When Lord Fawn gave a sudden jump and stalked away towards the house on that Sunday morning before breakfast, Lucy Morris was a very unhappy girl. She had a second time accused Lord Fawn of speaking an untruth. She did not quite understand the usages of the world in the matter; but she did know that the one offence which a gentleman is supposed never to commit is that of speaking an untruth. The offence may be one committed oftener than any other by gentlemen—as also by all other people; but, nevertheless, it is regarded by the usages of society as being the one thing which a gentleman never does. Of all this Lucy understood something. The word “lie” she knew to be utterly abominable. That Lizzie Eustace was a little liar had been acknowledged between herself and the Fawn girls very often; but to have told Lady Eustace that any word spoken by her was a lie would have been a worse crime than the lie itself. To have brought such an accusation, in that form, against Lord Fawn, would have been to degrade herself forever. Was there any difference between a lie and an untruth? That one must be, and that the other need not be intentional, she did feel; but she felt also that the less offensive word had come to mean a lie—the world 344 having been driven so to use it because the world did not dare to talk about lies; and this word, bearing such a meaning in common parlance, she had twice applied to Lord Fawn. And yet, as she was well aware, Lord Fawn had told no lie. He had himself believed every word that he had spoken against Frank Greystock. That he had been guilty of unmanly cruelty in so speaking of her lover in her presence Lucy still thought, but she should not therefore have accused him of falsehood. “It was untrue all the same,” she said to herself, as she stood still on the gravel walk, watching the rapid disappearance of Lord Fawn, and endeavouring to think what she had better now do with herself. Of course Lord Fawn, like a great child, would at once go and tell his mother what that wicked governess had said to him.
In the hall she met her friend Lydia. “Oh, Lucy, what is the matter with Frederic?” she asked.
“Lord Fawn is very angry indeed.”
“Yes; with me. He is so angry that I am sure he would not sit down to breakfast with me. So I won’t come down. Will you tell your mamma? If she likes to send to me, of course I’ll go to her at once.”
“What have you done, Lucy?”
“I’ve told him again that what he said wasn’t true.”
“Because—oh, how can I say why? Why does any person do everything that she ought not to do? It’s the fall of Adam, I suppose.”
“You shouldn’t make a joke of it, Lucy.”
“You can have no conception how unhappy I am about it. Of course Lady Fawn will tell me to go away. 345 I went out on purpose to beg his pardon for what I said last night, and I just said the very same thing again.”
“But why did you say it?”
“And I should say it again and again and again, if he were to go on telling me that Mr. Greystock isn’t a gentleman. I don’t think he ought to have done it. Of course I have been very wrong; I know that. But I think he has been wrong too. But I must own it and he needn’t. I’ll go up now and stay in my own room till your mamma sends for me.”
“And I’ll get Jane to bring you some breakfast.”
“I don’t care a bit about breakfast,” said Lucy.
Lord Fawn did tell his mother, and Lady Fawn was perplexed in the extreme. She was divided in her judgment and feelings between the privilege due to Lucy as a girl possessed of an authorised lover—a privilege which no doubt existed, but which was not extensive—and the very much greater privilege which attached to Lord Fawn as a man, as a peer, as an Under-Secretary of State, but which attached to him especially as the head and only man belonging to the Fawn family. Such a one, when, moved by filial duty, he condescends to come once a week to his mother’s house, is entitled to say whatever he pleases, and should on no account be contradicted by any one. Lucy no doubt had a lover, an authorised lover; but perhaps that fact could not be taken as more than a balancing weight against the inferiority of her position as a governess. Lady Fawn was of course obliged to take her son’s part and would scold Lucy. Lucy must be scolded very seriously. But it would be a thing so desirable if Lucy could be induced to accept her scolding and have done with it, and not to make matters worse by talking 346 of going away! “You don’t mean that she came out into the shrubbery, having made up her mind to be rude to you?” said Lady Fawn to her son.
“No; I do not think that. But her temper is so ungovernable, and she has, if I may say so, been so spoiled among you here—I mean by the girls, of course—that she does not know how to restrain herself.”
“She is as good as gold, you know, Frederic.” He shrugged his shoulders and declared that he had not a word more to say about it. He could of course remain in London till it should suit Mr. Greystock to take his bride. “You’ll break my heart if you say that,” exclaimed the unhappy mother. “Of course she shall leave the house if you wish it.”
“I wish nothing,” said Lord Fawn. “But I peculiarly object to be told that I am a—liar.” Then he stalked away along the corridor and went down to breakfast as black as a thundercloud.
Lady Fawn and Lucy sat opposite to each other in church, but they did not speak till the afternoon. Lady Fawn went to church in the carriage and Lucy walked, and as Lucy retired to her room immediately on her return to the house, there had not been an opportunity even for a word. After lunch Amelia came up to her and sat down for a long discussion. “Now, Lucy, something must be done, you know,” said Amelia.
“I suppose so.”
“Of course mamma must see you. She can’t allow things to go on in this way. Mamma is very unhappy, and didn’t eat a morsel of breakfast.” By this latter assertion Amelia simply intended to imply that her mother had refused to be helped a second time to fried bacon, as was customary.347
“Of course I shall go to her the moment she sends for me. Oh, I am so unhappy!”
“I don’t wonder at that, Lucy. So is my brother unhappy. These things make people unhappy. It is what the world calls temper, you know, Lucy.”
“Why did he tell me that Mr. Greystock isn’t a gentleman? Mr. Greystock is a gentleman. I meant to say nothing more than that.”
“But you did say more, Lucy.”
“When he said that Mr. Greystock wasn’t a gentleman I told him it wasn’t true. Why did he say it? He knows all about it. Everybody knows. Would you think it wise to come and abuse him to me when you know what he is to me? I can’t bear it, and I won’t. I’ll go away to-morrow if your mamma wishes it.” But that going away was just what Lady Fawn did not wish.
“I think you know, Lucy, you should express your deep sorrow at what has passed.”
“To your brother?”
“Then he would abuse Mr. Greystock again, and it would all be as bad as ever. I’ll beg Lord Fawn’s pardon if he’ll promise beforehand not to say a word about Mr. Greystock.”
“You can’t expect him to make a bargain like that, Lucy.”
“I suppose not. I dare say I’m very wicked, and I must be left wicked. I’m too wicked to stay here. That’s the long and the short of it.”
“I’m afraid you’re proud, Lucy.”
“I suppose I am. If it wasn’t for all that I owe to everybody here, and that I love you all so much, I 348 should be proud of being proud, because of Mr. Greystock. Only it kills me to make Lady Fawn unhappy.”
Amelia left the culprit, feeling that no good had been done, and Lady Fawn did not see the delinquent till late in the afternoon. Lord Fawn had in the mean time wandered out along the river all alone to brood over the condition of his affairs. It had been an evil day for him in which he had first seen Lady Eustace. From the first moment of his engagement to her he had been an unhappy man. Her treatment of him, the stories which reached his ears from Mrs. Hittaway and others, Mr. Camperdown’s threats of law in regard to the diamonds, and Frank Greystock’s insults, altogether made him aware that he could not possibly marry Lady Eustace. But yet he had no proper and becoming way of escaping from the bonds of his engagement. He was a man with a conscience, and was made miserable by the idea of behaving badly to a woman. Perhaps it might have been difficult to analyse his misery and to decide how much arose from the feeling that he was behaving badly, and how much from the conviction that the world would accuse him of doing so; but between the two he was wretched enough. The punishment of the offence had been commenced by Greystock’s unavenged insults, and it now seemed to him that this girl’s conduct was a continuation of it. The world was already beginning to treat him with that want of respect which he so greatly dreaded. He knew that he was too weak to stand up against a widely-spread expression of opinion that he had behaved badly. There are men who can walk about the streets with composed countenances, take their seats in Parliament if they happen to have seats, work in their offices or their chambers or 349 their counting-houses with diligence, and go about the world serenely, even though everybody be saying evil of them behind their backs. Such men can live down temporary calumny, and almost take a delight in the isolation which it will produce. Lord Fawn knew well that he was not such a man. He would have described his own weakness as caused, perhaps, by a too thin-skinned sensitiveness. Those who knew him were inclined to say that he lacked strength of character, and perhaps courage.
He had certainly engaged himself to marry this widow, and he was most desirous to do what was right. He had said that he would not marry her unless she would give up the necklace, and he was most desirous to be true to his word. He had been twice insulted, and he was anxious to support these injuries with dignity. Poor Lucy’s little offence against him rankled in his mind with the other great offences. That this humble friend of his mother’s should have been so insolent was a terrible thing to him. He was not sure even whether his own sisters did not treat him with scantier reverence than of yore. And yet he was so anxious to do right, and do his duty in that state of life to which it had pleased God to call him! As to much he was in doubt; but of two things he was quite sure—that Frank Greystock was a scoundrel, and that Lucy Morris was the most impertinent young woman in England.
“What would you wish to have done, Frederic?” his mother said to him on his return.
“In what respect, mother?”
“About Lucy Morris? I have not seen her yet. I have thought it better that she should be left to herself 350 for a while before I did so. I suppose she must come down to dinner. She always does.”
“I do not wish to interfere with the young lady’s meals.”
“No; but about meeting her? If there is to be no talking, it will be so very unpleasant. It will be unpleasant to us all, but I am thinking chiefly of you.”
“I do not wish anybody to be disturbed for my comfort.” A young woman coming down to dinner as though in disgrace, and not being spoken to by any one, would in truth have had rather a soothing effect upon Lord Fawn, who would have felt that the general silence and dulness had been produced as a sacrifice in his honour.
“I can, of course, insist that she should apologise; but if she refuses, what shall I do then?”
“Let there be no more apologies if you please, mother.”
“What shall I do then, Frederic?”
“Miss Morris’s idea of an apology is a repetition of her offence with increased rudeness. It is not for me to say what you should do. If it be true that she is engaged to that man——”
“It is true, certainly.”
“No doubt that will make her quite independent of you, and I can understand that her presence here in such circumstances must be very uncomfortable to you all. No doubt she feels her power.”
“Indeed, Frederic, you do not know her.”
“I can hardly say that I desire to know her better. You cannot suppose that I can be anxious for further intimacy with a young lady who has twice given me the lie in your house. Such conduct is, at least, very unusual; 351 and as no absolute punishment can be inflicted, the offender can only be avoided. It is thus, and thus only, that such offences can be punished. I shall be satisfied if you will give her to understand that I should prefer that she should not address me again.”
Poor Lady Fawn was beginning to think that Lucy was right in saying that there was no remedy for all these evils but that she should go away. But whither was she to go? She had no home but such home as she could earn for herself by her services as a governess, and in her present position it was almost out of the question that she should seek another place. Lady Fawn, too, felt that she had pledged herself to Mr. Greystock that till next year Lucy should have a home at Fawn Court. Mr. Greystock, indeed, was now an enemy to the family; but Lucy was not an enemy, and it was out of the question that she should be treated with real enmity. She might be scolded, and scowled at, and put into a kind of drawing-room Coventry for a time, so that all kindly intercourse with her should be confined to schoolroom work and bedroom conferences. She could be generally “sat upon,” as Nina would call it. But as for quarrelling with her, making a real enemy of one whom they all loved, one whom Lady Fawn knew to be “as good as gold,” one who had become so dear to the old lady that actual extrusion from their family affections would be like the cutting off of a limb, that was simply impossible. “I suppose I had better go and see her,” said Lady Fawn, “and I have got such a headache!”
“Do not see her on my account,” said Lord Fawn. The duty, however, was obligatory, and Lady Fawn with slow steps sought Lucy in the schoolroom.352
“Lucy,” she said, seating herself, “what is to be the end of all this?”
Lucy came up to her and knelt at her feet. “If you knew how unhappy I am because I have vexed you.”
“I am unhappy, my dear, because I think you have been betrayed by warm temper into misbehaviour.”
“I know I have.”
“Then why do you not control your temper?”
“If anybody were to come to you, Lady Fawn, and make horrible accusations against Lord Fawn or against Augusta, would not you be angry? Would you be able to stand it?”
Lady Fawn was not clear-headed; she was not clever; nor was she even always rational. But she was essentially honest. She knew that she would fly at anybody who should in her presence say such bitter things of any of her children as Lord Fawn had said of Mr. Greystock in Lucy’s hearing; and she knew also that Lucy was entitled to hold Mr. Greystock as dearly as she held her own son and daughters. Lord Fawn, at Fawn Court, could not do wrong. That was a tenet by which she was obliged to hold fast. And yet Lucy had been subjected to great cruelty. She thought awhile for a valid argument. “My dear,” she said, “your youth should make a difference.”
“Of course it should.”
“Though to me and to the girls you are as dear as any friend can be, and may say just what you please. Indeed, we all live here in such a way that we all do say just what we please, young and old together. But you ought to know that Lord Fawn is different.”
“Ought he to say that Mr. Greystock is not a gentleman to me?”353
“We are, of course, very sorry that there should be any quarrel. It is all the fault of that—nasty, false young woman.”
“So it is, Lady Fawn. Lady Fawn, I have been thinking about it all the day, and I am quite sure that I had better not stay here while you and the girls think badly of Mr. Greystock. It is not only about Lord Fawn, but because of the whole thing. I am always wanting to say something good about Mr. Greystock, and you are always thinking something bad about him. You have been to me, oh, the very best friend that a girl ever had. Why you should have treated me so generously I never could know.”
“Because we have loved you.”
“But when a girl has got a man whom she loves, and has promised to marry, he must be her best friend of all. Is it not so, Lady Fawn?” The old woman stooped down and kissed the girl who had got the man. “It is not ingratitude to you that makes me think most of him; is it?”
“Certainly not, dear.”
“Then I had better go away.”
“But where will you go, Lucy?”
“I will consult Mr. Greystock.”
“But what can he do, Lucy? It will only be a trouble to him. He can’t find a home for you.”
“Perhaps they would have me at the deanery,” said Lucy slowly. She had evidently been thinking much of it all. “And, Lady Fawn, I will not go down-stairs while Lord Fawn is here; and when he comes, if he does come again while I am here, he shall not be troubled by seeing me. He may be sure of that. And you may tell him that I don’t defend myself, only I 354 shall always think that he ought not to have said that Mr. Greystock wasn’t a gentleman before me.” When Lady Fawn left Lucy the matter was so far settled that Lucy had neither been asked to come down to dinner, nor had she been forbidden to seek another home.355
Frank Greystock stayed the Sunday in London and went down to Bobsborough on the Monday. His father and mother and sister all knew of his engagement to Lucy, and they had heard also that Lady Eustace was to become Lady Fawn. Of the necklace they had hitherto heard very little, and of the quarrel between the two lovers they had heard nothing. There had been many misgivings at the deanery, and some regrets, about these marriages. Mrs. Greystock, Frank’s mother, was, as we are so wont to say of many women, the best woman in the world. She was unselfish, affectionate, charitable, and thoroughly feminine. But she did think that her son Frank, with all his advantages, good looks, cleverness, general popularity, and seat in Parliament, might just as well marry an heiress as a little girl without twopence in the world. As for herself, who had been born a Jackson, she could do with very little; but the Greystocks were all people who wanted money. For them there was never more than ninepence in a shilling, if so much. They were a race who could not pay their way with moderate incomes. Even the dear dean, who really had a conscience about money, and who hardly ever left Bobsborough, could not be kept quite clear of debt, let her do what she would. As for the admiral, the dean’s elder brother, he had been notorious 356 for insolvency; and Frank was a Greystock all over. He was the very man to whom money with a wife was almost a necessity of existence.
And his pretty cousin, the widow, who was devoted to him, and would have married him at a word, had ever so many thousands a year! Of course Lizzie Eustace was not just all that she should be; but then who is? In one respect, at any rate, her conduct had always been proper. There was no rumour against her as to lovers or flirtations. She was very young, and Frank might have moulded her as he pleased. Of course there were regrets. Poor dear little Lucy Morris was as good as gold. Mrs. Greystock was quite willing to admit that. She was not good-looking; so at least Mrs. Greystock said. She never would allow that Lucy was good-looking. And she didn’t see much in Lucy, who, according to her idea, was a little chit of a thing. Her position was simply that of a governess. Mrs. Greystock declared to her daughter that no one in the whole world had a higher respect for governesses than had she. But a governess is a governess; and for a man in Frank’s position such a marriage would be simply suicide.
“You shouldn’t say that, mamma, now; for it’s fixed,” said Ellinor Greystock.
“But I do say it, my dear. Things sometimes are fixed which must be unfixed. You know your brother.”
“Frank is earning a large income, mamma.”
“Did you ever know a Greystock who didn’t want more than his income?”
“I hope I don’t, mamma, and mine is very small.”
“You’re a Jackson. Frank is Greystock to the 357 very backbone. If he marries Lucy Morris he must give up Parliament. That’s all.”
The dean himself was more reticent and less given to interference than his wife; but he felt it also. He would not for the world have hinted to his son that it might be well to marry money; but he thought that it was a good thing that his son should go where money was. He knew that Frank was apt to spend his guineas faster than he got them. All his life long the dean had seen what came of such spending. Frank had gone out into the world and had prospered, but he could hardly continue to prosper unless he married money. Of course there had been regrets when the news came of that fatal engagement with Lucy Morris. “It can’t be for the next ten years, at any rate,” said Mrs. Greystock.
“I thought at one time that he would have made a match with his cousin,” said the dean.
“Of course; so did everybody,” replied Mrs. Dean.
Then Frank came among them. He had intended staying some weeks, perhaps for a month, and great preparations were made for him; but immediately on his arrival he announced the necessity that was incumbent on him of going down again to Scotland in ten days. “You’ve heard about Lizzie, of course;” he said. They had heard that Lizzie was to become Lady Fawn, but beyond that they had heard nothing. “You know about the necklace?” asked Frank. Something of a tale of a necklace had made its way even down to quiet Bobsborough. They had been informed that there was a dispute between the widow and the executors of the late Sir Florian about some diamonds. “Lord Fawn is behaving about it in the most atrocious 358 manner,” continued Frank, “and the long and the short of it is that there will be no marriage!”
“No marriage!” exclaimed Mrs. Greystock.
“And what is the truth about the diamonds?” asked the dean.
“Ah; it will give the lawyers a job before they decide that. They’re very valuable; worth about ten thousand pounds, I’m told; but the most of it will go among some of my friends at the Chancery bar. It’s a pity that I should be out of the scramble myself.”
“But why should you be out?” asked his mother with tender regrets, not thinking of the matter as her son was thinking of it, but feeling that when there was so much wealth so very near him, he ought not to let it all go past him.
“As far as I can see,” continued Frank, “she has a fair claim to them. I suppose they’ll file a bill in Chancery, and then it will be out of my line altogether. She says her husband gave them to her, absolutely put them on her neck himself, and told her that they were hers. As to their being an heirloom, that turns out to be impossible. I didn’t know it, but it seems you can’t make diamonds an heirloom. What astonishes me is, that Fawn should object to the necklace. However, he has objected, and has simply told her that he won’t marry her unless she gives them up.”
“And what does she say?”
“Storms and raves, as of course any woman would. I don’t think she is behaving badly. What she wants is, to reduce him to obedience, and then to dismiss him. I think that is no more than fair. Nothing on earth would make her marry him now.”359
“Did she ever care for him?”
“I don’t think she ever did. She found her position to be troublesome, and she thought she had better marry. And then he’s a lord, which always goes for something.”
“I am sorry you should have so much trouble,” said Mrs. Greystock. But in truth the mother was not sorry. She did not declare to herself that it would be a good thing that her son should be false to Lucy Morris in order that he might marry his rich cousin; but she did feel it to be an advantage that he should be on terms of intimacy with so large an income as that belonging to Lady Eustace. “Doan’t thou marry for munny, but goa where munny is.” Mrs. Greystock would have repudiated the idea of mercenary marriages in any ordinary conversation, and would have been severe on any gentleman who was false to a young lady. But it is so hard to bring one’s general principles to bear on one’s own conduct or in one’s own family; and then the Greystocks were so peculiar a people! When her son told her that he must go down to Scotland again very shortly, she reconciled herself to his loss. Had he left Bobsborough, for the sake of being near Lucy at Richmond, she would have felt it very keenly.
Days passed by, and nothing was said about poor Lucy. Mrs. Greystock had made up her mind that she would say nothing on the subject. Lucy had behaved badly in allowing herself to be loved by a man who ought to have loved money, and Mrs. Greystock had resolved that she would show her feelings by silence. The dean had formed no fixed determination, but he had thought that it might be, perhaps, as well to 360 drop the subject. Frank himself was unhappy about it; but from morning to evening, and from day to day, he allowed it to pass by without a word. He knew that it should not be so, that silence was in truth treachery to Lucy; but he was silent. What had he meant when, as he left Lizzie Eustace among the rocks at Portray, in that last moment, he had assured her that he would be true to her? And what had been Lizzie’s meaning? He was more sure of Lizzie’s meaning than he was of his own. “It’s a very rough world to live in,” he said to himself, in these days, as he thought of his difficulties.
But when he had been nearly a week at the deanery, and when the day of his going was so near as to be a matter of concern, his sister did at last venture to say a word about Lucy. “I suppose there is nothing settled about your own marriage, Frank?”
“Nothing at all.”
“Nor will be for some while?”
“Nor will be for some while.” This he said in a tone which he himself felt to be ill-humoured and almost petulant. And he felt also that such ill-humour on such a subject was unkind, not to his sister, but to Lucy. It seemed to imply that the matter of his marriage was distasteful to him. “The truth is,” he said, “that nothing can be fixed. Lucy understands that as well as I do. I am not in a position at once to marry a girl who has nothing. It’s a pity, perhaps, that one can’t train one’s self to like some girl best that has got money; but as I haven’t there must be some delay. She is to stay where she is, at any rate for a twelvemonth.”
“But you mean to see her?”
“Well, yes; I hardly know how I can see her, as I 361 have quarrelled to the knife with Lord Fawn; and Lord Fawn is recognised by his mother and sisters as the one living Jupiter upon earth.”
“I like them for that,” said Ellinor.
“Only it prevents my going to Richmond; and poor Fawn himself is such an indifferent Jupiter.”
That was all that was said about Lucy at Bobsborough, till there came a letter from Lucy to her lover acquainting him with the circumstances of her unfortunate position at Richmond. She did not tell him quite all the circumstances. She did not repeat the strong expressions which Lord Fawn had used, nor did she clearly explain how wrathful she had been herself. “Lord Fawn has been here,” she said, “and there has been ever so much unpleasantness. He is very angry with you about Lady Eustace, and of course Lady Fawn takes his part. I need not tell you whose part I take. And so there have been what the servants call, just a few words. It is very dreadful, isn’t it? And, after all, Lady Fawn has been as kind as possible. But the upshot of it is that I am not to stay here. You mustn’t suppose that I’m to be turned out at twelve hours’ notice. I am to stay till arrangements have been made, and everybody will be kind to me. But what had I better do? I’ll try and get another situation at once if you think it best, only I suppose I should have to explain how long I could stay. Lady Fawn knows that I am writing to you to ask you what you think best.”
On receipt of this Greystock was very much puzzled. What a little fool Lucy had been, and yet what a dear little fool! Who cared for Lord Fawn and his hard words? Of course Lord Fawn would say all manner 362 of evil things of him, and would crow valiantly in his own farmyard; but it would have been so much wiser on Lucy’s part to have put up with the crowing, and to have disregarded altogether the words of a man so weak and insignificant! But the evil was done, and he must make some arrangement for poor Lucy’s comfort. Had he known exactly how matters stood, that the proposition as to Lucy’s departure had come wholly from herself, and that at the present time all the ladies at Fawn Court—of course in the absence of Lord Fawn—were quite disposed to forgive Lucy if Lucy would only be forgiven, and hide herself when Lord Fawn should come; had Frank known all this, he might, perhaps, have counselled her to remain at Richmond. But he believed that Lady Fawn had insisted on Lucy’s departure; and of course, in such a case, Lucy must depart. He showed the letter to his sister, and asked for advice.
“How very unfortunate!” said Ellinor.
“Yes; is it not?”
“I wonder what she said to Lord Fawn?”
“She would speak out very plainly.”
“I suppose she has spoken out plainly, or otherwise they would never have told her to go away. It seems so unlike what I have always heard of Lady Fawn.”
“Lucy can be very headstrong if she pleases,” said Lucy’s lover. “What on earth had I better do for her? I don’t suppose she can get another place that would suit.”
“If she is to be your wife I don’t think she should go into another place. If it is quite fixed,” she said, and then she looked into her brother’s face.
“Well; what then?”363
“If you are sure you mean it——”
“Of course I mean it.”
“Then she had better come here. As for her going out as a governess, and telling the people that she is to be your wife in a few months, that is out of the question. And it would, I think, be equally so that she should go into any house and not tell the truth. Of course this would be the place for her.” It was at last decided that Ellinor should discuss the matter with her mother.
When the whole matter was unfolded to Mrs. Greystock that lady was more troubled than ever. If Lucy were to come to the deanery, she must come as Frank’s affianced bride, and must be treated as such by all Bobsborough. The dean would be giving his express sanction to the marriage, and so would Mrs. Greystock herself. She knew well that she had no power of refusing her sanction. Frank must do as he pleased about marrying. Were Lucy once his wife, of course she would be made welcome to the best the deanery could give her. There was no doubt about Lucy being as good as gold; only that real gold, vile as it is, was the one thing that Frank so much needed. The mother thought that she had discovered in her son something which seemed to indicate a possibility that this very imprudent match might at last be abandoned; and if there were such possibility, surely Lucy ought not now to be brought to the deanery. Nevertheless, if Frank were to insist upon her coming, she must come.
But Mrs. Greystock had a plan. “Oh, mamma,” said Ellinor, when the plan was proposed to her, “do not you think that would be cruel?”
“Cruel, my dear! no; certainly not cruel.”364
“She is such a virago.”
“You think that because Lizzie Eustace has said so. I don’t know that she’s a virago at all. I believe her to be a very good sort of woman.”
“Do you remember, mamma, what the admiral used to say of her?”
“The admiral, my dear, tried to borrow her money, as he did everybody’s, and when she wouldn’t give him any, then he said severe things. The poor admiral was never to be trusted in such matters.”
“I don’t think Frank would like it,” said Ellinor. The plan was this. Lady Linlithgow, who, through her brother-in-law, the late Admiral Greystock, was connected with the dean’s family, had made known her desire to have a new companion for six months. The lady was to be treated like a lady, but was to have no salary. Her travelling expenses were to be paid for her and no duties were to be expected from her, except that of talking and listening to the countess.
“I really think it’s the very thing for her,” said Mrs. Greystock. “It’s not like being a governess. She’s not to have any salary.”
“I don’t know whether that makes it better, mamma.”
“It would just be a visit to Lady Linlithgow. It is that which makes the difference, my dear.”
Ellinor felt sure that her brother would not hear of such an engagement, but he did hear of it, and, after various objections, gave a sort of sanction to it. It was not to be pressed upon Lucy if Lucy disliked it. Lady Linlithgow was to be made to understand that Lucy might leave whenever she pleased. It was to be an invitation, which Lucy might accept if she were so 365 minded. Lucy’s position as an honourable guest was to be assured to her. It was thought better that Lady Linlithgow should not be told of Lucy’s engagement unless she asked questions, or unless Lucy should choose to tell her. Every precaution was to be taken, and then Frank gave his sanction. He could understand, he said, that it might be inexpedient that Lucy should come at once to the deanery, as, were she to do so, she must remain there till her marriage, let the time be ever so long. “It might be two years,” said the mother.
“Hardly so long as that,” said the son.
“I don’t think it would be—quite fair—to papa,” said the mother. It was well that the argument was used behind the dean’s back, as, had it been made in his hearing, the dean would have upset it at once. The dean was so short-sighted and imprudent that he would have professed delight at the idea of having Lucy Morris as a resident at the deanery. Frank acceded to the argument, and was ashamed of himself for acceding. Ellinor did not accede, nor did her sisters, but it was necessary that they should yield. Mrs. Greystock at once wrote to Lady Linlithgow, and Frank wrote by the same post to Lucy Morris.
“As there must be a year’s delay,” he wrote, “we all here think it best that your visit to us should be postponed for a while. But if you object to the Linlithgow plan, say so at once. You shall be asked to do nothing disagreeable.” He found the letter very difficult to write. He knew that she ought to have been welcomed at once to Bobsborough. And he knew, too, the reason on which his mother’s objection was founded. But it might be two years 366 before he could possibly marry Lucy Morris, or it might be three. Would it be proper that she should be desired to make the deanery her home for so long and so indefinite a time? And when an engagement was for so long, could it be well that everybody should know it, as everybody would if Lucy were to take up her residence permanently at the deanery? Some consideration, certainly, was due to his father.
And, moreover, it was absolutely necessary that he and Lizzie Eustace should understand each other as to that mutual pledge of truth which had passed between them.
In the meantime he received the following letter from Messrs. Camperdown:
62 New Square, Lincoln’s Inn,
September 15, 18—.
“Dear Sir,—After what passed in our chambers the other day, we think it best to let you know that we have been instructed by the executor of the late Sir Florian Eustace to file a bill in Chancery against the widow, Lady Eustace, for the recovery of valuable diamonds. You will oblige us by making the necessary communication to her ladyship, and will perhaps tell us the names of her ladyship’s solicitors.
“We are, dear sir,
“Your very obedient servants,
“Camperdown & Son.
“F. Greystock, Esq., M.P.”
A few days after the receipt of this letter Frank started for Scotland.367
On this occasion Frank Greystock went down to Portray Castle with the intention of staying at the house during the very short time that he would remain in Scotland. He was going there solely on his cousin’s business, with no view to grouse-shooting or other pleasure, and he purposed remaining but a very short time—perhaps only one night. His cousin, moreover, had spoken of having guests with her, in which case there could be no tinge of impropriety in his doing so. And whether she had guests, or whether she had not, what difference could it really make? Mr. Andrew Gowran had already seen what there was to see, and could do all the evil that could be done. He could, if he were so minded, spread reports in the neighbourhood, and might, perhaps, have the power of communicating what he had discovered to the Eustace faction, John Eustace, Mr. Camperdown, and Lord Fawn. That evil, if it were an evil, must be encountered with absolute indifference. So he went direct to the castle, and was received quietly, but very graciously, by his cousin Lizzie.
There were no guests then staying at Portray; but that very distinguished lady, Mrs. Carbuncle, with her niece, Miss Roanoke, had been there; as had also that very well-known nobleman, Lord George de Bruce Carruthers. 368 Lord George and Mrs. Carbuncle were in the habit of seeing a good deal of each other, though, as all the world knew, there was nothing between them but the simplest friendship. And Sir Griffin Tewett had also been there, a young baronet who was supposed to be enamoured of that most gorgeous of beauties, Lucinda Roanoke. Of all these grand friends—friends with whom Lizzie had become acquainted in London—nothing further need be said here, as they were not at the castle when Frank arrived. When he came, whether by premeditated plan or by the chance of circumstances, Lizzie had no one with her at Portray except the faithful Macnulty.
“I thought to have found you with all the world here,” said Frank, the faithful Macnulty being then present.
“Well, we have had people, but only for a couple of days. They are all coming again, but not till November. You hunt, don’t you, Frank?”
“I have no time for hunting. Why do you ask?”
“I’m going to hunt. It’s a long way to go—ten or twelve miles generally; but almost everybody hunts here. Mrs. Carbuncle is coming again, and she is about the best lady in England after hounds; so they tell me. And Lord George is coming again.”
“Who is Lord George?”
“You remember Lord George Carruthers, whom we all knew in London?”
“What, the tall man with the hollow eyes and the big whiskers, whose life is a mystery to every one? Is he coming?”
“I like him just because he isn’t a ditto to every man one meets. And Sir Griffin Tewett is coming.”369
“Who is a ditto to everybody.”
“Well, yes; poor Sir Griffin! The truth is, he is awfully smitten with Mrs. Carbuncle’s niece.”
“Don’t you go match-making, Lizzie,” said Frank. “That Sir Griffin is a fool, we will all allow; but it’s my belief he has wit enough to make himself pass off as a man of fortune, with very little to back it. He’s at law with his mother, at law with his sisters, and at law with his younger brother.”
“If he were at law with his great-grandmother, it would be nothing to me, Frank. She has her aunt to take care of her, and Sir Griffin is coming with Lord George.”
“You don’t mean to put up all their horses, Lizzie?”
“Well, not all. Lord George and Sir Griffin are to keep theirs at Troon, or Kilmarnock, or somewhere. The ladies will bring two apiece, and I shall have two of my own.”
“And carriage horses and hacks?”
“The carriage horses are here, of course.”
“It will cost you a great deal of money, Lizzie.”
“That’s just what I tell her,” said Miss Macnulty.
“I’ve been living here, not spending one shilling, for the last two months,” said Lizzie, “and all for the sake of economy; yet people think that no woman was ever left so rich. Surely I can afford to see a few friends for one month in the year. If I can’t afford so much as that, I shall let the place and go and live abroad somewhere. It’s too much to suppose that a woman should shut herself up here for six or eight months and see nobody all the time.”
On that, the day of Frank’s arrival, not a word was said about the necklace, nor of Lord Fawn, nor of that 370 mutual pledge which had been taken and given, down among the rocks. Frank, before dinner, went out about the place that he might see how things were going on, and observe whether the widow was being ill-treated and unfairly eaten up by her dependants. He was, too, a little curious as to a matter as to which his curiosity was soon relieved. He had hardly reached the outbuildings which lay behind the kitchen gardens on his way to the Portray woods, before he encountered Andy Gowran. That faithful adherent of the family raised his hand to his cap and bobbed his head, and then silently, and with renewed diligence, applied himself to the job which he had in hand. The gate of the little yard in which the cow-shed stood was off its hinges, and Andy was resetting the post and making the fence tight and tidy. Frank stood a moment watching him, and then asked after his health. “’Deed am I nae that to boost about in the way of bodily heelth, Muster Greystock. I’ve just o’er mony things to tent to, to tent to my ain sell as a prudent mon ought. It’s airly an’ late wi’ me, Muster Greystock; and the lumbagy just a’ o’er a mon isn’t the pleasantest freend in the warld.” Frank said that he was sorry to hear so bad an account of Mr. Gowran’s health, and passed on. It was not for him to refer to the little scene in which Mr. Gowran had behaved so badly and had shaken his head. If the misbehaviour had been condoned by Lady Eustace, the less that he said about it, the better. Then he went on through the woods, and was well aware that Mr. Gowran’s fostering care had not been abated by his disapproval of his mistress. The fences had been repaired since Frank was there, and stones had been laid on the road or track over which was to be carried away the 371 underwood which it would be Lady Eustace’s privilege to cut during the coming winter.
Frank was not alone for one moment with his cousin during that evening, but in the presence of Miss Macnulty all the circumstances of the necklace were discussed. “Of course it is my own,” said Lady Eustace, standing up, “my own to do just what I please with. If they go on like this with me, they will almost tempt me to sell it for what it will fetch, just to prove to them that I can do so. I have half a mind to sell it and then send them the money and tell them to put it by for my little Flory. Would not that serve them right, Frank?”
“I don’t think I’d do that, Lizzie.”
“Why not? You always tell me what not to do, but you never say what I ought!”
“That is because I am so wise and prudent. If you were to attempt to sell the diamonds they would stop you, and would not give you credit for the generous purpose afterward.”
“They wouldn’t stop you if you sold the ring you wear.” The ring had been given to him by Lucy after their engagement, and was the only present she had ever made him. It had been purchased out of her own earnings, and had been put on his finger by her own hand. Either from accident or craft he had not worn it when he had been before at Portray, and Lizzie had at once observed it as a thing she had never seen before. She knew well that he would not buy such a ring. Who had given him the ring? Frank almost blushed as he looked down at the trinket, and Lizzie was sure that it had been given by that sly little creeping thing, Lucy. “Let me look at the ring,” she 372 said. “Nobody could stop you if you chose to sell this to me.”
“Little things are always less troublesome than big things,” he said.
“What is the price?” she asked.
“It is not in the market, Lizzie. Nor should your diamonds be there. You must be content to let them take what legal steps they may think fit, and defend your property. After that you can do as you please; but keep them safe till the thing is settled. If I were you I would have them at the bankers.”
“Yes; and then when I asked for them be told that they couldn’t be given up to me because of Mr. Camperdown or the Lord Chancellor. And what’s the good of a thing locked up? You wear your ring; why shouldn’t I wear my necklace?”
“I have nothing to say against it.”
“It isn’t that I care for such things. Do I, Julia?”
“All ladies like them, I suppose,” said that stupidest and most stubborn of all humble friends, Miss Macnulty.
“I don’t like them at all, and you know I don’t. I hate them. They have been the misery of my life. Oh, how they have tormented me! Even when I am asleep I dream about them, and think that people steal them. They have never given me one moment’s happiness. When I have them on I am always fearing that Camperdown and son are behind me and are going to clutch them. And I think too well of myself to believe that anybody will care more for me because of a necklace. The only good they have ever done me has been to save me from a man who I now know 373 never cared for me. But they are mine; and therefore I choose to keep them. Though I am only a woman, I have an idea of my own rights, and will defend them as far as they go. If you say I ought not to sell them, Frank, I’ll keep them; but I’ll wear them as commonly as you do that gage d’amour which you carry on your finger. Nobody shall ever see me without them. I won’t go to any old dowager’s tea-party without them. Mr. John Eustace has chosen to accuse me of stealing them.”
“I don’t think John Eustace has ever said a word about them,” said Frank.
“Mr. Camperdown, then; the people who choose to call themselves the guardians and protectors of my boy, as if I were not his best guardian and protector. I’ll show them at any rate that I’m not ashamed of my booty. I don’t see why I should lock them up in a musty old bank. Why don’t you send your ring to the bank?”
Frank could not but feel that she did it all very well. In the first place, she was very pretty in the display of her half-mock indignation. Though she used some strong words, she used them with an air that carried them off and left no impression that she had been either vulgar or violent. And then, though the indignation was half mock, it was also half real, and her courage and spirit were attractive. Greystock had at last taught himself to think that Mr. Camperdown was not justified in the claim which he made, and that in consequence of that unjust claim Lizzie Eustace had been subjected to ill-usage. “Did you ever see this bone of contention,” she asked; “this fair Helen for which Greeks and Romans are to fight?”374
“I never saw the necklace, if you mean that.”
“I’ll fetch it. You ought to see it as you have to talk about it so often.”
“Can I get it?” asked Miss Macnulty.
“Heaven and earth! To suppose that I should ever keep them under less than seven keys, and that there should be any of the locks that anybody should be able to open except myself!”
“And where are the seven keys?” asked Frank.
“Next to my heart,” said Lizzie, putting her hand on her left side. “And when I sleep they are always tied round my neck in a bag, and the bag never escapes from my grasp. And I have such a knife under my pillow, ready for Mr. Camperdown should he come to seize them!” Then she ran out of the room, and in a couple of minutes returned with the necklace hanging loose in her hand. It was part of her little play to show by her speed that the close locking of the jewels was a joke, and that the ornament, precious as it was, received at her hands no other treatment than might any indifferent feminine bauble. Nevertheless within those two minutes she had contrived to unlock the heavy iron case which always stood beneath the foot of her bed. “There,” she said, chucking the necklace across the table to Frank, so that he was barely able to catch it. “There is ten thousand pounds’ worth, as they tell me. Perhaps you will not believe me when I say that I should have the greatest satisfaction in the world in throwing them out among those blue waves yonder, did I not think that Camperdown and son would fish them up again.”
Frank spread the necklace on the table and stood up to look at it, while Miss Macnulty came and gazed 375 at the jewels over his shoulder. “And that is worth ten thousand pounds,” said he.
“So people say.”
“And your husband gave it you just as another man gives a trinket that costs ten shillings!”
“Just as Lucy Morris gave you that ring.”
He smiled, but took no other notice of the accusation. “I am so poor a man,” said he, “that this string of stones, which you throw about the room like a child’s toy, would be the making of me.”
“Take it and be made,” said Lizzie.
“It seems an awful thing to me to have so much value in my hands,” said Miss Macnulty, who had lifted the necklace off the table. “It would buy an estate; wouldn’t it?”
“It would buy the honourable estate of matrimony if it belonged to many women,” said Lizzie, “but it hasn’t had just that effect with me; has it, Frank?”
“You haven’t used it with that view yet.”
“Will you have it, Frank?” she said. “Take it with all its encumbrances, and weight of cares. Take it with all the burden of Messrs. Camperdown’s law-suits upon it. You shall be as welcome to it as flowers were ever welcomed in May.”
“The encumbrances are too heavy,” said Frank.
“You prefer a little ring.”
“I don’t doubt but you’re right,” said Lizzie. “Who fears to rise will hardly get a fall. But there they are for you to look at, and there they shall remain for the rest of the evening.” So saying, she clasped the string round Miss Macnulty’s throat. “How do you feel, Julia, with an estate upon your neck? Five 376 hundred acres at a pound an acre. That’s about it.” Miss Macnulty looked as though she did not like it, but she stood for a time bearing the precious burden, while Frank explained to his cousin that she could hardly buy land to pay her five per cent. They were then taken off and left lying on the table till Lady Eustace took them with her as she went to bed. “I do feel so like some naughty person in the ‘Arabian Nights,’” she said, “who has got some great treasure that always brings him into trouble; but he can’t get rid of it, because some spirit has given it to him. At last some morning it turns to slate stones, and then he has to be a water-carrier, and is happy ever afterwards, and marries the king’s daughter. What sort of a king’s son will there be for me when this turns into slate stones? Good night, Frank.” Then she went off with her diamonds and her bed-candle.
On the following day Frank suggested that there should be a business conversation. “That means that I am to sit silent and obedient while you lecture me,” she said. But she submitted, and they went together into the little sitting-room which looked out over the sea, the room where she kept her Shelley and her Byron, and practised her music and did water-colours, and sat, sometimes, dreaming of a Corsair. “And now, my gravest of Mentors, what must a poor ignorant female Telemachus do, so that the world may not trample on her too heavily?” He began by telling her what had happened between himself and Lord Fawn, and recommended her to write to that unhappy nobleman, returning any present that she might have received from him, and expressing, with some mild but intelligible sarcasm, her regret that their paths should 377 have crossed each other. “I’ve worse in store for his lordship than that,” said Lizzie.
“Do you mean by any personal interview?”
“I think you are wrong, Lizzie.”
“Of course you do. Men have become so soft themselves, that they no longer dare to think even of punishing those who behave badly, and they expect women to be softer and more fainéant than themselves. I have been ill-used.”
“Certainly you have.”
“And I will be revenged. Look here, Frank; if your view of these things is altogether different from mine, let us drop the subject. Of all living human beings you are the one that is most to me now. Perhaps you are more than any other ever was. But, even for you, I cannot alter my nature. Even for you I would not alter it if I could. That man has injured me, and all the world knows it. I will have my revenge, and all the world shall know that. I did wrong; I am sensible enough of that.”
“What wrong do you mean?”
“I told a man whom I never loved that I would marry him. God knows that I have been punished.”
“Perhaps, Lizzie, it is better as it is.”
“A great deal better. I will tell you now that I could never have induced myself to go into church with that man as his bride. With a man I didn’t love I might have done so, but not with a man I despised.”
“You have been saved, then, from a greater evil.”
“Yes; but not the less is his injury to me. It is not because he despises me that he rejects me; nor is it 378 because he thought that I had taken property that was not my own.”
“Because he was afraid the world would say that I had done so. Poor shallow creature! But he shall be punished.”
“I do not know how you can punish him.”
“Leave that to me. I have another thing to do much more difficult.” She paused, looking for a moment up into his face, and then turning her eyes upon the ground. As he said nothing, she went on. “I have to excuse myself to you for having accepted him.”
“I have never blamed you.”
“Not in words. How should you? But if you have not blamed me in your heart, I despise you. I know you have. I have seen it in your eyes when you have counselled me either to take the poor creature or to leave him. Speak out, now, like a man. Is it not so?”
“I never thought you loved him.”
“Loved him! Is there anything in him or about him that a woman could love? Is he not a poor social stick; a bit of half-dead wood, good to make a post of if one wants a post? I did want a post so sorely then!”
“I don’t see why?”
“No, indeed. It was natural that you should be inclined to marry again.”
“Natural that I should be inclined to marry again! And is that all? It is hard sometimes to see whether men are thick-witted, or hypocrites so perfect that they seem to be so. I cannot bring myself to think you thick-witted, Frank.”379
“Then I must be the perfect hypocrite, of course.”
“You believed I accepted Lord Fawn because it was natural that I should wish to marry again! Frank, you believed nothing of the kind. I accepted him in my anger, in my misery, in my despair, because I had expected you to come to me, and you had not come.” She had thrown herself now into a chair, and sat looking at him. “You had told me that you would come, and you had stayed away. It was you, Frank, that I wanted to punish then; but there was no punishment in it for you. When is it to be, Frank?”
“When is what to be?” he asked, in a low voice, all but dumbfounded. How was he to put an end to this conversation, and what was he to say to her?
“Your marriage with that little wizened thing who gave you the ring, that prim morsel of feminine propriety who has been clever enough to make you believe that her morality would suffice to make you happy.”
“I will not hear Lucy Morris abused, Lizzie.”
“Is that abuse? Is it abuse to say that she is moral and proper? But, sir, I shall abuse her. I know her for what she is, while your eyes are sealed. She is wise and moral, and decorous and prim; but she is a hypocrite, and has no touch of real heart in her composition. Not abuse her when she has robbed me of all, all, all that I have in the world! Go to her. You had better go at once. I did not mean to say all this, but it has been said, and you must leave me. I, at any rate, cannot play the hypocrite. I wish I could.” He rose and came to her, and attempted to take her hand, but she flung away from him. “No,” she said, “never again; never, unless you will tell me that the promise you made me when we were down on the seashore 380 was a true promise. Was that truth, sir, or was it a—lie?”
“Lizzie, do not use such a word as that to me.”
“I cannot stand picking my words when the whole world is going round with me, and my very brain is on fire. What is it to me what my words are? Say one syllable to me, and every word I utter again while breath is mine shall be spoken to do you pleasure. If you cannot say it, it is nothing to me what you or any one may think of my words. You know my secret, and I care not who else knows it. At any rate, I can die.” Then she paused a moment, and after that stalked steadily out of the room.
That afternoon Frank took a long walk by himself over the mountains, nearly to the cottage and back again; and on his return was informed that Lady Eustace was ill, and had gone to bed. At any rate, she was too unwell to come down to dinner. He, therefore, and Miss Macnulty sat down to dine, and passed the evening together without other companionship. Frank had resolved during his walk that he would leave Portray the next day; but had hardly resolved upon anything else. One thing, however, seemed certain to him. He was engaged to marry Lucy Morris, and to that engagement he must be true. His cousin was very charming, and had never looked so lovely in his eyes as when she had been confessing her love for him. And he had wondered at and admired her courage, her power of language, and her force. He could not quite forget how useful would be her income to him. And, added to this, there was present to him an unwholesome feeling, ideas absolutely at variance with those better ideas which had prompted him when he 381 was writing his offer to Lucy Morris in his chambers, that a woman such as was his cousin Lizzie was fitter to be the wife of a man thrown, as he must be, into the world, than a dear, quiet, domestic little girl, such as Lucy Morris. But to Lucy Morris he was engaged, and therefore there was an end of it.
The next morning he sent his love to his cousin, asking whether he should see her before he went. It was still necessary that he should know what attorneys to employ on her behalf if the threatened bill were filed by Messrs. Camperdown. Then he suggested a firm in his note. Might he put the case into the hands of Mr. Townsend, who was a friend of his own? There came back to him a scrap of paper, an old envelope, on which were written the names of Mowbray and Mopus: Mowbray and Mopus in a large scrawling hand, and with pencil. He put the scrap of paper into his pocket, feeling that he could not remonstrate with her at this moment, and was prepared to depart, when there came a message to him. Lady Eustace was still unwell, but had risen; and if it were not giving him too much trouble, would see him before he went. He followed the messenger to the same little room, looking out upon the sea, and then found her, dressed indeed, but with a white morning wrapper on, and with hair loose over her shoulders. Her eyes were red with weeping, and her face was pale, and thin, and woebegone. “I am so sorry that you are ill, Lizzie,” he said.
“Yes, I am ill; sometimes very ill; but what does it matter? I did not send for you, Frank, to speak of aught so trivial as that. I have a favour to ask.”
“Of course I will grant it.”
“It is your forgiveness for my conduct yesterday.”382
“Say that you forgive me. Say it!”
“How can I forgive where there has been no fault?”
“There has been fault. Say that you forgive me.” And she stamped her foot as she demanded his pardon.
“I do forgive you,” he said.
“And now, one farewell.” She then threw herself upon his breast and kissed him. “Now go,” she said; “go, and come no more to me, unless you would see me mad. May God Almighty bless you, and make you happy.” As she uttered this prayer she held the door in her hand, and there was nothing for him but to leave her.383
A great many people go to Scotland in the autumn. When you have your autumn holiday in hand to dispose of it, there is nothing more aristocratic that you can do than go to Scotland. Dukes are more plentiful there than in Pall Mall, and you will meet an earl or at least a lord on every mountain. Of course, if you merely travel about from inn to inn, and neither have a moor of your own nor stay with any great friend, you don’t quite enjoy the cream of it; but to go to Scotland in August and stay there, perhaps, till the end of September, is about the most certain step you can take towards autumnal fashion. Switzerland and the Tyrol, and even Italy, are all redolent of Mr. Cook, and in those beautiful lands you become subject at least to suspicion.
By no person was the duty of adhering to the best side of society more clearly appreciated than by Mr. and Mrs. Hittaway of Warwick Square. Mr. Hittaway was Chairman of the Board of Civil Appeals, and was a man who quite understood that there are chairmen and—chairmen. He could name to you three or four men holding responsible permanent official positions, quite as good as that he filled in regard to salary—which, as he often said of his own, was a mere nothing, just a poor two thousand pounds a year, not as 384 much as a grocer would make in a decent business—but they were simply head clerks and nothing more. Nobody knew anything of them. They had no names. You did not meet them anywhere. Cabinet ministers never heard of them; and nobody out of their own offices ever consulted them. But there are others, and Mr. Hittaway felt greatly conscious that he was one of them, who move altogether in a different sphere. One minister of State would ask another whether Hittaway had been consulted on this or on that measure—so at least the Hittawayites were in the habit of reporting. The names of Mr. and Mrs. Hittaway were constantly in the papers. They were invited to evening gatherings at the houses of both the alternate Prime Ministers. They were to be seen at fashionable gatherings up the river. They attended concerts at Buckingham Palace. Once a year they gave a dinner-party which was inserted in the “Morning Post.” On such occasions at least one Cabinet Minister always graced the board. In fact, Mr. Hittaway, as Chairman of the Board of Civil Appeals, was somebody; and Mrs. Hittaway, as his wife, and as sister to a peer, was somebody also. The reader will remember that Mrs. Hittaway had been a Fawn before she married.
There is this drawback upon the happy condition which Mr. Hittaway had achieved, that it demands a certain expenditure. Let nobody dream that he can be somebody without having to pay for that honour; unless, indeed, he be a clergyman. When you go to a concert at Buckingham Palace you pay nothing, it is true, for your ticket; and a Cabinet Minister dining with you does not eat or drink more than your old friend Jones the attorney. But in some insidious, unforeseen 385 manner, in a way that can only be understood after much experience, these luxuries of fashion do make a heavy pull on a modest income. Mrs. Hittaway knew this thoroughly, having much experience, and did make her fight bravely. For Mr. Hittaway’s income was no more than modest. A few thousand pounds he had of his own when he married, and his Clara had brought to him the unpretending sum of fifteen hundred. But, beyond that, the poor official salary—which was less than what a decent grocer would make—was their all. The house in Warwick Square they had prudently purchased on their marriage—when houses in Warwick Square were cheaper than they are now—and there they carried on their battle, certainly with success. But two thousand a year does not go very far in Warwick Square, even though you sit rent free, if you have a family and absolutely must keep a carriage. It therefore resulted that when Mr. and Mrs. Hittaway went to Scotland, which they would endeavour to do every year, it was very important that they should accomplish their aristocratic holiday as visitors at the house of some aristocratic friend. So well had they played their cards in this respect that they seldom failed altogether. In one year they had been the guests of a great marquis quite in the north, and that had been a very glorious year. To talk of Stackallan was indeed a thing of beauty. But in that year Mr. Hittaway had made himself very useful in London. Since that they had been at delicious shooting lodges in Ross and Inverness-shire, had visited a millionaire at his palace amid the Argyle mountains, had been fêted in a western island, had been bored by a Dundee dowager, and put up with a Lothian laird. 386 But the thing had been almost always done, and the Hittaways were known as people that went to Scotland. He could handle a gun, and was clever enough never to shoot a keeper. She could read aloud, could act a little, could talk or hold her tongue; and let her hosts be who they would, and as mighty as you please, never caused them trouble by seeming to be out of their circle, and on that account requiring peculiar attention.
On this occasion Mr. and Mrs. Hittaway were the guests of old Lady Pierrepoint in Dumfries. There was nothing special to recommend Lady Pierrepoint except that she had a large house and a good income, and that she liked to have people with her of whom everybody knew something. So far was Lady Pierrepoint from being high in the Hittaway world, that Mrs. Hittaway felt herself called upon to explain to her friends that she was forced to go to Dumdum House by the duties of old friendship. Dear old Lady Pierrepoint had been insisting on it for the last ten years. And there was this advantage, that Dumfriesshire is next to Ayrshire, that Dumdum was not very far—some twenty or thirty miles—from Portray, and that she might learn something about Lizzie Eustace in her country house.
It was nearly the end of August when the Hittaways left London to stay an entire month with Lady Pierrepoint. Mr. Hittaway had very frequently explained his defalcation as to fashion—in that he was remaining in London for three weeks after Parliament had broken up—by the peculiar exigencies of the Board of Appeals in that year. To one or two very intimate friends Mrs. Hittaway had hinted that everything must 387 be made to give way to this horrid business of Fawn’s marriage. “Whatever happens, and at whatever cost, that must be stopped,” she had ventured to say to Lady Glencora Palliser, who, however, could hardly be called one of her very intimate friends.
“I don’t see it at all,” said Lady Glencora. “I think Lady Eustace is very nice. And why shouldn’t she marry Lord Fawn if she’s engaged to him?”
“But you have heard of the necklace, Lady Glencora?”
“Yes, I’ve heard of it. I wish anybody would come to me and try and get my diamonds! They should hear what I would say.”
Mrs. Hittaway greatly admired Lady Glencora, but not the less was she determined to persevere.
Had Lord Fawn been altogether candid and open with his family at this time, some trouble might have been saved; for he had almost altogether resolved that let the consequences be what they might, he would not marry Lizzie Eustace. But he was afraid to say this even to his own sister. He had promised to marry the woman, and he must walk very warily or the objurgations of the world would be too many for him. “It must depend altogether on her conduct, Clara,” he had said when last his sister had persecuted him on the subject. She was not, however, sorry to have an opportunity of learning something of the lady’s doings. Mr. Hittaway had more than once called on Mr. Camperdown.
“Yes,” Mr. Camperdown had said in answer to a question from Lord Fawn’s brother-in-law, “she would play old gooseberry with the property if we hadn’t some one to look after it. There’s a fellow named 388 Gowran who has lived there all his life, and we depend very much upon him.”
It is certainly true that as to many points of conduct women are less nice than men. Mr. Hittaway would not probably have condescended himself to employ espionage, but Mrs. Hittaway was less scrupulous. She actually went down to Troon and had an interview with Mr. Gowran, using freely the names of Mr. Camperdown and Lord Fawn; and some ten days afterward Mr. Gowran travelled as far as Dumfries and Dumdum, and had an interview with Mrs. Hittaway. The result of all this, and of further inquiries, will be shown by the following letter from Mrs. Hittaway to her sister Amelia:
Dumdum, September 9, 18—
“My Dear Amelia: Here we are, and here we have to remain to the end of the month. Of course it suits, and all that; but it is awfully dull. Richmond for this time of the year is a paradise to it; and as for coming to Scotland every autumn, I am sick of it. Only what is one to do if one lives in London? If it wasn’t for Orlando and the children I’d brazen it out, and let people say what they pleased. As for health, I’m never so well as at home, and I do like having my own things about me. Orlando has literally nothing to do here. There is no shooting except pheasants, and that doesn’t begin till October.
“But I’m very glad I’ve come as to Frederic, and the more so, as I have learned the truth as to that Mr. Greystock. She, Lady Eustace, is a bad creature in every way. She still pretends that she is engaged to Frederic, and tells everybody that the marriage is not 389 broken off, and yet she has her cousin with her, making love to him in the most indecent way. People used to say in her favour that at any rate she never flirted. I never quite know what people mean when they talk of flirting. But you may take my word for it that she allows her cousin to embrace her, and embraces him. I would not say it if I could not prove it. It is horrible to think of it, when one remembers that she is almost justified in saying that Frederic is engaged to her.
“No doubt he was engaged to her. It was a great misfortune, but, thank God, is not yet past remedy. He has some foolish feeling of what he calls honour; as if a man can be bound in honour to marry a woman who has deceived him in every point! She still sticks to the diamonds, if she has not sold them, as I believe she has; and Mr. Camperdown is going to bring an action against her in the High Court of Chancery. But still Frederic will not absolutely declare the thing off. I feel, therefore, that it is my duty, to let him know what I have learned. I should be the last to stir in such a matter unless I was sure I could prove it. But I don’t quite like to write to Frederic. Will mamma see him, and tell him what I say? Of course you will show this letter to mamma. If not, I must postpone it till I am in town; but I think it would come better from mamma. Mamma may be sure that she is a bad woman.
“And now what do you think of your Mr. Greystock? As sure as I am here he was seen with his arm round his cousin’s waist, sitting out of doors, kissing her. I was never taken in by that story of his marrying Lucy Morris. He is the last man in the world to marry a governess. He is over head and ears in debt, and if 390 he marries at all, he must marry some one with money. I really think that mamma and you, and all of you have been soft about that girl. I believe she has been a good governess, that is, good after mamma’s easy fashion; and I don’t for a moment suppose that she is doing anything underhand. But a governess with a lover never does suit, and I’m sure it won’t suit in this case. If I were you I would tell her. I think it would be the best charity. Whether they mean to marry I can’t tell; Mr. Greystock, that is, and this woman; but they ought to mean it; that’s all.
“Let me know at once whether mamma will see Frederic, and speak to him openly. She is quite at liberty to use my name; only nobody but mamma should see this letter.
“Love to them all.
“Your most affectionate sister,
In writing to Amelia instead of to her mother, Mrs. Hittaway was sure that she was communicating her ideas to at least two persons at Fawn Court, and that therefore there would be discussion. Had she written to her mother, her mother might probably have held her peace, and done nothing.
the one offence which a gentleman is supposed never to commit is that of speaking an untruth
[This seems to have been a bit of an obsession with the 19th-century English. In Peace with Honour, various non-European characters observe repeatedly that Englishmen always tell the truth. And, since the novel is English, this is presented as an admirable quality rather than a laughable quirk.]
her mother had refused to be helped a second time to fried bacon
[The term “fried bacon” may seem redundant, because what else would you do with bacon—boil it? The answer, unfortunately is yes: In 19th-century England, boiled bacon was believed to be edible.]
“It’s not like being a governess. She’s not to have any salary.” / “I don’t know whether that makes it better, mamma.”
[An interesting sociological dilemma, to be sure. Lucy can either be penniless for six months, or she can risk further loss of caste by finding paid work. Or, adopting the original plan, she can sponge off her fiancé’s family for the next year or three.]
Though I am only a woman, I have an idea of my own rights
[Of which there are not many, since the year is no later than 1871.]
“Lizzie, do not use such a word as that to me.”
[As discussed at great length in Chapter XXIX.]
these luxuries of fashion do make a heavy pull on a modest income
[Idle query: What proportion of Trollope’s readers enjoyed an income of “a poor two thousand pounds a year”?]
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.