“Of course. And anything she might wish in the way of refreshment, would she ring for?” Barbara shook hands with her, in her friendly way; and Mr. Carlyle crossed the room to open the door for her, and bowed her out with a courtly smile.
She went up to her chamber at once. To rest? Well, what think you? She strove to say to her lacerated and remorseful heart that the cross—far heavier though it was proving than anything she had imagined or pictured—was only what she had brought upon herself, and must bear. Very true; but none of us would like such a cross to be upon our shoulders.
“Is she not droll looking?” cried Barbara, when she was alone with Mr. Carlyle. “I can’t think why she wears those blue spectacles; it cannot be for her sight, and they are very disfiguring.”
“She puts me in mind of—of——” began Mr. Carlyle, in a dreamy tone.
“Her face, I mean,” he said, still dreaming.
“So little can be seen of it,” resumed Mrs. Carlyle. “Of whom does she put you in mind?”
“I don’t know. Nobody in particular,” returned he, rousing himself. “Let us have tea in, Barbara.”
THE YEARNING OF A BREAKING HEART.
At her bedroom door, the next morning, stood Lady Isabel, listening whether the coast was clear ere she descended to the gray parlor, for she had a shrinking dread of encountering Mr. Carlyle. When he was glancing narrowly at her face the previous evening she had felt the gaze, and it impressed upon her the dread of his recognition. Not only that; he was the husband of another; therefore it was not expedient that she should see too much of him, for he was far dearer to her than he had ever been.
Almost at the same moment there burst out of a remote room—the nursery—an upright, fair, noble boy, of some five years old, who began careering along on the corridor, astride upon a hearth-broom. She did not need to be told it was her boy, Archibald; his likeness to Mr. Carlyle would have proclaimed it, even if her heart had not. In an impulse of unrestrainable tenderness, she seized the child, as he was galloping past her, and carried him into her room, broom and all.
“You must let me make acquaintance with you,” she said to him by way of excuse. “I love little boys.”
Love! Down she sat upon a low chair, the child held upon her lap, kissing him passionately, and the tears raining from her eyes. She could not have helped the tears had it been to save her life; she could as little have helped the kisses. Lifting her eyes, there stood Wilson, who had entered without ceremony. A sick feeling came over Lady Isabel: she felt as if she had betrayed herself. All that could be done now, was to make the best of it; to offer some lame excuse. What possessed her thus to forget herself?
“He did so put me in remembrance of my own children,” she said to Wilson, gulping down her emotion, and hiding her tears in the best manner she could; whilst the astonished Archibald, released now, stood with his finger in his mouth and stared at her spectacles, his great blue eyes opened to their utmost width. “When we have lost children of our own, we are apt to love fondly all we come near.”