"I ain't noways sure as she ain't got them very diamonds themselves locked up, or, perhaps, tied round her person."
"Neither am I sure that she has not," said the major.
"The robbery at Carlisle was no robbery," continued Bunfit. "It was a got-up plant, and about the best as I ever knowed. It's my mind that it was a got-up plant between her ladyship and his lordship; and either the one or the other is just keeping the diamonds till it's safe to take 'em into the market."
In Hertford Street
During all this time Lucinda Roanoke was engaged to marry Sir Griffin Tewett, and the lover was an occasional visitor in Hertford Street. Mrs. Carbuncle was as anxious as ever that the marriage should be celebrated on the appointed day, and though there had been repeated quarrels, nothing had as yet taken place to make her despond. Sir Griffin would make some offensive speech; Lucinda would tell him that she had no desire ever to see him again; and then the baronet, usually under the instigation of Lord George, would make some awkward apology. Mrs. Carbuncle,—whose life at this period was not a pleasant one,—would behave on such occasions with great patience, and sometimes with great courage. Lizzie, who in her present emergency could not bear the idea of losing the assistance of any friend, was soft and graceful, and even gracious, to the bear. The bear himself certainly seemed to desire the marriage, though he would so often give offence which made any prospect of a marriage almost impossible. But with Sir Griffin, when the prize seemed to be lost, it again became valuable. He would talk about his passionate love to Mrs. Carbuncle, and to Lizzie,—and then, when things had been made straight for him, he would insult them, and neglect Lucinda. To Lucinda herself, however, he would rarely dare to say such words as he used daily to the other two ladies in the house. What could have been the man's own idea of his future married life, how can any reader be made to understand, or any writer adequately describe! He must have known that the woman despised him, and hated him. In the very bottom of his heart he feared her. He had no idea of other pleasure from her society than what might arise to him from the pride of having married a beautiful woman. Had she shown the slightest fondness for him, the slightest fear that she might lose him, the slightest feeling that she had won a valuable prize in getting him, he would have scorned her, and jilted her without the slightest remorse. But the scorn came from her, and it beat him down. "Yes;—you hate me, and would fain be rid of me; but you have said that you will be my wife, and you cannot now escape me." Sir Griffin did not exactly speak such words as these, but he acted them. Lucinda would bear his presence,—sitting apart from him, silent, imperious, but very beautiful. People said that she became more handsome from day to day, and she did so, in spite of her agony. Hers was a face which could stand such condition of the heart without fading or sinking under it. She did not weep, or lose her colour, or become thin. The pretty softness of a girl,—delicate feminine weakness, or laughing eyes and pouting lips, no one expected from her. Sir Griffin, in the early days of their acquaintance, had found her to be a woman with a character for beauty,—and she was now more beautiful than ever. He probably thought that he loved her; but, at any rate, he was determined that he would marry her.
He had expressed himself more than once as very angry about this affair of the jewels. He had told Mrs. Carbuncle that her inmate, Lady Eustace, was suspected by the police, and that it might be well that Lady Eustace should be—be made to go, in fact. But it did not suit Mrs. Carbuncle that Lady Eustace should be made to go;—nor did it suit Lord George de Bruce Carruthers. Lord George, at Mrs. Carbuncle's instance, had snubbed Sir Griffin more than once, and then it came to pass that he was snubbed yet again more violently than before. He was at the house in Hertford Street on the day of Mr. Bunfit's visit, some hours after Mr. Bunfit was gone, when Lizzie was still lying on her bed up-stairs, nearly beaten by the great danger which had oppressed her. He was told of Mr. Bunfit's visit, and then again said that he thought that the continued residence of Lady Eustace beneath that roof was a misfortune. "Would you wish us to turn her out because her necklace has been stolen?" asked Mrs. Carbuncle.
"People say very queer things," said Sir Griffin.
"So they do, Sir Griffin," continued Mrs. Carbuncle. "They say such queer things that I can hardly understand that they should be allowed to say them. I am told that the police absolutely suggest that Lord George stole the diamonds."
"No doubt, Sir Griffin. And so is the other nonsense. Do you mean to tell us that you believe that Lady Eustace stole her own diamonds?"
"I don't see the use of having her here. Situated as I am, I have a right to object to it."
"Situated as you are, Sir Griffin!" said Lucinda.
"Well;—yes, of course; if we are to be married, I cannot but think a good deal of the persons you stay with."
"You were very glad to stay yourself with Lady Eustace at Portray," said Lucinda.
"I went there to follow you," said Sir Griffin gallantly.
"I wish with all my heart you had stayed away," said Lucinda. At that moment Lord George was shown into the room, and Miss Roanoke continued speaking, determined that Lord George should know how the bear was conducting himself. "Sir Griffin is saying that my aunt ought to turn Lady Eustace out of the house."
"Not quite that," said Sir Griffin with an attempt at laughter.
"Quite that," said Lucinda. "I don't suppose that he suspects poor Lady Eustace, but he thinks that my aunt's friend should be like Caesar's wife, above the suspicion of others."
"If you would mind your own business, Tewett," said Lord George, "it would be a deal better for us all. I wonder Mrs. Carbuncle does not turn you out of the room for making such a proposition here. If it were my room, I would."
"I suppose I can say what I please to Mrs. Carbuncle? Miss Roanoke is not going to be your wife."
"It is my belief that Miss Roanoke will be nobody's wife,—at any rate, for the present," said that young lady;—upon which Sir Griffin left the room, muttering some words which might have been, perhaps, intended for an adieu. Immediately after this, Lizzie came in, moving slowly, but without a sound, like a ghost, with pale cheeks and dishevelled hair, and that weary, worn look of illness which was become customary with her. She greeted Lord George with a faint attempt at a smile, and seated herself in a corner of a sofa. She asked whether he had been told the story of the proposed search, and then bade her friend Mrs. Carbuncle describe the scene.
"If it goes on like this it will kill me," said Lizzie.
"They are treating me in precisely the same way," said Lord George.
"But think of your strength and of my weakness, Lord George."
"By heavens, I don't know!" said Lord George. "In this matter your weakness is stronger than any strength of mine. I never was so cut up in my life. It was a good joke when we talked of the suspicions of that fellow at Carlisle as we came up by the railway,—but it is no joke now. I've had men with me, almost asking to search among my things."
"They have quite asked me!" said Lizzie piteously.
"You;—yes. But there's some reason in that. These infernal diamonds did belong to you, or, at any rate, you had them. You are the last person known to have seen them. Even if you had them still, you'd only have what you call your own." Lizzie looked at him with all her eyes and listened to him with all her ears. "But what the mischief can I have had to do with them?"
"It's very hard upon you," said Mrs. Carbuncle.
"Unless I stole them," continued Lord George.
"Which is so absurd, you know," said Lizzie.
"That a pig-headed provincial fool should have taken me for a midnight thief, did not disturb me much. I don't think I am very easily annoyed by what other people think of me. But these fellows, I suppose, were sent here by the head of the metropolitan police; and everybody knows that they have been sent. Because I was civil enough to you women to look after you coming up to town, and because one of you was careless enough to lose her jewels, I—I am to be talked about all over London as the man who took them!" This was not spoken with much courtesy to the ladies present. Lord George had dropped that customary chivalry of manner which, in ordinary life, makes it to be quite out of the question that a man shall be uncivil to a woman. He had escaped from conventional usage into rough, truthful speech, under stress from the extremity of the hardship to which he had been subjected. And the women understood it and appreciated it, and liked it rather than otherwise. To Lizzie it seemed fitting that a Corsair so circumstanced should be as uncivil as he pleased; and Mrs. Carbuncle had long been accustomed to her friend's moods.
"They can't really think it," said Mrs. Carbuncle.
"Somebody thinks it. I am told that your particular friend, Lord Fawn,"—this he said, specially addressing Lizzie,—"has expressed a strong opinion that I carry about the necklace always in my pocket. I trust to have the opportunity of wringing his neck some day."
"I do so wish you would," said Lizzie.
"I shall not lose a chance if I can get it. Before all this occurred I should have said of myself that nothing of the kind could put me out. I don't think there is a man in the world cares less what people say of him than I do. I am as indifferent to ordinary tittle-tattle as a rhinoceros. But, by George,—when it comes to stealing ten thousand pounds' worth of diamonds, and the delicate attentions of all the metropolitan police, one begins to feel that one is vulnerable. When I get up in the morning, I half feel that I shall be locked up before night, and I can see in the eyes of every man I meet that he takes me for the prince of burglars!"
"And it is all my fault," said Lizzie.
"I wish the diamonds had been thrown into the sea," said Mrs. Carbuncle.
"What do you think about them yourself?" asked Lucinda.
"I don't know what to think. I'm at a dead loss. You know that man Mr. Benjamin, Lady Eustace?" Lizzie, with a little start, answered that she did,—that she had had dealings with him before her marriage, and had once owed him two or three hundred pounds. As the man's name had been mentioned, she thought it better to own as much. "So he tells me. Now, in all London, I don't suppose there is a greater rascal than Benjamin."
"I didn't know that," said Lizzie.
"But I did; and with that rascal I have had money dealings for the last six or seven years. He has cashed bills for me, and has my name to bills now,—and Sir Griffin's too. I'm half inclined to think that he has got the diamonds."
"Do you indeed?" said Mrs. Carbuncle.
"Mr. Benjamin!" said Lizzie.
"And he returns the compliment."
"How does he return it?" asked Mrs. Carbuncle.
"He either thinks that I've got 'em, or he wants to make me believe that he thinks so. He hasn't dared to say it;—but that's his intention. Such an opinion from such a man on such a subject would be quite a compliment. And I feel it. But yet it troubles me. You know that greasy, Israelitish smile of his, Lady Eustace." Lizzie nodded her head and tried to smile. "When I asked him yesterday about the diamonds, he leered at me and rubbed his hands. 'It's a pretty little game;—ain't it, Lord George?' he said. I told him that I thought it a very bad game, and that I hoped the police would have the thief and the necklace soon. 'It's been managed a deal too well for that, Lord George;—don't you think so?'" Lord George mimicked the Jew as he repeated the words, and the ladies, of course, laughed. But poor Lizzie's attempt at laughter was very sorry. "I told him to his face that I thought he had them among his treasures. 'No, no, no, Lord George,' he said, and seemed quite to enjoy the joke. If he's got them himself, he can't think that I have them;—but if he has not, I don't doubt but he believes that I have. And I'll tell you another person who suspects me."
"What fools they are," said Lizzie.
"I don't know how that may be. Sir Griffin, Lucinda, isn't at all sure but what I have them in my pocket."
"I can believe anything of him," said Lucinda.
"And it seems he can believe anything of me. I shall begin to think soon that I did take them, myself,—or, at any rate, that I ought to have done so. I wonder what you three women think of it. If you do think I've got 'em, don't scruple to say so. I'm quite used to it, and it won't hurt me any further." The ladies again laughed. "You must have your suspicions," continued he.
"I suppose some of the London thieves did get them," said Mrs. Carbuncle.
"The police say the box was empty," said Lord George.
"How can the police know?" asked Lucinda. "They weren't there to see. Of course, the thieves would say that they didn't take them."
"What do you think, Lady Eustace?"
"I don't know what to think. Perhaps Mr. Camperdown did it."
"Or the Lord Chancellor," said Lord George. "One is just as likely as the other. I wish I could get at what you really think. The whole thing would be so complete if all you three suspected me. I can't get out of it all by going to Paris or Kamschatka, as I should have half a dozen detectives on my heels wherever I went. I must brazen it out here; and the worst of it is, that I feel that a look of guilt is creeping over me. I have a sort of conviction growing upon me that I shall be taken up and tried, and that a jury will find me guilty. I dream about it; and if,—as is probable,—it drives me mad, I'm sure that I shall accuse myself in my madness. There's a fascination about it that I can't explain or escape. I go on thinking how I would have done it if I did do it. I spend hours in calculating how much I would have realised, and where I would have found my market. I couldn't keep myself from asking Benjamin the other day how much they would be worth to him."
"What did he say?" asked Lizzie, who sat gazing upon the Corsair, and who was now herself fascinated. Lord George was walking about the room, then sitting for a moment in one chair and again in another, and after a while leaning on the mantelpiece. In his speaking he addressed himself almost exclusively to Lizzie, who could not keep her eyes from his.
"He grinned greasily," said the Corsair, "and told me they had already been offered to him once before by you."
"That's false," said Lizzie.
"Very likely. And then he said that no doubt they'd fall into his hands some day. 'Wouldn't it be a game, Lord George,' he said, 'if, after all, they should be no more than paste?' That made me think he had got them, and that he'd get paste diamonds put into the same setting,—and then give them up with some story of his own making. 'You'd know whether they were paste or not; wouldn't you, Lord George?' he asked." The Corsair, as he repeated Mr. Benjamin's words, imitated the Jew's manner so well, that he made Lizzie shudder. "While I was there, a detective named Gager came in."
"The same man who came here, perhaps," suggested Mrs. Carbuncle.
"I think not. He seemed to be quite intimate with Mr. Benjamin, and went on at once about the diamonds. Benjamin said that they'd made their way over to Paris, and that he'd heard of them. I found myself getting quite intimate with Mr. Gager, who seemed hardly to scruple at showing that he thought that Benjamin and I were confederates. Mr. Camperdown has offered four hundred pounds reward for the jewels,—to be paid on their surrender to the hands of Mr. Garnett, the jeweller. Gager declared that, if any ordinary thief had them, they would be given up at once for that sum."
"That's true, I suppose," said Mrs. Carbuncle.
"How would the ordinary thief get his money without being detected? Who would dare to walk into Garnett's shop with the diamonds in his hands and ask for the four hundred pounds? Besides, they have been sold to some one,—and, as I believe, to my dear friend, Mr. Benjamin. 'I suppose you ain't a-going anywhere just at present, Lord George?' said that fellow Gager. 'What the devil's that to you?' I asked him. He just laughed and shook his head. I don't doubt but that there's a policeman about waiting till I leave this house;—or looking at me now with a magnifying glass from the windows at the other side. They've photographed me while I'm going about, and published a list of every hair on my face in the 'Hue and Cry.' I dined at the club yesterday, and found a strange waiter. I feel certain that he was a policeman done up in livery all for my sake. I turned sharp round in the street yesterday, and found a man at a corner. I am sure that man was watching me, and was looking at my pockets to see whether the jewel case was there. As for myself, I can think of nothing else. I wish I had got them. I should have something then to pay me for all this nuisance."
"I do wish you had," said Lizzie.
"What I should do with them I cannot even imagine. I am always thinking of that, too,—making plans for getting rid of them, supposing I had stolen them. My belief is, that I should be so sick of them that I should chuck them over the bridge into the river,—only that I should fear that some policeman's eye would be on me as I did it. My present position is not comfortable,—but if I had got them, I think that the weight of them would crush me altogether. Having a handle to my name, and being a lord, or, at least, called a lord, makes it all the worse. People are so pleased to think that a lord should have stolen a necklace."
Lizzie listened to it all with a strange fascination. If this strong man were so much upset by the bare suspicion, what must be her condition? The jewels were in her desk up-stairs, and the police had been with her also,—were even now probably looking after her and watching her. How much more difficult must it be for her to deal with the diamonds than it would have been for this man. Presently Mrs. Carbuncle left the room, and Lucinda followed her. Lizzie saw them go, and did not dare to go with them. She felt as though her limbs would not have carried her to the door. She was now alone with her Corsair; and she looked up timidly into his deep-set eyes, as he came and stood over her. "Tell me all that you know about it," he said, in that deep, low voice which, from her first acquaintance with him, had filled her with interest, and almost with awe.
Lizzie Eustace was speechless as she continued to look up into the Corsair's face. She ought to have answered him briskly, either with indignation or with a touch of humour. But she could not answer him at all. She was desired to tell him all that she knew about the robbery, and she was unable to declare that she knew nothing. How much did he suspect? What did he believe? Had she been watched by Mrs. Carbuncle, and had something of the truth been told to him? And then would it not be better for her that he should know it all? Unsupported and alone she could not bear the trouble which was on her. If she were driven to tell her secret to any one, had she not better tell it to him? She knew that if she did so, she would be a creature in his hands to be dealt with as he pleased;—but would there not be a certain charm in being so mastered? He was but a pinchbeck lord. She had wit enough to know that; but then she had wit enough also to feel that she herself was but a pinchbeck lady. He would be fit for her, and she for him,—if only he would take her. Since her daydreams first began, she had been longing for a Corsair; and here he was, not kneeling at her feet, but standing over her,—as became a Corsair. At any rate he had mastered her now, and she could not speak to him.
He waited perhaps a minute, looking at her, before he renewed his question; and the minute seemed to her to be an age. During every second her power beneath his gaze sank lower and lower. There gradually came a grim smile over his face, and she was sure that he could read her very heart. Then he called her by her Christian name,—as he had never called her before. "Come, Lizzie," he said, "you might as well tell me all about it. You know."
"Know what?" The words were audible to him, though they were uttered in the lowest whisper.
"About this d—— necklace. What is it all? Where are they? And how did you manage it?"
"I didn't manage anything!"
"But you know where they are?" He paused again, still gazing at her. Gradually there came across his face, or she fancied that it was so, a look of ferocity which thoroughly frightened her. If he should turn against her, and be leagued with the police against her, what chance would she have? "You know where they are," he said, repeating his words. Then at last she nodded her head, assenting to his assertion. "And where are they? Come;—out with it! If you won't tell me, you must tell some one else. There has been a deal too much of this already."
"You won't betray me?"
"Not if you deal openly with me."
"I will; indeed I will. And it was all an accident. When I took them out of the box, I only did it for safety."
"You did take them out of the box then?" Again she nodded her head. "And have got them now?" There was another nod. "And where are they? Come; with such a spirit of enterprise as yours you ought to be able to speak. Has Benjamin got them?"
"And he knows nothing about them?"
"Then I have wronged in my thoughts that son of Abraham?"
"Nobody knows anything," said Lizzie.
"Not even Jane or Lucinda?"
"Nothing at all."
"Then you have kept your secret marvellously. And where are they?"
"In your bed-room?"
"In my desk in the little sitting-room."
"The Lord be good to us!" ejaculated Lord George. "All the police in London, from the chief downwards, are agog about this necklace. Every well-known thief in the town is envied by every other thief because he is thought to have had a finger in the pie. I am suspected, and Mr. Benjamin is suspected; Sir Griffin is suspected, and half the jewellers in London and Paris are supposed to have the stones in their keeping. Every man and woman is talking about it, and people are quarrelling about it till they almost cut each other's throats; and all the while you have got them locked up in your desk! How on earth did you get the box broken open and then conveyed out of your room at Carlisle?"
Then Lizzie, in a frightened whisper, with her eyes often turned on the floor, told the whole story. "If I'd had a minute to think of it," she said, "I would have confessed the truth at Carlisle. Why should I want to steal what was my own? But they came to me all so quickly, and I didn't like to say that I had them under my pillow."
"I daresay not."
"And then I couldn't tell anybody afterwards. I always meant to tell you,—from the very first; because I knew you would be good to me. They are my own. Surely I might do what I liked with my own?"
"Well,—yes; in one way. But you see there was a lawsuit in Chancery going on about them; and then you committed perjury at Carlisle. And altogether,—it's not quite straight sailing, you know."
"I suppose not."
"Hardly. Major Mackintosh, and the magistrates, and Messrs. Bunfit and Gager won't settle down, peaceable and satisfied, when they hear the end of the story. And I think Messrs. Camperdown will have a bill against you. It's been uncommonly clever, but I don't see the use of it."
"I've been very foolish," said Lizzie,—"but you won't desert me!"
"Upon my word I don't know what I'm to do."
"Will you have them,—as a present?"
"They're worth ever so much;—ten thousand pounds! And they are my own, to do just what I please with them."
"You are very good;—but what should I do with them?"
"Who'd buy them? And before a week was over I should be in prison, and in a couple of months should be standing at the Old Bailey at my trial. I couldn't just do that, my dear."
"What will you do for me? You are my friend;—ain't you?" The diamond necklace was not a desirable possession in the eyes of Lord George de Bruce Carruthers;—but Portray Castle, with its income, and the fact that Lizzie Eustace was still a very young woman, was desirable. Her prettiness too was not altogether thrown away on Lord George,—though, as he was wont to say to himself, he was too old now to sacrifice much for such a toy as that. Something he must do,—if only because of the knowledge which had come to him. He could not go away and leave her, and neither say nor do anything in the matter. And he could not betray her to the police. "You will not desert me!" she said, taking hold of his hand, and kissing it as a suppliant.
He passed his arm round her waist, but more as though she were a child than a woman, as he stood thinking. Of all the affairs in which he had ever been engaged, it was the most difficult. She submitted to his embrace, and leaned upon his shoulder, and looked up into his face. If he would only tell her that he loved her, then he would be bound to her,—then must he share with her the burthen of the diamonds,—then must he be true to her. "George!" she said, and burst into a low suppressed wailing, with her face hidden upon his arm.
"That's all very well," said he, still holding her,—for she was pleasant to hold,—"but what the d—— is a fellow to do? I don't see my way out of it. I think you'd better go to Camperdown, and give them up to him, and tell him the truth." Then she sobbed more violently than before, till her quick ear caught the sound of a footstep on the stairs, and in a moment she was out of his arms and seated on the sofa, with hardly a trace of tears in her eyes. It was the footman, who desired to know whether Lady Eustace would want the carriage that afternoon. Lady Eustace, with her cheeriest voice, sent her love to Mrs. Carbuncle, and her assurance that she would not want the carriage before the evening. "I don't know that you can do anything else," continued Lord George, "except just give them up and brazen it out. I don't suppose they'd prosecute you."
"Prosecute me!" ejaculated Lizzie.
"For perjury, I mean."
"And what could they do to me?"
"Oh, I don't know. Lock you up for five years, perhaps."
"Because I had my own necklace under the pillow in my own room?"
"Think of all the trouble you've given."
"I'll never give them up to Mr. Camperdown. They are mine;—my very own. My cousin, Mr. Greystock, who is much more of a lawyer than Mr. Camperdown, says so. Oh, George, do think of something! Don't tell me that I must give them up! Wouldn't Mr. Benjamin buy them?"
"Yes;—for half nothing; and then go and tell the whole story and get money from the other side. You can't trust Benjamin."
"But I can trust you." She clung to him and implored him, and did get from him a renewed promise that he would not reveal her secret. She wanted him to take the terrible packet from her there and then, and use his own judgment in disposing of it. But this he positively refused to do. He protested that they were safer with her than they could be with him. He explained to her that if they were found in his hands, his offence in having them in his possession would be much greater than hers. They were her own,—as she was ever so ready to assert; or if not her own, the ownership was so doubtful that she could not be accused of having stolen them. And then he needed to consider it all,—to sleep upon it,—before he could make up his mind what he would do.
But there was one other trouble on her mind as to which he was called upon to give her counsel before he was allowed to leave her. She had told the detective officer that she would submit her boxes and desks to be searched if her cousin Frank should advise it. If the policeman were to return with her cousin while the diamonds were still in her, desk, what should she do? He might come at any time; and then she would be bound to obey him. "And he thinks that they were stolen at Carlisle?" asked Lord George. "Of course he thinks so," said Lizzie, almost indignantly. "They would never ask to search your person," suggested Lord George. Lizzie could not say. She had simply declared that she would be guided by her cousin. "Have them about you when he comes. Don't take them out with you; but keep them in your pocket while you are in the house during the day. They will hardly bring a woman with them to search you."
"But there was a woman with the man when he came before."
"Then you must refuse in spite of your cousin. Show yourself angry with him and with everybody. Swear that you did not intend to submit yourself to such indignity as that. They can't do it without a magistrate's order, unless you permit it. I don't suppose they will come at all; and if they do they will only look at your clothes and your boxes. If they ask to do more, be stout with them and refuse. Of course they'll suspect you, but they do that already. And your cousin will suspect you;—but you must put up with that. It will be very bad;—but I see nothing better. But, of all things, say nothing of me."
"Oh, no," said Lizzie, promising to be obedient to him. And then he took his leave of her. "You will be true to me;—will you not?" she said, still clinging to his arm. He promised her that he would. "Oh, George," she said, "I have no friend now but you. You will care for me?" He took her in his arms and kissed her, and promised her that he would care for her. How was he to save himself from doing so? When he was gone, Lizzie sat down to think of it all, and felt sure that at last she had found her Corsair.
Mrs. Carbuncle Goes to the Theatre
Mrs. Carbuncle and Lizzie Eustace did not, in these days, shut themselves up because there was trouble in the household. It would not have suited the creed of Mrs. Carbuncle on social matters to be shut up from the amusements of life. She had sacrificed too much in seeking them for that, and was too conscious of the price she paid for them. It was still mid-winter, but nevertheless there was generally some amusement arranged for every evening. Mrs. Carbuncle was very fond of the play, and made herself acquainted with every new piece as it came out. Every actor and actress of note on the stage was known to her, and she dealt freely in criticisms on their respective merits. The three ladies had a box at the Haymarket taken for this very evening, at which a new piece, "The Noble Jilt," from the hand of a very eminent author, was to be produced. Mrs. Carbuncle had talked a great deal about "The Noble Jilt," and could boast that she had discussed the merits of the two chief characters with the actor and actress who were to undertake them. Miss Talbot had assured her that the Margaret was altogether impracticable, and Mrs. Carbuncle was quite of the same opinion. And as for the hero, Steinmark,—it was a part that no man could play so as to obtain the sympathy of an audience. There was a second hero,—a Flemish Count,—tame as rain-water, Mrs. Carbuncle said. She was very anxious for the success of the piece, which, as she said, had its merits; but she was sure that it wouldn't do. She had talked about it a great deal, and now, when the evening came, she was not going to be deterred from seeing it by any trouble in reference to a diamond necklace. Lizzie, when she was left by Lord George, had many doubts on the subject,—whether she would go or stay at home. If he would have come to her, or her cousin Frank, or if, had it been possible, Lord Fawn would have come, she would have given up the play very willingly. But to be alone,—with her necklace in the desk up-stairs, or in her pocket, was terrible to her. And then, they could not search her or her boxes while she was at the theatre. She must not take the necklace with her there. He had told her to leave it in her desk, when she went from home.
Lucinda, also, was quite determined that she would see the new piece. She declared to her aunt, in Lizzie's presence, without a vestige of a smile, that it might be well to see how a jilt could behave herself, so as to do her work of jilting in any noble fashion. "My dear," said her aunt, "you let things weigh upon your heart a great deal too much." "Not upon my heart, Aunt Jane," the young lady had answered. She also intended to go, and when she had made up her mind to anything, nothing would deter her. She had no desire to stay at home in order that she might see Sir Griffin. "I daresay the play may be very bad," she said, "but it can hardly be so bad as real life."
Lizzie, when Lord George had left her, crept up-stairs, and sat for awhile thinking of her condition, with the key of her desk in her hand. Should there come a knock at the door, the case of diamonds would be in her pocket in a moment. Her own room door was bolted on the inside, so that she might have an instant for her preparation. She was quite resolved that she would carry out Lord George's recommendation, and that no policeman or woman should examine her person, unless it were done by violence. There she sat, almost expecting that at every moment her cousin would be there with Bunfit and the woman. But nobody came, and at six she went down to dinner. After much consideration she then left the diamonds in the desk. Surely no one would come to search at such an hour as that. No one had come when the carriage was announced, and the three ladies went off together.
During the whole way Mrs. Carbuncle talked of the terrible situation in which poor Lord George was placed by the robbery, and of all that Lizzie owed him on account of his trouble. "My dear," said Mrs. Carbuncle, "the least you can do for him is to give him all that you've got to give." "I don't know that he wants me to give him anything," said Lizzie. "I think that's quite plain," said Mrs. Carbuncle, "and I'm sure I wish it may be so. He and I have been dear friends,—very dear friends, and there is nothing I wish so much as to see him properly settled. Ill-natured people like to say all manner of things because everybody does not choose to live in their own heartless, conventional form. But I can assure you there is nothing between me and Lord George which need prevent him from giving his whole heart to you." "I don't suppose there is," said Lizzie, who loved an opportunity of giving Mrs. Carbuncle a little rap.
The play, as a play, was a failure; at least so said Mrs. Carbuncle. The critics, on the next morning, were somewhat divided,—not only in judgment, but as to facts. To say how a play has been received is of more moment than to speak of its own merits or of the merits of the actors. Three or four of the papers declared that the audience was not only eulogistic, but enthusiastic. One or two others averred that the piece fell very flatly. As it was not acted above four or five dozen times consecutively, it must be regarded as a failure. On their way home Mrs. Carbuncle declared that Minnie Talbot had done her very best with such a part as Margaret, but that the character afforded no scope for sympathy. "A noble jilt, my dears," said Mrs. Carbuncle eloquently, "is a contradiction in terms. There can be no such thing. A woman, when she has once said the word, is bound to stick to it. The delicacy of the female character should not admit of hesitation between two men. The idea is quite revolting."
"But may not one have an idea of no man at all?"—asked Lucinda. "Must that be revolting also?"
"Of course a young woman may entertain such an idea; though for my part I look upon it as unnatural. But when she has once given herself there can be no taking back without the loss of that aroma which should be the apple of a young woman's eye."
"If she finds that she has made a mistake—?" said Lucinda fiercely. "Why shouldn't a young woman make a mistake as well as an old woman? Her aroma won't prevent her from having been wrong and finding it out."
"My dear, such mistakes, as you call them, always arise from fantastic notions. Look at this piece. Why does the lady jilt her lover? Not because she doesn't like him. She's just as fond of him as ever."
"He's a stupid sort of a fellow, and I think she was quite right," said Lizzie. "I'd never marry a man merely because I said I would. If I found I didn't like him, I'd leave him at the altar. If I found I didn't like him, I'd leave him even after the altar. I'd leave him any time I found I didn't like him. It's all very well to talk of aroma, but to live with a man you don't like—is the devil!"
"My dear, those whom God has joined together shouldn't be separated,—for any mere likings or dislikings." This Mrs. Carbuncle said in a high tone of moral feeling, just as the carriage stopped at the door in Hertford Street. They at once perceived that the hall-door was open, and Mrs. Carbuncle, as she crossed the pavement, saw that there were two policemen in the hall. The footman had been with them to the theatre, but the cook and housemaid, and Mrs. Carbuncle's own maid, were with the policemen in the passage. She gave a little scream, and then Lizzie, who had followed her, seized her by the arm. She turned round and saw by the gas-light that Lizzie's face was white as a sheet, and that all the lines of her countenance were rigid and almost distorted. "Then she does know all about it!" said Mrs. Carbuncle to herself. Lizzie didn't speak, but still hung on to Mrs. Carbuncle's arm, and Lucinda, having seen how it was, was also supporting her. A policeman stepped forward and touched his hat. He was not Bunfit;—neither was he Gager. Indeed, though the ladies had not perceived the difference, he was not at all like Bunfit or Gager. This man was dressed in a policeman's uniform, whereas Bunfit and Gager always wore plain clothes. "My lady," said the policeman, addressing Mrs. Carbuncle, "there's been a robbery here."
"A robbery!" ejaculated Mrs. Carbuncle.
"Yes, my lady. The servants all out,—all to one; and she's off. They've taken jewels, and, no doubt, money, if there was any. They don't mostly come unless they know what they comes for."
With a horrid spasm across her heart, which seemed ready to kill her, so sharp was the pain, Lizzie recovered the use of her legs and followed Mrs. Carbuncle into the dining-room. She had been hardly conscious of hearing; but she had heard, and it had seemed to her that the robbery spoken of was something distinct from her own affair. The policemen did not speak of having found the diamonds. It was of something lost that they spoke. She seated herself in a chair against the wall, but did not utter a word. "We've been up-stairs, my lady, and they've been in most of the rooms. There's a desk broke open,"—Lizzie gave an involuntary little scream;—"Yes, mum, a desk," continued the policeman turning to Lizzie, "and a bureau, and a dressing-case. What's gone your ladyship can tell when you sees. And one of the young women is off. It's she as done it." Then the cook explained. She and the housemaid, and Mrs. Carbuncle's lady's maid, had just stepped out, only round the corner, to get a little air, leaving Patience Crabstick in charge of the house; and when they came back, the area gate was locked against them, the front door was locked, and finding themselves unable to get in after many knockings, they had at last obtained the assistance of a policeman. He had got into the place over the area gate, had opened the front door from within, and then the robbery had been discovered. It was afterwards found that the servants had all gone out to what they called a tea-party, at a public-house in the neighbourhood, and that by previous agreement Patience Crabstick had remained in charge. When they came back Patience Crabstick was gone, and the desk, and bureau, and dressing-case, were found to have been opened. "She had a reg'lar thief along with her, my lady," said the policeman, still addressing himself to Mrs. Carbuncle,—"'cause of the way the things was opened."
"I always knew that young woman was downright bad," said Mrs. Carbuncle in her first expression of wrath.
But Lizzie sat in her chair without saying a word, still pale, with that almost awful look of agony in her face. Within ten minutes of their entering the house, Mrs. Carbuncle was making her way up-stairs, with the two policemen following her. That her bureau and her dressing-case should have been opened was dreadful to her, though the value that she could thus lose was very small. She also possessed diamonds,—but her diamonds were paste; and whatever jewellery she had of any value,—a few rings, and a brooch, and such like,—had been on her person in the theatre. What little money she had by her was in the drawing-room, and the drawing-room, as it seemed, had not been entered. In truth, all Mrs. Carbuncle's possessions in the house were not sufficient to have tempted a well-bred, well-instructed thief. But it behoved her to be indignant; and she could be indignant with grace, as the thief was discovered to be, not her maid, but Patience Crabstick. The policemen followed Mrs. Carbuncle, and the maids followed the policemen; but Lizzie Eustace kept her seat in the chair by the wall. "Do you think they have taken much of yours?" said Lucinda, coming up to her and speaking very gently. Lizzie made a motion with her two hands upon her heart, and struggled, and gasped,—as though she wished to speak but could not. "I suppose it is that girl who has done it all," said Lucinda. Lizzie nodded her head, and tried to smile. The attempt was so ghastly that Lucinda, though not timid by nature, was frightened. She sat down and took Lizzie's hand, and tried to comfort her. "It is very hard upon you," she said, "to be twice robbed." Lizzie again nodded her head. "I hope it is not much now. Shall we go up and see?" The poor creature did get upon her legs, but she gasped so terribly that Lucinda feared that she was dying. "Shall I send for some one?" she said. Lizzie made an effort to speak, was shaken convulsively while the other supported her, and then burst into a flood of tears.
When that had come she was relieved, and could again act her part. "Yes," she said, "we will go with them. It is so dreadful;—is it not?"
"Very dreadful;—but how much better that we weren't at home! Shall we go now?" Then together they followed the others, and on the stairs Lizzie explained that in her desk, of which she always carried the key round her neck, there was what money she had by her;—two ten-pound notes, and four five-pound notes, and three sovereigns;—in all, forty-three pounds. Her other jewels,—the jewels which she had possessed over and above the fatal diamond necklace,—were in her dressing-case. Patience, she did not doubt, had known that the money was there, and certainly knew of her jewels. So they went up-stairs. The desk was open and the money gone. Five or six rings and a bracelet had been taken also from Lizzie's dressing-case, which she had left open. Of Mrs. Carbuncle's property sufficient had been stolen to make a long list in that lady's handwriting. Lucinda Roanoke's room had not been entered,—as far as they could judge. The girl had taken the best of her own clothes, and a pair of strong boots belonging to the cook. A superintendent of police was there before they went to bed, and a list was made out. The superintendent was of opinion that the thing had been done very cleverly, but was of opinion that the thieves had expected to find more plunder. "They don't care so much about banknotes, my lady, because they fetches such a low price with them as they deal with. The three sovereigns is more to them than all the forty pounds in notes." The superintendent had heard of the diamond necklace, and expressed an opinion that poor Lady Eustace was especially marked out for misfortune. "It all comes of having such a girl as that about her," said Mrs. Carbuncle. The superintendent, who intended to be consolatory to Lizzie, expressed his opinion that it was very hard to know what a young woman was. "They looks as soft as butter, and they're as sly as foxes, and as quick, as quick—as quick as greased lightning, my lady." Such a piece of business as this which had just occurred, will make people intimate at a very short notice.
And so the diamond necklace, known to be worth ten thousand pounds, had at last been stolen in earnest! Lizzie, when the policemen were gone, and the noise was over, and the house was closed, slunk away to her bedroom, refusing any aid in lieu of that of the wicked Patience. She herself had examined the desk beneath the eyes of her two friends and of the policemen, and had seen at once that the case was gone. The money was gone too, as she was rejoiced to find. She perceived at once that had the money been left,—the very leaving of it would have gone to prove that other prize had been there. But the money was gone,—money of which she had given a correct account;—and she could now honestly allege that she had been robbed. But she had at last really lost her great treasure;—and if the treasure should be found, then would she infallibly be exposed. She had talked twice of giving away her necklace, and had seriously thought of getting rid of it by burying it deep in the sea. But now that it was in very truth gone from her, the loss of it was horrible to her. Ten thousand pounds, for which she had struggled so much and borne so many things, which had come to be the prevailing fact of her life, gone from her for ever! Nevertheless it was not that sorrow, that regret, which had so nearly overpowered her in the dining-parlour. At that moment she hardly knew, had hardly thought, whether the diamonds had or had not been taken. But the feeling came upon her at once that her own disgrace was every hour being brought nearer to her. Her secret was no longer quite her own. One man knew it, and he had talked to her of perjury and of five years' imprisonment. Patience must have known it, too; and now some one else also knew it. The police, of course, would find it out, and then horrid words would be used against her. She hardly knew what perjury was. It sounded like forgery and burglary. To stand up before a judge and be tried,—and then to be locked up for five years in prison—! What an end would this be to all her glorious success? And what evil had she done to merit all this terrible punishment? When they came to her in her bedroom at Carlisle she had simply been too much frightened to tell them all that the necklace was at that moment under her pillow.
She tried to think of it all, and to form some idea in her mind of what might be the truth. Of course, Patience Crabstick had known her secret, but how long had the girl known it? And how had the girl discovered it? She was almost certain, from certain circumstances, from words which the girl had spoken, and from signs which she had observed, that Patience had not even suspected that the necklace had been brought with them from Carlisle to London. Of course, the coming of Bunfit and the woman would have set the girl's mind to work in that direction; but then Bunfit and the woman had only been there on that morning. The Corsair knew the facts, and no one but the Corsair. That the Corsair was a Corsair, the suspicions of the police had proved to her. She had offered the necklace to the Corsair; but when so offered, he had refused to take it. She could understand that he should see the danger of accepting the diamonds from her hand, and yet should be desirous of having them. And might not he have thought that he could best relieve her from the burthen of their custody in this manner? She felt no anger against the Corsair as she weighed the probability of his having taken them in this fashion. A Corsair must be a Corsair. Were he to come to her and confess the deed, she would almost like him the better for it,—admiring his skill and enterprise. But how very clever he must have been, and how brave! He had known, no doubt, that the three ladies were all going to the theatre; but in how short a time had he got rid of the other women and availed himself of the services of Patience Crabstick!
But in what way would she conduct herself when the police should come to her on the following morning,—the police and all the other people who would crowd to the house? How should she receive her cousin Frank? How should she look when the coincidence of the double robbery should be spoken of in her hearing? How should she bear herself when, as of course would be the case, she should again be taken before the magistrates, and made to swear as to the loss of her property? Must she commit more perjury, with the certainty that various people must know that her oath was false? All the world would suspect her. All the world would soon know the truth. Might it not be possible that the diamonds were at this moment in the hands of Messrs. Camperdown, and that they would be produced before her eyes, as soon as her second false oath had been registered against her? And yet how could she tell the truth? And what would the Corsair think of her,—the Corsair, who would know everything? She made one resolution during the night. She would not be taken into court. The magistrates and the people might come to her, but she would not go before them. When the morning came she said that she was ill, and refused to leave her bed. Policemen, she knew, were in the house early. At about nine Mrs. Carbuncle and Lucinda were up and in her room. The excitement of the affair had taken them from their beds,—but she would not stir. If it were absolutely necessary, she said, the men must come into her room. She had been so overset by what had occurred on the previous night, that she could not leave her room. She appealed to Lucinda as to the fact of her illness. The trouble of these robberies was so great upon her that her heart was almost broken. If her deposition must be taken, she would make it in bed. In the course of the day the magistrate did come into her room and the deposition was taken. Forty-three pounds had been taken from her desk, and certain jewels, which she described, from her dressing-case. As far as she was aware, no other property of hers was missing. This she said in answer to a direct question from the magistrate, which, as she thought, was asked with a stern voice and searching eye. And so, a second time, she had sworn falsely. But this at least was gained,—that Lord George de Bruce Carruthers was not looking at her as she swore.
Lord George was in the house for a great part of the day, but he did not ask to be admitted to Lizzie's room;—nor did she ask to see him. Frank Greystock was there late in the afternoon, and went up at once to his cousin. The moment that she saw him she stretched out her arms to him, and burst into tears. "My poor girl," said he, "what is the meaning of it all?"
"I don't know. I think they will kill me. They want to kill me. How can I bear it all? The robbers were here last night, and magistrates and policemen and people have been here all day." Then she fell into a fit of sobbing and wailing, which was, in truth, hysterical. For,—if the readers think of it,—the poor woman had a great deal to bear.
Frank, into whose mind no glimmer of suspicion against his cousin had yet entered, and who firmly believed that she had been made a victim because of the value of her diamonds,—and who had a theory of his own about the robbery at Carlisle, to the circumstances of which he was now at some pains to make these latter circumstances adhere,—was very tender with his cousin, and remained in the house for more than an hour. "Oh, Frank, what had I better do?" she asked him.
"I would leave London, if I were you."
"Yes;—of course. I will. Oh yes, I will!"
"If you don't fear the cold of Scotland—"
"I fear nothing,—nothing but being where these policemen can come to me. Oh!"—and then she shuddered and was again hysterical. Nor was she acting the condition. As she remembered the magistrates, and the detectives, and the policemen in their uniforms,—and reflected that she might probably see much more of them before the game was played out, the thoughts that crowded on her were almost more than she could bear.
"Your child is there, and it is your own house. Go there till all this passes by." Whereupon she promised him that, as soon as she was well enough, she would at once go to Scotland.
In the meantime, the Eustace diamonds were locked up in a small safe fixed into the wall at the back of a small cellar beneath the establishment of Messrs. Harter and Benjamin, in Minto Lane, in the City. Messrs. Harter and Benjamin always kept a second place of business. Their great shop was at the West-end; but they had accommodation in the City.
The chronicler states this at once, as he scorns to keep from his reader any secret that is known to himself.
When the Hertford Street robbery was three days old, and was still the talk of all the town, Lizzie Eustace was really ill. She had promised to go down to Scotland in compliance with the advice given to her by her cousin Frank, and at the moment of promising would have been willing enough to be transported at once to Portray, had that been possible—so as to be beyond the visits of policemen and the authority of lawyers and magistrates; but as the hours passed over her head, and as her presence of mind returned to her, she remembered that even at Portray she would not be out of danger, and that she could do nothing in furtherance of her plans if once immured there. Lord George was in London, Frank Greystock was in London, and Lord Fawn was in London. It was more than ever necessary to her that she should find a husband among them,—a husband who would not be less her husband when the truth of that business at Carlisle should be known to all the world. She had, in fact, stolen nothing. She endeavoured to comfort herself by repeating to herself over and over again that assurance. She had stolen nothing; and she still thought that if she could obtain the support of some strong arm on which to lean, she might escape punishment for those false oaths which she had sworn. Her husband might take her abroad, and the whole thing would die away. If she should succeed with Lord George, of course he would take her abroad, and there would be no need for any speedy return. They might roam among islands in pleasant warm suns, and the dreams of her youth might be realised. Her income was still her own. They could not touch that. So she thought, at least,—oppressed by some slight want of assurance in that respect. Were she to go at once to Scotland, she must for the present give up that game altogether. If Frank would pledge himself to become her husband in three or four, or even in six months, she would go at once. She had more confidence in Frank than even in Lord George. As for love,—she would sometimes tell herself that she was violently in love; but she hardly knew with which. Lord George was certainly the best representative of that perfect Corsair which her dreams had represented to her; but, in regard to working life, she thought that she liked her cousin Frank better than she had ever yet liked any other human being. But, in truth, she was now in that condition, as she acknowledged to herself, that she was hardly entitled to choose. Lord Fawn had promised to marry her, and to him as a husband she conceived that she still had a right. Nothing had as yet been proved against her which could justify him in repudiating his engagement. She had, no doubt, asserted with all vehemence to her cousin that no consideration would now induce her to give her hand to Lord Fawn;—and when making that assurance she had been, after her nature, sincere. But circumstances were changed since that. She had not much hope that Lord Fawn might be made to succumb,—though evidence had reached her before the last robbery which induced her to believe that he did not consider himself to be quite secure. In these circumstances she was unwilling to leave London though she had promised, and was hardly sorry to find an excuse in her recognised illness.
And she was ill. Though her mind was again at work with schemes on which she would not have busied herself without hope, yet she had not recovered from the actual bodily prostration to which she had been compelled to give way when first told of the robbery on her return from the theatre. There had been moments then in which she thought that her heart would have broken,—moments in which, but that the power of speech was wanting, she would have told everything to Lucinda Roanoke. When Mrs. Carbuncle was marching up-stairs with the policemen at her heels she would have willingly sold all her hopes, Portray Castle, her lovers, her necklace, her income, her beauty, for any assurance of the humblest security. With that quickness of intellect which was her peculiar gift, she had soon understood, in the midst of her sufferings, that her necklace had been taken by thieves whose robbery might assist her for a while in keeping her secret, rather than lead to the immediate divulging of it. Neither Camperdown nor Bunfit had been at work among the boxes. Her secret had been discovered, no doubt, by Patience Crabstick, and the diamonds were gone. But money also was taken, and the world need not know that the diamonds had been there. But Lord George knew. And then there arose to her that question: Had the diamonds been taken in consequence of that revelation to Lord George? It was not surprising that in the midst of all this Lizzie should be really ill.
She was most anxious to see Lord George; but, if what Mrs. Carbuncle said to her was true, Lord George refused to see her. She did not believe Mrs. Carbuncle, and was, therefore, quite in the dark about her Corsair. As she could only communicate with him through Mrs. Carbuncle, it might well be the case that he should have been told that he could not have access to her. Of course there were difficulties. That her cousin Frank should see her in her bedroom,—her cousin Frank, with whom it was essentially necessary that she should hold counsel as to her present great difficulties,—was a matter of course. There was no hesitation about that. A fresh nightcap, and a clean pocket-handkerchief with a bit of lace round it, and, perhaps, some pretty covering to her shoulders if she were to be required to sit up in bed, and the thing was arranged. He might have spent the best part of his days in her bedroom if he could have spared the time. But the Corsair was not a cousin,—nor as yet an acknowledged lover. There was difficulty even in framing a reason for her request, when she made it to Mrs. Carbuncle; and the very reason which she gave was handed back to her as the Corsair's reason for not coming to her. She desired to see him because he had been so much mixed up in the matter of these terrible robberies. But Mrs. Carbuncle declared to her that Lord George would not come to her because his name had been so frequently mentioned in connexion with the diamonds. "You see, my dear," said Mrs. Carbuncle, "there can be no real reason for his seeing you up in your bedroom. If there had been anything between you, as I once thought there would—" There was something in the tone of Mrs. Carbuncle's voice which grated on Lizzie's ear,—something which seemed to imply that all that prospect was over.
"Of course," said Lizzie querulously, "I am very anxious to know what he thinks. I care more about his opinion than anybody else's. As to his name being mixed up in it,—that is all a joke."
"It has been no joke to him, I can assure you," said Mrs. Carbuncle. Lizzie could not press her request. Of course, she knew more about it than did Mrs. Carbuncle. The secret was in her own bosom,—the secret as to the midnight robbery at Carlisle, and that secret she had told to Lord George. As to the robbery in London she knew nothing,—except that it had been perpetrated through the treachery of Patience Crabstick. Did Lord George know more about it than she knew?—and if so, was he now deterred by that knowledge from visiting her? "You see, my dear," said Mrs. Carbuncle, "that a gentleman visiting a lady with whom he has no connexion, in her bedroom, is in itself something very peculiar." Lizzie made a motion of impatience under the bedclothes. Any such argument was trash to her, and she knew that it was trash to Mrs. Carbuncle also. What was one man in her bedroom more than another? She could see a dozen doctors if she pleased, and if so, why not this man, whose real powers of doctoring her would be so much more efficacious? "You would want to see him alone, too," continued Mrs. Carbuncle, "and, of course, the police would hear of it. I am not at all surprised that he should stay away." Lizzie's condition did not admit of much argument on her side, and she only showed her opposition to Mrs. Carbuncle by being cross and querulous.
Frank Greystock came to her with great constancy almost every day, and from him she did hear about the robbery all that he knew or heard. When three days had passed,—when six days, and even when ten days were gone, nobody had been as yet arrested. The police, according to Frank, were much on the alert, but were very secret. They either would not, or could not, tell anything. To him the two robberies, that at Carlisle and the last affair in Hertford Street, were of course distinct. There were those who believed that the Hertford Street thieves and the Carlisle thieves were not only the same, but that they had been in quest of the same plunder,—and had at last succeeded. But Frank was not one of these. He never for a moment doubted that the diamonds had been taken at Carlisle, and explained the second robbery by the supposition that Patience Crabstick had been emboldened by success. The iron box had no doubt been taken by her assistance, and her familiarity with the thieves, then established, had led to the second robbery. Lizzie's loss in that second robbery had amounted to some hundred pounds. This was Frank Greystock's theory, and of course it was one very comfortable to Lizzie.
"They all seem to think that the diamonds are at Paris," he said to her one day.
"If you only knew how little I care about them. It seems as though I had almost forgotten them in these after troubles."
"Mr. Camperdown cares about them. I'm told he says that he can make you pay for them out of your jointure."
"That would be very terrible, of course," said Lizzie, to whose mind there was something consolatory in the idea that the whole affair of the robbery might perhaps remain so mysterious as to remove her from the danger of other punishment than this.
"I feel sure that he couldn't do it," said Frank, "and I don't think he'll try it. John Eustace would not let him. It would be persecution."
"Mr. Camperdown has always chosen to persecute me," said Lizzie.
"I can understand that he shouldn't like the loss of the diamonds. I don't think, Lizzie, you ever realised their true value."
"I suppose not. After all, a necklace is only a necklace. I cared nothing for it,—except that I could not bear the idea that that man should dictate to me. I would have given it up at once, at the slightest word from you." He did not care to remind her then, as she lay in bed, that he had been very urgent in his advice to her to abandon the diamonds,—and not the less urgent because he had thought that the demand for them was unjust. "I told you often," she continued, "that I was tempted to throw them among the waves. It was true;—quite true. I offered to give them to you, and should have been delighted to have been relieved from them."
"That was, of course, simply impossible."
"I know it was;—impossible on your part; but I would have been delighted. Of what use were they to me? I wore them twice because that man,"—meaning Lord Fawn,—"disputed my right to them. Before that I never even looked at them. Do you think I had pleasure in wearing them, or pleasure in looking at them? Never. They were only a trouble to me. It was a point of honour with me to keep them, because I was attacked. But I am glad they are gone,—thoroughly glad." This was all very well, and was not without its effect on Frank Greystock. It is hardly expected of a woman in such a condition, with so many troubles on her mind, who had been so persecuted, that every word uttered by her should be strictly true. Lizzie, with her fresh nightcap, and her laced handkerchief, pale, and with her eyes just glittering with tears, was very pretty. "Didn't somebody once give some one a garment which scorched him up when he wore it,—some woman who sent it because she loved the man so much?"
"The shirt, you mean, which Dejanira sent to Hercules. Yes;—Hercules was a good deal scorched."
"And that necklace, which my husband gave me because he loved me so well, has scorched me horribly. It has nearly killed me. It has been like the white elephant which the Eastern king gives to his subject when he means to ruin him. Only poor Florian didn't mean to hurt me. He gave it all in love. If these people bring a lawsuit against me, Frank, you must manage it for me."
"There will be no lawsuit. Your brother-in-law will stop it."
"I wonder who will really get the diamonds after all, Frank? They were very valuable. Only think that the ten thousand pounds should disappear in such a way!" The subject was a very dangerous one, but there was a fascination about it which made it impossible for her to refrain from it.
"A dishonest dealer in diamonds will probably realise the plunder,—after some years. There would be something very alluring in the theft of articles of great value, were it not that, when got, they at once become almost valueless by the difficulty of dealing with them. Supposing I had the necklace!"
"I wish you had, Frank."
"I could do nothing with it. Ten sovereigns would go further with me,—or ten shillings. The burthen of possessing it would in itself be almost more than I could bear. The knowledge that I had the thing, and might be discovered in having it, would drive me mad. By my own weakness I should be compelled to tell my secret to some one. And then I should never sleep for fear my partner in the matter should turn against me." How well she understood it all! How probable it was that Lord George should turn against her! How exact was Frank's description of that burthen of a secret so heavy that it cannot be borne alone! "A little reflection," continued Frank, "soon convinces a man that rough downright stealing is an awkward, foolish trade; and it therefore falls into the hands of those who want education for the higher efforts of dishonesty. To get into a bank at midnight and steal what little there may be in the till, or even an armful of bank-notes, with the probability of a policeman catching you as you creep out of the chimney and through a hole, is clumsy work; but to walk in amidst the smiles and bows of admiring managers and draw out money over the counter by thousands and tens of thousands, which you have never put in and which you can never repay, and which, when all is done, you have only borrowed;—that is a great feat."
"Do you really think so?"
"The courage, the ingenuity, and the self-confidence needed are certainly admirable. And then there is a cringing and almost contemptible littleness about honesty, which hardly allows it to assert itself. The really honest man can never say a word to make those who don't know of his honesty believe that it is there. He has one foot in the grave before his neighbours have learned that he is possessed of an article for the use of which they would so willingly have paid, could they have been made to see that it was there. The dishonest man almost doubts whether in him dishonesty is dishonest, let it be practised ever so widely. The honest man almost doubts whether his honesty be honest, unless it be kept hidden. Let two unknown men be competitors for any place, with nothing to guide the judges but their own words and their own looks, and who can doubt but the dishonest man would be chosen rather than the honest? Honesty goes about with a hang-dog look about him, as though knowing that he cannot be trusted till he be proved. Dishonesty carries his eyes high, and assumes that any question respecting him must be considered to be unnecessary."
"Oh, Frank, what a philosopher you are."
"Well, yes; meditating about your diamonds has brought my philosophy out. When do you think you will go to Scotland?"
"I am hardly strong enough for the journey yet. I fear the cold so much."
"You would not find it cold there by the sea-side. To tell you the truth, Lizzie, I want to get you out of this house. I don't mean to say a word against Mrs. Carbuncle; but after all that has occurred, it would be better that you should be away. People talk about you and Lord George."
"How can I help it, Frank?"
"By going away;—that is, if I may presume one thing. I don't want to pry into your secrets."
"I have none from you."
"Unless there be truth in the assertion that you are engaged to marry Lord George Carruthers."
"There is no truth in it."
"And you do not wish to stay here in order that there may be an engagement? I am obliged to ask you home questions, Lizzie, as I could not otherwise advise you."
"You do, indeed, ask home questions."
"I will desist at once, if they be disagreeable."
"Frank, you are false to me!" As she said this she rose in her bed, and sat with her eyes fixed upon his, and her thin hands stretched out upon the bedclothes. "You know that I cannot wish to be engaged to him or to any other man. You know, better almost than I can know myself, how my heart stands. There has, at any rate, been no hypocrisy with me in regard to you. Everything has been told to you;—at what cost I will not now say. The honest woman, I fear, fares worse even than the honest man of whom you spoke. I think you admitted that he would be appreciated at last. She to her dying day must pay the penalty of her transgressions. Honesty in a woman the world never forgives." When she had done speaking, he sat silent by her bedside, but, almost unconsciously, he stretched out his left hand and took her right hand in his. For a few seconds she admitted this, and she lay there with their hands clasped. Then with a start she drew back her arm, and retreated as it were from his touch. "How dare you," she said, "press my hand, when you know that such pressure from you is treacherous and damnable!"
"Yes;—damnable. I will not pick my words for you. Coming from you, what does such pressure mean?"
"Yes;—and of what sort? You are wicked enough to feed my love by such tokens, when you know that you do not mean to return it. Oh, Frank, Frank, will you give me back my heart? What was it that you promised me when we sat together upon the rocks at Portray?"
It is inexpressibly difficult for a man to refuse the tender of a woman's love. We may almost say that a man should do so as a matter of course,—that the thing so offered becomes absolutely valueless by the offer,—that the woman who can make it has put herself out of court by her own abandonment of the privileges due to her as a woman,—that stern rebuke and even expressed contempt are justified by such conduct,—and that the fairest beauty and most alluring charms of feminine grace should lose their attraction when thus tendered openly in the market. No doubt such is our theory as to love and love-making. But the action to be taken by us in matters as to which the plainest theory prevails for the guidance of our practice, depends so frequently on accompanying circumstances and correlative issues, that the theory, as often as not, falls to the ground. Frank could not despise this woman, and could not be stern to her. He could not bring himself to tell her boldly that he would have nothing to say to her in the way of love. He made excuses for her, and persuaded himself that there were peculiar circumstances in her position justifying unwomanly conduct, although, had he examined himself on the subject, he would have found it difficult to say what those circumstances were. She was rich, beautiful, clever,—and he was flattered. Nevertheless he knew that he could not marry her;—and he knew also that much as he liked her he did not love her. "Lizzie," he said, "I think you hardly understand my position."
"Yes, I do. That little girl has cozened you out of a promise."
"If it be so, you would not have me break it."
"Yes, I would, if you think she is not fit to be your wife. Is a man such as you are, to be tied by the leg for life, have all his ambition clipped, and his high hopes shipwrecked, because a girl has been clever enough to extract a word from him? Is it not true that you are in debt?"
"What of that? At any rate, Lizzie, I do not want help from you."
"That is so like a man's pride! Do we not all know that in such a career as you have marked out for yourself, wealth, or at any rate an easy income, is necessary? Do you think that I cannot put two and two together? Do you believe so meanly of me as to imagine that I should have said to you what I have said, if I did not know that I could help you? A man, I believe, cannot understand that love which induces a woman to sacrifice her pride simply for his advantage. I want to see you prosper. I want to see you a great man and a lord, and I know that you cannot become so without an income. Ah, I wish I could give you all that I have got, and save you from the encumbrance that is attached to it!"
It might be that he would then have told her of his engagement to Lucy, and of his resolution to adhere to that promise, had not Mrs. Carbuncle at that moment entered the room. Frank had been there for above an hour, and as Lizzie was still an invalid, and to some extent under the care of Mrs. Carbuncle, it was natural that that lady should interfere. "You know, my dear, you should not exhaust yourself altogether. Mr. Emilius is to come to you this afternoon."
"Mr. Emilius!" said Greystock.
"Yes;—the clergyman. Don't you remember him at Portray? A dark man with eyes close together! You used to be very wicked, and say that he was once a Jew-boy in the streets." Lizzie, as she spoke of her spiritual guide, was evidently not desirous of doing him much honour.
"I remember him well enough. He made sheep's eyes at Miss Macnulty, and drank a great deal of wine at dinner."
"Poor Macnulty! I don't believe a word about the wine; and as for Macnulty, I don't see why she should not be converted as well as another. He is coming here to read to me. I hope you don't object."
"Not in the least;—if you like it."
"One does have solemn thoughts sometimes, Frank,—especially when one is ill."
"Oh, yes. Well or ill, one does have solemn thoughts;—ghosts, as it were, which will appear. But is Mr. Emilius good at laying such apparitions?"
"He is a clergyman, Mr. Greystock," said Mrs. Carbuncle, with something of rebuke in her voice.
"So they tell me. I was not present at his ordination, but I daresay it was done according to rule. When one reflects what a deal of harm a bishop may do, one wishes that there was some surer way of getting bishops."
"Do you know anything against Mr. Emilius?" asked Lizzie.
"Nothing at all but his looks, and manners, and voice,—unless it be that he preaches popular sermons, and drinks too much wine, and makes sheep's eyes at Miss Macnulty. Look after your silver spoons, Mrs. Carbuncle,—if the last thieves have left you any. You were asking after the fate of your diamonds, Lizzie. Perhaps they will endow a Protestant church in Mr. Emilius's native land."
Mr. Emilius did come and read to Lady Eustace that afternoon. A clergyman is as privileged to enter the bedroom of a sick lady as is a doctor or a cousin. There was another clean cap, and another laced handkerchief, and on this occasion a little shawl over Lizzie's shoulders. Mr. Emilius first said a prayer, kneeling at Lizzie's bedside; then he read a chapter in the Bible;—and after that he read the first half of the fourth canto of Childe Harold so well, that Lizzie felt for the moment that after all, poetry was life and life was poetry.
"I Suppose I May Say a Word"
The second robbery to which Lady Eustace had been subjected by no means decreased the interest which was attached to her and her concerns in the fashionable world. Parliament had now met, and the party at Matching Priory,—Lady Glencora Palliser's party in the country,—had been to some extent broken up. All those gentlemen who were engaged in the service of Her Majesty's Government had necessarily gone to London, and they who had wives at Matching had taken their wives with them. Mr. and Mrs. Bonteen had seen the last of their holiday; Mr. Palliser himself was, of course, at his post; and all the private secretaries were with the public secretaries on the scene of action. On the 13th of February Mr. Palliser made his first great statement in Parliament on the matter of the five-farthinged penny, and pledged himself to do his very best to carry that stupendous measure through Parliament in the present session. The City men who were in the House that night,—and all the Directors of the Bank of England were in the gallery, and every chairman of a great banking company, and every Baring and every Rothschild, if there be Barings and Rothschilds who have not been returned by constituencies, and have not seats in the House by right,—agreed in declaring that the job in hand was too much for any one member or any one session. Some said that such a measure never could be passed, because the unfinished work of one session could not be used in lessening the labours of the next. Everything must be recommenced; and therefore,—so said these hopeless ones,—the penny with five farthings, the penny of which a hundred would make ten shillings, the halcyon penny, which would make all future pecuniary calculations easy to the meanest British capacity, could never become the law of the land. Others, more hopeful, were willing to believe that gradually the thing would so sink into the minds of members of Parliament, of writers of leading articles, and of the active public generally, as to admit of certain established axioms being taken as established, and placed, as it were, beyond the procrastinating power of debate. It might, for instance, at last be taken for granted that a decimal system was desirable,—so that a month or two of the spring need not be consumed on that preliminary question. But this period had not as yet been reached, and it was thought by the entire City that Mr. Palliser was much too sanguine. It was so probable, many said, that he might kill himself by labour which would be Herculean in all but success, and that no financier after him would venture to face the task. It behoved Lady Glencora to see that her Hercules did not kill himself.
In this state of affairs Lady Glencora,—into whose hands the custody of Mr. Palliser's uncle, the duke, had now altogether fallen,—had a divided duty between Matching and London. When the members of Parliament went up to London, she went there also, leaving some half-dozen friends whom she could trust to amuse the duke; but she soon returned, knowing that there might be danger in a long absence. The duke, though old, was his own master; he much affected the company of Madame Goesler, and that lady's kindness to him was considerate and incessant; but there might still be danger, and Lady Glencora felt that she was responsible that the old nobleman should do nothing, in the feebleness of age, to derogate from the splendour of his past life. What if some day his grace should be off to Paris and insist on making Madame Goesler a duchess in the chapel of the Embassy! Madame Goesler had hitherto behaved very well;—would probably continue to behave well. Lady Glencora really loved Madame Goesler. But then the interests at stake were very great! So circumstanced, Lady Glencora found herself compelled to be often on the road between Matching and London.
But though she was burthened with great care, Lady Glencora by no means dropped her interest in the Eustace diamonds; and when she learned that on the top of the great Carlisle robbery a second robbery had been superadded, and that this had been achieved while all the London police were yet astray about the former operation, her solicitude was of course enhanced. The duke himself, too, took the matter up so strongly, that he almost wanted to be carried up to London, with some view, as it was supposed by the ladies who were so good to him, of seeing Lady Eustace personally. "It's out of the question, my dear," Lady Glencora said to Madame Goesler, when the duke's fancy was first mentioned to her by that lady. "I told him that the trouble would be too much for him." "Of course it would be too much," said Lady Glencora. "It is quite out of the question." Then, after a moment, she added in a whisper, "Who knows but what he'd insist on marrying her! It isn't every woman that can resist temptation." Madame Goesler smiled, and shook her head, but made no answer to Lady Glencora's suggestion. Lady Glencora assured her uncle that everything should be told to him. She would write about it daily, and send him the latest news by the wires if the post should be too slow. "Ah;—yes," said the duke; "I like telegrams best. I think, you know, that that Lord George Carruthers has had something to do with it. Don't you, Madame Goesler?" It had long been evident that the duke was anxious that one of his own order should be proved to have been the thief, as the plunder taken was so lordly.
In regard to Lizzie herself, Lady Glencora, on her return to London, took it into her head to make a diversion in our heroine's favour. It had hitherto been a matter of faith with all the Liberal party that Lady Eustace had had something to do with stealing her own diamonds. That esprit de corps which is the glorious characteristic of English statesmen had caused the whole Government to support Lord Fawn, and Lord Fawn could only be supported on the supposition that Lizzie Eustace had been a wicked culprit. But Lady Glencora, though very true as a politician, was apt to have opinions of her own, and to take certain flights in which she chose that others of the party should follow her. She now expressed an opinion that Lady Eustace was a victim, and all the Mrs. Bonteens, with some even of the Mr. Bonteens, found themselves compelled to agree with her. She stood too high among her set to be subject to that obedience which restrained others,—too high, also, for others to resist her leading. As a member of a party she was erratic and dangerous, but from her position and peculiar temperament she was powerful. When she declared that poor Lady Eustace was a victim, others were obliged to say so too. This was particularly hard upon Lord Fawn, and the more so as Lady Glencora took upon her to assert that Lord Fawn had no right to jilt the young woman. And Lady Glencora had this to support her views,—that, for the last week past, indeed ever since the depositions which had been taken after the robbery in Hertford Street, the police had expressed no fresh suspicions in regard to Lizzie Eustace. She heard daily from Barrington Erle that Major Mackintosh and Bunfit and Gager were as active as ever in their inquiries, that all Scotland Yard was determined to unravel the mystery, and that there were emissaries at work tracking the diamonds at Hamburg, Paris, Vienna, and New York. It had been whispered to Mr. Erle that the whereabouts of Patience Crabstick had been discovered, and that many of the leading thieves in London were assisting the police;—but nothing more was done in the way of fixing any guilt upon Lizzie Eustace. "Upon my word, I am beginning to think that she has been more sinned against than sinning." This was said to Lady Glencora on the morning after Mr. Palliser's great speech about the five farthings, by Barrington Erle, who, as it seemed, had been specially told off by the party to watch this investigation.
"I am sure she has had nothing to do with it. I have thought so ever since the last robbery. Sir Simon Slope told me yesterday afternoon that Mr. Camperdown has given it up altogether." Sir Simon Slope was the Solicitor-General of that day.
"It would be absurd for him to go on with his bill in Chancery now that the diamonds are gone,—unless he meant to make her pay for them."
"That would be rank persecution. Indeed, she has been persecuted. I shall call upon her." Then she wrote the following letter to the duke:—
February 14, 18—.
MY DEAR DUKE,
Plantagenet was on his legs last night for three hours and three quarters, and I sat through it all. As far as I could observe through the bars I was the only person in the House who listened to him. I'm sure Mr. Gresham was fast asleep. It was quite piteous to see some of them yawning. Plantagenet did it very well, and I almost think I understood him. They seem to say that nobody on the other side will take trouble enough to make a regular opposition, but that there are men in the City who will write letters to the newspapers, and get up a sort of Bank clamour. Plantagenet says nothing about it, but there is a do-or-die manner with him which is quite tragical. The House was up at eleven, when he came home and eat three oysters, drank a glass of beer, and slept well. They say the real work will come when it's in Committee;—that is, if it gets there. The bill is to be brought in, and will be read the first time next Monday week.
As to the robberies, I believe there is no doubt that the police have got hold of the young woman. They don't arrest her, but deal with her in a friendly sort of way. Barrington Erle says that a sergeant is to marry her in order to make quite sure of her. I suppose they know their business; but that wouldn't strike me as being the safest way. They seem to think the diamonds went to Paris but have since been sent on to New York.
As to the little widow, I do believe she has been made a victim. She first lost her diamonds, and now her other jewels and her money have gone. I cannot see what she was to gain by treachery, and I think she has been ill-used. She is staying at the house of that Mrs. Carbuncle, but all the same I shall go and call on her. I wish you could see her, because she is such a little beauty;—just what you would like; not so much colour as our friend, but perfect features, with infinite play,—not perhaps always in the very best taste; but then we can't have everything; can we, dear duke?
As to the real thief;—of course you must burn this at once, and keep it strictly private as coming from me;—I fancy that delightful Scotch lord managed it entirely. The idea is, that he did it on commission for the Jew jewellers. I don't suppose he had money enough to carry it out himself. As to the second robbery, whether he had or had not a hand in that, I can't make up my mind. I don't see why he shouldn't. If a man does go into a business, he ought to make the best of it. Of course, it was a poor thing after the diamonds; but still it was worth having. There is some story about a Sir Griffin Tewett. He's a real Sir Griffin, as you'll find by the peerage. He was to marry a young woman, and our Lord George insists that he shall marry her. I don't understand all about it, but the girl lives in the same house with Lady Eustace, and if I call I shall find out. They say that Sir Griffin knows all about the necklace, and threatens to tell unless he is let off marrying. I rather think the girl is Lord George's daughter, so that there is a thorough complication.
I shall go down to Matching on Saturday. If anything turns up before that, I'll write again, or send a message. I don't know whether Plantagenet will be able to leave London. He says he must be back on Monday, and that he loses too much time on the road. Kiss my little darlings for me,—[the darlings were Lady Glencora's children, and the duke's playthings]—and give my love to Madame Max. I suppose you don't see much of the others.
Most affectionately yours,
On the next day Lady Glencora actually did call in Hertford Street, and saw our friend Lizzie. She was told by the servant that Lady Eustace was in bed; but, with her usual persistence, she asked questions, and when she found that Lizzie did receive visitors in her room, she sent up her card. The compliment was one much too great to be refused. Lady Glencora stood so high in the world, that her countenance would be almost as valuable as another lover. If Lord George would keep her secret, and Lady Glencora would be her friend, might she not still be a successful woman? So Lady Glencora Palliser was shown up to Lizzie's chamber. Lizzie was found with her nicest nightcap and prettiest handkerchief, with a volume of Tennyson's poetry, and a scent-bottle. She knew that it behoved her to be very clever at this interview. Her instinct told her that her first greeting should show more of surprise than of gratification. Accordingly, in a pretty, feminine, almost childish way, she was very much surprised. "I'm doing the strangest thing in the world, I know, Lady Eustace," said Lady Glencora with a smile.
"I'm sure you mean to do a kind thing."
"Well;—yes, I do. I think we have not met since you were at my house near the end of last season."
"No, indeed. I have been in London six weeks, but have not been out much. For the last fortnight I have been in bed. I have had things to trouble me so much that they have made me ill."
"So I have heard, Lady Eustace, and I have just come to offer you my sympathy. When I was told that you did see people, I thought that perhaps you would admit me."
"So willingly, Lady Glencora!"
"I have heard, of course, of your terrible losses."
"The loss has been as nothing to the vexation that has accompanied it. I don't know how to speak of it. Ladies have lost their jewels before now, but I don't know that any lady before me has ever been accused of stealing them herself."
"There has been no accusation, surely?"
"I haven't exactly been put in prison, Lady Glencora, but I have had policemen here wanting to search my things;—and then you know yourself what reports have been spread."
"Oh, yes; I do. Only for that, to tell you plainly, I should hardly have been here now." Then Lady Glencora poured out her sympathy,—perhaps with more eloquence and grace than discretion. She was, at any rate, both graceful and eloquent. "As for the loss of the diamonds, I think you bear it wonderfully," said Lady Glencora.
"If you could imagine how little I care about it!" said Lizzie with enthusiasm. "They had lost the delight which I used to feel in them as a present from my husband. People had talked about them, and I had been threatened because I chose to keep what I knew to be my own. Of course, I would not give them up. Would you have given them up, Lady Glencora?"
"Nor would I. But when once all that had begun, they became an irrepressible burthen to me. I often used to say that I would throw them into the sea."
"I don't think I would have done that," said Lady Glencora.
"Ah,—you have never suffered as I have suffered."
"We never know where each other's shoes pinch each other's toes."
"You have never been left desolate. You have a husband and friends."
"A husband that wants to put five farthings into a penny! All is not gold that glistens, Lady Eustace."
"You can never have known trials such as mine," continued Lizzie, not understanding in the least her new friend's allusion to the great currency question. "Perhaps you may have heard that in the course of last summer I became engaged to marry a nobleman, with whom I am aware that you are acquainted." This she said in her softest whisper.
"Oh, yes;—Lord Fawn. I know him very well. Of course I heard of it. We all heard of it."
"And you have heard how he has treated me?"
"I will say nothing about him—to you, Lady Glencora. It would not be proper that I should do so. But all that came of this wretched necklace. After that, can you wonder that I should say that I wish these stones had been thrown into the sea?"
"I suppose Lord Fawn will—will come all right again now?" said Lady Glencora.
"All right!" exclaimed Lizzie in astonishment.
"His objection to the marriage will now be over."
"I'm sure I do not in the least know what are his lordship's views," said Lizzie in scorn, "and, to tell the truth, I do not very much care."
"What I mean is, that he didn't like you to have the Eustace diamonds—"
"They were not Eustace diamonds. They were my diamonds."
"But he did not like you to have them; and as they are now gone—for ever—"
"Oh, yes;—they are gone for ever."
"His objection is gone too. Why don't you write to him, and make him come and see you? That's what I should do."
Lizzie, of course, repudiated vehemently any idea of forcing Lord Fawn into a marriage which had become distasteful to him,—let the reason be what it might. "His lordship is perfectly free, as far as I am concerned," said Lizzie with a little show of anger. But all this Lady Glencora took at its worth. Lizzie Eustace had been a good deal knocked about, and Lady Glencora did not doubt but that she would be very glad to get back her betrothed husband. The little woman had suffered hardships,—so thought Lady Glencora,—and a good thing would be done by bringing her into fashion, and setting the marriage up again. As to Lord Fawn,—the fortune was there, as good now as it had been when he first sought it; and the lady was very pretty, a baronet's widow too!—and in all respects good enough for Lord Fawn. A very pretty little baronet's widow she was, with four thousand a year, and a house in Scotland, and a history. Lady Glencora determined that she would remake the match.
"I think, you know, friends who have been friends should be brought together. I suppose I may say a word to Lord Fawn?"
Lizzie hesitated for a moment before she answered, and then remembered that revenge, at least, would be sweet to her. She had sworn that she would be revenged upon Lord Fawn. After all, might it not suit her best to carry out her oath by marrying him? But whether so or otherwise, it would not but be well for her that he should be again at her feet. "Yes,—if you think good will come of it." The acquiescence was given with much hesitation;—but the circumstances required that it should be so, and Lady Glencora fully understood the circumstances. When she took her leave, Lizzie was profuse in her gratitude. "Oh, Lady Glencora, it has been so good of you to come. Pray come again, if you can spare me another moment." Lady Glencora said that she would come again.