When the Hertford street robbery was three days old, and was still the talk of all the town, Lizzie Eustace was really ill. She had promised to go down to Scotland in compliance with the advice given to her by her cousin Frank, and at the moment of promising would have been willing enough to be transported at once to Portray, had that been possible—so as to be beyond the visits of policemen and the authority of lawyers and magistrates; but as the hours passed over her head, and as her presence of mind returned to her, she remembered that even at Portray she would not be out of danger, and that she could do nothing in furtherance of her plans if once immured there. Lord George was in London, Frank Greystock was in London, and Lord Fawn was in London. It was more than ever necessary to her that she should find a husband among them, a husband who would not be less her husband when the truth of that business at Carlisle should be known to all the world. She had, in fact, stolen nothing. She endeavoured to comfort herself by repeating to herself over and over again that assurance. She had stolen nothing; and she still thought that if she could obtain the support of some strong arm on which to lean, she might escape punishment for those false oaths 156 which she had sworn. Her husband might take her abroad, and the whole thing would die away. If she should succeed with Lord George, of course he would take her abroad, and there would be no need for any speedy return. They might roam among islands in pleasant warm suns, and the dreams of her youth might be realised. Her income was still her own. They could not touch that. So she thought, at least, oppressed by some slight want of assurance in that respect. Were she to go at once to Scotland, she must for the present give up that game altogether. If Frank would pledge himself to become her husband in three or four, or even in six months, she would go at once. She had more confidence in Frank than even in Lord George. As for love, she would sometimes tell herself that she was violently in love; but she hardly knew with which. Lord George was certainly the best representative of that perfect Corsair which her dreams had represented to her; but, in regard to working life, she thought that she liked her cousin Frank better than she had ever yet liked any other human being. But, in truth, she was now in that condition, as she acknowledged to herself, that she was hardly entitled to choose. Lord Fawn had promised to marry her, and to him as a husband she conceived that she still had a right. Nothing had as yet been proved against her which could justify him in repudiating his engagement. She had, no doubt, asserted with all vehemence to her cousin that no consideration would now induce her to give her hand to Lord Fawn; and when making that assurance she had been, after her nature, sincere. But circumstances were changed since that. She had not much hope that Lord Fawn might be made to succumb, 157 though evidence had reached her before the last robbery which induced her to believe that he did not consider himself to be quite secure. In these circumstances she was unwilling to leave London though she had promised, and was hardly sorry to find an excuse in her recognised illness.
And she was ill. Though her mind was again at work with schemes on which she would not have busied herself without hope, yet she had not recovered from the actual bodily prostration to which she had been compelled to give way when first told of the robbery on her return from the theatre. There had been moments then in which she thought that her heart would have broken; moments in which, but that the power of speech was wanting, she would have told everything to Lucinda Roanoke. When Mrs. Carbuncle was marching up-stairs with the policemen at her heels she would willingly have sold all her hopes, Portray Castle, her lovers, her necklace, her income, her beauty, for any assurance of the humblest security. With that quickness of intellect which was her peculiar gift, she had soon understood, in the midst of her sufferings, that her necklace had been taken by thieves whose robbery might assist her for a while in keeping her secret, rather than lead to the immediate divulging of it. Neither Camperdown nor Bunfit had been at work among the boxes. Her secret had been discovered, no doubt, by Patience Crabstick, and the diamonds were gone. But money also was taken, and the world need not know that the diamonds had been there. But Lord George knew. And then there arose to her that question: Had the diamonds been taken in consequence of that revelation to Lord George? It was not 158 surprising that in the midst of all this Lizzie should be really ill.
She was most anxious to see Lord George; but, if what Mrs. Carbuncle said to her was true, Lord George refused to see her. She did not believe Mrs. Carbuncle, and was, therefore, quite in the dark about her Corsair. As she could only communicate with him through Mrs. Carbuncle, it might well be the case that he should have been told that he could not have access to her. Of course there were difficulties. That her cousin Frank should see her in her bedroom—her cousin Frank, with whom it was essentially necessary that she should hold counsel as to her present great difficulties—was a matter of course. There was no hesitation about that. A fresh nightcap, and a clean pocket handkerchief with a bit of lace round it, and perhaps some pretty covering to her shoulders if she were to be required to sit up in bed, and the thing was arranged. He might have spent the best part of his days in her bedroom if he could have spared the time. But the Corsair was not a cousin, nor as yet an acknowledged lover. There was difficulty even in framing a reason for her request, when she made it to Mrs. Carbuncle; and the very reason which she gave was handed back to her as the Corsair’s reason for not coming to her. She desired to see him because he had been so mixed up in the matter of these terrible robberies. But Mrs. Carbuncle declared to her that Lord George would not come to her because his name had been so frequently mentioned in connection with the diamonds. “You see, my dear,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, “there can be no real reason for his seeing you up in your bedroom. If there had been anything between you, as I once thought 159 there would——” There was something in the tone of Mrs. Carbuncle’s voice which grated on Lizzie’s ear, something which seemed to imply that all that prospect was over.
“Of course,” said Lizzie querulously, “I am very anxious to know what he thinks. I care more about his opinion than anybody else’s. As to his name being mixed up in it, that is all a joke.”
“It has been no joke to him, I can assure you,” said Mrs. Carbuncle. Lizzie could not press her request. Of course she knew more about it than did Mrs. Carbuncle. The secret was in her own bosom, the secret as to the midnight robbery at Carlisle, and that secret she had told to Lord George. As to the robbery in London she knew nothing, except that it had been perpetrated through the treachery of Patience Crabstick. Did Lord George know more about it than she knew? and if so, was he now deterred by that knowledge from visiting her? “You see, my dear,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, “that a gentleman visiting a lady with whom he has no connection, in her bedroom, is in itself something very peculiar.” Lizzie made a motion of impatience under the bedclothes. Any such argument was trash to her, and she knew that it was trash to Mrs. Carbuncle also. What was one man in her bedroom more than another? She could see a dozen doctors if she pleased, and if so, why not this man, whose real powers of doctoring her would be so much more efficacious? “You would want to see him alone, too,” continued Mrs. Carbuncle, “and, of course, the police would hear of it. I am not at all surprised that he should stay away.” Lizzie’s condition did not admit of much argument on her side, and she only 160 showed her opposition to Mrs. Carbuncle by being cross and querulous.
Frank Greystock came to her with great constancy almost every day, and from him she did hear about the robbery all that he knew or heard. When three days had passed, when six days, and even when ten days were gone, nobody had been as yet arrested. The police, according to Frank, were much on the alert, but were very secret. They either would not or could not tell anything. To him the two robberies, that at Carlisle and the last affair in Hertford street, were of course distinct. There were those who believed that the Hertford street thieves and the Carlisle thieves were not only the same, but that they had been in quest of the same plunder, and had at last succeeded. But Frank was not one of these. He never for a moment doubted that the diamonds had been taken at Carlisle, and explained the second robbery by the supposition that Patience Crabstick had been emboldened by success. The iron box had no doubt been taken by her assistance, and her familiarity with the thieves, then established, had led to the second robbery. Lizzie’s loss in that second robbery had amounted to some hundred pounds. This was Frank Greystock’s theory, and of course it was one very comfortable to Lizzie.
“They all seem to think that the diamonds are at Paris,” he said to her one day.
“If you only knew how little I care about them! It seems as though I had almost forgotten them in these after troubles.”
“Mr. Camperdown cares about them. I’m told he says that he can make you pay for them out of your jointure.”161
“That would be very terrible, of course,” said Lizzie, to whose mind there was something consolatory in the idea that the whole affair of the robbery might perhaps remain so mysterious as to remove her from the danger of other punishment than this.
“I feel sure that he couldn’t do it,” said Frank, “and I don’t think he’ll try it. John Eustace would not let him. It would be persecution.”
“Mr. Camperdown has always chosen to persecute me,” said Lizzie.
“I can understand that he shouldn’t like the loss of the diamonds. I don’t think, Lizzie, you ever realised their true value.”
“I suppose not. After all, a necklace is only a necklace. I cared nothing for it—except that I could not bear the idea that that man should dictate to me. I would have given it up at once, at the slightest word from you.” He did not care to remind her then, as she lay in bed, that he had been very urgent in his advice to her to abandon the diamonds; and not the less urgent because he had thought that the demand for them was unjust. “I told you often,” she continued, “that I was tempted to throw them among the waves. It was true, quite true. I offered to give them to you, and should have been delighted to have been relieved from them.”
“That was of course simply impossible.”
“I know it was impossible on your part; but I would have been delighted. Of what use were they to me? I wore them twice because that man”—meaning Lord Fawn—“disputed my right to them. Before that I never even looked at them. Do you think I had pleasure in wearing them, or pleasure in looking at them? 162 Never. They were only a trouble to me. It was a point of honour with me to keep them, because I was attacked. But I am glad they are gone—thoroughly glad.” This was all very well, and was not without its effect on Frank Greystock. It is hardly expected of a woman in such a condition, with so many troubles on her mind, who had been so persecuted, that every word uttered by her should be strictly true. Lizzie with her fresh nightcap and her lace handkerchief, pale, and with her eyes just glittering with tears, was very pretty.
“Didn’t somebody once give some one a garment which scorched him up when he wore it—some woman who sent it because she loved the man so much?”
“The shirt, you mean, which Deianira sent to Hercules. Yes, Hercules was a good deal scorched.”
“And that necklace, which my husband gave me because he loved me so well, has scorched me horribly. It has nearly killed me. It has been like the white elephant which the Eastern king gives to his subject when he means to ruin him. Only poor Florian didn’t mean to hurt me. He gave it all in love. If these people bring a lawsuit against me, Frank, you must manage it for me.”
“There will be no lawsuit. Your brother-in-law will stop it.”
“I wonder who will really get the diamonds after all, Frank? They were very valuable. Only think that the ten thousand pounds should disappear in such a way!” The subject was a very dangerous one, but there was a fascination about it which made it impossible for her to refrain from it.
“A dishonest dealer in diamonds will probably realise the plunder—after some years. There would be 163 something very alluring in the theft of articles of great value, were it not that, when got, they at once become almost valueless by the difficulty of dealing with them. Supposing I had the necklace!”
“I wish you had, Frank.”
“I could do nothing with it. Ten sovereigns would go further with me—or ten shillings. The burden of possessing it would in itself be almost more than I could bear. The knowledge that I had the thing, and might be discovered in having it, would drive me mad. By my own weakness I should be compelled to tell my secret to some one. And then I should never sleep for fear my partner in the matter should turn against me.” How well she understood it all! How probable it was that Lord George should turn against her! How exact was Frank’s description of that burden of a secret so heavy that it cannot be borne alone! “A little reflection,” continued Frank, “soon convinces a man that rough downright stealing is an awkward, foolish trade; and it therefore falls into the hands of those who want education for the higher efforts of dishonesty. To get into a bank at midnight and steal what little there may be in the till, or even an armful of banknotes, with the probability of a policeman catching you as you creep out of the chimney and through a hole, is clumsy work; but to walk in amidst the smiles and bows of admiring managers and draw out money over the counter by thousands and tens of thousands, which you have never put in and which you can never repay, and which, when all is done, you have only borrowed—that is a great feat.”
“Do you really think so?”
“The courage, the ingenuity, and the self-confidence 164 are certainly admirable. And then there is a cringing and almost contemptible littleness about honesty, which hardly allows it to assert itself. The really honest man can never say a word to make those who don’t know of his honesty believe that it is there. He has one foot in the grave before his neighbours have learned that he is possessed of an article for the use of which they would so willingly have paid, could they have been made to see that it was there. The dishonest man almost doubts whether in him dishonesty is dishonest, let it be practised ever so widely. The honest man almost doubts whether his honesty be honest, unless it be kept hidden. Let two unknown men be competitors for any place, with nothing to guide the judges but their own words and their own looks, and who can doubt but the dishonest man would be chosen rather than the honest? Honesty goes about with a hangdog look about him, as though knowing that he cannot be trusted till he be proved. Dishonesty carries his eyes high, and assumes that any question respecting him must be considered to be unnecessary.”
“Oh, Frank, what a philosopher you are.”
“Well, yes; meditating about your diamonds has brought my philosophy out. When do you think you will go to Scotland?”
“I am hardly strong enough for the journey yet. I fear the cold so much.”
“You would not find it cold there by the seaside. To tell you the truth, Lizzie, I want to get you out of this house. I don’t mean to say a word against Mrs. Carbuncle; but after all that has occurred, it would be better that you should be away. People talk about you and Lord George.”165
“How can I help it, Frank?”
“By going away—that is, if I may presume one thing. I don’t want to pry into your secrets.”
“I have none from you.”
“Unless there be truth in the assertion that you are engaged to marry Lord George Carruthers.”
“There is no truth in it.”
“And you do not wish to stay here in order that there may be an engagement? I am obliged to ask you home questions, Lizzie, as I could not otherwise advise you.”
“You do, indeed, ask home questions.”
“I will desist at once, if they be disagreeable.”
“Frank, you are false to me.” As she said this she rose in her bed, and sat with her eyes fixed upon his, and her thin hands stretched out upon the bedclothes. “You know that I cannot wish to be engaged to him or to any other man. You know, better almost than I can know myself, how my heart stands. There has, at any rate, been no hypocrisy with me in regard to you. Everything has been told to you—at what cost I will not now say. The honest woman, I fear, fares worse even than the honest man of whom you spoke. I think you admitted that he would be appreciated at last. She to her dying day must pay the penalty of her transgressions. Honesty in a woman the world never forgives.” When she had done speaking, he sat silent by her bedside, but, almost unconsciously, he stretched out his left hand and took her right hand in his. For a few seconds she admitted this, and she lay there with their hands clasped. Then with a start she drew back her arm, and retreated as it were from his touch. “How dare you,” said she, “press my hand when you know that such pressure from you is treacherous and damnable?”166
“Yes—damnable. I will not pick my words for you. Coming from you, what does such pressure mean?”
“Yes—and of what sort? You are wicked enough to feed my love by such tokens, when you know that you do not mean to return it. Oh, Frank, Frank, will you give me back my heart? What was it that you promised me when we sat together upon the rocks at Portray?”
It is inexpressibly difficult for a man to refuse the tender of a woman’s love. We may almost say that a man should do so as a matter of course—that the thing so offered becomes absolutely valueless by the offer—that the woman who can make it has put herself out of court by her own abandonment of privileges due to her as a woman—that stern rebuke and even expressed contempt are justified by such conduct—and that the fairest beauty and most alluring charms of feminine grace should lose their attraction when thus tendered openly in the market. No doubt such is our theory as to love and lovemaking. But the action to be taken by us in matters as to which the plainest theory prevails for the guidance of our practice, depends so frequently on accompanying circumstances and correlative issues, that the theory, as often as not, falls to the ground. Frank could not despise this woman, and could not be stern to her. He could not bring himself to tell her boldly that he would have nothing to say to her in the way of love. He made excuses for her, and persuaded himself that there were peculiar circumstances in her position justifying unwomanly conduct, although, had he examined himself on 167 the subject, he would have found it difficult to say what those circumstances were. She was rich, beautiful, clever—and he was flattered. Nevertheless he knew that he could not marry her; and he knew also that much as he liked her he did not love her. “Lizzie,” he said, “I think you hardly understand my position.”
“Yes, I do. That little girl has cozened you out of a promise.”
“If it be so, you would not have me break it?”
“Yes, I would, if you think she is not fit to be your wife. Is a man, such as you are, to be tied by the leg for life, have all his ambition clipped, and his high hopes shipwrecked, because a girl has been clever enough to extract a word from him? Is it not true that you are in debt?”
“What of that? At any rate, Lizzie, I do not want help from you.”
“That is so like a man’s pride! Do we not all know that in such a career as you have marked out for yourself, wealth, or at any rate an easy income, is necessary? Do you think that I cannot put two and two together? Do you believe so meanly of me as to imagine that I should have said to you what I have said, if I did not know that I could help you? A man, I believe, cannot understand that love which induces a woman to sacrifice her pride simply for his advantage. I want to see you prosper. I want to see you a great man and a lord, and I know that you cannot become so without an income. Ah, I wish I could give you all that I have got, and save you from the encumbrance that is attached to it!”
It might be that he would then have told her of his 168 engagement to Lucy, and of his resolution to adhere to that promise, had not Mrs. Carbuncle at that moment entered the room. Frank had been there for above an hour, and as Lizzie was still an invalid, and to some extent under the care of Mrs. Carbuncle, it was natural that that lady should interfere. “You know, my dear, you should not exhaust yourself altogether. Mr. Emilius is to come to you this afternoon.”
“Mr. Emilius!” said Greystock.
“Yes—the clergyman. Don’t you remember him at Portray? A dark man with eyes close together! You used to be very wicked, and say that he was once a Jew boy in the streets.” Lizzie, as she spoke of her spiritual guide, was evidently not desirous of doing him much honour.
“I remember him well enough. He made sheep’s eyes at Miss Macnulty, and drank a great deal of wine at dinner.”
“Poor Macnulty! I don’t believe a word about the wine; and as for Macnulty, I don’t see why she should not be converted as well as another. He is coming here to read to me. I hope you don’t object.”
“Not in the least—if you like it.”
“One does have solemn thoughts sometimes, Frank—especially when one is ill.”
“Oh, yes. Well or ill, one does have solemn thoughts—ghosts, as it were, which will appear. But is Mr. Emilius good at laying such apparitions?”
“He is a clergyman, Mr. Greystock,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, with something of rebuke in her voice.
“So they tell me. I was not present at his ordination, but I dare say it was done according to rule. When one reflects what a deal of harm a bishop may 169 do, one wishes that there was some surer way of getting bishops.”
“Do you know anything against Mr. Emilius?” asked Lizzie.
“Nothing at all but his looks, and manners, and voice, unless it be that he preaches popular sermons, and drinks too much wine, and makes sheep’s eyes at Miss Macnulty. Look after your silver spoons, Mrs. Carbuncle, if the last thieves have left you any. You were asking after the fate of your diamonds, Lizzie. Perhaps they will endow a Protestant church in Mr. Emilius’s native land.”
Mr. Emilius did come and read to Lady Eustace that afternoon. A clergyman is as privileged to enter the bedroom of a sick lady as is a doctor or a cousin. There was another clean cap, and another laced handkerchief, and on this occasion a little shawl over Lizzie’s shoulders. Mr. Emilius first said a prayer, kneeling at Lizzie’s bedside; then he read a chapter in the Bible; and after that he read the first half of the fourth canto of Childe Harold so well, that Lizzie felt for the moment that after all poetry was life, and life was poetry.170
The second robbery to which Lady Eustace had been subjected by no means decreased the interest which was attached to her and her concerns in the fashionable world. Parliament had now met, and the party at Matching Priory, Lady Glencora Palliser’s party in the country, had been to some extent broken up. All those gentlemen who were engaged in the service of Her Majesty’s Government had necessarily gone to London, and they who had wives at Matching had taken their wives with them. Mr. and Mrs. Bonteen had seen the last of their holiday; Mr. Palliser himself was, of course, at his post; and all the private secretaries were with the public secretaries on the scene of action. On the 13th of February Mr. Palliser made his first great statement in Parliament on the matter of the five-farthinged penny, and pledged himself to do his very best to carry that stupendous measure through Parliament in the present session. The City men who were in the House that night, and all the directors of the Bank of England, were in the gallery, and every chairman of a great banking company, and every Baring and every Rothschild, if there be Barings and Rothschilds who have not been returned by constituencies, and have not seats in the House by right, agreed in declaring that the job in hand was too much for any 171 one member or any one session. Some said that such a measure never could be passed, because the unfinished work of one session could not be used in the labours of the next. Everything must be recommenced; and therefore, so said these hopeless ones, the penny with five farthings, the penny of which a hundred would make ten shillings, the halcyon penny, which would make all future pecuniary calculations easy to the meanest British capacity, could never become the law of the land. Others, more hopeful, were willing to believe that gradually the thing would so sink into the minds of members of Parliament, of writers of leading articles, and of the active public generally, as to admit of certain established axioms being taken as established, and placed, as it were, beyond the procrastinating power of debate. It might, for instance, at last be taken for granted that a decimal system was desirable, so that a month or two of the spring need not be consumed on that preliminary question. But this period had not as yet been reached, and it was thought by the entire City that Mr. Palliser was much too sanguine. It was so probable, many said, that he might kill himself by labour which would be Herculean in all but success, and that no financier after him would venture to face the task. It behooved Lady Glencora to see that her Hercules did not kill himself.
In this state of affairs Lady Glencora, into whose hands the custody of Mr. Palliser’s uncle, the duke, had now altogether fallen, had a divided duty between Matching and London. When the members of Parliament went up to London, she went there also, leaving some half-dozen friends whom she could trust to amuse the duke; but she soon returned, knowing that there 172 might be danger in a long absence. The duke, though old, was his own master; he much affected the company of Madame Goesler, and that lady’s kindness to him was considerate and incessant; but there might still be danger, and Lady Glencora felt that she was responsible that the old nobleman should do nothing, in the feebleness of age, to derogate from the splendour of his past life. What if some day his grace should be off to Paris and insist on making Madame Goesler a duchess in the chapel of the Embassy? Madame Goesler had hitherto behaved very well; would probably continue to behave well. Lady Glencora really loved Madame Goesler. But then the interests at stake were very great! So circumstanced, Lady Glencora found herself compelled to be often on the road between Matching and London.
But though she was burthened with great care, Lady Glencora by no means dropped her interest in the Eustace diamonds; and when she learned that on the top of the great Carlisle robbery a second robbery had been superadded, and that this had been achieved while all the London police were yet astray about the former operation, her solicitude was of course enhanced. The duke himself, too, took the matter up so strongly that he almost wanted to be carried up to London, with some view, as it was supposed by the ladies who were so good to him, of seeing Lady Eustace personally.
“It’s out of the question, my dear,” Lady Glencora said to Madame Goesler, when the duke’s fancy was first mentioned to her by that lady.
“I told him that the trouble would be too much for him.”
“Of course it would be too much,” said Lady Glencora. 173 “It is quite out of the question.” Then after a moment she added in a whisper, “Who knows but what he’d insist on marrying her? It isn’t every woman that can resist temptation.” Madame Goesler smiled and shook her head, but made no answer to Lady Glencora’s suggestion. Lady Glencora assured her uncle that everything should be told to him. She would write about it daily, and send him the latest news by the wires if the post should be too slow.
“Ah, yes,” said the duke. “I like telegrams best. I think, you know, that that Lord George Carruthers had had something to do with it. Don’t you, Madame Goesler?” It had long been evident that the duke was anxious that one of his own order should be proved to have been the thief, as the plunder taken was so lordly.
In regard to Lizzie herself, Lady Glencora, on her return to London, took it into her head to make a diversion in our heroine’s favour. It had hitherto been a matter of faith with all the liberal party that Lady Eustace had had something to do with stealing her own diamonds. That esprit de corps, which is the glorious characteristic of English statesmen, had caused the whole Government to support Lord Fawn, and Lord Fawn could only be supported on the supposition that Lizzie Eustace had been a wicked culprit. But Lady Glencora, though very true as a politician, was apt to have opinions of her own, and to take certain flights in which she chose that others of the party should follow her. She now expressed an opinion that Lady Eustace was a victim, and all the Mrs. Bonteens, with some even of the Mr. Bonteens, found themselves compelled to agree with her. She stood too high among her set 174 to be subject to that obedience which restrained others; too high, also, for others to resist her leading. As a member of a party she was erratic and dangerous, but from her position and peculiar temperament she was powerful. When she declared that poor Lady Eustace was a victim, others were obliged to say so too. This was particularly hard upon Lord Fawn, and the more so as Lady Glencora took upon her to assert that Lord Fawn had no right to jilt the young woman. And Lady Glencora had this to support her views—that for the last week past, indeed ever since the depositions which had been taken after the robbery in Hertford street, the police had expressed no fresh suspicions in regard to Lizzie Eustace. She heard daily from Barrington Erle that Major Mackintosh and Bunfit and Gager were as active as ever in their inquiries, that all Scotland Yard was determined to unravel the mystery, and that there were emissaries at work tracking the diamonds at Hamburg, Paris, Vienna, and New York. It had been whispered to Mr. Erle that the whereabouts of Patience Crabstick had been discovered, and that many of the leading thieves in London were assisting the police; but nothing more was done in the way of fixing any guilt upon Lizzie Eustace. “Upon my word, I am beginning to think that she has been more sinned against than sinning.” This was said to Lady Glencora on the morning after Mr. Palliser’s great speech about the five farthings, by Barrington Erle, who, as it seemed, had been specially told off by the party to watch this investigation.
“I am sure she has had nothing to do with it. I have thought so ever since the last robbery. Sir Simon Slope told me yesterday afternoon that Mr. Camperdown 175 has given it up altogether.” Sir Simon Slope was the Solicitor-General of that day.
“It would be absurd for him to go on with his bill in Chancery now that the diamonds are gone, unless he meant to make her pay for them.”
“That would be rank persecution. Indeed, she has been persecuted. I shall call upon her.” Then she wrote the following letter to the duke:—
“February 14, 18—.
“My dear Duke: Plantagenet was on his legs last night for three hours and three-quarters, and I sat through it all. As far as I could observe through the bars I was the only person in the House who listened to him. I’m sure Mr. Gresham was fast asleep. It was quite piteous to see some of them yawning. Plantagenet did it very well, and I almost think I understood him. They seem to say that nobody on the other side will take trouble enough to make a regular opposition, but there are men in the City who will write letters to the newspapers, and get up a sort of Bank clamour. Plantagenet says nothing about it, but there is a do-or-die manner with him which is quite tragical. The House was up at eleven, when he came home and eat three oysters, drank a glass of beer, and slept well. They say the real work will come when it’s in Committee; that is, if it gets there. The bill is to be brought in, and will be read the first time next Monday week.
“As to the robberies, I believe there is no doubt that the police have got hold of the young woman. They don’t arrest her, but deal with her in a friendly sort of way. Barrington Erle says that a sergeant is 176 to marry her in order to make quite sure of her. I suppose they know their business; but that wouldn’t strike me as being the safest way. They seem to think the diamonds went to Paris, but have since been sent on to New York.
“As to the little widow, I do believe she has been made a victim. She first lost her diamonds, and now her other jewels and her money have gone. I cannot see what she was to gain by treachery, and I think she has been ill-used. She is staying at the house of that Mrs. Carbuncle, but all the same I shall go and call on her. I wish you could see her, because she is such a little beauty, just what you would like; not so much colour as our friend, but perfect features, with infinite play, not perhaps always in the best taste; but then we can’t have everything, can we, dear duke?
“As to the real thief—of course you must burn this at once, and keep it strictly private as coming from me—I fancy that delightful Scotch lord managed it entirely. The idea is, that he did it on for the Jew jewellers. I don’t suppose he had money enough to carry it out himself. As to the second robbery, whether he had or had not a hand in that, I can’t make up my mind. I don’t see why he shouldn’t. If a man does go into a business, he ought to make the best of it. Of course it was a poor thing after the diamonds; but still it was worth having. There is some story about a Sir Griffin Tewett. He’s a real Sir Griffin, as you’ll find by the peerage. He was to marry a young woman, and our Lord George insists that he shall marry her. I don’t understand all about it, but the girl lives in the same house with Lady Eustace, and if I call I shall find out. They say that Sir 177 Griffin knows all about the necklace, and threatens to tell unless he is let off marrying. I rather think the girl is Lord George’s daughter, so that there is a thorough complication.
“I shall go down to Matching on Saturday. If anything turns up before that, I’ll write again, or send a message. I don’t know whether Plantagenet will be able to leave London. He says he must be back on Monday, and that he loses too much time on the road. Kiss my little darlings for me,”—the darlings were Lady Glencora’s children, and the duke’s playthings,—“and give my love to Madame Max. I suppose you don’t see much of the others.
“Most affectionately yours,
On the next day Lady Glencora actually did call in Hertford street and saw our friend Lizzie. She was told by the servant that Lady Eustace was in bed; but, with her usual persistence, she asked questions, and when she found that Lizzie did receive visitors in her room, she sent up her card. The compliment was one much too great to be refused. Lady Glencora stood so high in the world, that her countenance would be almost as valuable as another lover. If Lord George would keep her secret, and Lady Glencora would be her friend, might she not still be a successful woman? So Lady Glencora Palliser was shown up to Lizzie’s chamber. Lizzie was found with her nicest nightcap and prettiest handkerchief, with a volume of Tennyson’s poetry, and a scent-bottle. She knew that it behooved her to be very clever at this interview. Her instinct told her that her first greeting should 178 show more of surprise than of gratification. Accordingly, in a pretty, feminine, almost childish way, she was very much surprised. “I’m doing the strangest thing in the world, I know, Lady Eustace,” said Lady Glencora with a smile.
“I’m sure you mean to do a kind thing.”
“Well, yes, I do. I think we have not met since you were at my house near the end of last season.”
“No, indeed. I have been in London six weeks, but have not been out much. For the last fortnight I have been in bed. I have had things to trouble me so much that they have made me ill.”
“So I have heard, Lady Eustace, and I have just come to offer you my sympathy. When I was told that you did see people, I thought that perhaps you would admit me.”
“So willingly, Lady Glencora!”
“I have heard, of course, of your terrible losses.”
“The loss has been as nothing to the vexation that has accompanied it. I don’t know how to speak of it. Ladies have lost their jewels before now, but I don’t know that any lady before me has ever been accused of stealing them herself.”
“There has been no accusation, surely?”
“I haven’t exactly been put in prison, Lady Glencora, but I have had policemen here wanting to search my things; and then you know yourself what reports have been spread.”
“Oh, yes, I do. Only for that, to tell you plainly, I should hardly have been here now.” Then Lady Glencora poured out her sympathy—perhaps with more eloquence and grace than discretion. She was, at any rate, both graceful and eloquent. “As for the loss of 179 the diamonds, I think you bear it wonderfully,” said Lady Glencora.
“If you could imagine how little I care about it!” said Lizzie with enthusiasm. “They had lost the delight which I used to feel in them as a present from my husband. People had talked about them, and I had been threatened because I chose to keep what I knew to be my own. Of course I would not give them up. Would you have given them up, Lady Glencora?”
“Nor would I. But when once all that had begun, they became an irrepressible burden to me. I often used to say that I would throw them into the sea.”
“I don’t think I would have done that,” said Lady Glencora.
“Ah—you have never suffered as I have suffered.”
“We never know where each other’s shoes pinch each other’s toes.”
“You have never been left desolate. You have a husband and friends.”
“A husband that wants to put five farthings into a penny! All is not gold that glistens, Lady Eustace.”
“You can never have known trials such as mine,” continued Lizzie, not understanding in the least her new friend’s allusion to the great currency question. “Perhaps you may have heard that in the course of last summer I became engaged to marry a nobleman, with whom I am aware that you are acquainted.” This she said in her softest whisper.
“Oh, yes—Lord Fawn. I know him very well, Of course I heard of it. We all heard of it.”
“And you have heard how he has treated me?”
“I will say nothing about him—to you, Lady Glencora. It would not be proper that I should do so. But all that came of this wretched necklace. After that, can you wonder that I should say that I wish these stones had been thrown into the sea?”
“I suppose Lord Fawn will—will come all right again now?” said Lady Glencora.
“All right!” exclaimed Lizzie in astonishment.
“His objection to the marriage will now be over.”
“I’m sure I do not in the least know what are his lordship’s views,” said Lizzie in scorn, “and, to tell the truth, I do not very much care.”
“What I mean is, that he didn’t like you to have the Eustace diamonds——”
“They were not Eustace diamonds. They were my diamonds.”
“But he did not like you to have them; and as they are now gone—forever——”
“Oh, yes, they are gone forever.”
“His objection is gone too. Why don’t you write to him, and make him come and see you? That’s what I should do.”
Lizzie, of course, repudiated vehemently any idea of forcing Lord Fawn into a marriage which had become distasteful to him—let the reason be what it might.
“His lordship is perfectly free, as far as I am concerned,” said Lizzie with a little show of anger. But all this Lady Glencora took at its worth. Lizzie Eustace had been a good deal knocked about, and Lady Glencora did not doubt but that she would be very glad to get back her betrothed husband. The little woman had suffered hardships, so thought Lady Glencora—and a good thing would be done by bringing 181 her into fashion, and setting the marriage up again. As to Lord Fawn—the fortune was there, as good now as it had been when he first sought it; and the lady was very pretty, a baronet’s widow too—and in all respects good enough for Lord Fawn. A very pretty little baronet’s widow she was, with four thousand a year, and a house in Scotland, and a history. Lady Glencora determined that she would remake the match.
“I think, you know, friends who have been friends should be brought together. I suppose I may say a word to Lord Fawn?”
Lizzie hesitated for a moment before she answered, and then remembered that revenge, at least, would be sweet to her. She had sworn that she would be revenged upon Lord Fawn. After all, might it not suit her best to carry out her oath by marrying him? But whether so or otherwise, it could not but be well for her that he should be again at her feet. “Yes, if you think good will come of it.” The acquiescence was given with much hesitation; but the circumstances required that it should be so, and Lady Glencora fully understood the circumstances. When she took her leave, Lizzie was profuse in her gratitude. “Oh, Lady Glencora, it has been so good of you to come. Pray come again, if you can spare me another moment.” Lady Glencora said that she would come again.
During the visit she had asked some question concerning Lucinda and Sir Griffin, and had been informed that that marriage was to go on. A hint had been thrown out as to Lucinda’s parentage; but Lizzie had not understood the hint, and the question had not been pressed.182
The task which Lady Glencora had taken upon herself was not a very easy one. No doubt Lord Fawn was a man subservient to the leaders of his party, much afraid of the hard judgment of those with whom he was concerned, painfully open to impression from what he would have called public opinion, to a certain extent a coward, most anxious to do right so that he might not be accused of being in the wrong, and at the same time gifted with but little of that insight into things which teaches men to know what is right and what is wrong. Lady Glencora, having perceived all this, felt that he was a man upon whom a few words from her might have an effect. But even Lady Glencora might hesitate to tell a gentleman that he ought to marry a lady, when the gentleman had already declared his intention of not marrying and had attempted to justify his decision almost publicly by a reference to the lady’s conduct! Lady Glencora almost felt that she had undertaken too much as she turned over in her mind the means she had of performing her promise to Lady Eustace.
The five-farthing bill had been laid upon the table on a Tuesday, and was to be read the first time on the following Monday week. On the Wednesday Lady Glencora had written to the duke, and had called in 183 Hertford street. On the following Sunday she was at Matching, looking after the duke; but she returned to London on the Tuesday, and on the Wednesday there was a little dinner at Mr. Palliser’s house, given avowedly with the object of further friendly discussion respecting the new Palliser penny. The prime minister was to be there, and Mr. Bonteen, and Barrington Erle, and those special members of the Government who would be available for giving special help to the financial Hercules of the day. A question, perhaps of no great practical importance, had occurred to Mr. Palliser, but one which, if overlooked, might be fatal to the ultimate success of the measure. There is so much in a name, and then an ounce of ridicule is often more potent than a hundredweight of argument. By what denomination should the fifth part of a penny be hereafter known? Some one had, ill-naturedly, whispered to Mr. Palliser that a farthing meant a fourth, and at once there arose a new trouble, which for a time bore very heavily on him. Should he boldly disregard the original meaning of the useful old word; or should he venture on the dangers of new nomenclature? October, as he said to himself, is still the tenth month of the year, November the eleventh, and so on, though by these names they are so plainly called the eighth and ninth. All France tried to rid itself of this absurdity and failed. Should he stick by the farthing; or should he call it a fifthing, a quint, or a semitenth? “There’s the ‘Fortnightly Review’ comes out but once a month,” he said to his friend Mr. Bonteen, “and I’m told that it does very well.” Mr. Bonteen, who was a rational man, thought the “Review” would do better if it were called by a more rational name, and was very 184 much in favour of “a quint.” Mr. Gresham had expressed an opinion, somewhat off hand, that English people would never be got to talk about quints, and so there was a difficulty. A little dinner was therefore arranged, and Mr. Palliser, as was his custom in such matters, put the affair of the dinner into his wife’s hands. When he was told that she had included Lord Fawn among the guests he opened his eyes. Lord Fawn, who might be good enough at the India Office, knew literally nothing about the penny.
“He’ll take it as the greatest compliment in the world,” said Lady Glencora.
“I don’t want to pay Lord Fawn a compliment,” said Mr. Palliser.
“But I do,” said Lady Glencora. And so the matter was arranged.
It was a very nice little dinner. Mrs. Gresham and Mrs. Bonteen were there, and the great question of the day was settled in two minutes, before the guests went out of the drawing-room.
“Stick to your farthing,” said Mr. Gresham.
“I think so,” said Mr. Palliser.
“Quint’s a very easy word,” said Mr. Bonteen.
“But squint is an easier,” said Mr. Gresham, with all a prime minister’s jocose authority.
“They’d certainly be called cock-eyes,” said Barrington Erle.
“There’s nothing of the sound of a quarter in farthing,” said Mr. Palliser.
“Stick to the old word,” said Mr. Gresham. And so the matter was decided while Lady Glencora was flattering Lord Fawn as to the manner in which he had finally arranged the affair of the Sawab of Mygawb. 185 Then they went down to dinner, and not a word more was said that evening about the new penny by Mr. Palliser.
Before dinner Lady Glencora had exacted a promise from Lord Fawn that he would return to the drawing-room. Lady Glencora was very clever at such work, and said nothing then of her purpose. She did not want her guests to run away, and therefore Lord Fawn—Lord Fawn especially—must stay. If he were to go there would be nothing spoken of all the evening, but that weary new penny. To oblige her he must remain; and, of course, he did remain. “Whom do you think I saw the other day?” said Lady Glencora, when she got her victim into a corner. Of course Lord Fawn had no idea whom she might have seen. Up to that moment no suspicion of what was coming upon him had crossed his mind. “I called upon poor Lady Eustace and found her in bed.” Then did Lord Fawn blush up to the roots of his hair, and for a moment he was stricken dumb. “I do feel for her so much! I think she has been so hardly used!”
He was obliged to say something. “My name has of course been much mixed up with hers.”
“Yes, Lord Fawn, I know it has. And it is because I am so sure of your high-minded generosity and—and thorough devotion, that I have ventured to speak to you. I am sure there is nothing you would wish so much as to get at the truth.”
“Certainly, Lady Glencora.”
“All manner of stories have been told about her, and, as I believe, without the slightest foundation. They tell me now that she had an undoubted right to keep the diamonds; that even if Sir Florian did not 186 give them to her, they were hers under his will. Those lawyers have given up all idea of proceeding against her.”
“Because the necklace has been stolen.”
“Altogether independently of that. Do you see Mr. Eustace, and ask him if what I say is not true. If it had not been her own she would have been responsible for the value, even though it were stolen; and with such a fortune as hers they would never have allowed her to escape. They were as bitter against her as they could be; weren’t they?”
“Mr. Camperdown thought that the property should be given up.”
“Oh yes; that’s the man’s name; a horrid man. I am told that he was really most cruel to her. And then, because a lot of thieves had got about her—after the diamonds, you know, like flies round a honeypot—and took first her necklace and then her money, they were impudent enough to say that she had stolen her own things!”
“I don’t think they quite said that, Lady Glencora.”
“Something very much like it, Lord Fawn. I have no doubt in my own mind who did steal all the things.”
“Who was it?”
“Oh, one mustn’t mention names in such an affair without evidence. At any rate she has been very badly treated, and I shall take her up. If I were you I would go and call upon her. I would indeed. I think you owe it to her. Well, duke, what do you think of Plantagenet’s penny now? Will it ever be worth two half-pence?” This question was asked of the Duke of St. Bungay, a great nobleman whom all Liberals loved, and a member of the Cabinet. He 187 had come in since dinner, and had been asking a question or two as to what had been decided.
“Well, yes; if properly invested I think it will. I’m glad it is not to contain five semitenths. A semitenth would never have been a popular form of money in England. We hate new names so much that we have not yet got beyond talking of fourpenny bits.”
“There’s a great deal in a name, isn’t there? You don’t think they’ll call them Pallisers, or Palls, or anything of that sort, do you? I shouldn’t like to hear that under the new regime two lollypops were to cost three Palls. But they say it never can be carried this session, and we sha’n’t be in, in the next year.”
“Who says so? Don’t be such a prophetess of evil, Lady Glencora. I mean to be in for the next three sessions, and I mean to see Palliser’s measure carried through the House of Lords next session. I shall be paying for my mutton chops at so many quints a chop yet. Don’t you think so, Fawn?”
“I don’t know what to think,” said Lord Fawn, whose mind was intent on other matters. After that he left the room as quickly as he could, and escaped out into the street. His mind was very much disturbed. If Lady Glencora was determined to take up the cudgels for the woman he had rejected, the comfort and peace of his life would be over. He knew well enough how strong was Lady Glencora.188
Mrs. Carbuncle and Lady Eustace had now been up in town between six and seven weeks, and the record of their doings has necessarily dealt chiefly with robberies and the rumours of robberies. But at intervals the minds of the two ladies had been intent on other things. The former was still intent on marrying her niece, Lucinda Roanoke, to Sir Griffin, and the latter had never for a moment forgotten the imperative duty which lay upon her of revenging herself upon Lord Fawn. The match between Sir Griffin and Lucinda was still to be a match. Mrs. Carbuncle persevered in the teeth both of the gentleman and of the lady, and still promised herself success. And our Lizzie, in the midst of all her troubles, had not been idle. In doing her justice we must acknowledge that she had almost abandoned the hope of becoming Lady Fawn. Other hopes and other ambitions had come upon her. Latterly the Corsair had been all in all to her, with exceptional moments in which she told herself that her heart belonged exclusively to her cousin Frank. But Lord Fawn’s offences were not to be forgotten, and she continually urged upon her cousin the depth of the wrongs which she had suffered.
On the part of Frank Greystock there was certainly no desire to let the Under-Secretary escape. It is 189 hoped that the reader, to whom every tittle of this story has been told without reserve, and every secret unfolded, will remember that others were not treated with so much open candour. The reader knows much more of Lizzie Eustace than did her cousin Frank. He, indeed, was not quite in love with Lizzie; but to him she was a pretty, graceful young woman, to whom he was bound by many ties, and who had been cruelly injured. Dangerous she was doubtless, and perhaps a little artificial. To have had her married to Lord Fawn would have been a good thing, and would still be a good thing. According to all the rules known in such matters Lord Fawn was bound to marry her. He had become engaged to her, and Lizzie had done nothing to forfeit her engagement. As to the necklace, the plea made for jilting her on that ground was a disgraceful pretext. Everybody was beginning to perceive that Mr. Camperdown would never have succeeded in getting the diamonds from her, even if they had not been stolen. It was “preposterous,” as Frank said over and over again to his friend Herriot, that a man when he was engaged to a lady, should take upon himself to judge her conduct as Lord Fawn had done, and then ride out of his engagement on a verdict found by himself. Frank had therefore willingly displayed alacrity in persecuting his lordship, and had not been altogether without hope that he might drive the two into a marriage yet, in spite of the protestations made by Lizzie at Portray.
Lord Fawn had certainly not spent a happy winter. Between Mrs. Hittaway on one side and Frank Greystock on the other, his life had been a burthen to him. It had been suggested to him by various people that 190 he was behaving badly to the lady, who was represented as having been cruelly misused by fortune and by himself. On the other hand it had been hinted to him, that nothing was too bad to believe of Lizzie Eustace, and that no calamity could be so great as that by which he would be overwhelmed were he still to allow himself to be forced into that marriage. “It would be better,” Mrs. Hittaway had said, “to retire to Ireland at once and cultivate your demesne in Tipperary.” This was a grievous sentence, and one which had greatly excited the brother’s wrath; but it had shown how very strong was his sister’s opinion against the lady to whom he had unfortunately offered his hand. Then there came to him a letter from Mr. Greystock, in which he was asked for his “written explanation.” If there be a proceeding which an official man dislikes worse than another, it is a demand for a written explanation. “It is impossible,” Frank had said, “that your conduct to my cousin should be allowed to drop without further notice. Hers has been without reproach. Your engagement with her has been made public, chiefly by you, and it is out of the question that she should be treated as you are treating her, and that your lordship should escape without punishment.” What the punishment was to be he did not say; but there did come a punishment on Lord Fawn from the eyes of every man whose eyes met his own, and in the tones of every voice that addressed him. The looks of the very clerks in the India Office accused him of behaving badly to a young woman, and the doorkeeper at the House of Lords seemed to glance askance at him. And now Lady Glencora, who was the social leader of his own party, the feminine pole-star of the liberal heavens, the 191 most popular and the most daring woman in London, had attacked him personally, and told him that he ought to call on Lady Eustace!
Let it not for a moment be supposed that Lord Fawn was without conscience in the matter or indifferent to moral obligations. There was not a man in London less willing to behave badly to a young woman than Lord Fawn; or one who would more diligently struggle to get back to the right path, if convinced that he was astray. But he was one who detested interference in his private matters, and who was nearly driven mad between his sister and Frank Greystock. When he left Lady Glencora’s house he walked toward his own abode with a dark cloud upon his brow. He was at first very angry with Lady Glencora. Even her position gave her no right to meddle with his most private affairs as she had done. He would resent it, and would quarrel with Lady Glencora. What right could she have to advise him to call upon any woman? But by degrees this wrath died away, and gave place to fears, and qualms, and inward questions. He, too, had found a change in general opinion about the diamonds. When he had taken upon himself with a high hand to dissolve his own engagement, everybody had, as he thought, acknowledged that Lizzie Eustace was keeping property which did not belong to her. Now people talked of her losses as though the diamonds had been undoubtedly her own. On the next morning Lord Fawn took an opportunity of seeing Mr. Camperdown.
“My dear lord,” said Mr. Camperdown, “I shall wash my hands of the matter altogether. The diamonds are gone, and the questions now are, who stole 192 them, and where are they? In our business we can’t meddle with such questions as those.”
“You will drop the bill in Chancery then?”
“What good can the bill do us when the diamonds are gone? If Lady Eustace had anything to do with the robbery——”
“You suspect her, then?”
“No, my lord; no. I cannot say that. I have no right to say that. Indeed it is not Lady Eustace that I suspect. She has got into bad hands, perhaps; but I do not think that she is a thief.”
“You were suggesting that, if she had anything to do with the robbery——”
“Well; yes; if she had, it would not be for us to take steps against her in the matter. In fact, the trustees have decided that they will do nothing more, and my hands are tied. If the minor, when he comes of age, claims the property from them, they will prefer to replace it. It isn’t very likely; but that’s what they say.”
“But if it was an heirloom——,” suggested Lord Fawn, going back to the old claim.
“That’s exploded,” said Mr. Camperdown. “Mr. Dove was quite clear about that.”
This was the end of the filing of that bill in Chancery as to which Mr. Camperdown had been so very enthusiastic! Now it certainly was the case that poor Lord Fawn in his conduct toward Lizzie had trusted greatly to the support of Mr. Camperdown’s legal proceeding. The world could hardly have expected him to marry a woman against whom a bill in Chancery was being carried on for the recovery of diamonds which did not belong to her. But that support was now altogether 193 withdrawn from him. It was acknowledged that the necklace was not an heirloom, clearly acknowledged by Mr. Camperdown! And even Mr. Camperdown would not express an opinion that the lady had stolen her own diamonds.
How would it go with him, if, after all, he were to marry her? The bone of contention between them had at any rate been made to vanish. The income was still there, and Lady Glencora Palliser had all but promised her friendship. As he entered the India Office on his return from Mr. Camperdown’s chambers, he almost thought that that would be the best way out of his difficulty. In his room he found his brother-in-law, Mr. Hittaway, waiting for him. It is almost necessary that a man should have some friend whom he can trust in delicate affairs, and Mr. Hittaway was selected as Lord Fawn’s friend. He was not at all points the man whom Lord Fawn would have chosen, but for their close connection. Mr. Hittaway was talkative, perhaps a little loud, and too apt to make capital out of every incident of his life. But confidential friends are not easily found, and one does not wish to increase the circle to whom one’s family secrets must become known. Mr. Hittaway was at any rate zealous for the Fawn family, and then his character as an official man stood high. He had been asked on the previous evening to step across from the Civil Appeal Office to give his opinion respecting that letter from Frank Greystock demanding a written explanation. The letter had been sent to him; and Mr. Hittaway had carried it home and shown it to his wife. “He’s a cantankerous Tory, and determined to make himself disagreeable,” said Mr. Hittaway, taking 194 the letter from his pocket and beginning the conversation. Lord Fawn seated himself in his great armchair, and buried his face in his hands. “I am disposed, after much consideration, to advise you to take no notice of the letter,” said Mr. Hittaway, giving his counsel in accordance with instructions received from his wife. Lord Fawn still buried his face. “Of course the thing is painful, very painful. But out of two evils one should choose the least. The writer of this letter is altogether unable to carry out his threat.”
“What can the man do to him!” Mrs. Hittaway had asked, almost snapping at her husband as she did so.
“And then,” continued Mr. Hittaway, “we all know that public opinion is with you altogether. The conduct of Lady Eustace is notorious.”
“Everybody is taking her part,” said Lord Fawn, almost crying.
“Yes; they are. The bill in Chancery has been withdrawn, and it’s my belief that if the necklace were found to-morrow, there would be nothing to prevent her keeping it, just as she did before.”
“But it was an heirloom?”
“No, it wasn’t. The lawyers were all wrong about it. As far as I can see, lawyers always are wrong. About those nine lacs of rupees for the Sawab, Finlay was all wrong. Camperdown owns that he was wrong. If, after all, the diamonds were hers, I’m sure I don’t know what I am to do. Thank you, Hittaway, for coming over. That’ll do for the present. Just leave that ruffian’s letter, and I’ll think about it.”
This was considered by Mrs. Hittaway to be a very 195 bad state of things, and there was great consternation in Warwick Square when Mr. Hittaway told his wife this new story of her brother’s weakness. She was not going to be weak. She did not intend to withdraw her opposition to the marriage. She was not going to be frightened by Lizzie Eustace and Frank Greystock, knowing as she did that they were lovers, and very improper lovers, too. “Of course she stole them herself,” said Mrs. Hittaway; “and I don’t doubt but she stole her own money afterwards. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do. I’d sooner see Frederic in his grave than married to such a woman as that. Men don’t know how sly women can be; that’s the truth. And Frederic has been so spoilt among them down at Richmond, that he has no real judgment left. I don’t suppose he means to marry her.”
“Upon my word I don’t know,” said Mr. Hittaway. Then Mrs. Hittaway made up her mind that she would at once write a letter to Scotland.
There was an old lord about London in those days, or rather one who was an old Liberal but a young lord, one Lord Mount Thistle, who had sat in the Cabinet, and had lately been made a peer when his place in the Cabinet was wanted. He was a pompous, would-be important, silly old man, well acquainted with all the traditions of his party, and perhaps on that account useful, but a bore, and very apt to meddle when he was not wanted. Lady Glencora, on the day after her dinner-party, whispered into his ear that Lord Fawn was getting himself into trouble, and that a few words of caution, coming to him from one whom he respected so much as he did Lord Mount Thistle, would be of service to him. Lord Mount Thistle had known Lord 196 Fawn’s father, and declared himself at once to be quite entitled to interfere. “He is really behaving badly to Lady Eustace,” said Lady Glencora, “and I don’t think that he knows it.” Lord Mount Thistle, proud of a commission from the hands of Lady Glencora, went almost at once to his old friend’s son. He found him at the House that night, and whispered his few words of caution in one of the lobbies.
“I know you will excuse me, Fawn,” Lord Mount Thistle said, “but people seem to think that you are not behaving quite well to Lady Eustace.”
“What people?” demanded Lord Fawn.
“My dear fellow, that is a question that cannot be answered. You know that I am the last man to interfere if I didn’t think it my duty as a friend. You were engaged to her?”—Lord Fawn only frowned. “If so,” continued the late cabinet minister, “and if you have broken it off, you ought to give your reasons. She has a right to demand as much as that.”
On the next morning, Friday, there came to him the note which Lady Glencora had recommended Lizzie to write. It was very short. “Had you not better come and see me? You can hardly think that things should be left as they are now. L. E.—Hertford street, Thursday.” He had hoped—he had ventured to hope—that things might be left, and that they would arrange themselves; that he could throw aside his engagement without further trouble, and that the subject would drop. But it was not so. His enemy, Frank Greystock, had demanded from him a “written explanation” of his conduct. Mr. Camperdown had deserted him. Lady Glencora Palliser, with whom he had not the honour of any intimate acquaintance, 197 had taken upon herself to give him advice. Lord Mount Thistle had found fault with him. And now there had come a note from Lizzie Eustace herself, which he could hardly venture to leave altogether unnoticed. On that Friday he dined at his club, and then went to his sister’s house in Warwick Square. If assistance might be had anywhere, it would be from his sister. She, at any rate, would not want courage in carrying on the battle on his behalf.
“Ill-used!” she said, as soon as they were closeted together. “Who dares to say so?”
“That old fool, Mount Thistle, has been with me.”
“I hope, Frederic, you don’t mind what such a man as that says. He has probably been prompted by some friend of hers. And who else?”
“Camperdown turns round now and says that they don’t mean to do anything more about the necklace. Lady Glencora Palliser told me the other day that all the world believes that the thing was her own.”
“What does Lady Glencora Palliser know about it? If Lady Glencora Palliser would mind her own affairs it would be much better for her. I remember when she had troubles enough of her own, without meddling with other people’s.”
“And now I’ve got this note.” Lord Fawn had already shown Lizzie’s few scrawled words to his sister. “I think I must go and see her.”
“Do no such thing, Frederic.”
“Why not? I must answer it, and what can I say?”
“If you go there, that woman will be your wife, you’ll never have a happy day again as long as you live. The match is broken off, and she knows it. I shouldn’t take the slightest notice of her, or of her cousin, or of any 198 of them. If she chooses to bring an action against you, that is another thing.”
Lord Fawn paused for a few moments before he answered. “I think I ought to go,” he said.
“And I am sure that you ought not. It is not only about the diamonds, though that was quite enough to break off any engagement. Have you forgotten what I told you that the man saw at Portray?”
“I don’t know that the man spoke the truth.”
“But he did.”
“And I hate that kind of espionage. It is so very likely that mistakes should be made.”
“When she was sitting in his arms—and kissing him! If you choose to do it, Frederic, of course you must. We can’t prevent it. You are free to marry any one you please.”
“I’m not talking of marrying her.”
“What do you suppose she wants you to go there for? As for political life, I am quite sure it would be the death of you. If I were you I wouldn’t go near her. You have got out of the scrape, and I would remain out.”
“But I haven’t got out,” said Lord Fawn.
On the next day, Saturday, he did nothing in the matter. He went down, as was his custom, to Richmond, and did not once mention Lizzie’s name. Lady Fawn and her daughters never spoke of her now—neither of her, nor in his presence, of poor Lucy Morris. But on his return to London on the Sunday evening he found another note from Lizzie. “You will hardly have the hardihood to leave my note unanswered. Pray let me know when you will come to me.” Some answer must, as he felt, be made to her. For a moment he 199 thought of asking his mother to call; but he at once saw that by doing so he might lay himself open to terrible ridicule. Could he induce Lord Mount Thistle to be his Mercury? It would, he felt, be quite impossible to make Lord Mount Thistle understand all the facts of his position. His sister, Mrs. Hittaway, might have gone, were it not that she herself was violently opposed to any visit. The more he thought of it the more convinced he became that, should it be known that he had received two such notes from a lady and that he had not answered or noticed them, the world would judge him to have behaved badly. So at last he wrote—on that Sunday evening—fixing a somewhat distant day for his visit to Hertford street. His note was as follows:
“Lord Fawn presents his compliments to Lady Eustace. In accordance with the wish expressed in Lady Eustace’s two notes of the 23d instant and this date, Lord Fawn will do himself the honour of waiting upon Lady Eustace on Saturday next, March 3d, at 12, noon. Lord Fawn had thought that under circumstances as they now exist, no further personal interview could lead to the happiness of either party; but as Lady Eustace thinks otherwise, he feels himself constrained to comply with her desire.
Sunday evening, February 25, 18—.”
“I am going to see her in the course of this week,” he said, in answer to a further question from Lady Glencora, who, chancing to meet him in society, had again addressed him on the subject. He lacked the courage to tell Lady Glencora to mind her own business and to allow him to do the same. Had she been a little less 200 great than she was, either as regarded herself or her husband, he would have done so. But Lady Glencora was the social queen of the party to which he belonged, and Mr. Palliser was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and would some day be Duke of Omnium.
“As you are great, be merciful, Lord Fawn,” said Lady Glencora. “You men, I believe, never realise what it is that women feel when they love. It is my belief that she will die unless you are reunited to her. And then she is so beautiful.”
“It is a subject that I cannot discuss, Lady Glencora.”
“I dare say not. And I’m sure I am the last person to wish to give you pain. But you see, if the poor lady has done nothing to merit your anger, it does seem rather a strong measure to throw her off and give her no reason whatever. How would you defend yourself, suppose she published it all?” Lady Glencora’s courage was very great, and perhaps we may say her impudence also. This last question Lord Fawn left unanswered, walking away in great dudgeon.
In the course of the week he told his sister of the interview which he had promised, and she endeavoured to induce him to postpone it till a certain man should arrive from Scotland. She had written for Mr. Andrew Gowran—sending down funds for Mr. Gowran’s journey—so that her brother might hear Mr. Gowran’s evidence out of Mr. Gowran’s own mouth. Would not Frederic postpone the interview till he should have seen Mr. Gowran? But to this request Frederic declined to accede. He had fixed a day and an hour. He had made an appointment. Of course he must keep it.
“You see, my dear,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, “that a gentleman visiting a lady with whom he has no connection, in her bedroom, is in itself something very peculiar.”
[Mrs. Carbuncle cannot have a very high opinion of Lizzie if she thinks this point even needs mentioning.]
to walk in amidst the smiles and bows of admiring managers and draw out money over the counter by thousands . . . that is a great feat
[Careful, Frank. You’ll put ideas into Lizzie’s head.]
The courage, the ingenuity, and the self-confidence needed
text has heeded
[Corrected from Fortnightly Review.]
could not be used in lessening the labours of the next
text has lessen-/ening at line break
It might, for instance, at last be taken for granted that a decimal system was desirable
[Or, then again, it might not.]
The idea is, that he did it on commission for the Jew jewellers.
text has commisson
He’s a real Sir Griffin, as you’ll find by the peerage.
[Funny, I’d have expected to find baronets in the Landed Gentry. But the full title of both Burke and Debrett, it turns out, is Peerage and Baronetage.]
I rather think the girl is Lord George’s daughter
[Back in Chapter LII, Mrs. Carbuncle told us obliquely that this is not the case.]
“There’s the ‘Fortnightly Review’ comes out but once a month,” he said to his friend Mr. Bonteen
[Funny you should say that.]
I’m glad it is not to contain five semitenths.
[So am I, since “semitenth” sounds as if it means a twentieth, not a fifth.]
the reader, to whom every tittle of this story has been told without reserve
[Fun fact: According to Joseph Moxon, a tittle is the dot on an “i”.]
Frank . . . had not been altogether without hope that he might drive the two into a marriage yet
[Idle query: Will any of this book’s characters end up marrying someone they even like and respect, let alone love?]
If you go there, that woman will be your wife, and you’ll never have a happy day again as long as you live
missing word “and” supplied from Fortnightly Review
Lady Eustace’s two notes of the 23d instant and this date
[Darn it, Anthony. You were doing so well. Lizzie’s first note was dated simply “Thursday”—which would have been the 22d.]
Saturday next, March 3d . . . . Sunday evening, February 25
[This chapter was published in August 1872. Has our author already forgotten that it is a leap year, putting 3 March on a Sunday, just like 25 February? Or does he want the reader to think that Lord Fawn got the day wrong, either accidentally or by design?]
Mr. Palliser . . . would some day be Duke of Omnium
[If I were more familiar with Trollope’s works, I would not have had to riffle back through the pages for an explanation. The current Duke is Plantagenet Palliser’s uncle, not his father, so he doesn’t rate a courtesy title.]
The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.