“How did she see it?” snapped Miss Carlyle, her equanimity upset by the sound of the name. “I didn’t see her, and I was present.”
“She was coming here with a message from Mrs. Latimer to the governess.”
“What did she go into hysterics for?” again snapped Miss Carlyle.
“It upset her so, she said,” returned Joyce.
“It wouldn’t have done her harm had they ducked her too,” was the angry response.
Joyce was silent. To contradict Miss Corny brought triumph to nobody. And she was conscious, in her innermost heart, that Afy merited a little wholesome correction, not perhaps to the extent of a ducking.
“Joyce,” resumed Miss Carlyle, abruptly changing the subject, “who does the governess put you in mind of?”
“Ma’am?” repeated Joyce, in some surprise, as it appeared. “The governess? Do you mean Madame Vine?”
“Do I mean you, or do I mean me? Are we governesses?” irascibly cried Miss Corny. “Who should I mean, but Madame Vine?”
She turned herself round from the looking-glass, and gazed full in Joyce’s face, waiting for the answer. Joyce lowered her voice as she gave it.
“There are times when she puts me in mind of my late lady both in her face and manner. But I have never said so, ma’am; for you know Lady Isabel’s name must be an interdicted one in this house.”
“Have you seen her without her glasses?”
“No; never,” said Joyce.
“I did to-day,” returned Miss Carlyle. “And I can tell you, Joyce, that I was confounded at the likeness. It is an extraordinary likeness. One would think it was a ghost of Lady Isabel Vane come into the world again.”
That evening after dinner, Miss Carlyle and Lord Mount Severn sat side by side on the same sofa, coffee cups in hand. Miss Carlyle turned to the earl.
“Was it a positively ascertained fact that Lady Isabel died?”
The earl stared with all his might; he thought it the strangest question that ever was asked him. “I scarcely understand you, Miss Carlyle. Died? Certainly she died.”
“When the result of the accident was communicated to you, you made inquiry yourself into its truth, its details, I believe?”
“It was my duty to do so. There was no one else to undertake it.”
“Did you ascertain positively, beyond all doubt, that she did die?”
“Of a surety I did. She died in the course of the same night. Terribly injured she was.”
A pause. Miss Carlyle was ruminating. But she returned to the charge, as if difficult to be convinced.
“You deem that there could be no possibility of an error? You are sure that she is dead?”
“I am as sure that she is dead as that we are living,” decisively replied the earl: and he spoke but according to his belief. “Wherefore should you be inquiring this?”
“A thought came over me—only to-day—to wonder whether she was really dead.”