During the remainder of that Monday and all the Tuesday, Lizzie’s mind was, upon the whole, averse to matrimony. She had told Miss Macnulty of her prospects, with some amount of exultation; and the poor dependent, though she knew that she must be turned out into the street, had congratulated her patroness. “The vulturess will take you in again, when she knows you’ve nowhere else to go to,” Lizzie had said, displaying indeed some accurate discernment of her aunt’s character. But after Lady Fawn’s visit she spoke of the marriage in a different tone. “Of course, my dear, I shall have to look very close after the settlement.”
“I suppose the lawyers will do that,” said Miss Macnulty.
“Yes; lawyers! That’s all very well. I know what lawyers are. I’m not going to trust any lawyer to give away my property. Of course we shall live at Portray, because his place is in Ireland, and nothing shall take me to Ireland. I told him that from the very first. But I don’t mean to give up my own income. I don’t suppose he’ll venture to suggest such a thing.” And then again she grumbled. “It’s all very well being in the Cabinet ——!”
“Is Lord Fawn in the Cabinet?” asked Miss Macnulty, who in such matters was not altogether ignorant.
“Of course he is,” said Lizzie, with an angry gesture. It may seem unjust to accuse her of being stupidly unacquainted with circumstances, and a liar at the same time; but she was both. She said that Lord Fawn was in the Cabinet because she had heard some one speak of him as not being a Cabinet Minister, and in so speaking appear to slight his political position. Lizzie did not know how much her companion knew, and Miss Macnulty did not comprehend the depth of the ignorance of her patroness. Thus the lies which Lizzie told were amazing to Miss Macnulty. To say that Lord Fawn was in the Cabinet, when all the world knew that he was an Under-Secretary! What good could a woman get from an assertion so plainly, so manifestly false? But Lizzie knew nothing of Under-Secretaries. Lord Fawn was a lord, and even commoners were in the Cabinet. “Of course he is,” said Lizzie; “but I sha’n’t have my drawing-room made a Cabinet. They sha’n’t come here.” And then again on the Tuesday evening she displayed her independence. “As for those women down at Richmond, I don’t mean to be overrun by them, I can tell you. I said I would go there, and of course I shall keep my word.”
“I think you had better go,” said Miss Macnulty.
“Of course, I shall go. I don’t want anybody to tell me where I’m to go, my dear, and where I’m not. But it’ll be about the first and the last. And as for bringing those dowdy girls out in London, it’s the last thing I shall think of doing. Indeed, I doubt whether they can afford to dress themselves.” As she went up to bed on the Tuesday evening, Miss Macnulty doubted whether the match would go on. She never believed her friend’s statements; but if spoken words might be supposed to mean anything, Lady Eustace’s words on that Tuesday betokened a strong dislike to everything appertaining to the Fawn family. She had even ridiculed Lord Fawn himself, declaring that he understood nothing about anything beyond his office.
And, in truth, Lizzie had almost made up her mind to break it off. All that she would gain did not seem to weigh down with sufficient preponderance all that she would lose. Such were her feelings on the Tuesday night. But on the Wednesday morning she received a note which threw her back violently upon the Fawn interest. The note was as follows:
“Messrs. Camperdown and Son present their compliments to Lady Eustace. They have received instructions to proceed by law for the recovery of the Eustace diamonds, now in Lady Eustace’s hands, and will feel obliged to Lady Eustace if she will communicate to them the name and address of her attorney.
“62 NEW SQUARE, 30 MAY, 186-.”
The effect of this note was to drive Lizzie back upon the Fawn interest. She was frightened about the diamonds, and was, nevertheless, almost determined not to surrender them. At any rate, in such a strait she would want assistance, either in keeping them or in giving them up. The lawyer’s letter afflicted her with a sense of weakness, and there was strength in the Fawn connection. As Lord Fawn was so poor, perhaps he would adhere to the jewels. She knew that she could not fight Mr. Camperdown with no other assistance than what Messrs. Mowbray & Mopus might give her, and therefore her heart softened toward her betrothed. “I suppose Frederic will be here today,” she said to Miss Macnulty, as they sat at breakfast together about noon. Miss Macnulty nodded. “You can have a cab, you know, if you like to go anywhere.” Miss Macnulty said she thought she would go to the National Gallery. “And you can walk back, you know,” said Lizzie.
“I can walk there and back, too,” said Miss Macnulty, in regard to whom it may be said that the last ounce would sometimes almost break the horse’s back.
“Frederic” came, and was received very graciously. Lizzie had placed Mr. Camperdown’s note on the little table behind her, beneath the Bible, so that she might put her hand upon it at once if she could make an opportunity of showing it to her future husband. “Frederic” sat himself beside her, and the intercourse for a while was such as might be looked for between two lovers of whom one was a widow and the other an Undersecretary of State from the India Office. They were loving, but discreetly amatory, talking chiefly of things material, each flattering the other, and each hinting now and again at certain little circumstances of which a more accurate knowledge seemed to be desirable. The one was conversant with things in general, but was slow; the other was quick as a lizard in turning hither and thither, but knew almost nothing. When she told Lord Fawn that the Ayrshire estate was “her own, to do what she liked with,” she did not know that he would certainly find out the truth from other sources before he married her. Indeed, she was not quite sure herself whether the statement was true or false, though she would not have made it so frequently had her idea of the truth been a fixed idea. It had all been explained to her; but there had been something about a second son, and there was no second son. Perhaps she might have a second son yet, a future little Lord Fawn, and he might inherit it. In regard to honesty, the man was superior to the woman, because his purpose was declared, and he told no lies; but the one was as mercenary as the other. It was not love that had brought Lord Fawn to Mount Street.
“What is the name of your place in Ireland?” she asked.
“There is no house, you know.”
“But there was one, Frederic?”
“The town-land where the house used to be is called Killeagent. The old demesne is called Killaud.”
“What pretty names! and — and — does it go a great many miles?” Lord Fawn explained that it did run a good many miles up into the mountains. “How beautifully romantic!” said Lizzie. “But the people live on the mountain and pay rent?”
Lord Fawn asked no such inept questions respecting the Ayrshire property, but he did inquire who was Lizzie’s solicitor. “Of course there will be things to be settled,” he said, “and my lawyer had better see yours. Mr. Camperdown is a ——”
“Mr. Camperdown!” almost shrieked Lizzie. Lord Fawn then explained, with some amazement, that Mr. Camperdown was his lawyer. As far as his belief went, there was not a more respectable gentleman in the profession. Then he inquired whether Lizzie had any objection to Mr. Camperdown. “Mr. Camperdown was Sir Florian’s lawyer,” said Lizzie.
“That will make it all the easier, I should think,” said Lord Fawn.
“I don’t know how that may be,” said Lizzie, trying to bring her mind to work upon the subject steadily. “Mr. Camperdown has been very uncourteous to me; I must say that; and, as I think, unfair. He wishes to rob me now of a thing that is quite my own.”
“What sort of a thing?” asked Lord Fawn slowly.
“A very valuable thing. I’ll tell you all about it, Frederic. Of course I’ll tell you everything now. I never could keep back anything from one that I loved. It’s not my nature. There; you might as well read that note.” Then she put her hand back and brought Mr. Camperdown’s letter from under the Bible. Lord Fawn read it very attentively, and as he read it there came upon him a great doubt. What sort of woman was this to whom he had engaged himself because she was possessed of an income? That Mr. Camperdown should be in the wrong in such a matter was an idea which never occurred to Lord Fawn. There is no form of belief stronger than that which the ordinary English gentleman has in the discretion and honesty of his own family lawyer. What his lawyer tells him to do he does. What his lawyer tells him to sign he signs. He buys and sells in obedience to the same direction, and feels perfectly comfortable in the possession of a guide who is responsible and all but divine.
“What diamonds are they?” asked Lord Fawn in a very low voice.
“They are my own — altogether my own. Sir Florian gave them to me. When he put them into my hands he said that they were to be my own for ever and ever. ‘There,’ said he, ‘those are yours to do what you choose with them.’ After that they oughtn’t to ask me to give them back, ought they? If you had been married before, and your wife had given you a keepsake, to keep for ever and ever, would you give it up to a lawyer? You would not like it, would you, Frederic?” She had put her hand on his and was looking up into his face as she asked the question. Again, perhaps, the acting was a little overdone; but there were the tears in her eyes, and the tone of her voice was perfect.
“Mr. Camperdown calls them Eustace diamonds — family diamonds,” said Lord Fawn. “What do they consist of? What are they worth?”
“I’ll show them to you,” said Lizzie, jumping up and hurrying out of the room. Lord Fawn, when he was alone, rubbed his hands over his eyes and thought about it all. It would be a very harsh measure on the part of the Eustace family and of Mr. Camperdown to demand from her the surrender of any trinket which her late husband might have given her in the manner she had described. But it was, to his thinking, most improbable that the Eustace people or the lawyer should be harsh to a widow bearing the Eustace name. The Eustaces were by disposition lavish, and old Mr. Camperdown was not one who would be strict in claiming little things for rich clients. And yet here was his letter, threatening the widow of the late baronet with legal proceedings for the recovery of jewels which had been given by Sir Florian himself to his wife as a keepsake! Perhaps Sir Florian had made some mistake, and had caused to be set in a ring or brooch for his bride some jewel which he had thought to be his own, but which had, in truth, been an heirloom. If so, the jewel should, of course, be surrendered, or replaced by one of equal value. He was making out some such solution, when Lizzie returned with the morocco case in her hand. “It was the manner in which he gave it to me,” said Lizzie, as she opened the clasp, “which makes its value to me.”
Lord Fawn knew nothing about jewels, but even he knew that if the circle of stones which he saw, with a Maltese cross appended to it, was constituted of real diamonds, the thing must be of great value. And it occurred to him at once that such a necklace is not given by a husband even to a bride in the manner described by Lizzie. A ring, or brooch, or perhaps a bracelet, a lover or a loving lord may bring in his pocket. But such an ornament as this on which Lord Fawn was now looking is given in another sort of way. He felt sure that it was so, even though he was entirely ignorant of the value of the stones. “Do you know what it is worth?” he asked.
Lizzie hesitated a moment and then remembered that “Frederic,” in his present position in regard to herself, might be glad to assist her in maintaining the possession of a substantial property. “I think they say its value is about — ten thousand pounds,” she replied.
“Ten — thousand — pounds!” Lord Fawn riveted his eyes upon them.
“That’s what I am told — by a jeweller.”
“By what jeweller?”
“A man had to come and see them, about some repairs, or something of that kind. Poor Sir Florian wished it. And he said so.”
“What was the man’s name?”
“I forget his name,” said Lizzie, who was not quite sure whether her acquaintance with Mr. Benjamin would be considered respectable.
“Ten thousand pounds! You don’t keep them in the house, do you?”
“I have an iron case up-stairs for them, ever so heavy.”
“And did Sir Florian give you the iron case?” Lizzie hesitated for a moment. “Yes,” said she. “That is — no. But he ordered it to be made; and then it came, after he was — dead.”
“He knew their value, then.”
“Oh dear, yes. Though he never named any sum. He told me, however, that they were very — very valuable.”
Lord Fawn did not immediately recognise the falseness of every word that the woman said to him, because he was slow and could not think and hear at the same time. But he was at once involved in a painful maze of doubt and almost of dismay. An action for the recovery of jewels brought against the lady whom he was engaged to marry, on behalf of the family of her late husband, would not suit him at all. To have his hands quite clean, to be above all evil report, to be respectable, as it were, all round, was Lord Fawn’s special ambition. He was a poor man, and a greedy man, but he would have abandoned his official salary at a moment’s notice, rather than there should have fallen on him a breath of public opinion hinting that it ought to be abandoned. He was especially timid, and lived in a perpetual fear least the newspapers should say something hard of him. In that matter of the Sawab he had been very wretched, because Frank Greystock had accused him of being an administrator of tyranny. He would have liked his wife to have ten thousand pounds’ worth of diamonds very well; but he would rather go without a wife forever — and without a wife’s fortune — than marry a woman subject to an action for claiming diamonds not her own. “I think,” said he at last, “that if you were to put them into Mr. Camperdown’s hands —”
“Into Mr. Camperdown’s hands!”
“And then let the matter be settled by arbitration ——”
“Arbitration? That means going to law?”
“No, dearest; that means not going to law. The diamonds would be intrusted to Mr. Camperdown; and then some one would be appointed to decide whose property they were.”
“They’re my property,” said Lizzie.
“But he says they belong to the family.”
“He’ll say anything,” said Lizzie.
“My dearest girl, there can’t be a more respectable man than Mr. Camperdown. You must do something of the kind, you know.”
“I sha’n’t do anything of the kind,” said Lizzie. “Sir Florian Eustace gave them to me, and I shall keep them.” She did not look at her lover as she spoke; but he looked at her, and did not like the change which he saw on her countenance. And he did not like the circumstances in which he found himself placed. “Why should Mr. Camperdown interfere?” continued Lizzie. “If they don’t belong to me, they belong to my son; and who has so good a right to keep them for him as I have? But they belong to me.”
“They should not be kept in a private house like this at all, if they are worth all that money.”
“If I were to let them go, Mr. Camperdown would get them. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do to get them. Oh, Frederic, I hope you’ll stand to me, and not see me injured. Of course I only want them for my darling child.”
Frederic’s face had become very long, and he was much disturbed in his mind. He could only suggest that he himself would go and see Mr. Camperdown and ascertain what ought to be done. To the last he adhered to his assurance that Mr. Camperdown could do no evil; till Lizzie, in her wrath, asked him whether he believed Mr. Camperdown’s word before hers. “I think he would understand a matter of business better than you,” said the prudent lover.
“He wants to rob me,” said Lizzie, “and I shall look to you to prevent it.”
When Lord Fawn took his leave, which he did not do till he had counselled her again and again to leave the matter in Mr. Camperdown’s hands, the two were not in good accord together. It was his fixed purpose, as he declared to her, to see Mr. Camperdown; and it was her fixed purpose, so at least she declared to him, to keep the diamonds, in spite of Mr. Camperdown. “But, my dear, if it’s decided against you,” said Lord Fawn gravely.
“It can’t be decided against me, if you stand by me as you ought to do.”
“I can do nothing,” said Lord Fawn, in a tremor. Then Lizzie looked at him, and her look, which was very eloquent, called him a poltroon as plain as a look could speak. Then they parted, and the signs of affection between them were not satisfactory.
The door was hardly closed behind him before Lizzie began to declare to herself that he shouldn’t escape her. It was not yet twenty-four hours since she had been telling herself that she did not like the engagement and would break it off; and now she was stamping her little feet, and clenching her little hands, and swearing to herself by all her gods that this wretched, timid lordling should not get out of her net. She did, in truth, despise him because he would not clutch the jewels. She looked upon him as mean and paltry because he was willing to submit to Mr. Camperdown. But, yet, she was prompted to demand all that could be demanded from her engagement, because she thought that she perceived a something in him which might produce in him a desire to be relieved from it. No! He should not be relieved. He should marry her. And she would keep the key of that iron box with the diamonds, and he should find what sort of a noise she would make if he attempted to take it from her. She closed the morocco case, ascended with it to her bedroom, locked it up in the iron safe, deposited the little patent key in its usual place round her neck, and then seated herself at her desk, and wrote letters to her various friends, making known to them her engagement. Hitherto she had told no one but Miss Macnulty, and, in her doubts, had gone so far as to desire Miss Macnulty not to mention it. Now she was resolved to blazon forth her engagement before all the world.
The first “friend” to whom she wrote was Lady Linlithgow. The reader shall see two or three of her letters, and that to the countess shall be the first:
“MY DEAR AUNT: When you came to see me the other day, I cannot say that you were very kind to me, and I don’t suppose you care very much what becomes of me. But I think it right to let you know that I am going to be married. I am engaged to Lord Fawn, who, as you know, is a peer, and a member of Her Majesty’s Government, and a nobleman of great influence. I do not suppose that even you can say anything against such an alliance.
“I am your affectionate niece,
Then she wrote to Mrs. Eustace, the wife of the Bishop of Bobsborough. Mrs. Eustace had been very kind to her in the first days of her widowhood, and had fully recognised her as the widow of the head of her husband’s family. Lizzie had liked none of the Bobsborough people. They were, according to her ideas, slow, respectable, and dull. But they had not found much open fault with her, and she was aware that it was for her interest to remain on good terms with them. Her letter, therefore, to Mrs. Eustace was somewhat less acrid than that written to her Aunt Linlithgow:
“MY DEAR MRS. EUSTACE: I hope you will be glad to hear from me, and will not be sorry to hear my news. I am going to be married again. Of course I am not about to take a step which is in every way so very important without thinking about it a great deal. But I am sure it will be better for my darling little Florian in every way; and as for myself, I have felt for the last two years how unfitted I have been to manage everything myself. I have therefore accepted an offer made to me by Lord Fawn, who is, as you know, a peer of Parliament, and a most distinguished member of Her Majesty’s Government; and he is, too, a nobleman of very great influence in every respect, and has a property in Ireland, extending over ever so many miles, and running up into the mountains. His mansion there is called Killmage, but I am not sure that I remember the name quite rightly. I hope I may see you there some day, and the dear bishop. I look forward with delight to doing something to make those dear Irish happier. The idea of rambling up into our own mountains charms me, for nothing suits my disposition so well as that kind of solitude.
“Of course Lord Fawn is not so rich a man as Sir Florian, but I have never looked to riches for my happiness. Not but what Lord Fawn has a good income from his Irish estates; and then, of course, he is paid for doing Her Majesty’s Government; so there is no fear that he will have to live upon my jointure, which, of course, would not be right. Pray tell the dear bishop and dear Margaretta all this, with my love. You will be happy, I know, to hear that my little Flo is quite well. He is already so fond of his new papa!” [Lizzie’s turn for lying was exemplified in this last statement, for, as it happened, Lord Fawn had never yet seen the child.]
“Believe me to be always
“Your most affectionate niece,
There were two other letters — one to her uncle, the dean, and the other to her cousin Frank. There was great doubt in her mind as to the expediency of writing to Frank Greystock; but at last she decided that she would do it. The letter to the dean need not be given in full, as it was very similar to that written to the bishop’s wife. The same mention was made of her intended husband’s peerage, and the same allusion to Her Majesty’s Government — a phrase which she had heard from Lord Fawn himself. She spoke of the Irish property, but in terms less glowing than she had used in writing to the lady, and ended by asking for her uncle’s congratulation — and blessing. Her letter to Frank was as follows, and, doubtless, as she wrote it, there was present to her mind a remembrance of the fact that he himself might have offered to her, and have had her if he would:
“MY DEAR COUSIN: As I would rather that you should hear my news from myself than from any one else, I write to tell you that I am going to be married to Lord Fawn. Of course I know that there are certain matters as to which you and Lord Fawn do not agree — in politics, I mean; but still I do not doubt but you will think that he is quite able to take care of your poor little cousin. It was only settled a day or two since, but it has been coming on ever so long. You understand all about that, don’t you? Of course you must come to my wedding, and be very good to me — a kind of brother, you know; for we have always been friends, haven’t we? And if the dean doesn’t come up to town, you must give me away. And you must come and see me ever so often; for I have a sort of feeling that I have no one else belonging to me that I can call really my own, except you. And you must be great friends with Lord Fawn, and must give up saying that he doesn’t do his work properly. Of course he does everything better than anybody else could possibly do it, except Cousin Frank.
“I am going down next week to Richmond. Lady Fawn has insisted on my staying there for a fortnight. Oh dear, what shall I do all the time? You must positively come down and see me, and see somebody else too. Only you, naughty coz, you mustn’t break a poor girl’s heart.
“Your affectionate cousin,
Somebody, in speaking on Lady Eustace’s behalf, and making the best of her virtues, had declared that she did not have lovers. Hitherto that had been true of her; but her mind had not the less dwelt on the delight of a lover. She still thought of a possible Corsair who would be willing to give up all but his vices for her love, and for whose sake she would be willing to share even them. It was but a dream, but nevertheless it pervaded her fancy constantly. Lord Fawn, peer of Parliament, and member of Her Majesty’s Government, as he was, could not have been such a lover to her. Might it not be possible that there should exist something of romance between her and her cousin Frank? She was the last woman in the world to run away with a man, or to endanger her position by a serious indiscretion; but there might perhaps be a something between her and her cousin, a liaison quite correct in its facts, a secret understanding, if nothing more, a mutual sympathy, which should be chiefly shown in the abuse of all their friends; and in this she could indulge her passion for romance and poetry.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01