Fanny saw little of her husband, and noticed him even less. Her connection with Delphin had obtained a power over her, which she could not previously have believed possible, and she strove by every means at her command to keep him fast. But since the day on which Delphin had discovered that Madeleine knew of his intimacy with Fanny, his position became almost unbearable. He would gladly have done with it, but had not the will, and he lacked the courage to leave the place, and be quit of it all for ever. And so deeper and deeper he fell into the snare. He was weary of lying and living a life of shame, but the effort required was more than he could command. And often, when conversation flagged, he felt instinctively that she knew what was passing in his mind; as if their secret was determined to make its voice heard, although Fanny kissed him, and went on talking and laughing incessantly in order to deafen it.
One thing was a source of wonder to every one, and that was, how lukewarm the authorities were in endeavouring to discover how the fire had arisen; for that it was malicious no one doubted for a moment. It is true there were a few inquiries made at long intervals, but nothing came to light. This was not, however, much to be wondered at, considering that it was only a pack of old women and children from the West End who were questioned, while those to whom suspicion really attached were allowed to go unexamined.
Anders Begmand had been brought up, but the magistrate stated that his evidence could not be received, on the ground of his mental deficiency and general infirmity. So there the matter ended.
Woodlouse’s expectation was not fulfilled; neither he, nor the Swede, nor Martin were examined, and after a few ill-natured remarks in the papers, the affair died out and was forgotten. But in the West End, and indeed also in the town amongst the lower orders, people would smile and shake their heads mysteriously when the matter was mentioned. They might say what they liked about Garman and Worse in other ways, but the firm must be allowed the credit generally of not placing their people in an uncomfortable position. And since the ship had so fortunately been saved, there was no more use in raking up the matter any further. Every one knew the story about Marianne, so now the best thing for both parties was to cry quits, and start fair for the future. It was all very well for the police magistrate to sit there looking so serious, bullying and questioning as if he meant to get at the point; but this was really only for the sake of appearances. One thing was perfectly plain—that it must all end as the grand folks chose it should; and when Garman and Worse were determined that nothing should come out, the magistrate might do whatever he liked, but he would certainly never discover anything.
This kind of thing might be unpleasant enough sometimes, but in this particular instance it was most fortunate, and the lesson to be learnt from it all was—if, indeed, there was any one who did not know it already—that it is as well to be on good terms with grand folks, even if it does cost something.