The Three Clerks, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XXVIII

Outerman v Tudor

Charley sat at his office on the Saturday afternoon, very meditative and unlike himself. What was he to do when his office hours were over? In the first place he had not a shilling in the world to get his dinner. His habit was to breakfast at home at his lodgings with Harry, and then to dine, as best he might, at some tavern, if he had not the good fortune to be dining out. He had a little dinner bill at a house which he frequented in the Strand; but the bill he knew had reached its culminating point. It would, he was aware, be necessary that it should be decreased, not augmented, at the next commercial transaction which might take place between him and the tavern-keeper.

This was not the first time by many in which he had been in a similar plight — but his resource in such case had been to tell the truth gallantly to his friend Mrs. Davis; and some sort of viands, not at all unprepossessing to him in his hunger, would always be forthcoming for him at the ‘Cat and Whistle.’ This supply was now closed to him. Were he, under his present circumstances, to seek for his dinner from the fair hands of Norah Geraghty, it would be tantamount to giving himself up as lost for ever.

This want of a dinner, however, was a small misfortune in comparison with others which afflicted him. Should or should he not keep his promise to Mrs. Davis, and go to the ‘Cat and Whistle’ that evening? That was the question which disturbed his equanimity, and hindered him from teasing Mr. Snape in his usual vivacious manner.

And here let it not be said that Charley must be altogether despicable in being so weak; that he is not only a vulgar rake in his present habits, but a fool also, and altogether spiritless, and of a low disposition. Persons who may so argue of him, who so argue of those whom they meet in the real living world, are ignorant of the twists and turns, and rapid changes in character which are brought about by outward circumstances. Many a youth, abandoned by his friends to perdition on account of his folly, might have yet prospered, had his character not been set down as gone, before, in truth, it was well formed. It is not one calf only that should be killed for the returning prodigal. Oh, fathers, mothers, uncles, aunts, guardians, and elderly friends in general, kill seven fatted calves if seven should unfortunately be necessary!

And then there was a third calamity. Charley had, at this moment, in his pocket a certain document, which in civil but still somewhat peremptory language invited him to meet a very celebrated learned pundit, being no less than one of Her Majesty’s puisne judges, at some court in Westminster, to explain why he declined to pay to one Nathaniel Outerman, a tailor, the sum of &c., &c., &c.; and the document then went on to say, that any hesitation on Charley’s part to accept this invitation would be regarded as great contempt shown to the said learned pundit, and would be treated accordingly. Now Charley had not paid the slightest attention to this requisition from the judge. It would, he conceived, have been merely putting his head into the lion’s mouth to do so. But yet he knew that such documents meant something; that the day of grace was gone by, and that Mr. Nathaniel Outerman would very speedily have him locked up.

So Charley sat meditative over his lock entries, and allowed even his proposed vengeance on Mr. Snape to be delayed.

‘I say, Charley,’ said Scatterall, coming over and whispering to him, ‘you couldn’t lend me half a crown, could you?’

Charley said nothing, but looked on his brother navvy in a manner that made any other kind of reply quite unnecessary.

‘I was afraid it was so,’ said Scatterall, in a melancholy voice. And then, as if by the brilliance of his thought he had suddenly recovered his spirits, he made a little proposition.

‘I’ll tell you what you might do, Charley. I put my watch up the spout last week. It’s a silver turnip, so I only got fifteen shillings; yours is a Cox and Savary, and it’s gold. I’m sure you’d get £3 for it easily — perhaps £3 3s. Now, if you’ll do that, and take my turnip down, I’ll let you have the turnip to wear, if you’ll let me have ten shillings of the money. You see, you’d get clear — let me see how much.’ And Scatterall went to work with a sheet of foolscap paper, endeavouring to make some estimate of what amount of ready cash Charley might have in his pocket on completion of this delicate little arrangement.

‘You be d — ’ said Charley.

‘You’ll not do it, then?’ said Dick.

Charley merely repeated with a little more emphasis the speech which he had just before made.

‘Oh, very well,’ said Scatterall; ‘there couldn’t have been a fairer bargain; at least it was all on your side; for you would have had the watch to wear, and nearly all the money too.’

Charley still repeated the same little speech. This was uncivil; for it had evidently been looked on by Scatterall as unsatisfactory.

‘Oh, very well,’ said that gentleman, now in a state of mild anger —’ only I saw that you had a fine new purse, and I thought you’d wish to have something to put in it.’

Charley again repeated his offensive mandate; but he did it in a spirit of bravado, in order to maintain his reputation. The allusion to the purse made him sadder than ever. He put his hand into his breast-pocket, and felt that it was near his heart: and then he fancied that he again heard her words —‘You will be steady; won’t you, dear Charley?’

At four o’clock, he was by no means in his usual hurry to go away, and he sat there drawing patterns on his blotting-paper, and chopping up a stick of sealing-wax with his penknife, in a very disconsolate way. Scatterall went. Corkscrew went. Mr. Snape, having carefully brushed his hat and taken down from its accustomed peg the old cotton umbrella, also took his departure; and the fourth navvy, who inhabited the same room, went also. The iron-fingered hand of time struck a quarter past four on the Somerset House clock, and still Charley Tudor lingered at his office. The maid who came to sweep the room was thoroughly amazed, and knew that something must be wrong.

Just as he was about to move, Mr. Oldeschole came bustling into the room. ‘Where is Corkscrew?’ said he. ‘Gone,’ said Charley. ‘And Scatterall?’ asked Oldeschole. ‘Gone, sir,’ said Charley. ‘And Mr. Snape?’ said the Secretary. ‘Oh, he is gone, of course,’ said Charley, taking his revenge at last.

‘Then, Mr. Tudor, I must trouble you to copy these papers for me at once. They are wanted immediately for Sir Gregory Hardlines.’ It was quite clear that Mr. Oldeschole was very much in earnest about the job, and that he was rejoiced to find that he still had one clerk to aid him.

Charley sat down and did the required work. On any other day he would greatly have disliked such a summons, but now he did not care much about it. He made the copies, however, as quickly as he could, and then took them in to Mr. Oldeschole.

The worthy Secretary rewarded him by a lecture; a lecture, however, which, as Charley well understood, was intended all in kindness. He told him how Mr. Snape complained of him, how the office books told against him, how the clerks talked, and all Somerset House made stories of his grotesque iniquities. With penitential air Charley listened and promised. Mr. Oldeschole promised also that bygones should be bygones. ‘I wonder whether the old cock would lend me a five-pound note! I dare say he would,’ said Charley to himself, as he left the office. He abstained, however, from asking for it.

Returning to his room, he took his hat and went downstairs. As he was sauntering forth through the archway into the Strand, a man with a decent coat but a very bad hat came up to him.

‘I’m afraid I must trouble you to go with me, Mr. Tudor,’ said the man.

‘All right,’ said Charley; ‘Outerman, I suppose; isn’t it?’

‘All right,’ said the bailiff.

And away the two walked together to a sponging-house in Cursitor Street.

Charley had been arrested at the suit of Mr. Outerman, the tailor. He perfectly understood the fact, and made no special objection to following the bailiff. One case was at any rate off his mind; he could not now, be his will to do so ever so good, keep his appointment with Norah Geraghty. Perhaps it was quite as well for him to be arrested just at this moment, as be left at liberty. It must have come sooner or later. So he walked on with the bailiff not without some feeling of consolation.

The man had suggested to him a cab; but Charley had told him, without the slightest mauvaise honte, that he had not about him the means of paying for a cab. The man again suggested that perhaps he had better go home and get some money, as he would find it in Cursitor Street very desirable to have some. To this Charley replied that neither had he any money at home.

‘That’s blue,’ said the man.

‘It is rather blue,’ said Charley; and on they went very amicably arm-inarm.

We need not give any detailed description of Charley’s prison-house. He was luckily not detained there so long as to make it necessary that we should become acquainted with his fellow-captives, or even have much intercourse with his jailers. He was taken to the sponging-house, and it was there imparted to him that he had better send for two things — first of all for money, which was by far the more desirable of the two; and secondly, for bail, which even if forthcoming was represented as being at best but a dubious advantage.

‘There’s Mrs. Davis, she’d bail you, of course, and willing,’ said the bailiff.

‘Mrs. Davis!’ said Charley, surprised that the man should know aught of his personal acquaintances.

‘Yes, Mrs. Davis of the ‘Cat and Whistle.’ She’d do it in course, along of Miss Geraghty.’

Charley perceived with a shudder that his matrimonial arrangements were known and talked of even in the distant world of Cursitor Street. He declined, however, the assistance of the landlady, which no doubt would have been willingly forthcoming, and was divided between his three friends, Alaric, Harry, and Mr. M’Ruen. Alaric was his cousin and his natural resource in such a position, but he had lately rejected Alaric’s advice, and now felt a disinclination to call upon him in his difficulty. Harry he knew would assist him, would at once pay Mr. Outerman’s bill, and relieve him from all immediate danger; but the sense of what he already owed to Norman made him unwilling to incur further obligations; — so he decided on sending for Mr. M’Ruen. In spite of his being so poorly supplied with immediate cash, it was surmised from his appearance, clothes, and known rank, that any little outlay made in his behalf would be probably repaid, and he was therefore furnished with a messenger on credit. This man was first to call at Mr. M’Ruen’s with a note, and then to go to Charley’s lodgings and get his brushes, razors, &c., these being the first necessaries of life for which a man naturally looks when once overtaken by such a misfortune as that with which Charley was now afflicted.

In the process of time the brushes and razors came, and so did Mr. M’Ruen.

‘This is very kind of you,’ said Charley, in rather a doleful voice, for he was already becoming tired of Cursitor Street.

Mr. M’Ruen twisted his head round inside his cravat, and put out three fingers by way of shaking hands with the prisoner.

‘You seem pretty comfortable here,’ said M’Ruen. Charley dissented to this, and said that he was extremely uncomfortable.

‘And what is it that I can do for you, Mr. Tudor?’ said M’Ruen.

‘Do for me! Why, bail me, to be sure; they won’t let me out unless somebody bails me. You know I shan’t run away.’

‘Bail you!’ said M’Ruen.

‘Yes, bail me,’ said Charley. ‘You don’t mean to say that you have any objection?’

Mr. M’Ruen looked very sharply at his young client from head to foot. ‘I don’t know about bail,’ he said: ‘it’s very dangerous, very; why didn’t you send for Mr. Norman or your cousin?’

‘Because I didn’t choose,’ said Charley —‘because I preferred sending to some one I could pay for the trouble.’

‘Ha — ha — ha,’ laughed M’Ruen; ‘but that’s just it — can you pay? You owe me a great deal of money, Mr. Tudor. You are so unpunctual, you know.’

‘There are two ways of telling that story,’ said Charley; ‘but come, I don’t want to quarrel with you about that now — you go bail for me now, and you’ll find your advantage in it. You know that well enough.’

‘Ha — ha — ha,’ laughed the good-humoured usurer; ‘ha — ha — ha — well, upon my word I don’t know. You owe me a great deal of money, Mr. Tudor. Now, what o’clock is it by you, I wonder?’

Charley took out his watch — the Cox and Savary, before alluded to — and said that it was past seven.

‘Aye; you’ve a very nice watch, I see. Come, Mr. Tudor, you owe me a great deal of money, and you are the most unpunctual young man I know; but yet I don’t like to see you distressed. I’ll tell you what, now — do you hand over your watch to me, just as a temporary loan — you can’t want it here, you know; and I’ll come down and bail you out tomorrow.’

Charley declined dealing on these terms; and then Mr. M’Ruen at last went away, leaving Charley to his fate, and lamenting quite pathetically that he was such an unpunctual young man, so very unpunctual that it was impossible to do anything to assist him. Charley, however, manfully resisted the second attack upon his devoted watch.

‘That’s very blue, very blue indeed,’ said the master of the house, as Mr. M’Ruen took his departure —‘ha’n’t you got no huncles nor hants, nor nothin’ of that sort?’

Charley declared that he had lots of uncles and aunts, grandfathers and grandmothers, and a perfect wealth of cousins, and that he would send for some of the leading members of his family tomorrow. Satisfied with this, the man supplied him with bread and cheese, gin and water, and plenty of tobacco; and, fortified with these comforts, Charley betook himself at last very lugubriously, to a filthy, uninviting bed.,

He had, we have seen, sent for his brushes, and hence came escape; but in a manner that he had little recked of, and of which, had he been asked, he would as little have approved. Mrs. Richards, his landlady, was not slow in learning from the messenger how it came to pass that Charley wanted the articles of his toilet so suddenly demanded. ‘Why, you see, he’s just been quodded,’ said the boy.

Mrs. Richards was quite enough up to the world, and had dealt with young men long enough, to know what this meant; nor indeed was she much surprised. She had practical knowledge that Charley had no strong propensity to pay his debts, and she herself was not unaccustomed to answer the emissaries of Mr. Outerman and other greedy tradesmen who were similarly situated. To Mrs. Richards herself Charley was not in debt, and she had therefore nothing to embitter her own feelings against him. Indeed, she had all that fondness for him which a lodging-house keeper generally has for a handsome, dissipated, easy-tempered young man; and when she heard that he had been ‘quodded,’ immediately made up her mind that steps must be taken for his release.

But what was she to do? Norman, who she was aware would ‘unquod’ him immediately, if he were in the way, was down at Hampton, and was not expected to be at his lodgings for two or three days. After some cogitation, Mrs. Richards resolved that there was nothing for it but to go down to Hampton herself, and break the news to his friends. Charley would not have been a bit obliged to her had he known it, but Mrs. Richards acted for the best. There was a train down to Hampton Court that night, and a return train to bring her home again — so off she started.

Mrs. Woodward had on that same afternoon taken down Katie, who was still an invalid; — Norman had gone down with them, and was to remain there for some few days — going up and down every morning and evening. Mrs. Woodward was sitting in the drawing-room; Linda and Katie were with her, the latter lying in state on her sofa as invalid young ladies should do; Captain Cuttwater was at Hampton Court, and Norman was on the water; when a fly from the railway made its way up to the door of the Cottage.

‘Mrs. Richards, ma’am,’ said the demure parlour-maid, ushering in the lodging-house keeper, who in her church-going best made a very decent appearance.

‘Oh, Mrs. Richards, how are you?’ said Mrs. Woodward, who knew the woman very well —‘pray sit down — are there any news from London?’

‘Oh, ma’am, such news — such bad news — Mister Charley —.’ Up jumped Katie from her sofa and stood erect upon the floor. She stood there, with her mouth slightly open, with her eyes intently fixed on Mrs. Richards, with her little hands each firmly clenched, drawing her breath with hard, short, palpitating efforts. There she stood, but said nothing.

‘Oh, Mrs. Richards — what is it?’ said Mrs. Woodward; ‘for Heaven’s sake what is the matter?’

‘Oh, ma’am; he’s been took,’ said Mrs. Richards.

‘Took!’ repeated Mrs. Woodward. ‘Katie, dear Katie — sit down, my child — sit down.’

‘Oh, mamma! oh, mamma!’ said she, apparently unable to move, and certainly all but unable to stand.

‘Tell us, Mrs. Richards, what is it — what has happened to Mr. Tudor?’ and as she spoke Mrs. Woodward got up and passed her arm around her younger daughter’s waist — Linda also got up and joined the group.

‘Why, ma’am,’ said Mrs. Richards, ‘he’s been took by the bailiffs, and now he’s in prison.’

Katie did not faint. She never had fainted, and probably did not know the way; but she clenched her hands still tighter, breathed harder than before, and repeated her appeal to her mother in a voice of agony. ‘Oh, mamma! oh, mamma!’

Katie had no very accurate conception of what an arrest for debt meant. She knew that next to death imprisonment was the severest punishment inflicted on erring mortals, and she now heard that Charley was in prison. She did not stop to think whether it was for his life, or for some more limited period. It was enough for her to know, that this terrible misfortune had come upon him, to him who, to her young fancy, was so bright, so good, so clever, so excellent, upon him who had saved her life — upon him whom she so dearly loved.

‘Oh, mamma! oh, mamma!’ she said, and then in agony she shut her eyes and shuddered violently.

Mrs. Woodward was greatly afflicted. She was indeed sorry to hear such tidings of Charley Tudor; but her grief was now deeper even than that. She could not be longer blind to the sort of feeling which her child evinced for this young man; she could not think that these passionate bursts of overpowering sorrow were the result of mere childish friendship; she could not but see that her Katie’s bosom now held a woman’s heart, and that that heart was no longer her own.

And then Mrs. Woodward reflected of what nature, of what sort, was this man whom she had allowed to associate with her darling, almost as a brother does with his sister; whom she had warmed in her bosom till he had found an opportunity of inflicting this deadly wound. With terrible bitterness she upbraided herself as she sat down and bade Mrs. Richards go on with her tale. She knew that nothing which could now be said would add to Katie’s anguish.

Mrs. Richards’ story was soon told. It simply amounted to this — that ‘Mister Charley,’ as she always called him, had been arrested for debt at the suit of a tailor, and that she had learnt the circumstances from the fact of the prisoner having sent for his brushes.

‘And so I thought the best thing was to come and tell Mr. Norman,’ said Mrs. Richards, concluding her speech.

Nothing could be done till Norman came in. Linda went out with Mrs. Richards to get some refreshment in the dining-room, and Mrs. Woodward sat with her arm round Katie’s neck on the sofa, comforting her with kisses and little caressing touches, but saying nothing. Katie, still unconscious of her passion, gave way to spasmodic utterance of her own grief.

‘Oh, mamma!’ she said —’ what can be done? What can we do? You will do something, mamma, won’t you? Poor Charley! Dear Charley! Harry will do something — won’t he? Won’t Harry go to London, and do something?’

Mrs. Woodward did what she could to quiet her. Something should be done, she said. They must wait till Harry came in, and then settle what was best. Nothing could be done till Harry came in. ‘You must be patient, Katie, or else you will make yourself really ill.’

Katie became afraid that she would be sent off to bed on the score of her illness before Harry had come, and thus lose the advantage of hearing what was the step decided on. So she sat silent in the corner of her sofa feigning to be asleep, but pondering in her mind what sort of penalties were the penalties of imprisonment, how dreadful, how endurable, or how unendurable. Would they put chains on him? would they starve him? would they cut off his beautiful brown hair?

Mrs. Woodward sat silent waiting for Harry’s return. When first she had watched Katie’s extreme misery, and guessed the secret of her child’s heart, she had felt something like hard, bitter anger against Charley. But by degrees this feeling softened down. It was by no means natural to her, nor akin to her usual tenderness. After all, the fault hitherto was probably more her own than his.

Mrs. Richards was sent back to town. She was thanked for the trouble she had taken, and told that Mr. Norman would do in the matter all that was necessary to be done. So she took her departure, and Linda returned to the drawing-room.

Unfortunately Captain Cuttwater came in first. They none of them mentioned Charley’s misfortune to him. Charley was no favourite with Uncle Bat, and his remarks would not have been of the most cheering tendency.

At last Norman came also. He came, as was his wont, through the drawing-room window, and, throwing himself into a chair, began to tell the girls how much they had lost by not joining him on the river.

‘Harry,’ said Mrs. Woodward, ‘step into the dining-room with me for a moment.’

Harry got up to follow her. Katie and Linda also instantly jumped from their seats to do the same. Mrs. Woodward looked round, and motioned to them to stay with their uncle. Linda obediently, though reluctantly, remained; but Katie’s impulse was too strong for her. She gave one imploring look at her mother, a look which Mrs. Woodward well understood, and then taking silence for consent, crept into the dining-room.

‘Harry,’ said Mrs. Woodward, as soon as the dining-room door was closed, ‘Charley has been arrested;’ and then she told him how Mrs. Richards had been at the Cottage, and what was the nature of the tidings she had brought.

Norman was not much surprised, nor did he feign to be so. He took the news so coolly that Katie almost hated him. ‘Did she say who had arrested him, or what was the amount?’ he asked.

Mrs. Woodward replied that she knew no more than what she had already told. Katie stood in the shade with her eyes fixed upon her cousin, but as yet she said nothing. How cruel, how stony-hearted must he be to hear such dreadful tidings and remain thus undisturbed! Had Charley heard that Norman was arrested, he would have been half way to London by this time. So, at least, thought Katie.

‘Something can be done for him, Harry, can there not? We must contrive to do something — eh, Harry?’ said Mrs. Woodward.

‘I fear it is too late to do anything to-night,’ said Harry, looking at his watch. ‘The last train is gone, and I could not possibly find him out before twelve.’

‘And tomorrow is Sunday,’ said Mrs. Woodward.

‘Oh, Harry, pray do something!’ said Katie, ‘pray, pray, pray, do! Oh, Harry, think of Charley being in prison! Oh, Harry, he would do anything for you!’ and then she burst into tears, and caught hold of Harry’s arm and the front of his coat to add force to her entreaty.

‘Katie,’ said her mother, ‘don’t be so foolish. Harry will, of course, do whatever is best.’

‘But, mamma, he says he will do nothing; why does he not go at once?’

‘I will go at once, dear Katie,’ said he; ‘I will go now directly. I don’t know whether we can set him free to-night, or even tomorrow, as tomorrow is Sunday; but it certainly shall be done on Monday, you may be sure of that at any rate. Whatever can be done shall be done;’ and, without further talk upon the subject, he took his hat and went his way.

‘May God Almighty bless him!’ said Mrs. Woodward. ‘How infinitely greater are truth and honesty than any talent, however brilliant!’ She spoke only to herself and no one even guessed what was the nature of the comparison which she thus made.

As soon as Norman was gone, Katie went to bed: and in the morning she was pronounced to be too unwell to get up. And, indeed, she was far from well. During the night she only slept by short starts, and in her sleep she was restless and uneasy; then, when she woke, she would burst out into fits of tears, and lie sobbing hysterically till she slept again. In the morning, Mrs. Woodward said something about Charley’s misconduct, and this threw her into a wretched state of misery, from which nothing would rouse her till her mother promised that the prodigal should not be thrown over and abandoned.

Poor Mrs. Woodward was in a dreadful state of doubt as to what it now behoved her to do. She felt that, however anxious she might be to assist Charley for his own sake, it was her bounden duty to separate him from her child. Whatever merits he might have — and in her eyes he had many — at any rate he had not those which a mother would desire to see in the future husband of her daughter. He was profligate, extravagant, careless, and idle; his prospects in life were in every respect bad; he had no self-respect, no self-reliance, no moral strength. Was it not absolutely necessary that she should put a stop to any love that might have sprung up between such a man as this and her own young bright-eyed darling?

Put a stop to it! Yes, indeed, most expedient; nay, absolutely necessary — if it were only possible. Now, when it was too late, she began to perceive that she had not known of what material her own child was formed. At sixteen, Gertrude and Linda had in reality been little more than children. In manner, Katie had been more childish even than them, and yet — Mrs. Woodward, as she thought of these things, felt her heart faint within her.

She was resolved that, cost what it might, Charley must be banished from the Cottage. But at the first word of assumed displeasure that she uttered, Katie fell into such an agony of grief that her soft heart gave way, and she found herself obliged to promise that the sinner should be forgiven. Katie the while was entirely unconscious of the state of her own feelings. Had she thought that she loved him as women love, had any thought of such love and of him together even entered her mind, she could not have talked of him as she now talked. Had he been her brother, she could not have been less guarded in her protestations of affection, or more open in her appeals to her mother that he might be forgiven. Such was her present state; but it was doomed that her eyes should soon be opened, and that she should know her own sorrow.

On the Sunday afternoon, Norman returned to Hampton with the tidings that Charley was once more a free man. The key of gold which he had taken with him had been found potent enough to open all barriers, even those with which the sanctity of Sunday had surrounded the prisoner. Mr. Outerman, and the bailiff, and the messenger, had all been paid their full claims, and Charley, with his combs and brushes, had returned to the more benign custody of Mrs. Richards.

‘And why didn’t he come down with you?’ said Katie to Norman, who had gone up to her bedroom to give her the good tidings.

Norman looked at Mrs. Woodward, but made no reply.

‘He would probably prefer remaining in town at present,’ said Mrs. Woodward. ‘It will be more comfortable for him to do so.’

And then Katie was left alone to meditate why Charley should be more comfortable after his arrest in London than at Hampton; and after a while she thought that she had surmised the truth. ‘Poor Charley! perhaps he is ashamed. He need not be ashamed to come at any rate to me.’

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