Thus the unhappy Isabel’s career was looked upon as run. Lord Mount Severn forwarded her letter to Mr. Carlyle, with the confirmation of her death, which he had obtained from the French authorities. It was a nine day’s wonder: “That poor, erring Lady Isabel was dead”—people did not call her names in the very teeth of her fate—and then it was over.
It was over. Lady Isabel was as one forgotten.
AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR AT EAST LYNNE.
There went, sailing up the avenue to East Lynne, a lady, one windy afternoon. If not a lady, she was attired as one; a flounced dress, and a stylish looking shawl, and a white veil. A very pretty woman, tall and slender was she, and she minced as she walked, and coquetted with her head, and, altogether contrived to show that she had quite as much vanity as brains. She went boldly up to the broad entrance of the house, and boldly rang at it, drawing her white veil over her face as she did so.
One of the men-servants answered it, not Peter; and, seeing somebody very smart before him, bowed deferentially.
“Miss Hallijohn is residing here, I believe. Is she within?”
“Miss Hallijohn; Miss Joyce Hallijohn,” somewhat sharply repeated the lady, as if impatient of any delay. “I wish to see her.”
The man was rather taken aback. He had deemed it a visitor to the house, and was prepared to usher her to the drawing-room, at least; but it seemed it was only a visitor to Joyce. He showed her into a small parlor, and went upstairs to the nursery, where Joyce was sitting with Wilson—for there had been no change in the domestic department of East Lynne. Joyce remained as upper maid, partially superintending the servants, attending upon Lucy, and making Miss Carlyle’s dresses as usual. Wilson was nurse still.
“Miss Joyce, there’s a lady asking for you,” said the man. “I have shown her into the gray parlor.”
“A lady for me?” repeated Joyce. “Who is it? Some one to see the children, perhaps.”
“It’s for yourself, I think. She asked for Miss Hallijohn.”
Joyce looked at the man; but she put down her work and proceeded to the gray parlor. A pretty woman, vain and dashing, threw up her white veil at her entrance.
“Well, Joyce, how are you?”
Joyce, always pale, turned paler still, as she gazed in blank consternation. Was it really Afy who stood before her—Afy, the erring?
Afy it was. And she stood there, holding out her hand to Joyce, with what Wilson would have called, all the brass in the world. Joyce could not reconcile her mind to link her own with it.
“Excuse me, Afy, but I cannot take your hand, I cannot welcome you here. What could have induced you to come?”
“If you are going to be upon the high ropes, it seems I might as well have stayed away,” was Afy’s reply, given in the pert, but good-humored manner she had ever used to Joyce. “My hand won’t damage yours. I am not poison.”