But why had he come to her and made her thus wretched? She could acknowledge to herself that she had been foolish, vain, utterly ignorant of her own value in venturing to hope; perhaps unmaidenly in allowing it to be seen that she had hoped;—but what was he in having first exalted her before all her friends, and then abasing her so terribly and bringing her to such utter shipwreck? From spoken or written reproaches she could, of course, abstain. She would neither write nor speak any;—but from unuttered reproaches how could she abstain? She had called him a traitor once in playful, loving irony, during those few hours in which her love had been to her a luxury that she could enjoy. But now he was a traitor indeed. Had he left her alone she would have loved him in silence, and not have been wretched in her love. She would, she knew, in that case, have had vigour enough and sufficient strength of character to bear her burthen without outward signs of suffering, without any inward suffering that would have disturbed the current of her life. But now everything was over with her. She had no thought of dying, but her future life was a blank to her.
She came down-stairs to sit at lunch with Lady Linlithgow, and the old woman did not perceive that anything was amiss with her companion. Further news had been heard of Lizzie Eustace, and of Lord Fawn, and of the robberies, and the countess declared how she had read in the newspaper that one man was already in custody for the burglary at the house in Hertford Street. From that subject she went on to tidings which had reached her from her old friend Lady Clantantram that the Fawn marriage was on again. "Not that I believe it, my dear; because I think that Mr. Greystock has made it quite safe in that quarter." All this Lucy heard, and never showed by a single sign, or by a motion of a muscle, that she was in pain. Then Lady Linlithgow asked her what she meant to do after the 5th of April. "I don't see at all why you shouldn't stay here, if you like it, Miss Morris;—that is, if you have abandoned the stupid idea of an engagement with Frank Greystock." Lucy smiled, and even thanked the countess, and said that she had made up her mind to go back to Richmond for a month or two, till she could get another engagement as a governess. Then she returned to her room and sat again at her window, looking out upon the street.
What did it matter now where she went? And yet she must go somewhere, and do something. There remained to her the wearisome possession of herself, and while she lived she must eat, and have clothes, and require shelter. She could not dawdle out a bitter existence under Lady Fawn's roof, eating the bread of charity, hanging about the rooms and shrubberies useless and idle. How bitter to her was that possession of herself, as she felt that there was nothing good to be done with the thing so possessed! She doubted even whether ever again she could become serviceable as a governess, and whether the energy would be left to her of earning her bread by teaching adequately the few things that she knew. But she must make the attempt,—and must go on making it, till God in his mercy should take her to himself.
And yet but a few months since life had been so sweet to her! As she felt this she was not thinking of those short days of excited, feverish bliss in which she had believed that all the good things of the world were to be showered into her lap; but of previous years in which everything had been with her as it was now,—with the one exception that she had not then been deceived. She had been full of smiles, and humour, and mirth, absolutely happy among her friends, though conscious of the necessity of earning her bread by the exercise of a most precarious profession,—while elated by no hope. Though she had loved the man and had been hopeless, she was happy. But now, surely, of all maidens and of all women, she was the most forlorn.
Having once acceded to the truth of Lady Fawn's views, she abandoned all hope. Everybody said so, and it was so. There was no word from any side to encourage her. The thing was done and over, and she would never mention his name again. She would simply beg of all the Fawns that no allusion might be made to him in her presence. She would never blame him, and certainly she would never praise him. As far as she could rule her tongue, she would never have his name upon her lips again.
She thought for a time that she would send the letter which she had already written. Any other letter she could not bring herself to write. Even to think of him was an agony to her; but to communicate her thoughts to him was worse than agony. It would be almost madness. What need was there for any letter? If the thing was done, it was done. Perhaps there remained with her,—staying by her without her own knowledge, some faint spark of hope, that even yet he might return to her. At last she resolved that there should be no letter, and she destroyed that which she had written.
But she did write a note to Lady Fawn, in which she gratefully accepted her old friend's kindness till such time as she could "find a place." "As to that other subject," she said, "I know that you are right. Please let it all be as though it had never been."
Lizzie's Great Friend
The Saturday morning came at last for which Lord Fawn had made his appointment with Lizzie, and a very important day it was in Hertford Street,—chiefly on account of his lordship's visit, but also in respect to other events which crowded themselves into the day. In the telling of our tale, we have gone a little in advance of this, as it was not till the subsequent Monday that Lady Linlithgow read in the newspaper, and told Lucy, how a man had been arrested on account of the robbery. Early on the Saturday morning Sir Griffin Tewett was in Hertford Street, and, as Lizzie afterwards understood, there was a terrible scene between both him and Lucinda and him and Mrs. Carbuncle. She saw nothing of it herself, but Mrs. Carbuncle brought her the tidings. For the last few days Mrs. Carbuncle had been very affectionate in her manner to Lizzie, thereby showing a great change; for during nearly the whole of February the lady, who in fact owned the house, had hardly been courteous to her remunerative guest, expressing more than once a hint that the arrangement which had brought them together had better come to an end. "You see, Lady Eustace," Mrs. Carbuncle had once said, "the trouble about these robberies is almost too much for me." Lizzie, who was ill at the time, and still trembling with constant fear on account of the lost diamonds, had taken advantage of her sick condition, and declined to argue the question of her removal. Now she was supposed to be convalescent, but Mrs. Carbuncle had returned to her former ways of affection. No doubt there was cause for this,—cause that was patent to Lizzie herself. Lady Glencora Palliser had called,—which thing alone was felt by Lizzie to alter her position altogether. And then, though her diamonds were gone, and though the thieves who had stolen them were undoubtedly aware of her secret as to the first robbery, though she had herself told that secret to Lord George, whom she had not seen since she had done so,—in spite of all these causes for trouble, she had of late gradually found herself to be emerging from the state of despondency into which she had fallen while the diamonds were in her own custody. She knew that she was regaining her ascendancy; and, therefore, when Mrs. Carbuncle came to tell her of the grievous things which had been said down-stairs between Sir Griffin and his mistress, and to consult her as to the future, Lizzie was not surprised. "I suppose the meaning of it is that the match must be off," said Lizzie.
"Oh dear, no;—pray don't say anything so horrid after all that I have gone through. Don't suggest anything of that kind to Lucinda."
"But surely after what you've told me now, he'll never come here again."
"Oh yes, he will. There's no danger about his coming back. It's only a sort of a way he has."
"A very disagreeable way," said Lizzie.
"No doubt, Lady Eustace. But then you know you can't have it all sweet. There must be some things disagreeable. As far as I can learn, the property will be all right after a few years,—and it is absolutely indispensable that Lucinda should do something. She has accepted him, and she must go on with it."
"She seems to me to be very unhappy, Mrs. Carbuncle."
"That was always her way. She was never gay and cheery like other girls. I have never known her once to be what you would call happy."
"She likes hunting."
"Yes,—because she can gallop away out of herself. I have done all I can for her, and she must go on with the marriage now. As for going back, it is out of the question. The truth is, we couldn't afford it."
"Then you must keep him in a better humour."
"I am not so much afraid about him; but, dear Lady Eustace, we want you to help us a little."
"How can I help you?"
"You can, certainly. Could you lend me two hundred and fifty pounds, just for six weeks?" Lizzie's face fell and her eyes became very serious in their aspect. Two hundred and fifty pounds! "You know you would have ample security. You need not give Lucinda her present till I've paid you, and that will be forty-five pounds."
"Thirty-five," said Lizzie with angry decision.
"I thought we agreed upon forty-five when we settled about the servants' liveries;—and then you can let the man at the stables know that I am to pay for the carriage and horses. You wouldn't be out of the money hardly above a week or so, and it might be the salvation of Lucinda just at present."
"Why don't you ask Lord George?"
"Ask Lord George! He hasn't got it. It's much more likely that he should ask me. I don't know what's come to Lord George this last month past. I did believe that you and he were to come together. I think these two robberies have upset him altogether. But, dear Lizzie;—you can let me have it, can't you?"
Lizzie did not at all like the idea of lending money, and by no means appreciated the security now offered to her. It might be very well for her to tell the man at the stables that Mrs. Carbuncle would pay him her bill, but how would it be with her if Mrs. Carbuncle did not pay the bill? And as for her present to Lucinda,—which was to have been a present, and regarded by the future Lady Tewett as a voluntary offering of good-will and affection,—she was altogether averse to having it disposed of in this fashion. And yet she did not like to make an enemy of Mrs. Carbuncle. "I never was so poor in my life before,—not since I was married," said Lizzie.
"You can't be poor, dear Lady Eustace."
"They took my money out of my desk, you know,—ever so much."
"Forty-three pounds," said Mrs. Carbuncle, who was, of course, well instructed in all the details of the robbery.
"And I don't suppose you can guess what the autumn cost me at Portray. The bills are only coming in now, and really they sometimes so frighten me that I don't know what I shall do. Indeed, I haven't got the money to spare."
"You'll have every penny of it back in six weeks," said Mrs. Carbuncle, upon whose face a glow of anger was settling down. She quite intended to make herself very disagreeable to her "dear Lady Eustace" or her "dear Lizzie" if she did not get what she wanted; and she knew very well how to do it. It must be owned that Lizzie was afraid of the woman. It was almost impossible for her not to be afraid of the people with whom she lived. There were so many things against her;—so many sources of fear! "I am quite sure you won't refuse me such a trifling favour as this," said Mrs. Carbuncle, with the glow of anger reddening more and more upon her brow.
"I don't think I have so much at the bankers," said Lizzie.
"They'll let you overdraw,—just as much as you please. If the cheque comes back that will be my look out." Lizzie had tried that game before, and knew that the bankers would allow her to overdraw. "Come, be a good friend and do it at once," said Mrs. Carbuncle.
"Perhaps I can manage a hundred and fifty," said Lizzie, trembling. Mrs. Carbuncle fought hard for the greater sum; but at last consented to take the less, and the cheque was written.
"This, of course, won't interfere with Lucinda's present," said Mrs. Carbuncle,—"as we can make all this right by the horse and carriage account." To this proposition, however, Lady Eustace made no answer.
Soon after lunch, at which meal Miss Roanoke did not show herself, Lady Glencora Palliser was announced, and sat for about ten minutes in the drawing-room. She had come, she said, especially to give the Duke of Omnium's compliments to Lady Eustace, and to express a wish on the part of the duke that the lost diamonds might be recovered. "I doubt," said Lady Glencora, "whether there is any one in England except professed jewellers who knows so much about diamonds as his grace."
"Or who has so many," said Mrs. Carbuncle, smiling graciously.
"I don't know about that. I suppose there are family diamonds, though I have never seen them. But he sympathises with you completely, Lady Eustace. I suppose there is hardly hope now of recovering them." Lizzie smiled and shook her head. "Isn't it odd that they never should have discovered the thieves? I'm told they haven't at all given it up,—only, unfortunately, they'll never get back the necklace." She sat there for about a quarter of an hour, and then, as she took her leave, she whispered a few words to Lizzie. "He is to come and see you;—isn't he?" Lizzie assented with a smile, but without a word. "I hope it will be all right," said Lady Glencora, and then she went.
Lizzie liked this friendship from Lady Glencora amazingly. Perhaps, after all, nothing more would ever be known about the diamonds, and they would simply be remembered as having added a peculiar and not injurious mystery to her life. Lord George knew,—but then she trusted that a benevolent, true-hearted Corsair, such as was Lord George, would never tell the story against her. The thieves knew,—but surely they, if not detected, would never tell. And if the story were told by thieves, or even by a Corsair, at any rate half the world would not believe it. What she had feared,—had feared till the dread had nearly overcome her,—was public exposure at the hands of the police. If she could escape that, the world might still be bright before her. And the interest taken in her by such persons as the Duke of Omnium and Lady Glencora was evidence not only that she had escaped it hitherto, but also that she was in a fair way to escape it altogether. Three weeks ago she would have given up half her income to have been able to steal out of London without leaving a trace behind her. Three weeks ago Mrs. Carbuncle was treating her with discourtesy, and she was left alone nearly the whole day in her sick bedroom. Things were going better with her now. She was recovering her position. Mr. Camperdown, who had been the first to attack her, was, so to say, "nowhere." He had acknowledged himself beaten. Lord Fawn, whose treatment to her had been so great an injury, was coming to see her that very day. Her cousin Frank, though he had never offered to marry her, was more affectionate to her than ever. Mrs. Carbuncle had been at her feet that morning borrowing money. And Lady Glencora Palliser,—the very leading star of fashion,—had called upon her twice! Why should she succumb? She had an income of four thousand pounds a year, and she thought that she could remember that her aunt, Lady Linlithgow, had but seven hundred pounds. Lady Fawn with all her daughters had not near so much as she had. And she was beautiful, too, and young, and perfectly free to do what she pleased. No doubt the last eighteen months of her life had been made wretched by those horrid diamonds;—but they were gone, and she had fair reason to hope that the very knowledge of them was gone also.
In this condition would it be expedient for her to accept Lord Fawn when he came? She could not, of course, be sure that any renewed offer would be the result of his visit;—but she thought it probable that with care she might bring him to that. Why should he come to her if he himself had no such intention? Her mind was quite made up on this point,—that he should be made to renew his offer; but whether she would renew her acceptance was quite another question. She had sworn to her cousin Frank that she would never do so, and she had sworn also that she would be revenged on this wretched lord. Now would be her opportunity of accomplishing her revenge, and of proving to Frank that she had been in earnest. And she positively disliked the man. That, probably, did not go for much, but it went for something, even with Lizzie Eustace. Her cousin she did like,—and Lord George. She hardly knew which was her real love;—though, no doubt, she gave the preference greatly to her cousin, because she could trust him. And then Lord Fawn was very poor. The other two men were poor also; but their poverty was not so objectionable in Lizzie's eyes as were the respectable, close-fisted economies of Lord Fawn. Lord Fawn, no doubt, had an assured income and a real peerage, and could make her a peeress. As she thought of it all, she acknowledged that there was a great deal to be said on each side, and that the necessity of making up her mind then and there was a heavy burthen upon her.
Exactly at the hour named Lord Fawn came, and Lizzie was, of course, found alone. That had been carefully provided. He was shown up, and she received him very gracefully. She was sitting, and she rose from her chair, and put out her hand for him to take. She spoke no word of greeting, but looked at him with a pleasant smile, and stood for a few seconds with her hand in his. He was awkward, and much embarrassed, and she certainly had no intention of lessening his embarrassment. "I hope you are better than you have been," he said at last.
"I am getting better, Lord Fawn. Will you not sit down?" He then seated himself, placing his hat beside him on the floor, but at the moment could not find words to speak. "I have been very ill."
"I have been so sorry to hear it."
"There has been much to make me ill,—has there not?"
"About the robbery, you mean?"
"About many things. The robbery has been by no means the worst, though, no doubt, it frightened me much. There were two robberies, Lord Fawn."
"Yes,—I know that."
"And it was very terrible. And then, I had been threatened with a lawsuit. You have heard that, too?"
"Yes,—I had heard it."
"I believe they have given that up now. I understand from my cousin, Mr. Greystock, who has been my truest friend in all my troubles, that the stupid people have found out at last that they had not a leg to stand on. I daresay you have heard that, Lord Fawn?"
Lord Fawn certainly had heard, in a doubtful way, the gist of Mr. Dove's opinion, namely, that the necklace could not be claimed from the holder of it as an heirloom attached to the Eustace family. But he had heard at the same time that Mr. Camperdown was as confident as ever that he could recover the property by claiming it after another fashion. Whether or no that claim had been altogether abandoned, or had been allowed to fall into abeyance because of the absence of the diamonds, he did not know, nor did any one know,—Mr. Camperdown himself having come to no decision on the subject. But Lord Fawn had been aware that his sister had of late shifted the ground of her inveterate enmity to Lizzie Eustace, making use of the scene which Mr. Gowran had witnessed, in lieu of the lady's rapacity in regard to the necklace. It might therefore be assumed, Lord Fawn thought and feared, that his strong ground in regard to the necklace had been cut from under his feet. But still, it did not behove him to confess that the cause which he had always alleged as the ground for his retreat from the engagement was no cause at all. It might go hard with him should an attempt be made to force him to name another cause. He knew that he would lack the courage to tell the lady that he had heard from his sister that one Andy Gowran had witnessed a terrible scene down among the rocks at Portray. So he sat silent, and made no answer to Lizzie's first assertion respecting the diamonds.
But the necklace was her strong point, and she did not intend that he should escape the subject. "If I remember right, Lord Fawn, you yourself saw that wretched old attorney once or twice on the subject?"
"I did see Mr. Camperdown, certainly. He is my own family lawyer."
"You were kind enough to interest yourself about the diamonds,—were you not?" She asked him this as a question, and then waited for a reply. "Was it not so?"
"Yes, Lady Eustace; it was so."
"They were of great value, and it was natural," continued Lizzie. "Of course you interested yourself. Mr. Camperdown was full of awful threats against me;—was he not? I don't know what he was not going to do. He stopped me in the street as I was driving to the station in my own carriage, when the diamonds were with me;—which was a very strong measure, I think. And he wrote me ever so many,—oh, such horrid letters. And he went about telling everybody that it was an heirloom;—didn't he? You know all that, Lord Fawn?"
"I know that he wanted to recover them."
"And did he tell you that he went to a real lawyer,—somebody who really knew about it, Mr. Turbot, or Turtle, or some such name as that, and the real lawyer told him that he was all wrong, and that the necklace couldn't be an heirloom at all, because it belonged to me, and that he had better drop his lawsuit altogether? Did you hear that?"
"No;—I did not hear that."
"Ah, Lord Fawn, you dropped your inquiries just at the wrong place. No doubt you had too many things to do in Parliament and the Government to go on with them; but if you had gone on, you would have learned that Mr. Camperdown had just to give it up,—because he had been wrong from beginning to end." Lizzie's words fell from her with extreme rapidity, and she had become almost out of breath from the effects of her own energy.
Lord Fawn felt strongly the necessity of clinging to the diamonds as his one great and sufficient justification. "I thought," said he, "that Mr. Camperdown had abandoned his action for the present because the jewels had been stolen."
"Not a bit of it," said Lizzie, rising suddenly to her legs. "Who says so? Who dares to say so? Whoever says so is—is a storyteller. I understand all about that. The action could go on just the same, and I could be made to pay for the necklace out of my own income if it hadn't been my own. I am sure, Lord Fawn, such a clever man as you, and one who has always been in the Government and in Parliament, can see that. And will anybody believe that such an enemy as Mr. Camperdown has been to me, persecuting me in every possible way, telling lies about me to everybody,—who tried to prevent my dear, darling husband from marrying me,—that he wouldn't go on with it if he could?"
"Mr. Camperdown is a very respectable man, Lady Eustace."
"Respectable! Talk to me of respectable after all that he has made me suffer! As you were so fond of making inquiries, Lord Fawn, you ought to have gone on with them. You never would believe what my cousin said."
"Your cousin always behaved very badly to me."
"My cousin, who is a brother rather than a cousin, has known how to protect me from the injuries done to me,—or, rather, has known how to take my part when I have been injured. My lord, as you have been unwilling to believe him, why have you not gone to that gentleman who, as I say, is a real lawyer? I don't know, my lord, that it need have concerned you at all, but as you began, you surely should have gone on with it. Don't you think so?" She was still standing up, and, small as was her stature, was almost menacing the unfortunate Under-Secretary of State, who was still seated in his chair. "My lord," continued Lizzie, "I have had great wrong done me."
"Do you mean by me?"
"Yes, by you. Who else has done it?"
"I do not think that I have done wrong to any one. I was obliged to say that I could not recognise those diamonds as the property of my wife."
"But what right had you to say so? I had the diamonds when you asked me to be your wife."
"I did not know it."
"Nor did you know that I had this little ring upon my finger. Is it fit that you, or that any man should turn round upon a lady and say to her that your word is to be broken, and that she is to be exposed before all her friends, because you have taken a fancy to dislike her ring or her brooch? I say, Lord Fawn, it was no business of yours, even after you were engaged to me. What jewels I might have, or not have, was no concern of yours till after I had become your wife. Go and ask all the world if it is not so? You say that my cousin affronts you because he takes my part,—like a brother. Ask any one else. Ask any lady you may know. Let us name some one to decide between us which of us has been wrong. Lady Glencora Palliser is a friend of yours, and her husband is in the Government. Shall we name her? It is true, indeed, that her uncle, the Duke of Omnium, the grandest and greatest of English noblemen, is specially interested on my behalf." This was very fine in Lizzie. The Duke of Omnium she had never seen; but his name had been mentioned to her by Lady Glencora, and she was quick to use it.
"I can admit of no reference to any one," said Lord Fawn.
"And I then,—what am I to do? I am to be thrown over simply because your lordship—chooses to throw me over? Your lordship will admit no reference to any one! Your lordship makes inquiries as long as an attorney tells you stories against me, but drops them at once when the attorney is made to understand that he is wrong. Tell me this, sir. Can you justify yourself,—in your own heart?"
Unfortunately for Lord Fawn, he was not sure that he could justify himself. The diamonds were gone, and the action was laid aside, and the general opinion which had prevailed a month or two since, that Lizzie had been disreputably concerned in stealing her own necklace, seemed to have been laid aside. Lady Glencora and the duke went for almost as much with Lord Fawn as they did with Lizzie. No doubt the misbehaviour down among the rocks was left to him; but he had that only on the evidence of Andy Gowran,—and even Andy Gowran's evidence he had declined to receive otherwise than second-hand. Lizzie, too, was prepared with an answer to this charge,—an answer which she had already made more than once, though the charge was not positively brought against her, and which consisted in an assertion that Frank Greystock was her brother rather than her cousin. Such brotherhood was not altogether satisfactory to Lord Fawn, when he came once more to regard Lizzie Eustace as his possible future wife; but still the assertion was an answer, and one that he could not altogether reject.
It certainly was the case that he had again begun to think what would be the result of a marriage with Lady Eustace. He must sever himself altogether from Mrs. Hittaway, and must relax the closeness of his relations with Fawn Court. He would have a wife respecting whom he himself had spread evil tidings, and the man whom he most hated in the world would be his wife's favourite cousin, or, so to say,—brother. He would, after a fashion, be connected with Mrs. Carbuncle, Lord George de Bruce Carruthers, and Sir Griffin Tewett, all of whom he regarded as thoroughly disreputable. And, moreover, at his own country house at Portray, as in such case it would be, his own bailiff or steward would be the man who had seen—what he had seen. These were great objections; but how was he to avoid marrying her? He was engaged to her. How, at any rate, was he to escape from the renewal of his engagement at this moment? He had more than once positively stated that he was deterred from marrying her only by her possession of the diamonds. The diamonds were now gone.
Lizzie was still standing, waiting for an answer to her question,—Can you justify yourself in your own heart? Having paused for some seconds, she repeated her question in a stronger and more personal form. "Had I been your sister, Lord Fawn, and had another man behaved to me as you have now done, would you say that he had behaved well, and that she had no ground for complaint? Can you bring yourself to answer that question honestly?"
"I hope I shall answer no question dishonestly."
"Answer it then. No; you cannot answer it, because you would condemn yourself. Now, Lord Fawn, what do you mean to do?"
"I had thought, Lady Eustace, that any regard which you might ever have entertained for me—"
"Well;—what had you thought of my regard?"
"That it had been dissipated."
"Have I told you so? Has any one come to you from me with such a message?"
"Have you not received attentions from any one else?"
"Attentions,—what attentions? I have received plenty of attentions,—most flattering attentions. I was honoured even this morning by a most gratifying attention on the part of his grace the Duke of Omnium."
"I did not mean that."
"What do you mean, then? I am not going to marry the Duke of Omnium because of his attention,—nor any one else. If you mean, sir, after the other inquiries you have done me the honour to make, to throw it in my face now, that I have—have in any way rendered myself unworthy of the position of your wife because people have been civil and kind to me in my sorrow, you are a greater dastard than I took you to be. Tell me at once, sir, whom you mean."
It is hardly too much to say that the man quailed before her. And it certainly is not too much to say that, had Lizzie Eustace been trained as an actress, she would have become a favourite with the town. When there came to her any fair scope for acting, she was perfect. In the ordinary scenes of ordinary life, such as befell her during her visit to Fawn Court, she could not acquit herself well. There was no reality about her, and the want of it was strangely plain to most unobservant eyes. But give her a part to play that required exaggerated, strong action, and she hardly ever failed. Even in that terrible moment, when, on her return from the theatre, she thought that the police had discovered her secret about the diamonds, though she nearly sank through fear, she still carried on her acting in the presence of Lucinda Roanoke; and when she had found herself constrained to tell the truth to Lord George Carruthers, the power to personify a poor, weak, injured creature was not wanting to her. The reader will not think that her position in society at the present moment was very well established,—will feel, probably, that she must still have known herself to be on the brink of social ruin. But she had now fully worked herself up to the necessities of the occasion, and was as able to play her part as well as any actress that ever walked the boards. She had called him a dastard, and now stood looking him in the face. "I didn't mean anybody in particular," said Lord Fawn.
"Then what right can you have to ask me whether I have received attentions? Had it not been for the affectionate attention of my cousin, Mr. Greystock, I should have died beneath the load of sorrow you have heaped upon me!" This she said quite boldly, and yet the man she named was he of whom Andy Gowran told his horrid story, and whose love-making to Lizzie had, in Mrs. Hittaway's opinion, been sufficient to atone for any falling off of strength in the matter of the diamonds.
"A rumour reached me," said Lord Fawn, plucking up his courage, "that you were engaged to marry your cousin."
"Then rumour lied, my lord. And he or she who repeated the rumour to you, lied also. And any he or she who repeats it again will go on with the lie." Lord Fawn's brow became very black. The word "lie" itself was offensive to him,—offensive, even though it might not be applied directly to himself; but he still quailed, and was unable to express his indignation,—as he had done to poor Lucy Morris, his mother's governess. "And now let me ask, Lord Fawn, on what ground you and I stand together. When my friend, Lady Glencora, asked me, only this morning, whether my engagement with you was still an existing fact, and brought me the kindest possible message on the same subject from her uncle, the duke, I hardly knew what answer to make her." It was not surprising that Lizzie in her difficulties should use her new friend, but perhaps she over-did the friendship a little. "I told her that we were engaged, but that your lordship's conduct to me had been so strange, that I hardly knew how to speak of you among my friends."
"I thought I explained myself to your cousin."
"My cousin certainly did not understand your explanation."
Lord Fawn was certain that Greystock had understood it well; and Greystock had in return insulted him,—because the engagement was broken off. But it is impossible to argue on facts with a woman who has been ill-used. "After all that has passed, perhaps we had better part," said Lord Fawn.
"Then I shall put the matter into the hands of the Duke of Omnium," said Lizzie boldly. "I will not have my whole life ruined, my good name blasted—"
"I have not said a word to injure your good name."
"On what plea, then, have you dared to take upon yourself to put an end to an engagement which was made at your own pressing request,—which was, of course, made at your own request? On what ground do you justify such conduct? You are a Liberal, Lord Fawn; and everybody regards the Duke of Omnium as the head of the Liberal nobility in England. He is my friend, and I shall put the matter into his hands." It was, probably, from her cousin Frank that Lizzie had learned that Lord Fawn was more afraid of the leaders of his own party than of any other tribunal upon earth,—or perhaps elsewhere.
Lord Fawn felt the absurdity of the threat, and yet it had effect upon him. He knew that the Duke of Omnium was a worn-out old debauchee, with one foot in the grave, who was looked after by two or three women who were only anxious that he should not disgrace himself by some absurdity before he died. Nevertheless, the Duke of Omnium, or the duke's name, was a power in the nation. Lady Glencora was certainly very powerful, and Lady Glencora's husband was Chancellor of the Exchequer. He did not suppose that the duke cared in the least whether Lizzie Eustace was or was not married;—but Lady Glencora had certainly interested herself about Lizzie, and might make London almost too hot to hold him if she chose to go about everywhere saying that he ought to marry the lady. And in addition to all this prospective grief, there was the trouble of the present moment. He was in Lizzie's own room,—fool that he had been to come there,—and he must get out as best he could. "Lady Eustace," he said, "I am most anxious not to behave badly in this matter."
"But you are behaving badly,—very badly."
"With your leave I will tell you what I would suggest. I will submit to you in writing my opinion on this matter;"—Lord Fawn had been all his life submitting his opinion in writing, and thought that he was rather a good hand at the work. "I will then endeavour to explain to you the reasons which make me think that it will be better for us both that our engagement should be at an end. If, after reading it, you shall disagree with me, and still insist on the right which I gave you when I asked you to become my wife,—I will then perform the promise which I certainly made." To this most foolish proposal on his part, Lizzie, of course, acquiesced. She acquiesced, and bade him farewell with her sweetest smile. It was now manifest to her that she could have her husband,—or her revenge, just as she might prefer.
This had been a day of triumph to her, and she was talking of it in the evening triumphantly to Mrs. Carbuncle, when she was told that a policeman wanted to see her down-stairs! Oh, those wretched police! Again all the blood rushed to her head and nearly killed her. She descended slowly; and was then informed by a man, not dressed, like Bunfit, in plain clothes, but with all the paraphernalia of a policeman's uniform, that her late servant, Patience Crabstick, had given herself up as Queen's evidence, and was now in custody in Scotland Yard. It had been thought right that she should be so far informed; but the man was able to tell her nothing further.
"You Know Where My Heart Is"
On the Sunday following, Frank, as usual, was in Hertford Street. He had become almost a favourite with Mrs. Carbuncle; and had so far ingratiated himself even with Lucinda Roanoke that, according to Lizzie's report, he might, if so inclined, rob Sir Griffin of his prize without much difficulty. On this occasion he was unhappy and in low spirits; and when questioned on the subject made no secret of the fact that he was harassed for money. "The truth is I have overdrawn my bankers by five hundred pounds, and they have, as they say, ventured to remind me of it. I wish they were not venturesome quite so often; for they reminded me of the same fact about a fortnight ago."
"What do you do with your money, Mr. Greystock?" asked Mrs. Carbuncle, laughing.
"Muddle it away, paying my bills with it,—according to the very, very old story. The fact is, I live in that detestable no-man's land, between respectability and insolvency, which has none of the pleasure of either. I am fair game for every creditor, as I am supposed to pay my way,—and yet I never can pay my way."
"Just like my poor dear father," said Lizzie.
"Not exactly, Lizzie. He managed much better, and never paid anybody. If I could only land on terra-firma,—one side or the other,—I shouldn't much care which. As it is I have all the recklessness, but none of the carelessness, of the hopelessly insolvent man. And it is so hard with us. Attorneys owe us large sums of money, and we can't dun them very well. I have a lot of money due to me from rich men, who don't pay me simply because they don't think that it matters. I talk to them grandly, and look big, as though money was the last thing I thought of, when I am longing to touch my hat and ask them as a great favour to settle my little bill." All this time Lizzie was full of matter which she must impart to her cousin, and could impart to him only in privacy.
It was absolutely necessary that she should tell him what she had heard of Patience Crabstick. In her heart of hearts she wished that Patience Crabstick had gone off safely with her plunder to the Antipodes. She had no wish to get back what had been lost, either in the matter of the diamonds or of the smaller things taken. She had sincerely wished that the police might fail in all their endeavours, and that the thieves might enjoy perfect security with their booty. She did not even begrudge Mr. Benjamin the diamonds,—or Lord George, if in truth Lord George had been the last thief. The robbery had enabled her to get the better of Mr. Camperdown, and apparently of Lord Fawn; and had freed her from the custody of property which she had learned to hate. It had been a very good robbery. But now these wretched police had found Patience Crabstick, and would disturb her again!
Of course she must tell her cousin. He must hear the news, and it would be better that he should hear it from her than from others. This was Sunday, and she thought he would be sure to know the truth on the following Monday. In this she was right; for on the Monday old Lady Linlithgow saw it stated in the newspapers that an arrest had been made. "I have something to tell you," she said, as soon as she had succeeded in finding herself alone with him.
"Anything about the diamonds?"
"Well, no; not exactly about the diamonds;—though perhaps it is. But first, Frank, I want to say something else to you."
"Not about the diamonds?"
"Oh no;—not at all. It is this. You must let me lend you that five hundred pounds you want."
"Indeed you shall do no such thing. I should not have mentioned it to you if I had not thought that you were one of the insolvent yourself. You were in debt yourself when we last talked about money."
"So I am;—and that horrid woman, Mrs. Carbuncle, has made me lend her one hundred and fifty pounds. But it is so different with you, Frank."
"Yes;—my needs are greater than hers."
"What is she to me?—while you are everything! Things can't be so bad with me but what I can raise five hundred pounds. After all, I am not really in debt, for a person with my income; but if I were, still my first duty would be to help you if you want help."
"Be generous first, and just afterwards. That's it;—isn't it, Lizzie? But indeed, under no circumstances could I take a penny of your money. There are some persons from whom a man can borrow, and some from whom he cannot. You are clearly one of those from whom I cannot borrow."
"Ah,—one can't explain these things. It simply is so. Mrs. Carbuncle was quite the natural person to borrow your money, and it seems that she has complied with nature. Some Jew who wants thirty per cent. is the natural person for me. All these things are arranged, and it is of no use disturbing the arrangements and getting out of course. I shall pull through. And now let me know your own news."
"The police have taken Patience."
"They have,—have they? Then at last we shall know all about the diamonds." This was gall to poor Lizzie. "Where did they get her?"
"Ah!—I don't know that."
"And who told you?"
"A policeman came here last night and said so. She is going to turn against the thieves, and tell all that she knows. Nasty, mean creature."
"Thieves are nasty, mean creatures generally. We shall get it all out now,—as to what happened at Carlisle and what happened here. Do you know that everybody believes, up to this moment, that your dear friend Lord George de Bruce sold the diamonds to Mr. Benjamin, the jeweller?"
Lizzie could only shrug her shoulders. She herself, among many doubts, was upon the whole disposed to think as everybody thought. She did believe,—as far as she believed anything in the matter, that the Corsair had determined to become possessed of the prize from the moment that he saw it in Scotland, that the Corsair arranged the robbery in Carlisle, and that again he arranged the robbery in the London house as soon as he learned from Lizzie where the diamonds were placed. To her mind this had been the most ready solution of the mystery, and when she found that other people almost regarded him as the thief, her doubts became a belief. And she did not in the least despise or dislike him or condemn him for what he had done. Were he to come to her and confess it all, telling his story in such a manner as to make her seem to be safe for the future, she would congratulate him and accept him at once as her own dear, expected Corsair. But, if so, he should not have bungled the thing. He should have managed his subordinates better than to have one of them turn evidence against him. He should have been able to get rid of a poor weak female like Patience Crabstick. Why had he not sent her to New York, or—or—or anywhere? If Lizzie were to hear that Lord George had taken Patience out to sea in a yacht,—somewhere among the bright islands of which she thought so much,—and dropped the girl overboard, tied up in a bag, she would regard it as a proper Corsair arrangement. Now she was angry with Lord George because her trouble was coming back upon her. Frank had suggested that Lord George was the robber in chief, and Lizzie merely shrugged her shoulders. "We shall know all about it now," said he triumphantly.
"I don't know that I want to know any more about it. I have been so tortured about these wretched diamonds, that I never wish to hear them mentioned again. I don't care who has got them. My enemies used to think that I loved them so well that I could not bear to part with them. I hated them always, and never took any pleasure in them. I used to think that I would throw them into the sea; and when they were gone I was glad of it."
"Thieves ought to be discovered, Lizzie,—for the good of the community."
"I don't care for the community. What has the community ever done for me? And now I have something else to tell you. Ever so many people came yesterday as well as that wretched policeman. Dear Lady Glencora was here again."
"They'll make a Radical of you among them, Lizzie."
"I don't care a bit about that. I'd just as soon be a Radical as a stupid old Conservative. Lady Glencora has been most kind, and she brought me the dearest message from the Duke of Omnium. The duke had heard how ill I had been treated."
"The duke is doting."
"It is so easy to say that when a man is old. I don't think you know him, Frank."
"Not in the least;—nor do I wish."
"It is something to have the sympathy of men high placed in the world. And as to Lady Glencora, I do love her dearly. She just comes up to my beau-ideal of what a woman should be,—disinterested, full of spirit, affectionate, with a dash of romance about her."
"A great dash of romance, I fancy."
"And a determination to be something in the world. Lady Glencora Palliser is something."
"She is awfully rich, Lizzie."
"I suppose so. At any rate, that is no disgrace. And then, Frank, somebody else came."
"Lord Fawn was to have come."
"He did come."
"And how did it go between you?"
"Ah,—that will be so difficult to explain. I wish you had been behind the curtain to hear it all. It is so necessary that you should know, and yet it is so hard to tell. I spoke up to him, and was quite high-spirited."
"I daresay you were."
"I told him out, bravely, of all the wrong he had done me. I did not sit and whimper, I can assure you. Then he talked about you,—of your attentions."
Frank Greystock, of course, remembered the scene among the rocks, and Mr. Gowran's wagging head and watchful eyes. At the time he had felt certain that some use would be made of Andy's vigilance, though he had not traced the connexion between the man and Mrs. Hittaway. If Lord Fawn had heard of the little scene, there might, doubtless, be cause for him to talk of "attentions." "What did it matter to him?" asked Frank. "He is an insolent ass,—as I have told him once, and shall have to tell him again."
"I think it did matter, Frank."
"I don't see it a bit. He had resigned his rights,—whatever they were."
"But I had not accepted his resignation,—as they say in the newspapers;—nor have I now."
"You would still marry him?"
"I don't say that, Frank. This is an important business, and let us go through it steadily. I would certainly like to have him again at my feet. Whether I would deign to lift him up again is another thing. Is not that natural, after what he has done to me?"
"And I am a woman. Yes, Frank. I would have him again at my disposal,—and he is so. He is to write me a long letter;—so like a Government-man, isn't it? And he has told me already what he is to put into the letter. They always do, you know. He is to say that he'll marry me if I choose."
"He has promised to say that?"
"When he said that he would come, I made up my mind that he should not go out of the house till he had promised that. He couldn't get out of it. What had I done?" Frank thought of the scene among the rocks. He did not, of course, allude to it, but Lizzie was not so reticent. "As to what that old rogue saw down in Scotland, I don't care a bit about it, Frank. He has been up in London, and telling them all, no doubt. Nasty, dirty eavesdropper! But what does it come to? Psha! When he mentioned your name I silenced him at once. What could I have done, unless I had had some friend? At any rate, he is to ask me again in writing,—and then what shall I say?"
"You must consult your own heart."
"No, Frank;—I need not do that. Why do you say so?"
"I know not what else to say."
"A woman can marry without consulting her heart. Women do so every day. This man is a lord, and has a position. No doubt I despise him thoroughly,—utterly. I don't hate him, because he is not worth being hated."
"And yet you would marry him?"
"I have not said so. I will tell you this truth, though perhaps you will say it is not feminine. I would fain marry some one. To be as I have been for the last two years is not a happy condition."
"I would not marry a man I despised."
"Nor would I,—willingly. He is honest and respectable; and in spite of all that has come and gone would, I think, behave well to a woman when she was once his wife. Of course, I would prefer to marry a man that I could love. But if that is impossible, Frank—"
"I thought that you had determined that you would have nothing to do with this lord."
"I thought so too. Frank, you have known all that I have thought, and all that I have wished. You talk to me of marrying where my heart has been given. Is it possible that I should do so?"
"How am I to say?"
"Come, Frank, be true with me. I am forcing myself to speak truth to you. I think that between you and me, at any rate, there should be no words spoken that are not true. Frank, you know where my heart is." As she said this, she stood over him, and laid her hand upon his shoulder. "Will you answer me one question?"
"If I can, I will."
"Are you engaged to marry Lucy Morris?"
"And you intend to marry her?" To this question he made no immediate answer. "We are old enough now, Frank, to know that something more than what you call heart is wanted to make us happy when we marry. I will say nothing hard of Lucy, though she be my rival."
"You can say nothing hard of her. She is perfect."
"We will let that pass, though it is hardly kind of you, just at the present moment. Let her be perfect. Can you marry this perfection without a sixpence,—you that are in debt, and who never could save a sixpence in your life? Would it be for her good,—or for yours? You have done a foolish thing, sir, and you know that you must get out of it."
"I know nothing of the kind."
"You cannot marry Lucy Morris. That is the truth. My present need makes me bold. Frank, shall I be your wife? Such a marriage will not be without love, at any rate on one side,—though there be utter indifference on the other!"
"You know I am not indifferent to you," said he, with wicked weakness.
"Now, at any rate," she continued, "you must understand what must be my answer to Lord Fawn. It is you that must answer Lord Fawn. If my heart is to be broken, I may as well break it under his roof as another."
"I have no roof to offer you," he said.
"But I have one for you," she said, throwing her arm round his neck. He bore her embrace for a minute, returning it with the pressure of his arm; and then, escaping from it, seized his hat and left her standing in the room.
The Corsair Is Afraid
On the following morning,—Monday morning,—there appeared in one of the daily newspapers the paragraph of which Lady Linlithgow had spoken to Lucy Morris. "We are given to understand,"—newspapers are very frequently given to understand,—"that a man well-known to the London police as an accomplished housebreaker has been arrested in reference to the robbery which was effected on the 30th of January last at Lady Eustace's house in Hertford Street. No doubt the same person was concerned in the robbery of her ladyship's jewels at Carlisle on the night of the 8th of January. The mystery which has so long enveloped these two affairs, and which has been so discreditable to the metropolitan police, will now probably be cleared up." There was not a word about Patience Crabstick in this; and, as Lizzie observed, the news brought by the policeman on Saturday night referred only to Patience, and said nothing of the arrest of any burglar. The ladies in Hertford Street scanned the sentence with the greatest care, and Mrs. Carbuncle was very angry because the house was said to be Lizzie's house. "It wasn't my doing," said Lizzie.
"The policeman came to you about it."
"I didn't say a word to the man,—and I didn't want him to come."
"I hope it will be all found out now," said Lucinda.
"I wish it were all clean forgotten," said Lizzie.
"It ought to be found out," said Mrs. Carbuncle. "But the police should be more careful in what they say. I suppose we shall all have to go before the magistrates again."
Poor Lizzie felt that fresh trouble was certainly coming upon her. She had learned now that the crime for which she might be prosecuted and punished was that of perjury,—that even if everything was known, she could not be accused of stealing, and that if she could only get out of the way till the wrath of the magistrate and policemen should have evaporated, she might possibly escape altogether. At any rate, they could not take her income away from her. But how could she get out of the way, and how could she endure to be cross-examined, and looked at, and inquired into, by all those who would be concerned in the matter? She thought that, if only she could have arranged her matrimonial affairs before the bad day came upon her, she could have endured it better. If she might be allowed to see Lord George, she could ask for advice,—could ask for advice, not as she was always forced to do from her cousin, on a false statement of facts, but with everything known and declared.
On that very day Lord George came to Hertford Street. He had been there more than once, perhaps half a dozen times, since the robbery; but on all these occasions Lizzie had been in bed, and he had declined to visit her in her chamber. In fact, even Lord George had become somewhat afraid of her since he had been told the true story as to the necklace at Carlisle. That story he had heard from herself, and he had also heard from Mr. Benjamin some other little details as to her former life. Mr. Benjamin, whose very close attention had been drawn to the Eustace diamonds, had told Lord George how he had valued them at her ladyship's request, and had caused an iron case to be made for them, and how her ladyship had, on one occasion, endeavoured to sell the necklace to him. Mr. Benjamin, who certainly was intimate with Lord George, was very fond of talking about the diamonds, and had once suggested to his lordship that, were they to become his lordship's by marriage, he, Benjamin, might be willing to treat with his lordship. In regard to treating with her ladyship,—Mr. Benjamin acknowledged that he thought it would be too hazardous. Then came the robbery of the box, and Lord George was all astray. Mr. Benjamin was for a while equally astray, but neither friend believed in the other friend's innocence. That Lord George should suspect Mr. Benjamin was quite natural. Mr. Benjamin hardly knew what to think;—hardly gave Lord George credit for the necessary courage, skill, and energy. But at last, as he began to put two and two together, he divined the truth, and was enabled to set the docile Patience on the watch over her mistress's belongings. So it had been with Mr. Benjamin, who at last was able to satisfy Mr. Smiler and Mr. Cann that he had been no party to their cruel disappointment at Carlisle. How Lord George had learned the truth has been told;—the truth as to Lizzie's hiding the necklace under her pillow and bringing it up to London in her desk. But of the facts of the second robbery he knew nothing up to this morning. He almost suspected that Lizzie had herself again been at work,—and he was afraid of her. He had promised her that he would take care of her,—had, perhaps, said enough to make her believe that some day he would marry her. He hardly remembered what he had said;—but he was afraid of her. She was so wonderfully clever that, if he did not take care, she would get him into some mess from which he would be unable to extricate himself.
He had never whispered her secret to any one; and had still been at a loss about the second robbery, when he too saw the paragraph in the newspaper. He went direct to Scotland Yard and made inquiry there. His name had been so often used in the affair, that such inquiry from him was justified. "Well, my lord; yes; we have found out something," said Bunfit. "Mr. Benjamin is off, you know."
"Cut the painter, my lord, and started. But what's the good, now we has the wires?"
"And who were the thieves?"
"Ah, my lord, that's telling. Perhaps I don't know. Perhaps I do. Perhaps two or three of us knows. You'll hear all in good time, my lord." Mr. Bunfit wished to appear communicative because he knew but little himself. Gager, in the meanest possible manner, had kept the matter very close; but the fact that Mr. Benjamin had started suddenly on foreign travel had become known to Mr. Bunfit.
Lord George had been very careful, asking no question about the necklace;—no question which would have shown that he knew that the necklace had been in Hertford Street when the robbery took place there; but it seemed to him now that the police must be aware that it was so. The arrest had been made because of the robbery in Hertford Street, and because of that arrest Mr. Benjamin had taken his departure. Mr. Benjamin was too big a man to have concerned himself deeply in the smaller matters which had then been stolen.
From Scotland Yard Lord George went direct to Hertford Street. He was in want of money, in want of a settled home, in want of a future income, and altogether unsatisfied with his present mode of life. Lizzie Eustace, no doubt, would take him,—unless she had told her secret to some other lover. To have his wife, immediately on her marriage, or even before it, arraigned for perjury, would not be pleasant. There was very much in the whole affair of which he would not be proud as he led his bride to the altar;—but a man does not expect to get four thousand pounds a year for nothing. Lord George, at any rate, did not conceive himself to be in a position to do so. Had there not been something crooked about Lizzie,—a screw loose, as people say,—she would never have been within his reach. There are men who always ride lame horses, and yet see as much of the hunting as others. Lord George, when he had begun to think that, after the tale which he had forced her to tell him, she had caused the diamonds to be stolen by her own maid out of her own desk, became almost afraid of her. But now, as he looked at the matter again and again, he believed that the second robbery had been genuine. He did not quite make up his mind, but he went to Hertford Street resolved to see her.
He asked for her, and was shown at once into her own sitting-room. "So you have come at last," she said.
"Yes;—I've come at last. It would not have done for me to come up to you when you were in bed. Those women down-stairs would have talked about it everywhere."
"I suppose they would," said Lizzie almost piteously.
"It wouldn't have been at all wise after all that has been said. People would have been sure to suspect that I had got the things out of your desk."
"Oh, no;—not that."
"I wasn't going to run the risk, my dear." His manner to her was anything but civil, anything but complimentary. If this was his Corsair humour, she was not sure that a Corsair might be agreeable to her. "And now tell me what you know about this second robbery."
"I know nothing, Lord George."
"Oh, yes, you do. You know something. You know, at any rate, that the diamonds were there."
"Yes;—I know that."
"And that they were taken?"
"Of course they were taken."
"You are sure of that?" There was something in his manner absolutely insolent to her. Frank was affectionate, and even Lord Fawn treated her with deference. "Because, you know, you have been very clever. To tell you the truth, I did not think at first that they had been really stolen. It might, you know, have been a little game to get them out of your own hands,—between you and your maid."
"I don't know what you take me for, Lord George."
"I take you for a lady who, for a long time, got the better of the police and the magistrates, and who managed to shift all the trouble off your own shoulders on to those of other people. You have heard that they have taken one of the thieves?"
"And they have got the girl."
"Have they? I didn't know that. That scoundrel Benjamin has levanted too."
"Levanted!" said Lizzie, raising both her hands.
"Not an hour too soon, my lady. And now what do you mean to do?"
"What ought I to do?"
"Of course the whole truth will come out."
"Must it come out?"
"Not a doubt of that. How can it be helped?"
"You won't tell. You promised that you would not."
"Psha;—promised! If they put me in a witness-box of course I must tell. When you come to this kind of work, promises don't go for much. I don't know that they ever do. What is a broken promise?"
"It's a story," said Lizzie, in innocent amazement.
"And what was it you told when you were upon your oath at Carlisle; and again when the magistrate came here?"
"Oh, Lord George;—how unkind you are to me!"
"Patience Crabstick will tell it all, without any help from me. Don't you see that the whole thing must be known? She'll say where the diamonds were found;—and how did they come there, if you didn't put them there? As for telling, there'll be telling enough. You've only two things to do."
"What are they, Lord George?"
"Go off, like Mr. Benjamin; or else make a clean breast of it. Send for John Eustace and tell him the whole. For his brother's sake he'll make the best of it. It will all be published, and then, perhaps, there will be an end of it."
"I couldn't do that, Lord George!" said Lizzie, bursting into tears.
"You ask me, and I can only tell you what I think. That you should be able to keep the history of the diamonds a secret, does not seem to me to be upon the cards. No doubt people who are rich, and are connected with rich people, and have great friends,—who are what the world call swells,—have great advantages over their inferiors when they get into trouble. You are the widow of a baronet, and you have an uncle a bishop, and another a dean, and a countess for an aunt. You have a brother-in-law and a first-cousin in Parliament, and your father was an admiral. The other day you were engaged to marry a peer."
"Oh yes," said Lizzie, "and Lady Glencora Palliser is my particular friend."
"She is; is she? So much the better. Lady Glencora, no doubt, is a very swell among swells."
"The Duke of Omnium would do anything for me," said Lizzie with enthusiasm.
"If you were nobody, you would, of course, be indicted for perjury, and would go to prison. As it is, if you will tell all your story to one of your swell friends, I think it very likely that you may be pulled through. I should say that Mr. Eustace, or your cousin Greystock, would be the best."
"Why couldn't you do it? You know it all. I told you because—because—because I thought you would be the kindest to me."
"You told me, my dear, because you thought it would not matter much with me, and I appreciate the compliment. I can do nothing for you. I am not near enough to those who wear wigs."
Lizzie did not above half understand him,—did not at all understand him when he spoke of those who wore wigs, and was quite dark to his irony about her great friends;—but she did perceive that he was in earnest in recommending her to confess. She thought about it for a moment in silence, and the more she thought the more she felt that she could not do it. Had he not suggested a second alternative,—that she should go off like Mr. Benjamin? It might be possible that she should go off, and yet be not quite like Mr. Benjamin. In that case ought she not to go under the protection of her Corsair? Would not that be the proper way of going? "Might I not go abroad,—just for a time?" she asked.
"And so let it blow over?"
"Just so, you know."
"It is possible that you might," he said. "Not that it would blow over altogether. Everybody would know it. It is too late now to stop the police, and if you meant to be off, you should be off at once;—to-day or to-morrow."
"Indeed, there's no saying whether they will let you go. You could start now, this moment;—and if you were at Dover could get over to France. But when once it is known that you had the necklace all that time in your own desk, any magistrate, I imagine, could stop you. You'd better have some lawyer you can trust;—not that blackguard Mopus."
Lord George had certainly brought her no comfort. When he told her that she might go at once if she chose, she remembered, with a pang of agony, that she had already overdrawn her account at the bankers. She was the actual possessor of an income of four thousand pounds a year, and now, in her terrible strait, she could not stir because she had no money with which to travel. Had all things been well with her, she could, no doubt, have gone to her bankers and have arranged this little difficulty. But as it was, she could not move, because her purse was empty.
Lord George sat looking at her, and thinking whether he would make the plunge and ask her to be his wife,—with all her impediments and drawbacks about her. He had been careful to reduce her to such a condition of despair, that she would undoubtedly have accepted him, so that she might have some one to lean upon in her trouble;—but, as he looked at her, he doubted. She was such a mass of deceit, that he was afraid of her. She might say that she would marry him, and then, when the storm was over, refuse to keep her word. She might be in debt,—almost to any amount. She might be already married, for anything that he knew. He did know that she was subject to all manner of penalties for what she had done. He looked at her, and told himself that she was very pretty. But in spite of her beauty, his judgment went against her. He did not dare to share even his boat with so dangerous a fellow-passenger. "That's my advice," he said, getting up from his chair.
"Are you going?"
"Well;—yes; I don't know what else I can do for you."
"You are so unkind!" He shrugged his shoulders, just touched her hand, and left the room without saying another word to her.
Lizzie's Last Scheme
Lizzie, when she was left alone, was very angry with the Corsair,—in truth, more sincerely angry than she had ever been with any of her lovers, or, perhaps, with any human being. Sincere, true, burning wrath was not the fault to which she was most exposed. She could snap and snarl, and hate, and say severe things; she could quarrel, and fight, and be malicious;—but to be full of real wrath was uncommon with her. Now she was angry. She had been civil, more than civil, to Lord George. She had opened her house to him, and her heart. She had told him her great secret. She had implored his protection. She had thrown herself into his arms. And now he had rejected her. That he should have been rough to her was only in accordance with the poetical attributes which she had attributed to him. But his roughness should have been streaked with tenderness. He should not have left her roughly. In the whole interview he had not said a loving word to her. He had given her advice,—which might be good or bad,—but he had given it as to one whom he despised. He had spoken to her throughout the interview exactly as he might have spoken to Sir Griffin Tewett. She could not analyse her feelings thoroughly, but she felt that because of what had passed between them, by reason of his knowledge of her secret, he had robbed her of all that observance which was due to her as a woman and a lady. She had been roughly used before,—by people of inferior rank who had seen through her ways. Andrew Gowran had insulted her. Patience Crabstick had argued with her. Benjamin, the employer of thieves, had been familiar with her. But hitherto, in what she was pleased to call her own set, she had always been treated with that courtesy which ladies seldom fail to receive. She understood it all. She knew how much of mere word-service there often is in such complimentary usage. But, nevertheless, it implies respect, and an acknowledgement of the position of her who is so respected. Lord George had treated her as one schoolboy treats another.
And he had not spoken to her one word of love. Love will excuse roughness. Spoken love will palliate even spoken roughness. Had he once called her his own Lizzie, he might have scolded her as he pleased,—might have abused her to the top of his bent. But as there had been nothing of the manner of a gentleman to a lady, so also had there been nothing of the lover to his mistress. That dream was over. Lord George was no longer a Corsair, but a brute.
But what should she do? Even a brute may speak truth. She was to have gone to a theatre that evening with Mrs. Carbuncle, but she stayed at home thinking over her position. She heard nothing throughout the day from the police; and she made up her mind that, unless she were stopped by the police, she would go to Scotland on the day but one following. She thought that she was sure that she would do so; but, of course, she must be guided by events as they occurred. She wrote, however, to Miss Macnulty saying that she would come, and she told Mrs. Carbuncle of her proposed journey as that lady was leaving the house for the theatre. On the following morning, however, news came which again made her journey doubtful. There was another paragraph in the newspaper about the robbery, acknowledging the former paragraph to have been in some respect erroneous. The "accomplished housebreaker" had not been arrested. A confederate of the "accomplished housebreaker" was in the hands of the police, and the police were on the track of the "accomplished housebreaker" himself. Then there was a line or two alluding in a very mysterious way to the disappearance of a certain jeweller. Taking it altogether, Lizzie thought that there was ground for hope,—and that, at any rate, there would be delay. She would, perhaps, put off going to Scotland for yet a day or two. Was it not necessary that she should wait for Lord Fawn's answer; and would it not be incumbent on her cousin Frank to send her some account of himself after the abrupt manner in which he had left her?
If in real truth she should be driven to tell her story to any one,—and she began to think that she was so driven,—she would tell it to him. She believed more in his regard for her than that of any other human being. She thought that he would, in truth, have been devoted to her, had he not become entangled with that wretched little governess. And she thought that if he could see his way out of that scrape, he would marry her even yet,—would marry her, and be good to her, so that her dream of a poetical phase of life should not be altogether dissolved. After all, the diamonds were her own. She had not stolen them. When perplexed in the extreme by magistrates and policemen, with nobody near her whom she trusted to give her advice,—for Lizzie now of course declared to herself that she had never for a moment trusted the Corsair,—she had fallen into an error, and said what was not true. As she practised it before the glass, she thought that she could tell her story in a becoming manner, with becoming tears, to Frank Greystock. And were it not for Lucy Morris, she thought that he would take her with all her faults and all her burthens.
As for Lord Fawn, she knew well enough that, let him write what he would, and renew his engagement in what most formal manner might be possible, he would be off again when he learned the facts as to that night at Carlisle. She had brought him to succumb, because he could no longer justify his treatment of her by reference to the diamonds. But when once all the world should know that she had twice perjured herself, his justification would be complete,—and his escape would be certain. She would use his letter simply to achieve that revenge which she had promised herself. Her effort,—her last final effort,—must be made to secure the hand and heart of her cousin Frank. "Ah, 'tis his heart I want!" she said to herself.
She must settle something before she went to Scotland,—if there was anything that could be settled. If she could only get a promise from Frank before all her treachery had been exposed, he probably would remain true to his promise. He would not desert her as Lord Fawn had done. Then, after much thinking of it, she resolved upon a scheme which, of all her schemes, was the wickedest. Whatever it might cost her, she would create a separation between Frank Greystock and Lucy Morris. Having determined upon this, she wrote to Lucy, asking her to call in Hertford Street at a certain hour.
I particularly want to see you,—on business. Pray come to me at twelve to-morrow. I will send the carriage for you, and it will take you back again. Pray do this. We used to love one another, and I am sure I love you still.
Your affectionate old friend,
As a matter of course Lucy went to her. Lizzie, before the interview, studied the part she was to play with all possible care,—even to the words which she was to use. The greeting was at first kindly, for Lucy had almost forgotten the bribe that had been offered to her, and had quite forgiven it. Lizzie Eustace never could be dear to her; but,—so Lucy had thought during her happiness,—this former friend of hers was the cousin of the man who was to be her husband, and was dear to him. Of course she had forgiven the offence. "And now, dear, I want to ask you a question," Lizzie said; "or rather, perhaps not a question. I can do it better than that. I think that my cousin Frank once talked of—of making you his wife." Lucy answered not a word, but she trembled in every limb, and the colour came to her face. "Was it not so, dear?"
"What if it was? I don't know why you should ask me any question like that about myself."
"Is he not my cousin?"
"Yes,—he is your cousin. Why don't you ask him? You see him every day, I suppose?"
"Nearly every day."
"Why do you send for me, then?"
"It is so hard to tell you, Lucy. I have sent to you in good faith, and in love. I could have gone to you,—only for the old vulture, who would not have let us had a word in peace. I do see him—constantly. And I love him dearly."
"That is nothing to me," said Lucy. Anybody hearing them, and not knowing them, would have said that Lucy's manner was harsh in the extreme.
"He has told me everything." Lizzie, when she said this, paused, looking at her victim. "He has told me things which he could not mention to you. It was only yesterday,—the day before yesterday,—that he was speaking to me of his debts. I offered to place all that I have at his disposal, so as to free him, but he would not take my money."
"Of course he would not."
"Not my money alone. Then he told me that he was engaged to you. He had never told me before, but yet I knew it. It all came out then. Lucy, though he is engaged to you, it is me that he loves."
"I don't believe it," said Lucy.
"You can't make me angry, Lucy, because my heart bleeds for you."
"Nonsense! trash! I don't want your heart to bleed. I don't believe you've got a heart. You've got money; I know that."
"And he has got none. If I did not love him, why should I wish to give him all that I have? Is not that disinterested?"
"No. You are always thinking of yourself. You couldn't be disinterested."
"And of whom are you thinking? Are you doing the best for him,—a man in his position, without money, ambitious, sure to succeed if want of money does not stop him,—in wishing him to marry a girl with nothing? Cannot I do more for him than you can?"
"I could work for him on my knees, I love him so truly!"
"Would that do him any service? He cannot marry you. Does he ever see you? Does he write to you as though you were to be his wife? Do you not know that it is all over?—that it must be over? It is impossible that he should marry you. But if you will give him back his word, he shall be my husband, and shall have all that I possess. Now, let us see who loves him best!"
"I do!" said Lucy.
"How will you show it?"
"There is no need that I should show it. He knows it. The only one in the world to whom I wish it to be known, knows it already well enough. Did you send for me for this?"
"It is for him to tell me the tidings;—not for you. You are nothing to me;—nothing. And what you say to me now is all for yourself,—not for him. But it is true that he does not see me. It is true that he does not write to me. You may tell him from me,—for I cannot write to him myself,—that he may do whatever is best for him. But if you tell him that I do not love him better than all the world, you will lie to him. And if you say that he loves you better than he does me, that also will be a lie. I know his heart."
"I will hear no more. He can do as he pleases. If money be more to him than love and honesty, let him marry you. I shall never trouble him; he may be sure of that. As for you, Lizzie, I hope that we may never meet again."
She would not get into the Eustace-Carbuncle carriage, which was waiting for her at the door, but walked back to Bruton Street. She did not doubt but that it was all over with her now. That Lizzie Eustace was an inveterate liar, she knew well; but she did believe that the liar had on this occasion been speaking truth. Lady Fawn was not a liar, and Lady Fawn had told her the same. And, had she wanted more evidence, did not her lover's conduct give it? "It is because I am poor," she said to herself,—"for I know well that he loves me!"
Lizzie put off her journey to Scotland from day to day, though her cousin Frank continually urged upon her the expediency of going. There were various reasons, he said, why she should go. Her child was there, and it was proper that she should be with her child. She was living at present with people whose reputation did not stand high,—and as to whom all manner of evil reports were flying about the town. It was generally thought,—so said Frank,—that that Lord George de Bruce Carruthers had assisted Mr. Benjamin in stealing the diamonds, and Frank himself did not hesitate to express his belief in the accusation. "Oh no, that cannot be," said Lizzie, trembling. But, though she rejected the supposition, she did not reject it very firmly. "And then, you know," continued Lizzie, "I never see him. I have actually only set eyes on him once since the second robbery, and then just for a minute. Of course, I used to know him,—down at Portray,—but now we are strangers." Frank went on with his objections. He declared that the manner in which Mrs. Carbuncle had got up the match between Lucinda Roanoke and Sir Griffin was shameful,—all the world was declaring that it was shameful,—that she had not a penny, that the girl was an adventurer, and that Sir Griffin was an obstinate, pig-headed, ruined idiot. It was expedient on every account that Lizzie should take herself away from that "lot." The answer that Lizzie desired to make was very simple. Let me go as your betrothed bride, and I will start to-morrow,—to Scotland or elsewhere, as you may direct. Let that little affair be settled, and I shall be quite as willing to get out of London as you can be to send me. But I am in such a peck of troubles that something must be settled. And as it seems that after all the police are still astray about the necklace, perhaps I needn't run away from them for a little while even yet. She did not say this. She did not even in so many words make the first proposition. But she did endeavour to make Frank understand that she would obey his dictation if he would earn the right to dictate. He either did not or would not understand her, and then she became angry with him,—or pretended to be angry. "Really, Frank," she said, "you are hardly fair to me."
"In what way am I unfair?"
"You come here and abuse all my friends, and tell me to go here and go there, just as though I were a child. And—and—and—"
"And what, Lizzie?"
"You know what I mean. You are one thing one day, and one another. I hope Miss Lucy Morris was quite well when you last heard from her."
"You have no right to speak to me of Lucy,—at least, not in disparagement."
"You are treating her very badly;—you know that."
"Then why don't you give it up? Why don't you let her have her chances,—to do what she can with them? You know very well that you can't marry her. You know that you ought not to have asked her. You talk of Miss Roanoke and Sir Griffin Tewett. There are people quite as bad as Sir Griffin,—or Mrs. Carbuncle either. Don't suppose I am speaking for myself. I've given up all that idle fancy long ago. I shall never marry a second time myself. I have made up my mind to that. I have suffered too much already." Then she burst into tears.
He dried her tears and comforted her, and forgave all the injurious things she had said of him. It is almost impossible for a man,—a man under forty and unmarried, and who is not a philosopher,—to have familiar and affectionate intercourse with a beautiful young woman, and carry it on as he might do with a friend of the other sex. In his very heart Greystock despised this woman; he had told himself over and over again that were there no Lucy in the case he would not marry her; that she was affected, unreal,—and, in fact, a liar in every word and look and motion which came from her with premeditation. Judging, not from her own account, but from circumstances as he saw them and such evidence as had reached him, he did not condemn her in reference to the diamonds. He had never for a moment conceived that she had secreted them. He acquitted her altogether from those special charges which had been widely circulated against her; but, nevertheless, he knew her to be heartless and bad. He had told himself a dozen times that it would be well for him that she should be married and taken out of his hands. And yet he loved her after a fashion, and was prone to sit near her, and was fool enough to be flattered by her caresses. When she would lay her hand on his arm, a thrill of pleasure went through him. And yet he would willingly have seen any decent man take her and marry her, making a bargain that he should never see her again. Young or old, men are apt to become Merlins when they encounter Viviens. On this occasion he left her, disgusted indeed, but not having told her that he was disgusted. "Come again, Frank, to-morrow, won't you?" she said. He made her no promise as he went, nor had she expected it. He had left her quite abruptly the other day, and he now went away almost in the same fashion. But she was not surprised. She understood that the task she had in hand was one very difficult to be accomplished,—and she did perceive, in some dark way, that, good as her acting was, it was not quite good enough. Lucy held her ground because she was real. You may knock about a diamond, and not even scratch it; whereas paste in rough usage betrays itself. Lizzie, with all her self-assuring protestations, knew that she was paste, and knew that Lucy was real stone. Why could she not force herself to act a little better, so that the paste might be as good as the stone,—might at least seem to be as good? "If he despises me now, what will he say when he finds it all out?" she asked herself.
As for Frank Greystock himself, though he had quite made up his mind about Lizzie Eustace, he was still in doubt about the other girl. At the present moment he was making over two thousand pounds a year, and yet was more in debt now than he had been a year ago. When he attempted to look at his affairs, he could not even remember what had become of his money. He did not gamble. He had no little yacht, costing him about six hundred a year. He kept one horse in London, and one only. He had no house. And when he could spare time from his work, he was generally entertained at the houses of his friends. And yet from day to day his condition seemed to become worse and worse. It was true that he never thought of half-a-sovereign; that in calling for wine at his club he was never influenced by the cost; that it seemed to him quite rational to keep a cab waiting for him half the day; that in going or coming he never calculated expense; that in giving an order to a tailor he never dreamed of anything beyond his own comfort. Nevertheless, when he recounted with pride his great economies, reminding himself that he, a successful man, with a large income and no family, kept neither hunters, nor yacht, nor moor, and that he did not gamble, he did think it very hard that he should be embarrassed. But he was embarrassed, and in that condition could it be right for him to marry a girl without a shilling?
In these days Mrs. Carbuncle was very urgent with her friend not to leave London till after the marriage. Lizzie had given no promise,—had only been induced to promise that the loan of one hundred and fifty pounds should not be held to have any bearing on the wedding present to be made to Lucinda. That could be got on credit from Messrs. Harter and Benjamin; for though Mr. Benjamin was absent,—on a little tour through Europe in search of precious stones in the cheap markets, old Mr. Harter suggested,—the business went on the same as ever. There was a good deal of consultation about the present, and Mrs. Carbuncle at last decided, no doubt with the concurrence of Miss Roanoke, that it should consist simply of silver forks and spoons,—real silver as far as the money would go. Mrs. Carbuncle herself went with her friend to select the articles,—as to which, perhaps, we shall do her no injustice in saying that a ready sale, should such a lamentable occurrence ever become necessary, was one of the objects which she had in view. Mrs. Carbuncle's investigations as to the quality of the metal quite won Mr. Harter's respect; and it will probably be thought that she exacted no more than justice,—seeing that the thing had become a matter of bargain,—in demanding that the thirty-five pounds should be stretched to fifty, because the things were bought on long credit. "My dear Lizzie," Mrs. Carbuncle said, "the dear girl won't have an ounce more than she would have got, had you gone into another sort of shop with thirty-five sovereigns in your hand." Lizzie growled, but Mrs. Carbuncle's final argument was conclusive. "I'll tell you what we'll do," said she; "we'll take thirty pounds down in ready money." There was no answer to be made to so reasonable a proposition.
The presents to be made to Lucinda were very much thought of in Hertford Street at this time, and Lizzie,—independently of any feeling that she might have as to her own contribution,—did all she could to assist the collection of tribute. It was quite understood that as a girl can only be married once,—for a widow's chance in such matters amounts to but little,—everything should be done to gather toll from the tax-payers of society. It was quite fair on such an occasion that men should be given to understand that something worth having was expected,—no trumpery thirty-shilling piece of crockery, no insignificant glass bottle, or fantastic paper-knife of no real value whatever, but got up just to put money into the tradesmen's hands. To one or two elderly gentlemen upon whom Mrs. Carbuncle had smiled, she ventured to suggest in plain words that a cheque was the most convenient cadeau. "What do you say to a couple of sovereigns?" one sarcastic old gentleman replied, upon whom probably Mrs. Carbuncle had not smiled enough. She laughed and congratulated her sarcastic friend upon his joke;—but the two sovereigns were left upon the table, and went to swell the spoil.
"You must do something handsome for Lucinda," Lizzie said to her cousin.
"What do you call handsome?"
"You are a bachelor and a Member of Parliament. Say fifteen pounds."
"I'll be —— if I do!" said Frank, who was beginning to be very much disgusted with the house in Hertford Street. "There's a five-pound note, and you may do what you please with it." Lizzie gave over the five-pound note,—the identical bit of paper that had come from Frank; and Mrs. Carbuncle, no doubt, did do what she pleased with it.
There was almost a quarrel because Lizzie, after much consideration, declared that she did not see her way to get a present from the Duke of Omnium. She had talked so much to Mrs. Carbuncle about the duke, that Mrs. Carbuncle was almost justified in making the demand. "It isn't the value, you know," said Mrs. Carbuncle; "neither I nor Lucinda would think of that; but it would look so well to have the dear duke's name on something." Lizzie declared that the duke was unapproachable on such subjects. "There you're wrong," said Mrs. Carbuncle. "I happen to know there is nothing his grace likes so much as giving wedding presents." This was the harder upon Lizzie as she actually did succeed in saying such kind things about Lucinda, that Lady Glencora sent Miss Roanoke the prettiest smelling-bottle in the world. "You don't mean to say you've given a present to the future Lady Tewett?" said Madame Max Goesler to her friend. "Why not? Sir Griffin can't hurt me. When one begins to be good-natured, why shouldn't one be good-natured all round?" Madame Max remarked that it might, perhaps, be preferable to put an end to good-nature altogether. "There I daresay you're right, my dear," said Lady Glencora. "I've long felt that making presents means nothing. Only if one has a lot of money and people like it, why shouldn't one? I've made so many to people I hardly ever saw that one more to Lady Tewett can't hurt."
Perhaps the most wonderful affair in that campaign was the spirited attack which Mrs. Carbuncle made on a certain Mrs. Hanbury Smith, who for the last six or seven years had not been among Mrs. Carbuncle's more intimate friends. Mrs. Hanbury Smith lived with her husband in Paris, but before her marriage had known Mrs. Carbuncle in London. Her father, Mr. Bunbury Jones, had, from certain causes, chosen to show certain civilities to Mrs. Carbuncle just at the period of his daughter's marriage, and Mrs. Carbuncle being perhaps at that moment well supplied with ready money, had presented a marriage present. From that to this present day Mrs. Carbuncle had seen nothing of Mrs. Hanbury Smith, nor of Mr. Bunbury Jones, but she was not the woman to waste the return-value of such a transaction. A present so given was seed sown in the earth,—seed, indeed, that could not be expected to give back twenty-fold, or even ten-fold, but still seed from which a crop should be expected. So she wrote to Mrs. Hanbury Smith, explaining that her darling niece Lucinda was about to be married to Sir Griffin Tewett, and that, as she had no child of her own, Lucinda was the same to her as a daughter. And then, lest there might be any want of comprehension, she expressed her own assurance that her friend would be glad to have an opportunity of reciprocating the feelings which had been evinced on the occasion of her own marriage. "It is no good mincing matters now-a-days," Mrs. Carbuncle would have said, had any friend pointed out to her that she was taking strong measures in the exaction of toll. "People have come to understand that a spade is a spade, and L10, L10," she would have said. Had Mrs. Hanbury Smith not noticed the application, there might, perhaps, have been an end of it, but she was silly enough to send over from Paris a little trumpery bit of finery, bought in the Palais Royal for ten francs. Whereupon Mrs. Carbuncle wrote the following letter:—