“Off again to-morrow. 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.”