But Mrs. Greystock had a plan. "Oh, mamma," said Ellinor, when the plan was proposed to her, "do not you think that would be cruel?"
"Cruel, my dear! no; certainly not cruel."
"She is such a virago."
"You think that because Lizzie Eustace has said so. I don't know that she's a virago at all. I believe her to be a very good sort of woman."
"Do you remember, mamma, what the admiral used to say of her?"
"The admiral, my dear, tried to borrow her money, as he did everybody's, and when she wouldn't give him any, then he said severe things. The poor admiral was never to be trusted in such matters."
"I don't think Frank would like it," said Ellinor. The plan was this. Lady Linlithgow, who, through her brother-in-law, the late Admiral Greystock, was connected with the dean's family, had made known her desire to have a new companion for six months. The lady was to be treated like a lady, but was to have no salary. Her travelling expenses were to be paid for her, and no duties were to be expected from her, except that of talking and listening to the countess.
"I really think it's the very thing for her," said Mrs. Greystock. "It's not like being a governess. She's not to have any salary."
"I don't know whether that makes it better, mamma."
"It would just be a visit to Lady Linlithgow. It is that which makes the difference, my dear."
Ellinor felt sure that her brother would not hear of such an engagement,—but he did hear of it, and, after various objections, gave a sort of sanction to it. It was not to be pressed upon Lucy if Lucy disliked it. Lady Linlithgow was to be made to understand that Lucy might leave whenever she pleased. It was to be an invitation, which Lucy might accept if she were so minded. Lucy's position as an honourable guest was to be assured to her. It was thought better that Lady Linlithgow should not be told of Lucy's engagement unless she asked questions;—or unless Lucy should choose to tell her. Every precaution was to be taken, and then Frank gave his sanction. He could understand, he said, that it might be inexpedient that Lucy should come at once to the deanery, as,—were she to do so,—she must remain there till her marriage, let the time be ever so long. "It might be two years," said the mother. "Hardly so long as that," said the son. "I don't think it would be—quite fair—to papa," said the mother. It was well that the argument was used behind the dean's back, as, had it been made in his hearing, the dean would have upset it at once. The dean was so short-sighted and imprudent, that he would have professed delight at the idea of having Lucy Morris as a resident at the deanery. Frank acceded to the argument,—and was ashamed of himself for acceding. Ellinor did not accede, nor did her sisters, but it was necessary that they should yield. Mrs. Greystock at once wrote to Lady Linlithgow, and Frank wrote by the same post to Lucy Morris. "As there must be a year's delay," he wrote, "we all here think it best that your visit to us should be postponed for a while. But if you object to the Linlithgow plan, say so at once. You shall be asked to do nothing disagreeable." He found the letter very difficult to write. He knew that she ought to have been welcomed at once to Bobsborough. And he knew, too, the reason on which his mother's objection was founded. But it might be two years before he could possibly marry Lucy Morris;—or it might be three. Would it be proper that she should be desired to make the deanery her home for so long and so indefinite a time? And when an engagement was for so long, could it be well that everybody should know it,—as everybody would if Lucy were to take up her residence permanently at the deanery? Some consideration, certainly, was due to his father.
And, moreover, it was absolutely necessary that he and Lizzie Eustace should understand each other as to that mutual pledge of truth which had passed between them.
In the meantime he received the following letter from Messrs. Camperdown:—
62, New Square, Lincoln's Inn, 15 September, 18—
After what passed in our chambers the other day, we think it best to let you know that we have been instructed by the executor of the late Sir Florian Eustace to file a bill in Chancery against the widow, Lady Eustace, for the recovery of valuable diamonds. You will oblige us by making the necessary communication to her ladyship, and will perhaps tell us the names of her ladyship's solicitors.
We are, dear sir, Your very obedient servants,
CAMPERDOWN & SON.
F. Greystock, Esq., M.P.
A few days after the receipt of this letter Frank started for Scotland.
Frank Greystock's Second Visit to Portray
On this occasion Frank Greystock went down to Portray Castle with the intention of staying at the house during the very short time that he would remain in Scotland. He was going there solely on his cousin's business,—with no view to grouse-shooting or other pleasure, and he purposed remaining but a very short time,—perhaps only one night. His cousin, moreover, had spoken of having guests with her, in which case there could be no tinge of impropriety in his doing so. And whether she had guests, or whether she had not, what difference could it really make? Mr. Andrew Gowran had already seen what there was to see, and could do all the evil that could be done. He could, if he were so minded, spread reports in the neighbourhood, and might, perhaps, have the power of communicating what he had discovered to the Eustace faction,—John Eustace, Mr. Camperdown, and Lord Fawn. That evil, if it were an evil, must be encountered with absolute indifference. So he went direct to the castle, and was received quietly, but very graciously, by his cousin Lizzie.
There were no guests then staying at Portray; but that very distinguished lady, Mrs. Carbuncle, with her niece, Miss Roanoke, had been there; as had also that very well-known nobleman, Lord George de Bruce Carruthers. Lord George and Mrs. Carbuncle were in the habit of seeing a good deal of each other, though, as all the world knew, there was nothing between them but the simplest friendship. And Sir Griffin Tewett had also been there, a young baronet who was supposed to be enamoured of that most gorgeous of beauties, Lucinda Roanoke. Of all these grand friends,—friends with whom Lizzie had become acquainted in London,—nothing further need be said here, as they were not at the castle when Frank arrived. When he came, whether by premeditated plan or by the chance of circumstances, Lizzie had no one with her at Portray,—except the faithful Macnulty.
"I thought to have found you with all the world here," said Frank,—the faithful Macnulty being then present.
"Well,—we have had people, but only for a couple of days. They are all coming again, but not till November. You hunt;—don't you, Frank?"
"I have no time for hunting. Why do you ask?"
"I'm going to hunt. It's a long way to go,—ten or twelve miles generally; but almost everybody hunts here. Mrs. Carbuncle is coming again, and she is about the best lady in England after hounds;—so they tell me. And Lord George is coming again."
"Who is Lord George?"
"You remember Lord George Carruthers, whom we all knew in London?"
"What,—the tall man with the hollow eyes and the big whiskers, whose life is a mystery to every one? Is he coming?"
"I like him, just because he isn't a ditto to every man one meets. And Sir Griffin Tewett is coming."
"Who is a ditto to everybody."
"Well;—yes; poor Sir Griffin! The truth is, he is awfully smitten with Mrs. Carbuncle's niece."
"Don't you go match-making, Lizzie," said Frank. "That Sir Griffin is a fool, we will all allow; but it's my belief he has wit enough to make himself pass off as a man of fortune, with very little to back it. He's at law with his mother, at law with his sisters, and at law with his younger brother."
"If he were at law with his great-grandmother, it would be nothing to me, Frank. She has her aunt to take care of her, and Sir Griffin is coming with Lord George."
"You don't mean to put up all their horses, Lizzie?"
"Well, not all. Lord George and Sir Griffin are to keep theirs at Troon, or Kilmarnock, or somewhere. The ladies will bring two apiece, and I shall have two of my own."
"And carriage-horses and hacks?"
"The carriage-horses are here,—of course."
"It will cost you a great deal of money, Lizzie."
"That's just what I tell her," said Miss Macnulty.
"I've been living here, not spending one shilling, for the last two months," said Lizzie, "and all for the sake of economy; yet people think that no woman was ever left so rich. Surely I can afford to see a few friends for one month in the year. If I find I can't afford so much as that, I shall let the place, and go and live abroad somewhere. It's too much to suppose that a woman should shut herself up here for six or eight months and see nobody all the time."
On that, the day of Frank's arrival, not a word was said about the necklace, nor of Lord Fawn, nor of that mutual pledge which had been taken and given down among the rocks. Frank, before dinner, went out about the place, that he might see how things were going on, and observe whether the widow was being ill-treated and unfairly eaten up by her dependants. He was, too, a little curious as to a matter as to which his curiosity was soon relieved. He had hardly reached the out-buildings which lay behind the kitchen-gardens on his way to the Portray woods, before he encountered Andy Gowran. That faithful adherent of the family raised his hand to his cap and bobbed his head, and then silently, and with renewed diligence, applied himself to the job which he had in hand. The gate of the little yard in which the cow-shed stood was off its hinges, and Andy was resetting the post and making the fence tight and tidy. Frank stood a moment watching him, and then asked after his health. "'Deed am I nae that to boost about in the way of bodily heelth, Muster Greystock. I've just o'er mony things to tent to, to tent to my ain sell as a prudent mon ought. It's airly an' late wi' me, Muster Greystock; and the lumbagy just a' o'er a mon isn't the pleasantest freend in the warld." Frank said that he was sorry to hear so bad an account of Mr. Gowran's health, and passed on. It was not for him to refer to the little scene in which Mr. Gowran had behaved so badly and had shaken his head. If the misbehaviour had been condoned by Lady Eustace, the less that he said about it the better. Then he went on through the woods, and was well aware that Mr. Gowran's fostering care had not been abated by his disapproval of his mistress. The fences had been repaired since Frank was there, and stones had been laid on the road or track over which was to be carried away the under-wood which it would be Lady Eustace's privilege to cut during the coming winter.
Frank was not alone for one moment with his cousin during that evening, but in the presence of Miss Macnulty all the circumstances of the necklace were discussed. "Of course it is my own," said Lady Eustace, standing up,—"my own to do just what I please with. If they go on like this with me, they will almost tempt me to sell it for what it will fetch,—just to prove to them that I can do so. I have half a mind to sell it, and then send them the money, and tell them to put it by for my little Flory. Would not that serve them right, Frank?"
"I don't think I'd do that, Lizzie."
"Why not? You always tell me what not to do, but you never say what I ought!"
"That is because I am so wise and prudent. If you were to attempt to sell the diamonds they would stop you, and would not give you credit for the generous purpose afterwards."
"They wouldn't stop you if you sold the ring you wear." The ring had been given to him by Lucy after their engagement, and was the only present she had ever made him. It had been purchased out of her own earnings, and had been put on his finger by her own hand. Either from accident or craft he had not worn it when he had been before at Portray, and Lizzie had at once observed it as a thing she had never seen before. She knew well that he would not buy such a ring. Who had given him the ring? Frank almost blushed as he looked down at the trinket, and Lizzie was sure that it had been given by that sly little creeping thing, Lucy. "Let me look at the ring," she said. "Nobody could stop you if you chose to sell this to me."
"Little things are always less troublesome than big things," he said.
"What is the price?" she asked.
"It is not in the market, Lizzie. Nor should your diamonds be there. You must be content to let them take what legal steps they may think fit, and defend your property. After that you can do as you please; but keep them safe till the thing is settled. If I were you I would have them at the bankers."
"Yes;—and then when I asked for them be told that they couldn't be given up to me, because of Mr. Camperdown or the Lord Chancellor. And what's the good of a thing locked up? You wear your ring;—why shouldn't I wear my necklace?"
"I have nothing to say against it."
"It isn't that I care for such things. Do I, Julia?"
"All ladies like them, I suppose," said that stupidest and most stubborn of all humble friends, Miss Macnulty.
"I don't like them at all, and you know I don't. I hate them. They have been the misery of my life. Oh, how they have tormented me! Even when I am asleep I dream about them, and think that people steal them. They have never given me one moment's happiness. When I have them on I am always fearing that Camperdown and Son are behind me and are going to clutch them. And I think too well of myself to believe that anybody will care more for me because of a necklace. The only good they have ever done me has been to save me from a man who I now know never cared for me. But they are mine;—and therefore I choose to keep them. Though I am only a woman I have an idea of my own rights, and will defend them as far as they go. If you say I ought not to sell them, Frank, I'll keep them; but I'll wear them as commonly as you do that gage d'amour which you carry on your finger. Nobody shall ever see me without them. I won't go to any old dowager's tea-party without them. Mr. John Eustace has chosen to accuse me of stealing them."
"I don't think John Eustace has ever said a word about them," said Frank.
"Mr. Camperdown, then;—the people who choose to call themselves the guardians and protectors of my boy, as if I were not his best guardian and protector! I'll show them at any rate that I'm not ashamed of my booty. I don't see why I should lock them up in a musty old bank. Why don't you send your ring to the bank?" Frank could not but feel that she did it all very well. In the first place she was very pretty in the display of her half-mock indignation. Though she used some strong words, she used them with an air that carried them off and left no impression that she had been either vulgar or violent. And then, though the indignation was half mock, it was also half real, and her courage and spirit were attractive. Greystock had at last taught himself to think that Mr. Camperdown was not justified in the claim which he made, and that in consequence of that unjust claim Lizzie Eustace had been subjected to ill-usage. "Did you ever see this bone of contention," she asked;—"this fair Helen for which Greeks and Romans are to fight?"
"I never saw the necklace, if you mean that."
"I'll fetch it. You ought to see it, as you have to talk about it so often."
"Can I get it?" asked Miss Macnulty.
"Heaven and earth! To suppose that I should ever keep them under less than seven keys, and that there should be any of the locks that anybody should be able to open except myself!"
"And where are the seven keys?" asked Frank.
"Next to my heart," said Lizzie, putting her hand on her left side. "And when I sleep they are always tied round my neck in a bag, and the bag never escapes from my grasp. And I have such a knife under my pillow, ready for Mr. Camperdown should he come to seize them!" Then she ran out of the room, and in a couple of minutes returned with the necklace hanging loose in her hand. It was part of her little play to show by her speed that the close locking of the jewels was a joke, and that the ornament, precious as it was, received at her hands no other treatment than might any indifferent feminine bauble. Nevertheless within those two minutes she had contrived to unlock the heavy iron case which always stood beneath the foot of her bed. "There," she said, chucking the necklace across the table to Frank, so that he was barely able to catch it. "There is ten thousand pounds' worth, as they tell me. Perhaps you will not believe me when I say that I should have the greatest satisfaction in the world in throwing them out among those blue waves yonder, did I not think that Camperdown and Son would fish them up again."
Frank spread the necklace on the table, and stood up to look at it, while Miss Macnulty came and gazed at the jewels over his shoulder. "And that is worth ten thousand pounds," said he.
"So people say."
"And your husband gave it you just as another man gives a trinket that costs ten shillings!"
"Just as Lucy Morris gave you that ring."
He smiled, but took no other notice of the accusation. "I am so poor a man," said he, "that this string of stones, which you throw about the room like a child's toy, would be the making of me."
"Take it and be made," said Lizzie.
"It seems an awful thing to me to have so much value in my hands," said Miss Macnulty, who had lifted the necklace off the table. "It would buy an estate; wouldn't it?"
"It would buy the honourable estate of matrimony if it belonged to many women," said Lizzie,—"but it hasn't had just that effect with me;—has it, Frank?"
"You haven't used it with that view yet."
"Will you have it, Frank?" she said. "Take it with all its encumbrances and weight of cares. Take it with all the burthen of Messrs. Camperdown's lawsuits upon it. You shall be as welcome to it as flowers were ever welcomed in May."
"The encumbrances are too heavy," said Frank.
"You prefer a little ring."
"I don't doubt but you're right," said Lizzie. "Who fears to rise will hardly get a fall. But there they are for you to look at, and there they shall remain for the rest of the evening." So saying, she clasped the string round Miss Macnulty's throat. "How do you feel, Julia, with an estate upon your neck? Five hundred acres at twenty pounds an acre. Let us call it five hundred pounds a year. That's about it." Miss Macnulty looked as though she did not like it, but she stood for a time bearing the precious burthen, while Frank explained to his cousin that she could hardly buy land to pay her five per cent. They were then taken off and left lying on the table till Lady Eustace took them with her as she went to bed. "I do feel so like some naughty person in the 'Arabian Nights,'" she said, "who has got some great treasure that always brings him into trouble; but he can't get rid of it, because some spirit has given it to him. At last some morning it turns into slate stones, and then he has to be a water-carrier, and is happy ever afterwards, and marries the king's daughter. What sort of a king's son will there be for me when this turns into slate stones? Good night, Frank." Then she went off with her diamonds and her bed-candle.
On the following day Frank suggested that there should be a business conversation. "That means that I am to sit silent and obedient while you lecture me," she said. But she submitted, and they went together into the little sitting-room which looked out over the sea,—the room where she kept her Shelley and her Byron, and practised her music and did water-colours, and sat, sometimes, dreaming of a Corsair. "And now, my gravest of Mentors, what must a poor ignorant female Telemachus do, so that the world may not trample on her too heavily?" He began by telling her what had happened between himself and Lord Fawn, and recommended her to write to that unhappy nobleman, returning any present that she might have received from him, and expressing, with some mild but intelligible sarcasm, her regret that their paths should have crossed each other. "I've worse in store for his lordship than that," said Lizzie.
"Do you mean by any personal interview?"
"I think you are wrong, Lizzie."
"Of course you do. Men have become so soft themselves, that they no longer dare to think even of punishing those who behave badly, and they expect women to be softer and more faineant than themselves. I have been ill-used."
"Certainly you have."
"And I will be revenged. Look here, Frank; if your view of these things is altogether different from mine, let us drop the subject. Of all living human beings you are the one that is most to me now. Perhaps you are more than any other ever was. But, even for you, I cannot alter my nature. Even for you I would not alter it if I could. That man has injured me, and all the world knows it. I will have my revenge, and all the world shall know that. I did wrong;—I am sensible enough of that."
"What wrong do you mean?"
"I told a man whom I never loved that I would marry him. God knows that I have been punished."
"Perhaps, Lizzie, it is better as it is."
"A great deal better. I will tell you now that I could never induce myself to go into church with that man as his bride. With a man I didn't love I might have done so, but not with a man I despised."
"You have been saved, then, from a greater evil."
"Yes;—but not the less is his injury to me. It is not because he despises me that he rejects me;—nor is it because he thought that I had taken property that was not my own."
"Because he was afraid the world would say that I had done so. Poor shallow creature! But he shall be punished."
"I do not know how you can punish him."
"Leave that to me. I have another thing to do much more difficult." She paused, looking for a moment up into his face, and then turning her eyes upon the ground. As he said nothing, she went on. "I have to excuse myself to you for having accepted him."
"I have never blamed you."
"Not in words. How should you? But if you have not blamed me in your heart, I despise you. I know you have. I have seen it in your eyes when you have counselled me, either to take the poor creature or to leave him. Speak out, now, like a man. Is it not so?"
"I never thought you loved him."
"Loved him! Is there anything in him or about him that a woman could love? Is he not a poor social stick;—a bit of half-dead wood, good to make a post of, if one wants a post? I did want a post so sorely then!"
"I don't see why."
"No, indeed. It was natural that you should be inclined to marry again."
"Natural that I should be inclined to marry again! And is that all? It is hard sometimes to see whether men are thick-witted, or hypocrites so perfect that they seem to be so. I cannot bring myself to think you thick-witted, Frank."
"Then I must be the perfect hypocrite,—of course."
"You believed I accepted Lord Fawn because it was natural that I should wish to marry again! Frank, you believed nothing of the kind. I accepted him in my anger, in my misery, in my despair, because I had expected you to come to me,—and you had not come!" She had thrown herself now into a chair, and sat looking at him. "You had told me that you would come, and you had stayed away. It was you, Frank, that I wanted to punish then;—but there was no punishment in it for you. When is it to be, Frank?"
"When is what to be?" he asked, in a low voice, all but dumb-founded. How was he to put an end to this conversation, and what was he to say to her?
"Your marriage with that little wizened thing who gave you the ring—that prim morsel of feminine propriety who has been clever enough to make you believe that her morality would suffice to make you happy."
"I will not hear Lucy Morris abused, Lizzie."
"Is that abuse? Is it abuse to say that she is moral and proper? But, sir, I shall abuse her. I know her for what she is, while your eyes are sealed. She is wise and moral, and decorous and prim; but she is a hypocrite, and has no touch of real heart in her composition. Not abuse her when she has robbed me of all—all—all that I have in the world! Go to her. You had better go at once. I did not mean to say all this, but it has been said, and you must leave me. I, at any rate, cannot play the hypocrite;—I wish I could." He rose and came to her, and attempted to take her hand, but she flung away from him. "No!" she said—"never again; never, unless you will tell me that the promise you made me when we were down on the sea-shore was a true promise. Was that truth, sir, or was it a—lie?"
"Lizzie, do not use such a word as that to me."
"I cannot stand picking my words when the whole world is going round with me, and my very brain is on fire. What is it to me what my words are? Say one syllable to me, and every word I utter again while breath is mine shall be spoken to do you pleasure. If you cannot say it, it is nothing to me what you or any one may think of my words. You know my secret, and I care not who else knows it. At any rate, I can die!" Then she paused a moment, and after that stalked steadily out of the room.
That afternoon Frank took a long walk by himself over the mountains, nearly to the Cottage and back again; and on his return was informed that Lady Eustace was ill, and had gone to bed. At any rate, she was too unwell to come down to dinner. He, therefore, and Miss Macnulty sat down to dine, and passed the evening together without other companionship. Frank had resolved during his walk that he would leave Portray the next day; but had hardly resolved upon anything else. One thing, however, seemed certain to him. He was engaged to marry Lucy Morris, and to that engagement he must be true. His cousin was very charming,—and had never looked so lovely in his eyes as when she had been confessing her love for him. And he had wondered at and admired her courage, her power of language, and her force. He could not quite forget how useful would be her income to him. And, added to this, there was present to him an unwholesome feeling,—ideas absolutely at variance with those better ideas which had prompted him when he was writing his offer to Lucy Morris in his chambers,—that a woman such as was his cousin Lizzie was fitter to be the wife of a man thrown, as he must be, into the world, than a dear, quiet, domestic little girl such as Lucy Morris. But to Lucy Morris he was engaged, and therefore there was an end of it.
The next morning he sent his love to his cousin, asking whether he should see her before he went. It was still necessary that he should know what attorneys to employ on her behalf if the threatened bill were filed by Messrs. Camperdown. Then he suggested a firm in his note. Might he put the case into the hands of Mr. Townsend, who was a friend of his own? There came back to him a scrap of paper, an old envelope, on which were written the names of Mowbray and Mopus;—Mowbray and Mopus in a large scrawling hand, and with pencil. He put the scrap of paper into his pocket, feeling that he could not remonstrate with her at this moment, and was prepared to depart, when there came a message to him. Lady Eustace was still unwell, but had risen; and if it were not giving him too much trouble, would see him before he went. He followed the messenger to the same little room, looking out upon the sea, and then found her, dressed indeed, but with a white morning wrapper on, and with hair loose over her shoulders. Her eyes were red with weeping, and her face was pale, and thin, and woe-begone. "I am so sorry that you are ill, Lizzie," he said.
"Yes, I am ill;—sometimes very ill; but what does it matter? I did not send for you, Frank, to speak of aught so trivial as that. I have a favour to ask."
"Of course I will grant it."
"It is your forgiveness for my conduct yesterday."
"Say that you forgive me. Say it!"
"How can I forgive where there has been no fault?"
"There has been fault. Say that you forgive me." And she stamped her foot as she demanded his pardon.
"I do forgive you," he said.
"And now, one farewell." She then threw herself upon his breast and kissed him. "Now, go," she said; "go, and come no more to me, unless you would see me mad. May God Almighty bless you, and make you happy!" As she uttered this prayer she held the door in her hand, and there was nothing for him but to leave her.
Mr. and Mrs. Hittaway in Scotland
A great many people go to Scotland in the autumn. When you have your autumn holiday in hand to dispose of it, there is nothing more aristocratic that you can do than go to Scotland. Dukes are more plentiful there than in Pall Mall, and you will meet an earl or at least a lord on every mountain. Of course, if you merely travel about from inn to inn, and neither have a moor of your own nor stay with any great friend, you don't quite enjoy the cream of it; but to go to Scotland in August and stay there, perhaps, till the end of September, is about the most certain step you can take towards autumnal fashion. Switzerland and the Tyrol, and even Italy, are all redolent of Mr. Cook, and in those beautiful lands you become subject at least to suspicion.
By no persons was the duty of adhering to the best side of society more clearly appreciated than by Mr. and Mrs. Hittaway of Warwick Square. Mr. Hittaway was Chairman of the Board of Civil Appeals, and was a man who quite understood that there are chairmen—and chairmen. He could name to you three or four men holding responsible permanent official positions quite as good as that he filled in regard to salary,—which, as he often said of his own, was a mere nothing, just a poor two thousand pounds a year, not as much as a grocer would make in a decent business,—but they were simply head clerks and nothing more. Nobody knew anything of them. They had no names. You did not meet them anywhere. Cabinet ministers never heard of them; and nobody out of their own offices ever consulted them. But there are others, and Mr. Hittaway felt greatly conscious that he was one of them, who move altogether in a different sphere. One minister of State would ask another whether Hittaway had been consulted on this or on that measure;—so at least the Hittawayites were in the habit of reporting. The names of Mr. and Mrs. Hittaway were constantly in the papers. They were invited to evening gatherings at the houses of both the alternate Prime Ministers. They were to be seen at fashionable gatherings up the river. They attended concerts at Buckingham Palace. Once a year they gave a dinner-party which was inserted in the "Morning Post." On such occasions at least one Cabinet Minister always graced the board. In fact, Mr. Hittaway, as Chairman of the Board of Civil Appeals, was somebody; and Mrs. Hittaway, as his wife and as sister to a peer, was somebody also. The reader will remember that Mrs. Hittaway had been a Fawn before she married.
There is this drawback upon the happy condition which Mr. Hittaway had achieved,—that it demands a certain expenditure. Let nobody dream that he can be somebody without having to pay for that honour;—unless, indeed, he be a clergyman. When you go to a concert at Buckingham Palace you pay nothing, it is true, for your ticket; and a Cabinet Minister dining with you does not eat or drink more than your old friend Jones the attorney. But in some insidious, unforeseen manner,—in a way that can only be understood after much experience,—these luxuries of fashion do make a heavy pull on a modest income. Mrs. Hittaway knew this thoroughly, having much experience, and did make her fight bravely. For Mr. Hittaway's income was no more than modest. A few thousand pounds he had of his own when he married, and his Clara had brought to him the unpretending sum of fifteen hundred. But, beyond that, the poor official salary,—which was less than what a decent grocer would make,—was their all. The house in Warwick Square they had prudently purchased on their marriage,—when houses in Warwick Square were cheaper than they are now,—and there they carried on their battle, certainly with success. But two thousand a year does not go very far in Warwick Square, even though you sit rent free, if you have a family and absolutely must keep a carriage. It therefore resulted that when Mr. and Mrs. Hittaway went to Scotland, which they would endeavour to do every year, it was very important that they should accomplish their aristocratic holiday as visitors at the house of some aristocratic friend. So well had they played their cards in this respect, that they seldom failed altogether. In one year they had been the guests of a great marquis quite in the north, and that had been a very glorious year. To talk of Stackallan was, indeed, a thing of beauty. But in that year Mr. Hittaway had made himself very useful in London. Since that they had been at delicious shooting lodges in Ross and Inverness-shire, had visited a millionaire at his palace amidst the Argyle mountains, had been feted in a western island, had been bored by a Dundee dowager, and put up with a Lothian laird. But the thing had been almost always done, and the Hittaways were known as people that went to Scotland. He could handle a gun, and was clever enough never to shoot a keeper. She could read aloud, could act a little, could talk or hold her tongue; and let her hosts be who they would and as mighty as you please, never caused them trouble by seeming to be out of their circle, and on that account requiring peculiar attention.
On this occasion Mr. and Mrs. Hittaway were the guests of old Lady Pierrepoint, in Dumfries. There was nothing special to recommend Lady Pierrepoint except that she had a large house and a good income, and that she liked to have people with her of whom everybody knew something. So far was Lady Pierrepoint from being high in the Hittaway world, that Mrs. Hittaway felt herself called upon to explain to her friends that she was forced to go to Dumdum House by the duties of old friendship. Dear old Lady Pierrepoint had been insisting on it for the last ten years. And there was this advantage, that Dumfriesshire is next to Ayrshire, that Dumdum was not very far,—some twenty or thirty miles,—from Portray, and that she might learn something about Lizzie Eustace in her country house.
It was nearly the end of August when the Hittaways left London to stay an entire month with Lady Pierrepoint. Mr. Hittaway had very frequently explained his defalcation as to fashion,—in that he was remaining in London for three weeks after Parliament had broken up,—by the peculiar exigencies of the Board of Appeals in that year. To one or two very intimate friends Mrs. Hittaway had hinted that everything must be made to give way to this horrid business of Fawn's marriage. "Whatever happens, and at whatever cost, that must be stopped," she had ventured to say to Lady Glencora Palliser,—who, however, could hardly be called one of her very intimate friends. "I don't see it at all," said Lady Glencora. "I think Lady Eustace is very nice. And why shouldn't she marry Lord Fawn if she's engaged to him?" "But you have heard of the necklace, Lady Glencora?" "Yes, I've heard of it. I wish anybody would come to me and try and get my diamonds! They should hear what I would say." Mrs. Hittaway greatly admired Lady Glencora, but not the less was she determined to persevere.
Had Lord Fawn been altogether candid and open with his family at this time, some trouble might have been saved; for he had almost altogether resolved that, let the consequences be what they might, he would not marry Lizzie Eustace. But he was afraid to say this even to his own sister. He had promised to marry the woman, and he must walk very warily, or the objurgations of the world would be too many for him. "It must depend altogether on her conduct, Clara," he had said when last his sister had persecuted him on the subject. She was not, however, sorry to have an opportunity of learning something of the lady's doings. Mr. Hittaway had more than once called on Mr. Camperdown. "Yes," Mr. Camperdown had said in answer to a question from Lord Fawn's brother-in-law; "she would play old gooseberry with the property if we hadn't some one to look after it. There's a fellow named Gowran who has lived there all his life, and we depend very much upon him."
It is certainly true, that as to many points of conduct, women are less nice than men. Mr. Hittaway would not probably have condescended himself to employ espionage, but Mrs. Hittaway was less scrupulous. She actually went down to Troon and had an interview with Mr. Gowran, using freely the names of Mr. Camperdown and of Lord Fawn; and some ten days afterwards Mr. Gowran travelled as far as Dumfries, and Dumdum, and had an interview with Mrs. Hittaway. The result of all this, and of further inquiries, will be shown by the following letter from Mrs. Hittaway to her sister Amelia:—
Dumdum, 9th September, 18—.
MY DEAR AMELIA,
Here we are, and here we have to remain to the end of the month. Of course it suits, and all that; but it is awfully dull. Richmond for this time of the year is a paradise to it; and as for coming to Scotland every autumn, I am sick of it. Only what is one to do if one lives in London? If it wasn't for Orlando and the children, I'd brazen it out, and let people say what they pleased. As for health, I'm never so well as at home, and I do like having my own things about me. Orlando has literally nothing to do here. There is no shooting, except pheasants, and that doesn't begin till October.
But I'm very glad I've come as to Frederic, and the more so, as I have learned the truth as to that Mr. Greystock. She, Lady Eustace, is a bad creature in every way. She still pretends that she is engaged to Frederic, and tells everybody that the marriage is not broken off, and yet she has her cousin with her, making love to him in the most indecent way. People used to say in her favour that at any rate she never flirted. I never quite know what people mean when they talk of flirting. But you may take my word for it that she allows her cousin to embrace her, and embraces him. I would not say it if I could not prove it. It is horrible to think of it, when one remembers that she is almost justified in saying that Frederic is engaged to her.
No doubt he was engaged to her. It was a great misfortune, but, thank God, is not yet past remedy. He has some foolish feeling of what he calls honour; as if a man can be bound in honour to marry a woman who has deceived him in every point! She still sticks to the diamonds,—if she has not sold them, as I believe she has; and Mr. Camperdown is going to bring an action against her in the High Court of Chancery. But still Frederic will not absolutely declare the thing off. I feel, therefore, that it is my duty to let him know what I have learned. I should be the last to stir in such a matter unless I was sure I could prove it. But I don't quite like to write to Frederic. Will mamma see him, and tell him what I say? Of course you will show this letter to mamma. If not, I must postpone it till I am in town;—but I think it would come better from mamma. Mamma may be sure that she is a bad woman.
And now what do you think of your Mr. Greystock? As sure as I am here he was seen with his arm round his cousin's waist, sitting out of doors,—kissing her! I was never taken in by that story of his marrying Lucy Morris. He is the last man in the world to marry a governess. He is over head and ears in debt, and if he marries at all, he must marry some one with money. I really think that mamma, and you, and all of you have been soft about that girl. I believe she has been a good governess,—that is, good after mamma's easy fashion; and I don't for a moment suppose that she is doing anything underhand. But a governess with a lover never does suit, and I'm sure it won't suit in this case. If I were you I would tell her. I think it would be the best charity. Whether they mean to marry I can't tell,—Mr. Greystock, that is, and this woman; but they ought to mean it;—that's all.
Let me know at once whether mamma will see Frederic, and speak to him openly. She is quite at liberty to use my name; only nobody but mamma should see this letter.
Love to them all, Your most affectionate sister,
In writing to Amelia instead of to her mother, Mrs. Hittaway was sure that she was communicating her ideas to at least two persons at Fawn Court, and that therefore there would be discussion. Had she written to her mother, her mother might probably have held her peace, and done nothing.
"It Won't Be True"
Mrs. Greystock, in making her proposition respecting Lady Linlithgow, wrote to Lady Fawn, and by the same post Frank wrote to Lucy. But before those letters reached Fawn Court there had come that other dreadful letter from Mrs. Hittaway. The consternation caused at Fawn Court in respect to Mr. Greystock's treachery almost robbed of its importance the suggestion made as to Lord Fawn. Could it be possible that this man, who had so openly and in so manly a manner engaged himself to Lucy Morris, should now be proposing to himself a marriage with his rich cousin? Lady Fawn did not believe that it was possible. Clara had not seen those horrid things with her own eyes, and other people might be liars. But Amelia shook her head. Amelia evidently believed that all manner of iniquities were possible to man. "You see, mamma, the sacrifice he was making was so very great!" "But he made it!" pleaded Lady Fawn. "No, mamma, he said he would make it. Men do these things. It is very horrid, but I think they do them more now than they used to. It seems to me that nobody cares now what he does, if he's not to be put into prison." It was resolved between these two wise ones that nothing at the present should be said to Lucy or to any one of the family. They would wait awhile, and in the meantime they attempted,—as far as it was possible to make the attempt without express words,—to let Lucy understand that she might remain at Fawn Court if she pleased. While this was going on, Lord Fawn did come down once again, and on that occasion Lucy simply absented herself from the dinner-table and from the family circle for that evening. "He's coming in, and you've got to go to prison again," Nina said to her, with a kiss.
The matter to which Mrs. Hittaway's letter more specially alluded was debated between the mother and daughter at great length. They, indeed, were less brave and less energetic than was the married daughter of the family; but as they saw Lord Fawn more frequently, they knew better than Mrs. Hittaway the real state of the case. They felt sure that he was already sufficiently embittered against Lady Eustace, and thought that therefore the peculiarly unpleasant task assigned to Lady Fawn need not be performed. Lady Fawn had not the advantage of living so much in the world as her daughter, and was oppressed by, perhaps, a squeamish delicacy. "I really could not tell him about her sitting and—and kissing the man. Could I, my dear?" "I couldn't," said Amelia;—"but Clara would."
"And to tell the truth," continued Lady Fawn, "I shouldn't care a bit about it if it was not for poor Lucy. What will become of her if that man is untrue to her?"
"Nothing on earth would make her believe it, unless it came from himself," said Amelia,—who really did know something of Lucy's character. "Till he tells her, or till she knows that he's married, she'll never believe it."
Then, after a few days, there came those other letters from Bobsborough,—one from the dean's wife and the other from Frank. The matter there proposed it was necessary that they should discuss with Lucy, as the suggestion had reached Lucy as well as themselves. She at once came to Lady Fawn with her lover's letter, and with a gentle merry laughing face declared that the thing would do very well. "I am sure I should get on with her, and I should know that it wouldn't be for long," said Lucy.
"The truth is, we don't want you to go at all," said Lady Fawn.
"Oh, but I must," said Lucy in her sharp, decided tone. "I must go. I was bound to wait till I heard from Mr. Greystock, because it is my first duty to obey him. But of course I cannot stay here after what has passed. As Nina says, it is simply going to prison when Lord Fawn comes here."
"Nina is an impertinent little chit," said Amelia.
"She is the dearest little friend in all the world," said Lucy, "and always tells the exact truth. I do go to prison, and when he comes I feel that I ought to go to prison. Of course, I must go away. What does it matter? Lady Linlithgow won't be exactly like you,"—and she put her little hand upon Lady Fawn's fat arm caressingly, "and I sha'n't have you all to spoil me; but I shall be simply waiting till he comes. Everything now must be no more than waiting till he comes."
If it was to be that "he" would never come, this was very dreadful. Amelia clearly thought that "he" would never come, and Lady Fawn was apt to think her daughter wiser than herself. And if Mr. Greystock were such as Mrs. Hittaway had described him to be,—if there were to be no such coming as that for which Lucy fondly waited,—then there would be reason ten-fold strong why she should not leave Fawn Court and go to Lady Linlithgow. In such case,—when that blow should fall,—Lucy would require very different treatment than might be expected for her from the hands of Lady Linlithgow. She would fade and fall to the earth like a flower with an insect at its root. She would be like a wounded branch, into which no sap would run. With such misfortune and wretchedness possibly before her, Lady Fawn could not endure the idea that Lucy should be turned out to encounter it all beneath the cold shade of Lady Linlithgow's indifference. "My dear," she said, "let bygones be bygones. Come down and meet Lord Fawn. Nobody will say anything. After all, you were provoked very much, and there has been quite enough about it."
This, from Lady Fawn, was almost miraculous,—from Lady Fawn, to whom her son had ever been the highest of human beings! But Lucy had told the tale to her lover, and her lover approved of her going. Perhaps there was acting upon her mind some feeling, of which she was hardly conscious, that as long as she remained at Fawn Court she would not see her lover. She had told him that she could make herself supremely happy in the simple knowledge that he loved her. But we all know how far such declarations should be taken as true. Of course, she was longing to see him. "If he would only pass by the road," she would say to herself, "so that I might peep at him through the gate!" She had no formed idea in her own mind that she would be able to see him should she go to Lady Linlithgow, but still there would be the chances of her altered life! She would tell Lady Linlithgow the truth, and why should Lady Linlithgow refuse her so rational a pleasure? There was, of course, a reason why Frank should not come to Fawn Court; but the house in Bruton Street need not be closed to him. "I hardly know how to love you enough," she said to Lady Fawn, "but indeed I must go. I do so hope the time may come when you and Mr. Greystock may be friends. Of course, it will come. Shall it not?"
"Who can look into the future?" said the wise Amelia.
"Of course, if he is your husband, we shall love him," said the less wise Lady Fawn.
"He is to be my husband," said Lucy, springing up. "What do you mean? Do you mean anything?" Lady Fawn, who was not at all wise, protested that she meant nothing.
What were they to do? On that special day they merely stipulated that there should be a day's delay before Lady Fawn answered Mrs. Greystock's letter,—so that she might sleep upon it. The sleeping on it meant that further discussion which was to take place between Lady Fawn and her second daughter in her ladyship's bed-room that night. During all this period the general discomfort of Fawn Court was increased by a certain sullenness on the part of Augusta, the elder daughter, who knew that letters had come and that consultations were being held,—but who was not admitted to those consultations. Since the day on which poor Augusta had been handed over to Lizzie Eustace as her peculiar friend in the family, there had always existed a feeling that she, by her position, was debarred from sympathising in the general desire to be quit of Lizzie; and then, too, poor Augusta was never thoroughly trusted by that great guide of the family, Mrs. Hittaway. "She couldn't keep it to herself if you'd give her gold to do it," Mrs. Hittaway would say. Consequently Augusta was sullen and conscious of ill-usage. "Have you fixed upon anything?" she said to Lucy that evening.
"Not quite;—only I am to go away."
"I don't see why you should go away at all. Frederic doesn't come here so very often, and when he does come he doesn't say much to any one. I suppose it's all Amelia's doing."
"Nobody wants me to go, only I feel that I ought. Mr. Greystock thinks it best."
"I suppose he's going to quarrel with us all."
"No, dear. I don't think he wants to quarrel with any one;—but above all he must not quarrel with me. Lord Fawn has quarrelled with him, and that's a misfortune,—just for the present."
"And where are you going?"
"Nothing has been settled yet; but we are talking of Lady Linlithgow,—if she will take me."
"Lady Linlithgow! Oh dear!"
"Won't it do?"
"They say she is the most dreadful old woman in London. Lady Eustace told such stories about her."
"Do you know, I think I shall rather like it."
But things were very different with Lucy the next morning. That discussion in Lady Fawn's room was protracted till midnight, and then it was decided that just a word should be said to Lucy, so that, if possible, she might be induced to remain at Fawn Court. Lady Fawn was to say the word, and on the following morning she was closeted with Lucy. "My dear," she began, "we all want you to do us a particular favour." As she said this, she held Lucy by the hand, and no one looking at them would have thought that Lucy was a governess and that Lady Fawn was her employer.
"Dear Lady Fawn, indeed it is better that I should go."
"Stay just one month."
"I couldn't do that, because then this chance of a home would be gone. Of course, we can't wait a month before we let Mrs. Greystock know."
"We must write to her, of course."
"And then, you see, Mr. Greystock wishes it." Lady Fawn knew that Lucy could be very firm, and had hardly hoped that anything could be done by simple persuasion. They had long been accustomed among themselves to call her obstinate, and knew that even in her acts of obedience she had a way of obeying after her own fashion. It was as well, therefore, that the thing to be said should be said at once.
"My dear Lucy, has it ever occurred to you that there may be a slip between the cup and the lip?"
"What do you mean, Lady Fawn?"
"That sometimes engagements take place which never become more than engagements. Look at Lord Fawn and Lady Eustace."
"Mr. Greystock and I are not like that," said Lucy, proudly.
"Such things are very dreadful, Lucy, but they do happen."
"Do you mean anything;—anything real, Lady Fawn?"
"I have so strong a reliance on your good sense, that I will tell you just what I do mean. A rumour has reached me that Mr. Greystock is—paying more attention than he ought to do to Lady Eustace."
"His own cousin!"
"But people marry their cousins, Lucy."
"To whom he has always been just like a brother! I do think that is the cruellest thing. Because he sacrifices his time and his money and all his holidays to go and look after her affairs, this is to be said of him! She hasn't another human being to look after her, and, therefore, he is obliged to do it. Of course he has told me all about it. I do think, Lady Fawn,—I do think that is the greatest shame I ever heard!"
"But if it should be true—?"
"It isn't true."
"But just for the sake of showing you, Lucy—; if it was to be true."
"It won't be true."
"Surely I may speak to you as your friend, Lucy. You needn't be so abrupt with me. Will you listen to me, Lucy?"
"Of course I will listen;—only nothing that anybody on earth could say about that would make me believe a word of it."
"Very well! Now just let me go on. If it were to be so—"
"Oh-h, Lady Fawn!"
"Don't be foolish, Lucy. I will say what I've got to say. If—if— Let me see. Where was I? I mean just this. You had better remain here till things are a little more settled. Even if it be only a rumour,—and I'm sure I don't believe it's anything more,—you had better hear about it with us,—with friends round you, than with a perfect stranger like Lady Linlithgow. If anything were to go wrong there, you wouldn't know where to go for comfort. If anything were wrong with you here, you could come to me as though I were your mother.—Couldn't you, now?"
"Indeed, indeed I could! And I will;—I always will. Lady Fawn, I love you and the dear darling girls better than all the world—except Mr. Greystock. If anything like that were to happen, I think I should creep here and ask to die in your house. But it won't. And just now it will be better that I should go away."
It was found at last that Lucy must have her way, and letters were written both to Mrs. Greystock and to Frank, requesting that the suggested overtures might at once be made to Lady Linlithgow. Lucy, in her letter to her lover, was more than ordinarily cheerful and jocose. She had a good deal to say about Lady Linlithgow that was really droll, and not a word to say indicative of the slightest fear in the direction of Lady Eustace. She spoke of poor Lizzie, and declared her conviction that that marriage never could come off now. "You mustn't be angry when I say that I can't break my heart for them, for I never did think that they were very much in love. As for Lord Fawn, of course he is my—ENEMY!" And she wrote the word in big letters. "And as for Lizzie,—she's your cousin, and all that. And she's ever so pretty, and all that. And she's as rich as Croesus, and all that. But I don't think she'll break her own heart. I would break mine; only—only—only— You will understand the rest. If it should come to pass, I wonder whether 'the duchess' would ever let a poor creature see a friend of hers in Bruton Street?" Frank had once called Lady Linlithgow the duchess, after a certain popular picture in a certain popular book, and Lucy never forgot anything that Frank had said.
It did come to pass. Mrs. Greystock at once corresponded with Lady Linlithgow, and Lady Linlithgow, who was at Ramsgate for her autumn vacation, requested that Lucy Morris might be brought to see her at her house in London on the 2nd of October. Lady Linlithgow's autumn holiday always ended on the last day of September. On the 2nd of October Lady Fawn herself took Lucy up to Bruton Street, and Lady Linlithgow appeared. "Miss Morris," said Lady Fawn, "thinks it right that you should be told that she's engaged to be married." "Who to?" demanded the countess. Lucy was as red as fire, although she had especially made up her mind that she would not blush when the communication was made. "I don't know that she wishes me to mention the gentleman's name, just at present; but I can assure you that he is all that he ought to be." "I hate mysteries," said the countess. "If Lady Linlithgow—" began Lucy. "Oh, it's nothing to me," continued the old woman. "It won't come off for six months, I suppose?" Lucy gave a mute assurance that there would be no such difficulty as that. "And he can't come here, Miss Morris." To this Lucy said nothing. Perhaps she might win over even the countess, and if not, she must bear her six months of prolonged exclusion from the light of day. And so the matter was settled. Lucy was to be taken back to Richmond, and to come again on the following Monday. "I don't like this parting at all, Lucy," Lady Fawn said on her way home.
"It is better so, Lady Fawn."
"I hate people going away; but, somehow, you don't feel it as we do."
"You wouldn't say that if you really knew what I do feel."
"There was no reason why you should go. Frederic was getting not to care for it at all. What's Nina to do now? I can't get another governess after you. I hate all these sudden breaks up. And all for such a trumpery thing. If Frederic hasn't forgotten all about it, he ought."
"It hasn't come altogether from him, Lady Fawn."
"How has it come, then?"
"I suppose it is because of Mr. Greystock. I suppose when a girl has engaged herself to marry a man she must think more of him than of anything else."
"Why couldn't you think of him at Fawn Court?"
"Because—because things have been unfortunate. He isn't your friend,—not as yet. Can't you understand, Lady Fawn, that, dear as you all must be to me, I must live in his friendships, and take his part when there is a part?"
"Then I suppose that you mean to hate all of us?" Lucy could only cry at hearing this;—whereupon Lady Fawn also burst into tears.
On the Sunday before Lucy took her departure, Lord Fawn was again at Richmond. "Of course, you'll come down,—just as if nothing had happened," said Lydia. "We'll see," said Lucy. "Mamma will be very angry if you don't," said Lydia.
But Lucy had a little plot in her head, and her appearance at the dinner-table on that Sunday must depend on the manner in which her plot was executed. After church, Lord Fawn would always hang about the grounds for awhile before going into the house; and on this morning Lucy also remained outside. She soon found her opportunity, and walked straight up to him, following him on the path. "Lord Fawn," she said, "I have come to beg your pardon."
He had turned round hearing footsteps behind him, but still was startled and unready. "It does not matter at all," he said.
"It matters to me, because I behaved badly."
"What I said about Mr. Greystock wasn't intended to be said to you, you know."
"Even if it was it would make no matter. I don't mean to think of that now. I beg your pardon because I said what I ought not to have said."
"You see, Miss Morris, that as the head of this family—"
"If I had said it to Juniper, I would have begged his pardon." Now Juniper was the gardener, and Lord Fawn did not quite like the way in which the thing was put to him. The cloud came across his brow, and he began to fear that she would again insult him. "I oughtn't to accuse anybody of an untruth,—not in that way; and I am very sorry for what I did, and I beg your pardon." Then she turned as though she were going back to the house.
But he stopped her. "Miss Morris, if it will suit you to stay with my mother, I will never say a word against it."
"It is quite settled that I am to go to-morrow, Lord Fawn. Only for that I would not have troubled you again."
Then she did turn towards the house, but he recalled her. "We will shake hands, at any rate," he said, "and not part as enemies." So they shook hands, and Lucy came down and sat in his company at the dinner-table.
Lady Linlithgow at Home
Lucy, in her letter to her lover, had distinctly asked whether she might tell Lady Linlithgow the name of her future husband, but had received no reply when she was taken to Bruton Street. The parting at Richmond was very painful, and Lady Fawn had declared herself quite unable to make another journey up to London with the ungrateful runagate. Though there was no diminution of affection among the Fawns, there was a general feeling that Lucy was behaving badly. That obstinacy of hers was getting the better of her. Why should she have gone? Even Lord Fawn had expressed his desire that she should remain. And then, in the breasts of the wise ones, all faith in the Greystock engagement had nearly vanished. Another letter had come from Mrs. Hittaway, who now declared that it was already understood about Portray that Lady Eustace intended to marry her cousin. This was described as a terrible crime on the part of Lizzie, though the antagonistic crime of a remaining desire to marry Lord Fawn was still imputed to her. And, of course, the one crime heightened the other. So that words from the eloquent pen of Mrs. Hittaway failed to make dark enough the blackness of poor Lizzie's character. As for Mr. Greystock, he was simply a heartless man of the world, wishing to feather his nest. Mrs. Hittaway did not for a moment believe that he had ever dreamed of marrying Lucy Morris. Men always have three or four little excitements of that kind going on for the amusement of their leisure hours,—so, at least, said Mrs. Hittaway. "The girl had better be told at once." Such was her decision about poor Lucy. "I can't do more than I have done," said Lady Fawn to Augusta. "She'll never get over it, mamma; never," said Augusta.
Nothing more was said, and Lucy was sent off in the family carriage. Lydia and Nina were sent with her, and though there was some weeping on the journey, there was also much laughing. The character of the "duchess" was discussed very much at large, and many promises were made as to long letters. Lucy, in truth, was not unhappy. She would be nearer to Frank; and then it had been almost promised her that she should go to the deanery, after a residence of six months with Lady Linlithgow. At the deanery of course she would see Frank; and she also understood that a long visit to the deanery would be the surest prelude to that home of her own of which she was always dreaming.
"Dear me;—sent you up in the carriage, has she? Why shouldn't you have come by the railway?"
"Lady Fawn thought the carriage best. She is so very kind."
"It's what I call twaddle, you know. I hope you ain't afraid of going in a cab."
"Not in the least, Lady Linlithgow."
"You can't have the carriage to go about here. Indeed, I never have a pair of horses till after Christmas. I hope you know that I'm as poor as Job."
"I didn't know."
"I am, then. You'll get nothing beyond wholesome food with me. And I'm not sure it is wholesome always. The butchers are scoundrels, and the bakers are worse. What used you to do at Lady Fawn's?"
"I still did lessons with the two youngest girls."
"You won't have any lessons to do here, unless you do 'em with me. You had a salary there?"
"Fifty pounds a year, I suppose."
"I had eighty."
"Had you, indeed; eighty pounds;—and a coach to ride in!"
"I had a great deal more than that, Lady Linlithgow."
"How do you mean?"
"I had downright love and affection. They were just so many dear friends. I don't suppose any governess was ever so treated before. It was just like being at home. The more I laughed, the better every one liked it."
"You won't find anything to laugh at here; at least, I don't. If you want to laugh, you can laugh up-stairs, or down in the parlour."
"I can do without laughing for a while."
"That's lucky, Miss Morris. If they were all so good to you, what made you come away? They sent you away, didn't they?"
"Well;—I don't know that I can explain it just all. There were a great many things together. No;—they didn't send me away. I came away because it suited."
"It was something to do with your having a lover, I suppose." To this Lucy thought it best to make no answer, and the conversation for a while was dropped.
Lucy had arrived at about half-past three, and Lady Linlithgow was then sitting in the drawing-room. After the first series of questions and answers, Lucy was allowed to go up to her room, and on her return to the drawing-room, found the countess still sitting upright in her chair. She was now busy with accounts, and at first took no notice of Lucy's return. What were to be the companion's duties? What tasks in the house were to be assigned to her? What hours were to be her own; and what was to be done in those of which the countess would demand the use? Up to the present moment nothing had been said of all this. She had simply been told that she was to be Lady Linlithgow's companion,—without salary, indeed,—but receiving shelter, guardianship, and bread and meat in return for her services. She took up a book from the table and sat with it for ten minutes. It was Tupper's great poem, and she attempted to read it. Lady Linlithgow sat, totting up her figures, but said nothing. She had not spoken a word since Lucy's return to the room; and as the great poem did not at first fascinate the new companion,—whose mind not unnaturally was somewhat disturbed,—Lucy ventured upon a question. "Is there anything I can do for you, Lady Linlithgow?"
"Do you know about figures?"
"Oh, yes. I consider myself quite a ready-reckoner."
"Can you make two and two come to five on one side of the sheet, and only come to three on the other?"
"I'm afraid I can't do that, and prove it afterwards."
"Then you ain't worth anything to me." Having so declared, Lady Linlithgow went on with her accounts and Lucy relapsed into her great poem.
"No, my dear," said the countess, when she had completed her work. "There isn't anything for you to do. I hope you haven't come here with that mistaken idea. There won't be any sort of work of any kind expected from you. I poke my own fires, and I carve my own bit of mutton. And I haven't got a nasty little dog to be washed. And I don't care twopence about worsted work. I have a maid to darn my stockings, and because she has to work, I pay her wages. I don't like being alone, so I get you to come and live with me. I breakfast at nine, and if you don't manage to be down by that time, I shall be cross."
"I'm always up long before that."
"There's lunch at two,—just bread and butter and cheese, and perhaps a bit of cold meat. There's dinner at seven;—and very bad it is, because they don't have any good meat in London. Down in Fifeshire the meat's a deal better than it is here, only I never go there now. At half-past ten I go to bed. It's a pity you're so young, because I don't know what you'll do about going out. Perhaps, as you ain't pretty, it won't signify."
"Not at all, I should think," said Lucy.
"Perhaps you consider yourself pretty. It's all altered now since I was young. Girls make monsters of themselves, and I'm told the men like it;—going about with unclean, frowsy structures on their heads, enough to make a dog sick. They used to be clean and sweet and nice,—what one would like to kiss. How a man can like to kiss a face with a dirty horse's tail all whizzing about it, is what I can't at all understand. I don't think they do like it, but they have to do it."
"I haven't even a pony's tail," said Lucy.
"They do like to kiss you, I daresay."
"No, they don't," ejaculated Lucy, not knowing what answer to make.
"I haven't hardly looked at you, but you didn't seem to me to be a beauty."
"You're quite right about that, Lady Linlithgow."
"I hate beauties. My niece, Lizzie Eustace, is a beauty; and I think that, of all the heartless creatures in the world, she is the most heartless."
"I know Lady Eustace very well."
"Of course you do. She was a Greystock, and you know the Greystocks. And she was down staying with old Lady Fawn at Richmond. I should think old Lady Fawn had a time with her;—hadn't she?"
"It didn't go off very well."
"Lizzie would be too much for the Fawns, I should think. She was too much for me, I know. She's about as bad as anybody ever was. She's false, dishonest, heartless, cruel, irreligious, ungrateful, mean, ignorant, greedy, and vile!"
"Good gracious, Lady Linlithgow!"
"She's all that, and a great deal worse. But she is handsome. I don't know that I ever saw a prettier woman. I generally go out in a cab at three o'clock, but I sha'n't want you to go with me. I don't know what you can do. Macnulty used to walk round Grosvenor Square and think that people mistook her for a lady of quality. You mustn't go and walk round Grosvenor Square by yourself, you know. Not that I care."
"I'm not a bit afraid of anybody," said Lucy.
"Now you know all about it. There isn't anything for you to do. There are Miss Edgeworth's novels down-stairs, and 'Pride and Prejudice' in my bed-room. I don't subscribe to Mudie's, because when I asked for 'Adam Bede,' they always sent me the 'Bandit Chief.' Perhaps you can borrow books from your friends at Richmond. I daresay Mrs. Greystock has told you that I'm very cross."
"I haven't seen Mrs. Greystock for ever so long."
"Then Lady Fawn has told you,—or somebody. When the wind is east, or north-east, or even north, I am cross, for I have the lumbago. It's all very well talking about being good-humoured. You can't be good-humoured with the lumbago. And I have the gout sometimes in my knee. I'm cross enough then, and so you'd be. And, among 'em all, I don't get much above half what I ought to have out of my jointure. That makes me very cross. My teeth are bad, and I like to have the meat tender. But it's always tough, and that makes me cross. And when people go against the grain with me, as Lizzie Eustace always did, then I'm very cross."
"I hope you won't be very bad with me," said Lucy.
"I don't bite, if you mean that," said her ladyship.
"I'd sooner be bitten than barked at,—sometimes," said Lucy.
"Humph!" said the old woman, and then she went back to her accounts.
Lucy had a few books of her own, and she determined to ask Frank to send her some. Books are cheap things, and she would not mind asking him for magazines, and numbers, and perhaps for the loan of a few volumes. In the meantime she did read Tupper's poem, and "Pride and Prejudice," and one of Miss Edgeworth's novels,—probably for the third time. During the first week in Bruton Street she would have been comfortable enough, only that she had not received a line from Frank. That Frank was not specially good at writing letters she had already taught herself to understand. She was inclined to believe that but few men of business do write letters willingly, and that, of all men, lawyers are the least willing to do so. How reasonable it was that a man who had to perform a great part of his daily work with a pen in his hand, should loathe a pen when not at work. To her the writing of letters was perhaps the most delightful occupation of her life, and the writing of letters to her lover was a foretaste of heaven; but then men, as she knew, are very different from women. And she knew this also,—that of all her immediate duties, no duty could be clearer than that of abstaining from all jealousy, petulance, and impatient expectation of little attentions. He loved her, and had told her so, and had promised her that she should be his wife, and that ought to be enough for her. She was longing for a letter, because she was very anxious to know whether she might mention his name to Lady Linlithgow;—but she would abstain from any idea of blaming him because the letter did not come.
On various occasions the countess showed some little curiosity about the lover; and at last, after about ten days, when she found herself beginning to be intimate with her new companion, she put the question point-blank. "I hate mysteries," she said. "Who is the young man you are to marry?"
"He is a gentleman I've known a long time."
"That's no answer."
"I don't want to tell his name quite yet, Lady Linlithgow."
"Why shouldn't you tell his name, unless it's something improper? Is he a gentleman?"
"Yes;—he is a gentleman."
"And how old?"
"Oh, I don't know;—perhaps thirty-two."
"And has he any money?"
"He has his profession."
"I don't like these kind of secrets, Miss Morris. If you won't say who he is, what was the good of telling me that you were engaged at all? How is a person to believe it?"
"I don't want you to believe it."
"I told you my own part of the affair, because I thought you ought to know it as I was coming into your house. But I don't see that you ought to know his part of it. As for not believing, I suppose you believed Lady Fawn?"
"Not a bit better than I believe you. People don't always tell truth because they have titles, nor yet because they've grown old. He don't live in London;—does he?"
"He generally lives in London. He is a barrister."
"Oh,—oh; a barrister is he. They're always making a heap of money, or else none at all. Which is it with him?"
"He makes something."
"As much as you could put in your eye and see none the worse." To see the old lady, as she made this suggestion, turn sharp round upon Lucy, was as good as a play. "My sister's nephew, the dean's son, is one of the best of the rising ones, I'm told." Lucy blushed up to her hair, but the dowager's back was turned, and she did not see the blushes. "But he's in Parliament, and they tell me he spends his money faster than he makes it. I suppose you know him?"
"Yes;—I knew him at Bobsborough."
"It's my belief that after all this fuss about Lord Fawn, he'll marry his cousin, Lizzie Eustace. If he's a lawyer, and as sharp as they say, I suppose he could manage her. I wish he would."
"And she so bad as you say she is!"
"She'll be sure to get somebody, and why shouldn't he have her money as well as another? There never was a Greystock who didn't want money. That's what it will come to;—you'll see."
"Never," said Lucy decidedly.
"And why not?"
"What I mean is that Mr. Greystock is,—at least, I should think so from what I hear,—the very last man in the world to marry for money."
"What do you know of what a man would do?"
"It would be a very mean thing;—particularly if he does not love her."
"Bother!" said the countess. "They were very near it in town last year before Lord Fawn came up at all. I knew as much as that. And it's what they'll come to before they've done."
"They'll never come to it," said Lucy.
Then a sudden light flashed across the astute mind of the countess. She turned round in her chair, and sat for awhile silent, looking at Lucy. Then she slowly asked another question. "He isn't your young man;—is he?" To this Lucy made no reply. "So that's it, is it?" said the dowager. "You've done me the honour of making my house your home till my own sister's nephew shall be ready to marry you?"
"And why not?" said Lucy, rather roughly.
"And dame Greystock, from Bobsborough, has sent you here to keep you out of her son's way. I see it all. And that old frump at Richmond has passed you over to me because she did not choose to have such goings on under her own eye."
"There have been no goings on," said Lucy.
"And he's to come here, I suppose, when my back's turned?"
"He is not thinking of coming here. I don't know what you mean. Nobody has done anything wrong to you. I don't know why you say such cruel things."
"He can't afford to marry you, you know."
"I don't know anything about it. Perhaps we must wait ever so long;—five years. That's nobody's business but my own."
"I found it all out;—didn't I?"
"Yes;—you found it out."
"I'm thinking of that sly old dame Greystock at Bobsborough,—sending you here!" Neither on that nor on the two following days did Lady Linlithgow say a word further to Lucy about her engagement.
Too Bad for Sympathy
When Frank Greystock left Bobsborough to go to Scotland, he had not said that he would return, nor had he at that time made up his mind whether he would do so or no. He had promised to go and shoot in Norfolk, and had half undertaken to be up in London with Herriot, working. Though it was holiday-time, still there was plenty of work for him to do,—various heavy cases to get up, and papers to be read, if only he could settle himself down to the doing of it. But the scenes down in Scotland had been of a nature to make him unfit for steady labour. How was he to sail his bark through the rocks by which his present voyage was rendered so dangerous? Of course, to the reader, the way to do so seems to be clear enough. To work hard at his profession; to explain to his cousin that she had altogether mistaken his feelings; and to be true to Lucy Morris was so manifestly his duty, that to no reader will it appear possible that to any gentleman there could be a doubt. Instead of the existence of a difficulty, there was a flood of light upon his path,—so the reader will think;—a flood so clear that not to see his way was impossible. A man carried away by abnormal appetites, and wickedness, and the devil, may of course commit murder, or forge bills, or become a fraudulent director of a bankrupt company. And so may a man be untrue to his troth,—and leave true love in pursuit of tinsel, and beauty, and false words, and a large income. But why should one tell the story of creatures so base? One does not willingly grovel in gutters, or breathe fetid atmospheres, or live upon garbage. If we are to deal with heroes and heroines, let us, at any rate, have heroes and heroines who are above such meanness as falsehood in love. This Frank Greystock must be little better than a mean villain, if he allows himself to be turned from his allegiance to Lucy Morris for an hour by the seductions and money of such a one as Lizzie Eustace.
We know the dear old rhyme:—
"It is good to be merry and wise, It is good to be honest and true, It is good to be off with the old love Before you are on with the new."
There was never better truth spoken than this, and if all men and women could follow the advice here given, there would be very little sorrow in the world. But men and women do not follow it. They are no more able to do so than they are to use a spear, the staff of which is like a weaver's beam, or to fight with the sword Excalibur. The more they exercise their arms, the nearer will they get to using the giant's weapon,—or even the weapon that is divine. But as things are at present, their limbs are limp and their muscles soft, and over-feeding impedes their breath. They attempt to be merry without being wise, and have theories about truth and honesty with which they desire to shackle others, thinking that freedom from such trammels may be good for themselves. And in that matter of love,—though love is very potent,—treachery will sometimes seem to be prudence, and a hankering after new delights will often interfere with real devotion.
It is very easy to depict a hero,—a man absolutely stainless, perfect as an Arthur,—a man honest in all his dealings, equal to all trials, true in all his speech, indifferent to his own prosperity, struggling for the general good, and, above all, faithful in love. At any rate, it is as easy to do that as to tell of the man who is one hour good and the next bad, who aspires greatly but fails in practice, who sees the higher but too often follows the lower course. There arose at one time a school of art, which delighted to paint the human face as perfect in beauty; and from that time to this we are discontented unless every woman is drawn for us as a Venus, or, at least, a Madonna. I do not know that we have gained much by this untrue portraiture, either in beauty or in art. There may be made for us a pretty thing to look at, no doubt;—but we know that that pretty thing is not really visaged as the mistress whom we serve, and whose lineaments we desire to perpetuate on the canvas. The winds of heaven, or the flesh-pots of Egypt, or the midnight gas,—passions, pains, and, perhaps, rouge and powder, have made her something different. But there still is the fire of her eye, and the eager eloquence of her mouth, and something, too, perhaps, left of the departing innocence of youth, which the painter might give us without the Venus or the Madonna touches. But the painter does not dare to do it. Indeed, he has painted so long after the other fashion that he would hate the canvas before him, were he to give way to the rouge-begotten roughness or to the flesh-pots,—or even to the winds. And how, my lord, would you, who are giving hundreds, more than hundreds, for this portrait of your dear one, like to see it in print from the art critic of the day, that she is a brazen-faced hoyden who seems to have had a glass of wine too much, or to have been making hay?
And so also has the reading world taught itself to like best the characters of all but divine men and women. Let the man who paints with pen and ink give the gas-light, and the flesh-pots, the passions and pains, the prurient prudence and the rouge-pots and pounce-boxes of the world as it is, and he will be told that no one can care a straw for his creations. With whom are we to sympathise? says the reader, who not unnaturally imagines that a hero should be heroic. Oh, thou, my reader, whose sympathies are in truth the great and only aim of my work, when you have called the dearest of your friends round you to your hospitable table, how many heroes are there sitting at the board? Your bosom friend,—even if he be a knight without fear, is he a knight without reproach? The Ivanhoe that you know, did he not press Rebecca's hand? Your Lord Evandale,—did he not bring his coronet into play when he strove to win his Edith Bellenden? Was your Tresilian still true and still forbearing when truth and forbearance could avail him nothing? And those sweet girls whom you know, do they never doubt between the poor man they think they love, and the rich man whose riches they know they covet?
Go into the market, either to buy or sell, and name the thing you desire to part with or to get, as it is, and the market is closed against you. Middling oats are the sweepings of the granaries. A useful horse is a jade gone at every point. Good sound port is sloe juice. No assurance short of A 1 betokens even a pretence to merit. And yet in real life we are content with oats that are really middling, are very glad to have a useful horse, and know that if we drink port at all we must drink some that is neither good nor sound. In those delineations of life and character which we call novels a similarly superlative vein is desired. Our own friends around us are not always merry and wise, nor, alas! always honest and true. They are often cross and foolish, and sometimes treacherous and false. They are so, and we are angry. Then we forgive them, not without a consciousness of imperfection on our own part. And we know—or, at least, believe,—that though they be sometimes treacherous and false, there is a balance of good. We cannot have heroes to dine with us. There are none. And were these heroes to be had, we should not like them. But neither are our friends villains,—whose every aspiration is for evil, and whose every moment is a struggle for some achievement worthy of the devil.
The persons whom you cannot care for in a novel, because they are so bad, are the very same that you so dearly love in your life, because they are so good. To make them and ourselves somewhat better,—not by one spring heavenwards to perfection, because we cannot so use our legs,—but by slow climbing, is, we may presume, the object of all teachers, leaders, legislators, spiritual pastors, and masters. He who writes tales such as this, probably also has, very humbly, some such object distantly before him. A picture of surpassing godlike nobleness,—a picture of a King Arthur among men, may perhaps do much. But such pictures cannot do all. When such a picture is painted, as intending to show what a man should be, it is true. If painted to show what men are, it is false. The true picture of life as it is, if it could be adequately painted, would show men what they are, and how they might rise, not, indeed, to perfection, but one step first, and then another, on the ladder.
Our hero, Frank Greystock, falling lamentably short in his heroism, was not in a happy state of mind when he reached Bobsborough. It may be that he returned to his own borough and to his mother's arms because he felt, that were he to determine to be false to Lucy, he would there receive sympathy in his treachery. His mother would, at any rate, think that it was well, and his father would acknowledge that the fault committed was in the original engagement with poor Lucy, and not in the treachery. He had written that letter to her in his chambers one night in a fit of ecstasy; and could it be right that the ruin of a whole life should be the consequence?
It can hardly be too strongly asserted that Lizzie Greystock did not appear to Frank as she has been made to appear to the reader. In all this affair of the necklace he was beginning to believe that she was really an ill-used woman; and as to other traits in Lizzie's character,—traits which he had seen, and which were not of a nature to attract,—it must be remembered that beauty reclining in a man's arms does go far towards washing white the lovely blackamoor. Lady Linlithgow, upon whom Lizzie's beauty could have no effect of that kind, had nevertheless declared her to be very beautiful. And this loveliness was of a nature that was altogether pleasing, if once the beholder of it could get over the idea of falseness which certainly Lizzie's eye was apt to convey to the beholder. There was no unclean horse's tail. There was no get-up of flounces, and padding, and paint, and hair, with a dorsal excrescence appended with the object surely of showing in triumph how much absurd ugliness women can force men to endure. She was lithe, and active, and bright,—and was at this moment of her life at her best. Her growing charms had as yet hardly reached the limits of full feminine loveliness,—which, when reached, have been surpassed. Luxuriant beauty had with her not as yet become comeliness; nor had age or the good things of the world added a pound to the fairy lightness of her footstep. All this had been tendered to Frank,—and with it that worldly wealth which was so absolutely necessary to his career. For though Greystock would not have said to any man or woman that nature had intended him to be a spender of much money and a consumer of many good things, he did undoubtedly so think of himself. He was a Greystock, and to what miseries would he not reduce his Lucy if, burthened by such propensities, he were to marry her and then become an aristocratic pauper!