“You are soon back,” cried Isabel, lifting her head. “May I go?”
He sat down and took her hand, shrinking from his task.
“I wish I could comfort you!” he exclaimed, in a tone of deep emotion.
Her face turned of a ghastly whiteness—as white as another’s not far away.
“Tell me the worst,” she breathed.
“I have nothing to tell you but the worst. May God support you, dear Lady Isabel!”
She turned to hide her face and its misery away from him, and a low wail of anguish broke from her, telling its own tale of despair.
The gray dawn of morning was breaking over the world, advent of another bustling day in life’s history; but the spirit of William Vane, Earl of Mount Severn, had soared away from it forever.
THE KEEPERS OF THE DEAD.
Events, between the death of Lord Mount Severn and his interment, occurred quickly; and to one of them the reader may feel inclined to demur, as believing that it could have no foundation in fact, in the actions of real life, but must be a wild creation of the author’s brain. He would be wrong. The author is no more fond of wild creations than the reader. The circumstance did take place.
The earl died on Friday morning at daylight. The news spread rapidly. It generally does on the death of a peer, if he has been of note, whether good or bad, in the world, and was known in London before the day was over—the consequence of which was, that by Saturday morning, early, a shoal of what the late peer would have called harpies, had arrived, to surround East Lynne. There were creditors of all sorts; for small sums and for great, for five or ten pounds up to five or ten thousand. Some were civil, some impatient, some loud and rough and angry; some came to put in executions on the effects, and some—to arrest the body!
This last act was accomplished cleverly. Two men, each with a remarkably hooked nose, stole away from the hubbub of the clamorous, and peering cunningly about, made their way to the side or tradesman’s entrance. A kitchen-maid answered their gentle appeal at the bell.
“Is the coffin come yet?” said they.
“Coffin—no!” was the girl’s reply. “The shell ain’t here yet. Mr. Jones didn’t promise that till nine o’clock, and it haven’t gone eight.”
“It won’t be long,” quoth they; “its on it’s road. We’ll go up to his lordship’s room, please, and be getting ready for it.”
The girl called the butler. “Two men from Jones’, the undertaker’s, sir,” announced she. “The shell’s coming on and they want to go up and make ready for it.”
The butler marshaled them upstairs himself, and introduced them to the room. “That will do,” said they, as he was about to enter with them, “we won’t trouble you to wait.” And closing the door upon the unsuspicious butler, they took up their station on either side of the dead, like a couple of ill-omened mutes. They had placed an arrest upon the corpse; it was theirs until their claim was satisfied, and they sat down to thus watch and secure it. Pleasant occupation!