He Knew He Was Right, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter LXII

Lady Rowley Makes an Attempt

Nothing could be more uncomfortable than the state of Sir Marmaduke Rowley’s family for the first ten days after the arrival in London of the Governor of the Mandarin Islands. Lady Rowley had brought with her two of her girls, the third and fourth, and, as we know, had been joined by the two eldest, so that there was a large family of ladies gathered together. A house had been taken in Manchester Street, to which they had intended to transfer themselves after a single night passed at Gregg’s Hotel. But the trouble and sorrow inflicted upon them by the abduction of Mrs Trevelyan’s child, and the consequent labours thrust upon Sir Marmaduke’s shoulders had been so heavy, that they had slept six nights at the hotel, before they were able to move themselves into the house prepared for them. By that time all idea had been abandoned of recovering the child by any legal means to be taken as a consequence of the illegality of the abduction. The boy was with his father, and the lawyers seemed to think that the father’s rights were paramount as he had offered a home to his wife without any conditions which a court of law would adjudge to be cruel. If she could shew that he had driven her to live apart from him by his own bad conduct, then probably the custody of her boy might be awarded to her, until the child should be seven years old. But when the circumstances of the case were explained to Sir Marmaduke’s lawyer by Lady Rowley, that gentleman shook his head. Mrs Trevelyan had, he said, no case with which she could go into court. Then by degrees there were words whispered as to the husband’s madness. The lawyer said that that was a matter for the doctors. If a certain amount of medical evidence could be obtained to show that the husband was in truth mad, the wife could, no doubt, obtain the custody of the child. When this was reported to Mrs Trevelyan, she declared that conduct such as her husband’s must suffice to prove any man to be mad; but at this Sir Marmaduke shook his head, and Lady Rowley sat, sadly silent, with her daughter’s hand within her own. They would not dare to tell her that she could regain her child by that plea.

During those ten days they did not learn whither the boy had been carried, nor did they know even where the father might be found. Sir Marmaduke followed up the address as given in the letter, and learned from the porter at ‘The Acrobats’ that the gentleman’s letters were sent to No. 65, Stony Walk, Union Street, Borough. To this uncomfortable locality Sir Marmaduke travelled more than once. Thrice he went thither, intent on finding his son-inlaw’s residence. On the two first occasions he saw no one but Mrs Bozzle; and the discretion of that lady in declining to give any information was most admirable. ‘Trewillian!’ Yes, she had heard the name certainly. It might be that her husband had business engagements with a gent of that name. She would not say even that for certain, as it was not her custom ever to make any inquiries as to her husband’s business engagements. Her husband’s business engagements were, she said, much too important for the ‘likes of she’ to know anything about them. When was Bozzle likely to be at home? Bozzle was never likely to be at home. According to her showing, Bozzle was of all husbands the most erratic. He might perhaps come in for an hour or two in the middle of the day on a Wednesday, or perhaps would take a cup of tea at home on Friday evening. But anything so fitful and uncertain as were Bozzle’s appearances in the bosom of his family was not to be conceived in the mind of woman. Sir Marmaduke then called in the middle of the day on Wednesday, but Bozzle was reported to be away in the provinces. His wife had no idea in which of the provinces he was at that moment engaged. The persevering governor from the islands called again on the Friday evening, and then, by chance, Bozzle was found at home. But Sir Marmaduke succeeded in gaining very little information even from Bozzle. The man acknowledged that he was employed by Mr Trevelyan. Any letter or parcel left with him for Mr Trevelyan should be duly sent to that gentleman. If Sir Marmaduke wanted Mr Trevelyan’s address, he could write to Mr Trevelyan and ask for it. If Mr Trevelyan declined to give it, was it likely that he, Bozzle, should betray it? Sir Marmaduke explained who he was at some length. Bozzle with a smile assured the governor that he knew very well who he was. He let drop a few words to show that he was intimately acquainted with the whole course of Sir Marmaduke’s family affairs. He knew all about the Mandarins, and Colonel Osborne, and Gregg’s Hotel — not that he said anything about Parker’s Hotel — and the Colonial Office. He spoke of Miss Nora, and even knew the names of the other two young ladies, Miss Sophia and Miss Lucy. It was a weakness with Bozzle, that of displaying his information. He would have much liked to be able to startle Sir Marmaduke by describing the Government House in the island, or by telling him something of his old carriage-horses. But of such information as Sir Marmaduke desired, Sir Marmaduke got none.

And there were other troubles which fell very heavily upon the poor governor, who had come home as it were for a holiday, and who was a man hating work naturally, and who, from the circumstances of his life, had never been called on to do much work. A man may govern the Mandarins and yet live in comparative idleness. To do such governing work well a man should have a good presence, a flow of words which should mean nothing, an excellent temper, and a love of hospitality. With these attributes Sir Rowley was endowed; for, though his disposition was by nature hot, for governing purposes it had been brought by practice under good control. He had now been summoned home through the machinations of his dangerous old friend Colonel Osborne, in order that he might give the results of his experience in governing before a committee of the House of Commons. In coming to England on this business he had thought much more of his holiday, of his wife and children, of his daughters at home, of his allowance per day while he was to be away from his government, and of his salary to be paid to him entire during his absence, instead of being halved as it would be if he were away on leave; he had thought much more in coming home on these easy and pleasant matters, than he did on the work that was to be required from him when he arrived. And then it came to pass that he felt himself almost injured, when the Colonial Office demanded his presence from day to day, and when clerks bothered him with questions as to which they expected ready replies, but in replying to which Sir Marmaduke was by no means ready. The working men at the Colonial Office had not quite thought that Sir Marmaduke was the most fitting man for the job in hand. There was a certain Mr Thomas Smith at another set of islands in quite another part of the world, who was supposed by these working men at home to be a very paragon of a governor. If he had been had home, so said the working men, no Committee of the House would have been able to make anything of him. They might have asked him questions week after week, and he would have answered them all fluently and would have committed nobody. He knew all the ins and outs of governing, did Mr Thomas Smith, and was a match for the sharpest Committee that ever sat at Westminster. Poor Sir Marmaduke was a man of a very different sort; all of which was known by the working men; but the Parliamentary interest had been too strong, and here was Sir Marmaduke at home. But the working men were not disposed to make matters so pleasant for Sir Marmaduke as Sir Marmaduke had expected. The Committee would not examine Sir Marmaduke till after Easter, in the middle of April; but it was expected of him that, he should read blue-books without number, and he was so catechised by the working men that he almost began to wish himself back at the Mandarins. In this way the new establishment in Manchester Street was not at first in a happy or even in a contented condition.

At last, after about ten days, Lady Rowley did succeed in obtaining an interview with Trevelyan. A meeting was arranged through Bozzle, and took place in a very dark and gloomy room at an inn in the City. Why Bozzle should have selected the Bremen Coffee House, in Poulter’s Alley, for this meeting no fit reason can surely be given, unless it was that he conceived himself bound to select the most dreary locality within his knowledge on so melancholy an occasion. Poulter’s Alley is a narrow dark passage somewhere behind the Mansion House; and the Bremen Coffee House — why so called no one can now tell — is one of those strange houses of public resort in the City at which the guests seem never to eat, never to drink, never to sleep, but to come in and out after a mysterious and almost ghostly fashion, seeing their friends or perhaps their enemies, in nooks and corners, and carrying on their conferences in low melancholy whispers. There is an aged waiter at the Bremen Coffee House; and there is certainly one private sitting-room upstairs. It was a dingy, ill-furnished room, with an old large mahogany table, an old horse-hair sofa, six horse-hair chairs, two old round mirrors, and an old mahogany press in a corner. It was a chamber so sad in its appearance that no wholesome useful work could have been done within it; nor could men have eaten there with any appetite, or have drained the flowing bowl with any touch of joviality. It was generally used for such purposes as that to which it was now appropriated, and no doubt had been taken by Bozzle on more than one previous occasion. Here Lady Rowley arrived precisely at the hour fixed, and was told that the gentleman was waiting up stairs for her.

There had, of course, been many family consultations as to the manner in which this meeting should be arranged. Should Sir Marmaduke accompany his wife or, perhaps, should Sir Marmaduke go alone? Lady Rowley had been very much in favour of meeting Mr Trevelyan without any one to assist her in the conference. As for Sir Marmaduke, no meeting could be concluded between him and his son-inlaw without a personal, and probably a violent quarrel. Of that Lady Rowley had been quite sure. Sir Marmaduke, since he had been home, had, in the midst of his various troubles, been driven into so vehement a state of indignation against his son-inlaw as to be unable to speak of the wretched man without strongest terms of opprobrium. Nothing was too bad to be said by him of one who had ill-treated his dearest daughter. It must be admitted that Sir Marmaduke had heard only one side of the question. He had questioned his daughter, and had constantly seen his old friend Osborne. The colonel’s journey down to Devonshire had been made to appear the most natural proceeding in the world. The correspondence of which Trevelyan thought so much had been shown to consist of such notes as might pass between any old gentleman and any young woman. The promise which Trevelyan had endeavoured to exact, and which Mrs Trevelyan had declined to give, appeared to the angry father to be a monstrous insult. He knew that the colonel was an older man than himself, and his Emily was still to him only a young girl. It was incredible to him that anybody should have regarded his old comrade as his daughter’s lover. He did not believe that anybody had, in truth, so regarded the man. The tale had been a monstrous invention on the part of the husband, got up because he had become tired of his young wife. According to Sir Marmaduke’s way of thinking, Trevelyan should either be thrashed within an inch of his life, or else locked up in a mad-house. Colonel Osborne shook his head, and expressed a conviction that the poor man was mad.

But Lady Rowley was more hopeful. Though she was as confident about her daughter as was the father, she was less confident about the old friend. She, probably, was alive to the fact that a man of fifty might put on the airs and assume the character of a young lover; and acting on that suspicion, entertaining also some hope that bad as matters now were they might be mended, she had taken care that Colonel Osborne and Mrs Trevelyan should not be brought together. Sir Marmaduke had fumed, but Lady Rowley had been firm. ‘If you think so, mamma,’ Mrs Trevelyan had said, with something of scorn in her tone ‘of course let it be so.’ Lady Rowley had said that it would be better so; and the two had not seen each other since the memorable visit to Nuncombe Putney. And now Lady Rowley was about to meet her son-in law with some slight hope that she might arrange affairs. She was quite aware that present indignation, though certainly a gratification, might be indulged in at much too great a cost. It would be better for all reasons that Emily should go back to her husband and her home, and that Trevelyan should be forgiven for his iniquities.

Bozzle was at the tavern during the interview, but he was not seen by Lady Rowley. He remained seated downstairs, in one of the dingy corners, ready to give assistance to his patron should assistance be needed. When Lady Rowley was shown into the gloomy sitting-room by the old waiter, she found Trevelyan alone, standing in the middle of the room, and waiting for her. ‘This is a sad occasion,’ he said, as he advanced to give her his hand.

‘A very sad occasion, Louis.’

‘I do not know what you may have heard of what has occurred, Lady Rowley. It is natural, however, to suppose that you must have heard me spoken of with censure.’

‘I think my child has been ill used, Louis,’ she replied.

‘Of course you do. I could not expect that it should be otherwise. When it was arranged that I should meet you here, I was quite aware that you would have taken the side against me before you had heard my story. It is I that have been ill used — cruelly misused; but I do not expect that you should believe me. I do not wish you to do. I would not for worlds separate the mother from her daughter.’

‘But why have you separated your own wife from her child?’

‘Because it was my duty. What! Is a father not to have the charge of his own son. I have done nothing, Lady Rowley, to justify a separation which is contrary to the laws of nature.’

‘Where is the boy, Louis?’

‘Ah that is just what I am not prepared to tell any one who has taken my wife’s side till I know that my wife has consented to pay to me that obedience which I, as her husband, have a right to demand. If Emily will do as I request of her, as I command her,’ as Trevelyan said this, he spoke in a tone which was intended to give the highest possible idea of his own authority and dignity, ‘then she may see her child without delay.’

‘What is it you request of my daughter?’

‘Obedience, simply that. Submission to my will, which is surely a wife’s duty. Let her beg my pardon for what has occurred.’

‘She cannot do that, Louis.’

‘And solemnly promise me,’ continued Trevelyan, not deigning to notice Lady Rowley’s interruption, ‘that she will hold no further intercourse with that snake in the grass who wormed his way into my house; let her be humble, and penitent, and affectionate, and then she shall be restored to her husband and to her child.’ He said this walking up and down the room, and waving his hand, as though he were making a speech that was intended to be eloquent, as though he had conceived that he was to overcome his mother-inlaw by the weight of his words and the magnificence of his demeanour. And yet his demeanour was ridiculous, and his words would have had no weight had they not tended to show Lady Rowley how little prospect there was that she should be able to heal this breach. He himself, too, was so altered in appearance since she had last seen him, bright with the hopes of his young married happiness, that she would hardly have recognised him had she met him in the street. He was thin, and pale, and haggard, and mean. And as he stalked up and down the room, it seemed to her that the very character of the man was changed. She had not previously known him to be pompous, unreasonable, and absurd. She did not answer him at once, as she perceived that he had not finished his address and, after a moment’s pause, he continued. ‘Lady Rowley, there is nothing I would not have done for your daughter, for my wife. All that I had was hers. I did not dictate to her any mode of life; I required from her no sacrifices; I subjected her to no caprices; but I was determined to be master in my own house.’

‘I do not think, Louis, that she has ever denied your right to be master.’

‘To be master in my own house, and to be paramount in my influence over her. So much I had a right to demand.’

‘Who has denied your right?’

‘She has submitted herself to the counsels and to the influences of a man who has endeavoured to undermine me in her affection. In saying that I make my accusation as light against her as is possible. I might make it much heavier, and yet not sin against the truth.’

‘This is an illusion, Louis.’

‘Ah well. No doubt it becomes you to defend your child. Was it an illusion when he went to Devonshire? Was it an illusion when he corresponded with her contrary to my express orders both before and after that unhallowed journey? Lady Rowley, there must be no more such illusions. If my wife means to come back to me, and to have her child in her own hands, she must be penitent as regards the past, and obedient as regards the future.’

There was a wicked bitterness in that word penitent which almost maddened Lady Rowley. She had come to this meeting believing that Trevelyan would be rejoiced to take back his wife, if details could be arranged for his doing so which should not subject him to the necessity of crying, peccavi; but she found him speaking of his wife as though he would be doing her the greatest possible favour in allowing her to come back to him dressed in sackcloth, and with ashes on her head. She could understand from what she had heard that his tone and manner were much changed since he obtained possession of the child, and that he now conceived that he had his wife within his power. That he should become a tyrant because he had the power to tyrannise was not in accordance with her former conception of the man’s character, but then he was so changed, that she felt that she knew nothing of the man who now stood before her. ‘I cannot acknowledge that my daughter has done anything that requires penitence,’ said Lady Rowley.

‘I dare say not, but my view is different.’

‘She cannot admit herself to be wrong when she knows herself to be right. You would not have her confess to a fault, the very idea of which has always been abhorrent to her?’

‘She must be crushed in spirit, Lady Rowley, before she can again become a pure and happy woman.’

‘This is more than I can bear,’ said Lady Rowley, now, at last, worked up to a fever of indignation. ‘My daughter, sir, is as pure a woman as you have ever known, or are likely to know. You, who should have protected her against the world, will some day take blame to yourself as you remember that you have so cruelly maligned her.’ Then she walked away to the door, and would not listen to the words which he was hurling after her. She went down the stairs, and out of the house, and at the end of Poulter’s Alley found the cab which was waiting for her.

Trevelyan, as soon as he was alone, rang the bell, and sent for Bozzle. And while the waiter was coming to him, and until his myrmidon had appeared, he continued to stalk up and down the room, waving his hand in the air as though he were continuing his speech. ‘Bozzle,’ said he, as soon as the man had closed the door, ‘I have changed my mind.’

‘As how, Mr Trewillian?’

‘I shall make no further attempt. I have done all that man can do, and have done it in vain. Her father and mother uphold her in her conduct, and she is lost to me for ever.’

‘But the boy, Mr T.?’

‘I have my child. Yes I have my child. Poor infant. Bozzle, I look to you to see that none of them learn our retreat.’

‘As for that, Mr Trewillian, why, facts is to be come at by one party pretty well as much as by another. Now, suppose the things was changed, wicey warsey, and as I was hacting for the Colonel’s party.’

‘D the Colonel!’ exclaimed Trevelyan.

‘Just so, Mr Trewillian; but if I was hacting for the other party, and they said to me, “Bozzle where’s the boy?” why, in three days I’d be down on the facts. Facts is open, Mr Trewillian, if you knows where to look for them.’

‘I shall take him abroad at once.’

‘Think twice of it, Mr T. The boy is so young, you see, and a mother’s ‘art is softer and lovinger than anything. I’d think twice of it, Mr T., before I kept ’em apart.’ This was a line of thought which Mr Bozzle’s conscience had not forced him to entertain to the prejudice of his professional arrangements; but now, as he conversed with his employer, and became by degrees aware of the failure of Trevelyan’s mind, some shade of remorse came upon him, and made him say a word on behalf of the ‘other party.’

‘Am I not always thinking of it? What else have they left me to think of? That will do for today. You had better come down to me tomorrow afternoon.’ Bozzle promised obedience to these instructions, and as soon as his patron had started he paid the bill, and took himself home.

Lady Rowley, as she travelled back to her house in Manchester Street, almost made up her mind that the separation between her daughter and her son-inlaw had better be continued. It was a very sad conclusion to which to come, but she could not believe that any high-spirited woman could long continue to submit herself to the caprices of a man so unreasonable and dictatorial as he to whom she had just been listening. Were it not for the boy, there would, she felt, be no doubt upon the matter. And now, as matters stood, she thought that it should be their great object to regain possession of the child. Then she endeavoured to calculate what would be the result to her daughter, if in very truth it should be found that the wretched man was mad. To hope for such a result seemed to her to be very wicked and yet she hardly knew how not to hope for it.

‘Well, mamma,’ said Emily Trevelyan, with a faint attempt at a smile, ‘you saw him?’

‘Yes, dearest, I saw him. I can only say that he is a most unreasonable man.’

‘And he would tell you nothing of Louey?’

‘No dear not a word.’

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