Lord Fawn had promised, as he put Lizzie into her carriage, that he would come to her soon — but he did not come soon. A fortnight passed and he did not show himself. Nothing further had been done in the matter of the diamonds, except that Mr. Camperdown had written to Frank Greystock, explaining how impossible it was that the question of their possession should be referred to arbitration. According to him they belonged to the heir, as did the estate; and no one would have the power of accepting an arbitration respecting them — an arbitration which might separate them from the estate of which an infant was the owner for his life — any more than such arbitration could be accepted as to the property of the estate itself. “Possession is nine points of the law,” said Frank to himself, as he put the letter aside — thinking at the same time that possession in the hands of Lizzie Eustace included certainly every one of those nine points. Lizzie wore her diamonds again and then again. There may be a question whether the possession of the necklace and the publicity of its history — which, however, like many other histories, was most inaccurately told — did not add something to her reputation as a lady of fashion. In the mean time Lord Fawn did not come to see her. So she wrote to him. “My dear Frederic: Had you not better come to me? Yours affectionately, L. I go to the North at the end of this month.”
But Frank Greystock did visit her, more than once. On the day after the above letter was written he came to her. It was on Sunday afternoon, when July was more than half over, and he found her alone. Miss Macnulty had gone to church, and Lizzie was lying listlessly on a sofa with a volume of poetry in her hand. She had, in truth, been reading the book, and in her way enjoying it. It told her the story of certain knights of old, who had gone forth in quest of a sign from heaven, which sign, if verily seen by them, might be taken to signify that they themselves were esteemed holy, and fit for heavenly joy. One would have thought that no theme could have been less palatable to such a one as Lizzie Eustace; but the melody of the lines had pleased her ear, and she was always able to arouse for herself a false enthusiasm on things which were utterly outside herself in life. She thought she too could have travelled in search of that holy sign, and have borne all things, and abandoned all things, and have persevered, and of a certainty have been rewarded. But as for giving up a string of diamonds, in common honesty, that was beyond her.
“I wonder whether men ever were like that?” she said, as she allowed her cousin to take the book from her hands.
“Let us hope not.”
“They were, no doubt, as fanatic and foolish as you please. If you will read to the end ——”
“I have read it all, every word of it,” said Lizzie, enthusiastically.
“Then you know that Arthur did not go on the search, because he had a job of work to do, by the doing of which the people around him might perhaps be somewhat benefited.”
“I like Launcelot better than Arthur,” said Lizzie.
“So did the Queen,” replied Frank.
“Your useful, practical man, who attends vestries and sits at boards, and measures out his gifts to others by the ounce, never has any heart. Has he, Frank?”
“I don’t know what heart means. I sometimes fancy that it is a talent for getting into debt, and running away with other men’s wives.”
“You say that on purpose to make me quarrel with you. You don’t run away with other men’s wives, and you have heart.”
“But I get into debt, unfortunately; and as for other men’s wives, I am not sure that I may not do even that some day. Has Lord Fawn been here?” She shook her head. “Or written?” Again she shook her head. As she did so the long curl waved and was very near to him, for he was sitting close to the sofa, and she had raised herself so that she might look into his face and speak to him almost in a whisper. “Something should be settled, Lizzie, before you leave town.”
“I wrote to him yesterday, one line, and desired him to come. I expected him here today, but you have come instead. Shall I say that I am disappointed?”
“No doubt you are so.”
“Oh, Frank, how vain you men are! You want me to swear to you that I would sooner have you with me than him. You are not content with — thinking it, unless I tell you that it is so. You know that it is so. Though he is to be my husband — I suppose he will be my husband — his spirit is not congenial to mine, as is yours.”
“Had you not loved him you would not have accepted him.”
“What was I to do, Frank? What am I to do? Think how desolate I am, how unfriended, how much in want of some one whom I can call a protector! I cannot have you always with me. You care more for the little finger of that prim piece of propriety down at the old dowager’s than you do for me and all my sorrows.” This was true, but Frank did not say that it was true. “Lord Fawn is at any rate respectable. At least I thought he was so when I accepted his offer.”
“He is respectable enough.”
“Just that — isn’t it? — and nothing more You do not blame me for saying that I would be his wife? If you do, I will unsay it, let it cost me what it may. He is treating me so badly that I need not go far for an excuse.” Then she looked into his face with all the eagerness of her gaze, clearly implying that she expected a serious answer. “Why do you not answer me, Frank?”
“What am I to say? He is a timid, cautious man. They have frightened him about this trumpery necklace, and he is behaving badly. But he will make a good husband. He is not a spendthrift. He has rank. All his people are respectable. As Lady Fawn any house in England will be open to you. He is not rich, but together you will be rich.”
“What is all that without love?”
“I do not doubt his love. And when you are his own he will love you dearly.”
“Ah, yes; as he would a horse or a picture. Is there anything of the rapture of love in that? Is that your idea of love? Is it so you love your Miss Demure?”
“Don’t call names, Lizzie.”
“I shall say what I please of her. You and I are to be friends, and I may not speak? No; I will have no such friendship! She is demure. If you like it, what harm is there in my saying it? I am not demure. I know that. I do not, at least, pretend to be other than I am. When she becomes your wife, I wonder whether you will like her ways?” He had not yet told her that she was to be his wife, nor did he so tell her now. He thought for a moment the he had better tell her, but he did not do so. It would, he said to himself, add an embarrassment to his present position. And as the marriage was to be postponed for a year, it might be better, perhaps, for Lucy that it should not be declared openly. It was thus he argued with himself, but yet, no doubt, he knew well that he did not declare the truth because it would take away something of its sweetness from this friendship with his cousin Lizzie.
“If I ever do marry,” he said, “I hope I shall like my wife’s ways.”
“Of course you will not tell me anything. I do not expect confidence from you. I do not think a man is ever able to work himself up to the mark of true confidence with his friend. Men together, when they like each other, talk of politics, or perhaps of money; but I doubt whether they ever really tell their thoughts and longings to each other.”
“Are women more communicative?”
“Yes; certainly. What is there I would not tell you if you. cared to hear it? Every thought I have is open to you if you choose to read it. I have that feeling regarding you that I would keep nothing back from you. Oh, Frank, if you understood me, you could save me — I was going to say — from all unhappiness.”
She did it so well that he would have been more than man had he not believed some of it. She was sitting almost upright now, though her feet were still on the sofa, and was leaning over towards him, as though imploring him for his aid, and her eyes were full of tears, and her lips were apart as though still eager with the energy of expression, and her hands were clasped together. She was very lovely, very attractive, almost invincible. For such a one as Frank Greystock opposition to her in her present mood was impossible. There are men by whom a woman, if she have wit, beauty, and no conscience, cannot be withstood. Arms may be used against them, and a sort of battle waged, against which they can raise no shield — from which they can retire into no fortress — in which they can parry no blow. A man so weak and so attacked may sometimes run; but even the poor chance of running is often cut off from him. How unlike she was to Lucy! He believed her — in part; and yet that was the idea that occurred to him. When Lucy was much in earnest, in her eye, too, a tear would sparkle, the smallest drop, a bright liquid diamond that never fell; and all her face would be bright and eloquent with feeling; but how unlike were the two! He knew that the difference was that between truth and falsehood; and yet he partly believed the falsehood. “If I knew how to save you from an hour’s uneasiness, I would do it,” he said.
“No — no — no!” she murmured.
“Would I not? You do not know me then.” He had nothing further to say, and it suited her to remain silent for the moment, while she dried her eyes and recovered her composure, and prepared herself to carry on the battle with a smile. She would carry on the battle, using every wile she knew, straining every nerve to be victorious, encountering any and all dangers, and yet she had no definite aim before her. She herself did not know what she would be at. At this period of her career she did not want to marry her cousin — having resolved that she would be Lady Fawn. Nor did she intend that her cousin should be her lover — in the ordinary sense of love. She was far too wary in the pursuit of the world’s goods to sacrifice herself to any such wish as that. She did want him to help her about the diamonds; but such help as that she might have, as she knew well, on much easier terms. There was probably an anxiety in her bosom to cause him to be untrue to Lucy Morris; but the guiding motive of her conduct was the desire to make things seem to be other than they were. To be always acting a part rather than living her own life was to her everything. “After all we must come to facts,” he said, after a while. “I suppose it will be better that you should marry Lord Fawn.”
“If you wish it.”
“Nay; I cannot have that said. In this matter you must rule yourself by your own judgment. If you are averse to it ——” She shook her head. “Then you will own that it had better be so.” Again she shook her head. “Lizzie, for your sake and my own, I must declare that if you have no opinion in this matter, neither will I have any. You shall never have to say that I pressed you into this marriage or debarred you from marrying. I could not bear such an accusation.”
“But you might tell me what I ought to do.”
“No; certainly not.”
“Think how young I am, and — by comparison — how old you are. You are eight years older than I am. Remember, after all that I have gone through, I am but twenty-two. At my age other girls have their friends to tell them. I have no one, unless you will tell me.”
“You have accepted him?”
“I suppose he is not altogether indifferent to you?”
She paused, and again shook her head. “Indeed I do not know. If you mean, do I love him, as I could love some man whose heart was quite congenial to my own, certainly I do not.” She continued to shake her head very sadly. “I esteemed him — when he asked me.”
“Say at once that, having made up your mind, you will go through with it.”
“You think that I ought?”
“You think so — yourself.”
“So be it, Frank. I will. But, Frank, I will not give up my property. You do not wish me to do that. It would be weak now — would it not? I am sure that it is my own.”
“His faith to you should not depend on that.”
“No, of course not; that is just what I mean. He can have no right to interfere. When he asked me to be his wife, he said nothing about that. But if he does not come to me, what shall I do?”
“I suppose I had better see him,” said Frank slowly.
“Will you? That will be so good of you. I feel that I can leave it all safely in your hands. I shall go out of town, you know, on the 30th. I feel that I shall be better away, and I am sick of all the noise, and glitter, and worldliness of London. You will come on the 12th?”
“Not quite so soon as that,” he said, after a pause.
“But you will come?”
“Yes; about the 20th.”
“And of course, I shall see you?”
“So that I may have some one to guide me that I can trust. I have no brother, Frank; do you ever think of that?” She put out her hand to him, and he clasped it, and held it tight in his own; and then, after a while, he pulled her towards him. In a moment she was on the ground, kneeling at his feet, and his arm was round her shoulder, and his hand was on her back, and he was embracing her. Her face was turned up to him, and he pressed his lips upon her forehead. “As my brother,” she said, stretching back her head and looking up into his face.
“Yes; as your brother.”
They were sitting, or rather acting their little play together, in the back drawing-room, and the ordinary entrance to the two rooms was from the landing-place into the larger apartment; of which fact Lizzie was probably aware, when she permitted herself to fall into a position as to which a moment or two might be wanted for recovery. When, therefore, the servant in livery opened the door, which he did as Frank thought somewhat suddenly, she was able to be standing on her legs before she was caught. The quickness with which she sprung from her position, and the facility with which she composed not her face only, but the loose lock of her hair and all her person, for the reception of the coming visitor, was quite marvellous. About her there was none of the look of having been found out, which is so very disagreeable to the wearer of it; whereas Frank, when Lord Fawn was announced, was aware that his manner was awkward, and his general appearance flurried. Lizzie was no more flurried than if she had stepped that moment from out of the hands of her tirewoman. She greeted Lord Fawn very prettily, holding him by the hand long enough to show that she had more claim to do so than could any other woman, and then she just murmured her cousin’s name. The two men shook hands, and looked at each other as men who know they are not friends, and think that they may live to be enemies. Lord Fawn, who rarely forgot anything, had certainly not forgotten the Sawab; and Frank was aware that he might soon be called on to address his lordship in anything but friendly terms. They said, however, a few words about Parliament and the weather, and the desirability of escaping from London.
“Frank,” said Lady Eustace, “is coming down in August to shoot my three annual grouse at Portray. He would keep one for you, my lord, if he thought you would come for it.”
“I’ll promise Lord Fawn a fair third at any rate,” said Frank.
“I cannot visit Portray this August, I’m afraid,” said his lordship, “much as I might wish to do so. One of us must remain at the India Office ——”
“Oh, that weary India Office!” exclaimed “Lizzie.
“I almost think that you official men are worse off than we barristers,” said Frank. “Well, Lizzie, good-by. I dare say I shall see you again before you start.”
“Of course you will,” said Lizzie. And then the two lovers were left together. They had met once, at Lady Glencora’s ball, since the quarrel at Fawn Court, and there, as though by mutual forbearance, had not alluded to their troubles. Now he had come especially to speak of the matter that concerned them both so deeply. As long as Frank Greystock was in the room his work was comparatively easy, but he had known beforehand that he would not find it all easy should he be left alone with her. Lizzie began. “My lord,” she said, “considering all that has passed between us you have been a truant.”
“Yes; I admit it — but ——”
“With me, my lord, a fault admitted is a fault forgiven.” Then she took her old seat on the sofa, and he placed himself on the chair which Frank Greystock had occupied. He had not intended to own a fault, and certainly not to accept forgiveness; but she had been too quick for him; and now he could not find words by which to express himself. “In truth,” she continued, “I would always rather remember one kindness than a dozen omissions on the part of a friend.”
“Lady Eustace, I have not willingly omitted anything.”
“So be it. I will not give you the slightest excuse for saying that you have heard a reproach from me. You have come at last, and you are welcome. Is that enough for you?”
He had much to say to her about the diamonds, and when he was entering the room he had not a word to say to her about anything else. Since that another subject had sprung up before him. Whether he was or was not to regard himself as being at this moment engaged to marry Lady Eustace, was a matter to him of much doubt; but of this he was sure, that if she were engaged to him as his wife, she ought not to be entertaining her cousin Frank Greystock down at Portray Castle unless she had some old lady, not only respectable in life but high in rank also, to see that everything was right. It was almost an insult to him that such a visit should have been arranged without his sanction or cognisance. Of course, if he were bound by no engagement — and he had been persuaded by his mother and sister to wish that he were not bound — then the matter would be no affair of his. If, however, the diamonds were abandoned, then the engagement was to be continued: and in that case it was out of the question that his elected bride should entertain another young man, even though she was a widow and the young man was her cousin. Of course he should have spoken of the diamonds first; but the other matter had obtruded itself upon him, and he was puzzled. “Is Mr. Greystock to accompany you into Scotland?” he asked.
“Oh dear, no. I go on the 30th of this month. I hardly know when he means to be there.”
“He follows you to Portray?”
“Yes; he follows me of course. ‘The king himself has followed her, when she has gone before.’” Lord Fawn did not remember the quotation, and was more puzzled than ever. “Frank will follow me, just as the other shooting men will follow me.”
“He goes direct to Portray Castle?”
“Neither directly nor indirectly. Just at present, Lord Fawn I am in no mood to entertain guests — not even one that I love so well as my cousin Frank. The Portray mountains are somewhat extensive, and at the back of them there is a little shooting-lodge.”
“Oh, indeed,” said Lord Fawn, feeling that he had better dash at once at the diamonds.
“If you, my lord, could manage to join us for a day, my cousin and his friend would, I am sure, come over to the castle, so that you should not suffer from being left alone with me and Miss Macnulty.”
“At present it is impossible,” said Lord Fawn; and then he paused. “Lady Eustace, the position in which you and I stand to each other is one not altogether free from trouble.”
“You cannot say that it is of my making,” she said with a smile. “You once asked — what men think a favour from me — and I granted it, perhaps too easily.”
“I know how greatly I am indebted to your goodness, Lady Eustace ——” And then again he paused.
“I trust you will believe that nothing can be further from me than that you should be harassed by any conduct of mine.”
“I am harassed, my lord.”
“And so am I. I have learned that you are in possession of certain jewels which I cannot allow to be held by my wife.”
“I am not your wife, Lord Fawn.” As she said this she rose from her reclining posture and sat erect.
“That is true. You are not. But you said you would be.”
“Go on, sir.”
“It was the pride of my life to think that I had attained to so much happiness. Then came this matter of the diamonds.”
“What business have you with my diamonds more than any other man?”
“Simply that I am told that they are not yours.”
“Who tells you so?”
“Various people. Mr. Camperdown.”
“If you, my lord, intend to take an attorney’s word against mine, and that on a matter as to which no one but myself can know the truth, then you are not fit to be my husband. The diamonds are my own, and should you and I become man and wife, they must remain so by special settlement. While I choose to keep them they will be mine, to do with them as I please. It will be my pleasure, when my boy marries, to hang them round his bride’s neck.” She carried herself well, and spoke her words with dignity.
“What I have got to say is this,” began Lord Fawn. “I must consider our engagement as at an end unless you will give them up to Mr. Camperdown.”
“I will not give them up to Mr. Camperdown.”
“Then — then — then ——”
“And I make bold to tell you, Lord Fawn, that you are not behaving to me like a man of honour. I shall now leave the matter in the hands of my cousin, Mr. Greystock.” Then she sailed out of the room, and Lord Fawn was driven to escape from the house as he might. He stood about the room for five minutes with his hat in his hand, and then walked down and let himself out of the front door.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14