The receipt of Mrs Trevelyan’s letter on that Monday morning was a great surprise both to Mr and Mrs Outhouse. There was no time for any consideration, no opportunity for delaying their arrival till they should have again referred the matter to Mr Trevelyan. Their two nieces were to be with them on that evening, and even the telegraph wires, if employed with such purpose, would not be quick enough to stop their coming. The party, as they knew, would have left Nuncombe Putney before the arrival of the letter at the parsonage of St. Diddulph’s. There would have been nothing in this to have caused vexation, had it not been decided between Trevelyan and Mr Outhouse that Mrs Trevelyan was not to find a home at the parsonage. Mr Outhouse was greatly afraid of being so entangled in the matter as to be driven to take the part of the wife against the husband; and Mrs Outhouse, though she was full of indignation against Trevelyan, was at the same time not free from anger in regard to her own niece. She more than once repeated that most unjust of all proverbs, which declares that there is never smoke without fire, and asserted broadly that she did not like to be with people who could not live at home, husbands with wives, and wives with husbands, in a decent, respectable manner. Nevertheless the preparations went on busily, and when the party arrived at seven o’clock in the evening, two rooms had been prepared close to each other, one for the two sisters, and the other for the child and nurse, although poor Mr Outhouse himself was turned out of his own little chamber in order that the accommodation might be given. They were all very hot, very tired, and very dusty, when the cab reached the parsonage. There had been the preliminary drive from Nuncombe Putney to Lessboro’. Then the railway journey from thence to the Waterloo Bridge Station had been long. And it had seemed to them that the distance from the station to St. Diddulph’s had been endless. When the cabman was told whither he was to go, he looked doubtingly at his poor old horse, and then at the luggage which he was required to pack on the top of his cab, and laid himself out for his work with a full understanding that it would not be accomplished without considerable difficulty. The cabman made it twelve miles from Waterloo Bridge to St. Diddulph’s, and suggested that extra passengers and parcels would make the fare up to ten and six. Had he named double as much Mrs Trevelyan would have assented. So great was the fatigue, and so wretched the occasion, that there was sobbing and crying in the cab, and when at last the parsonage was reached, even the nurse was hardly able to turn her hand to anything. The poor wanderers were made welcome on that evening without a word of discussion as to the cause of their coming. ‘I hope you are not angry with us, Uncle Oliphant,’ Emily Trevelyan had said, with tears in her eyes. ‘Angry with you, my dear for coming to our house! How could I be angry with you?’ Then the travellers were hurried upstairs by Mrs Outhouse, and the master of the parsonage was left alone for a while. He certainly was not angry, but he was ill at ease, and unhappy. His guests would probably remain with him for six or seven months. He had resolutely refused all payment from Mr Trevelyan, but, nevertheless, he was a poor man. It is impossible to conceive that a clergyman in such a parish as St. Diddulph’s, without a private income, should not be a poor man. It was but a hand-to-mouth existence which he lived, paying his way as his money came to him, and sharing the proceeds of his parish with the poor. He was always more or less in debt. That was quite understood among the tradesmen. And the butcher who trusted him, though he was a bad churchman, did not look upon the parson’s account as he did on other debts. He would often hint to Mr Outhouse that a little money ought to be paid, and then a little money would be paid. But it was never expected that the parsonage bill should be settled. In such a household the arrival of four guests, who were expected to remain for an almost indefinite number of months, could not be regarded without dismay. On that first evening, Emily and Nora did come down to tea, but they went up again to their rooms almost immediately afterwards; and Mr Outhouse found that many hours of solitary meditation were allowed to him on the occasion. ‘I suppose your brother has been told all about it,’ he said to his wife, as soon as they were together on that evening.
‘Yes he has been told. She did not write to her mother till after she had got to Nuncombe Putney. She did not like to speak about her troubles while there was a hope that things might be made smooth.’
‘You can’t blame her for that, my dear.’
‘But there was a month lost, or nearly. Letters go only once a month. And now they can’t hear from Marmaduke or Bessy,’ Lady Rowley’s name was Bessy ‘till the beginning of September.’
‘That will be in a fortnight.’
‘But what can my brother say to them? He will suppose that they are still down in Devonshire.’
‘You don’t think he will come at once?’
‘How can he, my dear? He can’t come without leave, and the expense would be ruinous. They would stop his pay, and there would be all manner of evils. He is to come in the spring, and they must stay here till he comes.’ The parson of St. Diddulph’s sighed and groaned. Would it not have been almost better that he should have put his pride in his pocket, and have consented to take Mr Trevelyan’s money?
On the second morning Hugh Stanbury called at the parsonage, and was closeted for a while with the parson. Nora had heard his voice in the passage, and every one in the house knew who it was that was talking to Mr Outhouse, in the little back parlour that was called a study. Nora was full of anxiety. Would he ask to see them to see her? And why was he there so long? ‘No doubt he has brought a message from Mr Trevelyan,’ said her sister. ‘I dare say he will send word that I ought not to have come to my uncle’s house.’ Then, at last, both Mr Outhouse and Hugh Stanbury came into the room in which they were all sitting. The greetings were cold and unsatisfactory, and Nora barely allowed Hugh to touch the tip of her fingers. She was very angry with him, and yet she knew that her anger was altogether unreasonable. That he had caused her to refuse a marriage that had so much to attract her was not his sin, not that; but that, having thus overpowered her by his influence, he should then have stopped. And yet Nora had told herself twenty times that it was quite impossible that she should become Hugh Stanbury’s wife and that, were Hugh Stanbury to ask her, it would become her to be indignant with him, for daring to make a proposition so outrageous. And now she was sick at heart, because he did not speak to her!
He had, of course, come to St. Diddulph’s with a message from Trevelyan, and his secret was soon told to them all. Trevelyan himself was upstairs in the sanded parlour of the Full Moon public-house, round the corner. Mrs Trevelyan, when she heard this, clasped her hands and bit her lips. What was he there for? If he wanted to see her, why did he not come boldly to the parsonage? But it soon appeared that he had no desire to see his wife. ‘I am to take Louey to him,’ said Hugh Stanbury, ‘if you will allow me.’
‘What to be taken away from me!’ exclaimed the mother. But Hugh assured her that no such idea had been formed; that he would have concerned himself in no such stratagem, and that he would himself undertake to bring the boy back again within an hour. Emily was, of course, anxious to be informed what other message was to be conveyed to her; but there was no other message — no message either of love or of instruction.
‘Mr Stanbury,’ said the parson, ‘has left me something in my hands for you.’ This ‘something’ was given over to her as soon as Stanbury had left the house, and consisted of cheques for various small sums, amounting in all to 200 pounds. ‘And he hasn’t said what I am to do with it?’ Emily asked of her uncle. Mr Outhouse declared that the cheques had been given to him without any instructions on that head. Mr Trevelyan had simply expressed his satisfaction that his wife should be with her uncle and aunt, had sent the money, and had desired to see the child.
The boy was got ready, and Hugh walked with him in his arms round the corner, to the Full Moon. He had to pass by the bar, and the barmaid and the potboy looked at him very hard. ‘There’s a young ‘ooman has to do with that ere little game,’ said the potboy ‘And it’s two to one the young ‘ooman has the worst of it,’ said the barmaid. ‘They mostly does,’ said the potboy, not without some feeling of pride in the immunities of his sex. ‘Here he is,’ said Hugh, as he entered the parlour. ‘My boy, there’s papa.’ The child at this time was more than a year old, and could crawl about and use his own legs with the assistance of a finger to his little hand, and could utter a sound which the fond mother interpreted to mean papa; for with all her hot anger against her husband, the mother was above all things anxious that her child should be taught to love his father’s name. She would talk of her separation from her husband as though it must be permanent; she would declare to her sister how impossible it was that they should ever again live together; she would repeat to herself over and over the tale of the injustice that had been done to her, assuring herself that it was out of the question that she should ever pardon the man; but yet, at the bottom of her heart, there was a hope that the quarrel should be healed before her boy would be old enough to understand the nature of quarrelling. Trevelyan took the child on to his knee, and kissed him; but the poor little fellow, startled by his transference from one male set of arms to another, confused by the strangeness of the room, and by the absence of things familiar to his sight, burst out into loud tears. He had stood the journey round the corner in Hugh’s arms manfully, and, though he had looked about him with very serious eyes, as he passed through the bar, he had borne that, and his carriage up the stairs; but when he was transferred to his father, whose air, as he took the boy, was melancholy and lugubrious in the extreme, the poor little fellow could endure no longer a mode of treatment so unusual, and, with a grimace which for a moment or two threatened the coming storm, burst out with an infantile howl. ‘That’s how he has been taught,’ said Trevelyan.
‘Nonsense,’ said Stanbury. ‘He’s not been taught at all. It’s Nature.’
‘Nature that he should be afraid of his own father! He did not cry when he was with you.’
‘No as it happened, he did not. I played with him when I was at Nuncombe; but, of course, one can’t tell when a child will cry, and when it won’t.’
‘My darling, my dearest, my own son!’ said Trevelyan, caressing the child, and trying to comfort him; but the poor little fellow only cried the louder. It was now nearly two months since he had seen his father, and, when age is counted by months only, almost everything may be forgotten in six weeks. ‘I suppose you must take him back again,’ said Trevelyan, sadly.
‘Of course, I must take him back again. Come along, Louey, my boy.’
‘It is cruel very cruel,’ said Trevelyan. ‘No man living could love his child better than I love mine or, for the matter of that, his wife. It is very cruel.’
‘The remedy is in your own hands, Trevelyan,’ said Stanbury, as he marched off with the boy in his arms.
Trevelyan had now become so accustomed to being told by everybody that he was wrong, and was at the same time so convinced that he was right, that he regarded the perversity of his friends as a part of the persecution to which he was subjected. Even Lady Milborough, who objected to Colonel Osborne quite as strongly as did Trevelyan himself, even she blamed him now, telling him that he had done wrong to separate himself from his wife. Mr Bideawhile, the old family lawyer, was of the same opinion. Trevelyan had spoken to Mr Bideawhile as to the expediency of making some lasting arrangement for a permanent maintenance for his wife; but the attorney had told him that nothing of the kind could be held to be lasting. It was clearly the husband’s duty to look forward to a reconciliation, and Mr Bideawhile became quite severe in the tone of rebuke which he assumed. Stanbury treated him almost as though he were a madman. And as for his wife herself when she wrote to him she would not even pretend to express any feeling of affection. And yet, as he thought, no man had ever done more for a wife. When Stanbury had gone with the child, he sat waiting for him in the parlour of the public-house, as miserable a man as one could find.
He had promised himself something that should be akin to pleasure in seeing his boy but it had been all disappointment and pain. What was it that they expected him to do? What was it that they desired? His wife had behaved with such indiscretion as almost to have compromised his honour; and in return for that he was to beg her pardon, confess himself to have done wrong, and allow her to return in triumph! That was the light in which he regarded his own position; but he promised to himself that let his own misery be what it might he would never so degrade him. The only person who had been true to him was Bozzle. Let them all look to it. If there were any further intercourse between his wife and Colonel Osborne, he would take the matter into open court, and put her away publicly, let Mr Bideawhile say what he might. Bozzle should see to that and as to himself, he would take himself out of England and hide himself abroad. Bozzle should know his address, but he would give it to no one else. Nothing on earth should make him yield to a woman who had ill-treated him nothing but confession and promise of amendment on her part. If she would acknowledge and promise, then he would forgive all, and the events of the last four months should never again be mentioned by him. So resolving he sat and waited till Stanbury should return to him.
When Stanbury got back to the parsonage with the boy he had nothing to do but to take his leave. He would fain have asked permission to come again, could he have invented any reason for doing so. But the child was taken from him at once by its mother, and he was left alone with Mr Outhouse. Nora Rowley did not even show herself, and he hardly knew how to express sympathy and friendship for the guests at the parsonage, without seeming to be untrue to his friend Trevelyan. ‘I hope all this may come to an end soon,’ he said.
‘I hope it may, Mr Stanbury,’ said the clergyman; ‘but to tell you the truth, it seems to me that Mr Trevelyan is so unreasonable a man, so much like a madman indeed, that I hardly know how to look forward to any future happiness for my niece.’ This was spoken with the utmost severity that Mr Outhouse could assume.
‘And yet no man loves his wife more tenderly.’
‘Tender love should show itself by tender conduct, Mr Stanbury. What has he done to his wife? He has blackened her name among all his friends and hers, he has turned her out of his house, he has reviled her and then thinks to prove how good he is by sending her money. The only possible excuse is that he must be mad.’
Stanbury went back to the Full Moon, and retraced his steps with his friend towards Lincoln’s Inn. Two minutes took him from the parsonage to the public-house, but during these two minutes he resolved that he would speak his mind roundly to Trevelyan as they returned home. Trevelyan should either take his wife back again at once, or else he, Stanbury, would have no more to do with him. He said nothing till they had threaded together the maze of streets which led them from the neighbourhood of the Church of St. Diddulph’s into the straight way of the Commercial Road. Then he began. ‘Trevelyan,’ said he, ‘you are wrong in all this from beginning to end.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Just what I say. If there was anything in what your wife did to offend you, a soft word from you would have put it all right.’
‘A soft word! How do you know what soft words I used?’
‘A soft word now would do it. You have only to bid her come back to you, and let bygones be bygones, and all would be right. Can’t you be man enough to remember that you are a man?’
‘Stanbury, I believe you want to quarrel with me.’
‘I tell you fairly that I think that you are wrong.’
‘They have talked you over to their side.’
‘I know nothing about sides. I only know that you are wrong.’
‘And what would you have me do?’
‘Go and travel together for six months.’ Here was Lady Milborough’s receipt again! ‘Travel together for a year if you will. Then come back and live where you please. People will have forgotten it or if they remember it, what matters? No sane person can advise you to go on as you are doing now.’
But it was of no avail. Before they had reached the Bank the two friends had quarrelled and had parted.
Then Trevelyan felt that there was indeed no one left to him but Bozzle. On the following morning he saw Bozzle, and on the evening of the next day he was in Paris.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01