One day Mr. Carden telegraphed from London to Mr. Coventry at Hillsborough that he was coming down to Eastbank by the midday express, and would be glad to meet him there at four o'clock. He also telegraphed to Grace, and said, "Dinner at five."
Both gentlemen arrived about the same time, a little before dinner.
Soon after dinner was over, Grace observed a restlessness in her father's manner, which convinced her he had something private to say to Mr. Coventry. Her suspicions were aroused: she fancied he was going to encourage Mr. Coventry to court her. Instantly the whole woman was in arms, and her love for the deceased came rushing back tenfold. She rose, soon after dinner, and retired to the drawing- room; but, as soon as she got there, she slipped quietly into the veranda, and lay softly down upon her couch. The dining-room window was open, and with her quick ears, she could hear nearly every word.
She soon found that all her bitterness and her preparation for hostilities were wasted. Her father was telling Mr. Coventry the story of Richard Martin; only he carried it a step further than I have done.
"Well, sir," said he, "the money had not been paid more than a month, when an insurance office down at Liverpool communicated with us. The same game had been played with them; but, somehow, their suspicions were excited. We compared notes with them, and set detectives to work. They traced Martin's confederates, and found one of them was in prison awaiting his trial for some minor offense. They worked on him to tell the truth (I am afraid they compounded), and he let out the whole truth. Every one of those villains could swim like ducks, and Richard Martin like a fish. Drowned? not he: he had floated down to Greenwich or somewhere--the blackguard! and hid himself. And what do you think the miscreants did next? Bought a dead marine; and took him down in a box to some low public-house by the water-side. They had a supper, and dressed their marine in Richard Martin's clothes, and shaved its whiskers, and broke its tooth, and set it up in a chair, with a table before it, and a pot of ale, and fastened a pipe in its mouth; and they kept toasting this ghastly corpse as the thing that was to make all their fortunes." At this grotesque and horrible picture, a sigh of horror was uttered in the veranda. Mr. Carden, occupied with his narrative, did not hear it, but Coventry did. "Then, when it was pitch dark, they staggered down to the water with it, and planted it in the weeds. And, mark the cunning! when they had gone through their farce of recognizing it publicly for Richard Martin, they bribed a churchwarden and buried it under our very noses: it was all done in a way to take in the very devil. There's no Richard Martin; there never was a Richard Martin; there never will be: all this was contrived and executed by a swindler well known to the police, only they can't catch him; he is here, and there and everywhere; they call him 'Shifty Dick.' He and his myrmidons have bled the 'Gosshawk' to the tune of nine hundred pounds."
He drew his breath and proceeded more calmly. "However, a lesson of this kind is never thrown away upon a public man, and it has given me some very curious ideas about another matter. You know what I mean."
Coventry stared, and looked quite taken aback by this sudden turn.
However he stammered out, "I suppose you mean--but, really, I can't imagine what similarity--"he paused, and, inadvertently, his eye glanced uneasily toward the veranda.