The second robbery to which Lady Eustace had been subjected by no means decreased the interest which was attached to her and her concerns in the fashionable world. Parliament had now met, and the party at Matching Priory, Lady Glencora Palliser’s party in the country, had been to some extent broken up. All those gentlemen who were engaged in the service of Her Majesty’s Government had necessarily gone to London, and they who had wives at Matching had taken their wives with them. Mr. and Mrs. Bonteen had seen the last of their holiday; Mr. Palliser himself was, of course, at his post; and all the private secretaries were with the public secretaries on the scene of action. On the 13th of February Mr. Palliser made his first great statement in Parliament on the matter of the five-farthinged penny, and pledged himself to do his very best to carry that stupendous measure through Parliament in the present session. The City men who were in the House that night, and all the directors of the Bank of England, were in the gallery, and every chairman of a great banking company, and every Baring and every Rothschild, if there be Barings and Rothschilds who have not been returned by constituencies, and have not seats in the House by right, agreed in declaring that the job in hand was too much for any one member or any one session. Some said that such a measure never could be passed, because the unfinished work of one session could not be used in lessening the labours of the next. Everything must be recommenced; and therefore, so said these hopeless ones, the penny with five farthings, the penny of which a hundred would make ten shillings, the halcyon penny which would make all future pecuniary calculations easy to the meanest British capacity, could never become the law of the land. Others, more hopeful, were willing to believe that gradually the thing would so sink into the minds of members of Parliament, of writers of leading articles, and of the active public generally, as to admit of certain established axioms being taken as established, and placed, as it were, beyond the procrastinating power of debate. It might, for instance, at last be taken for granted that a decimal system was desirable, so that a month or two of the spring need not be consumed on that preliminary question. But this period had not as yet been reached, and it was thought by the entire City that Mr. Palliser was much too sanguine. It was so probable, many said, that he might kill himself by labour which would be Herculean in all but success, and that no financier after him would venture to face the task. It behooved Lady Glencora to see that her Hercules did not kill himself.
In this state of affairs Lady Glencora, into whose hands the custody of Mr. Palliser’s uncle, the duke, had now altogether fallen, had a divided duty between Matching and London. When the members of Parliament went up to London, she went there also, leaving some half-dozen friends whom she could trust to amuse the duke; but she soon returned, knowing that there might be danger in a long absence. The duke, though old, was his own master; he much affected the company of Madame Goesler, and that lady’s kindness to him was considerate and incessant; but there might still be danger, and Lady Glencora felt that she was responsible that the old nobleman should do nothing, in the feebleness of age, to derogate from the splendour of his past life. What if some day his grace should be off to Paris and insist on making Madame Goesler a duchess in the chapel of the Embassy? Madame Goesler had hitherto behaved very well; would probably continue to behave well. Lady Glencora really loved Madame Goesler. But then the interests at stake were very great! So circumstanced, Lady Glencora found herself compelled to be often on the road between Matching and London.
But though she was burthened with great care, Lady Glencora by no means dropped her interest in the Eustace diamonds; and when she learned that on the top of the great Carlisle robbery a second robbery had been superadded, and that this had been achieved while all the London police were yet astray about the former operation, her solicitude was of course enhanced. The duke himself, too, took the matter up so strongly that he almost wanted to be carried up to London, with some view, as it was supposed by the ladies who were so good to him, of seeing Lady Eustace personally.
“It’s out of the question, my dear,” Lady Glencora said to Madame Goesler, when the duke’s fancy was first mentioned to her by that lady.
“I told him that the trouble would be too much for him.”
“Of course it would be too much,” said Lady Glencora. “It is quite out of the question.” Then after a moment she added, in a whisper, “Who knows but what he’d insist on marrying her? It isn’t every woman that can resist temptation.” Madame Goesler smiled and shook her head, but made no answer to Lady Glencora’s suggestion. Lady Glencora assured her uncle that everything should be told to him. She would write about it daily, and send him the latest news by the wires if the post should be too slow.
“Ah, yes,” said the duke. “I like telegrams best. I think, you know, that that Lord George Carruthers had had something to do with it. Don’t you, Madame Goesler?” It had long been evident that the duke was anxious that one of his own order should be proved to have been the thief, as the plunder taken was so lordly.
In regard to Lizzie herself, Lady Glencora, on her return to London, took it into her head to make a diversion in our heroine’s favour. It had hitherto been a matter of faith with all the liberal party that Lady Eustace had had something to do with stealing her own diamonds. That esprit de corps which is the glorious characteristic of English statesmen had caused the whole Government to support Lord Fawn, and Lord Fawn could be supported only on the supposition that Lizzie Eustace had been a wicked culprit. But Lady Glencora, though very true as a politician, was apt to have opinions of her own, and to take certain flights in which she chose that others of the party should follow her. She now expressed an opinion that Lady Eustace was a victim, and all the Mrs. Bonteens, with some even of the Mr. Bonteens, found themselves compelled to agree with her. She stood too high among her set to be subject to that obedience which restrained others; too high, also, for others to resist her leading. As a member of a party she was erratic and dangerous, but from her position and peculiar temperament she was powerful. When she declared that poor Lady Eustace was a victim, others were obliged to say so too. This was particularly hard upon Lord Fawn, and the more so as Lady Glencora took upon her to assert that Lord Fawn had no right to jilt the young woman. And Lady Glencora had this to support her views — that for the last week past, indeed ever since the depositions which had been taken after the robbery in Hertford Street, the police had expressed no fresh suspicions in regard to Lizzie Eustace. She heard daily from Barrington Erie that Major Mackintosh and Bunfit and Gager were as active as ever in their inquiries, that all Scotland Yard was determined to unravel the mystery, and that there were emissaries at work tracking the diamonds at Hamburg, Paris, Vienna, and New York. It had been whispered to Mr. Erie that the whereabouts of Patience Crabstick had been discovered, and that many of the leading thieves in London were assisting the police; but nothing more was done in the way of fixing any guilt upon Lizzie Eustace. “Upon my word, I am beginning to think that she has been more sinned against than sinning.” This was said to Lady Glencora on the morning after Mr. Palliser’s great speech about the five farthings, by Barrington Erie, who, as it seemed, had been specially told off by the party to watch this investigation.
“I am sure she has had nothing to do with it. I have thought so ever since the last robbery. Sir Simon Slope told me yesterday afternoon that Mr. Camperdown has given it up altogether.” Sir Simon Slope was the Solicitor-General of that day.
“It would be absurd for him to go on with his bill in Chancery now that the diamonds are gone, unless he meant to make her pay for them.”
“That would be rank persecution. Indeed, she has been persecuted. I shall call upon her.” Then she wrote the following letter to the duke:
“FEBRUARY 14, 18 —.
“MY DEAR DUKE: Plantagenet was on his legs last night for three hours and three-quarters, and I sat through it all. As far as I could observe through the bars I was the only person in the House who listened to him. I’m sure Mr. Gresham was fast asleep. It was quite piteous to see some of them yawning. Plantagenet did it very well, and I almost think I understood him. They seem to say that nobody on the other side will take trouble enough to make a regular opposition, but there are men in the City who will write letters to the newspapers, and get up a sort of Bank clamour. Plantagenet says nothing about it, but there is a do-or-die manner with him which is quite tragical. The House was up at eleven, when he came home and eat three oysters; drank a glass of beer, and slept well. They say the real work will come when it’s in Committee; that is, if it gets there. The bill is to be brought in, and will be read the first time next Monday week.
“As to the robberies, I believe there is no doubt that the police have got hold of the young woman. They don’t arrest her, but deal with her in a friendly sort of way. Barrington Erle says that a sergeant is to marry her in order to make quite sure of her. I suppose they know their business; but that wouldn’t strike me as being the safest way. They seem to think the diamonds went to Paris, but have since been sent on to New York.
“As to the little widow, I do believe she has been made a victim. She first lost her diamonds, and now her other jewels and her money have gone. I cannot see what she was to gain by treachery, and I think she has been ill-used. She is staying at the house of that Mrs. Carbuncle, but all the same I shall go and call on her. I wish you could see her, because she is such a little beauty, just what you would like; not so much colour as our friend, but perfect features, with infinite play, not perhaps always in the best taste; but then we can’t have everything, can we, dear duke?
“As to the real thief — of course you must burn this at once, and keep it strictly private as coming from me — I fancy that delightful Scotch lord managed it entirely. The idea is, that he did it on commission for the Jew jewellers. I don’t suppose he had money enough to carry it out himself. As to the second robbery, whether he had or had not a hand in that, I can’t make up my mind. I don’t see why he shouldn’t. If a man does go into a business, he ought to make the best of it. Of course it was a poor thing after the diamonds; but still it was worth having. There is some story about a Sir Griffin Tewett. He’s a real Sir Griffin, as you’ll find by the peerage. He was to marry a young woman, and our Lord George insists that he shall marry her. I don’t understand all about it, but the girl lives in the same house with Lady Eustace, and if I call I shall find out. They say that Sir Griffin knows all about the necklace, and threatens to tell unless he is let off marrying. I rather think the girl is Lord George’s daughter, so that there is a thorough complication.
“I shall go down to Matching on Saturday. If anything turns up before that, I’ll write again, or send a message. I don’t know whether Plantagenet will be able to leave London. He says he must be back on Monday, and that he loses too much time on the road. Kiss my little darlings for me”— the darlings were Lady Glencora’s children, and the duke’s playthings —“and give my love to Madame Max. I suppose you don’t see much of the others.
“Most affectionately yours,
On the next day Lady Glencora actually did call in Hertford Street and saw our friend Lizzie. She was told by the servant that Lady Eustace was in bed; but, with her usual persistence, she asked questions, and when she found that Lizzie did receive visitors in her room, she sent up her card. The compliment was one much too great to be refused. Lady Glencora stood so high in the world that her countenance would be almost as valuable as another lover. If Lord George would keep her secret, and Lady Glencora would be her friend, might she not still be a successful woman? So Lady Glencora Palliser was shown up to Lizzie’s chamber. Lizzie was found with her nicest nightcap and prettiest handkerchief, with a volume of Tennyson’s poetry, and a scent-bottle. She knew that it behooved her to be very clever at this interview. Her instinct told her that her first greeting should show more of surprise than of gratification. Accordingly, in a pretty, feminine, almost childish way, she was very much surprised. “I’m doing the strangest thing in the world, I know, Lady Eustace,” said Lady Glencora with a smile.
“I’m sure you mean to do a kind thing.”
“Well, yes, I do. I think we have not met since you were at my house near the end of last season.”
“No, indeed. I have been in London six weeks, but have not been out much. For the last fortnight I have been in bed. I have had things to trouble me so much that they have made me ill.”
“So I have heard, Lady Eustace, and I have just come to offer you my sympathy. When I was told that you did see people, I thought that perhaps you would admit me.”
“So willingly, Lady Glencora!”
“I have heard, of course, of your terrible losses.”
“The loss has been as nothing to the vexation that has accompanied it. I don’t know how to speak of it. Ladies have lost their jewels before now, but I don’t know that any lady before me has ever been accused of stealing them herself.”
“There has been no accusation, surely?”
“I haven’t exactly been put in prison, Lady Glencora, but I have had policemen here wanting to search my things; and then you know yourself what reports have been spread.”
“Oh, yes, I do. Only for that, to tell you plainly, I should hardly have been here now.” Then Lady Glencora poured out her sympathy — perhaps with more eloquence and grace than discretion. She was, at any rate, both graceful and eloquent. “As for the loss of the diamonds, I think you bear it wonderfully,” said Lady Glencora.
“If you could imagine how little I care about it!” said Lizzie with enthusiasm. “They had lost the delight which I used to feel in them as a present from my husband. People had talked about them, and I had been threatened because I chose to keep what I knew to be my own. Of course I would not give them up. Would you have given them up, Lady Glencora?”
“Nor would I. But when once all that had begun, they became an irrepressible burden to me. I often used to say that I would throw them into the sea.”
“I don’t think I would have done that,” said Lady Glencora.
“Ah — you have never suffered as I have suffered.”
“We never know where each other’s shoes pinch each other’s toes.”
“You have never been left desolate. You have a husband and friends.”
“A husband that wants to put five farthings into a penny! All is not gold that glistens, Lady Eustace.”
“You can never have known trials such as mine,” continued Lizzie, not understanding in the least her new friend’s allusion to the great currency question. “Perhaps you may have heard that in the course of last summer I became engaged to marry a nobleman, with whom I am aware that you are acquainted.” This she said in her softest whisper.
“Oh, yes — Lord Fawn. I know him very well. Of course I heard of it. We all heard of it.”
“And you have heard how he has treated me?”
“Yes — indeed.”
“I will say nothing about him — to you, Lady Glencora. It would not be proper that I should do so. But all that came of this wretched necklace. After that, can you wonder that I should say that I wish these stones had been thrown into the sea?”
“I suppose Lord Fawn will — will come all right again now?” said Lady Glencora.
“All right!” exclaimed Lizzie in astonishment.
“His objection to the marriage will now be over.”
“I’m sure I do not in the least know what are his lordship’s views,” said Lizzie in scorn, “and, to tell the truth, I do not very much care.”
“What I mean is, that he didn’t like you to have the Eustace diamonds ——”
“They were not Eustace diamonds. They were my diamonds.”
“But he did not like you to have them; and as they are now gone — forever ——”
“Oh, yes, they are gone forever.”
“His objection is gone too. Why don’t you write to him, and make him come and see you? That’s what I should do.”
Lizzie, of course, repudiated vehemently any idea of forcing Lord Fawn into a marriage which had become distasteful to him — let the reason be what it might.
“His lordship is perfectly free, as far as I am concerned,” said Lizzie with a little show of anger. But all this Lady Glencora took at its worth. Lizzie Eustace had been a good deal knocked about, and Lady Glencora did not doubt but that she would be very glad to get back her betrothed husband. The little woman had suffered hardships, so thought Lady Glencora — and a good thing would be done by bringing her into fashion, and setting the marriage up again. As to Lord Fawn — the fortune was there, as good now as it had been when he first sought it; and the lady was very pretty, a baronet’s widow too — and in all respects good enough for Lord Fawn. A very pretty little baronet’s widow she was, with four thousand a year, and a house in Scotland, and a history. Lady Glencora determined that she would remake the match. “I think, you know, friends who have been friends should be brought together. I suppose I may say a word to Lord Fawn?” Lizzie hesitated would be sweet to her. She had sworn that she would be revenged upon Lord Fawn. After all, might it not suit her best to carry out her oath by marrying him? But whether so or otherwise, it could not but be well for her that he should be again at her feet. “Yes, if you think good will come of it.” The acquiescence was given with much hesitation; but the circumstances required that it should be so, and Lady Glencora fully understood the circumstances. When she took her leave, Lizzie was profuse in her gratitude. “Oh, Lady Glencora, it has been so good of you to come. Pray come again, if you can spare me another moment.” Lady Glencora said that she would come again.
During the visit she had asked some question concerning Lucinda and Sir Griffin, and had been informed that that marriage was to go on. A hint had been thrown out as to Lucinda’s parentage; but Lizzie had not understood the hint, and the question had not been pressed.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01