Lady Eustace did not leave the house during the Saturday and Sunday, and engaged herself exclusively with preparing for her journey. She had no further interview with Mrs. Carbuncle, but there were messages between them, and even notes were written. They resulted in nothing. Lizzie was desirous of getting back the spoons and forks, and, if possible, some of her money. The spoons and forks were out of Mrs. Carbuncle’s power — in Albemarle Street — and the money had, of course, been spent. Lizzie might have saved herself the trouble, had it not been that it was a pleasure to her to insult her late friend, even though, in doing so, new insults were heaped upon her own head. As for the trumpery spoons, they — so said Mrs. Carbuncle — were the property of Miss Roanoke, having been made over to her, unconditionally, long before the wedding, as a part of a separate pecuniary transaction. Mrs. Carbuncle had no power of disposing of Miss Roanoke’s property. As to the money which Lady Eustace claimed, Mrs. Carbuncle asserted that, when the final accounts should be made up between them, it would be found that there was a considerable balance due to Mrs. Carbuncle; but even were there anything due to Lady Eustace, Mrs. Carbuncle would decline to pay it, as she was informed that all moneys possessed by Lady Eustace were now confiscated to the Crown by reasons of the PERJURIES— the word was doubly scored in Mrs. Carbuncle’s note — which Lady Eustace had committed. This, of course, was unpleasant; but Mrs. Carbuncle did not have the honours of the battle all to herself. Lizzie also said some unpleasant things which, perhaps, were the more unpleasant because they were true. Mrs. Carbuncle had come pretty nearly to the end of her career, whereas Lizzie’s income, in spite of her perjuries, was comparatively untouched. The undoubted mistress of Portray Castle, and mother of the Sir Florian Eustace of the day, could still despise and look down upon Mrs. Carbuncle, although she were known to have told fibs about the family diamonds.
Lord George always came to Hertford Street on a Sunday, and Lady Eustace left word for him, with the servant, that she would be glad to see him before her journey into Scotland. “Goes tomorrow, does she?” said Lord George to the servant. “Well, I’ll see her.” And he was shown up to her room before he went to Mrs. Carbuncle.
Lizzie, in sending for him, had some half-formed idea of a romantic farewell. The man, she thought, had behaved very badly to her; had accepted very much from her hands, and had refused to give her anything in return; had become the first repository of her great secret, and had placed no mutual confidence in her. He had been harsh to her, and unjust; and then, too, he had declined to be in love with her! She was full of spite against Lord George, and would have been glad to injure him; but, nevertheless, there would be some excitement in a farewell, in which some mock affection might be displayed — and she would have an opportunity of abusing Mrs. Carbuncle.
“So you are off tomorrow?” said Lord George, taking his place on the rug before her fire, and looking down at her with his head a little on one side. Lizzie’s anger against the man chiefly arose from a feeling that he treated her with all a Corsair’s freedom without any of a Corsair’s tenderness. She could have forgiven the want of deferential manner, had there been any devotion — but Lord George was both impudent and indifferent.
“Yes,” she said. “Thank goodness, I shall get out of this frightful place tomorrow, and soon have once more a roof of my own over my head. What an experience I have had since I have been here!”
“We have all had an experience,” said Lord George, still looking at her with that half-comic turn of his face — almost as though he were investigating some curious animal of which so remarkable a specimen had never before come under his notice.
“No woman ever intended to show a more disinterested friendship than I have done; and what has been my return?”
“You mean to me — disinterested friendship to me?” And Lord George tapped his breast lightly with his fingers. His head was still a little on one side, and there was still the smile upon his face.
“I was alluding particularly to Mrs. Carbuncle.”
“Lady Eustace, I cannot take charge of Mrs. Carbuncle’s friendships. I have enough to do to look after my own. If you have any complaint to make against me, I will at least listen to it.”
“God knows I do not want to make complaints,” said Lizzie, covering her face with her hands.
“They don’t do much good — do they? It’s better to take people as you find ’em, and then make the best of ’em. They’re a queer lot, ain’t they — the sort of people one meets about in the world?”
“I don’t know what you mean by that, Lord George.”
“Just what you were saying when you talked of your experiences. These experiences do surprise one. I have knocked about the world a great deal, and would have almost said that nothing would surprise me. You are no more than a child to me, but you have surprised me.”
“I hope I have not injured you, Lord George.”
“Do you remember how you rode to hounds the day your cousin took that other man’s horse? That surprised me.”
“Oh, Lord George, that was the happiest day of my life. How little happiness there is for people!”
“And when Tewett got that girl to say she’d marry him, the coolness with which you bore all the abomination of it in your house — for people who were nothing to you; that surprised me!”
“I meant to be so kind to you all.”
“And when I found that you always travelled with ten thousand pounds’ worth of diamonds in a box, that surprised me very much. I thought that you were a very dangerous companion.”
“Pray don’t talk about the horrid necklace.”
“Then came the robbery, and you seemed to lose your diamonds without being at all unhappy about them. Of course, we understand that now.” On hearing this, Lizzie smiled, but did not say a word. “Then I perceived that I— I was supposed to be the thief. You — you yourself couldn’t have suspected me of taking the diamonds, because — because you’d got them, you know, all safe in your pocket. But you might as well own the truth now. Didn’t you think that it was I who stole the box?”
“I wish it had been you,” said Lizzie laughing.
“All that surprised me. The police were watching me every day as a cat watches a mouse, and thought that they surely had got the thief when they found that I had dealings with Benjamin. Well, you — you were laughing at me in your sleeve all the time.”
“Not laughing, Lord George.”
“Yes, you were. You had got the kernel yourself, and thought that I had taken all the trouble to crack the nut and had found myself with nothing but the shell. Then, when you found you couldn’t eat the kernel, that you couldn’t get rid of the swag without assistance, you came to me to help you. I began to think then that you were too many for all of us. By Jove, I did! Then I heard of the second robbery, and, of course, I thought you had managed that too.”
“Oh, no,” said Lizzie.
“Unfortunately you didn’t; but I thought you did. And you thought that I had done it! Mr. Benjamin was too clever for us both, and now he is going to have penal servitude for the rest of his life. I wonder who will be the better of it all. Who’ll have the diamonds at last?”
“I do not in the least care. I hate the diamonds. Of course I would not give them up, because they were my own.”
“The end seems to be that you have lost your property, and sworn ever so many false oaths, and have brought all your friends into trouble, and have got nothing by it. What was the good of being so clever?”
“You need not come here to tease me, Lord George.”
“I came here because you sent for me. There’s my poor friend Mrs. Carbuncle, declares that all her credit is destroyed, and her niece unable to marry, and her house taken away from her — all because of her connection with you.”
“Mrs. Carbuncle is — is — is —. Oh, Lord George, don’t you know what she is?”
“I know that Mrs. Carbuncle is in a very bad way, and that that girl has gone crazy, and that poor Griff has taken himself off to Japan, and that I am so knocked about that I don’t know where to go; and somehow it seems all to have come from your little manoeuvres. You see we have all of us been made remarkable; haven’t we?”
“You are always remarkable, Lord George.”
“And it is all your doing. To be sure you have lost your diamonds for your pains. I wouldn’t mind it so much if anybody were the better for it. I shouldn’t have begrudged even Benjamin the pull, if he’d got it.”
He stood there, still looking down upon her, speaking with a sarcastic submissive tone, and, as she felt, intending to be severe to her. Though she believed that she hated him, she would have liked to get up some show of an affectionate farewell; some scene, in which there might have been tears, and tenderness, and poetry, and perhaps a parting caress; but with his jeering words and sneering face, he was as hard as a rock. He was now silent, but still looking down upon her as he stood motionless on the rug, so that she was compelled to speak again. “I sent for you, Lord George, because I did not like the idea of parting with you forever, without one word of adieu.”
“You are going to tear yourself away, are you?”
“I am going to Portray on Monday.”
“And never coming back any more? You’ll be up here before the season is over, with fifty more wonderful schemes in your little head. So Lord Fawn is done with, is he?”
“I have told Lord Fawn that nothing shall induce me ever to see him again.”
“And cousin Frank?”
“My cousin attends me down to Scotland.”
“Oh — h. That makes it altogether another thing. He attends you down to Scotland, does he? Does Mr. Emilius go too?”
“I believe you are trying to insult me, sir.”
“You can’t expect but what a man should be a little jealous, when he has been so completely cut out himself. There was a time, you know, when even cousin Frank wasn’t a better fellow than myself.”
“Much you thought about it, Lord George.”
“Well — I did. I thought about it a good deal, my lady. And I liked the idea of it very much.” Lizzie pricked up her ears. In spite of all his harshness, could it be that he should be the Corsair still? “I am a rambling, uneasy, ill-to-do sort of man, but still I thought about it. You are pretty, you know — uncommonly pretty.”
“Don’t, Lord George.”
“And I’ll acknowledge that the income goes for much. I suppose that’s real at any rate?”
“Well — I hope so. Of course it’s real. And so is the prettiness, Lord George — if there is any.”
“I never doubted that, Lady Eustace. But when it came to my thinking that you had stolen the diamonds, and you thinking that I had stolen the box ——! I’m not a man to stand on trifles, but, by George! it wouldn’t do then.”
“Who wanted it to do?” said Lizzie. “Go away. You are very unkind to me. I hope I may never see you again. I believe you care more for that odious vulgar woman down-stairs than you do for anybody else in the world.”
“Ah, dear! I have known her for many years, Lizzie, and that both covers and discovers many faults. One learns to know how bad one’s old friends are, but then one forgives them, because they are old friends.”
“You can’t forgive me — because I’m bad, and only a new friend.”
“Yes, I will. I forgive you all, and hope you may do well yet. If I may give you one bit of advice at parting, it is to caution you against being clever when there is nothing to get by it.”
“I ain’t clever at all,” said Lizzie, beginning to whimper.
“Good-by, my dear.”
“Good-by,” said Lizzie. He took her hand in one of his; patted her on the head with the other, as though she had been a child, and then left her.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14