The offer of herself by a woman to a man is, to us all, a thing so distasteful that we at once declare that the woman must be abominable. There shall be no whitewashing of Lizzie Eustace. She was abominable. But the man to whom the offer is made hardly sees the thing in the same light. He is disposed to believe that, in his peculiar case, there are circumstances by which the woman is, if not justified, at least excused. Frank did put faith in his cousin's love for himself. He did credit her when she told him that she had accepted Lord Fawn's offer in pique, because he had not come to her when he had promised that he would come. It did seem natural to him that she should have desired to adhere to her engagement when he would not advise her to depart from it. And then her jealousy about Lucy's ring, and her abuse of Lucy, were proofs to him of her love. Unless she loved him, why should she care to marry him? What was his position that she should desire to share it;—unless she so desired because he was dearer to her than aught beside? He had not eyes clear enough to perceive that his cousin was a witch whistling for a wind, and ready to take the first blast that would carry her and her broomstick somewhere into the sky. And then, in that matter of the offer, which in ordinary circumstances certainly should not have come from her to him, did not the fact of her wealth and of his comparative poverty cleanse her from such stain as would, in usual circumstances, attach to a woman who is so forward? He had not acceded to her proposition. He had not denied his engagement to Lucy. He had left her presence without a word of encouragement, because of that engagement. But he believed that Lizzie was sincere. He believed, now, that she was genuine; though he had previously been all but sure that falsehood and artifice were second nature to her.
At Bobsborough he met his constituents, and made them the normal autumn speech. The men of Bobsborough were well pleased and gave him a vote of confidence. As none but those of his own party attended the meeting, it was not wonderful that the vote was unanimous. His father, mother, and sister all heard his speech, and there was a strong family feeling that Frank was born to set the Greystocks once more upon their legs. When a man can say what he likes with the certainty that every word will be reported, and can speak to those around him as one manifestly their superior, he always looms large. When the Conservatives should return to their proper place at the head of affairs, there could be no doubt that Frank Greystock would be made Solicitor-General. There were not wanting even ardent admirers who conceived that, with such claims and such talents as his, the ordinary steps in political promotion would not be needed, and that he would become Attorney-General at once. All men began to say all good things to the dean, and to Mrs. Greystock it seemed that the woolsack, or at least the Queen's Bench with a peerage, was hardly an uncertainty. But then,—there must be no marriage with a penniless governess. If he would only marry his cousin one might say that the woolsack was won.
Then came Lucy's letter; the pretty, dear, joking letter about the "duchess," and broken hearts. "I would break my heart, only—only—only—" Yes, he knew very well what she meant. I shall never be called upon to break my heart, because you are not a false scoundrel. If you were a false scoundrel,—instead of being, as you are, a pearl among men,—then I should break my heart. That was what Lucy meant. She could not have been much clearer, and he understood it perfectly. It is very nice to walk about one's own borough and be voted unanimously worthy of confidence, and be a great man; but if you are a scoundrel, and not used to being a scoundrel, black care is apt to sit very close behind you as you go caracoling along the streets.
Lucy's letter required an answer, and how should he answer it? He certainly did not wish her to tell Lady Linlithgow of her engagement, but Lucy clearly wished to be allowed to tell, and on what ground could he enjoin her to be silent? He knew, or he thought he knew, that till he answered the letter, she would not tell his secret,—and therefore from day to day he put off the answer. A man does not write a love-letter easily when he is in doubt himself whether he does or does not mean to be a scoundrel.
Then there came a letter to "Dame" Greystock from Lady Linlithgow, which filled them all with amazement.
MY DEAR MADAM,—[began the letter]
Seeing that your son is engaged to marry Miss Morris,—at least she says so,—you ought not to have sent her here without telling me all about it. She says you know of the match, and she says that I can write to you if I please. Of course, I can do that without her leave. But it seems to me that if you know all about it, and approve the marriage, your house and not mine would be the proper place for her.
I'm told that Mr. Greystock is a great man. Any lady being with me as my companion can't be a great woman. But perhaps you wanted to break it off;—else you would have told me. She shall stay here six months, but then she must go.
It was considered absolutely necessary that this letter should be shown to Frank. "You see," said his mother, "she told the old lady at once."
"I don't see why she shouldn't." Nevertheless Frank was annoyed. Having asked for permission, Lucy should at least have waited for a reply.
"Well, I don't know," said Mrs. Greystock. "It is generally considered that young ladies are more reticent about such things. She has blurted it out and boasted about it at once."
"I thought girls always told of their engagements," said Frank, "and I can't for the life of me see that there was any boasting in it." Then he was silent for a moment. "The truth is, we are, all of us, treating Lucy very badly."
"I cannot say that I see it," said his mother.
"We ought to have had her here."
"For how long, Frank?"
"For as long as a home was needed by her."
"Had you demanded it, Frank, she should have come, of course. But neither I nor your father could have had pleasure in receiving her as your future wife. You, yourself, say that it cannot be for two years at least."
"I said one year."
"I think, Frank, you said two. And we all know that such a marriage would be ruinous to you. How could we make her welcome? Can you see your way to having a house for her to live in within twelve months?"
"Why not a house? I could have a house to-morrow."
"Such a house as would suit you in your position? And, Frank, would it be a kindness to marry her and then let her find that you were in debt?"
"I don't believe she'd care if she had nothing but a crust to eat."
"She ought to care, Frank."
"I think," said the dean to his son, on the next day, "that in our class of life an imprudent marriage is the one thing that should be avoided. My marriage has been very happy, God knows; but I have always been a poor man, and feel it now when I am quite unable to help you. And yet your mother had some fortune. Nobody, I think, cares less for wealth than I do. I am content almost with nothing."—The nothing with which the dean had hitherto been contented had always included every comfort of life, a well-kept table, good wine, new books, and canonical habiliments with the gloss still on; but as the Bobsborough tradesmen had, through the agency of Mrs. Greystock, always supplied him with these things as though they came from the clouds, he really did believe that he had never asked for anything.—"I am content almost with nothing. But I do feel that marriage cannot be adopted as the ordinary form of life by men in our class as it can be by the rich or by the poor. You, for instance, are called upon to live with the rich, but are not rich. That can only be done by wary walking, and is hardly consistent with a wife and children."
"But men in my position do marry, sir."
"After a certain age,—or else they marry ladies with money. You see, Frank, there are not many men who go into Parliament with means so moderate as yours; and they who do perhaps have stricter ideas of economy." The dean did not say a word about Lucy Morris, and dealt entirely with generalities.
In compliance with her son's advice,—or almost command,—Mrs. Greystock did not answer Lady Linlithgow's letter. He was going back to London, and would give personally, or by letter written there, what answer might be necessary. "You will then see Miss Morris?" asked his mother.
"I shall certainly see Lucy. Something must be settled." There was a tone in his voice as he said this which gave some comfort to his mother.
True to their words, at the end of October, Mrs. Carbuncle and Miss Roanoke, and Lord George de Bruce Carruthers, and Sir Griffin Tewett, arrived at Portray Castle. And for a couple of days there was a visitor whom Lizzie was very glad to welcome, but of whose good nature on the occasion Mr. Camperdown thought very ill indeed. This was John Eustace. His sister-in-law wrote to him in very pressing language; and as,—so he said to Mr. Camperdown,—he did not wish to seem to quarrel with his brother's widow as long as such seeming might be avoided, he accepted the invitation. If there was to be a lawsuit about the diamonds, that must be Mr. Camperdown's affair. Lizzie had never entertained her friends in style before. She had had a few people to dine with her in London, and once or twice had received company on an evening. But in all her London doings there had been the trepidation of fear,—to be accounted for by her youth and widowhood; and it was at Portray,—her own house at Portray,—that it would best become her to exercise hospitality. She had bided her time even there, but now she meant to show her friends that she had got a house of her own.
She wrote even to her husband's uncle, the bishop, asking him down to Portray. He could not come, but sent an affectionate answer, and thanked her for thinking of him. Many people she asked who, she felt sure, would not come,—and one or two of them accepted her invitation. John Eustace promised to be with her for two days. When Frank had left her, going out of her presence in the manner that has been described, she actually wrote to him, begging him to join her party. This was her note:
"Come to me, just for a week," she said, "when my people are here, so that I may not seem to be deserted. Sit at the bottom of my table, and be to me as a brother might. I shall expect you to do so much for me." To this he had replied that he would come during the first week in November.
And she got a clergyman down from London, the Rev. Joseph Emilius, of whom it was said that he was born a Jew in Hungary, and that his name in his own country had been Mealyus. At the present time he was among the most eloquent of London preachers, and was reputed by some to have reached such a standard of pulpit-oratory as to have had no equal within the memory of living hearers. In regard to his reading it was acknowledged that no one since Mrs. Siddons had touched him. But he did not get on very well with any particular bishop, and there was doubt in the minds of some people whether there was or was not any—Mrs. Emilius. He had come up quite suddenly within the last season, and had made church-going quite a pleasant occupation to Lizzie Eustace.
On the last day of October, Mr. Emilius and Mr. John Eustace came, each alone. Mrs. Carbuncle and Miss Roanoke came over with post-horses from Ayr,—as also did Lord George and Sir Griffin about an hour after them. Frank was not yet expected. He had promised to name a day and had not yet named it.
"Varra weel; varra weel," Gowran had said when he was told of what was about to occur, and was desired to make preparations necessary in regard to the outside plenishing of the house; "nae doobt she'll do with her ain what pleases her ainself. The mair ye poor out, the less there'll be left in. Mr. Jo-ohn coming? I'll be glad then to see Mr. Jo-ohn. Oo, ay; aits,—there'll be aits eneuch. And anither coo? You'll want twa ither coos. I'll see to the coos." And Andy Gowran, in spite of the internecine warfare which existed between him and his mistress, did see to the hay, and the cows, and the oats, and the extra servants that were wanted both inside and outside the house. There was enmity between him and Lady Eustace, and he didn't care who knew it;—but he took her wages and he did her work.
Mrs. Carbuncle was a wonderful woman. She was the wife of a man with whom she was very rarely seen, whom nobody knew, who was something in the City, but somebody who never succeeded in making money; and yet she went everywhere. She had at least the reputation of going everywhere, and did go to a great many places. Carbuncle had no money,—so it was said; and she had none. She was the daughter of a man who had gone to New York and had failed there. Of her own parentage no more was known. She had a small house in one of the very small Mayfair streets, to which she was wont to invite her friends for five o'clock tea. Other receptions she never attempted. During the London seasons she always kept a carriage, and during the winters she always had hunters. Who paid for them no one knew or cared. Her dress was always perfect,—as far as fit and performance went. As to approving Mrs. Carbuncle's manner of dress,—that was a question of taste. Audacity may, perhaps, be said to have been the ruling principle of her toilet;—not the audacity of indecency, which, let the satirists say what they may, is not efficacious in England, but audacity in colour, audacity in design, and audacity in construction. She would ride in the park in a black and yellow habit, and appear at the opera in white velvet without a speck of colour. Though certainly turned thirty, and probably nearer to forty, she would wear her jet-black hair streaming down her back, and when June came would drive about London in a straw hat. But yet it was always admitted that she was well dressed. And then would arise that question, who paid the bills?
Mrs. Carbuncle was certainly a handsome woman. She was full-faced,—with bold eyes, rather far apart, perfect black eyebrows, a well-formed broad nose, thick lips, and regular teeth. Her chin was round and short, with, perhaps, a little bearing towards a double chin. But though her face was plump and round, there was a power in it, and a look of command, of which it was, perhaps, difficult to say in what features was the seat. But in truth the mind will lend a tone to every feature, and it was the desire of Mrs. Carbuncle's heart to command. But perhaps the wonder of her face was its complexion. People said,—before they knew her, that, as a matter of course, she had been made beautiful for ever. But, though that too brilliant colour was almost always there, covering the cheeks but never touching the forehead or the neck, it would at certain moments shift, change, and even depart. When she was angry, it would vanish for a moment and then return intensified. There was no chemistry on Mrs. Carbuncle's cheek; and yet it was a tint so brilliant and so little transparent, as almost to justify a conviction that it could not be genuine. There were those who declared that nothing in the way of complexion so beautiful as that of Mrs. Carbuncle's had been seen on the face of any other woman in this age, and there were others who called her an exaggerated milkmaid. She was tall, too, and had learned so to walk as though half the world belonged to her.
Her niece, Miss Roanoke, was a lady of the same stamp, and of similar beauty, with those additions and also with those drawbacks which belong to youth. She looked as though she were four-and-twenty, but in truth she was no more than eighteen. When seen beside her aunt, she seemed to be no more than half the elder lady's size; and yet her proportions were not insignificant. She, too, was tall, and was as one used to command, and walked as though she were a young Juno. Her hair was very dark,—almost black,—and very plentiful. Her eyes were large and bright, though too bold for a girl so young. Her nose and mouth were exactly as her aunt's, but her chin was somewhat longer, so as to divest her face of that plump roundness which, perhaps, took something from the majesty of Mrs. Carbuncle's appearance. Miss Roanoke's complexion was certainly marvellous. No one thought that she had been made beautiful for ever, for the colour would go and come and shift and change with every word and every thought;—but still it was there, as deep on her cheeks as on her aunt's, though somewhat more transparent, and with more delicacy of tint as the bright hues faded away and became merged in the almost marble whiteness of her skin. With Mrs. Carbuncle there was no merging and fading. The red and white bordered one another on her cheek without any merging, as they do on a flag.
Lucinda Roanoke was undoubtedly a very handsome woman. It probably never occurred to man or woman to say that she was lovely. She had sat for her portrait during the last winter, and her picture had caused much remark in the Exhibition. Some said that she might be a Brinvilliers, others a Cleopatra, and others again a Queen of Sheba. In her eyes as they were limned there had been nothing certainly of love, but they who likened her to the Egyptian queen believed that Cleopatra's love had always been used simply to assist her ambition. They who took the Brinvilliers side of the controversy were men so used to softness and flattery from women as to have learned to think that a woman silent, arrogant, and hard of approach, must be always meditating murder. The disciples of the Queen of Sheba school, who formed, perhaps, the more numerous party, were led to their opinion by the majesty of Lucinda's demeanour rather than by any clear idea in their own minds of the lady who visited Solomon. All men, however, agreed in this, that Lucinda Roanoke was very handsome, but that she was not the sort of girl with whom a man would wish to stray away through the distant beech-trees at a picnic.
In truth she was silent, grave, and, if not really haughty, subject to all the signs of haughtiness. She went everywhere with her aunt, and allowed herself to be walked out at dances, and to be accosted when on horseback, and to be spoken to at parties; but she seemed hardly to trouble herself to talk;—and as for laughing, flirting, or giggling, one might as well expect such levity from a marble Minerva. During the last winter she had taken to hunting with her aunt, and already could ride well to hounds. If assistance were wanted at a gate, or in the management of a fence, and the servant who attended the two ladies were not near enough to give it, she would accept it as her due from the man nearest to her; but she rarely did more than bow her thanks, and, even by young lords, or hard-riding handsome colonels, or squires of undoubted thousands, she could hardly ever be brought to what might be called a proper hunting-field conversation. All of which things were noted, and spoken of, and admired. It must be presumed that Lucinda Roanoke was in want of a husband, and yet no girl seemed to take less pains to get one. A girl ought not to be always busying herself to bring down a man, but a girl ought to give herself some charm. A girl so handsome as Lucinda Roanoke, with pluck enough to ride like a bird, dignity enough for a duchess, and who was undoubtedly clever, ought to put herself in the way of taking such good things as her charms and merits would bring her;—but Lucinda Roanoke stood aloof and despised everybody. So it was that Lucinda was spoken of when her name was mentioned; and her name was mentioned a good deal after the opening of the exhibition of pictures.
There was some difficulty about her,—as to who she was. That she was an American was the received opinion. Her mother, as well as Mrs. Carbuncle, had certainly been in New York. Carbuncle was a London man; but it was supposed that Mr. Roanoke was, or had been, an American. The received opinion was correct. Lucinda had been born in New York, had been educated there till she was sixteen, had then been taken to Paris for nine months, and from Paris had been brought to London by her aunt. Mrs. Carbuncle always spoke of Lucinda's education as having been thoroughly Parisian. Of her own education and antecedents, Lucinda never spoke at all. "I'll tell you what it is," said a young scamp from Eton to his elder sister, when her character and position were once being discussed. "She's a heroine, and would shoot a fellow as soon as look at him." In that scamp's family, Lucinda was ever afterwards called the heroine.
The manner in which Lord George de Bruce Carruthers had attached himself to these ladies was a mystery;—but then Lord George was always mysterious. He was a young man,—so considered,—about forty-five years of age, who had never done anything in the manner of other people. He hunted a great deal, but he did not fraternise with hunting men, and would appear now in this county and now in that, with an utter disregard of grass, fences, friendships, or foxes. Leicester, Essex, Ayrshire, or the Baron had equal delights for him; and in all counties he was quite at home. He had never owned a fortune, and had never been known to earn a shilling. It was said that early in life he had been apprenticed to an attorney at Aberdeen as George Carruthers. His third cousin, the Marquis of Killiecrankie, had been killed out hunting; the second scion of the noble family had fallen at Balaclava; a third had perished in the Indian Mutiny; and a fourth, who did reign for a few months, died suddenly, leaving a large family of daughters. Within three years the four brothers vanished, leaving among them no male heir, and George's elder brother, who was then in a West India Regiment, was called home from Demerara to be Marquis of Killiecrankie. By a usual exercise of the courtesy of the Crown, all the brothers were made lords, and some twelve years before the date of our story George Carruthers, who had long since left the attorney's office at Aberdeen, became Lord George de Bruce Carruthers. How he lived no one knew. That his brother did much for him was presumed to be impossible, as the property entailed on the Killiecrankie title certainly was not large. He sometimes went into the City, and was supposed to know something about shares. Perhaps he played a little, and made a few bets. He generally lived with men of means;—or perhaps with one man of means at a time; but they who knew him well declared that he never borrowed a shilling from a friend, and never owed a guinea to a tradesman. He always had horses, but never had a home. When in London he lodged in a single room, and dined at his club. He was a Colonel of Volunteers, having got up the regiment known as the Long Shore Riflemen,—the roughest regiment of Volunteers in all England,—and was reputed to be a bitter Radical. He was suspected even of republican sentiments, and ignorant young men about London hinted that he was the grand centre of the British Fenians. He had been invited to stand for the Tower Hamlets, but had told the deputation which waited upon him that he knew a thing worth two of that. Would they guarantee his expenses, and then give him a salary? The deputation doubted its ability to promise so much. "I more than doubt it," said Lord George; and then the deputation went away.
In person he was a long-legged, long-bodied, long-faced man, with rough whiskers and a rough beard on his upper lip, but with a shorn chin. His eyes were very deep set in his head, and his cheeks were hollow and sallow, and yet he looked to be and was a powerful, healthy man. He had large hands, which seemed to be all bone, and long arms, and a neck which looked to be long because he so wore his shirt that much of his throat was always bare. It was manifest enough that he liked to have good-looking women about him, and yet nobody presumed it probable that he would marry. For the last two or three years there had been friendship between him and Mrs. Carbuncle; and during the last season he had become almost intimate with our Lizzie. Lizzie thought that perhaps he might be the Corsair whom, sooner or later in her life, she must certainly encounter.
Sir Griffin Tewett, who at the present period of his existence was being led about by Lord George, was not exactly an amiable young baronet. Nor were his circumstances such as make a man amiable. He was nominally, not only the heir to, but actually the possessor of, a large property;—but he could not touch the principal, and of the income only so much as certain legal curmudgeons would allow him. As Greystock had said, everybody was at law with him,—so successful had been his father in mismanaging, and miscontrolling, and misappropriating the property. Tewett Hall had gone to rack and ruin for four years, and was now let almost for nothing. He was a fair, frail young man, with a bad eye, and a weak mouth, and a thin hand, who was fond of liqueurs, and hated to the death any acquaintance who won a five-pound note of him, or any tradesman who wished to have his bill paid. But he had this redeeming quality,—that having found Lucinda Roanoke to be the handsomest woman he had ever seen, he did desire to make her his wife.
Such were the friends whom Lizzie Eustace received at Portray Castle on the first day of her grand hospitality,—together with John Eustace and Mr. Joseph Emilius, the fashionable preacher from Mayfair.
Lizzie's First Day
The coming of John Eustace was certainly a great thing for Lizzie, though it was only for two days. It saved her from that feeling of desertion before her friends,—desertion by those who might naturally belong to her,—which would otherwise have afflicted her. His presence there for two days gave her a start. She could call him John, and bring down her boy to him, and remind him, with the sweetest smile,—with almost a tear in her eye,—that he was the boy's guardian. "Little fellow! So much depends on that little life,—does it not, John?" she said, whispering the words into his ear.
"Lucky little dog!" said John, patting the boy's head. "Let me see! of course he'll go to Eton."
"Not yet," said Lizzie with a shudder.
"Well; no; hardly;—when he's twelve." And then the boy was done with and was carried away. She had played that card and had turned her trick. John Eustace was a thoroughly good-natured man of the world, who could forgive many faults, not expecting people to be perfect. He did not like Mrs. Carbuncle;—was indifferent to Lucinda's beauty;—was afraid of that Tartar, Lord George;—and thoroughly despised Sir Griffin. In his heart he believed Mr. Emilius to be an impostor, who might, for aught he knew, pick his pocket; and Miss Macnulty had no attraction for him. But he smiled, and was gay, and called Lady Eustace by her Christian name, and was content to be of use to her in showing her friends that she had not been altogether dropped by the Eustace people. "I got such a nice affectionate letter from the dear bishop," said Lizzie, "but he couldn't come. He could not escape a previous engagement."
"It's a long way," said John, "and he's not so young as he was once;—and then there are the Bobsborough parsons to look after."
"I don't suppose anything of that kind stops him," said Lizzie, who did not think it possible that a bishop's bliss should be alloyed by work. John was so very nice that she almost made up her mind to talk to him about the necklace; but she was cautious, and thought of it, and found that it would be better that she should abstain. John Eustace was certainly very good-natured, but perhaps he might say an ugly word to her if she were rash. She refrained, therefore, and after breakfast on the second day he took his departure without an allusion to things that were unpleasant.
"I call my brother-in-law a perfect gentleman," said Lizzie with enthusiasm, when his back was turned.
"Certainly," said Mrs. Carbuncle. "He seems to me to be very quiet."
"He didn't quite like his party," said Lord George.
"I am sure he did," said Lizzie.
"I mean as to politics. To him we are all turbulent demagogues and Bohemians. Eustace is an old-world Tory, if there's one left anywhere. But you're right, Lady Eustace; he is a gentleman."
"He knows on which side his bread is buttered as well as any man," said Sir Griffin.
"Am I a demagogue," said Lizzie, appealing to the Corsair, "or a Bohemian? I didn't know it."
"A little in that way, I think, Lady Eustace;—not a demagogue, but demagognical;—not a Bohemian, but that way given."
"And is Miss Roanoke demagognical?"
"Certainly," said Lord George. "I hardly wrong you there, Miss Roanoke?"
"Lucinda is a democrat, but hardly a demagogue, Lord George," said Mrs. Carbuncle.
"Those are distinctions which we hardly understand on this thick-headed side of the water. But demagogues, democrats, demonstrations, and Demosthenic oratory are all equally odious to John Eustace. For a young man he's about the best Tory I know."
"He is true to his colours," said Mr. Emilius, who had been endeavouring to awake the attention of Miss Roanoke on the subject of Shakespeare's dramatic action, "and I like men who are true to their colours." Mr. Emilius spoke with the slightest possible tone of a foreign accent,—a tone so slight that it simply served to attract attention to him.
While Eustace was still in the house, there had come a letter from Frank Greystock, saying that he would reach Portray, by way of Glasgow, on Wednesday, the 5th of November. He must sleep in Glasgow on that night, having business, or friends, or pleasure demanding his attention in that prosperous mart of commerce. It had been impressed upon him that he should hunt, and he had consented. There was to be a meet out on the Kilmarnock side of the county on that Wednesday, and he would bring a horse with him from Glasgow. Even in Glasgow a hunter was to be hired, and could be sent forty or fifty miles out of the town in the morning and brought back in the evening. Lizzie had learned all about that, and had told him. If he would call at MacFarlane's stables in Buchanan Street, or even write to Mr. MacFarlane, he would be sure to get a horse that would carry him. MacFarlane was sending horses down into the Ayrshire country every day of his life. It was simply an affair of money. Three guineas for the horse, and then just the expense of the railway. Frank, who knew quite as much about it as did his cousin, and who never thought much of guineas or of railway tickets, promised to meet the party at the meet ready equipped. His things would go on by train, and Lizzie must send for them to Troon. He presumed a beneficent Providence would take the horse back to the bosom of Mr. MacFarlane. Such was the tenour of his letter. "If he don't mind, he'll find himself astray," said Sir Griffin. "He'll have to go one way by rail and his horse another." "We can manage better for our cousin than that," said Lizzie, with a rebuking nod.
But there was hunting from Portray before Frank Greystock came. It was specially a hunting party, and Lizzie was to be introduced to the glories of the field. In giving her her due, it must be acknowledged that she was fit for the work. She rode well, though she had not ridden to hounds, and her courage was cool. She looked well on horseback, and had that presence of mind which should never desert a lady when she is hunting. A couple of horses had been purchased for her, under Lord George's superintendence,—his conjointly with Mrs. Carbuncle's,—and had been at the castle for the last ten days—"eating their varra heeds off," as Andy Gowran had said in sorrow. There had been practising even while John Eustace was there, and before her preceptors had slept three nights at the castle, she had ridden backwards and forwards half-a-dozen times over a stone wall. "Oh, yes," Lucinda had said, in answer to a remark from Sir Griffin, "It's easy enough,—till you come across something difficult."
"Nothing difficult stops you," said Sir Griffin;—to which compliment Lucinda vouchsafed no reply.
On the Monday Lizzie went out hunting for the first time in her life. It must be owned that, as she put her habit on, and afterwards breakfasted with all her guests in hunting gear around her, and then was driven with them in her own carriage to the meet, there was something of trepidation at her heart. And her feeling of cautious fear in regard to money had received a shock. Mrs. Carbuncle had told her that a couple of horses fit to carry her might perhaps cost her about L180. Lord George had received the commission, and the cheque required from her had been for L320. Of course she had written the cheque without a word, but it did begin to occur to her that hunting was an expensive amusement. Gowran had informed her that he had bought a rick of hay from a neighbour for L75 15s. 9d. "God forgie me," said Andy, "but I b'lieve I've been o'er hard on the puir man in your leddyship's service." L75 15s. 9d. did seem a great deal of money to pay; and could it be necessary that she should buy a whole rick? There were to be eight horses in the stable. To what friend could she apply to learn how much of a rick of hay one horse ought to eat in a month of hunting? In such a matter she might have trusted Andy Gowran implicitly; but how was she to know that? And then, what if at some desperate fence she were to be thrown off and break her nose and knock out her front teeth! Was the game worth the candle? She was by no means sure that she liked Mrs. Carbuncle very much. And though she liked Lord George very well, could it be possible that he bought the horses for L90 each and charged her L160? Corsairs do do these sort of things. The horses themselves were two sweet dears, with stars on their foreheads, and shining coats, and a delicious aptitude for jumping over everything at a moment's notice. Lord George had not, in truth, made a penny by them, and they were good hunters, worth the money;—but how was Lizzie to know that? But though she doubted, and was full of fears, she could smile and look as though she liked it. If the worst should come she could certainly get money for the diamonds.
On that Monday the meet was comparatively near to them,—distant only twelve miles. On the following Wednesday it would be sixteen, and they would use the railway,—having the carriage sent to meet them in the evening. The three ladies and Lord George filled the carriage, and Sir Griffin was perched upon the box. The ladies' horses had gone on with two grooms, and those for Lord George and Sir Griffin were to come to the meet. Lizzie felt somewhat proud of her establishment and her equipage;—but at the same time somewhat fearful. Hitherto she knew but very little of the county people, and was not sure how she might be received;—and then how would it be with her if the fox should at once start away across country, and she should lack either the pluck or the power to follow? There was Sir Griffin to look after Miss Roanoke, and Lord George to attend to Mrs. Carbuncle. At last an idea so horrible struck her that she could not keep it down. "What am I to do," she said, "if I find myself all alone in a field, and everybody else gone away!"
"We won't treat you quite in that fashion," said Mrs. Carbuncle.
"The only possible way in which you can be alone in a field is that you will have cut everybody else down," said Lord George.
"I suppose it will all come right," said Lizzie, plucking up her courage, and telling herself that a woman can die but once.
Everything was right,—as it usually is. The horses were there,—quite a throng of horses, as the two gentlemen had two each; and there was, moreover, a mounted groom to look after the three ladies. Lizzie had desired to have a groom to herself, but had been told that the expenditure in horseflesh was more than the stable could stand. "All I ever want of a man is to carry for me my flask, and waterproof, and luncheon," said Mrs. Carbuncle. "I don't care if I never see a groom, except for that."
"It's convenient to have a gate opened sometimes," said Lucinda, slowly.
"Will no one but a groom do that for you?" asked Sir Griffin.
"Gentlemen can't open gates," said Lucinda. Now, as Sir Griffin thought that he had opened many gates during the last season for Miss Roanoke, he felt this to be hard.
But there were eight horses, and eight horses with three servants and a carriage made quite a throng. Among the crowd of Ayrshire hunting men,—a lord or two, a dozen lairds, two dozen farmers, and as many men of business out of Ayr, Kilmarnock, and away from Glasgow,—it was soon told that Lady Eustace and her party were among them. A good deal had been already heard of Lizzie, and it was at least known of her that she had, for her life, the Portray estate in her hands. So there was an undercurrent of whispering, and that sort of commotion which the appearance of new-comers does produce at a hunt-meet. Lord George knew one or two men, who were surprised to find him in Ayrshire, and Mrs. Carbuncle was soon quite at home with a young nobleman whom she had met in the vale with the Baron. Sir Griffin did not leave Lucinda's side, and for a while poor Lizzie felt herself alone in a crowd.
Who does not know that terrible feeling, and the all but necessity that exists for the sufferer to pretend that he is not suffering,—which again is aggravated by the conviction that the pretence is utterly vain? This may be bad with a man, but with a woman, who never looks to be alone in a crowd, it is terrible. For five minutes, during which everybody else was speaking to everybody,—for five minutes, which seemed to her to be an hour, Lizzie spoke to no one, and no one spoke to her. Was it for such misery as this that she was spending hundreds upon hundreds, and running herself into debt? For she was sure that there would be debt before she had parted with Mrs. Carbuncle. There are people, very many people, to whom an act of hospitality is in itself a good thing; but there are others who are always making calculations, and endeavouring to count up the thing purchased against the cost. Lizzie had been told that she was a rich woman,—as women go, very rich. Surely she was entitled to entertain a few friends; and if Mrs. Carbuncle and Miss Roanoke could hunt, it could not be that hunting was beyond her own means. And yet she was spending a great deal of money. She had seen a large waggon loaded with sacks of corn coming up the hill to the Portray stables, and she knew that there would be a long bill at the corn-chandler's. There had been found a supply of wine in the cellars at Portray,—which at her request had been inspected by her cousin Frank;—but it had been necessary, so he had told her, to have much more sent down from London,—champagne, and liqueurs, and other nice things that cost money. "You won't like not to have them if these people are coming?" "Oh, no; certainly not," said Lizzie, with enthusiasm. What other rich people did, she would do. But now, in her five minutes of misery, she counted it all up, and was at a loss to find what was to be her return for her expenditure. And then, if on this her first day she should have a fall, with no tender hand to help her, and then find that she had knocked out her front teeth!
But the cavalcade began to move, and then Lord George was by her side. "You mustn't be angry if I seem to stick too close to you," he said. She gave him her sweetest smile as she told him that that would be impossible. "Because, you know, though it's the easiest thing in the world to get along out hunting, and women never come to grief, a person is a little astray at first."
"I shall be so much astray," said Lizzie. "I don't at all know how we are going to begin. Are we hunting a fox now?" At this moment they were trotting across a field or two, through a run of gates up to the first covert.
"Not quite yet. The hounds haven't been put in yet. You see that wood there? I suppose they'll draw that."
"What is drawing, Lord George? I want to know all about it, and I am so ignorant. Nobody else will tell me." Then Lord George gave his lesson, and explained the theory and system of fox-hunting. "We're to wait here, then, till the fox runs away? But it's ever so large, and if he runs away, and nobody sees him? I hope he will, because it will be nice to go on easily."
"A great many people hope that, and a great many think it nice to go on easily. Only you must not confess to it." Then he went on with his lecture, and explained the meaning of scent, was great on the difficulty of getting away, described the iniquity of heading the fox, spoke of up wind and down wind, got as far as the trouble of "carrying," and told her that a good ear was everything in a big wood,—when there came upon them the thrice-repeated note of an old hound's voice, and the quick scampering, and low, timid, anxious, trustful whinnying of a dozen comrade younger hounds, who recognised the sagacity of their well-known and highly-appreciated elder,—"That's a fox," said Lord George.
"What shall I do now?" said Lizzie, all in a twitter.
"Sit just where you are and light a cigar, if you're given to smoking."
"Pray don't joke with me. You know I want to do it properly."
"And therefore you must sit just where you are, and not gallop about. There's a matter of a hundred and twenty acres here, I should say, and a fox doesn't always choose to be evicted at the first notice. It's a chance whether he goes at all from a wood like this. I like woods myself, because, as you say, we can take it easy; but if you want to ride, you should— By George, they've killed him!"
"Killed the fox?"
"Yes; he's dead. Didn't you hear?"
"And is that a hunt?"
"Well;—as far as it goes, it is."
"Why didn't he run away? What a stupid beast! I don't see so very much in that. Who killed him? That man that was blowing the horn?"
"The hounds chopped him."
"Chopped him!" Lord George was very patient, and explained to Lizzie, who was now indignant and disappointed, the misfortune of chopping. "And are we to go home now? Is it all over?"
"They say the country is full of foxes," said Lord George. "Perhaps we shall chop half-a-dozen."
"Dear me! Chop half-a-dozen foxes! Do they like to be chopped? I thought they always ran away."
Lord George was constant and patient, and rode at Lizzie's side from covert to covert. A second fox they did kill in the same fashion as the first; a third they couldn't hunt a yard; a fourth got to ground after five minutes, and was dug out ingloriously;—during which process a drizzling rain commenced. "Where is the man with my waterproof?" demanded Mrs. Carbuncle. Lord George had sent the man to see whether there was shelter to be had in a neighbouring yard. And Mrs. Carbuncle was angry. "It's my own fault," she said, "for not having my own man. Lucinda, you'll be wet."
"I don't mind the wet," said Lucinda. Lucinda never did mind anything.
"If you'll come with me, we'll get into a barn," said Sir Griffin.
"I like the wet," said Lucinda. All the while seven men were at work with picks and shovels, and the master and four or five of the more ardent sportsmen were deeply engaged in what seemed to be a mining operation on a small scale. The huntsman stood over giving his orders. One enthusiastic man, who had been lying on his belly, grovelling in the mud for five minutes, with a long stick in his hand, was now applying the point of it scientifically to his nose. An ordinary observer with a magnifying-glass might have seen a hair at the end of the stick. "He's there," said the enthusiastic man, covered with mud, after a long-drawn, eager sniff at the stick. The huntsman deigned to give one glance. "That's rabbit," said the huntsman. A conclave was immediately formed over the one visible hair that stuck to the stick, and three experienced farmers decided that it was rabbit. The muddy enthusiastic man, silenced but not convinced, retired from the crowd, leaving his stick behind him, and comforted himself with his brandy-flask.
"He's here, my lord," said the huntsman to his noble master, "only we ain't got nigh him yet." He spoke almost in a whisper, so that the ignorant crowd should not hear the words of wisdom, which they wouldn't understand or perhaps believe. "It's that full of rabbits that the holes is all hairs. They ain't got no terrier here, I suppose. They never has aught that is wanted in these parts. Work round to the right, there;—that's his line." The men did work round to the right, and in something under an hour the fox was dragged out by his brush and hind legs, while the experienced whip who dragged him held the poor brute tight by the back of his neck. "An old dog, my lord. There's such a many of 'em here, that they'll be a deal better for a little killing." Then the hounds ate their third fox for that day.
Lady Eustace, in the meantime, and Mrs. Carbuncle, with Lord George, had found their way to the shelter of a cattle-shed. Lucinda had slowly followed, and Sir Griffin had followed her. The gentlemen smoked cigars, and the ladies, when they had eaten their luncheons and drank their sherry, were cold and cross. "If this is hunting," said Lizzie, "I really don't think so much about it."
"It's Scotch hunting," said Mrs. Carbuncle.
"I have seen foxes dug out south of the Tweed," suggested Lord George.
"I suppose everything is slow after the Baron," said Mrs. Carbuncle, who had distinguished herself with the Baron's stag-hounds last March.
"Are we to go home now?" asked Lizzie, who would have been well-pleased to have received an answer in the affirmative.
"I presume they'll draw again," exclaimed Mrs. Carbuncle, with an angry frown on her brow. "It's hardly two o'clock."
"They always draw till seven, in Scotland," said Lord George.
"That's nonsense," said Mrs. Carbuncle. "It's dark at four."
"They have torches in Scotland," said Lord George.
"They have a great many things in Scotland that are very far from agreeable," said Mrs. Carbuncle. "Lucinda, did you ever see three foxes killed without five minutes' running, before? I never did."
"I've been out all day without finding at all," said Lucinda, who loved the truth.
"And so have I," said Sir Griffin;—"often. Don't you remember that day when we went down from London to Bringher Wood, and they pretended to find at half-past four? That's what I call a sell."
"They're going on, Lady Eustace," said Lord George. "If you're not tired, we might as well see it out." Lizzie was tired, but said that she was not, and she did see it out. They found a fifth fox, but again there was no scent. "Who the —— is to hunt a fox with people scurrying about like that!" said the huntsman, very angrily, dashing forward at a couple of riders. "The hounds is behind you, only you ain't a-looking. Some people never do look!" The two peccant riders unfortunately were Sir Griffin and Lucinda.
The day was one of those from which all the men and women return home cross, and which induce some half-hearted folk to declare to themselves that they never will hunt again. When the master decided a little after three that he would draw no more, because there wasn't a yard of scent, our party had nine or ten miles to ride back to their carriages. Lizzie was very tired, and, when Lord George took her from her horse, could almost have cried from fatigue. Mrs. Carbuncle was never fatigued, but she had become damp,—soaking wet through, as she herself said,—during the four minutes that the man was absent with her waterproof jacket, and could not bring herself to forget the ill-usage she had suffered. Lucinda had become absolutely dumb, and any observer would have fancied that the two gentlemen had quarrelled with each other. "You ought to go on the box now," said Sir Griffin, grumbling. "When you're my age, and I'm yours, I will," said Lord George, taking his seat in the carriage. Then he appealed to Lizzie. "You'll let me smoke, won't you?" She simply bowed her head. And so they went home,—Lord George smoking, and the ladies dumb. Lizzie, as she dressed for dinner, almost cried with vexation and disappointment.
There was a little conversation up-stairs between Mrs. Carbuncle and Lucinda, when they were free from the attendance of their joint maid. "It seems to me," said Mrs. Carbuncle, "that you won't make up your mind about anything."
"There is nothing to make up my mind about."
"I think there is;—a great deal. Do you mean to take this man who is dangling after you?"
"He isn't worth taking."
"Carruthers says that the property must come right, sooner or later. You might do better, perhaps, but you won't trouble yourself. We can't go on like this for ever, you know."
"If you hated it as much as I do, you wouldn't want to go on."
"Why don't you talk to him? I don't think he's at all a bad fellow."
"I've nothing to say."
"He'll offer to-morrow, if you'll accept him."
"Don't let him do that, Aunt Jane. I couldn't say Yes. As for loving him;—oh, laws!"
"It won't do to go on like this, you know."
"I'm only eighteen;—and it's my money, aunt."
"And how long will it last? If you can't accept him, refuse him, and let somebody else come."
"It seems to me," said Lucinda, "that one is as bad as another. I'd a deal sooner marry a shoemaker and help him to make shoes."
"That's downright wickedness," said Mrs. Carbuncle. And then they went down to dinner.
Nappie's Grey Horse
During the leisure of Tuesday, our friends regained their good humour, and on the Wednesday morning they again started for the hunting-field. Mrs. Carbuncle, who probably felt that she had behaved ill about the groom and in regard to Scotland, almost made an apology, and explained that a cold shower always did make her cross. "My dear Lady Eustace, I hope I wasn't very savage." "My dear Mrs. Carbuncle, I hope I wasn't very stupid," said Lizzie with a smile. "My dear Lady Eustace, and my dear Mrs. Carbuncle, and my dear Miss Roanoke, I hope I wasn't very selfish," said Lord George.
"I thought you were," said Sir Griffin.
"Yes, Griff; and so were you;—but I succeeded."
"I am almost glad that I wasn't of the party," said Mr. Emilius, with that musical foreign tone of his. "Miss Macnulty and I did not quarrel; did we?"
"No, indeed," said Miss Macnulty, who had liked the society of Mr. Emilius.
But on this morning there was an attraction for Lizzie which the Monday had wanted. She was to meet her cousin, Frank Greystock. The journey was long, and the horses had gone on over night. They went by railway to Kilmarnock, and there a carriage from the inn had been ordered to meet them. Lizzie, as she heard the order given, wondered whether she would have to pay for that, or whether Lord George and Sir Griffin would take so much off her shoulders. Young women generally pay for nothing; and it was very hard that she, who was quite a young woman, should have to pay for all. But she smiled, and accepted the proposition. "Oh, yes; of course a carriage at the station. It is so nice to have some one to think of things, like Lord George." The carriage met them, and everything went prosperously. Almost the first person they saw was Frank Greystock, in a black coat, indeed, but riding a superb grey horse, and looking quite as though he knew what he was about. He was introduced to Mrs. Carbuncle and Miss Roanoke and Sir Griffin. With Lord George he had some slight previous acquaintance.
"You've had no difficulty about a horse?" said Lizzie.
"Not the slightest. But I was in an awful fright this morning. I wrote to MacFarlane from London, and absolutely hadn't a moment to go to his place yesterday or this morning. I was staying over at Glenshiels, and had not a moment to spare in catching the train. But I found a horse-box on, and a lad from MacFarlane's just leaving as I came up."
"Didn't he send a boy down with the horse?" asked Lord George.
"I believe there is a boy, and the boy'll be awfully bothered. I told him to book the horse for Kilmarnock."
"They always do book for Kilmarnock for this meet," said a gentleman who had made acquaintance with some of Lizzie's party on the previous hunting-day;—"but Stewarton is ever so much nearer."
"So somebody told me in the carriage," continued Frank, "and I contrived to get my box off at Stewarton. The guard was uncommon civil, and so was the porter. But I hadn't a moment to look for the boy."
"I always make my fellow stick to his horses," said Sir Griffin.
"But you see, Sir Griffin, I haven't got a fellow, and I've only hired a horse. But I shall hire a good many horses from Mr. MacFarlane if he'll always put me up like this."
"I'm so glad you're here," said Lizzie.
"So am I. I hunt about twice in three years, and no man likes it so much. I've still got to find out whether the beast can jump."
"Any mortal thing alive, sir," said one of those horsey-looking men who are to be found in all hunting-fields, who wear old brown breeches, old black coats, old hunting-caps, who ride screws, and never get thrown out.
"You know him, do you?" said Frank.
"I know him. I didn't know as Muster MacFarlane owned him. No more he don't," said the horsey man, turning aside to one of his friends. "That's Nappie's horse, from Jamaica Street."
"Not possible," said the friend.
"You'll tell me I don't know my own horse next."
"I don't believe you ever owned one," said the friend.
Lizzie was in truth delighted to have her cousin beside her. He had, at any rate, forgiven what she had said to him at his last visit, or he would not have been there. And then, too, there was a feeling of reality in her connexion with him, which was sadly wanting to her,—unreal as she was herself,—in her acquaintance with the other people around her. And on this occasion three or four people spoke or bowed to her, who had only stared at her before; and the huntsman took off his cap, and hoped that he would do something better for her than on the previous Monday. And the huntsman was very courteous also to Miss Roanoke, expressing the same hope, cap in hand, and smiling graciously. A huntsman at the beginning of any day or at the end of a good day is so different from a huntsman at the end of a bad day! A huntsman often has a very bad time out hunting, and it is sometimes a marvel that he does not take the advice which Job got from his wife. But now all things were smiling, and it was soon known that his lordship intended to draw Craigattan Gorse. Now in those parts there is no surer find, and no better chance of a run, than Craigattan Gorse affords.
"There is one thing I want to ask, Mr. Greystock," said Lord George, in Lizzie's hearing.
"You shall ask two," said Frank.
"Who is to coach Lady Eustace to-day;—you or I?"
"Oh, do let me have somebody to coach me," said Lizzie.
"For devotion in coachmanship," said Frank,—"devotion, that is, to my cousin,—I defy the world. In point of skill I yield to Lord George."
"My pretensions are precisely the same," said Lord George. "I glow with devotion; my skill is naught."
"I like you best, Lord George," said Lizzie, laughing.
"That settles the question," said Lord George.
"Altogether," said Frank, taking off his hat.
"I mean as a coach," said Lizzie.
"I quite understand the extent of the preference," said Lord George. Lizzie was delighted, and thought the game was worth the candle. The noble master had told her that they were sure of a run from Craigattan, and she wasn't in the least tired, and they were not called upon to stand still in a big wood, and it didn't rain, and, in every respect, the day was very different from Monday. Mounted on a bright-skinned, lively steed, with her cousin on one side and Lord George de Bruce Carruthers on the other, with all the hunting world of her own county civil around her, and a fox just found in Craigattan Gorse, what could the heart of woman desire more? This was to live. There was, however, just enough of fear to make the blood run quickly to her heart. "We'll be away at once now," said Lord George with utmost earnestness; "follow me close, but not too close. When the men see that I am giving you a lead, they won't come between. If you hang back, I'll not go ahead. Just check your horse as he comes to his fences, and, if you can, see me over before you go at them. Now then, down the hill;—there's a gate at the corner, and a bridge over the water. We couldn't be better. By George! there they are,—all together. If they don't pull him down in the first two minutes, we shall have a run."
Lizzie understood most of it,—more at least than would nine out of ten young women who had never ridden a hunt before. She was to go wherever Lord George led her, and she was not to ride upon his heels. So much at least she understood,—and so much she was resolved to do. That dread about her front teeth which had perplexed her on Monday was altogether gone now. She would ride as fast as Lucinda Roanoke. That was her prevailing idea. Lucinda, with Mrs. Carbuncle, Sir Griffin, and the ladies' groom, was at the other side of the covert. Frank had been with his cousin and Lord George, but had crept down the hill while the hounds were in the gorse. A man who likes hunting but hunts only once a year is desirous of doing the best he can with his day. When the hounds came out and crossed the brook at the end of the gorse, perhaps he was a little too forward. But, indeed, the state of affairs did not leave much time for waiting, or for the etiquette of the hunting-field. Along the opposite margin of the brook there ran a low paling, which made the water a rather nasty thing to face. A circuit of thirty or forty yards gave the easy riding of a little bridge, and to that all the crowd hurried. But one or two men with good eyes, and hearts as good, had seen the leading hounds across the brook turning up the hill away from the bridge, and knew that two most necessary minutes might be lost in the crowd. Frank did as they did, having seen nothing of any hounds, but with instinctive knowledge that they were men likely to be right in a hunting-field. "If that ain't Nappie's horse, I'll eat him," said one of the leading men to the other, as all the three were breasting the hill together. Frank only knew that he had been carried over water and timber without a mistake, and felt a glow of gratitude towards Mr. MacFarlane. Up the hill they went, and, not waiting to inquire into the circumstances of a little gate, jumped a four-foot wall and were away. "How the mischief did he get atop of Nappie's horse?" said the horsey man to his friend.
"We're about right for it now," said the huntsman, as he came up alongside of Frank. He had crossed the bridge, but had been the first across it, and knew how to get over his ground quickly. On they went, the horsey man leading on his thoroughbred screw, the huntsman second, and Frank third. The pace had already been too good for the other horsey man.
When Lord George and Lizzie had mounted the hill, there was a rush of horses at the little gate. As they topped the hill Lucinda and Mrs. Carbuncle were jumping the wall. Lord George looked back and asked a question without a word. Lizzie answered it as mutely, Jump it! She was already a little short of breath, but she was ready to jump anything that Lucinda Roanoke had jumped. Over went Lord George, and she followed him almost without losing the stride of her horse. Surely in all the world there was nothing equal to this! There was a large grass field before them, and for a moment she came up alongside of Lord George. "Just steady him before he leaps," said Lord George. She nodded her assent, and smiled her gratitude. She had plenty of breath for riding, but none for speaking. They were now very near to Lucinda, and Sir Griffin, and Mrs. Carbuncle. "The pace is too good for Mrs. Carbuncle's horse," said Lord George. Oh, if she could only pass them, and get up to those men whom she saw before her! She knew that one of them was her cousin Frank. She had no wish to pass them, but she did wish that he should see her. In the next fence Lord George spied a rail, which he thought safer than a blind hedge, and he made for it. His horse took it well, and so did Lizzie's; but Lizzie jumped it a little too near him, as he had paused an instant to look at the ground. "Indeed, I won't do it again," she said, collecting all her breath for an apology. "You are going admirably," he said, "and your horse is worth double the money." She was so glad now that he had not spared for price in mounting her. Looking to the right she could see that Mrs. Carbuncle had only just floundered through the hedge. Lucinda was still ahead, but Sir Griffin was falling behind, as though divided in duty between the niece and the aunt. Then they passed through a gate, and Lord George stayed his horse to hold it for her. She tried to thank him but he stopped her. "Don't mind talking, but come along; and take it easy." She smiled again, and he told himself that she was wondrous pretty. And then her pluck was so good! And then she had four thousand a year! "Now for the gap!—don't be in a hurry. You first, and I'll follow you to keep off these two men. Keep to the left, where the other horses have been." On they went, and Lizzie was in heaven. She could not quite understand her feelings, because it had come to that with her that to save her life she could not have spoken a word. And yet she was not only happy but comfortable. The leaping was delightful, and her horse galloped with her as though his pleasure was as great as her own. She thought that she was getting nearer to Lucinda. For her, in her heart, Lucinda was the quarry. If she could only pass Lucinda! That there were any hounds she had altogether forgotten. She only knew that two or three men were leading the way, of whom her cousin Frank was one, that Lucinda Roanoke was following them closely, and that she was gaining upon Lucinda Roanoke. She knew she was gaining a little, because she could see now how well and squarely Lucinda sat upon her horse. As for herself, she feared that she was rolling;—but she need not have feared. She was so small, and lithe, and light, that her body adapted itself naturally to the pace of her horse. Lucinda was of a different build, and it behoved her to make for herself a perfect seat. "We must have the wall," said Lord George, who was again at her side for a moment. She would have "had" a castle wall, moat included, turrets and all, if he would only have shown her the way. The huntsman and Frank had taken the wall. The horsey man's bit of blood, knowing his own powers to an inch, had declined,—not roughly, with a sudden stop and a jerk, but with a swerve to the left which the horsey man at once understood. What the brute lacked in jumping he could make up in pace, and the horsey man was along the wall and over a broken bank at the head of it, with the loss of not more than a minute. Lucinda's horse, following the ill example, balked the jump. She turned him round with a savage gleam in her eye which Lizzie was just near enough to see, struck him rapidly over the shoulders with her whip, and the animal flew with her into the next field. "Oh, if I could do it like that!" thought Lizzie. But in that very minute she was doing it, not only as well but better. Not following Lord George, but close at his side, the little animal changed his pace, trotted for a yard or two, hopped up as though the wall were nothing, knocked off a top stone with his hind feet, and dropped onto the ground so softly that Lizzie hardly believed that she had gone over the big obstruction that had cost Lucinda such an effort. Lucinda's horse came down on all four legs, with a grunt and a groan, and she knew that she had bustled him. At that moment Lucinda was very full of wrath against the horsey man with the screw who had been in her way. "He touched it," gasped Lizzie, thinking that her horse had disgraced himself. "He's worth his weight in gold," said Lord George. "Come along. There's a brook with a ford. Morgan is in it." Morgan was the huntsman. "Don't let them get before you." Oh, no. She would let no one get before her. She did her very best, and just got her horse's nose on the broken track leading down into the brook before Lucinda. "Pretty good, isn't it?" said Lucinda. Lizzie smiled sweetly. She could smile, though she could not speak. "Only they do balk one so at one's fences!" said Lucinda. The horsey man had all but regained his place, and was immediately behind Lucinda, within hearing—as Lucinda knew.
On the further side of the field, beyond the brook, there was a little spinny, and for half a minute the hounds came to a check. "Give 'em time, sir, give 'em time," said Morgan to Frank, speaking in full good humour, with no touch of Monday's savagery. "Wind him, Bolton; Beaver's got it. Very good thing, my lady, isn't it? Now, Carstairs, if you're a-going to 'unt the fox, you'd better 'unt him." Carstairs was the horsey man,—and one with whom Morgan very often quarrelled. "That's it, my hearties," and Morgan was across a broken wall in a moment, after the leading hounds. "Are we to go on?" said Lizzie, who feared much that Lucinda would get ahead of her. There was a matter of three dozen horsemen up now, and, as far as Lizzie saw, the whole thing might have to be done again. In hunting, to have ridden is the pleasure;—and not simply to have ridden well, but to have ridden better than others. "I call it very awkward ground," said Mrs. Carbuncle, coming up. "It can't be compared to the Baron's country." "Stone walls four feet and a half high, and well built, are awkward," said the noble master.
But the hounds were away again, and Lizzie had got across the gap before Lucinda, who, indeed, made way for her hostess with a haughty politeness which was not lost upon Lizzie. Lizzie could not stop to beg pardon, but she would remember to do it in her prettiest way on their journey home. They were now on a track of open country, and the pace was quicker even than before. The same three men were still leading, Morgan, Greystock, and Carstairs. Carstairs had slightly the best of it; and of course Morgan swore afterwards that he was among the hounds the whole run. "The scent was that good, there wasn't no putting of 'em off;—no thanks to him," said Morgan. "I 'ate to see 'em galloping, galloping, galloping, with no more eye to the 'ounds than a pig. Any idiot can gallop, if he's got it under 'im." All which only signified that Jack Morgan didn't like to see any of his field before him. There was need, indeed, now for galloping, and it may be doubted whether Morgan himself was not doing his best. There were about five or six in the second flight, and among these Lord George and Lizzie were well placed. But Lucinda had pressed again ahead. "Miss Roanoke had better have a care, or she'll blow her horse," Lord George said. Lizzie didn't mind what happened to Miss Roanoke's horse, so that it could be made to go a little slower and fall behind. But Lucinda still pressed on, and her animal went with a longer stride than Lizzie's horse.
They now crossed a road, descending a hill, and were again in a close country. A few low hedges seemed as nothing to Lizzie. She could see her cousin gallop over them ahead of her, as though they were nothing; and her own horse, as he came to them, seemed to do exactly the same. On a sudden they found themselves abreast with the huntsman. "There's a biggish brook below there, my lord," said he. Lizzie was charmed to hear it. Hitherto she had jumped all the big things so easily, that it was a pleasure to hear of them. "How are we to manage it?" asked Lord George. "It is rideable, my lord; but there's a place about half a mile down. Let's see how'll they head. Drat it, my lord, they've turned up, and we must have it or go back to the road." Morgan hurried on, showing that he meant to "have" it, as did also Lucinda. "Shall we go to the road?" said Lord George. "No, no!" said Lizzie. Lord George looked at her and at her horse, and then galloped after the huntsman and Lucinda. The horsey man with the well-bred screw was first over the brook. The little animal could take almost any amount of water, and his rider knew the spot. "He'll do it like a bird," he had said to Greystock, and Greystock had followed him. Mr. MacFarlane's hired horse did do it like a bird. "I know him, sir," said Carstairs. "Mr. Nappie gave L250 for him down in Northamptonshire last February;—bought him of Mr. Percival. You know Mr. Percival, sir?" Frank knew neither Mr. Percival nor Mr. Nappie, and at this moment cared nothing for either of them. To him, at this moment, Mr. MacFarlane, of Buchanan Street, Glasgow, was the best friend he ever had.
Morgan, knowing well the horse he rode, dropped him into the brook, floundered and half swam through the mud and water, and scrambled out safely on the other side. "He wouldn't have jumped it with me, if I'd asked him ever so," he said afterwards. Lucinda rode at it, straight as an arrow, but her brute came to a dead balk, and, but that she sat well, would have thrown her into the stream. Lord George let Lizzie take the leap before he took it, knowing that, if there were misfortune, he might so best render help. To Lizzie it seemed as though the river were the blackest, and the deepest, and the broadest that ever ran. For a moment her heart quailed;—but it was but for a moment. She shut her eyes, and gave the little horse his head. For a moment she thought that she was in the water. Her horse was almost upright on the bank, with his hind-feet down among the broken ground, and she was clinging to his neck. But she was light, and the beast made good his footing, and then she knew that she had done it. In that moment of the scramble her heart had been so near her mouth that she was almost choked. When she looked round, Lord George was already by her side. "You hardly gave him powder enough," he said, "but still he did it beautifully. Good heavens! Miss Roanoke is in the river." Lizzie looked back, and there, in truth, was Lucinda struggling with her horse in the water. They paused a moment, and then there were three or four men assisting her. "Come on," said Lord George;—"there are plenty to take her out, and we couldn't get to her if we stayed."
"I ought to stop," said Lizzie.
"You couldn't get back if you gave your eyes for it," said Lord George. "She's all right." So instigated, Lizzie followed her leader up the hill, and in a minute was close upon Morgan's heels.
The worst of doing a big thing out hunting is the fact that in nine cases out of ten they who don't do it are as well off as they who do. If there were any penalty for riding round, or any mark given to those who had ridden straight,—so that justice might in some sort be done,—it would perhaps be better. When you have nearly broken your neck to get to hounds, or made your horse exert himself beyond his proper power, and then find yourself, within three minutes, overtaking the hindmost ruck of horsemen on a road because of some iniquitous turn that the fox has taken, the feeling is not pleasant. And some man who has not ridden at all, who never did ride at all, will ask you where you have been; and his smile will give you the lie in your teeth if you make any attempt to explain the facts. Let it be sufficient for you at such a moment to feel that you are not ashamed of yourself. Self-respect will support a man even in such misery as this.
The fox on this occasion, having crossed the river, had not left its bank, but had turned from his course up the stream, so that the leading spirits who had followed the hounds over the water came upon a crowd of riders on the road in a space something short of a mile. Mrs. Carbuncle, among others, was there, and had heard of Lucinda's mishap. She said a word to Lord George in anger, and Lord George answered her. "We were over the river before it happened, and if we had given our eyes we couldn't have got to her. Don't you make a fool of yourself!" The last words were spoken in a whisper, but Lizzie's sharp ears caught them.
"I was obliged to do what I was told," said Lizzie apologetically.
"It will be all right, dear Lady Eustace. Sir Griffin is with her. I am so glad you are going so well."
They were off again now, and the stupid fox absolutely went back across the river. But, whether on one side or on the other, his struggle for life was now in vain. Two years of happy, free existence amidst the wilds of Craigattan had been allowed him. Twice previously had he been "found," and the kindly storm or not less beneficent brightness of the sun had enabled him to baffle his pursuers. Now there had come one glorious day, and the common lot of mortals must be his. A little spurt there was, back towards his own home,—just enough to give something of selectness to the few who saw him fall,—and then he fell. Among the few were Frank, and Lord George, and our Lizzie. Morgan was there, of course, and one of his whips. Of Ayrshire folk, perhaps five or six, and among them our friend Mr. Carstairs. They had run him down close to the outbuildings of a farm-yard, and they broke him up in the home paddock.
"What do you think of hunting?" said Frank to his cousin.
"My cousin went pretty well, I think," he said to Lord George.
"Like a celestial bird of Paradise. No one ever went better;—or I believe so well. You've been carried rather nicely yourself."
"Indeed I have," said Frank, patting his still palpitating horse, "and he's not to say tired now."
"You've taken it pretty well out of him, sir," said Carstairs. "There was a little bit of hill that told when we got over the brook. I know'd you'd find he'd jump a bit."
"I wonder whether he's to be bought?" asked Frank in his enthusiasm.
"I don't know the horse that isn't," said Mr. Carstairs,—"so long as you don't stand at the figure."
They were collected on the farm road, and now, as they were speaking, there was a commotion among the horses. A man, driving a little buggy, was forcing his way along the road, and there was a sound of voices, as though the man in the buggy were angry. And he was very angry. Frank, who was on foot by his horse's head, could see that the man was dressed for hunting, with a bright red coat and a flat hat, and that he was driving the pony with a hunting-whip. The man was talking as he approached, but what he said did not much matter to Frank. It did not much matter to Frank till his new friend, Mr. Carstairs, whispered a word in his ear. "It's Nappie, by gum!" Then there crept across Frank's mind an idea that there might be trouble coming.
"There he is," said Nappie, bringing his pony to a dead stop with a chuck, and jumping out of the buggy. "I say, you, sir; you've stole my 'orse!" Frank said not a word, but stood his ground with his hand on the nag's bridle. "You've stole my 'orse; you've stole him off the rail. And you've been a-riding him all day. Yes, you 'ave. Did ever anybody see the like of this? Why, the poor beast can't a'most stand!"
"I got him from Mr. MacFarlane."
"MacFarlane be blowed! You didn't do nothing of the kind. You stole him off the rail at Stewarton. Yes, you did;—and him booked to Kilmarnock. Where's a police? Who's to stand the like o' this? I say, my lord,—just look at this." A crowd had now been formed round poor Frank, and the master had come up. Mr. Nappie was a Huddersfield man, who had come to Glasgow in the course of the last winter, and whose popularity in the hunting-field was not as yet quite so great as it perhaps might have been.
"There's been a mistake, I suppose," said the master.
"Mistake, my lord! Take a man's 'orse off the rail at Stewarton, and him booked to Kilmarnock, and ride him to a standstill! It's no mistake at all. It's 'orse-nobbling; that's what it is. Is there any police here, sir?" This he said, turning round to a farmer. The farmer didn't deign any reply. "Perhaps you'll tell me your name, sir? if you've got a name. No gen'leman ever took a gen'leman's 'orse off the rail like that."
"Oh, Frank, do come away," said Lizzie, who was standing by.
"We shall be all right in two minutes," said Frank.
"No, we sha'n't," said Mr. Nappie,—"nor yet in two hours. I've asked what's your name?"
"My name is—Greystock."
"Greystockings," said Mr. Nappie more angrily than ever. "I don't believe in no such name. Where do you live?" Then somebody whispered a word to him. "Member of Parliament,—is he? I don't care a ——. A member of Parliament isn't to steal my 'orse off the rail, and him booked to Kilmarnock. Now, my lord, what'd you do if you was served like that?" This was another appeal to the noble master.
"I should express a hope that my horse had carried the gentleman as he liked to be carried," said the master.
"And he has,—carried me remarkably well," said Frank;—whereupon there was a loud laugh among the crowd.
"I wish he'd broken the infernal neck of you, you scoundrel, you,—that's what I do!" said Mr. Nappie. "There was my man, and my 'orse, and myself all booked from Glasgow to Kilmarnock;—and when I got there what did the guard say to me?—why, just that a man in a black coat had taken my horse off at Stewarton; and now I've been driving all about the country in that gig there for three hours!" When Mr. Nappie had got so far as this in his explanation he was almost in tears. "I'll make 'im pay, that I will. Take your hand off my horse's bridle, sir. Is there any gentleman here as would like to give two hundred and eighty guineas for a horse, and then have him rid to a standstill by a fellow like that down from London? If you're in Parliament, why don't you stick to Parliament? I don't suppose he's worth fifty pound this moment."
Frank had all the while been endeavouring to explain the accident; how he had ordered a horse from Mr. MacFarlane, and the rest of it,—as the reader will understand; but quite in vain. Mr. Nappie in his wrath would not hear a word. But now that he spoke about money, Frank thought that he saw an opening. "Mr. Nappie," he said, "I'll buy the horse for the price you gave for him."
"I'll see you ——; extremely well —— first," said Mr. Nappie.
The horse had now been surrendered to Mr. Nappie, and Frank suggested that he might as well return to Kilmarnock in the gig, and pay for the hire of it. But Mr. Nappie would not allow him to set a foot upon the gig. "It's my gig for the day," said he, "and you don't touch it. You shall foot it all the way back to Kilmarnock, Mr. Greystockings." But Mr. Nappie, in making this threat, forgot that there were gentlemen there with second horses. Frank was soon mounted on one belonging to Lord George, and Lord George's servant, at the corner of the farm-yard, got into the buggy, and was driven back to Kilmarnock by the man who had accompanied poor Mr. Nappie in their morning's hunt on wheels after the hounds.
"Upon my word, I was very sorry," said Frank as he rode back with his friends to Kilmarnock; "and when I first really understood what had happened, I would have done anything. But what could I say? It was impossible not to laugh, he was so unreasonable."
"I should have put my whip over his shoulder," said a stout farmer, meaning to be civil to Frank Greystock.
"Not after using it so often over his horse," said Lord George.
"I never had to touch him once," said Frank.
"And are you to have it all for nothing?" asked the thoughtful Lizzie.
"He'll send a bill in, you'll find," said a bystander.
"Not he," said Lord George. "His grievance is worth more to him than his money."
No bill did come to Frank, and he got his mount for nothing. When Mr. MacFarlane was applied to, he declared that no letter ordering a horse had been delivered in his establishment. From that day to this Mr. Nappie's grey horse has had a great character in Ayrshire; but all the world there says that its owner never rides him as Frank Greystock rode him that day.
Sir Griffin Takes an Unfair Advantage
We must return to the unfortunate Lucinda, whom we last saw struggling with her steed in the black waters of the brook which she attempted to jump. A couple of men were soon in after her, and she was rescued and brought back to the side from which she had taken off without any great difficulty. She was neither hurt nor frightened, but she was wet through; and for a while she was very unhappy, because it was not found quite easy to extricate her horse. During the ten minutes of her agony, while the poor brute was floundering in the mud, she had been quite disregardful of herself, and had almost seemed to think that Sir Griffin, who was with her, should go into the water after her steed. But there were already two men in the water, and three on the bank, and Sir Griffin thought that duty required him to stay by the young lady's side. "I don't care a bit about myself," said Lucinda, "but if anything can be done for poor Warrior!" Sir Griffin assured her that "poor Warrior" was receiving the very best attention; and then he pressed upon her the dangerous condition in which she herself was standing,—quite wet through, covered, as to her feet and legs, with mud, growing colder and colder every minute. She touched her lips with a little brandy that somebody gave her, and then declared again that she cared for nothing but poor Warrior. At last poor Warrior was on his legs, with the water dripping from his black flanks, with his nose stained with mud, with one of his legs a little cut,—and, alas! with the saddle wet through. Nevertheless, there was nothing to be done better than to ride into Kilmarnock. The whole party must return to Kilmarnock, and, perhaps, if they hurried, she might be able to get her clothes dry before they would start by the train. Sir Griffin, of course, accompanied her, and they two rode into the town alone. Mrs. Carbuncle did hear of the accident soon after the occurrence, but had not seen her niece; nor when she heard of it, could she have joined Lucinda.
If anything would make a girl talk to a man, such a ducking as Lucinda had had would do so. Such sudden events, when they come in the shape of misfortune, or the reverse, generally have the effect of abolishing shyness for the time. Let a girl be upset with you in a railway train, and she will talk like a Rosalind, though before the accident she was as mute as death. But with Lucinda Roanoke the accustomed change did not seem to take place. When Sir Griffin had placed her on her saddle, she would have trotted all the way into Kilmarnock without a word if he would have allowed her. But he, at least, understood that such a joint misfortune should create confidence,—for he, too, had lost the run, and he did not intend to lose his opportunity also. "I am so glad that I was near you," he said.
"Oh, thank you, yes; it would have been bad to be alone."
"I mean that I am glad that it was I," said Sir Griffin. "It's very hard even to get a moment to speak to you." They were now trotting along on the road, and there were still three miles before them.
"I don't know," said she. "I'm always with the other people."
"Just so." And then he paused. "But I want to find you when you're not with the other people. Perhaps, however, you don't like me."
As he paused for a reply, she felt herself bound to say something. "Oh, yes, I do," she said,—"as well as anybody else."
"And is that all?"
"I suppose so."
After that he rode on for the best part of another mile before he spoke to her again. He had made up his mind that he would do it. He hardly knew why it was that he wanted her. He had not determined that he was desirous of the charms or comfort of domestic life. He had not even thought where he would live were he married. He had not suggested to himself that Lucinda was a desirable companion, that her temper would suit his, that her ways and his were sympathetic, or that she would be a good mother to the future Sir Griffin Trewett. He had seen that she was a very handsome girl, and therefore he had thought that he would like to possess her. Had she fallen like a ripe plum into his mouth, or shown herself ready so to fall, he would probably have closed his lips and backed out of the affair. But the difficulty no doubt added something to the desire. "I had hoped," he said, "that after knowing each other so long there might have been more than that."
She was again driven to speak because he paused. "I don't know that that makes much difference."
"Miss Roanoke, you can't but understand what I mean."
"I'm sure I don't," said she.
"Then I'll speak plainer."
"Not now, Sir Griffin, because I'm so wet."
"You can listen to me even if you will not answer me. I am sure that you know that I love you better than all the world. Will you be mine?" Then he moved on a little forward so that he might look back into her face. "Will you allow me to think of you as my future wife?"
Miss Roanoke was able to ride at a stone wall or at a river, and to ride at either the second time when her horse balked the first. Her heart was big enough for that. But her heart was not big enough to enable her to give Sir Griffin an answer. Perhaps it was that, in regard to the river and the stone wall, she knew what she wanted; but that, as to Sir Griffin, she did not. "I don't think this is a proper time to ask," she said.
"Because I am wet through and cold. It is taking an unfair advantage."
"I didn't mean to take any unfair advantage," said Sir Griffin scowling—"I thought we were alone—"
"Oh, Sir Griffin, I am so tired!" As they were now entering Kilmarnock, it was quite clear he could press her no further. They clattered up, therefore, to the hotel, and he busied himself in getting a bedroom fire lighted, and in obtaining the services of the landlady. A cup of tea was ordered, and toast, and in two minutes Lucinda Roanoke was relieved from the presence of the baronet. "It's a kind of thing a fellow doesn't quite understand," said Sir Griffin to himself. "Of course she means it, and why the devil can't she say so?" He had no idea of giving up the chase, but he thought that perhaps he would take it out of her when she became Lady Tewett.