Rachel Ray, by Anthony Trollope

In which the Question of the Brewery is Settled

During the day or two immediately subsequent to the election, Mr Tappitt found himself to be rather downhearted. The excitement of the contest was over. He was no longer buoyed up by the consoling and almost triumphant assurances of success for himself against his enemy Rowan, which had been administered to him by those with whom he had been acting on behalf of Mr Hart. He was alone and thoughtful in his counting-house, or else subjected to the pressure of his wife’s arguments in his private dwelling. He had never yet been won over to say that he would agree to any proposition, but he knew that he must now form some decision. Rowan would not even wait till the lawsuit should be decided by legal means. If Mr Tappitt would not consent to one of the three propositions made to him, Rowan would at once commence the building of his new brewery. “He is that sort of man,” said Honyman, “that if he puts a brick down nothing in the world will prevent him from going on.”

“Of course it won’t,” said Mrs Tappitt. “Oh dear, oh dear, T.! if you go on in this way we shall all be ruined; and then people will say that it was my fault, and that I ought to have had you inquired into about your senses.”

Tappitt gnashed his teeth and rushed out of the dining-room back into his brewery. Among all those who were around him there was not one to befriend him. Even Worts had turned against him, and had received notice to go with a stern satisfaction which Tappitt had perfectly understood.

Tappitt was in this frame of mind, and was seated on his office stool, with his hat over his eyes, when he was informed by one of the boys about the place that a deputation from the town had come to wait upon him — so he pulled off his hat, and begged that the deputation might be shown into the counting-house. The deputation consisted of three tradesmen who were desirous of convening a meeting with the view of discussing the petition against Mr Cornbury’s return to Parliament, and they begged that Mr Tappitt would take the chair. The meeting was to be held at the Dragon, and it was proposed that after the meeting there should be a little dinner. Mr Tappitt would perhaps consent to take the chair at the dinner also. Mr Tappitt did consent to both propositions, and when the deputation withdrew, he felt himself to be himself once more. His courage had returned to him, and he would at once rebuke his wife for the impropriety of the words she had addressed to him. He would rebuke his wife, and would then proceed to meet Mr Sharpit the attorney, at the Dragon, and to take the chair at the meeting. It could not be that a young adventurer such as Rowan could put down an old-established firm, such as his own, or banish from the scene of his labours a man of such standing in the town as himself! It was all the fault of Honyman — of Honyman, who never was firm on any matter. When the meeting should be over he would say a word or two to Sharpit, and see if he could not put the matter into better training.

With a heavy tread, a tread that was intended to mark his determination, he ascended to the drawing-room, and from thence to the bedroom above in which Mrs Tappitt was then seated. She understood the meaning of the footfall, and knew well that it indicated a purpose of marital authority. A woman must have much less of natural wit than had fallen to Mrs Tappitt’s share, who has not learned from the experience of thirty years the meaning of such marital signs and sounds. So she sat herself firmly in her seat, caught hold of the petticoat which she was mending with a stout grasp, and prepared herself for the battle.

“Margaret,” said he, when he had carefully closed the door behind him, “I have come up to say that I do not intend to dine at home today.”

“Oh, indeed,” said she. “At the Dragon, I suppose then?”

“Yes; at the Dragon. I’ve been asked to take the chair at a popular meeting which is to be held with reference to the late election.”

“Take the chair!”

“Yes, my dear, take the chair at the meeting and at the dinner.”

“Now, T., don’t you make a fool of yourself.”

“No, I won’t; but, Margaret, I must tell you once for all that that is not the way in which I like you to speak to me. Why you should have so much less confidence in my judgement than other people in Baslehurst, I cannot conceive; but —”

“Now, T., look here; as for your taking the chair as you call it, of course you can do it if you like it.”

“Of course I can — and I do like it, and I mean to do it. Put it isn’t only about that I’ve come to speak to you. You said something to me today, before Honyman, that was very improper.”

“What I say always is improper, I know.”

“I don’t suppose you could have intended to insinuate that you thought that I was a lunatic.”

“I didn’t say so.”

“You said something like it.”

“No, I didn’t, T.”

“Yes you did, Margaret.”

“If you’ll allow me for a moment, T., I’ll tell you what I did say, and if you wish it, I’ll say it again.”

“No; I’d rather not hear it said again.”

“But, T., I don’t choose to be misunderstood, nor yet misrepresented.”

“I haven’t misrepresented you.”

“But I say you have misrepresented me. If I ain’t allowed to speak a word, of course it isn’t any use for me to open my mouth. I hope I know what my duty is and I hope I’ve done it — both by you, T., and by the children. I know I’m bound to submit, and I hope I have submitted. Very hard it has been sometimes when I’ve seen things going as they have gone; but I’ve remembered my duty as a wife, and I’ve held my tongue when any other woman in England would have spoken out. But there are some things which a woman can’t stand and shouldn’t; and if I’m to see my girls ruined and left without a roof over their heads, or a bit to eat, or a thing to wear, it shan’t be for want of a word from me.”

“Didn’t they always have plenty to eat?”

“But where is it to come from if you’re going to rush open-mouthed into the lion’s jaws in this way? I’ve done my duty by you, T., and no man nor yet no woman can say anything to the contrary. And if it was myself only I’d see myself on the brink of starvation before I’d say a word; but I can’t see those poor girls brought to beggary without telling you what everybody in Baslehurst is talking about; and I can’t see you, T., behaving in such a way and sit by and hold my tongue.”

“Behave in what way? Haven’t I worked like a horse? Do you mean to tell me that I am to give up my business, and my position, and everything I have in the world, and go away because a young scoundrel comes to Baslehurst and tells me that he wants to have my brewery? I tell you what, Margaret, if you think I’m that sort of man, you don’t know me yet.”

“I don’t know about knowing you, T.”

“No; you don’t know me.”

“If you come to that, I know very well that I have been deceived. I didn’t want to speak of it, but now I must. I have been made to believe for these last twenty years that the brewery was all your own, whereas it now turns out that you’ve only got a share in it, and for aught I can see, by no means the best share. Why wasn’t I told all that before?”

“Woman!” shouted Mr Tappitt.

“Yes; woman indeed! I suppose I am a woman, and therefore I’m to have no voice in anything. Will you answer me one question, if you please? Are you going to that man, Sharpit?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Then, Mr Tappitt, I shall consult my brothers.” Mrs Tappitt’s brothers were grocers in Plymouth; men whom Mr Tappitt had never loved. “They mayn’t hold their heads quite as high as you do — or rather as you used to do when people thought that the establishment was all your own; but such as it is nobody can turn them out of their shop in the Market Place. If you are going to Sharpit, I shall consult them.”

“You may consult the devil, if you like it.”

“Oh, oh! very well, Mr Tappitt. It’s clear enough that you’re not yourself any longer, and that somebody must take up your affairs and manage them for you. If you’ll follow my advice you’ll stay at home this evening and take a dose of physic and see Dr Haustus quietly in the morning.”

“I shall do nothing of the kind.”

“Very well. Of course I can’t make you. As yet you’re your own master. If you choose to go to this silly meeting and then to drink gin and water and to smoke bad tobacco till all hours at the Dragon, and you in the dangerous state you are at present, I can’t help it. I don’t suppose that anything I could do now, that is quite immediately, would enable me to put you under fitting restraint.”

“Put me where?” Then Mr Tappitt looked at his wife with a look that was intended to annihilate her, for the time being — seeing that no words that he could speak had any such effect — and he hurried out of the room without staying to wash his hands or brush his hair before he went off to preside at the meeting.

Mrs Tappitt remained where she was for about half an hour and then descended among her daughters.

“Isn’t papa going to dine at home? said Augusta.

“No, my dear; your papa is going to dine with some friends of Mr Hart’s, the candidate who was beaten.”

“And has he settled anything about the brewery?” Cherry asked.

“No; not as yet. Your papa is very much troubled about it, and I fear he is not very well. I suppose he must go to this electioneering dinner. When gentlemen take up that sort of thing, they must go on with it. And as they wish your father to preside over the petition, I suppose he can’t very well help himself.

“Is papa going to preside over the petition?” asked Augusta.

“Yes, my dear.”

“I hope it won’t cost him anything.” said Martha. “People say that those petitions do cost a great deal of money.”

“It’s a very anxious time for me, girls; of course, you must all of you see that. I’m sure when we had our party I didn’t think things were going to be as anxious as this, or I wouldn’t have had a penny spent in such a way as that. If your papa could bring himself to give up the brewery, everything would be well.”

“I do so wish he would,” said Cherry, “and let us all go and live at Torquay. I do so hate this nasty dirty old place.

“I shall never live in a house I like so well,” said Martha.

“The house is well enough, my dears, and so is the brewery: but it can’t be expected that your father should go on working for ever as he does at present. It’s too much for his strength — a great deal too much. I can see it, though I don’t suppose anyone else can. No one knows, only me, what your father has gone through in that brewery.”

“But why doesn’t he take Mr Rowan’s offer? said Cherry.

“Everybody seems to say now that Rowan is ever so rich,” said Augusta.

“I suppose papa doesn’t like the feeling of being turned out,” said Martha.

“He wouldn’t be turned out, my dear; not the least in the world,” said Mrs Tappitt. “I don’t choose to interfere much myself because, perhaps. I don’t understand it; but certainly I should like your papa to retire. I have told him so; but gentlemen sometimes don’t like to be told of things.”

Mrs Tappitt could be very severe to her husband, could say to him terrible words if her spirit were put up, as she herself was wont to say. But she understood that it did not become her to speak ill of their father before her girls. Nor would she willingly have been heard by the servants to scold their master. And though she said terrible things she said them with a conviction that they would not have any terrible effect. Tappitt would only take them for what they were worth, and would measure them by the standard which his old experience had taught him to adopt. When a man has been long consuming red pepper, it takes much red pepper to stimulate his palate. Had Mrs Tappitt merely advised her husband, in proper conjugal phraseology, to relinquish his trade and to retire to Torquay, her advice, she knew, would have had no weight. She was eager on the subject, feeling convinced that this plan of retirement was for the good of the family generally, and therefore she had advocated it with energy. There may be those who think that a wife goes too far in threatening a husband with a commission of lunacy, and frightening him with a prospect of various fatal diseases; but the dose must be adapted to the constitution, and the palate that is accustomed to large quantities of red pepper must have quantities larger than usual whenever some special culinary effect is to be achieved. On the present occasion Mrs Tappitt went on talking to the girls of their father in language that was quite eulogistic. No threat against the absent brewer passed her mouth — or theirs. But they all understood each other, and were agreed that everything was to be done to induce papa to accept Mr Rowan’s offer.

“Then”, said Cherry, “he’ll marry Rachel Ray, and she’ll be mistress of the brewery house.”

“Never!” said Mrs Tappitt, very solemnly. “Never! He’ll never be such a fool as that.”

“Never!” said Augusta. “Never!”

In the meantime the meeting went on at the Dragon. I can’t say that Mr Tappitt was on this occasion called upon to preside over the petition. He was simply invited to take the chair at a meeting of a dozen men at Baslehurst who were brought together by Mr Sharpit in order that they might be induced by him to recommend Mr Hart to employ him, Mr Sharpit, in getting up the petition in question; and in order that there might be some sufficient temptation to these twelve men to gather themselves together, the dinner at the Dragon was added to the meeting. Mr Tappitt took the chair in the big, uncarpeted, fusty room upstairs, in which masonic meetings were held once a month and in which the farmers of the neighbourhood dined once a week, on market days. He took the chair and some seven or eight of his townsmen clustered round him. The others had sent word that they would manage to come in time for the dinner. Mr Sharpit, before he put the brewer in his place of authority, prompted him as to what he was to do, and in the course of a quarter of an hour two resolutions, already prepared by Mr Sharpit, had been passed unanimously. Mr Hart was to be told by the assembled people of Baslehurst that he would certainly be seated by a scrutiny, and he was to be advised to commence his proceedings at once. These resolutions were duly committed to paper by one of Mr Sharpit’s clerks, and Mr Tappitt, before he sat down to dinner, signed a letter to Mr Hart on behalf of the electors of Baslehurst. When the work of the meeting was completed it still wanted half an hour to dinner, during which the nine electors of Baslehurst sauntered about the yard of the inn, looked into the stables, talked to the landlady at the bar, indulged themselves with gin and bitters, and found the time very heavy on their hands. They were nine decent-looking, middle-aged men, dressed in black not of the newest, in swallow-tailed coats and black trousers, with chimney-pot hats, and red faces; and as they pottered about the premises of the Dragon they seemed to be very little at their ease.

“What’s up, Jim?” said one of the postboys to the ostler.

“Sharpit’s got ’em all here to get some more money out of that ’ere Jew gent — that’s about the ticket,” said the ostler.

“He’s a clever un,” said the postboy.

At last the dinner was ready; and the total number of the party having now completed itself, the Liberal electors of Baslehurst prepared to enjoy themselves. No bargain had been made on the subject, but it was understood by them all that they would not be asked to pay for their dinner. Sharpit would see to that. He would probably know how to put it into his little bill; and if he failed in that the risk was his own.

But while the body of the Liberal electors was peeping into the stables and drinking gin and bitters, Mr Sharpit and Mr Tappitt were engaged in a private conference.

“If you come to me,” said Sharpit, “of course I must take it up. The etiquette of the profession don’t allow me to decline.”

“But why should you wish to decline?” said Tappitt, not altogether pleased by Mr Sharpit’s manner.

“Oh, by no means; no. It’s just the sort of work I like — not much to be made by it, but there’s injury to be redressed and justice to be done. Only you see poor Honyman hasn’t got much of a practice left to him, and I don’t want to take his bread out of his mouth.”

“But I’m not to be ruined because of that!”

“As I said before, if you bring the business to me I must take it up. I can’t help myself, if I would. And if I do take it up I’ll see you through it. Everybody who knows me knows that of me.”

“I suppose I shall find you at home about ten tomorrow?”

“Yes; I’ll be in my office at ten — only you should think it well over, you know, Mr Tappitt. I’ve nothing to say against Mr Honyman — not a word. You’ll remember that, if you please, if there should be anything about it afterwards. Ah! you’re wanted for the chair, Mr Tappitt. I’ll come and sit alongside of you, if you’ll allow me.”

The dinner itself was decidedly bad, and the company undoubtedly dull. I am inclined to think that every individual there would have dined more comfortably at home. A horrid mess concocted of old gravy, catsup, and bad wine was distributed under the name of soup. Then there came upon the table half a huge hake — the very worst fish that swims, a fish with which Devonshire is peculiarly infested. Some hard dark brown mysterious balls were handed round, which on being opened with a knife were found to contain sausage-meat, very greasy and by no means cooked through. Even the dura ilia of the Liberal electors of Baslehurst declined to make acquaintance with these dainties. After that came the dinner, consisting of a piece of roast beef very raw, and a leg of parboiled mutton, absolutely blue in its state of rawness. When the gory mess was seen which displayed itself on the first incision made into these lumps of meat, the vice-president and one or two of his friends spoke out aloud. That hard and greasy sausage-meat might have been all right for anything they knew to the contrary, and the soup they had swallowed without complaint. But they did know what should be the state of a joint of meat when brought to the table, and therefore they spoke out in their anger. Tappitt himself said nothing that was intended to be carried beyond the waiter, seeing that beer from his own brewery was consumed in the tap of the Dragon: but the vice-president was a hardware dealer with whom the Dragon had but small connection of trade, and he sent terrible messages down to the landlady, threatening her with the Blue Boar, the Mitre, and even with that nasty little pot-house the Chequers. “What is it they expects for their three-and-sixpence?” said the landlady, in her wrath; for it must be understood that Sharpit knew well that he was dealing with one who understood the value of money, and that he did not feel quite sure of passing the dinner in Mr Hart’s bill. Then came a pie with crust an inch thick, which nobody could eat, and a cabinet pudding, so called, full of lumps of suet. I venture to assert that each Liberal elector there would have got a better dinner at home, and would have been served with greater comfort; but a public dinner at an inn is the recognised relaxation of a middle-class Englishman in the provinces. Did he not attend such banquets his neighbours would conceive him to be constrained by domestic tyranny. Others go to them, and therefore he goes also. He is bored frightfully by every speech to which he listens. He is driven to the lowest depths of dismay by every speech which he is called upon to make. He is thoroughly disgusted when he is called on to make no speech. He has no point of sympathy with the neighbours between whom he sits. The wine is bad. The hot water is brought to him cold. His seat is hard and crowded. No attempt is made at the pleasures of conversation. He is continually called upon to stand up that he may pretend to drink a toast in honour of some person or institution for which he cares nothing, for the hero of the evening, as to whom he is probably indifferent, for the church, which perhaps he never enters; the army, which he regards as a hotbed of aristocratic insolence; or for the Queen, whom he reveres and loves by reason of his nature as an Englishman, but against whose fulsome praises as repeated to him ad nauseam in the chairman’s speech his very soul unconsciously revolts. It is all a bore, trouble, ennui, nastiness, and discomfort. But yet he goes again — and again — because it is the relaxation natural to an Englishman. The Frenchman who sits for three hours tilted on the hind legs of a little chair with his back against the window-sill of the cafe, with first a cup of coffee before him and then a glass of sugar and water, is perhaps as much to be pitied as regards his immediate misery; but the liquids which he imbibes are not so injurious to him.

Mr Tappitt with the eleven other liberal electors of Baslehurst went through the ceremony of their dinner in the usual way. They drank the health of the Queen, and of the volunteers of the county because there was present a podgy little grocer who had enrolled himself in the corps and who was thus enabled to make a speech; and then they drank the health of Mr Hart — whose ultimate return for the borough they pledged themselves to effect. Having done so much for business, and having thus brought to a conclusion the political work of the evening, they adjourned their meeting to a cosy little parlour near the bar and then they began to be happy. Some few of the number including the angry vice-president who sold hardware, took themselves home to their wives. “Mrs Tongs keeps him sharp enough by the ears,” said Sharpit, winking to Tappitt. “Come along, old fellow. and we’ll get a drop of something really hot.” Tappitt winked back again and shook his head with an affected laugh; but as he did so he thought of Mrs T. at home, and the terrible words she had spoken to him — and at the same moment an idea came across him that Mr Sharpit was a very dangerous companion.

About half a dozen entered the cosy little parlour and there they remained for a couple of hours. While sitting in that cosy little parlour they really did enjoy themselves. About nine o’clock they had a bit of the raw beef broiled, and in that guise it was pleasant enough; and the water was hot, and the tobacco was grateful and the stiffness of the evening was gone. The men chatted together and made no more speeches, and they talked of matters which bore a true interest to them. Sharpit explained to them how each man might be assisted in his own business if this rich London tailor could be brought in for the borough. And by degrees they came round to the affairs of the brewery, and Tappitt, as the brandy warmed him, spoke loudly against Rowan.

“By George!” said the podgy grocer. “if anybody would offer me a thousand a year to give up, I’d take it hopping.”

“Then I wouldn’t,” said Tappitt. “and what’s more, I won’t. But brewing ain’t like other businesses — there’s more in it than in most others.”

“Of course there is,” said Sharpit; “it isn’t like any common trade.”

“That’s true too.” said the podgy grocer.

A man usually receives some compensation for having gone through the penance of the chairman’s duties. For the remainder of the evening he is entitled to the battery of his companions, and generally receives it till they become tipsy and insubordinate. Tappitt had not the character of an intemperate man, but on this occasion he did exceed the bounds of a becoming moderation. The room was hot and the tobacco smoke was thick. The wine had been bad and the brandy was strong. Sharpit, too, urged him to new mixtures and stronger denunciations against Rowan till at last, at eleven o’clock, when he took himself to the brewery, he was not in a condition proper for the father of such daughters or for the husband of such a wife.

“Shall I see him home?” said the podgy grocer to Mr Sharpit.

Tappitt, with the suspicious quickness of a drunken man, turned sharply upon the podgy and abashed grocer, and abused him for his insolence. He then made his way out of the inn-yard, and along the High Street, and down Brewery Lane to his own door, knowing the way as well as though he had been sober, and passing over it as quickly. Nor did he fall or even stumble, though now and again he reeled slightly. And as he went the idea came strongly upon him that Sharpit was a dangerous man, and that perhaps at this very moment he, Tappitt, was standing on the brink of a precipice. Then he remembered that his wife would surely be watching for him, and as he made his first attempt to insert the latchkey into the door his heart became forgetful of the brandy, and sank low within his breast.

How affairs went between him and Mrs Tappitt on that night I will not attempt to describe. That she used her power with generosity I do not doubt. That she used it with discretion I am quite convinced. On the following morning at ten o’clock Tappitt was still in bed; but a note had been written by Mrs T to Messrs Sharpit and Longfite, saying that the projected visit had under altered circumstances become unnecessary. That Tappitt’s head was racked with pain, and his stomach disturbed with sickness, there can be no doubt, and as little that Mrs T. used the consequent weakness of her husband for purposes of feminine dominion; but this she did with discretion and even with kindness. Only a word or two was said as to the state in which he had returned home — a word or two with the simple object of putting that dominion on a firm basis. After that Mrs Tappitt took his condition as an established fact, administered to him the comforts of her medicine-chest and teapot, excused his illness to the girls as having been produced by the fish, and never left his bedside till she had achieved her purpose. If ever a man got tipsy to his own advantage, Mr Tappitt did so on that occasion. And if ever a man in that condition was treated with forbearing kindness by his wife, Mr Tappitt was so treated then.

“Don’t disturb yourself, T.,” she said; “there’s nothing wants doing in the brewery, and if it did what would it signify in comparison with your health? The brewery won’t be much to you now, thank goodness; and I’m sure you’ve had enough of it. Thirty years of such work as that would make any man sick and weak. I’m sure I don’t wonder at your being ill — not the least. The wonder is that you’ve ever stood up against it so long as you have. If you’ll take my advice you’ll just turn round and try to sleep for an hour or so.”

Tappitt took her advice at any rate, so far that he turned round and closed his eyes. Up to this time he had not given way about the brewery. He had uttered no word of assent. But he was gradually becoming aware that he would have to yield before he would be allowed to put on his clothes. And now, in the base and weak condition of his head and stomach, yielding did not seem to him to be so very bad a thing. After all, the brewery was troublesome, the fight was harassing. Rowan was young and strong, and Mr Sharpit was very dangerous. Rowan, too, had risen in his estimation as in that of others, and he could not longer argue, even to himself, that the stipulated income would not be paid. He did not sleep, but got into that half-drowsy state in which men think of their existing affairs, but without any power of active thought. He knew that he ought to be in his counting-house and at work. He half feared that the world was falling away from him because he was not there. He was ashamed of himself, and sometimes almost entertained a thought of rising up and shaking off his lethargy. But his stomach was bad, and he could not bring himself to move. His head was tormented, and his pillow was soft; and therefore there he lay. He wondered what was the time of day, but did not think of looking at his watch which was under his head. He heard his wife’s steps about the room as she shaded some window from his eyes, or crept to the door to give some household order to one of her girls outside; but he did not speak to her, nor she to him. She did not speak to him as long as he lay there motionless, and when he moved with a small low groan she merely offered him some beef tea.

It was nearly six o’clock, and the hour of dinner at the brewery was long passed, when Mrs Tappitt sat herself down by the bedside determined to reap the fruit of her victory. He had just raised himself in his bed and announced his intention of getting up — declaring, as he did so, that he would never again eat any of that accursed fish. The moment of his renovation had come upon him, and Mrs Tappitt perceived that if he escaped from her now, there might even yet be more trouble.

“It wasn’t only the fish, T.,” she said, with somewhat of sternness in her eye.

“I hardly drank anything,” said Tappitt.

“Of course I wasn’t there to see what you took,” said she; “but you were very bad when you came home last night — very bad indeed. You couldn’t have got in at the door only for me.”

“That’s nonsense.”

“But it is quite true. It’s a mercy, T., that neither of the girls saw you. Only think! But there’ll be nothing more of that kind, I’m sure, when we are out of this horrid place; and it wouldn’t have happened now, only for all this trouble.”

To this Tappitt made no answer, but he grunted, and again said that he thought he would get up.

“Of course it’s settled now, T., that we’re to leave this place.”

“I don’t know that at all.”

“Then, T., you ought to know it. Come now; just look at the common sense of the thing. If we don’t give up the brewery what are we to do? There isn’t a decent respectable person in the town in favour of our staying here, only that rascal Sharpit. You desired me this morning to write and tell him you’d have nothing more to do with him: and so I did.” Tappitt had not seen his wife’s letter to the lawyer — had not asked to see it, and now became aware that his only possible supporter might probably have been driven away from him. Sharpit, too, though dangerous as an enemy, was ten times more dangerous as a friend!

“Of course you’ll take that young man’s offer. Shall I sit down and write a line to Honyman, and tell him to come in the morning?”

Tappitt groaned again and again, said that he would get up but Mrs T. would not let him out of bed till he had assented to her proposition that Honyman should be again invited to the brewery. He knew well that the battle was gone from him — had in truth known it through all those half-comatose hours of his bedridden day. But a man, or a nation, when yielding must still resist even in yielding. Tappitt fumed and fussed under the clothes, protesting that his sending for Honyman would be useless. But the letter was written in his name and sent with his knowledge; and it was perfectly understood that that invitation to Honyman signified an unconditional surrender on the part of Mr Tappitt. One word Mrs T. said as she allowed her husband to escape from his prison amidst the blankets, one word by which to mark that the thing was done, and one word only. “I suppose we needn’t leave the house for about a month or so — because it would be inconvenient about the furniture.”

“Who’s to turn you out if you stay for six months?” said Tappitt.

The thing was marked enough then, and Mrs Tappitt retired in muffled triumph — retired when she had made all things easy for the simplest ceremony of dressing.

“Just sponge your face, my dear,” she said, “and put on your dressing-gown, and come down for half an hour or so.”

“I’m all right now,” said Tappitt.

“Oh! quite so — but I wouldn’t go to the trouble, of much dressing.” Then she left him, descended the stairs, and entered the parlour among her daughters. When there she could not abstain from one blast of the trumpet of triumph. “Well, girls,” she said, “it’s all settled, and we shall be in Torquay now before the winter.”

“No!” said Augusta.

“That’ll be a great change,” said Martha.

“In Torquay before the winter!” said Cherry. . “Oh, mamma, how clever you have been!”

“And now your papa is coming down, and you should thank him for what he’s doing for you. It’s all for your sake that he’s doing it.”

Mr Tappitt crept into the room, and when he had taken his seat in his accustomed armchair, the girls went up to him and kissed him. Then they thanked him for his proposed kindness in taking them out of the brewery.

“Oh, papa, it is so jolly!” said Cherry.

Mr Tappitt did not say much in answer to this — but luckily there was no necessity that he should say anything. It was an occasion on which silence was understood as giving a perfect consent.


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