Isabel felt sad to-night, and could only sing plaintive melodies, and then felt annoyed to think that she had failed to accomplish the purpose for which she came. But she was mistaken, these songs harmonized better with his present mood than more gay ones would have done.
Everard did not seem to gain strength. Isabel did her best to relieve the weariness of the long, long days: bringing the children into the library in the afternoon in order that he might share their amusement as she read aloud, and in various ways endeavored to lessen the monotony of the time. She would, perhaps, have acted more wisely had she not done so, for Isabel's was a very tender nature, and her gentle sympathy was very pleasant to Everard, but it only served to keep up the conflict between hope and fear, which was specially hurtful to him just now, when he needed perfect repose. But she thought Grace and her mother neglectful, and strove to make up for it. She often sent one of his young sisters to sit with him, but Rose was not allowed this privilege as often as the others, though on the whole she was best. Alice was too quiet, and Amy too apt to dwell on the perfections of her dear Miss Leicester, while Rose, her wild spirits subdued in the presence of her sick brother, but only sufficiently so to prevent her being oppressive, was just the cheerful companion that was good for him, her vigorous, healthy, happy-in-the-present style had a good effect. She was never at a loss for a topic for conversation, and her quick perception enabled her to detect at once when he grew tired, and then she would immediately employ herself in some quiet manner. She never sat contemplating him thoughtfully with eyes so like his own, as Alice too often did, as if she would read his very soul.
There did not appear to be much of "Mamma's good nursing" to which Rose had alluded. True it was a very gay season, and Mrs. Arlington's duties were very onerous. "You know, Everard," she said, "that Grace cannot go out alone, so that my time is so much occupied, that I fear I must appear very neglectful, but you understand it is not my wish to leave you so much," and Everard assented. But when he had a relapse, then she gave up society, and was all the attentive mother.
Louis was very skilful and had got him through a very severe illness, how severe they had not known till now. Mrs. Arlington sent the children into the country to be out of the way, and Isabel of course went with them.
Baby is quite well and happy, in fact all trace of her illness has passed away; but Natalie is worn and weary with tending her pet and bearing with Louis's hasty temper; she is pale and wan, but ever sweet tempered. "Hark, baby, there's papa." Izzie ran to meet him. He raised her in his arms and caressed her, scarcely noticing his fond little wife, who would have been made happy by a kiss or kind word. Tired and weary, but with a heart ache which was harder to bear, Natalie lay on the sofa, she was nothing to him, that was clear.
"Love papa, baby, love papa," he said. Little Izzie threw her arms round his neck and kissed him, then struggled to get away, "What's the matter," he asked. "Love mamma, Izzie want's to love mamma." She ran to her mother and repeated the action. Natalie caught the child in her arms, kissing her passionately. "Izzie, my darling Izzie," she murmured, while large tears fell on the child's face. Taking up her pinefore Izzie gravely wiped her own face, and then tenderly endeavored to dry her mother's tears, whispering don't cry mamma, Izzie don't like to see mamma cry," and she nestled to her mothers side, stroking her hair and kissing her repeatedly. Nothing would have induced Izzie to leave her mother then, even had Louis attempted it, but he did not, he stood by the mantlepiece watching them, with an unpleasant sensation, that baby had no power to dry those tears. He remained there a long time, his head resting on his hand, while Natalie and baby fell asleep together. From time to time a deep, deep sigh would escape from Natalie, which was not pleasant for Louis to hear. Sarah came for baby, but he desired her to leave her there. After a while, he thought it was not best that she should be there, and went softly to the sofa and took her away. As he did so, he remarked for the first time—aye, for the first time—the worn unhappy expression of Natalie's sweet face, which did not leave it even in sleep, and stooping over her gave the kiss and kind words to his sleeping wife, which he had withheld when she might have been made happy by them. He carried the child to its nurse, then went to his surgery, busy among his drugs he could not but think of Natalie. How pale she looked, how fragile she had become, how languid and listless she seemed of late, he had noticed that, and with no pleasant feeling did he remember, that he had done so, only to chide her for being lazy. How blind he had been, he saw plainly enough that she needed change of air, she should have it, she should pay his uncle Macdermott a visit, and take Izzie with her, but what should he do without Izzie, he asked himself, but with surprising magnanimity, he refused to consider that question. He had been a little inattentive perhaps lately and owed her some amends, so Izzie should go with her. He knew very well that Natalie would never go without her, and, truth to tell, he had his misgivings as to how Izzie would behave without her mother, so, as he really thought it needful, it was as much necessity as kindness, that brought him to this decision.
Natalie submitted passively to all their arrangements, but, on the evening previous to their departure, when Louis was enjoying a cigar in the library, after superintending all the preparations for the next day's start, Natalie came fondly to his side, and laying her hand softly upon his shoulder, said in a voice that trembled with emotion, "I cannot go, do not ask me, Louis, I cannot, will not leave you," and her head sank on her hand, as she again murmured "do not ask me."
"Pooh, Natie, what nonsense," he answered, laughing.
"No Louis, I cant, you promised that you would come for a week, so I will wait until you can take the week, and then we will go together, but not now alone, O, not alone," and she sobbed out on his shoulder the pent up anguish of her heart. He drew her to him with more kindness than he had shown for a long time.
"You will not send me away," she whispered.
"Now, Nattie dear, be reasonable, you know you are not strong, and I want you to get your roses back, and a week would be too short a time to benefit you much, so in four weeks time I will come for two, that will do, won't it."
She shook her head, "I have a terrible dread of the journey, no Louis, I will not go, I will wait till you can come with me."
Louis was not one to submit to opposition, his brow grew dark and the fierce light was kindling in his eye. She should go, once for all he would not brook this resistance. After he had decided to let Izzie go to please her, and save all fuss, was this to be the end of it? no. "It is too late to say that now," he said, "a few weeks will soon pass, and this idle fear is childish."
"I should have spoken before, only I did so wish to please you if I could."
"No, Natalie," he said, sternly, "you do not care whether I am pleased or not, you think of nothing but your own foolish fancies."
"Don't be cross, Louis, it is because I love you so much that I want to stay, don't send me away, O Louis, don't."
"Now, Natalie, you are enough to provoke a saint," he said, angrily, "cross, indeed, no wonder if I am, don't let me hear another word about it, you go to-morrow."
Natalie saw that any more opposition would inevitably cause one of those fierce bursts of passion of which she ever stood in mortal dread; she glanced at his darkened countenance and was silent, but her heart was heavy.
"Come, we will take a turn on the lawn the moon is so bright," he said. They walked in the moonlight, those two, husband and wife not three years, but the happy brightness had faded out of her face, and the girl not twenty walked by his side with a weary step, as if life were almost a burden. She resolutely checked her tears, and silently paced the lawn, while her thoughts wandered back to the beautiful home in the south of France, where she first met the man who had proved so different a partner to what, in her love and trust, she had fondly imagined, and then she wished so fervently that she might even yet be to him all that she had hoped. But he did not want her with him, he would be glad when she was away, oh, he did not love her, or he would not thus cruelly insist upon her going. She had it in her heart even yet to throw herself into his arms and entreat him to let her stay, but she felt that it would be useless, besides she dare not offer further resistance to his will. She looked up into his face and knew she dare not.
His eyes were fixed upon her, "why Natalie," he said, laughing, "anyone would think I was an ogre to see your countenance." But it was not a pleasant laugh. Then the hardest thought that she ever had towards him, came to her mind, and she thought that he was acting very like one. Louis paused as they were about to enter the house saying, "You will not worry me any more, if you do it will be useless and only make me harsh," his manner was stern, determined and chilling in the extreme. Natalie shivered, "I will go," she replied in a choking voice, then flew up the stairs and alone in the dark gave vent to the grief that was breaking her heart. "Little fool," murmured Louis between his firmly closed teeth, "what a plague she is."
"O Isabel, it is nearly time for the train to pass, do let us go and watch for it," said Rose, and they went accordingly. "Here it comes, here it comes," she shouted, and the iron horse came on snorting and panting; nearer, nearer it approaches the bridge. 'Tis on the bridge. Crash—and in an instant, it is gone; the train with its living freight is a mass of broken ruins. The screams are appalling; the sight fearful in the extreme. The children ran back to the house trembling and awed, and huddled together in a frightened group. Among the first to be taken from the debris was a lady, and a little girl about two years old. Isabel offered her own room for the use of the sufferers, and some men carried them to the cottage, where kind nurse Bruce did all in her power until the doctor should arrive. Isabel took the beautiful child, who a few moments before was all life and animation, and laid it upon Bruce's bed; the poor little thing must have been killed instantly as there was no sign of suffering upon its face, but a large bruise on its temple. The doctor feared that the lady had received fatal injuries; all through the night she continued insensible, and the morning brought no change. Who she was they could not tell, but as Isabel sat watching her through the long night, she felt that she had seen her before, but where she could not recall. Late in the afternoon consciousness returned, and with a feeble moan she opened her eyes. "Where am I," she asked, "Oh, where is my little Izzie?" Isabel's only answer was a kiss. "Don't say it," she cried, grasping Isabel's hand convulsively, "O, not that, not that! but I see it is so—I see it in your face without you saying so." "O, my baby, my baby, my little Izzie!" she moaned, covering her face with her hands; and then she lay quite still, her lips moving as if in prayer. The doctor, who came in shortly after, called Isabel from the room. "Miss Leicester," he said, "she will not live many hours, we had better find out who she is and summon her friends by telegraph. We can do so by sending to W——; I tell you candidly that she is past all human aid. Poor thing, she need not grieve for her child, she will be with her soon." They returned to the room to gain the desired information. "Send for Dr. Taschereau, at H——," she replied to the doctor's question. Now Isabel knew where and when she had seen her. But it grieved her to see what a change there was in the bright sunny girl who had cast such a cloud over her path at the ball at Elm Grove.
"Am I dying?" Natalie asked anxiously.
"I dare not give you false hope," the doctor replied.
She covered her face with her hands for a few moments. "Do you think I can live till Louis comes—Dr. Taschereau you know."
"I hope so," he answered, evasively.
"Make the telegram very strong; O, very strong. Say that I am dying, but be sure you don't say that baby is—you know—I can't say it," she said in a choking voice. "He will come, O, surely he will come," she murmured to herself. The doctor left promising to send immediately. "You are Isabel Leicester," Natalie said as soon as they were alone. "I am sure you are, for I have seen your picture."
"That is my name," replied Isabel, smiling, while she wondered how much Natalie knew about her.
"You loved Louis once?" she asked.
"You love him still?"
"No; that is past."
A smile of satisfaction illumined Natalie's countenance for a moment, but quickly left it. "I was always sorry for you, Natalie," Isabel said kindly.
"Sorry for me, why should you be sorry for me?" she asked quickly, then pausing a moment she added, sadly, "I see you know how it is."
"Ah, I know too well, I hoped, I prayed it might be otherwise."
"He does not mean to be unkind," she said, "but it is a cruel thing to know that your husband does not love you When I first found out that he did not, it almost killed me. He insisted on calling our little girl Isabel, in spite of all I could say as to my dislike to the name; so I thought it was his mother's name, though he would not say. But when I found out that it was yours, I was very angry; O, you must forgive me, for I have had very hard thoughts towards you, and now I know that you did not deserve them. O, Isabel, you are too good; I could not nurse you so kindly, had I been in your place. Let me see my little Izzie," she pleaded. Isabel brought the child to its mother; it looked sweetly calm in its marble beauty. "Bury us both together in one coffin," she said, while her tears fell fast upon its icy face. Natalie complained of great pain, nothing that the doctor could do seemed to give her any relief, and she lay moaning through the night. About six o'clock in the morning there was a quick step on the stairs which did not escape the ear of the sufferer. "Oh, Louis, Louis come to me," she cried. In a moment he was at her side, and her arms clasped round his neck. "I knew you would come," she said, fondly, "I could not have died happily unless you had."
He pressed her closely to him, while the hot tears fell upon her face, for he was now suffering bitterly for all his neglect and unkindness to his gentle little wife.
"O Louis, I have always loved you so much, so very much!" she said, clinging more closely to him, and gazing into his face with an intensity painful to witness, then smiling sweetly, she closed her eyes and all was over. The others retired from the room, and Louis was left alone with his dead wife, and had yet to learn the fate of his child.
During the time that elapsed before the funeral, Isabel carefully avoided meeting him, and hoped that he had not noticed her on the morning of his arrival. But just as he was about to leave, after that had taken place, and she was congratulating herself for having managed so nicely, a message was brought her that Dr. Taschereau wished to see her before he went. Though annoyed, Isabel did not see how she could very well refuse, so complied with the best grace she could. She found him in the sitting room, looking very pale. "I could not leave, Miss Leicester," he said, "without thanking you for your kindness to my wife. I had no right to expect it."
"I merely did my duty, and do not require any thanks."
"I would ask one question," he continued, with a strong effort to be calm. "Was my little girl dead when first taken up?"
"Quite dead," she answered.
"It is a bitter trial," he resumed, "I loved my child unutterably; the blow seems to have crushed me, I have no longer any interest in anything, I have nothing left, nothing!"
Isabel was silent, she was thinking of the time when she had nothing left but him, and he had deserted her. And now it was the child he grieved for and not his dear little wife. His treatment of her, had always appeared to Isabel as his greatest fault, and her indignation was aroused as she saw, or thought she saw, that he did not feel her loss as he ought to have done. "I cannot but think," she said, "that the blow was sent in mercy to her, in whose future there could only be pain, weariness and silent suffering, and had she alone been taken, I can see that you would soon have got over it."
"You have no idea of the agony and remorse I have endured or you would not be so severe; you think because you know that I did not love my wife as I should, that I do not feel her loss, but you are mistaken, her angel gentleness and patience seem forever to upbraid me for my neglect and unkindness." And unable any longer to control his feelings, he laid his head on the table, while heavy sobs convulsed his frame. His passions were strong, and it was something fearful to witness the violence of his anguish. Isabel could not see his deep grief unmoved, yet dared not attempt to comfort him. Oh how she had wronged him; how keenly he felt his loss. She would not leave him, and yet she did not wish to stay, and turned away to hide her emotion. When he grew more composed, he advanced towards her saying, "It is getting late, Miss Leicester, once more I thank you for all your kindness."
"Do not think any more of my cruel words." said Isabel, the tears streaming from her eyes.
"Then you do not withhold your sympathy, even from me," he returned, offering his hand.
"How can I," she replied, taking, though reluctantly, the offered hand. "I am very sorry for you."
"Good news, Isabel, good news!" cried Alice coming in shortly after with an open letter in her hand. "Everard is out of danger, and is recovering rapidly, so we can soon come home, Mamma says."
"That is indeed good news," replied Isabel, who was really anxious to get the children home, as the late events had cast a gloom over all. Little Amy had more than once asked if Everard would die like the poor lady, and all three had cried very bitterly about the pretty little girl that was killed.
In three weeks more they were back at Elm Grove.
Everard was on the terrace to welcome them. He seemed very glad to see them again, but his manner towards Isabel was changed, he was cordial and kind, but still there was a difference. There was something inexplicable, and shall we say that it pained her. Why did she on retiring to her own room, shed bitter, bitter tears? She could scarcely have told, had you asked her, but so it was.
Now that Everard had resolved to turn his thoughts from Isabel more resolutely than ever, as it was useless any longer to indulge the hope of one day possessing her, and had determined upon becoming a divinity student, and as soon as possible be ordained and go as a missionary to some distant land, and there amid new scenes and duties forget his dream of happiness. Isabel found that she was not indifferent regarding Everard, and often drew comparisons between her old love and the would-be missionary, much to the disparagement of the former, and thought that he was unnecessarily strict with regard to the forbidden subject. Confess now, Isabel, do you not fancy since your return, that he has discovered the alteration in your feelings and is paying you in your own coin? Believing this, and thinking also, that he has ceased to care for you, is there not a coolness gradually springing up between you? Oh, Isabel, why did you on the night before he returned to college, throw his favorite song into the fire, saying that you were tired of that old thing, and did not think that you would ever sing it again? Were you not watching him when he took one step forward as if to save it, then turned away, the color mounting to his cheek and the veins of his forehead swelling? Oh, Isabel would you not gladly, gladly have sung it all the time if he had only asked you in the old way? Ah, it will be a long, long time before he will ask you again. You did more than you intended when you burnt that song. When at his father's request you sang, did he not instantly leave the room? Yes; and confess, Isabel, that you could with difficulty conceal your vexation. Did you not long to sing it with all your heart, and bring him back again? Oh, what a farce to burn that music; and yet, when he did return, did you not show him more coolness than you had ever done before?
A year has passed since the events recorded in the last chapter; things have gone on much the same, Everard trying to appear indifferent, while in reality he was not so, but succeeding so well that Isabel felt almost ashamed of her preference for him, and was, also, only too successful in concealing her true feelings. She is now paying Emily a visit, though it was seldom that she could be persuaded to accept any invitation. But in justice to her old friends, it must be said that they often endeavored to do so. Ever since she came to Elm Grove she had always received abundant invitations for the holidays; but, with the exception of the Morningtons, Isabel had never been able to overcome her pride sufficiently to visit, in her present position, those she had known when in such different circumstances.
Harry and Emily, after travelling about for some time, had settled in H——, not far from the college, and had insisted upon Everard spending a great deal of his time with them, as they had fitted up a nice little study for his especial use.
Emily was very anxious for the ordination, and had announced her intentions to hear him preach his first sermon, let it be when and where it might, in spite of his saying that he would go where he was quite unknown.
"Now, Everard, I'm going to have a party on the fifth," said Emily, "and I want you to bring some of the students, and I should like very much to have tall, handsome ones, and none of your little 'ugly mugs.' I want particularly that nice Mr. Elliott you introduced to me the other day."
"I do not choose my friends merely for their appearance, and Elliott is not one of the students," returned Everard.
"Never mind who he is, I want him to come."
"I will ask him if he is in town; but I can't come, I am altogether too busy."
"Nonsense, Everard, you only say that to vex me. I mean you to come, that's pos'. Isn't he provoking, Isabel?"
"Perhaps his business is as important as it was that Christmas," said Isabel, quietly.
Everard looked up quickly from his book, but Isabel was fully employed with her tatting.
"What do you know about my engagements at that time?" he asked.
"Oh, nothing; only, perhaps, you can as easily put aside your work as you did then."
"How do you know that it was so easy?" he inquired.
"Only from appearances."
"Appearances are often deceitful."
Again the rapid glance of inquiry, but he could make nothing of her placid countenance; and the single word "very," it must have been his own imagination that gave significance to the very decided manner in which she had uttered it, or did she, indeed, see through his assumed indifference?
"You speak as though you had some experience," he said.
Isabel crimsoned, for she felt very guilty.
"Do you try to appear different to what you are in reality?" he inquired.
"Why do you ask?" he said.
"Why do you?" she retorted.
"Isabel, Isabel! the carriage will be here in five minutes," interposed Emily, "make haste and put your things on."
The fifth came in due course, and Mr. Elliott with it. "Let me introduce to you a partner," said Emily, taking him up to Isabel.
"We have known each other too long to need an introduction, have we not, Isabel?" he said pleasantly. Then turning to Emily he added, "Thanks, Mrs. Mornington, for an unexpected pleasure."
Everard, who was near by, heard him call her by her Christian name, and saw the warm welcome accorded him, and the evident pleasure the meeting caused Isabel. He was furiously jealous, and walked away intensely disgusted.
"You are a stranger here, are you not?" asked Emily.
"Then I leave you in Isabel's hands."
"Could not be in better," he said, smiling, and Charley Elliott's smile was a very pleasant one. Emily was enchanted, and went to sing his praises to Everard, much to his annoyance.
"Upon my word, Emily, if I were Harry I should be positively jealous."
"Oh, jealousy is not Harry's forte; he leaves that to Mr. Everard Arlington," she said saucily, with a low curtsey and a most provokingly wise expression.
"Don't be a goose, Evie."
"Where have you been this long, long time, Isabel?" asked Elliott, "I have missed you so much."
"Have you, Charley? I'm glad to hear that some one has missed me. The happy past seems almost like a dream, it seems so far away."
"It was too bright to last; don't you think so, Isabel?"
"Ah, those were days to remember, the excursions I had with you and Harley. But I, too, have had my troubles," he added, gravely.
"Who is exempt?" she returned. "But what of Harley, foolish Harley? Whatever possessed him to go to India? But," she added, with a sigh, "it would not have availed him much to have stayed, as it turned out."
"I don't know; I think he would have done more wisely to have remained."
"Why he went, I never could fathom."
"You never knew?"
"Never. He assured me that he had good and sufficient reason, and that papa thought so, too."
"I didn't think them good, or sufficient either, but he wouldn't take my advice. It was our only quarrel, and I believe I have scarcely forgiven him yet for going. It would, I am convinced, have been better for all if he had not done so," and the tears stood in the young lieutenant's eyes. Though brave as a lion, Charley Elliott had a kind and loving heart. There was a soft, warm light in the deep-blue eyes; no one could know Charley Elliott without loving him. Everard had no mean rival, if Charley was one. But he was not. He loved Isabel, it is true, with all the warmth of his ardent nature, but he loved her as he might a beautiful sister. He thought her worthy of Harley—his Harley—the pride of his boyhood, who in his eyes could do no wrong, until one day when he told him that he was going to India. Charley's grief was excessive, but his indignation arose when he learned the cause.
Harley Elliott was ten years his brother's senior. He was the favorite clerk in the firm of Leicester & Co. Had Isabel to be met anywhere, and her father was unable to go, Harley was invariably sent; he was constantly at the house for one thing or another. As Isabel grew up he was frequently called upon to escort her and her young friends to places of amusement. As might be supposed, he became deeply in love with her, until at last life was almost a burden, for Harley was sensitive and high-minded to a degree: as a poor clerk, he was too proud to woo the rich merchant's daughter. He determined, therefore, to try to amass wealth in another land, and, if successful, to return and endeavor to win her; if not, to remain forever away.
But Charley, a boy of sixteen, could not appreciate this course. "Stay and be brave-hearted, Harley," he said, "she will, she must, love you, and the Governor will not refuse." But all he could obtain from Harley was a promise that he would tell Mr. Leicester the true cause of his going. Charley had great hopes as to the success of this course, but Harley was not so sanguine, and Harley was right. Mr. Leicester quite approved of his going, and offered him letters of introduction to parties at Calcutta. True, he inquired if the attachment was mutual. But when Harley confessed that he had not sought to know, considering himself in honor bound not to do so in his present circumstances, he was well satisfied that it was so. He took care, also, to find out if Isabel really had a preference for Harley, lest by urging his departure he might make her unhappy. And it must be admitted that he was glad to see that she was heart whole as yet, for he wished her to make a more brilliant match. So he wished Harley success, and did all in his power to hasten his departure.
Poor Charley had missed his brother sadly. He would have accompanied him but for his mother, who was not strong, and certainly could not have borne the climate.
"But your troubles, Charley; you have not told me of them," said Isabel. "Is not Harley doing well?"
"Yes, now; but it was some time first. I am going to see him soon. But it was my mother's death to which I alluded just now."
"Oh, have you lost your mother? Poor Charley!"
"Don't talk of her, Isabel, I can't bear it," and Charley brushed away a tear.
Dance succeeded dance, and Isabel was still Charley's partner. "There are half-a-dozen gentlemen dying to be introduced to Miss Leicester, and you give them no chance, Mr. Elliott," said Emily.
"Very well, but remember, Isabel, that we are engaged for the after-supper galop."
"I'll not forget," she returned.
Now it so chanced that Everard had so often been Isabel's partner for that dance, that he began to consider it a matter of course, and was highly offended when, after keeping away all the evening, he approached her, saying, "This is our dance, is it not, Miss Leicester?" and she replied, "You are too late, Mr. Arlington," and whirled off with Charley Elliott.
"Why did you do that?" he asked, when Isabel was again seated.
"Was I to refuse a partner in case Mr. Arlington, after keeping away all the evening, should condescend to ask me? I think you expect too much."
"You knew I should come."
"How could I know?"
"I always do."
"And do you always keep away all the evening?"
He bit his lip. "Will you dance this?"
"I am engaged."
"Impossible, my card is quite filled up."
"Never mind, you can strike out one of the names."
"Why should I do so? You had the best chance; you were here from the first, but from some whim determined not to put down your name, and looked glum whenever I passed you, and now you think that I will treat one of these young men so unhandsomely. No, Mr. Arlington, I will not."
"You chide me for not coming sooner. I thought you so well amused that I was not needed."
"Needed, no; but still you have not been commonly civil to-night."
"You are very unforgiving."
"No, but I will not encourage your whims; you chose to sulk, it was no fault of mine."
"As you will."
"I think this dancing awfully stupid," he said to Emily, as Isabel went off with her partner, "I shall be glad when it is over."
"Of course," she replied, with a most provoking laugh.
"Parsons don't usually care for dancing," added Harry, in a tone equally irritating.
But for Charley Elliott the evening would have been dull enough to Isabel. She would far rather have had Everard for a partner than any of those whose names were on her programme, but she believed that he had purposely avoided her all the earlier part of the evening: besides, Everard's manner towards her of late had become quite an enigma—now cold, almost haughty, then again soft, even tender, then indifferent—and Isabel resented its variableness. She was the more annoyed, as she knew that Emily was not quite in the dark.
"I think Mr. Elliott is a very nice young man, don't you, Isabel?" said Emily at breakfast next morning.
"Very," replied Isabel, coloring warmly as she caught Everard's penetrating glance.
"A done thing, I see," laughed Harry.
"How can you be so absurd, Harry?"
Are you fond of sea voyages?" he continued.
"I think them delightful."
"Capital. Did you know that he was going to India?"
"You did? Well, really."
"Oh, Harry, be quiet."
"I thought you two seemed awfully good friends. Did you know him before last night?"
"I am sure you don't agree with Everard that the party was a dreadfully slow affair?"
"Oh, no; it was very pleasant."
"I was very sure that Miss Leicester did not find it dull," said Everard coldly, almost scornfully.
"Goosey, goosey!" said Emily, later in the day, as she came upon Everard in the music-room.
"Why do you go on in this provoking way, Emily?" he said, angrily.
"Because I have no patience with this stupid jealousy. If you care for her, why not try to win her in a straightforward manner; if not, why be vexed that another should?"
"Why do you strive to undo that which has cost me so much? She is nothing to me; I have determined that she shall be nothing."
"Then why so jealous?"
"I cannot help it; you know that I cannot."
"But why force yourself to give her up?"
"Why, indeed," he echoed, "is it not worse than useless to cherish an attachment for one who is so perfectly indifferent?"
"I do not believe that she is as indifferent and inaccessible as you imagine."
"Why do you tempt me, Emily?" he returned, almost fiercely. "Let me be; the ordination will be very shortly, and I am sure of an appointment directly after."
"Ah, goosey, goosey! 'Faint heart,' you know," she said, and left him—more angry with his favorite sister than he had ever been before.
"Isabel, you said something about going home this week; now I have settled that for you. I wrote to mamma, saying that you were going to stay until after the ordination, and then we would all return together."
"I declare those children will get quite unmanageable with such long holidays. When will the ordination be?"
"The beginning of next month."
"Dreadful! I do not think that Mrs. Arlington will consent."
"Oh, yes, she will. What a state Everard is getting into about that ordination!" she continued, "and I am nearly as bad. I suppose we shall all go to see it."
"I shall not," said Isabel.
"Why not?" asked Emily.
"I had rather not."
"What a strange girl you are! I wouldn't miss it for the world. He will be so vexed, too."
"Why should he?"
"Of course he will."
Isabel protested that she would not go; but for all that, when the time came, she could not resist the desire to be present, even at the risk of being thought changeable. She went, after the rest, and from her corner saw the whole. From where she sat she had a full view of his face—grave, earnest, calm, evidently feeling how much was implied in the ordination vows. As she returned before the others, they were quite unaware that she had been there, and she, little hypocrite, listened gravely to all Emily's descriptions.
In the evening Isabel walked on the lawn in the pale moon's silvery beams, musing of all that had taken place that day, and thinking how very happy Everard must feel to-night. Suddenly that gentleman accosted her: "Why did you refuse to be present at the ordination to-day?" he asked. Isabel was silent. "How is it," he continued, "that while others were so anxious, you manifested no interest at all? It is, to say the least, unkind."
"You may be sure that I wish you all prosperity in your new vocation," she said. "I would have said so before, had I thought you wished or expected it."
"I did not expect," he said, almost angrily, "such a calm expression of a cold regard; I wished and expected kindly sympathy, if nothing more."
"As you think I should say more, accept my sincere wishes for your happiness; and believe me when I say that the lot which you have chosen is, in my estimation, the highest to which man can aspire, and may your labors be blessed with abundant success."
"Your kind wishes, though so reluctantly expressed, are not least valued," he returned, warmly. "But, Isabel, you say that you wish my happiness. My happiness, as I told you long ago, rests with you. Here I can refer to the old subject without breaking my promise, and I cannot leave for my distant mission without making one more appeal. Listen to me patiently for a few minutes. You seemed to adhere so strictly to what you said, that I considered it my duty to give you up; but it was a duty that, with all my endeavors, I was unable to perform. I sought relief in study—hard, excessive study—almost night and day. You know how that ended. My mother left me much to you, and your kindness only made matters worse. Afterwards, when you were away, I determined on the course I am now pursuing, and I persuaded myself that my heart was in the work, and so it is, but it is not yours the less. What I endure is almost insupportable—it is too hard. Often I have been obliged to appear cold and variable to conceal my real feelings, and you have despised me for it. I have seen it, Isabel. To-night I determined to seek you, and plead my cause once more; and though you have received me with indifference, even coldly, I still hope that beneath this reserve there may be some warmer feeling. "Tell me dearest," he continued, "will you not love me? Oh, Isabel, must I go alone?" She was silent. Then for an instant her eyes met his, and the love and happiness in that one glance fully satisfied him, and he clasped her passionately in his arms. "You loved me all the time, Isabel," he whispered, "only from a mistaken sense of your duty you refused me when I first spoke of my love."
"Oh, no, I did not love you then; I esteemed you very much, but I was engaged to another." Then she told what is already known to the reader.
"And his name?" he asked.
"Tell me: did the thought that I loved you tend to soften the blow, when you found how unworthy he was?"
Isabel was very truthful; she could not deceive him, even though those beautiful eyes were fixed upon her in earnest expectation. As we have said, she was very truthful, so answered, "I cannot flatter you so much, Everard; it afforded me no comfort whatever. Indeed I never thought of it, except when some kind attention on your part reminded me of the fact, and then the thought only caused me pain."
He looked disappointed. "No," she added, "it was not until long after, that your worth and uniform kindness won my heart."
They lingered on the lawn until the chill night air warned them not to remain there any longer. Entering the music-room by the window, they found Emily waiting for them. "Oh, here you are at last; Harry had to go out, and I've been all alone this half hour." Then, starting up, she seized a hand of each, exclaiming "You need not tell me, I see how it is; I am so glad, so very glad."
"I saw you at the ordination this morning," said Charley Elliott, who came in during the evening, addressing Isabel, "only you were in such a fearful hurry to get away that I did not get a chance to speak."
"Then you must have very good eyes, Mr. Elliott, as Isabel was not there," cried Emily, laughing.
"I beg your pardon," he returned.
"I was there," said Isabel quietly, though she colored hotly.
"You were?" exclaimed Everard, evidently well satisfied.
"I declare you—are—a queer girl," said Emily, opening her blue eyes very wide, "I'm afraid you have not the bump of firmness."
"I knew you would think me changeable, but after you had all gone I began to think I should like to see it, so I followed. But I certainly did not see you, Charley."
"On, no, I was very sure that you saw no one but the candidates," returned Charley, laughing. "Indeed you looked so solemn and earnest, one would almost suppose that you were one of them."
"Is it true," asked Harry, on his return, "that you have agreed to start for Madagascar next month?"
"Quite true," returned Everard, coolly.
"I protest against it," said Harry. "And so do I," added Emily; while Charley shrugged his shoulders, and Isabel laughed.
Emily was terribly anxious for Charley to depart, as she longed to tell Harry the news; which news, when Emily told it, Harry received with unmistakable satisfaction, saying he couldn't see why Everard should not settle down comfortably near home, instead of going to such an out-of-the-way place.
The following week they all started for Elm Grove, and when, on their arrival Mrs. Arlington took both her hands and kissed her affectionately, Isabel knew that the news of their engagement had preceded them. They had a delightful evening, Mrs. Arlington being in a most gracious humor. Mr. Arlington shook Isabel so heartily by the hand that it ached for hours afterward. Emily was in the most exuberant spirits; Everard's happiness, from its very depth, was of a more quiet nature; while Harry was as merry and joyous as his wife; and Isabel, in her own sweet way, had a kind look and word for all.
On entering the school-room, next morning, Isabel found little Amy sitting upon the floor, her head buried in the sofa cushion, sobbing as if her heart would break, her little form quivering with the violence of her emotion.
"What is the matter, Amy dear?" asked Isabel, taking the trembling child in her arms. But Amy could not speak; she only clung to Isabel, and sobbed more bitterly than before. Isabel sat down with Amy on her knee, stroking the shining hair until the child should be more composed. After a time, when the violence of her grief had a little abated, Isabel kissed her and inquired the cause of her tears.
"Rose says that you are going to Madagascar with Everard, and perhaps I shall never see you any more," she managed to blurt out amid her sobs. "You ought not to go, for I am sure I love you more than he does. I told him so this morning, but he only laughed and said I didn't; but I do, and I think it is very unkind of him to take you away. We know lots of young ladies; I'm sure he might marry some one else, and not take my darling Isabel to nasty Madagascar. Oh, Isabel, you must not go. Oh, please! please!" she said, coaxingly. "Oh, won't you please tell him that you have changed your mind, and would rather stay with us?"
"Oh, but you know I promised, Amy."
"But you shan't go; tell him you won't; there's a dear, kind pet," and she threw her arms round Isabel's neck.
"But don't you think that it is very selfish of little Amy to wish that her brother should go alone to that far country, when she will have papa, mamma, and sisters?"
"Oh! I wish you didn't love him one bit, and then you would stay with us."
"Hush! Amy dear, you mustn't talk so."
"But I can't help wishing it, and I told Everard so, and that I hoped you would change your mind. Then he said that it was very wicked of me to wish that; and he put me off his knee so quick, and walked out of the room looking so angry—no, not angry, exactly, but as if he thought, perhaps, you might."
"But, Amy, if you loved any one very much, would you like it if that person didn't love you one bit?"
"No," said Amy, thoughtfully.
"Then is it doing as you would be done by to wish such unkind and selfish things?"
"I did not think of that," replied Amy, resting her head on Isabel's shoulder, "but it seems as if you did not love me, to go away to Madagascar," she added, sadly.
"Oh, Amy dear, I love you very much," said Isabel, the tears gathering in her eyes, "and it grieves me to part from you."
"And then we shall have another horrid governess, like Miss Manning, and the days will all be long and miserable, like the long, long, weary day that Emily used to sing about. And what will become of all our nice Sundays?"
"Poor little Amy!" said Isabel, parting back the shining curls from the sorrowful little face, and looking into the violet eyes that were fixed upon her so earnestly. "You must not think that I would leave you without first trying to fill my place with one who would love you and try to make you happy. Now, if you will stop crying, I will tell you about the young lady who, I hope, will be your governess. She is a very dear friend of mine, and I trust you will all be very kind to her, and love her very much. Her name is Gertrude Hartley." Alice and Rose now entered the school-room, and gave a very warm welcome to Isabel. "Please go on about Gertrude Hartley," pleaded Amy. Then Isabel told them how Gertrude had gone as a governess to a family who lived far back in the country, miles away from any church, and how, by her endeavors, a small but pretty one had been erected, where service was held once a month. But Gertrude had grown tired of the country, and was anxious to obtain another situation. "She will come to see you next week, and I am sure you will like her. And you know you can often talk about me, for she knows me very well. I shall write you nice long letters about that strange country, and I shall often think of my dear little sisters, for you will be my sisters then, you know."
"I did not think of that," said Amy, smiling.
"Oh, Isabel, I'm so sorry that you are going away. Don't you think you could persuade Everard to give up being a missionary? I'm certain he could have Attwood Church if he liked, because Dr. Herbert once asked him if he would like it. Please do, because it would be so nice."
"What! and leave those heathen people still in ignorance of God? My little Rose does not think what she is wishing that Everard would give up. No, I could not wish him to do so, much less persuade him."
"But he might get some one else to go," replied Rose.
"No, Rose, we must each perform our own duties."
"You mean that it would be like putting your hand to the plow and looking back?"
"Exactly so," replied Isabel.
"I did not think of it in that way, so you must not be angry with me."
"I was not angry, dear, only I wanted to show you that your wish was a wrong one. What does Alice think about it?"
"I think," replied Alice, "that he ought to go, and I am very glad that you are going with him, for you are so nice and so good that I am sure the little heathen children will listen to what you say, because you have such a nice way of telling things. Of course I am very sorry to lose you, but I mean to think of the good your going will be for other people, and how nice it is for Everard, and then I shall not care about it so much."
"It gives me great pleasure to hear you say this, and I think that Alie can no longer be called selfish. Believe me, dear children, that the surest way to forget our own troubles is to find pleasure in the benefit and happiness of others."
Everard Arlington was about to enter by the window, but paused a moment to contemplate the group before him. On a large ottoman sat Isabel, with Amy on her knee, one arm encircling Alice, who was standing thoughtfully by her side, her head resting on Isabel's shoulder, while behind was Rose, half smiles, half tears.
"Oh, Everard!" cried Amy, "I won't say again that I hope Isabel will not go with you. But she says that it is not naughty to be sorry. You are not angry with me now?" she inquired, looking wistfully into his face.
"No, my little Amy," he replied, smoothing the glossy curls, as he stooped as if to kiss her, but he didn't kiss Amy.
Mrs. Arlington was not one to do things by halves, so that when she welcomed Isabel, on her return, it was no longer as "the governess," but as her future daughter-in-law—as the bride-elect of her darling son—indeed as one of them, the Arlingtons. She was glad, as he was so determined upon being a missionary, that he was to marry before he went, but she would rather—far rather—that he should have chosen any other than "the governess," though she had nothing against Isabel—nothing. Still it was a trial to the haughty mother that her only son—the hope and pride of the family—should marry a governess. She knew that many would say she had been imprudent in having so young and pretty a governess, knowing how fond Everard was of the society of his young sisters. And, indeed, she did feel she had been wrong when she got Everard's letter announcing the engagement, and it was some little time before she could be at all satisfied with the matter. Grace was excessively annoyed, and, by her anger, tended greatly to stimulate her mother's displeasure, saying that it was quite a disgrace to the family, and that she would never receive Isabel as a sister. Fortunately her consent was never likely to be asked, as her easy-going brother, the pet of the house, had a pretty determined will, and her opinion would certainly not influence him in the matter. Indeed, now that he had Isabel's consent, he would have married her even though opposed by any number of relations; and it was with no thought of obtaining their ideas on the subject that he had written, but simply to inform them of the fact, little suspecting the commotion it would cause at Elm Grove.
However, the course he pursued had the effect of reconciling his mother to the match, and it was well that it was so, or Isabel would have met with a sorry reception on her arrival.
Very quickly after the letter we have mentioned, came another, such as only Everard could write—written out of a full heart, telling of his happiness, and also of his former despair, long probation, and weary waiting; how his love for Isabel had dated from that Sunday evening when he first saw her in the school-room with the children; and expressing the hope that his mother would give Isabel a place in her heart equal to that of her own children.
Tears of sympathy and love fell from the mother's eyes as she read, and a happy smile played around her mouth as she refolded the letter which would be read again and again. Henceforth she was won. So, then, when Lady Ashton, who had now returned from England, came to condole with dear Mrs. Arlington upon the ill luck that had befallen the family, she found that lady quite satisfied, to her profound astonishment. However, she gave a willing ear and ready sympathy to Grace, who was quite disgusted at her mother's contentment, and returned with Lady Ashton to the Park, saying, that she was far too angry to meet them at present; and there she remained for weeks nursing her wrath against her only brother, who would so shortly leave for a distant land, not heeding the possibility, nay probability, that he might never return. Who could foresee the dangers that might be in store for him? Read the dangers and miseries to which the missionaries sent to foreign and heathen lands are only too often subjected—dangers on sea and land, and fearful cruelties at the hands of wild and savage creatures, more ferocious sometimes in their implacable fury than the beasts of prey. But even overlooking these more dreadful calamities, there is the climate, so trying to the natives of cooler countries. Nor was she just to Isabel. She would only see a beautiful, designing girl, who had succeeded in catching her brother. She was angry with Isabel, with Everard, with her mother, and, lastly, with herself, to think that she, too, had been for a short time deluded like the rest. She felt now that she positively hated Isabel.
Lady Ashton did her best to fan the flame of resentment. What wonder, then, that under that lady's able management it grew day by day, until Grace really believed her silly anger to be just indignation at her brother's blind infatuation. Ah, foolish Grace!
To Emily's great satisfaction, Everard preached his first sermon in the church they usually attended, and was very calm and self-possessed considering the eight eager faces in the family pew, his heightened color being the only evidence that this was the first time he had addressed a congregation from the pulpit. It happened, strangely enough, that a collection for the Missionary Society was to be taken up on this occasion, and the young deacon delivered an exceedingly eloquent discourse advocating the cause of missions, with a warmth and earnestness that carried his hearers along with him, and showed that his heart was in the work. No one who heard him could doubt his future success in the cause.
Then what a happy group waited for him after service, and what approving smiles beamed upon him from loved faces when he came!
"Oh, Everard! I should never go to sleep at sermon time if you always preached," cried little Amy. "It was so nice," added Rose, warmly; while the proud father wrung his son's hand in silence more eloquent than words.
Then Everard disappointed a crowd of admiring friends by disappearing through a side gate and going home across the fields, even waving back his young sisters, who would have followed him. "I could not stand it," he said, on reaching home half an hour after the others, though his way had been much shorter, he having spent the interim in self-communion beneath the shade of a friendly oak. Oh! that was a happy Sunday at Elm Grove; but, like all earthly happiness, it had one cloud—Grace's strange and unkind conduct.
"Please, Miss Leicester, a gentleman wishes to see you," said Susan, putting her rosy face in at the school-room door, as Isabel was giving the children their last lesson.
"To see me, Susan?" exclaimed Isabel.
"Yes, Miss, he asked for you, but he would not give his name."
"Very well, Susan. Who can it be?" she asked, turning to Alice.
"I'm sure I don't know," answered Alice, laughing, "you had better go and see."
On entering the drawing-room, Isabel saw to her astonishment that it was Louis Taschereau. "This is indeed a surprise," she said, extending her hand, for in her present happiness she could not be ungracious or unkind.
Encouraged by her cordial greeting, Louis began: "I thought of writing, but determined on seeking an interview, as a letter could but inadequately convey what I wished to say. I have suffered much, as you are aware, and my troubles have made me a very different man; but a gleam of light seems once more to shine on my path, and I hope yet to repair the error of my life. Can you—will you—overlook and forgive the past, and be again to me all that you once were? I know that I do not deserve it, but I will try to atone for the past if, dear Isabel, you will be my wife."
"Stay, Dr. Taschereau!" interposed Isabel, "I am just about to marry a clergyman who is going abroad."
Had a cannon-ball fallen at his feet, Louis could scarcely have been more dumbfounded than he was at this intelligence. He became deadly pale, and she thought he would faint.
"You are ill, Dr. Taschereau. Let me ring for some wine."
"Don't ring, I don't want any. Is this true?" he continued, "are you really going to marry another?"
"I am, and I do not see why you should be surprised."
"Why do you make me love you so? Why must your image intrude itself into every plan, and all be done as you would approve, if, after all, you are to marry another? You would not wonder at the effect of what you have told me, if you knew how the hope that you would forgive me and yet be mine, has been my only comfort a long, dreary time."
"You have no right to speak in this way, Dr. Taschereau; it was I who had cause of complaint, not you. But I am very sorry that you should feel so; very sorry that you should have suffered yourself to imagine for a moment that we could ever be again to each other what we once were. And do not think that my present engagement is the cause of my saying this; for never, never, under any circumstances, could I have been your wife after what has passed. I say not this in anger or ill-will for the past, I do not regret it—I feel it was best."
"Will you not tell me the name of the fortunate clergyman?" he asked.
"Certainly, if you wish it; it is no secret. It is Everard Arlington."
"Everard Arlington!" he exclaimed in unfeigned astonishment. "It was the knowledge of his hopeless attachment that made me hope—almost make sure—that you had not entirely ceased to love me, and might yet be mine; the more despairing he became, the higher my hopes rose."
"How could you, how dared you, indulge such thoughts after what I said in the woods at D——?" exclaimed Isabel, indignantly. "If Everard had so long to believe that his attachment was unavailing, it was because Isabel Leicester would not give her hand unless her heart went with it; because I respected his affection too much to trifle with it, and not at all on your account. Believe me, that from the time I first learned that you were married, every thought of you was rigidly repelled, and it was arrant presumption in you to suppose anything else," she continued, proudly, the angry tears suffusing her eyes.
The conference was here ended, to Isabel's great relief, by the entrance of Everard, who looked inquiringly at each.
"How are you, old fellow?" he said (for Isabel's proud anger fled at his approach), "what brought you here so unexpectedly?"
"Oh, a little private affair," he replied, looking rather uncomfortable; but there was that in Louis's eye, as he said this, that made Isabel distrust him; something that made her determined to put it out of his power to misrepresent and make mischief. True, he had said how changed he was, and spoken of the reformation his trials had made. Certainly he had been more calm under disappointment than had been his wont. But still she doubted him. She had seen that look before, and knew that it was the same false Louis, not so changed as he imagined. The dark side was only lying dormant; she could read his malicious enjoyment in that cruel smile, and knew its meaning well. Meeting his glance with one of proud defiance and quiet determination, which said, as plainly as words, "I will thwart your fine plans, Mr. Louis," she said:
"You are aware that I was formerly engaged to Dr. Taschereau. His business here to-day was to endeavor to renew that engagement. I need not say how very strange and absurd this appears, as you are acquainted with the circumstances under which the former engagement terminated."
"Yes, that was the 'little private affair,' but I find that you have already won the prize; allow me to congratulate you."
Louis said this in a frank, pleasant manner, appearing to take his own disappointment with so much good nature, at the same time blending a certain degree of sadness in his tone as quite to deceive Everard and win his sympathy. But the thundering black look which he cast at Isabel fully convinced her that she was right.
"You will dine with us, of course," said Everard, cordially.
"I shall do so with pleasure," returned Louis.
Isabel bit her lip. "Just to see how much he can annoy me," she thought. But if this was his object he must have been disappointed, so totally unconscious of his presence did Isabel appear, and when he addressed her personally her manner was colder than even Everard thought necessary.
The heat of the rooms became very oppressive during the evening, and Isabel stepped out on the lawn to enjoy the refreshing breeze, but was soon surprized to find that Louis had followed her.
"Let us at least be friends," he said. "You will remember that it was not in anger we last parted."
But Isabel was silent.
"You doubt me," he continued. "I do not blame you, but you are harsh, Miss Leicester."
"Not harsh, but just," returned Isabel. "Friends we can never be; enemies I trust we never were."
"You draw fine distinctions. May I ask what place in your estimation I am permitted to occupy?" said Louis, sarcastically.
"No place whatever, Dr. Taschereau; I must ever regard you with indifference," returned Isabel, coldly.
"Be it so," he replied, angrily. "You have obstinately refused all offers of reconciliation, and must therefore take the consequences."
"The consequences? You speak strangely, Dr. Taschereau."
I repeat: the consequences. I determined long since that you should never marry another, and my sentiments on that subject have not changed. No; I vow you shall not!" he added, with the old vindictive expression.
"How dare you hold such language to me, sir?" cried Isabel, indignantly.
Without answering, he drew a pistol from his pocket and would have shot her, but, changing his purpose, he turned upon Everard, who was approaching. With a cry of horror, Isabel threw herself between them, and prevented Louis from taking as good an aim as he might otherwise have done; for though the ball, in passing, grazed her shoulder, it passed Everard harmlessly and lodged in the acacia tree. With parted lips, but without the power of speech, she clung to Everard in an agony of terror for a moment, and then lay motionless in his arms. In terrible apprehension he carried the senseless girl into the house, fearing that she was seriously hurt, as the blood had saturated a large portion of her dress, which was of very thin texture. Of course the consternation into which the family was thrown by the shot, followed by the entrance of Everard with Isabel in this alarming condition, was tremendous. But happily Isabel was more terrified than hurt, Dr. Heathfield pronouncing the wound of no consequence (to Everard's intense disgust), telling her to take a glass of wine and go to bed, and she would be none the worse for her fright in the morning—in fact treated the whole thing quite lightly, and laughed at Isabel for her pale cheeks, saying that such an alabaster complexion was not at all becoming. He promised to send her something to prevent the wine making her sleep too soundly, meaning a composing draught to enable her to sleep, as he saw very little chance of her doing so without. Everard volunteered to go with him for it. On their way, Dr. Heathfield remarked that he was afraid Everard thought him very rude and unfeeling. Everard, who had been very silent, replied that he did.
"Then do not think so any longer," said the Doctor, laying his hand on his companion's shoulder. "I saw how scared she was, and treated the case accordingly. You are both great favorites of mine, so I hope you will not be offended. Do you know what became of the scoundrel?"
"He made for parts unknown immediately after he fired," replied Everard, sternly, while the heavy breathing showed how much it cost him to speak calmly. "It is quite a Providence that one of us is not dead at this moment, as he is a splendid marksman. I don't know which of the two the shot was intended for; if for me, she must have thrown herself between us."
"She is just the girl to do it," cried the Doctor, grasping him warmly by the hand. "I have always had a very high opinion of her."
"I should think so," said Everard, with a quiet smile of satisfaction.
Fortunately Isabel had no idea that Everard had gone with the Doctor, or she would have been terribly anxious, for fear Louis should still be near. But guilt makes cowards of all, so Louis was now in a fearful state of mind: for he was passionate, hasty, violent and selfish, but not really bad-hearted, and jealous anger and hatred had so gained the mastery over him that he had been impelled to do that at which, in cooler moments, he would have shuddered. So now he was enduring agony, fearing lest his mad attempt at murder had been successful, yet not daring to inquire. Ah, Louis! you are now, as ever, your own worst enemy."
"What makes you look so sad Everard; Isabel was not much hurt; not hurt at all I may say."
"I was not thinking of her just now Emmy," he answered smiling, but the smile passed away, and left his face very sad indeed.
"What is it Evvie," she asked in the old coaxing way, seating herself beside him on the seat round the old Elm tree.
"I was thinking of Grace," he replied "you can't think how her keeping away pains me."
"I wouldn't think of it, if I were you, it is very mean and ill-natured of her, but she will get over her huff after a while."
"That would be all very well, if I were going to remain here, but you know how soon I go and——"
"Oh Everard," (Emmy could not contemplate this event with composure) "Oh Everard, I can't bear you to go, and she threw her arms round his neck, weeping passionately.
His sisters were not much given to tears, this one in particular, the brightest of them all, so that this genuine bust of grief was the more perplexing.
He was endeavouring in vain to soothe her, when little Emmy came upon the scene, and seeing her mamma in trouble, she set up a terrific howling, and running at Everard, she seized his coat to steady herself and commenced to kick him with all the force she could muster, exclaiming "naughty, naughty, to make my mamma cry."
This warlike attack upon her brother set Emily laughing, while he feigned to be desperately hurt by the tiny feet at which the round blue eyes grew wonderfully well satisfied. Isabel now joined them alarmed by the cries of her little playmate. Emmy looking very brave scrambled upon mamma's knee, from whence she darted very defiant glances at her uncle.
"I think I will go to Ashton Park" said Everard.
"Do you think that it will do any good" asked Emily.
"I hope so, Grace is not bad hearted, only vexed, besides, I should wish to leave on good terms with the old lady."
"I have no doubt that she pities you immensely." Everard laughed "I will go now" he said, "and we hope you may be successful" returned both warmly.
"Good evening Lady Ashton" said Everard when he arrived at the Park; entering the drawing-room from the lawn.
"Oh is that you, you poor unfortunate boy," returned her ladyship compassionately.
"Pray spare your pity, for some more deserving individual," answered Everard laughing, "I think myself the most fortunate of mortals."
"Don't come to me with your nonsense, you are very silly, and have behaved in a most dishonorable manner towards your family."
"Will you be kind enough to state in what way," replied Everard colouring, "I confess I can't see it."
"Why, in offering to that governess girl."
"You are severe."
"Oh I haven't patience with you; my sympathy is all with poor Grace, who feels quite disgraced by it."
"She cannot think so, seriously, or if she does, she ought to be ashamed.
"Hoighty, toighty, how we are coming the parson to-night."
"Pshaw," exclaimed Everard impatiently.
"I think she is justly angry and aggrieved. Of course in receiving so young and pretty a girl, as governess for your sisters, (for I allow that she is pretty.) "Oh you do," said Everard sarcastically. "Your mother" continued Lady Ashton "relied upon your honorable feelings, and good sense, but you have abused her confidence in a most cruel manner."
The swelling veins, and heavy breathing showed how annoyed he was, and he answered warmly, "I deny having done anything wrong or dishonorable, I presume that I have a perfect right to choose for myself."
"To a certain extent I grant, but you owe something to the feelings of your family."
"They have no cause of complaint, Isabel is quite their equal if not superior."
"In your estimation," said Lady Ashton contemptuously.
"I don't care to discuss the subject" returned Everard haughtily.
"Reverse the matter, how would you like it, if Grace was going to marry a tutor."
"If he was a worthy person, and Grace was satisfied, I certainly should not object."
"I doubt it," cried Lady Ashton angrily. Then she commenced aspersing Isabel in every way, and Everard hotly defended her. "Nasty, artful, designing girl, you will live to repent your folly yet," she said. Then Everard got in a terrible passion newly ordained though he was. But Lady Ashton was a woman, and Everard Arlington never forgot when he was in the presence of ladies, so though they most decidedly quarrelled, Everard saying some pretty severe things, he managed to keep the cooler of the two, Lady Ashton being as spiteful as only Lady Ashton could be. So instead of conciliating Grace he had only made matters worse; as he supposed; but Lady Ashton really loved her god-son, and in her heart admired him for his spirit.
Everard's anger once roused was not easily appeased, so that after he left Ashton Park, he took a ten mile walk in the moonlight before he was sufficiently calm to venture home. "What is the matter" asked his mother when he did.
"I have been in a tremendous passion, and am not quite cooled down yet" he answered, "good night."
The upshot of all this was, that on coming home one afternoon, Everard found Lady Ashton, and Grace waiting for him. "Let bygones, be bygones," said the former taking his hand, while Grace offered hers with a dignified condescension that was truly amusing, Everard was only too glad to have a cessation of hostilities, and responded cordially to the overtures of peace.
Then Lady Ashton insisted upon giving them a farewell party, she would take no denial, saying that if Everard did not come, that she would not believe that he forgave her."
Grace and Emily were delighted, saying, it was the very thing, and Alice was half wild with glee at being included in the invitation, and also allowed to go.
So Isabel had a new white dress for the occasion, and now that she was no longer the governess, she arrayed herself with some of the beautiful and costly jewels, which her fathers creditors had refused to take, (though they were offered them by Isabel,) which had not seen the light since she came to Elm Grove.
"Oh Isabel, now you look like yourself" said Lucy, who had arrived just in time to be of the party.
"How sly of you Isabel, not to let us see them before" cried Emily examining them "what beauties," and Mrs. Arlington looked very approvingly at her future daughter-in-law. "I think that you are the proudest girl I ever saw, Isabel," she said reproachfully.
"Oh mamma, not proud, only sensitive," interposed Alice warmly.
"I think you were wrong my dear" continued Mrs. Arlington without heeding Alice.
"Please don't', pleaded Isabel the tears gathering in her eyes "I could not help feeling so, indeed I could not."
"Don't blame her mamma, it does not matter now," put in Emily.
"She was a stupid little goose to care so much about it; and I always said so," chimed in Lucy.
"Pray who is a stupid little goose," asked Everard joining the group in the drawing-room.
"Ask no questions——you know the rest" returned Lucy saucily.
"Dear me, how late we shall be" cried Emily "what can make papa and Harry so long."
"On arriving at the Park, an unexpected pleasure caused a great deal of excitement. On entering the dressing-room they met Ada. "Oh, when did you come." I'm so glad." "How delightful." Burst from them simultaneously, as Ada was hugged in a manner that bid fair to ruin the effect of her careful toilet.
"Didn't Lucy tell you," asked Ada amazed.
"Not I," cried Lucy triumphantly.
Then a thundering rap at the door from Harry, who was impatient to see his sister; made them hasten down, all in high spirits at the unlooked for meeting.
Lady Ashton hardly seemed herself she was so pleasant, and even Grace did the agreeable to perfection.
Lucy, lectured Everard, and condemned severely his taking Isabel to be eaten up by savages; as she persisted would be the case if he carried out his preposterous intentions. But Everard only laughed. "I cannot see how you can reconcile it to your conscience, to doom such a girl as that, to so wretched an existence, look at her, is she fit for such a hum-drum-knock-about life."
"Everard cast a very admiring glance at his bride elect, but his only answer was a rather sad smile.
"Oh I see I am right," she cried, "I know you think that she is more fitted for civilized society, confess now, confess, I used to think you so considerate, but now I see you are very selfish.
"Perhaps I am," and he walked out on the lawn, leaving Lucy much astonished and very indignant.
"Be merciful Lucy," said Charles offering his arm.
"Not I," returned Lucy, "I think it awfully cool."
"Then it must be very refreshing this hot evening" said Charles laughing.
"Don't be provoking." I'm awfully angry."
"Oh, here you are," said Lucy when shortly after breakfast next morning she found Everard enjoying a cigar in the piazza. "You needn't think to escape by going off in that unceremonious manner last night, so you may as well listen now, for I intend to express my sentiments some time or other."
"I am all attention Miss Lucy, only I hope you don't object to my cigar."
"Not at all, it will make you more patient perhaps."
"Shouldn't wonder, as I'm afraid from your preamble it is nothing I care to hear."
"Everard!" then with a shrug. "Of course you don't."
Everard laughed. "You stupid fellow, won't you be quiet and hear what I have to say."
"I wish to remind you, that you need not go goodness knows how many hundred miles to find people to convert, as there are plenty nearer home."
"No doubt, and also, others near home anxious to convert them."
"And do you think, that no one but yourself would go to that outlandish place."
"Very few, comparatively; of course there are some."
"Mighty few I expect."
"Then you see an additional reason, why I should."
"I have not seen any yet, so of course cant't see additional ones" she answered saucily. "I tell you what you had better do, stay and convert me, and that will take you a precious long time I promise you."
"Oh, how grave you are, I wish you could see your face."
"You forget what you are talking about, Lucy, or you would not speak so" he said gravely, "I cannot believe that you are in earnest."
"Of course I don't mean half I say, I never do, I did not think you would take it so seriously."
"It is a bad way to get into, Lucy."
"Don't be alarmed" cried Lucy laughing, "I'm not so awfully wicked as you imagine. I know, that I am very wild, and thoughtless, and that that school did not do me any good, but for all that, I'm not quite a heathen."
"Be merry and wise," he said kindly but gravely."
"That is not so easy" returned Lucy with a gulp, "you may think so, you are so mild tempered; but with one, so impulsive, and high spirited as I am, it is very hard, almost impossible; that's always the way with you quiet, easy going people, you have no sympathy with us."
"Oh, Lucy, how apt we are to form wrong opinions, you think me quiet, easy, gentle, I may be so, but I am also passionate, determined, and you say selfish; be that as it may, I cannot give up without a very hard struggle, not even then usually. I am unyielding. Persevering and firm, Emily would say, self-willed and obstinate, Grace would call me."
"I can't believe you."
"It is true."
"But to resume our discussion; it is really too provoking to take Isabel off to that outlandish place."
"It is settled, all the talking in the world can't make any difference," he said with the quiet smile, and languid manner, that made it so hard to believe that he was indeed what he had described.
In the evening Susan brought a note to Isabel, as she and Everard were walking on the terrace. Isabel turned deadly pale on observing the handwriting, "it is from Dr. Tachereau" she exclaimed.
"Let me open it" said Everard seeing her agitation.
"A poisoned letter perhaps."
"Oh Everard, such things only happen in story books, but if you really think so, it had better go at the back of the fire."
"The fire is the right place for it no doubt, but I have a curiosity to see the inside first, some impertinence you may be sure."
"Perhaps to inform us, that he will bring his pistols to the church, if we dare to venture there, said Isabel breaking the seal. She opened it, but a sickening faintness overpowered her, and she was unable to read. He had now succeeded in making her fear him, while his vindictiveness had been solely against herself, she had defied him, but now, that another was menaced she trembled for his safety.
"Let me see this madman's effusion" said Everard soothingly, "Why I declare you are quite ill, take this seat and I will read for our mutual edification."
Casting an anxious glance towards Isabel occasionally to ascertain if she was recovering from her agitation, he read a follow's:
DEAR ISABEL,—(cool muttered Everard). What a fool I was the other night, can you, will you, forgive me. Could you know the remorse and misery I have suffered since, or the feeling of thankfulness with which I heard that I had not seriously injured either of you; I think you would. What a reward for your kindness to my poor Natalie; what a return for your sympathy in my trouble. When had you rejoiced at my misfortune, I could scarcely have been surprised. But I loved myself, and my own way, and you thwarted me twice; but enough of the past. I dare not contemplate it. Let me however say a few words in extenuation of my folly. You can never know what I endured that evening, to see the regard once bestowed on me, transferred to another, to see that I was nothing,—that I was entirely, unmistakeably forgotten,—perhaps detested; for you treated me with unnecessary coldness. All this so worked upon my unhappy temperament until nearly mad with anger and jealousy, I did that, for which I now beseech you to forgive me. I shall never see you again, as the thought of your marrying another is so hateful to me that I dare not trust myself in your presence after the dark glimpse I have had of my evil nature. I did not think I could be so wicked. Farewell, I still remain your loving, though now unloved—LOUIS.
Everard deliberately tore the note into fragments, with the same expression that Dr. Heathfield had remarked, while an angry flush suffused his countenance. But there was more of pity, than of anger, in Isabel's mind, and she did not notice his displeasure. And as Rose at this moment came to call them in, to see Mrs. Arnold, of course no comment was passed on the letter; though Everard's unusual gloominess that evening, proved that he had not forgotten it.
Mrs. Arnold was very fussy as usual, and told many amusing anecdotes regarding her journey, and also gave an immense amount of good advice to both Everard and Isabel, for which of course they were duly grateful.
"Really my dear Mabel" said Mrs. Arnold, "I never was more glad in my life, than when I heard of this match, I was positively delighted. But you must not suppose for a moment, that I had any such idea; when I got her the situation."
Isabel looked annoyed, "naughty girl" said Mrs. Arlington, and then it came out, how foolishly sensitive, (as Mrs. Arlington termed it,) Isabel had always been, regarding her position. "Never mind, dear," said Mrs. Arnold kindly, "It is all over now, but still I should have thought that you had been a governess long enough to get used to it."
"Please don't pleaded Isabel, resolutely forcing back the tears which invariably came, at any allusion to the distasteful subject. And Everard, who until now had been unaware of her extreme dislike of being a governess admired her the more, that while hating her position so much, she had so determinately refused him, as long as she felt, that she did not return his affection.
"How is it my dear" inquired Mrs. Arnold, who seemed destined to-night to hit upon the wrong topic, "that you have never been to visit any of your old friends, Mrs. Price, Mrs. Vernon, Miss Carding, and hosts of others, told me repeatedly, that time after time, they have sent you the most pressing invitations, all to no purpose."
Isabel reddened painfully, Emily and Lucy laughed.
"That is another of Isabel's 'weaknesses'." Everard looked annoyed. "Sing some of your comic songs, Harry," he said, wishing to change the subject. And Harry sung, to the great amusement of the party generally, and of Mrs. Arnold in particular.
Before they separated, a moonlight excursion to the romantic dell, the scene of the memorable picnic four years ago, was arranged for the next evening, and met with universal approbation. All agreeing that the water-fall could only be seen to perfection by moonlight.
It had been a dull day, this last day, so that all were glad that the evening was not spent quietly at home, giving time for sad thoughts of to-morrow's parting. Thanks to Harry and Lucy, the excursion passed off more cheerfully than might have been expected, all appearing to enjoy themselves. On their return, Isabel did not join the others in the drawing-room, but went out and lingered by the fountain, in the moonlight, musing on all that had happened since she first came there, now nearly five years ago, and wondering how long it might be, and what might happen, ere she would again be there—or if, indeed, she would be there again. Ah! seek not to look into futurity, Isabel. It is well for you that you know not all that shall be ere you again sit there. Enjoy your happiness while you may, and leave the future to unfold itself. She remained there a long time thinking of many things, and was still lost in meditation when Everard joined her.
"A penny for your thoughts," he said.
"Oh, Everard, I want you to do something," she returned, laying her hand on his arm.
"What is it, dearest?" he inquired.
"I feel so unhappy about Louis. I wish so much that you would write and say that we forgive him."
Everard was silent, and his face became very stern.
"If you would, I should be so glad."
"You ask too much," he said.
"Only what is right."
"Right perhaps, but hard—very hard."
"Oh, do," she pleaded, raising her blue eyes to his so earnestly. "Oh, Everard, it is not the way for us to be happy, to be unforgiving. I should be so miserable: day by day watching the blue waters, knowing that I had left any one in anger or ill-feeling. Oh, Everard, you will forgive him!"
She looked so lovely there in the moonlight, pleading for one who so little deserved it of her, that Everard found it hard to refuse her.
"I cannot write a lie, Isabel, even to please you," he replied, in a harsh, unnatural voice.
"Oh, no, not that; but I want you really to forgive him."
"I do not, I cannot," and his voice was hard and cold.
Isabel shuddered. Was this the Everard usually so kind and gentle?
"Oh, Everard, and you a clergyman!"
"Perhaps I am not fit to be one," he answered. "I have thought so sometimes lately, but I wished so much to be one that, in seeking to fulfil the wish, I may have overlooked the meetness."
"If you are not, I do not know who is," she said, "but this is not like yourself; I should be less surprised if I was unforgiving and you forgave."
"I hope that I do not often feel as I do now towards him. But you forget how nearly he took you from me; he whom I trusted and regarded with the warmest friendship."
"It is not for his sake I ask it Everard; forgive as you would be forgiven."
They walked on in silence until they reached the house. Then Everard said, "From my heart I wish I could, Isabel," and abruptly left her. Then, alone in his own room, after all had retired to rest, far into the night he fought the battle of good and evil. What was he about to do—preach and teach meekness, self-denial, and forgiveness of injuries, while he was still angry and unforgiving? What mockery! Ought he not to practice what he taught? Was theory—mere words—sufficient? No; he must, by example, give force to his teaching, or how could he hope to succeed? All this he saw clearly enough, but the difficulty still remained. He strove hard to conquer, but evil prevailed. "Forgive as you would be forgiven" rang continually in his ears, but he did not, could not, forgive. He laid down, but not to sleep, and the pale moon shone calmly and peacefully in upon him, as if mocking his disquietude. At length he threw the painful subject from him, and sank into an uneasy slumber.
He awoke, next morning, with the sun beaming brightly in at the window. But dark clouds gathered round him; gloomy doubts as to his fitness for the office he had taken, and sorrow at the impossibility of his forgiving Louis. "Forgive as you would be forgiven," and again the last night's struggle was renewed, and even when they started for the church he had not conquered.
Isabel saw how it was, and this was the bitter drop in her cup of happiness. Alas! in this world when is it unalloyed?
A burst of music filled the church as the bridal party entered, and very lovely looked the bride, surrounded by her three little bridesmaids, while in the background stood a fourth, the merry Lucy. Bob and three youthful Arlington cousins were groomsmen, and Everard, to use Lucy's own words, was the very beau ideal of what a bridegroom should be, in fact "perfect."
The sun shone with almost dazzling splendor on the group, which Emily pronounced "a good omen," and again the organ pealed forth its joyous strains as they left the church, and gaily rang the marriage bells.
"Everard," said Isabel, when they were in the library awaiting the arrival of the others, "write that letter now; I know you can, for you would not look so happy if you felt as you did last night."
"I can write it truthfully now," he replied, smiling at her earnestness. And then, with his bride bending over his shoulder, Everard wrote such a note as only he could write, expressing their entire forgiveness, and made Isabel take the pen and write "Isabel Arlington" under his signature.
The others, coming in, insisted upon knowing the subject of their very important correspondence, but Everard pocketed the letter and refused to satisfy their curiosity.
The breakfast was but a dull affair, notwithstanding the exuberant spirits of the young groomsmen. The parents knew that they were parting with their only son, and that it would be years before they would see him again; and the son, amid his happiness, remembered that he was leaving father, mother, sisters, perhaps never to return. Isabel, also, felt it hard to part so soon with her new sisters, who hung about her with every demonstration of affection and regret.
Then such a scene in the dressing-room (from which Mrs. Arlington had mercifully contrived to keep Mrs. Arnold.) Emily, with her head buried in a sofa cushion, weeping passionately at the thought of parting with her brother, while the children all clung around Isabel in such a manner as to make it utterly impossible for her to don her travelling dress; Lucy trying to comfort Emily, and Grace scolding the children. Ada, taking pity on Isabel, reminded them that Everard was going as well as Isabel, suggesting that they should go down to him. To this they readily agreed.
"I ought to go, too, only I'm afraid Everard will be vexed to see me in such a state," sobbed Emily.
"I like to have you here, Emily dear," replied Isabel, "but you had better go down; you will be sorry afterwards if you don't. He feels it dreadfully, I know, poor fellow."
"He looked fearfully pale during breakfast," added Ada, feelingly.
"I will go," returned Emily, vainly endeavoring to check her emotion. And Grace went with her, leaving Isabel with Ada and Lucy.
Isabel, who had managed to keep up tolerably well so far, now gave way to uncontrollable emotion. This second scene with the children had been quite too much for her.
"Isabel! Isabel! you will never be dressed to-day," cried Ada, in despair.
"Oh, let her be," returned Lucy; "they will miss the train, and have to wait for the next steamer. What a glorious stew Everard would be in! for then, of course, they would be too late for that precious Indian ship. Oh, I declare, I hope they will!"
"Oh, Lucy!" and Isabel made quick work with her dressing, to Lucy's intense amusement.
Everard, meanwhile, had been undergoing a terrible ordeal down stairs, and was truly glad when Isabel made her appearance. She was met now with a worse storm of grief than any previously encountered; as for Amy, she flew into the carriage after her.
So they drove off, amid thundering cheers from the young groomsmen. Papa inquired if Amy intended to go to Madagascar, and on Everard's answering in the affirmative she was wild to get out, protesting that she would not. "But you can't get out until we reach the gate," said Everard. "Promise me, Isabel, dear Isabel, that you will let me out at the gate," she cried, in an agony; "pray don't let me go to nasty Madagascar; oh, please don't." So Everard, seeing that the child was really terrified, stopped the carriage, and Amy instantly jumped out in the greatest haste, without waiting for any more leave-taking, getting several thumps from the old shoes which were sent in a continued shower after the carriage until it had passed through the gate, when a deafening "tiger" made the welkin ring.
* * * * * * * *
Here we must bid adieu to those whose fortunes we have followed so far, hoping at some future time to hear more about them. But as we do not care to inquire particularly after Louis Taschereau, we may as well mention here that he, some time after, married a fine high-spirited girl, who was completely his match, the domineering being all on the wife's side. No tears were shed by her during his absence, and a scornful smile was the utmost that his anger or ill-temper ever elicited. So they managed to get on tolerably well, the inquiring look of the cold grey eye often checking a fit of passion. As Louis's mercenary propensities have already shown themselves, it is almost needless to add that she had what he valued more than anything else—money—which, by the way, she took good care to have settled on herself. But this he did not object to (albeit she would have done so all the same if he had), provided there was plenty of it.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *
[Errata Noted by Transcriber:
Since a full list of errors would be almost as long as the novel itself, most are given in tabular form only. Some counts may be incomplete. Inquisitive readers may like to look at the source code of the html version of the text, where most errors are noted in form.
Missing quotation mark 58 Extra quotation mark 23 Misplaced quotation mark 7 Single/double quote error 2 all quotation-mark errors 90
Missing question mark 32 Missing or incorrect period or comma 11 Missing apostrophe 8 Extra apostrophe 7 Extra parenthesis 1 punctuation errors 59
Typographical error or misspelling 36
drooping spirits. We have // who in the name of wonder do you think the marking // represents a mechanical error; the text skips from the middle of one line to the middle of the next ]