Nora Rowley, when she escaped from the violence of her lover, at once rushed up to her own room, and managed to fasten herself in before she had been seen by any one. Her eider sister had at once gone to her aunt when, at Hugh’s request, she had left the room, thinking it right that Mrs Outhouse should know what was being done in her own house. Mrs Outhouse had considered the matter patiently for a while, giving the lovers the benefit of her hesitation, and had then spoken her mind to Stanbury, as we have already heard. He had, upon the whole, been so well pleased with what had occurred, that he was not in the least angry with the parson’s wife when he left the parsonage. As soon as he was gone Mrs Outhouse was at once joined by her elder niece, but Nora remained for a while alone in her room.
Had she committed herself; and if so, did she regret it? He had behaved very badly to her, certainly, taking her by the hand and putting his arm round her waist. And then had he not even attempted to kiss her? He had done all this, although she had been resolute in refusing to speak to him one word of kindness though she had told him with all the energy and certainty of which she was mistress, that she would never be his wife. If a girl were to be subjected to such treatment as this when she herself had been so firm, so discreet, so decided, then indeed it would be unfit that a girl should trust herself with a man. She had never thought that he had been such a one as that, to ill-use her, to lay a hand on her in violence, to refuse to take an answer. She threw herself on the bed and sobbed, and then hid her face and was conscious that in spite of this acting before herself she was the happiest girl alive. He had behaved very badly of course, he had behaved most wickedly, and she would tell him so some day. But was he not the dearest fellow living? Did ever man speak with more absolute conviction of love in every tone of his voice? Was it not the finest, noblest heart that ever throbbed beneath a waistcoat? Had not his very wickedness come from the overpowering truth of his affection for her? She would never quite forgive him because it had been so very wrong; but she would be true to him for ever and ever. Of course they could not marry. What! would she go to him and be a clog round his neck, and a weight upon him for ever, bringing him down to the gutter by the burden of her own useless and unworthy self? No. She would never so injure him. She would not even hamper him by an engagement. But yet she would be true to him. She had an idea that in spite of all her protestations which, as she looked back upon them, appeared to her to have been louder than they had been, that through the teeth of her denials, something of the truth had escaped from her. Well let it be so. It was the truth, and why should he not know it? Then she pictured to herself a long romance, in which the heroine lived happily on the simple knowledge that she had been beloved. And the reader may be sure that in this romance Mr Glascock with his splendid prospects filled one of the characters.
She had been so wretched at Nuncombe Putney when she had felt herself constrained to admit to herself that this man for whom she had sacrificed herself did not care for her, that she could not now but enjoy her triumph. After she had sobbed upon the bed, she got up and walked about the room smiling; and she would now press her hands to her forehead, and then shake her tresses, and then clasp her own left hand with her right, as though he were still holding it. Wicked man! Why had he been so wicked and so violent? And why, why, why had she not once felt his lips upon her brow?
And she was pleased with herself. Her sister had rebuked her because she had refused to make her fortune by marrying Mr Glascock; and, to own the truth, she had rebuked herself on the same score when she found that Hugh Stanbury had not had a word of love to say to her. It was not that she regretted the grandeur which she had lost, but that she should, even within her own thoughts, with the consciousness of her own bosom, have declared herself unable to receive another man’s devotion because of her love for this man who neglected her. Now she was proud of herself. Whether it might be accounted as good or ill-fortune that she had ever seen Hugh Stanbury, it must at any rate be right that she should be true to him now that she had seen him, and had loved him. To know that she loved and that she was not loved again had nearly killed her. But such was not her lot. She too had been successful with her quarry, and had struck her game, and brought down her dear. He had been very violent with her, but his violence had at least made the matter clear. He did love her. She would be satisfied with that, and would endeavour so to live that that alone should make life happy for her. How should she get his photograph and a lock of his hair? and when again might she have the pleasure of placing her own hand within his great, rough, violent grasp? Then she kissed the hand which he had held, and opened the door of her room, at which her sister was now knocking.
‘Nora, dear, will you not come down?’
‘Not yet, Emily. Very soon I will.’
‘And what has happened, dearest?’
‘There is nothing to tell, Emily.’
‘There must be something to tell. What did he say to you?’
‘Of course you know what he said.’
‘And what answer did you make?’
‘I told him that it could not be.’
‘And did he take that as final, Nora?’
‘Of course not. What man ever takes a No as final?’
‘When you said No to Mr Glascock he took it.’
‘That was different, Emily.’
‘But how different? I don’t see the difference, except that if you could have brought yourself to like Mr Glascock, it would have been the greatest thing in the world for you, and for all of them.’
‘Would you have me take a man, Emily, that I didn’t care one straw for, merely because he was a lord? You can’t mean that.’
‘I’m not talking about Mr Glascock now, Nora.’
‘Yes, you are. And what’s the use. He is gone, and there’s an end of it.’
‘And is Mr Stanbury gone?’
‘In the same way?’ asked Mrs Trevelyan.
‘How can I tell about his ways? No; it is not in the same way. There! He went in a very different way.’
‘How was it different, Nora?’
‘Oh, so different. I can’t tell you how. Mr Glascock will never come back again.’
‘And Mr Stanbury will?’ said the elder sister. Nora made no reply, but after a while nodded her head. ‘And you want him to come back?’ She paused again, and again nodded her head. ‘Then you have accepted him?’
‘I have not accepted him. I have refused him. I have told him that it was impossible.’
‘And yet you wish him back again!’ Nora again nodded her head. ‘That is a state of things I cannot at all understand,’ said Mrs Trevelyan, ‘and would not believe unless you told me so yourself.’
‘And you think me very wrong, of course. I will endeavour to do nothing wrong, but it is so. I have not said a word of encouragement to Mr Stanbury; but I love him with all my heart. Ought I to tell you a lie when you question me? Or is it natural that I should never wish to see again a person whom I love better than all the world? It seems to me that a girl can hardly be right if she have any choice of her own. Here are two men, one rich and the other poor. I shall fall to the ground between them. I know that. I have fallen to the ground already. I like the one I can’t marry. I don’t care a straw for the one who could give me a grand house. That is falling to the ground. But I don’t see that it is hard to understand, or that I have disgraced myself.’
‘I said nothing of disgrace, Nora.’
‘But you looked it.’
‘I did not intend to look it, dearest.’
He knew he was right.
‘And remember this, Emily, I have told you everything because you asked me. I do not mean to tell anybody else, at all. Mamma would not understand me. I have not told him, and I shall not.’
‘You mean Mr Stanbury?’
‘Yes; I mean Mr Stanbury. As to Mr Glascock, of course I shall tell mamma that. I have no secret there. That is his secret, and I suppose mamma should know it. But I will have nothing told about the other. Had I accepted him, or even hinted to him that I cared for him, I would tell mamma at once.’
After that there came something of a lecture, or something, rather, of admonition, from Mrs Outhouse. That lady did not attempt to upbraid, or to find any fault; but observed that as she understood that Mr Stanbury had no means whatever, and as Nora herself had none, there had better be no further intercourse between them, till, at any rate, Sir Marmaduke and Lady Rowley should be in London.‘so I told him that he must not come here any more, my dear,’ said Mrs Outhouse.
‘You are quite right, aunt. He ought not to come here.’
‘I am so glad that you agree with me.’
‘I agree with you altogether. I think I was bound to see him when he asked to see me; but the thing is altogether out of the question. I don’t think he’ll come any more, aunt.’ Then Mrs Outhouse was quite satisfied that no harm had been done.
A month had now passed since anything had been heard at St. Diddulph’s from Mr Trevelyan, and it seemed that many months might go on in the same dull way. When Mrs Trevelyan first found herself in her uncle’s house, a sum of two hundred pounds had been sent to her; and since that she had received a letter from her husband’s lawyer saying that a similar amount would be sent to her every three months, as long as she was separated from her husband. A portion of this she had given over to Mr Outhouse; but this pecuniary assistance by no means comforted that unfortunate gentleman in his trouble. ‘I don’t want to get into debt,’ he said, ‘by keeping a lot of people whom I haven’t the means to feed. And I don’t want to board and lodge my nieces and their family at so much a head. It’s very hard upon me either way.’ And so it was. All the comfort of his home was destroyed, and he was driven to sacrifice his independence by paying his tradesmen with a portion of Mrs Trevelyan’s money. The more he thought of it all, and the more he discussed the matter with his wife, the more indignant they became with the truant husband. ‘I can’t believe,’ he said, ‘but what Mr Bideawhile could make him come back, if he chose to do his duty.’
‘But they say that Mr Trevelyan is in Italy, my dear.’
‘And if I went to Italy, might I leave you to starve, and take my income with me?’
‘He doesn’t leave her quite to starve, my dear.’
‘But isn’t a man bound to stay with his wife? I never heard of such a thing never. And I’m sure that there must be something wrong. A man can’t go away and leave his wife to live with her uncle and aunt. It isn’t right.’
‘But what can we do?’
Mr Outhouse was forced to acknowledge that nothing could be done. He was a man to whom the quiescence of his own childless house was the one pleasure of his existence. And of that he was robbed because this wicked madman chose to neglect all his duties, and leave his wife without a house to shelter her.‘supposing that she couldn’t have come here, what then?’ said Mr Outhouse. ‘I did tell him, as plain as words could speak, that we couldn’t receive them.’ ‘But here they are,’ said Mrs Outhouse, ‘and here they must remain till my brother comes to England.’ ‘It’s the most monstrous thing that I ever heard of in all my life,’ said Mr Outhouse. ‘He ought to be locked up, that’s what he ought.’
It was hard, and it became harder, when a gentleman, whom Mr Outhouse certainly did not wish to see, called upon him about the latter end of September. Mr Outhouse was sitting alone, in the gloomy parlour of his parsonage, for his own study had been given up to other things, since this great inroad had been made upon his family; he was sitting alone on one Saturday morning, preparing for the duties of the next day, with various manuscript sermons lying on the table around him, when he was told that a gentleman had called to see him. Had Mr Outhouse been an incumbent at the West-end of London, or had his maid been a West-end servant, in all probability the gentleman’s name would have been demanded; but Mr Outhouse was a man who was not very ready in foreseeing and preventing misfortunes, and the girl who opened the door was not trained to discreet usages in such matters. As she announced the fact that there was a gentleman, she pointed to the door, to show that the gentleman was there; and before Mr Outhouse had been able to think whether it would be prudent for him to make some preliminary inquiry, Colonel Osborne was in the room. Now, as it happened, these two men had never hitherto met each other, though one was the brother-in-law of Sir Marmaduke Rowley, and the other had been his very old friend. ‘My name, Mr Outhouse, is Colonel Osborne,’ said the visitor, coming forward, with his hand out. The clergyman, of course, took his hand, and asked him to be seated. ‘We have known each other’s names very long,’ continued the Colonel, ‘though I do not think we have ever yet had an opportunity of becoming acquainted.’
‘No,’ said Mr Outhouse; ‘we have never been acquainted, I believe.’ He might have added, that he had no desire whatever to make such acquaintance; and his manner, over which he himself had no control, did almost say as much. Indeed, this coming to his house of the suspected lover of his niece appeared to him to be a heavy addition to his troubles; for, although he was disposed to take his niece’s part against her husband to any possible length, even to the locking up of the husband as a madman, if it were possible, nevertheless he had almost as great a horror of the Colonel, as though the husband’s allegations as to the lover had been true as gospel. Because Trevelyan had been wrong altogether, Colonel Osborne was not the less wrong. Because Trevelyan’s suspicions were to Mr Outhouse wicked and groundless, he did not the less regard the presumed lover to be an iniquitous roaring lion, going about seeking whom he might devour. Elderly, unmarried men of fashion generally, and especially colonels, and majors, and members of parliament, and such like, were to him as black sheep or roaring lions. They were fruges consumere nati; men who stood on club doorsteps talking naughtily and doing nothing, wearing sleek clothing, for which they very often did not pay, and never going to church. It seemed to him in his ignorance that such men had none of the burdens of this world upon their shoulders, and that, therefore, they stood in great peril of the burdens of the next. It was, doubtless, his special duty to deal with men in such peril; but those wicked ones with whom he was concerned were those whom he could reach. Now, the Colonel Osbornes of the earth were not to be got at by any clergyman, or, as far as Mr Outhouse could see, by any means of grace. That story of the rich man and the camel seemed to him to be specially applicable to such people. How was such a one as Colonel Osborne to be shewn the way through the eye of a needle? To Mr Outhouse, his own brother-in-law, Sir Marmaduke, was almost of the same class for he frequented clubs when in London, and played whist, and talked of the things of the world such as the Derby, and the levees, and West-end dinner parties as though they were all in all to him. He, to be sure, was weighted with so large a family that there might be hope for him. The eye of the needle could not be closed against him as a rich man; but he savoured of the West-end, and was worldly, and consorted with such men as this Colonel Osborne. When Colonel Osborne introduced himself to Mr Outhouse, it was almost as though Apollyon had made his way into the parsonage of St. Diddulph’s.
‘Mr Outhouse,’ said the Colonel, ‘I have thought it best to come to you the very moment that I got back to town from Scotland.’ Mr Outhouse bowed, and was bethinking himself slowly what manner of speech he would adopt. ‘I leave town again tomorrow for Dorsetshire. I am going down to my friends, the Brambers, for partridge shooting.’ Mr Outhouse knitted his thick brows, in further inward condemnation. Partridge shooting! yes this was September, and partridge shooting would be the probable care and occupation of such a man at such a time. A man without a duty in the world! Perhaps, added to this there was a feeling that, whereas Colonel Osborne could shoot Scotch grouse in August, and Dorsetshire partridges in September, and go about throughout the whole year like a roaring lion, he, Mr Outhouse, was forced to remain at St. Diddulph’s-in-the-East, from January to December, with the exception of one small parson’s week spent at Margate, for the benefit of his wife’s health. If there was such a thought, or, rather, such a feeling, who will say that it was not natural? ‘But I could not go through London without seeing you,’ continued the Colonel. ‘This is a most frightful infatuation of Trevelyan!’
‘Very frightful, indeed,’ said Mr Outhouse.
‘And, on my honour as a gentleman, not the slightest cause in the world.’
‘You are old enough to be the lady’s father,’ said Mr Outhouse, managing in that to get one blow at the gallant Colonel.
‘Just so. God bless my soul!’ Mr Outhouse shrunk visibly at this profane allusion to the Colonel’s soul. ‘Why, I’ve known her father ever so many years. As you say, I might almost be her father myself.’ As far as age went, such certainly might have been the case, for the Colonel was older than Sir Marmaduke. ‘Look here, Mr Outhouse, here is a letter I got from Emily.’
‘From Mrs Trevelyan?’
‘Yes, from Mrs Trevelyan; and as well as I can understand, it must have been sent to me by Trevelyan himself. Did you ever hear of such a thing? And now I’m told he has gone away, nobody knows where, and has left her here.’
‘He has gone away, nobody knows where.’
‘Of course, I don’t ask to see her.’
‘It would be imprudent, Colonel Osborne; and could not be permitted in this house.’
‘I don’t ask it. I have known Emily Trevelyan since she was an infant, and have always loved her. I’m her godfather, for aught I know, though one forgets things of that sort.’ Mr Outhouse again knit his eyebrows and shuddered visibly.‘she and I have been fast friends and why not? But, of course, I can’t interfere.’
‘If you ask me, Colonel Osborne, I should say that you can do nothing in the matter except to remain away from her. When Sir Marmaduke is in England, you can see him, if you please.’
‘See him? Of course, I shall see him. And, by George, Louis Trevelyan will have to see him, too! I shouldn’t like to have to stand up before Rowley if I had treated a daughter of his in such a fashion. You know Rowley, of course?’
‘Oh, yes; I know him.’
‘He’s not the sort of man to bear this sort of thing. He’ll about tear Trevelyan in pieces if he gets hold of him. God bless my soul —’ the eyebrows went to work again ‘I never heard of such a thing in all my life! Does he pay anything for them, Mr Outhouse?’
This was dreadful to the poor clergyman. ‘That is a subject which we surely need not discuss,’ said he. Then he remembered that such speech on his part was like to a subterfuge, and he found it necessary to put himself right. ‘I am repaid for the maintenance here of my nieces, and the little boy, and their attendants. I do not know why the question should be asked, but such is the fact.’
‘Then they are here by agreement between you and him?’
‘No, sir; they are not. There is no such agreement. But I do not like these interrogatives from a stranger as to matters which should be private.’
‘You cannot wonder at my interest, Mr Outhouse.’
‘You had better restrain it, sir, till Sir Marmaduke arrives. I shall then wash my hands of the affair.’
‘And she is pretty well — Emily, I mean?’
‘Mrs Trevelyan’s health is good.’
‘Pray tell her though I could not, might not, ask to see her, I came to inquire after her the first moment that I was in London. Pray tell her how much I feel for her; but she will know that. When Sir Marmaduke is here, of course, we shall meet. When she is once more under her father’s wing, she need not be restrained by any absurd commands from a husband who has deserted her. At present, of course, I do not ask to see her.’
‘Of course, you do not, Colonel Osborne.’
‘And give my love to Nora, dear little Nora! There can be no reason why she and I should not shake hands.’
‘I should prefer that it should not be so in this house,’ said the clergyman, who was now standing in expectation that his unwelcome guest would go.
‘Very well, so be it. But you will understand I could not be in London without coming and asking after them.’ Then the Colonel at last took his leave, and Mr Outhouse was left to his solitude and his sermons.
Mrs Outhouse was very angry when she heard of the visit. ‘Men of that sort,’ she said, ‘think it a fine thing and talk about it. I believe the poor girl is as innocent as I am, but he isn’t innocent. He likes it.’
‘“It is easier,”’ said Mr Outhouse solemnly, ‘“for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”’
‘I don’t know that he is a rich man,’ said Mrs Outhouse; ‘but he wouldn’t have come here if he had been honest.’
Mrs Trevelyan was told of the visit, and simply said that of course it was out of the question that she should have seen Colonel Osborne. Nevertheless she seemed to think it quite natural that he should have called, and defended him with some energy when her aunt declared that he had been much to blame. ‘He is not bound to obey Mr Trevelyan because I am,’ said Emily.
‘He is bound to abstain from evil doing,’ said Mrs Outhouse; ‘and he oughtn’t to have come. There; let that be enough, my dear. Your uncle doesn’t wish to have it talked about.’ Nevertheless it was talked about between the two sisters. Nora was of opinion that Colonel Osborne had been wrong, whereas Emily defended him. ‘It seems to me to have been the most natural thing in life,’ said she.
Had Colonel Osborne made the visit as Sir Marmaduke’s friend, feeling himself to be an old man, it might have been natural. When a man has come to regard himself as being, on the score of age, about as fit to be a young lady’s lover as though he were an old woman instead of an old man, which some men will do when they are younger even than was Colonel Osborne, he is justified in throwing behind him as utterly absurd the suspicions of other people. But Colonel Osborne cannot be defended altogether on that plea.
Last updated Sunday, July 31, 2016 at 20:26