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  • 1861
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office is supposed to be empty at this hour.”

“For if I should be seen and recognized, it might come to hanging, you know, sir. You are expecting that cursed Thorn here, Barbara told me.”

“Directly,” replied Mr. Carlyle, observing the mode of addressing him “sir.” It spoke plainly of the scale of society in which Richard had been mixing; that he was with those who said it habitually; nay, that he used it habitually himself. “From your description of the Lieutenant Thorn who destroyed Hallijohn, we believe this Captain Thorn to be the same man,” pursued Mr. Carlyle. “In person he appears to tally exactly; and I have ascertained that a few years ago he was a deal at Swainson, and got into some sort of scrape. He is in John Herbert’s regiment, and is here with him on a visit.”

“But what an idiot he must be to venture here!” uttered Richard. “Here of all places in the world!”

“He counts, no doubt, on not being known. So far as I can find out, Richard, nobody here did know him, save you and Afy. I shall put you in Mr. Dill’s room–you may remember the little window in it–and from thence you can take a full view of Thorn, whom I shall keep in the front office. You are sure you would recognize him at this distance of time?”

“I should know him if it were fifty years to come; I should know him were he disguised as I am disguised. We cannot,” Richard sank his voice, “forget a man who has been the object of our frenzied jealousy.”

“What has brought you to East Lynne again, Richard? Any particular object?”

“Chiefly a hankering within me that I could not get rid of,” replied Richard. “It was not so much to see my mother and Barbara–though I did want that, especially since my illness–as that a feeling was within me that I could not rest away from it. So I said I’d risk it again, just for a day.”

“I thought you might possibly want some assistance, as before.”

“I do want that, also,” said Richard. “Not much. My illness has run me into debt, and if my mother can let me have a little, I shall be thankful.”

“I am sure she will,” answered Mr. Carlyle. “You shall have it from me to-night. What has been the matter with you?”

“The beginning of it was a kick from a horse, sir. That was last winter, and it laid me up for six weeks. Then, in the spring, after I got well and was at work again, I caught some sort of fever, and down again I was for six weeks. I have not been to say well since.”

“How is it you have never written or sent me your address?”

“Because I dared not,” answered Richard, timorously, “I should always be in fear; not of you, Mr. Carlyle, but of its becoming known some way or other. The time is getting on, sir; is that Thorn sure to come?”

“He sent me word that he would, in reply to my note. And–there he is!” uttered Mr. Carlyle, as a ring was heard at the bell. “Now, Richard, come this way. Bring your hat.”

Richard complied by putting his hat on his head, pulling it so low that it touched his nose. He felt himself safer in it. Mr. Carlyle showed him into Mr. Dill’s room, and then turned the key upon him, and put it in his pocket. Whether this precautionary measure was intended to prevent any possibility of Captain Thorn’s finding his way in, or of Richard’s finding his way out, was best known to himself.

Mr. Carlyle came to the front door, opened it, and admitted Captain Thorn. He brought him into the clerk’s office, which was bright with gas, keeping him in conversation for a few minutes standing, and then asking him to be seated–all in full view of the little window.

“I must beg your pardon, for being late,” Captain Thorn observed. “I am half an hour beyond the time you mentioned, but the Herberts had two or three friends at dinner, and I could not get away. I hope, Mr. Carlyle, you have not come to your office to-night purposely for me.”

“Business must be attended to,” somewhat evasively answered Mr. Carlyle; “I have been out myself nearly all day. We received a communication from London this morning, relative to your affair, and I am sorry to say anything but satisfactory. They will not wait.”

“But I am not liable, Mr. Carlyle, not liable in justice.”

“No–if what you tell me be correct. But justice and law are sometimes in opposition, Captain Thorn.”

Captain Thorn sat in perplexity. “They will not get me arrested here, will they?”

“They would have done it, beyond doubt; but I have caused a letter to be written and dispatched to them, which must bring forth an answer before any violent proceedings are taken. That answer will be here the morning after to-morrow.”

“And what am I do to then?”

“I think it is probable there may be a way of checkmating them. But I am not sure, Captain Thorn, that I can give my attention further to this affair.”

“I hope and trust you will,” was the reply.

“You have not forgotten that I told you at first I could not promise to do so,” rejoined Mr. Carlyle. “You shall hear from me to-morrow. If I carry it on for you, I will then appoint an hour for you to be here on the following day; if not–why, I dare say you will find a solicitor as capable of assisting you as I am.”

“But why will you not? What is the reason?”

“I cannot always give reasons for what I do,” was the response. “You will hear from me to-morrow.”

He rose as he spoke; Captain Thorn also rose. Mr. Carlyle detained him yet a few moments, and then saw him out at the front door and fastened it.

He returned and released Richard. The latter took off his hat as he advanced into the blaze of light.

“Well, Richard, is it the same man?”

“No, sir. Not in the least like him.”

Mr. Carlyle, though little given to emotion, felt a strange relief– relief for Captain Thorn’s sake. He had rarely seen one whom he could so little associate with the notion of a murderer as Captain Thorn, and he was a man who exceedingly won upon the regard. He would heartily help him out of his dilemma now.

“Excepting that they are both tall, with nearly the same color of hair, there is no resemblance whatever between them,” proceeded Richard. “Their faces, their figures, are as opposite as light is from dark. That other, in spite of his handsome features, had the expression at times of a demon, but this one’s expression is the best part of his face. Hallijohn’s murderer had a curious look here, sir.”

“Where?” questioned Mr. Carlyle, for Richard had only pointed to his face generally.

“Well–I cannot say precisely where it lay, whether in the eyebrows or the eyes; I could not tell when I used to have him before me; but it was in one of them. Ah, Mr. Carlyle, I thought, when Barbara told me Thorn was here, it was too good news to be true; depend upon it, he won’t venture to West Lynne again. This man is no more like that other villain than you are like him.”

“Then–as that is set at rest–we had better be going, Richard. You have to see your mother, and she must be waiting in anxiety. How much money do you want?”

“Twenty-five pounds would do, but—-” Richard stopped in hesitation.

“But what?” asked Mr. Carlyle. “Speak out, Richard.”

“Thirty would be more welcome. Thirty would put me at ease.”

“You shall take thirty,” said Mr. Carlyle, counting out the notes to him. “Now–will you walk with me to the grove, or will you walk alone? I mean to see you there in safety.”

Richard thought he would prefer to walk alone; everybody they met might be speaking to Mr. Carlyle. The latter inquired why he chose moonlight nights for his visits.

“It is pleasanter for travelling. And had I chosen dark nights, Barbara could not have seen my signal from the trees,” was the answer of Richard.

They went out and proceeded unmolested to the house of Justice Hare. It was past nine, then. “I am so much obliged to you Mr. Carlyle,” whispered Richard, as they walked up the path.

“I wish I could help you more effectually, Richard, and clear up the mystery. Is Barbara on the watch? Yes; there’s the door slowly opening.”

Richard stole across the hall and into the parlor to his mother. Barbara approached and softly whispered to Mr. Carlyle, standing, just outside the portico; her voice trembled with the suspense of what the answer might be.

“Is it the same man–the same Thorn?”

“No. Richard says this man bears no resemblance to the real one.”

“Oh!” uttered Barbara, in her surprise and disappointment. “Not the same! And for the best part of poor Richard’s evening to have been taken up for nothing.”

“Not quite nothing,” said Mr. Carlyle. “The question is now set at rest.”

“Set at rest!” repeated Barbara. “It is left in more uncertainty than ever.”

“Set at rest so far as regards Captain Thorn. And whilst our suspicions were concentrated upon him, we thought not of looking to other quarters.”

When they entered the sitting-room Mrs. Hare was crying over Richard, and Richard was crying over her; but she seized the hand of Mr. Carlyle.

“You have been very kind; I don’t know whatever we should do without you. And I want to tax your kindness further. Has Barbara mentioned it?”

“I could not talk in the hall, mamma; the servants might have overheard.”

“Mr. Hare is not well, and we terribly fear he will be home early, in consequence; otherwise we should have been quite safe until after ten, for he is gone to the Buck’s Head, and they never leave, you know, till that hour has struck. Should he come in and see Richard–oh, I need not enlarge upon the consequences to you, Archibald; the very thought sends me into a shiver. Barbara and I have been discussing it all the evening, and we can only think of one plan; it is, that you will kindly stay in the garden, near the gate; and, should he come in, stop him, and keep him in conversation. Barbara will be with you, and will run in with the warning, and Richard can go inside the closet in the hall till Mr. Hare has entered and is safe in this room, and then he can make his escape. Will you do this, Archibald?”

“Certainly I will.”

“I cannot part with him before ten o’clock, unless I am forced,” she whispered, pressing Mr. Carlyle’s hands, in her earnest gratitude. “You don’t know what it is, Archibald, to have a lost son home for an hour but once in seven years. At ten o’clock we will part.”

Mr. Carlyle and Barbara began to pace in the path in compliance with the wish of Mrs. Hare, keeping near the entrance gate. When they were turning the second time, Mr. Carlyle offered her his arm; it was an act of mere politeness. Barbara took it; and there they waited and waited; but the justice did not come.

Punctually to the minute, half after nine, Lady Isabel’s carriage arrived at Mrs. Jefferson’s, and she came out immediately–a headache being the plea for her early departure. She had not far to go to reach East Lynne–about two miles–and it was a by-road nearly all the way. They could emerge into the open road, if they pleased, but it was a trifle further. Suddenly a gentleman approached the carriage as it was bowling along, and waved his hand to the coachman to pull up. In spite of the glowing moonlight, Lady Isabel did not at first recognize him, for he wore a disfigured fur cap, the ears of which were tied over his ears and cheeks. It was Francis Levison. She put down the window.

“I thought it must be your carriage. How early you are returning! Were you tired of your entertainers?”

“Why, he knew what time my lady was returning,” thought John to himself; “he asked me. A false sort of a chap that, I’ve a notion.”

“I came out for a midnight stroll, and have tired myself,” he proceeded. “Will you take compassion on me, and give me a seat home?”

She acquiesced. She could not do otherwise. The footman sprang from behind the door, and Francis Levison took his place beside Lady Isabel. “Take the high road,” he put out his head to say to the coachman; and the man touched his hat–which high road would cause them to pass Mr. Hare’s.

“I did not know you,” she began, gathering herself into her own corner. “What ugly thing is that you have on? It is like a disguise.”

He was taking off the “ugly thing” as she spoke and began to twirl it round his hand. “Disguise? Oh, no; I have no creditors in the immediate neighborhood of East Lynne.”

False as ever it was worn as a disguise and he knew it.

“Is Mr. Carlyle at home?” she inquired.

“No.” Then, after a pause–“I expect he is more agreeably engaged.”

The tone, a most significant one, brought the tingling blood to the cheeks of Lady Isabel. She wished to preserve a dignified silence, and did for a few moments; but the jealous question broke out,–

“Engaged in what manner?”

“As I came by Hare’s house just now, I saw two people, a gentleman and a young lady, coupled lovingly together, enjoying a /tete-a-tete/ by moonlight. Unless I am mistaken, he was the favored individual whom you call lord and master.”

Lady Isabel almost gnashed her teeth; the jealous doubts which had been tormenting her all the evening were confirmed. That the man whom she hated–yes, in her blind anger, she hated him then–should so impose upon her, should excuse himself by lies, lies base and false as he was, from accompanying her out, on purpose to pass the hours with Barbara Hare! Had she been alone in the carriage, a torrent of passion had probably escaped her.

She leaned back, panting in her emotion, but hiding it from Captain Levison. As they came opposite to Justice Hare’s she deliberately bent forward and scanned the garden with eager eyes.

There, in the bright moonlight, all too bright and clear, slowly paced arm in arm, and drawn close to each other, her husband and Barbara Hare. With a choking sob that could no longer be controlled or hidden, Lady Isabel sunk back again.

He, that bold, bad man, dared to put his arm around her, to draw her to his side; to whisper that /his/ love was left to her, if another’s was withdrawn. She was most assuredly out of her senses that night, or she never would have listened.

A jealous woman is mad; an outraged woman is doubly mad; and the ill- fated Lady Isabel truly believed that every sacred feeling which ought to exist between man and wife was betrayed by Mr. Carlyle.

“Be avenged on that false hound, Isabel. He was never worthy of you. Leave your life of misery, and come to happiness.”

In her bitter distress and wrath, she broke into a storm of sobs. Were they caused by passion against her husband, or by those bold and shameless words? Alas! Alas! Francis Levison applied himself to soothe her with all the sweet and dangerous sophistry of his crafty nature.

The minutes flew on. A quarter to ten; now a quarter past ten; and still Richard Hare lingered on with his mother, and still Mr. Carlyle and Barbara paced patiently the garden path. At half-past ten Richard came forth, after having taken his last farewell. Then came Barbara’s tearful farewell, which Mr. Carlyle witnessed; and then a hard grasp of that gentleman’s hand, and Richard plunged amidst the trees to depart the way he came.

“Good night, Barbara,” said Mr. Carlyle.

“Will you not come in and say good night to mamma?”

“Not now; it is late. Tell her how glad I am things have gone off so well.”

He started off at a strapping pace toward his home, and Barbara leaned on the gate to indulge her tears. Not a soul passed to interrupt her, and the justice did not come. What could have become of him? What could the Buck’s Head be thinking of, to retain respectable elderly justices from their beds, who ought to go home early and set a good example to the parish? Barbara knew, the next day, that Justice Hare, with a few more gentlemen, had been seduced from the staid old inn to a friend’s house, to an entertainment of supper, pipes, and whist, two tables, penny points, and it was between twelve and one ere the party rose from the fascination. So far, well–as it happened.

Barbara knew not how long she lingered at the gate; ten minutes it may have been. Nobody summoned her. Mrs. Hare was indulging her grief indoors, giving no thought to Barbara, and the justice did not make his appearance. Exceedingly surprised was Barbara to hear fast footsteps, and to find that they were Mr. Carlyle’s.

“The more haste, the less speed, Barbara,” he called out as he came up. “I had got half-way home and have had to come back again. When I went into your sitting-room, I left a small parcel, containing a parchment, on the sideboard. Will you get it for me?”

Barbara ran indoors and brought forth the parcel, and Mr. Carlyle, with a brief word of thanks, sped away with it.

She leaned on the gate as before, the ready tears flowing again; her heart was aching for Richard; it was aching for the disappointment the night had brought forth respecting Captain Thorn. Still nobody passed; still the steps of her father were not heard, and Barbara stayed on. But–what was that figure cowering under the shade of the hedge at a distance, and seemingly, watching her? Barbara strained her eyes, while her heart beat as if it would burst its bounds. Surely, surely, it was her brother? What had he ventured back for?

Richard Hare it was. When fully assured that Barbara was standing there, he knew the justice was still absent, and ventured to advance. He appeared to be in a strange state of emotion–his breath labored, his whole frame trembling.

“Barbara! Barbara!” he called. “I have seen Thorn.”

Barbara thought him demented. “I know you saw him,” she slowly said, “but it was not the right Thorn.”

“Not he,” breathed Richard; “and not the gentleman I saw to-night in Carlyle’s office. I have seen the fellow himself. Why to you stare at me so, Barbara?”

Barbara was in truth scanning his face keenly. It appeared to her a strange tale that he was telling.

“When I left here, I cut across into Bean lane, which is more private for me than this road,” proceeded Richard. “Just as I got to that clump of trees–you know it, Barbara–I saw somebody coming toward me from a distance. I stepped back behind the trunks of the trees, into the shade of the hedge, for I don’t care to be met, though I am disguised. He came along the middle of the lane, going toward West Lynne, and I looked out upon him. I knew him long before he was abreast of me; it was Thorn.” Barbara made no comment; she was digesting the news.

“Every drop of blood within me began to tingle, and an impulse came upon me to spring upon him and accuse him of the murder of Hallijohn,” went on Richard, in the same excited manner. “But I resisted it; or, perhaps, my courage failed. One of the reproaches against me had used to be that I was a physical coward, you know, Barbara,” he added, in a tone of bitterness. “In a struggle, Thorn would have had the best of it; he is taller and more powerful than I, and might have battered me to death. A man who can commit one murder won’t hesitate at a second.”

“Richard, do you think you could have been deceived?” she urged. “You had been talking of Thorn, and your thoughts were, naturally bearing upon him. Imagination–“

“Be still, Barbara,” he interrupted in a tone of pain. “Imagination, indeed! Did I not tell you he was stamped here?” touching his breast. “Do you take me for a child, or an imbecile, that I should fancy I see Thorn in every shadow, or meet people where I do not? He had his hat off, as if he had been walking fast and had got hot–fast he was walking; and he carried the hat in one hand, and what looked like a small parcel. With the other hand he was pushing the hair from his brow–in this way–a peculiar way,” added Richard, slightly lifting his own hat and pushing back his hair. “By that action alone I should have known him, for he was always doing it in the old days. And there was his white hand, adorned with his diamond ring! Barbara, the diamond glittered in the moonlight!”

Richard’s voice and manner were singularly earnest, and a conviction of the truth of his assertion flashed over his sister.

“I saw his face as plainly as I ever saw it–every feature–he is scarcely altered, save for a haggardness in his cheeks now. Barbara, you need not doubt me; I swear it was Thorn!”

She grew excited as he was; now that she believed the news, it was telling upon her; reason left its place and impulse succeeded; Barbara did not wait to weigh her actions.

“Richard! Mr. Carlyle ought to know this. He has but just gone; we may overtake him, if we try.”

Forgetting the strange appearances it would have–her flying along the public road at that hour of the night–should she meet any who knew her–forgetting what the consequence might be, did Justice Hare return and find her absent, Barbara set off with a fleet foot, Richard more stealthily following her–his eyes cast in all directions. Fortunately Barbara wore a bonnet and mantle, which she had put on to pace the garden with Mr. Carlyle; fortunately, also, the road was remarkably empty of passengers. She succeeded in reaching Mr. Carlyle before he turned into East Lynne gates.

“Barbara!” he exclaimed in the extreme of astonishment. “Barbara!”

“Archibald! Archibald! She panted, gasping for breath. “I am not out of my mind–but do come and speak to Richard! He has just seen the real Thorn.”

Mr. Carlyle, amazed and wondering, turned back. They got over the field stile, nearly opposite the gates, drew behind the hedge, and there Richard told his tale. Mr. Carlyle did not appear to doubt it, as Barbara had done; perhaps he could not, in the face of Richard’s agitated and intense earnestness.

“I am sure there is no one named Thorn in the neighborhood, save the gentleman you saw in my office to-night, Richard,” observed Mr. Carlyle, after some deliberation. “It is very strange.”

“He may be staying here under a feigned name,” replied Richard. “There can be no mistake that it was Thorn whom I have just met.”

“How was he dressed? As a gentleman?”

“Catch him dressing as anything else,” returned Richard. “He was in an evening suit of black, with a sort of thin overcoat thrown on, but it was flung back at the shoulders, and I distinctly saw his clothes. A gray alpaca, it looked like. As I have told Barbara, I should have known him by this action of the hand,” imitating it, “as he pushed his hair off his forehead; it was the delicate white hand of the days gone by, Mr. Carlyle; it was the flashing of the diamond ring!”

Mr. Carlyle was silent; Barbara also; but the thoughts of both were busy. “Richard,” observed the former, “I should advise you to remain a day or two in the neighborhood, and look out for this man. You may see him again, and may track him home; it is very desirable to find out who he really is if practicable.”

“But the danger?” urged Richard.

“Your fears magnify that. I am quite certain that nobody would know you in broad daylight, disguised as you are now. So many years have flown since, that people have forgotten to think about you, Richard.”

But Richard could not be persuaded; he was full of fears. He described the man as accurately as he could to Mr. Carlyle and Barbara, and told them /they/ must look out. With some trouble, Mr. Carlyle got from him an address in London, to which he might write, in case anything turned up, and Richard’s presence should be necessary. He then once more said farewell, and quitted them, his way lying past East Lynne.

“And now to see you back, Barbara,” said Mr. Carlyle.

“Indeed you shall not do it–late as it is, and tired as you must be. I came here alone; Richard did not keep near me.”

“I cannot help your having come here alone, but you may rely upon it, I do not suffer you to go back so. Nonsense, Barbara! Allow you to go along the high road by yourself at eleven o’clock at night? What are you thinking of?”

He gave Barbara his arm, and they pursued their way. “How late Lady Isabel will think you!” observed Barbara.

“I don’t know that Lady Isabel has returned home yet. My being late once in a while is of no consequence.”

Not another word was spoken, save by Barbara. “Whatever excuse can I make, should papa come home?” Both were buried in their own reflections. “Thank you very greatly,” she said as they reached her gate, and Mr. Carlyle finally turned away. Barbara stole in, and found the coast clear; her papa had not arrived.

Lady Isabel was in her dressing-room when Mr. Carlyle entered; she was seated at a table, writing. A few questions as to her evening’s visit, which she answered in the briefest way possible, and then he asked her if she was not going to bed.

“By and by. I am not sleepy.”

“I must go at once, Isabel, for I am dead tired.” And no wonder.

“You can go,” was her answer.

He bent down to kiss her, but she dexterously turned her face away. He supposed that she felt hurt that he had not gone with her to the party, and placed his hand on her shoulder with a pleasant smile.

“You foolish child, to be aggrieved at that! It was no fault of mine, Isabel; I could not help myself. I will talk to you in the morning; I am too tired to-night. I suppose you will not be long.”

Her head was bent over her writing again, and she made no reply. Mr. Carlyle went into his bedroom and shut the door. Some time after, Lady Isabel went softly upstairs to Joyce’s room. Joyce, fast in her first sleep, was suddenly aroused from it. There stood her mistress, a wax light in her hand. Joyce rubbed her eyes, and collected her senses, and finally sat up in bed.

“My lady! Are you ill?”

“Ill! Yes; ill and wretched,” answered Lady Isabel; and ill she did look, for she was perfectly white. “Joyce, I want a promise from you. If anything should happen to me, stay at East Lynne with my children.”

Joyce stared in amazement, too much astonished to make any reply.

“Joyce, you promised it once before; promise it again. Whatever betide you, you will stay with my children when I am gone.”

“I will stay with them. But, oh, my lady, what can be the matter with you? Are you taken suddenly ill?”

“Good-bye, Joyce,” murmured Lady Isabel, gliding from the chamber as quietly as she had entered it. And Joyce, after an hour of perplexity, dropped asleep again.

Joyce was not the only one whose rest was disturbed that eventful night. Mr. Carlyle himself awoke, and to his surprise found that his wife had not come to bed. He wondered what the time was, and struck his repeater. A quarter past three!

Rising, he made his way to the door of his wife’s dressing-room. It was in darkness; and, so far as he could judge by the absence of sound, unoccupied.

“Isabel!”

No reply. Nothing but the echo of his own voice in the silence of the night.

He struck a match and lighted a taper, partially dressed himself, and went about to look for her. He feared she might have been taken ill; or else that she had fallen asleep in some one of the rooms. But nowhere could he find her, and feeling perplexed, he proceeded to his sister’s chamber door and knocked.

Miss Carlyle was a slight sleeper, and rose up in bed at once. “Who’s that?” cried out she.

“It is only I, Cornelia,” said Mr. Carlyle.

“You!” cried Miss Corny. “What in the name of fortune do you want? You can come in.”

Mr. Carlyle opened the door, and met the keen eyes of his sister bent on him from the bed. Her head was surmounted by a remarkable nightcap, at least a foot high.

“Is anybody ill?” she demanded.

“I think Isabel must be, I cannot find her.”

“Not find her?” echoed Miss Corny. “Why, what’s the time? Is she not in bed?”

“It is three o’clock. She had not been to bed. I cannot find her in the sitting-rooms; neither is she in the children’s room.”

“Then I’ll tell you what it is, Archibald; she’s gone worrying after Joyce. Perhaps the girl may be in pain to-night.”

Mr. Carlyle was in full retreat toward Joyce’s room, at this suggestion, when his sister called to him.

“If anything is amiss with Joyce, you come and tell me, Archibald, for I shall get up and see after her. The girl was my servant before she was your wife’s.”

He reached Joyce’s room, and softly unlatched the door, fully expecting to find a light there, and his wife sitting by the bedside. There was no light there, however, save that which came from the taper he held, and he saw no signs of his wife. /Where/ was she? Was it probable that Joyce should tell him? He stepped inside the room and called to her.

Joyce started up in a fright, which changed to astonishment when she recognized her master. He inquired whether Lady Isabel had been there, and for a few moments Joyce did not answer. She had been dreaming of Lady Isabel, and could not at first detach the dream from the visit which had probably given rise to it.

“What did you say, sir? Is my lady worse?”

“I asked if she had been here. I cannot find her.”

“Why, yes,” said Joyce, now fully aroused. “She came here and woke me. That was just before twelve, for I heard the clock strike. She did not stay here a minute, sir.”

“Woke you!” repeated Mr. Carlyle. “What did she want? What did she come here for?”

Thoughts are quick; imagination is still quicker; and Joyce was giving the reins to both. Her mistress’s gloomy and ambiguous words were crowding on her brain. Three o’clock and she had not been in bed, and was not to be found in the house? A nameless horror struggled to Joyce’s face, her eyes were dilating with it; she seized and threw on a large flannel gown which lay on a chair by the bed, and forgetful of her master who stood there, out she sprang to the floor. All minor considerations faded to insignificance beside the terrible dread which had taken possession of her. Clasping the flannel gown tight around her with one hand, she laid the other on the arm of Mr. Carlyle.

“Oh, master! Oh, master! She has destroyed herself! I see it all now.”

“Joyce!” sternly interrupted Mr. Carlyle.

“She has destroyed herself, as true as that we two are living here,” persisted Joyce, her own face livid with emotion. “I can understand her words now; I could not before. She came here–and her face was like a corpse as the light fell upon it–saying she had come to get a promise from me to stay with her children when she was gone, I asked whether she was ill, and she answered, ‘Yes, ill and wretched.’ Oh, sir, may heaven support you under this dreadful trial!”

Mr. Carlyle felt bewildered–perplexed. Not a syllable did he believe. He was not angry with Joyce, for he thought she had lost her reason.

“It is so, sir, incredible as you may deem my words,” pursued Joyce, wringing her hands. “My lady has been miserably unhappy; and that has driven her to it.”

“Joyce, are you in your senses or out of them?” demanded Mr. Carlyle, a certain sternness in his tone. “Your lady miserably unhappy! What do you mean?”

Before Joyce could answer, an addition was received to the company in the person of Miss Carlyle, who appeared in black stockings and a shawl, and the lofty nightcap. Hearing voices in Joyce’s room, which was above her own, and full of curiosity, she ascended, not choosing to be shut out from the conference.

“Whatever’s up?” cried she. “Is Lady Isabel found?”

“She is not found, and she never will be found but in her winding- sheet,” returned Joyce, whose lamentable and unusual state of excitement completely overpowered her customary quiet respect and plain good sense. “And, ma’am, I am glad that you have come up; for what I was about to say to my master I would prefer to say in your presence. When my lady is brought into this house, and laid before us dead, what will your feelings be? My master has done his duty by her in love; but you–you have made her life a misery. Yes, ma’am, you have.”

“Hoity-toity!” muttered Miss Carlyle, staring at Joyce in consternation. “What is all this? Where’s my lady?”

“She has gone and taken the life that was not hers to take,” sobbed Joyce, “and I say she has been driven to it. She has not been allowed to indulge a will of her own, poor thing, since she came to East Lynne; in her own house she has been less free than either of her servants. You have curbed her, ma’am, and snapped at her, and you made her feel that she was but a slave to your caprices and temper. All these years she has been crossed and put upon; everything, in short, but beaten–ma’am, you know she has–and has borne it all in silence, like a patient angel, never, as I believe, complaining to master; he can say whether she has or not. We all loved her, we all felt for her; and my master’s heart would have bled had he suspected what she had to put up with day after day, and year after year.”

Miss Carlyle’s tongue was glued to her mouth. Her brother, confounded at the rapid words, could scarcely gather in their sense.

“What is it that you are saying, Joyce?” he asked, in a low tone. “I do not understand.”

“I have longed to say it to you many a hundred times, sir; but it is right that you should hear it, now things have come to this dreadful ending. Since the very night Lady Isabel came home here, your wife, she had been taunted with the cost she has brought to East Lynne and to you. If she wanted but the simplest thing, she was forbidden to have it, and told that she was bringing her husband to poverty. For this very dinner party that she went to to-night she wished for a new dress, and your cruel words, ma’am, forbade her having it. She ordered a new frock for Miss Isabel, and you countermanded it. You have told her that master worked like a dog to support her extravagances, when you know that she never was extravagant; that none were less inclined to go beyond proper limits than she. I have seen her, ma’am, come away from your reproaches with the tears in her eyes, and her hands meekly clasped upon her bosom, as though life was heavy to bear. A gentle- spirited, high-born lady, as I know she was, could not fail to be driven to desperation; and I know that she has been.”

Mr. Carlyle turned to his sister. “Can this be true?” he inquired, in a tone of deep agitation.

She did not answer. Whether it was the shade cast by the nightcap, or the reflection of the wax taper, her face looked of a green cast, and, for the first time probably in Miss Carlyle’s life, her words failed her.

“May God forgive you, Cornelia!” he muttered, as he went out of the chamber.

He descended to his own. That his wife had laid violent hands upon herself, his reason utterly repudiated, she was one of the least likely to commit so great a sin. He believed that, in her unhappiness, she might have wandered out in the grounds, and was lingering there. By this time the house was aroused, and the servants were astir. Joyce –surely a supernatural strength was given her, for though she had been able to put her foot to the ground, she had not yet walked upon it–crept downstairs, and went into Lady Isabel’s dressing-room. Mr. Carlyle was hastily assuming the articles of attire he had not yet put on, to go out and search the grounds, when Joyce limped in, holding out a note. Joyce did not stand on ceremony that night.

“I found this in the dressing-glass drawer, sir. It is my lady’s writing.”

He took it in his hand and looked at the address–“Archibald Carlyle.” Though a calm man, one who had his emotions under his own control, he was no stoic, and his fingers shook as he broke the seal.

“When years go on, and my children ask where their mother is, and why she left them, tell them that you, their father, goaded her to it. If they inquire what she is, tell them, also, if you so will; but tell them, at the same time, that you outraged and betrayed her, driving her to the very depth of desperation ere she quitted them in her despair.”

The handwriting, his wife’s, swam before the eyes of Mr. Carlyle. All, save the disgraceful fact that she had /flown/–and a horrible suspicion began to dawn upon him, with whom–was totally incomprehensible. How had he outraged her? In what manner had he goaded her to it. The discomforts alluded to by Joyce, and the work of his sister, had evidently no part in this; yet what had /he/ done? He read the letter again, more slowly. No he could not comprehend it; he had not the clue.

At that moment the voices of the servants in the corridor outside penetrated his ears. Of course they were peering about, and making their own comments. Wilson, with her long tongue, the busiest. They were saying that Captain Levison was not in his room; that his bed had not been slept in.

Joyce sat on the edge of a chair–she could not stand–watching her master with a blanched face. Never had she seen him betray agitation so powerful. Not the faintest suspicion of the dreadful truth yet dawned upon her. He walked to the door, the open note in his hand; then turned, wavered, and stood still, as if he did not know what he was doing. Probably he did not. Then he took out his pocket-book, put the note inside it, and returned it to his pocket, his hands trembling equally with his livid lips.

“You need not mention this,” he said to Joyce, indicating the note. “It concerns myself alone.”

“Sir, does it say she’s dead?”

“She is not dead,” he answered. “Worse than that,” he added in his heart.

“Why–who’s this?” uttered Joyce.

It was little Isabel, stealing in with a frightened face, in her white nightgown. The commotion had aroused her.

“What’s the matter?” she asked. “Where’s mamma?”

“Child, you’ll catch your death of cold,” said Joyce. “Go back to bed.”

“But I want mamma.”

“In the morning, dear,” evasively returned Joyce. “Sir, please, must not Isabel go back to bed?”

Mr. Carlyle made no reply to the question; most likely he never heard its import. But he touched Isabel’s shoulder to draw Joyce’s attention to the child.

“Joyce–/Miss Lucy/ in future.”

He left the room, and Joyce remained silent from amazement. She heard him go out at the hall door and bang it after him. Isabel–nay, we must say “Lucy” also–went and stood outside the chamber door; the servants gathered in a group near, did not observe her. Presently she came running back, and disturbed Joyce from her reverie.

“Joyce, is it true?”

“Is what true, my dear?”

“They are saying that Captain Levison has taken away my mamma.”

Joyce fell back in her chair with a scream. It changed to a long, low moan of anguish.

“What has he taken her for–to kill her? I thought it was only kidnappers who took people.”

“Child, child, go to bed.”

“Oh, Joyce, I want mamma. When will she come back?”

Joyce hid her face in her hands to conceal its emotion from the motherless child. And just then Miss Carlyle entered on tiptoe, and humbly sat down on a low chair, her green face–green that night–in its grief, its remorse, and its horror, looking nearly as dark as her stockings.

She broke into a subdued wail.

“God be merciful to this dishonored house!”

Mr. Justice Hare turned into the gate between twelve and one–turned in with a jaunty air; for the justice was in spirits, he having won nine sixpences, and his friend’s tap of ale having been unusually good. When he reached his bedroom, he told Mrs. Hare of a chaise and four which had gone tearing past at a furious pace as he was closing the gate, coming from the direction of East Lynne. He wondered where it could be going at that midnight hour, and whom it contained.

CHAPTER XXV.

CHARMING RESULTS.

Nearly a year went by.

Lady Isabel Carlyle had spent it on the continent–that refuge for such fugitives–now moving about from place to place with her companion, now stationary and alone. Quite half the time–taking one absence with the other–he had been away from her, chiefly in Paris, pursuing his own course and his own pleasure.

How fared it with Lady Isabel? Just as it must be expected to fare, and does fare, when a high-principled gentlewoman falls from her pedestal. Never had she experienced a moment’s calm, or peace, or happiness, since the fatal night of quitting her home. She had taken a blind leap in a moment of wild passion, when, instead of the garden of roses it had been her persuader’s pleasure to promise her she would fall into, but which, in truth, she had barely glanced at, for that had not been her moving motive, she had found herself plunged into a yawning abyss of horror, from which there was never more any escape– never more, never more. The very instant–the very night of her departure, she awoke to what she had done. The guilt, whose aspect had been shunned in the prospective, assumed at once its true frightful color, the blackness of darkness; and a lively remorse, a never-dying anguish, took possession of her soul forever. Oh, reader, believe me! Lady–wife–mother! Should you ever be tempted to abandon your home, so will you awake. Whatever trials may be the lot of your married life, though they may magnify themselves to your crushed spirit as beyond the nature, the endurance of woman to bear, /resolve/ to bear them; fall down upon your knees, and pray to be enabled to bear them– pray for patience–pray for strength to resist the demon that would tempt you to escape; bear unto death, rather than forfeit your fair name and your good conscience; for be assured that the alternative, if you do rush on to it, will be found worse than death.

Poor thing–poor Lady Isabel! She had sacrificed husband, children, reputation, home, all that makes life of value to woman. She had forfeited her duty to God, had deliberately broken his commandments, for the one poor miserable mistake of flying with Francis Levison. But the instant the step was irrevocable, the instant she had left the barrier behind, repentance set in. Even in the first days of her departure, in the fleeting moments of abandonment, when it may be supposed she might momentarily forget conscience, it was sharply wounding her with its adder stings; and she knew that her whole future existence, whether spent with that man or without him, would be a dark course of gnawing retribution.

Nearly a year went by, save some six or eight weeks, when, one morning in July, Lady Isabel made her appearance in the breakfast-room. They were staying now at Grenoble. Taking that town on their way to Switzerland through Savoy, it had been Captain Levison’s pleasure to halt in it. He engaged apartments, furnished, in the vicinity of the Place Grenette. A windy, old house it was, full of doors and windows, chimneys and cupboards; and he said he should remain there. Lady Isabel remonstrated; she wished to go farther on, where they might get quicker news from England; but her will now was as nothing. She was looking like the ghost of her former self. Talk of her having looked ill when she took that voyage over the water with Mr. Carlyle; you should have seen her now–misery marks the countenance worse than sickness. Her face was white and worn, her hands were thin, her eyes were sunken and surrounded by a black circle–care was digging caves for them. A stranger might have attributed these signs to the state of her health; /she/ knew better–knew that they were the effects of her wretched mind and heart.

It was very late for breakfast, but why should she rise early only to drag through another endless day? Languidly she took her seat at the table, just as Captain Levison’s servant, a Frenchman whom he had engaged in Paris, entered the room with two letters.

“/Point de gazette/, Pierre?” she said.

“/Non, miladi/.”

And all the time the sly fox had got the /Times/ in his coat pocket. But he was only obeying the orders of his master. It had been Captain Levison’s recent pleasure that the newspapers should not be seen by Lady Isabel until he had over-looked them. You will speedily gather his motive.

Pierre departed toward Captain Levison’s room, and Lady Isabel took up the letters and examined their superscription with interest. It was known to her that Mr. Carlyle had not lost a moment in seeking a divorce and the announcement that it was granted was now daily expected. She was anxious for it–anxious that Captain Levison should render her the only reparation in his power before the birth of her unhappy child. Little thought she that there was not the least intention on his part to make her reparation, any more than he had made it to others who had gone before her. She had become painfully aware of the fact that the man for whom she had chosen to sacrifice herself was bad, but she had not learned all his badness yet.

Captain Levison, unwashed, unshaven, with a dressing-gown loosely flung on, lounged in to breakfast. The decked-out dandies before the world are frequently the greatest slovens in domestic privacy. He wished her good morning in a careless tone of apathy, and she as apathetically answered to it.

“Pierre says there are some letters,” he began. “What a precious hot day it is!”

“Two,” was her short reply, her tone sullen as his. For if you think my good reader, that the flattering words, the ardent expressions, which usually attend the first go-off of these promising unions last out a whole ten months, you are in egregious error. Compliments the very opposite to honey and sweetness have generally supervened long before. Try it, if you don’t believe me.

“Two letters,” she continued, “and they are both in the same handwriting–your solicitors’, I believe.”

Up went his hand at the last word, and he made a sort of grab at the letters, stalked to the farthest window, opened it, and glanced over its contents.

“Sir–We beg to inform you that the suit Carlyle vs. Carlyle, is at an end. The divorce was pronounced without opposition. According to your request, we hasten to forward you the earliest intimation of the fact.

“We are, sir, faithfully yours,
“MOSS & GRAB.

“F. LEVISON, Esq.”

It was over, then, and all claim to the name of Carlyle was declared to have been forfeited by the Lady Isabel forever. Captain Levison folded up the letter, and placed it securely in an inner pocket.

“Is there any news?” she asked.

“News!”

“Of the divorce, I mean?”

“Tush!” was the response of Captain Levison, as if wishing to imply that the divorce was yet a far-off affair, and he proceeded to open the other letter.

“Sir–After sending off our last, dated to-day, we received tidings of the demise of Sir Peter Levison, your grand-uncle. He expired this afternoon in town, where he had come for the benefit of medical advice. We have much pleasure in congratulating you upon your accession to the title and estates, and beg to state that should it not be convenient to you to visit England at present, we will be happy to transact all necessary matters for you, on your favoring us with instructions. And we remain, sir, most faithfully yours,

“MOSS & GRAB.

“SIR FRANCIS LEVISON, Bart.”

The outside of the letter was superscribed as the other, “F. Levison, Esquire,” no doubt with a view to its more certain delivery.

“At last, thank the pigs!” was the gentleman’s euphonious expression, as he tossed the letter, open, on the breakfast-table.

“The divorce is granted!” feverishly uttered Lady Isabel.

He made no reply, but seated himself to breakfast.

“May I read the letter? Is it for me to read?”

“For what else should I have thrown it there?” he said.

“A few days ago you put a letter, open on the table, I thought for me; but when I took it up you swore at me. Do you remember it Captain Levison?”

“You may drop that odious title, Isabel, which has stuck to me too long. I own a better, now.”

“What one, pray?”

“You can look and see.”

Lady Isabel took up the letter and read it. Sir Francis swallowed down his coffee, and rang the table hand-bell–the only bell you generally meet with in France. Pierre answered it.

“Put me up a change of things,” said he, in French. “I start for England in an hour.”

“It is very well,” Pierre responded; and departed to do it. Lady Isabel waited till the man was gone, and then spoke, a faint flush of emotion in her cheeks.

“You do not mean what you say? You will not leave me yet?”

“I cannot do otherwise,” he answered. “There’s a mountain of business to be attended to, now that I am come into power.”

“Moss & Grab say they will act for you. Had there been a necessity for your going, they would not have offered that.”

“Ay, they do say so–with a nice eye to the feathering of their pockets! Besides, I should not choose for the old man’s funeral to take place without me.”

“Then I must accompany you,” she urged.

“I wish you would not talk nonsense, Isabel. Are you in a state to travel night and day? Neither would home be agreeable to you yet awhile.”

She felt the force of the objections. Resuming after a moment’s pause –“Were you to go to England, you might not be back in time.”

“In time for what?”

“Oh, how can you ask?” she rejoined, in a sharp tone of reproach; “you know too well. In time to make me your wife when the divorce shall appear.”

“I shall chance it,” coolly observed Sir Francis.

“Chance it! /chance/ the legitimacy of the child? You must assure that, before all things. More terrible to me than all the rest would it be, if–“

“Now don’t put yourself in a fever, Isabel. How many times am I to be compelled to beg that of you! It does no good. Is it my fault, if I am called suddenly to England?”

“Have you no pity for your child?” she urged in agitation. “Nothing can repair the injury, if you once suffer it to come upon him. He will be a by-word amidst men throughout his life.”

“You had better have written to the law lords to urge on the divorce,” he returned. “I cannot help the delay.”

“There has been no delay; quite the contrary. But it may be expected hourly now.”

“You are worrying yourself for nothing, Isabel. I shall be back in time.”

He quitted the room as he spoke, and Lady Isabel remained in it, the image of despair. Nearly an hour elapsed when she remembered the breakfast things, and rang for them to be removed. A maid-servant entered to do it, and she thought how ill miladi looked.

“Where is Pierre?” miladi asked.

“Pierre was making himself ready to attend monsieur to England.”

Scarcely had she closed the door upon herself and the tray when Sir Francis Levison appeared, equipped for traveling. “Good-bye, Isabel,” said he, without further circumlocution or ceremony.

Lady Isabel, excited beyond all self-control, slipped the bolt of the door; and, half leaning against it, half leaning at his feet, held up her hand in supplication.

“Francis, have you any consideration left for me–any in the world?”

“How can you be so alarmed, Isabel? Of course I have,” he continued, in a peevish, though kind tone, as he took hold of her hands to raise her.

“No, not yet. I will remain here until you say you will wait another day or two. You know that the French Protestant minister is prepared to marry us the instant news of the divorce shall arrive; if you do care still for me, you will wait.”

“I cannot wait,” he replied, his tone changing to one of determination. “It is useless to urge it.”

He broke from her and left the room, and in another minute had left the house, Pierre attending him. A feeling, amounting to a conviction, rushed over the unhappy lady that she had seen him for the last time until it was too late.

She was right. It was too late by weeks and months.

December came in. The Alps were covered with snow; Grenoble borrowed the shade, and looked cold, and white, and sleety, and sloppy; the gutters, running through the middle of certain of the streets, were unusually black, and the people crept along especially dismal. Close to the fire in the barn of a French bedroom, full of windows, and doors, and draughts, with its wide hearth and its wide chimney, into which we could put four or five of our English ones, shivered Lady Isabel Vane. She had an invalid cap on, and a thick woolen invalid shawl, and she shook and shivered perpetually; though she had drawn so close to the wood fire that there was a danger of her petticoats igniting, and the attendant had frequently to spring up and interpose between them and the crackling logs. Little did it seem to matter to Lady Isabel; she sat in one position, her countenance the picture of stony despair.

So had she sat, so looking, since she began to get better. She had had a long illness, terminating in a low fever; but the attendants whispered among themselves that miladi would soon get about if she would only rouse herself. She had got so far about as to sit up in the windy chamber; and it seemed to be to her a matter of perfect indifference whether she ever got out of it.

This day she had partaken of her early dinner–such as it was, for her appetite failed–and had dozed asleep in the arm chair, when a noise arose from below, like a carriage driving into the courtyard through the /porte cochere/. It instantly aroused her. Had /he/ come?

“Who is it?” she asked of the nurse.

“Miladi, it is monsieur; and Pierre is with him. I have begged milady often and often not to fret, for monsieur would surely come; miladi, see, I am right.”

The girl departed, closing the door, and Lady Isabel sat looking at it, schooling her patience. Another moment, and it was flung open.

Sir Francis Levison approached to greet her as he came in. She waved him off, begging him, in a subdued, quiet tone, not to draw too near, as any little excitement made her faint now. He took a seat opposite to her, and began pushing the logs together with his boot, as he explained that he really could not get away from town before.

“Why did you come now?” she quietly rejoined.

“Why did I come?” repeated he. “Are these all the thanks a fellow gets for travelling in this inclement weather? I thought you would at least have been glad to welcome me, Isabel.”

“Sir Francis,” she rejoined, speaking still with almost unnatural calmness, as she continued to do throughout the interview–though the frequent changes in her countenance, and the movement of her hands, when she laid them from time to time on her chest to keep down its beating, told what effort the struggle cost her–“Sir Francis, I am glad, for one reason, to welcome you; we must come to an understanding one with the other; and, so far, I am pleased that you are here. It was my intention to have communicated with you by letter as soon as I found myself capable of the necessary exertion, but your visit has removed the necessity. I wish to deal with you quite unreservedly, without concealment, or deceit; I must request you so to deal with me.”

“What do you mean by ‘deal?’ ” he asked, settling the logs to his apparent satisfaction.

“To speak and act. Let there be plain truth between us at this interview, if there never has been before.”

“I don’t understand you.”

“Naked truth, unglossed over,” she pursued, bending her eyes determinately upon him. “It /must/ be.”

“With all my heart,” returned Sir Francis. “It is you who have thrown out the challenge, mind.”

“When you left in July you gave me a sacred promise to come back in time for our marriage; you know what I mean when I say ‘in time,’ but–“

“Of course I meant to do so when I gave the promise,” he interrupted. “But no sooner had I set my foot in London than I found myself overwhelmed with business, and away from it I could not get. Even now I can only remain with you a couple of days, for I must hasten back to town.”

“You are breaking faith already,” she said, after hearing him calmly to the end. “Your words are not words of truth, but of deceit. You did not intend to be back in time for the marriage, or otherwise you would have caused it to take place ere you went at all.”

“What fancies you do take up!” uttered Francis Levison.

“Some time subsequent to your departure,” she quietly went on, “one of the maids was setting to rights the clothes in your dressing-closet, and she brought me a letter she found in one of the pockets. I saw by the date that it was one of those two which you received on the morning of your departure. It contained the information that the divorce was pronounced.”

She spoke so quietly, so apparently without feeling or passion, that Sir Francis was agreeably astonished. He should have less trouble in throwing off the mask. But he was an ill-tempered man; and to hear that the letter had been found to have the falseness of his fine protestations and promises laid bare, did not improve his temper now. Lady Isabel continued,–

“It would have been better to have undeceived me then; to have told me that the hopes I was cherishing for the sake of the unborn child were worse than vain.”

“I did not judge so,” he replied. “The excited state you then appeared to be in, would have precluded your listening to any sort of reason.”

Her heart beat a little quicker; but she stilled it.

“You deem that it was not in reason that I should aspire to be the wife of Sir Francis Levison?”

He rose and began kicking at the logs; with the heel of his boot this time.

“Well, Isabel, you must be aware that it is an awful sacrifice for a man in my position to marry a divorced woman.”

The hectic flushed into her thin cheeks, but her voice sounded calm as before.

“When I expected or wished, for the ‘sacrifice,’ it was not for my own sake; I told you so then. But it was not made; and the child’s inheritance is that of sin and shame. There he lies.”

Sir Francis half turned to where she pointed, and saw an infant’s cradle by the side of the bed. He did not take the trouble to look at it.

“I am the representative now of an ancient and respected baronetcy,” he resumed, in a tone as of apology for his previous heartless words, “and to make you my wife would so offend all my family, that–“

“Stay,” interrupted Lady Isabel, “you need not trouble yourself to find needless excuses. Had you taken this journey for the purpose of making me your wife, were you to propose to do so this day, and bring a clergyman into the room to perform the ceremony, it would be futile. The injury to the child can never be repaired; and, for myself, I cannot imagine any fate in life worse than being compelled to pass it with you.”

“If you have taken this aversion to me, it cannot be helped,” he coldly said, inwardly congratulating himself, let us not doubt, at being spared the work of trouble he had anticipated. “You made commotion enough once about me making you reparation.”

She shook her head.

“All the reparation in your power to make–all the reparation that the whole world can invent could not undo my sin. It and the effects must lie upon me forever.”

“Oh–sin!” was the derisive exclamation. “You ladies should think of that beforehand.”

“Yes,” she sadly answered. “May heaven help all to do so who may be tempted as I was.”

“If you mean that as a reproach to me, it’s rather out of place,” chafed Sir Francis, whose fits of ill-temper were under no control, and who never, when in them, cared what he said to outrage the feelings of another. “The temptation to sin, as you call it, lay not in my persuasions half so much as in your jealous anger toward your husband.”

“Quite true,” was her reply.

“And I believe you were on the wrong scent, Isabel–if it will be any satisfaction to you to hear it. Since we are mutually on this complimentary discourse, it is of no consequence to smooth over facts.”

“I do not understand what you would imply,” she said, drawing her shawl round her with a fresh shiver. “How on the wrong scent?”

“With regard to your husband and that Hare girl. You were blindly, outrageously jealous of him.”

“Go on.”

“And I say I think you are on the wrong scent. I do not believe Mr. Carlyle ever thought of the girl–in that way.”

“What do you mean?” she gasped.

“They had a secret between them–not of love–a secret of business; and those interviews they had together, her dancing attendance upon him perpetually, related to that, and that alone.”

Her face was more flushed than it had been throughout the interview. He spoke quietly now, quite in an equal tone of reasoning; it was his way when the ill-temper was upon him: and the calmer he spoke, the more cutting were his words. He /need/ not have told her this.

“What was the secret?” she inquired, in a low tone.

“Nay, I can’t explain all; they did not take me into their confidence. They did not even take you; better, perhaps that they had though, as things have turned out, or seem to be turning. There’s some disreputable secret attaching to the Hare family, and Carlyle was acting in it, under the rose, for Mrs. Hare. She could not seek out Carlyle herself, so she sent the young lady. That’s all I know.”

“How did you know it?”

“I had reason to think so.”

“What reason? I must request you to tell me.”

“I overheard scraps of their conversation now and then in those meetings, and so gathered my information.”

“You told a different tale to me, Sir Francis,” was her remark, as she turned her indignant eyes toward him.

Sir Francis laughed.

“All stratagems are fair in love and war.”

She dared not immediately trust herself to reply, and a silence ensued. Sir Francis broke it, pointing with his left thumb over his shoulder in the direction of the cradle.

“What have you named that young article there?”

“The name which ought to have been his by inheritance–‘Francis Levison,’ ” was her icy answer.

“Let’s see–how old is he now?”

“He was born on the last day of August.”

Sir Francis threw up his arms and stretched himself, as if a fit of idleness had overtaken him; then advanced to the cradle and pulled down the clothes.

“Who is he like, Isabel? My handsome self?”

“Were he like you in spirit, I would pray that he might die ere he could speak, or think!” she burst forth. And then remembering the resolution marked out for herself, subsided outwardly into calmness again.

“What else?” retorted Sir Francis. “You know my disposition pretty well by this time, Isabel, and may be sure that if you deal out small change to me, you will get it back again with interest.”

She made no reply. Sir Francis put the clothes back over the sleeping child, returned to the fire, and stood a few moments with his back to it.

“Is my room prepared for me, do you know?” he presently asked.

“No, it is not,” she quietly rejoined. “These apartments are mine now; they have been transferred into my name, and they can never again afford you accommodation. Will you be so obliging–I am not strong–as to hand me that writing case?”

Sir Francis walked to the table she indicated, which was at the far end of the great barn of a room, and taking the writing-case from it, gave it to her.

She reached her keys from the stand at her elbow, unlocked the case, and took from it some bank-notes.

“I received these from you a month ago,” she said. “They came by post.”

“And never had the grace to acknowledge them,” he returned, in a sort of mock reproachful tone.

“Forty pounds. That was the amount, was it not?”

“I believe so.”

“Allow me to return them to you. Count them.”

“Return them to me–for what?” inquired Sir Francis, in amazement.

“I have no longer anything whatever to do with you in any way. Do not make my arm ache, holding out these notes to you so long! Take them!”

Sir Francis took the notes from her hand and placed them on a stand near to her.

“If it be your wish that all relations should end between us, why, let it be so,” he said. “I must confess I think it may be the wisest course, as things have come to this pass; for a cat and dog life, which would seemingly be ours, is not agreeable. Remember, though, that it is your doing, not mine. But you cannot think I am going to see you starve, Isabel. A sum–we will fix upon the amount amicably– shall be placed to your credit half-yearly, and–“

“I beg of you to cease,” she passionately interrupted. “What do you take me for?”

“Take you for! Why, how can you live? You have no fortune–you must receive assistance from some one.”

“I will not receive it from you. If the whole world denied me, and I could find no help from strangers, or means of earning my own bread, and it was necessary that I should still exist, I would apply to my husband for means, rather than to you. In saying this, it ought to convince you that the topic may cease.”

“Your husband!” sarcastically rejoined Sir Francis. “Generous man!”

A flush, deep and painful, dyed her cheeks. “I should have said my late husband. You need not have reminded me of the mistake.”

“If you will accept nothing for yourself, you must for the child. He, at any rate, falls to my share. I shall give you a few hundred a year with him.”

She beat her hands before her, as if beating off the man and his words. “Not a farthing, now or ever. Were you to attempt to send money to him, I would throw it into the nearest river. /Whom/ do you take me for? What do you take me for?” she repeated, rising in her bitter mortification. “If you have put me beyond the pale of the world, I am still Lord Mount Severn’s daughter!”

“You did as much toward putting yourself beyond its pale as–“

“Don’t I know it? Have I not said so?” she sharply interrupted. And then she sat, striving to calm herself, clasping together her shaking hands.

“Well, if you will persist in this perverse resolution, I cannot mend it,” resumed Sir Francis. “In a little time you may probably wish to recall it; in which case a line, addressed to me at my banker’s, will–“

Lady Isabel drew herself up. “Put away those notes, if you please,” she interrupted, not allowing him to finish his sentence.”

He took out his pocket-book and placed the bank notes within it.

“Your clothes–those you left here when you went to England–you will have the goodness to order Pierre to take away this afternoon. And now, Sir Francis, I believe that is all: we will part.”

“To remain mortal enemies from henceforth? Is that to be it?”

“To be strangers,” she replied, correcting him. “I wish you a good day.”

“So you will not even shake hands with me, Isabel?”

“I would prefer not.”

And thus they parted. Sir Francis left the room, but not immediately the house. He went into a distant apartment, and, calling the servants before him–there were but two–gave them each a year’s wages in advance–“That they might not have to trouble miladi for money,” he said to them. Then he paid a visit to the landlord, and handed him, likewise a year’s rent in advance, making the same remark. After that, he ordered dinner at a hotel, and the same night he and Pierre departed on their journey home again, Sir Francis thanking his lucky star that he had so easily got rid of a vexatious annoyance.

And Lady Isabel? She passed her evening alone, sitting in the same place, close to the fire and the sparks. The attendant remonstrated that miladi was remaining up too late for her strength, but miladi ordered her and her remonstrances into an adjoining room.

When Lady Isabel lay down to rest, she sank into a somewhat calmer sleep than she had known of late; also into a dream. She thought she was back at East Lynne–not /back/, in one sense, but that she seemed never to have gone away from it–walking in the flower garden with Mr. Carlyle, while the three children played on the lawn. Her arm was within her husband’s, and he was relating something to her. What the news was, she could not remember afterward, excepting that it was connected with the office and old Mr. Dill, and that Mr. Carlyle laughed when he told it. They appeared to be interrupted by the crying of Archibald; and, in turning to the lawn to ask what was the matter, she awoke. Alas! It was the actual crying of her own child which awoke her–this last child–the ill-fated little being in the cradle beside her. But, for a single instant, she forgot recent events and doings, she believed she was indeed in her happy home at East Lynne, a proud woman, an honored wife. As recollection flashed across her, with its piercing stings, she gave vent to a sharp cry of agony, of unavailing despair.

CHAPTER XXVI.

ALONE FOR EVERMORE.

A surprise awaited Lady Isabel Vane. It was on a windy day in the following March that a traveller arrived at Grenoble, and inquired his way of a porter, to the best hotel in the place, his French being such as only an Englishman can produce.

“Hotel? Let’s see,” returned the man, politely, but with native indifference. “There are two hotels, nearly contiguous to each other, and monsieur would find himself comfortable at either. There is the Tross Dauphins, and there is the Ambassadeurs.”

“Monsieur” chose haphazard, the Hotel des Ambassadeurs, and was conducted to it. Shortly after his arrival there, he inquired his road to the Place Grenette, and was offered to be shown: but he preferred that it should be described to him, and to go alone. The Place was found, and he thence turned to the apartments of Lady Isabel Vane.

Lady Isabel was sitting where you saw her the previous December–in the precise spot–courting the warmth of the fire, and it seemed, courting the sparks also, for they appeared as fond of her as formerly. The marvel was, how she had escaped spontaneous combustion; but there she was yet, and her clothes likewise. You might think that but a night had passed, when you looked at the room, for it wore precisely the same aspect now, as then; everything was the same, even to the child’s cradle in the remote corner, partially hidden by the bed-curtains, and the sleeping child in it. Lady Isabel’s progress toward recovery was remarkably lingering, as is frequently the case when mind and body are both diseased. She was so sitting when Susanne entered the room, and said that a “Monsieur Anglais” had arrived in the town to see her, and was waiting below, in the saloon.

Lady Isabel was startled. An English gentleman–to see /her/!

English for certain, was Susanne’s answer, for she had difficulty to comprehend his French.

Who could be desirous to see her? One out of the world and forgotten! “Susanne,” she cried aloud, a thought striking her, “it is never Sir Fran–it is not monsieur!”

“Not in the least like monsieur,” complacently answered Susanne. “It is a tall, brave English gentleman, proud and noble looking like a prince.”

Every pulse within Lady Isabel’s body throbbed rebelliously: her heart bounded till it was like to burst her side, and she turned sick with astonishment.

“Tall, brave, noble?” could that description apply to any but Mr. Carlyle? Strange that so unnatural an idea should have occurred to her; it would not have done so in a calmer moment. She rose, tottered across the chamber, and prepared to descend. Susanne’s tongue was let loose at the proceeding.

“Was miladi out of her senses? To attempt going downstairs would be a pretty ending, for she’d surely fall by the way. Miladi knew that the bottom step was of lead, and that no head could pitch down upon that, without ever never being a head any more, except in the hospitals. Let miladi sit still in her place and she’d bring the monsieur up. What did it signify? He was not a young /petit maitre/, to quiz things: he was fifty, if he was a day: his hair already turned to fine gray.”

This set the question touching Mr. Carlyle at rest, and her heart stilled again. The next moment she was inwardly laughing in her bitter mockery at her insensate folly. Mr. Carlyle come to see her! /Her/! Francis Levison might be sending over some man of business, regarding the money question, was her next thought: if so, she should certainly refuse to see him.

“Go down to the gentleman and ask him his name Susanne. Ask also from whence he came.”

Susanne disappeared, and returned, and the gentleman behind her. Whether she had invited him, or whether he had chosen to come uninvited, there he was. Lady Isabel caught a glimpse, and flung her hands over her burning cheeks of shame. It was Lord Mount Severn.

“How did you find out where I was?” she gasped, when some painful words had been uttered on both sides.

“I went to Sir Francis Levison and demanded your address. Certain recent events implied that he and you must have parted, and I therefore deemed it time to inquire what he had done with you.”

“Since last July,” she interrupted. Lifting up her wan face, now colorless again. “Do not think worse of me than I am. He was here in December for an hour’s recriminating interview, and we parted for life.”

“What have you heard of him lately?”

“Not anything. I never know what is passing in the world at home; I have no newspaper, no correspondence; and he would scarcely be so bold as to write to me again.”

“I shall not shock you, then by some tidings I bring you regarding him,” returned Lord Mount Severn.

“The greatest shock to me would be to hear that I should ever again be subjected to the sight of him,” she answered.

“He is married.”

“Heaven have pity on his poor wife!” was all the comment of Lady Isabel.

“He has married Alice Challoner.”

She lifted her head, then, in simple surprise. “Alice? Not Blanche?”

“The story runs that he has played Blanche very false. That he has been with her much during the last three or four months, leading on her expectations; and then suddenly proposed for her younger sister. I know nothing of the details myself; it is not likely; and I heard nothing, until one evening at the club I saw the announcement of the marriage for the following day at St. George’s. I was at the church the next morning before he was.”

“Not to stop it; not to intercept the marriage!” breathlessly uttered the Lady Isabel.

“Certainly not. I had no power to attempt anything of the sort. I went to demand an answer to my question–what he had done with you, and where you were. He gave me this address, but said he knew nothing of your movements since December.”

There was a long silence. The earl appeared to be alternately ruminating and taking a survey of the room. Isabel sat with her head down.

“Why did you seek me out?” she presently broke forth. “I am not worth it. I have brought enough disgrace upon your name.”

“And upon your husband’s and upon your children’s,” he rejoined, in the most severe manner, for it was not in the nature of the Earl of Mount Severn to gloss over guilt. “Nevertheless it is incumbent upon me, as your nearest blood relative, to see after you, now that you are alone again, and to take care, as far as I can, that you do not lapse lower.”

He might have spared her that stab. But she scarcely understood him. She looked at him, wondering whether she did understand.

“You have not a shilling in the world,” he resumed. “How do you propose to live?”

“I have some money yet. When–“

“/His/ money?” sharply and haughtily interposed the earl.

“No,” she indignantly replied. “I am selling my trinkets. Before they are all gone, I shall look out to get a living in some way; by teaching, probably.”

“Trinkets!” repeated Lord Mount Severn. “Mr. Carlyle told me that you carried nothing away with you from East Lynne.”

“Nothing that he had given me. These were mine before I married. You have seen Mr. Carlyle, then?” she faltered.

“Seen him?” echoed the indignant earl. “When such a blow was dealt him by a member of my family, could I do less than hasten to East Lynne to tender my sympathies? I went with another subject too–to discover what could have been the moving springs of your conduct; for I protest, when the black tidings reached me, I believed that you must have gone mad. You were one of the last whom I should have feared to trust. But I learned nothing, and Carlyle was as ignorant as I. How could you strike him such a blow?”

Lower and lower drooped her head, brighter shone the shame on her hectic cheek. An awful blow to Mr. Carlyle it must have been; she was feeling it in all its bitter intensity. Lord Mount Severn read her repentant looks.

“Isabel,” he said, in a tone which had lost something of its harshness, and it was the first time he had called her by her Christian name, “I see that you are reaping the fruits. Tell me how it happened. What demon prompted you to sell yourself to that bad man?”

“He is a bad man!” she exclaimed. “A base, heartless man!”

“I warned you at the commencement of your married life to avoid him; to shun all association with him; not to admit him to your house.”

“His coming to East Lynne was not my doing,” she whispered. “Mr. Carlyle invited him.”

“I know he did. Invited him in his unsuspicious confidence, believing his wife to /be/ his wife, a trustworthy woman of honor,” was the severe remark.

She did not reply; she could not gainsay it; she only sat with her meek face of shame and her eyelids drooping.

“If ever a woman had a good husband, in every sense of the word, you had, in Carlyle; if ever man loved his wife, he loved you. /How/ could you so requite him?”

She rolled, in a confused manner, the corners of her warm shawl over her unconscious fingers.

“I read the note you left for your husband. He showed it to me; the only one, I believe, to whom he did show it. It was to him entirely inexplicable, it was so to me. A notion had been suggested to him, after your departure, that his sister had somewhat marred your peace at East Lynne, and he blamed you much, if it was so, for not giving him your full confidence on the point, that he might set matters on the right footing. But it was impossible, and there was the evidence in the note besides, that the presence of Miss Carlyle at East Lynne could be any excuse for your disgracing us all and ruining yourself.”

“Do not let us speak of these things,” said Lady Isabel, faintly. “It cannot redeem the past.”

“But I must speak of them; I came to speak of them,” persisted the earl; “I could not do it as long as that man was here. When these inexplicable things take place in the career of a woman, it is a father’s duty to look into motives and causes and actions, although the events in themselves may be, as in this case, irreparable. Your father is gone, but I stand in his place, there is no one else to stand in it.”

Her tears began to fall. And she let them fall–in silence. The earl resumed.

“But for that extraordinary letter, I should have supposed you had been actuated by a mad infatuation for the cur, Levison; its tenor gave the matter a different aspect. To what did you allude when you asserted that your husband had driven you to it?”

“He knew,” she answered, scarcely above her breath.

“He did not know,” sternly replied the earl. “A more truthful, honorable man than Carlyle does not exist on the face of the earth. When he told me then, in his agony of grief, that he was unable to form even a suspicion of your meaning, I could have staked my earldom on his veracity. I would stake it still.”

“I believed,” she began, in a low, nervous voice, for she knew that there was no evading the questions of Lord Mount Severn, when he was resolute in their being answered, and, indeed she was too weak, both in body and spirit, to resist–“I believed that his love was no longer mine; that he had deserted me, for another.”

The earl stared at her. “What can you mean by ‘deserted!’ He was with you.”

“There is a desertion of the heart,” was her murmured answer.

“Desertion of a fiddlestick!” retorted his lordship. “The interpretation we gave to the note, I and Carlyle, was, that you had been actuated by motives of jealousy; had penned it in a jealous mood. I put the question to Carlyle–as between man and man–do you listen, Isabel!–whether he had given you cause; and he answered me, as with God over us, he had never given you cause; he had been faithful to you in thought, word and deed; he had never, so far as he could call to mind, even looked upon another woman with covetous feelings, since the hour that he made you his wife; his whole thoughts had been of you, and of you alone. It is more than many a husband can say,” significantly coughed Lord Mount Severn.

Her pulses were beating wildly. A powerful conviction that the words were true; that her own blind jealousy had been utterly mistaken and unfounded, was forcing its way to her brain.

“After that I could only set your letter down as a subterfuge,” resumed the earl–“a false, barefaced plea, put forth to conceal your real motives, and I told Carlyle so. I inquired how it was he had never detected any secret understanding between you and that–that beast, located, as the fellow was, in the house. He replied that no such suspicion had ever occurred to him. He placed the most implicit confidence in you, and would have trusted you with the creature around the world, aye, with any one else.”

She entwined her hands one within the other, pressing them to pain. It would not deaden the pain at her heart.

“Carlyle told me he had been unusually occupied during the stay of that man. Besides his customary office work, his time was taken up with some private business for a family in the neighborhood, and he had repeatedly to see them, more particularly the daughter, after office hours. Very old acquaintances of his, he said, relatives of the Carlyle family; and he was as anxious about the secret–a painful one –as they were. This, I observed to him, may have rendered him unobservant to what was passing at home. He told me, I remember, that on the very evening of the–the catastrophe, he ought to have gone with you to a dinner party, but most important circumstances arose, in connection with the affair, which obliged him to meet two gentlemen at his office, and to receive them in secret, unknown to his clerks.”

“Did he mention the name of the family?” inquired Lady Isabel, with white lips.

“Yes, he did. I forgot it, though. Rabbit! Rabit!–some such name as that.”

“Was it Hare?”

“That was it–Hare. He said you appeared vexed that he did not accompany you to the dinner; and seeing that he intended to go in afterward, but was prevented. When the interview was over in his office, he was again detained at Mrs. Hare’s house, and by business as impossible to avoid as the other.”

“Important business!” she echoed, giving way for a moment to the bitterness of former feelings. “He was promenading in their garden by moonlight with Barbara–Miss Hare. I saw them as my carriage passed.”

“And you were jealous that he should be there!” exclaimed Lord Mount Severn, with mocking reproach, as he detected her mood. “Listen!” he whispered, bending his head toward her. “While you may have thought, as your present tone would seem to intimate, that they were pacing there to enjoy each other’s society, know that they–Carlyle, at any rate–was pacing the walk to keep guard. One was within that house– for a short half hour’s interview with his poor mother–one who lives in danger of the scaffold, to which his own father would be the first to deliver him up. They were keeping the path against that father– Carlyle and the young lady. Of all the nights in the previous seven years, that one only saw the unhappy son at home for a half hour’s meeting with his mother and sister. Carlyle, in the grief and excitement caused by your conduct, confided so much to me, when mentioning what kept him from the dinner party.”

Her face had become crimson–crimson at her past lamentable folly. And there was no redemption!

“But he was always with Barbara Hare,” she murmured, by way of some faint excuse.

“I have mentioned so. She had to see him upon this affair, her mother could not, for it was obliged to be kept from the father. And so, you construed business interviews into assignations!” continued Lord Mount Severn with cutting derision. “I had given you credit for better sense. But was /this/ enough to hurl you on the step you took? Surely not. You must have yielded in the persuasions of that wicked man.”

“It is all over now,” she wailed.

“Carlyle was true and faithful to you, and to you alone. Few women have the chance of happiness, in their married life, in the degree that you had. He is an upright and good man; one of nature’s gentlemen; one that England may be proud of as having grown upon her soil. The more I see of him, the greater becomes my admiration of him, and of his thorough honor. Do you know what he did in the matter of the damages?”

She shook her head.

“He did not wish to proceed for damages, or only for the trifling sum demanded by law; but the jury, feeling for his wrongs, gave unprecedently heavy ones. Since the fellow came into his baronetcy they have been paid. Carlyle immediately handed them over to the county hospital. He holds the apparently obsolete opinion that money cannot wipe out a wife’s dishonor.”

“Let us close those topics” implored the poor invalid. “I acted wickedly and madly, and have the consequences to bear forever. More I cannot say.”

“Where do you intend to fix your future residence?” inquired the earl.

“I am unable to tell. I shall leave this town as soon as I am well enough.”

“Aye. It cannot be pleasant for you to remain under the eyes of its inhabitants. You were here with him, were you not?”

“They think I am his wife,” she murmured. “The servants think it.”

“That’s well, so far. How many servants have you?”

“Two. I am not strong enough yet to do much myself, so am obliged to keep two,” she continued, as if in apology for the extravagance, under her reduced circumstances. “As soon as ever the baby can walk, I shall manage to do with one.”

The earl looked confounded. “The baby!” he uttered, in a tone of astonishment and grief painful to her to hear. “Isabel, is there a child?”

Not less painful was her own emotion as she hid her face. Lord Mount Severn rose and paced the room with striding steps.

“I did not know it! I did not know it! Wicked, heartless villain! He ought to have married you before its birth. Was the divorce out previously?” he asked stopping short in his strides to put the question.

“Yes.”

“Coward! Sneak! May good men shun him from henceforth! May his queen refuse to receive him! You, an earl’s daughter! Oh, Isabel, how utterly you have lost yourself!”

Lady Isabel started from her chair in a burst of hysterical sobs, her hands extended beseechingly toward the earl. “Spare me! Spare me! You have been rending my heart ever since you came; indeed I am too weak to bear it.”

The earl, in truth, had been betrayed into showing more of his sentiments than he intended. He recalled his recollection.

“Well, well, sit down again, Isabel,” he said, putting her into her chair. “We shall go to the point I chiefly came here to settle. What sum will it take you to live upon? Quietly; as of course you would now wish to live, but comfortably.”

“I will not accept anything,” she replied. “I will get my own living.” And the earl’s irascibility again arose at the speech. He spoke in a sharp tone.

“Absurd, Isabel! Do not add romantic folly to your own mistakes. Get your own living, indeed! As much as is necessary for you to live upon, I shall supply. No remonstrance; I tell you I am acting as for your father. Do you suppose he would have abandoned you to starve or to work?”

The allusion touched every chord within her bosom, and the tears fell fast. “I thought I could get my living by teaching,” she sobbed.

“And how much did you anticipate the teaching would bring you in?”

“Not very much,” she listlessly said. “A hundred a year, perhaps; I am very clever at music and singing. That sum might keep us, I fancy, even if I only went out by the day.”

“And a fine ‘keep’ it would be! You shall have that sum every quarter!”

“No, no! no, no! I do not deserve it; I could not accept it; I have forfeited all claim to assistance.”

“Not to mine. Now, it is of no use to excite yourself, my mind is made up. I never willingly forego a duty, and I look upon this not only as a duty, but as an imperative one. Upon my return, I shall immediately settle four hundred upon you, and you can draw it quarterly.”

“Then half that sum,” she reflected, knowing how useless it was to contend with Lord Mount Severn when he got upon the stilts of “duty.” “Indeed, two hundred a year will be ample; it will seem like riches to me.”

“I have named the sum, Isabel, and I shall not make it less. A hundred pounds every three months shall be paid to you, dating from this day. This does not count,” said he, laying down some notes on the table.

He took her hand within his in token of farewell; turned and was gone.

And Lady Isabel remained in her chamber alone.

Alone; alone! /Alone/ for evermore!

CHAPTER XXVII.

BARBARA’S MISDOINGS.

A sunny afternoon in summer. More correctly speaking, it may be said a summer’s evening, for the bright beams were already slanting athwart the substantial garden of Mr. Justice Hare, and the tea hour, seven,