Before the end of January everybody in London had heard of the great robbery at Carlisle; and most people had heard also that there was something very peculiar in the matter — something more than a robbery. Various rumours were afloat. It had become widely known that the diamonds were to be the subject of litigation between the young widow and the trustees of the Eustace estate; and it was known also that Lord Fawn had engaged himself to marry the widow, and had then retreated from his engagement simply on account of this litigation. There were strong parties formed in the matter; whom we may call Lizzieites and Antilizzieites. The Lizzieites were of opinion that poor Lady Eustace was being very ill-treated — that the diamonds did probably belong to her, and that Lord Fawn, at any rate, clearly ought to be her own. It was worthy of remark that these Lizzieites were all of them Conservatives. Frank Greystock had probably set the party on foot; and it was natural that political opponents should believe that a noble young Under-Secretary of State on the Liberal side — such as Lord Fawn — had misbehaved himself. When the matter at last became of such importance as to demand leading articles in the newspapers, those journals which had devoted themselves to upholding the conservative politicians of the day were very heavy indeed upon Lord Fawn. The whole force of the Government, however, was Antilizzieite; and as the controversy advanced, every good Liberal became aware that there was nothing so wicked, so rapacious, so bold, or so cunning but that Lady Eustace might have done it, or caused it to be done, without delay, without difficulty, and without scruple. Lady Glencora Palliser for a while endeavoured to defend Lizzie in Liberal circles — from generosity rather than from any real belief, and instigated, perhaps, by a feeling that any woman in society who was capable of doing anything extraordinary ought to be defended. But even Lady Glencora was forced to abandon her generosity, and to confess, on behalf of her party, that Lizzie Eustace was — a very wicked young woman indeed. All this, no doubt, grew out of the diamonds, and chiefly arose from the robbery; but there had been enough of notoriety attached to Lizzie before the affair at Carlisle to make people fancy that they had understood her character long before that.
The party assembled at Matching Priory, a country house belonging to Mr. Palliser, in which Lady Glencora took much delight, was not large, because Mr. Palliser’s uncle, the Duke of Omnium, who was with them, was now a very old man, and one who did not like very large gatherings of people. Lord and Lady Chiltern were there — that Lord Chiltern who had been known so long and so well in the hunting counties of England, and that Lady Chiltern who had been so popular in London as the beautiful Violet Effingham; and Mr. and Mrs. Grey were there, very particular friends of Mr. Palliser’s. Mr. Grey was now sitting for the borough of Silverbridge, in which the Duke of Omnium was still presumed to have a controlling influence, in spite of all Reform bills, and Mrs. Grey was in some distant way connected with Lady Glencora. And Madame Max Goesler was there — a lady whose society was still much affected by the old duke; and Mr. and Mrs. Bonteen — who had been brought there, not perhaps altogether because they were greatly loved, but in order that the gentleman’s services might be made available by Mr. Palliser in reference to some great reform about to be introduced in monetary matters. Mr. Palliser, who was now Chancellor of the Exchequer, was intending to alter the value of the penny. Unless the work should be too much for him, and he should die before he had accomplished the self-imposed task, the future penny was to be made, under his auspices, to contain five farthings, and the shilling ten pennies. It was thought that if this could be accomplished, the arithmetic of the whole world would be so simplified that henceforward the name of Palliser would be blessed by all schoolboys, clerks, shopkeepers, and financiers. But the difficulties were so great that Mr. Palliser’s hair was already grey from toil, and his shoulders bent by the burden imposed upon them. Mr. Bonteen, with two private secretaries from the Treasury, was now at Matching to assist Mr. Palliser; and it was thought that both Mr. and Mrs. Bonteen were near to madness under the pressure of the five-farthing penny. Mr. Bonteen had remarked to many of his political friends that those two extra farthings that could not be made to go into the shilling would put him into his cold grave before the world would know what he had done — or had rewarded him for it with a handle to his name, and a pension. Lord Fawn was also at Matching — a suggestion having been made to Lady Glencora by some leading Liberals that he should be supported in his difficulties by her hospitality.
The mind of Mr. Palliser himself was too deeply engaged to admit of its being interested in the great necklace affair; but, of all the others assembled, there was not one who did not listen anxiously for news on the subject. As regarded the old duke, it had been found to be quite a godsend; and from post to post as the facts reached Matching they were communicated to him. And, indeed, there were some there who would not wait for the post, but had the news about poor Lizzie’s diamonds down by the wires. The matter was of the greatest moment to Lord Fawn, and Lady Glencora was perhaps justified, on his behalf, in demanding a preference for her affairs over the messages which were continually passing between Matching and the Treasury respecting those two ill-conditioned farthings.
“Duke,” she said, entering rather abruptly the small, warm, luxurious room in which her husband’s uncle was passing the morning —“Duke, they say now that after all the diamonds were not in the box when it was taken out of the room at Carlisle.” The duke was reclining in an easy-chair, with his head leaning forward on his breast, and Madame Goesler was reading to him. It was now three o’clock, and the old man had been brought down to this room after his breakfast. Madame Goesler was reading the last famous new novel, and the duke was dozing. That, probably, was the fault neither of the reader nor of the novelist, as the duke was wont to doze in these days. But Lady Glencora’s tidings awakened him completely. She had the telegram in her hand — so that he could perceive that the very latest news was brought to him.
“The diamonds not in the box!” he said — pushing his head a little more forward in his eagerness, and sitting with the extended fingers of his two hands touching each other.
“Barrington Erle says that Major Mackintosh is almost sure the diamonds were not there.” Major Mackintosh was an officer very high in the police force, whom everybody trusted implicitly, and as to whom the outward world believed that he could discover the perpetrators of any iniquity, if he would only take the trouble to look into it. Such was the pressing nature of his duties that he found himself compelled in one way or another to give up about sixteen hours a day to them; but the outer world accused him of idleness. There was nothing he couldn’t find out — only he would not give himself the trouble to find out all the things that happened. Two or three newspapers had already been very hard upon him in regard to the Eustace diamonds. Such a mystery as that, they said, he ought to have unravelled long ago. That he had not unravelled it yet was quite certain.
“The diamonds not in the box!” said the duke.
“Then she must have known it,” said Madame Goesler.
“That doesn’t quite follow, Madame Max,” said Lady Glencora.
“But why shouldn’t the diamonds have been in the box?” asked the duke. As this was the first intimation given to Lady Glencora of any suspicion that the diamonds had not been taken with the box, and as this had been received by telegraph, she could not answer the duke’s question with any clear exposition of her own. She put up her hands and shook her head. “What does Plantagenet think about it?” asked the duke. Plantagenet Palliser was the full name of the duke’s nephew and heir. The duke’s mind was evidently much disturbed.
“He doesn’t think that either the box or the diamonds were ever worth five farthings,” said Lady Glencora.
“The diamonds not in the box!” repeated the duke. “Madame Max, do you believe that the diamonds were not in the box?” Madame Goesler shrugged her shoulders and made no answer; but the shrugging of her shoulders was quite satisfactory to the duke, who always thought that Madame Goesler did everything better than anybody else. Lady Glencora stayed with her uncle for the best part of an hour, and every word spoken was devoted to Lizzie and her necklace; but as this new idea had been broached, and as they had no other information than that conveyed in the telegram, very little light could be thrown upon it. But on the next morning there came a letter from Barrington Erie to Lady Glencora, which told so much, and hinted so much more, that it will be well to give it to the reader.
“TRAVELLERS’, 29 Jan., 186-.
“MY DEAR LADY GLENCORA: I hope you got my telegram yesterday. I had just seen Mackintosh, on whose behalf, however, I must say that he told me as little as he possibly could. It is leaking out, however, on every side, that the police believe that when the box was taken out of the room at Carlisle, the diamonds were not in it. As far as I can learn, they ground this suspicion on the fact that they cannot trace the stones. They say that, if such a lot of diamonds had been through the thieves’ market in London, they would have left some track behind them. As far as I can judge, Mackintosh thinks that Lord George has them, but that her ladyship gave them to him; and that this little game of the robbery at Carlisle was planned to put John Eustace and the lawyers off the scent. If it should turn out that the box was opened before it left Portray, that the door of her ladyship’s room was cut by her ladyship’s self, or by his lordship with her ladyship’s aid, and that the fragments of the box were carried out of the hotel by his lordship in person, it will altogether have been so delightful a plot, that all concerned in it ought to be canonised or at least allowed to keep their plunder. An old detective told me that the opening of the box under the arch of the railway, in an exposed place, could hardly have been executed so neatly as was done; that no thief so situated would have given the time necessary to it; and that, if there had been thieves at all at work, they would have been traced. Against this, there is the certain fact, as I have heard from various men engaged in the inquiry, that certain persons among the community of thieves are very much at loggerheads with each other, the higher, or creative department in thiefdom, accusing the lower or mechanical department of gross treachery in having appropriated to its own sole profit plunder, for the taking of which it had undertaken to receive a certain stipulated price. But then it may be the case that his lordship and her ladyship have set such a rumour abroad for the sake of putting the police off the scent. Upon the whole, the little mystery is quite delightful; and has put the ballot, and poor Mr. Palliser’s five-farthinged penny, quite out of joint. Nobody now cares for anything except the Eustace diamonds. Lord George, I am told, has offered to fight everybody or anybody, beginning with Lord Fawn and ending with Major Mackintosh. Should he be innocent, which of course is possible, the thing must be annoying. I should not at all wonder myself if it should turn out that her ladyship left them in Scotland. The place there, however, has been searched, in compliance with an order from the police and by her ladyship’s consent.
“Don’t let Mr. Palliser quite kill himself. I hope the Bonteen plan answers. I never knew a man who could find more farthings in a shilling that. Mr. Bonteen, Remember me very kindly to the duke, and pray enable poor Fawn to keep up his spirits. If he likes to arrange a meeting with Lord George, I shall be only too happy to be his friend. You remember our last duel. Chiltern is with you, and can put Fawn up to the proper way of getting over to Flanders, and of returning, should he chance to escape.
“Yours always most faithfully,
“Of course I’ll keep you posted in everything respecting the necklace till you come to town yourself.”
The whole of this letter Lady Glencora read to the duke, to Lady Chiltern, and to Madame Goesler; and the principal contents of it she repeated to the entire company. It was certainly the general belief at Matching that Lord George had the diamonds in his possession, either with or without the assistance of their late fair possessor.
The duke was struck with awe when he thought of all the circumstances. “The brother of a marquis!” he said to his nephew’s wife. “It’s such a disgrace to the peerage!”
“As for that, duke,” said Lady Glencora, “the peerage is used to it by this time.”
“I never-heard of such an affair as this before.”
“I don’t see why the brother of a marquis shouldn’t turn thief as well as anybody else. They say he hasn’t got anything of his own; and I suppose that is what makes men steal other people’s property. Peers go into trade, and peeresses gamble on the Stock Exchange. Peers become bankrupt, and the sons of peers run away, just like other men. I don’t see why all enterprises should not be open to them. But to think of that little purring cat, Lady Eustace, having been so very-very clever! It makes me quite envious.”
All this took place in the morning — that is — about two o’clock; but after dinner the subject became general. There might be some little reticence in regard to Lord Fawn’s feelings, but it was not sufficient to banish a subject so interesting from the minds and lips of the company. “The Tewett marriage is to come off, after all,” said Mrs. Bonteen. “I’ve a letter from dear Mrs. Rutter, telling me so as a fact.”
“I wonder whether Miss Roanoke will be allowed to wear one or two of the diamonds at the wedding,” suggested one of the private secretaries.
“Nobody will dare to wear a diamond at all next season,” said Lady Glencora. “As for my own, I sha’n’t think of having them out. I should always feel that I was being inspected.”
“Unless they unravel the mystery,” said Madame Goesler.
“I hope they won’t do that,” said Lady Glencora. “The play is too good to come to an end so soon. If we hear that Lord George is engaged to Lady Eustace, nothing, I suppose, can be done to stop the marriage.”
“Why shouldn’t she marry if she pleases?” asked Mr. Palliser.
“I’ve not the slightest objection to her being married. I hope she will, with all my heart. I certainly think she should have her husband after buying him at such a price. I suppose Lord Fawn won’t forbid the banns.” These last words were only whispered to her next neighbour, Lord Chiltern; but poor Lord Fawn saw the whisper, and was aware that it must have had reference to his condition.
On the next morning there came further news. The police had asked permission from their occupants to search the rooms in which lived Lady Eustace and Lord George, and in each case the permission had been refused. So said Barrington Erle in his letter to Lady Glencora. Lord George had told the applicant, very roughly, that nobody should touch an article belonging to him without a search-warrant. If any magistrate would dare to give such a warrant, let him do it. “I’m told that Lord George acts the indignant madman uncommonly well,” said Barrington Erle in his letter. As for poor Lizzie, she had fainted when the proposition was made to her. The request was renewed as soon as she had been brought to herself; and then she refused, on the advice, as she said, of her cousin, Mr. Grey stock. Barrington Erie went on to say that the police were very much blamed. It was believed that no information could be laid before a magistrate sufficient to justify a search-warrant; and, in such circumstances, no search should have been attempted. Such was the public verdict, as declared in Barrington Erle’s last letter to Lady Glencora.
Mr. Palliser was of opinion that the attempt to search the lady’s house was iniquitous. Mr. Bonteen shook his head, and rather thought that, if he were Home Secretary, he would have had the search made. Lady Chiltern said that if policemen came to her, they might search everything she had in the world. Mrs. Grey reminded them that all they really knew of the unfortunate woman was that her jewel-box had been stolen out of her bedroom at her hotel. Madame Goesler was of opinion that a lady who could carry such a box about the country with her deserved to have it stolen. Lord Fawn felt himself obliged to confess that he agreed altogether with Madame Goesler. Unfortunately, he had been acquainted with the lady, and now was constrained to say that her conduct had been such as to justify the suspicions of the police.
“Of course we all suspect her,” said Lady Glencora, “and of course we suspect Lord George too; and Mrs. Carbuncle and Miss Roanoke. But then, you know, if I were to lose my diamonds, people would suspect me just the same, or perhaps Plantagenet. It is so delightful to think that a woman has stolen her own property, and put all the police into a state of ferment.”
Lord Chiltern declared himself to be heartily sick of the whole subject; and Mr. Grey, who was a very just man, suggested that the evidence, as yet, against anybody, was very slight.
“Of course it’s slight,” said Lady Glencora. “If it were more than slight, it would be just like any other robbery, and there would be nothing in it.”
On the same morning Mrs. Bonteen received a second letter from her friend Mrs. Rutter. The Tewett marriage had been certainly broken off. Sir Griffin had been very violent, misbehaving himself grossly in Mrs. Carbuncle’s house, and Miss Roanoke had declared that under no circumstances would she ever speak to him again. It was Mrs. Rutter’s opinion, however, that this violence had been “put on” by Sir Griffin, who was desirous of escaping from the marriage because of the affair of the diamonds.
“He’s very much bound up with Lord George,” said Mrs. Rutter, “and is afraid that he may be implicated.”
“In my opinion he’s quite right,” said Lord Fawn.
All these matters were told to the duke by Lady Glencora and Madame Goesler in the recesses of his grace’s private room; for the duke was now infirm, and did not dine in company unless the day was very auspicious to him. But in the evening he would creep into the drawing-room, and on this occasion he had a word to say about the Eustace diamonds to every one in the room. It was admitted by them all that the robbery had been a godsend in the way of amusing the duke.
“Wouldn’t have her boxes searched, you know,” said the duke. “That looks uncommonly suspicious. Perhaps, Lady Chiltern, we shall hear tomorrow morning something more about it.”
“Poor dear duke,” said Lady Chiltern to her husband.
“Doting old idiot!” he replied.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01