Lucy Morris got her letter and was contented. She wanted some demonstration of love from her lover, but very little sufficed for her comfort. With her it was almost impossible that a man should be loved and suspected at the same time. She could not have loved the man, or at any rate confessed her love, without thinking well of him; and she could not think good and evil at the same time. She had longed for some word from him since she last saw him; and now she had got a word. She had known that he was close to his fair cousin — the cousin whom she despised, and whom, with womanly instinct, she had almost regarded as a rival. But to her the man had spoken out; and though he was far away from her, living close to the fair cousin, she would not allow a thought of trouble on that score to annoy her. He was her own, and let Lizzie Eustace do her worst, he would remain her own. But she had longed to be told that he was thinking of her, and at last the letter had come. She answered it that same night with the sweetest, prettiest little letter, very short, full of love and full of confidence. Lady Fawn, she said, was the dearest of women; but what was Lady Fawn to her, or all the Fawns, compared with her lover? If he could come to Richmond without disturbance to himself, let him come; but if he felt that, in the present unhappy condition of affairs between him and Lord Fawn, it was better that he should stay away, she had not a word to say in the way of urging him. To see him would be a great delight. But had she not the greater delight of knowing that he loved her? That was quite enough to make her happy. Then there was a little prayer that God might bless him, and an assurance that she was in all things his own, own Lucy. When she was writing her letter she was in all respects a happy girl.
But on the very next day there came a cloud upon her happiness, not in the least, however, affecting her full confidence in her lover. It was a Saturday, and Lord Fawn came down to Richmond. Lord Fawn had seen Mr. Greystock in London on that day, and the interview had been by no means pleasant to him. The Under-Secretary of State for India was as dark as a November day when he reached his mother’s house, and there fell upon every one the unintermittent cold drizzling shower of his displeasure from the moment in which he entered the house. There was never much reticence among the ladies at Richmond in Lucy’s presence, and since the completion of Lizzie’s unfortunate visit to Fawn Court they had not hesitated to express open opinions adverse to the prospects of the proposed bride. Lucy herself could say but little in defence of her old friend, who had lost all claim upon that friendship since the offer of the bribe had been made, so that it was understood among them all that Lizzie was to be regarded as a black sheep; but hitherto Lord Fawn himself had concealed his feelings before Lucy. Now unfortunately he spoke out, and in speaking was especially bitter against Frank. “Mr. Greystock has been most insolent,” he said as they were all sitting together in the library after dinner. Lady Fawn made a sign to him and shook her head. Lucy felt the hot blood fly into both her cheeks, but at the moment she did not speak. Lydia Fawn put out her hand beneath the table and took hold of Lucy’s.
“We must all remember that he is her cousin,” said Augusta,
“His relationship to Lady Eustace cannot justify ungentlemanlike impertinence to me,” said Lord Fawn. “He has dared to use words to me which would make it necessary that I should call him out, only —”
“Frederic, you shall do nothing of the kind,” said Lady Fawn, jumping up from her chair.
“Oh, Frederic, pray, pray don’t,” said Augusta, springing on to her brother’s shoulder.
“I am sure Frederic does not mean that,” said Amelia.
“Only that nobody does call anybody out now,” added the pacific lord. “But nothing on earth shall ever induce me to speak again to a man who is so little like a gentleman.” Lydia now held Lucy’s hand still tighter, as though to prevent her rising. “He has never forgiven me,” continued Lord Fawn, “because he was so ridiculously wrong about the Sawab.”
“I am sure that had nothing to do with it,” said Lucy.
“Miss Morris, I shall venture to hold my own opinion,” said Lord Fawn.
“And I shall hold mine,” said Lucy bravely. “The Sawab of Mygawb had nothing to do with what Mr. Greystock may have said or done about his cousin. I am quite sure of it.”
“Lucy, you are forgetting yourself,” said Lady Fawn.
“Lucy, dear, you shouldn’t contradict my brother,” said Augusta.
“Take my advice, Lucy, and let it pass by,” said Amelia.
“How can I hear such things said and not notice them?” demanded Lucy. “Why does Lord Fawn say them when I am by?”
Lord Fawn had now condescended to be full of wrath against his mother’s governess. “I suppose I may express my own opinion, Miss Morris, in my mother’s house.”
“And I shall express mine,” said Lucy. “Mr. Greystock is a gentleman. If you say that he is not a gentleman, it is not true.” Upon hearing these terrible words spoken, Lord Fawn rose from his seat and slowly left the room. Augusta followed him with both her arms stretched out. Lady Fawn covered her face with her hands, and even Amelia was dismayed.
“Oh, Lucy! why could you not hold your tongue?” said Lydia.
“I won’t hold my tongue,” said Lucy, bursting out into tears. “He is a gentleman.”
Then there was great commotion at Fawn Court. After a few moments Lady Fawn followed her son without having said a word to Lucy, and Amelia went with her. Poor Lucy was left with the younger girls, and was no doubt very unhappy. But she was still indignant and would yield nothing. When Georgina, the fourth daughter, pointed out to her that, in accordance with all rules of good breeding, she should have abstained from asserting that her brother had spoken an untruth, she blazed up again. “It was untrue,” she said.
“But, Lucy, people never accuse each other of untruth. No lady should use such a word to a gentleman.”
“He should not have said so. He knows that Mr. Greystock is more to me than all the world.”
“If I had a lover,” said Nina, “and anybody were to say a word against him, I know I’d fly at them. I don’t know why Frederic is to have it all his own way.”
“Nina, you’re a fool,” said Diana.
“I do think it was very hard for Lucy to bear,” said Lydia. “And I won’t bear it,” exclaimed Lucy. “To think that Mr. Greystock should be so mean as to bear malice about a thing like that wild Indian because he takes his own cousin’s part! Of course I’d better go away. You all think that Mr. Greystock is an enemy now; but he never can be an enemy to me.”
“We think that Lady Eustace is an enemy,” said Cecilia, “and a very nasty enemy, too.”
“I did not say a word about Lady Eustace,” said Lucy. “But Mr. Greystock is a gentleman.”
About an hour after this Lady Fawn sent for Lucy, and the two were closeted together for a long time. Lord Fawn was very angry, and had hitherto altogether declined to overlook the insult offered. “I am bound to tell you,” declared Lady Fawn, with much emphasis, “that nothing can justify you in having accused Lord Fawn of telling an untruth. Of course, I was sorry that Mr. Greystock’s name should have been mentioned in your presence; but as it was mentioned, you should have borne what was said with patience.”
“I couldn’t be patient, Lady Fawn.”
“That is what wicked people say when they commit murder, and then they are hung for it.”
“I’ll go away, Lady Fawn —”
“That is ungrateful, my dear. You know that I don’t wish you to go away. But if you behave badly, of course I must tell you of it.”
“I’d sooner go away. Everybody here thinks ill of Mr. Greystock. But I don’t think ill of Mr. Greystock, and I never shall. Why did Lord Fawn say such very hard things about him?”
It was suggested to her that she should be down-stairs early the next morning, and apologise to Lord Fawn for her rudeness; but she would not, on that night, undertake to do any such thing. Let Lady Fawn say what she might, Lucy thought that the injury had been done to her, and not to his lordship. And so they parted hardly friends. Lady Fawn gave her no kiss as she went, and Lucy, with obstinate pride, altogether refused to own her fault. She would only say that she had better go, and when Lady Fawn over and over again pointed out to her that the last thing that such a one as Lord Fawn could bear was to be accused of an untruth, she would continue to say that in that case he should be careful to say nothing that was untrue. All this was very dreadful, and created great confusion and unhappiness at Fawn Court. Lydia came into her room that night, and the two girls talked the matter over for hours. In the morning Lucy was up early, and found Lord Fawn walking in the grounds. She had been told that he would probably be found walking in the grounds, if she were willing to tender to him any apology.
Her mind had been very full of the subject — not only in reference to her lover, but as it regarded her own conduct. One of the elder Fawn girls had assured her that under no circumstances could a lady be justified in telling a gentleman that he had spoken an untruth, and she was not quite sure but that the law so laid down was right. And then she could not but remember that the gentleman in question was Lord Fawn, and that she was Lady Fawn’s governess. But Mr. Greystock was her affianced lover, and her first duty was to him. And then, granting that she herself had been wrong in accusing Lord Fawn of untruth, she could not refrain from asking herself whether he had not been much more wrong in saying in her hearing that Mr. Greystock was not a gentleman? And his offence had preceded her offence, and had caused it! She hardly knew whether she did or did not owe an apology to Lord Fawn, but she was quite sure that Lord Fawn owed an apology to her.
She walked straight up to Lord Fawn, and met him beneath the trees. He was still black and solemn, and was evidently brooding over his grievance; but he bowed to her, and stood still as she approached him. “My lord,” said she, “I am very sorry for what happened last night.”
“And so was I, very sorry, Miss Morris.”
“I think you know that I am engaged to marry Mr. Greystock?”
“I cannot allow that that has anything to do with it.”
“When you think that he must be dearer to me than all the world, you will acknowledge that I couldn’t hear hard things said of him without speaking.” His face became blacker than ever, but he made no reply. He wanted an abject begging of unconditional pardon from the little girl who loved his enemy. If that were done, he would vouchsafe his forgiveness; but he was too small by nature to grant it on other terms. “Of course,” continued Lucy, “I am bound to treat you with special respect in Lady Fawn’s house.” She looked almost beseechingly into his face as she paused for a moment.
“But you treated me with especial disrespect,” said Lord Fawn.
“And how did you treat me, Lord Fawn?”
“Miss Morris, I must be allowed, in discussing matters with my mother, to express my own opinions in such language as I may think fit to use. Mr. Greystock’s conduct to me was — was — was altogether most ungentlemanlike.”
“Mr. Greystock is a gentleman.”
“His conduct was most offensive, and most ungentlemanlike. Mr. Greystock disgraced himself.”
“It isn’t true,” said Lucy. Lord Fawn gave one start, and then walked off to the house as quick as his legs could carry him.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55