Lucy, in her letter to her lover, had distinctly asked whether she might tell Lady Linlithgow the name of her future husband, but had received no reply when she was taken to Bruton Street. The parting at Richmond was very painful, and Lady Fawn had declared herself quite unable to make another journey up to London with the ungrateful runagate. Though there was no diminution of affection among the Fawns, there was a general feeling that Lucy was behaving badly. That obstinacy of hers was getting the better of her. Why should she have gone? Even Lord Fawn had expressed his desire that she should remain. And then, in the breasts of the wise ones, all faith in the Greystock engagement had nearly vanished. Another letter had come from Mrs. Hittaway, who now declared that it was already understood about Portray that Lady Eustace intended to marry her cousin. This was described as a terrible crime on the part of Lizzie, though the antagonistic crime of a remaining desire to marry Lord Fawn was still imputed to her. And, of course, the one crime heightened the other. So that words from the eloquent pen of Mrs. Hittaway failed to make dark enough the blackness of poor Lizzie’s character. As for Mr. Greystock, he was simply a heartless man of the world, wishing to feather his nest. Mrs. Hittaway did not for a moment believe that he had ever dreamed of marrying Lucy Morris. Men always have three or four little excitements of that kind going on for the amusement of their leisure hours; so, at least, said Mrs. Hittaway. “The girl had better be told at once.” Such was her decision about poor Lucy.
“I can’t do more than I have done,” said Lady Fawn to Augusta.
“She’ll never get over it, mamma; never,” said Augusta.
Nothing more was said, and Lucy was sent off in the family carriage. Lydia and Nina were sent with her, and though there was some weeping on the journey, there was also much laughing. The character of the “duchess” was discussed very much at large, and many promises were made as to long letters. Lucy, in truth, was not unhappy. She would be nearer to Frank; and then it had been almost promised her that she should go to the deanery, after a residence of six months with Lady Linlithgow. At the deanery of course she would see Frank; and she also understood that a long visit to the deanery would be the surest prelude to that home of her own of which she was always dreaming.
“Dear me; sent you up in a carriage, has she? Why shouldn’t you have come by the railway?”
“Lady Fawn thought the carriage best. She is so very kind.”
“It’s what I call twaddle, you know. I hope you ain’t afraid of going in a cab.”
“Not in the least, Lady Linlithgow.”
“You can’t have the carriage to go about here. Indeed, I never have a pair of horses till after Christmas. I hope you know that I’m as poor as Job.”
“I didn’t know.”
“I am, then. You’ll get nothing beyond wholesome food with me. And I’m not sure it is wholesome always. The butchers are scoundrels and the bakers are worse. What used you to do at Lady Fawn’s?”
“I still did lessons with the two youngest girls.”
“You won’t have any lessons to do here unless you do ’em with me. You had a salary there?”
“Fifty pounds a year, I suppose.”
“I had eighty.”
“Had you, indeed. Eighty pounds, and a coach to ride in!”
“I had a great deal more than that, Lady Linlithgow.”
“How do you mean?”
“I had downright love and affection. They were just so many dear friends. I don’t suppose any governess was ever so treated before. It was just like being at home. The more I laughed the better every one liked it.”
“You won’t find anything to laugh at here; at least I don’t. If you want to laugh, you can laugh up-stairs or down in the parlour.”
“I can do without laughing for a while.”
“That’s lucky, Miss Morris. If they were all so good to you, what made you come away? They sent you away, didn’t they?”
“Well, I don’t know that I can explain it just all. There were a great many things together. No; they didn’t send me away. I came away because it suited.”
“It was something to do with your having a lover, I suppose.” To this Lucy thought it best to make no answer, and the conversation for a while was dropped.
Lucy had arrived at about half-past three, and Lady Linlithgow was then sitting in the drawing-room. After the first series of questions and answers Lucy was allowed to go up to her room, and on her return to the drawing-room found the Countess still sitting upright in her chair. She was now busy with accounts, and at first took no notice of Lucy’s return. What were to be the companion’s duties? What tasks in the house were to be assigned to her? What hours were to be her own; and what was to be done in those of which the Countess would demand the use? Up to the present moment nothing had been said of all this. She had simply been told that she was to be Lady Linlithgow’s companion, without salary, indeed, but receiving shelter, guardianship, and bread and meat in return for her services. She took up a book from the table and sat with it for ten minutes. It was Tupper’s great poem, and she attempted to read it. Lady Linlithgow sat totting up her figures, but said nothing. She had not spoken a word since Lucy’s return to the room; and as the great poem did not at first fascinate the new companion — whose mind not unnaturally was somewhat disturbed — Lucy ventured upon a question. “Is there anything I can do for you, Lady Linlithgow?”
“Do you know about figures?”
“Oh, yes. I consider myself quite a ready-reckoner.”
“Can you make two and two come to five on one side of the sheet and only come to three on the other?”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that and prove it afterwards.”
“Then you ain’t worth anything to me.” Having so declared, Lady Linlithgow went on with her accounts and Lucy relapsed into her great poem.
“No, my dear,” said the Countess, when she had completed her work, “there isn’t anything for you to do. I hope you haven’t come here with that mistaken idea. There won’t be any sort of work of any kind expected from you. I poke my own fires and I carve my own bit of mutton. And I haven’t got a nasty little dog to be washed. And I don’t care twopence about worsted work. I have a maid to darn my stockings, and because she has to work I pay her wages. I don’t like being alone, so I get you to come and live with me. I breakfast at nine, and if you don’t manage to be down by that time I shall be cross.”
“I am always up long before that.”
“There’s lunch at two, just bread and butter and cheese, and perhaps a bit of cold meat. There’s dinner at seven; and very bad it is, because they don’t have any good meat in London. Down in Fifeshire the meat’s a deal better than it is here, only I never go there now. At half-past ten I go to bed. It’s a pity you’re so young, because I don’t know what you’ll do about going out. Perhaps, as you ain’t pretty, it won’t signify.”
“Not at all — I should think,” said Lucy.
“Perhaps you consider yourself pretty. It’s all altered now since I was young. Girls make monsters of themselves, and I’m told the men like it; going about with unclean, frowsy structures on their heads, enough to make a dog sick. They used to be clean and sweet and nice, what one would like to kiss. How a man can like to kiss a face with a dirty horse’s tail all whizling about it, is what I can’t at all understand. I don’t think they do like it, but they have to do it.”
“I haven’t even a pony’s tail,” said Lucy.
“They do like to kiss you, I dare say.”
“No, they don’t,” ejaculated Lucy, not knowing what answer to make.
“I haven’t hardly looked at you, but you didn’t seem to me to be a beauty.”
“You are quite right about that, Lady Linlithgow.”
“I hate beauties. My niece, Lizzie Eustace, is a beauty; and I think that, of all heartless creatures in the world, she is the most heartless.”
“I know Lady Eustace very well.”
“Of course you do. She was a Greystock, and you know the Greystocks. And she was down staying with old Lady Fawn at Richmond. I should think old Lady Fawn had a time with her; hadn’t she?”
“It didn’t go off very well.”
“Lizzie would be too much for the Fawns, I should think. She was too much for me, I know. She’s about as bad as anybody ever was. She’s false, dishonest, heartless, cruel, irreligious, ungrateful, mean, ignorant, greedy, and vile.”
“Good gracious, Lady Linlithgow!”
“She’s all that, and a great deal worse. But she is handsome. I don’t know that I ever saw a prettier woman. I generally go out in a cab at three o’clock, but I sha’n’t want you to go with me. I don’t know what you can do. Macnulty used to walk round Grosvenor Square and think that people mistook her for a lady of quality. You mustn’t go and walk round Grosvenor Square by yourself, you know. Not that I care.”
“I’m not a bit afraid of anybody,” said Lucy.
“Now you know all about it. There isn’t anything for you to do. There are Miss Edgeworth’s novels down-stairs, and ‘Pride and Prejudice’ in my bedroom. I don’t subscribe to Mudie’s, because when I asked for ‘Adam Bede,’ they always sent me the ‘Bandit Chief.’ Perhaps you can borrow books from your friends at Richmond. I dare say Mrs. Greystock has told you that I’m very cross.”
“I haven’t seen Mrs. Greystock for ever so long.”
“Then Lady Fawn has told you — or somebody. When the wind is east, or northeast, or even north, I am cross, for I have the lumbago. It’s all very well talking about being good-humoured. You can’t be good-humoured with the lumbago. And I have the gout sometimes in my knee. I’m cross enough, then, and so you’d be. And, among ’em all, I don’t get much above half what I ought to have out of my jointure. That makes me very cross. My teeth are bad, and I like to have the meat tender. But it’s always tough, and that makes me cross. And when people go against the grain with me, as Lizzie Eustace always did, then I’m very cross.”
“I hope you won’t be very bad with me,” said Lucy.
“I don’t bite, if you mean that,” said her ladyship.
“I’d sooner be bitten than barked at — sometimes,” said Lucy.
“Humph!” said the old woman, and then she went back to her accounts.
Lucy had a few books of her own, and she determined to ask Frank to send her some. Books are cheap things, and she would not mind asking him for magazines, and numbers, and perhaps for the loan of a few volumes. In the mean time she did read Tupper’s poem, and “Pride and Prejudice,” and one of Miss Edgeworth’s novels — probably for the third time. During the first week in Bruton Street she would have been comfortable enough, only that she had not received a line from Frank. That Frank was not specially good at writing letters, she had already taught herself to understand. She was inclined to believe that but few men of business do write letters willingly, but that, of all men, lawyers are the least willing to do so. How reasonable it was that a man who had to perform a great part of his daily work with a pen in his hand should loathe a pen when not at work. To her the writing of letters was perhaps the most delightful occupation of her life, and the writing of letters to her lover was a foretaste of heaven; but then men, as she knew, are very different from women. And she knew this also, that, of all her immediate duties, no duty could be clearer than that of abstaining from all jealousy, petulance, and impatient expectation of little attentions. He loved her, and had told her so, and had promised her that she should be his wife, and that ought to be enough for her. She was longing for a letter, because she was very anxious to know whether she might mention his name to Lady Linlithgow; but she would abstain from any idea of blaming him because the letter did not come.
On various occasions the Countess showed some little curiosity about the lover; and at last, after about ten days, when she found herself beginning to be intimate with her new companion, she put the question point-blank. “I hate mysteries,” she said. “Who is the young man you are to marry?”
“He is a gentleman I’ve known a long time.”
“That’s no answer.”
“I don’t want to tell his name quite yet, Lady Linlithgow.”
“Why shouldn’t you tell his name, unless it’s something improper? Is he a gentleman?”
“Yes, he is a gentleman.”
“And how old?”
“Oh, I don’t know; perhaps thirty-two.”
“And has he any money?”
“He has his profession.”
“I don’t like these kind of secrets, Miss Morris. If you won’t say who he is, what was the good of telling me that you were engaged at all? How is a person to believe it?”
“I don’t want you to believe it.”
“I told you my own part of the affair, because I thought you ought to know it as I was coming into your house. But I don’t see that you ought to know his part of it. As for not believing, I suppose you believed Lady Fawn?”
“Not a bit better than I believe you. People don’t always tell truth because they have titles, nor yet because they’ve grown old. He don’t live in London, does he?”
“He generally lives in London. He is a barrister.”
“Oh, oh! a barrister, is he? They’re always making a heap of money, or else none at all. Which is it with him?”
“He makes something.”
“As much as you could put in your eye and see none the worse.” To see the old lady, as she made this suggestion, turn sharp round upon Lucy, was as good as a play. “My sister’s nephew, the dean’s son, is one of the best of the rising ones, I’m told.” Lucy blushed up to her hair, but the dowager’s back was turned, and she did not see the blushes. “But he’s in Parliament, and they tell me he spends his money faster than he makes it. I suppose you know him?”
“Yes; I knew him at Bobsborough.”
“It’s my belief that after all this fuss about Lord Fawn, he’ll marry his cousin, Lizzie Eustace. If he’s a lawyer, and as sharp as they say, I suppose he could manage her. I wish he would.”
“And she so bad as you say she is!”
“She’ll be sure to get somebody, and why shouldn’t he have her money as well as another? There never was a Greystock who didn’t want money. That’s what it will come to; you’ll see.”
“Never,” said Lucy decidedly.
“And why not?”
“What I mean is that Mr. Greystock is, at least I should think so from what I hear, the very last man in the world to marry for money.”
“What do you know of what a man would do?”
“It would be a very mean thing; particularly if he does not love her.”
“Bother!” said the Countess. “They were very near it in town last year before Lord Fawn came up at all. I knew as much as that. And it’s what they’ll come to before they’ve done.”
“They’ll never come to it,” said Lucy.
Then a sudden light flashed across the astute mind of the Countess. She turned round in her chair, and sat for a while silent, looking at Lucy. Then she slowly asked another question. “He isn’t your young man, is he?” To this Lucy made no reply. “So that’s it, is it?” said the dowager. “You’ve done me the honour of making my house your home till my own sister’s nephew shall be ready to marry you?”
“And why not?” asked Lucy, rather roughly.
“And Dame Greystock, from Bobsborough, has sent you here to keep you out of her son’s way. I see it all. And that old frump at Richmond has passed you over to me because she did not choose to have such goings on under her own eye.”
“There have been no goings on,” said Lucy.
“And he’s to come here, I suppose, when my back’s turned?”
“He is not thinking of coming here. I don’t know what you mean. Nobody has done anything wrong to you. I don’t know why you say such cruel things.”
“He can’t afford to marry you, you know.”
“I don’t know anything about it. Perhaps we must wait ever so long; five years. That’s nobody’s business but my own.”
“I found it all out, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you found it out.”
“I’m thinking of that sly old Dame Greystock at Bobsborough sending you here.” Neither on that nor on the two following days did Lady Linlithgow say a word further to Lucy about her engagement.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01