She took her husband’s arm. Joe was standing sullen and desperate. Mr. Chalker was right. It wanted very little more to make him fall upon the whole party, and go off with a fight.
“Young woman,” said Lala Roy, “you had better not go outside the house with the man. It will be well for you to wait until he has gone.”
“Why? He is my husband, whatever we have done, and I’m not ashamed of him.”
“Is he your husband? Ask him what I meant when I said his home was at Shadwell.”
“Come, Lotty,” said Joe, with a curious change of manner. “Let us go at once.”
“Wait,” Lala repeated. “Wait, young woman, let him go first. Pray—pray let him go first.”
“Why should I wait? I go with my husband.”
“I thought to save you from shame. But if you will go with him, ask him again why his home is at Shadwell, and why he left his wife.”
Lotty sprung upon her husband, and caught his wrists with both hands.
“Joe, what does he mean? Tell me he is a liar.”
“That would be useless,” said Lala Roy. “Because a very few minutes will prove the contrary. Better, however, that he should go to prison for marrying two wives than for robbing his grandfather’s safe.”
“It’s a lie!” Joe repeated, looking as dangerous as a wild boar brought to bay.
“There was a Joseph Gallop, formerly assistant purser in the service of the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company,” continued the man of fate, “who married, nine months ago, a certain widow at Shadwell. He was turned out of the service, and he married her because she had a prosperous lodging-house.”
“Oh—h!” cried Lotty. “You villain! You thought to live upon my earnings, did you? You put me up to pretend to be somebody else. Miss Holland”—she fell upon her knees, literally and simply, and without any theatrical pretense at all—“forgive me! I am properly punished. Oh, he is made of lies! He told me that the real Iris was dead and buried, and he was the rightful heir; and as for you”—she sprung to her feet and turned upon her husband—“I know it is true. I know it is true—I can see it within your guilty eyes.”
“If you have any doubt,” said Lala, “here is a copy of the marriage-certificate.”
She took it, read it, and put it in her pocket. Then she went out of the room without another word, but with rage and revenge in her eyes.
Joseph followed her, saying no more. He had lost more than he thought to lose. But there was still time to escape, and he had most of the money in his pocket.
But another surprise awaited him.
The lady from Shadwell, in fact, was waiting for him outside the door. With her were a few Shadwell friends, of the seafaring profession, come to see fair play. It was a disgraceful episode in the history of Chester Square. After five minutes or so, during which no welsher on a race-course was ever more hardly used, two policemen interfered to rescue the man of two wives, and there was a procession all the way to the police-court, where, after several charges of assault had been preferred and proved against half a dozen mariners, Joseph was himself charged with bigamy, both wives giving evidence, and committed for trial.