Skin o' My Tooth/The Case of Major Gibson
III.—THE CASE OF MAJOR GIBSON.
I HAVE always wondered why Skin o' my Tooth was so unpopular in his own profession. He had very few friends among his colleagues, but those he had were certainly very staunch. I have heard it said that his ways were "unprofessional"; certain it is that he avoided actual litigation for his clients whenever that was possible—I suppose that would be called unprofessional.
Personally, I never met a man of such varying moods. Over that Swanborough murder Case he was alert, uncanny, and irritatingly active; over Major Gibson's case he always looked as if he were going to sleep, and as if any trashy French novel were more interesting than the honour of his client.
Now, I remember when Major Gibson first called upon him and told him his story, I thought to myself: "Here's the prettiest kettle of fish that ever Skin o' my Tooth had placed before him." He was a good-looking man, this Major Gibson; but the day he called at the office he looked as white as a ghost. He began by saying that unless Mr. Mulligan would help him, he had made all arrangements for committing suicide.
I could see that he did not quite know how to begin—Skin o' my Tooth did not evidently come up to the imaginary portrait the gallant Major's imagination had drawn for himself. I must say that my esteemed chief looked particularly fat, pink, and inane that morning.
"I always like to hear the story from the beginning," he said, as he quietly—without asking his client's leave—lighted a huge German long-stemmed pipe. For a moment I thought that the Major was going to make an ass of himself and leave the room, and go and commit suicide, sooner than tell his tale to an ill-mannered Irish lawyer; but he was in a tight hole, and he kept his temper.
"About a month ago," he began at last very abruptly, "I was staying at Belcher Hall, Mr. Everard's place in Rutlandshire. There was a good deal of gambling going on there in the evenings—I am not a rich man; I disapprove—on principle—of playing games of hazard; nevertheless, I played and lost one night——"
"Dates, please, wherever possible," interrupted Skin o' my Tooth quietly.
"October 18th, 1901," said Major Gibson, whilst I, knowing what would be expected of me presently, made as rapid shorthand notes as my imperfect training would allow. "At about 11 p.m. I at last left the baccarat-table at Belcher Hall, with my last possible cheque on my current account drawn to bearer, and promissory notes amounting to close on £8,000 in the hands of various gentlemen, my fellow-guests in the hospitable mansion of Belcher Hall. I must say that Everard was exceedingly nice to me later on in the billiard-room, when we had a smoke and a drink together. I was a fool, and mistook his kind words for genuine sympathy; I admitted to him that I had lost a great deal more than I could possibly afford, and that there was nothing for it but I must exchange into some Indian regiment, and put off my proposed marriage until I had in some measure retrieved my heavy losses, or if the lady were unwilling to wait, to give her back her word and her liberty. I think Everard must have understood how hard this would be to me. Only a month ago I had become engaged to his wife's niece, Miss Marion Sutcliffe, to whom I was passionately attached. I am not a young man, and I do not fall in and out of love as quickly as some of my contemporaries."
He broke off abruptly; evidently the subject of Miss Marion was still a sore one.
"How long did the interview last—with Mr. Everard, I mean?" asked Skin o' my Tooth quietly.
"At twelve o'clock precisely I left him, intending to go to bed; but as I knew that I should find it very difficult to get to sleep, I strolled into the library, a beautiful room on the ground floor, with deep-mullioned windows, I meant to get a book and then to retire to my bedroom. I remember that the room was quite dark when I went in, as the heavy curtains had been drawn closely across the deep window-recesses. As I did not know where and how to switch on the electric light, I went up to one of the windows, meaning to draw the curtains aside and to let a flood of moonlight into the room. But the garden looked so fine and poetic, and I felt so moody and wretched, that, quite contrary to my usual habits, I sat down in one of the deep window-seats and stared out, mooning, thinking of nothing in particular, into the garden before me. How long I remained there, I cannot tell you. Certain it is that suddenly I became aware that someone was in the library besides myself. I had nob heard the door open or shut, and I did not know who the someone was. I only inferred that it was a lady, for I could hear the rustle of a silk gown against the parquet floor as she, in her turn, went up to one of the windows."
Major Gibson paused a moment here, giving me time for the space of thirty seconds at least to stretch out my cramped muscles. Skin o' my Tooth had not said a word; he was looking down at the meerschaum bowl of his long-stemmed pipe, whilst a coy and gentle smile played round the fat corners of his mouth. Major Gibson passed his hand across his forehead once or twice; I know that he was cursing himself for the fool he had been at 1 a.m. on the memorable night of October 18th, 1901.
"I can assure you," he said at last, "that nothing in particular crossed my mind when I heard the rustle of that silk dress, and certainly the next moment I should have made my presence known to the midnight wanderer; but just then I happened to have my head turned towards the garden, and to have caught sight of the figure of a man cautiously making his way towards the library windows, whilst keeping as much as possible within the shadow of the trees. A second later I had beard a gentle whistle, the window furthest from the one in which I was sitting was opened, then shut, and I realised that the most discreet and prudent thing I could now do was to keep as quiet as I possibly could for the present, and if I were detected later on, to feign a deep and uninterrupted sleep."
"Discreet and prudent," commented Skin o' my Tooth, with a smile. "It is strange how we all differ in the meaning of those two words."
"I am wise, too, now, after the event," retorted Major Gibson a little impatiently, "At the time I did not think I was doing the slightest harm either to myself or to the two who were having this clandestine meeting at this extraordinary hour. Remember, the room was quite dark; the man, whoever he was, had evidently slipped through the window, and no one had drawn the curtains. I heard some hurried whispers, then the man spoke impatiently. 'Have you brought them, anyway?' What the lady replied, I could not hear, but it was evidently satisfactory, for be said quite loudly: 'That's all right—let's have a look.' I remember, it struck me at the time that the midnight interview did not seem particularly tender. It came very soon to an end, too. Curiosity is supposed to be a feminine vice, but I can assure you that at that moment I was positively devoured with curiosity as to who the lady was who could thus risk the whole edifice of her social position for the sake of some individual who was evidently unscrupulous and obviously was none too tender. I again heard the rustle of the dress: the lady was returning to her own room, leaving the man to find his way out alone. I put one finger on the curtain, hoping to catch a glimpse of her, but I only saw the shimmer of a green silk train, as a ray of moonbeam caught it, when she glided out of the room.
"I remembered all the ladies who were staying in the house; I had seen them in the drawing-room before that miserable baccarat party. I remembered, too, that Mrs. Everard, our beautiful hostess, who is very fair, wore a magnificent green satin gown. I also remembered that Marion—my Marion—Mrs. Everard's niece, had looked bewitching in a clinging green frock with a long train. Of course, Marion was out of the question—you will understand that, won't you?-the very thought was preposterous, but Mrs. Everard, my friend's wife, young, pretty-I assure you my head was in a whirl. I had not moved. I had forgotten the man, until a flood of brilliant light startled me from my dream. I pushed aside the curtains. Immediately beneath one of the electric light brackets, which he had evidently just switched on, a man was standing with his back to me; he was examining intently something which he held in his hand. My instinct was to knock him down then and there, like the foul thief he was; but I suppose I must have made a noise when I crossed the room, for he turned before I could reach him. I then saw what he held in his hand. It was the necklet of pearls and diamonds which I had before now seen round Mrs. Everard's neck.
"I really don't think," continued Major Gibson after another little pause, "that I can tell you exactly what happened after that. All I can remember is that I had him on the floor, and that I would have killed him if he had not at last reluctantly given me back that necklet."
"It did not strike you that it might be best to ring for some of the servants, and to give him in charge like the thief he was?" asked Skin o' my Tooth after a while, during which he was contemplating the unfortunate Major through his half-closed lids.
"I thought of it for a moment—but——"
"But you did not do it?"
"Because he swore to make a scandal if I denounced him, I had not seen the woman, and I was not sure; but there on the floor, close to the door, was a bunch of pink roses which I had given to Marion a few hours ago."
"I see," said Skin o' my Tooth, with a smile. There was silence in the room for a time, whilst I had a chance of cracking my knuckles, which were horribly stiff and cramped.
"I think I can guess what happened after that," said Skin o' my Tooth, at last taking the pipe out of his mouth. The Major did not reply, and he went on: "You sent the thief about his business, and you yourself were discovered five minutes later with that necklet in your hand, unable or unwilling to give an account as to how you had come by it."
Major Gibson nodded moodily.
"I met Everard just outside the library. He caught sight of the necklet in my hand, even before he had recovered from his surprise at finding me there at that hour. He asked me for an explanation. I could give him none—that is to say, I gave him one as near to the truth as I dared, which he, of course, disbelieved. I gave him back the necklet, and he told me at what hour I could get a train back to town. He was supposed to be a friend of mine, but he thought me guilty. You see, he knew how heavily I had lost at cards. I had myself told him that I was sore pressed for money, and might have to break off my engagement, and even leave for India——"
"Will you tell me what lie—I mean explanation—you did give Mr. Everard?" interrupted Skin o' my Tooth quietly.
"I told him that on going into the library late at night, to fetch a book, I had found a man there with Mrs. Everard's necklace in his hand. That I succeeded in getting the necklace from him, but that he, in his turn, succeeded in getting away through the window."
"He naturally asked you why you did not raise an alarm?"
"And also whether you would recognise the supposed thief if you saw him again? Quite so. Your replies not being very lucid, he drew his own conclusions. But forgive my interrupting you. You have not quite finished, I think?"
"I haven't much more to tell you. It appears that the ladies went up to their rooms soon after twelve, the men staying down in the billiard-room, to smoke. But at last everyone retired, and Everard himself was about to do the same, when his wife—fully dressed still—met him on the stairs, with the news that one of her most valuable necklaces had been stolen. She was putting away the jewels which she had just been wearing, when she noticed that one of the cases was empty. Everard persuaded her to go back to her room, and he himself started on a tour of inspection round the house."
"And met you?"
"And met me, as you say."
"Then is that all you have to tell me?"
"That is all. Everard was up in time to see me before I left in the morning—he and Lord Combermury, the colonel of my regiment. Both tried to persuade me to confess, and promised as an inducement, that if I made a clean breast of it to them, and agreed to exchange into some Native regiment and to break off my engagement with Miss Sutcliffe, the whole matter should be hushed up."
"And you promised——?"
"I promised nothing."
"The result being——?"
"That the scandal has gone the round of the town. I have been requested to hand in my papers, and in my clubs it has been strongly hinted to me that I should be turned out unless I succeeded in clearing my character."
"And so far you have not attempted to mention the lady's name?"
"Would I not be branded as a worse blackguard than before, for slandering a woman in order to try and save my own skin? And I was not sure, remember. I did not know who the lady was."
"Have you any conviction now?"
The Major hesitated a moment, then he said quietly—
There was silence in the room for a long time after that. The Major was staring moodily into the fire, and Skin o' my Tooth was puffing away at his old German pipe, smiling gently to himself. Presently he began to hum a tune, and he looked so coy, and fat, and comfortable, no wonder he jarred upon the unfortunate Major's nerves.
"Well, sir?" said the latter at last very irritably.
Skin o' my Tooth smothered a yawn.
"I was waiting," he said.
"To hear what you are going to do."
Here the Major swore vigorously.
"Do you think I should be here now," he said, "if I knew? The few friends I have got left advise a slander action, and I have come to consult you, as someone has told me that you were the ablest man in London in cases of this sort."
"That 'someone' no doubt said to you that you had a jolly bad case, and required an unscrupulous devil like Patrick Mulligan to pull you through," remarked Skin o' my Tooth drily.
I could see from the deep red on the Major's bronzed cheek that my esteemed employer had guessed right.
Skin o' my Tooth settled himself within the depths of his large, shabby, leather arm-chair. He smothered another yawn with an attempt at politeness. He looked, in fact, as if he were getting very tired of the whole thing, and longed to get to his favourite French novel, the yellow paper cover of which was even now protruding from one of the pockets of his ill-fitting coat.
"A slander action in this case would be a very ticklish matter," he said at last. "Mr. Everard, against whom, I suppose, you would enter it, would plead justification, and you must own that the circumstances of the case are decidedly in his favour. He finds you in a very ambiguous position, and the explanations you give are terribly lame. You might get 'damages one farthing,' which would do you more harm than good, and effectually kill the last shreds of reputation you have got left. But there is one thing, of course, which can put you right, and that is a confession from the lady."
"Is it likely——"
"I think so. You have come to me for advice. It is the only one I can give. Some of my more eminent colleagues would no doubt suggest an action. But these same eminent gentlemen will tell you that Patrick Mulligan has no reputation to mar. His ways are tortuous, his means unscrupulous. Perhaps they are right. Are you willing to adopt these ways and means and follow my advice unreservedly? You will scrape through this hole by the skin of your teeth, I tell you, but I will pledge the evil reputation I have got that we'll obtain a confession from the unknown lady."
"It would have to be a public one now, I am afraid, to do me any good."
"It will be sufficient. I give you my—— No! I won't give you my word; it wouldn't be much good to you; but ask the most disreputable character in the London slums when Skin o' my Tooth has said 'I'll do it,' whether he is the man to break his word."
No wonder the Major looked a new man. I have seen many a poor chap look like that when once they have had a square talk with Skin o' my Tooth. By Gosh! but he knows how to carry conviction with him; when he talks to a client or to the jury, it's all the same—they run after him like a pack of sheep.
"And now, my dear Major," he concluded, "which day will it be convenient for you to meet Mr. Everard?"
"Meet Everard?" gasped the Major. "I wouldn't care to——"
"Sir," said Skin o' my Tooth, with his gentle smile, "just now I used the word 'unreservedly.' I will not move in this matter unless I possess your entire confidence."
The Major hesitated no longer. Skin o' my Tooth was his last straw.
"You do what you think best," he said doggedly; "but Everard will refuse."
"Wednesday next, shall we say, at 3 p.m.? That will suit you? Muggins, make a note of that."
"Everard will refuse," repeated the Major.
"I think not," said Skin o' my Tooth, with a smile. "Have I your permission to proceed——"
"As you will."
"And you place yourself unreservedly in my hands?"
For one brief second the Major hesitated, while his sharp, clear, honest eyes scanned quickly the fat, unwieldy figure huddled up in the armchair, the sleepy eyes with their drooping lids, the ill-fitting, shiny black coat, with that yellow-backed French novel protruding from its pocket.
Skin o' my Tooth sat there, with that coy smile of his playing round the corners of his mouth.
Then the Major, with a sudden, frank gesture, put out his hand and said firmly:
"Muggins, show the Major out," said my chief, with sudden, obvious alacrity.
When I came back—having shown Major Gibson downstairs—I found Skin o' my Tooth absorbed in his French novel. I waited for awhile; then, as he did not speak, I asked at last: "What am I to do now, sir?"
"Nothing, my boy, nothing," he said airily. "Confine yourself to not being an ass for the rest of the afternoon; that will always be something accomplished. 'In the meanwhile, you can hand me down 'Burke's Landed Gentry' from that shelf."
I gave him the book he wanted.
Then he added: "By the way, Muggins, copy out your notes on a sheet of parchment and engross them neatly. We may require them in that form later on."
Mr. Everard, strange to say, was willing enough to meet Major Gibson and his solicitor, and talk the matter over amicably if possible. I fancy he is a decent enough sort of man, and was only too ready to see the end of this unfortunate business; moreover, I don't suppose that he, either, cared to take his chances of defending a slander action. If by any chance Major Gibson did succeed in making his case good, he would get such thundering damages as even Mr. Everard—rich as he was—would not care to pay. It was finally arranged that Major Gibson, accompanied by Mr. Patrick Mulligan and myself, should be at Mr. Everard's house in Park Lane on Wednesday at 3.30 p.m. Of course, Mr. Everard's solicitor would be present; also Lord Combermury, and—by the special request of Major Gibson, as represented by Mr. Mulligan—Mrs. Everard and Miss Marion Sutcliffe.
I had not the least idea, of course, what Skin o' my Tooth was up to, but the whole of that morning, while he was reading his French novel, I saw him smile to himself with that funny, coy, and gentle smile which always meant mischief to his adversaries.
I remember feeling at that interview very like a character in a French play. Everyone wore a frock-coat—except myself. Skin o' my Tooth's was very shabby, and fitted him badly, and from one of the pockets a yellow-backed book protruded very conspicuously.
We were shown into a fine dining-room, oak-panelled, magnificently furnished. There was a large fire in the big open grate, and the two ladies, when we came in (I did not know which was Mrs. Everard and which Miss Sutcliffe), were sitting close beside it.
Skin o' my Tooth put down his hat and drew from his pocket the notes I had made, and carefully copied out and engrossed, of Major Gibson's case. This be placed on a little side-table which stood close to the mantelpiece. Then all the gentlemen sat down round the large dining-table, and the fun began.
Skin o' my Tooth started talking very quietly, wondering all the time what he was driving at, and how he hoped to benefit the unfortunate Major by this extraordinary comedy; but he went on talking, and I must confess that never in my life had I heard such a fine string of lies so magnificently uttered.
"I must thank you, ladies and gentlemen," he said, "for so kindly acceding to my client's request. He felt, as I do—as you will, I am sure—that nothing could be more deplorable than the dragging of this unfortunate affair before the public. Major Gibson has been—quite involuntarily, I feel confident, but still grossly—maligned. I will ask you, gentlemen, not to interrupt me just now; you can have your fling at us later on; for the, present you must allow me to state positively that Major Gibson is not only absolutely innocent of this ugly charge of theft proffered against him, but is even now the victim of a code of honour as chivalrous as it is misdirected."
Skin o' my Tooth then, with perfect suavity, started a highly coloured account of the incidents in the library at Belcher Hall, as related to him by Major Gibson. The moonlit garden, the dark room, the rustle of the silk skirt, the clandestine meeting. Of the half-dozen people there present, every one of them—except myself—did their best to try and stop him, to sneer at him; ejaculations, muttered in a whisper, broke out from every side. The ladies looked indescribably shocked and witheringly contemptuous. Mr. Everard looked ready to knock Skin o' my Tooth down, and his legal adviser talked of "extraordinary allegations," of "slander," and "thumping damages." But Skin o' my Tooth sailed serenely on. When the interruptions became too loud, he shouted louder, and that was all.
"Now, gentlemen," he said, "when you have quite done calling me a liar, I can get on all right. I don't blame you. I don't even mind telling you that I called Major Gibson a liar myself when I first heard his tale. You see, he kept telling me that he had no proof, no witnesses to corroborate what he had said. Now, I am not one for believing that there is ever a truth without any proof; and when my client left me, I said to myself there must be some proof, some witness somewhere. Major Gibson did not recognise the lady. Good! But in that large house and grounds of Belcher Hall, full to overflowing with visitors and servants, someone—I cared not who—must have seen that unknown woman in the green gown, or that man; some trace somewhere would be left of her passage or his, some sign, some indication, whether traced by man or by Fate."
Gradually, as he spoke, I noticed that the attitude of his hearers had become considerably modified. There were no interruptions now, no whispered comments. Mr. Everard and the legal gentleman hung upon my chief's words. The Major himself looked as if suddenly a bright vista of hope had been opened before him. As for the ladies, one looked pale and breathless, while the other, leaning back in her chair, kept up that air of dignified hauteur which some English ladies know how to wear when certain matters which they deem objectionable are discussed before them. In fact, when Skin o' my Tooth paused for a moment and began fumbling in his pockets as if in search of something, this same haughty lady said quietly: "Do you not think, Archibald, that in view of the matters which—er—Mr.—er—Mulligan sees fit to discuss here, I and my niece had better go?"
"I beg a thousand pardons," said Skin o' my Tooth urbanely. "I have finished, I assure you. Please do not go. The matter will interest you both. Have I your permission to proceed? Many thanks. It is not necessary, I think, for me to dwell here upon the ways and means I employed on behalf of my client. You may imagine that I left no stone unturned."
I was literally gasping, I can tell you. I am a pretty good liar myself on occasions. I would not enjoy Skin o' my Tooth's confidence if I were not. But I had to humbly confess to myself that in face of Skin o' my Tooth's last assertion with regard to those stones, which to my certain knowledge were made of paper and were all yellow-backed, I was only a bungling botcher. But what I could not make out was what all his fumbling in his coat-pockets meant. I thought that he was looking for the notes, which I had written out so neatly, and which he had placed on the little side-table close to the mantelpiece. Not a bit of it. When I made a movement to get them for, him, he looked at me, and I understood that I had better sit still and wait.
"I am quite sure," continued Skin o' my Tooth, after a dramatic little pause, during which I noticed that his whole bulky figure seemed as it were to crouch ready for a spring, "that you will understand what a glorious day it was for me and for my client, Major Gibson, when at last my strenuous efforts were crowned with success. No, ladies and gentlemen! I was not mistaken. In that densely populated, magnificent mansion I had unearthed a man who, on that memorable night, was present near enough to the library of Belcher Hall to see the mysterious lady in the green gown give Mrs. Everard's necklace to an unknown thief. This man saw the whole scene from beginning to end. Reasons which I will explain to you presently, but which seemed paramount to him, forced him to silence, until I compelled him to speak. He saw and would know again the man who, like a thief in the night, bullied, then robbed, the woman who was fool enough to ruin her reputation for his sake; he heard the whispered conversation, saw the necklace pass from her hand to his; he recognised the mysterious lady in the green gown, and picked up, after she left, something which had belonged to her, which he holds still——"
Skin o' my Tooth was surpassing himself.
All of us there felt as if electricity filled the air. I am sure I was shaking with excitement from head to foot; both Major Gibson and Mr. Everard were as pale as death, and I thought one of the ladies was about to faint. The other, whom I now knew was Mrs. Everard, had risen from her chair; she was now standing close to the little side-table, almost immediately behind Skin o' my Tooth, who, suddenly dropping his voice and lolling placidly in his chair, said with a gentle smile, in perfectly matter-of-fact tones—
"Unfortunately, misfortune has dogged my steps, or rather those of my poor client. The witness I had so carefully unearthed died a couple of days ago most unexpectedly."
I wondered if I were mistaken, but I certainly thought that I heard a very obvious sigh of relief from somewhere. Certain it is that the spell of excitement under which we all had lain was broken, and one or two ironical comments came from that end of the table where Mr. Everard sat with his legal adviser.
But I knew that Skin o' my Tooth had something up his sleeve. I knew that smile of his.
"However, before the man died, I had succeeded in persuading him to swear an affidavit stating all that he had seen. This affidavit I have brought with me to-day, and——"
Then I knew what he had been driving at all along. He was on the alert, and so was I. In the midst of his neatly told lie, he stopped and pointed to my notes, which were lying on the side-table quite close to the chimney.
"Give me that affidavit, Muggins, my boy," he said.
But before I could reach them, before even anyone else had realised what she was doing, Mrs. Everard, as quick as lightning, had seized the notes and thrown them into the fire, while she turned on Skin o' my Tooth and said defiantly—
"At any rate, that woman's name will now remain a secret for ever."
Then I understood. I cared nothing about burning my fingers, but I did want to rescue the remaining fragments of my notes, as I knew they would be wanted.
Mrs. Everard was glaring at old Skin o' my Tooth as if she were a hungry tigress. If looks could kill, my esteemed employer would have been a dead man then. As it was, he smiled placidly, and taking the fragments of half-burnt paper from me, he quietly smoothed them out and placed them on the table before Mr. Everard; then he once more turned towards the angry lady.
"My dear lady," he said very gently, "I feel that I have behaved towards you absolutely like the cad my eminent colleague here present no doubt will call me. Just at this moment I know that you hate me for the odious comedy I had devised in order to extort an unwilling confession from you. Yes, my dear lady, a comedy and a confession. I don't think that I am the only man here present who knows that the Hon. Thornby Oakhurst, your brother, is the grave thorn in a distinguished family's flesh. That with somewhat impulsive thoughtlessness you tried to be of material assistance to him at a time that he was actually flying from the police and unbeknown to your husband, is only natural. That in trying to shield him and your own family honour, you allowed an innocent man to suffer so severely, is only what, under the same circumstances, most of your sex would have done. Let me in my turn confess to you, and to Mr. Everard, to whom I must also offer my humblest apologies, that the only witness present on that fateful night was Major Gibson himself, and that the affidavit which you hoped to destroy consisted of my clerk's notes of the facts taken under my unfortunate client's dictation. There is no woman's name mentioned throughout its few pages, but I think you will admit yourself that in trying to burn that document, you yourself with your dainty hand have plainly written your own."
It is wonderful with what dignity Skin o' my Tooth can speak when he likes. Mr. Everard looked as if he had some difficulty in standing straight. He did not look at his wife, and she did not attempt to speak. What would be the outcome of this extraordinary scene, I could not conjecture. Evidently Skin o' my Tooth was satisfied, for without another word he bowed to everyone, and, with Major Gibson, left the room, followed by my humble self. As I passed out of the door, I gave a final look round at the actors whom we had left on the stage. Mr. Everard had gone up to his wife, who had fallen sobbing into a chair. Miss Sutcliffe was kneeling beside her, trying to comfort her, and Lord Combermury and the solicitor looked as if they wished themselves safely out of the way.
I must say Mr. Everard behaved very well in the matter; both he and Lord Combermury made it their business to see that no shadow of a stain remained on Major Gibson's reputation, though Mrs. Everard's name has, of course, never been mentioned.
It all happened more than a year and a half ago, and everyone has, of course, heard of Colonel Gibson's gallant defence of Elands Drift, with his handful of men. He was married to Miss Sutcliffe about a month ago, and Mr. and Mrs. Everard gave a magnificent reception in their fine house in Park Lane in honour of the bride and bride-groom.
I suppose there was supper served in the room in which we had sat on that day.
Skin o' my Tooth was not asked to the wedding or to to the reception. He would not have gone, anyhow.