The Duke's Children, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 18

One of the Results of the Derby

On the following morning at about eleven Silverbridge and his brother were at breakfast at an hotel in Jermyn Street. They had slept in Carlton Terrace, but Lord Gerald had done so without the knowledge of the Duke. Lord Silverbridge, as he was putting himself to bed, had made up his mind to tell the story to the Duke at once, but when the morning came his courage failed him. The two young men therefore slunk out of the house, and as there was no breakfasting at the Beargarden they went to his hotel. They were both rather gloomy, but the elder brother was the more sad of the two. ‘I’d give anything I have in the world,’ he said, ‘that you hadn’t come at all.’

‘Things have been so unfortunate!’

‘Why the deuce wouldn’t you go when I told you?’

‘Who on earth would have thought that they’d have been so punctual? They never are punctual on the Great Eastern. It was an infernal shame. I think I shall go at once to Harnage and tell him about it.’ Mr Harnage was Lord Gerald’s tutor.

‘But you have been in ever so many rows before.’

‘Well; — I’ve been gated, and once when they’d gated me, I came right upon Harnage on the bridge at King’s’

‘What sort of fellow is he?’

‘He used to be good-natured. Now he has taken ever so many crotchets into his head. It was he who began all this about none of the men going to the Derby.’

‘Did you ask him yourself for leave?’

‘Yes; and when I told him about your owning Prime Minister he got savage and declared that was the very reason why I shouldn’t go.’

‘You didn’t tell me that.’

‘I was determined I would go. I wasn’t going to be made a child of.’

At last it was decided that the two brothers should go down to Cambridge together. Silverbridge would be able to come back to London the same evening, so as to take his drag down to the Oaks on the Friday — a duty from which even his present misery would not deter him. They reached Cambridge at about three, and Lord Silverbridge at once called at the Master’s lodge and sent in his card. The Master of Trinity is so great that he cannot be supposed to see all comers, but on this occasion Lord Silverbridge was fortunate. With much trepidation he told his story. Such being the circumstances, could anything be done to moderate the vials of wrath which must doubtless be poured out over the head of his unfortunate brother?

‘Why come to me?’ said the Master. ‘From what you say yourself, it is evident that you know that must rest with the College tutor.’

‘I thought, sir, if you could say a word.’

‘Do you think that it would be right that I should interfere for one special man, and that a man of special rank?’

‘Nobody thinks that would count for anything. But —’

‘But what?’ asked the Master.

‘If you knew my father, sir!’

‘Everybody knows your father; — every Englishman I mean. Of course I know your father — as a public man, and I know how much the country owes to him.’

‘Yes it does. But it is not that I mean. If you knew who this would — would — break his heart.’ Then came a tear into the young man’s eye — and there was something almost like a tear in the eye of the old man too. ‘Of course it was my fault. I got him to come. He hadn’t the slightest intention of staying. I think you will believe what I say about that, sir.’

‘I believe every word you say, my Lord.’

‘I got into a row at Oxford. I daresay you heard. There never was anything so stupid. That was a great grief to my father — a very great grief. It is so hard upon him because he never did anything foolish himself.’

‘You should try to imitate him,’ Silverbridge shook his head. ‘Or at least not to grieve him.’

‘That is it. He has got over the affair about me. As I’m the eldest son I’ve got into Parliament, and he thinks perhaps that all has been forgotten. An eldest son may, I fancy, be a greater ass than his younger brother.’ The Master could not but smile as he thought of the selection which had been made of a legislator. ‘But if Gerald is sent down, I don’t know how he will get over it.’ And now the tears absolutely rolled down the young man’s face, so that he was forced to wipe them from his eyes.

The Master was much moved. That a young man should pray for himself would be nothing to him. The discipline of the college was not in his hands, and such prayers would avail nothing with him. Nor would a brother praying simply for a brother avail much. A father asking for his son might be resisted. But the brother asking pardon for the brother on behalf of the father was almost irresistible. But this man had long been in a position in which he knew that no such prayers should ever prevail at all. In the first place it was not his business. If he did anything, it would only be by asking a favour when he knew that no favour should be granted; — and a favour which he of all men should not ask, because to him of all men it could not be refused. And then the very altitude of the great Statesman whom he was invited to befriend — the position of this Duke who had been so powerful and might be powerful again, was against any such interference. Of himself he might be sure that he would certainly done this as readily for any Mr Jones as for the Duke of Omnium; but were he to do it, it would be said of him that it had been done because the benevolence would seem to be self-seeking. ‘Your father, if he were here,’ said he, ‘would know that I could not interfere.’

‘And will he be sent down?’

‘I do not know all the circumstances. From your own showing the case seems to be one of great insubordination. To tell the truth, Lord Silverbridge, I ought not to have spoken to you on the subject at all.’

‘You mean that I should not have spoken to you.’

‘Well; I did not say so. And if you had been indiscreet I can pardon that. I wish I could have served you; but I fear that it is not in my power.’ Then Lord Silverbridge took his leave, and going to his brother’s rooms waited there till Lord Gerald returned from his interview with the tutor.

‘It’s all up,’ said he, chucking down his cap, striving to be at his ease. ‘I may pack up and go — just where I please. He says that on no account will he have anything more to do with me. I asked him what I was to do, and he said that the Governor had better take my name off the books of the college. I did ask whether I couldn’t go over to Maclean.’

‘Who is Maclean?’

‘One of the other tutors. But the brute only smiled.’

‘He thought you meant it for chaff.’

‘Well; — I suppose I did mean to show him that I was not going to be exterminated by him. He will write to the Governor today. And you will have to talk to the Governor.’

Yes! As Lord Silverbridge went back that afternoon to London he thought very much of that talking to the Governor! Never yet had he been able to say anything very pleasant to ‘the Governor.’ He had himself been always in disgrace at Eton, and had been sent away from Oxford. He had introduced Tregear into the family, which of all the troubles perhaps was the worst. He had changed his politics. He had spent more money than he ought to have done, and now at this very moment must ask for a large sum. And he had brought Gerald up to see the Derby, thereby causing him to be sent away from Cambridge! And through it all there was present to him a feeling that by no words which he could use would he be able to make his father understand how deeply he felt all this.

He could not bring himself to see the Duke that evening, and the next morning he was sent for before he was out of bed. He found his father at breakfast with the tutor’s letter before him. ‘Do you know anything about this?’ asked the Duke very calmly.

‘Gerald ran up to see the Derby, and in the evening missed the train.’

‘Mr Harnage tells me that he had been expressly ordered not to go to these races.’

‘I suppose he was, sir.’

Then there was silence between them for some minutes. ‘You might as well sit down and eat your breakfast,’ said the father. Then Lord Silverbridge did sit down and pour himself out a cup of tea. There was no servant in the room, and he dreaded to ring the bell. ‘Is there anything you want?’ asked the Duke. There was a small dish of fried bacon on the table, and some cold mutton on the sideboard. Silverbridge declaring that he had everything that was necessary, got up and helped himself to the cold mutton. Then again there was silence, during which the Duke crunched his toast and made an attempt at reading the newspaper. But, soon pushing that aside, he again took up Mr Harnage’s letter. Silverbridge watched every motion of his father as he slowly made his way through the slice of cold mutton. ‘It seems that Gerald is to be sent away altogether.’

‘I fear so, sir.’

‘He has profited by your example at Oxford. Did you persuade him to come to these races?’

‘I am afraid I did.’

‘Though you knew the orders which had been given?’

‘I thought it was meant that he should not be away the night.’

‘He had asked permission to go to the Derby and had been positively refused. Did you know this?’

Silverbridge sat for some moments considering. He could not at first quite remember what he had known and what he had not known. Perhaps he entertained some faint hope that the question would be allowed to go unanswered. He saw, however, from his father’s eye that that was impossible. And then he did remember it all. ‘I suppose I did know it.’

‘And you were willing to imperil your brother’s position in life, and my happiness, in order that he might see a horse, of which I believe you call yourself part owner, run a race?’

‘I thought there would be no risk if he got back the same night. I don’t suppose there is any good in my saying it, but I never was so sorry for anything in all my life. I feel as if I could go and hang myself.’

‘That is absurd — and unmanly,’ said the Duke. The expression of sorrow, as it had been made, might be absurd and unmanly, but nevertheless it had touched him. He was severe because he did not know how far his severity wounded. ‘It is a great blow — another great blow! Races! A congregation of all the worst blackguards in the country mixed up with the greatest fools.’

‘Lord Cantrip was there,’ said Silverbridge; ‘and I say Sir Timothy Beeswax.’

‘If the presence of Sir Timothy be an allurement to you I pity you indeed. I have nothing further to say about it. You have ruined your brother.’ He had been driven to further anger by this reference to one man whom he respected and to another whom he despised.

‘Don’t say that, sir.’

‘What am I to say?’

‘Let him be an attache, or something of that sort.’

‘Do you believe it possible that he should pass any examination? I think that my children between them will bring me to my grave. You had better go now. I suppose you will want to be — at the races again?’ Then the young man crept out of the room, and going to his own part of the house shut himself up alone for nearly an hour. What had he better do to give his father some comfort? Should he abandon racing altogether, sell his share of Prime Minister and Coalition, and go in hard and strong for committees, debates, and divisions? Should he get rid of his drag, and resolve to read up on Parliamentary literature? He was resolved upon one thing at any rate. He would not go to the Oaks that day. And then he was resolved on another thing. He would call on Lady Mab Grex and ask her advice. He felt so disconsolate and insufficient for himself that he wanted advice from someone whom he could trust.

He found Tifto, Dolly Longstaff, and one or two others at the stables, from whence it was intended that the drag should start. They were waiting, and rather angry because they had been kept waiting. But the news, when it came, was very sad indeed. ‘You wouldn’t mind taking the team down and back yourself; would you, Dolly?’ he said to Longstaff.

‘You aren’t going!’ said Dolly, assuming a look of much heroic horror.

‘No; — I am not going today.’

‘What’s up?’ asked Popplecourt.

‘That’s rather sudden, isn’t it?’ asked the Major.

‘Well; yes. I suppose it is sudden.’

‘It’s throwing us over a little, isn’t it?’

‘Not that I see. You’ve got the trap and the horses.’

‘Yes; — we’ve got the trap and the horses,’ said Dolly, ‘and I vote we make a start.’

‘As you are not going yourself, perhaps I’d better drive your horses,’ said Tifto.

‘Dolly will take the team,’ said his Lordship.

‘Yes; — decidedly. I will take the team,’ said Dolly. ‘There isn’t a deal of driving wanted on the road to Epsom, but a man should know how to hold his reins.’ This of course gave rise to some angry words, but Silverbridge did not stop to hear them.

The poor Duke had no one to whom he could go for advice and consolation. When his son left him he turned to his newspaper, and tried to read it — in vain. His mind was too ill at ease to admit of political matters. He was greatly grieved by this new misfortune to Gerald, and by Lord Silverbridge’s propensity to racing.

But though his sorrows were heavy, there was a sorrow heavier than these. Lady Cantrip had expressed an opinion almost in favour of Tregear — and had certainly expressed an opinion in favour of Mrs Finn. The whole affair in regard to Mrs Finn had been explained to her, and she had told the Duke that, according to her thinking, Mrs Finn had behaved well! When the Duke, with an energy which was by no means customary with him, had asked the question, on the answer to which so much depended, ‘Should there have been a moment lost?’ Lady Cantrip had assured him that not a moment had been lost. Mrs Finn had at once gone to work, and had arranged that the whole affair should be told to him, the Duke, in the proper way. ‘I think she did,’ said Lady Cantrip, ‘what I myself should have done in the circumstances.’

If Lady Cantrip was right, then must his apology to Mrs Finn be ample, and abject. Perhaps it was this feeling which was at the moment most vexatious to him.

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