THE NEW PEER—THE BANK-NOTE
A post-chaise was discerned thundering up the avenue that Sunday afternoon. It contained the new peer, Lord Mount Severn. The more direct line of rail from Castle Marling, brought him only to within five miles of West Lynne, and thence he had travelled in a hired chaise. Mr. Carlyle soon joined him, and almost at the same time Mr. Warburton arrived from London. Absence from town at the period of the earl’s death had prevented Mr. Warburton’s earlier attendance. Business was entered upon immediately.
The present earl knew that his predecessor had been an embarrassed man, but he had no conception of the extent of the evil; they had not been intimate, and rarely came in contact. As the various items of news were now detailed to him—the wasteful expenditure, the disastrous ruin, the total absence of provision for Isabel—he stood petrified and aghast. He was a tall stout man, of three-and-forty years, his nature honorable, his manner cold, and his countenance severe.
“It is the most iniquitous piece of business I ever heard of!” he exclaimed to the two lawyers. “Of all the reckless fools, Mount Severn must have been the worst!”
“Unpardonably improvident as regards his daughter,” was the assenting remark.
“Improvident! It must have been rank madness!” retorted the earl. “No man in his senses could leave a child to the mercy of the world, as he has left her. She has not a shilling—literally, not a shilling in her possession. I put the question to her, what money there was in the house when the earl died. Twenty or twenty-five pounds, she answered, which she had given to Mason, who required it for housekeeping purposes. If the girl wants a yard of ribbon for herself, she has not the pence to pay for it! Can you realize such a case to the mind?” continued the excited peer. “I will stake my veracity that such a one never occurred yet.”
“No money for her own personal wants!” exclaimed Mr. Carlyle.
“Not a halfpenny in the world. And there are no funds, and will be none, that I can see, for her to draw upon.”
“Quite correct, my lord,” nodded Mr. Warburton. “The entailed estates go to you, and what trifling matter of personal property may be left the creditors will take care of.”
“I understand East Lynne is yours,” cried the earl, turning sharply upon Mr. Carlyle; “Isabel has just said so.”
“It is,” was the reply. “It became mine last June. I believe his lordship kept the fact a close secret.”
“He was obliged to keep it a secret,” interposed Mr. Warburton, addressing Lord Mount Severn, “for not a stiver of the purchase money could he have fingered had it got wind. Except ourselves and Mr. Carlyle’s agents, the fact was made known to none.”
“It is strange, sir, that you could not urge the claims of his child upon the earl,” rejoined the new peer to Mr. Warburton, his tone one of harsh reproof. “You were in his confidence; you knew the state of his affairs; it was in your line of duty to do it.”