Lizzie put off her journey to Scotland from day to day, though her cousin Frank continually urged upon her the expediency of going. There were various reasons, he said, why she should go. Her child was there, and it was proper that she should be with her child. She was living at present with people whose reputation did not stand high, and as to whom all manner of evil reports were flying about the town. It was generally thought—so said Frank—that that Lord George de Bruce Carruthers had assisted Mr. Benjamin in stealing the diamonds, and Frank himself did not hesitate to express his belief in the accusation.
“Oh no, that cannot be,” said Lizzie, trembling. But, though she rejected the supposition, she did not reject it very firmly. “And then, you know,” continued Lizzie, “I never see him. I have actually only set eyes on him once since the second robbery, and then just for a minute. Of course I used to know him—down at now we are strangers.” Frank went on with his objections. He declared that the manner in which Mrs. Carbuncle had got up the match between Lucinda Roanoke and Sir Griffin was shameful—all the world was declaring that it was shameful—that she had not a penny, that the girl was an adventurer, and that Sir Griffin was an obstinate, pig-headed, 299 ruined idiot. It was expedient on every account that Lizzie should take herself away from that “lot.” The answer that Lizzie desired to make was very simple. Let me go as your betrothed bride, and I will start to-morrow to Scotland or elsewhere, as you may direct. Let that little affair be settled, and I shall be quite as willing to get out of London as you can be to send me. But I am in such a peck of troubles that something must be settled. And as it seems that after all the police are still astray about the necklace, perhaps I needn’t run away from them for a little while even yet. She did not say this. She did not even in so many words make the first proposition. But she did endeavour to make Frank understand that she would obey his dictation if he would earn the right to dictate. He either did not or would not understand her, and then she became angry with him—or pretended to be angry.
“Really, Frank,” she said, “you are hardly fair to me.”
“In what way am I unfair?”
“You come here and abuse all my friends, and tell me to go here and go there, just as though I were a child. And—and—and—”
“And what, Lizzie?”
“You know what I mean. You are one thing one day, and one another. I hope Miss Lucy Morris was quite well when you last heard from her?”
“You have no right to speak to me of Lucy—at least, not in disparagement.”
“You are treating her very badly—you know that.”
“Then why don’t you give it up? Why don’t you 300 let her have her chances—to do what she can with them? You know very well that you can’t marry her. You know that you ought not to have asked her. You talk of Miss Roanoke and Sir Griffin Tewett. There are people quite as bad as Sir Griffin, or Mrs. Carbuncle either. Don’t suppose I am speaking for myself. I’ve given up all that idle fancy long ago. I shall never marry a second time myself. I have made up my mind to that. I have suffered too much already.” Then she burst into tears.
He dried her tears and comforted her, and forgave all the injurious things she had said of him. It is almost impossible for a man—a man under forty and unmarried, and who is not a philosopher—to have familiar and affectionate intercourse with a beautiful young woman, and carry it on as he might do with a friend of the other sex. In his very heart Greystock despised this woman; he had told himself over and over again that were there no Lucy in the case he would not marry her; that she was affected, unreal—and in fact a liar in every word and look and motion which came from her with premeditation. Judging, not from her own account, but from circumstances as he saw them, and such evidence as had reached him, he did not condemn her in reference to the diamonds. He had never for a moment conceived that she had secreted them. He acquitted her altogether from those special charges which had been widely circulated against her; but nevertheless he knew her to be heartless and bad. He had told himself a dozen times that it would be well for him that she should be married and taken out of his hands. And yet he loved her after a fashion, and was prone to sit near her, and was 301 fool enough to be flattered by her caresses. When she would lay her hand on his arm, a thrill of pleasure went through him. And yet he would willingly have seen any decent man take her and marry her, making a bargain that he should never see her again. Young or old, men are apt to become Merlins when they encounter Viviens. On this occasion he left her, disgusted indeed, but not having told her that he was disgusted. “Come again, Frank, to-morrow, won’t you?” she said. He made her no promise as he went, nor had she expected it. He had left her quite abruptly the other day, and he now went away almost in the same fashion. But she was not surprised. She understood that the task she had in hand was one very difficult to be accomplished—and she did perceive in some dark way that, good as her acting was, it was not quite good enough. Lucy held her ground because she was real. You may knock about a diamond and not even scratch it, whereas paste in rough usage betrays itself. Lizzie, with all her self-assuring protestations, knew that she was paste, and knew that Lucy was real stone. Why could she not force herself to act a little better, so that the paste might be as good as the stone—might at least seem to be as good? “If he despises me now; what will he say when he finds it all out?” she asked herself.
As for Frank Greystock himself, though he had quite made up his mind about Lizzie Eustace, he was still in doubt about the other girl. At the present moment he was making over two thousand pounds a year, and yet was more in debt now than he had been a year ago. When he attempted to look at his affairs, he could not even remember what had become of his 302 money. He did not gamble. He had no little yacht, costing him about six hundred a year. He kept one horse in London, and one only. He had no house. And when he could spare time from his work, he was generally entertained at the houses of his friends. And yet from day to day his condition seemed to become worse and worse. It was true that he never thought of half-a-sovereign; that in calling for wine at his club he was never influenced by the cost; that it seemed to him quite rational to keep a cab waiting for him half the day, that in going or coming he never calculated expense, that in giving an order to a tailor he never dreamed of anything beyond his own comfort. Nevertheless, when he recounted with pride his great economies, reminding himself that he, a successful man, with a large income and no family, kept neither hunters, nor yacht, nor moor, and that he did not gamble, he did think it very hard that he should be embarrassed. But he was embarrassed, and in that condition could it be right for him to marry a girl without a shilling?
In these days Mrs. Carbuncle was very urgent with her friend not to leave London till after the marriage. Lizzie had given no promise, had only been induced to promise that the loan of one hundred and fifty pounds should not be held to have any bearing on the wedding present to be made to Lucinda. That could be got on credit from Messrs. Harter and Benjamin; for though Mr. Benjamin was absent—on a little tour through Europe in search of precious stones in the cheap markets old Mr. Harter suggested—the business went on the same as ever. There was a good deal of consultation about the present, and Mrs. Carbuncle at last decided, no doubt with the concurrence 303 of Miss Roanoke, that it should consist simply of silver forks and spoons—real silver as far as the money would go. Mrs. Carbuncle herself went with her friend to select the articles—as to which perhaps we shall do her no injustice in saying that a ready sale, should such a lamentable occurrence ever become necessary, was one of the objects which she had in view. Mrs. Carbuncle’s investigations as to the quality of the metal quite won Mr. Harter’s respect; and it will probably be thought that she exacted no more than justice—seeing that the thing had become a matter of bargain—in demanding that the thirty-five pounds should be stretched to fifty, because the things were bought on long credit. “My dear Lizzie,” Mrs. Carbuncle said, “the dear girl won’t have an ounce more than she would have got, had you gone into another sort of shop with thirty-five sovereigns in your hand.” Lizzie growled, but Mrs. Carbuncle’s final argument was conclusive. “I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” said she; “we’ll take thirty pounds down in ready money.” There was no answer to be made to so reasonable a proposition.
The presents to be made to Lucinda were very much thought of in Hertford street at this time, and Lizzie—independently of any feeling that she might have as to her own contribution—did all she could to assist the collection of tribute. It was quite understood that as a girl can only be married once—for a widow’s chance in such matters amounts to but little—everything should be done to gather toll from the tax-payers of society. It was quite fair on such an occasion that men should be given to understand that something worth having was expected—no trumpery thirty-shilling 304 piece of crockery, no insignificant glass bottle, or fantastic paper-knife of no real value whatever, but got up just to put money into the tradesmen’s hands. To one or two elderly gentlemen upon whom Mrs. Carbuncle had smiled, she ventured to suggest in plain words that a check was the most convenient cadeau. “What do you say to a couple of sovereigns?” one sarcastic old gentleman replied, upon whom probably Mrs. Carbuncle had not smiled enough. She laughed and congratulated her sarcastic friend upon his joke—but the two sovereigns were left upon the table, and went to swell the spoil.
“You must do something handsome for Lucinda,” Lizzie said to her cousin.
“What do you call handsome?”
“You are a bachelor and a Member of Parliament. Say fifteen pounds.”
“I’ll be —— if I do,” said Frank, who was beginning to be very much disgusted with the house in Hertford street. “There’s a five-pound note, and you may do what you please with it.” Lizzie gave over the five-pound note—the identical bit of paper that had come from Frank; and Mrs. Carbuncle, no doubt, did do what she pleased with it.
There was almost a quarrel because Lizzie, after much consideration, declared that she did not see her way to get a present from the Duke of Omnium. She had talked so much to Mrs. Carbuncle about the duke that Mrs. Carbuncle was almost justified in making the demand.
“It isn’t the value, you know,” said Mrs. Carbuncle; “neither I nor Lucinda would think of that; but it would look so well to have the dear duke’s 305 name on something.” Lizzie declared that the duke was unapproachable on such subjects. “There you’re wrong,” said Mrs. Carbuncle. “I happen to know there is nothing his grace likes so much as giving wedding presents.” This was the harder upon Lizzie as she actually did succeed in saying such kind things about Lucinda that Lady Glencora sent Miss Roanoke the prettiest smelling-bottle in the world.
“You don’t mean to say you’ve given a present to the future Lady Tewett?” said Madame Max Goesler to her friend.
“Why not? Sir Griffin can’t hurt me. When one begins to be good-natured why shouldn’t one be good-natured all round?” Madame Max remarked that it might perhaps be preferable to put an end to good-nature altogether. “There I dare say you’re right, my dear,” said Lady Glencora. “I’ve long felt that making presents means nothing. Only if one has a lot of money and people like it, why shouldn’t one? I’ve made so many to people I hardly ever saw, that one more to Lady Tewett can’t hurt.”
Perhaps the most wonderful affair in that campaign was the spirited attack which Mrs. Carbuncle made on a certain Mrs. Hanbury Smith, who for the last six or seven years had not been among Mrs. Carbuncle’s more intimate friends. Mrs. Hanbury Smith lived with her husband in Paris, but before her marriage had known Mrs. Carbuncle in London. Her father, Mr. Bunbury Jones, had from certain causes chosen to show certain civilities to Mrs. Carbuncle just at the period of his daughter’s marriage, and Mrs. Carbuncle, being perhaps at that moment well supplied with ready money, had presented a marriage present. From that 306 to this present day Mrs. Carbuncle had seen nothing of Mrs. Hanbury Smith nor of Mr. Bunbury Jones, but she was not the woman to waste the return value of such a transaction. A present so given was seed sown in the earth—seed, indeed, that could not be expected to give back twenty-fold, or even ten-fold, but still seed from which a crop should be expected. So she wrote to Mrs. Hanbury Smith explaining that her darling niece Lucinda was about to be married to Sir Griffin Tewett, and that, as she had no child of her own, Lucinda was the same to her as a daughter. And then, lest there might be any want of comprehension, she expressed her own assurance that her friend would be glad to have an opportunity of reciprocating the feelings which had been evinced on the occasion of her own marriage. “It is no good mincing matters nowadays,” Mrs. Carbuncle would have said, had any friend pointed out to her that she was taking strong measures in the exaction of toll. “People have come to understand that a spade is a spade, and £10 £10,” she would have said. Had Mrs. Hanbury Smith not noticed the application, there might perhaps have been an end of it, but she was silly enough to send over from Paris a little trumpery bit of finery, bought in the Palais Royal for ten francs. Whereupon Mrs. Carbuncle wrote the following letter:
“My Dear Mrs. Hanbury Smith: Lucinda has received your little brooch, and is much obliged to you for thinking of her; but you must remember that when you were married I sent you a bracelet which cost £10. If I had a daughter of my own I should, of course, expect that she would reap the benefit of 307 this on her marriage, and my niece is the same to me as a daughter. I think that this is quite understood now among people in society. Lucinda will be disappointed much if you do not send her what she thinks she has a right to expect. Of course you can deduct the brooch if you please.
“Yours, very sincerely,
Mr. Hanbury Smith was something of a wag, and caused his wife to write back as follows:
“Dear Mrs. Carbuncle: I quite acknowledge the reciprocity system, but don’t think it extends to descendants, certainly not to nieces. I acknowledge, too, the present quoted at £10. I thought it had been £7 10s.”—“The nasty, mean creature,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, when showing the correspondence to Lizzie, “must have been to the tradesman to inquire! The price named was £10, but I got £2 10s. off for ready money.”—“At your second marriage I will do what is needful; but I can assure you I haven’t recognised nieces with any of my friends.
“Yours, very truly,
“Caroline Hanbury Smith.”
The correspondence was carried no further, for not even can a Mrs. Carbuncle exact payment of such a debt in any established court; but she inveighed bitterly against the meanness of Mrs. Smith, telling the story openly, and never feeling that she had told it against herself. In her set it was generally thought that she had done quite right.
She managed better with old Mr. Cabob, who had 308 certainly received many of Mrs. Carbuncle’s smiles, and who was very rich. Mr. Cabob did as he was desired, and sent a check—a check for £20; and added a message that he hoped Miss Roanoke would buy with it some little thing that she liked. Miss Roanoke, or her aunt for her, liked a thirty guinea ring, and bought it, having the bill for the balance sent up to Mr. Cabob. Mr. Cabob, who probably knew that he must pay well for his smiles, never said anything about it.
Lady Eustace went into all this work, absolutely liking it. She had felt nothing of anger even as regarded her own contribution, much as she had struggled to reduce the amount. People, she felt, ought to be sharp; and it was nice to look at pretty things, and to be cunning about them. She would have applied to the Duke of Omnium had she dared, and was very triumphant when she got the smelling-bottle from Lady Glencora. But Lucinda herself took no part whatever in all these things. Nothing that Mrs. Carbuncle could say would induce her to take any interest in them, or even in the trousseau, which, without reference to expense, was being supplied chiefly on the very indifferent credit of Sir Griffin. What Lucinda had to say about the matter was said solely to her aunt. Neither Lady Eustace, nor Lord George, nor even the maid who dressed her, heard any of her complaints. But complain she did, and that with terrible energy.
“What is the use of it, Aunt Jane? I shall never have a house to put them into.”
“What nonsense, my dear! Why shouldn’t you have a house as well as others?”
“And if I had, I should never care for them. I hate 309 them. What does Lady Glencora Palliser or Lord Fawn care for me?” Even Lord Fawn had been put under requisition, and had sent a little box full of stationery.
“They are worth money, Lucinda; and when a girl marries she always gets them.”
“Yes; and when they come from people who love her, and who pour them into her lap with kisses, because she has given herself to a man she loves, then it must be nice. Oh, if I were marrying a poor man, and a poor friend had given me a gridiron to help me to cook my husband’s dinner, how I could have valued it!”
“I don’t know that you like poor things and poor people better than anybody else,” said Aunt Jane.
“I don’t like anything or anybody,” said Lucinda.
“You had better take the good things that come to you, then; and not grumble. How I have worked to get all this arranged for you, and now what thanks have I?”
“You’ll find you have worked for very little, Aunt Jane. I shall never marry the man yet.” This, however, had been said so often that Aunt Jane thought nothing of the threat.310
It was acknowledged by Mrs. Carbuncle very freely that in the matter of tribute no one behaved better than Mr. Emilius, the fashionable, foreign, ci-devant Jew preacher, who still drew great congregations in the neighbourhood of Mrs. Carbuncle’s house. Mrs. Carbuncle, no doubt, attended regularly at Mr. Emilius’s church, and had taken a sitting for thirteen Sundays at something like ten shillings a Sunday. But she had not as yet paid the money, and Mr. Emilius was well aware that if his tickets were not paid for in advance, there would be considerable defalcations in his income. He was, as a rule, very particular as to such payments, and would not allow a name to be put on a sitting till the money had reached his pockets; but with Mrs. Carbuncle he had descended to no such commercial accuracy. Mrs. Carbuncle had seats for three—for one of which Lady Eustace paid her share in advance—in the midst of the very best pews in the most conspicuous part of the house, and hardly a word had been said to her about the money. And now there came to them from Mr. Emilius the prettiest little gold salver that ever was seen.
“I send Messrs. Clerico’s docket,” wrote Mr. Emilius, “as Miss Roanoke may like to know the quality of the metal.”311
“Ah,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, inspecting the little dish and putting two and two together; “he’s got it cheap, no doubt, at the place where they commissioned him to buy the plate and candlesticks for the church; but at £3 16s. 3d. the gold is worth nearly twenty pounds.” Mr. Emilius no doubt had had his outing in the autumn through the instrumentality of Mrs. Carbuncle’s kindness; but that was past and gone, and such lavish gratitude for a past favour could hardly be expected from Mr. Emilius. “I’ll be hanged if he isn’t after Portray Castle,” said Mrs. Carbuncle to herself.
Poor Emilius was after Portray Castle and had been after Portray Castle in a silent, not very confident, but yet not altogether hopeless manner ever since he had seen the glories of that place and learned something of truth as to the widow’s income. Mrs. Carbuncle was led to her conclusion not simply by the wedding present, but in part also by the diligence displayed by Mr. Emilius in removing the doubts which had got abroad respecting his condition in life. He assured Mrs. Carbuncle that he had never been married. Shortly after his ordination, which had been effected under the hands of that great and good man the late Bishop of Jerusalem, he had taken to live with him a lady who was—Mrs. Carbuncle did not quite recollect who the lady was, but remembered that she was connected in some way with a step-mother of Mr. Emilius who lived in Bohemia. This lady had for a while kept house for Mr. Emilius; but ill-natured things had been said, and Mr. Emilius, having respect to his cloth, had sent the poor lady back to Bohemia. The consequence was that he now lived in a solitude which was absolute and, as Mr. Emilius added, somewhat melancholy. All this 312 Mr. Emilius explained very fully, not to Lizzie herself, but to Mrs. Carbuncle. If Lady Eustace chose to entertain such a suitor, why should he not come? It was nothing to Mrs. Carbuncle.
Lizzie laughed when she was told that she might add the reverend gentleman to the list of her admirers.
“Don’t you remember,” she said, “how we used to chaff Miss Macnulty about him?”
“I knew better than that,” replied Mrs. Carbuncle.
“There is no saying what a man may be after,” said Lizzie. “I didn’t know but what he might have thought that Macnulty’s connection would increase his congregation.”
“He’s after you, my dear, and your income. He can manage a congregation for himself.”
Lizzie was very civil to him, but it would be unjust to her to say that she gave him any encouragement. It is quite the proper thing for a lady to be on intimate, and even on affectionate terms with her favourite clergyman, and Lizzie certainly had intercourse with no clergyman who was a greater favourite with her than Mr. Emilius. She had a dean for an uncle, and a bishop for an uncle-in-law; but she was at no pains to hide her contempt for these old fogies of the church.
“They preach now and then in the cathedral,” she said to Mr. Emilius, “and everybody takes the opportunity of going to sleep.” Mr. Emilius was very much amused at this description of the eloquence of the dignitaries. It was quite natural to him that people should go to sleep in church who take no trouble in seeking eloquent preachers.
“Ah,” he said, “the church in England, which is my church, the church which I love, is beautiful. She 313 is as a maiden, all glorious with fine raiment. But, alas, she is mute. She does not sing. She has no melody. But the time cometh in which she shall sing. I, myself, I am a poor singer in the great choir.” In saying which Mr. Emilius no doubt intended to allude to his eloquence as a preacher.
He was a man who could listen as well as sing, and he was very careful to hear well that which was being said in public about Lady Eustace and her diamonds. He had learned thoroughly what was her condition in reference to the Portray estate, and was rejoiced rather than otherwise to find that she enjoyed only a life-interest in the property. Had the thing been better than it was, it would have been the further removed from his reach. And in the same way, when rumours reached him prejudicial to Lizzie in respect of the diamonds, he perceived that such prejudice might work weal for him. A gentleman once, on ordering a mackerel that would come to a shilling, found he could have a stale mackerel for sixpence. “Then bring me a stale mackerel,” said the gentleman. Mr. Emilius coveted fish, but was aware that his position did not justify him in expecting the best fish in the market. The Lord Fawns and the Frank Greystocks of the world would be less likely to covet Lizzie, should she by any little indiscretion have placed herself under a temporary cloud. Mr. Emilius had carefully observed the heavens, and knew how quickly such clouds will disperse themselves when they are tinged with gold. There was nothing which Lizzie had done, or would be likely to do, which could materially affect her income. It might indeed be possible that the Eustaces should make her pay for the necklace; but, even in that case 314 there would be quite enough left for that modest, unambitious comfort which Mr. Emilius desired. It was by preaching, and not by wealth, that he must make himself known in the world! but for a preacher to have a pretty wife with a title and a good income, and a castle in Scotland, what an Elysium it would be! In such a condition he would envy no dean, no bishop, no archbishop! He thought a great deal about it, and saw no positive bar to his success.
She told him that she was going to Scotland.
“Not immediately!” he exclaimed.
“My little boy is there,” she said.
“But why should not your little boy be here? Surely for people who can choose, the great centre of the world offers attractions which cannot be found in secluded spots.”
“I love seclusion,” said Lizzie with rapture.
“Ah, yes; I can believe that.” Mr. Emilius had himself witnessed the seclusion of Portray Castle, and had heard, when there, many stories of the Ayrshire hunting. “It is your nature—but, dear Lady Eustace, will you allow me to say that our nature is implanted in us in accordance with the Fall?”
“Do you mean to say that it is wicked to like to be in Scotland better than in this giddy town?”
“I say nothing about wicked, Lady Eustace; but this I do say, that nature alone will not lead us always aright. It is good to be at Portray part of the year, no doubt; but are there not blessings in such a congregation of humanity as this London which you cannot find at Portray?”
“I can hear you preach, Mr. Emilius, certainly.”
“I hope that is something, too, Lady Eustace; otherwise 315 a great many people who kindly come to hear me must sadly waste their time. And your example to the world around; is it not more serviceable amidst the crowds of London than in the solitudes of Scotland? There is more good to be done, Lady Eustace, by living among our fellow creatures than by deserting them. Therefore I think you should not go to Scotland before August, but should have your little boy brought to you here.”
“The air of his native mountains is everything to my child,” said Lizzie. The child had in fact been born at Bobsborough, but that probably would make no real difference.
“You cannot wonder that I should plead for your stay,” said Mr. Emilius, throwing all his soul into his eyes. “How dark would everything be to me if I missed you from your seat in the house of praise and prayer!”
Lizzie Eustace, like some other ladies who ought to be more appreciative, was altogether deficient in what may perhaps be called good taste in reference to men. Though she was clever, and though in spite of her ignorance she at once knew an intelligent man from a fool, she did not know the difference between a gentleman and a—“cad.” It was in her estimation something against Mr. Emilius that he was a clergyman, something against him that he had nothing but what he earned, something against him that he was supposed to be a renegade Jew, and that nobody knew whence he came nor who he was. These deficiencies or drawbacks Lizzie recognised. But it was nothing against him in her judgment that he was a greasy, fawning, pawing, creeping, black-browed rascal, who could not look her full in the face, 316 and whose every word sounded like a lie. There was a twang in his voice which ought to have told her that he was utterly untrustworthy. There was an oily pretence at earnestness in his manner which ought to have told that he was not fit to associate with gentlemen. There was a foulness of demeanour about him which ought to have given to her, as a woman at any rate brought up among ladies, an abhorrence of his society. But all this Lizzie did not feel. She ridiculed to Mrs. Carbuncle the idea of the preacher’s courtship. She still thought that in the teeth of all her misfortunes she could do better with herself than marry Mr. Emilius. She conceived that the man must be impertinent if Mrs. Carbuncle’s assertion were true; but she was neither angry nor disgusted, and she allowed him to talk to her, and even to make love to her, after his nasty pseudo-clerical fashion.
She could surely still do better with herself than marry Mr. Emilius! It was now the twentieth of March, and a fortnight had gone since an intimation had been sent to her from the headquarters of the police that Patience Crabstick was in their hands. Nothing further had occurred, and it might be that Patience Crabstick had told no tale against her. She could not bring herself to believe that Patience had no tale to tell, but it might be that Patience, though she was in the hands of the police, would find it to her interest to tell no tale against her late mistress. At any rate there was silence and quiet, and the affair of the diamonds seemed almost to be passing out of people’s minds. Greystock had twice called in Scotland Yard, but had been able to learn nothing. It was feared, they said, that the people really engaged in the 317 robbery had got away scot-free. Frank did not quite believe them, but he could learn nothing from them. Thus encouraged, Lizzie determined that she would remain in London till after Lucinda’s marriage, till after she should have received the promised letter from Lord Fawn, as to which, though it was so long in coming, she did not doubt that it would come at last. She could do nothing with Frank, who was a fool! She could do nothing with Lord George, who was a brute! Lord Fawn would still be within her reach, if only the secret about the diamonds could be kept a secret till after she should have become his wife.
About this time Lucinda spoke to her respecting her proposed journey. “You were talking of going to Scotland a week ago, Lady Eustace.”
“And am still talking of it.”
“Aunt Jane says that you are waiting for my wedding. It is very kind of you, but pray don’t do that.”
“I shouldn’t think of going now till after your marriage. It only wants ten or twelve days.”
“I count them. I know how many days it wants. It may want more than that.”
“You can’t put it off now, I should think,” said Lizzie; “and as I have ordered my dress for the occasion I shall certainly stay and wear it.”
“I am very sorry for your dress. I am very sorry for it all. Do you know; I sometimes think I shall—murder him.”
“Lucinda, how can you say anything so horrible! But I see you are only joking.” There did come a ghastly smile over that beautiful face, which was so seldom lighted up by any expression of mirth or good humour. “But I wish you would not say such horrible things.”318
“It would serve him right; and if he were to murder me that would serve me right. He knows that I detest him, and yet he goes on with it. I have told him so a score of times, but nothing will make him give it up. It is not that he loves me, but he thinks that that will be his triumph.”
“Why don’t you give it up if it makes you unhappy?”
“It ought to come from him, ought it not?”
“I don’t see why,” said Lizzie.
“He is not bound to anybody as I am bound to my aunt. No one can have exacted an oath from him. Lady Eustace, you don’t quite understand how we are situated. I wonder whether you would take the trouble to be good to me?”
Lucinda Roanoke had never asked a favour of her before; had never, to Lizzie’s knowledge, asked a favour of any one. “In what way can I be good to you?” she said.
“Make him give it up. You may tell him what you like of me. Tell him that I shall only make him miserable, and more despicable than he is; that I shall never be a good wife to him. Tell him that I am thoroughly bad, and that he will repent it to the last day of his life. Say whatever you like, but make him give it up.”
“When everything has been prepared!”
“What does all that signify compared to a life of misery? Lady Eustace, I really think that I should—kill him, if he were—were my husband.” Lizzie at last said that she would at any rate speak to Sir Griffin.
And she did speak to Sir Griffin, having waited three or four days to do so. There had been some desperately 319 sharp words between Sir Griffin and Mrs. Carbuncle with reference to money. Sir Griffin had been given to understand that Lucinda had, or would have, some few hundred pounds, and insisted that the money should be handed over to him on the day of his marriage. Mrs. Carbuncle had declared that the money was to come from property to be realised in New York, and had named a day which had seemed to Sir Griffin to be as the Greek Kalends. He expressed an opinion that he was swindled, and Mrs. Carbuncle, unable to restrain herself, had turned upon him full of wrath. He was caught by Lizzie as he was descending the stairs, and in the dining-room he poured out the tale of his wrongs. “That woman doesn’t know what fair dealing means,” said he.
“That’s a little hard, Sir Griffin, isn’t it?” said Lizzie.
“Not a bit. A trumpery six hundred pounds! And she hasn’t a shilling of fortune, and never will have, beyond that! No fellow ever was more generous or more foolish than I have been.” Lizzie, as she heard this, could not refrain from thinking of the poor departed Sir Florian. “I didn’t look for fortune, or say a word about money, as almost every man does, but just took her as she was. And now she tells me that I can’t have just the bit of money that I wanted for our tour. It would serve them both right if I were to give it up.”
“Why don’t you?” said Lizzie. He looked quickly, sharply, and closely into her face as she asked the question. “I would, if I thought as you do.”
“And lay myself in for all manner of damages,” said Sir Griffin.320
“There wouldn’t be anything of that kind, I’m sure. You see the truth is, you and Miss Roanoke are always having—having little tiffs together. I sometimes think you don’t really care a bit for her.”
“It’s the old woman I’m complaining of,” said Sir Griffin, “and I’m not going to marry her. I shall have seen the last of her when I get out of the church, Lady Eustace.”
“Do you think she wishes it?”
“Who do you mean?” asked Sir Griffin.
“Of course she does. Where’d she be now if it wasn’t to go on? I don’t believe they’ve money enough between them to pay the rent of the house they’re living in.”
“Of course I don’t want to make difficulties, Sir Griffin, and no doubt the affair has gone very far now. But I really think Lucinda would consent to break it off if you wish it. I have never thought that you were really in love with her.”
He again looked at her very sharply and very closely.
“Has she sent you to say all this?”
“Has who sent me? Mrs. Carbuncle didn’t.”
She paused a moment before she replied, but she could not bring herself to be absolutely honest in the matter. “No; she didn’t send me. But from what I see and hear, I am quite sure she does not wish to go on with it.”
“Then she shall go on with it,” said Sir Griffin. “I’m not going to be made a fool of in that way. She shall go on with it, and the first thing I mean to tell her as my wife is, that she shall never see that 321 woman again. If she thinks she’s going to be master, she’s very much mistaken.” Sir Griffin, as he said this, showed his teeth, and declared his purpose to be masterful by his features as well as by his words; but Lady Eustace was nevertheless of opinion that when the two came to an absolute struggle for mastery, the lady would get the better of it.
Lizzie never told Miss Roanoke of her want of success, or even of the effort she had made; nor did the unhappy young woman come to her for any reply. The preparations went on, and it was quite understood that on this peculiar occasion Mrs. Carbuncle intended to treat her friends with profuse hospitality. She proposed to give a breakfast; and as the house in Hertford street was very small, rooms had been taken at a hotel in Albemarle street. Thither as the day of the marriage drew near, all the presents were taken—so that they might be viewed by the guests, with the names of the donors attached to them. As some of the money given had been very much wanted indeed, so that the actual checks could not conveniently be spared just at the moment to pay for the presents which ought to have been bought, a few very pretty things were hired, as to which, when the donors should see their names attached to them, they should surely think that the money given had been laid out to great advantage.322
It took Lord Fawn a long time to write his letter, but at last he wrote it. The delay must not be taken as throwing any slur on his character as a correspondent or a man of business, for many irritating causes sprang up sufficient to justify him in pleading that it arose from circumstances beyond his own control. It is moreover felt by us all that the time which may fairly be taken in the performance of any task depends, not on the amount of work, but on the importance of it when done. A man is not expected to write a check for a couple of thousand pounds as readily as he would one for five, unless he be a man to whom a couple of thousand pounds is a mere nothing. To Lord Fawn the writing of this letter was everything. He had told Lizzie, with much exactness, what he would put into it. He would again offer his hand—acknowledging himself bound to do so by his former offer—but would give reasons why she should not accept it. If anything should occur in the mean time which would in his opinion justify him in again repudiating her, he would of course take advantage of such circumstance. If asked himself what was his prevailing motive in all that he did or intended to do, he would have declared that it was above all things necessary that he should “put himself right in the eye of the British public.”323
But he was not able to do this without interference from the judgment of others. Both Mr. and Mrs. Hittaway interfered; and he could not prevent himself from listening to them and believing them, though he would contradict all they said, and snub all their theories. Frank Greystock also continued to interfere, and Lady Glencora Palliser. Even John Eustace had been worked upon to write to Lord Fawn, stating his opinion as trustee for his late brother’s property, that the Eustace family did not think that there was ground of complaint against Lady Eustace in reference to the diamonds which had been stolen. This was a terrible blow to Lord Fawn, and had come no doubt from a general agreement among the Eustace faction—including the bishop, John Eustace, and even Mr. Camperdown—that it would be a good thing to get the widow married and placed under some decent control.
Lady Glencora absolutely had the effrontery to ask him whether the marriage was not going to take place, and when a day would be fixed. He gathered up his courage to give her ladyship a rebuke. “My private affairs do seem to be uncommonly interesting,” he said.
“Why, yes, Lord Fawn,” said Lady Glencora, whom nothing could abash, “most interesting. You see dear Lady Eustace is so very popular that we all want to know what is to be her fate.”
“I regret to say that I cannot answer your ladyship’s question with any precision,” said Lord Fawn.
But the Hittaway persecution was by far the worst. “You have seen her, Frederic,” said his sister.
“Yes, I have.”324
“You have made her no promise?”
“My dear Clara, this is a matter in which I must use my own judgment.”
“But the family, Frederic?”
“I do not think that any member of our family has a just right to complain of my conduct since I have had the honour of being its head. I have endeavoured so to live that my actions should encounter no private or public censure. If I fail to meet with your approbation, I shall grieve; but I cannot on that account act otherwise than in accordance with my own judgment.”
Mrs. Hittaway knew her brother well, and was not afraid of him. “That’s all very well; and I am sure you know, Frederic, how proud we all are of you. But this woman is a nasty, low, scheming, ill-conducted, dishonest little wretch; and if you make her your wife you’ll be miserable all your life. Nothing would make me and Orlando so unhappy as to quarrel with you. But we know that it is so, and to the last minute I shall say so. Why don’t you ask her to her face about that man down in Scotland?”
“My dear Clara, perhaps I know what to ask her and what not to ask her better than you can tell me.”
And his brother-in-law was quite as bad. “Fawn,” he said, “in this matter of Lady Eustace, don’t you think you ought to put your conduct into the hands of some friend?”
“What do you mean by that?”
“I think it is an affair in which a man would have so much comfort in being able to say that he was guided by advice. Of course her people want you to 325 marry her. Now if you could just tell them that the whole thing was in the hands of—say me, or any other friend, you would be relieved, you know, of so much responsibility. They might hammer away at me ever so long and I shouldn’t care twopence.”
“If there is to be any hammering, it cannot be borne vicariously,” said Lord Fawn, and as he said it he was quite pleased by his own sharpness and wit.
He had indeed put himself beyond protection by vicarious endurance of hammering when he promised to write to Lady Eustace, explaining his own conduct and giving reasons. Had anything turned up in Scotland Yard which would have justified him in saying, or even in thinking, that Lizzie had stolen her own diamonds, he would have sent word to her that he must abstain from any communication till that matter had been cleared up; but since the appearance of that mysterious paragraph in the newspapers nothing had been heard of the robbery, and public opinion certainly seemed to be in favour of Lizzie’s innocence. He did think that the Eustace faction was betraying him, as he could not but remember how eager Mr. Camperdown had been in asserting that the widow was keeping an enormous amount of property and claiming it as her own, whereas in truth she had not the slightest title to it. It was, in a great measure, in consequence of the assertions of the Eustace faction, almost in obedience to their advice, that he had resolved to break off the match; and now they turned upon him, and John Eustace absolutely went out of his way to write him a letter which was clearly meant to imply that he, Lord Fawn, was bound to marry the 326 woman to whom he had once engaged himself! Lord Fawn felt that he was ill-used, and that a man might have to undergo a great deal of bad treatment who should strive to put himself right in the eye of the public.
At last he wrote his letter—on a Wednesday, which with him had something of the comfort of a half-holiday, as on that day he was not required to attend Parliament.
“India Office, March 28, 18—.
“My dear Lady Eustace: In accordance with the promise which I made to you when I did myself the honour of waiting upon you in Hertford street, I take up my pen with the view of communicating to you the result of my deliberations respecting the engagement of marriage which no doubt did exist between us last summer.
“Since that time I have no doubt taken upon myself to say that that engagement was over; and I am free to admit that I did so without any assent or agreement on your part to that effect. Such conduct no doubt requires a valid and strong defence. My defence is as follows:
“I learned that you were in possession of a large amount of property, vested in diamonds, which was claimed by the executors under your late husband’s will as belonging to his estate; and as to which they declared, in the most positive manner, that you had no right or title to it whatever. I consulted friends and I consulted lawyers, and I was led to the conviction that this property certainly did not belong to you. Had I married you in these circumstances, I could not but have become a participator in the lawsuit which I 327 was assured would be commenced. I could not be a participator with you, because I believed you to be in the wrong. And I certainly could not participate with those who would in such case be attacking my own wife.
“In this condition of things I requested you—as you must I think yourself own, with all deference and good feeling—to give up the actual possession of the property, and to place the diamonds in neutral hands”—Lord Fawn was often called upon to be neutral in reference to the condition of outlying Indian principalities—“till the law should have decided as to their ownership. As regards myself, I neither coveted nor rejected the possession of that wealth for my future wife. I desired simply to be free from an embarrassment which would have overwhelmed me. You declined my request—not only positively, but perhaps I may add peremptorily; and then I was bound to adhere to the decision I had communicated to you.
“Since that time the property has been stolen and, as I believe, dissipated. The lawsuit against you has been withdrawn; and the bone of contention, so to say, is no longer existing. I am no longer justified in declining to keep my engagement because of the prejudice to which I should have been subjected by your possession of the diamonds; and therefore, as far as that goes, I withdraw my withdrawal.” This Lord Fawn thought was rather a happy phrase, and he read it aloud to himself more than once.
“But now there arises the question whether, in both our interests, this marriage should go on, or whether it may not be more conducive to your happiness and to mine that it should be annulled for causes altogether irrespective of the diamonds. In a matter so serious as 328 marriage, the happiness of the two parties is that which requires graver thought than any other consideration.
“There has no doubt sprung up between us a feeling of mutual distrust, which has led to recrimination, and which is hardly compatible with that perfect confidence which should exist between a man and his wife. This first arose no doubt from the different views which we took as to that property of which I have spoken, and as to which your judgment may possibly have been better than mine. On that head I will add nothing to what I have already said; but the feeling has arisen, and I fear it cannot be so perfectly allayed as to admit of that reciprocal trust without which we could not live happily together. I confess that for my own part I do not now desire a union which was once the great object of my ambition, and that I could not go to the altar with you without fear and trembling. As to your own feelings, you best know what they are. I bring no charge against you; but if you have ceased to love me I think you should cease to wish to be my wife, and that you should not insist upon a marriage simply because by doing so you would triumph over a former objection.” Before he finished this paragraph he thought much of Andy Gowran and of the scene among the rocks of which he had heard. But he could not speak of it. He had found himself unable to examine the witness who had been brought to him, and had honestly told himself that he could not take that charge as proved. Andy Gowran might have lied. In his heart he believed that Andy Gowran had lied. The matter was distasteful to him, and he would not touch it. And yet he knew that the woman did not love him, and he longed to tell her so.329
“As to what we might each gain or each lose in a worldly point of view, either by marrying or not marrying, I will not say a word. You have rank and wealth, and therefore I can comfort myself by thinking that if I dissuade you from this marriage I shall rob you of neither. I acknowledge that I wish to dissuade you, as I believe that we should not make each other happy. As however I do consider that I am bound to keep my engagement to you if you demand that I shall do so, I leave the matter in your hands for decision. I am, and shall remain, your sincere friend,
He read the letter and copied it, and gave himself great credit for the composition. He thought that it was impossible that any woman after reading it should express a wish to become the wife of the man who wrote it; and yet—so he believed, man or woman could find fault with him for writing it. There certainly was one view of the case which was very distressing. How would it be with him if after all she should say that she would marry him? After having given her her choice—having put it all in writing—he could not again go back from it. He would be in her power, and of what use would his life be to him? Would Parliament or the India Office or the eye of the public be able to comfort him then in the midst of his many miseries? What could he do with a wife whom he married with a declaration that he disliked her? With such feelings as were his, how could he stand before a clergyman and take an oath that he would love her and cherish her? Would she not ever be as an adder to him—as an adder whom it would be impossible 330 that he should admit into his bosom? Could he live in the same house with her; and if so, could he ask his mother and sisters to visit her? He remembered well what Mrs. Hittaway had called her—a nasty, low, scheming, ill-conducted, dishonest little wretch! And he believed that she was so! Yet he was once again offering to marry her, should she choose to accept him.
Nevertheless, the letter was sent. There was, in truth, no alternative. He had promised that he would write such a letter, and all that had remained to him was the power of cramming into it every available argument against the marriage. This he had done and, as he thought, had done well. It was impossible that she should desire to marry him after reading such a letter as that!
Lizzie received it in her bedroom, where she breakfasted, and told of its arrival to her friend Mrs. Carbuncle as soon as they met each other. “My lord has come down from his high horse at last,” she said, with the letter in her hand.
“Yes; Lord Fawn. What other lord? There is no other lord for me. He is my lord, my peer of Parliament, my Cabinet minister, my right honourable, my member of the Government—my young man too, as the maid-servants call them.”
“What does he say?”
“Say—what should he say—just that he has behaved very badly, and that he hopes I shall forgive him.”
“Not quite that; does he?”
“That’s what it all means. Of course there is 331 ever so much of it—pages of it. It wouldn’t be Lord Fawn if he didn’t spin it all out, like an act of Parliament, with whereas and whereis and whereof. It is full of all that; but the meaning of it is that he’s at my feet again, and that I may pick him up if I choose to take him. I’d show you the letter, only perhaps it wouldn’t be fair to the poor man.”
“What excuse does he make?”
“Oh—as to that he’s rational enough. He calls the necklace the—bone of contention. That’s rather good for Lord Fawn; isn’t it? The bone of contention, he says, has been removed; and therefore there is no reason why we shouldn’t marry if we like it. He shall hear enough about the bone of contention if we do ‘marry.’”
“And what shall you do now?”
“Ah yes; that’s easily asked; is it not? The man’s a good sort of man in his way, you know. He doesn’t drink or gamble; and I don’t think there is a bit of the King David about him—that I don’t.”
“Virtue personified, I should say.”
“And he isn’t extravagant.”
“Then why not have him and done with it?” asked Mrs. Carbuncle.
“He is such a lumpy man,” said Lizzie; “such an ass; such a load of government waste paper.”
“Come, my dear; you’ve had troubles.”
“I have indeed,” said Lizzie.
“And there’s no quite knowing yet how far they’re over.”
“What do you mean by that, Mrs. Carbuncle?”
“Nothing very much; but still, you see, they may come again. As to Lord George, we all know that he 332 has not got a penny-piece in the world that he can call his own.”
“If he had as many pennies as Judas, Lord George would be nothing to me,” said Lizzie.
“And your cousin really doesn’t seem to mean anything.”
“I know very well what my cousin means. He and I understand each other thoroughly; but cousins can love one another very well without marrying.”
“Of course you know your own business, but if I were you I would take Lord Fawn. I speak in true kindness, as one woman to another. After all, what does love signify? How much real love do we ever see among married people? Does Lady Glencora Palliser really love her husband, who thinks of nothing in the world but putting taxes on and off?”
“Do you love your husband, Mrs. Carbuncle?”
“No; but that is a different kind of thing. Circumstances have caused me to live apart from him. The man is a good man, and there is no reason why you should not respect him and treat him well. He will give you a fixed position, which really you want badly, Lady Eustace.”
“, tooriloo, tooriloo, looriloo,” said Lizzie, in contemptuous disdain of her friend’s caution.
“And then all this trouble about the diamonds and the robberies will be over,” continued Mrs. Carbuncle. Lizzie looked at her very intently. What should make Mrs. Carbuncle suppose that there need be, or indeed could be, any further trouble about the diamonds?
“So, that’s your advice,” said Lizzie, “I’m half inclined to take it, and perhaps I shall. However, I have brought him round, and that’s something, my dear. 333 And either one way or the other, I shall let him know that I like my triumph. I was determined to have it, and I’ve got it.”
Then she read the letter again very seriously. Could she possibly marry a man who in so many words told her that he didn’t want her? Well, she thought she could. Was not everybody treating everybody else much in the same way? Had she not loved her Corsair truly, and how had he treated her? Had she not been true, disinterested, and most affectionate to Frank Greystock; and what had she got from him? To manage her business wisely, and put herself upon firm ground, that was her duty at present. Mrs. Carbuncle was right there. The very name of Lady Fawn would be a rock to her, and she wanted a rock. She thought upon the whole that she could marry him—unless Patience Crabstick and the police should again interfere with her prosperity.334
Lady Eustace did not intend to take as much time in answering Lord Fawn’s letter as he had taken in writing it; but even she found that the subject was one which demanded a good deal of thought. Mrs. Carbuncle had very freely recommended her to take the man, supporting her advice by arguments which Lizzie felt to be valid; but then Mrs. Carbuncle did not know all the circumstances. Mrs. Carbuncle had not actually seen his lordship’s letter; and though the great part of the letter, the formal repetition, namely, of the writer’s offer of marriage, had been truly told to her, still, as the reader will have perceived, she had been kept in the dark as to some of the details. Lizzie did sit at her desk with the object of putting a few words together in order that she might see how they looked, and she found that there was a difficulty.
“My dear Lord Fawn: As we have been engaged to marry each other, and as all our friends have been told, I think that the thing had better go on.”
That, after various attempts, was, she thought, the best letter that she could send—if she should make up her mind to be Lady Fawn. But, on the morning of the 30th of March she had not sent her letter. She had told herself that she would take two days to think 335 of her reply, and on the Friday morning the few words she had prepared were still lying in her desk.
What was she to get by marrying a man she absolutely disliked? That he also absolutely disliked her was not a matter much in her thoughts. The man would not ill-treat her because he disliked her; or, it might perhaps be juster to say, that the ill-treatment which she might fairly anticipate would not be of a nature which would much affect her comfort grievously. He would not beat her, nor rob her, nor lock her up, nor starve her. He would either neglect her or preach sermons to her. For the first she could console herself by the attention of others; and should he preach, perhaps she could preach too—as sharply if not as lengthily as his lordship. At any rate she was not afraid of him. But what would she gain? It is very well to have a rock, as Mrs. Carbuncle had said, but a rock is not everything. She did not know whether she cared much for living upon a rock. Even stability may be purchased at too high a price. There was not a grain of poetry in the whole composition of Lord Fawn, and poetry was what her very soul craved—poetry, together with houses, champagne, jewels, and admiration. Her income was still her own, and she did not quite see that the rock was so absolutely necessary to her. Then she wrote another note to Lord Fawn, a specimen of a note, so that she might have the opportunity of comparing the two. This note took her much longer than the one first written.
“My Lord: I do not know how to acknowledge with sufficient humility the condescension and great kindness of your lordship’s letter. But perhaps its 336 manly generosity is more conspicuous than either. The truth is, my lord, you want to escape from your engagement, but are too much afraid of the consequences to dare to do so by any act of your own. Therefore you throw it upon me. You are quite successful. I don’t think you ever read poetry, but perhaps you may understand the two following lines:
“‘I am constrained to say your lordship’s scullion
Should sooner be my husband than yourself.’
“I see through you, and despise you thoroughly.
She was comparing the two answers together, very much in doubt as to which should be sent, when there came a message to her by a man whom she knew to be a policeman, though he did not announce himself as such, and was dressed in plain clothes. Major Mackintosh sent his compliments to her, and would wait upon her that afternoon at three o’clock, if she would have the kindness to receive him. At the first moment of seeing the man she felt that after all the rock was what she wanted. Mrs. Carbuncle was right. She had had troubles and might have more, and the rock was the thing. But then the more certainly did she become convinced of this by the presence of the major’s messenger, the more clearly did she see the difficulty of attaining the security which the rock offered. If this public exposure should fall upon her, Lord Fawn’s renewed offer, as she knew well, would stand for nothing. If once it were known that she had kept the necklace—her own necklace—under her pillow at Carlisle, he would want no further justification in repudiating her, were it for the tenth time.337
She was very uncivil to the messenger, and the more so because she found that the man bore her rudeness without turning upon her and rending her. When she declared that the police had behaved very badly, and that Major Mackintosh was inexcusable in troubling her again, and that she had ceased to care twopence about the necklace, the man made no remonstrance to her petulance. He owned that the trouble was very great, and the police very inefficient. He almost owned that the major was inexcusable. He did not care what he owned so that he achieved his object. But when Lizzie said that she could not see Major Mackintosh at three, and objected equally to two, four, or five; then the courteous messenger from Scotland Yard did say a word to make her understand that there must be a meeting—and he hinted also that the major was doing a most unusually good-natured thing in coming to Hertford street. Of course Lizzie made the appointment. If the major chose to come, she would be at home at three.
As soon as the policeman was gone she sat alone, with a manner very much changed from that which she had worn since the arrival of Lord Fawn’s letter; with a fresh weight of care upon her, greater perhaps than she had ever hitherto borne. She had had bad moments—when, for instance, she had been taken before the magistrates at Carlisle, when she found the police in her house on her return from the theatre, and when Lord George had forced her secret from her. But at each of these periods hope had come renewed before despair had crushed her. Now it seemed to her that the thing was done and that the game was over. This chief man of the London police no doubt 338 knew the whole story. If she could only already have climbed upon some rock, so that there might be a man bound to defend her—a man at any rate bound to put himself forward on her behalf and do whatever might be done in her defence, she might have endured it!
What would she do now, at this minute? She looked at her watch and found that it was already past one. Mrs. Carbuncle, as she knew, was closeted up-stairs with Lucinda, whose wedding was fixed for the following Monday. It was now Friday. Were she to call upon Mrs. Carbuncle for aid no aid would be forthcoming unless she were to tell the whole truth. She almost thought that she would do so. But then, how great would have been her indiscretion if, after all, when the major should come, she should discover that he did not know the truth himself! That Mrs. Carbuncle would keep her secret she did not for a moment think. She longed for the comfort of some friend’s counsel, but she found at last that she could not purchase it by telling everything to a woman.
Might it not be possible that she should still run away? She did not know much of the law, but she thought that they could not punish her for breaking an appointment even with a man so high in authority as Major Mackintosh. She could leave a note saying that pressing business called her out. But whither should she go? She thought of taking a cab to the House of Commons, finding her cousin, and telling him everything. It would be so much better that he should see the major. But then again it might be that she should be mistaken as to the amount of the major’s information. After a while she almost determined to fly off at once to Scotland, leaving word that she was 339 obliged to go instantly to her child. But there was no direct train to Scotland before eight or nine in the evening, and during the intervening hours the police would have ample time to find her. What, indeed, could she do with herself during these intervening hours? Ah, if she had but a rock now, so that she need not be dependent altogether on the exercise of her own intellect!
Gradually the minutes passed by, and she became aware that she must face the major. Well! What had she done? She had stolen nothing. She had taken no person’s property. She had, indeed, been wickedly robbed, and the police had done nothing to get back for her her property, as they were bound to have done. She would take care to tell the major what she thought about the negligence of the police. The major should not have the talk all to himself.
If it had not been for one word with which Lord George had stunned her ears, she could still have borne it well. She had told a lie; perhaps two or three lies. She knew that she had lied. But then people lie every day. She would not have minded it much if she were simply to be called a liar. But he had told her that she would be accused of perjury. There was something frightful to her in the name. And there were she knew not what dreadful penalties attached to it. Lord George had told her that she might be put in prison—whether he had said for years or for months she had forgotten. And she thought she had heard of people’s property being confiscated to the Crown when they had been made out to be guilty of certain great offences. Oh, how she wished that she had a rock!340
When three o’clock came she had not started for Scotland or elsewhere, and at last she received the major. Could she have thoroughly trusted the servant she would have denied herself at the last moment, but she feared that she might be betrayed, and she thought that her position would be rendered even worse than it was at present by a futile attempt. She was sitting alone, pale, haggard, trembling, when Major Mackintosh was shown into her room. It may be as well explained at once , at this the major knew, or thought that he knew, every circumstance of the two robberies, and that his surmises were, in every respect, right. Miss Crabstick and Mr. Cann were in comfortable quarters, and were prepared to tell all that they could tell. Mr. Smiler was in durance, and Mr. Benjamin was at Vienna, in the hands of the Austrian police, who were prepared to give him up to those who desired his society in England, on the completion of certain legal formalities. That Mr. Benjamin and Mr. Smiler would be prosecuted, the latter for the robbery and the former for conspiracy to rob, and for receiving stolen goods, was a matter of course. But what was to be done with Lady Eustace? That, at the present moment, was the prevailing trouble with the police. During the last three weeks every precaution had been taken to keep the matter secret, and it is hardly too much to say that Lizzie’s interests were handled not only with consideration but with tenderness.
“Lady Eustace,” said the major, “I am very sorry to trouble you. No doubt the man who called on you this morning explained to you who I am.”
“Oh yes, I know who you are—quite well.” Lizzie 341 made a great effort to speak without betraying her consternation; but she was nearly prostrated. The major, however, hardly observed her, and was by no means at ease himself in his effort to save her from unnecessary annoyance. He was a tall, thin, gaunt man of about forty, with large, good-natured eyes—but it was not till the interview was half over that Lizzie took courage to look even into his face.
“Just so; I am come, you know, about the robbery which took place here—and the other robbery at Carlisle.”
“I have been so troubled about these horrid robberies! Sometimes I think they’ll be the death of me.”
“I think, Lady Eustace, we have found out the whole truth.”
“Oh, I daresay. I wonder why—you have been so long—finding it out.”
“We have had very clever people to deal with, Lady Eustace—and I fear that, even now, we shall never get back the property.”
“I do not care about the property, sir—although it was all my own. Nobody has lost anything but myself; and I really don’t see why the thing should not die out, as I don’t care about it. Whoever it is, they may have it now.”
“We were bound to get to the bottom of it all, if we could; and I think that we have at last. Perhaps, as you say, we ought to have done it sooner.”
“Oh—I don’t care.”
“We have two persons in custody, Lady Eustace, whom we shall use as witnesses, and I am afraid we shall have to call upon you also—as a witness.” It 342 occurred to Lizzie that they could not lock her up in prison and make her a witness too, but she said nothing. Then the major continued his speech—and asked her the question which was, in fact, alone material. “Of course, Lady Eustace, you are not bound to say anything to me unless you like—and you must understand that I by no means wish you to criminate yourself.”
“I don’t know what that means.”
“If you yourself have done anything wrong, I don’t want to ask you to confess it.”
“I have had all my diamonds stolen, if you mean that. Perhaps it was wrong to have diamonds.”
“But to come to my question—I suppose we may take it for granted that the diamonds were in your desk when the thieves made their entrance into this house, and broke the desk open, and stole the money out of it?” Lizzie breathed so hardly, that she was quite unable to speak. The man’s voice was very gentle and very kind—but then how could she admit that one fact? All depended on that one fact. “The woman Crabstick,” said the major, “has confessed, and will state on her oath that she saw the necklace in your hands in Hertford street, and that she saw it placed in the desk. She then gave information of this to Benjamin—as she had before given information as to your journey up from Scotland—and she was introduced to the two men whom she let into the house. One of them, indeed, who will also give evidence for us, she had before met at Carlisle. She then was present when the necklace was taken out of the desk. The man who opened the desk and took it out, who also cut the door at Carlisle, will give evidence to the 343 same effect. The man who carried the necklace out of the house, and who broke open the box at Carlisle, will be tried—as will also Benjamin, who disposed of the diamonds. I have told you the whole story, as it has been told to me by the woman Crabstick. Of course you will deny the truth of it, if it be untrue.” Lizzie sat with her eyes fixed upon the floor, but said nothing. She could not speak. “If you will allow me, Lady Eustace, to give you advice—really friendly advice——”
“Oh, pray do.”
“You had better admit the truth of the story, if it is true.”
“They were my own,” she whispered.
“Or, at any rate, you believed that they were. There can be no doubt, I think, as to that. No one supposes that the robbery at Carlisle was arranged on your behalf.”
“But you had taken them out of the box before you went to bed at the inn?”
“But you had taken them?”
“I did it in the morning before I started from Scotland. They frightened me by saying the box would be stolen.”
“Exactly—and then you put them into your desk here, in this house?”
“I should tell you, Lady Eustace, that I had not a doubt about this before I came here. For some time past I have thought that it must be so; and latterly the confession of two of the accomplices has made 344 it certain to me. One of the housebreakers and the jeweller will be tried for the felony, and I am afraid that you must undergo the annoyance of being one of the witnesses.”
“What will they do to me, Major Mackintosh?” Lizzie now for the first time looked up into his eyes, and felt that they were kind. Could he be her rock? He did not speak to her like an enemy—and then, too, he would know better than any man alive how she might best escape from her trouble.
“They will ask you to tell the truth.”
“Indeed I will do that,” said Lizzie—not aware that, after so many lies, it might be difficult to tell the truth.
“And you will probably be asked to repeat it, this way and that, in a manner that will be troublesome to you. You see that here in London, and at Carlisle, you have—given incorrect versions.”
“I know I have. But the necklace was my own. There was nothing dishonest—was there, Major Mackintosh? When they came to me at Carlisle I was so confused that I hardly knew what to tell them. And when I had once given an incorrect version, you know, I didn’t know how to go back.”
The major was not so well acquainted with Lizzie as is the reader, and he pitied her. “I can understand all that,” he said.
How much kinder he was than Lord George had been when she confessed the truth to him. Here would be a rock! And such a handsome man as he was, too—not exactly a Corsair, as he was great in authority over the London police—but a powerful, fine fellow, who would know what to do with 345 swords and pistols as well as any Corsair—and one, too, no doubt, who would understand poetry! Any such dream, however, was altogether unavailing, as the major had a wife at home and seven children. “If you will only tell me what to do, I will do it,” she said, looking up into his face with entreaty, and pressing her hands together in supplication.
Then at great length, and with much patience, he explained to her what he would have her do. He thought that, if she were summoned and used as a witness, there would be no attempt to prosecute her for the—incorrect versions—of which she had undoubtedly been guilty. The probability was, that she would receive assurance to this effect before she would be asked to give her evidence, preparatory to the committal of Benjamin and Smiler. He could not assure her that it would be so, but he had no doubt of it. In order, however, that things might be made to run as smooth as possible, he recommended her very strongly to go at once to Mr. Camperdown and make a clean breast of it to him. “The whole family should be told,” said the major, “and it will be better for you that they should know it from yourself than from us.” When she hesitated, he explained to her that the matter could no longer be kept as a secret, and that her evidence would certainly appear in the papers. He proposed that she should be summoned for that day week—which would be the Friday after Lucinda’s marriage, and he suggested that she should go to Mr. Camperdown’s on the morrow.
“What—to-morrow?” exclaimed Lizzie, in dismay.
“My dear Lady Eustace,” said the major, “the 346 sooner you get back into straight running, the sooner you will be comfortable.” Then she promised that she would go on the Tuesday—the day after the marriage. “If he learns it in the mean time, you must not be surprised,” said the major.
“Tell me one thing, Major Mackintosh,” she said, as she gave him her hand at parting, “they can’t take away from me anything that is my own—can they?”
“I don’t think they can,” said the major, escaping rather quickly from the room.
I noted elsewhere that I first heard of this book through a passing mention in a Miss Manners column, on the subject of heirlooms. I wonder if she also remembers the present chapter, “Tribute”, which must have tickled her enormously.
It was generally thought . . . that that Lord George de Bruce Carruthers had assisted
[The duplicate “that” doesn’t seem strictly necessary, but Fortnightly Review has the same thing (at mid-line).]
Of course I used to know him—down at Portray,—but now we are strangers.
punctuation between “Portray” and “but” invisible
[Invisible punctuation supplied from Fortnightly Review. Had it been left to my unaided guess, I wouldn’t have thought of the comma.]
At the present moment he was making over two thousand pounds a year, and yet was more in debt
[This is not good. The staffing suggestions in the Book of Household Management—published about ten years earlier—top out at
About £1,000 a year—A cook, upper housemaid, nursemaid, under housemaid, and a man servant.
That is: Frank’s income is twice an amount that ought to be able to support a household with five indoor servants.]
a pretty wife with a title and a good income
[But, er, she doesn’t have a title. The moment she remarries, she is no longer Lady Eustace.]
he wrote his letter—on a Wednesday . . . . March 28, 18—.
[If March 3 is a Saturday, then I guess the 28th has to be a Wednesday. Did Trollope start out with a calendar for the current year—1872—and then decide to proceed as if it were not a leap year?]
and yet—so he believed,—no man or woman could find fault with him
[Second dash supplied from Fortnightly Review.]
“Tooriloo, tooriloo, tooriloo, looriloo,” said Lizzie
text has Torriloo
[Corrected from Fortnightly Review.]
“’I am constrained to say your lordship’s scullion / Should sooner be my husband than yourself.’
[Philip van Artevelde, Part I, Act I, scene 2. Disappointingly, the line is spoken by a woman to a female friend, by way of hashing out alternatives to plain “no”. Query: Philip van what? Answer: In full, Philip van Artevelde, a Dramatic Romance in Two Parts, an 1834 play by Henry Taylor. Nope, I’d never heard of it either. (Has Lizzie? Or did she just find the lines in an anthology?)]
It may be as well explained at once that, at this moment,
text has at once, at this moment;
[Missing word and wrong punctuation corrected from Fortnightly Review.]
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.