“Am I? Keep my good wishes, then, till the right man comes. I am beyond the pale myself, and dare not think of entering the happy state,” he added, in a pointed tone. “I have indulged dreams of it, like others, but I cannot afford to indulge them seriously; a poor man, with uncertain prospects can only play the butterfly, perhaps to his life’s end.”
He quitted the room as he spoke. It was impossible for Isabel to misunderstand him, but a feeling shot across her mind, for the first time, that he was false and heartless. One of the servants appeared, showing in Mr. Carlyle; nothing false or heartless about him. He closed the door, and approached her, but she did not speak, and her lips were white and trembling. Mr. Carlyle waited.
“Well,” he said at length, in a gentle tone, “have you decided to grant my prayer?”
“Yes. But—” She could not go on. What with one agitation and another, she had difficulty in conquering her emotion. “But—I was going to tell you——”
“Presently,” he whispered, leading her to a sofa, “we can both afford to wait now. Oh, Isabel, you have made me very happy!”
“I ought to tell you, I must tell you,” she began again, in the midst of hysterical tears. “Though I have said ‘yes’ to your proposal, I do not—yet——It has come upon me by surprise,” she stammered. “I like you very much; I esteem and respect you; but I do not love you.”
“I should wonder if you did. But you will let me earn your love, Isabel?”
“Oh, yes,” she earnestly answered. “I hope so.”
He drew her closer to him, bent his face, and took from her lips his first kiss. Isabel was passive; she supposed he had gained the right to do so. “My dearest! It is all I ask.”
A MOONLIGHT WALK.
The sensations of Mr. Carlyle, when he returned to West Lynne, were much like those of an Eton boy, who knows he has been in mischief, and dreads detection. Always open as to his own affairs—for he had nothing to conceal—he yet deemed it expedient to dissemble now. He felt that his sister would be bitter at the prospect of his marrying; instinct had taught him that, years past; and he believed that, of all women, the most objectionable to her would be Lady Isabel, for Miss Carlyle looked to the useful, and had neither sympathy nor admiration for the beautiful. He was not sure but she might be capable of endeavoring to frustrate the marriage should news of it reach her ears, and her indomitable will had caused many strange things in her life; therefore, you will not blame Mr. Carlyle for observing entire reticence as to his future plans.