Ah, reader! You will say that this is a romance of fiction, and a far-fetched one, but it is verily and indeed true. Mr. Carlyle had taken it with him to East Lynne, that morning, with its destined purpose.
Lady Isabel strained her eyes, and gazed at the note—gazed and gazed again. Where could it have come from? What had brought it there? Suddenly the undoubted truth flashed upon her; Mr. Carlyle had left it in her hand.
Her cheeks burned, her fingers trembled, her angry spirit rose up in arms. In that first moment of discovery, she was ready to resent it as an insult; but when she came to remember the sober facts of the last few days, her anger subsided into admiration of his wondrous kindness. Did he not know that she was without a home to call her own, without money—absolutely without money, save what would be given her in charity?
When Lord Mount Severn reached London, and the hotel which the Vanes were in the habit of using, the first object his eyes lighted on was his own wife, whom he had believed to be safe at Castle Marling. He inquired the cause.
Lady Mount Severn gave herself little trouble to explain. She had been up a day or two—could order her mourning so much better in person—and William did not seem well, so she bought him up for a change.
“I am sorry you came to town, Emma,” remarked the earl, after listening. “Isabel is gone to-day to Castle Marling.”
Lady Mount Severn quickly lifted her head, “What’s she gone there for?”
“It is the most disgraceful piece of business altogether,” returned the earl, without replying to the immediate question. “Mount Severn has died, worse than a beggar, and there’s not a shilling for Isabel.”
“It never was expected there would be much.”
“But there’s nothing—not a penny; nothing for her own personal expenses. I gave her a pound or two to-day, for she was completely destitute!”
The countess opened her eyes. “Where will she live? What will become of her?”
“She must live with us. She—”
“With us!” interrupted Lady Mount Severn, her voice almost reaching a scream. “That she never shall.”
“She must, Emma. There is nowhere else for her to live. I have been obliged to decide it so; and she is gone, as I tell you, to Castle Marling to-day.”
Lady Mount Severn grew pale with anger. She rose from her seat and confronted her husband, the table being between them. “Listen, Raymond; I will not have Isabel Vane under my roof. I hate her. How could you be cajoled into sanctioning such a thing?”
“I was not cajoled, and my sanction was not asked,” he mildly replied. “I proposed it. Where else is she to be?”
“I don’t care where,” was the obstinate retort. “Never with us.”
“She is at Castle Marling now—gone to it as her home,” resumed the earl; “and even you, when you return, will scarcely venture to turn her out again into the road, or to the workhouse. She will not trouble you long,” carelessly continued the earl. “One so lovely as Isabel will be sure to marry early; and she appears as gentle and sweet-tempered a girl as I ever saw; so whence can arise your dislike to her, I don’t pretend to guess. Many a man will be ready to forget her want of fortune for the sake of her face.”