Lady de Clare covered up her face. “God forgive him!” said she, in a low voice.
“Lady de Clare, upon what terms were your husband and the late Sir Henry? It is important to know.”
“Not on the very best, sir. Indeed, latterly, for years, they never met or spoke: we did not know what had become of him.”
“Were there any grounds for ill-will?”
“Many, sir, on the part of the elder brother; but none on that of Sir Henry, who was treated with every kindness, until he—” Lady de Clare stopped—“until he behaved very ill to him.”
As we afterwards discovered, Henry de Clare had squandered away the small portion left him by his father, and had ever after that been liberally supplied by his eldest brother, until he had attempted to seduce Lady de Clare, upon which he was dismissed for ever.
“And now, madam, I must revert to a painful subject. You had a daughter by your marriage?”
“Yes,” replied the lady, with a deep sigh.
“How did you lose her? Pray do not think I am creating this distress on your part without strong reasons.”
“She was playing in the garden, and the nurse, who thought it rather cold, ran in for a minute to get a handkerchief to tie round her neck. When the nurse returned, the child had disappeared.” Lady de Clare put her handkerchief up to her eyes.
“Where did you find her afterwards?”
“It was not until three weeks afterwards that her body was found in a pond about a quarter of a mile off.”
“Did the nurse not seek her when she discovered that she was not in the garden?”
“She did, and immediately ran in that direction. It is quite strange that the child could have got so far without the nurse perceiving her.”
“How long is it ago?”
“It is now nine years.”
“And the age of the child at the time?”
“About six years old.”
“I think, Newland, you may now speak to Lady de Clare.”
“Lady de Clare, have you not a pair of ear-rings of coral and gold of very remarkable workmanship?”
“I have, sir,” replied she, with surprise.
“Had you not a necklace of the same? and if so, will you do me the favour to examine this?” I presented the necklace.
“Merciful heaven!” cried Lady de Clare, “it is the very necklace!—it was on my poor Cecilia when she was drowned, and it was not found with the body. How came it into your possession, sir? At one time,” continued Lady de Clare, weeping, “I thought that it was possible that the temptation of the necklace, which has a great deal of gold in it, must, as it was not found on her corpse, have been an inducement for the gipsies, who were in the neighbourhood, to drown her; but Sir William would not believe it, rather supposing that in her struggles in the water she must have broken it, and that it had thus been detached from her neck. Is it to return this unfortunate necklace that you have come here?”