“I suppose, Basil,” he said, “the truth is, that you can’t help being a little shocked—though you could expect nothing better from the girl—at her boldly following this fellow Mannion, even to the hospital” (Ralph was right; in spite of myself, this feeling was one among the many which now influenced me.) “Setting that aside, however, we are quite ready, I take it, to let her stick to her choice, and live just as she pleases, so long as she doesn’t live under our name. There is the great fear and great difficulty now! If Sherwin can’t find her, we must; otherwise, we can never feel certain that she is not incurring all sorts of debts as your wife. If her father gets her back, I shall be able to bring her to terms at North Villa; if not, I must get speech of her, wherever she happens to be hidden. She’s the only thorn in our side now, and we must pull her out with gold pincers immediately. Don’t you see that, Basil?”
“I see it, Ralph!”
“Very well. Either to-night or to-morrow morning, I’ll communicate with Sherwin, and find out whether he has laid hands on her. If he hasn’t, we must go to the hospital, and see what we can discover for ourselves. Don’t look miserable and downhearted, Basil, I’ll go with you: you needn’t see her again, or the man either; but you must come with me, for I may be obliged to make use of you. And now, I’m off for to-day, in good earnest. I must get back to Mrs. Ralph (unfortunately she happens to be one of the most sensitive women in the world), or she will be sending to advertise me in the newspapers. We shall pull through this, my dear fellow—you will see we shall! By the bye, you don’t know of a nice little detached house in the Brompton neighbourhood, do you? Most of my old theatrical friends live about there—a detached house, mind! The fact is, I have taken to the violin lately (I wonder what I shall take to next?); Mrs. Ralph accompanies me on the pianoforte; and we might be an execrable nuisance to very near neighbours—that’s all! You don’t know of a house? Never mind; I can go to an agent, or something of that sort. Clara shall know to-night that we are moving prosperously, if I can only give the worthiest creature in the world the slip: she’s a little obstinate, but, I assure you, a really superior woman. Only think of my dropping down to playing the fiddle, and paying rent and taxes in a suburban villa! How are the fast men fallen! Good bye, Basil, good bye!”
The next morning, Ralph never appeared—the day passed on, and I heard nothing—at last, when it was evening, a letter came from him.