Lizzie’s interview with the lawyer took place on the Wednesday afternoon, and, on her return to Hertford Street she found a note from Mrs. Carbuncle.
“I have made arrangements for dining out today, and shall not return till after ten. I will do the same tomorrow, and on every day till you leave town, and you can breakfast in your own room. Of course you will carry out your plan for leaving this house on Monday. After what has passed, I shall prefer not to meet you again.
And this was written by a woman who, but a few days since, had borrowed £150 from her, and who at this moment had in her hands fifty pounds’ worth of silver-plate, supposed to have been given to Lucinda, and which clearly ought to have been returned to the donor, when Luanda’s marriage was postponed — as the newspapers had said. Lucinda, at this time, had left the house in Hertford Street, but Lizzie had not been informed whither she had been taken. She could not apply to Lucinda for restitution of the silver, which was, in fact, held at that moment by the Albemarle Street hotel-keeper as part security for his debt; and she was quite sure that any application to Mrs. Carbuncle for either the silver or the debt would be unavailing. But she might, perhaps, cause annoyance by a letter, and could, at any rate, return insult for insult. She therefore wrote to her late friend.
“MADAM: I certainly am not desirous of continuing an acquaintance into which I was led by false representations, and in the course of which I have been almost absurdly hospitable to persons altogether unworthy of my kindness. Yourself and niece, and your especial friend, Lord George Carruthers, and that unfortunate young man, your niece’s lover, were entertained at my country-house, as my guests, for some months. I am here, in my own right, by arrangement; and, as I pay more than a proper share of the expense of the establishment, I shall stay as long as I please, and go when I please.
“In the mean time, as we are about to part, certainly forever, I must beg you at once to repay me the sum of £150, which you have borrowed from me; and I must also insist on your letting me have back the present of silver which was prepared for your niece’s marriage. That you should retain it as a perquisite for yourself cannot for a moment be thought of, however convenient it might be to yourself.
As far as the application for restitution went, or indeed in regard to the insult, she might as well have written to a milestone. Mrs. Carbuncle was much too strong, and had fought her battle with the world much too long, to regard such word-pelting as that. She paid no attention to the note, and as she had come to terms with the agent of the house by which she was to evacuate it on the following Monday, a fact which was communicated to Lizzie by the servant, she did not much regard Lizzie’s threat to remain there. She knew, moreover, that arrangements were already being made for the journey to Scotland.
Lizzie had come back from the attorney’s chambers in triumph, and had been triumphant when she wrote her note to Mrs. Carbuncle; but her elation was considerably repressed by a short notice which she read in the fashionable evening paper of the day. She always took the fashionable evening paper, and had taught herself to think that life without it was impossible. But on this afternoon she quarrelled with that fashionable evening paper forever. The popular and well-informed organ of intelligence in question informed its readers, that the Eustace diamonds — etc., etc. In fact, it told the whole story; and then expressed a hope that, as the matter had from the commencement been one of great interest to the public, who had sympathised with Lady Eustace deeply as to the loss of her diamonds, Lady Eustace would be able to explain that part of her conduct which certainly, at present, was quite unintelligible. Lizzie threw the paper from her with indignation, asking what right newspaper scribblers could have to interfere with the private affairs of such persons as herself.
But on this evening the question of her answer to Lord Fawn was the one which most interested her. Lord Fawn had taken long in the writing of his letter, and she was justified in taking what time she pleased in answering it; but, for her own sake, it had better be answered quickly. She had tried her hand at two different replies, and did not at all doubt but what she would send the affirmative answer, if she were sure that these latter discoveries would not alter Lord Fawn’s decision. Lord Fawn had distinctly told her that, if she pleased, he would marry her. She would please; having been much troubled by the circumstances of the past six months. But then, was it not almost a certainty that Lord Fawn would retreat from his offer on learning the facts which were now so well known as to have been related in the public papers? She thought that she would take one more night to think of it.
Alas; she took one night too many. On the next morning, while she was still in bed, a letter was brought to her from Lord Fawn, dated from his club the preceding evening.
“Lord Fawn presents his compliments to Lady Eustace. Lady Eustace will be kind enough to understand that Lord Fawn recedes altogether from the proposition made by him in his letter to Lady Eustace dated March 28th last. Should Lady Eustace think proper to call in question the propriety of this decision on the part of Lord Fawn, she had better refer the question to some friend, and Lord Fawn will do the same. Lord Fawn thinks it best to express his determination, under no circumstances, to communicate again personally with Lady Eustace on this subject, or, as far as he can see at present, on any other.”
The letter was a blow to her, although she had felt quite certain that Lord Fawn would have no difficulty in escaping from her hands as soon as the story of the diamonds should be made public. It was a blow to her, although she had assured herself a dozen times that a marriage with such a one as Lord Fawn, a man who had not a grain of poetry in his composition, would make her unutterably wretched. What escape would her heart have had from itself in such a union? This question she had asked herself over and over again, and there had been no answer to it. But then why had she not been beforehand with Lord Fawn? Why had she not rejected his second offer with the scorn which such an offer deserved? Ah, there was her misfortune; there was her fault!
But, with Lizzie Eustace, when she could not do a thing which it was desirable that she should be known to have done, the next consideration was whether she could not so arrange as to seem to have done it. The arrival of Lord Fawn’s note just as she was about to write to him was unfortunate. But she would still write to him, and date her letter before the time that his was dated. He probably would not believe her date. She hardly ever expected to be really believed by anybody. But he would have to read what she wrote; and writing on this pretence, she would avoid the necessity of alluding to his last letter.
Neither of the notes which she had by her quite suited the occasion, so she wrote a third. The former letter in which she declined his offer was, she thought, very charmingly insolent, and the allusion to his lordship’s scullion would have been successful, had it been sent on the moment, but now a graver letter was required; and the graver letter, the date of which, it will be observed, was the day previous to the morning on which she had received Lord Fawn’s last note, was as follows:
“HERTFORD ST., Wednesday, April 3.
“MY LORD: I have taken a week to answer the letter which your lordship has done me the honour of writing to me, because I have thought it best to have time for consideration in a matter of such importance. In this I have copied your lordship’s official caution.
“I think I never read a letter so false, so unmanly, and so cowardly, as that which you have found yourself capable of sending to me.
“You became engaged to me when, as I admit with shame, I did not know your character. You have since repudiated me and vilified my name, simply because, having found that I had enemies, and being afraid to face them, you wished to escape from your engagement. It has been cowardice from the beginning to the end. Your whole conduct to me has been one long, unprovoked insult, studiously concocted, because you have feared that there might possibly be some trouble for you to encounter. Nobody ever heard of anything so mean, either in novels or in real life.
“And now you again offer to marry me — because you are again afraid. You think you will be thrashed, I suppose, if you decline to keep your engagement; and feel that if you offer to go on with it, my friends cannot beat you. You need not be afraid. No earthly consideration would induce me to be your wife. And if any friend of mine should look at you as though he meant to punish you, you can show him this letter, and make him understand that it is I who have refused to be your wife, and not you who have refused to be my husband.
This epistle Lizzie did send, believing she could add nothing to its insolence, let her study it as she might. And she thought, as she read it for the fifth time, that it sounded as though it had been written before her receipt of the final note from himself, and that it would, therefore, irritate him the more.
This was to be the last week of her sojourn in town, and then she was to go down and bury herself at Portray, with no other companionship than that of the faithful Macnulty, who had been left in Scotland for the last three months as nurse-inchief to the little heir. She must go and give her evidence before the magistrate on Friday, as to which she had already received an odious slip of paper — but Frank would accompany her. Other misfortunes had passed off so lightly that she hardly dreaded this. She did not quite understand why she was to be so banished, and thought much on the subject. She had submitted herself to Frank’s advice when first she had begun to fear that her troubles would be insuperable. Her troubles were now disappearing; and, as for Frank — what was Frank to her, that she should obey him? Nevertheless, her trunks were being already packed, and she knew that she must go. He was to accompany her on her journey, and she would still have one more chance with him.
As she was thinking of all this, Mr. Emilius, the clergyman, was announced. In her loneliness she was delighted to receive any visitor, and she knew that Mr. Emilius would be at least courteous to her. When he had seated himself, he at once began to talk about the misfortune of the unaccomplished marriage, and in a very low voice hinted that from the beginning to end there had been something wrong. He had always feared that an alliance based on a footing that was so openly “pecuniary”— he declared that the word pecuniary expressed his meaning better than any other epithet — could not lead to matrimonial happiness. “We all know,” said he, “that our dear friend, Mrs. Carbuncle, had views of her own, quite distinct from her niece’s happiness. I have the greatest possible respect for Mrs. Carbuncle, and I may say esteem; but it is impossible to live long in any degree of intimacy with Mrs. Carbuncle without seeing that she is — mercenary.”
“Mercenary! indeed she is,” said Lizzie.
“You have observed it? Oh, yes; it is so, and it casts a shadow over a character which otherwise has so much to charm.”
“She is the most insolent and the most ungrateful woman that I ever heard of!” exclaimed Lizzie with energy. Mr. Emilius opened his eyes, but did not contradict her assertion. “As you have mentioned her name, Mr. Emilius, I must tell you. I have done everything for that woman. You know how I treated her down in Scotland.”
“With a splendid hospitality,” said Mr. Emilius.
“Of course she did not pay for anything there.”
“Oh, no!” The idea of any one being called upon to pay for what one ate and drank at a friend’s house was peculiarly painful to Mr. Emilius.
“And I have paid for everything here. That is to say, we have made an arrangement, very much in her favour. And she has borrowed large sums of money from me.”
“I am not at all surprised at that,” said Mr. Emilius.
“And when that poor unfortunate girl, her niece, was to be married to poor Sir Griffin Tewett, I gave her a whole service of plate.”
“What unparalleled generosity!”
“Would you believe she has taken the whole for her own base purposes? And then what do you think she has done?”
“My dear Lady Eustace, hardly anything would astonish me.”
Lizzie suddenly found a difficulty in describing to her friend the fact that Mrs. Carbuncle was endeavouring to turn her out of the house, without also alluding to her own troubles about the robbery. “She has actually told me,” she continued, “that I must leave the house without a day’s warning. But I believe the truth is, that she has run so much into debt that she cannot remain!”
“I know that she is very much in debt, Lady Eustace.”
“But she owed me some civility. Instead of that, she has treated me with nothing but insolence. And why, do you think? It is all because I would not allow her to take that poor, insane young woman to Portray Castle.”
“You don’t mean that she asked to go there?”
“She did, though.”
“I never heard such impertinence in my life — never,” said Mr. Emilius, again opening his eyes and shaking his head.
“She proposed that I should ask them both down to Portray, for — for — of course it would have been almost forever. I don’t know how I should have got rid of them. And that poor young woman is mad, you know-quite mad. She never recovered herself after that morning. Oh, what I have suffered about that unhappy marriage, and the cruel, cruel way in which Mrs. Carbuncle urged it on. Mr. Emilius, you can’t conceive the scenes which have been acted in this house during the last month. It has been dreadful! I wouldn’t go through such a time again for anything that could be offered to me. It has made me so ill that I am obliged to go down to Scotland to recruit my health.”
“I heard that you were going to Scotland, and I wished to have an opportunity of saying just a word to you in private before you left.” Mr. Emilius had thought a good deal about this interview, and had prepared himself for it with considerable care. He knew, with tolerable accuracy, the whole story of the necklace, having discussed it with Mrs. Carbuncle, who, as the reader will remember, had been told the tale by Lord George. He was aware of the engagement with Lord Fawn, and of the growing intimacy which had existed between Lord George and Lizzie. He had been watchful, diligent, patient, and had at last become hopeful. When he learned that his beloved was about to start for Scotland, he felt that it would be well that he should strike a blow before she went. As to a journey down to Ayrshire, that would be nothing to one so enamoured as was Mr. Emilius; and he would not scruple to show himself at the castle door without invitation. Whatever may have been his deficiencies, Mr. Emilius did not lack the courage needed to carry such an enterprise as this to a happy conclusion. As far as pluck and courage might serve a man, he was well served by his own gifts. He could, without a blush, or a quiver in his voice, have asked a duchess to marry him, with ten times Lizzie’s income. He had now considered deeply whether, with the view of prevailing, it would be better that he should allude to the lady’s trespasses in regard to the diamonds, or that he should pretend to be in ignorance; and he had determined that ultimate success might, with most probability, be achieved by a bold declaration of the truth. “I know how desperately you must be in want of some one to help you through your troubles, and I know also that your grand lovers will avoid you because of what you have done, and therefore you had better take me at once. Take me, and I’ll bring you through everything. Refuse me, and I’ll crush you.” Such were the arguments which Mr. Emilius had determined to use, and such the language — of course with some modifications. He was now commencing his work, and was quite resolved to leave no stone unturned in carrying it to a successful issue. He drew his chair nearer to Lizzie as he announced his desire for a private interview, and leaned over towards her with his two hands closed together between his knees. He was a dark, hookey-nosed, well-made man, with an exuberance of greasy hair, who would have been considered handsome by many women had there not been something, almost amounting to a squint, amiss with one of his eyes. When he was preaching it could hardly be seen, but in the closeness of private conversation it was disagreeable.
“Oh, indeed;” said Lizzie, with a look of astonishment, perfectly well-assumed. She had already begun to consider whether, after all, Mr. Emilius — would do.
“Yes; Lady Eustace; it is so. You and I have known each other now for many months, and I have received the most unaffected pleasure from the acquaintance, may I not say from the intimacy, which has sprung up between us?” Lizzie did not forbid the use of the pleasant word, but merely bowed. “I think that as a devoted friend and a clergyman, I shall not be thought to be intruding on private ground in saying that circumstances have made me aware of the details of the robberies by which you have been so cruelly persecuted.” So the man had come about the diamonds and not to make an offer! Lizzie raised her eyebrows, and bowed her head with the slightest possible motion. “I do not know how far your friends or the public may condemn you, but ——”
“My friends don’t condemn me at all, sir.”
“I am so glad to hear it!”
“Nobody has dared to condemn me except this impudent woman here, who wants an excuse for not paying me what she owes me.”
“I am delighted. I was going to explain that although I am aware you have infringed the letter of the law, and made yourself liable to proceedings which may, perhaps, be unpleasant ——”
“I ain’t liable to anything unpleasant at all, Mr. Emilius.”
“Then my mind is greatly relieved. I was about to remark, having heard in the outer world that there were those who ventured to accuse you of — of perjury ——”
“Nobody has dared to accuse me of anything. What makes you come here and say such things?”
“Ah, Lady Eustace. It is because these calumnies are spoken so openly behind your back.”
“Who speaks them? Mrs. Carbuncle and Lord George Carruthers, my enemies.”
Mr. Emilius was beginning to feel that he was not making progress. “I was on the point of observing to you that, according to the view of the matter which I as a clergyman have taken, you were altogether justified in the steps which you took for the protection of property which was your own, but which had been attacked by designing persons.”
“Of course I was justified,” said Lizzie.
“You know best, Lady Eustace, whether any assistance I can offer will avail you anything.”
“I don’t want any assistance, Mr. Emilius, thank you.”
“I certainly have been given to understand that they who ought to stand by you with the closest devotion have, in this period of what I may, perhaps, call — tribulation, deserted your side with cold selfishness.”
“But there isn’t any tribulation, and nobody has deserted my side.”
“I was told that Lord Fawn ——”
“Lord Fawn is an idiot.”
“Quite so; no doubt.”
“And I have deserted him. I wrote to him this very morning in answer to a pressing letter from him to renew our engagement, to tell him that that was out of the question. I despise Lord Fawn, and my heart never can be given where my respect does not accompany it.”
“A noble sentiment, Lady Eustace, which I reciprocate completely. And now, to come to what I may call the inner purport of my visit to you this morning — the sweet cause of my attendance on you — let me assure you that I should not now offer you my heart unless with my heart went the most perfect respect and esteem which any man ever felt for a woman.” Mr. Emilius had found the necessity of coming to the point by some direct road, as the lady had refused to allow him to lead up to it in the manner he had proposed to himself. He still thought that what he had said might be efficacious, as he did not for a moment believe her assertions as to her own friends and the nonexistence of any trouble as to the oaths which she had falsely sworn; but she carried the matter with a better courage than he had expected to find, and drove him out of his intended line of approach. He had, however, seized his opportunity without losing much time.
“What on earth do you mean, Mr. Emilius?”
“I mean to lay my heart, my hand, my fortunes, my profession, my career at your feet. I make bold to say of myself that I have, by my own unaided eloquence and intelligence, won for myself a great position in this swarming metropolis. Lady Eustace, I know your great rank. I feel your transcendent beauty, ah, too acutely. I have been told that you are rich; but I, myself, who venture to approach you as a suitor for your hand, am also somebody in the world. The blood that runs in my veins is as illustrious as your own, having descended to me from the great and ancient nobles of my native country. The profession which I have adopted is the grandest which ever filled the heart of man with aspirations. I have barely turned my thirty-second year, and I am known as the greatest preacher of my day, though I preach in a language which is not my own. Your House of Lords would be open to me as a spiritual peer would I condescend to come to terms with those who crave the assistance which I could give them. I can move the masses. I can touch the hearts of men. And in this great assemblage of mankind which you call London, I can choose my own society, among the highest of the land. Lady Eustace, will you share with me my career and my fortunes? I ask you because you are the only woman whom my heart has stooped to love.”
The man was a nasty, greasy, lying, squinting Jew preacher; an impostor, over forty years of age, whose greatest social success had been achieved when, through the agency of Mrs. Carbuncle, he made his way into Portray Castle. He was about as near an English mitre as had been that great man of a past generation, the Deputy Shepherd. He was a creature to loathe, because he was greasy and a liar and an impostor. But there was a certain manliness in him. He was not afraid of the woman; and in pleading his cause with her he could stand up for himself courageously. He had studied his speech, and having studied it he knew how to utter the words. He did not blush nor stammer nor cringe. Of grandfather or grandmother belonging to himself he had probably never heard, but he could so speak of his noble ancestors as to produce belief in Lizzie’s mind; and almost succeeded in convincing her that he was, by the consent of mankind, the greatest preacher of the day. While he was making his speech she almost liked his squint. She certainly liked the grease and nastiness. Presuming, as she naturally did, that something of what he said was false, she liked the lies. There was a dash of poetry about him; and poetry, as she thought, was not compatible, with humdrum truth. A man, to be a man in her eyes, should be able to swear that all his geese are swans; should be able to reckon his swans by the dozen, though he have not a feather belonging to him, even from a goose’s wing. She liked his audacity; and then when he was making love he was not afraid of talking out boldly about his heart. Nevertheless he was only Mr. Emilius the clergyman; and she had means of knowing that his income was not generous. Though she admired his manner and his language, she was quite aware that he was in pursuit of her money; and, from the moment in which she first understood his object, she was resolved that she would never become the wife of Mr. Emilius as long as there was a hope as to Frank Greystock.
“I was told, Mr. Emilius,” she said, “that you, some time since, had a wife.”
“It was a falsehood, Lady Eustace. From motives of pure charity I gave a home to a distant cousin. I was then in a land of strangers, and my life was misinterpreted. I made no complaint, but sent the lady back to her native country. My compassion could supply her wants there as well as here.”
“Then you still support her?”
Mr. Emilius, thinking there might be danger in asserting that he was subject to such an encumbrance, replied, “I did do so, till she found a congenial home as the wife of an honest man.”
“Oh, indeed. I’m quite glad to hear that.”
“And now, Lady Eustace, may I venture to hope for a favourable answer?”
Upon this, Lizzie made him a speech as long, and almost as well-turned, as her own. Her heart had of late been subject to many vicissitudes. She had lost the dearest husband that a woman had ever worshipped. She had ventured, for purposes with reference to her child, which she could not now explain, to think once again of matrimony with a person of high rank, who had turned out to be unworthy of her. She had receded (Lizzie, as she said this, acted the part of receding, with a fine expression of scornful face) and after that she was unwilling to entertain any further idea of marriage. Upon hearing this, Mr. Emilius bowed low, and before the street door was closed against him had begun to calculate how much a journey to Scotland would cost him.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55