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

“Yes, if you please,” said Mr. Troy.

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

“If you have come here to make stupid jokes,” interposed Lady Lydiard, “you had better go back to your bed again. We want a serious opinion.”

“You have a serious opinion,” Felix coolly rejoined. “I never was more in earnest in my life. Your Ladyship is not aware of the first principle to be adopted in cases of suspicion. One proceeds on what I will call the exhaustive system of reasoning. Thus: Does suspicion point to the honest servants downstairs? No. To your Ladyship’s adopted daughter? Appearances are against the poor girl; but you know her better than to trust to appearances. Are you suspicious of Moody? No. Of Hardyman — who was in the house at the time? Ridiculous! But I was in the house at the time, too. Do you suspect Me? Just so! That idea is ridiculous, too. Now let us sum up. Servants, adopted daughter, Moody, Hardyman, Sweetsir — all beyond suspicion. Who is left? The Reverend Samuel Bradstock.”

This ingenious exposition of “the exhaustive system of reasoning,” failed to produce any effect on Lady Lydiard. “You are wasting our time,” she said sharply. “You know as well as I do that you are talking nonsense.”

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“I don’t,” said Felix. “Taking the gentlemanly professions all round, I know of no men who are so eager to get money, and who have so few scruples about how they get it, as the parsons. Where is there a man in any other profession who perpetually worries you for money? — who holds the bag under your nose for money? — who sends his clerk round from door to door to beg a few shillings of you, and calls it an ‘Easter offering’? The parson does all this. Bradstock is a parson. I put it logically. Bowl me over, if you can.”

Mr. Troy attempted to “bowl him over,” nevertheless. Lady Lydiard wisely interposed.

“When a man persists in talking nonsense,” she said, “silence is the best answer; anything else only encourages him.” She turned to Felix. “I have a question to ask you,” she went on. “You will either give me a serious reply, or wish me good-morning.” With this brief preface, she made her inquiry as to the wisdom and possibility of engaging the services of the French police.

Felix took exactly the view of the matter which had been already expressed by Mr. Troy. “Superior in intelligence,” he said, “but not superior in courage, to the English police. Capable of performing wonders on their own ground and among their own people. But, my dear aunt, the two most dissimilar nations on the face of the earth are the English and the French. The French police may speak our language — but they are incapable of understanding our national character and our national manners. Set them to work on a private inquiry in the city of Pekin — and they would get on in time with the Chinese people. Set them to work in the city of London — and the English people would remain, from first to last, the same impenetrable mystery to them. In my belief the London Sunday would be enough of itself to drive them back to Paris in despair. No balls, no concerts, no theaters, not even a museum or a picture-gallery open; every shop shut up but the gin-shop; and nothing moving but the church bells and the men who sell the penny ices. Hundreds of Frenchmen come to see me on their first arrival in England. Every man of them rushes back to Paris on the second Saturday of his visit, rather than confront the horrors of a second Sunday in London! However, you can try it if you like. Send me a written abstract of the case, and I will forward it to one of the official people in the Rue Jerusalem, who will do anything he can to oblige me. Of course,” said Felix, turning to Mr. Troy, “some of you have got the number of the lost bank-note? If the thief has tried to pass it in Paris, my man may be of some use to you.”

“Three of us have got the number of the note,” answered Mr. Troy; “Miss Isabel Miller, Mr. Moody, and myself.”

“Very good,” said Felix. “Send me the number, with the abstract of the case. Is there anything else I can do towards recovering the money?” he asked, turning to his aunt. “There is one lucky circumstance in connection with this loss — isn’t there? It has fallen on a person who is rich enough to take it easy. Good heavens! suppose it had been my loss!”

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“It has fallen doubly on me,” said Lady Lydiard; “and I am certainly not rich enough to take it that easy. The money was destined to a charitable purpose; and I have felt it my duty to pay it again.”

Felix rose and approached his aunt’s chair with faltering steps, as became a suffering man. He took Lady Lydiard’s hand and kissed it with enthusiastic admiration.

“You excellent creature!” he said. “You may not think it, but you reconcile me to human nature. How generous! how noble! I think I’ll go to bed again, Mr. Troy, if you really don’t want any more of me. My head feels giddy and my legs tremble under me. It doesn’t matter; I shall feel easier when Alfred has taken me out of my clothes again. God bless you, my dear aunt! I never felt so proud of being related to you as I do to-day. Good-morning Mr. Troy! Don’t forget the abstract of the case; and don’t trouble yourself to see me to the door. I dare say I shan’t tumble downstairs; and, if I do, there’s the porter in the hall to pick me up again. Enviable porter! as fat as butter and as idle as a pig! Au revoir! au revoir!” He kissed his hand, and drifted feebly out of the room. Sweetsir one might say, in a state of eclipse; but still the serviceable Sweetsir, who was never consulted in vain by the fortunate people privileged to call him friend!

“Is he really ill, do you think?” Mr. Troy asked.

“My nephew has turned fifty,” Lady Lydiard answered, “and he persists in living as if he was a young man. Every now and then Nature says to him, ‘Felix, you are old!’ And Felix goes to bed, and says it’s his nerves.”