Mr. Carlyle harangued the populace from the balcony of the Buck’s Head, a substantial old House, renowned in the days of posting, now past and gone. Its balcony was an old-fashioned, roomy balcony, painted green, where there was plenty of space for his friends to congregate. He was a persuasive orator, winning his way to ears and hearts; but had he spoken with plums in his mouth, and a stammer on his tongue, and a break-down at every sentence, the uproarious applause and shouts would be equally rife. Mr. Carlyle was intensely popular in West Lynne, setting aside his candidateship and his oratory; and West Lynne made common cause against Sir Francis Levison.
Sir Francis Levison harangued the mob from the Raven, but in a more ignoble manner. For the Raven possessed no balcony, and he was fain to let himself down with a stride and a jump from the first floor window on the top of the bow-window of the parlor, and stand there. The Raven, though a comfortable, old established, and respectable inn, could boast only of casements for its upper windows, and they are not convenient to deliver speeches from. He was wont, therefore to take his seat on the bow-window, and, that was not altogether convenient either, for it was but narrow, and he hardly dared move an arm or a leg for fear of pitching over on the upturned faces. Mr. Drake let himself down also, to support him on one side, and the first day, the lawyer supported him on the other. For the first day only; for that worthy, being not as high as Sir Francis Levison’s or Mr. Drake’s shoulder, and about five times their breadth, had those two been rolled into one, experienced a slight difficulty in getting back again. It was accomplished at last, Sir Francis pulling him up, and Mr. Drake hoisting him from behind, just as a ladder was being brought out to the rescue amidst shouts of laughter. The stout man wiped the perspiration from his face when he was landed in safety, and recorded a mental vow never to descend from a window again. After that the candidate and his friend shared the shelf between them. The lawyer’s name was Rubiny, ill-naturedly supposed to be a corruption of Reuben.
They stood there one afternoon, Sir Francis’ eloquence in full play, but he was a shocking speaker, and the crowd, laughing, hissing, groaning and applauding, blocking up the road. Sir Francis could not complain of one thing — that he got no audience; for it was the pleasure of West Lynne extensively to support him in that respect — a few to cheer, a great many to jeer and hiss. Remarkably dense was the mob on this afternoon, for Mr. Carlyle had just concluded his address from the Buck’s Head, and the crowd who had been listening to him came rushing up to swell the ranks of the other crowd. They were elbowing, and pushing, and treading on each other’s heels, when an open barouche drove suddenly up to scatter them. Its horses wore scarlet and purple rosettes; and one lady, a very pretty one, sat inside of it — Mrs. Carlyle.
But the crowd could not be so easily scattered; it was too thick; the carriage could advance but at a snail’s pace, and now and then came to a standstill also, till the confusion should be subsided; for where was the use of wasting words? He did not bow to Barbara; he remembered the result of his having done so to Miss Carlyle, and the little interlude of the pond had washed most of his impudence out of him. He remained at his post, not looking at Barbara, not looking at anything in particular, waiting till the interruption should have passed.
Barbara, under cover of her dainty lace parasol, turned her eyes upon him. At that very moment he raised his right hand, slightly shook his head back, and tossed his hair off his brow. His hand, ungloved, was white and delicate as a lady’s, and his rich diamond ring gleamed in the sun. The pink flush on Barbara’s cheek deepened to a crimson damask, and her brow contracted with a remembrance of pain.
“The very action Richard described! The action he was always using at East Lynne! I believe from my heart that the man is Thorn; that Richard was laboring under some mistake when he said he knew Sir Francis Levison.”
She let her hands fall upon her knee as she spoke, heedless of the candidate, heedless of the crowd, heedless of all save her own troubled thoughts. A hundred respected salutations were offered her; she answered them mechanically; a shout was raised, “Long live Carlyle! Carlyle forever!” Barbara bowed her pretty head on either side, and the carriage at length got on.
The parting of the crowd brought Mr. Dill, who had come to listen for once to the speech of the second man, and Mr. Ebenezer James close to each other. Mr. Ebenezer James was one who, for the last twelve or fifteen years, had been trying his hand at many trades. And had not come out particularly well at any. A rolling stone gathers no moss. First, he had been clerk to Mr. Carlyle; next, he had been seduced into joining the corps of the Theatre Royal at Lynneborough; then he turned auctioneer; then travelling in the oil and color line; then a parson, the urgent pastor of some new sect; then omnibus driver; then collector of the water rate; and now he was clerk again, not in Mr. Carlyle’s office, but in that of Ball & Treadman, other solicitors of West Lynne. A good-humored, good-natured, free-of-mannered, idle chap was Mr. Ebenezer James, and that was the worst that could be urged against him, save that he was sometimes out at pocket and out at elbows. His father was a respectable man, and had made money in trade, but he had married a second wife, had a second family, and his eldest son did not come in for much of the paternal money, though he did for a large share of the paternal anger.
“Well, Ebenezer, and how goes the world with you?” cried Mr. Dill by way of salutation.
“Jogging on. It never gets to a trot.”
“Didn’t I see you turning into your father’s house yesterday?”
“I pretty soon turned out of it again. I’m like the monkey when I venture there — get more kicks than halfpence. Hush, old gentleman! We interrupt the eloquence.”
Of course “the eloquence” applied to Sir Francis Levison, and they set themselves to listen — Mr. Dill with a serious face, Mr. Ebenezer with a grinning one. But soon a jostle and movement carried them to the outside of the crowd, out of sight of the speaker, though not entirely out of hearing. By these means they had a view of the street, and discerned something advancing to them, which they took for a Russian bear on its hind legs.
“I’ll — be-blest,” uttered Mr. Ebenezer James, after a prolonged pause of staring consternation, “if I don’t believe its Bethel!”
“Bethel!” repeated Mr. Dill, gazing at the approaching figure. “What has he been doing to himself?”
Mr. Otway Bethel it was, just arrived from foreign parts in his travelling costume — something shaggy, terminating all over with tails. A wild object he looked; and Mr. Dill rather backed as he drew near, as if fearing he was a real animal which might bite him.
“What’s your name?” cried he.
“It used to be Bethel,” replied the wild man, holding out his hand to Mr. Dill. “So you are in the world, James, and kicking yet?”
“And hope to kick in it for some time to come,” replied Mr. James. “Where did you hail from last? A settlement at the North Pole?”
“Didn’t get quite as far. What’s the row here?”
“When did you arrive, Mr. Otway?” inquired old Dill.
“Now. Four o’clock train. I say, what’s up?”
“An election; that’s all,” said Mr. Ebenezer. “Attley went and kicked the bucket.”
“I don’t ask about the election; I heard all that at the railway station,” returned Otway Bethel, impatiently. “What’s this?” waving his hand at the crowd.
“One of the candidates wasting breath and words — Levison.”
“I say,” repeated Otway Bethel, looking at Mr. Dill, “wasn’t it rather — rather of the ratherest, for him to oppose Carlyle?”
“Infamous! Contemptible!” was the old gentleman’s excited answer. “But he’ll get his deserts yet, Mr. Otway; they have already begun. He was treated to a ducking yesterday in Justice Hare’s green pond.”
“And he did look a miserable devil when he came out, trailing through the streets,” added Mr. Ebenezer, while Otway Bethel burst into a laugh. “He was smothered into some hot blankets at the Raven, and a pint of burnt brandy put into him. He seems all right today.”
“Will he go in and win?”
“Chut! Win against Carlyle! He has not the ghost of a chance; and government — if it is the government who put him on — must be a pack of fools; they can’t know the influence of Carlyle. Bethel, is that style of costume the fashion where you come from?”
“For slender pockets. I’ll sell ’em to you now, James, at half price. Let’s get a look at this Levison, though. I have never seen the fellow.”
Another interruption of the crowd, even as he spoke, caused by the railway van bringing up some luggage. They contrived, in the confusion, to push themselves to the front, not far from Sir Francis. Otway Bethel stared at him in unqualified amazement.
“Why, what brings him here? What is he doing?”
He pointed his finger. “The one with the white handkerchief in his hand.”
“That is Sir Francis.”
“No!” uttered Bethel, a whole world of astounded meaning in his tone. “By Jove! He Sir Francis Levison?”
At that moment their eyes met, Francis Levison’s and Otway Bethel’s. Otway Bethel raised his shaggy hat in salutation, and Sir Francis appeared completely scared. Only for an instant did he lose his presence of mind. The next, his eyeglass was stuck in his eye and turned on Mr. Bethel, with a hard, haughty stare; as much as to say, who are you, fellow, that you should take such a liberty? But his cheeks and lips were growing as white as marble.
“Do you know Levison, Mr. Otway?” inquired old Dill.
“A little. Once.”
“When he was not Levison, but somebody else,” laughed Mr. Ebenezer James. “Eh, Bethel?”
Bethel turned as reproving a stare on Mr. Ebenezer as the baronet had just turned on him. “What do you mean, pray? Mind your own business.”
A nod to old Dill, and he turned off and disappeared, taking no further notice of James. The old gentleman questioned the latter.
“What was that little bit of by-play, Mr. Ebenezer?”
“Nothing much,” laughed Mr. Ebenezer. “Only he,” nodding towards Sir Francis, “was not always the great man he is now.”
“I have held my tongue about it, for it’s no affair of mine, but I don’t mind letting you into the secret. Would you believe that that grand baronet there, would-be member for West Lynne, used, years ago, to dodge about Abbey Wood, mad after Afy Hallijohn? He didn’t call himself Levison then.”
Mr. Dill felt as if a hundred pins and needles were pricking at his memory, for there rose up in it certain doubts and troubles touching Richard Hare and one Thorn. He laid his eager hand upon the other’s arm. “Ebenezer James, what did he call himself?”
“Thorn. A dandy, then, as he is now. He used to come galloping down the Swainson road at dusk, tie his horse in the woods, and monopolize Miss Afy.”
“How do you know this?”
“Because I’ve seen it a dozen times. I was spooney after Afy myself in those days, and went down there a good deal in an evening. If it hadn’t been for him, and — perhaps that murdering villain, Dick Hare, Afy would have listened to me. Not that she cared for Dick; but, you see, they were gentlemen. I am thankful to the stars, now, for my luck in escaping her. With her for a wife, I should have been in a pickle always; as it is, I do get out of it once in a while.”
“Did you know then that he was Francis Levison?”
“Not I. He called himself Thorn, I tell you. When he came down to offer himself for member, and oppose Carlyle, I was thunderstruck — like Bethel was a minute ago. Ho ho, said I, so Thorn’s defunct, and Levison has risen.”
“What had Otway Bethel to do with him?”
“Nothing — that I know of. Only Bethel was fond of the woods also — after other game than Afy, though — and may have seen Thorn often. You saw that he recognized him.”
“Thorn — Levison, I mean — did not appear to like the recognition,” said Mr. Dill.
“Who would, in his position?” laughed Ebenezer James. “I don’t like to be reminded of many a wild scrape of my past life, in my poor station; and what would it be for Levison, were it to come out that he once called himself Thorn, and came running after Miss Afy Hallijohn?”
“Why did he call himself Thorn? Why disguise his own name?”
“Not knowing, can’t say. Is his name Levison, or is it Thorn?”
“Nonsense, Mr. Ebenezer!”
Mr. Dill, bursting with the strange news he had heard, endeavored to force his way through the crowd, that he might communicate it to Mr. Carlyle. The crowd was, however, too dense for him, and he had to wait the opportunity of escaping with what patience he might. When it came he made his way to the office, and entered Mr. Carlyle’s private room. That gentleman was seated at his desk, signing letters.
“Why, Dill, you are out of breath!”
“Well I may be! Mr. Archibald, I have been listening to the most extraordinary statement. I have found out about Thorn. Who do you think he is?”
Mr. Carlyle put down his pen and looked full in the old man’s face; he had never seen him so excited.
“It’s that man, Levison.”
“I do not understand you,” said Mr. Carlyle. He did not. It was as good as Hebrew to him. “The Levison of today, your opponent, is the Thorn who went after Afy Hallijohn. It is so, Mr. Archibald.”
“It cannot be!” slowly uttered Mr. Carlyle, thought upon thought working havoc with his brain. “Where did you hear this?”
Mr. Dill told his tale. Otway Bethel’s recognition of him; Sir Francis Levison’s scared paleness, for he had noticed that; Mr. Ebenezer’s revelation. The point in it all, that finally settled most upon Mr. Carlyle, was the thought that if Levison were indeed the man, he could not be instrumental in bringing him to justice.
“Bethel has denied to me more than once that he knew Thorn, or was aware of such a man being in existence,” observed Mr. Carlyle.
“He must have had a purpose in it, then,” returned Mr. Dill. “They knew each other today. Levison recognized him for certain, although he carried it off with a high hand, pretending not.”
“And it was not as Levison, but as Thorn, that Bethel recognized him?”
“There’s little doubt of that. He did not mention the name, Thorn; but he was evidently struck with astonishment at hearing that it was Levison. If they have not some secret between them, Mr. Archibald, I’ll never believe my own eyes again.”
“Mrs. Hare’s opinion is that Bethel had to do with the murder,” said Mr. Carlyle, in a low tone.
“If that is their secret, Bethel knows the murderer, rely upon it,” was the answer. “Mr. Archibald, it seems to me that now or never is the time to clear up Richard.”
“Aye; but how set about it?” responded Mr. Carlyle.
Meanwhile Barbara had proceeded home in her carriage, her brain as busy as Mr. Carlyle’s, perhaps more troubled. Her springing lightly and hastily out the moment it stopped, disdaining the footman’s arm, her compressed lips and absent countenance, proved that her resolution was set upon some plan of action. William and Madame Vine met her in the hall.
“We have seen Dr. Martin, Mrs. Carlyle.”
“And he says —”
“I cannot stay to hear now, William. I will see you later, madame.”
She ran upstairs to her dressing-room, Madame Vine following her with her reproachful eyes. “Why should she care?” thought madame. “It is not her child.”
Throwing her parasol on one chair, her gloves on another, down sat Barbara to her writing-table. “I will write to him; I will have him here, if it be but for an hour!” she passionately exclaimed. “This shall be, so far, cleared up. I am as sure as sure can be that it is that man. The very action Richard described! And there was the diamond ring! For better, for worse, I will send for him; but it will not be for worse if God is with us.”
She dashed off a letter, getting up ere she had well begun it, to order her carriage round again. She would trust none but herself to put it in the post.
“MY DEAR MR. SMITH— We want you here. Something has arisen that it is necessary to see you upon. You can get here by Saturday. Be in these grounds, near the covered walk, that evening at dusk. Ever yours,
And the letter was addressed to Mr. Smith, of some street in Liverpool, the address furnished by Richard. Very cautions to see, was Barbara. She even put “Mr. Smith,” inside the letter.
“Now stop,” cried Barbara to herself, as she was folding it. “I ought to send him a five pound note, for he may not have the means to come; and I don’t think I have one of that amount in the house.”
She looked in her secretaire. Not a single five-pound note. Out of the room she ran, meeting Joyce, who was coming along the corridor.
“Do you happen to have a five-pound note, Joyce?”
“No, ma’am, not by me.”
“I dare say Madame Vine has. I paid her last week, and there were two five-pound notes amongst it.” And away went Barbara to the gray parlor.
“Could you lend me a five-pound note, Madame Vine? I have occasion to enclose one in a letter, and find I do not possess one.”
Madame Vine went to her room to get it. Barbara waited. She asked William what Dr. Martin said.
“He tried my chest with — oh, I forget what they call it — and he said I must be a brave boy and take my cod-liver oil well, and port wine, and everything I liked that was good. And he said he should be at West Lynne next Wednesday afternoon; and I am to go there, and he would call in and see me.”
“Where are you to meet him?”
“He said, either at papa’s office or at Aunt Cornelia’s, as we might decide. Madame fixed it for papa’s office, for she thought he might like to see Dr. Martin. I say, mamma.”
“What?” asked Barbara.
“Madame Vine has been crying ever since. Why should she?”
“I’m sure I don’t know. Crying!”
“Yes but she wipes her eyes under her spectacles, and thinks I don’t see her. I know I am very ill, but why should she cry for that?”
“Nonsense, William. Who told you you were very ill?”
“Nobody. I suppose I am,” he thoughtfully added. “If Joyce or Lucy cried, now, there’d be some sense in it, for they have known me all my life.”
“You are so apt to fancy things! You are always doing it. It is not likely that madame would be crying because you are ill.”
Madame came in with the bank-note. Barbara thanked her, ran upstairs, and in another minute or two was in her carriage.
She was back again, and dressing when the gentlemen returned to dinner. Mr. Carlyle came upstairs. Barbara, like most persons who do things without reflection, having had time to cool down from her ardor, was doubting whether she had acted wisely in sending so precipitately for Richard. She carried her doubt and care to her husband, her sure refuge in perplexity.
“Archibald, I fear I have done a foolish thing.”
He laughed. “I fear we all do that at times, Barbara. What is it?”
He had seated himself in one of Barbara’s favorite low chairs, and she stood before him, leaning on his shoulder, her face a little behind, so that he could not see it. In her delicacy she would not look at him while she spoke what she was going to speak.
“It is something that I have had upon my mind for years, and I did not like to tell it to you.”
“You remember that night, years ago, when Richard was at the Grove in disguise —”
“Which night, Barbara? He came more than once.”
“The night — the night that Lady Isabel quitted East Lynne,” she answered, not knowing how better to bring it to his recollection and she stole her hand lovingly into his, as she said it. “Richard came back after his departure, saying he had met Thorn in Bean lane. He described the peculiar motion of the hand as he threw back his hair from his brow; he spoke of the white hand and the diamond ring — how it glittered in the moonlight. Do you remember?”
“The motion appeared perfectly familiar to me, for I had seen it repeatedly used by one then staying at East Lynne. I wondered you did not recognize it. From that night I had little doubt as to the identity of Thorn. I believed that he and Captain Levison were one.”
A pause. “Why did you not tell me so, Barbara?”
“How could I speak of that man to you, at that time? Afterwards, when Richard was here, that snowy winter’s day, he asserted that he knew Sir Frances Levison; that he had seen him and Thorn together; and that put me off the scent. But today, as I was passing the Raven, in the carriage — going very slow, on account of the crowd — he was perched out there, addressing the people, and I saw the very same action — the old action that I had used to see.”
Barbara paused. Mr. Carlyle did not interrupt her.
“I feel a conviction that they are the same — that Richard must have been under some unaccountable mistake in saying that he knew Francis Levison. Besides, who but he, in evening dress, would have been likely to go through Bean lane that night? It leads to no houses, but one wishing to avoid the high road could get into it from these grounds, and so on to West Lynne. He must have gone back directly on foot to West Lynne, to get the post carriage, as was proved, and he would naturally go through Bean lane. Forgive me, Archibald, for recalling these things to you, but I feel so sure that Levison and Thorn are one.”
“I know they are,” he quietly said.
Barbara, in her astonishment drew back and stared him in the face — a face of severe dignity it was just then.
“Oh, Archibald! Did you know it at that time?”
“I did not know it until this afternoon. I never suspected it.”
“I wonder you did not. I have wondered often.”
“So do I now. Dill, Ebenezer James, and Otway Bethel — who came home today — were standing before the Raven, listening to his speech, when Bethel recognized him; not as Levison — he was infinitely astonished to find he was Levison. Levison, they say, was scared at the recognition, and changed color. Bethel would give no explanation, and moved away; but James told Dill that Levison was the man Thorn who used to be after Afy Hallijohn.”
“How did you know?” breathlessly asked Barbara.
“Because Mr. Ebenezer was after Afy himself, and repeatedly saw Thorn in the wood. Barbara, I believe now that it was Levison who killed Hallijohn, but I should like to know what Bethel had to do with it.”
Barbara clasped her hands. “How strange it is!” she exclaimed, in some excitement. “Mamma told me, yesterday, that she was convinced something or other was going to turn up relative to the murder. She had had the most distressing dream, she said, connected with Richard and Bethel, and somebody else, whom she appeared to know in the dream, but could not recognize or remember when she was awake. She was as ill as could be-she does put such faith in these wretched dreams.”
“One would think you did also, Barbara, by your vehemence.”
“No, no; you know better. But it is strange — you must acknowledge that it is — that, so sure as anything fresh happens touching the subject of the murder, so sure is a troubled dream the forerunner of it. Mamma does not have them at other times. Bethel denied to you that he knew Thorn.”
“I know he did.”
“And now it turns out that he does know him, and he is always in mamma’s dreams — none more prominent in them than Bethel. But, Archibald, I am not telling you — I have sent for Richard.”
“I felt sure that Levison was Thorn. I did not expect that others would recognize him, and I acted on the impulse of the moment and wrote to Richard, telling him to be here on Saturday evening. The letter is gone.”
“Well, we must shelter him as best we can.”
“Archibald — dear Archibald, what can be done to clear him?” she asked, the tears rising to her eyes.
“Being Levison, I cannot act.”
“What!” she uttered. “Not act — not act for Richard!”
He bent his clear, truthful eyes upon her.
“My dearest, how can I?”
She looked a little rebellious, and the tears fell.
“You have not considered, Barbara. Any one in the world but Levison; it would look like my own revenge.”
“Forgive me!” she softly whispered. “You are always right. I did not think of it in that light. But, what steps do you imagine can be taken?”
“It is a case encompassed with difficulties,” mused Mr. Carlyle. “Let us wait until Richard comes.”
“Do you happen to have a five-pound note in your pocket, Archibald? I had not one to send to him, and borrowed it from Madame Vine.”
He took out his pocket book and gave it to her.
In the gray parlor, in the dark twilight of the April evening — or it was getting far into the night — were William Carlyle and Lady Isabel. It had been a warm day, but the spring evenings were still chilly, and a fire burned in the grate. There was no blaze, the red embers were smoldering and half dead, but Madame Vine did not bestir herself to heed the fire. William lay on the sofa, and she sat by, looking at him. Her glasses were off, for the tears wetted them continually; and it was not the recognition of the children she feared. He was tired with the drive to Lynneborough and back, and lay with eyes shut; she thought asleep. Presently he opened them.
“How long will it be before I die?”
The words took her utterly by surprise, and her heart went round in a whirl. “What do you mean, William? Who said anything about dying?”
“Oh, I know. I know by the fuss there is over me. You heard what Hannah said the other night.”
“When she brought in the tea, and I was lying on the rug. I was not asleep, though you thought I was. You told her she ought to be more cautious, for that I might not have been asleep.”
“I don’t remember much about it,” said Lady Isabel, at her wits’ ends how to remove the impression Hannah’s words must have created, had he indeed heard them. “Hannah talks great nonsense sometimes.”
“She said I was going on fast to the grave.”
“Did she? Nobody attends to Hannah. She is only a foolish girl. We shall soon have you well, when the warm weather comes.”
“Well, my darling?”
“Where’s the use of your trying to deceive me? Do you think I don’t see that you are doing it? I’m not a baby; you might if it were Archibald. What is it that’s the matter with me?”
“Nothing. Only you are not strong. When you get strong again, you will be as well as ever.”
William shook his head in disbelief. He was precisely that sort of child from whom it is next to impossible to disguise facts; quick, thoughtful, observant, and advanced beyond his years. Had no words been dropped in his hearing, he would have suspected the evil, by the care evinced for him, but plenty of words had been dropped; hints, by which he had gathered suspicion; broad assertions, like Hannah’s, which had too fully supplied it; and the boy in his inmost heart, knew as well that death was coming for him as that death itself did.
“Then, if there’s nothing the matter with me, why could not Dr. Martin speak to you before me today? Why did he send me into the other room while he told you what he thought? Ah, Madame Vine, I am as wise as you.”
“A wise little boy, but mistaken sometimes,” she said from her aching heart.
“It’s nothing to die, when God loves us. Lord Vane says so. He had a little brother who died.”
“A sickly child, who was never likely to live, he had been pale and ailing from a baby,” spoke Lady Isabel.
“Why! Did you know him?”
“I— I heard so,” she replied, turning off her thoughtless avowal in the best manner she could.
“Don’t you know that I am going to die?”
“Then why have you been grieving since we left Dr. Martin’s? And why do you grieve at all for me? I am not your child.”
The words, the scene altogether, overcame her. She knelt down by the sofa, and her tears burst forth freely. “There! You see!” cried William.
“Oh, William, I— I had a little boy of my own, and when I look at you, I think of him, and that is why I cry.”
“I know. You have told us of him before. His name was William, too.”
She leaned over him, her breath mingling with his; she took his little hand in hers; “William, do you know that those whom God loves best He takes first? Were you to die, you would go to Heaven, leaving all the cares and sorrows of the world behind you. It would have been happier for many of us had we died in infancy.”
“Would it have been happier for you?”
“Yes,” she faintly said. “I have had more than my share of sorrow. Sometimes I think that I cannot support it.”
“Is it not past, then? Do you have sorrow now?”
“I have it always. I shall have it till I die. Had I died a child, William, I should have escaped it. Oh! The world is full of it! full and full.”
“What sort of sorrow?”
“All sorts. Pain, sickness, care, trouble, sin, remorse, weariness,” she wailed out. “I cannot enumerate the half that the world brings upon us. When you are very, very tired, William, does it not seem a luxury, a sweet happiness, to lie down at night in your little bed, waiting for the bliss of sleep?”
“Yes. And I am often tired; so tired as that.”
“Then just so do we, who are tired of the world’s cares, long for the grave in which we shall lie down to rest. We covet it, William; long for it; but you cannot understand that.”
“We don’t lie in the grave, Madame Vine.”
“No, no, child. Our bodies lie there, to be raised again in beauty at the last day. We go into a blessed place of rest, where sorrow and pain cannot come. I wish — I wish,” she uttered, with a bursting heart, “that you and I were both there!”
“Who says the world’s so sorrowful, Madame Vine? I think it is lovely, especially when the sun’s shining on a hot day, and the butterflies come out. You should see East Lynne on a summer’s morning, when you are running up and down the slopes, and the trees are waving overhead, and the sky’s blue, and the roses and flowers are all out. You would not call it a sad world.”
“A pleasant world one might regret to leave if we were not wearied by pain and care. But, what is this world, take it at its best, in comparison with that other world, Heaven? I have heard of some people who are afraid of death; they fear they shall not go to it; but when God takes a little child there it is because He loves him. It is a land, as Mrs. Barbauld says, where the roses are without thorns, where the flowers are not mixed with brambles —”
“I have seen the flowers,” interrupted William, rising in his earnestness. “They are ten times brighter than our flowers here.”
“Seen the flowers! The flowers we shall see in Heaven?” she echoed.
“I have seen a picture of them. We went to Lynneborough to see Martin’s picture of the Last Judgment — I don’t mean Dr. Martin,” said William interrupting himself.
“There were three pictures. One was called the ‘Plains of Heaven,’ and I liked that best; and so we all did. Oh, you should have seen it! Did you ever see them, Madame Vine?”
“No. I have heard of them.”
“There was a river, you know, and boats, beautiful gondolas they looked, taking the redeemed to the shores of Heaven. They were shadowy figures in white robes, myriads of them, for they reached all up in the air to the holy city; it seemed to be in the clouds coming down from God. The flowers grew on the banks of the river, pink, and blue, and violet, all colors they were, but so bright and beautiful; brighter than our flowers are.”
“Who took you to see the pictures?”
“Papa. He took me and Lucy; and Mrs. Hare went with us, and Barbara — she was not our mamma then. But, madame”— dropping his voice —“what stupid thing do you think Lucy asked papa?”
“What did she ask him?”
“She asked whether mamma was amongst that crowd in the white robes; whether she was gone up to Heaven? Our mamma that was, you know, and lots of people could hear what she said.”
Lady Isabel dropped her face upon her hands.
“What did your papa answer?” she breathed.
“I don’t know. Nothing, I think; he was talking to Barbara. But it was very stupid of Lucy, because Wilson has told her over and over again that she must never talk of Lady Isabel to papa. Miss Manning told her so too. When we got home, and Wilson heard of it, she said Lucy deserved a good shaking.”
“Why must not Lady Isabel be talked of to him?”
A moment after the question had left her lips, she wondered what possessed her to give utterance to it.
“I’ll tell you,” said William in a whisper. “She ran away from papa. Lucy talks nonsense about her having been kidnapped, but she knows nothing. I do, though they don’t think it, perhaps.”
“She may be among the redeemed, some time, William, and you with her.”
He fell back on the sofa-pillow with a weary sigh, and lay in silence. Lady Isabel shaded her face, and remained in silence also. Soon she was aroused from it; William was in a fit of loud, sobbing tears.
“Oh, I don’t want to die! I don’t want to die! Why should I go and leave papa and Lucy?”
She hung over him; she clasped her arms around him; her tears, her sobs, mingling with his. She whispered to him sweet and soothing words; she placed him so that he might sob out his grief upon her bosom; and in a little while the paroxysm had passed.
“Hark!” exclaimed William. “What’s that?”
A sound of talking and laughter in the hall. Mr. Carlyle, Lord Mount Severn, and his son were leaving the dining-room. They had some committee appointed that evening at West Lynne and were departing to keep it. As the hall-door closed upon them, Barbara came into the gray parlor. Up rose Madame Vine, scuffled on her spectacles, and took her seat soberly upon a chair.
“All in the dark, and your fire going out!” exclaimed Barbara, as she hastened to stir the latter and send it into a blaze. “Who’s on the sofa? William, you ought to be to bed!”
“Not yet, mamma. I don’t want to go yet.”
“But it is quite time that you should,” she returned, ringing the bell. “To sit up at night is not the way to make you strong.”
William was dismissed. And then she returned to Madame Vine, and inquired what Dr. Martin had said.
“He said the lungs were undoubtedly affected; but, like all doctors, he would give no decisive opinion. I could see that he had formed one.”
Mrs. Carlyle looked at her. The firelight played especially upon the spectacles, and she moved her chair into the shade.
“Dr. Martin will see him again next week; he is coming to West Lynne. I am sure, by the tone of his voice, by his evasive manner, that he anticipates the worst, although he would not say so in words.”
“I will take William into West Lynne myself,” observed Barbara. “The doctor will, of course, tell me. I came in to pay my debts,” she added, dismissing the subject of the child, and holding out a five-pound note.
Lady Isabel mechanically stretched out her hand for it.
“Whilst we are, as may be said, upon the money topic,” resumed Barbara, in a gay tone, “will you allow me to intimate that both myself and Mr. Carlyle very much disapprove of your making presents to the children. I was calculating, at a rough guess the cost of the toys and things you have bought for them, and I think it must amount to a very large portion of the salary you have received. Pray do not continue this, Madame Vine.”
“I have no one else to spend my money on; I love the children,” was madame’s answer, somewhat sharply given, as if she were jealous of the interference between her and the children, and would resent it.
“Nay, you have yourself. And if you do not require much outlay, you have, I should suppose, a reserve fund to which to put your money. Be so kind as to take the hint, madame, otherwise I shall be compelled more peremptorily to forbid your generosity. It is very good of you, very kind; but if you do not think yourself, we must for you.”
“I will buy them less,” was the murmured answer. “I must give them a little token of love now and then.”
“That you are welcome to do — a ‘little token,’ once in a way, but not the costly toys you have been purchasing. Have you ever had an acquaintance with Sir Francis Levison?” continued Mrs. Carlyle, passing with abruptness from one point to another.
An inward shiver, a burning cheek, a heartpang of wild remorse, and a faint answer. “No.”
“I fancied from your manner when I was speaking of him the other day, that you knew him or had known him. No compliment, you will say, to assume an acquaintance with such a man. He is a stranger to you, then?”
Another faint reply. “Yes.”
“Do you believe in fatality, Madame Vine?”
“Yes, I do,” was the steady answer.
“I don’t,” and yet the very question proved that she did not wholly disbelieve it. “No, I don’t,” added Barbara, stoutly, as she approached the sofa vacated by William, and sat down upon it, thus bringing herself opposite and near to Madame Vine. “Are you aware that it was Francis Levison who brought the evil to this house?”
“The evil ——” stammered Madame Vine.
“Yes, it was he,” she resumed, taking the hesitating answer for an admission that the governess knew nothing, or but little, of past events. “It was he who took Lady Isabel from her home — though perhaps she was as willing to go as he was to take her; I do know —”
“Oh, no, no!” broke from the unguarded lips of Madame Vine. “At least — I mean — I should think not,” she added, in confusion.
“We shall never know; and of what consequence is it? One thing is certain, she went; another thing, almost equally certain, is, she did not go against her will. Did you ever hear the details?”
“N— o.” Her answer would have been “Yes,” but possibly the next question might have been, “From whom did you hear them?”
“He was staying at East Lynne. The man had been abroad; outlawed; dared not show his face in England; and Mr. Carlyle, in his generosity, invited him to East Lynne as a place of shelter, where he would be safe from his creditors while something was arranged. He was a connection in some way of Lady Isabel’s, and they repaid Mr. Carlyle, he and she, by quitting East Lynne together.”
“Why did Mr. Carlyle give that invitation?” The words were uttered in a spirit of remorseful wailing. Mrs. Carlyle believed they were a question put, and she rose up haughtily against it.
“Why did he give the invitation? Did I hear you aright, Madame Vine? Did Mr. Carlyle know he was a reprobate? And, if he had known it, was not Isabel his wife? Could he dream of danger for her? If it pleased Mr. Carlyle to fill East Lynne with bad men tomorrow, what would that be to me — to my safety, to my well-being, to my love and allegiance to my husband? What were you thinking of, madame?”
“Thinking of?” She leaned her troubled head upon her hand. Mrs. Carlyle resumed —
“Sitting alone in the drawing-room just now, and thinking matters over, it did seem to me very like what people call a fatality. That man, I say, was the one who wrought the disgrace, the trouble to Mr. Carlyle’s family; and it is he, I have every reason now to believe, who brought a nearly equal disgrace and trouble upon mine. Did you know —” Mrs. Carlyle lowered her voice —“that I have a brother in evil — in shame?”
Lady Isabel did not dare to answer that she did know it. Who had there been likely to inform her, the strange governess of the tale of Richard Hare!
“So the world calls it — shame,” pursued Barbara, growing excited. “And it is shame, but not as the world thinks it. The shame lies with another, who had thrust the suffering and shame upon Richard; and that other is Francis Levison. I will tell you the tale. It is worth the telling.”
She could only dispose herself to listen; but she wondered what Francis Levison had to do with Richard Hare.
“In the days long gone by, when I was little more than a child, Richard took to going after Afy Hallijohn. You have seen the cottage in the wood; she lived there with her father and Joyce. It was very foolish for him; but young men will be foolish. As many more went after her, or wanted to go after her, as she could count upon her ten fingers. Among them, chief of them, more favored even than Richard, was one called Thorn, by social position a gentleman. He was a stranger, and used to ride over in secret. The night of the murder came — the dreadful murder, when Hallijohn was shot down dead. Richard ran away; testimony was strong against him, and the coroner’s jury brought in a verdict of ‘Wilful Murder against Richard Hare the younger.’ We never supposed but what he was guilty — of the act, mind you, not of the intention; even mamma, who so loved him, believed he had done it; but she believed it was the result of accident, not design. Oh, the trouble that has been the lot of my poor mamma!” cried Barbara, clasping her hands. “And she had no one to sympathize with her — no one, no one! I, as I tell you, was little more than a child; and papa, who might have done it, took part against Richard. It went on for three or four years, the sorrow, and there was no mitigation. At the end of that period Richard came for a few hours to West Lynne — came in secret — and we learnt for the first time that he was not guilty. The man who did the deed was Thorn; Richard was not even present. The next question was, how to find Thorn. Nobody knew anything about him — who he was, what he was, where he came from, where he went to; and thus more years passed on. Another Thorn came to West Lynne — an officer in her majesty’s service; and his appearance tallied with the description Richard had given. I assumed it to be the one; Mr. Carlyle assumed it; but, before anything could be done or even thought of Captain Thorn was gone again.”
Barbara paused to take breath, Madame Vine sat listless enough. What was this tale to her?
“Again years went on. The period came of Francis Levison’s sojourn at East Lynne. Whilst I was there, Captain Thorn arrived once more, on a visit to the Herberts. We then strove to find out points of his antecedents, Mr. Carlyle and I, and we became nearly convinced that he was the man. I had to come here often to see Mr. Carlyle, for mamma did not dare to stir in the affair, papa was so violent against Richard. Thus I often saw Francis Levison; but he was visible to scarcely any other visitor, being at East Lynne en cachette. He intimated that he was afraid of encountering creditors. I now begin to doubt whether that was not a false plea; and I remember Mr. Carlyle said, at the time, that he had no creditors in or near West Lynne.”
“Then what was his motive for shunning society — for never going out?” interrupted Lady Isabel. Too well she remembered that bygone time; Francis Levison had told that the fear of his creditors kept him up so closely; though he had once said to her they were not in the immediate neighborhood of East Lynne.
“He had a worse fear upon him than that of creditors,” returned Mrs. Carlyle. “Singular to say, during this visit of Captain Thorn to the Herberts, we received an intimation from my brother that he was once more about to venture for a few hours to West Lynne. I brought the news to Mr. Carlyle. I had to see him and consult with him more frequently than ever; mamma was painfully restless and anxious, and Mr. Carlyle as eager as we were for the establishment of Richard’s innocence; for Miss Carlyle and papa are related, consequently the disgrace may be said to reflect on the Carlyle name.”
Back went Lady Isabel’s memory and her bitter repentance. She remembered how jealously she had attributed these meetings between Mr. Carlyle and Barbara to another source. Oh! Why had she suffered her mind to be so falsely and fatally perverted?
“Richard came. It was hastily arranged that he should go privately to Mr. Carlyle’s office, after the clerks had left for the night, be concealed there, and have an opportunity given him of seeing Captain Thorn. There was no difficulty, for Mr. Carlyle was transacting some matter of business for the captain, and appointed him to be at the office at eight o’clock. A memorable night, that, to Mr. Carlyle, for it was the one of his wife’s elopement.”
Lady Isabel looked up with a start.
“It was, indeed. She — Lady Isabel — and Mr. Carlyle were engaged to a dinner party; and Mr. Carlyle had to give it up, otherwise he could not have served Richard. He is always considerate and kind, thinking of others’ welfare — never of his own gratification. Oh, it was an anxious night. Papa was out. I waited at home with mamma, doing what I could to sooth her restless suspense, for there was hazard to Richard in his night walk through West Lynne to keep the appointment; and, when it was over, he was to come home for a short interview with mamma, who had not seen him for several years.”
Barbara stopped, lost in thought. Not a word spoke Madame Vine. She still wondered what this affair touching Richard Hare and Thorn could have to do with Francis Levison.
“I watched from the window and saw them come in at the garden gate — Mr. Carlyle and Richard — between nine and ten o’clock, I think it must have been then. The first words they said to me were that it was not the Captain Thorn spoken of by Richard. I felt a shock of disappointment, which was wicked enough of me, but I had been so sure he was the man; and to hear that he was not, seemed to throw us further back than ever. Mr. Carlyle, on the contrary, was glad for he had taken a liking to Captain Thorn. Well, Richard went in to mamma, and Mr. Carlyle was so kind as to accede to her request that he would remain and pace the garden with me. We were so afraid of papa’s coming home; he was bitter against Richard, and would inevitably have delivered him up at once to justice. Had he come in, Mr. Carlyle was to keep him in the garden by the gate whilst I ran in to give notice and conceal Richard in the hall. Richard lingered; papa did not come; and I cannot tell how long we paced there; but I had my shawl on, and it was a lovely moonlight night.”
That unhappy listener clasped her hands to pain. The matter-of-fact tone, the unconscious mention of commonplace trifles, proved that they had not been pacing about in disloyalty to her, or for their own gratification. Why had she not trusted her noble husband? Why had she listened to that false man, as he pointed them out to her walking there in the moonlight? Why had she given vent, in the chariot, to that burst of passionate tears, of angry reproach? Why, oh! why had she hastened to be revenged? But for seeing them together, she might not have done as she did.
“Richard came forth at last, and departed, to be again an exile. Mr. Carlyle also departed; and I remained at the gate, watching for papa. By and by Mr. Carlyle came back again; he had got nearly home when he remembered that he had left a parchment at our house. It seemed to be nothing but coming back; for just after he had gone a second time, Richard returned in a state of excitement, stating that he had seen Thorn — Thorn the murderer, I mean — in Bean lane. For a moment I doubted him, but not for long, and we ran after Mr. Carlyle. Richard described Thorn’s appearance; his evening dress, his white hands and diamond ring; more particularly he described a peculiar motion of his hand as he threw back his hair. In that moment it flashed across me that Thorn must be Captain Levison; the description was exact. Many and many a time since have I wondered that the thought did not strike Mr. Carlyle.”
Lady Isabel sat with her mouth open, as if she could not take in the sense of the words; and when it did become clear to her, she utterly rejected it.
“Francis Levison a murderer! Oh, no! bad man as he is, he is not that.”
“Wait,” said Mrs. Carlyle. “I did not speak of this doubt — nay, this conviction — which had come; how could I mention to Mr. Carlyle the name of the man who did him that foul wrong? And Richard has remained so long in exile, with the ban of guilt upon him. To-day as my carriage passed through West Lynne, Francis Levison was haranguing the people. I saw that very same action — the throwing back of the hair with his white hand. I saw the selfsame diamond ring; and my conviction that he was the same man became more firmly seated than ever.”
“It is impossible!” murmured Lady Isabel.
“Wait, I say,” said Barbara. “When Mr. Carlyle came home to dinner, I, for the first time, mentioned this to him. It was no news — the fact was not. This afternoon during that same harangue, Francis Levison was recognized by two witnesses to be the man Thorn — the man who went after Afy Hallijohn. It is horrible.”
Lady Isabel sat and looked at Mrs. Carlyle. Not yet did she believe it.
“Yes, it does appear to me as being perfectly horrible,” continued Mrs. Carlyle. “He murdered Hallijohn — he, that bad man; and my poor brother has suffered the odium. When Richard met him that night in Bean lane, he was sneaking to West Lynne in search of the chaise that afterward bore away him and his companion. Papa saw them drive away. Papa stayed out late; and, in returning home, a chaise and four tore past, just as he was turning in at the gate. If that miserable Lady Isabel had but known with whom she was flying! A murderer! In addition to his other achievements. It is a mercy for her that she is no longer alive. What would her feelings be?”
What were they, then, as she sat there? A murderer? And she had —— In spite of her caution, of her strife for self-command, she turned of a deadly whiteness, and a low, sharp cry of horror and despair burst from her lips.
Mrs. Carlyle was astonished. Why should her communication have produced this effect upon Madame Vine? A renewed suspicion that she knew more of Francis Levison than she would acknowledge, stole over her.
“Madame Vine, what is he to you?” she asked, bending forward.
Madame Vine, doing fierce battle with herself, recovered her outward equanimity. “I beg your pardon, Mrs. Carlyle,” she said, shivering; “I am apt to picture things too vividly. It is, as you say, so very horrible.”
“Is he nothing to you? Don’t you know him?”
“He is nothing to me — less than nothing. As to knowing him — I saw him yesterday, when they put him into the pond. A man like that! I should shudder to meet him!”
“Ay, indeed!” said Barbara, reassured. “You will understand, Madame Vine, that this history has been given to you in confidence. I look upon you as one of ourselves.”
There was no answer. Madame Vine sat on, with her white face. She and it wore altogether a ghastly look.
“It tells like a fable out of a romance,” resumed Mrs. Carlyle. “Well for him if the romance be not ended in the gibbet. Fancy what it would be for him — Sir Francis Levison — to be hung for murder!”
“Barbara, my dearest!”
The voice was Mr. Carlyle’s, and she flew off on the wings of love. It appeared that the gentlemen had not yet departed, and now thought they would take coffee first.
She flew off to her idolized husband, leaving her who had once been idolized to her loneliness. She sank down on the sofa; she threw her arms up in her heart-sickness; she thought she would faint; she prayed to die. It was horrible, as Barbara had called it. For that man with the red stain upon his hand and soul she had flung away Archibald Carlyle.
If ever retribution came home to woman, it came home in that hour to Lady Isabel.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55