Ayala's Angel, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 33

Isadore Hamel in Lombard Street

In following the results of Tom’s presentation of the necklace we have got beyond the period which our story is presumed to have reached. Tom was in durance during the Christmas week, but we must go back to the promise which had been made by her uncle, Sir Thomas, to Lucy about six weeks before that time. The promise had extended only to an undertaking on the part of Sir Thomas to see Isadore Hamel if he would call at the house in Lombard Street at a certain hour on a certain day. Lucy was overwhelmed with gratitude when the promise was made. A few moments previously she had been indignant because her uncle had appeared to speak of her and her lover as two beggars — but Sir Thomas had explained and in some sort apologised, and then had come the promise which to Lucy seemed to contain an assurance of effectual aid. Sir Thomas would not have asked to see the lover had he intended to be hostile to the lover. Something would be done to solve the difficulty which had seemed to Lucy to be so grave. She would not any longer be made to think that she should give up either her lover or her home under her uncle’s roof. This had been terribly distressing to her because she had been well aware that on leaving her uncle’s house she could be taken in only by her lover, to whom an immediate marriage would be ruinous. And yet she could not undertake to give up her lover. Therefore her uncle’s promise had made her very happy, and she forgave the ungenerous allusion to the two beggars.

The letter was written to Isadore in high spirits. “I do not know what Uncle Tom intends, but he means to be kind. Of course you must go to him, and if I were you I would tell him everything about everything. He is not strict and hard like Aunt Emmeline. She means to be good too, but she is sometimes so very hard. I am happier now because I think something will be done to relieve you from the terrible weight which I am to you. I sometimes wish that you had never come to me in Kensington Gardens, because I have become such a burden to you.”

There was much more in which Lucy no doubt went on to declare that, burden as she was, she intended to be persistent. Hamel, when he received this letter, was resolved to keep the appointment made for him, but his hopes were not very high. He had been angry with Lady Tringle — in the first place, because of her treatment of himself at Glenbogie, and then much more strongly, because she had been cruel to Lucy. Nor did he conceive himself to be under any strong debt of gratitude to Sir Thomas, though he had been invited to lunch. He was aware that the Tringles had despised him, and he repaid the compliment with all his heart by despising the Tringles. They were to him samples of the sort of people which he thought to be of all the most despicable. They were not only vulgar and rich, but purse-proud and conceited as well. To his thinking there was nothing of which such people were entitled to be proud. Of course they make money — money out of money, an employment which he regarded as vile — creating nothing either useful or beautiful. To create something useful was, to his thinking, very good. To create something beautiful was almost divine. To manipulate millions till they should breed other millions was the meanest occupation for a life’s energy. It was thus, I fear, that Mr Hamel looked at the business carried on in Lombard Street, being as yet very young in the world and seeing many things with distorted eyes.

He was aware that some plan would be proposed to him which might probably accelerate his marriage, but was aware also that he would be very unwilling to take advice from Sir Thomas. Sir Thomas, no doubt, would be coarse and rough, and might perhaps offer him pecuniary assistance in a manner which would make it impossible for him to accept it. He had told himself a score of times that, poor as he was, he did not want any of the Tringle money. His father’s arbitrary conduct towards him had caused him great misery. He had been brought up in luxury, and had felt it hard enough to be deprived of his father’s means because he would not abandon the mode of life that was congenial to him. But having been thus, as it were, cast off by his father, he had resolved that it behoved him to depend only on himself. In the matter of his love he was specially prone to be indignant and independent. No one had a right to dictate to him, and he would follow the dictation of none. To Lucy alone did he acknowledge any debt, and to her he owed everything. But even for her sake he could not condescend to accept Sir Thomas’s money, and with his money his advice. Lucy had begged him in her letter to tell everything to her uncle. He would tell Sir Thomas everything as to his income, his prospects, and his intentions, because Sir Thomas as Lucy’s uncle would be entitled to such information. But he thought it very improbable that he should accept any counsel from Sir Thomas.

Such being the condition of Hamel’s mind it was to be feared that but little good would come from his visit to Lombard Street. Lucy had simply thought that her uncle, out of his enormous stores, would provide an adequate income. Hamel thought that Sir Thomas, out of his enormous impudence, would desire to dictate everything. Sir Thomas was, in truth, anxious to be good-natured, and to do a kindness to his niece; but was not willing to give his money without being sure that he was putting it into good hands.

“Oh, you’re Hamel,” said a young man to him, speaking to him across the counter in the Lombard Street office. This was Tom, who, as the reader will remember, had not yet got into his trouble on account of the policeman.

Tom and Hamel had never met but once before, for a few moments in the Coliseum at Rome, and the artist, not remembering him, did not know by whom he was accosted in this familiar manner. “That is my name, Sir,” said Hamel. “Here is my card. Perhaps you will do me the kindness to take it to Sir Thomas Tringle.”

“All right, old fellow; I know all about it. He has got Puxley with him from the Bank of England just at this moment. Come through into this room. He’ll soon have polished off old Puxley.” Tom was no more to Hamel than any other clerk, and he felt himself to be aggrieved; but he followed Tom into the room as he was told, and then prepared to wait in patience for the convenience of the great man. “So you and Lucy are going to make a match of it,” said Tom.

This was terrible to Hamel. Could it be possible that all the clerks in Lombard Street talked of his Lucy in this way, because she was the niece of their senior partner? Were all the clerks, as a matter of course, instructed in the most private affairs of the Tringle family? “I am here in obedience to directions from Sir Thomas,” said Hamel, ignoring altogether the impudent allusion which the young man had made.

“Of course you are. Perhaps you don’t know who I am?”

“Not in the least,” said Hamel.

“I am Thomas Tringle, junior,” said Tom, with a little accession of dignity.

“I beg your pardon; I did not know,” said Hamel.

“You and I ought to be thick”, rejoined Tom, because I’m going in for Ayala. Perhaps you’ve heard that before?”

Hamel had heard it and was well aware that Tom was to Ayala an intolerable burden, like the old man of the sea. He had heard of Tom as poor Ayala’s pet aversion — as a lover not to be shaken off though he had been refused a score of times. Ayala was to the sculptor only second in sacredness to Lucy. And now he was told by Tom himself that he was — “going in for Ayala”. The expression was so distressing to his feelings that he shuddered when he heard it. Was it possible that anyone should say of him that he was “going in” for Lucy? At that moment Sir Thomas opened the door, and grasping Hamel by the hand led him away into his own sanctum.

“And now, Mr Hamel,” said Sir Thomas, in his cheeriest voice, “how are you?” Hamel declared that he was very well, and expressed a hope that Sir Thomas was the same. “I am not so young as I was, Mr Hamel. My years are heavier and so is my work. That’s the worst of it. When one is young and strong one very often hasn’t enough to do. I daresay you find it so sometimes.”

“In our profession”, said Hamel, we go on working though very often we do not sell what we do.”

“That’s bad,” said Sir Thomas.

“It is the case always with an artist before he has made a name for himself. It is the case with many up to the last day of a life of labour. An artist has to look for that, Sir Thomas.”

“Dear me! That seems very sad. You are a sculptor, I believe?”

“Yes, Sir Thomas.”

“And the things you make must take a deal of room and be very heavy.” At this Mr Hamel only smiled. “Don’t you think if you were to call an auction you’d get something for them?” At this suggestion the sculptor frowned but condescended to make no reply. Sir Thomas went on with his suggestion. “If you and half a dozen other beginners made a sort of gallery among you, people would buy them as they do those things in the Marylebone Road and stick them up somewhere about their grounds. It would be better than keeping them and getting nothing.” Hamel had in his studio at home an allegorical figure of Italia United, and another of a Prostrate Roman Catholic Church, which in his mind’s eye he saw for a moment stuck here or there about the gardens of some such place as Glenbogie! Into them had been infused all the poetry of his nature and all the conviction of his intelligence. He had never dreamed of selling them. He had never dared to think that any lover of Art would encourage him to put into marble those conceptions of his genius which now adorned his studio, standing there in plaster of Paris. But to him they were so valuable, they contained so much of his thoughts, so many of his aspirations, that even had the marble counterparts been ordered and paid for nothing would have induced him to part with the originals. Now he was advised to sell them by auction in order that he might rival those grotesque tradesmen whose business it is to populate the gardens of wealthy but tasteless Britons! It was thus that the idea represented itself to him. He simply smiled; but Sir Thomas did not fail to appreciate the smile.

“And now about this young lady?” said Sir Thomas, not altogether in so good a humour as he had been when he began his suggestion. “It’s a bad look out for her when, as you say, you cannot sell your work when you’ve done it.”

“I think you do not quite understand the matter, Sir Thomas.”

“Perhaps not. It certainly does seem unintelligible that a man should lumber himself up with a lot of things which he cannot sell. A tradesman would know that he must get into the bankruptcy court if he were to go on like that. And what is sauce for the goose will be sauce for the gander also.” Mr Hamel again smiled but held his tongue. “If you can’t sell your wares how can you keep a wife?”

“My wares, as you call them, are of two kinds. One, though no doubt made for sale, is hardly saleable. The other is done to order. Such income as I make comes from the latter.”

“Heads,” suggested Sir Thomas.

“Busts they are generally called.”

“Well, busts. I call them heads. They are heads. A bust, I take it, is — well, never mind.” Sir Thomas found a difficulty in defining his idea of a bust. “A man wants to have something more or less like someone to put up in a church and then he pays you.”

“Or perhaps in his library. But he can put it where he likes when he has bought it.”

“Just so. But there ain’t many of those come in your way, if I understand right.”

“Not as many as I would wish.”

“What can you net at the end of the year? That’s the question.”

Lucy had recommended him to tell Sir Thomas everything; and he had come there determined to tell at any rate everything referring to money. He had not the slightest desire to keep the amount of his income from Sir Thomas. But the questions were put to him in so distasteful a way that he could not bring himself to be confidential. “It varies with various circumstances, but it is very small.”

“Very small? Five hundred a year?” This was ill-natured, because Sir Thomas knew that Mr Hamel did not earn five hundred a year. But he was becoming acerbated by the young man’s manner.

“Oh dear, no,” said Hamel.

“Four hundred?”

“Nor four hundred — nor three. I have never netted three hundred in one year after paying the incidental expenses.”

“That seems to me to be uncommonly little for a man who is thinking of marrying. Don’t you think you had better give it up?”

“I certainly think nothing of the kind.”

“Does your father do anything for you?”

“Nothing at all.”

“He also makes heads?”

“Heads — and other things.”

“And sells them when he has made them.”

“Yes, Sir Thomas; he sells them. He had a hard time once, but now he is run after. He refuses more orders than he can accept.”

“And he won’t do anything for you.”

“Nothing. He has quarrelled with me.”

“That is very bad. Well now, Mr Hamel, would you mind telling me what your ideas are?” Sir Thomas, when he asked the question, still intended to give assistance, was still minded that the young people should by his assistance be enabled to marry. But he was strongly of opinion that it was his duty, as a rich and protecting uncle, to say something about imprudence, and to magnify difficulties. It certainly would be wrong for an uncle, merely because he was rich, to give away his money to dependent relatives without any reference to those hard principles which a possessor of money always feels it to be his business to inculcate. And up to this point Hamel had done nothing to ingratiate himself. Sir Thomas was beginning to think that the sculptor was an impudent prig, and to declare to himself that, should the marriage ever take place, the young couple would not be made welcome at Glenbogie or Merle Park. But still he intended to go on with his purpose, for Lucy’s sake. Therefore he asked the sculptor as to his ideas generally.

“My idea is that I shall marry Miss Dormer, and support her on the earnings of my profession. My idea is that I shall do so before long, in comfort. My idea also is, that she will be the last to complain of any discomfort which may arise from my straitened circumstances at present. My idea is that I am preparing for myself a happy and independent life. My idea also is — and I assure you that of all my ideas this is the one to which I cling with the fondest assurance — that I will do my very best to make her life happy when she comes to grace my home.”

There was a manliness in this which would have touched Sir Thomas had he been in a better humour, but, as it was, he had been so much irritated by the young man’s manner, that he could not bring himself to be just. “Am I to understand that you intend to marry on something under three hundred a year?

Hamel paused for a moment before he made his reply. “How am I to answer such a question,” he said, at last, “seeing that Miss Dormer is in your hands, and that you are unlikely to be influenced by anything that I may say?”

“I shall be very much influenced,” said Sir Thomas.

“Were her father still alive, I think we should have put our heads together, and between us decided on what might have been best for Lucy’s happiness.”

“Do you think that I’m indifferent to her happiness?” demanded Sir Thomas.

“I should have suggested to him,” continued Hamel, not noticing the last question, “that she should remain in her own home till I could make one for her worthy of her acceptance. And then we should have arranged among us what would have been best for her happiness. I cannot do this with you. If you tell her tomorrow that she must give up either your protection or her engagement with me, then she must come to me, and make the best of all the little that I can do for her.”

“Who says that I’m going to turn her out?” said Sir Thomas, rising angrily from his chair.

“I do not think that anyone has said this of you.”

“Then why do you throw it in my teeth?”

“Because your wife has threatened it.”

Then Sir Thomas boiled over in his anger. “No one has threatened it. It is untrue. You are guilty both of impertinence and untruth in saying so.” Here Hamel rose from his chair, and took up his hat. “Stop, young man, and hear what I have to say to you. I have done nothing but good to my niece.”

“Nevertheless, it is true, Sir Thomas, that she has been told by your wife that she must either abandon me or the protection of your roof. I find no fault with Lady Tringle for saying so. It may have been the natural expression of a judicious opinion. But when you ask after my intentions in reference to your niece I am bound to tell you that I propose to subject her to the undoubted inconveniences of my poor home, simply because I find her to be threatened with the loss of another.”

“She has not been threatened, Sir.”

“You had better ask your wife, Sir Thomas. And, if you find that what I have said is true, I think you will own that I have been obliged to explain as I have done. As you have told me to my face that I have been guilty of untruth, I shall now leave you.” With this he walked out of the room, and the words which Sir Thomas threw after him had no effect in recalling him.

It must be acknowledged that Hamel had been very foolish in referring to Aunt Emmeline’s threat. Who does not know that words are constantly used which are intended to have no real effect? Who does not know that an angry woman will often talk after this fashion? But it was certainly the fact that Aunt Emmeline had more than once declared to Lucy that she could not be allowed to remain one of that family unless she would give up her lover. Lucy, in her loyal endeavours to explain to her lover her own position, had told him of the threat, and he, from that moment, had held himself prepared to find a home for his future wife should that threat be carried into execution. Sir Thomas was well aware that such words had been spoken, but he knew his wife, and knew how little such words signified. His wife, without his consent, would not have the power to turn a dog from Merle Park. The threat had simply been an argument intended to dissuade Lucy from her choice; and now it had been thrown in his teeth just when he had intended to make provision for this girl, who was not, in truth, related to him, in order that he might ratify her choice! He was very angry with the young prig who had thus rushed out of his presence. He was angry, too, with his wife, who had brought him into his difficulty by her foolish threat. But he was angry, also, with himself, knowing that he had been wrong to accuse the man of a falsehood.

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