By the thirteenth of May the Rowley family had established itself in Florence, purposing to remain either there or at the baths of Lucca till the end of June, at which time it was thought that Sir Marmaduke should begin to make preparations for his journey back to the Islands. Their future prospects were not altogether settled. It was not decided whether Lady Rowley should at once return with him, whether Mrs Trevelyan should return with him, nor was it settled among them what should be the fate of Nora Rowley. Nora Rowley was quite resolved herself that she would not go back to the Islands, and had said as much to her mother. Lady Rowley had not repeated this to Sir Marmaduke, and was herself in doubt as to what might best be done. Girls are understood by their mothers better than they are by their fathers. Lady Rowley was beginning to be aware that Nora’s obstinacy was too strong to be overcome by mere words, and that other steps must be taken if she were to be weaned from her pernicious passion for Hugh Stanbury. Mr Glascock was still in Florence. Might she not be cured by further overtures from Mr Glascock? The chance of securing such a son-in-law was so important, so valuable, that no trouble was too great to be incurred, even though the probability of success might not be great.
It must not, however, be supposed that Lady Rowley carried off all the family to Italy, including Sir Marmaduke, simply in chase of Mr Glascock. Anxious as she was on the subject, she was too proud, and also too well-conditioned, to have suggested to herself such a journey with such an object. Trevelyan had escaped from Willesden with the child, and they had heard again through Stanbury that he had returned to Italy. They had all agreed that it would be well that they should leave London for awhile, and see something of the continent; and when it was told to them that little Louis was probably in Florence, that alone was reason enough for them to go thither. They would go to the city till the heat was too great and the mosquitoes too powerful, and then they would visit the baths of Lucca for a month. This was their plan of action, and the cause for their plan; but Lady Rowley found herself able to weave into it another little plan of her own, of which she said nothing to anybody. She was not running after Mr Glascock; but if Mr Glascock should choose to run after them or her, who could say that any harm had been done?
Nora had answered that proposition of her lover’s to walk out of the house in Manchester Street, and get married at the next church, in a most discreet manner. She had declared that she would be true and firm, but that she did not wish to draw upon herself the displeasure of her father and mother. She did not, she said, look upon a clandestine marriage as a happy resource. But this she added at the end of a long and very sensible letter: she intended to abide by her engagement, and she did not intend to go back to the Mandarins. She did not say what alternative she would choose in the event of her being unable to obtain her father’s consent before his return. She did not suggest what was to become of her when Sir Marmaduke’s leave of absence should be expired. But her statement that she would not go back to the islands was certainly made with more substantial vigour, though, perhaps, with less of reasoning, than any other of the propositions made in her letter. Then, in her postscript, she told him that they were all going to Italy. ‘Papa and mamma think that we ought to follow poor Mr Trevelyan. The lawyer says that nothing can be done while he is away with the boy. We are therefore all going to start to Florence. The journey is delightful. I will not say whose presence will be wanting to make it perfect.’
Before they started there came a letter to Nora from Dorothy, which shall be given entire, because it will tell the reader more of Dorothy’s happiness than would be learned from any other mode of narrative.
‘The Close, Thursday.
I have just had a letter from Hugh, and that makes me feel that I should like to write to you. Dear Hugh has told me all about it, and I do so hope that things may come right and that we may be sisters. He is so good that I do not wonder that you should love him. He has been the best son and the best brother in the world, and everybody speaks well of him except my dear aunt, who is prejudiced because she does not like newspapers. I need not praise him to you, for I dare say you think quite as well of him as I do. I cannot tell you all the beautiful things he says about you, but I dare say he has told them to you himself.
I seem to know you so well because Priscilla has talked about you so often. She says that she knew that you and my brother were fond of each other because you growled at each other when you were together at the Clock House, and never had any civil words to say before people. I don’t know whether growling is a sign of love, but Hugh does growl sometimes when he is most affectionate. He growls at me, and I understand him, and I like to be growled at. I wonder whether you like him to growl at you.
And now I must tell you something about myself because if you are to be my sister you ought to know it all. I also am going to be married to a man whom I love oh, so dearly! His name is Mr Brooke Burgess, and he is a great friend of my aunt’s. At first she did not like our being engaged, because of some family reason — but she has got over that, and nothing can be kinder and nicer than she is. We are to be married here, some day in June, the 11th I think it will be. How I do wish you could have been here to be my bridesmaid. It would have been so nice to have had Hugh’s sweetheart with me. He is a friend of Hugh’s, and no doubt you will hear all about him. The worst of it is that we must live in London, because my husband as will be — you see I call him mine already — is in an office there. And so poor Aunt Stanbury will be left all alone. It will be very sad, and she is so wedded to Exeter that I fear we shall not get her up to London.
I would describe Mr Burgess to you, only I do not suppose you would care to hear about him. He is not so tall as Hugh, but he is a great deal better looking. With you two the good looks are to be with the wife; but, with us, with the husband. Perhaps you think Hugh is handsome. We used to declare that he was the ugliest boy in the country. I don’t suppose it makes very much difference. Brooke is handsome, but I don’t think I should like him the less if he were ever so ugly.
Do you remember hearing about the Miss Frenches when you were in Devonshire? There has come up such a terrible affair about them. A Mr Gibson, a clergyman, was going to marry the younger; but has changed his mind and wants to take the elder. I think he was in love with her first.’ Dorothy did not say a word about the little intermediate stage of attachment to herself. ‘All this is making a great noise in the city, and some people think he should be punished severely. It seems to me that a gentleman ought not to make such a mistake; but if he does, he ought to own it. I hope they will let him marry the eider one. Aunt Stanbury says it all comes from their wearing chignons. I wish you knew Aunt Stanbury, because she is so good. Perhaps you wear a chignon. I think Priscilla said that you did. It must not be large, if you come to see Aunt Stanbury.
Pray write to me and believe that I hope to be your most affectionate sister,
P.S. I am so happy, and I do so hope that you will be the same.’
This was received only a day before the departure of the Rowleys for Italy, and was answered by a short note promising that Nora would write to her correspondent from Florence.
There could be no doubt that Trevelyan had started with his boy, fearing the result of the medical or legal interference with his affairs which was about to be made at Sir Marmaduke’s instance. He had written a few words to his wife, neither commencing nor ending his note after any usual fashion, telling her that he thought it expedient to travel, that he had secured the services of a nurse for the little boy, and that during his absence a certain income would, as heretofore, be paid to her. He said nothing as to his probable return, or as to her future life; nor was there anything to indicate whither he was going. Stanbury, however, had learned from the faithless and frightened Bozzle that Trevelyan’s letters were to be sent after him to Florence. Mr Bozzle, in giving this information, had acknowledged that his employer was ‘becoming no longer quite himself under his troubles,’ and had expressed his opinion that he ought to be ‘looked after.’ Bozzle had made his money; and now, with a grain of humanity mixed with many grains of faithlessness, reconciled it to himself to tell his master’s secrets to his master’s enemies. What would a counsel be able to say about his conduct in a court of law? That was the question which Bozzle was always asking himself as to his own business. That he should be abused by a barrister to a jury, and exposed as a spy and a fiend, was, he thought, a matter of course. To be so abused was a part of his profession. But it was expedient for him in all cases to secure some loop-hole of apparent duty by which he might in part escape from such censures. He was untrue to his employer now, because he thought that his employer ought to be ‘looked after.’ He did, no doubt, take a five-pound note from Hugh Stanbury; but then it was necessary that he should live. He must be paid for his time. In this way Trevelyan started for Florence, and within a week afterwards the Rowleys were upon his track.
Nothing had been said by Sir Marmaduke to Nora as to her lover since that stormy interview in which both father and daughter had expressed their opinions very strongly, and very little had been said by Lady Rowley. Lady Rowley had spoken more than once of Nora’s return to the Mandarins, and had once alluded to it as a certainty. ‘But I do not know that I shall go back,’ Nora had said. ‘My dear,’ the mother had replied, ‘unless you are married, I suppose your home must be with your parents.’ Nora, having made her protest, did not think it necessary to persevere, and so the matter was dropped. It was known, however, that they must all come back to London before they started for their seat of government, and therefore the subject did not at present assume its difficult aspect. There was a tacit understanding among them that everything should be done to make the journey pleasant to the young mother who was in search of her son; and, in addition to this, Lady Rowley had her own little understanding, which was very tacit indeed, that in Mr Glascock might be found an escape from one of their great family difficulties.
‘You had better take this, papa,’ Mrs Trevelyan had said, when she received from the office of Mr Bideawhile a cheque payable to her order for the money sent to her by her husband’s direction.
‘I do not want the man’s money,’ said Sir Marmaduke. ‘But you are going to this place for my sake, papa and it is right that he should bear the expense for his own wife. And, papa, you must remember always that though his mind is distracted on this horrible business, he is not a bad man. No one is more liberal or more just about money.’ Sir Marmaduke’s feelings on the matter were very much the same as those which had troubled Mr Outhouse, and he, personally, refused to touch the money; but his daughter paid her own share of the expenses of the journey.
They travelled at their ease, stopping at Paris, and at Geneva, and at Milan. Lady Rowley thought that she was taken very fast, because she was allowed to sleep only two nights at each of these places, and Sir Rowley himself thought that he had achieved something of a Hannibalian enterprise in taking five ladies and two maids over the Simplon and down into the plains of Lombardy, with nobody to protect him but a single courier. He had been a little nervous about it, being unaccustomed to European travelling, and had not at first realised the fact that the journey is to be made with less trouble than one from the Marble Arch to Mile End. ‘My dears,’ he said to his younger daughters, as they were rattling round the steep downward twists and turns of the great road, ‘you must sit quite still on these descents, or you do not know where you may go. The least thing would overset us.’ But Lucy and Sophy soon knew better, and became so intimate with the mountain, under the friendly guidance of their courier, that before the plains were reached, they were in and out, and here and there, and up and down, as though they had been bred among the valleys of the pass. There would come a ringing laugh from some rock above their head, and Lady Rowley looking up would see their dresses fluttering on a pinnacle which appeared to her to be fit only for a bird; and there would be the courier behind them, with two parasols, and a shawl, and a cloak, and an eye-glass, and a fine pair of grizzled whiskers. They made an Alpine club of their own, refusing to admit their father because he would not climb up a rock, and Nora thought of the letters about it which she would write to her lover, only that she had determined that she would not write to him at all without telling her mother, and Mrs Trevelyan would for moments almost forget that she had been robbed of her child.
From Milan they went on to Florence, and though they were by that time quite at home in Italy, and had become critical judges of Italian inns and Italian railways, they did not find that journey to be quite so pleasant. There is a romance to us still in the name of Italy which a near view of many details in the country fails to realise. Shall we say that a journey through Lombardy is about as interesting as one through the flats of Cambridgeshire and the fens of Norfolk? And the station of Bologna is not an interesting spot in which to spend an hour or two, although it may be conceded that provisions may be had there much better than any that can be procured at our own railway stations. From thence they went, still by rail, over the Apennines, and unfortunately slept during the whole time. The courier had assured them that if they would only look out they would see the castles of which they had read in novels; but the day had been very hot, and Sir Marmaduke had been cross, and Lady Rowley had been weary, and so not a castle was seen. ‘Pistoia, me lady, this,’ said the courier opening the door ‘to stop half an hour.’ ‘Oh, why was it not Florence?’ Another hour and a half! So they all went to sleep again, and were very tired when they reached the beautiful city.
During the next day they rested at their inn, and sauntered through the Duomo, and broke their necks looking up at the inimitable glories of the campanile. Such a one as Sir Marmaduke had of course not come to Florence without introductions. The Foreign Office is always very civil to its next-door neighbours of the colonies, civil and cordial, though perhaps a little patronising. A minister is a bigger man than a governor; and the smallest of the diplomatic fry are greater swells than even secretaries in quite important dependencies. The attache, though he be unpaid, dwells in a capital, and flirts with a countess. The governor’s right-hand man is confined to an island, and dances with a planter’s daughter. The distinction is quite understood, but is not incompatible with much excellent good feeling on the part of the superior department. Sir Marmaduke had come to Florence fairly provided with passports to Florentine society, and had been mentioned in more than one letter as the distinguished Governor of the Mandarins, who had been called home from his seat of government on a special mission of great importance. On the second day he went out to call at the embassy and to leave his cards. ‘Have you been able to learn whether he is here?’ asked Lady Rowley of her husband in a whisper, as soon as they were alone.
I did not suppose you could learn about him, because he would be hiding himself. But is Mr Glascock here?’
‘I forgot to ask,’ said Sir Marmaduke.
Lady Rowley did not reproach him. It is impossible that any father should altogether share a mother’s anxiety in regard to the marriage of their daughters. But what a thing it would be! Lady Rowley thought that she could compound for all misfortunes in other respects, if she could have a daughter married to the future Lord Peterborough. She had been told in England that he was faultless not very clever, not very active, not likely to be very famous; but, as a husband, simply faultless. He was very rich, very good-natured, easily managed, more likely to be proud of his wife than of himself, addicted to no jealousies, afflicted by no vices, so respectable in every way that he was sure to become great as an English nobleman by the very weight of his virtues. And it had been represented also to Lady Rowley that this paragon among men had been passionately attached to her daughter! Perhaps she magnified a little the romance of the story; but it seemed to her that this greatly endowed lover had rushed away from his country in despair, because her daughter Nora would not smile upon him. Now they were, as she hoped, in the same city with him. But it was indispensable to her success that she should not seem to be running after him. To Nora, not a word had been said of the prospect of meeting Mr Glascock at Florence. Hardly more than a word had been said to her sister Emily, and that under injunction of strictest secrecy. It must be made to appear to all the world that other motives had brought them to Florence as, indeed, other motives had brought them. Not for worlds would Lady Rowley have run after a man for her daughter; but still, still — still, seeing that the man was himself so unutterably in love with her girl, seeing that he was so fully justified by his position to be in love with any girl, seeing that such a maximum of happiness would be the result of such a marriage, she did feel that, even for his sake, she must be doing a good thing to bring them together! Something, though not much of all this, she had been obliged to explain to Sir Marmaduke and yet he had not taken the trouble to inquire whether Mr Glascock was in Florence!
On the third day after their arrival, the wife of the British minister came to call upon Lady Rowley, and the wife of the British minister was good-natured, easy-mannered, and very much given to conversation. She preferred talking to listening, and in the course of a quarter of an hour had told Lady Rowley a good deal about Florence; but she had not mentioned Mr Glascock’s name. It would have been so pleasant if the requisite information could have been obtained without the asking of any direct question on the subject! But Lady Rowley, who from many years’ practice of similar, though perhaps less distinguished, courtesies on her part, knew well the first symptom of the coming end of her guest’s visit, found that the minister’s wife was about to take her departure without an allusion to Mr Glascock. And yet the names had been mentioned of so many English residents in Florence, who neither in wealth, rank, or virtue, were competent to hold a candle to that phoenix! She was forced, therefore, to pluck up courage, and to ask the question. ‘Have you had a Mr Glascock here this spring?’ said Lady Rowley.
‘What Lord Peterborough’s son? Oh, dear, yes. Such a singular being!’
Lady Rowley thought that she could perceive that her phoenix had not made himself agreeable at the embassy. It might perhaps be that he had buried himself away from society because of his love. ‘And is here now?’ asked Lady Rowley.
‘I cannot say at all. He is sometimes here and sometimes with his father at Naples. But when here, he lives chiefly with the Americans. They say he is going to marry an American girl their minister’s niece. There are three of-them, I think, and he is to take the eldest.’ Lady Rowley asked no more questions, and let her august visitor go, almost without another word.
Last updated Sunday, July 31, 2016 at 20:26