“Handsome is not the word for beauty such as hers,” was Mr. Carlyle’s reply, in a low, warm tone. “I never saw a face half so beautiful.”
“She caused quite a sensation at the drawing-room last week—as I hear. This everlasting gout kept me indoors all day. And she is as good as she is beautiful.”
The earl was not partial. Lady Isabel was wondrously gifted by nature, not only in mind and person but in heart. She was as little like a fashionable young lady as it was well possible to be, partly because she had hitherto been secluded from the great world, partly from the care bestowed upon her training. During the lifetime of her mother, she had lived occasionally at East Lynne, but mostly at a larger seat of the earl’s in Wales, Mount Severn; since her mother’s death, she had remained entirely at Mount Severn, under the charge of a judicious governess, a very small establishment being kept for them, and the earl paying them impromptu and flying visits. Generous and benevolent she was, timid and sensitive to a degree, gentle, and considerate to all. Do not cavil at her being thus praised—admire and love her whilst you may, she is worthy of it now, in her innocent girlhood; the time will come when such praise would be misplaced. Could the fate that was to overtake his child have been foreseen by the earl, he would have struck her down to death, in his love, as she stood before him, rather than suffer her to enter upon it.
The broken cross.
Lady Isabel’s carriage continued its way, and deposited her at the residence of Mrs. Levison. Mrs. Levison was nearly eighty years of age, and very severe in speech and manner, or, as Mrs. Vane expressed it, “crabbed.” She looked the image of impatience when Isabel entered, with her cap pushed all awry, and pulling at the black satin gown, for Mrs. Vane had kept her waiting dinner, and Isabel was keeping her from her tea; and that does not agree with the aged, with their health or with their temper.
“I fear I am late,” exclaimed Lady Isabel, as she advanced to Mrs. Levison; “but a gentleman dined with papa to-day, and it made us rather longer at table.”
“You are twenty-five minutes behind your time,” cried the old lady sharply, “and I want my tea. Emma, order it in.”
Mrs. Vane rang the bell, and did as she was bid. She was a little woman of six-and-twenty, very plain in face, but elegant in figure, very accomplished, and vain to her fingers’ ends. Her mother, who was dead, had been Mrs. Levison’s daughter, and her husband, Raymond Vane, was presumptive heir to the earldom of Mount Severn.
“Won’t you take that tippet off, child?” asked Mrs. Levison, who knew nothing of the new-fashioned names for such articles, mantles, burnous, and all the string of them; and Isabel threw it off and sat down by her.
“The tea is not made, grandmamma!” exclaimed Mrs. Vane, in an accent of astonishment, as the servant appeared with the tray and the silver urn. “You surely do not have it made in the room.”