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Marling. Lady Mount Severn would have given her diamonds to have got out of it, but there was no escape: diamonds that were once Isabel's; at least, what Isabel had worn. On the Monday in Passion Week the old lady arrived; and, with her, Francis Levison. They had no other guests.
Things went on pretty smoothly till Good Friday, but it was a deceitful calm my lady's jealousy was smouldering, for Captain Levison's attentions to Isabel were driving her wild. At Christmas, when he had spent three weeks there, his admiration had been open enough, but it was more so now. Better from any one else could Lady Mount Severn have borne this, than from Francis Levison: she had suffered the young Guardsman, cousin though he was, to grow rather dear; dangerously dear it might have become had she been a less cautious woman. welcome to her that all the world, rather than he, had given their admiration to Isabel. Why did she have him there, throwing him into Isabel's companionship, as she had done the previous year in London? asks the reader. It is more than I can tell why do people do foolish things?
On Good Friday afternoon, Isabel strolled out with little William Vane: Captain Levison joined them, and they never came in till nearly dinner-time, when the three entered together. Lady Mount Severn doing penance all the time, and nursing her rage against Isabel, for Mrs. Levison kept her in-doors. There was barely time to dress for dinner, and Isabel went straight to her room. Her dress was off, her dressinggown on, Marvel was busy with her hair, and William chattering at her knee, when the door was flung open, and my lady entered.
"Where have you been ?" demanded she, shaking with passion. Isabel knew the signs.
Strolling about in the shrubberies and grounds," answered Isabel. £ "How dare you so disgrace yourself ?"
250“I do not understand you," said Isabel, her heart beginning to beat unpleasantly. "Marvel, you are pulling my hair."
When women, liable to intemperate fits of passion, give the reins to them, they neither know nor care what they say. Lady Mount Severn broke into a torrent of reproach and abuse, most degrading and unjustifiable.
24❝Is it not sufficient that you are allowed an asylum in my house, but you must also disgrace it? Three hours have you been hiding yourself with Francis Levison! You have done nothing but flirt with him from the moment he came; you did nothing else at Christmas.”
The attack was longer and broader, but that was the substance of it, and Isabel was goaded to resistance, to anger little less great than that of the countess. This! and before her attendant! She, an earl's daughter, so much better born than Emma Mount Severn, to be thus insultingly accused in the other's mad jealousy. Isabel tossed her hair from the hands of Marvel, rose up, and confronted the countess, constraining her voice to calmness.
"I do not flirt," she said; " I have never flirted. I leave that"-and she could not wholly suppress in tone the scorn she felt-" to married women: though it seems to me that it is a fault less venial in them, than in single ones. There is but one inmate of this house who flirts, so
far as I have seen since I have lived in it: is it you, or I, Lady Mount Severn ?"
The home truth told on her ladyship. She turned white with rage, forgot her manners, and, raising her right hand, struck Isabel a stinging blow upon the left cheek. Confused and terrified, Isabel stood in pain, and before she could speak or act, my lady's left hand was raised to the other cheek, and a blow left on that. Lady Isabel shivered as with a sudden chill, and cried out, a sharp, quick cry; covered her outraged face and sank down upon the dressing-chair. Marvel threw up her hands in dismay, and William Vane could not have burst into a louder roar had he been beaten himself. The boy-he was of a sensitive nature -was frightened.
My good reader, are you of the inexperienced ones who borrow notions of "fashionable life" from the novels got at Mudie's library, taking their high-flown contents for gospel, and religiously believing that lords and ladies live upon stilts, speak, eat, move, breathe, by the rules of good breeding only? Are you under the delusion-too many are- -that the days of dukes and duchesses are spent discussing "pictures, tastes, Shakspeare, and the musical glasses ?"-that they are strung on polite wires of silver, and can't get off the hinges, never giving vent to angry tempers, to words unorthodox, as common-place mortals do? That will come to pass when the Great Creator shall see fit to send men into the world freed from baneful tempers, evil passions, from the sins bequeathed by the fall of Adam.
Lady Mount Severn finished up the scene by boxing William for his noise, jerked him out of the room, and told him he was a monkey.
Isabel Vane lay through the livelong night, weeping tears of anguish and indignation. She could not remain at Castle Marling: who would, after so great an outrage?-yet, where was she to go? Fifty times in the course of the night did she wish that she was laid beside her father; for her feelings obtained the mastery of her reason: in her calm moments she would have shrunk from the idea of death, as the young and healthy must do. Various schemes crossed her brain: that she would take flight to France, and lay her case before Lord Mount Severn; that she would beg an asylum with old Mrs. Levison; that she would find out Mason, and live with her: daylight rejected them all. She had not flirted with Captain Levison, but she had received his attention, and suffered his admiration: a woman never flirts where she loves; and it had come to love, or something very near it, in Isabel's heart.
She rose on the Saturday morning, weak and languid, the effects of the night of grief, and Marvel brought her breakfast up. William Vane stole into her room afterwards: he was attached to her in a remarkable degree.
"Mamma's going out," he exclaimed in the course of the morning. "Look, Isabel."
Isabel went to the window. Lady Mount Severn was in the pony carriage, Francis Levison driving.
"We can go down now, Isabel. Nobody will be there."
She assented, and went down with William. But scarcely were they in the drawing-room when a servant entered with a card on a salver. "A gentleman, my lady, wishes to see you."
"To see me?" returned Isabel, in surprise. "Or Lady Mount Severn ?"
"He asked for you, my lady."
She took up the card. "Mr. Carlyle." "Oh!" she uttered, in a tone of joyful surprise, "show him in.”
It is curious, nay, appalling, to trace the thread in a human life; how the most trivial occurrences lead to the great events of existence, bringing forth happiness or misery, weal or woe. A client of Mr. Carlyle's, travelling from one part of England to the other, was arrested by illness at Castle Marling: grave illness it appeared to be, inducing fears of death. He had not, as the phrase goes, settled his affairs; and Mr. Carlyle was telegraphed for in haste, to make his will, and for other private matters. A very simple occurrence it appeared to Mr. Carlyle, this journey, and yet it was destined to lead to events that would end only with his own life.
Mr. Carlyle entered, unaffected and gentlemanly as ever, with his noble form, his attractive face, and his drooping eyelids. She advanced to meet him, holding out her hand, her countenance betraying her pleasure. "This is indeed unexpected," she exclaimed. "How very pleased I am to see you."
"Business brought me yesterday to Castle Marling. I could not leave it again without calling on you. I hear that Lord Mount Severn
"He is in France," she rejoined. soon again: do you remember, Mr. Carlyle? You"
"I said we should be sure to meet
Isabel suddenly stopped, for with the word "remember," she also remembered something the hundred-pound note; and what she was saying faltered on her tongue. Confused indeed grew she, for alas! she had changed and partly spent it. How was it possible to ask Lady Mount Severn for money? and the earl was nearly always away. Mr. Carlyle saw her embarrassment: though he may not have detected its cause. "What a fine boy!" exclaimed he, looking at the child.
"It is Lord Vane," said Isabel.
"A truthful, earnest spirit, I am sure," he continued, gazing at his open countenance. "How old are you, my little man?"
“I am six, sir; and my brother was four."
Isabel bent over the child; an excuse to cover her perplexity. do not know this gentleman, William. It is Mr. Carlyle, and he has been very kind to me."
The little lord turned his thoughtful eyes on Mr. Carlyle, apparently studying his countenance. "I shall like you, sir, if you are kind to Isabel. Are you kind to her ?”
"Very, very kind," murmured Lady Isabel, leaving William and turning to Mr. Carlyle, but not looking at him. "I don't know what to say; I ought to thank you: I did not intend to use the to use it—but I-I
"Hush!" he interrupted, laughing at her confusion; "I do not know what you are talking of. I have a great misfortune to break to you, Lady Isabel."
She lifted her eyes and her glowing cheeks, somewhat aroused from her own thoughts.
"I believe it was the frost killed them: I don't know what else it could have been. You may remember those bitter days we had in January: they died then."
"You are very good to take care of them, all this while. East Lynne looking? Dear East Lynne! Is it occupied ?" "Not yet. I have spent some money upon it, and it outlay."
The excitement of his arrival had worn off, and she was looking herself again, pale and sad: he could not help observing that she was changed.
"I cannot expect to look so well at Castle Marling as I did at East Lynne," she answered.
"I trust it is a happy home to you?" said Mr. Carlyle, speaking upon impulse.
She glanced up at him, a look that he would never forget: it certainly told of despair. "No," she said, shaking her head, "it is a miserable home, and I cannot remain in it. I have been awake all night, thinking where I can go, but I cannot tell. I have not a friend in the wide world."
Never let people talk secrets before children, for be assured that they comprehend a vast deal more than is expedient: the saying that "Little pitchers have great ears" is wonderfully true. Lord Vane held up his head to Mr. Carlyle :
"Isabel told me this Shall I tell you why? angry."
morning that she should go away from us. Mamma beat her yesterday when she was
"Be quiet, William !" interrupted Lady Isabel, her face in a flame. "Two great slaps upon her cheeks," continued the young viscount ; "and Isabel cried so, and I screamed, and then mamma hit me. But boys are made to be hit: nurse says so. Marvel came into the nursery when we were at tea, and told nurse about it. She says Isabel's too good-looking, and that's why mamma
Isabel stopped the child's tongue, rang a peal on the bell, and marshalled him to the door: despatching him to the nursery by the servant who answered it.
Mr. Carlyle's eyes were full of indignant sympathy. "Can this be true ?" he asked, in a low tone, when she returned to him. indeed, want a friend."
"I must bear my lot," she replied, obeying the impulse which prompted her to confide in Mr. Carlyle. "At least till Lord Mount
"And then ?"
"I really do not know," she said, the rebellious tears rising faster than she could choke them down. "He has no other home to offer me; but with Lady Mount Severn I cannot and will not remain. She would break my heart, as she has already well-nigh broken my spirit. I have not deserved it of her, Mr. Carlyle."
No, I am sure you have not," he warmly answered. "I wish I could help you! What can I do?"
"You can do nothing," she said. "What can any one do ?" "I wish, I wish I could help you!" he repeated.
"East Lynne was not, take it for all in all, a pleasant home to you, but it seems you changed for the worse when you left it."
"Not a pleasant home!" she echoed, its reminiscences appearing delightful in that moment, for it must be remembered that all things are estimated by comparison. "Indeed it was: I may never have so pleasant a one again. Oh, Mr. Carlyle, do not disparage East Lynne Would I could awake, and find the last few months but a hideous dream!-that I could find my dear father alive again!—that : we were still living peacefully at East Lynne! It would be a very Edento me now."
What was Mr. Carlyle about to say? What emotion was it that agitated his countenance, impeded his breath, and dyed his face bloodred? His better genius was surely not watching over him, or those words had never been spoken.
"There is but one way," he began, taking her hand and nervously playing with it, probably unconscious that he did so; "only one way in which you could return to East Lynne. And that way-I may not presume, perhaps, to point it out."
She looked at him, and waited for an explanation.
"If my words offend you, Lady Isabel, check them, as their presumption deserves, and pardon me. May I—dare I—offer you to return to East Lynne as its mistress ?"
She did not comprehend him in the slightest degree; the drift of his meaning never dawned upon her. "Return to East Lynne as its mistress?" she repeated, in bewilderment.
"And as my wife."
No possibility of misunderstanding him now, and the shock and surprise were great. She had stood there by Mr. Carlyle's side, conversing confidentially with him, esteeming him greatly, feeling as if he were her truest friend on earth, clinging to him in her heart as to a powerful haven of refuge, loving him almost as she would love a brother, suffering her hand to remain in his. But to be his wife!-the idea had never presented itself to her in any shape until this moment, and her mind's first emotion was one of entire opposition, her first movement to express it, as she essayed to withdraw herself and her hand away from him.
But not so; Mr. Carlyle did not suffer it. He not only retained that hand, but took the other also, and spoke, now the ice was broken, eloquent words of love. Not unmeaning phrases of rhapsody, about hearts and darts and dying for her, like somebody else might have given utterance to, but earnest-hearted words of deep tenderness, calculated to win upon the mind's good sense, as well as upon the ear and heart: and, it may be, that had her imagination not been filled up with that "somebody else," she would have said Yes there and then.
They were suddenly interrupted. Lady Mount Severn entered, and took in the scene at a glance: Mr. Carlyle's bent attitude of devotion, his imprisonment of the hands, and Isabel's perplexed and blushing coun She threw up her head and her little inquisitive nose, and stopped short on the carpet: her freezing looks demanding an explanation, as plainly as looks can do it. Mr. Carlyle turned to her, and, by way of