Mr Francis Oliphant Tregear was a young man who might not improbably make a figure in the world, should circumstances be kind to him, but as to whom it might be doubted whether circumstances would be sufficiently kind to enable him to use serviceably his unquestionable talents and great personal gifts. He had taught himself to regard himself as a young English gentleman of the first water, qualified by his birth and position to live with all that was most noble and most elegant, and he could have lived in that sphere naturally and gracefully were it not that part of the ‘sphere’ which he specially affected requires wealth as well as birth and intellect. Wealth he had not, and yet he did not abandon the sphere. As a consequence of all this, it was possible that the predictions of his friends as to that figure which he was to make in the world might be disappointed.
He had been educated at Eton, from whence he had been sent to Christ Church; and both at school and at college had been the most intimate friend of the son and heir of a great and wealthy duke. He and Lord Silverbridge had been always together, and they who were interested in the career of young noblemen had generally thought he had chosen his friend well. Tregear had gone out in honours, having been a second-class man. His friend Silverbridge, we know, had been allowed to take no degree at all; but the terrible practical joke by which the whole front of the Dean’s house had been coloured scarlet in the middle of the night, had been carried on without any assistance from Tregear. The two young men had then been separated for a year; but immediately after taking his degree, Tregear, at the invitation of Lord Silverbridge, had gone to Italy, and had there completely made good his footing with the Duchess — with what effect on another member of the Palliser family the reader already knows.
The young man was certainly clever. When the Duchess found that he cold talk without any shyness, that he could speak French fluently, and that after a month in Italy could chatter Italian, at any rate without reticence or shame, when she perceived that all the women liked the lad’s society and impudence, and that all the young men were anxious to know him, she was glad to find that Silverbridge had chosen so valuable a friend. And then he was beautiful to look at — putting her almost in mind of another man on whom her eyes had once loved to dwell. He was dark, with hair that was almost black, but yet was not black; with clear brown eyes, a nose as regular as Apollo’s, and a mouth in which was ever to be found that expression of manliness, which of all characteristics is the one which women love the best. He was five feet ten in height. He was always well dressed, and yet always so dressed as to seem to show that his outside garniture had not been matter of trouble to him. Before the Duchess had dreamed what might take place between the young man and her daughter she had been urgent in her congratulations to her son as to the possession of such a friend.
For though she now and then would catch a glimpse of the outer man, which would remind her of that other beautiful one whom she had known in her youth, and though, as these glimpses came, she would remember how poor in spirit and how unmanly that other one had been, though she would confess to herself how terrible had been the heart-shipwreck which that other one had brought upon herself; still she was able completely to assure herself that this man, though not superior in external grace, was altogether different in mind and character. She was old enough now to see all this and to appreciate it. Young Tregear had his own ideas about the politics of the day, and they were ideas with which she sympathised, though they were antagonistic to the politics of her life. He had his ideas about books too, as to manners of life, as to art, and even ethics. Whether or no in all this there was not much that was superficial only, she was not herself deep enough to discover. Nor would she have been deterred from admiring him had she been told that it was tinsel. Such were the acquirements, such the charms, that she loved. Here was a young man who dared to speak, and had always something ready to be spoken, who was not afraid of beauty, nor daunted by superiority of rank; who, if he had not money, could carry himself on equal terms among those who had. In this way he won the Duchess’s heart, and having done that, was it odd that he should win the heart of her daughter also?
His father was a Cornwall squire of comfortable means, having joined the property of his wife to his own for the period of his own life. She had possessed land also in Cornwall, supposed to be worth fifteen hundred a year, and his own paternal estate at Polwenning was said to be double the value. Being a prudent man, he lived at home as a country gentleman, and thus was able in his county to hold his head as high as richer men. But Frank Tregear was only his second son; and though Frank would hereafter inherit his mother’s fortune, he was by no means now in a position to assume the right of living as an idle man. Yet he was idle. The elder brother, who was considerably older than Frank, was an odd man, much addicted to quarreling with his family, and who spent his time chiefly in traveling about the world. Frank’s mother, who was not the mother of the heir also, would sometimes surmise in Frank’s hearing, that the entire property must ultimately come to him. That other Tregear, who was now supposed to be investigating the mountains of Crim Tartary, would surely never marry. And Frank was the favourite also with his father, who paid his debts at Oxford with not much grumbling, who was proud of his friendship with a future duke, who did not urge, as he ought to have urged, that vital question of a profession; and who, when he allowed his son four hundred pounds a year, was almost content with that son’s protestations that he knew how to live as a poor man among rich men, without chagrin and without trouble.
Such was the young man who now, in lieu of a profession, had taken upon himself the responsibility of an engagement with Lady Mary Palliser. He was tolerably certain that, should he be able to overcome the parental obstacles which he would no doubt find in his path, money would be forthcoming sufficient for the purposes of matrimonial life. The Duke’s wealth was fabulous, and as a great part of it, if not the greater, had come from his wife, there would probably be ample provision for the younger children. And when the Duchess had found out how things were going, and had yielded to her daughter, after an opposition which never had the appearance even of being in earnest, she had taken upon herself to say that she would use her influence to prevent any great weight of trouble from pecuniary matters. Frank Tregear, young and bright, and full of hearty ambitions, was certainly not the man to pursue a girl simply because of her fortune; nor was he weak enough to be attracted simply by the glitter of rank; but he was wise enough with worldly wisdom to understand thoroughly the comforts of a good income, and he was sufficiently attached to high position to feel the advantage of marrying a daughter of the Duke of Omnium.
There was one member of the family who had hitherto been half-hearted in the matter. Lord Silverbridge had vacillated between loyalty to his friend and a certain feeling as to the impropriety of such a match for his sister. He was aware that something very much better should be expected for her, and still was unable to explain his objection to Tregear. He had not at first been admitted into confidence, either by his sister or by Tregear, but had questioned his friend when he saw what was going on. ‘Certainly I love your sister,’ Tregear had said; ‘do you object?’ Lord Silverbridge was the weaker of the two, and much subject to the influence of his friend; but he could on occasion be firm, and he did at first object. But he did not object strongly, and allowed himself at last to be content with declaring that the Duke would never give his consent.
While Tregear was with his love, or near her, his hopes and fears were sufficient to occupy his mind; and immediately upon his return, all the world was nothing to him, except as far as the world was concerned with Lady Mary Palliser. He had come back to England somewhat before the ducal party, and the pleasures and occupations of London life had not abated his love, but enabled him to feel that there was something in life over and beyond his love, whereas to Lady Mary, down at Matching, there had been nothing over and beyond her love — except the infinite grief and desolation produced by her mother’s death.
Tregear, when he received the note from Mrs Finn, was staying at the Duke’s house in Carlton Terrace. Silverbridge was there, and, on leaving Matching, had asked the Duke’s permission to have his friend with him. The Duke at that time was not well pleased with his son as to the matter of politics, and gave his son’s friend credit for the evil counsel which had produced his displeasure. But still he had not refused his consent to this proposition. Had he done so, Silverbridge would probably have gone elsewhere: and though there was a matter in respect to Tregear of which the Duke disapproved, it was not a matter, as he thought, which would have justified him in expelling the young man from his house. The young man was a strong Conservative; and now Silverbridge had declared his purpose of entering the House of Commons, if he did enter it, as one of the Conservative party.
This had been a terrible blow to the Duke; and he believed that it all came from the young Tregear. Still he must do his duty, and not more than his duty. He knew nothing against Tregear. That a Tregear should be a Conservative was natural enough — at any rate, was not disgraceful; that he should have his political creed sufficiently at heart to be able to persuade another man, was to his credit. He was a gentleman, well educated, superior in many things to Silverbridge himself. There were those who said that Silverbridge had redeemed himself from contempt — from that sort of contempt which might be supposed to await a young nobleman who had painted scarlet the residence of the Head of his college — by the fact of his having chosen such a friend. The Duke was essentially a just man; and though, at the very moment in which the request was made, his heart was half crushed by his son’s apostasy, he gave the permission asked.
‘You know Mrs Finn,’ Tregear said to his friend one morning at breakfast.
‘I remember her all my life. She used to be a great deal with my grandfather. I believe he left her a lot of diamonds and money, and that she wouldn’t have them. I don’t know whether the diamonds are not locked up somewhere now, so that she can take them when she pleases.’
‘What a singular woman!’
‘It was odd; but she had some fad about it. What makes you ask about Mrs Finn?’
‘She wants me to go and see her.’
‘I think I have heard your mother speak of her as though she loved her dearly,’ said Tregear.
‘I don’t know about loving her dearly. They were intimate, and Mrs Finn used to be with her very much when she was in the country. She was at Matching just now, when my poor mother died. Why does she want to see you?’
‘She has written to me from Matching. She wants to see me-’
‘To tell you the truth. I do not know what she has to say to me; though I can guess.’
‘What do you guess?’
‘It is something about your sister.’
‘You will have to give that up, Tregear.’
‘I think not.’
‘Yes you will; my father will never stand it.’
‘I don’t know what there is to stand. I am not noble, nor am I rich; but I am as good a gentleman as he is.’
‘My dear fellow,’ said the young lord, ‘you know very well what I think about all that. A fellow is not better to me because he has got a title, nor yet because he owns half a county. But men have their ideas and feelings about it. My father is a rich man, and of course he’ll want his daughter to marry a rich man. My father is noble, and he’ll want his daughter to marry a nobleman. You can’t very well marry Mary without his permission, and therefore you had better let it alone.’
‘I haven’t even asked his permission as yet.’
‘Even my mother was afraid to speak to him about it, and I never knew her to be afraid to say anything else to him.’
‘I shall not be afraid,’ said Tregear, looking grimly.
‘I should. That’s the difference between us.’
‘He can’t very well eat me.’
‘Nor even bite you; — nor will he abuse you. But he can look at you, and he can say a word or two which you will find it very hard to bear. My governor is the quietest man I know, but he has a way of making himself disagreeable when he wishes, that I never saw equalled.’
‘At any rate, I had better go and see your Mrs Finn.’ Then Tregear wrote a line to Mrs Finn, and made his appointment.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01