Lady Eustace had been rather cross on the journey down to Scotland; and had almost driven the unfortunate Macnulty to think that Lady Linlithgow or the workhouse would be better than this young tyrant; but on her arrival at her own house she was for a while all smiles and kindness. During the journey she had been angry without thought, but was almost entitled to be excused for her anger. Could Miss Macnulty have realised the amount of oppression inflicted on her patroness by the box of diamonds, she would have forgiven anything. Hitherto there had been some secrecy, or at any rate some privacy, attached to the matter; but now that odious lawyer had discussed the matter aloud, in the very streets, in the presence of servants, and Lady Eustace had felt that it was discussed also by every porter on the railway from London down to Troon, the station in Scotland at which her own carriage met her to take her to her own castle. The night at Carlisle had been terrible to her, and the diamonds had never been for a moment off her mind. Perhaps the worst of it all was that her own man-servant and maid-servant had heard the claim which had been so violently made by Mr. Camperdown. There are people in that respect very fortunately circumstanced, whose servants, as a matter of course, know all their 249 affairs, have an interest in their concerns, sympathise with their demands, feel their wants, and are absolutely at one with them. But in such cases the servants are really known, and are almost as completely a part of the family as the sons and daughters. There may be disruptions and quarrels; causes may arise for ending the existing condition of things; but while this condition lasts the servants in such households are for the most part only too well inclined to fight the battles of their employers. Mr. Binns, the butler, would almost foam at the mouth if it were suggested to him that the plate at Silvercup Hall was not the undoubted property of the old squire; and Mrs. Pouncebox could not be made to believe, by any amount of human evidence, that the jewels which her lady has worn for the last fifteen years are not her ladyship’s very own. Binns would fight for the plate, and so would Pouncebox for the jewels, almost till they were cut to pieces. The preservation of these treasures on behalf of those who paid them their wages and fed them, who occasionally scolded them, but always succoured them, would be their point of honour. No torture would get the key of the cellar from Binns; no threats extract from Pouncebox a secret of the toilet. But poor Lizzie Eustace had no Binns and no Pouncebox. They are plants that grow slowly. There was still too much of the mushroom about Lady Eustace to permit of her possessing such treasures. Her footman was six feet high, was not bad-looking, and was called Thomas. She knew no more about him, and was far too wise to expect sympathy from him, or other aid than the work for which she paid him. 250 Her own maid was somewhat nearer to her; but not much nearer. The girl’s name was Patience Crabstick, and she could do hair well. Lizzie knew but little more of her than that.
Lizzie considered herself to be still engaged to be married to Lord Fawn, but there was no sympathy to be had in that quarter. Frank Greystock might be induced to sympathise with her, but hardly after the fashion which Lizzie desired. And then sympathy in that direction would be so dangerous should she decide upon going on with the Fawn marriage. For the present she had quarrelled with Lord Fawn; but the very bitterness of that quarrel, and the decision with which her betrothed had declared his intention of breaking off the match, made her the more resolute that she would marry him. During her journey to Portray she had again determined that he should be her husband; and, if so, advanced sympathy—sympathy that would be pleasantly tender with her cousin Frank—would be dangerous. She would be quite willing to accept even Miss Macnulty’s sympathy if that humble lady would give it to her of the kind she wanted. She declared to herself that she could pour herself out on Miss Macnulty’s bosom, and mingle her tears even with Miss Macnulty’s if only Miss Macnulty would believe in her. If Miss Macnulty would be enthusiastic about the jewels, enthusiastic as to the wickedness of Lord Fawn, enthusiastic in praising Lizzie herself, Lizzie—so she told herself—would have showered all the sweets of female friendship even on Miss Macnulty’s head. But Miss Macnulty was as hard as a deal board. She did as she was bidden, thereby earning her bread. But there was no 251 tenderness in her; no delicacy; no feeling; no comprehension. It was thus that Lady Eustace judged her humble companion; and in one respect she judged her rightly. Miss Macnulty did not believe in Lady Eustace, and was not sufficiently gifted to act up to a belief which she did not entertain.
Poor Lizzie! The world, in judging of people who are false, and bad, and selfish, and prosperous to outward appearances, is apt to be hard upon them, and to forget the punishments which generally accompany such faults. Lizzie Eustace was very false, and bad, and selfish, and, we may say, very prosperous also; but in the midst of all she was thoroughly uncomfortable. She was never at ease. There was no green spot in her life with which she could be contented. And though, after a fashion, she knew herself to be false and bad, she was thoroughly convinced that she was ill-used by everybody about her. She was being very badly treated by Lord Fawn; but she flattered herself that she would be able to make Lord Fawn know more of her character before she had done with him.
Portray Castle was really a castle, not simply a country mansion so called, but a stone edifice with battlements and a round tower at one corner, and a gate which looked as if it might have had a portcullis, and narrow windows in a portion of it, and a cannon mounted upon a low roof, and an excavation called the moat, but which was now a fantastic and somewhat picturesque garden, running round two sides of it. In very truth, though a portion of the castle was undoubtedly old and had been built when strength was needed for defence and probably for the custody of booty, the battlements, and the round tower, 252 and the awe-inspiring gateway had all been added by one of the late Sir Florians. But the castle looked like a castle, and was interesting. As a house it was not particularly eligible, the castle form of domestic architecture being exigent in its nature, and demanding that space, which in less ambitious houses can be applied to comfort, shall be surrendered to magnificence. There was a great hall, and a fine dining-room, with plate-glass windows looking out upon the sea; but the other sitting-rooms were insignificant, and the bedrooms were here and there, and were for the most part small and dark. That, however, which Lizzie had appropriated to her own use was a grand chamber, looking also out upon the open sea.
The castle stood upon a bluff of land, with a fine prospect of the Firth of Clyde, and with a distant view of the Isle of Arran. When the air was clear, as it often is clear there, the Arran hills could be seen from Lizzie’s window, and she was proud of talking of the prospect. In other respects, perhaps, the castle was somewhat desolate. There were a few stunted trees around it, but timber had not prospered there. There was a grand kitchen garden, or rather a kitchen garden which had been intended to be grand; but since Lizzie’s reign had been commenced, the grandeur had been neglected. Grand kitchen gardens are expensive, and Lizzie had at once been firm in reducing the under-gardeners from five men to one and a boy. The head gardener had of course left her at once; but that had not broken her heart, and she had hired a modest man at a guinea a week instead of a scientific artist, who was by no means modest, with a hundred and twenty pounds a year, and coals, house, milk, and 253 all other horticultural luxuries. Though Lizzie was prosperous and had a fine income, she was already aware that she could not keep up a town and country establishment and be a rich woman on four thousand a year. There was a flower garden and small shrubbery within the so-called moat; but, otherwise, the grounds of Portray Castle were not alluring. The place was sombre, exposed, and in winter very cold; and except that the expanse of sea beneath the hill on which stood the castle was fine and open, it had no great claim to praise on the score of scenery. Behind the castle, and away from the sea, the low mountains belonging to the estate stretched for some eight or ten miles; and toward the further end of them, where stood a shooting-lodge, called always The Cottage, the landscape became rough and grand. It was in this cottage that Frank Greystock was to be sheltered with his friend, when he came down to shoot what Lady Eustace had called her three annual grouse.
She ought to have been happy and comfortable. There will, of course, be some to say that a young widow should not be happy and comfortable—that she should be weeping her lost lord, and subject to the desolation of bereavement. But as the world goes now, young widows are not miserable; and there is, perhaps, a growing tendency in society to claim from them year by year still less of any misery that may be avoidable. Suttee propensities of all sorts, from burning alive down to bombazine and hideous forms of clothing, are becoming less and less popular among the nations, and women are beginning to learn that, let what misfortunes will come upon them, it is well for them to be as happy as their nature will allow 254 them to be. A woman may thoroughly respect her husband, and mourn him truly, honestly, with her whole heart, and yet enjoy thoroughly the good things which he has left behind for her use. It was not, at any rate, sorrow for the lost Sir Florian that made Lady Eustace uncomfortable. She had her child. She had her income. She had her youth and beauty. She had Portray Castle. She had a new lover, and, if she chose to be quit of him, not liking him well enough for the purpose, she might undoubtedly have another whom she would like better. She had hitherto been thoroughly successful in her life. And yet she was unhappy. What was it that she wanted?
She had been a very clever child—a clever, crafty child; and now she was becoming a clever woman. Her craft remained with her; but so keen was her outlook upon the world, that she was beginning to perceive that craft, let it be never so crafty, will in the long run miss its own object. She actually envied the simplicity of Lucy Morris, for whom she delighted to find evil names, calling her demure, a prig, a sly puss, and so on. But she could see—or half see—that Lucy with her simplicity was stronger than was she with her craft. She had nearly captivated Frank Greystock with her wiles, but without any wiles Lucy had captivated him altogether. And a man captivated by wiles was only captivated for a time, whereas a man won by simplicity would be won for ever—if he himself were worth the winning. And this too she felt—that let her success be what it might, she could not be happy unless she could win a man’s heart. She had won Sir Florian’s, but that had been but for an hour—for a month or two. And then Sir Florian had never 255 really won hers. Could not she be simple? Could not she act simplicity so well that the thing acted should be as powerful as the thing itself; perhaps even more powerful? Poor Lizzie Eustace! In thinking over all this she saw a great deal. It was wonderful that she should see so much and tell herself so many home truths. But there was one truth she could not see, and therefore could not tell it to herself. She had not a heart to give. It had become petrified during those lessons of early craft in which she had taught herself how to get the better of Messrs. Harter & Benjamin, of Sir Florian Eustace, of Lady Linlithgow, and of Mr. Camperdown.
Her ladyship had now come down to her country house, leaving London and all its charms before the end of the season, actuated by various motives. In the first place, the house in Mount street was taken furnished, by the month, and the servants were hired after the same fashion, and the horses jobbed. Lady Eustace was already sufficiently intimate with her accounts to know that she would save two hundred pounds by not remaining another month or three weeks in London, and sufficiently observant of her own affairs to have perceived that such saving was needed. And then it appeared to her that her battle with Lord Fawn could be better fought from a distance than at close quarters. London, too, was becoming absolutely distasteful to her. There were many things there that tended to make her unhappy, and so few that she could enjoy. She was afraid of Mr. Camperdown, and ever on the rack lest some dreadful thing should come upon her in respect of the necklace, some horrible paper served upon her from a magistrate, ordering her appearance 256 at Newgate, or perhaps before the Lord Chancellor, or a visit from policemen who would be empowered to search for and carry off the iron box. And then there was so little in her London life to gratify her! It is pleasant to win in a fight; but to be always fighting is not pleasant. Except in those moments, few and far between, in which she was alone with her cousin Frank—and perhaps in those other moments in which she wore her diamonds—she had but little in London that she enjoyed. She still thought that a time would come when it would be otherwise. Under these influences she had actually made herself believe that she was sighing for the country, and for solitude; for the wide expanse of her own bright waves—as she had called them—and for the rocks of dear Portray. She had told Miss Macnulty and Augusta Fawn that she thirsted for the breezes of Ayrshire, so that she might return to her books and her thoughts. Amid the whirl of London it was impossible either to read or to think. And she believed it too herself. She so believed it that on the first morning of her arrival she took a little volume in her pocket, containing Shelley’s “Queen Mab,” and essayed to go down upon the rocks. She had actually breakfasted at nine, and was out on the sloping grounds below the castle before ten, having made some boast to Miss Macnulty about the morning air.
She scrambled down, not very far down, but a little way beneath the garden gate, to a spot on which a knob of rock cropped out from the scanty herbage of the incipient cliff. Fifty yards lower the real rocks began; and, though the real rocks were not very rocky, not precipitous or even bold, and were partially covered 257 with salt-fed mosses down almost to the sea, nevertheless they justified her in talking about her rock-bound shore. The shore was hers, for her life, and it was rock-bound. This knob she had espied from her windows; and, indeed, had been thinking of it for the last week, as a place appropriate to solitude and Shelley. She had stood on it before, and had stretched her arms with enthusiasm toward the just-visible mountains of Arran. On that occasion the weather, perhaps, had been cool; but now a blazing sun was overhead, and when she had been seated half a minute, and “Queen Mab” had been withdrawn from her pocket, she found that it would not do. It would not do even with the canopy she could make for herself with her parasol. So she stood up and looked about herself for shade; for shade in some spot in which she could still look out upon “her dear wide ocean with its glittering smile.” For it was thus that she would talk about the mouth of the Clyde. Shelter near her there was none. The scrubby trees lay nearly half a mile to the right, and up the hill too. She had once clambered down to the actual shore, and might do so again. But she doubted that there would be shelter even there; and the clambering up on that former occasion had been a nuisance, and would be a worse nuisance now. Thinking of all this, and feeling the sun keenly, she gradually retraced her steps to the garden within the moat, and seated herself, Shelley in hand, within the summer-house. The bench was narrow, hard, and broken; and there were some snails which discomposed her; but, nevertheless, she would make the best of it. Her darling “Queen Mab” must be read without the coarse, inappropriate, every-day surroundings of a drawing-room; 258 and it was now manifest to her that unless she could get up much earlier in the morning, or come out to her reading after sunset, the knob of rock would not avail her.
She began her reading, resolved that she would enjoy her poetry in spite of the narrow seat. She had often talked of “Queen Mab,” and perhaps she thought she had read it. This, however, was in truth her first attempt at that work. “How wonderful is Death, Death and his brother Sleep.” Then she half-closed the volume, and thought that she enjoyed the idea. Death—and his brother Sleep! She did not know why they should be more wonderful than Action, or Life, or Thought; but the words were of a nature which would enable her to remember them, and they would be good for quoting. “Sudden arose Ianthe’s soul; it stood all beautiful in naked purity.” The name of Ianthe suited her exactly. And the antithesis conveyed to her mind by naked purity struck her strongly, and she determined to learn the passage by heart. Eight or nine lines were printed separately, like a stanza, and the labour would not be great, and the task, when done, would be complete. “Instinct with inexpressible beauty and grace, Each stain of earthliness Had passed away, it resumed Its native dignity, and stood Immortal amid ruin.” Which was instinct with beauty, the stain or the soul, she did not stop to inquire, and may be excused for not understanding. “Ah,” she exclaimed to herself, “how true it is; how one feels it; how it comes home to one!—‘Sudden arose Ianthe’s soul.’” And then she walked about the garden, repeating the words to herself, and almost forgetting the heat. “‘Each stain of earthliness had 259 passed away.’ Ha; yes. They will pass away and become instinct with beauty and grace.” A dim idea came upon her that when this happy time should arrive, no one would claim her necklace from her, and that the man at the stables would not be so disagreeably punctual in sending in his bill. “‘All beautiful in naked purity!’” What a tawdry world was this in which clothes and food and houses are necessary! How perfectly that boy poet had understood it all. “‘Immortal amid ruin!’” She liked the idea of the ruin almost as well as that of the immortality, and the stains quite as well as the purity. As immortality must come, and as stains were instinct with grace, why be afraid of ruin? But then, if people go wrong—at least women—they are not asked out anywhere! “‘Sudden arose Ianthe’s soul; it stood all beautiful——.’” And so the piece was learned, and Lizzie felt that she had devoted her hour to poetry in a quite rapturous manner. At any rate she had a bit to quote; and though in truth she did not understand the exact bearing of the image, she had so studied her gestures and so modulated her voice, that she knew that she could be effective. She did not then care to carry her reading further, but returned with the volume into the house. Though the passage about Ianthe’s soul comes very early in the work, she was now quite familiar with the poem, and when in after days she spoke of it as a thing of beauty that she had made her own by long study, she actually did not know that she was lying. As she grew older, however, she quickly became wiser, and was aware that in learning one passage of a poem it is expedient to select one in the middle or at the end. The world is so cruelly observant nowadays that 260 even men and women who have not themselves read their “Queen Mab” will know from what part of the poem a morsel is extracted, and will not give you credit for a page beyond that from which your passage comes.
After lunch Lizzie invited Miss Macnulty to sit at the open window of the drawing-room and look out upon the “glittering waves.” In giving Miss Macnulty her due we must acknowledge that, though she owned no actual cleverness herself, had no cultivated tastes, read but little, and that little of a colourless kind, and thought nothing of her hours but that she might get rid of them and live, yet she had a certain power of insight, and could see a thing. Lizzie Eustace was utterly powerless to impose upon her. Such as Lizzie was, Miss Macnulty was willing to put up with her and accept her bread. The people whom she had known had been either worthless—as had been her own father, or cruel—like Lady Linlithgow, or false—as was Lady Eustace. Miss Macnulty knew that worthlessness, cruelty, and falseness had to be endured by such as she. And she could bear them without caring much about them; not condemning them, even within her own heart, very heavily. But she was strangely deficient in this, that she could not call these qualities by other names, even to the owners of them. She was unable to pretend to believe Lizzie’s rhapsodies. It was hardly conscience or a grand spirit of truth that actuated her, as much as a want of the courage needed for lying. She had not had the face to call old Lady Linlithgow kind, and therefore old Lady Linlithgow had turned her out of the house. When Lady Eustace called on her for sympathy, she had not courage 261 enough to dare to attempt the bit of acting which would be necessary for sympathetic expression. She was like a dog or a child, and was unable not to be true. Lizzie was longing for a little mock sympathy—was longing to show off her Shelley, and was very kind to Miss Macnulty when she got the poor lady into the recess of the window. “This is nice; is it not?” she said, as she spread her hand out through the open space toward the “wide expanse of glittering waves.”
“Very nice, only it glares so,” said Miss Macnulty.
“Ah, I love the full warmth of the real summer. With me it always seems that the sun is needed to bring to true ripeness the fruit of the heart.” Nevertheless she had been much troubled both by the heat and by the midges when she tried to sit on the stone. “I always think of those few glorious days which I passed with my darling Florian at Naples; days too glorious because they were so few.” Now Miss Macnulty knew some of the history of those days and of their glory, and knew also how the widow had borne her loss.
“I suppose the bay of Naples is fine,” she said.
“It is not only the bay. There are scenes there which ravish you, only it is necessary that there should be some one with you that can understand you. ‘Soul of Ianthe!’” she said, meaning to apostrophise that of the deceased Sir Florian. “You have read ‘Queen Mab’?”
“I don’t know that I ever did. If I have, I have forgotten it.”
“Ah, you should read it. I know nothing in the English language that brings home to one so often one’s own best feelings and aspirations. ‘It stands all 262 beautiful in naked purity,’” she continued, still alluding to poor Sir Florian’s soul. “‘Instinct with inexpressible beauty and grace, each stain of earthliness had passed away.’ I can see him now in all his manly beauty, as we used to sit together by the hour, looking over the waters. Oh, Julia, the thing itself has gone, the earthly reality; but the memory of it will live forever.”
“He was a very handsome man certainly,” said Miss Macnulty, finding herself forced to say something.
“I see him now,” she went on, still gazing out upon the shining water. “‘It reassumed its native dignity and stood primeval amid ruin.’ Is not that a glorious idea, gloriously worded?” She had forgotten one word and used a wrong epithet; but it sounded just as well. Primeval seemed to her to be a very poetical word.
“To tell the truth,” said Miss Macnulty, “I never understand poetry when it is quoted unless I happen to know the passage beforehand. I think I’ll go away from this, for the light is too much for my poor old eyes.” Certainly Miss Macnulty had fallen into a profession for which she was not suited.263
Lady Eustace could make nothing of Miss Macnulty in the way of sympathy, and could not bear her disappointment with patience. It was hardly to be expected that she should do so. She paid a great deal for Miss Macnulty. In a moment of rash generosity, and at a time when she hardly knew what money meant, she had promised Miss Macnulty seventy pounds for the first year and seventy for the second, should the arrangement last longer than a twelvemonth. The second year had been now commenced, and Lady Eustace was beginning to think that seventy pounds was a great deal of money when so very little was given in return. Lady Linlithgow had paid her dependent no fixed salary. And then there was the lady’s “keep” and first-class travelling when they went up and down to Scotland, and cab-fares in London when it was desirable that Miss Macnulty should absent herself. Lizzie, reckoning all up, and thinking that for so much her friend ought to be ready to discuss Ianthe’s soul, or any other kindred subject, at a moment’s warning, would become angry and would tell herself that she was being swindled out of her money. She knew how necessary it was that she should have some companion at the present emergency of her life, and therefore 264 could not at once send Miss Macnulty away; but she would sometimes become very cross and would tell poor Macnulty that she was—a fool. Upon the whole, however, to be called a fool was less objectionable to Miss Macnulty than were demands for sympathy which she did not know how to give.
Those first ten days of August went very slowly with Lady Eustace. “Queen Mab” got itself poked away, and was heard of no more. But there were other books. A huge box full of novels had come down, and Miss Macnulty was a great devourer of novels. If Lady Eustace would talk to her about the sorrows of the poorest heroine that ever saw her lover murdered before her eyes, and then come to life again with ten thousand pounds a year, for a period of three weeks—or till another heroine, who had herself been murdered, obliterated the former horrors from her plastic mind—Miss Macnulty could discuss the catastrophe with the keenest interest. And Lizzie, finding herself to be, as she told herself, unstrung, fell also into novel-reading. She had intended during this vacant time to master the “Fairy Queen”; but the “Fairy Queen” fared even worse than “Queen Mab”; and the studies of Portray Castle were confined to novels. For poor Macnulty, if she could only be left alone, this was well enough. To have her meals, and her daily walk, and her fill of novels, and to be left alone, was all that she asked of the gods. But it was not so with Lady Eustace. She asked much more than that, and was now thoroughly discontented with her own idleness. She was sure that she could have read Spenser from sunrise to sundown, with no other break than an hour or two given to Shelley, if only there had been some one to sympathise 265 with her in her readings. But there was no one, and she was very cross. Then there came a letter to her from her cousin, which for that morning brought some life back to the castle. “I have seen Lord Fawn,” said the letter, “and I have also seen Mr. Camperdown. As it would be very hard to explain what took place at these interviews by letter, and as I shall be at Portray Castle on the 20th, I will not make the attempt. We shall go down by the night train, and I will get over to you as soon as I have dressed and had my breakfast. I suppose I can find some kind of a pony for the journey. The ‘we’ consists of myself and my friend Mr. Herriot, a man whom I think you will like, if you will condescend to see him, though he is a barrister like myself. You need express no immediate condescension in his favour, as I shall of course come over alone on Wednesday morning. Yours always affectionately, F. G.”
The letter she received on the Sunday morning, and as the Wednesday named for Frank’s coming was the next Wednesday, and was close at hand, she was in rather a better humour than she had displayed since the poets had failed her. “What a blessing it will be,” she said, “to have somebody to speak to.”
This was not complimentary, but Miss Macnulty did not want compliments. “Yes, indeed,” she said. “Of course you will be glad to see your cousin.”
“I shall be glad to see anything in the shape of a man. I declare I have felt almost inclined to ask the minister from Craigie to elope with me.”
“He has got seven children,” said Miss Macnulty.
“Yes, poor man, and a wife, and not more than enough to live upon. I daresay he would have come. 266 By the by, I wonder whether there’s a pony about the place.”
“A pony!” Miss Macnulty of course supposed that it was needed for the purpose of the suggested elopement.
“Yes; I suppose you know what a pony is? Of course there ought to be a shooting pony at the cottage for these men. My poor head has so many things to work upon that I had forgotten it; and you’re never any good at thinking of things.”
“I didn’t know that gentlemen wanted ponies for shooting.”
“I wonder what you do know? Of course there must be a pony.”
“I suppose you’ll want two?”
“No, I sha’n’t. You don’t suppose that men always go riding about. But I want one. What had I better do?” Miss Macnulty suggested that Gowran should be consulted. Now Gowran was the steward, and bailiff, and manager, and factotum about the place, who bought a cow or sold one if occasion required, and saw that nobody stole anything, and who knew the boundaries of the farms, and all about the tenants, and looked after the pipes when frost came, and was an honest, domineering, hard-working, intelligent Scotchman, who had been brought up to love the Eustaces, and who hated his present mistress with all his heart. He did not leave her service, having an idea in his mind that it was now the great duty of his life to save Portray from her ravages. Lizzie fully returned the compliment of the hatred, and was determined to rid herself of Andy Gowran’s services as soon as possible. He had been called Andy by the late Sir Florian, and, 267 though every one else about the place called him Mr. Gowran, Lady Eustace thought it became her, as the man’s mistress, to treat him as he had been treated by the late master. So she called him Andy. But she was resolved to get rid of him, as soon as she should dare. There were things which it was essential that somebody about the place should know, and no one knew them but Mr. Gowran. Every servant in the castle might rob her, were it not for the protection afforded by Mr. Gowran. In that affair of the garden it was Mr. Gowran who had enabled her to conquer the horticultural Leviathan who had oppressed her, and who, in point of wages, had been a much bigger man than Mr. Gowran himself. She trusted Mr. Gowran and hated him, whereas Mr. Gowran hated her, and did not trust her.
“I believe you think that nothing can be done at Portray except by that man,” said Lady Eustace.
“He’ll know how much you ought to pay for the pony.”
“Yes, and get some brute not fit for my cousin to ride, on purpose, perhaps, to break his neck.”
“Then I should ask Mr. Macallum, the postmaster of Troon, for I have seen three or four very quiet-looking ponies standing in the carts at his door.”
“Macnulty, if there ever was an idiot you are one,” said Lady Eustace, throwing up her hands. “To think that I should get a pony for my cousin Frank out of one of the mail carts.”
“I daresay I am an idiot,” said Miss Macnulty, resuming her novel.
Lady Eustace was, of course, obliged to have recourse to Gowran, to whom she applied on the Monday 268 morning. Not even Lizzie Eustace, on behalf of her cousin Frank, would have dared to disturb Mr. Gowran with considerations respecting a pony on the Sabbath. On the Monday morning she found Mr. Gowran superintending four boys and three old women, who were making a bit of her ladyship’s hay on the ground above the castle. The ground about the castle was poor and exposed, and her ladyship’s hay was apt to be late.
“Andy,” she said, “I shall want to get a pony for the gentlemen who are coming to the cottage. It must be there by Tuesday evening.”
“A pownie, my leddie?”
“Yes; a pony. I suppose a pony may be purchased in Ayrshire, though of all places in the world it seems to have the fewest of the comforts of life.”
“Them as find it like that, my leddie, needn’t bide there.”
“Never mind. You will have the kindness to have a pony purchased and put into the stables of the cottage on Tuesday afternoon. There are stables, no doubt.”
“Oh, ay, there’s shelter, nae doot, for mair pownies than they’s ride. When the cottage was biggit, my leddie, there was nae cause for sparing nowt.” Andy Gowran was continually throwing her comparative poverty in poor Lizzie’s teeth, and there was nothing he could do which displeased her more.
“And I needn’t spare my cousin the use of a pony,” she said grandiloquently, but feeling as she did so that she was exposing herself before the man. “You’ll have the goodness to procure one for him on Tuesday.”
“But there ain’t aits nor yet fother, nor nowt for bedding down. And wha’s to tent the pownie? 269 There’s mair in keeping a pownie than your leddyship thinks. It’ll be a matter of auchten and saxpence a week, will a pownie.” Mr. Gowran, as he expressed his prudential scruples, put a very strong emphasis indeed on the sixpence.
“Very well. Let it be so.”
“And there’ll be the beastie to buy, my leddie. He’ll be——a lump of money, my leddie. Pownies ain’t to be had for nowt in Ayrshire, as was ance, my leddie.”
“Of course, I must pay for him.”
“He’ll be a matter of——ten pound, my leddie.”
“Or may be twal; just as likely.” And Mr. Gowran shook his head at his mistress in a most uncomfortable way. It was not strange that she should hate him.
“You must give the proper price—of course.”
“There ain’t no proper prices for pownies—as there is for jew’ls and sich like.” If this was intended for sarcasm upon Lady Eustace in regard to her diamonds, Mr. Gowran ought to have been dismissed on the spot. In such a case no English jury would have given him his current wages. “And he’ll be to sell again, my leddie?”
“We shall see about that afterwards.”
“Ye’ll never let him eat his head off there a’ the winter! He’ll be to sell. And the gentles’ll ride him, may be, ance across the hillside, out and back. As to the grouse, they can’t cotch them with the pownie, for there ain’t none to cotch.” There had been two keepers on the mountains—men who were paid five or six shillings a week to look after the game in addition to their other callings, and one of these had been 270 sent away, actually in obedience to Gowran’s advice; so that this blow was cruel and unmanly. He made it, too, as severe as he could by another shake of his head.
“Do you mean to tell me that my cousin cannot be supplied with an animal to ride upon?”
“My leddie, I’ve said nowt o’ the kind. There ain’t no useful animal as I kens the name and nature of as he can’t have in Ayrshire—for paying for it, my leddie; horse, pownie, or ass, just whichever you please, my leddie. But there’ll be a seddle——”
There can be no doubt that Gowran purposely slurred the word so that his mistress should not understand him. “Seddles don’t come for , my leddie, though it be Ayrshire.”
“I don’t understand what it is that you say, Andy.”
“A seddle, my leddie,” said he, shouting the word at her at the top of his voice—“and a briddle. I suppose as your leddyship’s cousin don’t ride bareback up in Lunnon?”
“Of course there must be the necessary horse-furniture,” said Lady Eustace, retiring to the castle. Andy Gowran had certainly ill-used her, and she swore that she would have revenge. Nor when she was informed on the Tuesday that an adequate pony had been hired for eighteen pence a day, saddle, bridle, groom, and all included, was her heart at all softened towards Mr. Gowran.271
Had Frank Greystock known all that his cousin endured for his comfort, would he have been grateful? Women, when they are fond of men, do think much of men’s comfort in small matters, and men are apt to take the good things provided almost as a matter of course. When Frank Greystock and Herriot reached the cottage about nine o’clock in the morning, having left London over night by the limited mail train, the pony at once presented itself to them. It was a little shaggy, black beast, with a boy almost as shaggy as itself, but they were both good of their kind. “Oh, you’re the laddie with the pownie, are you?” said Frank, in answer to an announcement made to him by the boy. He did at once perceive that Lizzie had taken notice of the word in his note in which he had suggested that some means of getting over to Portray would be needed, and he learned from the fact that she was thinking of him and anxious to see him.
His friend was a man a couple of years younger than himself, who had hitherto achieved no success at the bar, but who was nevertheless a clever, diligent, well-instructed man. He was what the world calls penniless, having an income from his father just sufficient to keep him like a gentleman. He was not much known as a sportsman, his opportunities for shooting not having 272 been great; but he dearly loved the hills and fresh air, and the few grouse which were—or were not—on Lady Eustace’s mountains would go as far with him as they would with any man. Before he had consented to come with Frank, he had specially inquired whether there was a game-keeper, and it was not till he had been assured that there was no officer attached to the estate worthy of such a name, that he had consented to come upon his present expedition. “I don’t clearly know what a gillie is,” he said in answer to one of Frank’s explanations. “If a gillie means a lad without any breeches on, I don’t mind; but I couldn’t stand a severe man got up in well-made velveteens, who would see through my ignorance in a moment, and make known by comment the fact that he had done so.” Greystock had promised that there should be no severity, and Herriot had come. Greystock brought with him two guns, two fishing-rods, a man-servant, and a huge hamper from Fortnum and Mason’s. Arthur Herriot, whom the attorneys had not yet loved, brought some very thick boots, a pair of knickerbockers, together with Stone and Toddy’s “Digest of the Common Law.” The best of the legal profession consists in this—that when you get fairly at work you may give over working. An aspirant must learn everything; but a man may make his fortune at it, and know almost nothing. He may examine a witness with judgment, see through a case with precision, address a jury with eloquence, and yet be altogether ignorant of law. But he must be believed to be a very pundit before he will get a chance of exercising his judgment, his precision, or his eloquence. The men whose names are always in the newspapers never look at their Stone and Toddy—care 273 for it not at all—have their Stone and Toddy got up for them by their juniors when cases require that reference shall be made to precedents. But till that blessed time has come, a barrister who means success should carry his Stone and Toddy with him everywhere. Greystock never thought of the law now, unless he had some special case in hand; but Herriot could not afford to go out on a holiday without two volumes of Stone and Toddy’s Digest in his portmanteau.
“You won’t mind being left alone for the first morning?” said Frank, as soon as they had finished the contents of one of the pots from Fortnum and Mason.
“Not in the least. Stone and Toddy will carry me through.”
“I’d go on the mountain if I were you, and get into a habit of steady loading.”
“Perhaps I will take a turn—just to find out how I feel in the knickerbockers. At what time shall I dine if you don’t come back?”
“I shall certainly be here to dinner,” said Frank, “unless the pony fails me or I get lost on the mountain.” Then he started, and Herriot at once went to work on Stone and Toddy, with a pipe in his mouth. He had travelled all night, and it is hardly necessary to say that in five minutes he was fast asleep.
So also had Frank travelled all night, but the pony and the fresh air kept him awake. The boy had offered to go with him, but that he had altogether refused; and, therefore, to his other cares was that of finding his way. The sweep of the valleys, however, is long and not abrupt, and he could hardly miss his road if he would only make one judicious turn through a gap 274 in a certain wall which lay half way between the cottage and the castle. He was thinking of the work in hand, and he found the gap without difficulty. When through that he ascended the hill for two miles, and then the sea was before him, and Portray Castle, lying, as it seemed to him at that distance, close upon the seashore. “Upon my word, Lizzie has not done badly with herself,” he said almost aloud, as he looked down upon the fair sight beneath him, and round upon the mountains, and remembered that, for her life at least, it was all hers, and after her death would belong to her son. What more does any human being desire of such a property than that?
He rode down to the great doorway—the mountain track, which fell on to the road about half a mile from the castle, having been plain enough, and there he gave up the pony into the hands of no less a man than Mr. Gowran himself. Gowran had watched the pony coming down the mountain side, and had desired to see of what like was “her leddyship’s” cousin. In telling the whole truth of Mr. Gowran it must be acknowledged that he thought that his late master had made a very great mistake in the matter of his marriage. He could not imagine bad things enough of Lady Eustace, and almost believed that she was not now, and hadn’t been before her marriage, any better than she should be. The name of Admiral Greystock, as having been the father of his mistress, had indeed reached his ears, but Andy Gowran was a suspicious man and felt no confidence even in an admiral—in regard to whom he heard nothing of his having, or having had, a wife.
“It’s my fer-rm opeenion she’s jist naebody—and waur,” he had said more than once to his own wife, 275 nodding his head with great emphasis at the last word. He was very anxious, therefore, to see “her leddyship’s” cousin. Mr. Gowran thought that he knew a gentleman when he saw one. He thought, also, that he knew a lady, and that he didn’t see one when he was engaged with his mistress. Cousin, indeed! “For the matter o’ that, ony man that comes the way may be ca’ed a coosin.” So Mr. Gowran was on the grand sweep before the garden gate and took the pony from Frank’s hand.
“Is Lady Eustace at home?” Frank asked. Mr. Gowran perceived that Frank was a gentleman, and was disappointed. And Frank didn’t come as a man comes who calls himself by a false name, and pretends to be an honest cousin, when in fact he is something—oh, ever so wicked! Mr. Gowran, who was a stern moralist, was certainly disappointed at Frank’s appearance.
Lizzie was in a little sitting-room, reached by a long passage with steps in the middle, at some corner of the castle which seemed a long way from the great door. It was a cheerful little room, with chintz curtains, and a few shelves laden with brightly-bound books, which had been prepared for Lizzie immediately on her marriage. It looked out upon the sea, and she had almost taught herself to think that here she had sat with her adored Florian gazing in mutual ecstasy upon the “wide expanse of glittering waves.” She was lying back in a low arm-chair as her cousin entered, and she did not rise to receive him. Of course she was alone, Miss Macnulty having received a suggestion that it would be well that she should do a little gardening in the moat. “Well, Frank,” she said, with her sweetest smile, as she gave him her hand. She felt and understood 276 the extreme intimacy which would be implied by her not rising to receive him. As she could not rush into his arms, there was no device by which she could more clearly show to him how close she regarded his friendship.
“So I am at Portray Castle at last,” he said, still holding her hand.
“Yes—at the dullest, dreariest, deadliest spot in all Christendom, I think—if Ayrshire be Christendom. But never mind about that now. Perhaps, as you are at the other side of the mountain at the cottage, we shall find it less dull here at the castle.”
“I thought you were to be so happy here!”
“Sit down and we’ll talk it all over by degrees. What will you have—breakfast or lunch?”
“Neither, thank you.”
“Of course you’ll stay to dinner?”
“No, indeed. I’ve a man there at the cottage with me who would cut his throat in his solitude.”
“Let him cut his throat; but never mind now. As for being happy, women are never happy without men. I needn’t tell any lies to you, you know. What makes me sure that this fuss about making men and women all the same must be wrong is just the fact that men can get along without women, and women can’t without men. My life has been a burden to me. But never mind. Tell me about my lord—my lord and master.”
“Who else? What other lord and master? My bosom’s own; my heart’s best hope; my spot of terra firma; my cool running brook of fresh water; my rock; my love; my lord; my all. Is he always thinking of his absent Lizzie? Does he still toil at Downing street? 277 Oh, dear; do you remember, Frank, when he told us that ‘one of us must remain in town’?”
“I have seen him.”
“So you wrote me word.”
“And I have seen a very obstinate, pig-headed, but nevertheless honest and truth-speaking gentleman.”
“Frank, I don’t care twopence for his honesty and truth. If he ill-treats me——.” Then she paused; looking into his face, she had seen at once by the manner in which he had taken her badinage, without a smile, that it was necessary that she should be serious as to her matrimonial prospects. “I suppose I had better let you tell your story,” she said, “and I will sit still and listen.”
“He means to ill-treat you.”
“And you will let him?”
“You had better listen, as you promised, Lizzie. He declares that the marriage must be off at once unless you will send those diamonds to Mr. Camperdown or to the jewellers.”
“And by what law or rule does he justify himself in a decision so monstrous? Is he prepared to prove that the property is not my own?”
“If you ask me my opinion as a lawyer, I doubt whether any such proof can be shown. But as a man and a friend I do advise you to give them up.”
“You must, of course, judge for yourself, but that is my advice. You had better, however, hear my whole story.”
“Certainly,” said Lizzie. Her whole manner was now changed. She had extricated herself from the crouching position in which her feet, her curl, her arms, 278 her whole body had been so arranged as to combine the charm of her beauty with the charm of proffered intimacy. Her dress was such as a woman would wear to receive her brother, and yet it had been studied. She had no gems about her but what she might well wear in her ordinary life, and yet the very rings on her fingers had not been put on without reference to her cousin Frank. Her position had been one of lounging ease, such as a woman might adopt when all alone, giving herself all the luxuries of solitude; but she had adopted it in special reference to cousin Frank. Now she was in earnest, with business before her; and though it may be said of her that she could never forget her appearance in presence of a man whom she desired to please, her curl and rings, and attitude were for the moment in the background. She had seated herself on a common chair, with her hands upon the table, and was looking into Frank’s face with eager, eloquent, and combative eyes. She would take his law, because she believed in it; but, as far as she could see as yet, she would not take his advice unless it were backed by his law.
“Mr. Camperdown,” continued Greystock, “has consented to prepare a case for opinion, though he will not agree that the Eustace estate shall be bound by that opinion.”
“Then what’s the good of it?”
“We shall at least know, all of us, what is the opinion of some lawyer qualified to understand the circumstances of the case.”
“Why isn’t your opinion as good as that of any lawyer?”
“I couldn’t give an opinion; not otherwise than as 279 a private friend to you, which is worth nothing unless for your private guidance. Mr. Camperdown——”
“I don’t care one straw for Mr. Camperdown.”
“Just let me finish.”
“Oh, certainly; and you mustn’t be angry with me, Frank. The matter is so much to me; isn’t it?”
“I won’t be angry. Do I look as if I were angry? Mr. Camperdown is right.”
“I dare say he may be what you call right. But I don’t care about Mr. Camperdown a bit.”
“He has no power, nor has John Eustace any power to decide that the property which may belong to a third person shall be jeopardised by any arbitration. The third person could not be made to lose his legal right by any such arbitration, and his claim, if made, would still have to be tried.”
“Who is the third person, Frank?”
“Your own child at present.”
“And will not he have it any way?”
“Camperdown and John Eustace say that it belongs to him at present. It is a point that, no doubt, should be settled.”
“To whom do you say that it belongs?”
“That is a question I am not prepared to answer.”
“To whom do you think that it belongs?”
“I have refused to look at a single paper on the subject, and my opinion is worth nothing. From what I have heard in conversation with Mr. Camperdown and John Eustace, I cannot find that they make their case good.”
“Nor can I,” said Lizzie.
“A case is to be prepared for Mr. Dove.”
“Who is Mr. Dove?”280
“Mr. Dove is a barrister, and no doubt a very clever fellow. If his opinion be such as Mr. Camperdown expects, he will at once proceed against you at law for the immediate recovery of the necklace.”
“I shall be ready for him,” said Lizzie, and as she spoke all her little feminine softnesses were for the moment laid aside.
“If Mr. Dove’s opinion be in your favour——”
“Well,” said Lizzie, “what then?”
“In that case Mr. Camperdown, acting on behalf of John Eustace and young Florian——”
“How dreadful it is to hear of my bitterest enemy acting on behalf of my own child!” said Lizzie, holding up her hands piteously. “Well?”
“In that case Mr. Camperdown will serve you with some notice that the jewels are not yours, to part with them as you may please.”
“But they will be mine.”
“He says not; but in such case he will content himself with taking steps which may prevent you from selling them.”
“Who says that I want to sell them?” demanded Lizzie indignantly.
“Or from giving them away, say to a second husband.”
“How little they know me!”
“Now I have told you all about Mr. Camperdown.”
“And the next thing is to tell you about Lord Fawn.”
“That is everything. I care nothing for Mr. Camperdown; nor yet for Mr. Dove—if that is his absurd name. Lord Fawn is of more moment to me, though, indeed, he has given me but little cause to say so.”281
“In the first place, I must explain to you that Lord Fawn is very unhappy.”
“He may thank himself for it.”
“He is pulled this way and that, and is half distraught; but he has stated with as much positive assurance as such a man can assume, that the match must be regarded as broken off unless you will at once restore the necklace.”
“He has commissioned me to give you that message; and it is my duty, Lizzie, as your friend, to tell you my conviction that he repents his engagement.”
She now rose from her chair and began to walk about the room. “He shall not go back from it. He shall learn that I am not a creature at his own disposal in that way. He shall find that I have some strength if you have none.”
“What would you have had me do?”
“Taken him by the throat,” said Lizzie.
“Taking by the throat in these days seldom forwards any object, unless the taken one be known to the police. I think Lord Fawn is behaving very badly, and I have told him so. No doubt he is under the influence of others—mother and sisters—who are not friendly to you.”
“False-faced idiots!” said Lizzie.
“He himself is somewhat afraid of me—is much afraid of you—is afraid of what people will say of him; and, to give him his due, is afraid also of doing what is wrong. He is timid, weak, conscientious, and wretched. If you have set your heart upon marrying him——”
“My heart!” said Lizzie scornfully.282
“Or your mind, you can have him by simply sending the diamonds to the jewellers. Whatever may be his wishes, in that case he will redeem his word.”
“Not for him or all that belongs to him! It wouldn’t be much. He’s just a pauper with a name.”
“Then your loss will be so much the less.”
“But what right has he to treat me so? Did you ever before hear of such a thing? Why is he to be allowed to go back, without punishment, more than another?”
“What punishment would you wish?”
“That he should be beaten within an inch of his life; and if the inch were not there, I should not complain.”
“And I am to do it, to my absolute ruin and to your great injury?”
“I think I could almost do it myself.” And Lizzie raised her hand as though there were some weapon in it. “But, Frank, there must be something. You wouldn’t have me sit down and bear it. All the world has been told of the engagement. There must be some punishment.”
“You would not wish to have an action brought for breach of promise?”
“I would wish to do whatever would hurt him most without hurting myself,” said Lizzie.
“You won’t give up the necklace?” said Frank.
“Certainly not,” said Lizzie. “Give it up for his sake—a man that I have always despised!”
“Then you had better let him go.”
“I will not let him go. What, to be pointed at as the woman that Lord Fawn had jilted? Never! My necklace should be nothing more to him than this ring.” 283 And she drew from her finger a little circlet of gold with a stone, for which she had owed Messrs. Harter and Benjamin five-and-thirty pounds till Sir Florian had settled that account for her. “What cause can he give for such treatment?”
“He acknowledges that there is no cause which he can state openly.”
“And I am to bear it? And it is you that tell me so? Oh, Frank!”
“Let us understand each other, Lizzie. I will not fight him, that is, with pistols; nor will I attempt to thrash him. It would be useless to argue whether public opinion is right or wrong; but public opinion is now so much opposed to that kind of thing that it is out of the question. I should injure your position and destroy my own. If you mean to quarrel with me on that score, you had better say so.”
Perhaps at that moment he almost wished that she would quarrel with him, but she was otherwise disposed. “Oh, Frank,” she said, “do not desert me.”
“I will not desert you.”
“You feel that I am ill-used, Frank.”
“I do. I think that his conduct is inexcusable.”
“And there is to be no punishment?” she asked with that strong indignation at injustice which the unjust always feel when they are injured.
“If you carry yourself well, quietly and with dignity, the world will punish him.”
“I don’t believe a bit of it. I am not a Patient Grizel who can content myself with heaping benefits on those who injure me, and then thinking that they are coals of fire. Lucy Morris is one of that sort.” Frank ought to have resented the attack, but he 284 did not. “I have no such tame virtues. I’ll tell him to his face what he is. I’ll lead him such a life that he shall be sick of the very name of a necklace.”
“You cannot ask him to marry you.”
“I will. What, not ask a man to keep his promise when you are engaged to him? I am not going to be such a girl as that.”
“Do you love him, then?”
“Love him! I hate him. I always despised him, and now I hate him.”
“And yet you would marry him?”
“Not for worlds, Frank. No. Because you advised me I thought that I would do so. Yes, you did, Frank. But for you I would never have dreamed of taking him. You know, Frank, how it was, when you told me of him and wouldn’t come to me yourself.” Now again she was sitting close to him and had her hand upon his arm. “No, Frank; even to please you I could not marry him now. But I’ll tell you what I’ll do. He shall ask me again. In spite of those idiots at Richmond he shall kneel at my feet, necklace or no necklace; and then—then I’ll tell him what I think of him. Marry him! I would not touch him with a pair of tongs.” As she said this she was holding her cousin fast by the hand.285
It had not been much after noon when Frank Greystock reached Portray Castle, and it was very nearly five when he left it. Of course he had lunched with the two ladies, and as the conversation before lunch had been long and interesting, they did not sit down till near three. Then Lizzie had taken him out to show him the grounds and garden, and they had clambered together down to the sea-beach. “Leave me here,” she had said when he insisted on going because of his friend at the cottage. When he suggested that she would want help to climb back up the rocks to the castle, she shook her head as though her heart was too full to admit of a consideration so trifling. “My thoughts flow more freely here with the surge of the water in my ears than they will with that old woman droning to me. I come here often, and know every rock and every stone.” That was not exactly true, as she had never been down but once before. “You mean to come again.” He told her that of course he should come again. “I will name neither day nor hour. I have nothing to take me away. If I am not at the castle, I shall be at this spot. Good-by, Frank.” He took her in his arms and kissed her, of course as a 286 brother; and then he clambered up, got on his pony, and rode away.
“I dinna ken just what to mak’ o’ him,” said Gowran to his wife. “May be he is her coosin; but coosins are nae that sib that a weeder is to be hailed aboot jist ane as though she were ony quean at a fair.” From which it may be inferred that Mr. Gowran had watched the pair as they were descending together toward the shore.
Frank had so much to think of, riding back to the cottage, that when he came to the gap, instead of turning round along the wall down the valley, he took the track right on across the mountain and lost his way. He had meant to be back at the cottage by three or four, and yet had made his visit to the castle so long that without any losing of his way he could not have been there before seven. As it was, when that hour arrived, he was up on the top of a hill and could again see Portray Castle clustering down close upon the sea, and the thin belt of trees and the shining water beyond; but of the road to the cottage he knew nothing. For a moment he thought of returning to Portray, till he had taught himself to perceive that the distance was much greater than it had been from the spot at which he had first seen the castle in the morning; and then he turned his pony round and descended on the other side.
His mind was very full of Lizzie Eustace, and full also of Lucy Morris. If it were to be asserted here that a young man may be perfectly true to a first young woman while he is falling in love with a second, the readers of this story would probably be offended. But undoubtedly many men believe themselves 287 to be quite true while undergoing this process, and many young women expect nothing else from their lovers. If only he will come right at last, they are contented. And if he don’t come right at all, it is the way of the world, and the game has to be played over again. Lucy Morris, no doubt, had lived a life too retired for the learning of such useful forbearance, but Frank Greystock was quite a proficient. He still considered himself to be true to Lucy Morris, with a truth seldom found in this degenerate age—with a truth to which he intended to sacrifice some of the brightest hopes of his life—with a truth which, after much thought, he had generously preferred to his ambition. Perhaps there was found some shade of regret to tinge the merit which he assumed on this head, in respect of the bright things which it would be necessary that he should abandon; but if so, the feeling only assisted him in defending his present conduct from any aspersions his conscience might bring against it. He intended to marry Lucy Morris, without a shilling, without position, a girl who had earned her bread as a governess, simply because he loved her. It was a wonder to himself that he, a lawyer, a man of the world, a member of Parliament, one who had been steeped up to his shoulders in the ways of the world, should still be so pure as to be capable of such a sacrifice. But it was so; and the sacrifice would undoubtedly be made some day. It would be absurd in one conscious of such high merit to be afraid of the ordinary social incidents of life. It is the debauched broken drunkard who should become a teetotaller, and not the healthy, hard-working father of a family who never drinks a drop of 288 wine till dinner-time. He need not be afraid of a glass of champagne when, on a chance occasion, he goes to a picnic. Frank Greystock was now going to his picnic; and, though he meant to be true to Lucy Morris, he had enjoyed his glass of champagne with Lizzie Eustace under the rocks. He was thinking a good deal of his champagne when he lost his way.
What a wonderful woman was his cousin Lizzie, and so unlike any other girl he had ever seen! How full she was of energy, how courageous, and, then, how beautiful! No doubt her special treatment of him was sheer flattery. He told himself that it was so. But, after all, flattery is agreeable. That she did like him better than anybody else was probable. He could have no feeling of the injustice he might do to the heart of a woman who at the very moment that she was expressing her partiality for him was also expressing her anger that another man would not consent to marry her. And then women who have had one husband already are not like young girls in respect to their hearts. So at least thought Frank Greystock. Then he remembered the time at which he had intended to ask Lizzie to be his wife—the very day on which he would have done so had he been able to get away from that early division at the House—and he asked himself whether he felt any regret on that score. It would have been very nice to come down to Portray Castle as to his own mansion after the work of the courts and of the session. Had Lizzie become his wife, her fortune would have helped him to the very highest steps beneath the throne. At present he was almost nobody—because he was so poor, and in debt. 289 It was so, undoubtedly; but what did all that matter in comparison with the love of Lucy Morris? A man is bound to be true. And he would be true. Only, as a matter of course, Lucy must wait.
When he had first kissed his cousin up in London, she suggested that the kiss was given as by a brother, and asserted that it was accepted as by a sister. He had not demurred, having been allowed the kiss. Nothing of the kind had been said under the rocks to-day; but then that fraternal arrangement, when once made and accepted, remains, no doubt, in force for a long time. He did like his cousin Lizzie. He liked to feel that he could be her friend, with the power of domineering over her. She, also, was fond of her own way, and loved to domineer herself; but the moment that he suggested to her that there might be a quarrel, she was reduced to a prayer that he would not desert her. Such a friendship has charms for a young man, especially if the lady be pretty. As to Lizzie’s prettiness, no man or woman could entertain a doubt. And she had a way of making the most of herself, which it was very hard to resist. Some young women, when they clamber over rocks, are awkward, heavy, unattractive, and troublesome. But Lizzie had at one moment touched him as a fairy might have done; had sprung at another from stone to stone, requiring no help; and then, on a sudden, had become so powerless that he had been forced almost to carry her in his arms. That, probably, must have been the moment which induced Mr. Gowran to liken her to a quean at a fair.
But, undoubtedly, there might be trouble. Frank was sufficiently experienced in the ways of the world 290 to know that trouble would sometimes come from young ladies who treat young men like their brothers, when those young men are engaged to other young ladies. The other young ladies are apt to disapprove of brothers who are not brothers by absolute right of birth. He knew also that all the circumstances of his cousin’s position would make it expedient that she should marry a second husband. As he could not be that second husband—that matter was settled, whether for good or bad—was he not creating trouble, both for her and for himself? Then there arose in his mind a feeling, very strange, but by no means uncommon, that prudence on his part would be mean, because by such prudence he would be securing safety for himself as well as for her. What he was doing was not only imprudent, but wrong also. He knew that it was so. But Lizzie Eustace was a pretty young woman; and when a pretty young woman is in the case, a man is bound to think neither of what is prudent nor of what is right. Such was—perhaps his instinct rather than his theory. For her sake, if not for his own, he should have abstained. She was his cousin, and was so placed in the world as specially to require some strong hand to help her. He knew her to be, in truth, heartless, false, and greedy; but she had so lived that even yet her future life might be successful. He had called himself her friend as well as cousin, and was bound to protect her from evil, if protection were possible. But he was adding to all her difficulties, because she pretended to be in love with him. He knew that it was pretence; and yet, because she was pretty, and because he was a man, he could not save her from herself. “It doesn’t do to be wiser 291 than other men,” he said to himself as he looked round about on the bare hill-side. In the mean time he had altogether lost his way.
It was between nine and ten when he reached the cottage. “Of course you have dined?” said Herriot.
“Not a bit of it. I left before five, being sure that I could get here in an hour and a half. I have been riding up and down these dreary hills for nearly five hours. You have dined?”
“There was a neck of mutton and a chicken. She said the neck of mutton would keep hot best, so I took the chicken. I hope you like lukewarm neck of mutton?”
“I am hungry enough to eat anything; not but what I had a first-rate luncheon. What have you done all day?”
“Stone and Toddy,” said Herriot.
“Stick to that. If anything can pull you through, Stone and Toddy will. I lived upon them for two years.”
“Stone and Toddy, with a little tobacco, have been all my comfort. I began, however, by sleeping for a few hours. Then I went upon the mountains.”
“Did you take a gun?”
“I took it out of the case, but it didn’t come right, and so I left it. A man came to me and said that he was the keeper.”
“He’d have put the gun right for you.”
“I was too bashful for that. I persuaded him that I wanted to go out alone and see what birds there were, and at last I induced him to stay here with the old woman. He’s to be at the cottage at nine to-morrow. I hope that is all right.”
In the evening, as they smoked and drank whiskey 292 and water—probably supposing that to be correct in Ayrshire—they were led on by the combined warmth of the spirit, the tobacco, and their friendship, to talk about women. Frank, some month or six weeks since, in a moment of soft confidence, had told his friend of his engagement with Lucy Morris. Of Lizzie Eustace he had spoken only as of a cousin whose interests were dear to him. Her engagement with Lord Fawn was known to all London, and was, therefore, known to Arthur Herriot. Some distant rumour, however, had reached him that the course of true love was not running quite smooth, and therefore on that subject he would not speak, at any rate till Greystock should first mention it. “How odd it is to find two women living all alone in a great house like that,” Frank had said.
“Because so few women have the means to live in large houses, unless they live with fathers or husbands.”
“The truth is,” said Frank, “that women don’t do well alone. There is always a savour of misfortune—or, at least, of melancholy—about a household which has no man to look after it. With us, generally, old maids don’t keep houses, and widows marry again. No doubt it was an unconscious appreciation of this feeling which brought about the burning of Indian widows. There is an unfitness in women for solitude. A female Prometheus, even without a vulture, would indicate cruelty worse even than Jove’s. A woman should marry—once, twice, and thrice if necessary.”
“Women can’t marry without men to marry them.”
Frank Greystock filled his pipe as he went on with his lecture. “That idea as to the greater number of women is all nonsense. Of course we are speaking of our own kind of men and women, and the disproportion 293 of the numbers in so small a division of the population amounts to nothing. We have no statistics to tell us whether there be any such disproportion in classes where men do not die early from overwork.”
“More females are born than males.”
“That’s more than I know. As one of the legislators of the country I am prepared to state that statistics are always false. What we have to do is to induce men to marry. We can’t do it by statute.”
“No, thank God.”
“Nor yet by fashion.”
“Fashion seems to be going the other way,” said Herriot.
“It can be only done by education and conscience. Take men of forty all round—men of our own class—you believe that the married men are happier than the unmarried? I want an answer, you know, just for the sake of the argument.”
“I think the married men are the happier. But you speak as the fox who had lost his tail; or, at any rate, as a fox in the act of losing it.”
“Never mind my tail. If morality in life and enlarged affections are conducive to happiness, it must be so.”
“Short commons and unpaid bills are conducive to misery. That’s what I should say if I wanted to oppose you.”
“I never came across a man willing to speak the truth who did not admit that, in the long run, married men are the happier. As regards women, there isn’t even ground for an argument. And yet men don’t marry.”
“You mean there isn’t food enough in the world.”
“The man fears that he won’t get enough of what there is for his wife and family.”
“The labourer with twelve shillings a week has no such fear. And if he did marry, the food would come. It isn’t that. The man is unconscientious and ignorant as to the sources of true happiness, and won’t submit himself to cold mutton and three clean shirts a week—not because he dislikes mutton and dirty linen himself, but because the world says they are vulgar. That’s the feeling that keeps you from marrying, Herriot.”
“As for me,” said Herriot, “I regard myself as so placed that I do not dare to think of a young woman of my own rank except as a creature that must be foreign to me. I cannot make such a one my friend as I would a man, because I should be in love with her at once. And I do not dare to be in love because I would not see a wife and children starve. I regard my position as one of enforced monasticism, and myself as a monk under the cruellest compulsion. I often wish that I had been brought up as a journeyman hatter.”
“Why a hatter?”
“I’m told it’s an active sort of life. You’re fast asleep, and I was just now, when you were preaching. We’d better go to bed. Nine o’clock for breakfast, I suppose?”
Troon, the station in Scotland at which her own carriage met her
[Troon is just a bit north of Ayr. That being the case, I’d have expected to get to Portray by taking a fast train to Glasgow and a local from there, rather than going through Dumfries.]
women are beginning to learn that, let what misfortunes will come upon them, it is well for them to be as happy as their nature will allow them to be
[Unless the woman in question is named Victoria, who has been a professional widow for ten years, and will wear black to the end of her life.]
unless she could get up much earlier in the morning, or come out to her reading after sunset, the knob of rock would not avail her
[Summer highs in Troon, Scotland, average a blistering 65° Fahrenheit (18° C).]
the Wednesday named for Frank’s coming was the next Wednesday
[The 20th? Not in August 1871 it wasn’t.]
In such a case no English jury would have given him his current wages.
[But we’re not in England, are we.]
Seddles don’t come for nowt, my leddie
text has for now
[Corrected from Fortnightly Review.]
I don’t care twopence for his honesty and truth
[“I don’t care twopence for her decency. Can she make good collops?”]
If Mr. Dove’s opinion be in your favour . . . . Mr. Camperdown will serve you with some notice that the jewels are not yours
[I cannot say I understand this reasoning. What does “in your favour” mean, if it doesn’t mean that the diamonds are hers?]
If Trollope had written another 47 novels, one of them would surely have reintroduced Arthur Herriot, because why waste a character. And then we would be given at least a passing glimpse of Frank Greystock in later life.
as they smoked and drank whiskey and water—probably supposing that to be correct in Ayrshire
[“Have a glass of whisky and water, Colonel?” “Thank you, madam, I won’t trouble you for the water.” —Mona Maclean, Medical Student.]
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.