Ten minutes after Tom was busy trying
to obtain some further information, after seeing his
father comfortably settled down in the study with
a good cigar and a pint bottle of port.
“May may I have ’em, Tom, my
boy?” he asked.
“Yes, yes, old gentleman,”
said Tom. “Mamma really is ill now, and
won’t interfere, and if it gives you a few twinges
of the gout, hang it all, it will be a counter irritant.”
This was after Lady Barmouth had been
assisted off to bed.
“Hold up, my little lassie,”
Tom said, pressing Tryphie’s hand. “Hang
me if you aren’t the only one left with a head
upon your shoulders. You must help me all you
“I will, Tom,” she said,
returning the pressure; and he felt that any one else’s
pretensions from that moment were cast to the winds.
“One moment,” whispered
Tom, as Lady Barmouth was moaning on the stairs, half-way
up the first flight of which she was seated, with her
head resting on Justine’s shoulder. “You
think there’s no mistake Maude has
“Yes, I have been to her room,
and she has taken her little Russia bag.”
“But you don’t believe
this absurd nonsense that they have got hold of?”
“I can’t, Tom,”
she said; “but she has been very strange in her
ways for some time past.”
“Enough to make her,”
said Tom. “The old lady would drive me
mad if she had her own way with me. There, be
off and get her upstairs to bed while I see what’s
to be done.”
Tryphie went up, and Tom entered the
dining-room, developing an amount of firmness and
authority that startled the butler into a state of
“Now, Robbins,” he said,
“look here: of course you know this absurd
statement that has been going round the house, and
that it’s all nonsense.”
“Well, my lord,” said,
the butler, “Lady Maude has encouraged that sort
of man about the place lately.”
“Confound you for a big pompous,
out-of-livery fool!” cried Tom, bringing his
hand down with a crash upon the table. “There,
fetch all the servants in, quick.”
Robbins stared, and felt disposed
to give notice to leave upon the spot, but Tom’s
way mastered him, and, feeling “all of a work,”
as he confided afterwards to the cook, he hurried
out, and soon after the whole staff was assembled
in the dining-room, Justine having been fetched from
her ladyship’s side.
“Now then,” cried Tom,
opening his informal court. “Who knows
anything about this?”
said Henry, the snub-nosed little foot page, florid
with buttons, and fat from stolen sweets, “I
see a man playing the organ outside to-night.”
“So you did yesterday, and the day before.”
“Yes, m’lord,” said the boy, eagerly;
“and I heard somebody go out.”
“Did you?” said Tom, politely.
“Now, look here, my boy! If you dare to
open that mouth of yours and get chattering to people
this monstrous piece of nonsense, I’ll I’ll,
hang me, I’ll cut your ears off.”
The boy ducked and held one arm up,
as if he expected to be attacked at once, and ended
by taking refuge behind his best friend and greatest
enemy to wit, the cook.
“Speak, some of you, will you?”
cried Tom. “Did any one see my sister
“If you please, my lord,”
said the housemaid, “if I may make so bold ”
“Yes,” said Tom, with
sarcastic politeness, “you may make so bold.
Now go on.”
“Well, I’m sure,”
muttered the woman. “Well, my lord, I was
going upstairs to-night, and I heard my young mistress
sobbing bitterly in her room.”
“Well,” said Tom, “and you stopped
“Which I wouldn’t bemean
myself to do anything of the kind,” said the
woman with a toss of the head; “but certainly
she was crying, and soon after I was a-leaning out
of the second floor window, it being very ’ot
indoors, as we’ve been a good deal ’arrissed
lately by her ladyship.”
“Go on,” cried Tom, impatiently.
“Which I am, my lord, as fast
as I can,” cried the woman; “and there
was that tall handsome Italian gentleman, as cook
thinks is a furrin’ nobleman in disguise, playing
on his hinstrument.”
“Yes,” said Tom, sarcastically.
“And all of a sudden he stops, and I see him
go into the portico.”
“Oh, yes, of course,” said Tom.
“And then there was a lot of whispering.”
“Yes, yes,” said Tom; “oh, yes,
“And that’s all, my lord,
only my young mistress wasn’t in the room when
I came back.”
“Now then, all of you,”
cried Tom, “once for all, this absurd rumour
is one of the most ridiculous What’s
that you say?” he cried sharply, as he heard
“I was saying to Ma’amselle
Justine that my young lady was always encouraging
them men about, my lord,” said the housemaid,
“and that if I’d been one of the spying
sort I might have seen her.”
“Poor thing,” said the
cook, loudly. “She has been drove to it.
I have a heart of my own.”
“Silence!” roared Tom.
“How dare you? Here, has any one else
got anything to say? You? Oh yes, you
are my sister’s maid.”
“Yes, my lord,” said Dolly Preen, spitefully.
“Well, what do you know?”
“I know that my mistress was
always listening at first to that dreadful Italian,”
“No, no you, you,” cried Justine.
“I fought against it, and mastered
it,” said Dolly proudly; “Lady Maude found
it too much, I suppose.”
“Well, I never!” ejaculated Mrs Downes.
“Go on,” cried Tom.
“And then she got to dropping notes to him out
of the window, my lord.”
“It isn’t true,”
cried Tom. “Woman, you ought to be turned
out of the house.”
“Oh, it’s true, though,” said Mrs
“Silence, you silly old meat murdress,”
“Meat what?” cried the
cook. “There are times, my lord, when one
must speak. I’ve seen a deal in my time,
and there’s no doubt about it. We’re
all very sorry for you, but we all knows that my young
lady’s been drove to go away with that dark
“It is not true,” said
a sharp voice; and Justine stepped forward to the
table, with her dark eyes flashing, her white teeth
set, so that she cut the words as they came through,
and in her excitement and championship of her young
mistress becoming exceedingly French. “I
say it is not true. You canaille you,
vis your silly talk about ze organiste.
It is all a lie a great lie to say such
vicked, cruel thing of my dear young lady. Ah,
bah! that for you all,” she cried, snapping her
fingers, “you big silly fool, all the whole.
What, my young mistress go to degrade herself vis
one evasion, comme ca! She could it not
do. Sare, I am angry it make me folle
to hear you talk. I say it is not true.”
“Damme, you’re a trump,
Justine,” cried Tom, excitedly, as he caught
her hand and wrung it. “You are right.
She would not degrade herself like that.”
“They are so stupide.”
“Yes,” cried Tom; “and
mind this any one who dares to put about
such a disgraceful scandal hallo! who’s
There was a loud ring just then, and
the butler looked in a scared way at Tom.
“Well, go and open it,” he said.
The next minute there were voices
and steps heard in the hall, and directly after Sir
Grantley Wilters came in, followed by a policeman,
and a ragged, dirty looking little man, whose toes
peeped out in rows from his boots, and who held in
his hand a very battered brimless hat, which he kept
rubbing when he was not engaged in pulling his forelock
to first one servant and then another.
“Oh, here you are,” said
Tom, sharply, as the baronet advanced. “She’s
gone off with Melton, hasn’t she?”
“N-no,” said the bridegroom
elect, dejectedly. “I believe it’s
as they say.”
“Then you’re a bigger
fool than I took you for,” said Tom, sharply.
“Now then, what do you know about it?”
he cried to the policeman. “But stop a
moment. Here, the whole pack of you, clear out.
And mind this Mademoiselle Justine is
right. Thank you, Justine. Go to her ladyship
now. I shan’t forget this.”
The Frenchwoman bowed and smiled,
and drew her skirts aside as she swept out of the
room, while the rest of the servants shuffled out in
an awkward fashion, as if every one was eager not
to be the last.
“Now then,” cried Tom
to the policeman, as the baronet went to the chimney-piece
to rest his head upon his hand, “why are you
“This gentleman, sir,”
said the constable, nodding his head at Sir Grantley,
“asked me to take up the case. Been investigating,
and I’ve got some evidence.”
“What is it?” cried Tom.
The constable led the way into the
hall, where there was a rush, for the servants had
been standing gazing at something near the door.
“Well?” said Tom.
“Thought I’d take a look
round, sir,” said the constable, “to see
if there was anything in the way of a clue, and I
He pointed to an oblong chest, covered
with green baize, and with a couple of broad leather
straps across it.
“Well, it’s an organ,” said Tom.
“Yes, sir,” said the constable nodding.
“That’s just about what it is.”
Tom stared at the man, and the man
stared at Tom, and then they returned to the dining-room.
“Where was it?” said Tom shortly.
“Just underneath the area steps,
sir, close agin the dust-bin,” said the constable.
“Ought to have been in it,”
cried Tom, sharply. “Now, who’s this
The ragged man, who had been standing
on one leg with the foot of the other against his
knee, looking like a dilapidated crane, put his foot
down and began to make tugs at his hair.
“Beg parding, sir, on’y
a poor man, sir. Been pickin’ up a job
or two, fetching up kebs and kerridges, sir party,
sir, over at three ’undred and nine, sir.
I was a waitin’ about afore the swells began
to come, when I sees a big tall man a-hangin’
about, lookin’ as if there was something on,
so I goes into the doorway lower down and watches on
“Had he got an organ with him?” said Tom
“I heerd one a-playin’
just before, sir, and then I see him a-leaning agin
the hairy railings, and arter a bit he seemed to chuck
somethin’ up agin the winder and then walks
“Well, go on, my man,” said Tom, eagerly.
“Then I didn’t think no
more on it, sir, till all at once I sees a hansom
come up and stop at the corner, and this same chap
gets out, and that made me feel wild-like and take
notice, ’cause it seemed as if I ought to have
looked out sharper, and got the job.”
“All right; go on,” cried Tom.
“Well, sir, then he goes away
and the keb waits and he walks by this here house,
and begins whistling this chune as I’ve often
heerd them orgin grinders play.”
The man sucked in his cheeks, and
whistled three or four bars of the prison song in
“Then, as I kep my hye on him,
I sees the front door open quietly, and a lady come
out in a long cloak; and she seemed as if she was a-goin’
to faint away, but he kitches her tight, and half
runs her along to wheer the keb was a-standin’,
and I was ready for him this time, holding my arm
over the wheel so as to keep the lady’s dress
outer the mud.”
“Yes, yes,” cried Tom,
for the man, who had kept on polishing his hat, dropped
it and picked it up hastily, to begin repolishing it.
“Well, sir, she was a-cryin’
like one o’clock in highsteriks like and
he says something to her in a furren languidge, and
then, as she gets in he says, `Take keer,’ he
says, called her by her name, like.”
“Name? What name?” cried Tom, eagerly.
“Well, you see, gov’nor,
it sounded like Bella Meer, or Mee-her. `Take keer;
Bella Mee-her,’ he says just like that.”
“Bella mia,” muttered Tom.
“Yes, sir, that’s it,
sir; that were the young lady’s name; and then
he jumps in, and I shoves down the apron, and he pokes
the trap-door open, and away they goes down the Place
like one o’clock.”
“Well?” said Tom.
“That’s about all, gov’nor,”
said the man, looking into his dilapidated hat, and
then lifting and peeping inside the lining, as if he
expected to find some more there.
“No, it ain’t,”
said the constable, “come now. He give
you something, didn’t he?”
“Well, s’pose he did,”
said the man, sulkily; “that ain’t got
nothing to do with it, ’ave it? The
gent don’t want to rob a pore man of his ’ard
earnin’s, do he?”
“What did he give you, my man?”
said Tom, eagerly, “There, there, show me.
Not that it matters.”
“Yes, sir, excuse me, but it
does matter,” said the constable. “Now
then, out with it.”
The man thrust his hand very unwillingly
into his pocket, and brought out what looked like
a small shilling, which was eagerly snatched by Tom.
“Vittoria Emanuele Lira.
Why, constable, it’s an Italian piece!”
“That’s so, sir,” said the constable.
“There, be off with you; there’s
half a crown for you,” said Tom. “Constable,”
he cried, as the latter closed the door on the walking
rag-bag, “quick, not a moment to be lost.
That cabman’s number, and as soon as you can.”
“Right, sir; that’s first
job,” said the constable. “You’ll
“Yes, till you come back.
Spare no expense to get that number.”
The constable was off almost before
the words had left his lips, and as the door closed
Tom turned to Sir Grantley, who still stood with his
head leaning upon his hand.
“Now then,” he said, “what are you
going to do?”
“Don’t know,” was the reply.
“It looks bad,” said Tom, “but I
won’t believe it yet.”
“No poor girl,”
said the baronet, sadly “I’m
beginning to think she didn’t care for me, don’t
Tom stared at him wonderingly.
“Are you going to help me run them down?”
“Yas no I
don’t know,” said the baronet. “I
suppose I ought to shoot that fellow Belgium
or somewhere if there is a fellow.
But I don’t think there is.”
“You don’t?” said Tom.
“No,” said the baronet, slowly.
“But you heard? She must
have gone off with somebody. You know what the
people think. If it is so, she must be saved
at all costs.”
“Yas of course,”
said the baronet, slowly; “but don’t
think it. Poor girl, she was a lady she
couldn’t stoop to it no couldn’t she’d
sooner have married me.”
“Wilters,” said Tom, holding
out his hand and speaking huskily, “thank you
for that. We never liked one another, and I’ve
been a confounded cad to you sometimes; but but you you’re
a gentleman, Wilters, a true gentleman.”
They shook hands in silence, and then Tom said eagerly
“You’ll come with me?”
“Yas no,” said
the baronet, quietly. “It’s best
not. All been a mistake, poor girl. I’ve
been thinking about it all, and it wasn’t likely
she’d care for me. Lady Barmouth is very
flattering and kind; but I’ve driven your sister
away. I think I’ll go home now.”
“Perhaps you are right,” said Tom, quietly.
“It’s very awkward,”
continued the baronet, “things have gone so far.
But I ought to have known better. Could you a
soda and brandy, Tom this has shaken me
a bit I’m rather faint.”
The cellaret was open, stimulants
having been fetched from it for her ladyship’s
use, and Tom hastily poured out some spirit into one
of the glasses on the sideboard, and handed it to
“Thanks,” he said “better
now; I think I’ll go home;” and bowing
quietly to Tom, he slowly left the house.