Phineas Redux, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter 76

Madame Goesler’s Legacy

One morning very shortly after her return to Harrington, Lady Chiltern was told that Mr Spooner of Spoon Hall had called, and desired to see her. She suggested that the gentleman had probably asked for her husband — who, at that moment was enjoying his recovered supremacy in the centre of Trumpeton Wood; but she was assured that on this occasion Mr Spooner’s mission was to herself. She had no quarrel with Mr Spooner, and she went to him at once. After the first greeting he rushed in to the subject of the great triumph. “So we’ve got rid of Mr Fothergill, Lady Chiltern.”

“Yes; Mr Fothergill will not, I believe, trouble us any more. He is an old man, it seems, and has retired from the Duke’s service.”

“I can’t tell you how glad I am, Lady Chiltern. We were afraid that Chiltern would have thrown it up, and then I don’t know where we should have been. England would not have been England any longer, to my thinking, if we hadn’t won the day. It’d have been just like a French revolution. Nobody would have known what was coming or where he was going.”

That Mr Spooner should be enthusiastic on any hunting question was a matter of course; but still it seemed to be odd that he should have driven himself over from Spoon Hall to pour his feelings into Lady Chiltern’s ear. “We shall go on very nicely now, I don’t doubt,” said she; “and I’m sure that Lord Chiltern will be glad to find that you are pleased.”

“I am very much pleased, I can tell you.” Then he paused, and the tone of his voice was changed altogether when he spoke again. “But I didn’t come over only about that, Lady Chiltern. Miss Palliser has not come back with you, Lady Chiltern?”

“We left Miss Palliser at Matching. You know she is the Duke’s cousin.”

“I wish she wasn’t, with all my heart.”

“Why should you want to rob her of her relations, Mr Spooner?”

“Because — because — . I don’t want to say a word against her, Lady Chiltern. To me she is perfect as a star — beautiful as a rose.” Mr Spooner as he said this pointed first to the heavens and then to the earth. “But perhaps she wouldn’t have been so proud of her grandfather hadn’t he been a Duke.”

“I don’t think she is proud of that.”

“People do think of it, Lady Chiltern; and I don’t say that they ought not. Of course it makes a difference, and when a man lives altogether in the country, as I do, it seems to signify so much more. But if you go back to old county families, Lady Chiltern, the Spooners have been here pretty nearly as long as the Pallisers — if not longer. The Desponders, from whom we come, came over with William the Conqueror.”

“I have always heard that there isn’t a more respectable family in the county.”

“That there isn’t. There was a grant of land, which took their name, and became the Manor of Despond; there’s where Spoon Hall is now. Sir Thomas Desponder was one of those who demanded the Charter, though his name wasn’t always given because he wasn’t a baron. Perhaps Miss Palliser does not know all that.”

“I doubt whether she cares about those things.”

“Women do care about them — very much. Perhaps she has heard of the two spoons crossed, and doesn’t know that that was a stupid vulgar practical joke. Our crest is a knight’s head bowed, with the motto, “” Desperandum ‘’. Soon after the Conquest one of the Desponders fell in love with the Queen, and never would give it up, though it wasn’t any good. Her name was Matilda, and so he went as a Crusader and got killed. But wherever he went he had the knight’s head bowed, and the motto on the shield.”

“What a romantic story, Mr Spooner!”

“Isn’t it? And it’s quite true. That’s the way we became Spooners. I never told her of it, but, somehow I wish I had now. It always seemed that she didn’t think that I was anybody.”

“The truth is, Mr Spooner, that she was always thinking that somebody else was everything. When a gentleman is told that a lady’s affections have been pre-engaged, however much he may regret the circumstances, he cannot, I think, feel any hurt to his pride. If I understand the matter, Miss Palliser explained to you that she was engaged when first you spoke to her.”

“You are speaking of young Gerard Maule.”

“Of course I am speaking of Mr Maule.”

“But she has quarrelled with him, Lady Chiltern.”

“Don’t you know what such quarrels come to?”

“Well, no. That is to say, everybody tells me that it is really broken off and that he has gone nobody knows where. At any rate he never shows himself. He doesn’t mean it, Lady Chiltern.”

“I don’t know what he means.”

“And he can’t afford it, Lady Chiltern. I mean it, and I can afford it. Surely that might go for something.”

“I cannot say what Mr Maule may mean to do, Mr Spooner, but I think it only fair to tell you that he is at present staying at Matching, under the same roof with Miss Palliser.”

“Maule staying at the Duke’s!” When Mr Spooner heard this there came a sudden change over his face. His jaw fell, and his mouth was opened, and the redness of his cheeks flew up to his forehead.

“He was expected there yesterday, and I need hardly suggest to you what will be the end of the quarrel.”

“Going to the Duke’s won’t give him an income.”

“I know nothing about that, Mr Spooner. But it really seems to me that you misinterpret the nature of the affections of such a girl as Miss Palliser. Do you think it likely that she should cease to love a man because he is not so rich as another?”

“People, when they are married, want a house to live in, Lady Chiltern. Now at Spoon Hall — ”

“Believe me, that is in vain, Mr Spooner.”

“You are quite sure of it?”

“Quite sure.”

“I’d have done anything for her — anything! She might have had what settlements she pleased. I told Ned that he must go, if she made a point of it. I’d have gone abroad, or lived just anywhere. I’d come to that, that I didn’t mind the hunting a bit.”

“I’m sorry for you — I am indeed.”

“It cuts a fellow all to pieces so! And yet what is it all about? A slip of a girl that isn’t anything so very much out of the way after all. Lady Chiltern, I shouldn’t care if the horse kicked the trap all to pieces going back to Spoon Hall, and me with it.

“You’ll get over it, Mr Spooner.”

“Get over it! I suppose I shall; but I shall never be as I was. I’ve been always thinking of the day when there must be a lady at Spoon Hall, and putting it off, you know. There’ll never be a lady there now — never. You don’t think there’s any chance at all?”

“I’m sure there is none.”

“I’d give half I’ve got in all the world”, said the wretched man, “just to get it out of my head. I know what it will come to.” Though he paused, Lady Chiltern could ask no question respecting Mr Spooner’s future prospects. “It’ll be two bottles of champagne at dinner, and two bottles of claret afterwards, every day. I only hope she’ll know that she did it. Goodbye, Lady Chiltern. I thought that perhaps you’d have helped me.”

“I cannot help you.”

“Goodbye.” So he went down to his trap, and drove himself violently home — without, however, achieving the ruin which he desired. Let us hope that as time cures his wound that threat as to increased consumption of wine may fall to the ground unfulfilled.

In the meantime Gerard Maule had arrived at Matching Priory.

“We have quarrelled,” Adelaide had said when the Duchess told her that her lover was to come. “Then you had better make it up again,” the Duchess had answered — and there had been an end of it. Nothing more was done; no arrangement was made, and Adelaide was left to meet the man as best she might. The quarrel to her had been as the disruption of the heavens. She had declared to herself that she would bear it; but the misfortune to be borne was a broken world falling about her own ears. She had thought of a nunnery, of Ophelia among the water-lilies, and of an early death-bed. Then she had pictured to herself the somewhat ascetic and very laborious life of an old maiden lady whose only recreation fifty years hence should consist in looking at the portrait of him who had once been her lover. And now she was told that he was coming to Matching as though nothing had been the matter! She tried to think whether it was not her duty to have her things at once packed, and ask for a carriage to take her to the railway station. But she was in the house of her nearest relative — of him and also of her who were bound to see that things were right; and then there might be a more pleasureable existence than that which would have to depend on a photograph for its keenest delight. But how should she meet him? In what way should she address him? Should she ignore the quarrel, or recognize it, or take some milder course? She was half afraid of the Duchess, and could not ask for assistance. And the Duchess, though good-natured, seemed to her to be rough. There was nobody at Matching to whom she could say a word — so she lived on, and trembled, and doubted from hour to hour whether the world would not come to an end.

The Duchess was rough, but she was very good-natured. She had contrived that the two lovers should be brought into the same house, and did not doubt at all but what they would be able to adjust their own little differences when they met. Her experiences of the world had certainly made her more alive to the material prospects than to the delicate aroma of a love adventure. She had been greatly knocked about herself, and the material prospects had come uppermost. But all that had happened to her had tended to open her hand to other people, and had enabled her to be good-natured with delight, even when she knew that her friends imposed upon her. She didn’t care much for Laurence Fitzgibbon; but when she was told that the lady with money would not consent to marry the aristocratic pauper except on condition that she should be received at Matching, the Duchess at once gave the invitation. And now, though she couldn’t go into the “fal-lallery’ — as she called it, to Madame Goesler — of settling a meeting between two young people who had fallen out, she worked hard till she accomplished something perhaps more important to their future happiness. “Plantagenet,” she said, “there can be no objection to your cousin having that money.”

“My dear!”

“Oh come; you must remember about Adelaide, and that young man who is coming here today.”

“You told me that Adelaide is to be married. I don’t know anything about the young man.”

“His name is Maule, and he is a gentleman, and all that. Some day when his father dies he’ll have a small property somewhere.”

“I hope he has a profession.”

“No, he has not. I told you all that before.”

“If he has nothing at all, Glencora, why did he ask a young lady to marry him?”

“Oh, dear; what’s the good of going into all that? He has got something. They’ll do immensely well, if you’ll only listen. She is your first cousin.”

“Of course she is,” said Plantagenet, lifting up his hand to his hair.

“And you are bound to do something for her.”

“No; I am not bound. But I’m very willing, if you wish it. Put the thing on a right footing.”

“I hate footings — that is, right footings. We can manage this without taking money out of your pocket.”

“My dear Glencora, if I am to give my cousin money I shall do so by putting my hand into my own pocket in preference to that of any other person.”

“Madame Goesler says that she’ll sign all the papers about the Duke’s legacy — the money, I mean — if she may be allowed to make it over to the Duke’s niece.”

“Of course Madame Goesler may do what she likes with her own. I cannot hinder her. But I would rather that you should not interfere. Twenty-five thousand pounds is a very serious sum of money.”

“You won’t take it.”

“Certainly not.”

“Nor will Madame Goesler; and therefore there can be no reason why these young people should not have it. Of course Adelaide being the Duke’s niece does make a difference. Why else should I care about it? She is nothing to me — and as for him, I shouldn’t know him again if I were to meet him in the street.”

And so the thing was settled. The Duke was powerless against the energy of his wife, and the lawyer was instructed that Madame Goesler would take the proper steps for putting herself into possession of the Duke’s legacy — as far as the money was concerned — with the view of transferring it to the Duke’s niece, Miss Adelaide Palliser. As for the diamonds, the difficulty could not be solved. Madame Goesler still refused to take them, and desired her lawyer to instruct her as to the form by which she could most thoroughly and conclusively renounce that legacy.

Gerard Maule had his ideas about the meeting which would of course take place at Matching. He would not, he thought, have been asked there had it not been intended that he should marry Adelaide. He did not care much for the grandeur of the Duke and Duchess, but he was conscious of certain profitable advantages which might accrue from such an acknowledgement of his position from the great relatives of his intended bride. It would be something to be married from the house of the Duchess, and to receive his wife from the Duke’s hand. His father would probably be driven to acquiesce, and people who were almost omnipotent in the world would at any rate give him a start. He expected no money; nor did he possess that character, whether it be good or bad, which is given to such expectation. But there would be encouragement, and the thing would probably be done. As for the meeting — he would take her in his arms if he found her alone, and beg her pardon for that cross word about Boulogne. He would assure her that Boulogne itself would be a heaven to him if she were with him — and he thought that she would believe him. When he reached the house he was asked into a room in which a lot of people were playing billiards or crowded round a billiard-table. The Chilterns were gone, and he was at first ill at ease, finding no friend. Madame Goesler, who had met him at Harrington, came up to him, and told him that the Duchess would be there directly, and then Phineas, who had been playing at the moment of his entrance, shook hands with him, and said a word or two about the Chilterns. “I was so delighted to hear of your acquittal,” said Maule.

“We never talk about that now,” said Phineas, going back to his stroke. Adelaide Palliser was not present, and the difficulty of the meeting had not yet been encountered. They all remained in the billiard-room till it was time for the ladies to dress, and Adelaide had not yet ventured to show herself. Somebody offered to take him to his room, and he was conducted upstairs, and told that they dined at eight — but nothing had been arranged. Nobody had as yet mentioned her name to him. Surely it could not be that she had gone away when she heard that he was coming, and that she was really determined to make the quarrel perpetual? He had three quarters of an hour in which to get ready for dinner, and he felt himself to be uncomfortable and out of his element. He had been sent to his chamber prematurely, because nobody had known what to do with him; and he wished himself back in London. The Duchess, no doubt, had intended to be good-natured, but she had made a mistake. So he sat by his open window, and looked out on the ruins of the old Priory, which were close to the house, and wondered why he mightn’t have been allowed to wander about the garden instead of being shut up there in a bedroom. But he felt that it would be unwise to attempt any escape now. He would meet the Duke or the Duchess or perhaps Adelaide herself, in some of the passages — and there would be an embarrassment. So he dawdled away the time, looking out of the window as he dressed, and descended to the drawing room at eight o’clock. He shook hands with the Duke, and was welcomed by the Duchess, and then glanced round the room. There she was, seated on a sofa between two other ladies — of whom one was his friend, Madame Goesler. It was essentially necessary that he should notice her in some way, and he walked up to her, and offered her his hand. It was impossible that he should allude to what was past, and he merely muttered something as he stood over her. She had blushed up to her eyes, and was absolutely dumb. “Mr Maule, perhaps you’ll take our cousin Adelaide out to dinner,” said the Duchess, a moment afterwards, whispering in his ear.

“Have you forgiven me?” he said to her, as they passed from one room to the other.

“I will — if you care to be forgiven.” The Duchess had been quite right, and the quarrel was all over without any arrangement.

On the following morning he was allowed to walk about the grounds without any impediment, and to visit the ruins which had looked so charming to him from the window. Nor was he alone. Miss Palliser was now by no means anxious as she had been yesterday to keep out of the way, and was willingly persuaded to show him all the beauties of the place.

“I shouldn’t have said what I did, I know,” pleaded Maule.

“Never mind it now, Gerard.”

“I mean about going to Boulogne.”

“It did sound so melancholy.”

“But I only meant that we should have to be very careful how we lived. I don’t know quite whether I am so good at being careful about money as a fellow ought to be.”

“You must take a lesson from me, sir.”

“I have sent the horses to Tattersall’s,” he said in a tone that was almost funereal.

“What! — already?”

“I gave the order yesterday. They are to be sold — I don’t know when. They won’t fetch anything. They never do. One always buys bad horses there for a lot of money, and sells good ones for nothing. Where the difference goes to I never could make out.”

“I suppose the man gets it who sells them.”

“No; he don’t. The fellows get it who have their eyes open. My eyes never were open — except as far as seeing you went.

“Perhaps if you had opened them wider you wouldn’t have to go to — ”

“Don’t, Adelaide. But, as I was saying about the horses, when they’re sold of course the bills won’t go on. And I suppose things will come right. I don’t owe so very much.”

“I’ve got something to tell you,” she said.

“What about?”

“You’re to see my cousin today at two o’clock.”

“The Duke?”

“Yes — the Duke; and he has got a proposition. I don’t know that you need sell your horses, as it seems to make you so very unhappy. You remember Madame Goesler?”

“Of course I do. She was at Harrington.”

“There’s something about a legacy which I can’t understand at all. It is ever so much money, and it did belong to the old Duke. They say it is to be mine — or yours rather, if we should ever be married. And then you know, Gerard, perhaps, after all, you needn’t go to Boulogne.” So she took her revenge, and he had his as he pressed his arm round her waist and kissed her among the ruins of the old Priory.

Precisely at two to the moment he had his interview with the Duke, and very disagreeable it was to both of them. The Duke was bound to explain that the magnificent present which was being made to his cousin was a gift, not from him, but from Madame Goesler; and, though he was intent on making this as plain as possible, he did not like the task. “The truth is, Mr Maule, that Madame Goesler is unwilling, for reason with which I need not trouble you, to take the legacy which was left to her by my uncle. I think her reasons to be insufficient, but it is a matter in which she must, of course, judge for herself. She has decided — very much, I fear, at my wife’s instigation, which I must own I regret — to give the money to one of our family, and has been pleased to say that my cousin Adelaide shall be the recipient of her bounty. I have nothing to do with it. I cannot stop her generosity if I would, nor can I say that my cousin ought to refuse it. Adelaide will have the entire sum as her fortune, short of the legacy duty, which, as you are probably aware, will be ten per cent, as Madame Goesler was not related to my uncle. The money will, of course, be settled on my cousin and on her children. I believe that will be all I shall have to say, except that Lady Glencora — the Duchess, I mean — wishes that Adelaide should be married from our house. If this be so I shall, of course, hope to have the honour of giving my cousin away.” The Duke was by no means a pompous man, and probably there was no man in England of so high rank who thought so little of his rank. But he was stiff and somewhat ungainly and the task which he was called upon to execute had been very disagreeable to him. He bowed when he had finished his speech, and Gerard Maule felt himself bound to go, almost without expressing his thanks.

“My dear Mr Maule,” said Madame Goesler, “you literally must not say a word to me about it. The money was not mine, and under no circumstances would or could be mine. I have given nothing, and could not have presumed to make such a present. The money, I take it, does undoubtedly belong to the present Duke, and, as he does not want it, it is very natural that it should go to his cousin. I trust that you may both live to enjoy it long, but I cannot allow any thanks to be given to me by either of you.”

After that he tried the Duchess, who was somewhat more gracious. “The truth is, Mr Maule, you are a very lucky man to find twenty thousand pounds and more going begging about the country in that way.”

“Indeed I am, Duchess.”

“And Adelaide is lucky, too, for I doubt whether either of you are given to any very penetrating economies. I am told that you like hunting.”

“I have sent my horses to Tattersall’s.”

“There is enough now for a little hunting, I suppose, unless you have a dozen children. And now you and Adelaide must settle when it’s to be. I hate things to be delayed. People go on quarrelling and fancying this and that, and thinking that the world is full of romance and poetry. When they get married they know better.”

“I hope the romance and poetry do not all vanish.”

“Romance and poetry are for the most part lies, Mr Maule and are very apt to bring people into difficulty. I have seen something of them in my time, and I much prefer downright honest figures. Two and two make four; idleness is the root of all evil; love your neighbour like yourself, and the rest of it. Pray remember that Adelaide is to be married from here, and that we shall be very happy that you should make every use you like of our house until then.”

We may so far anticipate in our story as to say that Adelaide Palliser and Gerard Maule were married from Matching Priory at Matching Church early in that October, and that as far as the coming winter was concerned, there certainly was no hunting for the gentleman. They went to Naples instead of Boulogne, and there remained till the warm weather came in the following spring. Nor was that peremptory sale at Tattersall’s countermanded as regarded any of the horses. What prices were realised the present writer has never been able to ascertain.

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