Lucy Morris had been told by Lady Fawn that — in point of fact, that, being a governess, she ought to give over falling in love with Frank Greystock, and she had not liked it. Lady Fawn, no doubt, had used words less abrupt — had probably used but few words, and had expressed her meaning chiefly by little winks, and shakings of her head, and small gestures of her hands, and had ended by a kiss — in all of which she had intended to mingle mercy with justice, and had, in truth, been full of love. Nevertheless, Lucy had not liked it. No girl likes to be warned against falling in love, whether the warning be needed or not needed. In this case Lucy knew very well that the caution was too late. It might be all very well for Lady Fawn to decide that her governess should not receive visits from a lover in her house; and then the governess might decide whether, in those circumstances, she would remain or go away; but Lady Fawn could have no right to tell her governess not to be in love. All this Lucy said to herself over and over again, and yet she knew that Lady Fawn had treated her well. The old woman had kissed her, and purred over her, and praised her, and had really loved her. As a matter of course, Lucy was not entitled to have a lover. Lucy knew that well enough. As she walked alone among the shrubs she made arguments in defence of Lady Fawn as against herself. And yet at every other minute she would blaze up into a grand wrath, and picture to herself a scene in which she would tell Lady Fawn boldly that as her lover had been banished from Fawn Court, she, Lucy, would remain there no longer. There were but two objections to this course. The first was that Frank Greystock was not her lover; and the second, that on leaving Fawn Court she would not know whither to betake herself. It was understood by everybody that she was never to leave Fawn Court till an unexceptionable home should be found for her, either with the Hittaways or elsewhere. Lady Fawn would no more allow her to go away, depending for her future on the mere chance of some promiscuous engagement, than she would have turned one of her own daughters out of the house in the same forlorn condition. Lady Fawn was a tower of strength to Lucy. But then a tower of strength may at any moment become a dungeon.
Frank Greystock was not her lover. Ah, there was the worst of it all! She had given her heart and had got nothing in return. She conned it all over in her own mind, striving to ascertain whether there was any real cause for shame to her in her conduct. Had she been unmaidenly? Had she been too forward with her heart? Had it been extracted from her, as women’s hearts are extracted, by efforts on the man’s part; or had she simply chucked it away from her to the first comer? Then she remembered certain scenes at the deanery, words that had been spoken, looks that had been turned upon her, a pressure of the hand late at night, a little whisper, a ribbon that had been begged, a flower that had been given; and once, once ——; then there came a burning blush upon her cheek that there should have been so much, and yet so little that was of avail. She had no right to say to any one that the man was her lover. She had no right to assure herself that he was her lover. But she knew that some wrong was done her in that he was not her lover.
Of the importance of her own self as a living thing with a heart to suffer and a soul to endure, she thought enough. She believed in herself, thinking of herself, that should it ever be her lot to be a man’s wife, she would be to him a true, loving friend and companion, living in his joys, and fighting, if it were necessary, down to the stumps of her nails in his interests. But of what she had to give over and above her heart and intellect she never thought at all. Of personal beauty she had very little appreciation even in others. The form and face of Lady Eustace, which indeed were very lovely, were distasteful to her; whereas she delighted to look upon the broad, plain, colourless countenance of Lydia Fawn, who was endeared to her by frank good-humour and an unselfish disposition. In regard to men, she had never asked herself the question whether this man was handsome or that man ugly. Of Frank Greystock she knew that his face was full of quick intellect; and of Lord Fawn she knew that he bore no outward index of mind. One man she not only loved, but could not help loving. The other man, as regarded that sort of sympathy which marriage should recognise, must always have been worlds asunder from her. She knew that men demand that women shall possess beauty, and she certainly had never thought of herself as beautiful; but it did not occur to her that on that account she was doomed to fail. She was too strong-hearted for any such fear. She did not think much of these things, but felt herself to be so far endowed as to be fit to be the wife of such a man as Frank Greystock. She was a proud, stout, self-confident, but still modest little woman, too fond of truth to tell lies of herself even to herself. She was possessed of a great power of sympathy, genial, very social, greatly given to the mirth of conversation — though in talking she would listen much and say but little. She was keenly alive to humour, and had at her command a great fund of laughter, which would illumine her whole face without producing a sound from her mouth. She knew herself to be too good to be a governess for life; and yet how could it be otherwise with her?
Lady Linlithgow’s visit to her niece had been made on a Thursday, and on that same evening Frank Greystock had asked his question in the House of Commons — or rather had made his speech about the Sawab of Mygawb. We all know the meaning of such speeches. Had not Frank belonged to the party that was out, and had not the resistance to the Sawab’s claim come from the party that was in, Frank would not probably have cared much about the prince. We may be sure that he would not have troubled himself to read a line of that very dull and long pamphlet of which he had to make himself master before he could venture to stir in the matter, had not the road of Opposition been open to him in that direction. But what exertion will not a politician make with the view of getting the point of his lance within the joints of his enemies’ harness? Frank made his speech, and made it very well. It was just the case for a lawyer, admitting that kind of advocacy which it is a lawyer’s business to practise. The Indian minister of the day, Lord Fawn’s chief, had determined, after much anxious consideration, that it was his duty to resist the claim; and then, for resisting it, he was attacked. Had he yielded to the claim, the attack would have been as venomous, and very probably would have come from the same quarter. No blame by such an assertion is cast upon the young Conservative aspirant for party honours. It is thus the war is waged. Frank Greystock took up the Sawab’s case, and would have drawn mingled tears and indignation from his hearers, had not his hearers all known the conditions of the contest. On neither side did the hearers care much for the Sawab’s claims, but they felt that Greystock was making good his own claims to some future reward from his party. He was very hard upon the minister, and he was hard also upon Lord Fawn, stating that the cruelty of Government ascendancy had never been put forward as a doctrine in plainer terms than those which had been used in “another place” in reference to the wrongs of this poor ill-used native chieftain. This was very grievous to Lord Fawn, who had personally desired to favour the ill-used chieftain; and harder again because he and Greystock were intimate with each other. He felt the thing keenly, and was full of his grievance when, in accordance with his custom, he came down to Fawn Court on the Saturday evening.
The Fawn family, which consisted entirely of women, dined early. On Saturdays, when his lordship would come down, a dinner was prepared for him alone. On Sundays they all dined together at three o’clock. On Sunday evening Lord Fawn would return to town to prepare himself for his Monday’s work. Perhaps, also, he disliked the sermon which Lady Fawn always read to the assembled household at nine o’clock on Sunday evening. On this Saturday he came out into the grounds after dinner, where the oldest unmarried daughter, the present Miss Fawn, was walking with Lucy Morris. It was almost a summer evening; so much so, that some of the party had been sitting on the garden benches, and four of the girls were still playing croquet on the lawn, though there was hardly light enough to see the balls. Miss Fawn had already told Lucy that her brother was very angry with Mr. Greystock. Now, Lucy’s sympathies were all with Frank and the Sawab. She had endeavoured, indeed, and had partially succeeded, in perverting the Under-Secretary. Nor did she now intend to change her opinions, although all the Fawn girls, and Lady Fawn, were against her. When a brother or a son is an Under-Secretary of State, sisters and mothers will constantly be on the side of the Government, so far as that Under-Secretary’s office is concerned.
“Upon my word, Frederic,” said Augusta Fawn, “I do think Mr. Greystock was too bad.”
“There’s nothing these fellows won’t say or do,” exclaimed Lord Fawn. “I can’t understand it myself. When I’ve been in opposition, I never did that kind of thing.”
“I wonder whether it was because he is angry with mamma,” said Miss Fawn. Everybody who knew the Fawns knew that Augusta Fawn was not clever, and that she would occasionally say the very thing that ought not to be said.
“Oh, dear, no,” said the Under-Secretary, who could not endure the idea that the weak women-mind of his family should have, in any way, an influence on the august doings of Parliament.
“You know mamma did ——”
“Nothing of that kind at all,” said his lordship, putting down his sister with great authority. “Mr. Greystock is simply not an honest politician. That is about the whole of it. He chose to attack me because there was an opportunity. There isn’t a man in either House who cares for such things, personally, less than I do.” Had his lordship said “more than he did,” he might perhaps have been correct. “But I can’t bear the feeling. The fact is, a lawyer never understands what is and what is not fair fighting.”
Lucy felt her face tingling with heat, and was preparing to say a word in defence of that special lawyer, when Lady Fawn’s voice was heard from the drawing-room window. “Come in, girls. It’s nine o’clock.” In that house Lady Fawn reigned supreme, and no one ever doubted for a moment as to her obedience. The clicking of the balls ceased, and those who were walking immediately turned their faces to the drawing-room window. But Lord Fawn, who was not one of the girls, took another turn by himself, thinking of the wrongs he had endured.
“Frederic is so angry about Mr. Greystock,” said Augusta, as soon as they were seated.
“I do feel that it was provoking,” said the second sister.
“And considering that Mr. Greystock has so often been here, I don’t think it was kind,” said the third.
Lydia did not speak, but could not refrain from glancing her eyes at Lucy’s face. “I believe everything is considered fair in Parliament,” said Lady Fawn.
Then Lord Fawn, who had heard the last words, entered through the window. “I don’t know about that, mother,” said he. “Gentlemanlike conduct is the same everywhere. There are things that may be said and there are things which may not. Mr. Greystock has altogether gone beyond the usual limits, and I shall take care that he knows my opinion.”
“You are not going to quarrel with the man?” asked the mother.
“I am not going to fight him, if you mean that; but I shall let him know that I think that he has transgressed.” This his lordship said with that haughty superiority which a man may generally display with safety among the women of his own family.
Lucy had borne a great deal, knowing well that it was better that she should bear such injury in silence; but there was a point beyond which she could not endure it. It was intolerable to her that Mr. Greystock’s character as a gentleman should be impugned before all the ladies of the family, every one of whom did, in fact, know her liking for the man. And then it seemed to her that she could rush into the battle, giving a side blow at his lordship on behalf of his absent antagonist, but appearing to fight for the Sawab. There had been a time when the poor Sawab was in favour at Fawn Court. “I think Mr. Greystock was right to say all he could for the prince. If he took up the cause, he was bound to make the best of it.” She spoke with energy and with a heightened colour; and Lady Fawn, hearing her, shook her head at her.
“Did you read Mr. Greystock’s speech, Miss Morris?” asked Lord Fawn.
“Every word of it, in the ‘Times.’”
“And you understood his allusion to what I had been called upon to say in the House of Lords on behalf of the Government?”
“I suppose I did. It did not seem to be difficult to understand.”
“I do think Mr. Greystock should have abstained from attacking Frederic,” said Augusta.
“It was not — not quite the thing that we are accustomed to,” said Lord Fawn.
“Of course I don’t know about that,” said Lucy. “I think the prince is being used very ill, that he is being deprived of his own property, that he is kept out of his rights, just because he is weak, and I am very glad that there is some one to speak up for him.”
“My dear Lucy,” said Lady Fawn, “if you discuss politics with Lord Fawn, you’ll get the worst of it.”
“I don’t at all object to Miss Morris’s views about the Sawab,” said the Under-Secretary, generously. “There is a great deal to be said on both sides. I know of old that Miss Morris is a great friend of the Sawab.”
“You used to be his friend, too,” said Lucy.
“I felt for him, and do feel for him. All that is very well. I ask no one to agree with me on the question itself. I only say that Mr. Greystock’s mode of treating it was unbecoming.”
“I think it was the very best speech I ever read in my life,” said Lucy, with headlong energy and heightened colour.
“Then, Miss Morris, you and I have very different opinions about speeches,” said Lord Fawn, with severity. “You have, probably, never read Burke’s speeches.”
“And I don’t want to read them,” said Lucy.
“That is another question,” said Lord Fawn; and his tone and manner were very severe indeed.
“We are talking about speeches in Parliament,” said Lucy. Poor Lucy! She knew quite as well as did Lord Fawn that Burke had been a House of Commons orator; but in her impatience, and from absence of the habit of argument, she omitted to explain that she was talking about the speeches of the day.
Lord Fawn held up his hands, and put his head a little on one side. “My dear Lucy,” said Lady Fawn, “you are showing your ignorance. Where do you suppose that Mr. Burke’s speeches were made?”
“Of course I know they were made in Parliament,” said Lucy, almost in tears.
“If Miss Morris means that Burke’s greatest efforts were not made in Parliament, that his speech to the electors of Bristol, for instance, and his opening address on the trial of Warren Hastings, were, upon the whole, superior to ——”
“I didn’t mean anything at all,” said Lucy.
“Lord Fawn is trying to help you, my dear,” said Lady Fawn.
“I don’t want to be helped,” said Lucy. “I only mean that I thought Mr. Greystock’s speech as good as it could possibly be. There wasn’t a word in it that didn’t seem to me to be just what it ought to be. I do think that they are ill-treating that poor Indian prince, and I am very glad that somebody has had the courage to get up and say so.”
No doubt it would have been better that Lucy should have held her tongue. Had she simply been upholding against an opponent a political speaker whose speech she had read with pleasure, she might have held her own in the argument against the whole Fawn family. She was a favourite with them all, and even the Under-Secretary would not have been hard upon her. But there had been more than this for poor Lucy to do. Her heart was so truly concerned in the matter that she could not refrain herself from resenting an attack on the man she loved. She had allowed herself to be carried into superlatives, and had almost been uncourteous to Lord Fawn. “My dear,” said Lady Fawn, “we won’t say anything more upon the subject.” Lord Fawn took up a book. Lady Fawn busied herself in her knitting. Lydia assumed a look of unhappiness, as though something very sad had occurred. Augusta addressed a question to her brother in a tone which plainly indicated a feeling on her part that her brother had been ill-used and was entitled to especial consideration. Lucy sat silent and still, and then left the room with a hurried step. Lydia at once rose to follow her, but was stopped by her mother. “You had better leave her alone just at present, my dear,” said Lady Fawn.
“I did not know that Miss Morris was so particularly interested in Mr. Greystock,” said Lord Fawn.
“She has known him since she was a child,” said his mother, About an hour afterwards Lady Fawn went up-stairs and found Lucy sitting all alone in the still so-called school-room. She had no candle, and had made no pretence to do anything since she had left the room down-stairs. In the interval family prayers had been read, and Lucy’s absence was unusual and contrary to rule. “Lucy, my dear, why are you sitting here?” said Lady Fawn.
“Because I am unhappy.”
“What makes you unhappy, Lucy?”
“I don’t know. I would rather you didn’t ask me. I suppose I behaved badly down-stairs.”
“My son would forgive you in a moment if you asked him.”
“No; certainly not. I can beg your pardon, Lady Fawn, but not his. Of course I had no right to talk about speeches, and politics, and this prince in your drawing-room.”
“Lucy, you astonish me.”
“But it is so. Dear Lady Fawn, don’t look like that. I know how good you are to me. I know you let me do things which other governesses mayn’t do; and say things; but still I am a governess, and I know I misbehaved — to you.” Then Lucy burst into tears.
Lady Fawn, in whose bosom there was no stony corner or morsel of hard iron, was softened at once. “My dear, you are more like another daughter to me than anything else.”
“Dear Lady Fawn!”
“But it makes me unhappy when I see your mind engaged about Mr. Greystock. There is the truth, Lucy. You should not think of Mr. Greystock. Mr. Greystock is a man who has his way to make in the world, and could not marry you, even if, under other circumstances, he would wish to do so. You know how frank I am with you, giving you credit for honest, sound good sense. To me and to my girls, who know you as a lady, you are as dear a friend as though you were — anything you may please to think. Lucy Morris is to us our own dear, dear little friend Lucy. But Mr. Greystock, who is a member of Parliament, could not marry a governess.”
“But I love him so dearly,” said Lucy, getting up from her chair, “that his slightest word is to me more than all the words of all the world beside. It is no use, Lady Fawn. I do love him, and I don’t mean to try to give it up.” Lady Fawn stood silent for a moment, and then suggested that it would be better for them both to go to bed. During that minute she had been unable to decide what she had better say or do in the present emergency.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14