The Way We Live Now, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter C

Down in Suffolk

It need hardly be said that Paul Montague was not long in adjusting his affairs with Hetta after the visit which he received from Roger Carbury. Early on the following morning he was once more in Welbeck Street, taking the brooch with him; and though at first Lady Carbury kept up her opposition, she did it after so weak a fashion as to throw in fact very little difficulty in his way. Hetta understood perfectly that she was in this matter stronger than her mother and that she need fear nothing, now that Roger Carbury was on her side. ‘I don’t know what you mean to live on,’ Lady Carbury said, threatening future evils in a plaintive tone. Hetta repeated, though in other language, the assurance which the young lady made who declared that if her future husband would consent to live on potatoes, she would be quite satisfied with the potato-peelings; while Paul made some vague allusion to the satisfactory nature of his final arrangements with the house of Fisker, Montague, and Montague. ‘I don’t see anything like an income,’ said Lady Carbury; ‘but I suppose Roger will make it right. He takes everything upon himself now it seems.’ But this was before the halcyon day of Mr Broune’s second offer.

It was at any rate decided that they were to be married, and the time fixed for the marriage was to be the following spring. When this was finally arranged Roger Carbury, who had returned to his own home, conceived the idea that it would be well that Hetta should pass the autumn and if possible the winter also down in Suffolk, so that she might get used to him in the capacity which he now aspired to fill; and with that object he induced Mrs Yeld, the Bishop’s wife, to invite her down to the palace. Hetta accepted the invitation and left London before she could hear the tidings of her mother’s engagement with Mr Broune.

Roger Carbury had not yielded in this matter — had not brought himself to determine that he would recognize Paul and Hetta as acknowledged lovers — without a fierce inward contest. Two convictions had been strong in his mind, both of which were opposed to this recognition — the first telling him that he would be a fitter husband for the girl than Paul Montague, and the second assuring him that Paul had ill-treated him in such a fashion that forgiveness would be both foolish and unmanly. For Roger, though he was a religious man, and one anxious to conform to the spirit of Christianity, would not allow himself to think that an injury should be forgiven unless the man who did the injury repented of his own injustice. As to giving his coat to the thief who had taken his cloak — he told himself that were he and others to be guided by that precept honest industry would go naked in order that vice and idleness might be comfortably clothed. If any one stole his cloak he would certainly put that man in prison as soon as possible and not commence his lenience till the thief should at any rate affect to be sorry for his fault. Now, to his thinking, Paul Montague had stolen his cloak, and were he, Roger, to give way in this matter of his love, he would be giving Paul his coat also. No! He was bound after some fashion to have Paul put into prison; to bring him before a jury, and to get a verdict against him, so that some sentence of punishment might be at least pronounced. How then could he yield?

And Paul Montague had shown himself to be very weak in regard to women. It might be — no doubt it was true — that Mrs Hurtle’s appearance in England had been distressing to him. But still he had gone down with her to Lowestoft as her lover, and, to Roger’s thinking, a man who could do that was quite unfit to be the husband of Hetta Carbury. He would himself tell no tales against Montague on that head. Even when pressed to do so he had told no tale. But not the less was his conviction strong that Hetta ought to know the truth, and to be induced by that knowledge to reject her younger lover.

But then over these convictions there came a third — equally strong — which told him that the girl loved the younger man and did not love him, and that if he loved the girl it was his duty as a man to prove his love by doing what he could to make her happy. As he walked up and down the walk by the moat, with his hands clasped behind his back, stopping every now and again to sit on the terrace wall — walking there, mile after mile, with his mind intent on the one idea — he schooled himself to feel that that, and that only, could be his duty. What did love mean if not that? What could be the devotion which men so often affect to feel if it did not tend to self-sacrifice on behalf of the beloved one? A man would incur any danger for a woman, would subject himself to any toil — would even die for her! But if this were done simply with the object of winning her, where was that real love of which sacrifice of self on behalf of another is the truest proof? So, by degrees, he resolved that the thing must be done. The man, though he had been bad to his friend, was not all bad. He was one who might become good in good hands. He, Roger, was too firm of purpose and too honest of heart to buoy himself up into new hopes by assurances of the man’s unfitness. What right had he to think that he could judge of that better than the girl herself? And so, when many many miles had been walked, he succeeded in conquering his own heart — though in conquering it he crushed it — and in bringing himself to the resolve that the energies of his life should be devoted to the task of making Mrs Paul Montague a happy woman. We have seen how he acted up to this resolve when last in London, withdrawing at any rate all signs of anger from Paul Montague and behaving with the utmost tenderness to Hetta.

When he had accomplished that task of conquering his own heart and of assuring himself thoroughly that Hetta was to become his rival’s wife, he was, I think, more at ease and less troubled in his spirit than he had been during these months in which there had still been doubt. The sort of happiness which he had once pictured to himself could certainly never be his. That he would never marry he was quite sure. Indeed he was prepared to settle Carbury on Hetta’s eldest boy on condition that such boy should take the old name. He would never have a child whom he could in truth call his own. But if he could induce these people to live at Carbury, or to live there for at least a part of the year, so that there should be some life in the place, he thought that he could awaken himself again, and again take an interest in the property. But as a first step to this he must learn to regard himself as an old man — as one who had let life pass by too far for the purposes of his own home, and who must therefore devote himself to make happy the homes of others.

So thinking of himself and so resolving, he had told much of his story to his friend the Bishop, and as a consequence of those revelations Mrs Yeld had invited Hetta down to the palace. Roger felt that he had still much to say to his cousin before her marriage which could be said in the country much better than in town, and he wished to teach her to regard Suffolk as the county to which she should be attached and in which she was to find her home. The day before she came he was over at the palace with the pretence of asking permission to come and see his cousin soon after her arrival, but in truth with the idea of talking about Hetta to the only friend to whom he had looked for sympathy in his trouble. ‘As to settling your property on her or her children,’ said the Bishop, ‘it is quite out of the question. Your lawyer would not allow you to do it. Where would you be if after all you were to marry?’

‘I shall never marry.’

‘Very likely not — but yet you may. How is a man of your age to speak with certainty of what he will do or what he will not do in that respect? You can make your will, doing as you please with your property; — and the will, when made, can be revoked.’

‘I think you hardly understand just what I feel,’ said Roger, ‘and I know very well that I am unable to explain it. But I wish to act exactly as I would do if she were my daughter, and as if her son, if she had a son, would be my natural heir.’

‘But, if she were your daughter, her son wouldn’t be your natural heir as long as there was a probability or even a chance that you might have a son of your own. A man should never put the power, which properly belongs to him, out of his own hands. If it does properly belong to you it must be better with you than elsewhere. I think very highly of your cousin, and I have no reason to think otherwise than well of the gentleman whom she intends to marry. But it is only human nature to suppose that the fact that your property is still at your own disposal should have some effect in producing the more complete observance of your wishes.’

‘I do not believe it in the least, my lord,’ said Roger somewhat angrily.

‘That is because you are so carried away by enthusiasm at the present moment as to ignore the ordinary rules of life. There are not, perhaps, many fathers who have Regans and Gonerils for their daughters; — but there are very many who may take a lesson from the folly of the old king. “Thou hadst little wit in thy bald crown,” the fool said to him, “when thou gav’st thy golden one away.” The world, I take it, thinks that the fool was right.’

The Bishop did so far succeed that Roger abandoned the idea of settling his property on Paul Montague’s children. But he was not on that account the less resolute in his determination to make himself and his own interests subordinate to those of his cousin. When he came over, two days afterwards, to see her he found her in the garden, and walked there with her for a couple of hours. ‘I hope all our troubles are over now,’ he said smiling.

‘You mean about Felix,’ said Hetta — ‘and mamma?’

‘No, indeed. As to Felix I think that Lady Carbury has done the best thing in her power. No doubt she has been advised by Mr Broune, and Mr Broune seems to be a prudent man. And about your mother herself, I hope that she may now be comfortable. But I was not alluding to Felix and your mother. I was thinking of you — and of myself.’

‘I hope that you will never have any troubles.’

‘I have had troubles. I mean to speak very freely to you now, dear. I was nearly upset — what I suppose people call broken-hearted — when I was assured that you certainly would never become my wife. I ought not to have allowed myself to get into such a frame of mind. I should have known that I was too old to have a chance.’

‘Oh, Roger — it was not that.’

‘Well — that and other things. I should have known it sooner, and have got over my misery quicker. I should have been more manly and stronger. After all, though love is a wonderful incident in a man’s life, it is not that only that he is here for. I have duties plainly marked out for me; and as I should never allow myself to be withdrawn from them by pleasure, so neither should I by sorrow. But it is done now. I have conquered my regrets, and I can say with safety that I look forward to your presence and Paul’s presence at Carbury as the source of all my future happiness. I will make him welcome as though he were my brother, and you as though you were my daughter. All I ask of you is that you will not be chary of your presence there.’ She only answered him by a close pressure on his arm. ‘That is what I wanted to say to you. You will teach yourself to regard me as your best and closest friend — as he on whom you have the strongest right to depend, of all — except your husband?’

‘There is no teaching necessary for that,’ she said.

‘As a daughter leans on a father I would have you lean on me, Hetta. You will soon come to find that I am very old. I grow old quickly, and already feel myself to be removed from everything that is young and foolish.’

‘You never were foolish.’

‘Nor young either, I sometimes think. But now you must promise me this. You will do all that you can to induce him to make Carbury his residence.’

‘We have no plans as yet at all, Roger.’

‘Then it will be certainly so much the easier for you to fall into my plan. Of course you will be married at Carbury?’

‘What will mamma say?’

‘She will come here, and I am sure will enjoy it. That I regard as settled. Then, after that, let this be your home — so that you should learn really to care about and to love the place. It will be your home really, you know, some of these days. You will have to be Squire of Carbury yourself when I am gone, till you have a son old enough to fill that exalted position.’ With all his love to her and his good-will to them both, he could not bring himself to say that Paul Montague should be Squire of Carbury.

‘Oh, Roger, please do not talk like that.’

‘But it is necessary, my dear. I want you to know what my wishes are, and, if it be possible, I would learn what are yours. My mind is quite made up as to my future life. Of course, I do not wish to dictate to you — and if I did, I could not dictate to Mr Montague.’

‘Pray — pray do not call him Mr Montague.’

‘Well, I will not; — to Paul then. There goes the last of my anger.’ He threw his hands up as though he were scattering his indignation to the air. ‘I would not dictate either to you or to him, but it is right that you should know that I hold my property as steward for those who are to come after me, and that the satisfaction of my stewardship will be infinitely increased if I find that those for whom I act share the interest which I shall take in the matter. It is the only payment which you and he can make me for my trouble.’

‘But Felix, Roger!’

His brow became a little black as he answered her. ‘To a sister,’ he said very solemnly, ‘I will not say a word against her brother; but on that subject I claim a right to come to a decision on my own judgment. It is a matter in which I have thought much, and, I may say, suffered much. I have ideas, old-fashioned ideas, on the matter, which I need not pause to explain to you now. If we are as much together as I hope we shall be, you will, no doubt, come to understand them. The disposition of a family property, even though it be one so small as mine, is, to my thinking, a matter which a man should not make in accordance with his own caprices — or even with his own affections. He owes a duty to those who live on his land, and he owes a duty to his country. And, though it may seem fantastic to say so, I think he owes a duty to those who have been before him, and who have manifestly wished that the property should be continued in the hands of their descendants. These things are to me very holy. In what I am doing I am in some respects departing from the theory of my life — but I do so under a perfect conviction that by the course I am taking I shall best perform the duties to which I have alluded. I do not think, Hetta, that we need say any more about that.’ He had spoken so seriously, that, though she did not quite understand all that he had said, she did not venture to dispute his will any further. He did not endeavour to exact from her any promise, but having explained his purposes, kissed her as he would have kissed a daughter, and then left her and rode home without going into the house.

Soon after that, Paul Montague came down to Carbury, and the same thing was said to him, though in a much less solemn manner. Paul was received quite in the old way. Having declared that he would throw all anger behind him, and that Paul should be again Paul, he rigidly kept his promise, whatever might be the cost to his own feelings. As to his love for Hetta, and his old hopes, and the disappointment which had so nearly unmanned him, he said not another word to his fortunate rival. Montague knew it all, but there was now no necessity that any allusion should be made to past misfortunes. Roger indeed made a solemn resolution that to Paul he would never again speak of Hetta as the girl whom he himself had loved, though he looked forward to a time, probably many years hence, when he might perhaps remind her of his fidelity. But he spoke much of the land and of the tenants and the labourers, of his own farm, of the amount of the income, and of the necessity of so living that the income might always be more than sufficient for the wants of the household.

When the spring came round, Hetta and Paul were married by the Bishop at the parish church of Carbury, and Roger Carbury gave away the bride. All those who saw the ceremony declared that the squire had not seemed to be so happy for many a long year. John Crumb, who was there with his wife — himself now one of Roger’s tenants, having occupied the land which had become vacant by the death of old Daniel Ruggles — declared that the wedding was almost as good fun as his own. ‘John, what a fool you are!’ Ruby said to her spouse, when this opinion was expressed with rather a loud voice. ‘Yes, I be,’ said John — ‘but not such a fool as to a missed a having o’ you.’ ‘No, John; it was I was the fool then,’ said Ruby. ‘We’ll see about that when the bairn’s born,’ said John — equally aloud. Then Ruby held her tongue. Mrs Broune, and Mr Broune, were also at Carbury — thus doing great honour to Mr and Mrs Paul Montague, and showing by their presence that all family feuds were at an end. Sir Felix was not there. Happily up to this time Mr Septimus Blake had continued to keep that gentleman as one of his Protestant population in the German town — no doubt not without considerable trouble to himself.

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