During all this time Lucinda Roanoke was engaged to marry Sir Griffin Tewett, and the lover was an occasional visitor in Hertford Street. Mrs. Carbuncle was as anxious as ever that the marriage should be celebrated on the appointed day, and though there had been repeated quarrels, nothing had as yet taken place to make her despond. Sir Griffin would make some offensive speech. Lucinda would tell him that she had no desire ever to see him again, and then the baronet, usually under the instigation of Lord George, would make some awkward apology. Mrs. Carbuncle, whose life at this period was not a pleasant one, would behave on such occasions with great patience, and sometimes with great courage. Lizzie, who in her present emergency could not bear the idea of losing the assistance of any friend, was soft and graceful, and even gracious, to the bear. The bear himself certainly seemed to desire the marriage, though he would so often give offence which made any prospect of a marriage almost impossible. But with Sir Griffin, when the prize seemed to be lost, it again became valuable. He would talk about his passionate love to Mrs. Carbuncle and to Lizzie, and then, when things had been made straight for him, he would insult them, and neglect Lucinda. To Lucinda herself, however, he would rarely dare to say such words as he used daily to the other two ladies in the house. What could have been the man’s own idea of his future married life, how can any reader be made to understand, or any writer adequately describe? He must have known that the woman despised him, and hated him. In the very bottom of his heart he feared her. He had no idea of other pleasures from her society than what might arise to him from the pride of having married a beautiful woman. Had she shown the slightest fondness for him, the slightest fear that she might lose him, the slightest feeling that she had won a valuable prize in getting him, he would have scorned her, and jilted her without the slightest remorse. But the scorn came from her, and it beat him down. “Yes, you hate me, and would fain be rid of me; but you have said that you will be my wife, and you cannot now escape me.” Sir Griffin did not exactly speak such words as these, but he acted them. Lucinda would bear his presence, sitting apart from him, silent, imperious, but very beautiful. People said that she became more handsome from day to day, and she did so, in spite of her agony. Hers was a face which could stand such condition of the heart without fading or sinking under it. She did not weep, or lose her colour, or become thin. The pretty softness of a girl, delicate feminine weakness, or laughing eyes and pouting lips, no one expected from her. Sir Griffin, in the early days of their acquaintance, had found her to be a woman with a character for beauty, and she was now more beautiful than ever. He probably thought that he loved her; but, at any rate, he was determined that he would marry her.
He had expressed himself more than once as very angry about this affair of the jewels. He had told Mrs. Carbuncle that her inmate, Lady Eustace, was suspected by the police, and that it might be well that Lady Eustace should be — be made to go, in fact. But it did not suit Mrs. Carbuncle that Lady Eustace should be made to go; nor did it suit Lord George de Bruce Carruthers. Lord George, at Mrs. Carbuncle’s instance, had snubbed Sir Griffin more than once, and then it came to pass that he was snubbed yet again more violently than before. He was at the house in Hertford Street on the day of Mr. Bunfit’s visit, some hours after Mr. Bunfit was gone, when Lizzie was still lying on her bed up-stairs, nearly beaten by the great danger which had oppressed her. He was told of Mr. Bunfit’s visit, and then again said that he thought that the continued residence of Lady Eustace beneath that roof was a misfortune. “Would you wish us to turn her out because her necklace has been stolen?” asked Mrs. Carbuncle.
“People say very queer things,” said Sir Griffin.
“So they do, Sir Griffin,” continued Mrs. Carbuncle. “They say such queer things that I can hardly understand that they should be allowed to say them. I am told that the police absolutely suggest that Lord George stole the diamonds.”
“No doubt, Sir Griffin. And so is the other nonsense. Do you mean to tell us that you believe that Lady Eustace stole her own diamonds?”
“I don’t see the use of having her here. Situated as I am, I have a right to object to it.”
“Situated as you are, Sir Griffin!” said Lucinda.
“Well, yes, of course; if we are to be married, I cannot but think a good deal of the persons you stay with.”
“You were very glad to stay yourself with Lady Eustace at Portray,” said Lucinda.
“I went there to follow you,” said Sir Griffin gallantly.
“I wish with all my heart you had stayed away,” said Lucinda. At that moment Lord George was shown into the room, and Miss Roanoke continued speaking, determined that Lord George should know how the bear was conducting himself. “Sir Griffin is saying that my aunt ought to turn Lady Eustace out of the house.”
“Not quite that,” said Sir Griffin with an attempt at laughter.
“Quite that,” said Lucinda. “I don’t suppose that he suspects poor Lady Eustace, but he thinks that my aunt’s friend should be like Caesar’s wife, above the suspicion of others.”
“If you would mind your own business, Tewett,” said Lord George, “it would be a deal better for us all. I wonder Mrs. Carbuncle does not turn you out of the room for making such a proposition here. If it were my room, I would.”
“I suppose I can say what I please to Mrs. Carbuncle? Miss Roanoke is not going to be your wife.”
“It is my belief that Miss Roanoke will be nobody’s wife, at any rate, for the present,” said that young lady; upon which Sir Griffin left the room, muttering some words which might have been, perhaps, intended for an adieu. Immediately after this Lizzie came in, moving slowly, but without a sound, like a ghost, with pale cheeks and dishevelled hair, and that weary, worn look of illness which was become customary with her. She greeted Lord George with a faint attempt at a smile, and seated herself in a corner of a sofa. She asked whether he had been told the story of the proposed search, and then bade her friend Mrs. Carbuncle describe the scene.
“If it goes on like this it will kill me,” said Lizzie.
“They are treating me in precisely the same way,” said Lord George.
“But think of your strength and of my weakness, Lord George.”
“By heavens, I don’t know,” said Lord George. “In this matter your weakness is stronger than any strength of mine. I never was so cut up in my life. It was a good joke when we talked of the suspicions of that fellow at Carlisle as we came up by the railway, but it is no joke now. I’ve had men with me, almost asking to search among my things.”
“They have quite asked me,” said Lizzie piteously.
“You; yes. But there’s some reason in that. These infernal diamonds did belong to you, or, at any rate you had them. You are the last person known to have seen them. Even if you had them still, you’d only have what you call your own.” Lizzie looked at him with all her eyes and listened to him with all her ears. “But what the mischief can I have had to do with them?”
“It’s very hard upon you,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“Unless I stole them,” continued Lord George.
“Which is so absurd, you know,” said Lizzie.
“That a pig-headed provincial fool should have taken me for a midnight thief, did not disturb me much. I don’t think I am very easily annoyed by what other people think of me. But these fellows, I suppose, were sent here by the head of the metropolitan police; and everybody knows that they have been sent. Because I was civil enough to you women to look after you coming up to town, and because one of you was careless enough to lose her jewels, I— I am to be talked about all over London as the man who took them!” This was not spoken with much courtesy to the ladies present. Lord George had dropped that customary chivalry of manner which, in ordinary life, makes it to be quite out of the question that a man shall be uncivil to a woman. He had escaped from conventional usage into rough, truthful speech, under stress from the extremity of the hardship to which he had been subjected. And the women understood it and appreciated it, and liked it rather than otherwise. To Lizzie it seemed fitting that a Corsair so circumstanced should be as uncivil as he pleased; and Mrs. Carbuncle had long been accustomed to her friend’s moods.
“They can’t really think it,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“Somebody thinks it. I am told that your particular friend, Lord Fawn”— this he said specially addressing Lizzie —“has expressed a strong opinion that I carry about the necklace always in my pocket. I trust to have the opportunity of wringing his neck some day.”
“I do so wish you would,” said Lizzie.
“I shall not lose a chance if I can get it. Before all this occurred, I should have said of myself that nothing of the kind could put me out. I don’t think there is a man in the world cares less what people say of him than I do. I am as indifferent to ordinary tittle-tattle as a rhinoceros. But, by George, when it comes to stealing ten thousand pounds’ worth of diamonds, and the delicate attentions of all the metropolitan police, one begins to feel that one is vulnerable. When I get up in the morning, I half feel that I shall be locked up before night, and I can see in the eyes of every man I meet that he takes me for the prince of burglars!”
“And it is all my fault,” said Lizzie.
“I wish the diamonds had been thrown into the sea,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“What do you think about them yourself?” asked Lucinda.
“I don’t know what to think. I’m at a dead loss. You know that man Mr. Benjamin, Lady Eustace?” Lizzie, with a little start, answered that she did, that she had had dealings with him before her marriage, and had once owed him two or three hundred pounds. As the man’s name had been mentioned, she thought it better to own as much. “So he tells me. Now, in all London, I don’t suppose there is a greater rascal than Benjamin.”
“I didn’t know that,” said Lizzie.
“But I did; and with that rascal I have had money dealings for the last six or seven years. He has cashed bills for me, and has my name to bills now — and Sir Griffin’s too. I’m half inclined to think that he has got the diamonds.”
“Do you indeed?” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“Mr. Benjamin!” said Lizzie.
“And he returns the compliment.”
“How does he return it?” asked Mrs. Carbuncle.
“He either thinks that I’ve got ’em or he wants to make me believe that he thinks so. He hasn’t dared to say it — but that’s his intention. Such an opinion from such a man on such a subject would be quite a compliment. And I feel it. But yet it troubles me. You know that greasy, Israelitish smile of his, Lady Eustace.” Lizzie nodded her head and tried to smile. “When I asked him yesterday about the diamonds, he leered at me and rubbed his hands. ‘It’s a pretty little game — ain’t it, Lord George?’ he said. I told him that I thought it a very bad game, and that I hoped the police would have the thief and the necklace soon. ‘It’s been managed a deal too well for that, Lord George — don’t you think so?’” Lord George mimicked the Jew as he repeated the words, and the ladies, of course, laughed. But poor Lizzie’s attempt at laughter was very sorry. “I told him to his face that I thought he had them among his treasures. ‘No, no, no, Lord George,’ he said, and seemed quite to enjoy the joke. If he’s got them himself, he can’t think that I have them; but if he has not, I don’t doubt but he believes that I have. And I’ll tell you another person who suspects me.”
“What fools they are!” said Lizzie.
“I don’t know how that may be. Sir Griffin, Lucinda, isn’t at all sure but what I have them in my pocket.”
“I can believe anything of him,” said Lucinda.
“And it seems he can believe anything of me. I shall begin to think soon that I did take them, myself — or, at any rate, that I ought to have done so. I wonder what you three women think of it. If you do think I’ve got ’em, don’t scruple to say so. I’m quite used to it, and it won’t hurt me any further.” The ladies again laughed. “You must have your suspicions,” continued he.
“I suppose some of the London thieves did get them,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“The police say the box was empty,” said Lord George.
“How can the police know?” asked Lucinda. “They weren’t there to see. Of course the thieves would say that they didn’t take them.”
“What do you think, Lady Eustace?”
“I don’t know what to think. Perhaps Mr. Camperdown did it.”
“Or the Lord Chancellor,” said Lord George. “One is just as likely as the other. I wish I could get at what you really think. The whole thing would be so complete if all you three suspected me. I can’t get out of it all by going to Paris or Kamtchatka, as I should have half a dozen detectives on my heels wherever I went. I must brazen it out here; and the worst of it is, that I feel that a look of guilt is creeping over me. I have a sort of conviction growing upon me that I shall be taken up and tried, and that a jury will find me guilty. I dream about it; and if — as is probable — it drives me mad, I’m sure that I shall accuse myself in my madness. There’s a fascination about it that I can’t explain or escape. I go on thinking how I would have done it if I did do it. I spend hours in calculating how much I would have realised, and where I would have found my market. I couldn’t keep myself from asking Benjamin the other day how much they would be worth to him.”
“What did he say?” asked Lizzie, who sat gazing upon the Corsair, and who was now herself fascinated. Lord George was walking about the room, then sitting for a moment in one chair and again in another, and after a while leaning on the mantelpiece. In his speaking he addressed himself almost exclusively to Lizzie, who could not keep her eyes from his.
“He grinned greasily,” said the Corsair, “and told me they had already been offered to him once before by you.”
“That’s false!” said Lizzie.
“Very likely. And then he said that no doubt they’d fall into his hands some day. ‘Wouldn’t it be a game, Lord George,’ he said, ‘if, after all, they should be no more than paste?’ That made me think he had got them, and that he’d get paste diamonds put into the same setting — and then give them up with some story of his own making. ‘You’d know whether they were paste or not, wouldn’t you, Lord George?’ he asked.” The Corsair, as he repeated Mr. Benjamin’s words, imitated the Jew’s manner so well that he made Lizzie shudder. “While I was there, a detective named Gager came in.”
“The same man who came here, perhaps,” suggested Mrs. Carbuncle.
“I think not. He seemed to be quite intimate with Mr. Benjamin, and went on at once about the diamonds. Benjamin said that they’d made their way over to Paris, and that he’d heard of them. I found myself getting quite intimate with Mr. Gager, who seemed hardly to scruple at showing that he thought that Benjamin and I were confederates. Mr. Camperdown has offered four hundred pounds reward for the jewels, to be paid on their surrender to the hands of Mr. Garnett, the jeweller. Gager declared that, if any ordinary thief had them, they would be given up at once for that sum.”
“That’s true, I suppose,” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“How would the ordinary thief get his money without being detected? Who would dare to walk into Garnett’s shop with the diamonds in his hands and ask for the four hundred pounds? Besides, they have been sold to some one, and, as I believe, to my dear friend, Mr. Benjamin. ‘I suppose you ain’t a-going anywhere just at present, Lord George?’ said that fellow Gager. ‘What the devil’s that to you?’ I asked him. He just laughed and shook his head. I don’t doubt but that there’s a policeman about waiting till I leave this house; or looking at me now with a magnifying glass from the windows at the other side. They’ve photographed me while I’m going about, and published a list of every hair on my face in the ‘Hue and Cry.’ I dined at the club yesterday, and found a strange waiter. I feel certain that he was a policeman done up in livery all for my sake. I turned sharp round in the street yesterday, and found a man at a corner. I am sure that man was watching me, and was looking at my pockets to see whether the jewel case was there. As for myself, I can think of nothing else. I wish I had got them. I should have something then to pay me for all this nuisance.”
“I do wish you had,” said Lizzie.
“What I should do with them I cannot even imagine. I am always thinking of that, too, making plans for getting rid of them, supposing I had stolen them. My belief is, that I should be so sick of them that I should chuck them over the bridge into the river, only that I should fear that some policeman’s eye would be on me as I did it. My present position is not comfortable, but if I had got them I think that the weight of them would crush me altogether. Having a handle to my name, and being a lord, or, at least, called a lord, makes it all the worse. People are so pleased to think that a lord should have stolen a necklace!”
Lizzie listened to it all with a strange fascination. If this strong man were so much upset by the bare suspicion, what must be her condition? The jewels were in her desk up-stairs, and the police had been with her also, were even now probably looking after her and watching her. How much more difficult must it be for her to deal with the diamonds than it would have been for this man. Presently Mrs. Carbuncle left the room, and Lucinda followed her. Lizzie saw them go, and did not dare to go with them. She felt as though her limbs would not have carried her to the door. She was now alone with her Corsair; and she looked up timidly into his deep-set eyes, as he came and stood over her. “Tell me all that you know about it,” he said, in that deep, low voice which, from her first acquaintance with him, had filled her with interest, and almost with awe.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14