Rachel Ray, by Anthony Trollope


Early in November Mr Tappitt officially announced his intention of abdicating, and the necessary forms and deeds and parchment obligations were drawn out signed and sealed, for the giving up of the brewery to Luke Rowan. Mr Honyman’s clerk revelled in thinly covered folio sheets to the great comfort and profit of his master; while Mr Sharpit went about Baslehurst declaring that Tappitt was an egregious ass, and hinting that Rowan was little better than a clever swindler. What he said, however, had but little effect on Baslehurst. It had become generally under stood that Rowan would spend money in the town, employing labour and struggling to go ahead, and Baslehurst knew that such a man was desirable as a citizen. The parchments were prepared, and the signatures were written with the necessary amount of witnessing, and Tappitt and Rowan once more met each other on friendly terms. Tappitt had endeavoured to avoid this, pleading, both to Honyman and to his wife, that his personal dislike to the young man was as great as ever; but they had not permitted him thus to indulge his wrath. Mr Honyman pointed out to Mrs Tappitt that such ill humour might be very detrimental to their future interests, and Tappitt had been made to give way. We may as well declare at once that the days of Tappitt’s domestic dominion were over, as is generally the case with a man who retires from work and allows himself to be placed, as a piece of venerable furniture, in the chimney corner. Hitherto he, and he only, had known what funds could be made available out of the brewery for household purposes; and Mrs Tappitt had been subject, at every turn of her life, to provoking intimations of. reduced profits: but now there was the clear thousand a year, and she could demand her rights in accordance with that sum. Tappitt, too, could never again stray away from home with mysterious hints that matters connected with malt and hops must be discussed at places in which beer was consumed. He had no longer left to him any excuse for deviating from the regular course of his life even by a hair’s breadth; and before two years were over he had learned to regard it almost as a favour to be allowed to take a walk with one of his own girls. No man should abdicate — unless, indeed, he does so for his soul’s advantage. As to happiness in this life it is hardly compatible with that diminished respect which ever attends the relinquishing of labour. Otium cum dignitate is a dream. There is no such position at any rate for the man who has once worked. He may have the ease or he may have the dignity; but he can hardly combine the two. This truth the unfortunate Tappitt learned before he had been three months settled in the Torquay villa.

He was called upon to meet Rowan on friendly terms, and he obeyed. The friendship was not very cordial, but such as it was it served its purpose. The meeting took place in the dining-room of the brewery, and Mrs Tappitt was present on the occasion. The lady received her visitor with some little affectation of grandeur, while T., standing with his hands in his pockets on his own rug, looked like a whipped hound. The right hand he was soon forced to bring forth, as Rowan demanded it that he might shake it.

“I am very glad that this affair has been settled between us amicably.” said Luke, while he still held the hand of the abdicating brewer.

“Yes; well I suppose it’s for the best,” said Tappitt, bringing out his words uncomfortably and with hesitation. “Take care and mind what you’re about, or I suppose I shall have to come back again.”

“There’ll be no fear of that, I think,” said Rowan.

“I hope not,” said Mrs Tappitt, with a tone that showed that she was much better able to master the occasion than her husband. “I hope not; but this is a great undertaking for so young a man, and I trust you feel your responsibility. It would be disagreeable to us, of course, to have to return to the brewery after having settled ourselves pleasantly at Torquay; but we shall have to do so if things go wrong with you.”

“Don’t be frightened, Mrs Tappitt; you shall never have to come back here.”

“I hope not; but it is always well to be on one’s guard. I am sure you must be aware that Mr Tappitt has behaved to you very generously; and if you have the high principle for which we are willing to give you credit, and which you ought to possess for the management of such an undertaking as the brewery, you will be careful that me and my daughters shan’t be put to inconvenience by any delay in paying up the income regularly.”

“Don’t be afraid about that, Mrs Tappitt.”

“Into the bank on quarter day, if you please, Mr Rowan. Short accounts make long friends. And as Mr T. won’t want to be troubled with letters and suchlike, you can send me a line to Montpellier Villa, Torquay, just to say that it’s done.”

“Oh, I’ll see to that,” said Tappitt.

“My dear, as Mr Rowan is so young for the business there’ll be nothing like getting him to write a letter himself, saying that the money is paid. It’ll keep him up to the mark like, and I’m sure I shan’t mind the trouble.”

“Don’t you be alarmed about the money, Mrs Tappitt,” said Rowan, laughing; “and in order that you may know how the old shop is going on, I’ll always send you at Christmas sixteen gallons of the best stuff we’re brewing.”

“That will be a very proper little attention, Mr Rowan, and we shall be happy to drink success to the establishment. Here’s some cake and wine on the table, and perhaps you’ll do us the favour to take a glass — so as to bury any past unkindness. T., my love, will you pour out the wine?”

It was twelve o’clock in the day, and the port wine, which had been standing for the last week in its decanter, was sipped by Luke Rowan without any great relish. But it also served its purpose — and the burial service over past unkindness was performed with as much heartiness as the nature of the entertainment admitted. It was not as yet full four months since Rowan had filled Rachel’s glass with champagne in that same room. Then he had made himself quite at home in the house as a member of Mr Tappitt’s family; but now he was going to be at home there as master of the establishment. As he put down the glass he could not help looking round the room, and suggesting to himself the changes he would make. As seen at present, the parlour of the brewery was certainly a dull room. It was very long since the wainscoting had been painted, longer since the curtains or carpets had been renewed. It was dark and dingy. But then so were the Tappitts themselves. Before Rachel should be brought there he would make the place as bright as herself.

They said to him no word about his marriage. As for Tappitt he said few words about anything; and Mrs Tappitt, with all her wish to be gracious, could not bring herself to mention Rachel Ray. Even between her and her daughters there was no longer any utterance of Rachel’s name. She had once declared to Augusta, with irrepressible energy, that the man was a greater fool than she had ever believed possible, but after that it had been felt that the calamity would be best endured in silence.

When that interview in the dining room was over, Rowan saw no more of Mrs Tappitt. Business made it needful that he should be daily about the brewery, and there occasionally he met the poor departing man wandering among the vats and empty casks like a brewer’s ghost. There was no word spoken between them as to business. The accounts, the keys, and implements were all handed over through Worts; and Rowan found himself in possession of the whole establishment with no more trouble than would have been settling himself in a new lodging.

That promise which he had half made of sending bride-cake to Mrs Sturt before Christmas was not kept, but it was broken only by a little. They were married early in January. In December Mrs Rowan came back to Baslehurst, and became the guest of her son, who was then keeping a bachelor’s house at the brewery. This lady’s first visit to the cottage after her return was an affair of great moment to Rachel. Everything now had gone well with her except that question of her mother-in-law. Her lover had come back to her a better lover than ever; her mother petted her to her heart’s content, speaking of Luke as though she had never suspected him of lupine propensities; Mr Comfort talked to her of her coming marriage as though she had acted with great sagacity through the whole affair, addressing her in a tone indicating much respect, and differing greatly from that in which he had been wont to catechise her when she was nothing more than Mrs Ray’s girl at Bragg’s End; and even Dolly had sent in her adhesion, with more or less cordiality. But still she had feared Mrs Rowan’s enmity, and when Luke told her that his mother was coming to Baslehurst for the Christmas — so that she might also be present at the marriage — Rachel felt that there was still a cloud in her heavens. “I know your mother won’t like me,” she said to Luke. “She made up her mind not to like me when she was here before.” Luke assured her that she did not understand his mother’s character — asserting that his mother would certainly like any woman that he might choose for his wife as soon as she should have been made to understand that his choice was irrevocable. But Rachel remembered too well the report as to that former visit to the cottage which Mrs Rowan had made together with Mrs Tappitt; and when she heard that Luke’s mother was again in the parlour she went down from her bedroom with hesitating step and an uneasy heart. Mrs Rowan was seated in the room with her mother and sister when she entered it, and therefore the first words of the interview had been already spoken. To Mrs Ray the prospect of the visit had not been pleasant, for she also remembered how grand and distant the lady had been when she came to the cottage on that former occasion; but Rachel observed, as she entered the room, that her mother’s face did not wear that look of dismay which was usual to her when she was in any presence that was disagreeable to her.

“My dear child!” said Mrs Rowan rising from her seat, and opening her arms for an embrace. Rachel underwent the embrace, and kissed the lady by whom she found herself to be thus enveloped. She kissed Mrs Rowan, but she could not, for the life of her, think of any word to speak which would be fitting for the occasion.

“My own dear child!” said Mrs Rowan again; “for you know that you are to be my child now as well as your own mamma’s.”

“It is very kind of you to say so,” said Mrs Ray.

“Very kind, indeed,” said Mrs Prime; “and I’m sure that you will find Rachel dutiful as a daughter.” Rachel herself did not feel disposed to give any positive assurance on that point. She intended to be dutiful to her husband, and was inclined to think that obedience in that direction was quite enough for a married woman.

“Now that Luke is going to settle himself for life,” continued Mrs Rowan. “it is so very desirable that he should be married at once. Don’t you think so, Mrs Ray?”

“Indeed, yes, Mrs Rowan. I always like to hear of young men getting married; that is when they’ve got anything to live upon. It makes them less harum-scarum like.”

“I don’t think Luke was ever what you call harum-scarum,” said Mrs Rowan.

“Mother didn’t mean to say he was,” said Mrs Prime; “but marriage certainly does steady a young man, and generally makes him much more constant at divine service.”

“My Luke always did go to church very regularly,” said Mrs Rowan.

“I like to see young men in church,” said Mrs Ray. “As for the girls they go as a matter of course; but young men are allowed so much of their own way. When a man is a father of a family it becomes very different.” Hereupon Rachel blushed, and then was kissed again by Luke’s mother; and was made the subject of certain very interesting prophecies, which embarrassed her considerably and which need not be repeated here. After that interview she was never again afraid of her mother-in-law.

“You’ll love mamma, when you know her,” said Mary Rowan to Rachel a day or two afterwards. “Strangers and acquaintances generally think that she is a very tremendous personage, but she always does what she is asked by those who belong to her — and as for Luke, she’s almost a slave to him.” I won’t say that Rachel resolved that Mrs Rowan should be a slave to her also, but she did resolve that she would not be a slave to Mrs Rowan. She intended henceforward to serve one person and one person only.

Mrs Butler Cornbury also called at the cottage; and her visit was very delightful to Rachel — not the less so perhaps because Mrs Prime was away at a Dorcas meeting. Had she been at the cottage all those pleasant allusions to the transactions at the ball would hardly have been made.

“Don’t tell me,” said Mrs Cornbury. “Do you think I couldn’t see how it was going to be with half an eye? I told Walter that very night that he was a goose to suppose that you would go down to supper with him.”

“But, Mrs Cornbury, I really intended it; only they had another dance, and I was obliged to stand up with Mr Rowan because I was engaged to him.”

“I don’t doubt you were engaged to him, my dear.”

“Only for that dance, I mean.”

“Only for that dance, of course. But now you are engaged to him for something else, and I tell you that I knew it was going to be so.”

All this was very pretty and very pleasant; and when Mrs Cornbury, as she went away, made a special request that she might be invited to the wedding, Rachel, was supremely happy.

“Mamma,” she said, “I do love that woman. I hardly know why, but I do love her so much.”

“It was always the same with Patty Comfort,” said Mrs Ray. “She had a way of making people fond of her. They say that she can do just what she likes with the old gentleman at the Grange.”

It may be well that I should declare here that there was no scrutiny as to the return of Butler Cornbury to Parliament — to the great satisfaction both of old Mr Cornbury and of old Mr Comfort. They had been brought to promise that the needful funds for supporting the scrutiny should be forthcoming; but the promise had been made with heavy hearts, and the tidings of Mr Hart’s quiescence had been received very gratefully both at Cornbury and at Cawston.

Luke and Rachel were married on New Year’s Day at Cawston Church, and afterwards made a short marriage trip to Penzance and the Land’s End. It was cold weather for pleasure-travelling; but snow and winds and rain affect young married people less, I think, than they do other folk. Rachel when she returned could not bear to be told that it had been cold. There was no winter, she said, at Penzance — and so she continued to say ever afterwards.

Mrs Ray would not consent to abandon the cottage at Bragg’s End. She still remained its occupier in conjunction with Mrs Prime, but she passed more than half her time at the brewery. Mrs Prime is still Mrs Prime; and will, I think, remain so, although Mr Prong is occasionally seen to call at the cottage.

It is, I think, now universally admitted by all Devonshire and Cornwall that Luke Rowan has succeeded in brewing good beer; with what results to himself I am not prepared to say. I do not, however, think it probable that he will succeed in his professed object of shutting up the apple orchards of the county.

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Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01