Mrs. Henry Wood
Part 13 out of 13
Lady Isabel was ill. Ill in mind, and ominously ill in body. She kept
her room, and Joyce attended on her. The household set down madame's
illness to the fatigue of having attended upon Master William; it was
not thought of seriously by any one, especially as she declined to see
a doctor. All her thoughts now were directed to the getting away from
East Lynne, for it would never do to remain there to die; and she knew
that death was on his way to her, and that no human power or skill--
not all the faculty combined--could turn him back again. The excessive
dread of detection was not upon her as it had been formerly. I mean
she did not dread the consequences so much, if detection came. In
nearing the grave, all fears and hopes, of whatever nature, relating
to this world, lose their force, and fears or hopes regarding the next
world take their place. Our petty feelings here are lost in the
In returning to East Lynne, Lady Isabel had entered upon a daring act,
and she found, in the working, that neither strength nor spirit was
equal to it. Human passions and tempers were brought with us into this
world, and they can only quit us when we bid it farewell, to enter
upon immortality in the next.
When Lady Isabel was Mr. Carlyle's wife, she had never wholly loved
him. The very utmost homage that esteem, admiration, affection could
give was his, but that mysterious passion called by the name of love,
and which, as I truly and heartily believe, cannot, in its refined
etherealism, be known to many of us, had not been given to him. It was
now. From the very night she came back to East Lynne, her love for Mr.
Carlyle had burst forth with an intensity never before felt. It had
been smoldering almost ever since she quitted him. "Reprehensible!"
groans a moralist. Very. Everybody knows that, as Afy would say. But
her heart, you see, had /not/ done with human passions, and they work
ill, and contrariness, let the word stand, critic, if you please, and
precisely everything they should not.
I shall get in for it, I fear, if I attempt to defend her. But it was
not exactly the same thing, as though she suffered herself to fall in
love with somebody else's husband. Nobody would defend that. We have
not turned Mormons yet, and the world does not walk upon its head. But
this was a peculiar case. She, poor thing, almost regarded Mr. Carlyle
as /her/ husband. The bent of her thoughts was only too much inclined
to this. The evil human heart again. Many and many a time did she wake
up from a reverie, and strive to drive this mistaken view of things
away from her, taking shame to herself. Ten minutes afterward, she
would catch her brain reveling in the same rebellious vision. Mr.
Carlyle's love was not hers now, it was Barbara's. Mr. Carlyle did not
belong to her, he belonged to his wife. It was not only that he was
not hers--he was another's. You may, therefore, if you have the
pleasure of being experienced in this sort of thing, guess a little of
what her inward life was. Had there been no Barbara in the case, she
might have lived and borne it; as it was, it had killed her before her
time, that and the remorse together.
There had been other things, too. The re-appearance of Francis Levison
at West Lynne, in fresh contact, as may be said, with herself, had
struck terror to her heart, and the dark charge brought against him
augmented awfully her remorse. Then, the sharp lances perpetually
thrust upon her memory--the Lady Isabel's memory--from all sides, were
full of cruel stings, unintentionally though they were hurled. And
there was the hourly chance of discovery, and the never ceasing battle
with her conscience, for being at East Lynne at all. No wonder that
the chords of life were snapping; the wonder would have been had they
"She brought it upon herself--she ought not to have come back to East
Lynne!" groans our moralist again.
Didn't I say so? Of course she ought not. Neither ought she to have
suffered her thoughts to stray, in the manner they did, towards Mr.
Carlyle. She ought not, but she did. If we all did just what we
"ought," this lower proverb touching /fruit defendu/ would go out as a
She was nearer to death than she imagined. She knew, judging by her
declining strength and her inner feelings, that it could not be far
off; but she did not deem it was coming so very soon. Her mother had
died in a similar way. Some said of consumption--Dr. Martin did, you
may remember; some said of "waste;" the earl, her husband, said a
broken heart--you heard him say so to Mr. Carlyle in the first chapter
of this history. The earl was the one who might be supposed to know
best. Whatever may have been Lady Mount Severn's malady, she--to give
you the phrase that was in people's mouth's at the time--"went out
like the snuff of a candle." It was now the turn of Lady Isabel. She
had no more decided disorder than the countess had had, yet death had
marked her. She felt that it had, and in its approach she dreaded not,
as she once had done, the consequences that must ensue, did discovery
come. Which brings us back to the point whence ensued this long
digression. I dare say you are chafing at it, but it is not often I
trouble you with one.
But she would not willingly let discovery come, neither had she the
least intention of remaining at East Lynne to die. Where she should
take refuge was quite a secondary consideration, only let her get
smoothly and plausibly away. Joyce, in her dread, was forever urging
it. Of course, the preliminary step was to arrange matters with Mrs.
Carlyle, and in the afternoon of the day following the funeral, Lady
Isabel proceeded to her dressing-room, and craved an interview.
Mr. Carlyle quitted the room as she entered it. Barbara, fatigued with
a recent drive, was lying on the sofa. She would scarcely take the
"We shall be so sorry to lose you, Madame Vine. You are all we could
wish for Lucy, and Mr. Carlyle feels truly grateful for your love and
attention to his poor boy."
"To leave you will give me pain also," Madame Vine answered, in a
subdued tone. Pain? Ay. Mrs. Carlyle little guessed at its extent. All
she cared for on earth she should leave behind her at East Lynne.
"Indeed you must not leave," resumed Barbara. "It would be unjust to
allow you to do so. You have made yourself ill, waiting upon poor
William, and you must stay here and take a holiday until you are
cured. You will soon get well, if you will only suffer yourself to be
properly waited on and taken care of."
"You are very considerate. Pray do not think me insensible if I
decline. I believe my strength is beyond getting up--that I shall
never be able to teach again."
"Oh, nonsense," said Barbara, in her quick way. "We are all given to
fancy the worst when we are ill. I was feeling terribly weak, only a
few minutes ago, and said something of the same sort to Archibald. He
talked and soothed me out of it. I wish you had your dear husband
living, Madame Vine, to support you and love you, as I have him."
A tinge of scarlet streaked Madame Vine's pale face, and she laid her
hand upon her beating heart.
"How could you think of leaving? We should be glad to help
re-establish your health, in any case, but it is only fair to do it
now. I felt sure, by the news brought to me when I was ill, that your
attention upon William was overtasking your strength."
"It is not the attendance upon William that has brought me into this
state," was the quick answer. "I /must/ leave; I have well considered
"Would you like to go to the seaside?" exclaimed Barbara with sudden
energy. "I am going there on Monday next. Mr. Carlyle insists upon it
that I try a little change. I had intended only to take my baby, but
we can make different arrangements, and take you and Lucy. It might do
you good, Madame Vine."
She shook her head. "No; it would make me worse. All that I want is
perfect quiet. I must beg you to understand that I shall leave. And I
should be glad if you could allow the customary notice to be dispensed
with, so that I may be at liberty to depart within a few days."
"Look here, then," said Barbara, after a pause of consideration, "you
remain at East Lynne until my return, which will be in a fortnight.
Mr. Carlyle cannot stay with me, so I know I shall be tired in less
time than that. I do not want you to remain to teach, you know, Madame
Vine; I do not wish you to do a single thing. Lucy shall have a
holiday, and Mr. Kane can come up for her music. Only I could not be
content to leave her, unless under your surveillance; she is getting
of an age now not to be consigned to servants, not to Joyce. Upon my
return, if you still wish to leave, you shall then be at liberty to do
so. What do you say?"
Madame Vine said "Yes." Said it eagerly. To have another fortnight
with her children, Lucy and Archibald, was very like a reprieve, and
she embraced it. Although she knew, as I have said, that grim Death
was on his way, she did not think he had drawn so near the end of his
journey. Her thoughts went back to the time when she had been ordered
to the seaside after an illness. It had been a marvel if they had not.
She remembered how he, her husband, had urged the change upon her; how
he had taken her, traveling carefully; how tenderly anxious he had
been in the arrangements for her comfort, when settling her in the
lodgings; how, when he came again to see her, he had met her with his
passionate fondness, thanking God for the visible improvement in her
looks. That one injunction which she had called him back to give him,
as he was departing for the boat, was bitterly present to her now: "Do
not get making love to Barbara Hare." All this care, and love, and
tenderness belonged now of right to Barbara, and were given to her.
But now Barbara, although she pressed Madame Vine to remain at East
Lynne, and indeed would have been glad that she should do so, did not
take her refusal at heart. Barbara could not fail to perceive that she
was a thoroughly refined gentlewoman, far superior to the generality
of governesses. That she was truly fond of Lucy, and most anxious for
her welfare in every way, Barbara also saw. For Lucy's sake,
therefore, she would be grieved to part with Madame Vine, and would
raise her salary to anything in reason, if she would but stay. But, on
her own score, Barbara had as soon Madame Vine went as not; for, in
her heart of hearts, she had never liked her. She could not have told
why. Was it instinct? Very probably. The birds of the air, the beasts
of the field, the fishes of the sea, have their instincts, and so does
man have his. Perhaps it was the unaccountable resemblance that Madame
Vine bore to Lady Isabel. A strange likeness! Barbara often thought,
but whether it lay in the face, the voice, or the manner, she could
not decide. A suspicion of the truth did not cross her mind. How
should it? And she never spoke of it; had the resemblance been to any
one but Lady Isabel she would have talked of it freely. Or, it may
have been that there was now and then a tone in Madame Vine's voice
that grated on her ear; a wrung, impatient tone, wanting in respect,
savoring of hauteur, which Barbara did not understand, and did not
like. However it may have been, certain it is that Mrs. Carlyle would
not shed tears after the governess. Only for Lucy's sake did she
regret parting with her.
These different resemblances and reflections were separately passing
through the minds of the two ladies when their conference was over.
Madame Vine at length rose from her chair to depart.
"Would you mind holding my baby for one minute?" cried Barbara.
Madame Vine quite started.
"The baby there!" she uttered.
"It is lying by my side, under the shawl, quiet little sleeping
Madame Vine advanced and took the sleeping baby. How could she refuse?
She had never had it in her arms before; she had, in fact, scarcely
seen it. One visit of ceremony she had paid Mrs. Carlyle, as in
politeness bound, a day or two after the young lady's arrival, and had
been shown a little face, nearly covered with lace, in a cradle.
"Thank you. I can get up now. I might have half smothered it, had I
attempted before," continued Barbara, still laughing. "I have been
here long enough, and am quite rested. Talking about smothering
children, what accounts have we in the registrar-general's weekly
returns of health! So many children 'overlaid in bed,' so many
children 'suffocated in bed.' One week there were nearly twenty; and
often there are as many as eight or ten. Mr. Carlyle says he knows
they are smothered on purpose."
"Oh, Mrs. Carlyle!"
"I exclaimed, just as you do, when he said it, and laid my hand over
his lips. He laughed, and told me I did not know half the wickedness
of the world. Thank you," again repeated Mrs. Carlyle, taking her
child from Lady Isabel. "Is she not a pretty baby? Do you like the
"It is a simple name," replied Lady Isabel; "and simple names are
always the most attractive."
"That is just what Archibald thinks. But he wanted this child's to be
Barbara. I would not have had it Barbara for the world. I remember his
once saying, a long, long while ago that he did not like elaborate
names; they were mouthfuls; and he instanced mine and his sister's,
and his own. I recalled his words to him, and he said he may not have
liked the name of Barbara then, but he loved it now. So we entered
into a compromise; Miss Baby was named Anne Barbara, with an
understanding that the first name is to be for use, and the last for
"It is not christened?" said Lady Isabel.
"Only baptized. We should have had it christened before now, but for
William's death. Not that we give christening dinners; but I waited
for the trial at Lynneborough to be over, that my dear brother Richard
might stand to the child."
"Mr. Carlyle does not like christenings made into festivals," Lady
Isabel dreamily observed, her thoughts buried in the past.
"How do you know that?" exclaimed Barbara, opening her eyes.
And poor Madame Vine, her pale face flushing, had to stammer forth
some confused words that she had "heard so somewhere."
"It is quite true," said Barbara. "He has never given a christening-
dinner for any of his children, and gets out of attending if invited
to one. He cannot understand the analogy between a solemn religious
rite and the meeting together afterward to eat and drink and make
merry, according to the fashion of this world."
As Lady Isabel quitted the room, young Vane was careering through the
corridor, throwing his head in all directions, and calling out,--
"Lucy! I want Lucy!"
"What do you want with her?" asked Madame Vine.
"/Il m'est impossible de vous le dire madame/," responded he. Being,
for an Eton boy, wonderfully up in French, he was rather given to show
it off when he got the chance. He did not owe thanks for it to Eton.
Lady Mount Severn had taken better care than that. Better care? What
/could/ she want? There was one whole, real, live French tutor--and he
an Englishman!--for the eight hundred boys. Very unreasonable of her
ladyship to disparage that ample provision.
"Lucy cannot come to you just now. She is practicing."
"/Mais, il le faut. J'ai le droit de demander apres elle. Elle
m'appartient, vous comprenez, madame, cette demoiselle la./"
Madame could not forbear a smile. "I wish you would speak English
sense, instead of French nonsense."
"Then the English sense is that I want Lucy and I must have her. I am
going to take her for a drive in the pony carriage, if you must know.
She said she'd come, and John's getting it ready."
"I could not possibly allow it," said Madame Vine. "You'd be sure to
"The idea!" he returned, indignantly. "As if I should upset Lucy! Why,
I'm one of the great whips at Eton. I care for Lucy too much not to
drive steadily. She is to be my wife, you know, /ma bonne dame/."
At this juncture two heads were pushed out from the library, close by;
those of the earl and Mr. Carlyle. Barbara, also, attracted by the
talking, appeared at the door of her dressing-room.
"What's that about a wife?" asked my lord of his son.
The blood mantled in the young gentleman's cheek as he turned round
and saw who had spoken, but he possessed all the fearlessness of an
"I intend Lucy Carlyle to be my wife, papa. I mean in earnest--when we
shall both be grown up--if you will approve, and Mr. Carlyle will give
her to me."
The earl looked somewhat impassable, Mr. Carlyle amused. "Suppose,"
said the latter, "we adjourn the discussion to this day ten years?"
"But that Lucy is so very young a child, I should reprove you
seriously, sir," said the earl. "You have no right to bring Lucy's
name into any such absurdity."
"I mean it, papa; you'll all see. And I intend to keep out of scrapes
--that is, of nasty, dishonorable scrapes--on purpose that Mr. Carlyle
shall find no excuse against me. I have made up my mind to be what he
is--a man of honor. I am right glad you know about it, sir, and I
shall let mamma know it before long."
The last sentence tickled the earl's fancy, and a grim smile passed
over his lips. "It will be war to the knife, if you do."
"I know that," laughed the viscount. "But I am getting a better match
for mamma in our battles than I used to be."
Nobody saw fit to prolong the discussion. Barbara put her veto upon
the drive in the pony carriage unless John sat behind to look after
the driver, which Lord Vane still resented as an insult. Madame Vine,
when the corridor became empty again, laid her hand upon the boy's arm
as he was moving away, and drew him to the window.
"In speaking as you do of Lucy Carlyle, do you forget the disgrace
reflected on her by the conduct of her mother?"
"Her mother is not Lucy."
"It may prove an impediment, that, with Lord and Lady Mount Severn."
"Not with his lordship. And I must do--as you heard me say--battle
with my mother. Conciliatory battle, you understand, madame; bringing
the enemy to reason."
Madame Vine was agitated. She held her handkerchief to her mouth, and
the boy noticed how her hands trembled.
"I have learnt to love Lucy. It has appeared to me in these few
months' sojourn with her, that I have stood to her in light of a
mother. William Vane," she solemnly added, keeping her hold upon him,
"I shall soon be where earthly distinctions are no more; where sin and
sorrow are no more. Should Lucy Carlyle indeed become your wife, in
after years, never, never cast upon her, by so much as the slightest
word of reproach, the sin of Lady Isabel."
Lord Vane threw back his head, his honest eyes flashing in their
"What do you take me for?"
"It would be a cruel wrong upon Lucy. She does not deserve it. That
unhappy lady's sin was all her own; let it die with her. Never speak
to Lucy of her mother."
The lad dashed his hand across his eyes for they were filling.
"I shall. I shall speak to her often of her mother--that is, you know,
after she's my wife. I shall tell her how I loved Lady Isabel--that
there's nobody I ever loved so much in the world, but Lucy herself.
/I/ cast a reproach to Lucy on the score of her mother!" he hotly
added. "It is through her mother that I love her. You don't
"Cherish and love her forever, should she become yours," said Lady
Isabel, wringing his hand. "I ask it you as one who is dying."
"I will--I promise it. But I say, madame," he continued, dropping his
fervent tone, "what do you allude to? Are you worse?"
Madame Vine did not answer. She glided away without speaking.
Later, when she was sitting by twilight in the gray parlor, cold and
shivering, and wrapped up in a shawl, though it was hot summer
weather, somebody knocked at the door.
"Come in," cried she, apathetically.
It was Mr. Carlyle who entered. She rose up, her pulses quickening,
her heart thumping against her side. In her wild confusion she was
drawing forward a chair for him. He laid his hand upon it, and
motioned her to her own.
"Mrs. Carlyle tells me that you have been speaking to her of leaving--
that you find yourself too much out of health to continue with us."
"Yes, sir," she faintly replied, having a most imperfect notion of
what she did say.
"What is it that you find to be the matter with you?"
"I--think--it is chiefly--weakness," she stammered.
Her face had grown as gray as the walls. A dusky, livid sort of hue,
not unlike William's had worn the night of his death, and her voice
sounded strangely hollow. It, the voice, struck Mr. Carlyle and awoke
"You cannot--you never can have caught William's complaint, in your
close attendance upon him?" he exclaimed, speaking in the impulse of
the moment, as the idea flashed across him. "I have heard of such
"Caught it from him?" she rejoined, carried away also by impulse. "It
is more likely that he----"
She stopped herself just in time. /"Inherited it from me,"/ had been
the destined conclusion. In her alarm, she went off volubly, something
to the effect that "it was no wonder she was ill: illness was natural
to her family."
"At any rate, you have become ill at East Lynne, in attendance on my
children," rejoined Mr. Carlyle, decisively, when her voice died away.
"You must therefore allow me to insist that you allow East Lynne to do
what it can toward renovating you. What is your objection to see a
"A doctor could do me no good," she faintly answered.
"Certainly not, so long as you will not consult one."
"Indeed, sir, doctors could not cure me, nor, as I believe prolong my
Mr. Carlyle paused.
"Are you believing yourself to be in danger?"
"Not in immediate danger, sir; only in so far as that I know I shall
"And yet you will not see a doctor. Madame Vine, you must be aware
that I could not permit such a thing to go on in my house. Dangerous
illness and no advice!"
She could not say to him, "My malady is on the mind; it is a breaking
heart, and therefore no doctor of physic could serve me." That would
never do. She had sat with her hand across her face, between her
spectacles and her wrapped-up chin. Had Mr. Carlyle possessed the eyes
of Argus, backed by Sam Weller's patent magnifying microscopes of
double hextra power, he could not have made anything of her features
in the broad light of day. But /she/ did not feel so sure of it. There
was always an undefined terror of discovery when in his presence, and
she wished the interview at an end.
"I will see Mr. Wainwright, if it will be any satisfaction to you,
"Madame Vine, I have intruded upon you here to say that you /must/ see
him, and, should he deem it necessary, Dr. Martin also."
"Oh, sir," she rejoined with a curious smile, "Mr. Wainwright will be
quite sufficient. There will be no need of another. I will write a
note to him to-morrow."
"Spare yourself the trouble. I am going into West Lynne, and will send
him up. You will permit me to urge that you spare no pains or care,
that you suffer my servants to spare no pains or care, to re-establish
your health. Mrs. Carlyle tells me that the question of your leaving
remains in abeyance until her return."
"Pardon me, sir. The understanding with Mrs. Carlyle was that I should
remain here until her return, and should then be at liberty at once to
"Exactly. That is what Mrs. Carlyle said. But I must express a hope
that by that time you may be feeling so much better as to reconsider
your decision and continue with us. For my daughter's sake, Madame
Vine, I trust it will be so."
He rose as he spoke, and held out his hand. What could she do but rise
also, drop hers from her face, and give it him in answer? He retained
it, clasping it warmly.
"How should I repay you--how thank you for your love to my poor, lost
His earnest, tender eyes were on her blue double spectacles; a sad
smile mingled with the sweet expression of his lips as he bent toward
her--lips that had once been hers! A faint exclamation of despair, a
vivid glow of hot crimson, and she caught up her new black silk apron
so deeply bordered with crape, in her disengaged hand, and flung it up
to her face. He mistook the sound--mistook the action.
"Do not grieve for him. He is at rest. Thank you--thank you greatly
for your sympathy."
Another wring of her hand, and Mr. Carlyle had quitted the room. She
laid her head upon the table, and thought how merciful would be death
when he should come.
"IT WON'T DO, AFY!"
Mr. Jiffin was in his glory. Mr. Jiffin's house was the same. Both
were in apple-pie order to receive Miss Afy Hallijohn, who was, in a
very short period, indeed, to be converted into Mrs. Jiffin.
Mr. Jiffin had not seen Afy for some days--had never been able to come
across her since the trial at Lynneborough. Every evening had he
danced attendance at her lodgings, but could not get admitted. "Not at
home--not at home," was the invariable answer, though Afy might be
sunning herself at the window in his very sight. Mr. Jiffin, throwing
off as best he could the temporary disappointment, was in an ecstasy
of admiration, for he set it all down to Afy's retiring modesty on the
approach of the nuptial day. "And they could try to calumniate her!"
he indignantly replied.
But now, one afternoon, when Mr. Jiffin and his shopman, and his shop,
and his wares, were all set out to the best advantage--and very
tempting they looked, as a whole, especially the spiced bacon--Mr.
Jiffin happening to cast his eyes to the opposite side of the street,
beheld his beloved sailing by. She was got up in the fashion. A mauve
silk dress with eighteen flounces, and about eighteen hundred steel
buttons that glittered your sight away; a "zouave" jacket worked with
gold; a black turban perched on the top of her skull, garnished in
front with what court milliners are pleased to term a "plume de coq,"
but which, by its size and height, might have been taken for a "coq"
himself, while a white ostrich feather was carried round and did duty
behind, and a spangled hair net hung down to her waist. Gloriously
grand was Afy that day and if I had but a photographing machine at
hand--or whatever may be the scientific name of the thing--you should
certainly have been regaled with the sight of her. Joyce would have
gone down in a fit had she encountered her by an unhappy chance. Mr.
Jiffin, dashing his apron anywhere, tore across.
"Oh, it is you!" said Afy, freezingly, when compelled to acknowledge
him, but his offered hand she utterly repudiated. "Really, Mr. Jiffin,
I should feel obliged if you would not come out to me in this
offensive and public manner."
Mr. Jiffin grew cold. "Offensive! Not come out?" gasped he. "I do
trust I have not been so unfortunate as to offend you, Miss Afy!"
"Well--you see," said Afy, calling up all her impudence to say what
she had made up her mind to say, "I have been considering it well
over, Jiffin, and I find that to carry out the marriage will not be
for my--for our happiness. I intended to write to inform you of this;
but I shall be spared the trouble--as you /have/ come out to me."
The perspiration, cold as ice, began to pour off Mr. Jiffin in his
agony and horror. You might have wrung every thread he had on. "You--
don't mean--to--imply--that--you--give--me--up--Miss--Afy?" he jerked
"Well, yes, I do," replied Afy. "It's as good to be plain, and then
there can be no misapprehension. I'll shake hands now with you,
Jiffin, for the last time; and I am very sorry that we both made such
Poor Jiffin looked at her. His gaze would have melted a heart of
stone. "Miss Afy, you /can't/ mean it! You'd never, sure, crush a
fellow in this manner, whose whole soul is yours; who trusted you
entirely? There's not an earthly thing I would not do to please you.
You have been the light of my existence."
"Of course," returned Afy, with a lofty and indifferent air, as if to
be "the light of his existence" was only her due. "But it's all done
and over. It is not at all a settlement that will suit me, you see,
Jiffin. A butter and bacon factor is so very--so very--what I have not
been accustomed to! And then, those aprons! I never could get
reconciled to them."
"I'll discard the aprons altogether," cried he, in a fever. "I'll get
a second shopman, and buy a little gig, and do nothing but drive you
out. I'll do anything if you will but have me still, Miss Afy. I have
bought the ring, you know."
"Your intentions are very kind," was the distant answer, "but it's a
thing impossible; my mind is fully made up. So farewell for good,
Jiffin; and I wish you better luck in your next venture."
Afy, lifting her capacious dress, for the streets had just been
watered, minced off. And Mr. Joe Jiffin, wiping his wet face as he
gazed after her, instantly wished that he could be nailed up in one of
his pickled pork barrels, and so be out of his misery.
"That's done with, thank goodness," soliloquized Afy. "Have /him/,
indeed. After what Richard let out on the trial. As if I should look
after anybody less than Dick Hare! I shall get him, too. I always knew
Dick Hare loved me above everything on earth; and he does still, or
he'd never had said what he did in open court. 'It's better to be born
lucky than rich.' Won't West Lynne envy me! Mrs. Richard Hare of the
Grove. Old Hare is on his last legs, and then Dick comes into his own.
Mrs. Hare must have her jointure house elsewhere, for we shall want
the Grove for ourselves. I wonder if Madame Barbara will condescend to
recognize me. And that blessed Corny? I shall be a sort of cousin of
Corny's then. I wonder how much Dick comes into--three or four
thousand a year? And to think that I had nearly escaped this by tying
myself to that ape of a Jiffin! What sharks do get in our unsuspecting
paths in this world!"
On went Afy, through West Lynne, till she arrived close to Mr. Justice
Hare's. Then she paced slowly. It had been a frequent walk of hers
since the trial. Luck favored her to-day. As she was passing the gate,
young Richard Hare came up from the direction of East Lynne. It was
the first time Afy had obtained speech of him.
"Good day, Richard. Why! you were never going to pass an old friend?"
"I have so many friends," said Richard, "I can scarcely spare time for
"But you might for me. Have you forgotten old days?" continued she,
bridling and flirting, and altogether showing herself off to
"No, I have not," replied Richard. "And I am not likely to do so," he
"Ah, I felt sure of that. My heart told me so. When you went off, that
dreadful night, leaving me to anguish and suspense, I thought I should
have died. I never have had, so to say, a happy moment until this,
when I meet you again."
"Don't be a fool, Afy!" was Richard's gallant rejoinder, borrowing the
favorite reproach of Miss Carlyle. "I was young and green once; you
don't suppose I have remained so. We will drop the past, if you
please. How is Mr. Jiffin?"
"Oh, the wretch!" shrieked Afy. "Is it possible that you can have
fallen into the popular scandal that I have anything to say to /him/?
You know I'd never demean myself to it. That's West Lynne all over!
Nothing but inventions in it from week's end to week's end. A man who
sells cheese! Who cuts up bacon! Well, I am surprised at you, Mr.
"I have been thinking what luck you were in to get him," said Richard,
with composure. "But it is your business not mine."
"Could /you/ bear to see me stooping to him?" returned Afy, dropping
her voice to the most insinuating whisper.
"Look you, Afy. What ridiculous folly you are nursing in your head I
don't trouble myself to guess, but, the sooner you get it out again
the better. I was an idiot once, I don't deny it; but you cured me of
that, and cured me with a vengeance. You must pardon me for intimating
that from henceforth we are strangers; in the street as elsewhere. I
have resumed my own standing again, which I periled when I ran after
Afy turned faint. "How can you speak those cruel words?" gasped she.
"You have called them forth. I was told yesterday that Afy Hallijohn,
dressed up to a caricature, was looking after me again. It won't do,
"Oh-o-o-oh!" sobbed Afy, growing hysterical, "and is this to be all my
recompense for the years I have spent pining after you, keeping single
for your sake!"
"Recompense! Oh, if you want that, I'll get my mother to give Jiffin
her custom." And with a ringing laugh, which, though it had nothing of
malice in it, showed Afy that he took her reproach for what it was
worth, Richard turned in at his own gate.
It was a deathblow to Afy's vanity. The worst it had ever received;
and she took a few minutes to compose herself, and smooth her ruffled
feathers. Then she turned and sailed back toward Mr. Jiffin's, her
turban up in the skies and the plume de coq tossing to the admiration
of all beholders, especially of Miss Carlyle, who had the
gratification of surveying her from her window. Arrived at Mr.
Jiffin's, she was taken ill exactly opposite his door, and staggered
into the shop in a most exhausted state.
Round the counter flew Mr. Jiffin, leaving the shopman staring behind
it. What /was/ the matter? What /could/ he do for her?
"Faint--heat of the sun--walked too fast--allowed to sit down for five
minutes!" gasped Afy, in disjointed sentences.
Mr. Jiffin tenderly conducted her through the shop to his parlor. Afy
cast half an eye round, saw how comfortable were its arrangements, and
her symptoms of faintness increased. Gasps and hysterical sobs came
forth together. Mr. Jiffin was as one upon spikes.
"She'd recover better there than in the public shop--if she'd only
excuse his bringing her in, and consent to stop for a few minutes. No
harm could come to her, and West Lynne could never say it. He'd stand
at the far end of the room, right away from her; he'd prop open the
two doors and the windows; he'd call in the maid--anything she thought
right. Should he get her a glass of wine?"
Afy declined the wine by a gesture, and sat fanning herself. Mr.
Jiffin looking on from a respectful distance. Gradually she grew
composed--grew herself again. As she gained courage, Mr. Jiffin lost
it, and he ventured upon some faint words of reproach, of him.
Afy burst into a laugh. "Did I not do it well?" she exclaimed. "I
thought I'd play off a joke upon you, so I came out this afternoon and
Mr. Jiffin clasped his hands. "/Was/ it a joke/" he returned,
trembling with agitation, uncertain whether he was in paradise or not.
"Are you still ready to let me call you mine?"
"Of course it was a joke," said Afy. "What a soft you must have been,
Mr. Jiffin, not to see through it! When young ladies engage themselves
to be married, you can't suppose they run back from it, close upon the
"Oh, Miss Afy!" And the poor little man actually burst into delicious
tears, as he caught hold of Afy's hand and kissed it.
"A great green donkey!" thought Afy to herself, bending on him,
however the sweetest smile.
Rather. But Mr. Jiffin is not the only great donkey in the world.
Richard Hare, meanwhile, had entered his mother's presence. She was
sitting at the open window, the justice opposite to her, in an invalid
chair, basking in the air and the sun. This last attack of the
justice's had affected the mind more than the body. He was brought
down to the sitting-room that day for the first time; but, of his
mind, there was little hope. It was in a state of half imbecility; the
most wonderful characteristic being, that all its selfwill, its
surliness had gone. Almost as a little child in tractability, was
Richard came up to his mother, and kissed her. He had been to East
Lynne. Mrs. Hare took his hand and fondly held it. The change in her
was wonderful; she was a young and happy woman again.
"Barbara has decided to go to the seaside, mother. Mr. Carlyle takes
her on Monday."
"I am glad, my dear, it will be sure to go her good. Richard"--bending
over to her husband, but still retaining her son's hand--"Barbara has
agreed to go to the seaside, I will set her up."
"Ay, ay," nodded the justice, "set her up. Seaside? Can't we go?"
"Certainly, dear, if you wish it; when you shall be a little
"Ay, ay," nodded the justice again. It was his usual answer now.
"Stronger. Where's Barbara?"
"She goes on Monday, sir," said Richard, likewise bending his head.
"Only for a fortnight. But they talk of going again later in the
"Can't I go, too?" repeated the justice, looking pleadingly in
"You shall, dear father. Who knows but a month or two's bracing would
bring you quite round again? We might go all together, ourselves and
the Carlyles. Anne comes to stay with us next week, you know, and we
might go when her visit is over."
"Aye, all go together. Anne's coming?"
"Have you forgotten, dear Richard? She comes to stay a month with us,
and Mr. Clitheroe and the children. I am so pleased she will find you
better," added Mrs. Hare, her gentle eyes filling. "Mr. Wainwright
says you may go out for a drive to-morrow."
"And I'll be coachman," laughed Richard. "It will be the old times
come round again. Do you remember, father, my breaking the pole, one
moonlight night, and your not letting me drive for six months
The poor justice laughed in answer to Richard, laughed till the tears
ran down his face, probably not knowing in the least what he was
"Richard," said Mrs. Hare to her son, almost in an apprehensive tone,
her hand pressing his nervously, "was not that Afy Hallijohn I saw you
speaking with at the gate?"
"Did you? What a spectacle she had made of herself! I wonder she is
not ashamed to go through the streets in such a guise! Indeed, I
wonder she shows herself at all."
"Richard, you--you--will not be drawn in again?" were the next
"Mother!" There was a sternness in his mild blue eyes as he cast them
upon his mother. Those beautiful eyes--the very counterpart of
Barbara's, both his and hers the counterpart of Mrs. Hare's. The look
had been sufficient refutation without words.
"Mother mine, I am going to belong to you in the future, and to nobody
else. West Lynne is already busy for me, I understand, pleasantly
carving out my destiny. One marvels whether I shall lose myself with
Miss Afy; another, that I shall set on offhand, and court Louisa
Dobede. They are all wrong; my place will be with my darling mother,--
at least, for several years to come."
She clasped his hand to her bosom in her glad delight.
"We want happiness together, mother, to enable us to forget the past;
for upon none did the blow fall, as upon you and upon me. And the
happiness we shall find, in our own home, living for each other, and
striving to amuse my poor father."
"Aye, aye," complacently put in Justice Hare.
So it would be. Richard had returned to his home, had become, to all
intent and purposes, its master; for the justice would never be in a
state to hold sway again. He had resumed his position; and regained
the favor of West Lynne, which, always in extremes, was now wanting to
kill him with kindness. A happy, happy home from henceforth; and Mrs.
Hare lifted up her full heart in thankfulness to God. Perhaps
Richard's went up also.
One word touching that wretched prisoner in the condemned cell at
Lynneborough. As you must have anticipated, the extreme sentence was
not carried out. And, little favorite as Sir Francis is with you and
with me, we can but admit that justice did not demand that it should
be. That he had willfully killed Hallijohn, was certain; but the act
was committed in a moment of wild rage; it had not been premeditated.
The sentence was commuted to transportation. A far more disgraceful
one in the estimation of Sir Francis; a far more unwelcome one in the
eyes of his wife. It is no use to mince the truth, one little grain of
comfort had penetrated to Lady Levison; the anticipation of the time
when she and her ill-fated child should be alone, and could hide
themselves in some hidden nook of the wide world; /he/, and his crime,
and his end gone; forgotten. But it seems he was not to go and be
forgotten; she and the boy must be tied to him still; and she was lost
in horror and rebellion.
He envied the dead Hallijohn, did that man, as he looked forth on the
future. A cheering prospect truly! The gay Sir Francis Levison working
in chains with his gang! Where would his diamonds and his perfumed
handkerchiefs and his white hands be then? After a time he might get a
ticket-of-leave. He groaned in agony as the turnkey suggested it to
him. A ticket-of-leave for /him/! Oh, why did they not hang him? he
wailed forth as he closed his eyes to the dim light. The light of the
cell, you understand; he could not close them to the light of the
future. No; never again; it shone out all too plainly, dazzling his
brain as with a flame of living fire.
Barbara was at the seaside, and Lady Isabel was in her bed, dying. You
remember the old French saying, /L'homme propose, et Dieu dispose/. An
exemplification of it was here.
She, Lady Isabel, had consented to remain at East Lynne during Mrs.
Carlyle's absence, on purpose that she might be with her children. But
the object was frustrated, for Lucy and Archibald had been removed to
Miss Carlyle's. It was Mr. Carlyle's arrangement. He thought the
governess ought to have entire respite from all charge; and that poor
governess dared not say, let them stay with me. Lady Isabel had also
purposed to be safely away from East Lynne before the time came for
her to die; but that time had advanced with giant strides, and the
period for removal was past. She was going out as her mother had done,
rapidly unexpectedly, "like the snuff of a candle." Wilson was in
attendance on her mistress; Joyce remained at home.
Barbara had chosen a watering-place near, not thirty miles off, so
that Mr. Carlyle went there most evenings, returning to his office in
the mornings. Thus he saw little of East Lynne, paying one or two
flying visits only. From the Saturday to the Wednesday in the second
week, he did not come home at all, and it was in those few days that
Lady Isabel had changed for the worse. On the Wednesday he was
expected home to dinner and to sleep.
Joyce was in a state of frenzy--or next door to it. Lady Isabel was
dying, and what would become of the ominous secret? A conviction, born
of her fears, was on the girl's mind that, with death, the whole must
become known; and who was to foresee what blame might not be cast upon
her, by her master and mistress, for not having disclosed it? She
might be accused of having been an abettor in the plot from the first!
Fifty times it was in Joyce's mind to send for Miss Carlyle and tell
The afternoon was fast waning, and the spirit of Lady Isabel seemed to
be waning with it. Joyce was in the room in attendance upon her. She
had been in a fainting state all day, but felt better now. She was
partially raised in bed by pillows, a white Cashmere shawl over her
shoulders, her nightcap off, to allow as much air as possible to come
to her, and the windows stood open.
Footsteps sounded on the gravel in the quiet stillness of the summer
air. They penetrated even to her ear, for all her faculties were keen
yet. Beloved footsteps; and a tinge of hectic rose to her cheeks.
Joyce, who stood at the window, glanced out. It was Mr. Carlyle.
"Joyce!" came forth a cry from the bed, sharp and eager.
Joyce turned round. "My lady?"
"I should die happily if I might see him."
"See him!" uttered Joyce, doubting her own ears. "My lady! See /him/!
"What can it signify? I am already as one dead. Should I ask it or
wish it, think you, in rude life? The yearning has been upon me for
days Joyce; it is keeping death away."
"It could not be, my lady," was the decisive answer. "It must not be.
It is as a thing impossible."
Lady Isabel burst into tears. "I can't die for the trouble," she
wailed. "You keep my children from me. They must not come, you say,
lest I should betray myself. Now you would keep my husband. Joyce,
Joyce, let me see him!"
Her husband! Poor thing! Joyce was in a maze of distress, though not
the less firm. Her eyes were wet with tears; but she believed she
should be infringing her allegiance to her mistress did she bring Mr.
Carlyle to the presence of his former wife; altogether it might be
productive of nothing but confusion.
A knock at the chamber door. Joyce called out, "Come in." The two
maids, Hannah and Sarah, were alone in the habit of coming to the
room, and neither of them had ever known Madame Vine as Lady Isabel.
Sarah put in her head.
"Master wants you, Miss Joyce."
"He is in the dining-room. I have just taken down Master Arthur to
Mr. Carlyle had got "Master Arthur" on his shoulder when Joyce
entered. Master Arthur was decidedly given to noise and rebellion, and
was already, as Wilson expressed it, "sturdy upon his pins."
"How is Madame Vine, Joyce?"
Joyce scarcely knew how to answer. But she did not dare to equivocate
as to her precarious state. And where the use, when a few hours would
probably see the end of it?
"She is very ill, indeed, sir."
"Sir, I fear she is dying."
Mr. Carlyle, in his consternation, put down Arthur. "Dying!"
"I hardly think she will last till morning, sir!"
"Why, what has killed her?" he uttered in amazement.
Joyce did not answer. She looked pale and confused.
"Have you had Dr. Martin?"
"Oh, no, sir. It would be of no use."
"No use!" repeated Mr. Carlyle, in a sharp accent. "Is that the way to
treat dying people? Assume it is of no use to send for advice, and so
quietly let them die! If Madame Vine is as ill as you say, a
telegraphic message must be sent off at once. I had better see her,"
he cried, moving to the door.
Joyce, in her perplexity, dared to place her back against it,
preventing his egress. "Oh, master! I beg your pardon, but--it would
not be right. Please, sir, do not think of going into her room!"
Mr. Carlyle thought Joyce was taken with a fit of prudery. "Why can't
I go in?" he asked.
"Mrs. Carlyle would not like it, sir," stammered Joyce, her cheeks
Mr. Carlyle stared at her. "Some of you take up odd ideas," he cried.
"In Mrs. Carlyle's absence, it is necessary that some one should see
her! Let a lady die in my house, and never see after her! You are out
of your senses, Joyce. I shall go in after dinner; so prepare Madame
The dinner was being brought in then. Joyce, feeling like one in a
nervous attack, picked up Arthur and carried him to Sarah in the
nursery. What on earth was she to do?
Scarcely had Mr. Carlyle begun his dinner, when his sister entered.
Some grievance had arisen between her and the tenants of certain
houses of hers, and she was bringing the dispute to him. Before he
would hear it, he begged her to go up to Madame Vine, telling her what
Joyce had said of her state.
"Dying!" exclaimed Miss Corny, in disbelieving derision. "That Joyce
has been more like a simpleton lately than like herself. I can't think
what has come to the woman."
She took off her bonnet and mantle, and laid them on a chair, gave a
twitch or two to her cap, as she surveyed it in the pier-glass, and
went upstairs. Joyce answered her knock at the invalid's door; and
Joyce, when she saw who it was, turned as white as any sheet.
"Oh, ma'am, you must not come in!" she blundered out, in her confusion
and fear, as she put herself right in the doorway.
"Who is to keep me out?" demanded Miss Carlyle, after a pause of
surprise, her tone of quiet power. "Move away, girl. Joyce, I think
your brain must be softening. What will you try at next?"
Joyce was powerless, both in right and strength, and she knew it. She
knew there was no help--that Miss Carlyle would and must enter. She
stood aside, shivering, and passed out of the room as soon as Miss
Carlyle was within it.
Ah! there could no longer be concealment now! There she was, her pale
face lying against the pillow, free from its disguising trappings. The
band of gray velvet, the spectacles, the wraps for the throat and
chin, the huge cap, all were gone. It was the face of Lady Isabel;
changed, certainly, very, very much; but still hers. The silvered hair
fell on either side of her face, like the silky curls had once fallen;
the sweet, sad eyes were the eyes of yore.
"Mercy be good to us!" uttered Miss Carlyle.
They remained gazing at each other, both panting with emotion; yes,
even Miss Carlyle. Though a wild suspicion had once crossed her brain
that Madame Vine might be Lady Isabel, it had died away again, from
the sheer improbability of the thing, as much as from the convincing
proofs offered by Lord Mount Severn. Not but what Miss Carlyle had
borne in mind the suspicion, and had been fond of tracing the likeness
in Madame Vine's face.
"How could you dare come back here!" she abruptly asked, her tone of
sad, soft wailing, not one of reproach.
Lady Isabel humbly crossed her attenuated hands upon her chest. "My
children," she whispered. "How could I stay away from them? Have pity,
Miss Carlyle! Don't reproach me. I am on my way to God, to answer for
all my sins and sorrows."
"I do not reproach you," said Miss Carlyle.
"I am so glad to go," she continued to murmur, her eyes full of tears.
"Jesus did not come, you know, to save the good like you; He came for
the sake of us poor sinners. I tried to take up my cross, as He bade
us, and bear it bravely for His sake; but its weight has killed me."
The good like you! Humbly, meekly, deferentially was it expressed, in
all good faith and trust, as though Miss Corny was a sort of upper
angel. Somehow the words grated on Miss Corny's ear: grated fiercely
on her conscience. It came into her mind, then, as she stood there,
that the harsh religion that she had through life professed, was not
the religion that would best bring peace to her dying bed.
"Child," said she, drawing near to and leaning over Lady Isabel, "had
I anything to do with sending you from East Lynne?"
Lady Isabel shook her head and cast down her gaze, as she whispered:
"You did not send me; you did not help to send me. I was not very
happy with you, but that was not the cause--of my going away. Forgive
me, Miss Carlyle, forgive me!"
"Thank God!" inwardly breathed Miss Carlyle. "Forgive me," she said,
aloud and in agitation, touching her hand. "I could have made your
home happier, and I wish I had done it. I have wished it ever since
you left it."
Lady Isabel drew the hand in hers. "I want to see Archibald," she
whispered, going back, in thought, to the old time and the old name.
"I have prayed Joyce to bring him to me, and she will not. Only for a
minute! Just to hear him say that he forgives me! What can it matter,
now that I am as one lost to the world? I should die easier."
Upon what impulse or grounds Miss Carlyle saw fit to accede to the
request, cannot be told. Probably she did not choose to refuse a
death-bed prayer; possibly she reasoned, as did Lady Isabel--what
could it matter? She went to the door. Joyce was in the corridor,
leaning against the wall, her apron up to her eyes. Miss Carlyle
beckoned to her.
"How long have you known of this?"
"Since that night in the spring, when there was an alarm of fire. I
saw her then, with nothing on her face, and knew her; though, at the
first moment, I thought it was her ghost. Ma'am, I have just gone
about since, like a ghost myself from fear."
"Go and request your master to come up to me."
"Oh, ma'am! Will it be well to tell him?" remonstrated Joyce. "Well
that he should see her?"
"Go and request your master to come to me," unequivocally repeated
Miss Carlyle. "Are you mistress, Joyce, or am I?"
Joyce went down and brought Mr. Carlyle up from the dinner-table.
"Is Madame Vine worse, Cornelia? Will she see me?"
"She wishes to see you."
Miss Carlyle opened the door as she spoke. He motioned her to pass in
first. "No," she said, "you had better see her alone."
He was going in when Joyce caught his arm. "Master! Master! You ought
to be prepared. Ma'am, won't you tell him?"
He looked at them, thinking they must be moonstruck, for their conduct
seemed inexplicable. Both were in evident agitation, an emotion Miss
Carlyle was not given to. Her face and lips were twitching, but she
kept a studied silence. Mr. Carlyle knit his brow and went into the
chamber. They shut him in.
He walked gently at once to the bed, in his straightforward manner.
"I am grieved, Madame Vine----"
The words faltered on his tongue. He was a man as little given to show
emotion as man can well be. Did he think, as Joyce had once done, that
it was a ghost he saw? Certain it is that his face and lips turned the
hue of death, and he backed a few steps from the bed. The falling
hair, the sweet, mournful eyes, the hectic which his presence brought
to her cheeks, told too plainly of the Lady Isabel.
She put out her trembling hand. She caught him ere he had drawn quite
beyond her reach. He looked at her, he looked round the room, as does
one awaking from a dream.
"I could not die without your forgiveness," she murmured, her eyes
falling before him as she thought of her past. "Do you turn from me?
Bear with me a little minute! Only say you forgive me, and I shall die
"Isabel?" he spoke, not knowing in the least what he said. "Are you--
are you--were you Madame Vine?"
"Oh, forgive--forgive me! I did not die. I got well from the accident,
but it changed me dreadfully. Nobody knew me, and I came here as
Madame Vine. I could not stay away, Archibald, forgive me!"
His mind was in a whirl, his ideas had gone wool-gathering. The first
clear thought that came thumping through his brain was, that he must
be a man of two wives. She noticed his perplexed silence.
"I could not stay away from you and my children. The longing for you
was killing me," she reiterated, wildly, like one talking in a fever.
"I never knew a moment's peace after the mad act I was guilty of, in
quitting you. Not an hour had I departed when my repentance set in;
and even then I would have retraced and come back, but I did not know
how. See what it has done for me!" tossing up her gray hair, holding
out her attenuated wrists. "Oh, forgive--forgive me! My sin was great,
but my punishment was greater. It has been as one long scene of mortal
"Why did you go?" asked Mr. Carlyle.
"Did you not know?"
"No. It has always been a mystery to me."
"I went out of love for you."
A shade of disdain crossed his lips. She was equivocating to him on
"Do not look in that way," she panted. "My strength is nearly gone--
you must perceive that it is--and I do not, perhaps, express myself
clearly. I loved you dearly, and I grew suspicious of you. I thought
you were false and deceitful to me; that your love was all given to
another; and in my sore jealousy, I listened to the temptings of that
bad man, who whispered to me of revenge. It was not so, was it?"
Mr. Carlyle had regained his calmness, outwardly, at any rate. He
stood by the side of the bed, looking down upon her, his arms crossed
upon his chest, and his noble form raised to its full height.
"Was it so?" she feverishly repeated.
"Can you ask it, knowing me as you did then, as you must have known me
since? I never was false to you in thought, in word, or in deed."
"Oh, Archibald, I was mad--I was mad! I could not have done it in
anything but madness. Surely you will forget and forgive!"
"I cannot forget. I have already forgiven!"
"Try and forget the dreadful time that has passed since that night!"
she continued, the tears falling on her cheeks, as she held up to him
one of her poor hot hands. "Let your thoughts go back to the days when
you first knew me; when I was here, Isabel Vane, a happy girl with my
father. At times I have lost myself in a moment's happiness in
thinking of it. Do you remember how you grew to love me, though you
thought you might not tell it to me--and how gentle you were with me,
when papa died--and the hundred pound note? Do you remember coming to
Castle Marling?--and my promise to be your wife--and the first kiss
you left upon my lips? And, oh, Archibald! Do you remember the loving
days after I was your wife--how happy we were with each other? Do you
remember when Lucy was born, we thought I should have died; and your
joy, your thankfulness that God restored me? Do you remember all this?
Aye. He did remember it. He took the poor hand into his, and
unconsciously played with its wasted fingers.
"Have you any reproach to cast to me?" he gently said, bending his
head a little.
"Reproach to you! To you, who must be almost without reproach in the
sight of Heaven! You, who were everlasting to me--ever anxious for my
welfare! When I think of what you were, and are, and how I quitted
you, I could sink into the earth with remorse and shame. My own sin, I
have surely expiated; I cannot expiate the shame I entailed upon you,
and upon our children."
Never. He felt it as keenly now as he had felt it then.
"Think what it has been for me!" she resumed, and he was obliged to
bend his ear to catch her gradually weakening tones. "To live in this
house with your wife--to see your love for her--to watch the envied
caresses that once were mine! I never loved you so passionately as I
have done since I lost you. Think what it was to watch William's
decaying strength; to be alone with him in his dying hour, and not to
be able to say he is my child as well as yours! When he lay dead, and
the news went forth to the household, it was /her/ petty grief you
soothed, not mine, his mother's. God alone knows how I have lived
through it all; it as been to me as the bitterness of death."
"Why did you come back?" was the response of Mr. Carlyle.
"I have told you. I could not live, wanting you and my children."
"It was wrong; wrong in all ways."
"Wickedly wrong. You cannot think worse of it than I have done. But
the consequences and the punishment would be mine alone, as long as I
guarded against discovery. I never thought to stop here to die; but
death seems to have come on me with a leap, like it came to my
A pause of labored hard breathing. Mr. Carlyle did not interrupt it.
"All wrong, all wrong," she resumed; "this interview with you, among
the rest. And yet--I hardly know; it cannot hurt the new ties you have
formed, for I am as one dead now to this world, hovering on the brink
of the next. But you /were/ my husband, Archibald; and, the last few
days, I have longed for your forgiveness with a fevered longing. Oh!
that the past could be blotted out! That I could wake up and find it
but a hideous dream; that I were here as in old days, in health and
happiness, your ever loving wife. Do you wish it, that the dark past
had never had place?"
She put the question in a sharp, eager tone, gazing up to him with an
anxious gaze, as though the answer must be one of life or death.
"For your sake I wish it." Calm enough were the words spoken; and her
eyes fell again, and a deep sigh came forth.
"I am going to William. But Lucy and Archibald will be left. Oh, do
you never be unkind to them! I pray you, visit not their mother's sin
upon their heads! Do not in your love for your later children, lose
your love for them!"
"Have you seen anything in my conduct that could give rise to fears of
this?" he returned, reproach mingled in his sad tone. "The children
are dear to me, as you once were."
"As I once was. Aye, and as I might have been now."
"Indeed you might," he answered, with emotion. "The fault was not
"Archibald, I am on the very threshold of the next world. Will you not
bless me--will you not say a word of love to me before I pass it! Let
what I am, I say, be blotted for the moment from your memory; think of
me, if you can, as the innocent, timid child whom you made your wife.
Only a word of love. My heart is breaking for it."
He leaned over her, he pushed aside the hair from her brow with his
gentle hand, his tears dropping on her face. "You nearly broke mine,
when you left me, Isabel," he whispered.
"May God bless you, and take you to His rest in Heaven! May He so deal
with me, as I now fully and freely forgive you."
What was he about to do? Lower and lower bent his head, until his
breath nearly mingled with hers. To kiss her? He best knew. But,
suddenly, his face grew red with a scarlet flush, and he lifted it
again. Did the form of one, then in a felon's cell at Lynneborough,
thrust itself before him, or that of his absent and unconscious wife?
"To His rest in Heaven," she murmured, in the hollow tones of the
departing. "Yes, yes I know that God had forgiven me. Oh, what a
struggle it has been! Nothing but bad feelings, rebellion, and sorrow,
and repining, for a long while after I came back here, but Jesus
prayed for me, and helped me, and you know how merciful He is to the
weary and heavy-laden. We shall meet again, Archibald, and live
together forever and ever. But for that great hope I could hardly die.
William said mamma would be on the banks of the river, looking out for
him; but it is William who is looking for me."
Mr. Carlyle released one of his hands; she had taken them both; and
with his own white handkerchief, wiped the death-dew from her
"It is no sin to anticipate it, Archibald, for there will be no
marrying or giving in marriage in Heaven: Christ said so. Though we do
not know how it will be, my sin will be remembered no more there, and
we shall be together with our children forever and forever. Keep a
little corner in your heart for your poor lost Isabel."
"Yes, yes," he whispered.
"Are you leaving me?" she uttered, in a wild tone of pain.
"You are growing faint, I perceive, I must call assistance."
"Farewell, then; farewell, until eternity," she sighed, the tears
raining from her eyes. "It is death, I think, not faintness. Oh! but
it is hard to part! Farewell, farewell my once dear husband!"
She raised her head from the pillow, excitement giving her strength;
she clung to his arm; she lifted her face in its sad yearning. Mr.
Carlyle laid her tenderly down again, and suffered his wet cheek to
rest upon hers.
She followed him with her eyes as he retreated, and watched him from
the room: then turned her face to the wall. "It is over. Only God
Mr. Carlyle took an instant's counsel with himself, stopping at the
head of the stairs to do it. Joyce, in obedience to a sign from him,
had already gone into the sick-chamber: his sister was standing at the
She followed him down to the dining-room.
"You will remain here to-night? With /her/?"
"Do you suppose I shouldn't?" crossly responded Miss Corny; "where are
you off to now?"
"To the telegraph office, at present. To send for Lord Mount Severn."
"What good can he do?"
"None. But I shall send for him."
"Can't one of the servants go just as well as you? You have not
finished your dinner; hardly begun it."
He turned his eyes on the dinner-table in a mechanical sort of way,
his mind wholly preoccupied, made some remark in answer, which Miss
Corny did not catch, and went out.
On his return his sister met him in the hall, drew him inside the
nearest room, and closed the door. Lady Isabel was dead. Had been dead
about ten minutes.
"She never spoke after you left her, Archibald. There was a slight
struggle at the last, a fighting for breath, otherwise she went off
quite peacefully. I felt sure, when I first saw her this afternoon,
that she could not last till midnight."
I. M. V.
Lord Mount Severn, wondering greatly what the urgent summons could be
for, lost no time in obeying it, and was at East Lynne the following
morning early. Mr. Carlyle had his carriage at the station--his close
carriage--and shut up in that he made the communication to the earl as
they drove to East Lynne.
The earl could with difficulty believe it. Never had he been so
utterly astonished. At first he really could not understand the tale.
"Did she--did she--come back to your house to die?" he blundered. "You
never took her in? I don't understand."
Mr. Carlyle explained further; and the earl at length understood. But
he did not recover his perplexed astonishment.
"What a mad act to come back here. Madame Vine! How on earth did she
"She did escape it," said Mr. Carlyle. "The strange likeness Madame
Vine possessed to my first wife did often strike me as being
marvelous, but I never suspected the truth. It was a likeness, and not
a likeness, for every part of her face and form was changed except her
eyes, and those I never saw but through those disguising glasses."
The earl wiped his hot face. The news had ruffled him no measured
degree. He felt angry with Isabel, dead though she was, and thankful
that Mrs. Carlyle was away.
"Will you see her?" whispered Mr. Carlyle as they entered the house.
They went up to the death-chamber, Mr. Carlyle procuring the key. It
was the only time that he entered it. Very peaceful she looked now,
her pale features so composed under her white cap and hands. Miss
Carlyle and Joyce had done all that was necessary; nobody else had
been suffered to approach her. Lord Mount Severn leaned over her,
tracing the former looks of Isabel; and the likeness grew upon him in
a wonderful degree.
"What did she die of?" he asked.
"She said a broken heart."
"Ah!" said the earl. "The wonder is that it did not break before. Poor
thing! Poor Isabel!" he added, touching her hand, "how she marred her
own happiness! Carlyle, I suppose this is your wedding ring?"
Mr. Carlyle cast his eyes upon the ring. "Very probably."
"To think of her never having discarded it!" remarked the earl,
releasing the cold hand. "Well, I can hardly believe the tale now."
He turned and quitted the room as he spoke. Mr. Carlyle looked
steadfastly at the dead face for a minute or two, his fingers touching
the forehead; but what his thoughts or feelings may have been, none
can tell. Then he replaced the sheet over her face, and followed the
They descended in silence to the breakfast-room. Miss Carlyle was
seated at the table waiting for them. "Where /could/ all your eyes
have been?" exclaimed the earl to her, after a few sentences,
referring to the event just passed.
"Just where yours would have been," replied Miss Corny, with a touch
of her old temper. "You saw Madame Vine as well as we did."
"But not continuously. Only two or three times in all. And I do not
remember ever to have seen her without her bonnet and veil. That
Carlyle should not have recognized her is almost beyond belief."
"It /seems/ so, to speak of it," said Miss Corny; "but facts are
facts. She was young and gay, active, when she left here, upright as a
dart, her dark hair drawn from her open brow, and flowing on her neck,
her cheeks like crimson paint, her face altogether beautiful. Madame
Vine arrived here a pale, stooping woman, lame of one leg, /shorter/
than Lady Isabel--and her figure stuffed out under those sacks of
jackets. Not a bit, scarcely, of her forehead to be seen, for gray
velvet and gray bands of hair; her head smothered under a close cap,
large, blue, double spectacles hiding the eyes and their sides, and
the throat tied up; the chin partially. The mouth was entirely altered
in its character, and that upward scar, always so conspicuous, made it
almost ugly. Then she had lost some of her front teeth, you know, and
she lisped when she spoke. Take her for all in all," summed up Miss
Carlyle, "she looked no more like Isabel who went away from here than
I look like Adam. Just get your dearest friend damaged and disguised
as she was, my lord, and see if you'd recognize him."
The observation came home to Lord Mount Severn. A gentleman whom he
knew well, had been so altered by a fearful accident, that little
resemblance could be traced to his former self. In fact, his own
family could not recognize him: and /he/ used an artificial disguise.
It was a case in point; and--reader--I assure you it was a true one.
"It was the /disguise/ that we ought to have suspected," quietly
observed Mr. Carlyle. "The likeness was not sufficiently striking to
"But she turned the house from that scent as soon as she came into
it," struck in Miss Corny, "telling of the 'neuralgic pains' that
affected her head and face, rendering the guarding them from exposure
necessary. Remember, Lord Mount Severn, that the Ducies had been with
her in Germany, and had never suspected her. Remember also another
thing, that, however great a likeness we may have detected, we could
not and did not speak of it, one to another. Lady Isabel's name is
never so much as whispered among us."
"True: all true," nodded the earl. And they sat themselves down to
On the Friday, the following letter was dispatched to Mrs. Carlyle.
"MY DEAREST--I find I shall not be able to get to you on Saturday
afternoon, as I promised, but will leave here by the late train
that night. Mind you don't sit up for me. Lord Mount Severn is
here for a few days; he sends his regards to you.
"And now, Barbara, prepare for news that will prove a shock. Madame
Vine is dead. She grew rapidly worse, they tell me, after our
departure, and died on Wednesday night. I am glad you were away.
"Love from the children. Lucy and Archie are still at Cornelia's;
Arthur wearing out Sarah's legs in the nursery.
"Ever yours, my dearest,
Of course, as Madame Vine, the governess, died at Mr. Carlyle's house,
he could not, in courtesy, do less than follow her to the grave. So
decided West Lynne, when they found which way the wind was going to
blow. Lord Mount Severn followed also, to keep him company, being on a
visit to him, and very polite, indeed, of his lordship to do it--
condescending, also! West Lynne remembered another funeral at which
those two had been the only mourners--that of the earl. By some
curious coincidence the French governess was buried close to the
earl's grave. As good there as anywhere else, quoth West Lynne. There
happened to be a vacant spot of ground.
The funeral took place on a Sunday morning. A plain, respectable
funeral. A hearse and pair, and mourning coach and pair, with a
chariot for the Rev. Mr. Little. No pall-bearers or mutes, or anything
of that show-off kind; and no plumes on the horses, only on the
hearse. West Lynne looked on with approbation, and conjectured that
the governess had left sufficient money to bury herself; but, of
course, that was Mr. Carlyle's affair, not West Lynne's. Quiet enough
lay she in her last resting-place.
They left her in it, the earl and Mr. Carlyle, and entered the
mourning-coach, to be conveyed back again to East Lynne.
"Just a little stone of white marble, two feet high by a foot and a
half broad," remarked the earl, on their road, pursuing a topic they
were speaking upon. "With the initials 'I. V.' and the date of the
year. Nothing more. What do you think?"
"I. M. V.," corrected Mr. Carlyle.
At this moment the bells of another church, not St. Jude's, broke out
in a joyous peal, and the earl inclined his ear to listen.
"What can they be ringing for?" he cried.
They were ringing for a wedding. Afy Hallijohn, by the help of two
clergymen and six bridesmaids, of which you may be sure Joyce was
/not/ one, had just been converted into Mrs. Joe Jiffin. When Afy took
a thing into her heard, she somehow contrived to carry it through, and
to bend even clergymen and bridesmaids to her will. Mr. Jiffin was
blest at last.
In the afternoon the earl left East Lynne, and somewhat later Barbara
arrived at it. Wilson scarcely gave her mistress time to step into the
house before her, and she very nearly left the baby in the fly.
Curiously anxious was Wilson to hear all particulars as to whatever
could have took off that French governess. Mr. Carlyle was much
surprised at their arrival.
"How could I stay away, Archibald, even until Monday, after the news
you sent me?" said Barbara. "What did she die of? It must have been
"I suppose so," was his dreamy answer. He was debating a question with
himself, one he had thought over a good deal since Wednesday night.
Should he, or should he not, tell his wife? He would have preferred
not to tell her; and, were the secret confined to his own breast, he
would decidedly not have done so. But it was known to three others--to
Miss Carlyle, to lord Mount Severn, and to Joyce. All trustworthy and
of good intention; but it was impossible for Mr. Carlyle to make sure
that not one of them would ever, through any chance and unpremeditated
word, let the secret come to the knowledge of Mrs. Carlyle. That would
not do, if she must hear it at all, she must hear it from him, and at
once. He took his course.
"Are you ill, Archibald?" she asked, noting his face. It wore a pale,
worn sort of look.
"I have something to tell you, Barbara," he answered, drawing her hand
into his, as they stood together. They were in her dressing-room,
where she was taking off her things. "On the Wednesday evening when I
got home to dinner Joyce told me that she feared Madame Vine was
dying, and I thought it right to see her."
"Certainly," returned Barbara. "Quite right."
"I went into her room, and I found that she was dying. But I found
something else, Barbara. She was not Madame Vine."
"Not Madame Vine!" echoed Barbara, believing in good truth that her
husband could not know what he was saying.
"It was my former wife, Isabel Vane."
Barbara's face flushed crimson, and then grew white as marble; and she
drew her hand unconsciously from Mr. Carlyles's. He did not appear to
notice the movement, but stood with his elbow on the mantelpiece while
he talked, giving her a rapid summary of the interview and its
"She could not stay away from her children, she said, and came back as
Madame Vine. What with the effects of the railroad accident in France,
and those spectacles she wore, and her style of dress, and her gray
hair, she felt secure in not being recognized. I am astonished now
that she was not discovered. Were such a thing related to me I should
give no credence to it."
Barbara's heart felt faint with its utter sickness, and she turned her
face from the view of her husband. Her first confused thoughts were as
Mr. Carlyle's had been--that she had been living in his house with
another wife. "Did you suspect her?" she breathed, in a low tone.
"Barbara! Had I suspected it, should I have allowed it to go on? She
implored my forgiveness for the past, and for having returned here,
and I gave it to her fully. I then went to West Lynne, to telegraph to
Mount Severn, and when I came back she was dead."
There was a pause. Mr. Carlyle began to perceive that his wife's face
was hidden from him.
"She said her heart was broken. Barbara, we cannot wonder at it."
There was no reply. Mr. Carlyle took his arm from the mantelpiece, and
moved so that he could see her countenance: a wan countenance, telling
He laid his hand upon her shoulder, and made her look at him. "My
dearest, what is this?"
"Oh, Archibald!" she uttered, clasping her hands together, all her
pent up feelings bursting forth, and the tears streaming from her
eyes, "has this taken your love from me?"
He took both her hands in one of his, he put the other round her waist
and held her there, before him, never speaking, only looking gravely
into her face. Who could look at its sincere truthfulness, at the
sweet expression of his lips, and doubt him? Not Barbara. She allowed
the moment's excitement to act upon her feelings, and carry her away.
"I had thought my wife possessed entire trust in me."
"Oh, I do, I do; you know I do. Forgive me, Archibald," she slowly
"I deemed it better to impart this to you, Barbara. Had there been
wrong feeling on my part, I should have left you in ignorance. My
darling, I have told you it in love."
She was leaning on his breast, sobbing gently, her repentant face
turned towards him. He held her there in his strong protection, his
"My wife! My darling! now and always."
"It was a foolish feeling to cross my heart, Archibald. It is done
with and gone."
"Never let it come back, Barbara. Neither need her name be mentioned
again between us. A barred name it has hitherto been; so let it
"Anything you will. My earnest wish is to please you; to be worthy of
your esteem and love, Archibald," she timidly added, her eye-lids
drooping, and her fair cheeks blushing, as she made the confession.
"There has been a feeling in my heart against your children, a sort of
jealous feeling, you can understand, because they were hers; because
she had once been your wife. I knew how wrong it was, and I have tried
earnestly to subdue it. I have, indeed, and I think it is nearly
gone," her voice sunk. "I constantly pray to be helped to do it; to
love them and care for them as if they were my own. It will come with
"Every good thing will come with time that we may earnestly seek,"
said Mr. Carlyle. "Oh, Barbara, never forget--never forget that the
only way to ensure peace in the end is to strive always to be doing
right, unselfishly under God."
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