On this occasion Frank Greystock went down to Portray Castle with the intention of staying at the house during the very short time that he would remain in Scotland. He was going there solely on his cousin’s business, with no view to grouse-shooting or other pleasure, and he purposed remaining but a very short time — perhaps only one night. His cousin, moreover, had spoken of having guests with her, in which case there could be no tinge of impropriety in his doing so. And whether she had guests, or whether she had not, what difference could it really make? Mr. Andrew Gowran had already seen what there was to see, and could do all the evil that could be done. He could, if he were so minded, spread reports in the neighbourhood, and might, perhaps, have the power of communicating what he had discovered to the Eustace faction, John Eustace, Mr. Camperdown, and Lord Fawn. That evil, if it were an evil, must be encountered with absolute indifference. So he went direct to the castle, and was received quietly, but very graciously, by his cousin Lizzie.
There were no guests then staying at Portray; but that very distinguished lady, Mrs. Carbuncle, with her niece, Miss Roanoke, had been there; as had also that very well-known nobleman, Lord George de Bruce Carruthers. Lord George and Mrs. Carbuncle were in the habit of seeing a good deal of each other, though, as all the world knew, there was nothing between them but the simplest friendship. And Sir Griffin Tewett had also been there, a young baronet who was supposed to be enamoured of that most gorgeous of beauties, Lucinda Roanoke. Of all these grand friends — friends with whom Lizzie had become acquainted in London — nothing further need be said here, as they were not at the castle when Frank arrived. When he came, whether by premeditated plan or by the chance of circumstances, Lizzie had no one with her at Portray except the faithful Macnulty.
“I thought to have found you with all the world here,” said Frank, the faithful Macnulty being then present.
“Well, we have had people, but only for a couple of days. They are all coming again, but not till November. You hunt, don’t you, Frank?”
“I have no time for hunting. Why do you ask?”
“I’m going to hunt. It’s a long way to go — ten or twelve miles generally; but almost everybody hunts here. Mrs. Carbuncle is coming again, and she is about the best lady in England after hounds; so they tell me. And Lord George is coming again.”
“Who is Lord George?”
“You remember Lord George Carruthers, whom we all knew in London?”
“What, the tall man with the hollow eyes and the big whiskers, whose life is a mystery to every one? Is he coming?”
“I like him just because he isn’t a ditto to every man one meets. And Sir Griffin Tewett is coming.”
“Who is a ditto to everybody.”
“Well, yes; poor Sir Griffin! The truth is, he is awfully smitten with Mrs. Carbuncle’s niece.”
“Don’t you go match-making, Lizzie,” said Frank. “That Sir Griffin is a fool, we will all allow; but it’s my belief he has wit enough to make himself pass off as a man of fortune, with very little to back it. He’s at law with his mother, at law with his sisters, and at law with his younger brother.”
“If he were at law with his great-grandmother, it would be nothing to me, Frank. She has her aunt to take care of her, and Sir Griffin is coming with Lord George.”
“You don’t mean to put up all their horses, Lizzie?”
“Well, not all. Lord George and Sir Griffin are to keep theirs at Troon, or Kilmarnock, or somewhere. The ladies will bring two apiece, and I shall have two of my own.”
“And carriage horses and hacks?”
“The carriage horses are here, of course.”
“It will cost you a great deal of money, Lizzie.”
“That’s just what I tell her,” said Miss Macnulty.
“I’ve been living here, not spending one shilling, for the last two months,” said Lizzie, “and all for the sake of economy; yet people think that no woman was ever left so rich. Surely I can afford to see a few friends for one month in the year. If I can’t afford so much as that, I shall let the place and go and live abroad somewhere. It’s too much to suppose that a woman should shut herself up here for six or eight months and see nobody all the time.”
On that, the day of Frank’s arrival, not a word was said about the necklace, nor of Lord Fawn, nor of that mutual pledge which had been taken and given, down among the rocks. Frank, before dinner, went out about the place that he might see how things were going on, and observe whether the widow was being ill-treated and unfairly eaten up by her dependents. He was, too, a little curious as to a matter as to which his curiosity was soon relieved. He had hardly reached the outbuildings which lay behind the kitchen gardens on his way to the Portray woods, before he encountered Andy Gowran. That faithful adherent of the family raised his hand to his cap and bobbed his head, and then silently, and with renewed diligence, applied himself to the job which he had in hand. The gate of the little yard in which the cow-shed stood was off its hinges, and Andy was resetting the post and making the fence tight and tidy. Frank stood a moment watching him, and then asked after his health. “‘Deed am I nae that to boost about in the way of bodily heelth, Muster Greystock. I’ve just o’er mony things to tent to, to tent to my ain sell as a prudent mon ought. It’s airly an’ late wi’ me, Muster Greystock; and the lumbagy just a’ o’er a mon isn’t the pleasantest freend in the warld.” Frank said that he was sorry to hear so bad an account of Mr. Gowran’s health, and passed on. It was not for him to refer to the little scene in which Mr. Gowran had behaved so badly and had shaken his head. If the misbehaviour had been condoned by Lady Eustace, the less that he said about it, the better. Then he went on through the woods, and was well aware that Mr. Gowran’s fostering care had not been abated by his disapproval of his mistress. The fences had been repaired since Frank was there, and stones had been laid on the road or track over which was to be carried away the underwood which it would be Lady Eustace’s privilege to cut during the coming winter.
Frank was not alone for one moment with his cousin during that evening, but in the presence of Miss Macnulty all the circumstances of the necklace were discussed. “Of course it is my own,” said Lady Eustace, standing up, “my own to do just what I please with. If they go on like this with me, they will almost tempt me to sell it for what it will fetch, just to prove to them that I can do so. I have half a mind to sell it and then send them the money and tell them to put it by for my little Flory. Would not that serve them right, Frank?”
“I don’t think I’d do that, Lizzie.”
“Why not? You always tell me what not to do, but you never say what I ought!”
“That is because I am so wise and prudent. If you were to attempt to sell the diamonds they would stop you, and would not give you credit for the generous purpose afterward.”
“They wouldn’t stop you if you sold the ring you wear.” The ring had been given to him by Lucy after their engagement, and was the only present she had ever made him. It had been purchased out of her own earnings, and had been put on his finger by her own hand. Either from accident or craft he had not worn it when he had been before at Portray, and Lizzie had at once observed it as a thing she had never seen before. She knew well that he would not buy such a ring. Who had given him the ring? Frank almost blushed as he looked down at the trinket, and Lizzie was sure that it had been given by that sly little creeping thing, Lucy. “Let me look at the ring,” she said. “Nobody could stop you if you chose to sell this to me.”
“Little things are always less troublesome than big things,” he said.
“What is the price?” she asked.
“It is not in the market, Lizzie. Nor should your diamonds be there. You must be content to let them take what legal steps they may think fit, and defend your property. After that you can do as you please; but keep them safe till the thing is settled. If I were you I would have them at the bankers.”
“Yes; and then when I asked for them be told that they couldn’t be given up to me because of Mr. Camperdown or the Lord Chancellor. And what’s the good of a thing locked up? You wear your ring; why shouldn’t I wear my necklace?”
“I have nothing to say against it.”
“It isn’t that I care for such things. Do I, Julia?”
“All ladies like them, I suppose,” said that stupidest and most stubborn of all humble friends, Miss Macnulty.
“I don’t like them at all, and you know I don’t. I hate them. They have been the misery of my life. Oh, how they have tormented me! Even when I am asleep I dream about them, and think that people steal them. They have never given me one moment’s happiness. When I have them on I am always fearing that Camperdown & Son are behind me and are going to clutch them. And I think too well of myself to believe that anybody will care more for me because of a necklace. The only good they have ever done me has been to save me from a man who I now know never cared for me. But they are mine; and therefore I choose to keep them. Though I am only a woman, I have an idea of my own rights, and will defend them as far as they go. If you say I ought not to sell them, Frank, I’ll keep them; but I’ll wear them as commonly as you do that gage d’amour which you carry on your finger. Nobody shall ever see me without them. I won’t go to any old dowager’s tea-party without them. Mr. John Eustace has chosen to accuse me of stealing them.”
“I don’t think John Eustace has ever said a word about them,” said Frank.
“Mr. Camperdown, then; the people who choose to call themselves the guardians and protectors of my boy, as if I were not his best guardian and protector. I’ll show them at any rate that I’m not ashamed of my booty. I don’t see why I should lock them up in a musty old bank. Why don’t you send your ring to the bank?”
Frank could not but feel that she did it all very well. In the first place, she was very pretty in the display of her half-mock indignation. Though she used some strong words, she used them with an air that carried them off and left no impression that she had been either vulgar or violent. And then, though the indignation was half mock, it was also half real, and her courage and spirit were attractive. Greystock had at last taught himself to think that Mr. Camperdown was not justified in the claim which he made, and that in consequence of that unjust claim Lizzie Eustace had been subjected to ill-usage. “Did you ever see this bone of contention,” she asked; “this fair Helen for which Greeks and Romans are to fight?”
“I never saw the necklace, if you mean that.”
“I’ll fetch it. You ought to see it, as you have to talk about it so often.”
“Can I get it?” asked Miss Macnulty.
“Heaven and earth! To suppose that I should ever keep them under less than seven keys, and that there should be any of the locks that anybody should be able to open except myself!”
“And where are the seven keys?” asked Frank.
“Next to my heart,” said Lizzie, putting her hand on her left side. “And when I sleep they are always tied round my neck in a bag, and the bag never escapes from my grasp. And I have such a knife under my pillow, ready for Mr. Camperdown should he come to seize them!” Then she ran out of the room, and in a couple of minutes returned with the necklace hanging loose in her hand. It was part of her little play to show by her speed that the close locking of the jewels was a joke, and that the ornament, precious as it was, received at her hands no other treatment than might any indifferent feminine bauble. Nevertheless within those two minutes she had contrived to unlock the heavy iron case which always stood beneath the foot of her bed. “There,” she said, chucking the necklace across the table to Frank, so that he was barely able to catch it. “There is ten thousand pounds’ worth, as they tell me. Perhaps you will not believe me when I say that I should have the greatest satisfaction in the world in throwing them out among those blue waves yonder, did I not think that Camperdown & Son would fish them up again.”
Frank spread the necklace on the table and stood up to look at it, while Miss Macnulty came and gazed at the jewels over his shoulder. “And that is worth ten thousand pounds,” said he.
“So people say.”
“And your husband gave it you just as another man gives a trinket that costs ten shillings!”
“Just as Lucy Morris gave you that ring.”
He smiled, but took no other notice of the accusation. “I am so poor a man,” said he, “that this string of stones, which you throw about the room like a child’s toy, would be the making of me.”
“Take it and be made,” said Lizzie.
“It seems an awful thing to me to have so much value in my hands,” said Miss Macnulty, who had lifted the necklace off the table. “It would buy an estate; wouldn’t it?”
“It would buy the honourable estate of matrimony if it belonged to many women,” said Lizzie, “but it hasn’t had just that effect with me; has it, Frank?”
“You haven’t used it with that view yet.”
“Will you have it, Frank?” she said. “Take it with all its encumbrances and weight of cares. Take it with all the burden of Messrs. Camperdown’s law-suits upon it. You shall be as welcome to it as flowers were ever welcomed in May.”
“The encumbrances are too heavy,” said Frank.
“You prefer a little ring.”
“I don’t doubt but you’re right,” said Lizzie. “Who fears to rise will hardly get a fall. But there they are for you to look at, and there they shall remain for the rest of the evening.” So saying, she clasped the string round Miss Macnulty’s throat. “How do you feel, Julia, with an estate upon your neck? Five hundred acres at a pound an acre. That’s about it.” Miss Macnulty looked as though she did not like it, but she stood for a time bearing the precious burden, while Frank explained to his cousin that she could hardly buy land to pay her five per cent. They were then taken off and left lying on the table till Lady Eustace took them with her as she went to bed. “I do feel so like some naughty person in the ‘Arabian Nights,’” she said, “who has got some great treasure that always brings him into trouble; but he can’t get rid of it, because some spirit has given it to him. At last some morning it turns to slate stones, and then he has to be a water-carrier, and is happy ever afterwards, and marries the king’s daughter. What sort of a king’s son will there be for me when this turns into slate stones? Good night, Frank.” Then she went off with her diamonds and her bed-candle.
On the following day Frank suggested that there should be a business conversation. “That means that I am to sit silent and obedient while you lecture me,” she said. But she submitted, and they went together into the little sitting-room which looked out over the sea, the room where she kept her Shelley and her Byron, and practised her music and did water-colours, and sat, sometimes, dreaming of a Corsair. “And now, my gravest of Mentors, what must a poor ignorant female Telemachus do, so that the world may not trample on her too heavily?” He began by telling her what had happened between himself and Lord Fawn, and recommended her to write to that unhappy nobleman, returning any present that she might have received from him, and expressing, with some mild but intelligible sarcasm, her regret that their paths should have crossed each other. “I’ve worse in store for his lordship than that,” said Lizzie.
“Do you mean by any personal interview?”
“I think you are wrong, Lizzie.”
“Of course you do. Men have become so soft themselves, that they no longer dare to think even of punishing those who behave badly, and they expect women to be softer and more fainéant than themselves. I have been ill-used.”
“Certainly you have.”
“And I will be revenged. Look here, Frank; if your view of these things is altogether different from mine, let us drop the subject. Of all living human beings you are the one that is most to me now. Perhaps you are more than any other ever was. But, even for you, I cannot alter my nature. Even for you I would not alter it if I could. That man has injured me, and all the world knows it. I will have my revenge, and all the world shall know that. I did wrong; I am sensible enough of that.”
“What wrong do you mean?”
“I told a man whom I never loved that I would marry him. God knows that I have been punished.”
“Perhaps, Lizzie, it is better as it is.”
“A great deal better. I will tell you now that I could never have induced myself to go into church with that man as his bride. With a man I didn’t love I might have done so, but not with a man I despised.”
“You have been saved, then, from a greater evil.”
“Yes; but not the less is his injury to me. It is not because he despises me that he rejects me; nor is it because he thought that I had taken property that was not my own.”
“Because he was afraid the world would say that I had done so. Poor shallow creature! But he shall be punished.”
“I do not know how you can punish him.”
“Leave that to me. I have another thing to do much more difficult.” She paused, looking for a moment up into his face, and then turning her eyes upon the ground. As he said nothing, she went on. “I have to excuse myself to you for having accepted him.”
“I have never blamed you.”
“Not in words. How should you? But if you have not blamed me in your heart, I despise you. I know you have. I have seen it in your eyes when you have counselled me either to take the poor creature or to leave him. Speak out, now, like a man. Is it not so?”
“I never thought you loved him.”
“Loved him! Is there anything in him or about him that a woman could love? Is he not a poor social stick; a bit of half-dead wood, good to make a post of if one wants a post? I did want a post so sorely then!”
“I don’t see why.”
“No, indeed. It was natural that you should be inclined to marry again.”
“Natural that I should be inclined to marry again! And is that all? It is hard sometimes to see whether men are thick-witted, or hypocrites so perfect that they seem to be so. I cannot bring myself to think you thick-witted, Frank.”
“Then I must be the perfect hypocrite, of course.”
“You believed I accepted Lord Fawn because it was natural that I should wish to marry again! Frank, you believed nothing of the kind. I accepted him in my anger, in my misery, in my despair, because I had expected you to come to me, and you had not come.” She had thrown herself now into a chair, and sat looking at him. “You had told me you would come, and you had stayed away. It was you, Frank, that I wanted to punish then; but there was no punishment in it for you. When is it to be, Frank?”
“When is what to be?” he asked, in a low voice, all but dumbfounded. How was he to put an end to this conversation, and what was he to say to her?
“Your marriage with that little wizened thing who gave you the ring, that prim morsel of feminine propriety who has been clever enough to make you believe that her morality would suffice to make you happy.”
“I will not hear Lucy Morris abused, Lizzie.”
“Is that abuse? Is it abuse to say that she is moral and proper? But, sir, I shall abuse her. I know her for what she is, while your eyes are sealed. She is wise and moral, and decorous and prim; but she is a hypocrite, and has no touch of real heart in her composition. Not abuse her when she has robbed me of all, all, all that I have in the world! Go to her. You had better go at once. I did not mean to say all this, but it has been said, and you must leave me. I, at any rate, cannot play the hypocrite. I wish I could.” He rose and came to her, and attempted to take her hand, but she flung away from him. “No,” she said, “never again; never, unless you will tell me that the promise you made me when we were down on the seashore was a true promise. Was that truth, sir, or was it a — lie?”
“Lizzie, do not use such a word as that to me.”
“I cannot stand picking my words when the whole world is going round with me, and my very brain is on fire. What is it to me what my words are? Say one syllable to me, and every word I utter again while breath is mine shall be spoken to do you pleasure. If you cannot say it, it is nothing to me what you or any one may think of my words. You know my secret, and I care not who else knows it. At any rate, I can die.” Then she paused a moment, and after that stalked steadily out of the room.
That afternoon Frank took a long walk by himself over the mountains, nearly to the cottage and back again; and on his return was informed that Lady Eustace was ill, and had gone to bed. At any rate, she was too unwell to come down to dinner. He, therefore, and Miss Macnulty sat down to dine, and passed the evening together without other companionship. Frank had resolved during his walk that he would leave Portray the next day; but had hardly resolved upon anything else. One thing, however, seemed certain to him. He was engaged to marry Lucy Morris, and to that engagement he must be true. His cousin was very charming, and had never looked so lovely in his eyes as when she had been confessing her love for him. And he had wondered at and admired her courage, her power of language, and her force. He could not quite forget how useful would be her income to him. And, added to this, there was present to him an unwholesome feeling, ideas absolutely at variance with those better ideas which had prompted him when he was writing his offer to Lucy Morris in his chambers, that a woman such as was his cousin Lizzie was fitter to be the wife of a man thrown, as he must be, into the world, than a dear, quiet, domestic little girl such as Lucy Morris. But to Lucy Morris he was engaged, and therefore there was an end of it.
The next morning he sent his love to his cousin, asking whether he should see her before he went. It was still necessary that he should know what attorneys to employ on her behalf if the threatened bill were filed by Messrs. Camperdown. Then he suggested a firm in his note. Might he put the case into the hands of Mr. Townsend, who was a friend of his own? There came back to him a scrap of paper, an old envelope, on which were written the names of Mowbray & Mopus: Mowbray & Mopus in a large scrawling hand, and with pencil. He put the scrap of paper into his pocket, feeling that he could not remonstrate with her at this moment, and was prepared to depart, when there came a message to him. Lady Eustace was still unwell, but had risen; and if it were not giving him too much trouble, would see him before he went. He followed the messenger to the same little room, looking out upon the sea, and then found her, dressed indeed, but with a white morning wrapper on, and with hair loose over her shoulders. Her eyes were red with weeping, and her face was pale, and thin, and woebegone. “I am so sorry that you are ill, Lizzie,” he said.
“Yes, I am ill; sometimes very ill; but what does it matter? I did not send for you, Frank, to speak of aught so trivial as that. I have a favour to ask.”
“Of course I will grant it.”
“It is your forgiveness for my conduct yesterday.”
“Say that you forgive me. Say it!”
“How can I forgive where there has been no fault?”
“There has been fault. Say that you forgive me.” And she stamped her foot as she demanded his pardon.
“I do forgive you,” he said.
“And now, one farewell.” She then threw herself upon his breast and kissed him. “Now go,” she said; “go, and come no more to me, unless you would see me mad. May God Almighty bless you, and make you happy.” As she uttered this prayer she held the door in her hand, and there was nothing for him but to leave her.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14