As soon as the words were out of Mrs. Carbuncle’s mouth—those ill-natured words in which she expressed her assent to Mr. Bunfit’s proposition that a search should be made after the diamonds among all the possessions of Lady Eustace which were now lodged in her own house—poor Lizzie’s courage deserted her entirely. She had been very courageous; for, though her powers of endurance had sometimes nearly deserted her, though her heart had often failed her, still she had gone on and had endured and been silent. To endure and to be silent in her position did require great courage. She was all alone in her misery, and could see no way out of it. The diamonds were heavy as a load of lead within her bosom. And yet she had persevered. Now, as she heard Mrs. Carbuncle’s words, her courage failed her. There came some obstruction in her throat, so that she could not speak. She felt as though her heart were breaking. She put out both her hands and could not draw them back again. She knew that she was betraying herself by her weakness. She could just hear the man explaining that the search was merely a thing of ceremony—just to satisfy everybody that there was no mistake—and then she fainted. So far, Barrington Erle was correct in the information given by him to Lady Glencora. She pressed one hand 109 against her heart, gasped for breath, and then fell back upon the sofa. Perhaps she could have done nothing better. Had the fainting been counterfeit, the measure would have shown ability. But the fainting was altogether true. Mrs. Carbuncle first, and then Mr. Bunfit, hurried from their seats to help her. To neither of them did it occur for a moment that the fit was false.
“The whole thing has been too much for her,” said Mrs. Carbuncle severely, ringing the bell at the same time for further aid.
“No doubt—mum; no doubt. We has to see a deal of this sort of thing. Just a little air, if you please, mum—and as much water as’d go to christen a babby. That’s always best, mum.”
“If you’ll have the kindness to stand on one side,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, as she stretched Lizzie on the sofa.
“Certainly, mum,” said Bunfit, standing erect by the wall, but not showing the slightest disposition to leave the room.
“You had better go,” said Mrs. Carbuncle—loudly and very severely.
“I’ll just stay and see her come to, mum. I won’t do her a morsel of harm, mum. Sometimes they faints at the very first sight of such as we; but we has to bear it. A little more air, if you could, mum—and just dash the water on in drops like. They feels a drop more than they would a bucket-full—and then when they comes to they hasn’t to change theirselves.”
Bunfit’s advice, founded on much experience, was good, and Lizzie gradually came to herself and opened her eyes. She immediately clutched at her breast, feeling for her key. She found it unmoved, but before 110 her finger had recognised the touch, her quick mind had told her how wrong the movement had been. It had been lost upon Mrs. Carbuncle, but not on Mr. Bunfit. He did not at once think that she had the diamonds in her desk; but he felt almost sure that there was something in her possession—probably some document—which, if found, would place him on the track of the diamonds. But he could not compel a search. “Your ladyship’ll soon be better,” said Bunfit graciously. Lizzie endeavoured to smile as she expressed her assent to this proposition. “As I was saying to the elder lady——”
“Saying to who, sir?” exclaimed Mrs. Carbuncle, rising up in wrath. “Elder indeed!”
“As I was venturing to explain, these fits of fainting come often in our way. Thieves, mum—that is, the regulars—don’t mind us a bit, and the women is more hardeneder than the men; but when we has to speak to a lady, it is so often that she goes off like that! I’ve known ’m do it just at being looked at.”
“Don’t you think, sir, that you’d better leave us now?” said Mrs. Carbuncle.
“Indeed you had,” said Lizzie. “I’m fit for nothing just at present.”
“We won’t disturb your ladyship the least in life,” said Mr. Bunfit, “if you’ll only just let us have your keys. Your servant can be with us, and we won’t move one tittle of anything.” But Lizzie, though she was still suffering that ineffable sickness which always accompanies and follows a real fainting-fit, would not surrender her keys. Already had an excuse for not doing so occurred to her. But for a while she seemed to hesitate. “I don’t demand it, Lady Eustace,” said 111 Mr. Bunfit, “but if you’ll allow me to say so, I do think it will look better for your ladyship.”
“I can take no step without consulting my cousin, Mr. Greystock,” said Lizzie; and having thought of this she adhered to it. The detective supplied her with many reasons for giving up her keys, alleging that it would do no harm, and that her refusal would create infinite suspicions. But Lizzie had formed her answer and stuck to it. She always consulted her cousin, and always acted upon his advice. He had already cautioned her not to take any steps without his sanction. She would do nothing till he consented. If Mr. Bunfit would see Mr. Greystock, and if Mr. Greystock would come to her and tell her to submit—she would submit. Ill as she was, she could be obstinate, and Bunfit left the house without having been able to finger that key which he felt sure that Lady Eustace carried somewhere on her person.
As he walked back to his own quarters in Scotland Yard, Bunfit was by no means dissatisfied with his morning’s work. He had not expected to find anything with Lady Eustace, and, when she fainted, had not hoped to be allowed to search. But he was now sure that her ladyship was possessed, at any rate, of some guilty knowledge. Bunfit was one of those who, almost from the first, had believed that the box was empty when taken out of the hotel. “Stones like them must turn up more or less,” was Bunfit’s great argument. That the police should already have found the stones themselves was not perhaps probable; but had any ordinary thieves had them in their hands, they could not have been passed on without leaving 112 a trace behind them. It was his opinion that the box had been opened and the door cut by the instrumentality and concurrence of Lord George de Bruce Carruthers, with the assistance of some one well-skilled mechanical thief. Nothing could be made out of the tall footman. Indeed, the tall footman had already been set at liberty, although he was known to have evil associates; and the tall footman was now loud in demanding compensation for the injury done to him. Many believed that the tall footman had been concerned in the matter, many, that is, among the experienced craftsmen of the police force. Bunfit thought otherwise. Bunfit believed that the diamonds were now either in the possession of Lord George or of Harter and Benjamin, that they had been handed over to Lord George to save them from Messrs. Camperdown and the lawsuit, and that Lord George and the lady were lovers. The lady’s conduct at their last interview, her fit of fainting, and her clutching for the key, all confirmed Bunfit in his opinion. But unfortunately for Bunfit he was almost alone in his opinion. There were men in the force, high in their profession as detectives, who avowed that certainly two very experienced and well-known thieves had been concerned in the business. That a certain Mr. Smiler had been there, a gentleman for whom the whole police of London entertained a feeling which approached to veneration, and that most diminutive of full-grown thieves, Billy Cann, most diminutive but at the same time most expert, was not doubted by some minds which were apt to doubt till conviction had become certainty. The traveller who had left the Scotch train at Dumfries had been a very small man, and it was 113 a known fact that Mr. Smiler had left London by train from the Euston Square station, on the day before that on which Lizzie and her party had reached Carlisle. If it were so, if Mr. Smiler and Billy Cann had both been at work at the hotel, then—so argued they who opposed the Bunfit theory—it was hardly conceivable that the robbery should have been arranged by Lord George. According to the Bunfit theory the only thing needed by the conspirators had been that the diamonds should be handed over by Lady Eustace to Lord George in such a way as to escape suspicion that such transfer had been made. This might have been done with very little trouble, by simply leaving the box empty, with the key in it. The door of the bedroom had been opened by skilful professional men, and the box had been forced by the use of tools which none but professional gentlemen would possess. Was it probable that Lord George would have committed himself with such men, and incurred the very heavy expense of paying for their services, when he was, according to the Bunfit theory, able to get at the diamonds without any such trouble, danger, and expenditure? There was a young detective in the force, very clever—almost too clever, and certainly a little too fast—Gager by name, who declared that the Bunfit theory “warn’t on the cards.” According to Gager’s information, Smiler was at this moment a broken-hearted man, ranging between mad indignation and suicidal despondency, because he had been treated with treachery in some direction. Mr. Gager was as fully convinced as Bunfit that the diamonds had not been in the box. There was bitter, raging, heartbreaking disappointment about the diamonds in more 114 quarters than one. That there had been a double robbery Gager was quite sure; or rather a robbery in which two sets of thieves had been concerned, and in which one set had been duped by the other set. In this affair Mr. Smiler and poor little Billy Cann had been the dupes. So far Gager’s mind had arrived at certainty. But then how had they been duped, and who had duped them? And who had employed them? Such a robbery would hardly have been arranged and executed except on commission. Even Mr. Smiler would not have burdened himself with such diamonds without knowing what to do with them, and what he should get for them. That they were intended ultimately for the hands of Messrs. Harter and Benjamin, Gager almost believed. And Gager was inclined to think that Messrs. Harter and Benjamin—or rather Mr. Benjamin, for Mr. Harter himself was almost too old for work requiring so very great mental activity—that Mr. Benjamin, fearing the honesty of his executive officer Mr. Smiler, had been splendidly treacherous to his subordinate. Gager had not quite completed his theory; but he was very firm on one great point, that the thieves at Carlisle had been genuine thieves, thinking that they were stealing the diamonds, and finding their mistake out when the box had been opened by them under the bridge. “Who have ’em, then?” asked Bunfit of his younger brother, in a disparaging whisper.
“Well; yes; who ’ave ’em? It’s easy to say, who ’ave ’em? Suppose ’e ’ave ’em.” The “he” alluded to by Gager was Lord George de Bruce Carruthers. “But laws, Bunfit, they’re gone weeks ago. You know Bunfit.” This had occurred before the intended 115 search among poor Lizzie’s boxes, but Bunfit’s theory had not been shaken. Bunfit could see all round his own theory. It was a whole, and the motives as well as the operations of the persons concerned were explained by it. But the Gager theory only went to show what had not been done, and offered no explanation of the accomplished scheme. Then Bunfit went a little further in his theory, not disdaining to accept something from Gager. Perhaps Lord George had engaged these men, and had afterwards found it practicable to get the diamonds without their assistance. On one great point all concerned in the inquiry were in unison—that the diamonds had not been in the box when it was carried out of the bedroom at Carlisle. The great point of difference consisted in this, that whereas Gager was sure that the robbery when committed had been genuine, Bunfit was of opinion that the box had been first opened, and then taken out of the hotel in order that the police might be put on a wrong track.
The matter was becoming very important. Two or three of the leading newspapers had first hinted at and then openly condemned the incompetence and slowness of the police. Such censure, as we all know, is very common, and in nine cases out of ten it is unjust. They who write it probably know but little of the circumstances; and, in speaking of a failure here and a failure there, make no reference to the numerous successes, which are so customary as to partake of the nature of routine. It is the same in regard to all public matters; army matters, navy matters, poor-law matters, and post-office matters. Day after day, and almost every day, one meets censure which is felt to be unjust; but the 116 general result of all this injustice is increased efficiency. The coach does go the faster because of the whip in the coachman’s hand, though the horse driven may never have deserved the thong. In this matter of the Eustace diamonds the police had been very active; but they had been unsuccessful and had consequently been abused. The robbery was now more than three weeks old. Property to the amount of ten thousand pounds had been abstracted, and as yet the police had not even formed an assured opinion on the subject! Had the same thing occurred in New York or Paris every diamond would by this time have been traced. Such were the assertions made, and the police were instigated to new exertions. Bunfit would have jeopardised his right hand, and Gager his life, to get at the secret. Even Major Mackintosh was anxious.
The facts of the claim made by Mr. Camperdown, and of the bill which had been filed in Chancery for the recovery of the diamonds, were of course widely known, and added much to the general interest and complexity. It was averred that Mr. Camperdown’s determination to get the diamonds had been very energetic, and Lady Eustace’s determination to keep them equally so. Wonderful stories were told of Lizzie’s courage, energy, and resolution. There was hardly a lawyer of repute but took up the question, and had an opinion as to Lizzie’s right to the necklace. The Attorney and Solicitor-General were dead against her, asserting that the diamonds certainly did not pass to her under the will, and could not have become hers by gift. But they were members of a liberal government, and of course Antilizzieite. Gentlemen who were equal to them in learning, who had held offices 117 equally high, were distinctly of a different opinion. Lady Eustace might probably claim the jewels as paraphernalia properly appertaining to her rank; in which claim the bestowal of them by her husband would no doubt assist her. And to these gentlemen—who were Lizzieites and of course Conservatives in politics—it was by no means clear that the diamonds did not pass to her by will. If it could be shown that the diamonds had been lately kept in Scotland, the ex-Attorney-General thought that they would so pass. All which questions, now that the jewels had been lost, were discussed openly, and added greatly to the anxiety of the police. Both Lizzieites and Antilizzieites were disposed to think that Lizzie was very clever.
Frank Greystock in these days took up his cousin’s part altogether in good faith. He entertained not the slightest suspicion that she was deceiving him in regard to the diamonds. That the robbery had been a bona fide robbery, and that Lizzie had lost her treasure was to him beyond doubt. He had gradually convinced himself that Mr. Camperdown was wrong in his claim, and was strongly of opinion that Lord Fawn had disgraced himself by his conduct to the lady. When he now heard, as he did hear, that some undefined suspicion was attached to his cousin, and when he heard also—as unfortunately he did hear—that Lord Fawn had encouraged that suspicion, he was very irate, and said grievous things of Lord Fawn. It seemed to him to be the extremity of cruelty that suspicion should be attached to his cousin because she had been robbed of her jewels. He was among those who were most severe in their denunciation of the police—and was the more 118 so, because he had heard it asserted that the necklace had not in truth been stolen. He busied himself very much in the matter, and even interrogated John Eustace as to his intentions. “My dear fellow,” said Eustace, “if you hated those diamonds as much as I do, you would never mention them again.” Greystock declared that this expression of aversion to the subject might be all very well for Mr. Eustace, but that he found himself bound to defend his cousin. “You cannot defend her against me,” said Eustace, “for I do not attack her. I have never said a word against her. I went down to Portray when she asked me. As far as I am concerned she is perfectly welcome to wear the necklace, if she can get it back again. I will not make or meddle in the matter one way or the other.” Frank, after that, went to Mr. Camperdown, but he could get no satisfaction from the attorney. Mr. Camperdown would only say that he had a duty to do, and that he must do it. On the matter of the robbery he refused to give an opinion. That was in the hands of the police. Should the diamonds be recovered, he would, of course, claim them on behalf of the estate. In his opinion, whether the diamonds were recovered or not, Lady Eustace was responsible to the estate for their value. In opposition, first to the entreaties, and then to the demands of her late husband’s family, she had insisted on absurdly carrying about with her an enormous amount of property which did not belong to her. Mr. Camperdown opined that she must pay for the lost diamonds out of her jointure. Frank, in a huff, declared that, as far as he could see, the diamonds belonged to his cousin; in answer to which Mr. Camperdown suggested that the question was one for the decision of the Vice-Chancellor. 119 Frank Greystock found that he could do nothing with Mr. Camperdown, and felt that he could wreak his vengeance only on Lord Fawn.
Bunfit, when he returned from Mrs. Carbuncle’s house to Scotland Yard, had an interview with Major Mackintosh. “Well, Bunfit, have you seen the lady?”
“Yes, I did see her, sir.”
“And what came of it?”
“She fainted away, sir—just as they always do.”
“There was no search, I suppose?”
“No, sir; no search. She wouldn’t have it, unless her cousin, Mr. Greystock, permitted.”
“I didn’t think she would.”
“Nor yet didn’t I, sir. But I’ll tell you what it is, major. She knows all about it.”
“You think she does, Bunfit?”
“She does, sir; and she’s got something locked up somewhere in that house as’d elucidate the whole of this aggravating mystery, if only we could get at it, Major——”
“I ain’t noways sure as she ain’t got them very diamonds themselves locked up, or, perhaps, tied round her person.”
“Neither am I sure that she has not,” said the major.
“The robbery at Carlisle was no robbery,” continued Bunfit. “It was a got-up plant, and about the best as I ever knowed. It’s my mind that it was a got-up plant between her ladyship and his lordship; and either the one or the other is just keeping the diamonds till it’s safe to take ’em into the market.”120
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 121 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 122 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. “ 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, 123 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 Cæsar’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 124 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 125 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 126 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 127 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 128 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. 129 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 mantel-piece. 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 130 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 , 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 131 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 a 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.132
Lizzie Eustace was speechless as she continued to look up into the Corsair’s face. She ought to have answered him briskly, either with indignation or with a touch of humour. But she could not answer him at all. She was desired to tell him all that she knew about the robbery, and she was unable to declare that she knew nothing. How much did he suspect? What did he believe? Had she been watched by Mrs. Carbuncle, and had something of the truth been told to him? And then would it not be better for her that he should know it all? Unsupported and alone she could not bear the trouble which was on her. If she were driven to tell her secret to any one, had she not better tell it to him? She knew that if she did so, she would be a creature in his hands to be dealt with as he pleased; but would there not be a certain charm in being so mastered? He was but a pinchbeck lord. She had wit enough to know that; but then she had wit enough also to feel that she herself was but a pinchbeck lady. He would be fit for her, and she for him, if only he would take her. Since her day-dreams first began, she had been longing for a Corsair; and here he was, not kneeling at her feet, but standing over her, as became a Corsair. At any rate he had mastered her now, and she could not speak to him.133
He waited perhaps a minute, looking at her, before he renewed his question; and the minute seemed to her to be an age. During every second her power beneath his gaze sank lower and lower. There gradually came a grim smile over his face, and she was sure that he could read her very heart. Then he called her by her Christian name, as he had never called her before. “Come, Lizzie,” he said, “you might as well tell me all about it. You know.”
“Know what?” The words were audible to him, though they were uttered in the lowest whisper.
“About this d—— necklace. What is it all? Where are they? And how did you manage it?”
“I didn’t manage anything!”
“But you know where they are?” He paused again, still gazing at her. Gradually there came across his face, or she fancied that it was so, a look of ferocity which thoroughly frightened her. If he should turn against her, and be leagued with the police against her, what chance would she have? “You know where they are,” he said, repeating his words. Then at last she nodded her head, assenting to his assertion. “And where are they? Come, out with it! If you won’t tell me, you must tell some one else. There has been a deal too much of this already.”
“You won’t betray me?”
“Not if you deal openly with me.”
“I will; indeed I will. And it was all an accident. When I took them out of the box, I only did it for safety.”
“You did take them out of the box then?” Again she nodded her head. “And have got them now?” There was another nod. “And where are they? Come; 134 with such an enterprising spirit as yours, you ought to be able to speak. Has Benjamin got them?”
“And he knows nothing about them?”
“Then I have wronged in my thoughts that son of Abraham.”
“Nobody knows anything,” said Lizzie.
“Not even Jane or Lucinda?”
“Nothing at all.”
“Then you have kept your secret marvellously. And where are they?”
“In your bedroom?”
“In my desk in the little sitting-room.”
“The Lord be good to us!” ejaculated Lord George. “All the police in London, from the chief downwards, are agog about this necklace. Every well-known thief in the town is envied by every other thief because he is thought to have had a finger in the pie. I am suspected, and Mr. Benjamin is suspected; Sir Griffin is suspected, and half the jewellers in London and Paris are supposed to have the stones in their keeping. Every man and woman is talking about it, and people are quarrelling about it till they almost cut each other’s throats; and all the while you have got them locked up in your desk! How on earth did you get the box broken open and then conveyed out of your room at Carlisle?”
Then Lizzie, in a frightened whisper, with her eyes often turned on the floor, told the whole story. “If I’d had a minute to think of it,” she said, “I would have confessed the truth at Carlisle. Why should I 135 want to steal what was my own? But they came to me all so quickly, and I didn’t like to say that I had them under my pillow.”
“I dare say not.”
“And then I couldn’t tell anybody afterwards. I always meant to tell you, from the very first, because I knew you would be good to me. They are my own. Surely I might do what I liked with my own?”
“Well, yes; in one way. But you see there was a lawsuit in Chancery going on about them; and then you committed perjury at Carlisle. And altogether, it’s not quite straight sailing, you know.”
“I suppose not.”
“Hardly. Major Mackintosh, and the magistrates, and Messrs. Bunfit and Gager won’t settle down, peaceable and satisfied, when they hear the end of the story. And I think Messrs. Camperdown will have a bill against you. It’s been uncommonly clever, but I don’t see the use of it.”
“I’ve been very foolish,” said Lizzie; “but you won’t desert me?”
“Upon my word I don’t know what I’m to do.”
“Will you have them as a present?”
“They’re worth ever so much; ten thousand pounds! And they are my own, to do just what I please with them.”
“You are very good; but what should I do with them?”
“Who’d buy them? And before a week was over I should be in prison, and in a couple of months should 136 be standing at the Old Bailey at my trial. I couldn’t just do that, my dear.”
“What will you do for me? You are my friend—ain’t you?” The diamond necklace was not a desirable possession in the eyes of Lord George de Bruce Carruthers; but Portray Castle, with its income, and the fact that Lizzie Eustace was still a very young woman, was desirable. Her prettiness too was not altogether thrown away on Lord George, though, as he was wont to say to himself, he was too old now to sacrifice much for such a toy as that. Something he must do, if only because of the knowledge which had come to him. He could not go away and leave her, and neither say nor do anything in the matter. And he could not betray her to the police.
“You will not desert me,” she said, taking hold of his hand, and kissing it as a suppliant.
He passed his arm round her waist, but more as though she were a child than a woman, as he stood thinking. Of all the affairs in which he had ever been engaged, it was the most difficult. She submitted to his embrace, and leaned upon his shoulder, and looked up into his face. If he would only tell her that he loved her, then he would be bound to her, then must he share with her the burthen of the diamonds, then must he be true to her. “George,” she said, and burst into a low suppressed wailing, with her face hidden upon his arm.
“That’s all very well,” said he, still holding her, for she was pleasant to hold, “but what the d—— is a fellow to do? I don’t see my way out of it. I think you’d better go to Camperdown, and give them up to him, and tell him the truth.” Then she sobbed more 137 violently than before, till her quick ear caught the sound of a footstep on the stairs, and in a moment she was out of his arms and seated on the sofa, with hardly a trace of tears in her eyes. It was the footman, who desired to know whether Lady Eustace would want the carriage that afternoon. Lady Eustace, with her cheeriest voice, sent her love to Mrs. Carbuncle, and her assurance that she would not want the carriage before the evening. “I don’t know that you can do anything else,” continued Lord George, “except just give them up and brazen it out. I don’t suppose they’d prosecute you.”
“Prosecute me!” ejaculated Lizzie.
“For perjury, I mean.”
“And what could they do to me?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Lock you up for five years, perhaps.”
“Because I had my own necklace under the pillow in my own room?”
“Think of all the trouble you’ve given.”
“I’ll never give them up to Mr. Camperdown. They are mine; my very own. My cousin, Mr. Greystock, who is much more of a lawyer than Mr. Camperdown, says so. Oh, George, do think of something. Don’t tell me that I must give them up. Wouldn’t Mr. Benjamin buy them?”
“Yes, for half nothing; and then go and tell the whole story and get money from the other side. You can’t trust Benjamin.”
“But I can trust you.” She clung to him and implored him, and did get from him a renewed promise that he would not reveal her secret. She wanted him to take the terrible packet from her there and then, 138 and use his own judgment in disposing of it. But this he positively refused to do. He protested that they were safer with her than they could be with him. He explained to her that if they were found in his hands, his offence in having them in his possession would be much greater than hers. They were her own, as she was ever so ready to assert; or if not her own, the ownership was so doubtful that she could not be accused of having stolen them. And then he needed to consider it all, to sleep upon it, before he could make up his mind what he would do.
But there was one other trouble on her mind as to which he was called upon to give her counsel before he was allowed to leave her. She had told the detective officer that she would submit her boxes and desks to be searched if her cousin Frank should advise it. If the policeman were to return with her cousin while the diamonds were still in her desk, what should she do? He might come at any time; and then she would be bound to obey him.
“And he thinks that they were stolen at Carlisle?” asked Lord George.
“Of course he thinks so,” said Lizzie, almost indignantly.
“They would never ask to search your person,” suggested Lord George. Lizzie could not say. She had simply declared that she would be guided by her cousin.
“Have them about you when he comes. Don’t take them out with you; but keep them in your pocket while you are in the house during the day. They will hardly bring a woman with them to search you.”
“But there was a woman with the man when he came before.”139
“Then you must refuse in spite of your cousin. Show yourself angry with him and with everybody. Swear that you did not intend to submit yourself to such indignity as that. They can’t do it without a magistrate’s order, unless you permit it. I don’t suppose they will come at all; and if they do they will only look at your clothes and your boxes. If they ask to do more, be stout with them and refuse. Of course, they’ll suspect you, but they do that already. And your cousin will suspect you; but you must put up with that. It will be very bad; but I see nothing better. But, of all things, say nothing of me.”
“Oh no,” said Lizzie, promising to be obedient to him. And then he took his leave of her.
“You will be true to me, will you not?” she said, still clinging to his arm. He promised her that he would. “Oh, George,” she said, “I have no friend now but you. You will care for me?” He took her in his arms and kissed her, and promised her that he would care for her. How was he to save himself from doing so? When he was gone, Lizzie sat down to think of it all, and felt sure that at last she had found her Corsair.140
Mrs. Carbuncle and Lizzie Eustace did not, in these days, shut themselves up because there was trouble in the household. It would not have suited the creed of Mrs. Carbuncle on social matters to be shut up from the amusements of life. She had sacrificed too much in seeking them for that, and was too conscious of the price she paid for them. It was still mid-winter, but nevertheless there was generally some amusement arranged for every evening. Mrs. Carbuncle was very fond of the play, and made herself acquainted with every new piece as it came out. Every actor and actress of note on the stage was known to her, and she dealt freely in criticisms on their respective merits. The three ladies had a box at the Haymarket taken for this very evening, at which a new piece, “The Noble Jilt,” from the hand of a very eminent author, was to be produced. Mrs. Carbuncle had talked a great deal about “The Noble Jilt,” and could boast that she had discussed the merits of the two chief characters with the actor and actress who were to undertake them. Miss Talbot had assured her that the Margaret was altogether impracticable, and Mrs. Carbuncle was quite of the same opinion. And as for the hero, Steinmark, it was a part that no man could play so as to obtain the sympathy of an audience. There was 141 a second hero, a Flemish Count, tame as rain-water, Mrs. Carbuncle said. She was very anxious for the success of the piece, which, as she said, had its merits; but she was sure that it wouldn’t do. She had talked about it a great deal, and now, when the evening came, she was not going to be deterred from seeing it by any trouble in reference to a diamond necklace. Lizzie, when she was left by Lord George, had many doubts on the subject, whether she would go or stay at home. If he would have come to her, or her cousin Frank, or if, had it been possible, Lord Fawn would have come, she would have given up the play very willingly. But to be alone, with her necklace in the desk up-stairs, or in her pocket, was terrible to her. And then, they could not search her or her boxes while she was at the theatre. She must not take the necklace with her there. He had told her to leave it in her desk when she went from home.
Lucinda, also, was quite determined that she would see the new piece. She declared to her aunt, in Lizzie’s presence, without a vestige of a smile, that it might be well to see how a jilt could behave herself, so as to do her work of jilting in any noble fashion.
“My dear,” said her aunt, “you let things weigh upon your heart a great deal too much.”
“Not upon my heart, Aunt Jane,” the young lady had answered. She also intended to go, and when she had made up her mind to anything, nothing would deter her. She had no desire to stay at home in order that she might see Sir Griffin. “I dare say the play may be very bad,” she said, “but it can hardly be so bad as real life.”
Lizzie, when Lord George had left her, crept up-stairs, 142 and sat for a while thinking of her condition, with the key of her desk in her hand. Should there come a knock at the door, the case of diamonds would be in her pocket in a moment. Her own room door was bolted on the inside, so that she might have an instant for her preparation. She was quite resolved that she would carry out Lord George’s recommendation, and that no policeman or woman should examine her person, unless it were done by violence. There she sat, almost expecting that at every moment her cousin would be there with Bunfit and the woman. But nobody came, and at six she went down to dinner. After much consideration she then left the diamonds in the desk. Surely no one would come to search at such an hour as that. No one had come when the carriage was announced, and the three ladies went off together.
During the whole way Mrs. Carbuncle talked of the terrible situation in which poor Lord George was placed by the robbery, and of all that Lizzie owed him on account of his trouble.
“My dear,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, “the least you can do for him is to give him all that you’ve got to give.”
“I don’t know that he wants me to give him anything,” said Lizzie.
“I think that’s quite plain,” said Mrs. Carbuncle, “and I’m sure I wish it may be so. He and I have been dear friends—very dear friends, and there is nothing I wish so much as to see him properly settled. Ill-natured people like to say all manner of things because everybody does not choose to live in their own heartless, conventional form. But I can assure you there is nothing between me and Lord George which 143 need prevent him from giving his whole heart to you.”
“I don’t suppose there is,” said Lizzie, who loved an opportunity of giving Mrs. Carbuncle a little rap.
The play, as a play, was a failure; at least so said Mrs. Carbuncle. The critics, on the next morning, were somewhat divided—not only in judgment, but as to facts. To say how a play has been received is of more moment than to speak of its own merits or of the merits of the actors. Three or four of the papers declared that the audience was not only eulogistic, but enthusiastic. One or two others averred that the piece fell very flatly. As it was not acted above four or five dozen times consecutively, it must be regarded as a failure. On their way home Mrs. Carbuncle declared that Minnie Talbot had done her very best with such a part as Margaret, but that the character afforded no scope for sympathy.
“A noble jilt, my dears,” said Mrs. Carbuncle eloquently, “is a contradiction in terms. There can be no such thing. A woman, when she has once said the word, is bound to stick to it. The delicacy of the female character should not admit of hesitation between two men. The idea is quite revolting.”
“But may not one have an idea of no man at all?” asked Lucinda. “Must that be revolting also?”
“Of course a young woman may entertain such an idea; though for my part I look upon it as unnatural. But when she has once given herself there can be no taking back without the loss of that aroma which should be the apple of a young woman’s eye.”
“If she finds that she has made a mistake—?” said Lucinda fiercely. “Why shouldn’t a young woman 144 make a mistake as well as an old woman? Her aroma won’t prevent her from having been wrong and finding it out.”
“My dear, such mistakes, as you call them, always arise from fantastic notions. Look at this piece. Why does the lady jilt her lover? Not because she doesn’t like him. She’s just as fond of him as ever.”
“He’s a stupid sort of a fellow, and I think she was quite right,” said Lizzie. “I’d never marry a man merely because I said I would. If I found I didn’t like him, I’d leave him at the altar. I’d leave him any time I found I didn’t like him. It’s all very well to talk of aroma, but to live with a man you don’t like—is the devil.”
“My dear, those whom God has joined together shouldn’t be separated—for any mere likings or dislikings.” This Mrs. Carbuncle said in a high tone of moral feeling, just as the carriage stopped at the door in Hertford street. They at once perceived that the hall-door was open, and Mrs. Carbuncle, as she crossed the pavement, saw that there were two policemen in the hall. The footman had been with them to the theatre, but the cook and housemaid, and Mrs. Carbuncle’s own maid, were with the policemen in the passage. She gave a little scream, and then Lizzie, who had followed her, seized her by the arm. She turned round and saw by the gas-light that Lizzie’s face was white as a sheet, and that all the lines of her countenance were rigid and almost distorted. “Then she does know all about it,” said Mrs. Carbuncle to herself. Lizzie didn’t speak, but still hung on to Mrs. Carbuncle’s arm, and Lucinda, having seen how it was, was also supporting her. 145 A policeman stepped forward and touched his hat. He was not Bunfit—neither was he Gager. Indeed, though the ladies had not perceived the difference, he was not at all like Bunfit or Gager. This man was dressed in a policeman’s uniform, whereas Bunfit and Gager always wore plain clothes.
“My lady,” said the policeman, addressing Mrs. Carbuncle, “there’s been a robbery here.”
“A robbery!” ejaculated Mrs. Carbuncle.
“Yes, my lady. The servants all out, all to one; and she’s off. They’ve taken jewels, and, no doubt, money, if there was any. They don’t mostly come unless they know what they comes for.”
With a horrid spasm across her heart, which seemed really to kill her, so sharp was the pain, Lizzie recovered the use of her legs and followed Mrs. Carbuncle into the dining-room. She had been hardly conscious of hearing; but she had heard, and it had seemed to her that the robbery spoken of was something distinct from her own affair. The policeman did not speak of having found the diamonds. It was of something lost that they spoke. She seated herself in a chair against the wall, but did not utter a word. “We’ve been up-stairs, my lady, and they’ve been in most of the rooms. There’s a desk broke open.” Lizzie gave an involuntary little scream. “Yes, mum, a desk,” continued the policeman turning to Lizzie, “and a bureau, and a dressing-case. What’s gone your ladyship can tell when you sees. And one of the young women is off. It’s she as done it.” Then the cook explained. She and the housemaid, and Mrs. Carbuncle’s lady’s maid, had just stepped out, only round the corner, to get a little air, leaving Patience Crabstick in charge of the house; 146 and when they came back, the area gate was locked against them, the front door was locked, and finding themselves unable to get in after many knockings, they had at last obtained the assistance of a policeman. He had got into the place over the area gate, had opened the front door from within, and then the robbery had been discovered. It was afterwards found that the servants had all gone out to what they called a tea-party, at a public-house in the neighbourhood, and that by previous agreement Patience Crabstick had remained in charge. When they came back Patience Crabstick was gone, and the desk, and bureau, and dressing-case were found to have been opened. “She had a reg’lar thief along with her, my lady,” said the policeman, still addressing himself to Mrs. Carbuncle, “’cause of the way the things was opened.”
“I always knew that young woman was downright bad,” said Mrs. Carbuncle in her first expression of wrath.
But Lizzie sat in her chair without saying a word, still pale with that almost awful look of agony in her face. Within ten minutes of their entering the house, Mrs. Carbuncle was making her way up-stairs, with the two policemen following her. That her bureau and her dressing-case should have been opened was dreadful to her, though the value that she could thus lose was very small. She also possessed diamonds, but her diamonds were paste; and whatever jewelry she had of any value, a few rings, and a brooch, and such like, had been on her person in the theatre. What little money she had by her was in the drawing-room, and the drawing-room, as it seemed, had not been entered. In truth, all Mrs. Carbuncle’s possessions in the house 147 were not sufficient to have tempted a well-bred, well-instructed thief. But it behooved her to be indignant; and she could be indignant with grace, as the thief was discovered to be, not her maid, but Patience Crabstick. The policemen followed Mrs. Carbuncle, and the maids followed the policemen; but Lizzie Eustace kept her seat in the chair by the wall. “Do you think they have taken much of yours?” said Lucinda, coming up to her and speaking very gently. Lizzie made a motion with her two hands upon her heart, and struggled, and gasped, as though she wished to speak but could not. “I suppose it is that girl who has done it all,” said Lucinda. Lizzie nodded her head, and tried to smile. The attempt was so ghastly that Lucinda, though not timid by nature, was frightened. She sat down and took Lizzie’s hand, and tried to comfort her. “It is very hard upon you,” she said, “to be twice robbed.” Lizzie again nodded her head. “I hope it is not much now. Shall we go up and see?” The poor creature did get upon her legs, but she gasped so terribly that Lucinda feared that she was dying. “Shall I send for some one?” she said. Lizzie made an effort to speak, was shaken convulsively while the other supported her, and then burst into a flood of tears.
When that had come she was relieved, and could again act her part. “Yes,” she said, “we will go with them. It is so dreadful; is it not?”
“Very dreadful; but how much better that we weren’t at home. Shall we go now?” Then together they followed the others, and on the stairs Lizzie explained that in her desk, of which she always carried the key round her neck, there was what money she 148 had by her—two ten-pound notes, and four five-pound notes, and three sovereigns; in all, forty-three pounds. Her other jewels, the jewels which she had possessed over and above the fatal diamond necklace, were in her dressing-case. Patience, she did not doubt, had known that the money was there, and certainly knew of her jewels. So they went up-stairs. The desk was open and the money gone. Five or six rings and a bracelet had been taken also from Lizzie’s dressing-case, which she had left open. Of Mrs. Carbuncle’s property sufficient had been stolen to make a long list in that lady’s handwriting. Lucinda Roanoke’s room had not been entered, as far as they could judge. The girl had taken the best of her own clothes, and a pair of strong boots belonging to the cook. A superintendent of police was there before they went to bed, and a list was made out. The superintendent was of opinion that the thing had been done very cleverly, but also thought that the thieves had expected to find more plunder.
“They don’t care so much about banknotes, my lady, because they fetches such a low price with them as they deal with. The three sovereigns is more to them than all the forty pounds in notes.” The superintendent had heard of the diamond necklace, and expressed an opinion that poor Lady Eustace was especially marked out for misfortune.
“It all comes of having such a girl as that about her,” said Mrs. Carbuncle. The superintendent, who intended to be consolatory to Lizzie, expressed his opinion that it was very hard to know what a young woman was.
“They looks as soft as butter, and they’re as sly as 149 foxes, and as quick, as quick—as quick as greased lightning, my lady.” Such a piece of business as this which has just occurred will make people intimate at a very short notice.
And so the diamond necklace, known to be worth ten thousand pounds, had at last been stolen in earnest! Lizzie, when the policemen were gone, and the noise was over, and the house was closed, slunk away to her bedroom, refusing any aid in lieu of that of the wicked Patience. She herself had examined the desk beneath the eyes of her two friends and of the policemen, and had seen at once that the case was gone. The money was gone too, as she was rejoiced to find. She perceived at once that had the money been left, the very leaving of it would have gone to prove that other prize had been there. But the money was gone—money of which she had given a correct account—and she could now honestly allege that she had been robbed. But she had at last really lost her great treasure; and if the treasure should be found then would she infallibly be exposed. She had talked twice of giving away her necklace, and had seriously thought of getting rid of it by burying it deep in the sea. But now that it was in very truth gone from her, the loss of it was horrible to her. Ten thousand pounds, for which she had struggled so much and borne so many things, which had come to be the prevailing fact of her life, gone from her forever! Nevertheless it was not that sorrow, that regret which had so nearly overpowered her in the dining-parlour. At that moment she hardly knew, had hardly thought, whether the diamonds had or had not been taken. But the feeling came upon her at once 150 that her own disgrace was every hour being brought nearer to her. Her secret was no longer quite her own. One man knew it, and he had talked to her of perjury and of five years’ imprisonment. Patience must have known it too; and now some one else also knew it. The police, of course, would find it out, and then horrid words would be used against her. She hardly knew what perjury was. It sounded like forgery and burglary. To stand up before a judge and be tried, and then to be locked up for five years in prison! What an end would this be to all her glorious success! And what evil had she done to merit all this terrible punishment? When they came to her in her bedroom at Carlisle she had simply been too much frightened to tell them all that the necklace was at that moment under her pillow.
She tried to think of it all, and to form some idea in her mind of what might be the truth. Of course Patience Crabstick had known her secret, but how long had the girl known it? And how had the girl discovered it? She was almost sure, from certain circumstances, from words which the girl had spoken, and from signs which she had observed, that Patience had not even suspected that the necklace had been brought with them from Carlisle to London. Of course the coming of Bunfit and the woman would have set the girl’s mind to work in that direction; but then Bunfit and the woman had only been there on that morning. The Corsair knew the facts, and no one but the Corsair. That the Corsair was a Corsair the suspicions of the police had proved to her. She had offered the necklace to the Corsair; but when so offered he had refused to take it. She could understand 151 that he should see the danger of accepting the diamonds from her hand, and yet should be desirous of having them. And might not he have thought that he could best relieve her from the burden of their custody in this manner? She felt no anger against the Corsair as she weighed the probability of his having taken them in this fashion. A Corsair must be a Corsair. Were he to come to her and confess the deed, she would almost like him the better for it, admiring his skill and enterprise. But how very clever he must have been, and how brave! He had known, no doubt, that the three ladies were all going to the theatre; but in how short a time had he got rid of the other women and availed himself of the services of Patience Crabstick!
But in what way would she conduct herself when the police should come to her on the following morning, the police and all the other people who would crowd to the house? How should she receive her cousin Frank? How should she look when the coincidence of the double robbery should be spoken of in her hearing? How should she bear herself when, as of course would be the case, she should again be taken before the magistrates, and made to swear as to the loss of her property? Must she commit more perjury, with the certainty that various people must know that her oath was false? All the world would suspect her. All the world would soon know the truth. Might it not be possible that the diamonds were at this moment in the hands of Messrs. Camperdown, and that they would be produced before her eyes, as soon as her second false oath had been registered against her? And yet how could she tell the truth? And what would the Corsair 152 think of her, the Corsair who would know everything? She made one resolution during the night. She would not be taken into court. The magistrates and the people might come to her, but she would not go before them. When the morning came she said that she was ill, and refused to leave her bed. Policemen, she knew, were in the house early. At about nine Mrs. Carbuncle and Lucinda were up and in her room. The excitement of the affair had taken them from their beds, but she would not stir. If it were absolutely necessary, she said, the men must come into her room. She had been so overset by what had occurred on the previous night, that she could not leave her room. She appealed to Lucinda as to the fact of her illness. The trouble of these robberies was so great upon her that her heart was almost broken. If her deposition must be taken, she would make it in bed. In the course of the day the magistrate did come into her room and the deposition was taken. Forty-three pounds had been taken from her desk, and certain jewels, which she described, from her dressing-case. As far as she was aware, no other property of hers was missing. This she said in answer to a direct question from the magistrate, which, as she thought, was asked with a stern voice and searching eye. And so, a second time, she had sworn falsely. But this at least was gained, that Lord George de Bruce Carruthers was not looking at her as she swore.
Lord George was in the house for a great part of the day, but he did not ask to be admitted to Lizzie’s room; nor did she ask to see him. Frank Greystock was there late in the afternoon, and went up at once to see his cousin. The moment that she saw him she stretched 153 out her arms to him, and burst into tears. “My poor girl,” said he, “what is the meaning of it all?”
“I don’t know. I think they will kill me. They want to kill me. How can I bear it all? The robbers were here last night, and magistrates and policemen and people have been here all day.” Then she fell into a fit of sobbing and wailing, which was, in truth, hysterical. For, if the readers think of it, the poor woman had a great deal to bear.
Frank, into whose mind no glimmer of suspicion against his cousin had yet entered, and who firmly believed that she had been made a victim because of the value of her diamonds, and who had a theory of his own about the robbery at Carlisle, to the circumstances of which he was now at some pains to make these latter circumstances adhere, was very tender with his cousin, and remained in the house for more than an hour. “Oh, Frank, what had I better do?” she asked him.
“I would leave London, if I were you.”
“Yes; of course. I will. Oh yes, I will.”
“If you don’t fear the cold of Scotland——”
“I fear nothing, nothing but being where these policemen can come to me. Oh!” and then she shuddered and was again hysterical. Nor was she acting the condition. As she remembered the magistrates, and the detectives, and the policemen in their uniforms, and reflected that she might probably see much more of them before the game was played out, the thoughts that crowded on her were almost more than she could bear.
“Your child is there, and it is your own house. Go there till all this passes by.” Whereupon she promised 154 him that, as soon as she was well enough, she would at once go to Scotland.
In the mean time, the Eustace diamonds were locked up in a small safe fixed into the wall at the back of a small cellar beneath the establishment of Messrs. Harter and Benjamin, in Minto Lane, in the City. Messrs. Harter and Benjamin always kept a second place of business. Their great shop was at the West End; but they had accommodation in the City.
The chronicler states this at once, as he scorns to keep from his reader any secret that is known to himself.
The illustration at the top of this section was the Frontispiece to Volume II. It seems to show a scene from Chapter LII, so I have put it here.
You know that, Bunfit.
missing comma supplied from Fortnightly Review.
“They say such queer things that I can hardly understand
text has The say
How would the ordinary thief get his money without being detected?
[A legitimate concern. According to the 1827 Larceny Act (7 & 8 Geo. IV. c. 29. s. 59.), it was flat-out illegal to advertise a reward for lost or stolen property if the advertisement said or implied anything equivalent to “no questions asked”. Admittedly the penalty was just fifty pounds, well under the £400 in discussion here. But the thief could reasonably expect to be asked some questions.]
I turned sharp round in the street yesterday, and found a man at a corner.
text has street and yesterday
[Corrected from Fortnightly Review.]
a new piece, “The Noble Jilt,” from the hand of a very eminent author
[This is a bit of an in-joke, since the “eminent author” was Anthony Trollope himself. He wrote the play in 1850, but it wasn’t published until 1923—meaning that in the US it was under copyright until just a few years ago. (You can now find it online in the usual places.) Parts of the story were later repurposed for Can You Forgive Her?]
the case of diamonds would be in her pocket in a moment
[For once, the design of women’s clothing was an advantage. Since the “pocket” was a separate object, worn underneath at least one layer of skirts, there would be no suspicious angles or bulges to catch a police inspector’s attention.]
there is nothing between me and Lord George which need prevent him from giving his whole heart to you
[Remember This Line.]
he scorns to keep from his reader any secret that is known to himself
[Thank you, Anthony. I can’t stand it when authors deliberately withhold information—above all, when the information is known to the narrator or viewpoint character.]
The original of this text is in the public domain—at least in the U.S.
My notes are copyright, as are all under-the-hood elements.
If in doubt, ask.