The Claverings, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 34

Vain Repentance

In the morning Lady Ongar prepared herself for starting at eight o’clock, and, as a part of that preparation, had her breakfast brought to her upstairs. When the time was up, she descended to the sitting-room on the way to the carriage, and there she found Sophie, also prepared for a journey.

“I am going too. You will let me go?” said Sophie.

“Certainly,” said Lady Ongar. “I proposed to you to do so yesterday.”

“You should not be so hard upon your poor friend,” said Sophie. This was said in the bearing of Lady Ongar’s maid and of two waiters, and Lady Ongar made no reply to it. When they were in the carriage together, the maid being then stowed away in a dickey or rumble behind, Sophie again whined and was repentant. “Julie, you should not be so hard upon your poor Sophie.”

“It seems to me that the hardest things said were spoken by you.”

“Then I will beg your pardon. I am impulsive. I do not restrain myself. When I am angry I say I know not what. If I said any words that were wrong, I will apologize, and beg to be forgiven — there — On my knees.” And, as she spoke, the adroit little woman contrived to get herself down upon her knees on the floor of the carriage. “There; say that I am forgiven; say that Sophie is pardoned.” The little woman had calculated that even should her Julia pardon her, Julia would hardly condescend to ask for the two ten-pound notes.

But Lady Ongar had stoutly determined that there should be no further intimacy, and had reflected that a better occasion for a quarrel could hardly be vouchsafed to her than that afforded by Sophie’s treachery in bringing her brother down to Freshwater. She was too strong, and too much mistress of her will, to be cheated now out of her advantage. “Madam Gordeloup, that attitude is absurd; I beg you will get up.”

“Never; never till you have pardoned me.” And Sophie crouched still lower, till she was all among the dressing-cases and little bags at the bottom of the carriage. “I will not get up till you say the words, ‘Sophie, dear, I forgive you.’”

“Then I fear you will have an uncomfortable drive. Luckily it will be very short. It is only half-an-hour to Yarmouth.”

“And I will kneel again on board the packet; and on the — what you call, platform — and in the railway carriage — and in the street. I will kneel to my Julie everywhere, till she say, ‘Sophie, dear, I forgive you!’”

“Madam Gordeloup, pray understand me; between you and me there shall be no further intimacy.”

“Certainly not. No further explanation is necessary, but our intimacy has certainly come to an end.”

“It has.”

“Undoubtedly.”

“Julie!”

“That is such nonsense. Madam Gordeloup, you are disgracing yourself by your proceedings.”

“Oh! disgracing myself, am I?” In saying this Sophie picked herself up from among the dressing-cases, and recovered her seat. “I am disgracing myself! Well, I know very well whose disgrace is the most talked about in the world, yours or mine. Disgracing myself; and from you? What did your husband say of you himself?”

Lady Ongar began to feel that even a very short journey might be too long. Sophie was now quite up, and was wriggling herself on her seat, adjusting her clothes which her late attitude had disarranged, not in, the most graceful manner.

“You shall see,” she continued. “Yes, you shall see. Tell me of disgrace! I have only disgraced myself by being with you. Ah — very well. Yes; I will get out. As for being quiet, I shall be quiet whenever I like it. I know when to talk, and when to hold my, tongue. Disgrace!” So saying she stepped out of the carriage, leaning on the arm of a boatman who had come to the door, and who had heard her last words.

It may be imagined that all this did not contribute much to the comfort of Lady Ongar. They were now on the little pier at Yarmouth, and in five minutes every one there knew who she was, and knew also that there had been some disagreement between her and the little foreigner. The eyes of the boatmen, and of the drivers, and of the other travellers, and of the natives going over to the market at Lymington, were all on her, and the eyes also of all the idlers of Yarmouth who had congregated there to watch the despatch of the early boat. But she bore it well, seating herself, with her maid beside her, on one of the benches on the deck, and waiting there with patience till the boat should start. Sophie once or twice muttered the word “disgrace!” but beyond that she remained silent.

They crossed over the little channel without a word, and without a word made their way up to the railway-station. Lady Ongar had been too confused to get tickets for their journey at Yarmouth, but had paid on board the boat for the passage of the three persons — herself, her maid, and Sophie. But, at the station at Lymington, the more important business of taking tickets for the journey to London became necessary. Lady Ongar had thought of this on her journey across the water, and, when at the railway-station, gave her purse to her maid, whispering her orders. The girl took three first-class tickets, and then going gently up to Madam Gordeloup, offered one to that lady. “Ah, yes; very well; I understand,” said Sophie, taking the ticket. “I shall take this;” and she held the ticket up in her hand, as though she had some specially mysterious purpose in accepting it.

She got into the same carriage with Lady Ongar and her maid, but spoke no word on her journey up to London. At Basingstoke she had a glass of sherry, for which Lady Ongar’s maid paid. Lady Ongar had telegraphed for her carriage, which was waiting for her, but Sophie betook herself to a cab. “Shall I pay the cabman, ma’am?” said the maid. “Yes,” said Sophie, “or stop. It will be half-a-crown. You had better give me the half-crown.” The maid did so, and in this way the careful Sophie added another shilling to her store — over and above the twenty pounds — knowing well that the fare to Mount Street was eighteenpence.

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