Dinah had given her a couple of pounds, or rather Beatrice had borrowed these from her, with the intention of repaying her out of the first instalment of a possible salary. This was all the money she had in the world, and she prayed on the way to London, that Heaven would see fit to make Lady Watson well-disposed towards her. At Victoria Station the girl sent a wire to the address which she had procured from Dinah, who got it from Mrs. Snow. This telegram intimated that Miss Hedge,--she thought it best to keep to the name,--was coming to see Lady Watson on business. It was rather a strange thing to do; but Beatrice was new to social ways, and, moreover, could not, by reason of her scanty purse, run the risk of having to wait long in town without seeing her probable patroness.I did not know that she lied in saying so. I was young and inexperienced, and she caught me with a tearful eye and a quivering voice and a tale of woe. I married at haste to repent at leisure. But, oh Heavens!"--he broke off, pressing his hands against his aching brow--"when I think of that horrible police-court, and the way in which I was accused of what I never did, I hardly dare to look you in the face. I am soiled with the mire of criminality. I must be an outcast, a scoundrel in your eyes."
"You are in my eyes what ," replied Beatrice in a soft tone--"the man I love."
"Still, still--you--you love lie?" he stammered.
She literally danced along the road in spite of the troubles which environed her. She was young, and the morning air was like champagne. Also she felt a conviction that things would surely come right, and that she and Vivian would become man and wife. She did not wish for the death of Mrs. Paslow, wicked as the woman was, nor did she wish Vivian to divorce her, which--as he had said--he could not do. But she felt that in some way the barrier would be removed, and that its removal lay in her own hands. Thus her heart began to grow light, and as she climbed the Downs amidst the glory of the dawn, she breathed a prayer to God that He would take all these troubles out of her life, and bring her to a safe haven.
Ruck himself probably was a member of this criminal association. In any case, as Durban had confessed, he was a decoy duck to lure the unwary into the late Mr. Alpenny's nets.
But the question which now presented itself to the puzzled girl was, whether, Alpenny being dead, the organisation would end. The old usurer had been extremely clever, and, wanting his brains, this association might disband for want of a competent head. Ruck certainly,--as he appeared to have some authority,--might become the moving spirit; but from what Beatrice had seen of him, she did not think he was capable of handling such difficult matters. And she did not much care. All she desired was to learn what Paslow had to do with these rascalities,--if Durban was implicated in the rogueries,--and, if so, to rescue both. She could not believe that either of these kind men, and whom she loved so dearly, would act in a blackguardly way. In some manner the two had become entangled in Alpenny's nets, and knowing this, Ruck was making capital out of the knowledge. This was the conclusion which Beatrice arrived at, and she determined to force Vivian to explain.
The meal ended, Vivian and Jerry did not linger over the bottle of old port which the host placed before his guest. Jerry was at an age when love was preferable to strong drink, and Vivian wished to have a confidential conversation with Beatrice as speedily as possible. to the drawing-room, and found the two girls drinking coffee on the terrace. It was a deliciously warm night with a full moon, and countless stars gemming the heavens. Quite a night for Romeo and Juliet, meet for love and for soft whisperings. Nightingales sang in the thickets, and the trees were absolutely still owing to the want of the faintest breath of wind. Dinah, finishing her coffee, began to get sentimental again and beckoned to Jerry. The two went down the steps into the sleeping gardens, and Beatrice was left seated at the small table on the terrace with Vivian smoking at her elbow.