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viving relation, about three hundred pounds, together with the furniture of a house. The latter part of the legacy suggested to her the propriety of endeavouring to support herself by keeping lodgings, while the part which consisted in money promised to stand effectually between her and all the mischances that could be expected to befall her in such a walk of life. She accordingly, for several years, let one or two rooms to students and other persons, and thus contrived to live very decently, without trenching upon her little capital, till at length she attained the discreet age of two-and-forty.
Isbel had at no period of life been a beauty. She had an iron-gray complexion, and a cast of features bespeaking rather strength of character than feminine grace. She was now less a beauty than ever, and for years had tacitly acknowledged her sense of the fact, by abandoning all those modes and materials of dress which women wear so long as they have any thoughts of matrimony. Where, however, is the woman at that, or any more juvenile period of life, in whose bosom the spark of love lies dead beyond recall? If any such there be, Isbel's was not of the number.
Among her lodgers was an individual of the name of Fordyne, who kept a grocer's shop of an inferior order in the neighbourhood. This person gave himself out for a native of the Isle of Man, and stated that he had made a little money as mess-man to a militia regiment, by which he had been enabled to set up in business. He was a large, dark, coarse man, of about five-andthirty, with a somewhat unpromising cast of face, and a slight twist in his left eye. Fordyne seemed to be a man of great industry and application, and used to speak of his circumstances as agreeable in every respect, except that he wanted a wife. This, he said, was a great want. There were many things about his shop which no one but a female could properly attend to. Without such a helpmate, things were continually going wrong; but with her, all would go right. One point, however, he must be clear about: she who should be his wife would require to bring something with her, to add to his stock, and buy the necessary house-furniture. He cared little about good looks, if there was good sense; and indeed a woman of some experience in the world would answer his purpose best. Honest İsbel began in a little while to turn all these matters in her mind. She one day took a steady look at Fordyne, and discovered that he had a good upright carriage of body, and that though his mouth was of the largest, yet his teeth were among the best she had ever seen. Next time she visited his shop, she took a glance at the room behind,
and found that it had a nice out-look upon Salisbury Crags. Fordyne, observing that she glanced into his back-shop, invited her to come in and see what a fine house he had, for such in reality it was, though unfurnished. Isbel very quickly saw that there was one capital
bedroom, a parlour, a kitchen, and a vast variety of closets, where things could be "put off one's hand.” One press, Mr Fordyne showed, was already furnished, being tenanted by a huge dram-bottle, and a server full of shortbread, which, he said, had been lately required to treat his customers, on account of the New-Year. Of this he made Isbel a partaker, drinking in his turn to her good health, and a good man to her before the next recurrence of the season. This exchange of compliments did not take place without some effect. Isbel ascended the stair in a kind of reverie, and found herself entering the next door above, instead of her own, before she was aware. In a month thereafter the two were married.
Three days after the nuptials, Mrs Fordyne was sitting in her little parlour, waiting supper for her husband, and reflecting on the step she was about to take next day-namely, the transference of her household furniture to the apartments behind Fordyne's shop, and the surrender of her little fortune into his hands. Her eye happened, in the course of her cogitations, to wander to a portrait of her father, which hung opposite; and as she gazed on it, she could hardly help thinking that its naturally stern and even sour features assumed an expression still sterner and sourer. No doubt this was the mere effect of some inward pleading of conscience, for she could not but acknowledge secretly to herself that the step she had taken was not of that kind which her parent would have approved. She withdrew her eyes with a disturbed mind, and again looked musingly towards the fire, when she thought she heard the outer door open, and a person come in. At first she supposed that this must be her husband, and she began, therefore, to transfer the supper from the fire to the table. On listening, however, she heard that the footsteps were accompanied by the sound of a walking-cane, which assured her that it could not be Fordyne. She stood for a minute motionless and silent, and distinctly heard the sound as of an old man walking along the passage with a stick-sounds which at once brought to her recollection her departed father. She sunk into her chair; the sounds died away in the distance ; and almost at that minute her husband came in to cheer her, calling to the servant as he passed, in his loud and boisterous way, that she had stupidly left the outer door open.
Though Isbel Lucas had committed a very imprudent action, in marrying a man who was a perfect stranger to her, nevertheless the predominating feature of her mind was prudence. The impressions just made upon her senses were of a very agitating nature; yet knowing that it was too late to act upon them, she concealed her emotions. There could be no doubt that she had received what in her native country is called a “warning;” yet conceiving that her best course was to go on, and betray no suspicion, she never faltered in any of her promises to her husband. She was next day installed in Mr Fordyne's own house, to whom, in return, she committed a sum rather above four hundred pounds; for to that extent had she increased her stock in the course of her late employment.
For some time matters proceeded very well. Her husband professed to lay out part of her money upon those goods which he had formerly represented himself as unable to buy. His habits of application were rather increased than diminished, and a few customers of a more respectable kind than any he had hitherto had began to frequent the shop, being drawn thither in consideration of his wife. Among the new articles he dealt in was whisky, which he bought in large quantities from the distillers, and sold wholesale to a number of the neighbouring dealers. By and by this branch of his trade seemed to outgrow all the rest, and he found himself occasionally obliged to pay visits to the places where the liquor was manufactured, in order to purchase it at the greatest advantage. His wife in a little while became accustomed to his absence for a day or two at a time, and having every reason to believe that his affairs were in a very prosperous state, began to forget all her former misgivings.
On one occasion he left her on what he described as a circuit of the Highland distilleries, intending, he said, to be absent for at least a week, and carrying with him money to the amount of nearly a thousand pounds, which he said he would probably spend upon whisky before he came back. Nothing that could awaken the least suspicion occurred at their parting; but next day, while his wife superintended matters in the shop, she was surprised when a large bill was presented, for which he had made no provision. On inspecting it, she was still further surprised to find that it referred to a transaction which she understood at the time to be a ready-money one. Having dismissed
presenter of the bill, she lost no time in repairing to the counting-house of a large commission-house in Leith, with which she knew her husband to have had large transactions. There, on making some indirect inquiries, she found that his purchases, instead of being entirely for ready' money, as he had represented to her, were mostly paid by bills, some of which were on the point of becoming due. It was now but too apparent that the unprincipled man had taken his final leave of her and his creditors, bearing with him all the spoil that his ingenuity could
Isbel Lucas was not a person to sit down in idle despair on such an event. She was a steady Scotchwoman, with a stout heart for a difficulty; and her resolution was soon taken. She instantly proceeded to the Glasgow coach-offices, and ascertained, as she expected, that a man answering to the description of her husband had taken a place for that city the day before. The small quantity of money that had been collected in the shop since his departure she put into her pocket; the shop she com
mitted to the porter and her old servant Jenny; and having made up a small bundle of extra clothes, she set off by the coach to Glasgow. On alighting in the Trongate, the first person she saw was a female friend from Edinburgh, who asked, with surprise, how she and her husband happened to be travelling at the same time. “Why do you ask that question ?” asked Isbel. “Because,” replied the other, “I shook hands with Mr Fordyne yesterday, as he was going on board the Isle of Man steamboat at the Broomielaw." This was enough for Isbel. She immediately ascertained the time when the Isle of Man steamboat would next sail
, and, to her great joy, found that she would not be two days later than her husband in reaching the island. On landing in proper time at Douglas, in Man, she found her purse almost empty; but her desperate circumstances made her resolve to prosecute the search, though she should have to beg her way back.
It was morning when she landed at Douglas. The whole forenoon she spent in wandering about the streets, in the hope of encountering her faithless husband, and in inquiring after hím at the inns. At length she satisfied herself that he must have left the town that very day for a remote part of the island, and on foot. She immediately set out upon the same road, and with the same means of conveyance, determined to sink with fatigue, or subject herself to any kind of danger, rather than return without her object. At first the road passed over a moorish part of the country; but after proceeding several miles, it began to border on the sea, in some places edging on the precipices which overhung the shore, and at others winding into deep recesses of the country. At length, on coming to the opening of a long, reach of the road, she saw a figure, which she took for that of her husband, just disappearing at the opposite extremity. Immediately gathering fresh strength, she pushed briskly on, and after an hour's toilsome march, had the satisfaction, on turning a projection, to find her husband sitting right before her on a stone.
Fordyne was certainly very much surprised at her appearance, which was totally unexpected; but he soon recovered his composure. He met her with more than even usual kindness, as if concerned at her having thought proper to perform so toilsome a journey. He hastened to explain that some information he had received at Glasgow respecting the dangerous state of his mother, had induced him to make a start out of his way to see her, after which he would immediately return. It was then his turn to ask explanations from her; but this subject he pressed very lightly; and, for her part, she hardly dared, in this lonely place, to avow the suspicions which had induced her to undertake the journey. “It is all very well,” said Fordyne, with affected complaisance; "you'll just go forward with me to my mother's house, and she will be the better pleased to see me since I bring you with me." Isbel, smothering her real feelings, agreed to do this, though it may well be supposed that, after what he had already done, and considering the wild place in which she was, she must have entertained no comfortable prospect of her night's adventures. On, then, they walked, in the dusk of fast-approaching night, through a country which seemed to be destitute alike of houses and inhabitants, and where the universal stillness was hardly ever broken by the sound of any animal, wild or tame, The road, as formerly, was partly on the edge of a sea-worn precipice, over which a victim might be dashed in a moment, with hardly the least chance of ever being more seen or heard of, and partly in the recesses of a rugged country, in whose pathless wildernesses the work of murder might be almost as securely effected. Isbel Lucas, knowing how much reason her husband had to wish her out of this world, was fully alive to the dangers of her path, and at every place that seemed more convenient than another for such a work, regarded him, even in the midst of a civil conversation, with the watchful eye of one who dreads the spring of the tiger from every brake. She contrived to keep upon the side of the road most remote from the precipices, and carried in her pocket an unclasped penknife, though almost hopeless that her womanly nerves would support her in any effort to use it. Thus did they walk on for several miles, till at length, all of a sudden, Fordyne started
off the road, and was instantly lost in a wild, tortuous ravine. This event was so different from any which she had feared, that for a moment Isbel stood motionless with surprise. Another moment, however, sufficed to make up her mind as to her future course, and she immediately plunged into the defile, following as nearly as possible in the direction which the fugitive appeared to have taken. On, on she toiled, through thick entangling bushes, and over much soft and mossy ground, her limbs every moment threatening to sink beneath her with fatigue, which they would certainly have done very speedily, if the desperate anxieties which filled her mind had not rendered her in a great measure insensible to the languor of her body. It at length became a more pressing object with her to find some place where she could be sheltered for the night, than to follow in so hopeless a pursuit; and she therefore experienced great joy on perceiving a light at a little distance. As she approached the place whence this seemed to proceed, she discovered a cottage, whence she could hear the sounds of singing and dancing. With great caution she drew near to the window through which the light was glancing, and there, peeping into the apartment, she saw her husband capering in furious mirth amidst a set of coarse peasant-like individuals, mingled with a few who bore all the appearance of sea-smugglers. An old woman, of most unamiable aspect, sat by the fireside, occasionally giving orders for the preparation of food, and now and then
a complimentary expression to Fordyne, whom Isbel