The Eustace Diamonds, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XLIII

Life at Portray

On the Monday Frank took his departure. Everybody at the castle had liked him except Sir Griffin, who, when he had gone, remarked to Lucinda that he was an insufferable legal prig, and one of those chaps who think themselves somebody because they are in Parliament. Lucinda had liked Frank, and said so very boldly. “I see what it is,” replied Sir Griffin; “you always like the people I don’t.”

When he was going, Lizzie left her hand in his for a moment, and gave one look up into his eyes. “When is Lucy to be made blessed?” she asked.

“I don’t know that Lucy will ever be made blessed,” he replied, “but I am sure I hope she will.” Not a word more was said, and he returned to London.

After that Mrs. Carbuncle and Lucinda remained at Portray Castle till after Christmas, greatly overstaying the original time fixed for their visit. Lord George and Sir Griffin went and returned, and went again and returned again. There was much hunting and a great many love passages, which need not be recorded here. More than once during these six or seven weeks there arose a quarrel, bitter, loud, and pronounced, between Sir Griffin and Lucinda; but Lord George and Mrs. Carbuncle between them managed to throw oil upon the waters, and when Christmas came the engagement was still an engagement. The absolute suggestion that it should be broken, and abandoned, and thrown to the winds, always came from Lucinda; and Sir Griffin, when he found that Lucinda was in earnest, would again be moved by his old desires, and would determine that he would have the thing he wanted. Once he behaved with such coarse brutality that nothing but an abject apology would serve the turn. He made the abject apology, and after that became conscious that his wings were clipped, and that he must do as he was bidden. Lord George took him away, and brought him back again, and blew him up; and at last, under pressure from Mrs. Carbuncle, made him consent to the fixing of a day. The marriage was to take place during the first week in April. When the party moved from Portray he was to go up to London and see his lawyer. Settlements were to be arranged, and something was to be fixed as to future residence.

In the midst of all this Lucinda was passive as regarded the making of the arrangements, but very troublesome to those around her as to her immediate mode of life. Even to Lady Eustace she was curt and uncivil. To her aunt she was at times ferocious. She told Lord George more than once to his face that he was hurrying her to perdition.

“What the d —— is it you want?” Lord George said to her.

“Not to be married to this man.”

“But you have accepted him. I didn’t ask you to take him. You don’t want to go into a workhouse, I suppose?”

Then she rode so hard that all the Ayrshire lairds were startled out of their propriety, and there was a general fear that she would meet some terrible accident. And Lizzie, instigated by jealousy, learned to ride as hard, and as they rode against each other every day, there was a turmoil in the hunt. Morgan, scratching his head, declared that he had known “drunken rampaging men,” but had never seen ladies so wicked. Lizzie did come down rather badly at one wall, and Lucinda got herself jammed against a gate-post. But when Christmas was come and gone, and Portray Castle had been left empty, no very bad accident had occurred.

A great friendship had sprung up between Mrs. Carbuncle and Lizzie, so that both had become very communicative. Whether both or either had been candid may, perhaps, be doubted. Mrs. Carbuncle had been quite confidential in discussing with her friend the dangerous varieties of Lucinda’s humours, and the dreadful aversion which she still seemed to entertain for Sir Griffin. But then these humours and this aversion were so visible, that they could not well be concealed; and what can be the use of confidential communications if things are kept back which the confidante would see even if they were not told?

“She would be just like that, whoever the man was,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.

“I suppose so,” said Lizzie, wondering at such a phenomenon in female nature. But with this fact, understood between them to be a fact — namely, that Lucinda would be sure to hate any man whom she might accept — they both agreed that the marriage had better go on.

“She must take a husband some day, you know,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.

“Of course,” said Lizzie.

“With her good looks, it would be out of the question that she shouldn’t be married.”

“Quite out of the question,” repeated Lizzie.

“And I really don’t see how she’s to do better. It’s her nature, you know. I have had enough of it, I can tell you. And at the pension, near Paris, they couldn’t break her in at all. Nobody could ever break her in. You see it in the way she rides.”

“I suppose Sir Griffin must do it,” said Lizzie, laughing.

“Well — that, or the other thing, you know.” But there was no doubt about this — whoever might break or be broken, the marriage must go on. “If you don’t persevere with one like her, Lady Eustace, nothing can be done.” Lizzie quite concurred. What did it matter to her who should break, or who be broken, if she could only sail her own little bark without dashing it on the rocks? Rocks there were. She didn’t quite know what to make of Lord George, who certainly was a Corsair — who had said some very pretty things to her, quite à la Corsair. But in the mean time, from certain rumours that she heard, she believed that Frank had given up, or at least was intending to give up, the little chit who was living with Lady Linlithgow. There had been something of a quarrel — so, at least, she had heard through Miss Macnulty, with whom Lady Linlithgow still occasionally corresponded in spite of their former breaches. From Frank, Lizzie heard repeatedly but Frank in his letters never mentioned the name of Lucy Morris. Now, if there should be a division between Frank and Lucy, then, she thought, Frank would return to her. And if so, for a permanent holding rock of protection in the world, her cousin Frank would be at any rate safer than the Corsair.

Lizzie and Mrs. Carbuncle had quite come to understand each other comfortably about money. It suited Mrs. Carbuncle very well to remain at Portray. It was no longer necessary that she should carry Lucinda about in search of game to be run down. The one head of game needed had been run down, such as it was — not, indeed, a very noble stag; but the stag had been accepted; and a home for herself and her niece, which should have about it a sufficient air of fashion to satisfy public opinion — out of London — better still, in Scotland, belonging to a person with a title, enjoying the appurtenances of wealth, and one to which Lord George and Sir Griffin could have access — was very desirable. But it was out of the question that Lady Eustace should bear all the expense. Mrs. Carbuncle undertook to find the stables, and did pay for that rick of hay and for the cartload of forage which had made Lizzie’s heart quake as she saw it dragged up the hill towards her own granaries. It is very comfortable when all these things are clearly understood. Early in January they were all to go back to London. Then for a while — up to the period of Lucinda’s marriage — Lizzie was to be Mrs. Carbuncle’s guest at the small house in May Fair, but Lizzie was to keep the carriage. There came at last to be some little attempt, perhaps, at a hard bargain at the hand of each lady, in which Mrs. Carbuncle, as the elder, probably got the advantage. There was a question about the liveries in London. The footman there must appertain to Mrs. Carbuncle, whereas the coachman would as necessarily be one of Lizzie’s retainers. Mrs. Carbuncle assented at last to finding the double livery — but, like a prudent woman, arranged to get her quid pro quo. “You can add something, you know, to the present you’ll have to give Lucinda. Lucinda shall choose something up to forty pounds.”

“We’ll say thirty,” said Lizzie, who was beginning to know the value of money.

“Split the difference,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, with a pleasant little burst of laughter — and the difference was split. That the very neat and even dandified appearance of the groom who rode out hunting with them should be provided at the expense of Mrs. Carbuncle was quite understood; but it was equally well understood that Lizzie was to provide the horse on which he rode, on every third day. It adds greatly to the comfort of friends living together when these things are accurately settled.

Mr. Emilius remained longer than had been anticipated, and did not go till Lord George and Sir Griffin took their departure. It was observed that he never spoke of his wife; and yet Mrs. Carbuncle was almost sure that she had heard of such a lady. He had made himself very agreeable, and was, either by art or nature, a courteous man, one who paid compliments to ladies. It was true, however, that he sometimes startled his hearers, by things which might have been considered to border on coarseness if they had not been said by a clergyman. Lizzie had an idea that he intended to marry Miss Macnulty. And Miss Macnulty certainly received his attentions with pleasure. In these circumstances his prolonged stay at the castle was not questioned; but when towards the end of November Lord George and Sir Griffin took their departure, he was obliged to return to his flock.

On the great subject of the diamonds Lizzie had spoken her mind freely to Mrs. Carbuncle early in the days of their friendship — immediately, that is, after the bargaining had been completed. “Ten thousand pounds!” ejaculated Mrs. Carbuncle, opening wide her eyes. Lizzie nodded her head thrice, in token of reiterated assurance. “Do you mean that you really know their value?” The ladies at this time were closeted together, and were discussing many things in the closest confidence.

“They were valued for me by jewellers.”

“Ten thousand pounds! And Sir Florian gave them to you?”

“Put them round my neck, and told me they were to be mine, always.”

“Generous man!”

“Ah, if you had but known him!” said Lizzie, just touching her eye with her handkerchief.

“I dare say. And now the people claim them. I’m not a bit surprised at that, my dear. I should have thought a man couldn’t give away so much as that, not just as one makes a present that costs forty or fifty pounds.” Mrs. Carbuncle could not resist the opportunity of showing that she did not think so very much of that coming thirty-five-pound “gift” for which the bargain had been made.

“That’s what they say. And they say ever so many other things besides. They mean to prove that it’s an — heirloom.”

“Perhaps it is.”

“But it isn’t. My cousin Frank, who knows more about law than any other man in London, says that they can’t make a necklace an heirloom. If it was a brooch or a ring, it would be different. I don’t quite understand it, but it is so.”

“It’s a pity Sir Florian didn’t say something about it in his will,” suggested Mrs. Carbuncle.

“But he did; at least, not just about the necklace.” Then Lady Eustace explained the nature of her late husband’s will, as far as it regarded chattels to be found in the castle of Portray at the time of his death; and added the fiction, which had now become common to her, as to the necklace having been given to her in Scotland.

“I shouldn’t let them have it,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.

“I don’t mean,” said Lizzie.

“I should sell them,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.

“But why?”

“Because there are so many accidents. A woman should be very rich indeed before she allows herself to walk about with ten thousand pounds upon her shoulders. Suppose somebody broke into the house and stole them. And if they were sold, my dear, so that some got to Paris, and others to St. Petersburg, and others to New York, they’d have to give it up then.” Before the discussion was over Lizzie tripped upstairs and brought the necklace down and put it on Mrs. Carbuncle’s neck. “I shouldn’t like to have such property in my house, my dear,” continued Mrs. Carbuncle. “Of course diamonds are very nice. Nothing is so nice. And if a person had a proper place to keep them, and all that ——”

“I’ve a very strong iron case,” said Lizzie.

“But they should be at the bank, or at the jeweller’s, or somewhere quite — quite safe. People might steal the case and all. If I were you I should sell them.” It was explained to Mrs. Carbuncle on that occasion that Lizzie had brought them down with her in the train from London, and that she intended to take them back in the same way. “There’s nothing the thieves would find easier than to steal them on the way,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.

It was some days after this that there came down to her by post some terribly frightful documents, which were the first results, as far as she was concerned, of the filing of a bill in Chancery; which hostile proceeding was, in truth, effected by the unaided energy of Mr. Camperdown, although Mr. Camperdown put himself forward simply as an instrument used by the trustees of the Eustace property. Within eight days she was to enter an appearance, or go through some preliminary ceremony toward showing why she should not surrender her diamonds to the Lord Chancellor, or to one of those satraps of his, the Vice-Chancellors, or to some other terrible myrmidon. Mr. Camperdown in his letter explained that the service of this document upon her in Scotland would amount to nothing, even were he to send it down by a messenger; but that no doubt she would send it to her attorney, who would see the expediency of avoiding exposure by accepting the service. Of all which explanation Lizzie did not understand one word. Messrs. Camperdown’s letter and the document which it contained did frighten her considerably, although the matter had been discussed so often that she had accustomed herself to declare that no such bugbear as that should have any influence on her. She had asked Frank whether, in the event of such missiles reaching her, she might send them to him. He had told her that they should be at once placed in the hands of her attorney; and consequently she now sent them to Messrs. Mowbray & Mopus, with a very short note from herself. “Lady Eustace presents her compliments to Messrs. Mowbray & Mopus, and encloses some papers she has received about her diamonds. They are her own diamonds, given to her by her late husband. Please do what is proper, but Mr. Camperdown ought to be made to pay all the expenses.”

She had, no doubt, allowed herself to hope that no further steps would be taken in the matter; and the very name of the Vice-Chancellor did for a few hours chill the blood at her heart. In those few hours she almost longed to throw the necklace into the sea, feeling sure that, if the diamonds were absolutely lost, there must be altogether an end of the matter, But, by degrees, her courage returned to her, as she remembered that her cousin had told her that, as far as he could see, the necklace was legally her own. Her cousin had, of course, been deceived by the lies which she had repeated to him; but lies which had been efficacious with him might be efficacious with others. Who could prove that Sir Florian had not taken the diamonds to Scotland, and given them to her there, in that very house which was now her own?

She told Mrs. Carbuncle of the missiles which had been hurled at her from the London courts of law, and Mrs. Carbuncle evidently thought that the diamonds were as good as gone. “Then I suppose you can’t sell them,” said she.

“Yes, I could; I could sell them tomorrow. What is to hinder me? Suppose I took them to jewellers in Paris?”

“The jewellers would think you had stolen them.”

“I didn’t steal them,” said Lizzie. “They’re my very own. Frank says that nobody can take them away from me. Why shouldn’t a man give his wife a diamond necklace as well as a diamond ring? That’s what I can’t understand. What may he give her so that men sha’n’t come and worry her life out of her in this way? As for an heirloom, anybody who knows anything, knows it can’t be an heirloom. A pot or a pan may be an heirloom; but a diamond necklace cannot be an heirloom. Everybody knows that, that knows anything.”

“I dare say it will all come right,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, who did not in the least believe Lizzie’s law about the pot and pan.

In the first week in January Lord George and Sir Griffin returned to the castle with the view of travelling up to London with the three ladies. This arrangement was partly thrown over by circumstances, as Sir Griffin was pleased to leave Portray two days before the others and to travel by himself. There was a bitter quarrel between Lucinda and her lover, and it was understood afterwards by Lady Eustace that Sir Griffin had had a few words with Lord George; but what those few words were, she never quite knew. There was no open rupture between the two gentlemen, but Sir Griffin showed his displeasure to the ladies, who were more likely to bear patiently his ill-humour in the present circumstances than was Lord George. When a man has shown himself to be so far amenable to feminine authority as to have put himself in the way of matrimony, ladies will bear a great deal from him. There was nothing which Mrs. Carbuncle would not endure from Sir Griffin, just at present; and, on behalf of Mrs. Carbuncle, even Lizzie was long-suffering. It cannot, however, be said that this Petruchio had as yet tamed his own peculiar shrew. Lucinda was as savage as ever, and would snap and snarl, and almost bite. Sir Griffin would snarl too, and say very bearish things. But when it came to the point of actual quarrelling, he would become sullen, and in his sullenness would yield.

“I don’t see why Carruthers should have it all his own way,” he said, one hunting morning, to Lucinda.

“I don’t care twopence who have their way,” said Lucinda, “I mean to have mine; that’s all.”

“I’m not speaking about you. I call it downright interference on his part. And I do think you give way to him. You never do anything that I suggest.”

“You never suggest anything that I like to do,” said Lucinda.

“That’s a pity,” said Sir Griffin, “considering that I shall have to suggest so many things that you will have to do.”

“I don’t know that at all,” said Lucinda.

Mrs. Carbuncle came up during the quarrel, meaning to throw oil upon the waters. “What children you are!” she said laughing. “As if each of you won’t have to do what the other suggests.”

“Mrs. Carbuncle,” began Sir Griffin, “if you will have the great kindness not to endeavour to teach me what my conduct should be now or at any future time, I shall take it as a kindness.”

“Sir Griffin, pray don’t quarrel with Mrs. Carbuncle,” said Lizzie.

“Lady Eustace, if Mrs. Carbuncle interferes with me, I shall quarrel with her. I have borne a great deal more of this kind of thing than I like. I’m not going to be told this and told that because Mrs. Carbuncle happens to be the aunt of the future Lady Tewett — if it should come to that. I’m not going to marry a whole family; and the less I have of this kind of thing the more likely it is that I shall come up to scratch when the time is up.”

Then Lucinda rose and spoke. “Sir Griffin Tewett,” she said, “there is not the slightest necessity that you should ‘come up to scratch.’ I wonder that I have not as yet been able to make you understand that if it will suit your convenience to break off our match, it will not in the least interfere with mine. And let me tell you this, Sir Griffin, that any repetition of your unkindness to my aunt will make me utterly refuse to see you again.”

“Of course you like her better than you do me.”

“A great deal better,” said Lucinda.

“If I stand that I’ll be — — ” said Sir Griffin, leaving the room. And he left the castle, sleeping that night in the inn at Kilmarnock. The day, however, was passed in hunting; and though he said nothing to either of the three ladies, it was understood by them as they returned to Portray that there was to be no quarrel. Lord George and Sir Griffin had discussed the matter, and Lord George took upon himself to say that there was no quarrel. On the morning but one following, there came a note from Sir Griffin to Lucinda just as they were leaving home for their journey up to London, in which Sir Griffin expressed his regret if he had said anything displeasing to Mrs. Carbuncle.

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43