Morning dawned. The same dull weather, the same heavy fall of snow. Miss Carlyle took her breakfast in bed, an indulgence she had not favored for ever so many years. Richard Hare rose, but remained in his chamber, and Joyce carried his breakfast in to him.
Mr. Carlyle entered whilst he was taking it. “How did you sleep, Richard?”
“I slept well. I was so dead tired. What am I to do next, Mr. Carlyle? The sooner I get away from here the better. I can’t feel safe.”
“You must not think of it before evening. I am aware that you cannot remain here, save for a few temporary hours, as it would inevitably become known to the servants. You say you think of going to Liverpool or Manchester?”
“To any large town; they are all alike to me; but one pursued as I am is safer in a large place than a small one.”
“I am inclined to think that this man, Thorn, only made a show of threatening you, Richard. If he be really the guilty party, his policy must be to keep all in quietness. The very worst thing that could happen for him, would be your arrest.”
“Then why molest me? Why send an officer to dodge me?”
“He did not like your molesting him, and he thought he would probably frighten you. After that day you would probably have seen no more of the officer. You may depend upon one thing, Richard, had the policeman’s object been to take you, he would have done so, not have contented himself with following you about from place to place. Besides when a detective officer is employed to watch a party, he takes care not to allow himself to be seen; now this man showed himself to you more than once.”
“Yes, there’s a good deal in all that,” observed Richard. “For, to one in his class of life, the bare suspicion of such a crime, brought against him, would crush him forever in the eyes of his compeers.”
“It is difficult to me Richard, to believe that he is in the class of life you speak of,” observed Mr. Carlyle.
“There’s no doubt about it; there’s none indeed. But that I did not much like to mention the name, for it can’t be a pleasant name to you, I should have said last night who I have seen him walking with,” continued simple-hearted Richard.
Mr. Carlyle looked inquiringly. “Richard say on.”
“I have seen him, sir, with Sir Francis Levison, twice. Once he was talking to him at the door of the betting-rooms, and once they were walking arm-inarm. They are apparently upon intimate terms.”
At this moment a loud, flustering, angry voice was heard calling from the stairs, and Richard leaped up as if he had been shot. His door — not the one leading to the room of Miss Carlyle — opened upon the corridor, and the voice sounded close, just as if its owner were coming in with a hound. It was the voice of Mr. Justice Hare.
“Carlyle, where are you? Here’s a pretty thing happened! Come down!”
Mr. Carlyle for once in his life lost his calm equanimity, and sprang to the door, to keep it against invasion, as eagerly as Richard could have done. He forgot that Joyce had said the door was safely locked, and the key mislaid. As to Richard, he rushed on his hat and his black whiskers, and hesitated between under the bed and inside the wardrobe.
“Don’t agitate yourself, Richard,” whispered Mr. Carlyle, “there is no real danger. I will go and keep him safely.”
But when Mr. Carlyle got through his sister’s bedroom, he found that lady had taken the initiative, and was leaning over the balustrades, having been arrested in the process of dressing. Her clothes were on, but her nightcap was not off; little cared she, however, who saw her nightcap.
“What on earth brings you up in this weather?” began she, in a tone of exasperation.
“I want to see Carlyle. Nice news I have had!”
“What about? Anything concerning Anne, or her family?”
“Anne be bothered,” replied the justice, who was from some cause, in a furious temper. “It concerns that precious rascal, who I am forced to call son. I am told he is here.”
Down the stairs leaped Mr. Carlyle, four at a time, wound his arm within Mr. Hare’s, and led him to a sitting-room.
“Good-morning, justice. You had courage to venture up through the snow! What is the matter, you seem excited.”
“Excited?” raved the justice, dancing about the room, first on one leg, then on the other, like a cat upon hot bricks, “so you would be excited, if your life were worried out, as mine is, over a wicked scamp of a son. Why can’t folks trouble their heads about their own business, and let my affairs alone? A pity but what he was hung, and the thing done with!”
“But what has happened?” questioned Mr. Carlyle.
“Why this has happened,” retorted the justice, throwing a letter on the table. “The post brought me this, just now — and pleasant information it gives.”
Mr. Carlyle took up the note and read it. It purported to be from “a friend” to Justice Hare, informing that gentleman that his “criminal son” was likely to have arrived at West Lynne, or would arrive in the course of a day or so; and it recommended Mr. Hare to speed his departure from it, lest he should be pounced upon.
“This letter is anonymous!” exclaimed Mr. Carlyle.
“Of course it is,” stamped the justice.
“The only notice I should ever take of an anonymous letter would be to put it in the fire,” cried Mr. Carlyle, his lip curling with scorn.
“But who has written it?” danced Justice Hare. “And is Dick at West Lynne — that’s the question.”
“Now, is it likely that he should come to West Lynne?” remonstrated Mr. Carlyle. “Justice, will you pardon me, if I venture to give you my candid opinion.”
“The fool at West Lynne, running into the very jaws of death! By Jupiter! If I can drop upon him, I’ll retain him in custody, and make out a warrant for his committal! I’ll have this everlasting bother over.”
“I was going to give you my opinion,” quietly put in Mr. Carlyle. “I fear, Justice, you bring these annoyances upon yourself.”
“Bring them upon myself!” ranted the indignant justice. “I? Did I murder Hallijohn? Did I fly away from the law? Am I hiding, Beelzebub knows where? Do I take starts, right into my native parish, disguised as a laborer, on purpose to worry my own father? Do I write anonymous letters? Bring them upon myself, do I? That cobs all, Carlyle.”
“You will not hear me out. It is known that you are much exasperated against Richard —”
“And if your son serves you the same when he is grown up, shan’t you be exasperated, pray?” fired Justice Hare.
“Do hear me. It is known that you are much exasperated, and that any allusion to him excites and annoys you. Now, my opinion is, justice, that some busybody is raising these reports and writing these letters on purpose to annoy you. It may be somebody at West Lynne, very near to us, for all we know.”
“That’s all rubbish!” peevishly responded the justice, after a pause. “It’s not likely. Who’d do it?”
“It is very likely; but you may be sure they will not give us a clue as to the ‘who.’ I should put that letter in the fire, and think no more about it. That’s the only way to serve them. A pretty laugh they have had in their sleeve, if it is anybody near, at seeing you wade up here through the snow this morning! They would know you were bringing the letter, to consult me.”
The justice — in spite of his obstinacy he was somewhat easily persuaded to different views of things, especially by Mr. Carlyle — let fall his coat tails, which had been gathered in his arms, as he stood with his back to the fire, and brought down both his hands upon the table with force enough to break it.
“If I thought that,” he spluttered, “if I could think it, I’d have the whole parish of West Lynne before me today, and commit them for trial.”
“It’s a pity but what you could,” said Mr. Carlyle.
“Well, it may be, or it may not be, that that villain is coming here,” he resumed. “I shall call in at the police station, and tell them to keep a sharp lookout.”
“You will do nothing of the sort justice,” exclaimed Mr. Carlyle, almost in agitation. “Richard is not likely to make his appearance at West Lynne; but if he did, would you, his own father, turn the flood upon him? Not a man living but would cry shame upon you.”
“I took an oath I’d do it,” said the justice.
“You did not take an oath to go open-mouthed to the police station, upon the receipt of any despicable anonymous letter or any foolish report, to say, ‘I have news that my son will be here today; look after him.’ Nonsense, justice! Let the police look out for themselves, but don’t you set them on.”
The justice growled, whether in assent or dissent did not appear, and Mr. Carlyle resumed —
“Have you shown this letter to Mrs. Hare, or mentioned it to her?”
“Not I. I didn’t give myself time. I had gone down to the front gate, to see how deep the snow lay in the road, when the postman came up; so I read it as I stood there. I went in for my coat and umbrella, to come off to you, and Mrs. Hare wanted to know where I was going in such a hurry, but I did not satisfy her.”
“I am truly glad to hear it,” said Mr. Carlyle. “Such information as this could not fail to have a dangerous effect upon Mrs. Hare. Do not suffer a hint of it to escape you justice; consider how much anxiety she has already suffered.”
“It’s partly her own fault. Why can’t she drive the ill-doing boy from her mind?”
“If she could,” said Mr. Carlyle, “she would be acting against human nature. There is one phase of the question which you may possibly not have glanced at, justice. You speak of delivering your son up to the law; has it ever struck you that you would be delivering up at the same time your wife’s life?”
“Stuff!” said the justice.
“You would find it no ‘stuff.’ So sure as Richard gets brought to trial, whether through your means, or through any other, so sure will it kill your wife.”
Mr. Hare took up the letter, which had lain open on the table, folded it, and put it in its envelope.
“I suppose you don’t know the writing?” he asked of Mr. Carlyle.
“I never saw it before, that I remember. Are you returning home?”
“No. I shall go on to Beauchamp’s and show him this, and hear what he says. It’s not much farther.”
“Tell him not to speak of it then. Beauchamp’s safe, for his sympathies are with Richard — oh, yes, they are, justice, ask him the question plainly if you like, and he will confess to it. I can tell you more sympathy goes with Richard than is acknowledged to you. But I would not show that letter to anyone else than Beauchamp,” added Mr. Carlyle, “neither would I speak of it.”
“Who can have written it?” repeated the justice. “It bears, you see the London Post-mark.”
“It is too wide a speculation to enter upon. And no satisfactory conclusion could come of it.”
Justice Hare departed. Mr. Carlyle watched him down the avenue, striding under his umbrella, and then went up to Richard. Miss Carlyle was sitting with the latter then.
“I thought I should have died,” spoke poor Dick. “I declare, Mr. Carlyle, my very blood seemed turned to water, and I thought I should have died with fright. Is he gone away — is all safe?”
“He is gone, and it’s all safe.”
“And what did he want? What was it he had heard about me?”
Mr. Carlyle gave a brief explanation, and Richard immediately set down the letter as the work of Thorn.
“Will it be possible for me to see my mother this time?” he demanded of Mr. Carlyle.
“I think it would be highly injudicious to let your mother know you are here, or have been here,” was the answer of Mr. Carlyle. “She would naturally be inquiring into particulars, and when she came to hear that you were pursued, she would never have another minute’s peace. You must forego the pleasure of seeing her this time, Richard.”
“Barbara might come and stay the day with you. Only ——”
“Only what, sir?” cried Richard, for Mr. Carlyle had hesitated.
“I was thinking what a wretched morning it is for her to come out in.”
“She would go through an avalanche — she’d wade through mountains of snow, to see me,” cried Richard eagerly, “and be delighted to do it.”
“She always was a little fool,” put in Miss Carlyle, jerking some stitches out of her knitting.
“I know she would,” observed Mr. Carlyle, in answer to Richard. “We will try and get her here.”
“She can arrange about the money I am to have, just as well as my mother could you know, sir.”
“Yes; for Barbara is in receipt of money of her own now, and I know she would not wish better than to apply some of it to you. Cornelia, as an excuse for getting her here, I must say to Mrs. Hare that you are ill, and wish Barbara to come for the day and bear your company. Shall I?”
“Say I am dead, if you like,” responded Miss Corny, who was in one of her cross moods.
Mr. Carlyle ordered the pony carriage, and drove forth with John. He drew in at the grove. Barbara and Mrs. Hare were seated together, and looked surprised at the early visit.
“Do you want Mr. Hare, Archibald? He is out. He went while the breakfast was on the table, apparently in a desperate hurry.”
“I don’t want Mr. Hare; I want Barbara. I have come to carry her off.”
“To carry off Barbara!” echoed Mrs. Hare.
“Cornelia is not well; she had caught a violent cold, and wishes Barbara to spend the day with her.”
“Oh, Mr. Carlyle, I cannot leave mamma today. She is not well herself, and she would be dull without me.”
“Neither can I spare her, Archibald. It is not a day for Barbara to go out.”
How could he get to say a word to Barbara alone? Whilst he deliberated, talking on, though, all the while to Mrs. Hare, a servant appeared at the sitting-room door.
“The fishmonger’s boy is come up, ma’am. His master has sent him to say that he fears there’ll be no fish in today, in anything like time. The trains won’t get up, with this weather.”
Mrs. Hare rose from her seat to hold a confab at the door with the maid; and Mr. Carlyle seized his opportunity.
“Barbara,” he whispered, “make no opposition. You must come. What I really want you for is connected with Richard.”
She looked up at him, a startled glance, and the crimson flew to her face. Mrs. Hare returned to her seat. “Oh, such a day!” she shivered. “I am sure Cornelia cannot expect Barbara.”
“But Cornelia does. And there is my pony carriage waiting to take her before I go to the office. Not a flake of snow can come near her, Mrs. Hare. The large warm apron will be up, and an umbrella shield her bonnet and face. Get your things on, Barbara.”
“Mamma if you would not very much mind being left, I should like to go,” said Barbara, with almost trembling eagerness.
“But you would be sure to take cold, child.”
“Oh, dear no. I can wrap up well.”
“And I will see that she comes home all right this evening,” added Mr. Carlyle.
In a few minutes they were seated in the pony carriage. Barbara’s tongue was burning to ask questions, but John sat behind them, and would have overheard. When they arrived at East Lynne, Mr. Carlyle gave her his arm up the steps, and took her into the breakfast-room.
“Will you prepare yourself for a surprise, Barbara?”
Suspense — fear — had turned her very pale. “Something that has happened to Richard!” she uttered.
“Nothing that need agitate you. He is here.”
“Here. Under this roof. He slept here last night.”
“Only fancy, Barbara, I opened the window at nine last night to look at the weather, and in burst Richard. We could not let him go out again in the snow, so he slept here, in that room next Cornelia’s.”
“Does she know of it?”
“Of course. And Joyce also; we were obliged to tell Joyce. It is he you have come to spend the day with. But just imagine Richard’s fear. Your father came this morning, calling up the stairs after me, saying he heard Richard was here. I thought Richard would have gone out of his mind with fright.”
A few more explanations, and Mr. Carlyle took Barbara into the room, Miss Carlyle and her knitting still keeping Richard company. In fact, that was to be the general sitting room of the day, and a hot lunch, Richard’s dinner, would be served to Miss Carlyle’s chamber at one o’clock. Joyce only admitted to wait on her.
“And now I must go,” said Mr. Carlyle, after chatting a few minutes. “The office is waiting for me, and my poor ponies are in the snow.”
“But you’ll be sure to be home early, Mr. Carlyle,” said Richard. “I dare not stop here; I must be off not a moment later than six or seven o’clock.”
“I will be home, Richard.”
Anxiously did Richard and Barbara consult that day, Miss Carlyle of course putting in her word. Over and over again did Barbara ask the particulars of the slight interviews Richard had had with Thorn; over and over again did she openly speculate upon what his name really was. “If you could but discover some one whom he knows, and inquire it,” she exclaimed.
“I have seen him with one person, but I can’t inquire of him. They are too thick together, he and Thorn, and are birds of a feather also, I suspect. Great swells both.”
“Oh, Richard don’t use those expressions. They are unsuited to a gentleman.”
Richard laughed bitterly. “A gentleman?”
“Who is it you have seen Thorn with?” inquired Barbara.
“Sir Francis Levison,” replied Richard, glancing at Miss Carlyle, who drew in her lips ominously.
“With whom?” uttered Barbara, betraying complete astonishment. “Do you know Sir Francis Levison?”
“Oh, yes, I know him. Nearly the only man about town that I do know.”
Barbara seemed lost in a puzzled reverie, and it was some time before she aroused herself from it.
“Are they at all alike?” she asked.
“Very much so, I suspect. Both bad men.”
“But I meant in person.”
“Not in the least. Except that they are both tall.”
Again Barbara sank into thought. Richard’s words had surprised her. She was aroused by it from hearing a child’s voice in the next room. She ran into it, and Miss Carlyle immediately fastened the intervening door.
It was little Archibald Carlyle. Joyce had come in with the tray to lay the luncheon, and before she could lock the door, Archibald ran in after her. Barbara lifted him in her arms to carry him back to the nursery.
“Oh, you heavy boy!” she exclaimed.
Archie laughed. “Wilson says that,” he lisped, “if ever she has to carry me.”
“I have brought you a truant, Wilson,” cried Barbara.
“Oh, is it you, Miss Barbara? How are you, miss? Naughty boy! — yes, he ran away without my noticing him — he is got now so that he can open the door.”
“You must be so kind as to keep him strictly in for today,” concluded Miss Barbara, authoritatively. “Miss Carlyle is not well, and cannot be subjected to the annoyance of his running into the room.”
Evening came, and the time of Richard’s departure. It was again snowing heavily, though it had ceased in the middle of the day. Money for the present had been given to him; arrangements had been discussed. Mr. Carlyle insisted upon Richard’s sending him his address, as soon as he should own one to send, and Richard faithfully promised. He was in very low spirits, almost as low as Barbara, who could not conceal her tears; they dropped in silence on her pretty silk dress. He was smuggled down the stairs, a large cloak of Miss Carlyle’s enveloping him, into the room he had entered by storm the previous night. Mr. Carlyle held the window open.
“Good-bye, Barbara dear. If ever you should be able to tell my mother of this day, say that my chief sorrow was not to see her.”
“Oh, Richard!” she sobbed forth, broken-hearted, “good-bye. May God be with you and bless you!”
“Farewell, Richard,” said Miss Carlyle; “don’t you be fool enough to get into any more scrapes.”
Last of all he rung the hand of Mr. Carlyle. The latter went outside with him for an instant, and their leave-taking was alone.
Barbara returned to the chamber he had quitted. She felt that she must indulge in a few moments sobbing; Joyce was there, but Barbara was sobbing when she entered it.
“It is hard for him, Miss Barbara, if he is really innocent.”
Barbara turned her streaming eyes upon her. “If! Joyce do you doubt that he is innocent?”
“I quite believe him to be so now, miss. Nobody could so solemnly assert what was not true. The thing at present will be to find that Captain Thorn.”
“Joyce!” exclaimed Barbara, in excitement, seizing hold of Joyce’s hands, “I thought I had found him; I believed in my own mind that I knew who he was. I don’t mind telling you, though I have never before spoken of it; and with one thing or other, this night I feel just as if I should die — as if I must speak. I thought it was Sir Francis Levison.”
Joyce stared with all her eyes. “Miss Barbara!”
“I did. I have thought it ever since the night that Lady Isabel went away. My poor brother was at West Lynne then — he had come for a few hours, and he met the man Thorn walking in Bean lane. He was in evening dress, and Richard described a peculiar motion of his — the throwing off of his hair from his brow. He said his white hand and his diamond ring glittered in the moonlight. The white hand, the ring, the motion — for he was always doing it — all reminded me of Captain Levison; and from that hour until today I believed him to be the man Richard saw. To-day Richard tells me that he knows Sir Francis Levison, and that he and Thorn are intimate. What I think now is, that this Thorn must have paid a flying visit to the neighborhood that night to assist Captain Levison in the wicked work that he had on hand.”
“How strange it all sounds!” uttered Joyce.
“And I never could tell my suspicions to Mr. Carlyle! I did not like to mention Francis Levison’s name to him.”
Barbara soon returned down stairs. “I must be going home,” she said to Mr. Carlyle. “It is turned half-past seven, and mamma will be uneasy.”
“Whenever you like, Barbara.”
“But can I not walk? I am sorry to take out your ponies again, and in this storm.”
Mr. Carlyle laughed. “Which would feel the storm the worst, you or the ponies?”
But when Barbara got outside, she saw that it was not the pony carriage, but the chariot that was in waiting for her. She turned inquiringly to Mr. Carlyle.
“Did you think I should allow you to go home in an open carriage to-night, Barbara?”
“Are you coming also?”
“I suppose I had better,” he smiled. “To see that you and the carriage do not get fixed in a rut.”
Barbara withdrew to her corner of the chariot, and cried silently. Very, very deeply did she mourn the unhappy situation — the privations of her brother; and she knew that he was one to feel them deeply. He could not battle with the world’s hardships so bravely as many could. Mr. Carlyle only detected her emotion as they were nearing the Grove. He leaned forward, took her hand, and held it between his.
“Don’t grieve, Barbara. Bright days may be in store for us yet.”
The carriage stopped.
“You may go back,” he said to the servants, when he alighted. “I shall walk home.”
“Oh,” exclaimed Barbara, “I do think you intend to spend the evening with us? Mamma will be so pleased.”
Her voice sounded as if she was also. Mr. Carlyle drew her hand within his arm as they walked up the path.
But Barbara had reckoned without her host. Mrs. Hare was in bed, consequently could not be pleased at the visit of Mr. Carlyle. The justice had gone out, and she, feeling tired and not well, thought she would retire to rest. Barbara stole into her room, but found her asleep, so that it fell to Barbara to entertain Mr. Carlyle.
They stood together before the large pierglass, in front of the blazing fire. Barbara was thinking over the events of the day. What Mr. Carlyle was thinking of was best known to himself; his eyes, covered with their drooping eyelids, were cast upon Barbara. There was a long silence, at length Barbara seemed to feel that his gaze was upon her, and she looked up at him.
“Will you marry me, Barbara?”
The words were spoken in the quietest, most matter-of-fact tone, just as if he had said, “Shall I give you a chair, Barbara?” But, oh! The change that passed over her countenance! The sudden light of joy! The scarlet flush of emotion and happiness. Then it all faded down to paleness and sadness.
She shook her head in the negative. “But you are very kind to ask me,” she added in words.
“What is the impediment, Barbara?”
Another rush of color as before and a deep silence. Mr. Carlyle stole his arm around her and bent his face on a level with hers.
“Whisper it to me, Barbara.”
She burst into a flood of tears.
“Is it because I once married another?”
“No, no. It is the remembrance of that night — you cannot have forgotten it, and it is stamped on my brain in letters of fire. I never thought so to betray myself. But for what passed that night you would not have asked me now.”
She glanced up at him; the tone was so painful.
“Do you know that I love you? That there is none other in the whole world whom I would care to marry but you? Nay, Barbara, when happiness is within our reach, let us not throw it away upon a chimera.”
She cried more softly, leaning upon his arm. “Happiness? Would it be happiness for you?”
“Great and deep happiness,” he whispered.
She read truth in his countenance, and a sweet smile illumined her sunny features. Mr. Carlyle read its signs.
“You love me as much as ever, Barbara!”
“Far more, far more,” was the murmured answer, and Mr. Carlyle held her closer, and drew her face fondly to his. Barbara’s heart was at length at rest, and she had been content to remain where she was forever.
And Richard? Had he got clear off? Richard was stealing along the road, plunging into the snow by the hedge because it was more sheltered there than in the beaten path, when his umbrella came in contact with another umbrella. Miss Carlyle had furnished it to him; not to protect his battered hat but to protect his face from being seen by the passers by. The umbrella he encountered was an aristocratic silk one, with an ivory handle; Dick’s was of democratic cotton, with hardly any handle at all; and the respective owners had been bearing on, heads down and umbrellas out, till they, the umbrellas, met smash, right under a gas lamp. Aside went the umbrellas, and the antagonists stared at each other.
“How dare you, fellow? Can’t you see where you are going on?”
Dick thought he should have dropped. He would have given all the money his pockets held if the friendly earth had but opened and swallowed him in; for he was now peering into the face of his own father.
Uttering an exclamation of dismay, which broke from him involuntarily, Richard sped away with the swiftness of an arrow. Did Justice Hare recognize the tones? It cannot be said. He saw a rough, strange looking man, with bushy, black whiskers, who was evidently scared at the sight of him. That was nothing; for the justice, being a justice, and a strict one, was regarded with considerable awe in the parish by those of Dick’s apparent caliber. Nevertheless, he stood still and gazed in the direction until all sound of Richard’s footsteps had died away in the distance.
Tears were streaming down the face of Mrs. Hare. It was a bright morning after the snowstorm, so bright that the sky was blue, and the sun was shining, but the snow lay deeply upon ground. Mrs. Hare sat in her chair, enjoying the brightness, and Mr. Carlyle stood near her. The tears were of joy and of grief mingled — of grief at hearing that she should at last have to part with Barbara, of joy that she was going to one so entirely worthy of her as Mr. Carlyle.
“Archibald, she has had a happy home here; you will render yours as much so?”
“To the very utmost of my power.”
“You will be ever kind to her, and cherish her?”
“With my whole strength and heart. Dear Mrs. Hare; I thought you knew me too well to doubt me.”
“Doubt you! I do not doubt you, I trust you implicitly, Archibald. Had the whole world laid themselves at Barbara’s feet, I should have prayed that she might choose you.”
A small smile flitted over Mr. Carlyle’s lips. He knew it was what Barbara would have done.
“But, Archibald, what about Cornelia?” returned Mrs. Hare. “I would not for a moment interfere in your affairs, or in the arrangements you and Barbara may agree upon, but I cannot help thinking that married people are better alone.”
“Cornelia will quit East Lynne,” said Mr. Carlyle. “I have not spoken to her yet, but I shall do so now. I have long made my mind up that if ever I did marry again, I and my wife would live alone. It is said she interfered too much with my former wife. Had I suspected it, Cornelia should not have remained in the house a day. Rest assured that Barbara shall not be an object to the chance.”
“How did you come over her?” demanded the justice, who had already given his gratified consent, and who now entered in his dressing gown and morning wig. “Others have tried it on, and Barbara would not listen to them.”
“I suppose I must have cast a spell upon her,” answered Mr. Carlyle, breaking into a smile.
“Here she is. Barbara,” carried on the unceremonious justice, “what is it that you see in Carlyle more than anybody else?”
Barbara’s scarlet cheeks answered for her. “Papa,” she said, “Otway Bethel is at the door asking to speak to you. Jasper says he won’t come in.”
“Then I’m sure I’m not going out to him in the cold. Here, Mr. Otway, what are you afraid of?” he called out. “Come in.”
Otway Bethel made his appearance in his usual sporting costume. But he did not seem altogether at his ease in the presence of Mrs. Hare and Barbara.
“The colonel wished to see you, justice, and ask you if you had any objection to the meeting’s being put off from one o’clock till two,” cried he, after nodding to Mr. Carlyle. “He has got a friend coming to see him unexpectedly who will leave again by the two o’clock train.”
“I don’t care which it is,” answered Mr. Hare. “Two o’clock will do as well as one, for me.”
“That’s all right, then; and I’ll drop in upon Herbert and Pinner and acquaint them.”
Miss Carlyle’s cold was better that evening, in fact she seemed quite herself again, and Mr. Carlyle introduced the subject of his marriage. It was after dinner that he began upon it.
“Cornelia, when I married Lady Isabel Vane, you reproached me severely with having kept you in the dark —”
“If you had not kept me in the dark, but consulted me, as any other Christian would, the course of events would have been wholly changed, and the wretchedness and disgrace that fell on this house been spared to it,” fiercely interrupted Miss Carlyle.
“We will leave the past,” he said, “and consider the future. I was about to remark, that I do not intend to fall under your displeasure again for the like offense. I believe you have never wholly forgiven it.”
“And never shall,” cried she, impetuously. “I did not deserve the slight.”
“Therefore, almost as soon as I know it myself, I acquaint you. I am about to marry a second time, Cornelia.”
Miss Carlyle started up. Her spectacles dropped off her nose, and a knitting-box which she happened to have on her knees, clattered to the floor.
“What did you say?” she uttered, aghast.
“I’m about to marry.”
“I. Is there anything so very astonishing in it?”
“For the love of common sense, don’t go and make such a fool of yourself. You have done it once; was not that enough for you, but you must run your head into the noose again?”
“Now, Cornelia, can you wonder that I do not speak of things when you meet them in this way? You treat me just as you did when I was a child. It is very foolish.”
“When folk act childishly, they must be treated as children. I always thought you were mad when you married before, but I shall think you doubly mad now.”
“Because you have preferred to remain single and solitary yourself, is it any reason why you should condemn me to do the same? You are happy alone; I should be happier with a wife.
“That she may go and disgrace you, as the last one did!” intemperately spoke Miss Carlyle, caring not a rush what she said in her storm of anger.
Mr. Carlyle’s brow flushed, but he controlled his temper.
“No,” he calmly replied. “I am not afraid of that in the one I have now chosen.”
Miss Corny gathered her knitting together, he had picked up her box. Her hands trembled, and the lines of her face were working. It was a blow to her as keen as the other had been.
“Pray who is it that you have chosen?” she jerked forth. “The whole neighborhood has been after you.”
“Let it be who it will, Cornelia, you will be sure to grumble. Were I to say that it was a royal princess, or a peasant’s daughter, you would equally see grounds for finding fault.”
“Of course I should. I know who it is — that stuck-up Louisa Dobede.”
“No, it is not. I never had the slightest intention of choosing Louisa Dobede, nor she of choosing me. I am marrying to please myself, and, for a wife, Louisa Dobede would not please me.”
“As you did before,” sarcastically put in Miss Corny.
“Yes; as I did before.”
“Well, can’t you open your mouth and say who it is?” was the exasperated rejoinder.
“It is Barbara Hare.”
“Who?” shrieked Miss Carlyle.
“You are not deaf, Cornelia.”
“Well, you are an idiot!” she exclaimed, lifting up her hands and eyes.
“Thank you,” he said, but without any signs of irritation.
“And so you are; you are, Archibald. To suffer that girl, who has been angling after you so long, to catch you at last.”
“She has not angled after me; had she done so, she would probably never have been Mrs. Carlyle. Whatever passing fancy she may have entertained for me in earlier days, she has shown no symptoms of it of late years; and I am quite certain that she had no more thought or idea that I should choose her for my second wife, than you had I should choose you. Others have angled after me too palpably, but Barbara has not.”
“She is a conceited minx, as vain as she is high.”
“What else have you to urge against her?”
“I would have married a girl without a slur, if I must have married,” aggravatingly returned Miss Corny.
“Slur, yes. Dear me, is it an honor — the possessing a brother such as Richard?”
Miss Corny sniffed. “Pigs may fly; but I never saw them try at it.”
“The next consideration, Cornelia, is about your residence. You will go back, I presume, to your own home.”
Miss Corny did not believe her own ears. “Go back to my own home!” she exclaimed. “I shall do nothing of the sort. I shall stop at East Lynne. What’s to hinder me?”
Mr. Carlyle shook his head. “It cannot be,” he said, in a low, decisive tone.
“Who says so?” she sharply asked.
“I do. Have you forgotten that night — when she went away — the words spoken by Joyce? Cornelia, whether they were true or false, I will not subject another to the chance.”
She did not answer. Her lips parted and closed again. Somehow, Miss Carlyle could not bear to be reminded of that revelation of Joyce’s; it subdued even her.
“I cast no reflection upon you,” hastily continued Mr. Carlyle. “You have been a mistress of a house for many years, and you naturally look to be so; it is right you should. But two mistresses in a house do not answer, Cornelia; they never did, and they never will.”
“Why did you not give me so much of your sentiments when I first came to East Lynne?” she burst forth. “I hate hypocrisy.”
“They were not my sentiments then; I possessed none. I was ignorant upon the subject as I was upon many others. Experience has come to me since.”
“You will not find a better mistress of a house than I have made you,” she resentfully spoke.
“I do not look for it. The tenants leave your house in March, do they not?”
“Yes, they do,” snapped Miss Corny. “But as we are on the subject of details of ways and means, allow me to tell you that if you did what is right, you would move into that house of mine, and I will go to a smaller — as you seem to think I shall poison Barbara if I remain with her. East Lynne is a vast deal too fine and too grand for you.”
“I do not consider it so. I shall not quit East Lynne.”
“Are you aware that, in leaving your house, I take my income with me, Archibald?”
“Most certainly. Your income is yours, and you will require it for your own purposes. I have neither a right to, nor wish for it.”
“It will make a pretty good hole in your income, the withdrawing of it, I can tell you that. Take care that you and East Lynne don’t go bankrupt together.”
At this moment the summons of a visitor was heard. Even that excited the ire of Miss Carlyle. “I wonder who’s come bothering to-night?” she uttered.
Peter entered. “It is Major Thorn, sir. I have shown him into the drawing-room.”
Mr. Carlyle was surprised. He had not thought Major Thorn within many a mile of West Lynne. He proceeded to the drawing-room.
“Such a journey!” said Major Thorn to Mr. Carlyle. “It is my general luck to get ill-weather when I travel. Rain and hail, thunder and heat; nothing bad comes amiss when I am out. The snow lay on the rails, I don’t know how thick; at one station we were detained two hours.”
“Are you proposing to make any stay at West Lynne?”
“Off again tomorrow. My leave, this time, is to be spent at my mother’s. I may bestow a week of it or so on West Lynne, but am not sure. I must be back in Ireland in a month. Such a horrid boghole we are quartered in just now!”
“To go from one subject to another,” observed Mr. Carlyle; “there is a question I have long thought to put to you, Thorn, did we ever meet again. Which year was it that you were staying at Swainson?”
Major Thorn mentioned it. It was the year of Hallijohn’s murder.
“As I thought — in fact, know,” said Mr. Carlyle. “Did you, while you were stopping there, ever come across a namesake of yours — one Thorn?”
“I believe I did. But I don’t know the man, of my knowledge, and I saw him but once only. I don’t think he was living at Swainson. I never observed him in the town.”
“Where did you meet with him?”
“At a roadside beer-shop, about two miles from Swainson. I was riding one day, when a fearful storm came on, and I took shelter there. Scarcely had I entered, when another horsemen rode up, and he likewise took shelter — a tall, dandified man, aristocratic and exclusive. When he departed — for he quitted first, the storm being over — I asked the people who he was. They said they did not know, though they had often seen him ride by; but a man who was there, drinking, said he was a Captain Thorn. The same man, by the way, volunteered the information that he came from a distance; somewhere near West Lynne; I remember that.”
“That Captain Thorn did?”
“No — that he, himself did. He appeared to know nothing of Captain Thorn, beyond the name.”
It seemed to be ever so! Scraps of information, but nothing tangible. Nothing to lay hold of, or to know the man by. Would it be thus always?
“Should you recognize him again were you to see him?” resumed Mr. Carlyle awakening from his reverie.
“I think I should. There was something peculiar in his countenance, and I remember it well yet.”
“Were you by chance to meet him, and discover his real name — for I have reason to believe that Thorn, the one he went by then, was an assumed one — will you oblige me by letting me know it?”
“With all the pleasure in life,” replied the major. “The chances are against it though, confined as I am to that confounded sister country. Other regiments get the luck of being quartered in the metropolis, or near it; ours doesn’t.”
When Major Thorn departed, and Mr. Carlyle was about to return to the room where he left his sister, he was interrupted by Joyce.
“Sir,” she began. “Miss Carlyle tells me that there is going to be a change at East Lynne.”
The words took Mr. Carlyle by surprise.
“Miss Carlyle has been in a hurry to tell you,” he remarked — a certain haughty displeasure in his tone.
“She did not speak for the sake of telling me, sir, it is not likely; but I fancy she was thinking about her own plans. She inquired whether I would go with her when she left, or whether I meant to remain at East Lynne. I would not answer her, sir, until I had spoken to you.”
“Well?” said Mr. Carlyle.
“I gave a promise sir, to — to — my late lady — that I would remain with her children as long as I was permitted. She asked it of me when she was ill — when she thought she was going to die. What I would inquire of you, sir, is, whether the change will make any difference to my staying?”
“No,” he decisively replied. “I also, Joyce, wish you to remain with the children.”
“It is well, sir,” Joyce answered, and her face looked bright as she quitted the room.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14