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Chapter 19 (continued)
Life at Brookport had so accustomed him to being plain Bill Chalmers that it had absolutely slipped his mind that he was really Lord Dawlish, the one man in the world whom Elizabeth looked on as an enemy. What on earth was he to do about that? Tell her? But if he told her, wouldn't she chuck him on the spot?
This was awful. The dreamy sense of well-being left him. He straightened himself to face this problem, ignoring the hint of James, who was weaving circles about his legs expectant of more tickling. A man cannot spend his time tickling cats when he has to concentrate on a dilemma of this kind.
Suppose he didn't tell her? How would that work out? Was a marriage legal if the cove who was being married went through it under a false name? He seemed to remember seeing a melodrama in his boyhood the plot of which turned on that very point. Yes, it began to come back to him. An unpleasant bargee with a black moustache had said, 'This woman is not your wife!' and caused the dickens of a lot of unpleasantness; but there in its usual slipshod way memory failed. Had subsequent events proved the bargee right or wrong? It was a question for a lawyer to decide. Jerry Nichols would know. Well, there was plenty of time, thank goodness, to send Jerry Nichols a cable, asking for his professional opinion, and to get the straight tip long before the wedding day arrived.
Laying this part of it aside for the moment, and assuming that the thing could be worked, what about the money? Like a chump, he had told Elizabeth on the first day of his visit that he hadn't any money except what he made out of his job as secretary of the club. He couldn't suddenly spring five million dollars on her and pretend that he had forgotten all about it till then.
Of course, he could invent an imaginary uncle or something, and massacre him during the honeymoon. Something in that. He pictured the thing in his mind. Breakfast: Elizabeth doling out the scrambled eggs. 'What's the matter, Bill? Why did you exclaim like that? Is there some bad news in the letter you are reading?'
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