Frank Greystock stayed till the following Monday at Portray, but could not be induced to hunt on the Saturday, on which day the other sporting men and women went to the meet. He could not, he said, trust to that traitor MacFarlane, and he feared that his friend Mr. Nappie would not give him another mount on the grey horse. Lizzie offered him one of her two darlings, an offer which he, of course, refused; and Lord George also proposed to put him up. But Frank averred that he had ridden his hunt for that season, and would not jeopardise the laurels he had gained. “And moreover,” said he, “I should not dare to meet Mr. Nappie in the field.” So he remained at the castle and took a walk with Mr. Mealyus. Mr. Mealyus asked a good many questions about Portray, and exhibited the warmest sympathy with Lizzie’s widowed condition. He called her a “sweet, gay, unsophisticated, light-hearted young thing.”
“She is very young,” replied her cousin. “Yes,” he continued, in answer to further questions; “Portray is certainly very nice. I don’t know what the income is. Well, yes. I should think it is over a thousand. Eight! No, I never heard it said that it was as much as that.” When Mr. Mealyus put it down in his mind as five, he was not void of acuteness, as very little information had been given to him.
There was a joke throughout the castle that Mr. Mealyus had fallen in love with Miss Macnulty. They had been a great deal together on those hunting days; and Miss Macnulty was unusually enthusiastic in praise of his manner and conversation. To her, also, had been addressed questions as to Portray and its income, all of which she had answered to the best of her ability; not intending to betray any secret, for she had no secret to betray; but giving ordinary information on that commonest of all subjects, our friends’ incomes. Then there had risen a question whether there was a vacancy for such promotion to Miss Macnulty. Mrs. Carbuncle had certainly heard that there was a Mrs. Emilius. Lucinda was sure that there was not, an assurance which might have been derived from a certain eagerness in the reverend gentleman’s demeanour to herself on a former occasion. To Lizzie, who at present was very good-natured, the idea of Miss Macnulty having a lover, whether he were a married man or not, was very delightful. “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean,” said Miss Macnulty. “I don’t suppose Mr. Emilius had any idea of the kind.” Upon the whole, however, Miss Macnulty liked it.
On the Saturday nothing especial happened. Mr. Nappie was out on his gray horse, and condescended to a little conversation with Lord George. He wouldn’t have minded, he said, if Mr. Greystock had come forward; but he did think Mr. Greystock hadn’t come forward as he ought to have done. Lord George professed that he had observed the same thing; but then, as he whispered into Mr. Nappie’s ear, Mr. Greystock was particularly known as a bashful man. “He didn’t ride my ‘orse anyway bashful,” said Mr. Nappie — all of which was told at dinner in the evening amidst a great deal of laughter. There had been nothing special in the way of sport, and Lizzie’s enthusiasm for hunting, though still high, had gone down a few degrees below fever heat. Lord George had again coached her; but there had been no great need for coaching, no losing of her breath, no cutting down of Lucinda, no river, no big wall — nothing, in short, very fast. They had been much in a big wood; but ‘Lizzie, in giving an account of the day to her cousin, had acknowledged that she had not quite understood what they were doing at any time.
“It was a-blowing of horns and a-galloping up and down all the day,” she said; “and then Morgan got cross again and scolded all the people. But there was one nice paling, and Dandy flew over it beautifully. Two men tumbled down, and one of them was a good deal hurt. It was very jolly — but not at all like Wednesday.”
Nor had it been like Wednesday to Lucinda Roanoke, who did not fall into the water, and who did accept Sir Griffin when he again proposed to her in Sarkie Wood. A great deal had been said to Lucinda on the Thursday and the Friday by Mrs. Carbuncle — which had not been taken at all in good part by Lucinda. On those days Lucinda kept as much as she could out of Sir Griffin’s way, and almost snapped at the baronet when he spoke to her. Sir Griffin swore to himself that he wasn’t going to be treated that way. He’d have her, by George! There are men in whose love a good deal of hatred is mixed — who love as the huntsman loves the fox, towards the killing of which he intends to use all his energies and intellects. Mrs. Carbuncle, who did not quite understand the sort of persistency by which a Sir Griffin can be possessed, feared greatly that Lucinda was about to lose her prize, and spoke out accordingly.
“Will you, then, just have the kindness to tell me what it is you propose to yourself?” asked Mrs. Carbuncle.
“I don’t propose anything.”
“And where will you go when your money’s done?”
“Just where I am going now,” said Lucinda. By which it may be feared that she indicated a place to which she should not on such an occasion have made an allusion.
“You don’t like anybody else?” suggested Mrs. Carbuncle.
“I don’t like anybody or anything,” said Lucinda.
“Yes, you do — you like horses to ride, and dresses to wear.”
“No, I don’t. I like hunting because, perhaps, some day I may break my neck. It’s no use your looking like that, Aunt Jane. I know what it all means. If I could break my neck it would be the best thing for me.”
“You’ll break my heart, Lucinda.”
“Mine’s broken long ago.”
“If you’ll accept Sir Griffin, and just get a home round yourself, you’ll find that everything will be happy. It all comes from the dreadful uncertainty. Do you think I have suffered nothing? Carbuncle is always threatening that he’ll go back to New York; and as for Lord George, he treats me that way I’m sometimes afraid to show my face.”
“Why should you care for Lord George?”
“It’s all very well to say, why should I care for him. I don’t care for him, only one doesn’t want to quarrel with one’s friends. Carbuncle says he owes him money.”
“I don’t believe it,” said Lucinda.
“And he says Carbuncle owes him money.”
“I do believe that,” said Lucinda.
“Between it all, I don’t know which way to be turning. And now, when there’s this great opening for you, you won’t know your own mind.”
“I know my mind well enough.”
“I tell you you’ll never have such another chance. Good looks isn’t everything. You’ve never a word to say to anybody; and when a man does come near you, you’re as savage and cross as a bear.”
“Go on, Aunt Jane.”
“What with your hatings and dislikings, one would suppose you didn’t think God Almighty made men at all.”
“He made some of ’em very bad,” said Lucinda. “As for some others, they’re only half made. What can Sir Griffin do, do you suppose?”
“He’s a gentleman.”
“Then if I were a man, I should wish not to be a gentleman; that’s all. I’d a deal sooner marry a man like that huntsman, who has something to do and knows how to do it.” Again she said, “Don’t worry any more, Aunt Jane. It doesn’t do any good. It seems to me that to make myself Sir Griffin’s wife would be impossible; but I’m sure your talking won’t do it.” Then her aunt left her, and, having met Lord George, at his bidding went and made civil speeches to Lizzie Eustace.
That was on the Friday afternoon. On the Saturday afternoon Sir Griffin, biding his time, found himself, in a ride with Lucinda, sufficiently far from other horsemen for his purpose. He wasn’t going to stand any more nonsense. He was entitled to an answer, and he knew that he was entitled, by his rank and position, to a favourable answer. Here was a girl who, as far as he knew, was without a shilling, of whose birth and parentage nobody knew anything, who had nothing but her beauty to recommend her — nothing but that and a certain capacity for carrying herself in the world as he thought ladies should carry themselves; and she was to give herself airs with him, and expect him to propose to her half a dozen times! By George! he had a very good mind to go away and let her find out her mistake. And he would have done so — only that he was a man who always liked to have all that he wanted. It was intolerable to him that anybody should refuse him anything. “Miss Roanoke,” he said; and then he paused.
“Sir Griffin,” said Lucinda, bowing her head.
“Perhaps you will condescend to remember what I had the honour of saying to you as we rode into Kilmarnock last Wednesday.”
“I had just been dragged out of a river, Sir Griffin, and I don’t think any girl ought to be asked to remember what was said to her in that condition.”
“If I say it again now, will you remember?”
“I cannot promise, Sir Griffin.”
“Will you give me an answer?”
“That must depend.”
“Come, I will have an answer. When a man tells a lady that he admires her, and asks her to be his wife, he has a right to an answer. Don’t you think that in such circumstances a man has a right to expect an answer?”
Lucinda hesitated for a moment, and he was beginning again to remonstrate impatiently, when she altered her tone, and replied to him seriously: “In such circumstances a gentleman has a right to expect an answer.”
“Then give me one. I admire you above all the world, and I ask you to be my wife. I’m quite in earnest.”
“I know that you are in earnest, Sir Griffin. I would do neither you nor myself the wrong of supposing that it could be otherwise.”
“Very well then. Will you accept the offer that I make you?”
Again she paused. “You have a right to an answer, of course; but it may be so difficult to give it. It seems to me that you have hardly realised how serious a question it is.”
“Haven’t I though? By George, it is serious.”
“Will it not be better for you to think it over again?”
He now hesitated for a moment. Perhaps it might be better. Should she take him at his word there would be no going back from it. But Lord George knew that he had proposed before. Lord George had learned this from Mrs. Carbuncle, and had shown that he knew it. And then, too, he had made up his mind about it. He wanted her, and he meant to have her. “It requires no more thinking with me, Lucinda. I’m not a man who does things without thinking; and when I have thought I don’t want to think again. There’s my hand — will you have it?”
“I will,” said Lucinda, putting her hand into his. He no sooner felt her assurance than his mind misgave him that he had been precipitate, that he had been rash, and that she had taken advantage of him. After all, how many things are there in the world more precious than a handsome girl. And she had never told him that she loved him.
“I suppose you love me?” he asked.
“H’sh; here they all are.” The hand was withdrawn, but not before both Mrs. Carbuncle and Lady Eustace had seen it.
Mrs. Carbuncle, in her great anxiety, bided her time, keeping close to her niece. Perhaps she felt that if the two were engaged, it might be well to keep the lovers separated for a while, lest they should quarrel before the engagement should have been so confirmed by the authority of friends as to be beyond the power of easy annihilation. Lucinda rode quite demurely with the crowd. Sir Griffin remained near her, but without speaking. Lizzie whispered to Lord George that there had been a proposal. Mrs. Carbuncle sat in stately dignity on her horse, as though there was nothing which at that moment especially engaged her attention. An hour almost had passed before she was able to ask the important question, “Well — what have you said to him?”
“Oh; just what you would have me.”
“You have accepted him?”
“I suppose I was obliged. At any rate I did. You shall know one thing, Aunt Jane, at any rate, and I hope it will make you comfortable. I hate a good many people; but of all the people in the world I hate Sir Griffin Tewett the worst.”
“It shall be nonsense, if you please; but it’s true. I shall have to lie to him, but there shall be no lying to you, however much you may wish it. I hate him!”
This was very grim, but Mrs Carbuncle quite understood that to persons situated in great difficulty things might be grim. A certain amount of grimness must be endured. And she knew, too, that Lucinda was not a girl to be driven without showing something of an intractable spirit in harness. Mrs. Carbuncle had undertaken the driving of Lucinda, and had been not altogether unsuccessful. The thing so necessary to be done was now effected. Her niece was engaged to a man with a title, to a man reported to have a fortune, to a man of family, and a man of the world. Now that the engagement was made, the girl could not go back from it, and it was for Mrs. Carbuncle to see that neither should Sir Griffin go back. Her first steps must be taken at once. The engagement should be made known to all the party, and should be recognised by some word spoken between herself and the lover. The word between herself and the lover must be the first thing. She herself, personally, was not very fond of Sir Griffin; but on such an occasion as this she could smile and endure the bear. Sir Griffin was a bear — but so also was Lucinda. “The rabbits and hares All go in pairs; And likewise the bears In couples agree.” Mrs. Carbuncle consoled herself with the song, and assured herself that it would all come right. No doubt the she bears were not as civil to the he-bears as the turtle doves are to each other. It was perhaps her misfortune that her niece was not a turtle dove; but, such as she was, the best had been done for her.
“Dear Sir Griffin,” she said on the first available opportunity, not caring much for the crowd, and almost desirous that her very words should be overheard, “my darling girl has made me so happy by what she has told me.”
“She hasn’t lost any time,” said Sir Griffin.
“Of course she would lose no time. She is the same to me as a daughter. I have no child of my own, and she is everything to me. May I tell you that you are the luckiest man in Europe?”
“It isn’t every girl that would suit me, Mrs. Carbuncle.”
“I am sure of that. I have noticed how particular you are. I won’t say a word of Lucinda’s beauty; men are better judges of that than women; but for high chivalrous spirit, for true principle and nobility, and what I call downright worth, I don’t think you will easily find her superior. And she is as true as steel.”
“And about as hard, I was beginning to think.”
“A girl like that, Sir Griffin, does not give herself away easily. You will not like her the less for that now that you are the possessor. She is very young, and has known my wish that she should not engage herself to any one quite yet. But as it is, I cannot regret anything.”
“I dare say not,” said Sir Griffin.
That the man was a bear was a matter of course, and bears probably do not themselves know how bearish they are. Sir Griffin, no doubt, was unaware of the extent of his own rudeness. And his rudeness mattered but little to Mrs. Carbuncle, so long as he acknowledged the engagement. She had not expected a lover’s raptures from the one more than from the other. And was not there enough in the engagement to satisfy her? She allowed, therefore, no cloud to cross her brow as she rode up alongside of Lord George. “Sir Griffin has proposed, and she has accepted him,” she said in a whisper. She was not now desirous that any one should hear her but he to whom she spoke.
“Of course she has,” said Lord George.
“I don’t know about that, George. Sometimes I thought she would, and sometimes that she wouldn’t. You have never understood Lucinda.”
“I hope Griff will understand her, that’s all. And now that the thing is settled, you’ll not trouble me about it any more. Their woes be on their own head. If they come to blows Lucinda will thrash him, I don’t doubt. But while it’s simply a matter of temper and words, she won’t find Tewett so easygoing as he looks.”
“I believe they’ll do very well together.”
“Perhaps they will. There’s no saying who may do well together. You and Carbuncle get on au marvel. When is it to be?”
“Of course nothing is settled yet.”
“Don’t be too hard about settlements, or, maybe, he’ll find a way of wriggling out. When a girl without a shilling asks very much, the world supports a man for breaking his engagement. Let her pretend to be indifferent about it; that will be the way to keep him firm.”
“What is his income, George?”
“I haven’t an idea. There never was a closer man about money. I believe he must have the bulk of the Tewett property some day. He can’t spend above a couple of thousand now.”
“He’s not in debt, is he?”
“He owes me a little money — twelve hundred or so — and I mean to have it. I suppose he is in debt, but not much, I think. He makes stupid bets, and the devil won’t break him of it.”
“Lucinda has two or three thousand pounds, you know.”
“That’s a flea-bite. Let her keep it. You’re in for it now, and you’d better say nothing about money. He has a decent solicitor, and let him arrange about the settlements. And look here, Jane; get it done as soon as you can.”
“You’ll help me?”
“If you don’t bother me, I will.”
On their way home Mrs. Carbuncle was able to tell Lady Eustace. “You know what has occurred?”
“Oh, dear, yes,” said Lizzie laughing.
“Has Lucinda told you?”
“Do you think I’ve got no eyes? Of course it was going to be. I knew that from the very moment Sir Griffin reached Portray. I am so glad that Portray has been useful.”
“Oh, so useful, dear Lady Eustace! Not but what it must have come off anywhere, for there never was a man so much in love as Sir Griffin. The difficulty has been with Lucinda.”
“She likes him, I suppose?”
“Oh, yes, of course,” said Mrs. Carbuncle with energy.
“Not that girls ever really care about men now. They’ve got to be married, and they make the best of it. She’s very handsome, and I suppose he’s pretty well off.”
“He will be very rich indeed. And they say he’s such an excellent young man when you know him.”
“I dare say most young men are excellent when you come to know them. What does Lord George say?”
“He’s in raptures. He is very much attached to Lucinda, you know.” And so that affair was managed. They hadn’t been home a quarter of an hour before Frank Greystock was told. He asked Mrs. Carbuncle about the sport, and then she whispered to him, “An engagement has been made.”
“Sir Griffin?” suggested Frank. Mrs. Carbuncle smiled and nodded her head. It was well that everybody should know it.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14