He Knew He Was Right, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XLV

Trevelyan at Venice

Trevelyan passed on moodily and alone from Turin to Venice, always expecting letters from Bozzle, and receiving from time to time the dispatches which that functionary forwarded to him, as must be acknowledged, with great punctuality. For Mr Bozzle did his work, not only with a conscience, but with a will. He was now, as he had declared more than once, altogether devoted to Mr Trevelyan’s interest; and as he was an active, enterprising man, always on the alert to be doing something, and as he loved the work of writing dispatches, Trevelyan received a great many letters from Bozzle. It is not exaggeration to say that every letter made him for the time a very wretched man. This ex-policeman wrote of the wife of his bosom, of her who had been the wife of his bosom, and who was the mother of his child, who was at this very time the only woman whom he loved with an entire absence of delicacy. Bozzle would have thought reticence on his part to he dishonest. We remember Othello’s demand of Iago. That was the demand which Bozzle understood that Trevelyan had made of him, and he was minded to obey that order. But Trevelvan, though he had in truth given the order, was like Othello also in this that he would have preferred before all the prizes of the world to have had proof brought home to him exactly opposite to that which he demanded. But there was nothing so terrible to him as the grinding suspicion that he was to be kept in the dark. Bozzle could find out facts. Therefore he gave, in effect, the same order that Othello gave and Bozzle went to work determined to obey it. There came many dispatches to Venice, and at last there came one, which created a correspondence which shall be given here at length. The first is a letter from Mr Bozzle to his employer:

‘55, Stony Walk, Union Street, Borough,

September 29, 186-, 4.30 p.m.

HOND. SIR,

Since I wrote yesterday morning, something has occurred which, it may be, and I think it will, will help to bring this melancholy affair to a satisfactory termination and conclusion. I had better explain, Mr Trewilyan, how I have been at work from the beginning about watching the Colonel. I couldn’t do nothing with the porter at the Albany, which he is always mostly muzzled with beer, and he wouldn’t have taken my money, not on the square. So, when it was tellegrammed to me as the Colonel was on the move in the North, I put on two boys as knows the Colonel, at eighteenpence a day, at each end, one Piccadilly end, and the other Saville Row end, and yesterday morning, as quick as ever could be, after the Limited Express Edinburgh Male Up was in, there comes the Saville Row End Boy here to say as the Colonel was lodged safe in his downey. Then I was off immediate myself to St. Diddulph’s, because I knows what it is to trust to inferiors when matters gets delicate. Now, there hadn’t been no letters from the Colonel, nor none to him as I could make out, though that mightn’t be so sure. She might have had ’em addressed to A. Z., or the like of that, at any of the Post-offices as was distant, as nobody could give the notice to ’em all. Barring the money, which I know ain’t an object when the end is so desirable, it don’t do to be too ubiketous, because things will go astray. But I’ve kept my eye uncommon open, and I don’t think there have been no letters since that last which was sent, Mr Trewilyan, let any of ’em, parsons or what not, say what they will. And I don’t see as parsons are better than other folk when they has to do with a lady as likes her fancy-man.’

Trevelyan, when he had read as far as this, threw down the letter and tore his hair in despair. ‘My wife,’ he exclaimed, ‘Oh, my wife!’ But it was essential that he should read Bozzle’s letter, and he persevered.

‘Well; I took to the ground myself as soon as ever I heard that the Colonel was among us, and I hung out at the Full Moon. They had been quite on the square with me at the Full Moon, which I mention, because, of course, it has to be remembered, and it do come up as a hitem. And I’m proud, Mr Trewilyan, as I did take to the ground myself; for what should happen but I see the Colonel as large as life ringing at the parson’s bell at 1.47 p.m. He was let in at 1.49, and he was let out at 2.17. He went away in a cab which it was kept, and I followed him till he was put down at the Arcade, and I left him having his ‘ed washed and greased at Trufitt’s rooms, half-way up. It was a wonder to me when I see this, Mr Trewilyan, as he didn’t have his ‘ed done first, as they most of ’em does when they’re going to see their ladies; but I couldn’t make nothing of that, though I did try to put too and too together, as I always does.

What he did at the parson’s, Mr Trewilyan, I won’t say I saw, and I won’t say I know. It’s my opinion the young woman there isn’t on the square, though she’s been remembered too, and is a hitem of course. And, Mr Trewilyan, it do go against the grain with me when they’re remembered and ain’t on the square. I doesn’t expect too much of Human Nature, which is poor, as the saying goes; but when they’re remembered and ain’t on the square after that, it’s too bad for Human Nature. It’s more than poor. It’s what I calls beggarly.

He ain’t been there since, Mr Trewilyan, and he goes out of town tomorrow by the 1.15 p.m. express to Bridport. So he lets on; but of course I shall see to that. That he’s been at St. Diddulph’s, in the house from 1.47 to 2.17, you may take as a fact. There won’t be no shaking of that, because I have it in my mem. book, and no Counsel can get the better of it. Of course he went there to see her, and it’s my belief he did. The young woman as was remembered says he didn’t, but she isn’t on the square. They never is when a lady wants to see her gentleman, though they comes round afterwards, and tells up everything when it comes before his ordinary lordship.

If you ask me, Mr Trewilyan, I don’t think it’s ripe yet for the court, but we’ll have it ripe before long. I’ll keep a look-out, because it’s just possible she may leave town. If she do, I’ll be down upon them together, and no mistake.

Yours most respectful,

S. BOZZLE.’

Every word in the letter had been a dagger to Trevelyan, and yet he felt himself to be under an obligation to the man who had written it. No one else would or could make facts known to him. If she were innocent, let him know that she were innocent, and he would proclaim her innocence, and believe in her innocence and sacrifice himself to her innocence, if such sacrifice were necessary. But if she were guilty, let him also know that. He knew how bad it was, all that bribing of postmen and maidservants, who took his money, and her money also, very likely. It was dirt, all of it. But who had put him into the dirt? His wife had, at least, deceived him had deceived him and disobeyed him, and it was necessary that he should know the facts. Life without a Bozzle would now have been to him a perfect blank.

The Colonel had been to the parsonage at St. Diddulph’s, and had been admitted! As to that he had no doubt. Nor did he really doubt that his wife had seen the visitor. He had sent his wife first into a remote village on Dartmoor, and there she had been visited by her lover! How was he to use any other word? Iago, oh, Iago! The pity of it, Iago! Then, when she had learned that this was discovered, she had left the retreat in which he had placed her without permission from him and had taken herself to the house of a relative of hers. Here she was visited again by her lover! Oh, Iago; the pity of it, Iago! And then there had been between them an almost constant correspondence. So much he had ascertained as fact; but he did not for a moment believe that Bozzle had learned all the facts. There might be correspondence, or even visits, of which Bozzle could learn nothing. How could Bozzle know where Mrs Trevelyan was during all those hours which Colonel Osborne passed in London? That which he knew, he knew absolutely, and on that he could act; but there was, of course, much of which he knew nothing. Gradually the truth would unveil itself, and then he would act. He would tear that Colonel into fragments, and throw his wife from him with all the ignominy which the law made possible to him.

But in the meantime he wrote a letter to Mr Outhouse. Colonel Osborne, after all that had been said, had been admitted at the parsonage, and Trevelyan was determined to let the clergyman know what he thought about it. The oftener he turned the matter in his mind, as he walked slowly up and down the piazza of St. Mark, the more absurd it appeared to him to doubt that his wife had seen the man. Of course she had seen him. He walked there nearly the whole night, thinking of it, and as he dragged himself off at last to his inn, had almost come to have but one desire namely, that he should find her out, that the evidence should be conclusive, that it should be proved, and so brought to an end. Then he would destroy her, and destroy that man and afterwards destroy himself, so bitter to him would be his ignominy. He almost revelled in the idea of the tragedy he would make. It was three o’clock before he was in his bedroom, and then he wrote his letter to Mr Outhouse before he took himself to his bed. It was as follows:

‘Venice, Oct. 4, 186-.

Sir

Information of a certain kind, on which I can place a firm reliance, has reached me, to the effect that Colonel Osborne has been allowed to visit at your house during the sojourn of my wife under your roof. I will thank you to inform me whether this be true; as, although I am confident of my facts, it is necessary, in reference to my ulterior conduct, that I should have from you either an admission or a denial of my assertion. It is of course open to you to leave my letter unanswered. Should you think proper to do so, I shall know also how to deal with that fact.

As to your conduct in admitting Colonel Osborne into your house while my wife is there after all that has passed, and all that you know that has passed I am quite unable to speak with anything like moderation of feeling. Had the man succeeded in forcing himself into your residence, you should have been the first to give me notice of it. As it is, I have been driven to ascertain the fact from other sources. I think that you have betrayed the trust that a husband has placed in you, and that you will find from the public voice that you will be regarded as having disgraced yourself as a clergyman.

In reference to my wife herself, I would wish her to know, that after what has now taken place, I shall not feel myself justified in leaving our child longer in her hands, even tender as are his years. I shall take steps for having him removed. What further I shall do to vindicate myself, and extricate myself as far as may be possible from the slough of despond in which I have been submerged, she and you will learn in due time.

Your obedient servant,

L. TREVELYAN.

A letter addressed “poste restante, Venice,” will reach me here.’

If Trevelyan was mad when he wrote this letter, Mr Outhouse was very nearly as mad when he read it. He had most strongly desired to have nothing to do with his wife’s niece when she was separated from her husband. He was a man honest, charitable, and sufficiently affectionate; but he was timid, and disposed to think ill of those whose modes of life were strange to him. Actuated by these feelings, he would have declined to offer the hospitality of his roof to Mrs Trevelyan, had any choice been left to him. But there had been no choice. She had come thither unasked, with her boy and baggage, and he could not send her away. His wife had told him that it was his duty to protect these women till their father came, and he recognised the truth of what his wife said. There they were, and there they must remain throughout the winter. It was hard upon him, especially as the difficulties and embarrassments as to money were so disagreeable to him, but there was no help for it. His duty must be done though it were ever so painful. Then that horrid Colonel had come. And now had come this letter, in which he was not only accused of being an accomplice between his married niece and her lover, but was also assured that he should be held up to public ignominy and disgrace. Though he had often declared that Trevelyan was mad, he would not remember that now. Such a letter as he had received should have been treated by him as the production of a madman. But he was not sane enough himself to see the matter in that light. He gnashed his teeth, and clenched his fist, and was almost beside himself as he read the letter a second time.

There had been a method in Trevelyan’s madness; for, though he had declared to himself that without doubt Bozzle had been right in saying that as the Colonel had been at the parsonage, therefore, as a certainty, Mrs Trevelyan had met the Colonel there, yet he had not so stated in his letter. He had merely asserted that Colonel Osborne had been at the house, and had founded his accusation upon that alleged fact. The alleged fact had been in truth a fact. So far Bozzle had been right. The Colonel had been at the parsonage; and the reader knows how far Mr Outhouse had been to blame for his share in the matter! He rushed off to his wife with the letter, declaring at first that Mrs Trevelyan, Nora, and the child, and the servant, should be sent out of the house at once. But at last Mrs Outhouse succeeded in showing him that he would not be justified in ill-using them because Trevelyan had ill-used him. ‘But I will write to him,’ said Mr Outhouse. ‘He shall know what I think about it.’ And he did write his letter that day, in spite of his wife’s entreaties that he would allow the sun to set upon his wrath. And his letter was as follows:

‘St. Diddulph’s, October 8, 186-.

‘Sir,

I have received your letter of the 4th, which is more iniquitous, unjust, and ungrateful, than anything I ever before saw written. I have been surprised from the first at your gross cruelty to your unoffending wife; but even that seems to me more intelligible than your conduct in writing such words as those which you have dared to send to me.

For your wife’s sake, knowing that she is in a great degree still in your power, I will condescend to tell you what has happened. When Mrs Trevelyan found herself constrained to leave Nuncombe Putney by your aspersions on her character, she came here, to the protection of her nearest relatives within reach, till her father and mother should be in England. Sorely against my will I received them into my home, because they had been deprived of other shelter by the cruelty or madness of him who should have been their guardian. Here they are, and here they shall remain till Sir Marmaduke Rowley arrives. The other day, on the 29th of September, Colonel Osborne, who is their father’s old friend, called, not on them, but on me. I may truly say that I did not wish to see Colonel Osborne. They did not see him, nor did he ask to see them. If his coming was a fault, and I think it was a fault, they were not implicated in it. He came, remained a few minutes, and went without seeing any one but myself. That is the history of Colonel Osborne’s visit to my house.

I have not thought fit to show your letter to your wife, or to make her acquainted with this further proof of your want of reason. As to the threats which you hold out of removing her child from her, you can of course do nothing except by law. I do not think that even you will be sufficiently audacious to take any steps of that description. Whatever protection the law may give her and her child from your tyranny and misconduct cannot be obtained till her father shall be here.

I have only further to request that you will not address any further communication to me. Should you do so, it will be refused.

Yours, in deep indignation,

OLIPHANT OUTHOUSE.’

Trevelyan had also written two other letters to England, one to Mr Bideawhile, and the other to Bozzle. In the former he acquainted the lawyer that he had discovered that his wife still maintained her intercourse with Colonel Osborne, and that he must therefore remove his child from her custody. He then inquired what steps would be necessary to enable him to obtain possession of his little boy. In the letter to Bozzle he sent a cheque, and his thanks for the ex-policeman’s watchful care. He desired Bozzle to continue his precautions, and explained his intentions about his son. Being somewhat afraid that Mr Bideawhile might not be zealous on his behalf, and not himself understanding accurately the extent of his power with regard to his own child, or the means whereby he might exercise it, he was anxious to obtain assistance from Bozzle also on this point; he had no doubt that Bozzle knew all about it. He had great confidence in Bozzle. But still he did not like to consult the ex policeman. He knew that it became him to have some regard for his own dignity. He therefore put the matter very astutely to Bozzle asking no questions, but alluding to his difficulty in a way that would enable Bozzle to offer advice.

And where was he to get a woman to take charge of his child? If Lady Milborough would do it, how great would be the comfort! But he was almost sure that Lady Milborough would not do it. All his friends had turned against him, and Lady Milborough among the number. There was nobody left to him, but Bozzle. Could he entrust Bozzle to find some woman for him who would take adequate charge of the little fellow, till he himself could see to the child’s education? He did not put this question to Bozzle in plain terms; but he was very astute, and wrote in such a fashion that Bozzle could make a proposal, if any proposal were within his power.

The answer from Mr Outhouse came first. To this Mr Trevelyan paid very little attention. It was just what he expected. Of course, Mr Outhouse’s assurance about Colonel Osborne went for nothing. A man who would permit intercourse in his house between a married lady and her lover, would not scruple to deny that he had permitted it. Then came Mr Bideawhile’s answer, which was very short. Mr Bideawhile said that nothing could be done about the child till Mr Trevelyan should return to England and that he could give no opinion as to what should be done then till he knew more of the circumstances. It was quite clear to Trevelyan that he must employ some other lawyer. Mr Bideawhile had probably been corrupted by Colonel Osborne. Could Bozzle recommend a lawyer?

From Bozzle himself there came no other immediate reply than, ‘his duty, and that he would make further inquiries.’

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