Lizzie put off her journey to Scotland from day to day, though her cousin Frank continually urged upon her the expediency of going. There were various reasons, he said, why she should go. Her child was there, and it was proper that she should be with her child. She was living at present with people whose reputation did not stand high, and as to whom all manner of evil reports were flying about the town. It was generally thought — so said Frank — that that Lord George de Bruce Carruthers had assisted Mr. Benjamin in stealing the diamonds, and Frank himself did not hesitate to express his belief in the accusation.
“Oh no, that cannot be,” said Lizzie, trembling. But, though she rejected the supposition, she did not reject it very firmly. “And then, you know,” continued Lizzie, “I never see him. I have actually only set eyes on him once since the second robbery, and then just for a minute. Of course I used to know him — down at Portray — but now we are strangers.” Frank went on with his objections. He declared that the manner in which Mrs. Carbuncle had got up the match between Lucinda Roanoke and Sir Griffin was shameful — all the world was declaring that it was shameful — that she had not a penny, that the girl was an adventurer, and that Sir Griffin was an obstinate, pig-headed, ruined idiot. It was expedient on every account that Lizzie should take herself away from that “lot.” The answer that Lizzie desired to make was very simple. Let me go as your betrothed bride, and I will start tomorrow to Scotland or elsewhere, as you may direct. Let that little affair be settled, and I shall be quite as willing to get out of London as you can be to send me. But I am in such a peck of troubles that something must be settled. And as it seems that after all the police are still astray about the necklace, perhaps I needn’t run away from them for a little while even yet. She did not say this. She did not even in so many words make the first proposition. But she did endeavour to make Frank understand that she would obey his dictation if he would earn the right to dictate. He either did not or would not understand her, and then she became angry with him or pretended to be angry.
“Really, Frank,” she said, “you are hardly fair to me.”
“In what way am I unfair?”
“You come here and abuse all my friends, and tell me to go here and go there, just as though I were a child. And — and — and —”
“And what, Lizzie?”
“You know what I mean. You are one thing one day, and one another. I hope Miss Lucy Morris was quite well when you last heard from her?”
“You have no right to speak to me of Lucy — at least, not in disparagement.”
“You are treating her very badly — you know that.”
“Then why don’t you give it up? Why don’t you let her have her chances — to do what she can with them? You know very well that you can’t marry her. You know that you ought not to have asked her. You talk of Miss Roanoke and Sir Griffin Tewett. There are people quite as bad as Sir Griffin, or Mrs. Carbuncle either. Don’t suppose I am speaking for myself. I’ve given up all that idle fancy long ago. I shall never marry a second time myself. I have made up my mind to that. I have suffered too much already.” Then she burst into tears.
He dried her tears and comforted her, and forgave all the injurious things she had said of him. It is almost impossible for a man — a man under forty and unmarried, and who is not a philosopher — to have familiar and affectionate intercourse with a beautiful young woman, and carry it on as he might do with a friend of the other sex. In his very heart Greystock despised this woman; he had told himself over and over again that were there no Lucy in the case he would not marry her; that she was affected, unreal — and in fact a liar in every word and look and motion which came from her with premeditation. Judging, not from her own account, but from circumstances as he saw them, and such evidence as had reached him, he did not condemn her in reference to the diamonds. He had never for a moment conceived that she had secreted them. He acquitted her altogether from those special charges which had been widely circulated against her; but nevertheless he knew her to be heartless and bad. He had told himself a dozen times that it would be well for him that she should be married and taken out of his hands. And yet he loved her after a fashion, and was prone to sit near her, and was fool enough to be flattered by her caresses. When she would lay her hand on his arm, a thrill of pleasure went through him. And yet he would willingly have seen any decent man take her and marry her, making a bargain that he should never see her again. Young or old, men are apt to become Merlins when they encounter Viviens. On this occasion he left her, disgusted indeed, but not having told her that he was disgusted. “Come again, Frank, tomorrow, won’t you?” she said. He made her no promise as he went, nor had she expected it. He had left her quite abruptly the other day, and he now went away almost in the same fashion. But she was not surprised. She understood that the task she had in hand was one very difficult to be accomplished — and she did perceive in some dark way that, good as her acting was, it was not quite good enough. Lucy held her ground because she was real. You may knock about a diamond and not even scratch it, whereas paste in rough usage betrays itself. Lizzie, with all her self-assuring protestations, knew that she was paste, and knew that Lucy was real stone. Why could she not force herself to act a little better, so that the paste might be as good as the stone — might at least seem to be as good? “If he despises me now, what will he say when he finds it all out?” she asked herself.
As for Frank Greystock himself, though he had quite made up his mind about Lizzie Eustace, he was still in doubt about the other girl. At the present moment he was making over two thousand pounds a year, and yet was more in debt now than he had been a year ago. When he attempted to look at his affairs, he could not even remember what had become of his money. He did not gamble. He had no little yacht, costing him about six hundred a year. He kept one horse in London, and one only. He had no house. And when he could spare time from his work, he was generally entertained at the houses of his friends. And yet from day to day his condition seemed to become worse and worse. It was true that he never thought of half-a-sovereign; that in calling for wine at his club he was never influenced by the cost; that it seemed to him quite rational to keep a cab waiting for him half the day, that in going or coming he never calculated expense, that in giving an order to a tailor he never dreamed of anything beyond his own comfort. Nevertheless, when he recounted with pride his great economies, reminding himself that he, a successful man, with a large income and no family, kept neither hunters, nor yacht, nor moor, and that he did not gamble, he did think it very hard that he should be embarrassed. But he was embarrassed, and in that condition could it be right for him to marry a girl without a shilling?
In these days Mrs. Carbuncle was very urgent with her friend not to leave London till after the marriage. Lizzie had given no promise, had only been induced to promise that the loan of one hundred and fifty pounds should not be held to have any bearing on the wedding present to be made to Lucinda. That could be got on credit from Messrs. Harter & Benjamin; for though Mr. Benjamin was absent — on a little tour through Europe in search of precious stones in the cheap markets old Mr. Harter suggested — the business went on the same as ever. There was a good deal of consultation about the present, and Mrs. Carbuncle at last decided, no doubt with the concurrence of Miss Roanoke, that it should consist simply of silver forks and spoons — real silver as far as the money would go. Mrs. Carbuncle herself went with her friend to select the articles — as to which perhaps we shall do her no injustice in saying that a ready sale, should such a lamentable occurrence ever become necessary, was one of the objects which she had in view. Mrs. Carbuncle’s investigations as to the quality of the metal quite won Mr. Harter’s respect; and it will probably be thought that she exacted no more than justice — seeing that the thing had become a matter of bargain — in demanding that the thirty-five pounds should be stretched to fifty, because the things were bought on long credit. “My dear Lizzie,” Mrs. Carbuncle said, “the dear girl won’t have an ounce more than she would have got, had you gone into another sort of shop with thirty-five sovereigns in your hand.” Lizzie growled, but Mrs. Carbuncle’s final argument was conclusive. “I’ll tell you what we’ll do,” said she; “we’ll take thirty pounds down in ready money.” There was no answer to be made to so reasonable a proposition.
The presents to be made to Lucinda were very much thought of in Hertford Street at this time, and Lizzie — independently of any feeling that she might have as to her own contribution — did all she could to assist the collection of tribute. It was quite understood that as a girl can be married only once — for a widow’s chance in such matters amounts to but little — everything should be done to gather toll from the tax-payers of society. It was quite fair on such an occasion that men should be given to understand that something worth having was expected — no trumpery thirty-shilling piece of crockery, no insignificant glass bottle, or fantastic paper-knife of no real value whatever, but got up just to put money into the tradesmen’s hands. To one or two elderly gentlemen upon whom Mrs. Carbuncle had smiled, she ventured to suggest in plain words that a check was the most convenient cadeau. “What do you say to a couple of sovereigns?” one sarcastic old gentleman replied, upon whom probably Mrs. Carbuncle had not smiled enough. She laughed and congratulated her sarcastic friend upon his joke — but the two sovereigns were left upon the table, and went to swell the spoil.
“You must do something handsome for Lucinda,” Lizzie said to her cousin.
“What do you call handsome?”
“You are a bachelor and a Member of Parliament. Say fifteen pounds.”
“I’ll be —— if I do,” said Frank, who was beginning to be very much disgusted with the house in Hertford Street. “There’s a five-pound note, and you may do what you please with it.” Lizzie gave over the five-pound note — the identical bit of paper that had come from Frank; and Mrs. Carbuncle, no doubt, did do what she pleased with it.
There was almost a quarrel because Lizzie, after much consideration, declared that she did not see her way to get a present from the Duke of Omnium. She had talked so much to Mrs. Carbuncle about the duke that Mrs. Carbuncle was almost justified in making the demand.
“It isn’t the value, you know,” said Mrs. Carbuncle; “neither I nor Lucinda would think of that; but it would look so well to have the dear duke’s name on something.” Lizzie declared that the duke was unapproachable on such subjects. “There you’re wrong,” said Mrs. Carbuncle. “I happen to know there is nothing his grace likes so much as giving wedding presents.” This was the harder upon Lizzie as she actually did succeed in saying such kind things about Lucinda that Lady Glencora sent Miss Roanoke the prettiest smelling-bottle in the world.
“You don’t mean to say you’ve given a present to the future Lady Tewett?” said Madame Max Goesler to her friend.
“Why not? Sir Griffin can’t hurt me. When one begins to be good-natured why shouldn’t one be good-natured all round?” Madame Max remarked that it might perhaps be preferable to put an end to good-nature altogether. “There I dare say you’re right, my dear,” said Lady Glencora. “I’ve long felt that making presents means nothing. Only if one has a lot of money and people like it, why shouldn’t one? I’ve made so many to people I hardly ever saw, that one more to Lady Tewett can’t hurt.”
Perhaps the most wonderful affair in that campaign was the spirited attack which Mrs. Carbuncle made on a certain Mrs. Hanbury Smith, who for the last six or seven years had not been among Mrs. Carbuncle’s more intimate friends. Mrs. Hanbury Smith lived with her husband in Paris, but before her marriage had known Mrs. Carbuncle in London. Her father, Mr. Bunbury Jones, had from certain causes chosen to show certain civilities to Mrs. Carbuncle just at the period of his daughter’s marriage, and Mrs. Carbuncle, being perhaps at that moment well supplied with ready money, had presented a marriage present. From that to this present day Mrs. Carbuncle had seen nothing of Mrs. Hanbury Smith nor of Mr. Bunbury Jones, but she was not the woman to waste the return value of such a transaction. A present so given was seed sown in the earth — seed, indeed, that could not be expected to give back twenty-fold, or even ten-fold, but still seed from which a crop should be expected. So she wrote to Mrs. Hanbury Smith explaining that her darling niece Lucinda was about to be married to Sir Griffin Tewett, and that, as she had no child of her own, Lucinda was the same to her as a daughter. And then, lest there might be any want of comprehension, she expressed her own assurance that her friend would be glad to have an opportunity of reciprocating the feelings which had been evinced on the occasion of her own marriage. “It is no good mincing matters nowadays,” Mrs. Carbuncle would have said, had any friend pointed out to her that she was taking strong measures in the exaction of toll. “People have come to understand that a spade is a spade, and £10 £10,” she would have said. Had Mrs. Hanbury Smith not noticed the application, there might perhaps have been an end of it, but she was silly enough to send over from Paris a little trumpery bit of finery, bought in the Palais Royal for ten francs. Whereupon Mrs. Carbuncle wrote the following letter:
“DEAR MRS. HANBURY SMITH: Lucinda has received your little brooch, and is much obliged to you for thinking of her; but you must remember that when you were married I sent you a bracelet which cost £10. If I had a daughter of my own I should, of course, expect that she would reap the benefit of this on her marriage, and my niece is the same to me as a daughter. I think that this is quite understood now among people in society. Lucinda will be disappointed much if you do not send her what she thinks she has a right to expect. Of course you can deduct the brooch if you please.
“Yours, very sincerely,
Mr. Hanbury Smith was something of a wag, and caused his wife to write back as follows:
“DEAR MRS. CARBUNCLE: I quite acknowledge the reciprocity system, but don’t think it extends to descendants, certainly not to nieces. I acknowledge, too, the present quoted at £10. I thought it had been £7 10_s.“—“The nasty, mean creature,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, when showing the correspondence to Lizzie, “must have been to the tradesman to inquire! The price named was £10, but I got £2 10_s. off for ready money.”—“At your second marriage I will do what is needful; but I can assure you I haven’t recognised nieces with any of my friends.
“Yours, very truly,
“CAROLINE HANBURY SMITH.”
The correspondence was carried no further, for not even can a Mrs. Carbuncle exact payment of such a debt in any established court; but she inveighed bitterly against the meanness of Mrs. Smith, telling the story openly, and never feeling that she had told it against herself. In her set it was generally thought that she had done quite right.
She managed better with old Mr. Cabob, who had certainly received many of Mrs. Carbuncle’s smiles, and who was very rich. Mr. Cabob did as he was desired, and sent a check — a check for £20; and added a message that he hoped Miss Roanoke would buy with it some little thing that she liked. Miss Roanoke, or her aunt for her, liked a thirty guinea ring, and bought it, having the bill for the balance sent up to Mr. Cabob. Mr. Cabob, who probably knew that he must pay well for his smiles, never said anything about it.
Lady Eustace went into all this work, absolutely liking it. She had felt nothing of anger even as regarded her own contribution, much as she had struggled to reduce the amount. People, she felt, ought to be sharp; and it was nice to look at pretty things, and to be cunning about them. She would have applied to the Duke of Omnium had she dared, and was very triumphant when she got the smelling-bottle from Lady Glencora. But Lucinda herself took no part whatever in all these things. Nothing that Mrs. Carbuncle could say would induce her to take any interest in them, or even in the trousseau, which, without reference to expense, was being supplied chiefly on the very indifferent credit of Sir Griffin. What Lucinda had to say about the matter was said solely to her aunt. Neither Lady Eustace, nor Lord George, nor even the maid who dressed her, heard any of her complaints. But complain she did, and that with terrible energy.
“What is the use of it, Aunt Jane? I shall never have a house to put them into.”
“What nonsense, my dear! Why shouldn’t you have a house as well as others?”
“And if I had, I should never care for them. I hate them. What does Lady Glencora Palliser or Lord Fawn care for me?” Even Lord Fawn had been put under requisition, and had sent a little box full of stationery.
“They are worth money, Lucinda; and when a girl marries she always gets them.”
“Yes; and when they come from people who love her, and who pour them into her lap with kisses, because she has given herself to a man she loves, then it must be nice. Oh, if I were marrying a poor man, and a poor friend had given me a gridiron to help me to cook my husband’s dinner, how I could have valued it!”
“I don’t know that you like poor things and poor people better than anybody else,” said Aunt Jane.
“I don’t like anything or anybody,” said Lucinda.
“You had better take the good things that come to you, then; and not grumble. How I have worked to get all this arranged for you, and now what thanks have I?”
“You’ll find you have worked for very little, Aunt Jane. I shall never marry the man yet.” This, however, had been said so often that Aunt Jane thought nothing of the threat.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01