Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 4/The silver cord - Part 9
THE SILVER CORD.
BY SHIRLEY BROOKS.
|An image should appear at this position in the text.|
If you are able to provide it, see Wikisource:Image guidelines and Help:Adding images for guidance.
The house in the avenue was a handsome one, but the ground-floor was not used by the family of Mr. Urquhart. That portion of the mansion had been appropriated by its tenant to the reception of a chaos of models of bridges, viaducts, and the hundred and one specimens of tentative inventions dear to the civil engineer, the walls being moreover covered with more or less dingy-looking plans, some of which had germinated into grand works that had suddenly called into life the dormant energies of half a dozen previously stagnant provinces—had bridged streams that for centuries had impeded the progress of commerce—had joined in an indissoluble marriage cities that were in a condition of mutual hate or sulkiness, but which, united by science, learned to know and value each other’s abilities. The nursery of these devices was a gloomy one as needed be, and withal a dusty, for what architect or engineer but proclaims an undying war to the domestic broom? It would have been a bad day for the she-menial in Mr. Urquhart’s house when she dared to enter these stern vault-like rooms without his special order. The suite of apartments on the first floor comprised dining and drawing-rooms, and a pretty little boudoir furnished with almost lavish richness. On the next floor were the principal bed-rooms, and at one end of it, and over the boudoir, was the small chamber which Mrs. Lygon had desired might be assigned to herself. The sisters were admitted by Angelique, and in reply to Mrs. Urquhart’s inquiry for Henderson, she was told that the latter had gone out to make some purchases.
The strictest not-at-home order having been given, the sisters were about to go up to the little bed-room, when Mrs. Lygon said:
“See whether my note is not here, Bertha.”
Bertha shook her head, but Mrs. Lygon, passing through the rooms, and glancing at the tables in each, speedily detected the note lying on a chair in the boudoir.
“Here it is, dear,” she said, with a smile.
Bertha looked at her earnestly for a moment, closed her own eyes as if in thought, and then repeated the gesture of disbelief.
“Let us go up-stairs,” she said.
Mrs. Lygon followed her in silence, and they entered the daintily furnished little room, which was adorned with a profusion of the elegant nothingnesses with which a feminine hand can turn a garret into a fairy temple.
“This must be my retreat, dear,” said Mrs. Lygon, seating herself and removing her bonnet and letting her beautiful dark hair fall in masses upon her shoulders. “Now, Bertha, sit down, and let us take counsel, for indeed we need all the wisdom we have, to save us in this peril.”
“And the children, Laura? How selfish you must think me not to have said a word of them.”
“Not a word of them now,” said Mrs. Lygon, with a quivering lip. “They are well. God grant I may be allowed—I tell you we will not speak of them now,” she repeated, struggling with her sobs.
Bertha gazed on her in astonishment, but seated herself as desired, and had there been a third person present the contrasted beauty of the two women would have been a sight worth his recollection on many another day.
“We must not be overheard,” said Mrs. Lygon, rising to close the door.
“Leave the door open, dear. It is always the best way.”
“Where has she been learning that lesson of caution?” thought Mrs. Lygon, returning to her seat, with a melancholy look at her sister.
“I will shut the doors of the further room,” said Bertha.
She did so, and came back, giving a furtive look round the bed-room. The look did not escape Laura, who immediately and suddenly threw back the curtain of the alcove bed.
“What thoughts you put into my head, Bertha,” she said, almost reproachfully.
Bertha smiled—but such a helpless smile!
“Now, Bertha,”said Mrs. Lygon, clearing back her hair from her forehead, and speaking in a firm under-tone, “listen to me. We must bring this persecution to an end.”
“O, if we could,” replied poor Bertha, feebly.
“If we could,” repeated her sister. “It must be done. Whatever price we have to pay for freedom from it, the price must be paid.”
“I told you how I am situated,” said Bertha. “Whatever money—” Mrs. Lygon laid her hand on the hand of Bertha.
“I do not know that I am speaking of money. I wish that money would do, for there is no sacrifice which I would not make to obtain it. But I have the solemn and deliberate assurance from the man’s own mouth that he will not be bought off, and that he prefers exacting a supply from time to time. He distinctly told me that he would never cease to persecute you.”
“I shall die.”
“Bertha,” said Laura, “I will hear no words of folly from you. I have come to France with the determination to save you, if it be possible, and you must not let your terrors and fears get the mastery over you. You must help me. Heaven knows that I shall want all the help I can have, in a struggle with the most detestable wretch, as I believe, in this world. Now, remember what is at stake, and be firm and rational.”
“I wish I had your courage and spirit,” sighed Bertha.
“I have neither courage nor spirit,” said her sister, “except what may have come suddenly to me under the most dreadful pressure. I know myself too well. They will tell you at home—Arthur will tell you, that I am one of the most timid and easily led persons in the world, and that his calm head and strong heart are my stay and support. I say this to you, Bertha dear, because the same cruelty that seems to have given me strength to act ought to do as much for you, and because you must be true to me and to yourself. You will, I know?” she added laying her hand kindly on her sister’s.
“I will do what I can,” said Bertha. “But what either of us is to do is a perfect mystery to me.”
“I do not say that it is much clearer to me,” replied Mrs. Lygon, “but it shall be, before many hours are over. I have heard of a poor stag, driven into a corner by the dogs, becoming desperate and dangerous, and if ever there were a case when two women might defend themselves, it is our case. It must be done.”
“What must,” asked Bertha, astounded at the energy of the sister whom she had known from childhood as the gentle creature she had described herself.
“Whatever will release us, I tell you,” replied Laura, in a low resolved voice.
“You begin to terrify me, Laura. Of what are you dreaming?”
“Dreaming is the right word,” said Laura, slowly. “And we do things in dreams that we should tremble to think of, were we awake. We will call it a dream, but we will dream it out.”
And she sat for some minutes silent and without moving eye or limb.
“Bertha,” she said, after this strange pause, “ours is a case in which the right of self-defence against horrid wickedness leaves us free to use any means which may come to our hands. When honour and happiness, and not only our own honour and happiness, but that of those we love beyond all words, is brought into peril by such a miscreant as that man, I do not believe that anything we may do can be blamed. But let that be as it may, I have decided, or I would not be here, and I will be deterred by no fear, if our one great fear can be ended for ever.”
“I can make you no answer, Laura,” said Bertha, “I feel like a child in your hands.”
“Answer me, then, as truly as a child would, dear. What do you know of his habits and associates?”
They spoke as if there was but one man in the world.
“Not much,” said Bertha. “I see him but seldom.”
“Ever in society?”
“Yes, and in society where I have been surprised to see him.”
“Better than he is entitled to enter?—I mean if he were an honest man instead of what he is.”
“In France, you know, it is not difficult for a gentleman, no matter what his means may be, to mix with a class that in England would not welcome a poor man, unless he were a singer, who came to amuse them, or something of that kind. But there is another class here into which it is very difficult for a man without position to get, and even there I have met him.”
“And well received?”
“Sometimes I have thought not, and then at other times I have seen him received with such marked attention, with almost more than is usual.”
“Do you know any of his intimate friends?”
“Not one. But I think—at least I have an impression, that they belong to an inferior class. I remember one day in particular—we had been driving in the Bois de Boulogne, and for some reason Robert ordered the coachman to go home through some streets I did not know, and so we passed him. He was standing talking and laughing with two villanous-looking men, and had his hand on the shoulder of one of them—they were evidently low persons.”
“Bertha, you know what I said he had told me about your servant.”
“Yes,” said Bertha, uneasily. “It is not so.”
“It is not what, dear?”
“He said—or hinted—at least, you understood him to say that I was in some way in her—her power. You could not have understood him rightly. It is not so.”
“Whether it is so or not,” said Mrs. Lygon, “and we will speak of that presently—whether it is so or not, that girl is in his power.”
“No, no,” said Bertha, hastily. “It is entirely without foundation—I mean your idea. She is a very good, honourable girl, and much attached to me, because I know her goodness.”
“Bertha,” said Mrs. Lygon, calmly, “I fear we shall not be able to work together. You are deceiving me.”
“How? I deceive you, Laura! What do you mean?”
“You are a bad dissembler, Bertha, and I am glad of it. But you are very false to me now. I know that it is so—why not spare me the pain of proving it to you? I can.”
“I do not understand you in the least,” said Bertha, reddening.
“I suppose that my faculties are sharpened by danger,” replied Mrs. Lygon, still preserving her calmness, “or I might not have noticed the uneasy looks which you have been casting that way,”—and she pointed—“while we have been speaking about him.”
Bertha coloured, painfully, to her very hair.
“There,” said her sister, “there ought to be nothing unkind between us. His spy is concealed in that wardrobe. Call her out.”
Mrs. Urquhart burst into tears, and hid her face in her fair hands. Mrs. Lygon rose, and would have opened one of the wings of the piece of furniture in question, when the other opened, and Henderson stepped out.
She did not say a word upon the subject of her concealment, but, dropping a respectful curtsey to Mrs. Lygon, went over to the toilette-table, took a bottle of perfume, and brought it to her mistress, at the same time giving her a handkerchief, and, in short, tending her in as orderly a manner as if it were in obedience to a regular summons. Having done this, the girl was about to leave the room, when Mrs. Lygon stopped her.
“I wish to speak to you, with your mistress’s permission,” said Laura.
Henderson was all respectful attention.
“In an English village,” said Mrs. Lygon, addressing her in a grave, kind tone, “there live an old couple who gave their daughter an education above her station, because they loved her better than she deserved. They had her taught French, and otherwise made her fit to be a lady’s trusted attendant. They hope, some day, to see her again in their village, and to kiss her as the wife of some good, honest man—perhaps they hope to see her children growing up around them. It will be bad news for the old father, and worse for the old mother, when they hear that their daughter has become a street-walker in France.”
Henderson’s black eyes flashed out with fire at the last words, and her plebeian face became elevated in expression by the manifestation of her genuine indignation.
“It is false, Madame,” she said, passionately.
Mrs. Lygon took her seat, and, sorely constraining her nature, forced her beautiful mouth into a smile of as much contempt as she could manage to assume.
The smile stung the girl to the quick, as it was intended to do.
“It is false,” she repeated, “wickedly false. You may sit there smiling, Madame, but it is false.”
Mrs. Lygon remained silent.
It was the best course, for in a moment or two the girl flung herself upon her knees in a passion of tears.
“You will not go and say that in Brading, Madame. I am sure you will not. For you do not believe it, though you say it. Perhaps it has been told you,” she added, her eyes again flashing through her tears. “You have seen somebody who has told you that, and he is a villain incarnate.”
A throb of pleasure—no, of hope—passed through Mrs. Lygon’s frame, and sent the blood to her forehead. But she retained her self-command.
Henderson continued to sob.
“It is false, false,” she repeated, swaying herself about.
“You had better leave the room,” said Laura. “I have said all that I wish to say to you.”
“Never, Madame,—I swear that I will not go from the room, nor rise from this floor, until you tell me that you will not carry such a story as that with you to England. Say you do not believe it, and indeed you may.”
Mrs. Lygon pointed to the closet whence Henderson had come.
“Yes, yes, Madame—dear Mrs. Lygon—yes, that was bad, wickedly bad in me, and you must despise and loathe me for it, and you are right to do it. But not the other—it is not true. I swear it is not true,” she said, clasping her hands with energy.
Need it be said that the Laura of England would have long since raised the girl from her knees, comforted her for the terrible word, and said what woman should say to woman, wrongfully accused. But not so the Laura of France. She had her own to hold against a deadly enemy.
“Do you think,” she said, coldly, “that the word of a bad servant girl is to be taken against the word of a gentleman?”
Fire to powder. The girl sprang to her feet, clenched her hands, and was impotent to speak, through the potency of her rage.
Mrs. Lygon eyed her with a stern satisfaction. As for Bertha, she merely sat with her handkerchief to her face. It was one of the situations in which very weak people are simply out of court.
“The word of a gentleman,” repeated Henderson, as soon as she could find utterance. “The word of a gentleman. No, Mrs. Lygon, he may wear fine clothes and go among fine people, as Madame has said” (she was far too frantically in earnest to think of affecting hesitation to use what she had heard) “but he is not a gentleman, and you gave him his rightful name when you called him by the blackest name you could put your tongue to. And yet you would believe him sooner than me because he is called a gentleman by those who do not know him. No, you will not, Mrs. Lygon, I know you will not!”
Henderson, thoroughly roused, came over to Mrs. Lygon, and again fell on her knees beside Laura’s chair—actually ventured lightly to touch her hand. Had Laura played out her part thoroughly, she would have snatched away her hand as from contamination, but she did not do it, and the girl uttered a cry of triumph.
“Ah! you don’t believe it—you do not, Madame, or you would not have let me do that; and if you ought to have believed it, never would I have dared. God bless you, Mrs. Lygon! God bless you! though it is not for me to say such a word.”
And then came more tears.
“Mary Henderson,” said Mrs. Lygon, and then the impetuous girl interrupted her, rising, however, and retreating to a decorous distance.
“Thank you, Madame, for letting me hear my own rightful name again. My name is Mary, and it was a bad time when I was fool enough to change it.”
“Listen, then, Mary. You assure me, on the solemn word of a girl of character, that there is no ground for my believing you worse than you have shown yourself to-day?”
The girl clasped her hands together, and assented with a vehement oath, which, it being in the nature of an ordeal, might perhaps be pardoned, but need not be set down.
“I shall return to England almost immediately, and I shall visit Brading soon after. I should have been glad to carry back an account of you which would make the hearts of your parents rejoice. But that you have made impossible.”
“But I will make it possible, Madame,” cried Henderson, eagerly. “If you will let me, Madame, I will make it quite possible,—I mean if you will graciously let bye-gones be bye-gones. I know it is a bold thing to ask; but when a girl has been called a dreadful name—and I know, Madame, that it was put into your mouth, and let him that put it there look well to his comings and goings—”
Mrs. Lygon held up a finger.
“I beg your pardon, Madame,” said Henderson, humbly, “for my low and dirty action. That is its right name.”
“It is of your mistress that you should ask pardon,” said Mrs. Lygon, watching earnestly the effect of the words, and pained, though not surprised, to see that the idea of Bertha’s displeasure did not seem to impress the mind of her servant.
“And I do so, I’m sure,” said Mary Henderson, but far less submissively than Mrs. Lygon deemed proper.
“I do not wish to hear anything,” said Bertha, overcome by the whole scene, and helplessly shaking her handkerchief, as if to wave away all appeal.
“And as I say, Madame,” continued Henderson, again addressing herself to Mrs. Lygon, “if bye-gones might be bye-gones, and never shall they be repeated by me, and you would let me make amends, I can do something, and may be more than a little, in bringing to you some knowledge which you wish to have.”
“What kind of knowledge?” asked Mrs. Lygon, quietly.
“Ah! yes, Madame. That is indeed like a lady—that is truly good in you to take me at my word, and let byegones be byegones at once, and forget what I was doing just now. But it is me that must remember them against myself,” said the girl, with a more softened expression of face than her features had seemed capable of wearing. “I won’t say more than becomes me, but you ladies wish to know something about a man whom you hate, as I was going to say, but that I ought not to say to ladies. But I hate him,” she added, with a look that left no doubt of her meaning, “and if I can do anything to bring a house upon his head, down it comes. And if I may not do it on account of others, I will do it on my own.”
“I cannot say that your anger is wrong, Mary,” said Mrs. Lygon.
“Indeed it is not, Madame,” returned the girl, “and when I think what might have been the consequences, if you had gone back to England believing that wicked lie”—
[Which, it will be remembered, Ernest Adair had never uttered.]
“I could drive my nails into my hands, Madame. But I will have my revenge for my good name.”
“I can hear nothing about your revenge, Mary. Try to live so that all who know you may discredit anything that may be said against you.”
“And I will, Madame. But I will have my revenge first, begging your pardon for naming it again.”
“Well, now, Mary, suppose you go down stairs. I shall have something to say to you presently, but I must first have some conversation with your mistress.”
And Mary withdrew, with a look which, while directed towards Laura, was chiefly expressive of a sort of grim gratitude, but which, as the girl turned to go, spoke most distinctly of a savage determination to wreak her wrong.
“Help comes when we least expect it, Bertha dear,” said her sister, as soon as Mary had emphatically closed the most distant of the doors.
“I have no idea what you mean to do,” said Mrs. Urquhart, who really seemed bewildered by the scene she had witnessed.
“No, I suppose not,” said Mrs. Lygon.
“But you ought to be very careful,” said Bertha, wisely.
“And I will,” returned her sister. “Trust me, dear. Would you order something to be sent up to me, for I am growing rather faint, and let Henderson bring it?”
“Certainly, dear. I ought to have thought of it sooner.”
People of Bertha’s temperament have, it may be remarked, a habit of forgetting to think of the possible wants and comforts of others, but easily forgive themselves for what they euphuistically call absence of mind—some people save a good deal of trouble and expense by that convenient furlough. However, Mary Henderson’s zeal made up for any slackness on the part of her mistress, and Mrs. Lygon was tended with the utmost care and consideration. Henderson had much to tell her, and something to hear from her.
But Bertha herself was doomed that day to sustain, single-handed, an interview of a far more embarrassing character. To sit and witness her sister’s triumph, in the conversion of a hostile spy into a useful ally, was not an exertion that drew much upon her mental resources; but, about two hours later, and while deeply musing upon the questions whether she should dress for dinner that night, and if so, what dress she should wear, Angelique brought in the card of Mr. Lygon.
Mrs. Urquhart’s mind, suddenly recalled from her toilette, was in such a state of bewilderment that she had already issued the slightly contradictory orders to admit him, and to say that she was in the country, when she found herself holding his hand, and declaring how glad she was to see him.
Arthur Lygon was in no mood to be critical upon his reception. He had hurried to Versailles, and thought only of again seeing Laura. He scarcely allowed his hostess time to falter out her welcome.
“And where is Laura?”
Poor Bertha strove to put on a surprised air, and, with a heightened colour, was about to reply, when Arthur’s kind feeling, united with his eagerness to meet his wife, hastened to save her from embarrassment.
“My dear Bertha,” he said, taking her hand, and speaking low, “there is no need for any attempt at secresy. If I had been trusted sooner, I might have saved and been saved from great pain. But nothing need be said, dear, but this. Certain things—they need not be recalled”—and he looked away from her as he spoke—“have come to my knowledge, and my only complaint, as I have said, is that I was not trusted. Now, I have no complaint to make—I know all.”
With a gentleman’s instinct, and in order to give his sister-in-law time to recover from the effect of such a communication, Lygon, pressing her hand kindly, crossed the room, looked from the window for a moment, and said:
“She is here, I suppose?” and he entered the little boudoir.
No, Laura was not there; but on the table was the note which she had sent to Mrs. Urquhart, announcing her arrival in Paris, and upon the writing the husband’s eye immediately fell. He snatched it up, and smiled as he read it, and returned to the drawing-room.
Bertha was gone. Perhaps the best thing for the weak creature to do was to fly.
He was not surprised. For he had been pondering, of course, over the information which he had received, and it was by no means a pleasant thing to have to apprise a woman, who had hitherto been unsuspected by him, that he knew of the errors of her early life. He was glad to have cut the knot in the abrupt way he had done so, and he concluded that though Bertha would not remain to continue such a conversation, she had gone to communicate it to Laura, who, in another minute, ought to be in the room.
Three minutes elapsed—perhaps five—and then, regardless of all the conventionalities, Mr. Lygon ran into the dining-room, and, finding no Laura there, mounted the staircase leading to the bed-rooms.
“Can she be afraid to meet me,” he said, “Laura afraid of me!”
And he opened the first door that he reached, half expecting to find Bertha and her sister crying together, and one urging the other to lose no time in coming down.
No, the room, Mrs. Urquhart’s, was untenanted.
His hand was on a second handle, when Mary Henderson stopped him.
“Mr. Lygon, sir. That is my room.”
“Ah, Henderson, how do you do. Where is Mrs. Lygon?”
The girl’s quick eye saw that he held his wife’s note in his hand, and her quick brain instantly suggested that it was useless to affect surprise at his words.
“Why, did you not meet her, sir?”
“Meet her—where, where?” said Arthur.
“Which way could you have come, sir?”
“Straight from the railway.”
“Ah, but which?”
“How should I know. What do you mean? Is Mrs Lygon—— Stop. Don’t be surprised, Henderson, but——”
Surprised or not, she saw the excited Lygon, breaking off short in his speech, rush in succession to each of the doors on that floor, and look into the rooms. He hastily penetrated into the little bed-room in which five minutes earlier he would have found his wife.
But she was no longer there.
Bertha had flown to Laura with his name upon her tongue, and the latter, certain that he would be stayed by no obstacle, had darted down a second staircase, Bertha following, but managing to say a word to Henderson, scarcely needed by her.
“Mr. Lygon, sir, if you would only listen.”
“Where is your mistress?”
“In the drawing-room, sir.”
“She is not.”
“She went there, sir, directly Mrs. Lygon went out.”
“Where is Mrs. Lygon,” demanded Arthur.
“Mrs. Lygon has only gone into Paris for the evening. I thought that you would have met her at the train, but whether she went by the right bank or left bank I am not sure, and you do not know which you came from.”
“What do you say about the evening—where is she gone?”
“I—I am not sure, but Madame knows.”
Again Arthur Lygon had searched the rooms, but the result may be imagined.
“Mrs. Urquhart must be in the house,” he said, sternly, “and I must see her. Find her, Henderson.”
“But she was here ten minutes ago,” said Henderson.
“Where’s Mr. Urquhart?”
“He is away from Paris, sir, there has been a railway accident, and he was sent for.”
“Find your mistress.”
He paced the apartments in a state of mind which may need no description.
“I cannot find Mrs. Urquhart,” said Henderson, after delaying as long as she thought was safe. “I have not seen her since she said good-bye to Mrs. Lygon, and Angelique believed her to be here, as she was when you came in.”
“Has she taken flight, too?” said Lygon, in passion.
Henderson was silent, the remark not being addressed directly to her.
“Do you say that Mrs. Lygon is expected here again to-night,” he said, in a calmer voice.
Henderson, left without directions, scarcely knew what to say. If she replied in the affirmative, Mr. Lygon, evidently an unwelcome guest, would naturally desire to remain and await his wife’s return. As contrary answer would make him still more determined to see Mrs. Urquhart. So, rejecting fiction altogether, she resolved on adhering to the truth, and stating that she did not know. This left him to decide for himself.
“Bertha might well desire to keep out of the way,” he said to himself, “after what I had said to her. It would be strange if she did not. But why could she not have spoken of Laura? However, I am on her traces now, and I will not lose them again.”
He put a variety of ordinary questions to Henderson, as to the time of his wife’s arrival, the room she occupied, and her state of health, and then, dismissing the girl, he wrote a brief note to Mrs. Urquhart, in which he begged her to let him know when Laura was expected back, and her address in Paris.
“Get this into Mrs. Urquhart’s hand as soon as you can,” he said, “and if you have the answer ready for me when I call again in half an hour, this shall be doubled.” He put a gold coin into her hand as he spoke, and went out.
But Mary Henderson had no opportunity of earning the additional wage which he had offered. The sisters were fairly away from the avenue, and Bertha had led Laura through an obscure part of the town, and into a quarter where an English stranger was not at all likely to penetrate. Nor for many gold coins would Mary Henderson, under the influences which then guided her, have done anything which could offend or embarrass Mrs. Lygon.
Arthur Lygon walked rapidly hither and thither, in the neighbourhood of the house, and though irritated almost beyond bounds at the chance, as he thought, that had prevented his meeting Laura, did not entertain an idea that she was voluntarily hiding from him. The girl had played her part so naturally and promptly, that Lygon had no cause for suspicion, while the disappearance of Mrs. Urquhart was easily accounted for. But he made his half hour a short one, and soon had his hand again on the bell.
“I am sorry to say, sir, that I have not been able to find Madame. How or when she could have gone out, I cannot think, but she is certainly not in the house.”
“She must come in sooner or later,” said Lygon. “I will wait for her.”
“Very well, sir.”
“Will any one be here to dinner?”
“No, sir,” said Henderson, quickly. “Madame dined very early, with Mrs. Lygon.
“I shall wait.”
He re-entered the drawing-room, and the faithful Henderson retired to consider how this new difficulty could be met. It was evident to her mind that neither of the ladies would return to the house while they thought Mr. Lygon was there. But where could they go? and how inconvenient to have to hurry out into the miserable Versailles. Perhaps, though, they might actually have departed for Paris. But then, what was to be done with Lygon?
A brilliant thought flashed upon her mind, and in another minute she, too, had left the house.
Lygon paraded the rooms in irritation, and yet scarcely knew how to affix blame anywhere. Accident had gone against him. But it is small consolation, in trouble, to have nobody to blame.
He had passed another hour in this state of mind—which made the period seem treble its length—when Mary came in again, in haste.
“A young man, sir, has come with a message.”
“From whom?” said Arthur, eagerly.
“From Madame. Enter, Monsieur Silvain.”
Arthur Lygon had not much attention to bestow upon the small, wiry-looking, intelligent Frenchman thus introduced, but at once demanded his news.
In brief, which was not the way M. Silvain told it (for he wished to distinguish himself in the eyes of his mistress), M. Silvain had been at the railway terminus, inquiring after some perfumery which he had ordered from Paris, when Madame Urquhart, to whom he was well known, had called him to her, and had requested him immediately to present himself at her house, and acquaint the strange gentleman from England that she had gone to Paris, following the strange gentleman’s wife, and that he was, if he pleased, to come on to Paris also, and a letter should be sent to him, to the Hotel Marie, Boulevard des Capucins, telling him where to find them. M. Silvain was desolated not to have been able to come sooner, but his perfumery had not arrived, and he had been obliged to send a special messenger after it.
It was a well-learned story, but what is the use of a lover if he cannot learn anything his mistress orders! It was a bold falsehood, but what is the use of an ally who is timid? At any rate it sent Mr. Lygon away from Versailles.