When Sir Hugh came up to town there did not remain to him quite a week before the day on which he was to leave the coast of Essex in Jack Stuart’s yacht for Norway, and he had a good deal to do in the mean time in the way of provisioning the boat. Fortnum and Mason, no doubt, would have done it all for him without any trouble on his part, but he was not a man to trust any Fortnum or any Mason as to the excellence of the article to be supplied, or as to the price. He desired to have good wine — very good wine, but he did not desire to pay a very high price. No one knew better than Sir Hugh that good wine can not be bought cheap; but things may be costly and yet not dear, or they may be both. To such matters Sir Hugh was wont to pay very close attention himself. He had done something in that line before he left London, and immediately on his return he went to the work again, summoning Archie to his assistance, but never asking Archie’s opinion — as though Archie had been his head butler.
Immediately on his arrival in London he cross-questioned his brother as to his marriage prospects. “I suppose you are going with us?” Hugh said to Archie, as he caught him in the hall of the house in Berkeley Square on the morning after his arrival.
“Oh dear, yes,” said Archie. “I thought that was quite understood. I have been getting my traps together.” The getting of his traps together had consisted in the ordering of a sailor’s jacket with brass buttons, and three pair of white duck trousers.
“All right,” said Sir Hugh. “You had better come with me into the city this morning. I am going to Boxall’s, in Great Thames Street.”
“Are you going to breakfast here?” asked Archie.
“No; you can come to me at the Union in about an hour. I suppose you have never plucked up courage to ask Julia to marry you?”
“Yes I did,” said Archie.
“And what answer did you get?” Archie had found himself obliged to repudiate with alacrity the attack upon his courage which his brother had so plainly made, but beyond that, the subject was one which was not pleasing to him. “Well, what did she say to you?” asked his brother, who had no idea of sparing Archie’s feelings in such a matter.
“She said — indeed, I don’t remember exactly what it was that she did say.”
“But she refused you.”
“Yes, she refused me. I think she wanted me to understand that I had come to her too soon after Ongar’s decease.”
“Then she must be an infernal hypocrite, that’s all.” But of any hypocrisy in this matter the reader will acquit Lady Ongar, and will understand that Archie had merely lessened the severity of his own fall by a clever excuse. After that the two brothers went to Boxall’s in the city, and Archie, having been kept fagging all day, was sent in the evening to dine by himself at his own club.
Sir Hugh also was desirous of seeing Lady Ongar, and had caused his wife to say as much in that letter which she wrote to her sister. In this way an appointment had been made without any direct intercourse between Sir Hugh and his sister-in-law. They two had never met since the day on which Sir Hugh had given her away in Clavering Church. To Hugh Clavering, who was by no means a man of sentiment, this signified little or nothing. When Lady Ongar had returned a widow, and when evil stories against her had been rife, he had thought it expedient to have nothing to do with her. He did not himself care much about his sister-in-law’s morals, but should his wife become much complicated with a sister damaged in character, there might come of it trouble and annoyance. Therefore he had resolved that Lady Ongar should be dropped. But during the last few months things had in some respects changed. The Courton people — that is to say, Lord Ongar’s family — had given Hugh Clavering to understand that, having made inquiry, they were disposed to acquit Lady Ongar, and to declare their belief that she was subject to no censure. They did not wish themselves to know her, as no intimacy between them could now be pleasant, but they had felt it to be incumbent on them to say as much as that to Sir Hugh. Sir Hugh had not even told his wife, but he had twice suggested that Lady Ongar should be asked to Clavering Park. In answer to both these invitations, Lady Ongar had declined to go to Clavering Park.
And now Sir Hugh had a commission on his hands from the same Courton people, which made it necessary that he should see his sister-in-law, and Julia had agreed to receive him. To him, who was very hard in such matters, the idea of his visit was not made disagreeable by any remembrance of his own harshness to the woman whom he was going to see. He cared nothing about that, and it had not occurred to him that she would care much. But, in truth, she did care very much, and when the hour was coming on which Sir Hugh was to appear, she thought much of the manner in which it would become her to receive him. He had condemned her in that matter as to which any condemnation is an insult to a woman, and he had so condemned her, being her brother-in-law and her only natural male friend. In her sorrow she should have been able to lean upon him; but from the first, without any inquiry, he had believed the worst of her, and had withdrawn from her altogether his support, when the slightest support from him would have been invaluable to her. Could she forgive this? Never! never! She was not a woman to wish to forgive such an offence. It was an offence which it would be despicable in her to forgive. Many had offended her, some had injured her, one or two had insulted her; but, to her thinking, no one had so offended her, had so injured her, had so grossly insulted her as he had done. In what way, then, would it become her to receive him?
Before his arrival she had made up her mind on this subject, and had resolved that she would, at least, say no word of her own wrongs.
“How do you do, Julia?” said Sir Hugh, walking into the room with a step which was perhaps unnaturally quick, and with his hand extended. Lady Ongar had thought of that, too. She would give much to escape the touch of his hand, if it were possible; but she had told herself that she would best consult her own dignity by declaring no actual quarrel. So she put out her fingers and just touched his palm.
“I hope Hermy is well?” she said.
“Pretty well, thank you. She is rather lonely since she lost her poor little boy, and would be very glad if you would go to her.”
“I cannot do that, but if she would come to me I should be delighted.”
“You see it would not suit her to be in London so soon after Hughy’s death.”
“I am not bound to London. I would go anywhere else — except to Clavering.”
“You never go to Ongar Park, I am told.”
“I have been there.”
“But they say you do not intend to go again.”
“Not at present, certainly. Indeed, I do not suppose I shall ever go there. I do not like the place.”
“That’s just what they have told me. It is about that — partly — that I want to speak to you. If you don’t like the place, why shouldn’t you sell your interest in it back to the family? They’d give you more than the value for it.”
“I do not know that I should care to sell it.”
“Why not, if you don’t mean to use the house? I might as well explain at once what it is that has been said to me. John Courton, you know, is acting as guardian for the young earl, and they don’t want to keep up so large a place as the Castle. Ongar Park would just suit Mrs. Courton”— Mrs. Courton was the widowed mother of the young earl —“and they would be very happy to buy your interest.”
“Would not such a proposition come best through a lawyer?” said Lady Ongar.
“The fact is this — they think they have been a little hard on you.”
“I have never accused them.”
“But they feel it themselves, and they think that you might perhaps take it amiss if they were to send you a simple message through an attorney. Courton told me that he would not have allowed any such proposition to be made, if you had seemed disposed to use the place. They wish to be civil, and all that kind of thing.”
“Their civility or incivility is indifferent to me,” said Julia.
“But why shouldn’t you take the money?”
“The money is equally indifferent to me.”
“You mean then to say that you won’t listen to it? Of course they can’t make you part with the place if you wish to keep it.”
“Not more than they can make you sell Clavering Park. I do not, however, wish to be uncivil, and I will let you know through my lawyer what I think about it. All such matters are best managed by lawyers.”
After that Sir Hugh said nothing, further about Ongar Park. He was well aware, from the tone in which Lady Ongar answered him, that she was averse to talk to him on that subject; but he was not conscious that his presence was otherwise disagreeable to her, or that she would resent any interference from him on any subject because he had been cruel to her. So, after a little while, he began again about Hermione. As the world had determined upon acquitting Lady Ongar, it would be convenient to him that the two sisters should be again intimate, especially as Julia was a rich woman. His wife did not like Clavering Park, and he certainly did not like Clavering Park himself. If he could once get the house shut up, he might manage to keep it shut for some years to come. His wife was now no more than a burden to him, and it would suit him well to put off the burden on to his sister-in-law’s shoulders. It was not that he intended to have his wife altogether dependent on another person, but he thought that if they two were established together, in the first instance merely as a Summer arrangement, such establishment might be made to assume some permanence. This would be very pleasant to him. Of course he would pay a portion of the expense — as small a portion as might be possible — but such a portion as might enable him to live with credit before the world.
“I wish I could think that you and Hermy might be together while I am absent,” he said.
“I shall be very happy to have her, if she will come to me,” Julia replied.
“What — here, in London? I am not quite sure that she wishes to come up to London at present.”
“I have never understood that she had any objection to being in town,” said Lady Ongar.
“Not formerly, certainly; but now, since her boy’s death —”
“Why should his death make more difference to her than to you?” To this question Sir Hugh made no reply. “If you are thinking of society, she could be nowhere safer from any such necessity than with me. I never go out anywhere. I have never dined out, or even spent an evening in company, since Lord Ongar’s death. And no one would come here to disturb her.”
“I didn’t mean that.”
“I don’t quite know what you did mean. From different causes, she and I are left pretty nearly equally without friends.”
“Hermoine is not left without friends,” said Sir Hugh, with a tone of offence.
“Were she not, she would not want to come to me. Your society is in London, to which she does not come, or in other country houses than your own, to which she is not taken. She lives altogether at Clavering, and there is no one there except your uncle.”
“Whatever neighborhood there is she has — just like other women.”
“Just like some other women, no doubt. I shall remain in town for another month, and after that I shall go somewhere, I don’t much care where. If Hermy will come to me as my guest, I shall be most happy to have her; and the longer she will stay with me the better. Your coming home need make no difference, I suppose.”
There was a keenness of reproach in her tone as she spoke which even he could not but feel and acknowledge. He was very thick-skinned to such reproaches, and would have left this unnoticed had it been possible. Had she continued speaking he would have done so. But she remained silent, and sat looking at him, saying with her eyes the same thing that she had already spoken with her words. Thus he was driven to speak. “I don’t know,” said he, “whether you intend that for a sneer.”
She was perfectly indifferent whether or no she offended him. Only that she had believed that the maintenance of her own dignity forbade it, she would have openly rebuked him, and told him that he was not welcome in her house. No treatment from her could, as she thought, be worse than he had deserved from her. His first enmity had injured her, but she could afford to laugh at his present anger. “It is hard to talk to you about Hermy without what you are pleased to call a sneer. You simply wish to rid yourself of her.”
“I wish to do no such thing, and you have no right to say so.”
“At any rate, you are ridding yourself of her society; and under those circumstances, she likes to come to me, I shall be glad to receive her. Our life together will not be very cheerful, but neither she nor I ought to expect a cheerful life.”
He rose from his chair now with a cloud of anger upon his brow. “I can see how it is,” said he; “because everything has not gone smooth with yourself; you choose to resent it upon me. I might have expected that you would not have forgotten in whose house you met Lord Ongar.”
“No, Hugh, I forget nothing: neither when I met him, nor how I married him, nor any of the events that have happened since. My memory, unfortunately, is very good.”
“I did all I could for you, and should have been safe from your insolence.”
“You should have continued to stay away from me, and you would have been quite safe. But our quarrelling in this way is foolish. We can never be friends, you and I, but we need not be open enemies. Your wife is my sister, and I say again that, if she likes to come to me, I shall be delighted to have her.”
“My wife,” said he, “will go to the house of no person who is insolent to me.” Then he took his hat and left the room without further word or sign of greeting. In spite of his calculations and caution as to money — in spite of his well-considered arrangements and the comfortable provision for his future ease which he had proposed to himself; he was a man who had not his temper so much under control as to enable him to postpone his anger to his prudence. That little scheme for getting rid of his wife was now at an end. He would never permit her to go to her sister’s house after the manner in which Julia had just treated him.
When he was gone, Lady Ongar walked about her own room smiling, and at first was well pleased with herself. She had received Archie’s overture with decision, but at the same time with courtesy, for Archie was weak and poor and powerless. But she had treated Sir Hugh with scorn, and had been enabled to do so without the utterance of any actual reproach as to the wrongs which she herself had endured from him. He had put himself in her power, and she had not thrown away the opportunity. She had told him that she did not want his friendship, and would not be his friend; but she had done this without any loud abuse unbecoming to her either as a countess, a widow, or a lady. For Hermione she was sorry. Hermione now could hardly come to her. But even as to that, she did not despair. As things were going on, it would become almost necessary that her sister and Sir Hugh should be parted. Both must wish it; and if this were arranged, then Hermione should come to her.
But from this she soon came to think again about Harry Clavering. How was that matter to be decided, and what steps would it become her to take as to its decision? Sir Hugh had proposed to her that she should sell her interest in Ongar Park, and she had promised that she would make known her decision on that matter through her lawyer. As she had been saying this, she was well aware that she would never sell the property; but she had already resolved that she would at once give it back, without purchase-money, to the Ongar family, were it not kept that she might hand it over to Harry Clavering as a fitting residence for his lordship. If he might be there, looking after his cattle, going about with the steward subservient at his heels, ministering justice to the Enoch Gubbys and others, she would care nothing for the wants of any of the Courton people. But if such were not to be the destiny of Ongar Park — if there were to be no such Adam in that Eden — then the mother of the little lord might take herself thither, and revel among the rich blessings of the place without delay, and with no difficulty as to price. As to price — had she not already found the money-bag that had come to her to be too heavy for her hands?
But she could do nothing till that question was settled; and how was she to settle it? Every word that had passed between her and Cecilia Burton had been turned over and over in her mind, and she could only declare to herself; as she had then declared to her visitor, that it must be as Harry should please. She would submit if he required her submission, but she could not bring herself to take steps to secure her own misery.
At last came the day on which the two Claverings were to go down to Harwich and put themselves on board Jack Stuart’s yacht. The hail of the house in Berkeley Square was strewed with portmanteaus, gun cases, and fishing rods, whereas the wine and packets of preserved meat, and the bottled beer and fish in tins, and the large box of cigars, and the prepared soups, had been sent down by Boxall, and were by this time on board the boat. Hugh and Archie were to leave London this day by train at 5 p.m., and were to sleep on board. Jack Stuart was already there, having assisted in working the yacht round from Brightlingsea.
On that morning Archie had a farewell breakfast at his club with Doodles, and after that, having spent the intervening hours in the billiard-room, a farewell luncheon. There had been something of melancholy in this last day between the friends, originating partly in the failure of Archie’s hopes as to Lady Ongar, and partly, perhaps; in the bad character which seemed to cling to Jack Stuart and his craft. “He has been at it for years, and always coming to grief;” said Doodles. “He is just like a man I know, who has been hunting for the last ten years, and can’t sit a horse at a fence yet. He has broken every bone in his side, and I don’t suppose he ever saw a good thing to a finish. He never knows whether hounds are in cover, or where they are. His only idea is to follow another man’s red coat till he comes to grief — and yet he will go on hunting. There are some people who never will understand what they can do and what they can’t.” In answer to this, Archie reminded his friend that on this occasion Jack Stuart would have the advantage of an excellent dry nurse, acknowledged to do very great on such occasions. Would not he, Archie Clavering, be there to pilot Jack Stuart and his boat? But, nevertheless, Doodles was melancholy, and went on telling stories about that unfortunate man who would continue to break his bones, though he had no aptitude for out-of-door sports. “He’ll be carried home on a stretcher some day, you know,” said Doodles.
“What does it matter if he is?” said Archie, boldly, thinking of himself and of the danger predicted for him. “A man can only die once.”
“I call it quite a tempting of Providence,” said Doodles.
But their conversation was chiefly about Lady Ongar and the Spy. It was only on this day that Doodles had learned that Archie had in truth offered his hand and been rejected, and Captain Clavering was surprised by the extent of his friend’s sympathy. “It’s a doosed disagreeable thing — a very disagreeable thing indeed,” said Doodles. Archie, who did not wish to be regarded as specially unfortunate, declined to look at the matter in this light; but Doodles insisted. “It would cut me up like the very mischief;” he said. “I know that; and the worst of it is, that perhaps you wouldn’t have gone on, only for me. I meant it all for the best, old fellow! I did, indeed. There — that’s the game to you. I’m playing uncommonly badly this morning; but the truth is, I’m thinking of those women.” Now, as Doodles was playing for a little money, this was really civil on his part.
And he would persevere in talking about the Spy, as though there were something in his remembrance of the lady which attracted him irresistibly to the subject. He had always boasted that in his interview with her he had come off with the victory, nor did he now cease to make such boasts; but still he spoke of her and her powers with an awe which would have completely opened the eyes of any one a little more sharp on such matters than Archie Clavering. He was so intent on this subject that he sent the marker out of the room so that he might discuss it with more freedom, and might plainly express his views as to her influence on his friend’s fate.
“By George! she’s a wonderful woman. Do you know I can’t help thinking of her at night? She keeps me awake-she does, upon my honor.”
“I can’t say she keeps me awake, but I wish I had my seventy pounds back again.”
“Do you know, if I were you, I shouldn’t grudge it? I should think it worth pretty nearly all the money to have had the dealing with her.”
“Then you ought to go halves.”
“Well, yes — only that I ain’t flush, I would. When one thinks of it, her absolutely taking the notes out of your waistcoat pocket — upon my-word, it’s beautiful! She’d have had it out of mine if I hadn’t been doosed sharp.”
“She understood what she was about, certainly.”
“What I should like to know is this: did she or did she not tell Lady Ongar what she was to do — about you, I mean? I dare say she did, after all.”
“And took my money for nothing.”
“Because you didn’t go high enough, you know.”
“But that was your fault. I went as high as you told me.”
“No you didn’t, Clavvy, not if you remember. But the fact is, I don’t suppose you could go high enough. I shouldn’t be surprised if such a woman as that wanted — thousands! I shouldn’t indeed. I shall never forget the way in which she swore at me and how she abused me about my family. I think she must have had some special reason for disliking Warwickshire, she said such awful hard things about it.”
“How did she know that you came from Warwickshire?”
“She did know it. If I tell you something, don’t you say anything about it. I have an idea about her.”
“What is it?”
“I didn’t mention it before, because I don’t talk much of those sort of things. I don’t pretend to understand them, and it is better to leave them alone.”
“But what do you mean?”
Doodles looked very solemn as he answered, “I think she’s a medium — or a media, or whatever it ought to be called.”
“What! one of those spirit-rapping people?” And Archie’s hair almost stood on end as he asked the question.
“They don’t rap now — not the best of them, that is. That was the old way, and seems to have been given up.”
“But what do you suppose she did?”
“How did she know that the money was in your waistcoat pocket, now? How did she know that I came from Warwickshire? And then she had a way of going about the room as though she could have raised herself off her feet in a moment if she had chosen. And then her swearing, and the rest of it — so unlike any other woman, you know.”
“But do you think she could have made Julia hate me?”
“Ah! I can’t tell that, there are such lots of things going on now-a-days that a fellow can understand nothing about! But I’ve no doubt of this — if you were to tie her up with ropes ever so, I don’t in the least doubt but what she’d get out.” Archie was awe-struck, and made two or three strokes after this but then he plucked up his courage and asked a question —“Where do you suppose they get it from, Doodles?”
“That’s just the question.”
“Is it from — the devil, do you think?” said Archie, whispering the name of the Evil One in a very low voice.
“Well, yes, I suppose that’s most likely.”
“Because they don’t seem to do a great deal of harm with it, after all. As for my money, she would have had that any way, for I intended to give it to her.”
“There are people who think,” said Doodles, “that the spirits don’t come from anywhere, but are always floating about.”
“And then one person catches them, and another doesn’t?” asked Archie.
“They tell me that it depends upon what the mediums or medias eat and drink,” said Doodles, “and upon what sort of minds they have. They must be cleverish people, I fancy, or the spirits wouldn’t come to them.”
“But you never hear of any swell being a medium. Why don’t the spirits go to a prime minster or some of those fellows? Only think what a help they’d be.”
“If they come from the devil,” suggested Doodles, “he wouln’t let them do any real good.”
“I’ve heard a deal about them,” said Archie, “and it seems to me that the mediums are always poor people, and that they come from nobody knows where. The Spy is a clever woman I dare say —”
“There isn’t much doubt about that,” said the admiring Doodles.
“But you can’t say she’s respectable, you know. If I was a spirit, I wouldn’t go to a woman who wore such dirty stockings as she had on.”
“That’s nonsense, Clavvy. What does a spirit care about a woman’s stockings?”
“But why don’t they ever go to the wise people? that’s what I want to know.” And as he asked the question boldly he struck his ball sharply, and, lo! the three balls rolled vanquished into three different pockets. “I don’t believe about it,” said Archie, as he readjusted the score. “The devil can’t do such things as that, or there’d be an end of everything; and as to spirits in the air, why should there be more spirits now than there were four-and-twenty years ago?”
“That’s all very well, old fellow,” said Doodles, “but you and I ain’t clever enough to understand everything.” Then that subject was dropped, and Doodles went back for a while to the perils of Jack Stuart’s yacht.
After the lunch, which was, in fact, Archie’s early dinner, Doodles was going to leave his friend, but Archie insisted that his brother captain should walk with him up to Berkeley Square, and see the last of him into his cab. Doodles had suggested that Sir Hugh would be there, and that Sir Hugh was not always disposed to welcome his brother’s friends to his own house after the most comfortable modes of friendship; but Archie explained that on such an occasion as this there need be no fear on that head; he and his brother were going away together, and there was a certain feeling of jollity about the trip which would divest Sir Hugh of his roughness. “And besides,” said Archie, “as you will be there to see me off; he’ll know that you’re not going to stay yourself.” Convinced by this, Doodles consented to walk up to Berkeley Square.
Sir Hugh had spent the greatest part of this day at home, immersed among his guns and rods, and their various appurtenances. He also had breakfasted at his club, but had ordered his luncheon to be prepared for him at home. He had arranged to leave Berkeley Square at four, and had directed that his lamb chops should be brought to him exactly at three. He was himself a little late in coming down stairs, and it was ten minutes past the hour when he desired that the chops might be put on the table, saying that be himself would be in the drawing-room in time to meet them. He was a man solicitous about his lamb chops, and careful that the asparagus should be hot — solicitous also as to that bottle of Lafitte by which those comestables were to be accompanied, and which was, of its own nature, too good to be shared with his brother Archie. But as he was on the landing by the drawing-room door, descending quickly, conscious that, in obedience to his orders, the chops had been already served, he was met by a servant who, with disturbed face and quick voice, told him that there was a lady waiting for him in the hall.
“D— it,” said Sir Hugh.
“She has just come, Sir Hugh, and says that she specially wants to see you.”
“Why the devil did you let her in?”
“She walked in when the door was opened, Sir Hugh, and I couldn’t help it. She seemed to be a lady, Sir Hugh, and I didn’t like not to let her inside the door.”
“What’s the lady’s name?” asked the master.
“It’s a foreign name, Sir Hugh. She said she wouldn’t keep you five minutes.” The lamb chops and the asparagus and the Lafitte were in the dining-room, and the only way to the dining-room lay through the hall to which the foreign lady had obtained an entrance. Sir Hugh, making such calculations as the moments allowed, determined that he would face the enemy, and pass on to his banquet over her prostrate body. He went quickly down into the hall, and there was encountered by Sophie Gordeloup, who, skipping over the gun-cases, and rushing through the portmanteaus, caught the baronet by the arm before he had been able to approach the dining-room door. “Sir ’Oo,” she said, “I am so glad to have caught you. You are going away, and I have things to tell you which you must hear — yes; it is well for you I have caught you, Sir ’Oo.” Sir Hugh looked as though he by no means participated in this feeling, and, saying something about his great hurry, begged that he might be allowed to go to his food. Then he added that, as far as his memory served him, he had not the honor of knowing the lady who was addressing him.
“You come in to your little dinner,” said Sophie, “and I will tell you everything as you are eating. Don’t mind me. You shall eat and drink, and I will talk. I am Madam Gordeloup — Sophie Gordeloup. Ah! you know the name now. Yes. That is me. Count Pateroff is my brother. You know Count Pateroff? He knowed Lord Ongar, and I knowed Lord Ongar. We know Lady Ongar. Ah! you understand now that I can have much to tell. It is well you was not gone without seeing me! Eh! yes. You shall eat and drink; but suppose you send that man into the kitchen!”
Sir Hugh was so taken by surprise that he hardly knew how to act on the spur of the moment. He certainly had heard of Madam Gordeloup, though he had never before seen her. For years past her name had been familiar to him in London, and when Lady Ongar had returned as a widow it had been, to his thinking, one of her worst offences that this woman had been her friend. Under ordinary circumstances, his judgment would have directed him to desire the servant to put her out into the street as an impostor, and to send for the police if there was any difficulty. But it certainly might be possible that this woman had something to tell with reference to Lady Ongar which it would suit his purposes to hear. At the present moment he was not very well inclined to his sister-in-law, and was disposed to hear evil of her. So he passed on into the dining-room and desired Madam Gordeloup to follow him. Then he closed the room door, and standing up with his back to the fire-place, so that he might be saved from the necessity of asking her to sit down, he declared himself ready to hear anything that his visitor might have to say.
“But you will eat your dinner, Sir ’Oo. You will not mind me. I shall not care.”
“Thank you, no; if you will just say what you have got to say, I will be obliged to you.”
“But the nice things will be so cold! Why should you mind me? Nobody minds me.”
“I will wait, if you please, till you have done me the honor of leaving.”
“Ah! well, you Englishmen are so cold and ceremonious. But Lord Ongar was not with me like that. I knew Lord Ongar so well.”
“Lord Ongar was more fortunate than I am.”
“He was a poor man who did kill himself. Yes. It was always that bottle of Cognac. And there was other bottles that was worser still. Never mind; he has gone now, and his widow has got the money. It is she has been a fortunate woman. Sir ’Oo, I will sit down here in the arm chair.” Sir Hugh made a motion with his hand, not daring to forbid her to do as she was minded. “And you, Sir ‘Oo — will not you sit down also?”
“I will continue to stand if you will allow me.”
“Very well; you shall do as most pleases you. As I did walk here, and shall walk back, I will sit down.”
“And now, if you have any thing to say, Madam Goredeloup,” said Sir Hugh, looking at the silver covers which were hiding the chops and the asparagus, and looking also at his watch, “perhaps you will be good enough to say it.”
“Any thing to say! Yes, Sir ’Oo, I have something to say. It is a pity you will not sit at your dinner.”
“I will not sit at my dinner till you have left me. So now, if you will be pleased to proceed —”
“I will proceed. Perhaps you don’t know that Lord Ongar died in these arms.” And Sophie, as she spoke, stretched out her skinny hands, and put herself as far as possible into the attitude in which it would be most convenient to nurse the head of a dying man upon her bosom. Sir Hugh, thinking to himself that Lord Ongar could hardly have received much consolation in his fate from this incident, declared that he had not heard the fact before. “No, you have not heard it. She have tell nothing to her friends here. He die abroad, and she has come back with all the money; but she tell nothing to any body here, so I must tell.”
“But I don’t care how he died, Madam Gordeloup. It is nothing to me.”
“But yes, Sir ’Oo. The lady, your wife, is the sister to Lady Ongar. Is not that so? Lady Ongar did live with you before she was married. Is not that so? Your brother and your cousin both wishes to marry her and have all the money. Is not that so? Your brother has come to me to help him, and has sent the little man out of Warwickshire. Is not that so?”
“What the d — is all that to me?” said Sir Hugh, who did not quite understand the story as the lady was telling it.
“I will explain, Sir ’Oo, what the d — it is to you, only I wish you were eating the nice things on the table. This Lady Ongar is treating me very bad. She treat my brother very bad too. My brother is Count Pateroff. We have been put to, oh, such expenses for her! It have nearly ruined me. I make a journey to your London here altogether for her. Then, for her, I go down to that accursed little island — what you call it? where she insult me. Oh, all my time is gone. Your brother and your cousin, and the little man out of Warwickshire, all coming to my house, just as it please them.”
“But what is this to me?” shouted Sir Hugh.
“A great deal to you,” screamed back Madam Gordeloup. “You see I know every thing — every thing. I have got papers.”
“What do I care for your papers? Look here Madam Gordeloup, you had better go away.”
“Not yet, Sir ’Oo, not yet. You are going away to Norway — I know; and I am ruined before you come back.”
“Look here, madam, do you mean that you want money from me?”
“I want my rights, Sir ’Oo. Remember, I know every thing — every thing — oh, such things! If they were all known — in the newspapers, you understand, or that kind of thing, that lady in Bolton Street would lose all her money to-morrow. Yes. There is uncles to the little lord; yes! Ah! how much would they give me, I wonder? They would not tell me to go away.”
Sophie was perhaps justified in the estimate she had made of Sir Hugh’s probable character from the knowledge which she had acquired of his brother Archie; but, nevertheless, she had fallen into a great mistake. There could hardly have been a man then in London less likely to fall into her present views than Sir Hugh Clavering. Not only was he too fond of his money to give it away without knowing why he did so, but he was subject to none of that weakness by which some men are prompted to submit to such extortions. Had he believed her story, and had Lady Ongar been really dear to him, he would never have dealt with such a one as Madam Gordeloup otherwise than through the police.
“Madam Gordeloup,” said he, “if you don’t immediately take yourself off; I shall have you put out of the house.”
He would have sent for a constable at once, had he not feared that by doing so he would retard his journey.
“What!” said Sophie, whose courage was as good as his own. “Me put out of the house! Who shall touch me?”
“My servant shall; or, if that will not do, the police. Come, walk.” And he stepped over toward her as though he himself intended to assist in her expulsion by violence.
“Well, you are there; I see you; and what next?” said Sophie. “You, and your valk! I can tell you things fit for you to know, and you say, valk. If I valk, I will valk to some purpose. I do not often valk for nothing when I am told — valk!” Upon this Sir Hugh rang the bell with some violence. “I care nothing for your bells, or for your servants, or for your policemen. I have told you that your sister owe me a great deal of money, and you say — valk. I will valk.” Thereupon the servant came into the room, and Sir Hugh, in an angry voice, desired him to open the front door. “Yes — open vide,” said Sophie, who, when anger came upon her, was apt to drop into a mode of speaking English, which she was able to avoid in her cooler moments. “Sir ’Oo, I am going to valk, and you shall hear of my valking.”
“Am I to take that as a threat?” said he.
“Not a tret at all,” said she; “only a promise. Ah! I am good to keep my promises. Yes, I make a promise. Your poor wife — down with the daises; I know all, and she shall hear, too. That is another promise. And your brother, the cap tain. Oh! here he is, and the little man out of Warwickshire.” She had got up from her chair, and had moved toward the door with the intention of going, hut just as she was passing out into the hall she encountered Archie and Doodles. Sir Hugh, who had been altogether at a loss to understand what she had meant by the man out of Warwickshire, followed her into the hall, and became more angry than before at finding that his brother had brought a friend to his house at so very inopportune a moment. The wrath in his face was so plainly expressed that Doodles could perceive it, and wished himself away. The presence also of the spy was not pleasant to the gallant captain. Was the wonderful woman ubiquitous, that he should thus encounter her again, and that so soon after all the things that he had spoken of her on this morning? “How do you do, gentlemen?” said Sophie. “There is a great many boxes here, and I with my crinoline have not got room.” Then she shook hands, first with Archie, and then with Doodles, and asked the latter why he was not as yet gone to Warwickshire. Archie, in almost mortal fear, looked up into his brother’s face. Had his brother learned the story of that seventy pounds? Sir Hugh was puzzled beyond measure at finding that the woman knew the two men; but, having still an eye to his lamb chops, was chiefly anxious to get rid of Sophie and Doodles together.
“This is my friend Boodle — Captain Boodle,” said Archie, trying to put a bold face upon the crisis. “He has come to see me off.”
“Very kind of him,” said Sir Hugh. “Just make way for this lady, will you? I want to get her out of the house if I can. Your friend seems to know her; perhaps he’ll be good enough to give her his arm.”
“Who — I?“ said Doodles. “No, I don’t know her particularly. I did meet her once before, just once — in a casual way.”
“Captain Booddle and me is very good friends,” said Sophie. “He come to my house and behave himself very well; only he is not so handy a man as your brother, Sir ’Oo.”
Archie trembled, and he trembled still more when his brother, turning to him, asked him if he knew the woman.
“Yes, he know the woman very well,” said Sophie. “Why do you not come any more to see me? You send your little friend, but I like you better yourself. You come again when you return, and all that shall be made right.”
But still she did not go. She had now seated herself on a gun case which was resting on a portmanteau, and seemed to be at her ease. The time was going fast, and Sir Hugh, if he meant to eat his chops, must eat them at once.
“See her out of the hall into the street,” he said to Archie; “and if she gives trouble, send for the police. She has come here to get money from me by threats, and only that we have no time, I would have her taken to the lock-up house at once.” Then Sir Hugh retreated into the dining-room and shut the door.
“Lock-up ’ouse!” said Sophie, scornfully. “What is dat?”
“He means a prison,” said Doodles.
“Prison! I know who is most likely to be in a prison. Tell me of a prison! Is he a minister of state that he can send out order for me to be made prisoner? Is there lettres de cachet now in England? I think not. Prison, indeed!”
“But really, Madam Gordeloup, you had better go-you had, indeed,” said Archie.
“You too — you bid me go? Did I bid you go when you came to me? Did I not tell you sit down? Was I not polite? Did I send for a police, or talk of lock-up ’ouse to you? No. It is English that do these things — only English.”
Archie felt that it was incumbent on him to explain that his visit to her house had been made under other circumstances — that he had brought money instead of seeking it; and had, in fact, gone to her simply in the way of her own trade. He did begin some preliminaries to this explanation; but as the servant was there, and as his brother might come out from the dining-room, and as also he was aware that he could hardly tell the story much to his own advantage, he stopped abruptly, and, looking piteously at Doodles, implored him to take the lady away.
“Perhaps you wouldn’t mind just seeing her into Mount Street,” said Archie.
“Who — I?” said Doodles, electrified.
“It is only just around the corner,” said Archie.
“Yes, Captain Booddle, we will go,” said Sophie. “This is a bad house; and your Sir ’Oo — I do not like him at all. Lock-up, indeed! I tell you he shall very soon be locked up himself. There is what you call Davy’s locker. I know — yes.”
Doodles also trembled when he heard this anathema, and thought once more of the character of Jack Stuart and his yacht.
“Pray go with her,” said Archie.
“But I had come to see you off.”
“Never mind,” said Archie. “He is in such a taking, you know. God bless you, old fellow — good-by! I’ll write and tell you what fish we get, and mind you tell me what Turriper does for the Bedfordshire. Good-by, Madam Gordeloup; good-by.”
There was no escape for him, so Doodles put on his hat and prepared to walk away to Mount Street with the Spy under his arm — the Spy as to whose avocations, over and beyond those of her diplomatic profession, he had such strong suspicions! He felt inclined to be angry with his friend, but the circumstances of his parting hardly admitted of any expression of anger.
“Good-by, Clavvy,” he said. “Yes, I’ll write — that is, if I’ve got anything to say.
“Take care of yourself; captain,” said Sophie.
“All right,” said Archie.
“Mind you come and see me when you come back,” said Sophie.
“Of course I will,” said Archie.
“And we’ll make that all right for you yet. Gentlemen, when they have so much to gain, shouldn’t take a no too easy. You come with your handy glove, and we’ll see about it again.” Then Sophie walked off leaning upon the arm of Captain Boodle, and Archie stood at the door watching them till they turned out of sight round the corner of tire Square. At last he saw them no more, and then he returned to his brother.
And as we shall see Doodles no more — or almost no more-we will now bid him adieu civilly. The pair were not ill-matched, though the lady perhaps had some advantage in acuteness, given to her no doubt by the experience of a longer life. Doodles, as he walked along two sides of the square with the fair burden on his arm, felt himself to be in some sort proud of his position, though it was one from which he would not have been sorry to escape, had escape been possible. A remarkable phenomenon was the Spy, and to have walked round Berkeley Square with such a woman leaning on his arm might in coming years be an event to remember with satisfaction. In the mean time he did not say much to her, and did not quite understand all that she said to him. At last he came to the door which he well remembered, and then he paused. He did not escape even then. After a while the door was opened, and those who were passing might have seen Captain Boodle, slowly and with hesitating steps, enter the narrow passage before the lady. Then Sophie followed, and closed the door behind her. As far as this story goes, what took place at that interview can not be known. Let us bid farewell to Doodles, and wish him a happy escape.
“How did you come to know that woman?” said Hugh to his brother, as soon as Archie was in the dining-room.
“She was a friend of Julia’s,” said Archie.
“You haven’t given her money?” Hugh asked.
“Oh dear, no,” said Archie.
Immediately after that they got into their cab, the things were pitched on the top, and, in a while, we may bid adieu to them also.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01