It was acknowledged by Mrs. Carbuncle very freely that in the matter of tribute no one behaved better than Mr. Emilius, the fashionable, foreign, ci-devant Jew preacher, who still drew great congregations in the neighbourhood of Mrs. Carbuncle’s house. Mrs. Carbuncle, no doubt, attended regularly at Mr. Emilius’s church, and had taken a sitting for thirteen Sundays at something like ten shillings a Sunday. But she had not as yet paid the money, and Mr. Emilius was well aware that if his tickets were not paid for in advance, there would be considerable defalcations in his income. He was, as a rule, very particular as to such payments, and would not allow a name to be put on a sitting till the money had reached his pockets; but with Mrs. Carbuncle he had descended to no such commercial accuracy. Mrs. Carbuncle had seats for three — for one of which Lady Eustace paid her share in advance — in the midst of the very best pews in the most conspicuous part of the house, and hardly a word had been said to her about the money. And now there came to them from Mr. Emilius the prettiest little gold salver that ever was seen.
“I send Messrs. Clerico’s docket,” wrote Mr. Emilius, “as Miss Roanoke may like to know the quality of the metal.”
“Ah,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, inspecting the little dish and putting two and two together; “he’s got it cheap, no doubt, at the place where they commissioned him to buy the plate and candlesticks for the church; but at £3 16s. 3d. the gold is worth nearly twenty pounds.” Mr. Emilius no doubt had had his outing in the autumn through the instrumentality of Mrs. Carbuncle’s kindness; but that was past and gone, and such lavish gratitude for a past favour could hardly be expected from Mr. Emilius. “I’ll be hanged if he isn’t after Portray Castle,” said Mrs. Carbuncle to herself.
Poor Emilius was after Portray Castle and had been after Portray Castle in a silent, not very confident, but yet not altogether hopeless manner ever since he had seen the glories of that place and learned something of truth as to the widow’s income. Mrs. Carbuncle was led to her conclusion not simply by the wedding present, but in part also by the diligence displayed by Mr. Emilius in removing the doubts which had got abroad respecting his condition in life. He assured Mrs. Carbuncle that he had never been married. Shortly after his ordination, which had been effected under the hands of that great and good man the late Bishop of Jerusalem, he had taken to live with him a lady who was — Mrs. Carbuncle did not quite recollect who the lady was, but remembered that she was connected in some way with a step-mother of Mr. Emilius who lived in Bohemia. This lady had for a while kept house for Mr. Emilius; but ill-natured things had been said, and Mr. Emilius, having respect to his cloth, had sent the poor lady back to Bohemia. The consequence was that he now lived in a solitude which was absolute and, as Mr. Emilius added, somewhat melancholy. All this Mr. Emilius explained very fully, not to Lizzie herself, but to Mrs. Carbuncle. If Lady Eustace chose to entertain such a suitor, why should he not come? It was nothing to Mrs. Carbuncle.
Lizzie laughed when she was told that she might add the reverend gentleman to the list of her admirers.
“Don’t you remember,” she said, “how we used to chaff Miss Macnulty about him?”
“I knew better than that,” replied Mrs. Carbuncle.
“There is no saying what a man may be after,” said Lizzie. “I didn’t know but what he might have thought that Macnulty’s connection would increase his congregation.”
“He’s after you, my dear, and your income. He can manage a congregation for himself.”
Lizzie was very civil to him, but it would be unjust to her to say that she gave him any encouragement. It is quite the proper thing for a lady to be on intimate, and even on affectionate, terms with her favourite clergyman, and Lizzie certainly had intercourse with no clergyman who was a greater favourite with her than Mr. Emilius. She had a dean for an uncle, and a bishop for an uncle-inlaw; but she was at no pains to hide her contempt for these old fogies of the church.
“They preach now and then in the cathedral,” she said to Mr. Emilius, “and everybody takes the opportunity of going to sleep.” Mr. Emilius was very much amused at this description of the eloquence of the dignitaries. It was quite natural to him that people should go to sleep in church who take no trouble in seeking eloquent preachers.
“Ah,” he said, “the church in England, which is my church, the church which I love, is beautiful. She is as a maiden, all glorious with fine raiment. But, alas, she is mute. She does not sing. She has no melody. But the time cometh in which she shall sing. I, myself, I am a poor singer in the great choir.” In saying which Mr. Emilius no doubt intended to allude to his eloquence as a preacher.
He was a man who could listen as well as sing, and he was very careful to hear well that which was being said in public about Lady Eustace and her diamonds. He had learned thoroughly what was her condition in reference to the Portray estate, and was rejoiced rather than otherwise to find that she enjoyed only a life-interest in the property. Had the thing been better than it was, it would have been the further removed from his reach. And in the same way, when rumours reached him prejudicial to Lizzie in respect of the diamonds, he perceived that such prejudice might work weal for him. A gentleman once, on ordering a mackerel that would come to a shilling, found he could have a stale mackerel for sixpence. “Then bring me a stale mackerel,” said the gentleman. Mr. Emilius coveted fish, but was aware that his position did not justify him in expecting the best fish in the market. The Lord Fawns and the Frank Greystocks of the world would be less likely to covet Lizzie, should she by any little indiscretion have placed herself under a temporary cloud. Mr. Emilius had carefully observed the heavens, and knew how quickly such clouds will disperse themselves when they are tinged with gold. There was nothing which Lizzie had done, or would be likely to do, which could materially affect her income. It might indeed be possible that the Eustaces should make her pay for the necklace; but even in that case there would be quite enough left for that modest, unambitious comfort which Mr. Emilius desired. It was by preaching, and not by wealth, that he must make himself known in the world! but for a preacher to have a pretty wife with a title and a good income, and a castle in Scotland, what an Elysium it would be! In such a condition he would envy no dean, no bishop, no archbishop! He thought a great deal about it, and saw no positive bar to his success.
She told him that she was going to Scotland.
“Not immediately!” he exclaimed.
“My little boy is there,” she said.
“But why should not your little boy be here? Surely for people who can choose, the great centre of the world offers attractions which cannot be found in secluded spots.”
“I love seclusion,” said Lizzie with rapture.
“Ah, yes; I can believe that.” Mr. Emilius had himself witnessed the seclusion of Portray Castle, and had heard, when there, many stories of the Ayrshire hunting. “It is your nature — but, dear Lady Eustace, will you allow me to say that our nature is implanted in us in accordance with the Fall?”
“Do you mean to say that it is wicked to like to be in Scotland better than in this giddy town?”
“I say nothing about wicked, Lady Eustace; but this I do say, that nature alone will not lead us always aright. It is good to be at Portray part of the year, no doubt; but are there not blessings in such a congregation of humanity as this London which you cannot find at Portray?”
“I can hear you preach, Mr. Emilius, certainly.”
“I hope that is something, too, Lady Eustace; otherwise a great many people who kindly come to hear me must sadly waste their time. And your example to the world around; is it not more serviceable amidst the crowds of London than in the solitudes of Scotland? There is more good to be done, Lady Eustace, by living among our fellow creatures than by deserting them. Therefore I think you should not go to Scotland before August, but should have your little boy brought to you here.”
“The air of his native mountains is everything to my child,” said Lizzie. The child had in fact been born at Bobsborough, but that probably would make no real difference.
“You cannot wonder that I should plead for your stay,” said Mr. Emilius, throwing all his soul into his eyes. “How dark would everything be to me if I missed you from your seat in the house of praise and prayer!”
Lizzie Eustace, like some other ladies who ought to be more appreciative, was altogether deficient in what may perhaps be called good taste in reference to men. Though she was clever, and though in spite of her ignorance she at once knew an intelligent man from a fool, she did not know the difference between a gentleman and a —“cad.” It was in her estimation something against Mr. Emilius that he was a clergyman, something against him that he had nothing but what he earned, something against him that he was supposed to be a renegade Jew, and that nobody knew whence he came nor who he was. These deficiencies or drawbacks Lizzie recognised. But it was nothing against him in her judgment that he was a greasy, fawning, pawing, creeping, black-browed rascal, who could not look her full in the face, and whose every word sounded like a lie. There was a twang in his voice which ought to have told her that he was utterly untrustworthy. There was an oily pretence at earnestness in his manner which ought to have told that he was not fit to associate with gentlemen. There was a foulness of demeanour about him which ought to have given to her, as a woman at any rate brought up among ladies, an abhorrence of his society. But all this Lizzie did not feel. She ridiculed to Mrs. Carbuncle the idea of the preacher’s courtship. She still thought that in the teeth of all her misfortunes she could do better with herself than marry Mr. Emilius. She conceived that the man must be impertinent if Mrs. Carbuncle’s assertion were true; but she was neither angry nor disgusted, and she allowed him to talk to her, and even to make love to her, after his nasty pseudo-clerical fashion.
She could surely still do better with herself than marry Mr. Emilius! It was now the twentieth of March, and a fortnight had gone since an intimation had been sent to her from the headquarters of the police that Patience Crabstick was in their hands. Nothing further had occurred, and it might be that Patience Crabstick had told no tale against her. She could not bring herself to believe that Patience had no tale to tell, but it might be that Patience, though she was in the hands of the police, would find it to her interest to tell no tale against her late mistress. At any rate there was silence and quiet, and the affair of the diamonds seemed almost to be passing out of people’s minds. Greystock had twice called in Scotland Yard, but had been able to learn nothing. It was feared, they said, that the people really engaged in the robbery had got away scot-free. Frank did not quite believe them, but he could learn nothing from them. Thus encouraged, Lizzie determined that she would remain in London till after Lucinda’s marriage, till after she should have received the promised letter from Lord Fawn, as to which, though it was so long in coming, she did not doubt that it would come at last. She could do nothing with Frank, who was a fool! She could do nothing with Lord George, who was a brute! Lord Fawn would still be within her reach, if only the secret about the diamonds could be kept a secret till after she should have become his wife.
About this time Lucinda spoke to her respecting her proposed journey. “You were talking of going to Scotland a week ago, Lady Eustace.”
“And am still talking of it.”
“Aunt Jane says that you are waiting for my wedding. It is very kind of you, but pray don’t do that.”
“I shouldn’t think of going now till after your marriage. It only wants ten or twelve days.”
“I count them. I know how many days it wants. It may want more than that.”
“You can’t put it off now, I should think,” said Lizzie; “and as I have ordered my dress for the occasion I shall certainly stay and wear it.”
“I am very sorry for your dress. I am very sorry for it all. Do you know, I sometimes think I shall — murder him.”
“Lucinda, how can you say anything so horrible! But I see you are only joking.” There did come a ghastly smile over that beautiful face, which was so seldom lighted up by any expression of mirth or good humour. “But I wish you would not say such horrible things.”
“It would serve him right; and if he were to murder me that would serve me right. He knows that I detest him, and yet he goes on with it. I have told him so a score of times, but nothing will make him give it up. It is not that he loves me, but he thinks that that will be his triumph.”
“Why don’t you give it up if it makes you unhappy?”
“It ought to come from him, ought it not?”
“I don’t see why,” said Lizzie.
“He is not bound to anybody as I am bound to my aunt. No one can have exacted an oath from him. Lady Eustace, you don’t quite understand how we are situated. I wonder whether you would take the trouble to be good to me?”
Lucinda Roanoke had never asked a favour of her before; had never, to Lizzie’s knowledge, asked a favour of any one. “In what way can I be good to you?” she said.
“Make him give it up. You may tell him what you like of me. Tell him that I shall only make him miserable, and more despicable than he is; that I shall never be a good wife to him. Tell him that I am thoroughly bad, and that he will repent it to the last day of his life. Say whatever you like, but make him give it up.”
“When everything has been prepared!”
“What does all that signify compared to a life of misery? Lady Eustace, I really think that I should — kill him, if he were — were my husband.” Lizzie at last said that she would at any rate speak to Sir Griffin.
And she did speak to Sir Griffin, having waited three or foui days to do so. There had been some desperately sharp words between Sir Griffin and Mrs. Carbuncle with reference to money. Sir Griffin had been given to understand that Lucinda had, or would have, some few hundred pounds, and insisted that the money should be handed over to him on the day of his marriage. Mrs. Carbuncle had declared that the money was to come from property to be realised in New York, and had named a day which had seemed to Sir Griffin to be as the Greek Kalends. He expressed an opinion that he was swindled, and Mrs. Carbuncle, unable to restrain herself, had turned upon him full of wrath. He was caught by Lizzie as he was descending the stairs, and in the dining-room he poured out the tale of his wrongs. “That woman doesn’t know what fair dealing means,” said he.
“That’s a little hard, Sir Griffin, isn’t it?” said Lizzie.
“Not a bit. A trumpery six hundred pounds! And she hasn’t a shilling of fortune, and never will have, beyond that! No fellow ever was more generous or more foolish than I have been.” Lizzie, as she heard this, could not refrain from thinking of the poor departed Sir Florian. “I didn’t look for fortune, or say a word about money, as almost every man does, but just took her as she was. And now she tells me that I can’t have just the bit of money that I wanted for our tour. It would serve them both right if I were to give it up.”
“Why don’t you?” said Lizzie. He looked quickly, sharply, and closely into her face as she asked the question. “I would, if I thought as you do.”
“And lay myself in for all manner of damages,” said Sir Griffin.
“There wouldn’t be anything of that kind, I’m sure. You see the truth is, you and Miss Roanoke are always having — having little tiffs together. I sometimes think you don’t really care a bit for her.”
“It’s the old woman I’m complaining of,” said Sir Griffin, “and I’m not going to marry her. I shall have seen the last of her when I get out of the church, Lady Eustace.”
“Do you think she wishes it?”
“Who do you mean?” asked Sir Griffin.
“Why — Lucinda?”
“Of course she does. Where’d she be now if it wasn’t to go on? I don’t believe they’ve money enough between them to pay the rent of the house they’re living in.”
“Of course I don’t want to make difficulties, Sir Griffin, and no doubt the affair has gone very far now. But I really think Lucinda would consent to break it off if you wish it. I have never thought that you were really in love with her.”
He again looked at her very sharply and very closely.
“Has she sent you to say all this?”
“Has who sent me? Mrs. Carbuncle didn’t.”
She paused a moment before she replied, but she could not bring herself to be absolutely honest in the matter. “No; she didn’t send me. But from what I see and hear, I am quite sure she does not wish to go on with it.”
“Then she shall go on with it,” said Sir Griffin. “I’m not going to be made a fool of in that way. She shall go on with it, and the first thing I mean to tell her as my wife is, that she shall never see that woman again. If she thinks she’s going to be master, she’s very much mistaken.” Sir Griffin, as he said this, showed his teeth, and declared his purpose to be masterful by his features as well as by his words; but Lady Eustace was nevertheless of opinion that when the two came to an absolute struggle for mastery, the lady would get the better of it.
Lizzie never told Miss Roanoke of her want of success, or even of the effort she had made; nor did the unhappy young woman come to her for any reply. The preparations went on, and it was quite understood that on this peculiar occasion Mrs. Carbuncle intended to treat her friends with profuse hospitality. She proposed to give a breakfast; and as the house in Hertford Street was very small, rooms had been taken at a hotel in Albemarle Street. Thither as the day of the marriage drew near, all the presents were taken — so that they might be viewed by the guests, with the names of the donors attached to them. As some of the money given had been very much wanted indeed, so that the actual checks could not conveniently be spared just at the moment to pay for the presents which ought to have been bought, a few very pretty things were hired, as to which, when the donors should see their names attached to them, they should surely think that the money given had been laid out to great advantage.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14