There was great perturbation down at Fawn Court. On the day fixed, Monday, June 5, Lizzie arrived. Nothing further had been said by Lady Fawn to urge the invitation; but, in accordance with the arrangement already made, Lady Eustace, with her child, her nurse, and her own maid, was at Fawn Court by four o’clock. A very long letter had been received from Mrs. Hittaway that morning, the writing of which must have seriously interfered with the tranquillity of her Sunday afternoon. Lord Fawn did not make his appearance at Richmond on the Saturday evening, nor was he seen on the Sunday. That Sunday was, we may presume, chiefly devoted to reflection. He certainly did not call upon his future wife. His omission to do so, no doubt, increased Lizzie’s urgency in the matter of her visit to Richmond. Frank Greystock had written to congratulate her. “Dear Frank,” she had said in reply, “a woman situated as I am has so many things to think of. Lord Fawn’s position will be of service to my child. Mind you come and see me at Fawn Court. I count so, much on your friendship and assistance.”
Of course she was expected at Richmond, although throughout the morning Lady Fawn had entertained almost a hope that she wouldn’t come. “He was only lukewarm in defending her,” Mrs. Hittaway had said in her letter, “and I still think that there may be an escape.” Not even a note had come from Lord Fawn himself, nor from Lady Eustace. Possibly something violent might have been done, and Lady Eustace would not appear. But Lady Eustace did appear, and, after a fashion, was made welcome at Fawn Court.
The Fawn ladies were not good hypocrites. Lady Fawn had said almost nothing to her daughters of her visit to Mount Street, but Augusta had heard the discussion in Mrs. Hittaway’s drawing-room as to the character of the future bride. The coming visit had been spoken of almost with awe, and there was a general conviction in the dovecote that an evil thing had fallen upon them. Consequently, their affection to the newcomer, though spoken in words, was not made evident by signs and manners. Lizzie herself took care that the position in which she was received should be sufficiently declared. “It seems so odd that I am to come among you as a sister,” she said. The girls were forced to assent to the claim, but they assented coldly. “He has told me to attach myself especially to you,” she whispered to Augusta. The unfortunate chosen one, who had but little strength of her own, accepted the position, and then, as the only means of escaping the embraces of her newly-found sister, pleaded the violence of a headache. “My mother,” said Lizzie to Lady Fawn.
“Yes, my dear,” said Lady Fawn. “One of the girls had perhaps better go up and show you your room. — I am very much afraid about it,” said Lady Fawn to her daughter Amelia. Amelia replied only by shaking her head.
On the Tuesday morning there came a note from Lord Fawn to his lady love. Of course the letter was not shown, but Lizzie received it at the breakfast table, and read it with many little smiles and signs of satisfaction. And then she gave out various little statements as having been made in that letter. He says this, and he says that, and he is coming here, and going there, and he will do one thing, and he won’t do the other. We have often seen young ladies crowing over their lovers’ letters, and it was pleasant to see Lizzie crowing over hers. And yet there was but very little in the letter. Lord Fawn told her that what with the House and what with the Office, he could not get down to Richmond before Saturday; but that on Saturday he would come. Then he signed himself “Yours affectionately, Fawn.” Lizzie did her crowing very prettily. The outward show of it was there to perfection, so that the Fawn girls really believed that their brother had written an affectionate lover’s letter. Inwardly Lizzie swore to herself, as she read the cold words with indignation, that the man should not escape her.
The days went by very tediously. On the Wednesday and the Friday Lady Eustace made an excuse of going up to town, and insisted on taking the unfortunate Augusta with her. There was no real reason for these journeys to London, unless that glance which on each occasion was given to the contents of the iron case was a real reason. The diamonds were safe, and Miss Macnulty was enjoying herself. On the Friday Lizzie proposed to Augusta that they should jointly make a raid upon the member of Her Majesty’s Government at his office; but Augusta positively refused to take such a step. “I know he would be angry,” pleaded Augusta.
“Pshaw! who cares for his anger?” said Lizzie. But the visit was not made.
On the Saturday — the Saturday which was to bring Lord Fawn down to dinner — another most unexpected visitor made his appearance. At about three o’clock Frank Greystock was at Fawn Court. Now it was certainly understood that Mr. Greystock had been told not to come to Fawn Court as long as Lucy Morris was there. “Dear Mr. Greystock, I’m sure you will take what I say as I mean it,” Lady Fawn had whispered to him. “You know how attached we all are to our dear little Lucy. Perhaps you know ——.” There had been more of it; but the meaning of it all was undoubtedly this, that Frank was not to pay visits to Lucy Morris at Fawn Court. Now he had come to see his cousin Lizzie Eustace.
On this occasion Lady Fawn, with Amelia and two of the other girls, were out in the carriage. The unfortunate Augusta had been left at home with her bosom friend; while Cecilia and Nina were supposed to be talking French with Lucy Morris. They were all out in the grounds, sitting upon the benches, and rambling among the shrubberies, when of a sudden Frank Greystock was in the midst of them. Lizzie’s expression of joy at seeing her cousin was almost as great as though he had been in fact a brother. She ran up to him and grasped his hand, and hung on his arm, and looked up into his face, and then burst into tears. But the tears were not violent tears. There were just three sobs, and two bright eyes full of water, and a lace handkerchief, and then a smile. “Oh, Frank,” she said, “it does make one think so of old times.” Augusta had by this time been almost persuaded to believe in her — though the belief by no means made the poor young woman happy. Frank thought that his cousin looked very well, and said something as to Lord Fawn being “the happiest fellow going.” “I hope I shall make him happy,” said Lizzie, clasping her hands together.
Lucy meanwhile was standing in the circle with the others. It never occurred to her that it was her duty to run away from the man she loved. She had shaken hands with him, and felt something of affection in his pressure. She did not believe that his visit was made entirely to his cousin, and had no idea at the moment of disobeying Lady Fawn. During the last few days she had been thrown very much with her old friend Lizzie, and had been treated by the future peeress with many signs of almost sisterly affection. “Dear Lucy,” Lizzie had said, “you can understand me. These people — oh, they are so good, but they can’t understand me.” Lucy had expressed a hope that Lord Fawn understood her. “Oh, Lord Fawn — well, yes; perhaps — I don’t know. It so often happens that one’s husband is the last person to understand one.”
“If I thought so, I wouldn’t marry him,” said Lucy.
“Frank Greystock will understand you,” said Lizzie. It was indeed true that Lucy did understand something of her wealthy friend’s character, and was almost ashamed of the friendship. With Lizzie Greystock she had never sympathised, and Lizzie Eustace had always been distasteful to her. She already felt that the less she should see of Lizzie Fawn the better she should like it.
Before an hour was over Frank Greystock was walking round the shrubberies with Lucy — and was walking with Lucy alone. It was undoubtedly the fact that Lady Eustace had contrived that it should be so. The unfitness of the thing recommended it to her. Frank could hardly marry a wife without a shilling. Lucy would certainly not think at all of shillings. Frank, as Lizzie knew, had been almost at her feet within the last fortnight, and might, in some possible emergency, be there again. In the midst of such circumstances nothing could be better than that Frank and Lucy should be thrown together. Lizzie regarded all this as romance. Poor Lady Fawn, had she known it all, would have called it diabolical wickedness and inhuman cruelty.
“Well, Lucy, what do you think of it?” Frank Greystock said to her.
“Think of what, Mr. Greystock?”
“You know what I mean — this marriage?”
“How should I be able to think? I have never seen them together. I suppose Lord Fawn isn’t very rich. She is rich. And then she is very beautiful. Don’t you think her very beautiful?”
“Sometimes exquisitely lovely.”
“Everybody says so, and I am sure it is the fact. Do you know — but perhaps you’ll think I am envious.”
“If I thought you envious of Lizzie, I should have to think you very foolish at the same time.”
“I don’t know what that means”— she did know well enough what it meant — “but sometimes to me she is almost frightful to look at.”
“In what way?”
“Oh, I can’t tell you. She looks like a beautiful animal that you are afraid to caress for fear it should bite you — an animal that would be beautiful if its eyes were not so restless and its teeth so sharp and so white.”
“How very odd.”
“Why odd, Mr. Greystock?”
“Because I feel exactly in the same way about her. I am not in the least afraid that she’ll bite me; and as for caressing the animal — that kind of caressing which you mean — it seems to me to be just what she’s made for. But I do feel sometimes that she is like a cat.”
“Something not quite so tame as a cat,” said Lucy.
“Nevertheless she is very lovely, and very clever. Sometimes I think her the most beautiful woman I ever saw in the world.”
“Do you, indeed?”
“She will be immensely run after as Lady Fawn. When she pleases she can make her own house quite charming. I never knew a woman who could say pretty things to so many people at once.”
“You are making her out to be a paragon of perfection, Mr. Greystock.”
“And when you add to all the rest that she has four thousand a year, you must admit that Lord Fawn is a lucky man.”
“I have said nothing against it.”
“Four thousand a year is a very great consideration, Lucy.”
Lucy for a while said nothing. She was making up her mind that she would say nothing — that she would make no reply indicative of any feeling on her part. But she was not sufficiently strong to keep her resolution. “I wonder, Mr. Greystock,” she said, “that you did not attempt to win the great prize yourself. Cousins do marry.”
He had thought of attempting it, and at this moment he would not lie to her. “The cousinship had nothing to do with it,” he said.
“Perhaps you did think of it.”
“I did, Lucy. Yes, I did. Thank God, I only thought of it.” She could not refrain herself from looking up into his face and clasping her hands together. A woman never so dearly loves a man as when he confesses that he has been on the brink of a great crime, but has refrained and has not committed it. “I did think of it. I am not telling you that she would have taken me. I have no reason whatever for thinking so.”
“I am sure she would,” said Lucy, who did not in the least know what words she was uttering.
“It would have been simply for her money — her money and her beauty. It would not have been because I love her.”
“Never — never ask a girl to marry you unless you love her, Mr. Greystock.”
“Then there is only one that I can ever ask,” said he. There was nothing, of course, that she could say to this. If he did not choose to go further, she was not bound to understand him. But would he go further? She felt at the moment that an open declaration of his love to herself would make her happy forever, even though it should be accompanied by an assurance that he could not marry her. If they only knew each other — that it was so between them — that, she thought, would be enough for her. And as for him — if a woman could bear such a position, surely he might bear it. “Do you know who that one is?” he asked.
“No,” she said, shaking her head.
“Lucy, is that true?”
“What does it matter?”
“Lucy; look at me, Lucy,” and he put his hand upon her arm.
“No, no, no,” she said.
“I love you so well, Lucy, that I never can love another. I have thought of many women, but could never even think of one as a woman to love except you. I have sometimes fancied I could marry for money and position, to help myself on in the world by means of a wife; but when my mind has run away with me, to revel amidst ideas of feminine sweetness, you have always — always been the heroine of the tale, as the mistress of the happy castle in the air.”
“Have I?” she asked.
“Always, always. As regards this,” and he struck himself on the breast, “no man was ever more constant. Though I don’t think much of myself as a man, I know a woman when I see her.” But he did not ask her to be his wife; nor did he wait at Fawn Court till Lady Fawn had come back with the carriage.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01