Trevelyan was gone, and Bozzle alone knew his address. During the first fortnight of her residence at St. Diddulph’s Mrs Trevelyan received two letters from Lady Milborough, in both of which she was recommended, indeed tenderly implored, to be submissive to her husband. ‘Anything,’ said Lady Milborough, ‘is better than separation.’ In answer to the second letter Mrs Trevelyan told the old lady that she had no means by which she could shew any submission to her husband, even if she were so minded. Her husband had gone away, she did not know whither, and she had no means by which she could communicate with him. And then came a packet to her from her father and mother, despatched from the islands after the receipt by Lady Rowley of the melancholy tidings of the journey to Nuncombe Putney. Both Sir Marmaduke and Lady Rowley were full of anger against Trevelyan, and wrote as though the husband could certainly be brought back to a sense of his duty, if they only were present. This packet had been at Nuncombe Putney, and contained a sealed note from Sir Marmaduke addressed to Mr Trevelyan. Lady Rowley explained that it was impossible that they should get to England earlier than in the spring. ‘I would come myself at once and leave papa to follow,’ said Lady Rowley, ‘only for the children. If I were to bring them, I must take a house for them, and the expense would ruin us. Papa has written to Mr Trevelyan in a way that he thinks will bring him to reason.’
But how was this letter, by which the husband was to be brought to reason, to be put into the husband’s hands? Mrs Trevelyan applied to Mr Bideawhile and to Lady Milborough, and to Stanbury, for Trevelyan’s address; but was told by each of them that nothing was known of his whereabouts. She did not apply to Mr Bozzle, although Mr Bozzle was more than once in her neighbourhood; but as yet she knew nothing of Mr Bozzle. The replies from Mr Bideawhile and from Lady Milborough came by the post; but Hugh Stanbury thought that duty required him to make another journey to St. Diddulph’s and carry his own answer with him.
And on this occasion Fortune was either very kind to him or very unkind. Whichever it was, he found himself alone for a few seconds in the parsonage parlour with Nora Rowley. Mr Outhouse was away at the time. Emily had gone upstairs for the boy; and Mrs Outhouse, suspecting nothing, had followed her. ‘Miss Rowley,’ said he, getting up from his seat, ‘if you think it will do any good I will follow Trevelyan till I find him.’
‘How can you find him? Besides, why should you give up your own business?’
‘I would do anything to serve your sister.’ This he said with hesitation in his voice, as though he did not dare to speak all that he desired to have spoken.
‘I am sure that Emily is very grateful,’ said Nora; ‘but she would not wish to give you such trouble as that.’
‘I would do anything for your sister,’ he repeated, ‘for your sake, Miss Rowley.’ This was the first time that he had ever spoken a word to her in such a strain, and it would be hardly too much to say that her heart was sick for some such expression. But now that it had come, though there was a sweetness about it that was delicious to her, she was absolutely silenced by it.
And she was at once not only silent, but stern, rigid, and apparently cold. Stanbury could not but feel as he looked at her that he had offended her. ‘Perhaps I ought not to say as much,’ said he; ‘but it is so.’
‘Mr Stanbury,’ said she, ‘that is nonsense. It is of my sister, not of me, that we are speaking.’
Then the door was opened and Emily came in with her child, followed by her aunt. There was no other opportunity, and perhaps it was well for Nora and for Hugh that there should have been no other. Enough had been said to give her comfort; and more might have led to his discomposure. As to that matter on which he was presumed to have come to St. Diddulph’s, he could do nothing. He did not know Trevelyan’s address, but did know that Trevelyan had abandoned the chambers in Lincoln’s Inn. And then he found himself compelled to confess that he had quarrelled with Trevelyan, and that they had parted in anger on the day of their joint visit to the East. ‘Everybody who knows him must quarrel with him,’ said Mrs Outhouse. Hugh when he took his leave was treated by them all as a friend who had been gained. Mrs Outhouse was gracious to him. Mrs Trevelyan whispered a word to him of her own trouble. ‘If I can hear anything of him, you may be sure that I will let you know,’ he said. Then it was Nora’s turn to bid him adieu. There was nothing to be said. No word could be spoken before others that should be of any avail. But as he took her hand in his he remembered the reticence of her fingers on that former day, and thought that he was sure there was a difference.
On this occasion he made his journey back to the end of Chancery Lane on the top of an omnibus; and as he lit his little pipe, disregarding altogether the scrutiny of the public, thoughts passed through his mind similar to those in which he had indulged as he sat smoking on the corner of the churchyard wall at Nuncombe Putney. He declared to himself that he did love this girl; and as it was so, would it not be better, at any rate more manly, that he should tell her so honestly, than go on groping about with half-expressed words when he saw her, thinking of her and yet hardly daring to go near her, bidding himself to forget her although he knew that such forgetting was impossible, hankering after the sound of her voice and the touch of her hand, and something of the tenderness of returned affection and yet regarding her as a prize altogether out of his reach! Why should she be out of his reach? She had no money, and he had not a couple of hundred pounds in the world. But he was earning an income which would give them both shelter and clothes and bread and cheese.
What reader is there, male or female, of such stories as is this, who has not often discussed in his or her own mind the different sides of this question of love and marriage? On either side enough may be said by any arguer to convince at any rate himself. It must be wrong for a man, whose income is both insufficient and precarious also, not only to double his own cares and burdens, but to place the weight of that doubled burden on other shoulders besides his own, on shoulders that are tender and soft, and ill adapted to the carriage of any crushing weight. And then that doubled burden, that burden of two mouths to be fed, of two backs to be covered, of two minds to be satisfied, is so apt to double itself again and again The two so speedily become four, and six! And then there is the feeling that that kind of semi-poverty, which has in itself something of the pleasantness of independence, when it is borne by a man alone, entails the miseries of a draggle-tailed and querulous existence when it is imposed on a woman who has in her own home enjoyed the comforts of affluence. As a man thinks of all this, if he chooses to argue with himself on that side, there is enough in the argument to make him feel that not only as a wise man but as an honest man, he had better let the young lady alone. She is well as she is, and he sees around him so many who have tried the chances of marriage and who are not well! Look at Jones with his wan, worn wife and his five children, Jones who is not yet thirty, of whom he happens to know that the wretched man cannot look his doctor in the face, and that the doctor is as necessary to the man’s house as is the butcher! What heart can Jones have for his work with such a burden as this upon his shoulders? And so the thinker, who argues on that side, resolves that the young lady shall go her own way for him.
But the arguments on the other side are equally cogent, and so much more alluring! And they are used by the same man with reference to the same passion, and are intended by him to put himself right in his conduct in reference to the same dear girl. Only the former line of thoughts occurred to him on a Saturday, when he was ending his week rather gloomily, and this other way of thinking on the same subject has come upon him on a Monday, as he is beginning his week with renewed hope. Does this young girl of his heart love him? And if so, their affection for each other being thus reciprocal, is she not entitled to an expression of her opinion and her wishes on this difficult subject? And if she be willing to run the risk and to encounter the dangers, to do so on his behalf, because she is willing to share everything with him, is it becoming in him, a man, to fear what she does not fear? If she be not willing let her say so. If there be any speaking, he must speak first but she is entitled, as much as he is, to her own ideas respecting their great outlook into the affairs of the world. And then is it not manifestly God’s ordinance that a man should live together with a woman? How poor a creature does the man become who has shirked his duty in this respect, who has done nothing to keep the world going, who has been willing to ignore all affection so that he might avoid all burdens, and who has put into his own belly every good thing that has come to him, either by the earning of his own hands or from the bounty and industry of others! Of course there is a risk; but what excitement is there in anything in which there is none? So on the Tuesday he speaks his mind to the young lady, and tells her candidly that there will be potatoes for the two of them sufficient, as he hopes, of potatoes, but no more. As a matter of course the young lady replies that she for her part will be quite content to take the parings for her own eating. Then they rush deliciously into each others arms and the matter is settled. For, though the convictions arising from the former line of argument may be set aside as often as need be, those reached from the latter are generally conclusive. That such a settlement will always be better for the young gentleman and the young lady concerned than one founded on a sterner prudence is more than one may dare to say; but we do feel sure that that country will be most prosperous in which such leaps in the dark are made with the greatest freedom.
Our friend Hugh, as he sat smoking on the knife-board of the omnibus, determined that he would risk everything. If it were ordained that prudence should prevail, the prudence should be hers. Why should he take upon himself to have prudence enough for two, seeing that she was so very discreet in all her bearings? Then he remembered the touch of her hand, which he still felt upon his palm as he sat handling his pipe, and he told himself that after that he was bound to say a word more. And moreover he confessed to himself that he was compelled by a feeling that mastered him altogether. He could not get through an hour’s work without throwing down his pen and thinking of Nora Rowley. It was his destiny to love her and there was, to his mind, a mean, pettifogging secrecy, amounting almost to daily lying, in his thus loving her and not telling her that he loved her. It might well be that she should rebuke him; but he thought that he could bear that. It might well be that he had altogether mistaken that touch of her hand. After all it had been the slightest possible motion of no more than one finger. But he would at any rate know the truth. If she would tell him at once that she did not care for him, he thought that he could get over it; but life was not worth having while he lived in this shifty, dubious, and uncomfortable state. So he made up his mind that he would go to St. Diddulph’s with his heart in his hand.
In the mean time, Mr Bozzle had been twice to St. Diddulph’s and now he made a third journey there, two days after Stanbury’s visit. Trevelyan, who, in truth, hated the sight of the man, and who suffered agonies in his presence, had, nevertheless, taught himself to believe that he could not live without his assistance. That it should be so was a part of the cruelty of his lot. Who else was there that he could trust? His wife had renewed her intimacy with Colonel Osborne the moment that she had left him. Mrs Stanbury, who had been represented to him as the most correct of matrons, had at once been false to him and to her trust, in allowing Colonel Osborne to enter her house. Mr and Mrs Outhouse, with whom his wife had now located herself, not by his orders, were, of course, his enemies. His old friend, Hugh Stanbury, had gone over to the other side, and had quarrelled with him purposely, with malice prepense, because he would not submit himself to the caprices of the wife who had injured him. His own lawyer had refused to act for him; and his fast and oldest ally, the very person who had sounded in his ear the earliest warning note against that odious villain, whose daily work it was to destroy the peace of families, even Lady Milborough had turned against him! Because he would not follow the stupid prescription which she, with pig-headed obstinacy, persisted in giving, because he would not carry his wife off to Naples, she was ill-judging and inconsistent enough to tell him that he was wrong! Who was then left to him but Bozzle? Bozzle was very disagreeable. Bozzle said things, and made suggestions to him which were as bad as pins stuck into his flesh. But Bozzle was true to his employer, and could find out facts. Had it not been for Bozzle, he would have known nothing of the Colonel’s journey to Devonshire. Had it not been for Bozzle, he would never have heard of the correspondence; and, therefore, when he left London, he gave Bozzle a roving commission; and when he went to Paris, and from Paris onwards, over the Alps into Italy, he furnished Bozzle with his address. At this time, in the midst of all his misery, it never occurred to him to inquire of himself whether it might be possible that his old friends were right, and that he himself was wrong. From morning to night he sang to himself melancholy silent songs of inward wailing, as to the cruelty of his own lot in life and, in the mean time, he employed Bozzle to find out for him how far that cruelty was carried.
Mr Bozzle was, of course, convinced that the lady whom he was employed to watch was no better than she ought to be. That is the usual Bozzlian language for broken vows, secrecy, intrigue, dirt, and adultery. It was his business to obtain evidence of her guilt. There was no question to be solved as to her innocency. The Bozzlian mind would have regarded any such suggestion as the product of a green softness, the possession of which would have made him quite unfit for his profession. He was aware that ladies who are no better than they should be are often very clever, so clever, as to make it necessary that the Bozzles who shall at last confound them should be first-rate Bozzles, Bozzles quite at the top of their profession and, therefore, he went about his work with great industry and much caution. Colonel Osborne was at the present moment in Scotland. Bozzle was sure of that. He was quite in the north of Scotland. Bozzle had examined his map, and had found that Wick, which was the Colonel’s post-town, was very far north indeed. He had half a mind to run down to Wick, as he was possessed by a certain honest zeal, which made him long to do something hard and laborious; but his experience told him that it was very easy for the Colonel to come up to the neighbourhood of St. Diddulph’s, whereas the lady could not go down to Wick, unless she were to decide upon throwing herself into her lover’s arms, whereby Bozzle’s work would be brought to an end. He, therefore, confined his immediate operations to St. Diddulph’s.
He made acquaintance with one or two important persons in and about Mr Outhouse’s parsonage. He became very familiar with the postman. He arranged terms of intimacy, I am sorry to say, with the housemaid; and, on the third journey, he made an alliance with the potboy at the Full Moon. The potboy remembered well the fact of the child being brought to ‘our ’ouse,’ as he called the Full Moon; and he was enabled to say, that the same ‘gent as had brought the boy backards and forrards,’ had since that been at the parsonage. But Bozzle was quite quick enough to perceive that all this had nothing to do with the Colonel. He was led, indeed, to fear that his ‘governor,’ as he was in the habit of calling Trevelyan in his half-spoken soliloquies, that his governor was not as true to him as he was to his governor. What business had that meddling fellow Stanbury at St. Diddulph’s? for Trevelyan had not thought it necessary to tell his satellite that he had quarrelled with his friend. Bozzle was grieved in his mind when he learned that Stanbury’s interference was still to be dreaded; and wrote to his governor, rather severely, to that effect; but, when so writing, he was able to give no further information. Facts, in such cases, will not unravel themselves without much patience on the part of the investigators.
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:55