The sensations of Mr. Carlyle, when he returned to West Lynne, were much like those of an Eton boy, who knows he has been in mischief, and dreads detection. Always open as to his own affairs — for he had nothing to conceal — he yet deemed it expedient to dissemble now. He felt that his sister would be bitter at the prospect of his marrying; instinct had taught him that, years past; and he believed that, of all women, the most objectionable to her would be Lady Isabel, for Miss Carlyle looked to the useful, and had neither sympathy nor admiration for the beautiful. He was not sure but she might be capable of endeavoring to frustrate the marriage should news of it reach her ears, and her indomitable will had caused many strange things in her life; therefore, you will not blame Mr. Carlyle for observing entire reticence as to his future plans.
A family of the name of Carew had been about taking East Lynne; they wished to rent it, furnished, for three years. Upon some of the minor arrangements they and Mr. Carlyle were opposed, but the latter declined to give way. During his absence at Castle Marling, news had arrived from them — they had acceded to all his terms, and would enter upon East Lynne as soon as it was convenient. Miss Carlyle was full of congratulations; it was off their hands, she said; but the fist letter Mr. Carlyle wrote was — to decline them. He did not tell this to Miss Carlyle. The final touches to the house were given, preparatory to the reception of its inhabitants, and three maids and two men servants hired and sent there, upon board wages, until the family should arrive.
One evening three weeks subsequent to Mr. Carlyle’s visit to Castle Marling, Barbara Hare called at Miss Carlyle’s, and found them going to tea much earlier than usual.
“We dined earlier,” said Miss Corny, “and I ordered tea as soon as the dinner went away. Otherwise, Archibald would have taken none.”
“I am as well without tea. And I have a mass of business to get through yet.”
“You are not as well without it,” cried Miss Corny, “and I don’t choose you should go without it. Take off your bonnet, Barbara. He does things like nobody else; he is off to Castle Marling tomorrow, and never could open his lips till just now that he was going.”
“Is that invalid — Brewster, or whatever his name is — laid up at Castle Marling, still?” exclaimed Barbara.
“He is still there,” said Mr. Carlyle.
Barbara sprang up the moment tea was over.
“Dill is waiting for me in the office, and I have some hours’ work before me. However, I suppose you won’t care to put up with Peter’s attendance, so make haste with your bonnet, Barbara.”
She took his arm, and they walked on, Mr. Carlyle striking the hedge and the grass with her parasol. Another minute, and the handle was in two.
“I thought you would do it,” said Barbara, while he was regarding the parasol with ludicrous dismay. “Never mind, it is an old one.”
“I will bring you another to replace it. What is the color? Brown. I won’t forget. Hold the relics a minute, Barbara.”
He put the pieces in her hand, and taking out a note case, made a note in pencil.
“What’s that for?” she inquired.
He held it close to her eyes, that she might discern what he had written: “Brown parasol. B. H.”
“A reminder for me, Barbara, in case I forget.”
Barbara’s eyes detected another item or two already entered in the note case: “piano,” “plate.”
“I jot down the things as they occur to me, that I must get in London,” he explained. “Otherwise I should forget half.”
“In London? I thought you were going in an opposite direction — to Castle Marling?”
It was a slip of the tongue, but Mr. Carlyle repaired it.
“I may probably have to visit London as well as Castle Marling. How bright the moon looks rising there, Barbara!”
“So bright — that or the sky — that I saw your secret,” answered she. “Piano! Plate! What can you want with either, Archibald?”
“They are for East Lynne,” he quietly replied.
“Oh, for the Carews.” And Barbara’s interest in the item was gone.
They turned into the road just below the grove, and reached it. Mr. Carlyle held the gate open for Barbara.
“You will come in and say good-night to mamma. She was saying today what a stranger you have made of yourself lately.”
“I have been busy; and I really have not the time to-night. You must remember me to her instead.” And cordially shaking her by the hand, he closed the gate.
It was two or three mornings after the departure of Mr. Carlyle that Mr. Dill appeared before Miss Carlyle, bearing a letter. She was busy regarding the effect of some new muslin curtains, just put up, and did not pay attention to him.
“Will you please take the letter, Miss Cornelia? The postman left it in the office with ours. It is from Mr. Archibald.”
“Why, what has he got to write to me about?” retorted Miss Corny. “Does he say when he is coming home?”
“You had better see, Miss Cornelia. Mine does not.”
“CASTLE MARLING, May 1st.
“MY DEAR CORNELIA— I was married this morning to Lady Isabel Vane, and hasten briefly to acquaint you with the fact. I will write you more fully tomorrow or the next day, and explain all things.
“Your ever affectionate brother,
“It is a hoax,” was the first gutteral sound that escaped from Miss Carlyle’s throat when speech came to her.
Mr. Dill only stood like a stone image.
“It is a hoax, I say,” raved Miss Carlyle. “What are you standing there for, like a gander on one leg?” she reiterated, venting her anger upon the unoffending man. “Is it a hoax or not?”
“I am overdone with amazement, Miss Corny. It is not a hoax; I have had a letter, too.”
“It can’t be true — it can’t be true. He had no more thought of being married when he left here, three days ago, than I have.”
“How can we tell that, Miss Corny? How are we to know he did not go to be married? I fancy he did.”
“Go to be married!” shrieked Miss Corny, in a passion. “He would not be such a fool. And to that fine lady-child! No — no.”
“He has sent this to be put in the county journals,” said Mr. Dill, holding forth a scrap of paper. “They are married, safe enough.”
Miss Carlyle took it and held it before her: her hand was cold as ice, and shook as if with palsy.
“MARRIED. — On the 1st inst., at Castle Marling, by the chaplain to the Earl of Mount Severn, Archibald Carlyle, Esquire, of East Lynne, to the Lady Isabel Mary Vane, only child of William, late Earl of Mount Severn.”
Miss Carlyle tore the paper to atoms and scattered it. Mr. Dill afterward made copies from memory, and sent them to the journal offices. But let that pass.
“I will never forgive him,” she deliberately uttered, “and I will never forgive or tolerate her.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01