On the 10th of August Nora Rowley left the cottage by the river-side at Twickenham, and went down to Monkhams. The reader need hardly be told that Hugh brought her up from Twickenham and sent her off in the railway carriage. They agreed that no day could be fixed for their marriage till something further should be known of Trevelyan's state. While he was in his present condition such a marriage could not have been other than very sad. Nora, when she left the cottage, was still very bitter against her brother-in-law, quoting the doctor's opinion as to his sanity, and expressing her own as to his conduct under that supposition. She also believed that he would rally in health, and was therefore, on that account, less inclined to pity him than was his wife. Emily Trevelyan of course saw more of him than did her sister, and understood better how possible it was that a man might be in such a condition as to be neither mad nor sane;—not mad, so that all power over his own actions need be taken from him; nor sane, so that he must be held to be accountable for his words and thoughts. Trevelyan did nothing, and attempted to do nothing, that could injure his wife and child. He submitted himself to medical advice. He did not throw away his money. He had no Bozzle now waiting at his heels. He was generally passive in his wife's hands as to all outward things. He was not violent in rebuke, nor did he often allude to their past unhappiness. But he still maintained, by a word spoken every now and then, that he had been right throughout in his contest with his wife,—and that his wife had at last acknowledged that it was so. She never contradicted him, and he became bolder and bolder in his assertions, endeavouring on various occasions to obtain some expression of an assent from Nora. But Nora would not assent, and he would scowl at her, saying words, both in her presence and behind her back, which implied that she was his enemy. "Why not yield to him?" her sister said the day before she went. "I have yielded, and your doing so cannot make it worse."
"I can't do it. It would be false. It is better that I should go away. I cannot pretend to agree with him, when I know that his mind is working altogether under a delusion." When the hour for her departure came, and Hugh was waiting for her, she thought that it would be better that she should go, without seeing Trevelyan. "There will only be more anger," she pleaded. But her sister would not be contented that she should leave the house in this fashion, and urged at last, with tears running down her cheeks, that this might possibly be the last interview between them.
"Say a word to him in kindness before you leave us," said Mrs. Trevelyan. Then Nora went up to her brother-in-law's bed-side, and told him that she was going, and expressed a hope that he might be stronger when she returned. And as she did so she put her hand upon the bed-side, intending to press his in token of affection. But his face was turned from her, and he seemed to take no notice of her. "Louis," said his wife, "Nora is going to Monkhams. You will say good-bye to her before she goes?"
"If she be not my enemy, I will," said he.
"I have never been your enemy, Louis," said Nora, "and certainly I am not now."
"She had better go," he said. "It is very little more that I expect of any one in this world;—but I will recognise no one as my friend who will not acknowledge that I have been sinned against during the last two years;—sinned against cruelly and utterly." Emily, who was standing at the bed-head, shuddered as she heard this, but made no reply. Nor did Nora speak again, but crept silently out of the room;—and in half a minute her sister followed her.
"I feared how it would be," said Nora.
"We can only do our best. God knows that I try to do mine."
"I do not think you will ever see him again," said Hugh to her in the train.
"Would you have had me act otherwise? It is not that it would have been a lie. I would not have minded that to ease the shattered feelings of one so infirm and suffering as he. In dealing with mad people I suppose one must be false. But I should have been accusing her; and it may be that he will get well, and it might be that he would then remember what I had said."
At the station near Monkhams she was met by Lady Peterborough in the carriage. A tall footman in livery came on to the platform to shew her the way and to look after her luggage, and she could not fail to remember that the man might have been her own servant, instead of being the servant of her who now sat in Lord Peterborough's carriage. And when she saw the carriage, and her ladyship's great bay horses, and the glittering harness, and the respectably responsible coachman, and the arms on the panel, she smiled to herself at the sight of these first outward manifestations of the rank and wealth of the man who had once been her lover. There are men who look as though they were the owners of bay horses and responsible coachmen and family blazons,—from whose outward personal appearance, demeanour, and tone of voice, one would expect a following of liveries and a magnificence of belongings; but Mr. Glascock had by no means been such a man. It had suited his taste to keep these things in abeyance, and to place his pride in the oaks and elms of his park rather than in any of those appanages of grandeur which a man may carry about with him. He could talk of his breed of sheep on an occasion, but he never talked of his horses; and though he knew his position and all its glories as well as any nobleman in England, he was ever inclined to hang back a little in going out of a room, and to bear himself as though he were a small personage in the world. Some perception of all this came across Nora's mind as she saw the equipage, and tried to reflect, at a moment's notice, whether the case might have been different with her, had Mr. Glascock worn a little of his tinsel outside when she first met him. Of course she told herself that had he worn it all on the outside, and carried it ever so gracefully, it could have made no difference.
It was very plain, however, that, though Mr. Glascock did not like bright feathers for himself, he chose that his wife should wear them. Nothing could be prettier than the way in which Caroline Spalding, whom we first saw as she was about to be stuck into the interior of the diligence, at St. Michel, now filled her carriage as Lady Peterborough. The greeting between them was very affectionate, and there was a kiss in the carriage, even though the two pretty hats, perhaps, suffered something. "We are so glad to have you at last," said Lady Peterborough. "Of course we are very quiet; but you won't mind that." Nora declared that no house could be too quiet for her, and then said something of the melancholy scene which she had just left. "And no time is fixed for your own marriage? But of course it has not been possible. And why should you be in a hurry? We quite understand that this is to be your home till everything has arranged itself." There was a drive of four or five miles before they reached the park gates, and nothing could be kinder or more friendly than was the new peeress; but Nora told herself that there was no forgetting that her friend was a peeress. She would not be so ill-conditioned as to suggest to herself that her friend patronised her;—and, indeed, had she done so, the suggestion would have been false;—but she could not rid herself of a certain sensation of external inferiority, and of a feeling that the superiority ought to be on her side, as all this might have been hers,—only that she had not thought it worth her while to accept it. As these ideas came into her mind, she hated herself for entertaining them; and yet, come they would. While she was talking about her emblematic beef-steak with Hugh, she had no regret, no uneasiness, no conception that any state of life could be better for her than that state in which an emblematic beef-steak was of vital importance; but she could not bring her mind to the same condition of unalloyed purity while sitting with Lady Peterborough in Lord Peterborough's carriage. And for her default in this respect she hated herself.
"This is the beginning of the park," said her friend.
"And where is the house?"
"You can't see the house for ever so far yet; it is two miles off. There is about a mile before you come to the gates, and over a mile afterwards. One has a sort of feeling when one is in that one can't get out,—it is so big." In so speaking, it was Lady Peterborough's special endeavour to state without a boast facts which were indifferent, but which must be stated.
"It is very magnificent," said Nora. There was in her voice the slightest touch of sarcasm, which she would have given the world not to have uttered; but it had been irrepressible.
Lady Peterborough understood it instantly, and forgave it, not attributing to it more than its true meaning, acknowledging to herself that it was natural. "Dear Nora," she said,—not knowing what to say, blushing as she spoke,—"the magnificence is nothing; but the man's love is everything."
Nora shook herself, and determined that she would behave well. The effort should be made, and the required result should be produced by it. "The magnificence, as an adjunct, is a great deal," she said; "and for his sake, I hope that you enjoy it."
"Of course I enjoy it."
"Wallachia's teachings and preachings have all been thrown to the wind, I hope."
"Not quite all. Poor dear Wally! I got a letter from her the other day, which she began by saying that she would attune her correspondence to my changed condition in life. I understood the reproach so thoroughly! And, when she told me little details of individual men and women, and of things she had seen, and said not a word about the rights of women, or even of politics generally, I felt that I was a degraded creature in her sight. But, though you laugh at her, she did me good,—and will do good to others. Here we are inside Monkhams, and now you must look at the avenue."
Nora was now rather proud of herself. She had made the effort, and it had been successful; and she felt that she could speak naturally, and express her thoughts honestly. "I remember his telling me about the avenue the first time I ever saw him;—and here it is. I did not think then that I should ever live to see the glories of Monkhams. Does it go all the way like this to the house?"
"Not quite;—where you see the light at the end the road turns to the right, and the house is just before you. There are great iron gates, and terraces, and wondrous paraphernalia before you get up to the door. I can tell you Monkhams is quite a wonder. I have to shut myself up every Wednesday morning, and hand the house over to Mrs. Crutch, the housekeeper, who comes out in a miraculous brown silk gown, to shew it to visitors. On other days, you'll find Mrs. Crutch quite civil and useful;—but on Wednesdays, she is majestic. Charles always goes off among his sheep on that day, and I shut myself up with a pile of books in a little room. You will have to be imprisoned with me. I do so long to peep at the visitors."
"And I dare say they want to peep at you."
"I proposed at first to shew them round myself;—but Charles wouldn't let me."
"It would have broken Mrs. Crutch's heart."
"That's what Charles said. He thinks that Mrs. Crutch tells them that I'm locked up somewhere, and that that gives a zest to the search. Some people from Nottingham once did break into old Lady Peterborough's room, and the shew was stopped for a year. There was such a row about it! It prevented Charles coming up for the county. But he wouldn't have got in; and therefore it was lucky, and saved money."
By this time Nora was quite at her ease; but still there was before her the other difficulty, of meeting Lord Peterborough. They were driven out of the avenue, and round to the right, and through the iron gate, and up to the huge front door. There, upon the top step, was standing Lord Peterborough, with a billycock hat and a very old shooting coat, and nankeen trousers, which were considerably too short for him. It was one of the happinesses of his life to dress just as he pleased as he went about his own place; and it certainly was his pleasure to wear older clothes than any one else in his establishment. "Miss Rowley," he said, coming forward to give her a hand out of the carriage, "I am delighted that you should see Monkhams at last."
"You see I have kept you to your promise. Caroline has been telling me everything about it; but she is not quite a complete guide as yet. She does not know where the seven oaks are. Do you remember telling me of the seven oaks?"
"Of course I do. They are five miles off;—at Clatton farm, Carry. I don't think you have been near Clatton yet. We will ride there to-morrow." And thus Nora Rowley was made at home at Monkhams.
She was made at home, and after a week or two she was very happy. She soon perceived that her host was a perfect gentleman, and as such, a man to be much loved. She had probably never questioned the fact, whether Mr. Glascock was a gentleman or not, and now she did not analyse it. It probably never occurred to her, even at the present time, to say to herself that he was certainly that thing, so impossible of definition, and so capable of recognition; but she knew that she had to do with one whose presence was always pleasant to her, whose words and acts towards her extorted her approbation, whose thoughts seemed to her to be always good and manly. Of course she had not loved him, because she had previously known Hugh Stanbury. There could be no comparison between the two men. There was a brightness about Hugh which Lord Peterborough could not rival. Otherwise,—except for this reason,—it seemed to her to be impossible that any young woman should fail to love Lord Peterborough when asked to do so.
About the middle of September there came a very happy time for her, when Hugh was asked down to shoot partridges,—in the doing of which, however, all his brightness did not bring him near in excellence to his host. Lord Peterborough had been shooting partridges all his life, and shot them with a precision which excited Hugh's envy. To own the truth, Stanbury did not shoot well, and was treated rather with scorn by the gamekeeper; but in other respects he spent three or four of the happiest days of his life. He had his work to do, and after the second day over the stubbles, declared that the exigencies of the D. R. were too severe to enable him to go out with his gun again; but those rambles about the park with Nora, for which, among the exigencies of the D. R., he did find opportunity, were never to be forgotten.
"Of course I remember that it might have been mine," she said, sitting with him under an old, hollow, withered sloping stump of an oak, which still, however, had sufficient of a head growing from one edge of the trunk to give them the shade they wanted; "and if you wish me to own to regrets,—I will."
"It would kill me, I think, if you did; and yet I cannot get it out of my head that if it had not been for me your rank and position in life might have been so—so suitable to you."
"No, Hugh; there you're wrong. I have thought about it a good deal, too; and I know very well that the cold beef-steak in the cupboard is the thing for me. Caroline will do very well here. She looks like a peeress, and bears her honours grandly; but they will never harden her. I, too, could have been magnificent with fine feathers. Most birds are equal to so much as that. I fancy that I could have looked the part of the fine English lady, and could have patronised clergymen's wives in the country, could have held my own among my peers in London, and could have kept Mrs. Crutch in order; but it would have hardened me, and I should have learned to think that to be a lady of fashion was everything."
"I do not believe a bit of it."
"It is better as it is, Hugh;—for me at least. I had always a sort of conviction that it would be better, though I had a longing to play the other part. Then you came, and you have saved me. Nevertheless, it is very nice, Hugh, to have the oaks to sit under." Stanbury declared that it was very nice.
But still nothing was settled about the wedding. Trevelyan's condition was so uncertain that it was very difficult to settle anything. Though nothing was said on the subject between Stanbury and Mrs. Trevelyan, and nothing written between Nora and her sister, it could not but be remembered that should Trevelyan die, his widow would require a home with them. They were deterred from choosing a house by this reflection, and were deterred from naming a day also by the consideration that were they to do so, Trevelyan's state might still probably prevent it. But this was arranged, that if Trevelyan lived through the winter, or even if he should not live, their marriage should not be postponed beyond the end of March. Till that time Lord Peterborough would remain at Monkhams, and it was understood that Nora's invitation extended to that period.
"If my wife does not get tired of you, I shall not," Lord Peterborough said to Nora. "The thing is that when you do go we shall miss you so terribly." In September, too, there happened another event which took Stanbury to Exeter, and all needful particulars as to that event shall be narrated in the next chapter.
MRS. BROOKE BURGESS.
It may be doubted whether there was a happier young woman in England than Dorothy Stanbury when that September came which was to make her the wife of Mr. Brooke Burgess, the new partner in the firm of Cropper and Burgess. Her early aspirations in life had been so low, and of late there had come upon her such a succession of soft showers of success,—mingled now and then with slight threatenings of storms which had passed away,—that the Close at Exeter seemed to her to have become a very Paradise. Her aunt's temper had sometimes been to her as the threat of a storm, and there had been the Gibson marriage treaty, and the short-lived opposition to the other marriage treaty which had seemed to her to be so very preferable; but everything had gone at last as though she had been Fortune's favourite,—and now had come this beautiful arrangement about Cropper and Burgess, which would save her from being carried away to live among strangers in London! When she first became known to us on her coming to Exeter, in compliance with her aunt's suggestion, she was timid, silent, and altogether without self-reliance. Even they who knew her best had never guessed that she possessed a keen sense of humour, a nice appreciation of character, and a quiet reticent wit of her own, under that staid and frightened demeanour. Since her engagement with Brooke Burgess it seemed to those who watched her that her character had become changed, as does that of a flower when it opens itself in its growth. The sweet gifts of nature within became visible, the petals sprang to view, and the leaves spread themselves, and the sweet scent was felt upon the air. Had she remained at Nuncombe, it is probable that none would ever have known her but her sister. It was necessary to this flower that it should be warmed by the sun of life, and strengthened by the breezes of opposition, and filled by the showers of companionship, before it could become aware of its own loveliness. Dorothy was one who, had she remained ever unseen in the retirement of her mother's village cottage, would have lived and died ignorant of even her own capabilities for enjoyment. She had not dreamed that she could win a man's love,—had hardly dreamed till she had lived at Exeter that she had love of her own to give back in return. She had not known that she could be firm in her own opinion, that she could laugh herself and cause others to laugh, that she could be a lady and know that other women were not so, that she had good looks of her own and could be very happy when told of them by lips that she loved. The flower that blows the quickest is never the sweetest. The fruit that ripens tardily has ever the finest flavour. It is often the same with men and women. The lad who talks at twenty as men should talk at thirty, has seldom much to say worth the hearing when he is forty; and the girl who at eighteen can shine in society with composure, has generally given over shining before she is a full-grown woman. With Dorothy the scent and beauty of the flower, and the flavour of the fruit, had come late; but the fruit will keep, and the flower will not fall to pieces with the heat of an evening.
"How marvellously your bride has changed since she has been here," said Mrs. MacHugh to Miss Stanbury. "We thought she couldn't say boo to a goose at first; but she holds her own now among the best of 'em."
"Of course she does;—why shouldn't she? I never knew a Stanbury yet that was a fool."
"They are a wonderful family, of course," said Mrs. MacHugh; "but I think that of all of them she is the most wonderful. Old Barty said something to her at my house yesterday that wasn't intended to be kind."
"When did he ever intend to be kind?"
"But he got no change out of her. 'The Burgesses have been in Exeter a long time,' she said, 'and I don't see why we should not get on at any rate as well as those before us.' Barty grunted and growled and slunk away. He thought she would shake in her shoes when he spoke to her."
"He has never been able to make a Stanbury shake in her shoes yet," said the old lady.
Early in September, Dorothy went to Nuncombe Putney to spend a week with her mother and sister at the cottage. She had insisted on this, though Priscilla had hinted, somewhat unnecessarily, that Dorothy, with her past comforts and her future prospects, would find the accommodation at the cottage very limited. "I suppose you and I, Pris, can sleep in the same bed, as we always did," she said, with a tear in each eye. Then Priscilla had felt ashamed of herself, and had bade her come.
"The truth is, Dolly," said the elder sister, "that we feel so unlike marrying and giving in marriage at Nuncombe, that I'm afraid you'll lose your brightness and become dowdy, and grim, and misanthropic, as we are. When mamma and I sit down to what we call dinner, I always feel that there is a grace hovering in the air different to that which she says."
"And what is it, Pris?"
"Pray, God, don't quite starve us, and let everybody else have indigestion. We don't say it out loud, but there it is; and the spirit of it might damp the orange blossoms."
She went of course, and the orange blossoms were not damped. She had long walks with her sister round by Niddon and Ridleigh, and even as far distant as Cockchaffington, where much was said about that wicked Colonel as they stood looking at the porch of the church. "I shall be so happy," said Dorothy, "when you and mother come to us. It will be such a joy to me that you should be my guests."
"But we shall not come."
"Why not, Priscilla?"
"I know it will be so. Mamma will not care for going, if I do not go."
"And why should you not come?"
"For a hundred reasons, all of which you know, Dolly. I am stiff, impracticable, ill-conditioned, and very bad at going about visiting. I am always thinking that other people ought to have indigestion, and perhaps I might come to have some such feeling about you and Brooke."
"I should not be at all afraid of that."
"I know that my place in the world is here, at Nuncombe Putney. I have a pride about myself, and think that I never did wrong but once,—when I let mamma go into that odious Clock House. It is a bad pride, and yet I'm proud of it. I haven't got a gown fit to go and stay with you, when you become a grand lady in Exeter. I don't doubt you'd give me any sort of gown I wanted."
"Of course I would. Ain't we sisters, Pris?"
"I shall not be so much your sister as he will be your husband. Besides, I hate to take things. When Hugh sends money, and for mamma's sake it is accepted, I always feel uneasy while it lasts, and think that that plague of an indigestion ought to come upon me also. Do you remember the lamb that came when you went away? It made me so sick."
"But, Priscilla;—isn't that morbid?"
"Of course it is. You don't suppose I really think it grand. I am morbid. But I am strong enough to live on, and not get killed by the morbidity. Heaven knows how much more there may be of it;—forty years, perhaps, and probably the greater portion of that absolutely alone;—"
"No;—you'll be with us then,—if it should come."
"I think not, Dolly. Not to have a hole of my own would be intolerable to me. But, as I was saying, I shall not be unhappy. To enjoy life, as you do, is I suppose out of the question for me. But I have a satisfaction when I get to the end of the quarter and find that there is not half-a-crown due to any one. Things get dearer and dearer, but I have a comfort even in that. I have a feeling that I should like to bring myself to the straw a day." Of course there were offers made of aid,—offers which were rather prayers,—and plans suggested of what might be done between Brooke and Hugh; but Priscilla declared that all such plans were odious to her. "Why should you be unhappy about us?" she continued. "We will come and see you,—at least I will,—perhaps once in six months, and you shall pay for the railway ticket; only I won't stay, because of the gown."
"Is not that nonsense, Pris?"
"Just at present it is, because mamma and I have both got new gowns for the wedding. Hugh sent them, and ever so much money to buy bonnets and gloves."
"He is to be married himself soon,—down at a place called Monkhams. Nora is staying there."
"Yes;—with a lord," said Priscilla. "We sha'n't have to go there, at any rate."
"You liked Nora when she was here?"
"Very much;—though I thought her self-willed. But she is not worldly, and she is conscientious. She might have married that lord herself if she would. I do like her. When she comes to you at Exeter, if the wedding gown isn't quite worn out, I shall come and see her. I knew she liked him when she was here, but she never said so."
"She is very pretty, is she not? He sent me her photograph."
"She is handsome rather than pretty. I wonder why it is that you two should be married, and so grandly married, and that I shall never, never have any one to love."
"Oh, Priscilla, do not say that. If I have a child will you not love it?"
"It will be your child;—not mine. Do not suppose that I complain. I know that it is right. I know that you ought to be married and I ought not. I know that there is not a man in Devonshire who would take me, or a man in Devonshire whom I would accept. I know that I am quite unfit for any other kind of life than this. I should make any man wretched, and any man would make me wretched. But why is it so? I believe that you would make any man happy."
"I hope to make Brooke happy."
"Of course you will, and therefore you deserve it. We'll go home now, dear, and get mamma's things ready for the great day."
On the afternoon before the great day all the visitors were to come, and during the forenoon old Miss Stanbury was in a great fidget. Luckily for Dorothy, her own preparations were already made, so that she could give her time to her aunt without injury to herself. Miss Stanbury had come to think of herself as though all the reality of her life had passed away from her. Every resolution that she had formed had been broken. She had had the great enemy of her life, Barty Burgess, in the house with her upon terms that were intended to be amicable, and had arranged with him a plan for the division of the family property. Her sister-in-law, whom in the heyday of her strength she had chosen to regard as her enemy, and with whom even as yet there had been no reconciliation, was about to become her guest, as was also Priscilla,—whom she had ever disliked almost as much as she had respected. She had quarrelled utterly with Hugh,—in such a manner as to leave no possible chance of a reconciliation,—and he also was about to be her guest. And then, as to her chosen heir, she was now assisting him in doing the only thing, as to which she had declared that if he did do it, he should not be her heir. As she went about the house, under an idea that such a multiplicity of persons could not be housed and fed without superhuman exertion, she thought of all this, and could not help confessing to herself that her life had been very vain. It was only when her eyes rested on Dorothy, and she saw how supremely happy was the one person whom she had taken most closely to her heart, that she could feel that she had done anything that should not have been left undone. "I think I'll sit down now, Dorothy," she said, "or I sha'n't be able to be with you to-morrow."
"Do, aunt. Everything is all ready, and nobody will be here for an hour yet. Nothing can be nicer than the rooms, and nothing ever was done so well before. I'm only thinking how lonely you'll be when we're gone."
"It'll be only for six weeks."
"But six weeks is such a long time."
"What would it have been if he had taken you up to London, my pet? Are you sure your mother wouldn't like a fire in her room, Dorothy?"
"A fire in September, aunt?"
"People live so differently. One never knows."
"They never have but one fire at Nuncombe, aunt, summer or winter."
"That's no reason they shouldn't be comfortable here." However, she did not insist on having the fire lighted.
Mrs. Stanbury and Priscilla came first, and the meeting was certainly very uncomfortable. Poor Mrs. Stanbury was shy, and could hardly speak a word. Miss Stanbury thought that her visitor was haughty, and, though she endeavoured to be gracious, did it with a struggle. They called each other ma'am, which made Dorothy uneasy. Each of them was so dear to her, that it was a pity that they should glower at each other like enemies. Priscilla was not at all shy; but she was combative, and, as her aunt said of her afterwards, would not keep her prickles in. "I hope, Priscilla, you like weddings," said Miss Stanbury to her, not knowing where to find a subject for conversation.
"In the abstract I like them," said Priscilla. Miss Stanbury did not know what her niece meant by liking weddings in the abstract, and was angry.
"I suppose you do have weddings at Nuncombe Putney sometimes," she said.
"I hope they do," said Priscilla, "but I never saw one. To-morrow will be my first experience."
"Your own will come next, my dear," said Miss Stanbury.
"I think not," said Priscilla. "It is quite as likely to be yours, aunt." This, Miss Stanbury thought, was almost an insult, and she said nothing more on the occasion.
Then came Hugh and the bridegroom. The bridegroom, as a matter of course, was not accommodated in the house, but he was allowed to come there for his tea. He and Hugh had come together; and for Hugh a bed-room had been provided. His aunt had not seen him since he had been turned out of the house, because of his bad practices, and Dorothy had anticipated the meeting between them with alarm. It was, however, much more pleasant than had been that between the ladies. "Hugh," she said stiffly, "I am glad to see you on such an occasion as this."
"Aunt," he said, "I am glad of any occasion that can get me an entrance once more into the dear old house. I am so pleased to see you." She allowed her hand to remain in his a few moments, and murmured something which was intended to signify her satisfaction. "I must tell you that I am going to be married myself, to one of the dearest, sweetest, and loveliest girls that ever were seen, and you must congratulate me."
"I do, I do; and I hope you may be happy."
"We mean to try to be; and some day you must let me bring her to you, and shew her. I shall not be satisfied, if you do not know my wife." She told Martha afterwards that she hoped that Mr. Hugh had sown his wild oats, and that matrimony would sober him. When, however, Martha remarked that she believed Mr. Hugh to be as hardworking a young man as any in London, Miss Stanbury shook her head sorrowfully. Things were being very much changed with her; but not even yet was she to be brought to approve of work done on behalf of a penny newspaper.
On the following morning, at ten o'clock, there was a procession from Miss Stanbury's house into the Cathedral, which was made entirely on foot;—indeed, no assistance could have been given by any carriage, for there is a back entrance to the Cathedral, near to the Lady Chapel, exactly opposite Miss Stanbury's house. There were many of the inhabitants of the Close there, to see the procession, and the cathedral bells rang out their peals very merrily. Brooke, the bridegroom, gave his arm to Miss Stanbury, which was, no doubt, very improper,—as he should have appeared in the church as coming from quite some different part of the world. Then came the bride, hanging on her brother, then two bridesmaids,—friends of Dorothy's, living in the town; and, lastly, Priscilla with her mother, for nothing would induce Priscilla to take the part of a bridesmaid. "You might as well ask an owl to sing to you," she said. "And then all the frippery would be thrown away upon me." But she stood close to Dorothy, and when the ceremony had been performed, was the first, after Brooke, to kiss her.
Everybody acknowledged that the bride was a winsome bride. Mrs. MacHugh was at the breakfast, and declared afterwards that Dorothy Burgess,—as she then was pleased to call her,—was a girl very hard to be understood. "She came here," said Mrs. MacHugh, "two years ago, a plain, silent, shy, dowdy young woman, and we all said that Miss Stanbury would be tired of her in a week. There has never come a time in which there was any visible difference in her, and now she is one of our city beauties, with plenty to say to everybody, with a fortune in one pocket and her aunt in the other, and everybody is saying what a fortunate fellow Brooke Burgess is to get her. In a year or two she'll be at the top of everything in the city, and will make her way in the county too."
The compiler of this history begs to add his opinion to that of "everybody," as quoted above by Mrs. MacHugh. He thinks that Brooke Burgess was a very fortunate fellow to get his wife.
During this time, while Hugh was sitting with his love under the oak trees at Monkhams, and Dorothy was being converted into Mrs. Brooke Burgess in Exeter Cathedral, Mrs. Trevelyan was living with her husband in the cottage at Twickenham. Her life was dreary enough, and there was but very little of hope in it to make its dreariness supportable. As often happens in periods of sickness, the single friend who could now be of service to the one or to the other was the doctor. He came daily to them, and with that quick growth of confidence which medical kindness always inspires, Trevelyan told to this gentleman all the history of his married life,—and all that Trevelyan told to him he repeated to Trevelyan's wife. It may therefore be understood that Trevelyan, between them, was treated like a child.
Dr. Nevill had soon been able to tell Mrs. Trevelyan that her husband's health had been so shattered as to make it improbable that he should ever again be strong either in body or in mind. He would not admit, even when treating his patient like a child, that he had ever been mad, and spoke of Sir Marmaduke's threat as unfortunate. "But what could papa have done?" asked the wife.
"It is often, no doubt, difficult to know what to do; but threats are seldom of avail to bring a man back to reason. Your father was angry with him, and yet declared that he was mad. That in itself was hardly rational. One does not become angry with a madman."
One does not become angry with a madman; but while a man has power in his hands over others, and when he misuses that power grossly and cruelly, who is there that will not be angry? The misery of the insane more thoroughly excites our pity than any other suffering to which humanity is subject; but it is necessary that the madness should be acknowledged to be madness before the pity can be felt. One can forgive, or, at any rate, make excuses for any injury when it is done; but it is almost beyond human nature to forgive an injury when it is a-doing, let the condition of the doer be what it may. Emily Trevelyan at this time suffered infinitely. She was still willing to yield in all things possible, because her husband was ill,—because perhaps he was dying; but she could no longer satisfy herself with thinking that all that she admitted,—all that she was still ready to admit,—had been conceded in order that her concessions might tend to soften the afflictions of one whose reason was gone. Dr. Nevill said that her husband was not mad;—and indeed Trevelyan seemed now to be so clear in his mind that she could not doubt what the doctor said to her. She could not think that he was mad,—and yet he spoke of the last two years as though he had suffered from her almost all that a husband could suffer from a wife's misconduct. She was in doubt about his health. "He may recover," the doctor said; "but he is so weak that the slightest additional ailment would take him off." At this time Trevelyan could not raise himself from his bed, and was carried, like a child, from one room to another. He could eat nothing solid, and believed himself to be dying. In spite of his weakness,—and of his savage memories in regard to the past,—he treated his wife on all ordinary subjects with consideration. He spoke much of his money, telling her that he had not altered, and would not alter, the will that he had made immediately on his marriage. Under that will all his property would be hers for her life, and would go to their child when she was dead. To her this will was more than just,—it was generous in the confidence which it placed in her; and he told his lawyer, in her presence, that, to the best of his judgment, he need not change it. But still there passed hardly a day in which he did not make some allusion to the great wrong which he had endured, throwing in her teeth the confessions which she had made,—and almost accusing her of that which she certainly never had confessed, even when, in the extremity of her misery at Casalunga, she had thought that it little mattered what she said, so that for the moment he might be appeased. If he died, was he to die in this belief? If he lived, was he to live in this belief? And if he did so believe, was it possible that he should still trust her with his money and with his child?
"Emily," he said one day, "it has been a terrible tragedy, has it not?" She did not answer his question, sitting silent as it was her custom to do when he addressed her after such fashion as this. At such times she would not answer him; but she knew that he would press her for an answer. "I blame him more than I do you," continued Trevelyan,—"infinitely more. He was a serpent intending to sting me from the first,—not knowing perhaps how deep the sting would go." There was no question in this, and the assertion was one which had been made so often that she could let it pass. "You are young, Emily, and it may be that you will marry again."
"Never," she said, with a shudder. It seemed to her then that marriage was so fearful a thing that certainly she could never venture upon it again.
"All I ask of you is, that should you do so, you will be more careful of your husband's honour."
"Louis," she said, getting up and standing close to him, "tell me what it is that you mean." It was now his turn to remain silent, and hers to demand an answer. "I have borne much," she continued, "because I would not vex you in your illness."
"You have borne much?"
"Indeed and indeed, yes. What woman has ever borne more!"
"And I?" said he.
"Dear Louis, let us understand each other at last. Of what do you accuse me? Let us, at any rate, know each other's thoughts on this matter, of which each of us is ever thinking."
"I make no new accusation."
"I must protest then against your using words which seem to convey accusation. Since marriages were first known upon earth, no woman has ever been truer to her husband than I have been to you."
"Were you lying to me then at Casalunga when you acknowledged that you had been false to your duties?"
"If I acknowledged that, I did lie. I never said that; but yet I did lie,—believing it to be best for you that I should do so. For your honour's sake, for the child's sake, weak as you are, Louis, I must protest that it was so. I have never injured you by deed or thought."
"And yet you have lied to me! Is a lie no injury;—and such a lie! Emily, why did you lie to me? You will tell me to-morrow that you never lied, and never owned that you had lied."
Though it should kill him, she must tell him the truth now. "You were very ill at Casalunga," she said, after a pause.
"But not so ill as I am now. I could breathe that air. I could live there. Had I remained I should have been well now,—but what of that?"
"Louis, you were dying there. Pray, pray listen to me. We thought that you were dying; and we knew also that you would be taken from that house."
"That was my affair. Do you mean that I could not keep a house over my head?" At this moment he was half lying, half sitting, in a large easy chair in the little drawing-room of their cottage, to which he had been carried from the adjoining bed-room. When not excited, he would sit for hours without moving, gazing through the open window, sometimes with some pretext of a book lying within the reach of his hand; but almost without strength to lift it, and certainly without power to read it. But now he had worked himself up to so much energy that he almost raised himself up in his chair, as he turned towards his wife. "Had I not the world before me, to choose a house in?"
"They would have put you somewhere, and I could not have reached you."
"In a madhouse, you mean. Yes;—if you had told them."
"Will you listen, dear Louis? We knew that it was our duty to bring you home; and as you would not let me come to you, and serve you, and assist you to come here where you are safe,—unless I owned that you had been right, I said that you had been right."
"And it was a lie,—you say now?"
"All that is nothing. I cannot go through it; nor should you. There is the only question. You do not think that I have been—? I need not say the thing. You do not think that?" As she asked the question, she knelt beside him, and took his hand in hers, and kissed it. "Say that you do not think that, and I will never trouble you further about the past."
"Yes;—that is it. You will never trouble me!" She glanced up into his face and saw there the old look which he used to wear when he was at Willesden and at Casalunga; and there had come again the old tone in which he had spoken to her in the bitterness of his wrath:—the look and the tone, which had made her sure that he was a madman. "The craft and subtlety of women passes everything!" he said. "And so at last I am to tell you that from the beginning it has been my doing. I will never say so, though I should die in refusing to do it."
After that there was no possibility of further conversation, for there came upon him a fit of coughing, and then he swooned; and in half-an-hour he was in bed, and Dr. Nevill was by his side. "You must not speak to him at all on this matter," said the doctor. "But if he speaks to me?" she asked. "Let it pass," said the doctor. "Let the subject be got rid of with as much ease as you can. He is very ill now, and even this might have killed him." Nevertheless, though this seemed to be stern, Dr. Nevill was very kind to her, declaring that the hallucination in her husband's mind did not really consist of a belief in her infidelity, but arose from an obstinate determination to yield nothing. "He does not believe it; but he feels that were he to say as much, his hands would be weakened and yours strengthened."
"Can he then be in his sane mind?"
"In one sense all misconduct is proof of insanity," said the doctor. "In his case the weakness of the mind has been consequent upon the weakness of the body."
Three days after that Nora visited Twickenham from Monkhams in obedience to a telegram from her sister. "Louis," she said, "had become so much weaker, that she hardly dared to be alone with him. Would Nora come to her?" Nora came of course, and Hugh met her at the station, and brought her with him to the cottage. He asked whether he might see Trevelyan, but was told that it would be better that he should not. He had been almost continually silent since the last dispute which he had with his wife; but he had given little signs that he was always thinking of the manner in which he had been brought home by her from Italy, and of the story she had told him of her mode of inducing him to come. Hugh Stanbury had been her partner in that struggle, and would probably be received, if not with sullen silence, then with some attempt at rebuke. But Hugh did see Dr. Nevill, and learned from him that it was hardly possible that Trevelyan should live many hours. "He has worn himself out," said the doctor, "and there is nothing left in him by which he can lay hold of life again." Of Nora her brother-in-law took but little notice, and never again referred in her hearing to the great trouble of his life. He said to her a word or two about Monkhams, and asked a question now and again as to Lord Peterborough,—whom, however, he always called Mr. Glascock; but Hugh Stanbury's name was never mentioned by him. There was a feeling in his mind that at the very last he had been duped in being brought to England, and that Stanbury had assisted in the deception. To his wife he would whisper little petulant regrets for the loss of the comforts of Casalunga, and would speak of the air of Italy and of Italian skies and of the Italian sun, as though he had enjoyed at his Sienese villa all the luxuries which climate can give, and would have enjoyed them still had he been allowed to remain there. To all this she would say nothing. She knew now that he was failing quickly, and there was only one subject on which she either feared or hoped to hear him speak. Before he left her for ever and ever would he tell her that he had not doubted her faith?
She had long discussions with Nora on the matter, as though all the future of her life depended on it. It was in vain that Nora tried to make her understand that if hereafter the spirit of her husband could know anything of the troubles of his mortal life, could ever look back to the things which he had done in the flesh, then would he certainly know the truth, and all suspicion would be at an end. And if not, if there was to be no such retrospect, what did it matter now, for these few last hours before the coil should be shaken off, and all doubt and all sorrow should be at an end? But the wife, who was soon to be a widow, yearned to be acquitted in this world by him to whom her guilt or her innocence had been matter of such vital importance. "He has never thought it," said Nora.
"But if he would say so! If he would only look it! It will be all in all to me as long as I live in this world." And then, though they had determined between themselves in spoken words never to regard him again as one who had been mad, in all their thoughts and actions towards him they treated him as though he were less responsible than an infant. And he was mad;—mad though every doctor in England had called him sane. Had he not been mad he must have been a fiend,—or he could not have tortured, as he had done, the woman to whom he owed the closest protection which one human being can give to another.
During these last days and nights she never left him. She had done her duty to him well, at any rate since the time when she had been enabled to come near him in Italy. It may be that in the first days of their quarrel, she had not been regardful, as she should have been, of a husband's will,—that she might have escaped this tragedy by submitting herself to the man's wishes, as she had always been ready to submit herself to his words. Had she been able always to keep her neck in the dust under his foot, their married life might have been passed without outward calamity, and it is possible that he might still have lived. But if she erred, surely she had been scourged for her error with scorpions. As she sat at his bedside watching him, she thought of her wasted youth, of her faded beauty, of her shattered happiness, of her fallen hopes. She had still her child,—but she felt towards him that she herself was so sad a creature, so sombre, so dark, so necessarily wretched from this time forth till the day of her death, that it would be better for the boy that she should never be with him. There could be nothing left for her but garments dark with woe, eyes red with weeping, hours sad from solitude, thoughts weary with memory. And even yet,—if he would only now say that he did not believe her to have been guilty, how great would be the change in her future life!
Then came an evening in which he seemed to be somewhat stronger than he had been. He had taken some refreshment that had been prepared for him, and, stimulated by its strength, had spoken a word or two both to Nora and to his wife. His words had been of no especial interest,—alluding to some small detail of his own condition, such as are generally the chosen topics of conversation with invalids. But he had been pronounced to be better, and Nora spoke to him cheerfully, when he was taken into the next room by the man who was always at hand to move him. His wife followed him, and soon afterwards returned, and bade Nora good night. She would sit by her husband, and Nora was to go to the room below, that she might receive her lover there. He was expected out that evening, but Mrs. Trevelyan said that she would not see him. Hugh came and went, and Nora took herself to her chamber. The hours of the night went on, and Mrs. Trevelyan was still sitting by her husband's bed. It was still September, and the weather was very warm. But the windows had been all closed since an hour before sunset. She was sitting there thinking, thinking, thinking. Dr. Nevill had told her that the time now was very near. She was not thinking now how very near it might be, but whether there might yet be time for him to say that one word to her.
"Emily," he said, in the lowest whisper.
"Darling!" she answered, turning round and touching him with her hand.
"My feet are cold. There are no clothes on them."
She took a thick shawl and spread it double across the bottom of the bed, and put her hand upon his arm. Though it was clammy with perspiration, it was chill, and she brought the warm clothes up close round his shoulders. "I can't sleep," he said. "If I could sleep, I shouldn't mind." Then he was silent again, and her thoughts went harping on, still on the same subject. She told herself that if ever that act of justice were to be done for her, it must be done that night. After a while she turned round over him ever so gently, and saw that his large eyes were open and fixed upon the wall.
She was kneeling now on the chair close by the bed head, and her hand was on the rail of the bedstead supporting her. "Louis," she said, ever so softly.
"Can you say one word for your wife, dear, dear, dearest husband?"
"I have not been a harlot to you;—have I?"
"What name is that?"
"But what a thing, Louis! Kiss my hand, Louis, if you believe me." And very gently she laid the tips of her fingers on his lips. For a moment or two she waited, and the kiss did not come. Would he spare her in this the last moment left to him either for justice or for mercy? For a moment or two the bitterness of her despair was almost unendurable. She had time to think that were she once to withdraw her hand, she would be condemned for ever;—and that it must be withdrawn. But at length the lips moved, and with struggling ear she could hear the sound of the tongue within, and the verdict of the dying man had been given in her favour. He never spoke a word more either to annul it or to enforce it.
Some time after that she crept into Nora's room. "Nora," she said, waking the sleeping girl, "it is all over."
"It is all over. Mrs. Richards is there. It is better than an hour since now. Let me come in." She got into her sister's bed, and there she told the tale of her tardy triumph. "He declared to me at last that he trusted me," she said,—almost believing that real words had come from his lips to that effect. Then she fell into a flood of tears, and after a while she also slept.
At last the maniac was dead, and in his last moments he had made such reparation as was in his power for the evil that he had done. With that slight touch of his dry fevered lips he had made the assertion on which was to depend the future peace and comfort of the woman whom he had so cruelly misused. To her mind the acquittal was perfect; but she never explained to human ears,—not even to those of her sister,—the manner in which it had been given. Her life, as far as we are concerned with it, has been told. For the rest, it cannot be but that it should be better than that which was passed. If there be any retribution for such sufferings in money, liberty, and outward comfort, such retribution she possessed;—for all that had been his, was now hers. He had once suggested what she should do, were she ever to be married again; and she felt that of such a career there could be no possibility. Anything but that! We all know that widows' practices in this matter do not always tally with wives' vows; but, as regards Mrs. Trevelyan, we are disposed to think that the promise will be kept. She has her child, and he will give her sufficient interest to make life worth having.
Early in the following spring Hugh Stanbury was married to Nora Rowley in the parish church of Monkhams,—at which place by that time Nora found herself to be almost as much at home as she might have been under other circumstances. They had prayed that the marriage might be very private;—but when the day arrived there was no very close privacy. The parish church was quite full, there were half-a-dozen bridesmaids, there was a great breakfast, Mrs. Crutch had a new brown silk gown given to her, there was a long article in the county gazette, and there were short paragraphs in various metropolitan newspapers. It was generally thought among his compeers that Hugh Stanbury had married into the aristocracy, and that the fact was a triumph for the profession to which he belonged. It shewed what a Bohemian could do, and that men of the press in England might gradually hope to force their way almost anywhere. So great was the name of Monkhams! He and his wife took for themselves a very small house near the Regent's Park, at which they intend to remain until Hugh shall have enabled himself to earn an additional two hundred a-year. Mrs. Trevelyan did not come to live with them, but kept the cottage near the river at Twickenham. Hugh Stanbury was very averse to any protracted connection with comforts to be obtained from poor Trevelyan's income, and told Nora that he must hold her to her promise about the beef-steak in the cupboard. It is our opinion that Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Stanbury will never want for a beef-steak and all comfortable additions until the inhabitants of London shall cease to require newspapers on their breakfast tables.
Brooke and Mrs. Brooke established themselves in the house in the Close on their return from their wedding tour, and Brooke at once put himself into intimate relations with the Messrs. Croppers, taking his fair share of the bank work. Dorothy was absolutely installed as mistress in her aunt's house with many wonderful ceremonies, with the unlocking of cupboards, the outpouring of stores, the giving up of keys, and with many speeches made to Martha. This was all very painful to Dorothy, who could not bring herself to suppose it possible that she should be the mistress of that house, during her aunt's life. Miss Stanbury, however, of course persevered, speaking of herself as a worn-out old woman, with one foot in the grave, who would soon be carried away and put out of sight. But in a very few days things got back into their places, and Aunt Stanbury had the keys again. "I knew how it would be, miss," said Martha to her young mistress, "and I didn't say nothing, 'cause you understand her so well."
Mrs. Stanbury and Priscilla still live at the cottage, which, however, to Priscilla's great disgust, has been considerably improved and prettily furnished. This was done under the auspices of Hugh, but with funds chiefly supplied from the house of Brooke, Dorothy, and Co. Priscilla comes into Exeter to see her sister, perhaps, every other week; but will never sleep away from home, and very rarely will eat or drink at her sister's table. "I don't know why, I don't," she said to Dorothy, "but somehow it puts me out. It delays me in my efforts to come to the straw a day." Nevertheless, the sisters are dear friends.
I fear that in some previous number a half promise was made that a husband should be found for Camilla French. That half-promise cannot be treated in the manner in which any whole promise certainly would have been handled. There is no husband ready for Cammy French. The reader, however, will be delighted to know that she made up her quarrel with her sister and Mr. Gibson, and is now rather fond of being a guest at Mr. Gibson's house. On her first return to Exeter after the Gibsons had come back from their little Cornish rustication, Camilla declared that she could not and would not bring herself to endure a certain dress of which Bella was very fond;—and as this dress had been bought for Camilla with special reference to the glories of her anticipated married life, this objection was almost natural. But Bella treated it as absurd, and Camilla at last gave way.
It need only further be said that though Giles Hickbody and Martha are not actually married as yet,—men and women in their class of life always moving towards marriage with great precaution,—it is quite understood that the young people are engaged, and are to be made happy together at some future time.