The Saturday and the Sunday Lizzie passed in outward tranquillity, though doubtless her mind was greatly disturbed. She said nothing of what had passed between her and Major Mackintosh, explaining that his visit had been made solely with the object of informing her that Mr. Benjamin was to be sent home from Vienna, but that the diamonds were gone forever. She had, as she declared to herself, agreed with Major Mackintosh that she would not go to Mr. Camperdown till the Tuesday — justifying her delay by her solicitude in reference to Miss Roanoke’s marriage; and therefore these two days were her own. After them would come a totally altered phase of existence. All the world would know the history of the diamonds — cousin Frank, and Lord Fawn, and John Eustace, and Mrs. Carbuncle, and the Bobsborough people, and Lady Glencora, and that old vulturess, her aunt, the Countess of Linlithgow. It must come now — but she had two days in which she could be quiet and think of her position. She would, she thought, send one of her letters to Lord Fawn before she went to Mr. Camperdown — but which should she send? Or should she write a third explaining the whole matter in sweetly piteous feminine terms, and swearing that the only remaining feeling in her bosom was a devoted affection to the man who had now twice promised to be her husband?
In the mean time the preparations for the great marriage went on. Mrs. Carbuncle spent her time busily between Lucinda’s bedchamber and the banqueting hall in Albemarle street. In spite of pecuniary difficulties the trousseau was to be a wonder; and even Lizzie was astonished at the jewelry which that indefatigable woman had collected together for a preliminary show in Hertford Street. She had spent hours at Howell and James’s, and had made marvellous bargains there and elsewhere. Things were sent for selection, of which the greater portion were to be returned, but all were kept for the show. The same things which were shown to separate friends in Hertford Street as part of the trousseau on Friday and Saturday were carried over to Albemarle Street on the Sunday, so as to add to the quasi-public exhibition of presents on the Monday. The money expended had gone very far. The most had been made of a failing credit. Every particle of friendly generosity had been so manipulated as to add to the external magnificence. And Mrs. Carbuncle had done all this without any help from Lucinda, in the midst of most contemptuous indifference on Lucinda’s part. She could hardly be got to allow the milliners to fit the dresses to her body, and positively refused to thrust her feet into certain golden-heeled boots with brightly-bronzed toes which were a great feature among the raiment. Nobody knew it except Mrs. Carbuncle and the maid; even Lizzie Eustace did not know it; but once the bride absolutely ran amuck among the finery, scattering the laces here and there, pitching the glove-boxes under the bed, chucking the golden-heeled boots into the fire-place, and exhibiting quite a tempest of fury against one of the finest shows of petticoats ever arranged with a view to the admiration and envy of female friends. But all this Mrs. Carbuncle bore, and still persevered. The thing was so nearly done now that she could endure to persevere though the provocation to abandon it was so great. She had even ceased to find fault with her niece, but went on in silence counting the hours till the trouble should be taken off her own shoulders and placed on those of Sir Griffin. It was a great thing to her, almost more than she had expected, that neither Lucinda nor Sir Griffin should have positively declined the marriage. It was impossible that either should retreat from it now.
Luckily for Mrs. Carbuncle, Sir Griffin took delight in the show. He did this after a bearish fashion, putting his finger upon little flaws with an intelligence for which Mrs. Carbuncle had not hitherto given him credit. As to certain ornaments, he observed that the silver was plated and the gold ormolu. A “rope” of pearls he at once detected as being false, and after fingering certain lace he turned up his nose and shook his head. Then, on the Sunday, in Albemarle Street, he pointed out to Mrs. Carbuncle sundry articles which he had seen in the bedroom on the Saturday.
“But, my dear Sir Griffin, that’s of course,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“Oh; that’s of course, is it?” said Sir Griffin turning up his nose again. “Where did that Delft bowl come from?”
“It is one of Mortlook’s finest Etruscan vases,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“Oh, I thought that Etruscan vases came from — from somewhere in Greece or Italy,” said Sir Griffin.
“I declare that you are shocking,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, struggling to maintain her good-humour.
He passed hours of the Sunday in Hertford Street, and Lord George also was there for some time. Lizzie, who could hardly devote her mind to the affairs of the wedding, remained alone in her own sitting-room during the greater part of the day; but she did show herself while Lord George was there.
“So I hear that Mackintosh has been here,” said Lord George.
“Yes, he was here.”
“And what did he say?” Lizzie did not like the way in which the man looked at her, feeling it to be not only unfriendly, but absolutely cruel. It seemed to imply that he knew that her secret was about to be divulged. And what was he to her now that he should be impertinent to her? What he knew, all the world would know before the end of the week. And that other man who knew it already, had been kind to her, had said nothing about perjury, but had explained to her that what she would have to bear would be trouble, and not imprisonment and loss of money. Lord George, to whom she had been so civil, for whom she had spent money, to whom she had almost offered herself and ail that she possessed — Lord George, whom she had selected as the first repository of her secret, had spoken no word to comfort her, but had made things look worse for her than they were. Why should she submit to be questioned by Lord George? In a day or two the secret which he knew would be no secret. “Never mind what he said, Lord George,” she replied.
“Has he found it all out?”
“You had better go and ask him yourself,” said Lizzie. “I am sick of the subject, and I mean to have done with it.”
Lord George laughed, and Lizzie hated him for his laugh.
“I declare,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, “that you two who were such friends are always snapping at each other now.”
“The fickleness is all on her ladyship’s part, not on mine,” said Lord George; whereupon Lady Eustace walked out of the room and was not seen again till dinner-time.
Soon afterwards Lucinda also endeavoured to escape, but to this Sir Griffin objected. Sir Griffin was in a very good humour, and bore himself like a prosperous bridegroom.
“Come, Luce,” he said, “get off your high horse for a little. To-morrow, you know, you must come down altogether.”
“So much the more reason for my remaining up today.”
“I’ll be shot if you shall,” said Sir Griffin. “Luce, sit in my lap, and give me a kiss.”
At this moment Lord George and Mrs. Carbuncle were in the front drawing-room, and Lord George was telling her the true story as to the necklace. It must be explained on his behalf that in doing this he did not consider that he was betraying the trust reposed in him. “They know all about it in Scotland Yard,” he said; “I got it from Gager. They were bound to tell me as, up to this week past, every man in the police thought that I had been the master-mind among the thieves. When I think of it I hardly know whether to laugh or cry.”
“And she had them all the time?” exclaimed Mrs. Carbuncle.
“Yes; in this house! Did you ever hear of such a little cat? I could tell you more than that. She wanted me to take them and dispose of them.”
“She did, though; and now see the way she treats me! Never mind. Don’t say a word to her about it till it comes out of itself. She’ll have to be arrested, no doubt.”
“Arrested!” Mrs. Carbuncle’s further exclamations were stopped by Lucinda’s struggles in the other room. She had declined to sit upon the bridegroom’s lap, but had acknowledged that she was bound to submit to be kissed. He had kissed her, and then had striven to drag her onto his knee. But she was strong, and had resisted violently, and, as he afterwards said, had struck him savagely.
“Of course I struck him,” said Lucinda.
“By — — you shall pay for it,” said Sir Griffin. This took place in the presence of Lord George and Mrs. Carbuncle, and yet they were to be married tomorrow.
“The idea of complaining that a girl hit you — and the girl who is to be your wife!” said Lord George, as they walked off together.
“I know what to complain of, and what not,” said Sir Griffin. “Are you going to let me have that money?”
“No, I am not,” said Lord George, “so there’s an end of that.” Nevertheless, they dined together at their club afterwards, and in the evening Sir Griffin was again in Hertford Street.
This happened on the Sunday, on which day none of the ladies had gone to church. Mr. Emilius well understood the cause of their absence, and felt nothing of a parson’s anger at it. He was to marry the couple on the Monday morning, and dined with the ladies on the Sunday. He was peculiarly gracious and smiling, and spoke of the Hymeneals as though they were even more than ordinarily joyful and happy in their promise. To Lizzie he was almost affectionate, and Mrs. Carbuncle he flattered to the top of her bent. The power of the man, in being sprightly under such a load of trouble as oppressed the household, was wonderful. He had to do with three women who were worldly, hard, and given entirely to evil things. Even as regarded the bride, who felt the horror of her position, so much must be, in truth, admitted. Though from day to day and hour to hour she would openly declare her hatred of the things around her, yet she went on. Since she had entered upon life she had known nothing but falsehood and scheming wickedness; and, though she rebelled against the consequences, she had not rebelled against the wickedness. Now, to this unfortunate young woman and her two companions, Mr. Emilius discoursed with an unctuous mixture of celestial and terrestrial glorification, which was proof, at any rate, of great ability on his part. He told them how a good wife was a crown, or rather a chaplet of ethereal roses to her husband, and how high rank and great station in the world made such a chaplet more beautiful and more valuable. His work in the vineyard, he said, had fallen lately among the wealthy and nobly born; and though he would not say that he was entitled to take glory on that account, still he gave thanks daily, in that he had been enabled to give his humble assistance towards the running of a godly life to those who, by their example, were enabled to have so wide an effect upon their poorer fellow-creatures. He knew well how difficult it was for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. They had the highest possible authority for that. But Scriptures never said that the camel, which, as he explained it, was simply a thread larger than ordinary thread, could not go through the needle’s eye. The camel which succeeded, in spite of the difficulties attending its exalted position, would be peculiarly blessed. And he went on to suggest that the three ladies before him, one of whom was about to enter upon a new phase of life tomorrow, under auspices peculiarly propitious, were, all of them, camels of this description. Sir Griffin, when he came in, received for a while the peculiar attention of Mr. Emilius. “I think, Sir Griffin,” he commenced, “that no period of a man’s life is so blessed, as that upon which you will enter tomorrow.” This he said in a whisper, but it was a whisper audible to the ladies.
“Well, yes; it’s all right, I dare say,” said Sir Griffin.
“Well, after all, what is life till a man has met and obtained the partner of his soul? It is a blank, and the blank becomes every day more and more intolerable to the miserable solitary.”
“I wonder you don’t get married yourself,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, who perceived that Sir Griffin was rather astray for an answer.
“Ah! if one could always be fortunate when one loved,” said Mr. Emilius, casting his eyes across to Lizzie Eustace. It was evident to them all that he did not wish to conceal his passion.
It was the object of Mrs. Carbuncle that the lovers should not be left alone together, but that they should be made to think that they were passing the evening in affectionate intercourse. Lucinda hardly spoke, hardly had spoken since her disagreeable struggle with Sir Griffin. He said but little, but with Mrs. Carbuncle was better humoured than usual. Every now and then she made little whispered communications to him, telling that they would be sure to be at the church at eleven to the moment, explaining to him what would be the extent of Lucinda’s boxes for the wedding tour, and assuring him that he would find Lucinda’s new maid a treasure in regard to his own shirts and pocket handkerchiefs. She toiled marvellously at little subjects, always making some allusion to Lucinda, and never hinting that aught short of Elysium was in store for him. The labour was great; the task was terrible; but now it was so nearly over! And to Lizzie she was very courteous, never hinting by a word or a look that there was any new trouble impending on the score of the diamonds. She, too, as she received the greasy compliments of Mr. Emilius with pretty smiles, had her mind full enough of care.
At last Sir Griffin went, again kissing his bride as he left. Lucinda accepted his embrace without a word and almost without a shudder. “Eleven to the moment, Sir Griffin,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, with her best good-humour.
“All right,” said Sir Griffin as he passed out of the door. Lucinda walked across the room and kept her eyes fixed on his retreating figure as he descended the stairs. Mr. Emilius had already departed, with many promises of punctuality, and Lizzie now withdrew for the night.
“Dear Lizzie, good-night,” said Mrs. Carbuncle kissing her.
“Good-night, Lady Eustace,” said Lucinda. “I suppose I shall see you tomorrow?”
“See me, of course you will see me! I shall come into your room with the girls after you have had your tea.” The girls mentioned were the four bridesmaids, as to whom there had been some difficulty, as Lucinda had neither sister nor cousin, and had contracted no peculiarly tender friendships. But Mrs. Carbuncle had arranged it, and four properly-equipped young ladies were to be in attendance at ten on the morrow.
Then Lucinda and Mrs. Carbuncle were alone. “Of one thing I feel sure,” said Lucinda in a low voice.
“What is that, dear?”
“I shall never see Sir Griffin Tewett again.”
“You talk in that way on purpose to break me down at the last moment,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“Dear Aunt Jane, I would not break you down if I could help it. I have struggled so hard, simply that you might be freed from me. We have been very foolish, both of us; but I would bear all the punishment if I could.”
“You know that this is nonsense now.”
“Very well. I only tell you. I know that I shall never see him again. I will never trust myself alone in his presence. I could not do it. When he touches me my whole body is in agony; to be kissed by him is madness!”
“Lucinda, this is very wicked. You are working yourself up to a paroxysm of folly.”
“Wicked; yes, I know that I am wicked. There has been enough of wickedness certainly. You don’t suppose that I mean to excuse myself?”
“Of course you will marry Sir Griffin tomorrow.”
“I shall never be married to him. How I shall escape from him — by dying, or going mad, or by destroying him — God only knows.” Then she paused, and her aunt looking into her face almost began to fear that she was in earnest. But she would not take it as at all indicating any real result for the morrow. The girl had often said nearly the same thing before, and had still submitted. “Do you know Aunt Jane, I don’t think I could feel to any man as though I loved him. But for this man — O God, how I do detest him! I cannot do it.”
“You had better go to bed, Lucinda, and let me come to you in the morning.”
“Yes; come to me in the morning, early.”
“I will, at eight.”
“I shall know then, perhaps.”
“My dear, will you come to my room to-night and sleep with me?”
“Oh, no. I have ever so many things to do. I have papers to burn, and things to put away. But come to me at eight. Goodnight, Aunt Jane.” Mrs. Carbuncle went up to her room with her, kissed her affectionately, and then left her.
She was now really frightened. What would be said of her if she should press the marriage forward to a completion, and if, after that, some terrible tragedy should take place between the bride and bridegroom? That Lucinda, in spite of all that had been said, would stand at the altar, and allow the ceremony to be performed, she still believed. Those last words about burning papers and putting things away seemed to imply that the girl still thought that she would be taken away from her present home on the morrow. But what would come afterwards? The horror which the bride expressed was, as Mrs. Carbuncle well knew, no mock feeling, no pretence at antipathy. She tried to think of it and to realise what might, in truth, be the girl’s action and ultimate fate when she should find herself in the power of this man whom she so hated. But had not other girls done the same thing, and lived through it all, and become fat, indifferent, and fond of the world? It is only the first step that signifies.
At any rate the thing must go on now; must go on whatever might be the result to Lucinda or to Mrs. Carbuncle herself. Yes; it must go on. There was, no doubt, very much of bitterness in the world for such as them, for persons doomed by the necessities of their position to a continual struggle. It always had been so and always would be so. But each bitter cup must be drained in the hope that the next might be sweeter. Of course the marriage must go on; though doubtless this cup was very bitter.
More than once in the night Mrs. Carbuncle crept up to the door of her niece’s room, endeavouring to ascertain what might be going on within. At two o’clock, while she was on the landing, the candle was extinguished, and she could hear Lucinda put herself to bed. At any rate so far things were safe. An indistinct, incompleted idea of some possible tragedy had flitted across the mind of the poor woman, causing her to shake and tremble, forbidding her, weary as she was, to lie down; but now she told herself at last that this was an idle phantasy, and she went to bed. Of course Lucinda must go through with it. It had been her own doing, and Sir Griffin was not worse than other men. As she said this to herself, Mrs. Carbuncle hardened her heart by remembering that her own married life had not been peculiarly happy.
Exactly at eight on the following morning she knocked at her niece’s door and was at once bidden to enter. “Come in, Aunt Jane.” The words cheered her wonderfully. At any rate there had been no tragedy as yet, and as she turned the handle of the door she felt that, as a matter of course, the marriage would go on just like any other marriage. She found Lucinda up and dressed, but so dressed certainly to show no preparation for a wedding toilet. She had on an ordinary stuff morning frock, and her hair was close tucked up and pinned as it might have been had she already prepared herself for a journey. But what astonished Mrs. Carbuncle more than the dress was the girl’s manner. She was sitting at a table with a book before her, which was afterwards found to be the Bible, and she never turned her head as her aunt entered the room.
“What, up already,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, “and dressed?”
“Yes; I am up, and dressed. I have been up ever so long. How was I to lie in bed on such a morning as this? Aunt Jane, I wish you to know as soon as possible that no earthly consideration will induce me to leave this room today.”
“What nonsense, Lucinda!”
“Very well; all the same you might as well believe me. I want you to send to Mr. Emilius, and to those girls, and to the man. And you had better get Lord George to let the other people know. I’m quite in earnest.”
And she was in earnest, quite in earnest, though there was a flightiness about her manner which induced Mrs. Carbuncle for a while to think that she was less so than she had been on the previous evening. The unfortunate woman remained with her niece for an hour and a half, imploring, threatening, scolding, and weeping. When the maids came to the door, first one maid and then another, they were refused entrance. It might still be possible, Mrs. Carbuncle thought, that she would prevail. But nothing now could shake Lucinda or induce her even to discuss the subject. She sat there looking steadfastly at the book — hardly answering, never defending herself, but protesting that nothing should induce her to leave the room on that day.
“Do you want to destroy me?” Mrs. Carbuncle said at last.
“You have destroyed me,” said Lucinda.
At half-past nine Lizzie Eustace came into the room, and Mrs. Carbuncle, in her trouble, thought it better to take other counsel. Lizzie therefore was admitted.
“Is anything wrong?” asked Lizzie.
“Everything is wrong,” said the aunt. “She says that — she won’t be married.”
“Pray speak to her, Lady Eustace. You see it is getting so late, and she ought to be nearly dressed now. Of course she must allow herself to be dressed.”
“I am dressed,” said Lucinda.
“But, dear Lucinda, everybody will be waiting for you,” said Lizzie.
“Let them wait, till they’re tired. If Aunt Jane doesn’t choose to send, it is not my fault. I sha’n’t go out of this room today unless I am carried out. Do you want to hear that I have murdered the man?”
They brought her tea, and endeavoured to induce her to eat and drink. She would take the tea, she said, if they would promise to send to put the people off. Mrs. Carbuncle so far gave way as to undertake to do so, if she would name the next day, or the day following, for the wedding. But on hearing this she arose almost in a majesty of wrath. Neither on this day, nor on the next, nor on any following day, would she yield herself to the wretch whom they had endeavoured to force upon her.
“She must do it, you know,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, turning to Lizzie.
“You’ll see if I must,” said Lucinda, sitting square at the table with her eyes firmly fixed upon the book.
Then came up the servant to say that the four bridesmaids were all assembled in the drawing-room. When she heard this, even Mrs. Carbuncle gave way, and threw herself upon the bed and wept. “Oh, Lady Eustace, what are we to do? Lucinda, you have destroyed me. You have destroyed me altogether, after all that I have done for you.”
“And what has been done to me, do you think?” said Lucinda.
Something must be settled. All the servants in the house by this time knew that there would be no wedding, and no doubt some tidings as to the misadventure of the day had already reached the four ladies in the drawing-room. “What am I to do?” said Mrs. Carbuncle, starting up from the bed.
“I really think you had better send to Mr. Emilius,” said Lizzie; “and to Lord George.”
“What am I to say? Who is there to go to? Oh, I wish that somebody would kill me this minute! Lady Eustace, would you mind going down and telling those ladies to go away?”
“And had I not better send Richard to the church?”
“Oh yes; send anybody, everywhere. I don’t know what to do. Oh, Lucinda, this is the unkindest and the wickedest, and most horrible thing that anybody ever did! I shall never, never be able to hold up my head again.” Mrs. Carbuncle was completely prostrate, but Lucinda sat square at the table, firm as a rock, saying nothing, making no excuse for herself, with her eyes fixed upon the Bible.
Lady Eustace carried her message to the astonished and indignant bridesmaids, and succeeded in sending them back to their respective homes. Richard, glorious in new livery, forgetting that his flowers were still on his breast, ready dressed to attend the bride’s carriage, went with his sad message, first to the church and then to the banqueting-hall in Albemarle Street.
“Not any wedding?” said the head-waiter at the hotel. “I knew they was folks as would have a screw loose somewheres. There’s lots to stand for the bill, anyways,” he added, as he remembered all the tribute.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01