Lord Dumbello’s engagement with Griselda Grantly was the talk of the town for the next ten days. It formed, at least, one of two subjects which monopolized attention, the other being that dreadful rumour, first put in motion by Tom Towers at Miss Dunstable’s party, as to a threatened dissolution of Parliament. ‘Perhaps after all, it will be the best thing for us,’ said Mr Green Walker, who felt himself to be tolerably safe at Crewe Junction.
‘I regard it as a most wicked attempt,’ said Harold Smith, who was not equally secure in his own borough, and to whom the expense of an election was disagreeable. ‘It is done in order that they may get the time to tide over the autumn. They won’t gain ten votes by a dissolution, and less than forty would hardly give them a majority. But they have no sense of public duty — none whatever. Indeed I don’t know who has.’
‘No, by Jove; that’s just it. That’s what my aunt Lady Hartletop says; there is no sense of duty left in the world. By the by, what an uncommon fool Dumbello is making himself!’ And then the conversation went off to that other topic.
Lord Lufton’s joke against himself about the willow branches was all very well, and nobody dreamed that his heart was sore in that matter. The world was laughing at Lord Dumbello for what it chose to call a foolish match, and Lord Lufton’s friends talked to him about it as though they had never suspected that he could have made an ass of himself in the same direction; but, nevertheless, he was not altogether contented. He by no means wished to marry Griselda; he had declared himself a dozen times since he had first suspected his mother’s manoeuvres that no consideration on earth should induce him to do so; he had pronounced her to be cold, insipid, and unattractive in spite of her beauty: and yet he felt almost angry that Lord Dumbello should have been successful. And this, too, was the more inexcusable, seeing that he had never forgotten Lucy Robarts, had never ceased to love her, and that, in holding those various conversations within his own bosom, he was as loud in Lucy’s favour as he was in dispraise of Griselda.
‘Your hero, then,’ I hear some well-balanced critic say, ‘is not worth very much.’ In the first place Lord Lufton is not my hero; and in the next place, a man may be very imperfect and yet worth a great deal. A man may be as imperfect as Lord Lufton, and yet worthy of a good mother and a good wife. If not, how many of us are unworthy of the mothers and wives we have! It is my belief that few young men settle themselves down to the work of the world, to the begetting of children, and carving and paying and struggling and fretting for the same, without having first been in love with four or five possible mothers for them, and probably with two or three at the same time. And yet these men are, as a rule, worthy of the excellent wives that ultimately fall to their lot. In this way, Lord Lufton had, to a certain extent, been in love with Griselda. There had been one moment in his life in which he would have offered her his hand, had not her discretion been so excellent; and though that moment never returned, still he suffered from some feeling akin to disappointment when he learned that Griselda had been won and was to be worn. He was, then, a dog in a manger, you will say. Well; and are we not all dogs in the manger more or less actively? Is not that manger-doggishness one of the most common phases of the human heart? But not the less was Lord Lufton truly in love with Lucy Robarts. Had he fancied that any Dumbello was carrying on a siege before that fortress, his vexation would have manifested itself in a very different manner. He could joke about Griselda Grantly with a frank face and a happy tone of voice; but had he heard of any tidings of a similar import with reference to Lucy, he would have been past all joking, and I must doubt whether it would not even have affected his appetite. ‘Mother,’ he said to Lady Lufton, a day or two after the declaration of Griselda’s engagement, ‘I am going to Norway to fish.’
‘To Norway — to fish?’
‘Yes. We’ve got a rather nice party. Clontarf is going, and Culpepper —’
‘What — that horrid man!’
‘He’s an excellent hand at fishing; and Haddington Peebles, and — and — there’ll be six of us altogether; and we start this day week.’
‘That’s rather sudden, Ludovic.’
‘Yes, it is sudden; but we’re sick of London. I should not care to go so soon myself, but Clontarf and Culpepper say that the season is early this year. I must go down to Framley before I start — about my horses: and therefore I came to tell you that I shall be there tomorrow.’
‘At Framley tomorrow? If you could put it off for three days I should be going myself.’ But Lord Lufton could not put it off for three days. It may be that on this occasion he did not wish for his mother’s presence at Framley while he was there; that he conceived that he should be more at his ease in giving orders about his stable if he were alone while so employed. At any rate he declined her company, and on the following morning did go down to Framley by himself.
‘Mark,’ said Mrs Robarts, hurrying into her husband’s book-room about the middle of the day, ‘Lord Lufton is at home. Have you heard it?’
‘What! Here at Framley?’
‘He is over at Framley Court; so the servants say. Carson saw him in the paddock with some of the horses. Won’t you go and see him?’
‘Of course I will,’ said Mark, shutting up his papers. ‘Lady Lufton can’t be here, and if he is alone he will probably come and dine.’
‘I don’t know about that,’ said Mrs Robarts, thinking of poor Lucy.
‘He is not in the least particular. What does for us will do for him. I shall ask him, at any rate.’ And without further parley the clergyman took up his hat and went off in search of his friend. Lucy Robarts had been present when the gardener brought in tidings of Lord Lufton’s arrival at Framley, and was aware that Fanny had gone to tell her husband.
‘He won’t come here, will he?’ she said, as soon as Mrs Robarts had returned.
‘I can’t say,’ said Fanny. ‘I hope not. He ought not to do so, and I don’t think he will. But Mark says that he will ask him to dinner.’
‘Then, Fanny, I must be taken ill. There is nothing else for it.’
‘I don’t think he will come. I don’t think he can be so cruel. Indeed, I feel sure that he won’t; but I thought it right to tell you.’ Lucy also conceived that it was improbable that Lord Lufton should come to the parsonage under the present circumstances; and she declared to herself that it would not be possible that she should appear at table if he did so; but, nevertheless, the idea of his being at Framley was, perhaps, not altogether painful to her. She did not recognize any pleasure as coming to her from his arrival, but still there was something in his presence which was, unconsciously to herself, soothing to her feelings. But that terrible question remained; — How was she to act if it should turn out that he was coming to dinner?
‘If he does come, Fanny,’ she said solemnly, after a pause, ‘I must keep to my own room, and leave Mark to think what he pleases. It will be better for me to make a fool of myself there, than in his presence in the drawing-room.’
Mark Robarts took his hat and stick and went over at once to the home paddock, in which he knew that Lord Lufton was engaged with the horses and grooms. He also was in no supremely happy frame of mind for his correspondence with Mr Tozer was on the increase. He had received notice from that indefatigable gentleman that certain ‘overdue bills’ were now lying at the bank in Barchester, and were very desirous of his, Mr Robarts’s, notice. A concatenation of certain peculiarly unfortunate circumstances made it indispensably necessary that Mr Tozer should be repaid, without further loss of time, the various sums of money which he had advanced on the credit of Mr Robarts’s name, &c, &c, &c. No absolute threat was put forth, and, singular to say, no actual amount was named. Mr Robarts, however, could not but observe, with a most painfully accurate attention, that mention was made, not of an overdue bill, but of overdue bills. What if Mr Tozer were to demand from him the instant repayment of nine hundred pounds? Hitherto he had merely written to Mr Sowerby, and he might have had an answer from that gentleman this morning, but no such answer had as yet reached him. Consequently he was not, at the present moment, in a very happy frame of mind.
He soon found himself with Lord Lufton and the horses. Four or five of them were being walked slowly about the paddock in the care of as many men or boys, and the sheets were being taken off them — off one after another, so that their master might look at them with the more accuracy and satisfaction. But though Lord Lufton was thus doing his duty, and going through his work, he was not doing it with his whole heart — as the head groom perceived very well. He was fretful about the nags, and seemed anxious to get them out of his whole sight as soon as he had made a decent pretext of looking at them. ‘How are you, Lufton?’ said Robarts, coming forward. ‘They told me that you were down, and so I came across at once.’
‘Yes; I only got here this morning, and should have been over with you directly. I am going to Norway for six weeks or so, and it seems that the fish are so early this year that we must start at once. I have a matter on which I want to speak to you before I leave; and, indeed, it was that which brought me down more than anything else.’ There was something hurried and not altogether easy about his manner as he spoke, which struck Robarts, and made him think that this promised matter to be spoken would not be agreeable in discussion. He did not know whether Lord Lufton might not again be mixed up with Tozer and the bills.
‘You will dine with us today?’ he said, ‘if, as I suppose, you are all alone.’
‘Yes, I am all alone.’
‘Then you will come?’
‘Well, I don’t quite know. No, I don’t think I can go over to dinner. Don’t look so disgusted. I’ll explain it all to you just now.’ What could there be in the wind; and how was it possible that Tozer’s bill should make it inexpedient for Lord Lufton to dine at the parsonage? Robarts, however, said nothing further about it at the moment, but turned off to look at the horses.
‘They are an uncommonly nice set of animals,’ said he.
‘Well, yes; I don’t know. When a man has four or five horses to look at, somehow or other he never has one fit to go. That chestnut mare is a picture, now that nobody wants her; but she wasn’t able to carry me well to hounds a single day last winter. Take them in, Pounce; that’ll do.’
‘Won’t your lordship run your eye over the old black ‘oss?’ said Pounce, the head groom, in a melancholy tone; ‘he’s as fine, sir — as fine as a stag.’
‘To tell you the truth, I think they’re too fine; but that’ll do; take them in. And now, Mark, if you’re at leisure, we’ll take a turn round the place.’ Mark, of course, was at leisure, and so they started on their walk.
‘You’re too difficult to please about your stable,’ Robarts began.
‘Never mind about the stable now,’ said Lord Lufton. ‘The truth is, I am not thinking about it. Mark,’ he then said, very abruptly, ‘I want you to be frank with me. Has your sister ever spoken to you about me?’
‘My sister; Lucy?’
‘Yes; your sister Lucy.’
‘No, never; at least nothing special; nothing that I can remember at the moment.’
‘Nor your wife?’
‘Spoken about you! —-Fanny? Of course she has, in the ordinary way. It would be impossible that she should not. But what do you mean?’
‘Have either of them told you that I made an offer to your sister?’
‘That you made an offer to Lucy?’
‘Yes, that I made an offer to Lucy.’
‘No; nobody has told me so. I have never dreamed of such a thing; nor, as far as I believe, have they. If anybody has spread such a report, or said that either of them have hinted at such a thing, it is a base lie. Good heavens! Lufton, for what do you take them?’
‘But I did,’ said his lordship.
‘Did what?’ said the parson.
‘I did make your sister an offer.’
‘You made Lucy an offer of marriage?’
‘Yes, I did; — in as plain language as a gentleman could use to a lady.’
‘And what answer did she make?’
‘She refused me. And now, Mark, I have come down here with the express purpose of making that offer again. Nothing could be more decided than your sister’s answer. It struck me as being almost uncourteously decided. But still it is possible that circumstances may have weighed with her which ought not to weigh with her. If her love be not given to anyone else, I may still have a chance of it. It’s the old story of faint heart, you know; at any rate, I mean to try my luck again; and thinking over it with deliberate purpose, I have come to the conclusion that I ought to tell you before I see her.’
Lord Lufton in love with Lucy! As these words repeated themselves over and over again within Mark Robarts’s mind, his mind added to them notes of surprise without end. How had it come about — and why? In his estimation his sister Lucy was a very simple girl — not plain indeed, but by no means beautiful; certainly not stupid, but by no means brilliant. And then, he would have said, that of all the men he knew, Lord Lufton would have been the last to fall in love with such a girl as his sister. And now, what was he to say or do? What views was he bound to hold? In what direction should he act? There was Lady Lufton on the one side, to whom he owed everything. How would life be possible to him in that parsonage — within a few yards of her elbow — if he consent to receive Lord Lufton as the acknowledged suitor of his sister? It would be a great match for Lucy, doubtless; but —. Indeed he could not bring himself to believe that Lucy could in truth become the absolute reigning queen of Framley Court.
‘Do you think that Fanny knows anything of all this?’ he said after a moment or two.
‘I cannot possibly tell. If she does it is not with my knowledge. I should have thought that you could best answer that.’
‘I cannot answer it at all,’ said Mark. ‘I, at least, have had no remotest idea of such a thing.’
‘Your ideas of it now need not be at all remote,’ said Lord Lufton, with a faint smile; ‘and you may know it as a fact. I did make her an offer of marriage; I was refused; I am going to repeat it; and I am now taking you into my confidence, in order that, as her brother, and as my friend, you may give me such assistance as you can.’ They then walked on in silence for some yards, after which Lord Lufton added: ‘And now I’ll dine with you today if you wish it.’ Mr Robarts did not know what to say; he could not bethink himself what answer duty required of him. He had no right to interfere between his sister and such a marriage if she herself should wish it; but still there was something terrible in the thought of it! He had a vague conception that it must come to evil; that the project was a dangerous one; and that it could not finally result happily for any of them. What would Lady Lufton say? That undoubtedly was the chief source of his dismay.
‘Have you spoken to your mother about this?’ he said.
‘My mother? No; why speak to her till I know my fate? A man does not like to speak much of such matters if there be a probability of its being rejected. I tell you because I do not like to make my way into your house under a false pretence.’
‘But what would Lady Lufton say?’
‘I think it probable that she would be displeased on the first hearing of it; that in four-and-twenty hours she would be reconciled; and that after a week or so Lucy would be her dearest favourite and the Prime Minister of all her machinations. You don’t know my mother as well as I do. She would give her head off her shoulders to do me a pleasure.’
‘And for that reason,’ said Mark Robarts, ‘you ought, if possible, to do her pleasure.’
‘I cannot absolutely marry the wife of her choosing, if you mean that,’ said Lord Lufton. They went on walking about the garden for an hour, but they hardly got any farther than the point to which we have now brought them. Mark Robarts could not make up his mind on the spur of the moment; nor, as he said more than once to Lord Lufton, could he be at all sure that Lucy would in any way be guided by him. It was, therefore, at last settled between them that Lord Lufton should come to the parsonage immediately after breakfast on the following morning. It was agreed also that the dinner had better not come off, and Robarts promised that he would, if possible, have determined by the morning as to what advice he would give his sister. He went directly home to the parsonage from Framley Court, feeling that he was altogether in the dark till he should have consulted with his wife. How would he feel if Lucy were to become Lady Lufton? And how would he look Lady Lufton in the face in telling her that such was to be his sister’s destiny? On returning home he immediately found his wife, and had not been closeted with her five minutes before he knew, at any rate, all that she knew. ‘And you mean to say that she does love him?’ said Mark.
‘Indeed she does; and is it not natural that she should? When I saw them so much together I feared that she would. But I never thought that he would care for her.’ Even Fanny did not as yet give Lucy credit for half her attractiveness. After an hour’s talking the interview between the husband and wife ended in a message to Lucy, begging her to join them both in the book-room.
‘Aunty Lucy,’ said a chubby little darling, who was taken up into his aunt’s arms as he spoke, ‘Papa and Mamma ‘ant ‘oo’ in te tuddy, and I must go wis’ oo.’ Lucy, as she kissed the boy and pressed his face against her own, felt that her blood was running quick to her heart.
‘Mustn’t oo’ go wis me, my own one?’ she said as she put her playfellow down; but she played with the child only because she did not wish to betray, even to him, that she was hardly mistress of herself. She knew that Lord Lufton was at Framley; she knew that her brother had been to him; she knew that a proposal had been made that he should come there to dinner. Must it not, therefore, be the case that this call to a meeting in the study had arisen out of Lord Lufton’s arrival at Framley? And yet, how could it have done so? Had Fanny betrayed her in order to prevent the dinner invitation? It could not be possible that Lord Lufton himself should have spoken on the subject! And then again she stooped to kiss the child, rubbed her hands across her forehead to smooth her hair, and erase, if that might be possible, the look of care which she wore, and then descended slowly to her brother’s sitting-room. Her hand paused for a second on the door ere she opened it, but she had resolved that, come what might, she would be brave. She pushed it open and walked in with a bold front, with eyes wide open, and a slow step. ‘Frank says that you want me,’ she said. Mr Robarts and Fanny were both standing up by the fireplace, and each waited a second for the other to speak, when Lucy entered the room, and then Fanny began —
‘Lord Lufton is here, Lucy.’
‘Here! Where? At the parsonage?’
‘No, not at the parsonage; but over at Framley Court,’ said Mark.
‘And he promises to call here after breakfast tomorrow’ said Fanny. And then again there was a pause. Mrs Robarts hardly dared to look Lucy in the face. She had not betrayed her trust, seeing that the secret had been told to Mark, not by her, but by Lord Lufton; but she could not but feel that Lucy would think that she had betrayed it.
‘Very well,’ said Lucy, trying to smile; ‘I have no objection in life.’
‘But, Lucy, dear,’— and now Mrs Robarts put her arm round her sister-inlaw’s waist —‘he is coming here especially to see you.’
‘Oh; that makes a difference. I am afraid that I shall be — engaged.’
‘He has told everything to Mark,’ said Mrs Robarts. Lucy now felt that her bravery was almost deserting her. She hardly knew which way to look or how to stand. Had Fanny told everything also? There was so much that Fanny knew that Lord Lufton could not have known. But, in truth, Fanny had told all — the whole story of Lucy’s love, and had described the reasons which had induced her to reject her suitor; and had done so in words which, had Lord Lufton heard them, would have made him twice as passionate in his love. And then it certainly did occur to Lucy to think why Lord Lufton should have come to Framley and told all of his story to her brother. She attempted for a moment to make herself believe that she was angry with him for doing so. But she was not angry. She had not time to argue much about it, but there came upon her a gratified sensation of having been remembered, and thought of, and — loved. Must it not be so? Could it be possible that he himself would have told this tale to her brother, if he did not still love her? Fifty times she had said to herself that his offer had been an affair of the moment, and fifty times she had been unhappy in so saying. But this new coming of his could not be an affair of the moment. She had been the dupe, she had thought, of an absurd passion on her own part; but now — how was it now? She did not bring herself to think that she should ever be Lady Lufton. She had still, in some perversely obstinate manner, made up her mind against that result. But yet, nevertheless, it did in some unaccountable manner satisfy her to feel that Lord Lufton had himself come down to Framley and himself told his story. ‘He has told everything to Mark,’ said Mrs Robarts; and then again there was a pause for a moment, during which these thoughts passed through Lucy’s mind.
‘Yes,’ said Mark, ‘he has told me all, and he is coming here tomorrow morning that he may receive an answer from yourself.’
‘What answer?’ said Lucy, trembling.
‘Nay, dearest; who can say that but yourself?’ and her sister-inlaw, as she spoke, pressed against her. ‘You must say that yourself.’ Mrs Robarts in her long conversation with her husband, had pleaded strongly on Lucy’s behalf, taking as it were a part against Lady Lufton. She had said that if Lord Lufton persevered in his suit, they at the parsonage could not be justified in robbing Lucy of all that she had won for herself, in order to do Lady Lufton’s pleasure.
‘But she will think,’ said Mark, ‘that we have plotted and intrigued for this. She will call us ungrateful, and will make Lucy’s life wretched.’ To which his wife had answered, that all must be left in God’s hands. They had not plotted or intrigued. Lucy, though loving the man in her heart of hearts, had already once refused him, because she would not be thought to have snatched at so great a prize. But if Lord Lufton loved her so warmly that he had come down there in this manner, on purpose, as he himself had put it, that he might learn his fate, then — so argued Mrs Robarts — they two, let their loyalty to Lady Lufton be ever so strong, could not justify it to their consciences to stand between Lucy and her lover. Mark had still somewhat demurred to this, suggesting how terrible would be their plight if they should now encourage Lord Lufton, and if he, after such encouragement, when they should have quarrelled with Lady Lufton, should allow himself to led away from his engagement by his mother. To which Fanny had answered that justice was justice, and that right was right. Everything must be told to Lucy, and she must judge for herself.
‘But I do not know what Lord Lufton wants,’ said Lucy, with her eyes fixed upon the ground, and now trembling more than ever. ‘He did come to me, and I did give him an answer.’
‘And is that answer to be final?’ said Mark — somewhat cruelly, for Lucy had not yet been told that her lover had made any repetition of his proposal. Fanny, however, determined that no injustice should be done, and therefore she at last continued the story.
‘We know that you did give him an answer, dearest; but gentlemen sometimes will not put up with one answer on such a subject. Lord Lufton has declared to Mark that he means to ask again. He has come down here on purpose to do so.’
‘And Lady Lufton —’ said Lucy, speaking hardly above a whisper, and still hiding her face as she leaned against her sister’s shoulder.
‘Lord Lufton has not spoken to his mother about it,’ said Mark; and it immediately became clear to Lucy, from the tone of her brother’s voice, that he, at least, would not be pleased, should she accept her lover’s vow.
‘You must decide out of your own heart, dear,’ said Fanny, generously. ‘Mark and I know how well you have behaved, for I have told him everything.’ Lucy shuddered and leaned closer against her sister as this was said to her. ‘I had no alternative, dearest, but to tell him. It was best so; was it not? But nothing has been told to Lord Lufton. Mark would not let him come here today because it would have flurried you, and he wished to give you time to think. But you can see him tomorrow morning — can you not? — and then answer him.’
Lucy now stood perfectly silent, feeling that she dearly loved her sister-inlaw’s for her sisterly kindness — for that sisterly wish to promote her sister’s love; but still there was in her mind a strong resolve not to allow Lord Lufton to come there under the idea that he would be received as a favoured lover. Her love was powerful, but so also was her pride; and she could not bring herself to bear the scorn which would lay in Lady Lufton’s eyes. ‘His mother will despise me, and then he will despise me too,’ she said to herself; and with a strong gulp of disappointed love and ambition she determined to persist. ‘Shall we leave you now, dear; and speak of it again tomorrow morning before he comes?’ said Fanny.
‘That will be the best,’ said Mark. ‘Turn it in your mind every way to-night. Think of it when you have said your prayers — and, Lucy, come here to me;’— then, taking her in his arms, he kissed her with a tenderness that was not customary with him towards her. ‘It is fair,’ said he, ‘that I should tell you this: that I have perfect confidence in your judgement and feeling; and that I will stand by you as your brother in whatever decision you may come to. Fanny and I both think that you have behaved excellently, and are both of us sure that you will do what is best. Whatever you do I will stick to you; — and so will Fanny.’
‘Dearest, dearest Mark!’
‘And now we will say nothing more about it till tomorrow morning,’ said Fanny. But Lucy felt that this saying nothing more about it till tomorrow morning would be tantamount to an acceptance on her part of Lord Lufton’s offer. Mrs Robarts knew, and Mr Robarts also now knew, the secret of her heart; and if, such being the case, she allowed Lord Lufton to come there with the acknowledged purpose of pleading his own suit, it would be impossible for her not to yield. If she were resolved that she would not yield, now was the time for her to stand her ground and make her fight. ‘Do not go, Fanny; at least not quite yet,’ she said.
‘I want you to stay while I tell Mark. He must not let Lord Lufton come here tomorrow.’
‘Not let him!’ said Mrs Robarts. Mr Robarts said nothing, but he felt his sister rising in his esteem from minute to minute.
‘No; Mark must bid him not come. He will not wish to pain me when it will do no good. Look here, Mark;’ and she walked over to her brother, and put both her hands upon his arm. ‘I do love Lord Lufton. I had not such meaning or thought when I first knew him. But I do love him — I love him dearly; — almost as well as Fanny loves you, I suppose. You may tell him so if you think proper — nay, you must tell him so, or he will not understand me. But tell him this, as coming from me: that I will never marry him, unless his mother asks me.’
‘She will not do that, I fear,’ said Mark, sorrowfully.
‘No; I suppose not,’ said Lucy, now regaining her courage. ‘If I thought it probable that she should wish me to be her daughter-inlaw, it would not be necessary that I should make such a stipulation. It is because she will not wish it; because she would regard me as unfit to — to — mate with her son. She would hate me, and perhaps would cease to love me. I could not bear her eye upon me, if she thought that I had injured her son. Mark, you will go to him now; will you not? and explain this to him; — as much of it as necessary. Tell him, that if his mother asks me, I will — consent. But that as I know that she never will, he is to look upon all that he has said as forgotten. With me it shall be the same as though it were forgotten.’ Such was her verdict, and so confident were they both of her firmness — of her obstinacy Mark would have called it on any other occasion — that they neither of them sought to make her alter it.
‘You will go to him now — this afternoon; will you not?’ she said; and Mark promised that he would. He could not but feel that he himself was greatly relieved. Lady Lufton might, probably, hear that her son had been fool enough to fall in love with the parson’s sister; but under existing circumstances she could not consider herself aggrieved either by the parson or by his sister. Lucy was behaving well, and Mark was proud of her. Lucy was behaving with fierce spirit, and Fanny was grieving for her.
‘I’d rather be by myself till dinner-time,’ said Lucy, as Mrs Robarts prepared to go with her out of the room. ‘Dear Fanny, don’t look so unhappy; there’s nothing to make us unhappy. I told you I should want goat’s milk, and that will be all.’ Robarts, after sitting for an hour with his wife, did return again to Framley Court; and, after a considerable search, found Lord Lufton returning home to a late dinner.
‘Unless my mother asks her,’ said he, when the story had been told him. ‘That is nonsense. Surely you told her that such is not the way of the world.’ Robarts endeavoured to explain to him that Lucy could not endure to think that her husband’s mother should look on her with disfavour.
‘Does she think that my mother dislikes her; her specially?’ asked Lord Lufton. No; Robarts could not suppose that such was the case; but Lady Lufton might probably think that a marriage with a clergyman’s sister would be a mesalliance.
‘That is out of the question,’ said Lord Lufton; ‘as she has specially wanted me to marry a clergyman’s daughter for some time past. But, Mark, that is absurd talking about my mother. A man in these days is not to marry as his mother bids him.’ Mark could only assure him, in answer to all this, that Lucy was very firm in what she was doing, that she had quite made up her mind, and that she altogether absolved Lord Lufton from any necessity to speak to his mother, if he did not think well of doing so. But all this was to very little purpose. ‘She does love me then,’ said Lord Lufton.
‘Well,’ said Mark, ‘I will not say whether she does or does not. I can only repeat her own message. She cannot accept you, unless she does so at your mother’s request.’ And having said that again, he took his leave, and went back to the parsonage. Poor Lucy, having finished her interview with so much dignity, having fully satisfied her brother, and declined any immediate consolation from her sister-inlaw, betook herself to her own bedroom. She had to think over what had been said and done, and it was necessary that she should be alone to do so. It might be that, when she came to reconsider the matter, she would not be quite so well satisfied as was her brother. Her grandeur of demeanour and slow propriety of carriage lasted her till she was well into her own room. There are animals who, when they are ailing in any way, contrive to hide themselves, ashamed, as it were, that the weakness of their suffering, should be witnessed. Indeed, I am not sure whether all dumb animals do not do so more or less; and in this respect Lucy was like a dumb animal. Even in her confidences with Fanny she made a joke of her own misfortunes, and spoke of her heart ailments with self-ridicule. But now, having walked up the staircase with no hurried step, and having deliberately locked the door, she turned herself round to suffer in silence and solitude — as do the beasts and birds. She sat herself down on a low chair, which stood at the foot of her bed, and, throwing back her head, held her handkerchief across her eyes and forehead, holding it tight in both her hands; and then she began to think. She began to think and also to cry, for the tears came running down from beneath her handkerchief; and low sobs were to be heard — only that the animal had taken itself off, to suffer in solitude. Had she not thrown from her all her chances of happiness? Was it possible that he should come to her yet again — a third time? No; it was not possible. The very mode and pride of this, her second rejection of him, made it impossible. In coming to her determination, and making her avowal, she had been actuated by the knowledge that Lady Lufton would regard such a marriage with abhorrence. Lady Lufton would not and could not ask her to condescend to be her son’s bride. Her chance of happiness, of glory, of ambition, of love, was all gone. She had sacrificed not only herself, but him. When first he came there — when she had meditated over his first visit — she had hardly given him much credit for deep love; but now — there could be no doubt that he loved her now. After his season in London, his days and nights were passed with all that was beautiful, he had returned there, to that little country parsonage, that he might again throw himself at her feet. And she — she had refused to see him, though she loved him with all her heart, she had refused to see him because she was so vile a coward that she could not bear the sour looks of an old woman! ‘I will come down directly,’ she said, when Fanny at last knocked at the door, begging to be admitted. ‘I won’t open it, love, but I will be with you in ten minutes; I will, indeed.’ And so she was, not perhaps, without traces of tears, discernible by the experienced eye of Mrs Robarts, but yet with a smooth brow, and voice under her own command.
‘I wonder whether she really loves him,’ Mark said to his wife that night.
‘Love him!’ his wife had answered: ‘indeed she does; and, Mark, do not be led away by the stern-quiet of her demeanour. To my thinking she is a girl who might almost die for her love.
On the next day Lord Lufton left Framley; and started, according to his arrangements, for the Norway salmon fishing.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01