"Strolling about in the shrubberies and grounds," answered Isabel.
"How dare you so disgrace yourself!"
"I do not understand you," said Isabel, her heart beginning to beat unpleasantly. "Marvel, you are pulling my hair."
When women liable to intemperate fits of passion give the reins to them, they neither know nor care what they say. Lady Mount Severn broke into a torrent of reproach and abuses, most degrading and unjustifiable.
"Is it not sufficient that you are allowed an asylum in my house, but you must also disgrace it! Three hours have you been hiding yourself with Francis Levison! You have done nothing but flirt with him from the moment he came; you did nothing else at Christmas."
The attack was longer and broader, but that was the substance of it, and Isabel was goaded to resistance, to anger little less great than that of the countess. This!--and before her attendant! She, an earl's daughter, so much better born than Emma Mount Severn, to be thus insultingly accused in the other's mad jealousy. Isabel tossed her hair from the hands of Marvel, rose up and confronted the countess, constraining her voice to calmness.
"I do not flirt!" she said; "I have never flirted. I leave that"--and she could not wholly suppress in tone the scorn she felt--"to married women; though it seems to me that it is a fault less venial in them than in single ones. There is but one inmate of this house who flirts, so far as I have seen since I have lived in it; is it you or I, Lady Mount Severn?"
The home truth told on her ladyship. She turned white with rage, forgot her manners, and, raising her right hand, struck Isabel a stinging blow upon the left cheek. Confused and terrified, Isabel stood in pain, and before she could speak or act, my lady's left hand was raised to the other cheek, and a blow left on that. Lady Isabel shivered as with a sudden chill, and cried out--a sharp, quick cry-- covered her outraged face, and sank down upon the dressing chair. Marvel threw up her hands in dismay, and William Vane could not have burst into a louder roar had he been beaten himself. The boy--he was of a sensitive nature--was frightened.