He Knew He Was Right, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XCIII

‘Say that You Forgive Me’

On the following day, again early in the morning, Mrs Trevelyan and Stanbury were driven out to Casalunga. The country people along the road knew the carriage well, and the lady who occupied it, and would say that the English wife was going to see her mad husband. Mrs Trevelyan knew that these words were common in the people’s mouths, and explained to her companion how necessary it would be to use these rumours, to aid her in putting some restraint over her husband even in this country, should they fail in their effort to take him to England. She saw the doctor in Siena constantly, and had learned from him how such steps might be taken. The measure proposed would be slow, difficult, inefficient, and very hard to set aside, if once taken, but still it might be indispensable that something should be done. ‘He would be so much worse off here than he would be at home,’ she said, ‘if we could only make him understand that it would be so.’ Then Stanbury asked about the wine. It seemed that of late Trevelyan had taken to drink freely, but only of the wine of the country. But the wine of the country in these parts is sufficiently stimulating, and Mrs Trevelyan acknowledged that hence had arisen a further cause of fear.

They walked up the hill together, and Mrs Trevelyan, now well knowing the ways of the place, went round at once to the front terrace. There he was, seated in his arm-chair, dressed in the same way as yesterday, dirty, dishevelled, and gaudy with various colours; but Stanbury could see at once that his mood had greatly changed. He rose slowly, dragging himself up out of his chair, as they came up to him, but shewing as he did so, and perhaps somewhat assuming, the impotency of querulous sickness. His wife went to him, and took him by the hand, and placed him back in his chair. He was weak, he said, and had not slept, and suffered from the heat; and then he begged her to give him wine. This she did, half filling for him a tumbler, of which he swallowed the contents greedily. ‘You see me very poorly, Stanbury, very poorly,’ he said, seeming to ignore all that had taken place on the previous day.

‘You want change of climate, old fellow,’ said Stanbury.

‘Change of everything; I want change of everything,’ he said. ‘If I could have a new body and a new mind, and a new soul!’

‘The mind and soul, dear, will do well enough, if you will let us look after the body,’ said his wife, seating herself on a stool near his feet. Stanbury, who had settled beforehand how he would conduct himself, took out a cigar and lighted it and then they sat together silent, or nearly silent, for half an hour. She had said that if Hugh would do so, Trevelyan would soon become used to the presence of his old friend, and it seemed that he had already done so. More than once, when he coughed, his wife fetched him some drink in a cup, which he took from her without a word. And Stanbury the while went on smoking in silence.

‘You have heard, Louis,’ she said at last, ‘that, after all, Nora and Mr Stanbury are going to be married?’

‘Ah yes; I think I was told of it. I hope you may be happy, Stanbury, happier than I have been.’ This was unfortunate, but neither of the visitors winced, or said a word.

‘It will be a pity that papa and mamma cannot be present at the wedding,’ said Mrs Trevelyan.

‘If I had to do it again, I should not regret your father’s absence; I must say that. He has been my enemy. Yes, Stanbury, my enemy. I don’t care who hears me say so. I am obliged to stay here, because that man would swear every shilling I have away from me if I were in England. He would strive to do so, and the struggle in my state of health would be too much for me.’

‘But Sir Marmaduke sails from Southampton this very week,’ said Stanbury.

‘I don’t know. He is always sailing, and always coming back again. I never asked him for a shilling in my life, and yet he has treated me as though I were his bitterest enemy.’

‘He will trouble you no more now, Louis,’ said Mrs Trevelyan.

‘He cannot trouble you again. He will have left England before you can possibly reach it.’

‘He will have left other traitors behind him, though none as bad as himself,’ said Trevelyan.

Stanbury, when his cigar was finished, rose and left the husband and wife together on the terrace. There was little enough to be seen at Casalunga, but he strolled about looking at the place. He went into the huge granary, and then down among the olive trees, and up into the sheds which had been built for beasts. He stood and teased the lizards, and listened to the hum of the insects, and wiping away the perspiration which rose to his brow even as he was standing. And all the while he was thinking what he would do next, or what say next, with the view of getting Trevelyan away from the place. Hitherto he had been very tender with him, contradicting him in nothing, taking from him good humouredly any absurd insult which he chose to offer, pressing upon him none of the evil which he had himself occasioned, saying to him no word that could hurt either his pride or his comfort. But he could not see that this would be efficacious for the purpose desired. He had come thither to help Nora’s sister in her terrible distress, and he must take upon himself to make some plan for giving this aid. When he had thought of all this and made his plan, he sauntered back round the house on to the terrace. She was still there, sitting at her husband’s feet, and holding one of his hands in hers. It was well that the wife should be tender, but he doubted whether tenderness would suffice.

‘Trevelyan,’ he said, ‘you know why I have come over here?’

‘I suppose she told you to come,’ said Trevelyan.

‘Well; yes; she did tell me. I came to try and get you back to England. If you remain here, the climate and solitude together will kill you.’

‘As for the climate, I like it, and as for the solitude, I have got used even to that.’

‘And then there is another thing,’ said Stanbury.

‘What is that?’ asked Trevelyan, starting.

‘You are not safe here.’

‘How not safe?’

‘She could not tell you, but I must.’ His wife was still holding his hand, and he did not at once attempt to withdraw it; but he raised himself in his chair, and fixed his eyes fiercely on Stanbury. ‘They will not let you remain here quietly,’ said Stanbury.

‘Who will not?’

‘The Italians. They are already saying that you are not fit to be alone; and if once they get you into their hands under some Italian medical board, perhaps into some Italian asylum, it might be years before you could get out, if ever. I have come to tell you what the danger is. I do not know whether you will believe me.’

‘Is it so?’ he said, turning to his wife.

‘I believe it is, Louis.’

‘And who has told them? Who has been putting them up to it?’ Now his hand had been withdrawn. ‘My God, am I to be followed here too with such persecution as this?’

‘Nobody has told them, but people have eyes.’

‘Liar, traitor, fiend! it is you!’ he said, turning upon his wife.

‘Louis, as I hope for mercy, I have said not a word to any one that could injure you.’

‘Trevelyan, do not be so unjust, and so foolish,’ said Stanbury. ‘It is not her doing. Do you suppose that you can live here like this and give rise to no remarks? Do you think that people’s eyes are not open, and that their tongues will not speak? I tell you, you are in danger here.’

‘What am I to do? Where am I to go? Can not they let me stay till I die? Whom am I hurting here? She may have all my money, if she wants it. She has got my child.’

‘I want nothing, Louis, but to take you where you may be safe and well.’

‘Why are you afraid of going to England?’ Stanbury asked.

‘Because they have threatened to put me in a mad-house.’

‘Nobody ever thought of so treating you,’ said his wife.

‘Your father did and your mother. They told me so.’

‘Look here, Trevelyan. Sir Marmaduke and Lady Rowley are gone. They will have sailed, at least, before we can reach England. Whatever may have been either their wishes or their power, they can do nothing now. Here something would be done very soon; you may take my word for that. If you will return with me and your wife, you shall choose your own place of abode. Is not that so, Emily?’

‘He shall choose everything. His boy will be with him, and I will be with him, and he shall be contradicted in nothing. If he only knew my heart towards him!’

‘You hear what she says, Trevelyan?’

‘Yes; I hear her.’

‘And you believe her?’

‘I’m not so sure of that, Stanbury; how should you like to be locked up in a madhouse and grin through the bars till your heart was broken. It would not take long with me, I know.’

‘You shall never be locked up, never be touched,’ said his wife.

‘I am very harmless here,’ he said, almost crying; ‘very harmless. I do not think anybody here will touch me,’ he added afterwards. ‘And there are other places. There are other places. My God, that I should be driven about the world like this!’ The conference was ended by his saying that he would take two days to think of it, and by his then desiring that they would both leave him. They did so, and descended the hill together, knowing that he was watching them, that he would watch them till they were out of sight from the gate for, as Mrs Trevelyan said, he never came down the hill now, knowing that the labour of ascending it was too much for him. When they were at the carriage they were met by one of the women of the house, and strict injunctions were given to her by Mrs Trevelyan to send on word to Siena if the Signore should prepare to move. ‘He cannot go far without my knowing it,’ said she, ‘because he draws his money in Siena, and lately I have taken to him what he wants. He has not enough with him for a long journey.’ For Stanbury had suggested that he might be off to seek another residence in another country, and that they would find Casalunga vacant when they reached it on the following Tuesday. But he told himself almost immediately, not caring to express such an opinion to Emily, that Trevelyan would hardly have strength even to prepare for such a journey by himself.

On the intervening day, the Monday, Stanbury had no occupation whatever, and he thought that since he was born no day had ever been so long. Siena contains many monuments of interest, and much that is valuable in art, having had a school of painting of its own, and still retaining in its public gallery specimens of its school, of which as a city it is justly proud. There are palaces there to be beaten for gloomy majesty by none in Italy. There is a cathedral which was to have been the largest in the world, and than which few are more worthy of prolonged inspection. The town is old, and quaint, and picturesque, and dirty, and attractive, as it becomes a town in Italy to be. But in July all such charms are thrown away. In July Italy is not a land of charms to an Englishman. Poor Stanbury did wander into the cathedral, and finding it the coolest place in the town, went to sleep on a stone step. He was awoke by the voice of the priests as they began to chant the vespers. The good-natured Italians had let him sleep, and would have let him sleep till the doors were closed for the night. At five he dined with Mrs Trevelyan, and then endeavoured to while away the evening thinking of Nora with a pipe in his mouth. He was standing in this way at the hotel gateway, when, on a sudden, all Siena was made alive by the clatter of an open carriage and four on its way through the town to the railway. On looking up, Stanbury saw Lord Peterborough in the carriage with a lady whom he did not doubt to be Lord Peterborough’s wife. He himself had not been recognised, but he slowly followed the carriage to the railway station. After the Italian fashion, the arrival was three-quarters of an hour before the proper time, and Stanbury had full opportunity of learning their news and telling his own. They were coming up from Rome, and thought it preferable to take the route by Siena than to use the railway through the Maremma; and they intended to reach Florence that night.

‘And do you think he is really mad?’ asked Lady Peterborough.

‘He is undoubtedly so mad as to be unfit to manage anything for himself, but he is not in such a condition that any one would wish to see him put into confinement. If he were raving mad there would be less difficulty, though there might be more distress.’

A great deal was said about Nora, and both Lord Peterborough and his wife insisted that the marriage should take place at Monkhams. ‘We shall be home now in less than three weeks,’ said Caroline, ‘and she must come to us at once. But I will write to her from Florence, and tell her how we saw you smoking your pipe under the archway. Not that my husband knew you in the least.’

‘Upon my word no,’ said the husband, ‘one didn’t expect to find you here. Good-bye. I hope you may succeed in getting him home. I went to him once, but could do very little.’ Then the train started, and Stanbury went back to Mrs Trevelyan.

On the next day Stanbury went out to Casalunga alone. He had calculated, on leaving England, that if any good might be done at Siena it could be done in three days, and that he would have been able to start on his return on the Wednesday morning or on Wednesday evening at the latest. But now there did not seem to be any chance of that, and he hardly knew how to guess when he might get away. He had sent a telegram to Lady Rowley after his first visit, in which he had simply said that things were not at all changed at Casalunga, and he had written to Nora each day since his arrival. His stay was prolonged at great expense and inconvenience to himself; and yet it was impossible that he should go and leave his work half finished. As he walked up the hill to the house he felt very angry with Trevelyan, and prepared himself to use hard words and dreadful threats. But at the very moment of his entrance on the terrace, Trevelyan professed himself ready to go to England. ‘That’s right, old fellow,’ said Hugh. ‘I am so glad.’ But in expressing his joy he had hardly noticed Trevelyan’s voice and appearance.

‘I might as well go,’ he said. ‘It matters little where I am, or whether they say that I am mad or sane.’

‘When we have you over there, nobody shall say a word that is disagreeable.’

‘I only hope that you may not have the trouble of burying me on the road. You don’t know, Stanbury, how ill I am. I cannot eat. If I were at the bottom of that hill, I could no more walk up it than I could fly. I cannot sleep, and at night my bed is wet through with perspiration. I can remember nothing nothing but what I ought to forget.’

‘We’ll put you on your legs again when we get you to your own climate.’

‘I shall be a poor traveller a poor traveller; but I will do my best.’

When would he start? That was the next question. Trevelyan asked for a week, and Stanbury brought him down at last to three days. They would go to Florence by the evening train on Friday, and sleep there. Emily should come out and assist him to arrange his things on the morrow. Having finished so much of his business, Stanbury returned to Siena. They both feared that he might be found on the next day to have departed from his intention; but no such idea seemed to have occurred to him. He gave instructions as to the notice to be served on the agent from the Hospital as to his house, and allowed Emily to go among his things and make preparations for the journey. He did not say much to her; and when she attempted, with a soft half-uttered word, to assure him that the threat of Italian interference, which had come from Stanbury, had not reached Stanbury from her, he simply shook his head sadly. She could not understand whether he did not believe her, or whether he simply wished that the subject should be dropped. She could elicit no sign of affection from him, nor would he willingly accept such from her, but he allowed her to prepare for the journey, and never hinted that his purpose might again be liable to change. On the Friday, Emily with her child, and Hugh with all their baggage, travelled out on the road to Casalunga, thinking it better that there should be no halt in the town on their return. At Casalunga, Hugh went up the hill with the driver, leaving Mrs Trevelyan in the carriage. He had been out at the house before in the morning, and had given all necessary orders, but still at the last moment he thought that there might be failure. But Trevelyan was ready, having dressed himself up with a laced shirt, and changed his dressing-gown for a blue frock-coat, and his brocaded cap for a Paris hat, very pointed before and behind, and closely turned up at the sides. But Stanbury did not in the least care for his friend’s dress. ‘Take my arm,’ he said, ‘and we will go down, fair and easy. Emily would not come up because of the heat.’ He suffered himself to be led, or almost carried down the hill; and three women, and the coachman, and an old countryman who worked on the farm, followed with the luggage. It took about an hour and a half to pack the things; but at last they were all packed, and corded, and bound together with sticks, as though it were intended that they should travel in that form to Moscow. Trevelyan the meanwhile sat on a chair which had been brought out for him from one of the cottages, and his wife stood beside him with her boy. ‘Now then we are ready,’ said Stanbury. And in that way they bade farewell to Casalunga. Trevelyan sat speechless in the carriage, and would not even notice the child. He seemed to be half dreaming and to fix his eyes on vacancy. ‘He appears to think of nothing now,’ Emily said that evening to Stanbury. But who can tell how busy and how troubled are the thoughts of a madman!

They had now succeeded in their object of inducing their patient to return with them to England; but what were they to do with him when they had reached home with him? They rested only a night at Florence; but they found their fellow-traveller so weary, that they were unable to get beyond Bologna on the second day. Many questions were asked of him as to where he himself would wish to take up his residence in England; but it was found almost impossible to get an answer. Once he suggested that he would like to go back to Mrs Fuller’s cottage at Willesden, from whence they concluded that he would wish to live somewhere out of London. On his first day’s journey he was moody and silent, wilfully assuming the airs of a much-injured person. He spoke hardly at all, and would notice nothing that was said to him by his wife. He declared once that he regarded Stanbury as his keeper, and endeavoured to be disagreeable and sullenly combative; but on the second day, he was too weak for this, and accepted, without remonstrance, the attentions that were paid to him. At Bologna they rested a day, and from thence both Stanbury and Mrs Trevelyan wrote to Nora. They did not know where she might be now staying, but the letters, by agreement, were addressed to Gregg’s Hotel. It was suggested that lodgings, or, if possible, a small furnished house, should be taken in the neighbourhood of Mortlake, Richmond, or Teddington, and that a telegram as well as letter should be sent to them at the Paris hotel. As they could not travel quick, there might be time enough for them in this way to know whither they should go on their reaching London.

They stayed a day at Bologna, and then they went on again to Turin, over the mountains to Chambery, thence to Dijon, and on to Paris. At Chambery they remained a couple of days, fancying that the air there was cool, and that the delay would be salutary to the sick man. At Turin, finding that they wanted further assistance, they had hired a courier, and at last Trevelyan allowed himself to be carried in and out of the carriages and up and down the hotel stairs almost as though he were a child. The delay was terribly grievous to Stanbury, and Mrs Trevelyan, perceiving this more than once, begged him to leave them, and to allow her to finish the journey with the aid of the courier. But this he could not do. He wrote letters to his friends at the D. R. office, explaining his position as well as he could, and suggesting that this and that able assistant should enlighten the British people on this and that subject, which would in the course of nature, as arranged at the D. R. office, have fallen into his hands. He and Mrs Trevelyan became as brother and sister to each other on their way home as, indeed, it was natural that they should do. Were they doing right or wrong in this journey that they were taking? They could not conceal from themselves that the labour was almost more than the poor wretch could endure; and that it might be, as he himself had suggested, that they would be called on to bury him on the road. But that residence at Casalunga had been so terrible, the circumstances of it, including the solitude, sickness, madness, and habits of life of the wretched hermit, had been so dangerous, the probability of interference on the part of some native authority so great, and the chance of the house being left in Trevelyan’s possession so small, that it had seemed to him that they had no other alternative; and yet, how would it be if they were killing him by the toil of travelling? From Chambery, they made the journey to Paris in two days, and during that time Trevelyan hardly opened his mouth. He slept much, and ate better than he had done in the hotter climate on the other side of the Alps.

They found a telegram at Paris, which simply contained the promise of a letter for the next day. It had been sent by Nora, before she had gone out on her search. But it contained one morsel of strange information; ‘Lady Milborough is going with me.’ On the next day they got a letter, saying that a cottage had been taken, furnished, between Richmond and Twickenham. Lady Milborough had known of the cottage, and everything would be ready then. Nora would herself meet them at the station in London, if they would, as she proposed, stay a night at Dover. They were to address to her at Lady Milborough’s house, in Eccleston Square. In that case, she would have a carriage for them at the Victoria Station, and would go down with them at once to the cottage.

There were to be two days more of weary travelling, and then they were to be at home again. She and he would have a house together as husband and wife, and the curse of their separation would, at any rate, be over. Her mind towards him had changed altogether since the days in which she had been so indignant, because he had set a policeman to watch over her. All feeling of anger was over with her now. There is nothing that a woman will not forgive a man, when he is weaker than she is herself.

The journey was made first to Dover, and then to London. Once, as they were making their way through the Kentish hop-fields, he put out his hand feebly, and touched hers. They had the carriage to themselves, and she was down on her knees before him instantly. ‘Oh, Louis! Oh, Louis! say that you forgive me!’ What could a woman do more than that in her mercy to a man?

‘Yes yes; yes,’ he said; ‘but do not talk now; I am so tired.’

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