On the following morning — Monday morning — there appeared in one of the daily newspapers the paragraph of which Lady Linlithgow had spoken to Lucy Morris. “We are given to understand”— newspapers are very frequently given to understand —“that a man well-known to the London police as an accomplished housebreaker has been arrested in reference to the robbery which was effected on the 30th of January last at Lady Eustace’s house in Hertford Street. No doubt the same person was concerned in the robbery of her ladyship’s jewels at Carlisle on the night of the 8th of January. The mystery which has so long enveloped these two affairs, and which has been so discreditable to the metropolitan police, will now probably be cleared up.” There was not a word about Patience Crabstick in this; and, as Lizzie observed, the news brought by the policeman on Saturday night referred only to Patience, and said nothing of the arrest of any burglar. The ladies in Hertford street scanned the sentence with the greatest care, and Mrs. Carbuncle was very angry because the house was said to be Lizzie’s house.
“It wasn’t my doing,” said Lizzie.
“The policeman came to you about it.”
“I didn’t say a word to the man, and I didn’t want him to come.”
“I hope it will be all found out now,” said Lucinda.
“I wish it were all clean forgotten,” said Lizzie.
“It ought to be found out,” said Mrs. Carbuncle. “But the police should be more careful in what they say. I suppose we shall all have to go before the magistrates again.”
Poor Lizzie felt that fresh trouble was certainly coming upon her. She had learned now that the crime for which she might be prosecuted and punished was that of perjury, that even if everything was known, she could not be accused of stealing, and that if she could only get out of the way till the wrath of the magistrate and policemen should have evaporated, she might possibly escape altogether. At any rate, they could not take her income away from her. But how could she get out of the way, and how could she endure to be cross-examined, and looked at, and inquired into, by all those who would be concerned in the matter? She thought that, if only she could have arranged her matrimonial affairs before the bad day came upon her, she could have endured it better. If she might be allowed to see Lord George, she could ask for advice — could ask for advice, not as she was always forced to do from her cousin, on a false statement of facts, but with everything known and declared.
On that very day Lord George came to Hertford Street. He had been there more than once, perhaps half a dozen times, since the robbery; but on all these occasions Lizzie had been in bed, and he had declined to visit her in her chamber. In fact, even Lord George had become somewhat afraid of her since he had been told the true story as to the necklace at Carlisle. That story he had heard from herself, and he had also heard from Mr. Benjamin some other little details as to her former life. Mr. Benjamin, whose very close attention had been drawn to the Eustace diamonds, had told Lord George how he had valued them at her ladyship’s request, and had caused an iron case to be made for them, and how her ladyship had on one occasion endeavoured to sell the necklace to him. Mr. Benjamin, who certainly was intimate with Lord George, was very fond of talking about the diamonds, and had once suggested to his lordship that, were they to become his lordship’s by marriage, he, Benjamin, might be willing to treat with his lordship. In regard to treating with her ladyship, Mr. Benjamin acknowledged that he thought it would be too hazardous. Then came the robbery of the box, and Lord George was all astray. Mr. Benjamin was for a while equally astray, but neither friend believed in the other friend’s innocence. That Lord George should suspect Mr. Benjamin was quite natural. Mr. Benjamin hardly knew what to think; hardly gave Lord George credit for the necessary courage, skill, and energy. But at last, as he began to put two and two together, he divined the truth, and was enabled to set the docile Patience on the watch over her mistress’s belongings. So it had been with Mr. Benjamin, who at last was able to satisfy Mr. Smiler and Mr. Cann that he had been no party to their cruel disappointment at Carlisle. How Lord George had learned the truth has been told; the truth as to Lizzie’s hiding the necklace under her pillow and bringing it up to London in her desk. But of the facts of the second robbery he knew nothing up to this morning. He almost suspected that Lizzie had herself again been at work, and he was afraid of her. He had promised her that he would take care of her, had perhaps said enough to make her believe that some day he would marry her. He hardly remembered what he had said; but he was afraid of her. She was so wonderfully clever that, if he did not take care, she would get him into some mess from which he would be unable to extricate himself.
He had never whispered her secret to any one; and had still been at a loss about the second robbery, when he too saw the paragraph in the newspaper. He went direct to Scotland Yard and made inquiry there. His name had been so often used in the affair, that such inquiry from him was justified.
“Well, my lord; yes; we have found out something,” said Bunfit. “Mr. Benjamin is off, you know.”
“Cut the painter, my lord, and started. But what’s the good, now we has the wires?”
“And who were the thieves?”
“Ah, my lord, that’s telling. Perhaps I don’t know. Perhaps I do. Perhaps two or three of us knows. You’ll hear all in good time, my lord.” Mr. Bunfit wished to appear communicative because he knew but little himself. Gager, in the meanest possible manner, had kept the matter very close; but the fact that Mr. Benjamin had started suddenly on foreign travel had become known to Mr. Bunfit.
Lord George had been very careful, asking no question about the necklace; no question which would have shown that he knew that the necklace had been in Hertford Street when the robbery took place there; but it seemed to him now that the police must be aware that it was so. The arrest had been made because of the robbery in Hertford Street, and because of that arrest Mr. Benjamin had taken his departure. Mr. Benjamin was too big a man to have concerned himself deeply in the smaller matters which had then been stolen.
From Scotland Yard Lord George went direct to Hertford Street. He was in want of money, in want of a settled home, in want of a future income, and altogether unsatisfied with his present mode of life. Lizzie Eustace, no doubt, would take him, unless she had told her secret to some other lover. To have his wife, immediately on her marriage, or even before it, arraigned for perjury, would not be pleasant. There was very much in the whole affair of which he would not be proud as he led his bride to the altar; but a man does not expect to get four thousand pounds a year for nothing. Lord George, at any rate, did not conceive himself to be in a position to do so. Had there not been something crooked about Lizzie, a screw loose, as people say, she would never have been within his reach. There are men who always ride lame horses, and yet see as much of the hunting as others. Lord George, when he had begun to think that, after the tale which he had forced her to tell him, she had caused the diamonds to be stolen by her own maid out of her own desk, became almost afraid of her. But now, as he looked at the matter again and again, he believed that the second robbery had been genuine. He did not quite make up his mind, but he went to Hertford Street resolved to see her.
He asked for her, and was shown at once into her own sitting^ room. “So you have come at last,” she said.
“Yes; I’ve come at last. It would not have done for me to come up to you when you were in bed. Those women downstairs would have talked about it everywhere.”
“I suppose they would,” said Lizzie almost piteously.
“It wouldn’t have been at all wise after all that has been said. People would have been sure to suspect that I had got the things out of your desk.”
“Oh, no; not that.”
“I wasn’t going to run the risk, my dear.” His manner to her was anything but civil, anything but complimentary. If this was his Corsair humour, she was not sure that a Corsair might be agreeable to her. “And now tell me what you know about this second robbery.”
“I know nothing, Lord George.”
“Oh, yes, you do. You know something. You know, at any rate, that the diamonds were there.”
“Yes; I know that.”
“And that they were taken?”
“Of course they were taken.”
“You are sure of that?” There was something in his manner absolutely insolent to her. Frank was affectionate, and even Lord Fawn treated her with deference. “Because, you know, you have been very clever. To tell you the truth, I did not think at first that they had been really stolen. It might, you know, have been a little game to get them out of your own hands, between you and your maid.”
“I don’t know what you take me for, Lord George.”
“I take you for a lady who for a long time got the better of the police and the magistrates, and who managed to shift all the trouble off your own shoulders on to those of other people. You have heard that they have taken one of the thieves?”
“And they have got the girl.”
“Have they? I didn’t know that. That scoundrel Benjamin has levanted too.”
“Levanted!” said Lizzie, raising both her hands.
“Not an hour too soon, my lady. And now what do you mean to do?”
“What ought I to do?”
“Of course the whole truth will come out.”
“Must it come out?”
“Not a doubt of that. How can it be helped?”
“You won’t tell. You promised that you would not.”
“Psha; promised! If they put me in a witness-box of course I must tell. When you come to this kind of work, promises don’t go for much. I don’t know that they ever do. What is a broken promise?”
“It’s a story,” said Lizzie, in innocent amazement.
“And what was it you told when you were upon your oath at Carlisle; and again when the magistrate came here?”
“Oh, Lord George; how unkind you are to me!”
“Patience Crabstick will tell it all, without any help from me. Don’t you see that the whole thing must be known? She’ll say where the diamonds were found; and how did they come there, if you didn’t put them there? As for telling, there’ll be telling enough. You’ve only two things to do.”
“What are they, Lord George?”
“Go off, like Mr. Benjamin; or else make a clean breast of it. Send for John Eustace and tell him the whole. For his brother’s sake he’ll make the best of it. It will all be published, and then perhaps there will be an end of it.”
“I couldn’t do that, Lord George,” said Lizzie, bursting into tears.
“You ask me, and I can only tell you what I think. That you should be able to keep the history of the diamonds a secret, does not seem to me to be upon the cards. No doubt people who are rich, and are connected with rich people, and have great friends — who are what the world call swells — have great advantages over their inferiors when they get into trouble. You are the widow of a baronet, and you have an uncle a bishop, and another a dean, and a countess for an aunt. You have a brother-inlaw and a first-cousin in Parliament, and your father was an admiral. The other day you were engaged to marry a peer.”
“Oh yes,” said Lizzie, “and Lady Glencora Palliser is my particular friend.”
“She is; is she? So much the better. Lady Glencora, no doubt, is a very swell among swells.”
“The Duke of Omnium would do anything for me,” said Lizzie with enthusiasm.
“If you were nobody, you would of course be indicted for perjury, and would go to prison. As it is, if you will tell all your story to one of your swell friends, I think it very likely that you may be pulled through. I should say that Mr. Eustace, or your cousin Greystock, would be the best.”
“Why couldn’t you do it? You know it all. I told you because — because — because I thought you would be the kindest to me.”
“You told me, my dear, because you thought it would not matter much with me, and I appreciate the compliment. I can do nothing for you. I am not near enough to those who wear wigs.”
Lizzie did not above half understand him — did not at all understand him when he spoke of those who wore wigs, and was quite dark to his irony about her great friends — but she did perceive that he was in earnest in recommending her to confess. She thought about it for a moment in silence, and the more she thought the more she felt that she could not do it. Had he not suggested a second alternative — that she should go off, like Mr. Benjamin? It might be possible that she should go off, and yet be not quite like Mr. Benjamin. In that case ought she not to go under the protection of her Corsair? Would not that be the proper way of going?
“Might I not go abroad, just for a time?” she asked.
“And so let it blow over?”
“Just so, you know.”
“It is possible that you might,” he said. “Not that it would blow over altogether. Everybody would know it. It is too late now to stop the police, and if you meant to be off you should be off at once — today or tomorrow.”
“Indeed, there’s no saying whether they will let you go. You could start now, this moment; and if you were at Dover could get over to France. But when once it is known that you had the necklace all that time in your own desk, any magistrate, I imagine, could stop you. You’d better have some lawyer you can trust; not that blackguard Mopus.”
Lord George had certainly brought her no comfort. When he told her that she might go at once if she chose, she remembered, with a pang of agony, that she had already overdrawn her account at the bankers. She was the actual possessor of an income of four thousand pounds a year, and now, in her terrible strait, she could not stir because she had no money with which to travel. Had all things been well with her, she could, no doubt, have gone to her bankers and have arranged this little difficulty. But as it was she could not move, because her purse was empty.
Lord George sat looking at her and thinking whether he would make the plunge and ask her to be his wife, with all her impediments and drawbacks about her. He had been careful to reduce her to such a condition of despair that she would undoubtedly have accepted him so that she might have some one to lean upon in her trouble; but as he looked at her he doubted. She was such a mass of deceit that he was afraid of her. She might say that she would marry him, and then, when the storm was over, refuse to keep her word. She might be in debt almost to any amount. She might be already married for anything that he knew. He did know that she was subject to all manner of penalties for what she had done. He looked at her and told himself that she was very pretty. But in spite of her beauty his judgment went against her. He did not dare to share his — even his — boat with so dangerous a fellow-passenger.
“That’s my advice,” he said, getting up from his chair,
“Are you going?”
“Well; yes; I don’t know what else I can do for you.”
“You are so unkind.” He shrugged his shoulders, just touched her hand, and left the room without saying another word to her.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14