The Eustace Diamonds, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XX

The Diamonds Become Troublesome

The 30th of July came round, and Lizzie was prepared for her journey down to Scotland. She was to be accompanied by Miss Macnulty and her own maid and her own servants, and to travel of course like a grand lady. She had not seen Lord Fawn since the meeting recorded in the last chapter, but had seen her cousin Frank nearly every other day. He, after much consideration, had written a long letter to Lord Fawn, in which he had given that nobleman to understand that some explanation was required as to conduct which Frank described as being to him “at present unintelligible.” He then went at considerable length into the matter of the diamonds, with the object of proving that Lord Fawn could have no possible right to interfere in the matter. And though he had from the first wished that Lizzie would give up the trinket, he made various points in her favour. Not only had they been given to his cousin by her late husband; but even had they not been so given, they would have been hers by will. Sir Florian had left her everything that was within the walls of Portray Castle, and the diamonds had been at Portray at the time of Sir Florian’s death. Such was Frank’s statement — untrue indeed, but believed by him to be true. This was one of Lizzie’s lies, forged as soon as she understood that some subsidiary claim might be made upon them on the ground that they formed a portion of property left by will away from her; some claim subsidiary to the grand claim, that the necklace was a family heirloom. Lord Fawn was not in the least shaken in his conviction that Lizzie had behaved, and was behaving, badly, and that, therefore, he had better get rid of her; but he knew that he must be very wary in the reasons he would give for jilting her. He wrote, therefore, a very short note to Greystock, promising that any explanation needed should be given as soon as circumstances should admit of his forming a decision. In the mean time the 30th of July came, and Lady Eustace was ready for her journey.

There is, or there was, a train leaving London for Carlisle at eleven A. M., by which Lizzie purposed to travel, so that she might sleep in that city and go on through Dumfries to Portray the next morning. This was her scheme; but there was another part of her scheme as to which she had felt much doubt. Should she leave the diamonds, or should she take them with her? The iron box in which they were kept was small, and so far portable that a strong man might carry it without much trouble. Indeed, Lizzie could move it from one part of the room to the other, and she had often done so. But it was so heavy that it could not be taken with her without attracting attention. The servant would know what it was, and the porter would know, and Miss Macnulty would know. That her own maid should know was a matter of course; but even to her own maid the journey of the jewels would be remarkable because of the weight of the box, whereas if they went with her other jewels in her dressing-case, there would be nothing remarkable. She might even have taken them in her pocket, had she dared. But she did not dare. Though she was intelligent and courageous, she was wonderfully ignorant as to what might and what might not be done for the recovery of the necklace by Mr. Camperdown. She did not dare to take them without the iron box, and at last she decided that the box should go. At a little after ten, her own carriage — the job-carriage, which was now about to perform its last journey in her service — was at the door, and a cab was there for the servants. The luggage was brought down, and with the larger boxes was brought the iron case with the necklace. The servant, certainly making more of the weight than he need have done, deposited it as a footstool for Lizzie, who then seated herself, and was followed by Miss Macnulty. She would have it placed in the same way beneath her feet in the railway carriage, and again brought into her room at the Carlisle Hotel. What though the porter did know! There was nothing illegal in travelling about with a heavy iron box full of diamonds, and the risk would be less this way, she thought, than were she to leave them behind her in London. The house in Mount Street, which she had taken for the season, was to be given up; and whom could she trust in London? Her very bankers, she feared, would have betrayed her, and given up her treasure to Mr. Camperdown. As for Messrs. Harter & Benjamin, she felt sure that they would be bribed by Mr. Camperdown. She once thought of asking her cousin to take the charge of them, but she could not bring herself to let them out of her own hands. Ten thousand pounds! If she could only sell them and get the money, from what a world of trouble would she be relieved. And the sale, for another reason, would have been convenient; for Lady Eustace was already a little in debt. But she could not sell them, and therefore when she got into the carriage there was the box under her feet.

At that very moment who should appear on the pavement, standing between the carriage and the house-door, but Mr. Camperdown? And with Mr. Camperdown there was another man — a very suspicious-looking man, whom Lizzie at once took to be a detective officer of police. “Lady Eustace!” said Mr. Camperdown, taking off his hat. Lizzie bowed across Miss Macnulty, and endeavoured to restrain the telltale blood from flying to her cheeks. “I believe,” said Mr. Camperdown, “that you are now starting for Scotland.”

“We are, Mr. Camperdown; and we are very late.”

“Could you allow me two minutes’ conversation with you in the house?”

“Oh dear, no. We are late, I tell you. What a time you have chosen for coming, Mr. Camperdown!”

“It is an awkward hour, Lady Eustace. I only heard this morning that you were going so soon, and it is imperative that I should see you.”

“Had you not better write, Mr. Camperdown?”

“You will never answer my letters, Madam.”

“I— I— I really cannot see you now. William, the coachman must drive on. We cannot allow ourselves to lose the train. I am really very sorry, Mr. Camperdown, but we must not lose the train.”

“Lady Eustace,” said Mr. Camperdown, putting his hand on the carriage-door, and so demeaning himself that the coachman did not dare to drive on, “I must ask you a question.” He spoke in a low voice, but he was speaking across Miss Macnulty. That lady, therefore, heard him, and so did William, the servant, who was standing close to the door. “I must insist on knowing where are the Eustace diamonds.” Lizzie felt the box beneath her feet, and, without showing that she did so, somewhat widened her drapery.

“I can tell you nothing now. William, make the coachman drive on.”

“If you will not answer me, I must tell you that I shall be driven in the execution of my duty to obtain a search-warrant, in order that they may be placed in proper custody. They are not your property, and must be taken out of your hands.”

Lizzie looked at the suspicious man with a frightened gaze. The suspicious man was, in fact, a very respectable clerk in Mr. Camperdown’s employment, but Lizzie for a moment felt that the search was about to begin at once. She had hardly understood the threat, and thought that the attorney was already armed with the powers of which he spoke. She glanced for a moment at Miss Macnulty, and then at the servant. Would they betray her? If they chose to use force to her, the box certainly might be taken from her. “I know I shall lose the train,” she said. “I know I shall. I must insist that you let my servant drive on.” There was now a little crowd of a dozen persons on the pavement, and there was nothing to cover her diamonds but the skirt of her travelling-dress.

“Are they in this house, Lady Eustace?”

“Why doesn’t he go on?” shouted Lizzie. “You have no right, sir, to stop me. I won’t be stopped.”

“Or have you got them with you?”

“I shall answer no questions. You have no right to treat me in this way.”

“Then I shall be forced, on behalf of the family, to obtain a search-warrant, both here and in Ayrshire, and proceedings will be taken also against your ladyship personally.”

So saying, Mr. Camperdown withdrew, and at last the carriage was driven on.

As it happened, there was time enough for catching the train, and to spare. The whole affair in Mount Street had taken less than ten minutes. But the effect upon Lizzie was very severe. For a while she could not speak, and at last she burst out into hysteric tears — not a sham fit, but a true convulsive agony of sobbing. All the world of Mount Street, including her own servants, had heard the accusation against her. During the whole morning she had been wishing that she had never seen the diamonds; but now it was almost impossible that she should part with them. And yet they were like a load upon her chest, a load as heavy as though she was compelled to sit with the iron box on her lap day and night. In her sobbing she felt the thing under her feet and knew that she could not get rid of it. She hated the box, and yet she must cling to it now. She was thoroughly ashamed of the box, and yet she must seem to take a pride in it. She was horribly afraid of the box, and yet she must keep it in her own very bedroom. And what should she say about the box now to Miss Macnulty, who sat by her side, stiff and scornful, offering her smelling-bottles, but not offering her sympathy? “My dear,” she said at last, “that horrid man has quite upset me.”

“I don’t wonder that you should be upset,” said Miss Macnulty.

“And so unjust, too — so false — so — so — so —-They are my own as much as that umbrella is yours, Miss Macnulty.”

“I don’t know,” said Miss Macnulty.

“But I tell you,” said Lizzie.

“What I mean is, that it is such a pity there should be a doubt.”

“There is no doubt,” said Lizzie; “how dare you say there is a doubt? My cousin, Mr. Greystock, says that there is not the slightest doubt. He is a barrister, and must know better than an attorney like that Mr. Camperdown.” By this time they were at the Euston Square station, and then there was more trouble with the box. The footman struggled with it into the waiting-room, and the porter struggled with it from the waiting-room to the carriage. Lizzie could not but look at the porter as he carried it, and she felt sure that the man had been told of its contents and was struggling with the express view of adding to her annoyance. The same thing happened at Carlisle, where the box was carried up into Lizzie’s bedroom by the footman, and where she was convinced that her treasure had become the subject of conversation for the whole house. In the morning people looked at her as she walked down the long platform with the box still struggling before her. She almost wished that she had undertaken its carriage herself, as she thought that even she could have managed with less outward show of effort. Her own servants seemed to be in league against her, and Miss Macnulty had never before been so generally unpleasant. Poor Miss Macnulty, who had a conscientious idea of doing her duty, and who always attempted to give an adequate return for the bread she ate, could not so far overcome the effect of Mr. Camperdown’s visit as to speak on any subject without being stiff and hard. And she suffered, too, from the box, to such a degree that she turned over in her mind the thought of leaving Lizzie if any other possible home might be found for her. Who would willingly live with a woman who always travelled about with a diamond necklace worth ten thousand pounds, locked up in an iron safe — and that necklace not her own property?

But at last Lady Eustace, and Miss Macnulty, and the servants — and the iron box — reached Portray Castle in safety.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01