Ayala's Angel, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 18

Down in Scotland

When the time came, all the Tringles, together with the Honourable Mrs Traffick, started for Glenbogie. Aunt Emmeline had told Sir Thomas all Lucy’s sins, but Sir Thomas had not made so much of them as his wife had expected. “It wouldn’t be a bad thing to have a husband for Lucy,” said Sir Thomas.

“But the man hasn’t got a sixpence.”

“He has a profession.”

“I don’t know that he makes anything. And then think of his father! He is — illegitimate!” Sir Thomas seemed rather to sneer at this. “And if you knew the way the old man lives in Rome! He plays cards all Sunday!” Again Sir Thomas sneered. Sir Thomas was fairly submissive to the conventionalities himself, but did not think that they ought to stand in the way of a provision for a young lady who had no provision of her own. “You wouldn’t wish to have him at Queen’s Gate?” asked Lady Tringle.

“Certainly not, if he makes nothing by his profession. A good deal, I think, depends upon that.” Then nothing further was said, but Lucy was not told her uncle’s opinion on the matter, as had been promised. When she went down to Glenbogie she only knew that Mr Hamel was considered to be by far too black a sheep to be admitted into her aunt’s presence, and that she must regard herself as separated from the man as far as any separation could be effected by her present protectors. But if he would be true to her, as to a girl whom he had a short time since so keenly rejoiced in “finding again,” she was quite sure that she could be true to him.

On the day fixed, the 20th of August, Mr Houston arrived at Glenbogie, with boots and stockings and ammunition, such as Tom had recommended when interrogated on those matters by his sister, Gertrude. “I travelled down with a man I think you know,” he said to Lucy — “at any rate your sister does, because I saw him with her at Rome.” The man turned out to be Isadore Hamel. “I didn’t like to ask him whether he was coming here,” said Frank Houston.

“No; he is not coming here,” said Aunt Emmeline.

“Certainly not,” said Gertrude, who was quite prepared to take up the cudgels on her mother’s behalf against Mr Hamel.

“He said something about another man he used to know at Rome, before you came. He was a nephew of that Marchesa Baldoni.”

“She was a lady we didn’t like a bit too well,” said Gertrude.

“A very stuck-up sort of person, who did all she could to spoil Ayala,” said Aunt Emmeline.

“Ayala has just been staying with her,” said Lucy. She has been very kind to Ayala.”

“We have nothing to do with that now,” said Aunt Emmeline. “Ayala can stay with whom she and her aunt pleases. Is this Mr Hamel, whom you saw, a friend of the Marchesa’s?”

“He seemed to be a friend of the Marchesa’s nephew,” continued Houston — “one Colonel Stubbs. We used to see him at Rome, and a most curious man he is. His name is Jonathan, and I don’t suppose that any man was ever seen so red before. He is shooting somewhere, and Hamel seems to be going to join him. I thought he might have been coming here afterwards, as you all were in Rome together.”

“Certainly he is not coming here,” said Aunt Emmeline. “And as for Colonel Stubbs, I never heard of him before.”

A week of the time allotted to Frank Houston had gone before he had repeated a word of his suit to Sir Thomas. But with Gertrude every opportunity had been allowed him, and by the rest of the family they had been regarded as though they were engaged. Mr Traffick, who was now at Glenbogie, in accordance with the compact made with him, did not at first approve of Frank Houston. He had insinuated to Lady Tringle, and had said very plainly to Augusta, that he regarded a young man, without any employment and without any income, as being quite unfit to marry. “If he had a seat in the House it would be quite a different thing,” he had said to Augusta. But his wife had snubbed him; telling him, almost in so many words, that if Gertrude was determined to have her way in opposition to her father she certainly would not be deterred by her brother-in-law. “It’s nothing to me,” Mr Traffick had then said; “the money won’t come out of my pocket; but when a man has nothing else to do he is sure to spend all that he can lay his hands upon.” After that, however, he withdrew his opposition, and allowed it to be supposed that he was ready to receive Frank Houston as his brother-in-law, should it be so decided.

The time was running by both with Houston, the expectant son-in-law, and with Mr Traffick, who had achieved his position, and both were aware that no grace would be allowed to them beyond that which had been promised. Frank had fully considered the matter, and was quite resolved that it would be unmanly in him to run after his cousin Imogene, in the Tyrol, before he had performed his business. One day, therefore, after having returned from the daily allowance of slaughter, he contrived to find Sir Thomas in the solitude of his own room, and again began to act the part of Allan-a-Dale. “I thought, Mr Houston,” said Sir Thomas, “that we had settled that matter before.”

“Not quite,” said Houston.

“I don’t know why you should say so. I intended to be understood as expressing my mind.”

“But you have been good enough to ask me down here.”

“I may ask a man to my house, I suppose, without intending to give him my daughter’s hand.” Then he again asked the important question, to which Allan-a-Dale’s answer was so unreasonable and so successful. “Have you an income on which to maintain my daughter?”

“I cannot just say that I have, Sir Thomas,” said Houston, apologetically.

“Then you mean to ask me to furnish you with an income.”

“You can do as you please about that, Sir Thomas.”

“You can hardly marry her without it.”

“Well; no; not altogether. No doubt it is true that I should not have proposed myself had I not thought that the young lady would have something of her own.”

“But she has nothing of her own,” said Sir Thomas. And then that interview was over.

“You won’t throw us over, Lady Tringle?” Houston said to Gertrude’s mother that evening.

“Sir Thomas likes to have his own way,” said Lady Tringle.

“Somebody got round him about Septimus Traffick.”

“That was different,” said Lady Tringle. Mr Traffick is in Parliament, and that gives him an employment. He is a son of Lord Boardotrade, and some of these days he will be in office.”

“Of course, you know that if Gertrude sticks to it she will have her own way. When a girl sticks to it her father has to give way. What does it matter to him whether I have any business or not? The money would be the same in one case as the other, only it does seem such an unnecessary trouble to have it put off.”

All this Lady Tringle seemed to take in good part, and half acknowledged that if Frank Houston were constant in the matter he would succeed at last. Gertrude, when the time for his departure had come, expressed herself as thoroughly disgusted by her father’s sternness. “It’s all bosh,” she said to her lover. Who is Lord Boardotrade that that should make a difference? I have as much right to please myself as Augusta.” But there was the stern fact that the money had not been promised, and even Frank had not proposed to marry the girl of his heart without the concomitant thousands.

Before he left Glenbogie, on the evening of his departure, he wrote a second letter to Miss Docimer, as follows —

DEAR COUSIN IM,

Here I am at Glenbogie, and here I have been for a week, without doing a stroke of work. The father still asks “of his house and his home” and does not seem to be at all affected by my reference to the romantic grandeur of my own peculiar residence. Perhaps I may boast so far as to say that I have laughed on the lass as successfully as did Allan-a-Dale. But what’s the good of laughing on a lass when one has got nothing to eat? Allan-a-Dale could pick a pocket or cut a purse, accomplishments in which I am altogether deficient. I suppose I shall succeed sooner or later, but when I put my neck into the collar I had no idea that there would be so much uphill work before me. It is all very well joking, but it is not nice to be asked “of your house and your home” by a gentleman who knows very well you’ve got none, and is conscious of inhabiting three or four palaces himself. Such treatment must be described as being decidedly vulgar. And then he must know that it can be of no possible permanent use. The ladies are all on my side, but I am told by Tringle mère that I am less acceptable than old Traffick, who married the other girl, because I’m not the son of Lord Boardotrade! Nothing astonishes me so much as the bad taste of some people. Now, it must all be put off till Christmas, and the cruel part is, that one doesn’t see how I’m to go on living.

“In the meantime I have a little time in which to amuse myself, and I shall turn up in about three weeks at Merle Park. I wish chiefly to beg that you will not dissuade me from what I see clearly to be a duty. I know exactly your line of argument. Following a girl for her money is, you will say, mercenary. So, as far as I can see, is every transaction in the world by which men live. The judges, the bishops, the poets, the Royal academicians, and the Prime Ministers, are all mercenary — as is also the man who breaks stones for 2 s. 1 d. a day. How shall a man live without being mercenary unless he be born to fortune? Are not girls always mercenary? Will she marry me knowing that I have nothing? Will you not marry someone whom you will probably like much less simply because he will have something for you to eat and drink? Of course I am mercenary, and I don’t even pretend to old Tringle that I am not so. I feel a little tired of this special effort — but if I were to abandon it I should simply have to begin again elsewhere. I have sighted my stag, and I must go on following him, trying to get on the right side of the wind till I bring him down. It is not nice, but it is to me manifestly my duty — and I shall do it. Therefore, do not let there be any blowing up. I hate to be scolded.

Yours always affectionately,

F. H.

Gertrude, when he was gone, did not take the matter quite so quietly as he did, feeling that, as she had made up her mind, and as all her world would know that she had made up her mind, it behoved her to carry her purpose to its desired end. A girl who is known to be engaged, but whose engagement is not allowed, is always in a disagreeable plight.

“Mamma,” she said, I think that papa is not treating me well.”

“My dear, your papa has always had his own way.”

“That is all very well — but why am I to be worse used than Augusta? It turns out now that Mr Traffick has not got a shilling of his own.”

“Your papa likes his being in Parliament.”

“All the girls can’t marry Members of Parliament.”

“And he likes his being the son of Lord Boardotrade.”

“Lord Boardotrade! I call that very mean: Mr Houston is a gentleman, and the Buncombe property has been for ever so many hundreds of years in the family. I think more of Frank as to birth and all that than I do of Lord Boardotrade and his mushroom peerage. Can’t you tell papa that I mean to marry Mr Houston at last, and that he is making very little of me to let me be talked about as I shall be?”

“I don’t think I can, Gertrude.”

“Then I shall. What would he say if I were to run away with Frank?”

“I don’t think Frank Houston would do that.”

“He would if I told him — in a moment.” There Miss Tringle was probably in error. “And unless papa consents I shall tell him. I am not going to be made miserable for ever.”

This was at Glenbogie, in Inverness-shire, on the south-eastern side of Loch Ness, where Sir Thomas Tringle possessed a beautiful mansion, with a deer-forest, and a waterfall of his own, and any amount of moors which the minds of sportsmen could conceive. Nothing in Scotland could be more excellent, unless there might be some truth in the remarks of those who said that the grouse were scarce, and that the deer were almost nonexistent. On the other side of the lake, four miles up from the gates, on the edge of a ravine, down which rushed a little stream called the Caller, was an inconvenient rickety cottage, built piecemeal at two or three different times, called Drumcaller. From one room you went into another, and from that into a third. To get from the sitting-room, which was called the parlour, into another which was called the den, you had to pass through the kitchen, or else to make communication by a covered passage out of doors which seemed to hang over the margin of the ravine. Pine trees enveloped the place. Looking at the house from the outside anyone would declare it to be wet through. It certainly could not with truth be described as a comfortable family residence. But you might, perhaps, travel through all Scotland without finding a more beautifully romantic spot in which to reside. From that passage, which seemed to totter suspended over the rocks, whence the tumbling rushing waters could always be heard like music close at hand, the view down over the little twisting river was such as filled the mind with a conviction of realised poetry. Behind the house across the little garden there was a high rock where a little path had been formed, from which could be seen the whole valley of the Caller and the broad shining expanse of the lake beyond. Those who knew the cottage of Drumcaller were apt to say that no man in Scotland had a more picturesque abode, or one more inconvenient. Even bread had to be carried up from Callerfoot, as was called the little village down on the lake side, and other provisions, such even as meat, had to be fetched twenty miles, from the town of Inverness.

A few days after the departure of Houston from Glenbogie two men were seated with pipes in their mouths on the landing outside the room called the den to which the passage from the parlour ran. Here a square platform had been constructed capable of containing two armchairs, and here the owner of the cottage was accustomed to sit, when he was disposed, as he called it, to loaf away his time at Drumcaller. This man was Colonel Jonathan Stubbs, and his companion at the present moment was Isadore Hamel.

“I never knew them in Rome,” said the Colonel. I never even saw Ayala there, though she was so much at my aunt’s house. I was in Sicily part of the time, and did not get back till they had all quarrelled. I did know the nephew, who was a good-natured but a vulgar young man. They are vulgar people, I should say.”

“You could hardly have found Ayala vulgar?” asked Hamel.

“Indeed, no. But uncles and aunts and nephews and nieces are not at all bound to run together. Ayala is the daintiest little darling I ever saw.”

“I knew their father and mother, and certainly no one would have called them vulgar.”

“Sisters when they marry of course go off according to their husbands, and the children follow. In this case one sister became Tringlish after Sir Tringle, and the other Dormerish, after that most improvident of human beings, your late friend the artist. I don’t suppose any amount of experience will teach Ayala how many shillings there are in a pound. No doubt the Honourable Mrs Traffick knows all about it.”

“I don’t think a girl is much improved by knowing how many shillings there are in a pound,” said Hamel.

“It is useful sometimes.”

“So it might be to kill a sheep and skin it, or to milk a cow and make cheese; but here, as in other things, one acquirement will drive out others. A woman, if she cannot be beautiful, should at any rate be graceful, and if she cannot soar to poetry, should at least be soft and unworldly.”

“That’s all very well in its way, but I go in for roasting, baking, and boiling. I can bake and I can brew; I can make an Irish stew; Wash a shirt and iron it too.

That’s the sort of girl I mean to go in for if ever I marry; and when you’ve got six children and a small income it’s apt to turn out better than grace and poetry.”

“A little of both perhaps,” said Hamel.

“Well, yes; I don’t mind a little Byron now and again, so there is no nonsense. As to Glenbogie, it’s right over there across the lake. You can get a boat at Callerfoot, and a fellow to take you across and wait for you won’t cost you more than three half-crowns. I suppose Glenbogie is as far from the lake on that side as my cottage is on this. How you’ll get up except by walking I cannot say, unless you will write a note to Sir Thomas and ask him to send a horse down for you.”

“Sir Thomas would not accommodate me.”

“You think he will frown if you come after his niece?”

“I simply want to call on Miss Dormer”, said Hamel, blushing, “because her father was always kind to me.”

“I don’t mean to ask any questions,” said the Colonel.

“It is just so as I say. I do not like being in the neighbourhood without calling on Miss Dormer.”

“I daresay not.”

“But I doubt whether Sir Thomas or Lady Tringle would be at all inclined to make me welcome. As to the distance, I can walk that easily enough, and if the door is slammed in my face I can walk back again.”

Thus it was resolved that early on the following morning after breakfast Isadore Hamel should go across the lake and make his way up to Glenbogie.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43