THE FACE OF RENEE
Shortly before the ringing of the dinner-bell Rosamund knocked at Beauchamp’s dressing-room door, the bearer of a telegram from Bevisham. He read it in one swift run of the eyes, and said: ’Come in, ma’am, I have something for you. Madame de Rouaillout sends you this.’
Rosamund saw her name written in a French hand on the back of the card.
‘You stay with us, Nevil?’
‘To-night and to-morrow, perhaps. The danger seems to be over.’
‘Has Dr. Shrapnel been in danger?’
‘He has. If it’s quite over now!’
‘I declare to you, Nevil . . .’
’Listen to me, ma’am; I’m in the dark about this murderous business:—an old man, defenceless, harmless as a child!—but I know this, that you are somewhere in it.’
‘Nevil, do you not guess at some one else?’
’He! yes, he! But Cecil Baskelett led no blind man to Dr. Shrapnel’s gate.’
‘Nevil, as I live, I knew nothing of it!’
’No, but you set fire to the train. You hated the old man, and you taught Mr. Romfrey to think that you had been insulted. I see it all. Now you must have the courage to tell him of your error. There’s no other course for you. I mean to take Mr. Romfrey to Dr. Shrapnel, to save the honour of our family, as far as it can be saved.’
‘What? Nevil!’ exclaimed Rosamund, gaping.
’It seems little enough, ma’am. But he must go. I will have the apology spoken, and man to man.’
‘But you would never tell your uncle that?’
He laughed in his uncle’s manner.
’But, Nevil, my dearest, forgive me, I think of you—why are the Halketts here? It is not entirely with Colonel Halkett’s consent. It is your uncle’s influence with him that gives you your chance. Do you not care to avail yourself of it? Ever since he heard Dr. Shrapnel’s letter to you, Colonel Halkett has, I am sure, been tempted to confound you with him in his mind: ah! Nevil, but recollect that it is only Mr. Romfrey who can help to give you your Cecilia. There is no dispensing with him. Postpone your attempt to humiliate—I mean, that is, Oh! Nevil, whatever you intend to do to overcome your uncle, trust to time, be friends with him; be a little worldly! for her sake! to ensure her happiness!’
Beauchamp obtained the information that his cousin Cecil had read out the letter of Dr. Shrapnel at Mount Laurels.
The bell rang.
’Do you imagine I should sit at my uncle’s table if I did not intend to force him to repair the wrong he has done to himself and to us?’ he said.
‘Oh! Nevil, do you not see Captain Baskelett at work here?’
’What amends can Cecil Baskelett make? My uncle is a man of honour: it is in his power. There, I leave you to speak to him; you will do it to-night, after we break up in the drawing-room.’