Joyce hid her face in her hands to conceal its emotion from the motherless child. And just then Miss Carlyle entered on tiptoe, and humbly sat down on a low chair, her green face—green that night—in its grief, its remorse, and its horror, looking nearly as dark as her stockings.
She broke into a subdued wail.
“God be merciful to this dishonored house!”
Mr. Justice Hare turned into the gate between twelve and one—turned in with a jaunty air; for the justice was in spirits, he having won nine sixpences, and his friend’s tap of ale having been unusually good. When he reached his bedroom, he told Mrs. Hare of a chaise and four which had gone tearing past at a furious pace as he was closing the gate, coming from the direction of East Lynne. He wondered where it could be going at that midnight hour, and whom it contained.
Nearly a year went by.
Lady Isabel Carlyle had spent it on the continent—that refuge for such fugitives—now moving about from place to place with her companion, now stationary and alone. Quite half the time—taking one absence with the other—he had been away from her, chiefly in Paris, pursuing his own course and his own pleasure.
How fared it with Lady Isabel? Just as it must be expected to fare, and does fare, when a high-principled gentlewoman falls from her pedestal. Never had she experienced a moment’s calm, or peace, or happiness, since the fatal night of quitting her home. She had taken a blind leap in a moment of wild passion, when, instead of the garden of roses it had been her persuader’s pleasure to promise her she would fall into, but which, in truth, she had barely glanced at, for that had not been her moving motive, she had found herself plunged into a yawning abyss of horror, from which there was never more any escape—never more, never more. The very instant—the very night of her departure, she awoke to what she had done. The guilt, whose aspect had been shunned in the prospective, assumed at once its true frightful color, the blackness of darkness; and a lively remorse, a never-dying anguish, took possession of her soul forever. Oh, reader, believe me! Lady—wife—mother! Should you ever be tempted to abandon your home, so will you awake. Whatever trials may be the lot of your married life, though they may magnify themselves to your crushed spirit as beyond the nature, the endurance of woman to bear, resolve to bear them; fall down upon your knees, and pray to be enabled to bear them—pray for patience—pray for strength to resist the demon that would tempt you to escape; bear unto death, rather than forfeit your fair name and your good conscience; for be assured that the alternative, if you do rush on to it, will be found worse than death.