The Whitsuntide holidays were late this year, not taking place till the beginning of June, and were protracted till the 9th of that month. On the 8th Lizzie and Mr. Emilius became man and wife, and on that same day Lady Glencora Palliser entertained a large company of guests at Matching Priory. That the Duke of Omnium was there was quite a matter of course. Indeed in these days Lady Glencora seldom separated herself far, or for any long time, from her husband’s uncle, doing her duty to the head of her husband’s family in the most exemplary manner. People, indeed, said that she watched him narrowly, but of persons in high station common people will say anything. It was at any rate certain that she made the declining years of that great nobleman’s life comfortable and decorous. Madame Max Goesler was also at Matching, a lady whose society always gave gratification to the duke. And Mr. Palliser was also there, taking the rest that was so needful to him; by which it must be understood that after having worked all day he was able to eat his dinner and then only write a few letters before going to bed, instead of attending the House of Commons till two or three o’clock in the morning; but his mind was still deep in quints and semi-tenths. His great measure was even now in committee. His hundred and second clause had been carried, with only nine divisions against him of any consequence. Seven of the most material clauses had no doubt been postponed, and the great bone of contention as to the two superfluous farthings still remained before him; nevertheless he fondly hoped that he would be able to send his bill complete to the House of Lords before the end of July. What might be done in the way of amendments there he had hitherto refused to consider. “If the peers choose to put themselves in opposition to the whole nation, on a purely commercial question, the responsibility of all evils that may follow must be at their doors.” This he had said as a commoner. A year or two at the furthest — or more probably a few months — would make him a peer; and then no doubt he would look at the matter in a wholly different light. But he worked at his great measure with a diligence which at any rate deserved success; and he now had with him a whole bevy of secretaries, private secretaries, chief clerks, and accountants, all of whom Lady Glencora captivated by her flattering ways and laughed at behind their backs. Mr. Bonteen was there with his wife, repeatedly declaring to all his friends that England would achieve the glories of decimal coinage by his blood and over his grave, and Barrington Erle, who took things much more easily, and Lord Chiltern, with his wife, who would occasionally ask her if she could explain to him the value of a quint, and many others whom it may not be necessary to name. Lord Fawn was not there. Lord Fawn, whose health had temporarily given way beneath the pressing labours of the India board, was visiting his estates in Tipperary.
“She is married today, duke, down in Scotland,” said Lady Glencora, sitting close to the duke’s ear, for the duke was a little deaf. They were in the duke’s small morning sitting-room, and no one else was present excepting Madame Max Goesler.
“Married tomorrow down in Scotland. Dear, dear! what is he?” The profession to which Mr. Emilius belonged had been mentioned to the duke more than once before.
“He’s some sort of a clergyman, duke. You went and heard him preach, Madame Max. You can tell us what he’s like.”
“Oh, yes; he’s a clergyman of our Church,” said Madame Goesler.
“A clergyman of our Church; dear, dear! And married in Scotland! That makes it stranger. I wonder what made a clergyman marry her?”
“Money, duke,” said Lady Glencora, speaking very loud.
“Oh, ah, yes; money. So he’d got money; had he?”
“Not a penny, duke; but she had.”
“Oh, ah, yes. I forgot. She was very well left; wasn’t she? And so she has married a clergyman without a penny. Dear, dear! Did not you say she was very beautiful?”
“Let me see, you went and saw her, didn’t you?”
“I went to her twice, and got quite scolded about it. Plantagenet said that if I wanted horrors I’d better go to Madame Tussaud. Didn’t he, Madame Max?” Madame Max smiled and nodded her head.
“And what’s the clergyman like?” asked the duke.
“Now, my dear, you must take up the running,” said Lady Glencora, dropping her voice. “I ran after the lady but it was you who ran after the gentleman.” Then she raised her voice. “Madame Max will tell you all about it, duke. She knows him very well.”
“You know him very well; do you? Dear, dear dear!”
“I don’t know him at all, duke, but I once went to hear him preach. He’s one of those men who string words together, and do a good deal of work with a cambric pocket-handkerchief.”
“A gentleman?” asked the duke.
“About as like a gentleman as you’re like an archbishop,” said Lady Glencora.
This tickled the duke amazingly. “He, he, he; I don’t see why I shouldn’t be like an archbishop. If I hadn’t happened to be a duke I should have liked to be an archbishop. Both the archbishops take rank of me. I never quite understood why that was, but they do. And these things never can be altered when they’re once settled. It’s quite absurd nowadays since they’ve cut the archbishops down so terribly. They were princes once, I suppose, and had great power. But it’s quite absurd now, and so they must feel it. I have often thought about that a good deal, Glencora.”
“And I think about poor Mrs. Arch, who hasn’t got any rank at all.”
“A great prelate having a wife does seem to be an absurdity,” said Madame Max, who had passed some years of her life in a Catholic country.
“And the man is a cad; is he?” asked the duke.
“A Bohemian Jew, duke, an impostor who has come over here to make a fortune. We hear that he has a wife in Prague, and probably two or three elsewhere. But he has got poor little Lizzie Eustace and all her money into his grasp, and they who know him say that he’s likely to keep it.”
“Dear, dear, dear!”
“Barrington says that the best spec he knows out, for a younger son, would be to go to Prague for the former wife and bring her back, with evidence of the marriage. The poor little woman could not fail of being grateful to the hero who would liberate her.”
“Dear, dear, dear!” said the duke. “And the diamonds never turned up after all. I think that was a pity, because I knew the late man’s father very well. We used to be together a good deal at one time. He had a fine property, and we used to live — but I can’t just tell you how we used to live. He, he, he!”
“You had better tell us nothing about it, duke,” said Madame Max.
The affairs of our heroine were again discussed that evening, in another part of the Priory. They were in the billiard-room in the evening, and Mr. Bonteen was inveighing against the inadequacy of the law as it had been brought to bear against the sinners who between them had succeeded in making away with the Eustace diamonds. “It was a most unworthy conclusion to such a plot,” he said. “It always happens that they catch the small fry and let the large fish escape.”
“Whom did you specially want to catch?” asked Lady Glencora.
“Lady Eustace and Lord George de Bruce Carruthers, as he calls himself.”
“I quite agree with you, Mr. Bonteen, that it would be very nice to send the brother of a marquis to Botany Bay or wherever they go now; and that it would do a deal of good to have the widow of a baronet locked up in the Penitentiary; but you see if they didn’t happen to be guilty it would be almost a shame to punish them for the sake of the example.”
“They ought to have been guilty,” said Barrington Erle.
“They were guilty,” protested Mr. Bonteen.
Mr. Palliser was enjoying ten minutes of recreation before he went back to his letters. “I can’t say that I attended to the case very closely,” he observed, “and perhaps, therefore, I am not, entitled to speak about it.”
“If people only spoke about what they attended to, how very little there would be to say, eh, Mr. Bonteen?” This observation came, of course, from Lady Glencora.
“But as far as I could hear,” continued Mr. Palliser, “Lord George Carruthers cannot possibly have had anything to do with it. It was a stupid mistake on the part of the police.”
“I’m not quite so sure, Mr. Palliser,” said Bonteen.
“I know Coldfoot told me so.” Now, Sir Harry Coldfoot was at this time Secretary of State for the home affairs, and in a matter of such importance, of course, had an opinion of his own.
“We all know that he had money dealings with Benjamin, the Jew,” said Mrs. Bonteen.
“Why didn’t he come forward as a witness when he was summoned?” asked Mrs. Bonteen triumphantly. “And as for the woman, does anybody mean to say that she should not have been indicted for perjury?”
“The woman, as you are pleased to call her, is my particular friend,” said Lady Glencora. When Lady Glencora made any such statement as this — and she often did make such statements — no one dared to answer her. It was understood that Lady Glencora was not to be snubbed, though she was very much given to snubbing others. She had attained this position for herself by a mixture of beauty, rank, wealth, and courage, but the courage had, of the four, been her greatest mainstay.
Then Lord Chiltern, who was playing billiards with Barrington Erle, rapped his cue down on the floor, and made a speech.
“I never was so sick of anything in my life as I am of Lady Eustace. People have talked about her now for the last six months.”
“Only three months, Lord Chiltern,” said Lady Glencora in a tone of rebuke.
“And all that I can hear of her is that she has told a lot of lies and lost a necklace.”
“When Lady Chiltern loses a necklace worth ten thousand pounds, there will be talk of her,” said Lady Glencora.
At that moment Madame Max Goesler entered the room and whispered a word to the hostess. She had just come from the duke, who could not bear the racket of the billiard-room. “Wants to go to bed, does he? Very well. I’ll go to him.”
“He seems to be quite fatigued with his fascination about Lady Eustace.”
“I call that woman a perfect god-send. What should we have done without her?” This Lady Glencora said almost to herself as she prepared to join the duke. The duke had only one more observation to make before he retired for the night.
“I’m afraid, you know, that your friend hasn’t what I call a good time before her, Glencora.”
In this opinion of the Duke of Omnium, the readers of this story will perhaps agree.
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Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:14