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The stately rooms of one of the finest houses in London were open for the reception of evening guests. Wax-lights, looking innumerable when reflected from the mirrors, shed their rays on the gilded decorations, on the fine paintings, and on the gorgeous dresses of the ladies; the enlivening strains of the band invited to the dance, and the rare exotics emitted a sweet perfume. It was the west-end residence of a famed and wealthy City merchant of lofty standing; his young wife was an earl's daughter, and the admission to the house of Mr. and Lady Adela Netherleigh was coveted by the gay world.
“ There's a mishap !" almost screamed a pretty-looking girl. She had dropped her handkerchief and stooped for it, and her partner stooped also: in his hurry, he put his foot upon her thin white dress, she rose at the same moment, and the bottom of the skirt was torn half off.
“Quite impossible that I can finish the quadrille," quoth she to him, half in amusement, half provoked at the misfortune. 66 You must find another partner, and I will go and get this repaired."
She went up-stairs: by some neglect, the lady's-maid was not in attendance there, and, too impatient to ring and wait for her, down she flew into the housekeeper's parlour. She was quite at home in the house, for she was the sister of its mistress. She had gathered the damaged dress up, on her arm, but her white silk petticoat fell in rich folds around her.
“ Just look what an object that stupid And there stopped the young lady; for, instead of the housekeeper and lady's-maid, whom she expected to meet, nobody was in the room but a gentleman, a tall, handsome man. She looked thunderstruck; and then slowly advanced and stared at him, as if not believing her own eyes.
“ My goodness, Gerard! Well, I should just as soon have expected to meet the dead here."
“How are you, Lady Frances ?” he said, holding out his hand with hesitation.
Lady Frances! I am much obliged to you for your formality : Lady Frances returns her thanks to Mr. Hope for his polite inquiries,” continued she, in a tone of pique, and honouring him with a swimming curtsey of ceremony:
He caught her hand. “ Forgive me, Fanny, but our positions are altered ; at least, mine is; and how did I know that you were not?”. “ You are an ungrateful
-raven,” cried she, is to croak like that. After getting me to write you no end of letters, with all the news about everybody, and beginning My dear Gerard,' and ending Your affectionate Fanny,' and being as good to you as a sister, you meet me with ‘My Lady Frances! Now don't squeeze my hand to atoms. What on earth have you come to England for?”
“I could not stop there,” he returned, with emotion; " I was fretting away my heartstrings. So I took my resolution and came back-guess in what way, Frances; and what to do."
“How should I know? To call me 'Lady Frances,' perhaps.”
“ As a clerk; a clerk, to earn my bread. That's what I am now. Very consistent, is it not, for one in my position to address familiarly Lady Frances Chenevix ?"
“ You never spoke a grain of sense in your life, Gerard," she exclaimed, peevishly. “What do you mean ?"
“Mr. Netherleigh has taken me into his counting-house.”
“Mr. Netherleigh !” she echoed, in surprise. What, with thatthat
“That crime hanging over me. Speak up, Frances."
“No; I was going to say that doubt. I don't believe you guilty: you know that, Gerard."
“ I am in his house, Frances, and I came up here to-night from the City to bring a note from his partner. I declined any of the receptionrooms, not caring to meet old acquaintances, and the servants put me into this."
“But you had a mountain of debts in England, Gerard, and were afraid of arrest.”
“I have managed that : they are going to let me square up by instalments. Has the bracelet never been heard of ?" “Oh, that's
gone for good : melted down in a caldron, as the colonel calls it, and the diamonds reset. It remains a mystery of the past, and is never expected to be solved.” “And they still suspect me! What is the matter with your
dress ?" “ Matter enough," "answered she, letting it down, and turning round for his inspection. “I came here to get it repaired. My great booby of a partner did it for me.”
“ Fanny, how is Alice Seaton ?”
“I do not mean actually dying this night, or going to die to-morrow; but that she is dying by slow degrees, there is no doubt. It may be weeks off yet: I cannot tell.”
66 Where is she?" “Curious to say, she is where you left her--at Lady Sarah Hope's
. Alice could not bear the house after the loss of the bracelet, for she was so obstinate and foolish as to persist that the servants must suspect her, even if Lady Sarah did not. She left, and this spring Lady Sarah saw her, and was so shocked at the change in her, the extent to which she had wasted away, that she brought her to town by main force, and we and the doctors are trying to nurse
It seems of no use." “Are you also staying at Colonel Hope's again?"
“I invited myself there a week or two ago, to be with Alice. pleasanter, too, than being at home.” " I suppose the Hopes are here to-night ?”
My sister is. I do not think your uncle has come yet.” “Does he ever speak of me less resentfully?" “Not he: I think his storming over it has only made his suspicions
stronger. Not a week passes but he begins again about that detestable bracelet. He is unalterably persuaded that you took it, and nobody must dare to put in a word in
defence." “ And does your sister honour me with the same belief?” demanded Mr. Hope, bitterly.
“ Lady Sarah is silent on the point to me: I think she scarcely knows what to believe. You see I tell you all freely, Gerard.”
Before another word could be spoken, Mr. Netherleigh entered. An aristocratic man, with a poble countenance. He bore a sealed note for Mr. Hope to deliver in the City.
“Why, Fanny!” he exclaimed to his sister-in-law, " you here !"
“ Yes: look at the sight they have made me,” replied she, shaking down her dress for his benefit, as she had previously done for Mr. Hope's. “I am waiting for some of the damsels to mend it for me : I
suppose Mr. Hope's presence has scared them away. Won't mamma be in a fit of rage when she sees it, for it is new to-night.”
Gerard Hope shook hands with Lady Frances; and Mr. Netherleigh, who had a word of direction to give him, walked with him into the hall
. As they stood there, who should enter but Colonel Hope, Gerard's uncle. He started back when he saw Gerard.
“C-ca-can I believe my senses ?” stuttered he. “Mr. Netherleigh, is he one of your guests?"
“He is here on business,” was the merchant's reply. “Pass on, colonel."
“No, sir, I will not pass on,” cried the enraged colonel, who had not rightly caught the word business. “Or if I do pass on, it will only be to warn your guests to take care of their jewellery. So, sir,” he added, turning on his nephew, “you can come back, can you, when the proceeds of your theft are spent! you have been starring it in Calais, I hear : how long did the bracelet last you
to live “Sir,” answered Gerard, with a pale face, “it has been starving, rather than starring. I asserted my innocence at the time, Colonel Hope, and I repeat it now.”
" Innocence !” ironically repeated the colonel, turning to all sides of the hall, as if he took delight in parading the details of the unfortunate past. “ The trinkets were spread out on a table in Lady Sarah's own house : you came stealthily into it-after having been forbidden it for another fault-went stealthily into the room, and the next minute the diamond bracelet was missing. It was owing to my confounded folly in listening to a parcel of women, that I did not bring you to trial at the time: I have only once regretted not doing it, and that has been ever since. A little wholesome correction at the Penitentiary might have made an honest man of you. Good night, Mr. Netherleigh: if you encourage him in your house, you don't have me.”
Now another gentleman had entered and heard this : some servants also heard it. Colonel Hope, who firmly believed in his nephew's guilt, turned off, peppery and indignant; and Gerard, giving vent to sundry unnephew-like expletives, strode after him. The colonel made a dash into a street cab, and Gerard walked towards the City.
Lady Frances Chenevix, her dress all right again, at least to appearance, was sitting to get her breath, after a whirling waltz. Next to her sat a lady who had also been whirling : Frances did not know her.
“ You are quite exhausted : we kept it up too long," said the cavalier in attendance on the stranger.
" What can I get you ?” “My fan : there it is. Thank you. Nothing else.”
“What an old creature to dance herself down !” thought Frances. “She's forty, if she's a day.”
The lady opened her fan, and proceeding to use it, the diamonds of her rich bracelet gleamed right in the eyes of Frances Chenevix. Frances looked at it, and started : she strained her eyes and looked at it again : she bent nearer to it, and became agitated with emotion. If her recol. lection did not play her false, that was the lost bracelet.
She discerned her sister, Lady Adela Netherleigh, and glided up to her.“ Adela, who is that lady?" she asked, pointing to the stranger.
“I don't know who she is," replied Lady Adela, carelessly, “I did not catch the name. They came with the Cadogans.”
“ The idea of your having people in your house that you don't know !" indignantly spoke Frances, who was working herself into a fever. “Where's Sarah ? do you know that ?”
“In the card-room, glued to the whist-table."
Lady Sarah, however, had unglued herself, for Frances only turned from Lady Adela to encounter her. “I do believe your lost bracelet is in the room," she whispered, in agitation; "I think I have seen it."
“Impossible !" responded Lady Sarah Hope.
“ It looks exactly the same; gold links interspersed with diamonds : and the clasp is the same; three stars. A tall, ugly woman has got it on, her black hair strained off her face.”
“The hair strained off the face is enough to make any woman look ugly," remarked Lady Sarah. “ Where is she?”
“There : she is standing up now: let us get close to her. Her dress is that beautiful maize colour with blonde lace.”
Lady Sarah Hope drew near, and obtained a sight of the bracelet. The colour flew into her face.
“It is mine, Fanny,” she whispered.
But the lady, at that moment, took a gentleman's arm, and moved away. Lady Sarah followed her, with the view of obtaining another look. Frances Chenevix went to Mr. Netherleigh and told him. He was hard of belief.
You cannot be sure at this distance of time, Fanny. And, besides, more bracelets, than one, may have been made of that pattern."
“I am so certain, that I feel as if I could swear to the bracelet,” eagerly replied Lady Frances.
“Hush, hush! Fanny."
“ I recollect it perfectly: it struck me the moment I saw it. How singular that I should have been talking to Gerard Hope about it this night!"
Mr. Netherleigh smiled. “Imagination is very deceptive, Frances ; and your having spoken to Mr. Hope of it brought it to your thoughts."
“ But it could not have brought it to my eyes,” returned Frances. “ Stuff and nonsense about imagination, Mr. Netherleigh! I am positive it is the bracelet. Here comes Lady Sarah."
“I suppose Frances has been telling you," observed Lady Sarah Hope to her brother-in-law. “I feel convinced it is my own bracelet.”
“ But—as I have just remarked to Frances—other bracelets than yours may have been made precisely similar," he urged.
« If it is mine, the initials “S. H.' are scratched on the back of the middle star. I did it one day with a penknife.”
“ You never mentioned that fact before, Lady Sarah,” hastily responded the merchant.
“No. I was determined to give no clue: I was always afraid of the affair's being traced home to Gerard, and it would have been such a disgrace to my husband's name."
"Did you speak to her —did you ask where she got the bracelet ?" interrupted Frances.
“How could I?" retorted Lady Sarah. “I do not know her."
Lady Frances kept her word. She found the strange lady in the refreshment-room; and, locating herself by her side, entered upon a few trifling remarks, which were civilly received. Suddenly she dashed at once to her subject.
“What a beautiful bracelet !!!
“I think it is," was the stranger's reply, holding out her arm for its inspection, without any reservation.
“Where did you buy it?” pursued Frances. “ Garrards are my jewellers.” This very nearly did for Frances : for it was at Garrards' that the colonel originally purchased it: and it seemed to give a colouring to Mr. Netherleigh's view of more bracelets having been made of the same pattern. But she was too anxious and determined to stand upon ceremony —for Gerard's sake: and he was dearer to her than the world suspected.
“We one of my family-lost a bracelet exactly like this, some time back. When I saw it on your arm, I thought it was the same : I hoped it was."
The lady froze directly, and laid down her arm.
“ Are you-pardon me, there are painful interests involved -are you sure you purchased this at Garrards’ ”
“ I have said that Messrs. Garrard are my jewellers,” replied the stranger, in a repelling voice; and the words sounded evasive to Frances. “ More I cannot say: neither am I aware by what law of courtesy you thus question me, nor who you may be.”
The young lady drew herself up, proudly secure in her rank. “I Lady Frances Chenevix :” and the other bowed, and turned to the refreshment-table.
Away went Lady Frances to find the Cadogans, and inquire after the stranger.
It was a Lady Livingstone. The husband had made a mint of money at something, had been knighted, and now they were launching out into high society.
Frances'š nose went into the air. Oh law! a City knight and his wife! that was it, was it. How could Mrs. Cadogan have taken up
The Honourable Mrs. Cadogan did not choose to say: beyond the assertion that they were extremely worthy, good kind of people. She