He Knew He Was Right, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XXXVIII

Verdict of the Jury ‘Mad, My Lord’

Trevelyan was left alone at Turin when Mr Glascock went on to Florence with his fair American friends. It was imperatively necessary that he should remain at Turin, though he had no business there of any kind whatever, and did not know a single person in the city. And of all towns in Italy Turin has perhaps less of attraction to offer to the solitary visitor than any other. It is new and parallelogrammatic as an American town is very cold in cold weather, very hot in hot weather, and now that it has been robbed of its life as a capital is as dull and uninteresting as though it were German or English. There is the Armoury, and the river Po, and a good hotel. But what are these things to a man who is forced to live alone in a place for four days, or perhaps a week? Trevelyan was bound to remain at Turin till he should hear from Bozzle. No one but Bozzle knew his address; and he could do nothing till Bozzle should have communicated to him tidings of what was being done at St. Diddulph’s.

There is perhaps no great social question so imperfectly understood among us at the present day as that which refers to the line which divides sanity from insanity. That this man is sane and that other unfortunately mad we do know well enough; and we know also that one man may be subject to various hallucinations — may fancy himself to be a teapot, or what not — and yet be in such a condition of mind as to call for no intervention either on behalf of his friends, or of the law; while another may be in possession of intellectual faculties capable of lucid exertion for the highest purposes, and yet be so mad that bodily restraint upon him is indispensable. We know that the sane man is responsible for what he does, and that the insane man is irresponsible; but we do not know, we only guess wildly, at the state of mind of those who now and again act like madmen, though no court or council of experts has declared them to be mad. The bias of the public mind is to press heavily on such men till the law attempts to touch them, as though they were thoroughly responsible; and then, when the law interferes, to screen them as though they were altogether irresponsible. The same juryman who would find a man mad who has murdered a young woman, would in private life express a desire that the same young man should be hung, crucified, or skinned alive, if he had moodily and without reason broken faith to the young woman in lieu of killing her. Now Trevelyan was, in truth, mad on the subject of his wife’s alleged infidelity. He had abandoned everything that he valued in the world, and had made himself wretched in every affair of life, because he could not submit to acknowledge to himself the possibility of error on his own part. For that, in truth, was the condition of his mind. He had never hitherto believed that she had been false to her vow, and had sinned against him irredeemably; but he had thought that in her regard for another man she had slighted him; and, so thinking, he had subjected her to a severity of rebuke which no high-spirited woman could have borne. His wife had not tried to bear it, in her indignation had not striven to cure the evil. Then had come his resolution that she should submit, or part from him; and, having so resolved, nothing could shake him. Though every friend he possessed was now against him including even Lady Milborough he was certain that he was right. Had not his wife sworn to obey him, and was not her whole conduct one tissue of disobedience? Would not the man who submitted to this find himself driven to submit to things worse? Let her own her fault, let her submit, and then she should come back to him.

He had not considered, when his resolutions to this effect were first forming themselves, that a separation between a man and his wife once effected cannot be annulled, and as it were cured, so as to leave no cicatrice behind. Gradually, as he spent day after day in thinking on this one subject, he came to feel that even were his wife to submit, to own her fault humbly, and to come back to him, this very coming back would in itself be a new wound. Could he go out again with his wife on his arm to the houses of those who knew that he had repudiated her because of her friendship with another man? Could he open again that house in Curzon Street, and let things go on quietly as they had gone before? He told himself that it was impossible, that he and she were ineffably disgraced, that, if reunited, they must live buried out of sight in some remote distance. And he told himself, also, that he could never be with her again night or day without thinking of the separation. His happiness had been shipwrecked.

Then he had put himself into the hands of Mr Bozzle, and Mr Bozzle had taught him that women very often do go astray. Mr Bozzle’s idea of female virtue was not high, and he had opportunities of implanting his idea on his client’s mind. Trevelyan hated the man. He was filled with disgust by Bozzle’s words, and was made miserable by Bozzle’s presence. Yet he came gradually to believe in Bozzle. Bozzle alone believed in him. There were none but Bozzle who did not bid him to submit himself to his disobedient wife. And then, as he came to believe in Bozzle, he grew to be more and more assured that no one but Bozzle could tell him facts. His chivalry, and love, and sense of woman’s honour, with something of manly pride on his own part, so he told himself, had taught him to believe it to be impossible that his wife should have sinned. Bozzle, who knew the world, thought otherwise. Bozzle, who had no interest in the matter, one way or the other, would find out facts. What if his chivalry, and love, and manly pride had deceived him? There were women who sinned. Then he prayed that his wife might not be such a woman; and got up from his prayers almost convinced that she was a sinner.

His mind was at work upon it always. Could it be that she was so base as this, so vile a thing, so abject, such dirt, pollution, filth? But there were such cases. Nay, were they not almost numberless? He found himself reading in the papers records of such things from day to day, and thought that in doing so he was simply acquiring experience necessary for himself. If it were so, he had indeed done well to separate himself from a thing so infamous. And if it were not so, how could it be that that man had gone to her in Devonshire? He had received from his wife’s hands a short note addressed to the man, in which the man was desired by her not to go to her, or to write to her again, because of her husband’s commands. He had shown this to Bozzle, and Bozzle had smiled. ‘It’s just the sort of thing they does,’ Bozzle had said. ‘Then they writes another by post.’ He had consulted Bozzle as to the sending on of that letter, and Bozzle had been strongly of opinion that it should be forwarded, a copy having been duly taken and attested by himself. It might be very pretty evidence by-and-by. If the letter were not forwarded, Bozzle thought that the omission to do so might be given in evidence against his employer. Bozzle was very careful, and full of ‘evidence.’ The letter therefore was sent on to Colonel Osborne. ‘If there’s billy-dous going between ’em we shall nobble ’em,’ said Bozzle. Trevelyan tore his hair in despair, but believed that there would be billy-dous.

He came to believe everything; and, though he prayed fervently that his wife might not be led astray, that she might be saved at any rate from utter vice, yet he almost came to hope that it might be otherwise — not, indeed, with the hope of the sane man, who desires that which he tells himself to be for his advantage; but with the hope of the insane man, who loves to feed his grievance, even though the grief should be his death. They who do not understand that a man may be brought to hope that which of all things is the most grievous to him, have not observed with sufficient closeness the perversity of the human mind. Trevelyan would have given all that he had to save his wife; would, even now, have cut his tongue out before he would have expressed to anyone save to Bozzle a suspicion that she could in truth have been guilty; was continually telling himself that further life would be impossible to him, if he, and she, and that child of theirs, should be thus disgraced; and yet he expected it, believed it, and, after a fashion, he almost hoped it.

He was to wait at Turin till tidings should come from Bozzle, and after that he would go on to Venice; but he would not move from Turin till he should have received his first communication from England. When he had been three days at Turin they came to him, and, among other letters in Bozzle’s packet, there was a letter addressed in his wife’s handwriting. The letter was simply directed to Bozzle’s house. In what possible way could his wife have found out ought of his dealings with Bozzle, where Bozzle lived, or could have learned that letters intended for him should be sent to the man’s own residence? Before, however, we inspect the contents of Mr Bozzle’s dispatch, we will go back and see how Mrs Trevelyan had discovered the manner of forwarding a letter to her husband.

The matter of the address was, indeed, very simple. All letters for Trevelyan were to be redirected from the house in Curzon Street, and from the chambers in Lincoln’s Inn, to the Acrobats’ Club; to the porter of the Acrobats’ Club had been confided the secret, not of Bozzle’s name, but of Bozzle’s private address, No. 55, Stony Walk, Union Street, Borough. Thus all letters reaching the Acrobats’ were duly sent to Mr Bozzle’s house. It may be remembered that Hugh Stanbury, on the occasion of his last visit to the parsonage of St. Diddulph’s, was informed that Mrs Trevelyan had a letter from her father for her husband, and that she knew not whither to send it. It may well be that, had the matter assumed no interest in Stanbury’s eyes than that given to it by Mrs Trevelyan’s very moderate anxiety to have the letter forwarded, he would have thought nothing about it; but having resolved, as he sat upon the knifeboard of the omnibus — the reader will, at any rate, remember those resolutions made on the top of the omnibus while Hugh was smoking his pipe — having resolved that a deed should be done at St. Diddulph’s, he resolved also that it should be done at once. He would not allow the heat of his purpose to be cooled by delay. He would go to St. Diddulph’s at once, with his heart in his hand. But it might, he thought, be as well that he should have an excuse for his visit. So he called upon the porter at the Acrobats’, and was successful in learning Mr Trevelyan’s address. ‘Stony Walk, Union Street, Borough,’ he said to himself, wondering; then it occurred to him that Bozzle, and Bozzle only among Trevelyan’s friends, could live at Stony Walk in the Borough. Thus armed, he set out for St. Diddulph’s and, as one of the effects of his visit to the East, Sir Marmaduke’s note was forwarded to Louis Trevelyan at Turin.

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