“As it was,” said the earl.
“Country solicitors have married peers’ daughters before now,” remarked Mr. Carlyle. “I only add another to the list.”
“But you cannot keep her as a peer’s daughter, I presume?”
“East Lynne will be her home. Our establishment will be small and quiet, as compared with her father’s. I explained to Isabel how quiet at the first, and she might have retracted had she wished. I explained also in full to Lady Mount Severn. East Lynne will descend to our eldest son, should we have children. My profession is most lucrative, my income good; were I to die to-morrow, Isabel would enjoy East Lynne and about three thousand pounds per annum. I gave these details in the letter, which appears to have miscarried.”
The earl made no immediate reply; he was absorbed in thought.
“Your lordship perceives, I hope, that there has been nothing ‘clandestine’ in my conduct to Lady Isabel.”
Lord Mount Severn held out his hand. “I refused my hand when you came in, Mr. Carlyle, as you may have observed, perhaps you will refuse yours now, though I should be proud to shake it. When I find myself in the wrong, I am not above acknowledging the fact; and I must state my opinion that you have behaved most kindly and honorably.”
Mr. Carlyle smiled and put his hand into the earl’s. The latter retained it, while he spoke in a whisper.
“Of course I cannot be ignorant that, in speaking of Isabel’s ill-treatment, you alluded to my wife. Has it transpired beyond yourselves?”
“You may be sure that neither Isabel nor myself would mention it; we shall dismiss it from among our reminiscences. Let it be as though you had never heard it; it is past and done with.”
“Isabel,” said the earl, as he was departing that evening, for he remained to spend the day with them, “I came here this morning almost prepared to strike your husband, and I go away honoring him. Be a good and faithful wife to him, for he deserves it.”
“Of course I shall,” she answered, in surprise.
Lord Mount Severn steamed on to Castle Marling, and there he had a stormy interview with his wife—so stormy that the sounds penetrated to the ears of the domestics. He left again the same day, in anger, and proceeded to Mount Severn.
“He will have time to cool down, before we meet in London,” was the comment of my lady.
Miss Carlyle, having resolved upon her course, quitted her own house, and removed to East Lynne with Peter and her handmaidens. In spite of Mr. Dill’s grieved remonstrances, she discharged the servants whom Mr. Carlyle had engaged, all save one man.
On a Friday night, about a month after the wedding, Mr. Carlyle and his wife came home. They were expected, and Miss Carlyle went through the hall to receive them, and stood on the upper steps, between the pillars of the portico. An elegant chariot with four post-horses was drawing up. Miss Carlyle compressed her lips as she scanned it. She was attired in a handsome dark silk dress and a new cap; her anger had had time to cool down in the last month, and her strong common sense told her that the wiser plan would be to make the best of it. Mr. Carlyle came up the steps with Isabel.