“She shall marry the first who asks her,” snapped the angry lady; “I’ll take care of that.”
LIFE AT CASTLE MARLING.
Isabel had been in her new home about ten days, when Lord and Lady Mount Severn arrived at Castle Marling, which was not a castle, you may as well be told, but only the name of a town, nearly contiguous to which was their residence, a small estate. Lord Mount Severn welcomed Isabel; Lady Mount Severn also, after a fashion; but her manner was so repellant, so insolently patronizing, that it brought the indignant crimson to the cheeks of Lady Isabel. And if this was the case at the first meeting, what do you suppose it must have been as time went on? Galling slights, petty vexations, chilling annoyances were put upon her, trying her powers of endurance to the very length of their tether; she would wring her hands when alone, and passionately wish that she could find another refuge.
The earl and countess had two children, both boys, and in February the younger one, always a delicate child, died. This somewhat altered their plans. Instead of proceeding to London after Easter, as had been decided upon, they would not go till May. The earl had passed part of the winter at Mount Severn, looking after the repairs and renovations that were being made there. In March he went to Paris, full of grief for the loss of his boy—far greater grief than was experienced by Lady Mount Severn.
April approached and with it Easter. To the unconcealed dismay of Lady Mount Severn, her grandmother, Mrs. Levison, wrote her word that she required change, and should pass Easter with her at Castle Marling. Lady Mount Severn would have given her diamonds to have got out of it, but there was no escape—diamonds that were once Isabel’s—at least, that Isabel had worn. On the Monday in Passion Week the old lady arrived, and with her Francis Levison. They had no other guests. Things went on pretty smoothly till Good Friday.
On Good Friday afternoon, Isabel strolled out with little William Vane; Captain Levison joined them, and they never came in till nearly dinner-time, when the three entered together, Lady Mount Severn doing penance all the time, and nursing her rage against Isabel, for Mrs. Levison kept her indoors. There was barely time to dress for dinner, and Isabel went straight to her room. Her dress was off, her dressing-gown on. Marvel was busy with her hair, and William chattering at her knee, when the door was flung open, and my lady entered.
“Where have you been?” demanded she, shaking with passion. Isabel knew the signs.
“Strolling about in the shrubberies and grounds,” answered Isabel.
“How dare you so disgrace yourself!”
“I do not understand you,” said Isabel, her heart beginning to beat unpleasantly. “Marvel, you are pulling my hair.”
When women liable to intemperate fits of passion give the reins to them, they neither know nor care what they say. Lady Mount Severn broke into a torrent of reproach and abuses, most degrading and unjustifiable.