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“We were talking, my Lady, about tracing the person who stole the money,” Isabel answered, rather sadly. “It seems a far more difficult matter than I supposed it to be. I try not to lose patience and hope — but it is a little hard to feel that appearances are against me, and to wait day after day in vain for the discovery that is to set me right.”

“You are a dear good child,” said Lady Lydiard; “and you are more precious to me than ever. Don’t despair, Isabel. With Mr. Troy’s means of inquiring, and with my means of paying, the discovery of the thief cannot be much longer delayed. If you don’t return to me soon, I shall come back and see you again. Your aunt hates the sight of me — but I don’t care two straws for that,” remarked Lady Lydiard, showing the undignified side of her character once more. “Listen to me, Isabel! I have no wish to lower your aunt in your estimation, but I feel far more confidence in your good sense than in hers. Mr. Hardyman’s business has taken him to France for the present. It is at least possible that you may meet with him on his return. If you do, keep him at a distance, my dear — politely, of course. There! there! you needn’t turn red; I am not blaming you; I am only giving you a little good advice. In your position you cannot possibly be too careful. Here is Mr. Troy! You must come to the gate with us, Isabel, or we shall never get Tommie away from you; I am only his second favorite; you have the first place in his affections. God bless and prosper you, my child! — I wish to heaven you were going back to London with me! Well, Mr. Troy, how have you done with Miss Pink? Have you offended that terrible ‘gentlewoman’ (hateful word!); or has it been all the other way, and has she given you a kiss at parting?”

Mr. Troy smiled mysteriously, and changed the subject. His brief parting interview with the lady of the house was not of a nature to be rashly related. Miss Pink had not only positively assured him that her visitor was the most ill-bred woman she had ever met with, but had further accused Lady Lydiard of shaking her confidence in the aristocracy of her native country. “For the first time in my life,” said Miss Pink, “I feel that something is to be said for the Republican point of view; and I am not indisposed to admit that the constitution of the United States has its advantages!”

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THE conference between Lady Lydiard and Mr. Troy, on the way back to London, led to some practical results.

Hearing from her legal adviser that the inquiry after the missing money was for a moment at a standstill, Lady Lydiard made one of those bold suggestions with which she was accustomed to startle her friends in cases of emergency. She had heard favorable reports of the extraordinary ingenuity of the French police; and she now proposed sending to Paris for assistance, after first consulting her nephew, Mr. Felix Sweetsir. “Felix knows Paris as well as he knows London,” she remarked. “He is an idle man, and it is quite likely that he will relieve us of all trouble by taking the matter into his own hands. In any case, he is sure to know who are the right people to address in our present necessity. What do you say?”

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Mr. Troy, in reply, expressed his doubts as to the wisdom of employing foreigners in a delicate investigation which required an accurate knowledge of English customs and English character. Waiving this objection, he approved of the idea of consulting her Ladyship’s nephew. “Mr. Sweetsir is a man of the world,” he said. “In putting the case before him, we are sure to have it presented to us from a new point of view.” Acting on this favorable expression of opinion, Lady Lydiard wrote to her nephew. On the day after the visit to Miss Pink, the proposed council of three was held at Lady Lydiard’s house.

Felix, never punctual at keeping an appointment, was even later than usual on this occasion. He made his apologies with his hand pressed upon his forehead, and his voice expressive of the languor and discouragement of a suffering man.

“The beastly English climate is telling on my nerves,” said Mr. Sweetsir —“the horrid weight of the atmosphere, after the exhilarating air of Paris; the intolerable dirt and dullness of London, you know. I was in bed, my dear aunt, when I received your letter. You may imagine the completely demoralised?? state I was in, when I tell you of the effect which the news of the robbery produced on me. I fell back on my pillow, as if I had been shot. Your Ladyship should really be a little more careful in communicating these disagreeable surprises to a sensitively-organised man. Never mind — my valet is a perfect treasure; he brought me some drops of ether on a lump of sugar. I said, ‘Alfred’ (his name is Alfred), ‘put me into my clothes!’ Alfred put me in. I assure you it reminded me of my young days, when I was put into my first pair of trousers. Has Alfred forgotten anything? Have I got my braces on? Have I come out in my shirt-sleeves? Well, dear aunt; — well, Mr. Troy! — what can I say? What can I do?”

Lady Lydiard, entirely without sympathy for nervous suffering, nodded to the lawyer. “You tell him,” she said.

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“I believe I speak for her Ladyship,” Mr. Troy began, “when I say that we should like to hear, in the first place, how the whole case strikes you, Mr. Sweetsir?”

“Tell it me all over again,” said Felix.

Patient Mr. Troy told it all over again — and waited for the result.

“Well?” said Felix.

“Well?” said Mr. Troy. “Where does the suspicion of robbery rest in your opinion? You look at the theft of the bank-note with a fresh eye.”

“You mentioned a clergyman just now,” said Felix. “The man, you know, to whom the money was sent. What was his name?”

“The Reverend Samuel Bradstock.”

“You want me to name the person whom I suspect?”

“Yes, if you please,” said Mr. Troy.

“I suspect the Reverend Samuel Bradstock,” said Felix.