The Duke's Children, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 11

Cruel

For two or three days after the first scene between the Duke and his daughter — that scene in which she was forbidden either to see or to write to her lover — not a word was said at Matching about Mr Tregear, nor were any steps taken towards curtailing her liberty of action. She had said she would not write to him without telling her father, and the Duke was too proud of the honour of his family to believe it to be possible that she should deceive him. Nor was it possible. Not only would her own idea of duty prevent her from writing to her lover, although she had stipulated for the right to do so in some possible emergency — but, carried far beyond that in her sense of what was right and wrong, she felt it now incumbent on her to have no secret from her father at all. The secret, as long as it had been a secret, had been a legacy from her mother — and had been kept, at her lover’s instance, during that period of mourning for her mother in which it would, she thought, have been indecorous that there should be any question of love or of giving in marriage. It had been a burden to her, though a necessary burden. She had been very clear that the revelation should be made to her father, when it was made, by her lover. That had been done — and now it was open to her to live without any secrecy — as was her nature. She meant to cling to her lover. She was quite sure of that. Nothing could divide her from him but his death or hers — or falseness on his part. But as to marriage, that would not be possible till her father had assented. And as to seeing the man — ah, yes if she could do so with her father’s assent! She would not be ashamed to own her great desire to see him. She would tell her father that all her happiness depended on seeing him, she would not be coy in speaking of her love. But she would obey her father.

She had a strong idea that she would ultimately prevail — and idea also that that ‘ultimately’ should not be postponed to some undefined middle-aged period in her life. As she intended to belong to Frank Tregear, she thought it expedient that he should have the best of her days as well as what might be supposed to be the worst; and she therefore resolved that it would be her duty to make her father understand that though she would certainly obey him, she would look to be treated humanely by him, and not to be made miserable for an indefinite term of years.

The first word spoken between them on the subject — the first word after that discussion, began with him and was caused by his feeling that her present life at Matching must be sad and lonely. Lady Cantrip had again written that she would be delighted to take her; — but Lady Cantrip was in London and must be in London, at any rate when Parliament would again be sitting. A London life would perhaps, at present, hardly suit Lady Mary. Then a plan had been prepared which might be convenient. The Duke had a house at Richmond, on the river, called The Horns. That should be lent to Lady Cantrip, and Mary should there be her guest. So it was settled between the Duke and Lady Cantrip. But as yet Lady Mary knew nothing of the arrangement.

‘I think I shall go up to town tomorrow,’ said the Duke to his daughter.

‘For long?’

‘I shall be gone only one night. It is on your behalf that I am going.’

‘On my behalf, papa?’

‘I have been writing to Lady Cantrip.’

‘Not about Mr Tregear?’

‘No; — not about Mr Tregear,’ said the father with a mixture of anger and solemnity in his tone. ‘It is my desire to regard Mr Tregear as though he did not exist.’

‘That is not possible, papa.’

‘I have alluded to the inconvenience of your position here.’

‘Why is it inconvenience?’

‘You are too young to be without a companion. It is not fit that you should be much alone.’

‘I do not feel it.’

‘It is very melancholy for you, and cannot be good for you. They will go down to The Horns so that you will not be absolutely in London, and you will find Lady Cantrip a very nice person.’

‘I don’t care for new people just now, papa,’ she said. But to this he paid but little heed; nor was she prepared to say that she would not do as he directed. When therefore he left Matching, she understood that he was going to prepare a temporary home for her. Nothing further was said about Tregear. She was too proud to ask that no mention of his name should be made to Lady Cantrip. And he when he left the house did not think that he would find himself called upon to allude to the subject.

But when Lady Cantrip made some inquiry about the girl and her habits — asking what were her ordinary occupations, how she was accustomed to pass her hours, to what she chiefly devoted herself — then at last with much difficulty the Duke did bring himself to tell the story. ‘Perhaps it is better that you should know it all,’ he said as he told it.

‘Poor girl! Yes, Duke, upon the whole it is better that I should know it all,’ said Lady Cantrip. ‘Of course he will not come here.’

‘Oh dear; I hope not.’

‘Nor to The Horns.’

‘I hope he will never see her again anywhere,’ said the Duke.

‘Poor girl!’

‘Have I not been right? Is it not best to put an end to such a thing at once?’

‘Certainly at once, if it has to be put an end to — and can be put an end to.’

‘It must be put an end to,’ said the Duke, very decidedly. ‘Do you not see that it must be so? Who is Mr Tregear?’

‘I suppose they were allowed to be together?’

‘He was unfortunately intimate with Silverbridge, who took him over to Italy. He has nothing; not even a profession.’ Lady Cantrip could not but smile when she remembered the immense wealth of the man who was speaking to her; — and the Duke saw the smile and understood it. ‘You will understand what I mean, Lady Cantrip. If this young man were in other respects suitable, of course I could find an income for them. But he is nothing; just an idle seeker for pleasure without the means of obtaining it.’

‘That is very bad.’

‘As for rank,’ continued the Duke energetically, ‘I do not think that I am specially wedded to it. I have found myself as willing to associate with those who are without it as with those who have it. But for my child, I would wish her to mate with one of her own class.’

‘It would be best.’

‘When a young man comes to me, though I believe him to be what is called a gentleman, has neither rank, nor means, nor profession, nor name, and asks for my daughter, surely I am right to say that such a marriage shall not be thought of. Was I not right?’ demanded the Duke persistently.

‘But it is a pity that it should be so. It is a pity that they should ever have come together.’

‘It is indeed, indeed to be lamented — and I will own at once that the fault was not hers. Though I must be firm in this, you are not to suppose that I am angry with her. I have myself been to blame.’ This he said with a resolution that — as he and his wife had been one flesh — all faults committed by her should, now that she was dead, be accepted by him as his faults. ‘It had not occurred to me that as yet she would love any man.’

‘Has it gone deep with her, Duke?’

‘I fear that all things go deep with her.’

‘Poor girl!’

‘But they shall be kept apart! As long as your great kindness is continued for her they shall be kept apart!’

‘I do not think that I should be found good at watching a young lady.’

‘She will require no watching.’

‘Then of course they will not meet. She had better know that you have told me.’

‘She shall know it.’

‘And let her know also that anything I can do to make her happy shall be done. But, Duke, there is but one cure.’

‘Time you mean.’

‘Yes; time; but I did not mean time.’ Then she smiled as she went on. ‘You must not suppose that I am speaking against my own sex if I say that she will not forget Mr Tregear till someone else has made himself agreeable to her. We must wait till she can go out a little more into society. Then she will find out that there are others in the world besides Mr Tregear. It so often is the case that a girl’s love means her sympathy for him who has chanced to be nearest her.’

The Duke as he went away thought very much of what Lady Cantrip had said to him; — particularly of those last words. ‘Till some one else has made himself agreeable to her.’ Was he to send his girl into the world in order that she might find a lover? There was something in the idea which was thoroughly distasteful to him. He had not given his mind much to the matter, but had felt that a woman should be sought for — sought for and extracted, cunningly, as it were, from some hiding-place, and not sent out into a market to be exposed as for sale. In his own personal history there had been a misfortune — a misfortune, the sense of which he could never, at any moment, have expressed to any ears, the memory of which had been always buried deep in his own bosom — but a misfortune in that no such cunning extraction on his part had won for him the woman to whose hands had been confided the strings of his heart. His wife had undergone that process of extraction before he had seen her, and his marriage with her had been a matter of sagacious bargaining. He was now told that his daughter must be sent out among young men in order that she might become sufficiently fond of some special one to be regardless of Tregear. There was a feeling that in doing so she must lose something of the freshness of the bloom of her innocence. How was this transfer of her love to be effected? Let her go here because she will meet the heir of this wealthy house who may probably be smitten by her charms; or there because that other young lordling would make a fit husband for her. Let us contrive to throw her into the arms of this man, or put her into the way of that man. Was his girl to be exposed to this? Surely that method of bargaining to which he had owed his own wife would be better than that. Let it be said — only he himself most certainly could not be the person to say it — let it be said to some man of rank and means and fairly good character, ‘Here is a wife for you with so many thousand pounds, with beauty, as you can see for yourself, with rank and belongings of the highest; very good in every respect; — only that as regards her heart she thinks she has given it to a young man named Tregear. No marriage there is possible; but perhaps the young lady might suit you?’ It was thus he had been married. There was an absence in it of that romance which, though he had never experienced it in his own life, was always present to his imagination. His wife had often ridiculed him because he could only live among figures and official details; but to her had not been given the power of looking into a man’s heart and feeling all that was there. Yes; — in such bargaining for a wife, in such bargaining for a husband, there could be nothing of the tremulous delicacy of feminine romance; but it would be better than standing at a stall in the market till the sufficient purchaser should come. It never occurred to him that the delicacy, the innocence, the romance, the bloom might all be preserved if he would give his girl to the man whom she said she loved. Could he have modeled her future course according to his own wishes, he would have had her live a gentle life for the next three years, with a pencil perhaps in her hand or a music-book before her; — and then come forth, cleaned as it were by such quarantine from the impurity to which she had been subjected.

When he was back at Matching he at once told his daughter what he had arranged for her, and then there took place a prolonged discussion both as to his view of her future life and as to her own. ‘You did tell her then about Mr Tregear?’ she asked.

‘As she is to have charge of you for a time I thought it best.’

‘Perhaps it is. Perhaps — you were afraid.’

‘No; I was not afraid, he said angrily.

‘You need not be afraid. I shall do nothing elsewhere that I would not do here, and nothing anywhere without telling you.’

‘I know that I can trust you.’

‘But, papa, I shall always intend to marry Mr Tregear.’

‘No!’ he exclaimed.

‘Yes; — always. I want you to understand exactly how it is. Nothing you can do can separate me from him.’

‘Mary, that is very wicked.’

‘It cannot be wicked to tell the truth, papa. I mean to try to do all you tell me. I shall not see him, or write to him — unless there should be some very particular reason. And if I did see him, or write to him I would tell you. And of course I should not think of — of marrying without your leave. But I shall expect you to let me marry him.’

‘Never!’

‘Then I shall think you are — cruel; and you will break my heart.’

‘You should not call your father cruel.’

‘I hope you will not be cruel.’

‘I can never permit you to marry this man. It would be altogether improper. I cannot allow you to say that I am cruel because I do what I feel to be my duty. You will see other people.’

‘A great many perhaps.’

‘And will learn to — to — to forget him.’

‘Never! I will not forget him. I should hate myself if I thought it possible. What would love be worth if it could be forgotten in that way?’ As he heard this he reflected whether his own wife, this girl’s mother, had ever forgotten her early love for that Burgo Fitzgerald whom in her girlhood she had wished to marry.

When he was leaving her she called him back again. ‘There is one other thing I think I ought to say, papa. If Lady Cantrip speaks to me about Mr Tregear, I can only tell her what I have told you. I shall never give him up.’ When he heard this he turned angrily from her, almost stamping his foot upon the ground, when she quietly left the room.

Cruel! She had told him that he would be cruel, if he opposed her love. He thought he knew of himself that he could not be cruel — even to a fly, even to a political opponent. There could be no cruelty without dishonesty, and did he not always struggle to be honest? Cruel to his own daughter!

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