled at her warmth. “Some of us will take tickets–I, for one; but I don’t know about attending the concert. I fear few would do that.”

“Because that’s just the thing that would serve him? If one went, another would. Well, I shall try and show West Lynne that I don’t take a lesson from their book; I shall be there before it begins, and never come out till the last song’s over. I am not too grand to go, if West Lynne is.”

“You surely do not think of going?”

“I surely do think of it; and papa goes with me–I persuaded him; and I have given Mr. Kane the promise.”

Mr. Carlyle paused. “I am glad to hear it; it will be a perfect boon to Kane. If it once gets abroad that Lord Mount Severn and Lady Isabel intend to honor the concert, there won’t be standing room.”

She danced round with a little gleeful step. “What high and mighty personages Lord Mount Severn and Lady Isabel seem to be! If you had any goodness of heart, Mr. Carlyle, you would enlist yourself in the cause also.”

“I think I will,” he smiled.

“Papa says you hold sway at West Lynne. If you proclaim that you mean to go, you will induce others.”

“I will proclaim that you do,” he answered; “that will be all sufficient. But, Lady Isabel, you must not expect much gratification from the performance.”

“A tambourine will be quite enough for me; I told papa so, I shan’t think of music; I shall think of poor Mr. Kane. Mr. Carlyle I know you can be kind if you like; I know you would rather be kind than otherwise–it is to be read in your face. Try and do what you can for him.”

“Yes, I will,” he warmly answered.

Mr. Carlyle sold no end of tickets the following day, or rather caused them to be sold. He praised up the concert far and wide, and proclaimed that Lord Mount Severn and his daughter would not think of missing it. Mr. Kane’s house was besieged for tickets, faster than he could write his signature in their corner; and when Mr. Carlyle went home to luncheon at midday, which he did not often do, he laid down two at Miss Corny’s elbow.

“What’s this? Concert tickets! Archibald, you have never gone and bought these!”

What would she have said had she known that the two were not the extent of his investment?

“Ten shillings to throw away upon two paltry bits of cardboard!” chafed Miss Carlyle. “You always were a noodle in money matters, Archibald, and always will be. I wish I had the keeping of your purse!”

“What I have given will not hurt me, Cornelia, and Kane is badly off. Think of his troop of children.”

“Oh, dear!” said Miss Corny. “I imagine he should think of them. I suppose it was his own fault they came. That’s always it. Poor folks get a heap of children about them, and then ask for pity. I should say it would be more just if they asked for blame.”

“Well, there the tickets are, bought and paid for, so they may as well be used. You will go with me, Cornelia.”

“And stick ourselves there upon empty benches, like two geese, and sit staring and counting the candles! A pleasant evening?”

“You need not fear empty benches. The Mount Severns are going, and West Lynne is in a fever, racing after tickets. I suppose you have got a–a cap,” looking at the nondescript article decorating his sister’s head, “that will be suitable to go in, Cornelia; if not you had better order one.”

This suggestion put up Miss Carlyle. “Hadn’t you better have your hair curled, and your coat tails lined with white satin, and a gold opera- glass, and a cocked hat?” retorted she. “My gracious me! A fine new cap to go to their mess of a concert in, after paying ten shillings for the tickets! The world’s coming to something.”

Mr. Carlyle left her and her grumbling to return to the office. Lord Mount Severn’s carriage was passing at the moment, and Isabel Vane was within it. She caused it to stop when she saw Mr. Carlyle, and he advanced to her.

“I have been to Mr. Kane’s myself for the tickets,” said she, with a beaming look. “I came into West Lynne on purpose. I told the coachman to find out where he lived, and he did. I thought if the people saw me and the carriage there, they would guess what I wanted. I do hope he will have a full concert.”

“I am sure he will,” replied Mr. Carlyle, as he released her hand. And Lady Isabel signed to the carriage to drive on.

As Mr. Carlyle turned away, he met Otway Bethel, a nephew of Colonel Bethel’s, who was tolerated in the colonel’s house because he had no other home, and appeared incapable to making himself one. Some persons persisted in calling him a gentleman–as he was by birth–others a /mauvais sujet/. The two are united sometimes. He was dressed in a velveteen suit, and had a gun in his hand. Indeed, he was rarely seen without a gun, being inordinately fond of sport; but, if all tales whispered were true, he supplied himself with game in other ways than by shooting, which had the credit of going up to London dealers. For the last six months or near upon it, he had been away from West Lynne.

“Why, where have you been hiding yourself?” exclaimed Mr. Carlyle. “The colonel has been inconsolable.”

“Come, no gammon, Carlyle. I have been on the tramp through France and Germany. Man likes a change sometimes. As to the revered colonel, he would not be inconsolable if he saw me nailed up in a six-foot box, and carried out feet foremost.”

“Bethel, I have a question to ask you,” continued Mr. Carlyle, dropping his light manner and his voice together. “Take your thoughts back to the night of Hallijohn’s murder.”

“I wish you may get it,” cried Mr. Bethel. “The reminiscence is not attractive.”

“You’ll do it,” quietly said Mr. Carlyle. “It has been told me, though it did not appear at the inquest, that Richard Hare held a conversation with you in the wood a few minutes after the deed was done. Now–“

“Who told you that?” interrupted Bethel.

“That is not the question. My authority is indisputable.”

“It is true that he did. I said nothing about it, for I did not want to make the case worse against Dick Hare than it already was. He certainly did accost me, like a man flurried out of his life.”

“Asking if you had seen a certain lover of Afy’s fly from the cottage. One Thorn.”

“That was the purport. Thorn, Thorn–I think Thorn was the name he mentioned. My opinion was, that Dick was either wild or acting a part.”

“Now, Bethel, I want you to answer me truly. The question cannot affect you either way, but I must know whether you did see this Thorn leave the cottage.”

Bethel shook his head. “I know nothing whatever about any Thorn, and I saw nobody but Dick Hare. Not but what a dozen Thorns might have run from the cottage without my seeing them.”

“You heard the shot fired?”

“Yes; but I never gave a thought to mischief. I knew Locksley was in the wood, and supposed it came from him. I ran across the path, bearing toward the cottage, and struck into the wood on the other side. By and by, Dick Hare pitched upon me, like one startled out of his seven senses, and asked if I had seen Thorn leave the cottage. Thorn–that /was/ the name.”

“And you had not?”

“I had seen nobody but Dick, excepting Locksley. My impression was, that nobody else was about; I think so still.”

“But Richard–“

“Now look you here, Carlyle, I won’t do Dick Hare an injury, even by a single word, if I can help it; and it is of no use setting me on to it.”

“I should be the last to set you on to injure any one, especially Richard Hare,” rejoined Mr. Carlyle; “and my motive is to do Richard Hare good, not harm. I hold a suspicion, no matter whence gathered, that it was not Richard Hare who committed the murder, but another. Can you throw any light upon the subject?”

“No, I can’t. I have always thought poor wavering Dick was nobody’s enemy but his own; but, as to throwing any light on that night’s work, I can’t do it. Cords should not have dragged me to the inquest to give evidence against Dick, and for that reason I was glad Locksley never let out that I was on the spot. How the deuce it got about afterward that I was, I can’t tell; but that was no matter; /my/ evidence did not help on the verdict. And talking of that, Carlyle, how has it come to your knowledge that Richard Hare accosted me? I have not opened my lips upon it to mortal man.”

“It is of no consequence now,” repeated Mr. Carlyle; “I do know it, and that is sufficient. I was in hopes you had really seen this man Thorn leave the cottage.”

Otway Bethel shook his head. “I should not lay too much stress upon any Thorns having been there, were I you, Carlyle. Dick Hare was as one crazy that night, and might see shapes and forms where there were none.”

CHAPTER IX.

THE SONG AND THE DIRGE.

The concert was to take place on Thursday, and on the following Saturday Lord Mount Severn intended finally to quit East Lynne. The necessary preparations for departure were in progress, but when Thursday morning dawned, it appeared a question whether they would not once more be rendered nugatory. The house was roused betimes, and Mr. Wainwright, the surgeon from West Lynne, summoned to the earl’s bedside; he had experienced another and a violent attack. The peer was exceedingly annoyed and vexed, and very irritable.

“I may be kept here a week–a month–a fortnight–a month longer, now!” he uttered fretfully to Isabel.

“I am very sorry, papa. I dare say you do find East Lynne dull.”

“Dull! That’s not it; I have other reasons for wishing East Lynne to be quit of us. And now you can’t go to the concert.”

Isabel’s face flushed. “Not go, papa?”

“Why, who is to take you. I can’t get out of bed.”

“Oh, papa, I must be there. Otherwise it would like almost as though– as though we had announced what we did not mean to perform. You know it was arranged that we should join the Ducies; the carriage can still take me to the concert room, and I can go in with them.”

“Just as you please. I thought you would have jumped at any plea for staying away.”

“Not at all,” laughed Isabel. “I should like West Lynne to see that I don’t despise Mr. Kane and his concert.”

Later in the day the earl grew alarmingly worse; his paroxysms of pain were awful. Isabel, who was kept from the room, knew nothing of the danger, and the earl’s groans did not penetrate to her ears. She dressed herself in a gleeful mode, full of laughing willfulness, Marvel, her maid, superintending in stiff displeasure, for the attire chosen did not meet her approbation. When ready, she went into the earl’s room.

“Shall I do, papa?”

Lord Mount Severn raised his swollen eyelids and drew the clothes from his flushed face. A shining vision was standing before him, a beauteous queen, a gleaming fairy; he hardly knew what she looked like. She had put on a white lace hat and her diamonds; the dress was rich, and the jewels gleamed from her delicate arms: and her cheeks were flushed and her curls were flowing.

The earl stared at her in amazement. “How could you dress yourself off like that for a concert? You are out of yours senses, Isabel.”

“Marvel thinks so, too,” was the gay answer; “she has had a cross face since I told her what to put on. But I did it on purpose, papa; I thought I would show those West Lynne people that /I/ think the poor man’s moment worth going to, and worth dressing for.”

“You will have the whole room gaping at you.”

“I don’t mind. I’ll bring you word all about it. Let them gape.”

“You vain child! You have so dressed yourself to please your vanity. But, Isabel, you–oooh!”

Isabel started as she stood; the earl’s groan of pain was dreadful.

“An awful twinge, child. There, go along; talking makes me worse.”

“Papa, shall I stay at home with you?” she gravely asked. “Every consideration should give way to illness. If you would like me to remain, or if I can do any good, pray let me.”

“Quite the contrary; I had rather you were away. You can do no earthly good, for I could not have you in the room. Good-bye, darling. If you see Carlyle, tell him I shall hope to see him to-morrow.”

The room was partly full when Mrs. Ducie, her two daughters, and Lady Isabel entered, and were conducted to seats by Mr. Kane–seats he had reserved for them at the upper end, near the orchestra. The same dazzling vision which had burst on the sight of Lord Mount Severn fell on that of the audience, in Isabel, with her rich, white dress, her glittering diamonds, her flowing curls, and her wondrous beauty. The Misses Ducie, plain girls, in brown silks, turned up their noses worse than nature had done it for them, and Mrs. Ducie heaved an audible sigh.

“The poor motherless girl is to be pitied, my dears,” she whispered; “she has nobody to point out to her suitable attire. This ridiculous decking out must have been Marvel’s doings.”

But she looked like a lily among poppies and sunflowers whether the “decking out” was ridiculous or not. Was Lord Mount Severn right, when he accused her of dressing so in self-gratification? Very likely, for has not the great preacher said that childhood and youth are vanity?

Miss Carlyle, the justice, and Barbara also had seats near the orchestra; for Miss Carlyle, in West Lynne, was a person to be considered, and not hidden behind others. Mr. Carlyle, however, preferred to join the gentlemen who congregated and stood round about the door inside and out. There was scarcely standing room in the place; Mr. Kane had, as was anticipated, got a bumper, and the poor man could have worshipped Lady Isabel, for he knew he owed it to her.

It was very long–country concerts generally are–and was about three parts over when a powdered head, larger than any cauliflower ever grown, was discerned ascending the stairs, behind the group of gentlemen; which head, when it brought its body in full view, was discovered to belong to one of the footmen of Lord Mount Severn. The calves alone, cased in their silk stockings, were a sight to be seen; and these calves betook themselves inside the concert room, with a deprecatory bow for permission to the gentlemen they had to steer through–and there they came to a standstill, the cauliflower extending forward and turning itself about from right to left.

“Well, I’ll be jiffled!” cried an astonished old fox-hunter, who had been elbowed by the footman; “the cheek these fellows have!”

The fellow in question did not appear, however, to be enjoying any great amount of cheek just at that moment, for he looked perplexed, humble and uneasy. Suddenly his eye fell upon Mr. Carlyle, and it lighted up.

“Beg pardon, sir; could you happen to inform me where-abouts my young lady is sitting?”

“At the other end of the room, near the orchestra.”

“I’m sure I don’t know however I am to get to her, then,” returned the man more in self-soliloquy than to Mr. Carlyle. “The room is choke full, and I don’t like crushing by. My lord is taken alarmingly worse, sir,” he explained in an awe-stricken tone; “it is feared he is dying.”

Mr. Carlyle was painfully startled.

“His screams of pain were awful, sir. Mr. Wainwright and another doctor from West Lynne are with him, and an express has gone to Lynneboro’ for physicians. Mrs. Mason said we were to fetch my young lady right home, and not lose a moment; and we brought the carriage, sir, Wells galloping his horses all the way.”

“I will bring Lady Isabel,” said Mr. Carlyle.

“I am sure, sir, I should be under everlasting obligations if you would,” returned the man.

He worked his way through the concert room–he was tall and slender– many looking daggers at him, for a pathetic song was just then being given by a London lady. He disregarded all, and stood before Isabel.

“I thought you were not coming to speak to me to-night. Is it not a famous room? I am so pleased!”

“More than famous, Lady Isabel,” choosing his words, that they might not alarm her, “Lord Mount Severn does not find himself so well, and he has sent the carriage for you.”

“Papa not so well!” she quickly exclaimed.

“Not quite. At any rate, he wishes you to go home. Will you allow me to pilot you through the room?”

“Oh, my dear, considerate papa!” she laughed. “He fears I shall be weary, and would emancipate me before the time. Thank you, Mr. Carlyle, but I will wait till the conclusion.”

“No, no, Lady Isabel, it is not that. Lord Mount Severn is indeed worse.”

Her countenance changed to seriousness; but she was not alarmed. “Very well. When the song is over–not to disturb the room.”

“I think you had better lose no time,” he urged. “Never mind the song and the room.”

She rose instantly, and put her arm within Mr. Carlyle’s. A hasty word of explanation to Mrs. Ducie, and he led her away, the room, in its surprise, making for them what space it might. Many an eye followed them, but none more curiously and eagerly than Barbara Hare’s. “Where is he going to take her to?” involuntarily uttered Barbara.

“How should I know?” returned Miss Corny. “Barbara, you have done nothing but fidget all the night; what’s the matter with you? Folks come to a concert to listen, not to talk and fidget.”

Isabel’s mantle was procured from the ante-room where it had been left, and she descended the stairs with Mr. Carlyle. The carriage was drawn up close to the entrance, and the coachman had his reins gathered, ready to start. The footman–not the one who had gone upstairs–threw open the carriage door as he saw her. He was new in the service, a simple country native, just engaged. She withdrew her arm from Mr. Carlyle’s, and stood a moment before stepping in, looking at the man.

“Is papa much worse?”

“Oh, yes, my lady; he was screaming shocking. But they think he’ll live till morning.”

With a sharp cry, she seized the arm of Mr. Carlyle–seized it for support in her shock of agony. Mr. Carlyle rudely thrust the man away; he would willingly have flung him at full length on the pavement.

“Oh, Mr. Carlyle, why did you not tell me?” she shivered.

“My dear Lady Isabel, I am grieved that you are told now. But take comfort; you know how ill he frequently is, and this may be but an ordinary attack. Step in. I trust we shall find it nothing more.”

“Are you going home with me?”

“Certainly; I shall not leave you to go alone.”

She moved to the other side of the chariot, making room for him.

“Thank you. I will sit outside.”

“But the night is cold.”

“Oh, no.” He closed the door, and took his seat by the coachman; the footman got up behind, and the carriage sped away. Isabel gathered herself into her corner, and moaned aloud in her suspense and helplessness.

The coachman drove rapidly, and soon whipped his horses through the lodge-gates.

The housekeeper, Mrs. Mason, waited at the hall-door to receive Lady Isabel. Mr. Carlyle helped her out of the carriage, and gave her his arm up the steps. She scarcely dared to inquire.

“Is he better? May I go to his room?” she panted.

Yes, the earl was better–better, in so far as that he was quiet and senseless. She moved hastily toward his chamber. Mr. Carlyle drew the housekeeper aside.

“Is there any hope?”

“Not the slightest, sir. He is dying.”

The earl knew no one; pain was gone for the present, and he lay on his bed, calm; but his face, which had death in it all too plainly, startled Isabel. She did not scream or cry; she was perfectly quiet, save that she had a fit of shivering.

“Will he soon be better?” she whispered to Mr. Wainwright, who stood there.

The surgeon coughed. “Well, he–he–we must hope it, my lady.”

“But why does his face look like that? It is pale–gray; I never saw anybody else look so.”

“He has been in great pain, my lady, and pain leaves its traces on the countenance.”

Mr. Carlyle, who had come, and was standing by the surgeon, touched his arm to draw him from the room. He noticed the look on the earl’s face, and did not like it; he wished to question the surgeon. Lady Isabel saw that Mr. Carlyle was about to quit the room, and beckoned to him.

“Do not leave the house, Mr. Carlyle. When he wakes up, it may cheer him to see you here; he liked you very much.”

“I will not leave it, Lady Isabel. I did not think of doing so.”

In time–it seemed an age–the medical men arrived from Lynneborough– three of them–the groom had thought he could not summon too many. It was a strange scene they entered upon: the ghastly peer, growing restless again now, battling with his departing spirit, and the gala robes, the sparkling gems adorning the young girl watching at his side. They comprehended the case without difficulty; that she had been suddenly called from some scene of gayety.

They stooped to look at the earl, and felt his pulse, and touched his heart, and exchanged a few murmured words with Mr. Wainwright. Isabel had stood back to give them place, but her anxious eyes followed their every movement. They did not seem to notice her, and she stepped forward.

“Can you do anything for him? Will he recover?

They all turned at the address, and looked at her. One spoke; it was an evasive answer.

“Tell me the truth!” she implored, with feverish impatience: “you must not trifle with me. Do you not know me? I am his only child, and I am here alone.”

The first thing was to get her away from the room, for the great change was approaching, and the parting struggle between the body and the spirit might be one of warfare–no sight for her. But in answer to their suggestion that she should go, she only leaned her head upon the pillow by her father and moaned in despair.

“She must be got out of the room,” cried one of the physicians, almost angrily. “Ma’am,” turning suddenly upon Mrs. Mason, “are there no reserves in the house–no one who can exert influence over the young lady?”

“She has scarcely any relatives in the world,” replied the housekeeper; “no near ones; and we happen to be, just now, quite alone.”

But Mr. Carlyle, seeing the urgency of the case, for the earl, with every minute, grew more excited, approached and whispered her: “You are as anxious as we can be for your father’s recovery?”

“/As/ anxious!” she uttered reproachfully.

“You know what I would imply. Of course our anxiety can be as nothing to yours.”

“As nothing–/as nothing/. I think my heart will break.”

“Then–forgive me–you should not oppose the wishes of his medical attendants. They wish to be alone with him, and time is being lost.”

She rose up; she placed her hands on her brow, as if to collect the sense of the words, and then she addressed the doctors,–

“Is it really necessary that I should leave the room–necessary /for him/?”

“It is necessary, my lady–absolutely essential.”

She broke into a passion of tears and sobs as Mr. Carlyle lead her to another apartment.

“He is my dear father; I have but him in the wide world!” she exclaimed.

“I know–I know; I feel for you all that you are feeling. Twenty times this night I have wished–forgive me the thought–that you were my sister, so that I might express my sympathy more freely and comfort you.”

“Tell me the truth, then, why I am kept away. If you can show me sufficient cause, I will be reasonable and obey; but do not say again I should be disturbing him, for it is not true.”

“He is too ill for you to see him–his symptoms are too painful. In fact, it would not be proper; and were you to go in in defiance of advice, you would regret it all your after life.”

“Is he dying?”

Mr. Carlyle hesitated. Ought he to dissemble with her as the doctors had done? A strong feeling was upon him that he ought not.

“I trust to you not to deceive me,” she simply said.

“I fear he is–I believe he is.”

She rose up–she grasped his arm in the sudden fear that flashed over her.

“You are deceiving me, and he is dead!”

“I am not deceiving you, Lady Isabel. He is not dead, but–it may be very near.”

She laid her face down upon the soft pillow.

“Going forever from me–going forever? Oh, Mr. Carlyle, let me see him for a minute–just one farewell! Will you not try for me!”

He knew how hopeless it was, but he turned to leave the room.

“I will go and see. But you will remain here quietly–you will not come.”

She bowed her head in acquiescence, and he closed the door. Had she indeed been his sister, he would probably have turned the key upon her. He entered the earl’s chamber, but not many seconds did he remain in it.

“It is over,” he whispered to Mrs. Mason, whom he met in the corridor, “and Mr. Wainwright is asking for you.”

“You are soon back,” cried Isabel, lifting her head. “May I go?”

He sat down and took her hand, shrinking from his task.

“I wish I could comfort you!” he exclaimed, in a tone of deep emotion.

Her face turned of a ghastly whiteness–as white as another’s not far away.

“Tell me the worst,” she breathed.

“I have nothing to tell you but the worst. May God support you, dear Lady Isabel!”

She turned to hide her face and its misery away from him, and a low wail of anguish broke from her, telling its own tale of despair.

The gray dawn of morning was breaking over the world, advent of another bustling day in life’s history; but the spirit of William Vane, Earl of Mount Severn, had soared away from it forever.

CHAPTER X.

THE KEEPERS OF THE DEAD.

Events, between the death of Lord Mount Severn and his interment, occurred quickly; and to one of them the reader may feel inclined to demur, as believing that it could have no foundation in fact, in the actions of real life, but must be a wild creation of the author’s brain. He would be wrong. The author is no more fond of wild creations than the reader. The circumstance did take place.

The earl died on Friday morning at daylight. The news spread rapidly. It generally does on the death of a peer, if he has been of note, whether good or bad, in the world, and was known in London before the day was over–the consequence of which was, that by Saturday morning, early, a shoal of what the late peer would have called harpies, had arrived, to surround East Lynne. There were creditors of all sorts; for small sums and for great, for five or ten pounds up to five or ten thousand. Some were civil, some impatient, some loud and rough and angry; some came to put in executions on the effects, and some–/to arrest the body/!

This last act was accomplished cleverly. Two men, each with a remarkably hooked nose, stole away from the hubbub of the clamorous, and peering cunningly about, made their way to the side or tradesman’s entrance. A kitchen-maid answered their gentle appeal at the bell.

“Is the coffin come yet?” said they.

“Coffin–no!” was the girl’s reply. “The shell ain’t here yet. Mr. Jones didn’t promise that till nine o’clock, and it haven’t gone eight.”

“It won’t be long,” quoth they; “its on it’s road. We’ll go up to his lordship’s room, please, and be getting ready for it.”

The girl called the butler. “Two men from Jones’, the undertaker’s, sir,” announced she. “The shell’s coming on and they want to go up and make ready for it.”

The butler marshaled them upstairs himself, and introduced them to the room. “That will do,” said they, as he was about to enter with them, “we won’t trouble you to wait.” And closing the door upon the unsuspicious butler, they took up their station on either side of the dead, like a couple of ill-omened mutes. They had placed an arrest upon the corpse; it was theirs until their claim was satisfied, and they sat down to thus watch and secure it. Pleasant occupation!

It may have been an hour later that Lady Isabel, leaving her own chamber, opened noiselessly that of the dead. She had been in it several times during the previous day; at first with the housekeeper; afterward, when the nameless dread was somewhat effaced, alone. But she felt nervous again this morning, and had gained the bed before she ventured to lift her eyes from the carpet and encounter the sight. Then she started, for there sat two strange-looking men–and not attractive men either.

It darted through her mind that they must be people from the neighborhood, come to gratify an idle and unpardonable curiosity. Her first impulse was to summon the butler; her second, to speak to them herself.

“Do you want anything here?” she quietly said.

“Much obleeged for the inquiry, miss. We are all right.”

The words and tone struck her as being singular in the extreme; and they kept their seats, too, as though they had a right to be there.

“Why are you here?” she repeated. “What are you doing?”

“Well, miss, I don’t mind telling you, for I suppose you are his daughter”–pointing his left thumb over his shoulder at the late peer –“and we hear he have got no other relative anigh him. We have been obleeged, miss, to perform an unpleasant dooty and secure him.”

The words were like Greek to her, and the men saw that they were.

“He unfortunately owed a slight amount of money, miss–as you, perhaps, be aware on, and our employers is in, deep. So, as soon as they heard what had happened, they sent us down to arrest the dead corpse, and we have done it.”

Amazement, horror, fear, struggled together in the shocked mind of Lady Isabel. Arrest the dead. She had never heard of a like calamity: nor could she have believed in such. Arrest it for what purpose? What to do? To disfigure it?–to sell it? With a panting heart and ashy lips, she turned from the room. Mrs. Mason happened to be passing near the stairs, and Isabel flew to her, laying hold of her with both hands, in her terror, as she burst into a fit of nervous tears.

“Those men–in there!” she gasped.

“What men, my lady?” returned Mrs. Mason, surprised.

“I don’t know; I don’t know. I think they are going to stop there; they say they have taken papa.”

After a pause of bewildered astonishment, the housekeeper left her standing where she was, and went to the earl’s chamber, to see if she could fathom the mystery of the words. Isabel leaned against the balustrades; partly for support, partly that she seemed afraid to stir from them; and the ominous disturbances downstairs reached her ears. Strangers, interlopers, appeared to be in the hall, talking vehemently, and complaining in bitter tones. More and more terrified, she held her breath to listen.

“Where’s the good of your seeing the young lady?” cried the butler, in a tone of remonstrance. “She knows nothing about the earl’s affairs; she is in grief enough just now, without any other worry.”

“I will see her,” returned a dogged voice. “If she’s too start-up and mighty to come down and answer a question or two, why I’ll find my way on to her. Here we are a shameful crowd of us, swindled out of our own, told there’s nobody we can speak to; nobody here but the young lady, and she must not be troubled. She didn’t find it trouble to help to spend our money. She has got no honor and feelings of a lady, if she don’t come and speak to us. There.”

Repressing her rebellious emotions, Lady Isabel glided partly down the staircase, and softy called to the butler. “What is all this?” she asked. “I must know.”

“Oh, my lady, don’t go amongst those rough men! You can’t do any good; pray go back before they see you. I have sent for Mr. Carlyle, and expect him here momentarily.”

“Did Papa owe them /all/ money?” she said, shivering.

“I’m afraid he did, my lady.”

She went swiftly on; and passing through the few stragglers in the hall, entered the dining-room, where the chief mass had congregated, and the hubbub was loudest. All anger, at least external anger, was hushed at her sight. She looked so young, so innocent, so childlike in her pretty morning dress of peach-colored muslin, her fair face shaded by its falling curls, so little fit to combat with, or understand /their/ business, that instead of pouring forth complaints, they hushed them into silence.

“I heard some one calling out that I ought to see you,” she began, her agitation causing the words to come forth in a jerking manner. “What did you want with me?”

Then they poured forth their complaints, but not angrily, and she listened till she grew sick. There were many and formidable claims; promissory notes and I O Us, overdue bills and underdue bills; heavy outstanding debts of all sorts, and trifles, comparatively speaking, for housekeeping, servants’ liveries, out-door servants’ wages, bread and meat.

What was Isabel Vane to answer? What excuse to offer? What hope or promise to give? She stood in bewilderment, unable to speak, turning from one to the other, her sweet eyes full of pity and contrition.

“The fact is, young lady,” spoke up one who bore the exterior of a gentleman, “we should not have come down troubling you–at least, I can answer for myself–but his lordship’s men of business, Warburton & Ware, to whom many of us hastened last evening, told us there would not be a shilling for anybody unless it could be got from furniture. When it comes to that, it is ‘first come, first served,’ and I got down by morning light, and levied an execution.”

“Which was levied before you came,” put in a man who might be brother to the two upstairs, to judge by his nose. “But what’s such furniture as this to our claims–if you come to combine ’em? No more than a bucket of water is to the Thames.”

“What can I do?” shivered Lady Isabel. “What is it you wish me to do? I have no money to give you, I–“

“No, miss,” broke in a quiet, pale man; “if report tells me, you are worse wronged than we are, for you won’t have a roof to put your head under, or a guinea to call your own.”

“He has been a scoundrel to everybody,” interrupted an intemperate voice; “he has ruined thousands.”

The speech was hissed down; even they were not men gratuitously to insult a delicate young lady.

“Perhaps you’ll just answer us a question, miss,” persisted the voice, in spite of the hisses. “Is there any ready money that can–“

But another person had entered the room–Mr. Carlyle. He caught sight of the white face and trembling hands of Isabel, and interrupted the last speaker with scant ceremony.

“What is the meaning of this?” he demanded, in a tone of authority. “What do you want?”

“If you are a friend of the late peer’s, you ought to know what we want,” was the response. “We want our debts paid.”

“But this is not the place to come to,” returned Mr. Carlyle; “your coming here flocking in this extraordinary manner, will do no good. You must go to Warburton & Ware.”

“We have been to them and received their answer–a cool assurance that there’ll be nothing for anybody.”

“At any rate, you’ll get nothing here,” observed Mr. Carlyle, to the assembly, collectively. “Allow me to request that you leave the house at once.”

It was little likely that they would for him, and they said it.

“Then I warn you of the consequences of a refusal,” quietly said Mr. Carlyle; “you are trespassing upon a stranger’s property. This house is not Lord Mount Severn’s; he sold it some time back.”

They knew better. Some laughed, and said these tricks were stale.

“Listen, gentlemen,” rejoined Mr. Carlyle, in the plain, straightforward manner that carried its own truth. “To make an assertion that could be disproved when the earl’s affairs come to be investigated, would be simply foolish. I give you my word of honor as a gentleman–nay, as a fellow-man–that this estate, with the house and all it contains, passed months ago, from the hands of Lord Mount Severn; and, during his recent sojourn here, he was a visitor in it. Go and ask his men of business.”

“Who purchased it?” was the inquiry.

“Mr. Carlyle, of West Lynne. Some of you may possibly know him by reputation.”

Some of them did.

“A cute young lawyer,” observed a voice; “as his father was before him.”

“I am he,” proceeded Mr. Carlyle; “and, being a ‘cute lawyer,’ as you do me the honor to decide, you cannot suppose I should risk my money upon any sale not perfectly safe and legal. I was not an agent in the affair; I employed agents; for it was my own money that I invested, and East Lynne is mine.”

“Is the purchase money paid over?” inquired more than one.

“It was paid over at the time–last June.”

“What did Lord Mount Severn do with the money?”

“I do not know,” replied Mr. Carlyle. “I am not cognizant of Lord Mount Severn’s private affairs.”

Significant murmurs arose. “Strange that the earl should stop two or three months at a place that wasn’t his.”

“It may appear so to you, but allow me to explain,” returned Mr. Carlyle. “The earl expressed a wish to pay East Lynne a few days’ visit, by way of farewell, and I acceded. Before the few days were over, he was taken ill, and remained, from that time, too ill to quit it. This very day–this day, gentlemen, as we stand here, was at length fixed for his departure.”

“And you tell us you bought the furniture?”

“Everything as it stands. You need not doubt my word, for the proofs will be forthcoming. East Lynne was in the market for sale; I heard of it, and became the purchaser–just as I might have bought an estate from any of you. And now, as this is my house, and you have no claim upon me, I shall be obliged to you to withdraw.”

“Perhaps you’ll claim the horses and carriages next, sir,” cried the man with the hooked nose.

Mr. Carlyle raised his head haughtily. “What is mine is mine, legally purchased and paid for–a fair, just price. The carriages and horses I have nothing to do with; Lord Mount Severn brought them down with him.”

“And I have got a safe watcher over them in the out premises, to see as they don’t run away,” nodded the man, complacently; “and if I don’t mistake, there’s a safe watcher over something else upstairs.”

“What a cursed scoundrel Mount Severn was.”

“Whatever he may have been, it does not give you the right to outrage the feelings of his daughter,” warmly interrupted Mr. Carlyle; “and I should have thought that men, calling themselves Englishmen, would have disdained the shame. Allow me, Lady Isabel,” he added, imperatively taking her hand to lead her from the room. “I will remain and deal with this business.”

But she hesitated and stopped. The injury her father had done these men was telling painfully on her sense of right, and she essayed to speak a word of apology, of sorrow; she thought she ought to do so; she did not like them to deem her quite heartless. But it was a painful task, and the color went and came in her pale face, and her breath was labored with the excess of her tribulation.

“I am very sorry,” she stammered; and with the effort of speaking, emotion quite got the better of her, and she burst into tears. “I did not know anything of all this; my father’s affairs were not spoken of before me. I believe I have not anything; if I had, I would divide it amongst you as equally as I could. But, should the means ever be in my power–should money ever be mine, I will thankfully pay all your claims.”

/All/ your claims! Lady Isabel little thought what that “all” would comprise. However, such promises, made at such a moment, fell heedlessly upon the ear. Scarcely one present but felt sympathy and sorrow for her, and Mr. Carlyle drew her from the room. He closed the door upon the noisy crew, and then sobs came forth hysterically.

“I am so grieved, Lady Isabel! Had I foreseen this annoyance, you should have been spared it. Can you go upstairs alone, or shall I call Mrs. Mason?”

“Oh, yes! I can go alone; I am not ill, only frightened and sick. This is not the worst,” she shivered. “There are two men up–up–with papa.”

“Up with papa.” Mr. Carlyle was puzzled. He saw that she was shaking from head to foot, as she stood before him.

“I cannot understand it, and it terrifies me,” she continued, attempting an explanation. “They are sitting in the room, close to him: they have taken him, they say.”

A blank, thunderstruck pause. Mr. Carlyle looked at her–he did not speak; and then he turned and looked at the butler, who was standing near. But the man only responded by giving his head a half shake, and Mr. Carlyle saw that it was an ominous one.

“I will clear the house of these,” he said to Lady Isabel, pointing back to the dining-room, “and then join you upstairs.”

“Two ruffians, sir, and they have got possession of the body,” whispered the butler in Mr. Carlyle’s ear, as Lady Isabel departed. “They obtained entrance to the chamber by a sly, deceitful trick, saying they were the undertaker’s men, and that he can’t be buried unless their claims are paid, if it’s for a month to come. It has upset all our stomachs, sir; Mrs. Mason while telling me–for she was the first one to know it–was as sick as she could be.”

At present Mr. Carlyle returned to the dining-room, and bore the brunt of the anger of those savages, and it may be said, ill-used men. Not that it was vented upon him–quite the contrary–but on the memory of the unhappy peer, who lay overhead. A few had taken the precaution to insure the earl’s life, and they were the best off. They left the house after a short space of time; for Mr. Carlyle’s statement was indisputable, and they knew the law better than to remain, trespassers on his property.

But the custodians of the dead could not be got rid of. Mr. Carlyle proceeded to the death-chamber, and examined their authority. A similar case had never occurred under his own observation, though it had under his father’s, and Mr. Carlyle remembered hearing of it. The body of a church dignitary, who had died deeply in debt, was arrested as it was being carried through the cloisters to its grave in the cathedral. These men, sitting over Lord Mount Severn, enforced heavy claims; and there they must sit until the arrival of Mr. Vane from Castle Marling–now the Earl of Mount Severn.

On the following morning, Sunday, Mr. Carlyle proceeded again to East Lynne, and found, to his surprise, that there was no arrival. Isabel sat in the breakfast-room alone, the meal on the table untouched, and she shivering–as it seemed–on a low ottoman before the fire. She looked so ill that Mr. Carlyle could not forbear remarking upon it.

“I have not slept, and I am very cold,” she answered. “I did not close my eyes all night, I was so terrified.”

“Terrified at what?” he asked.

“At those men,” she whispered. “It is strange that Mr. Vane has not come.”

“Is the post in?”

“I don’t know,” she apathetically replied. “I have received nothing.”

She had scarcely spoke when the butler entered with his salver full of letters, most of them bearing condolence with Lady Isabel. She singled out one and hastened to open it, for it bore the Castle Marling post- mark. “It is Mrs. Vane’s handwriting,” she remarked to Mr. Carlyle.

CASTLE MARLING, Saturday.

“MY DEAR ISABEL–I am dreadfully grieved and shocked at the news conveyed in Mr. Carlyle’s letter to my husband, for he has gone cruising in his yacht, and I opened it. Goodness knows where he may be, round the coast somewhere, but he said he should be home for Sunday, and as he is pretty punctual in keeping his word, I expect him. Be assured he will not lose a moment in hastening to East Lynne.

“I cannot express what I feel for you, and am too /bouleversee/ to write more. Try and keep up your spirits, and believe me, dear Isabel, with sincere sympathy and regret, faithfully yours,

“EMMA MOUNT SEVERN.”

The color came into Isabel’s pale cheek when she read the signature. She thought, had she been the writer, she should, in that first, early letter, have still signed herself Emma Vane. Isabel handed the note to Mr. Carlyle. “It is very unfortunate,” she sighed.

Mr. Carlyle glanced over it as quickly as Mrs. Vane’s illegible writing allowed him, and drew in his lips in a peculiar manner when he came to the signature. Perhaps at the same thought which had struck Isabel.

“Had Mrs. Vane been worth a rush, she would have come herself, knowing your lonely situation,” he uttered, impulsively.

Isabel leaned her head upon her hand. All the difficulties and embarrassments of her position came crowding on her mind. No orders had been given in preparation for the funeral, and she felt that she had no right to give any. The earls of Mount Severn were buried at Mount Severn; but to take her father thither would involve great expense; would the present earl sanction that? Since the previous morning, she seemed to have grown old in the world’s experience; her ideas were changed, the bent of her thoughts had been violently turned from its course. Instead of being a young lady of high position, of wealth and rank, she appeared to herself more in the light of an unfortunate pauper and interloper in the house she was inhabiting. It has been the custom in romance to present young ladies, especially if they be handsome and interesting, as being entirely oblivious of matter-of-fact cares and necessities, supremely indifferent to future prospects of poverty–poverty that brings hunger and thirst and cold and nakedness; but, be assured, this apathy never existed in real life. Isabel Vane’s grief for her father–whom, whatever may have been the aspect he wore for others, /she/ had deeply loved and reverenced– was sharply poignant; but in the midst of that grief, and of the singular troubles his death had brought forth, she could not shut her eyes to her own future. Its blank uncertainty, its shadowed-forth embarrassments did obtrude themselves and the words of that plain- speaking creditor kept ringing in her ears: “You won’t have a roof to put your head under, or a guinea to call your own.” Where was she to go? With whom to live? She was in Mr. Carlyle’s house now. And how was she to pay the servants? Money was owing to them all.

“Mr. Carlyle, how long has this house been yours?” she asked, breaking the silence.

“It was in June that the purchase was completed. Did Lord Mount Severn never tell you he had sold it to me?”

“No, never. All these things are yours?” glancing round the room.

“The furniture was sold with the house. Not these sort of things,” he added, his eye falling on the silver on the breakfast table; “not the plate and linen.”

“Not the plate and linen! Then those poor men who were here yesterday have a right to them,” she quickly cried.

“I scarcely know. I believe the plate goes with the entail–and the jewels go also. The linen cannot be of consequence either way.”

“Are my clothes my own?”

He smiled as he looked at her; smiled at her simplicity, and assured her that they were nobody’s else.

“I did not know,” she sighed; “I did not understand. So many strange things have happened in the last day or two, that I seem to understand nothing.”

Indeed, she could not understand. She had no definite ideas on the subject of this transfer of East Lynne to Mr. Carlyle; plenty of indefinite ones, and they were haunting her. Fears of debt to him, and of the house and its contents being handed over to him in liquidation, perhaps only partial, were working in her brain.

“Does my father owe you any money?” she breathed in a timid tone.

“Not any,” he replied. “Lord Mount Severn was never indebted to me in his life.”

“Yet you purchased East Lynne?”

“As any one else might have done,” he answered, discerning the drift of her thoughts. “I was in search of an eligible estate to invest money in, and East Lynne suited me.”

“I feel my position, Mr. Carlyle,” she resumed, the rebellious fears forcing themselves to her eyes; “thus to be intruding upon you for a shelter. And I cannot help myself.”

“You can help grieving me,” he gently answered, “which you do much when you talk of obligation. The obligation is on my side, Lady Isabel; and when I express a hope that you will continue at East Lynne while it can be of service, however prolonged that period may be, I assure you, I say it in all sincerity.”

“You are very kind,” she faltered; “and for a few days; until I can think; until– Oh, Mr. Carlyle, are papa’s affairs really so bad as they said yesterday?” she broke off, her perplexities recurring to her with vehement force. “Is there nothing left?”

Now Mr. Carlyle might have given the evasive assurance that there would be plenty left, just to tranquilize her. But to have used deceit with her would have pricked against every feeling of his nature; and he saw how implicitly she relied upon his truth.

“I fear things are not very bright,” he answered. “That is, so far as we can see at present. But there may have been some settlement effected for you that you do not know of. Warburton & Ware–“

“No,” she interrupted: “I never heard of a settlement, and I am sure there is none. I see the worst plainly. I have no home, no home and no money. This house is yours; the town house and Mount Severn go to Mr. Vane; and I have nothing.”

“But surely Mr. Vane will be delighted to welcome you to your old home. The houses pass to him–it almost seems as though you had the greater right in them, than he or Mrs. Vane.”

“My home with them!” she retorted, as if the words had stung her. “What are you saying, Mr. Carlyle?”

“I beg your pardon, Lady Isabel. I should not have presumed to touch upon these points myself, but–“

“Nay, I think I ought to beg yours,” she interrupted, more calmly. “I am only grateful for the interest you take in them–the kindness you have shown. But I could not make my home with Mrs. Vane.”

Mr. Carlyle rose. He could do no good by remaining, and did not think it well to intrude longer. He suggested that it might be more pleasant if Isabel had a friend with her; Mrs. Ducie would no doubt be willing to come, and she was a kind, motherly woman.

Isabel shook her head with a passing shudder. “Have strangers, here, with–all–that–in papa’s chamber!” she uttered. “Mrs. Ducie drove over yesterday, perhaps to remain–I don’t know; but I was afraid of questions, and would not see her. When I think of–that–I feel thankful that I am alone.”

The housekeeper stopped Mr. Carlyle as he was going out.

“Sir, what is the news from Castle Marling? Pound said there was a letter. Is Mr. Vane coming?”

“He was out yachting. Mrs. Vane expected him home yesterday, so it is to be hoped he will be here to-day.”

“Whatever will be done if he does not come?” she breathed. “The leaden coffin ought to be soldered down, for you know, air, the state he was in when he died.”

“It can be soldered down without Mr. Vane.”

“Of course–without Mr. Vane. It’s not that, sir. Will those men allow it to be done? The undertakers were here this morning at daybreak, and those men intimated that they were not going to /lose sight/ of the dead. The words sounded significant to us, but we asked them no questions. Have they a right to prevent it, sir?”

“Upon my word I cannot tell,” replied Mr. Carlyle. “The proceeding is so rare a one, that I know little what right of law they have or have not. Do not mention this to Lady Isabel. And when Mr. Va–when Lord Mount Severn arrives, send down to apprise me of it.”

CHAPTER XI.