“When you are in town he is always at your chambers; when you are away he receives long letters from you that I may not read.”
“Yes, we have been on terms of close friendship for years. And Lord Hartledon is an idle man, you know, and looks me up.”
“He said you were arranging some business for him last autumn.”
“Last autumn? Let me see. Yes, I think I was.”
“Mr. Carr, is it of any use playing with me? Do you think it right or kind to do so?”
His manner changed at once; he turned to her with eyes as earnest as her own.
“Lady Hartledon, I would tell you anything that I could and ought to tell you. That your husband has been engaged in some complicated business, which I have been—which I have taken upon myself to arrange for him, is very true. I know that he does not wish it mentioned, and therefore my lips are sealed: but it is as well you did not know it, for it would give you no satisfaction.”
“Does it involve anything very frightful?”
“It might involve the—the loss of a large sum of money,” he answered, making the best reply he could.
Lady Hartledon sank her voice to a whisper. “Does it involve the possible loss of his title?—of Hartledon?”
“No,” said Mr. Carr, looking at her with surprise.
“You are sure?”
“Certain. I give you my word. What can have got into your head, Lady Hartledon?”
She gave a sigh of relief. “I thought it just possible—but I will not tell you why I thought it—that some claimant might be springing up to the title and property.”
Mr. Carr laughed. “That would be a calamity. Hartledon is as surely your husband’s as this watch”—taking it out to look at the time—“is mine. When his brother died, he succeeded to him of indisputable right. And now I must go, for my time is up; and when next I see you, young gentleman, I shall expect a good account of your behaviour. Why, sir, the finger’s mine, not yours. Good-bye, Lady Hartledon.”
She gave him her hand coolly, for she was not pleased. The baby began to cry, and was sent away with its nurse.
And then Lady Hartledon sat on alone, feeling that if she were ever to arrive at the solution of the mystery, it would not be by the help of Mr. Carr. Other questions had been upon her lips—who the stranger was—what he wanted—five hundred of them: but she saw that she might as well have put them to the moon.
And Lord Hartledon went out with Mr. Carr in the inclement night, and saw him off by a Great-Western train.
Again the months went on, it may almost be said the years, and little took place worthy of record. Time obliterates as well as soothes; and Lady Hartledon had almost forgotten the circumstances which had perplexed and troubled her, for nothing more had come of them.