It was now the end of June, and Frank Greystock had been as yet but once at Fawn Court since he had written to Lucy Morris asking her to be his wife. That was three weeks since, and as the barrier against him at Fawn Court had been removed by Lady Fawn herself, the Fawn girls thought that as a lover he was very slack; but Lucy was not in the least annoyed. Lucy knew that it was all right; for Frank, as he took his last walk round the shrubbery with her during that visit, had given her to understand that there was a little difference between him and Lady Fawn in regard to Lizzie Eustace. “I am her only relative in London,” Frank had said.
“Lady Linlithgow,” suggested Lucy.
“They have quarrelled, and the old woman is as bitter as gall. There is no one else to stand up for her, and I must see that she isn’t ill-used. Women do hate each other so virulently, and Lady Fawn hates her future daughter-inlaw.” Lucy did not in the least grudge her lover’s assistance to his cousin. There was nothing of jealousy in her feeling. She thought that Lizzie was unworthy of Frank’s goodness, but on such an occasion as this she would not say so. She told him nothing of the bribe that had been offered her, nor on that subject had she said a word to any of the Fawns. She understood, too, that as Frank had declared his purpose of supporting Lizzie, it might be as well that he should see just at present as little of Lady Fawn as possible. Not a word, however, had Lady Fawn said to Lucy disparaging her lover for his conduct. It was quite understood now at Fawn Court, by all the girls, and no doubt by the whole establishment, that Lizzie Eustace was to be regarded as an enemy. It was believed by them all that Lord Fawn had broken off the match — or, at least, that he was resolved to break it; but various stratagems were to be used, and terrible engines of war were to be brought up if necessary, to prevent an alliance which was now thought to be disreputable. Mrs. Hittaway had been hard at work, and had found out something very like truth in regard to the whole transaction with Mr. Benjamin. Perhaps Mrs. Hittaway had found out more than was quite true as to poor Lizzie’s former sins; but what she did find out she used with all her skill, communicating her facts to her mother, to Mr. Camperdown, and to her brother. Her brother had almost quarrelled with her, but still she continued to communicate her facts.
At this period Frank Greystock was certainly somewhat unreasonable in reference to his cousin. At one time, as the reader will remember, he had thought of asking her to be his wife — because she was rich; but even then he had not thought well of her, had hardly believed her to be honest, and had rejoiced when he found that circumstances rather than his own judgment had rescued him from that evil. He had professed to be delighted when Lord Fawn was accepted — as being happy to think that his somewhat dangerous cousin was provided with so safe a husband; and, when he had first heard of the necklace, he had expressed an opinion that of course it would be given up. In all this then he had shown no strong loyalty to his cousin, no very dear friendship, nothing to make those who knew him feel that he would buckle on armour in her cause. But of late — and that, too, since his engagement with Lucy — he had stood up very stoutly as her friend, and the armour was being buckled on. He had not scrupled to say that he meant to see her through this business with Lord Fawn, and had somewhat astonished Mr. Camperdown by raising a doubt on the question of the necklace.
“He can’t but know that she has no more right to it than I have,” Mr. Camperdown had said to his son with indignation. Mr. Camperdown was becoming unhappy about the necklace, not quite knowing how to proceed in the matter.
In the mean time Frank had obeyed his better instincts, and had asked Lucy Morris to be his wife. He had gone to Fawn Court in compliance with a promise to Lizzie Eustace that he would call upon her there. He had walked with Lucy because he was at Fawn Court. And he had written to Lucy because of the words he had spoken during the walk. In all this the matter had arranged itself as such matters do, and there was nothing, in truth, to be regretted. He really did love the girl with all his heart. It may, perhaps, be said that he had never in truth loved any other woman. In the best humours of his mind he would tell himself — had from old times told himself often — that unless he married Lucy Morris he could never marry at all. When his mother, knowing that poor Lucy was penniless, had, as mothers will do, begged him to beware, he had spoken up for his love honestly, declaring to her that in his eyes there was no woman living equal to Lucy Morris. The reader has seen him with the words almost on his tongue with which to offer his hand to his cousin, Lizzie Eustace, knowing as he did so that his heart had been given to Lucy — knowing also that Lucy’s heart had been given to him! But he had not done it, and the better humour had prevailed.
Within the figure and frame and clothes and cuticle, within the bones and flesh of many of us, there is but one person, a man or woman, with a preponderance either of good or evil, whose conduct in any emergency may be predicted with some assurance of accuracy by any one knowing the man or woman. Such persons are simple, single, and perhaps generally safe. They walk along lines in accordance with certain fixed instincts or principles, and are today as they were yesterday, and will be tomorrow as they are today. Lady Eustace was such a person, and so was Lucy Morris. Opposite in their characters as the two poles, they were each of them a simple entity; and any doubt or error in judging of the future conduct of either of them would come from insufficient knowledge of the woman. But there are human beings who, though of necessity single in body, are dual in character; in whose breasts not only is evil always fighting against good, but to whom evil is sometimes horribly, hideously evil, but is sometimes also not hideous at all. Of such men it may be said that Satan obtains an intermittent grasp, from which, when it is released, the rebound carries them high amid virtuous resolutions and a thorough love of things good and noble. Such men or women may hardly perhaps debase themselves with the more vulgar vices. They will not be rogues, or thieves, or drunkards, or perhaps liars; but ambition, luxury, self-indulgence, pride, and covetousness will get a hold of them, and in various moods will be to them virtues in lieu of vices. Such a man was Frank Greystock, who could walk along the banks of the quiet, trout-giving Bob, at Bobsborough, whipping the river with his rod, telling himself that the world lost for love would be a bad thing well lost for a fine purpose; and who could also stand, with his hands in his trousers pockets, looking down upon the pavement, in the purlieus of the courts at Westminster, and swear to himself that he would win the game, let the cost to his heart be what it might. What must a man be who would allow some undefined feeling, some inward ache which he calls a passion and cannot analyse, some desire which has come of instinct and not of judgment, to interfere with all the projects of his intellect, with all the work which he has laid out for his accomplishment? Circumstances had thrown him into a path of life for which, indeed, his means were insufficient, but which he regarded as of all paths the noblest and the manliest. If he could be true to himself — with such truth as at these moments would seem to him to be the truest truth — there was nothing in rank, nothing in ambition, which might not be within his reach. He might live with the highest, and best-educated, and the most beautiful; he might assist in directing national councils by his intelligence; and might make a name for himself which should be remembered in his country, and of which men would read the records in the histories written in after ages. But to do this he must walk warily. He, an embarrassed man, a man already in debt, a man with no realised property coming to him in reversion, was called upon to live, and to live as though at his ease, among those who had been born to wealth. And, indeed, he had so cleverly learned the ways of the wealthy that he hardly knew any longer how to live at his ease among the poor.
But had he walked warily when he went down to Richmond, and afterward, sitting alone in the obscurity of his chamber, wrote the letter which had made Lucy Morris so happy? It must be acknowledged that he did in truth love the girl — that he was capable of a strong feeling. She was not beautiful, hardly even pretty, small, in appearance almost insignificant, quite penniless, a governess! He had often asked himself what it was that had so vanquished him. She always wore a pale grey frock, with perhaps a grey ribbon, never running into any bright form of clothing. She was educated, very well educated; but she owned no great accomplishment. She had not sung his heart away or ravished him with the harp. Even of her words she was sparing, seeming to care more to listen than to speak; a humble little thing to look at — one of whom you might say that she regarded herself as well-placed if left in the background. Yet he had found her out and knew her. He had recognised the treasure, and had greatly desired to possess it. He had confessed to himself that, could splendour and ambition be laid aside, that little thing would be all the world to him. As he sat in court or in the House, patient from practice as he half-listened to the ponderous speeches of advocates or politicians, he would think of the sparkle in her eye, of the dimple in her chin, or the lines of the mouth which could plead so eloquently, though with few words. To sit on some high seat among his countrymen and also to marry Lucy Morris, that would be a high ambition. He had chosen his way now, and she was engaged to be his wife.
As he thought of it after he had done it, it was not all happiness, all contentment with him. He did feel that he had crippled himself — impeded himself in running the race, as it were with a log round his leg. He had offered to marry her, and he must do so at once, or almost at once, because she could now find no other home but his. He knew, as well as did Lady Fawn, that she could not go into another family as governess; and he knew also that she ought not to remain in Lady Fawn’s house an hour longer than she should be wanted there. He must alter his plan of living at once, give up the luxury of his rooms at the Grosvenor, take a small house somewhere, probably near the Swiss Cottage, come up and down to his chambers by the underground railway, and in all probability abandon Parliament altogether. He was not sure whether in good faith he should not at once give notice of his intended acceptance of the Chiltern Hundreds to the electors of Bobsborough. Thus meditating, under the influence of that intermittent evil grasp, almost angry with himself for the open truth which he had spoken, or rather written, and perhaps thinking more of Lizzie and her beauty than he should have done, in the course of three weeks he had paid but one visit to Fawn Court. Then, of a sudden, finding himself one afternoon relieved from work, he resolved to go there. The days were still almost at their longest, and he did not scruple to present himself before Lady Fawn between eight and nine in the evening. They were all at tea, and he was welcomed kindly. Lucy, when he was announced, at once got up and met him almost at the doorway, sparkling with just a tear of joy in her eye, with a look in her face and a loving manner which for the moment made him sure that the little house near the Swiss Cottage would, after all, be the only Elysium upon earth. If she spoke a word he hardly heard it, but her hand was in his, so cool and soft, almost trembling in its grasp, with no attempt to withdraw itself, frank, loving, and honest. There was a perfect satisfaction in her greeting which at once told him that she had no discontented thoughts — had had no such thoughts — because he had been so long without coming. To see him was a great joy. But every hour of her life was a joy to her, knowing, as she did know, that he loved her.
Lady Fawn was gracious, the girls were hospitable, and he found himself made very welcome amidst all the women at the tea-table. Not a word was said about Lizzie Eustace. Lady Fawn talked about Parliament, and professed to pity a poor lover who was so bound to his country that he could not see his mistress above once a fortnight. “But there’ll be a good time coming next month,” she said; for it was now July. “Though the girls can’t make their claims felt, the grouse can.”
“It isn’t the House altogether that rules me with a rod of iron, Lady Fawn,” said Frank, “but the necessity of earning daily bread by the sweat of my brow. A man who has to sit in court all day must take the night — or, indeed, any time that he can get — to read up his cases.”
“But the grouse put a stop to all work,” said Lady Fawn. “My gardener told me just now that he wanted a day or two in August. I don’t doubt but that he is going to the moors. Are you going to the moors, Mr. Greystock?”
As it happened, Frank Greystock did not quite know whether he was going to the moors or not. The Ayrshire grouse-shooting is not the best in Scotland; but there is grouse-shooting in Ayrshire; and the shooting on the Portray mountains is not the worst shooting in the county. The castle at Portray overhangs the sea, but there is a wild district attached to it stretching far back inland, in regard to which Lizzie Eustace was very proud of talking of “her shooting.” Early in the spring of the present year she had asked her cousin Frank to accept the shooting for the coming season, and he had accepted it. “I shall probably be abroad,” she said, “but there is the old castle.” She had offered it as though he had been her brother, and he had said that he would go down for a couple of weeks — not to the castle, but to a little lodge some miles up from the sea, of which she told him when he declined the castle. When this invitation was given there was no engagement between her and Lord Fawn. Since that date, within the last day or two, she had reminded him of it.
“Won’t his lordship be there?” he had said laughingly.
“Certainly not,” she had answered with serious earnestness. Then she had explained that her plan of going abroad had been set aside by circumstances. She did mean to go down to Portray. “I couldn’t have you at the castle,” she said, smiling; “but even an Othello couldn’t object to a first cousin at a little cottage ever so many miles off.” It wasn’t for him to suggest what objections might rise to the brain of a modern Othello; but after some hesitation he said that he would be there. He had promised the trip to a friend, and would like to keep his promise. But, nevertheless, he almost thought that he ought to avoid Portray. He intended to support his cousin as far as he might do so honestly; but he was not quite minded to stand by her through good report and evil report. He did not desire to be specially known as her champion, and yet he felt that that position would be almost forced upon him. He foresaw danger, and consequently he was doubting about his journey to Scotland.
“I hardly know whether I am or not,” said Frank, and he almost felt that he was blushing.
“I hope you are,” said Lucy. “When a man has to work all day and nearly all night, he should go where he may get fresh air.”
“There’s very good air without going to Scotland for it,” said Lady Fawn, who kept up an excellent house at Richmond, but who, with all her daughters, could not afford autumn trips. The Fawns lived at Fawn Court all the year round, and consequently Lady Fawn thought that air was to be found in England sufficiently good for all purposes of vitality and recreation.
“It’s not quite the same thing,” said Lucy; “at least, not for a man.”
After that she was allowed to escape into the grounds with her lover, and was made happy with half an hour of unalloyed bliss. To be alone with the girl to whom he is not engaged is a man’s delight; to be alone with the man to whom she is engaged is the woman’s. When the thing is settled there is always present to the man something of a feeling of clipped wings; whereas the woman is conscious of a new power of expanding her pinions. The certainty of the thing is to him repressive. He has done his work, and gained his victory, and by conquering has become a slave. To her the certainty of the thing is the removal of a restraint which has hitherto always been on her. She can tell him everything, and be told everything, whereas her previous confidences, made with those of her own sex, have been tame and by comparison valueless. He has no new confidence to make, unless when he comes to tell her he likes his meat well done, and wants his breakfast to be punctual. Lucy now not only promised herself, but did actually realise, a great joy. He seemed to be to her all that her heart desired. He was a man whose manner was naturally caressing and demonstrative, and she was to him, of all women, the sweetest, the dearest, the most perfect, and all his own. “But, Frank”— she had already been taught to call him Frank when they were alone together —“what will come of all this about Lizzie Eustace?”
“They will be married, of course.”
“Do you think so? I am sure Lady Fawn doesn’t think so.”
“What Lady Fawn thinks on such a matter cannot be helped. When a man asks a woman to marry him, and she accepts, the natural consequence is that they will be married. Don’t you think so?”
“I hope so, sometimes,” said Lucy, with her two hands joined upon his arm, and hanging to it with all her little weight.
“You really do hope it?” he said.
“Oh, I do; you know I do. Hope it! I should die if I didn’t hope it.”
“Then why shouldn’t she?” He asked his question with a quick, sharp voice, and then turned upon her for an answer.
“I don’t know,” she said, very softly, and still clinging to him. “I sometimes think there is a difference in people.”
“There is a difference; but, still, we hardly judge of people sufficiently by our own feelings. As she accepted him, you may be sure that she wishes to marry him. She has more to give than he has.”
“And I have nothing to give,” she said.
“If I thought so, I’d go back even now,” he answered. “It is because you have so much to give — so much more than most others — that I have thought of you, dreamed of you as my wife, almost ever since I first knew you.”
“I have nothing left to give,” she said. “What I ever had is all given. People call it the heart. I think it is heart, and brain, and mind, and body, and almost soul. But, Frank, though Lizzie Eustace is your cousin, I don’t want to be likened to her. She is very clever, and beautiful, and has a way with her that I know is charming —”
“But what, Lucy?”
“I don’t think she cares so much as some people. I dare say she likes Lord Fawn very well, but I do not believe she loves him as I love you.”
“They’re engaged,” said Frank, “and the best thing they can do is to marry each other. I can tell you this at any rate,”— and his manner again became serious —“if Lord Fawn behaves ill to her, I, as her cousin, shall take her part.”
“You don’t mean that you’ll — fight him!”
“No, my darling. Men don’t fight each other nowadays — not often, at least — and Fawn and I are not of the fighting sort. I can make him understand what I mean and what others will mean without fighting him. He is making a paltry excuse.”
“But why should he want to excuse himself — without reason?”
“Because he is afraid. People have got hold of him and told him lies, and he thinks there will be a scrape about this necklace, and he hates a scrape. He’ll marry her at last, without a doubt, and Lady Fawn is only making trouble for herself by trying to prevent it. You can’t do anything.”
“Oh no — I can’t do anything. When she was here it became at last quite disagreeable. She hardly spoke to them, and I’m sure that even the servants understood that there was a quarrel.” She did not say a word of Lizzie’s offer of the brooch to herself, nor of the stories which by degrees were reaching her ears as to the old debts, and the diamonds, and the young bride’s conduct to Lady Linlithgow as soon as she married her grand husband, Sir Florian. She did think badly of Lizzie, and could not but regret that her own noble, generous Frank should have to expend his time and labour on a friend unworthy of his friendship; but there was no shade of jealousy in her feeling, and she uttered no word against Lizzie more bitter than that in which she declared that there was a difference between people.
And then there was something said as to their own prospects in life. Lucy at once and with vehemence declared that she did not look for or expect an immediate marriage. She did not scruple to tell him that she knew well how difficult was the task before him, and that it might be essential for his interest that he should remain as he was for a year or two. He was astonished to find how completely she understood his position, and how thoroughly she sympathised with his interests. “There is only one thing I couldn’t do for you,” she said.
“And what is the one thing?”
“I couldn’t give you up. I almost thought that I ought to refuse you because I can do nothing — nothing to help you. But there will always come a limit to self-denial. I couldn’t do that! Could I?”
The reader will know how this question was answered, and will not want to be told of the long, close, clinging, praiseworthy kiss with which the young barrister assured her that would have been on her part an act of self-denial which would to him have been absolutely ruinous. It was agreed, however, between them, that Lady Fawn should be told that they did not propose to marry till some time in the following year, and that she should be formally asked to allow Lucy to have a home at Fawn Court in the interval.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55