East Lynne/Chapter 23
In talking over a bygone misfortune, we sometimes make the remark, or hear it made to us, "Circumstances worked against it." Such and such a thing might have turned out differently, we say, had the surrounding circumstances been more favorable, but they were in opposition; they were dead against it. Now, if ever attendant circumstances can be said to have borne a baneful influence upon any person in this world, they most assuredly did at this present time against Lady Isabel Carlyle.
Coeval, you see, with the arrival of the ex-captain, Levison, at East Lynne, all the jealous feeling, touching her husband and Barbara Hare, was renewed, and with greater force than ever. Barbara, painfully anxious that something should be brought to light, it would have puzzled her to say how or by what means, by which her brother should be exonerated from the terrible charge under which he lay; fully believing that Frederick Thorn, captain in her majesty's service, was the man who had committed the crime, as asserted by Richard, was in a state of excitement bordering upon frenzy. Too keenly she felt the truth of her own words, that she was powerless, that she could, herself, do nothing. When she rose in the morning, after a night passed in troubled reflection more than in sleep, her thoughts were, "Oh, that I could this day find out something certain!" She was often at the Herberts'; frequently invited there—sometimes going uninvited. She and the Herberts were intimate and they pressed Barbara into all the impromptu gay doings, now their brother was at home. There she of course saw Captain Thorn, and now and then she was enabled to pick up scraps of his past history. Eagerly were these scraps carried to Mr. Carlyle. Not at his office; Barbara would not appear there. Perhaps she was afraid of the gossiping tongues of West Lynne, or that her visits might have come to the knowledge of that stern, prying, and questioning old gentleman whom she called sire. It may be too, that she feared, if seen haunting Mr. Carlyle's office, Captain Thorn might come to hear of it and suspect the agitation, that was afloat—for who could know better than he, the guilt that was falsely attaching to Richard? Therefore she chose rather to go to East Lynne, or to waylay Mr. Carlyle as he passed to and from business. It was little she gathered to tell him; one evening she met him with the news that Mr. Thorn had been in former years at West Lynne, though she could not fix the date; another time she went boldly to East Lynne in eager anxiety, ostensibly to make a call on Lady Isabel—and a very restless one it was—contriving to make Mr. Carlyle understand that she wanted to see him alone. He went out with her when she departed, and accompanied her as far as the park gates, the two evidently absorbed in earnest converse. Lady Isabel's jealous eye saw that. The communication Barbara had to make was, that Captain Thorn had let fall the avowal that he had once been "in trouble," though of its nature there was no indication given. Another journey of hers took the scrap of news that she had discovered he knew Swainson well. Part of this, nay, perhaps the whole of it, Mr. Carlyle had found out for himself; nevertheless he always received Barbara with vivid interest. Richard Hare was related to Miss Carlyle, and if his innocence could be made clear in the sight of men, it would be little less gratifying to them than to the Hares. Of Richard's innocence, Mr. Carlyle now entertained little, if any doubt, and he was becoming impressed with the guilt of Captain Thorn. The latter spoke mysteriously of a portion of his past life—when he could be brought to speak of it at all—and he bore evidently some secret that he did not care to have alluded to.
But now look at the mean treachery of that man, Francis Levison! The few meetings that Lady Isabel did witness between her husband and Barbara would have been quite enough to excite her anger and jealousy, to trouble her peace; but, in addition, Francis Levison took care to tell her of those she did not see. It pleased him—he could best tell with what motive—to watch the movements of Mr. Carlyle and Barbara. There was a hedge pathway through the fields, on the opposite side of the road to the residence of Justice Hare, and as Mr. Carlyle walked down the road to business in his unsuspicion (not one time in fifty did he choose to ride; the walk to and fro kept him in health, he said), Captain Levison would be strolling down like a serpent behind the hedge, watching all his movements, watching his interviews with Barbara, did any take place, watching Mr. Carlyle turn into the grove, as he sometimes did, and perhaps watch Barbara run out of the house to meet him. It was all related over, and with miserable exaggeration, to Lady Isabel, whose jealousy, as a natural sequence, grew feverish in its extent.
It is scarcely necessary to explain, that of this feeling of Lady Isabel's Barbara knew nothing; not a shadow of suspicion had ever penetrated to her mind that Lady Isabel was jealous of her. Had she been told that such was the fact, she would have laughed in derision at her informant. Mr. Carlyle's happy wife, proudly secure in her position and in his affection, jealous of her! of her, to whom he had never given an admiring look or a loving word! It would have taken a great deal to make Barbara believe that.
How different were the facts in reality. These meetings of Mr. Carlyle's and Barbara's, instead of episodes of love-making and tender speeches, were positively painful, especially to Barbara, from the unhappy nature of the subject to be discussed. Far from feeling a reprehensible pleasure at seeking the meetings with Mr. Carlyle, Barbara shrank from them; but that she was urged by dire necessity, in the interests of Richard, she would wholly have avoided such. Poor Barbara, in spite of that explosion of bottled-up excitement years back, was a lady, possessed of a lady's ideas and feelings, and—remembering the explosion—it did not accord with her pride at all to be pushing herself into what might be called secret meetings with Archibald Carlyle. But Barbara, in her sisterly love, pressed down all thought of self, and went perseveringly forward for Richard's sake.
Mr. Carlyle was seated one morning in his private room at his office, when his head clerk, Mr. Dill came in. "A gentleman is asking to see you, Mr. Archibald."
"I am too busy to see anybody for this hour to come. You know that, Dill."
"So I told him, sir, and he says he'll wait. It is that Captain Thorn who is staying here with John Herbert."
Mr. Carlyle raised his eyes, and they encountered those of the old man; a peculiar expression was in the face of both. Mr. Carlyle glanced down at the parchment he was perusing, as if calculating his time. Then he looked up again and spoke.
"I will see him, Dill. Send him in."
The business leading to the visit was quite simple. Captain Frederick Thorn had got himself into some trouble and vexation about "a bill"—as too many captains will do—and he had come to crave advice of Mr. Carlyle.
Mr. Carlyle felt dubious about giving it. This Captain Thorn was a pleasant, attractive sort of a man, who won much on acquaintance; one whom Mr. Carlyle would have been pleased, in a friendly point of view, and setting professional interest apart, to help out of his difficulties; but if he were the villain they suspected him to be, the man with crime upon his hand, then Mr. Carlyle would have ordered his office door held wide for him to slink out of it.
"Cannot you advise me what my course ought to be?" he inquired, detecting Mr. Carlyle's hesitation.
"I could advise you, certainly. But—you must excuse my being plain, Captain Thorn—I like to know who my clients are before I take up their cause or accept them as clients."
"I am able to pay you," was Captain Thorn's reply. "I am not short of ready money; only this bill—"
Mr. Carlyle laughed out, after having bit his lip with annoyance. "It was a natural inference of yours," he said, "but I assure you I was not thinking of your purse or my pocket. My father held it right never to undertake business for a stranger—unless a man was good, in a respectable point of view, and his cause was good, he did not mention it—and I have acted on the same principle. By these means, the position and character of our business, is rarely attained by a solicitor. Now, in saying that you are a stranger to me, I am not casting any doubt upon you, Captain Thorn, I am merely upholding my common practice."
"My family is well connected," was Captain Thorn's next venture.
"Excuse me; family has nothing to do with it. If the poorest day laborer, if a pauper out of the workhouse came to me for advice, he should be heartily welcome to it, provided he were an honest man in the face of the day. Again I repeat, you must take no offence at what I say, for I cast no reflection on you; I only urge that you and your character are unknown to me."
Curious words from a lawyer to a client-aspirant, and Captain Thorn found them so. But Mr. Carlyle's tone was so courteous, his manner so affable, in fact he was so thoroughly the gentleman, that it was impossible to feel hurt.
"Well, how can I convince you that I am respectable? I have served my country ever since I was sixteen, and my brother officers have found no cause of complaint—any position as an officer and a gentleman would be generally deemed a sufficient guarantee. Inquire of John Herbert. The Herberts, too, are friends of yours, and they have not disdained to give me room amidst their family."
"True," returned Mr. Carlyle, feeling that he could not well object further; and also that all men should be deemed innocent until proved guilty. "At any rate, I will advise you what must be done at present," he added, "though if the affair is one that must go on, I do not promise that I can continue to act for you. I am very busy just now."
Captain Thorn explained his dilemma, and Mr. Carlyle told him what to do in it. "Were you not at West Lynne some ten years ago?" he suddenly inquired, at the close of the conversation. "You denied it to me once at my house; but I concluded from an observation you let fall, that you had been here."
"Yes, I was," replied Captain Thorn, in a confidential tone. "I don't mind owning it to you in confidence, but I do not wish it to get abroad. I was not at West Lynne, but in its neighborhood. The fact is, when I was a careless young fellow, I was stopping a few miles from here, and got into a scrape, though a—a—in short it was an affair of gallantry. I did not show out very well at the time, and I don't care that it should be known in the country again."
Mr. Carlyle's pulse—for Richard Hare's sake—beat a shade quicker. The avowal of "an affair of gallantry" was almost a confirmation of his suspicions.
"Yes," he pointedly said. "The girl was Afy Hallijohn."
"Afy—who?" repeated Captain Thorn, opening his eyes, and fixing them on Mr. Carlyle's.
Captain Thorn continued to look at Mr. Carlyle, an amused expression, rather than any other, predominant on his features. "You are mistaken," he observed. "Afy Hallijohn? I never heard the name before in my life."
"Did you ever hear or know that a dreadful tragedy was enacted in this place about that period?" replied Mr. Carlyle, in a low, meaning tone. "That Afy Hallijohn's father was—"
"Oh, stay, stay, stay," hastily interrupted Captain thorn. "I am telling a story in saying I never heard her name. Afy Hallijohn? Why, that's the girl Tom Herbert was telling me about—who—what was it?—disappeared after her father was murdered."
"Murdered in his own cottage—almost in Afy's presence—murdered by—by——" Mr. Carlyle recollected himself; he had spoken more impulsively than was his custom. "Hallijohn was my father's faithful clerk for many years," he more calmly concluded.
"And he who committed the murder was young Hare, son of Justice Hare, and brother to that attractive girl, Barbara. Your speaking of this has recalled, what they told me to my recollection, the first evening I was at the Herberts. Justice Hare was there, smoking—half a dozen pipes there were going at once. I also saw Miss Barbara that evening at your park gates, and Tom told me of the murder. An awful calamity for the Hares. I suppose that is the reason the young lady is Miss Hare still. One with her good fortune and good looks ought to have changed her name ere this."
"No, it is not the reason," returned Mr. Carlyle.
"What is the reason, then?"
A faint flush tinged the brow of Mr. Carlyle. "I know more than one who would be glad to get Barbara, in spite of the murder. Do not depreciate Miss Hare."
"Not I, indeed; I like the young lady too well," replied Captain Thorn. "The girl, Afy, has never been heard of since, has she?"
"Never," said Mr. Carlyle. "Do you know her well?" he deliberately added.
"I never knew her at all, if you mean Afy Hallijohn. Why should you think I did? I never heard of her till Tom Herbert amused me with the history."
Mr. Carlyle most devoutly wished he could tell whether the man before him was speaking the truth or falsehood. He continued,—
"Afy's favors—I speak in no invidious sense—I mean her smiles and chatter—were pretty freely dispersed, for she was heedless and vain. Amidst others who got the credit for occasional basking in her rays, was a gentleman of the name of Thorn. Was it not yourself?"
Captain Thorn stroked his moustache with an air that seemed to say he could boast of his share of such baskings: in short, as if he felt half inclined to do it. "Upon my word," he simpered, "you do me too much honor; I cannot confess to having been favored by Miss Afy."
"Then she was not the—the damsel you speak of, who drove you—if I understand aright—from the locality?" resumed Mr. Carlyle, fixing his eyes upon him, so as to take in every tone of the answer and shade of countenance as he gave it.
"I should think not, indeed. It was a married lady, more's the pity; young, pretty, vain and heedless, as you represent this Afy. Things went smoother after a time, and she and her husband—a stupid country yeoman—became reconciled; but I have been ashamed of it since I have grown wiser, and I do not care ever to be recognized as the actor in it, or to have it raked up against me."
Captain Thorn rose and took a somewhat hasty leave. Was he, or was he not, the man? Mr. Carlyle could not solve the doubt.
Mr. Dill came in as he disappeared, closed the door, and advanced to his master, speaking in an under tone.
"Mr. Archibald, has it struck you that the gentleman just gone out may be the Lieutenant Thorn you once spoke to me about—he who had used to gallop over from Swainson to court Afy Hallijohn?"
"It has struck me so, most forcibly," replied Mr. Carlyle. "Dill, I would give five hundred pounds out of my pocket this moment to be assured of the fact—if he is the same."
"I have seen him several times since he has been staying with the Herberts," pursued the old gentleman, "and my doubts have naturally been excited as to whether it could be the man in question. Curious enough, Bezant, the doctor, was over here yesterday from Swainson; and as I was walking with him, arm-in-arm, we met Captain Thorn. The two recognized each other and bowed, merely as distant acquaintances. 'Do you know that gentleman?' said I to Bezant. 'Yes,' he answered, 'it is Mr. Frederick.' 'Mr. Frederick with something added on to it,' said I; 'his name is Thorn.' 'I know that,' returned Bezant; 'but when he was in Swainson some years ago, he chose to drop the Thorn, and the town in general knew him only as Mr. Frederick.' 'What was he doing there, Bezant?' I asked. 'Amusing himself and getting into mischief,' was the answer; 'nothing very bad, only the random scrapes of young men.' 'Was he often on horseback, riding to a distance?' was my next question. 'Yes, that he was,' replied Bezant; 'none more fond of galloping across the country than he; I used to tell him he'd ride his horse's tail off.' Now, Mr. Archibald, what do you think?" concluded the old clerk; "and so far as I could make out, this was about the very time of the tragedy at Hallijohn's."
"Think?" replied Mr. Carlyle. "What can I think but that it is the same man. I am convinced of it now."
And, leaning back into his chair, he fell into a deep reverie, regardless of the parchments that lay before him.
The weeks went on—two or three—and things seemed to be progressing backward, rather than forward—if that's not Irish. Francis Levison's affairs—that is, the adjustment of them—did not advance at all.
Another thing that may be said to be progressing backward, for it was going on fast to bad, instead of good, was the jealousy of Lady Isabel. How could it be otherwise, kept up, as it was, by Barbara's frequent meetings with Mr. Carlyle, and by Captain Levison's exaggerated whispers of them. Discontented, ill at ease with herself and with everybody about her, Isabel was living now in a state of excitement, a dangerous resentment against her husband beginning to rise up in her heart. That very day—the one of Captain Levison's visit to Levison Park—in driving through West Lynne in the pony carriage, she had come upon her husband in close converse with Barbara Hare. So absorbed were they, that they never saw her, though her carriage passed close to the pavement where they stood.
On the morning following this, as the Hare family were seated at breakfast, the postman was observed coming toward the house. Barbara sprang from her seat to the open window, and the man advanced to her.
"Only one miss. It is for yourself."
"Who is it from?" began the justice, as Barbara returned to her chair. In letters as in other things, he was always curious to know their contents, whether they might be addressed to himself or not.
"It is from Anne, papa," replied Barbara, as she laid the letter by her side on the table.
"Why don't you open it and see what she says?"
"I will, directly; I am just going to pour out some more tea for mamma."
Finally the justice finished his breakfast, and strolled out into the garden.
Barbara opened her letter; Mrs. Hare watched her movements and her countenance. She saw the latter flush suddenly and vividly, and then become deadly pale; she saw Barbara crush the note in her hand when read.
"Oh, mamma!" she uttered.
The flush of emotion came also into Mrs. Hare's delicate cheeks. "Barbara, is it bad news?"
"Mamma, it—it—is about Richard," she whispered, glancing at the door and window, to see that none might be within sight or hearing. "I never thought of him; I only fancied Anne might be sending me some bit of news concerning her own affairs. Good Heavens! How fortunate—how providential that papa did not see the paper fall; and that you did not persist in your inquiries. If he—"
"Barbara, you are keeping me in suspense," interrupted Mrs. Hare, who had also grown white. "What should Anne know about Richard?"
Barbara smoothed out the writing, and held it before her mother. It was as follows:—
"I have had a curious note from R. It was without date or signature, but I knew his handwriting. He tells me to let you know, in the most sure and private manner that I can, that he will soon be paying another night visit. You are to watch the grove every evening when the present moon gets bright."
Mrs. Hare covered her face for some minutes. "Thank God for all his mercies," she murmured.
"Oh, mamma, but it is an awful risk for him to run!"
"But to know that he is in life—to know that he is in life! And for the risk—Barbara, I dread it not. The same God who protected him through the last visit, will protect him through this. He will not forsake the oppressed, the innocent. Destroy the paper, child."
"Archibald Carlyle must first see it, mamma."
"I shall not be easy until it is destroyed, Barbara."
Braving the comments of the gossips, hoping the visit would not reach the ears or eyes of the justice, Barbara went that day to the office of Mr. Carlyle. He was not there, he was at West Lynne; he had gone to Lynneborough on business, and Mr. Dill thought it a question if he would be at the office again that day. If so, it would be late in the afternoon. Barbara, as soon as their own dinner was over, took up her patient station at the gate, hoping to see him pass; but the time went by and he did not. She had little doubt that he had returned home without going to West Lynne.
What should she do? "Go up to East Lynne and see him," said her conscience. Barbara's mind was in a strangely excited state. It appeared to her that this visit of Richard's must have been specially designed by Providence, that he might be confronted by Thorn.
"Mamma," she said, returning indoors, after seeing the justice depart upon an evening visit to the Buck's Head, where he and certain other justices and gentlemen sometimes congregated to smoke and chat, "I shall go up to East Lynne, if you have no objection. I must see Mr. Carlyle."
Away went Barbara. It had struck seven when she arrived at East Lynne.
"Is Mr. Carlyle disengaged?"
"Mr. Carlyle is not yet home, miss. My lady and Miss Carlyle are waiting dinner for him."
A check for Barbara. The servant asked her to walk in, but she declined and turned from the door. She was in no mood for visit paying.
Lady Isabel had been standing at the window watching for her husband and wondering what made him so late. She observed Barbara approach the house, and saw her walk away again. Presently the servant who had answered the door, entered the drawing-room.
"Was not that Miss Hare?"
"Yes, my lady," was the man's reply. "She wanted master. I said your ladyship was at home, but she would not enter."
Isabel said no more; she caught the eyes of Francis Levison fixed on her with as much meaning, compassionate meaning, as they dared express. She clasped her hands in pain, and turned again to the window.
Barbara was slowly walking down the avenue, Mr. Carlyle was then in sight, walking quickly up it. Lady Isabel saw their hands meet in greeting.
"Oh, I am so thankful to have met you!" Barbara exclaimed to him, impulsively. "I actually went to your office to-day, and I have been now to your house. We have such news!"
"Ay! What? About Thorn?"
"No; about Richard," replied Barbara, taking the scrap of paper from the folds of her dress. "This came to me this morning from Anne."
Mr. Carlyle took the document, and Barbara looked over him whilst he read it; neither of them thinking that Lady Isabel's jealous eyes, and Captain Levison's evil ones, were strained upon them from the distant windows. Miss Carlyle's also, for the matter of that.
"Archibald, it seems to me that Providence must be directing him hither at this moment. Our suspicions with regard to Thorn can now be set at rest. You must contrive that Richard shall see him. What can he be coming again for?"
"More money," was the supposition of Mr. Carlyle. "Does Mrs. Hare know of this?"
"She does, unfortunately. I opened the paper before her, never dreaming it was connected with Richard—poor, unhappy Richard!—and not to be guilty."
"He acted as though he were guilty, Barbara; and that line of conduct often entails as much trouble as real guilt."
"You do not believe him guilty?" she most passionately uttered.
"I do not. I have little doubt of the guilt of Thorn."
"Oh, if it could but be brought home to him!" returned Barbara, "so that Richard might be cleared in the sight of day. How can you contrive that he shall see Thorn?"
"I cannot tell; I must think it over. Let me know the instant he arrives, Barbara."
"Of course I shall. It may be that he does not want money; that his errand is only to see mamma. He was always so fond of her."
"I must leave you," said Mr. Carlyle, taking her hand in token of farewell. Then, as a thought occurred to him, he turned and walked a few steps with her without releasing it. He was probably unconscious that he retained it; she was not.
"You know, Barbara, if he should want money, and it be not convenient to Mrs. Hare to supply it at so short a notice, I can give it to him, as I did before."
"Thank you, thank you, Archibald. Mamma felt sure you would."
She lifted her eyes to his with an expression of gratitude; a warmer feeling for an uncontrolled moment mingled with it. Mr. Carlyle nodded pleasantly, and then set off toward his house at the pace of a steam engine.
Two minutes in his dressing-room, and he entered the drawing-room, apologizing for keeping them waiting dinner, and explaining that he had been compelled to go to his office to give some orders subsequent to his return to Lynneborough. Lady Isabel's lips were pressed together, and she preserved an obstinate silence. Mr. Carlyle, in his unsuspicion, did not notice it.
"What did Barbara Hare want?" demanded Miss Carlyle, during dinner.
"She wanted to see me on business," was his reply, given in a tone that certainly did not invite his sister to pursue the subject. "Will you take some more fish, Isabel?"
"What was that you were reading over with her?" pursued the indefatigable Miss Corny. "It looked like a note."
"Ah, that would be telling," returned Mr. Carlyle, willing to turn it off with gayety. "If young ladies choose to make me party to their love letters, I cannot betray confidence, you know."
"What rubbish Archibald!" quoth she. "As if you could not say outright what Barbara wants, without making a mystery of it. And she seems to be always wanting you now."
Mr. Carlyle glanced at his sister a quick, peculiar look; it seemed to her to speak both of seriousness and warning. Involuntarily her thoughts—and her fears—flew back to the past.
"Archibald, Archibald!" she uttered, repeating the name, as if she could not get any further words out in her dread. "It—it—is never—that old affair is never being raked up again?"
Now Miss Carlyle's "old affair" referred to one sole and sore point—Richard Hare, and so Mr. Carlyle understood it. Lady Isabel unhappily believing that any "old affair" could only have reference to the bygone loves of her husband and Barbara.
"You will oblige me by going on with your dinner, Cornelia," gravely responded Mr. Carlyle. Then—assuming a more laughing tone—"I tell you it is unreasonable to expect me to betray a young woman's secrets, although she may choose to confide them professionally to me. What say you, Captain Levison?"
The gentleman addressed bowed, a smile of mockery, all too perceptible to Lady Isabel, on his lips. And Miss Carlyle bent her head over her plate, and went on with her dinner as meek as any lamb.
That same evening, Lady Isabel's indignant and rebellious heart condescended to speak of it when alone with her husband.
"What is it that she wants with you so much, that Barbara Hare?"
"It is private business, Isabel. She has to bring me messages from her mother."
"Must the business be kept from me?"
He was silent for a moment, considering whether he might tell her. But it was impossible he could speak, even to his wife, of the suspicion they were attaching to Captain Thorn. It would have been unfair and wrong; neither could he betray that a secret visit was expected from Richard. To no one in the world could he betray that, however safe and true.
"It would not make you the happier to know it, Isabel. There is a dark secret, you are aware, touching the Hare family. It is connected with that."
She did not put faith in a word of the reply. She believed he could not tell her because her feelings, as his wife, would be outraged by the confession; and it goaded her anger into recklessness. Mr. Carlyle, on his part, never gave a thought to the supposition that she might be jealous; he had believed that nonsense at an end years ago. He was perfectly honorable and true; strictly faithful to his wife, giving her no shadow of cause or reason to be jealous of him; and being a practical, matter-of-fact man, it did not occur to him that she could be so.
Lady Isabel was sitting, the following morning, moody and out of sorts. Captain Levison, who had accompanied Mr. Carlyle in the most friendly manner possible to the park gate on his departure, and then stolen along the hedgewalk, had returned to Lady Isabel with the news of an "ardent" interview with Barbara, who had been watching for his going by at the gate of the grove. She sat, sullenly digesting the tidings, when a note was brought in. It proved to be an invitation to dinner for the following Tuesday, at a Mrs. Jefferson's—for Mr. and Lady Isabel Carlyle and Miss Carlyle.
"Do you go?" asked Miss Carlyle.
"Yes," replied Isabel. "Mr. Carlyle and I both want a change of some sort," she added, in a mocking sort of spirit; "it may be well to have it, if only for an evening."
In truth this unhappy jealousy, this distrust of her husband, appeared to have altered Lady Isabel's very nature.
"And leave Captain Levison?" returned Miss Carlyle.
Lady Isabel went over to her desk, making no reply.
"What will you do with him, I ask?" persisted Miss Carlyle.
"He can remain here—he can dine by himself. Shall I accept the invitation for you?"
"No; I shall not go," said Miss Carlyle.
"Then, in that case, there can be no difficulty in regard to Captain Levison," coldly spoke Lady Isabel.
"I don't want his company—I am not fond of it," cried Miss Carlyle. "I would go to Mrs. Jefferson's, but that I should want a new dress."
"That's easily had," said Lady Isabel. "I shall want one myself."
"You want a new dress!" uttered Miss Carlyle. "Why, you have a dozen!"
"I don't know that I could count a dozen in all," returned Lady Isabel, chafing at the remark, and the continual thwarting put upon her by Miss Carlyle, which had latterly seemed more than hard to endure. Petty evils are more difficult to support than great ones, take notice.
Lady Isabel concluded her note, folded, sealed it, and then rang the bell. As the man left the room with it, she desired that Wilson might be sent to her.
"Is it this morning, Wilson, that the dressmaker comes to try on Miss Isabel's dress?" she inquired.
Wilson hesitated and stammered, and glanced from her mistress to Miss Carlyle. The latter looked up from her work.
"The dressmaker's not coming," spoke she, sharply. "I countermanded the order for the frock, for Isabel does not require it."
"She does require it," answered Lady Isabel, in perhaps the most displeased tone she had ever used to Miss Carlyle. "I am a competent judge of what is necessary for my children."
"She no more requires a new frock than that table requires one, or that you require the one you are longing for," stoically persisted Miss Carlyle. "She has got ever so many lying by, and her striped silk, turned, will make up as handsome as ever."
Wilson backed out of the room and closed the door softly, but her mistress caught a compassionate look directed toward her. Her heart seemed bursting with indignation and despair; there seemed to be no side on which she could turn for refuge. Pitied by her own servants!
She reopened her desk and dashed off a haughty, peremptory note for the attendance of the dressmaker at East Lynne, commanding its immediate dispatch.
Miss Corny groaned in her wrath.
"You will be sorry for not listening to me, ma'am, when your husband shall be brought to poverty. He works like a horse now, and with all his slaving, can scarcely, I fear, keep expenses down."
Poor Lady Isabel, ever sensitive, began to think they might, with one another, be spending more than Mr. Carlyle's means would justify; she knew their expenses were heavy. The same tale had been dinned into her ears ever since she married him. She gave up in that moment all thought of the new dress for herself and for Isabel; but her spirit, in her deep unhappiness, felt sick and faint within her.
Wilson, meanwhile, had flown to Joyce's room, and was exercising her dearly beloved tongue in an exaggerated account of the matter—how Miss Carlyle put upon my lady, and had forbidden a new dress to her, as well as the frock to Miss Isabel.
And yet a few more days passed on.