Lucy Morris went to Lady Linlithgow early in October, and was still with Lady Linlithgow when Lizzie Eustace returned to London in January. During these three months she certainly had not been happy. In the first place, she had not once seen her lover. This had aroused no anger or suspicion in her bosom against him, because the old countess had told her that she would have no lover come to the house, and that, above all, she would not allow a young man with whom she herself was connected to come in that guise to her companion. “From all I hear,” said Lady Linlithgow, “it’s not at all likely to be a match; and at any rate it can’t go on here.” Lucy thought that she would be doing no more than standing up properly for her lover by asserting her conviction that it would be a match; and she did assert it bravely; but she made no petition for his presence, and bore that trouble bravely. In the next place, Frank was not a satisfactory correspondent. He did write to her occasionally; and he wrote also to the old countess immediately on his return to town from Bobsborough a letter which was intended as an answer to that which she had written to Mrs. Greystock. What was said in that letter Lucy never knew; but she did know that Frank’s few letters to herself were not full and hearty — were not such thorough-going love-letters as lovers write to each other when they feel unlimited satisfaction in the work. She excused him, telling herself that he was overworked, that with his double trade of legislator and lawyer he could hardly be expected to write letters, that men, in respect of letter-writing, are not as women are, and the like; but still there grew at her heart a little weed of care, which from week to week spread its noxious, heavy-scented leaves, and robbed her of her joyousness. To be loved by her lover, and to feel that she was his, to have a lover of her own to whom she could thoroughly devote herself, to be conscious that she was one of those happy women in the world who find a mate worthy of worship as well as love — this to her was so great a joy that even the sadness of her present position could not utterly depress her. From day to day she assured herself that she did not doubt and would not doubt-that there was no cause for doubt; that she would herself be base were she to admit any shadow of suspicion. But yet his absence, and the shortness of those little notes, which came perhaps once a fortnight, did tell upon her in opposition to her own convictions. Each note as it came was answered — instantly; but she would not write except when the notes came. She would not seem to reproach him by writing oftener than he wrote. When he had given her so much, and she had nothing but her confidence to give in return, would she stint him in that? There can be no love, she said, without confidence, and it was the pride of her heart to love him.
The circumstances of her present life were desperately weary to her. She could hardly understand why it was that Lady Linlithgow should desire her presence. She was required to do nothing. She had no duties to perform, and, as it seemed to her, was of no use to any one. The countess would not even allow her to be of ordinary service in the house. Lady Linlithgow, as she had said of herself, poked her own fires, carved her own meat, lit her own candles, opened and shut the doors for herself, wrote her own letters, and did not even like to have books read to her. She simply chose to have some one sitting with her to whom she could speak and make little cross-grained, sarcastic, and ill-natured remarks. There was no company at the house in Brook Street, and when the countess herself went out, she went out alone. Even when she had a cab to go shopping, or to make calls, she rarely asked Lucy to go with her; and was benevolent chiefly in this — that if Lucy chose to walk round the square or as far as the park, her ladyship’s maid was allowed to accompany her for protection. Poor Lucy often told herself that such a life would be unbearable, were it not for the supreme satisfaction she had in remembering her lover. And then the arrangement had been made only for six months. She did not feel quite assured of her fate at the end of those six months, but she believed that there would come to her a residence in a sort of outer garden to that sweet Elysium in which she was to pass her life. The Elysium would be Frank’s house; and the outer garden was the deanery at Bobsborough.
Twice during the three months Lady Fawn, with two of the girls, came to call upon her. On the first occasion she was unluckily out, taking advantage of the protection of her ladyship’s maid in getting a little air. Lady Linlithgow had also been away, and Lady Fawn had seen no one. Afterwards, both Lucy and her ladyship were found at home, and Lady Fawn was full of graciousness and affection. “I dare say you’ve got something to say to each other,” said Lady Linlithgow, “and I’ll go away.”
“Pray don’t let us disturb you,” said Lady Fawn.
“You’d only abuse me if I didn’t,” said Lady Linlithgow.
As soon as she was gone Lucy rushed into her friend’s arms. “It is so nice to see you again!”
“Yes, my dear, isn’t it? I did come before, you know.”
“You have been so good to me! To see you again is like the violets and primroses.” She was crouching close to Lady Fawn, with her hand in that of her friend Lydia. “I haven’t a word to say against Lady Linlithgow, but it is like winter here, after dear Richmond.”
“Well, we think we’re prettier at Richmond,” said Lady Fawn.
“There were such hundreds of things to do there,” said Lucy. “After all, what a comfort it is to have things to do.”
“Why did you come away?” said Lydia.
“Oh, I was obliged. You mustn’t scold me now that you have come to see me.”
There were a hundred things to be said about Fawn Court and the children, and a hundred more things about Lady Linlithgow and Bruton Street. Then, at last, Lady Fawn asked the one important question. “And now, my dear, what about Mr. Greystock?”
“Oh, I don’t know; nothing particular, Lady Fawn. It’s just as it was, and I am — quite satisfied.”
“You see him sometimes?”
“No, never. I have not seen him since the last time he came down to Richmond. Lady Linlithgow doesn’t allow — followers.” There was a pleasant little spark of laughter in Lucy’s eye as she said this, which would have told to any bystander the whole story of the affection which existed between her and Lady Fawn.
“That’s very ill-natured,” said Lydia.
“And he’s a sort of a cousin, too,” said Lady Fawn.
“That’s just the reason why,” said Lucy, explaining. “Of course Lady Linlithgow thinks that her sister’s nephew can do better than marry her companion. It’s a matter of course she should think so. What I am most afraid of is that the dean and Mrs. Greystock should think so too.”
No doubt the dean and Mrs. Greystock would think so. Lady Fawn was very sure of that. Lady Fawn was one of the best women breathing, unselfish, motherly, affectionate, appreciative, and never happy unless she was doing good to somebody. It was her nature to be soft, and kind, and beneficent. But she knew very well that if she had had a son, a second son, situated as was Frank Greystock, she would not wish him to marry a girl without a penny, who was forced to earn her bread by being a governess. The sacrifice on Mr. Greystock’s part would, in her estimation, be so great, that she did not believe that it would be made. Womanlike, she regarded the man as being so much more important than the woman that she could not think that Frank Greystock would devote himself simply to such a one as Lucy Morris. Had Lady Fawn been asked which was the better creature of the two, her late governess or the rising barrister who had declared himself to be that governess’s lover, she would have said that no man could be better than Lucy. She knew Lucy’s worth and goodness so well that she was ready herself to do any act of friendship on behalf of one so sweet and excellent. For herself and her girls Lucy was a companion and friend in every way satisfactory. But was it probable that a man of the world, such as was Frank Greystock, a rising man, a member of Parliament, one who, as everybody knew, was especially in want of money — was it probable that such a man as this would make her his wife just because she was good, and worthy, and sweet-natured? No doubt the man had said that he would do so, and Lady Fawn’s fears betrayed on her ladyship’s part a very bad opinion of men in general. It may seem to be a paradox to assert that such bad opinion sprang from the high idea which she entertained of the importance of men in general; but it was so. She had but one son, and of all her children he was the least worthy; but he was more important to her than all her daughters. Between her own girls and Lucy she hardly made any difference; but when her son had chosen to quarrel with Lucy, it had been necessary to send Lucy to eat her meals up-stairs. She could not believe that Mr. Greystock should think so much of such a little girl as to marry her. Mr. Greystock would no doubt behave very badly in not doing so; but then men do so often behave very badly! And at the bottom of her heart she almost thought that they might be excused for doing so. According to her view of things, a man out in the world had so many things to think of, and was so very important, that he could hardly be expected to act at all times with truth and sincerity.
Lucy had suggested that the dean and Mrs. Greystock would dislike the marriage, and upon that hint Lady Fawn spoke. “Nothing is settled, I suppose, as to where you are to go when the six months are over?”
“Nothing as yet, Lady Fawn.”
“They haven’t asked you to go to Bobsborough?”
Lucy would have given the world not to blush as she answered, but she did blush. “Nothing is fixed, Lady Fawn.”
“Something should be fixed, Lucy. It should be settled by this time, shouldn’t it, dear? What will you do without a home, if at the end of the six months Lady Linlithgow should say that she doesn’t want you any more?”
Lucy certainly did not look forward to a condition in which Lady Linlithgow should be the arbitress of her destiny. The idea of staying with the countess was almost as bad to her as that of finding herself altogether homeless. She was still blushing, feeling herself to be hot and embarrassed. But Lady Fawn sat waiting for an answer. To Lucy there was only one answer possible. “I will ask Mr. Greystock what I am to do.” Lady Fawn shook her head. “You don’t believe in Mr. Greystock, Lady Fawn; but I do.”
“My darling girl,” said her ladyship, making the special speech for the sake of making which she had travelled up from Richmond, “it is not exactly a question of belief, but one of common prudence. No girl should allow herself to depend on a man before she is married to him. By doing so she will be apt to lose even his respect.”
“I didn’t mean for money,” said Lucy, hotter than ever, with her eyes full of tears.
“She should not be in any respect at his disposal till he has bound himself to her at the altar. You may believe me, Lucy, when I tell you so. It is only because I love you so that I say so.”
“I know that, Lady Fawn.”
“When your time here is over, just put up your things and come back to Richmond. You need fear nothing with us. Frederic quite liked your way of parting with him at last, and all that little affair is forgotten. At Fawn Court you’ll be safe; and you shall be happy, too, if we can make you happy. It’s the proper place for you.”
“Of course you’ll come,” said Diana Fawn.
“You’ll be the worst little thing in the world if you don’t,” said Lydia. “We don’t know what to do without you. Do we, mamma?”
“Lucy will please us all by coming back to her old home,” said Lady Fawn. The tears were now streaming down Lucy’s face, so that she was hardly able to say a word in answer to all this kindness. And she did not know what word to say. Were she to accept the offer made to her, and acknowledge that she could do nothing better than creep back under her old friend’s wing, would she not thereby be showing that she doubted her lover? But she could not go to the dean’s house unless the dean and his wife were pleased to take her; and, suspecting as she did that they would not be pleased, would it become her to throw upon her lover the burden of finding for her a home with people who did not want her? Had she been welcome at Bobsborough, Mrs. Greystock would surely have so told her before this. “You needn’t say a word, my dear,” said Lady Fawn. “You’ll come, and there’s an end of it.”
“But you don’t want me any more,” said Lucy from amid her sobs.
“That’s just all that you know about it,” said Lydia. “We do want you — more than anything.”
“I wonder whether I may come in now,” said Lady Linlithgow, entering the room. As it was the countess’s own drawing-room, as it was now mid-winter, and as the fire in the dining-room had been allowed, as was usual, to sink almost to two hot coals, the request was not unreasonable. Lady Fawn was profuse in her thanks, and immediately began to account for Lucy’s tears, pleading their dear friendship and their long absence, and poor Lucy’s emotional state of mind. Then she took her leave, and Lucy, as soon as she had been kissed by her friends outside the drawing-room door, took herself to her bedroom and finished her tears in the cold.
“Have you heard the news?” said Lady Linlithgow to her companion about a month after this. Lady Linlithgow had been out, and asked the question immediately on her return. Lucy, of course, had heard no news. “Lizzie Eustace has just come back to London, and has had all her jewels stolen on the road.”
“The diamonds?” asked Lucy with amaze.
“Yes, the Eustace diamonds! And they didn’t belong to her any more than they did to you. They’ve been taken any way, and from what I hear I shouldn’t be at all surprised if she had arranged the whole matter herself.”
“Arranged that they should be stolen?”
“Just that, my dear. It would be the very thing for Lizzie Eustace to do. She’s clever enough for anything.”
“But, Lady Linlithgow ——”
“I know all about that. Of course it would be very wicked, and if it were found out she’d be put in the dock and tried for her life. It is just what I expect she’ll come to some of these days. She has gone and got up a friendship with some disreputable people, and was travelling with them. There was a man who calls himself Lord George de Bruce Carruthers. I know him, and can remember when he was errand boy to a disreputable lawyer at Aberdeen.” This assertion was a falsehood on the part of the countess. Lord George had never been an errand boy, and the Aberdeen lawyer — as provincial Scotch lawyers go — had been by no means disreputable. “I’m told that the police think that he has got them.”
“How very dreadful!”
“Yes; it’s dreadful enough. At any rate, men got into Lizzie’s room at night and took away the iron box and diamonds, and all. It may be she was asleep at the time; but she’s one of those who pretty nearly always sleep with one eye open.”
“She can’t be so bad as that, Lady Linlithgow.”
“Perhaps not. We shall see. They had just begun a lawsuit about the diamonds, to get them back. And then all at once they’re stolen. It looks what the men call — fishy. I’m told that all the police in London are up about it.”
On the very next day who should come to Brook Street but Lizzie Eustace herself. She and her aunt had quarrelled, and they hated each other; but the old woman had called upon Lizzie, advising her, as the reader will perhaps remember, to give up the diamonds, and now Lizzie returned the visit. “So you’re here, installed in poor Macnulty’s place,” began Lizzie to her old friend, the countess at the moment being out of the room.
“I am staying with your aunt for a few months as her companion. Is it true, Lizzie, that all your diamonds have been stolen?” Lizzie gave an account of the robbery, true in every respect except in regard to the contents of the box. Poor Lizzie had been wronged in that matter by the countess, for the robbery had been quite genuine. The man had opened her room and taken her box, and she had slept through it all. And then the broken box had been found, and was in the hands of the police, and was evidence of the fact.
“People seem to think it possible,” said Lizzie, “that Mr. Camperdown the lawyer arranged it all.” As this suggestion was being made, Lady Linlithgow came in, and then Lizzie repeated the whole story of the robbery. Though the aunt and niece were open and declared enemies, the present circumstances were so peculiar and full of interest that conversation for a time almost amicable took place between them. “As the diamonds were so valuable, I thought it right, Aunt Susanna, to come and tell you myself.”
“It’s very good of you, but I’d heard it already. I was telling Miss Morris yesterday what very odd things there are being said about it.”
“Weren’t you very much frightened?” asked Lucy.
“You see, my child, I knew nothing about it till it was all over. The man cut the bit out of the door in the most beautiful way, without my ever hearing the least sound of the saw.”
“And you that sleep so light,” said the countess.
“They say that perhaps something was put into the wine at dinner to make me sleep.”
“Ah!” ejaculated the countess, who did not for a moment give up her own erroneous suspicion; “very likely.”
“And they do say these people can do things without making the slightest tittle of noise. At any rate the box was gone.”
“And the diamonds?” asked Lucy.
“Oh yes, of course. And now there is such a fuss about it! The police keep on coming to me almost every day.”
“And what do the police think?” asked Lady Linlithgow. “I am told that they have their suspicions.”
“No doubt they have their suspicions,” said Lizzie.
“You travelled up with friends, I suppose.”
“Oh yes, with Lord George de Bruce Carruthers; and with Mrs. Carbuncle, who is my particular friend, and with Lucinda Roanoke, who is just going to be married to Sir Griffin Tewett. We were quite a large party.”
“No. I left Miss Macnulty at Portray with my darling. They thought he had better remain a little longer in Scotland.”
“Ah, yes; perhaps Lord George de Bruce Carruthers does not care for babies. I can easily believe that. I wish Macnulty had been with you.”
“Why do you wish that?” said Lizzie, who already was beginning to feel that the countess intended, as usual, to make herself disagreeable.
“She’s a stupid, dull, pig-headed creature; but one can believe what she says.”
“And don’t you believe what I say?” demanded Lizzie.
“It’s all true, no doubt, that the diamonds are gone.”
“Indeed it is.”
“But I don’t know much about Lord George de Bruce Carruthers.”
“He’s the brother of a marquis, anyway,” said “Lizzie, who thought that she might thus best answer the mother of a Scotch earl.
“I remember when he was plain George Carruthers, running about the streets of Aberdeen, and it was well with him when his shoes weren’t broken at the toes and down at heel. He earned his bread then, such as it was. Nobody knows how he gets it now. Why does he call himself de Bruce, I wonder?”
“Because his godfathers and godmothers gave him that name when he was made a child of Christ, and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven,” said Lizzie, ever so pertly.
“I don’t believe a bit of it.”
“I wasn’t there to see, Aunt Susanna; and therefore I can’t swear to it. That’s his name in all the peerages, and I suppose they ought to know.”
“And what does Lord George de Bruce say about the diamonds?”
Now it had come to pass that Lady Eustace herself did not feel altogether sure that Lord George had not had a hand in this robbery. It would have been a trick worthy of a genuine Corsair, to arrange and carry out such a scheme for the appropriation of so rich a spoil. A watch or a brooch would, of course, be beneath the notice of a good genuine Corsair — of a Corsair who was written down in the peerage as a marquis’s brother; but diamonds worth ten thousand pounds are not to be had every day. A Corsair must live, and if not by plunder rich as that, how then? If Lord George had concocted this little scheme, he would naturally be ignorant of the true event of the robbery till he should meet the humble executors of his design, and would, as Lizzie thought, have remained’ unaware of the truth till his arrival in London. That he had been ignorant of the truth during the journey was evident to her. But they had now been three days in London, during which she had seen him once. At that interview he had been sullen and almost cross, and had said next to nothing about the robbery. He made but one remark about it. “I have told the chief man here,” he said, “that I shall be ready to give any evidence in my power when called upon. Till then I shall take no further steps in the matter. I have been asked questions that should not have been asked.” In saying this he had used a tone which prevented further conversation on the subject, but Lizzie, as she thought of it all, remembered his jocular remark, made in the railway carriage, as to the suspicion which had already been expressed on the matter in regard to himself. If he had been the perpetrator, and had then found that he had only stolen the box, how wonderful would be the mystery!
“He hasn’t got anything to say,” replied Lizzie to the question of the countess.
“And who is your Mrs. Carbuncle?” asked the old woman.
“A particular friend of mine with whom I am staying at present. You don’t go about a great deal, Aunt Linlithgow, but surely you must have met Mrs. Carbuncle.”
“I’m an ignorant old woman, no doubt. My dear, I’m not at all surprised at your losing your diamonds. The pity is that they weren’t your own.”
“They were my own.”
“The loss will fall on you, no doubt, because the Eustace people will make you pay for them. You’ll have to give up half your jointure for your life. That’s what it will come to. To think of your travelling about with those things in a box!”
“They were my own, and I had a right to do what I liked with them. Nobody accuses you of taking them.”
“That’s quite true. Nobody will accuse me. I suppose Lord George has left England for the benefit of his health. It would not at all surprise me if I were to hear that Mrs. Carbuncle had followed him; not in the least.”
“You’re just like yourself, Aunt Susanna,” said Lizzie, getting up and taking her leave. “Good-by, Lucy. I hope you’re happy and comfortable here. Do you ever see a certain friend of ours now?”
“If you mean Mr. Greystock, I haven’t seen him since I left Fawn Court,” said Lucy, with dignity.
When Lizzie was gone Lady Linlithgow spoke her mind freely about her niece. “Lizzie Eustace won’t come to any good. When I heard that she was engaged to that prig, Lord Fawn, I had some hopes that she might be kept out of harm. That’s all over, of course. When he heard about the necklace he wasn’t going to put his neck into that scrape. But now she’s getting among such a set that nothing can save her. She has taken to hunting, and rides about the country like a madwoman.”
“A great many ladies hunt,” said Lucy.
“And she’s got hold of this Lord George, and of that horrid American woman that nobody knows anything about. They’ve got the diamonds between them, I don’t doubt. I’ll bet you sixpence that the police find out all about it, and that there is some terrible scandal. The diamonds were no more hers than they were mine, and she’ll be made to pay for them.”
The necklace, then meanwhile, was still locked up in Lizzie’s desk — with a patent Bramah key — in Mrs. Carbuncle’s house, and was a terrible trouble to our unhappy friend.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14