The Saturday and the Sunday Lizzie passed in outward tranquillity, though doubtless her mind was greatly disturbed. She said nothing of what had passed between her and Major Mackintosh, explaining that his visit had been made solely with the object of informing her that Mr. Benjamin was to be sent home from Vienna, but that the diamonds were gone forever. She had, as she declared to herself, agreed with Major Mackintosh that she would not go to Mr. Camperdown till the Tuesday—justifying her delay by her solicitude in reference to Miss Roanoke’s marriage; and therefore these two days were her own. After them would come a totally altered phase of existence. All the world would know the history of the diamonds—cousin Frank, and Lord Fawn, and John Eustace, and Mrs. Carbuncle, and the Bobsborough people, and Lady Glencora, and that old vulturess, her aunt, the Countess of Linlithgow. It must come now—but she had two days in which she could be quiet and think of her position. She would, she thought, send one of her letters to Lord Fawn before she went to Mr. Camperdown—but which should she send? Or should she write a third explaining the whole matter in sweetly piteous feminine terms, and 348 swearing that the only remaining feeling in her bosom was a devoted affection to the man who had now twice promised to be her husband?
In the mean time the preparations for the great marriage went on. Mrs. Carbuncle spent her time busily between Lucinda’s bedchamber and the banqueting hall in Albemarle street. In spite of pecuniary difficulties the trousseau was to be a wonder; and even Lizzie was astonished at the jewelry which that indefatigable woman had collected together for a preliminary show in Hertford street. She had spent hours at Howell and James’s, and had made marvellous bargains there and elsewhere. Things were sent for selection, of which the greater portion were to be returned, but all were kept for the show. The same things which were shown to separate friends in Hertford street as part of the trousseau on Friday and Saturday, were carried over to Albemarle street on the Sunday, so as to add to the quasi-public exhibition of presents on the Monday. The money expended had gone very far. The most had been made of a failing credit. Every particle of friendly generosity had been so manipulated as to add to the external magnificence. And Mrs. Carbuncle had done all this without any help from Lucinda, in the midst of most contemptuous indifference on Lucinda’s part. She could hardly be got to allow the milliners to fit the dresses to her body, and positively refused to thrust her feet into certain golden-heeled boots with brightly-bronzed toes, which were a great feature among the raiment. Nobody knew it except Mrs. Carbuncle and the maid; even Lizzie Eustace did not know it; but once the bride absolutely 349 ran amuck among the finery, scattering the laces here and there, pitching the glove-boxes under the bed, chucking the golden-heeled boots into the fire-place, and exhibiting quite a tempest of fury against one of the finest shows of petticoats ever arranged with a view to the admiration and envy of female friends. But all this Mrs. Carbuncle bore, and still persevered. The thing was so nearly done now that she could endure to persevere though the provocation to abandon it was so great. She had even ceased to find fault with her niece, but went on in silence counting the hours till the trouble should be taken off her own shoulders and placed on those of Sir Griffin. It was a great thing to her, almost more than she had expected, that neither Lucinda nor Sir Griffin should have positively declined the marriage. It was impossible that either should retreat from it now.
Luckily for Mrs. Carbuncle Sir Griffin took delight in the show. He did this after a bearish fashion, putting his finger upon little flaws, with an intelligence for which Mrs. Carbuncle had not hitherto given him credit. As to certain ornaments, he observed that the silver was plated and the gold ormolu. A “rope” of pearls he at once detected as being false, and after fingering certain lace he turned up his nose and shook his head. Then, on the Sunday, in Albemarle street, he pointed out to Mrs. Carbuncle sundry articles which he had seen in the bedroom on the Saturday.
“But, my dear Sir Griffin, that’s of course,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“Oh; that’s of course, is it?” said Sir Griffin turning up his nose again. “Where did that Delft bowl come from?”350
“It is one of Mortlook’s finest Etruscan vases,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“Oh, I thought that Etruscan vases came from—from somewhere in Greece or Italy,” said Sir Griffin.
“I declare that you are shocking,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, struggling to maintain her good-humour.
He passed hours of the Sunday in Hertford street, and Lord George also was there for some time. Lizzie, who could hardly devote her mind to the affairs of the wedding, remained alone in her own sitting-room during the greater part of the day; but she did show herself while Lord George was there.
“So I hear that Mackintosh has been here,” said Lord George.
“Yes, he was here.”
“And what did he say?” Lizzie did not like the way in which the man looked at her, feeling it to be not only unfriendly, but absolutely cruel. It seemed to imply that he knew that her secret was about to be divulged. And what was he to her now that he should be impertinent to her? What he knew, all the world would know before the end of the week. And that other man who knew it already, had been kind to her, had said nothing about perjury, but had explained to her that what she would have to bear would be trouble, and not imprisonment and loss of money. Lord George, to whom she had been so civil, for whom she had spent money, to whom she had almost offered herself and all that she possessed—Lord George, whom she had selected as the first repository of her secret, had spoken no word to comfort her, but had made things look worse for her than they were. Why should she submit to be questioned by Lord 351 George? In a day or two the secret which he knew would be no secret. “Never mind what he said, Lord George,” she replied.
“Has he found it all out?”
“You had better go and ask himself,” said Lizzie. “I am sick of the subject, and I mean to have done with it.”
Lord George laughed, and Lizzie hated him for his laugh.
“I declare,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, “that you two who were such friends, are always snapping at each other now.”
“The fickleness is all on her ladyship’s part, not on mine,” said Lord George; whereupon Lady Eustace walked out of the room and was not seen again till dinner-time.
Soon afterward Lucinda also endeavoured to escape, but to this Sir Griffin objected. Sir Griffin was in a very good humour, and bore himself like a prosperous bridegroom.
“Come, Luce,” he said, “get off your high horse for a little. To-morrow, you know, you must come down altogether.”
“So much the more reason for my remaining up to-day.”
“I’ll be shot if you shall,” said Sir Griffin. “Luce, sit in my lap, and give me a kiss.”
At this moment Lord George and Mrs. Carbuncle were in the front drawing-room, and Lord George was telling her the true story as to the necklace. It must be explained on his behalf that in doing this he did not consider that he was betraying the trust reposed in him. “They know all about it in Scotland Yard,” 352 he said; “I got it from Gager. They were bound to tell me as, up to this week past, every man in the police thought that I had been the master-mind among the thieves. When I think of it I hardly know whether to laugh or cry.”
“And she had them all the time?” exclaimed Mrs. Carbuncle.
“Yes; in this house! Did you ever hear of such a little cat? I could tell you more than that. She wanted me to take them and dispose of them.”
“She did though; and now see the way she treats me! Never mind. Don’t say a word to her about it till it comes out of itself. She’ll have to be arrested, no doubt.”
“Arrested!” Mrs. Carbuncle’s further exclamations were stopped by Lucinda’s struggles in the other room. She had declined to sit upon the bridegroom’s lap, but had acknowledged that she was bound to submit to be kissed. He had kissed her, and then had striven to drag her on to his knee. But she was strong, and had resisted violently, and, as he afterward said, had struck him savagely.
“Of course I struck him,” said Lucinda.
“By —— you shall pay for it,” said Sir Griffin. This took place in the presence of Lord George and Mrs. Carbuncle, and yet they were to be married to-morrow.
“The idea of complaining that a girl hit you—and the girl who is to be your wife!” said Lord George, as they walked off together.
“I know what to complain of, and what not,” said Sir Griffin. “Are you going to let me have that money?”353
“No; I am not,” said Lord George, “so there’s an end of that.” Nevertheless, they dined together at their club afterward, and in the evening Sir Griffin was again in Hertford street.
This happened on the Sunday, on which day none of the ladies had gone to church. Mr. Emilius well understood the cause of their absence, and felt nothing of a parson’s anger at it. He was to marry the couple on the Monday morning, and dined with the ladies on the Sunday. He was peculiarly gracious and smiling, and spoke of the Hymeneals as though they were even more than ordinarily joyful and happy in their promise. To Lizzie he was almost affectionate, and Mrs. Carbuncle he flattered to the top of her bent. The power of the man, in being sprightly under such a load of trouble as oppressed the household, was wonderful. He had to do with three women who were worldly, hard, and given entirely to evil things. Even as regarded the bride, who felt the horror of her position, so much must be, in truth, admitted. Though from day to day and hour to hour she would openly declare her hatred of the things around her, yet she went on. Since she had entered upon life she had known nothing but falsehood and scheming wickedness; and, though she rebelled against the consequences, she had not rebelled against the wickedness. Now, to this unfortunate young woman and her two companions, Mr. Emilius discoursed with an unctuous mixture of celestial and terrestrial glorification, which was proof, at any rate, of great ability on his part. He told them how a good wife was a crown, or rather a chaplet of ethereal roses to her husband, and how high rank and great station in the world made such a chaplet more beautiful and more valuable. His 354 work in the vineyard, he said, had fallen lately among the wealthy and nobly born; and though he would not say that he was entitled to take glory on that account, still he gave thanks daily, in that he had been enabled to give his humble assistance toward the running of a godly life to those who, by their example, were enabled to have so wide an effect upon their poorer fellow-creatures. He knew well how difficult it was for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. They had the highest possible authority for that. But Scriptures never said that the camel, which, as he explained it, was simply a thread larger than ordinary thread, could not go through the needle’s eye. The camel which succeeded, in spite of the difficulties attending its exalted position, would be peculiarly blessed. And he went on to suggest that the three ladies before him, one of whom was about to enter upon a new phase of life to-morrow, under auspices peculiarly propitious, were, all of them, camels of this description. Sir Griffin, when he came in, received for a while the peculiar attention of Mr. Emilius. “I think, Sir Griffin,” he commenced, “that no period of a man’s life is so blessed, as that upon which you will enter to-morrow.” This he said in a whisper, but it was a whisper audible to the ladies.
“Well; yes; it’s all right, I dare say,” said Sir Griffin.
“Well, after all, what is life till a man has met and obtained the partner of his soul? It is a blank, and the blank becomes every day more and more intolerable to the miserable solitary.”
“I wonder you don’t get married yourself,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, who perceived that Sir Griffin was rather astray for an answer.355
“Ah! if one could always be fortunate when one loved,” said Mr. Emilius, casting his eyes across to Lizzie Eustace. It was evident to them all that he did not wish to conceal his passion.
It was the object of Mrs. Carbuncle that the lovers should not be left alone together, but that they should be made to think that they were passing the evening in affectionate intercourse. Lucinda hardly spoke, hardly had spoken since her disagreeable struggle with Sir Griffin. He said but little, but with Mrs. Carbuncle was better humoured than usual. Every now and then she made little whispered communications to him, telling that they would be sure to be at the church at eleven to the moment, explaining to him what would be the extent of Lucinda’s boxes for the wedding tour, and assuring him that he would find Lucinda’s new maid a treasure in regard to his own shirts and pocket handkerchiefs. She toiled marvellously at little subjects, always making some allusion to Lucinda, and never hinting that aught short of Elysium was in store for him. The labour was great; the task was terrible; but now it was so nearly over! And to Lizzie she was very courteous, never hinting by a word or a look that there was any new trouble impending on the score of the diamonds. She, too, as she received the greasy compliments of Mr. Emilius with pretty smiles, had her mind full enough of care.
At last Sir Griffin went, again kissing his bride as he left. Lucinda accepted his embrace without a word and almost without a shudder. “Eleven to the moment, Sir Griffin,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, with her best good-humour.
“All right,” said Sir Griffin as he passed out of the 356 door. Lucinda walked across the room and kept her eyes fixed on his retreating figure as he descended the stairs. Mr. Emilius had already departed, with many promises of punctuality, and Lizzie now withdrew for the night.
“Dear Lizzie, good-night,” said Mrs. Carbuncle kissing her.
“Good-night, Lady Eustace,” said Lucinda. “I suppose I shall see you to-morrow?”
“See me, of course you will see me! I shall come into your room with the girls after you have had your tea.” The girls mentioned were the four bridesmaids, as to whom there had been some difficulty, as Lucinda had neither sister nor cousin, and had contracted no peculiarly tender friendships. But Mrs. Carbuncle had arranged it, and four properly-equipped young ladies were to be in attendance at ten on the morrow.
Then Lucinda and Mrs. Carbuncle were alone. “Of one thing I feel sure,” said Lucinda in a low voice.
“What is that, dear?”
“I shall never see Sir Griffin Tewett again.”
“You talk in that way on purpose to break me down at the last moment,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“Dear Aunt Jane, I would not break you down if I could help it. I have struggled so hard, simply that you might be freed from me. We have been very foolish, both of us; but I would bear all the punishment if I could.”
“You know that this is nonsense now.”
“Very well. I only tell you. I know that I shall never see him again. I will never trust myself alone in his presence. I could not do it. When he touches 357 me my whole body is in agony, to be kissed by him is madness!”
“Lucinda, this is very wicked. You are working yourself up to a paroxysm of folly.”
“Wicked; yes, I know that I am wicked. There has been enough of wickedness certainly. You don’t suppose that I mean to excuse myself?”
“Of course you will marry Sir Griffin to-morrow.”
“I shall never be married to him. How I shall escape from him—by dying, or going mad, or by destroying him—God only knows.” Then she paused, and her aunt looking into her face almost began to fear that she was in earnest. But she would not take it as at all indicating any real result for the morrow. The girl had often said nearly the same thing before, and had still submitted. “Do you Jane, I don’t think I could feel to any man as though I loved him. But for this man—Oh God, how I do detest him! I cannot do it.”
“You had better go to bed, Lucinda, and let me come to you in the morning.”
“Yes; come to me in the morning; early.”
“I will, at eight.”
“I shall know then, perhaps.”
“My dear, will you come to my room to-night and sleep with me?”
“Oh, no. I have ever so many things to do. I have papers to burn, and things to put away. But come to me at eight. Good-night, Aunt Jane.” Mrs. Carbuncle went up to her room with her, kissed her affectionately, and then left her.
She was now really frightened. What would be said of her if she should press the marriage forward to a 358 completion, and if, after that, some terrible tragedy should take place between the bride and bridegroom? That Lucinda, in spite of all that had been said, would stand at the altar, and allow the ceremony to be performed, she still believed. Those last words about burning papers and putting things away, seemed to imply that the girl still thought that she would be taken away from her present home on the morrow. But what would come afterward? The horror which the bride expressed was, as Mrs. Carbuncle well knew, no mock feeling, no pretence at antipathy. She tried to think of it and to realise what might, in truth, be the girl’s action and ultimate fate when she should find herself in the power of this man whom she so hated. But had not other girls done the same thing, and lived through it all, and become fat, indifferent, and fond of the world? It is only the first step that signifies.
At any rate the thing must go on now; must go on whatever might be the result to Lucinda or to Mrs. Carbuncle herself. Yes; it must go on. There was, no doubt, very much of bitterness in the world for such as them, for persons doomed by the necessities of their position to a continual struggle. It always had been so and always would be so. But each bitter cup must be drained in the hope that the next might be sweeter. Of course the marriage must go on; though doubtless this cup was very bitter.
More once in the night Mrs. Carbuncle crept up to the door of her niece’s room, endeavouring to ascertain what might be going on within. At two o’clock, while she was on the landing, the candle was extinguished, and she could hear Lucinda put herself to bed. At any rate so far things were safe. An 359 indistinct, incompleted idea of some possible tragedy had flitted across the mind of the poor woman, causing her to shake and tremble, forbidding her, weary as she was, to lie down; but now she told herself at last that this was an idle phantasy, and she went to bed. Of course Lucinda must go through with it. It had been her own doing, and Sir Griffin was not worse than other men. As she said this to herself, Mrs. Carbuncle hardened her heart by remembering that her own married life had not been peculiarly happy.
Exactly at eight on the following morning she knocked at her niece’s door and was at once bidden to enter. “Come in, Aunt Jane.” The words cheered her wonderfully. At any rate there had been no tragedy as yet, and as she turned the handle of the door she felt that, as a matter of course, the marriage would go on just like any other marriage. She found Lucinda up and dressed, but so dressed certainly to show no preparation for a wedding toilet. She had on an ordinary stuff morning frock, and her hair was close tucked up and pinned as it might have been had she already prepared herself for a journey. But what astonished Mrs. Carbuncle more than the dress was the girl’s manner. She was sitting at a table with a book before her, which was afterward found to be the Bible, and she never turned her head as her aunt entered the room.
“What, up already,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, “and dressed?”
“Yes; I am up, and dressed. I have been up ever so long. How was I to lie in bed on such a morning as this? Aunt Jane, I wish you to know as soon as possible that no earthly consideration will induce me to leave this room to-day.”360
“What nonsense, Lucinda!”
“Very well; all the same you might as well believe me. I want you to send to Mr. Emilius, and to those girls, and to the man. And you had better get Lord George to let the other people know. I’m quite in earnest.”
And she was in earnest, quite in earnest, though there was a flightiness about her manner which induced Mrs. Carbuncle for a while to think that she was less so than she had been on the previous evening. The unfortunate woman remained with her niece for an hour and a half, imploring, threatening, scolding, and weeping. When the maids came to the door, first one maid and then another, they were refused entrance. It might still be possible, Mrs. Carbuncle thought, that she would prevail. But nothing now could shake Lucinda or induce her even to discuss the subject. She sat there looking steadfastly at the book—hardly answering, never defending herself, but protesting that nothing should induce her to leave the room on that day.
“Do you want to destroy me?” Mrs. Carbuncle said at last.
“You have destroyed me,” said Lucinda.
At half-past nine Lizzie Eustace came into the room, and Mrs. Carbuncle, in her trouble, thought it better to take other counsel. Lizzie therefore was admitted.
“Is anything wrong?” asked Lizzie.
“Everything is wrong,” said the aunt. “She says that—she won’t be married.”
“Pray speak to her, Lady Eustace. You see it is 361 getting so late, and she ought to be nearly dressed now. Of course she must allow herself to be dressed.”
“I am dressed,” said Lucinda.
“But, dear Lucinda, everybody will be waiting for you,” said Lizzie.
“Let them wait, till they’re tired. If Aunt Jane doesn’t choose to send, it is not my fault. I sha’n’t go out of this room to-day unless I am carried out. Do you want to hear that I have murdered the man?”
They brought her tea, and endeavoured to induce her to eat and drink. She would take the tea, she said, if they would promise to send to put the people off. Mrs. Carbuncle so far gave way as to undertake to do so, if she would name the next day, or the day following, for the wedding. But on hearing this she arose almost in a majesty of wrath. Neither on this day, nor on the next, nor on any following day, would she yield herself to the wretch whom they had endeavoured to force upon her.
“She must do it, you know,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, turning to Lizzie.
“You’ll see if I must,” said Lucinda, sitting square at the table with her eyes firmly fixed upon the book.
Then came up the servant to say that the four bridesmaids were all assembled in the drawing-room. When she heard this, even Mrs. Carbuncle gave way, and threw herself upon the bed and wept. “O, Lady Eustace, what are we to do? Lucinda, you have destroyed me. You have destroyed me altogether, after all that I have done for you.”
“And what has been done to me, do you think?” said Lucinda.362
Something must be settled. All the servants in the house by this time knew that there would be no wedding, and no doubt some tidings as to the misadventure of the day had already reached the four ladies in the drawing-room. “What am I to do?” said Mrs. Carbuncle, starting up from the bed.
“I really think you had better send to Mr. Emilius,” said Lizzie; “and to Lord George.”
“What am I to say? Who is there to go to? Oh, I wish that somebody would kill me this minute! Lady Eustace, would you mind going down and telling those ladies to go away?”
“And had I not better send Richard to the church?”
“Oh yes; send anybody, everywhere. I don’t know what to do. Oh, Lucinda, this is the unkindest and the wickedest, and most horrible thing that anybody ever did! I shall never, never be able to hold up my head again.” Mrs. Carbuncle was completely prostrate, but Lucinda sat square at the table, firm as a rock, saying nothing, making no excuse for herself, with her eyes fixed upon the Bible.
Lady Eustace carried her message to the astonished and indignant bridesmaids, and succeeded in sending them back to their respective homes. Richard, glorious in new livery, forgetting that his flowers were still on his breast, ready dressed to attend the bride’s carriage, went with his sad message, first to the church and then to the banqueting-hall in Albemarle street.
“Not any wedding?” said the head-waiter at the hotel. “I knew they was folks as would have a screw loose somewheres. There’s lots to stand for the bill, anyways,” he added, as he remembered all the tribute.363
No attempt was made to send other messages from Hertford street than those which were taken to the church and to the hotel. Sir Griffin and Lord George went together to the church in a brougham, and on the way the best man rather ridiculed the change in life which he supposed that his friend was about to make.
“I don’t in the least know how you mean to get along,” said Lord George.
“Much as other men do, I suppose.”
“But you’re always sparring, already.”
“It’s that old woman that you’re so fond of,” said Sir Griffin. “I don’t mean to have any ill-humour from my wife, I can tell you. I know who will have the worst of it if there is.”
“Upon my word, I think you’ll have your hands full,” said Lord George. They got out at a sort of private door attached to the chapel, and were there received by the clerk, who wore a very long face. The news had already come, and had been communicated to Mr. Emilius, who was in the vestry. “Are the ladies here yet?” asked Lord George. The woe-begone clerk told them that the ladies were not yet there, and suggested that they should see Mr. Emilius. Into the presence of Mr. Emilius they were led, and then they heard the truth.364
“Sir Griffin,” said Mr. Emilius, holding the baronet by the hand, “I’m sorry to have to tell you that there’s something wrong in Hertford street.”
“What’s wrong?” asked Sir Griffin.
“You don’t mean to say that Miss Roanoke is not to be here?” demanded Lord George. “By George, I thought as much—I did indeed.”
“I can only tell you what I know, Lord George. Mrs. Carbuncle’s servant was here ten minutes since, Sir Griffin, before I came down, and he told the clerk that—that——”
“What the d—— did he tell him?” asked Sir Griffin.
“He said that Miss Roanoke had changed her mind, and didn’t mean to be married at all. That’s all that I can learn from what he says. Perhaps you will think it best to go up to Hertford street?”
“I’ll be —— if I do,” said Sir Griffin.
“I am not in the least surprised,” repeated Lord George. “Tewett, my boy, we might as well go home to lunch, and the sooner you’re out of town the better.”
“I knew that I should be taken in at last by that accursed woman,” said Sir Griffin.
“It wasn’t Mrs. Carbuncle, if you mean that. She’d have given her left hand to have had it completed. I rather think you’ve had an escape, Griff; and if I were you, I’d make the best of it.” Sir Griffin spoke not another word, but left the church with his friend in the brougham that had brought them, and so he disappears from our story. Mr. Emilius looked after him with wistful eyes, regretful for his fee. Had the baronet been less coarse and violent in his language he would 365 have asked for it; but he feared that he might be cursed in his own church, before his clerk, and abstained. Late in the afternoon Lord George, when he had administered comfort to the disappointed bridegroom in the shape of a hot lunch, curaçoa, and cigars, walked up to Hertford street, calling at the hotel in Albemarle street on the way. The waiter told him all that he knew. Some thirty or forty guests had come to the wedding-banquet, and had all been sent away with tidings that the marriage had been—postponed.
“You might have told ’em a trifle more than that,” said Lord George.
“Postponed was pleasantest, my lord,” said the waiter. “Anyways, that was said, and we supposes, my lord, as the things ain’t wanted now.”
Lord George replied that as far as he knew the things were not wanted, and then continued his way up to Hertford street.
At first he saw Lizzie Eustace, upon whom the misfortune of the day had had a most depressing effect. The wedding was to have been the one morsel of pleasing excitement which would come before she underwent the humble penance to which she was doomed. That was frustrated and abandoned, and now she could think only of Mr. Camperdown, her cousin Frank, and Lady Glencora Palliser. “What’s up now?” said Lord George, with that disrespect which had always accompanied his treatment of her since she had told him her secret. “What’s the meaning of all this?”
“I dare say that you know as well as I do, my lord.”
“I must know a good deal if I do. It seems that 366 among you there is nothing but one trick upon another.”
“I suppose you are speaking of your own friends, Lord George. You doubtless know much more than I do of Miss Roanoke’s affairs.”
“Does she mean to say that she doesn’t mean to marry the man at all?”
“So I understand; but really you had better send for Mrs. Carbuncle.”
He did send for Mrs. Carbuncle, and after some words with her was taken up into Lucinda’s room. There sat the unfortunate girl, in the chair from which she had not moved since the morning. There had come over her face a look of fixed but almost idiotic resolution; her mouth was compressed, and her eyes were glazed, and she sat twiddling her book before her with her fingers. She had eaten nothing since she had got up, and had long ceased to be violent when questioned by her aunt. But nevertheless she was firm enough when her aunt begged to be allowed to write a letter to Sir Griffin, explaining that all this had arisen from temporary indisposition.
“No; it isn’t temporary. It isn’t temporary at all. You can write to him, but I’ll never come out of this room if I am told that I am to see him.”
“What is all this about, Lucinda?” said Lord George, speaking in his kindest voice.
“Is he there?” said she, turning round suddenly.
“Sir Griffin? no indeed. He has left town.”
“You’re sure he’s not there. It’s no good his coming. If he comes forever and ever he shall never touch me again—not alive; he shall never touch me again alive.” As she spoke she moved across the 367 room to the fireplace and grasped the poker in her hand.
“Has she been like that all the morning?” whispered Lord George.
“No—not like—she has been quite quiet. Lucinda!”
“Don’t let him come here, then; that’s all. What’s the use? They can’t make me marry him. And I won’t marry him. Everybody has known that I hated him—detested him. Oh, Lord George, it has been very, very cruel.”
“Has it been my fault, Lucinda?”
“She wouldn’t have done it if you had told her not. But you won’t bring him again, will you?”
“Certainly not. He means to go abroad.”
“Ah, yes; that will be best. Let him go abroad. He knew it all the time, that I hated him. Why did he want me to be his wife? If he has gone abroad I will go down-stairs. But I won’t go out of the house. Nothing shall make me go out of the house. Are the bridesmaids gone?”
“Long ago,” said Mrs. Carbuncle piteously.
“Then I will go down.” And between them, they led her into the drawing-room.
“It is my belief,” said Lord George to Mrs. Carbuncle some minutes afterward, “that you have driven her mad.”
“Are you going to turn against me?”
“It is true. How you have had the heart to go on pressing it upon her, I could never understand. I am about as hard as a milestone, but I’ll be shot if I could have done it. From day to day I thought that you would have given way.”368
“That is so like a man—when it is all over to turn upon a woman and say that she did it.”
“Didn’t you do it? I thought you did, and that you took a great deal of pride in the doing of it. When you made him offer to her, down in Scotland, and made her accept him, you were so proud that you could hardly hold yourself. What will you do now? Go on, just as though nothing had happened?”
“I don’t know what we shall do. There will be so many things to be paid.”
“I should think there would, and you can hardly expect Sir Griffin to pay for them. You’ll have to take her away somewhere. You’ll find that she can’t remain here. And that other woman will be in prison before the week’s over, I should say, unless she runs away.”
There was not much of comfort to be obtained by any of them from Lord George, who was quite as harsh to Mrs. Carbuncle as he had been to Lizzie Eustace. He remained in Hertford street for an hour, and then took his leave, saying that he thought that he also should go abroad. “I didn’t think,” he said, “that anything could have hurt my character much; but upon my word, between you and Lady Eustace, I begin to find that in every deep there may be a lower depth. All the town has given me the credit for stealing her ladyship’s necklace, and now I shall be mixed up in this mock marriage. I shouldn’t wonder if Rooper were to send his bill in to me.” (Mr. Rooper was the keeper of the hotel in Albemarle street.) “I think I shall follow Sir Griffin abroad. You have made England too hot to hold me.”
And so he left them.369
The evening of that day was a terrible time to the three ladies in street, and the following day was almost worse. Nobody came to see them, and not one of them dared to speak of the future. For the third day, the Wednesday, Lady Eustace had made her appointment with Mr. Camperdown, having written to the attorney, in compliance with the pressing advice of Major Mackintosh, to name an hour. Mr. Camperdown had written again, sending his compliments, and saying that he would receive Lady Eustace at the time fixed by her. The prospect of this interview was very bad, but even this was hardly so oppressive as the actual, existing wretchedness of that house. Mrs. Carbuncle, whom Lizzie had always known as high-spirited, bold, and almost domineering, was altogether prostrated by her misfortunes. She was querulous, lachrymose, and utterly despondent. From what Lizzie now learned, her hostess was enveloped in a mass of debt which would have been hopeless even had Lucinda gone off as a bride; but she had been willing to face all that with the object of establishing her niece. She could have expected nothing from the marriage for herself. She well knew that Sir Griffin would neither pay her debts nor give her a home nor lend her money. But to have married the girl who was in her charge would have been in itself a success, and would have in some sort repaid her for her trouble. There would have been something left to show for her expenditure of time and money. But now there was nothing around her but failure and dismay. The very servants in the house seemed to know that ordinary respect was hardly demanded from them.
As to Lucinda, Lizzie felt, from the very hour in 370 which she first saw her, on the morning of the intended wedding, that her mind was astray. She insisted on passing the time up in her own room, and always sat with the Bible before her. At every knock at the door, or ring at the bell, she would look round suspiciously, and once she whispered into Lizzie’s ear that if ever “he” should come there again she would “give him a kiss with a vengeance.” On the Tuesday Lizzie recommended Mrs. Carbuncle to get medical advice, and at last they sent for Mr. Emilius that they might ask counsel of him. Mr. Emilius was full of smiles and consolation, and still allowed his golden hopes as to some Elysian future to crop out; but he did acknowledge at last, in a whispered conference with Lady Eustace, that somebody ought Miss Roanoke. Somebody did see Miss Roanoke, and the doctor who was thus appealed to shook his head. Perhaps Miss Roanoke had better be taken into the country for a little while.
“Dear Lady Eustace,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, “now you can be a friend indeed,” meaning, of course, that an invitation to Portray Castle would do more than could anything else toward making straight the crooked things of the hour. Mrs. Carbuncle, when she made the request, of course knew of Lizzie’s coming troubles; but let them do what they could to Lizzie, they could not take away her house.
But Lizzie felt at once that this would not suit. “Ah, Mrs. Carbuncle,” she said, “you do not know the condition which I am in myself!”371
Early on the Wednesday morning, two or three hours before the time fixed for Lizzie’s visit to Mr. Camperdown, her cousin Frank came to call upon her. She presumed him to be altogether ignorant of all that Major Mackintosh had known, and therefore endeavoured to receive him as though her heart were light.
“Oh, Frank,” said she, “you have heard of our terrible misfortune here?”
“I have heard so much,” said he gravely, “that I hardly know what to believe, and what not to believe.”
“I mean about Miss Roanoke’s marriage?”
“Oh, yes; I have been told that it is broken off.”
Then Lizzie, with affected eagerness, gave him a description of the whole affair, declaring how horrible, how tragic, the thing had been from its very commencement. “Don’t you remember, Frank, down at Portray, they never really cared for each other? They became engaged the very time you were there.”
“I have not forgotten it.”
“The truth is, Lucinda Roanoke did not understand what real love meant. She had never taught herself to comprehend what is the very essence of love, and as for Sir Griffin Tewett, though he was anxious to marry her, he never had any idea of love at all. Did not you always feel that, Frank?”372
“I’m sorry you have had so much to do with them, Lizzie.”
“There’s no help for spilt milk, Frank; and, as for that, I don’t suppose that Mrs. Carbuncle can do me any harm. The man is a baronet, and the marriage would have been respectable. Miss Roanoke has been eccentric, and that has been the long and the short of it. What will be done, Frank, with all the presents that were bought?”
“I haven’t an idea. They’d better be sold to pay the bills. But I came to you, Lizzie, about another piece of business.”
“What piece of business?” she asked, looking him in the face for a moment, trying to be bold, but trembling as she did so. She had believed him to be ignorant of her story, but she had soon perceived, from his manner to her, that he knew it all, or at least that he knew so much that she would have to tell him all the rest. There could be no longer any secret with him. Indeed there could be no longer any secret with anybody. She must be prepared to encounter a world accurately informed as to every detail of the business which, for the last three months, had been to her a burden so oppressive that, at some periods, she had sunk altogether under the weight. She had already endeavoured to realise her position, and to make clear to herself the condition of her future life. Lord George had talked to her of perjury and prison, and had tried to frighten her by making the very worst her faults. According to him, she would certainly be made to pay for the diamonds, and would be enabled to do so by saving her income during a long term of incarceration. This was a terrible prospect of things; and she had almost believed 373 in it. Then the major had come to her. The major, she thought, was the truest gentleman she had ever seen, and her best friend. Ah—if it had not been for the wife and seven children, there might still have been comfort! That which had been perjury with Lord George, had by the major been so simply, and yet so correctly called an incorrect version of facts! And so it was—and no more than that. Lizzie, in defending herself to herself, felt that, though cruel magistrates and hard-hearted lawyers and pig-headed jurymen might call her little fault by the name of perjury, it could not be real, wicked perjury, because the diamonds had been her own. She had defrauded nobody—had wished to defraud nobody—if the people had only left her alone. It had suited her to give—an incorrect version of facts, because people had troubled themselves about her affairs; and now all this had come upon her! The major had comforted her very greatly; but still—what would the world say? Even he, kind and comfortable as he had been, had made her understand that she must go into court and confess the incorrectness of her own version. She believed every word the major said. Ah, there was a man worthy to be believed—a man of men! They could not take away her income or her castle. They could not make her pay for the diamonds. But still—what would the world say? And what would her lovers say? What one of her lovers thought proper to say, she had already heard. Lord George had spoken out, and had made himself very disagreeable. Lord Fawn, she knew, would withdraw the renewal of his offer, let her answer to him be what it might. But what would Frank say? And now Frank was with her, looking into her face with severe eyes.374
She was more than ever convinced that the life of a widow was not suited for her and that, among her several lovers, she must settle her wealth and her heart upon some special lover. Neither her wealth nor her heart would be in any way injured by the confession which she was prepared to make. But then men are so timid, so false, and so blind! In regard to Frank, whom she now believed that she had loved with all the warmth of her young affections, from the first moment in which she had seen him after Sir Florian’s death—she had been at great trouble to clear the way for him. She knew of his silly engagement to Lucy Morris, and was willing to forgive him that offence. She knew that he could not marry Lucy, because of his pennilessness and his indebtedness; and therefore she had taken the trouble to see Lucy, with the view of making things straight on that side. Lucy had of course, been rough with her, and ill-mannered, but Lizzie thought that, upon the whole, she had succeeded. Lucy was rough and ill-mannered, but was, at the same time, what the world calls good, and would hardly persevere after what had been said to her. Lizzie was sure that, a month since, her cousin would have yielded himself to her willingly, if he could only have freed himself from Lucy Morris. But now, just in this very nick of time, which was so momentous to her, the police had succeeded in unravelling her secret, and there sat Frank, looking at her with stern, ill-natured eyes, like an enemy rather than a lover.
“What piece of business?” she asked, in answer to his question. She must be bold—if she could. She must brazen it out with him, if only she could be strong enough to put on her brass in his presence. 375 He had been so stupidly chivalrous in believing all her stories about the robbery when nobody else had quite believed them, that she felt that she had before her a task that was very disagreeable and very difficult. She looked up at him, struggling to be bold, and then her glance sank before his gaze and fell upon the floor.
“I do not at all wish to pry into your secrets,” he said.
Secrets from him! Some such exclamation was on her lips, when she remembered that her special business, at the present moment, was to acknowledge a secret which had been kept from him.
“It is unkind of you to speak to me in that way,” said she.
“I am quite in earnest. I do not wish to pry into your secrets. But I hear rumours which seem to be substantiated; and though, of course, I could stay away from you——”
“Oh—whatever happens, pray, pray do not stay away from me. Where am I to look for advice if you stay away from me?”
“That is all very well, Lizzie.”
“Ah, Frank, if you desert me, I am undone.”
“It is of course true that some of the police have been with you lately?”
“Major Mackintosh was here, about the end of last week—a most kind man, altogether a gentleman, and I was so glad to see him.”
“What made him come?”
“What made him come?” How should she tell her story? “Oh, he came—of course, about the robbery. They have found out everything. It was the jeweller, Benjamin, who concocted it all. That horrid, sly 376 girl I had, Patience Crabstick, put him up to it. And there were two regular housebreakers. They have found it all out at last.”
“So I hear.”
“And Major Mackintosh came to tell me about it.”
“But the diamonds are ”
“Oh, yes—those weary, weary diamonds. Do you know, Frank, that, though they were my own, as much as the coat you wear is your own, I am glad they are gone, then I am glad that the police have not found them. They tormented me so that I hated them. Don’t you remember that I told you how I longed to throw them into the sea, and be rid of them forever?”
“That, of course, was a joke.”
“It was no joke, Frank. It was solemn, serious truth.”
“What I want to know is—where were they stolen?”
That of course was the question which hitherto Lizzie Eustace had answered by an incorrect version of facts, and now she must give the true version. She tried to put a bold face upon it, but it was very difficult. A face bold with brass she could not assume. Perhaps a little bit of acting might serve her turn, and a face that should be tender rather than bold.
“Oh, Frank!” she exclaimed, bursting into tears.
“I always supposed that they were taken at Carlisle,” said Frank. Lizzie fell on her knees, at his feet, with her hands clasped together, and her one long lock of hair hanging down so as to touch his arm. Her eyes were bright with tears, but were not, as yet, wet and red with weeping. Was not this confession enough? Was he so hard-hearted as to make her tell her own disgrace in spoken words? Of course he knew well 377 enough now, when the diamonds had been stolen. If he were possessed of any tenderness, any tact, any manliness, he would go on, presuming that question to have been answered.
“I don’t quite understand it all,” he said, laying his hand softly upon her shoulder. “I have been led to make so many statements to other people, which now seem to have been—incorrect! It was only the box that was taken at Carlisle?”
“Only the box.” She could answer that question.
“But the thieves thought that the diamonds were in the box?”
“I suppose so. But, oh, Frank, don’t cross-question me about it. If you could know what I have suffered, you would not punish me any more. I have got to go to Mr. Camperdown’s this very day. I offered to do that at once, and I sha’n’t have strength to go through it if you are not kind to me now. Dear, dear Frank—do be kind to me.”
And he was kind to her. He lifted her up to the sofa and did not ask her another question about the necklace. Of course she had lied to him and to all the world. From the very commencement of his intimacy with her, he had known that she was a liar, and what else could he have expected but lies? As it happened, this particular lie had been very big, very efficacious, and the cause of boundless troubles. It had been wholly unnecessary, and from the first, though injurious to many, more injurious to her than to any other. He himself had been injured, but it seemed to him now that she had absolutely ruined herself. And all this had been done for nothing—had been done, as he thought, that Mr. Camperdown might 378 be kept in the dark, whereas all the light in the world would have assisted Mr. Camperdown nothing. He brought to mind, as he stood over her, all those scenes which she had so successfully performed in his presence since she had come to London—scenes in which the robbery in Carlisle had been discussed between them. She had on these occasions freely expressed her opinion about the necklace, saying in a low whisper, with a pretty little shrug of her shoulders, that she presumed it to be impossible that Lord George should have been concerned in the robbery. Frank had felt, as she said so, that some suspicion was intended by her to be attached to Lord George. She had wondered whether Mr. Camperdown had known anything about it. She had hoped that Lord Fawn would now be satisfied. She had been quite convinced that Mr. Benjamin had the diamonds. She had been indignant that the police had not traced the property. She had asked in another whisper—a very low whisper indeed—whether it was possible that Mrs. Carbuncle should know more about it than she was pleased to tell? And all the while the necklace had been lying in her own desk, and she had put it there with her own hands!
It was marvellous to him that the woman could have been so false and have sustained her falsehood so well. And this was his cousin, his well-beloved; as a cousin, certainly well-beloved; and there had doubtless been times in which he had thought that he would make her his wife! He could not but smile as he stood looking at her, contemplating all the confusion which she had caused, and thinking how very little the disclosure of her iniquity seemed to confound herself.379
“Oh, Frank, do not laugh at me,” she said.
“I am not laughing, Lizzie; I am only wondering.”
“And now, Frank, what had I better do?”
“Ah, that is difficult, is it not? You see I hardly know all the truth yet. I do not want to know more, but how can I advise you?”
“I thought you knew everything.”
“I don’t suppose anybody can do anything to you.”
“Major Mackintosh says that nobody can. He quite understands that they were my own property, and that I had a right to keep them in my desk if I pleased. Why was I to tell everybody where they were? Of course I was foolish, and now they are lost. It is I that have suffered. Major Mackintosh quite understands that, and says that nobody can do anything to me; only I must go to Mr. Camperdown.”
“You will have to be examined again before a magistrate.”
“Yes; I suppose I must be examined. You will go with me, Frank, won’t you?” He winced, and made no immediate reply. “I don’t mean to Mr. Camperdown, but before the magistrate. Will it be in a court?”
“I suppose so.”
“The gentleman came here before. Couldn’t he come here again?” Then he explained to her the difference of her present position, and in doing so he did say something of her iniquity. He made her understand that the magistrate had gone out of his way at the last inquiry, believing her to be a lady who had been grievously wronged, and one, therefore, to whom much consideration was due. “And I have been grievously wronged,” said Lizzie. But now she 380 would be required to tell the truth in opposition to the false evidence which she had formerly given; and she would herself be exempted from prosecution for perjury only on the ground that she would be called on to criminate herself in giving evidence against criminals whose crimes had been deeper than her own. “I suppose they can’t quite eat me,” she said, smiling through her tears.
“No; they won’t eat you,” he replied gravely.
“And you will go with me?”
“Yes; I suppose I had better do so.”
“Ah; that will be so nice.” The idea of the scene at the police-court was not at all “nice” to Frank Greystock. “I shall not mind what they say to me as long as you are by my side. Everybody will know that they were my own, won’t they?”
“And there will be the trial afterward.”
“Another trial?” Then he explained to her the course of affairs; that the men might not improbably be tried at Carlisle for stealing the box, and again in London for stealing the diamonds; that two distinct acts of burglary had been committed, and that her evidence would be required on both occasions. He told her also that her attendance before the magistrate on Friday would only be a preliminary ceremony, and that before the thing was over she would doubtless be doomed to bear a great deal of annoyance, and to answer very many disagreeable questions. “I shall care for nothing if you will only be at my side,” she exclaimed.
He was very urgent with her to go to Scotland as soon as her examination before the magistrates should be over, and was much astonished at the excuse she 381 made for not doing so. Mrs. Carbuncle had borrowed all her ready money; but as she was now in Mrs. Carbuncle’s house she could repay herself a portion of the loan by remaining there and eating it out. She did not exactly say how much Mrs. Carbuncle had borrowed, but she left an impression on Frank’s mind that it was about ten times the actual sum. With this excuse he was not satisfied, and told her that she must go to Scotland, if only for the sake of escaping from the Carbuncle connection. She promised to obey him if he would be her convoy. The Easter holidays were just now at hand, and he could not refuse on the plea of time. “Oh, Frank, do not refuse me this; only think how terribly forlorn is my position!” He did not refuse, but he did not quite promise. He was still tender-hearted toward her in spite of her enormities. One iniquity, perhaps her worst iniquity, he did not yet know. He had not as yet heard of her disinterested appeal to Lucy Morris.
When he left her she was almost joyous for a few minutes, till the thought of her coming interview with Mr. Camperdown again overshadowed her. She had dreaded two things chiefly—her first interview with her cousin Frank after he should have learned the truth, and those perils in regard to perjury with which Lord George had threatened her. Both these bugbears had now vanished. That dear man, the major, had told her that there would be no such perils, and her cousin Frank had not seemed to think so very much of her lies and treachery! He had still been affectionate with her; he would support her before the magistrate, and would travel with her to Scotland. And after that who could tell what might come next? How foolish 382 she had been to trouble herself as she had done—almost to choke herself with an agony of fear, because she had feared detection. Now she was detected, and what had come of it? That great officer of justice, Major Mackintosh, had been almost more than civil to her; and her dear cousin Frank was still a cousin, dear as ever. People, after all, did not think so very much of perjury—of perjury such as hers, committed in regard to one’s own property. It was that odious Lord George who had frightened her instead of comforting, as he would have done had there been a spark of the true Corsair poetry about him. She did not feel comfortably content as to what might be said of her by Lady Glencora and the Duke of Omnium, but she was almost inclined to think that Lady Glencora would support her. Lady Glencora was no poor, mealy-mouthed thing, but a woman of the world, who understood what was what. Lizzie no doubt wished that the trials and examinations were over; but her money was safe. They could not take away Portray, nor could they rob her of four thousand a year. As for the rest, she could live it down.
She had ordered the carriage to take her to Mr. Camperdown’s chambers, and now she dressed herself for the occasion. He should not be made to think, at any rate by her outside appearance, that she was ashamed of herself. But before she started she had just a word with Mrs. Carbuncle. “I think I shall go down to Scotland on Saturday,” she said, proclaiming her news not in the most gracious manner.
“That is if they let you go,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“What you mean? Who is to prevent me?”
“The police. I know all about it, Lady Eustace, 383 and you need not look like that. Lord George informs me that you will—probably be locked up to-day or to-morrow.”
“Lord George is a story-teller. I don’t believe he ever said so. And if he did, he knows nothing about it.”
“He ought to know, considering all that you have made him suffer. That you should have gone on with the necklace in your own box all the time, letting people think that he had taken it, and accepting his attentions all the while, is what I cannot understand! And however you were able to look those people at Carlisle in the face, passes me! Of course, Lady Eustace, you can’t stay here after what has occurred.”
“I shall stay just as long as I like.”
“Poor, dear Lucinda! I do not wonder that she should be driven beyond herself by so horrible a story. The feeling that she has been living all this time in the same house with a woman who had deceived all the police—all the police—has been too much for her. I know it has been almost too much for me.” And yet, as Lizzie at once understood, Mrs. Carbuncle knew nothing now which she had not known when she made her petition to be taken to Portray. And this was the woman, too, who had borrowed her money last week, whom she had entertained for months at Portray, and who had pretended to be her bosom-friend. “You are quite right in getting off to Scotland as soon as possible—if they will let you go,” continued Mrs. Carbuncle. “Of course you could not stay here. Up to Friday night it can be permitted; but the servants had better wait upon you in your own rooms.”384
“How dare you talk to me in that way?” screamed Lizzie.
“When a woman has committed perjury,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, holding up both her hands in awe and grief, “nothing too bad can possibly be said to her. You are amenable to the outraged laws of the country, and it is my belief that they can keep you upon the treadmill and bread and water for months and months, if not for years.” Having pronounced this terrible sentence, Mrs. Carbuncle stalked out of the room. “That they can sequester your property for your creditors I know,” she said, returning for a moment and putting her head within the door.
The carriage was ready, and it was time for Lizzie to start if she intended to keep her appointment with Mr. Camperdown. She was much flustered and weakened by Mrs. Carbuncle’s ill-usage, and had difficulty in restraining herself from tears. And yet what the woman had said was false from beginning to end. The maid, who was the successor of Patience Crabstick, was to accompany her, and as she passed through the hall she so far recovered herself as to be able to conceal her dismay from the servants.385
Reports had, of course, reached Mr. Camperdown of the true story of the Eustace diamonds. He had learned that the Jew jeweller had made a determined set at them, having in the first place hired housebreakers to steal them at Carlisle, and having again hired the same housebreakers to steal them from the house in Hertford street, as soon as he knew that Lady Eustace had herself secreted them. By degrees this information had reached him, but not in a manner to induce him to declare himself satisfied with the truth. But now Lady Eustace was coming to him—as he presumed, to confess everything.
When he first heard that the diamonds had been stolen at Carlisle, he was eager, with Mr. Eustace, in contending that the widow’s liability in regard to the property was not at all the less because she had managed to lose it through her own pig-headed obstinacy. He consulted his trusted friend, Mr. Dove, on the occasion, making out another case for the barrister, and Mr. Dove had opined that if it could be first proved that the diamonds were the property of the estate and not of Lady Eustace, and afterwards proved that they had been stolen through her laches, then could the Eustace estate recover the value from her estate. As she had carried the diamonds about with her in an absurd manner, 386 her responsibility might probably be established; but the non-existence of ownership by her must be first declared by a Vice-Chancellor, with probability of appeal to the Lords Justices and to the House of Lords. A bill in Chancery must be filed, in the first place, to have the question of ownership settled; and then, should the estate be at length declared the owner, restitution of the property which had been lost through the lady’s fault must be sought at common law.
That had been the opinion of the Turtle Dove, and Mr. Camperdown had at once submitted to the law of his great legal mentor. But John Eustace had positively declared when he heard it that no more money should be thrown away in looking after property which would require two lawsuits to establish, and which when established might not be recovered. “How can we make her pay ten thousand pounds? She might die first,” said John Eustace—and Mr. Camperdown had been forced to yield. Then came the second robbery, and gradually there was spread about a report that the diamonds had been in Hertford street all the time; that they had not been taken at Carlisle, but certainly had been stolen at last.
Mr. Camperdown was again in a fever, and again had recourse to Mr. Dove and to John Eustace. He learned from the police all that they would tell him, and now the whole truth was to be divulged to him by the chief culprit herself. For to the mind of Mr. Camperdown the two housebreakers, and Patience Crabstick, and even Mr. Benjamin himself, were white as snow compared with the blackness of Lady Eustace. In his estimation no punishment could be too great for her, and yet he began to understand that she would escape scot-free! 387 Her evidence would be needed to convict the thieves, and she could not be prosecuted for perjury when once she had been asked for her evidence.
“After all, she has only told a fib about her own property,” said the Turtle Dove.
“About property not her own,” replied Mr. Camperdown stoutly.
“Her own till the contrary shall have been proved; her own for all purposes of defence before a jury, if she were prosecuted now. Were she tried for the perjury, your attempt to obtain possession of the diamonds would be all so much in her favour.” With infinite regrets, Mr. Camperdown began to perceive that nothing could be done to her.
But she was to come to him and let him know from her own lips, facts of which nothing more than rumour had yet reached him. He had commenced his bill in Chancery, and had hitherto stayed proceedings simply because it had been reported—falsely, as it now appeared—that the diamonds had been stolen at Carlisle. Major Mackintosh, in his desire to use Lizzie’s evidence against the thieves, had recommended her to tell the whole truth openly to those who claimed the property on behalf of her husband’s estate; and now, for the first time in her life, this odious woman was to visit him in his own chambers.
He did not think it expedient to receive her alone. He consulted his mentor, Mr. Dove, and his client, John Eustace, and the latter consented to be present. It was suggested to Mr. Dove that he might, on so peculiar an occasion as this, venture to depart from the established rule, and visit the attorney on his own quarter-deck; but he smiled, and explained that, 388 though he was altogether superior to any such prejudice as that, and would not object at all to call on his friend, Mr. Camperdown, could any good effect arise from his doing so, he considered that were he to be present on this occasion he would simply assist in embarrassing the poor lady.
On this very morning, while Mrs. Carbuncle was abusing Lizzie in Hertford street, John Eustace and Mr. Camperdown were in Mr. Dove’s chambers, whither they had gone to tell him of the coming interview. The Turtle Dove was sitting back in his chair, with his head leaning forward as though it were going to drop from his neck, and the two visitors were listening to his words. “Be merciful, I should say,” suggested the barrister. John Eustace was clearly of opinion that they ought to be merciful. Mr. Camperdown did not look merciful. “What can you get by harassing the poor, weak, ignorant creature?” continued Mr. Dove. “She has hankered after her bauble, and has told falsehoods in her efforts to keep it. Have you never heard of older persons, and more learned persons, and persons nearer to ourselves, who have done the same?” At that moment there was presumed to be great rivalry, not unaccompanied by intrigue, among certain leaders of the learned profession, with reference to various positions of high honour and emolument, vacant or expected to be vacant. A Lord Chancellor was about to resign, and a Lord Justice had died. Whether a somewhat unpopular Attorney-General should be forced to satisfy himself with the one place, or allowed to wait for the other, had been debated in all the newspapers. It was agreed that there was a middle course in reference to a certain second-class chief-justiceship—only 389 that the present second-class chief-justice objected to shelving himself. There existed considerable jealousy, and some statements had been made which were not, perhaps, strictly founded on fact. It was understood both by the attorney and by the member of Parliament, that the Turtle Dove was referring to these circumstances when he spoke of baubles and falsehoods, and of learned persons near to themselves. He himself had hankered after no bauble, but, as is the case with many men and women who are free from such hankerings, he was hardly free from that dash of malice which the possession of such things in the hands of others is so prone to excite. “Spare her,” said Mr. Dove. “There is no longer any material question as to the property, which seems to be gone irrecoverably. It is, upon the whole, well for the world, that property so fictitious as diamonds should be subject to the risk of such annihilation. As far as we are concerned, the property is annihilated, and I would not harass the poor, ignorant, young creature.”
As Eustace and the attorney walked across from the old to the new square, the former declared that he quite agreed with Mr. Dove. “In the first place, Mr. Camperdown, she is my brother’s widow.” Mr. Camperdown with sorrow admitted the fact. “And she is the mother of the head of our family. It should not be for us to degrade her; but rather to protect her from degradation, if that be possible.”
“I heartily wish she had got her merits before your poor brother ever saw her,” said Mr. Camperdown.
Lizzie, in her fears, had been very punctual; and when the two gentlemen reached the door leading up to Mr. Camperdown’s chambers, the carriage was 390 already standing there. Lizzie had come up the stairs and had been delighted at hearing that Mr. Camperdown was out, and would be back in a moment. She instantly resolved that it did not become her to wait. She had kept her appointment, had not found Mr. Camperdown at home, and would be off as fast as her carriage wheels could take her. But, unfortunately, while with a gentle murmur she was explaining to the clerk how impossible it was that she should wait for a lawyer who did not keep his own appointment, John Eustace and Mr. Camperdown appeared upon the landing, and she was at once convoyed into the attorney’s particular room.
Lizzie, who always dressed well, was now attired as became a lady of rank, who had four thousand a year, and was the intimate friend of Lady Glencora Palliser. When last she saw Mr. Camperdown she had been arrayed for a long, dusty, summer journey down to Scotland, and neither by her outside garniture nor by her manner had she then been able to exact much admiration. She had been taken by surprise in the street, and was frightened. Now, in difficulty though she was, she resolved that she would hold up her head and be very brave. She was a little taken aback when she saw her brother-in-law, but she strove hard to carry herself with confidence.
“Ah, John,” she said, “I did not expect to find you with Mr. Camperdown.”
“I though it best that I should be here, as a friend,” he said.
“It makes it much pleasanter for me, of course,” said Lizzie. “I am not quite sure that Mr. Camperdown will allow me to regard him as a friend.”391
“You have never had any reason to regard me as your enemy, Lady Eustace,” said Mr. Camperdown. “Will you take a seat? I understand that you wish to state the circumstances under which the Eustace family diamonds were stolen while they were in your hands.”
“My own diamonds, Mr. Camperdown.”
“I cannot admit that for a moment, my lady.”
“What does it signify?” said Eustace. “The wretched stones are gone forever; and whether they were, of right, the property of my sister-in-law or of her son, cannot matter now.”
Mr. Camperdown was irritated and shook his head. It cut him to the heart that everybody should take the part of the wicked, fraudulent woman who had caused him such infinite trouble. Lizzie saw her opportunity, and was bolder than ever. “You will never get me to acknowledge that they were not my own,” she said. “My husband gave them to me, and I know that they were my own.”
“They have been stolen, at any rate,” said the lawyer.
“Yes; they have been stolen.”
“And now will you tell us how?”
Lizzie looked round upon her brother-in-law and sighed. She had never yet told the story in all its nakedness, although it had been three or four times extracted from her by admission. She paused, hoping that questions might be asked her which she could answer by easy monosyllables, but not a word was uttered to help.
“I suppose you know all about it,” she said at last.
“I know nothing about it,” said Mr. Camperdown.
“We heard that your jewel-case was taken out of your room at Carlisle and broken open,” said Eustace.392
“So it was. They broke into my room in the dead of night, when I was in bed and fast asleep, and took the case away. When the morning came everybody rushed into my room, and I was so frightened that I did not know what I was doing. How would your daughter bear it if two men had cut away the locks and got into her bedroom when she was asleep? You don’t think about that at all.”
“And where was the necklace?” asked Eustace.
Lizzie remembered that her friend the major had specially advised her to tell the whole truth to Mr. Camperdown, suggesting that by doing so she would go far toward saving herself from any prosecution.
“It was under my pillow,” she whispered.
“And why did you not tell the magistrate that it had been under your pillow?”
Mr. Camperdown’s voice, as he put to her this vital question, was severe, and almost justified the little burst of sobs which came forth as a prelude to Lizzie’s answer. “I did not know what I was doing. I don’t know what you expect from me. You had been persecuting me ever since Sir Florian’s death, about the diamonds, and I didn’t know what I was to do. They were my own, and I thought I was not obliged to tell everybody where I kept them. There are things which nobody tells. If I were to ask you all your secrets would you tell them? When Sir Walter Scott was asked whether he wrote the novels, he didn’t tell.”
“He was not upon his oath, Lady Eustace.”
“He did take his oath, ever so many times. I don’t know what difference an oath makes. People ain’t obliged to tell their secrets, and I wouldn’t tell mine.”393
“The difference is this, Lady Eustace; that if you give false evidence upon oath, you commit perjury.”
“How was I to think of that, when I was so frightened and confused that I didn’t know where I was, or what I was doing? There—now I have told you everything.”
“Not quite everything. The diamonds were not stolen at Carlisle, but they were stolen afterwards. Did you tell the police what you had lost, or the magistrate, after the robbery in Hertford street?”
“Yes; I did. There was some money taken, and rings, and other jewelry.”
“Did you tell them that the diamonds had been really stolen on that occasion?”
“They never asked me, Mr. Camperdown.”
“It is all as clear as a pikestaff, John,” said the lawyer.
“Quite clear, I should say,” replied Mr. Eustace.
“And I suppose I may go,” said Lizzie, rising from her chair.
There was no reason why she should not go; and, indeed, now that the interview was over, there did not seem to be any reason why she should have come. Though they had heard so much from her own mouth, they knew no more than they had known before. The great mystery had been elucidated, and Lizzie Eustace had been found to be the intriguing villain; but it was quite clear, even to Mr. Camperdown, that nothing could be done to her. He had never really thought that it would be expedient that she should be prosecuted for perjury, and he now found that she must go utterly scatheless, although, by her obstinacy and dishonesty, she had inflicted so great a 394 loss on the distinguished family which had taken her to its bosom.
“I have no reason for wishing to detain you, Lady Eustace,” he said. “If I were to talk forever, I should not, probably, make you understand the extent of the injury you have done, or teach you to look in a proper light at the position in which you have placed yourself. When your husband died, good advice was given you, and given, I think, in a very kind way. You would not listen to it, and you see the result.”
“I ain’t a bit ashamed of anything,” said Lizzie.
“I suppose not,” rejoined Mr. Camperdown.
“Good-by, John.” And Lizzie put out her hand to her brother-in-law.
“Mr. Camperdown, I have the honour to wish you good-morning.” Lizzie made a low courtesy to the lawyer, and was then attended to her carriage by the lawyer’s clerk. She had certainly come forth from the interview without fresh wounds.
“The barrister who will have the cross-examining of her at the Central Criminal Court,” said Mr. Camperdown, as soon as the door was closed behind her, “will have a job of work on his hands. There’s nothing a pretty woman can’t do when she’s got rid of all sense of shame.”
“She is a very great woman,” said John Eustace, “a very great woman; and, if the sex could have its rights, would make an excellent lawyer.” In the mean time Lizzie Eustace returned home to Hertford street in triumph.
I wish The Eustace Diamonds were better-known. Not because it’s an especially wonderful novel, but because if it were, someone would have written a spinoff focusing on Lucinda. Will she marry a poor man and work by his side, as she keeps saying she would like? Or will she set off on her own and do something brilliant and outrageous?
Do you know, Aunt Jane, I don’t think I could feel to any man as though I loved him.
text has know Aunt, Jane,
[Corrected from Fortnightly Review.]
More than once in the night
text has More then
and so he disappears from our story
[Whew. Since Anthony Trollope seems to be a firm believer in providing the reader with all available information, that must mean Mrs. Carbuncle will not coerce Lucinda into changing her mind.]
a hot lunch, curaçoa, and cigars
[Fortnightly Review spells it the same way. (So did Mrs. Beeton.)]
the three ladies in Hertford street
text has Hertfort
somebody ought to see Miss Roanoke
text has ought see to
Supporters of the marry-a-poor-man option can take heart from Lady Anna, serialized in The Fortnightly Review from April 1873, a month after The Eustace Diamonds ended. (Did they have Trollope on retainer?) The title character ends up rejecting an Earl in order to marry a tailor’s son—after which she wisely relocates to Australia.
They’d better be sold to pay the bills.
[Hmph. Miss Manners—who favors 19th-century rules unless there is a compelling reason to update—says wedding presents are supposed to be returned if the marriage does not take place.]
had tried to frighten her by making the very worst of her faults
word “of” missing
[Corrected from Fortnightly Review.]
“But the diamonds are gone?”
text has ! for ?
[Corrected from Fortnightly Review.]
He had not as yet heard of her disinterested appeal to Lucy Morris.
[Authorial satire, I think. Way back in Chapter XV, Lizzie offered Lucy a hundred guineas if she would report back on what was said in the Fawn household. But I sincerely doubt Frank will ever hear about this from Lucy.]
they had been stolen through her laches
[Interesting. Today the legal term “laches” rarely means anything other than waiting too long before asserting some legal right, but originally it meant negligence-in-general. (The word is pronounced “latches”. This allows me to think of it as “You waited too long, and now the door has slammed shut.”)]
if the sex could have its rights, [she] would make an excellent lawyer
[Sit tight, John. The first women will be admitted to the British bar in 1922, only fifty years in the future. But even if had been only five years in the future, I sincerely doubt Lizzie would have been among them.]
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.