MISS CARLYLE—ISABEL UNHAPPY.
Another year came in. Isabel would have been altogether happy but for Miss Carlyle; that lady still inflicted her presence upon East Lynne, and made it the bane of its household. She deferred outwardly to Lady Isabel as the mistress; but the real mistress was herself. Isabel was little more than an automaton. Her impulses were checked, her wishes frustrated, her actions tacitly condemned by the imperiously-willed Miss Carlyle. Poor Isabel, with her refined manners and her timid and sensitive temperament, had no chance against the strong-minded woman, and she was in a state of galling subjection in her own house.
Not a day passed but Miss Carlyle, by dint of hints and innuendoes, contrived to impress upon Lady Isabel the unfortunate blow to his own interests that Mr. Carlyle’s marriage had been, the ruinous expense she had entailed upon the family. It struck a complete chill to Isabel’s heart, and she became painfully impressed with the incubus she must be to Mr. Carlyle—so far as his pocket was concerned. Lord Mount Severn, with his little son, had paid them a short visit at Christmas and Isabel had asked him, apparently with unconcern, whether Mr. Carlyle had put himself very much out to the way to marry her; whether it had entailed on him an expense and a style of living he would not otherwise have deemed himself justified in affording. Lord Mount Severn’s reply was an unfortunate one: his opinion was, that it had, he said; and that Isabel ought to feel grateful to him for his generosity. She sighed as she listened, and from thenceforth determined to put up with Miss Carlyle.
More timid and sensitive by nature than many would believe or can imagine, reared in seclusion more simply and quietly than falls to the general lot of peers’ daughters, completely inexperienced, Isabel was unfit to battle with the world—totally unfit to battle with Miss Carlyle. The penniless state in which she was left at her father’s death, the want of a home save that accorded her at Castle Marling, even the hundred-pound note left in her hand by Mr. Carlyle, all had imbued her with a deep consciousness of humiliation, and, far from rebelling at or despising the small establishment, comparatively speaking, provided for her by Mr. Carlyle, she felt thankful to him for it. But to be told continuously that this was more than he could afford, that she was in fact a blight upon his prospects, was enough to turn her heart to bitterness. Oh, that she had had the courage to speak out openly to her husband, that he might, by a single word of earnest love and assurance, have taken the weight from her heart, and rejoiced it with the truth—that all these miserable complaints were but the phantoms of his narrow-minded sister! But Isabel never did; when Miss Corny lapsed into her grumbling mood, she would hear in silence, or gently bend her aching forehead in her hands, never retorting.