Frank Greystock escaped from the dovecote before Lady Fawn had returned. He had not made his visit to Richmond with any purpose of seeing Lucy Morris, or of saying to her when he did see her anything special—of saying anything that should, or anything that should not, have been said. He had gone there, in truth, simply because his cousin had asked him, and because it was almost a duty on his part to see his cousin on the momentous occasion of this new engagement. But he had declared to himself that old Lady Fawn was a fool, and that to see Lucy again would be very pleasant. “See her; of course I’ll see her,” he had said. “Why should I be prevented from seeing her?” Now he had seen her, and as he returned by the train to London, he acknowledged to himself that it was no longer in his power to promote his fortune by marriage. He had at last said that to Lucy which made it impossible for him to offer his hand to any other woman. He had not, in truth, asked her to be his wife; but he had told her that he loved her, and could never love any other woman. He had asked for no answer to this assurance, and then he had left her.
In the course of that afternoon he did question himself as to his conduct to this girl, and subjected himself 148 to some of the rigours of a cross-examination. He was not a man who could think of a girl as the one human being whom he loved above all others, and yet look forward with equanimity to the idea of doing her an injury. He could understand that a man unable to marry should be reticent as to his feelings, supposing him to have been weak enough to have succumbed to a passion which could only mar his own prospects. He was frank enough in owning to himself that he had been thus weak. The weakness had come upon himself early in life, and was there, an established fact. The girl was to him unlike any other girl, or any man. There was to him a sweetness in her companionship which he could not analyse. She was not beautiful. She had none of the charms of fashion. He had never seen her well dressed, according to the ideas of dress which he found to be prevailing in the world. She was a little thing, who, as a man’s wife, could attract no attention by figure, form, or outward manner; one who had quietly submitted herself to the position of a governess, and who did not seem to think that in doing so she obtained less than her due. But yet he knew her to be better than all the rest. For him, at any rate, she was better than all the rest. Her little hand was cool and sweet to him. Sometimes, when he was heated and hard at work, he would fancy how it would be with him if she were by him, and would lay it on his brow. There was a sparkle in her eye that had to him more of sympathy in it than could be conveyed by all the other eyes in the world. There was an expression in her mouth when she smiled which was more eloquent to him than any sound. There was a reality and a truth 149 about her which came home to him, and made themselves known to him as firm rocks which could not be shaken. He had never declared to himself that deceit or hypocrisy in a woman was especially abominable. As a rule he looked for it in women, and would say that some amount of affectation was necessary to a woman’s character. He knew that his cousin Lizzie was a little liar—that she was, as Lucy had said, a pretty animal that would turn and bite; and yet he liked his cousin Lizzie. He did not want women to be perfect, so he would say. But Lucy Morris, in his eyes, was perfect, and when he told her that she was ever the queen who reigned in those castles in the air which he built, as others build them, he told her no more than the truth.
He had fallen into these feelings, and could not now avoid them, or be quit of them; but he could have been silent respecting them. He knew that in former days, down at Bobsborough, he had not been altogether silent. When he had first seen her at Fawn Court he had not been altogether silent. But he had been warned away from Fawn Court, and in that very warning there was conveyed, as it were, an absolution from the effect of words hitherto spoken. Though he had called Lady Fawn an old fool, he had known that it was so—had, after a fashion, perceived her wisdom—and had regarded himself as a man free to decide, without disgrace, that he might abandon ideas of ecstatic love and look out for a rich wife. Presuming himself to be reticent for the future in reference to his darling Lucy, he might do as he pleased with himself. Thus there had come a moment in which he had determined that he would ask his rich cousin to marry him. 150 In that little project he had been interrupted, and the reader knows what had come of it. Lord Fawn’s success had not in the least annoyed him. He had only half resolved in regard to his cousin. She was very beautiful no doubt, and there was her income; but he also knew that those teeth would bite and that those claws would scratch. But Lord Fawn’s success had given a turn to his thoughts, and had made him think, for a moment, that if a man loved, he should be true to his love. The reader also knows what had come of that—how at last he had not been reticent. He had not asked Lucy to be his wife; but he had said that which made it impossible that he should marry any other woman without dishonour.
As he thought of what he had done himself, he tried to remember whether Lucy had said a word expressive of affection for himself. She had in truth spoken very few words, and he could remember almost every one of them. “Have I?” she had asked, when he told her that she had ever been the princess reigning in his castles. And there had been a joy in the question which she had not attempted to conceal. She had hesitated not at all. She had not told him that she loved him. But there had been something sweeter than such protestation in the question she had asked him. “Is it indeed true,” she had said, “that I have been placed there where all my joy and all my glory lies?” It was not in her to tell a lie to him, even by a tone. She had intended to say nothing of her love, but he knew that it had all been told. “Have I?” he repeated the words to himself a dozen times, and as he did so, he could hear her voice. Certainly there never was a voice that brought home to the hearer so strong a sense of its own truth!151
Why should he not at once make up his mind to marry her? He could do it. There was no doubt of that. It was possible for him to alter the whole manner of his life, to give up his clubs, to give up even Parliament, if the need to do so was there, and to live as a married man on the earnings of his profession. There was no need why he should regard himself as a poor man. Two things, no doubt, were against his regarding himself as a rich man. Ever since he had commenced life in London he had been more or less in debt; and then, unfortunately, he had acquired a seat in Parliament at a period of his career in which the dangers of such a position were greater than the advantages. Nevertheless he could earn an income on which he and his wife, were he to marry, could live in all comfort; and as to his debts, if he would set his shoulder to the work they might be paid off in a twelvemonth. There was nothing in the prospect which would frighten Lucy, though there might be a question whether he possessed the courage needed for so violent a change.
He had chambers in the Temple; he lived in rooms which he hired from month to month in one of the big hotels at the West End; and he dined at his club, or at the House, when he was not dining with a friend. It was an expensive and a luxurious mode of life, and one from the effects of which a man is prone to drift very quickly into selfishness. He was by no means given to drinking, but he was already learning to like good wine. Small economies in reference to cab-hire, gloves, umbrellas, and railway fares, were unknown to him. Sixpences and shillings were things with which, in his mind, it was grievous to have to burden the 152 thoughts. The Greystocks had all lived after that fashion. Even the dean himself was not free from the charge of extravagance. All this Frank knew, and he did not hesitate to tell himself that he must make a great change if he meant to marry Lucy Morris. And he was wise enough to know that the change would become more difficult every day that it was postponed. Hitherto the question had been an open question with him. Could it now be an open question any longer? As a man of honour, was he not bound to share his lot with Lucy Morris?
That evening—that Saturday evening—it so happened that he met John Eustace at a club to which they both belonged, and they dined together. They had long known each other, and had been thrown into closer intimacy by the marriage between Sir Florian and Lizzie. John Eustace had never been fond of Lizzie, and now, in truth, liked her less than ever; but he did like Lizzie’s cousin, and felt that possibly Frank might be of use to him in the growing difficulty of managing the heir’s property and looking after the heir’s interests.
“You’ve let the widow slip through your fingers,” he said to Frank, as they sat together at the table.
“I told you Lord Fawn was to be the lucky man,” said Frank.
“I know you did. I hadn’t seen it. I can only say I wish it had been the other way.”
“Why so? Fawn isn’t a bad fellow.”
“No, not exactly a bad fellow. He isn’t, you know, what I call a good fellow. In the first place, he is marrying her altogether for her money.”
“Which is just what you advised me to do.”153
“I thought you really liked her. And then Fawn will be always afraid of her, and won’t be in the least afraid of us. We shall have to fight him, and he won’t fight her. He’s a cantankerous fellow—is Fawn—when he’s not afraid of his adversary.”
“But why should there be any fighting?”
Eustace paused a minute, and rubbed his face and considered the matter before he answered. “She is troublesome, you know,” he said.
“Yes; and I begin to be afraid she’ll give us as much as we know how to do. I was with Camperdown to-day. I’m blessed if she hasn’t begun to cut down a whole side of a forest at Portray. She has no more right to touch the timber, except for repairs about the place, than you have.”
“And if she lives for fifty years,” asked Greystock, “is none to be cut?”
“Yes—by consent. Of course, the regular cutting for the year is done, year by year. That’s as regular as the rents, and the produce is sold by the acre. But she is marking the old oaks. What the deuce can she want money for?”
“Fawn will put all that right.”
“He’ll have to do it,” said Eustace. “Since she has been down with old Lady Fawn, she has written a note to Camperdown—after leaving all his letters unanswered for the last twelvemonth—to tell him that Lord Fawn is to have nothing to do with her property, and that certain people, called Mowbray and Mopus, are her lawyers. Camperdown is in an awful way about it.”
“Lord Fawn will put it all right,” said Frank.154
“Camperdown is afraid that he won’t. They’ve met twice since the engagement was made, and Camperdown says that, at the last meeting, Fawn gave himself airs, or was, at any rate, unpleasant. There were words about those diamonds.”
“You don’t mean to say that Lord Fawn wants to keep your brother’s family jewels?”
“Camperdown didn’t say that exactly; but Fawn made no offer of giving them up. I wasn’t there, and only heard what Camperdown told me. Camperdown thinks he’s afraid of her.”
“I shouldn’t wonder at that in the least,” said Frank.
“I know there’ll be trouble,” continued Eustace, “and Fawn won’t be able to help us through it. She’s a strong-willed, cunning, obstinate, clever little creature. Camperdown swears he’ll be too many for her, but I almost doubt it.”
“And therefore you wish I were going to marry her?”
“Yes, I do. You might manage her. The money comes from the Eustace property, and I’d sooner it should go to you than a half-hearted, numb-fingered, cold-blooded Whig, like Fawn.”
“I don’t like cunning women,” said Frank.
“As bargains go, it wouldn’t be a bad one,” said Eustace. “She’s very young, has a noble jointure, and is as handsome as she can stand. It’s too good a thing for Fawn; too good for any Whig.”
When Eustace left him, Greystock lit his cigar and walked with it in his mouth from Pall Mall to the Temple. He often worked there at night when he was not bound to be in the House, or when the House 155 was not sitting; and he was now intent on mastering the mysteries of some much-complicated legal case which had been confided to him, in order that he might present it to a jury enveloped in increased mystery. But, as he went, he thought rather of matrimony than of law; and he thought especially of matrimony as it was about to affect Lord Fawn. Could a man be justified in marrying for money, or have rational ground for expecting that he might make himself happy by doing so? He kept muttering to himself as he went the Quaker’s advice to the old farmer, “Doan’t thou marry for munny, but goa where munny is!” But he muttered it as condemning the advice rather than accepting it.
He could look out and see two altogether different kinds of life before him, both of which had their allurements. There was the Belgravia-cum-Pimlico life, the scene of which might extend itself to South Kensington, enveloping the parks and coming round over Park Lane, and through Grosvenor Square and Berkeley Square back to Piccadilly. Within this he might live with lords and countesses and rich folk generally, going out to the very best dinner parties, avoiding stupid people, having everything the world could give, except a wife and family and home of his own. All this he could achieve by the work which would certainly fall in his way, and by means of that position in the world which he had already attained by his wits. And the wife, with the family and house of his own, might be forthcoming, should it ever come in his way to form an attachment with a wealthy woman. He knew how dangerous were the charms of such a life as this to a man growing old among the flesh-pots, without any one 156 to depend upon him. He had seen what becomes of the man who is always dining out at sixty. But he might avoid that. “Doan’t thou marry for munny, but goa where munny is.” And then there was that other outlook, the scene of which was laid somewhere north of Oxford street, and the glory of which consisted in Lucy’s smile, and Lucy’s hand, and Lucy’s kiss, as he returned home weary from his work.
There are many men, and some women, who pass their lives without knowing what it is to be or to have been in love. They not improbably marry—the men do, at least, and make good average husbands. Their wives are useful to them, and they learn to feel that a woman, being a wife, is entitled to all the respect, protection, and honour which a man can give, or procure for her. Such men, no doubt, often live honest lives, are good Christians, and depart hence with hopes as justifiable as though they had loved as well as Romeo. But yet, as men, they have lacked a something, the want of which has made them small, and poor, and dry. It has never been felt by such a one that there would be triumph in giving away everything belonging to him for one little whispered, yielding word, in which there should be acknowledgment that he had succeeded in making himself master of a human heart. And there are other men, very many men, who have felt this love, and have resisted it, feeling it to be unfit that Love should be lord of all. Frank Greystock had told himself, a score of times, that it would be unbecoming in him to allow a passion to obtain such mastery of him as to interfere with his ambition. Could it be right that he who, as a young man, had already done so much, who might possibly have before him so high 157 and great a career, should miss that, because he could not resist a feeling which a little chit of a girl had created in his bosom—a girl without money, without position, without even beauty; a girl as to whom, were he to marry her, the world would say, “Oh, heaven! there has Frank Greystock gone and married a little governess out of old Lady Fawn’s nursery”? And yet he loved her with all his heart, and to-day he had told her of his love. What should he do next?
The complicated legal case received neither much ravelling nor unravelling from his brains that night; but before he left his chambers he wrote the following letter:
“All among my books and papers,
“2 Bolt Court, Middle Temple.
“Dear, dear Lucy: I told you to-day that you ever had been the queen who reigned in those palaces which I have built in Spain. You did not make me much of an answer; but such as it was, only just one muttered doubtful-sounding word, it has made me hope that I may be justified in asking you to share with me a home which will not be palatial. If I am wrong——? But no; I will not think I am wrong, or that I can be wrong. No sound coming from you is really doubtful. You are truth itself, and the muttered word would have been other than it was, if you had not——! may I say, had you not already learned to love me?
“You will feel, perhaps, that I ought to have said all this to you then, and that a letter in such a matter is but a poor substitute for a spoken assurance of affection. You shall have the whole truth. Though I have long loved you, I did not go down to Fawn Court 158 with the purpose of declaring to you my love. What I said to you was God’s truth; but it was spoken without thought at the moment. I have thought of it much since; and now I write to you to ask you to be my wife. I have lived for the last year or two with this hope before me; and now——. Dear, dear Lucy, I will not write in too great confidence; but I will tell you that all my happiness is in your hands.
“If your answer is what I hope it may be, tell Lady Fawn at once. I shall immediately write to Bobsborough, as I hate secrets in such matters. And if it is to be so, then I shall claim the privilege of going to Fawn Court as soon and as often as I please.
“Yours ever and always, if you will have me,
He sat for an hour at his desk, with his letter lying on the table, before he left his chambers, looking at it. If he decide on posting it, then would that life in Belgravia-cum-Pimlico, of which in truth he was very fond, be almost closed for him. The lords and countesses, and rich county members, and leading politicians, who were delighted to welcome him, would not care for his wife; nor could he very well take his wife among them. To live with them as a married man, he must live as they lived, and must have his own house in their precincts. Later in life, he might possibly work up to this; but for the present he must retire into dim domestic security and the neighbourhood of Regent’s Park. He sat looking at the letter, telling himself that he was now, at this moment, deciding his own fate in life. And he again muttered the Quaker’s advice, “Doan’t thou marry for munny, but goa where munny 159 is!” It may be said, however, that no man ever writes such a letter, and then omits to send it. He walked out of the Temple with it in his hand, and dropped it into a pillar letter-box just outside the gate. As the envelope slipped through his fingers, he felt that he had now bound himself to his fate.160
As that Saturday afternoon wore itself away, there was much excitement at Fawn Court. When Lady Fawn returned with the carriage, she heard that Frank Greystock had been at Fawn Court; and she heard also, from Augusta, that he had been rambling about the grounds alone with Lucy Morris. At any exhibition of old ladies, held before a competent jury, Lady Fawn would have taken a prize on the score of good-humour. No mother of daughters was ever less addicted to scold and to be fretful. But just now she was a little unhappy. Lizzie’s visit had not been a success, and she looked forward to her son’s marriage with almost unmixed dismay. Mrs. Hittaway had written daily, and in all Mrs. Hittaway’s letters some addition was made to the evil things already known. In her last letter Mrs. Hittaway had expressed her opinion that even yet “Frederic” would escape. All this Lady Fawn had, of course, not told to her daughters generally. To the eldest, Augusta, it was thought expedient to say nothing, because Augusta had been selected as the companion of the, alas, too probable future Lady Fawn. But to Amelia something did leak out, and it became apparent that the household was uneasy. Now, as an evil added to this, Frank Greystock had been there in Lady Fawn’s absence, walking about the grounds alone with Lucy 161 Morris. Lady Fawn could hardly restrain herself. “How could Lucy be so very wrong?” she said, in the hearing both of Augusta and Amelia.
Lizzie Eustace did not hear this; but knowing very well that a governess should not receive a lover in the absence of the lady of the house, she made her little speech about it. “Dear Lady Fawn,” she said, “my cousin Frank came to see me while you were out.”
“So I hear,” said Lady Fawn.
“Frank and I are more like brother and sister than anything else. I had so much to say to him; so much to ask him to do! I have no one else, you know, and I had especially told him to come here.”
“Of course he was welcome to come.”
“Only I was afraid you might think that there was some little lover’s trick—on dear Lucy’s part, you know.”
“I never suspect anything of that kind,” said Lady Fawn, bridling up. “Lucy Morris is above any sort of trick. We don’t have any tricks here, Lady Eustace.” Lady Fawn herself might say that Lucy was “wrong,” but no one else in that house should even suggest evil of Lucy. Lizzie retreated smiling. To have “put Lady Fawn’s back up,” as she called it, was to her an achievement and a pleasure.
But the great excitement of the evening consisted in the expected coming of Lord Fawn. Of what nature would be the meeting between Lord Fawn and his promised bride? Was there anything of truth in the opinion expressed by Mrs. Hittaway that her brother was beginning to become tired of his bargain? That Lady Fawn was tired of it herself—that she disliked Lizzie and was afraid of her, and averse to the idea of 162 regarding her as a daughter-in-law—she did not now attempt to hide from herself. But there was the engagement, known to all the world, and how could its fulfilment now be avoided? The poor dear old woman began to repeat to herself the first half of the Quaker’s advice, “Doan’t thou marry for munny.”
Lord Fawn was to come down only in time for a late dinner. An ardent lover, one would have thought, might have left his work somewhat earlier on a Saturday, so as to have enjoyed with his sweetheart something of the sweetness of the Saturday summer afternoon; but it was seven before he reached Fawn Court, and the ladies were at that time in their rooms dressing. Lizzie had affected to understand all his reasons for being so late, and had expressed herself as perfectly satisfied. “He has more to do than any of the others,” she had said to Augusta. “Indeed the whole of our vast Indian empire may be said to hang upon him just at present;” which was not complimentary to Lord Fawn’s chief, the Right Honourable Legge Wilson, who at the present time represented the interests of India in the Cabinet. “He is terribly overworked, and it is a shame; but what can one do?”
“I think he likes work,” Augusta had replied.
“But I don’t like it, not so much of it; and so I shall make him understand, my dear. But I don’t complain. As long as he tells me everything, I will never really complain.” Perhaps it might some day be as she desired; perhaps as a husband he would be thoroughly confidential and communicative; perhaps when they two were one flesh he would tell her everything about India; but as yet he certainly had not told her much.163
“How had they better meet?” Amelia asked her mother.
“Oh, I don’t know; anyhow; just as they like. We can’t arrange anything for her. If she had chosen to dress herself early, she might have seen him as he came in; but it was impossible to tell her so.” No arrangement was therefore made, and as all the other ladies were in the drawing-room before Lizzie came down, she had to give him his welcome in the midst of the family circle. She did it very well. Perhaps she had thought of it, and made her arrangements. When he came forward to greet her, she put her cheek up, just a little, so that he might see that he was expected to kiss it; but so little that should he omit to do so, there might be no visible awkwardness. It must be acknowledged on Lizzie’s behalf, that she could always avoid awkwardness. He did touch her cheek with his lips, blushing as he did so. She had her ungloved hand in his, and, still holding him, returned into the circle. She said not a word; and what he said was of no moment; but they had met as lovers, and any of the family who had allowed themselves to imagine that even yet the match might be broken, now unconsciously abandoned that hope.
“Was he always such a truant, Lady Fawn?” Lizzie asked, when it seemed to her that no one else would speak a word.
“I don’t know that there is much difference,” said Lady Fawn. “Here is dinner. Frederic, will you give—Lady Eustace your arm?” Poor Lady Fawn! It often came to pass that she was awkward.
There were no less than ten females sitting round the board at the bottom of which Lord Fawn took his 164 place. Lady Fawn had especially asked Lucy to come in to dinner, and with Lucy had come the two younger girls. At Lord Fawn’s right hand sat Lizzie, and Augusta at his left. Lady Fawn had Amelia on one side and Lucy on the other. “So Mr. Greystock was here to-day,” Lady Fawn whispered into Lucy’s ear.
“Yes; he was here.”
“I did not bid him come, Lady Fawn.”
“I am sure of that, my dear; but—but——” Then there was no more said on that subject on that occasion.
During the whole of the dinner the conversation was kept up at the other end of the table by Lizzie talking to Augusta across her lover. This was done in such a manner as to seem to include Lord Fawn in every topic discussed. Parliament, India, the Sawab, Ireland, the special privileges of the House of Lords, the ease of a bachelor life, and the delight of having at his elbow just such a rural retreat as Fawn Court—these were the fruitful themes of Lizzie’s eloquence. Augusta did her part at any rate with patience; and as for Lizzie herself, she worked with that superhuman energy which women can so often display in making conversation under unfavourable circumstances. The circumstances were unfavourable, for Lord Fawn himself would hardly open his mouth; but Lizzie persevered, and the hour of dinner passed over without any show of ill-humour or of sullen silence. When the hour was over, Lord Fawn left the room with the ladies, and was soon closeted with his mother, while the girls strolled out upon the lawn. Would Lizzie play croquet? No; Lizzie would not play croquet. She thought it probable that she might catch her lover and force him to walk with her 165 through the shrubberies; but Lord Fawn was not seen upon the lawn that evening, and Lizzie was forced to content herself with Augusta as a companion. In the course of the evening, however, her lover did say a word to her in private. “Give me ten minutes tomorrow between breakfast and church, Lizzie.” Lizzie promised that she would do so, smiling sweetly. Then there was a little music, and then Lord Fawn retired to his studies.
“What is he going to say to me?” Lizzie asked Augusta the next morning. There existed in her bosom a sort of craving after confidential friendship, but with it there existed something that was altogether incompatible with confidence. She thoroughly despised Augusta Fawn, and yet would have been willing—in want of a better friend—to press Augusta to her bosom and swear that there should ever be between them the tenderest friendship. She desired to be the possessor of the outward shows of all those things of which the inward facts are valued by the good and steadfast ones of the earth. She knew what were the aspirations, what the ambition of an honest woman; and she knew, too, how rich were the probable rewards of such honesty. True love, true friendship, true benevolence, true tenderness, were beautiful to her, qualities on which she could descant almost with eloquence; and therefore she was always shamming love and friendship and benevolence and tenderness. She could tell you, with words most appropriate to the subject, how horrible were all shams, and in saying so would be not altogether insincere. Yet she knew that she herself was ever shamming, and she satisfied herself with shams. “What is he going to say to me?” 166 she asked Augusta, with her hands clasped, when she went up to put her bonnet on after breakfast.
“To fix the day, I suppose,” said Augusta.
“If I thought so, I would endeavour to please him. But it isn’t that. I know his manner so well! I am sure it is not that. Perhaps it is something about my boy. He will not wish to separate a mother from her child.”
“Oh dear, no,” said Augusta. “I am sure Frederic will not want to do that.”
“In anything else I will obey him,” said Lizzie, again clasping her hands. “But I must not keep him waiting, must I? I fear my future lord is somewhat impatient.” Now, if among Lord Fawn’s merits one merit was more conspicuous than another, it was that of patience. When Lizzie descended, he was waiting for her in the hall without a thought that he was being kept too long. “Now, Frederic! I should have been with you two whole minutes since, if I had not had just a word to say to Augusta. I do so love Augusta.”
“She is a very good girl,” said Lord Fawn.
“So true and genuine, and so full of spirit. I will come on the other side because of my parasol and the sun. There, that will do. We have an hour nearly before going to church; haven’t we? I suppose you will go to church.”
“I intend it,” said Lord Fawn.
“It is so nice to go to church,” said Lizzie. Since her widowhood had commenced she had compromised matters with the world. One Sunday she would go to church and the next she would have a headache and a French novel and stay in bed. But she was prepared 167 for stricter conduct during at least the first months of her newly-married life.
“My dear Lizzie,” began Lord Fawn, “since I last saw you I have been twice with Mr. Camperdown.”
“You are not going to talk about Mr. Camperdown to-day?”
“Well; yes. I could not do so last night, and I shall be back in London either to-night or before you are up to-morrow morning.”
“I hate the very name of Mr. Camperdown,” said Lizzie.
“I am sorry for that, because I am sure you could not find an honester lawyer to manage your affairs for you. He does everything for me, and so he did for Sir Florian Eustace.”
“That is just the reason why I employ some one else,” she answered.
“Very well. I am not going to say a word about that. I may regret it, but I am, just at present, the last person in the world to urge you upon that subject. What I want to say is this. You must restore those diamonds.”
“To whom shall I restore them?”
“To Mr. Garnett the silversmith, if you please, or to Mr. Camperdown; or, if you like it better, to your brother-in-law, Mr. John Eustace.”
“And why am I to give up my own property?”
Lord Fawn paused for some seconds before he replied. “To satisfy my honour,” he then said. As she made him no immediate answer he continued. “It would not suit my views that my wife should be seen wearing the jewels of the Eustace family.”
“I don’t want to wear them,” said Lizzie.168
“Then why should you desire to keep them?”
“Because they are my own. Because I do not choose to be put upon. Because I will not allow such a cunning old snake as Mr. Camperdown to rob me of my property. They are my own, and you should defend my right to them.”
“Do you mean to say that you will not oblige me by doing what I ask you?”
“I will not be robbed of what is my own,” said Lizzie.
“Then I must declare”—and now Lord Fawn spoke very slowly—“then I must declare that under these circumstances, let the consequences be what they may, I must retreat from the enviable position which your favour has given me.” The words were cold and solemn, and were ill-spoken; but they were deliberate, and had been indeed actually learned by heart.
“What do you mean?” said Lizzie, flashing round upon him.
“I mean what I say, exactly. But perhaps it may be well that I should explain my motives more clearly.”
“I don’t know anything about motives, and I don’t care anything about motives. Do you mean to tell me that you have come here to threaten me with deserting me?”
“You had better hear me.”
“I don’t choose to hear a word more after what you have said, unless it be in the way of an apology, or retracting your most injurious accusation.”
“I have said nothing to retract,” said Lord Fawn solemnly.
“Then I will not hear another word from you. I have friends and you shall see them.”169
Lord Fawn, who had thought a great deal upon the subject, and had well understood that this interview would be for him one of great difficulty, was very anxious to induce her to listen to a few further words of explanation. “Dear Lizzie,” he began.
“I will not be addressed, sir, in that way by a man who is treating me as you are doing,” she said.
“But I want you to understand me.”
“Understand you! You understand nothing yourself that a man ought to understand. I wonder that you have the courage to be so insolent. If you knew what you were doing, you would not have the spirit to do it.”
Her words did not quite come home to him, and much of her scorn was lost upon him. He was now chiefly anxious to explain to her that though he must abide by the threat he had made, he was quite willing to go on with his engagement if she would oblige him in the matter of the diamonds. “It was necessary that I should explain to you that I could not allow that necklace to be brought into my house.”
“No one thought of taking it to your house.”
“What were you to do with it, then?”
“Keep it in my own,” said Lizzie stoutly. They were still walking together, and were now altogether out of sight of the house. Lizzie in her excitement had forgotten church, had forgotten the Fawn women—had forgotten everything except the battle which it was necessary that she should fight for herself. She did not mean to allow the marriage to be broken off, but she meant to retain the necklace. The manner in which Lord Fawn had demanded its restitution—in which there had been none of that mock tenderness by which she might have permitted herself to be persuaded—had 170 made her, at any rate for the moment, as firm as steel on this point. It was inconceivable to her that he should think himself at liberty to go back from his promise because she would not render up property which was in her possession, and which no one could prove not to be legally her own! She walked on full of fierce courage, despising him, but determined that she would marry him.
“I am afraid we do not understand each other,” he said at last.
“Certainly I do not understand you, sir.”
“Will you allow my mother to speak to you on the subject?”
“No. If I told your mother to give up her diamonds, what would she say?”
“But they are not yours, Lady Eustace, unless you will submit that question to an arbitrator.”
“I will submit nothing to anybody. You have no right to speak on such a subject till after we are married.”
“I must have it settled first, Lady Eustace.”
“Then, Lord Fawn, you won’t have it settled first. Or rather it is settled already. I shall keep my own necklace, and Mr. Camperdown may do anything he pleases. As for you, if you ill-treat me, I shall know where to go to.”
They had now come out from the shrubbery upon the lawn, and there was the carriage at the door, ready to take the elders of the family to church. Of course in such a condition of affairs it would be understood that Lizzie was one of the elders.
“I shall not go to church now,” she said, as she advanced across the lawn toward the hall door. “You 171 will be pleased, Lord Fawn, to let your mother know that I am detained. I do not suppose that you will dare to tell her why.” Then she sailed round at the back of the carriage and entered the hall, in which several of the girls were standing. Among them was Augusta, waiting to take her seat among the elders; but Lizzie passed on through them all, without a word, and marched up to her bedroom.
“Oh, Frederic, what is the matter?” said Augusta, as soon as her brother entered the house.
“Never mind. Nothing is the matter. You had better go to church. Where is my mother?”
At this moment Lady Fawn appeared at the bottom of the stairs, having passed Lizzie as she was coming down. Not a syllable had then been spoken, but Lady Fawn at once knew that much was wrong. Her son went up to her and whispered a word in her ear. “Oh, certainly,” she said, desisting from the operation of pulling on her gloves. “Augusta, neither your brother nor I will go to church.”
“It seems not,” said Lady Fawn.
“Lady Eustace will not go to church,” said Lord Fawn.
“And where is Lucy?” asked Lydia.
“She will not go to church either,” said Lady Fawn. “I have just been with her.”
“Nobody is going to church,” said Nina. “All the same, I shall go myself.”
“Augusta, my dear, you and the girls had better go. You can take the carriage of course.” But Augusta and the girls chose to walk, and the carriage was sent round into the yard.172
“There’s a rumpus already between my lord and the young missus,” said the coachman to the groom; for the coachman had seen the way in which Lady Eustace had returned to the house. And there certainly was a rumpus. During the whole morning Lord Fawn was closeted with his mother, and then he went away to London without saying a word to any one of the family. But he left this note for Lady Eustace:
“Dearest Lizzie: Think well of what I have said to you. It is not that I desire to break off our engagement; but that I cannot allow my wife to keep the diamonds which belong of right to her late husband’s family. You may be sure that I should not be thus urgent had I not taken steps to ascertain that I am right in my judgment. In the mean time you had better consult my mother.
There had been another “affair” in the house that morning, though of a nature very different to the “rumpus” which had occurred between Lord Fawn and Lady Eustace. Lady Fawn had been closeted with Lucy, and had expressed her opinion of the impropriety of Frank Greystock’s visit. “I suppose he came to see his cousin,” said Lady Fawn, anxious to begin with some apology for such conduct.
“I cannot tell,” said Lucy. “Perhaps he did. I think he said so. I think he cared more to see me.” Then Lady Fawn was obliged to express her opinion, and she did so, uttering many words of wisdom. Frank Greystock, had he intended to sacrifice his prospects by a disinterested marriage, would have spoken out before now. He was old enough to have made up his mind on such a subject, and he had not spoken out. He did not mean marriage. That was quite evident to Lady Fawn; and her dear Lucy was revelling in hopes which would make her miserable. If Lucy could only have known of the letter, which was already her own property though lying in the pillar letter-box in Fleet street, and which had not already been sent down and delivered simply because it was Sunday morning! But she was very brave. “He does love me,” she said. “He told me so.”174
“Oh, Lucy, that is worse and worse. A man to tell you that he loves you, and yet not ask you to be his wife!”
“I am contented,” said Lucy. That assertion, however, could hardly have been true.
“Contented! And did you tell him that you returned his love?”
“He knew it without my telling him,” said Lucy. It was so hard upon her that she should be so interrogated while that letter was lying in the iron box!
“Dear Lucy, this must not be,” said Lady Fawn. “You are preparing for yourself inexpressible misery.”
“I have done nothing wrong, Lady Fawn.”
“No, my dear—no. I do not say you have been wrong. But I think he is wrong—so wrong! I call it wicked. I do indeed. For your own sake you should endeavour to forget him.”
“I will never forget him,” said Lucy. “To think of him is everything to me. He told me I was his Queen, and he shall be my King. I will be loyal to him always.” To poor Lady Fawn this was very dreadful. The girl persisted in declaring her love for the man, and yet did not even pretend to think that the man meant to marry her! And this, too, was Lucy Morris—of whom Lady Fawn was accustomed to say to her intimate friends that she had altogether ceased to look upon her as a governess. “Just one of ourselves, Mrs. Winslow, and almost as dear as one of my own girls!” Thus, in the warmth of her heart, she had described Lucy to a neighbour within the last week. Many more words of wisdom she spoke, and then she left poor Lucy in no mood for church. Would she have been 175 in a better mood for the morning service had she known of the letter in the iron post?
Then Lady Fawn had put on her bonnet and gone down into the hall, and the “rumpus” had come. After that, everybody in the house knew that all things were astray. When the girls came home from church their brother was gone. Half an hour before dinner Lady Fawn sent the note up to Lizzie, with a message to say that they would dine at three—it being Sunday. Lizzie sent down word that as she was unwell she would ask to have just a cup of tea and “something” sent to her own room. If Lady Fawn would allow her, she would remain up-stairs with her child. She always made use of her child when troubles came.
The afternoon was very sad and dreary. Lady Fawn had an interview with Lady Eustace, but Lizzie altogether refused to listen to any advice on the subject of the necklace. “It is an affair,” she said haughtily, “in which I must judge for myself—or with the advice of my own particular friends. Had Lord Fawn waited until we were married; then indeed——!”
“But that would have been too late,” said Lady Fawn severely.
“He is, at any rate, premature now in laying his commands upon me,” said Lizzie. Lady Fawn, who was perhaps more anxious that the marriage should be broken off than that the jewels should be restored, then withdrew; and as she left the room Lizzie clasped her boy to her bosom. “He, at any rate, is left to me,” she said. Lucy and the Fawn girls went to evening church, and afterward Lizzie came down among them when they were at tea. Before she went to bed Lizzie declared her intention of returning to her own house 176 in Mount street on the following day. To this Lady Fawn of course made no objection.
On the next morning there came an event which robbed Lizzie’s departure of some of the importance which might otherwise have been attached to it. The post-office, with that accuracy in the performance of its duties for which it is conspicuous among all offices, caused Lucy’s letter to be delivered to her while the members of the family were sitting round the breakfast table. Lizzie, indeed, was not there. She had expressed her intention of breakfasting in her own room, and had requested that a conveyance might be ready to take her to the 11:30 train. Augusta had been with her, asking whether anything could be done for her. “I care for nothing now, except my child,” Lizzie had replied. As the nurse and the lady’s maid were both in the room, Augusta, of course, could say nothing further. That occurred after prayers, and while the tea was being made. When Augusta reached the breakfast-room Lucy was cutting up the loaf of bread, and at the same moment the old butler was placing a letter immediately under her eyes. She saw the handwriting and recognised it, but yet she finished cutting the bread. “Lucy, do give me that hunchy bit,” said Nina.
“Hunchy is not in the dictionary,” said Cecilia.
“I want it in my plate, and not in the dictionary,” said Nina.
Lucy did as she was asked, but her hand trembled as she gave the hunch, and Lady Fawn saw that her face was crimson. She took the letter and broke the envelope, and as she drew out the sheet of paper she looked up at Lady Fawn. The fate of her whole life 177 was in her hands, and there she was standing with all their eyes fixed upon her. She did not even know how to sit down, but, still standing, she read the first and last words, “Dear, dear Lucy,”—“Yours ever and always, if you will have me, F. G.” She did not want to read any more of it then. She sat down slowly, put the precious paper back into its envelope, looked round upon them all, and knew that she was crimson to the roots of her hair, blushing like a guilty thing.
“Lucy, my dear,” said Lady Fawn—and Lucy at once turned her face full upon her old friend—“you have got a letter that agitates you.”
“Yes, I have,” she said.
“Go into the book-room. You can come back to breakfast when you have read it, you know.” Thereupon Lucy rose from her seat, and retired with her treasure into the book-room. But even when she was there she could not at once read her letter. When the door was closed and she knew that she was alone she looked at it, and then clasped it tight between her hands. She was almost afraid to read it lest the letter itself should contradict the promise which the last words of it had seemed to convey to her. She went up to the window and stood there gazing out upon the gravel road, with her hand containing the letter pressed upon her heart. Lady Fawn had told her that she was preparing for herself inexpressible misery; and now there had come to her joy so absolutely inexpressible! “A man to tell you that he loves you, and yet not ask you to be his wife!” She repeated to herself Lady Fawn’s words, and then those other words, “Yours ever and always, if you will have me!” Have him, indeed! 178 She threw from her, at once, as vain and wicked and false, all idea of coying her love. She would leap at his neck if he were there, and tell him that for years he had been almost her god. And of course he knew it. “If I will have him! Traitor!” she said to herself, smiling through her tears. Then she reflected that after all it would be well that she should read the letter. There might be conditions; though what conditions could he propose with which she would not comply? However, she seated herself in a corner of the room and did read the letter. As she read it, she hardly understood it all; but she understood what she wanted to understand. He asked her to share with him his home. He had spoken to her that day without forethought; but mustn’t such speech be the truest and the sweetest of all speeches? “And now I write to you to ask you to be my wife.” Oh, how wrong some people can be in their judgments! How wrong Lady Fawn had been in hers about Frank Greystock! “For the last year or two I have lived with this hope before me.” “And so have I,” said Lucy. “And so have I; with that and no other.” “Too great confidence! Traitor,” she said again, smiling and weeping, “yes, traitor; when of course you knew it.” “Is his happiness in my hands? Oh, then he shall be happy.” “Of course I will tell Lady Fawn at once—instantly. Dear Lady Fawn! But yet she has been so wrong. I suppose she will let him come here. But what does it matter, now that I know it? ’Yours ever and always, if you will have me. F. G.’ Traitor, traitor, traitor!” Then she got up and walked about the room, not knowing what she did, holding the letter now between her hands, and then pressing it to her lips.179
She was still walking about the room when there came a low tap at the door, and Lady Fawn entered. “There is nothing the matter, Lucy?” Lucy stood stock still, with her treasure still clasped, smiling, almost laughing, while the tears ran down her cheeks. “Won’t you eat your breakfast, my dear?” said Lady Fawn.
“Oh, Lady Fawn! oh, Lady Fawn!” said Lucy, rushing into her friend’s arms.
“What is it, Lucy? I think our little wise one has lost her wits.”
“Oh, Lady Fawn, he has asked me!”
“Is it Mr. Greystock?”
“Yes; Mr. Greystock. He has asked me. He has asked me to be his wife. I thought he loved me. I hoped he did at least. Oh dear, I did so hope it. And he does.”
“Has he proposed to you?”
“Yes, Lady Fawn. I told you what he said to me. And then he went and wrote this. Is he not noble and good, and so kind? You shall read it, but you’ll give it me back, Lady Fawn?”
“Certainly I’ll give it you back. You don’t think I’d rob you of your lover’s letter?”
“Perhaps you might think it right.”
“If it is really an offer of marriage——,” said Lady Fawn very seriously.
“It couldn’t be more of an offer if he had sat writing it for ever,” said Lucy as she gave up her letter with confidence. Lady Fawn read it with leisurely attention, and smiled as she put the paper back into the envelope. “All the men in the world couldn’t say it more plainly,” said Lucy, nodding her head forward.180
“I don’t think they could,” said Lady Fawn. “I never read anything plainer in my life. I wish you joy with all my heart, Lucy. There is not a word to be said against him.”
“Against him!” said Lucy, who thought that this was very insufficient praise.
“What I mean is that when I objected to his coming here I was only afraid that he couldn’t afford, or would think, you know, that in his position he couldn’t afford to marry a wife without a fortune.”
“He may come now, Lady Fawn?”
“Well, yes; I think so. I shall be glad just to say a word to him. Of course you are in my hands, and I do love you so dearly, Lucy! I could not bear that anything but good should happen to you.”
“This is good,” said Lucy.
“It won’t be good, and Mr. Greystock won’t think you good, if you don’t come and eat your breakfast.” So Lucy was led back into the parlour, and sipped her tea and crunched her toast, while Lydia came and stood over her.
“Of course it is from him,” whispered Lydia. Lucy again nodded her head while she was crunching her toast.
The fact that Mr. Greystock had proposed in form to Lucy Morris was soon known to all the family, and the news certainly did take away something from the importance which would otherwise have been attached to Lizzie’s departure. There was not the same awe of the ceremony, the same dread of some scene, which, but for Frank Greystock’s letter, would have existed. Of course Lord Fawn’s future matrimonial prospects were to them all an affair of more moment than those of 181 Lucy; but Lord Fawn himself had gone, and had already quarrelled with the lady before he went. There was at present nothing more to be done by them in regard to Lizzie than just to get rid of her. But Lucy’s good fortune, so unexpected, and by her so frankly owned as the very best fortune in the world that could have befallen her, gave an excitement to them all. There could be no lessons that morning for Nina, and the usual studies of the family were altogether interrupted. Lady Fawn purred, and congratulated, and gave good advice, and declared that any other home for Lucy before her marriage would now be quite out of the question. “Of course it wouldn’t do for you to go, even to Clara,” said Lady Fawn, who seemed to think that there still might be some delay before Frank Greystock would be ready for his wife. “You know, my dear, that he isn’t rich; not for a member of Parliament. I suppose he makes a good income, but I have always heard that he was a little backward when he began. Of course, you know, nobody need be in a hurry.” Then Lucy began to think that if Frank should wish to postpone his marriage, say for three or four years, she might even yet become a burden on her friend. “But don’t you be frightened,” continued Lady Fawn; “you shall never want a home as long as I have one to give you. We shall soon find out what are Mr. Greystock’s ideas; and unless he is very unreasonable we’ll make things fit.”
Then there came a message to Lucy from Lady Eustace. “If you please, Miss, Lady Eustace will be glad to see you for a minute up in her room before she starts.” So Lucy was torn away from 182 the thoughts of her own happiness, and taken up-stairs to Lady Eustace. “You have heard that I am going?” said Lizzie.
“Yes; I heard you were to go this morning.”
“And you have heard why? I’m sure you will not deceive me, Lucy. Where am I to look for truth, if not to an old, old friend like you?”
“Why should I deceive you, Lizzie?”
“Why, indeed? only that all people do. The world is so false, so material, so worldly! One gives out one’s heart and gets in return nothing but dust and ashes—nothing but ashes and dust. Oh, I have been so disappointed in Lady Fawn.”
“You know she is my dearest friend,” said Lucy.
“Pshaw! I know that you have worked for her like a slave, and that she has paid you a bare pittance.”
“She has been more like a mother to me than anything else,” said Lucy angrily.
“Because you have been tame. It does not suit me to be tame. It is not my plan to be tame. Have you heard the cause of the disagreement between Lord Fawn and me?”
“Tell the truth, Lucy.”
“How dare you tell me to tell the truth? Of course I tell the truth. I believe it is something about some property which he wants you to give back to somebody; but I don’t know any more.”
“Yes, my dear husband, Sir Florian, who understood me—whom I idolised—who seemed to have been made for me—gave me a present. Lord Fawn is pleased to say that he does not approve of my keeping any gift from my late lord. Considering that he 183 intends to live upon the wealth which Sir Florian was generous enough to bestow upon me, this does seem to be strange! Of course I resented such interference. Would not you have resented it?”
“I don’t know,” said Lucy, who thought that she could bring herself to comply with any request made to her by Frank Greystock.
“Any woman who had a spark of spirit would resent it, and I have resented it. I have told Lord Fawn that I will on no account part with the rich presents which my adored Florian showered upon me in his generosity. It is not for their richness that I keep them, but because they are, for his sake, so inexpressively dear to me. If Lord Fawn chooses to be jealous of a necklace, he must be jealous.” Lucy, who had in truth heard but a small fragment of the story—just so much of it as Lydia had learned from the discreet Amelia, who herself had but a very hazy idea of the facts—did not quite know how much of the tale, as it was now told to her, might be true and how much false. After a certain fashion she and Lizzie Eustace called themselves friends. But she did not believe her friend to be honest, and was aware that in some matters her friend would condescend—to fib. Lizzie’s poetry, and romance, and high feelings had never had the ring of true soundness in Lucy’s ears. But her imagination was not strong enough to soar to the altitude of the lies which Lizzie was now telling. She did believe that the property which Lizzie was called upon to restore was held to be objectionable by Lord Fawn simply because it had reached Lizzie from the hands of her late husband. “What do you think of such conduct as that?” asked Lady Eustace.184
“Won’t it do if you lock them up instead of wearing them?” asked Lucy.
“I have never dreamed of wearing them.”
“I don’t understand about such things,” said Lucy, determined not to impute any blame to one of the Fawn family.
“It is tyranny, sheer tyranny,” continued the other, “and he will find that I am not the woman to yield to it. No. For love I could give up everything—but nothing from fear. He has told me in so many words that he does not intend to go on with his engagement!”
“Has he indeed?”
“But I intend that he shall. If he thinks that I am going to be thrown over because he takes ideas of that kind into his head, he’s mistaken. He shall know that I’m not to be made a plaything of like that. I’ll tell you what you can do for me, Lucy.”
“What can I do for you?”
“There is no one in the world I trust more thoroughly than I do you,” said Lizzie, “and hardly any one that I love so well. Think how long we have known each other! And you may be sure of this: I always have been, and always will be, your friend with my cousin Frank.”
“I don’t want anything of that kind,” said Lucy, “and never did.”
“Nobody has so much influence with Frank as I. Just do you write to me to-morrow, and the next day, and the day after, a mere line, you know, to tell me how the land lies here.”
“There will be nothing to tell.”
“Yes, there will—ever so much. They will be 185 talking about me every hour. If you’ll be true to me, Lucy, in this business, I’ll make you the handsomest present you ever saw in your life. I’ll give you a hundred-guinea brooch; I will, indeed. You shall have the money and buy it yourself.”
“A what!” said Lucy.
“A hundred guineas to do what you please with!”
“You mean thing!” said Lucy. “I didn’t think there was a woman so mean as that in the world. I’m not surprised now at Lord Fawn. Pick up what I hear and send it you in letters, and then be paid money for it!”
“Why not? It’s all to do good.”
“How can you have thought to ask me to do such a thing? How can you bring yourself to think so badly of people? I’d sooner cut my hand off; and as for you, Lizzie, I think you are mean and wicked to conceive such a thing. And now good-by.” So saying, she left the room, giving her dear friend no time for further argument.
Lady Eustace got away that morning, not in time, indeed, for the 11:30 train, but at such an hour as to make it unnecessary that she should appear at the early dinner. The saying of farewell was very cold and ceremonious. Of course there was no word as to any future visit—no word as to any future events whatever. They all shook hands with her, and special injunctions were given to the coachman to drive her safely to the station. At this ceremony Lucy was not present. Lydia had asked her to come down and say good-by; but Lucy refused. “I saw her in her own room,” said Lucy.
“And was it all very affectionate?” Lydia asked.186
“Well, no; it was not affectionate at all.” This was all that Lucy said, and thus Lady Eustace completed her visit to Fawn Court.
The letters were taken away for the post at eight o’clock in the evening, and before that time it was necessary that Lucy should write to her lover. “Lady Fawn,” she said in a whisper, “may I tell him to come here?”
“Certainly, my dear. You had better tell him to call on me. Of course he’ll see you, too, when he comes.”
“I think he’d want to see me,” said Lucy, “and I’m sure I should want to see him.” Then she wrote her answer to Frank’s letter. She allowed herself an hour for the happy task; but, though the letter when written was short, the hour hardly sufficed for the writing of it.
“Dear Mr. Greystock;”—there was matter for her of great consideration before she could get even so far as this; but after biting her pen for ten minutes, during which she pictured to herself how pleasant it would be to call him Frank when he should have told her to do so, and had found, upon repeated whispered trials, that of all names it was the pleasantest to pronounce, she decided upon refraining from writing it now—“Lady Fawn has seen your letter to me—the dearest letter that ever was written—and she says that you may call upon her. But you mustn’t go away without seeing me too.” Then there was great difficulty as to the words to be used by her for the actual rendering herself up to him as his future wife. At last the somewhat too Spartan simplicity of her nature prevailed, and the words were written very plain, and very short. 187 “I love you better than all the world, and I will be your wife. It shall be the happiness of my life to try to deserve you.
“I am, with all my heart,
“Most affectionately your own
When it was written it did not content her. But the hour was over, and the letters must go. “I suppose it’ll do,” she said to herself. “He’ll know what it means.” And so the letter was sent.188
The burden of his position was so heavy on Lord Fawn’s mind that, on the Monday morning after leaving Fawn Court, he was hardly as true to the affairs of India as he himself would have wished. He was resolved to do what was right—if only he could find out what would be the right thing in his present difficulty. Not to break his word, not to be unjust, not to deviate by a hair’s breadth from that line of conduct which would be described as “honourable” in the circle to which he belonged; not to give his political enemies an opportunity for calumny—this was all in all to him. The young widow was very lovely and very rich, and it would have suited him well to marry her. It would still suit him well to do so, if she would make herself amenable to reason and the laws. He had assured himself that he was very much in love with her, and had already, in his imagination, received the distinguished heads of his party at Portray Castle. But he would give all this up—love, income, beauty, and castle—without a doubt, rather than find himself in the mess of having married a wife who had stolen a necklace, and who would not make restitution. He might marry her, and insist on giving it up afterward; but he foresaw terrible difficulties in the way of such an arrangement. 189 Lady Eustace was self-willed, and had already told him that she did not intend to keep the jewels in his house—but in her own! What should he do, so that no human being—not the most bigoted Tory that ever expressed scorn for a Whig lord—should be able to say that he had done wrong? He was engaged to the lady, and could not simply change his mind and give no reason. He believed in Mr. Camperdown; but he could hardly plead that belief, should he hereafter be accused of heartless misconduct. For aught he knew Lady Eustace might bring an action against him for breach of promise, and obtain a verdict and damages, and annihilate him as an Under-Secretary. How should he keep his hands quite clean?
Frank Greystock was, as far as he knew, Lizzie’s nearest relative in London. The dean was her uncle, but then the dean was down at Bobsborough. It might be necessary for him to go down to Bobsborough; but in the mean time he would see Frank Greystock. Greystock was as bitter a Tory as any in England. Greystock was the very man who had attacked him, Lord Fawn, in the House of Commons respecting the Sawab—making the attack quite personal—and that without a shadow of a cause! Within the short straight grooves of Lord Fawn’s intellect the remembrance of this supposed wrong was always running up and down, renewing its own soreness. He regarded Greystock as an enemy who would lose no opportunity of injuring him. In his weakness and littleness he was quite unable to judge of other men by himself. He would not go a hair’s breadth astray, if he knew it; but because Greystock had, in debate, called him timid and tyrannical, he believed that Greystock would stop short of nothing 190 that might injure him. And yet he must appeal to Greystock. He did appeal, and in answer to his appeal Frank came to him at the India House. But Frank, before he saw Lord Fawn, had, as was fitting, been with his cousin.
Nothing was decided at this interview. Lord Fawn became more than ever convinced that the member for Bobsborough was his determined enemy, and Frank was more convinced than ever that Lord Fawn was an empty, stiff-necked, self-sufficient prig.
Greystock, of course, took his cousin’s part. He was there to do so; and he himself did not really know whether Lizzie was or was not entitled to the diamonds. The lie which she had first fabricated for the benefit of Mr. Benjamin when she had the jewels valued, and which she had since told with different degrees of precision to various people—to Lady Linlithgow, to Mr. Camperdown, to Lucy, and to Lord Fawn—she now repeated with increased precision to her cousin. Sir Florian, in putting the trinket into her hands, had explained to her that it was very valuable, and that she was to regard it as her own peculiar property. “If it was an heirloom he couldn’t do it,” Frank had said, with all the confidence of a practising barrister.
“He made it over as an heirloom to me,” said Lizzie, with plaintive tenderness.
“That’s nonsense, dear Lizzie.” Then she smiled sweetly on him, and patted the back of his hand with hers. She was very gentle with him, and bore his assumed superiority with pretty meekness. “He could not make it over as an heirloom to you. If it was his to give, he could give it to you.”
“It was his—certainly.”191
“That is just what I cannot tell as yet, and what must be found out. If the diamonds formed part of an heirloom—and there is evidence that it is so—you must give them up. Sir Florian could only give away what was his own to give.”
“But Lord Fawn had no right to dictate.”
“Certainly not,” said Frank; and then he made a promise, which he knew to be rash, that he would stand by his pretty cousin in this affair. “I don’t see why you should assume that Lady Eustace is keeping property that doesn’t belong to her,” he said to Lord Fawn.
“I go by what Camperdown tells me,” said Lord Fawn.
“Mr. Camperdown is a very excellent attorney, and a most respectable man,” said Greystock. “I have nothing on earth to say against Mr. Camperdown. But Mr. Camperdown isn’t the law and the prophets, nor yet can we allow him to be judge and jury in such a case as this.”
“Surely, Mr. Greystock, you wouldn’t wish it to go before a jury.”
“You don’t understand me, Lord Fawn. If any claim be really made for these jewels by Mr. John Eustace on the part of the heir, or on behalf of the estate, a statement had better be submitted to counsel. The family deeds must be inspected, and no doubt counsel would agree in telling my cousin, Lady Eustace, what she should or what she should not do. In the mean time, I understand that you are engaged to marry her.”
“I was engaged to her certainly,” said Lord Fawn.
“You can hardly mean to assert, my lord, that you 192 intend to be untrue to your promise, and to throw over your own engagement because my cousin has expressed her wish to retain property which she believes to be her own!” This was said in a tone which made Lord Fawn surer than ever that Greystock was his enemy to the knife. Personally, he was not a coward; and he knew enough of the world to be quite sure that Greystock would not attempt any personal encounter. But morally, Lord Fawn was a coward, and he did fear that the man before him would work him some bitter injury. “You cannot mean that,” continued Frank, “and you will probably allow me to assure my cousin that she misunderstood you in the matter.”
“I’d sooner see Mr. Camperdown again before I say anything.”
“I cannot understand, Lord Fawn, that a gentleman should require an attorney to tell him what to do in such a case as this.” They were standing now, and Lord Fawn’s countenance was heavy, troubled, and full of doubt. He said nothing, and was probably altogether unaware how eloquent was his face. “My cousin, Lady Eustace,” continued Frank, “must not be kept in this suspense. I agree on her behalf that her title to these trinkets must be made the subject of inquiry by persons adequate to form a judgment. Of course, I, as her relative, shall take no part in that inquiry. But as her relative, I must demand from you an admission that your engagement with her cannot in any way be allowed to depend on the fate of those jewels. She has chosen to accept you as her future husband, and I am bound to see that she is treated with good faith, honour, and fair observance.”
Frank made his demand very well, while Lord Fawn 193 was looking like a whipped dog. “Of course,” said his lordship, “all I want is, that the right thing should be done.”
“The right thing will be done. My cousin wishes to keep nothing that is not her own. I may tell her, then, that she will receive from you an assurance that you have had no intention of departing from your word.” After this, Lord Fawn made some attempt at a stipulation that this assurance to Lizzie was to be founded on the counter-assurance given to him that the matter of the diamonds should be decided by proper legal authority; but Frank would not submit to this, and at last the Under-Secretary yielded. The engagement was to remain in force. Counsel were to be employed. The two lovers were not to see each other just at present. And when the matter had been decided by the lawyers, Lord Fawn was to express his regret for having suspected his lady-love! That was the verbal agreement, according Frank Greystock’s view of it. Lord Fawn, no doubt, would have declared that he had never consented to the latter stipulation.
About a week after this there was a meeting at Mr. Camperdown’s chambers. Greystock, as his cousin’s friend, attended to hear what Mr. Camperdown had to say in the presence of Lord Fawn and John Eustace. He, Frank, had in the mean time been down to Richmond, had taken Lucy to his arms as his future bride, and had been closeted with Lady Fawn. As a man who was doing his duty by Lucy Morris, he was welcomed and made much of by her ladyship; but it had been impossible to leave Lizzie’s name altogether unmentioned, and Frank had spoken as the champion of 194 his cousin. Of course there had arisen something of ill-feeling between the two. Lady Fawn had taught herself to hate Lizzie, and was desirous that the match should be over, diamonds or no diamonds. She could not quite say this to her visitor, but she showed her feeling very plainly. Frank was courteous, cold, and resolute in presuming, or pretending to presume, that as a matter of course the marriage would take place. Lady Fawn intended to be civil, but she could not restrain her feeling; and though she did not dare to say that her son would have nothing more to do with Lizzie Eustace, she showed very plainly that she intended to work with that object. Of course the two did not part as cordial friends, and of course poor Lucy perceived that it was so.
Before the meeting took place, Mr. Camperdown had been at work looking over old deeds. It is undoubtedly the case that things often become complicated which, from the greatness of their importance, should have been kept clear as running water. The diamonds in question had been bought with other jewels, by Sir Florian’s grandfather, on the occasion of his marriage with the daughter of a certain duke, on which occasion old family jewels, which were said to have been heirlooms, were sold or given in exchange as part value for those then purchased. This grandfather, who had also been Sir Florian in his time, had expressly stated in his will that these jewels were to be regarded as an heirloom in the family, and had as such left them to his eldest son, and to that son’s eldest son, should such a child be born. His eldest son had possessed them, but not that son’s son. There was such a Eustace born, but he had died before his father. 195 The younger son of that old Sir Florian had then succeeded as Sir Thomas, and he was the father of that Florian who had married Lizzie Eustace. That last Sir Florian had therefore been the fourth in succession from the old Sir Florian by whom the will had been made, and who had directed that these jewels should be regarded as heirlooms in the family. The two intermediate baronets had made no allusion to the diamonds in any deeds executed by them. Indeed, Sir Florian’s father had died without a will. There were other jewels, larger but much less valuable than the diamonds, still in the hands of the Messrs. Garnett, as to which no question was raised. The late Sir Florian had, by his will, left all the property in his house at Portray to his widow, but all property elsewhere to his heir. This was what Mr. Camperdown had at last learned, but he had been forced to admit to himself, while learning this, that there was confusion.
He was confident enough, however, that there was no difficulty in the matter. The Messrs. Garnett were able to say that the necklace had been in their keeping, with various other jewels still in their possession, from the time of the death of the late Lady Eustace, up to the marriage of the late Sir Florian, her son. They stated the date on which the jewels were given up to be the 24th of September, which was the day after Sir Florian’s return from Scotland with his bride. Lizzie’s first statement had coincided with this entry in the Messrs. Garnett’s books; but latterly she had asserted that the necklace had been given to her in Scotland. When Mr. Camperdown examined the entry himself in the jeweller’s book, he found the figures to be so blotted that they might represent either the 4th or 24th September. 196 Now, the 4th September had been the day preceding Sir Florian’s marriage. John Eustace only knew that he had seen the necklace worn in Scotland by his mother. The bishop only knew that he had often seen them on the neck of his sister-in-law when, as was very often the case, she appeared in full-blown society. Mr. Camperdown believed that he had traced two stories to Lizzie—one, repeated more than once, that the diamonds had been given to her in London, and a second, made to himself, that they had been given to her at Portray. He himself believed that they had never been in Scotland since the death of the former Lady Eustace; but he was quite confident that he could trust altogether to the disposition made of them by the old Sir Florian. There could be no doubt as to these being the diamonds there described, although the setting had been altered. Old Mr. Garnett stated that he would swear to them if he saw the necklace.
“You cannot suppose that Lady Eustace wishes to keep anything that is not her own,” said Frank Greystock.
“Of course not,” said John Eustace.
“Nobody imagines it,” said Mr. Camperdown. Lord Fawn, who felt that he ought not to be there, and who did not know whether he might with a better grace take Lizzie’s part or a part against her, said nothing. “But,” continued Mr. Camperdown, “there is luckily no doubt as to the facts. The diamonds in question formed a part of a set of most valuable ornaments settled in the family by Sir Florian Eustace in 1799. The deed was drawn up by my grandfather, and is now here. I do not know how we are to have 197 further proof. Will you look at the deed, Mr. Greystock, and at the will?” Frank suggested that as it might probably be expedient to take advice on the subject professionally, he had rather not look at the deed. Anything which he might say, on looking at the document now, could have no weight. “But why should any advice be necessary,” said Mr. Camperdown, “when the matter is so clear?”
“My dear sir,” said Frank, “my cousin, Lady Eustace, is strong in her confidence that her late husband intended to give them to her as her own, and that he would not have done this without the power of doing so.” Now Mr. Camperdown was quite sure that Lizzie was lying in this, and could therefore make no adequate answer. “Your experience must probably have told you,” continued Frank, “that there is considerable difficulty in dealing with the matter of heirlooms.”
“I never heard of any such difficulty,” said Mr. Camperdown.
“People generally understand it all so clearly,” said Lord Fawn.
“The late Sir Florian does not appear to have understood it very clearly,” said Frank.
“Let her put them into the hands of any indifferent person or firm till the matter is decided,” said Mr. Camperdown. “They will be much safer so than in her keeping.”
“I think they are quite safe,” said Frank.
And this was all that took place at that meeting. As Mr. Camperdown said to John Eustace, it was manifest enough that she meant “to hang on to them.” “I only hope Lord Fawn will not be fool enough to marry her,” 198 said Mr. Camperdown. Lord Fawn himself was of the same way of thinking; but then how was he to clear his character of the charge which would be brought against him; and how was he to stand his ground before Frank Greystock?
the reader knows what had come of it. . . . The reader also knows what had come of that
[We are at the beginning of a new installment. The reader may need to be gently reminded of what happened in the last few chapters, a month ago.]
“Doan’t thou marry for munny, but goa where munny is.”
[I understand “doan’t”, but what is “munny” supposed to represent, phonetically?]
If he should decide on posting it
l in “should” invisible
But to Amelia something did leak out
[We learned in Chapter IX that Amelia is the brains of the family.]
Where is my mother?
[This usage drives me bonkers. He is talking to his sister; why can’t he say “Where is Mother?” like a normal human being?]
“But that would have been too late,” said Lady Fawn severely.
[Maybe, maybe not. The year is 1871; unless the marriage settlement explicitly says otherwise, everything Lizzie owns will become Lord Fawn’s the moment they are married.]
“A hundred guineas to do what you please with!”
[Remember this bribe. Later chapters will refer back to it several times.]
For aught he knew Lady Eustace might bring an action against him for breach of promise, and obtain a verdict and damages, and annihilate him as an Under-Secretary.
[Potential damage to his career and reputation, sure. But just how much could Lizzie get in monetary damages, when it is plain that she is the one with the money?]
“He made it over as an heirloom to me”
[In some cultures this would have made perfect sense: a woman’s jewelry is inherited from mother to daughter. But in England—“That’s nonsense, dear Lizzie.”]
That was the verbal agreement, according to Frank Greystock’s view of it.
word “to” missing
[An early reader has helpfully pointed out the omission:
The word is present in Fortnightly Review. But I do wish the author had said “oral agreement”.]
old family jewels, which were said to have been heirlooms, were sold or given in exchange
[But, but, but—splutter— How could they be sold, if they were heirlooms? It’s no use saying that the earlier Sir Florian’s heir had consented to trading in a bunch of dowdy old-fashioned jewels for some sparkly new ones—the equivalent of breaking an entail. The record explicitly said that the sale took place on the occasion of old Sir Florian’s marriage. No heir in sight.]
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.