Nora, with Lady Milborough’s carriage, and Lady Milborough’s coach and footman, and with a cab ready for the luggage close behind the carriage, was waiting at the railway station when the party from Dover arrived. She soon saw Hugh upon the platform, and ran to him with her news. They had not a word to say to each other of themselves, so anxious were they both respecting Trevelyan. ‘We got a bed-carriage for him at Dover,’ said Hugh; ‘and I think he has borne the journey pretty well but he feels the heat almost as badly as in Italy. You will hardly know him when you see him.’ Then, when the rush of passengers was gone, Trevelyan was brought out by Hugh and the courier, and placed in Lady Milborough’s carriage. He just smiled as his eye fell upon Nora, but he did not even put out his hand to greet her.
‘I am to go in the carriage with him,’ said his wife.
‘Of course you are, and so will I and Louey. I think there will be room: it is so large. There is a cab for all the things. Dear Emily, I am so glad to see you.’
‘Dearest Nora! I shall be able to speak to you by-and-by, but you must not be angry with me now. How good you have been.’
‘Has not she been good? I don’t understand about the cottage. It belongs to some friend of hers; and I have not been able to say a word about the rent. It is so nice and looks upon the river. I hope that he will like it.’
‘You will be with us?’
‘Not just at first. Lady Milborough thinks I had better not, that he will like it better. I will come down almost every day, and will stay if you think he will like it.’
These few words were said while the men were putting Trevelyan into the carriage. And then another arrangement was made. Hugh hired a second cab, in which he and the courier made a part of the procession; and so they all went to Twickenham together. Hugh had not yet learned that he would be rewarded by coming back alone with Nora in the carriage.
The cottage by the River Thames, which, as far as the party knew, was nameless, was certainly very much better than the house on the top of the hill at Casalunga. And now, at last, the wife would sleep once more under the same roof with her husband, and the separation would be over. ‘I suppose that is the Thames,’ said Trevelyan; and they were nearly the only words he spoke in Nora’s hearing that evening. Before she started on her return journey, the two sisters were together for a few minutes, and each told her own budget of news in short, broken fragments. There was not much to tell. ‘He is so weak,’ said Mrs Trevelyan, ‘that he can do literally nothing. He can hardly speak. When we give him wine, he will say a few words, and his mind seems then to be less astray than it was. I have told him just simply that it was all my doing, that I have been in fault all through, and every now and then he will say a word, to shew me that he remembers that I have confessed.’
‘My poor Emily!’
‘It was better so. What does it all matter? He had suffered so, that I would have said worse than that to give him relief. The pride has gone out of me so, that I do not regard what anybody may say. Of course, it will be said that I went astray, and that he forgave me.’
‘Nobody will say that, dearest; nobody. Lady Milborough is quite aware how it all was.’
‘What does it signify? There are things in life worse even than a bad name.’
‘But he does not think it?’
‘Nora, his mind is a mystery to me. I do not know what is in it. Sometimes I fancy that all facts have been forgotten, and that he merely wants the childish gratification of being assured that he is the master. Then, again, there come moments, in which I feel sure that suspicion is lurking within him, that he is remembering the past, and guarding against the future. When he came into this house, a quarter of an hour ago, he was fearful lest there was a mad doctor lurking about to pounce on him. I can see in his eye that he had some such idea. He hardly notices Louey though there was a time, even at Casalunga, when he would not let the child out of his sight.’
‘What will you do now?’
‘I will try to do my duty, that is all.’
‘But you will have a doctor?’
‘Of course. He was content to see one in Paris, though he would not let me be present. Hugh saw the gentleman afterwards, and he seemed to think that the body was worse than the mind.’ Then Nora told her the name of a doctor whom Lady Milborough had suggested, and took her departure along with Hugh in the carriage.
In spite of all the sorrow that they had witnessed and just left, their journey up to London was very pleasant. Perhaps there is no period so pleasant among all the pleasant periods of love-making as that in which the intimacy between the lovers is so assured, and the coming event so near, as to produce and to endure conversation about the ordinary little matters of life — what can be done with the limited means at their mutual disposal; how that life shall be begun which they are to lead together; what idea each has of the other’s duties; what each can do for the other; what each will renounce for the other. There was a true sense of the delight of intimacy in the girl who declared that she had never loved her lover so well as when she told him how many pairs of stockings she had got. It is very sweet to gaze at the stars together; and it is sweet to sit out among the haycocks. The reading of poetry together, out of the same book, with brows all close, and arms all mingled, is very sweet. The pouring out of the whole heart in written words, which the writer knows would be held to be ridiculous by any eyes, and any ears, and any sense, but the eyes and ears and sense of the dear one to whom they are sent, is very sweet; but for the girl who has made a shirt for the man that she loves, there has come a moment in the last stitch of it, sweeter than any that stars, haycocks, poetry, or superlative epithets have produced. Nora Rowley had never as yet been thus useful on behalf of Hugh Stanbury. Had she done so, she might perhaps have been happier even than she was during this journey, but, without the shirt, it was one of the happiest moments of her life. There was nothing now to separate them but their own prudential scruples and of them it must be acknowledged that Hugh Stanbury had very few. According to his shewing, he was as well provided for matrimony as the gentleman in the song, who came out to woo his bride on a rainy night. In live stock he was not so well provided as the Irish gentleman to whom we allude; but in regard to all other provisions for comfortable married life, he had, or at a moment’s notice could have, all that was needed. Nora could live just where she pleased — not exactly in Whitehall Gardens or Belgrave Square; but the New Road, Lupus Street, Montague Place, the North Bank, or Kennington Oval, with all their surrounding crescents, terraces, and rows, offered, according to him, a choice so wide, either for lodgings or small houses, that their only embarrassment was in their riches. He had already insured his life for a thousand pounds, and, after paying yearly for that, and providing a certain surplus for saving, five hundred a year was the income on which they were to commence the world. ‘Of course, I wish it were five thousand for your sake,’ he said; ‘and I wish I were a Cabinet Minister, or a duke, or a brewer; but, even in heaven, you know all the angels can’t be archangels.’ Nora assured him that she would be quite content with virtues simply angelic. ‘I hope you like mutton-chops and potatoes; I do,’ he said. Then she told him of her ambition about the beef-steak, acknowledging that, as it must now be shared between two, the glorious idea of putting a part of it away in a cupboard must be abandoned. ‘I don’t believe in beef-steaks,’ he said. ‘A beef-steak may mean anything. At our club, a beef-steak is a sumptuous and expensive luxury. Now, a mutton-chop means something definite, and must be economical.’
‘Then we will have the mutton-chops at home,’ said Nora, ‘and you shall go to your club for the beef-steak.’
When they reached Eccleston Square, Nora insisted on taking Hugh Stanbury up to Lady Milborough. It was in vain that he pleaded that he had come all the way from Dover on a very dusty day, all the way from Dover, including a journey in a Hansom cab to Twickenham and back, without washing his hands and face. Nora insisted that Lady Milborough was such a dear, good, considerate creature, that she would understand all that, and Hugh was taken into her presence. ‘I am delighted to see you, Mr Stanbury,’ said the old lady, ‘and hope you will think that Nora is in good keeping.’
‘She has been telling me how very kind you have been to her. I do not know where she could have bestowed herself if you had not received her.’
‘There, Nora I told you he would say so. I won’t tell tales, Mr Stanbury; but she had all manner of wild plans which I knew you wouldn’t approve. But she is very amiable, and if she will only submit to you as well as she does to me.’
‘I don’t mean to submit to him at all, Lady Milborough, of course not. I am going to marry for liberty.’
‘My dear, what you say, you say in joke; but a great many young women of the present day do, I really believe, go up to the altar and pronounce their marriage vows, with the simple idea that as soon as they have done so, they are to have their own way in everything. And then people complain that young men won’t marry! Who can wonder at it?’
‘I don’t think the young men think much about the obedience,’ said Nora.‘Some marry for money, and some for love. But I don’t think they marry to get a slave.’
‘What do you say, Mr Stanbury?’ asked the old lady.
‘I can only assure you that I shan’t marry for money,’ said he.
Two or three days after this Nora left her friend in Eccleston Square, and domesticated herself for awhile with her sister. Mrs Trevelyan declared that such an arrangement would be comfortable for her, and that it was very desirable now, as Nora would so soon be beyond her reach. Then Lady Milborough was enabled to go to Dorsetshire, which she did not do, however, till she had presented Nora with the veil which she was to wear on the occasion of her wedding. ‘Of course I cannot see it, my dear, as it is to take place at Monkhams; but you must write and tell me the day and I will think of you. And you, when you put on the veil, must think of me.’ So they parted, and Nora knew that she had made a friend for life.
When she first took her place in the house at Twickenham as a resident, Trevelyan did not take much notice of her but, after awhile, he would say a few words to her, especially when it might chance that she was with him in her sister’s absence. He would speak of dear Emily, and poor Emily, and shake his head slowly, and talk of the pity of it. ‘The pity of it, Iago; oh, the pity of it,’ he said once. The allusion to her was so terrible that she almost burst out in anger, as she would have done formerly. She almost told him that he had been as wrong throughout as was the jealous husband in the play whose words he quoted, and that his jealousy, if continued, was likely to be as tragical. But she restrained herself, and kept close to her needle, making, let us hope, an auspicious garment for Hugh Stanbury. ‘She has seen it now,’ he continued; ‘she has seen it now.’ Still she went on with her hemming in silence. It certainly could not be her duty to upset at a word all that her sister had achieved. ‘You know that she has confessed?’ he asked.
‘Pray, pray do not talk about it, Louis.’
‘I think you ought to know,’ he said. Then she rose from her seat and left the room. She could not stand it, even though he were mad, even though he were dying!
She went to her sister and repeated what had been said. ‘You had better not notice it,’ said Emily. ‘It is only a proof of what I told you. There are times in which his mind is as active as ever it was, but it is active in so terrible a direction!’
‘I cannot sit and hear it. And what am I to say when he asks me a question as he did just now? He said that you had confessed.’
‘So I have. Do none confess but the guilty? What is all that we have read about the Inquisition and the old tortures? I have had to learn that torturing has not gone out of the world, that is all.’
‘I must go away if he says the same thing to me so again.’
‘That is nonsense, Nora. If I can bear it, cannot you? Would you have me drive him into violence again by disputing with him on such a subject?’
‘But he may recover and then he will remember what you have said.’
‘If he recovers altogether he will suspect nothing. I must take my chance of that. You cannot suppose that I have not thought about it. I have often sworn to myself that though the world should fall around me, nothing should make me acknowledge that I had ever been untrue to my duty as a married woman, either in deed, or word, or thought. I have no doubt that the poor wretches who were tortured in their cells used to make the same resolutions as to their confessions. But yet, when their nails were dragged out of them, they would own to anything. My nails have been dragged out, and I have been willing to confess anything. When he talks of the pity of it, of course I know what he means. There has been something, some remainder of a feeling, which has still kept him from asking me that question. May God, in his mercy, continue to him that feeling!’
‘But you would answer truly?’
‘How can I say what I might answer when the torturer is at my nails? If you knew how great was the difficulty to get him away from that place in Italy and bring him here; and what it was to feel that one was bound to stay near him, and that yet one was impotent, and to know that even that refuge must soon cease for him, and that he might have gone out and died on the road-side, or have done anything which the momentary strength of madness might have dictated — if you could understand all this, you would not be surprised at my submitting to any degradation which would help to bring him here.’
Stanbury was often down at the cottage, and Nora could discuss the matter better with him than with her sister. And Stanbury could learn more thoroughly from the physician who was now attending Trevelyan what was the state of the sick man, than Emily could do. According to the doctor’s idea there was more of ailment in the body than in the mind. He admitted that his patient’s thoughts had been forced to dwell on one subject till they had become distorted, untrue, jaundiced, and perhaps mono-maniacal; but he seemed to doubt whether there had ever been a time at which it could have been decided that Trevelyan was so mad as to make it necessary that the law should interfere to take care of him. A man, so argued the doctor, need not be mad because he is jealous, even though his jealousy be ever so absurd. And Trevelyan, in his jealousy, had done nothing cruel, nothing wasteful, nothing infamous. In all this Nora was very little inclined to agree with the doctor, and thought nothing could be more infamous than Trevelyan’s conduct at the present moment unless, indeed, he could be screened from infamy by that plea of madness. But then there was more behind. Trevelyan had been so wasted by the kind of life which he had led, and possessed by nature stamina so insufficient to resist such debility, that it was very doubtful whether he would not sink altogether before he could be made to begin to rise. But one thing was clear. He should be contradicted in nothing. If he chose to say that the moon was made of green cheese, let it be conceded to him that the moon was made of green cheese. Should he make any other assertion equally removed from the truth, let it not be contradicted. Who would oppose a man with one foot in the grave?
‘Then, Hugh, the sooner I am at Monkhams the better,’ said Nora, who had again been subjected to inuendoes which had been unendurable to her. This was on the 7th of August, and it still wanted three days to that on which the journey to Monkhams was to be made.
‘He never says anything to me on the subject,’ said Hugh.
‘Because you have made him afraid of you. I almost think that Emily and the doctor are wrong in their treatment, and that it would be better to stand up to him and tell him the truth.’ But the three days passed away, and Nora was not driven to any such vindication of her sister’s character towards her sister’s husband.
Last updated Sunday, July 31, 2016 at 20:26