During the visit she had asked some question concerning Lucinda and Sir Griffin, and had been informed that that marriage was to go on. A hint had been thrown out as to Lucinda's parentage;—but Lizzie had not understood the hint, and the question had not been pressed.
Quints or Semitenths
The task which Lady Glencora had taken upon herself was not a very easy one. No doubt Lord Fawn was a man subservient to the leaders of his party, much afraid of the hard judgment of those with whom he was concerned, painfully open to impression from what he would have called public opinion, to a certain extent a coward, most anxious to do right so that he might not be accused of being in the wrong,—and at the same time gifted with but little of that insight into things which teaches men to know what is right and what is wrong. Lady Glencora, having perceived all this, felt that he was a man upon whom a few words from her might have an effect. But even Lady Glencora might hesitate to tell a gentleman that he ought to marry a lady, when the gentleman had already declared his intention of not marrying, and had attempted to justify his decision almost publicly by a reference to the lady's conduct. Lady Glencora almost felt that she had undertaken too much as she turned over in her mind the means she had of performing her promise to Lady Eustace.
The five-farthing bill had been laid upon the table on a Tuesday, and was to be read the first time on the following Monday week. On the Wednesday Lady Glencora had written to the duke, and had called in Hertford Street. On the following Sunday she was at Matching, looking after the duke;—but she returned to London on the Tuesday, and on the Wednesday there was a little dinner at Mr. Palliser's house, given avowedly with the object of further friendly discussion respecting the new Palliser penny. The prime minister was to be there, and Mr. Bonteen, and Barrington Erle, and those special members of the Government who would be available for giving special help to the financial Hercules of the day. A question, perhaps of no great practical importance, had occurred to Mr. Palliser,—but one which, if overlooked, might be fatal to the ultimate success of the measure. There is so much in a name,—and then an ounce of ridicule is often more potent than a hundredweight of argument. By what denomination should the fifth part of a penny be hereafter known? Some one had, ill-naturedly, whispered to Mr. Palliser that a farthing meant a fourth, and at once there arose a new trouble, which for a time bore very heavily on him. Should he boldly disregard the original meaning of the useful old word; or should he venture on the dangers of new nomenclature? October, as he said to himself, is still the tenth month of the year, November the eleventh, and so on, though by these names they are so plainly called the eighth and ninth. All France tried to rid itself of this absurdity, and failed. Should he stick by the farthing; or should he call it a fifthing, a quint, or a semitenth? "There's the 'Fortnightly Review' comes out but once a month," he said to his friend Mr. Bonteen, "and I'm told that it does very well." Mr. Bonteen, who was a rational man, thought the "Review" would do better if it were called by a more rational name, and was very much in favour of "a quint." Mr. Gresham had expressed an opinion, somewhat off-hand, that English people would never be got to talk about quints, and so there was a difficulty. A little dinner was therefore arranged, and Mr. Palliser, as was his custom in such matters, put the affair of the dinner into his wife's hands. When he was told that she had included Lord Fawn among the guests he opened his eyes. Lord Fawn, who might be good enough at the India Office, knew literally nothing about the penny. "He'll take it as the greatest compliment in the world," said Lady Glencora. "I don't want to pay Lord Fawn a compliment," said Mr. Palliser. "But I do," said Lady Glencora. And so the matter was arranged.
It was a very nice little dinner. Mrs. Gresham and Mrs. Bonteen were there, and the great question of the day was settled in two minutes, before the guests went out of the drawing-room. "Stick to your farthing," said Mr. Gresham.
"I think so," said Mr. Palliser.
"Quint's a very easy word," said Mr. Bonteen.
"But squint is an easier," said Mr. Gresham, with all a prime minister's jocose authority.
"They'd certainly be called cock-eyes," said Barrington Erle.
"There's nothing of the sound of a quarter in farthing," said Mr. Palliser.
"Stick to the old word," said Mr. Gresham. And so the matter was decided while Lady Glencora was flattering Lord Fawn as to the manner in which he had finally arranged the affair of the Sawab of Mygawb. Then they went down to dinner, and not a word more was said that evening about the new penny by Mr. Palliser.
Before dinner Lady Glencora had exacted a promise from Lord Fawn that he would return to the drawing-room. Lady Glencora was very clever at such work, and said nothing then of her purpose. She did not want her guests to run away, and therefore Lord Fawn,—Lord Fawn especially,—must stay. If he were to go there would be nothing spoken of all the evening, but that weary new penny. To oblige her he must remain;—and, of course, he did remain. "Whom do you think I saw the other day?" said Lady Glencora, when she got her victim into a corner. Of course, Lord Fawn had no idea whom she might have seen. Up to that moment no suspicion of what was coming upon him had crossed his mind. "I called upon poor Lady Eustace, and found her in bed." Then did Lord Fawn blush up to the roots of his hair, and for a moment he was stricken dumb. "I do feel for her so much! I think she has been so hardly used!"
He was obliged to say something. "My name has, of course, been much mixed up with hers."
"Yes, Lord Fawn, I know it has. And it is because I am so sure of your high-minded generosity and—and thorough devotion, that I have ventured to speak to you. I am sure there is nothing you would wish so much as to get at the truth."
"Certainly, Lady Glencora."
"All manner of stories have been told about her, and, as I believe, without the slightest foundation. They tell me now that she had an undoubted right to keep the diamonds;—that even if Sir Florian did not give them to her, they were hers under his will. Those lawyers have given up all idea of proceeding against her."
"Because the necklace has been stolen."
"Altogether independently of that. Do you see Mr. Eustace, and ask him if what I say is not true. If it had not been her own she would have been responsible for the value, even though it were stolen; and with such a fortune as hers they would never have allowed her to escape. They were as bitter against her as they could be;—weren't they?"
"Mr. Camperdown thought that the property should be given up."
"Oh yes;—that's the man's name; a horrid man. I am told that he was really most cruel to her. And then, because a lot of thieves had got about her,—after the diamonds, you know, like flies round a honey-pot,—and took first her necklace and then her money, they were impudent enough to say that she had stolen her own things!"
"I don't think they quite said that, Lady Glencora."
"Something very much like it, Lord Fawn. I have no doubt in my own mind who did steal all the things."
"Who was it?"
"Oh,—one mustn't mention names in such an affair without evidence. At any rate, she has been very badly treated, and I shall take her up. If I were you I would go and call upon her;—I would indeed. I think you owe it to her. Well, duke, what do you think of Plantagenet's penny now? Will it ever be worth two halfpence?" This question was asked of the Duke of St. Bungay, a great nobleman whom all Liberals loved, and a member of the Cabinet. He had come in since dinner, and had been asking a question or two as to what had been decided.
"Well, yes; if properly invested I think it will. I'm glad that it is not to contain five semitenths. A semitenth would never have been a popular form of money in England. We hate new names so much that we have not yet got beyond talking of fourpenny bits."
"There's a great deal in a name;—isn't there? You don't think they'll call them Pallisers, or Palls, or anything of that sort;—do you? I shouldn't like to hear that under the new regime two lollypops were to cost three Palls. But they say it never can be carried this session,—and we sha'n't be in, in the next year."
"Who says so? Don't be such a prophetess of evil, Lady Glencora. I mean to be in for the next three sessions, and I mean to see Palliser's measure carried through the House of Lords next session. I shall be paying for my mutton-chops at the club at so many quints a chop yet. Don't you think so, Fawn?"
"I don't know what to think," said Lord Fawn, whose mind was intent on other matters. After that he left the room as quickly as he could, and escaped out into the street. His mind was very much disturbed. If Lady Glencora was determined to take up the cudgels for the woman he had rejected, the comfort and peace of his life would be over. He knew well enough how strong was Lady Glencora.
Mrs. Carbuncle and Lady Eustace had now been up in town between six and seven weeks, and the record of their doings has necessarily dealt chiefly with robberies and the rumours of robberies. But at intervals the minds of the two ladies had been intent on other things. The former was still intent on marrying her niece, Lucinda Roanoke, to Sir Griffin, and the latter had never for a moment forgotten the imperative duty which lay upon her of revenging herself upon Lord Fawn. The match between Sir Griffin and Lucinda was still to be a match. Mrs. Carbuncle persevered in the teeth both of the gentleman and of the lady, and still promised herself success. And our Lizzie, in the midst of all her troubles, had not been idle. In doing her justice we must acknowledge that she had almost abandoned the hope of becoming Lady Fawn. Other hopes and other ambitions had come upon her. Latterly the Corsair had been all in all to her,—with exceptional moments in which she told herself that her heart belonged exclusively to her cousin Frank. But Lord Fawn's offences were not to be forgotten, and she continually urged upon her cousin the depth of the wrongs which she had suffered.
On the part of Frank Greystock there was certainly no desire to let the Under-Secretary escape. It is hoped that the reader, to whom every tittle of this story has been told without reserve, and every secret unfolded, will remember that others were not treated with so much open candour. The reader knows much more of Lizzie Eustace than did her cousin Frank. He, indeed, was not quite in love with Lizzie; but to him she was a pretty, graceful young woman, to whom he was bound by many ties, and who had been cruelly injured. Dangerous she was doubtless, and perhaps a little artificial. To have had her married to Lord Fawn would have been a good thing,—and would still be a good thing. According to all the rules known in such matters Lord Fawn was bound to marry her. He had become engaged to her, and Lizzie had done nothing to forfeit her engagement. As to the necklace,—the plea made for jilting her on that ground was a disgraceful pretext. Everybody was beginning to perceive that Mr. Camperdown would never have succeeded in getting the diamonds from her, even if they had not been stolen. It was "preposterous," as Frank said over and over again to his friend Herriot, that a man when he was engaged to a lady, should take upon himself to judge her conduct as Lord Fawn had done,—and then ride out of his engagement on a verdict found by himself. Frank had therefore willingly displayed alacrity in persecuting his lordship, and had not been altogether without hope that he might drive the two into a marriage yet,—in spite of the protestations made by Lizzie at Portray.
Lord Fawn had certainly not spent a happy winter. Between Mrs. Hittaway on one side and Frank Greystock on the other, his life had been a burthen to him. It had been suggested to him by various people that he was behaving badly to the lady,—who was represented as having been cruelly misused by fortune and by himself. On the other hand it had been hinted to him, that nothing was too bad to believe of Lizzie Eustace, and that no calamity could be so great as that by which he would be overwhelmed were he still to allow himself to be forced into that marriage. "It would be better," Mrs. Hittaway had said, "to retire to Ireland at once, and cultivate your demesne in Tipperary." This was a grievous sentence, and one which had greatly excited the brother's wrath;—but it had shown how very strong was his sister's opinion against the lady to whom he had unfortunately offered his hand. Then there came to him a letter from Mr. Greystock, in which he was asked for his "written explanation." If there be a proceeding which an official man dislikes worse than another, it is a demand for a written explanation. "It is impossible," Frank had said, "that your conduct to my cousin should be allowed to drop without further notice. Hers has been without reproach. Your engagement with her has been made public,—chiefly by you, and it is out of the question that she should be treated as you are treating her, and that your lordship should escape without punishment." What the punishment was to be he did not say; but there did come a punishment on Lord Fawn from the eyes of every man whose eyes met his own, and in the tones of every voice that addressed him. The looks of the very clerks in the India Office accused him of behaving badly to a young woman, and the doorkeeper at the House of Lords seemed to glance askance at him. And now Lady Glencora, who was the social leader of his own party, the feminine pole-star of the Liberal heavens, the most popular and the most daring woman in London, had attacked him personally, and told him that he ought to call on Lady Eustace!
Let it not for a moment be supposed that Lord Fawn was without conscience in the matter, or indifferent to moral obligations. There was not a man in London less willing to behave badly to a young woman than Lord Fawn; or one who would more diligently struggle to get back to the right path, if convinced that he was astray. But he was one who detested interference in his private matters, and who was nearly driven mad between his sister and Frank Greystock. When he left Lady Glencora's house he walked towards his own abode with a dark cloud upon his brow. He was at first very angry with Lady Glencora. Even her position gave her no right to meddle with his most private affairs as she had done. He would resent it, and would quarrel with Lady Glencora. What right could she have to advise him to call upon any woman? But by degrees this wrath died away, and gave place to fears, and qualms, and inward questions. He, too, had found a change in general opinion about the diamonds. When he had taken upon himself with a high hand to dissolve his own engagement, everybody had, as he thought, acknowledged that Lizzie Eustace was keeping property which did not belong to her. Now people talked of her losses as though the diamonds had been undoubtedly her own. On the next morning Lord Fawn took an opportunity of seeing Mr. Camperdown.
"My dear lord," said Mr. Camperdown, "I shall wash my hands of the matter altogether. The diamonds are gone, and the questions now are, who stole them, and where are they? In our business we can't meddle with such questions as those."
"You will drop the bill in Chancery then?"
"What good can the bill do us when the diamonds are gone? If Lady Eustace had anything to do with the robbery—"
"You suspect her, then?"
"No, my lord; no. I cannot say that. I have no right to say that. Indeed it is not Lady Eustace that I suspect. She has got into bad hands, perhaps; but I do not think that she is a thief."
"You were suggesting that,—if she had anything to do with the robbery—"
"Well;—yes;—if she had, it would not be for us to take steps against her in the matter. In fact, the trustees have decided that they will do nothing more, and my hands are tied. If the minor, when he comes of age, claims the property from them, they will prefer to replace it. It isn't very likely; but that's what they say."
"But if it was an heirloom—" suggested Lord Fawn, going back to the old claim.
"That's exploded," said Mr. Camperdown. "Mr. Dove was quite clear about that."
This was the end of the filing of that bill in Chancery as to which Mr. Camperdown had been so very enthusiastic! Now it certainly was the case that poor Lord Fawn in his conduct towards Lizzie had trusted greatly to the support of Mr. Camperdown's legal proceeding. The world could hardly have expected him to marry a woman against whom a bill in Chancery was being carried on for the recovery of diamonds which did not belong to her. But that support was now altogether withdrawn from him. It was acknowledged that the necklace was not an heirloom,—clearly acknowledged by Mr. Camperdown! And even Mr. Camperdown would not express an opinion that the lady had stolen her own diamonds.
How would it go with him, if after all, he were to marry her? The bone of contention between them had at any rate been made to vanish. The income was still there, and Lady Glencora Palliser had all but promised her friendship. As he entered the India Office on his return from Mr. Camperdown's chambers, he almost thought that that would be the best way out of his difficulty. In his room he found his brother-in-law, Mr. Hittaway, waiting for him. It is always necessary that a man should have some friend whom he can trust in delicate affairs, and Mr. Hittaway was selected as Lord Fawn's friend. He was not at all points the man whom Lord Fawn would have chosen, but for their close connexion. Mr. Hittaway was talkative, perhaps a little loud, and too apt to make capital out of every incident of his life. But confidential friends are not easily found, and one does not wish to increase the circle to whom one's family secrets must become known. Mr. Hittaway was at any rate zealous for the Fawn family, and then his character as an official man stood high. He had been asked on the previous evening to step across from the Civil Appeal Office to give his opinion respecting that letter from Frank Greystock demanding a written explanation. The letter had been sent to him; and Mr. Hittaway had carried it home and shown it to his wife. "He's a cantankerous Tory, and determined to make himself disagreeable," said Mr. Hittaway, taking the letter from his pocket and beginning the conversation. Lord Fawn seated himself in his great arm-chair, and buried his face in his hands. "I am disposed, after much consideration, to advise you to take no notice of the letter," said Mr. Hittaway, giving his counsel in accordance with instructions received from his wife. Lord Fawn still buried his face. "Of course the thing is painful,—very painful. But out of two evils one should choose the least. The writer of this letter is altogether unable to carry out his threat." "What can the man do to him?" Mrs. Hittaway had asked, almost snapping at her husband as she did so. "And then," continued Mr. Hittaway, "we all know that public opinion is with you altogether. The conduct of Lady Eustace is notorious."
"Everybody is taking her part," said Lord Fawn, almost crying.
"Yes;—they are. The bill in Chancery has been withdrawn, and it's my belief that if the necklace were found to-morrow, there would be nothing to prevent her keeping it,—just as she did before."
"But it was an heirloom?"
"No, it wasn't. The lawyers were all wrong about it. As far as I can see, lawyers always are wrong. About those nine lacs of rupees for the Sawab, Finlay was all wrong. Camperdown owns that he was wrong. If, after all, the diamonds were hers, I'm sure I don't know what I am to do. Thank you, Hittaway, for coming over. That'll do for the present. Just leave that ruffian's letter, and I'll think about it."
This was considered by Mrs. Hittaway to be a very bad state of things, and there was great consternation in Warwick Square when Mr. Hittaway told his wife this new story of her brother's weakness. She was not going to be weak. She did not intend to withdraw her opposition to the marriage. She was not going to be frightened by Lizzie Eustace and Frank Greystock,—knowing as she did that they were lovers, and very improper lovers, too. "Of course she stole them herself," said Mrs. Hittaway; "and I don't doubt but she stole her own money afterwards. There's nothing she wouldn't do. I'd sooner see Frederic in his grave than married to such a woman as that. Men don't know how sly women can be;—that's the truth. And Frederic has been so spoilt among them down at Richmond, that he has no real judgment left. I don't suppose he means to marry her."
"Upon my word I don't know," said Mr. Hittaway. Then Mrs. Hittaway made up her mind that she would at once write a letter to Scotland.
There was an old lord about London in those days,—or, rather, one who was an old Liberal but a young lord,—one Lord Mount Thistle, who had sat in the Cabinet, and had lately been made a peer when his place in the Cabinet was wanted. He was a pompous, would-be important, silly old man, well acquainted with all the traditions of his party, and perhaps, on that account, useful,—but a bore, and very apt to meddle when he was not wanted. Lady Glencora, on the day after her dinner-party, whispered into his ear that Lord Fawn was getting himself into trouble, and that a few words of caution, coming to him from one whom he respected so much as he did Lord Mount Thistle, would be of service to him. Lord Mount Thistle had known Lord Fawn's father, and declared himself at once to be quite entitled to interfere. "He is really behaving badly to Lady Eustace," said Lady Glencora, "and I don't think that he knows it." Lord Mount Thistle, proud of a commission from the hands of Lady Glencora, went almost at once to his old friend's son. He found him at the House that night, and whispered his few words of caution in one of the lobbies.
"I know you will excuse me, Fawn," Lord Mount Thistle said, "but people seem to think that you are not behaving quite well to Lady Eustace."
"What people?" demanded Lord Fawn.
"My dear fellow, that is a question that cannot be answered. You know that I am the last man to interfere if I didn't think it my duty as a friend. You were engaged to her?"—Lord Fawn only frowned. "If so," continued the late cabinet minister, "and if you have broken it off, you ought to give your reasons. She has a right to demand as much as that."
On the next morning, Friday, there came to him the note which Lady Glencora had recommended Lizzie to write. It was very short. "Had you not better come and see me? You can hardly think that things should be left as they are now. L. E.—Hertford Street, Thursday." He had hoped,—he had ventured to hope,—that things might be left, and that they would arrange themselves; that he could throw aside his engagement without further trouble, and that the subject would drop. But it was not so. His enemy, Frank Greystock, had demanded from him a "written explanation" of his conduct. Mr. Camperdown had deserted him. Lady Glencora Palliser, with whom he had not the honour of any intimate acquaintance, had taken upon herself to give him advice. Lord Mount Thistle had found fault with him. And now there had come a note from Lizzie Eustace herself, which he could hardly venture to leave altogether unnoticed. On that Friday he dined at his club, and then went to his sister's house in Warwick Square. If assistance might be had anywhere, it would be from his sister;—she, at any rate, would not want courage in carrying on the battle on his behalf.
"Ill-used!" she said, as soon as they were closeted together. "Who dares to say so?"
"That old fool, Mount Thistle, has been with me."
"I hope, Frederic, you don't mind what such a man as that says. He has probably been prompted by some friend of hers. And who else?"
"Camperdown turns round now and says that they don't mean to do anything more about the necklace. Lady Glencora Palliser told me the other day that all the world believes that the thing was her own."
"What does Lady Glencora Palliser know about it? If Lady Glencora Palliser would mind her own affairs it would be much better for her. I remember when she had troubles enough of her own, without meddling with other people's."
"And now I've got this note." Lord Fawn had already shown Lizzie's few scrawled words to his sister. "I think I must go and see her."
"Do no such thing, Frederic."
"Why not? I must answer it, and what can I say?"
"If you go there, that woman will be your wife, and you'll never have a happy day again as long as you live. The match is broken off, and she knows it. I shouldn't take the slightest notice of her, or of her cousin, or of any of them. If she chooses to bring an action against you, that is another thing."
Lord Fawn paused for a few moments before he answered. "I think I ought to go," he said.
"And I am sure that you ought not. It is not only about the diamonds,—though that was quite enough to break off any engagement. Have you forgotten what I told you that the man saw at Portray?"
"I don't know that the man spoke the truth."
"But he did."
"And I hate that kind of espionage. It is so very likely that mistakes should be made."
"When she was sitting in his arms,—and kissing him! If you choose to do it, Frederic, of course you must. We can't prevent it. You are free to marry any one you please."
"I'm not talking of marrying her."
"What do you suppose she wants you to go there for? As for political life, I am quite sure it would be the death of you. If I were you I wouldn't go near her. You have got out of the scrape, and I would remain out."
"But I haven't got out," said Lord Fawn.
On the next day, Saturday, he did nothing in the matter. He went down, as was his custom, to Richmond, and did not once mention Lizzie's name. Lady Fawn and her daughters never spoke of her now,—neither of her, nor, in his presence, of poor Lucy Morris. But on his return to London on the Sunday evening he found another note from Lizzie. "You will hardly have the hardihood to leave my note unanswered. Pray let me know when you will come to me." Some answer must, as he felt, be made to her. For a moment he thought of asking his mother to call;—but he at once saw that by doing so he might lay himself open to terrible ridicule. Could he induce Lord Mount Thistle to be his Mercury? It would, he felt, be quite impossible to make Lord Mount Thistle understand all the facts of his position. His sister, Mrs. Hittaway, might have gone, were it not that she herself was violently opposed to any visit. The more he thought of it the more convinced he became that, should it be known that he had received two such notes from a lady and that he had not answered or noticed them, the world would judge him to have behaved badly. So, at last, he wrote,—on that Sunday evening,—fixing a somewhat distant day for his visit to Hertford Street. His note was as follows:—
Lord Fawn presents his compliments to Lady Eustace. In accordance with the wish expressed in Lady Eustace's two notes of the 23rd instant and this date, Lord Fawn will do himself the honour of waiting upon Lady Eustace on Saturday next, March 3rd, at 12, noon. Lord Fawn had thought that under circumstances as they now exist, no further personal interview could lead to the happiness of either party; but as Lady Eustace thinks otherwise, he feels himself constrained to comply with her desire.
Sunday evening, 25 February, 18—.
"I am going to see her in the course of this week," he said, in answer to a further question from Lady Glencora, who, chancing to meet him in society, had again addressed him on the subject. He lacked the courage to tell Lady Glencora to mind her own business and to allow him to do the same. Had she been a little less great than she was,—either as regarded herself or her husband,—he would have done so. But Lady Glencora was the social queen of the party to which he belonged, and Mr. Palliser was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and would some day be Duke of Omnium.
"As you are great, be merciful, Lord Fawn," said Lady Glencora. "You men, I believe, never realise what it is that women feel when they love. It is my belief that she will die unless you are re-united to her. And then she is so beautiful!"
"It is a subject that I cannot discuss, Lady Glencora."
"I daresay not. And I'm sure I am the last person to wish to give you pain. But you see,—if the poor lady has done nothing to merit your anger, it does seem rather a strong measure to throw her off and give her no reason whatever. How would you defend yourself, suppose she published it all?" Lady Glencora's courage was very great,—and perhaps we may say her impudence also. This last question Lord Fawn left unanswered, walking away in great dudgeon.
In the course of the week he told his sister of the interview which he had promised, and she endeavoured to induce him to postpone it till a certain man should arrive from Scotland. She had written for Mr. Andrew Gowran,—sending down funds for Mr. Gowran's journey,—so that her brother might hear Mr. Gowran's evidence out of Mr. Gowran's own mouth. Would not Frederic postpone the interview till he should have seen Mr. Gowran? But to this request Frederic declined to accede. He had fixed a day and an hour. He had made an appointment;—of course he must keep it.
The robbery at the house in Hertford Street took place on the 30th of January, and on the morning of the 28th of February Bunfit and Gager were sitting together in a melancholy, dark little room in Scotland Yard, discussing the circumstances of that nefarious act. A month had gone by, and nobody was yet in custody. A month had passed since that second robbery; but nearly eight weeks had passed since the robbery at Carlisle, and even that was still a mystery. The newspapers had been loud in their condemnation of the police. It had been asserted over and over again that in no other civilised country in the world could so great an amount of property have passed through the hands of thieves without leaving some clue by which the police would have made their way to the truth. Major Mackintosh had been declared to be altogether incompetent, and all the Bunfits and Gagers of the force had been spoken of as drones and moles and ostriches. They were idle and blind, and so stupid as to think that, when they saw nothing, others saw less. The major, who was a broad-shouldered, philosophical man, bore all this as though it were, of necessity, a part of the burthen of his profession;—but the Bunfits and Gagers were very angry, and at their wits' ends. It did not occur to them to feel animosity against the newspapers which abused them. The thieves who would not be caught were their great enemies; and there was common to them a conviction that men so obstinate as these thieves,—men to whom a large amount of grace and liberty for indulgence had accrued,—should be treated with uncommon severity when they were caught. There was this excuse always on their lips,—that had it been an affair simply of thieves, such as thieves ordinarily are, everything would have been discovered long since;—but when lords and ladies with titles come to be mixed up with such an affair,—folk in whose house a policeman can't have his will at searching and brow-beating,—how is a detective to detect anything?
Bunfit and Gager had both been driven to recast their theories as to the great Carlisle affair by the circumstances of the later affair in Hertford Street. They both thought that Lord George had been concerned in the robbery;—that, indeed, had now become the general opinion of the world at large. He was a man of doubtful character, with large expenses, and with no recognised means of living. He had formed a great intimacy with Lady Eustace at a period in which she was known to be carrying these diamonds about with her, had been staying with her at Portray Castle when the diamonds were there, and had been her companion on the journey during which the diamonds were stolen. The only men in London supposed to be capable of dealing advantageously with such a property were Harter and Benjamin,—as to whom it was known that they were conversant with the existence of the diamonds, and known, also, that they were in the habit of having dealings with Lord George. It was, moreover, known that Lord George had been closeted with Mr. Benjamin on the morning after his arrival in London. These things put together made it almost a certainty that Lord George had been concerned in the matter. Bunfit had always been sure of it. Gager, though differing much from Bunfit as to details, had never been unwilling to suspect Lord George. But the facts known could not be got to dovetail themselves pleasantly. If Lord George had possessed himself of the diamonds at Carlisle,—or with Lizzie's connivance before they reached Carlisle,—then, why had there been a second robbery? Bunfit, who was very profound in his theory, suggested that the second robbery was an additional plant, got up with the view of throwing more dust into the eyes of the police. Patience Crabstick had, of course, been one of the gang throughout, and she had now been allowed to go off with her mistress's money and lesser trinkets,—so that the world of Scotland Yard might be thrown more and more into the mire of ignorance and darkness of doubt. To this view Gager was altogether opposed. He was inclined to think that Lord George had taken the diamonds at Carlisle with Lizzie's connivance;—that he had restored them in London to her keeping, finding the suspicion against him too heavy to admit of his dealing with them,—and that now he had stolen them a second time, again with Lizzie's connivance; but in this latter point Gager did not pretend to the assurance of any conviction.
But Gager at the present moment had achieved a triumph in the matter which he was not at all disposed to share with his elder officer. Perhaps, on the whole, more power is lost than gained by habits of secrecy. To be discreet is a fine thing,—especially for a policeman; but when discretion is carried to such a length in the direction of self-confidence as to produce a belief that no aid is wanted for the achievement of great results, it will often militate against all achievement. Had Scotland Yard been less discreet and more confidential, the mystery might, perhaps, have been sooner unravelled. Gager at this very moment had reason to believe that a man whom he knew could,—and would, if operated upon duly,—communicate to him, Gager, the secret of the present whereabouts of Patience Crabstick! That belief was a great possession, and much too important, as Gager thought, to be shared lightly with such an one as Mr. Bunfit,—a thick-headed sort of man, in Gager's opinion, although, no doubt, he had by means of industry been successful in some difficult cases.
"'Is lordship ain't stirred," said Bunfit.
"How do you mean,—stirred, Mr. Bunfit?"
"Ain't moved nowheres out of London."
"What should he move out of London for? What could he get by cutting? There ain't nothing so bad when anything's up against one as letting on that one wants to bolt. He knows all that. He'll stand his ground. He won't bolt."
"I don't suppose as he will, Gager. It's a rum go; ain't it?—the rummest as I ever see." This remark had been made so often by Mr. Bunfit, that Gager had become almost weary of hearing it.
"Oh,—rum; rum be b—— What's the use of all that? From what the governor told me this morning, there isn't a shadow of doubt where the diamonds are."
"In Paris,—of course," said Bunfit.
"They never went to Paris. They were taken from here to Hamburg in a commercial man's kit,—a fellow as travels in knives and scissors. Then they was recut. They say the cutting was the quickest bit of work ever done by one man in Hamburg. And now they're in New York. That's what has come of the diamonds."
"Benjamin, in course," said Bunfit, in a low whisper, just taking the pipe from between his lips.
"Well;—yes. No doubt it was Benjamin. But how did Benjamin get 'em?"
"Lord George,—in course," said Bunfit.
"And how did he get 'em?"
"Well;—that's where it is; isn't it?" Then there was a pause, during which Bunfit continued to smoke. "As sure as your name's Gager, he got 'em at Carlisle."
"And what took Smiler down to Carlisle?"
"Just to put a face on it," said Bunfit.
"And who cut the door?"
"Billy Cann did," said Bunfit.
"And who forced the box?"
"Them two did," said Bunfit.
"And all to put a face on it?"
"Yes;—just that. And an uncommon good face they did put on it between 'em;—the best as I ever see."
"All right," said Gager. "So far, so good. I don't agree with you, Mr. Bunfit; because the thing, when it was done, wouldn't be worth the money. Lord love you, what would all that have cost? And what was to prevent the lady and Lord George together taking the diamonds to Benjamin and getting their price? It never does to be too clever, Mr. Bunfit. And when that was all done, why did the lady go and get herself robbed again? No;—I don't say but what you're a clever man, in your way, Mr. Bunfit; but you've not got a hold of the thing here. Why was Smiler going about like a mad dog,—only that he found himself took in?"
"Maybe he expected something else in the box,—more than the necklace,—as was to come to him," suggested Bunfit.
"I don't see why you say gammon, Gager. It ain't polite."
"It is gammon,—running away with ideas like them, just as if you was one of the public. When they two opened that box at Carlisle, which they did as certain as you sit there, they believed as the diamonds were there. They were not there."
"I don't think as they was," said Bunfit.
"Very well;—where were they? Just walk up to it, Mr. Bunfit, making your ground good as you go. They two men cut the door, and took the box, and opened it,—and when they'd opened it, they didn't get the swag. Where was the swag?"
"Lord George," said Bunfit again.
"Very well,—Lord George. Like enough. But it comes to this. Benjamin, and they two men of his, had laid themselves out for the robbery. Now, Mr. Bunfit, whether Lord George and Benjamin were together in that first affair, or whether they weren't, I can't see my way just at present, and I don't know as you can see yours;—not saying but what you're as quick as most men, Mr. Bunfit. If he was,—and I rayther think that's about it,—then he and Benjamin must have had a few words, and he must have got the jewels from the lady over night."
"Of course he did,—and Smiler and Billy Cann knew as they weren't there."
"There you are, all back again, Mr. Bunfit, not making your ground good as you go. Smiler and Cann did their job according to order,—and precious sore hearts they had when they'd got the box open. Those fellows at Carlisle,—just like all the provincials,—went to work open-mouthed, and before the party had left Carlisle it was known that Lord George was suspected."
"You can't trust them fellows any way," said Mr. Bunfit.
"Well;—what happens next? Lord George, he goes to Benjamin, but he isn't goin' to take the diamonds with him. He has had words with Benjamin or he has not. Any ways he isn't goin' to take the necklace with him on that morning. He hasn't been goin' to keep the diamonds about him, not since what was up at Carlisle. So he gives the diamonds back to the lady."
"And she had 'em all along?"
"I don't say it was so,—but I can see my way upon that hypothesis."
"There was something as she had to conceal, Gager. I've said that all through. I knew it in a moment when I see'd her faint."
"She's had a deal to conceal, I don't doubt. Well, there they are,—with her still,—and the box is gone, and the people as is bringing the lawsuit, Mr. Camperdown and the rest of 'em, is off their tack. What's she to do with 'em?"
"Take 'em to Benjamin," said Bunfit, with confidence.
"That's all very well, Mr. Bunfit. But there's a quarrel up already with Benjamin. Benjamin was to have had 'em before. Benjamin has spent a goodish bit of money, and has been thrown over rather. I daresay Benjamin was as bad as Smiler, or worse. No doubt Benjamin let on to Smiler, and thought as Smiler was too many for him. I daresay there was a few words between him and Smiler. I wouldn't wonder if Smiler didn't threaten to punch Benjamin's head,—which well he could do it,—and if there wasn't a few playful remarks between 'em about penal servitude for life. You see, Mr. Bunfit, it couldn't have been pleasant for any of 'em."
"They'd've split," said Bunfit.
"But they didn't,—not downright. Well,—there we are. The diamonds is with the lady. Lord George has done it all. Lord George and Lady Eustace,—they're keeping company, no doubt, after their own fashion. He's a-robbing of her, and she has to do pretty much as she's bid. The diamonds is with the lady, and Lord George is pretty well afraid to look at 'em. After all that's being done, there isn't much to wonder at in that. Then comes the second robbery."
"And Lord George planned that too?" asked Bunfit.
"I don't pretend to say I know, but just put it this way, Mr. Bunfit. Of course the thieves were let in by the woman Crabstick."
"Not a doubt."
"Of course they was Smiler and Billy Cann."
"I suppose they was."
"She was always about the lady,—a-doing for her in everything. Say she goes to Benjamin and tells him as how her lady still has the necklace,—and then he puts up the second robbery. Then you'd have it all round."
"And Lord George would have lost 'em. It can't be. Lord George and he are thick as thieves up to this day."
"Very well. I don't say anything against that. Lord George knows as she has 'em;—indeed he'd given 'em back to her to keep. We've got as far as that, Mr. Bunfit."
"I think she did 'ave 'em."
"Very well. What does Lord George do then? He can't make money of 'em. They're too hot for his fingers, and so he finds when he thinks of taking 'em into the market. So he puts Benjamin up to the second robbery."
"Who's drawing it fine, now, Gager;—eh?"
"Mr. Bunfit, I'm not saying as I've got the truth beyond this,—that Benjamin and his two men were clean done at Carlisle, that Lord George and his lady brought the jewels up to town between 'em, and that the party who didn't get 'em at Carlisle tried their hand again and did get 'em in Hertford Street." In all of which the ingenious Gager would have been right, if he could have kept his mind clear from the alluring conviction that a lord had been the chief of the thieves.
"We shall never make a case of it now," said Bunfit despondently.
"I mean to try it on all the same. There's Smiler about town as bold as brass, and dressed to the nines. He had the cheek to tell me he was going down to the Newmarket Spring to look after a horse he's got a share in."
"I was talking to Billy only yesterday," added Bunfit. "I've got it on my mind that they didn't treat Billy quite on the square. He didn't let on anything about Benjamin; but he told me out plain, as how he was very much disgusted. 'Mr. Bunfit,' said he, 'there's that roguery about, that a plain man like me can't touch it. There's them as'd pick my eyes out while I was sleeping, and then swear it against my very self.' Them were his words, and I knew as how Benjamin hadn't been on the square with him."
"You didn't let on anything, Mr. Bunfit?"
"Well,—I just reminded him as how there was five hundred pounds going a-begging from Mr. Camperdown."
"And what did he say to that, Mr. Bunfit?"
"Well, he said a good deal. He's a sharp little fellow, is Billy, as has read a deal. You've heard of 'Umpty Dumpty, Gager? 'Umpty Dumpty was a hegg."
"As had a fall, and was smashed,—and there's a little poem about him."
"Well;—Billy says to me: 'Mr. Camperdown don't want no hinformation; he wants the diamonds. Them diamonds is like 'Umpty Dumpty, Mr. Bunfit. All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put 'Umpty Dumpty up again.'"
"Billy was about right there," said the younger officer, rising from his seat.
Late on the afternoon of the same day, when London had already been given over to the gaslights, Mr. Gager, having dressed himself especially for the occasion of the friendly visit which he intended to make, sauntered into a small public-house at the corner of Meek Street and Pineapple Court, which locality,—as all men well versed with London are aware,—lies within one minute's walk of the top of Gray's Inn Lane. Gager, during his conference with his colleague Bunfit, had been dressed in plain black clothes; but in spite of his plain clothes he looked every inch a policeman. There was a stiffness about his limbs, and, at the same time, a sharpness in his eyes, which, in the conjunction with the locality in which he was placed, declared his profession beyond the possibility of mistake. Nor, in that locality, would he have desired to be taken for anything else. But as he entered the "Rising Sun" in Meek Street, there was nothing of the policeman about him. He might probably have been taken for a betting man, with whom the world had latterly gone well enough to enable him to maintain that sleek, easy, greasy appearance which seems to be the beau-ideal of a betting man's personal ambition. "Well, Mr. Howard," said the lady at the bar, "a sight of you is good for sore eyes."
"Six penn'orth of brandy,—warm, if you please, my dear," said the pseudo-Howard, as he strolled easily into an inner room, with which he seemed to be quite familiar. He seated himself in an old-fashioned wooden arm-chair, gazed up at the gas lamp, and stirred his liquor slowly. Occasionally he raised the glass to his lips, but he did not seem to be at all intent upon his drinking. When he entered the room, there had been a gentleman and a lady there, whose festive moments seemed to be disturbed by some slight disagreement; but Howard, as he gazed at the lamp, paid no attention to them whatever. They soon left the room, their quarrel and their drink finished together, and others dropped in and out. Mr. Howard's "warm" must almost have become cold, so long did he sit there, gazing at the gas lamps rather than attending to his brandy and water. Not a word did he speak to any one for more than an hour, and not a sign did he show of impatience. At last he was alone;—but had not been so for above a minute when in stepped a jaunty little man, certainly not more than five feet high, about three or four and twenty years of age, dressed with great care, with his trousers sticking to his legs, with a French chimney-pot hat on his head, very much peaked fore and aft and closely turned up at the sides. He had a bright-coloured silk handkerchief round his neck, and a white shirt, of which the collar and wristbands were rather larger and longer than suited the small dimensions of the man. He wore a white greatcoat tight buttoned round his waist, but so arranged as to show the glories of the coloured handkerchief; and in his hand he carried a diminutive cane with a little silver knob. He stepped airily into the room, and as he did so he addressed our friend the policeman with much cordiality. "My dear Mr. 'Oward," he said, "this is a pleasure. This is a pleasure. This is a pleasure."
"What is it to be?" asked Gager.
"Well;—ay, what? Shall I say a little port wine negus, with the nutmeg in it rayther strong?" This suggestion he made to a young lady from the bar, who had followed him into the room. The negus was brought and paid for by Gager, who then requested that they might be left there undisturbed for five minutes. The young lady promised to do her best, and then closed the door. "And now, Mr. 'Oward, what can I do for you?" said Mr. Cann, the burglar.
Gager, before he answered, took a pipe-case out of his pocket, and lit the pipe. "Will you smoke, Billy?" said he.
"Well;—no, I don't know that I will smoke. A very little tobacco goes a long way with me, Mr. 'Oward. One cigar before I turn in;—that's about the outside of it. You see, Mr. 'Oward, pleasures should never be made necessities, when the circumstances of a gentleman's life may perhaps require that they shall be abandoned for prolonged periods. In your line of life, Mr. 'Oward,—which has its objections,—smoking may be pretty well a certainty." Mr. Cann, as he made these remarks, skipped about the room, and gave point to his argument by touching Mr. Howard's waistcoat with the end of his cane.
"And now, Billy, how about the young woman?"
"I haven't set eyes on her these six weeks, Mr. 'Oward. I never see her but once in my life, Mr. 'Oward;—or, maybe, twice, for one's memory is deceitful; and I don't know that I ever wish to see her again. She ain't one of my sort, Mr. 'Oward. I likes 'em soft, and sweet, and coming. This one,—she has her good p'ints about her,—as clean a foot and ankle as I'd wish to see;—but, laws, what a nose, Mr. 'Oward! And then for manner;—she's no more manner than a stable dog."
"She's in London, Billy?"
"How am I to know, Mr. 'Oward?"
"What's the good, then, of your coming here?" asked Gager, with no little severity in his voice.
"I don't know as it is good. I 'aven't said nothing about any good, Mr. 'Oward. What you wants to find is them diamonds?"
"Of course I do."
"Well;—you won't find 'em. I knows nothing about 'em, in course, except just what I'm told. You know my line of life, Mr. 'Oward?"
"Not a doubt about it."
"And I know yours. I'm in the way of hearing about these things,—and for the matter of that, so are you too. It may be, my ears are the longer. I 'ave 'eard. You don't expect me to tell you more than just that. I 'ave 'eard. It was a pretty thing, wasn't it? But I wasn't in it myself, more's the pity. You can't expect fairer than that, Mr. 'Oward?"
"And what have you heard?"
"Them diamonds is gone where none of you can get at 'em. That five hundred pounds as the lawyers 'ave offered is just nowhere. If you want information, Mr. 'Oward, you should say information."
"And you could give it;—eh, Billy?"
"No—; no—" He uttered these two negatives in a low voice, and with much deliberation. "I couldn't give it. A man can't give what he hasn't got;—but perhaps I could get it."
"What an ass you are, Billy. Don't you know that I know all about it?"
"What an ass you are, Mr. 'Oward. Don't I know that you don't know;—or you wouldn't come to me. You guess. You're always a-guessing. And because you know how to guess, they pays you for guessing. But guessing ain't knowing. You don't know;—nor yet don't I. What is it to be, if I find out where that young woman is?"
"A tenner, Billy."
"Five quid now, and five when you've seen her."
"All right, Billy."
"She's a-going to be married to Smiler next Sunday as ever is down at Ramsgate;—and at Ramsgate she is now. You'll find her, Mr. 'Oward, if you'll keep your eyes open, somewhere about the 'Fiddle with One String.'"
This information was so far recognised by Mr. Howard as correct, that he paid Mr. Cann five sovereigns down for it at once.
"The Fiddle with One String"
Mr. Gager reached Ramsgate by the earliest train on the following morning, and was not long in finding out the "Fiddle with One String." The "Fiddle with One String" was a public-house, very humble in appearance, in the outskirts of the town, on the road leading to Pegwell Bay. On this occasion Mr. Gager was dressed in his ordinary plain clothes, and though the policeman's calling might not be so manifestly declared by his appearance at Ramsgate as it was in Scotland Yard,—still, let a hint in that direction have ever been given, and the ordinary citizens of Ramsgate would at once be convinced that the man was what he was. Gager had doubtless considered all the circumstances of his day's work carefully, and had determined that success would more probably attend him with this than with any other line of action. He walked at once into the house, and asked whether a young woman was not lodging there. The man of the house was behind the bar, with his wife, and to him Gager whispered a few words. The man stood dumb for a moment, and then his wife spoke. "What's up now?" said she. "There's no young women here. We don't have no young women." Then the man whispered a word to his wife, during which Gager stood among the customers before the bar with an easy, unembarrassed air. "Well, what's the odds?" said the wife. "There ain't anything wrong with us."
"Never thought there was, ma'am," said Gager. "And there's nothing wrong as I know of with the young woman." Then the husband and wife consulted together, and Mr. Gager was asked to take a seat in a little parlour, while the woman ran up-stairs for half an instant. Gager looked about him quickly, and took in at a glance the system of the construction of the "Fiddle with One String." He did sit down in the little parlour, with the door open, and remained there for perhaps a couple of minutes. Then he went to the front door, and glanced up at the roof. "It's all right," said the keeper of the house, following him. "She ain't a-going to get away. She ain't just very well, and she's a-lying down."
"You tell her, with my regards," said Gager, "that she needn't be a bit the worse because of me." The man looked at him suspiciously. "You tell her what I say. And tell her, too, the quicker the better. She has a gentleman a-looking after her, I daresay. Perhaps I'd better be off before he comes." The message was taken up to the lady, and Gager again seated himself in the little parlour.
We are often told that all is fair in love and war, and, perhaps, the operation on which Mr. Gager was now intent may be regarded as warlike. But he now took advantage of a certain softness in the character of the lady whom he wished to meet, which hardly seems to be justifiable even in a policeman. When Lizzie's tall footman had been in trouble about the necklace, a photograph had been taken from him which had not been restored to him. This was a portrait of Patience Crabstick, which she, poor girl, in a tender moment, had given to him who, had not things gone roughly with them, was to have been her lover. The little picture had fallen into Gager's hands, and he now pulled it from his pocket. He himself had never visited the house in Hertford Street till after the second robbery, and, in the flesh, had not as yet seen Miss Crabstick; but he had studied her face carefully, expecting, or, at any rate, hoping, that he might some day enjoy the pleasure of personal acquaintance. That pleasure was now about to come to him, and he prepared himself for it by making himself intimate with the lines of the lady's face as the sun had portrayed them. There was even yet some delay, and Mr. Gager more than once testified uneasiness. "She ain't a-going to get away," said the mistress of the house, "but a lady as is going to see a gentleman can't jump into her things as a man does." Gager intimated his acquiescence in all this, and again waited.
"The sooner she comes the less trouble for her," said Gager to the woman; "if you'll only make her believe that." At last, when he had been somewhat over an hour in the house, he was asked to walk up-stairs, and then, in a little sitting-room over the bar, he had the opportunity, so much desired, of making personal acquaintance with Patience Crabstick.
It may be imagined that the poor waiting-woman had not been in a happy state of mind since she had been told that a gentleman was waiting to see her down-stairs, who had declared himself to be a policeman immediately on entering the shop. To escape was of course her first idea, but she was soon made to understand that this was impracticable. In the first place there was but one staircase, at the bottom of which was the open door of the room in which the policeman was sitting; and then, the woman of the house was very firm in declaring that she would connive at nothing which might cost her and her husband their licence. "You've got to face it," said the woman. "I suppose they can't make me get out of bed unless I pleases," said Patience firmly. But she knew that even that resource would fail her, and that a policeman, when aggravated, can take upon him all the duties of a lady's maid. She had to face it,—and she did face it. "I've just got to have a few words with you, my dear," said Gager.
"I suppose, then, we'd better be alone," said Patience; whereupon the woman of the house discreetly left the room.
The interview was so long that the reader would be fatigued were he asked to study a record of all that was said on the occasion. The gentleman and lady were closeted together for more than an hour, and so amicably was the conversation carried on that when the time was half over Gager stepped down-stairs and interested himself in procuring Miss Crabstick's breakfast. He even condescended himself to pick a few shrimps and drink a glass of beer in her company. A great deal was said, and something was even settled, as may be learned from a few concluding words of that very memorable conversation. "Just don't you say anything about it, my dear, but leave word for him that you've gone up to town on business."
"Lord love you, Mr. Gager, he'll know all about it."
"Let him know. Of course he'll know,—if he comes down. It's my belief he'll never show himself at Ramsgate again."
"But, Mr. Gager—"
"Well, my dear?"
"You aren't a perjuring of yourself?"
"What;—about making you my wife? That I ain't. I'm upright, and always was. There's no mistake about me when you've got my word. As soon as this work is off my mind, you shall be Mrs. Gager, my dear. And you'll be all right. You've been took in, that's what you have."
"That I have, Mr. Gager," said Patience, wiping her eyes.
"You've been took in, and you must be forgiven."
"I didn't get—not nothing out of the necklace; and as for the other things, they've frighted me so, that I let 'em all go for just what I tell you. And as for Mr. Smiler,—I never didn't care for him; that I didn't. He ain't the man to touch my heart,—not at all; and it was not likely either. A plain fellow,—very, Mr. Gager."
"He'll be plainer before long, my dear."
"But I've been that worrited among 'em, Mr. Gager, since first they made their wicked prepositions, that I've been jest— I don't know how I've been. And though my lady was not a lady as any girl could like, and did deserve to have her things took if anybody's things ever should be took, still, Mr. Gager, I knows I did wrong. I do know it,—and I'm a-repenting of it in sackcloth and ashes;—so I am. But you'll be as good as your word, Mr. Gager?"
It must be acknowledged that Mr. Gager had bidden high for success, and had allowed himself to be carried away by his zeal almost to the verge of imprudence. It was essential to him that he should take Patience Crabstick back with him to London,—and that he should take her as a witness and not as a criminal. Mr. Benjamin was the game at which he was flying,—Mr. Benjamin, and, if possible, Lord George; and he conceived that his net might be big enough to hold Smiler as well as the other two greater fishes, if he could induce Patience Crabstick and Billy Cann to co-operate with him cordially in his fishing.
But his mind was still disturbed on one point. Let him press his beloved Patience as closely as he might with questions, there was one point on which he could not get from her what he believed to be the truth. She persisted that Lord George de Bruce Carruthers had had no hand in either robbery, and Gager had so firmly committed himself to a belief on this matter, that he could not throw the idea away from him, even on the testimony of Patience Crabstick.
On that evening he returned triumphant to Scotland Yard with Patience Crabstick under his wing; and that lady was housed there with every comfort she could desire, except that of personal liberty.
Mr. Gowran Up in London
In the meantime Mrs. Hittaway was diligently spreading a report that Lizzie Eustace either was engaged to marry her cousin Frank,—or ought to be so engaged. This she did, no doubt, with the sole object of saving her brother; but she did it with a zeal that dealt as freely with Frank's name as with Lizzie's. They, with all their friends, were her enemies, and she was quite sure that they were, altogether, a wicked, degraded set of people. Of Lord George and Mrs. Carbuncle, of Miss Roanoke and Sir Griffin Tewett, she believed all manner of evil. She had theories of her own about the jewels, stories,—probably of her own manufacture in part, although no doubt she believed them to be true,—as to the manner of living at Portray, little histories of Lizzie's debts, and the great fact of the scene which Mr. Gowran had seen with his own eyes. Lizzie Eustace was an abomination to her, and this abominable woman her brother was again in danger of marrying! She was very loud in her denunciations, and took care that they should reach even Lady Linlithgow, so that poor Lucy Morris might know of what sort was the lover in whom she trusted. Andy Gowran had been sent for to town, and was on his journey while Mr. Gager was engaged at Ramsgate. It was at present the great object of Mrs. Hittaway's life to induce her brother to see Mr. Gowran before he kept his appointment with Lady Eustace.
Poor Lucy received the wound which was intended for her. The enemy's weapons had repeatedly struck her, but hitherto they had alighted on the strong shield of her faith. But let a shield be never so strong, it may at last be battered out of all form and service. On Lucy's shield there had been much of such batterings, and the blows which had come from him in whom she most trusted had not been the lightest. She had not seen him for months, and his letters were short, unsatisfactory, and rare. She had declared to herself and to her friend Lady Fawn, that no concurrence of circumstances, no absence, however long, no rumours that might reach her ears, would make her doubt the man she loved. She was still steadfast in the same resolution; but in spite of her resolution her heart began to fail her. She became weary, unhappy, and ill at ease, and though she would never acknowledge to herself that she doubted, she did doubt.
"So, after all, your Mr. Greystock is to marry my niece, Lizzie Greystock." This good-natured speech was made one morning to poor Lucy by her present patroness, Lady Linlithgow.
"I rather think not," said Lucy plucking up her spirits and smiling as she spoke.
"Everybody says so. As for Lizzie, she has become quite a heroine. What with her necklace, and her two robberies, and her hunting, and her various lovers,—two lords and a member of Parliament, my dear,—there is nothing to equal her. Lady Glencora Palliser has been calling on her. She took care to let me know that. And I'm now told that she certainly is engaged to her cousin."
"According to your own showing, Lady Linlithgow, she has got two other lovers. Couldn't you oblige me by letting her marry one of the lords?"
"I'm afraid, my dear, that Mr. Greystock is to be the chosen one." Then after a pause the old woman became serious. "What is the use, Miss Morris, of not looking the truth in the face? Mr. Greystock is neglecting you."
"He is not neglecting me. You won't let him come to see me."
"Certainly not;—but if he were not neglecting you, you would not be here. And there he is with Lizzie Eustace every day of his life. He can't afford to marry you, and he can afford to marry her. It's a deal better that you should look it all in the face and know what it must all come to."
"I shall just wait,—and never believe a word till he speaks it."
"You hardly know what men are, my dear."
"Very likely not, Lady Linlithgow. It may be that I shall have to pay dear for learning. Of course, I may be mistaken as well as another,—only I don't believe I am mistaken."
When this little scene took place, only a month remained of the time for which Lucy's services were engaged to Lady Linlithgow, and no definite arrangement had been made as to her future residence. Lady Fawn was prepared to give her a home, and to Lady Fawn, as it seemed, she must go. Lady Linlithgow had declared herself unwilling to continue the existing arrangement because, as she said, it did not suit her that her companion should be engaged to marry her late sister's nephew. Not a word had been said about the deanery for the last month or two, and Lucy, though her hopes in that direction had once been good, was far too high-spirited to make any suggestion herself as to her reception by her lover's family. In the ordinary course of things she would have to look out for another situation, like any other governess in want of a place; but she could do this only by consulting Lady Fawn; and Lady Fawn when consulted would always settle the whole matter by simply bidding her young friend to come to Fawn Court.
There must be some end of her living at Fawn Court. So much Lucy told herself over and over again. It could be but a temporary measure. If—if it was to be her fate to be taken away from Fawn Court a happy, glorious, triumphant bride, then the additional obligation put upon her by her dear friends would not be more than she could bear. But to go to Fawn Court, and, by degrees, to have it acknowledged that another place must be found for her, would be very bad. She would infinitely prefer any intermediate hardship. How, then, should she know? As soon as she was able to escape from the countess, she went up to her own room, and wrote the following letter. She studied the words with great care as she wrote them,—sitting and thinking before she allowed her pen to run on the paper.
MY DEAR FRANK,
It is a long time since we met;—is it not? I do not write this as a reproach; but because my friends tell me that I should not continue to think myself engaged to you. They say that, situated as you are, you cannot afford to marry a penniless girl, and that I ought not to wish you to sacrifice yourself. I do understand enough of your affairs to know that an imprudent marriage may ruin you, and I certainly do not wish to be the cause of injury to you. All I ask is that you should tell me the truth. It is not that I am impatient; but that I must decide what to do with myself when I leave Lady Linlithgow.
Your most affectionate friend,
March 2, 18—.
She read this letter over and over again, thinking of all that it said and of all that it omitted to say. She was at first half disposed to make protestations of forgiveness,—to assure him that not even within her own heart would she reproach him, should he feel himself bound to retract the promise he had made her. She longed to break out into love, but so to express her love that her lover should know that it was strong enough even to sacrifice itself for his sake. But though her heart longed to speak freely, her judgment told her that it would be better that she should be reticent and tranquil in her language. Any warmth on her part would be in itself a reproach to him. If she really wished to assist him in extricating himself from a difficulty into which he had fallen in her behalf, she would best do so by offering him his freedom in the fewest and plainest words which she could select.
But even when the letter was written she doubted as to the wisdom of sending it. She kept it that she might sleep upon it. She did sleep upon it,—and when the morning came she would not send it. Had not absolute faith in her lover been the rock on which she had declared to herself that she would build the house of her future hopes? Had not she protested again and again that no caution from others should induce her to waver in her belief? Was it not her great doctrine to trust,—to trust implicitly, even though all should be lost if her trust should be misplaced? And was it well that she should depart from all this, merely because it might be convenient for her to make arrangements as to the coming months? If it were to be her fate to be rejected, thrown over, and deceived, of what use to her could be any future arrangements? All to her would be ruin, and it would matter to her nothing whither she should be taken. And then, why should she lie to him as she would lie in sending such a letter? If he did throw her over he would be a traitor, and her heart would be full of reproaches. Whatever might be his future lot in life, he owed it to her to share it with her, and if he evaded his debt he would be a traitor and a miscreant. She would never tell him so. She would be far too proud to condescend to spoken or written reproaches. But she would know that it would be so, and why should she lie to him by saying that it would not be so? Thinking of all this, when the morning came, she left the letter lying within her desk.
Lord Fawn was to call upon Lady Eustace on the Saturday, and on Friday afternoon Mr. Andrew Gowran was in Mrs. Hittaway's back parlour in Warwick Square. After many efforts, and with much persuasion, the brother had agreed to see his sister's great witness. Lord Fawn had felt that he would lower himself by any intercourse with such a one as Andy Gowran in regard to the conduct of the woman whom he had proposed to make his wife, and had endeavoured to avoid the meeting. He had been angry, piteous, haughty, and sullen by turns; but Mrs. Hittaway had overcome him by dogged perseverance; and poor Lord Fawn had at last consented. He was to come to Warwick Square as soon as the House was up on Friday evening, and dine there. Before dinner he was to be introduced to Mr. Gowran. Andy arrived at the house at half-past five, and after some conversation with Mrs. Hittaway, was left there all alone to await the coming of Lord Fawn. He was in appearance and manners very different from the Andy Gowran familiarly known among the braes and crofts of Portray. He had a heavy stiff hat, which he carried in his hand. He wore a black swallow-tail coat and black trousers, and a heavy red waistcoat buttoned up nearly to his throat, round which was tightly tied a dingy black silk handkerchief. At Portray no man was more voluble, no man more self-confident, no man more equal to his daily occupations than Andy Gowran; but the unaccustomed clothes, and the journey to London, and the town houses overcame him, and for a while almost silenced him. Mrs. Hittaway found him silent, cautious, and timid. Not knowing what to do with him, fearing to ask him to go and eat in the kitchen, and not liking to have meat and unlimited drink brought for him into the parlour, she directed the servant to supply him with a glass of sherry and a couple of biscuits. He had come an hour before the time named, and there, with nothing to cheer him beyond these slight creature-comforts, he was left to wait all alone till Lord Fawn should be ready to see him.
Andy had seen lords before. Lords are not rarer in Ayrshire than in other Scotch counties; and then, had not Lord George de Bruce Carruthers been staying at Portray half the winter? But Lord George was not to Andy a real lord,—and then a lord down in his own county was so much less to him than a lord up in London. And this lord was a lord of Parliament, and a government lord, and might probably have the power of hanging such a one as Andy Gowran were he to commit perjury, or say anything which the lord might choose to call perjury. What it was that Lord Fawn wished him to say, he could not make himself sure. That the lord's sister wished him to prove Lady Eustace to be all that was bad, he knew very well. But he thought that he was able to perceive that the brother and sister were not at one, and more than once during his journey up to London he had almost made up his mind that he would turn tail and go back to Portray. No doubt there was enmity between him and his mistress; but then his mistress did not attempt to hurt him even though he had insulted her grossly; and were she to tell him to leave her service, it would be from Mr. John Eustace, and not from Mrs. Hittaway, that he must look for the continuation of his employment. Nevertheless he had taken Mrs. Hittaway's money and there he was.
At half-past seven Lord Fawn was brought into the room by his sister, and Andy Gowran, rising from his chair, three times ducked his head. "Mr. Gowran," said Mrs. Hittaway, "my brother is desirous that you should tell him exactly what you have seen of Lady Eustace's conduct down at Portray. You may speak quite freely, and I know you will speak truly." Andy again ducked his head. "Frederic," continued the lady, "I am sure that you may implicitly believe all that Mr. Gowran will say to you." Then Mrs. Hittaway left the room,—as her brother had expressly stipulated that she should do.
Lord Fawn was quite at a loss how to begin, and Andy was by no means prepared to help him. "If I am rightly informed," said the lord, "you have been for many years employed on the Portray property?"
"A' my life,—so please your lairdship."
"Just so;—just so. And, of course, interested in the welfare of the Eustace family?"
"Nae doobt, my laird,—nae doobt; vera interasted indeed."
"And being an honest man, have felt sorrow that the Portray property should—should—should—; that anything bad should happen to it." Andy nodded his head, and Lord Fawn perceived that he was nowhere near the beginning of his matter. "Lady Eustace is at present your mistress?"
"Just in a fawshion, my laird,—as a mon may say. That is she is,—and she is nae. There's a mony things at Portray as ha' to be lookit after."
"She pays you your wages?" said Lord Fawn shortly.
"Eh;—wages! Yes, my laird; she does a' that."
"Then she's your mistress." Andy again nodded his head, and Lord Fawn again struggled to find some way in which he might approach his subject. "Her cousin, Mr. Greystock, has been staying at Portray lately?"
"More coothie than coosinly," said Andy, winking his eye.
It was dreadful to Lord Fawn that the man should wink his eye at him. He did not quite understand what Andy had last said, but he did understand that some accusation as to indecent familiarity with her cousin was intended to be brought by this Scotch steward against the woman to whom he had engaged himself. Every feeling of his nature revolted against the task before him, and he found that on trial it became absolutely impracticable. He could not bring himself to inquire minutely as to poor Lizzie's flirting down among the rocks. He was weak, and foolish, and in many respects ignorant,—but he was a gentleman. As he got nearer to the point which it had been intended that he should reach, the more he hated Andy Gowran,—and the more he hated himself for having submitted to such contact. He paused a moment, and then he declared that the conversation was at an end. "I think that will do, Mr. Gowran," he said. "I don't know that you can tell me anything I want to hear. I think you had better go back to Scotland." So saying, he left Andy alone and stalked up to the drawing-room. When he entered it, both Mr. Hittaway and his sister were there. "Clara," he said very sternly, "you had better send some one to dismiss that man. I shall not speak to him again."
Lord Fawn did not speak to Andy Gowran again, but Mrs. Hittaway did. After a faint and futile endeavour made by her to ascertain what had taken place in the parlour down-stairs, she descended and found Andy seated in his chair, still holding his hat in his hand, as stiff as a wax figure. He had been afraid of the lord, but as soon as the lord had left him he was very angry with the lord. He had been brought up all that way to tell his story to the lord, and the lord had gone away without hearing a word of it,—had gone away and had absolutely insulted him, had asked him who paid him his wages, and had then told him that Lady Eustace was his mistress. Andy Gowran felt strongly that this was not that kind of confidential usage which he had had a right to expect. And after his experience of the last hour and a half, he did not at all relish his renewed solitude in that room. "A drap of puir thin liquor,—poored out, too, in a weeny glass nae deeper than an egg-shell,—and twa cookies; that's what she ca'ed—rafrashment!" It was thus that Andy afterwards spoke to his wife of the hospitalities offered to him in Warwick Square, regarding which his anger was especially hot, in that he had been treated like a child or a common labourer, instead of having the decanter left with him to be used at his own discretion. When, therefore, Mrs. Hittaway returned to him, the awe with which new circumstances and the lord had filled him was fast vanishing, and giving place to that stubborn indignation against people in general which was his normal, condition. "I suppose I'm jist to gang bock again to Portray, Mrs. Heetaway, and that'll be a' you'll want o' me?" This he said the moment the lady entered the room.
But Mrs. Hittaway did not want to lose his services quite so soon. She expressed regret that her brother should have found himself unable to discuss a subject that was naturally so very distasteful to him, and begged Mr. Gowran to come to her again the next morning. "What I saw wi' my ain twa e'es, Mrs. Heetaway, I saw,—and nane the less because his lairdship may nae find it jist tastefu', as your leddyship was saying. There were them twa, a' colloguing, and a-seetting ilk in ither's laps a' o'er, and a-keessing,—yes, my leddy, a-keessing as females, not to say males, ought nae to keess, unless they be mon and wife,—and then not amang the rocks, my leddy; and if his lairdship does nae care to hear tell o' it, and finds it nae tastefu', as your leddyship was saying, he should nae ha' sent for Andy Gowran a' the way from Portray, jist to tell him what he wanna hear, now I'm come to tell't to him!"
All this was said with so much unction that even Mrs. Hittaway herself found it to be not "tasteful." She shrunk and shivered under Mr. Gowran's eloquence, and almost repented of her zeal. But women, perhaps, feel less repugnance than do men at using ignoble assistance in the achievement of good purposes. Though Mrs. Hittaway shrunk and shivered under the strong action with which Mr. Gowran garnished his strong words, still she was sure of the excellence of her purpose; and, believing that useful aid might still be obtained from Andy Gowran, and, perhaps, prudently anxious to get value in return for the cost of the journey up from Ayrshire, she made the man promise to return to her on the following morning.
"Let It Be As Though It Had Never Been"
Between her son, and her married daughter, and Lucy Morris, poor Lady Fawn's life had become a burthen to her. Everything was astray, and there was no happiness or tranquillity at Fawn Court. Of all simply human creeds the strongest existing creed for the present in the minds of the Fawn ladies was that which had reference to the general iniquity of Lizzie Eustace. She had been the cause of all these sorrows, and she was hated so much the more because she had not been proved to be iniquitous before all the world. There had been a time when it seemed to be admitted that she was so wicked in keeping the diamonds in opposition to the continued demands made for them by Mr. Camperdown, that all people would be justified in dropping her, and Lord Fawn among the number. But since the two robberies, public opinion had veered round three or four points in Lizzie's favour, and people were beginning to say that she had been ill-used. Then had come Mrs. Hittaway's evidence as to Lizzie's wicked doings down in Scotland,—the wicked doings which Andy Gowran had described with a vehemence so terribly moral; and that which had been at first, as it were, added to the diamonds, as a supplementary weight thrown into the scale, so that Lizzie's iniquities might bring her absolutely to the ground, had gradually assumed the position of being the first charge against her. Lady Fawn had felt no aversion to discussing the diamonds. When Lizzie was called a "thief," and a "robber," and a "swindler" by one or another of the ladies of the family,—who, in using those strong terms, whispered the words as ladies are wont to do when they desire to lessen the impropriety of the strength of their language by the gentleness of the tone in which the words are spoken,—when Lizzie was thus described in Lady Fawn's hearing in her own house, she had felt no repugnance to it. It was well that the fact should be known, so that everybody might be aware that her son was doing right in refusing to marry so wicked a lady. But when the other thing was added to it; when the story was told of what Mr. Gowran had seen among the rocks, and when gradually that became the special crime which was to justify her son in dropping the lady's acquaintance, then Lady Fawn became very unhappy, and found the subject to be, as Mrs. Hittaway had described it, very distasteful.
And this trouble hit Lucy Morris as hard as it did Lord Fawn. If Lizzie Eustace was unfit to marry Lord Fawn because of these things, then was Frank Greystock not only unfit to marry Lucy, but most unlikely to do so, whether fit or unfit. For a week or two Lady Fawn had allowed herself to share Lucy's joy, and to believe that Mr. Greystock would prove himself true to the girl whose heart he had made all his own;—but she had soon learned to distrust the young member of Parliament who was always behaving insolently to her son, who spent his holidays down with Lizzie Eustace, who never visited and rarely wrote to the girl he had promised to marry, and as to whom all the world agreed in saying that he was far too much in debt to marry any woman who had not means to help him. It was all sorrow and vexation together; and yet when her married daughter would press the subject upon her, and demand her co-operation, she had no power of escaping. "Mamma," Mrs. Hittaway had said, "Lady Glencora Palliser has been with her, and everybody is taking her up, and if her conduct down in Scotland isn't proved, Frederic will be made to marry her." "But what can I do, my dear?" Lady Fawn had asked, almost in tears. "Insist that Frederic shall know the whole truth," replied Mrs. Hittaway with energy. "Of course, it is very disagreeable. Nobody can feel it more than I do. It is horrible to have to talk about such things,—and to think of them." "Indeed it is, Clara,—very horrible." "But anything, mamma, is better than that Frederic should be allowed to marry such a woman as that. It must be proved to him—how unfit she is to be his wife." With the view of carrying out this intention, Mrs. Hittaway had, as we have seen, received Andy Gowran at her own house; and with the same view she took Andy Gowran the following morning down to Richmond.
Mrs. Hittaway, and her mother, and Andy were closeted together for half an hour, and Lady Fawn suffered grievously. Lord Fawn had found that he couldn't hear the story, and he had not heard it. He had been strong enough to escape, and had, upon the whole, got the best of it in the slight skirmish which had taken place between him and the Scotchman; but poor old Lady Fawn could not escape. Andy was allowed to be eloquent, and the whole story was told to her, though she would almost sooner have been flogged at a cart's tail than have heard it. Then "rafrashments" were administered to Andy of a nature which made him prefer Fawn Court to Warwick Square, and he was told that he might go back to Portray as soon as he pleased.
When he was gone, Mrs. Hittaway opened her mind to her mother altogether. "The truth is, mamma, that Frederic will marry her."
"But why? I thought that he had declared that he would give it up. I thought that he had said so to herself."
"What of that, if he retracts what he said? He is so weak. Lady Glencora Palliser has made him promise to go and see her; and he is to go to-day. He is there now, probably,—at this very moment. If he had been firm, the thing was done. After all that has taken place, nobody would ever have supposed that his engagement need go for anything. But what can he say to her now that he is with her, except just do the mischief all over again? I call it quite wicked in that woman's interfering. I do, indeed! She's a nasty, insolent, impertinent creature;—that's what she is! After all the trouble I've taken, she comes and undoes it all with one word."
"What can we do, Clara?"
"Well;—I do believe that if Frederic could be made to act as he ought to do, just for a while, she would marry her cousin, Mr. Greystock, and then there would be an end of it altogether. I really think that she likes him best, and from all that I can hear, she would take him now, if Frederic would only keep out of the way. As for him, of course he is doing his very best to get her. He has not one shilling to rub against another, and is over head and ears in debt."
"Poor Lucy!" ejaculated Lady Fawn.
"Well;—yes; but really that is a matter of course. I always thought, mamma, that you and Amelia were a little wrong to coax her up in that belief."
"But, my dear, the man proposed for her in the plainest possible manner. I saw his letter."
"No doubt;—men do propose. We all know that. I'm sure I don't know what they get by it, but I suppose it amuses them. There used to be a sort of feeling that if a man behaved badly something would be done to him; but that's all over now. A man may propose to whom he likes, and if he chooses to say afterwards that it doesn't mean anything, there's nothing in the world to bring him to book."
"That's very hard," said the elder lady, of whom everybody said that she did not understand the world as well as her daughter.
"The girls,—they all know that it is so, and I suppose it comes to the same thing in the long run. The men have to marry, and what one girl loses another girl gets."
"It will kill Lucy."
"Girls ain't killed so easy, mamma;—not now-a-days. Saying that it will kill her won't change the man's nature. It wasn't to be expected that such a man as Frank Greystock, in debt, and in Parliament, and going to all the best houses, should marry your governess. What was he to get by it? That's what I want to know."
"I suppose he loved her."
"Laws, mamma, how antediluvian you are! No doubt he did like her,—after his fashion; though what he saw in her, I never could tell. I think Miss Morris would make a very nice wife for a country clergyman who didn't care how poor things were. But she has no style;—and as far as I can see, she has no beauty. Why should such a man as Frank Greystock tie himself by the leg for ever to such a girl as that? But, mamma, he doesn't mean to marry Lucy Morris. Would he have been going on in that way with his cousin down in Scotland had he meant it? He means nothing of the kind. He means to marry Lady Eustace's income if he can get it;—and she would marry him before the summer if only we could keep Frederic away from her."
Mrs. Hittaway demanded from her mother that in season and out of season she should be urgent with Lord Fawn, impressing upon him the necessity of waiting, in order that he might see how false Lady Eustace was to him; and also that she should teach Lucy Morris how vain were all her hopes. If Lucy Morris would withdraw her claims altogether the thing might probably be more quickly and more surely managed. If Lucy could be induced to tell Frank that she withdrew her claim, and that she saw how impossible it was that they should ever be man and wife, then,—so argued Mrs. Hittaway,—Frank would at once throw himself at his cousin's feet, and all the difficulty would be over. The abominable, unjustifiable, and insolent interference of Lady Glencora just at the present moment would be the means of undoing all the good that had been done, unless it could be neutralised by some such activity as this. The necklace had absolutely faded away into nothing. The sly creature was almost becoming a heroine on the strength of the necklace. The very mystery with which the robberies were pervaded was acting in her favour. Lord Fawn would absolutely be made to marry her,—forced into it by Lady Glencora and that set,—unless the love affair between her and her cousin, of which Andy Gowran was able to give such sufficient testimony, could in some way be made available to prevent it.
The theory of life and system on which social matters should be managed, as displayed by her married daughter, was very painful to poor old Lady Fawn. When she was told that under the new order of things promises from gentlemen were not to be looked upon as binding, that love was to go for nothing, that girls were to be made contented by being told that when one lover was lost another could be found, she was very unhappy. She could not disbelieve it all, and throw herself back upon her faith in virtue, constancy, and honesty. She rather thought that things had changed for the worse since she was young, and that promises were not now as binding as they used to be. She herself had married into a Liberal family, had a Liberal son, and would have called herself a Liberal; but she could not fail to hear from others, her neighbours, that the English manners, and English principles, and English society were all going to destruction in consequence of the so-called liberality of the age. Gentlemen, she thought, certainly did do things which gentlemen would not have done forty years ago; and as for ladies,—they, doubtless, were changed altogether. Most assuredly she could not have brought an Andy Gowran to her mother to tell such tales in their joint presence as this man had told!
Mrs. Hittaway had ridiculed her for saying that poor Lucy would die when forced to give up her lover. Mrs. Hittaway had spoken of the necessity of breaking up that engagement without a word of anger against Frank Greystock. According to Mrs. Hittaway's views Frank Greystock had amused himself in the most natural way in the world when he asked Lucy to be his wife. A governess like Lucy had been quite foolish to expect that such a man as Greystock was in earnest. Of course she must give up her lover; and if there must be blame, she must blame herself for her folly! Nevertheless, Lady Fawn was so soft-hearted that she believed that the sorrow would crush Lucy, even if it did not kill her.
But not the less was it her duty to tell Lucy what she thought to be the truth. The story of what had occurred among the rocks at Portray was very disagreeable, but she believed it to be true. The man had been making love to his cousin after his engagement to Lucy. And then, was it not quite manifest that he was neglecting poor Lucy in every way? He had not seen her for nearly six months. Had he intended to marry her, would he not have found a home for her at the deanery? Did he in any respect treat her as he would treat the girl whom he intended to marry? Putting all these things together, Lady Fawn thought that she saw that Lucy's case was hopeless;—and, so thinking, wrote to her the following letter:—
Fawn Court, 3rd March, 18—.
I have so much to say to you that I did think of getting Lady Linlithgow to let you come to us here for a day, but I believe it will perhaps be better that I should write. I think you leave Lady Linlithgow after the first week in April, and it is quite necessary that you should come to some fixed arrangement as to the future. If that were all, there need not be any trouble, as you will come here, of course. Indeed, this is your natural home, as we all feel; and I must say that we have missed you most terribly since you went,—not only for Cecilia and Nina, but for all of us. And I don't know that I should write at all if it wasn't for something else, that must be said sooner or later;—because, as to your coming here in April, that is so much a matter of course. The only mistake was, that you should ever have gone away. So we shall expect you here on whatever day you may arrange with Lady Linlithgow as to leaving her.
The poor, dear lady went on repeating her affectionate invitation, because of the difficulty she encountered in finding words with which to give the cruel counsel which she thought that it was her duty to offer.
And now, dearest Lucy, I must say what I believe to be the truth about Mr. Greystock. I think that you should teach yourself to forget him,—or, at any rate, that you should teach yourself to forget the offer which he made to you last autumn. Whether he was or was not in earnest then, I think that he has now determined to forget it. I fear there is no doubt that he has been making love to his cousin, Lady Eustace. You well know that I should not mention such a thing, if I had not the strongest possible grounds to convince me that I ought to do so. But, independent of this, his conduct to you during the last six months has been such as to make us all feel sure that the engagement is distasteful to him. He has probably found himself so placed that he cannot marry without money, and has wanted the firmness, or perhaps you will say the hardness of heart, to say so openly. I am sure of this, and so is Amelia, that it will be better for you to give the matter up altogether, and to come here and recover the blow among friends who will be as kind to you as possible. I know all that you will feel, and you have my fullest sympathy; but even such sorrows as that are cured by time, and by the mercy of God, which is not only infinite, but all-powerful.
Your most affectionate friend,
Lady Fawn, when she had written her letter, discussed it with Amelia, and the two together agreed that Lucy would never surmount the ill effects of the blow which was thus prophesied. "As to saying it will kill her, mamma," said Amelia, "I don't believe in that. If I were to break my leg, the accident might shorten my life, and this may shorten hers. It won't kill her in any other way. But it will alter her altogether. Nobody ever used to make herself happy so easily as Lucy Morris; but all that will be gone now."
When Lucy received the letter, the immediate effect upon her, the effect which came from the first reading of it, was not very great. She succeeded for some half-hour in putting it aside, as referring to a subject on which she had quite made up her mind in a direction contrary to that indicated by her correspondent's advice. Lady Fawn told her that her lover intended to be false to her. She had thought the matter over very carefully within the last day or two, and had altogether made up her mind that she would continue to trust her lover. She had abstained from sending to him the letter which she had written, and had abstained on that resolution. Lady Fawn, of course, was as kind and friendly as a friend could be. She loved Lady Fawn dearly. But she was not bound to think Lady Fawn right, and in this instance she did not think Lady Fawn right. So she folded up the letter and put it in her pocket.
But by putting the letter into her pocket she could not put it out of her mind. Though she had resolved, of what use to her was a resolution in which she could not trust? Day had passed by after day, week after week, and month after month, and her very soul within her had become sad for want of seeing this man, who was living almost in the next street to her. She was ashamed to own to herself how many hours she had sat at the window, thinking that, perhaps, he might walk before the house in which he knew that she was immured. And, even had it been impossible that he should come to her, the post was open to him. She had scorned to write to him oftener than he would write to her, and now their correspondence had dwindled almost to nothing. He knew as well as did Lady Fawn when the period of her incarceration in Lady Linlithgow's dungeon would come to an end; and he knew, too, how great had been her hope that she might be accepted as a guest at the deanery when that period should arrive. He knew that she must look for a new home, unless he would tell her where she should live. Was it likely,—was it possible, that he should be silent so long if he still intended to make her his wife? No doubt he had come to remember his debts, to remember his ambition, to think of his cousin's wealth,—and to think also of his cousin's beauty. What right had she ever had to hope for such a position as that of his wife,—she who had neither money nor beauty,—she who had nothing to give him in return for his name and the shelter of his house beyond her mind and her heart? As she thought of it all, she looked down upon her faded grey frock, and stood up that she might glance at her features in the glass; and she saw how small she was and insignificant, and reminded herself that all she had in the world was a few pounds which she had saved and was still saving in order that she might go to him with decent clothes upon her back. Was it reasonable that she should expect it?