A sunny afternoon in summer. More correctly speaking, it may be said a summer’s evening, for the bright beams were already slanting athwart the substantial garden of Mr. Justice Hare, and the tea hour, seven, was passing. Mr. and Mrs. Hare and Barbara were seated at the meal; somehow, meals always did seem in process at Justice Hare’s; if it was not breakfast, it was luncheon — if it was not luncheon, it was dinner — if it was not dinner, it was tea. Barbara sat in tears, for the justice was giving her a “piece of his mind,” and poor Mrs. Hare deferently agreeing with her husband, as she would have done had he proposed to set the house on fire and burn her up in it, yet sympathizing with Barbara, moved uneasily in her chair.
“You do it for the purpose; you do it to anger me,” thundered the justice, bringing down his hand on the tea-table and causing the cups to rattle.
“No I don’t, papa,” sobbed Barbara.
“Then why do you do it?”
Barbara was silent.
“No; you can’t answer; you have nothing to urge. What is the matter, pray, with Major Thorn? Come, I will be answered.”
“I don’t like him,” faltered Barbara.
“You do like him; you are telling me an untruth. You have liked him well enough whenever he has been here.”
“I like him as an acquaintance, papa; not as a husband.”
“Not as a husband!” repeated the exasperated justice. “Why, bless my heart and body, the girl’s going mad! Not as a husband! Who asked you to like him as a husband before he became such? Did ever you hear that it was necessary or expedient, or becoming for a young lady to act on and begin to ‘like’ a gentleman as ‘her husband?’”
Barbara felt a little bewildered.
“Here’s the whole parish saying that Barbara Hare can’t be married, that nobody will have her, on account of — of — of that cursed stain left by — — I won’t trust myself to name him, I should go too far. Now, don’t you think that’s a pretty disgrace, a fine state of things?”
“But it is not true,” said Barbara; “people do ask me.”
“But what’s the use of their asking when you say ‘No?’” raved the justice. “Is that the way to let the parish know that they ask? You are an ungrateful, rebellious, self-willed daughter, and you’ll never be otherwise.”
Barbara’s tears flowed freely. The justice gave a dash at the bell handle, to order the tea things carried away, and after their removal the subject was renewed, together with Barbara’s grief. That was the worst of Justice Hare. Let him seize hold of a grievance, it was not often he got upon a real one, and he kept on at it, like a blacksmith hammering at his forge. In the midst of a stormy oration, tongue and hands going together, Mr. Carlyle came in.
Not much altered; not much. A year and three-quarters had gone by and they had served to silver his hair upon the temples. His manner, too, would never again be careless and light as it once had been. He was the same keen man of business, the same pleasant, intelligent companion; the generality of people saw no change in him. Barbara rose to escape.
“No,” said Justice Hare, planting himself between her and the door; “that’s the way you like to get out of my reach when I am talking to you. You won’t go; so sit down again. I’ll tell you of your ill-conduct before Mr. Carlyle, and see if that will shame you.”
Barbara resumed her seat, a rush of crimson dyeing her cheeks. And Mr. Carlyle looked inquiringly, seeming to ask an explanation of her distress. The justice continued after his own fashion.
“You know, Carlyle, that horrible blow that fell upon us, that shameless disgrace. Well, because the parish can’t clack enough about the fact itself, it must begin about Barbara, saying that the disgrace and humiliation are reflected upon her, and that nobody will come near her to ask her to be his wife. One would think, rather than lie under the stigma and afford the parish room to talk, she’d marry the first man that came, if it was the parish beadle — anybody else would. But now, what are the facts? You’ll stare when you know them. She has received a bushel of good offers — a bushel of them,” repeated the justice, dashing his hand down on his knee, “and she says ‘No!’ to all. The last was today, from Major Thorn, and, my young lady takes and puts the stopper upon it, as usual, without reference to me or her mother, without saying with your leave or by your leave. She wants to be kept in her room for a week upon bread and water, to bring her to her senses.”
Mr. Carlyle glanced at Barbara. She was sitting meekly under the infliction, her wet eyelashes falling on her flushed cheeks and shading her eyes. The justice was heated enough, and had pushed his flaxen wig nearly hind-part before, in the warmth of his argument.
“What did you say to her?” snapped the justice.
“Matrimony may not have charms for Barbara,” replied Mr. Carlyle half jokingly.
“Nothing does have charms for her that ought to have,” growled Justice Hare. “She’s one of the contrary ones. By the way, though,” hastily resumed the justice, leaving the objectionable subject, as another flashed across his memory, “they were coupling your name and matrimony together, Carlyle, last night, at the Buck’s Head.”
A very perceptible tinge of red rose to the face of Mr. Carlyle, telling of inward emotion, but his voice and manner betrayed none.
“Indeed,” he carelessly said.
“Ah, you are a sly one; you are, Carlyle. Remember how sly you were over your first ——” marriage, Justice Hare was going to bring out, but it suddenly occurred to him that all circumstances considered, it was not precisely the topic to recall to Mr. Carlyle. So he stopped himself in the utterance, coughed, and went on again. “There you go, over to see Sir John Dobede, not to see Sir John, but paying court to Miss Dobede.”
“So the Buck’s Head was amusing itself with that!” good-naturedly observed Mr. Carlyle. “Well, Miss Dobede is going to be married, and I am drawing up the settlements.”
“It’s not she; she marries young Somerset; everybody knows that. It’s the other one, Louisa. A nice girl, Carlyle.”
“Very,” responded Mr. Carlyle, and it was all the answer he gave. The justice, tired of sitting indoors, tired, perhaps, of extracting nothing satisfactory from Mr. Carlyle, rose, shook himself, set his wig aright before the chimney-glass, and quitted the house on his customary evening visit to the Buck’s Head. Barbara, who watched him down the path, saw that he encountered someone who happened to be passing the gate. She could not at first distinguish who it might be, nothing but an arm and shoulder cased in velveteen met her view, but as their positions changed in conversation — his and her father’s — she saw that it was Locksley; he had been the chief witness, not a vindictive one; he could not help himself, against her brother Richard, touching the murder of Hallijohn.
Meanwhile Mrs. Hare had drawn Mr. Carlyle into a chair close by her own.
“Archibald, will you forgive me if I say a word upon the topic introduced by Mr. Hare?” she said, in a low tone, as she shook his hand. “You know how fondly I have ever regarded you, second only to my poor Richard. Your welfare and happiness are precious to me. I wish I could in any way promote them. It occurs to me, sometimes, that you are not at present so happy as you might be.”
“I have some sources of happiness,” said Mr. Carlyle. “My children and I have plenty of sources of interest. What do you mean, dear Mrs. Hare?”
“Your home might be made happier.”
Mr. Carlyle smiled, nearly laughed. “Cornelia takes care of that, as she did in the old days, you know.”
“Yes, I know. Would it not be as well to consider whether she would not be better in a home of her own — and for you to give East Lynne another mistress?”
He shook his head.
“Archibald, it would be happier for you; it would indeed. It is only in new ties that you can forget the past. You might find recompense yet for the sorrow you have gone through; and I know none,” repeated Mrs. Hare, emphatically, “more calculated to bring it you than that sweet girl, Louisa Dobede.”
“So long as —” Mr. Carlyle was beginning, and had not got so far in his sentence, when he was interrupted by an exclamation from Barbara.
“What can be the matter with papa? Locksley must have said something to anger him. He is coming in the greatest passion, mamma; his face crimson, and his hands and arms working.”
“Oh, dear, Barbara!” was all poor Mrs. Hare’s reply. The justice’s great bursts of passion frightened her.
In he came, closed the door, and stood in the middle of the room, looking alternately at Mrs. Hare and Barbara.
“What is this cursed report, that’s being whispered in the place!” quoth he, in a tone of suppressed rage, but not unmixed with awe.
“What report?” asked Mr. Carlyle, for the justice waited for an answer, and Mrs. Hare seemed unable to speak. Barbara took care to keep silence; she had some misgivings that the justice’s words might be referring to herself — to the recent grievance.
“A report that he —he— has been here disguised as a laborer, has dared to show himself in the place where he’ll come yet, to the gibbet.”
Mrs. Hare’s face turned as white as death; Mr. Carlyle rose and dexterously contrived to stand before her, so that it should not be seen. Barbara silently locked her hands, one within the other, and turned to the window.
“Of whom did you speak?” asked Mr. Carlyle, in a matter-of-fact tone, as if he were putting the most matter-of-fact question. He knew too well; but he thought to temporize for the sake of Mrs. Hare.
“Of whom do I speak!” uttered the exasperated justice, nearly beside himself with passion; “of whom would I speak but the bastard Dick! Who else in West Lynne is likely to come to a felon’s death?”
“Oh, Richard!” sobbed forth Mrs. Hare, as she sank back in her chair, “be merciful. He is our own true son.”
“Never a true son of the Hares,” raved the justice. “A true son of wickedness, and cowardice, and blight, and evil. If he has dared to show his face at West Lynne, I’ll set the whole police of England upon his track, that he may be brought here as he ought, if he must come. When Locksley told me of it just now, I raised my hand to knock him down, so infamously false did I deem the report. Do you know anything of his having been here?” continued the justice to his wife, in a pointed, resolute tone.
How Mrs. Hare would have extricated herself, or what she would have answered, cannot even be imagined, but Mr. Carlyle interposed.
“You are frightening Mrs. Hare, sir. Don’t you see that she knows nothing of it — that the very report of such a thing is alarming her into illness? But — allow me to inquire what it may be that Locksley said?”
“I met him at the gate,” retorted Justice Hare, turning his attention upon Mr. Carlyle. “He was going by as I reached it. ‘Oh, justice, I am glad I met you. That’s a nasty report in the place that Richard has been here. I’d see what I could do toward hushing it up, sir, if I were you, for it may only serve to put the police in mind of by gone things, which it may be better they should forget.’ Carlyle, I went, as I tell you, to knock him down. I asked him how he could have the hardihood to repeat such slander to my face. He was on the high horse directly; said the parish spoke the slander, not he; and I got out of him what it was he had heard.”
“And what was it?” interrupted Mr. Carlyle, more eagerly than he generally spoke.
“Why, they say the fellow showed himself here some time ago, a year or so, disguised as a farm laborer — confounded fools! Not but what he’d have been the fool had he done it.”
“To be sure he would,” repeated Mr. Carlyle, “and he is not fool enough for that, sir. Let West Lynne talk, Mr. Hare; but do not put faith in a word of its gossip. I never do. Poor Richard, wherever he may be-”
“I won’t have him pitied in my presence,” burst forth the justice. “Poor Richard, indeed! Villain Richard, if you please.”
“I was about to observe that, wherever he may be-whether in the backwoods of America, or digging for gold in California, or wandering about the United Kingdom — there is little fear that he will quit his place of safety to dare the dangerous ground of West Lynne. Had I been you, sir, I should have laughed at Locksley and his words.”
“Why does West Lynne invent such lies?”
“Ah, there’s the rub. I dare say West Lynne could not tell why, if it were paid for doing it; but it seems to have been a lame story it had got up this time. If they must have concocted a report that Richard had been seen at West Lynne, why put it back to a year ago — why not have fixed it for today or yesterday? If I heard anything more, I would treat it with the silence and contempt it deserves, justice.”
Silence and contempt were not greatly in the justice’s line; noise and explosion were more so. But he had a high opinion of the judgment of Mr. Carlyle; and growling a sort of assent, he once more set forth to pay his evening visit.
“Oh, Archibald!” uttered Mrs. Hare, when her husband was half-way down the path, “what a mercy that you were here! I should inevitably have betrayed myself.”
Barbara turned round from the window, “But what could have possessed Locksley to say what he did?” she exclaimed.
“I have no doubt Locksley spoke with a motive,” said Mr. Carlyle. “He is not unfriendly to Richard, and thought, probably, that by telling Mr. Hare of the report he might get it stopped. The rumor had been mentioned to me.”
Barbara turned cold all over. “How can it have come to light?” she breathed.
“I am at a loss to know,” said Mr. Carlyle. “The person to mention it to me was Tom Herbert. ‘I say,’ said he meeting me yesterday, ‘what’s this row about Dick Hare?’ ‘What now?’ I asked him. ‘Why, that Dick was at West Lynne some time back, disguised as a farm laborer.’ Just the same, you see, that Locksley said to Mr. Hare. I laughed at Tom Herbert,” continued Mr. Carlyle; “turned his report into ridicule also, before I had done with him.”
“Will it be the means of causing Richard’s detection?” murmured Mrs. Hare from between her dry lips.
“No, no,” warmly responded Mr. Carlyle. “Had the report arisen immediately after he was really here, it might not have been so pleasant; but nearly two years have elapsed since the period. Be under no uneasiness, dear Mrs. Hare, for rely upon it there is no cause.”
“But how could it have come out, Archibald?” she urged, “and at this distant period of time?”
“I assure you I am quite at a loss to imagine. Had anybody at West Lynne seen and recognized Richard, they would have spoken of it at the time. Do not let it trouble you; the rumor will die away.”
Mrs. Hare sighed deeply, and left the room to proceed to her own chamber. Barbara and Mr. Carlyle were alone.
“Oh, that the real murderer could be discovered!” she aspirated, clasping her hands. “To be subjected to these shocks of fear is dreadful. Mamma will not be herself for days to come.”
“I wish the right man could be found; but it seems as far off as ever,” remarked Mr. Carlyle.
Barbara sat ruminating. It seemed that she would say something to Mr. Carlyle, but a feeling caused her to hesitate. When she did at length speak, it was in a low, timid voice.
“You remember the description Richard gave, that last night, of the person he had met — the true Thorn?”
“Did it strike you then — has it ever occurred to you to think — that it accorded with some one?”
“In what way, Barbara?” he asked, after a pause. “It accorded with the description Richard always gave of the man Thorn.”
“Richard spoke of the peculiar movement of throwing off the hair from the forehead — in this way. Did that strike you as being familiar, in connection with the white hand and the diamond ring?”
“Many have a habit of pushing off their hair — I think I do it myself sometimes. Barbara, what do you mean? Have you a suspicion of any one?”
“Have you?” she returned, answering the question by asking another.
“I have not. Since Captain Thorn was disposed of, my suspicions have not pointed anywhere.”
This sealed Barbara’s lips. She had hers, vague doubts, bringing wonder more than anything else. At times she had thought the same doubts might have occurred to Mr. Carlyle; she now found that they had not. The terrible domestic calamity which had happened to Mr. Carlyle the same night that Richard protested he had seen Thorn, had prevented Barbara’s discussing the matter with him then, and she had never done so since. Richard had never been further heard of, and the affair had remained in abeyance.
“I begin to despair of its ever being discovered,” she observed. “What will become of poor Richard?”
“We can but wait, and hope that time may bring forth its own elucidation,” continued Mr. Carlyle.
“Ah,” sighed Barbara, “but it is weary waiting — weary, weary.”
“How is it you contrive to get under the paternal displeasure?” he resumed, in a gayer tone.
She blushed vividly, and it was her only answer.
“The Major Thorn alluded to by your papa is our old friend, I presume?”
Barbara inclined her head.
“He is a very pleasant man, Barbara. Many a young lady in West Lynne would be proud to get him.”
There was a pause. Barbara broke it, but she did not look at Mr. Carlyle as she spoke.
“The other rumor — is it a correct one?”
“What other rumor?”
“That you are to marry Louisa Dobede.”
“It is not. I have no intention of marrying any one. Nay, I will say it more strongly; it is my intention not to marry any one — to remain as I am.”
Barbara lifted her eyes to his in the surprise of the moment.
“You look amused, Barbara. Have you been lending your credence to the gossips, who have so kindly disposed of me to Louisa Dobede?”
“Not so. But Louisa Dobede is a girl to be coveted, and, as mamma says, it might be happier for you if you married again. I thought you would be sure to do so.”
“No. She — who was my wife — lives.”
“What of that?” uttered Barbara, in simplicity.
He did not answer for a moment, and when he did, it was in a low, almost imperceptible tone, as he stood by the table at which Barbara sat, and looked down on her.
“‘Whosoever putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery.’”
And before Barbara could answer, if, indeed, she had found any answer to make, or had recovered her surprise, he had taken his hat and was gone.
To return for a short while to Lady Isabel. As the year advanced she grew stronger, and in the latter part of the summer she made preparations for quitting Grenoble. Where she would fix her residence, or what she would do, she knew not. She was miserable and restless, and cared little what became of her. The remotest spot on earth, one unpenetrated by the steps of civilized man, appeared the most desirable for her. Where was she to find this?
She set out on her search, she and the child and its nurse. Not Susanne. Susanne had a sweetheart in Grenoble, and declined to leave it, so a girl was engaged for the child in her place. Lady Isabel wound up her housekeeping, had her things packed and forwarded to Paris, there to wait her orders and finally quitted Grenoble. It was a fine day when she left it — all too fine for the dark ending it was to bring.
When a railway accident does take place in France, it is an accident. None of your milk-and-water affairs, where a few bruises and a great fright are the extent of the damages but too often a calamity whose remembrance lasts a lifetime. Lady Isabel had travelled a considerable distance that first day, and at the dusk of evening, as they were approaching a place, Cammere, where she purposed to halt for the night, a dreadful accident occurred. The details need not be given, and will not be. It is sufficient to say that some of the passengers were killed, her child and nurse being amongst them, and she herself was dangerously injured.
The injuries lay chiefly in her left leg and in her face — the lower part of her face. The surgeons, taking their cursory view of her, as they did of the rest of the sufferers, were not sparing in their remarks, for they believed her to be insensible. She had gathered that the leg was to be amputated, and that she would probably die under the operation — but her turn to be attended to was not yet. How she contrived to write she never knew, but she got a pen and ink brought to her, and did succeed in scrawling a letter to Lord Mount Severn.
She told him that a sad accident had taken place; she could not say how; all was confusion; and that her child and maid were killed. She herself was dangerously injured, and was about to undergo an operation, which the doctors believed she could not survive; only in case of her death would the letter be sent to Lord Mount Severn. She could not die, she said, without a word of thanks for all his kindness; and she begged him, when he saw Mr. Carlyle, to say that with her last breath she humbly implored his forgiveness, and his children’s whom she no longer dared to call hers.
Now this letter, by the officiousness of a servant at the inn to which the sufferers were carried, was taken at once to the post. And, after all, things turned out not quite so bad as anticipated; for when the doctors came to examine the state of Lady Isabel, not cursorily, they found there would be no absolute necessity for the operation contemplated. Fond as the French surgeons are of the knife, to resort to it in this instance would have been cruel, and they proceeded to other means of cure.
The letter was duly delivered at the town house of Lord Mount Severn, where it was addressed. The countess was sojourning there for a few days; she had quitted it after the season, but some business, or pleasure, had called her again to town. Lord Vane was with her, but the earl was in Scotland. They were at breakfast, she and her son, when the letter was brought in: eighteen pence to pay. Its scrawled address, its foreign aspect, its appearance, altogether, excited her curiosity; in her own mind, she believed she had dropped upon a nice little conjugal mare’s nest.
“I shall open this,” cried she.
“Why, it is addressed to papa!” exclaimed Lord Vane who possessed all his father’s notions of honor.
“But such an odd letter! It may require an immediate answer; or is some begging petition, perhaps. Get on with your breakfast.”
Lady Mount Severn opened the letter, and with some difficulty spelt through its contents. They shocked even her.
“How dreadful!” she uttered, in the impulse of the moment.
“What is dreadful?” asked Lord Vane, looking up from his breakfast.
“Lady Isabel — Isabel Vane — you have not forgotten her?”
“Forgotten her!” he echoed. “Why, mamma, I must possess a funny memory to have forgotten her already.”
“She is dead. She has been killed in a railway accident in France.”
His large blue eyes, honest and true as they had been in childhood, filled, and his face flushed. He said nothing, for emotion was strong within him.
“But, shocking as it is, it is better for her,” went on the countess; “for, poor creature what could her future life had been?”
“Oh, don’t say it!” impetuously broke out the young viscount. “Killed in a railway accident, and for you to say that it is better for her!”
“So it is better,” said the countess. “Don’t go into heroics, William. You are quite old enough to know that she had brought misery upon herself, and disgrace upon all connected with her. No one could ever have taken notice of her again.”
“I would,” said the boy, stoutly.
Lady Mount Severn smiled derisively.
“I would. I never liked anybody in the world half so much as I liked Isabel.”
“That’s past and gone. You would not have continued to like her, after the disgrace she wrought.”
“Somebody else wrought more of the disgrace than she did; and, had I been a man, I would have shot him dead,” flashed the viscount.
“You don’t know anything about it.”
“Don’t I!” returned he, not over dutifully. But Lady Mount Severn had not brought him up to be dutiful.
“May I read the letter, mamma?” he demanded, after a pause.
“If you can read it,” she replied, tossing it to him. “It is written in the strangest style; syllables divided, and the words running one into the other. She wrote it herself when she was dying.”
Lord Vane took the letter to a window, and stayed looking over it for some time; the countess ate an egg and a plate of ham meanwhile. Presently he came back with it folded, and laid in on the table.
“You will forward it to papa today,” he observed.
“I shall forward it to him. But there’s no hurry; and I don’t exactly know where your papa may be. I shall send the notice of her death to the papers; and I am glad to do it; it is a blight removed from the family.”
“Mamma, I do think you are the unkindest woman that ever breathed!”
“I’ll give you something to call me unkind for, if you don’t mind,” retorted the countess, her color rising. “Dock you of your holiday, and pack you back to school today.”
A few mornings after this Mr. Carlyle left East Lynne and proceeded to his office as usual. Scarcely was he seated, when Mr. Dill entered, and Mr. Carlyle looked at him inquiringly, for it was not Mr. Carlyle’s custom to be intruded upon by any person until he had opened his letters; then he would ring for Mr. Dill. The letters and the Times newspaper lay on the table before him. The old gentleman came up in a covert, timid sort of way, which made Mr. Carlyle look all the more.
“I beg pardon, sir; will you let me ask if you have heard any particular news?”
“Yes, I have heard it,” replied Mr. Carlyle.
“Then, sir, I beg your pardon a thousand times over. It occurred to me that you probably had not, Mr. Archibald; and I thought I would have said a word to prepare you, before you came upon it suddenly in the paper.”
“To prepare me!” echoed Mr. Carlyle, as old Dill was turning away. “Why, what has come to you, Dill? Are you afraid my nerves are growing delicate, or that I shall faint over the loss of a hundred pounds? At the very most, we shall not suffer above that extent.”
Old Dill turned back again.
“If I don’t believe you are speaking of the failure of Kent & Green! It’s not that, Mr. Archibald. They won’t affect us much; and there’ll be a dividend, report runs.”
“What is it, then?”
“Then you have not heard it, sir! I am glad that I’m in time. It might not be well for you to have seen it without a word of preparation, Mr. Archibald.”
“If you have not gone demented, you will tell me what you mean, Dill, and leave me to my letters,” cried Mr. Carlyle, wondering excessively at his sober, matter-of-fact clerk’s words and manner.
Old Dill put his hands upon the Times newspaper.
“It’s here, Mr. Archibald, in the column of deaths; the first on the list. Please, prepare yourself a little before you look at it.”
He shuffled out quickly, and Mr. Carlyle as quickly unfolded the paper. It was, as old Dill said, the first on the list of deaths:
“At Cammere, in France, on the 18th inst., Isabel Mary, only child of William, late Earl of Mount Severn.”
Clients called; Mr. Carlyle’s bell did not ring; an hour or two passed, and old Dill protested that Mr. Carlyle was engaged until he could protest no longer. He went in, deprecatingly. Mr. Carlyle sat yet with the newspaper before him, and the letters unopened at his elbow.
“There are one or two who will come in, Mr. Archibald — who will see you; what am I to say?”
Mr. Carlyle stared at him for a moment, as if his wits had been in the next world. Then he swept the newspaper from before him, and was the calm, collected man of business again.
As the news of Lady Isabel’s marriage had first come in the knowledge of Lord Mount Severn through the newspapers, so singular to say did the tidings of her death. The next post brought him the letter, which his wife had tardily forwarded. But, unlike Lady Mount Severn, he did not take her death as entirely upon trust; he thought it possible the letter might have been dispatched without its having taken place; and he deemed it incumbent on him to make inquiries. He wrote immediately to the authorities of the town, in the best French he could muster, asking for particulars, and whether she was really dead.
He received, in due course a satisfactory answer; satisfactory in so far as that it set his doubts at rest. He had inquired after her by her proper name, and title, “La Dame Isabelle Vane,” and as the authorities could find none of the survivors owning that name, they took it for granted she was dead. They wrote him word that the child and nurse were killed on the spot; two ladies, occupying the same compartment of the carriage, had since died, one of whom was no doubt the mother and lady he inquired for. She was dead and buried, sufficient money having been found upon her person to defray the few necessary expenses.
Thus, through no premeditated intention of Lady Isabel, news of her death went forth to Lord Mount Severn and to the world. Her first intimation that she was regarded as dead, was through a copy of that very day’s Times seen by Mr. Carlyle — seen by Lord Mount Severn. An English traveller, who had been amongst the sufferers, and who received the English newspaper daily, sometimes lent them to her to read. She was not travelling under her own name; she left that behind her when she left Grenoble; she had rendered her own too notorious to risk the chance recognition of travellers; and the authorities little thought that the quiet unobtrusive Madame Vine, slowly recovering at the inn, was the Dame Isabella Vane, respecting whom the grand English comte wrote.
Lady Isabel understood it at once; that the dispatching of her letter had been the foundation of the misapprehension; and she began to ask herself now, why she should undeceive Lord Mount Severn and the world. She longed, none knew with what intense longings, to be unknown, obscure, totally unrecognized by all; none can know it, till they have put a barrier between themselves and the world, as she had done. The child was gone — happy being! She thought she could never be sufficiently thankful that it was released from the uncertain future — therefore she had not his support to think of. She had only herself; and surely she could with ease earn enough for that; or she could starve; it mattered little which. No, there was no necessity for her continuing to accept the bounty of Lord Mount Severn, and she would let him and everybody else continue to believe that she was dead, and be henceforth only Madame Vine. A resolution she adhered to.
Thus the unhappy Isabel’s career was looked upon as run. Lord Mount Severn forwarded her letter to Mr. Carlyle, with the confirmation of her death, which he had obtained from the French authorities. It was a nine day’s wonder: “That poor, erring Lady Isabel was dead”— people did not call her names in the very teeth of her fate — and then it was over.
It was over. Lady Isabel was as one forgotten.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14