It was not till Colonel Stubbs had been three or four days at Stalham, basking in the sunshine of Ayala’s love, that any of the Stalham family heard of the great event which had occurred in the life of Ayala’s third lover. During that walk to and from Gobblegoose Wood something had been said between the lovers as to Captain Batsby — something, no doubt, chiefly in joke. The idea of the poor Captain having fallen suddenly into so melancholy a condition was droll enough. “But he never spoke to me,” said Ayala. He doesn’t speak very much to anyone,” said the Colonel, “but he thinks a great deal about things. He has had ever so many affairs with ever so many ladies, who generally, I fancy, want to marry him because of his money. How he has escaped so long nobody knows.” A man when he has just engaged himself to be married is as prone as ever to talk of other men “escaping”, feeling that, though other young ladies were no better than evils to be avoided, his young lady is to be regarded as almost a solitary instance of a blessing. Then, two days afterwards, arrived the news of the trip to Ostend. Sir Harry received a letter from a friend in which an account was given of his half-brother’s adventure. “What do you think has happened?” said Sir Harry, jumping up from his chair at the breakfast table.
“What has happened?” asked his wife.
“Benjamin has run off to Ostend with a young lady.”
“Benjamin — with a young lady!” exclaimed Lady Albury. Ayala and Stubbs were equally astonished, each of them knowing that the Captain had been excluded from Stalham because of the ardour of his unfortunate love for Ayala. “Ayala, that is your doing!”
“No!” said Ayala. But I am very glad if he’s happy.”
“Who is the young lady?” asked Stubbs.
“It is that which makes it so very peculiar,” said Sir Harry, looking at Ayala. He had learned something of the Tringle family, and was aware of Ayala’s connection with them.
“Who is it, Harry?” demanded her ladyship.
“Sir Thomas Tringle’s younger daughter.”
“Gertrude!” exclaimed Ayala, who also knew of the engagement with Mr Houston.
“But the worst of it is”, continued Sir Harry, that he is not at all happy. The young lady has come back, while nobody knows what has become of Benjamin.”
“Benjamin never will get a wife,” said Lady Albury. Thus all the details of the little event became known at Stalham — except the immediate condition and whereabouts of the lover.
Of the Captain’s condition and whereabouts something must be told. When the great disruption came, and he had been abused and ridiculed by Sir Thomas at Ostend, he felt that he could neither remain there where the very waiters knew what had happened, nor could he return to Dover in the same vessel with Sir Thomas and his daughter. He therefore took the first train and went to Brussels.
But Brussels did not offer him many allurements in his present frame of mind. He found nobody there whom he particularly knew, and nothing particular to do. Solitude in a continental town with no amusements beyond those offered by the table d’hôte and the theatre is oppressing. His time he endeavoured to occupy with thinking of the last promise he had made to Gertrude. Should he break it or should he keep it? Sir Thomas Tringle was, no doubt, a very rich man — and then there was the fact which would become known to all the world, that he had run off with a young lady. Should he ultimately succeed in marrying the young lady the enterprise would bear less of an appearance of failure than it would do otherwise. But then, should the money not be forthcoming, the consolation coming from the possession of Gertrude herself would hardly suffice to make him a happy man. Sir Thomas, when he came to consider the matter, would certainly feel that his daughter had compromised herself by the journey, and that it would be good for her to be married to the man who had taken her. It might be that Sir Thomas would yield, and consent to make, at any rate, some compromise. A rumour had reached his ears that Traffick had received £200,000 with the elder daughter. He would consent to take half that sum. After a week spent amidst the charms of Brussels he returned to London, without any public declaration of his doing so — “sneaked back”, as a friend of his said of him at the club — and then went to work to carry out his purpose as best he might. All that was known of it at Stalham was that he had returned to his lodgings in London.
On Friday, the 11th of April, when Ayala was a promised bride of nearly two weeks’ standing and all the uncles and aunts were aware that her lot in life had been fixed for her, Sir Thomas was alone in the back room in Lombard Street, with his mind sorely diverted from the only joy of his life. The whole family were now in town, and Septimus Traffick with his wife was actually occupying a room in Queen’s Gate. How it had come to pass Sir Thomas hardly knew. Some word had been extracted from him signifying a compliance with a request that Augusta might come to the house for a night or two until a fitting residence should be prepared for her. Something had been said of Lord Boardotrade’s house being vacated for her and her husband early in April. An occurrence to which married ladies are liable was about to take place with Augusta, and Sir Thomas certainly understood that the occurrence was to be expected under the roof of the coming infant’s noble grandfather. Something as to ancestral halls had been thrown out in the chance way of conversation. Then he certainly had assented to some minimum of London hospitality for his daughter — as certainly not including the presence of his son-in-law; and now both of them were domiciled in the big front spare bedroom at Queen’s Gate! This perplexed him sorely. And then Tom had been brought up from the country still as an invalid, his mother moaning and groaning over him as though he were sick almost past hope of recovery. And yet the nineteenth of the month, now only eight days distant, was still fixed for his departure. Tom, on the return of his mother from Stalham, had to a certain extent accepted as irrevocable the fact of which she bore the tidings. Ayala was engaged to Stubbs, and would, doubtless, with very little delay, become Mrs Jonathan Stubbs. “I knew it,” he said; I knew it. Nothing could have prevented it unless I had shot him through the heart. He told me that she had refused him; but no man could have looked like that after being refused by Ayala.” Then he never expressed a hope again. It was all over for him as regarded Ayala. But he still refused to be well, or even, for a day or two, to leave his bed. He had allowed his mother to understand that if the fact of her engagement were indubitably brought home to him he would gird up his loins for his journey and proceed at once wherever it might be thought good to send him. His father had sternly reminded him of his promise; but, when so reminded, Tom had turned himself in his bed and uttered groans instead of replies. Now he had been brought up to London and was no longer actually in bed; but even yet he had not signified his intention of girding up his loins and proceeding upon his journey. Nevertheless the preparations were going on, and, under Sir Thomas’s directions, the portmanteaus were already being packed. Gertrude also was a source of discomfort to her father. She considered herself to have been deprived of her two lovers, one after the other, in a spirit of cruel parsimony. And with this heavy weight upon her breast she refused to take any part in the family conversations. Everything had been done for Augusta, and everything was to be done for Tom. For her nothing had been done, and nothing had been promised — and she was therefore very sulky. With these troubles all around him, Sir Thomas was sitting oppressed and disheartened in Lombard Street on Friday, the 11th of April.
Then there entered to him one of the junior clerks with a card announcing the name of Captain Batsby. He looked at it for some seconds before he gave any notification of his intention, and then desired the young man to tell the gentleman that he would not see him. The message had been delivered, and Captain Batsby with a frown of anger on his brow was about to shake the dust off from his feet on the uncourteous threshold when there came another message, saying that Captain Batsby could go in and see Sir Thomas if he wished it. Upon this he turned round and was shown into the little sitting-room. “Well, Captain Batsby,” said Sir Thomas; what can I do for you now? I am glad to see that you have come back safely from foreign parts.”
“I have called”, said the Captain, to say something about your daughter.”
“What more can you have to say about her?”
At this the Captain was considerably puzzled. Of course Sir Thomas must know what he had to say. “The way in which we were separated at Ostend was very distressing to my feelings.”
“And also I should think to Miss Tringle’s.”
“Not improbably. I have always observed that when people are interrupted in the performance of some egregious stupidity their feelings are hurt. As I said before, what can I do for you now?”
“I am very anxious to complete the alliance which I have done myself the honour to propose to you.”
“I did not know that you had proposed anything. You came down to my house under a false pretence; and then you persuaded my daughter — or else she persuaded you — to go off together to Ostend. Is that what you call an alliance?”
“That, as far as it went, was — was an elopement.”
“Am I to understand that you now want to arrange another elopement, and that you have come to ask my consent?”
“Oh dear no.”
“Then what do you mean by completing an alliance?”
“I want to make”, said the Captain, an offer for the young lady’s hand in a proper form. I consider myself to be in a position which justifies me in doing so. I am possessed of the young lady’s affections, and have means of my own equal to those which I presume you will be disposed to give her.”
“Very much better means I hope, Captain Batsby. Otherwise I do not see what you and your wife would have to live upon. I will tell you exactly what my feelings are in this matter. My daughter has gone off with you, forgetting all the duty that she owed to me and to her mother, and throwing aside all ideas of propriety. After that I will not say that you shall not marry her if both of you think fit. I do not doubt your means, and I have no reason for supposing that you would be cruel to her. You are two fools, but after all fools must live in the world. What I do say is, that I will not give a sixpence towards supporting you in your folly. Now, Captain Batsby, you can complete the alliance or not as you please.”
Captain Batsby had been called a fool also at Ostend, and there, amidst the distressing circumstances of his position, had been constrained to bear the opprobrious name, little customary as it is for one gentleman to allow himself to be called a fool by another; but now he had collected his thoughts, had reminded himself of his position in the world, and had told himself that it did not become him to be too humble before this City man of business. It might have been all very well at Ostend; but he was not going to be called a fool in London without resenting it. “Sir Thomas,” said he, fool and folly are terms which I cannot allow you to use to me.”
“If you do not present yourself to me here, Captain Batsby, or at my own house — or, perhaps I may say, at Ostend — I will use no such terms to you.”
“I suppose you will acknowledge that I am entitled to ask for your daughter’s hand.”
“I suppose you will acknowledge that when a man runs away with my daughter I am entitled to express my opinion of his conduct.”
“That is all over now, Sir Thomas. What I did I did for love. There is no good in crying over spilt milk. The question is as to the future happiness of the young lady.”
“That is the only wise word I have heard you say, Captain Batsby. There is no good in crying after spilt milk. Our journey to Ostend is done and gone. It was not very agreeable, but we have lived through it. I quite think that you show a good judgment in not intending to go there again in quest of a clergyman. If you want to be married there are plenty of them in London. I will not oppose your marriage, but I will not give you a shilling. No man ever had a better opportunity of showing the disinterestedness of his affection. Now, good morning.”
“But, Sir Thomas — ”
“Captain Batsby, my time is precious. I have told you all that there is to tell.” Then he stood up, and the Captain with a stern demeanour and angry brow left the room and took himself in silence away from Lombard Street.
“Do you want to marry Captain Batsby?” Sir Thomas said to his daughter that evening, having invited her to come apart with him after dinner.
“Yes, I do.”
“You think that you prefer him on the whole to Mr Houston?”
“Mr Houston is a scoundrel. I wish that you would not talk about him, papa.”
“I like him so much the best of the two,” said Sir Thomas. “But of course it is for you to judge. I could have brought myself to give something to Houston. Luckily, however, Captain Batsby has got an income of his own.”
“He has, papa.”
“And you are sure that you would like to take him as your husband?”
“Very well. He has been with me today.”
“Is he in London?”
“I tell you that he has been with me today in Lombard Street.”
“What did he say? Did he say anything about me?”
“Yes, my dear. He came to ask me for your hand.”
“I told him that I should make no objection — that I should leave it altogether to you. I only interfered with one small detail as to my own wishes. I assured him that I should never give him or you a single shilling. I don’t suppose it will matter much to him, as he has, you know, means of his own.” It was thus that Sir Thomas punished his daughter for her misconduct.
Captain Batsby and the Trafficks were acquainted with each other. The Member of Parliament had, of course, heard of the journey to Ostend from his wife, and had been instigated by her to express an opinion that the young people ought to be married. “It is such a very serious thing”, said Augusta to her husband, “to be four hours on the sea together! And then you know —!” Mr Traffick acknowledged that it was serious, and was reminded by his wife that he, in the capacity of brother, was bound to interfere on his sister’s behalf. “Papa, you know, understands nothing about these kind of things. You, with your family interest, and your seat in Parliament, ought to be able to arrange it.” Mr Traffick probably knew how far his family interest and his seat in Parliament would avail. They had, at any rate, got him a wife with a large fortune. They were promising for him, still further, certain domiciliary advantages. He doubted whether he could do much for Batsby; but still he promised to try. If he could arrange these matters it might be that he would curry fresh favour with Sir Thomas by doing so. He therefore made it his business to encounter Captain Batsby on the Sunday afternoon at a club to which they both belonged. “So you have come back from your little trip?” said the Member of Parliament.
The Captain was not unwilling to discuss the question of their family relations with Mr Traffick. If anybody would have influence with Sir Thomas it might probably be Mr Traffick. “Yes; I have come back.”
“Without your bride.”
“Without my bride — as yet. That is a kind of undertaking in which a man is apt to run many dangers before he can carry it through.”
“I dare say. I never did anything of the kind myself. Of course you know that I am the young lady’s brother-in-law.”
“And therefore you won’t mind me speaking. Don’t you think you ought to do something further?”
“Something further! By George, I should think so,” said the Captain, exultingly. “I mean to do a great many things further. You don’t suppose I am going to give it up?”
“You oughtn’t, you know. When a man has taken a girl off with him in that way, he should go on with it. It’s a deuced serious thing, you know.”
“It was his fault in coming after us.”
“That was a matter of course. If he hadn’t done it, I must. I have made the family my own, and, of course, must look after its honour.” The noble scion of the house of Traffick, as he said this, showed by his countenance that he perfectly understood the duty which circumstances had imposed upon him.
“He made himself very rough, you know,” said the Captain.
“I dare say he would.”
“And said things — well — things which he ought not to have said.”
“In such a case as that a father may say pretty nearly what comes uppermost.”
“That was just it. He did say what came uppermost — and very rough it was.”
“What does it matter?”
“Not much if he’d do as he ought to do now. As you are her brother-in-law, I’ll tell you just how it stands. I have been to him and made a regular proposal.”
“Since you have been back?”
“Yes; the day before yesterday. And what do you think he says?”
“What does he say?”
“He gives his consent; only — ”
“He won’t give her a shilling! Such an idea, you know! As though she were to be punished after marriage for running away with the man she did marry.”
“Take your chance, Batsby,” said the Member of Parliament.
“Take your chance of the money. I’d have done it; only, of course, it was different with me. He was glad to catch me, and therefore the money was settled.”
“I’ve got a tidy income of my own, you know,” said the Captain, thinking that he was entitled to be made more welcome as a son-in-law than the younger son of a peer who had no income.
“Take your chance,” continued Traffick. What on earth can a man like Tringle do with his money except give it to his children? He is rough, as you say, but he is not hardhearted, nor yet stubborn. I can do pretty nearly what I like with him.”
“Can you, though?”
“Yes; by smoothing him down the right way. You run your chance, and we’ll get it all put right for you.” The Captain hesitated, rubbing his head carefully to encourage the thoughts which were springing up within his bosom. The Honourable Mr Traffick might perhaps succeed in getting the affair put right, as he called it, in the interest rather of the elder than of the second daughter. “I don’t see how you can hesitate now, as you have been off with the girl,” said Mr Traffick.
“I don’t know about that. I should like to see the money settled.”
“There would have been nothing settled if you had married her at Ostend.”
“But I didn’t,” said the Captain. I tell you what you might do. You might talk him over and make him a little more reasonable. I should be ready tomorrow if he’d come forward.”
“What’s the sum you want?”
“The same as yours, I suppose.”
“That’s out of the question,” said Mr Traffick, shaking his head. “Suppose we say sixty thousand pounds.” Then after some chaffering on the subject it was decided between them that Mr Traffick should use his powerful influence with his father-in-law to give his daughter on her marriage — say a hundred thousand pounds if it were possible, or sixty thousand pounds at the least.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55