The Duke's Children, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 64

‘I Believe Him to be a Worthy Young Man’

Lady Mary and Mrs Finn were alone when the tidings came from Silverbridge. The Duke had been absent, having gone to spend an unpleasant week in Barsetshire. Mary had taken the opportunity of his absence to discuss her own prospects at full length. ‘My dear,’ said Mrs Finn, ‘I will not express an opinion. How can I after all that has passed? I have told the Duke the same. I cannot be heart and hand with either without being false to the other.’ But still Lady Mary continued to talk about Tregear.

‘I don’t think papa has a right to treat me in this way,’ she said. ‘He wouldn’t be allowed to kill me, and this is killing me.’

‘While there is life there is hope,’ said Mrs Finn.

‘Yes; while there is life there is hope. But one doesn’t want to grow old first.’

‘There is no danger of that, Mary.’

‘I feel very old. What is the use of life without something to make it sweet? I am not even allowed to hear anything that he is doing. If he were to ask me, I think I would go away with him tomorrow.’

‘He would not be foolish enough for that.’

‘Because he does not suffer as I do. He has his borough, and his public life, and a hundred things to think of. I have got nothing but him. I know he is true; — quite as true as I am. But it is I that have the suffering in all this. A man can never be like a girl. Papa ought not to make me suffer like this.’

That took place on the Monday. On the Tuesday Mrs Finn received a letter from her husband giving an account of the accident. ‘As far as I can learn,’ he said, ‘Silverbridge will write about it tomorrow.’ Then he went on to give a by no means good account of the state of the patient. The doctor had declared him to be out of immediate danger, and had set the broken bones. As tidings would be sent on the next day she had better say nothing about the accident to Lady Mary. This letter reached Matching on Tuesday and made the position of Mrs Finn very disagreeable. She was bound to carry herself as though nothing was amiss, knowing as she did so, the condition of Mary’s lover.

On the evening of the next day Lady Mary was more lively than usual, though her liveliness was hardly of a happy nature. ‘I don’t know what papa can expect. I’ve heard him say a hundred times that to be in Parliament is the highest place a gentleman can fill, and now Frank is in Parliament.’ Mrs Finn looked at her with beseeching eyes, as though begging her not to speak of Tregear. ‘And then think of their having that Lord Popplecourt there! I shall always hate Lady Cantrip, for it was her place. That she should have thought it possible! Lord Popplecourt! Such a creature. Hyperion to a satyr. Isn’t it true? Oh that papa should have thought it possible!’ Then she got up, and walked about the room, beating her hands together. All this time Mrs Finn knew that Tregear was lying at Harrington with half his bones broken, and in danger of his life!

On the next morning Lady Mary received her letters. There were two lying before her plate when she came into breakfast, one from her father and the other from Silverbridge. She read that from the Duke first while Mrs Finn was watching her. ‘Papa will be home on Saturday,’ she said. ‘He declares that the people in the borough are quite delighted with Silverbridge for a member. And he is quite jocose. “They used to be delighted with me once,” he says, “but I suppose everybody changes.”’ Then she began to pour out the tea before she opened her brother’s letter. Mrs Finn’s eyes were still on her anxiously. ‘I wonder what Silverbridge has got to say about the Brake Hunt.’ Then she opened her letter.

‘Oh; — oh!’ she exclaimed — ‘Frank has killed himself.’

‘Killed himself! Not that. It is not so bad as that.’

‘You had heard it before?’

‘How is he, Mary?’

‘Oh, heavens! I cannot read it. Do you read it. Tell me all. Tell me the truth. What am I to do? Where shall I go?’ Then she threw up her hands, and with a loud scream fell on her knees with her head upon the chair. In the next moment Mrs Finn was down beside her on the floor. ‘Read it; why do you not read it? If you will not read it, give it to me.’

Mrs Finn did read the letter, which was very short, but still giving by no means an unfavourable account of the patient. ‘I am sorry to say he has broken ever so many bones, and we were very much frightened about him.’ Then the writer went into details, from which the reader who did not read the whole words carefully might well imagine that the man’s life was still in danger.

Mrs Finn did read it all, and did her best to comfort her friend. ‘It has been a bad accident,’ she said, ‘but it is clear that he id getting better. Men do so often break their bones, and then seem to think nothing of it afterwards.’

‘Silverbridge says it was his fault. What does he mean?’

‘I suppose he was riding too close to Mr Tregear, and that they came down together. Of course it is distressing, but I do not think you need make yourself positively unhappy about it.’

‘Would you not be unhappy if it were Mr Finn?’ said Mary, jumping up from her knees. ‘I shall go to him. I should go mad if I were to remain here and know nothing about it but what Silverbridge will tell me.’

‘I will telegraph Mr Finn.’

‘Mr Finn won’t care. Men are so heartless. They write about each other just as though it did not signify in the least whether anybody were dead or alive. I shall go to him.’

‘You cannot do that.’

‘I don’t care now what anybody may think. I choose to be considered as belonging to him, and if papa were here I would do the same.’ It was of course not difficult to make her understand that she could not go to Harrington, but it was by no means easy to keep her tranquil. She would send a telegram herself. This was debated for a long time, till at last Lady Mary insisted that she was not subject to Mrs Finn’s authority. ‘If papa were here, even then I would send it.’ And she did send it, in her own name, regardless of the fact pointed out to her by Mrs Finn, that the people at the post-office would thus know her secret. ‘It is no secret,’ she said. ‘I don’t want it to be a secret.’ The telegram went in the following words. ‘I have heard it. I am so wretched. Send me one word to say how you are.’ She got an answer back, with Tregear’s own name to it, on that afternoon. ‘Do not be unhappy. I am doing well. Silverbridge is with me.’

On the Thursday Gerald came home from Scotland. He had arranged his little affair with Lord Percival, not however without some difficulty. Lord Percival had declared that he did not understand I.O.U.s in an affair of that kind. He had always thought that gentlemen did not play for stakes for which they could not pay at once. This was not said to Gerald himself; — or the result would have been calamitous. Nidderdale was the go-between, and at last arranged it — not however till he had pointed out that Percival having won so large a sum of money from a lad under twenty-one years was very lucky in receiving substantial security for its payment.

Gerald has chosen the period of his father’s absence for his return. It was necessary that the story of the gambling debt should be told the Duke in February! Silverbridge had explained that to him, and he had quite understood it. He, indeed, would be up at Oxford in February, and, in that case, the first horror of the thing would be left to poor Silverbridge! Thinking of this, Gerald felt that he was bound to tell his father himself. He resolved that he would do so, but he was anxious to postpone the evil day. He lingered therefore in Scotland till he knew that his father was in Barsetshire.

On his arrival he was told of Tregear’s accident. ‘Oh Gerald, have you heard?’ said his sister. He had not as yet heard, and then the history was repeated to him. Mary did not attempt to conceal her own feelings. She was as open with her brother as she had been with Mrs Finn.

‘I suppose he’ll get over it,’ said Gerald.

‘Is that all you say?’ she asked.

‘What can I say better? I suppose he will. Fellows always do get over that kind of thing. Herbert de Burgh smashed both his thighs, and now he can move about again — of course with crutches.’

‘Gerald. How can you be so unfeeling!’

‘I don’t know what you mean. I always liked Tregear, and I am very sorry for him. If you would take it a little quieter, I think it would be better.’

‘I could not take it quietly. How can I take it quietly when he is more than the world to me?’

‘You should keep that to yourself.’

‘Yes — and so let people think that I didn’t care, till I broke my heart! I shall say just the same to papa when he comes home.’ After than the brother and sister were not on very good terms with each other for the remainder of the day.

On the Saturday there was a letter from Silverbridge to Mrs Finn. Tregear was better; but was unhappy because it had been decided that he could not be moved for the next month. This entailed two misfortunes on him; — first that of being enforced guest of persons who were not — or, hitherto had not been his own friends — and then his absence from the first meeting of Parliament. When a gentleman has been in Parliament some years he may be able to reconcile himself to an obligatory vacation with a calm mind. But when the honours and glory are new, and the tedium of the benches has not yet been experienced, then such an accident is felt to be a grievance. But the young member was out of danger, and was, as Silverbridge declared in the very best quarters which could be provided for a man in his position.

Phineas Finn told him all the politics; Mrs Spooner related to him, on Sundays and Wednesdays, all the hunting details; while Lady Chiltern read to him light literature, because he was not allowed to hold a book in his hand. ‘I wish it were me,’ said Gerald. ‘I wish I were there to read to him,’ said Mary.

Then the Duke came home. ‘Mary,’ said he, ‘I have been distressed to hear of this accident.’ This seemed to her to be the kindest word she had heard from him for a long time. ‘I believe him to be a worthy young man. I am sorry that he should be the cause of so much sorrow to you — and to me.’

‘Of course I was sorry for his accident,’ she replied, after pausing awhile; ‘but now that he is better I will not cause him a cause of sorrow — to me.’ Then the Duke said nothing further about Tregear; nor did she.

‘So you have come at last,’ he said to Gerald. That was the first greeting — to which the son responded by an awkward smile. But in the course of the evening he walked straight up to his father —‘I have something to tell you, sir,’ said he.

‘Something to tell me?’

‘Something that will make you very angry.’

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