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"I never knew a moment's peace after the mad act I was guilty of, in quitting you. Not an hour had I departed, when my repentance set in; and, even then, I would have retracted and come back, but I did not know how. See what it has done for me!" tossing up her grey hair, holding out her attenuated wrists. "Oh, forgive, forgive me! My sin was great, but my punishment was greater. It has been as one long scene of mortal agony."
"Why did you go?" asked Mr. Carlyle.
"Did you not know?"
"No. It has always been a mystery to me."
"I went, out of love for you."
A shade of disdain crossed his lips. Was she equivocating to him on her death-bed?
"Do not look in that way," she panted. "My strength is nearly gone; you must perceive that it is; and I do not, perhaps, express myself clearly. I loved you dearly, and I grew suspicious of you. I thought you were false and deceitful to me; that your love was all given to another; and, in my sore jealousy, I listened to the temptings of that bad man, who whispered to me of revenge. It was not so, was it ?"
Mr. Carlyle had regained his calmness; outwardly, at any rate. stood by the side of the bed, looking down upon her, his arms crossed upon his chest, and his noble form raised to its full height.
"Was it so ?" she feverishly repeated.
"Can you ask it?-knowing me as you did then; as you must have known me since? I never was false to you, in thought, in word, or in deed."
66 Oh, Archibald, I was mad, I was mad! I could not have done it in anything but madness. Surely you will forget and forgive!" "I cannot forget. I have already forgiven."
Try and forget the dreadful time that has passed since that night!" she continued, the tears falling on her cheeks, as she held up to him one of her poor hot hands. "Let your thoughts go back to the days when you first knew me; when I was here, Isabel Vane, a happy girl with my father. At times I have lost myself in a moment's happiness in thinking of it. Do you remember how you grew to love me, though you thought you might not tell it me?-and how gentle you were with me when papa died?-and the hundred-pound note? Do you remember coming to Castle Marling, and my promising to be your wife?-and the first kiss you left upon my lips? And oh, Archibald ! do you remember the loving days, after I was your wife?-how happy we were with each other?-do you remember, when Lucy was born we thought I should have died; and your joy, your thankfulness that God restored me? Do you remember
all this ?"
Ay. He did remember it. He took that poor hand into his, and unconsciously played with its wasted fingers.
"Have you any reproach to cast to me?" he gently said, bending his head a little.
"Reproach to you! To you, who must be almost without reproach in the sight of Heaven! you, who were ever loving to me, ever anxious for my welfare! When I think of what you were, and are, and how I requited you, I could sink into the earth with remorse and shame. My
own sin I have surely expiated: I cannot expiate the shame I entailed upon you, and upon our children."
Never. He felt it as keenly now, as he had felt it then.
"Think what it has been for me!" she resumed; and he was obliged to bend his ear to catch her gradually weakening tones. "To live in this house with your wife; to see your love for her; to watch the envied caresses that once were mine! I never loved you so passionately as I have done since I lost you. Think what it was, to watch William's decaying strength; to be alone with you in his dying hour, and not be able to say, He is my child as well as yours! When he lay dead, and the news went forth to the household, it was her petty grief you soothed; not mine, his mother's. God alone knows how I have lived through it all it has been to me as the bitterness of death."
"Why did you come back ?" was the response of Mr. Carlyle.
"I have told you. I could not live, wanting you and my children." "It was wrong. Wrong in all ways."
"Wickedly wrong. You cannot think worse of it than I have done. But the consequences and the punishment would be mine alone, so long as I guarded against discovery. I never thought to stop here to die: but death seems to have come on to me with a leap, like it came to my mother."
A pause of laboured breathing. Mr. Carlyle did not interrupt it.
"All wrong, all wrong," she resumed: "this interview, with you, amongst the rest. And yet I hardly know: it cannot hurt the new ties you have formed, for I am as one dead now to this world, hovering on the brink of the next. But you were my husband, Archibald; and, the last few days, I have longed for your forgiveness with a fevered longing. Oh! that the past could be blotted out! that I could wake up and find it but a hideous dream; that I were here, as in the old days, in health and happiness, your ever-loving wife! Do you wish it?—that the dark past had never had place?"
She put the question in a sharp, eager tone, gazing up to him with an anxious gaze, as though the answer must be one of life or death.
"For your sake I wish it." Calm enough were the words spoken; and her eyes fell again, and a deep sigh came forth.
"I am going to William. But Lucy and Archibald will be left. Oh, do you be ever kind to them! I pray you, visit not their mother's sin upon their heads! do not, in your love for your later children, lose your
love for them!"
"Have you seen anything in my conduct that could give rise to fears of this?" he returned, reproach mingling in his sad tone. "The children are dear to me as you once were."
"As I once was. Ay! And as I might have been now." "Indeed you might," he answered, with emotion. not mine."
"The fault was
“Archibald, I am on the very threshold of the next world. Will you not bless me-will you not say a word of love to me before I pass it? Let what I am, I say, be blotted for the moment from your memory: think of me, if you can, as the innocent, timid child, whom you made your wife. Only a word of love! my heart is breaking for it." He leaned over her, he pushed aside the hair from her brow with his
gentle hand, his tears dropping on her face. when you left me, Isabel," he whispered. take you to His Rest in Heaven! May He fully and freely forgive you!"
"You nearly broke mine "May God bless you, and so deal with me, as I now
What was he about to do? Lower and lower bent he his head, until his breath nearly mingled with hers. To kiss her? He best knew. But, suddenly, his face grew red with a scarlet flush, and he lifted it again. Did the form of one, then in a felon's cell at Lynneborough, thrust itself before him? or that of his absent and unconscious wife?
"To His Rest in Heaven," she murmured, in the hollow tones of the departing. "Yes, yes I know that God has forgiven me. Oh, what a struggle it has been! Nothing but bad feelings; rebellion, and sorrow, and repining; for a long while after I came back here: but Jesus prayed for me and helped me; and you know how merciful he is to the weary and heavy-laden. We shall meet again, Archibald, and live together for ever and for ever. But for that great hope, I could hardly die. William said mamma would be on the banks of the river, looking out for him but it is William who is looking for me."
Mr. Carlyle released one of his hands; she had taken them both; and, with his own handkerchief, wiped the death-dew from her forehead.
"It is no sin to anticipate it, Archibald. For there will be no marrying or giving in marriage in heaven: Christ has said so. Though we do not know how it will be. My sin will be remembered no more there, and we shall be together with our children for ever and for ever. Keep a little corner in your heart for your poor lost Isabel.”
"Yes, yes," he whispered.
"Are you leaving me ?" she uttered, in a wild tone of pain.
"You are growing faint, I perceive. I must call assistance."
"Farewell, then; farewell, until eternity," she sighed, the tears rain
ing from her eyes. "It is death, I think; not faintness.
hard to part! Farewell, farewell, my once dear husband!"
Oh! but it is
She rose her head from the pillow, excitement giving her strength; she clung to his arm; she lifted her face, in its sad yearning. Mr. Carlyle laid her tenderly down again, and suffered his wet cheek to rest upon hers.
"Until eternity," he whispered.
She followed him with her eyes as he retreated, and watched him from the room; then turned her face to the wall. "It is over. Only God
Mr. Carlyle took an instant's counsel with himself, stopping at the head of the stairs to do it. Joyce, in obedience to a sign from him, had already gone into the sick-chamber: his sister was standing at its door. "Cornelia."
She followed him down into the dining-room.
"You will remain here to-night? With her."
"Do you suppose I shouldn't ?" crossly responded Miss Corny. "Where are you off to now?"
"To the telegraph office, at present. To send for Lord Mount Severn."
"What good can he do?"
"None. But I shall send for him."
"Can't one of the servants go just as well as you? You have not finished your dinner: hardly begun it."
He turned his eyes on the dinner-table, in a mechanical sort of way, his mind wholly preoccupied, made some remark in answer, which Miss Corny did not catch, and went out.
On his return his sister met him in the hall, drew him inside the nearest room, and closed the door. Lady Isabel was dead. Had been dead about ten minutes.
"She never spoke after you left her, Archibald. There was a slight struggle at the last, a fighting for breath, otherwise she went off quite peacefully. I felt sure, when I first saw her this afternoon, that she could not last till midnight."
I. M. V.
LORD MOUNT SEVERN, wondering greatly what the urgent summons could be for, lost no time in obeying it, and was at East Lynne the following morning, early. Mr. Carlyle had his carriage at the station; his close carriage; and, shut up in that, he made the communication to the earl as they drove to East Lynne.
The earl could with difficulty believe it. Never had he been so sutterly astonihed. At first he really could not understand the tale.
"Did she did she-come back to your house to die ?" he blundered. "You never took her in? I don't understand."
Mr. Carlyle explained further. And the earl at length understood. But he could not recover his perplexed astonishment.
"What a mad act!-to come back here! Madame Vine! How on earth did she escape detection?"
"She did escape it," said Mr. Carlyle. "The strange likeness Madame Vine possessed to my first wife did often strike me as being marvellous, but I never suspected the truth. It was a likeness, and not a likeness;
for every part of her face and form was changed. Except her eyes: and those I never saw but through those disguising glasses.'
The earl wiped his hot face. The news had ruffled him in no measured degree. He felt angry with Isabel, dead though she was, and thankful that Mrs. Carlyle was away.
"Will you see her?" whispered Mr. Carlyle, as they entered the house.
They went up to the death-chamber, Mr. Carlyle procuring the key. It was the only time that he entered it. Very peaceful she looked now, her pale features so composed under her white cap and bands. Miss Carlyle and Joyce had done all that was necessary: nobody else had been suffered to approach her. Lord Mount Severn leaned over her, tracing the former looks of Isabel: and the likeness grew upon him in a wonderful degree.
"What did she die of?" he asked.
"She said, a broken heart."
"Ah!" said the earl.
"The wonder is, that it did not break before. Poor thing! poor Isabel!" he added, touching her hand, "how she
marred her own happiness! Carlyle, I suppose this is your weddingring ?"
Mr. Carlyle cast his eyes upon the ring. "Very probably."
"To think of her never having discarded it!" remarked the earl, releasing the cold hand. "Well, I can hardly believe the tale now."
He turned and quitted the room as he spoke. Mr. Carlyle looked steadfastly at the dead face for a minute or two, his fingers touching the forehead but, what his thoughts or feelings may have been, none can tell. Then he replaced the sheet over the face, and followed the earl. They descended in silence to the breakfast-room. Miss Carlyle was seated at the table waiting for them. "Where could all your eyes have been?" exclaimed the earl to her, after a few sentences, referring to the event, had passed.
"Just where yours would have been," retorted Miss Corny, with a touch of her old temper. "You saw Madame Vine as well as we did."
"But not continuously. Only two or three times in all. And I do not remember ever to have seen her without her bonnet and veil. That Carlyle should not have recognised her is almost beyond belief."
"It seems so, to speak of it," said Miss Corny; "but facts are facts. She was young, gay, active, when she left here, upright as a dart, her dark hair drawn from her open brow and flowing on her neck, her cheeks like crimson paint, her face altogether beautiful. Madame Vine arrived here a pale, stooping woman, lame of one leg, shorter than Lady Isabel -and her figure stuffed out under those sacks of jackets. Not a bit, scarcely, of her forehead to be seen, for grey velvet and grey bands of hair; her head smothered under a close cap, large blue double spectacles hiding the eyes and their sides, and the throat tied up; the chin partially. The mouth was entirely altered in its character, and that upward scar, always so conspicuous, made it almost ugly. Then she had lost some of her front teeth, you know, and she lisped when she spoke. Take her for all in all," summed up Miss Carlyle, "she looked no more like the Isabel who went away from here than I look like Adam. Just get your dearest friend damaged and disguised as she was, my lord, and see if you'd recognise him."
The observation came home to Lord Mount Severn. A gentleman whom he knew well, had been so altered by a fearful accident, that little resemblance could be traced to his former self. In fact, his own family could not recognise him and he used no artificial disguises. It was a case in point: and-reader!—I assure you that it is a true one.
"It was the disguise that we ought to have suspected," quietly observed Mr. Carlyle. "The likeness was not sufficiently striking to cause suspicion."
"But she turned the house from that scent as soon as she came into it," struck in Miss Corny. "Telling of the neuralgic pains' that afflicted her head and face, rendering the guarding them from exposure necessary. Remember, Lord Mount Severn, that the Ducies had been with her in Germany, and had never suspected her. Remember also another thing: that, however great a likeness we may have detected, we could not and did not speak of it, one to another. Lady Isabel's name is never so much as whispered amongst us."
Sept.-VOL. CXXIII. NO. CCCCLXXXIX.