Part 12 out of 12
room, on this very spot, whether it was possible that you should
love me--why did you say that it was impossible?'
Lucy, instead of answering at the moment, looked down upon the
carpet, to see if his memory was as good as hers. Yes; he was
standing on the exact spot where he had stood before. No spot in
all the world was more frequently clear before her eyes.
'Do you remember that day, Lucy?' he said again.
'Yes, I remember it,' she said.
'Why did you say it was impossible?'
'Did I say impossible?' She knew that she had said so. She
remembered how she had waited till he had gone, and that then,
going to her own room, she had reproached herself with the
cowardice of the falsehood. She had lied to him then; and now--how
was she punished for it?
'Well, I suppose it was possible,' she said.
'But why did you say so when you knew it would make me so
'Miserable! nay, but you went away happy enough! I thought I had
never seen you look better satisfied.'
'You had done your duty, and had had such a lucky escape! What
astonishes me is that you should have ever come back again. But
the pitcher may go to the well once too often, Lord Lufton.'
'But will you tell me the truth now?'
'That day, when I came to you--did you love me at all then?'
'We'll let bygones be bygones, if you please.'
'But I swear you shall tell me. It was such a cruel thing to
answer me as you did, unless you meant it. And yet you never saw
me again till after my mother had been over for you to Mrs
'It was absence that made me--care for you.'
'Lucy, I swear I believe you loved me then.'
'Ludovic, some conjurer must have told you that.' She was standing
as she spoke, and, laughing at him, she held up her hands and shook
her head. But she was now in his power, and he had his
revenge--his revenge for her past falsehood and her present joke.
How could he be more happy when he was made happy by having all his
own, than he was now? And in these days there again came up that
petition as to her riding--with very different result now than on
that former occasion. There were so many objections, then. There
was no habit, and Lucy was--or said she was--afraid; and then, what
would Lady Lufton say? But now Lady Lufton thought it would be
quite right; only were they quite sure about the horse? Was
Ludovic certain that the horse had been ridden by a lady? And Lady
Meredith's habits were dragged out as a matter of course, and one
of them chipped and snipped and altered, without any compunction.
And as for fear, there could be no bolder horsewoman than Lucy
Robarts. It was quite clear to all Framley that riding was the
very thing for her. 'But I never shall be happy, Ludovic, till you
have got a horse properly suited for her,' said Lady Lufton. And
then, also, came the affair of her wedding garments, of her
trousseau--as to which I cannot boast that she showed capacity or
steadiness at all equal to that of Lady Dumbello. Lady Lufton, however,
thought it a very serious matter; and as, in her opinion, Mrs
Robarts did not go about it with sufficient energy, she took the
matter mainly into her own hands, striking Lucy dumb by her frowns
and nods, deciding on everything herself, down to the very tags of
'My dear, you really must allow me to know what I am about;' and
Lady Lufton patted her on the arm as she spoke. 'I did it all for
Justinia, and she never had reason to regret a single thing that I
bought. If you'll ask her, she'll tell you so.' Lucy did not ask
her future sister-in-law, seeing that she had no doubt whatever as
to her future mother-in-law's judgement on the articles in
question. Only the money! And what could she want with six dozen
pocket-handkerchiefs all at once? There was no question of Lord
Lufton's going out as Governor-General to India! But twelve dozen
pocket-handkerchiefs had not been too many for Griselda's
imagination. And Lucy would sit alone in the drawing-room at
Framley Court, filling her heart with thoughts of that evening when
she had first sat there. She had then resolved, painfully, with
inward tears, with groanings of her spirit, that she was wrongly
placed in being in that company. Griselda Grantly had been there,
quite at her ease, petted by Lady Lufton, admired by Lord Lufton;
while she had retired out of sight, sore at heart, because she felt
herself to be no fit companion to those around her. Then he had
come to her, making matters almost worst by talking to her,
bringing the tears into her eyes by his good-nature, but still
wounding her by the feeling that she could not speak to him at her
ease. But things were at a different pass with her now. He had
chosen her--her out of all the world, and brought her there to
share with him his own home, his own honours, and all that he had
to give. She was the apple of his eye, and the pride of his
heart. And the stern mother, of whom she had stood in so much awe,
who at first had passed her by as a thing not to be noticed, and
had then sent out to her that she might be warned to keep herself
aloof, now hardly knew in what way she might sufficiently show her
love, regard and solicitude.
I must not say that Lucy was not proud in these moments--that her
heart was not elated at these thoughts. Success does beget pride,
as failure begets shame. But her pride was of that sort which is
no way disgraceful to either man or woman, and was accompanied by
pure true love, and a full resolution to do her duty in that state
of life to which it had pleased her God to call her. She did
rejoice greatly to think that she had been chosen, and not
Griselda. Was it possible that having loved she should not so
rejoice, or that, rejoicing, she should not be proud of her love?
They spent the whole winter abroad, leaving the dowager Lady Lufton
to her plans and preparations for their reception at Framley Court;
and in the following spring they appeared in London, and there set
up their staff. Lucy had some tremblings of the spirit, and
quiverings about the heart, at thus beginning her duty before the
great world, but she said little or nothing to her husband on the
matter. Other women had done as much before her time, and by
courage had gone through with it. It would be dreadful enough,
that position in her own house with lords and ladies bowing to her,
and stiff members of Parliament for whom it would be necessary to
make small talk; but, nevertheless, it was to be endured. The time
came, and she did endure it. The time came, and before the first
six weeks were over she found that it was easy enough. The lords
and ladies got into their proper places and talked to her about
ordinary matters in a way that made no effort necessary, and the
members of Parliament were hardly more stiff than the clergymen she
had known in the neighbourhood of Framley. She had not been long
in town before she met Lady Dumbello. At this interview also she
had to overcome some little inward emotion. On the few occasions
on which she had met Griselda Grantly at Framley they had not much
progressed in friendship, and Lucy had felt that she had been
despised by the rich beauty. She also in her turn had disliked, if
she had not despised, her rival. But how would it be now? Lady
Dumbello could hardly despise her, and yet it did not seem possible
that they should meet as friends. They did meet, and Lucy came
forward with a pretty eagerness to give her hand to Lady Lufton's
late favourite. Lady Dumbello smiled slightly--the same smile
which had come across her face when they two had been first
introduced in the Framley drawing-room; the same smile without the
variation of a line,--took the offered hand, muttered a word or
two, and then receded. It was exactly as she had done before. She
had never despised Lucy Robarts. She had accorded to the parson's
sister the amount of cordiality with which she usually received her
acquaintance; and now she could do no more for the peer's wife.
Lady Dumbello and Lady Lufton have known each other ever since, and
have occasionally visited each other's houses, but the intimacy
between them has never gone beyond this.
The dowager came up to town for about a month, and while there
contented to fill a second place. She had no desire to be the
great lady in London. But then came the trying period when they
commenced their life together at Framley Court. The elder lady
formally renounced her place at the top of the table--formally
persisted in renouncing it though Lucy with tears implored her to
resume it. She said also, with equal formality--repeating her
determination over and over again to Mrs Robarts with great
energy,--that she would in no respect detract by interference of
her own from the authority of the proper mistress of the house;
but, nevertheless, it is well known to every one at Framley that
old Lady Lufton still reigns paramount in the parish.
'Yes, my dear; the big room looking into the little garden to the
south was always the nursery; and if you ask my advice, it will
remain so. But, of course, any room you please--'
And the big room looking into the little garden to the south is
still the nursery at Framley Court.