Sir Marmaduke, on his return home from Dr Turbury’s house, found that he had other domestic troubles on hand over and above those arising from his elder daughter’s position. Mr Hugh Stanbury had been in Manchester Street during his absence, and had asked for him, and, finding that he was away from home, had told his story to Lady Rowley. When he had been shown upstairs all the four daughters had been with their mother; but he had said a word or two signifying his desire to speak to Lady Rowley, and the three girls had left the room. In this way it came to pass that he had to plead his cause before Nora’s mother and her elder sister. He had pleaded it well, and Lady Rowley’s heart had been well disposed towards him; but when she asked of his house and his home, his answer had been hardy more satisfactory than that of Alan-a-Dale. There was little that he could call his own beyond ‘The blue vault of heaven.’ Had he saved any money? No, not a shilling — that was to say, as he himself expressed it, nothing that could be called money. He had a few pounds by him, just to go on with. What was his income? Well last year he had made four hundred pounds, and this year he hoped to make something more. He thought he could see his way plainly to five hundred a year. Was it permanent; and if not, on what did it depend? He believed it to be as permanent as most other professional incomes, but was obliged to confess that, as regarded the source from whence it was drawn at the present moment, it might be brought to an abrupt end any day by a disagreement between himself and the editor of the D. R. Did he think that this was fixed income? He did think that if he and the editor of the D. R. were to fall out, he could come across other editors who would gladly employ him. Would he himself feel safe in giving his own sister to a man with such an income? In answer to this question, he started some rather bold doctrines on the subject of matrimony in general, asserting that safety was not desirable, that energy, patience, and mutual confidence would be increased by the excitement of risk, and that in his opinion it behoved young men and young women to come together and get themselves married, even though there might be some not remote danger of distress before them. He admitted that starvation would be disagreeable, especially for children, in the eyes of their parents, but alleged that children as a rule were not starved, and quoted the Scripture to prove that honest laborious men were not to be seen begging their bread in the streets. He was very eloquent, but his eloquence itself was against him. Both Lady Rowley and Mrs Trevelyan were afraid of such advanced opinions; and, although everything was of course to be left, nominally, to the decision of Sir Marmaduke, they both declared that they could not recommend Sir Marmaduke to consent. Lady Rowley said a word as to the expediency of taking Nora back with her to the Mandarins, pointing out what appeared to her then to be the necessity of taking Mrs Trevelyan with them also; and in saying this she hinted that if Nora were disposed to stand by her engagement, and Mr Stanbury equally so disposed, there might be some possibility of a marriage at a future period. Only, in such case, there must be no correspondence. In answer to this Hugh declared that he regarded such a scheme as being altogether bad. The Mandarins were so very far distant that he might as well be engaged to an angel in heaven. Nora, if she were to go away now, would perhaps never come back again; and if she did come back, would be an old woman, with hollow cheeks. In replying to this proposition, he let fall an opinion that Nora was old enough to judge for herself. He said nothing about her actual age, and did not venture to plead that the young lady had a legal right to do as she liked with herself; but he made it manifest that such an idea was in his mind. In answer to this, Lady Rowley asserted that Nora was a good girl, and would do as her father told her; but she did not venture to assert that Nora would give up her engagement. Lady Rowley at last undertook to speak to Sir Rowley, and to speak also to her daughter. Hugh was asked for his address, and gave that of the office of the D. R. He was always to be found there between three and five; and after that, four times a week, in the reporters’ gallery of the House of Commons. Then he was at some pains to explain to Lady Rowley that though he attended the reporters’ gallery, he did not report himself. It was his duty to write leading political articles, and, to enable him to do so, he attended the debates.
Before he went Mrs Trevelyan thanked him most cordially for the trouble he had taken in procuring for her the address at Willesden, and gave him some account of the journey which she and her mother had made to River’s Cottage. He argued with both of them that the unfortunate man must now be regarded as being altogether out of his mind, and something was said as to the great wisdom and experience of Dr Trite Turbury. Then Hugh Stanbury took his leave; and even Lady Rowley bade him adieu with kind cordiality. ‘I don’t wonder, mamma, that Nora should like him,’ said Mrs Trevelyan.
‘That is all very well, my dear, and no doubt he is pleasant, and manly, and all that; but really it would be almost like marrying a beggar.’
‘For myself,’ said Mrs Trevelyan, ‘if I could begin life again, I do not think that any temptation would induce me to place myself in a man’s power.’
Sir Marmaduke was told of all this on his return home, and he asked many questions as to the nature of Stanbury’s work. When it was explained to him, Lady Rowley repeating as nearly as she could all that Hugh had himself said about it, he expressed his opinion that writing for a penny newspaper was hardly more safe as a source of income than betting on horse races. ‘I don’t see that it is wrong,’ said Mrs Trevelyan.
‘I say nothing about wrong. I simply assert that it is uncertain. The very existence of such a periodical must in itself be most insecure.’ Sir Marmaduke, amidst the cares of his government at the Mandarins, had, perhaps, had no better opportunity of watching what was going on in the world of letters than had fallen to the lot of Miss Stanbury at Exeter.
‘I think your papa is right,’ said Lady Rowley.
‘Of course I am right. It is out of the question; and so Nora must be told.’ He had as yet heard nothing about Mr Glascock. Had that misfortune been communicated to him his cup would indeed have been filled with sorrow to overflowing.
In the evening Nora was closeted with her father. ‘Nora, my dear, you must understand, once and for all, that this cannot be,’ said Sir Marmaduke. The Governor, when he was not disturbed by outward circumstances, could assume a good deal of personal dignity, and could speak, especially to his children, with an air of indisputable authority.
‘What can’t be, papa?’ said Nora.
Sir Marmaduke perceived at once that there was no indication of obedience in his daughter’s voice, and he prepared himself for battle. He conceived himself to be very strong, and thought that his objections were so well founded that no one would deny their truth and that his daughter had not a leg to stand on. ‘This, that your mamma tells me of about Mr Stanbury. Do you know, my dear, that he has not a shilling in the world?’
‘I know that he has no fortune, papa if you mean that.’
‘And no profession either — nothing that can be called a profession. I do not wish to argue it, my dear, because there is no room for argument. The whole thing is preposterous. I cannot but think ill of him for having proposed it to you; for he must have known, must have known, that a young man without an income cannot be accepted as a fitting suitor for a gentleman’s daughter. As for yourself, I can only hope that you will get the little idea out of your head very quickly; but mamma will speak to you about that. What I want you to understand from me is this, that there must be an end to it.’
Nora listened to this speech in perfect silence, standing before her father, and waiting patiently till the last word of it should be pronounced. Even when he had finished she still paused before she answered him. ‘Papa,’ she said at last and hesitated again before she went on.
‘Well, my dear.’
‘I can not give it up.’
‘But you must give it up.’
‘No, papa. I would do anything I could for you and mamma, but that is impossible.’
‘Why is it impossible?’
‘Because I love him so dearly.’
‘That is nonsense. That is what all girls say when they choose to run against their parents. I tell you that it shall be given up. I will not have him here. I forbid you to see him. It is quite out of the question that you should marry such a man. I do hope, Nora, that you are not going to add to mamma’s difficulties and mine by being obstinate and disobedient.’ He paused a moment, and then added, ‘I do not think that there is anything more to be said.’
‘My dear, I think you had better say nothing further about it. If you cannot bring yourself at the present moment to promise that there shall be an end of it, you had better hold your tongue. You have heard what I say, and you have heard what mamma says. I do not for a moment suppose that you dream of carrying on a communication with this gentleman in opposition to our wishes.’
‘But I do.’
‘Papa, you had better listen to me.’ Sir Marmaduke, when he heard this, assumed an air of increased authority, in which he intended that paternal anger should be visible; but he seated himself, and prepared to receive, at any rate, some of the arguments with which Nora intended to bolster up her bad cause. ‘I have promised Mr Stanbury that I will be his wife.’
‘That is all nonsense.’
‘Do listen to me, papa. I have listened to you and you ought to listen to me. I have promised him, and I must keep my promise. I shall keep my promise if he wishes it. There is a time when a girl must be supposed to know what is best for herself, just as there is for a man.’
‘I never heard such stuff in all my life. Do you mean that you’ll go out and marry him like a beggar, with nothing but what you stand up in, with no friend to be with you, an outcast, thrown off by your mother with your father’s curse?’
‘Oh, papa, do not say that. You would not curse me. You could not.’
‘If you do it at all, that will be the way.’
‘That will not be the way, papa. You could not treat me like that.’
‘And how are you proposing to treat me?’
‘But, papa, in whatever way I do it, I must do it. I do not say today or tomorrow; but it must be the intention and purpose of my life, and I must declare that it is, everywhere. I have made up my mind about it. I am engaged to him, and I shall always say so unless he breaks it. I don’t care a bit about fortune. I thought I did once, but I have changed all that.’
‘Because this scoundrel has talked sedition to you.’
‘He is not a scoundrel, papa, and he has not talked sedition. I don’t know what sedition is. I thought it meant treason, and I’m sure he is not a traitor. He has made me love him, and I shall be true to him.’
Hereupon Sir Marmaduke began almost to weep. There came first a half-smothered oath and then a sob, and he walked about the room, and struck the table with his fist, and rubbed his bald head impatiently with his hand. ‘Nora,’ he said, ‘I thought you were so different from this! If I had believed this of you, you never should have come to England with Emily.’
‘It is too late for that now, papa.’
‘Your mamma always told me that you had such excellent ideas about marriage.’
‘So I have, I think,’ said she, smiling.
‘She always believed that you would make a match that would be a credit to the family.’
‘I tried it, papa, the sort of match that you mean. Indeed I was mercenary enough in what I believed to be my views of life. I meant to marry a rich man if I could, and did not think much whether I should love him or not. But when the rich man came —’
‘What rich man?’
‘I suppose mamma has told you about Mr Glascock.’
‘Who is Mr Glascock? I have not heard a word about Mr Glascock.’ Then Nora was forced to tell the story, was called upon to tell it with all its aggravating details. By degrees Sir Marmaduke learned that this Mr Glascock, who had desired to be his son-in-law, was in very truth the heir to the Peterborough title and estates, would have been such a son-in-law as almost to compensate, by the brilliance of the connection, for that other unfortunate alliance. He could hardly control his agony when he was made to understand that this embryo peer had in truth been in earnest.
‘Do you mean that he went down after you into Devonshire?’
‘And you refused him then a second time?’
‘Why, why, why? You say yourself that you liked him, that you thought that you would accept him.’
‘When it came to speaking the word, papa, I found that I could not pretend to love him when I did not love him. I did not care for him, and I liked somebody else so much better! I just told him the plain truth and so he went away.’
The thought of all that he had lost, of all that might so easily have been his, for a time overwhelmed Sir Marmaduke, and drove the very memory of Hugh Stanbury almost out of his head; He could understand that a girl should not marry a man whom she did not like; but he could not understand how any girl should not love such a suitor as was Mr Glascock. And had she accepted this pearl of men, with her position, with her manners and beauty and appearance, such a connection would have been as good as an assured marriage for every one of Sir Marmaduke’s numerous daughters. Nora was just the woman to look like a great lady, a lady of high rank such a lady as could almost command men to come and throw themselves at her unmarried sisters’ feet. Sir Marmaduke had believed in his daughter Nora, had looked forward to see her do much for the family; and, when the crash had come upon the Trevelyan household, had thought almost as much of her injured prospects as he had of the misfortune of her sister. But now it seemed that more than all the good things of what he had dreamed had been proposed to this unruly girl, in spite of that great crash, and had been rejected! And he saw more than this as he thought. These good things would have been accepted had it not been for this rascal of a penny-a-liner, this friend of that other rascal Trevelyan, who had come in the way of their family to destroy the happiness of them all! Sir Marmaduke, in speaking of Stanbury after this, would constantly call him a penny-a-liner, thinking that the contamination of the penny communicated itself to all transactions of the Daily Record.
‘You have made your bed for yourself, Nora, and you must lie upon it.’
‘Just so, papa.’
‘I mean that, as you have refused Mr Glascock’s offer, you can never again hope for such an opening in life.’
‘Of course I cannot. I am not such a child as to suppose that there are many Mr Glascocks to come and run after me. And if there were ever so many, papa, it would be no good. As you say, I have chosen for myself, and I must put up with it. When I see the carriages going about in the streets, and remember how often shall have to go home in an omnibus, I do think about it a good deal.’
‘I’m afraid you will think when it is too late.’
‘It isn’t that I don’t like carriages, papa. I do like them; and pretty dresses, and brooches, and men and women who have nothing to do, and balls, and the opera; but I love this man, and that is more to me than all the rest. I cannot help myself if it were ever so. Papa, you mustn’t be angry with me. Pray, pray, pray do not say that horrid word again.’
This was the end of the interview. Sir Marmaduke found that he had nothing further to say. Nora, when she reached her last prayer to her father, referring to that curse with which he had threatened her, was herself in tears, and was leaning on him with her head against his shoulder. Of course he did not say a word which could be understood as sanctioning her engagement with Stanbury. He was as strongly determined as ever that it was his duty to save her from the perils of such a marriage as that. But, nevertheless, he was so far overcome by her as to be softened in his manners towards her. He kissed her as he left her, and told her to go to her mother. Then he went out and thought of it all, and felt as though Paradise had been opened to his child and she had refused to enter the gate.
Last updated Sunday, July 31, 2016 at 20:26