MY DEAR MRS. HANBURY SMITH,
Lucinda has received your little brooch, and is much obliged to you for thinking of her; but you must remember that when you were married, I sent you a bracelet which cost L10. If I had a daughter of my own, I should, of course, expect that she would reap the benefit of this on her marriage;—and my niece is the same to me as a daughter. I think that this is quite understood now among people in society. Lucinda will be disappointed much if you do not send her what she thinks she has a right to expect. Of course you can deduct the brooch if you please.
Yours very sincerely,
Mr. Hanbury Smith was something of a wag, and caused his wife to write back as follows:—
DEAR MRS. CARBUNCLE,
I quite acknowledge the reciprocity system, but don't think it extends to descendants,—certainly not to nieces. I acknowledge, too, the present quoted at L10. I thought it had been L7 10s.—["The nasty, mean creature," said Mrs. Carbuncle, when showing the correspondence to Lizzie, "must have been to the tradesman to inquire! The price named was L10, but I got L2 l0s. off for ready money."]—At your second marriage I will do what is needful; but I can assure you I haven't recognised nieces with any of my friends.
Yours very truly,
CAROLINE HANBURY SMITH.
The correspondence was carried no further, for not even can a Mrs. Carbuncle exact payment of such a debt in any established court; but she inveighed bitterly against the meanness of Mrs. Smith, telling the story openly, and never feeling that she told it against herself. In her set it was generally thought that she had done quite right.
She managed better with old Mr. Cabob, who had certainly received many of Mrs. Carbuncle's smiles, and who was very rich. Mr. Cabob did as he was desired, and sent a cheque,—a cheque for L20; and added a message that he hoped Miss Roanoke would buy with it any little thing that she liked. Miss Roanoke,—or her aunt for her,—liked a thirty-guinea ring, and bought it, having the bill for the balance sent in to Mr. Cabob. Mr. Cabob, who probably knew that he must pay well for his smiles, never said anything about it.
Lady Eustace went into all this work, absolutely liking it. She had felt nothing of anger even as regarded her own contribution,—much as she had struggled to reduce the amount. People, she felt, ought to be sharp;—and it was nice to look at pretty things, and to be cunning about them. She would have applied to the Duke of Omnium had she dared, and was very triumphant when she got the smelling-bottle from Lady Glencora. But Lucinda herself took no part whatever in all these things. Nothing that Mrs. Carbuncle could say would induce her to take any interest in them, or even in the trousseau, which, without reference to expense, was being supplied chiefly on the very indifferent credit of Sir Griffin. What Lucinda had to say about the matter was said solely to her aunt. Neither Lady Eustace, nor Lord George, nor even the maid who dressed her, heard any of her complaints. But complain she did, and that with terrible energy. "What is the use of it, Aunt Jane? I shall never have a house to put them into."
"What nonsense, my dear! Why shouldn't you have a house as well as others?"
"And if I had, I should never care for them. I hate them. What does Lady Glencora Palliser or Lord Fawn care for me?" Even Lord Fawn had been put under requisition, and had sent a little box full of stationery.
"They are worth money, Lucinda; and when a girl marries she always gets them."
"Yes;—and when they come from people who love her, and who pour them into her lap with kisses, because she has given herself to a man she loves, then it must be nice. Oh,—if I were marrying a poor man, and a poor friend had given me a gridiron to help me to cook my husband's dinner, how I could have valued it!"
"I don't know that you like poor things and poor people better than anybody else," said Aunt Jane.
"I don't like anything or anybody," said Lucinda.
"You had better take the good things that come to you, then; and not grumble. How I have worked to get all this arranged for you, and now what thanks have I?"
"You'll find you have worked for very little, Aunt Jane. I shall never marry the man yet." This, however, had been said so often that Aunt Jane thought nothing of the threat.
The Aspirations of Mr. Emilius
It was acknowledged by Mrs. Carbuncle very freely that in the matter of tribute no one behaved better than Mr. Emilius, the fashionable, foreign, ci-devant Jew preacher, who still drew great congregations in the neighbourhood of Mrs. Carbuncle's house. Mrs. Carbuncle, no doubt, attended regularly at Mr. Emilius's church, and had taken a sitting for thirteen Sundays at something like ten shillings a Sunday. But she had not as yet paid the money, and Mr. Emilius was well aware that if his tickets were not paid for in advance, there would be considerable defalcations in his income. He was, as a rule, very particular as to such payments, and would not allow a name to be put on a sitting till the money had reached his pockets; but with Mrs. Carbuncle he had descended to no such commercial accuracy. Mrs. Carbuncle had seats for three,—for one of which Lady Eustace paid her share in advance,—in the midst of the very best pews in the most conspicuous part of the house,—and hardly a word had been said to her about the money. And now there came to them from Mr. Emilius the prettiest little gold salver that ever was seen. "I send Messrs. Clerico's docket," wrote Mr. Emilius, "as Miss Roanoke may like to know the quality of the metal." "Ah," said Mrs. Carbuncle, inspecting the little dish, and putting two and two together; "he's got it cheap, no doubt,—at the place where they commissioned him to buy the plate and candlesticks for the church; but at L3 16s. 3d. the gold is worth nearly twenty pounds." Mr. Emilius no doubt had had his outing in the autumn through the instrumentality of Mrs. Carbuncle's kindness; but that was past and gone, and such lavish gratitude for a past favour could hardly be expected from Mr. Emilius. "I'll be hanged if he isn't after Portray Castle," said Mrs. Carbuncle to herself.
Mr. Emilius was after Portray Castle, and had been after Portray Castle in a silent, not very confident, but yet not altogether hopeless manner ever since he had seen the glories of that place, and learned something of truth as to the widow's income. Mrs. Carbuncle was led to her conclusion not simply by the wedding present, but in part also by the diligence displayed by Mr. Emilius in removing the doubts which had got abroad respecting his condition in life. He assured Mrs. Carbuncle that he had never been married. Shortly after his ordination, which had been effected under the hands of that great and good man the late Bishop of Jerusalem, he had taken to live with him a lady who was— Mrs. Carbuncle did not quite recollect who the lady was, but remembered that she was connected in some way with a step-mother of Mr. Emilius who lived in Bohemia. This lady had for awhile kept house for Mr. Emilius;—but ill-natured things had been said, and Mr. Emilius, having respect to his cloth, had sent the poor lady back to Bohemia. The consequence was that he now lived in a solitude which was absolute, and, as Mr. Emilius added, somewhat melancholy. All this Mr. Emilius explained very fully, not to Lizzie herself, but to Mrs. Carbuncle. If Lady Eustace chose to entertain such a suitor, why should he not come? It was nothing to Mrs. Carbuncle.
Lizzie laughed when she was told that she might add the reverend gentleman to the list of her admirers. "Don't you remember," she said, "how we used to chaff Miss Macnulty about him?"
"I knew better than that," replied Mrs. Carbuncle.
"There is no saying what a man may be after," said Lizzie. "I didn't know but what he might have thought that Macnulty's connexions would increase his congregation."
"He's after you, my dear, and your income. He can manage a congregation for himself."
Lizzie was very civil to him, but it would be unjust to her to say that she gave him any encouragement. It is quite the proper thing for a lady to be on intimate, and even on affectionate, terms with her favourite clergyman, and Lizzie certainly had intercourse with no clergyman who was a greater favourite with her than Mr. Emilius. She had a dean for an uncle, and a bishop for an uncle-in-law; but she was at no pains to hide her contempt for these old fogies of the Church. "They preach now and then in the cathedral," she said to Mr. Emilius, "and everybody takes the opportunity of going to sleep." Mr. Emilius was very much amused at this description of the eloquence of the dignitaries. It was quite natural to him that people should go to sleep in church who take no trouble in seeking eloquent preachers. "Ah," he said, "the Church in England, which is my Church,—the Church which I love,—is beautiful. She is as a maiden, all glorious with fine raiment. But alas! she is mute. She does not sing. She has no melody. But the time cometh in which she shall sing. I, myself,—I am a poor singer in the great choir." In saying which Mr. Emilius no doubt intended to allude to his eloquence as a preacher.
He was a man who could listen as well as sing, and he was very careful to hear well that which was being said in public about Lady Eustace and her diamonds. He had learned thoroughly what was her condition in reference to the Portray estate, and was rejoiced rather than otherwise to find that she enjoyed only a life-interest in the property. Had the thing been better than it was, it would have been the further removed from his reach. And in the same way, when rumours reached him prejudicial to Lizzie in respect of the diamonds, he perceived that such prejudice might work weal for him. A gentleman once, on ordering a mackerel for dinner, was told that a fresh mackerel would come to a shilling. He could have a stale mackerel for sixpence. "Then bring me a stale mackerel," said the gentleman. Mr. Emilius coveted fish, but was aware that his position did not justify him in expecting the best fish on the market. The Lord Fawns and the Frank Greystocks of the world would be less likely to covet Lizzie, should she, by any little indiscretion, have placed herself under a temporary cloud. Mr. Emilius had carefully observed the heavens, and knew how quickly such clouds will disperse themselves when they are tinged with gold. There was nothing which Lizzie had done, or would be likely to do, which could materially affect her income. It might indeed be possible that the Eustaces should make her pay for the necklace; but even in that case, there would be quite enough left for that modest, unambitious comfort which Mr. Emilius desired. It was by preaching, and not by wealth, that he must make himself known in the world!—but for a preacher to have a pretty wife with a title and a good income,—and a castle in Scotland,—what an Elysium it would be! In such a condition he would envy no dean, no bishop,—no archbishop! He thought a great deal about it, and saw no positive bar to his success.
She told him that she was going to Scotland. "Not immediately!" he exclaimed.
"My little boy is there," she said.
"But why should not your little boy be here? Surely, for people who can choose, the great centre of the world offers attractions which cannot be found in secluded spots."
"I love seclusion," said Lizzie, with rapture.
"Ah, yes; I can believe that." Mr. Emilius had himself witnessed the seclusion of Portray Castle, and had heard, when there, many stories of the Ayrshire hunting. "It is your nature;—but, dear Lady Eustace, will you allow me to say that our nature is implanted in us in accordance with the Fall?"
"Do you mean to say that it is wicked to like to be in Scotland better than in this giddy town?"
"I say nothing about wicked, Lady Eustace; but this I do say, that nature alone will not lead us always aright. It is good to be at Portray part of the year, no doubt; but are there not blessings in such a congregation of humanity as this London which you cannot find at Portray?"
"I can hear you preach, Mr. Emilius, certainly."
"I hope that is something, too, Lady Eustace;—otherwise a great many people who kindly come to hear me must sadly waste their time. And your example to the world around;—is it not more serviceable amidst the crowds of London than in the solitudes of Scotland? There is more good to be done, Lady Eustace, by living among our fellow-creatures than by deserting them. Therefore I think you should not go to Scotland before August, but should have your little boy brought to you here."
"The air of his native mountains is everything to my child," said Lizzie. The child had, in fact, been born at Bobsborough, but that probably would make no real difference.
"You cannot wonder that I should plead for your stay," said Mr. Emilius, throwing all his soul into his eyes. "How dark would everything be to me if I missed you from your seat in the house of praise and prayer!"
Lizzie Eustace, like some other ladies who ought to be more appreciative, was altogether deficient in what may perhaps be called good taste in reference to men. Though she was clever, and though, in spite of her ignorance, she at once knew an intelligent man from a fool, she did not know the difference between a gentleman and a—"cad." It was in her estimation something against Mr. Emilius that he was a clergyman, something against him that he had nothing but what he earned, something against him that he was supposed to be a renegade Jew, and that nobody knew whence he came nor who he was. These deficiencies or drawbacks Lizzie recognised. But it was nothing against him in her judgment that he was a greasy, fawning, pawing, creeping, black-browed rascal, who could not look her full in the face, and whose every word sounded like a lie. There was a twang in his voice which ought to have told her that he was utterly untrustworthy. There was an oily pretence at earnestness in his manner which ought to have told that he was not fit to associate with gentlemen. There was a foulness of demeanour about him which ought to have given to her, as a woman at any rate brought up among ladies, an abhorrence of his society. But all this Lizzie did not feel. She ridiculed to Mrs. Carbuncle the idea of the preacher's courtship. She still thought that in the teeth of all her misfortunes she could do better with herself than marry Mr. Emilius. She conceived that the man must be impertinent if Mrs. Carbuncle's assertions were true;—but she was neither angry nor disgusted, and she allowed him to talk to her, and even to make love to her, after his nasty pseudo-clerical fashion.
She could surely still do better with herself than marry Mr. Emilius! It was now the twentieth of March, and a fortnight had gone since an intimation had been sent to her from the headquarters of the police that Patience Crabstick was in their hands. Nothing further had occurred, and it might be that Patience Crabstick had told no tale against her. She could not bring herself to believe that Patience had no tale to tell, but it might be that Patience, though she was in the hands of the police, would find it to her interest to tell no tale against her late mistress. At any rate, there was silence and quiet, and the affair of the diamonds seemed almost to be passing out of people's minds. Greystock had twice called in Scotland Yard, but had been able to learn nothing. It was feared, they said, that the people really engaged in the robbery had got away scot-free. Frank did not quite believe them, but he could learn nothing from them. Thus encouraged, Lizzie determined that she would remain in London till after Lucinda's marriage,—till after she should have received the promised letter from Lord Fawn, as to which, though it was so long in coming, she did not doubt that it would come at last. She could do nothing with Frank,—who was a fool! She could do nothing with Lord George,—who was a brute! Lord Fawn would still be within her reach, if only the secret about the diamonds could be kept a secret till after she should have become his wife.
About this time Lucinda spoke to her respecting her proposed journey. "You were talking of going to Scotland a week ago, Lady Eustace."
"And am still talking of it."
"Aunt Jane says that you are waiting for my wedding. It is very kind of you;—but pray don't do that."
"I shouldn't think of going now till after your marriage. It only wants ten or twelve days."
"I count them. I know how many days it wants. It may want more than that."
"You can't put it off now, I should think," said Lizzie; "and as I have ordered my dress for the occasion I shall certainly stay and wear it."
"I am very sorry for your dress. I am very sorry for it all. Do you know;—I sometimes think I shall—murder him."
"Lucinda,—how can you say anything so horrible! But I see you are only joking." There did come a ghastly smile over that beautiful face, which was so seldom lighted up by any expression of mirth or good humour. "But I wish you would not say such horrible things."
"It would serve him right;—and if he were to murder me, that would serve me right. He knows that I detest him, and yet he goes on with it. I have told him so a score of times, but nothing will make him give it up. It is not that he loves me, but he thinks that that will be his triumph."
"Why don't you give it up, if it makes you unhappy?"
"It ought to come from him,—ought it not?"
"I don't see why," said Lizzie.
"He is not bound to anybody as I am bound to my aunt. No one can have exacted an oath from him. Lady Eustace, you don't quite understand how we are situated. I wonder whether you would take the trouble to be good to me?"
Lucinda Roanoke had never asked a favour of her before;—had never, to Lizzie's knowledge, asked a favour of any one. "In what way can I be good to you?" she said.
"Make him give it up. You may tell him what you like of me. Tell him that I shall only make him miserable, and more despicable than he is;—that I shall never be a good wife to him. Tell him that I am thoroughly bad, and that he will repent it to the last day of his life. Say whatever you like,—but make him give it up."
"When everything has been prepared!"
"What does all that signify compared to a life of misery? Lady Eustace, I really think that I should—kill him, if he really were—were my husband." Lizzie at last said that she would, at any rate, speak to Sir Griffin.
And she did speak to Sir Griffin, having waited three or four days for an opportunity to do so. There had been some desperately sharp words between Sir Griffin and Mrs. Carbuncle with reference to money. Sir Griffin had been given to understand that Lucinda had, or would have, some few hundred pounds, and insisted that the money should be handed over to him on the day of his marriage. Mrs. Carbuncle had declared that the money was to come from property to be realised in New York, and had named a day which had seemed to Sir Griffin to be as the Greek Kalends. He expressed an opinion that he was swindled, and Mrs. Carbuncle, unable to restrain herself, had turned upon him full of wrath. He was caught by Lizzie as he was descending the stairs, and in the dining-room he poured out the tale of his wrongs. "That woman doesn't know what fair dealing means," said he.
"That's a little hard, Sir Griffin, isn't it?" said Lizzie.
"Not a bit. A trumpery six hundred pounds! And she hasn't a shilling of fortune, and never will have, beyond that! No fellow ever was more generous or more foolish than I have been." Lizzie, as she heard this, could not refrain from thinking of the poor departed Sir Florian. "I didn't look for fortune, or say a word about money, as almost every man does,—but just took her as she was. And now she tells me that I can't have just the bit of money that I wanted for our tour. It would serve them both right if I were to give it up."
"Why don't you?" said Lizzie. He looked quickly, sharply, and closely into her face as she asked the question. "I would, if I thought as you do."
"And lay myself in for all manner of damages," said Sir Griffin.
"There wouldn't be anything of that kind, I'm sure. You see, the truth is, you and Miss Roanoke are always having—having little tiffs together. I sometimes think you don't really care a bit for her."
"It's the old woman I'm complaining of," said Sir Griffin, "and I'm not going to marry her. I shall have seen the last of her when I get out of the church, Lady Eustace."
"Do you think she wishes it?"
"Who do you mean?" asked Sir Griffin.
"Of course she does. Where'd she be now if it wasn't to go on? I don't believe they've money enough between them to pay the rent of the house they're living in."
"Of course, I don't want to make difficulties, Sir Griffin, and no doubt the affair has gone very far now. But I really think Lucinda would consent to break it off if you wish it. I have never thought that you were really in love with her."
He again looked at her very sharply and very closely. "Has she sent you to say all this?"
"Has who sent me? Mrs. Carbuncle didn't."
She paused for a moment before she replied;—but she could not bring herself to be absolutely honest in the matter. "No;—she didn't send me. But from what I see and hear, I am quite sure she does not wish to go on with it."
"Then she shall go on with it," said Sir Griffin. "I'm not going to be made a fool of in that way. She shall go on with it; and the first thing I mean to tell her as my wife is, that she shall never see that woman again. If she thinks she's going to be master, she's very much mistaken." Sir Griffin, as he said this, showed his teeth, and declared his purpose to be masterful by his features as well as by his words;—but Lady Eustace was, nevertheless, of opinion that when the two came to an absolute struggle for mastery, the lady would get the better of it.
Lizzie never told Miss Roanoke of her want of success, or even of the effort she had made; nor did the unhappy young woman come to her for any reply. The preparations went on, and it was quite understood that on this peculiar occasion Mrs. Carbuncle intended to treat her friends with profuse hospitality. She proposed to give a breakfast; and as the house in Hertford Street was very small, rooms had been taken at an hotel in Albemarle Street. Thither, as the day of the marriage drew near, all the presents were taken,—so that they might be viewed by the guests, with the names of the donors attached to them. As some of the money given had been very much wanted indeed, so that the actual cheques could not be conveniently spared just at the moment to pay for the presents which ought to have been bought,—a few very pretty things were hired, as to which, when the donors should see their names attached to them, they should surely think that the money given had been laid out to great advantage.
The Eye of the Public
It took Lord Fawn a long time to write his letter, but at last he wrote it. The delay must not be taken as throwing any slur on his character as a correspondent or a man of business, for many irritating causes sprang up sufficient to justify him in pleading that it arose from circumstances beyond his own control. It is, moreover, felt by us all that the time which may fairly be taken in the performance of any task depends, not on the amount of work, but on the performance of it when done. A man is not expected to write a cheque for a couple of thousand pounds as readily as he would one for five,—unless he be a man to whom a couple of thousand pounds is a mere nothing. To Lord Fawn the writing of this letter was everything. He had told Lizzie, with much exactness, what he would put into it. He would again offer his hand,—acknowledging himself bound to do so by his former offer,—but would give reasons why she should not accept it. If anything should occur in the meantime which would, in his opinion, justify him in again repudiating her, he would of course take advantage of such circumstance. If asked himself what was his prevailing motive in all that he did or intended to do, he would have declared that it was above all things necessary that he should "put himself right in the eye of the British public."
But he was not able to do this without interference from the judgment of others. Both Mr. and Mrs. Hittaway interfered; and he could not prevent himself from listening to them and believing them, though he would contradict all they said, and snub all their theories. Frank Greystock also continued to interfere, and Lady Glencora Palliser. Even John Eustace had been worked upon to write to Lord Fawn, stating his opinion, as trustee for his late brother's property, that the Eustace family did not think that there was ground of complaint against Lady Eustace in reference to the diamonds which had been stolen. This was a terrible blow to Lord Fawn, and had come, no doubt, from a general agreement among the Eustace faction,—including the bishop, John Eustace, and even Mr. Camperdown,—that it would be a good thing to get the widow married and placed under some decent control.
Lady Glencora absolutely had the effrontery to ask him whether the marriage was not going to take place, and when a day would be fixed. He gathered up his courage to give her ladyship a rebuke. "My private affairs do seem to be uncommonly interesting," he said.
"Why, yes, Lord Fawn," said Lady Glencora, whom nothing could abash;—"most interesting. You see, dear Lady Eustace is so very popular, that we all want to know what is to be her fate."
"I regret to say that I cannot answer your ladyship's question with any precision," said Lord Fawn.
But the Hittaway persecution was by far the worst. "You have seen her, Frederic?" said his sister.
"You have made her no promise?"
"My dear Clara, this is a matter in which I must use my own judgment."
"But the family, Frederic?"
"I do not think that any member of our family has a just right to complain of my conduct since I have had the honour of being its head. I have endeavoured so to live that my actions should encounter no private or public censure. If I fail to meet with your approbation, I shall grieve; but I cannot on that account act otherwise than in accordance with my own judgment."
Mrs. Hittaway knew her brother well, and was not afraid of him. "That's all very well; and I am sure you know, Frederic, how proud we all are of you. But this woman is a nasty, low, scheming, ill-conducted, dishonest little wretch; and if you make her your wife you'll be miserable all your life. Nothing would make me and Orlando so unhappy as to quarrel with you. But we know that it is so, and to the last minute I shall say so. Why don't you ask her to her face about that man down in Scotland?"
"My dear Clara, perhaps I know what to ask her and what not to ask her better than you can tell me."
And his brother-in-law was quite as bad. "Fawn," he said, "in this matter of Lady Eustace, don't you think you ought to put your conduct into the hands of some friend?"
"What do you mean by that?"
"I think it is an affair in which a man would have so much comfort in being able to say that he was guided by advice. Of course, her people want you to marry her. Now, if you could just tell them that the whole thing was in the hands of,—say me,—or any other friend, you would be relieved, you know, of so much responsibility. They might hammer away at me ever so long, and I shouldn't care twopence."
"If there is to be any hammering, it cannot be borne vicariously," said Lord Fawn,—and as he said it, he was quite pleased by his own sharpness and wit.
He had, indeed, put himself beyond protection by vicarious endurance of hammering when he promised to write to Lady Eustace, explaining his own conduct and giving reasons. Had anything turned up in Scotland Yard which would have justified him in saying,—or even in thinking,—that Lizzie had stolen her own diamonds, he would have sent word to her that he must abstain from any communication till that matter had been cleared up; but since the appearance of that mysterious paragraph in the newspapers, nothing had been heard of the robbery, and public opinion certainly seemed to be in favour of Lizzie's innocence. He did think that the Eustace faction was betraying him, as he could not but remember how eager Mr. Camperdown had been in asserting that the widow was keeping an enormous amount of property and claiming it as her own, whereas, in truth, she had not the slightest title to it. It was, in a great measure, in consequence of the assertions of the Eustace faction, almost in obedience to their advice, that he had resolved to break off the match; and now they turned upon him, and John Eustace absolutely went out of his way to write him a letter which was clearly meant to imply that he, Lord Fawn, was bound to marry the woman to whom he had once engaged himself! Lord Fawn felt that he was ill-used, and that a man might have to undergo a great deal of bad treatment who should strive to put himself right in the eye of the public.
At last he wrote his letter,—on a Wednesday, which with him had something of the comfort of a half-holiday, as on that day he was not required to attend Parliament.
India Office, 28th March, 18—.
MY DEAR LADY EUSTACE,
In accordance with the promise which I made to you when I did myself the honour of waiting upon you in Hertford Street, I take up my pen with the view of communicating to you the result of my deliberations respecting the engagement of marriage which, no doubt, did exist between us last summer.
Since that time I have no doubt taken upon myself to say that that engagement was over; and I am free to admit that I did so without any assent or agreement on your part to that effect. Such conduct no doubt requires a valid and strong defence. My defence is as follows:—
I learned that you were in possession of a large amount of property, vested in diamonds, which was claimed by the executors under your late husband's will as belonging to his estate; and as to which they declared, in the most positive manner, that you had no right or title to it whatever. I consulted friends and I consulted lawyers, and I was led to the conviction that this property certainly did not belong to you. Had I married you in these circumstances, I could not but have become a participator in the lawsuit which I was assured would be commenced. I could not be a participator with you, because I believed you to be in the wrong. And I certainly could not participate with those who would in such case be attacking my own wife.
In this condition of things I requested you,—as you must, I think, yourself own, with all deference and good feeling,—to give up the actual possession of the property, and to place the diamonds in neutral hands,—[Lord Fawn was often called upon to be neutral in reference to the condition of outlying Indian principalities]—till the law should have decided as to their ownership. As regards myself, I neither coveted nor rejected the possession of that wealth for my future wife. I desired simply to be free from an embarrassment which would have overwhelmed me. You declined my request,—not only positively, but perhaps I may add peremptorily; and then I was bound to adhere to the decision I had communicated to you.
Since that time the property has been stolen and, as I believe, dissipated. The lawsuit against you has been withdrawn; and the bone of contention, so to say, is no longer existing. I am no longer justified in declining to keep my engagement because of the prejudice to which I should have been subjected by your possession of the diamonds;—and, therefore, as far as that goes, I withdraw my withdrawal. [This Lord Fawn thought was rather a happy phrase, and he read it aloud to himself more than once.]
But now there arises the question whether, in both our interests, this marriage should go on, or whether it may not be more conducive to your happiness and to mine that it should be annulled for causes altogether irrespective of the diamonds. In a matter so serious as marriage, the happiness of the two parties is that which requires graver thought than any other consideration.
There has no doubt sprung up between us a feeling of mutual distrust, which has led to recrimination, and which is hardly compatible with that perfect confidence which should exist between a man and his wife. This first arose, no doubt, from the different views which we took as to that property of which I have spoken,—and as to which your judgment may possibly have been better than mine. On that head I will add nothing to what I have already said; but the feeling has arisen; and I fear it cannot be so perfectly allayed as to admit of that reciprocal trust without which we could not live happily together. I confess that for my own part I do not now desire a union which was once the great object of my ambition,—and that I could not go to the altar with you without fear and trembling. As to your own feelings, you best know what they are. I bring no charge against you;—but if you have ceased to love me, I think you should cease to wish to be my wife, and that you should not insist upon a marriage simply because by doing so you would triumph over a former objection.
Before he finished this paragraph, he thought much of Andy Gowran and of the scene among the rocks of which he had heard. But he could not speak of it. He had found himself unable to examine the witness who had been brought to him, and had honestly told himself that he could not take that charge as proved. Andy Gowran might have lied. In his heart he believed that Andy Gowran had lied. The matter was distasteful to him, and he would not touch it. And yet he knew that the woman did not love him, and he longed to tell her so.
As to what we might each gain or each lose in a worldly point of view, either by marrying or not marrying, I will not say a word. You have rank and wealth, and therefore I can comfort myself by thinking that if I dissuade you from this marriage I shall rob you of neither. I acknowledge that I wish to dissuade you, as I believe that we should not make each other happy. As, however, I do consider that I am bound to keep my engagement to you if you demand that I shall do so, I leave the matter in your hands for decision.
I am, and shall remain,
Your sincere friend,
He read the letter and copied it, and gave himself great credit for the composition. He thought that it was impossible that any woman after reading it should express a wish to become the wife of the man who wrote it; and yet,—so he believed,—no man or woman could find fault with him for writing it. There certainly was one view of the case which was very distressing. How would it be with him if, after all, she should say that she would marry him? After having given her her choice,—having put it all in writing,—he could not again go back from it. He would be in her power, and of what use would his life be to him? Would Parliament, or the India Office, or the eye of the public be able to comfort him then in the midst of his many miseries? What could he do with a wife whom he married with a declaration that he disliked her? With such feelings as were his, how could he stand before a clergyman and take an oath that he would love her and cherish her? Would she not ever be as an adder to him,—as an adder whom it would be impossible that he should admit into his bosom? Could he live in the same house with her; and if so, could he ask his mother and sisters to visit her? He remembered well what Mrs. Hittaway had called her;—a nasty, low, scheming, ill-conducted, dishonest little wretch! And he believed that she was so! Yet he was once again offering to marry her, should she choose to accept him.
Nevertheless, the letter was sent. There was, in truth, no alternative. He had promised that he would write such a letter, and all that had remained to him was the power of cramming into it every available argument against the marriage. This he had done, and, as he thought, had done well. It was impossible that she should desire to marry him after reading such a letter as that!
Lizzie received it in her bedroom, where she breakfasted, and told of its arrival to her friend Mrs. Carbuncle as soon as they met each other. "My lord has come down from his high horse at last," she said, with the letter in her hand.
"Yes; Lord Fawn. What other lord? There is no other lord for me. He is my lord, my peer of Parliament, my Cabinet minister, my right honourable, my member of the Government,—my young man, too, as the maid-servants call them."
"What does he say?"
"Say;—what should he say?—just that he has behaved very badly, and that he hopes I shall forgive him."
"Not quite that; does he?"
"That's what it all means. Of course, there is ever so much of it,—pages of it. It wouldn't be Lord Fawn if he didn't spin it all out like an Act of Parliament, with 'whereas' and 'wherein,' and 'whereof.' It is full of all that; but the meaning of it is that he's at my feet again, and that I may pick him up if I choose to take him. I'd show you the letter, only perhaps it wouldn't be fair to the poor man."
"What excuse does he make?"
"Oh,—as to that he's rational enough. He calls the necklace the—bone of contention. That's rather good for Lord Fawn; isn't it? The bone of contention, he says, has been removed; and, therefore, there is no reason why we shouldn't marry if we like it. He shall hear enough about the bone of contention if we do 'marry.'"
"And what shall you do now?"
"Ah, yes; that's easily asked; is it not? The man's a good sort of man in his way, you know. He doesn't drink or gamble; and I don't think there is a bit of the King David about him,—that I don't."
"Virtue personified, I should say."
"And he isn't extravagant."
"Then why not have him and have done with it?" asked Mrs. Carbuncle.
"He is such a lumpy man," said Lizzie;—"such an ass; such a load of Government waste-paper."
"Come, my dear;—you've had troubles."
"I have, indeed," said Lizzie.
"And there's no quite knowing yet how far they're over."
"What do you mean by that, Mrs. Carbuncle?"
"Nothing very much;—but still, you see, they may come again. As to Lord George, we all know that he has not got a penny-piece in the world that he can call his own."
"If he had as many pennies as Judas, Lord George would be nothing to me," said Lizzie.
"And your cousin really doesn't seem to mean anything."
"I know very well what my cousin means. He and I understand each other thoroughly; but cousins can love one another very well without marrying."
"Of course you know your own business, but if I were you I would take Lord Fawn. I speak in true kindness,—as one woman to another. After all, what does love signify? How much real love do we ever see among married people? Does Lady Glencora Palliser really love her husband, who thinks of nothing in the world but putting taxes on and off?"
"Do you love your husband, Mrs. Carbuncle?"
"No;—but that is a different kind of thing. Circumstances have caused me to live apart from him. The man is a good man, and there is no reason why you should not respect him, and treat him well. He will give you a fixed position,—which really you want badly, Lady Eustace."
"Tooriloo, tooriloo, tooriloo, looriloo," said Lizzie, in contemptuous disdain of her friend's caution.
"And then all this trouble about the diamonds and the robberies will be over," continued Mrs. Carbuncle. Lizzie looked at her very intently. What should make Mrs. Carbuncle suppose that there need be, or, indeed, could be, any further trouble about the diamonds?
"So;—that's your advice," said Lizzie. "I'm half inclined to take it, and perhaps I shall. However, I have brought him round, and that's something, my dear. And either one way or the other, I shall let him know that I like my triumph. I was determined to have it, and I've got it."
Then she read the letter again very seriously. Could she possibly marry a man who in so many words told her that he didn't want her? Well;—she thought she could. Was not everybody treating everybody else much in the same way? Had she not loved her Corsair truly,—and how had he treated her? Had she not been true, disinterested, and most affectionate to Frank Greystock; and what had she got from him? To manage her business wisely, and put herself upon firm ground;—that was her duty at present. Mrs. Carbuncle was right there. The very name of Lady Fawn would be a rock to her,—and she wanted a rock. She thought upon the whole that she could marry him;—unless Patience Crabstick and the police should again interfere with her prosperity.
Lady Eustace did not intend to take as much time in answering Lord Fawn's letter as he had taken in writing it; but even she found that the subject was one which demanded a good deal of thought. Mrs. Carbuncle had very freely recommended her to take the man, supporting her advice by arguments which Lizzie felt to be valid; but then Mrs. Carbuncle did not know all the circumstances. Mrs. Carbuncle had not actually seen his lordship's letter; and though the great part of the letter, the formal repetition, namely, of the writer's offer of marriage, had been truly told to her, still, as the reader will have perceived, she had been kept in the dark as to some of the details. Lizzie did sit at her desk with the object of putting a few words together in order that she might see how they looked, and she found that there was a difficulty. "My dear Lord Fawn. As we have been engaged to marry each other, and as all our friends have been told, I think that the thing had better go on." That, after various attempts, was, she thought, the best letter that she could send,—if she should make up her mind to be Lady Fawn. But, on the morning of the 30th of March she had not sent her letter. She had told herself that she would take two days to think of her reply,—and, on the Friday morning the few words she had prepared were still lying in her desk.
What was she to get by marrying a man she absolutely disliked? That he also absolutely disliked her was not a matter much in her thoughts. The man would not ill-treat her because he disliked her; or, it might perhaps be juster to say, that the ill-treatment which she might fairly anticipate would not be of a nature which would much affect her comfort grievously. He would not beat her, nor rob her, nor lock her up, nor starve her. He would either neglect her, or preach sermons to her. For the first she could console herself by the attention of others; and should he preach, perhaps she could preach too,—as sharply if not as lengthily as his lordship. At any rate, she was not afraid of him. But what would she gain? It is very well to have a rock, as Mrs. Carbuncle had said, but a rock is not everything. She did not know whether she cared much for living upon a rock. Even stability may be purchased at too high a price. There was not a grain of poetry in the whole composition of Lord Fawn, and poetry was what her very soul craved;—poetry, together with houses, champagne, jewels, and admiration. Her income was still her own, and she did not quite see that the rock was so absolutely necessary to her. Then she wrote another note to Lord Fawn, a specimen of a note, so that she might have the opportunity of comparing the two. This note took her much longer than the one first written.
I do not know how to acknowledge with sufficient humility the condescension and great kindness of your lordship's letter. But perhaps its manly generosity is more conspicuous than either. The truth is, my lord, you want to escape from your engagement, but are too much afraid of the consequences to dare to do so by any act of your own;—therefore you throw it upon me. You are quite successful. I don't think you ever read poetry, but perhaps you may understand the two following lines:—
"I am constrained to say, your lordship's scullion Should sooner be my husband than yourself."
I see through you, and despise you thoroughly.
She was comparing the two answers together, very much in doubt as to which should be sent, when there came a message to her by a man whom she knew to be a policeman, though he did not announce himself as such, and was dressed in plain clothes. Major Mackintosh sent his compliments to her, and would wait upon her that afternoon at three o'clock, if she would have the kindness to receive him. At the first moment of seeing the man she felt that after all the rock was what she wanted. Mrs. Carbuncle was right. She had had troubles and might have more, and the rock was the thing. But then the more certainly did she become convinced of this by the presence of the major's messenger, the more clearly did she see the difficulty of attaining the security which the rock offered. If this public exposure should fall upon her, Lord Fawn's renewed offer, as she knew well, would stand for nothing. If once it were known that she had kept the necklace,—her own necklace,—under her pillow at Carlisle, he would want no further justification in repudiating her, were it for the tenth time.
She was very uncivil to the messenger, and the more so because she found that the man bore her rudeness without turning upon her and rending her. When she declared that the police had behaved very badly, and that Major Mackintosh was inexcusable in troubling her again, and that she had ceased to care twopence about the necklace,—the man made no remonstrance to her petulance. He owned that the trouble was very great, and the police very inefficient. He almost owned that the major was inexcusable. He did not care what he owned so that he achieved his object. But when Lizzie said that she could not see Major Mackintosh at three, and objected equally to two, four, or five; then the courteous messenger from Scotland Yard did say a word to make her understand that there must be a meeting,—and he hinted also that the major was doing a most unusually good-natured thing in coming to Hertford Street. Of course, Lizzie made the appointment. If the major chose to come, she would be at home at three.
As soon as the policeman was gone, she sat alone, with a manner very much changed from that which she had worn since the arrival of Lord Fawn's letter,—with a fresh weight of care upon her, greater perhaps than she had ever hitherto borne. She had had bad moments,—when, for instance, she had been taken before the magistrates at Carlisle, when she found the police in her house on her return from the theatre, and when Lord George had forced her secret from her. But at each of these periods hope had come renewed before despair had crushed her. Now it seemed to her that the thing was done and that the game was over. This chief man of the London police no doubt knew the whole story. If she could only already have climbed upon some rock, so that there might be a man bound to defend her,—a man at any rate bound to put himself forward on her behalf and do whatever might be done in her defence,—she might have endured it!
What should she do now,—at this minute? She looked at her watch and found that it was already past one. Mrs. Carbuncle, as she knew, was closeted up-stairs with Lucinda, whose wedding was fixed for the following Monday. It was now Friday. Were she to call upon Mrs. Carbuncle for aid, no aid would be forthcoming unless she were to tell the whole truth. She almost thought that she would do so. But then, how great would have been her indiscretion if, after all, when the major should come, she should discover that he did not know the truth himself! That Mrs. Carbuncle would keep her secret she did not for a moment think. She longed for the comfort of some friend's counsel, but she found at last that she could not purchase it by telling everything to a woman.
Might it not be possible that she should still run away? She did not know much of the law, but she thought that they could not punish her for breaking an appointment even with a man so high in authority as Major Mackintosh. She could leave a note saying that pressing business called her out. But whither should she go? She thought of taking a cab to the House of Commons, finding her cousin, and telling him everything. It would be so much better that he should see the major. But then again, it might be that she should be mistaken as to the amount of the major's information. After a while she almost determined to fly off at once to Scotland, leaving word that she was obliged to go instantly to her child. But there was no direct train to Scotland before eight or nine in the evening, and during the intervening hours the police would have ample time to find her. What, indeed, could she do with herself during these intervening hours? Ah, if she had but a rock now, so that she need not be dependent altogether on the exercise of her own intellect!
Gradually the minutes passed by, and she became aware that she must face the major. Well! What had she done? She had stolen nothing. She had taken no person's property. She had, indeed, been wickedly robbed, and the police had done nothing to get back for her her property, as they were bound to have done. She would take care to tell the major what she thought about the negligence of the police. The major should not have the talk all to himself.
If it had not been for one word with which Lord George had stunned her ears, she could still have borne it well. She had told a lie;—perhaps two or three lies. She knew that she had lied. But then people lie every day. She would not have minded it much if she were simply to be called a liar. But he had told her that she would be accused of—perjury. There was something frightful to her in the name. And there were, she knew not what, dreadful penalties attached to it. Lord George had told her that she might be put in prison,—whether he had said for years or for months she had forgotten. And she thought she had heard of people's property being confiscated to the Crown when they had been made out to be guilty of certain great offences. Oh, how she wished that she had a rock!
When three o'clock came she had not started for Scotland or elsewhere, and at last she received the major. Could she have thoroughly trusted the servant, she would have denied herself at the last moment, but she feared that she might be betrayed, and she thought that her position would be rendered even worse than it was at present by a futile attempt. She was sitting alone, pale, haggard, trembling, when Major Mackintosh was shown into her room. It may be as well explained at once that, at this moment, the major knew, or thought that he knew, every circumstance of the two robberies, and that his surmises were in every respect right. Miss Crabstick and Mr. Cann were in comfortable quarters, and were prepared to tell all that they could tell. Mr. Smiler was in durance, and Mr. Benjamin was at Vienna, in the hands of the Austrian police, who were prepared to give him up to those who desired his society in England, on the completion of certain legal formalities. That Mr. Benjamin and Mr. Smiler would be prosecuted, the latter for the robbery and the former for conspiracy to rob, and for receiving stolen goods, was a matter of course. But what was to be done with Lady Eustace? That, at the present moment, was the prevailing trouble with the police. During the last three weeks every precaution had been taken to keep the matter secret, and it is hardly too much to say that Lizzie's interests were handled not only with consideration but with tenderness.
"Lady Eustace," said the major, "I am very sorry to trouble you. No doubt the man who called on you this morning explained to you who I am."
"Oh yes, I know who you are,—quite well." Lizzie made a great effort to speak without betraying her consternation; but she was nearly prostrated. The major, however, hardly observed her, and was by no means at ease himself in his effort to save her from unnecessary annoyance. He was a tall, thin, gaunt man of about forty, with large, good-natured eyes;—but it was not till the interview was half over that Lizzie took courage to look even into his face.
"Just so; I am come, you know, about the robbery which took place here,—and the other robbery at Carlisle."
"I have been so troubled about these horrid robberies! Sometimes I think they'll be the death of me."
"I think, Lady Eustace, we have found out the whole truth."
"Oh, I daresay. I wonder why—you have been so long—finding it out."
"We have had very clever people to deal with, Lady Eustace;—and I fear that, even now, we shall never get back the property."
"I do not care about the property, sir;—although it was all my own. Nobody has lost anything but myself; and I really don't see why the thing should not die out, as I don't care about it. Whoever it is, they may have it now."
"We were bound to get to the bottom of it all, if we could; and I think that we have,—at last. Perhaps, as you say, we ought to have done it sooner."
"Oh,—I don't care."
"We have two persons in custody, Lady Eustace, whom we shall use as witnesses, and I am afraid we shall have to call upon you also,—as a witness." It occurred to Lizzie that they could not lock her up in prison and make her a witness too, but she said nothing. Then the major continued his speech,—and asked her the question which was, in fact, alone material. "Of course, Lady Eustace, you are not bound to say anything to me unless you like it,—and you must understand that I by no means wish you to criminate yourself."
"I don't know what that means."
"If you yourself have done anything wrong, I don't want to ask you to confess it."
"I have had all my diamonds stolen, if you mean that. Perhaps it was wrong to have diamonds."
"But to come to my question,—I suppose we may take it for granted that the diamonds were in your desk when the thieves made their entrance into this house, and broke the desk open, and stole the money out of it?" Lizzie breathed so hardly, that she was quite unable to speak. The man's voice was very gentle and very kind,—but then how could she admit that one fact? All depended on that one fact. "The woman Crabstick," said the major, "has confessed, and will state on her oath that she saw the necklace in your hands in Hertford Street, and that she saw it placed in the desk. She then gave information of this to Benjamin,—as she had before given information as to your journey up from Scotland,—and she was introduced to the two men whom she let into the house. One of them, indeed, who will also give evidence for us, she had before met at Carlisle. She then was present when the necklace was taken out of the desk. The man who opened the desk and took it out, who also cut the door at Carlisle, will give evidence to the same effect. The man who carried the necklace out of the house, and who broke open the box at Carlisle, will be tried,—as will also Benjamin, who disposed of the diamonds. I have told you the whole story, as it has been told to me by the woman Crabstick. Of course, you will deny the truth of it, if it be untrue." Lizzie sat with her eyes fixed upon the floor, but said nothing. She could not speak. "If you will allow me, Lady Eustace, to give you advice,—really friendly advice—"
"Oh, pray do."
"You had better admit the truth of the story, if it is true."
"They were my own," she whispered.
"Or, at any rate, you believed that they were. There can be no doubt, I think, as to that. No one supposes that the robbery at Carlisle was arranged on your behalf."
"But you had taken them out of the box before you went to bed at the inn?"
"But you had taken them?"
"I did it in the morning before I started from Scotland. They frightened me by saying the box would be stolen."
"Exactly;—and then you put them into your desk here, in this house?"
"I should tell you, Lady Eustace, that I had not a doubt about this before I came here. For some time past I have thought that it must be so; and latterly the confessions of two of the accomplices have made it certain to me. One of the housebreakers and the jeweller will be tried for the felony, and I am afraid that you must undergo the annoyance of being one of the witnesses."
"What will they do to me, Major Mackintosh?" Lizzie now for the first time looked up into his eyes, and felt that they were kind. Could he be her rock? He did not speak to her like an enemy;—and then, too, he would know better than any man alive how she might best escape from her trouble.
"They will ask you to tell the truth."
"Indeed I will do that," said Lizzie,—not aware that, after so many lies, it might be difficult to tell the truth.
"And you will probably be asked to repeat it, this way and that, in a manner that will be troublesome to you. You see that here in London, and at Carlisle, you have—given incorrect versions."
"I know I have. But the necklace was my own. There was nothing dishonest;—was there, Major Mackintosh? When they came to me at Carlisle I was so confused that I hardly knew what to tell them. And when I had once—given an incorrect version, you know, I didn't know how to go back."
The major was not so well acquainted with Lizzie as is the reader, and he pitied her. "I can understand all that," he said.
How much kinder he was than Lord George had been when she confessed the truth to him. Here would be a rock! And such a handsome man as he was, too,—not exactly a Corsair, as he was great in authority over the London police,—but a powerful, fine fellow, who would know what to do with swords and pistols as well as any Corsair;—and one, too, no doubt, who would understand poetry! Any such dream, however, was altogether unavailing, as the major had a wife at home and seven children. "If you will only tell me what to do, I will do it," she said, looking up into his face with entreaty, and pressing her hands together in supplication.
Then at great length, and with much patience, he explained to her what he would have her do. He thought that, if she were summoned and used as a witness, there would be no attempt to prosecute her for the—incorrect versions—of which she had undoubtedly been guilty. The probability was, that she would receive assurance to this effect before she would be asked to give her evidence, preparatory to the committal of Benjamin and Smiler. He could not assure her that it would be so, but he had no doubt of it. In order, however, that things might be made to run as smooth as possible, he recommended her very strongly to go at once to Mr. Camperdown and make a clean breast of it to him. "The whole family should be told," said the major, "and it will be better for you that they should know it from yourself than from us." When she hesitated, he explained to her that the matter could no longer be kept as a secret, and that her evidence would certainly appear in the papers. He proposed that she should be summoned for that day week,—which would be the Friday after Lucinda's marriage, and he suggested that she should go to Mr. Camperdown's on the morrow. "What!—to-morrow?" exclaimed Lizzie, in dismay.
"My dear Lady Eustace," said the major, "the sooner you get back into straight running, the sooner you will be comfortable." Then she promised that she would go on the Tuesday,—the day after the marriage. "If he learns it in the meantime, you must not be surprised," said the major.
"Tell me one thing, Major Mackintosh," she said, as she gave him her hand at parting,—"they can't take away from me anything that is my own;—can they?"
"I don't think they can," said the major, escaping rather quickly from the room.
"I Cannot Do It"
The Saturday and the Sunday Lizzie passed in outward tranquillity, though doubtless her mind was greatly disturbed. She said nothing of what had passed between her and Major Mackintosh, explaining that his visit had been made solely with the object of informing her that Mr. Benjamin was to be sent home from Vienna, but that the diamonds were gone for ever. She had, as she declared to herself, agreed with Major Mackintosh that she would not go to Mr. Camperdown till the Tuesday,—justifying her delay by her solicitude in reference to Miss Roanoke's marriage; and therefore these two days were her own. After them would come a totally altered phase of existence. All the world would know the history of the diamonds,—cousin Frank, and Lord Fawn, and John Eustace, and Mrs. Carbuncle, and the Bobsborough people, and Lady Glencora, and that old vulturess, her aunt, the Countess of Linlithgow. It must come now;—but she had two days in which she could be quiet and think of her position. She would, she thought, send one of her letters to Lord Fawn before she went to Mr. Camperdown;—but which should she send? Or should she write a third explaining the whole matter in sweetly piteous feminine terms, and swearing that the only remaining feeling in her bosom was a devoted affection to the man who had now twice promised to be her husband?
In the meantime the preparations for the great marriage went on. Mrs. Carbuncle spent her time busily between Lucinda's bedchamber and the banqueting hall in Albemarle Street. In spite of pecuniary difficulties the trousseau was to be a wonder; and even Lizzie was astonished at the jewellery which that indefatigable woman had collected together for a preliminary show in Hertford Street. She had spent hours at Howell and James's, and had made marvellous bargains there and elsewhere. Things were sent for selection, of which the greater portion were to be returned, but all were kept for the show. The same things which were shown to separate friends in Hertford Street as part of the trousseau on Friday and Saturday were carried over to Albemarle Street on the Sunday, so as to add to the quasi-public exhibition of presents on the Monday. The money expended had gone very far. The most had been made of a failing credit. Every particle of friendly generosity had been so manipulated as to add to the external magnificence. And Mrs. Carbuncle had done all this without any help from Lucinda,—in the midst of most contemptuous indifference on Lucinda's part. She could hardly be got to allow the milliners to fit the dresses to her body, and positively refused to thrust her feet into certain golden-heeled boots with brightly-bronzed toes, which were a great feature among the raiment. Nobody knew it except Mrs. Carbuncle and the maid,—even Lizzie Eustace did not know it;—but once the bride absolutely ran amuck among the finery, scattering the laces here and there, pitching the glove-boxes under the bed, chucking the golden-heeled boots into the fire-place, and exhibiting quite a tempest of fury against one of the finest shows of petticoats ever arranged with a view to the admiration and envy of female friends. But all this Mrs. Carbuncle bore, and still persevered. The thing was so nearly done now that she could endure to persevere though the provocation to abandon it was so great. She had even ceased to find fault with her niece,—but went on in silence counting the hours till the trouble should be taken off her own shoulders and placed on those of Sir Griffin. It was a great thing to her, almost more than she had expected, that neither Lucinda nor Sir Griffin should have positively declined the marriage. It was impossible that either should retreat from it now.
Luckily for Mrs. Carbuncle, Sir Griffin took delight in the show. He did this after a bearish fashion, putting his finger upon little flaws with an intelligence for which Mrs. Carbuncle had not hitherto given him credit. As to certain ornaments, he observed that the silver was plated and the gold ormolu. A "rope" of pearls he at once detected as being false,—and after fingering certain lace he turned up his nose and shook his head. Then, on the Sunday, in Albemarle Street, he pointed out to Mrs. Carbuncle sundry articles which he had seen in the bedroom on the Saturday. "But, my dear Sir Griffin,—that's of course," said Mrs. Carbuncle. "Oh;—that's of course, is it?" said Sir Griffin, turning up his nose again. "Where did that Delph bowl come from?" "It is one of Mortlock's finest Etruscan vases," said Mrs. Carbuncle. "Oh,—I thought that Etruscan vases came from—from somewhere in Greece or Italy," said Sir Griffin. "I declare that you are shocking," said Mrs. Carbuncle, struggling to maintain her good humour.
He passed hours of the Sunday in Hertford Street, and Lord George also was there for some time. Lizzie, who could hardly devote her mind to the affairs of the wedding, remained alone in her own sitting-room during the greater part of the day;—but she did show herself while Lord George was there. "So I hear that Mackintosh has been here," said Lord George.
"Yes,—he was here."
"And what did he say?" Lizzie did not like the way in which the man looked at her, feeling it to be not only unfriendly, but absolutely cruel. It seemed to imply that he knew that her secret was about to be divulged. And what was he to her now that he should be impertinent to her? What he knew, all the world would know before the end of the week. And that other man who knew it already, had been kind to her, had said nothing about perjury, but had explained to her that what she would have to bear would be trouble, and not imprisonment and loss of money. Lord George, to whom she had been so civil, for whom she had spent money, to whom she had almost offered herself and all that she possessed,—Lord George, whom she had selected as the first repository of her secret, had spoken no word to comfort her, but had made things look worse for her than they were. Why should she submit to be questioned by Lord George? In a day or two the secret which he knew would be no secret. "Never mind what he said, Lord George," she replied.
"Has he found it all out?"
"You had better go and ask himself," said Lizzie. "I am sick of the subject, and I mean to have done with it."
Lord George laughed, and Lizzie hated him for his laugh.
"I declare," said Mrs. Carbuncle, "that you two who were such friends are always snapping at each other now."
"The fickleness is all on her ladyship's part,—not on mine," said Lord George; whereupon Lady Eustace walked out of the room and was not seen again till dinner-time.
Soon afterwards Lucinda also endeavoured to escape, but to this Sir Griffin objected. Sir Griffin was in a very good humour, and bore himself like a prosperous bridegroom. "Come, Luce," he said, "get off your high horse for a little. To-morrow, you know, you must come down altogether."
"So much the more reason for my remaining up to-day."
"I'll be shot if you shall," said Sir Griffin. "Luce, sit in my lap, and give me a kiss."
At this moment Lord George and Mrs. Carbuncle were in the front drawing-room, and Lord George was telling her the true story as to the necklace. It must be explained on his behalf that in doing this he did not consider that he was betraying the trust reposed in him. "They know all about it in Scotland Yard," he said; "I got it from Gager. They were bound to tell me, as up to this week past every man in the police thought that I had been the master-mind among the thieves. When I think of it I hardly know whether to laugh or cry."
"And she had them all the time?" exclaimed Mrs. Carbuncle.
"Yes;—in this house! Did you ever hear of such a little cat? I could tell you more than that. She wanted me to take them and dispose of them."
"She did though;—and now see the way she treats me! Never mind. Don't say a word to her about it till it comes out of itself. She'll have to be arrested, no doubt."
"Arrested!" Mrs. Carbuncle's further exclamations were stopped by Lucinda's struggles in the other room. She had declined to sit upon the bridegroom's lap, but had acknowledged that she was bound to submit to be kissed. He had kissed her, and then had striven to drag her on to his knee. But she was strong, and had resisted violently, and, as he afterwards said, had struck him savagely. "Of course I struck him," said Lucinda.
"By ——, you shall pay for it!" said Sir Griffin. This took place in the presence of Lord George and Mrs. Carbuncle, and yet they were to be married to-morrow.
"The idea of complaining that a girl hit you,—and the girl who is to be your wife!" said Lord George, as they walked off together.
"I know what to complain of, and what not," said Sir Griffin. "Are you going to let me have that money?"
"No;—I am not," said Lord George,—"so there's an end of that." Nevertheless, they dined together at their club afterwards, and in the evening Sir Griffin was again in Hertford Street.
This happened on the Sunday, on which day none of the ladies had gone to church. Mr. Emilius well understood the cause of their absence, and felt nothing of a parson's anger at it. He was to marry the couple on the Monday morning, and dined with the ladies on the Sunday. He was peculiarly gracious and smiling, and spoke of the Hymeneals as though they were even more than ordinarily joyful and happy in their promise. To Lizzie he was almost affectionate, and Mrs. Carbuncle he flattered to the top of her bent. The power of the man in being sprightly under such a load of trouble as oppressed the household, was wonderful. He had to do with three women who were worldly, hard, and given entirely to evil things. Even as regarded the bride, who felt the horror of her position, so much must be in truth admitted. Though from day to day and hour to hour she would openly declare her hatred of the things around her,—yet she went on. Since she had entered upon life she had known nothing but falsehood and scheming wickedness;—and, though she rebelled against the consequences, she had not rebelled against the wickedness. Now to this unfortunate young woman and her two companions, Mr. Emilius discoursed with an unctuous mixture of celestial and terrestrial glorification, which was proof, at any rate, of great ability on his part. He told them how a good wife was a crown, or rather a chaplet of aetherial roses to her husband, and how high rank and great station in the world made such a chaplet more beautiful and more valuable. His work in the vineyard, he said, had fallen lately among the wealthy and nobly born; and though he would not say that he was entitled to take glory on that account, still he gave thanks daily in that he had been enabled to give his humble assistance towards the running of a godly life to those who, by their example, were enabled to have so wide an effect upon their poorer fellow-creatures. He knew well how difficult it was for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. They had the highest possible authority for that. But Scripture never said that the camel,—which, as he explained it, was simply a thread larger than ordinary thread,—could not go through the needle's eye. The camel which succeeded, in spite of the difficulties attending its exalted position, would be peculiarly blessed. And he went on to suggest that the three ladies before him, one of whom was about to enter upon a new phase of life to-morrow, under auspices peculiarly propitious, were, all of them, camels of this description. Sir Griffin, when he came in, received for a while the peculiar attention of Mr. Emilius. "I think, Sir Griffin," he commenced, "that no period of a man's life is so blessed, as that upon which you will enter to-morrow." This he said in a whisper, but it was a whisper audible to the ladies.
"Well;—yes; it's all right, I daresay," said Sir Griffin.
"Well, after all, what is life till a man has met and obtained the partner of his soul? It is a blank,—and the blank becomes every day more and more intolerable to the miserable solitary."
"I wonder you don't get married yourself," said Mrs. Carbuncle, who perceived that Sir Griffin was rather astray for an answer.
"Ah!—if one could always be fortunate when one loved!" said Mr. Emilius, casting his eyes across to Lizzie Eustace. It was evident to them all that he did not wish to conceal his passion.
It was the object of Mrs. Carbuncle that the lovers should not be left alone together, but that they should be made to think that they were passing the evening in affectionate intercourse. Lucinda hardly spoke, hardly had spoken since her disagreeable struggle with Sir Griffin. He said but little, but with Mrs. Carbuncle was better humoured than usual. Every now and then she made little whispered communications to him, telling that they would be sure to be at the church at eleven to the moment, explaining to him what would be the extent of Lucinda's boxes for the wedding tour, and assuring him that he would find Lucinda's new maid a treasure in regard to his own shirts and pocket-handkerchiefs. She toiled marvellously at little subjects, always making some allusion to Lucinda, and never hinting that aught short of Elysium was in store for him. The labour was great; the task was terrible; but now it was so nearly over! And to Lizzie she was very courteous, never hinting by a word or a look that there was any new trouble impending on the score of the diamonds. She, too, as she received the greasy compliments of Mr. Emilius with pretty smiles, had her mind full enough of care.
At last Sir Griffin went, again kissing his bride as he left. Lucinda accepted his embrace without a word and almost without a shudder. "Eleven to the moment, Sir Griffin," said Mrs. Carbuncle, with her best good humour. "All right," said Sir Griffin as he passed out of the door. Lucinda walked across the room, and kept her eyes fixed on his retreating figure as he descended the stairs. Mr. Emilius had already departed, with many promises of punctuality, and Lizzie now withdrew for the night. "Dear Lizzie, good night," said Mrs. Carbuncle, kissing her.
"Good night, Lady Eustace," said Lucinda. "I suppose I shall see you to-morrow?"
"See me!—of course you will see me. I shall come into your room with the girls, after you have had your tea." The girls mentioned were the four bridesmaids, as to whom there had been some difficulty, as Lucinda had neither sister nor cousins, and had contracted no peculiarly tender friendships. But Mrs. Carbuncle had arranged it, and four properly-equipped young ladies were to be in attendance at ten on the morrow.
Then Lucinda and Mrs. Carbuncle were alone. "Of one thing I feel sure," said Lucinda in a low voice.
"What is that, dear?"
"I shall never see Sir Griffin Tewett again."
"You talk in that way on purpose to break me down at the last moment," said Mrs. Carbuncle.
"Dear Aunt Jane, I would not break you down if I could help it. I have struggled so hard,—simply that you might be freed from me. We have been very foolish, both of us; but I would bear all the punishment,—if I could."
"You know that this is nonsense now."
"Very well. I only tell you. I know that I shall never see him again. I will never trust myself alone in his presence. I could not do it. When he touches me my whole body is in agony. To be kissed by him is madness."
"Lucinda, this is very wicked. You are working yourself up to a paroxysm of folly."
"Wicked;—yes, I know that I am wicked. There has been enough of wickedness certainly. You don't suppose that I mean to excuse myself?"
"Of course you will marry Sir Griffin to-morrow."
"I shall never be married to him. How I shall escape from him,—by dying, or going mad,—or by destroying him, God only knows." Then she paused, and her aunt looking into her face almost began to fear that she was in earnest. But she would not take it as at all indicating any real result for the morrow. The girl had often said nearly the same thing before, and had still submitted. "Do you know, Aunt Jane, I don't think I could feel to any man as though I loved him. But for this man,— Oh God, how I do detest him! I cannot do it."
"You had better go to bed, Lucinda, and let me come to you in the morning."
"Yes;—come to me in the morning;—early."
"I will,—at eight."
"I shall know then, perhaps."
"My dear, will you come to my room to-night, and sleep with me?"
"Oh, no. I have ever so many things to do. I have papers to burn, and things to put away. But come to me at eight. Good night, Aunt Jane." Mrs. Carbuncle went up to her room with her, kissed her affectionately, and then left her.
She was now really frightened. What would be said of her if she should press the marriage forward to a completion, and if after that some terrible tragedy should take place between the bride and bridegroom? That Lucinda, in spite of all that had been said, would stand at the altar, and allow the ceremony to be performed, she still believed. Those last words about burning papers and putting things away, seemed to imply that the girl still thought that she would be taken away from her present home on the morrow. But what would come afterwards? The horror which the bride expressed was, as Mrs. Carbuncle well knew, no mock feeling, no pretence at antipathy. She tried to think of it, and to realise what might in truth be the girl's action and ultimate fate when she should find herself in the power of this man whom she so hated. But had not other girls done the same thing, and lived through it all, and become fat, indifferent, and fond of the world? It is only the first step that signifies.
At any rate, the thing must go on now;—must go on, whatever might be the result to Lucinda or to Mrs. Carbuncle herself. Yes; it must go on. There was, no doubt, very much of bitterness in the world for such as them,—for persons doomed by the necessities of their position to a continual struggle. It always had been so, and always would be so. But each bitter cup must be drained in the hope that the next might be sweeter. Of course the marriage must go on; though, doubtless, this cup was very bitter.
More than once in the night Mrs. Carbuncle crept up to the door of her niece's room, endeavouring to ascertain what might be going on within. At two o'clock, while she was on the landing-place, the candle was extinguished, and she could hear that Lucinda put herself to bed. At any rate, so far, things were safe. An indistinct, incompleted idea of some possible tragedy had flitted across the mind of the poor woman, causing her to shake and tremble, forbidding her, weary as she was, to lie down;—but now she told herself at last that this was an idle phantasy, and she went to bed. Of course Lucinda must go through with it. It had been her own doing, and Sir Griffin was not worse than other men. As she said this to herself, Mrs. Carbuncle hardened her heart by remembering that her own married life had not been peculiarly happy.
Exactly at eight on the following morning she knocked at her niece's door, and was at once bidden to enter. "Come in, Aunt Jane." The words cheered her wonderfully. At any rate, there had been no tragedy as yet, and as she turned the handle of the door, she felt that, as a matter of course, the marriage would go on just like any other marriage. She found Lucinda up and dressed,—but so dressed as certainly to show no preparation for a wedding-toilet. She had on an ordinary stuff morning frock, and her hair was close tucked up and pinned, as it might have been had she already prepared herself for a journey. But what astonished Mrs. Carbuncle more than the dress was the girl's manner. She was sitting at a table with a book before her, which was afterwards found to be the Bible, and she never turned her head as her aunt entered the room. "What, up already," said Mrs. Carbuncle,—"and dressed?"
"Yes; I am up,—and dressed. I have been up ever so long. How was I to lie in bed on such a morning as this? Aunt Jane, I wish you to know as soon as possible that no earthly consideration will induce me to leave this room to-day."
"What nonsense, Lucinda!"
"Very well;—all the same you might as well believe me. I want you to send to Mr. Emilius, and to those girls,—and to the man. And you had better get Lord George to let the other people know. I'm quite in earnest."
And she was in earnest,—quite in earnest, though there was a flightiness about her manner which induced Mrs. Carbuncle for awhile to think that she was less so than she had been on the previous evening. The unfortunate woman remained with her niece for an hour and a half, imploring, threatening, scolding, and weeping. When the maids came to the door, first one maid and then another, they were refused entrance. It might still be possible, Mrs. Carbuncle thought, that she would prevail. But nothing now could shake Lucinda or induce her even to discuss the subject. She sat there looking steadfastly at the book,—hardly answering, never defending herself, but protesting that nothing should induce her to leave the room on that day. "Do you want to destroy me?" Mrs. Carbuncle said at last.
"You have destroyed me," said Lucinda.
At half-past nine Lizzie Eustace came to the room, and Mrs. Carbuncle, in her trouble, thought it better to take other counsel. Lizzie, therefore, was admitted. "Is anything wrong?" asked Lizzie.
"Everything is wrong," said the aunt. "She says that—she won't be married."
"Pray speak to her, Lady Eustace. You see it is getting so late, and she ought to be nearly dressed now. Of course she must allow herself to be dressed."
"I am dressed," said Lucinda.
"But, dear Lucinda,—everybody will be waiting for you," said Lizzie.
"Let them wait,—till they're tired. If Aunt Jane doesn't choose to send, it is not my fault. I sha'n't go out of this room to-day unless I am carried out. Do you want to hear that I have murdered the man?"
They brought her tea, and endeavoured to induce her to eat and drink. She would take the tea, she said, if they would promise to send to put the people off. Mrs. Carbuncle so far gave way as to undertake to do so, if she would name the next day or the day following for the wedding. But on hearing this she arose almost in a majesty of wrath. Neither on this day, or on the next, or on any following day, would she yield herself to the wretch whom they had endeavoured to force upon her. "She must do it, you know," said Mrs. Carbuncle, turning to Lizzie. "You'll see if I must," said Lucinda, sitting square at the table, with her eyes firmly fixed upon the book.
Then came up the servant to say that the four bridesmaids were all assembled in the drawing-room. When she heard this, even Mrs. Carbuncle gave way, and threw herself upon the bed and wept. "Oh, Lady Eustace, what are we to do? Lucinda, you have destroyed me. You have destroyed me altogether, after all that I have done for you."
"And what has been done to me, do you think?" said Lucinda.
Something must be settled. All the servants in the house by this time knew that there would be no wedding, and no doubt some tidings as to the misadventure of the day had already reached the four ladies in the drawing-room. "What am I to do?" said Mrs. Carbuncle, starting up from the bed.
"I really think you had better send to Mr. Emilius," said Lizzie;—"and to Lord George."
"What am I to say? Who is there to go? Oh,—I wish that somebody would kill me this minute! Lady Eustace, would you mind going down and telling those ladies to go away?"
"And had I not better send Richard to the church?"
"Oh yes;—send anybody everywhere. I don't know what to do. Oh, Lucinda, this is the unkindest and the wickedest, and the most horrible thing that anybody ever did! I shall never, never be able to hold up my head again." Mrs. Carbuncle was completely prostrate, but Lucinda sat square at the table, firm as a rock, saying nothing, making no excuse for herself, with her eyes fixed upon the Bible.
Lady Eustace carried her message to the astonished and indignant bridesmaids, and succeeded in sending them back to their respective homes. Richard, glorious in new livery, forgetting that his flowers were still on his breast,—ready dressed to attend the bride's carriage,—went with his sad message, first to the church and then to the banqueting-hall in Albemarle Street.
"Not any wedding?" said the head-waiter at the hotel. "I knew they was folks as would have a screw loose somewheres. There's lots to stand for the bill, anyways," he added, as he remembered all the tribute.
No attempt was made to send other messages from Hertford Street than those which were taken to the church and to the hotel. Sir Griffin and Lord George went together to the church in a brougham, and, on the way, the best man rather ridiculed the change in life which he supposed that his friend was about to make. "I don't in the least know how you mean to get along," said Lord George.
"Much as other men do, I suppose."
"But you're always sparring, already."
"It's that old woman that you're so fond of," said Sir Griffin. "I don't mean to have any ill-humour from my wife, I can tell you. I know who will have the worst of it if there is."
"Upon my word, I think you'll have your hands full," said Lord George. They got out at a sort of private door attached to the chapel, and were there received by the clerk, who wore a very long face. The news had already come, and had been communicated to Mr. Emilius, who was in the vestry. "Are the ladies here yet?" asked Lord George. The woebegone clerk told them that the ladies were not yet there, and suggested that they should see Mr. Emilius. Into the presence of Mr. Emilius they were led, and then they heard the truth.
"Sir Griffin," said Mr. Emilius, holding the baronet by the hand, "I'm sorry to have to tell you that there's something wrong in Hertford Street."
"What's wrong?" asked Sir Griffin.
"You don't mean to say that Miss Roanoke is not to be here?" demanded Lord George. "By George, I thought as much. I did indeed."
"I can only tell you what I know, Lord George. Mrs. Carbuncle's servant was here ten minutes since, Sir Griffin,—before I came down, and he told the clerk that—that—"
"What the d—— did he tell him?" asked Sir Griffin.
"He said that Miss Roanoke had changed her mind, and didn't mean to be married at all. That's all that I can learn from what he says. Perhaps you will think it best to go up to Hertford Street?"
"I'll be —— if I do," said Sir Griffin.
"I am not in the least surprised," repeated Lord George. "Tewett, my boy, we might as well go home to lunch, and the sooner you're out of town the better."
"I knew that I should be taken in at last by that accursed woman," said Sir Griffin.
"It wasn't Mrs. Carbuncle, if you mean that. She'd have given her left hand to have had it completed. I rather think you've had an escape, Griff; and if I were you, I'd make the best of it." Sir Griffin spoke not another word, but left the church with his friend in the brougham that had brought them, and so he disappears from our story. Mr. Emilius looked after him with wistful eyes, regretful for his fee. Had the baronet been less coarse and violent in his language he would have asked for it; but he feared that he might be cursed in his own church, before his clerk, and abstained. Late in the afternoon Lord George, when he had administered comfort to the disappointed bridegroom in the shape of a hot lunch, Curacoa, and cigars, walked up to Hertford Street, calling at the hotel in Albemarle Street on the way. The waiter told him all that he knew. Some thirty or forty guests had come to the wedding-banquet, and had all been sent away with tidings that the marriage had been—postponed. "You might have told 'em a trifle more than that," said Lord George. "Postponed was pleasantest, my lord," said the waiter. "Anyways, that was said, and we supposes, my lord, as the things ain't wanted now." Lord George replied that, as far as he knew, the things were not wanted, and then continued his way up to Hertford Street.
At first he saw Lizzie Eustace, upon whom the misfortune of the day had had a most depressing effect. The wedding was to have been the one morsel of pleasing excitement which would come before she underwent the humble penance to which she was doomed. That was frustrated and abandoned, and now she could think only of Mr. Camperdown, her cousin Frank, and Lady Glencora Palliser. "What's up now?" said Lord George, with that disrespect which had always accompanied his treatment of her since she had told him her secret. "What's the meaning of all this?"
"I daresay that you know as well as I do, my lord."
"I must know a good deal if I do. It seems that among you there is nothing but one trick upon another."
"I suppose you are speaking of your own friends, Lord George. You doubtless know much more than I do of Miss Roanoke's affairs."
"Does she mean to say that she doesn't mean to marry the man at all?"
"So I understand;—but really you had better send for Mrs. Carbuncle."
He did send for Mrs. Carbuncle, and after some words with her, was taken up into Lucinda's room. There sat the unfortunate girl, in the chair from which she had not moved since the morning. There had come over her face a look of fixed but almost idiotic resolution; her mouth was compressed, and her eyes were glazed, and she sat twiddling her book before her with her fingers. She had eaten nothing since she had got up, and had long ceased to be violent when questioned by her aunt. But, nevertheless, she was firm enough when her aunt begged to be allowed to write a letter to Sir Griffin, explaining that all this had arisen from temporary indisposition. "No; it isn't temporary. It isn't temporary at all. You can write to him; but I'll never come out of this room if I am told that I am to see him."
"What is all this about, Lucinda?" said Lord George, speaking in his kindest voice.
"Is he there?" said she, turning round suddenly.
"Sir Griffin?—no indeed. He has left town."
"You're sure he's not there? It's no good his coming. If he comes for ever and ever he shall never touch me again;—not alive; he shall never touch me again alive." As she spoke she moved across the room to the fire-place and grasped the poker in her hand.
"Has she been like that all the morning?" whispered Lord George.
"No;—not like. She has been quite quiet. Lucinda!"
"Don't let him come here, then; that's all. What's the use? They can't make me marry him. And I won't marry him. Everybody has known that I hated him,—detested him. Oh, Lord George, it has been very, very cruel."
"Has it been my fault, Lucinda?"
"She wouldn't have done it if you had told her not. But you won't bring him again;—will you?"
"Certainly not. He means to go abroad."
"Ah,—yes; that will be best. Let him go abroad. He knew it all the time,—that I hated him. Why did he want me to be his wife? If he has gone abroad, I will go down-stairs. But I won't go out of the house. Nothing shall make me go out of the house. Are the bridesmaids gone?"
"Long ago," said Mrs. Carbuncle, piteously.
"Then I will go down." And, between them, they led her into the drawing-room.
"It is my belief," said Lord George to Mrs. Carbuncle, some minutes afterwards, "that you have driven her mad."
"Are you going to turn against me?"
"It is true. How you have had the heart to go on pressing it upon her, I could never understand. I am about as hard as a milestone, but I'll be shot if I could have done it. From day to day I thought that you would have given way."
"That is so like a man,—when it is all over, to turn upon a woman and say that she did it."
"Didn't you do it? I thought you did, and that you took a great deal of pride in the doing of it. When you made him offer to her down in Scotland, and made her accept him, you were so proud that you could hardly hold yourself. What will you do now? Go on just as though nothing had happened?"
"I don't know what we shall do. There will be so many things to be paid."
"I should think there would,—and you can hardly expect Sir Griffin to pay for them. You'll have to take her away somewhere. You'll find that she can't remain here. And that other woman will be in prison before the week's over, I should say,—unless she runs away."
There was not much of comfort to be obtained by any of them from Lord George, who was quite as harsh to Mrs. Carbuncle as he had been to Lizzie Eustace. He remained in Hertford Street for an hour, and then took his leave, saying that he thought that he also should go abroad. "I didn't think," he said, "that anything could have hurt my character much; but, upon my word, between you and Lady Eustace, I begin to find that in every deep there may be a lower depth. All the town has given me credit for stealing her ladyship's necklace, and now I shall be mixed up in this mock marriage. I shouldn't wonder if Rooper were to send his bill in to me,"—Mr. Rooper was the keeper of the hotel in Albemarle Street,—"I think I shall follow Sir Griffin abroad. You have made England too hot to hold me." And so he left them.
The evening of that day was a terrible time to the three ladies in Hertford Street,—and the following day was almost worse. Nobody came to see them, and not one of them dared to speak of the future. For the third day, the Wednesday, Lady Eustace had made her appointment with Mr. Camperdown, having written to the attorney, in compliance with the pressing advice of Major Mackintosh, to name an hour. Mr. Camperdown had written again, sending his compliments, and saying that he would receive Lady Eustace at the time fixed by her. The prospect of this interview was very bad, but even this was hardly so oppressive as the actual existing wretchedness of that house. Mrs. Carbuncle, whom Lizzie had always known as high-spirited, bold, and almost domineering, was altogether prostrated by her misfortunes. She was querulous, lachrymose, and utterly despondent. From what Lizzie now learned, her hostess was enveloped in a mass of debt which would have been hopeless, even had Lucinda gone off as a bride; but she had been willing to face all that with the object of establishing her niece. She could have expected nothing from the marriage for herself. She well knew that Sir Griffin would neither pay her debts nor give her a home nor lend her money. But to have married the girl who was in her charge would have been in itself a success, and would have in some sort repaid her for her trouble. There would have been something left to show for her expenditure of time and money. But now there was nothing around her but failure and dismay. The very servants in the house seemed to know that ordinary respect was hardly demanded from them.