“Well done, Barbara!” was the salutation of Miss Carlyle. “The justice might well call out—you are finer than a sunbeam!”
“Not half so fine as many another in the church will be to-day,” responded Barbara, as she lifted her shy blue eyes and blushing face to answer the greetings of Mr. Carlyle. “West Lynne seems bent on out-dressing the Lady Isabel. You should have been at the milliner’s yesterday morning, Miss Carlyle.”
“Is all the finery coming out to-day?” gravely inquired Mr. Carlyle, as Barbara turned with them toward the church, and he walked by her side and his sister’s, for he had an objection, almost invincible as a Frenchman’s, to give his arm to two ladies.
“Of course,” replied Barbara. “First impression is everything, you know, and the earl and his daughter will be coming to church.”
“Suppose she should not be in peacock’s plumes?” cried Miss Carlyle, with an imperturbable face.
“Oh! But she is sure to be—if you mean richly dressed,” cried Barbara, hastily.
“Or, suppose they should not come to church?” laughed Mr. Carlyle. “What a disappointment to the bonnets and feathers!”
“After all, Barbara, what are they to us, or we to them?” resumed Miss Carlyle. “We may never meet. We insignificant West Lynne gentry shall not obtrude ourselves into East Lynne. It would scarcely be fitting—or be deemed so by the earl and Lady Isabel.”
“That’s just how papa went on,” grumbled Barbara. “He caught sight of this bonnet yesterday; and when, by way of excuse, I said I had it to call on them, he asked whether I thought the obscure West Lynne families would venture to thrust their calls on Lord Mount Severn, as though they were of the county aristocracy. It was the feather that put him out.”
“It is a very long one,” remarked Miss Carlyle, grimly surveying it.
Barbara was to sit in the Carlyle pew that day, for she thought the farther she was from the justice the better; there was no knowing but he might take a sly revengeful cut at the feather in the middle of service, and so dock its beauty. Scarcely were they seated when some strangers came quietly up the aisle—a gentleman who limped as he walked, with a furrowed brow and gray hair; and a young lady. Barbara looked round with eagerness, but looked away again; they could not be the expected strangers, the young lady’s dress was too plain—a clear-looking muslin dress for a hot summer’s day. But the old beadle in his many-caped coat, was walking before them sideways with his marshalling baton, and he marshaled them into the East Lynne pew, unoccupied for so many years.
“Who in the world can they be?” whispered Barbara to Miss Carlyle. “That old stupid is always making a mistake and putting people into the wrong places.”
“The earl and Lady Isabel.”
The color flushed into Barbara’s face, and she stared at Miss Corny. “Why, she has no silks, and no feathers, and no anything!” cried Barbara. “She’s plainer than anybody in the church!”