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THE CONSEQUENCES OF AN ADVERTISEMENT
THE trouble was made by Iris herself.
In this way--
She saw Fanny's advertisement. Her first impulse was to take her back
into her service. But she remembered the necessity for concealment. She
must not place herself--she realised already the fact that she had done
a thing which would draw upon her the vengeance of the law--and her
husband in the power of this woman, whose fidelity might not stand the
shock of some fit of jealousy, rage, or revenge for fancied slight. She
must henceforth be cut off altogether from all her old friends.
She therefore answered the letter by one which contained no address,
and which she posted with her own hand at the General Post Office. She
considered her words carefully. She must not say too much or too
"I enclose," she said, "a bank note for ten pounds to assist you. I am
about to travel abroad, but must, under existing circumstances,
dispense with the services of a maid. In the course of my travels I
expect to be in Brussels. If, therefore, you have anything to tell me
or to ask of me, write to me at the Poste Restante of that city, and in
the course of six mouths or so I am tolerably sure to send for the
letter. In fact, I shall expect to find a letter from you. Do not think
that I have forgotten you or your faithful services, though for a
moment I am not able to call you to my side. Be patient."
There was no address given in the letter. This alone was mysterious. If
Lady Harry was in London and the letter was posted at the General Post
Office--why should she not give her address? If she was abroad, why
should she hide her address? In any case, why should she do without a
maid--she who had never been without a maid--to whom a maid was as
necessary as one of her hands? Oh! she could never get along at all
without a maid. As for Iris's business in London and her part in the
conspiracy, of course Fanny neither knew nor suspected.
She had recourse again to her only friend--Mrs. Vimpany--to whom she
sent Lady Harry's letter, and imploring her to lay the whole before Mr.
"He is getting so much stronger," Mrs. Vimpany wrote back, "that I
shall be able to tell him every thing before long. Do not be in a
hurry. Let us do nothing that may bring trouble upon her. But I am sure
that something is going on--something wicked. I have read your account
of what has happened over and over again. I am as convinced as you
could possibly be that my husband and Lord Harry are trading on the
supposed death of the letter. We can do nothing. Let us wait."
Three days afterwards she wrote again.
"The opportunity for which I have been waiting has come at last. Mr.
Mountjoy is, I believe, fully recovered. This morning, seeing him so
well and strong, I asked him if I might venture to place in his hands a
paper containing a narrative.
"'Is it concerning Iris?' he asked.
"'It has to do with Lady Harry--indirectly.'
"For a while he made no reply. Then he asked me if it had also to do
with her husband.
"'With her husband and with mine,' I told him.
"Again he was silent.
"After a bit he looked up and said, 'I had promised myself never again
to interfere in Lady Harry Norland's affairs. You wish me to read this
document, Mrs. Vimpany?
"'Certainly; I am most anxious that you should read it and should
advise upon it.'
"'Who wrote it?'
"'Fanny Mere, Lady Harry's maid.'
"'If it is only to tell me that her husband is a villain,' he said, 'I
will not read it.'
"'If you were enabled by reading it to keep Lady Harry from a dreadful
misfortune?' I suggested.
"'Give me the document,' he said.
"Before I gave it to him--it was in my pocket--I showed him a newspaper
containing a certain announcement.
"'Lord Harry dead?' he cried. 'Impossible! Then Iris is free.'
"'Perhaps you will first read the document.' I drew it out of my
pocket, gave it to him, and retired He should be alone while he read
"Half an hour afterwards I returned. I found him in a state of the most
violent agitation, without, however, any of the weakness which he
betrayed on previous occasions.
"'Mrs. Vimpany,' he cried, 'this is terrible! There is no doubt--not
the least doubt--in my mind that the man Oxbye is the man buried under
the name of Lord Harry, and that he was murdered--murdered in cold
blood--by that worst of villains----'
"'My husband,' I said.
"'Your husband--most unfortunate of wives! As for Lord Harry's share in
the murder, it is equally plain that he knew of it, even if he did not
consent to it. Good heavens! Do you understand? Do you realise what
they have done? Your husband and Iris's husband may be tried--actually
tried--for murder and put to a shameful death. Think of it!'
"'I do think of it, Heaven knows! I think of it every day--I think of
it all day long. But, remember, I will say nothing that will bring this
fate upon them. And Fanny will say nothing, Without Fanny's evidence
there cannot be even a suspicion of the truth.'
"'What does Iris know about it?'
"'I think that she cannot know anything of the murder. Consider the
dates. On Wednesday Fanny was dismissed; on Thursday she returned
secretly and witnessed the murder. It was on Thursday morning that Lady
Harry drove to Victoria on her return to Passy, as we all supposed, and
as I still suppose. On Saturday Funny was back again. The cottage was
deserted. She was told that the man Oxbye had got up and walked away;
that her mistress had not been at the house at all, but was travelling
in Switzerland; and that Lord Harry was gone on a long journey. And she
was sent into Switzerland to get her out of the way. I gather from all
this that Lady Harry was taken away by her husband directly she
arrived--most likely by night--and that of the murder she knew
"'No--no--she could know nothing! That, at least, they dared not tell
her. But about the rest? How much does she know? How far has she lent
herself to the conspiracy? Mrs. Vimpany, I shall go back to London
to-night. We will travel by the night train. I feel quite strong
"I began this letter in Scotland; I finish it in London.
"We are back again in town. Come to the hotel at once, and see us."
So, there was now a Man to advise. For once, Fanny was thankful for the
creation of Man. To the most misanthropic female there sometimes comes
a time when she must own that Man has his uses. These two women had now
got a Man with whom to take counsel.
"I do not ask you," said Mr. Mountjoy, with grave face, "how far this
statement of yours is true: I can see plainly that it is true in every
"It is quite true, sir; every word of it is true. I have been tempted
to make out a worse case against the doctor, but I have kept myself to
the bare truth."
"You could not make out a worse case against any man. It is the
blackest case that I ever heard of or read. It is the foulest murder. I
do not understand the exact presence of Lord Harry when the medicine
was given. Did he see the doctor administer it? Did he say anything?"
"He turned white when the doctor told him that the man was going to
die--that day, perhaps, or next day. When the doctor was pouring out
the medicine he turned pale again and trembled. While the doctor was
taking the photograph he trembled again. I think, sir--I really
think--that he knew all along that the man was going to die, but when
it came to the moment, he was afraid. If it had depended on him, Oxbye
would be alive still."
"He was a consenting party. Well; for the moment both of you keep
perfect silence. Don't discuss the timing with each other lest you
should be overheard: bury the thing. I am going to make some
The first thing was to find out what steps had been taken, if any, with
insurance companies. For Iris's sake his inquiry had to be conducted
quite openly. His object must seem none other than the discovery of
Lady Harry Norland's present address. When bankers, insurance
companies, and solicitors altogether have to conduct a piece of
business it is not difficult to ascertain such a simple matter.
He found out the name of the family solicitor, he went to the office,
sent in his card, and stated his object. As a very old friend of Lady
Harry's, he wanted to learn her address. He had just come up from
Scotland, where he had been ill, and had only just learned her terrible
The lawyer made no difficulty at all. There was no reason why he
should. Lady Harry had been in London; she was kept in town for nearly
two months by business connected with the unfortunate event; but she
had now gone--she was travelling Switzerland or elsewhere. As for her
address, a letter addressed to his care should be forwarded on hearing
from her ladyship.
"Her business, I take it, was the proving of the will and the
arrangement of the property."
"That was the business which kept her in town."
"Lady Harry," Mr. Mountjoy went on, "had a little property of her own
apart from what she may ultimately get from her father. About five
thousand pounds--not more."
"Indeed? She did not ask my assistance in respect of her own property."
"I suppose it is invested and in the hands of trustees. But, indeed, I
do not know. Lord Harry himself, I have heard, was generally in a
penniless condition. Were there any insurances?"
"Yes; happily there was insurance paid for him by the family. Otherwise
there would have been nothing for the widow."
"And this has been paid up, I suppose?"
"Yes; it has been paid into her private account."
"Thank you," said Mr. Mountjoy. "With your permission, I will address a
letter to Lady Harry here. Will you kindly order it to be forwarded at
the very earliest opportunity?"
"Iris," he thought, "will not come to London any more. She has been
persuaded by her husband to join in the plot. Good heavens! She has
become a swindler--a conspirator---a fraudulent woman! Iris!--it is
incredible--it is horrible! What shall we do?"
He first wrote a letter, to the care of the lawyers. He informed her
that he had made a discovery of the highest importance to herself--he
refrained from anything that might give rise to suspicion; he implored
her to give him an interview anywhere, in any part of the world--alone,
he told her that the consequences of refusal might be fatal--absolutely
fatal--to her future happiness: he conjured her to believe that he was
anxious for nothing but her happiness: that he was still, as always,
her most faithful friend.
Well; he could do no more. He had not the least expectation that his
letter would do any good; he did not even believe that it would reach
Iris. The money was received and paid over to her own account. There
was really no reason at all why she should place herself again in
communication with these lawyers. What would she do, then? One thing
only remained. With her guilty husband, this guilty woman must remain
in concealment for the rest of their days, or until death released her
of the man who was pretending to be dead. At the best, they might find
some place where there would be no chance of anybody ever finding them
who knew either of them before this wicked thing was done.
But could she know of the murder?
He remembered the instruction given to Fanny. She was to write to
Brussels. Let her therefore write at once. He would arrange what she
was to say. Under his dictation, therefore, Fanny wrote as follows:--
"My Lady,--I have received your ladyship's letter, and your kind gift
of ten pounds. I note your directions to write to you at Brussels, and
I obey them.
"Mr. Mountjoy, who has been ill and in Scotland, has come back to
London. He begs me to tell you that he has had an interview with your
lawyers, and has learned that you have been in town on business, the
nature of which he has also learned. He has left an important letter
for you at their office. They will forward it as soon as they learn
"Since I came back from Passy I have thought it prudent to set down in
writing an exact account of everything that happened there under my own
observation. Mr. Mountjoy has read my story, and thinks that I ought
without delay to send a copy of it to you. I therefore send you one, in
which I have left out all the names, and put in A, B, and C instead, by
his directions. He says that you will have no difficulty in filling up
"I remain, my dear Lady,
"Your ladyship's most obedient and humble servant,
This letter, with the document, was dispatched to Brussels that night.
And this is the trouble which Iris brought upon herself by answering
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