But he was not. The gout came, and the gout went—not positively laying him up in bed, but rendering him unable to leave his rooms; and this continued until October, when he grew much better. The county families had been neighborly, calling on the invalid earl, and occasionally carrying off Lady Isabel, but his chief and constant visitor had been Mr. Carlyle. The earl had grown to like him in no common degree, and was disappointed if Mr. Carlyle spent an evening away from him, so that he became, as it were, quite domesticated with the earl and Isabel. “I am not quite equal to general society,” he observed to his daughter, “and it is considerate and kind of Carlyle to come here and cheer my loneliness.”
“Extremely kind,” said Isabel. “I like him very much, papa.”
“I don’t know anybody that I like half as well,” was the rejoinder of the earl.
Mr. Carlyle went up as usual the same evening, and, in the course of it, the earl asked Isabel to sing.
“I will if you wish, papa,” was the reply, “but the piano is so much out of tune that it is not pleasant to sing to it. Is there any one in West Lynne who could come here and tune my piano, Mr. Carlyle?” she added, turning to him.
“Certainly there is. Kane would do it. Shall I send him to-morrow?”
“I should be glad, if it would not be giving you too much trouble. Not that tuning will benefit it greatly, old thing that it is. Were we to be much at East Lynne, I should get papa to exchange it for a good one.”
Little thought Lady Isabel that that very piano was Mr. Carlyle’s, and not hers. The earl coughed, and exchanged a smile and a glance with his guest.
Mr. Kane was the organist of St. Jude’s church, a man of embarrassment and sorrow, who had long had a sore fight with the world. When he arrived at East Lynne, the following day, dispatched by Mr. Carlyle, Lady Isabel happened to be playing, and she stood by, and watched him begin his work. She was courteous and affable—she was so to every one—and the poor music master took courage to speak of his own affairs, and to prefer a humble request—that she and Lord Mount Severn would patronize and personally attend a concert he was about to give the following week. A scarlet blush came into his thin cheeks as he confessed that he was very poor, could scarcely live, and he was getting up this concert in his desperate need. If it succeeded well, he could then go on again; if not, he should be turned out of his home, and his furniture sold for the two years’ rent he owed—and he had seven children.
Isabel, all her sympathies awakened, sought the earl. “Oh, papa! I have to ask you the greatest favor. Will you grant it?”
“Ay, child, you don’t ask them often. What is it?”
“I want you to take me to a concert at West Lynne.”
The earl fell back in surprise, and stared at Isabel. “A concert at West Lynne!” he laughed. “To hear the rustics scraping the fiddle! My dear Isabel!”