OF A QUARTER OF LAMB.
Miss Stanbury, looking out of her parlour window, saw Mr. Gibson hurrying towards the cathedral, down the passage which leads from Southernhay into the Close. "He's just come from Heavitree, I'll be bound," said Miss Stanbury to Martha, who was behind her.
"Like enough, ma'am."
"Though they do say that the poor fool of a man has become quite sick of his bargain already."
"He'll have to be sicker yet, ma'am," said Martha.
"They were to have been married last week, and nobody ever knew why it was put off. It's my belief he'll never marry her. And she'll be served right;—quite right."
"He must marry her now, ma'am. She's been buying things all over Exeter, as though there was no end of their money."
"They haven't more than enough to keep body and soul together," said Miss Stanbury. "I don't see why I mightn't have gone to service this morning, Martha. It's quite warm now out in the Close."
"You'd better wait, ma'am, till the east winds is over. She was at Puddock's only the day before yesterday, buying bed-linen,—the finest they had, and that wasn't good enough."
"Psha!" said Miss Stanbury.
"As though Mr. Gibson hadn't things of that kind good enough for her," said Martha.
Then there was silence in the room for awhile. Miss Stanbury was standing at one window, and Martha at the other, watching the people as they passed backwards and forwards, in and out of the Close. Dorothy had now been away at Nuncombe Putney for some weeks, and her aunt felt her loneliness with a heavy sense of weakness. Never had she entertained a companion in the house who had suited her as well as her niece, Dorothy. Dorothy would always listen to her, would always talk to her, would always bear with her. Since Dorothy had gone, various letters had been interchanged between them. Though there had been anger about Brooke Burgess, there had been no absolute rupture; but Miss Stanbury had felt that she could not write and beg her niece to come back to her. She had not sent Dorothy away. Dorothy had chosen to go, because her aunt had had an opinion of her own as to what was fitting for her heir; and as Miss Stanbury would not give up her opinion, she could not ask her niece to return to her. Such had been her resolution, sternly expressed to herself a dozen times during these solitary weeks; but time and solitude had acted upon her, and she longed for the girl's presence in the house. "Martha," she said at last, "I think I shall get you to go over to Nuncombe Putney."
"Why not again? It's not so far, I suppose, that the journey will hurt you."
"I don't think it'd hurt me, ma'am;—only what good will I do?"
"If you'll go rightly to work, you may do good. Miss Dorothy was a fool to go the way she did;—a great fool."
"She stayed longer than I thought she would, ma'am."
"I'm not asking you what you thought. I'll tell you what. Do you send Giles to Winslow's, and tell them to send in early to-morrow a nice fore-quarter of lamb. Or it wouldn't hurt you if you went and chose it yourself."
"It wouldn't hurt me at all, ma'am."
"You get it nice;—not too small, because meat is meat at the price things are now; and how they ever see butcher's meat at all is more than I can understand."
"People as has to be careful, ma'am, makes a little go a long way."
"You get it a good size, and take it over in a basket. It won't hurt you, done up clean in a napkin."
"It won't hurt me at all, ma'am."
"And you give it to Miss Dorothy with my love. Don't you let 'em think I sent it to my sister-in-law."
"And is that to be all, ma'am?"
"How do you mean all?"
"Because, ma'am, the railway and the carrier would take it quite ready, and there would be a matter of ten or twelve shillings saved in the journey."
"Whose affair is that?"
"Not mine, ma'am, of course."
"I believe you are afraid of the trouble, Martha. Or else you don't like going because they're poor."
"It ain't fair, ma'am, of you to say so;—that it ain't. All I ask is,—is that to be all? When I've giv'em the lamb, am I just to come away straight, or am I to say anything? It will look so odd if I'm just to put down the basket and come away without e'er a word."
"You're a fool."
"That's true, too, ma'am."
"It would be like you to go about in that dummy way,—wouldn't it;—and you that was so fond of Miss Dorothy."
"I was fond of her, ma'am."
"Of course you'll be talking to her;—and why not? And if she should say anything about returning—"
"You can say that you know her old aunt wouldn't,—wouldn't refuse to have her back again. You can put it your own way, you know. You needn't make me find words for you."
"But she won't, ma'am."
"Won't say anything about returning."
"Yes, she will, Martha, if you talk to her rightly." The servant didn't reply for awhile, but stood looking out of the window. "You might as well go about the lamb at once, Martha."
"So I will, ma'am, when I've got it out, all clear."
"What do you mean by that?"
"Why,—just this, ma'am. May I tell Miss Dolly straight out that you want her to come back, and that I've been sent to say so?"
"Then how am I to do it, ma'am?"
"Do it out of your own head, just as it comes up at the moment."
"Out of my own head, ma'am?"
"Yes;—just as you feel, you know."
"Just as I feel, ma'am?"
"You understand what I mean, Martha."
"I'll do my best, ma'am, and I can't say no more. And if you scolds me afterwards, ma'am,—why, of course, I must put up with it."
"But I won't scold you, Martha."
"Then I'll go out to Winslow's about the lamb at once, ma'am."
"Very nice, and not too small, Martha."
Martha went out and ordered the lamb, and packed it as desired quite clean in a napkin, and fitted it into the basket, and arranged with Giles Hickbody to carry it down for her early in the morning to the station, so that she might take the first train to Lessborough. It was understood that she was to hire a fly at Lessborough to take her to Nuncombe Putney. Now that she understood the importance of her mission and was aware that the present she took with her was only the customary accompaniment of an ambassadress entrusted with a great mission, Martha said nothing even about the expense. The train started for Lessborough at seven, and as she was descending from her room at six, Miss Stanbury, in her flannel dressing-gown, stepped out of the door of her own room. "Just put this in the basket," said she, handing a note to her servant. "I thought last night I'd write a word. Just put it in the basket and say nothing about it." The note which she sent was as follows:—
The Close, 8th April, 186—.
My Dear Dorothy,—
As Martha talks of going over to pay you a visit, I've thought that I'd just get her to take you a quarter of lamb, which is coming in now very nice. I do envy her going to see you, my dear, for I had gotten somehow to love to see your pretty face. I'm getting almost strong again; but Sir Peter, who was here this afternoon, just calling as a friend, was uncivil enough to say that I'm too much of an old woman to go out in the east wind. I told him it didn't much matter;—for the sooner old women made way for young ones, the better.
I am very desolate and solitary here. But I rather think that women who don't get married are intended to be desolate; and perhaps it is better for them, if they bestow their time and thoughts properly,—as I hope you do, my dear. A woman with a family of children has almost too many of the cares of this world, to give her mind as she ought to the other. What shall we say then of those who have no such cares, and yet do not walk uprightly? Dear Dorothy, be not such a one. For myself, I acknowledge bitterly the extent of my shortcomings. Much has been given to me; but if much be expected, how shall I answer the demand?
I hope I need not tell you that whenever it may suit you to pay a visit to Exeter, your room will be ready for you, and there will be a warm welcome. Mrs. MacHugh always asks after you; and so has Mrs. Clifford. I won't tell you what Mrs. Clifford said about your colour, because it would make you vain. The Heavitree affair has all been put off;—of course you have heard that. Dear, dear, dear! You know what I think, so I need not repeat it.
Give my respects to your mamma and Priscilla,—and for yourself, accept the affectionate love of
Your loving old aunt,
P.S.—If Martha should say anything to you, you may feel sure that she knows my mind.
Poor old soul. She felt an almost uncontrollable longing to have her niece back again, and yet she told herself that she was bound not to send a regular invitation, or to suggest an unconditional return. Dorothy had herself decided to take her departure, and if she chose to remain away,—so it must be. She, Miss Stanbury, could not demean herself by renewing her invitation. She read her letter before she added to it the postscript, and felt that it was too solemn in its tone to suggest to Dorothy that which she wished to suggest. She had been thinking much of her own past life when she wrote those words about the state of an unmarried woman, and was vacillating between two minds,—whether it were better for a young woman to look forward to the cares and affections, and perhaps hard usage, of a married life; or to devote herself to the easier and safer course of an old maid's career. But an old maid is nothing if she be not kind and good. She acknowledged that, and, acknowledging it, added the postscript to her letter. What though there was a certain blow to her pride in the writing of it! She did tell herself that in thus referring her niece to Martha for an expression of her own mind,—after that conversation which she and Martha had had in the parlour,—she was in truth eating her own words. But the postscript was written, and though she took the letter up with her to her own room in order that she might alter the words if she repented of them in the night, the letter was sent as it was written,—postscript and all.
She spent the next day with very sober thoughts. When Mrs. MacHugh called upon her and told her that there were rumours afloat in Exeter that the marriage between Camilla French and Mr. Gibson would certainly be broken off, in spite of all purchases that had been made, she merely remarked that they were two poor, feckless things, who didn't know their own minds. "Camilla knows hers plain enough," said Mrs. MacHugh sharply; but even this did not give Miss Stanbury any spirit. She waited, and waited patiently, till Martha should return, thinking of the sweet pink colour which used to come and go in Dorothy's cheeks,—which she had been wont to observe so frequently, not knowing that she had observed it and loved it.
Three days after Hugh Stanbury's visit to Manchester Street, he wrote a note to Lady Rowley, telling her of the address at which might be found both Trevelyan and his son. As Bozzle had acknowledged, facts are things which may be found out. Hugh had gone to work somewhat after the Bozzlian fashion, and had found out this fact. "He lives at a place called River's Cottage, at Willesden," wrote Stanbury. "If you turn off the Harrow Road to the right, about a mile beyond the cemetery, you will find the cottage on the left hand side of the lane about a quarter of a mile from the Harrow Road. I believe you can go to Willesden by railway, but you had better take a cab from London." There was much consultation respecting this letter between Lady Rowley and Mrs. Trevelyan, and it was decided that it should not be shown to Sir Marmaduke. To see her child was at the present moment the most urgent necessity of the poor mother, and both the ladies felt that Sir Marmaduke in his wrath might probably impede rather than assist her in this desire. If told where he might find Trevelyan, he would probably insist on starting in quest of his son-in-law himself, and the distance between the mother and her child might become greater in consequence, instead of less. There were many consultations; and the upshot of these was, that Lady Rowley and her daughter determined to start for Willesden without saying anything to Sir Marmaduke of the purpose they had in hand. When Emily expressed her conviction that if Trevelyan should be away from home they would probably be able to make their way into the house,—so as to see the child, Lady Rowley with some hesitation acknowledged that such might be the case. But the child's mother said nothing to her own mother of a scheme which she had half formed of so clinging to her boy that no human power should separate them.
They started in a cab, as advised by Stanbury, and were driven to a point on the road from which a lane led down to Willesden, passing by River's Cottage. They asked as they came along, and met no difficulty in finding their way. At the point on the road indicated, there was a country inn for hay-waggoners, and here Lady Rowley proposed that they should leave their cab, urging that it might be best to call at the cottage in the quietest manner possible; but Mrs. Trevelyan, with her scheme in her head for the recapture of their child, begged that the cab might go on;—and thus they were driven up to the door.
River's Cottage was not a prepossessing abode. It was a new building, of light-coloured bricks, with a door in the middle and one window on each side. Over the door was a stone tablet, bearing the name,—River's Cottage. There was a little garden between the road and the house, across which there was a straight path to the door. In front of one window was a small shrub, generally called a puzzle-monkey, and in front of the other was a variegated laurel. There were two small morsels of green turf, and a distant view round the corner of the house of a row of cabbage stumps. If Trevelyan were living there, he had certainly come down in the world since the days in which he had occupied the house in Curzon Street. The two ladies got out of the cab, and slowly walked across the little garden. Mrs. Trevelyan was dressed in black, and she wore a thick veil. She had altogether been unable to make up her mind as to what should be her conduct to her husband should she see him. That must be governed by circumstances as they might occur. Her visit was made not to him, but to her boy.
The door was opened before they knocked, and Trevelyan himself was standing in the narrow passage. Lady Rowley was the first to speak. "Louis," she said, "I have brought your wife to see you."
"Who told you that I was here?" he asked, still standing in the passage.
"Of course a mother would find out where was her child," said Lady Rowley.
"You should not have come here without notice," he said. "I was careful to let you know the conditions on which you should come."
"You do not mean that I shall not see my child," said the mother. "Oh, Louis, you will let me see him."
Trevelyan hesitated a moment, still keeping his position firmly in the doorway. By this time an old woman, decently dressed and of comfortable appearance, had taken her place behind him, and behind her was a slip of a girl about fifteen years of age. This was the owner of River's Cottage and her daughter, and all the inhabitants of the cottage were now there, standing in the passage. "I ought not to let you see him," said Trevelyan; "you have intruded upon me in coming here! I had not wished to see you here,—till you had complied with the order I had given you." What a meeting between a husband and a wife who had not seen each other now for many months,—between a husband and a wife who were still young enough not to have outlived the first impulses of their early love! He still stood there guarding the way, and had not even put out his hand to greet her. He was guarding the way lest she should, without his permission, obtain access to her own child! She had not removed her veil, and now she hardly dared to step over the threshold of her husband's house. At this moment, she perceived that the woman behind was pointing to the room on the left, as the cottage was entered, and Emily at once understood that her boy was there. Then at that moment she heard her son's voice, as, in his solitude, the child began to cry. "I must go in," she said; "I will go in;" and rushing on she tried to push aside her husband. Her mother aided her, nor did Trevelyan attempt to stop her with violence, and in a moment she was kneeling at the foot of a small sofa, with her child in her arms. "I had not intended to hinder you," said Trevelyan, "but I require from you a promise that you will not attempt to remove him."
"Why should she not take him home with her?" said Lady Rowley.
"Because I will not have it so," replied Trevelyan. "Because I choose that it should be understood that I am to be the master of my own affairs."
Mrs. Trevelyan had now thrown aside her bonnet and her veil, and was covering her child with caresses. The poor little fellow, whose mind had been utterly dismayed by the events which had occurred to him since his capture, though he returned her kisses, did so in fear and trembling. And he was still sobbing, rubbing his eyes with his knuckles, and by no means yielding himself with his whole heart to his mother's tenderness,—as she would have had him do. "Louey," she said, whispering to him, "you know mamma; you haven't forgotten mamma?" He half murmured some little infantine word through his sobs, and then put his cheek up to be pressed against his mother's face. "Louey will never, never forget his own mamma; will he, Louey?" The poor boy had no assurances to give, and could only raise his cheek again to be kissed. In the meantime Lady Rowley and Trevelyan were standing by, not speaking to each other, regarding the scene in silence.
She,—Lady Rowley,—could see that he was frightfully altered in appearance, even since the day on which she had so lately met him in the City. His cheeks were thin and haggard, and his eyes were deep and very bright,—and he moved them quickly from side to side, as though ever suspecting something. He seemed to be smaller in stature,—withered, as it were, as though he had melted away. And though he stood looking upon his wife and child, he was not for a moment still. He would change the posture of his hands and arms, moving them quickly with little surreptitious jerks, and would shuffle his feet upon the floor, almost without altering his position. His clothes hung about him, and his linen was soiled and worn. Lady Rowley noticed this especially, as he had been a man peculiarly given to neatness of apparel. He was the first to speak. "You have come down here in a cab?" said he.
"Yes,—in a cab, from London," said Lady Rowley.
"Of course you will go back in it? You cannot stay here. There is no accommodation. It is a wretched place, but it suits the boy. As for me, all places are now alike."
"Louis," said his wife, springing up from her knees, coming to him, and taking his right hand between both her own, "you will let me take him with me. I know you will let me take him with me."
"I cannot do that, Emily; it would be wrong."
"Wrong to restore a child to his mother? Oh, Louis, think of it. What must my life be without him,—or you?"
"Don't talk of me. It is too late for that."
"Not if you will be reasonable, Louis, and listen to me. Oh, heavens, how ill you are!" As she said this she drew nearer to him, so that her face was almost close to his. "Louis, come back; come back, and let it all be forgotten. It shall be a dream, a horrid dream, and nobody shall speak of it." He left his hand within hers and stood looking into her face. He was well aware that his life since he had left her had been one long hour of misery. There had been to him no alleviation, no comfort, no consolation. He had not a friend left to him. Even his satellite, the policeman, was becoming weary of him and manifestly suspicious. The woman with whom he was now lodging, and whose resources were infinitely benefited by his payments to her, had already thrown out hints that she was afraid of him. And as he looked at his wife, he knew that he loved her. Everything for him now was hot and dry and poor and bitter. How sweet would it be again to sit with her soft hand in his, to feel her cool brow against his own, to have the comfort of her care, and to hear the music of loving words! The companionship of his wife had once been to him everything in the world; but now, for many months past, he had known no companion. She bade him come to her, and look upon all this trouble as a dream not to be mentioned. Could it be possible that it should be so, and that they might yet be happy together,—perhaps in some distant country, where the story of all their misery might not be known? He felt all this truly and with a keen accuracy. If he were mad, he was not all mad. "I will tell you of nothing that is past," said she, hanging to him, and coming still nearer to him, and embracing his arm.
Could she have condescended to ask him not to tell her of the past;—had it occurred to her so to word her request,—she might perhaps have prevailed. But who can say how long the tenderness of his heart would have saved him from further outbreak;—and whether such prevailing on her part would have been of permanent service? As it was, her words wounded him in that spot of his inner self which was most sensitive,—on that spot from whence had come all his fury. A black cloud came upon his brow, and he made an effort to withdraw himself from her grasp. It was necessary to him that she should in some fashion own that he had been right, and now she was promising him that she would not tell him of his fault! He could not thus swallow down all the convictions by which he had fortified himself to bear the misfortunes which he had endured. Had he not quarrelled with every friend he possessed on this score; and should he now stultify himself in all those quarrels by admitting that he had been cruel, unjust, and needlessly jealous? And did not truth demand of him that he should cling to his old assurances? Had she not been disobedient, ill-conditioned, and rebellious? Had she not received the man, both him personally and his letters, after he had explained to her that his honour demanded that it should not be so? How could he come into such terms as those now proposed to him, simply because he longed to enjoy the rich sweetness of her soft hand, to feel the fragrance of her breath, and to quench the heat of his forehead in the cool atmosphere of her beauty? "Why have you driven me to this by your intercourse with that man?" he said. "Why, why, why did you do it?"
She was still clinging to him. "Louis," she said, "I am your wife."
"Yes; you are my wife."
"And will you still believe such evil of me without any cause?"
"There has been cause,—horrible cause. You must repent,—repent,—repent."
"Heaven help me," said the woman, falling back from him, and returning to the boy who was now seated in Lady Rowley's lap. "Mamma, do you speak to him. What can I say? Would he think better of me were I to own myself to have been guilty, when there has been no guilt, no slightest fault? Does he wish me to purchase my child by saying that I am not fit to be his mother?"
"Louis," said Lady Rowley, "if any man was ever wrong, mad, madly mistaken, you are so now."
"Have you come out here to accuse me again, as you did before in London?" he asked. "Is that the way in which you and she intend to let the past be, as she says, like a dream? She tells me that I am ill. It is true. I am ill,—and she is killing me, killing me, by her obstinacy."
"What would you have me do?" said the wife, again rising from her child.
"Acknowledge your transgressions, and say that you will amend your conduct for the future."
"Mamma, mamma,—what shall I say to him?"
"Who can speak to a man that is beside himself?" replied Lady Rowley.
"I am not so beside myself as yet, Lady Rowley, but that I know how to guard my own honour and to protect my own child. I have told you, Emily, the terms on which you can come back to me. You had better now return to your mother's house; and if you wish again to have a house of your own, and your husband, and your boy, you know by what means you may acquire them. For another week I shall remain here;—after that I shall remove far from hence."
"And where will you go, Louis?"
"As yet I know not. To Italy I think,—or perhaps to America. It matters little where for me."
"And will Louey be taken with you?"
"Certainly he will go with me. To strive to bring him up so that he may be a happier man than his father is all that there is now left for me in life." Mrs. Trevelyan had now got the boy in her arms, and her mother was seated by her on the sofa. Trevelyan was standing away from them, but so near the door that no sudden motion on their part would enable them to escape with the boy without his interposition. It now again occurred to the mother to carry off her prize in opposition to her husband;—but she had no scheme to that effect laid with her mother, and she could not reconcile herself to the idea of a contest with him in which personal violence would be necessary. The woman of the house had, indeed, seemed to sympathise with her, but she could not dare in such a matter to trust to assistance from a stranger. "I do not wish to be uncourteous," said Trevelyan, "but if you have no assurance to give me, you had better—leave me."
Then there came to be a bargaining about time, and the poor woman begged almost on her knees that she might be allowed to take her child up-stairs and be with him alone for a few minutes. It seemed to her that she had not seen her boy till she had had him to herself, in absolute privacy, till she had kissed his limbs, and had her hand upon his smooth back, and seen that he was white and clean and bright as he had ever been. And the bargain was made. She was asked to pledge her word that she would not take him out of the house,—and she pledged her word, feeling that there was no strength in her for that action which she had meditated. He, knowing that he might still guard the passage at the bottom of the stairs, allowed her to go with the boy to his bedroom, while he remained below with Lady Rowley. A quarter of an hour was allowed to her, and she humbly promised that she would return when that time was expired.
Trevelyan held the door open for her as she went, and kept it open during her absence. There was hardly a word said between him and Lady Rowley, but he paced from the passage into the room and from the room into the passage with his hands behind his back. "It is cruel," he said once. "It is very cruel."
"It is you that are cruel," said Lady Rowley.
"Of course;—of course. That is natural from you. I expect that from you." To this she made no answer, and he did not open his lips again.
After a while Mrs. Trevelyan called to her mother, and Lady Rowley was allowed to go up-stairs. The quarter of an hour was of course greatly stretched, and all the time Trevelyan continued to pace in and out of the room. He was patient, for he did not summon them; but went on pacing backwards and forwards, looking now and again to see that the cab was at its place,—that no deceit was being attempted, no second act of kidnapping being perpetrated. At last the two ladies came down the stairs, and the boy was with them,—and the woman of the house.
"Louis," said the wife, going quickly up to her husband, "I will do anything, if you will give me my child."
"What will you do?"
"Anything;—say what you want. He is all the world to me, and I cannot live if he be taken from me."
"Acknowledge that you have been wrong."
"But how;—in what words;—how am I to speak it?"
"Say that you have sinned;—and that you will sin no more."
"Sinned, Louis;—as the woman did,—in the Scripture? Would you have me say that?"
"He cannot think that it is so," said Lady Rowley.
But Trevelyan had not understood her. "Lady Rowley, I should have fancied that my thoughts at any rate were my own. But this is useless now. The child cannot go with you to-day, nor can you remain here. Go home and think of what I have said. If then you will do as I would have you, you shall return."
With many embraces, with promises of motherly love, and with prayers for love in return, the poor woman did at last leave the house, and return to the cab. As she went there was a doubt on her own mind whether she should ask to kiss her husband; but he made no sign, and she at last passed out without any mark of tenderness. He stood by the cab as they entered it, and closed the door upon them, and then went slowly back to his room. "My poor bairn," he said to the boy; "my poor bairn."
"Why for mamma go?" sobbed the child.
"Mamma goes—; oh, heaven and earth, why should she go? She goes because her spirit is obstinate, and she will not bend. She is stiff-necked, and will not submit herself. But Louey must love mamma always;—and mamma some day will come back to him, and be good to him."
"Mamma is good,—always," said the child. Trevelyan had intended on this very afternoon to have gone up to town,—to transact business with Bozzle; for he still believed, though the aspect of the man was bitter to him as wormwood, that Bozzle was necessary to him in all his business. And he still made appointments with the man, sometimes at Stony Walk, in the Borough, and sometimes at the tavern in Poulter's Court, even though Bozzle not unfrequently neglected to attend the summons of his employer. And he would go to his banker's and draw out money, and then walk about the crowded lanes of the City, and afterwards return to his desolate lodgings at Willesden, thinking that he had been transacting business,—and that this business was exacted from him by the unfortunate position of his affairs. But now he gave up his journey. His retreat had been discovered; and there came upon him at once a fear that if he left the house his child would be taken. His landlady told him on this very day that the boy ought to be sent to his mother, and had made him understand that it would not suit her to find a home any longer for one who was so singular in his proceedings. He believed that his child would be given up at once, if he were not there to guard it. He stayed at home, therefore, turning in his mind many schemes. He had told his wife that he should go either to Italy or to America at once; but in doing so he had had no formed plan in his head. He had simply imagined at the moment that such a threat would bring her to submission. But now it became a question whether he would do better than go to America. He suggested to himself that he should go to Canada, and fix himself with his boy on some remote farm,—far away from any city; and would then invite his wife to join him if she would. She was too obstinate, as he told himself, ever to yield, unless she should be absolutely softened and brought down to the ground by the loss of her child. What would do this so effectually as the interposition of the broad ocean between him and her? He sat thinking of this for the rest of the day, and Louey was left to the charge of the mistress of River's Cottage.
"Do you think he believes it, mamma?" Mrs. Trevelyan said to her mother when they had already made nearly half their journey home in the cab. There had been nothing spoken hitherto between them, except some half-formed words of affection intended for consolation to the young mother in her great affliction.
"He does not know what he believes, dearest."
"You heard what he said. I was to own that I had—sinned."
"Sinned;—yes; because you will not obey him like a slave. That is sin—to him."
"But I asked him, mamma. Did you not hear me? I could not say the word plainer,—but I asked him whether he meant that sin. He must have known, and he would not answer me. And he spoke of my—transgression. Mamma, if he believed that, he would not let me come back at all."
"He did not believe it, Emily."
"Could he possibly then so accuse me,—the mother of his child! If his heart be utterly hard and false towards me, if it is possible that he should be cruel to me with such cruelty as that,—still he must love his boy. Why did he not answer me, and say that he did not think it?"
"Simply because his reason has left him."
"But if he be mad, mamma, ought we to leave him like that? And, then, did you see his eyes, and his face, and his hands? Did you observe how thin he is,—and his back, how bent? And his clothes,—how they were torn and soiled. It cannot be right that he should be left like that."
"We will tell papa when we get home," said Lady Rowley, who was herself beginning to be somewhat frightened by what she had seen. It is all very well to declare that a friend is mad when one simply desires to justify one's self in opposition to that friend;—but the matter becomes much more serious when evidence of the friend's insanity becomes true and circumstantial. "I certainly think that a physician should see him," continued Lady Rowley. On their return home Sir Marmaduke was told of what had occurred, and there was a long family discussion in which it was decided that Lady Milborough should be consulted, as being the oldest friend of Louis Trevelyan himself with whom they were acquainted. Trevelyan had relatives of his own name living in Cornwall; but Mrs. Trevelyan herself had never even met one of that branch of the family.
Sir Marmaduke, however, resolved that he himself would go out and see his son-in-law. He too had called Trevelyan mad, but he did not believe that the madness was of such a nature as to interfere with his own duties in punishing the man who had ill used his daughter. He would at any rate see Trevelyan himself;—but of this he said nothing either to his wife or to his child.
MAJOR MAGRUDER'S COMMITTEE.
Sir Marmaduke could not go out to Willesden on the morning after Lady Rowley's return from River's Cottage, because on that day he was summoned to attend at twelve o'clock before a Committee of the House of Commons, to give his evidence and the fruit of his experience as to the government of British colonies generally; and as he went down to the House in a cab from Manchester Street he thoroughly wished that his friend Colonel Osborne had not been so efficacious in bringing him home. The task before him was one which he thoroughly disliked, and of which he was afraid. He dreaded the inquisitors before whom he was to appear, and felt that though he was called there to speak as a master of his art of governing, he would in truth be examined as a servant,—and probably as a servant who did not know his business. Had his sojourn at home been in other respects happy, he might have been able to balance the advantage against the inquiry;—but there was no such balancing for him now. And, moreover, the expense of his own house in Manchester Street was so large that this journey, in a pecuniary point of view, would be of but little service to him. So he went down to the House in an unhappy mood; and when he shook hands in one of the passages with his friend Osborne who was on the Committee, there was very little cordiality in his manner. "This is the most ungrateful thing I ever knew," said the Colonel to himself; "I have almost disgraced myself by having this fellow brought home; and now he quarrels with me because that idiot, his son-in-law, has quarrelled with his wife." And Colonel Osborne really did feel that he was a martyr to the ingratitude of his friend.
The Committee had been convoked by the House in compliance with the eager desires of a certain ancient pundit of the constitution, who had been for many years a member, and who had been known as a stern critic of our colonial modes of government. To him it certainly seemed that everything that was, was bad,—as regarded our national dependencies. But this is so usually the state of mind of all parliamentary critics, it is so much a matter of course that the members who take up the army or the navy, guns, India, our relations with Spain, or workhouse management, should find everything to be bad, rotten, and dishonest, that the wrath of the member for Killicrankie against colonial peculation and idleness, was not thought much of in the open House. He had been at the work for years, and the Colonial Office were so used to it that they rather liked him. He had made himself free of the office, and the clerks were always glad to see him. It was understood that he said bitter things in the House,—that was Major Magruder's line of business; but he could be quite pleasant when he was asking questions of a private secretary, or telling the news of the day to a senior clerk. As he was now between seventy and eighty, and had been at the work for at least twenty years, most of those concerned had allowed themselves to think that he would ride his hobby harmlessly to the day of his parliamentary death. But the drop from a house corner will hollow a stone by its constancy, and Major Magruder at last persuaded the House to grant him a Committee of Inquiry. Then there came to be serious faces at the Colonial Office, and all the little pleasantries of a friendly opposition were at an end. It was felt that the battle must now become a real fight, and Secretary and Under-Secretary girded up their loins.
Major Magruder was chairman of his own committee, and being a man of a laborious turn of mind, much given to blue-books, very patient, thoroughly conversant with the House, and imbued with a strong belief in the efficacy of parliamentary questionings to carry a point, if not to elicit a fact, had a happy time of it during this session. He was a man who always attended the House from 4 p.m. to the time of its breaking up, and who never missed a division. The slight additional task of sitting four hours in a committee-room three days a week, was only a delight the more,—especially as during those four hours he could occupy the post of chairman. Those who knew Major Magruder well did not doubt but that the Committee would sit for many weeks, and that the whole theory of colonial government, or rather of imperial control supervising such government, would be tested to the very utmost. Men who had heard the old Major maunder on for years past on his pet subject, hardly knew how much vitality would be found in him when his maundering had succeeded in giving him a committee.
A Governor from one of the greater colonies had already been under question for nearly a week, and was generally thought to have come out of the fire unscathed by the flames of the Major's criticism. This Governor had been a picked man, and he had made it appear that the control of Downing Street was never more harsh and seldom less refreshing and beautifying than a spring shower in April. No other lands under the sun were so blest, in the way of government, as were the colonies with which he had been acquainted; and, as a natural consequence, their devotion and loyalty to the mother country were quite a passion with them. Now the Major had been long of a mind that one or two colonies had better simply be given up to other nations, which were more fully able to look after them than was England, and that three or four more should be allowed to go clear,—costing England nothing, and owing England nothing. But the well-chosen Governor who had now been before the Committee, had rather staggered the Major,—and things altogether were supposed to be looking up for the Colonial Office.
And now had come the day of Sir Marmaduke's martyrdom. He was first requested, with most urbane politeness, to explain the exact nature of the government which he exercised in the Mandarins. Now it certainly was the case that the manner in which the legislative and executive authorities were intermingled in the affairs of these islands, did create a complication which it was difficult for any man to understand, and very difficult indeed for any man to explain to others. There was a Court of Chancery, so called, which Sir Marmaduke described as a little parliament. When he was asked whether the court exercised legislative or executive functions, he said at first that it exercised both, and then that it exercised neither. He knew that it consisted of nine men, of whom five were appointed by the colony and four by the Crown. Yet he declared that the Crown had the control of the court;—which, in fact, was true enough no doubt, as the five open members were not perhaps, all of them, immaculate patriots; but on this matter poor Sir Marmaduke was very obscure. When asked who exercised the patronage of the Crown in nominating the four members, he declared that the four members exercised it themselves. Did he appoint them? No; he never appointed anybody himself. He consulted the Court of Chancery for everything. At last it came out that the chief justice of the islands, and three other officers, always sat in the court;—but whether it was required by the constitution of the islands that this should be so, Sir Marmaduke did not know. It had worked well; that was to say, everybody had complained of it, but he, Sir Marmaduke, would not recommend any change. What he thought best was that the Colonial Secretary should send out his orders, and that the people in the colonies should mind their business and grow coffee. When asked what would be the effect upon the islands, under his scheme of government, if an incoming Colonial Secretary should change the policy of his predecessor, he said that he didn't think it would much matter if the people did not know anything about it.
In this way the Major had a field day, and poor Sir Marmaduke was much discomfited. There was present on the Committee a young Parliamentary Under-Secretary, who with much attention had studied the subject of the Court of Chancery in the Mandarins, and who had acknowledged to his superiors in the office that it certainly was of all legislative assemblies the most awkward and complicated. He did what he could, by questions judiciously put, to pull Sir Marmaduke through his difficulties; but the unfortunate Governor had more than once lost his temper in answering the chairman; and in his heavy confusion was past the power of any Under-Secretary, let him be ever so clever, to pull him through. Colonel Osborne sat by the while and asked no questions. He had been put on the Committee as a respectable dummy; but there was not a member sitting there who did not know that Sir Marmaduke had been brought home as his friend;—and some of them, no doubt, had whispered that this bringing home of Sir Marmaduke was part of the payment made by the Colonel for the smiles of the Governor's daughter. But no one alluded openly to the inefficiency of the evidence given. No one asked why a Governor so incompetent had been sent to them. No one suggested that a job had been done. There are certain things of which opposition members of Parliament complain loudly;—and there are certain other things as to which they are silent. The line between these things is well known; and should an ill-conditioned, a pig-headed, an underbred, or an ignorant member not understand this line and transgress it, by asking questions which should not be asked, he is soon put down from the Treasury bench, to the great delight of the whole House.
Sir Marmaduke, after having been questioned for an entire afternoon, left the House with extreme disgust. He was so convinced of his own failure, that he felt that his career as a Colonial Governor must be over. Surely they would never let him go back to his islands after such an exposition as he had made of his own ignorance. He hurried off into a cab, and was ashamed to be seen of men. But the members of the Committee thought little or nothing about it. The Major, and those who sided with him, had been anxious to entrap their witness into contradictions and absurdities, for the furtherance of their own object; and for the furtherance of theirs, the Under-Secretary from the Office and the supporters of Government had endeavoured to defend their man. But, when the affair was over, if no special admiration had been elicited for Sir Marmaduke, neither was there expressed any special reprobation. The Major carried on his Committee over six weeks, and succeeded in having his blue-book printed; but, as a matter of course, nothing further came of it; and the Court of Chancery in the Mandarin Islands still continues to hold its own, and to do its work, in spite of the absurdities displayed in its construction. Major Magruder has had his day of success, and now feels that Othello's occupation is gone. He goes no more to the Colonial Office, lives among his friends on the memories of his Committee,—not always to their gratification,—and is beginning to think that as his work is done he may as well resign Killicrankie to some younger politician. Poor Sir Marmaduke remembered his defeat with soreness long after it had been forgotten by all others who had been present, and was astonished when he found that the journals of the day, though they did in some curt fashion report the proceedings of the Committee, never uttered a word of censure against him, as they had not before uttered a word of praise for that pearl of a Governor who had been examined before him.
On the following morning he went to the Colonial Office by appointment, and then he saw the young Irish Under-Secretary whom he had so much dreaded. Nothing could be more civil than was the young Irish Under-Secretary, who told him that he had better of course stay in town till the Committee was over, though it was not probable that he would be wanted again. When the Committee had done its work he would be allowed to remain six weeks on service to prepare for his journey back. If he wanted more time after that he could ask for leave of absence. So Sir Marmaduke left the Colonial Office with a great weight off his mind, and blessed that young Irish Secretary as he went.
SIR MARMADUKE AT WILLESDEN.
On the next day Sir Marmaduke purposed going to Willesden. He was in great doubt whether or no he would first consult that very eminent man Dr. Trite Turbury, as to the possibility, and,—if possible,—as to the expediency, of placing Mr. Trevelyan under some control. But Sir Marmaduke, though he would repeatedly declare that his son-in-law was mad, did not really believe in this madness. He did not, that is, believe that Trevelyan was so mad as to be fairly exempt from the penalties of responsibility; and he was therefore desirous of speaking his own mind out fully to the man, and, as it were, of having his own personal revenge, before he might be deterred by the interposition of medical advice. He resolved therefore that he would not see Sir Trite Turbury, at any rate till he had come back from Willesden. He also went down in a cab, but he left the cab at the public-house at the corner of the road, and walked to the cottage.
When he asked whether Mr. Trevelyan was at home, the woman of the house hesitated and then said that her lodger was out. "I particularly wish to see him," said Sir Marmaduke, feeling that the woman was lying to him. "But he ain't to be seen, sir," said the woman. "I know he is at home," said Sir Marmaduke. But the argument was soon cut short by the appearance of Trevelyan behind the woman's shoulder.
"I am here, Sir Marmaduke Rowley," said Trevelyan. "If you wish to see me you may come in. I will not say that you are welcome, but you can come in." Then the woman retired, and Sir Marmaduke followed Trevelyan into the room in which Lady Rowley and Emily had been received; but the child was not now in the chamber.
"What are these charges that I hear against my daughter?" said Sir Marmaduke, rushing at once into the midst of his indignation.
"I do not know what charges you have heard."
"You have put her away."
"In strict accuracy that is not correct, Sir Marmaduke."
"But she is put away. She is in my house now because you have no house of your own for her. Is not that so? And when I came home she was staying with her uncle, because you had put her away. And what was the meaning of her being sent down into Devonshire? What has she done? I am her father, and I expect to have an answer."
"You shall have an answer, certainly."
"And a true one. I will have no hocus-pocus, no humbug, no Jesuitry."
"Have you come here to insult me, Sir Marmaduke? Because, if so, there shall be an end to this interview at once."
"There shall not be an end;—by G——, no, not till I have heard what is the meaning of all this. Do you know what people are saying of you;—that you are mad, and that you must be locked up, and your child taken away from you, and your property?"
"Who are the people that say so? Yourself;—and, perhaps, Lady Rowley? Does my wife say so? Does she think that I am mad? She did not think so on Thursday, when she prayed that she might be allowed to come back and live with me."
"And you would not let her come?"
"Pardon me," said Trevelyan. "I would wish that she should come,—but it must be on certain conditions."
"What I want to know is why she was turned out of your house?"
"She was not turned out."
"What has she done that she should be punished?" urged Sir Marmaduke, who was unable to arrange his questions with the happiness which had distinguished Major Magruder. "I insist upon knowing what it is that you lay to her charge. I am her father, and I have a right to know. She has been barbarously, shamefully ill-used, and by G—— I will know."
"You have come here to bully me, Sir Marmaduke Rowley."
"I have come here, sir, to do the duty of a parent to his child; to protect my poor girl against the cruelty of a husband who in an unfortunate hour was allowed to take her from her home. I will know the reason why my daughter has been treated as though,—as though,—as though—"
"Listen to me for a minute," said Trevelyan.
"I am listening."
"I will tell you nothing; I will answer you not a word."
"You will not answer me?"
"Not when you come to me in this fashion. My wife is my wife, and my claim to her is nearer and closer than is yours, who are her father. She is the mother of my child, and the only being in the world,—except that child,—whom I love. Do you think that with such motives on my part for tenderness towards her, for loving care, for the most anxious solicitude, that I can be made more anxious, more tender, more loving by coarse epithets from you? I am the most miserable being under the sun because our happiness has been interrupted, and is it likely that such misery should be cured by violent words and gestures? If your heart is wrung for her, so is mine. If she be much to you, she is more to me. She came here the other day, almost as a stranger, and I thought that my heart would have burst beneath its weight of woe. What can you do that can add an ounce to the burden that I bear? You may as well leave me,—or at least be quiet."
Sir Marmaduke had stood and listened to him, and he, too, was so struck by the altered appearance of the man that the violence of his indignation was lessened by the pity which he could not suppress. When Trevelyan spoke of his wretchedness, it was impossible not to believe him. He was as wretched a being to look at as it might have been possible to find. His contracted cheeks, and lips always open, and eyes glowing in their sunken caverns, told a tale which even Sir Marmaduke, who was not of nature quick in deciphering such stories, could not fail to read. And then the twitching motion of the man's hands, and the restless shuffling of his feet, produced a nervous feeling that if some remedy were not applied quickly, some alleviation given to the misery of the suffering wretch, human power would be strained too far, and the man would break to pieces,—or else the mind of the man. Sir Marmaduke, during his journey in the cab, had resolved that, old as he was, he would take this sinner by the throat, this brute who had striven to stain his daughter's name,—and would make him there and then acknowledge his own brutality. But it was now very manifest to Sir Marmaduke that there could be no taking by the throat in this case. He could not have brought himself to touch the poor, weak, passionate creature before him. Indeed, even the fury of his words was stayed, and after that last appeal he stormed no more. "But what is to be the end of it?" he said.
"Who can tell? Who can say? She can tell. She can put an end to it all. She has but to say a word, and I will devote my life to her. But that word must be spoken." As he said this, he dashed his hand upon the-table, and looked up with an air that would have been comic with its assumed magnificence had it not been for the true tragedy of the occasion.
"You had better, at any rate, let her have her child for the present."
"No;—my boy shall go with me. She may go, too, if she pleases, but my boy shall certainly go with me. If I had put her from me, as you said just now, it might have been otherwise. But she shall be as welcome to me as flowers in May,—as flowers in May! She shall be as welcome to me as the music of heaven."
Sir Marmaduke felt that he had nothing more to urge. He had altogether abandoned that idea of having his revenge at the cost of the man's throat, and was quite convinced that reason could have no power with him. He was already thinking that he would go away, straight to his lawyer, so that some step might be taken at once to stop, if possible, the taking away of the boy to America, when the lock of the door was gently turned, and the landlady entered the room.
"You will excuse me, sir," said the woman, "but if you be anything to this gentleman—"
"Mrs. Fuller, leave the room," said Trevelyan. "I and the gentleman are engaged."
"I see you be engaged, and I do beg pardon. I ain't one as would intrude wilful, and, as for listening, or the likes of that, I scorn it. But if this gentleman be anything to you, Mr. Trevelyan—"
"I am his wife's father," said Sir Marmaduke.
"Like enough. I was thinking perhaps so. His lady was down here on Thursday,—as sweet a lady as any gentleman need wish to stretch by his side."
"Mrs. Fuller," said Trevelyan, marching up towards her, "I will not have this, and I desire that you will retire from my room."
But Mrs. Fuller escaped round the table, and would not be banished. She got round the table, and came closely opposite to Sir Marmaduke. "I don't want to say nothing out of my place, sir," said she, "but something ought to be done. He ain't fit to be left to hisself,—not alone,—not as he is at present. He ain't, indeed, and I wouldn't be doing my duty if I didn't say so. He has them sweats at night as'd be enough to kill any man; and he eats nothing, and he don't do nothing; and as for that poor little boy as is now in my own bed upstairs, if it wasn't that I and my Bessy is fond of children, I don't know what would become of that boy."
Trevelyan, finding it impossible to get rid of her, had stood quietly, while he listened to her. "She has been good to my child," he said. "I acknowledge it. As for myself, I have not been well. It is true. But I am told that travel will set me on my feet again. Change of air will do it." Not long since he had been urging the wretchedness of his own bodily health as a reason why his wife should yield to him; but now, when his sickness was brought as a charge against him,—was adduced as a reason why his friends should interfere, and look after him, and concern themselves in his affairs, he saw at once that it was necessary that he should make little of his ailments.
"Would it not be best, Trevelyan, that you should come with me to a doctor?" said Sir Marmaduke.
"No;—no. I have my own doctor. That is, I know the course which I should follow. This place, though it is good for the boy, has disagreed with me, and my life has not been altogether pleasant;—I may say, by no means pleasant. Troubles have told upon me, but change of air will mend it all."
"I wish you would come with me, at once, to London. You shall come back, you know. I will not detain you."
"Thank you,—no. I will not trouble you. That will do, Mrs. Fuller. You have intended to do your duty, no doubt, and now you can go." Whereupon Mrs. Fuller did go. "I am obliged for your care, Sir Marmaduke, but I can really do very well without troubling you."
"You cannot suppose, Trevelyan, that we can allow things to go on like this."
"And what do you mean to do?"
"Well;—I shall take advice. I shall go to a lawyer,—and to a doctor, and perhaps to the Lord Chancellor, and all that kind of thing. We can't let things go on like this."
"You can do as you please," said Trevelyan, "but as you have threatened me, I must ask you to leave me."
Sir Marmaduke could do no more, and could say no more, and he took his leave, shaking hands with the man, and speaking to him with a courtesy which astonished himself. It was impossible to maintain the strength of his indignation against a poor creature who was so manifestly unable to guide himself. But when he was in London he drove at once to the house of Dr. Trite Turbury, and remained there till the doctor returned from his round of visits. According to the great authority, there was much still to be done before even the child could be rescued out of the father's hands. "I can't act without the lawyers," said Dr. Turbury. But he explained to Sir Marmaduke what steps should be taken in such a matter.
Trevelyan, in the mean time, clearly understanding that hostile measures would now be taken against him, set his mind to work to think how best he might escape at once to America with his boy.
SHEWING WHAT NORA ROWLEY
THOUGHT ABOUT CARRIAGES.
Sir Marmaduke, on his return home from Dr. Turbury's house, found that he had other domestic troubles on hand over and above those arising from his elder daughter's position. Mr. Hugh Stanbury had been in Manchester Street during his absence, and had asked for him, and, finding that he was away from home, had told his story to Lady Rowley. When he had been shown up-stairs all the four daughters had been with their mother; but he had said a word or two signifying his desire to speak to Lady Rowley, and the three girls had left the room. In this way it came to pass that he had to plead his cause before Nora's mother and her elder sister. He had pleaded it well, and Lady Rowley's heart had been well disposed towards him; but when she asked of his house and his home, his answer had been hardly more satisfactory than that of Alan-a-Dale. There was little that he could call his own beyond "The blue vault of heaven." Had he saved any money? No,—not a shilling;—that was to say,—as he himself expressed it,—nothing that could be called money. He had a few pounds by him, just to go on with. What was his income? Well—last year he had made four hundred pounds, and this year he hoped to make something more. He thought he could see his way plainly to five hundred a year. Was it permanent; and if not, on what did it depend? He believed it to be as permanent as most other professional incomes, but was obliged to confess that, as regarded the source from whence it was drawn at the present moment, it might be brought to an abrupt end any day by a disagreement between himself and the editor of the D. R. Did he think that this was a fixed income? He did think that if he and the editor of the D. R. were to fall out, he could come across other editors who would gladly employ him. Would he himself feel safe in giving his own sister to a man with such an income? In answer to this question, he started some rather bold doctrines on the subject of matrimony in general, asserting that safety was not desirable, that energy, patience, and mutual confidence would be increased by the excitement of risk, and that in his opinion it behoved young men and young women to come together and get themselves married, even though there might be some not remote danger of distress before them. He admitted that starvation would be disagreeable,—especially for children, in the eyes of their parents,—but alleged that children as a rule were not starved, and quoted the Scripture to prove that honest laborious men were not to be seen begging their bread in the streets. He was very eloquent, but his eloquence itself was against him. Both Lady Rowley and Mrs. Trevelyan were afraid of such advanced opinions; and, although everything was of course to be left, nominally, to the decision of Sir Marmaduke, they both declared that they could not recommend Sir Marmaduke to consent. Lady Rowley said a word as to the expediency of taking Nora back with her to the Mandarins, pointing out what appeared to her then to be the necessity of taking Mrs. Trevelyan with them also; and in saying this she hinted that if Nora were disposed to stand by her engagement, and Mr. Stanbury equally so disposed, there might be some possibility of a marriage at a future period. Only in such case, there must be no correspondence. In answer to this Hugh declared that he regarded such a scheme as being altogether bad. The Mandarins were so very far distant that he might as well be engaged to an angel in heaven. Nora, if she were to go away now, would perhaps never come back again; and if she did come back, would be an old woman, with hollow cheeks. In replying to this proposition, he let fall an opinion that Nora was old enough to judge for herself. He said nothing about her actual age, and did not venture to plead that the young lady had a legal right to do as she liked with herself; but he made it manifest that such an idea was in his mind. In answer to this, Lady Rowley asserted that Nora was a good girl, and would do as her father told her; but she did not venture to assert that Nora would give up her engagement. Lady Rowley at last undertook to speak to Sir Rowley, and to speak also to her daughter. Hugh was asked for his address, and gave that of the office of the D. R. He was always to be found there between three and five; and after that, four times a week, in the reporters' gallery of the House of Commons. Then he was at some pains to explain to Lady Rowley that though he attended the reporters' gallery, he did not report himself. It was his duty to write leading political articles, and, to enable him to do so, he attended the debates.
Before he went Mrs. Trevelyan thanked him most cordially for the trouble he had taken in procuring for her the address at Willesden, and gave him some account of the journey which she and her mother had made to River's Cottage. He argued with both of them that the unfortunate man must now be regarded as being altogether out of his mind, and something was said as to the great wisdom and experience of Dr. Trite Turbury. Then Hugh Stanbury took his leave; and even Lady Rowley bade him adieu with kind cordiality. "I don't wonder, mamma, that Nora should like him," said Mrs. Trevelyan.
"That is all very well, my dear, and no doubt he is pleasant, and manly, and all that;—but really it would be almost like marrying a beggar."
"For myself," said Mrs. Trevelyan, "if I could begin life again, I do not think that any temptation would induce me to place myself in a man's power."
Sir Marmaduke was told of all this on his return home, and he asked many questions as to the nature of Stanbury's work. When it was explained to him,—Lady Rowley repeating as nearly as she could all that Hugh had himself said about it, he expressed his opinion that writing for a penny newspaper was hardly more safe as a source of income than betting on horse races. "I don't see that it is wrong," said Mrs. Trevelyan.
"I say nothing about wrong. I simply assert that it is uncertain. The very existence of such a periodical must in itself be most insecure." Sir Marmaduke, amidst the cares of his government at the Mandarins, had, perhaps, had no better opportunity of watching what was going on in the world of letters than had fallen to the lot of Miss Stanbury at Exeter.
"I think your papa is right," said Lady Rowley.
"Of course I am right. It is out of the question; and so Nora must be told." He had as yet heard nothing about Mr. Glascock. Had that misfortune been communicated to him his cup would indeed have been filled with sorrow to overflowing.
In the evening Nora was closeted with her father. "Nora, my dear, you must understand, once and for all, that this cannot be," said Sir Marmaduke. The Governor, when he was not disturbed by outward circumstances, could assume a good deal of personal dignity, and could speak, especially to his children, with an air of indisputable authority.
"What can't be, papa?" said Nora.
Sir Marmaduke perceived at once that there was no indication of obedience in his daughter's voice, and he prepared himself for battle. He conceived himself to be very strong, and thought that his objections were so well founded that no one would deny their truth and that his daughter had not a leg to stand on. "This, that your mamma tells me of about Mr. Stanbury. Do you know, my dear, that he has not a shilling in the world?"
"I know that he has no fortune, papa,—if you mean that."
"And no profession either;—nothing that can be called a profession. I do not wish to argue it, my dear, because there is no room for argument. The whole thing is preposterous. I cannot but think ill of him for having proposed it to you; for he must have known,—must have known, that a young man without an income cannot be accepted as a fitting suitor for a gentleman's daughter. As for yourself, I can only hope that you will get the little idea out of your head very quickly;—but mamma will speak to you about that. What I want you to understand from me is this,—that there must be an end to it."
Nora listened to this speech in perfect silence, standing before her father, and waiting patiently till the last word of it should be pronounced. Even when he had finished she still paused before she answered him. "Papa," she said at last, and hesitated again before she went on.
"Well, my dear."
"I can not give it up."
"But you must give it up."
"No, papa. I would do anything I could for you and mamma, but that is impossible."
"Why is it impossible?"
"Because I love him so dearly."
"That is nonsense. That is what all girls say when they choose to run against their parents. I tell you that it shall be given up. I will not have him here. I forbid you to see him. It is quite out of the question that you should marry such a man. I do hope, Nora, that you are not going to add to mamma's difficulties and mine by being obstinate and disobedient." He paused a moment, and then added, "I do not think that there is anything more to be said."
"My dear, I think you had better say nothing further about it. If you cannot bring yourself at the present moment to promise that there shall be an end of it, you had better hold your tongue. You have heard what I say, and you have heard what mamma says. I do not for a moment suppose that you dream of carrying on a communication with this gentleman in opposition to our wishes."
"But I do."
"Papa, you had better listen to me." Sir Marmaduke, when he heard this, assumed an air of increased authority, in which he intended that paternal anger should be visible; but he seated himself, and prepared to receive, at any rate, some of the arguments with which Nora intended to bolster up her bad cause. "I have promised Mr. Stanbury that I will be his wife."
"That is all nonsense."
"Do listen to me, papa. I have listened to you and you ought to listen to me. I have promised him, and I must keep my promise. I shall keep my promise if he wishes it. There is a time when a girl must be supposed to know what is best for herself,—just as there is for a man."
"I never heard such stuff in all my life. Do you mean that you'll go out and marry him like a beggar, with nothing but what you stand up in, with no friend to be with you, an outcast, thrown off by your mother,—with your father's—curse?"
"Oh, papa, do not say that. You would not curse me. You could not."
"If you do it at all, that will be the way."
"That will not be the way, papa. You could not treat me like that."
"And how are you proposing to treat me?"
"But, papa, in whatever way I do it, I must do it. I do not say to-day or to-morrow; but it must be the intention and purpose of my life, and I must declare that it is, everywhere. I have made up my mind about it. I am engaged to him, and I shall always say so,—unless he breaks it. I don't care a bit about fortune. I thought I did once, but I have changed all that."
"Because this scoundrel has talked sedition to you."
"He is not a scoundrel, papa, and he has not talked sedition. I don't know what sedition is. I thought it meant treason, and I'm sure he is not a traitor. He has made me love him, and I shall be true to him."
Hereupon Sir Marmaduke began almost to weep. There came first a half-smothered oath and then a sob, and he walked about the room, and struck the table with his fist, and rubbed his bald head impatiently with his hand. "Nora," he said, "I thought you were so different from this! If I had believed this of you, you never should have come to England with Emily."
"It is too late for that now, papa."
"Your mamma always told me that you had such excellent ideas about marriage."
"So I have,—I think," said she, smiling.
"She always believed that you would make a match that would be a credit to the family."
"I tried it, papa;—the sort of match that you mean. Indeed I was mercenary enough in what I believed to be my views of life. I meant to marry a rich man,—if I could, and did not think much whether I should love him or not. But when the rich man came—"
"What rich man?"
"I suppose mamma has told you about Mr. Glascock."
"Who is Mr. Glascock? I have not heard a word about Mr. Glascock." Then Nora was forced to tell her story,—was called upon to tell it with all its aggravating details. By degrees Sir Marmaduke learned that this Mr. Glascock, who had desired to be his son-in-law, was in very truth the heir to the Peterborough title and estates,—would have been such a son-in-law as almost to compensate, by the brilliance of the connection, for that other unfortunate alliance. He could hardly control his agony when he was made to understand that this embryo peer had in truth been in earnest. "Do you mean that he went down after you into Devonshire?"
"And you refused him then,—a second time?"
"Why;—why;—why? You say yourself that you liked him;—that you thought that you would accept him."
"When it came to speaking the word, papa, I found that I could not pretend to love him when I did not love him. I did not care for him,—and I liked somebody else so much better! I just told him the plain truth,—and so he went away."
The thought of all that he had lost, of all that might so easily have been his, for a time overwhelmed Sir Marmaduke, and drove the very memory of Hugh Stanbury almost out of his head. He could understand that a girl should not marry a man whom she did not like; but he could not understand how any girl should not love such a suitor as was Mr. Glascock. And had she accepted this pearl of men, with her position, with her manners and beauty and appearance, such a connection would have been as good as an assured marriage for every one of Sir Marmaduke's numerous daughters. Nora was just the woman to look like a great lady, a lady of high rank,—such a lady as could almost command men to come and throw themselves at her unmarried sisters' feet. Sir Marmaduke had believed in his daughter Nora, had looked forward to see her do much for the family; and, when the crash had come upon the Trevelyan household, had thought almost as much of her injured prospects as he had of the misfortune of her sister. But now it seemed that more than all the good things of what he had dreamed had been proposed to this unruly girl, in spite of that great crash,—and had been rejected! And he saw more than this,—as he thought. These good things would have been accepted had it not been for this rascal of a penny-a-liner, this friend of that other rascal Trevelyan, who had come in the way of their family to destroy the happiness of them all! Sir Marmaduke, in speaking of Stanbury after this, would constantly call him a penny-a-liner, thinking that the contamination of the penny communicated itself to all transactions of the Daily Record.
"You have made your bed for yourself, Nora, and you must lie upon it."
"Just so, papa."
"I mean that, as you have refused Mr. Glascock's offer, you can never again hope for such an opening in life."
"Of course I cannot. I am not such a child as to suppose that there are many Mr. Glascocks to come and run after me. And if there were ever so many, papa, it would be no good. As you say, I have chosen for myself, and I must put up with it. When I see the carriages going about in the streets, and remember how often I shall have to go home in an omnibus, I do think about it a good deal."
"I'm afraid you will think when it is too late."
"It isn't that I don't like carriages, papa. I do like them; and pretty dresses, and brooches, and men and women who have nothing to do, and balls, and the opera; but—I love this man, and that is more to me than all the rest. I cannot help myself, if it were ever so. Papa, you mustn't be angry with me. Pray, pray, pray do not say that horrid word again."
This was the end of the interview. Sir Marmaduke found that he had nothing further to say. Nora, when she reached her last prayer to her father, referring to that curse with which he had threatened her, was herself in tears, and was leaning on him with her head against his shoulder. Of course he did not say a word which could be understood as sanctioning her engagement with Stanbury. He was as strongly determined as ever that it was his duty to save her from the perils of such a marriage as that. But, nevertheless, he was so far overcome by her as to be softened in his manners towards her. He kissed her as he left her, and told her to go to her mother. Then he went out and thought of it all, and felt as though Paradise had been opened to his child and she had refused to enter the gate.