East Lynne, by Ellen Wood

Chapter 22.

Mrs. Hare’s Dream.

The next day rose bright, warm, and cloudless, and the morning sun streamed into the bedroom of Mrs. Hare. Mr. and Mrs. Hare were of the old-fashioned class who knew nothing about dressing-rooms, their bedrooms were very large, and they never used a dressing-room in their lives, or found the want of one. The justice rubbed his face to a shining brilliancy, settled on his morning wig and his dressing-gown, and then turned to the bed.

“What will you have for breakfast?”

“Thank you, Richard, I do not think that I can eat any thing. I shall be glad of my tea; I am very thirsty.”

“All nonsense,” responded the justice, alluding to the intimation of not eating. “Have a poached egg.”

Mrs. Hare smiled at him, and gently shook her head. “You are very kind, Richard, but I could not eat it this morning. Barbara may send up the smallest bit of dry toast. Would you please throw the window open before you go down; I should like to feel the air.”

“You will get the air too near from this window,” replied Mr. Justice Hare, opening the further one. Had his wife requested that the further one to be opened, he would have opened the other; his own will and opinions were ever paramount. Then he descended.

A minute or two, and up ran Barbara, looking bright and fair as the morning, her pink muslin dress, with its ribbons and its open white lace sleeves, as pretty as she was. She leaned over to kiss her mother.

“Mamma, are you ill? And you have been so well lately; you went to bed so well last night. Papa says —”

“Barbara, dear,” interrupted Mrs. Hare, glancing round the room with dread, and speaking in a deep whisper, “I have had one of those dreadful dreams again.”

“Oh, mamma, how can you!” exclaimed Barbara, starting up in vexation. “How can you suffer a foolish dream to overcome you as to make you ill? You have good sense in other matters, but, in this, you seem to put all sense away from you.”

“Child, will you tell me how I am to help it?” returned Mrs. Hare, taking Barbara’s hand and drawing her to her again. “I do not give myself the dreams; I cannot prevent their making me sick, prostrate, feverish. How can I help these things, I ask?”

At this moment the bedroom door was flung open, and the face of the justice, especially stern and cross then was pushed in. So startled was Mrs. Hare, that she shook till she shook the pillow, and Barbara sprang away from the bed. Surely he had not distinguished their topic of conversation!

“Are you coming to make the breakfast today, or not Barbara? Do you expect me to make it?”

“She is coming this instant, Richard,” said Mrs. Hare, her voice more faint than usual. And the justice turned and stamped down again.

“Barbara, could your papa have heard me mention Richard?”

“No, no, mamma impossible: the door was shut. I will bring up your breakfast myself and then you can tell me the dream.”

Barbara flew after Mr. Hare, poured out his coffee, saw him settled at his breakfast, with a plateful of grouse-pie before him, and then returned upstairs with her mamma’s tea and dry toast.

“Go on with your dream, mamma,” she said.

“But your breakfast will be cold, child.”

“Oh, don’t mind that. Did you dream of Richard?”

“Not very much of Richard; except that the old and continuous trouble of his being away and unable to return, seemed to pervade it all through. You remember, Barbara, Richard asserted to us, in that short, hidden night visit, that he did not commit the murder; that it was another who did?”

“Yes, I remember it,” replied Barbara.

“Barbara, I am convinced he spoke the truth; I trust him implicitly.”

“I feel sure of it also, mamma.”

“I asked him, you remember, whether it was Otway Bethel who committed it; for I have always doubted Bethel, in an indefinite, vague manner. Richard replied it was not Bethel, but a stranger. Well, Barbara, in my dream I thought that stranger came to West Lynne, that he came to this house here, and we were talking to him of him, conversing as we might with any other visitor. Mind you, we seemed to know that he was the one who actually did it; but he denied it. He wanted to put it upon Richard; and I saw him, yes I did, Barbara — whisper to Otway Bethel. But oh, I cannot tell you the sickening horror that was upon me throughout, and seemed to be upon you also, lest he should make good his own apparent innocence, and crush Richard, his victim. I think the dread and horror awoke me.”

“What was he like, this stranger?” asked Barbara, in a low tone.

“Well, I cannot quite tell. The recollection of his appearance seemed to pass away from me with the dream. He was dressed as a gentleman, and we conversed, with him as an equal.”

Barbara’s mind was full of Captain Thorn, but his name had not been mentioned to Mrs. Hare, and neither would she mention it now. She fell into deep thought; and Mrs. Hare had to speak twice before she could be aroused.

“Barbara, I say, don’t you think this dream, coming uncalled for uninduced, must forebode some ill? Rely upon it, something connected with that wretched murder is going to be stirred up again.”

“You know, I do not believe in dreams,” was Barbara’s answer. “I think when people say, ‘this dream is a sign of such and such a thing,’ it is the greatest absurdity in the world. I wish you could remember what the man seemed like in your dream.”

“I wish I could,” answered Mrs. Hare, breaking off a particle of her dry toast. “All I can remember is, that he appeared to be a gentleman.”

“Was he tall? Had he black hair?”

Mrs. Hare shook her heard. “I tell you, my dear, the remembrance has passed from me; so whether his hair was black or light, I cannot say. I think he was tall, but he was sitting down, and Otway Bethel stood behind his chair. I seemed to feel that Richard was outside the door in hiding, trembling lest the man should go out and see him there; and I trembled, too. Oh, Barbara, it was a distressing dream!”

“I wish you could avoid having them, mamma, for they seem to upset you very much.”

“Why did you ask whether the man was tall, and had black hair?”

Barbara returned an evasive answer. It would not do to tell Mrs. Hare that her suspicions pointed to one particular quarter; it would have agitated her too greatly.

So vivid was the dream, she could scarcely persuade herself, when she awoke, that it was not real, and the murderer actually at West Lynne.

“Oh, Barbara, Barbara!” she exclaimed, in a wailing tone, “when will this mystery be cleared, and my own restored to me? Seven years since he stole here to see us, and no tidings yet.”

“People say that changes come every seven years, mamma,” said Barbara, hopefully; “but I will go down and send you up some more tea.”

“And guard your countenance well,” returned her mother. “Don’t let your father suspect anything. Remember his oath to bring Richard to justice. If he thought we dwelt on his innocence, there is no knowing what he might do to find him, he is so very just.”

“So very cruel and unnatural, I call it, mamma. But never fear my betraying anything. But have you heard about Joyce?”

“No. What is it?”

“She had a severe fall while playing with little Isabel, and it is said she will be confined to bed for several weeks. I am very sorry for her.” And, composing her face, she descended to the breakfast-room.

The dinner hour at the Hares’, when they were alone, was four o’clock and it arrived that day as usual, and they sat down to table. Mrs. Hare was better then; the sunshine and the business of stirring life had in some measure effaced the visions of the night, and restored her to her wonted frame of mind.

The cloth removed, the justice sat but a little while over his port wine, for he was engaged to smoke an after-dinner pipe with a brother magistrate, Mr. Justice Herbert.

“Shall you be home to tea, papa?” inquired Barbara.

“Is it any business of yours, young lady?”

“Oh, not in the least,” answered Miss Barbara. “Only if you had been coming home to tea, I suppose we must have waited, had you not been in time.”

“I thought you said, Richard, that you were going to stay the evening with Mr. Herbert?” observed Mrs. Hare.

“So I am,” responded the justice. “But Barbara has a great liking for the sound of her own tongue.”

The justice departed, striding pompously down the gravel walk. Barbara waltzed round the large room to a gleeful song, as if she felt his absence a relief. Perhaps she did. “You can have tea now, mamma, at any time you please, if you are thirsty, without waiting till seven,” quoth she.

“Barbara!” said Mrs. Hare.

“What, mamma?”

“I am sorry to hear of the calamity which has fallen upon Joyce! I should like to walk to East Lynne this evening and inquire after her, and see her, if I may; it would be but neighborly. I feel quite equal to it. Since I have accustomed myself to take more exercise I feel better for it, you know; and we have not been out today. Poor Joyce! What time shall we go, Barbara?”

“If we were to get there by — by seven, I should think; their dinner will be over then.”

“Yes,” answered Mrs. Hare, with alacrity, who was always pleased when somebody else decided for her. “But I should like some tea before we start, Barbara.”

Barbara took care that her mamma should have some tea and then they proceeded toward East Lynne. It was a lovely evening — the air warm, and the humming gnats sported in it as if to make the most of the waning summer. Mrs. Hare enjoyed it at first, but ere she reached East Lynne, she became aware that the walk was too much for her. She did not usually venture upon half so long a one, and probably the fever and agitation of the morning had somewhat impaired her day’s strength. She laid her hand upon the iron gate as they turned into the park, and stood still.

“I did wrong to come, Barbara.”

“Lean on me, mamma. When you reach those benches, you can take a good rest before proceeding to the house. It is very warm, and that may have fatigued you.”

They gained the benches, which were placed under some of the park trees, in front of the gates and the road, but not of the house, and Mrs. Hare sat down. Another minute and they were surrounded. Mr. Carlyle, his wife, and sister, who were taking an after-dinner stroll amidst the flowers with their guest, Francis Levison, discerned them, and came up. The children, except the youngest, were of the party. Lady Isabel warmly welcomed Mrs. Hare; she had become quite attached to the delicate and suffering woman.

“A pretty one, I am, am I not, Archibald, to come inquiring after one invalid, and am so much of an invalid myself that I have to stop half-way?” Mrs. Hare exclaimed, as Mr. Carlyle shook her hand. “I was so greatly concerned to hear of poor Joyce.”

“You must stay the evening, now you are here,” cried Lady Isabel. “It will afford you a good rest; and tea will refresh you.”

“Oh thank you, but we have taken tea,” said Mrs. Hare.

“There is no reason why you should not take some more,” she laughed. “Indeed, you seem too fatigued to be anything but a prisoner with us for the next hour or two.”

“I fear I am,” answered Mrs. Hare.

“Who the dickens are they?” Captain Levison was muttering to himself, as he contemplated the guests from a distance. “It’s a deuced pretty girl, whoever she may be. I think I’ll approach, they don’t look formidable.”

He did approach, and the introduction was made: “Captain Levison, Mrs. Hare and Miss Hare.” A few formal words, and Captain Levison disappeared again, challenging little William Carlyle to a foot-race.

“How very poorly your mamma looks!” Mr. Carlyle exclaimed to Barbara, when they were beyond the hearing of Mrs. Hare, who was busy talking with Lady Isabel and Miss Carlyle. “And she has appeared so much stronger lately; altogether better.”

“The walk here has fatigued her; I feared it would be too long; so that she looks unusually pale,” replied Barbara. “But what do you think it is that has upset her again, Mr. Carlyle?”

He turned his inquiring eyes upon Barbara.

“Papa came downstairs this morning, saying mamma was ill, that she had one of her old attacks of fever and restlessness. I declare, as papa spoke, I thought to myself could mamma have been dreaming some foolish dream again — for you remember how ill she used to be after them. I ran upstairs and the first thing that mamma said to me was, that she had had one of those dreadful dreams.”

“I fancied she must have outlived her fear of them; that her own plain sense had come to her aid long ago, showing her how futile dreams are, meaning nothing, even if hers do occasionally touch upon that — that unhappy mystery.”

“You may just as well reason with a post as reason with mamma when she is suffering from the influence of one of those dreams,” returned Barbara. “I tried it this morning. I asked her to call up — as you observe — good sense to her aid. And her reply was, ‘How could she help her feelings? She did not induce the dream by thinking of Richard, or in any other way, and yet it came and shattered her.’ Of course so far, mamma is right, for she cannot help the dreams coming.”

Mr. Carlyle made no immediate reply. He picked up a ball belonging to one of the children, which lay in his path, and began tossing it gently in his hand. “It is a singular thing,” he observed, presently, “that we do not hear from Richard.”

“Oh, very, very. And I know mamma distresses over it. A few words which she let fall this morning, betrayed it plainly. I am no believer in dreams,” continued Barbara, “but I cannot deny that these, which take such a hold upon mamma, do bear upon the case in a curious manner — the one she had last night especially.”

“What was it?” asked Mr. Carlyle.

“She dreamed that the real murderer was at West Lynne. She thought he was at our house — as a visitor, she said, or like one making a morning call — and we, she and I, were conversing with him about the murder. He wanted to deny it — to put it on Richard; and he turned and whispered to Otway Bethel, who stood behind his chair. This is another strange thing,” added Barbara, lifting her blue eyes in their deep earnestness to the face of Mr. Carlyle.

“What is strange? You speak in enigmas, Barbara.”

“I mean that Otway Bethel should invariably appear in her dreams. Until that stolen visit of Richard’s we had no idea he was near the spot at the time, and yet he had always made a prominent feature in these dreams.”

“And who was the murderer — in your mamma’s dream?” continued Mr. Carlyle, speaking as gravely as though he were upon a subject that men ridicule not.

“She cannot remember, except that he seemed a gentleman, and that we held intercourse with him as such. Now, that again is remarkable. We never told her, you know, of our suspicions of Captain Thorn.”

“I think you must be becoming a convert to the theory of dreams yourself, Barbara; you are so very earnest,” smiled Mr. Carlyle.

“No, not to dreams; but I am earnest for my dear brother Richard’s sake.”

“That Thorn does not appear in a hurry again to favor West Lynne with his ——”

Mr. Carlyle paused, for Barbara had hurriedly laid her hand upon his arm, with a warning gesture. In talking they had wandered across the park to its ornamental grounds, and were now in a quiet path, overshadowed on the other side by a chain of imitation rocks. Seated astride on the summit of these rocks, right above where Mr. Carlyle and Barbara were standing was Francis Levison. His face was turned from them and he appeared intent upon a child’s whip, winding leather round its handle. Whether he heard their footsteps or not, he did not turn. They quickened their pace, and quitted the walk, bending their steps backward toward the group of ladies.

“Could he have heard what we were saying?” ejaculated Barbara, below her breath.

Mr. Carlyle looked down upon the concerned, flushed cheeks with a smile. Barbara was so evidently perturbed. But for a certain episode of their lives, some years ago, he might have soothed her tenderly.

“I think he must have heard a little, Barbara, unless his wits were wool-gathering. He might not be attending. What if he did hear? It is of no consequence.”

“I was speaking, you know, of Captain Thorn — of his being the murderer.”

“You were not speaking of Richard or his movements, so never mind. Levison is a stranger to the whole. It is nothing to him. If he did hear the name of Thorn mentioned, or even distinguished the subject, it would bear for him no interest — would go, as the saying runs, ‘in at one ear and out at the other.’ Be at rest, Barbara.”

He really did look somewhat tenderly upon her as he spoke — and they were near enough to Lady Isabel for her to note the glance. She need not have been jealous: it bore no treachery to her. But she did note it; she had noted also their wandering away together, and she jumped to the conclusion that it was premeditated, that they had gone beyond her sight to enjoy each other’s society for a few stolen moments. Wonderfully attractive looked Barbara that evening, for Mr. Carlyle or any one else to steal away with. Her tasty, elegant airy summer attire, her bright blue eyes, her charming features, and her damask cheeks! She had untied the strings of her pretty white bonnet, and was restlessly playing with them, more in thought than nervousness.

“Barbara, love, how are we to get home?” asked Mrs. Hare. “I do fear I shall never walk it. I wish I had told Benjamin to bring the phaeton.”

“I can send to him,” said Mr. Carlyle.

“But it is too bad of me, Archibald, to take you and Lady Isabel by storm in this unceremonious manner; and to give your servants trouble besides.”

“A great deal too bad, I think,” returned Mr. Carlyle, with mock gravity. “As to the servants, the one who has to go will never get over the trouble, depend upon it. You always were more concerned for others than for yourself, dear Mrs. Hare.”

“And you were always kind, Archibald, smoothing difficulties for all, and making a trouble of nothing. Ah, Lady Isabel, were I a young woman, I should be envying you your good husband; there are not many like him.”

Possibly the sentence reminded Lady Isabel that another, who was young, might be envying her, for her cheeks — Isabel’s — flushed crimson. Mr. Carlyle held out his strong arm of help to Mrs. Hare.

“If sufficiently rested, I fancy you would be more comfortable on a sofa indoors. Allow me to support you thither.”

“And you can take my arm on the other side,” cried Miss Carlyle, placing her tall form by Mrs. Hare. “Between us both we will pull you bravely along; your feet need scarcely touch the ground.”

Mrs. Hare laughed, but said she thought Mr. Carlyle’s arm would be sufficient. She took it, and they were turning toward the house, when her eye caught the form of a gentleman passing along the road by the park gate.

“Barbara, run,” she hurriedly exclaimed. “There’s Tom Herbert going toward our house, and he will just call in and tell them to send the phaeton, if you ask him, which will save the trouble to Mr. Carlyle’s servants of going expressly. Make haste, child! You will be up with him in half a minute.”

Barbara, thus urged, set off, on the spur of the moment, toward the gates, before the rest of the party well knew what was being done. It was too late for Mr. Carlyle to stop her and repeat that the servant should go, for Barbara was already up with Mr. Tom Herbert. The latter had seen her running toward him, and waited at the gate.

“Are you going past our house?” inquired Barbara, perceiving then that Otway Bethel also stood there, but just beyond the view of the women.

“Yes. Why?” replied Tom Herbert, who was not famed for his politeness, being blunt by nature and “fast” by habit.

“Mamma would be so much obliged to you, if you would just call in and leave word that Benjamin is to bring up the phaeton. Mamma walked here, intending to walk home, but she finds herself so fatigued as to be unequal to it.”

“All right. I’ll call and send him. What time?”

Nothing had been said to Barbara about the time, so she was at liberty to name her own. “Ten o’clock. We shall be home then before papa.”

“That you will,” responded Tom Herbert. “He and the governor, and two or three more old codgers, are blowing clouds till you can’t see across the room; and they are sure to get at it after supper. I say, Miss Barbara are you engaged for a few picnics?”

“Good for a great many,” returned Barbara.

“Our girls want to get up some in the next week or two. Jack’s home, you know.”

“Is he?” said Barbara, in surprise.

“We had a letter yesterday, and he came today — a brother officer with him. Jack vows if the girls don’t cater well for them in the way of amusement, he’ll never honor them by spending his leave at home again; so mind you keep yourself in readiness for any fun that may turn up. Good evening.”

“Good evening, Miss Hare,” added Otway Bethel.

As Barbara was returning the salutation, she became conscious of other footsteps advancing from the same direction that they had come, and moved her head hastily round. Two gentlemen, walking arm-inarm, were close upon her, in one of whom she recognized “Jack,” otherwise Major Herbert. He stopped, and held out his hand.

“It is some years since we met, but I have not forgotten the pretty face of Miss Barbara,” he cried. “A young girl’s face it was then, but it is a stately young lady’s now.”

Barbara laughed. “Your brother has just told me you had arrived at West Lynne; but I did not know you were so close to me. He has been asking me if I am ready for some pic —”

Barbara’s voice faltered, and the rushing crimson dyed her face. Whose face was that, who was he, standing opposite to her, side by side with John Herbert? She had seen the face but once, yet it had implanted itself upon her memory in characters of fire. Major Herbert continued to talk, but Barbara for once lost her self-possession; she could not listen, she could only stare at that face as if fascinated to the gaze, looking herself something like a simpleton, her shy blue eyes anxious and restless, and her lips turning to an ashy whiteness. A strange feeling of wonder, of superstition was creeping over Barbara. Was that man behind her in sober, veritable reality — or was it but a phantom called up in her mind by the associations rising from her mamma’s dream; or by the conversation held not many moments ago with Mr. Carlyle.

Major Herbert may have deemed that Barbara, who evidently could not attend to himself, but was attending to his companion, wished for an introduction, and he accordingly made it. “Captain Thorn— Miss Hare.”

Then Barbara roused herself; her senses were partially coming to her, and she became alive to the fact that they must deem her behavior unorthodox for a young lady.

“I— I looked at Captain Thorn, for I thought I remembered his face,” she stammered.

“I was in West Lynne for a day or two, some five years ago,” he observed.

“Ah — yes,” returned Barbara. “Are you going to make a long stay now?”

“We have several weeks’ leave of absence. Whether we shall remain here all the time I cannot say.”

Barbara parted from them. Thought upon thought crowded upon her brain as she flew back to East Lynne. She ran up the steps to the hall, gliding toward a group which stood near its further end — her mother, Miss Carlyle, Mr. Carlyle, and little Isabel; Lady Isabel she did not see. Mrs. Hare was then going up to see Joyce.

In the agitation of the moment she stealthily touched Mr. Carlyle, and he stepped away from the rest to speak to her, she drawing back toward the door of one of the reception rooms, and motioning him to approach.

“Oh, Archibald, I must speak to you alone! Could you not come out again for a little while?”

He nodded, and walked out openly by her side. Why should he not? What had he to conceal? But, unfortunately, Lady Isabel, who had but gone into that same room for a minute, and was coming out again to join Mrs. Hare, both saw Barbara’s touch upon her husband’s arm, marked her agitation, and heard her words. She went to one of the hall windows and watched them saunter toward the more private part of the ground; she saw her husband send back Isabel. Never, since her marriage, had Lady Isabel’s jealousy been excited as it was excited that evening.

“I— I feel — I scarcely know whether I am awake or dreaming,” began Barbara, putting up her hand to her brow and speaking in a dreamy tone. “Pardon me for bringing you out in this unceremonious fashion.”

“What state secrets have you to discuss?” asked Mr. Carlyle in a jesting manner.

“We were speaking of mamma’s dream. She said the impression it had left upon her mind — that the murderer was in West Lynne — was so vivid that in spite of common sense she could not persuade herself that he was not. Well — just now ——”

“Barbara, what can be the matter?” uttered Mr. Carlyle, perceiving that her agitation was so great as to impede her words.

I have just seen him!” she rejoined.

“Seen him!” echoed Mr. Carlyle, looking at her fixedly, a doubt crossing his mind whether Barbara’s mind might be as uncollected as her manner.

“What were nearly my last words to you? That if ever that Thorn did come to West Lynne again, I would leave no stone unturned to bring it home to him. He is here, Archibald. Now, when I went to the gate to speak to Tom Herbert, his brother, Major Herbert, was also there, and with him Captain Thorn. Bethel, also. Do you wonder I say that I know not whether I am awake or dreaming? They have some weeks’ holiday, and are here to spend it.”

“It is a singular coincidence,” exclaimed Mr. Carlyle.

“Had anything been wanting to convince me that Thorn is the guilty man, this would have done it,” went on Barbara, in her excitement. “Mamma’s dream, with the steadfast impression it left upon her that Hallijohn’s murderer was now at West Lynne —”

In turning the sharp corner of the covered walk they came in contact with Captain Levison, who appeared to be either standing or sauntering there, his hands underneath his coat-tails. Again Barbara felt vexed, wondering how much he had heard, and beginning in her heart to dislike the man. He accosted them familiarly, and appeared as if he would have turned with them; but none could put down presumption more effectually than Mr. Carlyle, calm and gentlemanly though he always was.

“I will join you presently, Captain Levison,” he said with a wave of the hand. And he turned back with Barbara toward the open parts of the park.

“Do you like that Captain Levison?” she abruptly inquired, when they were beyond hearing.

“I cannot say I do,” was Mr. Carlyle’s reply. “He is one who does not improve upon acquaintance.”

“To me it looks as though he had placed himself in our way to hear what we were saying.”

“No, no, Barbara. What interest could it bear for him?”

Barbara did not contest the point; she turned to the one nearer at heart. “What must be our course with regard to Thorn?”

“It is more than I can tell you,” replied Mr. Carlyle. “I cannot go up to the man and unceremoniously accuse him of being Hallijohn’s murderer.”

They took their way to the house, for there was nothing further to discuss. Captain Levison entered it before them, and saw Lady Isabel standing at the hall window. Yes, she was standing and looking still, brooding over her fancied wrongs.

“Who is that Miss Hare?” he demanded in a cynical tone. “They appear to have a pretty good understanding together. Twice this evening I have met them enjoying a private walk and a private confab.”

“What did you say?” sharply and haughtily returned Lady Isabel.

“Nay, I did not mean to offend you,” was the answer, for he knew that she heard his words distinctly in spite of her question. “I spoke of Monsieur votre mari.”

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