Three or four days afterwards Sir Thomas asked whether Ayala was to come to Glenbogie. “She positively refused,” said his wife, and was so rude and impertinent that I could not possibly have her now.” Then Sir Thomas frowned and turned himself away, and said not a word further on that occasion.
There were many candidates for Glenbogie on this occasion. Among others there was Mr Frank Houston, whose candidature was not pressed by himself — as could not well have been done — but was enforced by Gertrude on his behalf. It was now July. Gertrude and Mr Houston had seen something of each other in Rome, as may be remembered, and since then had seen a good deal of each other in town. Gertrude was perfectly well aware that Mr Houston was impecunious; but Augusta had been allowed to have an impecunious lover, and Tom to throw himself at the feet of an impecunious love. Gertrude felt herself to be entitled to her £120,000; did not for a moment doubt but that she would get it. Why shouldn’t she give it to any young man she liked as long as he belonged to decent people? Mr Houston wasn’t a Member of Parliament — but then he was young and good-looking. Mr Houston wasn’t son to a lord, but he was brother to a county squire, and came of a family much older than that of those stupid Boardotrade and Traffick people. And then Frank Houston was very presentable, was not at all bald, and was just the man for a girl to like as a husband. It was dinned into her ears that Houston had no income at all — just a few hundreds a year on which he never could keep himself out of debt. But he was a generous man, who would be more than contented with the income coming from £120,000. He would not spunge upon the house at Queen’s Gate. He would not make use of Merle Park and Glenbogie. He would have a house of his own for his old boots. Four-percent. would give them nearly £5,000 a year. Gertrude knew all about it already. They could have a nice house near Queen’s Gate — say somewhere about Onslow Gardens. There would be quite enough for a carriage, for three months upon a mountain in Switzerland, and three more among the art treasures of Italy. It was astonishing how completely Gertrude had it all at her finger’s ends when she discussed the matter with her mother. Mr Houston was a man of no expensive tastes. He didn’t want to hunt. He did shoot, no doubt, and perhaps a little shooting at Glenbogie might be nice before they went to Switzerland. In that case two months on the top of the mountain would suffice. But if he was not asked he would never condescend to demand an entry at Glenbogie as a part of his wife’s dower. Lady Tringle was thus talked over, though she did think that at least one of her daughter’s husbands ought to have an income of his own. There was another point which Gertrude put forward very frankly, and which no doubt had weight with her mother. “Mamma, I mean to have him,” she said, when Lady Tringle expressed a doubt.
“I mean to have him. Papa can scold, of course, if he pleases.”
“But where would the income come from if papa did not give it?”
“Of course he’ll give it. I’ve a right to it as much as Augusta.” There was something in Gertrude’s face as she said this which made her mother think that she would have her way.
But Sir Thomas had hitherto declined. When Frank Houston, after the manner of would-be sons-in-law, had applied to Sir Thomas, Sir Thomas, who already knew all about it, asked after his income, his prospects, and his occupation. Fifty years ago young men used to encounter the misery of such questions, and to live afterwards often in the enjoyment of the stern questioner’s money and daughters. But there used in those days to be a bad quarter of an hour while the questions were being asked, and not unfrequently a bad six months afterwards, while the stern questioner was gradually undergoing a softening process under the hands of the females of the family. But the young man of today has no bad quarter of an hour. “You are a mercantile old brick with money and a daughter. I am a jeunesse dorée — gilded by blood and fashion, though so utterly impecunious! Let us know your terms. How much is it to be, and then I can say whether we can afford to live upon it.” The old brick surrenders himself more readily and speedily to the latter than to the former manner — but he hardly surrenders himself quite at once. Frank Houston, when inquired into, declared at once, without blushing, that he had no income at all to speak of in reference to matrimonial life. As to family prospects he had none. His elder brother had four blooming boys, and was likely to have more. As for occupation, he was very fond of painting, very fond of art all round, could shoot a little, and was never in want of anything to do as long as he had a book. But for the earning of money he had no turn whatever. He was quite sure of himself that he could never earn a shilling. But then on the other hand he was not extravagant — which was almost as good as earning. It was almost incredible; but with his means, limited as they were to a few hundreds, he did not owe above a thousand pounds — a fact which he thought would weigh much with Sir Thomas in regard to his daughter’s future happiness.
Sir Thomas gave him a flat refusal. “I think that I may boast that your daughter’s happiness is in my charge,” said Frank Houston.
“Then she must be unhappy,” said Sir Thomas. Houston shrugged his shoulders. “A fool like that has no right to be happy.”
“There isn’t another man in the world by whom I would allow her to be spoken of like that,” said Houston.
“I regard her as all that is perfect in woman, and you must forgive me if I say that I shall not abandon my suit. I may be allowed, at any rate, to call at the house?”
“That is a kind of thing that is never done nowadays — never,” said Houston, shaking his head.
“I suppose my own house is my own.”
“Yours and Lady Tringle’s, and your daughters’, no doubt. At any rate, Sir Thomas, you will think of this again. I am sure you will think of it again. If you find that your daughter’s happiness depends upon it — ”
“I shall find nothing of the kind. Good morning.”
“Good morning, Sir Thomas.” Then Mr Houston, bowing graciously, left the little back room in Lombard Street, and, jumping into a cab had himself taken straight away to Queen’s Gate.
“Papa is always like that,” said Gertrude. On that day Mrs Traffick, with all the boots, had taken herself away to the small house in Mayfair, and Gertrude, with her mother, had the house to herself. At the present moment Lady Tringle was elsewhere, so that the young lady was alone with her lover.
“But he comes round, I suppose.”
“If he doesn’t have too much to eat — which disagrees with him — he does. He’s always better down at Glenbogie because he’s out of doors a good deal, and then he can digest things.”
“Then take him down to Glenbogie and let him digest it at once.”
“Of course we can’t go till the 12th. Perhaps we shall start on the 10th, because the 11th is Sunday. What will you do, Frank?” There had been a whisper of Frank’s going to the Tyrol in August, there to join the Mudbury Docimers, who were his far-away cousins. Imogene Docimer was a young lady of marvellous beauty — not possessed indeed of £120,000 — of whom Gertrude had heard, and was already anxious that her Frank should not go to the Tyrol this year. She was already aware that her Frank had — just an artist’s eye for feminine beauty in its various shapes, and thought that in the present condition of things he would be better at Glenbogie than in the Tyrol.
“I am thinking of wandering away somewhere — perhaps to the Tyrol. The Mudbury Docimers are there. He’s a pal of mine, besides being a cousin. Mrs Docimer is a very nice woman.”
“And her sister?”
“A lovely creature. Such a turn of the neck! I’ve promised to make a study of her back head.”
“Come down to Glenbogie,” said Gertrude, sternly.
“How can I do that when your governor won’t let me enter his house door even in London?”
“But you’re here.”
“Well — yes — I am here. But he told me not. I don’t see how I’m to drive in at the gate at Glenbogie with all my traps, and ask to be shown my room. I have cheek enough for a good deal, my pet.”
“I believe you have, Sir — cheek enough for anything. But mamma must manage it — mamma and me, between us. Only keep yourself disengaged. You won’t go to the Tyrol — eh?” Then Frank Houston promised that he would not go to the Tyrol as long as there was a chance open that he might be invited to Glenbogie.
“I won’t hear of it,” said Sir Thomas to his wife. On that occasion his digestion had perhaps failed him a little. “He only wants to get my money.”
“But Gertrude has set her heart on it, and nothing will turn her away.”
“Why can’t she set her heart on someone who has got a decent income? That man hasn’t a shilling.”
“Nor yet has Mr Traffick.”
“Mr Traffick has, at any rate, got an occupation. Were it to do again, Mr Traffick would never see a shilling of my money. By — those fellows, who haven’t got a pound belonging to them, think that they’re to live on the fat of the land out of the sweat of the brow of such men as me.”
“What is your money for, Tom, but for the children?”
“I know what it’s for. I’d sooner build a hospital than give it to an idle fellow like that Houston. When I asked him what he did, he said he was fond of “picters”!” Sir Thomas would fall back from his usual modes of expression when he was a little excited.
“Of course he hasn’t been brought up to work. But he is a gentleman, and I do think he would make our girl happy.”
“My money would make him happy — till he had spent it.”
“Tie it up.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about. How are you to prevent a man from spending his wife’s income?”
“At any rate, if you have him down at Glenbogie you can see what sort of a man he is. You don’t know him now.”
“As much as I wish to.”
“That isn’t fair to the poor girl. You needn’t give your consent to a marriage because he comes to Glenbogie. You have only to say that you won’t give the money and then it must be off. They can’t take the money from you.” His digestion could not have been very bad, for he allowed himself to be persuaded that Houston should be asked to Glenbogie for ten days. This was the letter of invitation —
MY DEAR MR. HOUSTON,
We shall start for Glenbogie on the 10th of next month. Sir Thomas wishes you to join us on the 20th if you can, and stay till the end of the month. We shall be a little crowded at first, and therefore cannot name an earlier day.
I am particularly to warn you that this means nothing more than a simple invitation. I know what passed between you and Sir Thomas, and he hasn’t at all changed his mind. I think it right to tell you this. If you like to speak to him again when you are at Glenbogie of course you can.
Very sincerely yours, EMMELINE TRINGLE
At the same time, or within a post of it, he got another letter, which was as follows —
Papa, you see, hasn’t cut up so very rough, after all. You are to be allowed to come and help to slaughter grouse, which will be better than going to that stupid Tyrol. If you want to draw somebody’s back head you can do it there. Isn’t it a joke papa’s giving way like that all in a moment? He gets so fierce sometimes that we think he’s going to eat everybody. Then he has to come down, and he gets eaten worse than anybody else.
Of course, as you’re asked to Glenbogie, you can come here as often as you like. I shall ride on Thursday and Friday. I shall expect you exactly at six, just under the Memorial. You can’t come home to dinner, you know, because he might flare up; but you can turn in at lunch every day you please except Saturday and Sunday. I intend to be so jolly down at Glenbogie. You mustn’t be shooting always.
Ever your own, G.
Frank Houston as he read this threw himself back on the sofa and gave way to a soft sigh. He knew he was doing his duty — just as another man does who goes forth from his pleasant home to earn his bread and win his fortune in some dry, comfortless climate, far from the delights to which he has been always accustomed. He must do his duty. He could not live always adding a hundred or two of debt to the burden already round his neck. He must do his duty. As he thought of this he praised himself mightily. How beautiful was his far-away cousin, Imogene Docimer, as she would twist her head round so as to show the turn of her neck! How delightful it would be to talk love to Imogene! As to marrying Imogene, who hadn’t quite so many hundreds as himself, that he knew to be impossible. As for marriage, he wasn’t quite sure that he wanted to marry anyone. Marriage, to his thinking, was “a sort of grind” at the best. A man would have to get up and go to bed with some regularity. His wife might want him to come down in a frock coat to breakfast. His wife would certainly object to his drawing the back heads of other young women. Then he thought of the provocation he had received to draw Gertrude’s back head. Gertrude hadn’t got any turn of a neck to speak of. Gertrude was a stout, healthy girl; and, having £120,000, was entitled to such a husband as himself. If he waited longer he might be driven to worse before he found the money which was so essentially necessary. He was grateful to Gertrude for not being worse, and was determined to treat her well. But as for love, romance, poetry, art — all that must for the future be out of the question. Of course, there would now be no difficulty with Sir Thomas, and therefore he must at once make up his mind. He decided that morning, with many soft regrets, that he would go to Glenbogie, and let those dreams of wanderings in the mountains of the Tyrol pass away from him. “Dear, dearest Imogene!” He could have loved Imogene dearly had fates been more propitious. Then he got up and shook himself, made his resolution like a man, ate a large allowance of curried salmon for his breakfast — and then wrote the following letter. “Duty first!” he said to himself as he sat down to the table like a hero.
Letter No. 1
DEAR LADY TRINGLE,
So many thanks! Nothing could suit my book so well as a few days at Glenbogie just at the end of August. I will be there, like a book, on the 20th. Of course I understand all that you say. Fathers can’t be expected to yield all at once, especially when suitors haven’t got very much of their own. I shouldn’t have dared to ask hadn’t I known myself to be a most moderate man. Of course I shall ask again. If you will help me, no doubt I shall succeed. I really do think that I am the man to make Gertrude happy.
Yours, dear Lady Tringle, ever so much,
Letter No. 2
MY OWN ONE,
Your governor is a brick. Of course, Glenbogie will be better than the Tyrol, as you are to be there. Not but what the Tyrol is a very jolly place, and we’ll go and see it together some day. Ask Tom to let me know whether one can wear heavy boots in the Glenbogie mountains. They are much the best for the heather; but I have shot generally in Yorkshire, and there they are too hot. What number does he shoot with generally? I fancy the birds are wilder with you than with us.
As for riding, I don’t dare to sit upon a horse this weather. Nobody but a woman can stand it. Indeed, now I think of it, I sold my horse last week to pay the fellow I buy paints from. I’ve got the saddle and bridle, and if I stick them up upon a rail, under the trees, it would be better than any horse while the thermometer is near 80. All the ladies could come round and talk to one so nicely.
I hate lunch, because it makes me red in the face, and nobody will give me my breakfast before eleven at the earliest. But I’ll come in about three as often as you like to have me. I think I perhaps shall run over to the Tyrol after Glenbogie. A man must go somewhere when he has been turned out in that fashion. There are so many babies at Buncombe Hall! — Buncombe Hall is the family seat of the Houstons — and I don’t like to see my own fate typified before the time.
Can I do anything for you except riding or eating lunch — which are simply feminine exercises?
Always your own, FRANK
Letter No. 3 DEAR COUSIN IM,
How pleasant it is that a little strain of thin blood should make the use of that pretty name allowable! What a stupid world it is when the people who like each other best cannot get together because of proprieties, and marriages, and such balderdash as we call love. I do not in the least want to be in love with you — but I do want to sit near you, and listen to you, and look at you, and to know that the whole air around is impregnated by the mysterious odour of your presence. When one is thoroughly satisfied with a woman there comes a scent as of sweet flowers, which does not reach the senses of those whose feelings are not so awakened.
And now for my news! I suppose that G. T. will in a tremendously short period become Mistress F. H. “A long day, my Lord.” But, if you are to be hung, better be hung at once. Père Tringle has not consented — has done just the reverse — has turned me out of his house, morally. That is, out of his London house. He asked of my “house and my home”, as they did of Allan-a-Dale. Queen Gate and Glenbogie stand fair on the hill. “My home”, quoth bold Houston, shows gallanter still. ’Tis the gerret up three pair — ”
Then he told me roughly to get me gone; but “had laughed on the lass with my bonny black eye.” So the next day I got an invite to Glenbogie, and at the appropriate time in August, She’ll go to the mountains to hear a love tale, And the youth —
it will be told by is to be your poor unfortunate coz, Frank Houston. Who’s going to whimper? Haven’t I known all along what was to come? It has not been my lot in life to see a flower and pick it because I love it. But a good head of cabbage when you’re hungry is wholesome food.
Your loving cousin, but not loving as he oughtn’t to love, FRANK HOUSTON
“I shall still make a dash for the Tyrol when this episode at Glenbogie is over.”
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55