not like him. They returned last night, and were remarried here this morning, I understand,” she added, dropping her voice. “I fear—I do fear, that Laura will live to regret it.”
“It’s to be hoped she will,” said the countess, in just the same tone that Lord Oak burn might have wished it. “I saw my young lady just now.”
“You saw her, aunt?”
“I did,” said Lady Oakburn, nodding her head, “and she saw me. She was at the window of a house as I passed it: Mr. Carlton’s, I suppose. Mark me, Jane! she will live to repent it; these runaway matches don’t bring luck with them. Where’s Clarice?”
The concluding question was put quite as abruptly as the one had been regarding Laura. Jane lifted her eyes, and the flush of excitement stole into her cheek.
“She is where she was, I conclude, Aunt Oakburn.”
“And where’s that? You may tell me all you know of her proceedings since she left home.”
It was certainly condescending of the dowager to allow this, considering that since the departure of Clarice from her home, she had never permitted Jane to mention her in any one of her letters.
“The all is not much, aunt,” said Jane. “You know that she sent us word she had entered on a situation in the neighbourhood of Hyde Park——”
“And that she had assumed a false name,” interrupted the countess, with acrimony.
“Yes, I know so much. Go on.”
“That she had changed her name,” said Jane, wincing at the plain statement of the case. “But she desired her letters to be addressed Miss Chesney; therefore I cannot see how she can have wholly dropped it.”
“Who would write to her, pray?”
“I did,” said Jane. “I thought it well that we should not all abandon her——”
“Abandon her!” again interposed the countess. “I think it was she who abandoned us.”
“Well—yes, of course it was—but you know what I mean, aunt. I wrote to her occasionally, and I had a few letters from her. Papa never forbade that.”
“And what did she say in her letters?”
“Not much: they were generally short ones. I expect they were written just to tell me that she was well and safe. She gave scarcely any particulars of the family she was with, but she said she was as comfortable there on the whole, she supposed, as she could expect to be. But I have not heard from her since the beginning of the year, and I am getting uneasy about it. My two last letters have brought forth no reply: and they were letters that required one.”
“She’s coming home,” said the countess. “You’ll see.”
“I wish I could think so,” returned Jane. “But when I remember her proud spirit, a conviction comes over me that she will not make the first move. She will expect papa to do it.”
“Then she should expect, for me, were I her father,” tartly returned the dowager, as she rose and put on her bonnet. “If she has no more sense of what is due to the Earl of Oakburn, and to herself as Lady Clarice Chesney, than to be out teaching children, I’d let her stop until her senses came to her.”
Almost the same words as those used by the earl not many hours before. And the old Countess of Oakburn reiterated them again, as she said adieu to her grandnieces, and departed as abruptly as she had arrived.