Mrs. Greystock, in making her proposition respecting Lady Linlithgow, wrote to Lady Fawn, and by the same post Frank wrote to Lucy. But before those letters reached Fawn Court there had come that other dreadful letter from Mrs. Hittaway. The consternation caused at Fawn Court in respect to Mr. Greystock’s treachery almost robbed of its importance the suggestion made as to Lord Fawn. Could it be possible that this man, who had so openly and in so manly a manner engaged himself to Lucy Morris, should now be proposing to himself a marriage with his rich cousin? Lady Fawn did not believe that it was possible. Clara had not seen those horrid things with her own eyes, and other people might be liars. But Amelia shook her head. Amelia evidently believed that all manner of iniquities were possible to man.
“You see, mamma, the sacrifice he was making was so very great!”
“But he made it!” pleaded Lady Fawn.
“No, mamma, he said he would make it. Men do these things. It is very horrid, but I think they do them more now than they used to. It seems to me that nobody cares now what he does, if he’s not to be put into prison.” It was resolved between these two wise ones that nothing at the present should be said to Lucy or to any one of the family. They would wait awhile, and in the meantime they attempted, as far as it was possible to make the attempt without express words, to let Lucy understand that she might remain at Fawn Court if she pleased. While this was going on, Lord Fawn did come down once again, and on that occasion Lucy simply absented herself from the dinner-table and from the family circle for that evening.
“He’s coming in, and you’ve got to go to prison again,” Nina said to her, with a kiss.
The matter to which Mrs. Hittaway’s letter more specially alluded was debated between the mother and daughter at great length. They, indeed, were less brave and less energetic than was the married daughter of the family; but as they saw Lord Fawn more frequently, they knew better than Mrs. Hittaway the real state of the case. They felt sure that he was already sufficiently embittered against Lady Eustace, and thought that therefore the peculiarly unpleasant task assigned to Lady Fawn need not be performed. Lady Fawn had not the advantage of living so much in the world as her daughter, and was oppressed by, perhaps, a squeamish delicacy.
“I really could not tell him about her sitting and — and kissing the man. Could I, my dear?”
“I couldn’t,” said Amelia; “but Clara would.”
“And to tell the truth,” continued Lady Fawn, “I shouldn’t care a bit about it if it was not for poor Lucy. What will become of her if that man is untrue to her?”
“Nothing on earth would make her believe it, unless it came from himself,” said Amelia, who really did know something of Lucy’s character. “Till he tells her, or till she knows that he’s married, she’ll never believe it.”
Then, after a few days, there came those other letters from Bobsborough, one from the dean’s wife and the other from Frank. The matter there proposed it was necessary that they should discuss with Lucy, as the suggestion had reached Lucy as well as themselves. She at once came to Lady Fawn with her lover’s letter, and with a gentle merry laughing face declared that the thing would do very well. “I am sure I should get on with her, and I should know that it wouldn’t be for long,” said Lucy.
“The truth is, we don’t want you to go at all,” said Lady Fawn.
“Oh, but I must,” said Lucy in her sharp, decided tone. “I must go. I was bound to wait till I heard from Mr. Greystock, because it is my first duty to obey him. But of course I can’t stay here after what has passed. As Nina says, it is simply going to prison when Lord Fawn comes here.”
“Nina is an impertinent little chit,” said Amelia.
“She is the dearest little friend in all the world,” said Lucy, “and always tells the exact truth. I do go to prison, and when he comes I feel that I ought to go to prison. Of course I must go away. What does it matter? Lady Linlithgow won’t be exactly like you,” and she put her little hand upon Lady Fawn’s fat arm caressingly, “and I sha’n’t have you all to spoil me; but I shall be simply waiting till he comes. Everything now must be no more than waiting till he comes.”
If it was to be that he would never come — this was very dreadful. Amelia clearly thought that “he” would never come, and Lady Fawn was apt to think her daughter wiser than herself. And if Mr. Greystock were such as Mrs. Hittaway had described him to be — if there were to be no such coming as that for which Lucy fondly waited — then there would be reason tenfold strong why she should not leave Fawn Court and go to Lady Linlithgow. In such case, when that blow should fall, Lucy would require very different treatment than might be expected for her from the hands of Lady Linlithgow. She would fade and fall to the earth like a flower with an insect at its root. She would be like a wounded branch into which no sap would run. With such misfortune and wretchedness possibly before her, Lady Fawn could not endure the idea that Lucy should be turned out to encounter it all beneath the cold shade of Lady Linlithgow’s indifference. “My dear,” she said, “let bygones be bygones. Come down and meet Lord Fawn. Nobody will say anything. After all, you were provoked very much, and there has been quite enough about it.”
This, from Lady Fawn, was almost miraculous — from Lady Fawn, to whom her son had ever been the highest of human beings! But Lucy had told the tale to her lover, and her lover approved of her going. Perhaps there was acting upon her mind some feeling, of which she was hardly conscious, that as long as she remained at Fawn Court she would not see her lover. She had told him that she could make herself supremely happy in the simple knowledge that he loved her. But we all know how few such declarations should be taken as true. Of course she was longing to see him. “If he would only pass by the road,” she would say to herself, “so that I might peep at him through the gate!” She had no formed idea in her own mind that she would be able to see him should she go to Lady Linlithgow, but still there would be the chances of her altered life! She would tell Lady Linlithgow the truth, and why should Lady Linlithgow refuse her so rational a pleasure? There was, of course, a reason why Frank should not come to Fawn Court; but the house in Bruton Street need not be closed to him. “I hardly know how to love you enough,” she said to Lady Fawn, “but indeed I must go. I do so hope the time may come when you and Mr. Greystock may be friends. Of course it will come. Shall it not?”
“Who can look into the future?” said the wise Amelia.
“Of course if he is your husband we shall love him,” said the less wise Lady Fawn.
“He is to be my husband,” said Lucy, springing up. “What do you mean? Do you mean anything?” Lady Fawn, who was not at all wise, protested that she meant nothing.
What were they to do? On that special day they merely stipulated that there should be a day’s delay before Lady Fawn answered Mrs. Greystock’s letter, so that she might sleep upon it. The sleeping on it meant that further discussion which was to take place between Lady Fawn and her second daughter in her ladyship’s bedroom that night. During all this period the general discomfort of Fawn Court was increased by a certain sullenness on the part of Augusta, the elder daughter, who knew that letters had come and that consultations were being held, but who was not admitted to those consultations. Since the day on which poor Augusta had been handed over to Lizzie Eustace as her peculiar friend in the family, there had always existed a feeling that she by her position was debarred from sympathising in the general desire to be quit of Lizzie; and then, too, poor Augusta was never thoroughly trusted by that great guide of the family, Mrs. Hittaway. “She couldn’t keep it to herself if you’d give her gold to do it,” Mrs. Hittaway would say. Consequently Augusta was sullen and conscious of ill-usage.
“Have you fixed upon anything?” she said to Lucy that evening.
“Not quite; only I am to go away.”
“I don’t see why you should go away at all. Frederic doesn’t Come here so very often, and when he does come he doesn’t say much to any one. I suppose it’s all Amelia’s doing.”
“Nobody wants me to go, only I feel that I ought. Mr. Greystock thinks it best.”
“I suppose he’s going to quarrel with us all.”
“No, dear. I don’t think he wants to quarrel with any one; but above all he must not quarrel with me. Lord Fawn has quarrelled with him, and that’s a misfortune — just for the present.”
“And where are you going?”
“Nothing has been settled yet; but we are talking of Lady Linlithgow — if she will take me.”
“Lady Linlithgow! Oh dear!”
“Won’t it do?”
“They say she’s the most dreadful old woman in London. Lady Eustace told such stories about her.”
“Do you know, I think I shall rather like it.”
But things were very different with Lucy the next morning. That discussion in Lady Fawn’s room was protracted till midnight, and then it was decided that just a word should be said to Lucy, so that, if possible, she might be induced to remain at Fawn Court. Lady Fawn was to say the word, and on the following morning she was closeted with Lucy.
“My dear,” she began, “we all want you to do us a particular favour.” As she said this, she held Lucy by the hand, and no one looking at them would have thought that Lucy was a governess and that Lady Fawn was her employer.
“Dear Lady Fawn, indeed it is better that I should go.”
“Stay just one month.”
“I couldn’t do that, because then this chance of a home would be gone. Of course we can’t wait a month before we let Mrs. Greystock know.”
“We must write to her, of course.”
“And then, you see, Mr. Greystock wishes it.” Lady Fawn knew that Lucy could be very firm, and had hardly hoped that anything could be done by simple persuasion. They had long been accustomed among themselves to call her obstinate, and knew that even in her acts of obedience she had a way of obeying after her own fashion. It was as well, therefore, that the thing to be said should be said at once.
“My dear Lucy, has it ever occurred to you that there may be a slip between the cup and the lip?”
“What do you mean, Lady Fawn?”
“That sometimes engagements take place which never become more than engagements. Look at Lord Fawn and Lady Eustace.”
“Mr. Greystock and I are not like that,” said Lucy, proudly.
“Such things are very dreadful, Lucy, but they do happen.”
“Do you mean anything — anything real, Lady Fawn?”
“I have so strong a reliance on your good sense, that I will tell you just what I do mean. A rumour has reached me that Mr. Greystock is — paying more attention than he ought to do to Lady Eustace.”
“His own cousin!”
“But people marry their cousins, Lucy.”
“To whom he has always been just like a brother! I do think that is the cruellest thing. Because he sacrifices his time and his money and all his holidays to go and look after her affairs, this is to be said of him! She hasn’t another human being to took after her, and therefore he is obliged to do it. Of course he has told me all about it. I do think, Lady Fawn, I do think that is the greatest shame I ever heard.”
“But if it should be true ——”
“It isn’t true.”
“But just for the sake of showing you, Lucy ——; if it was lo be true.”
“It won’t be true.”
“Surely I may speak to you as your friend, Lucy. You needn’t be so abrupt with me. Will you listen to me, Lucy?”
“Of course I will listen; only nothing that anybody on earth could say about that would make me believe a word of it.”
“Very well! Now just let me go on. If it were to be so ——”
“Oh-h, Lady Fawn!”
“Don’t be foolish, Lucy. I will say what I’ve got to say. If — if —. Let me see. Where was I? I mean just this: You had better remain here till things are a little more settled. Even if it be only a rumour — and I’m sure I don’t believe it’s anything more — you had better hear about it with us, with friends round you, than with a perfect stranger like Lady Linlithgow. If anything were to go wrong there, you wouldn’t know where to come for comfort. If anything were wrong with you here, you could come to me as though I were your mother. Couldn’t you now?”
“Indeed, indeed I could. And I will. I always will. Lady Fawn, I love you and the dear darling girls better than all the world — except Mr. Greystock. If anything like that were to happen, I think I should creep here and ask to die in your house. But it won’t. And just now it will be better that I should go away.”
It was found at last that Lucy must have her way, and letters were written both to Mrs. Greystock and to Frank, requesting that the suggested overtures might at once be made to Lady Linlithgow. Lucy, in her letter to her lover, was more than ordinarily cheerful and jocose. She had a good deal to say about Lady Linlithgow that was really droll, and not a word to say indicative of the slightest fear in the direction of Lady Eustace. She spoke of poor Lizzie, and declared her conviction that that marriage never could come off now. “You mustn’t be angry when I say that I can’t break my heart for them, for I never did think that they were very much in love. As for Lord Fawn, of course he is my — ENEMY.” And she wrote the word in big letters. “And as for Lizzie, she’s your cousin, and all that. And she’s ever so pretty, and all that. And she’s as rich as Croesus, and all that. But I don’t think she’ll break her own heart. I would break mine; only — only — only —. You will understand the rest. If it should come to pass, I wonder whether ‘the duchess’ would ever let a poor creature see a friend of hers in Bruton Street.” Frank had once called Lady Linlithgow the duchess after a certain popular picture in a certain popular book, and Lucy never forgot anything that Frank had said.
It did come to pass. Mrs. Greystock at once corresponded with Lady Linlithgow, and Lady Linlithgow, who was at Ramsgate for her autumn vacation, requested that Lucy Morris might be brought to see her at her house in London on the second of October. Lady Linlithgow’s autumn holiday always ended on the last day of September. On the second of October Lady Fawn herself took Lucy up to Bruton Street, and Lady Linlithgow appeared. “Miss Morris,” said Lady Fawn, “thinks it right that you should be told that she’s engaged to be married.”
“Who to?” demanded the Countess.
Lucy was as red as fire, although she had especially made up her mind that she would not blush when the communication was made. “I don’t know that she wishes me to mention the gentleman’s name, just at present; but I can assure you that he is all that he ought to be.”
“I hate mysteries,” said the Countess.
“If Lady Linlithgow ——” began Lucy.
“Oh, it’s nothing to me,” continued the old woman. “It won’t come off for six months, I suppose?” Lucy gave a mute assurance that there would be no such difficulty as that. “And he can’t come here, Miss Morris.” To this Lucy said nothing. Perhaps she might win over even the Countess, and if not, she must bear her six months of prolonged exclusion from the light of day. And so the matter was settled. Lucy was to be taken back to Richmond, and to come again on the following Monday.
“I don’t like this parting at all, Lucy,” Lady Fawn said on her way home.
“It is better so, Lady Fawn.”
“I hate people going away; but, somehow, you don’t feel it as we do.”
“You wouldn’t say that if you really knew what I do feel.”
“There was no reason why you should go. Frederic was getting not to care for it at all. What’s Nina to do now? I can’t get another governess after you. I hate all these sudden breaks up. And all for such a trumpery thing. If Frederic hasn’t forgotten all about it, he ought.”
“It hasn’t come altogether from him, Lady Fawn.”
“How has it come, then?”
“I suppose it is because of Mr. Greystock. I suppose when a girl has engaged herself to marry a man, she must think more of him than of anything else.”
“Why couldn’t you think of him at Fawn Court?”
“Because — because things have been unfortunate. He isn’t your friend, not as yet. Can’t you understand, Lady Fawn, that, dear as you all must be to me, I must live in his friendships, and take his part when there is a part?”
“Then I suppose that you mean to hate all of us.” Lucy could only cry at hearing this; whereupon Lady Fawn also burst into tears.
On the Sunday before Lucy took her departure, Lord Fawn was again at Richmond. “Of course you’ll come down, just as if nothing had happened,” said Lydia.
“We’ll see,” said Lucy.
“Mamma will be very angry, if you don’t,” said Lydia.
But Lucy had a little plot in her head, and her appearance at the dinner-table on that Sunday must depend on the manner in which her plot was executed. After church, Lord Fawn would always hang about the grounds for a while before going into the house; and on this morning Lucy also remained outside. She soon found her opportunity, and walked straight up to him, following him on the path. “Lord Fawn,” she said, “I have come to beg your pardon.”
He had turned round hearing footsteps behind him, but still was startled and unready. “It does not matter at all,” he said.
“It matters to me, because I behaved badly.”
“What I said about Mr. Greystock wasn’t intended to be said to you, you know.”
“Even if it was, it would make no matter. I don’t mean to think of that now. I beg your pardon because I said what I ought not to have said.”
“You see, Miss Morris, that as the head of this family ——”
“If I had said it to Juniper, I would have begged his pardon.” Now Juniper was the gardener, and Lord Fawn did not quite like the way in which the thing was put to him. The cloud came across his brow, and he began to fear that she would again insult him. “I oughtn’t to accuse anybody of an untruth — not in that way; and I am very sorry for what I did, and I beg your pardon.” Then she turned as though she were going back to the house.
But he stopped her. “Miss Morris, if it will suit you to stay with my mother, I will never say a word against it.”
“It is quite settled that I am to go tomorrow, Lord Fawn. Only for that I would not have troubled you again.”
Then she did turn towards the house, but he recalled her. “We will shake hands, at any rate,” he said, “and not part as enemies.” So they shook hands, and Lucy came down and sat in his company at the dinner-table.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55