Frank Greystock the barrister was the only son of the Dean of Bobsborough. Now the dean had a family of daughters — not quite so numerous indeed as that of Lady Fawn, for there were only three of them — and was by no means a rich man. Unless a dean have a private fortune, or has chanced to draw the happy lot of Durham in the lottery of deans, he can hardly be wealthy. At Bobsborough, the dean was endowed with a large, rambling, picturesque, uncomfortable house, and with £5,500 a year. In regard to personal property, it may be asserted of all the Greystocks that they never had any. They were a family of which the males would surely come to be deans and admirals, and the females would certainly find husbands. And they lived on the good things of the world, and mixed with wealthy people. But they never had any money. The Eustaces always had money and the Bishop of Bobsborough was wealthy. The dean was a man very different from his brother, the admiral, who had never paid anybody anything. The dean did pay; but he was a little slow in his payments, and money with him was never plentiful. In these circumstances it became very expedient that Frank Greystock should earn his bread early in life.
Nevertheless he had chosen a profession which is not often lucrative at first. He had been called to the bar, and had gone, and was still going, the circuit in which lies the cathedral city of Bobsborough. Bobsborough is not much of a town, and was honoured with the judges’ visits only every other circuit. Frank began pretty well; getting some little work in London, and perhaps nearly enough to pay the cost of the circuit out of the county in which the cathedral was situated. But he began life after that impecunious fashion for which the Greystocks have been noted. Tailors, robemakers, and booksellers gave him trust, and did believe that they would get their money. And any persistent tradesman did get it. He did not actually hoist the black flag of impecuniosity, and proclaim his intention of preying generally upon the retail dealers, as his uncle the admiral had done. But he became known as a young man with whom money was “tight.” All this had been going on for three or four years before he had met Lucy Morris at the deanery. He was then eight-and-twenty, and had been four years called. He was thirty when old Lady Fawn hinted to him that he had better not pay any more visits at Fawn Court.
But things had much altered with him of late. At the time of that visit to the deanery he had made a sudden start in his profession. The corporation of the city of London had brought an action against the Bank of England with reference to certain alleged encroachments, of which action, considerable as it was in all its interests, no further notice need be taken here than is given by the statement that a great deal of money in this cause had found its way among the lawyers. Some of it penetrated into the pocket of Frank Greystock; but he earned more than money, better than money, out of that affair. It was attributed to him by the attorneys that the Bank of England was saved from the necessity of reconstructing all its bullion cellars, and he had made his character for industry. In the year after that, the Bobsborough people were rather driven into a corner in search of a clever young Conservative candidate for the borough, and Frank Greystock was invited to stand. It was not thought that there was much chance of success, and the dean was against it. But Frank liked the honour and glory of the contest, and so did Frank’s mother. Frank Greystock stood, and at the time in which he was warned away from Fawn Court had been nearly a year in Parliament. “Of course it does interfere with one’s business,” he had said to his father; “but then it brings one business also. A man with a seat in Parliament who shows that he means work will always get nearly as much work as he can do.” Such was Frank’s exposition to his father. It may perhaps not be found to hold water in all cases. Mrs. Dean was of course delighted with her son’s success, and so were the girls. Women like to feel that the young men belonging to them are doing something in the world, so that a reflected glory may be theirs. It was pleasant to talk of Frank as member for the City. Brothers do not always care much for a brother’s success, but a sister is generally sympathetic. If Frank would only marry money, there was nothing he might not achieve. That he would live to sit on the woolsack was now almost a certainty to the dear old lady. But in order that he might sit there comfortably it was necessary that he should at least abstain from marrying a poor wife. For there was fear at the deanery also in regard to Lucy Morris.
“That notion, of marrying money, as you call it,” Frank said to his second sister, Margaret, “is the most disgusting idea in the world.”
“It is as easy to love a girl who has something as one who has nothing,” said Margaret.
“No, it is not; because the girls with money are scarce, and those without it are plentiful — an argument of which I don’t suppose you see the force.” Then Margaret for the moment was snubbed and retired.
“Indeed, Frank, I think Lady Fawn was right,” said the mother.
“And I think she was quite wrong. If there be anything in it, it won’t be expelled by Lady Fawn’s interference. Do you think I should allow Lady Fawn to tell me not to choose such or such a woman for my wife?”
“It’s the habit of seeing her, my dear. Nobody loves Lucy Morris better than I do. We all like her. But, dear Frank, would it do for you to make her your wife?”
Frank Greystock was silent for a moment, and then he answered his mother’s question. “I am not quite sure whether it would or would not. But I do think this: that if I were bold enough to marry now, and to trust all to the future, and could get Lucy to be my wife, I should be doing a great thing. I doubt, however, whether I have the courage.” All of which made the dean’s wife uneasy.
The reader who has read so far will perhaps think that Frank Greystock was in love with Lucy as Lucy was in love with him. But such was not exactly the case. To be in love as an absolute, well-marked, acknowledged fact is the condition of a woman more frequently and more readily than of a man. Such is not the common theory on the matter, as it is the man’s business to speak, and the woman’s business to be reticent. And the woman is presumed to have kept her heart free from any load of love till she may accept the burden with an assurance that it shall become a joy and a comfort to her. But such presumptions, though they may be very useful for the regulation of conduct, may not always be true. It comes more within the scope of a woman’s mind than of a man’s to think closely and decide sharply on such a matter. With a man it is often chance that settles the question for him. He resolves to propose to a woman, or proposes without resolving, because she is close to him. Frank Greystock ridiculed the idea of Lady Fawn’s interference in so high a matter as his love — or abstinence from love. Nevertheless, had he been made a welcome guest at Fawn Court, he would undoubtedly have told his love to Lucy Morris. He was not a welcome guest, but had been banished; and, as a consequence of that banishment, he had formed no resolution in regard to Lucy, and did not absolutely know whether she was necessary to him or not. But Lucy Morris knew all about it.
Moreover, it frequently happens with men that they fail to analyse these things, and do not make out for themselves any clear definition of what their feelings are or what they mean. We hear that a man has behaved badly to a girl, when the behaviour of which he has been guilty has resulted simply from want of thought. He has found a certain companionship to be agreeable to him, and he has accepted the pleasure without inquiry. Some vague idea has floated across his brain that the world is wrong in supposing that such friendship cannot exist without marriage or question of marriage. It is simply friendship. And yet were his friend to tell him that she intended to give herself in marriage elsewhere he would suffer all the pangs of jealousy, and would imagine himself to be horribly ill-treated. To have such a friend — a friend whom he cannot or will not make his wife — is no injury to him. To him it is simply a delight, an excitement in life, a thing to be known to himself only and not talked of to others, a source of pride and inward exultation. It is a joy to think of when he wakes, and a consolation in his little troubles. It dispels the weariness of life, and makes a green spot of holiday within his daily work. It is indeed death to her; but he does not know it. Frank Greystock did think that he could not marry Lucy Morris without making an imprudent plunge into deep water, and yet he felt that Lady Fawn was an ill-natured old woman for hinting to him that he had better not, for the present, continue his visits to Fawn Court. “Of course you understand me, Mr. Greystock,” she had said, meaning to be civil. “When Miss Morris has left us — should she ever leave us — I should be most happy to see you.” “What on earth would take me to Fawn Court if Lucy were not there?” he said to himself, not choosing to appreciate Lady Fawn’s civility.
Frank Greystock was at this time nearly thirty years old. He was a good-looking but not a strikingly handsome man, thin, of moderate height, with sharp grey eyes; a face clean shorn, with the exception of a small whisker; with wiry, strong dark hair, which was already beginning to show a tinge of grey — the very opposite in appearance to his late friend, Sir Florian Eustace. He was quick, ready-witted, self-reliant, and not overscrupulous in the outward things of the world. He was desirous of doing his duty to others, but he was specially desirous that others should do their duty to him. He intended to get on in the world, and believed that happiness was to be achieved by success. He was certainly made for the profession which he had adopted. His father, looking to certain morsels of Church patronage which occasionally came in his way, and to the fact that he and the bishop were on most friendly terms, had wished his son to take orders. But Frank had known himself and his own qualities too well to follow his father’s advice. He had chosen to be a barrister, and now at thirty was in Parliament.
He had been asked to stand for Bobsborough in the Conservative interest, and as a Conservative he had been returned. Those who invited him knew probably but little of his own political beliefs or feelings — did not, probably, know that he had any. His father was a fine old Tory of the ancient school, who thought things were going from bad to worse, but was able to live happily in spite of his anticipations. The dean was one of those Old-World politicians — we meet them every day, and they are generally very pleasant people — who enjoy the politics of the side to which they belong without any special belief in them. If pressed hard, they will almost own that their so-called convictions are prejudices. But not for worlds would they be rid of them. When two or three of them meet together, they are as free-masons, who are bound by a pleasant bond which separates them from the outer world. They feel among themselves that everything that is being done is bad, even though that everything is done by their own party. It was bad to interfere with Charles, bad to endure Cromwell, bad to banish James, bad to put up with William. The House of Hanover was bad. All interference with prerogative has been bad. The Reform bill was very bad. Encroachment on the estates of the bishops was bad. Emancipation of Roman Catholics was the worst of all. Abolition of corn-laws, church-rates, and oaths and tests were all bad. The meddling with the Universities has been grievous. The treatment of the Irish Church has been Satanic. The overhauling of schools is most injurious to English education. Education bills and Irish land bills were all bad. Every step taken has been bad. And yet to them old England is of all countries in the world the best to live in, and is not at all the less comfortable because of the changes that have been made. These people are ready to grumble at every boon conferred on them, and yet to enjoy every boon. They know, too, their privileges, and, after a fashion, understand their position. It is picturesque, and it pleases them. To have been always in the right and yet always on the losing side; always being ruined, always under persecution from a wild spirit of republican-demagogism, and yet never to lose anything, not even position or public esteem, is pleasant enough. A huge, living, daily increasing grievance that does one no palpable harm is the happiest possession that a man can have. There is a large body of such men in England, and, personally, they are the very salt of the nation. He who said that all Conservatives are stupid did not know them. Stupid Conservatives there may be — and there certainly are very stupid Radicals. The well-educated, widely-read Conservative, who is well assured that all good things are gradually being brought to an end by the voice of the people, is generally the pleasantest man to be met. But he is a Buddhist, possessing a religious creed which is altogether dark and mysterious to the outer world. Those who watch the ways of the advanced Buddhist hardly know whether the man does believe himself in his hidden god, but men perceive that he is respectable, self-satisfied, and a man of note. It is of course from the society of such that Conservative candidates are to be sought; but, alas, it is hard to indoctrinate young minds with the old belief since new theories of life have become so rife!
Nevertheless Frank Greystock, when he was invited to stand for Bobsborough in the Conservative interest, had not for a moment allowed any political heterodoxy on his own part to stand in the way of his advancement. It may, perhaps, be the case that a barrister is less likely to be influenced by personal convictions in taking his side in politics than any other man who devotes himself to public affairs. No slur on the profession is intended by this suggestion. A busy, clever, useful man, who has been at work all his life, finds that his own progress towards success demands from him that he shall become a politician. The highest work of a lawyer can be reached only through political struggle. As a large-minded man of the world, peculiarly conversant with the fact that every question has two sides, and that as much may often be said on one side as on the other, he has probably not become violent in his feelings as a political partisan. Thus he sees that there is an opening here or an opening there, and the offence in either case is not great to him. With Frank Greystock the matter was very easy. There certainly was no apostasy. He had now and again attacked his father’s ultra Toryism, and rebuked his mother and sisters when they spoke of Gladstone as Apollyon, and called John Bright the Abomination of Desolation. But it was easy for him to fancy himself a Conservative, and as such he took his seat in the House without any feeling of discomfort.
During the first four months of his first session he had not spoken, but he had made himself useful. He had sat on one or two committees, though as a barrister he might have excused himself, and had done his best to learn the forms of the House. But he had already begun to find that the time which he devoted to Parliament was much wanted for his profession. Money was very necessary to him. Then a new idea was presented to him.
John Eustace and Greystock were very intimate, as also had been Sir Florian and Greystock. “I tell you what I wish you’d do, Greystock,” Eustace said to him one day, as they were standing idle together in the lobby of the House. For John Eustace was also in Parliament.
“Anything to oblige you, my friend.”
“It’s only a trifle,” said Eustace. “Just to marry your cousin, my brother’s widow.”
“By Jove, I wish I had the chance!”
“I don’t see why you shouldn’t. She is sure to marry somebody, and at her age so she ought. She’s not twenty-three yet. We could trust you — with the child and all the rest of it. As it is, she is giving us a deal of trouble.”
“But, my dear fellow —”
“I know she’s fond of you. You were dining there last Sunday.”
“And so was Fawn. Lord Fawn is the man to marry Lizzie. You see if he doesn’t. He was uncommonly sweet on her the other night, and really interested her about the Sawab.”
“She’ll never be Lady Fawn,” said John Eustace. “And to tell the truth, I shouldn’t care to have to deal with Lord Fawn. He would be infinitely troublesome; and I can hardly wash my hands of her affairs. She’s worth nearly £5,000 a year as long as she lives, and I really don’t think that she’s much amiss.”
“Much amiss! I don’t know whether she’s not the prettiest woman I ever saw,” said Greystock.
“Yes; but I mean in conduct, and all that. She is making herself queer; and Camperdown, our lawyer, means to jump upon her; but it’s only because she doesn’t know what she ought to be at, and what she ought not. You could tell her.”
“It wouldn’t suit me at all to have to quarrel with Camperdown,” said the barrister, laughing.
“You and he would settle everything in five minutes, and it would save me a world of trouble,” said Eustace.
“Fawn is your man; take my word for it,” said Greystock, as he walked back into the House.
Dramatists, when they write their plays, have a delightful privilege of prefixing a list of their personages; and the dramatists of old used to tell us who was in love with whom, and what were the blood relationships of all the persons. In such a narrative as this, any proceeding of that kind would be unusual, and therefore the poor narrator has been driven to expend his four first chapters in the mere task of introducing his characters. He regrets the length of these introductions, and will now begin at once the action of his story.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01