That’s over, at any rate,” said Jack, when he had come to the side of Priscilla in the dining-room. He was smiling, but his face was pale, and his fingers that held his cigar were twitching. “I didn’t say just what I meant to say, but I think I said enough.”

“Every word that you said was the right word,” she cried. “You spoke like a man who knows that a fight has to be faced, and does not fear to face it. Dearest, you were splendid; only—what do you know about him? Who has been telling you anything?—that about the woman—who suggested to you that he had gone to a woman?”

“I have had experience of men of all sorts and conditions. I knew when I saw the fellow that I had to deal with a man on whom such a shot would tell. It was a shot, and I hope that it may turn out to have been a happy one for us. What was the name he mentioned?—someone who he said had been giving him away?”


“Lyman. So it was. We must make a note of that. Lyman is the name of the man that is ready to give him away. Now, who is Lyman?”

“Lyman is the name of the captain of the barque that was wrecked on the coast of Nova Scotia. He was among the saved.”

“You knew that? Well, that’s so much. I’m not sure that it’s a great deal, but the smallest contribution will be thankfully received.”

“Another mystery—that postcard. It was from the gunmakers—about the last cartridges. What would you have learned if he had recognized the handwriting of the clerk?”

“That was a little dodge of mine to get from him a piece of undoubted evidence of his identity. You see, I wasn’t quite certain that he was the man. There are so many men ready to carry out some scheme of imposture if they only get the chance. Lord! the cases that I have heard of! Now, what more likely than that someone on the look-out for a job should have read the accounts that appeared in the papers of the heroic death of Marcus Blaydon, and then got hold of the idea that it would pay to come to me with a story of how he had not been drowned, and with a demand for his wife or a pretty fair sum to keep away?”

“There can be no doubt that he is Marcus Blaydon—oh, none whatever. I wish there was even the smallest chance of a chance. But how would the postcard prove anything?”

“Well, an hour ago I found that card on the mantelpiece, and I gave it a light coating of gum. By that means I got an excellent impression of his fingers, and by good luck his thumb also. Now, if I send that card to the governor of the gaol where the man spent a year, he will tell me, in the course of a post or two, if he is Marcus Blaydon or Marcus Aurelius—see?”

She did see. She saw very clearly that the man whose education in a certain direction she had airily undertaken, possessed some elements of knowledge in another direction. He had not mis-spent his years of wandering. He had come to know something of his fellow men and their ways. She was well aware of the fact that, however resolute, however brave she might have been in meeting that man face to face at the critical moment, she would not have succeeded in getting rid of him as easily as Jack had got rid of him; and her admiration for Jack had proportionately increased. Women love a man who is successful with women, but they worship a man who is successful with men.

Priscilla gazed in admiration at the man before her.

“You got the better of him in every way,” she said “He was like a child in your hands—a foolish boy.”

“We’ll get the better of him in the long run, too, you may be sure of that,” he said.

The morning’s work had immeasurably increased his admiration for her. She had only said one word during the whole of that time spent in the library. If a man esteems a low voice as a most excellent thing in a woman, he bows down before the wisdom of a woman who has a great deal to say and yet can keep silent. And surely no woman alive possessed the wisdom of his Priscilla in this respect. She had done neither coaxing nor wheedling of the electors of the Nuttingford division; she had resorted to none of those disgusting flatteries of which the wives or the sisters of other candidates whom he could name had been guilty even in bonnie Scotland, where Conscience is understood to be the only consideration to make her sturdy sons vote this way or that. No; his Priscilla had won him the election by her silence; and in the same way she had allowed him to send Marcus Blaydon out of the house.

“You don’t think I was a little too high-handed with him?” said he, after a thoughtful pause.

She made an expressive motion of negation with both hands.

“The sooner it’s over the sooner to sleep, dear Jack,” she said. “There’s nothing so dreadful as suspense. We shall never know a moment’s ease until the thing is over—or, at any rate, begun. The sooner he begins the better pleased will I be.”

“I don’t think that I gave him any excuse for dallying,” said he, grimly.

“What will his next step be, do you fancy?” she asked. “Tell me what he can do beyond making the newspapers publish the story of his escape. I know how they will do it—with the column headed in big letters, ‘A Modern Enoch Arden.’ They won’t have the sense to see that he has nothing of Enoch Arden about him.”

“We shall have to face some nasty bits of publicity but we’ll face them,” said he, resolutely. “He has plainly been in touch with a man of the law; he had got hold of that legal jargon about conjugal rights. He will have to appeal to a judge to make an order for you to go to him.”

“But no judge will make such an order—surely not, Jack?”

“You may take it from me that he will get his order.”

“Is such a thing possible?”

“Absolutely certain, I should say.”

“And what then?”

“Nothing. The judge who makes the order has no way of enforcing it. Only if the man can carry you off he has the law on his side. You had much better not let him carry you off after he gets his order, Priscilla.”

“Or before it. I suppose that he has the law on his side as matters stand at present.”

“I suppose he has. But when he gets his order and you refuse to obey it, he will have a very good chance of getting a divorce.”

“It would be hoping too much to expect that he will do us such a good turn. So then we shall be the same as before.”

“That’s what I have been thinking; but I’ve also been thinking that if you made an application to have your marriage to him annulled, the chances are greatly in favour of your having that application granted.”

“Jack, you are talking like a lawyer. I did not know that you could give an opinion on these points so definitely.”

“I only speak as a layman, from my recollection of certain cases that have appeared from time to time in the papers. I may be all wrong—remember that. We may have to fall back upon something that Captain Lyman knows, and try for a divorce.”

“That was why you made that shot which showed your knowledge of men such as he is.”

“I confess that I hoped to get him to commit himself.”

“And he did.”

“Yes; but unfortunately his doing so will not count for anything in a court of law. We shall have to produce evidence as to the woman—perhaps even the woman herself. If we find that, immediately after leaving gaol he went off to her and deserted you—the court would place great stress upon his desertion of you—we might have a very good chance of getting a divorce.”

“Only a good chance?”

“It would be a layman’s folly—even a lawyer’s folly—to talk with any measure of certainty about the result of an action at law. But I am pretty sure that in an application to have the marriage pronounced null and void, as the jargon has it, his desertion of you would play a very important part. Funny, isn’t it?”

“Funny! Funny! Oh, Jack, darling Jack, will not everyone say that it was the unluckiest day of your life when you met me?”

“You may be sure that some fools will say that, Priscilla, my wife; but you may be equally sure that people who knew what I was before I met you and who have continued their acquaintance will say that, whatever may happen, my meeting you and marrying you were the best things that ever happened to me. You may be sure that that’s what I say now and what I’ll ever say. Now, don’t you suggest anything further in that strain. Good Lord! Didn’t you say that the best thing for bringing out what was best in a man was a good fight? Well, I feel that I am now facing a conflict that will develop every ounce of character I possess. That’s all I’ve got to say just now, except that I’ve wired to Reggie Liscomb to meet me at his office in London this afternoon—he belongs to Liscomb and Liscomb, you know, the solicitors—and he will tell us what we should do, and I’ll tell him to do it without a moment’s delay. But you may leave that to Liscomb and Liscomb; their motto has always been ‘Thrice is he arm’d that hath his quarrel just, and four times he that gets his fist in fust.’ They’ll get their fist in fust, you bet, if only to take the wind out of the sails of the other side.”

Priscilla had frequently heard of the great firm of Liscomb and Liscomb, but never had she an idea that one day she would be in a position to recognize that celerity of action in the conducting of a case which had frequently resulted in the extrication of a client from a tight place.

“You are going up to London to-day?” she said in surprise. “You don’t take long to make up your mind, Jack. Why, you had only the night to think over this dreadful business, and yet you were able to get that man to commit himself and show his hand, and now you know what is to be done to give us the best chance of getting rid of him for ever. Jack, I ask your forgiveness; but I didn’t think you had it in you.”

“Neither did I until lately, Priscilla. It was you who made me think differently. Six months ago if I had been brought face to face with a thing like this I should have run away simply to avoid the bother of it all. But now—well, now I don’t think that you need fear my running away.”

He went up to town by a train that arrived in good time to allow him to have a long afternoon with his friend, the junior partner in the great firm of solicitors who had “handled” some of the most interesting cases that had ever come before a court of law, and some still more interesting that they had succeeded in settling without such an appeal to the judgment of the goddess of Chance. Newspaper readers owed them more grudges than anyone had a notion of, for the persistence with which they accomplished settlements, thereby preventing the publication of columns of piquant details—piquant to a point of unsavouriness. The public, who like their game high and with plenty of seasoning—and the atmosphere of the Divorce Court is very conducive to the former condition—little knew what they lost through the exertions of Messrs. Liscomb and Liscomb; but Messrs. Liscomb and Liscomb knew, and so did many a superfluous husband and many a duplicated wife.

But here was a case that could by no possibility be regarded as one that might be settled out of court. It was bound to move forward from stage to stage until it came before a judge. Mr. Reginald Liscomb saw that clearly when Jack had given him an outline of the case which had not yet advanced to the position of being a case, but which would do so the very next day, on being “stated” by Messrs. Liscomb and Liscomb to the eminent advisory counsel whom they kept constantly employed.

“We have never had anything quite on all fours with this,” said the junior partner. “What we want is a decree of nullity—that’s plain enough. But shall we get it? Well, that’s not quite so plain. As a matter of fact several things may seem plain, but as a matter of law there’s nothing that can be so described. What’s the man going to do? Is he going to do anything? Does he fancy that there’s money in it? Did he suggest that when he came to you to-day? Mind you tell me everything. The man that conceals anything from his lawyer is as great a fool as the man that hides something from his doctor, only the lawyer is the more important. After all, your doctor only deals with your body and its ailments.”

“Whereas you look after—no, not exactly one’s soul—one’s reputation—more important still,” said Jack.

“You put it very well,” assented Mr. Liscomb modestly—as modestly as was consistent with an inherent desire for strict accuracy.

“You compliment me,” said Jack. “You may be sure that I’ll keep nothing back—especially if it tells against the other man.”

“Don’t bother about that so much as about what tells against yourself. At present what might tell against you is the indecent haste in the marriage—within three months of the report of the husband’s death by drowning. A judge may think that was not a sufficient time.”

“But the man would not be more thoroughly dead at the end of a year than he would have been at the end of three months.”

“No; but there was only a report of his death. The question that a judge will ask is this: Did the lady exercise a reasonable amount of precaution in satisfying herself that her husband was dead before entering into a second contract of marriage? That’s a very important question, as you can understand. If the court didn’t consider this point very closely, you can see how easy it would be for a man and his wife to get a decree of nullity by the one publishing a report of his or her death in a newspaper. If the proof of the publication of such a report were to be accepted as justification for a second marriage after a brief interval, the time of the court would be fully occupied in issuing decrees of nullity.”

“I see—yes—there’s something in that. But the circumstances of this case are not quite the same, are they? The first marriage was no marriage, so far as the—the actualities of marriage are concerned: the man was arrested within five minutes of the signing of the register; besides, the fellow had made fraudulent representations.”

“Fraudulent representations are punishable by imprisonment, but they are not held to invalidate a marriage. But as you say, this particular case is not on all fours with any that has come under my notice. We were talking about the question of money, however. Did the man make any suggestion about your paying him any money?”

Jack made him aware of the points in the interview bearing upon money, and Mr. Liscomb took a note of them. No, the fellow could not be called a blackmailer: the suggestion of the twenty-five thousand pounds had not come from him; but he had clearly shown his hand. On the whole, Mr. Liscomb, speaking for himself, and subject to the correction of Sir Edward, the eminent perpetually-retained counsel learned in the law, and, more important still, in the idiosyncrasies of judges and the idiotcies of juries, was of the belief that, taking the peculiarities of the case into account, a decree of nullity might be obtained; but failing this a divorce might be tried for.

“In the meantime it is advisable that Mrs.—that the lady should go back to her father’s house. You will, of course, see that this is so.”

“I see nothing of the sort,” said Jack. “She holds that she is my wife, and I hold that I am her husband, and so we mean to stand by one another whatever may happen. Besides, the father would hand her over to Blaydon the day she went to him; and I don’t know what you think of it, but it seems to me that just now Blaydon occupies a pretty strong position. If he were to get his hands on her, and hold her as his wife, where should we be then? How could he be hindered from putting her aboard a ship and carrying her off to the South Seas?”

Mr. Liscomb shook his head.

“We should have to serve a writ of habeas corpus and——-”

“Don’t trouble yourself further on this score,” said Jack. “We are together now, and we mean to remain together. Take that as final.”

“Very unwise! You’ll have difficulty getting the divorce. But in an exceptional case, possibly—anyhow, we’ll make a move to-morrow, under the advice of Sir Edward, of course. We’ll be first in the field, at any rate. So far as I can see just now, we shall enter our case at once and trust to have it heard early in the Michaelmas sittings.”

“What, not before October?” cried Jack.

“Most likely November, with luck, but probably December,” replied Mr. Liscomb with the complacency of a lawyer for whom time means money. “You may rely on our losing no time. By the way, has the man anything to gain by holding on to the lady—I mean, of course, something in addition to the companionship of the lady?”

“Her father is well off—a wealthy farmer,” said Jack.

“Heavens! this is indeed an exceptional case—a wealthy farmer nowadays! And you have reason to believe that if she went to the custody of her father he would hand her over to the man?”

“He would do his best in that way—he would not succeed, because his daughter is stronger than he is; but he would only force her to run back to me.”

“I should have thought that the old man would kick him out of his house—a blackguard who was fool enough to get caught. But I’ve had experience of fathers—mostly Scotch—who believe so desperately in the sacredness of the marriage bond that they would force a woman to live with the man she has married even though he has just returned from penal servitude for trying to murder her.”

“So far as I can gather from my wife, her father is something like that.”

“My wife!” murmured Mr. Liscomb, smiling very gently, when his client had gone away. “My wife!”

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