Mrs. Greystock, in making her proposition respecting Lady Linlithgow, wrote to Lady Fawn, and by the same post Frank wrote to Lucy. But before those letters reached Fawn Court there had come that other dreadful letter from Mrs. Hittaway. The consternation caused at Fawn Court in respect to Mr. Greystock’s treachery almost robbed of its importance the suggestion made as to Lord Fawn. Could it be possible that this man, who had so openly and in so manly a manner engaged himself to Lucy Morris, should now be proposing to himself a marriage with his rich cousin? Lady Fawn did not believe that it was possible. Clara had not seen those horrid things with her own eyes, and other people might be liars. But Amelia shook her head. Amelia evidently believed that all manner of iniquities were possible to man.
“You see, mamma, the sacrifice he was making was so very great!”
“But he made it!” pleaded Lady Fawn.
“No, mamma, he said he would make it. Men do these things. It is very horrid, but I think they do them more now than they used to. It seems to me that nobody cares now what he does, if he’s not to be put into prison.” It was resolved between these two wise ones that nothing at the present should be said to Lucy or to any one of the family. They would wait 392 awhile, and in the meantime they attempted, as far as it was possible to make the attempt without express words, to let Lucy understand that she might remain at Fawn Court if she pleased. While this was going on, Lord Fawn did come down once again, and on that occasion Lucy simply absented herself from the dinner-table and from the family circle for that evening.
“He’s coming in, and you’ve got to go to prison again,” Nina said to her, with a kiss.
The matter to which Mrs. Hittaway’s letter more specially alluded was debated between the mother and daughter at great length. They, indeed, were less brave and less energetic than was the married daughter of the family; but as they saw Lord Fawn more frequently, they knew better than Mrs. Hittaway the real state of the case. They felt sure that he was already sufficiently embittered against Lady Eustace, and thought that therefore the peculiarly unpleasant task assigned to Lady Fawn need not be performed. Lady Fawn had not the advantage of living so much in the world as her daughter, and was oppressed by, perhaps, a squeamish delicacy.
“I really could not tell him about her sitting and—and kissing the man. Could I, my dear?”
“I couldn’t,” said Amelia; “but Clara would.”
“And to tell the truth,” continued Lady Fawn, “I shouldn’t care a bit about it if it was not for poor Lucy. What will become of her if that man is untrue to her?”
“Nothing on earth would make her believe it, unless it came from himself,” said Amelia, who really did know something of Lucy’s character. “Till he tells her, or till she knows that he’s married, she’ll never believe it.”393
Then, after a few days, there came those other letters from Bobsborough, one from the dean’s wife and the other from Frank. The matter there proposed it was necessary that they should discuss with Lucy, as the suggestion had reached Lucy as well as themselves. She at once came to Lady Fawn with her lover’s letter, and with a gentle merry laughing face declared that the thing would do very well. “I am sure I should get on with her, and I should know that it wouldn’t be for long,” said Lucy.
“The truth is, we don’t want you to go at all,” said Lady Fawn.
“Oh, but I must,” said Lucy in her sharp, decided tone. “I must go. I was bound to wait till I heard from Mr. Greystock, because it is my first duty to obey him. But of course I can’t stay here after what has passed. As Nina says, it is simply going to prison when Lord Fawn comes here.”
“Nina is an impertinent little chit,” said Amelia.
“She is the dearest little friend in all the world,” said Lucy, “and always tells the exact truth. I do go to prison, and when he comes I feel that I ought to go to prison. Of course I must go away. What does it matter? Lady Linlithgow won’t be exactly like you,” and she put her little hand upon Lady Fawn’s fat arm caressingly, “and I sha’n’t have you all to spoil me; but I shall be simply waiting till he comes. Everything now must be no more than waiting till he comes.”
If it was to be that the he would never come—this was very dreadful. Amelia clearly thought that “he” would never come, and Lady Fawn was apt to think her daughter wiser than herself. And if Mr. Greystock 394 were such as Mrs. Hittaway had described him to be—if there were to be no such coming as that for which Lucy fondly waited—then there would be reason tenfold strong why she should not leave Fawn Court and go to Lady Linlithgow. In such case, when that blow should fall, Lucy would require very different treatment than might be expected for her from the hands of Lady Linlithgow. She would fade and fall to the earth like a flower with an insect at its root. She would be like a wounded branch into which no sap would run. With such misfortune and wretchedness possibly before her, Lady Fawn could not endure the idea that Lucy should be turned out to encounter it all beneath the cold shade of Lady Linlithgow’s indifference. “My dear,” she said, “let bygones be bygones. Come down and meet Lord Fawn. Nobody will say anything. After all, you were provoked very much, and there has been quite enough about it.”
This, from Lady Fawn, was almost miraculous—from Lady Fawn, to whom her son had ever been the highest of human beings! But Lucy had told the tale to her lover, and her lover approved of her going. Perhaps there was acting upon her mind some feeling, of which she was hardly conscious, that as long as she remained at Fawn Court she would not see her lover. She had told him that she could make herself supremely happy in the simple knowledge that he loved her. But we all know how few such declarations should be taken as true. Of course she was longing to see him. “If he would only pass by the road,” she would say to herself, “so that I might peep at him through the gate!” She had no formed idea in her own mind that she would be able to see him should 395 she go to Lady Linlithgow, but still there would be the chances of her altered life! She would tell Lady Linlithgow the truth, and why should Lady Linlithgow refuse her so rational a pleasure? There was, of course, a reason why Frank should not come to Fawn Court; but the house in Bruton street need not be closed to him. “I hardly know how to love you enough,” she said to Lady Fawn, “but indeed I must go. I do so hope the time may come when you and Mr. Greystock may be friends. Of course it will come. Shall it not?”
“Who can look into the future?” said the wise Amelia.
“Of course if he is your husband we shall love him,” said the less wise Lady Fawn.
“He is to be my husband,” said Lucy, springing up. “What do you mean? Do you mean anything?” Lady Fawn, who was not at all wise, protested that she meant nothing.
What were they to do? On that special day they merely stipulated that there should be a day’s delay before Lady Fawn answered Mrs. Greystock’s letter, so that she might sleep upon it. The sleeping on it meant that further discussion which was to take place between Lady Fawn and her second daughter in her ladyship’s bedroom that night. During all this period the general discomfort of Fawn Court was increased by a certain sullenness on the part of Augusta, the elder daughter, who knew that letters had come and that consultations were being held, but who was not admitted to those consultations. Since the day on which poor Augusta had been handed over to Lizzie Eustace as her peculiar friend in the family, there had always existed a feeling that she by her position was 396 debarred from sympathising in the general desire to be quit of Lizzie; and then, too, poor Augusta was never thoroughly trusted by that great guide of the family, Mrs. Hittaway. “She couldn’t keep it to herself if you’d give her gold to do it,” Mrs. Hittaway would say. Consequently Augusta was sullen and conscious of ill-usage.
“Have you fixed upon anything?” she said to Lucy that evening.
“Not quite; only I am to go away.”
“I don’t see why you should go away at all. Frederic doesn’t come here so very often, and when he does come he doesn’t say much to any one. I suppose it’s all Amelia’s doings.”
“Nobody wants me to go, only I feel that I ought. Mr. Greystock thinks it best.”
“I suppose he’s going to quarrel with us all.”
“No, dear. I don’t think he wants to quarrel with any one; but above all he must not quarrel with me. Lord Fawn has quarrelled with him, and that’s a misfortune—just for the present.”
“And where are you going?”
“Nothing has been settled yet; but we are talking of Lady Linlithgow—if she will take me.”
“Lady Linlithgow! Oh dear!”
“Won’t it do?”
“They say she’s the most dreadful old woman in London. Lady Eustace told such stories about her.”
“Do you know, I think I shall rather like it.”
But things were very different with Lucy the next morning. That discussion in Lady Fawn’s room was protracted till midnight, and then it was decided that just a word should be said to Lucy, so that, if 397 she might be induced to remain at Fawn Court. Lady Fawn was to say the word, and on the following morning she was closeted with Lucy.
“My dear,” she began, “we all want you to do us a particular favour.” As she said this, she held Lucy by the hand, and no one looking at them would have thought that Lucy was a governess and that Lady Fawn was her employer.
“Dear Lady Fawn, indeed it is better that I should go.”
“Stay just one month.”
“I couldn’t do that, because then this chance of a home would be gone. Of course we can’t wait a month before we let Mrs. Greystock know.”
“We must write to her, of course.”
“And then, you see, Mr. Greystock wishes it.” Lady Fawn knew that Lucy could be very firm, and had hardly hoped that anything could be done by simple persuasion. They had long been accustomed among themselves to call her obstinate, and knew that even in her acts of obedience she had a way of obeying after her own fashion. It was as well, therefore, that the thing to be said should be said at once.
“My dear Lucy, has it ever occurred to you that there may be a slip between the cup and the lip?”
“What do you mean, Lady Fawn?”
“That sometimes engagements take place which never become more than engagements. Look at Lord Fawn and Lady Eustace.”
“Mr. Greystock and I are not like that,” said Lucy, proudly.
“Such things are very dreadful, Lucy, but they do happen.”398
“Do you mean anything—anything real, Lady Fawn?”
“I have so strong a reliance on your good sense, that I will tell you just what I do mean. A rumour has reached me that Mr. Greystock is—paying more attention than he ought to do to Lady Eustace.”
“His own cousin!”
“But people marry their cousins, Lucy.”
“To whom he has always been just like a brother! I do think that is the cruellest thing. Because he sacrifices his time and his money and all his holidays to go and look after her affairs, this is to be said of him! she hasn’t another human being to look after her, and therefore he is obliged to do it. Of course he has told me all about it. I do think, Lady Fawn, I do think that is the greatest shame I ever heard.”
“But if it should be true——”
“It isn’t true.”
“But just for the sake of showing you, Lucy——; if it was to be true.”
“It won’t be true.”
“Surely I may speak to you as your friend, Lucy. You needn’t be so abrupt with me. Will you listen to me, Lucy?”
“Of course I will listen; only nothing that anybody on earth could say about that would make me believe a word of it.”
“Very well! Now just let me go on. If it were to be so——”
“Oh-h, Lady Fawn!”
“Don’t be foolish, Lucy. I will say what I’ve got to say. If—if—. Let me see. Where was I? I mean just this: You had better remain here till things 399 are a little more settled. Even if it be only a rumour—and I’m sure I don’t believe it’s anything more—you had better hear about it with us, with friends round you, than with a perfect stranger like Lady Linlithgow. If anything were to go wrong there, you wouldn’t know where to come for comfort. If anything were wrong with you here, you could come to me as though I were your mother. Couldn’t you, now?”
“Indeed, indeed I could. And I will. I always will. Lady Fawn, I love you and the dear darling girls better than all the world—except Mr. Greystock. If anything like that were to happen, I think I should creep here and ask to die in your house. But it won’t. And just now it will be better that I should go away.”
It was found at last that Lucy must have her way, and letters were written both to Mrs. Greystock and to Frank, requesting that the suggested overtures might at once be made to Lady Linlithgow. Lucy, in her letter to her lover, was more than ordinarily cheerful and jocose. She had a good deal to say about Lady Linlithgow that was really droll, and not a word to say indicative of the slightest fear in the direction of Lady Eustace. She spoke of poor Lizzie, and declared her conviction that that marriage never could come off now. “You mustn’t be angry when I say that I can’t break my heart for them, for I never did think that they were very much in love. As for Lord Fawn, of course he is my—ENEMY.” And she wrote the word in big letters. “And as for Lizzie, she’s your cousin, and all that. And she’s ever so pretty, and all that. And she’s as rich as Crœsus, and all that. But I don’t think she’ll break her own heart. 400 I would break mine; only—only—only—. You will understand the rest. If it should come to pass, I wonder whether ‘the duchess’ would ever let a poor creature see a friend of hers in Bruton street.” Frank had once called Lady Linlithgow the duchess after a certain popular picture in a certain popular book, and Lucy never forgot anything that Frank had said.
It did come to pass. Mrs. Greystock at once corresponded with Lady Linlithgow, and Lady Linlithgow, who was at Ramsgate for her autumn vacation, requested that Lucy Morris might be brought to see her at her house in London on the second of October. Lady Linlithgow’s autumn holiday always ended on the last day of September. On the second of October Lady Fawn herself took Lucy up to Bruton street, and Lady Linlithgow appeared. “Miss Morris,” said Lady Fawn, “thinks it right that you should be told that she’s engaged to be married.”
“Who to?” demanded the Countess.
Lucy was as red as fire, although she had especially made up her mind that she would not blush when the communication was made. “I don’t know that she wishes me to mention the gentleman’s name, just at present; but I can assure you that he is all that he ought to be.”
“I hate mysteries,” said the Countess.
“If Lady Linlithgow——” began Lucy.
“Oh, it’s nothing to me,” continued the old woman. “It won’t come off for six months, I suppose?” Lucy gave a mute assurance that there would be no such difficulty as that. “And he can’t come here, Miss Morris.” To this Lucy said nothing. Perhaps she might win over even the Countess, and if not, she 401 must bear her six months of prolonged exclusion from the light of day. And so the matter was settled. Lucy was to be taken back to Richmond, and to come again on the following Monday.
“I don’t like this parting at all, Lucy,” Lady Fawn said on her way home.
“It is better so, Lady Fawn.”
“I hate people going away; but, somehow, you don’t feel it as we do.”
“You wouldn’t say that if you really knew what I do feel.”
“There was no reason why you should go. Frederic was getting not to care for it at all. What’s Nina to do now? I can’t get another governess after you. I hate all these sudden breaks up. And all for such a trumpery thing. If Frederic hasn’t forgotten all about it, he ought.”
“It hasn’t come altogether from him, Lady Fawn.”
“How has it come, then?”
“I suppose it is because of Mr. Greystock. I suppose when a girl has engaged herself to marry a man, she must think more of him than of anything else.”
“Why couldn’t you think of him at Fawn Court?”
“Because—because things have been unfortunate. He isn’t your friend, not as yet. Can’t you understand, Lady Fawn, that, dear as you all must be to me, I must live in his friendships, and take his part when there is a part?”
“Then I suppose that you mean to hate all of us.” Lucy could only cry at hearing this; whereupon Lady Fawn also burst into tears.
On the Sunday before Lucy took her departure, Lord 402 Fawn was again at Richmond. “Of course you’ll come down, just as if nothing had happened,” said Lydia.
“We’ll see,” said Lucy.
“Mamma will be very angry, if you don’t,” said Lydia.
But Lucy had a little plot in her head, and her appearance at the dinner-table on that Sunday must depend on the manner in which her plot was executed. After church, Lord Fawn would always hang about the grounds for a while before going into the house; and on this morning Lucy also remained outside. She soon found her opportunity, and walked straight up to him, following him on the path. “Lord Fawn,” she said, “I have come to beg your pardon.”
He had turned round hearing footsteps behind him, but still was startled and unready. “It does not matter at all,” he said.
“It matters to me, because I behaved badly.”
“What I said about Mr. Greystock wasn’t intended to be said to you, you know.”
“Even if it was, it would make no matter. I don’t mean to think of that now. I beg your pardon because I said what I ought not to have said.”
“You see, Miss Morris, that as the head of this family——”
“If I had said it to Juniper, I would have begged his pardon.” Now Juniper was the gardener, and Lord Fawn did not quite like the way in which the thing was put to him. The cloud came across his brow, and he began to fear that she would again insult him. “I oughtn’t to accuse anybody of an untruth—not in that way; and I am very sorry for what I did, and 403 I beg your pardon.” Then she turned as though she were going back to the house.
But he stopped her. “Miss Morris, if it will suit you to stay with my mother, I will never say a word against it.”
“It is quite settled that I am to go to-morrow, Lord Fawn. Only for that I would not have troubled you again.”
Then she did turn towards the house, but he recalled her. “We will shake hands, at any rate,” he said, “and not part as enemies.” So they shook hands, and Lucy came down and sat in his company at the dinner-table.404
Lucy, in her letter to her lover, had distinctly asked whether she might tell Lady Linlithgow the name of her future husband, but had received no reply when she was taken to Bruton street. The parting at Richmond was very painful, and Lady Fawn had declared herself quite unable to make another journey up to London with the ungrateful runagate. Though there was no diminution of affection among the Fawns, there was a general feeling that Lucy was behaving badly. That obstinacy of hers was getting the better of her. Why should she have gone? Even Lord Fawn had expressed his desire that she should remain. And then, in the breasts of the wise ones, all faith in the Greystock engagement had nearly vanished. Another letter had come from Mrs. Hittaway, who now declared that it was already understood about Portray that Lady Eustace intended to marry her cousin. This was described as a terrible crime on the part of Lizzie, though the antagonistic crime of a remaining desire to marry Lord Fawn was still imputed to her. And, of course, the one crime heightened the other. So that words from the eloquent pen of Mrs. Hittaway failed to make dark enough the blackness of poor Lizzie’s character. As for Mr. Greystock, he was simply a heartless man of the world, wishing to feather his nest. Mrs. Hittaway did not for a moment believe 405 that he had ever dreamed of marrying Lucy Morris. Men always have three or four little excitements of that kind going on for the amusement of their leisure hours; so, at least, said Mrs. Hittaway. “The girl had better be told at once.” Such was her decision about poor Lucy.
“I can’t do more than I have done,” said Lady Fawn to Augusta.
“She’ll never get over it, mamma; never,” said Augusta.
Nothing more was said, and Lucy was sent off in the family carriage. Lydia and Nina were sent with her, and though there was some weeping on the journey, there was also much laughing. The character of the “Duchess” was discussed very much at large, and many promises were made as to long letters. Lucy, in truth, was not unhappy. She would be nearer to Frank; and then it had been almost promised her that she should go to the deanery, after a residence of six months with Lady Linlithgow. At the deanery of course she would see Frank; and she also understood that a long visit to the deanery would be the surest prelude to that home of her own of which she was always dreaming.
“Dear me; sent you up in a carriage, has she? Why shouldn’t you have come by the railway?”
“Lady Fawn thought the carriage best. She is so very kind.”
“It’s what I call twaddle, you know. I hope you ain’t afraid of going in a cab.”
“Not in the least, Lady Linlithgow.”
“You can’t have the carriage to go about here. Indeed, I never have a pair of horses till after 406 Christmas. I hope you know that I’m as poor as Job.”
“I didn’t know.”
“I am, then. You’ll get nothing beyond wholesome food with me. And I’m not sure it is wholesome always. The butchers are scoundrels and the bakers are worse. What used you to do at Lady Fawn’s?”
“I still did lessons with the two youngest girls.”
“You won’t have any lessons to do here unless you do ’em with me. You had a salary there?”
“Fifty pounds a year, I suppose.”
“I had eighty.”
“Had you, indeed. Eighty pounds, and a coach to ride in!”
“I had a great deal more than that, Lady Linlithgow.”
“How do you mean?”
“I had downright love and affection. They were just so many dear friends. I don’t suppose any governess was ever so treated before. It was just like being at home. The more I laughed the better every one liked it.”
“You won’t find anything to laugh at here; at least I don’t. If you want to laugh, you can laugh up-stairs or down in the parlour.”
“I can do without laughing for a while.”
“That’s lucky, Miss Morris. If they were all so good to you, what made you come away? They sent you away, didn’t they?”
“Well, I don’t know that I can explain it just all. There were a great many things together. No; 407 they didn’t send me away. I came away because it suited.”
“It was something to do with your having a lover, I suppose.” To this Lucy thought it best to make no answer, and the conversation for a while was dropped.
Lucy had arrived at about half-past three, and Lady Linlithgow was then sitting in the drawing-room. After the first series of questions and answers Lucy was allowed to go up to her room, and on her return to the drawing-room found the Countess still sitting upright in her chair. She was now busy with accounts, and at first took no notice of Lucy’s return. What were to be the companion’s duties? What tasks in the house were to be assigned to her? What hours were to be her own; and what was to be done in those of which the Countess would demand the use? Up to the present moment nothing had been said of all this. She had simply been told that she was to be Lady Linlithgow’s companion, without salary, indeed, but receiving shelter, guardianship, and bread and meat in return for her services. She took up a book from the table and sat with it for ten minutes. It was Tupper’s great poem, and she attempted to read it. Lady Linlithgow sat totting up her figures, but said nothing. She had not spoken a word since Lucy’s return to the room; and as the great poem did not at first fascinate the new companion—whose mind not unnaturally was somewhat disturbed—Lucy ventured upon a question. “Is there anything I can do for you, Lady Linlithgow?”
“Do you know about figures?”
“Oh, yes. I consider myself quite a ready-reckoner.”408
“Can you make two and two come to five on one side of the sheet and only come to three on the other?”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that and prove it afterward.”
“Then you ain’t worth anything to me.” Having so declared, Lady Linlithgow went on with her accounts and Lucy relapsed into her great poem.
“No, my dear,” said the Countess, when she had completed her work, “there isn’t anything for you to do. I hope you haven’t come here with that mistaken idea. There won’t be any sort of work of any kind expected from you. I poke my own fires and I carve my own bit of mutton. And I haven’t got a nasty little dog to be washed. And I don’t care twopence about worsted work. I have a maid to darn my stockings, and because she has to work I pay her wages. I don’t like being alone, so I get you to come and live with me. I breakfast at nine, and if you don’t manage to be down by that time I shall be cross.”
“I am always up long before that.”
“There’s lunch at two, just bread and butter and cheese, and perhaps a bit of cold meat. There’s dinner at seven; and very bad it is, because they don’t have any good meat in London. Down in Fifeshire the meat’s a deal better than it is here, only I never go there now. At half-past ten I go to bed. It’s a pity you’re so young, because I don’t know what you’ll do about going out. Perhaps, as you ain’t pretty, it won’t signify.”
“Not at all—I should think,” said Lucy.
“Perhaps you consider yourself pretty. It’s all altered now since I was young. Girls make monsters of themselves, and I’m told the men like it; going about with unclean, frowsy structures on their heads, 409 enough to make a dog sick. They used to be clean and sweet and nice, what one would like to kiss. How a man can like to kiss a face with a dirty horse’s tail all whizling about it, is what I can’t at all understand. I don’t think they do like it, but they have to do it.”
“I haven’t even a pony’s tail,” said Lucy.
“They do like to kiss you, I dare say.”
“No, they don’t,” ejaculated Lucy, not knowing what answer to make.
“I haven’t hardly looked at you, but you didn’t seem to me to be a beauty.”
“You are quite right about that, Lady Linlithgow.”
“I hate beauties. My niece, Lizzie Eustace, is a beauty; and I think that, of all heartless creatures in the world, she is the most heartless.”
“I know Lady Eustace very well.”
“Of course you do. She was a Greystock, and you know the Greystocks. And she was down staying with old Lady Fawn at Richmond. I should think old Lady Fawn had a time with her; hadn’t she?”
“It didn’t go off very well.”
“Lizzie would be too much for the Fawns, I should think. She was too much for me, I know. She’s about as bad as anybody ever was. She’s false, dishonest, heartless, cruel, irreligious, ungrateful, mean, ignorant, greedy, and vile.”
“Good gracious, Lady Linlithgow!”
“She’s all that, and a great deal worse. But she is handsome. I don’t know that I ever saw a prettier woman. I generally go out in a cab at three o’clock, but I sha’n’t want you to go with me. I don’t know what you can do. Macnulty used to walk round Grosvenor Square and think that people mistook her for a 410 lady of quality. You mustn’t go and walk round Grosvenor Square by yourself, you know. Not that I care.”
“I’m not a bit afraid of anybody,” said Lucy.
“Now you know all about it. There isn’t anything for you to do. There are Miss Edgeworth’s novels down-stairs, and ‘Pride and Prejudice’ in my bedroom. I don’t subscribe to Mudie’s, because when I asked for ‘Adam Bede,’ they always sent me the ‘Bandit Chief.’ Perhaps you can borrow books from your friends at Richmond. I dare say Mrs. Greystock has told you that I’m very cross.”
“I haven’t seen Mrs. Greystock for ever so long.”
“Then Lady Fawn has told you—or somebody. When the wind is east, or northeast, or even north, I am cross, for I have the lumbago. It’s all very well talking about being good-humoured. You can’t be good-humoured with the lumbago. And I have the gout sometimes in my knee. I’m cross enough, then, and so you’d be. And, among ’em all, I don’t get much above half what I ought to have out of my jointure. That makes me very cross. My teeth are bad, and I like to have the meat tender. But it’s always tough, and that makes me cross. And when people go against the grain with me, as Lizzie Eustace always did, then I’m very cross.”
“I hope you won’t be very bad with me,” said Lucy.
“I don’t bite, if you mean that,” said her ladyship.
“I’d sooner be bitten than barked at—sometimes,” said Lucy.
“Humph!” said the old woman, and then she went back to her accounts.
Lucy had a few books of her own, and she determined to ask Frank to send her some. Books are cheap 411 things, and she would not mind asking him for magazines, and numbers, and perhaps for the loan of a few volumes. In the mean time she did read Tupper’s poem, and “Pride and Prejudice,” and one of Miss Edgeworth’s novels—probably for the third time. During the first week in Bruton street she would have been comfortable enough, only that she had not received a line from Frank. That Frank was not specially good at writing letters, she had already taught herself to understand. She was inclined to believe that but few men of business do write letters willingly, but that, of all men, lawyers are the least willing to do so. How reasonable it was that a man who had to perform a great part of his daily work with a pen in his hand, should loathe a pen when not at work. To her the writing of letters was perhaps the most delightful occupation of her life, and the writing of letters to her lover was a foretaste of heaven; but then men, as she knew, are very different from women. And she knew this also, that of all her immediate duties, no duty could be clearer than that of abstaining from all jealousy, petulance, and impatient expectation of little attentions. He loved her, and had told her so, and had promised her that she should be his wife, and that ought to be enough for her. She was longing for a letter, because she was very anxious to know whether she might mention his name to Lady Linlithgow; but she would abstain from any idea of blaming him because the letter did not come.
On various occasions the Countess showed some little curiosity about the lover; and at last, after about ten days, when she found herself beginning to be intimate with her new companion, she put the question point-blank. 412 “I hate mysteries,” she said. “Who is the young man you are to marry?”
“He is a gentleman I’ve known a long time.”
“That’s no answer.”
“I don’t want to tell his name quite yet, Lady Linlithgow.”
“Why shouldn’t you tell his name, unless it’s something improper? Is he a gentleman?”
“Yes, he is a gentleman.”
“And how old?”
“Oh, I don’t know; perhaps thirty-two.”
“And has he any money?”
“He has his profession.”
“I don’t like these kind of secrets, Miss Morris. If you won’t say who he is, what was the good of telling me that you were engaged at all? How is a person to believe it?”
“I don’t want you to believe it.”
“I told you my own part of the affair, because I thought you ought to know it as I was coming into your house. But I don’t see that you ought to know his part of it. As for not believing, I suppose you believed Lady Fawn?”
“Not a bit better than I believe you. People don’t always tell truth because they have titles, nor yet because they’ve grown old. He don’t live in London, does he?”
“He generally lives in London. He is a barrister.”
“Oh, oh! a barrister is he? They’re always making a heap of money, or else none at all. Which is it with him?”
“He makes something.”413
“As much as you could put in your eye and see none the worse.” To see the old lady, as she made this suggestion, turn sharp round upon Lucy, was as good as a play. “My sister’s nephew, the dean’s son, is one of the best of the rising ones, I’m told.” Lucy blushed up to her hair, but the dowager’s back was turned, and she did not see the blushes. “But he’s in Parliament, and they tell me he spends his money faster than he makes it. I suppose you know him?”
“Yes; I knew him at Bobsborough.”
“It’s my belief that after all this fuss about Lord Fawn, he’ll marry his cousin, Lizzie Eustace. If he’s a lawyer, and as sharp as they say, I suppose he could manage her. I wish he would.”
“And she so bad as you say she is!”
“She’ll be sure to get somebody, and why shouldn’t he have her money as well as another? There never was a Greystock who didn’t want money. That’s what it will come to; you’ll see.”
“Never,” said Lucy decidedly.
“And why not?”
“What I mean is that Mr. Greystock is, at least I should think so from what I hear, the very last man in the world to marry for money.”
“What do you know of what a man would do?”
“It would be a very mean thing; particularly if he does not love her.”
“Bother!” said the Countess. “They were very near it in town last year before Lord Fawn came up at all. I knew as much as that. And it’s what they’ll come to before they’ve done.”
“They’ll never come to it,” said Lucy.
Then a sudden light flashed across the astute mind 414 of the Countess. She turned round in her chair, and sat for a while silent, looking at Lucy. Then she slowly asked another question. “He isn’t your young man, is he?” To this Lucy made no reply. “So that’s it, is it?” said the dowager. “You’ve done me the honour of making my house your home till my own sister’s nephew shall be ready to marry you?”
“And why not?” asked Lucy, rather roughly.
“And Dame Greystock, from Bobsborough, has sent you here to keep you out of her son’s way. I see it all. And that old frump at Richmond has passed you over to me because she did not choose to have such goings on under her own eye.”
“There have been no goings on,” said Lucy.
“And he’s to come here, I suppose, when my back’s turned?”
“He is not thinking of coming here. I don’t know what you mean. Nobody has done anything wrong to you. I don’t know why you say such cruel things.”
“He can’t afford to marry you, you know.”
“I don’t know anything about it. Perhaps we must wait ever so long; five years. That’s nobody’s business but my own.”
“I found it all out, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you found it out.”
“I’m thinking of that sly old Dame Greystock at Bobsborough sending you here.” Neither on that nor on the two following days did Lady Linlithgow say a word further to Lucy about her engagement.415
When Frank Greystock left Bobsborough to go to Scotland, he had not said that he would return, nor had he at that time made up his mind whether he would do so or no. He had promised to go and shoot in Norfolk, and had half undertaken to be up in London with Herriot, working. Though it was holiday-time, still there was plenty of work for him to do, various heavy cases to get up and papers to be read, if only he could settle himself down to the doing of it. But the scenes down in Scotland had been of a nature to make him unfit for steady labour. How was he to sail his bark through the rocks by which his present voyage was rendered so dangerous? Of course, to the reader, the way to do so seems to be clear enough. To work hard at his profession, to explain to his cousin that she had altogether mistaken his feelings, and to be true to Lucy Morris, was so manifestly his duty, that to no reader will it appear possible that to any gentleman there could be a doubt. Instead of the existence of a difficulty, there was a flood of light upon his path, so the reader will think; a flood so clear that not to see his way was impossible. A man carried away by abnormal appetites, and wickedness, and the devil, may of course commit murder, or forge bills, or become a fraudulent director of a bankrupt company. And so 416 may a man be untrue to his troth, and leave true love in pursuit of tinsel, and beauty, and false words, and a large income. But why should one tell the story of creatures so base? One does not willingly grovel in gutters, or breathe fetid atmospheres, or live upon garbage. If we are to deal with heroes and heroines, let us, at any rate, have heroes and heroines who are above such meanness as falsehood in love. This Frank Greystock must be little better than a mean villain if he allows himself to be turned from his allegiance to Lucy Morris for an hour by the seductions and money of such a one as Lizzie Eustace.
We know the dear old rhyme:
It is good to be merry and wise,
It is good to be honest and true;
It is good to be off with the old love
Before you are on with the new.
There was never better truth spoken than this, and if all men and women could follow the advice here given, there would be very little sorrow in the world. But men and women do not follow it. They are no more able to do so than they are to use a spear, the staff of which is like a weaver’s beam, or to fight with the sword . The more they exercise their arms, the nearer will they get to using the giant’s weapon, or even the weapon that is divine. But as things are at present, their limbs are limp and their muscles soft, and overfeeding impedes their breath. They attempt to be merry without being wise, and have themes about truth and honesty with which they desire to shackle others, thinking that freedom from such trammels may be good for themselves. And in that 417 matter of love, though love is very potent, treachery will sometimes seem to be prudence, and a hankering after new delights will often interfere with real devotion.
It is very easy to depict a hero, a man absolutely stainless, perfect as an Arthur, a man honest in all his dealings, equal to all trials, true in all his speech, indifferent to his own prosperity, struggling for the general good, and, above all, faithful in love. At any rate, it is as easy to do that as to tell of the man who is one hour good and the next bad, who aspires greatly but fails in practice, who sees the higher but too often follows the lower course. There arose at one time a school of art which delighted to paint the human face as perfect in beauty; and from that time to this we are discontented unless every woman is drawn for us as a Venus, or at least a Madonna. I do not know that we have gained much by this untrue portraiture, either in beauty or in art. There may be made for us a pretty thing to look at, no doubt; but we know that that pretty thing is not really visaged as the mistress whom we serve, and whose lineaments we desire to perpetuate on the canvas. The winds of heaven, or the flesh-pots of Egypt, or the midnight gas, passions, pains, and perhaps rouge and powder, have made her something different. But still there is the fire of her eye and the eager eloquence of her mouth, and something too, perhaps, left of the departing innocence of youth, which the painter might give us without the Venus or the Madonna touches. But the painter does not dare do it. Indeed, he has painted so long after the other fashion that he would hate the canvas before him were he to give way to the rouge-begotten roughness or to the flesh-pots, or even to the winds. And how, my 418 lord, would you, who are giving hundreds, more than hundreds, for this portrait of your dear one, like to see it in print from the art critic of the day, that she is a brazen-faced hoyden who seems to have had a glass of wine too much, or to have been making hay?
And so also has the reading world taught itself to like best the characters of all but divine men and women. Let the man who paints with pen and ink give the gas-light and the flesh-pots, the passions and pains, the prurient prudence and the rouge-pots and pounce-boxes of the world as it is, and he will be told that no one can care a straw for his creations. With whom are we to sympathise? says the reader, who not unnaturally imagines that a hero should be heroic. Oh, thou, my reader, whose sympathies are in truth the great and only aim of my work, when you have called the dearest of your friends round you to your hospitable table, how many heroes are there sitting at the board? Your bosom friend, even if he be a knight without fear, a knight without reproach? The Ivanhoe that you know, did he not press Rebecca’s hand? Your Lord Evandale, did he not bring his coronet into play when he strove to win his Edith Bellenden? Was your Tresilian still true and still forbearing when truth and forbearance could avail him nothing? And those sweet girls whom you know, do they never doubt between the poor man they think they love and the rich man whose riches they know they covet?
Go into the market, either to buy or sell, and name the thing you desire to part with or to get, as it is, and the market is closed against you. Middling oats are the sweepings of the granaries. A useful horse 419 is a jade gone at every point. Good sound port is sloe juice. No assurance short of A 1 betokens even a pretence to merit. And yet in real life we are content with oats that are really middling, are very glad to have a useful horse, and know that if we drink port at all we must drink some that is neither good nor sound. In those delineations of life and character which we call novels, a similarly superlative vein is desired. Our own friends around us are not always merry and wise, nor, alas, always honest and true. They are often cross and foolish, and sometimes treacherous and false. They are so, and we are angry. Then we forgive them, not without a consciousness of imperfection on our own part. And we know, or at least believe, that though they be sometimes treacherous and false, there is a balance of good. We cannot have heroes to dine with us. There are none. And were these heroes to be had, we should not like them. But neither are our friends villains, whose every aspiration is for evil, and whose every moment is a struggle for some achievement worthy of the devil.
The persons whom you cannot care for in a novel because they are so bad, are the very same that you so dearly love in your life because they are so good. To make them and ourselves somewhat better, not by one spring heavenward to perfection, because we cannot so use our legs, but by slow climbing, is, we may presume, the object of all teachers, leaders, legislators, spiritual pastors, and masters. He who writes tales such as this probably also has, very humbly, some such object distantly before him. A picture of surpassing godlike nobleness, a picture of a King Arthur among men, 420 may perhaps do much. But such pictures cannot do all. When such a picture is painted, as intending to show what a man should be, it is true. If painted to show what men are, it is false. The true picture of life as it is, if it could be adequately painted, would show men what they are and how they might rise, not indeed to perfection, but one step first, and then another, on the ladder.
Our hero, Frank Greystock, falling lamentably short in his heroism, was not in a happy state of mind when he reached Bobsborough. It may be that he returned to his own borough and to his mother’s arms because he felt that were he to determine to be false to Lucy he would there receive sympathy in his treachery. His mother would, at any rate, think that it was well, and his father would acknowledge that the fault committed was in the original engagement with poor Lucy, and not in the treachery. He had written that letter to her in his chambers one night in a fit of ecstasy; and could it be right that the ruin of a whole life should be the consequence?
It can hardly be too strongly asserted that Lizzie Greystock did not appear to Frank as she has been made to appear to the reader. In all this affair of the necklace he was beginning to believe that she was really an ill-used woman; and as to other traits in Lizzie’s character, traits which he had seen, and which were not of a nature to attract, it must be remembered that beauty reclining in a man’s arms does go far toward washing white the lovely blackamoor. Lady Linlithgow, upon whom Lizzie’s beauty could have no effect of that kind, had nevertheless declared her to be very beautiful. And this loveliness was of a nature that 421 was altogether pleasing, if once the beholder of it could get over the idea of falseness which certainly Lizzie’s eye was apt to convey to the beholder. There was no unclean horse’s tail. There was no get-up of flounces, and padding, and paint, and hair, with a dorsal excrescence appended, with the object surely of showing in triumph how much absurd ugliness women can force men to endure. She was lithe, and active, and bright, and was at this moment of her life at her best. Her growing charms had as yet hardly reached the limits of full feminine loveliness, which, when reached, have been surpassed. Luxuriant beauty had with her not as yet become comeliness; nor had age or the good things of the world added a pound to the fairy lightness of her footstep. All this had been tendered to Frank, and with it that worldly wealth which was so absolutely necessary to his career. For though Greystock would not have said to any man or woman that nature had intended him to be a spender of much money and a consumer of many good things, he did undoubtedly so think of himself. He was a Greystock, and to what miseries would he not reduce his Lucy if, burdened by such propensities, he were to marry her and then become an aristocratic pauper!
The offer of herself by a woman to a man is, to us all, a thing so distasteful that we at once declare that the woman must be abominable. There shall be no whitewashing of Lizzie Eustace. She was abominable. But the man to whom the offer is made hardly sees the thing in the same light. He is disposed to believe that, in his peculiar case, there are circumstances by which the woman is, if not justified, at least excused. Frank did put faith in his cousin’s love for himself. He did 422 credit her when she told him that she had accepted Lord Fawn’s offer in pique, because he had not come to her when he had promised that he would come. It did seem natural to him that she should have desired to adhere to her engagement when he would not advise her to depart from it. And then her jealousy about Lucy’s ring, and her abuse of Lucy, were proofs to him of her love. Unless she loved him, why should she care to marry him? What was his position that she should desire to share it, unless she so desired because he was dearer to her than aught beside? He had not eyes clear enough to perceive that his cousin was a witch whistling for a wind, and ready to take the first blast that would carry her and her broomstick somewhere into the sky. And then, in that matter of the offer, which in ordinary circumstances certainly should not have come from her to him, did not the fact of her wealth and of his comparative poverty cleanse her from such stain as would, in usual circumstances, attach to a woman who is so forward? He had not acceded to her proposition. He had not denied his engagement to Lucy. He had left her presence without a word of encouragement, because of that engagement. But he believed that Lizzie was sincere. He believed, now, that she was genuine; though he had previously been all but sure that falsehood and artifice were second nature to her.
At Bobsborough he met his constituents, and made them the normal autumn speech. The men of Bobsborough were well pleased and gave him a vote of confidence. As none but those of his own party attended the meeting, it was not wonderful that the vote was unanimous. His father, mother, and sister all 423 heard his speech, and there was a strong family feeling that Frank was born to set the Greystocks once more upon their legs. When a man can say what he likes with the certainty that every word will be reported, and can speak to those around him as one manifestly their superior, he always looms large. When the Conservatives should return to their proper place at the head of affairs, there could be no doubt that Frank Greystock would be made Solicitor-General. There were not wanting even ardent admirers, who conceived that, with such claims and such talents as his, the ordinary steps in political promotion would not be needed, and that he would become Attorney-General at once. All men began to say all good things to the dean, and to Mrs. Greystock it seemed that the woolsack, or at least the Queen’s Bench with a peerage, was hardly an uncertainty. But then, there must be no marriage with a penniless governess. If he would only marry his cousin, one might say that the woolsack was won.
Then came Lucy’s letter; the pretty, dear, joking letter about the “duchess” and broken hearts. “I would break my heart, only—only—only—” Yes, he knew very well what she meant. I shall never be called upon to break my heart, because you are not a false scoundrel. If you were a false scoundrel—instead of being, as you are, a pearl among men—then I should break my heart. That was what Lucy meant. She could not have been much clearer, and he understood it perfectly. It is very nice to walk about one’s own borough and be voted unanimously worthy of confidence, and be a great man; but if you are a scoundrel, and not used to being a scoundrel, black 424 care is apt to sit very close behind you as you go caracoling along the streets.
Lucy’s letter required an answer, and how should he answer it? He certainly did not wish her to tell Lady Linlithgow of her engagement, but Lucy clearly wished to be allowed to tell, and on what ground could he enjoin her to be silent? He knew, or he thought he knew, that till he answered the letter, she would not tell his secret; and therefore from day to day he put off the answer. A man does not write a love-letter usually when he is in doubt himself whether he does or does not mean to be a scoundrel.
Then there came a letter to “Dame” Greystock, from Lady Linlithgow, which filled them all with amazement.
“My Dear Madam,” began the letter:—
“Seeing that your son is engaged to marry Miss Morris—at least she says so—you ought not to have sent her here without telling me all about it. She says you know of the match, and she says that I can write to you if I please. Of course I can do that without her leave. But it seems to me that if you know all about it, and approve the marriage, your house and not mine would be the proper place for her.
“I’m told that Mr. Greystock is a great man. Any lady being with me as my companion can’t be a great woman. But perhaps you wanted to break it off; else you would have told me. She shall stay here six months, but then she must go.
It was considered absolutely necessary that this letter should be shown to Frank. “You see,” said his mother, “she told the old lady at once.”
“I don’t see why she shouldn’t.” Nevertheless Frank was annoyed. Having asked for permission, Lucy should at least have waited for a reply.
“Well, I don’t know,” said Mrs. Greystock. “It is generally considered that young ladies are more reticent about such things. She has blurted it out and boasted about it at once.”
“I thought girls always told of their engagements,” said Frank, “and I can’t for the life of me see that there was any boasting in it.” Then he was silent for a moment. “The truth is, we are all of us treating Lucy very badly.”
“I cannot say that I see it,” said his mother.
“We ought to have had her here.”
“For how long, Frank?”
“For as long as a home was needed by her.”
“Had you demanded it, Frank, she should have come, of course. But neither I nor your father could have had pleasure in receiving her as your future wife. You yourself say that it cannot be for two years at least.”
“I said one year.”
“I think, Frank, you said two. And we all know that such a marriage would be ruinous to you. How could we make her welcome? Can you see your way to having a house for her to live in within twelve months?”
“Why not a house? I could have a house tomorrow.”
“Such a house as would suit you in your position? 426 And, Frank, would it be a kindness to marry her and then let her find that you were in debt?”
“I don’t believe she’d care if she had nothing but a crust to eat.”
“She ought to care, Frank.”
“I think,” said the dean to his son on the next day, “that in our class of life an imprudent marriage is the one thing that should be avoided. My marriage has been very happy, God knows; but I have always been a poor man, and feel it now when I am quite unable to help you. And yet your mother had some fortune. Nobody, I think, cares less for wealth than I do. I am content almost with nothing.”—The nothing with which the dean had hitherto been contented had always included every comfort of life, a well-kept table, good wine, new books, and canonical habiliments with the gloss still on; but as the Bobsborough tradesmen had, through the agency of Mrs. Greystock, always supplied him with these things as though they came from the clouds, he really did believe that he had never asked for anything.—“I am content almost with nothing. But I do feel that marriage cannot be adopted as the ordinary form of life by men in our class as it can be by the rich or by the poor. You, for instance, are called upon to live with the rich, but are not rich. That can only be done by wary walking, and is hardly consistent with a wife and children.”
“But men in my position do marry, sir.”
“After a certain age; or else they marry ladies with money. You see, Frank, there are not many men who go into Parliament with means so moderate as yours; and they who do, perhaps have stricter ideas of 427 economy.” The dean did not say a word about Lucy Morris, and dealt entirely with generalities.
In compliance with her son’s advice—or almost command—Mrs. Greystock did not answer Lady Linlithgow’s letter. He was going back to London, and would give personally, or by letter written there, what answer might be necessary.
“You will then see Miss Morris?” asked his mother.
“I shall certainly see Lucy. Something must be settled.” There was a tone in his voice as he said this which gave some comfort to his mother.428
True to their words, at the end of October, Mrs. Carbuncle and Miss Roanoke, and Lord George de Bruce Carruthers and Sir Griffin Tewett, arrived at Portray Castle. And for a couple of days there was a visitor whom Lizzie was very glad to welcome, but of whose good nature on the occasion Mr. Camperdown thought very ill indeed. This was John Eustace. His sister-in-law wrote to him in very pressing language; and as—so he said to Mr. Camperdown—he did not wish to seem to quarrel with his brother’s widow as long as such seeming might be avoided, he accepted the invitation. If there was to be a lawsuit about the diamonds, that must be Mr. Camperdown’s affair. Lizzie had never entertained her friends in style before. She had had a few people to dine with her in London and once or twice had received company on an evening. But in all her London doings there had been the trepidation of fear, to be accounted for by her youth and widowhood; and it was at Portray—her own house at Portray—that it would best become her to exercise hospitality. She had bided her time even there, but now she meant to show her friends that she had got a house of her own.429
She wrote even to her husband’s uncle, the bishop, asking him down to Portray. He could not come, but sent an affectionate answer, and thanked her for thinking of him. Many people she asked who, she felt sure, would not come, and one or two of them accepted her invitation. John Eustace promised to be with her for two days. When Frank had left her, going out of her presence in the manner that has been described, she actually wrote to him, begging him to join her party. This was her note:
“Come to me, just for a week,” she said, “when my people are here, so that I may not seem to be deserted. Sit at the bottom of my table, and be to me as a brother might. I shall expect you to do so much for me.” To this he replied that he would come during the first week in November.
And she got a clergyman down from London—the Rev. Joseph Emilius, of whom it was said that he was born a Jew in Hungary, and that his name in his own country had been Mealyus. At the present time he was among the most eloquent of London preachers, and was reputed by some to have reached such a standard of pulpit oratory as to have had no equal within the memory of living hearers. In regard to his reading it was acknowledged that no one since Mrs. Siddons had touched him. But he did not get on very well with any particular bishop, and there was doubt in the minds of some people whether there was or was not any—Mrs. Emilius. He had come up quite suddenly within the last season, and had made church-going quite a pleasant occupation to Lizzie Eustace.
On the last day of October Mr. Emilius and Mr. John Eustace came, each alone. Mrs. Carbuncle and Miss 430 Roanoke came over with post-horses from Ayr, as also did Lord George and Sir Griffin about an hour after them. Frank was not yet expected. He had promised to name a day, and had not yet named it.
“Varra weel, varra weel,” Gowran had said when he was told of what was about to occur, and was desired to make preparations necessary in regard to the outside plenishing of the house; “nae doot she’ll do with her ain what pleases her ainself. The mair ye poor out, the less there’ll be left in. Mr. Jo-ohn coming? I’ll be glad then to see Mr. Jo-ohn. Oo, ay; aits;—there’ll be aits eneuch. And anither coo! You’ll want twa ither coos. I’ll see to the coos.” And Andy Gowran, in spite of the internecine warfare which existed between him and his mistress, did see to the hay, and the cows, and the oats, and the extra servants that were wanted inside and outside the house. There was enmity between him and Lady Eustace, and he didn’t care who knew it; but he took her wages and he did her work.
Mrs. Carbuncle was a wonderful woman. She was the wife of a man with whom she was very rarely seen, whom nobody knew, who was something in the City, but somebody who never succeeded in making money; and yet she went everywhere. She had at least the reputation of going everywhere, and did go to a great many places. Carbuncle had no money—so it was said; and she had none. She was the daughter of a man who had gone to New York and had failed there. Of her own parentage no more was known. She had a small house in one of the very small May Fair streets, to which she was wont to invite her friends for five o’clock tea. Other receptions she never attempted. 431 During the London seasons she always kept a carriage, and during the winters she always had hunters. Who paid for them no one knew or cared. Her dress was always perfect, as far as fit and performance went. As to approving Mrs. Carbuncle’s manner of dress—that was a question of taste. Audacity may, perhaps, be said to have been the ruling principle of her toilet; not the audacity of indecency, which, let the satirists say what they may, is not efficacious in England, but audacity in colour, audacity in design, and audacity in construction. She would ride in the park in a black and yellow habit, and appear at the opera in white velvet without a speck of colour. Though certainly turned thirty, and probably nearer to forty, she would wear her jet-black hair streaming down her back, and when June came would drive about London in a straw hat. But yet it was always admitted that she was well dressed. And then would arise that question, Who paid the bills?
Mrs. Carbuncle was certainly a handsome woman. She was full-faced, with bold eyes, rather far apart, perfect black eyebrows, a well-formed broad nose, thick lips, and regular teeth. Her chin was round and short, with perhaps a little bearing towards a double chin. But though her face was plump and round, there was a power in it, and a look of command, of which it was perhaps difficult to say in what features was the seat. But in truth the mind will lend a tone to every feature, and it was the desire of Mrs. Carbuncle’s heart to command. But perhaps the wonder of her face was its complexion. People said, before they knew her, that, as a matter of course, she had been made beautiful forever. But, 432 though that too brilliant colour was almost always there, covering the cheeks but never touching the forehead or the neck, it would at certain moments shift, change, and even depart. When she was angry, it would vanish for a moment and then return intensified. There was no chemistry on Mrs. Carbuncle’s cheek; and yet it was a tint so brilliant and so little transparent as almost to justify a conviction that it could not be genuine. There were those who declared that nothing in the way of complexion so beautiful as that of Mrs. Carbuncle’s had been seen on the face of any other woman in this age, and there were others who called her an exaggerated milkmaid. She was tall, too, and had learned so to walk as though half the world belonged to her.
Her niece, Miss Roanoke, was a lady of the same stamp, and of similar beauty, with those additions and also with those drawbacks which belong to youth. She looked as though she were four-and-twenty, but in truth she was no more than eighteen. When seen beside her aunt, she seemed to be no more than half the elder lady’s size; and yet her proportions were not insignificant. She, too, was tall, and was as one used to command, and walked as though she were a young Juno. Her hair was very dark—almost black—and very plentiful. Her eyes were large and bright, though too bold for a girl so young. Her nose and mouth were exactly as her aunt’s, but her chin was somewhat longer, so as to divest her face of that plump roundness, which perhaps took something from the majesty of Mrs. Carbuncle’s appearance. Miss Roanoke’s complexion was certainly marvellous. No one thought that she had been made beautiful forever, for the colour 433 would go and come and shift and change with every word and every thought; but still it was there, as deep on her cheeks as on her aunt’s, though somewhat more transparent, and with more delicacy of tint as the bright hues faded away and became merged in the almost marble whiteness of her skin. With Mrs. Carbuncle there was no merging and fading. The red and white bordered one another on her cheek without any merging, as they do on a flag.
Lucinda Roanoke was undoubtedly a very handsome woman. It probably never occurred to man or woman to say that she was lovely. She had sat for her portrait during the last winter, and her picture had caused much remark in the Exhibition. Some said that she might be a Brinvilliers, others a Cleopatra, and others again a Queen of Sheba. In her eyes as they were limned there had been nothing certainly of love, but they who likened her to the Egyptian queen believed that Cleopatra’s love had always been used simply to assist her ambition. They who took the Brinvilliers side of the controversy were men so used to softness and flattery from women as to have learned to think that a woman silent, arrogant, and hard of approach, must be always meditating murder. The disciples of the Queen of Sheba school, who formed perhaps the more numerous party, were led to their opinion by the majesty of Lucinda’s demeanour rather than by any clear idea in their own minds of the lady who visited Solomon. All men, however, agreed in this, that Lucinda Roanoke was very handsome, but that she was not the sort of girl with whom a man would wish to stray away through the distant beech-trees at a picnic.
In truth she was silent, grave, and, if not really 434 haughty, subject to all the signs of haughtiness. She went everywhere with her aunt, and allowed herself to be walked out at dances, and to be accosted when on horseback, and to be spoken to at parties; but she seemed hardly to trouble herself to talk; and as for laughing, flirting, or giggling, one might as well expect such levity from a marble Minerva. During the last winter she had taken to hunting with her aunt, and already could ride well to hounds. If assistance were wanted at a gate, or in the management of a fence, and the servant who attended the two ladies were not near enough to give it, she would accept it as her due from the man nearest to her; but she rarely did more than bow her thanks, and, even by young lords, or hard-riding handsome colonels, or squires of undoubted thousands, she could hardly ever be brought to what might be called a proper hunting-field conversation. All of which things were noted, and spoken of, and admired. It must be presumed that Lucinda Roanoke was in want of a husband, and yet no girl seemed to take less pains to get one. A girl ought not to be always busying herself to bring down a man, but a girl ought to give herself some charms. A girl so handsome as Lucinda Roanoke, with pluck enough to ride like a bird, dignity enough for a duchess, and who was undoubtedly clever, ought to put herself in the way of taking such good things as her charms and merits would bring her; but Lucinda Roanoke stood aloof and despised everybody. So it was that Lucinda was spoken of when her name was mentioned; and her name was mentioned a good deal after the opening of the exhibition of pictures.
There was some difficulty about her—as to who she 435 was. That she was an American was the received opinion. Her mother, as well as Mrs. Carbuncle, had certainly been in New York. Carbuncle was a London man; but it was supposed that Mr. Roanoke was, or had been, an American. The received opinion was correct. Lucinda had been born in New York, had been educated there till she was sixteen, and then been taken to Paris for nine months, and from Paris had been brought to London by her aunt. Mrs. Carbuncle always spoke of Lucinda’s education as having been thoroughly Parisian. Of her own education and antecedents, Lucinda never spoke at all. “I’ll tell you what it is,” said a young scamp from Eton to his elder sister, when her character and position were once being discussed, “she’s a heroine, and would shoot a fellow as soon as look at him.” In that scamp’s family Lucinda was ever afterwards called the heroine.
The manner in which Lord George de Bruce Carruthers had attached himself to these ladies was a mystery; but then Lord George was always mysterious. He was a young man—so considered—about forty-five years of age, who had never done anything in the manner of other people. He hunted a great deal, but he did not fraternise with hunting men, and would appear now in this county and now in that, with an utter disregard of grass, fences, friendships, or foxes. Leicester, Essex, Ayrshire, or the Baron had equal delights for him; and in all counties he was quite at home. He had never owned a fortune, and had never been known to earn a shilling. It was said that early in life he had been apprenticed to an attorney at Aberdeen as George Carruthers. His third cousin, the Marquis of Killiecrankie, had been killed out hunting; 436 the second scion of the noble family had fallen at Balaclava; a third had perished in the Indian Mutiny; and a fourth, who did reign for a few months, died suddenly, leaving a large family of daughters. Within three years the four brothers vanished, leaving among them no male heir, and George’s elder brother, who was then in a West India regiment, was called home from Demerara to be Marquis of Killiecrankie. By a usual exercise of the courtesy of the Crown, all the brothers were made lords, and some twelve years before the date of our story George Carruthers, who had long since left the attorney’s office at Aberdeen, became Lord George de Bruce Carruthers. How he lived no one knew. That his brother did much for him was presumed to be impossible, as the property entailed on the Killiecrankie title certainly was not large. He sometimes went into the City, and was supposed to know something about shares. Perhaps he played a little, and made a few bets. He generally lived with men of means, or perhaps with one man of means at a time; but they who knew him well declared that he never borrowed a shilling from a friend, and never owed a guinea to a tradesman. He always had horses, but never had a home. When in London he lodged in a single room, and dined at his club. He was a Colonel of Volunteers, having got up the regiment known as the Long Shore Riflemen—the roughest regiment of volunteers in all England—and was reputed to be a bitter Radical. He was suspected even of republican sentiments, and ignorant young men about London hinted that he was the grand centre of the British Fenians. He had been invited to stand for the Tower Hamlets, but had told the deputation which waited upon him 437 that he knew a thing worth two of that. Would they guarantee his expenses, and then give him a salary? The deputation doubted its ability to promise so much. “I more than doubt it,” said Lord George; and then the deputation went away.
In person he was a long-legged, long-bodied, long-faced man, with rough whiskers and a rough beard on his upper lip, but with a shorn chin. His eyes were very deep set in his head, and his cheeks were hollow and sallow; and yet he looked to be and was a powerful, healthy man. He had large hands, which seemed to be all bone, and long arms, and a neck which looked to be long, because he so wore his shirt that much of his throat was always bare. It was manifest enough that he liked to have good-looking women about him, and yet nobody presumed it probable that he would marry. For the last two or three years there had been friendship between him and Mrs. Carbuncle; and during the last season he had become almost intimate with our Lizzie. Lizzie thought that perhaps he might be the Corsair whom, sooner or later in her life, she must certainly encounter.
Sir Griffin Tewett, who at the present period of his existence was being led about by Lord George, was not exactly an amiable young baronet. Nor were his circumstances such as make a man amiable. He was nominally not only the heir to, but actually the possessor of a large property; but he could not touch the principal, and of the income only so much as certain legal curmudgeons would allow him. As Greystock had said, everybody was at law with him, so successful had been his father in mismanaging, and miscontrolling, and misappropriating the property. Tewett Hall had 438 gone to rack and ruin for four years, and was now let almost for nothing. He was a fair, frail young man, with a bad eye, and a weak mouth, and a thin hand, who was fond of liqueurs, and hated to the death any acquaintance who won a five-pound note of him, or any tradesman who wished to have his bill paid. But he had this redeeming quality—that having found Lucinda Roanoke to be the handsomest woman he had ever seen, he did desire to make her his wife.
Such were the friends whom Lizzie Eustace received at Portray Castle on the first day of her grand hospitality—together with John Eustace and Mr. Joseph Emilius, the fashionable preacher from May Fair.
further discussion which was to take place between Lady Fawn and her second daughter
[I wish the author would make up his mind whether Clara counts, or does not count, when enumerating the Fawn daughters. This time she doesn’t; the “second daughter” is Amelia, not Augusta.]
just a word should be said to Lucy, so that, if possible,
text has . for , after “possible”
“You see, Miss Morris, that as the head of this family——”
[For ### sake, Frederic. Accept her apology and don’t be such a dick.]
or to fight with the sword Excalibur
text has Excalibar
[Corrected from Fortnightly Review.]
is he a knight without reproach?
text has he is
[Corrected from Fortnightly Review.]
did not the fact of her wealth and of his comparative poverty cleanse her from such stain as would, in usual circumstances, attach to a woman who is so forward?
[For similar reasons, Victoria was obliged to propose to Albert.]
the Rev. Joseph Emilius, of whom it was said that he was born a Jew in Hungary
[And your point is . . .? At time of writing, Benjamin Disraeli—who was also born a Jew, though not in Hungary—was midway between his two stints as Prime Minister.]
his name in his own country had been Mealyus
[This is about as Hungarian as “Nicolae Carpathia” is Romanian. How would you even pronounce it?]
Within three years the four brothers vanished
[Kind Hearts and Coronets, anyone?]
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.