No attempt was made to send other messages from Hertford Street than those which were taken to the church and to the hotel. Sir Griffin and Lord George went together to the church in a brougham, and on the way the best man rather ridiculed the change in life which he supposed that his friend was about to make.
“I don’t in the least know how you mean to get along,” said Lord George.
“Much as other men do, I suppose.”
“But you’re always sparring, already.”
“It’s that old woman that you’re so fond of,” said Sir Griffin. “I don’t mean to have any ill-humour from my wife, I can tell you. I know who will have the worst of it if there is.”
“Upon my word, I think you’ll have your hands full,” said Lord George. They got out at a sort of private door attached to the chapel, and were there received by the clerk, who wore a very long face. The news had already come, and had been communicated to Mr. Emilius, who was in the vestry. “Are the ladies here yet?” asked Lord George. The woebegone clerk told them that the ladies were not yet there, and suggested that they should see Mr. Emilius. Into the presence of Mr. Emilius they were led, and then they heard the truth.
“Sir Griffin,” said Mr. Emilius, holding the baronet by the hand, “I’m sorry to have to tell you that there’s something wrong in Hertford Street.”
“What’s wrong?” asked Sir Griffin.
“You don’t mean to say that Miss Roanoke is not to be here?” demanded Lord George. “By George, I thought as much — I did indeed.”
“I can only tell you what I know, Lord George. Mrs. Carbuncle’s servant was here ten minutes since, Sir Griffin, before I came down, and he told the clerk that — that ——”
“What the d —— did he tell him?” asked Sir Griffin.
“He said that Miss Roanoke had changed her mind, and didn’t mean to be married at all. That’s all that I can learn from what he says. Perhaps you will think it best to go up to Hertford Street?”
“I’ll be —— if I do,” said Sir Griffin.
“I am not in the least surprised,” repeated Lord George. “Tewett, my boy, we might as well go home to lunch, and the sooner you’re out of town the better.”
“I knew that I should be taken in at last by that accursed woman,” said Sir Griffin.
“It wasn’t Mrs. Carbuncle, if you mean that. She’d have given her left hand to have had it completed. I rather think you’ve had an escape, Griff; and if I were you, I’d make the best of it.” Sir Griffin spoke not another word, but left the church with his friend in the brougham that had brought them, and so he disappears from our story. Mr. Emilius looked after him with wistful eyes, regretful for his fee. Had the baronet been less coarse and violent in his language he would have asked for it; but he feared that he might be cursed in his own church, before his clerk, and abstained. Late in the afternoon Lord George, when he had administered comfort to the disappointed bridegroom in the shape of a hot lunch, curaçoa, and cigars, walked up to Hertford Street, calling at the hotel in Albemarle Street on the way. The waiter told him all that he knew. Some thirty or forty guests had come to the wedding-banquet, and had all been sent away with tidings that the marriage had been — postponed.
“You might have told ’em a trifle more than that,” said Lord George.
“Postponed was pleasantest, my lord,” said the waiter. “Anyways, that was said, and we supposes, my lord, as the things ain’t wanted now.”
Lord George replied that as far as he knew the things were not wanted, and then continued his way up to Hertford Street.
At first he saw Lizzie Eustace, upon whom the misfortune of the day had had a most depressing effect. The wedding was to have been the one morsel of pleasing excitement which would come before she underwent the humble penance to which she was doomed. That was frustrated and abandoned, and now she could think only of Mr. Camperdown, her cousin Frank, and Lady Glencora Palliser. “What’s up now?” said Lord George, with that disrespect which had always accompanied his treatment of her since she had told him her secret. “What’s the meaning of all this?”
“I dare say that you know as well as I do, my lord.”
“I must know a good deal if I do. It seems that among you there is nothing but one trick upon another.”
“I suppose you are speaking of your own friends, Lord George. You doubtless know much more than I do of Miss Roanoke’s affairs.”
“Does she mean to say that she doesn’t mean to marry the man at all?”
“So I understand; but really you had better send for Mrs. Carbuncle.”
He did send for Mrs. Carbuncle, and after some words with her was taken up into Lucinda’s room. There sat the unfortunate girl, in the chair from which she had not moved since the morning. There had come over her face a look of fixed but almost idiotic resolution; her mouth was compressed, and her eyes were glazed, and she sat twiddling her book before her with her fingers. She had eaten nothing since she had got up, and had long ceased to be violent when questioned by her aunt. But nevertheless she was firm enough when her aunt begged to be allowed to write a letter to Sir Griffin, explaining that all this had arisen from temporary indisposition.
“No; it isn’t temporary. It isn’t temporary at all. You can write to him, but I’ll never come out of this room if I am told that I am to see him.”
“What is all this about, Lucinda?” said Lord George, speaking in his kindest voice.
“Is he there?” said she, turning round suddenly.
“Sir Griffin? no, indeed. He has left town.”
“You’re sure he’s not there? It’s no good his coming. If he comes for ever and ever he shall never touch me again — not alive; he shall never touch me again alive.” As she spoke she moved across the room to the fire-place and grasped the poker in her hand.
“Has she been like that all the morning?” whispered Lord George.
“No — not like — she has been quite quiet. Lucinda!”
“Don’t let him come here, then; that’s all. What’s the use? They can’t make me marry him. And I won’t marry him. Everybody has known that I hated him — detested him. Oh, Lord George, it has been very, very cruel.”
“Has it been my fault, Lucinda?”
“She wouldn’t have done it if you had told her not. But you won’t bring him again, will you?”
“Certainly not. He means to go abroad.”
“Ah, yes; that will be best. Let him go abroad. He knew it all the time, that I hated him. Why did he want me to be his wife? If he has gone abroad I will go down-stairs. But I won’t go out of the house. Nothing shall make me go out of the house. Are the bridesmaids gone?”
“Long ago,” said Mrs. Carbuncle piteously.
“Then I will go down.” And between them, they led her into the drawing-room.
“It is my belief,” said Lord George to Mrs. Carbuncle some minutes afterward, “that you have driven her mad.”
“Are you going to turn against me?”
“It is true. How you have had the heart to go on pressing it upon her, I could never understand. I am about as hard as a milestone, but I’ll be shot if I could have done it. From day to day I thought that you would have given way.”
“That is so like a man — when it is all over to turn upon a woman and say that she did it.”
“Didn’t you do it? I thought you did, and that you took a great deal of pride in the doing of it. When you made him offer to her, down in Scotland, and made her accept him, you were so proud that you could hardly hold yourself. What will you do now? Go on, just as though nothing had happened?”
“I don’t know what we shall do. There will be so many things to be paid.”
“I should think there would, and you can hardly expect Sir Griffin to pay for them. You’ll have to take her away somewhere. You’ll find that she can’t remain here. And that other woman will be in prison before the week’s over, I should say, unless she runs away.”
There was not much of comfort to be obtained by any of them from Lord George, who was quite as harsh to Mrs. Carbuncle as he had been to Lizzie Eustace. He remained in Hertford Street for an hour, and then took his leave, saying that he thought that he also should go abroad. “I didn’t think,” he said, “that anything could have hurt my character much; but upon my word, between you and Lady Eustace, I begin to find that in every deep there may be a lower depth. All the town has given me the credit for stealing her ladyship’s necklace, and now I shall be mixed up in this mock marriage. I shouldn’t wonder if Rooper were to send his bill in to me.” (Mr. Rooper was the keeper of the hotel in Albemarle Street.) “I think I shall follow Sir Griffin abroad. You have made England too hot to hold me.”
And so he left them.
The evening of that day was a terrible time to the three ladies in Hertford Street, and the following day was almost worse. Nobody came to see them, and not one of them dared to speak of the future. For the third day, the Wednesday, Lady Eustace had made her appointment with Mr. Camperdown, having written to the attorney, in compliance with the pressing advice of Major Mackintosh, to name an hour. Mr. Camperdown had written again, sending his compliments, and saying that he would receive Lady Eustace at the time fixed by her. The prospect of this interview was very bad, but even this was hardly so oppressive as the actual, existing wretchedness of that house. Mrs. Carbuncle, whom Lizzie had always known as high-spirited, bold, and almost domineering, was altogether prostrated by her misfortunes. She was querulous, lachrymose, and utterly despondent. From what Lizzie now learned, her hostess was enveloped in a mass of debt which would have been hopeless even had Lucinda gone off as a bride; but she had been willing to face all that with the object of establishing her niece. She could have expected nothing from the marriage for herself. She well knew that Sir Griffin would neither pay her debts nor give her a home nor lend her money. But to have married the girl who was in her charge would have been in itself a success, and would have in some sort repaid her for her trouble. There would have been something left to show for her expenditure of time and money. But now there was nothing around her but failure and dismay. The very servants in the house seemed to know that ordinary respect was hardly demanded from them.
As to Luanda, Lizzie felt, from the very hour in which she first saw her, on the morning of the intended wedding, that her mind was astray. She insisted on passing the time up in her own room, and always sat with the Bible before her. At every knock at the door, or ring at the bell, she would look round suspiciously, and once she whispered into Lizzie’s ear that if ever “he” should come there again she would “give him a kiss with a vengeance.” On the Tuesday “Lizzie recommended Mrs. Carbuncle to get medical advice, and at last they sent for Mr. Emilius that they might ask counsel of him. Mr. Emilius was full of smiles and consolation, and still allowed his golden hopes as to some Elysian future to crop out; but he did acknowledge at last, in a whispered conference with Lady Eustace, that somebody ought see to Miss Roanoke. Somebody did see Miss Roanoke, and the doctor who was thus appealed to shook his head. Perhaps Miss Roanoke had better be taken into the country for a little while.
“Dear Lady Eustace,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, “now you can be a friend indeed,” meaning, of course, that an invitation to Portray Castle would do more than could anything else towards making straight the crooked things of the hour. Mrs. Carbuncle, when she made the request, of course knew of Lizzie’s coming troubles; but let them do what they could to Lizzie, they could not take away her house.
But Lizzie felt at once that this would not suit. “Ah, Mrs. Carbuncle,” she said, “you do not know the condition which I am in myself!”
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14