Lizzie, when she was left alone, was very angry with the Corsair — in truth more sincerely angry that she had ever been with any of her lovers, or perhaps with any human being. Sincere, true, burning wrath was not the fault to which she was most exposed. She could snap and snarl and hate, and say severe things. She could quarrel, and fight, and be malicious. But to be full of real wrath was uncommon with her. Now she was angry. She had been civil, more than civil, to Lord George. She had opened her house to him and her heart. She had told him her great secret. She had implored his protection. She had thrown herself into his arms. And now he had rejected her. That he should have been rough to her was only in accordance with the poetical attributes which she had attributed to him. But his roughness should have been streaked with tenderness. He should not have left her roughly. In the whole interview he had not said a loving word to her. He had given her advice — which might be good or bad — but he had given it as to one whom he despised. He had spoken to her throughout the interview exactly as he might have spoken to Sir Griffin Tewett. She could not analyse her feelings thoroughly, but she felt that because of what had passed between them, by reason of his knowledge of her secret, he had robbed her of all that observance which was due to her as a woman and a lady. She had been roughly used before, by people of inferior rank who had seen through her ways. Andrew Gowran had insulted her. Patience Crabstick had argued with her. Benjamin, the employer of thieves, had been familiar with her. But hitherto, in what she was pleased to call her own set, she had always been treated with that courtesy which ladies seldom fail to receive. She understood it all. She knew how much of mere word-service there often is in such complimentary usage. But, nevertheless, it implies respect and an acknowledgment of the position of her who is so respected. Lord George had treated her as one schoolboy treats another.
And he had not spoken to her one word of love. Love will excuse roughness. Spoken love will palliate even spoken roughness. Had he once called her his own Lizzie, he might have scolded her as he pleased — might have abused her to the top of his bent. But as there had been nothing of the manner of a gentleman to a lady, so also had there been nothing of the lover to his mistress. That dream was over. Lord George was no longer a Corsair, but a brute.
But what should she do? Even a brute may speak truth. She was to have gone to a theatre that evening with Mrs. Carbuncle, but she stayed at home thinking over her position. She heard nothing throughout the day from the police; and she made up her mind that, unless she were stopped by the police, she would go to Scotland on the day but one following. She thought that she was sure that she would do so; but of course she must be guided by events as they occurred. She wrote, however, to Miss Macnulty saying that she would come, and she told Mrs. Carbuncle of her proposed journey as that lady was leaving the house for the theatre. On the following morning, however, news came which again made her journey doubtful. There was another paragraph in the newspaper about the robbery, acknowledging the former paragraph to have been in some respect erroneous. “The accomplished housebreaker” had not been arrested. A confederate of the “accomplished housebreaker” was in the hands of the police, and the police were on the track of the “accomplished housebreaker” himself. Then there was a line or two alluding in a very mysterious way to the disappearance of a certain jeweller. Taking it altogether, Lizzie thought that there was ground for hope, and that at any rate there would be delay. She would perhaps put off going to Scotland for yet a day or two. Was it not necessary that she should wait for Lord Fawn’s answer; and would it not be incumbent on her cousin Frank to send her some account of himself after the abrupt manner in which he had left her?
If in real truth she should be driven to tell her story to any one, and she began to think that she was so driven, she would tell it to him. She believed more in his regard for her than that of any other human being. She thought that he would in truth have been devoted to her, had he not become entangled with that wretched little governess. And she thought that if he could see his way out of that scrape, he would marry her even yet; would marry her, and be good to her, so that her dream of a poetical phase of life should not be altogether dissolved. After all, the diamonds were her own. She had not stolen them. When perplexed in the extreme by magistrates and policemen, with nobody near her whom she trusted to give her advice — for Lizzie now of course declared to herself that she had never for a moment trusted the Corsair — she had fallen into an error, and said what was not true. As she practised it before the glass, she thought that she could tell her story in a becoming manner, with becoming tears, to Frank Greystock. And were it not for Lucy Morris, she thought that he would take her with all her faults and all her burdens.
As for Lord Fawn, she knew well enough that, let him write what he would, and renew his engagement in what most formal manner might be possible, he would be off again when he learned the facts as to that night at Carlisle. She had brought him to succumb, because he could no longer justify his treatment of her by reference to the diamonds. But when once all the world should know that she had twice perjured herself, his justification would be complete and his escape would be certain. She would use his letter simply to achieve that revenge which she had promised herself. Her effort — her last final effort — must be made to secure the hand and heart of her cousin Frank. “Ah, ’tis his heart I want,” she said to herself.
She must settle something before she went to Scotland, if there was anything that could be settled. If she could only get a promise from Frank before all her treachery had been exposed, he probably would remain true to his promise. He would not desert her as Lord Fawn had done. Then, after much thinking of it, she resolved upon a scheme which, of all her schemes, was the wickedest. Whatever it might cost her, she would create a separation between Frank Greystock and Lucy Morris. Having determined upon this, she wrote to Lucy, asking her to call in Hertford Street at a certain hour.
“DEAR LUCY: I particularly want to see you, on business. Pray come to me at twelve tomorrow. I will send the carriage for you, and it will take you back again. Pray do this. We used to love one another, and I am sure I love you still. “Your affectionate old friend,
As a matter of course, Lucy went to her. Lizzie, before the interview, studied the part she was to play with all possible care, even to the words which she was to use. The greeting was at first kindly, for Lucy had almost forgotten the bribe that had been offered to her, and had quite forgiven it. Lizzie Eustace never could be dear to her; but, so Lucy had thought during her happiness, this former friend of hers was the cousin of the man who was to be her husband, and was dear to him. Of course she had forgiven the offence. “And now, dear, I want to ask you a question,” Lizzie said; “or rather, perhaps not a question. I can do it better than that. I think that my cousin Frank once talked of — of making you his wife.” Lucy answered not a word, but she trembled in every limb, and the colour came to her face. “Was it not so, dear?”
“What if it was? I don’t know why you should ask me any question like that about myself.”
“Is he not my cousin?”
“Yes, he is your cousin. Why don’t you ask him? You see him every day, I suppose?”
“Nearly every day.”
“Why do you send for me, then?”
“It is so hard to tell you, Lucy. I have sent to you in good faith, and in love. I could have gone to you, only for the old vulture, who would not have let us had a word in peace. I do see him, constantly. And I love him dearly.”
“That is nothing to me,” said Lucy. Anybody hearing them, and not knowing them, would have said that Lucy’s manner was harsh in the extreme.
“He has told me everything.” Lizzie, when she said this, paused, looking at her victim. “He has told me things which he could not mention to you. It was only yesterday — the day before yesterday — that he was speaking to me of his debts. I offered to place all that I have at his disposal, so as to free him, but he would not take my money.”
“Of course he would not.”
“Not my money alone. Then he told me that he was engaged to you. He had never told me before, but yet I knew it. It all came out then. Lucy, though he is engaged to you, it is me that he loves.”
“I don’t believe it,” said Lucy.
“You can’t make me angry, Lucy, because my heart bleeds for you.”
“Nonsense! trash! I don’t want your heart to bleed. I don’t believe you’ve got a heart. You’ve got money; I know that.”
“And he has got none. If I did not love him, why should I wish to give him all that I have? Is not that disinterested?”
“No. You are always thinking of yourself. You couldn’t be disinterested.”
“And of whom are you thinking? Are you doing the best for him — a man in his position, without money, ambitious, sure to succeed, if want of money does not stop him — in wishing him to marry a girl with nothing? Cannot I do more for him than you can?”
“I could work for him on my knees, I love him so truly.”
“Would that do him any service? He cannot marry you. Does he ever see you? Does he write to you as though you were to be his wife? Do you not know that it is all over? — that it must be over? It is impossible that he should marry you. But if you will give him back his word, he shall be my husband, and shall have all that I possess. Now, let us see who loves him best.”
“I do,” said Lucy.
“How will you show it?”
“There is no need that I should show it. He knows it. The only one in the world to whom I wish it to be known, knows it already well enough. Did you send to me for this?”
“Yes — for this.”
“It is for him to tell me the tidings — not for you. You are nothing to me — nothing. And what you say to me now is all for yourself — not for him. But it is true that he does not see me. It is true that he does not write to me. You may tell him from me — for I cannot write to him myself — that he may do whatever is best for him. But if you tell him that I do not love him better than all the world, you will lie to him. And if you say that he loves you better than he does me, that also will be a lie. I know his heart.”
“But, Lucy —”
“I will hear no more. He can do as he pleases. If money be more to him than love and honesty, let him marry you. I shall never trouble him; he may be sure of that. As for you, Lizzie, I hope that we may never meet again.”
She would not get into the Eustace-Carbuncle carriage, which was waiting for her at the door, but walked back to Bruton Street. She did not doubt but that it was all over with her now. That Lizzie Eustace was an inveterate liar, she knew well; but she did believe that the liar had on this occasion been speaking truth. Lady Fawn was not a liar, and Lady Fawn had told her the same. And, had she wanted more evidence, did not her lover’s conduct give it? “It is because I am poor,” she said to herself — “for I know well that he loves me.”
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01