Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 3/The silver cord - Part 6

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THE SILVER CORD.

BY SHIRLEY BROOKS.

The Silver Cord (6).png

CHAPTER XII.

“Silence, Marion,” said her husband, with the full power of his voice.

“I am ordered to be silent, and I obey,” said Mrs. Berry, ”but——

“But by the God that made me, I will be played with no longer,” cried Arthur Lygon, maddened beyond self-restraint. “I will have an answer, here, here! You have some dark secret affecting the character of my wife. I will have it before I stir from this spot.”

“It is not I who withhold it,” said Mrs. Berry, in a voice of mournfulness—almost of sweetness.

“It is then you, Berry,” said Lygon, turning to his friend. “Do you keep this thing from me?”

“Arthur Lygon,” said Mr. Berry, taking both the hands of his friend in his own. “Listen. If you are now untrue to yourself, if you, in a maddened impulse, force from our lips a story, which, as there is a Heaven above us, there is no need that you should know, the consequences be on your own head. Stay. I have said our lips. I close my wife’s now and always, with the solemn declaration that if that story comes to your knowledge, except through myself—”

“No need of threats,” said Mrs. Berry. “I know my duty. The story shall come through yourself, if at all. But I utterly deny that Mr. Lygon ought not to hear it.”

“Yet Mr. Berry has this instant declared in the most solemn manner that it does not affect me,” replied Arthur. “This contradiction makes it more plain than ever that there is a mystery between us, and my course is clear. Berry, at whatever sacrifice of your own feelings, and at whatever risk of the consequences you darkly hint at, I demand to know all, and I ask of Mrs. Berry to remain and bear witness whether you tell me all.”

“I once more beg you to forego your demand,” said Mr. Berry, earnestly.

“I will not forego it,” replied Arthur, sternly.

“And you are right,” murmured Mrs. Berry.

“Enough,” said Mr. Berry. “If I did not feel that our friendship forbids my longer resisting your appeal, I would still oppose what I again declare to be a folly, to which you are urged, Arthur, by one who should have been a better friend than she has proved to-day.”

“My own conscience supplies my vindication,” said Mrs. Berry, in answer to the words and to the look that accompanied them. “It is there that I am accustomed to turn for guidance.”

“Arthur,” said her husband, with the manner of a man who, having resolved on making a communication, desires that it shall be thoroughly understood, “follow me in what I may say, and answer what I may ask. Also, reserve all comment until I have done, and then ask what you will. Above all, believe that, as I have yielded, I make you no half confidence, and therefore do you attach no further or worse meaning to anything I say than the words ought to bear.”

“I will not.”

“It seems idle to ask you, Arthur, whether you recollect the circumstances attendant on your marriage, but I must recal them for a moment. Your acquaintance with the admirable and excellent young lady who is now your wife” (and Mr. Berry spoke the words of praise with marked emphasis) “was not a very long one. Your first meeting, I believe, took place at——

“At a party—a sort of pic-nic party, in those grounds yonder,” said Arthur, pointing towards the abbey. “It was on a fifteenth of May, my birthday; I have forgotten nothing. Go on.”

“And you married in the November following?”

“But I stayed for six weeks of that summer at the Barbel, and for nearly two months more in your house in the town, to which you were kind enough to make me remove.”

“That answer means that you had ample opportunity of becoming well acquainted with the character and disposition of Miss Vernon, and that yours was no hasty marriage. I had no such imputation in my mind. You also became well acquainted with part of the family of your intended wife.”

“With her father, and with her sister Beatrice, who had married Mr. Hawkesley, and with Charles Hawkesley himself, who, you know, was the means of my knowing the family.”

“But there was another person whom you did not meet until after your marriage?”

“You mean her sister Bertha.”

“Who had married two years before you came to Lipthwaite.”

“And was then living in Paris with her husband, Mr. Urquhart.”

“But you soon after became acquainted with tile Urquharts.”

“We called on them in the Avenue de Versailles, when I took Laura for her first visit to Paris, after Clara was born.”

“Did you become intimate?”

“Certainly not. I was not pleased with Mrs. Urquhart,—that is to say, she had become too much of a Frenchwoman of the type I hate, but this would not have prevented my behaving with cordiality towards Laura’s sister, if Laura had desired it, and circumstances had not come in the way. But something—yes, it was a death in his family postponed the dinner to which we were, of course, invited, and our stay being short, another call was all that took place in the way of intercourse. Mr. Urquhart had been summoned to Prussia on some engineering business, and I did not then see him again. When we were next in Paris, the house was shut up, Bertha and her husband having gone into the country.”

“Have you often met them since?”

“Once at the railway hotel, when they were on their way to Scotland, and we were together for a very short time—Laura was ill, and could not accompany me. And I once met Urquhart afterwards, at a scientific association, when he told me that his wife was at Boulogne. I believe those are the only occasions on which we have met, so you see there is no intimacy at all.”

“Do the sisters correspond, to your knowledge?”

“Why do you say ‘to my knowledge?

“Do not be annoyed at my putting any questions in my own way.”

“I need hardly tell you that I should never think of asking my wife any question about her correspondence, but I don’t suppose she receives letters which she does not mention to me, if they are worth mentioning at all. Do you imply that she would have letters from Bertha and conceal them from me?”

“You know how I love and honour your wife, Arthur, and yet I am bound to say that I think it not impossible that she may do so—or may have done so.”

“In that case she would act—though, I own, not as I might wish, for I think implicit confidence the most sensible thing between married people—she would act, I am certain, on a reason that would be perfectly satisfactory. Sisters who have been intimate from childhood may say a hundred things to one another which have no meaning for the eye of a third person, and assuredly I should never ask to see one of their letters that was not voluntarily shown to me.”

“But if the fact of Mrs. Lygon’s having received such letters were studiously withheld from you?” persisted Mr. Berry.

Arthur Lygon’s face darkened with displeasure.

“You are now making a charge of insincerity—nay, of deceit,” said he, “against Laura, who is perfectly incapable of either.”

“I begged you, and you promised, to forbear from remarks.”

“Well, go on.”

“Suppose, for present purposes, that such had been the case,” said Mr. Berry.

“Why,” said Lygon, impatiently, “even if I were to suppose such a thing, I don’t know how it could well be possible. Our letters arrive before I leave in the morning; they are all laid on the breakfast-table, and I am always down, and reading my paper, before Laura is dressed. I should see anything with a foreign postmark, but I am ashamed to discuss anything that implies deceit in her.”

“You are not asked to discuss anything,” returned Mr. Berry, coldly, “but to answer questions drawn upon you by yourself. As for a husband’s knowing what letters his wife receives, if she desire to conceal them, the idea is childish.”

“Not when the wife is like mine.”

“I am an old lawyer, and have had forty years’ experience of men and women, and therefore, if I say what sounds harsh, you may take it as the result of experience, and not as any suggestion against anybody in particular. Letters not received secretly! You were yourself a gay man once, and might remember that such things are.”

“I don’t like your tone and manner, Berry, but I have promised to hear you to the end,” said Arthur, haughtily. His tone and manner served only to increase the old man’s pertinacity.

Tu l’as voulu,” he said. “Why, Lygon, cannot a correspondent be told so to post letters that they may be delivered at a time when the husband will be out? Or, as he never opens a letter of his wife’s, can she not toss across to him, as the contents of an envelope, a harmless letter that was never in it at all? Or cannot the letter be harmless enough, while the postscript is on a separate paper, and not producible—and not produced? Or cannot the letter be sent to or through a convenient lady-friend; or, better still, one who is unconscious that she is aiding in a trick?”

“Mr. Berry,” said Arthur, in a rage, “you may spare yourself the trouble of proving to me that you have read a great many French plays, but when you are speaking of——

“Of Mrs. Urquhart, who, living in Paris, must have seen a great many French plays,” said Mr. Berry; “why, then, the thing is not quite so ridiculous, Lygon.”

“But you are talking as if my wife could lend herself to such chambermaid’s devices.”

“She may have done so, and yet been irreproachable,” replied Berry.

“Irreproachable!” repeated Arthur, scornfully.

“Yes, perfectly so. Such things may have been forced upon her by another, and she, placed in the position of having to choose between evils, may have chosen the lesser.”

“The lesser being—what I will not describe—what is the greater?” replied Lygon, struggling with passion.

“Yes, tell me the lesser,” returned Berry, fixing his eye keenly on Lygon.

“What!” said Arthur, angrily. “Are you asking me to imagine a wife, who has an honourable man’s love and trust, sending him away in the morning with an affectionate kiss and glance, bidding him return as early as he can, and calling the children to say good-bye; and then, as the door closes behind him, looking after him with a smile of the contempt a deceiver feels for the deceived, and turning complacently to her clandestine letters? Tell me your greater wrong, for that is beyond my imagination.”

“It is you who are at the French picture now,” said Berry, “and devilishly you have blackened it.”

Mrs. Berry here felt it her duty to protest, by gesture, against her husband’s adverb.

“Yes,” said the old man, in a kinder tone than he had hitherto used, “you may be doing a cruel injustice. It may be that the very woman whom you accuse of smiling at her dupe has, at the moment you describe, her eyes flooded with tears at the thought of her withheld confidence, that she would give the world not to have been induced to become a party to deceit, and that if she could but have placed those letters in her husband’s hands, and leaned on his bosom as he read them, her heart, which may be as true as gold, would have been lightened of a bitter load. But you men of the world, as you call yourselves, have experiences which always help you to the worst construction of a woman’s act.”

Arthur Lygon laid a rather strong grasp on his friend’s wrist.

“Mr. Berry,” he said, in a suppressed voice, “you are doing one of two things. You are either talking vaguely, in the idea of getting through our interview without telling me what I seek to know, or you are preparing me for a revelation which, as your wife has said, is terrible indeed. I would not willingly insult you by believing that you are trying to waste time.”

“That is well, at all events,” said Mr. Berry, coldly. “You have given me your overdrawn and malicious view of what may be a perfectly innocent woman’s course, and I will only ask you, for your future peace of mind, to remember that I have pointed out to you how such a course ought to be regarded by a man who truly loves.”

“My wife has then conducted a secret correspondence,” said Mr. Lygon, sternly. “Leave to me the question how her conduct shall be dealt with.”

“I have not said that it is so, but that it may be so. Granting that it is——

And Mrs. Berry’s eyes were fixed intently upon Arthur’s, to watch how he would receive the rest.

“Granting that it is, can you, in the excess of the love you profess for Mrs. Lygon, imagine no state of things that could justify such a course on her part?”

“You know that I cannot wring the truth from you,” said Lygon, bitterly, “and therefore you let it ooze out drop by drop. You have already told me that which I wish to God I had not heard, but will you give me at once what explanation there may be, or am I to turn to Mrs. Berry?”

“I have said that I am silent,” said Mrs. Berry, “but had I been permitted to speak, I would have spared him this long-suffering.”

“I know your mercy,” said her husband, meaningly. “He is better in my hands. Arthur, it is true that there is a secret in the family of Mr. Vernon. But to reveal it to the world would simply be the cruellest act of wickedness. What has been done was done long ago, and bitterly and fully repented of. Circumstances have entirely changed, and the matter should be consigned to utter oblivion. That secret, however, is known to certain persons, and two of them are Mrs. Urquhart and Mrs. Lygon.”

“How long has Mrs. Lygon known it?”

“Always—that is to say, from the time when the circumstances arose.”

“Which was before her marriage?”

“Long before. And without having any knowledge whatever that those ladies may have corresponded in connection with it, I do not consider such a thing improbable.”

“And with this secret you couple my wife’s disappearance?” asked Arthur, in agitation.

“I cannot say that I see any other solution of the mystery.”

“And the secret,” gasped Arthur, “and the secret——

Berry stole a look at his wife’s face. It was marble; but in the marble was the hungry, unpitying look, that told him there was no mercy there. One of them must assuredly speak, and therefore it had better be himself.

“The secret, Arthur,” he said, “is that a woman was weak, and a man was a villain.”

That was a strange effect which came over the face of Arthur Lygon at the words. The eyes lighted up with pleasure, a smile came to the lips, and a half sob proclaimed that a weight was suddenly lifted from his heart. The voice, though broken, was almost cheerful, as he replied—

“And Laura has kept the secret from me! Well, she knew all, and what there was to pity—and—she should have told me. I might have been trusted.”

Watch, Marion Berry, O, watch, as the statue watches the place where the treasure is hidden.

“I need name no name,” said Berry, hurriedly.

“No, no. I understand all that I need know. This accounts for the residence in France?” said Arthur, in an undertone.

“Yes.”

“And Laura has hurried off there.”

“Why, is the mystery.”

“Which shall soon be no mystery. I will follow by the next train. You will take care of my child.”

“Stay,” said Mr. Berry, “stay.”

“When I have a clue to Laura!”

“Still, stay.”

“Are you mad, Berry?” said Arthur, smiling. “I shall be with her at this hour to-morrow—sooner—sooner. Why, I am on the road, man; I think there is a mid-day boat.”

“But consider one thing,” said Mr. Berry.

“I can consider nothing, except the quickest way to her.”

“Which may not be the blindly rushing after her,” said Mr. Berry. “You do not seem to remember all that you told—that you showed me.”

“Showed you?” said Arthur, bewildered, for the one idea had blotted out all the recollections.

“A note,” said Mr. Berry, though with reluctance, for he had not wished his wife to hear of this.

“A note. True,” said Arthur, hastily taking a paper from his pocket. “A foolish, mad note; but what does it matter now. Ah! Look at it, Berry, and tell me. Is it—is it her husband’s writing?”

Mrs. Berry darted to her husband’s side, and a glance at the writing was enough for her.

“I scarcely know his hand,” said Berry.

“He calls her Vernon, her maiden name,” said Lygon eagerly. “He is Scotch, and they often do that——

“It is not Mr. Urquhart’s writing,” said Mrs. Berry.

“You are certain?” asked Arthur.

“I am certain.”

“That’s strange. No, it might have been stranger if it had been,” said Arthur. “But we will clear up all mysteries together. Dear, dear child, why was she so wild, so untrustful—I have not deserved it, I swear to you, Berry—but I can comprehend her heart—they had been so closely attached, in sorrow as well as in happiness. Silly child—she shall pay me for this—God bless her.” And the strong man’s eyes fairly ran over will tears.

Can you hear that prayer, Mrs. Berry, you who are in the habit of praying—and can you keep your eyes so steady and tearless?

“I must see about the trains,” cried Arthur, hastily dashing his hand over his face—not that he was ashamed of his emotion, or at that moment had a thought for anything except the recovery of Laura. “Let us go in. I will give Clara a kiss, and be off at once on the chance of catching what conveyance I can.”

And he hurried with a light step to the porch, leaving his host and hostess to themselves.

“You are happy, now, I trust, Marion,” said Mr. Berry, reproachfully.

“This is not a world for happiness, Mr. Berry,” was the icy reply. He thought it was but one of the pietist’s ordinary formulas. But he should have looked at her eyes.

CHAPTER XIII.

The carriage in which Mrs. Lygon was conveyed from the boat was speedily out of Boulogne, and proceeded with unusual rapidity along the high road, whence it turned, after about two miles of progress, down a wide lane, at the end of which a second turning brought the vehicle before the door of a plain, almost mean-looking, two-storied, steep-roofed house, that looked like a third-rate English inn. There was no garden or lawn in front, the ground before the door was carelessly kept, and fowls were busy on various heaps of rubbish, chiefly of a vegetable character, that had been flung out at the door. The green outside blinds were all closed, with the exception oi on. that was falling from its place, and which it might have been dangerous to disturb on its single rusty hinge. The door had been white, but it was warped and split, and it looked unusually in want of priming and painting, and the stone before it was lamentably cracked. Yet, somehow, squalid as the house really was, it had a cheery, French look in the sunshine, and a pretty paysanne, with much colour in her dress and more in her cheeks, was an additional and improving feature, as she stood, leaning against the opened door, and singing very loud to some apples, as rosy as herself, which she was busily peeling.

At the sight of Adair the song ceased like tb jet of a suddenly cut-off fountain, and the face of the girl assumed an almost sullen expression. To a few words, which he addressed to her in French, she made no reply, but obeyed them by entering the house and opening a door on the other side of the large room which served for hall and kitchen. The opening the further door showed a mass of green foliage beyond, shining in the bright sunlight.

Ernest Adair alighted, and opened the carriage-door.

“I need not recal the house to your recollection, madame,” he said. “It was much used, in other days, for pleasant little parties, at some of which you have assisted. The present proprietor has closed it against that class of visitors, but it is in charge of the respectable Madame Maletarde, whom you may remember as the cook, hostess, femme de chambre, and everything else, to the ladies who honoured the place. But, as I concluded that you would have no special anxiety to see that worthy person, or rather to be seen by her, upon this occasion, madame has somehow been called away to the town, and has left her niece in charge. Justine has never been in this part of the country before.”

All this was said with the utmost deliberation before the speaker offered Mrs. Lygon his hand to assist her from the carriage. Indeed, as he stood at the door, he presented an obstacle to her alighting.

“I observed,” he went on, “that you look with very well-merited distaste at the house, and I am scandalised at asking you to enter so ill-repaired a place. It is but to enter, however, for if you will condescend to pass into the garden, we can there say, in perfect security from interruption, all that is necessary, and the carriage will await you where it stands. As regards refreshments——

“I want nothing,” was the reply,

“In that case, will you be pleased to follow me?”

They passed through the large room, over which Mrs. Lygon gave a woman’s rapid glance, and was reminded of pleasant joyous days when a merry little company—including herself and her young husband—came forth in procession from the town, bearing with them certain materials for a little feast, and quartered themselves upon the delighted Madame Maletarde, whose garden they ransacked for additions to the banquet, and whose utmost culinary skill was gladly exerted to prepare it. There was but a moment for the recollection of the laughing, and the love-passages, and the rest of the happy meetings, a moment to hush down the swelling heart, and Mrs. Lygon stood in the well-remembered garden.

“We are out of ear-shot,” said Adair, “though it is of little consequence, for Justine, though she loves the English, has no syllable of their language. I will fetch you a chair.”

“I will stand.”

“I accept the hint not to fatigue you by too long an oration. You will, I know, forgive my omission to express to you the thanks which fill my heart for your having obligingly consented to come here, and you will prefer that I should proceed with almost mercantile brevity to the business which has induced me to ask your presence. I have rightly interpreted your feelings, I trust.”

She made no reply.

“Precisely. Another graceful protest against garrulity. That I may not offend again, will you kindly allow this letter to speak for me? It is not my own writing, but that of a person who is in every way more entitled to your attention.”

He produced a pocket-book, from which he took a letter, opened it, and handed it respectfully to her.

Mrs. Lygon evinced no surprise at seeing the handwriting, but a flush of angry shame came over her beautiful face as she perused the lines.

This evidence of feeling was noted by her companion, and a smile of satisfaction stole to his lips, to be instantly repressed.

The letter was to himself, and written by a sister of her who read it. It was this:

“Have you no pity, Ernest? Why are you driving me to ruin? Again and again, I assure you, on my knees, that it is impossible for me to meet your repeated demands, and I passed two days in an agony lest the means you forced me to adopt last week should have been discovered. I can give you no more, at least now, and, for mercy’s sake, leave me in peace for a short time. I send you a ring, which I suppose is valuable, and which will supply the immediate need you speak of; but do, Ernest, try to spare me. Remember, that if you force me into any act that may betray me, your own hopes from me must be at an end for ever. You press me so cruelly that I am at times on the point of confessing all, and if the opium which I take to escape from my dreadful thoughts should make me light-headed, I know not what I may say. Pray, Ernest, spare me for your own sake, if not for that of “B. U.”

Mrs. Lygon read the latter part of the note hastily, but not so hastily as to fail in comprehending its significance. She was about to return it to him, and then instinctively drew back her hand.

“Nay,” he said, “I am not playing a mean and petty game. I have no wish to retain a document that might inculpate the writer. Pray retain and destroy it, if you please; or rather I would say retain it as your credentials for the negotiation which I trust to succeed in inducing you to undertake for me.”

“For you.”

The words were said in such a tone of contempt that a worm might have turned at them, though Adair did not.

“The expression has the misfortune to displease you. I repeat it, and apologise. Let me say, then, the negotiation which I trust you will undertake for the sake of the writer of that interesting letter.”

“Ernest Hardwick—” said Mrs. Lygon.

“Ah,” he murmured, “the old name, and it is ever the sweetest.”

Disregarding his insolence, she proceeded:

“You know for what reasons I have undertaken a certain task.”

“The last word is harsh,” he said, “but we will pass it by. I believe myself to be aware of those reasons.”

“You hold this unfortunate creature in your power, and I know that it is idle to make any appeal to your heart.”

“And idleness is a charge which no one could ever bring against Miss Laura Vernon or Mrs. Arthur Lygon,” said he, in a passionless voice.

“You have had a great deal of money from her, and your demands for more are endangering her position as a wife.”

“With what rapidity, in combination with what exactitude, does Mrs. Lygon master the contents of a letter!” {{nop]} “And we must perfectly understand our position, if anything is to be done,” said Laura, without deigning the slightest notice of his interruptions.

“Might I venture to suggest that one of us seems—or is it an unfortunate misconception on my part—to be slightly in danger of forgetting that position.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, Mrs. Lygon,” he said, his tone changing, and his pale face becoming almost savage in expression, “I mean that though I may choose to forget certain things which it is not useful to me at the moment to remember, they need not be forgotten by other persons.”

She turned well-nigh as pale as himself, but looked at him with firmness, and answered calmly,

“I repeat, that I do not understand you.”

“So!” said, or rather cried, Adair, in a high voice, and with angry surprise. He glared at her for a few seconds; but, whatever she may have felt, she stood her ground bravely.

“So,” he repeated. “That is the result of our deliberation. That is the decision of our council of war. We are to fight. Councils of war never vote for fighting, but pass for that. Defiance! Well, it is a bold game, but bold games seldom succeed when I am on the other side. However, it is not with Mrs. Lygon that I have now to do. Her turn may come.”

“I am entirely at a loss to find meaning for your words, “said Mrs. Lygon, “and, perhaps, you will listen to me. If I succeed in procuring more money for you from Mrs. Urquhart, what security have we that this will be your last demand.”

“None whatever.”

“Will it be your last demand?”

“Most certainly not.”

“Do you mean that you intend to persecute her throughout her whole life.”

“I would prefer to say that I hope to induce her to dedicate her life to making mine as happy as it can be when I am deprived of her.”

“Have you ever seen her husband, Mr. Hardwick?”

“The Scottish Urquhart? I long since made it my business to see and to be able to recognise him. He is a fine animal, far too largely framed for elegance, and probably six feet three in height, and proportionately—I will do him that justice—proportionately broad and strong. Is your inquiry intended to direct the conversation towards the possibility of that person and myself ever coming into collision?”

“Do you know his character?”

“Mrs. Lygon’s question scarcely reveals her usual perspicacity. Through my knowledge of Mr. Urquhart’s character I have acted, with much success, upon the character of his wife. This large Scotchman, or Scottishman, as I believe he would prefer to be called, is understood to be of a stern and resolute nature. He is a railway contractor, and it is agreeably recorded of him that upon one occasion he found a crowd of Belgian workmen wasting his time in drinking, when they should have been at their duty. Our admirable friend remonstrated, but Scotch is not the language of persuasion, I suppose, for they would not go to work, and signified the same through a big brave Belgian, their foreman. On which the Scottish giant resorted to the extreme remedy of taking that brave big Belgian into his Caledonian arms, and pitching him bodily off a viaduct to a road I do not know how many feet below, but quite enough to ensure the Belgian’s never rising any more until the day when we shall all rise together. The men then went to their work. The anecdote charmed me very much—excuse my prolixity in retailing it.”

“You have not, perhaps, considered what would be the consequence of Mr. Urquhart’s becoming aware of the course you pursue toward his wife?”

“Do me more justice. I think that being a Scotchman, he would make all reasonable inquiry before acting, but I think that when his preliminary inquiry was complete, he would probably destroy your amiable sister.”

“Yet you refuse,” she said, “to name a sum, which, if paid, would free her from any further importunities on your part?”

“Please to inform me why I should.”

“Because, if she thinks as I do,” said Mrs. Lygon, “she will prefer an hour of sorrow to a life of torment, and unless you are to be bought off at once and for ever, she will throw herself upon the heart of the brave and good man who his married her, explain all, and be—perhaps divorced, perhaps forgiven—but, in either case, she will know the worst.”

“And my neck will infallibly be broken by the giant, as a sort of peace-offering to the manes of departed domestic happiness—that is, of course, part of your delightful programme?”

“I think he would kill you! I hope he would kill you!” said Mrs. Lygon, with a simple frankness that belonged to her old days, and which, in spite of the vindictive character of the words, was by no means so utterly unfeminine as it may be feared that they seem.

Ernest Adair laughed outright.

“That came from the heart,” he said, “and the estimable Goethe, whom I idolise, has told us that whatever comes from the heart is divine and to be honoured, in which he differs from certain other authorities. But, as I have said, I shall endeavour to protect myself against such a casualty; and I have the best means of knowing when anything likely to lead to it takes place in Mr. Urquhart’s house.”

“Spies, too, upon her.”

“Well, it is not much in France. Here we are accustomed to surveillance, and a little of it more or less is not worth counting.”

Mrs. Lygon could not reply.

“I am happy to see that I convince you. Well, you will go to Paris, and see your admirable sister, and between you, as in the old days, you will strike out some plan for preventing my having the humiliation of so frequently being compelled to remind her of my need.”

“Where am I to send to you?”

“Fear no trouble on that account. A single word on a card, which you can entrust to Mrs. Urquhart’s maid, Henderson, will bring me to any place you may indicate.”

“In the power of the servant, too! I will go to Paris.”

“There will be a train in an hour.”

“I go alone.”

“Assuredly. But shall I not attend you to the station?”

“I prefer to go alone.”

“Money—if one might suggest—”

“I am provided.”

“In that case, our interview is over. The carriage is at the door, where we left it.”

“There is mischief in her head,” said Adair, as Mrs. Lygon drove away.