The coming of John Eustace was certainly a great thing for Lizzie, though it was only for two days. It saved her from that feeling of desertion before her friends — desertion by those who might naturally belong to her — which would otherwise have afflicted her. His presence there for two days gave her a start. She could call him John, and bring down her boy to him, and remind him, with the sweetest smile — with almost a tear in her eye — that he was the boy’s guardian. “Little fellow! So much depends on that little life, does it not, John?” she said, whispering the words into his ear.
“Lucky little dog!” said John, patting the boy’s head. “Let me see! of course he’ll go to Eton.”
“Not yet,” said Lizzie with a shudder.
“Well, no, hardly; when he’s twelve.” And then the boy was done with and was carried away. She had played that card and had turned her trick. John Eustace was a thoroughly good-natured man of the world, who could forgive many faults, not expecting people to be perfect. He did not like Mrs. Carbuncle; was indifferent to Lucinda’s beauty; was afraid of that Tartar, Lord George; and thoroughly despised Sir Griffin. In his heart he believed Mr. Emilius to be an impostor, who might, for aught he knew, pick his pocket: and Miss Macnulty had no attraction for him. But he smiled, and was gay, and called Lady Eustace by her Christian name, and was content to be of use to her in showing her friends that she had not been altogether dropped by the Eustace people.
“I got such a nice affectionate letter from the dear bishop,” said Lizzie, “but he couldn’t come. He could not escape a previous engagement.”
“It’s a long way,” said John, “and he’s not so young as he was once; and then there are the Bobsborough parsons to look after.”
“I don’t suppose anything of that kind stops him,” said Lizzie, who did not think it possible that a bishop’s bliss should be alloyed by work. John was so very nice that she almost made up her mind to talk to him about the necklace; but she was cautious, and thought of it, and found that it would be better that she should abstain. John Eustace was certainly very good-natured, but perhaps he might say an ugly word to her if she were rash. She refrained, therefore, and after breakfast on the second day he took his departure with out an allusion to things that were unpleasant.
“I call my brother-inlaw a perfect gentleman,” said Lizzie with enthusiasm, when his back was turned.
“Certainly,” said Mrs. Carbuncle. “He seems to me to be very quiet.”
“He didn’t quite like his party,” said Lord George.
“I am sure he did,” said Lizzie.
“I mean as to politics. To him we are all turbulent demagogues and Bohemians. Eustace is an old-world Tory, if there’s one left anywhere. But you’re right, Lady Eustace; he is a gentleman.”
“He knows on which side his bread is buttered as well as any man,” said Sir Griffin.
“Am I a demagogue,” said Lizzie, appealing to the Corsair, “or a Bohemian? I didn’t know it.”
“A little in that way, I think, Lady Eustace; not a demagogue, but demagogical; not Bohemian, but that way given.”
“And is Miss Roanoke demagogical?”
“Certainly,” said Lord George. “I hardly wrong you there, Miss Roanoke?”
“Lucinda is a democrat, but hardly a demagogue, Lord George,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“Those are distinctions which we hardly understand on this thick-headed side of the water. But demagogues, democrats, demonstrations, and Demosthenic oratory are all equally odious to John Eustace. For a young man he’s about the best Tory I know.”
“He is true to his colours,” said Mr. Emilius, who had been endeavouring to awake the attention of Miss Roanoke on the subject of Shakespeare’s dramatic action, “and I like men who are true to their colours.” Mr. Mealyus spoke with the slightest possible tone of foreign accent — a tone so slight that it simply served to attract attention to him.
While Eustace was still in the house, there had come a letter from Frank Greystock, saying that he would reach Portray, by way of Glasgow, on Wednesday, the 5th of November. He must sleep in Glasgow on that night, having business, or friends, or pleasure demanding his attention in that prosperous mart of commerce. It had been impressed upon him that he should hunt, and he had consented. There was to be a meet out on the Kilmarnock side of the county on that Wednesday, and he would bring a horse with him from Glasgow. Even in Glasgow a hunter was to be hired, and could be sent forty or fifty miles out of the town in the morning and brought back in the evening. Lizzie had learned all about that, and had told him. If he would call at MacFarlane’s stables in Buchanan Street, or even write to Mr. MacFarlane, he would be sure to get a horse that would carry him. MacFarlane was sending horses down into the Ayrshire country every day of his life. It was simply an affair of money. Three guineas for the horse, and then just the expense of the railway. Frank, who knew quite as much about it as did his cousin, and who never thought much of guineas or of railway tickets, promised to meet the party at the meet ready equipped. His things would go on by train, and Lizzie must send for them to Troon. He presumed a beneficent Providence would take the horse back to the bosom of Mr. MacFarlane. Such was the tenor of his letter. “If he don’t mind, he’ll find himself astray,” said Sir Griffin. “He’ll have to go one way by rail and his horse another.”
“We can manage better for our cousin than that,” said Lizzie, with a rebuking nod.
But there was hunting from Portray before Frank Greystock came. It was specially a hunting party, and Lizzie was to be introduced to the glories of the field. In giving her her due, it must be acknowledged that she was fit for the work. She rode well, though she had not ridden to hounds, and her courage was cool. She looked well on horseback, and had that presence of mind which should never desert a lady when she is hunting. A couple of horses had been purchased for her, under Lord George’s superintendence — his conjointly with Mrs. Carbuncle’s — and had been at the castle for the last ten days, “eating their varra heeds off,” as Andy Gowran had said in sorrow. There had been practising even while John Eustace was there, and before her preceptors had slept three nights at the castle she had ridden backward and forward half a dozen times over a stone wall.
“Oh, yes,” Lucinda had said, in answer to a remark from Sir Griffin, “it’s easy enough — till you come across something difficult.”
“Nothing difficult stops you,” said Sir Griffin; to which compliment Lucinda vouchsafed no reply.
On the Monday Lizzie went out hunting for the first time in her life. It must be owned that, as she put her habit on, and afterwards breakfasted with all her guests in hunting gear around her, and then was driven with them in her own carriage to the meet, there was something of trepidation at her heart. And her feeling of cautious fear in regard to money had received a shock. Mrs. Carbuncle had told her that a couple of horses fit to carry her might perhaps cost her about £180. Lord George had received the commission, and the check required from her had been for £320. Of course she had written the check without a word, but it did begin to occur to her that hunting was an expensive amusement. Gowran had informed her that he had bought a rick of hay from a neighbour for £75 15_s. 9_d. “God forgie me,” said Andy, “but I b’lieve I’ve been o’er hard on the puir man in your leddyship’s service.” £75 15_s. 9_d. did seem a great deal of money to pay; and could it be necessary that she should buy a whole rick? There were to be eight horses in the stable. To what friend could she apply to learn how much of a rick of hay one horse ought to eat in a month of hunting? In such a matter she might have trusted Andy Gowran implicitly; but how was she to know that? And then, what if at some desperate fence she were to be thrown off and break her nose and knock out her front teeth! Was the game worth the candle? She was by no means sure that she liked Mrs. Carbuncle very much. And though she liked Lord George very well, could it be possible that he bought the horses for £90 each and charged her £160? Corsairs do do these sort of things. The horses themselves were two sweet dears, with stars on their foreheads, and shining coats, and a delicious aptitude for jumping over everything at a moment’s notice. Lord George had not, in truth, made a penny by them, and they were good hunters, worth the money; but how was Lizzie to know that? But though she doubted, and was full of fears, she could smile and look as though she liked it. If the worst should come she could certainly get money for the diamonds.
On that Monday the meet was comparatively near to them — distant only twelve miles. On the following Wednesday it would be sixteen, and they would use the railway, having the carriage sent to meet them in the evening. The three ladies and Lord George filled the carriage, and Sir Griffin was perched upon the box. The ladies’ horses had gone on with two grooms, and those for Lord George and Sir Griffin were to come to the meet. Lizzie felt somewhat proud of her establishment and her equipage, but at the same time somewhat fearful. Hitherto she knew but very little of the country people, and was not sure how she might be received; and then how would it be with her if the fox should at once start away across country, and she should lack either the pluck or the power to follow? There was Sir Griffin to look after Miss Roanoke, and Lord George to attend to Mrs. Carbuncle. At last an idea so horrible struck her that she could not keep it down. “What am I to do,” she said, “if I find myself all alone in a field, and everybody else gone away?”
“We won’t treat you quite in that fashion,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“The only possible way in which you can be alone in a field is that you will have cut everybody else down,” said Lord George.
“I suppose it will all come right,” said Lizzie, plucking up her courage, and telling herself that a woman can die but once.
Everything was right — as it usually is. The horses were there — quite a throng of horses, as the two gentlemen had two each; and there was, moreover, a mounted groom to look after the three ladies. Lizzie had desired to have a groom to herself, but had been told that the expenditure in horseflesh was more than the stable could stand. “All I ever want of a man is to carry for me my flask, and waterproof, and luncheon,” said Mrs. Carbuncle. “I don’t care if I never see a groom, except for that.”
“It’s convenient to have a gate opened sometimes,” said Lucinda, slowly.
“Will no one but a groom do that for you?” asked Sir Griffin.
“Gentlemen can’t open gates,” said Lucinda. Now, as Sir Griffin thought that he had opened many gates during the last season for Miss Roanoke, he felt this to be hard.
But there were eight horses, and eight horses with three servants and a carriage made quite a throng. Among the crowd of Ayrshire hunting men — a lord or two, a dozen lairds, two dozen farmers, and as many men of business out of Ayr, Kilmarnock, and away from Glasgow — it was soon told that Lady Eustace and her party were among them. A good deal had been already heard of Lizzie, and it was at least known of her that she had, for her life, the Portray estate in her hands. So there was an undercurrent of whispering, and that sort of commotion which the appearance of newcomers does produce at a hunt-meet. Lord George knew one or two men, who were surprised to find him in Ayrshire, and Mrs. Carbuncle was soon quite at home with a young nobleman whom she had met in the Vale with the Baron. Sir Griffin did not leave Lucinda’s side, and for a while poor Lizzie felt herself alone in a crowd.
Who does not know that terrible feeling, and the all but necessity that exists for the sufferer to pretend that he is not suffering — which again is aggravated by the conviction that the pretence is utterly vain? This may be bad with a man, but with a woman, who never looks to be alone in a crowd, it is terrible. For five minutes, during which everybody else was speaking to everybody — for five minutes, which seemed to her to be an hour, Lizzie spoke to no one, and no one spoke to her. Was it for such misery as this that she was spending hundreds upon hundreds, and running herself into debt? For she was sure that there would be debt before she parted with Mrs. Carbuncle. There are people, very many people, to whom an act of hospitality is in itself a good thing; but there are others who are always making calculations, and endeavouring to count up the thing purchased against the cost. Lizzie had been told that she was a rich woman — as women go, very rich. Surely she was entitled to entertain a few friends; and if Mrs. Carbuncle and Miss Roanoke could hunt, it could not be that hunting was beyond her own means. And yet she was spending a great deal of money. She had seen a large wagon loaded with sacks of corn coming up the hill to the Portray stables, and she knew that there would be a long bill at the corn-chandler’s. There had been found a supply of wine in the cellars at Portray, which at her request had been inspected by her cousin Frank; but it had been necessary, so he had told her, to have much more sent down from London — champagne, and liqueurs, and other nice things that cost money.
“You won’t like not to have them if these people are coming?”
“Oh, no; certainly not,” said Lizzie, with enthusiasm. What other rich people did, she would do. But now, in her five minutes of misery, she counted it all up, and was at a loss to find what was to be her return for her expenditure. And then, if on this, her first day, she should have a fall, with no tender hand to help her, and then find that she had knocked out her front teeth!
But the cavalcade began to move, and then Lord George was by her side. “You mustn’t be angry if I seem to stick too close to you,” he said. She gave him her sweetest smile as she told him that that would be impossible. “Because, you know, though it’s the easiest thing in the world to get along out hunting, and women never come to grief, a person is a little astray at first.”
“I shall be so much astray,” said Lizzie. “I don’t at all know how we are going to begin. Are we hunting a fox now?” At this moment they were trotting across a field or two, through a run of gates up to the first covert.
“Not quite yet. The hounds haven’t been put in yet. You see that wood there? I suppose they’ll draw that.”
“What is drawing, Lord George? I want to know all about it, and I am so ignorant. Nobody else will tell me.” Then Lord George gave his lesson, and explained the theory and system of foxhunting.
“We’re to wait here, then, till the fox runs away? But it’s ever so large, and if he runs away, and nobody sees him? I hope he will, because it will be nice to go on easily.”
“A great many people hope that, and a great many think it nice to go on easily. Only you must not confess to it.” Then he went on with his lecture, and explained the meaning of scent; was great on the difficulty of getting away; described the iniquity of heading the fox; spoke of up wind and down wind; got as far as the trouble of “carrying,” and told her that a good ear was everything in a big wood — when there came upon them the thrice-repeated note of an old hound’s voice, and the quick scampering, and low, timid, anxious, trustful whinnying, of a dozen comrade younger hounds, who recognised the sagacity of their well-known and highly-appreciated elder.
“That’s a fox,” said Lord George.
“What shall I do now?” said Lizzie, all in a twitter.
“Sit just where you are, and light a cigar, if you’re given to smoking.”
“Pray don’t joke with me. You know I want to do it properly.”
“And therefore you must sit just where you are, and not gallop about. There’s a matter of a hundred and twenty acres here, I should say, and a fox doesn’t always choose to be evicted at the first notice. It’s a chance whether he goes at all from a wood like this. I like woods myself, because, as you say, we can take it easy; but if you want to ride, you should — By George, they’ve killed him.”
“Killed the fox?”
“Yes; he’s dead. Didn’t you hear?”
“And is that a hunt?”
“Well — as far as it goes, it is.”
“Why didn’t he run away? What a stupid beast! I don’t see so very much in that. Who killed him? That man that was blowing the horn?”
“The hounds chopped him.”
“Chopped him!” Lord George was very patient, and explained to Lizzie, who was now indignant and disappointed, the misfortune of chopping. “And are we to go home now? Is it all over?”
“They say the country is full of foxes,” said Lord George. “Perhaps we shall chop half a dozen.”
“Dear me! Chop half a dozen foxes! Do they like to be chopped? I thought they always ran away.”
Lord George was constant and patient, and rode at Lizzie’s side from covert to covert. A second fox they did kill in the same fashion as the first; a third they couldn’t hunt a yard; a fourth got to ground after five minutes, and was dug out ingloriously, during which process a drizzling rain commenced.
“Where is the man with my waterproof?” demanded Mrs. Carbuncle. Lord George had sent the man to see whether there was shelter to be had in a neighbouring yard. And Mrs. Carbuncle was angry. “It’s my own fault,” she said, “for not having my own man. Lucinda, you’ll be wet.”
“I don’t mind the wet,” said Lucinda. Lucinda never did mind anything.
“If you’ll come with me, we’ll get into a barn,” said Sir Griffin.
“I like the wet,” said Lucinda. All the while seven men were at work with picks and shovels, and the master and four or five of the more ardent sportsmen were deeply engaged in what seemed to be a mining operation on a small scale. The huntsman stood over giving his orders. One enthusiastic man, who had been lying on his belly, grovelling in the mud for five minutes, with a long stick in his hand, was now applying the point of it scientifically to his nose. An ordinary observer with a magnifying glass might have seen a hair at the end of the stick.
“He’s there,” said the enthusiastic man, covered with mud, after a long-drawn eager sniff at the stick. The huntsman deigned to give one glance.
“That’s rabbit,” said the huntsman. A conclave was immediately formed over the one visible hair that stuck to the stick, and three experienced farmers decided that it was rabbit. The muddy, enthusiastic man, silenced but not convinced, retired from the crowd, leaving his stick behind him, and comforted himself with his brandy-flask.
“He’s here, my lord,” said the huntsman to his noble master, “only we ain’t got nigh him yet.” He spoke almost in a whisper, so that the ignorant crowd should not hear the words of wisdom, which they wouldn’t understand, or perhaps believe. “It’s that full of rabbits that the holes is all hairs. They ain’t got no terrier here, I suppose. They never has aught that is wanted in these parts. Work round to the right, there — that’s his line.” The men did work round to the right, and in something under an hour the fox was dragged out by his brush and hind legs, while the experienced whip who dragged him held the poor brute tight by the back of his neck. “An old dog, my lord. There’s such a many of ’em here, that they’ll be a deal better for a little killing.” Then the hounds ate their third fox for that day.
Lady Eustace, in the mean time, and Mrs. Carbuncle, with Lord George, had found their way to the shelter of a cattle-shed. Lucinda had slowly followed, and Sir Griffin had followed her. The gentlemen smoked cigars, and the ladies, when they had eaten their luncheons and drunk their sherry, were cold and cross.
“If this is hunting,” said Lizzie, “I really don’t think so much about it.”
“It’s Scotch hunting,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“I have seen foxes dug out south of the Tweed,” suggested Lord George.
“I suppose everything is slow after the Baron,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, who had distinguished herself with the Baron’s stag-hounds last March.
“Are we to go home now?” asked Lizzie, who would have been well pleased to have received an answer in the affirmative.
“I presume they’ll draw again,” exclaimed Mrs. Carbuncle, with an angry frown on her brow. “It’s hardly two o’clock.”
“They always draw till seven in Scotland,” said Lord George.
“That’s nonsense,” said Mrs. Carbuncle. “It’s dark at four.”
“They have torches in Scotland,” said Lord George.
“They have a great many things in Scotland that are very far from agreeable,” said Mrs. Carbuncle. “Lucinda, did you ever see three foxes killed without five minutes’ running, before? I never did.”
“I’ve been out all day without finding at all,” said Lucinda, who loved the truth.
“And so have I,” said Sir Griffin; “often. Don’t you remember that day when we went down from London to Bringher Wood, and they pretended to find at half-past four? That’s what I call a sell!”
“They’re going on, Lady Eustace,” said Lord George. “If you’re not tired, we might as well see it out.” Lizzie was tired, but said that she was not, and she did see it out. They found a fifth fox, but again there was no scent. “Who the —— is to hunt a fox with people scurrying about like that?” said the huntsman very angrily, dashing forward at a couple of riders. “The hounds is behind you, only you ain’t a-looking. Some people never do look.” The two peccant riders, unfortunately, were Sir Griffin and Lucinda.
The day was one of those from which all the men and woman return home cross, and which induce some half-hearted folk to declare to themselves that they never will hunt again. When the master decided a little after three that he would draw no more, because there wasn’t a yard of scent, our party had nine or ten miles to ride back to their carriages. Lizzie was very tired, and when Lord George took her from her horse could almost have cried from fatigue. Mrs. Carbuncle was never fatigued, but she had become damp — soaking wet through, as she herself said — during the four minutes that the man was absent with her waterproof jacket, and could not bring herself to forget the ill-usage she had suffered. Lucinda had become absolutely dumb, and any observer would have fancied that the two gentlemen had quarrelled with each other.
“You ought to go on the box now,” said Sir Griffin, grumbling.
“When you’re my age and I’m yours, I will,” said Lord George, taking his seat in the carriage. Then he appealed to Lizzie. “You’ll let me smoke, won’t you?” She simply bowed her head. And so they went home — Lord George smoking, and the ladies dumb. Lizzie, as she dressed for dinner, almost cried with vexation and disappointment.
There was a little conversation up-stairs between Mrs. Carbuncle and Lucinda, when they were free from the attendance of their joint maid. “It seems to me,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, “that you won’t make up your mind about anything.”
“There is nothing to make up my mind about.”
“I think there is — a great deal. Do you mean to take this man who is dangling after you?”
“He isn’t worth taking.”
“Carruthers says that the property must come right, sooner or later. You might do better, perhaps, but you won’t trouble yourself. We can’t go on like this forever, you know.”
“If you hated it as much as I do, you wouldn’t want to go on.”
“Why don’t you talk to him? I don’t think he’s at all a bad fellow.”
“I’ve nothing to say.”
“He’ll offer tomorrow, if you’ll accept him.”
“Don’t let him do that, Aunt Jane. I couldn’t say Yes. As for loving him — oh, laws!”
“It won’t do to go on like this, you know.”
“I’m only eighteen; and it’s my money, aunt.”
“And how long will it last? If you can’t accept him, refuse him, and let somebody else come.”
“It seems to me,” said Lucinda, “that one is as bad as another. I’d a deal sooner marry a shoemaker and help him to make him shoes.”
“That’s downright wickedness,” said Mrs. Carbuncle. And then they went down to dinner.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01