“Do you make her caps also?” demurely asked Lady Isabel.
Joyce smiled. “Yes, my lady; but I am allowed to make them only according to her own pattern.”
“Joyce, if you become my maid, you must wear smarter caps yourself. I do not wish you to be fine like Marvel.”
“Oh, my lady! I shall never be fine,” shuddered Joyce. And Joyce believed she had cause to shudder at finery.
She was about to speak further, when a knock came to the dressing-room door. Joyce went to open it, and saw one of the housemaids, a girl who had recently been engaged, a native of West Lynne. Isabel heard the colloquy,—
“Is my lady there?”
“Some visitors. Pete ordered me to come and tell you. I say, Joyce, it’s the Hares. And she’s with them. I watched her get out of the carriage.”
“Who?” sharply returned Joyce.
“Why, Miss Barbara. Only fancy her coming to pay the wedding visit here. My lady had better take care that she don’t get a bowl of poison mixed for her. Master’s out or else I’d have given a shilling to see the interview between the three.”
Joyce sent the girl away, shut the door, and turned to her mistress, quite unconscious that the half-whispered conversation had been audible.
“Some visitors are in the drawing-room, my lady, Susan says. Mr. Justice Hare and Mrs. Hare and Miss Barbara.”
Isabel descended, her mind full of the mysterious words spoken by Susan. The justice was in a new flaxen wig, obstinate-looking and pompous; Mrs. Hare, pale, delicate, and lady-like; Barbara beautiful; such was the impression they made upon Isabel.
They paid rather a long visit, Isabel quite falling in love with the gentle and suffering Mrs. Hare, and had risen to leave when Miss Carlyle entered. She wished them to remain longer—had something, she said, to show Barbara. The justice declined; he had a brother justice coming to dine with him at five, and it was then half-past four. Barbara might stop if she liked.
Barbara’s faced turned crimson; but nevertheless she accepted the invitation, immediately proffered her by Miss Carlyle to remain at East Lynne for the rest of the day.
Dinner time approached, and Isabel went to dress for it. Joyce was waiting, and entered upon the subject of the service.
“My lady, I have spoken to Miss Carlyle, and she is willing that I should be transferred to you, but she says I ought first to acquaint you with certain unpleasant facts in my history, and the same thought had occurred to me. Miss Carlyle is not over pleasant in manner, my lady, but she is very upright and just.”
“What facts?” asked Lady Isabel, sitting down to have her hair brushed.
“My lady, I’ll tell you as shortly as it can. My father was a clerk in Mr. Carlyle’s office—of course I mean the late Mr. Carlyle. My mother died when I was eight years old, and my father afterwards married again, a sister of Mr. Kane’s wife—”