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could have said that her spendthrift of a husband had contrived to borrow money from Sir Jasper Livingstone ; and to prevent being bothered for it, and keep them in good humour, they introduced the Livingstones where they could.
Frances Chenevix went home; that is, to Colonel Hope's; and told her strange tale to Alice Seaton, not only about Gerard's being in England, but about the bracelet. Lady Sarah had nearly determined not to move in the matter, for Mr. Netherleigh had infected her with his disbelief, especially since she heard of Lady Livingstone's assertion that Messrs. Garrard were her jewellers. Not so Frances : she was determined to follow it up: and next morning, saying evasively that she wanted to call at her father's, she got possession of Lady Sarah's carriage, and down she went to the Haymarket, to Garrards'. Alice Seaton, a fragile girl, with a once lovely countenance, but so faded now that she looked, as Frances had said, dying, waited her return in a pitiable state of excitement. Frances came in, looking little less excited. “ Alice, it is the bracelet. I am more certain than ever.
Garrards' people say they have sold articles of jewellery to Lady Livingstone, but not a diamond bracelet ; and, moreover, that they never had, of that precise pattern, but the bracelet Colonel Hope bought.”
“ What is to be done ?" exclaimed Alice.
“I know: I shall go to those Livingstones: Gerard shall not stay under this cloud, if I can help him out of it. Mr. Netherleigh won't act in it-laughs at me ; Lady Sarah won't act; and we dare not tell the colonel : he is so obstinate and wrong-headed, he would be for arresting Gerard, pending the investigation."
“ Now don't you preach, Alice. When I will a thing, I will: I am like my lady mother for that. Lady Sarah says she scratched her initials inside the bracelet, and I shall demand to see it: if these Livingstones refuse, I'll put the detectives on the scent. I will ; as sure as my name is Frances Chenevix."
"And if the investigation should bring the guilt home to-to-Gerard ?” whispered Alice, in a hollow tone.
“And if it should bring it home to you! and if it should bring it home to me!" spoke the exasperated Frances. “For shame, Alice: it cannot bring it home to Gerard, for he was never guilty.”.
Alice Seaton sighed : she saw there was no help for it, for Lady Frances was resolute. “I have a deeper stake in this than said, after a pause
of consideration ; " let me go to the Livingstones. You must not refuse me; I have an urgent motive for wishing it.”
You, you weak mite of a thing! you would faint before you got half through the interview," uttered Lady Frances, in a tone between jest and vexation.
Alice persisted. She had indeed a powerful reason for urging it, and Lady Frances allowed the point, though with much grumbling. The carriage was still at the door, for Lady Frances had desired that it should wait, and Alice hastily dressed herself and went down to it, without speaking to Lady Sarah. The footman was closing the door upon
her, when out flew Frances.
“ Alice, I have made up my mind to go with you, for I cannot guard my patience until you are back again. I can sit in the carriage while you
go in. Lady Livingstone will be two feet higher from to-day-that the world should have been amazed with the spectacle of Lady Frances Chenevix waiting humbly at her door.”
Frances talked incessantly on the road, but Alice was silent: she was deliberating what she should say, and was nerving herself to the task. Lady Livingstone was at home, and Alice, sending in her card, was conducted to her presence, leaving Lady Frances in the carriage.
Lady Frances had thus described her: a woman as thin as a whippingpost, with a red nose : and Alice found Lady Livingstone answer to it very well. Sir Jasper, who was also present, was much older than his wife, and short and thick; a good-natured looking man with a bald head.
Alice, refined and sensitive, scarcely knew how she opened her subject, but she was met in a different manner from what she had expected. The knight and his wife were really worthy people, as Mrs. Cadogan had said, only she had a mania for getting into “high life and high-lived company;" a thing she would never accomplish. They listened to Alice's tale with courtesy, and at length with interest.
“You will readily conceive the nightmare this has been to me,” panted Alice, for her emotion was great. « The bracelet was under my charge, and it disappeared in this extraordinary way. All the trouble that it has been productive of to me, I am not at liberty to tell you, but it has certainly shortened my life.”
"You look very ill,” observed Lady Livingstone, with sympathy.
“I am worse than I look. I am going into the grave rapidly. Others, less sensitive, or with stronger bodily health, might have battled successfully with the distress and annoyance; I could not. I shall die in greater
if this unhappy affair can be cleared. Should it prove to be the same bracelet, we may be able to trace out how it was lost.”
Lady Livingstone left the room and returned with the diamond bracelet. She held it out to Miss Seaton, and the colour rushed into Alice's poor wan face at the gleam of the diamonds : she believed she recognised them.
“But stay,” she said, drawing back her hand as she was about to touch it: “do not give it me just yet. If it be the one we lost, the letters S. H. are scratched irregularly on the back of the middle clasp. Perhaps you will first look if they are there, Lady Livingstone."
Lady Livingstone turned the bracelet, glanced at the spot indicated, and then silently handed it to Sir Jasper. The latter smiled.
“Sure enough here's something–I can't see distinctly without my glasses. What is it, Lady Livingstone ?" “The letters S. H., as Miss Seaton describes : I cannot deny it.”
Deny it! no, my lady, what for should we deny it? If we are in possession of another's bracelet, lost by fraud, and if the discovery will set this young lady's mind at ease, I don't think either you or I shall be the one to deny it. Examine it for yourself, ma'am," added he, giving it to Alice. She turned it about, she put it on her arm,
eyes lighting with the eagerness of conviction. “ It is certainly the same bracelet,” she affirmed: “ I could be sure of it, I think, without proof, but Lady Sarah's initials are there, as she describes to have scratched them.” ." It is not beyond the range of possibility that initials may have been
scratched on this bracelet, without its being the same," observed Lady Livingstone.
“I think it must be the same," mused Sir Jasper. “ It looks sus picious.”
“ Lady Frances Chenevix understood you to say you bought this of Messrs. Garrard,” resumed Miss Seaton.
Lady Livingstone felt rather foolish. “ What I said was, that Messrs. Garrard were my jewellers. The fact is, I do not know exactly where this was bought: but I did not consider myself called upon to proclaim that fact to a young lady who was a stranger to me, and in answer to questions I thought verging on impertinence.'
“ Her anxiety, scarcely less than my own, may have rendered her abrupt,” replied Alice, by way of apology for Lady Frances. “Our hope is not so much to regain the bracelet, as to penetrate the mystery of its disappearance. Can you not let me know where
you did buy it?" “ I can,” interposed Sir Jasper : “ there's no disgrace in having bought it where I did. I got it at a pawnbroker's.”
Alice's heart beat violently. A pawabroker's! what dreaded discovery was at hand ?
“I was one day at the east end of London, walking past, when I saw a topas-and-amethyst cross in a pawnbroker's window. I thought it would be a pretty ornament for my wife, and I went in and asked to look at it. In talking about jewellery with the master, he reached out this diamond bracelet, and told me that would be a present worth making. Now I knew my lady's head had been running on a diamond bracelet, and I was tempted to ask what was the lowest figure he would put it at. He said it was the most valuable article of the sort he had had for a long while, the diamonds of the first water, worth four hundred guineas of anybody's money, but that being second-hand he could part with it for two hundred and fifty. And I bought it. There's where I got the bracelet, ma'am.
“ That was just the money Colonel Hope gave for it new, at Garrards’,” said Alice. “ Two hundred and fifty guineas.”
Sir Jasper stared at her: and then broke forth with a comical attempt at rage, for he was one of the best-tempered men in the world.
“ The old wretch of a Jew! Sold it to me at second-hand price, as he called it, for the identical sum it cost new! Why, he ought to be prosecuted for usury."
“ It is just what I tell you, Sir Jasper,” grumbled his lady: “you will go to these low, second-hand dealers, who always cheat where they can, instead of to a regular jeweller; and nine times out of ten you get taken in."
“But your having bought it of this pawnbroker does not bring me any nearer the knowing
how he procured it," observed Miss Seaton. “I shall go to him this very day and ascertain," returned Sir Jasper. " Tradespeople may not sell stolen bracelets with impunity.”
Easier said than done. The dealer protested his ignorance and innocence, and declared he had bought it in the regular course of business, at one of the pawnbrokers' periodical sales. And the man spoke truth, and the detectives were again applied to.
II. In an obscure room of a low and dilapidated lodging-house, in a low and dilapidated neighbourhood, there sat a man one evening in the coming twilight; a towering, gaunt skeleton, whose remarkably long arms and legs looked little less than skin and bone. The arms were fully exposed to view, since their owner, though he possessed and wore a waistcoat, dispensed with the use of a shirt. An article, once a coat, lay on the floor, to be donned at will—if it could be got into for the holes. The man sat on the floor in a corner, his head finding a resting-place against the wall, and he had dropped into a light sleep, but if ever famine was depicted in a face, it was in his. Unwashed, unshaven, with matted hair and feverish lips; the cheeks were hollow, the nostrils white and pinched, and the skin round the mouth had a blue tinge. Some one tried and shook the door: it aroused him, and he started up, but only to cower in a bending attitude and listen.
“I hear you,” cried a voice. “How are you to-night, Joe? Open the door.”
The voice was not one he knew; not one that might be responded to.
“Do you call this politeness, Joe Nicholls ? If you don't open the door, I shall take the liberty of opening it for myself: which will put you to the trouble of mending the fastenings afterwards."
“Who are you?” cried Nicholls, reading determination in the voice. “ I'm gone to bed, and I can't admit folks to-night."
“Gone to bed at eight o'clock ?” “ Yes: I'm ill.”
“I give you one minute, and then I come in. You will open it if you wish to save trouble."
Nicholls yielded to his fate: and opened the door.
The gentleman-he looked like one-cast his keen eyes round the room. There was not a vestige of furniture in it; nothing but the bare, dirty walls, from which the mortar crumbled, and the bare, dirty boards.
" What did you mean by saying you were gone to bed, eb?" “ So I was.
I was asleep there," pointing to the corner, "and that's my bed. What do you want?” added Nicholls, peering at the stranger's face in the gloom of the evening, but seeing it imperfectly, for his hat was drawn low over it.
“A little talk with you. That last sweepstake you put into"
The man lifted his face, and burst forth with such eagerness, that the stranger could only arrest his own words, and listen.
“ It was a swindle from beginning to end. I had scraped together the ten shillings to put in it; and I drew the right horse, and was shuffled out of the gains, and I have never had my dues, not a farthing of 'em. Since then I've been ill, and I can't get about to better myself. Are you come, sir, to make it right?”
“Some”-the stranger coughed—“ friends of mine were in it also," said he ; "and they lost their money."
“ Everybody lost it; the getters-up bolted with all they had drawn into their fingers. Have they been took, do you
know?" “All in good time; they have left their trail. So you have been ill, “ Tíl! just take a sight at me! There's a arm for a big man.”
He stretched out his naked arm for inspection: it appeared as if a touch would snap it. The stranger laid his hand upon its fingers, and his other hand appeared to be stealing furtively towards his own pocket. " I should
this looks like starvation, Joe.” “Some'at nigh akin to it.”
A pause of unsuspicion, and the handcuffs were clapped on the astonished man.
with oath. “No need to make a noise, Nicholls," said the detective, with a careless air. "I have got two men waiting outside.”
“I swear I wasn't in the plate robbery," passionately uttered the man. “I knew of it, but I didn't join 'em, and I never had the worth of as much as a saltspoon, after it was melted down. And they call me a coward, and they leave me here to starve and die! I swear I wasn't in it.”
“We'll talk of the plate robbery another time,” said the officer, as he raised his hat; “you have got those bracelets on, my man, for another sort of bracelet. A diamond one. Don't you remember me?"
The prisoner's mouth fell. I thought that was over and done with, all this time, I don't know what you mean,” he added, correcting himself.
“No," said the officer, “it's just beginning. The bracelet is found, and has been traced to you. You were a clever fellow, and I had my doubts of
you at the time: I thought you were too clever to go on long." “I should be ashamed to play the sneak and catch a fellow in this way. Why couldn't you come openly, in your proper clothes ? not come playing the spy in the garb of a friendly civilian ?”
“My men are in their proper clothes,'” returned the equable officer, " and
you will have the honour of their escort presently. I came because they did not know
and I did.” " Three officers to take a single man, and he a skeleton !” uttered Nicholls, with a vast show of indignation. “Ay; but
you were powerful once, and ferocious too. The skeleton aspect is a recent one."
“And all for nothing. I don't know about any bracelet.”
“Don't trouble yourself with inventions, Nicholls. Your friend is safe in our hands, and has made a full confession."
“What friend ?" asked Nicholls, too eagerly.
Every particular she knew or guessed at. Split to save herself.” “ Then there's no faith in woman.
“There never was yet,” returned the officer. “ If they are not at the top and bottom of every mischief, Joe, they are sure to be in the middle. Is this your coat ?'' touching it gingerly.
“She's a disgrace to the female sec, she is,” raved Nicholls, disregarding the question as to his coat. “ But it's a relief, now I'm took, it's a weight off my mind; I was always a expecting of it, and I shall get food in the Old Bailey, at any rate.”
“Ah,” said the officer, “ you were in good service as a respectable servant; you had better have stuck to your duties.”
“ The temptation was so great,” observed the man, who had evidently abandoned all idea of denial; and now that he had done so, was ready to be voluble with remembrances and particulars.