It has been mentioned cursorily — the reader, no doubt, will have forgotten it — that Mrs Grantly was not specially invited by her husband to go up to town with a view of being present at Miss Dunstable’s party. Mrs Grantly said nothing on the subject, but she was somewhat chagrined; not on account of the loss she sustained with reference to that celebrated assembly, but because she felt that her daughter’s affairs required the supervision of a mother’s eye. She also doubted the final ratification of that Lufton-Grantly treaty, and, doubting it, she did not feel quite satisfied that her daughter should be left in Lady Lufton’s hands. She had said a word or two to the archdeacon before he went up, but only a word or two, for she hesitated to trust him in so delicate a matter. She was, therefore, not a little surprised at receiving a letter from him desiring her immediate presence in London. She was surprised; but her heart was filled rather with hope than dismay, for she had full confidence in her daughter’s discretion. On the morning after the party, Lady Lufton and Griselda had breakfasted together as usual, but each felt that the manner of the other was altered. Lady Lufton thought that her young friend was somewhat less attentive, and perhaps less meek in her demeanour than usual; and Griselda felt that Lady Lufton was less affectionate. Very little, however, was said between them, and Lady Lufton expressed no surprise when Griselda begged to be left alone at home, instead of accompanying her ladyship when the carriage came to the door. Nobody called in Bruton Street that afternoon — no one, at least, was let in-except the archdeacon. He came there late in the day, and remained with his daughter till Lady Lufton returned. Then he took his leave, with more abruptness than was usual with him, and without saying anything special to account for the duration of his visit. Neither did Griselda say anything special; and so the evening wore away, each feeling in some unconscious manner that she was on less intimate terms with the other than had previously been the case.
On the next day Griselda would not go out, but at four o’clock a servant brought a letter to her from Mount Street. Her mother had arrived in London and wished to see her at once. Mrs Grantly sent her love to Lady Lufton, and would call at half-past five, or at any later hour at which it might be convenient for Lady Lufton to see her. Griselda was to stay and dine in Mount Street; so said the letter. Lady Lufton declared that she would be very happy to see Mrs Grantly at the hour named; and then, armed with this message, Griselda started for her mother’s lodgings. ‘I’ll send the carriage for you,’ said Lady Lufton. ‘I suppose about ten will do.’
‘Thank you,’ said Griselda, ‘that will do very nicely;’ and then she went. Exactly at half-past five Mrs Grantly was shown into Lady Lufton’s drawing-room. Her daughter did not come with her, and Lady Lufton could see by the expression of her friend’s face that business was to be discussed. Indeed, it was necessary that she herself should discuss business, for Mrs Grantly must now be told that the family treaty could not be ratified. The gentleman declined the alliance, and poor Lady Lufton was uneasy in her mind at the nature of the task before her.
‘Your coming up has been rather unexpected,’ said Lady Lufton, as soon as her friend was seated on the sofa.
‘Yes, indeed; I got a letter from the archdeacon only this morning, which made it absolutely necessary that I should come.’
‘No bad news, I hope?’ said Lady Lufton.
‘No; I can’t call it bad news. But, dear Lady Lufton, things won’t always turn out exactly as one would have them.’
‘No, indeed,’ said her ladyship, remembering that it was incumbent on her to explain to Mrs Grantly now at this present interview the tidings with which her mind was fraught. She would, however, let Mrs Grantly first tell her own story, feeling, perhaps, that the one might possibly bear upon the other.
‘Poor dear Griselda!’ said Mrs Grantly, almost with a sigh. ‘I need not tell you, Lady Lufton, what my hopes were regarding her.’
‘Has she told you anything — anything that —’
‘She would have spoken to you at once — and it was due to you that she should have done so — but she was timid; and not unnaturally so. And then it was right that she should see her father and me before she quite made up her mind. But I may say that it is settled now.’
‘What is settled?’ asked Lady Lufton.
‘Of course it is impossible for anyone to tell beforehand how these things will turn out,’ continued Mrs Grantly, beating about the bush rather more than was necessary. ‘The dearest wish of my heart was to see her married to Lord Lufton. I should so much have wished to have her in the same county with me, and such a match as that would have fully satisfied my ambition.’
Well, I should think it might!’ Lady Lufton did not say this out loud, but she thought it. Mrs Grantly was absolutely speaking of a match between her daughter and Lord Lufton as though she would have displayed some Christian moderation in putting up with it! Griselda Grantly might be a very nice girl; but even she — so thought Lady Lufton at the moment — might possibly be priced too highly.
‘Dear Mrs Grantly,’ she said, ‘I have foreseen for the last few days that our mutual hopes in this respect would not be gratified. Lord Lufton, I think; — but perhaps it is not necessary to explain — Had you not come up to town, I should have written to you — probably today. Whatever may be dear Griselda’s fate in life, I sincerely hope that she may be happy.’
‘I think she will,’ said Mrs Grantly, in a tone that expressed much satisfaction.
‘Has — anything —’
‘Lord Dumbello proposed to Griselda the other night, at Miss Dunstable’s party,’ said Mrs Grantly, with her eyes fixed upon the floor, and assuming on the sudden much meekness in her manner; ‘and his lordship was with the archdeacon yesterday, and again this morning. I fancy he is in Mount Street at the present moment.’
‘Oh, indeed!’ said Lady Lufton. She would have given worlds to have possessed at the moment sufficient self-command to have enabled her to express in her tone and manner unqualified satisfaction of the tidings. But she had not such self-command, and was painfully aware of her own deficiency.
‘Yes,’ said Mrs Grantly. ‘And as it is all so far settled, and as I know you are so kindly anxious about dear Griselda, I thought it right to let you know at once. Nothing can be more upright, honourable, and generous, than Lord Dumbello’s conduct; and, on the whole, the match is one with which I and the archdeacon cannot but be contented.’
‘It is certainly a great match,’ said Lady Lufton. ‘Have you seen Lady Hartletop yet?’
Now Lady Hartletop could not be regarded as an agreeable connexion, but this was the only word which escaped from Lady Lufton that could be considered in any way disparaging, and, on the whole, I think she behaved well.
‘Lord Dumbello is so completely his own master that that has not been necessary,’ said Mrs Grantly. ‘The marquess has been told, and the archdeacon will see him either tomorrow or the day after.’ There was nothing left for Lady Lufton but to congratulate her friend, and this she did in words perhaps not very sincere, but which, on the whole, were not badly chosen.
‘I am sure I hope she will be very happy,’ said Lady Lufton, ‘and I trust that the alliance’— the word was very agreeable to Mrs Grantly’s ear —‘will give unalloyed gratification to you and her father. The position which she is called to fill is a very splendid one, but I do not think that it is above her merits.’ This was very generous, and so Mrs Grantly felt it. She had expected that her news would be received with the coldest shade of civility, and she was quite prepared to do battle if there was occasion. But she had no wish for war, and was almost grateful to Lady Lufton for her cordiality.
‘Dear Lady Lufton,’ she said, ‘it is so kind of you to say so. I have told no one else, and of course would tell no one till you knew it. No one has known her and understood her so well as you have done. And I can assure you of this, that there is no one to whose friendship she looks forward in her new sphere of life with half so much pleasure as she does yours.’ Lady Lufton did not say much further. She could not declare that she expected much gratification from an intimacy with the future Marchioness of Hartletop. The Hartletops and Luftons must, at any rate for her generation, live in a world apart, and she had not said all that her old friendship with Mrs Grantly required. Mrs Grantly understood all this quite as well as did Lady Lufton; but then Mrs Grantly was much the better woman of the world. It was arranged that Griselda should come back to Bruton Street for the night, and that her visit should then be brought to a close.
‘The archdeacon thinks that for the present I had better remain in town,’ said Mrs Grantly, ‘and under the very peculiar circumstances Griselda will be — perhaps more comfortable with me.’ To this Lady Lufton entirely agreed; and so they parted, excellent friends, embracing each other in a most affectionate manner. That evening Griselda did return to Bruton Street, and Lady Lufton had to go through the further task of congratulating her. This was the more disagreeable of the two, especially so as it had to be thought over beforehand. But the young lady’s excellent good sense and sterling qualities make the task comparatively an easy one. She neither cried, nor was impassioned, nor went into hysterics, nor showed any emotion. She did not even talk of her noble Dumbello — her generous Dumbello. She took Lady Lufton’s kisses almost in silence, thanked her gently for her kindness, and made no allusion to her own future grandeur.
‘I think I should like to go to bed early,’ she said, ‘as I must see to my packing up.’
‘Richards will do all that for you, my dear.’
‘Oh, yes, thank you, nothing can be kinder than Richards. But I’ll just see to my own dresses.’ And so she went to bed early.
Lady Lufton did not see her son for the next two days, but when she did, of course she said a word or two about Griselda. ‘You have heard the news, Ludovic?’ she asked.
‘Oh, yes; it’s at all the clubs. I have been overwhelmed with presents of willow branches.’
‘You, at any rate, have nothing to regret,’ she said.
‘Nor you either, mother. I am sure you do not think you have. Say that you do not regret it. Dearest mother, say so for my sake. Do you not know in your heart of hearts that she was not suited to be happy as my wife — or to make me happy.’
‘Perhaps not,’ said Lady Lufton, sighing. And then she kissed her son, and declared to herself that no girl in England could be good enough for him.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01