It had now come to pass that Trevelyan had not a friend in the world to whom he could apply in the matter of his wife and family. In the last communication which he had received from Lady Milborough she had scolded him, in terms that were for her severe, because he had not returned to his wife and taken her off with him to Naples. Mr Bideawhile had found himself obliged to decline to move in the matter at all. With Hugh Stanbury, Trevelyan had had a direct quarrel. Mr and Mrs Outhouse he regarded as bitter enemies, who had taken the part of his wife without any regard to the decencies of life. And now it had come to pass that his sole remaining ally, Mr Samuel Bozzle, the ex-policeman, was becoming weary of his service. Trevelyan remained in the north of Italy up to the middle of March, spending a fortune in sending telegrams to Bozzle, instigating Bozzle by all the means in his power to obtain possession of the child, desiring him at one time to pounce down upon the parsonage of St. Diddulph’s with a battalion of policemen armed to the teeth with the law’s authority, and at another time suggesting to him to find his way by stratagem into Mr Outhouse’s castle and carry off the child in his arms. At last he sent word to say that he himself would be in England before the end of March, and would see that the majesty of the law should be vindicated in his favour.
Bozzle had in truth made but one personal application for the child at St. Diddulph’s. In making this he had expected no success, though, from the energetic nature of his disposition, he had made the attempt with some zeal. But he had never applied again at the parsonage, disregarding the letters, the telegrams, and even the promises which had come to him from his employer with such frequency. The truth was that Mrs Bozzle was opposed to the proposed separation of the mother and the child, and that Bozzle was a man who listened to the words of his wife. Mrs Bozzle was quite prepared to admit that Madame T. as Mrs Trevelyan had come to be called at No. 55, Stony Walk was no better than she should be. Mrs Bozzle was disposed to think that ladies of quality, among whom Madame T. was entitled in her estimation to take rank, were seldom better than they ought to be, and she was quite willing that her husband should earn his bread by watching the lady or the lady’s lover. She had participated in Bozzle’s triumph when he had discovered that the Colonel had gone to Devonshire, and again when he had learned that the Lothario had been at St. Diddulph’s. And had the case been brought before the judge ordinary by means of her husband’s exertions, she would have taken pleasure in reading every word of the evidence, even though her husband should have been ever so roughly handled by the lawyers. But now, when a demand was made upon Bozzle to violate the sanctity of the clergyman’s house, and withdraw the child by force or stratagem, she began to perceive that the palmy days of the Trevelyan affair were over for them, and that it would be wise on her husband’s part gradually to back out of the gentleman’s employment. ‘Just put it on the fire-back, Bozzle,’ she said one morning, as her husband stood before her reading for the second time a somewhat lengthy epistle which had reached him from Italy, while he held the baby over his shoulder with his left arm. He had just washed himself at the sink, and though his face was clean, his hair was rough, and his shirt sleeves were tucked up.
‘That’s all very well, Maryanne; but when a party has took a gent’s money, a party is bound to go through with the job.’
‘It’s all very well to say gammon; but his money has been took and there’s more to come.’
‘And ain’t you worked for the money down to Hexeter one time, across the water pretty well day and night watching that ere clergyman’s ’ouse like a cat? What more’d he have? As to the child, I won’t hear of it, B. The child shan’t come here. We’d all be shewed up in the papers as that black, that they’d hoot us along the streets. It ain’t the regular line of business, Bozzle; and there ain’t no good to be got, never, by going off the regular line.’ Whereupon Bozzle scratched his head and again read the letter. A distinct promise of a hundred pounds was made to him, if he would have the child ready to hand over to Trevelyan on Trevelyan’s arrival in England.
‘It ain’t to be done, you know,’ said Bozzle.
‘Of course it ain’t,’ said Mrs Bozzle.
‘It ain’t to be done, anyways, not in my way of business. Why didn’t he go to Skint, as I told him, when his own lawyer was too dainty for the job? The paternal parent has a right to his hinfants, no doubt.’ That was Bozzle’s law.
‘I don’t believe it, B.’
‘But he have, I tell you.’
‘He can’t suckle ’em can he? I don’t believe a bit of his rights.’
‘When a married woman has followers, and the husband don’t go the wrong side of the post too, or it ain’t proved again him that he do, they’ll never let her have nothing to do with the children. It’s been before the court a hundred times. He’ll get the child fast enough if he’ll go before the court.’
‘Anyways it ain’t your business, Bozzle, and don’t you meddle nor make. The money’s good money as long as it’s honest earned; but when you come to rampaging and breaking into a gent’s house, then I say money may be had a deal too hard.’ In this special letter, which had now come to hand, Bozzle was not instructed to ‘rampage.’ He was simply desired to make a further official requisition for the boy at the parsonage, and to explain to Mr Outhouse, Mrs Outhouse, and Mrs Trevelyan, or to as many of them as he could contrive to see, that Mr Trevelyan was immediately about to return to London, and that he would put the law into execution if his son were not given up to him at once. ‘I’ll tell you what it is, B.,’ exclaimed Mrs Bozzle, ‘it’s my belief as he ain’t quite right up here;’ and Mrs Bozzle touched her forehead.
‘It’s love for her as has done it then,’ said Bozzle, shaking his head.
‘I’m not a taking of her part, B. A woman as has a husband as finds her with her wittels regular, and with what’s decent and comfortable beside, ought to be contented. I’ve never said no other than that. I ain’t no patience with your saucy madames as can’t remember as they’re eating an honest man’s bread. Drat ’em all; what is it they wants? They don’t know what they wants. It’s just hidleness cause there ain’t a ha’porth for ’em to do. It’s that as makes ’em, I won’t say what. But as for this here child, B . . . .’ At that moment there came a knock at the door. Mrs Bozzle going into the passage, opened it herself, and saw a strange gentleman. Bozzle, who had stood at the inner door, saw that the gentleman was Mr Trevelyan.
The letter, which was still in the ex-policeman’s hand, had reached Stony Walk on the previous day; but the master of the house had been absent, finding out facts, following up his profession, and earning an honest penny. Trevelyan had followed his letter quicker than he had intended when it was written, and was now with his prime minister, before his prime minister had been able to take any action on the last instruction received. ‘Does one Mr Samuel Bozzle live here?’ asked Trevelyan. Then Bozzle came forward and introduced his wife. There was no one else present except the baby, and Bozzle intimated that let matters be as delicate as they might, they could be discussed with perfect security in his wife’s presence. But Trevelyan was of a different opinion, and he was disgusted and revolted most unreasonably by the appearance of his minister’s domestic arrangements. Bozzle had always waited upon him with a decent coat, and a well-brushed hat, and clean shoes. It is very much easier for such men as Mr Bozzle to carry decency of appearance about with them than to keep it at home. Trevelyan had never believed his ally to be more than an ordinary ex-policeman, but he had not considered how unattractive might be the interior of a private detective’s private residence. Mrs Bozzle had set a chair for him, but he had declined to sit down. The room was dirty, and very close as though no breath of air was ever allowed to find entrance there. ‘Perhaps you could put on your coat, and walk out with me for a few minutes,’ said Trevelyan. Mrs Bozzle, who well understood that business was business, and that wives were not business, felt no anger at this, and handed her husband his best coat. The well-brushed hat was fetched from a cupboard, and it was astonishing to see how easily and how quickly the outer respectability of Bozzle was restored.
‘Well?’ said Trevelyan, as soon as they were together in the middle of Stony Walk.
‘There hasn’t been nothing to be done, sir,’ said Bozzle.
‘Why not?’ Trevelyan could perceive at once that the authority which he had once respected had gone from the man. Bozzle away from his own home, out on business, with his coat buttoned over his breast, and his best hat in his hand, was aware that he commanded respect and he could carry himself accordingly. He knew himself to be somebody, and could be easy, self-confident, confidential, severe, authoritative, or even arrogant, as the circumstances of the moment might demand. But he had been found with his coat off, and a baby in his arms, and he could not recover himself. ‘I do not suppose that anybody will question my right to have the care of my own child,’ said Trevelyan.
‘If you would have gone to Mr Skint, sir,’ suggested Bozzle. ‘There ain’t no smarter gent in all the profession, sir, than Mr Skint.’
Mr Trevelyan made no reply to this, but walked on in silence, with his minister at his elbow. He was very wretched, understanding well the degradation to which he was subjecting himself in discussing his wife’s conduct with this man; but with whom else could he discuss it? The man seemed to be meaner now than he had been before he had been seen in his own home. And Trevelyan was conscious too that he himself was not in outward appearance as he used to be, that he was ill-dressed, and haggard, and worn, and visibly a wretched being. How can any man care to dress himself with attention who is always alone, and always miserable when alone? During the months which had passed over him since he had sent his wife away from him, his very nature had been altered, and he himself was aware of the change. As he went about, his eyes were ever cast downwards, and he walked with a quick shuffling gait, and he suspected others, feeling that he himself was suspected. And all work had ceased with him. Since she had left him he had not read a single book that was worth the reading. And he knew it all. He was conscious that he was becoming disgraced and degraded. He would sooner have shot himself than have walked into his club, or even have allowed himself to be seen by daylight in Pall Mall, or Piccadilly. He had taken in his misery to drinking little drops of brandy in the morning, although he knew well that there was no shorter road to the devil than that opened by such a habit. He looked up for a moment at Bozzle, and then asked him a question. ‘Where is he now?’
‘You mean the Colonel, sir. He up in town, sir, a minding of his parliamentary duties. He have been up all this month, sir.’
‘They haven’t met?’
Bozzle paused a moment before he replied, and then smiled as he spoke. ‘It is so hard, to say, sir. Ladies is so cute and cunning. I’ve watched as sharp as watching can go, pretty near. I’ve put a youngster on at each bend, and both of ’em’d hear a mouse stirring in his sleep. I ain’t got no evidence, Mr Trevelyan. But if you ask me my opinion, why in course they’ve been together somewhere. It stands to reason, Mr Trevelyan; don’t it?’ And Bozzle as he said this smiled almost aloud.
‘D n and b t it all for ever!’ said Trevelyan, gnashing his teeth, and moving away into Union Street as fast as he could walk. And he did go away, leaving Bozzle standing in the middle of Stony Walk.
‘He’s disturbed in his mind quite ‘orrid,’ Bozzle said when he got back to his wife. ‘He cursed and swore as made even me feel bad.’
‘B.,’ said is wife, ‘do you listen to me. Get in what’s a howing and don’t you have any more to do with it.’
Last updated Sunday, July 31, 2016 at 20:26