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  • 1861
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“That’s all rubbish!” peevishly responded the justice, after a pause. “It’s not likely. Who’d do it?”

“It is very likely; but you may be sure they will not give us a clue as to the ‘who.’ I should put that letter in the fire, and think no more about it. That’s the only way to serve them. A pretty laugh they have had in their sleeve, if it is anybody near, at seeing you wade up here through the snow this morning! They would know you were bringing the letter, to consult me.”

The justice–in spite of his obstinacy he was somewhat easily persuaded to different views of things, especially by Mr. Carlyle–let fall his coat tails, which had been gathered in his arms, as he stood with his back to the fire, and brought down both his hands upon the table with force enough to break it.

“If I thought that,” he spluttered, “if I could think it, I’d have the whole parish of West Lynne before me to-day, and commit them for trial.”

“It’s a pity but what you could,” said Mr. Carlyle.

“Well, it may be, or it may not be, that that villain is coming here,” he resumed. “I shall call in at the police station, and tell them to keep a sharp lookout.”

“You will do nothing of the sort justice,” exclaimed Mr. Carlyle, almost in agitation. “Richard is not likely to make his appearance at West Lynne; but if he did, would you, his own father, turn the flood upon him? Not a man living but would cry shame upon you.”

“I took an oath I’d do it,” said the justice.

“You did not take an oath to go open-mouthed to the police station, upon the receipt of any despicable anonymous letter or any foolish report, to say, ‘I have news that my son will be here to-day; look after him.’ Nonsense, justice! Let the police look out for themselves, but don’t /you/ set them on.”

The justice growled, whether in assent or dissent did not appear, and Mr. Carlyle resumed,–

“Have you shown this letter to Mrs. Hare, or mentioned it to her?”

“Not I. I didn’t give myself time. I had gone down to the front gate, to see how deep the snow lay in the road, when the postman came up; so I read it as I stood there. I went in for my coat and umbrella, to come off to you, and Mrs. Hare wanted to know where I was going in such a hurry, but I did not satisfy her.”

“I am truly glad to hear it,” said Mr. Carlyle. “Such information as this could not fail to have a dangerous effect upon Mrs. Hare. Do not suffer a hint of it to escape you justice; consider how much anxiety she has already suffered.”

“It’s partly her own fault. Why can’t she drive the ill-doing boy from her mind?”

“If she could,” said Mr. Carlyle, “she would be acting against human nature. There is one phase of the question which you may possibly not have glanced at, justice. You speak of delivering your son up to the law; has it ever struck you that you would be delivering up at the same time your wife’s life?”

“Stuff!” said the justice.

“You would find it no ‘stuff.’ So sure as Richard gets brought to trial, whether through your means, or through any other, so sure will it kill your wife.”

Mr. Hare took up the letter, which had lain open on the table, folded it, and put it in its envelope.

“I suppose you don’t know the writing?” he asked of Mr. Carlyle.

“I never saw it before, that I remember. Are you returning home?”

“No. I shall go on to Beauchamp’s and show him this, and hear what he says. It’s not much farther.”

“Tell him not to speak of it then. Beauchamp’s safe, for his sympathies are with Richard–oh, yes, they are, justice, ask him the question plainly if you like, and he will confess to it. I can tell you more sympathy goes with Richard than is acknowledged to you. But I would not show that letter to anyone else than Beauchamp,” added Mr. Carlyle, “neither would I speak of it.”

“Who can have written it?” repeated the justice. “It bears, you see the London Post-mark.”

“It is too wide a speculation to enter upon. And no satisfactory conclusion could come of it.”

Justice Hare departed. Mr. Carlyle watched him down the avenue, striding under his umbrella, and then went up to Richard. Miss Carlyle was sitting with the latter then.

“I thought I should have died,” spoke poor Dick. “I declare, Mr. Carlyle, my very blood seemed turned to water, and I thought I should have died with fright. Is he gone away–is all safe?”

“He is gone, and it’s all safe.”

“And what did he want? What was it he had heard about me?”

Mr. Carlyle gave a brief explanation, and Richard immediately set down the letter as the work of Thorn.

“Will it be possible for me to see my mother this time?” he demanded of Mr. Carlyle.

“I think it would be highly injudicious to let your mother know you are here, or have been here,” was the answer of Mr. Carlyle. “She would naturally be inquiring into particulars, and when she came to hear that you were pursued, she would never have another minute’s peace. You must forego the pleasure of seeing her this time, Richard.”

“And Barbara?”

“Barbara might come and stay the day with you. Only—-“

“Only what, sir?” cried Richard, for Mr. Carlyle had hesitated.

“I was thinking what a wretched morning it is for her to come out in.”

“She would go through an avalanche–she’d wade through mountains of snow, to see me,” cried Richard eagerly, “and be delighted to do it.”

“She always was a little fool,” put in Miss Carlyle, jerking some stitches out of her knitting.

“I know she would,” observed Mr. Carlyle, in answer to Richard. “We will try and get her here.”

“She can arrange about the money I am to have, just as well as my mother could you know, sir.”

“Yes; for Barbara is in receipt of money of her own now, and I know she would not wish better than to apply some of it to you. Cornelia, as an excuse for getting her here, I must say to Mrs. Hare that you are ill, and wish Barbara to come for the day and bear your company. Shall I?”

“Say I am dead, if you like,” responded Miss Corny, who was in one of her cross moods.

Mr. Carlyle ordered the pony carriage, and drove forth with John. He drew in at the grove. Barbara and Mrs. Hare were seated together, and looked surprised at the early visit.

“Do you want Mr. Hare, Archibald? He is out. He went while the breakfast was on the table, apparently in a desperate hurry.”

“I don’t want Mr. Hare; I want Barbara. I have come to carry her off.”

“To carry off Barbara!” echoed Mrs. Hare.

“Cornelia is not well; she had caught a violent cold, and wishes Barbara to spend the day with her.”

“Oh, Mr. Carlyle, I cannot leave mamma to-day. She is not well herself, and she would be dull without me.”

“Neither can I spare her, Archibald. It is not a day for Barbara to go out.”

How could he get to say a word to Barbara alone? Whilst he deliberated, talking on, though, all the while to Mrs. Hare, a servant appeared at the sitting-room door.

“The fishmonger’s boy is come up, ma’am. His master has sent him to say that he fears there’ll be no fish in to-day, in anything like time. The trains won’t get up, with this weather.”

Mrs. Hare rose from her seat to hold a confab at the door with the maid; and Mr. Carlyle seized his opportunity.

“Barbara,” he whispered, “make no opposition. You /must/ come. What I really want you for is connected with Richard.”

She looked up at him, a startled glance, and the crimson flew to her face. Mrs. Hare returned to her seat. “Oh, such a day!” she shivered. “I am sure Cornelia cannot expect Barbara.”

“But Cornelia does. And there is my pony carriage waiting to take her before I go to the office. Not a flake of snow can come near her, Mrs. Hare. The large warm apron will be up, and an umbrella shield her bonnet and face. Get your things on, Barbara.”

“Mamma if you would not very much mind being left, I should like to go,” said Barbara, with almost trembling eagerness.

“But you would be sure to take cold, child.”

“Oh, dear no. I can wrap up well.”

“And I will see that she comes home all right this evening,” added Mr. Carlyle.

In a few minutes they were seated in the pony carriage. Barbara’s tongue was burning to ask questions, but John sat behind them, and would have overheard. When they arrived at East Lynne, Mr. Carlyle gave her his arm up the steps, and took her into the breakfast-room.

“Will you prepare yourself for a surprise, Barbara?”

Suspense–fear–had turned her very pale. “Something that has happened to Richard!” she uttered.

“Nothing that need agitate you. He is here.”

“Here? Where?

“Here. Under this roof. He slept here last night.”

“Oh, Archibald!”

“Only fancy, Barbara, I opened the window at nine last night to look at the weather, and in burst Richard. We could not let him go out again in the snow, so he slept here, in that room next Cornelia’s.”

“Does she know of it?”

“Of course. And Joyce also; we were obliged to tell Joyce. It is he you have come to spend the day with. But just imagine Richard’s fear. Your father came this morning, calling up the stairs after me, saying he heard Richard was here. I thought Richard would have gone out of his mind with fright.”

A few more explanations, and Mr. Carlyle took Barbara into the room, Miss Carlyle and her knitting still keeping Richard company. In fact, that was to be the general sitting room of the day, and a hot lunch, Richard’s dinner, would be served to Miss Carlyle’s chamber at one o’clock. Joyce only admitted to wait on her.

“And now I must go,” said Mr. Carlyle, after chatting a few minutes. “The office is waiting for me, and my poor ponies are in the snow.”

“But you’ll be sure to be home early, Mr. Carlyle,” said Richard. “I dare not stop here; I must be off not a moment later than six or seven o’clock.”

“I will be home, Richard.”

Anxiously did Richard and Barbara consult that day, Miss Carlyle of course putting in her word. Over and over again did Barbara ask the particulars of the slight interviews Richard had had with Thorn; over and over again did she openly speculate upon what his name really was. “If you could but discover some one whom he knows, and inquire it,” she exclaimed.

“I have seen him with one person, but I can’t inquire of him. They are too thick together, he and Thorn, and are birds of a feather also, I suspect. Great swells both.”

“Oh, Richard don’t use those expressions. They are unsuited to a gentleman.”

Richard laughed bitterly. “A gentleman?”

“Who is it you have seen Thorn with?” inquired Barbara.

“Sir Francis Levison,” replied Richard, glancing at Miss Carlyle, who drew in her lips ominously.

“With whom?” uttered Barbara, betraying complete astonishment. “Do you know Sir Francis Levison?”

“Oh, yes, I know /him/. Nearly the only man about town that I do know.”

Barbara seemed lost in a puzzled reverie, and it was some time before she aroused herself from it.

“Are they at all alike?” she asked.

“Very much so, I suspect. Both bad men.”

“But I meant in person.”

“Not in the least. Except that they are both tall.”

Again Barbara sank into thought. Richard’s words had surprised her. She was aroused by it from hearing a child’s voice in the next room. She ran into it, and Miss Carlyle immediately fastened the intervening door.

It was little Archibald Carlyle. Joyce had come in with the tray to lay the luncheon, and before she could lock the door, Archibald ran in after her. Barbara lifted him in her arms to carry him back to the nursery.

“Oh, you heavy boy!” she exclaimed.

Archie laughed. “Wilson says that,” he lisped, “if ever she has to carry me.”

“I have brought you a truant, Wilson,” cried Barbara.

“Oh, is it you, Miss Barbara? How are you, miss? Naughty boy!–yes, he ran away without my noticing him–he is got now so that he can open the door.”

“You must be so kind as to keep him strictly in for to-day,” concluded Miss Barbara, authoritatively. “Miss Carlyle is not well, and cannot be subjected to the annoyance of his running into the room.”

Evening came, and the time of Richard’s departure. It was again snowing heavily, though it had ceased in the middle of the day. Money for the present had been given to him; arrangements had been discussed. Mr. Carlyle insisted upon Richard’s sending him his address, as soon as he should own one to send, and Richard faithfully promised. He was in very low spirits, almost as low as Barbara, who could not conceal her tears; they dropped in silence on her pretty silk dress. He was smuggled down the stairs, a large cloak of Miss Carlyle’s enveloping him, into the room he had entered by storm the previous night. Mr. Carlyle held the window open.

“Good-bye, Barbara dear. If ever you should be able to tell my mother of this day, say that my chief sorrow was not to see her.”

“Oh, Richard!” she sobbed forth, broken-hearted, “good-bye. May God be with you and bless you!”

“Farewell, Richard,” said Miss Carlyle; “don’t you be fool enough to get into any more scrapes.”

Last of all he rung the hand of Mr. Carlyle. The latter went outside with him for an instant, and their leave-taking was alone.

Barbara returned to the chamber he had quitted. She felt that she must indulge in a few moments sobbing; Joyce was there, but Barbara was sobbing when she entered it.

“It /is/ hard for him, Miss Barbara, if he is really innocent.”

Barbara turned her streaming eyes upon her. “/If!/ Joyce do you doubt that he is innocent?”

“I quite believe him to be so now, miss. Nobody could so solemnly assert what was not true. The thing at present will be to find that Captain Thorn.”

“Joyce!” exclaimed Barbara, in excitement, seizing hold of Joyce’s hands, “I thought I had found him; I believed in my own mind that I knew who he was. I don’t mind telling you, though I have never before spoken of it; and with one thing or other, this night I feel just as if I should die–as if I must speak. I thought it was Sir Francis Levison.”

Joyce stared with all her eyes. “Miss Barbara!”

“I did. I have thought it ever since the night that Lady Isabel went away. My poor brother was at West Lynne then–he had come for a few hours, and he met the man Thorn walking in Bean lane. He was in evening dress, and Richard described a peculiar motion of his–the throwing off of his hair from his brow. He said his white hand and his diamond ring glittered in the moonlight. The white hand, the ring, the motion–for he was always doing it–all reminded me of Captain Levison; and from that hour until to-day I believed him to be the man Richard saw. To-day Richard tells me that he knows Sir Francis Levison, and that he and Thorn are intimate. What I think now is, that this Thorn must have paid a flying visit to the neighborhood that night to assist Captain Levison in the wicked work that he had on hand.”

“How strange it all sounds!” uttered Joyce.

“And I never could tell my suspicions to Mr. Carlyle! I did not like to mention Francis Levison’s name to him.”

Barbara soon returned down stairs. “I must be going home,” she said to Mr. Carlyle. “It is turned half-past seven, and mamma will be uneasy.”

“Whenever you like, Barbara.”

“But can I not walk? I am sorry to take out your ponies again, and in this storm.”

Mr. Carlyle laughed. “Which would feel the storm the worst, you or the ponies?”

But when Barbara got outside, she saw that it was not the pony carriage, but the chariot that was in waiting for her. She turned inquiringly to Mr. Carlyle.

“Did you think I should allow you to go home in an open carriage to-night, Barbara?”

“Are you coming also?”

“I suppose I had better,” he smiled. “To see that you and the carriage do not get fixed in a rut.”

Barbara withdrew to her corner of the chariot, and cried silently. Very, very deeply did she mourn the unhappy situation–the privations of her brother; and she knew that he was one to feel them deeply. He could not battle with the world’s hardships so bravely as many could. Mr. Carlyle only detected her emotion as they were nearing the Grove. He leaned forward, took her hand, and held it between his.

“Don’t grieve, Barbara. Bright days may be in store for us yet.”

The carriage stopped.

“You may go back,” he said to the servants, when he alighted. “I shall walk home.”

“Oh,” exclaimed Barbara, “I do think you intend to spend the evening with us? Mamma will be so pleased.”

Her voice sounded as if she was also. Mr. Carlyle drew her hand within his arm as they walked up the path.

But Barbara had reckoned without her host. Mrs. Hare was in bed, consequently could not be pleased at the visit of Mr. Carlyle. The justice had gone out, and she, feeling tired and not well, thought she would retire to rest. Barbara stole into her room, but found her asleep, so that it fell to Barbara to entertain Mr. Carlyle.

They stood together before the large pierglass, in front of the blazing fire. Barbara was thinking over the events of the day. What Mr. Carlyle was thinking of was best known to himself; his eyes, covered with their drooping eyelids, were cast upon Barbara. There was a long silence, at length Barbara seemed to feel that his gaze was upon her, and she looked up at him.

“Will you marry me, Barbara?”

The words were spoken in the quietest, most matter-of-fact tone, just as if he had said, “Shall I give you a chair, Barbara?” But, oh! The change that passed over her countenance! The sudden light of joy! The scarlet flush of emotion and happiness. Then it all faded down to paleness and sadness.

She shook her head in the negative. “But you are very kind to ask me,” she added in words.

“What is the impediment, Barbara?”

Another rush of color as before and a deep silence. Mr. Carlyle stole his arm around her and bent his face on a level with hers.

“Whisper it to me, Barbara.”

She burst into a flood of tears.

“Is it because I once married another?”

“No, no. It is the remembrance of that night–you cannot have forgotten it, and it is stamped on my brain in letters of fire. I never thought so to betray myself. But for what passed that night you would not have asked me now.”

“Barbara!”

She glanced up at him; the tone was so painful.

“Do you know that I /love/ you? That there is none other in the whole world whom I would care to marry but you? Nay, Barbara, when happiness is within our reach, let us not throw it away upon a chimera.”

She cried more softly, leaning upon his arm. “Happiness? Would it be happiness for you?”

“Great and deep happiness,” he whispered.

She read truth in his countenance, and a sweet smile illumined her sunny features. Mr. Carlyle read its signs.

“You love me as much as ever, Barbara!”

“Far more, far more,” was the murmured answer, and Mr. Carlyle held her closer, and drew her face fondly to his. Barbara’s heart was at length at rest, and she had been content to remain where she was forever.

And Richard? Had he got clear off? Richard was stealing along the road, plunging into the snow by the hedge because it was more sheltered there than in the beaten path, when his umbrella came in contact with another umbrella. Miss Carlyle had furnished it to him; not to protect his battered hat but to protect his face from being seen by the passers by. The umbrella he encountered was an aristocratic silk one, with an ivory handle; Dick’s was of democratic cotton, with hardly any handle at all; and the respective owners had been bearing on, heads down and umbrellas out, till they, the umbrellas, met smash, right under a gas lamp. Aside went the umbrellas, and the antagonists stared at each other.

“How dare you, fellow? Can’t you see where you are going on?”

Dick thought he should have dropped. He would have given all the money his pockets held if the friendly earth had but opened and swallowed him in; for he was now peering into the face of his own father.

Uttering an exclamation of dismay, which broke from him involuntarily, Richard sped away with the swiftness of an arrow. Did Justice Hare recognize the tones? It cannot be said. He saw a rough, strange looking man, with bushy, black whiskers, who was evidently scared at the sight of him. That was nothing; for the justice, being a justice, and a strict one, was regarded with considerable awe in the parish by those of Dick’s apparent caliber. Nevertheless, he stood still and gazed in the direction until all sound of Richard’s footsteps had died away in the distance.

Tears were streaming down the face of Mrs. Hare. It was a bright morning after the snowstorm, so bright that the sky was blue, and the sun was shining, but the snow lay deeply upon ground. Mrs. Hare sat in her chair, enjoying the brightness, and Mr. Carlyle stood near her. The tears were of joy and of grief mingled–of grief at hearing that she should at last have to part with Barbara, of joy that she was going to one so entirely worthy of her as Mr. Carlyle.

“Archibald, she has had a happy home here; you will render yours as much so?”

“To the very utmost of my power.”

“You will be ever kind to her, and cherish her?”

“With my whole strength and heart. Dear Mrs. Hare; I thought you knew me too well to doubt me.”

“Doubt you! I do not doubt you, I trust you implicitly, Archibald. Had the whole world laid themselves at Barbara’s feet, I should have prayed that she might choose you.”

A small smile flitted over Mr. Carlyle’s lips. /He/ knew it was what Barbara would have done.

“But, Archibald, what about Cornelia?” returned Mrs. Hare. “I would not for a moment interfere in your affairs, or in the arrangements you and Barbara may agree upon, but I cannot help thinking that married people are better alone.”

“Cornelia will quit East Lynne,” said Mr. Carlyle. “I have not spoken to her yet, but I shall do so now. I have long made my mind up that if ever I did marry again, I and my wife would live alone. It is said she interfered too much with my former wife. Had I suspected it, Cornelia should not have remained in the house a day. Rest assured that Barbara shall not be an object to the chance.”

“How did /you/ come over her?” demanded the justice, who had already given his gratified consent, and who now entered in his dressing gown and morning wig. “Others have tried it on, and Barbara would not listen to them.”

“I suppose I must have cast a spell upon her,” answered Mr. Carlyle, breaking into a smile.

“Here she is. Barbara,” carried on the unceremonious justice, “what is it that you see in Carlyle more than anybody else?”

Barbara’s scarlet cheeks answered for her. “Papa,” she said, “Otway Bethel is at the door asking to speak to you. Jasper says he won’t come in.”

“Then I’m sure I’m not going out to him in the cold. Here, Mr. Otway, what are you afraid of?” he called out. “Come in.”

Otway Bethel made his appearance in his usual sporting costume. But he did not seem altogether at his ease in the presence of Mrs. Hare and Barbara.

“The colonel wished to see you, justice, and ask you if you had any objection to the meeting’s being put off from one o’clock till two,” cried he, after nodding to Mr. Carlyle. “He has got a friend coming to see him unexpectedly who will leave again by the two o’clock train.”

“I don’t care which it is,” answered Mr. Hare. “Two o’clock will do as well as one, for me.”

“That’s all right, then; and I’ll drop in upon Herbert and Pinner and acquaint them.”

Miss Carlyle’s cold was better that evening, in fact she seemed quite herself again, and Mr. Carlyle introduced the subject of his marriage. It was after dinner that he began upon it.

“Cornelia, when I married Lady Isabel Vane, you reproached me severely with having kept you in the dark–“

“If you had not kept me in the dark, but consulted me, as any other Christian would, the course of events would have been wholly changed, and the wretchedness and disgrace that fell on this house been spared to it,” fiercely interrupted Miss Carlyle.

“We will leave the past,” he said, “and consider the future. I was about to remark, that I do not intend to fall under your displeasure again for the like offense. I believe you have never wholly forgiven it.”

“And never shall,” cried she, impetuously. “I did not deserve the slight.”

“Therefore, almost as soon as I know it myself, I acquaint you. I am about to marry a second time, Cornelia.”

Miss Carlyle started up. Her spectacles dropped off her nose, and a knitting-box which she happened to have on her knees, clattered to the floor.

“What did you say?” she uttered, aghast.

“I’m about to marry.”

“You!”

“I. Is there anything so very astonishing in it?”

“For the love of common sense, don’t go and make such a fool of yourself. You have done it once; was not that enough for you, but you must run your head into the noose again?”

“Now, Cornelia, can you wonder that I do not speak of things when you meet them in this way? You treat me just as you did when I was a child. It is very foolish.”

“When folk act childishly, they must be treated as children. I always thought you were mad when you married before, but I shall think you doubly mad now.”

“Because you have preferred to remain single and solitary yourself, is it any reason why you should condemn me to do the same? You are happy alone; I should be happier with a wife.

“That she may go and disgrace you, as the last one did!” intemperately spoke Miss Carlyle, caring not a rush what she said in her storm of anger.

Mr. Carlyle’s brow flushed, but he controlled his temper.

“No,” he calmly replied. “I am not afraid of that in the one I have now chosen.”

Miss Corny gathered her knitting together, he had picked up her box. Her hands trembled, and the lines of her face were working. It was a blow to her as keen as the other had been.

“Pray who is it that you have chosen?” she jerked forth. “The whole neighborhood has been after you.”

“Let it be who it will, Cornelia, you will be sure to grumble. Were I to say that it was a royal princess, or a peasant’s daughter, you would equally see grounds for finding fault.”

“Of course I should. I know who it is–that stuck-up Louisa Dobede.”

“No, it is not. I never had the slightest intention of choosing Louisa Dobede, nor she of choosing me. I am marrying to please myself, and, for a wife, Louisa Dobede would not please me.”

“As you did before,” sarcastically put in Miss Corny.

“Yes; as I did before.”

“Well, can’t you open your mouth and say who it is?” was the exasperated rejoinder.

“It is Barbara Hare.”

“Who?” shrieked Miss Carlyle.

“You are not deaf, Cornelia.”

“Well, you /are/ an idiot!” she exclaimed, lifting up her hands and eyes.

“Thank you,” he said, but without any signs of irritation.

“And so you are; /you are/, Archibald. To suffer that girl, who has been angling after you so long, to catch you at last.”

“She has not angled after me; had she done so, she would probably never have been Mrs. Carlyle. Whatever passing fancy she may have entertained for me in earlier days, she has shown no symptoms of it of late years; and I am quite certain that she had no more thought or idea that I should choose her for my second wife, than you had I should choose you. Others have angled after me too palpably, but Barbara has not.”

“She is a conceited minx, as vain as she is high.”

“What else have you to urge against her?”

“I would have married a girl without a slur, if I must have married,” aggravatingly returned Miss Corny.

“Slur?”

“Slur, yes. Dear me, is it an honor–the possessing a brother such as Richard?”

Miss Corny sniffed. “Pigs may fly; but I never saw them try at it.”

“The next consideration, Cornelia, is about your residence. You will go back, I presume, to your own home.”

Miss Corny did not believe her own ears. “Go back to my own home!” she exclaimed. “I shall do nothing of the sort. I shall stop at East Lynne. What’s to hinder me?”

Mr. Carlyle shook his head. “It cannot be,” he said, in a low, decisive tone.

“Who says so?” she sharply asked.

“I do. Have you forgotten that night–when she went away–the words spoken by Joyce? Cornelia, whether they were true or false, I will not subject another to the chance.”

She did not answer. Her lips parted and closed again. Somehow, Miss Carlyle could not bear to be reminded of that revelation of Joyce’s; it subdued even her.

“I cast no reflection upon you,” hastily continued Mr. Carlyle. “You have been a mistress of a house for many years, and you naturally look to be so; it is right you should. But two mistresses in a house do not answer, Cornelia; they never did, and they never will.”

“Why did you not give me so much of your sentiments when I first came to East Lynne?” she burst forth. “I hate hypocrisy.”

“They were not my sentiments then; I possessed none. I was ignorant upon the subject as I was upon many others. Experience has come to me since.”

“You will not find a better mistress of a house than I have made you,” she resentfully spoke.

“I do not look for it. The tenants leave your house in March, do they not?”

“Yes, they do,” snapped Miss Corny. “But as we are on the subject of details of ways and means, allow me to tell you that if you did what is right, /you/ would move into that house of mine, and I will go to a smaller–as you seem to think I shall poison Barbara if I remain with her. East Lynne is a vast deal too fine and too grand for you.”

“I do not consider it so. I shall not quit East Lynne.”

“Are you aware that, in leaving your house, I take my income with me, Archibald?”

“Most certainly. Your income is yours, and you will require it for your own purposes. I have neither a right to, nor wish for it.”

“It will make a pretty good hole in your income, the withdrawing of it, I can tell you that. Take care that you and East Lynne don’t go bankrupt together.”

At this moment the summons of a visitor was heard. Even that excited the ire of Miss Carlyle. “I wonder who’s come bothering to-night?” she uttered.

Peter entered. “It is Major Thorn, sir. I have shown him into the drawing-room.”

Mr. Carlyle was surprised. He had not thought Major Thorn within many a mile of West Lynne. He proceeded to the drawing-room.

“Such a journey!” said Major Thorn to Mr. Carlyle. “It is my general luck to get ill-weather when I travel. Rain and hail, thunder and heat; nothing bad comes amiss when I am out. The snow lay on the rails, I don’t know how thick; at one station we were detained two hours.”

“Are you proposing to make any stay at West Lynne?”

“Off again to-morrow. My leave, this time, is to be spent at my mother’s. I may bestow a week of it or so on West Lynne, but am not sure. I must be back in Ireland in a month. Such a horrid boghole we are quartered in just now!”

“To go from one subject to another,” observed Mr. Carlyle; “there is a question I have long thought to put to you, Thorn, did we ever meet again. Which year was it that you were staying at Swainson?”

Major Thorn mentioned it. It was the year of Hallijohn’s murder.

“As I thought–in fact, know,” said Mr. Carlyle. “Did you, while you were stopping there, ever come across a namesake of yours–one Thorn?”

“I believe I did. But I don’t know the man, of my knowledge, and I saw him but once only. I don’t think he was living at Swainson. I never observed him in the town.”

“Where did you meet with him?”

“At a roadside beer-shop, about two miles from Swainson. I was riding one day, when a fearful storm came on, and I took shelter there. Scarcely had I entered, when another horsemen rode up, and he likewise took shelter–a tall, dandified man, aristocratic and exclusive. When he departed–for he quitted first, the storm being over–I asked the people who he was. They said they did not know, though they had often seen him ride by; but a man who was there, drinking, said he was a Captain Thorn. The same man, by the way, volunteered the information that he came from a distance; somewhere near West Lynne; I remember that.”

“That Captain Thorn did?”

“No–that he, himself did. He appeared to know nothing of Captain Thorn, beyond the name.

It seemed to be ever so! Scraps of information, but nothing tangible. Nothing to lay hold of, or to know the man by. Would it be thus always?

“Should you recognize him again were you to see him?” resumed Mr. Carlyle awakening from his reverie.

“I think I should. There was something peculiar in his countenance, and I remember it well yet.”

“Were you by chance to meet him, and discover his real name–for I have reason to believe that Thorn, the one he went by then, was an assumed one–will you oblige me by letting me know it?”

“With all the pleasure in life,” replied the major. “The chances are against it though, confined as I am to that confounded sister country. Other regiments get the luck of being quartered in the metropolis, or near it; ours doesn’t.”

When Major Thorn departed, and Mr. Carlyle was about to return to the room where he left his sister, he was interrupted by Joyce.

“Sir,” she began. “Miss Carlyle tells me that there is going to be a change at East Lynne.”

The words took Mr. Carlyle by surprise.

“Miss Carlyle has been in a hurry to tell you,” he remarked–a certain haughty displeasure in his tone.

“She did not speak for the sake of telling me, sir, it is not likely; but I fancy she was thinking about her own plans. She inquired whether I would go with her when she left, or whether I meant to remain at East Lynne. I would not answer her, sir, until I had spoken to you.”

“Well?” said Mr. Carlyle.

“I gave a promise sir, to–to–my late lady–that I would remain with her children as long as I was permitted. She asked it of me when she was ill–when she thought she was going to die. What I would inquire of you, sir, is, whether the change will make any difference to my staying?”

“No,” he decisively replied. “I also, Joyce, wish you to remain with the children.”

“It is well, sir,” Joyce answered, and her face looked bright as she quitted the room.

CHAPTER XXXI.

MR. DILL IN AN EMBROIDERED SHIRT-FRONT.

It was a lovely morning in June, and all West Lynne was astir. West Lynne generally was astir in the morning, but not in the bustling manner that might be observed now. People were abroad in numbers, passing down to St. Jude’s Church, for it was the day of Mr. Carlyle’s marriage to Barbara Hare.

Miss Carlyle made herself into a sort of martyr. She would not go near it; fine weddings in fine churches did not suit her, she proclaimed; they could tie themselves up together fast enough without her presence. She had invited the little Carlyles and their governess and Joyce to spend the day with her; and she persisted in regarding the children as martyrs too, in being obliged to submit to the advent of a second mother. She was back in her old house again, next door to the office, settled there for life now with her servants. Peter had mortally offended her in electing to remain at East Lynne.

Mr. Dill committed himself terribly on the wedding morning. About ten o’clock he made his appearance at Miss Carlyle’s; he was a man of the old stage, possessing old-fashioned notions, and he had deemed that to step in to congratulate her on the auspicious day would be only good manners.

Miss Carlyle was seated in her dining-room, her hands folded before her. It was rare indeed that /she/ was caught doing nothing. She turned her eyes on Mr. Dill as he entered.

“Why, what on earth has taken you?” began she, before he could speak. “You are decked out like a young duck!”

“I am going to the wedding, Miss Cornelia. Did you know it? Mrs. Hare was so kind as to invite me to the breakfast, and Mr. Archibald insists upon my going to church. I am not too fine, am I?”

Poor old Dill’s “finery” consisted of a white waistcoat with gold buttons, and an embroidered shirt-front. Miss Corny was pleased to regard it with sarcastic wrath.

“Fine!” echoed she. “I don’t know what /you/ call it. I would not make myself such a spectacle for untold gold. You’ll have all the ragamuffins in the street forming a tail after you, thinking you are the bridegroom. A man of your years to deck yourself out in a worked shirt! I would have had some rosettes on my coat-tails, while I was about it.”

“My coat’s quite plain, Miss Cornelia,” he meekly remonstrated.

“Plain! What would you have it?” snapped Miss Cornelia. “Perhaps you covet a wreath of embroidery round it, gold leaves and scarlet flowers, with a swansdown collar? It would only be in keeping with that shirt and waistcoat. I might as well have gone and ordered a white tarletan dress, looped up with peas, and streamed through the town in that guise. It would be just as consistent.”

“People like to dress a little out of common at a wedding, Miss Cornelia; it’s only respectful, when they are invited guests.”

“I don’t say people should go to a wedding in a hop sack. But there’s a medium. Pray, do you know your age?”

“I am turned sixty, Miss Corny.”

“You just are. And do you consider it decent for an old man, going on for seventy, to be decorated off as you are now? I don’t; and so I tell you my mind. Why, you’ll be the laughing-stock of the parish! Take care the boys don’t tie a tin kettle to you!”

Mr. Dill thought he would leave the subject. His own impression was, that he was /not/ too fine, and that the parish would not regard him as being so; still, he had a great reverence for Miss Corny’s judgment, and was not altogether easy. He had had his white gloves in his hand when he entered, but he surreptitiously smuggled them into his pocket, lest they might offend. He passed to the subject which had brought him thither.

“What I came in for, was to offer you my congratulations on this auspicious day, Miss Cornelia. I hope Mr. Archibald and his wife, and you, ma’am–“

“There! You need not trouble yourself to go on,” interrupted Miss Corny, hotly arresting him. “We want condolence here to-day, rather than the other thing. I’m sure I’d nearly as soon see Archibald go to his hanging.”

“Oh, Miss Corny!”

“I would; and you need not stare at me as if you were throttled. What business has he to go and fetter himself with a wife again. One would have thought he had had enough with the other. It is as I have always said, there’s a soft place in Archibald’s brain.”

Old Dill knew there was no “soft place” in the brain of Mr. Carlyle, but he deemed it might be as well not to say so, in Miss Corny’s present humor. “Marriage is a happy state, as I have heard, ma’am, and honorable; and I am sure Mr. Archibald–“

“Very happy! Very honorable!” fiercely cried Miss Carlyle, sarcasm in her tone. “His last marriage brought him all that, did it not?”

“That’s past and done with, Miss Corny, and none of us need recall it. I hope he will find in his present wife a recompense for what’s gone; he could not have chosen a prettier or nicer young lady than Miss Barbara; and I am glad to my very heart that he has got her.”

“Couldn’t he?” jerked Miss Carlyle.

“No, ma’am, he could not. Were I young, and wanted a wife, there’s no one in all West Lynne I would so soon look out for as Miss Barbara. Not that she’d have me; and I was not speaking in that sense, Miss Corny.”

“It’s to be hoped you were not,” retorted Miss Corny. “She is an idle, insolent, vain fagot, caring for nothing but her own doll’s face and for Archibald.”

“Ah, well, ma’am never mind that; pretty young girls know they are pretty, and you can’t take their vanity from them. She’ll be a good and loving wife to him; I know she will; it is in her nature; she won’t serve him as–as–that other poor unfortunate did.”

“If I feared she was one to bring shame to him, as the other did, I’d go into the church this hour and forbid the marriage; and if that didn’t do, I’d–smother her!” shrieked Miss Carlyle. “Look at that piece of impudence!”

That last sentence was uttered in a different tone, and concerned somebody in the street. Miss Carlyle hopped off her chair and strode to the window. Mr. Dill’s eyes turned in the like direction.

In a gay and summer’s dress, fine and sparkling, with a coquettish little bonnet, trimmed with pink, shaded by one of those nondescript articles at present called veils, which article was made of white spotted net with a pink ruche round it, sailed Afy Hallijohn, conceited and foolish and good-looking as ever. Catching sight of Mr. Dill, she made him a flourishing and gracious bow. The courteous old gentleman returned it, and was pounced upon by Miss Corny’s tongue for his pains.

“Whatever possessed you to do that?”

“Well, Miss Corny, she spoke to me. You saw her.”

“I saw her? Yes, I did see her, the brazen bellwether! And she saw me, and spoke to you in her insolence. And you must answer her, in spite of my presence, instead of shaking your fist and giving her a reproving frown. You want a little sharp talking to, yourself.”

“But, Miss Corny, it’s always best to let bygones be bygones,” he pleaded. “She was flighty and foolish, and all that, was Afy; but now that it’s proved she did not go with Richard Hare, as was suspected, and is at present living creditably, why should she not be noticed?”

“If the very deuce himself stood there with his horns and tail, you would find excuses to make for him,” fired Miss Corny. “You are as bad as Archibald! Notice Afy Hallijohn, when she dresses and flirts and minces as you saw her but now! What creditable servant would flaunt abroad in such a dress and bonnet as that, with that flimsy gauze thing over her face. It’s as disreputable as your shirt-front.”

Mr. Dill coughed humbly, not wishing to renew the point of the shirt- front. “She is not exactly a servant, Miss Corny, she’s a lady’s maid; and ladies’ maids do dress outrageously fine. I had great respect for her father, ma’am; never a better clerk came into our office.”

“Perhaps you’ll tell me you have a respect for her! The world’s being turned upside down, I think. Formerly, mistresses kept their servants to work; now it seems they keep them for play! She’s going to St. Jude’s, you may be sure of it, to stare at this fine wedding, instead of being at home, in a cotton gown and white apron, making beds. Mrs. Latimer must be a droll mistress, to give her liberty in this way. What’s that fly for?” sharply added Miss Corny, as one drew up to the office door.

“Fly,” said Mr. Dill, stretching forward his bald head. “It must be the one I ordered. Then I’ll wish you good-day, Miss Corny.”

“Fly for you?” cried Miss corny. “Have you got the gout, that you could not walk to St. Jude’s on foot?”

“I am not going to the church yet; I am going on to the Grove, Miss Corny. I thought it would look more proper to have a fly ma’am; more respectful.”

“Not a doubt but you need it in that trim,” retorted she. “Why didn’t you put on pumps and silk stockings with pink clocks?”

He was glad to bow himself out, she kept on so. But he thought he would do it with a pleasant remark, to show her he bore no ill-will. “Just look at the crowds pouring down, Miss Corny; the church will be as full as it can cram.”

“I dare say it will,” retorted she. “One fool makes many.”

“I fear Miss Cornelia does not like this marriage, any more than she did the last,” quoth Mr. Dill to himself as he stepped into his fly. “Such a sensible woman as she is in other things, to be so bitter against Mr. Archibald because he marries! It’s not like her. I wonder,” he added, his thoughts changing, “whether I do look foolish in this shirt? I’m sure I never thought of decking myself out to appear young–as Miss Corny said–I only wished to testify respect to Mr. Archibald and Miss Barbara; nothing else would have made me give five-and-twenty shillings for it. Perhaps it’s not etiquette–or whatever they call it–to wear them in the morning, Miss Corny ought to know; and there certainly must be something wrong about it, by the way it put her up. Well, it can’t be helped now; it must go; there’s no time to return home now to change it.”

St. Jude’s Church was in a cram; all the world and his wife had flocked into it. Those who could not get in, took up their station in the churchyard and in the road.

Well, it was a goodly show. Ladies and gentlemen as smart as fine feathers could make them. Mr. Carlyle was one of the first to enter the church, self-possessed and calm, the very sense of a gentleman. Oh, but he was noble to look upon; though when was he otherwise? Mr. and Mrs. Clithero were there, Anne Hare, that was; a surprise for some of the gazers, who had not known they were expected at the wedding. Gentle, delicate Mrs. Hare walked up the church leaning on the arm of Sir John Dobede, a paler shade than usual on her sweet, sad face. “She’s thinking of her wretched, ill-doing son,” quoth the gossips, one to another. But who comes in now, with an air as if the whole church belonged to him? An imposing, pompous man, stern and grim, in a new flaxen wig, and a white rose in his buttonhole. It is Mr. Justice Hare, and he leads in one, whom folks jump upon seats to get a look at.

Very lovely was Barbara, in her soft white silk robes and her floating veil. Her cheeks, now blushing rosy red, now pale as the veil that shaded them, betrayed how intense was her emotion. The bridesmaids came after her with jaunty steps, vain in their important office– Louisa Dobede, Augusta and Kate Herbert, and Mary Pinner.

Mr. Carlyle was already in his place at the altar, and as Barbara neared him, he advanced, took her hand, and placed her on his left. I don’t think that it was quite usual; but he had been married before, and ought to know. The clerk directed the rest where to stand, and, after some little delay, the service proceeded.

In spite of her emotion–and that it was great, scarcely to be suppressed, none could doubt–Barbara made the responses bravely. Be you very sure that a woman who /loves/ him she is being united to, must experience this emotion.

“Wilt though have this man to be thy wedded husband, to live together after God’s ordinance, in the holy estate of matrimony?” spoke the Rev. Mr. Little. “Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health, and forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long as ye both shall live?”

“I will.”

Clearly, firmly, impressively was the answer given. It was as if Barbara had in her thoughts one who had not “kept holy unto him,” and would proclaim her own resolution never so to betray him, God helping her.

The ceremony was very soon over, and Barbara, the magic ring upon her finger and her arm within Mr. Carlyle’s was led out to his chariot, now hers–had he not just endowed her with his worldly goods?

The crowd shouted and hurrahed as they caught sight of her blushing face, but the carriage was soon clear of the crowd, who concentrated their curiosity upon the other carriages that were to follow it. The company were speeding back to the Grove to breakfast. Mr. Carlyle, breaking the silence, suddenly turned to his bride and spoke, his tone impassioned, almost unto pain.

“Barbara, /you/ will keep your vows to me?”

She raised her shy blue eyes, so full of love to his; earnest feeling had brought the tears to them.

“Always, in the spirit and in the letter, until death shall claim me. So help me Heaven!”

The German watering-places were crowded that early autumn. They generally are crowded at that season, now that the English flock abroad in shoals, like the swallows quitting our cold country, to return again some time. France has been pretty well used up, so now we fall upon Germany. Stalkenberg was that year particularly full, for its size–you might have put it in a nutshell; and it derived its importance, name, and most else belonging to it, from its lord of the soil, the Baron von Stalkenberg. A stalwart old man was the baron, with grizzly hair, a grizzled beard, and manners as loutish as those of the boars he hunted. He had four sons as stalwart as himself, and who promised to be in time as grizzled. They were all styled the Counts von Stalkenberg, being distinguished by their Christian names– all save the eldest son, and he was generally called the young baron. Two of them were away–soldiers; and two, the eldest and the youngest, lived with their father in the tumble-down castle of Stalkenberg, situated about a mile from the village to which it gave its name. The young Baron von Stalkenberg was at liberty to marry; the three Counts von Stalkenberg were not–unless they could pick up a wife with enough money to keep herself and her husband. In this creed they had been brought up. It was a perfectly understood creed, and not rebelled against.

The young Baron von Stalkenberg, who was only styled young in contradistinction to his father, being in his forty-first year, was famous for a handsome person, and for his passionate love of the chase: of wild boars and wolves he was the deadly enemy. The Count Otto von Stalkenberg, eleven years his brother’s junior, was famous for nothing but his fiercely-ringed moustache, a habit of eating, and an undue addiction to draughts of Marcobrunen. Somewhat meager fare, so report ran, was the fashion in the Castle of Stalkenberg–neither the old baron nor his heir cared for luxury; therefore Count von Otto was sure to be seen at the /table d’ hote/ as often as anybody would invite him, and that was nearly every day, for the Count von Stalkenberg was a high-sounding title, and his baronial father, proprietor of all Stalkenberg, lorded it in the baronial castle close by, all of which appeared very grand and great, and that the English bow down to with an idol’s worship.

Stopping at the Ludwig Bad, the chief hotel in the place, was a family of the name of Crosby. It consisted of Mr. and Mrs. Crosby, an only daughter, her governess, and two or three servants. What Mr. Crosby had done to England, or England to him, I can’t say, but he never went near his native country. For years and years he had lived abroad–not in any settled place of residence: they would travel about, and remain a year or two in one place, a year or two in another, as the whim suited them. A respectable, portly man, of quiet and gentlemanly manners, looking as little like one who need be afraid of the laws of his own land as can be. Neither is it said or insinuated that he was afraid of them. A gentleman who knew him had told, many years before, in answer to a doubt, that Crosby was as free to go home and establish himself in a mansion in Piccadilly as the best of them. But he had lost fearfully by some roguish scheme, like the South Sea Bubble, and could not live in the style he once had done, therefore preferred remaining abroad. Mrs. Crosby was a pleasant, chatty woman given to take as much gayety as she could get, and Helena Crosby was a remarkably fine grown girl of seventeen. You might have given her some years on it had you been guessing her age, for she was no child, either in appearance or manners, and never had been. She was an heiress, too. An uncle had left her twenty thousand pounds, and at her mother’s death she would have ten thousand more. The Count Otto von Stalkenberg heard of the thirty thousand pounds, and turned his fierce moustache and his eyes on Miss Helena.

“Thirty thousand pounds and von handsome girls!” cogitated he, for he prided himself upon his English. “It is just what I have been seeking after.”

He found the rumor touching her fortune to be correct, and from that time was seldom apart from the Crosbys. They were as pleased to have his society as he was to be in theirs, for was he not the Count von Stalkenberg? And the other visitors at Stalkenberg looking on with envy, would have given their ears to be honored with a like intimacy.

One day there thundered down in a vehicle the old Baron von Stalkenberg. The old chief had come to pay a visit of ceremony to the Crosbys. And the host of the Ludwig Bad, as he appeared himself to marshal this chieftain to their saloon, bowed his body low with every step.

“Room there, room there, for the mighty Baron von Stalkenberg.”

The mighty baron had come to invite them to a feast at his castle, where no feast had ever been made so grand before as this would be; and Otto had /carte blanche/ to engage other distinguished sojourners at Stalkenberg, English, French, and natives, who had been civil to him. Mrs. Crosby’s head was turned.

And now, I ask you, knowing as you do our national notions, was it not enough to turn it? You will not, then, be surprised to hear that when, some days subsequent to the feast, the Count Otto von Stalkenberg laid his proposals at Helena’s feet, they were not rejected.

Helena Crosby rushed into her governess’s room.

“Madam! Madam! Only think. I am going to be married!”

Madam lifted her pale, sad face–a very sad and pale face was hers.

“Indeed!” she gently uttered.

“And my studies are to be over from to-day, Mamma says so.”

“You are over young to marry, Helena.”

“Now don’t you bring up that, madam. It is just what papa is harping upon,” returned Miss Helena.

“It is to Count Otto?” And it may be remarked that the governess’s English was perfect, although the young lady addressed her as “Madam.”

“Count Otto, of course. As if I would marry anybody else!”

Look at the governess, reader, and see whether you know her. You will say “No.” But you do, for it is Lady Isabel Vane. But how strangely she is altered! Yes, the railway accident did that for her, and what the accident left undone, grief and remorse accomplished. She limps as she walks, and slightly stoops, taken from her former height. A scar extends from her chin above her mouth, completely changing the character of the lower part of her face; some of her teeth are missing, so that she speaks with a lisp, and the sober bands of her gray hair–it is nearly silver–are confined under a large and close cap. She herself tries to make the change greater, so that all chance of being recognized may be at an end, and for that reason she wears disfiguring spectacles, and a broad band of gray velvet, coming down low upon her forehead. Her dress, too, is equally disfiguring. Never is she seen in one that fits her person, but in those frightful “loose jackets,” which must surely have been invented by somebody envious of a pretty shape. As to her bonnet, it would put to shame those masquerade things tilted on to the back of the head, for it actually shaded her face; and she was never seen out without a thick veil. She was pretty easy upon the score of being recognized now; for Mrs. Ducie and her daughters had been sojourning at Stalkenberg, and they did not know her in the least. Who could know her? What resemblance was there between that gray, broken-down woman, with her disfiguring marks, and the once loved Lady Isabel, with her bright color, her beauty, her dark flowing curls, and her agile figure? Mr. Carlyle himself could not have told her. But she was good-looking still, in spite of it all, gentle and interesting; and people wondered to see that gray hair in one yet young.

She had been with the Crosbys going on for two years. After her recovery from the railway accident, she removed to a quiet town in the vicinity; they were living there, and she became daily governess to Helena. The Crosbys were given to understand that she was English, but the widow of a Frenchman–she was obliged to offer some plausible account. There were no references; but she so won upon their esteem as the daily governess, that they soon took her into the house. Had Lady Isabel surmised that they would be travelling to so conspicuous a spot as an English-frequented German watering-place, she might have hesitated to accept the engagement. However, it had been of service to her, the meeting with Mrs. Ducie proving that she was altered beyond chance of recognition. She could go anywhere now.

But now, about her state of mind? I don’t know how to describe it; the vain yearning, the inward fever, the restless longing for what might not be. Longing for what? For her children. Let the mother, be she a duchess, or be she an apple-woman at a stand, be separated for awhile from her little children; let /her/ answer how she yearns for them. She may be away on a tour of pleasure for a few weeks; the longing to see their little faces again, to hear their prattling tongues, to feel their soft kisses, is kept under; and there may be frequent messages, “The children’s dear love to mamma;” but as the weeks lengthen out, the desire to see them again becomes almost irrepressible. What must it have been then, for Lady Isabel, who had endured this longing for years? Talk of the /mal du pays/, which is said to attack the Swiss when exiled from their country–that is as nothing compared to the heartsickness which clung to Lady Isabel. She had passionately loved her children; she had been anxious for their welfare in all ways; and not the least she had to endure now was the thought that she had abandoned them to be trained by strangers. Would they be trained to goodness, to morality, to religion? Careless as she herself had once been upon these points, she had learnt better now. Would Isabel grow up to indifference, to–perhaps do as she had done? Lady Isabel flung her hands before her eyes and groaned in anguish.

It happened that Mrs. Latimer, a lady living at West Lynne, betook herself about that time to Stalkenberg, and with her, three parts maid and one part companion, went Afy Hallijohn. Not that Afy was admitted to the society of Mrs. Latimer, to sit with her or dine with her, nothing of that; but she did enjoy more privileges than most ladies’ maids do, and Afy, who was never backward at setting off her own consequence, gave out that she was “companion.” Mrs. Latimer was an easy woman, fond of Afy, and Afy had made her own tale good to her respecting the ill-natured reports at the time of the murder, so that Mrs. Latimer looked upon her as one to be compassionated.

Mrs. Latimer and Mrs. Crosby, whose apartments in the hotel joined, struck up a violent friendship, the one for the other. Ere the former had been a week at the Ludwig, they had sworn something like eternal sisterhood–as both had probably done for others fifty times before.

CHAPTER XXXII.

MEETING OF LADY ISABEL AND AFY.

On the evening of the day when Helena Crosby communicated her future prospects to Lady Isabel, the latter strolled out in the twilight and took her seat on a bench in an unfrequented part of the gardens, where she was fond of sitting. Now it occurred that Afy, some minutes afterwards, found herself in the same walk–and a very dull one, too, she was thinking.

“Who’s that?” quoth Afy to herself, her eyes falling upon Lady Isabel. “Oh, it’s that governess of the Crosby’s. She may be known, a half a mile off, by her grandmother’s bonnet. I’ll go and have a chat with her.”

Accordingly Afy, who was never troubled with bashfulness, went up and seated herself beside Lady Isabel. “Good evening, Madame Vine,” cried she.

“Good evening,” replied Lady Isabel, courteously, not having the least idea who Afy might be.

“You don’t know me, I fancy,” pursued Afy, so gathering from Lady Isabel’s looks. “I am companion to Mrs. Latimer; and she is spending the evening with Mrs. Crosby. Precious dull, this Stalkenberg.”

“Do you think so?”

“It is for me. I can’t speak German or French, and the upper attendants of families here can’t; most of them speak English. I’m sure I go about like an owl, able to do nothing but stare. I was sick enough to come here, but I’d rather be back at West Lynne, quiet as it is.”

Lady Isabel had not been encouraging her companion, either by words or manner, but the last sentence caused her heart to bound within her. Control herself as she would, she could not quite hide her feverish interest.

“Do you come from West Lynne?”

“Yes. Horrid place. Mrs. Latimer took a house there soon after I went to live with her. I’d rather she’d taken it at Botany Bay.”

“Why do you not like it?”

“Because I don’t,” was Afy’s satisfactory answer.

“Do you know East Lynne?” resumed Lady Isabel, her heart beating and her brain whirling, as she deliberated how she could put all the questions she wished to ask.

“I ought to know it,” returned Afy. “My own sister, Miss Hallijohn, is head maid there. Why, do you know it, Madame Vine?”

Lady Isabel hesitated; she was deliberating upon her answer.

“Some years ago I was staying in the neighborhood for a little time,” she said. “I should like to hear of the Carlyles again; they were a nice family.”

Afy tossed her head.

“Ah! But there have been changes since that. I dare say you knew them in the time of Lady Isabel?”

Another pause.

“Lady Isabel? Yes she was Mr. Carlyle’s wife.”

“And a nice wife she made him!” ironically rejoined Afy. “You must have heard of it, Madame Vine, unless you lived in the wood. She elope– abandoned him and her children.”

“Are the children living?”

“Yes, poor things. But the one’s on the road to the churchyard–if ever I saw threatened consumption yet. Joyce, that’s my sister, is in a flaring temper when I say it. She thinks it will get strong again.”

Lady Isabel passed her handkerchief across her moist brow.

“Which of the children is it?” she faintly asked. “Isabel?”

“Isabel!” retorted Afy. “Who’s Isabel?”

“The eldest child, I mean; Miss Isabel Carlyle.”

“There’s no Isabel. There’s Lucy. She’s the only daughter.”

“When–when–I knew them, there was only one daughter; the other two were boys; I remember quite well that she was called Isabel.”

“Stay,” said Afy; “now you speak of it, what was it that I heard? It was Wilson told me, I recollect–she’s the nurse. Why, the very night that his wife went away Mr. Carlyle gave orders that the child in future should be called Lucy, her second name. No wonder,” added Afy, violently indignant, “that he could no lager endure the sound of her mother’s or suffer the child to bear it.”

“No wonder,” murmured Lady Isabel. “Which child is it that’s ill?”

“It’s William, the eldest boy. He is not to say ill, but he is as thin as a herring, with an unnaturally bright look on his cheek, and a glaze upon his eye. Joyce says that his cheeks are no brighter than his mother’s were, but I know better. Folks in health don’t have those brilliant colors.”

“Did you ever see Lady Isabel?” she asked, in a low tone.

“Not I,” returned Afy; “I should have thought it demeaning. One does not care to be brought into contact with that sort of misdoing lot, you know, Madame Vine.”

“There as another one, a little boy–Archibald, I think, his name was. Is he well?”

“Oh, the troublesome youngster! He is as sturdy as a Turk. No fear of his going into consumption. He is the very image of Mr. Carlyle, is that child. I say though, madame,” continued Afy, changing the subject unceremoniously, “if you were stopping at West Lynne, perhaps you heard some wicked mischief-making stories concerning me?”

“I believe I did hear your name mentioned. I cannot charge my memory now with the particulars.”

“My father was murdered–you must have heard of that?”

“Yes, I recollect so far.”

“He was murdered by a chap called Richard Hare, who decamped instanter. Perhaps you know the Hares also? Well, directly after the funeral I left West Lynne; I could not bear the place, and I stopped away. And what do you suppose they said of me? That I had gone after Richard Hare. Not that I knew they were saying it, or I should pretty soon have been back and given them the length of my tongue. But now I just ask you, as a lady, Madame Vine, whether a more infamous accusation was ever pitched upon?”

“And you had not gone after him?”

“No; that I swear,” passionately returned Afy. “Make myself a companion of my father’s murderer! If Mr. Calcraft, the hangman, finished off a few of those West Lynne scandalmongers, it might be a warning to the others. I said so to Mr. Carlyle.

“To Mr. Carlyle?” repeated Lady Isabel, hardly conscious that she did repeat it.

“He laughed, I remember, and said that would not stop the scandal. The only one who did not misjudge me was himself; he did not believe that I was with Richard Hare, but he was ever noble-judging was Mr. Carlyle.”

“I suppose you were in a situation?”

Afy coughed.

“To be sure. More than one. I lived as companion with an old lady, who so valued me that she left me a handsome legacy in her will. I lived two years with the Countess of Mount Severn.”

“With the Countess of Mount Severn!” echoed Lady Isabel, surprised into the remark. “Why, she–she–was related to Mr. Carlyle’s wife. At least Lord Mount Severn was.”

“Of course; everybody knows that. I was living there at the time the business happened. Didn’t the countess pull Lady Isabel to pieces! She and Miss Levison used to sit, cant, cant all day over it. Oh, I assure you I know all about it, just as much as Joyce did. Have you got that headache, that you are leaning on your hand?”

“Headache and heartache both,” she might have answered.

Miss Afy resumed.

“So, after the flattering compliment West Lynne had paid to me, you may judge I was in no hurry to go back to it, Madame Vine. And if I had not found that Mrs. Latimer’s promised to be an excellent place, I should have left it, rather than be marshaled there. But I have lived it down; I should like to hear any of them fibbing against me now. Do you know that blessed Miss Corny?”

“I have seen her.”

“She shakes her head and makes eyes at me still. But so she would at an angel; a cross-grained old cockatoo!”

“Is she still at East Lynne?”

“Not she, indeed. There would be drawn battles between her and Mrs. Carlyle, if she were.”

A dart, as of an ice-bolt, seemed to arrest the blood in Lady Isabel’s veins.

“Mrs. Carlyle,” she faltered. “Who is Mrs. Carlyle?”

“Mr. Carlyle’s wife–who should she be?”

The rushing blood leaped on now fast and fiery.

“I did not know he had married again.”

“He has been married now–oh, getting on for fifteen months; a twelvemonth last June. I went to the church to see them married. Wasn’t there a cram! She looked beautiful that day.”

Lady Isabel laid her hand upon her breast. But for that delectable “loose jacket,” Afy might have detected her bosom rise and fall. She steadied her voice sufficiently to speak.

“Did he marry Barbara Hare?”

“You may take your oath of that,” said Afy. “If folks tell true, there was love scenes between them before he ever thought of Lady Isabel. I had that from Wilson, and she ought to know, for she lived at the Hares’. Another thing is said–only you must just believe one word of West Lynne talk, and disbelieve ten–that if Lady Isabel had not died, Mr. Carlyle never would have married again; he had scruples. Half a dozen were given him by report; Louisa Dobede for one, and Mary Pinner for another. Such nonsense! Folks might have made sure it would be Barbara Hare. There’s a baby now.”

“Is there?” was the faint answer.

“A beautiful boy three or four months old. Mrs. Carlyle is not a little proud of him. She worships her husband.”

“Is she kind to the first children?”

“For all I know. I don’t think she has much to do with them. Archibald is in the nursery, and the other two are mostly with the governess.”

“I wonder,” cried the governess, “how the tidings of Lady Isabel’s death were received at East Lynne?”

“I don’t know anything about that. They held it as a jubilee, I should say, and set all the bells in town to ring, and feasted the men upon legs of mutton and onion sauce afterward. I should, I know. A brute animal, deaf and dumb, such as a cow or a goose, clings to its offspring, but /she/ abandoned hers. Are you going in Madame Vine?”

“I must go in now. Good evening to you.”

She had sat till she could sit no longer; her very heartstrings were wrung, and she might not rise up in defence of herself. Defence? Did she not deserve more, ten thousand times more reproach than had met her ears now? This girl did not say of her half what the world must say.

“There is a governess?”

“Nearly the first thing that Mr. Carlyle did, after his wife’s moonlight flitting, was to seek a governess, and she has been there ever since. She is going to leave now; to be married, Joyce told me.”

“Are you much at East Lynne?”

Afy shook her head. “I am not going much, I can tell you, where I am looked down upon. Mrs. Carlyle does not favor me. She knew that her brother Richard would have given his hand to marry me, and she resents it. Not such a great catch, I’m sure, that Dick Hare, even if he had gone on right,” continued Afy, somewhat after the example of the fox, looking at the unattainable grapes. “He had no brains to speak of; and what he had were the color of a peacock’s tail–green.”

To bed at the usual time, but not to sleep. What she had heard only increased her vain, insensate longing. A stepmother at East Lynne, and one of her children gliding on to death! Oh! To be with them! To see them once again! To purchase that boon, she would willingly forfeit all the rest of her existence.

Her frame was fevered; the bed was fevered; and she arose and paced the room. This state of mind would inevitably bring on bodily illness, possibly an attack of the brain. She dreaded that; for there was no telling what she might reveal in her delirium. Her temples were throbbing, her heart was beating, and she once more threw herself upon the bed, and pressed the pillow down upon her forehead. There is no doubt that the news of Mr. Carlyle’s marriage helped greatly the excitement. She did not pray to die, but she did wish that death might come to her.

What would have been the ending, it is impossible to say, but a strange turn in affairs came; one of those wonderful coincidences sometimes, but not often to be met with. Mrs. Crosby appeared in Madame Vine’s room after breakfast, and gave her an account of Helena’s projected marriage. She then apologized, the real object of her visit, for dispensing so summarily with madame’s services, but had reason to hope that she could introduce her to another situation. Would madame have any objection to take one in England? Madame was upon the point of replying that she should not choose to enter one in England, when Mrs. Crosby stopped her, saying that she would call in Mrs. Latimer, who could tell her about it better than she could.

Mrs. Latimer came in, all eagerness and volubility. “Ah, my dear madame,” she exclaimed, “you would be fortunate indeed if you were to get into this family. The nicest people they are; he so liked and respected; she so pretty and engaging. A most desirable situation, too, treated as a lady, and all things comfortable. There’s only one pupil, a girl; one of the little boys, I believe, goes in for an hour or two, but that’s not much; and the salary’s seventy guineas. They are friends of mine; the Carlyles; such a beautiful place they live at–East Lynne.”

The Carlyles! East Lynne! Go governess there? Lady Isabel’s breath was taken away.

“They are parting with their governess,” continued Mrs. Latimer, “and when I was there, a day or two before I started on my tour to Germany, Mrs. Carlyle said to me, ‘I suppose you could not pick us up a desirable governess for Lucy; one who is mistress of French and German.’ She spoke in a half joking tone, but I feel sure that were I to write word I /had/ found one desirable, it would give her pleasure. Now, Mrs. Crosby tells me your French is quite that of a native, Madame Vine, that you read and speak German well, and that your musical abilities are excellent. I think you would be just the one to suit; and I have no doubt I could get you the situation. What do you say?”

What could she say? Her brain was in a whirl.

“I am anxious to find you one if I can,” put in Mrs. Crosby. “We have been much pleased with you, and I should like you to be desirably placed. As Mrs. Latimer is so kind as to interest herself, it appears to me an opportunity that should not be missed.”

“Shall I write to Mrs. Carlyle?” rejoined Mrs. Latimer.

Lady Isabel roused herself, and so far cleared her intellect as to understand and answer the question. “Perhaps you would kindly give me until to-morrow morning to consider on it? I had not intended to take a situation in England.”

A battle she had with herself that day. At one moment it seemed to her that Providence must have placed this opportunity in her way that she might see her children, in her desperate longing; at another, a voice appeared to whisper that it was a wily, dangerous temptation flung across her path, one which it was her duty to resist and flee from. Then came another phase of the picture–how should she bear to see Mr. Carlyle the husband of another–to live in the same house with them, to witness his attentions, possibly his caresses? It might be difficult; but she could force and school her heart to endurance. Had she not resolved, in her first bitter repentance, /to take up her cross/ daily, and bear it? No, her own feelings, let them be wrung as they would, should not prove the obstacle.

Evening came, and she had not decided. She passed another night of pain, of restlessness, of longing for her children; this intense longing appeared to be overmastering all her powers of mind and body. The temptation at length proved too strong; the project having been placed before her covetous eyes could not be relinquished, and she finally consented to go. “What is it that would keep me away?” she argued. “The dread of discovery? Well if that comes it must; they could not hang me or kill me. Deeper humiliation than ever would be my portion when they drive me from East Lynne with abhorrence and ignominy, as a soldier is drummed out of his regiment; but I could bear that as I must bear the rest and I can shrink under the hedge and lay myself down to die. Humiliation for me? No; I will not put that in comparison with seeing and being with my children.”

Mrs. Latimer wrote to Mrs. Carlyle. She had met with a governess; one desirable in every way who could not fail to suit her views precisely. She was a Madame Vine, English by birth, but the widow of a Frenchman; a Protestant, a thorough gentlewoman, an efficient linguist and musician, and competent to her duties in all ways. Mrs. Crosby, with whom she had lived two years regarded her as a treasure, and would not have parted with her but for Helena’s marriage with a German nobleman. “You must not mind her appearance,” went on the letter. “She is the oddest-looking person; wears spectacles, caps, enormous bonnets, and has a great scar on her mouth and chin; and though she can’t be more than thirty, her hair is gray; she is also slightly lame. But, understand you, she is a /lady/, with it all, and looks one.”

When this description reached East Lynne, Barbara laughed at it as she read it aloud to Mr. Carlyle. He laughed also.

“It is well governesses are not chosen according to their looks,” he said, “or I fear Madame Vine would stand but a poor chance.”

They resolved to engage her, and word went back to that effect.

A strangely wild tumult filled Lady Isabel’s bosom. She first of all hunted her luggage over, her desk, everything belonging to her lest any mark on the linen might be there, which could give a clue to her former self. The bulk of her luggage remained in Paris, warehoused, where it had been sent ere she quitted Grenoble. She next saw to her wardrobe, making it still more unlike anything she had used to wear; her caps, save that they were simple, and fitted closely to the face, nearly rivaled those of Miss Carlyle. Her handwriting she had been striving for years to change the character of, and had so far succeeded that none would now take it for Lady Isabel Vane’s. But her hand shook as she wrote to Mrs. Carlyle–who had written to her. She– /she/ writing to Mr. Carlyle’s wife! And in the capacity of a subordinate! How would she like to live with her as a subordinate, as servant–it may be said–where she had once reigned, the idolized lady? She must bear that, as she must bear all else. Hot tears came into her eyes, with a gush, as they fell on the signature, “Barbara Carlyle.”

All ready, she sat down and waited the signal of departure; but that was not to be yet. It was finally arranged that she should travel to England and to West Lynne with Mrs. Latimer, and that lady would not return until October. Lady Isabel could only fold her hands and strive for patience.

But the day did come–it actually did; and Mrs. Latimer, Lady Isabel, and Afy quitted Stalkenberg. Mrs. Latimer would only travel slowly, and the impatient, fevered woman thought the journey would never end.

“You have been informed, I think, of the position of these unhappy children that you are going to,” Mrs. Latimer observed to her one day. “You must not speak to them of their mother. She left them.”

“Yes.”

“It is never well to speak to children of a mother who has disgraced them. Mr. Carlyle would not like it; and I dare say they are taught to forget her, and to regard Mrs. Carlyle as their only mother.”

Her aching heart had to assent to all.

It was a foggy afternoon, gray with the coming twilight, when they arrived at West Lynne.

Mrs. Latimer believing the governess was a novice in England, kindly put her into a fly, and told the driver his destination. “/Au revoir/, madame,” she said, “and good luck to you.”

Once more she was whirling along the familiar road. She saw Justice Hare’s house, she saw other marks which she knew well; and once more she saw /East Lynne/, the dear old house, for the fly had turned into the avenue. Lights were moving in the windows; it looked gay and cheerful, a contrast to her. Her heart was sick with expectation, her throat was beating; and as the man thundered up with all the force of his one horse, and halted at the steps, her sight momentarily left her. Would Mr. Carlyle come to the fly to hand her out? She wished she had never undertaken the project, now, in the depth of her fear and agitation. The hall door was flung open, and there gushed forth a blaze of light.

Two men-servants stood there. The one remained in the hall, the other advanced to the chaise. He assisted Lady Isabel to alight, and then busied himself with the luggage. As she ascended to the hall she recognized old Peter. Strange, indeed, did it seem not to say, “How are you, Peter?” but to meet him as a stranger. For a moment, she was at a loss for words; what should she say, or ask, coming to her own home? Her manner was embarrassed, her voice low.

“Is Mrs. Carlyle within?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

At that moment Joyce came forward to receive her. “It is Madame Vine, I believe,” she respectfully said. “Please to step this way, madame.”

But Lady Isabel lingered in the hall, ostensibly to see that her boxes came in right–Stephen was bringing them up–in reality to gather a short respite, for Joyce might be about to usher her into the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Carlyle.

Joyce, however, did nothing of the sort. She merely conducted her to the gray parlor. A fire was burning in the grate, looking cheerful on the autumn night.

“This is your sitting-room, madame. What will you please to take? I will order it brought in while I show you your bed-chamber.”

“A cup of tea,” answered Lady Isabel.

“Tea and some cold meat?” suggested Joyce. But Lady Isabel interrupted her.

“Nothing but tea and a little cold toast.”

Joyce rang the bell, ordered the refreshment to be made ready, and then preceded Lady Isabel upstairs. On she followed her heart palpitating; past the rooms that used to be hers, along the corridor, toward the second staircase. The door of her old dressing-room stood open, and she glanced in with a yearning look. No, never more, never more could it be hers; she had put it from her by her own free act and deed. Not less comfortable did it look now than in former days, but it had passed into another’s occupancy. The fire threw its blaze on the furniture. There were the little ornaments on the large dressing- table, as they used to be in /her/ time; and the cut glass of crystal essence-bottles was glittering in the firelight. On the sofa lay a shawl and a book, and on the bed a silk dress, as thrown there after being taken off. No, those rooms were not for her now, and she followed Joyce up the other staircase. The bedroom she was shown to was commodious and well furnished. It was the one Miss Carlyle had occupied when she, Isabella, had been taken a bride to East Lynne, though that lady had subsequently quitted it for one on the lower floor. Joyce put down the waxlight she carried and looked round.

“Would you like a fire lighted here, madame, for to-night? Perhaps it will feel welcome after travelling.”

“Oh, no, thank you,” was the answer.

Stephen, with somebody to help him, was bringing up the luggage. Joyce directed him where to place it, telling him to uncord the boxes. That done, the man left the room, and Joyce turned to Lady Isabel, who had stood like a statue, never so much as attempting to remove her bonnet.

“Can I do anything for you, madame?” she asked.

Lady Isabel declined. In the first moments of her arrival she was dreading detection–how was it possible that she should not–and she feared Joyce’s keen eyes more, perhaps than she feared any others. She was only wishing that the girl would go down.

“Should you want anything, please to ring, and Hannah will come up,” said Joyce, preparing to retire. “She is the maid who waits upon the gray parlor, and will do anything you like up here.”

Joyce had quitted the room, and Lady Isabel had got her bonnet off, when the door opened again. She hastily thrust it on, somewhat after the fashion of Richard Hare’s rushing on his hat and false whiskers. It was Joyce.

“Do you think you shall find your way down alone, madame?”

“Yes, I can do that,” she answered. Find her way in that house!

Lady Isabel slowly took her things off. What was the use of lingering –she /must/ meet their eyes, sooner or later. Though, in truth, there was little, if any, fear of her detection, so effectually was she disguised by nature’s altering hand, or by art’s. It was with the utmost difficulty she kept tranquil. Had the tears once burst forth, they would have gone on to hysterics, without the possibility of control. The coming home again to East Lynne! Oh, it was indeed a time of agitation, terrible, painful agitation, and none can wonder at it. Shall I tell you what she did? Yes, I will at the expense of ridicule. She knelt down by the bed and prayed for courage to go through the task she had undertaken; prayed for self-control–even she, the sinful, who had quitted that house under circumstances notorious. But I am not sure that this mode of return to it was an expedition precisely calculated to call down a blessing.

There was no excuse for lingering longer, and she descended, the waxlight in her hand. Everything was ready in the gray parlor–the tea-tray on the table, the small urn hissing away, the tea-caddy in proximity to it. A silver rack of dry toast, butter, and a hot muffin covered with a small silver cover. The things were to her sight as old faces–the rack, the small cover, the butter-dish, the tea-service– she remembered them all; not the urn–a copper one–she had no recollection of that. It had possibly been bought for the use of the governess, when a governess came into use at East Lynne. Could she have given herself leisure to reflect on the matter, she might have told, by the signs observable in the short period she had been in the house, that governesses of East Lynne were regarded as gentlewomen– treated well and liberally. Yes; for East Lynne owned Mr. Carlyle for its master.

She made the tea, and sat down with what appetite she might, her brain, her thoughts, all in a chaos together. She wondered whether Mr. and Mrs. Carlyle were at dinner–she wondered in what part of the house were the children. She heard bells ring now and then; she heard servants cross and recross the hall. Her meal over, she rang her own.

A neat-looking, good-tempered maid answered it, Hannah, who, as Joyce had informed her, waited upon the gray parlor, and was at her, the governess’s, especial command. She took away the things, and then Lady Isabel sat on alone. For how long, she scarcely knew, when a sound caused her heart to beat as if it would burst its bounds, and she started from her chair like one who has received an electric shock.

It was nothing to be startled at either–for ordinary people–for it was but the sound of children’s voices. /Her/ children! Were they being brought in to her? She pressed her hand upon her heaving bosom.

No; they were but traversing the hall, and the voices faded away up the wide staircase. Perhaps they had been in to desert, as in the old times, and were now going up to bed. She looked at her new watch–half past seven.

Her /new/ watch. The old one had been changed away for it. All her trinkets had been likewise parted with, sold or exchanged away, lest they should be recognized at East Lynne. Nothing whatever had she kept except her mother’s miniature and a small golden cross, set with its seven emeralds. Have you forgotten that cross? Francis Levison accidentally broke it for her, the first time they ever met. If she had looked upon the breaking of that cross which her mother had enjoined her to set such store by, as an evil omen, at the time of the accident, how awfully had the subsequent events seemed to bear her fancy out! These two articles–the miniature and the cross–she could not bring her mind to part with. She had sealed them up, and placed them in the remotest spot of her dressing-case, away from all chance of public view. Peter entered.

“My mistress says, ma’am, she would be glad to see you, if you are not too tired. Will you please to walk into the drawing-room?”

A mist swam before her eyes. Was she about to enter the presence of Mrs. Carlyle? Had the moment really come? She moved to the door, which Peter held open. She turned her head from the man, for she could feel how ashy white were her face and lips.

“Is Mrs. Carlyle alone?” she asked, in a subdued voice. The most indirect way she could put the question, as to whether Mr. Carlyle was there.

“Quite alone, ma’am. My master is dining out to-day. Madame Vine, I think?” he added, waiting to announce her, as, the hall traversed, he laid his hand on the drawing-room door.

“Madame Vine,” she said, correcting him. For Peter had spoken the name, Vine, broadly, according to our English habitude; she set him right, and pronounced it /a la mode Francaise/.

“Madame Vine, ma’am,” quoth Peter to his mistress, as he ushered in Lady Isabel.

The old familiar drawing-room; its large handsome proportions, the well arranged furniture, its bright chandelier! It all came back to her with a heart-sickness. No longer /her/ drawing-room, that she should take pride in it; she had flung it away from her when she flung away the rest.

Seated under the blaze of the chandelier was Barbara. Not a day older did she look than when Lady Isabel had first seen her at the churchyard gates, when she had inquired of her husband who was that pretty girl. “Barbara Hare,” he answered. Ay. She was Barbara Hare then, but now she was Barbara Carlyle; and she, she, who had been Isabel Carlyle, was Isabel Vane again! Oh, woe! Woe!

Inexpressibly more beautiful, looked Barbara than Lady Isabel had ever seen her–or else she fancied it. Her evening dress was of pale sky- blue–no other color suited Barbara so well, and there was no other she was so fond of–and on her fair neck there was a gold chain, and on her arms were gold bracelets. Her pretty features were attractive as ever; her cheeks were flushed; her blue eyes sparkled, and her light hair was rich and abundant. A contrast, her hair, to that of the worn woman opposite to her.

Barbara came forward, her hand stretched out with a kindly greeting. “I hope you are not very much tired after your journey?”

Lady Isabel murmured something–she did not know what–and pushed the chair set for her as much as possible into the shade.

“You are not ill, are you?” uttered Barbara, noting the intensely pale face–as much as could be seen of it for the cap and the spectacles.

“Not ill,” was the low answer; “only a little fatigued.”

“Would you prefer that I spoke with you in the morning? You would like, possibly, to retire to bed at once.”

But Lady Isabel declined. Better get the interview over by candlelight than by daylight.

“You look so very pale, I feared you might be ill.”

“I am generally pale; sometimes remarkably so; but my health is good.”

“Mrs. Latimer wrote us word that you would be quite sure to suit us,” freely spoke Barbara. “I hope you will; and that you may find your residence here agreeable. Have you lived much in England?”

“In the early portion of my life.”

“And you have lost your husband and your children? Stay. I beg your pardon if I am making a mistake; I think Mrs. Latimer did mention children.”

“I have lost them,” was the faint, quiet response.

“Oh, but it must be terrible grief when children die!” exclaimed