When we left Lady Eustace alone in her bedroom at the Carlisle hotel after the discovery of the robbery, she had very many cares upon her mind. The necklace was, indeed, safe under her pillow in the bed; but when all the people were around her — her own friends, and the police, and they who were concerned with the inn — she had not told them that it was so, but had allowed them to leave her with the belief that the diamonds had gone with the box. Even at this moment, as she knew well, steps were being taken to discover the thieves, and to make public the circumstances of the robbery. Already, no doubt, the fact that her chamber had been entered in the night, and her jewel-box withdrawn, was known to the London police officers. In such circumstances how could she now tell the truth? But it might be that already had the thieves been taken. In that case would not the truth be known, even though she should not tell it? Then she thought for a while that she would get rid of the diamonds altogether, so that no one should know aught of them. If she could only think of a place fit for such purpose, she would so hide them that no human ingenuity could discover them. Let the thieves say what they might, her word would, in such case, be better than that of the thieves. She would declare that the jewels had been in the box when the box was taken. The thieves would swear that the box had been empty. She would appeal to the absence of the diamonds, and the thieves — who would be known as thieves — would be supposed, even by their own friends and associates, to have disposed of the diamonds before they had been taken. There would be a mystery in all this, and a cunning cleverness, the idea of which had in itself a certain charm for Lizzie Eustace. She would have all the world at a loss. Mr. Camperdown could do nothing further to harass her; and would have been, so far, overcome. She would be saved from the feeling of public defeat in the affair of the necklace, which would be very dreadful to her. Lord Fawn might probably be again at her feet. And in all the fuss and rumour which such an affair would make in London, there would be nothing of which she need be ashamed. She liked the idea, and she had grown to be very sick of the necklace.
But what should she do with it? It was, at this moment, between her fingers beneath the pillow. If she were minded, and she thought she was so minded, to get rid of it altogether, the sea would be the place. Could she make up her mind absolutely to destroy so large a property, it would be best for her to have recourse to “her own broad waves,” as she called them even to herself. It was within the “friendly depths of her own rock-girt ocean” that she should find a grave for her great trouble. But now her back was to the sea, and she could hardly insist on returning to Portray without exciting a suspicion that might be fatal to her.
And then might it not be possible to get altogether quit of the diamonds and yet to retain the power of future possession? She knew that she was running into debt, and that money would, some day, be much needed. Her acquaintance with Mr. Benjamin, the jeweller, was a fact often present to her mind. She might not be able to get ten thousand pounds from Mr. Benjamin; but if she could get eight, or six, or even five, how pleasant would it be! If she could put away the diamonds for three or four years, if she could so hide them that no human eyes could see them till she should again produce them to the light, surely, after so long an interval, they might be made available! But where should be found such hiding-place? She understood well how great was the peril while the necklace was in her own immediate keeping. Any accident might discover it, and if the slightest suspicion were aroused, the police would come upon her with violence and discover it. But surely there must be some such hiding-place, if only she could think of it! Then her mind reverted to all the stories she had ever heard of mysterious villainies. There must be some way of accomplishing this thing, if she could only bring her mind to work upon it exclusively. A hole dug deep into the ground; would not that be the place? But then, where should the hole be dug? In what spot should she trust the earth? If anywhere, it must be at Portray. But now she was going from Portray to London. It seemed to her to be certain that she could dig no hole in London that would be secret to herself. Nor could she trust herself, during the hour or two that remained to her, to find such a hole in Carlisle.
What she wanted was a friend; some one that she could trust. But she had no such friend. She could not dare to give the jewels up to Lord George. So tempted, would not any Corsair appropriate the treasure? And if, as might be possible, she were mistaken about him and he was no Corsair, then would he betray her to the police. She thought of all her dearest friends, Frank Greystock, Mrs. Carbuncle, Lucinda, Miss Macnulty, even of Patience Crabstick, but there was no friend whom she could trust. Whatever she did she must do alone! She began to fear that the load of thought required would be more than she could bear. One thing, however, was certain to her: she could not now venture to tell them all that the necklace was in her possession, and that the stolen box had been empty.
Thinking of all this, she went to sleep, still holding the packet tight between her fingers, and in this position was awakened at about ten by a knock at the door from her friend Mrs. Carbuncle. Lizzie jumped out of bed, and admitted her friend, admitting also Patience Crabstick. “You had better get up now, dear,” said Mrs. Carbuncle. “We are all going to breakfast.” Lizzie declared herself to be so fluttered that she must have her breakfast up-stairs. No one was to wait for her. Crabstick would go down and fetch for her a cup of tea, and just a morsel of something to eat.
“You can’t be surprised that I shouldn’t be quite myself,” said Lizzie.
Mrs. Carbuncle’s surprise did not run at all in that direction. Both Mrs. Carbuncle and Lord George had been astonished to find how well she bore her loss. Lord George gave her credit for real bravery. Mrs. Carbuncle — suggested, in a whisper, that perhaps she regarded the theft as an easy way out of a lawsuit.
“I suppose you know, George, they would have got it from her.” Then Lord George whistled, and, in another whisper, declared that, if the little adventure had all been arranged by Lady Eustace herself with the view of getting the better of Mr. Camperdown, his respect for that lady would be very greatly raised.
“If,” said Lord George, “it turns out that she has had a couple of bravos in her pay, like an old Italian marquis, I shall think very highly of her indeed.” This had occurred before Mrs. Carbuncle came up to Lizzie’s room; but neither of them for a moment suspected that the necklace was still within the hotel.
The box had been found, and a portion of the fragments were brought into the room while the party were still at breakfast. Lizzie was not in the room, but the news was at once taken up to her by Crabstick, together with a pheasant’s wing and some buttered toast. In a recess beneath an archway running under the railroad, not distant from the hotel above a hundred and fifty yards, the iron box had been found. It had been forced open, so said the sergeant of police, with tools of the finest steel, peculiarly made for such purpose. The sergeant of police was quite sure that the thing had been done by London men who were at the very top of their trade. It was manifest that nothing had been spared. Every motion of the party must have been known to them, and probably one of the adventurers had travelled in the same train with them. And the very doors of the bedroom in the hotel had been measured by the man who had cut out the bolt. The sergeant of police was almost lost in admiration; but the superintendent of police, whom Lord George saw more than once, was discreet and silent. To the superintendent of police it was by no means sure that Lord George himself might not be fond of diamonds. Of a suspicion flying so delightfully high as this, he breathed no word to any one; but simply suggested that he should like to retain the companionship of one of the party. If Lady Eustace could dispense with the services of the tall footman, the tall footman might be found useful at Carlisle. It was arranged, therefore, that the tall footman should remain; and the tall footman did remain, though not with his own consent. The whole party, including Lady Eustace herself and Patience Crabstick, were called upon to give their evidence to the Carlisle magistrates before they could proceed to London. This Lizzie did, having the necklace at that moment locked up in her desk at the inn. The diamonds were supposed to be worth ten thousand pounds. There was to be a lawsuit about them. She did not for a moment doubt that they were her property. She had been very careful about the diamonds because of the lawsuit. Fearing that Mr. Camperdown might wrest them from her possession, she had caused the iron box to be made. She had last seen the diamonds on the evening before her departure from Portray. She had then herself locked them up, and she now produced the key. The lock was still so far uninjured that the key would turn it. That was her evidence. Crabstick, with a good deal of reticence, supported her mistress. She had seen the diamonds, no doubt, but had not seen them often. She had seen them down at Portray, but not for ever so long. Crabstick had very little to say about them; but the clever superintendent was by no means sure that Crabstick did not know more than she said. Mrs. Carbuncle and Lord George had also seen the diamonds at Portray. There was no doubt whatever as to the diamonds having been in the iron box; nor was there, said Lord George, any doubt but that this special necklace had acquired so much public notice from the fact of the threatened lawsuit, as might make its circumstances and value known to London thieves. The tall footman was not examined, but was detained by the police under a remand given by the magistrates.
Much information as to what had been done oozed out in spite of the precautions of the discreet superintendent. The wires had been put into operation in every direction, and it had been discovered that one man whom nobody knew had left the down mail train at Annan, and another at Dumfries. These men had taken tickets by the train leaving Carlisle between four and five A.M., and were supposed to have been the two thieves. It had been nearly seven before the theft had been discovered, and by that time not only had the men reached the towns named, but had had time to make their way back again or further on into Scotland. At any rate, for the present, all trace of them was lost. The sergeant of police did not doubt but that one of these men was making his way up to London with the necklace in his pocket. This was told to Lizzie by Lord George; and though she was awe-struck by the danger of her situation, she nevertheless did feel some satisfaction in remembering that she and she only held the key of the mystery. And then as to those poor thieves! What must have been their consternation when they found, after all the labour and perils of the night, that the box contained no diamonds — that the treasure was not there, and that they were nevertheless bound to save themselves by flight and stratagem from the hands of the police! Lizzie, as she thought of this, almost pitied the poor thieves. What a consternation there would be among the Camperdowns and the Garnetts, among the Mopuses and Benjamins, when the news was heard in London. Lizzie almost enjoyed it. As her mind went on making fresh schemes on the subject, a morbid desire of increasing the mystery took possession of her. She was quite sure that nobody knew her secret, and that nobody as yet could even guess it. There was great danger, but there might be delight and even profit if she could safely dispose of the jewels before suspicion against herself should be aroused. She could understand that a rumour should get to the police that the box had been empty, even if the thieves were not taken; but such rumour would avail nothing if she could only dispose of the diamonds. As she first thought of all this, the only plan hitherto suggested to herself would require her immediate return to Portray. If she were at Portray she could find a spot in which she could bury the necklace. But she was obliged to allow herself now to be hurried up to London. When she got into the train the little parcel was in her desk, and the key of her desk was fastened round her neck.
They had secured a compartment for themselves from Carlisle to London, and of course filled four seats. “As I am alive,” said Lord George as soon as the train had left the station, “that head policeman thinks that I am the thief.” Mrs. Carbuncle laughed. Lizzie protested that this was absurd. Lucinda declared that such a suspicion would be vastly amusing. “It’s a fact,” continued Lord George. “I can see it in the fellow’s eye, and I feel it to be a compliment. They are so very ‘cute that they delight in suspicions. I remember when the altar-plate was stolen from Barchester cathedral some years ago, a splendid idea occurred to one of the police that the bishop had taken it.”
“Really?” asked Lizzie.
“Oh, yes — really. I don’t doubt but that there is already a belief in some of their minds that you have stolen your own diamonds for the sake of getting the better of Mr. Camperdown.”
“But what could I do with them if I had?” asked Lizzie.
“Sell them, of course. There is always a market for such goods.”
“But who would buy them?”
“If you have been so clever, Lady Eustace, I’ll find a purchaser for them. One would have to go a good distance to do it — and there would be some expense. But the thing could be done. Vienna, I should think, would be about the place.”
“Very well, then,” said Lizzie. “You won’t be surprised if I ask you to take the journey for me.” Then they all laughed, and were very much amused. It was quite agreed among them that Lizzie bore her loss very well.
“I shouldn’t care the least for losing them,” said Lizzie, “only that Florian gave them to me. They have been such a vexation to me that to be without them will be a comfort.” Her desk had been brought into the carriage, and was now used as a foot-stool in place of the box which was gone.
They arrived at Mrs. Carbuncle’s house in Hertford Street quite late, between ten and eleven; but a note had been sent from Lizzie to her cousin Frank’s address from the Euston Square station by a commissionnaire. Indeed, two notes were sent — one to the House of Commons, and the other to the Grosvenor Hotel. “My necklace has been stolen. Come to me early tomorrow at Mrs. Carbuncle’s house, No. — Hertford Street.” And he did come, before Lizzie was up. Crabstick brought her mistress word that Mr. Greystock was in the parlour soon after nine o’clock. Lizzie again hurried on her clothes so that she might see her cousin, taking care as she did, so that though her toilet might betray haste, it should not be other than charming. And as she dressed she endeavoured to come to some conclusion. Would it not be best for her that she should tell everything to her cousin, and throw herself upon his mercy, trusting to his ingenuity to extricate her from her difficulties? She had been thinking of her position almost through the entire night, and had remembered that at Carlisle she had committed perjury. She had sworn that the diamonds had been left by her in the box. And should they be found with her, it might be that they would put her in jail for stealing them. Little mercy could she expect from Mr. Camperdown should she fall into that gentleman’s hands! But Frank, if she would even yet tell him everything honestly, might probably save her.
“What is this about the diamonds?” he asked as soon as he saw her. She had flown almost into his arms as though carried there by the excitement of the moment. “You don’t really mean that they have been stolen?”
“I do, Frank.”
“On the journey?”
“Yes, Frank — at the inn at Carlisle.”
“Box and all?” Then she told him the whole story — not the true story, but the story as it was believed by all the world. She found it to be impossible to tell him the true story. “And the box was broken open, and left in the street?”
“Under an archway,” said Lizzie.
“And what do the police think?”
“I don’t know what they think. Lord George says that they believe he is the thief.”
“He knew of them,” said Frank, as though he imagined that the suggestion was not altogether absurd.
“Oh, yes — he knew of them.”
“And what is to be done?”
“I don’t know. I’ve sent for you to tell me.” Then Frank averred that information should be immediately given to Mr. Camperdown. He would himself call on Mr. Camperdown, and would also see the head of the London police. He did not doubt but that all the circumstances were already known in London at the police office; but it might be well that he should see the officer. He was acquainted with the gentleman, and might perhaps learn something. Lizzie at once acceded, and Frank went direct to Mr. Camperdown’s offices.
“If I had lost ten thousand pounds in that way,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, “I think I should have broken my heart.” Lizzie felt that her heart was bursting rather than being broken, because the ten thousand pounds’ worth of diamonds was not really lost.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14