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In the course of the morning, Mr. Hardcastle went with the two boatmen to the place where they had landed Mr. Dundyke on the previous day, and a gentleman named by the proprietor of the hotel accompanied them. But not the slightest trace of him could be found, though some hours were spent in exploring. In the evening, by the six o'clock
, diligence, Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle left Geneva, the former handing to Mrs. Dundyke an order upon the house in London, Hardcastle and Co., for the 201. he had borrowed of her husband. He regretted, he said, his inability to furnish her, then, with any funds she might require, but he had barely sufficient to carry himself and wife to Genoa. If Mrs. Dundyke approved, he would with the greatest pleasure forward from that city any sum she chose to name, for being known there, his credit was unlimited. Mrs. Dundyke declined his offer, with thanks: she reflected that if her husband returned, he would have his money with him, and in the event of his mysterious absence being prolonged, she might as well write home for money as borrow it from Mr. Hardcastle at Genoa. She wondered, but did not presume to ask, how he had procured funds for his own journey, and to discharge his hotel bill, which he paid before starting
The days went on, and no tidings could be heard of Mr. Dundyke : no tidings ever were heard of him. Through the exertions of an English clergyman, who arrived at the hotel the day after the Hardcastles left, and hearing of the matter became interested in it, all means were employed to discover some traces of him, but without effect. A Swiss peasant, or very small farmer, a man of known good character, and on whose word reliance might be placed, came forward and stated that on the day in question he had seen two gentlemen, whom he took to be English, by their conversation, walking amicably together away from the lake, and about a mile distant from the spot of Mr. Dundyke's landing. The description he gave of these, tallied with the persons of the missing man and Mr. Hardcastle. The stouter of the two, he said, who wore a straw hat and a narrow green ribbon tied round it, carried a yellow silk handkerchief, and occasionally wiped his face, which looked very red and hot. The other, a tall, dark man, had a cane in his hand with a silver top, looking like a dog's head, which cane he several times, as he walked, whirled round and round, after the manner of a child's rattle. All this agreed exactly. Mr. Dundyke's hat was straw, its ribbon green and narrow, and the handkerchief, which Mrs. Dundyke had handed him, clean, that morning, was yellow, with white spots. And again, that action of whirling his cane round in the air, was a frequent habit of Mr. Hardcastle's. The country was scoured in the part where this peasant had seen them, and also in the direction that they appeared to be going, but nothing was discovered. Mr. Wheeler, the clergyman who had taken the matter in hand, reminded Mrs. Dundyke that there were more yellow silk handkerchiefs in the world than one, that straw hats and green ribbons were common enough about Geneva, and that many a gentleman, even of those staying at the hotel, carried a silver-headed cane, and might twirl it round as he walked, so that these might not have been the parties. Mrs. Dundyke acquiesced. “And besides,” she observed, un
6 suspiciously, “what motive could Mr. Hardcastle have had in denying that he had seen him since breakfast, if he had indeed been with him?”
The two halves of the 301. note forwarded to Mr. Dundyke had been of course lost with him, but its number was obtained from England, and the note traced. It had been changed in Geneva, on the day after Mr. Dundyke's disappearance. The money-changer could not recollect who changed it, except that it was an Englishman; he thought, a tall man : but so many English gentlemen came in to change money, he observed, that it was impossible to recollect them all with any degree of certainty.
It was Mr. Wheeler who ascertained these particulars. He came into his daughter's room, which was the one formerly occupied by the Hardcastles, thinking how he should break this additional news to Mrs. Dundyke, who was sitting there. Before he could speak, his daughter accosted him.
“Dear father,” she said, “I wish you would assist me to move these drawers a little, they are heavy. My needle-case has fallen behind.”
The clergyman advanced, and the chest of drawers was drawn from the wall. A chink, as of something falling, was heard, and a silver pencilcase rolled from underneath, towards the feet of Mrs. Dundyke. Miss Wheeler saw her needle-case close to the wall, and picked it up from the accumulated dust gathered there, but she dropped it again in terror, for a startling scream came from Mrs. Dundyke.
“ It is my husband's pencil-case!” she exclaimed, wringing her hands, “it is my husband's pencil-case!"
“Dear, dear madam," interposed the clergyman,“ do not let the sight of it agitate you thus !"
“ You do not understand,” she reiterated; “ he had it with him on that fatal morning. If this has returned here, why not he ?" “ How do
have left it in the hotel.”
“No, no!" she earnestly exclaimed. “ The very moment before he left, I saw him make a note with it in his memorandum-book, and I saw him return both to his pocket, the book and the pencil. How could he have written the letter after the men landed him, telling us to join him there, without it?—he never carried but this.”
The clergyman looked puzzled.
" He took the pencil with him that day, believe me, sir,” she continued, impressively, "and the note was written with it: the men said so. What has brought it back here ?--here, in Mr. Hardcastle's room?-Oh, sir!" she broke abruptly off, shuddering, and seizing the good clergyman's hands in excitement, “ the scales seem to fall from my eyes ! But it is a horrible thought!"
“ What mean you ?" said Mr. Wheeler.
“ It is a horrible fear-horrible-horrible! God forgive me if it be an unjust one. Could he have been murdered by Mr. Hardcastle ?"
“Good Heavens!” cried the clergyman, greatly shocked, “ do not let your imagination run away with you in this way, my poor lady! A gentleman in Mr. Hardcastle's position of life--and Mr. Dundyke's friend! It is quite unnatural to admit such thoughts.”
“ Mr. Hardcastle's position! Is it his position ? Is he indeed Mr. Hardcastle ?" she murmured. " A thousand doubts and suspicions rush upon me now. I never thought the lady was quite what she ought to be. Oh, sir, if this dread uncertainty that enshrouds my husband's fate should not be cleared up, these doubts will never more be set at rest."
They never were set at rest ; they never will be. The clergyman,
after weighing well all that he heard from her of the Hardcastles since their first meeting, allowed that there were strong grounds for suspicion. The travelling incog., as Mr. Dundyke called it—the scene with the waiter, which she knew now had reference to their unpaid bill—the discharging that bill with her husband's money, and the repeated excuses for its non-repayment—the wild impulsive glance shot on her husband by Mr. Hardcastle, upon hearing that he had received the 301. note—the long absence of Mr. Hardcastle on the day of the disappearance, and his sneaking up-stairs, hurt and scratched, warm and dusty, as if he had walked far, and his changing colour when she asked after her husband—the description given by the peasant of the two gentlemen he had seen walking together—the savage look Mr. Hardcastle turned upon his wife when she suggested that he might have been with Mr. Dundyke --the strange quarrel she had heard that night between them, in which her husband's name was more than once mentioned—the changing of the 301. note, known to have been in the pocket of Mr. Dundyke—their sudden departure, and the payment of the hotel bill, when it was suspected that previously they were not in funds to do either—and now the finding the pencil in Mr. Hardcastle's room! Grave, grave causes for suspicion! The clergyman admitted so : but, at the same time, they were but suspicion; all might be answered satisfactorily, and who was to run after Mr. Hardcastle and accuse him ?
The reader must draw his own deductions. Nothing was proved, nothing more ever heard of Mr. and Mrs. Hardcastle. It is possible the man was innocent, but it is probable he was guilty. It is a prolific theme for discussion, ay, and often is discussed, by those who knew the common-councilman.
Mrs. Dundyke returned to England when all hope had left her. The order she carried with her for 201., drawn on the house of Hardcastle and Co., was dishonoured: that firm disclaiming all knowledge of the drawer, and when she said it was the nephew of Mr. Hardcastle, senior, they begged to refer her personally to that gentleman. She went up to see him at Kensington, and the old gentleman received her very courteously. He had a nephew, he stated, who made his home on the Continent, a thankless scapegrace, who had caused him a world of trouble. this is not his handwriting, madam,” he observed, putting on his spectacles to look at the paper. “ I saw him write it, sir,” said Mrs. Dundyke.
Madam, it is no more like his writing than it is like yours or mine. And- -what is this signature, •B. Hardcastle'? My nephew's name is Thomas. Besides," continued the old gentleman, reflectingly, “he could not have been at Geneva at the date of this order. I had a letter from him about the period, written from Brussels.
Stay, I will fetch it."
Mr. Hardcastle produced the letter. Singular to relate, it bore the very same date, the 10th of August, the post marks agreeing with it. It is impossible, madam, you see: I will swear that this is my nephew's handwriting. You may read the letter: it is about family affairs, but no matter. You must have been imposed upon.”
“ Have you two nephews, sir ?"
“ I never had but this one in my life, ma'am: and I have found him one too many."
“ His wife is a fine woman, pale, with handsome features,” persisted Mrs. Dundyke. Not that she disbelieved that venerable old man, but it all seemed such a mystery.
“ His wife ! my nephew has no wife : I don't know who'd marry him. I tell you, ma'am, you have been taken in by some swindler who must have assumed his name : though egad! my nephew's little better than a svindler himself, for he gets into debt with everybody who will let him.”
Mrs. Dundyke sat silent a few moments, and she then told her tale -told everything that had occurred in connexion with her husband's mysterious fate. But when she came to hint her suspicions of Mr. Hardcastle's having been his destroyer, the old gentleman was visibly shocked and agitated.
“Good God!” he uttered, “ no! Spendthrift as he is, he is not capable of that awful crime. How do you suppose your husband lost his life? In a struggle? Did they quarrel?"
“I know nothing," wailed Mrs. Dundyke. “A quarrel and struggle it. may
have been. Mr. Hardcastle was a powerful man. “A what? A powerful man, did you say, this Mr. Hardcastle ?"
“Very powerful, sir ; tall and strong. Standing six foot high, and as dark as a gipsy."
“ Thank Heaven for that relief!" murmured Mr. Hardcastle. “My nephew is one of the smallest men you ever saw, ma’anı, short and slight, with fair curls : in fact, an effeminate dandy. There's his picture,” added the old gentleman, throwing open the door of an inner room,
66 and when he next comes to England, and he is threatening it now, you shall see him. But, meanwhile, I will refer you to fifty persons, if you like, who will bear testimony that he is, in person, as I describe. There is no possible identity between them. Once more, thank Heaven !"
Mrs. Dundyke returned to her home. An opportunity was presented to her soon after of seeing the real nephew of Mr. Hardcastle ; but it needed not this to convince her how completely she and her husband had been imposed upon. An ample income is allowed her from the teaestablishment, according to the articles of partnership; more than she will ever spend. She sits in her solitary home, her thoughts cast back into the past. Ten or eleven years have elapsed since, but her mind rarely wanders from that dreadful mystery. Many different aspects of the affair appear to her, each looking probable in its turn. Now, it seems they must have had a tussle for life and death, and that a random blow killed her husband, that his bones are still whitening in some unexplored spot near where he was last seen : now, she sees Mr. Hardcastle rushing round to the landing-place that morning, murder and robbery on his hand and heart : and now she asks, could her husband have fallen accidentally into the lake, and his effects have slipped in some way into the hands of some dishonest passer-by, while Mr. Hardcastle was wholly innocent ? Her brain is nearly wearied out with thought, and there comes an occasional burst of anguish from her usually quiet lips, as she exclaims to some friend who has dropped in to chat with her, “Oh that my poor husband should ever have taken it in his head to go that tour to Geneva!"
DIARY OF A FIRST WINTER IN ROME-1854.
The Cupola of St. Peter's and Sistine Chapel—The Opera, 2nd Part: the Trovatore-The Museum at the Lateran-San Pietro in Vincolo and the “ Moses.”:
A GREAT deal has been said and written about the ascent of the cupola of St. Peter's, in which I cannot agree; and, as I went up yesterday, I conceive myself—minnow though I be-entitled to an opinion among the great Tritons of the goose-tail. From the church we entered a door to the left, where sits a functionary to whom the ticket is delivered up; each holder of a ticket being responsible for the safety of the party of five which it admits, for fear of any sinistro accidente. A broad staircase, a cordoni (meaning that there are no steps, but a steep inclined plane, to ascend) circles round and round; a horse or donkey, biped or quadruped, might go up with perfect ease-all except a puffy alderman so gradual is the ascent. Many emperors, kings, and princesses have so far condescended to stretch their royal legs, as is set forth on the marble slabs that line the walls. We arrived on the roof, which is like the roof of any other great building, before we were conscious we had done anything. I saw no fountains or workshops save a few sheds in corners, and I could quite realise that I was walking on a roof, and not in some debateable country, extending to a fabulous extent, midway between earth and heaven. I did not see anything astonishing except the size, for which one comes prepared by a knowledge of the vast proportions of St. Peter. One circumstance is wonderful, and I note the fact, that upwards of six or seven thousand a
year is annually expended in keeping the exterior in repair. Standing there, I could not but contrast in my own mind the bald and bare aspect of the leaden plain before me, broken only by the vaulting arch of the central nave, and the huge dimensions of the statues over the façade great clumsy giants of Bernini parentage-to the delicate tracery; the forest of airy pinnacles and spires, each different and all beautiful; the stars, the crosses, the bosses, pure in colour as when drawn from the marble bosoms of the Carrara mountains; the world of statues; the long vistas of overarching supports, light and bold as the recollection of a dream, seen on the roof of the wondrous cathedral at Milan-that stupendous yet graceful fabric, which in bridal whiteness and purity challenges the snowy Alps, whose crested summits, mingling with the clouds, fringe the Lombard plains. There, as I contemplated the elegant confusion of the roof, at certain points perfectly symmetrical, at others absolutely labyrinthal in confusion, like the Fata Morgana turned topsyturvy, I was not for an instant reminded of the solidity of the structure, but my eye dwelt alone on the incomparable decorations, the inimitable coquetry with which the solid walls are festooned, surmounted by the arrow-like spire dashing upwards into the heavens with a transparent lightness quite miraculous; the walls being divided and the staircase visible, as it were, in air, twisting up cork-screw fashion between the apertures, looking altogether of a material more akin to the vapoury