Mrs. Latimer and Mrs. Crosby, whose apartments in the hotel joined, struck up a violent friendship, the one for the other. Ere the former had been a week at the Ludwig, they had sworn something like eternal sisterhood—as both had probably done for others fifty times before.
MEETING OF LADY ISABEL AND AFY.
On the evening of the day when Helena Crosby communicated her future prospects to Lady Isabel, the latter strolled out in the twilight and took her seat on a bench in an unfrequented part of the gardens, where she was fond of sitting. Now it occurred that Afy, some minutes afterwards, found herself in the same walk—and a very dull one, too, she was thinking.
“Who’s that?” quoth Afy to herself, her eyes falling upon Lady Isabel. “Oh, it’s that governess of the Crosby’s. She may be known, a half a mile off, by her grandmother’s bonnet. I’ll go and have a chat with her.”
Accordingly Afy, who was never troubled with bashfulness, went up and seated herself beside Lady Isabel. “Good evening, Madame Vine,” cried she.
“Good evening,” replied Lady Isabel, courteously, not having the least idea who Afy might be.
“You don’t know me, I fancy,” pursued Afy, so gathering from Lady Isabel’s looks. “I am companion to Mrs. Latimer; and she is spending the evening with Mrs. Crosby. Precious dull, this Stalkenberg.”
“Do you think so?”
“It is for me. I can’t speak German or French, and the upper attendants of families here can’t; most of them speak English. I’m sure I go about like an owl, able to do nothing but stare. I was sick enough to come here, but I’d rather be back at West Lynne, quiet as it is.”
Lady Isabel had not been encouraging her companion, either by words or manner, but the last sentence caused her heart to bound within her. Control herself as she would, she could not quite hide her feverish interest.
“Do you come from West Lynne?”
“Yes. Horrid place. Mrs. Latimer took a house there soon after I went to live with her. I’d rather she’d taken it at Botany Bay.”
“Why do you not like it?”
“Because I don’t,” was Afy’s satisfactory answer.
“Do you know East Lynne?” resumed Lady Isabel, her heart beating and her brain whirling, as she deliberated how she could put all the questions she wished to ask.
“I ought to know it,” returned Afy. “My own sister, Miss Hallijohn, is head maid there. Why, do you know it, Madame Vine?”
Lady Isabel hesitated; she was deliberating upon her answer.
“Some years ago I was staying in the neighborhood for a little time,” she said. “I should like to hear of the Carlyles again; they were a nice family.”
Afy tossed her head.
“Ah! But there have been changes since that. I dare say you knew them in the time of Lady Isabel?”