“Barbara, how fine the day seems!”
“It is a beautiful day mamma.”
“I do think I should be all the better for going out.”
“I am sure you would, mamma,” was Barbara’s answer. “If you went out more, you would find the benefit. Every fine day you ought to do so. I will go and ask papa if he can spare Benjamin and the carriage.” She waltzed gaily out of the room, but returned in a moment.
“Mamma, it is all right. Benjamin is gone to get the carriage ready. You would like a bit of luncheon before you go — I will order the tray.”
“Anything you please, dear,” said the sweet-tempered gentlewoman. “I don’t know why, but I feel glad to go out today; perhaps because it is lovely.”
Benjamin made ready his carriage and himself, and drove out of the yard at the back, and brought the carriage round to the front gate.
The carriage — or phaeton as it was often called — was a somewhat old fashioned concern, as many country things are apt to be. A small box in front for the driver, and a wide seat with a head behind, accommodating Barbara well between them when Mr. and Mrs. Hare both sat in.
Benjamin drew the rug carefully over his mistress’s knees — the servants did not like Mr. Hare, but would have laid down their lives for her — ascended to his box, and drove them to their destination, the linen draper’s. It was an excellent shop, situated a little beyond the office of Mr. Carlyle, and Mrs. Hare and Barbara were soon engaged in that occupation said to possess for all women a fascination. They had been in about an hour, when Mrs. Hare discovered that her bag was missing.
“I must have left it in the carriage, Barbara. Go and bring it, will you, my dear? The pattern of that silk is in it.”
Barbara went out. The carriage and Benjamin and the sleek old horse were all waiting drowsily together. Barbara could not see the bag, and she appealed to the servant.
“Find mamma’s bag, Benjamin. It must be somewhere in the carriage.”
Benjamin got off his box and began to search. Barbara waited, gazing listlessly down the street. The sun was shining brilliantly, and its rays fell upon the large cable chain of a gentleman who was sauntering idly up the pavement, making its gold links and its drooping seal and key glitter, as they crossed his waistcoat. It shone also upon the enameled gold studs of his shirt front, making them glitter; and as he suddenly raised his ungloved hand to stroke his moustache — by which action you know a vain man — a diamond ring he wore gleamed with a light that was positively dazzling. Involuntarily Barbara thought of the description her brother Richard had given of certain dazzling jewels worn by another.
She watched him advance! He was a handsome man of, perhaps, seven or eight and twenty, tall, slender and well made, his eyes and hair black. A very pleasant expression sat upon his countenance; and on the left hand he wore a light buff kid glove, and was swinging its fellow by the fingers. But for the light cast at that moment by the sun, Barbara might not have noticed the jewellery, or connected it in her mind with the other jewellery in that unhappy secret.
“Hallo, Thorn, is that you? Just step over here.”
The speaker was Otway Bethel, who was on the opposite side of the street; the spoken to, the gentleman with the jewellery. But the latter was in a brown study, and did not hear. Bethel called out again, louder.
That was heard. Captain Thorn nodded, and turned short off across the street. Barbara stood like one in a dream, her brain, her mind, her fancy all in a confused mass together.
“Here’s the bag, Miss Barbara. It had got among the folds of the rug.”
Benjamin held it out to her, but she took no notice; she was unconscious of all external things save one. That she beheld the real murderer of Hallijohn, she entertained no manner of doubt. In every particular he tallied with the description given by Richard; tall, dark, vain, handsome, delicate hands, jewellery, and — Captain Thorn! Barbara’s cheeks grew white and her heart turned sick.
“The bag, Miss Barbara.”
Away tore Barbara, leaving Benjamin and the bag in wonder. She had caught sight of Mr. Wainwright, the surgeon, at a little distance, and sped toward him.
“Mr. Wainwright,” began she, forgetting ceremony in her agitation, “you see that gentleman talking to Otway Bethel — who is he?”
Mr. Wainwright had to put his glasses across the bridge of his nose before he could answer, for he was short-sighted. “That? Oh, it is a Captain Thorn. He is visiting the Herberts, I believe.”
“Where does he come from? Where does he live?” reiterated Barbara in her eagerness.
“I don’t know anything about him. I saw him this morning with young Smith, and he told me he was a friend of the Herberts. You are not looking well, Miss Barbara.”
She made no answer. Captain Thorn and Mr. Bethel came walking down the street, and the latter saluted her, but she was too much confused to respond to it. Mr. Wainwright then wished her good day, and Barbara walked slowly back. Mrs. Hare was appearing at the shop door.
“My dear, how long you are! Cannot the bag be found?”
“I went to speak to Mr. Wainwright,” answered Barbara, mechanically taking the bag from Benjamin and giving it to her mother, her whole heart and eyes still absorbed with that one object moving away in the distance.
“You look pale, child. Are you well?”
“Oh, yes, quite. Let us get our shopping over, mamma.”
She moved on to their places at the counter as she spoke, eager to “get it over” and be at home, that she might have time for thought. Mrs. Hare wondered what had come to her; the pleased interest displayed in their purchases previously was now gone, and she sat inattentive and absorbed.
“Now, my dear, it is only waiting for you to choose. Which of the two silks will you have?”
“Either — any. Take which you like, mamma.”
“Barbara, what has come to you?”
“I believe I am tired,” said Barbara, with a forced laugh, as she compelled herself to pay some sort of attention. “I don’t like the green; I will take the other.”
They arrived at home. Barbara got just five minutes alone in her chamber before the dinner was on the table. All the conclusion she could come to was, she could do nothing save tell the facts to Archibald Carlyle.
How could she contrive to see him? The business might admit of no delay. She supposed she must go to East Lynne that evening; but where would be her excuse for it at home? Puzzling over it, she went down to dinner. During the meal, Mrs. Hare began talking of some silk she had purchased for a mantle. She should have it made like Miss Carlyle’s new one. When Miss Carlyle was at the grove, the other day, about Wilson’s character, she offered her the pattern, and she, Mrs. Hare, would send one of the servants up for it after dinner.
“Oh, mamma, let me go!” burst forth Barbara, and so vehemently spoke she, that the justice paused in carving, and demanded what ailed her. Barbara made some timid excuse.
“Her eagerness is natural, Richard,” smiled Mrs. Hare. “Barbara thinks she shall get a peep at the baby, I expect. All young folks are fond of babies.”
Barbara’s face flushed crimson, but she did not contradict the opinion. She could not eat her dinner — she was too full of poor Richard; she played with it, and then sent away her plate nearly untouched.
“That’s through the finery she’s been buying,” pronounced Justice Hare. “Her head is stuffed up with it.”
No opposition was offered to Barbara’s going to East Lynne. She reached it just as their dinner was over. It was for Miss Carlyle she asked.
“Miss Carlyle is not at home, miss. She is spending the day out; and my lady does not receive visitors yet.”
It was a sort of checkmate. Barbara was compelled to say she would see Mr. Carlyle. Peter ushered her into the drawing-room, and Mr. Carlyle came to her.
“I am so very sorry to disturb you — to have asked for you,” began Barbara, with a burning face, for, somehow, a certain evening interview of hers with him, twelve months before, was disagreeably present to her. Never, since that evening of agitation, had Barbara suffered herself to betray emotion to Mr. Carlyle; her manner to him had been calm, courteous, and indifferent. And she now more frequently called him “Mr. Carlyle” than “Archibald.”
“Take a seat — take a seat, Barbara.”
“I asked for Miss Carlyle,” she continued, “for mamma is in want of a pattern that she promised to lend her. You remember the Lieutenant Thorn whom Richard spoke of as being the real criminal?”
“I think he is at West Lynne.”
Mr. Carlyle was aroused to eager interest.
“He! The same Thorn?”
“It can be no other. Mamma and I were shopping today, and I went out for her bag, which she left in the carriage. While Benjamin was getting it, I saw a stranger coming up the street — a tall, good-looking, dark-haired man, with a conspicuous gold chain and studs. The sun was full upon him, causing the ornaments to shine, especially a diamond ring which he wore, for he had one hand raised to his face. The thought flashed over me, ‘That is just like the description Richard gave of the man Thorn.’ Why the idea should have occurred to me in that strange manner, I do not know, but it most assuredly did occur, though I did not really suppose him to be the same. Just then I heard him spoken to by some one on the other side of the street; it was Otway Bethel, and he called him Captain Thorn.”
“This is curious, indeed, Barbara. I did not know any stranger was at West Lynne.”
“I saw Mr. Wainwright, and asked him who it was. He said a Captain Thorn, a friend of the Herberts. A Lieutenant Thorn four or five years ago would probably be Captain Thorn now.”
Mr. Carlyle nodded, and there was a pause.
“What can be done?” asked Barbara.
Mr. Carlyle was passing one hand over his brow; it was a habit of his when in deep thought.
“It is hard to say what is to be done, Barbara. The description you gave of this man certainly tallies with that given by Richard. Did he look like a gentleman?”
“Very much so. A remarkably aristocratic looking man, as it struck me.”
Mr. Carlyle again nodded assentingly. He remembered Richard’s words, when describing the other: “an out-and-out aristocrat.” “Of course, Barbara, the first thing must be to try and ascertain whether it is the same,” he observed. “If we find it is, then we must deliberate upon future measures. I will see what I can pick up and let you know.”
Barbara rose. Mr. Carlyle escorted her across the hall, and then strolled down the park by her side, deep in the subject, and quite unconscious that Lady Isabel’s jealous eyes were watching them from her dressing-room window.
“You say he seemed intimate with Otway Bethel?”
“As to being intimate, I cannot say. Otway Bethel spoke as though he knew him.”
“This must have caused excitement to Mrs. Hare.”
“You forget, Archibald, that mamma was not told anything about Thorn,” was the answer of Barbara. “The uncertainty would have worried her to death. All Richard said to her was, that he was innocent, that it was a stranger who did the deed, and she asked for no particulars; she had implicit faith in Richard’s truth.”
“True; I did forget,” replied Mr. Carlyle. “I wish we could find out some one who knew the other Thorn; to ascertain that they were the same would be a great point gained.”
He went as far as the park gates with Barbara, shook hands and wished her good evening. Scarcely had she departed when Mr. Carlyle saw two gentlemen advancing from the opposite direction, in one of whom he recognized Tom Herbert, and the other — instinct told him — was Captain Thorn. He waited till they came up.
“If this isn’t lucky, seeing you,” cried Mr. Tom Herbert, who was a free-and-easy sort of a gentleman, the second son of a brother justice of Mr. Hare. “I wish to goodness you’d give us a draught of your cider, Carlyle. We went up to Beauchamp’s for a stroll, but found them all out, and I’m awful thirsty. Captain Thorn, Carlyle.”
Mr. Carlyle invited them to his house and ordered in refreshments. Young Herbert coolly threw himself into an arm-chair and lit a cigar. “Come, Thorn,” cried he, “here’s a weed for you.”
Captain Thorn glanced toward Mr. Carlyle; he appeared of a far more gentlemanly nature than Tom Herbert.
“You’ll have one too, Carlyle,” said Herbert, holding out his cigar-case. “Oh, I forgot — you are a muff; don’t smoke one twice a year. I say how’s Lady Isabel?”
“Very ill still.”
“By Jove! Is she, though? Tell her I am sorry to hear it, will you, Carlyle? But — I say! Will she smell the smoke?” asked he, with a mixture of alarm and concern in his face.
Mr. Carlyle reassured him upon the point, and turned to Captain Thorn.
“Are you acquainted with this neighborhood?”
Captain Thorn smiled. “I only reached West Lynne yesterday.”
“You were never here before then?” continued Mr. Carlyle, setting down the last as a probably evasive answer.
“He and my brother Jack, you know, are in the same regiment,” put in Tom, with scanty ceremony. “Jack had invited him down for some fishing and that, and Thorn arrives. But he never sent word he was coming, you see; Jack had given him up, and is off on some Irish expedition, the deuce knows where. Precious unlucky that it should have happened so. Thorn says he shall cut short his stay, and go again.”
The conversation turned upon fishing, and in the heat of the argument, the stranger mentioned a certain pond and its famous eels — the “Low Pond.” Mr. Carlyle looked at him, speaking, however in a careless manner.
“Which do you mean? We have two ponds not far apart, each called the ‘Low Pond’”
“I mean the one on an estate about three miles form here — Squire Thorpe’s, unless I am mistaken.”
Mr. Carlyle smiled. “I think you must have been in the neighborhood before, Captain Thorn. Squire Thorpe is dead and the property has passed to his daughter’s husband, and that Low Pond was filled up three years ago.”
“I have heard a friend mention it,” was Captain Thorn’s reply, spoken in an indifferent tone, though he evidently wished not to pursue the subject.
Mr. Carlyle, by easy degrees, turned the conversation upon Swainson, the place where Richard Hare’s Captain Thorn was suspected to have come. The present Captain Thorn said he knew it “a little,” he had once been “staying there a short time.” Mr. Carlyle became nearly convinced that Barbara’s suspicions were correct. The description certainly agreed, so far as he could judge, in the most minute particulars. The man before him wore two rings, a diamond — and a very beautiful diamond too — on the one hand; a seal ring on the other; his hands were delicate to a degree, and his handkerchief, a cambric one of unusually fine texture, was not entirely guiltless of scent. Mr. Carlyle quitted the room for a moment and summoned Joyce to him.
“My lady has been asking for you,” said Joyce.
“Tell her I will be up the moment these gentlemen leave, Joyce,” he added, “find an excuse to come into the room presently; you can bring something or other in; I want you to look at this stranger who is with young Mr. Herbert. Notice him well; I fancy you may have seen him before.”
Mr. Carlyle returned to the room, leaving Joyce surprised. However, she presently followed, taking in some water, and lingered a few minutes, apparently placing the things on the table in better order.
When the two departed Mr. Carlyle called Joyce, before proceeding to his wife’s room. “Well,” he questioned, “did you recognize him?”
“Not at all, sir. He seemed quite strange to me.”
“Cast your thoughts back, Joyce. Did you never see him in days gone by?”
Joyce looked puzzled, and she replied in the negative.
“Is he the man, think you, who used to ride from Swainson to see Afy?”
Joyce’s face flushed crimson. “Oh, sir!” was all she uttered.
“The name is the same — Thorn; I thought it possible the men might be,” observed Mr. Carlyle.
“Sir, I cannot say. I never saw that Captain Thorn but once, and I don’t know, I don’t know —” Joyce spoke slowly and with consideration —“that I should at all know him again. I did not think of him when I looked at this gentleman; but, at any rate, no appearance in this one struck upon my memory as being familiar.”
So from Joyce Mr. Carlyle obtained no clue, one way or the other. The following day he sought out Otway Bethel.
“Are you intimate with that Captain Thorn who is staying with the Herberts?” asked he.
“Yes,” answered Bethel, decisively, “if passing a couple of hours in his company can constitute intimacy. That’s all I have seen of Thorn.”
“Are you sure,” pursued Mr. Carlyle.
“Sure!” returned Bethel; “why, what are you driving at now? I called in at Herbert’s the night before last, and Tom asked me to stay the evening. Thorn had just come. A jolly bout we had; cigars and cold punch.”
“Bethel,” said Mr. Carlyle, dashing to the point, “is it the Thorn who used to go after Afy Hallijohn? Come, you can tell if you like.”
Bethel remained dumb for a moment, apparently with amazement. “What a confounded lie!” uttered he at length. “Why it’s no more that than — What Thorn?” he broke off abruptly.
“You are equivocating, Bethel. The Thorn who is mixed up — or said to be-in the Hallijohn affair. Is this the same man?”
“You are a fool, Carlyle, which is what I never took you to be yet,” was Mr. Bethel’s rejoinder, spoken in a savage tone. “I have told you that I never knew there was any Thorn mixed up with Afy, and I should like to know why my word is not to be believed? I never saw Thorn in my life till I saw him the other night at the Herberts’, and that I would take my oath to, if put to it.”
Bethel quitted Mr. Carlyle with the last word, and the latter gazed after him, revolving points in his brain. The mention of Thorn’s name, the one spoken of by Richard Hare, appeared to excite some feeling in Bethel’s mind, arousing it to irritation. Mr. Carlyle remembered that it had done so previously and now it had done so again, and yet Bethel was an easy-natured man in general, far better tempered than principled. That there was something hidden, some mystery connected with the affair, Mr. Carlyle felt sure; but he could not attempt so much as a guess at what it might be. And this interview with Bethel brought him no nearer the point he wished to find out — whether this Thorn was the same man. In walking back to his office he met Mr. Tom Herbert.
“Does Captain Thorn purpose making a long stay with you?” he stopped him to inquire.
“He’s gone; I have just seen him off by the train,” was the reply of Tom Herbert. “It seemed rather slow with him without Jack, so he docked his visit, and says he’ll pay us one when Jack’s to the fore.”
As Mr. Carlyle went home to dinner that evening, he entered the grove, ostensibly to make a short call on Mrs. Hare. Barbara, on the tenterhooks of impatience, accompanied him outside when he departed, and walked down the path.
“What have you learnt?” she eagerly asked.
“Nothing satisfactory,” was the reply of Mr. Carlyle. “And the man has left again.”
“Left?” uttered Barbara.
Mr. Carlyle explained. He told her how they had come to his house the previous evening after Barbara’s departure, and his encounter with Tom Herbert that day; he mentioned, also, his interview with Bethel.
“Can he have gone on purpose, fearing consequences?” wondered Barbara.
“Scarcely; or why should he have come?”
“You did not suffer any word to escape you last night causing him to suspect for a moment that he was hounded?”
“Not any. You would make a bad lawyer, Barbara.”
“Who or what is he?”
“An officer in her majesty’s service, in John Herbert’s regiment. I ascertained no more. Tom said he was of good family. But I cannot help suspecting it is the same man.”
“Can nothing more be done?”
“Nothing in the present stage of the affair,” continued Mr. Carlyle, as he passed through the gate to continue his way. “We can only wait on again with what patience we may, hoping that time will bring about its own elucidation.”
Barbara pressed her forehead down on the cold iron of the gate as his footsteps died away. “Aye, to wait on,” she murmured, “to wait on in dreary pain; to wait on, perhaps, for years, perhaps forever! And poor Richard — wearing out his days in poverty and exile!”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14