He Knew He Was Right, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter LXIX

Sir Marmaduke at Willesden

On the next day Sir Marmaduke purposed going to Willesden. He was in great doubt whether or no he would first consult that very eminent man Dr Trite Turbury, as to the possibility, and if possible as to the expediency, of placing Mr Trevelyan under some control. But Sir Marmaduke, though he would repeatedly declare that his son-inlaw was mad, did not really believe in this madness. He did not, that is, believe that Trevelyan was so mad as to be fairly exempt from the penalties of responsibility; and he was therefore desirous of speaking his own mind out fully to the man, and, as it were, of having his own personal revenge, before he might be deterred by the interposition of medical advice. He resolved therefore that he would not see Sir Trite Turbury, at any rate till he had come back from Willesden. He also went down in a cab, but he left the cab at the public-house at the corner of the road, and walked to the cottage.

When he asked whether Mr Trevelyan was at home, the woman of the house hesitated and then said that her lodger was out. ‘I particularly wish to see him,’ said Sir Marmaduke, feeling that the woman was lying to him. ‘But he ain’t to be seen, sir,’ said the woman. ‘I know he is at home,’ said Sir Marmaduke. But the argument was soon cut short by the appearance of Trevelyan behind the woman’s shoulder.

‘I am here, Sir Marmaduke Rowley,’ said Trevelyan. ‘If you wish to see me you may come in. I will not say that you are welcome, but you can come in.’ Then the woman retired, and Sir Marmaduke followed Trevelyan into the room in which Lady Rowley and Emily had been received; but the child was not now in the chamber.

‘What are these charges that I hear against my daughter?’ said Sir Marmaduke, rushing at once into the midst of his indignation.

‘I do not know what charges you have heard.’

‘You have put her away.’

‘In strict accuracy that is not correct, Sir Marmaduke.’

‘But she is put away. She is in my house now because you have no house of your own for her. Is not that so? And when I came home she was staying with her uncle, because you had put her away. And what was the meaning of her being sent down into Devonshire? What has she done? I am her father, and I expect to have an answer.’

‘You shall have an answer, certainly.’

‘And a true one. I will have no hocus-pocus, no humbug, no Jesuitry.’

‘Have you come here to insult me, Sir Marmaduke? Because, if so, there shall be an end to this interview at once.’

‘There shall not be an end — by G — no, not till I have heard what is the meaning of all this. Do you know what people are saying of you: that you are mad, and that you must be locked up, and your child taken away from you, and your property?’

‘Who are the people that say so? Yourself and, perhaps, Lady Rowley? Does my wife say so? Does she think that I am mad? She did not think so on Thursday, when she prayed that she might be allowed to come back and live with me.’

‘And you would not let her come?’

‘Pardon me,’ said Trevelyan. ‘I would wish that she should, come but it must be on certain conditions.’

‘What I want to know is why she was turned out of your house?’

‘She was not turned out.’

‘What has she done that she should be punished?’ urged Sir Marmaduke, who was unable to arrange his questions with the happiness which had distinguished Major Magruder. ‘I insist upon knowing what it is that you lay to her charge. I am her father, and I have a right to know. She has been barbarously, shamefully ill-used, and by G I will know.’

‘You have come here to bully me, Sir Marmaduke Rowley.’

‘I have come here, sir, to do the duty of a parent to his child; to protect my poor girl against the cruelty of a husband who in an unfortunate hour was allowed to take her from her home. I will know the reason why my daughter has been treated as though — as though — as though —’

‘Listen to me for a minute,’ said Trevelyan.

‘I am listening.’

‘I will tell you nothing; I will answer you not a word.’

‘You will not answer me?’

‘Not when you come to me in this fashion. My wife is my wife, and my claim to her is nearer and closer than is yours, who are her father. She is the mother of my child, and the only being in the world except that child whom I love. Do you think that with such motives on my part for tenderness towards her, for loving care, for the most anxious solicitude, that I can be made more anxious, more tender, more loving by coarse epithets from you? I am the most miserable being under the sun because our happiness has been interrupted, and is it likely that such misery should be cured by violent words and gestures? If your heart is wrung for her, so is mine. If she be much to you, she is more to me. She came here the other day, almost as a stranger, and I thought that my heart would have burst beneath its weight of woe. What can you do that can add an ounce to the burden that I bear? You may as well leave me or at least be quiet.’

Sir Marmaduke had stood and listened to him, and he, too, was so struck by the altered appearance of the man that the violence of his indignation was lessened by the pity which he could not suppress. When Trevelyan spoke of his wretchedness, it was impossible not to believe him. He was as wretched a being to look at as it might have been possible to find. His contracted cheeks, and lips always open, and eyes glowing in their sunken caverns, told a tale which even Sir Marmaduke, who was not of nature quick in deciphering such stories, could not fail to read. And then the twitching action of the man’s hands, and the restless shuffling of his feet, produced a nervous feeling that if some remedy were not applied quickly, some alleviation given to the misery of the suffering wretch, human power would be strained too far, and the man would break to pieces or else the mind of the man. Sir Marmaduke, during his journey in the cab, had resolved that, old as he was, he would, take this sinner by the throat, this brute who had striven to stain his daughter’s name — and would make him there and then acknowledge his own brutality. But it was now very manifest to Sir Marmaduke that there could be no taking by the throat in this case. He could not have brought himself to touch the poor, weak, passionate creature before him. Indeed, even the fury of his words was stayed, and after that last appeal he stormed no more. ‘But what is to be the end of it?’ he said.

‘Who can tell? Who can say? She can tell. She can put an end to it all. She has but to say a word, and I will devote my life to her. But that word must be spoken.’ As he said this, he dashed his hand upon the table, and looked up with an air that would have been comic with its assumed magnificence had it not been for the true tragedy of the occasion.

‘You had better, at any rate, let her have her child for the present.’

‘No, my boy shall go with me. She may go, too, if she pleases, but my boy shall certainly go with me. If I had put her from me, as you said just now, it might have been otherwise. But she shall be as welcome to me as flowers in May, as flowers in May! She shall be as welcome to me as the music of heaven.’

Sir Marmaduke felt that he had nothing more to urge. He had altogether abandoned that idea of having his revenge at the cost of the man’s throat, and was quite convinced that reason could have no power with him. He was already thinking that he would go away, straight to his lawyer, so that some step might be taken at once to stop, if possible, the taking away of the boy to America, when the lock of the door was gently turned, and the landlady entered the room.

‘You will excuse me, sir,’ said the woman, ‘but if you be anything to this gentleman —’

‘Mrs Fuller, leave the room,’ said Trevelyan. ‘I and the gentleman are engaged.’

‘I see you be engaged, and I do beg pardon. I ain’t one as would intrude wilful, and, as for listening, or the likes of that, I scorn it. But if this gentleman be anything to you, Mr Trevelyan —’

‘I am his wife’s father,’ said Sir Marmaduke.

‘Like enough. I was thinking perhaps so. His lady was down here on Thursday, as sweet a lady as any gentleman need wish to stretch by his side.’

‘Mrs Fuller,’ said Trevelyan, marching up towards her, ‘I will not have this, and I desire that you will retire from my room.’

But Mrs Fuller escaped round the table, and would not be banished. She got round the table, and came closely opposite to Sir Marmaduke. ‘I don’t want to say nothing out of my place, sir,’ said she, ‘but something ought to be done. He ain’t fit to be left to hisself, not alone, not as he is at present. He ain’t, indeed, and I wouldn’t be doing my duty if I didn’t say so. He has them sweats at night as’d be enough to kill any man; and he eats nothing, and he don’t do nothing; and as for that poor little boy as is now in my own bed upstairs, if it wasn’t that I and my Bessy is fond of children, I don’t know what would become of that boy.’

Trevelyan, finding it impossible to get rid of her, had stood quietly, while he listened to her.‘she has been good to my child,’ he said. ‘I acknowledge it. As for myself, I have not been well. It is true. But I am told that travel will set me on my feet again. Change of air will do it.’ Not long since he had been urging the wretchedness of his own bodily health as a reason why his wife should yield to him; but now, when his sickness was brought as a charge against him, was adduced as a reason why his friends should interfere, and look after him and concern themselves in his affairs, he saw at once that it was necessary that he should make little of his ailments.

‘Would it not be best, Trevelyan, that you should come with me to a doctor?’ said Sir Marmaduke.

‘No no. I have my own doctor. That is, know the course which I should follow. This place, though it is good for the boy, has disagreed with me, and my life has not been altogether pleasant — I may say, by no means pleasant. Troubles have told upon me, but change of air will mend it all.’

‘I wish you would come with me, at once, to London. You shall come back, you know. I will not detain you.’

‘Thank you no. I will not trouble you’. That will do, Mrs Fuller. You have intended to do your duty, no doubt, and now you can go.’ Whereupon Mrs Fuller did go. ‘I am obliged for your care, Sir Marmaduke, but I can really do very well without troubling you.’

‘You cannot suppose, Trevelyan, that we can allow things to go on like this.’

‘And what do you mean to do?’

‘Well I shall take advice. I shall go to a lawyer and to a doctor, and perhaps to the Lord Chancellor, and all that kind of thing. We can’t let things go on like this.’

‘You can do as you please,’ said Trevelyan, ‘but as you have threatened me, I must ask you to leave me.’

Sir Marmaduke could do no more, and could say no more, and he took his leave, shaking hands with the man, and speaking to him with a courtesy which astonished himself. It was impossible to maintain the strength of his indignation against a poor creature who was so manifestly unable to guide himself. But when he was in London he drove at once to the house of Dr Trite Turbury, and remained there till the doctor returned from his round of visits. According to the great authority, there was much still to be done before even the child could be rescued out of the father’s hands. ‘I can’t act without the lawyers,’ said Dr Turbury. But he explained to Sir Marmaduke what steps should be taken in such a matter.

Trevelyan, in the mean time, clearly understanding that hostile measures would now be taken against him, set his mind to work to think how best he might escape at once to America with his boy.’

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