A great many people go to Scotland in the autumn. When you have your autumn holiday in hand to dispose of it, there is nothing more aristocratic that you can do than go to Scotland. Dukes are more plentiful there than in Pall Mall, and you will meet an earl or at least a lord on every mountain. Of course, if you merely travel about from inn to inn, and neither have a moor of your own nor stay with any great friend, you don’t quite enjoy the cream of it; but to go to Scotland in August and stay there, perhaps, till the end of September, is about the most certain step you can take towards autumnal fashion. Switzerland and the Tyrol, and even Italy, are all redolent of Mr. Cook, and in those beautiful lands you become subject at least to suspicion.
By no person was the duty of adhering to the best side of society more clearly appreciated than by Mr. and Mrs. Hittaway of Warwick Square. Mr. Hittaway was Chairman of the Board of Civil Appeals, and was a man who quite understood that there are chairmen and — chairmen. He could name to you three or four men holding responsible permanent official positions, quite as good as that he filled in regard to salary — which, as he often said of his own, was a mere nothing, just a poor two thousand pounds a year, not as much as a grocer would make in a decent business — but they were simply head clerks and nothing more. Nobody knew anything of them. They had no names. You did not meet them anywhere. Cabinet ministers never heard of them; and nobody out of their own offices ever consulted them. But there are others, and Mr. Hittaway felt greatly conscious that he was one of them, who move altogether in a different sphere. One minister of State would ask another whether Hittaway had been consulted on this or on that measure — so at least the Hittawayites were in the habit of reporting. The names of Mr. and Mrs. Hittaway were constantly in the papers. They were invited to evening gatherings at the houses of both the alternate Prime Ministers. They were to be seen at fashionable gatherings up the river. They attended concerts at Buckingham Palace. Once a year they gave a dinner-party which was inserted in the “Morning Post.” On such occasions at least one Cabinet Minister always graced the board. In fact, Mr. Hittaway, as Chairman of the Board of Civil Appeals, was somebody; and Mrs. Hittaway, as his wife, and as sister to a peer, was somebody also. The reader will remember that Mrs. Hittaway had been a Fawn before she married.
There is this drawback upon the happy condition which Mr. Hittaway had achieved, that it demands a certain expenditure. Let nobody dream that he can be somebody without having to pay for that honour; unless, indeed, he be a clergyman. When you go to a concert at Buckingham Palace you pay nothing, it is true, for your ticket; and a Cabinet Minister dining with you does not eat or drink more than your old friend Jones the attorney. But in some insidious, unforeseen manner, in a way that can only be understood after much experience, these luxuries of fashion do make a heavy pull on a modest income. Mrs. Hittaway knew this thoroughly, having much experience, and did make her fight bravely. For Mr. Hittaway’s income was no more than modest. A few thousand pounds he had of his own when he married, and his Clara had brought to him the unpretending sum of fifteen hundred. But, beyond that, the poor official salary — which was less than what a decent grocer would make — was their all. The house in Warwick Square they had prudently purchased on their marriage — when houses in Warwick Square were cheaper than they are now — and there they carried on their battle, certainly with success. But two thousand a year does not go very far in Warwick Square, even though you sit rent free, if you have a family and absolutely must keep a carriage. It therefore resulted that when Mr. and Mrs. Hittaway went to Scotland, which they would endeavour to do every year, it was very important that they should accomplish their aristocratic holiday as visitors at the house of some aristocratic friend. So well had they played their cards in this respect that they seldom failed altogether. In one year they had been the guests of a great marquis quite in the north, and that had been a very glorious year. To talk of Stackallan was indeed a thing of beauty. But in that year Mr. Hittaway had made himself very useful in London. Since that they had been at delicious shooting lodges in Ross and Inverness-shire, had visited a millionaire at his palace amid the Argyle mountains, had been fêted in a western island, had been bored by a Dundee dowager, and put up with a Lothian laird. But the thing had been almost always done, and the Hittaways were known as people that went to Scotland. He could handle a gun, and was clever enough never to shoot a keeper. She could read aloud, could act a little, could talk or hold her tongue; and let her hosts be who they would, and as mighty as you please, never caused them trouble by seeming to be out of their circle and on that account requiring peculiar attention.
On this occasion Mr. and Mrs. Hittaway were the guests of old Lady Pierrepoint in Dumfries. There was nothing special to recommend Lady Pierrepoint except that she had a large house and a good income, and that she liked to have people with her of whom everybody knew something. So far was Lady Pierrepoint from being high in the Hittaway world, that Mrs. Hittaway felt herself called upon to explain to her friends that she was forced to go to Dumdum House by the duties of old friendship. Dear old Lady Pierrepoint had been insisting on it for the last ten years. And there was this advantage, that Dumfriesshire is next to Ayrshire, that Dumdum was not very far — some twenty or thirty miles — from Portray, and that she might learn something about Lizzie Eustace in her country house.
It was nearly the end of August when the Hittaways left London to stay an entire month with Lady Pierrepoint. Mr. Hittaway had very frequently explained his defalcation as to fashion — in that he was remaining in London for three weeks after Parliament had broken up — by the peculiar exigencies of the Board of Appeals in that year. To one or two very intimate friends Mrs. Hittaway had hinted that everything must be made to give way to this horrid business of Fawn’s marriage. “Whatever happens, and at whatever cost, that must be stopped,” she had ventured to say to Lady Glencora Palliser, who, however, could hardly be called one of her very intimate friends.
“I don’t see it at all,” said Lady Glencora. “I think Lady Eustace is very nice. And why shouldn’t she marry Lord Fawn if she’s engaged to him?”
“But you have heard of the necklace, Lady Glencora?”
“Yes, I’ve heard of it. I wish anybody would come to me and try and get my diamonds! They should hear what I would say.”
Mrs. Hittaway greatly admired Lady Glencora, but not the less was she determined to persevere.
Had Lord Fawn been altogether candid and open with his family at this time, some trouble might have been saved; for he had almost altogether resolved that let the consequences be what they might, he would not marry Lizzie Eustace. But he was afraid to say this even to his own sister. He had promised to marry the woman, and he must walk very warily or the objurgations of the world would be too many for him. “It must depend altogether on her conduct, Clara,” he had said when last his sister had persecuted him on the subject. She was not, however, sorry to have an opportunity of learning something of the lady’s doings. Mr. Hittaway had more than once called on Mr. Camperdown.
“Yes,” Mr. Camperdown had said in answer to a question from Lord Fawn’s brother-inlaw, “she would play old gooseberry with the property if we hadn’t some one to look after it. There’s a fellow named Gowran who has lived there all his life, and we depend very much upon him.”
It is certainly true that as to many points of conduct women are less nice than men. Mr. Hittaway would not probably have condescended himself to employ espionage, but Mrs. Hittaway was less scrupulous. She actually went down to Troon and had an interview with Mr. Gowran, using freely the names of Mr. Camperdown and Lord Fawn; and some ten days afterwards Mr. Gowran travelled as far as Dumfries and Dumdum, and had an interview with Mrs. Hittaway. The result of all this, and of further inquiries, will be shown by the following letter from Mrs. Hittaway to her sister Amelia:
“DUMDUM, September 9, 18 —.
“MY DEAR AMELIA: Here we are, and here we have to remain to the end of the month. Of course it suits, and all that; but it is awfully dull. Richmond for this time of the year is a paradise to it; and as for coming to Scotland every autumn, I am sick of it. Only what is one to do if one lives in London? If it wasn’t for Orlando and the children I’d brazen it out, and let people say what they pleased. As for health, I’m never so well as at home, and I do like having my own things about me. Orlando has literally nothing to do here. There is no shooting except pheasants, and that doesn’t begin till October.
“But I’m very glad I’ve come as to Frederic, and the more so, as I have learned the truth as to that Mr. Greystock. She, Lady Eustace, is a bad creature in every way. She still pretends that she is engaged to Frederic, and tells everybody that the marriage is not broken off, and yet she has her cousin with her, making love to him in the most indecent way. People used to say in her favour that at any rate she never flirted. I never quite know what people mean when they talk of flirting. But you may take my word for it that she allows her cousin to embrace her, and embraces him. I would not say it if I could not prove it. It is horrible to think of it, when one remembers that she is almost justified in saying that Frederic is engaged to her.
“No doubt he was engaged to her. It was a great misfortune, but, thank God, is not yet past remedy. He has some foolish feeling of what he calls honour; as if a man can be bound in honour to marry a woman who has deceived him in every point! She still sticks to the diamonds, if she has not sold them, as I believe she has; and Mr. Camperdown is going to bring an action against her in the High Court of Chancery. But still Frederic will not absolutely declare the thing off. I feel, therefore, that it is my duty to let him know what I have learned. I should be the last to stir in such a matter unless I was sure I could prove it. But I don’t quite like to write to Frederic. Will mamma see him, and tell him what I say? Of course you will show this letter to mamma. If not, I must postpone it till I am in town; but I think it would come better from mamma. Mamma may be sure that she is a bad woman.
“And now what do you think of your Mr. Greystock? As sure as I am here he was seen with his arm round his cousin’s waist, sitting out of doors, kissing her. I was never taken in by that story of his marrying Lucy Morris. He is the last man in the world to marry a governess. He is over head and ears in debt, and if he marries at all, he must marry some one with money. I really think that mamma and you, and all of you, have been soft about that girl. I believe she has been a good governess, that is, good after mamma’s easy fashion; and I don’t for a moment suppose that she is doing anything underhand. But a governess with a lover never does suit, and I’m sure it won’t suit in this case. If I were you I would tell her. I think it would be the best charity. Whether they mean to marry I can’t tell; Mr. Greystock, that is, and this woman; but they ought to mean it; that’s all.
“Let me know at once whether mamma will see Frederic, and speak to him openly. She is quite at liberty to use my name; only nobody but mamma should see this letter.
“Love to them all.
“Your most affectionate sister,
In writing to Amelia instead of to her mother, Mrs. Hittaway was sure that she was communicating her ideas to at least two persons at Fawn Court, and that therefore there would be discussion. Had she written to her mother, her mother might probably have held her peace, and done nothing.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01