It had not been much after noon when Frank Greystock reached Portray Castle, and it was very nearly five when he left it. Of course he had lunched with the two ladies, and as the conversation before lunch had been long and interesting, they did not sit down till near three. Then Lizzie had taken him out to show him the grounds and garden, and they had clambered together down to the sea-beach. “Leave me here,” she had said when he insisted on going because of his friend at the cottage. When he suggested that she would want help to climb back up the rocks to the castle, she shook her head as though her heart was too full to admit of a consideration so trifling. “My thoughts flow more freely here with the surge of the water in my ears than they will with that old woman droning to me. I come here often, and know every rock and every stone.” That was not exactly true, as she had never been down but once before. “You mean to come again.” He told her that of course he should come again. “I will name neither day nor hour. I have nothing to take me away. If I am not at the castle, I shall be at this spot. Good-by, Frank.” He took her in his arm? and kissed her, of course as a brother; and then he clambered up, got on his pony, and rode away.
“I dinna ken just what to mak’ o’ him,” said Gowran to his wife. “May be he is her coosin; but coosins are nae that sib that a weeder is to be hailed aboot jist ane as though she were ony quean at a fair.” From which it may be inferred that Mr. Gowran had watched the pair as they were descending together toward the shore.
Frank had so much to think of, riding back to the cottage, that when he came to the gap, instead of turning round along the wall down the valley, he took the track right on across the mountain and lost his way. He had meant to be back at the cottage by three or four, and yet had made his visit to the castle so long that without any losing of his way he could not have been there before seven. As it was, when that hour arrived, he was up on the top of a hill and could again see Portray Castle clustering down close upon the sea, and the thin belt of trees and the shining water beyond; but of the road to the cottage he knew nothing. For a moment he thought of returning to Portray, till he had taught himself to perceive that the distance was much greater than it had been from the spot at which he had first seen the castle in the morning; and then he turned his pony round and descended on the other side.
His mind was very full of Lizzie Eustace, and full also of Lucy Morris. If it were to be asserted here that a young man may be perfectly true to a first young woman while he is falling n love with a second, the readers of this story would probably be offended. But undoubtedly many men believe themselves to be quite true while undergoing this process, and many young women expect nothing else from their lovers. If only he will come right at last, they are contented. And if he don’t come right at all, it is the way of the world, and the game has to be played over again. Lucy Morris, no doubt, had lived a life too retired for the learning of such useful forbearance, but Frank Greystock was quite a proficient. He still considered himself to be true to Lucy Morris, with a truth seldom found in this degenerate age — with a truth to which he intended to sacrifice some of the brightest hopes of his life — with a truth which, after much thought, he had generously preferred to his ambition. Perhaps there was found some shade of regret to tinge the merit which he assumed on this head, in respect of the bright things which it would be necessary that he should abandon; but if so, the feeling only assisted him in defending his present conduct from any aspersions his conscience might bring against it. He intended to marry Lucy Morris, without a shilling, without position, a girl who had earned her bread as a governess, simply because he loved her. It was a wonder to himself that he, a lawyer, a man of the world, a member of Parliament, one who had been steeped up to his shoulders in the ways of the world, should still be so pure as to be capable of such, a sacrifice. But it was so; and the sacrifice would undoubtedly be made some day. It would be absurd in one conscious of such high merit to be afraid of the ordinary social incidents of life. It is the debauched broken drunkard who should become a teetotaller, and not the healthy, hard-working father of a family who never drinks a drop of wine till dinner-time. He need not be afraid of a glass of champagne when, on a chance occasion, he goes to a picnic. Frank Greystock was now going to his picnic; and, though he meant to be true to Lucy Morris, he had enjoyed his glass of champagne with Lizzie Eustace under the rocks. He was thinking a good deal of his champagne when he lost his way.
What a wonderful woman was his cousin Lizzie, and so unlike any other girl he had ever seen! How full she was of energy, how courageous, and, then, how beautiful! No doubt her special treatment of him was sheer flattery. He told himself that it was so. But, after all, flattery is agreeable. That she did like him better than anybody else was probable. He could have no feeling of the injustice he might do to the heart of a woman who at the very moment that she was expressing her partiality for him was also expressing her anger that another man would not consent to marry her. And then women who have had one husband already are not like young girls in respect to their hearts. So at least thought Frank Greystock. Then he remembered the time at which he had intended to ask Lizzie to be his wife — the very day on which he would have done so had he been able to get away from that early division at the House — and he asked himself whether he felt any regret on that score. It would have been very nice to come down to Portray Castle as to his own mansion after the work of the courts and of the session. Had Lizzie become his wife, her fortune would have helped him to the very highest steps beneath the throne. At present he was almost nobody — because he was so poor, and in debt. It was so, undoubtedly; but what did all that matter in comparison with the love of Lucy Morris? A man is bound to be true. And he would be true. Only, as a matter of course, Lucy must wait.
When he had first kissed his cousin up in London, she suggested that the kiss was given as by a brother, and asserted that it was accepted as by a sister. He had not demurred, having been allowed the kiss. Nothing of the kind had been said under the rocks today; but then that fraternal arrangement, when once made and accepted, remains, no doubt, in force for a long time. He did like his cousin Lizzie. He liked to feel that he could be her friend, with the power of domineering over her. She, also, was fond of her own way, and loved to domineer herself; but the moment that he suggested to her that there might be a quarrel, she was reduced to a prayer that he would not desert her. Such a friendship has charms for a young man, especially if the lady be pretty. As to Lizzie’s prettiness, no man or woman could entertain a doubt. And she had a way of making the most of herself which it was very hard to resist. Some young women, when they clamber over rocks, are awkward, heavy, unattractive, and troublesome. But Lizzie had at one moment touched him as a fairy might have done; had sprung at another from stone to stone, requiring no help; and then, on a sudden, had become so powerless that he had been forced almost to carry her in his arms. That, probably, must have been the moment which induced Mr. Gowran to liken her to a quean at a fair.
But, undoubtedly, there might be trouble. Frank was sufficiently experienced in the ways of the world to know that trouble would sometimes come from young ladies who treat young men like their brothers, when those young men are engaged to other young ladies. The other young ladies are apt to disapprove of brothers who are not brothers by absolute right of birth. He knew also that all the circumstances of his cousin’s position would make it expedient that she should marry a second husband. As he could not be that second husband — that matter was settled, whether for good or bad — was he not creating trouble, both for her and for himself? Then there arose in his mind a feeling, very strange, but by no means uncommon, that prudence on his part would be mean, because by such prudence he would be securing safety for himself as well as for her. What he was doing was not only imprudent, but wrong also, He knew that it was so. But Lizzie Eustace was a pretty young woman; and when a pretty young woman is in the case, a man is bound to think neither of what is prudent nor of what is right. Such was — perhaps his instinct rather than his theory. For her sake, if not for his own, he should have abstained. She was his cousin, and was so placed in the world as specially to require some strong hand to help her. He knew her to be, in truth, heartless, false, and greedy; but she had so lived that even yet her future life might be successful. He had called himself her friend as well as cousin, and was bound to protect her from evil, if protection were possible. But he was adding to all her difficulties, because she pretended to be in love with him. He knew that it was pretence; and yet, because she was pretty, and because he was a man, he could not save her from herself. “It doesn’t do to be wiser than other men,” he said to himself as he looked round about on the bare hill-side. In the mean time he had altogether lost his way.
It was between nine and ten when he reached the cottage. “Of course you have dined?” said Herriot.
“Not a bit of it. I left before five, being sure that I could get here in an hour and a half. I have been riding up and down these dreary hills for nearly five hours. You have dined?”
“There was a neck of mutton and a chicken. She said the neck of mutton would keep hot best, so I took the chicken. I hope you like lukewarm neck of mutton?”
“I am hungry enough to eat anything; not but what I had a first-rate luncheon. What have you done all day?”
“Stone and Toddy,” said Herriot.
“Stick to that. If anything can pull you through, Stone and Toddy will. I lived upon them for two years.”
“Stone and Toddy, with a little tobacco, have been all my comfort. I began, however, by sleeping for a few hours. Then I went upon the mountains.”
“Did you take a gun?”
“I took it out of the case, but it didn’t come right, and so I left it. A man came to me and said that he was the keeper.”
“He’d have put the gun right for you.”
“I was too bashful for that. I persuaded him that I wanted to go out alone and see what birds there were, and at last I induced him to stay here with the old woman. He’s to be at the cottage at nine tomorrow. I hope that is all right.”
In the evening, as they smoked and drank whiskey and water — probably supposing that to be correct in Ayrshire — they were led on by the combined warmth of the spirit, the tobacco, and their friendship, to talk about women. Frank, some month or six weeks since, in a moment of soft confidence, had told his friend of his engagement with Lucy Morris. Of Lizzie Eustace he had spoken only as of a cousin whose interests were dear to him. Her engagement with Lord Fawn was known to all London, and was, therefore, known to Arthur Herriot. Some distant rumour, however, had reached him that the course of true love was not running quite smooth, and therefore on that subject he would not speak, at any rate till Greystock should first mention it. “How odd it is to find two women living all alone in a great house like that,” Frank had said.
“Because so few women have the means to live in large houses, unless they live with fathers or husbands.”
“The truth is,” said Frank, “that women don’t do well alone. There is always a savour of misfortune — or, at least, of melancholy — about a household which has no man to look after it. With us, generally, old maids don’t keep houses, and widows marry again. No doubt it was an unconscious appreciation of this feeling which brought about the burning of Indian widows. There is an unfitness in women for solitude. A female Prometheus, even without a vulture, would indicate cruelty worse even than Jove’s. A woman should marry — once, twice, and thrice if necessary.”
“Women can’t marry without men to marry them.”
Frank Greystock filled his pipe as he went on with his lecture. “That idea as to the greater number of women is all nonsense. Of course we are speaking of our own kind of men and women, and the disproportion of the numbers in so small a division of the population amounts to nothing. We have no statistics to tell us whether there be any such disproportion in classes where men do not die early from overwork.”
“More females are born than males.”
“That’s more than I know. As one of the legislators of the country I am prepared to state that statistics are always false. What we have to do is to induce men to marry. We can’t do it by statute.”
“No, thank God.”
“Nor yet by fashion.”
“Fashion seems to be going the other way,” said Herriot.
“It can be only done by education and conscience. Take men of forty all round — men of our own class — you believe that the married men are happier than the unmarried? I want an answer, you know, just for the sake of the argument.”
“I think the married men are the happier. But you speak as the fox who had lost his tail; or, at any rate, as a fox in the act of losing it.”
“Never mind my tail. If morality in life and enlarged affections are conducive to happiness, it must be so.”
“Short commons and unpaid bills are conducive to misery. That’s what I should say if I wanted to oppose you.”
“I never came across a man willing to speak the truth who did not admit that, in the long run, married men are the happier. As regards women, there isn’t even ground for an argument. And yet men don’t marry.”
“You mean there isn’t food enough in the world.”
“The man fears that he won’t get enough of what there is. for his wife and family.”
“The labourer with twelve shillings a week has no such fear. And if he did marry, the food would come. It isn’t that. The man is unconscientious and ignorant as to the sources of true happiness, and won’t submit himself to cold mutton and three clean shirts a week — not because he dislikes mutton and dirty linen himself, but because the world says they are vulgar. That’s the feeling that keeps you from marrying, Herriot.”
“As for me,” said Herriot, “I regard myself as so placed that I do not dare to think of a young woman of my own rank except as a creature that must be foreign to me. I cannot make such a one my friend as I would a man, because I should be in love with her at once. And I do not dare to be in love because I would not see a wife and children starve. I regard my position as one of enforced monasticism, and myself as a monk under the cruellest compulsion. I often wish that I had been brought up as a journeyman hatter.”
“Why a hatter?”
“I’m told it’s an active sort of life. You’re fast asleep, and I was just now, when you were preaching. We’d better go to bed. Nine o’clock for breakfast, I suppose?”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14