She, too, had heard from all sides that she was deserted by him, and she had written to him to give him back his troth; but she had not sent her letters. She did not doubt that the thing was over,—she hardly doubted. And yet she would not send any letter. Perhaps it would be better that the matter should be allowed to drop without any letter-writing. She would never reproach him,—though she would ever think him to be a traitor. Would not she have starved herself for him, could she so have served him? And yet he could bear for her sake no touch of delay in his prosperity! Would she not have been content to wait, and always to wait,—so that he with some word of love would have told her that he waited also? But he would not only desert her,—but would give himself to that false, infamous woman, who was so wholly unfitted to be his wife. For Lucy, though to herself she would call him a traitor,—and would think him to be a traitor, still regarded him as the best of mankind, as one who, in marrying such a one as Lizzie Eustace, would destroy all his excellence, as a man might mar his strength and beauty by falling into a pit. For Lizzie Eustace Lucy Morris had now no forgiveness. Lucy had almost forgotten Lizzie's lies, and her proffered bribe, and all her meanness, when she made that visit to Hertford Street. Then, when Lizzie claimed this man as her lover, a full remembrance of all the woman's iniquities came back on Lucy's mind. The statement that Lizzie then made, Lucy did believe. She did think that Frank, her Frank, the man whom she worshipped, was to take this harpy to his bosom as his wife. And if it were to be so, was it not better that she should be so told? But, from that moment, poor Lizzie's sins were ranker to Lucy Morris than even to Mr. Camperdown or Mrs. Hittaway. She could not refrain from saying a word even to old Lady Linlithgow. The countess had called her niece a little liar. "Liar!" said Lucy. "I do not think Satan himself can lie as she does." "Heighty-tighty," said the countess. "I suppose, then, there's to be a match between Lady Satan and her cousin Frank?" "They can do as they like about that," said Lucy, walking out of the room.
Then came the paragraph in the fashionable evening newspaper; after that, the report of the examination before the magistrate, and then certain information that Lady Eustace was about to proceed to Scotland together with her cousin Mr. Greystock, the Member for Bobsborough. "It is a large income," said the countess; "but, upon my word, she's dear at the money." Lucy did not speak, but she bit her lip till the blood ran into her mouth. She was going down to Fawn Court almost immediately, to stay there with her old friends till she should be able to find some permanent home for herself. Once, and once only, would she endure discussion, and then the matter should be banished for ever from her tongue.
Early on the appointed morning Frank Greystock, with a couple of cabs, was at Mrs. Carbuncle's door in Hertford Street. Lizzie had agreed to start by a very early train,—at eight a.m.,—so that she might get through to Portray in one day. It had been thought expedient, both by herself and by her cousin, that for the present there should be no more sleeping at the Carlisle hotel. The robbery was probably still talked about in that establishment; and the report of the proceedings at the police-court had, no doubt, travelled as far north as the border city. It was to be a long day, and could hardly be other than sad. Lizzie, understanding this, feeling that though she had been in a great measure triumphant over her difficulties before the magistrate, she ought still to consider herself, for a short while, as being under a cloud, crept down into the cab and seated herself beside her cousin almost without a word. She was again dressed in black, and again wore the thick veil. Her maid, with the luggage, followed them, and they were driven to Euston Square almost without a word. On this occasion no tall footman accompanied them. "Oh, Frank; dear Frank," she had said, and that was all. He had been active about the luggage and useful in giving orders;—but beyond his directions and inquiries as to the journey, he spoke not a word. Had she breakfasted? Would she have a cup of tea at the station? Should he take any luncheon for her? At every question she only looked into his face and shook her head. All thoughts as to creature-comforts were over with her now for ever. Tranquillity, a little poetry, and her darling boy, were all that she needed for the short remainder of her sojourn upon earth. These were the sentiments which she intended to convey when she shook her head and looked up into his eyes. The world was over for her. She had had her day of pleasure, and found how vain it was. Now she would devote herself to her child. "I shall see my boy again to-night," she said, as she took her seat in the carriage.
Such was the state of mind, or such, rather, the resolutions, with which she commenced her journey. Should he become bright, communicative, and pleasant, or even tenderly silent, or, perhaps, now at length affectionate and demonstrative, she, no doubt, might be able to change as he changed. He had been cousinly, but gloomy, at the police-court; in the same mood when he brought her home; and, as she saw with the first glance of her eye, in the same mood again when she met him in the hall this morning. Of course she must play his tunes. Is it not the fate of women to play the tunes which men dictate,—except in some rare case in which the woman can make herself the dictator? Lizzie loved to be a dictator; but at the present moment she knew that circumstances were against her.
She watched him,—so closely. At first he slept a good deal. He was never in bed very early, and on this morning had been up at six. At Rugby he got out and ate what he said was his breakfast. Would not she have a cup of tea? Again she shook her head and smiled. She smiled as some women smile when you offer them a third glass of champagne. "You are joking with me, I know. You cannot think that I would take it." That was the meaning of Lizzie's smile. He went into the refreshment-room, growled at the heat of the tea and the abominable nastiness of the food provided, and then, after the allotted five minutes, took himself to a smoking-carriage. He did not rejoin his cousin till they were at Crewe. When he went back to his old seat, she only smiled again. He asked her whether she had slept, and again she shook her head. She had been repeating to herself the address to Ianthe's soul, and her whole being was pervaded with poetry.
It was absolutely necessary, as he thought, that she should eat something, and he insisted that she should dine upon the road, somewhere. He, of course, was not aware that she had been nibbling biscuits and chocolate while he had been smoking, and had had recourse even to the comfort of a sherry-flask which she carried in her dressing-bag. When he talked of dinner she did more than smile and refuse. She expostulated. For she well knew that the twenty minutes for dinner were allowed at the Carlisle station; and even if there had been no chocolate and no sherry, she would have endured on, even up to absolute inanition, rather than step out upon this well-remembered platform. "You must eat, or you'll be starved," he said. "I'll fetch you something." So he bribed a special waiter, and she was supplied with cold chicken and more sherry. After this Frank smoked again, and did not reappear till they had reached Dumfries.
Hitherto there had been no tenderness,—nothing but the coldest cousinship. He clearly meant her to understand that he had submitted to the task of accompanying her back to Portray Castle as a duty, but that he had nothing to say to one who had so misbehaved herself. This was very irritating. She could have taken herself home to Portray without his company, and have made the journey more endurable without him than with him, if this were to be his conduct throughout. They had had the carriage to themselves all the way from Crewe to Carlisle, and he had hardly spoken a word to her. If he would have rated her soundly for her wickednesses, she could have made something of that. She could have thrown herself on her knees, and implored his pardon; or, if hard pressed, have suggested the propriety of throwing herself out of the carriage-window. She could have brought him round if he would only have talked to her, but there is no doing anything with a silent man. He was not her master. He had no power over her. She was the lady of Portray, and he could not interfere with her. If he intended to be sullen with her to the end, and to show his contempt for her, she would turn against him. "The worm will turn," she said to herself. And yet she did not think herself a worm.
A few stations beyond Dumfries they were again alone. It was now quite dark, and they had already been travelling over ten hours. They would not reach their own station till eight, and then again there would be the journey to Portray. At last he spoke to her. "Are you tired, Lizzie?"
"Oh, so tired!"
"You have slept, I think."
"No, not once; not a wink. You have slept." This she said in a tone of reproach.
"Indeed I have."
"I have endeavoured to read, but one cannot command one's mind at all times. Oh, I am so weary. Is it much further? I have lost all reckoning as to time and place."
"We change at the next station but one. It will soon be over now. Will you have a glass of sherry? I have some in my flask." Again she shook her head. "It is a long way down to Portray, I must own."
"Oh, I am so sorry that I have given you the trouble to accompany me."
"I was not thinking of myself. I don't mind it. It was better that you should have somebody with you,—just for this journey."
"I don't know why this journey should be different from any other," said Lizzie crossly. She had not done anything that made it necessary that she should be taken care of,—like a naughty girl.
"I'll see you to the end of it now, anyway."
"And you'll stay a few days with me, Frank? You won't go away at once? Say you'll stay a week. Dear, dear Frank; say you'll stay a week. I know that the House doesn't meet for ever so long. Oh, Frank, I do so wish you'd be more like yourself." There was no reason why she should not make one other effort, and as she made it every sign of fatigue passed away from her.
"I'll stay over to-morrow certainly," he replied.
"Only one day!"
"Days with me mean money, Lizzie, and money is a thing which is at present very necessary to me."
"I hate money."
"That's very well for you, because you have plenty of it."
"I hate money. It is the only thing that one has that one cannot give to those one loves. I could give you anything else;—though it cost a thousand pounds."
"Pray don't. Most people like presents, but they only bore me."
"Because you are so indifferent, Frank;—so cold. Do you remember giving me a little ring?"
"Very well indeed. It cost eight and sixpence."
"I never thought what it cost;—but there it is." This she said, drawing off her glove and showing him her finger. "And when I am dead, there it will be. You say you want money, Frank. May I not give it you? Are not we brother and sister?"
"My dear Lizzie, you say you hate money. Don't talk about it."
"It is you that talk about it. I only talk about it because I want to give it you;—yes, all that I have. When I first knew what was the real meaning of my husband's will, my only thought was to be of assistance to you."
In real truth Frank was becoming very sick of her. It seemed to him now to have been almost impossible that he should ever soberly have thought of making her his wife. The charm was all gone, and even her prettiness had in his eyes lost its value. He looked at her, asking himself whether in truth she was pretty. She had been travelling all day, and perhaps the scrutiny was not fair. But he thought that even after the longest day's journey Lucy would not have been soiled, haggard, dishevelled, and unclean, as was this woman.
Travellers again entered the carriage, and they went on with a crowd of persons till they reached the platform at which they changed the carriage for Troon. Then they were again alone, for a few minutes, and Lizzie with infinite courage determined that she would make her last attempt. "Frank," she said, "you know what it is that I mean. You cannot feel that I am ungenerous. You have made me love you. Will you have all that I have to give?" She was leaning over, close to him, and he was observing that her long lock of hair was out of curl and untidy,—a thing that ought not to have been there during such a journey as this.
"Do you not know," he said, "that I am engaged to marry Lucy Morris?"
"No;—I do not know it."
"I have told you so more than once."
"You cannot afford to marry her."
"Then I shall do it without affording." Lizzie was about to speak,—had already pronounced her rival's name in that tone of contempt which she so well knew how to use, when he stopped her. "Do not say anything against her, Lizzie, in my hearing, for I will not bear it. It would force me to leave you at the Troon station, and I had better see you now to the end of the journey." Lizzie flung herself back into the corner of her carriage, and did not utter another word till she reached Portray Castle. He handed her out of the railway carriage, and into her own vehicle which was waiting for them, attended to the maid, and got the luggage; but still she did not speak. It would be better that she should quarrel with him. That little snake, Lucy, would of course now tell him of the meeting between them in Hertford Street, after which anything but quarrelling would be impossible. What a fool the man must be, what an idiot, what a soft-hearted, mean-spirited fellow! Lucy, by her sly, quiet little stratagems, had got him once to speak the word, and now he had not courage enough to go back from it! He had less strength of will even than Lord Fawn! What she offered to him would be the making of him. With his position, his seat in Parliament, such a country house as Portray Castle, and the income which she would give him, there was nothing that he might not reach! And he was so infirm of purpose, that though he had hankered after it all, he would not open his hand to take it,—because he was afraid of such a little thing as Lucy Morris! It was thus that she thought of him as she leaned back in the carriage without speaking. In giving her all that is due to her, we must acknowledge that she had less feeling of the injury done to her charms as a woman than might have been expected. That she hated Lucy was a matter of course;—and equally so that she should be very angry with Frank Greystock. But the anger arose from general disappointment, rather than from any sense of her own despised beauty. "Ah, now I shall see my child," she said, as the carriage stopped at the castle-gate.
When Frank Greystock went to his supper, Miss Macnulty brought to him his cousin's compliments with a message saying that she was too weary to see him again that night. The message had been intended to be curt and uncourteous, but Miss Macnulty had softened it,—so that no harm was done. "She must be very weary," said Frank.
"I suppose though that nothing would ever really tire Lady Eustace," said Miss Macnulty. "When she is excited nothing will tire her. Perhaps the journey has been dull."
"Exceedingly dull," said Frank, as he helped himself to the collops which the Portray cook had prepared for his supper.
Miss Macnulty was very attentive to him, and had many questions to ask. About the necklace she hardly dared to speak, merely observing how sad it was that all those precious diamonds should have been lost for ever. "Very sad indeed," said Frank with his mouth full. She then went on to the marriage,—the marriage that was no marriage. Was not that very dreadful? Was it true that Miss Roanoke was really—out of her mind? Frank acknowledged that it was dreadful, but thought that the marriage had it been completed would have been more so. As for the young lady, he only knew that she had been taken somewhere out of the way. Sir Griffin, he had been told, had gone to Japan.
"To Japan!" said Miss Macnulty, really interested. Had Sir Griffin gone no further than Boulogne, her pleasure in the news would certainly have been much less. Then she asked some single question about Lord George, and from that came to the real marrow of her anxiety. Had Mr. Greystock lately seen the—the Rev. Mr. Emilius? Frank had not seen the clergyman, and could only say of him that had Lucinda Roanoke and Sir Griffin Tewett been made one, the knot would have been tied by Mr. Emilius.
"Would it indeed? Did you not think Mr. Emilius very clever when you met him down here?"
"I don't doubt but what he is a sharp sort of fellow."
"Oh, Mr. Greystock, I don't think that that's the word for him at all. He did promise me when he was here that he would write to me occasionally, but I suppose that the increasing duties of his position have rendered that impossible." Frank, who had no idea of the extent of the preacher's ambition, assured Miss Macnulty that among his multifarious clerical labours it was out of the question that Mr. Emilius should find time to write letters.
Frank had consented to stay one day at Portray, and did not now like to run away without again seeing his cousin. Though much tempted to go at once, he did stay the day, and had an opportunity of speaking a few words to Mr. Gowran. Mr. Gowran was very gracious, but said nothing of his journey up to London. He asked various questions concerning her "leddyship's" appearance at the police-court, as to which tidings had already reached Ayrshire, and pretended to be greatly shocked at the loss of the diamonds. "When they talk o' ten thoosand poond, that's a lee, nae doobt?" asked Andy.
"No lie at all, I believe," said Greystock.
"And her leddyship wad tak' aboot wi' her ten thoosand poond—in a box?" Andy still showed much doubt by the angry glance of his eye and the close compression of his lips, and the great severity of his demeanour as he asked the question.
"I know nothing about diamonds myself, but that is what they say they were worth."
"Her leddyship's her ain sell seems nae to ha' been in ain story aboot the box, Muster Greystock?" But Frank could not stand to be cross-questioned on this delicate matter, and walked off, saying that as the thieves had not yet been tried for the robbery, the less said about it the better.
At four o'clock on that afternoon he had not seen Lizzie, and then he received a message from her to the effect that she was still so unwell from the fatigue of her journey that she could bear no one with her but her child. She hoped that her cousin was quite comfortable, and that she might be able to see him after breakfast on the following day. But Frank was determined to leave Portray very early on the following day, and therefore wrote a note to his cousin. He begged that she would not disturb herself, that he would leave the castle the next morning before she could be up, and that he had only further to remind her that she must come up to London at once as soon as she should be summoned for the trial of Mr. Benjamin and his comrade. It had seemed to Frank that she had almost concluded that her labours connected with that disagreeable matter were at an end. "The examination may be long, and I will attend you if you wish it," said her cousin. Upon receiving this she thought it expedient to come down to him, and there was an interview for about a quarter of an hour in her own little sitting-room looking out upon the sea. She had formed a project, and at once suggested it to him. If she found herself ill when the day of the trial came, could they make her go up and give her evidence? Frank told her that they could, and that they would. She was very clever about it. "They couldn't go back to what I said at Carlisle, you know; because they already have made me tell all that myself." As she had been called upon to criminate herself, she could not now be tried for the crime. Frank, however, would not listen to this, and told her that she must come. "Very well, Frank. I know you like to have your own way. You always did. And you think so little of my feelings! I shall make inquiry, and if I must,—why I suppose I must."
"You'd better make up your mind to come."
"Very well. And now, Frank, as I am so very tired, if you please I'll say good-bye to you. I am very much obliged to you for coming with me. Good-bye." And so they parted.
The Story of Lucy Morris Is Concluded
On the day appointed, Lucy Morris went back from the house of the old countess to Fawn Court. "My dear," said Lady Linlithgow, "I am sorry that you are going. Perhaps you'll think I haven't been very kind to you, but I never am kind. People have always been hard to me, and I'm hard. But I do like you."
"I'm glad you like me, as we have lived together so long."
"You may go on staying here, if you choose, and I'll try to make it better."
"It hasn't been bad at all,—only that there's nothing particular to do. But I must go. I shall get another place as a governess somewhere, and that will suit me best."
"Because of the money, you mean."
"Well;—that in part."
"I mean to pay you something," said the countess, opening her pocket-book, and fumbling for two bank-notes which she had deposited there.
"Oh, dear, no. I haven't earned anything."
"I always gave Macnulty something, and she was not near so nice as you." And then the countess produced two ten-pound notes. But Lucy would have none of her money, and when she was pressed, became proud and almost indignant in her denial. She had earned nothing, and she would take nothing; and it was in vain that the old lady spread the clean bits of paper before her. "And so you'll go and be a governess again; will you?"
"When I can get a place."
"I'll tell you what, my dear. If I were Frank Greystock, I'd stick to my bargain." Lucy at once fell a-crying, but she smiled upon the old woman through her tears. "Of course he's going to marry that little limb of the devil."
"Oh, Lady Linlithgow,—if you can, prevent that!"
"How am I to prevent it, my dear? I've nothing to say to either of them."
"It isn't for myself I'm speaking. If I can't—if I can't—can't have things go as I thought they would by myself, I will never ask any one to help me. It is not that I mean. I have given all that up."
"You have given it up?"
"Yes;—I have. But nevertheless I think of him. She is bad, and he will never be happy if he marries her. When he asked me to be his wife, he was mistaken as to what would be good for him. He ought not to have made such a mistake. For my sake he ought not."
"That's quite true, my dear."
"But I do not wish him to be unhappy all his life. He is not bad, but she is very bad. I would not for worlds that anybody should tell him that he owed me anything; but if he could be saved from her,—oh, I should be so-glad."
"You won't have my money, then?"
"You'd better. It is honestly your own."
"I will not take it, thank you."
"Then I may as well put it up again." And the countess replaced the notes in her pocket-book. When this conversation took place, Frank Greystock was travelling back alone from Portray to London. On the same day the Fawn carriage came to fetch Lucy away. As Lucy was in peculiar distress, Lady Fawn would not allow her to come by any other conveyance. She did not exactly think that the carriage would console her poor favourite; but she did it as she would have ordered something specially nice to eat for any one who had broken his leg. Her soft heart had compassion for misery, though she would sometimes show her sympathy by strange expressions. Lady Linlithgow was almost angry about the carriage. "How many carriages and how many horses does Lady Fawn keep?" she asked.
"One carriage and two horses."
"She's very fond of sending them up into the streets of London, I think." Lucy said nothing more, knowing that it would be impossible to soften the heart of this dowager in regard to the other. But she kissed the old woman at parting, and then was taken down to Richmond in state.
She had made up her mind to have one discussion with Lady Fawn about her engagement,—the engagement which was no longer an engagement,—and then to have done with it. She would ask Lady Fawn to ask the girls never to mention Mr. Greystock's name in her hearing. Lady Fawn had also made up her mind to the same effect. She felt that the subject should be mentioned once,—and once only. Of course Lucy must have another place, but there need be no hurry about that. She fully recognised her young friend's feeling of independence, and was herself aware that she would be wrong to offer to the girl a permanent home among her own daughters, and therefore she could not abandon the idea of a future place; but Lucy would, of course, remain till a situation should have been found for her that would be in every sense unexceptionable. There need, however, be no haste,—and, in the meantime, the few words about Frank Greystock must be spoken. They need not, however, be spoken quite immediately. Let there be smiles, and joy, and a merry ring of laughter on this the first day of the return of their old friend. As Lucy had the same feelings on that afternoon, they did talk pleasantly and were merry. The girls asked questions about the Vulturess,—as they had heard her called by Lizzie Eustace,—and laughed at Lucy to her face when she swore that, after a fashion, she liked the old woman.
"You'd like anybody, then," said Nina.
"Indeed I don't," said Lucy, thinking at once of Lizzie Eustace.
Lady Fawn planned out the next day with great precision. After breakfast, Lucy and the girls were to spend the morning in the old school-room, so that there might be a general explanation as to the doings of the last six months. They were to dine at three, and after dinner there should be the discussion. "Will you come up to my room at four o'clock, my dear?" said Lady Fawn, patting Lucy's shoulder, in the breakfast-parlour. Lucy knew well why her presence was required. Of course she would come. It would be wise to get it over and have done with it.
At noon Lady Fawn, with her three eldest daughters, went out in the carriage, and Lucy was busy among the others with books and maps and sheets of scribbled music. Nothing was done on that day in the way of instruction; but there was much of half-jocose acknowledgement of past idleness, and a profusion of resolutions of future diligence. One or two of the girls were going to commence a course of reading that would have broken the back of any professor, and suggestions were made as to very rigid rules as to the talking of French and German. "But as we can't talk German," said Nina, "we should simply be dumb." "You'd talk High Dutch, Nina, sooner than submit to that," said one of the sisters.
The conclave was still sitting in full deliberation, when one of the maids entered the room with a very long face. There was a gentleman in the drawing-room asking for Miss Morris! Lucy, who at the moment was standing at a table on which were spread an infinity of books, became at once as white as a sheet. Her fast friend, Lydia Fawn, who was standing by her, immediately took hold of her hand quite tightly. The face of the maid was fit for a funeral. She knew that Miss Morris had had a "follower,"—that the follower had come,—and that then Miss Morris had gone away. Miss Morris had been allowed to come back; and now, on the very first day, just when my lady's back was turned, here was the follower again! Before she had come up with her message, there had been an unanimous expression of opinion in the kitchen that the fat would all be in the fire. Lucy was as white as marble, and felt such a sudden shock at her heart, that she could not speak. And yet she never doubted for a moment that Frank Greystock was the man. And with what purpose but one could he have come there? She had on the old, old frock in which, before her visit to Lady Linlithgow, she used to pass the morning amidst her labours with the girls,—a pale, grey, well-worn frock, to which must have been imparted some attraction from the milliner's art, because everybody liked it so well,—but which she had put on this very morning as a testimony, to all the world around her, that she had abandoned the idea of being anything except a governess. Lady Fawn had understood the frock well. "Here is the dear little old woman just the same as ever," Lydia had said, embracing her. "She looks as if she'd gone to bed before the winter, and had a long sleep, like a dormouse," said Cecilia. Lucy had liked it all, and thoroughly appreciated the loving-kindness; but she had known what it all meant. She had left them as the engaged bride of Mr. Greystock, the member for Bobsborough; and now she had come back as Lucy Morris, the governess, again. "Just the same as ever," Lucy had said, with the sweetest smile. They all understood that, in so saying, she renounced her lover.
And now there stood the maid, inside the room, who, having announced that there was a gentleman asking for Miss Morris, was waiting for an answer. Was the follower to be sent about his business, with a flea in his ear, having come, slyly, craftily, and wickedly, in Lady Fawn's absence; or would Miss Morris brazen it out, and go and see him?
"Who is the gentleman?" asked Diana, who was the eldest of the Fawn girls present.
"It's he as used to come after Miss Morris before," said the maid.
"It is Mr. Greystock," said Lucy, recovering herself with an effort. "I had better go down to him. Will you tell him, Mary, that I'll be with him almost immediately?"
"You ought to have put on the other frock, after all," said Nina, whispering into her ear.
"He has not lost much time in coming to see you," said Lydia.
"I suppose it was all because he didn't like Lady Linlithgow," said Cecilia. Lucy had not a word to say. She stood for a minute among them, trying to think, and then she slowly left the room.
She would not condescend to alter her dress by the aid of a single pin, or by the adjustment of a ribbon. It might well be that, after the mingled work and play of the morning, her hair should not be smooth; but she was too proud to look at her hair. The man whom she had loved, who had loved her but had neglected her, was in the house. He would surely not have followed her thither did he not intend to make reparation for his neglect. But she would use no art with him;—nor would she make any entreaty. It might be that, after all, he had the courage to come and tell her, in a manly, straightforward way, that the thing must be all over,—that he had made a mistake, and would beg her pardon. If it were so, there should be no word of reproach. She would be quite quiet with him; but there should be no word of reproach. But if— In that other case she could not be sure of her behaviour, but she knew well that he would not have to ask long for forgiveness. As for her dress,—he had chosen to love her in that frock before, and she did not think that he would pay much attention to her dress on the present occasion.
She opened the door very quietly and very slowly, intending to approach him in the same way. But in a moment, before she could remember that she was in the room, he had seized her in his arms, and was showering kisses upon her forehead, her eyes, and her lips. When she thought of it afterwards, she could not call to mind a single word that he had spoken before he held her in his embrace. It was she, surely, who had spoken first, when she begged to be released from his pressure. But she well remembered the first words that struck her ear. "Dearest Lucy, will you forgive me?" She could only answer them through her tears by taking up his hand and kissing it.
When Lady Fawn came back with the carriage, she herself saw the figures of two persons, walking very close together, in the shrubberies. "Is that Lucy?" she asked.
"Yes," said Augusta, with a tone of horror. "Indeed it is, and—Mr. Greystock."
Lady Fawn was neither shocked nor displeased; nor was she disappointed; but a certain faint feeling of being ill-used by circumstances came over her. "Dear me;—the very first day!" she said.
"It's because he wouldn't go to Lady Linlithgow's," said Amelia. "He has only waited, mamma."
"But the very first day!" exclaimed Lady Fawn. "I hope Lucy will be happy;—that's all."
There was a great meeting of all the Fawns, as soon as Lady Fawn and the eldest girls were in the house. Mr. Greystock had been walking about the grounds with Lucy for the last hour and a half. Lucy had come in once to beg that Lady Fawn might be told directly she came in. "She said you were to send for her, mamma," said Lydia.
"But it's dinner-time, my dear. What are we to do with Mr. Greystock?"
"Ask him to lunch, of course," said Amelia.
"I suppose it's all right," said Lady Fawn.
"I'm quite sure it's all right," said Nina.
"What did she say to you, Lydia?" asked the mother.
"She was as happy as ever she could be," said Lydia. "There's no doubt about its being all right, mamma. She looked just as she did when she got the letter from him before."
"I hope she managed to change her frock," said Augusta.
"She didn't then," said Cecilia.
"I don't suppose he cares one halfpenny about her frock," said Nina. "I should never think about a man's coat if I was in love."
"Nina, you shouldn't talk in that way," said Augusta. Whereupon Nina made a face behind one of her sisters' backs. Poor Augusta was never allowed to be a prophetess among them.
The consultation was ended by a decision in accordance with which Nina went as an ambassador to the lovers. Lady Fawn sent her compliments to Mr. Greystock, and hoped he would come in to lunch. Lucy must come in to dinner, because dinner was ready. "And mamma wants to see you just for a minute," added Nina, in a pretended whisper.
"Oh, Nina, you darling girl!" said Lucy, kissing her young friend in an ecstasy of joy.
"It's all right?" asked Nina in a whisper which was really intended for privacy. Lucy did not answer the question otherwise than by another kiss.
Frank Greystock was, of course, obliged to take his seat at the table, and was entertained with a profusion of civility. Everybody knew that he had behaved badly to Lucy,—everybody, except Lucy herself, who, from this time forward, altogether forgot that she had for some time looked upon him as a traitor, and had made up her mind that she had been deceived and ill-used. All the Fawns had spoken of him, in Lucy's absence, in the hardest terms of reproach, and declared that he was not fit to be spoken to by any decent person. Lady Fawn had known from the first that such a one as he was not to be trusted. Augusta had never liked him. Amelia had feared that poor Lucy Morris had been unwise, and too ambitious. Georgina had seen that, of course, it would never do. Diana had sworn that it was a great shame. Lydia was sure that Lucy was a great deal too good for him. Cecilia had wondered where he would go to;—a form of anathema which had brought down a rebuke from her mother. And Nina had always hated him like poison. But now nothing was too good for him. An unmarried man who is willing to sacrifice himself is, in feminine eyes, always worthy of ribbons and a chaplet. Among all these Fawns there was as little selfishness as can be found,—even among women. The lover was not the lover of one of themselves, but of their governess. And yet, though he desired neither to eat nor drink at that hour, something special had been cooked for him, and a special bottle of wine had been brought out of the cellar. All his sins were forgiven him. No single question was asked as to his gross misconduct during the last six months. No pledge or guarantee was demanded for the future. There he was, in the guise of a declared lover, and the fatted calf was killed.
After this early dinner it was necessary that he should return to town, and Lucy obtained leave to walk with him to the station. To her thinking now, there was no sin to be forgiven. Everything was, and had been, just as it ought to be. Had any human being hinted that he had sinned, she would have defended him to the death. Something was said between them about Lizzie, but nothing that arose from jealousy. Not till many months had passed did she tell him of Lizzie's message to herself, and of her visit to Hertford Street. But they spoke of the necklace, and poor Lucy shuddered as she was told the truth about those false oaths. "I really do think that, after that, Lord Fawn is right," she said, looking round at her lover. "Yes; but what he did, he did before that," said Frank. "But are they not good and kind?" she said, pleading for her friends. "Was ever anybody so well treated as they have treated me? I'll tell you what, sir, you mustn't quarrel with Lord Fawn any more. I won't allow it." Then she walked back from the station alone, almost bewildered by her own happiness.
That evening something like an explanation was demanded by Lady Fawn, but no explanation was forthcoming. When questions were asked about his silence, Lucy, half in joke and half in earnest, fired up and declared that everything had been as natural as possible. He could not have come to Lady Linlithgow's house. Lady Linlithgow would not receive him. No doubt she had been impatient, but then that had been her fault. Had he not come to her the very first day after her return to Richmond? When Augusta said something as to letters which might have been written, Lucy snubbed her. "Who says he didn't write? He did write. If I am contented, why should you complain?" "Oh, I don't complain," said Augusta.
Then questions were asked as to the future,—questions to which Lady Fawn had a right to demand an answer. What did Mr. Greystock propose to do now? Then Lucy broke down, sobbing, crying, triumphing, with mingled love and happiness. She was to go to the deanery. Frank had brought with him a little note to her from his mother, in which she was invited to make the deanery at Bobsborough her home for the present.
"And you are to go away just when you've come?" asked Nina.
"Stay with us a month, my dear," said Lady Fawn, "just to let people know that we are friends, and after that the deanery will be the best home for you." And so it was arranged.
* * * * *
It need only be further said, in completing the history of Lucy Morris as far as it can be completed in these pages, that she did go to the deanery, and that there she was received with all the affection which Mrs. Greystock could show to an adopted daughter. Her quarrel had never been with Lucy personally,—but with the untoward fact that her son would not marry money. At the deanery she remained for fifteen happy months, and then became Mrs. Greystock, with a bevy of Fawn bridesmaids around her. As the personages of a chronicle such as this should all be made to operate backwards and forwards on each other from the beginning to the end, it would have been desirable that the chronicler should have been able to report that the ceremony was celebrated by Mr. Emilius. But as the wedding did not take place till the end of the summer, and as Mr. Emilius at that time never remained in town, after the season was over, this was impossible. It was the Dean of Bobsborough, assisted by one of the minor canons, who performed the service.
Having told the tale of Lucy Morris to the end, the chronicler must now go back to the more important persons of this history. It was still early in April when Lizzie Eustace was taken down to Scotland by her cousin, and the trial of Mr. Benjamin and Mr. Smiler was fixed to take place at the Central Criminal Court about the middle of May. Early in May the attorneys for the prosecution applied to Greystock, asking him whether he would make arrangements for his cousin's appearance on the occasion, informing him that she had already been formally summoned. Whereupon he wrote to Lizzie, telling her what she had better do, in the kindest manner,—as though there had been no cessation of their friendly intercourse, offering to go with her into court,—and naming an hotel at which he would advise her to stay during the very short time that she need remain in London. She answered this letter at once. She was sorry to say that she was much too ill to travel, or even to think of travelling. Such was her present condition that she doubted greatly whether she would ever again be able to leave the two rooms to which she was at present confined. All that remained to her in life was to watch her own blue waves from the casement of her dear husband's castle,—that casement at which he had loved to sit, and to make herself happy in the smiles of her child. A few months would see the last of it all, and then, perhaps, they who had trampled her to death would feel some pangs of remorse as they thought of her early fate. She had given her evidence once and had told all the truth,—though she was now aware that she need not have done so, as she had been defrauded of a vast amount of property through the gross negligence of the police. She was advised now by persons who seemed really to understand the law, that she could recover the value of the diamonds which her dear, dear husband had given her, from the freeholders of the parish in which the robbery had taken place. She feared that her health did not admit of the necessary exertion. Were it otherwise she would leave no stone unturned to recover the value of her property,—not on account of its value, but because she had been so ill-treated by Mr. Camperdown and the police. Then she added a postscript to say that it was quite out of the question that she should take any journey for the next six months.
The reader need hardly be told that Greystock did not believe a word of what she said. He felt sure that she was not ill. There was an energy in the letter hardly compatible with illness. But he could not make her come. He certainly did not intend to go down again to Scotland to fetch her,—and even had he done so he could not have forced her to accompany him. He could only go to the attorneys concerned, and read to them so much of the letter as he thought fit to communicate to them. "That won't do at all," said an old gentleman at the head of the firm. "She has been very leniently treated, and she must come."
"You must manage it, then," said Frank.
"I hope she won't give us trouble, because if she does we must expose her," said the second member.
"She has not even sent a medical certificate," said the tyro of the firm, who was not quite so sharp as he will probably become when he has been a member of it for ten or twelve years. You should never ask the ostler whether he greases his oats. In this case Frank Greystock was not exactly in the position of the ostler; but he did inform his cousin by letter that she would lay herself open to all manner of pains and penalties if she disobeyed such a summons as she had received, unless she did so by a very strong medical advice, backed by a medical certificate.
Lizzie, when she received this, had two strings to her bow. A writer from Ayr had told her that the summons sent to her was not worth the paper on which it was printed in regard to a resident in Scotland;—and she had also got a doctor from the neighbourhood who was satisfied that she was far too ill to travel up to London. Pulmonary debilitation was the complaint from which she was suffering, which, with depressed vitality in all the organs, and undue languor in all the bodily functions, would be enough to bring her to a speedy end if she so much as thought of making a journey up to London. A certificate to this effect was got in triplicate. One copy she sent to the attorneys, one to Frank, and one she kept herself.
The matter was very pressing indeed. It was considered that the trial could not be postponed till the next sitting at the Criminal Court, because certain witnesses in respect to the diamonds had been procured from Hamburg and Vienna, at a very great cost; they were actually on their way to London when Lizzie's second letter was received. Mr. Camperdown had resolved to have the diamonds, still with a hope that they might be restored to the keeping of Messrs. Garnett, there to lie hidden and unused at any rate for the next twenty years. The diamonds had been traced first to Hamburg, and then to Vienna;—and it was to be proved that they were now adorning the bosom of a certain enormously rich Russian princess. From the grasp of the Russian princess it was found impossible to rescue them; but the witnesses who, as it was hoped, might have aided Mr. Camperdown in his efforts, were to be examined at the trial.
A confidential clerk was sent down to Portray, but the confidential clerk altogether failed in making his way into Lizzie's presence. Word was brought to him that nothing but force could take Lady Eustace from her bed-chamber; and that force used to that effect might take her out dead, but certainly not alive. He made inquiry, however, about the doctor, and found that he certainly was a doctor. If a doctor will certify that a lady is dying, what can any judge do, or any jury? There are certain statements which, though they are false as hell, must be treated as though they were true as gospel. The clerk reported, when he got back to London, that, to his belief, Lady Eustace was enjoying an excellent state of health;—but that he was perfectly certain that she would not appear as a witness at the trial.
The anger felt by many persons as to Lizzie's fraudulent obstinacy was intense. Mr. Camperdown thought that she ought to be dragged up to London by cart ropes. The attorneys engaged for the prosecution were almost beside themselves. They did send down a doctor of their own, but Lizzie would not see the doctor,—would not see the doctor though threats of most frightful consequences were conveyed to her. She would be exposed, fined thousands of pounds, committed to gaol for contempt of court, and prosecuted for perjury into the bargain. But she was firm. She wrote one scrap of a note to the doctor who came from London, "I shall not live to satisfy their rabid vengeance." Even Frank Greystock felt almost more annoyed than gratified that she should be able thus to escape. People who had heard of the inquiry before the magistrate, had postponed their excitement and interest on the occasion, because they knew that the day of the trial would be the great day; and when they heard that they were to be robbed of the pleasure of Lady Eustace's cross-examination, there arose almost a public feeling of wrath that justice should be thus outraged. The doctor who had given the certificate was vilified in the newspapers, and long articles were written as to the impotence of the law. But Lizzie was successful, and the trial went on without her.
It appeared that though her evidence was very desirable it was not absolutely essential, as, in consequence of her certified illness, the statement which she had made at the police-court could be brought up and used against the prisoners. All the facts of the robbery were, moreover, proved by Patience Crabstick and Billy Cann; and the transfer of the diamonds by Mr. Benjamin to the man who recut them at Hamburg was also proved. Many other morsels of collateral evidence had also been picked up by the police,—so that there was no possible doubt as to any detail of the affair in Hertford Street. There was a rumour that Mr. Benjamin intended to plead guilty. He might, perhaps, have done so had it not been for the absence of Lady Eustace; but as that was thought to give him a possible chance of escape, he stood his ground.
Lizzie's absence was a great disappointment to the sight-seers of London, but nevertheless the court was crowded. It was understood that the learned serjeant who was retained on this occasion to defend Mr. Benjamin, and who was assisted by the acute gentleman who had appeared before the magistrate, would be rather severe upon Lady Eustace, even in her absence; and that he would ground his demand for an acquittal on the combined facts of her retention of the diamonds, her perjury, and of her obstinate refusal to come forward on the present occasion. As it was known that he could be very severe, many came to hear him,—and they were not disappointed. The reader shall see a portion of his address to the jury,—which we hope may have had some salutary effect on Lizzie, as she read it in her retreat at Portray, looking out upon her own blue waves.
"And now, gentlemen of the jury, let me recapitulate to you the history of this lady as far as it relates to the diamonds as to which my client is now in jeopardy. You have heard on the testimony of Mr. Camperdown that they were not hers at all,—that, at any rate, they were not supposed to be hers by those in whose hands was left the administration of her husband's estate, and that when they were first supposed to have been stolen at the inn at Carlisle, he had already commenced legal steps for the recovery of them from her clutches. A bill in Chancery had been filed because she had obstinately refused to allow them to pass out of her hands. It has been proved to you by Lord Fawn that though he was engaged to marry her, he broke his engagement because he supposed her possession of these diamonds to be fraudulent and dishonest." This examination had been terrible to the unfortunate Under-Secretary;—and had absolutely driven him away from the India Board and from Parliament for a month. "It has been proved to you that when the diamonds were supposed to have vanished at Carlisle, she there committed perjury. That she did so she herself stated on oath in that evidence which she gave before the magistrate when my client was committed, and which has, as I maintain, improperly and illegally been used against my client at this trial." Here the judge looked over his spectacles and admonished the learned serjeant, that his argument on that subject had already been heard, and the matter decided. "True, my lord; but my conviction of my duty to my client compels me to revert to it. Lady Eustace committed perjury at Carlisle, having the diamonds in her pocket at the very moment in which she swore that they had been stolen from her. And if justice had really been done in this case, gentlemen, it is Lady Eustace who should now be on her trial before you, and not my unfortunate client. Well,—what is the next that we hear of it? It seems that she brought the diamonds up to London; but how long she kept them there, nobody knows. It was, however, necessary to account for them. A robbery is got up between a young woman who seems to have been the confidential friend rather than the maid of Lady Eustace, and that other witness whom you have heard testifying against himself, and who is, of all the informers that ever came into my hands, the most flippant, the most hardened, the least conscientious, and the least credible. That they two were engaged in a conspiracy I cannot doubt. That Lady Eustace was engaged with them, I will not say. But I will ask you to consider whether such may not probably have been the case. At any rate, she then perjures herself again. She gives a list of the articles stolen from her, and omits the diamonds. She either perjures herself a second time,—or else the diamonds, in regard to which my client is in jeopardy, were not in the house at all, and could not then have been stolen. It may very probably have been so. Nothing more probable. Mr. Camperdown and the managers of the Eustace estate had gradually come to a belief that the Carlisle robbery was a hoax,—and, therefore, another robbery is necessary to account for the diamonds. Another robbery is arranged, and this young and beautiful widow, as bold as brass, again goes before the magistrate and swears. Either the diamonds were not stolen, or else again she commits a second perjury.
"And now, gentlemen, she is not here. She is sick forsooth at her own castle in Scotland, and sends to us a medical certificate. But the gentlemen who are carrying on the prosecution know their witness, and don't believe a word of her sickness. Had she the feelings of woman in her bosom she ought indeed to be sick unto death. But they know her better, and send down a doctor of their own. You have heard his evidence,—and yet this wonderful lady is not before us. I say again that she ought to be here in that dock,—in that dock in spite of her fortune, in that dock in spite of her title, in that dock in spite of her castle, her riches, her beauty, and her great relatives. A most wonderful woman, indeed, is the widow Eustace. It is she whom public opinion will convict as the guilty one in this marvellous mass of conspiracy and intrigue. In her absence, and after what she has done herself, can you convict any man either of stealing or of disposing of these diamonds?" The vigour, the attitude, and the indignant tone of the man were more even than his words;—but, nevertheless, the jury did find both Benjamin and Smiler guilty, and the judge did sentence them to penal servitude for fifteen years.
And this was the end of the Eustace diamonds as far as anything was ever known of them in England. Mr. Camperdown altogether failed, even in his attempt to buy them back at something less than their value, and was ashamed himself to look at the figures when he found how much money he had wasted for his clients in their pursuit. In discussing the matter afterwards with Mr. Dove, he excused himself by asserting his inability to see so gross a robbery perpetrated by a little minx under his very eyes without interfering with the plunder. "I knew what she was," he said, "from the moment of Sir Florian's unfortunate marriage. He had brought a little harpy into the family, and I was obliged to declare war against her." Mr. Dove seemed to be of opinion that the ultimate loss of the diamonds was upon the whole desirable, as regarded the whole community. "I should like to have had the case settled as to right of possession," he said, "because there were in it one or two points of interest. We none of us know, for instance, what a man can, or what a man cannot, give away by a mere word."
"No such word was ever spoken," said Mr. Camperdown in wrath.
"Such evidence as there is would have gone to show that it had been spoken. But the very existence of such property so to be disposed of, or so not to be disposed of, is in itself an evil. Thus, we have had to fight for six months about a lot of stones hardly so useful as the flags in the street, and then they vanish from us, leaving us nothing to repay us for our labour." All which Mr. Camperdown did not quite understand. Mr. Dove would be paid for his labour,—as to which, however, Mr. Camperdown knew well that no human being was more indifferent than Mr. Dove.
There was much sorrow, too, among the police. They had no doubt succeeded in sending two scoundrels out of the social world, probably for life, and had succeeded in avoiding the reproach which a great robbery, unaccounted for, always entails upon them. But it was sad to them that the property should altogether have been lost, and sad also that they should have been constrained to allow Billy Cann to escape out of their hands. Perhaps the sadness may have been lessened to a certain degree in the breast of the great Mr. Gager by the charms and graces of Patience Crabstick, to whom he kept his word by making her his wife. This fact,—or rather the prospect of this fact, as it then was,—had also come to the knowledge of the learned serjeant, and, in his hands, had served to add another interest to the trial. Mr. Gager, when examined on the subject, did not attempt to deny the impeachment, and expressed a strong opinion that, though Miss Crabstick had given way to temptation under the wiles of the Jew, she would make an honest and an excellent wife. In which expectation let us trust that he may not be deceived.
Amusement had, indeed, been expected from other sources which failed. Mrs. Carbuncle had been summoned, and Lord George; but both of them had left town before the summons could reach them. It was rumoured that Mrs. Carbuncle, with her niece, had gone to join her husband at New York. At any rate, she disappeared altogether from London, leaving behind her an amount of debts which showed how extremely liberal in their dealings the great tradesmen of London will occasionally be. There were milliners' bills which had been running for three years, and horse-dealers had given her credit year after year, though they had scarcely ever seen the colour of her money. One account, however, she had honestly settled. The hotel-keeper in Albemarle Street had been paid, and all the tribute had been packed and carried off from the scene of the proposed wedding banquet. What became of Lord George for the next six months, nobody ever knew; but he appeared at Melton in the following November, and I do not know that any one dared to ask him questions about the Eustace diamonds.
Of Lizzie, and her future career, something further must be said in the concluding chapters of this work. She has been our heroine, and we must see her through her immediate troubles before we can leave her; but it may be as well to mention here, that although many threats had been uttered against her, not only by Mr. Camperdown and the other attorneys, but even by the judge himself, no punishment at all was inflicted upon her in regard to her recusancy, nor was any attempt made to punish her. The affair was over, and men were glad to avoid the necessity of troubling themselves further with the business. It was said that a case would be got up with the view of proving that she had not been ill at all, and that the Scotch doctor would be subjected to the loss of his degree, or whatever privileges in the healing art belonged to him;—but nothing was done, and Lizzie triumphed in her success.
Once More at Portray
On the very day of the trial Mr. Emilius travelled from London to Kilmarnock. The trial took place on a Monday, so that he had at his command an entire week before he would be required to appear again in his church. He had watched the case against Benjamin and Smiler very closely, and had known beforehand, almost with accuracy, what witnesses would appear and what would not at the great coming event at the Old Bailey. When he first heard of Lady Eustace's illness, he wrote to her a most affectionately pastoral letter, strongly adjuring her to think of her health before all things, and assuring her that in his opinion, and in that of all his friends, she was quite right not to come up to London. She wrote him a very short but a very gracious answer, thanking him for his solicitude, and explaining to him that her condition made it quite impossible that she should leave Portray.
"I don't suppose anybody knows how ill I am; but it does not matter. When I am gone, they will know what they have done." Then Mr. Emilius resolved that he would go down to Scotland. Perhaps Lady Eustace was not as ill as she thought; but it might be that the trial, and the hard things lately said of her, and her loneliness, and the feeling that she needed protection, might, at such a moment as this, soften her heart. She should know at least that one tender friend did not desert her because of the evil things which men said of her.
He went to Kilmarnock, thinking it better to make his approaches by degrees. Were he to present himself at once at the castle and be refused admittance, he would hardly know how to repeat his application or to force himself upon her presence. From Kilmarnock he wrote to her, saying that business connected with his ministrations during the coming autumn had brought him into her beautiful neighbourhood, and that he could not leave it without paying his respects to her in person. With her permission he would call upon her on the Thursday at about noon. He trusted that the state of her health would not prevent her from seeing him, and reminded her that a clergyman was often as welcome a visitor at the bedside of the invalid, as the doctor or the nurse. He gave her no address, as he rather wished to hinder her from answering him, but at the appointed hour he knocked at the castle-door.
Need it be said that Lizzie's state of health was not such as to preclude her from seeing so intimate a friend as Mr. Emilius? That she was right to avoid by any effort the castigation which was to have fallen upon her from the tongue of the learned serjeant, the reader who is not straight-laced will be disposed to admit. A lone woman, very young, and delicately organised! How could she have stood up against such treatment as was in store for her? And is it not the case that false pretexts against public demands are always held to be justifiable by the female mind? What lady will ever scruple to avoid her taxes? What woman ever understood her duty to the State? And this duty which was required of her was so terrible, that it might well have reduced to falsehood a stouter heart than her own. It can hardly be reckoned among Lizzie's great sins that she did not make that journey up to London. An appearance of sickness she did maintain, even with her own domestics. To do as much as that was due even to the doctor whom she had cajoled out of the certificate, and who was afterwards frightened into maintaining it. But Mr. Emilius was her clergyman,—her own clergyman, as she took care to say to her maid,—her own clergyman, who had come all the way from London to be present with her in her sickness; and of course she would see him.
Lizzie did not think much of the coming autumnal ministration at Kilmarnock. She knew very well why Mr. Emilius had undertaken the expense of a journey into Scotland in the middle of the London season. She had been maimed fearfully in her late contests with the world, and was now lame and soiled and impotent. The boy with none of the equipments of the skilled sportsman can make himself master of a wounded bird. Mr. Emilius was seeking her in the moment of her weakness, fearing that all chance of success might be over for him should she ever again recover the full use of her wings. All this Lizzie understood, and was able to measure Mr. Emilius at his own value of himself. But then, again, she was forced to ask herself what was her value. She had been terribly mauled by the fowlers. She had been hit, so to say, on both wings, and hardly knew whether she would ever again be able to attempt a flight in public. She could not live alone in Portray Castle for the rest of her days. Ianthe's soul and the Corsair were not, in truth, able to console her for the loss of society. She must have somebody to depend upon;—ah, some one whom, if it were possible, she might love. She saw no reason why she should not love Mr. Emilius. She had been shockingly ill-treated by Lord Fawn, and the Corsair, and Frank Greystock. No woman had ever been so knocked about in her affections. She pitied herself with an exceeding pity when she thought of all the hardships which she had endured. Left an early widow, persecuted by her husband's family, twice robbed, spied upon by her own servants, unappreciated by the world at large, ill-used by three lovers, victimised by her selected friend, Mrs. Carbuncle, and now driven out of society because she had lost her diamonds, was she not more cruelly treated than any woman of whom she had ever read or heard? But she was not going to give up the battle, even now. She still had her income, and she had great faith in income. And though she knew that she had been grievously wounded by the fowlers, she believed that time would heal her wounds. The world would not continue to turn its back altogether upon a woman with four thousand pounds a year, because she had told a fib about her necklace. She weighed all this; but the conviction strongest upon her mind was the necessity that she should have a husband. She felt that a woman by herself in the world can do nothing, and that an unmarried woman's strength lies only in the expectation that she may soon be married. To her it was essentially necessary that she should have the protection of a husband who might endure on her behalf some portion of those buffetings to which she seemed to be especially doomed. Could she do better with herself than take Mr. Emilius?
Might she have chosen from all the world, Mr. Emilius was not, perhaps, the man whom she would have selected. There were, indeed, attributes in the man, very objectionable in the sight of some people, which to her were not specially disagreeable. She thought him rather good-looking than otherwise, in spite of a slight defect in his left eye. His coal-black, glossy hair commanded and obtained her admiration, and she found his hooky nose to be handsome. She did not think much of the ancestral blood of which he had boasted, and hardly believed that he would ever become a bishop. But he was popular, and with a rich, titled wife, might become more so. Mr. Emilius and Lady Eustace would, she thought, sound very well, and would surely make their way in society. The man had a grasping ambition about him, and a capacity, too, which, combined, would enable him to preach himself into notoriety. And then in marrying Mr. Emilius, should she determine to do so, she might be sure, almost sure, of dictating her own terms as to settlement. With Lord Fawn, with Lord George, or even with her cousin Frank, there would have been much difficulty. She thought that with Mr. Emilius she might obtain the undisputed command of her own income. But she did not quite make up her mind. She would see him and hear what he had to say. Her income was her own, and should she refuse Mr. Emilius, other suitors would no doubt come.
She dressed herself with considerable care,—having first thought of receiving him in bed. But as the trial had now gone on without her, it would be convenient that her recovery should be commenced. So she had herself dressed in a white morning wrapper with pink bows, and allowed the curl to be made fit to hang over her shoulder. And she put on a pair of pretty slippers, with gilt bindings, and took a laced handkerchief and a volume of Shelley,—and so she prepared herself to receive Mr. Emilius. Lizzie, since the reader first knew her, had begun to use a little colouring in the arrangement of her face, and now, in honour of her sickness, she was very pale indeed. But still, through the paleness, there was the faintest possible tinge of pink colour shining through the translucent pearl powder. Any one who knew Lizzie would be sure that, when she did paint, she would paint well.
The conversation was at first, of course, confined to the lady's health. She thought that she was, perhaps, getting better, though, as the doctor had told her, the reassuring symptoms might too probably only be too fallacious. She could eat nothing,—literally nothing. A few grapes out of the hothouse had supported her for the last week. This statement was foolish on Lizzie's part, as Mr. Emilius was a man of an inquiring nature, and there was not a grape in the garden. Her only delight was in reading and in her child's society. Sometimes she thought that she would pass away with the boy in her arms and her favourite volume of Shelley in her hand. Mr. Emilius expressed a hope that she would not pass away yet, for ever so many years. "Oh, my friend," said Lizzie, "what is life, that one should desire it?" Mr. Emilius of course reminded her that, though her life might be nothing to herself, it was very much indeed to those who loved her. "Yes;—to my boy," said Lizzie. Mr. Emilius informed her, with confidence, that it was not only her boy that loved her. There were others;—or, at any rate, one other. She might be sure of one faithful heart, if she cared for that. Lizzie only smiled, and threw from her taper fingers a little paper pellet into the middle of the room,—probably with the view of showing at what value she priced the heart of which Mr. Emilius was speaking.
The trial had occupied two days, Monday and Tuesday, and this was now the Wednesday. The result had been telegraphed to Mr. Emilius,—of course without any record of the serjeant's bitter speech,—and the suitor now gave the news to his lady-love. Those two horrid men had at last been found guilty, and punished with all the severity of the law. "Poor fellows," said Lady Eustace,—"poor Mr. Benjamin! Those ill-starred jewels have been almost as unkind to him as to me."
"He'll never come back alive, of course," said Mr. Emilius. "It'll kill him."
"And it will kill me too," said Lizzie. "I have a something here which tells me that I shall never recover. Nobody will ever believe what I have suffered about those paltry diamonds. But he coveted them. I never coveted them, Mr. Emilius; though I clung to them because they were my darling husband's last gift to me." Mr. Emilius assured her that he quite understood the facts, and appreciated all her feelings.
And now, as he thought, had come the time for pressing his suit. With widows, he had been told, the wooing should be brisk. He had already once asked her to be his wife, and of course she knew the motive of his journey to Scotland. "Dearest Lady Eustace," he said suddenly, "may I be allowed to renew the petition which I was once bold enough to make to you in London?"
"Petition!" exclaimed Lizzie.
"Ah yes; I can well understand that your indifference should enable you to forget it. Lady Eustace, I did venture to tell you—that—I loved you."
"Mr. Emilius, so many men have told me that."
"I can well believe it. Some have told you so, perhaps, from base, mercenary motives."
"You are very complimentary, sir."
"I shall never pay you any compliments, Lady Eustace. Whatever may be our future intercourse in life, you will only hear words of truth from my lips. Some have told you so from mercenary motives."—Mr. Emilius repeated the words with severity, and then paused to hear whether she would dare to argue with him. As she was silent, he changed his voice, and went on with that sweet, oily tone which had made his fortune for him.—"Some, no doubt, have spoken from the inner depths of their hearts. But none, Lady Eustace, have spoken with such adamantine truth, with so intense an anxiety, with so personal a solicitude for your welfare in this world and the next, as that,—or I should rather say those,—which glow within this bosom." Lizzie was certainly pleased by the manner in which he addressed her. She thought that a man ought to dare to speak out, and that on such an occasion as this he should venture to do so with some enthusiasm and some poetry. She considered that men generally were afraid of expressing themselves, and were as dumb as dogs from the want of becoming spirit. Mr. Emilius gesticulated, and struck his breast, and brought out his words as though he meant them.
"It is easy to say all that, Mr. Emilius," she replied.
"The saying of it is hard enough, Lady Eustace. You can never know how hard it is to speak from a full heart. But to feel it, I will not say is easy;—only to me, not to feel it is impossible. Lady Eustace, my heart is devoted to your heart, and seeks its comrade. It is sick with love and will not be stayed. It forces from me words,—words which will return upon me with all the bitterness of gall, if they be not accepted by you as faithful, ay and of great value."
"I know well the value of such a heart as yours, Mr. Emilius."
"Accept it then, dearest one."
"Love will not always go by command, Mr. Emilius."
"No indeed;—nor at command will it stay away. Do you think I have not tried that? Do you believe that for a man it can be pleasant to be rebuffed;—that for one who up to this day has always walked on, triumphant over every obstacle, who has conquered every nay that has obstructed his path, it can have less of bitterness than the bitterness of death to encounter a no from the lips of a woman?"
"A poor woman's no should be nothing to you, Mr. Emilius."
"It is everything to me,—death, destruction, annihilation,—unless I can overcome it. Darling of my heart, queen of my soul, empress presiding over the very spirit of my being, say,—shall I overcome it now?"
She had never been made love to after this fashion before. She knew, or half knew, that the man was a scheming hypocrite, craving her money, and following her in the hour of her troubles, because he might then have the best chance of success. She had no belief whatever in his love; and yet she liked it, and approved his proceedings. She liked lies, thinking them to be more beautiful than truth. To lie readily and cleverly, recklessly and yet successfully, was, according to the lessons which she had learned, a necessity in woman and an added grace in man. There was that wretched Macnulty, who would never lie; and what was the result? She was unfit even for the poor condition of life which she pretended to fill. When poor Macnulty had heard that Mr. Emilius was coming to the castle, and had not even mentioned her name, and again, when he had been announced on this very morning, the unfortunate woman had been unable to control her absurd disappointment. "Mr. Emilius," Lizzie said, throwing herself back upon her couch, "you press me very hard."
"I would press you harder still to gain the glory I covet." And he made a motion with his arms as though he had already got her tight within his grasp.
"You take advantage of my illness."
"In attacking a fortress do not the besiegers take all advantages? Dear Lady Eustace, allow me to return to London with the right of protecting your name at this moment, in which the false and the thoughtless are attacking it. You need a defender now."
"I can defend myself, sir, from all attacks. I do not know that any one can hurt me."
"God forbid that you should be hurt. Heaven forbid that even the winds of heaven should blow too harshly on my beloved. But my beloved is subject to the malice of the world. My beloved is a flower all beautiful within and without, but one whose stalk is weak, whose petals are too delicate, whose soft bloom is evanescent. Let me be the strong staff against which my beloved may blow in safety."
A vague idea came across Lizzie's mind that this glowing language had a taste of the Bible about it, and that, therefore, it was in some degree impersonal, and intended to be pious. She did not relish piety at such a crisis as this, and was, therefore, for a moment inclined to be cold. But she liked being called a flower, and was not quite sure whether she remembered her Bible rightly. The words which struck her ear as familiar might have come from Juan and Haidee, and if so, nothing could be more opportune. "Do you expect me to give you answer now, Mr. Emilius?"
"Yes,—now." And he stood before her in calm dignity, with his arms crossed upon his breast.
She did give him his answer then and there, but first she turned her face to the wall,—or rather to the back of the sofa, and burst into a flood of tears. It was a delicious moment to her, that in which she was weeping. She sobbed forth something about her child, something about her sorrows, something as to the wretchedness of her lot in life, something of her widowed heart,—something also of that duty to others which would compel her to keep her income in her own hands; and then she yielded herself to his entreaties.
* * * * *
That evening she thought it proper to tell Miss Macnulty what had occurred. "He is a great preacher of the gospel," she said, "and I know no position in the world more worthy of a woman's fondest admiration." Miss Macnulty was unable to answer a word. She could not congratulate her successful rival, even though her bread depended on it. She crept slowly out of the room, and went up-stairs, and wept.
Early in the month of June, Lady Eustace was led to the hymeneal altar by her clerical bridegroom. The wedding took place at the Episcopal church at Ayr, far from the eyes of curious Londoners. It need only be further said that Mr. Emilius could be persuaded to agree to no settlements prejudicial to that marital supremacy which should be attached to the husband; and that Lizzie, when the moment came, knowing that her betrothal had been made public to all the world, did not dare to recede from another engagement. It may be that Mr. Emilius will suit her as well as any husband that she could find,—unless it shall be found that his previous career has been too adventurous. After a certain fashion he will, perhaps, be tender to her; but he will have his own way in everything, and be no whit afraid when she is about to die in an agony of tears before his eyes. The writer of the present story may, however, declare that the future fate of this lady shall not be left altogether in obscurity.
What Was Said About It All at Matching
The Whitsuntide holidays were late this year, not taking place till the beginning of June, and were protracted till the 9th of that month. On the 8th Lizzie and Mr. Emilius became man and wife, and on that same day Lady Glencora Palliser entertained a large company of guests at Matching Priory. That the Duke of Omnium was there was quite a matter of course. Indeed, in these days Lady Glencora seldom separated herself far, or for any long time, from her husband's uncle,—doing her duty to the head of her husband's family in the most exemplary manner. People indeed said that she watched him narrowly, but of persons in high station common people will say anything. It was at any rate certain that she made the declining years of that great nobleman's life comfortable and decorous. Madame Max Goesler was also at Matching, a lady whose society always gave gratification to the duke. And Mr. Palliser was also there, taking the rest that was so needful to him;—by which it must be understood that after having worked all day, he was able to eat his dinner, and then only write a few letters before going to bed, instead of attending the House of Commons till two or three o'clock in the morning. But his mind was still deep in quints and semitenths. His great measure was even now in committee. His hundred and second clause had been carried, with only nine divisions against him of any consequence. Seven of the most material clauses had, no doubt, been postponed, and the great bone of contention as to the two superfluous farthings still remained before him. Nevertheless he fondly hoped that he would be able to send his bill complete to the House of Lords before the end of July. What might be done in the way of amendments there he had hitherto refused to consider. "If the peers choose to put themselves in opposition to the whole nation on a purely commercial question, the responsibility of all evils that may follow must be at their doors." This he had said as a commoner. A year or two at the farthest,—or more probably a few months,—would make him a peer; and then, no doubt, he would look at the matter in a wholly different light. But he worked at his great measure with a diligence which at any rate deserved success; and he now had with him a whole bevy of secretaries, private secretaries, chief clerks, and accountants, all of whom Lady Glencora captivated by her flattering ways, and laughed at behind their backs. Mr. Bonteen was there with his wife, repeatedly declaring to all his friends that England would achieve the glories of decimal coinage by his blood and over his grave,—and Barrington Erle, who took things much more easily, and Lord Chiltern, with his wife, who would occasionally ask her if she could explain to him the value of a quint, and many others whom it may not be necessary to name. Lord Fawn was not there. Lord Fawn, whose health had temporarily given way beneath the pressing labours of the India Board, was visiting his estates in Tipperary.
"She is married to-day, duke, down in Scotland,"—said Lady Glencora, sitting close to the duke's ear, for the duke was a little deaf. They were in the duke's small morning sitting-room, and no one else was present excepting Madame Max Goesler.
"Married to-morrow,—down in Scotland. Dear, dear! what is he?" The profession to which Mr. Emilius belonged had been mentioned to the duke more than once before.
"He's some sort of a clergyman, duke. You went and heard him preach, Madame Max. You can tell us what he's like."
"Oh, yes; he's a clergyman of our church," said Madame Goesler.
"A clergyman of our church;—dear, dear. And married in Scotland! That makes it stranger. I wonder what made a clergyman marry her?"
"Money, duke," said Lady Glencora, speaking very loud.
"Oh, ah, yes; money. So he'd got money; had he?"
"Not a penny, duke; but she had."
"Oh, ah, yes. I forgot. She was very well left; wasn't she? And so she has married a clergyman without a penny. Dear, dear! Did not you say she was very beautiful?"
"Let me see,—you went and saw her, didn't you?"
"I went to her twice,—and got quite scolded about it. Plantagenet said that if I wanted horrors I'd better go to Madame Tussaud. Didn't he, Madame Max?" Madame Max smiled and nodded her head.
"And what's the clergyman like?" asked the duke.
"Now, my dear, you must take up the running," said Lady Glencora, dropping her voice. "I ran after the lady, but it was you who ran after the gentleman." Then she raised her voice. "Madame Max will tell you all about it, duke. She knows him very well."
"You know him very well; do you? Dear, dear, dear!"
"I don't know him at all, duke, but I once went to hear him preach. He's one of those men who string words together, and do a good deal of work with a cambric pocket-handkerchief."
"A gentleman?" asked the duke.
"About as like a gentleman as you're like an archbishop," said Lady Glencora.
This tickled the duke amazingly. "He, he, he;—I don't see why I shouldn't be like an archbishop. If I hadn't happened to be a duke, I should have liked to be an archbishop. Both the archbishops take rank of me. I never quite understood why that was, but they do. And these things never can be altered when they're once settled. It's quite absurd, now-a-days, since they've cut the archbishops down so terribly. They were princes once, I suppose, and had great power. But it's quite absurd now, and so they must feel it. I have often thought about that a good deal, Glencora."
"And I think about poor Mrs. Arch, who hasn't got any rank at all."
"A great prelate having a wife does seem to be an absurdity," said Madame Max, who had passed some years of her life in a Catholic country.