Isabel did not like to come to more individual inquiries, lest she should prepare discomfort for Charlotte; but she easily satisfied herself that all was as right as convenient, and having occasion to write some orders to Charlotte, communicated the proposal, saying that all should be settled on her return.
There was wild work in the brain of the poor little Lady of Eschalott. No more stairs to scrub! No more mats to shake! No more hurrying after lost time, and an uneasy remembrance of undone duties! No more hardening of fingers, no more short-sleeved lilac, no more vulgarities from the cook! Ladylike dress, high wages, work among flowers and gauzes, reading to Miss Louisa, housekeeper’s-room society, rank as ‘Arnold’ or ‘Miss Arnold!’ How much more suitable to the betrothed of the Superintendent at San Benito! To be sure, she was aware that a serpent lurked among the flowers; but she had shown him a bit of her mind once, and she found she could take care of herself, and keep him at a distance.
With her eyes shut, she already beheld Jane Beckett meeting her, when seated at the back of a carriage, with a veil and a parasol, addressing her as a grand lady, and kissing and praising her when she found her little Charlotte after all.
THE TRUSTEES’ MEETING.
Know you not, master, to some kind
Their graces serve them but as enemies?
As You Like It.
‘My Lord,’ said Frampton, entering the library late one evening, in visible perturbation, and addressing himself to Fitzjocelyn, ’there is a person wishing to see you.’
‘What person at this time of night?’ said Louis.
‘In fact, my Lord,’ said the butler, hesitating, ’it is the young person at Mr. Frost’s.’
‘Something must be the matter!’ cried Louis, starting up.
’She would explain nothing to me, she insisted on seeing your lordship; and—in fact—she was in such a state of agitation that I left her with Mrs. Bowles.’
Louis lost no time in hurrying into the hall. Charlotte must have followed Frampton without his knowledge, for she was already there; and, springing with clasped hands towards Fitzjocelyn, she cried, sobbing, ‘My Lord, my Lord, come to master!’
‘Is he ill? or the children?’
‘No, no! but he’ll be off, he’ll be off like poor Tom!’ exclaimed Charlotte, between her gasps; ‘but I’ve locked it!’ and she waved a door-key, and seemed about to laugh hysterically.
‘Sit down, Charlotte,’ said Louis, authoritatively, bringing a chair. ’If you do not explain yourself reasonably at once, I shall call Mrs. Bowles, and desire her to put you to bed.’
She made an imploring gesture, sank trembling into the chair, and, after a few incoherent efforts, managed to speak—’If you would but come to master, my Lord—I know it is something bad.’