Castle Richmond, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XXXV

Herbert Fitzgerald in London

On the following morning the whole household was up and dressed very early. Lady Fitzgerald — the poor lady made many futile attempts to drop her title, but hitherto without any shadow of success — Lady Fitzgerald was down in the breakfast parlour at seven, as also were Aunt Letty, and Mary, and Emmeline. Herbert had begged his mother not to allow herself to be disturbed, alleging that there was no cause, seeing that they all so soon would meet in London; but she was determined that she would superintend his last meal at Castle Richmond. The servants brought in the trays with melancholy silence, and now that the absolute moment of parting had come the girls could not speak lest the tears should come and choke them. It was not that they were about to part with him; that parting would only be for a month. But he was now about to part from all that ought to have been his own. He sat down at the table in his accustomed place, with a forced smile on his face, but without a word, and his sisters put before him his cup of tea, and the slice of ham that had been cut for him, and his portion of bread. That he was making an effort they all saw. He bowed his head down over the tea to sip it, and took the knife in his hand, and then he looked up at them, for he knew that their eyes were on him; he looked up at them to show that he could still endure it. But, alas! he could not endure it. The struggle was too much for him; he pushed his plate violently from him into the middle of the table, and dropping his head upon his hands, he burst forth into audible lamentations.

Oh, my friends! be not hard on him in that he was thus weeping like a woman. It was not for his lost wealth that he was wailing, nor even for the name or splendour that could be no longer his; nor was it for his father’s memory, though he had truly loved his father; nor for his mother’s sorrow, or the tragedy of her life’s history. For none of these things were his tears flowing and his sobs coming so violently that it nearly choked him to repress them. Nor could he himself have said why he was weeping.

It was the hundred small things from which he was parting for ever that thus disturbed him. The chair on which he sat, the carpet on the floor, the table on which he leaned, the dull old picture of his great-grandfather over the fire-place — they were all his old familiar friends, they were all part of Castle Richmond — of that Castle Richmond which he might never be allowed to see again.

His mother and sisters came to him, hanging over him, and they joined their tears together. “Do not tell her that I was like this,” said he at last.

“She will love you the better for it if she has a true woman’s heart within her breast,” said his mother.

“As true a heart as ever breathed,” said Emmeline, through her sobs.

And then they pressed him to eat, but it was in vain. He knew that the food would choke him if he attempted it. So he gulped down the cup of tea, and with one kiss to his mother he rushed from them, refusing Aunt Letty’s proffered embrace, passing through the line of servants without another word to one of them, and burying himself in the post-chaise which was to carry him the first stage on his melancholy journey.

It was a melancholy journey all through. From the time that he left the door at Castle Richmond that was no longer his own, till he reached the Euston Station in London, he spoke no word to any one more than was absolutely necessary for the purposes of his travelling. Nothing could be more sad than the prospect of his residence in London. Not that he was without friends there, for he belonged to a fashionable club to which he could still adhere if it so pleased him, and had all his old Oxford comrades to fall back upon if that were of any service to him. But how is a man to walk into his club who yesterday was known as his father’s eldest son and the heir to a baronetcy and twelve thousand a year, and who today is known as nobody’s son and the heir to nothing? Men would feel so much for him and pity him so deeply! That was the worst feature of his present position. He could hardly dare to show himself more than was absolutely necessary till the newness of his tragedy was worn off.

Mr. Prendergast had taken lodgings for him, in which he was to remain till he could settle himself in the same house with his mother. And this house, in which they were all to live, had also been taken — up in that cheerful locality near Harrow-on-the-Hill, called St. John’s Wood Road, the cab fares to which from any central part of London are so very ruinous. But that house was not yet ready, and so he went into lodgings in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Mr. Prendergast had chosen this locality because it was near the chambers of that great Chancery barrister, Mr. Die, under whose beneficent wing Herbert Fitzgerald was destined to learn all the mysteries of the Chancery bar. The sanctuary of Mr. Die’s wig was in Stone Buildings, immediately close to that milky way of vice-chancellors, whose separate courts cluster about the old chapel of Lincoln’s Inn; and here was Herbert to sit, studious, for the next three years — to sit there instead of at the various relief committees in the vicinity of Kanturk. And why could he not be as happy at the one as at the other? Would not Mr. Die be as amusing as Mr. Townsend; and the arguments of Vice-Chancellor Stuart’s court quite as instructive as those heard in the committee room at Gortnaclough?

On the morning of his arrival in London he drove to his lodgings, and found a note there from Mr. Prendergast asking him to dinner on that day, and promising to take him to Mr. Die on the following morning. Mr. Prendergast kept a bachelor’s house in Bloomsbury Square, not very far from Lincoln’s Inn — just across Holborn, as all Londoners know; and there he would expect Herbert at seven o’clock. “I will not ask any one to meet you,” he said, “because you will be tired after your journey, and perhaps more inclined to talk to me than to strangers.”

Mr. Prendergast was one of those old-fashioned people who think that a spacious substantial house in Bloomsbury Square, at a rent of a hundred and twenty pounds a year, is better worth having than a narrow, lath-and-plaster, ill-built tenement at nearly double the price out westward of the Parks. A quite new man is necessarily afraid of such a locality as Bloomsbury Square, for he has no chance of getting any one into his house if he do not live westward. Who would dine with Mr. Jones in Woburn Terrace, unless he had known Mr. Jones all his days, or unless Jones were known as a top sawyer in some walk of life? But Mr. Prendergast was well enough known to his old friends to be allowed to live where he pleased, and he was not very anxious to add to their number by any new fashionable allurements.

Herbert sent over to Bloomsbury Square to say that he would be there at seven o’clock, and then sat himself down in his new lodgings. It was but a dingy abode, consisting of a narrow sitting-room looking out into the big square from over a covered archway, and a narrower bedroom looking backwards into a dull, dirty-looking, crooked street. Nothing, he thought, could be more melancholy than such a home. But then, what did it signify? His days would be passed in Mr. Die’s chambers, and his evenings would be spent over his law books with closed windows and copious burnings of the midnight oil. For Herbert had wisely resolved that hard work, and hard work alone, could mitigate the misery of the present position.

But he had no work for the present day. He could not at once unpack his portmanteau and begin his law studies on the moment. It was about noon when he had completed the former preparation, and eaten such breakfast as his new London landlady had gotten for him. And the breakfast had not of itself been bad, for Mrs. Whereas had been a daughter of Themis all her life, waiting upon scions of the law since first she had been able to run for a penn’orth of milk. She had been laundress on a stairs for ten years, having married a law stationer’s apprentice, and now she owned the dingy house over the covered way, and let her own lodgings with her own furniture; nor was she often without friends who would recommend her zeal and honesty, and make excuse for the imperiousness of her ways and the too great fluency of her by no means servile tongue.

“Oh, Mrs. — ” said Herbert, “I beg your pardon, but might I ask your name?”

“No offence, sir, none in life. My name’s Whereas. Martha Whereas, and ‘as been now for five-and-twenty year. There be’ant many of the gen’lemen about the courts here as don’t know some’at of me. And I knew some’at of them too, before they carried their wigs so grandly. My husband, that’s Whereas — you’ll all’ays find him at the little stationer’s shop outside the gate in Carey Street. You’ll know him some of these days, I’ll go bail, if you’re going to Mr. Die; anyways you’ll know his handwrite. Tea to your liking, sir? I all’ays gets cream for gentlemen, sir, unless they tells me not. Milk a ‘alfpenny, sir; cream tuppence; three ‘alfpence difference; hain’t it, sir? So now you can do as you pleases, and if you like bacon and heggs to your breakfastesses you’ve only to say the words. But then the heggs hain’t heggs, that’s the truth; and they hain’t chickens, but some’at betwixt the two.”

And so she went on during the whole time that he was eating, moving about from place to place, and putting back into the places which she had chosen for them anything which he had chanced to move; now dusting a bit of furniture with her apron, and then leaning on the back of a chair while she asked him some question as to his habits and future mode of living. She also wore a bonnet, apparently as a customary part of her house costume, and Herbert could not help thinking that she looked very like his Aunt Letty.

But when she had gone and taken the breakfast things with her, then began the tedium of the day. It seemed to him as though he had no means of commencing his life in London until he had been with Mr. Prendergast or Mr. Die. And so new did it all feel to him, so strange and wonderful, that he hardly dared to go out of the house by himself and wander about the premises of the Inn. He was not absolutely a stranger in London, for he had been elected at a club before he had left Oxford, and had been up in town twice, staying on each occasion some few weeks. Had he therefore been asked about the metropolis some four months since at Castle Richmond, he would have professed that he knew it well. Starting from Pall Mall he could have gone to any of the central theatres, or to the Parks, or to the houses of Parliament, or to the picture galleries in June. But now in that dingy big square he felt himself to be absolutely a stranger; and when he did venture out he watched the corners, in order that he might find his way back without asking questions.

And then he roamed round the squares and about the little courts, and found out where were Stone Buildings — so called because they are so dull and dead and stony-hearted; and as his courage increased he made his way into one of the courts, and stood up for a while on an uncomfortable narrow step, so that he might watch the proceedings as they went on, and it all seemed to him to be dull and deadly. There was no life and amusement such as he had seen at the Assize Court in county Cork, when he was sworn in as one of the Grand Jury. There the gentlemen in wigs — for on the Munster circuit they do wear wigs, or at any rate did then — laughed and winked and talked together joyously; and when a Roman Catholic fisherman from Berehaven was put into the dock for destroying the boat and nets of a Protestant fisherman from Dingle in county Kerry, who had chanced to come that way, “not fishing at all, at all, yer honour, but just souping,” as the Papist prisoner averred with great emphasis, the gentlemen of the robe had gone to the fight with all the animation and courage of Matadors and Picadors in a bull-ring. It was delightful to see the way in which Roman Catholic skill combated Protestant fury, with a substratum below of Irish fun which showed to everybody that is was not all quite in earnest; — that the great O’Fagan and the great Fitzberesford could sit down together afterwards with all the pleasure in life over their modicum of claret in the barristers’ room at the Imperial hotel. And then the judge had added to the life of the meeting, helping to bamboozle and make miserable a wretch of a witness who had been caught in the act of seeing the boat smashed with a fragment of rock, and was now, in consequence, being impaled alive by his lordship’s assistance.

“What do you say your name is?” demanded his lordship, angrily.

“Rowland Houghton,” said the miserable stray Saxon tourist who had so unfortunately strayed that way on the occasion.

“What?” repeated the judge, whose ears were sharper to such sounds as O’Shaughnessy, Macgillycuddy, and O’Callaghan.

“Rowland Houghton,” said the offender, in his distress; quicker, louder, and perhaps not more distinctly than before.

“What does the man say?” said the judge, turning his head down towards a satellite who sat on a bench beneath his cushion.

The gentleman appealed to pronounced the name for the judge’s hearing with a full rolling Irish brogue, that gave great delight through all the court: “R-rowland Hough-h-ton, me lor-r-d.”

Whereupon his lordship threw up his hands in dismay. “Oulan Outan!” said he. “Oulan Outan! I never heard such a name in my life!” And then, having thoroughly impaled the wicked witness, and added materially to the amusement of the day, the judge wrote down the name in his book; and there it is to this day, no doubt, Oulan Outan. And when one thinks of it, it was monstrous that an English witness should go into an Irish law court with such a name as Rowland Houghton.

But here, in the dark dingy court to which Herbert had penetrated in Lincoln’s Inn, there was no such life as this. Here, whatever skill there might be, was of a dark subterranean nature, quite unintelligible to any minds but those of experts; and as for fury or fun, there was no spark either of one or of the other. The judge sat back in his seat, a tall, handsome, speechless man, not asleep, for his eye from time to time moved slowly from the dingy barrister who was on his legs to another dingy barrister who was sitting with his hands in his pockets, and with his eyes fixed upon the ceiling. The gentleman who was in the act of pleading had a huge open paper in his hand, from which he droned forth certain legal quiddities of the dullest and most uninteresting nature. He was in earnest, for there was a perpetual energy in his drone, as a droning bee might drone who was known to drone louder than other drones. But it was a continuous energy supported by perseverance, and not by impulse; and seemed to come of a fixed determination to continue the reading of that paper till all the world should be asleep. A great part of the world around was asleep; but the judge’s eye was still open, and one might say that the barrister was resolved to go on till that eye should have become closed in token of his success.

Herbert remained there for an hour, thinking that he might learn something that would be serviceable to him in his coming legal career; but at the end of the hour the same thing was going on — the judge’s eye was still open, and the lawyer’s drone was still sounding; and so he came away, having found himself absolutely dozing in the uncomfortable position in which he was standing.

At last the day wore away, and at seven o’clock he found himself in Mr. Prendergast’s hall in Bloomsbury Square; and his hat and umbrella were taken away from him by an old servant looking very much like Mr. Prendergast himself; — having about him the same look of the stiffness of years, and the same look also of excellent preservation and care.

“Mr. Prendergast is in the library, sir, if you please,” said the old servant; and so saying he ushered Herbert into the back down-stairs room. It was a spacious, lofty apartment, well fitted up for a library, and furnished for that purpose with exceeding care; — such a room as one does not find in the flashy new houses in the west, where the dining-room and drawing-room occupy all of the house that is visible. But then, how few of those who live in flashy new houses in the west require to have libraries in London!

As he entered the room Mr. Prendergast came forward to meet him, and seemed heartily glad to see him. There was a cordiality about him which Herbert had never recognized at Castle Richmond, and an appearance of enjoyment which had seemed to be almost foreign to the lawyer’s nature. Herbert perhaps had not calculated, as he should have done, that Mr. Prendergast’s mission in Ireland had not admitted of much enjoyment. Mr. Prendergast had gone there to do a job of work, and that he had done, very thoroughly; but he certainly had not enjoyed himself.

There was time for only few words before the old man again entered the room, announcing dinner; and those few words had no reference whatever to the Castle Richmond sorrow. He had spoken of Herbert’s lodging, and of his journey, and a word or two of Mr. Die, and then they went in to dinner. And at dinner too the conversation wholly turned upon indifferent matters, upon reform at Oxford, the state of parties, and of the peculiar idiosyncrasies of the Irish Low Church clergymen, on all of which subjects Herbert found that Mr. Prendergast had a tolerably strong opinion of his own. The dinner was very good, though by no means showy — as might have been expected in a house in Bloomsbury Square — and the wine excellent, as might have been expected in any house inhabited by Mr. Prendergast.

And then, when the dinner was over, and the old servant had slowly removed his last tray, when they had each got into an arm-chair, and were seated at properly comfortable distances from the fire, Mr. Prendergast began to talk freely; not that he at once plunged into the middle of the old history, or began with lugubrious force to recapitulate the horrors that were now partly over; but gradually he veered round to those points as to which he thought it good that he should speak before setting Herbert at work on his new London life.

“You drink claret, I suppose?” said Mr. Prendergast, as he adjusted a portion of the table for their evening symposium.

“Oh yes,” said Herbert, not caring very much at that moment what the wine was.

“You’ll find that pretty good; a good deal better than what you’ll get in most houses in London nowadays. But you know a man always likes his own wine, and especially an old man.”

Herbert said something about it being very good, but did not give that attention to the matter which Mr. Prendergast thought that it deserved. Indeed, he was thinking more about Mr. Die and Stone Buildings than about the wine.

“And how do you find my old friend Mrs. Whereas?” asked the lawyer.

“She seems to be a very attentive sort of woman.”

“Yes; rather too much so sometimes. People do say that she never knows how to hold her tongue. But she won’t rob you, nor yet poison you; and in these days that is saying a very great deal for a woman in London.” And then there was a pause, as Mr Prendergast sipped his wine with slow complacency. “And we are to go to Mr. Die tomorrow, I suppose?” he said, beginning again. To which Herbert replied that he would be ready at any time in the morning that might be suitable.

“The sooner you get into harness the better. It is not only that you have much to learn, but you have much to forget also.”

“Yes,” said Herbert, “I have much to forget indeed; more than I can forget, I’m afraid, Mr. Prendergast.”

“There is, I fancy, no sorrow which a man cannot forget; that is, as far as the memory of it is likely to be painful to him. You will not absolutely cease to remember Castle Richmond and all its circumstances; you will still think of the place and all the people whom you knew there; but you will learn to do so without the pain which of course you now suffer. That is what I mean by forgetting.”

“Oh, I don’t complain, sir.”

“No, I know you don’t; and that is the reason why I am so anxious to see you happy. You have borne the whole matter so well that I am quite sure that you will be able to live happily in this new life. That is what I mean when I say that you will forget Castle Richmond.”

Herbert bethought himself of Clara Desmond, and of the woman whom he had seen in the cabin, and reflected that even at present he had no right to be unhappy.

“I suppose you have no thought of going back to Ireland?” said Mr. Prendergast.

“Oh, none in the least.”

“On the whole I think you are right. No doubt a family connection is a great assistance to a barrister, and there would be reasons which would make attorneys in Ireland throw business into your hands at an early period of your life. Your history would give you an eclat there, if you know what I mean.”

“Oh yes, perfectly; but I don’t want that.”

“No. It is a kind of assistance which in my opinion a man should not desire. In the first place, it does not last. A man so buoyed up is apt to trust to such support, instead of his own steady exertions; and the firmest of friends won’t stick to a lawyer long if he can get better law for his money elsewhere.”

“There should be no friendship in such matters, I think.”

“Well, I won’t say that. But the friendship should come of the service, not the service of the friendship. Good, hard, steady, and enduring work — work that does not demand immediate acknowledgment and reward, but that can afford to look forward for its results, — it is that, and that only, which in my opinion will insure to a man permanent success.”

“It is hard though for a poor man to work so many years without an income,” said Herbert, thinking of Lady Clara Desmond.

“Not hard if you get the price of your work at last. But you can have your choice. A moderate fixed income can now be had by any barrister early in life — by any barrister of fair parts and sound acquirements. There are more barristers now filling salaried places than practising in the courts.”

“But those places are given by favour.”

“No; not so generally — or if by favour, by that sort of favour which is as likely to come to you as to another. Such places are not given to incompetent young men because their fathers and mothers ask for them. But won’t you fill your glass?”

“I am doing very well, thank you.”

“You’ll do better if you’ll fill your glass, and let me have the bottle back. But you are thinking of the good old historical days when you talk of barristers having to wait for their incomes. There has been a great change in that respect — for the better, as you of course will think. Nowadays a man is taken away from his boat-racing and his skittle-ground to be made a judge. A little law and a great fund of physical strength — that is the extent of the demand.” And Mr. Prendergast plainly showed by the tone of his voice that he did not admire the wisdom of this new policy of which he spoke.

“But I suppose a man must work five years before he can earn anything,” said Herbert, still despondingly; for five years is a long time to an expectant lover.

“Fifteen years of unpaid labour used not to be thought too great a price to pay for ultimate success,” said Mr. Prendergast, almost sighing at the degeneracy of the age. “But men in those days were ambitious and patient.”

“And now they are ambitious and impatient,” suggested Herbert.

“Covetous and impatient might perhaps be the truer epithets,” said Mr. Prendergast, with grim sarcasm.

It is sad for a man to feel, when he knows that he is fast going down the hill of life, that the experience of old age is to be no longer valued nor its wisdom appreciated. The elderly man of this day thinks that he has been robbed of his chance in life. When he was in his full physical vigour he was not old enough for mental success. He was still winning his spurs at forty. But at fifty — so does the world change — he learns that he is past his work. By some unconscious and unlucky leap he has passed from the unripeness of youth to the decay of age, without even knowing what it was to be in his prime. A man should always seize his opportunity; but the changes of the times in which he has lived have never allowed him to have one. There has been no period of flood in his tide which might lead him on to fortune. While he has been waiting patiently for high water the ebb has come upon him. Mr. Prendergast himself had been a successful man, and his regrets, therefore, were philosophical rather than practical. As for Herbert, he did not look upon the question at all in the same light as his elderly friend, and on the whole was rather exhilarated by the tone of Mr. Prendergast’s sarcasm. Perhaps Mr. Prendergast had intended that such should be its effect.

The long evening passed away cosily enough, leaving on Herbert’s mind an impression that in choosing to be a barrister he had certainly chosen the noblest walk of life in which a man could earn his bread. Mr. Prendergast did not promise him either fame or fortune, nor did he speak by any means in high enthusiastic language; he said much of the necessity of long hours, of tedious work, of Amaryllis left by herself in the shade, and of Neaera’s locks unheeded; but nevertheless he spoke in a manner to arouse the ambition and satisfy the longings of the young man who listened to him. There were much wisdom in what he did, and much benevolence also.

And then at about eleven o’clock, Herbert having sat out the second bottle of claret, betook himself to his bed at the lodgings over the covered way.

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