On the day appointed, Lucy Morris went back from the house of the old countess to Fawn Court. “My dear,” said Lady Linlithgow, “I am sorry that you are going. Perhaps you’ll think I haven’t been very kind to you, but I never am kind. People have always been hard to me, and I’m hard. But I do like you.”
“I’m glad you like me, as we have lived together so long.”
“You may go on staying here, if you choose, and I’ll try to make it better.”
“It hasn’t been bad at all, only that there’s nothing particular to do. But I must go. I shall get another place as a governess somewhere, and that will suit me best.”
“Because of the money, you mean.”
“Well — that in part.”
“I mean to pay you something,” said the countess, opening her pocket-book, and fumbling for two banknotes which she had deposited there.
“Oh, dear, no. I haven’t earned anything.”
“I always gave Macnulty something, and she was not near so nice as you.” And then the countess produced two ten-pound notes. But Lucy would have none of her money, and when she was pressed, became proud and almost indignant in her denial. She had earned nothing, and she would take nothing; and it was in vain that the old lady spread the clean bits of paper before her. “And so you’ll go and be a governess again; will you?”
“When I can get a place.”
“I’ll tell you what, my dear. If I were Frank Greystock, I’d stick to my bargain.” Lucy at once fell a-crying, but she smiled upon the old woman through her tears. “Of course he’s going to marry that little limb of the devil.”
“Oh, Lady Linlithgow, if you can, prevent that!”
“How am I to prevent it, my dear? I’ve nothing to say to either of them.”
“It isn’t for myself I’m speaking. If I can’t — if I can’t — can’t have things go as I thought they would by myself, I will never ask any one to help me. It is not that I mean. I have given all that up.”
“You have given it up?”
“Yes; I have. But nevertheless I think of him. She is bad, and he will never be happy if he marries her. When he asked me to be his wife, he was mistaken as to what would be good for him. He ought not to have made such a mistake. For my sake he ought not.”
“That’s quite true, my dear.”
“But I do not wish him to be unhappy all his life. He is not bad, but she is very bad. I would not for worlds that anybody should tell him that he owed me anything; but if he could be saved from her, oh, I should be so glad.”
“You won’t have my money, then?”
“No, Lady Linlithgow.”
“You’d better. It is honestly your own.”
“I will not take it, thank you.”
“Then I may as well put it up again.” And the countess replaced the notes in her pocket-book. When this conversation took place, Frank Greystock was travelling back alone from Portray to London. On the same day the Fawn carriage came to fetch Lucy away. As Lucy was in peculiar distress, Lady Fawn would not allow her to come by any other conveyance. She did not exactly think that the carriage would console her poor favourite; but she did it as she would have ordered something specially nice to eat for any one who had broken his leg. Her soft heart had compassion for misery, though she would sometimes show her sympathy by strange expressions. Lady Linlithgow was almost angry about the carriage. “How many carriages and how many horses does Lady Fawn keep?” she asked.
“One carriage and two horses.”
“She’s very fond of sending them up into the streets of London, I think.” Lucy said nothing more, knowing that it would be impossible to soften the heart of this dowager in regard to the other. But she kissed the old woman at parting, and then was taken down to Richmond in state.
She had made up her mind to have one discussion with Lady Fawn about her engagement, the engagement which was no longer an engagement, and then to have done with it. She would ask Lady Fawn to ask the girls never to mention Mr. Greystock’s name in her hearing. Lady Fawn had also made up her mind to the same effect. She felt that the subject should be mentioned once, and once only. Of course Lucy must have another place, but there need be no hurry about that. She fully recognised her young friend’s feeling of independence, and was herself aware that she would be wrong to offer to the girl a permanent home among her own daughters, and therefore she could not abandon the idea of a future place; but Lucy would, of course, remain till a situation should be found for her that would be in every sense unexceptionable. There need, however, be no haste, and, in the mean time, the few words about Frank Greystock must be spoken. They need not, however, be spoken quite immediately. Let there be smiles, and joy, and a merry ring of laughter on this the first day of the return of their old friend. As Lucy had the same feeling on that afternoon they did talk pleasantly and were merry. The girls asked questions about the vulturess, as they had heard her called by Lizzie Eustace, and laughed at Lucy, to her face, when she swore that, after a fashion, she liked the old woman.
“You’d like anybody, then,” said Nina.
“Indeed I don’t,” said Lucy, thinking at once of Lizzie Eustace.
Lady Fawn planned out the next day with great precision. After breakfast, Lucy and the girls were to spend the morning in the old school-room, so that there might be a general explanation as to the doings of the last six months. They were to dine at three, and after dinner there should be the discussion. “Will you come up to my room at four o’clock, my dear?” said Lady Fawn, patting Lucy’s shoulder, in the breakfast-parlour. Lucy knew well why her presence was required. Of course she would come. It would be wise to get it over, and have done with it.
At noon Lady Fawn, with her three eldest daughters, went out in the carriage, and Lucy was busy among the others with books and maps and sheets of scribbled music. Nothing was done on that day in the way of instruction; but there was much of half-jocose acknowledgment of past idleness, and a profusion of resolutions of future diligence. One or two of the girls were going to commence a course of reading that would have broken the back of any professor, and suggestions were made as to very rigid rules as to the talking of French and German. “But as we can’t talk German,” said Nina, “we should simply be dumb.”
“You’d talk High-Dutch, Nina, sooner than submit to that,” said one of the sisters.
The conclave was still sitting in full deliberation, when one of the maids entered the room with a very long face. There was a gentleman in the drawing-room asking for Miss Morris! Lucy, who at the moment was standing at a table on which were spread an infinity of books, became at once as white as a sheet. Her fast friend, Lydia Fawn, who was standing by her, immediately took hold of her hand quite tightly. The face of the maid was fit for a funeral. She knew that Miss Morris had had a “follower,” that the follower had come, and that then Miss Morris had gone away. Miss Morris had been allowed to come back; and now, on the very first day, just when my lady’s back was turned, here was the follower again! Before she had come up with her message, there had been an unanimous expression of opinion in the kitchen that the fat would all be in the fire. Lucy was as white as marble, and felt such a sudden shock at her heart, that she could not speak. And yet she never doubted for a moment that Frank Greystock was the man. And with what purpose but one could he have come there? She had on the old, old frock in which, before her visit to Lady Linlithgow, she used to pass the morning amid her labours with the girls, a pale, gray, well-worn frock, to which must have been imparted some attraction from the milliner’s art, because everybody liked it so well, but which she had put on this very morning as a testimony, to all the world around her, that she had abandoned the idea of being anything except a governess. Lady Fawn had understood the frock well. “Here is the dear little old woman just the same as ever,” Lydia had said, embracing her.
“She looks as if she’d gone to bed before the winter, and had a long sleep, like a dormouse,” said Cecilia. Lucy had liked it all, and thoroughly appreciated the loving-kindness; but she had known what it all meant. She had left them as the engaged bride of Mr. Greystock, the member for Bobsborough; and now she had come back as Lucy Morris, the governess, again.
“Just the same as ever,” Lucy had said, with the sweetest smile. They all understood that in so saying she renounced her lover.
And now there stood the maid, inside the room, who, having announced that there was a gentleman asking for Miss Morris, was waiting for an answer. Was the follower to be sent about his business, with a flea in his ear, having come, slyly, craftily, and wickedly, in Lady Fawn’s absence; or would Miss Morris brazen it out, and go and see him?
“Who is the gentleman?” asked Diana, who was the eldest of the Fawn girls present.
“It’s he as used to come after Miss Morris before,” said the maid.
“It is Mr. Greystock,” said Lucy, recovering herself with an effort. “I had better go down to him. Will you tell him, Mary, that I’ll be with him almost immediately?”
“You ought to have put on the other frock, after all,” said Nina, whispering into her ear.
“He has not lost much time in coming to see you,” said Lydia.
“I suppose it was all because he didn’t like Lady Linlithgow,” said Cecilia. Lucy had not a word to say. She stood for a minute among them, trying to think, and then she slowly left the room.
She would not condescend to alter her dress by the aid of a single pin, nor by the adjustment of a ribbon. It might well be that, after the mingled work and play of the morning, her hair should not be smooth; but she was too proud to look at her hair. The man whom she had loved, who had loved her but had neglected her, was in the house. He would surely not have followed her thither did he not intend to make reparation for his neglect. But she would use no art with him; nor would she make any entreaty. It might be that, after all, he had the courage to come and tell her, in a manly, straightforward way, that the thing must be all over, that he had made a mistake, and would beg her pardon. If it were so, there should be no word of reproach. She would be quite quiet with him; but there should be no word of reproach. But if —— in that other case, she could not be sure of her behaviour; but she knew well that he would not have to ask long for forgiveness. As for her dress, he had chosen to love her in that frock before, and she did not think that he would pay much attention to her dress on the present occasion.
She opened the door very quietly and very slowly, intending to approach him in the same way; but in a moment, before she could remember that she was in the room, he had seized her in his arms, and was showering kisses upon her forehead, her eyes, and her lips. When she thought of it afterwards, she could not call to mind a single word that he had spoken before he held her in his embrace. It was she, surely, who had spoken first, when she begged to be released from his pressure. But she well remembered the first words that struck her ear. “Dearest Lucy, will you forgive me?” She could only answer them, through her tears, by taking up his hand and kissing it.
When Lady Fawn came back with the carriage, she herself saw the figures of two persons walking very close together, in the shrubberies.
“Is that Lucy?” she asked.
“Yes;” said Augusta, with a tone of horror. “Indeed it is; and — Mr. Greystock.”
Lady Fawn was neither shocked nor displeased; nor was she disappointed; but a certain faint feeling of being ill-used by circumstances came over her. “Dear me; the very first day!” she said.
“It’s because he wouldn’t go to Lady Linlithgow’s,” said Amelia. “He has only waited, mamma.”
“But the very first day!” exclaimed Lady Fawn. “I hope Lucy will be happy; that’s all.”
There was a great meeting of all the Fawns, as soon as Lady Fawn and the eldest girls were in the house. Mr. Greystock had been walking about the grounds with Lucy for the last hour and a half. Lucy had come in once to beg that Lady Fawn might be told directly she came in. “She said you were to send for her, mamma,” said Lydia.
“But it’s dinner-time, my dear. What are we to do with Mr. Greystock?”
“Ask him to lunch, of course,” said Amelia.
“I suppose it’s all right,” said Lady Fawn.
“I’m quite sure it’s all right,” said Nina.
“What did she say to you, Lydia?” asked the mother.
“She was as happy as ever she could be,” said Lydia. “There’s no doubt about it’s being all right, mamma. She looked just as she did when she got the letter from him before.”
“I hope she managed to change her frock,” said Augusta.
“She didn’t then,” said Cecilia.
“I don’t suppose he cares one half-penny about her frock,” said Nina. “I should never think about a man’s coat if I was in love.”
“Nina, you shouldn’t talk in that way,” said Augusta. Whereupon Nina made a face behind one of her sisters’ backs. Poor Augusta was never allowed to be a prophetess among them.
The consultation was ended by a decision in accordance with which Nina went as an ambassador to the lovers. Lady Fawn sent her compliments to Mr. Greystock, and hoped he would come in to lunch. Lucy must come in to dinner, because dinner was ready.
“And mamma wants to see you just for a minute,” added Nina, in a pretended whisper.
“Oh, Nina, you darling girl!” said Lucy, kissing her young friend in an ecstasy of joy.
“It’s all right?” asked Nina in a whisper which was really intended for privacy. Lucy did not answer the question otherwise than by another kiss.
Frank Greystock was, of course, obliged to take his seat at the table, and was entertained with a profusion of civility. Everybody knew that he had behaved badly to Lucy — everybody except Lucy herself, who, from this time forward, altogether forgot that she had for some time looked upon him as a traitor, and had made up her mind that she had been deceived and ill-used. All the Fawns had spoken of him, in Lucy’s absence, in the hardest terms of reproach, and declared that he was not fit to be spoken to by any decent person. Lady Fawn had known from the first that such a one as he was not to be trusted. Augusta had never liked him. Amelia had feared that poor Lucy Morris had been unwise, and too ambitious. Georgina had seen that, of course, it would never do. Diana had sworn that it was a great shame. Lydia was sure that Lucy was a great deal too good for him. Cecilia had wondered where he would go to; a form of anathema which had brought down a rebuke from her mother. And Nina had always hated him like poison. But now nothing was too good for him. An unmarried man who is willing to sacrifice himself is, in feminine eyes, always worthy of ribbons and a chaplet. Among all these Fawns there was as little selfishness as can be found, even among women. The lover was not the lover of one of themselves, but of their governess. And yet, though he desired neither to eat nor drink at that hour, something special had been cooked for him, and a special bottle of wine had been brought out of the cellar. All his sins were forgiven him. No single question was asked as to his gross misconduct during the last six months. No pledge or guarantee was demanded for the future. There he was, in the guise of a declared lover, and the fatted calf was killed.
After this early dinner it was necessary that he should return to town, and Lucy obtained leave to walk with him to the station. To her thinking now, there was no sin to be forgiven. Everything was, and had been, just as it ought to be. Had any human being hinted that he had sinned, she would have defended him to the death. Something was said between them about Lizzie, but nothing that arose from jealousy. Not till many months had passed did she tell him of Lizzie’s message to herself, and of her visit to Hertford Street; but they spoke of the necklace, and poor Lucy shuddered as she was told the truth about those false oaths.
“I really do think that, after that, Lord Fawn is right,” she said, looking round at her lover.
“Yes; but what he did, he did before that,” said Frank.
“But are they not good and kind?” she said, pleading for her friends. “Was ever anybody so well treated as they have treated me? I’ll tell you what, sir, you mustn’t quarrel with Lord Fawn any more. I won’t allow it.” Then she walked back from the station alone, almost bewildered by her own happiness.
That evening something like an explanation was demanded by Lady Fawn, but no explanation was forthcoming. When questions were asked about his silence, Lucy, half in joke and half in earnest, fired up and declared that everything had been as natural as possible. He could not have come to Lady Linlithgow’s house. Lady Linlithgow would not receive him. No doubt she had been impatient, but then that had been her fault. Had he not come to her the very first day after her return to Richmond? When Augusta said something as to letters which might have been written, Lucy snubbed her. “Who says he didn’t write. He did write. If I am contented, why should you complain?”
“Oh, I don’t complain,” said Augusta.
Then questions were asked as to the future; questions to which Lady Fawn had a right to demand an answer. What did Mr. Greystock propose to do now? Then Lucy broke down, sobbing, crying, triumphing, with mingled love and happiness. She was to go to the deanery. Frank had brought with him a little note to her from his mother, in which she was invited to make the deanery at Bobsborough her home for the present.
“And you are to go away just when you’ve come?” asked Nina.
“Stay with us a month, my dear,” said Lady Fawn, “just to let people know that we are friends, and after that the deanery will be the best home for you.” And so it was arranged.
It need only be further said, in completing the history of Lucy Morris as far as it can be completed in these pages, that she did go to the deanery, and that there she was received with all the affection which Mrs. Greystock could show to an adopted daughter. Her quarrel had never been with Lucy personally — but with the untoward fact that her son would not marry money. At the deanery she remained for fifteen happy months, and then became Mrs. Greystock, with a bevy of Fawn bridesmaids around her. As the personages of a chronicle such as this should all be made to operate backwards and forwards on each other from the beginning to the end, it would have been desirable that the chronicler should have been able to report that the ceremony was celebrated by Mr. Emilius; but as the wedding did not take place till the end of the summer, and as Mr. Emilius, at that time, never remained in town after the season was over, this was impossible; it was the Dean of Bobsborough, assisted by one of the minor canons, who performed the service.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55