East Lynne, by Ellen Wood

Chapter 16.

Domestic Troubles.

Isabel wandered back, and then wandered through the rooms; they looked lovely; not as they had seemed to look in her father’s time. In her dressing-room knelt Marvel, unpacking. She rose when Lady Isabel entered.

“Can I speak to you a moment, if you please my lady?”

“What is it?”

Then Marvel poured forth her tale. That she feared so small an establishment would not suit her, and if my lady pleased, she would like to leave at once — that day. Anticipating it, she had not unpacked her things.

“There has been some mistake about the servants, Marvel, but it will be remedied as soon as possible. And I told you before I married that Mr. Carlyle’s establishment would be a limited one.”

“My lady perhaps I could put up with that; but I never could stop in the house with —” “that female Guy” had been on the tip of Marvel’s tongue, but she remembered in time of whom she was speaking —“with Miss Carlyle. I fear, my lady, we have both got tempers that would slash, and might be flying at each other. I could not stop, my lady, for untold gold. And if you please to make me forfeit my running month’s salary, why I must do it. So when I have set your ladyship’s things to rights, I hope you’ll allow me to go.”

Lady Isabel would not condescend to ask her to remain, but she wondered how she should manage the inconvenience. She drew her desk toward her. “What is the amount due to you?” she inquired, as she unlocked it.

“Up to the end of the quarter, my lady?” cried Marvel, in a brisk tone.

“No,” coldly answered Lady Isabel. “Up to today.”

“I have not had time to reckon, my lady.”

Lady Isabel took a pencil and paper, made out the account, and laid it down in gold and silver on the table. “It is more than you deserve, Marvel,” she remarked, “and more than you would get in most places. You ought to have given me proper notice.”

Marvel melted into tears, and began a string of excuses. “She should never have wished to leave so kind a lady, but for attendant ill-conveniences, and she hoped my lady would not object to testify to her character.”

Lady Isabel quitted the room in the midst of it; and in the course of the day Marvel took her departure, Joyce telling her that she ought to be ashamed of herself.

“I couldn’t help myself,” retorted Marvel, “and I am sorry to leave her, for she’s a pleasant young lady to serve.”

“Well, I know I’d have helped myself,” was Joyce’s remark. “I would not go off in this unhandsome way from a good mistress.”

“Perhaps you wouldn’t,” loftily returned Marvel, “but my inside feelings are delicate and can’t bear to be trampled upon. The same house is not going to hold me and that tall female image, who’s more fit to be carried about at a foreign carnival than some that they do carry.”

So Marvel left. And when Lady Isabel went to her room to dress for dinner, Joyce entered it.

“I am not much accustomed to a lady’s maid’s duties,” began she, “but Miss Carlyle has sent me, my lady, to do what I can for you, if you will allow me.”

Isabel thought it was kind of Miss Carlyle.

“And if you please to trust me with the keys of your things, I will take charge of them for you, my lady, until you are suited with a maid,” Joyce resumed.

“I don’t know anything about the keys,” answered Isabel; “I never keep them.”

Joyce did her best, and Lady Isabel went down. It was nearly six o’clock, the dinner hour, and she strolled to the park gates, hoping to meet Mr. Carlyle. Taking a few steps out, she looked down the road, but could not see him coming; so she turned in again, and sat down under a shady tree out of view of the road. It was remarkably warm weather for the closing days of May.

Half an hour, and then Mr. Carlyle came pelting up, passed the gates, and turned on to the grass. There he saw his wife. She had fallen asleep, her head leaning against the trunk of a tree. Her bonnet and parasol lay at her feet, her scarf had dropped, and she looked like a lovely child, her lips partly open, her cheeks flushed, and her beautiful hair falling around. It was an exquisite picture, and his heart beat quicker within him as he felt that it was all his own. A smile stole to his lips as he stood looking at her. She opened her eyes, and for a minute could not remember where she was. Then she started up.

“Oh, Archibald! Have I been asleep?”

“Ay; and might have been stolen and carried off. I could not afford that, Isabel.”

“I don’t know how it came about. I was listening for you.”

“What have you been doing all day?” he asked, as he drew her arm within his, and they walked on.

“Oh, I hardly know,” she sighed. “Trying the new piano, and looking at my watch, wishing the time would go quicker, that you might come home. The ponies and carriage have arrived, Archibald.”

“I know they have, my dear. Have you been out of doors much?”

“No, I waited for you.” And then she told him about Marvel. He felt vexed, saying she must replace her with all speed. Isabel said she knew of one, a young woman who had left Lady Mount Severn while she, Isabel, was at Castle Marling; her health was delicate, and Lady Mount Severn’s place too hard for her. She might suit.

“Write to her,” said Mr. Carlyle.

The carriage came round — a beautiful little equipage — and Isabel was ready. As Mr. Carlyle drove slowly down the dusty road, they came upon Miss Corny, striding along in the sun with a great umbrella over her head. She would not turn to look at them.

Once more, as in the year gone by, St. Jude’s Church was in a flutter of expectation. It expected to see a whole paraphernalia of bridal finery, and again it was doomed to disappointment, for Isabel had not put off the mourning for her father. She was in black — a thin gauze dress — and her white bonnet had small black flowers inside and out. For the first time in his life, Mr. Carlyle took possession of the pew belonging to East Lynne, filling the place where the poor earl used to sit. Not so Miss Corny — she sat in her own.

Barbara was there with the Justice and Mrs. Hare. Her face wore a gray, dusky hue, of which she was only too conscious, but could not subdue. Her covetous eyes would wander to that other face, with its singular loveliness and its sweetly earnest eyes, sheltered under the protection of him for whose sheltering protection she had so long yearned. Poor Barbara did not benefit much by the services that day.

Afterward they went across the churchyard to the west corner, where stood the tomb of Lord Mount Severn. Isabel looked at the inscription, her veil shading her face.

“Not here, and now, my darling,” he whispered, pressing her arm to his side, for he felt her silent sobs. “Strive for calmness.”

“It seems but the other day he was at church with me, and now — here!”

Mr. Carlyle suddenly changed their places, so that they stood with their backs to the hedge, and to any staring stragglers who might be lingering on the road.

“There ought to be railings round the tomb,” she presently said, after a successful battle with her emotion.

“I thought so, and I suggested it to Lord Mount Severn but he appeared to think differently. I will have it done.”

“I put you to great expense,” she said, “taking one thing with another.”

Mr. Carlyle glanced quickly at her, a dim fear penetrating his mind that his sister might have been talking in her hearing. “An expense I would not be without for the whole world. You know it, Isabel.”

“And I have nothing to repay you with,” she sighed.

He looked expressively amused, and, gazing into her face, the expression of his eyes made her smile. “Here is John with the carriage,” she exclaimed. “Let us go, Archibald.”

Standing outside the gates, talking to the rector’s family, were several ladies, one of them Barbara Hare. She watched Mr. Carlyle place his wife in the carriage; she watched him drive away. Barbara’s lips were white, as she bowed in return to his greeting.

“The heat is so great!” murmured Barbara, when those around noticed her paleness.

“Ah! You ought to have gone in the phaeton, with Mr. and Mrs. Hare as they desired you.”

“I wished to walk,” returned the unhappy Barbara.

“What a pretty girl that is!” uttered Lady Isabel to her husband. “What is her name?”

“Barbara Hare.”

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 12:30